Oslo, March 30 (Reuters): Humans are damaging the planet at an unprecedented rate and raising risks of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation or 'dead zones' in the seas, an international report said today.
The study, by 1,360 experts in 95 nations, said a rising human population had polluted or over-exploited two thirds of the ecological systems on which life depends, ranging from clean air to fresh water, in the past 50 years.
'At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning,' said the 45-member board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 'Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted,' it said.
Ten to 30 per cent of mammal, bird and amphibian species were already threatened with extinction, according to the assessment, the biggest review of the planet's life support systems.
'Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel,' it said.
'This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on earth,' it added.
'The harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years,' it said. The report was compiled by experts, including from UN agencies and international scientific and development organisations.
UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said the study 'shows how human activities are causing environmental damage on a massive scale throughout the world, and how biodiversity ' the very basis for life on earth ' is declining at an alarming rate.'
The study urged changes in consumption, better education, new technology and higher prices for exploiting ecosystems.