Here’s Why 1 MILLION Species Could Go Extinct

published on July 18, 2020

Hey smart people, Joe here If we look into the past, about 56 million years ago, we find a moment – a thin line in the geologic record – where the course of life on earth was altered Carbon in the atmosphere soared Global temperatures rapidly rose by six degrees celsius Weather got more extreme, and huge numbers of our planet’s lifeforms disappeared forever The Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum is one of the most radical climate events ever unearthed,

And the mass extinction that followed it was triggered – at least in part – by an injection of greenhouse gases into the air Humans weren’t at risk of dying out during the PETM, because we didn’t exist But now, we do Extinction is a fact of life, but the crisis we currently face is of a scale never before seen since our species arrived on Earth

And this time, it’s because of us Today, one million species are threatened with extinction While one extinction is a tragedy, a million risks being just another statistic So let’s break down what this really means It means one in eight non-microbial life forms on Earth could disappear, many within decades More than 40% of amphibians, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and sharks, over 20% of

Mammals, and up to 10% of insects … all at risk For mammals alone, it will take millions of years to recover from the losses they’re predicted to endure over the next half century That future is hard to imagine But we can see what’s happening right now The human population has more than doubled since 1970, adding over 4 billion people in

Half a century, or roughly one Germany every year And forty percent of them live within 100 kilometers of the coast In 2014 only 3% of the ocean was free from human pressure and 66% of it has been severely altered by human activities Surface waters are 30% more acidic than before the industrial revolution Healthy coral reefs have shrunk by nearly half

Coastal mangrove forests and seagrass meadows that guard shores from flooding and storms have been on the decline for decades About a third of ocean fish stocks are being harvested at unsustainable levels, and nearly two-thirds are on the brink Since 1900, global average sea level has risen by at least 16 cm 6 cm of that rise happened just in the past 20 years

Things are changing on land, too Cities have more than doubled in area since 1992 We’ll add 25 million kilometers of new road and cement in the next 30 years, mainly in developing countries And as countries get richer, their resource use accelerates We extract 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources from the planet every

Year – twice as much as in 1980 More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly three-quarters of our freshwater are now devoted to crops or livestock In the US, lawn grass is our biggest crop, covering an area around three times larger than any other, making our yards the most heavily irrigated cultivated plant in America As diverse as human populations have become, our food is becoming less so

Around 75 percent of what we eat comes from just 12 plant and five animal sources Wheat, corn and rice make up nearly 60 percent of the plant-based calories in most diets More than 550 breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture throughout history have already gone extinct And pollinator losses put up to $577 billion in annual global crops at risk Today, 25% of the world’s ice-free land is used for grazing, and half of agricultural

Expansion has come at the expense of forests Between 1990 and 2015, nearly 3 million square km of native forest was cut down, and only 68% of the world’s forest area remains from pre-industrial times These land changes, altogether, have left half a million terrestrial species without enough habitat to survive long term As trade and travel expands, we’re moving plants and animals around too

Some countries are seeing as much as 70% more invasive species than in 1970 Because we unwittingly spread just one fungus around the world, nearly 400 amphibians are now threatened, and 90 have gone extinct No known disease has damaged global biodiversity more We’ve also spread our garbage around the world Marine plastic has increased 10 times since 1980 and three to four-hundred million tons

Of toxic waste is dumped into the world’s waters every year Fertilizers washing into coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, where there isn’t enough oxygen to sustain most life Along with fertilizers, land clearing and crop production account for a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions Those emissions have doubled since 1980, raising average global temperatures by at least 07

Degrees Celsius, which doesn’t sound like much, but at just 2 degrees of warming, 1 in 20 extinctions will be directly caused by climate change Plants and plankton sequester 56 billion tons of CO2 every year That’s 60% of global fossil fuel emissions, removed by species we currently threaten The long list of plants and animals that disappeared 56 million years ago during the PETM owe their demise almost solely to carbon and climate change, but the threats today to natural ecosystems

Go far beyond climate Diseases, land use, and pollution also threaten our planet’s plants and animals We’re animals too – and our actions have already affected our own future Yet, if this were all to disappear, if one million species were to go extinct and we were to change our planet to this extent, in the scale of geologic time, should we look back on this moment, the billions of us would be a paper thin memory in the long history

Of Earth It’s up to us to decide if the world we know today gets to be more than that in the future Wow guys Wow Am I right?

Most of what you just heard comes from the biggest review of life on earth ever conducted Over 400 experts from 50 countries looked at 15,000 sources to give us this big pile of bad news, but they also provided plenty of opportunities to make it better If you want to know more about what you can do to help the natural world, check the links down in the description, and also check out my other show Hot Mess, dedicated to stories about our changing world and climate

Hope we’ve earned your subscription See you next time Stay curious

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