Huge discovery about Global Warming shocks scientists

Huge discovery about Global Warming shocks scientists

An astonishing new study claims that there may be a ticking time bomb right under our toes, as the soil could be responsible for significant carbon emissions.

A remarkable new study published in the journal Science indicates that carbon emissions from warming soils could be a lot higher than we previously thought, and it could result in a chain of events that would greatly intensify global warming. Researchers found that there was a major uptick in carbon production in microbes found within soil at the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts.

Scientists used underground cables to heat some of the soil plots in the forest, raising the temperature by about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, while unheated plots were set aside as control for the experiment. After about 10 years, scientists measured again and found that carbon emissions from heated soil had greatly increased. After a seven year period where emissions declined again, the carbon emissions went on an upward trajectory once again for six more years.

In the final three years of the study, the carbon emissions from the soil went down again. Both times there was a decline in emissions, scientists think that the microbes were simply adjusting to the new temperatures, and as a result they think that it is just the calm before the storm, as it were. The 26-year study is the biggest of its kind and could result in breakthroughs in how we study and understand global warming and climate change.

The full statement from the Marine Biological Laboratory follows below.

After 26 years, the world’s longest-running experiment to discover how warming temperatures affect forest soils has revealed a surprising, cyclical response: Soil warming stimulates periods of abundant carbon release from the soil to the atmosphere alternating with periods of no detectable loss in soil carbon stores. Overall, the results indicate that in a warming world, a self-reinforcing and perhaps uncontrollable carbon feedback will occur between forest soils and the climate system, adding to the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels and accelerating global warming. The study, led by Jerry Melillo, Distinguished Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), appears in the October 6 issue of Science.

Melillo and colleagues began this pioneering experiment in 1991 in a deciduous forest stand at the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts. They buried electrical cables in a set of plots and heated the soil 5° C above the ambient temperature of control plots. Over the course of the 26-year experiment (which still continues), the warmed plots lost 17 percent of the carbon that had been stored in organic matter in the top 60 centimeters of soil.

“To put this in context,” Melillo says, “each year, mostly from fossil fuel burning, we are releasing about 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s what’s causing the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and global warming. The world’s soils contain about 3,500 billion metric tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that soil carbon is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity in warmer soils, that will accelerate the global warming process. And once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip.”

Over the course of the experiment, Melillo’s team observed fluctuations in the rate of soil carbon emission from the heated plots, indicating cycles in the capacity of soil microbes to degrade organic matter and release carbon. Phase I (1991 to 2000) was a period of substantial soil carbon loss that was rapid at first, then slowed to near zero. In Phase II (2001-2007), there was no difference in carbon emissions between the warmed and the control plots. During that time, the soil microbial community in the warmed plots was undergoing reorganization that led to changes in the community’s structure and function. In Phase III (2008-2013), carbon release from heated plots again exceeded that from control plots. This coincided with a continued shift in the soil microbial community. Microbes that can degrade more recalcitrant soil organic matter, such as lignin, became more dominant, as shown by genomic and extracellular enzyme analyses. In Phase IV (2014 to current), carbon emissions from the heated plots have again dropped, suggesting that another reorganization of the soil microbial community could be underway. If the cyclical pattern continues, Phase IV will eventually transition to another phase of higher carbon loss from the heated plots.

“This work emphasizes the value of long-term ecological studies that are the hallmark of research at the MBL’s Ecosystems Center,” says David Mark Welch, MBL’s Director of Research. “These large field studies, combined with modeling and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the role of microbial communities in ecosystem dynamics, provide new insight to the challenges posed by climate change.”

“The future is a warmer future. How much warmer is the issue,” Melillo says. “In terms of carbon emissions from fossil fuels, we could control that. We could shut down coal-fired power plants, for example. But if the microbes in all landscapes respond to warming in the same way as we’ve observed in mid-latitude forest soils, this self-reinforcing feedback phenomenon will go on for a while and we are not going to be able to turn those microbes off. Of special concern is the big pool of easily decomposed carbon that is frozen in Artic soils. As those soils thaw out, this feedback phenomenon would be an important component of the climate system, with climate change feeding itself in a warming world.”

