Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A commentary published in Nature has claimed that careless human exploitation of natural resources poses a far greater threat to endangered species than climate change.
Biodiversity: The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers
There is a growing tendency for media reports about threats to biodiversity to focus on climate change.
Here we report an analysis of threat information gathered for more than 8,000 species. These data revealed a contrasting picture. We found that by far the biggest drivers of biodiversity decline are overexploitation (the harvesting of species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth) and agriculture (the production of food, fodder, fibre and fuel crops; livestock farming; aquaculture; and the cultivation of trees).
Early next month, representatives from government, industry and non-governmental organizations will define future directions for conservation at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). High on the agenda for political leaders, non-governmental organizations, conservationists and many others will be taking steps to turn the 2015 Paris climate agreement into action. It is also crucial that the World Conservation Congress delegates — and society in general — ensure that efforts to address climate change do not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna.
The basic message emerging from these data is that whatever the threat category or species group, overexploitation and agriculture have the greatest current impact on biodiversity (see ‘Big killers’).
Of the species listed as threatened or near-threatened, 72% (6,241) are being overexploited for commerce, recreation or subsistence.
… anthropogenic climate change — including increases in storms, flooding, extreme temperatures or drought that exceed background variability, as well as sea-level rise — is currently affecting 19% of species listed as threatened or near-threatened.
The commentary suggests climate might become a bigger issue in the future.
I suspect even the claim that 19% of species are endangered by climate change is dubious, given that sea levels have barely shifted, hurricane activity is showing a long term decline, and global temperature has been so flat, NASA has been forced to resort to controversial temperature adjustments to keep the excitement flowing.