It’s Halloween, so I suppose the timing is right for scary news.
The latest U.N. report:
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
Some time ago we learned about a disturbing study out of Germany that observed massive insect losses even in well-protected natural areas:
Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.
In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.
Lastly, a report just came out that documented the destruction of over 1/2 of the world’s vertebrates in my lifetime:
The populations of Earth’s wild mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and other vertebrates declined by more than half between 1970 and 2012, according to a report from environmental charity WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Activities such as deforestation, poaching and human-induced climate change are in large part to blame for the decline. If the trend continues, then by 2020 the world will have lost two-thirds of its vertebrate biodiversity, according to the Living Planet Report 2016. “There is no sign yet that this rate will decrease,” the report says.
“Across land, freshwater and the oceans, human activities are forcing species populations and natural systems to the edge,” says Marco Lambertini, director-general of WWF International.
Source: Living Planet Report 2016
The main threat facing declining populations is habitat loss — caused by logging, agriculture and the disruption of freshwater systems such as rivers. Freshwater populations, which declined by 81%, are increasingly thought to be faring worse than those living in terrestrial regions.
I want to tell you the tide is turning, that we’re on the right track, etc. But in fact just looking at the data we are lacking the urgency requisite to address the challenges of this scale and speed.
From our businesses, our non-profits, our educational institutions, our religious communities, and elected officials… we’re failing. Inaction and incrementalism negate our responsibility to our children.
We often jump to happy talk and self-congratulations too quickly. What was good 10 years ago is no longer sufficient. I think we’d all do well to just let these reports sit and sink in before thinking of our response.