Climate change has been acknowledged to be a global problem calling for a global solution.
The adverse effects to the environment that result from greenhouse gases especially CO2 being concentrated in the atmosphere have begun to become a reality to human beings thus prompting for action by governments all over the world. However, threats to biodiversity which are in fact intertwined with climate change issues have continued to be ignored despite them being of equal importance. ICLEI (2010) affirms that not only is global climate interconnected with biodiversity loss but that mitigation of climate change is directly dependent on biodiversity management. Owing to the significance of biodiversity to human existence, it makes sense for efforts to be made to ensure that biodiversity is protected. Prominent world leaders such as the German Chancellor and the British Foreign Secretary have advanced that “threats to biodiversity are just as important as climate change”. This paper shall articulate the truth of this statement by demonstrating that threats to biodiversity pose significant threat to the sustainability of human life on earth and are therefore the protection of biodiversity is as important as the mitigation of climate change.
Biodiversity is defined as “the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms” (Convention on Biological Diversity 2010).
The unique interaction of the millions of life forms that make up biodiversity results in a habitable Earth that can sustain the lives of human beings. Thompson (2009, p.9) notes that biodiversity is more than simply a list of species present at a location; rather, it is the variability among living organisms from the different sources. While biodiversity change and the extinction of some species is a natural occurrence that has been going on for millions of years, modern day human activities have resulted in a rate of biodiversity loss that far exceeds the natural one.
The rapid growth and industrialization experienced by developing nations through the 20th century has been blamed for most of the adverse effects on biodiversity (Anand 2004, p.28). These changes have had mostly negative effects for man and have resulted in unsustainable development. Gitay et al (2007, p.13) notes that changes in climatic variables in the course of the last half century have led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of outbreaks of pests and diseases. In addition to this, IPCC (2002) reveals that species which have limited climatic ranges or are restricted to specific habitat requirements will be at the risk of extinction owing to climate changes. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2010) points to the bleak reality that over half of the ecosystem services required for sustaining life are being degraded and this will invariably have harmful consequences with time.
As such, it is of great importance that measure be undertaken to mitigate the loss of biodiversity or at best to encourage the recreation of the same. Sustainable development and governance are two means which if used effectively can have these desirable results.
Sustainability involves the exploitation of biodiversity in a controlled manner that does not threaten the future occurrence of the same. Naturally, biodiversity is able to ensure its own diversity.
For example, Thompson (2009, p.13) reveals that while many forests are prone to fire, the species are well-adapted to this natural disturbance and forests together with the species that exist in them are capable of regenerating after a fire. Reid and Swiderska (2008, p.3) propose that only by using ecologically sound approaches to contain the effects of climate change can sustainability be guaranteed. To demonstrate this point, the authors point to the Vietnam coastal problem where the severity of tropical storms as a result of climate change threatened the livelihood of people living near the coast. Instead of using expensive concrete sea walls to adapt to this problem, Vietnam rehabilitated coastal mangroves which not only protected from storms but acted as carbon sink. The food crisis that was experienced in 2007 was an indication of what could happen if man continues to ignore biodiversity by engaging in unsustainable activities. While man has continued to convert land into cropland, only a minute percentage of food crops available to man cover this cropland (Hackett 2001).
As such, agricultural practices have become one of the prime human activities which have resulted in and continue to cause loss of biodiversity. UNEP (2008) declares that only by decreasing dependency on limited biological diversity as is currently the case can the risk of future food supplies dwindling be averted.
It has been noted that if the rapid and irreversible change in biodiversity that is as a result of human action is to be avoided, conservation strategies must be adopted. Gitay et al (2007, p.375) proposes that governance systems can be considered as institutional filters that act as mediators between human activities and biophysical process. By use of this governance systems, policies can be come up with that ensure that only sustainable development is undertaken and paths that may lead to adverse environmental changes are avoided. Individual governments are seen to be important mechanisms in ensuring that biodiversity is protected and therefore guaranteeing the future of mankind.
Nations all over the world have created institutes, authorities and laws that are aimed at conserving and safeguarding the environment. This move has led to positive results in the protection of biodiversity and by extension mitigation of climatic changes. However, Gitay (2007, p.378) note that most countries lack the capacity to adequately finance the implementation of policies and agreements reached at international levels therefore reducing the effectiveness of governance. While international environmental governance is mandatory for any long lasting solution to the biodiversity issue, The regional level is also important since it is the at the local level where the pressures of environmental changes are felt therefore leading to a realization that change is required to negate adverse effects.
This paper set out to demonstrate that threats to biodiversity are of great significance and man should take a keen interest on them. To reinforce this assertion, this paper has documented the various ills that have or may arise as a result of loss of biodiversity. The paper has also noted how these losses may be mitigated.
It has been established that proper governance and sustainable development is required to ensure that ecological balance is maintained and hence the future of mankind guaranteed. Particularly, the cooperation among governments will be necessary to make biodiversity protection a reality. From the discussions presented in this paper, it is clear that protecting biodiversity is in the best interest of us as human beings since it will result in sustainability of human life on Earth for an indefinite period of time.
Anand, R 2004, International environmental justice: a north-south dimension, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. Gitay, H et al 2007, Interlinkages: Governance for Sustainability. viewed 05 October, 2010 http://www.unep.org/geo/geo4/report/08_Interlinkages_Governance_for_a_Sustainable_Earth.
pdf Hackett, C S 2001, Environmental and natural resources economics: theory, policy, and the sustainable society, 2nd, M.E. Sharpe. ICLEI 2010, Biodiversity and Climate Change, viewed 05 October, 2010http://www.countdown2010.net/2010/wp-content/uploads/FS6Climate_small.PDF Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2002, Climate Change and Biodiversity, IPCC Technical Paper V. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2010, Experts say that attention to ecosystem services is needed to achieve global development goals, viewed 05 October, 2010 Reid, H & Swiderska, K 2008, Biodiversity, climate change and poverty: exploring the links.
International Institute for Environment and Development. Thompson, I 2009, Forest Resilience, Biodiversity, and Climate Change, Convention on Biological Diversity. UNEP 2010, Germany Hosts Global Conference on Biological Diversity – Promoting a Global Response for Addressing the Unprecedented Loss of Biodiversity, viewed 05 October, 2010http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=535&ArticleID=5805&l=en