A blue-sided leaf frog, an endangered species, pictured here at the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica.
Photo: Kent Gilbert (AP)

Today, the UN environmental group IPBES released the findings of a global assessment on nature. As you’ve probably guessed by now, it’s not great.

The findings, part of a study which will be released later this year, detail the havoc that humanity and global capitalism is wreaking on the planet and its other inhabitants. Up to 1 million plant and animal species are in danger of becoming extinct, the researchers found, “more than ever before in human history.”

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point,” co-chair and professor Sandra Díaz said in a press release. “The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast, although we still have the means to ensure a sustainable future for people and the planet.”

Also from the release:

The Report also presents a wide range of illustrative actions for sustainability and pathways for achieving them across and between sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others. It highlights the importance of, among others, adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management, and biodiversity conservation.

Also identified as a key element of more sustainable future policies is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.

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If this all sounds familiar, there’s a reason why: it’s echoing the core premise of the Green New Deal, which aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 and build out a safety net worthy of an obscenely wealthy nation in the 21st century. The premise is that action must be urgent and transformative, tackling with full force the economic system that brought us to this point in the first place. The second part is just as important as the first, and unsurprisingly, it’s the one that’s been met with the most resistance not just from Republicans but by Democratic Party leadership as well. (And for good reason: America’s political and economic elite will have the means to largely immunize themselves from coming catastrophe, so it’s not as urgent of a problem for them.)

It’s unclear what it would take, short of the left seizing control of the power levers of government, for our politicians to start taking this crisis seriously. Last week, the House voted to keep the United States in the Paris climate accords, which President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2017. It’ll die in the Senate now, but even if it were to pass, it’s a woefully inadequate, non-binding plan constructed through compromise between dozens of countries.

It’s long past the time where it’s good enough to simply acknowledge that climate change is real or an issue worth trying to fix. If we’re to have any hope of keeping this place habitable for the next couple hundred years or beyond, we need a plan of action that’s no less serious than the problems we face.