Collaborators in this study include S.D. Frey, M.A. Knorr, and A.S. Grandy of the University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment; K.M. DeAngelis of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Department of Microbiology; W.J. Werner and M.J. Bernard of the Marine Biological Laboratory; F.P. Bowles of Research Designs in Lyme, N.H.; and G. Pold of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.

Melillo, J.M. et al (2017) Long-Term Pattern and Magnitude of Soil Carbon Feedback to the Climate System in a Warming World. Science DOI:

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.

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Global Food Crops Also Face Earth’s Sixth Great Mass Extinction

http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/global-food-crops-also-face-earth-s-sixth-great-mass-extinction

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coffee 0927wrp optCoffee beans. (Photo: United Nations)Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Human civilization utterly depends on our precious food supplies, but the planet’s sixth mass extinctionof plants and animals currently underway is also threatening the world’s food crops, according to a new report from Bioversity International.

“Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, wrote in an article for the Guardian.

“If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said.

According to the report, 940 cultivated species are already threatened. Tutwiler emphasized the impact on popular foods and commodities:

“Take some consumer favorites: chips, chocolate and coffee. Up to 22% of wild potato species are predicted to become extinct by 2055 due to climate change. In Ghana and Ivory Coast, where the raw ingredient for 70% of our chocolate is grown, cacao trees will not be able to survive as temperatures rise by two degrees over the next 40 years. Coffee yields in Tanzania have dropped 50% since 1960.”

Additionally, of the estimated 5,538 plant species counted as food, just three—rice, wheat and maize—provide more than 50 percent of the world’s plant-derived calories.

“Relying so heavily on such a narrow resource base is a risky strategy for the planet, for individual livelihoods and for nutritious diets,” the report states.

As the Guardian pointed out, a disease or pest can sweep through large areas of monocultures, like during the Irish potato famine when a million people starved to death.

Tutwiler noted that the world’s incredible diversity of wild or rarely cultivated species—such the beta carotene-rich gac fruit from Vietnam or the vitamin A-filled Asupina banana—”can be a source of affordable, nutritious food—provided we don’t let it disappear.”

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“This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing,” she said. “It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”

In an interview with FoodTank, Tutwiler commented on how agribusiness and the Western diet has also contributed to the world’s loss of biological diversity of food:

“From the production side, a focus on ‘feeding the world’ rather than ‘nourishing the world’ has led to a focus on a handful of starchy staples that has contributed to an increase in land planted with maize, wheat, and rice from 66 percent to 79 percent of all cereal area between 1961 and 2013.

On the consumption side, there is a growing global tendency towards Western diets and processed convenience foods. Diets are based more and more on major cereals, plus sugar and oil. So these now dominate our agricultural production. Of the 30,000-ish plant species that can be used as food, today only three—rice, wheat, and maize—provide half the world’s plant-derived calories and intakes of pulses, fruits, and vegetables are low.

At the same time, the same pressures that are driving the sixth mass extinction of wild biodiversity are also affecting agricultural biodiversity—habitat transformation, deforestation, invasive species, and climate change. They also lead to disruption in pollinators and natural pest control. Loss of wild biodiversity can lead to erosion of genetic diversity (like the wild relatives of crops, which are a valuable source of traits for breeding), which reduces options for breeding new plant varieties better adapted to climate change.”

Bioversity International’s new 200-page report, “Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems,” highlights how governments and companies should protect and encourage agrobiodiversity to tackle wider global problems such as poverty, malnutrition, environmental degradation and climate change.

Scientific Study Predicts Global Mass Extinction Event Possible by 2100

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/42082-scientific-study-predicts-global-mass-extinction-event-possible-by-2100

Thursday, September 28, 2017
By Dahr JamailTruthout | Report

(Photo: Chris)Our CO2 output is on track to annihilate life on Earth. (Photo: Chris)

The planet has experienced five mass extinction events. The worst, the Permian Mass Extinction event 252 million years ago, annihilated more than 95 percent of all life on Earth. It coincided with a significant increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

The Permian Mass Extinction is the perfect example of what happens when you inject too much CO2 into the atmosphere. The way in which the oceans absorbed this CO2, and subsequently acidified, was the primary kill mechanism for that event.

Disturbingly, a scientific paper published last week in the journal Science Advances, titled “Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System,” shows that if humans continue adding carbon to the oceans as we are on course to do, a global mass extinction event could be triggered by 2100.

Oceans as Killing Fields

The oceans are where the majority of life on Earth exists. There are more plants and animals in them than anywhere else.

