New science entity to monitor the ecological state of the planet

Representatives from 90 countries approve plans to set up a new UN scientific organization to monitor the state of biodiversity around the world.

"Biodiversity loss is a major crisis — and is bigger than the global bank crisis. It's a permanent loss, and therefore an ethical issue — what we destroy now, we take away from future generations," Natural History Museum's Bob Bloomfield told me for a Q&A in our Earth Day special .

Bloomfield made me feel an impending doom that goes hand-in-hand with biodiversity loss. Fortunately, we might soon know more about the state of biodiversity through the formation of a biodiversity panel.

Nature reports that representatives from around 90 countries agreed to create UN science body for biodiversity that would work like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Instead of monitoring climate change and gas emissions, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will collect data on how human activities impact the ecosystem. As more scientific research is gathered, the experts will have a better idea of the state of biodiversity.

The IPBES will:

  • check the entire ecosystem of the world: clean fresh water, fish, game, timber, climate and gas emissions, coral reefs, living organisms, forests, and freshwater
  • train environmental scientists in the developing world
  • suggest future research projects
  • identify emerging issues
  • advise policy leaders with peer-review scientific research
  • report on the biodiversity state at several levels: international, regional, and sub-regional levels

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (Unep), told The BBC:

"Indeed, IPBES represents a major breakthrough in terms of organizing a global response to the loss of living organisms and forests, freshwaters, coral reefs and other ecosystems that generate multi-trillion dollar services that underpin all life - including economic life - on Earth."

No doubt, the establishment of this scientific body occurs at a critical time, as experts anticipate a sixth "major wave of extinction". As long as the UN General Assembly approves the panel in September, the group of expert will formally convene next year.

Photo: mikebaird/ flickr

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