Extinction

U.N. Says 1 Million Species Will Go Extinct Without a 'Fundamental, System-wide Reorganization'

But predictions of the apocalypse are again likely overstated.

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A new United Nations report warns that "global rate of species extinction is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years and is accelerating." The only solution to the possible extinction of 1 million species: "Transformative change" in human society, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). "By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values," explained IPBES Chair Robert Watson in a press release. Recommended "transformative changes" include reducing human population growth, eschewing "overconsumption," and "addressing inequalities, especially regarding income and gender, which undermine capacity for sustainability."

How did the IPBES researchers come up with their estimate of 1 million species at risk of extinction? Among other things, they find that more than 40 percent of amphibian species, almost a third of reef-forming corals, sharks and shark relatives and over a third of marine mammals are currently threatened. There are about 8,000 known species of amphibians, 440 shark species, about 1,000 species of reef corals, and about 120 species of marine mammals. Parsing those numbers suggest that 3,680 or so species are at risk of extinction. Certainly not good, but far from 1 million. Insect extinction estimates are where the numbers really get boosted. The researchers claim that "available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10 percent" for insect species at risk of extinction. Since insects make up around 75 percent of 8 million species this means that 600,000 species are at risk of extinction.

The IPBES report further bolsters its estimate of species at risk by making calculations based on the species area relationship that in general reckon if the size of an ecosystem is reduced by 90 percent, the number of different species it can sustain is cut by 50 percent. Since humans have "reduced global terrestrial habitat integrity by 30 percent relative to an unimpacted baseline" this suggests that "around 9 percent of the world's estimated 5.9 million terrestrial species—more than 500,000 species—have insufficient habitat for long-term survival." However, some researchers counter that species area curve calculations considerably overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss.

As noted above, another way the IPBES tries to figure out the number of future extinctions is to assert that the rate of species disappearance is accelerating. As I reported earlier, IPBES researchers estimated the background extinction rate without human influence is about 0.1 species per million species years. In other words, if you follow the fates of a million species, you would expect to observe about one species going extinct every 10 years. Given that the report estimates that the planet harbors around 8 million species, this suggests that around eight species naturally go extinct every 10 years.

It is worth noting that the International Union for Conservation of Nature recently reported that some 800 species are known to have gone extinct since 1500. Implausibly assuming that no unknown species met their demise during this period that nets out to an extinction rate that is about double (16 every 10 years) the natural background rate.

Boosting the natural background rate by a factor of 1,000 suggests that 8,000 species go extinct every 10 years, or 800 per year. At that rate, some 64,000 species—about 0.08 percent of species—could go extinct by the end of this century. The only way to get estimates of between a half million and a million extinctions using this method is to assume the extinction rate will accelerate to  10,000 times higher than the natural background rate.

A world bereft of giraffes, tigers, whooping cranes, hammerhead sharks, karner blue butterflies, and hellbender salamanders would indeed be a poorer place. However, many of the transformative changes advocated by the IPBES are already happening as a result of the economic growth the U.N. agency wants us to steer away from. Due to increasing wealth, education, and urbanization, world population will peak later this century at around 8 to 9 billion. As result of urbanization, the number of people living on the landscape will drop by half from 3.6 billion now to 1.8 billion by the end of this century. The result is more land spared for nature. With respect to concerns about "overconsumption," human ingenuity is dematerializing the economy by constantly squeezing more and more value out of less and less stuff. And to the extent that income and gender equality undergird a sustainable future, the good news is that both global income inequality and gender inequality is falling.

The IPBES report falls in a long line of apocalyptic extinction predictions. For example, S. Dillon Ripley of the Smithsonian Institution predicted in 1970 that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals would be extinct. That is, 75 and 80 percent of all species of animals alive in 1970 would be extinct by 1995. Fortunately, Ripley was wrong then and it is likely that the IPBES is wrong now.

