Tag Archives: United Nations

We are losing the battle in a “suicidal” war against nature, UN head warns

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres painted a bleak picture when presenting a report on this year’s state of the planet, claiming that a green recovery from the pandemic could the last chance for a reset to save Earth.

Image credit: UN

Guterres gave a speech at Columbia University in New York to introduce the provisional 2020 State of the Global Climate report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This year is on course to be one of the three warmest ever recorded, according to the report, and as emissions continue to rise, temperatures are also expected to do the same.

“To put it simply, the state of the planet is broken,” Guterres said. “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back — and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes.”

The UN head said climate and environmental policies have failed to rise to the challenge, as emissions this year are 60% higher than in 1990. The current emissions put the world on a trend of a temperature rise between 3ºC and 5ºC by 2100, Guterres said. Still, there’s still hope, as countries can build a “truly global” coalition for carbon neutrality — but we need to act now.

The Paris Agreement on climate change, set up in 2015, asks countries to present climate pledges (nationally determined contributions, or NDCs) to avoid the temperature going over 2ºC by the end of the century. While that goal seems impossible now, countries are expected to present new pledges over the next few months to address the gap.

“Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere,” Guterres said. “In this context, the recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity. We can see rays of hope in the form of a vaccine. But there is no vaccine for the planet. Nature needs a bailout.”

Countries have already spent trillions of dollars as part of the recovery from the pandemic, amid calls by scientists and campaigners to use those funds for a green recovery. Guterres said it’s time to “flick the green switch” as a sustainable economy would create jobs, cleaner infrastructure, and a resilient future. In other words, we can build a greener future while also fostering a thriving economy, while the opposite might not be an option.

While we are dealing with a true planetary emergency, the UN head said he’s hopeful. Many cities are becoming greener, the circular economy is reducing waste and environmental laws have growing reach. A new world is taking shape, he said, as people are understanding the need to reduce their carbon footprint.

“This is a moment of truth for people and planet alike. COVID and climate have brought us to a threshold. We cannot go back to the old normal of inequality, injustice and heedless dominion over the Earth,” he said. “Instead we must step towards a safer, more sustainable and equitable path.”

The worrying state of the planet

The average global temperature is set to reach about 1.2ºC above pre-industrial levels and there’s at least a one in five chance of it exceeding 1.5ºC by 2024 — an important benchmark, and an unfortunate one to pass.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of leading climate experts from around the world, warned that 1.5ºC is the danger line for global warming. Exceeding that threshold would trigger severe climate effects around the world that might be irreversible, such as the loss of 99% of the coral reefs.

The WHO said this year has been unusually hot despite the cooling effect of La Niña, the climate phenomenon associated with below-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean with global implications. Its impact has been more than offset by heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gasses. In the past, unusually warm years matched with a strong El Niño event, which is the opposite of La Niña and causes higher sea surface temperatures and warmer global temperatures. This is no longer the case, WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas said in a statement, leaving 2020 as another extraordinary year for the climate.

“We saw new extreme temperatures on land, sea and especially in the Arctic. Wildfires consumed vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US West Coast and South America, sending plumes of smoke circumnavigating the globe. We saw a record number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and flooding’s in parts of Africa,” Taalas said.

Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum in September, as the second-lowest in the 42-year-old satellite record. Arctic sea ice for July and October 2020 was the lowest on record. Meanwhile, Antarctic ice in 2020 was close to or slightly above the 42-year mean and Greenland also continued to lose ice.

The number of tropical cyclones globally was above average this year, with 96 cyclones as of 17 November in the 2020 Northern Hemisphere and 2019-2020 Southern Hemisphere seasons. The North Atlantic region had an exceptionally active season, with 30 tropical cyclones as of 17 November, more than double the average.

Approximately 10 million displacements, largely due to hydro-meteorological hazards and disasters, were recorded during the first half of 2020, mainly concentrated in South and South-east Asia and the Horn of Africa. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a further dimension to human mobility concerns.

“The current global recession caused by the pandemic makes it challenging to enact the policies needed for mitigation, but it also presents opportunities to set the economy on a greener path in order to boost investment in green and resilient public infrastructure,” the WMO said in a statement.

