Scientists warn of “biological annihilation” as Earth’s mass extinction accelerates

We share this planet; we do not own it.

By Josh Varlin,

Dateline: 12 July 2017

Lion Looking Into the Distance. All great African species are under extreme pressure, and lions are liable to vanish in less than a human lifetime. Humanity’s self-centered footprint is inexorably killing untold millions of animals and wiping out thousands of species.
A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) indicates that human activity is precipitating “biological annihilation” and a mass extinction event. The peer-reviewed paper, “Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines,” argues that the severity of the ongoing biodiversity crisis is often underestimated by looking primarily at extinctions (the loss of all individuals in a species). The study looks more broadly at species’ population decline and argues that “Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume.”

The study was coauthored by Gerardo Ceballos of the Instituto de Ecología at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City and by Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University’s Department of Biology.

The authors argue that while the extinction rate is already alarmingly high—including at least two vertebrate species per year for the past century—this does not tell the full story. Even if species have not yet gone extinct, their numbers and geographic distribution are decreasing dramatically, signaling an accelerating trend toward eventual extinction.

Detailed historical data from 1900 to 2015 is available for about 200 mammals, which are often major components of their ecosystems. Most of these key species are in crisis, even though they are not extinct: “In the 177 mammals for which we have detailed data, all have lost 30 percent or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40 percent of the species have experienced severe population declines (>80 percent range shrinkage).”

(Gerardo Ceballos et al., 2017, “Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online,


LEFT: Decreasing land vertebrates, as exemplified with these four species, include taxa with different conservation status (e.g., low concern, critically endangered), currentgeographic range (e.g., large, very restricted), and abundance (e.g., common, rare).

Because population declines presage extinction, the study concludes that the planet has already begun its sixth mass extinction—the first since humans evolved.

Alpine marmot: under pressure.

The last mass extinction was at the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 66 million years ago, which saw the end of the dinosaurs, paving the way for mammals to dominate on land. The end-Cretaceous extinction was caused by an asteroid colliding with Earth, creating nuclear winter-like atmospheric effects.

The most catastrophic known mass extinction occurred at the end of the Permian Period (252 million years ago), and is known as “The Great Dying.” Approximately 70 percent of terrestrial species died during this cataclysmic event, which is thought to have occurred due to massive volcanic eruptions.

The fact that PNAS, one of the top science journals worldwide, published an article raising the possibility of events along the lines of “The Great Dying” is a sign that the ecological crisis is far advanced.

The paper, which is only about five pages long, not counting graphs or references, uses the word “annihilation” six times, “catastrophic” twice and a variety of “decimation” three times. Ceballos told the Atlantic that such frank language is warranted. “It would be alarmist if we didn’t have the data,” he said. “Now it would be irresponsible on our part to not use strong language. I wish we could say we are wrong but unfortunately, this is what is happening.”

Frogs—like all amphibians—are among the most endangered species.

The breakthrough made by Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo is their thorough examination of populations, rather than staying at the level of species. A population is a group of individuals separated from other populations, usually by geography. Each species is made up of one or more populations.

If a species is losing several key populations but its overall numbers have not collapsed, it often will not be recognized as being in crisis. However, if a species is atomized into disparate, isolated populations, with its overall habitat shrinking, that makes its eventual extinction more likely.

In other words, the loss of each population of a species is one major step toward its overall extinction, unless measures are taken to restore the population and reverse the crisis.

Because most studies focus on extinction and not the loss of populations, they understate the scale of the crisis. Not only is the decline in populations a prelude to a significant number of extinctions, but the pace of population loss is accelerating.

Gerardo Ceballos et al., 2017, “Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online,

Moreover, many species with decreasing populations are not yet recognized as being endangered. Of all land vertebrates with decreasing populations, about 70 percent have been recognized as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, less than half of decreasing bird species are recognized as endangered by the IUCN.

Because of the complexity of the environment, removing even a seemingly minor population or species can severely impact other species—if enough species go extinct, it can damage whole ecosystems. Human life as we know it relies on an increasingly strained ecological balance, and may be impossible if biodiversity is reduced too much. The loss of this dynamic balance, once it reaches a certain point, can cascade into a catastrophic, possibly irreversible collapse.