 

 

 

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  1. >>>we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization

    Rhinos now live in Saskatchewan.

    1. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski moved to Canada?

    2. Only in the suburbs though. One can often see them commuting to work on the highway. They are always much closer than they appear in the rear view mirror.

    3. on thing that is sure seems extinct. commentators here who apply reason to any of their opinions.

      1. How so, Timmy?

  2. If we don’t have global government the Earth will die!!

    1. The solution is to enfranchise the marine viruses that are bucking the extinction trend like gangbusters-

      Cell reported the discovery of 195,000 new species last month, and as an average teaspoon of American seawater contains 30,000,000 unregistered viral voters, the election of libertarians to Congress would at last be assured.

  3. The US needs to elect more politicians like AOC who care about science and realize we’re only 12 years away from making Earth literally uninhabitable.

    1. I’d be ok if AOC and the rest of the Red Shrieking Parrots went extinct.

  4. As part of this “System-Wide Reorganization”, the sparrow will now be recognized as an apex predator.

    1. Can we also move humans to Felidae or at least Feliformia?

    2. It’s a sparrow’s turn after all

  5. Alt-Text – who are these RINOs?

  6. Give us your money or the baby rhino gets it.

  7. Recommended “transformative changes” include reducing human population growth, eschewing “overconsumption,” and “addressing inequalities, especially regarding income and gender, which undermine capacity for sustainability.”

    Look, Batperson! The virtue signal!

    I see it Robyn. Let’s go!

    1. The solution, as always, is to let them tell you how to live your life on all levels.

    2. We could reduce the human population by killing all the liberals and lawyers – – – –

    3. “addressing inequalities, especially regarding income and gender, which undermine capacity for sustainability.”

      Sense motherfucker, can you make some please?

    4. Women and minorities hardest hit.

    5. In other word(s): communism. Thanks IPBES. Other than using comparatively big words, at least you’re honest about where you’re going with all this blather.

  8. “By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values,

    Let’s try to change people’s goals and values. That always goes well and totally never ends with blood in the streets.

  9. It’s time for international busybodies to go extinct instead.

  10. Man in cheap suit standing in doorway with suitcase at 8am on Sunday morning: But don’t worry, there’s hope, and I’ve got the only solution to all your problems right here!

  11. 99% of all species have gone extinct. 100% will go extinct in a billion years or so when the Sun gets too hot and scorches the planet.

  12. So these esteemed scientists never heard of Darwin?
    Seems strange.
    Are they taking the creationist view that God put man in charge of all
    the animals?
    Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

  13. “A new United Nations report warns that “global rate of species extinction is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years and is accelerating.””

    Sounds like BS to me, but what the fuck- close enough for pseudo-government work, I suppose.

  14. I would like to offer a $1 million prize to any member of the climate change cult who can state their case without using leftist jargon such as “inequality’ “rich countries” or “vulnerable communities”.

  15. “addressing inequalities, especially regarding income and gender, which undermine capacity for sustainability.”
    Bull
    .
    .
    .
    shit.
    Lefty bullshit, specifically, wrapped in greeen

    1. If humans are the problem, the climate change cult needs to do a Jonestown. Actions not words.

      1. That would be ineffective symbolism. What they really need to do is start a global nuclear war. Or create some plague that only affects humans.

  16. A million little species.

    1. So what? Did the 25 year old predictions say how many years it would take? What were time time estimates from 25 years ago? Mass extinction in 10 years, 100 years or 1000 years?

      If the predictions were already being made 25 years ago and they are still being made, maybe there is a reason to make such predictions. What if the modern predictions turn out to correct, or even underestimate the seriousness of the outcome. Then what?

  17. Predicting this was imminent was common when I was in high school 25 years ago

    1. And thanks to their warnings, the ecological disaster did not happen. Nor did the over-population apocalypse, the mass-famine die-off, the nuclear winter, the unbreathable atmosphere – all the threatened ends of civilization if not extinction of Mankind if not the end of all life on Earth that did not come to pass thanks to the hysterical shriekings of the doomsayers. It’s the Tiger Rock theory of averting disaster and it shall be broken out a generation from now when it becomes apparent the global warming monster was just a stray shadow.

