Climate change and the ongoing loss of biodiversity represent critical global challenges. Both are linked, yet efforts to address these issues are often tackled separately.
Recently, a four-day workshop by the Intergovernmental Platform on
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explored the connections between these two issues. Without developing solutions that consider both we risk taking actions that improve neither, or could potentially make the situation worse.
The workshop report states some difficult facts.
“…77% of land (excluding Antarctica) and 87% of the area of the ocean have been modified by the direct effects of human activities. These changes are associated with the loss of 83% of wild mammal biomass, and half that of plants. Livestock and humans now account for nearly 96% of all mammal biomass on Earth, and more species are threatened with extinction than ever before in human history.”
The report further notes that establishing protected areas is helpful but is insufficient to address the scale of the problem. Consequently, the report’s authors recommend a new paradigm.
“A new conservation paradigm would address the simultaneous objectives of a habitable climate, self-sustaining biodiversity, and a good quality of life for all…For these new approaches to be successful and sustainable, equitably planned and iterative participation of affected local communities and residents in their design and implementation will be essential in order to root solutions in local economies, needs, livelihoods and politics.”
In other words, there is no “one size fits all” answer. We need to be innovative and thoughtful as well as inclusive in our solutions. Those solutions must conform to local needs and reflect the location’s uniqueness.
Simply allowing nature to heal itself can be a start, but because of the extent of the damage, nature cannot resolve the issue on its own.
“Ecosystems can aid climate change mitigation over time, but only when complementing rapid emissions reductions in energy production, transportation, agriculture, building and industrial sectors…Planting bioenergy crops (including trees, perennial grasses or annual crops) in monocultures over a very large share of total land area is detrimental to ecosystems, reduces supply of many other nature’s contributions to people…”
One interpretation suggests that while planting a tree is a good idea,
planting many trees of the same type (monoculture) is less than a good idea. A better solution would be to allow the forest (or other ecosystems) to regrow naturally. Then, we need to do our part. Although, how to do so, remains a bit of a mystery.
The authors concluded by admitting what we all know in our hearts is the truth of the situation.
“Achieving the scale and scope of transformative change needed to meet the goals…relies on rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted.”
We, as a community, need to become more engaged and creative in our approach to supporting nature. Carbon offsets and new technology won’t achieve the desired results. We need to change what is acceptable within our society. We need to change how we work, how we consume, and how we live. We need to allow nature to heal herself and in doing so, we re-secure our own futures.
The workshop report is available for your review here: https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2021-06/20210609_workshop_report_embargo_3pm_CEST_10_june_0.pdf