The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize goes to the United Nations for its efforts in feeding the world’s hungry

This Friday, the fifth Nobel Prize of the week has been awarded — the one for peace. The Nobel committee selected the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) as the recipient, in honor of its efforts to combat hunger and help plant the seeds of peace in conflict areas around the world.

WFP supplies being delivered to victims of the tropical storm “Hanna”. Image credits Flickr / United Nations Photo.

While many powerful and high-profile people were proposed for this year’s Peace prize, the Nobel Institute in Oslo felt that the WFP deserved it the most. Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel committee explained that they hope this award will “turn the eyes of the world to the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger”, adding that hunger has and still is used as a “weapon of war and conflict”.

Food for peace

“It’s a very important UN organization. The UN plays a key role in upholding human rights,” she said. “Food is one of our most basic needs.”

The committee listed the WFP’s “efforts for combating hunger” and “contribution to creating peace in conflict-affected areas” as some of the criteria that informed their decision. Through its activity, the WFP imposed itself “as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict”. All of this helped it stand out from this years’ list of candidates, which included 211 individuals and 107 organizations.

Other notable candidates this year included Greta Thunberg, for her efforts advocating on behalf of environmental issues, Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader who is currently recovering from a nerve agent attack likely orchestrated by the Russian government, and the World Health Organization for its role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee also praised the program’s “universalism” and its global scope, which contrasts with the increasing populist and nationalistic rhetorics we’re seeing in countries around the globe.

This is the last of five Nobel prizes to be awarded this year. The committee awarded the one for physiology and medicine on Monday to the discoverers of the hepatitis C virus. On Tuesday, they recognized the importance of breakthrough work in the nature of black holes with the Prize for physics, making way on Wednesday for the Prize in chemistry for the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool. American poet Louise Glück won the Prize for literature on Thursday.

UN sustainability goals could be a smokescreen for further environmental destruction

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations, supposed to reconcile environmental protection with socioeconomic development, are actually failing to protect biodiversity, according to a new study, which argued that the SDG is a smokescreen for further environmental destruction.

Credit UN

Approved in 2015 by the UN, the SDG is a framework of broad-based and independent 17 goals, 169 targets, and 247 indicators that replaced the expired Millennium Development Goals. They were designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

However, a study by researchers from UQ, National University of Singapore, the University of Melbourne and University of Northern British Colombia found a significant mismatch between the SDGs and real progress towards biodiversity conservation.

“The SDGs were established as a blueprint for a more sustainable future for all, yet there are fundamental inadequacies in their ability to protect biodiversity,” co-author James Watson said in a statement. “If these errors are not corrected, the SDGs could unknowingly promote environmental destruction in the name of sustainable development.”

The study looked at the performances of countries on a group of indicators, comparing them against other independent and well-established measures of environmental protection. Overall, only 7% of the connections between SDG and external indicators of biodiversity and environmental protection were significantly positive.

Meanwhile, 14% of the associations were found to be negative and the majority (78%) were non-significant. This suggests that many of the SDG don’t sufficiently reflect progress towards environmental conservation goals, the researchers argued. That’s the case, for example, of SDG 9.1, which focuses on the development of quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

“This SDG cuts across all three pillars of development, but its associated indicators prioritize social and economic issues by focusing on rural population accessibility and passenger or freight volumes without accounting for the harmful environmental impacts of such infrastructure development,” said Watson.

The authors noted that globally, threats to nature have accelerated over the past 50 years, resulting in changes to more than 75% of the Earth’s surface and population declines in over one million species. They called for a reformulation of the SDG that can be more applicable to a post-2030 agenda, developing more reliable indicators.

Governments should adopt a stronger global framework to protect the biodiversity, and then work through the UN to revise and update the SDGs and indicators accordingly, the authors said. This year the Convention of Biological Diversity was supposed to adopt a new framework, but the decision was pushed due to the pandemic.

The lead author of the paper Zeng Yiwen from the National University of Singapore said that “while the SDGs sparked a resurgence in the need to balance economic and social development with the protection of Earth’s natural resources and biodiversity, the data collected by countries would not reflect this balance.”