      1. We (wife and I) have a small, fluffy dog. When we go out, she is charged with making sure no elephants come in an trample the place.
        She’s good at it!

        1. Mine handles Tiger patrol. Not one Tiger ever.

      2. But this time they mean it!

  18. I am doing my best to extinguish the species of squirrels and raccoons that have been raiding my bird feeders. My real beef is with the raccoons who have now made a home under my porch. anyone have a link to the Acme Explosive co. Going to go full Wile E. Coyote on those pests.

    1. Aguila 60 gr. Sniper Subsonic. You’ll need a 10:1 twist for any distance and as long as you remove the ‘stank’ glands they’re actually quite yummy.

      You’re welcome.

  19. “tens to hundreds of times higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years”

    And how is that different from the past 1,000 years or from the beginning of “AGM”?

    The curvature of a circle can look very severe depending on the radius chosen or it can look particularly flat.

  20. ‘ The only solution to the possible extinction of 1 million species: “Transformative change” in human society ‘

    The only solution is infinite power for the State.

    But notice what is not even *claimed* of their solution – that we should have any expectation that it would work, or work any better than any other solution.

    1. And when the alarmist prediction turns out to be accurate or even understated, the people who rejected it will suffer no negative consequences. Seems unfair.

    2. That’s the biggest thing to me about all this. Even if the worst predictions are true (which I very much doubt they are), a solution that doesn’t work only makes things worse.

  21. And when the alarmist prediction turns out to be wrong, the people who made it will suffer no negative consequences. Seems unfair.

  22. The article starts with this: “But predictions of the apocalypse are again likely overstated.”

    What if the predictions of the apocalypse are not overstated? What if the predictions of the apocalypse are understated? Climate is a complex adaptive system (CAS). Most climate change deniers would accept that as a true statement. For those who accept it as true, they probably know that a CAS comes with uncertainty. Outcomes of perturbing the system are unpredictable. It is therefore reasonable to believe that it is at least as likely that the species extinction report underestimates the loss at 1 million species. Maybe the loss could turn out to be 1.5 million species or maybe even 2 million. No one can know.

    There are 3 basic outcomes, and reasonable probability estimates:
    1. Outcome is roughly as projected by experts – ~ 40% chance.
    2. Outcome is significantly less species loss that that projected by experts, e.g., 5,000 species – ~ 30% chance.
    3. Outcome is significantly more species loss that that projected by experts, e.g., 5 million species – ~30% chance.

    Do the math. It’s not good. Ignoring the experts completely and looking at only 2 outcomes, significantly less species loss (50% chance) and roughly the same or significantly more species loss (50% chance), still paints an ugly picture.

    The reasoned, rational conclusion? The human species is playing Russian Roulette with the fate of modern civilization leading to deaths of, say, 95-99% of all people alive at the time of the apocalypse, or if things turn really ugly, human species self-annihilation and extinction. The question boils down to how much risk people are willing to accept. Ignoring, rejecting or downplaying the risk of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), including ignoring or denying risk of species loss, is a high risk strategy with huge human downsides if the strategy fails.