“Snake” caterpillar, a rare lifeform adaptation.
Macaques grooming each other.

The study identifies “the proximate causes of population extinctions” as “habitat conversion, climate disruption, overexploitation, toxification, species invasions, disease and (potentially) large-scale nuclear war—all tied to one another in complex patterns and usually reinforcing each other’s impacts.”

These factors are all caused or greatly exacerbated by humans’ unplanned and irrational interaction with the environment, rooted in the subordination of all social and economic life to private profit. It is worth noting in this context the mention of the potential environmental consequences of a nuclear war, which could be set off by any number of conflicts around the world caused by the division of the world into competing capitalist nation-states.

The authors identify “the ultimate drivers of those immediate causes of biotic destruction” as “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich.” One need not agree that population growth itself is the problem to recognize that human activity, without scientific planning, places immense strains on the environment.

Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo conclude their paper by noting that “the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most.” Their article should serve as a notice that the clock is ticking for humanity to establish socialism—a social system in which life is scientifically organized around human need, including the need to be in harmony with the natural environment. Only through the conscious effort to place humanity on such a rational basis can ecological collapse be prevented.

To Be or Not to Be?: Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

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Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

For four decades I have been speaking about the sixth mass extinction and the threat that we have become to our own future and the future of most species on this planet.

Now at last the mainstream media is beginning to notice.

For decades my concerns have been ridiculed and criticized for being an alarmist and a doomsday prophet.

When it comes to ecological threats, humans always seem to do very little too late.

There are solutions but for the majority of humanity all the real solutions are unacceptable. They want solutions without sacrificing their life styles.

We have to understand that farmlands will nor survive if we kill the bacteria in the soil. We have to understand that 7.5 billion meat eating, fish eating primates are rapidly destroying entire eco-systems.

The life support systems of the Earth, our Ocean, our rainforests, the biosphere are all being rapidly diminished.

If humanity does not reject anthropocentrism and if we refuse to abide by the laws of ecology we will not survive as a species.

We will be the victims of our own ignorance and our own arrogance. Homo sapiens have devolved into Homo arrogantus ignoramus.

We have become trapped within a matrix of our own creation, living in a world of anthropocentric fantasies and ignoring ecological realities.

Diminishment is escalating much faster than we seem to realize. Fisheries have been collapsing for years, climate change is accelerating, species extinction is accelerating, plastic, noise, chemical and radiation pollutants are poisoning the sea.

And less that 3% of humanity understands that if bees and trees, worms and phytoplankton are diminished we are diminished and if these species go extinct so do we.

Since 1950 we have had a 40% diminishment of phytoplankton in the sea and phytoplankton supplies over 70% of the oxygen we breathe. No phytoplankton = no humanity.

And despite these facts, Norway and Japan are building fleets to mass harvest krill to provide a cheap protein source for livestock.

We slaughter 65 billion animals a year and remove tens of billions more animals from the sea creating more greenhouse gases in the process than produced by the entire transportation industry.

And yet most people choose to be unaware, to be willfully ignorant or they simply don’t care.

Why is it that the late wolf biologist Dr. Gordon Haber was fined $150,000 for freeing a wolf from a trap but a man from a prep school in Hawaii received only $1,000 fine and 45 days in jail for viciously killing 17 endangered Laysan albatross and causing $200,000 worth of damage to a conservation project?

Why is it that over a thousand conservationists and environmentalists have been murdered and rarely have the killers been brought to justice.

The human race is terrorizing the entire living world and blaming everything but ourselves. Why do we allow sick people like Walter Palmer to practice their perverted ‘sport’ and call it conservation? Big game hunters are simply sexually and emotionally inadequate people given a license to kill by governments that value profits over life.

A few years ago a ranger in Zimbabwe was severely criticized for killing a poacher who was about to kill a black rhino. Human rights groups were appalled asking how killing a man to protect an animal can ever be justified.

The ranger responded by saying that if a man ran out of Barclay’s bank in Harare with a bag of money and if he was a policeman and shot the man in the head, he would not have been criticized. They would have given him a medal for the deed.

“How is it,” he said, “that a bag of paper has more value than the future heritage of Zimbabwe?”

