2011-03-05 10:16:06Earth's 6th Mass Extinction Event May be Underway
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252

I drafted up a blog post on the new Nature study finding that The Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Event May be Underway.  I'm a little out of my element with this one, so please make sure my interpretations of the findings are correct.

John, if you'd like to shoot for Treehugger or other MSM sources on this one, I could probably draft up a shorter, simpler version too.

2011-03-05 11:10:39
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.202.208

What was the extinction rate during the big five?.

I would expect that, apart from the Cretaceous, if we were able to resolve the other major extinctions in bite-sized chunks of time, we would see that very early on extinction rates would have been minimal. Once thresholds for survival were exceeded (stratification and anoxia of the oceans for instance) eco-systems would have collapsed sending the extinction rate soaring.

The first is that although we're clearly in dangerous territory in terms of extinction rates, we still have a long way to go and enough time to reverse course

How do they propose, reversing ocean stratification? and acidification?, increased drought?. I think these people are being naively optimistic. The last thing the idjits need to hear is that there is time to turn things around.

2011-03-05 12:52:34
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.107.233

Well they don't quantify the average extinction rates during the Big Five, except in the hypothetical 500 year extinction scenario.  Based on their Figure 3, it looks like except for the Cretaceous, it was under 10 E/MSY, and most even under 1 E/MSY.  The events did span millions of years, after all (again except possibly the Cretaceous).  But like you say, the extinction rates certainly weren't uniform over those millions of years.

They don't talk about specific solutions, they're just making the point that we're still early on in the process (the extinction rate is high, but the number of extinctions so far isn't too bad because we're so early in the centuries-long process).  I think it's a good message that we still have time to act, but the time is running out.

2011-03-05 18:14:08
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.103.53

It's better that people get the idea that it's still possible to do SOMETHING than that they get the idea that it's beyond hope: If it's beyond hope, what reason is there to do anything?

I think they said that earlier extinctions took a few million years; we're on-schedule to do the job in a couple thousand, if not a couple hundred. I'm not a biologist/zoologist/ecologist, but I have the impression that the land-use issue will wipe a lot of species off the map very quickly.

With regard to what can be done:

- I think we are going to have to find a cost-effective way to take CO2 directly out of the atmosphere and bind it to something. I don't have any clear idea as to the ultimate thermodynamic limits on that, but I think we have to do it.

- We have to stop converting forests into farms and cities. That certainly means controlling poulation growth; fortunately, the general trend seems to be that, the better off people get, the fewer children they have. Probably the harder problem is how to design a social structure that doesn't depend on many young people supporting a few old people: a skyscraper shape instead of a pyramidal shape.

2011-03-05 20:07:41
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.94.236

It's better that people get the idea that it's still possible to do SOMETHING than that they get the idea that it's beyond hope: If it's beyond hope, what reason is there to do anything?

Who suggested things were beyond hope?. The better message, and more accurate from my readings, is that time is running out to act. Saying "We still have a long way to go and enough time to reverse course" is la-la land stuff. It just gives the inactivists more fuel and can't be substantiated from that study. 

 

2011-03-05 21:36:15
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.103.53

Far be it from me to promote complacency on this issue. As I've said before, in my opinion, the threat to biodiversity is more serious than any number of floods. This is a "planet of the apes" issue.

2011-03-06 03:39:01fair enough
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.107.233

I was trying to convey Rob's message, that though we still have time to act, it's running out fast.  But I'll revise the post to try and make that clearer.

2011-03-06 07:19:16
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.236.10

Very cunning Dana, very cunning indeed. Don't think I haven't noticed all this time.

2011-03-06 08:42:22eh?
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.107.233

Did I do something cunning?  *whoosh*, right over my head

2011-03-06 09:22:52
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.236.10

The ol' thumbey your own posts?. No worries mate, I thought it was part of your psychological strategy to get things moving along.

2011-03-06 09:33:27thumbs
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.107.233

Hah!  No, I just do that when I feel the post is about ready to go.  I don't see why we shouldn't be able to thumb ourselves :-)  I tweaked it a bit to reflect the "we still have time but it's running out" message.

2011-03-06 10:14:38
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.236.10

Dude, careful how you phrase things!!. And take this!.

2011-03-06 10:19:42yikes
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.107.233

Oh geez, "thumb ourselves".  Yeah, that's some poor word choice!

2011-03-06 21:59:10'Thumb ourselves' - the new 'hide the decline'
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.186.229.6

When this forum gets hacked by skeptics, Dana's quote is sure to get taken out of context :-)