The Science Advances study places the carbon threshold necessary to trigger another oceanic mass extinction event at 310 gigatons — and notes that we are already halfway there. Worst-case predictions show that humans could add 500 gigatons of carbon to the oceans by 2100 if we continue on with business as usual.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

The paper’s lead author, MIT’s Daniel Rothmantold Motherboard that if humanity crosses that carbon threshold, it will move the planet “to the other side of the stability boundary.” He added that there won’t be an apocalyptic and immediate die-off of species the moment that threshold is crossed; it might take 10,000 years for the disaster to unfold.

Every mass extinction event thus far has been marked by a major disruption of the planet’s carbon cycle. Now, too, the driver of the extinction threat is increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Previous mass extinction events usually saw this increase caused by volcanism. The Permian Mass Extinction, for example, was triggered when volcanism in Siberia caused magma to be introduced into peat and coal deposits which then released a massive amount of CO2 into the atmosphere and then the oceans.

Humans have already added 155 gigatons of carbon to the oceans since 1850, and could double that in just the next 83 years, or sooner. The current rate of carbon emissions is 11 gigatons released into the atmosphere annually, with 2.6 gigatons of that being absorbed into the oceans. This gives us around 80 years until we cross the threshold of triggering the next mass extinction event, according to the study.

Therefore, the pace of carbon being added to the atmosphere and ocean right now is already faster than it was during the Permian, by far the worst mass extinction event on Earth.

Meanwhile, the pH of oceans has dropped a stunning 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution began, and it is acidifying now at the fastest pace it ever has.

2012 study showed that oceans are acidifying faster than they have in the past 300 million years, which means they are already acidifying at higher speeds than they did during the Permian.

Another study showed that species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than the normal background rate.

“Five times in the Phanerozoic [the past 542 million years], more than three-fourths of marine animal species have vanished in mass extinctions,” reads the introduction of the study. “Each of these events is associated with a significant change in Earth’s carbon cycle.”

How humans are driving the sixth mass extinction

Scientists have been warning for decades that human actions are pushing life on our shared planet toward mass extinction. Such extinction events have occurred five times in the past, but a bold new paper finds that this time would be fundamentally different. Fortunately, there’s still time to stop it.

Death on a pale horse is one of the traditional four horsemen of the apocalypse from Revelations.
 A detail from Gustave Dore’s image of death on a pale horse. Death is one of the traditional four horsemen of the apocalypse from Revelations. Scientists have identified four fundamental ways in which the Sixth Mass Extinction is different from those in the past: the four horsemen of the Sixth Mass Extinction as it were. Illustration: Gustave Dore

Periodically, in the vast spans of time that have preceded us, our planet’s living beings have been purged by planetary catastrophes so extreme they make your typical Ice Age look like the geological equivalent of a stroll in the park. Scientists count just five mass extinctions in an unimaginably long expanse of 450 million years, but they warn we may well be entering a sixth.

According to a bold new paper in The Anthropocene Review, this time would be different from past mass extinctions in four crucial ways – and all of these stem from the impact of a single species that arrived on the scene just 200,000 years ago: Homo sapiens.

“There is no point in apportioning blame for what is happening,” said lead author and geologist, Mark Williams, with the University of Leicester, since humans “didn’t deliberately engineer this situation.”

“Rather we have to recognise that our impact is game-changing on this planet, that we are all responsible, and that we have to become stewards of nature – as a part of it, rather than behaving like children rampaging through a sweetshop,” Williams noted.

Some scientists argue that amphibians are already experiencing a mass extinction. The golden toad has not been seen since 1989 and is believed extinct, possibly due to a combination of habitat loss and the chytrid fungus which has wiped out amphibians around the world. It's believed the chytrid fungus was delivered via international travelers.
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 Some scientists argue that amphibians are already experiencing a mass extinction. The golden toad has not been seen since 1989 and is believed extinct, possibly due to a combination of habitat loss and the chytrid fungus which has wiped out amphibians around the world. It’s belived the chytrid fungus was delivered via internaitonal travelers. Photograph: Conservation International/PA

The impacts of a still-avoidable sixth mass extinction would likely be so massive they’d be best described as science fiction. It would be catastrophic, widespread and, of course, irreversible. In the past, it has taken life ten to thirty million years to recover after such an extinction, 40 to 120 times as long as modern-looking humans have been telling tales by firelight. Moreover, Williams and his team argue that future changes driven by humanity may go so far as to create not just a new epoch in geologic history – such as the widely-touted Anthropocene – but a fundamental reshaping of Earth on par with the rise of microbes or the later shift from microbes to multicellular organisms.

