Leading article: The outlook is as bleak as ever

Share
Related Topics

Public concern about climate change has rather eclipsed concerns about biodiversity loss in recent years – and for obvious reasons. But the two challenges are intimately connected. As reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have made clear, one of the malign impacts of a warmer world will be the accelerated extinction of plant and animal species. So the timing of the next fortnight's United Nations biodiversity convention in Japan – and the spotlight it will throw on the destruction of a swath of natural life on the planet – has to be welcome.

Whether the summit will achieve anything more substantial, however, is doubtful. Ever since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the United Nations has been trying to galvanise governments into action to protect biodiversity, but to little avail. A UN world summit on biodiversity in 2002 set a clear target of reducing the rate of global biodiversity loss by 2010. But that target has been comprehensively missed. The UN's recent Global Biodiversity Outlook report indicated that, despite some progress in a few regions, the overall trend was still downwards. The earth is losing species at a rate of more than 1,000 times the historical average. A fifth of the ocean's coral reefs have been destroyed. And tropical rainforests are still being cut down at an alarming speed in Africa and South America. The outlook in 2010 is as bleak as ever.

A new approach is needed, one which recognises the human roots of this phenomenon. There is a clear conflict between economic development and biodiversity preservation. Millions of hectares of rainforests have been cleared for cattle farming in Brazil, for logging in the Congo and to make room for palm oil plantations in Indonesia. These clearances are having catastrophic consequences for the animals that live in these habitats, from the orang-utans of Borneo, to the poison dart frogs of South America.

Developing nations need much stronger incentives to regard their biodiversity as wealth to be preserved, rather than a resource to be processed in the pursuit of growth. This is where the climate change agenda needs to reinforce the biodiversity agenda. Fiscal transfers need to be made from wealthier nations to developing nations that preserve their forests. Forests are crucial because they are not only absorbers of carbon emissions but are also the home of much of the planet's biodiversity. These fiscal transfers should be partially funded by a carbon tax in the rich world.

A recent UN study put a financial estimate on the annual economic damage being done to the natural world. For 2008 they put the cost at £1.3 trillion. Whether one accepts that precise figure or not (and there is no simple way of measuring such costs) it is clear that mankind has an economic interest in preventing further degradation of our biosphere.

But fiscal transfers to developing nations are not sufficient in themselves. There needs to be a greater understanding in all nations, developed and developing alike, of the reality that flourishing biodiversity is not only a good in itself, but is crucial for all future human economic development. From our reliance on wild fish stocks for food, to the bees that pollinate our crops, to the coral reefs that protect coastal communities from flooding, to the forests that create the rain that nourishes our farm land, we depend on the natural world to a much more significant degree than most of us realise.

We also need to recognise that the resources of our biosphere are finite and that without careful stewarding, we will lose them altogether. International co-operation on biodiversity and climate change can help – but without a revolution in human attitudes to the natural world the outlook will remain bleak.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Police officers attempt to stop illegal migrants from jumping onto trucks headed for Britain in the northeastern French port of Calais on October 29, 2014  

Tighter security in Calais won’t solve the problem

Nigel Morris
 

Football needs its Martin Luther moment, and soon

Boyd Tonkin
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines