A new study released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that nearly one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction largely due to unsustainable economic development.
The global assessment is the largest and most comprehensive study about biodiversity loss and the role of capitalism. The report synthesizes more than 15,000 scientific papers published over three years; it was released on May 6 and endorsed by more than 130 countries. The report focuses on the disappearance of key species such as pollinators, coral reefs, fish and medicinal plants and specifies the devastating role of industrial farming, fishing and climate change.
“If we want to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that has not been destroyed by human activity, we need to act now,” Robert Watson, who chaired the study, told Reuters. The report’s drastic findings mirror the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report from October that recommends drastic economic and social changes are needed to slow extinction.
According to the report, the list of threatened species includes 40 percent of all amphibians, 33 percent of reef-building corals and sharks and one third of all marine mammals. The report calls the rate of extinction “unprecedented” and “accelerating,” explaining that the current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds times higher than it has been over the last ten million years.
The report also delves into the economic valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity loss and the impact on human societies. For example, the report findings indicate that $577 billion dollars annually in crop production are at risk if bees and other pollinators become extinct. The loss of mangroves and coral reefs could put 300 million coastal residents at risk of flooding.
Reuters described the report as “a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new ‘post-growth’ form of economics;” however, this acknowledgement continues to ignore ‘non-traditional’ and non-academic voices that have been calling for and modeling more sustainable economies and ecosystems for centuries.
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