When the Global Wildlife Decline Reaches Zero

Questions About Climate Change and Wildlife Decline

GR: The research and the various projections of how Earth is warming and how the warming will manifest in planetary events and conditions is based on studies of conditions recorded in sediments and fossils deposited during Earth history. Specialists have calibrated and tested the records in many ways and believe they are reliable. So I want to pose a question:

What do we do to prevent a climate cataclysm that threatens life on earth?

We can stop arguing over the cause of the current and forecast warming. It is important only in the way that understanding the cause might help us prevent the catastrophe. There’s some discussion of this question following my prediction of the year that life ends.

Animals & Plants Photography

The Global Wildlife Decline

We must also deal with a related issue. Records of wildlife numbers show that a global decline in large and small animals and plants is underway. The creatures that process fallen leaves, branches, and animals to create soil, the creatures that pollinate the plants that cover and protect the soil from erosion, and the animals that feed on the smaller creatures and prevent pockets of explosive population growth are all disappearing – rapidly. The records are based on thousands of studies conducted over decades and are generally accepted as reliable. Here’s the question:

What are we going to do to prevent an ecological disaster that follows the loss of stable soil and vegetation?

The answer to this question has more dimensions than the climate question. We have to look at species and species groups to see what is causing their decline. We should begin now, because the current direction is toward total disappearance of life on Earth.

It is customary for climate scientists to predict the consequences of global warming and place time scales on the changes. I haven’t seen any detailed studies where scientists projected animal declines to devise time scales for the changes. Here’s a simple scale based on the assumption that the future may be predicted from the past: It’s based on the work of a consortium of groups led by the World Wildlife Fund. The groups have traced changes in animal numbers since 1970. During that period, total numbers of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles declined 58%.

The End of Life on Earth By the Numbers

For my prediction, I’m using the average rate of decline from 1970 to 2012 to predict the year that all vertebrate animal life on earth is gone. The average annual decline the World Wildlife Fund Group observed is 1.38% per year (58% divided by 42 years). If the decline continues at 1.38% per year, numbers would fall by 11% to 69% [58+ (1.38*8)] in the eight years from 2012 to 2020. A simple justification for using the average decline is that animal populations go through cycles of increase and decrease. During the period 1970-2012, some populations probably increased while most declined. An average number (1.38% per year) should blend the increases and decreases.

If the average rate of decline holds steady at 1.38%, the total decline of vertebrates will reach 80% by 2028, 91% by 2036, and 100% sometime in 2042. Since it’s too fantastical to believe that all animals will be gone by 2042, we have to expect that the rate of decline must decrease. However, it is difficult to guess at what point it might stabilize.

Animal numbers will probably continue to fall for at least the next three years. So, by 2020, roughly only three out of the ten animals around us in 1970 will remain. The number will continue to fall, but probably at a slower rate.

Failure to answer either the climate or the wildlife question and pursue the solution will result in global disaster. Much that is beautiful, peaceful, and reliable will go away.

Answering the Climate Question

We’ve known for some time that 2-degree Celsius global warming would result in destructive storms, droughts, and sea-level rise. Below I’ve included part of a European Geosciences Union article from a couple of months ago that provides a bit more explanation of what the warming means for our future and our children’s future, and what we have to do to prevent the problems.

Removing CO2 from the air required to safeguard children’s future

“Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is not enough to limit global warming to a level that wouldn’t risk young people’s future, according to a new study by a team of scientists who say we need negative emissions. Measures such as reforestation could accomplish much of the needed CO2 removal from the atmosphere, but continued high fossil fuel emissions would demand expensive technological solutions to extract CO2 and prevent dangerous warming. The study is published today in Earth System Dynamics, a journal of the European Geosciences Union.