    Another point to consider. The author makes this statement: However, some researchers counter that species area curve calculations considerably overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss. Going to that paper, one finds it is a 2011 publication in the high-profile journal Nature entitled “Species–area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss” ( https://www.nature.com/articles/nature09985 ). The author here, Ronald Bailey, simply points to that paper of 8 years ago arguing prior estimates were flawed, and he assumes the authors of the current species loss estimate stupidly made the same mistake. Did the authors of this 2019 study make the same mistake? Are all climate scientists so stupid that they are always ignorant of past errors? One can be almost certain that the author of this article did not check to see if that same mistake flawed this study because (1) there was not enough time for him to find out, and (2) if the flaw is present in this report, Bailey did not state what effect on the species loss estimate the correct calculations would have, e.g., a 20% reduction in species loss, 50% reduction in species loss, or 95% reduction in species loss. In view of the staggeringly high stakes for getting things wrong, Bailey’s article does a grave disservice to society. He provides indefensible cover for people who desperately want to deny or at least downplay the existence and/or severity of AGW due to their political ideology and the attendant motivated reasoning. That motivated reasoning easily makes AGW either disappear completely as a human and civilization risk factor, or it will shrink so small that AGW can be drowned in a bathtub and the corpse sucked down the drain when the water is let out.

    Or, is this reasoning flawed somehow. If so, what is the flaw(s)?

    1. “significantly less species loss (50% chance) and roughly the same or significantly more species loss (50% chance)”

      Where are you getting your probabilities? In your first paragraph you wrote “it’s reasonable to believe”. Your entire analysis is predicated on a very subjective assumption. Unless you can demonstrate some analyses to back up your numbers, I’ll take it with a very large grain of salt.

      Just because there is a binary outcome, doesn’t mean there’s equal probability of either one occurring. If I say “I believe the sun will rise tomorrow”, that doesn’t mean there is a 50% chance we all freeze to death in the next 24 hours.

      1. You are right. Even if one tries to adapt and implement solutions, it may not work, or it could be too little and/or too late. There is no way to know. Given the uncertainty and the huge stakes if things turn out badly, what would you suggest? Doing nothing? Or trying, knowing that the effort might fail? I keep my eyes laser focused on the high stakes and high degree of uncertainty that are in play here. I don’t know what else to do other than to be conservative about taking the risk and trying to do what we can while still being in a position to at least try. Is that irrational?

        1. I think you may be having some reply-fail troubles, but I’ll go ahead and respond to this one.

          Few people, I think, suggest “doing nothing.” It’s coercive collective action that folks tend to take issue with. Individual action will be far more effective than any centrally planned, command approach.

          Speaking personally, my family and I live in a 1200 sq ft house (less than half the footprint of the average U.S. home). We consume considerably less electricity, natural gas, and water than the average family. My wife and I have driven the same vehicles for over ten years, both of which get pretty decent gas mileage. I belong and donate to several hunting/conservation organizations.

          Now, environmental altruism isn’t my primary motivator in any of those voluntary actions/lifestyles. A desire to save money drives most of those decisions, and an enjoyment of the outdoors/hunting/fishing drives the last one.

          Point is (as Zeb was saying below), proposals to force others to make sacrifices for “the greater good” are often times ineffective if not outright counterproductive. Invoking the precautionary principle will not change my mind about that. However, I will continue to live frugally and generously, and I will encourage others to enjoy those choices too (without being smug or self-righteous).

          1. Yes, I’m having trouble with the comment system here. It is weird to me at least.

            Based on what I think I know, individual action will not be effective. The problem is much bigger than individuals. I understand that many libertarians and conservatives are now at a point where they hate central government and any centrally planned, command approach, except maybe a huge military. That is a deal breaker for action at the level of nations for those people. There is nothing I can say that will change that kind of opinion. In my opinion, (only my opinion, not an assertion of fact) entrenched anti-government belief leaves only individual action and that will fail. In that scenario, the human species will survive or experience catastrophe without doing much of anything to prevent catastrophe based on political ideology, not science.

            There is nothing I can do or say that will change this political situation. All I can offer is a couple of thoughts for consideration: When government power is rejected as coercion or tyranny, power does not necessarily accrue to the masses or we the people. Human history before the last 75 years or so is pretty clear that absent a central government to act in defense of the masses, most of the power, wealth and freedom flows to a small number of usually wealthy ruling class folks and powerful business and other special interests. That has been the normal state of human affairs for millennia, maybe even since modern humans came into existence.

