The Earth is estimated to be around 4.5 billion years old. As early as the 16th century, humans polluted the Earth with that alteration of the environment that people are slow to realize that slowly becoming inhabitable. Todd May suggests that the human race may be the cause of Earth's extinction. Our planet will be habitable for at least another 1.75 billion years if a nuclear holocaust, an errant, or accident does not intervene, as revealed by a recent study.
Our activities slowly deteriorate our environment. It rose significantly since the 1970s. We are depleting our natural resources at an alarming pace, and it will cost us. If we pollute large swaths of our environment, our living standards will decline to great heights unless we take urgent action. In the last 50 years, air and water quality continue to get worst. Soils are depleting while pollinators are disappearing from fields, and coasts are becoming less stormproof.
We lose natural habitat at an unprecedented pace.
A habitat is a natural ecosystem where many animals and species exist to live and interact with one another. We can distinguish it by its physical and biological characteristics. Moisture, temperature, and light are some somatic considerations for an ecosystem, while biotic factors include food availability. Temperate, tropical, polar, and subtropical habitats are all possible. Terrestrial vegetation types include steppe, grassland, semiarid, and desert.
We have explicitly altered at least 70% of the lands due to accommodate buildings, grow plants and keep animals. Deforestation, habitat degradation, and habitat depletion cost us better land and freshwater ecosystems. Despite feeding millions of people, about 77% of rivers longer than 1,000 kilometers no longer flow freely from source to shore. Overfishing is the primary cause of ocean warming, but other processes such as agricultural runoff and plastic waste may contribute. The amount of live coral on reefs has nearly halved in the last 150 years. We expect corals to cease to exist over the next 80 years. Coral reef habitats are among the most complex on the planet that will affect biodiversity in our oceans.
When humans migrate animals across countries due to a higher demand for exotic wildlife or parts of it, we disrupt the balance of ecological biodiversity. There is a relative increase in animals living outside of their natural habitat. It reduces local biodiversity to new heights. Several endemic species are victims of human-caused ecological changes, which primarily due to poaching and illegal hunting. Wildlife trade is big in Asia black market due to some Asians lifestyle on consuming wildlife. With the growth of e-commerce and social media websites, black market trading has become at ease.
Birds, mice, and monkeys are among the species caught alive to be housed or sold as exotic pets. Slaughtered animals became goodies, jewelry, décor, or traditional medicine. For example, Ivory tusks of African elephants are a priced trinkets and display items. Pangolin scales, which are microscopic ants-eating insects, are ground into powder and consumed for their alleged curing powers. Our lifestyle has put our planet at risk of speeding up deterioration.
Habitat loss contributes to the loss of biodiversity too. Our aggressive development has cost us the environment due to massive exploitation of our natural resources. Other causes are indirect but still affect due to demographic, technical, political, and administrative systems in the area. For example, a swath of land maintained by Indigenous Peoples is experiencing habitat destruction is slower-paced than highly developed places. However, the rights of Indigenous Peoples are under threat, which may hasten the deterioration of these areas. It is detrimental to ecosystems and communities in general.
The loss of natural habitat is a result of converting lands for agricultural and commercial use, which compromised the ability to house and support animals and plant species. As a result, animals vacated into new habitats that could no longer accommodate them due to overcrowding or inhabitable. It changes the diversity dynamics and organism distribution in the ecosystem due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. Sadly, these changes can result in the extinction of species.
The cost of overexploitation is high.
Our international trade increased by 900% and raised the usage of natural resources by as much as 200%. People are indifferent to the harm caused by their consumption as the physical distance between supply and demand widens. Before the Industrial Revolution, people used to look after the world around them that what we have today. Globalization has resulted in far-reaching environmental consequences. However, since we are immune to these impacts, they are intangible to us.' International trade both causes and exacerbates inequality. For example, Japan, the United States, and Europe accounted for 64% of global fish imports. Although some high-income countries have fisheries, the vast majority have failed.
According to the WWF and Zoological Society of London's biennial Living Planet Report 2020, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles declined by 68 percent on average between 1970 and 2016. Two years earlier, the figure stood at 60%. Latin America and the Caribbean experienced the most troubling decline, with an overall decrease of 94% of vertebrate wildlife populations. We harmed most of the region's reptiles, birds, and amphibians owing to our overexploitation of habitats, habitat fragmentation, and disease.
The abundance of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles has also declined significantly in Africa and the Asia Pacific region, dropping by 65% and 45%, respectively. Europe and Central Asia saw a 24% decrease in population, while North America saw a 33% average drop. Since 1700, our activities dramatically altered 75% of the Earth's ice-free space and destroyed nearly 90% of global wetlands. We reduced the habitability of our freshwater, which caused one in every three species threatened with extinction and an average population decline of 84%. For example, the critically endangered Chinese sturgeon population in the Yangtze River drops by 97%.
