APRIL 9TH 20__DAN ROBITZSKI__FILED UNDER: EARTH & ENERGY
The global ecosystem is in far greater danger than scientists previously thought, according to a new study — and that’s really saying something.
The research predicts that without dire action to reverse global climate change, entire ocean ecosystems could suddenly collapse this decade, The Guardian reports. It’s a dire warning: as various organisms face temperatures higher than anything they have before, the study predicts sudden, massive die-offs.
The study, published Tuesday in the prestigious journal Nature, examines the temperatures that 30,000 land and sea organisms can withstand, and plots those ranges against the expected temperature increases through the year 2100.
As species hits their temperature thresholds, they may effectively vanish — and many are expected to do so at the same time, in what the researchers call an “abrupt exposure event.”
“It’s not a slippery slope, but a series of cliff edges, hitting different places at different times,” research leader Alex Pigot of University College London told The Guardian.
Unless world leaders act to stop the direst effects of climate change, the study predicts a similar terrestrial die-off during the 2040s.
“The world is currently rightly focused on tackling the global health emergency,” Mark Wright, science director of the U.K. branch of the World Wildlife Fund, told The Guardian. “However, this new research reinforces that, after we are through this extremely difficult time, we will need renewed ambitious action to address the climate and nature crisis.”
An estimated 99% of all species ever living on planet Earth are now extinct. Extinction is part of life’s history, and the extinction of single species happens all the time. Over time lost species are eventually replaced as natural selection acts on the survivors, evolving new species. Mass extinctions in the geological record are defined by the loss of a large part of biodiversity in a (geologically speaking) short interval, like a few hundred to thousands of years.
Paleontologists recognize five big mass extinction events in the fossil record. At the end of the Ordovician, some 443 million years ago, an estimated 86% of all marine species disappeared. At the end of the Devonian, some 360 million years ago, 75% of all species went extinct. At the end of the Permian, some 250 million years ago, the worst extinction event so far happened, with an extinction rate of 96%. At the end of the Triassic, some 201 million years ago, 80% of all species disappeared from the fossil record. The most famous mass extinction happened at the end of the Cretaceous, some 65 million years ago, when 76% of all species went extinct, including the dinosaurs.
Scientists are still debating the factors driving mass extinction. Factors contributing to the disappearance of a species can be natural disasters, like volcanism, meteorite impacts, or climate change, but also biological ones, like competition, diseases, or depletion of resources.
A newly published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceevaluated the extinction risk of 29,374 land-based vertebrates. The study identified 75 mammal, 335 bird, 41 reptile and 65 amphibian species on the brink of extinction, with populations of fewer than a thousand individuals. More than half of the species on the list have fewer than 250 individuals remaining. The majority of these critically endangered animals are concentrated in tropical and subtropical regions, where biodiversity is highest. Critically endangered species include the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), one of the rarest mammals in the world, of which fewer than 100 individuals survive in the wild. Of New Zealand’s flightless, nocturnal, kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), only 200 individuals survive, after the introduction by humans of foreign predators, like rats, and habitat destruction caused a population crash. According to a summary report from the United Nations, amphibians are among the most vulnerable group among vertebrates, with 40% of the studied species at risk of extinction. Most studies investigating drivers of extinction risk have focused on vertebrates. The conservation status of invertebrates is still poorly studied, and some estimates put 27% of known species are at risk. Recent surveys have also shown a dramatic decline in insect populations.
On June 14, 2016, the Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat (Melomys rubicola) became the first mammal species to be declared extinct as a consequence of human-caused climate change. Living only on a vegetated coral reef located at the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, now inundated by rising sea-levels, living individuals have last been seen in 2009.
Humans contribute to the current extinction crisis by habitat destruction and fragmentation, poaching, illegal trade, overharvesting, the introduction of non-native and domesticated species into the wild, pathogens, pollution, and climate change. “The ongoing sixth mass extinction may be the most serious environmental threat to the persistence of civilization, because it is irreversible,” the authors of the most recent study write.
