Royal Society: “There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record.”

“Never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet.”

A special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Science) — “Biological diversity in a changing world” — paints a bleak picture of what Homo ‘sapiens’ sapiens is doing to the other species on the planet.

Prior to this year, I wrote about extinction only occasionally — since the direct impact of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions on humanity seemed to me more than reason enough to act.  But the mass extinctions we are causing will directly harm our children and grandchildren as much as sea level rise.  In particular, I believe scientists have not been talking enough about the devastation we are causing to marine life (see “Geological Society: Acidifying oceans spell marine biological meltdown “by end of century”).

In 2007, the IPCC warned that “as global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5°C [relative to 1980 to 1999], model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe.”  That is a temperature rise over pre-industrial levels of a bit more than 4.0°C.  So the 5°C rise we are facing on our current emissions path would likely put extinctions beyond the high end of that range.

Given the irreversibility of mass extinction, and the multiple unintended consequences it engenders, it must be considered one of the most serious of the many catastrophic impacts we face if we don’t act soon.

The special issue contains 16 articles by leading scientists.  The abstracts are all online as is the lead piece, also titled, “Biological diversity in a changing world,” by the two biologists who organized the Royal Society’s scientific “Discussion Meeting” and edited the issue.

The authors, Magurran and Dornelas, note that “there are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record,” and conclude that while extinctions are inevitable:

It is the mass extinction currently underway, caused by overexploitation of natural resources, that needs to worry us. Similarly, environmental change has always been prevalent, and has helped shape biodiversity patterns of today. In contrast, never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet….

As for the oceans, famed oceanographer and ecologist Jeremy Jackson, concludes in his article, “The future of the oceans past“:

Major macroevolutionary events in the history of t he oceans are linked to changes in oceanographic conditions and environments on regional to global scales.  Even small changes in climate and productivity, such as those that occurred after the rise of the Isthmus of Panama, caused major changes in Caribbean coastal ecosystems and mass extinctions of major taxa. In contrast, massive influxes of carbon at the end of the Palaeocene caused intense global warming, ocean acidification, mass extinction throughout the deep sea and the worldwide disappearance of coral reefs. Today, overfishing, pollution and increases in greenhouse gases are causing comparably great changes to ocean environments and ecosystems. Some of these changes are potentially reversible on very short time scales, but warming and ocean acidification will intensify before they decline even with immediate reduction in emissions. There is an urgent need for immediate and decisive conservation action. Otherwise, another great mass extinctio1n affecting all ocean ecosystems and comparable to the upheavals of the geological past appears inevitable.

Jackson is the director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Our ongoing efforts to wipe out sea life may lack the media-grabbing pizzazz of a Titanic oil spill, but it does not lack the punch (see Nature Geoscience study concludes ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”).

As Jackson explains in his 18-minute TED talk,”How we wrecked the ocean”:

If you have the stomach for it, the hour long version is here (but the slides are blurred).

The recent scientific literature on what we’ve done and are poised to do to the oceans is beyond staggering:

On that last study, Seth Borenstein of the AP explains, “plant plankton found in the world’s oceans  are crucial to much of life on Earth. They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.”

Business as usual — staying on our current emissions path — makes multiple catastrophes likely.  The plausible worst-case scenario is beyond imagining.

The Magurran and Dornelas piece ends with this radical conservative quote by Tomasi di Lampedusa from his novel Il Gattopardo:

Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come ¨, bisogna che tutto cambi!

If we want things to stay as they are, everything must change!


45 Responses to Royal Society: “There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record.”

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    A looming oxygen crisis and its impact on our oceans

    A 2010 study found that oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred.

    And we’ve known those impacts might last a long, long time —a 2009 study concluded ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years.” Worse, a Nature study just found that global warming is already the likely cause of a 40% decline in the ocean’s phytoplankton: “Microscopic life crucial to the marine food chain is dying out. The consequences could be catastrophic.”

  2. Dickensian American says:

    Sadly, people raised on a diet of food products derived from a few petro fertilized mono cultures tend to have a hard time grasping both the damage that this has done to their personal health and the reasons this sort of industrial food culture is not sustainable long term even were today’s population to cease growing.

    To such well trained obedient consumers, biodiversity is a carebare issue at best.

