ecological crisis

The planet is in an ecological crisis.

Climate Change

1 degree Celsius average global temperature difference in 2017 compared to pre-industrial levels, rising roughly 0.2 degrees per decade

16-21 cm rise in global average sea level since 1900. Over 3 mm annual average global sea level rise over the past two decades

Since the beginning of the industrial era, pH of the ocean has decreased by 0.1, corresponding to a 26% increase in acidity

Biodiversity Loss

Overall 68% decline in average global population of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish between 1970 and 2016

Living Planet Index (measure of vertebrate population trends from terrestrial, marine, and freshwater habitats between 1970 and 2016): 

  • 33% decline in North America
  • 94% decline in Latin America and Caribbean
  • 24% decline in Europe and Central Asia
  • 65% decline in Africa
  • 45% decline in Asia Pacific

84% decline in average abundance of freshwater species populations between 1970 and 2016

71% decline in average abundance of sharks and rays since 1970

Up to 1 million of 8 million estimated species on Earth threatened with extinction, many within decades

Threatened with extinction:

  • 40% of amphibian species
  • 10% of insects
  • 33% of marine mammals
  • 33% of corals
  • 33% of sharks and shark relatives
  • 22% of plants
  • 25% average across terrestrial, freshwater, and marine vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant species that have been studied in sufficient detail

The current rate of global species extinction is tens to hundreds of times higher compared to the average over the past 10 million years, and the rate is increasing

680 vertebrate species driven to extinction by human activity since the 16th century

Habitat Loss

75% of terrestrial environments and 66% of marine environments have been severely altered by human actions

More than 85% of wetlands present in 1700 have been lost by 2000

Roughly 50% of coral reefs lost since the 1870s

Over 10% decrease in seagrass meadows between 1970 and 2000

68% global forest cover today compared with pre-industrial levels

7% reduction of intact forests between 2000-2013 in developed and developing countries

20% of the Amazon lost in past 50 years

The volume of water in ocean dead zones that are completely devoid of oxygen have quadrupled since 1950, while oxygen minimum zones have expanded by an area the size of the European Union

The Crisis

Increasing global average temperature and changing climate patterns across the planet. Decreasing global biodiversity and population abundances. Diminishing bioproductivity and rapid degradation of natural habitats. These accelerating trends are depicting a natural world in decline. What will the world look like in fifty or a hundred years if these trends continue? 

For many of us who live privileged lives, we seem to have forgotten the beauty of the natural world, that life on this planet is precious and worth caring for. These cities we’ve constructed are poor at portraying the reality of Earth’s condition. We live as if nothing is lost. Only those who live in and interact with nature experience the true immense deterioration of the natural world.

Things are getting worse. Global biodiversity levels have dropped 68% since 1970 and will clearly continue to decrease. Not one of the twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 have been met. According to the UNEP 2020 Emissions Gap Report, the global average temperature will zoom past 2°C or rise at least 3°C by the end of the century under our current policy scenario. By 2030, we will be emitting 50% more greenhouse gases than we should be in order to stay under 2°C. The implications of these global trends are devastating. More people across the world will suffer.

It is clear that human activity is the root cause of Earth’s ecological decline. We are only starting to become aware of these alarming trends, but will we be able to enact the necessary changes to reverse them? The planet is in an ecological crisis. We have to act now.

Read More

“Unaddressed Issues on Sustainability”


IPBES Global Assessment Report

WWF Living Planet Report 2018 and 2020

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2020