United Nations: Climate and extinction crises must be tackled together

The world needs to tackle climate change and the extinction crisis together, not individually, says a new UN report

UN scientists said that to save the planet, the world needs to tackle the crisis of climate change and species loss together.

A joint report on Thursday by separate UN scientific bodies looking at climate change and biodiversity loss found there are ways to attack the two global problems together, but some of the warming is improving the extinction of plants and animals. can accelerate.

For example, measures such as the expansion of bioenergy crops such as corn, or efforts to pull and bury carbon dioxide from the air, could use up so much land – twice the size of India – that the impact would be “quite devastating on biodiversity”. . said co-author and biologist Almut Arneth at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

Policy responses to climate change and biodiversity loss have long been silent, with different government agencies each responsible, said co-author Pamela McElwee, a human ecologist at Rutgers University.

Scientists said the problems make each other worse, are intertwined and ultimately hurt people.

“Climate change and loss of biodiversity are threats to human well-being as well as society,” said report co-chair Hans-Otto Portner, a German biologist with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Impact Group. Helps to maintain.

Portner said Earth’s naturally changing climate allowed life, including humans, to evolve, but once people in the industrialized world began pumping fossil fuels into the air, cascading problems began.

“It is high time to correct what we have done wrong,” he said. “The climate system is off track and biodiversity is suffering.”

The report said that there are several measures that can simultaneously address both the problems.

“Protecting and restoring high-carbon ecosystems, such as tropical forests and peatlands, should be a high priority,” said co-author Pete Smith, a plant and soil scientist at the University of Aberdeen.

While some climate solutions may amplify species loss, scientists said efforts to prevent extinction do not actually harm the climate.

Yune Shin, research director of the French National Research Institute, said measures taken to protect biodiversity will also help prevent climate change. While he lauded the growing interest in nature-based solutions, he said, conservation measures “should be accompanied by clear cuts in emissions.”

“This report is an important milestone,” said Simon Lewis, chair of global change science at University College London, who was not part of the report.

“Finally the world’s bodies that synthesize scientific information on two of the most pressing crises of the 21st century are working together,” he said. “Preventing biodiversity loss is harder than phasing out fossil fuel use.”


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Follow Seth Borenstein and Christina Larsen on Twitter at @borenbears and @larsonchristina.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content


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