Conservation news

Saving biodiversity ‘on the same scale’ as climate change: German Chancellor

In a kick-off event for the UN’s Year of Biodiversity, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, compared the importance of saving biodiversity to stopping climate change.

“The question of preserving biological diversity is on the same scale as climate protection,” Merkel said today according to Reuters. Germany is the current chair of the UN Convention on Biodiversity. “We need a sea change. Here, now, immediately — not some time in the future. This year has to be used to relaunch this effort.”

Eight years ago nations pledged that by 2010 the world would achieve a ‘significant reduction’ in biodiversity loss. The target has not been met: if anything the extinction crisis is worse than it was eight years ago. Extinctions are estimated to be occurring at 1,000 times the natural background rate, and many ecologists believe we are entering a period of global mass extinction similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, only this time the cause is not celestial like a comet, but due solely to human activities.

Mysterious leafhopper insect in the tropical forests of Suriname. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

To stem the loss of biodiversity, Merkel suggested setting up a new UN body to focus on the science of biodiversity.

“It would be sensible to have an interface between the politics and the science to integrate knowledge, like the IPCC does with climate change,” she said.

The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is a body made-up of climatologists tasked with the science of climate change.

Biodiversity provides essential ecosystem services, such as pollination, decomposition of waste, removal of toxins, soil fertility, erosion buffering, pest control, medicinal discoveries, food security, and carbon sequestration. According to UN estimates, such services are worth trillions annually. According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 36 percent of evaluated species are currently threatened with extinction.

“We must counter the perception that people are disconnected from our natural environment,” the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon said. “Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life.”

Species are threatened by a wide variety of human-caused impacts, but the largest include deforestation, habitat loss, invasive species, overconsumption, pollution, and climate change.

“We are facing an extinction crisis,” Jane Smart, director of the IUCN, told the BBC. “The loss of this beautiful and complex natural diversity that underpins all life on the planet is a serious threat to humankind now and in the future.”

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