“Fundamental changes on a planetary system scale have already begun,” said co-author Peter Haff, a geologist and engineer with Duke University. “The very considerable uncertainty is how long these will last – whether they will simply be a brief, unique excursion in Earth history, or whether they will persist and evolve into a new, geologically long-lasting, planetary state.”

But what are these “fundamental changes” that would makes this mass extinction different from the previous five?

“Episodes of global warming, ocean acidification and mass extinction have all happened before, well before humans arrived on the planet,” co-author Jan Zaleasiewicz, a paleobiologist with the University of Leicester, said. “We wanted to see if there was something different about what is happening now.”

Turns out there is.

Meet the four horsemen of the Sixth Mass Extinction

A firefighter holds a water pipe as they extinguish a fire on burned peatland and fields in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia. The air pollution or haze has been an annual problem for the past 18 years in Indonesia. It's caused by the illegal burning of forest and peat fires on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo to clear new land for the production of pulp, paper and palm oil. Singapore and Malaysia have offered to help the Indonesian government to fight against the fires, as infants and their mothers are evacuated to escape the record pollution levels.
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 A firefighter holds a water pipe as they extinguish a fire on burned peatlands in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia. The air pollution or haze has been an annual problem for the past 18 years in Indonesia. It’s caused by the illegal burning of forest and peat fires on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo to clear new land for the production of pulp, paper and palm oil. Singapore and Malaysia have offered to help the Indonesian government to fight against the fires, as infants and their mothers are evacuated to escape the record pollution levels. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

The team of geologists and biologists say that our current extinction crisis is unique in Earth’s history due to four characteristics: the spread of non-native species around the world; a single species (us) taking over a significant percentage of the world’s primary production; human actions increasingly directing evolution; and the rise of something called the technosphere.

The first real change is what the authors of the study call the “global homogenisation of flora and fauna.” Basically what this means is that you can eat tomatoes in Italy, hunt oryx in Texas, ride horses in Chile, curse cane toads in Australia, dig earthworms in eastern North America and catch rats in the Galapagos. None of these things would have been possible without human intervention: our penchant for globetrotting has brought innumerable species to new habitats, often wreaking havoc on existing ecological communities and sometimes leading to extinctions.

Secondly, over the last few centuries, humans have essentially become the top predator not only on land, but also across the sea. No other species in the past can claim such a distinction. In doing so, humanity has begun using 25 to 40% of the planet’s net primary production for its own purposes. Moreover, we have added to this the use of fossil fuels for energy, essentially mining primary production from the past.

“It’s not hubris to say this,” Williams contended. “Never before have animal and plants (and other organisms for that matter) been translocated on a global scale around the planet. Never before has one species dominated primary production in the manner that we do. Never before has one species remodelled the terrestrial biosphere so dramatically to serve its own ends – the huge amount of biomass in the animals we eat.”

Thousands of shark fins line a street, obstructing traffic in Hong Kong, China. Sharks have long been one of the top predators in the oceans, but they have been usurped by humans. Today, they are among the most threatened of marine species worldwide due to overfishing largely for their fins.
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 Thousands of shark fins line a street, obstructing traffic in Hong Kong, China. Sharks have long been one of the top predators in the oceans, but they have been usurped by humans. Today, they are among the most threatened of marine species worldwide due to overfishing largely for their fins. Photograph: Paul Hilton/Paul Hilton/EPA/Corbis

Thirdly, humanity has become a massive force in directing evolution. This is most apparent, of course, in the domestication of animals and the cultivation of crops over thousands of years. But humans are directing evolution in numerous other ways, as well.

“We are directly manipulating genomes by artificial selection and molecular techniques, and indirectly by managing ecosystems and populations to conserve them,” said co-author Erle Ellis, an expert on the Anthropocene with the University of Maryland. He added that even conservation is impacting evolution.

“As human management of ecosystems and populations increases, even when aimed at conservation, evolutionary processes are altered. To sustain processes of evolution that are not guided by human societies intentionally and unintentionally will require a sea change in management approaches.”

