Conservation International president Russell Mittermeier told the World Conservation Congress (WCC) held in Barcelona recently that climate change could be the best thing that ever happened to the amazing array of animal and plant species that make up the Earth’s biodiversity. He told representatives from governments, indigenous peoples, industry and environmental groups not to get him wrong: “Climate change is the most serious environmental threat we have ever encountered, and it is already taking a terrible toll on species, as well as people, all over the world. The silver lining is that climate change has triggered a universal wake-up call that we all hear, and are beginning to heed.” He said that never before have so many sectors of society been equally concerned and motivated to combat an environmental threat, despite the die-hard pessimists who say it’s too late, that the climate change train has left the station and there is nothing we can do but get ready for catastrophic consequences. “Nothing could be more wrong,” he said. “Just ask the thousands of participants at the World Conservation Congress (WCC) here in Barcelona, where pessimism is not on the agenda. Instead, smart constructive ideas for solutions are being shared.” The major news announced at the WCC on Monday was that the latest assessment of the world’s mammals shows more than 20% to be threatened with extinction. That includes 188 mammals, such as the Iberian Lynx, in the highest threat category of Critically Endangered. Mr Mittermeier asked: “Why should people care about the fate of these plants and animals? Because the quality of our lives ultimately depends on them.” He said: “Without species diversity, we wouldn’t have the healthy ecosystems that supply our food, cleanse our air and water, provide sources of life-saving medicines and help stabilise our climate.” He said the message Barcelona could send to the rest of the world is that it is not too late to protect species as well as combat climate change: “On both counts, the welfare of humanity is at stake.”


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