    At least with climate change you have the more gory death by firestorm and cyclone smashed homes. For extinction rates: Once you convince people that indeed the science is correct, that species are in fact going extinct at an ALARMING rate… how do you actually get people to be… well… alarmed?

    Just as in the 1970’s, only the remarkable and cute animals such as whales and koala bears seem to penetrate the public imagination. How can we convey the horror of loosing keystone species that are unremarkable small brown snails? Or a similarly colored bird? Or an alpine wild flower that to the untrained eye is indistinguishable from something you might get in a cheap bouquet?

    Sorry to sound so cynical tonight, but I think the slope of challenge facing awareness advocates on this issue is even steeper than that of climate change. I only think the masses that comprise the developed world will start paying attention when a large fraction of the first world is nailed by something catastrophic like a grain shock.

  3. Sailesh Rao says:

    JR, In the Climate Hawk post, you wrote, “It seems not to have occurred to lots of our readers that there are many Americans who don’t want to be nurturant Earth mother types.”

    Now, you approvingly quote Lampedusa, “If we want things to stay as they are, everything must change.”

    At the other extreme of the “Nurturant Earth is our Mother Types” are the “Dominant Earth is my Bitch Types”. Should American society continue to accommodate both extremes along with the vast majority of people in the Bell curve in between? Isn’t this also a case of False Balance?

    The latter types should be clearly labelled as destructive to the future of Life on the planet and politely, but firmly, asked to change. The battle lines are drawn and people need to choose which side they are on.

  4. Wit's End says:

    Dickensian American said: “For extinction rates: Once you convince people that indeed the science is correct, that species are in fact going extinct at an ALARMING rate… how do you actually get people to be… well… alarmed?”

    It’s simple, and mind-boggling that scientists who KNOW aren’t publicly making the connection between pollution – and dinner on the table.

    One of the species that is on a fast track for extinction is plants. All of them. And why? It’s not climate change from CO2 – yet. More urgent and dangerous is the inexorably rising level of background tropospheric ozone, which is toxic to vegetation. NASA just came out with a satellite study indicating that every year the US soybean yield is reduced by $2 Billion. Extrapolate from that losses to other essential basic food crops – rice and wheat.

    Then just imagine what is occurring to the physiology of long-lived species such as trees, that are exposed to decades of cumulative damage. Whoops. They are dying at a rapidly accelerating rate. Gone soon will be their shade, shelter, wildlife habitat, nuts, fruit, and lumber – not to mention the massive carbon sink – and oxygen production.

    Is that scary enough for you?

    Oh wait! According the the WHO, ozone also kills more Americans every year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined! More than automobile accidents!

    How much are our energy-gobbling toys worth? Wouldn’t you think we could get rid of just a few useless things, like mowing lawns and heating swimming pools, so our kids don’t suffer from emphysema, asthma, and allergies? Oh, and starvation?

    Enjoy, some interesting links to scientific research:

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    UN summit moves to protect biodiversity

    gree on how to tackle climate change, almost 200 countries came together to negotiate a landmark deal on biodiversity and ecosystems.

    Environment ministers agreed measures to halt the loss of species and habitats that could have significant consequences for businesses and investors. The summit of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity held in Nagoya, Japan, adopted targets to halve the loss of natural habitats, including forests, and to increase the amount of land designated as nature reserves from 13 per cent today to 17 per cent by 2020. A tenth of the world’s marine and coastal areas will also become reserves, up from 1 per cent today.

    While the world has been focusing on climate change, there has been a largely unseen depletion of habitats and species in recent years. The UN’s Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity initiative has calculated that the natural world provides services ranging from water purification to pollination of crops, flood prevention and climate regulation, with an economic value of between $2,000bn and $5,000bn a year.

  6. Richard Brenne says:

    As we discussed five posts below under the green headline “Scientists Fight Back,” the title “Biological Diversity in a Changing World” is a textbook case of textbook talk, when we need to be saying “WE’RE KILLING EVERYTHING, INCLUDING OURSELVES.”

    Instead of “The Future of the Oceans Past” (which makes no sense – do they mean “What Oceans Past Tell Us About the Future of Oceans”?), how about “OUR OCEANS ARE SO SCREWED, AND SO ARE WE.”

    We need an umbrella term for all human impacts, and thus the title of my book is “Anthro-Earth” with the subtitle “Earth is what we inherited; Anthro-Earth is what we’ve created.”

