Humanity's report card: 0 for 21

NPR reported on the U.N. Global Biodiversity Outlook:

Researchers say that about one-third of the world’s species are now threatened with extinction. Nearly half of all bird and amphibian populations are declining, wildlife habitats are being overrun, and the march of invasive species is increasing on all continents in all kinds of ecosystems….

The saddest part, though, might not be all the data about dwindling species. It might be the data about us, homo sapiens. A decade ago, world leaders set 21 goals to meet by 2010 to protect the world’s biological diversity, and here’s how well we’ve done: None of the 21 goals, not even one, has been met on a global scale.

The U.N. calls the situation “dire”:

“The projections are dire,” Delfin Ganapin, Global Manager of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme, said…

He went on to say that the [U.N. Global Biodiversity] Outlook, based on more than 110 national reports submitted by Governments to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and compiled in close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned of “massive” biodiversity loss with consequences that were much worse than previously thought….

The GEF aimed to promote human development and sustainable livelihoods and was very concerned about the report’s findings, especially the revelation that not a single Government could claim to have definitively met the targets agreed in 2002 to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

“This report is saying that we are reaching what’s called ‘tipping points,’ where irreversible damage is going to be done to the planet unless we act now,” he continued, stressing that extinction rates for some animal and plant species, especially amphibians, were reaching historic highs — up to 1,000 times those seen before — affecting not just tropical species, but biodiversity that was “closer to home”, such food crops and livestock.

The report is available here.

The U.N. reports that every nation failed to achieve its commitments and the overall situation is still worsening:

GBO-3 uses multiple lines of evidence to demonstrate that the target set by world governments in 2002, “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level,” has not been met. Based on a special analysis of biodiversity indicators carried out by a panel of scientists, as well as peer-reviewed scientific literature and reports from national governments to the CBD, key findings include:

None of the twenty-one subsidiary targets accompanying the overall 2010 biodiversity target can be said definitively to have been achieved globally, although some have been partially or locally achieved….

No government claims to have completely met the 2010 biodiversity target at the national level, and around one-fifth state explicitly that it has not been met.

Species that have been assessed for extinction risk are on average moving closer to extinction, with amphibians facing the greatest risk and coral species deteriorating most rapidly.

The abundance of vertebrate species, based on assessed populations, fell by nearly one-third on average between 1970 and 2006, and continues to fall globally, with especially severe declines in the tropics and among freshwater species.

Natural habitats in most parts of the world continue to decline in extent and integrity, notably freshwater wetlands, sea-ice habitats, salt marshes, coral reefs, seagrass beds and shellfish reefs; although there has been significant progress in slowing the rate of loss of tropical forests and mangroves, in some regions.

Crop and livestock genetic diversity continues to decline in agricultural systems. For example, more than sixty breeds of livestock are reported to have become extinct since 2000.

The five principal pressures directly driving biodiversity loss (habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change) are either constant or increasing in intensity.

Posted by James on Monday, May 17, 2010