One of the bigger science and environment stories of 2019

Coral reefs

Two major reports from the UN’s climate science body revealed in sharp relief the extent to which humanity is ravaging Earth’s land surface and her oceans. The first of these documents from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warned that we must stop abusing the land if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided.

The report outlined how our actions were degrading soils, expanding deserts, flattening forests and driving other species to the brink of extinction. Scientists involved in the UN process also explained that switching to a plant-based diet could help combat climate change.

The second report, dealing with the world’s oceans and frozen regions, detailed how waters are rising, ice is melting and species are being forced to move. As co-ordinating lead author Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso said, “The blue planet is in serious danger right now, suffering many insults from many different directions and it’s our fault.” The authors believe that the changes we’ve set in motion are coming back to haunt us. Sea level rise will have profound consequences for low-lying coastal areas where almost 700 million people live.