Screw the Skeptics—Humans Are to Blame!

First there were the global warming skeptics and anthropogenic climate change deniers; now we are hearing from the downplayers and confuse-the-issuists like those who keep blaming everything on El Nino—a temporary, natural, cyclic phenomenon, not linked with human-caused climate change.

Another example of an effort to hold humans harmless is the debate around what is to blame for the early mass extinction of Pleistocene megafauna: humans or climate change? (unbelievably, still being debated after all these years.) Indeed, Discover.com has recently put out two differing articles with opposite titles, one blaming humans for what is known as the Pleistocene overkill (in an article entitled: “Humans Blamed for Extinction of Mammoths, Mastodons & Giant Sloths“, the other backing the climate change as the agent primarily to blame, (Still, even that new study blames humans for the coup de grace that finished off the species now extinct).

Recently there has been much clamor over the damage done by “invasive species,” yet, those species transported by humans’ ships, etc., cannot be blamed for “invading” the areas that they hadn’t yet populated. In every case, the exotic species were part of humans’ “wrecking crew” as John Livingston referred to them. Livingston went on to say in his 1994 book, Rogue Primate:

“There is no doubt about the identity of the first runaway exotic species, or of the role of that species in the extinction of other species worldwide. As ecologists Paul and Ann Erlich say, ‘It seems highly likely that humanity got an early start at the business of extinction.’ The prehistoric evidence, circumstantial though it may be, is persuasive; in the historic period the evidence is no longer circumstantial…The extinction events of the last 100,000 years or so may well rival the [five] great kill-offs of the distant geologic past…

“Even those who oppose the human-overkill theory cannot deny that the mega fauna extinctions coincided remarkably with the movements of Homo over and between the continents.

“Although the Pleistocene overkill theory is not accepted everywhere in academic circles, it really does not matter whether it is accepted or not. What does matter is the sum of the human accomplishment in historic time. It is estimated that between 1600 and 1900 we eliminated about 75 birds and mammals (there is no count of other taxa), and between 1990 and the present another 75 (again species other than birds and mammals not being monitored). The British ecologist and resource manager Norman Meyers remarked: ‘The rate from the year 1600 to 1900, roughly one species every four years, and the rate during most of the present century, about one species per year, are to be compared with a rate of possibly one per 1,000 years during the great dying of the dinosaurs.’

“Many authorities feel that by the time we entered the decade of the 1980s, we were already disposing of species (of all kinds) at the rate of one per day, and the number for the 1990s could well be one per hour. No longer of course, are we concentrating on ‘megafauna’: we have worked our way well down the scale of size. We have reduced, simplified, homogenized, and pauperized Nature everywhere on the planet to an extent that cannot be biologically recoverable. Extinct species never rides again; new species require untrammeled heterogeneity and purity of habitat. Neither would appear to be in the cards. The human achievement has been breathtaking in its suddenness, total in its scope. This could only be the work of a placeless being—in an ecological sense, one utterly lacking in both intrinsic inhibitions and extrinsic controls…[up until now, with global warming—a fever, if you will ] there was no immune system on Earth to repel the exotic invader. Everywhere, the transplant ‘took’.

“The Pleistocene produced an array of very large animals. Then, all at once, the megafauna was drastically reduced. The great creatures fell like dominos in an extinction spasm the like of which had not occurred, it would seem, since the obliteration of the dinosaurs. What made it dramatically different from other such events that had preceded it was the fact that species vanished without replacement….”

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Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf

See picture gallery of wild animals facing decline

George Monbiot: It’s time to shout stop on this war on the living world

Species across land, rivers and seas decimated as humans kill for food in unsustainable numbers and destroy habitats

Mass Extinction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31661-mass-extinction-it-s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it

06 July 2015

 
Written by 
Dahr Jamail   By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Interview

Guy McPherson is a professor emeritus of evolutionary biology, natural resources and ecology at the University of Arizona, and has been a climate change expert for 30 years. He has also become a controversial figure, due to the fact that he does not shy away from talking about the possibility of near-term human extinction.

