“.. an extinction unprecedented in human history.”

June 23, 2011

While I’m working very hard to shift gears to some sunny solutions videos, I still have to keep up with the drumbeat of not-so-welcome warnings from our scientific community.

Science Daily:

An international panel of marine experts warns in a new report that the world’s ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.

The preliminary report arises from the first ever interdisciplinary international workshop to consider the cumulative impact of all stressors affecting the ocean. Considering the latest research across all areas of marine science, the workshop examined the combined effects of pollution, acidification, ocean warming, overfishing and hypoxia (deoxygenation).

The scientific panel concluded that:

  • The combination of stressors on the ocean is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth’s history.
  • The speed and rate of degeneration in the ocean is far faster than anyone has predicted.
  • Many of the negative impacts previously identified are greater than the worst predictions.
  • Although difficult to assess because of the unprecedented speed of change, the first steps to globally significant extinction may have begun with a rise in the extinction threat to marine species such as reef- forming corals.

Dr Alex Rogers, (see video above) Scientific Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) which convened the workshop said: “The findings are shocking. As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the implications became far worse than we had individually realized. This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children’s and generations beyond that.”

The problems are multidimensional, as the panel pointed out.

As examples, the panel point out:

  • The rate at which carbon is being absorbed by the ocean is already far greater now than at the time of the last globally significant extinction of marine species, some 55 million years ago, when up to 50% of some groups of deep-sea animals were wiped out.
  • A single mass coral bleaching event in 1998 killed 16% of all the world’s tropical coral reefs.
  • Overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks and populations of by- catch species by more than 90%.
  • New science also suggests that pollutants including flame retardant chemicals and synthetic musks found in detergents are being traced in the Polar Seas, and that these chemicals can be absorbed by tiny plastic particles in the ocean which are in turn ingested by marine creatures.

I don’t want it to be true. But we need to pay attention to what our experts are telling us, if we hope to deal effectively with the issues they identify. We have the solutions – this blog is about identifying the problems, showing the solutions, and finding the will to do what has to be done.

IPSO press release here.

Story at Seattle Post Intelligencer

Story at CNN


13 Responses to ““.. an extinction unprecedented in human history.””

  1. livinginabox Says:

    We have met the enemy and it is us.
    Walt Kelly

  2. omnologos Says:

    Turkeys wouldn’t vote for Christmas, IPSO wouldn’t report any result that were not “shocking”.

    We don’t have anymore the “experts” of old.

    • livinginabox Says:

      The arrogant confidence of ignorance.
      When scientists say we don’t know, the pseudo-sceptics cry ‘tally-ho’, and they claim ‘therefore everything is ok’.

      Yet we know vastly more about the world than the ‘experts’ of old.

      Meanwhile in the topsy-turvy world of pseudo-sceptics, up is down, black is white and less is more.

      Why am I and many others unconvinced?

      • omnologos Says:

        livinginabox – your comment has nothing to do with what I wrote. Nothing is ok, and a group of self-appointed green guardians will only make things worse by cheapening the message.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the experts of old knew that the world was flat, and the center of the universe, and that climate was fixed and controlled by God.
      the good old days.

  3. […] commenter on today’s extinction story reminded me of this […]

  4. omnologos Says:

    yep, the enemy of environmental protection is first and foremost the mindless regurgitation of whatever “shocking” story is published by the latest “green” propaganda group, as a cursory analysis will reveal it biased and untrustworthy pushing readers in the opposite direction. This applies in all sorts of human endeavours…nothing kills good economic policies like lobbyists from the financial world, nothing makes religion less attractive than hypocritical self-interested preachers, all suggestions of improving airplane safety will be met by industry reports saying they’re too expensive etc etc

    • otter17 Says:

      So, this begs the question, how should it have been presented? Specifically, where is the biased or shocking wording that ought to be changed so as not to turn people away or cheapen the message?

      The only piece of wording I can see in the entire workshop summary would be the use of the word “far”, as in “…far faster than anyone has predicted”. That is a value judgement that would require someone to compare the measured numbers with the IPCC or other predictions in order to see if they are indeed changing “far faster than anyone has predicted”.

      But how does anyone argue with the wording of conclusions like this?
      “The combination of stressors on the ocean is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth’s history.”

      This conclusion is backed up by the evidence that they cite, and it is indeed shocking, not because they dressed it up to be that way but because it really IS shocking.

  5. kronocide Says:

    Oh, how cute. A Balance Fairy warning us of ‘green’ goonies damaging environmentalism. Hey, it worked on Gore, didn’t it? Good thing we have the noble corporate news conglomerates keeping them honest led by Ailes the Virtuous!

  6. sailrick Says:

    We know that warm water causes coral bleaching
    We know we have been overfishing the oceans
    We know excess CO2 in the carbon cycle is acidifying the oceans
    We know huge amounts of plastics are floating around in the oceans, particularly the Pacific gyre area.
    We know large dead areas like in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi have developed.
    We know we are deluging the oceans with all kinds of chemical pollutants.

    Stating all these knowns in one report is hardly fear mongering.

  7. […] interview on America Radio News Network, Willis expanded on the implications of a recent report of the tremendous pressure we are putting on global […]

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