Our values are dictated by anthropocentric desires without any recognition of the ultimate importance of bio-diversity.

The choice for us, if we are to survive is to embrace the laws of ecology and learn to live in harmony and with respect for all other species and to accept that we are part of and not dominant over nature.

Many scientists say it’s clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction, meaning three-quarters of all species could disappear in the coming centuries.

Sixth mass extinction: The era of ‘biological annihilation’

Story highlights

  • Scientists have said it’s clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction event
  • Study: A third of the 27,600 species are shrinking in terms of numbers and territorial range
  • “What is at stake is really the state of humanity,” study author says

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN who focuses on climate change and social justice. Follow him on SnapchatTwitter and Facebook or subscribe to his email newsletter.

(CNN)Many scientists say it’s abundantly clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction event, meaning three-quarters of all species could disappear in the coming centuries.

That’s terrifying, especially since humans are contributing to this shift.
But that’s not even the full picture of the “biological annihilation” people are inflicting on the natural world, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gerardo Ceballos, an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and his co-authors, including well-known Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich, cite striking new evidence that populations of species we thought were common are suffering in unseen ways.
“What is at stake is really the state of humanity,” Ceballos told CNN.
Their key findings: Nearly one-third of the 27,600 land-based mammal, bird, amphibian and reptile species studied are shrinking in terms of their numbers and territorial range. The researchers called that an “extremely high degree of population decay.”
The scientists also looked at a well-studied group of 177 mammal species and found that all of them had lost at least 30% of their territory between 1900 and 2015; more than 40% of those species “experienced severe population declines,” meaning they lost at least 80% of their geographic range during that time.
Looking at the extinction crisis not only in terms of species that are on the brink but also those whose populations and ranges are shrinking helps show that “Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe” than previously thought, the authors write. They say a major extinction event is “ongoing.”
“It’s the most comprehensive study of this sort to date that I’m aware of,” said Anthony Barnosky, executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford University, who was not involved in the study. Its value, Barnosky said, is that it makes visible a phenomenon typically unseen by scientists and the public: that even populations of relatively common species are crashing.
“We’ve got this stuff going on that we can’t really see because we’re not constantly counting numbers of individuals,” he said. “But when you realize that we’ve wiped out 50% of the Earth’s wildlife in the last 40 years, it doesn’t take complicated math to figure out that, if we keep cutting by half every 40 years, pretty soon there’s going to be nothing left.”
Stuart Pimm, chair of conservation ecology at Duke University in North Carolina, summed up the the concept this way: “When I look out over the woods that constitute my view from my window here, I know we no longer have wolves or panthers or black bears wandering around. We have eliminated a lot of species from a lot of areas. So we no longer have a functional set of species across large parts of the planet.”
This is an important point to emphasize, Pimm said. But the new paper’s analysis risks overstating the degree to which extinction events already are occurring, he said, and the research methodology does not have the level of granularity needed to be particularly useful for conservationists.
“What good mapping does is to tell you where you need to act,” Pimm said. “The value of the Ceballos paper is a sense of the problem. But given there’s a problem, what the bloody hell are we going to do about it?”
Often, scientists who study crisis in the natural world focus on species that are at high and short-term risk for extinction. These plants and animals tend to be odd and unfamiliar, often restricted to one island or forest. You probably didn’t notice, for example, that the Catarina pupfish, native to Mexico, went extinct in 2014, according to the paper. Or that a bat called the Christmas Island pipistrelle is thought to have vanished in 2009.
Meanwhile, as this research shows, entire populationsof other plants and animals are crashing, even if they’re not yet on the brink of extinction. Some of these are well-known.
Consider the African elephant. “On the one hand, you can say, ‘All right, we still have around 400,000 elephants in Africa, and that seems like a really big number,’ ” Barnosky said. “But then, if you step back, that’s cut by more than half of what their populations were in the early part of last century. There were well over 1 million elephants (then).
“And if you look at what’s happened in the last decade, we have been culling their numbers so fast that if we kept up with that pace, there would be no more wild elephants in Africa in 20 years.”
Twenty years. No more African elephants. Think about that.
Barn swallows and jaguars are two other examples, according to Ceballos, the lead author of the paper. Both are somewhat common in terms of their total numbers, he said, but their decline is troubling in some places.
Such population crashes can, of course, lead to inevitable extinctions. And currently, scientists say that species are going extinct at roughly 100 times what would be considered normal — perhaps considerably more.
There has been some dispute lately about whether the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event already has begun or is simply on the horizon, but there is little disagreement among scientists that humans are driving an unprecedented ecological crisis.
And the causes are well-known. People are burning fossil fuels, contributing to climate change. They’re chopping down forests and other habitat for agriculture, to the point 37% of Earth’s land surface now is farmland or pasture, according to the World Bank. The global population of people continues to rise, along with our thirst for land and consumption. And finally, but not exclusively, poachers are driving numbers of elephantspangolins, rhinos, giraffes and other creatures with body parts valuable on the black market to worryingly low levels.
All of this is contributing to a rapid decline in wild creatures, both on land and in the ocean.
Ceballos’ paper highlights the urgency of this crisis — and the need for change.
“The good news is, we still have time,” he said. “These results show it is time to act. The window of opportunity is small, but we can still do something to save species and populations.”
Otherwise, “biological annihilation” continues.