“Continued high fossil fuel emissions would saddle young people with a massive, expensive cleanup problem and growing deleterious climate impacts, which should provide incentive and obligation for governments to alter energy policies without further delay,” says lead-author James Hansen, a professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute in the US, formerly at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The team estimates that today’s young people may have to spend up to 500 trillion euros on technologies to extract carbon dioxide from the air, if high emissions continue.

“In contrast, if rapid phase-down of fossil fuels starts soon, CO2 could be removed from the atmosphere at relatively low cost. Better agricultural and forestry practices, including reforestation and improving soils, would then be able to achieve most of the CO2 extraction needed to prevent global-warming’s most dangerous consequences.

A safe target

“Impacts of climate change include more frequent and severe heat waves, storms, floods and droughts, as well as sea-level rise, which could affect millions of people living in coastal areas. “Sea-level rise this century of say half a metre to a metre, which may be inevitable even if emissions decline, would have dire consequences; yet these are dwarfed by the humanitarian and economic disasters that would accompany sea-level rise of several metres,” the team writes in their study, which has been peer-reviewed.

“We show that a target of limiting global warming to no more than +2°C relative to pre-industrial levels is not sufficient, as +2°C would be warmer than the Eemian period, when sea level reached +6-9 metres relative to today,” says Hansen. The Eemian ended some 115,000 years ago and was a warm period in the Earth’s history between two glacial ages.

“The danger, according to the Earth System Dynamics study, is that a long-term global average temperature of +2°C – or even of +1.5°C, the other temperature limit discussed in the 2015 Paris Agreement – could spur ‘slow’ climate feedbacks. In particular, it could lead to partial melting of the ice sheets, which would result in a significant increase in sea-level rise as happened in the Eemian [see note].

“The Hansen-led team says that atmospheric CO2 should be reduced to less than 350 parts per million (ppm) from its present level of about 400 ppm. Global average temperature reached +1.3°C above pre-industrial levels in 2016 and will increase at least a few tenths of a degree more during the next few decades because of the delayed response to past increases in CO2 and other gases. Reduction of CO2 below 350 ppm will cause temperature to peak and slowly decrease to about +1°C later this century. This goal requires negative CO2 emissions, that is, extracting CO2 from the air, in addition to rapid phase-down of fossil fuel emissions.” –European Geosciences Union (EGU – News & Press – Removing CO2 from the air required to safeguard children’s future.)

Firestorm: 1,500 Structures Destroyed as Massive Wildfires Blaze Through Northern California

GR: Now begins the age of extremes that everyone can see. No longer just statistical trends in numbers and sizes of floods and fires, global warming-spurred events are moving on stage and the lights are coming up.

Here are Robert Scribbler’s thoughts on the current California fires.

“Heat and drought and fire. A common litany these days for California — a state that has, year after year, been wracked by a series of unprecedented climate extremes.

“After a brief respite this winter, northern parts of a state reeling from woes related to human-caused climate change again settled into drought this summer. Having received near record amounts of rain during winter — enough to wreck the spillway at the Lake Oroville Dam — vegetation sprang anew. This rain-spurred growth then subsequently dried — developing widespread fuels for fires.” –Robert Scribbler (Firestorm: 1,500 Structures Destroyed as Massive Wildfires Blaze Through Northern California | robertscribbler).

That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy

GR:  Having had local experience with government cover-up of hazardous conditions, I am not surprised that Canadian officials would cooperate with the fossil-fuel industry to hide the truth from endangered citizens. We sometimes ask industries to regulate themselves, but as you will read, this doesn’t always work very well.

Dairy Carbon Footprint (sodeliciousdairyfree.com)

The lack of concern for human injury is just one facet of government-industry collusion. Conditions that impact vegetation, wildlife, and whole ecosystems receive even less concern. Reporters do not mention the broader issue because the damage is not directly experienced by people and because most of us do not understand what is happening. Nevertheless, ecologists have studied the impacts and costs to nature and human society. They’ve published the results. We all need to read a little more and work a little harder to understand the consequences of our behavior whether it is criminal acts by government and industry personnel or the byproducts of acts as simple as drinking a glass of milk.