Robert Freeman shared that we've spent 10 to 20 years complaining about these losses and not managing to do anything to mitigate them. We performed several studies and analyses on our computers, but we do not have actions towards mitigation. We can't define how rapid any of these falls. We are in a new geological age at which human dominates the Earth. We must become stewards for it.
Aside from land species, we are overfishing, and it causes a rapid decline in ocean biodiversity. The first overfishing began in the early 1800s when humans decimated the whale population when searching the blubber for lamp oil. Sadly, we fished to extinction starting in the mid-twentieth century. Our attempts to improve the supply and affordability of protein-rich foods led to an increased fishing capability that we forget to consider to allow fish to repopulate before harvesting.
We have several commercial fleets that were highly hostile, scouring the world's oceans and introducing ever more advanced methods and techniques for identifying, extracting, and processing their target animals. We became used to getting access to a diverse range of fish species at reasonable prices. Scientists believe that aggressive fisheries conservation will overturn the effect of overfishing. However, illegal fishing and unregulated harvesting continue to plague the industry, and our ocean biodiversity is still at high risk for extinction.
The Earth is getting warmer.
According to the IPCC Special Report on global warming, we are experiencing extreme temperatures on land. The projected temperature is above the global average surface temperature, which differs from place to place. The effect of climate change varies and unequal across our world. In some areas, the temperature rose above 1.5 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial temperatures.
People living in the tropics will experience more hot days, especially in the tropics. About 14% of the Earth's population will put through extreme heatwaves at least once every five years at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. The probability of heatwaves rose to 37% when we experienced an increase of the global average temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. We can expect extreme heatwaves, and it will become more common.
When we limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will decrease the exposure to extreme heatwaves by approximately 420 million people. That is about 65 million fewer people to save from extreme heatwaves. According to the study, we can substantially reduce the likelihood of drought and water supply threats in some areas when we restrict warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. A 2-degree Celsius elevation of temperature will cause approximately 61 million more people in urban areas to extreme drought than in a 1.5-degree Celsius. If we can maintain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we can have 50% fewer people experiencing increased climate change-related water crises.
At 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we can expect that the climatically spatial distribution of 6% of insects, 8% of plants, and 4% of vertebrates will decrease by more than half. Those percentages rise to 18%, 16%, and 8%, respectively, when we cross the 2 degrees Celsius global warming. Pollinating insects, such as bees, hoverflies, and blowflies, will have limited geographic ranges at 2 degrees Celsius warming. It will affect terrestrial productivity, including agriculture for human food consumption. Besides, desert and arid vegetation expand as we get reach above 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.
When the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the sea level will continue to rise. The ocean store the heat that will expand it. We can see a rise in sea level about 0.1 meters at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming than at 2 degrees. When we reach 2 degrees Celsius, 70% of the coastlines will be at the expense of rising sea levels. We can foresee a 0.2 meters increase that will increase the risk of coastal flooding, beach erosion, salinization of water supplies, and other impacts on humans and the land ecosystem.
The Antarctic ice sheets or the Greenland ice sheet will have an irreversible loss that we will have more than 1.8 meters sea-level rise over the next hundred years. Our oceans will become more acidic due to the concentration of carbon dioxides, and oxygen levels drop significantly to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It poses a significant risk to marine biodiversity. The loss of sea ice affects several organisms and marine mammals, especially the polar bears and whales in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Coral reefs will collapse by 70% to 90% of their current state at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, becoming almost non-existent at 2 degrees warming. We anticipate the extinction of coral reefs reduces biodiversity in these areas. If that happens, we will lose a substantial percentage of our food, livelihoods, coastal defense, tourism, and other ecosystem services. That will affect about half a billion people.
- How Much Longer Can Earth Support Life?
- Humans are causing life on Earth to vanish
- The world is in trouble: one million animals and plants face extinction
- The Four Ways The Earth Will Actually End
- It’s the End of the World ... Somewhere
- A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter
- Habitat Loss
- Humans exploiting and destroying nature on unprecedented scale – report
- The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.
- This Is What Planet Earth's Ultimate Fate Will Be
- How does overfishing threaten coral reefs?
- Overfishing: Plenty of Fish in the Sea? Not Always
- Living Planet report 2020
- Global Warming of 1.5 ºC
- Poaching animals, explained Illegally taking animals from the wild threatens many species with extinction.
Note: The cover image is created by the author using Canva.