Image Source: Flickr. By: Leoffreitas.

The world faces a critical tipping point and potentially irreversible damage, according to a new warning from the UN yesterday.

According to the outlook of the third Global Biodiversity Outlook report:

“In 2002, the world’s leaders agreed to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Having reviewed all available evidence, including national reports submitted by Parties, this third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook concludes that the target has not been met…”

“…The consequences of this collective failure, if it is not quickly corrected, will be severe for us all. Biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection from natural disasters. Its loss also affects us culturally and spiritually…”

“…Current trends are bringing us closer to a number of potential tipping points that would catastrophically reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide these essential services…”

These are certainly not good tidings to give or receive, but they are there, nonetheless. Executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, noted that the report “is saying that we are reaching the tipping point where the irreversible damage to the planet is going to be done unless we act urgently”. He also added that extinction rates for some animal and plant species were at a historically high point—up to 1,000 times higher than in the past, and also having a bad effect on crops and livestock.

The report identified 3 main tipping points to watch out for:

1. Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest; which has caused severe damage to the global climate and regional rainfall, and also contributed to the loss of numerous animal and plant species.

2. Algae have been taking over and contaminating many freshwater lakes and rivers; which has deprived the waters of oxygen, killed off the fish, and thus having a negative effect on local recreation and livelihoods.

3. High ocean acidification levels, warming oceans and overfishing have all contributed to the collapse of coral reefs around the world.

While nations are finally jumping on the green bandwagon, the efforts are simply not enough and the blame doesn’t rule anyone out. You see, part of the report was based on 110 national reports that discussed the steps taken to meet their 2002 pledge. However, according to Djoghlaf:

“There is not a single country in the world that has achieved these targets. We continue to lose biodiversity at an unprecedented rate.”

UNEP director general, Achim Steiner, also backs up this statement. He notes the important role that biodiversity—the health of the soil, oceans, atmosphere, and species—have on the economy and our every day lives, even though people may not see it as such. Steiner said:

“Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somewhere we can get by without biodiversity, or that it is somehow peripheral to the contemporary world.” … “The truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of 6 billion heading to over 9 billion people by 2050.”

To find out more about the report and read it in full, check out this site. You can also check out a webcast with the report’s author here.

By Heidi Marshall