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Can climate change cause sixth mass extinction? Experts say humans will suffer as well


Echoing previous studies wherein climate change has been pegged as the major impetus in the sixth mass extinction event, experts have said that we are nearing such an event and if we don’t face this inevitable outcome of our suicidal nature, we will push ourselves at the brink of extinction.

Earth has witnessed five mass extinction events wherein almost all life on the planet was wiped off each time. Our activities that have brought about climate change and caused global warming is already pushing Earth towards yet another iteration of this mass extinction event and while other species will be impact, we humans might survive the event, experts say.

Studies have established the rate at which Earth is warming and climate change is having an impact with as many as one in six species could be at risk of extinction by the turn of century. However, in 2015 two studies pointed out that the effects are worse with the threat being much higher in certain sensitive regions.

In a study by researchers at University of Connecticut that was published in Science last year, observations and conclusions of 131 previously published studies were combined into one big prediction. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, researchers calculates, 16 per cent of species will be threatened with extinction due to climate change by the end of the century.

In another study, Seth Finnegan of the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues drew from the fossil record to make predictions about modern extinction risk in the world’s coastal areas. Finnegan’s group used the fossil histories of six groups of marine animals—bivalves, gastropods, sea urchins, sharks, mammals and stony corals—to determine which kinds of animals were inherently more likely to disappear, or the intrinsic risk of extinction. Similar groups of species tend to have similar patterns of extinction, Finnegan notes, which makes fossil studies such as this one possible. They team also analyzed the geographic locations where such extinctions were more likely to occur.

The researchers then overlaid their map of intrinsic extinctions with data on today’s human impacts and climate change to determine probable hotspots of species loss. They found that coastal species will be especially at risk near the tropics, including the Indo-Pacific, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Are we doing enough?

Multiple accords and deals have been inked over the last few years to limit the impact of climate change by reigning on our carbon emissions and increased use of renewable energy, the global warming continues to increase and so does the climate change. Scientists however believe that we aren’t doing enough and could have lost the battle that will push humanity towards mass extinction.

University of Arizona biology professor Guy McPherson is of the opinion that suicidal nature of humankind is the primary reason behind the destruction of the world in general and habitats in particular. According to the researchers, rather than worrying about climate change we should try living with it till the inevitable end which could be anywhere between 10 years and 100 years.

There have been countless studies that have highlighted the devastating effects of climate change and global warming and though there have been studies that have provided us with deadlines during which humanity such take certain steps, putting a date on the inevitable is rather dangerous.

If we put a 10-year deadline for example, then the world will go on nine years [and] 364 days year to the last hour. The approach of climate scientists to the problem of global warming is similar. We approach the problem in a piecemeal fashion such as methane emissions and the lowering ice in the Arctic, instead of the bigger picture.

As of now our planet is heading for temperature ranges that our planet hasn’t experienced in hundreds of millions of years. Prof McPherson says that instead of trying to fix the climate, humanity must focus on living while he can. The learned Professor feels that hope is not a good idea and so is wishful thinking. He asks people to pursue their love, happiness or whatever they feel which makes them happy.

Meanwhile, New Zealand was awarded two Fossil of the Day awards at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech. These awards have been given for the country’s failure to adhere to its commitment protect the climate and continued use of carbon credits. The nation is facing a lot of flak for doing enough to fight climate change.