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halting the path to extinction

Halting the path to extinction

From the December 7th to 19th, scientists, rights advocates and delegates from nearly 200 countries are gathering in Canada to tackle one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues: the loss of biodiversity and what can be done to reverse it.

For years, experts have sounded the alarm over how climate change and other factors are leading to an “unprecedented” decline in animals, plants, and other species, and threatening various ecosystems. The United Nations’ biodiversity conference, known as COP15, begins its sessions on Wednesday 7th December, in Montreal, with the aim of setting out a plan to tackle global biodiversity loss over the next decade and beyond.

More than half the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP) – approximately $44 trillion – is “moderately or highly dependent” on nature and thus vulnerable to its loss, the World Economic Forum said in a 2020 report (PDF).

Sandra Diaz, a professor and member of Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council, recently wrote in Nature.

“This much we have learnt in the 30 years since the foundational 1992 Rio Earth Summit drew attention to the impact of human activities on the environment: a strong, precise, ambitious text does not in itself ensure successful implementation, but a weak, vague, toothless text almost guarantees failure.”

COP15 – why it is important

Fr Sean McDonagh, SSC explains the importance of the Conference on Biological Diversity (COP15) taking place in Canada and warns that Ireland is not immune to biodiversity losses.

In 1992, the United Nations hosted a large gathering of people and Heads of State in Rio de Janeiro to face together the growing problem of protecting our environment. The meeting was called the Earth Summit. The participants agreed to establish two treaties – the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Both Conferences are linked because extreme weather, droughts and wildfires caused by global warming leads to widespread extinction of species.

In a report for COP27 (held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt from 6th to 18th November 2022), Professor Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute in Germany pointed out that global greenhouse gases reached record highs during 2021. As a result the world was coming “very, very close to irreversible changes”.

Responding to this report, the secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said that climate action is failing pitifully short and “that we are heading for a global catastrophe (and) for economy-destroying levels of global heating.”  Even if all the pledges made by countries were fulfilled, that would mean a rise in global heating of 2.5 Celsius which would be devastating.

One way to get a good insight into the loss in biodiversity (Sean McDonagh suggests) is to read The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which was published in May 2019. Over 450 scientists were involved in this report.[3]

It confirms that we are now living in the 6th largest extinction of life on earth since life began 3.8 billion years ago. The report showed that future generations of species are at risk unless radical action is taken by humans to protect species. The last time such a catastrophe struck the earth was 66 million years ago when an asteroid crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico causing the extinction of 75 percent of animal life, including dinosaurs.

Ireland and Biodiversity Loss

Dr. Liam Lysaght of the National Biodiversity Centre in Ireland warns that Ireland is not immune to biodiversity losses. Of the 3,000 species that had undergone red list conservation assessment, one in four species are threatened with extinction.   Among the species he mentions are the Atlantic Salmon, the Curlew, the Freshwater Pearl mussel and many more. He recommends the setting up of a Government Department for Biodiversity and the rural economy.

Centres such as the Leitrim Sustainable Agricultural Group and the Cabragh Wetlands Trust outside Thurles in Tipperary should get more support. These groups are attempting to farm their land in a way that increases the natural and cultural heritage in their areas and helps other farmers do likewise.

In the Encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis quotes the Greek Patriarch, Bartholomew of Constantinople. He writes “for humans to strip the earth of its natural beauty or destroy the wetland; for humans to contaminate the earth’s waters, land, its air and its life – these are sins.” (Par 9).

Fr. Sean McDonagh writes:

“This new teaching for the Christian Churches was not there when I studied moral theology many years ago. Christianity needs an Extinction Liturgy in which the sadness over the extinction of many wonderful creatures, created by God, can be expressed.

Such liturgies might inspire us to protect biodiversity locally and globally in everything we do”.

Note: See full article by Fr. Sean McDonagh, SSC – https://columbans.ie/protecting-species-cop15-in-canada-2022/

And https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/12/5/cop15-why-does-the-un-biodiversity-conference-matter

[3] “The Global Assessment report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.”  May 2019. PDF Document HERE

Also A quarter of the species in Ireland at risk of extinction

About the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, Canada and how to access live streaming links and the programme schedule: HERE

Biodiversity – short for biological diversity – refers to the many forms of life on Earth, from animals, plants, and microbial species to habitats and entire ecosystems, such as rainforests and coral reefs.  Biodiversity affects everything from global health and food security to the economy and the wider fight to tackle the climate crisis, the United Nations explains.


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