TL;DR landmark UN Climate Change report: Close to 1 million species at risk

2019-05-13 16:39 - Selene Brophy
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The United Nations has released a landmark report on the natural world, showing that a growing global population has more than doubled demand and the natural world just can’t keep up. Grim, we know.

The report involved more than 100 hundred experts and is a weighty 1 500 pages of overwhelming consequence.  If knowing that more than 1-million species are at risk is too much of a downer for you, well then best you stop reading any further.  

This is the first UN report of its kind in 15 years, according to Conservation International, whose singular message has always been, “We need to invest in nature — and we need to do it now”.

The report’s jarring takeaways include:

  • Climate breakdown and the decimation of the natural world are connected.
  • Without the life-essential services nature provides — breathable air, drinkable water, healthy oceans, a stable climate — humans will not survive.
  • There is still time to conserve natural habitats, if we act quickly to preserve key areas.

“Climate change is already pummeling the planet. Almost 1 million species face extinction  because of loss of habitat due to changes in land use, pollution and over-exploitation,” says CI's Lee Hannah, Senior Scientist, Climate Change Biology. 

Hannah is also the co-editor of a new book, “Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere,” together with Thomas Lovejoy, senior fellow at the UN Foundation.

So the reports results come as no surprise since the book examines the rapid warming, catastrophic storms and record-breaking droughts that will upend life as we know it.  

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UN Climate Change Report shows more than 1 million

Source: UN Climate Change Report

UN Climate Change Report shows more than 1 million

Source: UN Climate Change Report

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“Essential crops are under threat because of years of unsustainable agricultural practices. And we are overfishing our oceans, which are expected to be home to more plastic than fish by 2050. This report is sounding the alarm that we must establish broad conservation efforts in key areas right now."

Hannah says the UN report reinforces what has been known for many years, “We need to get conservation in the right places for a changing climate — and we need to do it fast. We need to make change happen on a planetary scale now.”

While there has been the historic Paris climate change agreement, the world is dealing with the ongoing perils of climate change, such as ocean acidification, warns CI. In the last decade the changes have been monumental, and before it’s all over, “it will have re-arranged all of creation” as we know it, says Hannah.  

The biggest misconception related to the report is that the issue is about the future when Climate Change and its harrowing effects are  very much a presented day concern. The effects of climate change are happening right now, with not enough being done to stem the long-term effect.

Expanding protected areas – both on land and ocean 

That being said, Hannah advocates that part of the solutions lie in looking at the previous patterns of impact and ensure enough protected areas are created in the right places. Read more about the upslope or escalator to extinction here. Protecting nature could constitute about 30% of the action required to make a dramatic impact. 

But most importantly, a dramatic shift in our energy systems to renewable energy is required. Hannah acknowledges that it’s no small task to do away with fossil fuels entire, but stresses that this is what needs to happen. Biofuels are not the ideal solution either as they disrupt the food chain and are equally harmful to nature as forests are chopped down to grow biofuels.

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So what’s being done locally and how can you become more eco-aware in your travels?

There are a number of South African communities or government institutions; business projects, services, products; organisations as well as individuals who are contributing to the quest for a more sustainable world.

The organisers behind the Eco-logic awards say, “It’s all too easy to get swamped in the bad news of escalating Climate Change, oceans of plastic and the fears of our young generations about the world they will inherit. 

The Eco-Logic Awards highlights a number of bright green solutions that we as consumers and citizens can support. 

Director of The Enviropaedia and the Eco-Logic Awards, David Parry-Davies says, “If we look at how the year has started, there’s no doubt that our situation is dire.  However, the 2019 Eco-Logic Awards can lift us out of a pessimistic and helpless attitude about our future by identifying the people, products and organisations that give us hope because they provide real solutions for Climate Change and other environmental challenges that we face. 

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They're in turn celebrating Eco-Champions who are "creating resources and opportunities to build a better world" - with finalists across the 12 categories representing a keen opportunity to make smarter choices or to get involved: 

Climate change:

  • Department of Agriculture: SmartAgri plan
  • Global Wheeling
  • Hotelstuff/Greenstuff
  • TOMA-Now: What to do with aliens?


  • Dekro Paints: AMORIGUARD A-GAIN
  • Interwaste: Waste Derived Fuel Services
  • Prime Plus Packaging Pty Ltd: Biodegradable Cassava Starch Bags
  • UCT Bio-Brick: Growing bio bricks from human urine

Recycling and Waste Management:

  • Baoberry: i-ZEWATA
  • Green Cape: The Western Cape Industrial Symbiosis Programme (WISP)
  • Reclite: Recycling of problematic waste glass previously categorised as ‘non-recyclable’
  • Sun City Waste Management Project


  • Dekro Paints: AMORIGUARD A-GAIN
  • Hotel Verde
  • Streetlight Schools
  • UCT Bio-Brick: Growing bio-bricks from human urine


  • Enviro Options (Pty) Ltd
  • The GreenCape Sector Development Agency: Water Resilience Initiative
  • Virgin Active South Africa: Journey to Net Zero Waste Water

Green Economy:

  • Cape Town Environmental Education Trust: CTEET Training and Development Programme
  • GreenCape Sector Development Agency
  • WESSA: eSteam
  • WESSA: Tourism Blue Flag project


  • City of Cape Town: Biodiversity Management in the City of Cape Town
  • Kloof Conservancy: The Aller River Pilot Project (ARPP)
  • Korsman Conservancy: Environmental Rehabilitation Project
  • Landmark Foundation: Shepherding back biodiversity


  • City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management: Women & Girls (Invisible) Force of Resilience
  • eThekwini Municipality: The Aller River Pilot Project (ARPP)
  • Knysna Municipality: Disaster Management
  • Knysna Municipality: Invasive Plant Management Skills Development Programme


  • Korsman Conservancy
  • Sustaining the Wild Coast: Xolobeni Community
  • Total South Africa & SANParks 60 Year Partnership
  • WESSA: Young Reporters for the Environment Programme


  • Jade Bothma: Oceano Reddentes NPC
  • Joshua Potgieter and Imraan Samuels: Guerilla House
  • Kyle Cato
  • Rocco Antonia Da Silva: The future kids


  • Craig Foster: Sea Change Project
  • Esther van der Westhuizen: The Animal Sanctuary at Butterfly World
  • Mashudu Makhokha: Lapalala Wilderness School
  • Rhian Berning: Eco Atlas


  • Daniel Nyarenda
  • Mandla Gqamlana
  • Margo Tamzone Adonis
  • Sinegugu Zukulu

To get involved or for more information visit

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