The term biodiversity is rarely used in a business environment. Maybe that’s the reason many people struggle to understand the deep connection between economic activities and the environment. We are definitely not biologists and we do not understand all the complex inter-relationships between the environment and our economy the same way that a biologist, climate scientist or researcher might, but one thing is for sure: It is not so difficult to understand the basics and ignorance is no excuse! You still have responsibilities as a business.
Even with our advanced technology, we actually don’t know the extent of diversity of species on our planet. So far, we have discovered around 2 million species, but it might be as many as 100 million. Realistic estimates are around 8 million. And every year there are new discoveries all around the world. So how do we know if biodiversity is increasing or decreasing if we are only aware of one-quarter or fewer of all species in our world? Studies point towards the species that we know and that we have been historically recoding data about. For a long time, we have been looking at the obvious: all sorts of animals whose natural habitats have been fading away, but nowadays research is very diverse. A special focus is on insects, a group that has been underrepresented in research. Insects are extremely important for ecosystems, as they build the base on which the rest of an ecosystem relies on. And the numbers can be really frightening. Climate change and conflicts between natural habitats and humans are the main reasons for the current drastic decreases.
We assume that it is not necessary to mention that CO2 emissions, no matter where and how high, are never good for the environment and therefore for the planet’s biodiversity. But what exactly is the problem with heavy emitters?
High emission accelerate climate change and with it exacerbate rising temperatures. Rising temperatures do not necessarily affect all individual species on this planet, but there are certain ones that are not very adaptable to changing temperatures. One very famous and tragic example are coral reefs. Marine animals generally do not react positively to climate change, as warmer water also captures smaller amounts of oxygen and therefore destroys the core necessity for life.
Another negative side effect of CO2 emissions is air pollution. We are putting more CO2 into the atmostphere these days than ever, and the tendencies still show an upward trend. Ecosystems close to cities or industrial areas are especially influenced by pollution.
In the last couple of years, there have been some solutions entering the sustainability market. One of the most popular method by businesses is the famous symbolic action of planting trees. And yes, it sounds like a win-win-solution. Trees capture CO2 while at the same time forests present a home to millions of insects, animals and other plants. And it does sound convincing. But looking at it from a climate change perspective, there are several scenarios to be included in the long-term benefits of tree planting:
With rising temperatures, the chances of drought and wildfire increase drastically. What is already an everyday, summertime reality for countries like Australia and the USA will start happening more frequently in other countries. The fires on the other hand will also create even more CO2, a deadly cycle.
So if trees will not save us on in the long-term, what will? The answer is simpler than you would expect but more complex than it sounds: We need to reduce CO2 emissions. You could have guessed that, right? It really is as simple as that. The only safe solution is an actual reduction. While our environment will change and adapt, biodiversity will keep increasing due to high emissions. So any reduction of emissions will positively affect our ecosystems. Of course, if it were that easy, we wouldn’t be struggling so much. At the same time there are so many great innovations out there to help businesses to start, and where they make positive progress quickly. At the same time, governments are becoming more involved. How great would it be if soon we were reading about regenerating ecosystems?