State of the Oceans Special: One Million Species At Risk


AN EMERGENCY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
 

Photo by Jorge Cervera Hauser. Header photo by Rick Miskiv.

Photo by Jorge Cervera Hauser. Header photo by Rick Miskiv.

 

1 MILLION SPECIES FACE EXTINCTION


Earlier this week, the United Nations previewed its landmark Global Biodiversity Assessment Report – and the findings are an epic wake up call.

”Around 1 million species face extinction unless action is taken,” according to the 145 experts from 50 countries who compiled the massive 1,500 page report. “Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before.”

The report, which follows months of protests around the world, includes a strong consensus: the current global response is “insufficient” and that “transformative changes” are needed to restore and protect nature.

In this special edition of State of the Oceans, we dive deeper into this unprecedented report and examine our options. Silver lining: we have a warning the dinosaurs did not. There’s still time to act on this asteroid.

 

“The next 10 years will shape the next 10,000 years”

– Dr. Sylvia Earle

 

 

THE REPORT

Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, reports The Guardian, calling the report “the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.” From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. The knock-on impacts on humankind, including freshwater shortages and climate instability, are already ‘ominous’ and will worsen.

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THE OCEANS

The report finds that over a third of marine mammals and nearly a third of sharks and reef-forming corals are threatened with extinction. 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions, and marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980. 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other waste from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’ totalling more than 245,000 km2.

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POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS

Fishing is driving the greatest biodiversity loss in the ocean, notes the NRDC of the report, but if we act quickly to eliminate unsustainable fishing practices, protect a greater portion of the ocean (at least 30%, say many scientists), and adopt a new treaty to protect the high seas we can stem the loss of marine biodiversity. When countries in the Convention on Biological Diversity meet in China in 2020 they will have the opportunity to set a new target to set aside at least 30% of the ocean in protected areas by 2030.

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“AS VITAL AS CLIMATE CHANGE”

“Protecting biodiversity is as vital as fighting climate change,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “Following the adoption of this historic report, no one will be able to claim that they did not know. We can no longer continue to destroy the diversity of life. This is our responsibility towards future generations. This report reminds us of the urgent need to act for biodiversity, our global environmental heritage. We can and must all mobilize, urgently and together, to save our planet and thus humanity.”

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