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

While McPherson’s perspective might sound like the stuff of science fiction, there is historical precedent for his predictions. Fifty-five million years ago, a 5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures seems to have occurred in just 13 years, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A report in the August 2013 issue of Science revealed that in the near term, earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than during any other moment in the last 65 million years.

McPherson fears that we are well along in the process of causing our own extinction.

Prior to that, the Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago, also known as the “Great Dying,” was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, those gases caused temperatures to skyrocket further. All of this occurred over a period of approximately 80,000 years. The change in climate is thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of most species on the planet. In that extinction episode, it is estimated that 95 percent of all species were wiped out.

Today’s current scientific and observable evidence strongly suggests we are in the midst of the same process – only this time it is anthropogenic, and happening exponentially faster than even the Permian mass extinction did.

In fact, a recently published study in Science Advances states, unequivocally, that the planet has officially entered its sixth mass extinction event. The study shows that species are already being killed off at rates much faster than they were during the other five extinction events, and warns ominously that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species to go extinct.

So if some feel that McPherson’s thinking is extreme, when the myriad scientific reports he cites to back his claims are looked at squarely and the dots are connected, the perceived extremism begins to dissolve into a possible, or even likely, reality.

The idea of possible human extinction, coming not just from McPherson but a growing number of scientists (as well as the aforementioned recently published report in Science), is now beginning to occasionally find its way into mainstream consciousness.

“A Child Born Today May Live to See Humanity’s End, Unless …” reads a recent blog post title from Reuters. It reads:

Humans will be extinct in 100 years because the planet will be uninhabitable, according to Australian microbiologist Frank Fenner, one of the leaders of the effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. He blames overcrowding, denuded resources and climate change. Fenner’s prediction is not a sure bet, but he is correct that there is no way emissions reductions will be enough to save us from our trend toward doom. And there doesn’t seem to be any big global rush to reduce emissions, anyway.

McPherson, who maintains the blog “Nature Bats Last,” told Truthout, “We’ve never been here as a species and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.”

Truthout first interviewed McPherson in early 2014, at which time he had identified 24 self-reinforcing positive feedback loops triggered by human-caused climate disruption. Today that number has grown to more than 50, and continues to increase.

A self-reinforcing positive feedback loop is akin to a “vicious circle”: It accelerates the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD). An example would be methane releases in the Arctic. Massive amounts of methane are currently locked in the permafrost, which is now melting rapidly. As the permafrost melts, methane – a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a short timescale – is released into the atmosphere, warming it further, which in turn causes more permafrost to melt, and so on.

As soon as this summer, we are likely to begin seeing periods of an ice-free Arctic. (Those periods will arrive by the summer of 2016 at the latest, according to a Naval Postgraduate School report.)

Once the summer ice begins melting away completely, even for short periods, methane releases will worsen dramatically.

Is it possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying?

McPherson, like the scientists involved in the recent study that confirms the arrival of the sixth great extinction, fears that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are well along in the process of causing our own extinction.

Furthermore, McPherson remains convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – in the course of just the next few decades, or even sooner.

Truthout caught up with McPherson in Washington State, where he was recently on a lecture tour, sharing his dire analysis of how far along we already are regarding ACD.

Dahr Jamail: How many positive feedback loops have you identified up until now, and what does this ever-increasing number of them indicate?

Guy McPherson: I can’t quite wrap my mind around the ever-increasing number of self-reinforcing feedback loops. A long time ago, when there were about 20 of them, I believed evidence would accumulate in support of existing loops, but we couldn’t possibly identify any more. Ditto for when we hit 30. And 40. There are more than 50 now, and the hits keep coming. And the evidence for existing feedback loops continues to grow.

In addition to these positive feedback loops “feeding” within themselves, they also interact among each other. Methane released from the Arctic Ocean is exacerbated and contributes to reduced albedo [reflectivity of solar radiation by the ice] as the Arctic ice declines. Tack on the methane released from permafrost and it’s obvious we’re facing a shaky future for humanity.