Gerardo Ceballosa,1, Paul R. Ehrlichb, and Peter H. Ravenc
aInstituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510 Ciudad de México, México; bCenter for Conservation Biology, Department of
Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94304; and cPlant Science Department, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO 63110 Contributed by Gerardo Ceballos, March 22, 2020 (sent for review December 26, 2019; reviewed by Thomas E. Lovejoy and Jorge L. Soberon)
The ongoing sixth mass species extinction is the result of the destruction of component populations leading to eventual extirpation of entire species. Populations and species extinctions have severe implications for society through the degradation of ecosys- tem services. Here we assess the extinction crisis from a different perspective. We examine 29,400 species of terrestrial vertebrates, and determine which are on the brink of extinction because they have fewer than 1,000 individuals. There are 515 species on the brink (1.7% of the evaluated vertebrates). Around 94% of the populations of 77 mammal and bird species on the brink have been lost in the last century. Assuming all species on the brink have similar trends, more than 237,000 populations of those species have vanished since 1900. We conclude the human-caused sixth mass extinction is likely accelerating for several reasons. First, many of the species that have been driven to the brink will likely become extinct soon. Second, the distribution of those species highly coincides with hundreds of other endangered species, surviving in regions with high human impacts, suggesting ongoing regional biodiversity collapses. Third, close ecological interactions of species on the brink tend to move other species toward annihilation when they disappear—extinction breeds extinctions. Finally, human pressures on the biosphere are growing rapidly, and a recent example is the current coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, linked to wildlife trade. Our results reemphasize the extreme urgency of taking much-expanded worldwide actions to save wild species and humanity’s crucial life-support systems from this existential threat.
“But the scale of climate change engulfs even the most fortunate. There is now no weather we haven’t touched, no wilderness immune from our encroaching pressure. The world we once knew is never coming back.
“I have no hope that these changes can be reversed. We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet. But the opposite of hope is not despair. It is grief. Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn. And here, the sheer scale of the problem provides a perverse comfort: we are in this together. The swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere.
“We need courage, not hope. Grief, after all, is the cost of being alive. We are all fated to live lives shot through with sadness, and are not worth less for it. Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending.”
Kate Marvel, physicist, associate research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
The emission of greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere is a by-product of modern marvels such as the production of vast amounts of energy, heating and cooling inhospitable environments to be amenable to human existence, and traveling great distances faster than our saddle-sore ancestors ever dreamed possible. However, these luxuries come at a price: climate changes in the form of severe droughts, extreme precipitation and temperatures, increased frequency of flooding in coastal cities, global warming, and sea-level rise (1, 2).
This is the price we pay for the luxury of about 200 y of relatively unchecked greenhouse gas emissions.
My request to those working in the renewable energy industry is to ask themselves before undertaking any new project: “Will this help people to live a lower energy lifestyle than they previously did?” – which, regrettably, is not something we can say of the low carbon energy installed globally to date. If they can’t answer yes to the question, I’d request they dump the project and seek another one. It’s urgent.
Earth is now in the middle of a mass extinction, the sixth one in the planet’s history, according to scientists.
And now a new study reports that species are going extinct hundreds or thousands of times faster than the expected rate.
The researchers also found that one extinction can cause ripple effects throughout an ecosystem, leaving other species vulnerable to the same fate. “Extinction breeds extinctions,” they write in their June 1 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
With the accelerating pace of destruction, scientists are racing to understand these fragile bits of life before they’re gone. “This means that the opportunity we have to study and save them will be far greater over the next few decades than ever again,” said Peter Raven, a coauthor of the study and a professor emeritus of botany at Washington University in St. Louis, in an email.
The findings also highlight how life can interact in unexpected ways and how difficult it can be to slow ecological destruction once it starts. “It’s similar to climate change; once it gets rolling, it gets harder and harder to unwind,” said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, who was not involved in the study. “We don’t know what the tipping points are, and that’s scary.”
It’s worth pausing to reflect on what “extinction” means: a species completely and forever lost. Each one is an irreparable event, so the idea that they are not only happening more often but also might be sparking additional, related extinctions is startling. And these extinctions have consequences for humanity, from the losses of critical pollinators that fertilize crops to absent predators that would otherwise keep disease-spreading animals in check.
So researchers are now looking closely at which animals are teetering on the edge of existence to see just how dire the situation has become, and to figure out what might be the best way to bring them back.
Hundreds of animals are on the brink of extinction over the next two decades
There is tremendous biodiversity on earth right now. The number of species — birds, trees, ferns, fungi, fish, insects, mammals — is greater than it ever has been in the 4.5 billion-year existence of this planet. But that also means there is a lot to lose.
Out of those examined, 515 species — 1.7 percent of those studied — were found to be on the brink of extinction, meaning fewer than 1,000 individuals were left alive. These species include the vaquita, the Clarion island wren, and the Sumatran rhino. And half of these 515 species have fewer than 250 individuals left. If nothing is done to protect them, most of them will go extinct over the next 20 years.
The second-most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history may have been triggered by global warming. The discovery means that, for the first time, all of the largest known extinctions can be linked to a rapid rise in the planet’s temperature.