    Anthro-Earth means all human impacts.

    Right now the list of how we’re killing off species goes something like this (and I’d appreciate hearing how you’d change the list) to date:

    1. Habitat loss due to agriculture.
    2. Habitat loss due to all other human development.
    3. Introduction of non-native species.
    4. Pollution, including Gail’s (at Wit’s End above) ozone (the cumulative soup of all pollutants), ocean acidification, acid rain, all air, water and soil pollution.
    5. Overfishing, including factory trawlers strip-mining the sea.
    6. Overhunting, starting around 50,000 years ago in Australia.
    7. Climate change.

    Over time “Climate Change” will move to number one and dominate the list.

    If Gail is as right as I think she is, pollution, especially the cumulative soup of all pollutants known as ozone, could move to the top of the list before climate change.

    Ocean acidification will also move toward the top of the list.

    The July paper that found that Anthro-Earth has lost 40 per cent of all phytoplankton since 1950 is simply stunning, since phytoplankton is at the base of the marine food chain and contributes around half of the oxygen we breath.

    While these various killers vie with each other and the scientists who study each vie with the scientists studying the others, that is not the point.

    It is like we’re being faced with a firing squad. Most of the categories I’ve mentioned above could kill us by themselves. The deniers deny all of this, like someone thinking “Each of the soldiers firing at me from 20 feet away will have their gun jam.”

    Maybe one, two or more of the concerns will not turn out to be as severe and dangerous as we’ve thought.

    But others will almost certainly be more severe than we thought. And many of them synthesize with the others to compound their effects.

    And the trend in climate change has been for almost everything to be far worse than thought just a decade or even a year before; sometimes just the day before a new Anthro-Earth-shattering paper comes out.

    The reason the communication is so scrambled and ineffective to date is that we’re each trying to get our heads around this. Most people aren’t psychologically and/or educationally equipped to even begin to understand this.

    The best single place where the highest percentage of people get this is right here at Climate Progress. May we continue to grow and work together on this.

  7. Adrian says:

    Richard B. I think I would put other development co-equal with agriculture. And don’t forget overpopulation.

    Speaking as an ecological gardener, a book worth reading, while we are preparing for action, is E.O.Wilson’s The Creation. It very poetically expresses all the reasons we should be alarmed and why biodiversity is worth saving. He says most people live in a synthetic environment that has little to do with nature–and if you do that, how can you value what you don’t know about?

  8. Aaron Lewis says:

    In 2003, I stated that we would likely see significant melting of the Arctic Sea Ice within 10 years. And, no less than Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate told me that “such alarmism was unhelpful.”

    ”Alarmist” has been the worst epitaph in climate science vocabulary. Climate scientists forgot that they had been posted to stand guard and raise the alarm in the event approaching serious climate change.

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Richard Brenne, i think if we “humans” not evolve pretty soon the earth “gaia” will get rid of us long before the real climate change impacts destroy the rest of the megafauna.

    Biochar is one step with several impacts for the overall environment. Sustainable agriculture with biochar/agrichar can replace dirty petrol fertilizers, which in turn helps the ocean environment too.

  10. Richard Brenne says:

    Adrian (#6) – Thank you for your input. I’m speaking to a large gardening group next week on these very topics, and asking them what effects of any of these things they’ve been seeing in their gardens. Of course if they spend more time or apply more water, fertilizers or pesticides than in the past, then there aren’t effective controls in their experimentation compared to not adding those inputs.

    I never forget overpopulation and overconsumption, which I always link together as the evil twins that are the primary sources of our problems, together with greed, ignorance and a lack of caring.

    Those are the primary causes that belong in a different category above the list I created, which is a list of the effects of those things that are killing off so many species.

    By the way, in addition to extinctions we should discuss the loss of so many individuals. If a species habitat shifts away from your own home and habitat, or if you never see a member of a particular species in the wild again, then they are effectively extinct to you.

    Thanks again, and I’m a big E.O. Wilson fan as well (like a 10-year-old with baseball cards, I have all the Doomers playing cards, complete with their season by season statistics).