More: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31661-mass-extinction-it-s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it

As ice melts, Polar bears could find last refuge in Canada’s High Arctic

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/polar-bears-could-find-last-refuge-in-canada-s-high-arctic-as-ice-melts-1.3136025

Canada’s High Arctic could become the last stable refuge for polar bears as climate change melts away their hunting grounds, a U.S. government report says.

Populations elsewhere — in Alaska, Russia, Norway and around Hudson Bay, northern Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador — are likely to decrease or greatly decrease by the year 2050 as global temperatures rise, the report projects.

But under a moderate scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, with enough reductions worldwide to keep the average global temperature hike to no more than two degrees, the polar bear population in northern Nunavut is most likely to remain stable and even has a decent chance of increasing, researchers say.

The 124-page research report comes from the U.S. Geological Survey, an entity of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and was published this week.

It looks at polar bear populations in four “eco regions,” including an area known as the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, home to perhaps 5,000 or more of the animals — about a quarter of the global total.

The archipelago has the best “potential to serve as a long-term refugium” for polar bears, the authors say.

But even then, if countries continue with “business as usual” and nothing is done to curb the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the long-term viability of polar bears would be in doubt.

Sea ice essential

Polar bear populations are thought to be sensitive to global warming mainly because the animals spend the winter and spring on sea ice hunting for fatty seals as well as mating and giving birth.

When the ice retreats in the summer, the bears are forced onto land. But land-based food can’t satisfy their dietary needs.

“The terrestrial resources are just not sufficient. It’s the difference between eating fat and eating a few berries,” said Andrew Derocher, a polar bear expert and professor at the University of Alberta, who wasn’t involved in the U.S. government report.

Polar bear with dead seal

A polar bear drags a seal along a floe in Baffin Bay, above the Arctic Circle in Canada’s North. The bears need sea ice to hunt seals, their main source of food. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

“The whole fate of polar bears depends on how fast the sea ice disappears.”

Scientists have warned for years that climate change threatens polar bear populations. The U.S. Geological Survey study compares that risk against others like oil and gas shipping through the North, pollution and hunting of the bears, which is legal in Canada, the U.S. and Greenland.

It concludes that sea ice loss is the greatest menace to their survival, by a significant margin.

And it says about a third of the world’s polar bears — those in Alaska, Russia and Norway — could be in imminent danger from greenhouse gas emissions in as soon as a decade. Those areas of the Arctic have suffered some of the most dramatic declines in sea ice.

The scientists saw no rebound in overall population numbers in the projections that stretched to the year 2100 under either of the two scenarios they looked at: one in which greenhouse gas emissions stabilized, and the other in which they continued unabated.

“Polar bears are in big trouble,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are other steps we can take to slow the decline of polar bears, but in the long run, the only way to save polar bears in the Arctic is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Other marine animals at risk

Polar bears aren’t the only marine species at risk from climate change.

In separate research released this week, an international team of scientists looked at the effects on sea creatures, concluding that under the “business as usual” scenario of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, “most marine organisms evaluated will have very high risk of impacts.”

The effects will be felt “across all latitudes,” the authors write, “making this a global concern beyond the north/south divide.”

As more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere, oceans will warm and become more acidic, says the study, published in the journal Science.

Fish will have to find new habitats in cooler waters. Warm-water corals and sea grasses at mid-latitudes are already being affected.

Even if the world commits and sticks to the most stringent of the proposed emissions targets, creatures like mussels, oysters, clams and scallops “will be at high risk” by the year 2100, the scientists say.

“All the species and services we get from the ocean will be impacted and everyone, including Canadians, who benefit from these goods and services are vulnerable,” said William Cheung, a co-author of the paper and an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s fisheries centre.

With files from The Associated Press

People are precipitating “a global spasm of biodiversity loss.”

Sixth mass extinction is here, researcher declares

Jun 19, 2015

There is no longer any doubt: We are entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity’s existence.

