Life on Earth as we know it might drastically change by the end of the century in what scientists warn to be the sixth mass extinction our planet is facing.
Unlike 65 million year ago when the fifth mass extinction occurred due to an asteroid hitting Earth, this time we are the driving force. Ironically, it is humans who might be extinct as a species after we created the toxic mix of climate change factors, skyrocketing levels of pollution, as well as destroying habitats and entire ecosystems.
The study that sketches this dire situation while urging for more action to be taken is the product of a consortium of scientists coming from the University of California, Princeton University, as well as Stanford University.
For curious eyes, how we created the onset of the sixth mass extinction is thoroughly explained in the journal Science Advances.
Species on Earth are disappearing 100 times faster in the present than even one century ago. Never before has such a rate of extinction been experienced.
The study was conducted extensively on the extinction of vertebrates or those animals which present internal skeletons. Fossil records, documented extinctions and historical data were accurately comprised in one study to reveal a dire future.
Overall, comparing the rate of species loss from the present with that of the last century, it resulted that it is 114 times higher due to the anthropogenic factor. This estimate was conservative, which means the rate of extinction is even higher.
Even so, 114 times higher should be alarming. Natural changes indicate that the extinction rate was of about two species disappearing every 10,000 years. Since the year 1500, recorded numbers add up to the extinction of 77 mammal species, 140 bird species and at least 34 amphibian species.
Somehow, it is unintelligible how humans who draw great economic advantage from a wide array of species, are not taking into account the economic effects of species extinction. One telling example comes from China.
Worldwide pollinator bee populations are known to be on a decline, close to extinction in fact. In one region of China the situation is so extreme due to high levels of pollution that pollination is done manually by workers charged with this task.
Instead of protecting mammal, bird, insect, fish species, humanity decided that the benefits offered by them can be easily offset with billions of investments that only lead to more pollution and habitat loss.
We deem species inhabiting our planet worthless when they are not.
The sixth mass extinction is real. The first mass extinction that life on Earth experienced happened 443 million year ago, when 83 percent of the sea life was fully erased. This was during the Ordovician-Silurian period.
Later, in the Late Devonian, the second mass extinction wiped three quarters of Earth’s life. 248 million years ago, the Permian marked the third mass extinction.
The dying of 96 percent of species on Earth, led to this event being nicknamed The Great Dying. Two more mass extinctions followed, with the fifth one marking the end of dinosaurs roaming the Earth.
The sixth mass extinction could come to a close rather soon if significant action is not taken.
Image Source: Slate