“As the number of shale oil wells has soared in Saskatchewan, the risk of hydrogen sulphide leaks has multiplied. A year-long investigation reveals what the government and industry knew — and kept from the public.” — Robert Cribb et al. (Continue: That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy | Toronto Star).

Human race is doomed if we do not colonise the Moon and Mars, says Stephen Hawking 

Saving Life on Earth

GR: Hawking is right about the threat from an extinction-level meteorite strike, and it is certainly true that we are ruining this planet through overpopulation and global warming, but if we follow his advice, several thousand people will survive while billions will be left on Earth to die abruptly or slowly as events unfold. Hawking says we need to set up colonies with working ecosystems on the moon and mars within 30 and 50 years. Since our Earth-bound efforts to manipulate existing ecosystems have usually failed despite having a mature atmosphere that admits the correct light wavelengths for plants and animals to survive, the probability for failure to establish a working ecosystem on the moon or mars is very high. Do it in 30 or 50 years? Not even if all the Trumps on Earth were packed off to Alpha Centauri tomorrow.

We should follow Hawking’s advice and begin trying to establish extraterrestrial colonies, however the chance for our species’ survival would be much higher if we concentrated our efforts in preserving and protecting Earth’s existing ecosystems. And if that protection has to include an asteroid busting ray gun, well, we have only 30 to 50 years to get one built. Despite serious warnings by Hawking and others, we are making only feeble efforts to preserve and protect what we already have here on Earth.

Our situation reminds me of the behavior of Douglas Adams’ Golgafrinchan Arc B colonists when they reached Earth. Pure lunacy, but as embarrassingly accurate as the social events in Lord of the Flies. Must our species always be defined by its lowest common denominator? We need to raise our heads, look around, and comprehend the need to finance an emergency mission to save Earth and we need to do it now. All our humanitarian, entrepreneurial, and military goals are simply irrelevant if we do not.

Avoiding Human Extinction

Sarah Knapton, Science Editor for The Telegraph:  “The human race must start leaving Earth within 30 years to avoid being wiped out by over-population and climate change, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.”

“Making an impassioned speech at the Starmus science festival in Trondheim, Norway, the astrophysicist said it was crucial to establish colonies on Mars and the Moon, and take a Noah’s Ark of plants, animals, fungi and insects, to start creating a new world.

“Prof Hawking said it was only a matter of time before the Earth as we know it is destroyed by an asteroid strike, soaring temperatures or over-population.

“He said that becoming a ‘cosmic sloth’ was not an option because ‘the threats are too big and too numerous.’

“I am convinced that humans need to leave earth. The Earth is becoming too small for us, our physical resources are being drained at an alarming rate. We have given our planet the disastrous gift of climate change, rising temperatures, the reducing of polar ice caps , deforestation and decimation of animal species.When we have reached similar crisis in or history there has usually been somewhere else to colonise. Columbus did it in 1492 when he discovered the new world. But now there is no new world. No Eutopia around the corner. We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds.”

Prof Hawking said it was important to begin colonising Mars and the Moon

 

“Prof Hawking told the audience that the Earth would eventually be hit by a devastating asteroid strike.

“This is not science fiction it is guaranteed by the laws of physics and probability, he said. To stay risks being annihilated. Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity. It  may also determine whether we have any future at all. Wherever we go we will need to build a civilisation, we will need to take the practical means of establishing a whole new ecosystem the will survive in an environment that know very little about and we will need to consider transporting several thousands of people, animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and insects.”

Prof Hawking said the Moon and Mars were the best sites to begin the first colonies, stating that a lunar base could be established within 30 years and a Martian outpost within 50. But he also suggested leaving the Solar System and venturing to our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, where scientists believe there exists a habitable planet known as Proxima B.” –Sarah Knapton (Human race is doomed if we do not colonise the Moon and Mars, says Stephen Hawking)