Climate change: Earth 'broken' by 'senseless and suicidal war on nature', UN warns

·3-min read

Humans have been "waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature", the United Nations has warned, leaving Earth increasingly unliveable.

The planet is broken, the UN claimed in a report entitled Making Peace With Nature, "through climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution".

Secretary-general Antonio Guterres called them "three interlinked environmental crises", adding that "for too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature".

"Without nature's help, we will not thrive or even survive."

The report said the three crises must be tackled together.

Sir Robert Watson, its lead author, said: "Our children and their children will inherit a world of extreme weather events, sea level rise, a drastic loss of plants and animals, food and water insecurity and increasing likelihood of future pandemics."

The scientist, who has chaired past UN science reports on climate change and biodiversity loss, added: "The emergency is in fact more profound than we thought only a few years ago."

Making Peace With Nature calls for changing what governments tax, how nations value economic output, how power is generated, the way people get around, fish and farm, as well as what they eat.

Mr Guterres said: "The only answer is sustainable development that elevates the well-being of people and the planet."

And he drew attention to possible actions for governments, including putting a price on carbon, shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to nature-friendly solutions and agreeing to "not support the kind of agriculture that destroys or pollutes nature".

Among the worrying statistics the report illuminates are that Earth is on the way to an additional 1.9C (3.5F) warming from now - far more than the international agreed upon goals in the Paris accord.

About nine million people a year die from pollution while around one million of Earth's eight million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction.

Up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other industrial waste are dumped into the world's waters every year.

More than three billion people are affected by land degradation, and only 15% of Earth's wetlands remain intact.

About 60% of fish stocks are fished at the maximum levels. There are more than 400 oxygen-depleted "dead zones" and marine plastics pollution has increased tenfold since 1980.

Biologist Thomas Lovejoy, who was a scientific adviser to the report, said: "In the end it will hit us. It's not what's happening to elephants. It's not what's happening to climate or sea level rise. It's all going to impact us."

Co-author Rachel Warren of the University of East Anglia warned the planet's problems were so interconnected that they must be worked on together to be fixed correctly.

And many of the solutions, such as eliminating fossil fuel use, would help resolve multiple problems including climate change and pollution, she warned.

The report "makes it clear that there is no time for linear thinking or tackling problems one at a time", University of Michigan environment professor Rosina Bierbaum said.