The world today: The crisis of climate-driven extinction | Penn Today
The world today: The crisis of climate-driven extinction | Penn Today Penn Today
The World Today: The Crisis of Climate-Driven Extinction
In an era punctuated by climate-driven disasters and an ever-worsening ecological crisis, the question of our planet’s future has never been more urgent. As wildfires, floods, and cyclones become increasingly frequent and severe, how we respond to these challenges could determine the fate of millions of species, including humankind.
Panel Discussion on Biodiversity Loss and Climate Change
Addressing this urgency, Perry World House joined with the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and the Media and the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania to present a panel discussion, “The World Today: The Crisis of Climate-Driven Extinction.”
The Sept. 19 event was part of Climate Week at Penn and convened a panel of experts across disciplines to discuss the intersection of biodiversity loss and climate change, a crisis that the United Nations describes as a “triple planetary crisis.”
Panelists and Moderators
The conversation was moderated by Simon Richter, who specializes in cultural aspects of adaptation, resilience, and migration in the context of the climate emergency. The panel included Erol Akçay, a theoretical biologist; Michael Mann, a climate scientist; and Zinta Zommers, a former visiting fellow at Perry World House and specialist in risk management and climate-change adaptation.
The Importance of Biodiversity
Defined as a measure of variability and diversity of all life on Earth, biodiversity, Akçay explained, is as pervasive as it is important in maintaining functional and thriving ecosystems. In much the same way that diversity of producers and consumers can disparately facilitate exchanges of goods and services that have a ripple effect through economies at varying scales, biodiversity serves as a catalyst for ecological stability, he said.
According to Akçay, the interactions among various species are not isolated incidents but interconnected events that have far-reaching implications for the health of the planet. As such, threats to reducing biodiversity increase the risk of extinction for not just one species but for many others.
As an example to highlight the often-unexpected ways in which reduced biodiversity can impact us, Akçay noted how, in 2019, researchers discovered the first new class of antibiotics effective against gram negative bacteria, such as E. coli, since the 1960s.
“This is significant because antibiotic resistance is a grave concern for both human health and agriculture,” Akçay said.
He noted that the initial discovery was made in the gut microbiome of a nematode, a parasitic worm found in insects, and that, when you diminish insect populations, you reduce the diversity of bacteria essential for creating antibiotics. “If this situation is further exacerbated, it could lead to pre-penicillin-like condition, wherein a simple cut could lead to death, due to a lack of antibiotics to treat a possible infection,” he said.
Akçay said that, in the context of biological problems, consequences often cascade in unforeseen directions, making reductions in biodiversity a potential trigger for a host of unforeseen problems.
Human Activity and Biodiversity Loss
In answering Richter’s question regarding how human activity could set a course correction for mitigating costs to biodiversity, Akçay mentioned two major contributors to species extinction: land-use change, as in repurposing habitats for agricultural, housing, or business needs; and direct exploitation via hunting or fishing.
“If we don’t get a handle on these, we’re going to continually see massive biodiversity reductions in the face of climate change as fewer habitats and smaller population sizes due to exploitation mean less capacity of species to adapt to changing climatic conditions,” Akçay said.
Policies and Targets for Biodiversity Protection
Zommers brought up the policy-based efforts towards mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss and noted that both the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were created in 1992, “so, they are almost like brother and sister but both haven’t been successful in many ways,” she said. “They had targets set in 2010 that outlined what the governments of the world should do to protect biodiversity, but in 2020 the CBD reported that none of these targets had been met.”
Zommers said that this highlights a major issue that plagues climate communities: “We’re making lots of pledges, but where is the action?”
She noted that in 2022 governments met to urge for more commitment to these targets in the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) and adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which set out an ambitious pathway to achieve the CBD’s goals. Zommers believes what’s interesting here is that both the CBD and the UNFCCC have these similar histories and, going forward, a similar framing, wherein both have goals and the idea is to ratchet up the ambition over time. And in both, she said, there is a great deal of discussion about financing these actions.
She mentioned that the difference is that the CBD has a clearer road map for what governments for what should do such as, reducing subsidies in certain areas and helping industry focus on biodiversity, whereas UNFCCC has targets like the 1.5°C goal but with no clear road map for how this should be implemented and with each government is meant to come up with their own strategy.
“Overall, the two are tied to some degree, in that unless we achieve our climate goals, a significant amount of this planet’s biodiversity will be lost,” Zommers said.
The Threat of Climate Change to Biodiversity
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Analysis
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 14: Life Below Water
- SDG 15: Life on Land
The article discusses the intersection of biodiversity loss and climate change, which are key issues addressed by SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land). These SDGs focus on protecting the environment, conserving biodiversity, and taking action to combat climate change.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.
- SDG 14.2: Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems.
- SDG 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats.
Based on the article’s content, the following targets can be identified under the relevant SDGs:
– SDG 13.2: The article emphasizes the need for human activity to set a course correction for mitigating costs to biodiversity, specifically mentioning land-use change and direct exploitation as major contributors to species extinction.
– SDG 14.2: The article highlights the importance of biodiversity in maintaining functional and thriving ecosystems, emphasizing the interconnectedness of various species and the risks of reducing biodiversity.
– SDG 15.5: The article discusses the threats to reducing biodiversity and the potential trigger for unforeseen problems, emphasizing the need to address land-use change and direct exploitation to prevent massive biodiversity reductions.
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Indicator: Reduction in land-use change for agricultural, housing, or business needs.
- Indicator: Reduction in direct exploitation through hunting or fishing.
- Indicator: Increase in the sustainability of marine and coastal ecosystems.
- Indicator: Reduction in the degradation of natural habitats.
The article implies indicators that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets:
– Reduction in land-use change: The article mentions repurposing habitats for agricultural, housing, or business needs as a major contributor to species extinction. Monitoring and reducing land-use change can be an indicator of progress towards SDG 13.2 and SDG 15.5.
– Reduction in direct exploitation: The article highlights the need to address direct exploitation through hunting or fishing to prevent biodiversity reductions. Monitoring and reducing direct exploitation can be an indicator of progress towards SDG 13.2 and SDG 15.5.
– Increase in the sustainability of marine and coastal ecosystems: The article emphasizes the importance of sustainably managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems. Monitoring and improving the sustainability of these ecosystems can be an indicator of progress towards SDG 14.2.
– Reduction in the degradation of natural habitats: The article discusses the threats to reducing biodiversity and the need to take urgent action to reduce habitat degradation. Monitoring and reducing habitat degradation can be an indicator of progress towards SDG 15.5.
4. Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 13: Climate Action||13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.||– Reduction in land-use change for agricultural, housing, or business needs.
– Reduction in direct exploitation through hunting or fishing.
|SDG 14: Life Below Water||14.2: Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems.||– Increase in the sustainability of marine and coastal ecosystems.|
|SDG 15: Life on Land||15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats.||– Reduction in land-use change for agricultural, housing, or business needs.
– Reduction in direct exploitation through hunting or fishing.
– Reduction in the degradation of natural habitats.
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