Finally, the current extinction crisis is being amplified by what the researchers call the technosphere.

Technosphere?

Peter Haff coined the term technosphere just last year. He defines the technosphere as “the global, energy consuming techno-social system that is comprised of humans, technological artifacts, and technological systems, together with the links, protocols and information that bind all these parts together.”

Basically, the technosphere is the vast, sprawling combination of humanity and its technology. Haff argues that in our thousands of years of harnessing technology – including the first technologies like stone tools, wheels and crops – the technology itself has basically begun to act practically independently, creating a new sphere (i.e., like the biosphere or atmosphere or lithosphere), but like nothing the planet has ever seen before.

“I would argue that domesticated animals and plants, as well as humans, are parts of the technosphere,” said Haff. “These are in effect manufactured by the technosphere for its own use on the basis of genetic blueprints appropriated from the biosphere.”

Electronic waste in Agbogbloshie dump, Accra, Ghana. E-waste trash pickers risk their health in search of metals they can sell.
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 Electronic waste in Agbogbloshie dump, Accra, Ghana. E-waste trash pickers risk their health in search of metals they can sell. Photograph: Andrew McConnell / Alamy/Alamy

We’ve reached a point, according to Haff, where we can’t just shut technology off. As such, the technosphere as a whole is elevated above humanity.

“In this sense, the technosphere already generates its own living tissue, thus integrating with biology,” noted Haff.

Although, humans were the original progenitors of this technology, we have, in effect, lost control. Like Doctor Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s great novel, not only has our creation asserted its own agency, but it now wields its power over us.

Although the paper relies heavily on the idea of the technosphere as a primary driver of both the extinction crisis and current geological changes, not every researcher in the study agreed with the idea.

“I am a dissenter on the use of this term…I would have eliminated it if it were up to me alone. I find the term ‘technosphere’ neither appropriate nor accurate…It makes it appear that technology is the defining element of human alteration of the Earth system,” Ellis said, adding that “humans and societies create and sustain technologies, not the other way around – though of course there is a tight coupling of societies with technologies.”

Ellis called such an idea not only “inaccurate,” but defeatist.

“[The concept of the technosphere] is politically and socially disenfranchising and alienating people and societies – and their potential to guide, at least to some degree, this global human force behind the anthropocene.”

To Ellis the key is not the rise of technology, but rather humanity’s incredibly rich social life. He maintains that our “ultrasocialness” is the major driving force behind the changes on the planet we are witnessing today.

Pig carcasses hanging in an abattoir in Yorkshire, England. Demand for meat, which is rising globally, is a significant driver of deforestation, habitat destruction and climate change.
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 Pig carcasses hanging in an abattoir in Yorkshire, England. Demand for meat, which is rising globally, is a significant driver of deforestation, habitat destruction and climate change. Photograph: FLPA/John Eveson/REX

“It was behaviorally modern humans, with their ultrasocial behaviors and complex societies that spread across the Earth, became increasingly larger scale societies, ultimately gaining the capacity to transform the entire Earth. Technology is not the driver of Earth system change – social change is the cause of this.”

But Haff insists that technology, not modern humans, is the “new and enabling ingredient” for global transformation – including the potential for mass extinction.

“The technosphere is not meant as a stand in or short hand for a supposed ‘novel human force’ in the earth system,” he explained. “The name ‘technosphere’ arose in part to discourage such an idea. There exists no such human force. What is present, and novel, is the collective system of many people and much technology.”

Like Nothing the Earth Has Ever Seen

Regardless of whether scientists stress the role of humans or technology in transforming the planet, the researchers all agree that the arrival of modern Homo sapiens has transformed the planet. But how much?

“If humans were to go extinct tomorrow, then our impact on the biosphere would be recognisable as an epoch boundary – like the boundary between the Pleistocene and Holocene,” Williams pointed out. “After us, a few tens to hundreds of thousands of years in the future, the biosphere would find a new equilibrium without us, and probably with its biodiversity largely intact.”

