What is causing ecological breakdown?
Humans have been destroying the natural world for centuries but decline has accelerated in the last few decades. This is mainly due to unsustainable food production by developed countries such as the UK, largely driven by the increase in animal agriculture which takes up vast amounts of land and water resources. This has driven major loss of wildlife around the world, which scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction. Climate change is now accelerating decline even faster. This degradation of the natural world is not just a tragedy for the plants and animals forever lost, but also poses a huge risk for human populations.
We depend on a healthy planet for our survival—for the pollination of our crops, for clean water and air and to maintain ecosystems that help keep the climate stable. Scientists have warned of looming ecological collapse if politicians fail to take emergency action.
The UK has some of the most depleted wildlife and nature in the world. The RSPB’s 2019 State of Nature report on the UK’s biodiversity states:
- 41% of all UK’s species have declined since the 1970s (hedgehogs by 95%).
- 26% of the UK’s mammals are at a very real risk of becoming extinct.
- A third of the wild bees and hoverfly species have been lost, likely due to pesticides, habitat loss and climate change.
- 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have disappeared in the last century. Read more from Kew Gardens on why wildflower meadows are so important.
- Only 16% of water bodies are in good ecological condition.
- Marine biodiversity is in sharp decline, but less than 1% of UK seas are well managed.
Cuts in emissions from fossil fuels are only half the solution
The climate and ecological crises must be tackled together, with an appreciation of their interdependencies. The natural world is complex and the role it plays in regulating the climate is often overlooked. Protecting critical ecosystems that contain large stores of irrecoverable carbon, such as forests, peatlands, wetlands and the ocean, must take equal priority with cutting emissions. This is essential if we are to avoid tipping points that may lead to the large-scale release of carbon, resulting in catastrophic heating.
The CE Bill would formally recognise the link between the climate and ecological crises, helping ensure that solving problems for the climate don’t inadvertently create problems for nature.
Discover more frequently asked questions about Zero Hour, the Climate & Ecology Bill, Climate Change, and the Nature Crisis.