Choice is Clear–Survival or Extinction

Choice is Clear–Survival or Extinction

By Chaitanya Davé

There have been five extinctions of living species in the past. The last extinction occurred 65million years ago when the dinosaurs went extinct. This was caused by a meteorite striking Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Today, 97% of the scientists who have weighed in on the issue believe that climate change is a human-caused phenomena. According to many of them, today we are already into the sixth extinction. Unlike the past extinctions which were caused by nature, this one is different. It is anthropogenic.

We the humans are adding billions of tons of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere every year by our out of control usage of fossil fuels, and our reckless destruction of forests around the world. The carbon thus emitted warms the atmosphere absorbing more and more sunlight and that in turn warms the oceans.

Another grim milestone for an ever-warming planet has just been marked last month. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed recently that for the first time in recorded history, global levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere averaged over 400 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month, the month of March, 2015. At the pre-industrial times, the CO2 levels were 280 ppm. Constantly burning fossil fuels, we humans have added 120 ppm more.

The strength and frequency of major storms around the globe are increasing year after year causing vast devastation and human suffering. Scientists at Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a UN appointed panel—believe that we have less than 14 years left to rein in carbon emissions or we’ll need new technologies which are not yet in existence and which may not be effective.

If carbon emissions from fossil fuels continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at the current rate, the prediction by scientists is very clear. Humanity itself along with rest of the species will perish from the planet. There is no doubt about it. It is also clear to the scientists that if we burn all the fossil fuel that is still buried in the earth, the earth will burn and we the humans and all other species will burn to extinction.

Animal agriculture is especially responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all worldwide transportation—cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships—combined. Livestock and their waste and flatulence account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. Crops grown for feeding livestock consume 96 percent of the water used in the United States. Some eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals. Most of this soy is grown on cleared lands where once existed rain forests. This is happening while some 6 million children globally die from starvation and hunger and starvation affect additional I million people. Staggering amount of natural resources are gobbled up to produce minimal amounts of animal products—to produce 1 gallon of milk, 1,000 gallons of water is used. To produce 1 pound of beef, some 10 pounds of grains are needed.

According to an April, 2013 report by the Insect Pollinators Initiative, insect pollinators such as bees provide pollination for up to 75% of crops and enable reproduction in up to 94% of wild flowering plants including most fruits, vegetables and nuts. Bees, along with other pollinators like moths and hoverflies are in serious decline around the globe since last few decades of 20th century. Their current decline greatly “threatens human food supplies and ecosystem function” around the world. Though it is unclear why, scientists suspect it is from a combination of new diseases, changing habitats around cities and increasing use of pesticides.

Forests are the lungs of the earth. According to Rainforest Action Network: We humans are destroying forests at a rate of 375 sq. km each day. As per Amazon International Network, close to 93,000 square miles of Amazon Rainforest—an area as large as UK–was destroyed by deforestation between 2000 and 2010. Bulk of this deforestation—84.3%–is occurring in Brazil. The world has already lost some 80% of its original forests. 1.1 billion acres of tropical forests were cleared in just thirty years between 1960 and 1990.

At the current rate, 5-10% of tropical forest species will go extinct every decade. 80% of all the fish stocks of the world are either already exploited, over-exploited or recovering.27% of coral reefs are extinct and 70% of earth’s coral reefs will cease to exist in next forty years. Half of the world’s coastal wetlands including mangrove swamps and salt marshes are already lost. One fifth of all species alive today will become extinct in next 30 years and 12% of all bird species are threatened.

Marine biologists have warned that ocean acidification is now one of the most worrying threats to the planet. Billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that we emit each year lingers in the atmosphere causing it to heat up driving global warming. But around 30% of that gas is absorbed by the oceans where it is converted into carbonic acid. That has started killing coral reefs and shellfish beds while threatening other fish stocks. Very little can live in oceans which are too acidic. Caribbean has already lost about 80% of its coral reefs to bleaching. The amazing coral reefs of Australia will be the things of the past in a few decades.

U.N. scientists believe that in order for the earth to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, global temperature should not be allowed to rise above 2 degree Centigrade by 2080 but to achieve this goal, global emissions must be reduced from 56 billion tonnes annually today to 44 billion tonnes by 2020. These scientists said that the faster emissions are cut now, the easier it will be later to hold temperatures steady. “To hold temperatures to no more than a 1.5C rise, a figure which more than half the world’s countries are pressing for, would need annual 4-5% cuts in emissions after 2020,” said UN chief scientist Joseph Alcamo. China and the United States are by far the world’s biggest polluters.

These statistics are not just numbers. They are alarming facts. Every responsible person who reads this article should be extremely alarmed and worried. This worry should turn into action. We must act, not for anybody else but for our own children and grandchildren.

Melting glaciers worldwide, rapidly melting arctic ice-sheets, cyclones, major floods, typhoons, and heavy rains in some countries while drought and forest fires in others, mother earth is crying and telling us in no uncertain terms to change our ways.

The choice for us humans is very clear: Act now, start reducing GHG emissions quickly now or face extinction from this beautiful planet.


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