This study was published in Nature Sustainability.

UN warning: get more ambitious or get drastic warming

Only days before countries gather in Spain for a new round of climate negotiations, a report by the United Nations showed that the world needs to increase its climate ambition five times in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – in line with the Paris Agreement.

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Countries have made a set of pledges to reduce their emissions since the agreement was signed in 2015. However, some projections show that even if all of them are met the temperature would reach 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, exceeding by large the global warming aimed at the Paris Agreement. To make matters even worse, few countries are staying true to their environmental pledges.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published its annual Emission Gap report, which looks at the difference between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions the world should be reducing and the actual direction the world is facing with the current promises made by countries.

“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a statement announcing the findings. “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.”

UNEP’s analysis shows emissions rose 1.5% per year in the last decade. Last year, the increase was of 55 gigatons of CO2 equivalent. The world has already experienced a global warming of 1 degree Celsius. That trend must reverse in the coming decade in order avoid a temperature increase of more than 1.5-degree Celsius, the report claims. This isn’t really happening, particularly in the richer parts of the world — where you’d hope that the change would come from.

The report especially looked at the 20 richest countries in the world, grouped under the G20 and responsible for 78% of the global emissions. Seven G20 members need to take more action to achieve their current pledges, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and the US.

India, Russia and Turkey will over-achieve their climate pledges by 15%, according to UNEP, but that’s largely due to un-ambitious targets in the first place. Meanwhile, for Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, researchers claim they are uncertain regarding the three countries are in track to meet their pledges or not.

“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger NDCs to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies,” said Anderson. “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” she added. “If we don’t do this, the 1.5C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”

The report also outlines a set of actions for different countries, with the main focus put on the energy system. For example, UNEP recommends Argentina to develop public transportation further in big cities, while China should ban all the new coal power plants it seeks to inaugurate in the near future. While China has taken some positive steps towards reducing its climate impact, it shows no true commitment towards a low-carbon economy. The country is opening up more coal plants — both within the country and outside of it.

This is the major problem in almost all the world: there is an over-investment in fossil fuels, the report claimed. The world is on track to produce 50% more carbon energy than it should if we want to limit global warming to 2 Celsius degrees. This gap in production is especially significant for coal, as countries plan to produce 150% more coal by 2030 than what would be consistent with the Paris Agreement goals.

In order to deal with the gap, countries should significantly reduce subsidies given to fossil fuel production and consumption, which represent billions of dollars per year. Countries need to extract and use less coal, switching to renewable energy.

“This is a new and stark reminder by the Unep that we cannot delay climate action any longer,” said Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for the ecological transition, host of the upcoming COP25 summit. “We need it at every level, by every national and subnational government, and by the rest of the economic and civil society actors.”

The impacts of climate change are speeding up, major report says

The signs and impacts of global warming are speeding up, the latest report on climate change published ahead of key UN talks in New York said, warning that the 2015-2019 period is set to be the warmest five years on record.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The United in Science report compiles the latest information about climate change from leading science experts in cooperation with the World Meteorological Organization.

It found that accelerating climate impacts were to blame for the five-year temperature record, as the global average temperature increased by 1.1°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2°C warmer than 2011-2015.

“For the four year period, average temperatures were the highest on record for large areas of the United States, eastern parts of South American, most of Europe and the Middle East, northern Eurasia, Australia, and areas of Africa south of the Sahara,” said the report, adding that July 2019 was the hottest month on record globally.

Main consequences

The report said that the main consequences of the temperature increase have been a rise in sea levels, the shrinking of polar ice and glaciers, rising acidity of ocean water, extreme weather events, and wildfires.

Between May 2014 and 2019, sea-level rose at a rate of 5 mm per year, compared to 4 mm/year in the 2007-2016 period and 3.2 mm/year since 1993. One of the key factors was the rapidity of melting ice sheets and glaciers in the last couple of years as well as the rapid rate of ocean warming.

Arctic summer sea-ice extent — the area of sea with a specified amount of ice — has declined at a rate of approximately 12% per decade during 1979-2018. The four lowest values for winter sea-ice extent occurred between 2015 and 2019.

