Such is the bad news delivered by Paul Ehrlich, Gerardo Ceballos, and their team of Stanford scientists, who claim that we are ‘without a doubt’ entering the sixth great mass extinction on Earth — and humanity is to blame.

4 things you need to know:

1. Over the last century, species of vertebrates are dying out 114 times faster than they would have without human activity

This chart shows the enormous rise in species loss over the last century. Since 1500, over 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct:

Extinction Chart

2. It could take Earth millions of years to recover

The number of species that went extinct in the past 100 years would normally have taken 11,400 years to go extinct under natural conditions. At this rate, a vast amount of biodiversity will be lost in as little as two to three human lifetimes.

Read more: 9 irrefutable pieces of evidence will prove to you that climate change is real

 

3. Humanity would likely disappear early on in the process of this extinction

“There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” said Ehrlich. When species disappear, crucial ecosystem services like crop pollination and by honeybees, also disappear. “We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on,” said Ehrlich.

meteor strike

4. Previous extinctions caused by natural disasters, but this is man-made

This mass extinction isn’t a major event like as a meteor strike or a volcanic eruption. In fact, it’s human activity. The main culprits?

  1. Carbon emissions that drive climate change and ocean acidification
  2. Land clearing for farming, logging and settlement
  3. Introduction of invasive species
  4. Toxins that alter and poison ecosystems

Despite the gloomy outlook, there is a meaningful way forward, according to Ehrlich and his colleagues.

So what would it require to avoid a true sixth mass extinction?

“Rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species, and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, over-exploitation for economic gain and climate change.” To make this happen, we need stronger conservation efforts, the maintenance of ecosystem services, and public policy changes. Ceballos added: “I’m optimistic in the sense that humans react – in the past we have made quantum leaps when we worked together to solve our problems.”

 

 

Original source: Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anthony D. Barnosky, Andrés García, Robert M. Pringle and Todd M. Palmer. Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Science Advances, 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400253

 

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