6th Mass Extinction confirmed?

This article from the Guardian is about new research on this theme. Below is the abstract from the scientific paper from the journal Science Advances that claims unequivocally that the much  discussed sixth great extinction of species on Spaceship Earth is definitely underway. The massive rate of species extinction is one of the results of human activity that is disturbing the balance of the natural world in a variety of ways.

The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing in the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Papal Encyclical on Climate Change

Document leaked condemning ‘Enormous consumption’ two days before its official publication date on 18 June 2015

The 192-page draft of the encyclical – which is the highest level of teaching document a pope can issue – is entitled “Laudato Si: On the care of the common home”. In the paper, Pope Francis presents both scientific and moral reasons for protecting God’s creation. He puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities, mentioning the continual loss of biodiversity in the Amazonian rainforest and the melting of Arctic glaciers among other examples. The draft also says that developing countries are bearing the brunt of the “enormous consumption” of some of the richest. The pontiff calls on all humans – not just Roman Catholics – to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century and to establish a new political authority to tackle pollution. The encyclical has been months in the writing, and the Pope is said to be keen for it to set the tone for the debate at a UN summit on climate change in November in Paris.

Here is the BBC report after the release of the encyclical on 18 June.

No hiatus in global warming?

This short article reports on recent NOAA research in the USA that appears to contradict the widely held conclusion that there has been a slow down or even levelling off of global warming in recent years. The research examined how data collected that were used to justify the hiatus conclusion. These data were inadequate according to the researchers who provide an improved data-set.

Anthropologists on climate change

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California recently held a symposium “Exploring a World of Our Own Making”.  This Yale Climate Connections link is to an article summarising key presentations. Below is an extract from a presentation by Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan:

“We have two separate but co-dependent worlds. One-billion people live with seemingly unlimited fossil fuels, and they are responsible for 50-70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, he said. The most needy three billion, meanwhile, lack access to fossil fuels even for cooking.

In talks at the Vatican, Ramanathan said, those who had attended concluded that the way forward requires fundamentally changing our attitude toward each other and toward nature.

“By leaving three billion behind, [those 3 billion people] will suffer the consequences of our fossil fuel consumption… so it’s a moral issue,” he said.

Ramanathan concluded his talk with a prediction that by 2050, global average temperatures will have climbed by 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). Climatic conditions will have will become so oppressive – with extreme storms, droughts, floods and more – that people will change attitudes. “We will decarbonize the (global) economy,” he said.

Apollo Programme for Climate Change?

A new high profile report written by a group of eminent scientists is reviewed by Jeremy Williams with a link provided. Yet again it calls for urgent action to diminish anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions showing the huge diminution required by 2030 if a catastrophic future rise in temperatures is to be avoided.