Global wildlife populations declined almost 70% in less than half a century

Global wildlife populations declined almost 70% in less than half a century

In its most comprehensive finding, the latest edition of the biennial Living Planet Report of WWF shows an average 69% decline in the relative abundance of monitored wildlife populations worldwide in the past 48 years.

Many scientists think humans are to blame for the sixth mass extinction, the most significant loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs. Around the world, the report indicates that the main drivers of wildlife population decline are habitat degradation and loss, exploitation, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, climate change, and disease.

The findings were based on data from the Zoological Society of London, featuring almost 32,000 wildlife populations of 5,230 species worldwide. 

Latin America and the Caribbean regions have seen the most significant global decline in monitored wildlife populations, with an average reduction of 94% between 1970 and 2018. And worse is to come since the region's deforestation rate is increasing, which destroys the Amazon's capacity to fight against climate change.

During the same period, monitored populations in Africa plummeted by 66%, while Asia Pacific's monitored populations fell by 55%.

Freshwater populations have declined the most compared to other species groups, with an average 83% decline between 1970 and 2018.

The IUCN Red List shows cycads (an ancient group of plants) are the most threatened species, while corals are declining the fastest, followed by amphibians.

This fourteenth edition of the Living Planet Index reveals shocking figures and calls for transformative systems change. To reverse nature loss and secure a nature-positive world by 2030 for people and wildlife, we will need to transform economies so that natural resources are appropriately valued.

The report argues that increasing conservation and restoration efforts, producing and consuming food sustainably, and rapidly and deeply decarbonizing all sectors can mitigate the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Starting December 7, governments from around the world will come together for 12 days in Montreal, Canada, to agree on a new set of goals to guide global actions through 2040 to protect and restore nature. The UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to secure an ambitious global biodiversity agreement that binds all governments to a set of global commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity decline. 

There is already a draft available for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which has 21 action targets, including:

The authors of the Living Planet Report report plead with world leaders to reach a bold deal at COP15 and reduce carbon emissions to keep global warming below 1.5C this decade to stop nature's destruction.

I wonder how many more reports about our destruction of this beautiful planet will be needed before our leaders take action. How can any leader who promises a bright future for the next generations ignore all the warnings we receive daily from a dying planet? I fear we need even more extreme weather, floods, droughts, heat waves, sea-level rise, diseases, hunger, and inequality before anything is done.

What does it take to make our leaders lead? I'm serious. What does it take? An even bigger disaster? More climate refugees? More planetary security crises? Is a decline of some 70% of wildlife in half a century not enough to be shocked and take immediate action?

Unfortunately, we are not even close to seeing our leaders alarmed and ready to lead. I fail to find the words to express my frustration that my generation's leaders knowingly let our beautiful planet die. Nevertheless, I will likely never give up hope, nor will I ever lose my sadness about our collective failure to save our planet. That is how I will follow the developments at both COPs: with hope and despair.

But never forget that you have a voice and a vote; use them wisely.

I write this newsletter because I believe that together we can do better on this beautiful but fragile planet.

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