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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

February 2021: Human population growth and overconsumption of resources are accelerating biodiversity decline and climate disruption. These trends can lead to climate induced mass migrations, pandemics, and resource conflicts which are threatening employment, healthcare, economic growth, and political stability. Scientists are calling for systems level changes and accelerated action on biodiversity loss and climate change mitigation.


Human population growth and increasing resource consumption have been strongly linked to biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, and resource depletion. A comparative review of more than 150 scientific studies highlights that these trends may be more extreme than anticipated. There is evidence suggesting an accelerated path to biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption, and planetary toxification based on current population growth trends and consumption patterns. It underpins the urgency of mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change. Despite its urgency, the delay between the degradation of the natural world and its gradual impacts on people’s daily lives means many people have not yet fully understood the scale of the problem. The lack of immediate impact often means that, in many countries, action against climate change and biodiversity loss is seen as economically too costly in the short term or politically unpalatable.

Implications and opportunities

Biodiversity loss severely impacts the Earth’s ability to support complex life, including human civilization. Despite its magnitude, attempts to mainstream the threat from biodiversity loss has been partially successful at best. Without accelerated action on biodiversity loss and climate change, climate induced mass migrations, pandemics, and resource conflicts will become more likely. Such inaction can lead to perverse effects and will dimminish political capacities to mitigate environmental erosion. In addition, biodiversity loss will affect people’s employment, healthcare, economic growth, political stability, and currency stability at global scale. To combat these trends, scientists are calling for far-reaching systems changes to global capitalism, educations, and equality. These changes include a move away from economic growth, improved tool to price environmental externalities, phasing out the use of fossil fuels, and empowering women, particularly in rural areas.


The referenced paper is a call to action at the conceptual level. It does not provide transition pathways and should be seen within the context of its objectives.


Bradshawy, C.,J., (2021). Undererstimatin the challnegs of avoiding a ghastly future. Frontiers in Conservation Science. DOI: 10.3389/fcosc.2020.615419

Weston, P., (2021). Top scientists warn of ‘ghastly future of mass extinction’ and climate disruption. Retrieved from