Just before he took off for New Tork, I caught up briefly with Tim Wright, a young Australian who is making an impact on the world scene, as he travels internationally promoting the cause of nuclear disarmament. Tim has been a leading light in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) , since 2006, and is ICAN Australia's campaign director.
Let me ask you: Do you have days when you feel we are doomed as a species? That's every day, for our next guest.
When a successful Professor of Natural Resources, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology left the University of Arizona, for his mud hut retreat, he probably didn't intend to stir up the world. But that's just what Guy McPherson has done. He's becoming a voice for the worst fears of many people. In fact, McPherson says climate change has gone so far, so fast, humans will become extinct before 2050.
While much scientific and public attention has focussed on the many species endangered or on the brink of extinction like Carnaby's cockatoo, the impacts of climate change on species biodiversity are much larger. A landmark study looking at nearly 50,000 common species with widespread ranges has determined that half of these animals and two thirds of the examined plant species will lose more than half their range in the next 70 years, by 2080, if nothing is done to slow down the rate of global warming through cutting carbon emissions. We are truly in the middle of a biodiversity crisis with habitat loss and climate change causing the 6th mass extinction
Scientists meeting at the University of Copenhagen have warned that biodiversity is declining rapidly throughout the world, describing the loss of species as the 6th mass extinction event on the earth. The world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, with the challenges of conserving the world's species larger than mitigating the negative effects of global climate change.
Related: Biodiversity a crucial climate change buffer for ecosystem and cultural diversity | Climate change and habitat loss threaten biodiversity, extinction rate underestimated | Species biodiversity under threat from the velocity of climate change | UN study says biodiversity loss unstoppable with protected areas alone | Oceans at high risk of unprecedented Marine extinction scientists warn
Scientists have been able to calculate the velocity of climate change on land and ocean environments using temperature records to determine isotherms and their change in a fifty year period from 1960 to 2009. So how fast are climate envelopes moving? The general median answer is 27.3 km/decade on land, and 21.7 km/decade in the ocean. This equates to a speed needed to outrun climate change on land (2.7 kilometers per year) and in the oceans (2.2 kilometers per year). This rate of movement of thermal climate envelopes poses problems for species facing a high speed migration, or a difficult and abrupt adaptation or extinction.
Related: Indybay - Climate change and habitat loss threaten biodiversity, extinction rate underestimated | Science Network WA - Rare frog population sent to the South-West
A report issued last week from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) has strongly warned of the damage to the health of the world's oceans and marine life from several factors including the impacts of climate change. The report warned that if the current business as usual trajectory of damage continues "that the world's ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history."
Scientiists from Bristol University say that ocean acidification is ocurring at a faster pace than anytime in the last 65 million years, raising the possibility of a mass marine extinction event similar to what ocurred about 55 million years ago.
Related: Dr Jeremy Mathis on CO2 acidification threatens northern oceans - (KFSK Public radio audio) | European Project on Ocean Acidification Blog | The Ocean in a High CO2 World | Sigourney Weaver highlights Ocean Acidification in video documentary