Scientists warn one million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction

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One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction in an alarming and compelling UN report.

Nature everywhere is declining at a speed never previously seen and our needs for ever more food and energy are the main drivers.

These trends can be halted, the study says, but it will take “transformative change” in every aspect of how humans interact with nature.

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A polar bear swims in the water off a barrier island in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge just outside the Inupiat village of Kaktovik, Alaska, USA. EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO

Three years in the making, this global assessment of nature draws on 15,000 reference materials, and has been compiled by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It runs to 1,800 pages.

The brief, 40-page “summary for policymakers”, published today, is perhaps the most powerful indictment of how humans have treated their only home.

The IPBES included more than 450 researchers. The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.

It says that while the Earth has always suffered from the actions of humans through history, over the past 50 years, these scratches have become deep scars.

The report’s 39-page summary highlighted five ways people are reducing biodiversity:

  • Turning forests, grasslands and other areas into farms, cities and other developments

  • Overfishing the world’s oceans

  • Permitting climate change from the burning of fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive

  • Polluting land and water

  • Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals

Via BBC/|AP/Sky News/IPBES