Quantification of habitat fragmentation reveals extinction risk in terrestrial mammals

  1. Kevin R. Crooks et al

    Although habitat fragmentation is often assumed to be a primary driver of extinction, global patterns of fragmentation and its relationship to extinction risk have not been consistently quantified for any major animal taxon. We developed high-resolution habitat fragmentation models and used phylogenetic comparative methods to quantify the effects of habitat fragmentation on the world’s terrestrial mammals, including 4,018 species across 26 taxonomic Orders. Results demonstrate that species with more fragmentation are at greater risk of extinction, even after accounting for the effects of key macroecological predictors, such as body size and geographic range size. Species with higher fragmentation had smaller ranges and a lower proportion of high-suitability habitat within their range, and most high-suitability habitat occurred outside of protected areas, further elevating extinction risk. Our models provide a quantitative evaluation of extinction risk assessments for species, allow for identification of emerging threats in species not classified as threatened, and provide maps of global hotspots of fragmentation for the world’s terrestrial mammals. Quantification of habitat fragmentation will help guide threat assessment and strategic priorities for global mammal conservation.
“What can be said with assurance is that there is a unique and nearly ubiquitous  compound, with the empirical formula H(2960) O(1480) C(1480) N(16) P(1.8) S
called living matter. Its synthesis, on an oxidized and uncarboxylated earth, is the most intricate feat of chemical engineering ever performed – and the most delicate operation that people have ever tampered with.”

Edward S. Deevey, Jr. Mineral Cycles.
Scientific American, September 1970


Polar bears were listed on the Species at Risk Act in 2011.

On June 27th, the Northwest Territories Conference of Management Authorities (CMA) released the Inuvialuit Settlement Region Polar Bear Joint Management Plan and the Framework for Action for Management of Polar Bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

The documents were released by Environment and Natural Resources Minister Robert C. McLeod, acting on behalf of the CMA.

The release of the documents comes after an agreement by the CMA to adopt both documents and fulfills responsibilities under the NWT’s Species at Risk Act to complete a management plan for polar bears in the territory.

McLeod says the documents are a great start to restoring the polar bears numbers:

Management of polar bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region is complex and [this] will help facilitate an integrated and common approach to polar bear management across all jurisdictions, including Nunavut and Yukon, by outlining recommended areas where further action should be taken.

The CMA now has until March 27, 2018 to develop a consensus agreement on the implementation of the newly released documents.

Sorry Nerds, But Colonizing Other Planets Is Not A Good Plan

by Adam Ozimek, Contributor

In November, Stephen Hawking warned that humans needed to colonize another planet within 1,000 years. Now, six months later, he’s saying we have to do it within 100 years in order to avoid extinction. There’s a problem with this plan: under almost no circumstances does is colonizing another planet the best way to adapt to a problem on earth.


