National Parks and Climate
Biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other. Neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together.
This statement comes from a joint workshop of two United Nations' expert scientific panels, the IPCC (Climate) and the IPBES (Biodiversity). These two expert panels convened together for the first time in a 4-day workshop in December 2020.
The reports from this expert workshop explicitly recognise and describe the mutual function of biodiversity and climate. They validate the vital and urgent need for biodiversity to be a core factor in our response to climate change, rather than it simply being a victim of our inadequate response. Indeed, a response strategy that excludes or limits the role of biodiversity will necessarily be inadequate.
National Parks play a pivotal role in biodiversity protection and maintenance. Climate imperatives thus impose the need to expand the extent and the management quality of our National Parks and protected areas. It is simply and awfully wrong to neglect this urgent need.
It is short-sighted, even reckless, to impose private land leasing and commercial development upon the currently insufficient capacity of our Protected Areas. They have far more important work to do than support opportunistic profit-taking that is competitive to their biodiversity functions.
Read the Workshop Report and Scientific Outcome. (at bottom of linked page)
The Scientific Outcome explicitly notes:
"...the urgency of bringing biodiversity to the forefront of discussions regarding land-and ocean-based climate mitigation and adaptation strategies,..."
It further states:
The mutual reinforcing of climate change and biodiversity loss means that satisfactorily resolving either issue requires consideration of the other. Climate change and biodiversity loss are closely interconnected and share common drivers through human activities.
...changes in biodiversity affect the climate system, especially through their impacts on the nitrogen, carbon and water cycles. These interactions can generate complex feedbacks between climate, biodiversity and humans that may produce more pronounced and less predictable outcomes.
Ignoring the inseparable nature of climate, biodiversity, and human quality of life will result in non-optimal solutions to either crisis
77% of land (excluding Antarctica) and 87% of the area of the ocean have been modified by the direct effects of human activities. These changes are associated with the loss of 83% of wild mammal biomass, and half that of plants.
Livestock and humans now account for nearly 96% of all mammal biomass on Earth, and more species are threatened with extinction than ever before in human history.
Biodiversity conservation approaches such as Protected Areas have been essential for successes to date, but, on aggregate, have been insufficient to stem the loss of biodiversity at a global scale.
The insufficiency is partly due to the inadequate fraction of the globe under protection, currently at about 15% of land and 7.5% of the ocean, but also because protective measures have been, in certain cases, poorly designed and/or insufficiently applied and enforced.
Not only are protected areas too small on aggregate (and often individually), but they are also frequently sub-optimally distributed and interconnected, inadequately resourced and managed, and at risk of downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement.
Another IPBES report examines the connection between biodiversity health and the future risk/incidence of pandemics.
From the report (bold type emphasis added):
“The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics.”
Pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas, and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. This will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases.
These high-level documents make it crystal clear that biodiversity and protected areas are absolutely vital social infrastructure.
They provide immense and essential value to our lives precisely because of their lack of development.
It is neither reasonable nor wise to burden our National Parks, a keystone of biodiversity protection, with private commercial exploitation.