The next mass extinction

The brown bear is one of Norwegians greatest fears, but one wonders if the actual danger is as high as the perceived fear.
The brown bear is one of Norwegians greatest fears, but one wonders if the actual danger is as high as the perceived fear.
Wikimedia Commons

It had to come. After a rather cold spring/summer where we, at least in the southwestern part of Norway, have had periods of what can only be described as autumn storms, I have heard the old argument that any mention of rising temperature is a conspiracy. After all, how could it be be getting warmer elsewhere when it doesn’t feel like that to us in Northern Europe? We tend to think that we are the most important people and corner of the world (it’s the USA to Americans and Scandinavia to Norwegians).

The statistics from the National Centers for Environmental Information show that 2015 has been warm so far. According to this report May 2015 was cooler than average in Norway, Iceland, UK and Greenland. It was also cooler in parts of the central United States, far west central Australia, and part of Far East Russia. It was warmer than usual in Alaska, parts of tropical South America, much of southern Africa and the Middle East, and parts of northwestern Siberia. This resulted in the global average temperature for May being 1,28 º C above the 20th century average for May. These numbers could of course originate from the people responsible for the cover up, so I guess we ought to be highly skeptical. Read the report here.

I’m joking of course, but if I take this seriously, we are probably talking about two competing theories. People that have invested all their feelings in the fight against the idea that we are seeing a climate change caused by human activities, probably support the idea that we are heading for a mini ice age. But there is something else that might do a better job at forecasting what’s in store for us. It is not unheard of that animals go extinct. It happens with or without our help, but mostly because of us.

Ethiopian wolf. It looks like a fox, but is clearly bigger and stronger. It was estimated in 2011 that there were between 360 and 440 individuals left.
Ethiopian wolf. It looks like a fox, but is clearly bigger and stronger. It was estimated in 2011 that there were between 360 and 440 individuals left.
Photo: Stuart Orfordi via Wikimedia Commons

There used to be lions in Europe. They lived as far north as Bulgaria, but the Romans killed all of them for their entertainment in Colosseum. Australia had the Tasmanian tiger, which became extinct as recent as the 1930’s. Some people claim that animals go extinct so rapidly now that we might be seeing the sixth mass extinction. That is the conclusion in a new study. The scientists behind this have used conservative estimates. They have estimated that two mammalian species per 10 000 species per 100 years will go extinct (2E/MSY). They compared this to the actual numbers of species that have disappeared.

They have studied vertebrates and concluded that 338 species have disappeared since the year 1500. There are also 279 species that have become extinct in nature (they could still exist in captivity) or that are on the list of possible extinct species. This gives a total of 617 species and most have gone extinct after 1900. The scientists believed that compared to the background data (2E/MSY) one could expect 9 vertebrates to disappear after 1900, but 468 species have gone extinct in that period. My understanding of math is not on the level I would like it to be, but I believe this means that for every species that would have gone extinct naturally since 1900, 56 have died out ( I divided both numbers with 9). Read about the study here.

This is nothing new, however. I have heard about this before, but it is interesting when additional scientists support this view. Some might argue that this is doom and gloom and making it out to be a lot more dramatic than it is. After all, the fifth mass extinction happened 65 million years ago. Interestingly enough, there are two theories about that as well. Some believe there was an asteroid that suddenly changed our climate, while some believe it happened gradually and was caused by massive volcanic eruptions in Asia. If we are really experiencing something that has the same impact on biodiversity, there’s no doubt that man is the problem.

If we also consider the other groups of animals that are dying, such as insects (especially the beneficial bees), I think this will have a strong impact on us people as well. There is another study that according to Yahoo suggests just that. They recently referred to a study by 15 leading academics who believe that many of the health benefits we have gained over the last 150 years could be reversed. This is the worst case scenario of course, but it is worth taking seriously. This is not caused by just one factor, but it is a combination of many (climate change, lack of clean drinking water, overfishing, loss of biodiversity etc). Read the article on Yahoo.

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One thought on “The next mass extinction

  1. Hey, we don’t have to worry about animals becoming extinct! Monsanto can just genetically engineer new ones to replace them! After all, Monsanto thinks they are god and can make a better creation than He did!

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