Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Combating Climate Change to Slow Species Extinction

"We are entering a new era in Earth’s history: the Anthropocene. An era in which humans rather than natural forces are the primary drivers of planetary change. But we can also redefine our relationship with our planet, from a wasteful, unsustainable and predatory one, to one where people and nature can coexist in harmony."

WWF International director general Marco Lambertini
We are facing the sixth mass extinction event. According to a 2015 report one sixth of the world's species face extinction because of climate change. Human activity is eradicating species at an alarming pace and the death of the last male Northern White Rhino is a clarion call.

At the beginning of this year there was a massive die-off of the saiga antelope. Initial research suggests this may be attributable to climate induced changes to the microbiome. Other mass-die offs include starfish, swallows, gazelles and bats. As reported by the Atlantic, mass animal die-offs are becoming increasingly common.

A small rodent known as the Bramble Cay Melomys (aka reef mosaic-tailed rat) is the first species thought to have been rendered extinct by climate change. Many more species are at risk from climate change and many of these are expected to become extinct as the planet continues to warm.

Dozens of species are going extinct every day. This is the largest number of species die-offs since a meteorite is thought to have destroyed most life on the planet 65 million years ago. Although extinctions are a natural phenomenon human activity is radically accelerating the rate at which this is occurring.

Some scientists predict that human activity will soon cause our own extinction. US conservation biologist Guy McPherson believes that methane emissions will lead to many more near term extinctions in the next decade including human beings. McPherson is a professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, he suggests that rising GHG levels will create feedback loops* that cause abrupt climate change (aka nonlinear climate change).

Climate change already kills people and animals and if left unchecked it will get far worse. climate change has laid waste to vast swaths of coral in the Great Barrier Reef and the Arctic is on the cusp of a death spiral. Fish populations are collapsing and climate change is threatening half of all wildlife including rhinos, polar bears, and tigers.

A 2016 report from the World Wildlife Federation and the Zoological society of London states that human activity is destroying life on Earth. The study found that wild animal populations dropped by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012 and it predicts animal species will decline by more than two thirds by 2020. The study, Living Planet Report 2016 is a damning indictment of humanities destructiveness. However the report includes successful transitions and solutions.

Although the situation is dire, there are a number of success stories that give us reason to believe that we can combat species extinction. Individuals and organizations like the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) work to protect endangered species and they understand that combating climate change is key to this effort. LDF is a private non-profit organization that supports environmental causes and climate action.

Last September LDF awarded $20 million in grants to initiatives that address climate change. Founder and Chairman of LDF Leonardo DiCaprio said, "These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests and endangered species for future generations – and tackling the urgent, existential challenges of climate change".

LDF’s Climate Programme contributed $3,573,562 to climate related projects including projects pursuing 100 percent renewable energy and projects that protect ecosystems. Terry Tamminen, CEO of LDF commented: "This round of grants comes at a critical time. With a lack of political leadership and continued evidence that climate change is growing worse with record-breaking heatwaves and storms, we believe we need to do as much as we can now, before it is too late".  In the last 2 decades LDF has given away a total of $80 million to support conservation and climate action. Organizations like the LDF offer hope for a better world.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the fate of humanity is tied to the Earth's biodiversity. If we want to combat species extinction we must combat climate change.

* Some of the feedback loops that may contribute to nonlinear climate change include wildfires, El Niño, algae and permafrost. We risk triggering tipping points from which we will not be able to recover.  

People Powered Mass Extinction 
Climate Documentary from Leonardo DiCaprio: Before the Flood (Video)
Leonardo DiCaprio's environmental doc 'The 11th Hour'
Is Celebrity Environmental Advocacy Counterproductive?
Leonardo DiCaprio's Address at the UN Climate Summit
Video - Carbon: Green World Rising (Part 1 of 3)
DiCaprio's Climate Focused Oscar Speech

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