“It completes the jigsaw puzzle in many ways,” says Andrew Kerr at Cardiff University, UK. Geologists recognise five points in time when huge numbers of species were wiped out, although recent research suggests at least one of these might have been too …
Temperatures are expected to drop to record lows for this time of year across much of the northern U.S east of the Rocky Mountains. The culprit? A low-pressure mass of Arctic air is making its way down through Ontario, Canada, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
“Temperatures will be quite chilly for middle May, a good 20 degrees below normal,” on Saturday (May 9), the New York NWS wrote in a Friday forecast discussion. Rain is likely, and flurries are possible, though the mid-May sun makes them unlikely, according to the NWS.
Farther north and west, things will be colder, with freeze warnings in place across parts of the Great Plains, Appalachians and the Northeast. Several inches of snow are possible in northern Appalachia, according to the national forecast. Lake-effect snow is possible by the Great Lakes, and high winds are expected across the Northeast as the low-pressure system turns into a bona fide storm system.
The air mass making its way south is part of what’s often called the “polar vortex,” a swirl of frigid air usually confined to the Arctic by the circulating atmospheric current known as the jet stream. Sometimes, wobbles in the jet stream allow some of that Arctic air to escape south, according to the NWS.
The relationship between polar vortex escapes like this and climate change isn’t yet fully understood, but many studies (summarized in this paper published in the journal Science Advances in 2018) have found climate change effects can disturb the jet stream and lead to extreme weather events.
The Weather Channel reported that this weekend should see multiple low-temperature and possibly low-pressure records fall. Meanwhile, a high-pressure block of lower-latitude air “bulging” northward to the west should bring extreme heat to the other side of the Rocky Mountains.
In other words, it will be an extreme weather weekend all over the country, not fully clearing up after Mother’s Day on Sunday (May 10).
Climate change could result in a more abrupt collapse of many animal species than previously thought, starting in the next decade if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a study published this month in Nature.
The study predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife, but for the humans who depend on it.
“For a long time things can seem OK and then suddenly they’re not,” said Alex L. Pigot, a scientist at University College London and one of the study’s authors. “Then, it’s too late to do anything about it because you’ve already fallen over this cliff edge.”
The latest research adds to an already bleak picture for the world’s wildlife unless urgent action is taken to preserve habitats and limit climate change. More than a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because of the myriad ways humans are changing the earth by farming, fishing, logging, mining, poaching and burning fossil fuels.
The study looked at more than 30,000 species on land and in water to predict how soon climate change would affect population levels and whether those levels would change gradually or suddenly. To answer these questions, the authors determined the hottest temperature that a species is known to have withstood, and then predicted when that temperature would be surpassed around the world under different emissions scenarios.
When they examined the projections, the researchers were surprised that sudden collapses appeared across almost all species — fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals — and across almost all regions.
“It’s not that it happens in some places,” said Cory Merow, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut and one of the study’s authors. “No matter how you slice the analysis, it always seems to happen.”
If greenhouse gas emissions remain on current trajectories, the research showed that abrupt collapses in tropical oceans could begin in the next decade. Coral bleaching events over the last several years suggest that these losses have already started, the scientists said. Collapse in tropical forests, home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, could follow by the 2040s.
But if global warming was held to below 2 degrees Celsius, the number of species exposed to dangerous climate change would drop by 60 percent. That, in turn, would limit the number of ecosystems exposed to catastrophic collapse to about 2 percent.
“The benefits of early and rapid action are massive and prevent the extinction of thousands of species,” said Christopher H. Trisos, a scientist at the University of Cape Town and one of the study’s authors.
The study does not take into account other factors that could help or hurt a species’ survival. For example, some species may tolerate or adapt to higher temperatures; on the other hand, if their food sources could not, they would die off just the same.
Climate Fwd: What on earth is going on? Get the latest news about climate change, plus tips on how you can help.
“It provides yet another, critical wake-up call about the massive repercussions of a rapidly warming world,” said Walter Jetz, an ecologist at Yale University who did not participate in the study. He added that it was more evidence of the importance of following through on the pledges that nations around the world made in the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Trump administration is in the process of withdrawing from that commitment.
The study suggested that even keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, would still leave many people and ecosystems vulnerable.
“If we take action now, we limit this abrupt disruption to 2 percent of the planet,” Dr. Trisos said. “But that two percent of the planet still has a lot of people living there in tropical regions. And they need our help.”
Catrin Einhorn reports on wildlife and extinction for the Climate desk. She has also worked on the Investigations desk, where she was part of the Times team that received the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its reporting on sexual harassment. @catrineinhorn
A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 19 of the New York edition with the headline: Study Sees ‘Cliff Edge’ Of Die-Offs Over Climate. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
How fast could such a temperature rise eventuate? As above image also shows, such a rise could take place within a few years. The polynomial trend is based on NASA January 2012-February 2017 anomalies from 1951-1980, adjusted by +0.59°C to cater for the rise from 1750 to 1951-1980. The trend points at a 3°C rise in the course of 2018, which would be devastating. Moreover, the rise doesn’t stop there and the trend points at a 10°C rise as early as the year 2021.
