Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - WWF: Nature ‘pushed to the brink’ by humanity




WWF: Nature ‘pushed to the brink’ by humanity

WWF: Nature ‘pushed to the brink’ by humanity

UNBRIDLED consumption has decimated global wildlife, triggered a mass extinction and exhausted Earth’s capacity to accommodate humanity’s expanding appetites, the conservation group WWF warned on Tuesday.

From 1970 to 2014, 60 per cent of all animals with a backbone – fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals – were wiped out by human activity, according to WWF’s “Living Planet” report, based on an ongoing survey of more than 4,000 species spread over 16,700 populations scattered across the globe.

“The situation is really bad, and it keeps getting worse,” said WWF International director general Marco Lambertini. “The only good news is that we know exactly what is happening.”

For freshwater fauna, the decline in population over the 44 years monitored was a staggering 80 per cent. Regionally, Latin America was hit hardest, seeing a nearly 90 per cent loss of wildlife over the same period.

Another dataset confirmed the depth of an unfolding mass extinction event, only the sixth in the last half-billion years.

Depending on which of Earth’s lifeforms are included, the current rate of species loss is 100 to 1,000 times higher than only a few hundred years ago, when people began to alter Earth’s chemistry and crowd other creatures out of existence.

Measured by weight, or biomass, wild animals today only account for four per cent of mammals on Earth, with humans (36 per cent) and livestock (60 per cent) making up the rest.

Ten thousand years ago that ratio was probably reversed.

“The statistics are scary,” said Piero Visconti, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and one of 59 co-authors of the 80-page report.

“Unlike population declines, extinctions are irreversible.”

For corals, it may already be too late.

Back-to-back marine heatwaves have already wiped out up to half of the globe’s shallow-water reefs, which support a quarter of all marine life.

Even if humanity manages to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius – mission impossible, according to some scientists – coral mortality will likely be 70 to 90 per cent.

A 2C world would be a death sentence, a major UN report concluded last month.

Half-a-century of conservation efforts have scored spectacular successes, with significant recoveries among tigers, manatees, grizzly bears, bluefin tuna and bald eagles.

“If we didn’t make those efforts, the situation would have been much worse,” Lambertini said.

But the onslaught of hunting, shrinking habitat, pollution, illegal trade and climate change has been too much to overcome, he acknowledged.

“Scientists call it the ‘great acceleration’,” he said in a phone interview.

“It is the exponential growth over the last 50 years in the use of energy, water, timber, fish, food, fertiliser, pesticides, minerals, plastics – everything.”

The pace of population increase – long taboo in development and conservation circles – also took off around 1950, the date scientists have chosen as the “gold spike,” or starting point, for a new geological period dubbed the Anthropocene, or “age of man”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic. Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there