Let’s start with Mars, which is a favorite planet for colonization scenarios, including for Elon Musk who thinks we should colonize Mars because earth will eventually face a “doomsday scenario”. The problem with this is that there is almost nothing that could happen to earth that would make it less hospitable than Mars. Whether it’s nuclear war or massive global warming, post disaster earth would be way more habitable than Mars.

For example, we worry that the oceans on earth will get too polluted, or too acidified, or rise up too high. It’s true that could make life on earth very hard. But on Mars the only surface water is frozen in the polar ice caps. We would be hard pressed to ruin the water on earth so badly that it’s worse than what’s available on Mars.

We also worry about the level of carbon dioxide we humans are creating. But there’s nothing we could do to earth’s atmosphere to make it as bad as Mars, which is both extremely thin and also 96% carbon dioxide. Not to mention a significantly lower level of gravity. Whatever we’d have to do on Mars to make the atmosphere habitable would be more easily done on a very very ruined earth.

Even if an asteroid were to strike earth it would remain more habitable than mars. For example, consider the asteroid that struck the earth 66 million years ago creating the Chicxulub crater and wiping out 75% of plant and animal species on earth, including the dinosaurs. Well that disaster still left 25% of species that survived, all of whom would die instantly on the surface of Mars.

If an asteroid like this was heading for the earth here’s what we would do instead of abandoning the planet. First, we’d try to deflect it. If we didn’t know how to do that, everyone who lived on the part of the planet where it was going to land would move to safer parts of the planet. If need be we’d create biodomes and move into them, maybe even at the bottom of the ocean. “Impossible!” you say? “Technology and human behavior would never allow this!” you insist? It’s true it would be extremely hard and today’s technology wouldn’t allow it. And yet it would still be way, way easier than colonizing another planet. If you think getting humans to abandon a continent peacefully is hard, try getting them to abandon the planet.

Perhaps we could focus on colonizing another planet then. One with an atmosphere closer to ours than Mars. This may be possible, but the technology required to do this is a far smaller life than the technology required to build habitable ecosystems on the bottom of the ocean, deflect asteroids, reverse global warming, or cure pandemics. The closest star system to us is Alpha Centauri, which is 4.3 light years away. At a max speed of around 17,000 mph would take existing space shuttles 165,000 years to reach this. Even the faster New Horizon probe, the first to visit Pluto, would take 78,000 years.

The technology required to travel fast enough to get to other planets makes geoengineering to reverse climate change seem quaint.

It is hard to come up with a scenario where evacuating the earth makes the most sense. So why do so many smart people obsess about it? I think the issue is that nerds find space travel and colonizing other planets extremely appealing because they love science fiction and space exploration exciting. That’s fine, and if some billionaires want to colonize Mars for fun I say go for it. But unfortunately, their nerd desires are biasing their assessment of how humanity should prepare for doomsday threats. Sorry nerds, we won’t be evacuating earth. If we are underestimating the risks of doomsday threats, lets instead invest in the technologies that will help protect earth from them. Even though I am not an expert on space, physical sciences, or basically any relevant field, I can tell that this is obviously true. Maybe just it takes an economist to see through the nerd fantasies.

ADDENDUM: The goal of colonizing to preserve the species rather than evacuate doesn’t make sense either. If there are habitable planets within reach, then there must be many, many habitable planets that aren’t within reach. In this case the Drake Equation implies humans are not alone in the universe, and therefore our existence is far less special, lowering the benefit of preserving humanity. In a world of other habitable planets, saving the actual life on earth grows in importance compared to preserving the species somewhere in the universe.

23 Environmental Rules Rolled Back in Trump’s First 100 Days

President Trump, with help from his administration and Republicans in Congress, has reversed course on nearly two dozen environmental rules, regulations and other Obama-era policies during his first 100 days in office.

Citing federal overreach and burdensome regulations, Mr. Trump has prioritized domestic fossil fuel interests and undone measures aimed at protecting the environment and limiting global warming.


1. Approved the Dakota Access pipeline. Feb. 7

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans in Congress criticized President Barack Obama for delaying construction of the pipeline — which they argued would create jobs and stimulate the economy — after protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Mr. Trump ordered an expedited review of the pipeline, and the Army approved it.