That is the bad news at the center of a new study by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Ehrlich and his co-authors call for fast action to conserve threatened , populations and habitat, but warn that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

“[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great ,” Ehrlich said.

Although most well known for his positions on human population, Ehrlich has done extensive work on extinctions going back to his 1981 book, Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species. He has long tied his work on coevolution, on racial, gender and economic justice, and on nuclear winter with the issue of wildlife populations and .

There is general agreement among scientists that rates have reached levels unparalleled since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago. However, some have challenged the theory, believing earlier estimates rested on assumptions that overestimated the crisis.

The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that even with extremely conservative estimates, species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate.

“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México.

Conservative approach

Using fossil records and extinction counts from a range of records, the researchers compared a highly conservative estimate of current extinctions with a background rate estimate twice as high as those widely used in previous analyses. This way, they brought the two estimates – current extinction rate and average background or going-on-all-the-time extinction rate – as close to each other as possible.

Focusing on vertebrates, the group for which the most reliable modern and fossil data exist, the researchers asked whether even the lowest estimates of the difference between background and contemporary still justify the conclusion that people are precipitating “a global spasm of biodiversity loss.” The answer: a definitive yes.

“We emphasize that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis, because our aim was to place a realistic lower bound on humanity’s impact on biodiversity,” the researchers write.

To history’s steady drumbeat, a human population growing in numbers, per capita 1451324_650954518277931_1616731734_nconsumption and economic inequity has altered or destroyed natural habitats. The long list of impacts includes:

  • Land clearing for farming, logging and settlement
  • Introduction of invasive species
  • Carbon emissions that drive climate change and ocean acidification
  • Toxins that alter and poison ecosystems

Now, the specter of extinction hangs over about 41 percent of all amphibian species and 26 percent of all mammals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which maintains an authoritative list of threatened and extinct species.

“There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” Ehrlich said.

As species disappear, so do crucial ecosystem services such as honeybees’ crop pollination and wetlands’ water purification. At the current rate of species loss, people will lose many biodiversity benefits within three generations, the study’s authors write. “We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on,” Ehrlich said.

Hope for the future

Despite the gloomy outlook, there is a meaningful way forward, according to Ehrlich and his colleagues. “Avoiding a true sixth will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already , and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, over-exploitation for economic gain and climate change,” the study’s authors write.

In the meantime, the researchers hope their work will inform conservation efforts, the maintenance of ecosystem services and public policy.

Explore further: Research group suggests modern extinction rate may be higher than thought

More information: Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction, Science Advances, advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253

In Case You Hadn’t Heard: 6th mass extinction already underway — and we’re the cause

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/06/20/sixth-mass-extinction-study/29028887/

The Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already underway — and humans are the driving force behind it, according to a new study.

“Recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history,” according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. “Our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years.”

Researchers used “extremely conservative assumptions” to determine extinction rates that prevailed in the past five annihilation events. Still, they found the average rate of vertebrate species lost over the past century was up to 114 times higher than normal.

More: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/06/20/sixth-mass-extinction-study/29028887/

Also,

“There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich said.

“We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on.”

from: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2015/06/20/

1451324_650954518277931_1616731734_n

13 animals hunted to extinction

Fri, May 06, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Whether it is for the lust of exotic skins, mere sport or — as is often the case — pure fear, numerous species have been wiped out primarily by human hunters in the last couple hundred years alone.

Read more: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/13-animals-hunted-to-extinction#ixzz3cxooknVq

Scientists Warn of Mass Ocean Die-Offs

TV: Scientists warning of mass die-off along California coast — Official: Seafloor littered with dead fish, washing up “as far as I could see” — Toxin has spread all up and down West Coast — Experts: “Very, very unusual… Really extraordinary” (VIDEO)

Published: June 2nd, 2015 at 11:59 pm ET
By

KSBW, May 29, 2015 (emphasis added): Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: Mass die-off could happen – “We are beginning with continuing coverage of that algae bloom in the Monterey Bay. Scientists say they’re seeing the highest levels of red tide in more than a decade, and they’re worried it will have grave impacts on marine life… [It] spreads all up and down the West Coast. Researchers in Santa Cruz have already recorded a mass die-off of anchovies and they expected more species could follow.”