Overall, the amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017. Glacier mass loss for 2015-2019 is the highest for any five-year period on record.

The report also said 90% of extreme weather events such as storms, floodings, and heatwaves are related to weather. In the studied five-year period, heatwaves were the deadliest extreme weather event that affected all continents and resulted in various new temperature records.

Wildfires are also influenced by climate change, the report showed, and they lead to major releases of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. During the summer of 2019, unprecedented wildfires ravaged the Arctic region. Fifty megatons of carbon dioxide were emitted into the atmosphere in June as a result, which was more than was released by Arctic fires in the same month from 2010 to 2019 put together.

United Nations hosts key climate emergency summit in New York

More than 60 world leaders will convene today for a UN summit on “climate emergency” aimed at reinvigorating the Paris agreement on climate change, at a time when mankind is releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than at any time in history.

UN headquarters in New York. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Countries are expected to announce new actions to limit the causes of warming or to speak on initiatives developed by a coalition of nations. UN secretary-general António Guterres had asked countries to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, reduce subsidies for fossil fuels, and stop building new coal-fired power stations.

“People want solutions, commitments, and action. I expect there will be an announcement and unveiling of a number of meaningful plans on dramatically reducing emissions during the next decade, and on reaching carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Guterres.

Who is attending?

Among the list of those absent will be US President Donald Trump, who pulled his country out of the Paris Agreement upon taking power. Brasilian president Jair Bolsonaro, under whose leadership the Amazon rainforest is continuing to burn at record rates, will also be absent.

On the other hand, China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter by far, but also a leader in the renewables sector, will be present and represented by foreign minister Wang Yi, with Guterres hinting last week that the East Asian giant will be committing to new measures.

“There’s a tension between the countries that want to go ahead to translate their goals into real policies and those that do not,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and one of the architects of the Paris agreement. “We can hope for the best.”

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will speak in the morning session, along with the leaders of New Zealand, the Marshall Islands, and Germany’s Angela Merkel. Like China, India is coal-addicted but has also set itself highly ambitious renewable energy targets, particularly in the solar energy sector.

What are the expectations?

Seventy-five countries are expected to bring enhanced commitments. But officials have also been careful to manage expectations and said today’s summit is also a run-up event to the 2020 UN climate summit that the UK will host in Glasgow. Still, there is some sense of increased urgency.

The goal of “carbon neutrality” — where most emissions are eliminated and those that remain are offset (by measures such as the planting of new trees and, potentially, carbon capture technology in the future) was considered so radical in 2015 that it was left out of the text of the Paris agreement.

Now, though, it has become a rallying cry for countries like the United Kingdom and France as well as major corporations, who are leading the charge in countries like the US where the political leadership has sought to distance themselves or even undermine the cause.

China’s emissions soar despite remarkable climate action

The need for more ambition on climate action was once more highlighted following a new report on China’s greenhouse gas emissions. The country’s emissions reached 12.3 billion tons in 2014 – a 53.5% increase in just a decade.

A truck transports coal in Beijing. Credit: Han Jun Zeng (Flickr)

 

The figures were part of a report filed to the United Nations by China, as part of its obligation to regularly report an official inventory. The country, the largest greenhouse gas emitter, had previously released figures for 2005 and 2010.

The report includes emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, but doesn’t consider changes in land use. If they would have also been considered, emissions would have reached 11.186 billion tons, a 17 percent increase.

China has committed under the Paris Agreement to stem emissions and increase its forest stock by 4.5 billion cubic meters by 2030, along with reducing its carbon intensity between 60 and 65 percent in the same timeline, according to Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

The country is on track to meet or overachieve its contribution, according to CAT. But China’s efforts are still considered insufficient to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, as required under the Paris Agreement.

China has recently taken a more active role in tackling global emissions, especially after decision of the United States to exit the Paris Deal — which China ratified in 2016. The government has taken concrete steps to lower its emissions and has said it will file a new and more ambitious contribution.

China’s economic growth has mainly been powered by coal, which accounted for about 70% of the country’s energy consumption between 1985 and 2016. Burning coal comes at an environmental cost, as it produces twice the amount of CO2 as other fossil fuels.