2. Revoked a rule that prevented coal mining companies from dumping debris into local streams. Feb. 16

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The coal industry said the rule was overly burdensome, calling it part of the war on coal. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.

3. Canceled a requirement for reporting methane emissions. March 2

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republican officials from 11 states wrote a letter to Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the rule added costs and paperwork for oil and gas companies. The next day, Mr. Pruitt revoked the rule.

4. Approved the Keystone XL pipeline. March 24

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans, along with oil, gas and steel industry groups, opposed Mr. Obama’s decision to block the pipeline, arguing that the project would create jobs and support North American energy independence. After the pipeline company reapplied for a permit, the Trump administration approved it.

5. Revoked an update to public land use planningprocess. March 27

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans and fossil fuel industry groups opposed the updated planning rule for public lands, arguing that it gave the federal government too much power at the expense of local and business interests. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.

6. Lifted a freeze on new coal leases on public lands.March 29

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Coal companies weren’t thrilled about the Obama administration’s three-year freeze on new leases on public lands pending an environmental review. Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, revoked the freeze and review, though he promised to set up a new advisory committee to review coal royalties.

7. Rejected a ban on a potentially harmful insecticide.March 29

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The company that sells the insecticide, Dow Agrosciences, strongly opposed a risk analysis by the Obama-era E.P.A., which found that the insecticide Chlorpyrifos poses a risk to fetal brain and nervous system development. Mr. Pruitt rejected the E.P.A.’s previous analysis and denied the ban, saying that the chemical needed further study.

8. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges. April 3

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Alaskan politicians opposed the law, which prevented hunters from shooting wolves and grizzly bears on wildlife refuges, arguing that the state, not the federal government, has authority over those lands. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.

9. Withdrew guidance for federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews. April 5

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans in Congress opposed the guidelines, which advised federal agencies to account for greenhouse gas emissions and potential climate effects in environmental impact reviews. They argued that the government lacked the authority to make such recommendations, and that it would be impossible to plan for the uncertain effects of climate change.


10. Ordered review and “elimination” of rule that protected tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Feb. 28

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Farmers, real estate developers, golf course owners and many Republicans opposed this clarification of the Clean Water Act, arguing that it created regulatory burdens. Mr. Trump called it a “massive power grab” by the federal government and instructed the E.P.A. and the Army to conduct a review.

11. Reopened a review of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. March 15

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Automakers said it would be difficult and costly to meet fuel economy goals they had agreed upon with the Obama administration and noted rising consumer demand for sport utility vehicles and trucks. A standards review had been completed by the Obama administration before Mr. Trump took office, but the auto industry argued that it was rushed. The E.P.A. and Department of Transportation have reopened the review.

12. Ordered “immediate re-evaluation” of the Clean Power Plan. March 28

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Coal companies and Republican officials in many states strongly opposed the plan, which set strict limits for carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. Republicans argued the plan — Mr. Obama’s signature climate change policy — posed a threat to the coal industry, and had mounted a legal challenge. Mr. Trump signed an executive order instructing the E.P.A. to review and re-evaluate the rule. An appeals court recently approved the Trump administration’s request to put the lawsuit on hold during the review process.

13. Rolled back limits on toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways. April 12

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Utility and fossil fuel industry groups opposed the rule, which limited the amount of toxic metals — arsenic, lead, and mercury, among others — power plants could release into public waterways. Industry representatives said complying with the guidelines would be extremely expensive. The E.P.A. has delayed compliance deadlines while it reconsiders the rule, which had been challenged in court.

14. Ordered review of rule limiting methane emissions at new oil and gas drilling sites. April 18

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Lobbyists for the oil and gas industries petitioned Mr. Pruitt to reconsider the rule, which went into effect last August, limiting emissions of methane, smog-forming compounds and other toxic pollutants from new and modified oil and gas wells. They argued the rule was technologically infeasible.

15. Ordered review of national monuments created since 1996. April 26

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Congressional Republicans said the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to designate national monuments on federal land, had been abused by previous administrations. Mr. Obama used the law to set aside more than 4 million acres of land and several million square miles of ocean for protection.