The bottom part of above image shows the warming elements that add up to the 10°C (18°F) temperature rise. Figures for five elements may be overestimated (as indicated by the ⇦ symbol) or underestimated (⇨ symbol), while figures in two elements could be either under- or overestimated depending on developments in other elements. Interaction between warming elements is included, i.e. where applicable, figures on the image include interaction based on initial figures and subsequently apportioned over the relevant elements.
A closer look at each of these warming elements further explains why abrupt warming could take place in a matter of years. As far as the first two elements are concerned, i.e. the rise from 1900 and the rise from 1750 to 1900, this has already eventuated. The speed at which further warming elements can strike is depicted in the image below, i.e. the rise could for a large part occur within years and in some cases within days and even immediately.
Assessing the Danger
The danger can be looked at on three dimensions: timescale, probability and severity. On the severity dimension, a 10°C temperature rise is beyond catastrophic, i.e. we’re talking about extinction of species at massive scale, including humans. On the probability dimension, the danger appears to be progressing inevitably toward certainty if no comprehensive and effective action is taken.
In terms of timescale, a 10°C temperature rise could eventuate within a matter of years, which makes the danger imminent, adding further weight to the need to start taking comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.
With little or no action taken on global warming, it appears that the Antropocene will lead to extinction of the very human beings after which the era is named, with the Anthropocene possibly running from 1950 to 2021, i.e. a mere 71 years and much too short to constitute an era. In that case a better name for the period would be the Sixth Extiction Event, as also illustrated by the image below.
It’s time to stop denying how precarious the situation is.
Remember the Paris Agreement? In 2015, politicians pledged to hold the global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pledged they would try and limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Well, an analysis by Sam Carana shows that it was already more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial when the Paris Agreement was reached.
In Sam Carana’s analysis, the year 1750 is used as the baseline for pre-industrial. The analysis shows that we meanwhile have also crossed the 2°C threshold (in February 2020) and that the temperature rise looks set to rapidly drive humans and eventually most if not all species on Earth into extinction.
Yet, our politicians refuse to act!
Accelerating temperature rise
Indeed, there are indications that the recent rise is part of a trend that points at even higher temperatures in the near future, as also discussed at this analysis page. Polynomial trends can highlight such acceleration better than linear trends. The 1970-2030 polynomial trend in the image below is calculated over the period from 1880 through to February 2020. The trend points at 3°C getting crossed in 2026.
In above image, the January 2020 and February 2020 anomalies are above the trend. This indicates that the situation might be even worse.
A polynomial trend calculated over a shorter period can highlight short-term variation such as associated with El Niño events and can highlight feedbacks that might otherwise be overlooked. The 2010-2022 trend in the image below is calculated with 2009-Feb.2020 data. The trend indicates that 2°C was crossed in February 2020, and looks set to keep rising and cross 3°C in 2021, more specifically in January next year, which is less than a year away.
Such a steep rise is in line with unfolding developments that are causing the aerosol masking effect to fall away, such as a decrease in industrial activity due to COVID-19 fears. The image below shows a potential rise of 18°C or 32.4°F from 1750 by the year 2026.
Above image was posted more than a year ago and illustrates that much of this potentially huge temperature rise over the next few years could eventuate as a result of a reduction in the cooling now provided by sulfates. In other words, a steep temperature rise could result from a decline in industrial activity that is caused by fears about the spread of a contagious virus, as also discussed in the video at an earlier post.
The situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.
Consider this blog a chronicle of mankind’s last days. What were humans thinking when they took this incredibly beautiful, fragile, planet down—in the name of greed, selfishness, arrogance, sport or self-esteem?
Some of the articles I post might seem unrelated, off-topic or out of place when examined alone. But they are all part of the bigger picture which someday may be viewed by a higher intelligence who comes across it in their quest to know just how one species—out of so many—thought they had the right to exploit all others, carte blanc, under the narcissistic delusion that non-human lives on Earth had no rights at all.
Whether or not mankind survives the assault they’re putting the planet through is a non-issue for me. Personally, I hope they don’t. They do not deserve a second chance to rule this vibrant, watery orb any more than they deserved the first chance to steal Nature, abuse and forever change her.
But why all this on an anti-hunting blog? Because hunting, and ultimately meat-eating, is where humans first started screwing things up. For a plant-eating primate to leave the trees, take weapon in hand, turn carnivorous and claim the planet and everything that walks, crawls, swims or flies as their own was a recipe for disaster…