Trucks and machinery along routes within the Suncore Oil Sands site near to Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta. Canada's tar sands is one of the largest industrial projects on the planet, turning boreal forest, rivers and bogs into a scarred landscape.
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 Trucks and machinery along routes within the Suncore Oil Sands site near to Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta. Canada’s tar sands is one of the largest industrial projects on the planet, turning boreal forest, rivers and bogs into a scarred landscape. Photograph: David Levene

Or as the paper puts it: “if the technosphere were to collapse what would remain is physical evidence of its history, as a preserved stratigraphic signal in the rocks. This will include a short-lived event bed of ‘urban strata’ and related deposits, recording rapid technospheric evolution and deep roots via preserved tunnels, mines and boreholes; a climate perturbation that might last [100-200,000 years] and a permanent reconfiguration of the biosphere…resulting from the effect of trans-global species invasions and a moderate- to large-scale mass extinction event.”

Okay, but what if we don’t go extinct anytime soon?

“If the changes made to the biosphere by humans continue to accelerate and are sustainable, and if our interaction with the technosphere becomes a major component of Earth’s future trajectory, then the changes can be argued to be really fundamental,” Williams added.

The scientists argue then that the changes would be so extreme, and so unlike anything that the Earth has ever seen before, that it could represent a geological shift as big as the rise of microbes on the planet or the rise of multicellular organisms. For example, imagine a world where humans and their technology effectively control the global temperature through geo-engineering or a world where humans wholeheartedly and deliberately manipulate evolution for their own (or the technosphere’s) ends.

Zaleasiewicz said that while some researchers argue that such changes could turn out all right, most argue the still-developing Anthropocene “will mostly be a very bumpy ride for humanity, and for life in general, as it evolves,” adding that “previous perturbations of the Earth system have seen both winners and losers, so perhaps that is a more realistic scenario.”

So, WTF Do We DO?

The researchers are clear: we can’t go back in time, to some pre-human, arguably pristine environment.

“There is no ‘ending’: the challenges of the Anthropocene are permanent,” said Ellis. “Humanity and nature are inextricably coupled for the foreseeable future.”

Moreover, according to Zaleasiewicz, the momentum is not on our side.

The dead body of a Indian rhinoceros, which was killed by poachers this year in Assam, India. Several rhino species are on the edge of extinction due to demand for their horns.
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 The dead body of a Indian rhinoceros, which was killed by poachers this year in Assam, India. Several rhino species are on the edge of extinction due to demand for their horns. Photograph: Anuwar Ali Hazarika / Barcroft I/Anuwar Hazarika / Barcroft India

“There’s clearly a rapidly moving – and accelerating – dynamic involved, and it can be argued that this is needed and inevitable to feed, clothe and shelter and extra two to three billion people over the next few decades.”

However, even with all that, the scientists say it’s not too late to avoid a total mass extinction and ecological meltdown.

“We are not in a mass extinction event yet, and it’s very important to emphasise that, because it means we can still make changes,” said Williams.

The scientists agree that to avoid mass extinction – and tackle the current environmental crisis – is possible but will require large-scale changes not only in how society operates but how humans view their relation to the natural world.

“It’s about recognising that we are stewards of nature and that every action we make will have an effect on the biosphere somewhere,” said Williams. “If at a very basic level we could get people to make that connection then we would have fundamentally changed human behavior.”

But how do we do this?

“I think there are parallels with getting people to recognize that ‘drunk driving’ is a mistake or ‘wearing a seatbelt is a good thing,’” Williams went on. “I remember the campaigns from the 1970s and though this might sound glib, it’s fundamental to the problem. Humans are the problem, but they are also the solution.”

Ellis agreed that humans must move on from the view that we are somehow separate from nature (or that nature somehow exists separate from us) and, instead, embrace our role as “permanent shapers and stewards of the biosphere and the species within it.”

He also sees several positive trends underway, including urbanisation, rising awareness of the plight of biodiversity, the increasing potential for societies to create change at large scales and the possibility of decoupling of the global economy from ecosystem destruction.

The baiji, or Yangtze river dolphin, was declared functionally extinct in 2006. The species, which has swam the Yangtze for some 20 million years, was the first cetacean to go extinct due to human activities. Overfishing, habitat destruction, electrofishing, boat traffic, dam-building and pollution all likely played a role in the species' demise.
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 The baiji, or Yangtze river dolphin, was declared functionally extinct in 2006. The species, which has swam the Yangtze for some 20 million years, was the first cetacean to go extinct due to human activities. Overfishing, habitat destruction, electrofishing, boat traffic, dam-building and pollution all likely played a role in the species’ demise. Photograph: AFP

“Still, the large scale of modern societies is daunting,” Ellis cautioned, “and for these trends to reach their full potential will require far greater strategic effort – just letting things happen will not yield a better future.”