But while it’s the world’s largest consumer of coal, China is also the largest solar technology manufacturer. This means that the choice China makes over which technology to explore further in the future will have an effect on the world’s ability to limit global warming.

China has already taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint. It introduced an action plan for steel production to meet “ultra-low emission” standards by 2020, it increased the use of natural gas instead of coal and established limits on fuel consumption for new vehicles.

Nevertheless, the country’s aim for a larger economic growth means lowering emissions will be challenging. A study published in Nature Geoscience last year said China’s emissions have rebounded, in line with a larger energy consumption and record production in carbon intensive sectors.

 

 

Paper leopard.

The UN says humanity is causing an ‘unprecedented’ decline in biodiversity — and it’s picking up

A new report from the United Nations says that humanity is putting a never-before-seen strain on the planet — over 1 million species of plants and animals are facing extinction.

Paper leopard.

Image via Pixabay.

Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said. More than half a million species on land “have insufficient habitat for long-term survival” and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. The oceans are not faring any better. However, the report also says that it’s not too late to fix the issue.

Remade in our image

“We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet,” said UN co-chairman Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University at a press conference detailing the report.

Conservation scientists from around the world convened in Paris to issue the 1,000-page strong report. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) included more than 450 researchers who drew data from 15,000 scientific and government reports. The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.

The damage isn’t evenly distributed across the Earth. Some of the harder-hit nations, such as small island countries, wanted the report to be broader and use more conclusive language. Other countries however, such as the United States, were cautious in the wording they used but agreed that “we’re in trouble,” said Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, who observed the final negotiations.

“This is the strongest call we’ve seen for reversing the trends on the loss of nature,” Shaw said.

The findings don’t just show a planet where plants and animals need our intervention to survive (our own actions). It also shows a world in which humanity has a harder and harder time living in, according to Robert Watson, a former top NASA and British scientist who headed the report. The loss of biodiversity threatens to impact food and water security, the ecological mechanisms upon which our societies are built, and our health, he told Associated Press. It will also have a massive effect on our economies and can potentially give rise to security issues as countries and later, individual communities and groups, fight for ever-scarcer resources. The poor in less developed countries bear the greatest burden, Watson adds.

Here are the five main ways humanity is driving down biodiversity today:

  • Clearing forests, grasslands and other areas for farms, cities, and other developments. About three-quarters of Earth’s land, two-thirds of its oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost, the report said. This basically destroys the natural habitats that species rely on, driving them to extinction.
  • Overfishing: A third of the Earth’s fish stocks are experiencing overfishing, according to the report.
  • Continued emissions of greenhouse gases which drive climate change. Almost half of the world’s land mammals — not including bats — and nearly a quarter of the birds have already had their habitats hit hard by global warming.
  • Land and water pollution. Between 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, and toxic sludge are dumped into the world’s waters each year.
  • The introduction of invasive species that outcompete native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen 70% since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 amphibian species.

“The key to remember is, it’s not a terminal diagnosis,” said report co-author Andrew Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London.

The report says that fighting climate change and species conservation are equally important and that work on the two problems should go hand in hand. Both problems exacerbate each other because a warmer world means fewer species, and a less biodiverse world means fewer trees and plants to remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the air.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, reported in March that 27,159 species are threatened, endangered, or extinct in the wild out of nearly 100,000 species biologists examined in depth. That includes 1,223 mammal species, 1,492 bird species, and 2,341 fish species. Nearly half the threatened species are plants. The present report estimates that up to 1 million species are trouble by extrapolating the IUCN’s 25% threatened rate to the rest of the world’s species.

The 2C global warming goal may be buried in Paris

The plan for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21, was to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. But tackling global warming simply doesn’t seem to be a priority for the governments of most countries, and the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) seems less and less likely.

