Although climate change has attracted a lot of attention for its catastrophic consequences for the natural world, a new study published in the journal Science Advances has argued that it is in fact the fourth driver of biodiversity loss, after land/sea use change, direct exploitation of natural resources, and pollution.
“This major new study, published during the COP27 climate summit, demonstrates clearly that fighting climate change alone will not be enough to prevent the further loss of biodiversity, and with it our future,” said study co-author Nicolas Titeux, an expert in Climate, Environment, and Biodiversity at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology. “The various direct drivers should be addressed with similar ambition as the climate crisis and as a whole.”
While greenhouse emissions have been known to be the leading causes of the current climate crisis, the researchers argued that just as important is understanding what is behind the massive and rapid decline in animal and plant species. Since ecosystems worldwide are changing away from their natural condition at an unprecedented pace, they are increasingly unable to provide crucial ecosystem services for human wellbeing.
Although, overall, climate change is only the fourth driver of biodiversity loss, it is the second driver of species loss in the oceans, after the human-led exploitation of fish stocks. Based on current developments, the scientists fear that the importance of climate change for species loss and the decline of ecosystem services will increase during the following years and move up in the top of direct drivers.
The researchers call for a more holistic approach to tackle the twin threats of climate and the biodiversity crises together. “Climate change and biodiversity loss have been tackled largely separately, by different policies that haven’t always considered the other problem. For example, biofuels are proposed as one way to get to net zero, but the expansion of plantations into natural forest that could result would be terrible for nature,” explained study senior author Andy Purvis, a researcher in Biodiversity and Conservation at the Natural History Museum in London.
Moreover, “nature-positive” solutions to tackle the two crises, such as the large-scale restoration of natural forests and the effective protection of coastal wetlands, are essential for solving the world’s most pressing problems. “I’d love for ‘nature-positive’ to get into the public consciousness as much as ‘net zero’ has. If future generations are going to have the same birthright we had of a livable, supportive planet, then all parts of society will have to transition as quickly as possible to being both net zero and nature-positive,” Purvis concluded.
Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and Earth.com.