  11. cyclonebuster says:

    ” Underwater Suspension Tunnels” can prevent such species extinction events by regulating SSTs lower to pre-industrial revolution temperatures by upwelling massive amounts of deep cold ocean water to the surface all while generating massive amounts of electrical power from the kinetic energy on the Gulfstream thereby eliminating GHGs which also warm the oceans! I went out and built a test model 1/650 scale of one and filmed it working to prove my concept was valid! Ya’ll get it yet? Ya’ll need to do a blog about the idea here on Climate Progress!

  12. cyclonebuster says:

    “Climate Progress” do the blog and I will answer all questions of how they work and what they can do to reduce our planets fever. ” Underwater Suspension Tunnels” are the planets aspirin to reduce the planets fever. All I need is a diagnosis from “Computer Modeling” so the doctor can write the prescription as to how much cooling is needed in order to give the proper dose of cooling.

  13. I haven’t eaten fish in years. I will eat an occasional lobster, but the means of catching them is not brutally stupid.
    My carbon footprint is shrinking. I work from home, am attempting to become a vegetarian, and recently have attempted to avoid using anything packaged in plastic. It’s all hard, and does not seem to be enough… in fact it is pitiful.
    My connection to nature is a lot healthier than my connection to my own species. This is tearing me apart! :((

  14. Lorien says:

    Richard B says: “By the way, in addition to extinctions we should discuss the loss of so many individuals. If a species habitat shifts away from your own home and habitat, or if you never see a member of a particular species in the wild again, then they are effectively extinct to you.”

    Looking at species loss in terms of individuals, at least for critters such as amphibians, fish, birds and mammals, makes the reality even more tragic, especially because we are just finding out some incredible things about the minds and lives of some non-humans. Most folks don’t want to wrap their mind around the fact that this is genocide as well as biodiversity loss. Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

    I’m a big EO Wilson fan as well.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Beam Me Up Scotty says “… avoid using anything packaged in plastic …”

    I try that too :) One trashcan in my household is dedicated to plastic trash. Even though i try to not buy stuff packaged in plastic this trashcan always fills up fastest. There is a device to turn plastic back into oil.

    Maybe i should build or buy this device and start transforming all the trash surrounding me.

  16. JonS says:

    Maybe OT but worth thinking about:

    We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
    We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ~Aldo Leopold
    The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future. ~Marya Mannes
    So bleak is the picture… that the bulldozer and not the atomic bomb may turn out to be the most destructive invention of the 20th century. ~Philip Shabecoff
    Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress. ~John Clapham
    For 200 years we’ve been conquering Nature. Now we’re beating it to death. ~Tom McMillan
    When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves. ~David Orr
    Take care of the earth and she will take care of you.
    We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap. ~Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. ~Ansel Adams
    When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ~John Muir
    We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive. ~Albert Einstein
    They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them. The superior man seeks what is right; the inferior one, what is profitable. ~Confucius
    The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. ~Gaylord Nelson

  17. Wit's End says:

    #7 Aaron Lewis: “In 2003, I stated that we would likely see significant melting of the Arctic Sea Ice within 10 years. And, no less than Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate told me that “such alarmism was unhelpful.”

    Oh gee, deja f**ing vu.

    When I had the first glimmerings of enlightenment, and was trying to learn all I could about climate change, I wrote to Gavin and asked him if he had any idea what in the atmosphere could be the cause of all trees dying.

    paraphrasing but not by much…

    “Sorry” he answered,”I can’t think of anything in the atmosphere that could cause that.”

    What the F*ck?

    Even the EPA, USDA, Forest Dept, and National Park Service, not to mention innumerable international scientific organizations, all have published reports that state unequivocally, OZONE KILLS TREES.

    Real Climate has some kind of reality problem they should fix before they lose all credibility in the face of facts.

