According to United Nations scientists, in order to save the earth, the world must address both the climate change and species extinction problems concurrently, implementing policies that address both rather than just one. Separate UN scientific organizations that look at climate change and biodiversity loss released a combined report Thursday that revealed solutions to address the two global crises at the same time, but certain warming remedies could hasten the extinction of plants and animals.
Expansion of bioenergy crops like corn, or efforts to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and bury it, for example, could require so much land — twice the size of India — that the impact would be “fairly catastrophic on biodiversity,” according to co-author and biologist Almut Arneth of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.
Climate change and biodiversity loss have traditionally been seen as separate issues, with various government agencies in charge of each, according to co-author Pamela McElwee, a human ecologist at Rutgers University.
According to scientists, the problems exacerbate one other, are interconnected, and ultimately harm people.
“Climate change and biodiversity loss endanger human well-being as well as society,” said report co-chair Hans-Otto Portner, a German biologist who oversees the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s effects group.
The Earth’s naturally shifting climate shaped what life evolved, including humans, but as people in the industrialized world began pouring fossil fuels into the atmosphere, it caused a chain reaction of consequences, according to Portner. According to the paper, there are numerous ways that can solve both issues at the same time.
“Protecting and rebuilding high-carbon ecosystems” such as tropical forests and peatlands, according to co-author Pete Smith, a plant and soil scientist at the University of Aberdeen, should be a top priority. While certain climate solutions may cause species loss, experts claim that attempts to reduce extinctions do not have a negative impact on the climate.
According to Yunne Shin, director of research at the French National Research Institute, the majority of measures done to maintain biodiversity will also help to mitigate climate change. While she commended the increased interest in nature-based solutions, she stated that conservation efforts “must be complemented by significant reductions in emissions.”
“This report is a significant milestone,” said Simon Lewis, chairman of global change science at University College London, who was not involved in the research.