Guest blog post by Cássio Cardoso Pereira, Daniel Negreiros, and Geraldo Wilson Fernandes
A recently published study by Pereira et al. in the prestigious journal Nature Conservation says that the solution for climate warming and environmental crises is not solely about curbing temperature by planting trees or even by changing our energy matrix. It is about changing our perspective on ourselves and the way we do things. There is a long list of things we have to do if we want to be successful. One important thing is changing policy actions.
When we analyse the popularity and prestige of intergovernmental organisations created in favour of the environment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) completely overshadows the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). When we analyse environmental treaties, we see the same thing. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is far better known than the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
This is a reflection of increased public attention to climate change at the expense of other biodiversity issues and may have contributed to a much higher number of UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COPs) linked to climate change (27 COPs) compared to those about biodiversity (15 COPs) to this date. Governments should not solely focus on curbing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. This asymmetry between environmental agendas can harm not only biodiversity, but also climate change, as environmental issues are inexorably interconnected.
In a society with broad and deep environmental problems, government, private sector and non-governmental efforts should include other dimensions of nature in their agenda. Biodiversity, the unique variety of life on our planet, underpins our cultural, economic, and social well-being. The destruction of ecosystems undermines nature’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and protect us against extreme weather, thus accelerating climate change and increasing our vulnerability to it. Therefore, it is puzzling that policy-makers are still over-focused on the climate component.
We argue here that the climate change issue is important and urgent. However, this problem cannot be solved without considering the picture as a whole. In this way, changes in land use must be integrated into climate models so that we can achieve a more detailed representation that increases our ability to predict how local impacts of change in land use will affect the future of biodiversity at a global level.
We emphasise that this path is necessary, but it is still winding. There is much to pass on to society in terms of ecological awareness. The spotlight is on climate change, at least in part, because everyone already knows how to get involved in climate action in an accessible way. However, the degradation of biodiversity can be difficult to notice, especially for someone who does not get out and experience nature regularly. Therefore, a big question is how much we still have to learn about the various ecosystems across the planet, their delicate balance and interaction with their wider environment, and indeed the climate.
Pereira CC, Negreiros D, Barbosa M, Goulart FF, Dias RL, Melillo MC, Camarota F, Pimenta MA, Cruz M, Fernandes GW (2023) Has climate change hijacked the environmental agenda? Nature Conservation 53: 157-164. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.53.110961