The Second Shoe Has Dropped: the IPBES Global Assessment Report

This was a particularly difficult day for me because the second shoe has hit the floor very, very hard. The first shoe dropped last fall when the 1.5C report was published by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicating that we have only 12 years left to address climate change. The other shoe dropped to the floor today when the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published its unusually stark Global Assessment Report, the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.

Let me state it right up front: the report is devastating. It was conducted by more than 450 scientists and diplomats, and was three years in the making. As well, it drew on over 15,000 reference materials and runs out to over 1800 pages. A shorter 40 page summary for policymakers is also available.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

The Report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.

The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.

“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” said Prof. Settele. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”

Let us be clear, both the IPCC report and this IPBES assure us that it is not too late, but ONLY if we engage NOW with transformative change: “fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

Question: How good are we at transformative change? Who exactly is going to steer us away from “the current limited paradigm of economic growth?”

I highly recommend reading the two press stories HERE (Guardian) and HERE (BBC) and, if you are so inclined, download and read the summary for policymakers.

Study creates blueprint to safeguard marine life and enable ocean recovery

The Guardian reports today that “academics have mapped out a network of sanctuaries they say are required to save the world’s oceans, protect wildlife and fight climate breakdown.”

“The study, ahead of a historic vote at the UN, sets out the first detailed plan of how countries can protect over a third of the world’s oceans by 2030, a target scientists and policy makers say is crucial in order to safeguard marine ecosystems and help mitigate the impacts of a rapidly heating world.” Read more . . .

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it ís important that each goal and target is achieved by 2030. Details of each of the 17 goals can be found HERE. Goals 11(Sustainable Cities and Communities), 13 (Climate Action), 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life on Land) and are all closely tied to the question of climate change.

On the question of the relationship between these 17 goals and climate change, the UN Sustainable Development web site states the following in their Frequently Asked Questions section: How does climate change relate to Sustainable Development?

“Climate change is already impacting public health, food and water security, migration, peace and security. Climate change, left unchecked, will roll back the development gains we have made over the last decades and will make further gains impossible.

“Investments in sustainable development will help address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience.

“Conversely, action on climate change will drive sustainable development.

“Tackling climate change and fostering sustainable development are two mutually reinforcing sides of the same coin; sustainable development cannot be achieved without climate action. Conversely, many of the SDGs are addressing the core drivers of climate change.”