US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — The world is at a crossroads. The future of life on our planet – and, therefore, our own – is in jeopardy. Humanity has gone too far in its quest for enrichment. Studies show that we have changed over 75% of the ice-free land. More than half of the planet’s habitable surface is now used for food, and untouched wildlife makes up less than 25% of the Earth’s area.
The situation with the oceans is no better. Over the past hundred years, 90% of large fish were caught from the sea, and 63% of fish resources were depleted due to overuse.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that greenhouse gas emissions caused by industrial and agricultural activities, as well as deforestation, increased significantly after 1970. As a result, man-made global warming is accelerating, so we can no longer ignore the reduction of natural areas or the threat of climate change.
As we already know, if by 2030 the volume of land conversion and greenhouse gas emissions is not reduced, it will be impossible to achieve the goal set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement: to limit global warming to 2 ° C relative to pre-industrial levels. Meanwhile, even warming by 1.5 ° C will pose a serious threat to the biology of the planet, accelerating the sixth mass extinction of species that has already begun. Due to the collapse of ecosystems, the quality of life for all species, including humans, will deteriorate.
When ecosystems are disrupted, the amount of natural benefits that they provide (clean air, clean water, pollination of crops, protection from hurricanes) will inevitably decrease. Studies show that reduced access to clean water and increased hurricanes and droughts due to climate change can lead to the forced relocation of 100 million people in the next 30 years.
Not only people will suffer in a warming world. About nine million species of plants and animals live with us on the planet. If ecosystems are disturbed, the vital activity of both large and small species will be seriously complicated, and they will either have to adapt or die. Many will die out, and after that it will take the Earth millions of years to restore the breadth and depth of its biodiversity. The planet will fundamentally and irreversibly change, which will directly and very seriously affect humanity.
To prevent this scenario, we must first recall that the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was always half-hearted: it concerns global warming and its causes, but does not touch on the threat to natural systems on which life depends. Today, only 15% of the earth and 7% of the oceans are protected. Meanwhile, studies show that by 2030 we are obliged to double the area of protected lands, and the oceans – by four, to protect the most important ecosystems and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. The protection of natural areas is, therefore, the missing link in supporting prosperity in a warming world.
In anticipation of the upcoming summit of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in the Chinese city of Kunming this year, scientists, together with other interested participants, have developed a “Global Agreement on the Protection of Nature.”
This agreement is based on scientific data and contains a plan with a clear implementation schedule: to protect 30% of the earth and water area by 2030, which will be a stepping stone to preserving 50% of the Earth in its natural state (by 2050). In the field of nature conservation over the next decade, we need to do more than has been done over the past century. Achieving this goal will require rapid and collective acceleration of environmental activities around the world.
No less important than the size of the protected land and water surface are the diversity and health of natural areas. On Earth, conservation measures must protect the ecosystems necessary to sustain the lives of threatened species, to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity. And in the oceans, comprehensive measures to protect critical habitats as well as threatened species and migratory corridors are needed to prevent species extinction and maintain sustainable fisheries.
Although the task of securing 30% of the earth and water surface is extremely difficult by 2030, it is absolutely feasible. Skeptics will argue that we need to use the earth and oceans to feed the ten billion people who are expected to inhabit the planet by 2050. They will argue that the proposed environmental measures will be too costly and create problems. But studies show that these target 30% are achievable even using existing technologies and within the framework of existing consumption patterns, provided that there are shifts in politics, production, and also in the direction of government and business spending.
The demand for food created by a growing population can be met with existing farmland, simply by reducing the amount of food waste. In addition, we need to restore coastal non-commercial fisheries and develop regenerative agriculture, which will provide local and healthier food, while helping to restore soil and absorb a significant portion of our carbon emissions into the atmosphere. If we redirect some of the state funding through which unsustainable fishing and agricultural practices are subsidized annually today, we can protect natural areas that provide people with “ecosystem services” worth $ 125 trillion annually. By identifying and mitigating the natural risks to the business,
We have a chance to do it all right. A significant increase in the area of protected natural areas is an ambitious goal. But this is a goal that guarantees a future full of life for both humanity and all species with which we share our planet. A global agreement on the protection of nature, along with the Paris Agreement, can save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth. Our future depends on our willingness to undertake this task.
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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.