  18. caerbannog says:

    Sorry Joe… Rep. Shimkus has it on much higher authority than you could ever cite that global-warming is nuthin’ to worry about:

    (H/T to Juan Cole)

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Energy Committee Chairman Candidate Says God Promised no More Catastrophic Climate Change after Noah

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    From above link, this comment is note worthy

    “The Acadian Empire was ended by a series of decade long droughts and Genesis chapters eleven and twelve discuss how Terah (Abrams father) took his people from the region around the city of Ur of the Chaldees, now in southern Iraq, and went north and then east into the Land of Canaan to escape it. Later Abram went south into Egypt to escape the severe droughts and repeated famines associated with this severe climate change event that affected a large portion of the Earth:

    “The Holocene vegetation history of the northern coastal Arabian
    Peninsula is of long-standing interest, as this Mediterranean/
    semiarid/arid region is known to be particularly sensitive to climatic
    changes. Detailed palynological data from an 800-cm alluvial
    sequence cored in the Jableh plain in northwest Syria have been
    used to reconstruct the vegetation dynamics in the coastal lowlands
    and the nearby Jabal an Nus¸ayriyah mountains for the period
    2150 to 550 B.C. Corresponding with the 4.2 to 3.9 and 3.5 to 2.5
    cal kyr BP abrupt climate changes (ACCs), two large-scale shifts to
    a more arid climate have been recorded. These two ACCs had
    different impacts on the vegetation assemblages in coastal Syria.
    The 3.5 to 2.5 cal kyr BP ACC is drier and lasted longer than the 4.2
    to 3.9 cal kyr BP ACC, and is characterized by the development of
    a warm steppe pollen-derived biome (1100–800 B.C.) and a peak of
    hot desert pollen-derived biome at 900 B.C. The 4.2 to 3.9 cal kyr
    BP ACC is characterized by a xerophytic woods and shrubs pollenderived
    biome ca. 2050 B.C. The impact of the 3.5 to 2.5 cal kyr BP
    ACC on human occupation and cultural development is important
    along the Syrian coast with the destruction of Ugarit and the
    collapse of the Ugarit kingdom at ca. 1190 to 1185 B.C.”
    Middle East coastal ecosystem response to middle-to-late Holocene abrupt climate changes: D. Kaniewski, E. Paulissen, E. Van Campo, M. Al-Maqdissi, J. Bretschneider, and K. Van Lerberghe; PNAS September 16, 2008 vol. 105 no. 37 13941–13946 or

    The practice of cherry-picking a Bible verse here and a verse there without understanding the historical context, read Bible History, can reverse the actual meaning of the language used. And of course, as mentioned above, the cited verses merely say that there will not be another worldwide flood not that there will be no further abrupt climate change.”

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    And here is Shimkus featuring the attention whore monckton

    Rep. John Shimkus: Capping C02 emissions will steal “plant food”

    Do we really want these people decide for the faith of humanity?

  22. Joe says:

    About four years ago, I started reading mostly non-fiction, popular science books. David Quammen’s “The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction” really widened my horizons regarding the scope of human impacts on the environment, and spurred my interest in climate, which eventually led me here!
    If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you check it out. His book mostly talks about terrestrial species, while this frightening video shows that aquatic species are in even greater peril.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    Joe please see this –

    On the last thread, my memory was jogged , and I went and did the research, and processed it to make a point.

    The Hindu Kush Before and After the Great Pakistian Floods

    I saw this image from the Swat Valley in August, and I was stunned . Not for what is in the foreground, I was in the Big Thomson Flood in 1976. I know what happens when it rains like hell in the mountains. What struck me are those mountains in the background. That is the Hindu Kush . These two pictures were shot in the last week of July (left), and from the same spot 3 weeks later. Look at all that missing snow.

    At the time, it occurred to me that the Modis Terra satellite would show this record event even better . Three months later I took the time to go look , and do some more “before and after” images. Again I am stunned.

    These rains melted a massive amount of snow, on some very high mountains.

  24. John Mason says:

    Adrian #6: “He says most people live in a synthetic environment that has little to do with nature–and if you do that, how can you value what you don’t know about?”

    This is EXACTLY the problem, Adrian. We have to such a great extent become disconnected from the world that people now refer to Society/Economy as the “Real World” whilst out there the wreckage goes on. This has been tearing me apart for some time now. Some people can divert such anger/grief into poetry to prevent their own heads exploding. Me too – it helps me get through anyway. If the mods don’t mind, below is my angry “remix” of a well-known poem of old – rejigged in 2003 for our times…. Cheers – John

    LEISURE 2003
    (the Mr Angry Remix, dedicated to William Henry Davies, 1870-1940)

    “What is life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
    No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows.
    No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
    No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night.
    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, and watch her feet, how they can dance.
    No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began.
    A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare….”