KSBW, May 29, 2015: Scientists with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are predicting a mass die-off on the Central Coast… Up and down the West Coast, a large algal bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia is growing rapidly.

Chris Scholin, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), May 28, 2015: Very Toxic Algal Bloom in Monterey Bay — I wanted to let you know we have been following a very big bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia over the past couple of weeks here in the bay, and the amount of associated domoic acid is really extraordinary… Yesterday I noticed anchovies washing up on the beach in front of MBARI as far as I could see. There’s also lines of fish scales (anchovy?) marking the high tide line… One of the staff went snorkeling off the beach here, and saw the seafloor littered with anchovies… keep an eye out for seizuring sealions, sick birds, maybe sick otters… We think this is a very large event… Don’t eat shellfish or forage fish from MB — very nasty right now!!!

KSBW, May 29, 2015: “New tonight… researchers say a large algae bloom has taken over the Monterey Bay“… Jim Birch, MBARI: “We’re seeing these really high domoic acid levels in both locations, which is very, very unusual“… “Scientists with MBARI say the toxins from the algae bloom are going to have a chain reaction on marine animals, and they’ve already seen more dead seabirds on Central Coast beaches… It has started to really grow in the last few days.

KSBW, May 29, 2015: Raphael Kudela, a researcher at [UCSC] said the bloom… is being found from Washington to Santa Barbara… reports of dead seabirds are already coming in.

Monterey Herald, May 28, 2015: A mysterious neurotoxin… returned with a vengeance… “This is an unusual one,” said Raphael Kudela… “We haven’t seen a bloom this big in 15 years.”… why the toxin periodically blooms in Monterey Bay is still a marine mystery… scientists are getting closer to pinning down the reason for the blooms, with human impacts among the range of possibilities… Domoic acid is also suspected in a recent spate of bird deaths.

UC Santa Cruz, June 2, 2015: The toxin was first detected in early May, and by the end of the month researchers had detected some of the highest concentrations of domoic acid ever observed in Monterey Bay. “It’s a pretty massive bloom. The domoic acid levels are extremely high right now… the event is occurring as far north as Washington state. So it appears this will be one of the most toxic and spatially largest events we’ve had in at least a decade,” said Raphael Kudela, [UCSC] professor of ocean sciences.

MBARI, Jun 1, 2015: Researchers measured some of the highest concentrations of harmful algae and their toxin ever observed in Monterey Bay… During a normal [bloom] 1,000 nanograms per liter would be considered high… [It’s] reached 10 to 30 times this level. On May 27, 2015, very high levels… were found in dead anchovies… The researchers do not know if the anchovies died because of domoic acid poisoning.

Watch: KSBW’s broadcast | San Diego 6 News broadcast

Nature Plays for Keeps

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Humans are going to extinctify themselves in the near future; that much is a fact, not a speculation. It isn’t a matter of if, but when. The only question is whether they take every other life form with them on their one-way train to extinction.

That nature has been willing to part with a great many incredible species of animals over the years leaves me no doubt that Homo sapiens will eventually join the long list of beings we bring down with us.

But people need to take a good, hard look in the mirror before we call other species “invasive”—all humans are invasive to this hemisphere, including those said to be “indigenous.” And there’s nothing noble about setting fires and driving herds off cliffs. That’s a part of our past which we’d understandably want to forget. (It was the beginning of the sixth mass extinction event—man’s greatest achievement, and now his legacy.) Yet to acknowledge human nature is to understand why the Earth has grown tired of us as a species.

The thought that, thanks to anthropogenic climate change, our planet may become uninhabitable for humanity within our lifetimes may seem unfair unless you stop to think how humans have taken advantage of and mistreated Mother Earth when she’s so generous.

In the end, whether she will forgive us or resent us for all time is perhaps debatable.