An article posted in the Spring this year finds Stephen Hawking — just one of many scientists — who see the possible near-term demise of our species. The article on Salon.com took his arguments (and others) and did some analysis which shows he might not be far off.
While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.
You’ll see a recurring theme on this site about the dire effects of global warming and climate change, ranging from the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth 10 years ago, through to posts on rising temperatures, the human impact on the biosphere and more (just check out the threads on climate change from the menu above).
Here are a couple of quotes
Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.
The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far. Policy decisions made during this window are likely to result in changes to Earth’s climate system measured in millennia rather than human lifespans, with associated socioeconomic and ecological impacts that will exacerbate the risks and damages to society and ecosystems that are projected for the twenty-first century and propagate into the future for many thousands of years.
If you want to read the article in full, follow this link. After the link, you’ll find the bullet points that we can take away — and they will make you think.
Here are the key takeaways.
- The hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2000.
- Civilization will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history, which stretches back some 200,000 years into the Pleistocene epoch.
- According to the 2016 Living Planet Report, humanity needs 1.6 Earths to sustain our current rate of (over)consumption — in other words, unless something significant changes with respect to anthropogenic resource depletion, nature will force life as we know it to end.
- Scientists largely agree that human activity has pushed the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction event in the entire 4.5 billion year history of Earth.
- Current rates of species extinctions may be occurring 10,000 times faster than the normal “background rate” of extinction.
- The global population of wild vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians — has declined by a staggering 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012.
- Experts argue that the risk of a global pandemic is increasing. The reason is, in part, because of the growth of megacities: “66 per cent of the global population will live in urban centres by 2050.”
- The rate of ocean acidification is happening faster today than it occurred during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. That event is called the “Great Dying” because it was the most devastating mass extinction ever, resulting in some 95 per cent of all species kicking the bucket.
As the science journalist Eric Hand points out, whereas 2.4 gigatons of carbon were injected into the atmosphere per year during the Great Dying, about 10 gigatons are being injected per year by contemporary industrial society. Thus, the sixth mass extinction mentioned above, also called the Anthropocene extinction, could turn out to be perhaps even worse than the Permian-Triassic die-off.
Here’s what a few other notable scientists have said:
- The late microbiologist Frank Fenner, for example, whose virological work helped eliminate smallpox, predicted in 2010 that “humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction, and climate change.”
- The Canadian biologist Neil Dawe reportedly “wouldn’t be surprised if the generation after him witness the extinction of humanity.”
- The renowned ecologist Guy McPherson argues that humanity will follow the dodo into the evolutionary grave by 2026
Originally published at https://www.hologram.me.uk on August 13, 2017.