Over 100 billion people have walked the planet, making a gigantic stamp on the Earth. Around three quarters of the land and around two-thirds of the marine environment have been significantly altered by humans, impacting the carbon cycle and changing the prospects for many species.

2 minute read

Approximately one million species of plants and animals face extinction

Climate change, pollution (300-400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and industrial waste are dumped annually)1 and changing land use have increased the pace at which species are dying out. A landmark report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in 2019 suggests that approximately one million species of plants and animals face extinction.2 Professors from Stanford University describe this as “biological annihilation”.3 In contrast to past extinctions, this is a human-made crisis, with ecosystems degrading faster than ever.

As each species is closely linked to others in a complex web of life, there are likely to be cascade and multiplier effects. In the oceans, the phytoplankton at the base of the food chain have become about ten per cent less productive since the start of the industrial era.4 This is a potential threat to numerous forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to gargantuan whales.

On land, pollinators are in decline, challenging the plants that need insects to reproduce. Less diverse plant life also means possible extinctions in related organisms – in those needing specific types of vegetation to breed, for example. Ultimately, less diverse ecosystems tend to be less productive and less resilient.

The human population is placing growing pressure on other species

Overall, we know the human population is placing growing pressure on other species, but do not fully understand the impact of homo sapiens – so our own capacity to make a difference is limited. “We cannot help every species adapt, for two reasons,” explains Professor Richard Tol from the University of Sussex, a former member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Many species are still unknown, and their place in ecology is also unknown. The other is simply a question of scale.”

Since the 1750s, at least 571 species of plants are thought to have become extinct in the wild.5 Recent losses of non-plant species include the Pinta Island tortoise of the Galapagos Islands, which died out in 2012.6 Lost mammals include the Pyrenean ibex, declared extinct in 2000,7 and the sub-Saharan Western black rhinoceros, whose last member died in 2011.8

Would you like to read the whole of AIQ: The Climate Edition?

Subscribe to download a PDF copy or get a printed edition delivered directly to you.

Subscribe today

Important information

Except where stated as otherwise, the source of all information is Aviva Investors Global Services Limited (AIGSL). Unless stated otherwise any views and opinions are those of Aviva Investors. They should not be viewed as indicating any guarantee of return from an investment managed by Aviva Investors nor as advice of any nature. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but has not been independently verified by Aviva Investors and is not guaranteed to be accurate. Past performance is not a guide to the future. The value of an investment and any income from it may go down as well as up and the investor may not get back the original amount invested. Nothing in this material, including any references to specific securities, assets classes and financial markets is intended to or should be construed as advice or recommendations of any nature. Some data shown are hypothetical or projected and may not come to pass as stated due to changes in market conditions and are not guarantees of future outcomes. This material is not a recommendation to sell or purchase any investment.

In Europe this document is issued by Aviva Investors Luxembourg S.A. Registered Office: 2 rue du Fort Bourbon, 1st Floor, 1249 Luxembourg. Supervised by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier. An Aviva company. In the UK Issued by Aviva Investors Global Services Limited. Registered in England No. 1151805.  Registered Office: St Helens, 1 Undershaft, London EC3P 3DQ.  Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference No. 119178.

In Singapore, this material is being circulated by way of an arrangement with Aviva Investors Asia Pte. Limited (AIAPL) for distribution to institutional investors only. Please note that AIAPL does not provide any independent research or analysis in the substance or preparation of this material. Recipients of this material are to contact AIAPL in respect of any matters arising from, or in connection with, this material.  AIAPL, a company incorporated under the laws of Singapore with registration number 200813519W, holds a valid Capital Markets Services Licence to carry out fund management activities issued under the Securities and Futures Act (Singapore Statute Cap. 289) and Asian Exempt Financial Adviser for the purposes of the Financial Advisers Act (Singapore Statute Cap.110). Registered Office: 1Raffles Quay, #27-13 South Tower, Singapore 048583. In Australia, this material is being circulated by way of an arrangement with Aviva Investors Pacific Pty Ltd (AIPPL) for distribution to wholesale investors only. Please note that AIPPL does not provide any independent research or analysis in the substance or preparation of this material. Recipients of this material are to contact AIPPL in respect of any matters arising from, or in connection with, this material. AIPPL, a company incorporated under the laws of Australia with Australian Business No. 87 153 200 278 and Australian Company No. 153 200 278, holds an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL 411458) issued by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Business Address: Level 30, Collins Place, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic 3000, Australia.

The name “Aviva Investors” as used in this material refers to the global organization of affiliated asset management businesses operating under the Aviva Investors name. Each Aviva investors’ affiliate is a subsidiary of Aviva plc, a publicly- traded multi-national financial services company headquartered in the United Kingdom. Aviva Investors Canada, Inc. (“AIC”) is located in Toronto and is registered with the Ontario Securities Commission (“OSC”) as a Portfolio Manager, an Exempt Market Dealer, and a Commodity Trading Manager. Aviva Investors Americas LLC is a federally registered investment advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Aviva Investors Americas is also a commodity trading advisor (“CTA”) registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and is a member of the National Futures Association (“NFA”).  AIA’s Form ADV Part 2A, which provides background information about the firm and its business practices, is available upon written request to: Compliance Department, 225 West Wacker Drive, Suite 2250, Chicago, IL 60606.

Related views