We were supposed to limit climate change to two degrees Celsius (2C) above pre-industrial levels – this seems to be a significant tipping point, after which irreversible effects will be felt, and the effects will be devastating. We were supposed to agree on a way to develop sustainably, without compromising the world’s climate. Worsening floods, droughts, freak weather and rising sea levels will become more common, and the costs will be gargantuan – both in human and economic terms. Naturally, since this is a problem that affects all of us, it’s a problem that we will all have to solve together, but conceiving and signing a legally binding contract has so far been impossible. Now, more and more scientists and officials are increasingly worried that such an agreement will never be signed in time for 2C.

“Paris will be a funeral without a corpse,” said David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, who predicts the 2C goal will slip away despite insistence by many governments that is still alive.

2C has become a landmark in recent years. It was first adopted by the European Union in 1996, by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009 and it was formally declared as the organising principle of climate talks at a U.N. meeting in Mexico in 2010. The problem is that if you want to limit climate change, you have to do significant efforts.

The overarching goal of the Convention is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase – something which politicians are reluctant to do, despite the science being pretty clear.

“It’s just not feasible,” said Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Two degrees is a focal point for the climate debate but it doesn’t seem to be a focal point for political action.”

During previous climate negotiations, countries agreed to outline actions they intend to take within a global agreement by March 2015, but as it always seems to be the case, governments agree to actions, but then don’t actually take actions.

“It will not be a piece of cake,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who encouraged the EU to adopt the 2C goal and says it is still achievable.

“It would be perhaps comparable to what the United States did in the Second World War – they changed their economy to producing tanks rather than automobiles,” he said.

It’s still too soon to draw any conclusions at the moment. There seems to be a black cloud floating above this conference, but some are still optimistic. The silver lining seems to be that for the first time, China and the US, the world’s top emitters, are cooperating for an accord. Also, political leaders want to start off on the right foot.

“There is a Copenhagen syndrome,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week referring to the 2009 Copenhagen Conference. “No world leaders want to (go through) that again.”

No, no one wants to go through that, but what people do want are solutions, not promises. Hopefully, that’s what the Paris conference will result in.

Biodiversity

Scientist warn loss of biodiversity is reducing Earth’s ability to care for us

(Fischer, A.; Young, J. C., 2007)

(Fischer, A.; Young, J. C., 2007)

This month, the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, an United Nations conference where various issues where addressed like the systematic scrutiny of patterns of production, alternative sources of energy to replace the use of fossil fuels, new reliance on public transportation systems in order to reduce vehicle emissions or the growing scarcity of water. More importantly however, the summit marked the moment when 193 nations showed their support for the Convention on Biological Diversity and its goals of biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.

In the wake of the upcoming Rio de Janeiro meeting on June 20 for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as the Rio+20 Conference, scientists have released a study which summarizes and correlates the findings of over 1,000 ecological studies conducted since the 1992 summit. Their reaction isn’t the most optimistic.

 “We believe that ongoing loss of biological diversity is diminishing the ability of ecosystems to sustain human societies,” says Andrew Gonzalez, associate professor of biology and the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science at McGill University and author on the paper.

“We’ve reached a point where efforts to preserve species and biological diversity might no longer be an act of altruism,” says co-author Diane Srivastava, professor of zoology and the Biodiversity Research Centre at University of British Columbia.

“This research review dramatically underscores the importance of strengthening—not weakening or curtailing—environmental assessment processes in order to stem the tide of the loss of species and diversity that so many humans benefit from and depend on.”

The researchers stress that genetic diversity increases the yield of commercial crops, enhances the production of wood in tree plantations, improves the production of fodder in grasslands, and increases the stability of yields in fisheries. Also, plant diversity keeps pests like fungal or viral infections away, and offers greater resistance to invasive exotic plants. Of course, plant diversity enhances above-ground carbon sequestration through enhanced biomass, and increases nutrient re-mineralization and soil organic matter.

“As much as the consensus statements by doctors led to public warnings that tobacco use is harmful to your health, this is a consensus statement by experts who agree that loss of Earth’s wild species will be harmful to the world’s ecosystems and may harm society by reducing ecosystem services that are essential to human health and prosperity,” says Bradley Cardinale, associate professor at the University of Michigan and leader of the research effort.

“We need to take biodiversity loss far more seriously—from individuals to international governing bodies—and take greater action to prevent further losses of species.”

The findings were presented in the journal Nature.

source: futurity