According to him practical solutions “will require a combination of conservation, restoration, rewilding, engineering, emergence, and design.”

“We must recognize that there is no option to ‘leave the Earth alone,’ “ Ellis added. “The responsibility for the future of the planet is ours now.”

It’s a big responsibility – bigger than any other species on Earth has ever faced – and so far we’ve hardly proved ourselves up to it. But there is still time. And time means hope – but not without action.

WHEN WILL THE WORLD END? DOOMSDAY THEORY SAYS FIERY HELL ON EARTH KICKS OFF SATURDAY

http://www.newsweek.com/when-will-world-end-doomsday-2017-how-earth-dies-667171

BY  

The world will be vaporized in roughly 7 billion years, when the sun expands into an enormous red giant star and explodes across the solar system. Or, perhaps a 60-mile-wide asteroid will crash into Earth well before then, ending life as we know it.

The scientific community has said for decades that either of these apocalyptic scenarios could ultimately provide the final nail in our planet’s coffin, citing fact-based research and historical data to back up such bold assumptions. Doomsday theories continue spreading online almost annually, however, leading countless readers to believe the end of time is much more imminent than originally anticipated—without any tangible evidence or support.

Related: How to Survive a Nuclear Attack: Hide (But You’ll Probably Die Anyway)

The latest prediction comes from the evangelical Christian publication Unsealed, and says the end of the world will occur—get ready!—on Saturday. A four-minute videothe site created promising to explain how the world will meet its ultimate demise has been going viral recently, spurring a number of copycat apocalyptic predictions for the upcoming weekend.

In the Unsealed video, a mythical pregnant woman is attacked by a seven-headed dragon in the sky. Onscreen text claims images of the two figures will appear above Jerusalem and Israel on Saturday, before the heavens above open and unleash fiery hell on Earth.

September 23 marks 33 days since last month’s historic solar eclipse, a “very biblically significant, numerologically significant number,” David Meade, a researcher dubbed a “Christian numerologist,” told The Washington Post Sunday.

“Jesus lived for 33 years. The name Elohim, which is the name of God to the Jews, was mentioned 33 times [in the Bible] … The world is not ending, but the world as we know it is ending,” he said. “A major part of the world will not be the same the beginning of October.”

The biblical apocalypse also involves Nibiru, a supposed brown dwarf that’s surrounded by other planets and set to strike Earth in just a matter of time.

The only problem with this theory? It was already debunked years ago by a senior space scientist for NASA.

“In the inner solar system, we see planets with stable orbits, we see the moon going around the Earth,” NASA scientist David Morrison explains in a video from 2012 titled Nibiru Does Not Exist. “The very existence of this stability in the inner solar system proves that no rogue planet, no interfering object has come through the inner solar system in at least a million years.

“Please get over it,” Morrison added. “We don’t need to worry about this hoax.”

Biblical prophecy claims the world will end on Sept. 23, Christian numerologists claim

(FoxNews.com) – Christian numerologists claim that the world will end on Sept. 23, 2017 as they believe a planet will collide with Earth.

According to Christian numerologist David Meade, verses in Luke 21: 25 to 26 is the sign that recent events, such as the recent solar eclipse and Hurricane Harvey, are signs of the apocalypse.

The verses read:

“25: There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

“’26: Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.’

Sept. 23 is a date that was pinpointed using codes from the Bible, as well as a “date marker” in the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Meade has built his theory, which is viewed with a widely skeptical lens, on the so-called Planet X, which is also known as Nibiru, which he believes will pass Earth on Sept. 23, causing volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes, according to British newspaper The Sun.

NASA has repeatedly said Planet X is a hoax.

Revelation 12:1–2, is supposed to be the start of the Rapture and second coming of Christ, which is also being mentioned heavily by Christian conspiracy theorists.

The passage reads: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”

In the passage, the woman is Virgo. On Sept. 23, both the Sun and the Moon will be in Virgo, as will the planet Jupiter. However, this occurence happens naturally once every 12 years. There is also a rare alignment, known as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” which the conspiracy theorists are hanging their hats on.

