SINGAPORE – The climate crisis and the extinction plague sweeping the natural world have been dealt with as separate issues for decades.
But in a new report published on Thursday night (June 10) Singapore time, scientists are calling on governments to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises together.
This can be done, where possible, through the implementation of strategies that are win-win for both the global climate and local biodiversity – instead of solutions that may benefit one at the expense of the other, the report said.
Reforestation projects done in large areas with only a single tree species grown for fuel (such as oil palm), for instance, could affect the abundance of wildlife species at a site, since different animals require different plants for food.
Exotic monoculture species could also become invasive, outcompeting native flora that animals there rely upon.
Instead, more sustainable agricultural practices should be encouraged, say the authors of the new report. They include measures such as planting a diversity of crops instead of just one, for instance.
The report was delivered by 50 scientists from the United Nations’ climate science and biodiversity panels following a four-day virtual workshop on ways of slowing down climate change and biodiversity loss.
The workshop and resulting report also mark the first collaboration between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
At the launch of the report, the scientists said both the climate and biodiversity problems are driven by mankind, and are mutually reinforcing.
“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people… The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives in many regions” said Professor Hans-Otto Portner, co-chair of the scientific steering committee that led the workshop.
The Amazon rainforest, valued for its rich biodiversity, has a profound impact on rainfall.
A 2018 paper in the journal Science Advances noted that the Amazon generates about half of its own rainfall by recycling moisture five to six times through evaporation and transpiration, as air moves from the Atlantic Ocean across the forest basin to the west. But deforestation could cause the cycle to degrade to the point of being unable to support rainforest ecosystems.
“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” Prof Portner said.
A research team from Stanford University had in 2017 found that places where animals are most diverse correlate with places that have the most carbon locked up in the soil.
Animals contribute to the carbon cycle when they eat, breathe and decompose.
This is also the case underwater. When whales die and their carcasses sink out of the water…