    We have no time

    Our time, our life
    Our waking hours
    Our sleeping hours
    We have no time

    We have no time to stand and stare
    We have no time to stand and stare
    We live within the real world now
    No time, no time to stand and stare

    We live within the real world now
    So distant now the world outside
    So distant now so ostracised
    So distant now so sanitized

    That’s a fish
    Please! No fins or eyes!

    A sudden storm?
    That’s a freak
    Please! We don’t need surprise!

    What’s a drought?
    Your lawn goes brown
    Ooh! Our crops have died!

    Where’s the wildlife now?
    It’s on my TV screen!
    Before your eyes…

    Before your eyes
    Before your eyes….
    Oi! You’re here to work
    So avert your eyes

    And get back to your office desk
    Get back inside your salesman’s suit
    Get back to your place of wage
    Back inside the battery cage….

    I will stand and I will stare
    Your real world? I do not care
    Defensive of your status quo
    While in denial of what you hardly know

    Blind acceptance without thought
    All you have is what you’ve bought
    So many pounds and so much VAT
    Well mine’s for free so audit that

    Yes I will stand and I will stare
    I will take that time out there
    You may condemn or you may mock
    But it’s long-term and you are not

    See – it carries on, it will carry on
    After we are all long gone
    It’s all around you all along
    This is forever Nature’s song…..

  25. Sime says:



    Normal individuals will experience a large wave of depression, followed by revulsion and then anger after watching this…


  26. Colorado Bob says:

    MSNBC report of the amount of heat melt water is transporting into the ice sheet, not bad for these guys :

    Meltwater from glaciers could warm ice even more
    Water trapped in glacial cracks may increase speed and expedite melting

    If you put a frozen turkey in the oven, Neumann explained, it takes quite a while for the center of the frozen bird to feel the effects of the heat. Phillips’ model, Neumann told OurAmazingPlanet, is “a way to bring heat from the surface down into the ice much more quickly than just through conduction.”

    We’re exporting our BTUs to Greenland to melt the ice sheet for more efficently than was thought.

  27. Colorado Bob says:

    Sime @ 20 –

    It is possible to volunteer to pick-up trash on Midway Island . PBS went there with Jean-Michel Cousteau. The windrows of it are huge, hundreds of yards long.
    Lot’s of pictures of bird life dead with a little pile of plastic, where the gut of the bird used to be.

  28. Colorado Bob says:

    4 1/2 years ago –

    In this pioneering exploration, the Cousteau team sets sail to the Northwestern Hawaiian Island archipelago, the most remote island group in the world. There, they discover diverse wildlife populations above and below the sea and investigate these species’ fight against extinction and the devastating effects of pollution, mining, fishing and development.
    Read more and watch a preview

  29. Colorado Bob says:

    PBS went there with Jean-Michel Cousteau Aired April 2006.

    Voyage to Kure

  30. dp says:

    with all the ‘sigh’-ing on the net lately i swear it’s more like sailing than surfing

  31. Raul M. says:

    Hummingbirds flew south from Fla. At the same time,
    storms were raging along central America. I don’t
    think that the birds could see such from the Fla.
    Coast. Thanks for info.

  32. Prokaryotes says:

    Joe, maybe these tools are worth a review?

    Climate Mobile (“CliMate”) puts the latest worldwide climate information at your fingertips and offers an amazing new tool — the Personal Climate Analyzer — that lets you perform in-depth analysis of climate trends instantly and effortlessly. With CliMate you hold in your hand the latest data from international satellites and surface instruments,

    The American Geophysical Union (AGU), the leading climate science organisation, is due to launch a new web service offering journalists accurate scientific information about climate change. The AGU is also working on an iPhone app.

    To check the app traffic – which servers are called, you could use a mobile firewall.

  33. Wit's End says:

    Nice, John Mason #24

  34. catman306 says:

    Here’s one of dozens of machines that can turn plastic trash into oil. This was one of the first and uses a microwave with selected frequencies of radiation.

    Here’s one that’s commercially available now.

    We have the technology today to stop further global warming, we don’t have the advertising.

  35. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Can I quote Revelations ch 11, towards the end. Or will Joe leave the biblical references in moderation for all eternity (nah just a couple a days until the post disapears off the top).