16. Ordered review of offshore drilling policies and regulations. April 28

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Lobbyists for the oil industry were opposed to Mr. Obama’s use of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently ban offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast and much of the ocean around Alaska, as well as regulations around oil rig safety.


17. Withdrew a rule that would help consumers buy more fuel-efficient tires. Jan. 26

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The rule required tire manufacturers and retailers to provide consumers with information about replacement car tires. The tire industry opposed several aspects of the rule, but had been working with the government to refine it. The Trump administration withdrew the proposed rule from consideration, but has not confirmed whether it may be reinstated.

18. Voted to revoke limits on methane emissions on public lands. Feb. 3

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The oil and gas industry said that the rule, which required companies to control methane emissions on federal or tribal land by capturing rather than burning or venting excess gas, would have curbed energy development. The House voted to revoke the rule under the Congressional Review Act, and Senate Republicans have until May 8 to take action.

19. Postponed changes to how oil, gas and coal from federal lands are priced. Feb. 22

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry said the changes, meant to ensure fair pricing on oil, gas and coal on federal or tribal land and to reduce costs, were redundant since the government already has the power to impose penalties. They also argued that it created a lot of uncertainty in the market.

20. Delayed a rule aiming to increase safety at facilities that use hazardous chemicals. March 13

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Chemical, agricultural and power industry groups said that the new rule, a response to a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant that killed 15 people, did not increase safety and would have undermined oversight. The rule is delayed until June 19, and industry groups have said that they may sue.

21. Delayed rules increasing energy efficiency standardsfor some appliances and some federal buildings. March 15

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Republicans in Congress opposed the rules, which applied to ceiling fans, heating and cooling appliances and other devices, as well as residential buildings owned by the federal government, saying that they would place an unfair cost on consumers.

22. Delayed rules modernizing the federal highway system, including environmental standards. March 15

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? The trucking industry supported the changes for bridge and pavement condition guidelines, but strongly opposed measures aimed at environmental sustainability and mitigating climate change.

23. Delayed a lawsuit over a rule regulating airborne mercury emissions from power plants. April 27

WHO WANTED IT CHANGED? Coal companies, along with Republican officials in several states, sued the government over this rule, which regulated the amount of mercury and other toxic pollutants that fossil fuel-fired power plants can emit into the air. They argued that the rule helped shutter coal plants, many of which are already compliant. Oral arguments in the case have been delayed while the E.P.A. reviews the rule.

Any regulations we missed? Tweet @nytclimate.

Stephen Hawking says we have 100 years to colonize a new planet—or die. Could we do it?

Here’s what it would take to survive this particular doomsday prophecy

human on Mars

Living on Mars would arguably be harder than fixing up our own planet.


Stephen Hawking is making apocalyptic predictions again. The respected theoretical physicist warns that humanity needs to become a multi-planetary species within the next century if we don’t want to go extinct. Last year, he prophesied that we had maybe 1,000 years left on Earth, and the inspiration for this newly-urgent timeline is unclear—except for the fact that Hawking’s new documentary about colonizing Mars is coming out soon.

To be sure, Earth is facing some big problems, including climate change, overpopulation, epidemics, and asteroid strikes. But before we flee this planet like an action hero jumping out of an explosion, let’s think about this for a second. Sure, it’d be great to have a backup civilization somewhere in case asteroids wipe out all life on Earth. And it would be one of the most exciting things humankind has ever done. But what would it actually require.

Finding a second home for humanity

Mars is a somewhat obvious choice because it’s nearby, but it’s not exactly Earth 2.0. In fact, it’s arguably a lot worse off than Earth. It has toxic soil, it’s freezing cold, and the air is unbreathable. Any Martian colony would likely rely on regular care packages from home, which would not work well if Earth was done-zo.

If we really want to find the perfect home away from home, we could look to other star systems: with billions of planets in the Milky Way, there’s a good chance some will have water, land, and breathable air. But so far we haven’t found Earth’s twin, and our telescopes don’t have the kind of resolution that could tell us in detail what an exoplanet is like. Also, it would take hundreds of years to get there, and if those passengers don’t die along the way, they’d likely evolve into a new species before they even got to their new planet.

