How to fix Nature and avoid human misery
The bombshell Summary for Policymakers, to be unveiled on May 6, makes for very grim reading. But we must.
The new report details how humans are undermining Earth’s capacity to produce fresh water, clean air and productive soil, to name a few “ecosystem services”.
Revamping global food production, retooling the financial sector, moving beyond GDP as a measure of progress and other “transformative changes” are needed to save Nature and ourselves, a major UN biodiversity report is set to conclude.
Delegates from 130 nations wrap up week-long negotiations in Paris Saturday on the executive summary of a 1,800-page tome authored by 400 scientists, the first UN global assessment of the state of Nature — and its impact on humanity — in 15 years.
Since 1990, Earth has lost 2.9 million hectares — an area more than eight times the size of Germany or Vietnam — of forests that play a critical role in absorbing record-level CO2 emissions.
The heavily negotiated text does not make explicit policy recommendations, but will serve “as a basis for redefining our objectives” ahead of a key meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in China next Fall, said Yunne Jai Shin, a researcher at the Research Institute for Development in Marseilles.
The way humanity produces, distributes and consumes food — accounting for a third of land, 75 percent of fresh water use and a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions — is especially destructive, the report shows.
Fertiliser use, which degrades the soil’s ability to grow plants and absorb CO2, has risen four-fold in just 13 years in Asia, and doubled worldwide since 1990.
The report cites estimates that tax havens finance about 70 percent of vessels implicated in unregulated fishing, and an equal share of the soy and beef sectors that are ravaging the Amazon.
Finally, the last two scenarios — “business-as-usual” and “regional competition” — plunge the planet into a nightmarish, downward spiral of conflict, growing inequality and continuing degradation of Nature.
“This is only a preview of the changes to come. And they are coming fast. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await—food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today.”
We have 12 years.