Our native animal and plant species are dying off - and we're to blame.
A million animal and plant species - including the kiwi and kereru - are at risk of extinction because of humans. And that has serious implications for our survival, according to a landmark United Nations report which says nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history.
Among the 4000 endangered species in New Zealand are the Maud Island frog, Maui’s dolphins and the fairy tern.
Nearly 150 authors from 50 nations worked for three years to compile the report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services — a panel with 132 member nations.
One of the authors, Sir Robert Watson, said the decline in biodiversity is eroding “the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
“The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”
The authors identified industrial farming and fishing as major drivers – with the current rate of species extinction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10 million years.
Climate change caused by burning the coal, oil and gas produced by the fossil fuel industry is exacerbating the losses, the report found.
Greenpeace New Zealand executive director, Dr Russel Norman, wants our Government to declare a climate emergency to tackle the effects of human-driven climate change.
"We need to ban synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, which drives the dairy intensification that pollutes our climate and our rivers. We also have to dramatically reduce the number of dairy cows in the country, and change land use to less polluting ways of farming," Norman said in a statement last week.
"We have been clearly warned by scientists that we have just 10 years to halve emissions in order to avoid climate breakdown that will cause dramatic rates of extinction, and the displacement and death of tens of millions of people."
The report highlighted five ways people are reducing biodiversity:
Turning forests, grasslands and other areas into farms, cities and other developments. The habitat loss leaves plants and animals homeless. About three-quarters of Earth's land, two-thirds of its oceans and 85 per cent of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making it harder for species to survive, the report said.
Overfishing the world's oceans. A third of the world's fish stocks are overfished.
Permitting climate change from the burning of fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the world's land mammals — not including bats — and nearly a quarter of the birds have already had their habitats hit hard by global warming.
Polluting land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world's waters.
Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen 70 per cent since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 amphibian species.
Fighting climate change and saving species are equally important, the report said, and working on both environmental problems should go hand-in-hand.