Saving the diversity and abundance of life on Earth may cost $100 billion a year, say scientists who have proposed a policy to prevent another mass extinction event on the planet.
There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth. Scientists now estimate that society must urgently come to grips this coming decade to stop the very first human-made biodiversity catastrophe.
“The sixth extinction is on our society’s shoulders; it really is,” ecologist Greg Asner, of Arizona State University in the US, said in a statement on the occasion of Earth day.
Asner is one of 19 international authors with a bold new science policy proposal to reverse the tide, called A Global Deal for Nature (GDN). The policy’s mission is to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth — for the price tag of $100 billion a year.
It’s not a huge price tag, said Asner, consider that in 2018 alone, the top two most profitable US companies, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway, almost matched that amount.
Societal investment in the GDN plan would, for the first time, integrate and implement climate and nature deals on a global scale to avoid human upheaval and biodiversity loss.
While the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was the first major accord to take global action toward climate change policies, the international team of GDN scientists believe a similar companion pact is desperately needed to implement the very first global nature conservation plan to meet these challenges.
“The Paris agreement is only a half-deal; it will not alone save the diversity of life on Earth or conserve ecosystem services upon which humanity depends,” said Eric Dinerstein, of the US-based nongovernmental organisation Resolve.
“The Global Deal for Nature is a time-bound, science-based plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth. Achieving the milestones and targets of the Global Deal for Nature is the best gift we can offer to future generations—an environmental reset, a pathway to an Eden 2.0,” Dinerstein said.
The study, published in Science Advances, outlines the guiding principles, milestones and targets needed to avoid the disastrous extinction threats of a two degrees Celsius global warming forecast.
The three overarching goals of the GDN are to protect biodiversity by conserving at least 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface by 2030; mitigate climate change by conserving the Earth’s natural carbon storehouses; and reduce major threats.
The essence of implementing the plan is to set up protected areas of land as natural ecosystems, researchers said.
Dinerstein said that reprioritising the woods is the key to saving biodiversity and some of the best natural carbon sinks on the planet.
Any place that can store carbon is important, from the land to the sea, including forests, peatlands, tundra, mangroves, grasslands, freshwater and marine realms, wetlands and coastal habitats, researchers said.
“We need wild nature in every one of the Earth’s 846 terrestrial ecoregions, conserved in protected areas representing the complex web of nature upon which we all depend,” Dinerstein said.
When it comes to protecting biodiversity, creating a global map, let alone setting aside the precise global locations for specific conservation areas, is very much a work in progress.
Dinerstein estimates that the international community currently spends $4 billion to $10 billion per year alone on conservation.
Extending the area-based targets in the post-2020 strategic plan for biodiversity to 30 per cent by 2030 will likely require direct involvement of the private sector, some of whom — including Google, Microsoft, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Environmental Foundation Ltd — are among the first to have made commitments to the GDN.
“The Global Deal for Nature presents a hopeful solution to avert the sixth mass extinction and help stabilize the climate, powered by the latest technology to visualize and analyze global change from space,” said Tanya Birch, program manager for Google Earth Outreach.
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“The time is short and the science is clear — humanity must do more than reduce our global carbon emissions in order to escape the brink of climate disaster,” said Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft.
“We must act with boldness and vision if we are to prevent the worsening impacts of climate change — from sea level rise and extreme flooding to prolonged drought, cataclysmic fire events and collapsing food systems,” said Karl Burkart, director of innovation, media and technology at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.