Shifting Baselines

Barcelona Blues

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I just returned from the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, where 8,000 of conservation’s “best and brightest” (along with plenty of the “most important”) gathered to discuss, talk, and work toward a more diverse and sustainable world. I wish I had good news to report – but it is mostly more along the lines of “it’s worse than we predicted”. Some highlights:

1. Of the 223 species listed on IUCN’s Red List whose status has changed since last year, 82% are now closer to extinction.

2. 22% of the world’s mammals are threatened with extinction.

3. 31% of the world’s amphibians are threatened with extinction.

4. 24% of the world’s reptiles are threatened with extinction.

5. Even 32% of the world’s crabs are threatened with extinction.

6. 1-5 above do not account for oncoming climate change. The latest data on climate change is perhaps the most frightening. We just hit 389 ppm. All the data coming in suggest things are happening faster and are more extreme than predicted. (The only good news is that it turns out it is not that expensive to fix the problem; it will be largely a matter of garnering enought political will before we hit a point of no return, which we are swiftly approaching).

7. Only 30 of the 191 countries who signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992 have acted on it buy producing a biodiversity protection plan.

I could go on, but I don’t want to depress you too much. A new economic analyses by TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) headed up by Deutche Bank and the EU suggests that the damage we are doing to our ecosystems will costs us more each year than the current finincial crisis has cost in total. But, unfortunately, it looks like business as usual is the path most governments, including mine, is taking.

Comments

  1. #1 llewelly
    October 22, 2008

    A new economic analyses by TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) headed up by Deutche Bank and the EU suggests that the damage we are doing to our ecosystems will costs us more each year than the current finincial crisis has cost in total.

    But those ecosystem costs come in forms we’re used to ignoring.
    We’re used to the cost of sitting in front of the TV, overeating. We’re not used to the costs of exercising.
    Pardon my analogy.

  2. #2 Milan
    October 23, 2008

    “We just hit 389 ppm.”

    The latest information from the Mauna Loa Observatory seems to be 385 ppm.

    That being said, the difference is pretty trivial, and the upward trend is extremely clear.

  3. #3 llewelly
    October 23, 2008

    “We just hit 389 ppm.”

    The latest information from the Mauna Loa Observatory seems to be 385 ppm.

    Both numbers came from the Mauna Loa Observatory. 389 ppm was a seasonal peak (May 2008). 385 ppm is a recent (2007) annual average.

    The Mauna Loa Observatory data is not necessarily the best available. Its variance from the global value has a standard deviation of 0.26 ppm. The global value is based on many observatories.

  4. #4 Josh Donlan
    October 23, 2008

    389 ppm is straight from Jonathan Pershing’s mouth, probably the most informed and articulate person I have come across in terms of climate change – both in terms of the science and the policy. http://www.wri.org/profile/jonathan-pershing

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