  36. Mike Roddy says:

    If you totally commit to solving the problem of global warming, you also slow species extinction, and vice versa. Deforestation, including here in North America, chemical/fossil fuel industrial agriculture, profligate burning of fossil fuels, and livestock feed lots are dumb and doomed activities that both murder entire species and send massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. It all goes together, and springs from a sick modern urge to dominate nature and collect meaningless material comforts.

    When I was a young man over 30 years ago, I quit my job to become a whitewater river guide for a few years. My favorite place was the little traveled Klamath in Northern California, because we saw so much wildlife- herons, bald eagles, otters, osprey, bear, and mergansers. Salmon and steelhead were the basis of the food chain. Now, the once greatest fish migration and wildlife show south of the Columbia has dwindled to a shadow of itself, because of logging’s effects on spawning habitat and stream temperatures, dams, and upstream ag diversions. I can hardly stand to float the river anymore, because it has become so barren by comparison.

    Two of the dams are scheduled for removal, and logging in the area has slowed, but fish dieoffs caused by bathtub summer water temperatures will persist as it continues to get warm. Then, not only no more spectacular ecosystem, no more wild seafood, either. We are on a suicide mission, slow in human time, lightning fast in geologic time.

    This all has to be addressed holistically, and from within, and Richard Brenne says it well. Sailesh Rao may be the best voice on the kind of transformation we need, and I advise readers here to heed his words.

  37. catman306 says:

    Colorado Bob,
    There was NO plastic on the beaches of Midway Island in 1967 and ’68 when I visited the place. Nice swimming on the lagoon, though. It was a semi-tropical paradise, despite the Navy base where we re-fueled with that nasty bunker C, high sulfur fuel oil.

    What have we done to our world?

  38. Andy says:

    Aldo Leopold also said something like: The ultimate ignorance is the person who asks of a species, “What good is it?”. If the land as a whole is good then everything that is a part of it is good. The first rule in intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.

    Saying we need to prevent extinction of earth’s life because some plant or animal may hold the cure to cancer or allow us to breed better crops is the ultimate in ignorance.

    We have no idea, none, what organisms this earth requires to sustain life at today’s level. It could very well be that populations of some small insect are responsible for sustaining life.

    There is very good evidence that past mass extinctions lead to an unstable chemical and physical (climate) environment on earth that caused further extinctions and a greatly reduced capacity for the planet to sustain life for millions of years.

    Refusing to save the planet because we may have to pay 3 cents more per kilowatt hour of electricity is the ultimate in absurdity.

  39. I was the only jurno from North America at the big biodiversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan last month where a new international agreement was signed on a new 10-year strategy to dramatically reduce rates of species loss.

    Here’s one of my pieces on the climate/species extinction connection.
    Tackling Climate Change Only Way to Halt Species Extinction Crisis and Declines

    Did about 10 articles in all for IPS and Latin American news service all posted on my site

  40. Dickensian American says:

    The Gorillaz latest album, Plastic Beach, is something of an intoxicated self-contradictory journey through these painful realities. I personally find the final track to be devastating–especially when set up by a non shuffled listen to the rest of the album before it. The whole album is most definitely worth checking out. Makes me wonder if we ever buck the veneer of big budget entertainment masking the current corporate system, what sort of stories our artists will tell us, what sort of stories we’ll tell ourselves and what sort of stories we’ll tell our children.

  41. Wit's End says:

    paulm, thanks for that terrific revamped Story of Stuff!

  42. Richard Brenne says:

    Andy (#38) – This is a great point, that humans can’t create a living biosphere as Gaia has. Only arrogance and stupidity makes us think that this is possible.

    The Biosphere and Biosphere II experiments in Arizona did nothing but fail, even with access to everything needed here on Earth.

    The idea that we could create a biosphere on a dead planet or moon is comical in the extreme. We’d always forget something: “Oh, yeah, oxygen – D’oh!”

    Then there’s always that pesky Second Law of Thermodynamics that would doom such a project as well.

    And energy returned on energy invested. . .

    We’re going to have to do the best we can, each as astronauts on spaceship Earth. Living to dominate rather than live in harmony with Nature is the most mind-numbingly stupid and suicidal thing imaginable, as Mike Roddy and others here skillfully remind us.

  43. GPSO 2011 says:

    A soon as humanely possible stabilization of human population would surely ease pressure on biodiversity losses. Global Population Speak Out is February 2011.