ANIMAL and plant species are being killed off faster than ever before as human populations surge and people consume more, a United Nations report is expected to say this week.
It will warn that the expansion of countries such as China, India and Brazil is adding hugely to the environmental threats already generated by developed western nations, and that a third of species could face extinction this century.
The report is one of the starkest issued by the UN and the decision to draw an explicit link between extinction rates and economic growth makes it politically sensitive.
It will point out that the extinction threat extends across all main ecosystems, affecting living things as diverse as tree frogs, coral reefs and river dolphins.
“It’s a problem if we continue this unsustainable pattern of production and consumption,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, the UN’s leading figure on biological diversity. “If the 9 billion people predicted to be with us by 2050 were to have the same lifestyle as Americans, we would need five planets.”
Djoghlaf said humans would suffer too because many threatened species were important for food and raw materials.
Some green groups fear the relentless rise of China and India risks undoing years of conservation work in the West.
“The magnitude of the damage [to ecosystems] is much bigger than previously thought,” said Djoghlaf. “The rate of extinction is currently running at 1,000 times the natural historical background rate of extinction.” …