According to the Express, author Jonathan Sarfati wrote that the same planetary coincidence previously happened four times in the last millennium.

“As usual with any astrology (or Christian adaptations of it), one cherry-picks the stars that fit the desired conclusion,” Sarfati wrote, according to the Express. “There is nothing to suggest that 23 September is a momentous date for biblical prophecy, and Christians need to be careful about being drawn into such sensationalist claims.”

More on FoxNews.com.

Opinion: How humans can avert mass extinctions of animals

[warning: this is a bullshit editorial in so many ways. The authors basically trash Paul Erlich and praise trophy hunting as a way to save animals from extinction (no mention of how twisted, destructive or hedonistic it is). This would all be a bad joke, if it wasnt so sad and maddening…]

 

Editorial Board

For millions of years, Australia had no human inhabitants. When people finally arrived there some 45,000 years ago, the continent had 24 different creatures weighing 100 pounds or more. Within a few millennia, 23 were wiped out.

In his book “Sapiens,” Yuval Noah Harari notes: “Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo Sapiens held the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to their extinction. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of biology.”

From all indications, we are not about to be dethroned. A new study published in a journal of the National Academy of Sciences says nearly 200 species have vanished in the past century, and 9,000 have seen substantial reductions in their numbers. Only 7,000 cheetahs are left, and the population of West African lions is down to 400. Scientists suggest that Earth is well into the sixth mass extinction of the last half-billion years.

We are seeing “a massive erosion of the greatest biological diversity in the history of Earth,” which negatively affects the resources that sustain human life, says the article. The authors call for a reversal of “human overpopulation” and “overconsumption, especially by the rich.” One of the scholars, Paul Ehrlich of Stanford, told The Washington Post, “I am an alarmist.”

But the alarmism may be overdone. Ehrlich is infamous for erroneously predicting imminent mass global famine in his 1968 book “The Population Bomb.” Humans turned out to be more adaptive and resourceful than he expected then, and there is no reason to believe they won’t act to prevent the catastrophe being predicted now.

Climate change is one significant factor in the loss of creatures, and the nations of the world have entered into an accord to combat it by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Even without the participation of the United States, that effort is bound to do some good — and it can be done without hobbling economic growth.

A materially richer world is likely to be a more ecologically conscientious one. “The countries that are wealthiest do the most to protect habitat and species health,” says Reed Watson, executive director the Property and Environment Research Center, a think tank in Bozeman, Mont.

That’s because conservation is one of the things people come to value more and more as their disposable income grows. Poor nations can’t afford to worry so much about the plight of animals because they are preoccupied with feeding and housing people.

Humans are good at finding ways to protect the environment and our fellow creatures when the need is there. When the federal Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, it designated 9 million acres of land as wilderness. Today, we have nearly 110 million acres that provide unspoiled habitat for innumerable species.

Other federal lands such as national parks and forests are also protected from most forms of development — amounting to more than one-seventh of all the land in the country. Neighboring residents have learned that they can profit from tourists who come to hike remote woodland trails and see grizzly bears, eagles and wolves. All this is the fruit of prosperity, not poverty.

One challenge in saving species is devising methods that encourage humans to see animals as an asset, not a burden or danger. American bison, once hunted almost to extinction, have rebounded partly because ranchers raise them for food. Ocean fisheries have been rebuilt by limiting the annual harvest while granting fisherman transferable rights to a share of it — thus giving them a stake in conservation.

Namibia has boosted the number of black rhinoceroses, once down to six, to more than 1,400, reports NPR, while doubling the numbers of both cheetahs and elephants. It has also virtually eliminated poaching. How? By enabling communities to establish conservation areas and administer them in ways that benefit the people living there. One element that PERC’s Watson acknowledges is “counterintuitive” is regulated trophy hunting, which generates income that rewards locals for protecting iconic species.

The report provides a sobering picture of how much irreversible damage could be done to worldwide biological diversity. Unlike other creatures, humans can consciously shape the future for generations to come. We should use ingenuity for the benefit of the countless creatures with which we share the Earth. That would also be good for our species.

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

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.
CNN.COM|BY JOHN SUTTER

Sixth mass extinction: The era of ‘biological annihilation’

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/11/world/sutter-mass-extinction-ceballos-study/index.html

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.

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.

Shutterstock

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.