Bringing enough people

We would need to send significant numbers of people to other worlds in order to ensure the survival of the human species. Small colonies are subject to genetic anomalies from inbreeding, and vulnerable to getting wiped out in accidents.

NASA’s missions to Mars will likely only carry as many as six people at a time to the red planet. SpaceX wants to develop an Interplanetary Transport System to deliver 100 Martian settlers at a time, but at the moment it is nothing more than an imaginary behemoth.

The interstellar route is even more challenging, because we don’t even have an imaginary spacecraft capable of supporting thousands of people for hundreds of years on an interstellar journey.

And in either case, there’s always the politically charged question of: who goes and who stays? Do poor and disadvantaged people get left behind on a hellish world?


Could we make Mars look like Earth?

Making ourselves at home

If we really want to thrive on another planet, we’ll probably have to adapt the environment to suit our needs. Sure, we might be able to terraform Mars, but it would take about 100,000 years for its atmosphere to become breathable. Hope you’re not in a rush to go outdoors without a gas mask anytime soon.

Paying for it

NASA’s Journey to Mars is expected to cost up to $1.5 trillion. And that’s just for the first crews. Later on, launches bringing settlers and supplies to the colony would probably still cost hundreds of millions of dollars each.

And SpaceX’s plan to build the Interplanetary Transport System sounds great, but CEO Elon Musk has been very open about saying the company has no idea how it would pay for such a vessel.

And exactly who would pay to colonize Mars? Why would the U.S. government spend all that money to sustain a colony? What would we get out of it, besides better chances for the survival of our species? Will the Martian colony produce valuable exports, besides the (obviously awesome) scientific discoveries that would come out of it?

Surely there are a few wealthy Earthlings willing to pay millions of dollars each for a ride to and a habitat on an alien world, but the majority of folks who want to go to the red planet hope to come home afterwards.

Solving the problems that are killing Earth

History has a tendency to repeat itself. Even if we do successfully colonize another planet, we’ll still have to solve all the problems that Earth currently faces. Our technologies are just as likely to destroy the environment on other planets, and epidemics and asteroids could wipe out a Martian settlement much easier than they could obliterate the entire population of Earth.

The television show that Stephen Hawking is promoting is all about how human ingenuity is solving the challenges of colonizing Mars. Well, surely if we can figure out how to survive on a completely alien world, then we can figure out how to survive in our own home—possibly a lot more easily and cheaply than the alternative.

You Can’t Catch, Sell, or EAt an Extinct Bluefin Tuna


Born Free USA Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay

28 Apr 2017

How bad does it have to get before sanity dictates action? For every 100 Pacific Bluefin tuna who were in the ocean at one time, there are only about two-and-a-half left! Certain ideologues continue to claim that the value of living resources, such as ivory, big game species, timber, or Bluefin tuna, guarantee their protection. But, the situation with species of wild fauna and flora with high commercial value too often illustrates the reverse… and none more so than the Pacific Bluefin tuna.

Members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, including Japan, agreed to significantly reduce their catch of young Bluefins weighing under 30 kg (66 pounds), giving them a chance to breed and to thus contribute to restoration of the severely depleted population. However, The Guardian reported that Japan will reach its quota two months early, but with no sign that the fishing for Pacific Bluefins will end for the year.

In theory, if every fishing nation were to stick to the quotas assigned, the numbers of Pacific Bluefin tuna could build up to 20% of their historically high levels by about 2034. But, key to it all is Japan, which consumes about 80% of all Pacific Bluefin tuna captured by commercial fishers.

The problem is greed. Even a tiny piece of prime tuna flesh, called otoro, when consumed as sushi in a high-end Tokyo eatery, can cost more than I’d pay for a week of restaurant meals in Canada. A few years ago, a single 489-pound fish sold for $1.76 million. While that had more to do with generating interest in sushi than real value, in fact, even at modest prices, one fish can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Ironically, the most prized of the three species of Bluefin tuna could soon reach “commercial extinction,” whereby no matter how high the price, not enough can be caught to cover fishing costs. Actual extinction could soon follow. Forever after, the nation with the biggest craving for Pacific Bluefin tuna would have none—nor would the oceans hold one of the most magnificent and beautiful of our world’s rapidly diminishing list of species.