Arctic News has an extinction alert that portrays the rapidly rising global temperatures.
Depending on the time line and data sets utilized, you can either show less rate of global warming, or high rate of global warming. Which one is true? Which one is accurate?
The answer is simple – but these are the wrong questions. They’re all true (generally speaking) and they’re all accurate. But the questions are misleading because they do not address what we should be most concerned about. If we want to know the real risks of global warming and how it will affect life on Earth, we need to examine large blocks of time and Earth’s history.
Science has already admitted that humans have never seen rapid warming on the scale we are experiencing today, at no time in human history, even in the ancient records found in sediments, tree rings, and ice cores. Nobody was recording temperatures back then, but we can reassemble these records with a high degree of accuracy because of the evidence that previous episodes of warming left on the world environment. So right now, there is high confidence, which is as good as saying “we’re positive” that warming now is way beyond anything humans have ever experienced in our entire 200,000 year history.
This is a big, big deal since it means we’re now experiencing temperature increases way beyond anything that happened in the past. Humans have invented technologies to help them maintain their ability to survive in warmer temperatures (temporarily), but this is far more then just a human issue that we should be concerned about. Plant life will experience the same warming, and this is where the problem with global warming becomes a major crisis (ELE – extinction level event) for most life on Earth.
It is not hyperbole to declare an ‘extinction alert‘ once you understand what warming temperatures mean for plant life. The entire world of life relies upon plants. Phytoplankton in the oceans to land-based forage, fruit, seeds and grasses found throughout the world are all part of the web of life. Zooplankton eats phytoplankton, and are turn eaten by other fish and other marine life, all the way up to the largest mammals on earth, the blue whale. Plankton are at the very bottom of the world’s food web and without this, we will lose millions of other species, and not just in the oceans.
For example, salmon fertilize the trees and river ravines when they spawn and die, feeding bears, eagles, seals and killer whales. They provide a critical source of nitrogen that is required to keep entire ecosystems healthy. Salmon feed on smaller fishes whose food sources extend all the way down to the very bottom of the food web, the world’s plankton. Warming ocean waters will cause worldwide food sources of plankton to crash and collapse, which in turn, will collapse most of the marine life in the world’s oceans. We’ll lose the salmon, and the bears and the killer whales.
Ocean acidification caused by increasing levels of human-released carbon dioxide (still inexorably rising) will contribute to phytoplankton collapse. Most of the world’s oxygen is created by phytoplankton, so we’re also looking at a global crisis for oxygen levels in the future.
On Earth, everything is interconnected and co-dependent. This is a very brief and extremely simple example of how the loss of just one species can create a lasting, long-term domino effect and collapse of numerous other species.
Climate change and human activity are dooming species at an unprecedented rate via a plethora of direct and indirect, often synergic, mechanisms. Among these, primary extinctions driven by environmental change could be just the tip of an enormous extinction iceberg. As our understanding of the importance of ecological interactions in shaping ecosystem identity advances, it is becoming clearer how the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources — a process known as ‘co-extinction’ — is more likely the major driver of biodiversity loss.
It’s been well established that this has all happened before in Earth’s history, more then once. But the driving factor now isn’t natural change and variability, or some external extreme event like a massive meteor impact or volcanism – it’s human activity which has change the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing rapid global warming. We are now well into the “sixth mass extinction” event, which is human-caused and driven by human activities on Earth.
The temperature tolerance of many species is causing these species to simply go extinct. We have also rapidly driven thousands of species into extinction from direct human activity (farming, deforestation, poisoning and killing) but what is of even greater impact (if ecocide doesn’t bother you) is what is happening to the global temperatures. Non-migratory species (plants) cannot escape fast enough to survive somewhere else. When they die out, they cause a cascading effect upon other species and can “bring entire systems to an unexpected, sudden regime shift, or even total collapse”.
Most of this is happening beyond our awareness and even level of interest right now. While the world generally remains focused on human issues and concerns, the collapsing biosphere of life doesn’t really gain much of our attention or interest. This is a catastrophic mistake because humans cannot survive in a sterile world either.
Using modeling, scientists have now predicted what will happen to species extinctions as the world warms. What they’ve found is massive species losses will occur beginning at just 2 °C, and if you factor in “how” temperature is actually being calculated (see first article link at Arctic News above), we’re very nearly at the 2 °C threshold right now. This would help explain the massive loss of ocean life, insects and birds that have been reported around the world. This “mystery” has a cause and it’s already known that either migration or species extinction is the reason.
The science study also found that “global heating will drive plants to extinction before many animals exceed their upper tolerance limits.” They also found that “tardigrade-like species still could not survive co-extinctions“.
Of course, our model is an exceptionally simplified representation of ecological reality, for it would be impossible to model all species’ interactions on the planet. Nevertheless, despite its simplicity, our model yielded results consistent with real-world phenomena. For example, the near-annihilation of planetary life recorded in the end-Permian extinction event was associated with a ~ 6 °C increase in global average temperature following volcanic eruptions26. Ignoring for a moment the obvious differences with present fauna and flora (that we used as a reference for assigning ecologically plausible tolerance limits to our virtual species), a temperature increase of a similar magnitude would be just enough for a co-extinction-driven collapse of global biodiversity based on our simulations (Fig. 1).
Since human life depends upon plant life, this should be of major concern for global civilization. We are ourselves totally dependent upon the living biosphere for our food production, and this is why I have always made claim to the fact that we do not all die from heat stroke enmasse, we die from starvation first as the world’s food supply (agricultural) eventually collapses under global warming.
However, if there is a “rapid rise in warming” at the expected 5°C rise predicts, words like “eventually” don’t really mean much. Warming CAN happen very rapidly under the right conditions and feedbacks, which are happening now.