There has understandably been a huge reaction to the recent publication of the 6th IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, which warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding as a consequence of human activities which have warmed ‘the atmosphere, oceans and land’ to an unprecedented degree. While the report is rightly billed as ‘a code red for humanity’, it is important to also note scientists’ observations that it is not too late to avoid catastrophe for our planet, as long as we act now…but what does act now really mean?
From IFAW’s perspective, we believe it is now more urgent than ever that all of us value and protect nature. This means affording real and lasting protection to our existing habitats and the species that live there, as well as investing in nature to restore and expand these habitats that are vital for healthy ecosystems and the biodiversity that enable our planet to function.
Many ecosystems which are the most effective at capturing and storing carbon are also important habitats for wildlife. These systems can also help mitigate against extreme weather events, such as healthy forests and mangroves protecting against flooding and severe storm impact. Some animals, such as forest elephants, pangolins and whales, are considered to be ‘ecosystem engineers’—with key roles in preserving the health of these ecosystems and enabling the capture of more carbon. The health of these ecosystems is also important for the survival of people and livelihoods.
If anyone doubts the impact of climate change on wildlife, the figures speak for themselves. Sadly, some species have already gone extinct due to climate change and many more will follow, with up to a third of animal species facing extinction due to climate change without action to address this crisis.
Ensuring lasting protection for nature requires a complete societal shift in attitude and behaviour from us all; as individuals, communities, businesses, NGOs and governments. We need to recognise that nature and humanity is interconnected in all of our actions, and that to protect the planet for us as humans, we must protect wildlife, biodiversity and habitats, on land and in the ocean. This is a vital component in global efforts to limit and mitigate the damaging effects of climate change, and absolutely essential if we are to ensure all of us can thrive into the future, in the place we call home.