Text for the project Extinction Claims, by Paolo Cirio. 2021
In this project, Paolo Cirio combines the legal concept of “environmental personhood” with the “right of nature” jurisprudential theory, informed by climate change litigations, ecocide bills, and global climate treaties to give legal rights and protection to the natural world. Cirio aims to legally accuse the international oil, gas, and coal companies that deliberately emitted over 70% of all greenhouse gases, causing extensive damage to Earth’s ecosystems and the species dependent on them for survival, all with the intention of covering up their crimes for decades. This project issues requests to these firms for a financial reparation which is calculated by Cirio’s algorithm that integrates the economic concept of the “existence value” via contingent valuation combined with data on emissions from studies of “attribution science”.

Paolo Cirio created an equation for the algorithm that calculates a financial compensation from the Carbon Majors for the preservation of species and ecosystems. The equation considers a UN report that estimated the amount of funding necessary to avoid the degradation of the world's biodiversity. It suggests that investing only 0.1% of global GDP could help prevent the breakdown of ecosystems. Specifically, the study indicates that $536 billion per year is needed to preserve biodiversity, and an additional $203 billion per year must be spent to save forests. Cirio's equation breaks down these estimations for each species and ecosystem in the database of Extinction-Claims.com and computes them with the amount of greenhouse emissions for each Carbon Major. Moreover, existence value are captured from suggestions by participants and other coefficients are combined, such as the GDP of the country of the Carbon Majors and their active involvement in denying and perpetrating the climate crisis.

The financial reparations are designated to fund the preservation of endangered species whose natural environments are threatened by the climate crisis, while seeking legal accountability for the extermination and enormous damages done to these living beings.

Central to this project is the so-called “attribution science”, or the “effort to scientifically ascertain mechanisms responsible for recent global warming and related climate changes on Earth.” In order to determine who is primarily accountable for the climate crises, related data from major oil, gas, and coal companies is found in the pivotal datasets of the Carbon Majors by the Climate Accountability Institute. These datasets are combined with aggregated data on mass extinctions from IUCN Red List to calculate how the natural world is economically and legally entitled to reparation from the companies that are knowingly causing the annihilation of species and ecosystems.

Our planet now faces a global extinction crisis never witnessed by humankind. Scientists predict that more than 1 million species are on track for extinction in the upcoming decades. One of the main challenges in tackling mass extinction is the lack of public awareness and citizen agency. Most efforts in documenting the populations of different species are conducted by scientific organizations, while citizens remain ill-informed and widely unengaged, despite the urgency that is necessary to begin addressing the climate crisis and the following mass extinction.

This project also aims to make these scientific issues more accessible to the general public to encourage greater participation and public discourse on these topics that are generally reserved for the scientific community. Cirio aggregated data provided from the IUCN Red List, an international union dedicated to wildlife conservation, with data from Wikipedia and iNaturalist to merge pictures and additional information on the species. The data regarding compensation for individual endangered species is formatted for the online platform with images of species with appealing design. Additionally, this material is presented as street art campaigns, installations in art institutions, and as featured articles for various press outlets. By integrating science, big data, design and art making, Extinction Claims directly engages the general public in understanding the scale and scope of the extinction crisis our planet faces. This project will eventually be the node for larger campaigns coordinated with environmental activists and organizations to continue action in the following years, possibly culminating with actualized legal disputes against the Carbon Majors.

The Extinction Claims project and campaign is launched around the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. It is scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland from 1 to 12 November 2021. The project will also be inline with the largest UN Convention on Biological Diversity, in May 2022 in Kunming, China.

Data about fossil fuel emissions and its related economics about compensations by Cirio were researched in collaboration with Marco Grasso, currently Associate Professor in Political Geography and Economics at the University Milano-Bicocca and author of “From Big Oil to Big Green”, MIT Press. The aggregation of data was commissioned by Cirio to Pierre Massat and Lucie Schmaltz. Pierre is an economist who specializes in data-visualization and web development. Lucie has a PhD in Ecology and has worked for several years as a researcher in Conservation Biology. Extinction Claims is a co-production between BaltanLabs in Eindhoven and MediaMatic in Amsterdam.

Statement on extinction data by Lucie Schmaltz.
For Paolo Cirio’s project Extinction Claims.

Scientists estimate that between 8 and 100 million species of plants, fungi and animals are living on planet Earth. The count is incredibly higher when viruses and bacteria are included. All are - near or far - connected to each other through ecological interactions. At the same time as we are getting better at understanding the extend and the functional importance of our biodiversity, we are loosing species at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. Extinction, decline or shift in the distribution of species, all reverberate through ecosystems with pervasive effects on how the Earth's systems function.

Established in 1964, the IUCN Red List of threatened species currently represent the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of animal, plant and fungi species. The risk of extinction faced by a species is represented by a scale with 7 values, ranging from "Least concern" to "Extinct", plus 2 additional values when not enough data is available. This risk is assessed based on an objective set of criteria, using data linked to population trend, size, and structure and geographic range and their trends over time. The assessment procedure is standardized and based on the collaborative efforts of multidisciplinary experts, IUCN Species Survival Commission, IUCN members, universities, museums, research institutes, NGOs, Government and conservation practitioners.

The main goal of the Red List is to focus conservation priorities and catalyze conservation actions. Government agencies, non governmental organizations, educational institutions, businesses, medias and communities are all widely using the IUCN Red List for their decision making, policy development, awareness raising , priority setting and resource allocation. Data from the Red List also provide a wealth of information for scientific research and a global index of the state of change of biodiversity which is used to track progress towards Aïchi biodiversity targets (https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/)

The IUCN Red List is publicly available on the internet. Anyone can discover data, learn about biodiversity, and contribute with a donation. Today, the IUCN Red List has assessed (and re-assessed) the status of 134,400 species, out of which 37,400 (28%) are considered as threatened with extinction. It is a small and biased subset of what is currently know about biodiversity, but it remains a true leading authority. The Red List is a great tool that has proved very useful to inform many decisions concerning practical conservation, sustainable development, and to guide scientific research.

It is a remarkable achievement made possible by dedicated people, structures, and processes, which have a financial cost that is often overlooked. The IUCN Red List is funded mainly by philanthropic donations, then by governments, followed by NGOs, while the private sector contributes very little. Even so, current funding is insufficient, and volunteers contribute an enormous share in the work that is put in the making of the Red List.

The current global biodiversity crisis is in large part due to the lack of international commitment and funding over the past 25 years. It is time to act vigorously on the fundamental drivers of unsustainable use of nature (habitat conversion, resource overexploitation, species invasions, etc.) and climate change.

By Lucie Schmaltz, September 2021.
For Paolo Cirio’s project Extinction Claims.
Lucie Schmaltz has a PhD in Ecology and has worked for several years as a researcher in Conservation Biology.





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