WWF Report Reveals “Devastating” Human Impact on Planetary Health
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The report provides a roadmap for action on nature for 2020 and beyond, which calls for the convergence of the environment and human development agendas to build a sustainable future.

The report finds that global populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014.

The report argues that measuring progress towards biodiversity targets is more complicated than tracking progress under the Paris Agreement on emission reductions.

30 October 2018: Human activity is pushing the planet’s natural systems that support life on Earth to the brink, according to a report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which presents a “sobering picture” of the impact of human activity on the world’s wildlife, forests, oceans, rivers and climate.

The ‘Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming Higher’ presents a comprehensive overview of the state of the natural world, through multiple indicators, including the Living Planet Index (LPI), which examines trends in global wildlife by tracking 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species, and shows that global populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014.

The report analyzed data from six measurement tools, all of which show a decline, with extinction risks for five taxonomic groups (birds, mammals, amphibians, corals and cycads). The report outlines changes in species distribution, extinction risk and changes in community composition, which all show declines or changes. The findings reveal that humans have already pushed four of six of the Earth’s processes beyond a safe limit, namely: climate change, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows and land-system change.

The report suggests 2030 as an end date for the biodiversity-related SDG targets, given the difficulty of abruptly halting current trends.

The report, which contends that biodiversity and the overall health of the planet are declining but that global commitment can still reverse the trend, provides a roadmap for action on nature for 2020 and beyond, which calls for the convergence of the environment and human development agendas to build a sustainable future. It highlights opportunities leading up to 2020, when progress made on the SDGs, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets will be reviewed.

The report discusses SDGs specifically directed at the natural world, namely SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land), including SDG target 15.5 on reducing natural habitat degradation, halting biodiversity loss, and protecting and preventing threatened species extinction. While noting that some biodiversity-related SDG targets have 2020 as an end date, the report suggests 2030 as an end date for the biodiversity-related SDG targets, given the difficulty of abruptly halting current trends.

The report argues that measuring progress towards biodiversity targets is more complicated than tracking progress under the Paris Agreement on emission reductions, given that biodiversity assessment requires multiple measures at different spatial scales and across different ecological dimensions.

Other report findings include:

  • overexploitation and agriculture, both linked to increasing human consumption, are the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss;
  • the Earth has lost an estimated half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years and 20% of the Amazon in 50 years;
  • nature provides about US$125 trillion worth of services per year;
  • species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering an 89% loss compared to 1970; and
  • the Freshwater Index shows an 83% decline since 1970.

The Living Planet Report 2018 is the 12th edition of WWF’s biennial flagship publication. [Publication: Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming Higher] [Report Landing Page] [WWF Press Release] [UNEP Press Release]

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