To save the planet, the world needs to tackle the crises of climate change and species loss together, taking measures that fix both and not just one, United Nations scientists said.
A joint report Thursday by separate U.N. scientific bodies that look at climate change and biodiversity loss found there are ways to simultaneously attack the two global problems, but some fixes to warming could accelerate extinctions of plants and animals.
For example, measures such as expansion of bioenergy crops like corn, or efforts to pull carbon dioxide from the air and bury it, could use so much land — twice the size of India — that the impact would be “fairly catastrophic on biodiversity,” said co-author and biologist Almut Arneth at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.
Policy responses to climate change and biodiversity loss have long been siloed, with different government agencies responsible for each, said co-author Pamela McElwee, a human ecologist at Rutgers University.
The problems worsen each other, are intertwined and in the end hurt people, scientists said.
“Climate change and biodiversity loss are threatening human well-being as well as society,” said report co-chair Hans-Otto Portner, a German biologist who helps oversee the impacts group of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Earth’s naturally changing climate shaped what life developed, including humans, but once people in the industrialized world started pumping fossil fuels into the air, that triggered cascading problems, Portner said.
“It’s a high time to fix what we got wrong," he said. "The climate system is off-track and the biodiversity is suffering.”