Science

The 6th Extinction Event: UN Report Warns of ‘Biological Annihilation’ on Our Planet

Earth might be amidst the Sixth mass extinction event as per an ever-growing body of. Typically “mass extinction” conjures up images of the doomed dinosaurs struggling in sweeping eruptions and explosive flareups triggered by a massive meteor hit. But a less obvious but equally extinction event seems to be taking place around us. The wave of subtle annihilation is hitting global fauna on several fronts like climate change, deforestation and hotter oceans drive animal populations down on an unparalleled scale.

Now, a new but ominous report by the United Nations next week is further emphasizing this idea. The report has been developed by UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) that evaluates the state of the biodiversity on earth.

The first such analysis after 2005, assesses the number of species potentially threatened by extinction, their causes, and triggers, as well as records the species that have already been lost while investigating other metrics like increase in greenhouse-gas emission, population growth, etc. The 1,800-page report comprehensively aggregates research from over 15,000 academic papers and research publications with the objective to apprise policy makers on better ways to address the effects of climate change.

An early draft of the report was acquired by The AFP and their scrutiny of its findings shows that the situation may be even worse than thought. In April, AFP reported that the draft describes “an imminent rapid acceleration in the global rate of species extinction,” and adds that “half-a-million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”

The UN will release a summary of the full report after its presentation at the Paris summit this weekend. AFP states that the early draft concludes that 75% of the land, 40% of oceans and 50% of rivers already “manifest severe impacts of degradation” from human activity mostly attributed to manufacturing, transportation and greenhouse-gas emissions from energy production.

The rate of man-made emissions has doubled since 1980, leading to a global temperature rise of at least 0.7 degrees Celsius i.e. about 1° Fahrenheit. The trends highlighted by AFP’s summary align with other studies reporting the falling populations of many animal species.

A 2017 study declared that –

  • Species around the globe are experiencing a “biological annihilation”
  • The current “mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume.”
  • Nearly 40 % of the world’s insect species are in decline.

A 2019 study found that-

  • The cumulative mass of all insects on Earth is decreasing by 2.5 %  annually.
  • At this rate, Earth may not have any insects at all by 2119.

By now, there is agreement on one key driver of all these alarming extinction trends: human activities. A 2014 study reveals that the current extinction rates are 1,000 times higher with human around than they would be without us. The imminent UN report will likely confirm that conclusion. AFP opines that the report “depicts a planet ravaged by rampant overconsumption and drowning in pollution.”

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