            1. What’s better for the environment, respecting private property rights or governmental control of everything?

              Look a socialistic countries. Now look at their environment.

              Now look at free(ish) countries. Now look at their environment.

              Now, go back to your premises and see if they hold water.

              1. I do not know what you are talking about. What socialist countries are you talking about? What do you think my premises are?

                1. “What socialist countries are you talking about?”

                  The ones that recognize themselves as socialist. The ones where government controls almost everything.

                  “What do you think my premises are?”

                  Government (the State) can fix things.

            2. The comment system hates communists.

    2. One thing you don’t address: even assuming your probabilities for various climate outcomes are correct, you also have to consider the likelihood of any proposed solution actually being implemented properly and working. It’s pretty hard to control a world full of billions of people, hundreds of nation states all with competing interests. Even in the worst case, if the solution isn’t going to work, then the resources are better used elsewhere.

    3. Right. My estimates are just my own. Try putting in your own numbers and see what you come up with. Is the underlying logic of that kind of an analysis flawed for this issue? Is it possible that the species extinction situation could turn out worse than estimated? Is climate a complex adaptive system or not? The logic is the point of my argument. If it is flawed, what is/are the flaw(s)? You are right that even if it is a binary analysis, probabilities of outcomes may not be the same. The outcome could be worse than estimated, or do you reject that as a possibility?

      1. Is climate a complex adaptive system or not?

        It is not.

        It is what humans call the confluence of several complex adaptive systems that are themselves amalgams of complex adaptive systems.

        Humans only impact several of the parts of these and have no input whatsoever into a large portion of them–other than as flotsam.

        Your base premise IS an error that wildly overestimates human importance.

        Your ‘solution’ is for humans to claim to take ‘control’ of things they only comprehend the slightest degree of.

        And that ‘solution’ appears to be your solution to EVERY problem, large or small.

        You are monkeys, screeching from a tree, flinging feces at plants moving in the wind, clapping yourselves on the back when the wind dies down as if your shitstorm was the reason for it.

        1. Your comments are incoherent. Climate is a CAS, whether you accept that fact or not.

          1. What you’re referring to as ‘climate’ is an amalgam of several CASs. Not a singular one.

            What this means is that things are included in the human description of climate as part of the ‘climate’ CAS that don’t actually interact.

            They are separate systems.

  23. “addressing inequalities, especially regarding income and gender, which undermine capacity for sustainability.”

    I wonder if they provide any argument or evidence for this or if it’s just obligatory these days. It’s not at all obvious that that must be true.

  24. Whenever someone talks about the need for “transformative change”, head for the hills. It is a nice way of saying “We want to control the way you live”.

    1. So it is never the case that a call for transformative change can never turn out to be the best long-term option for the human species? There is no chance, 0% possibility, that transformative change to try to blunt the effects of modern climate change and species extinction can actually help in the long run? How does one arrive at a 0% chance probability?

      1. Who would do this transformative change?

        1. I don’t care what smoke you are blowing. I will not engage with people who insult me. You called me monkey. We’re done. Permanently.

      2. Monkey, you do not understand what you’re saying.

        There are two things here.

        So it is never the case that a call for transformative change can never turn out to be the best long-term option for the human species?

        And

        There is no chance, 0% possibility, that transformative change to try to blunt the effects of modern climate change and species extinction can actually help in the long run?

        Do you see the difference little monkey?

        Transformative change saw you stop throwing feces and start throwing rocks.

        But no one called for it. One showed the way, over and over again until all could see.

        It is not the call, it is the doing. The call NEVER transforms. Only in doing can one transform.

        1. Hey Azathoth!!
          I won’t engage with people (children) who insult or attack me. I could not care less what your childish complaints are. Go play with the other children. I only engage with adults.

          1. Strange……your comments are so childlike.

            Like a child parroting what they’ve been told.

            But you go ahead, play with the other monkeys.

  25. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values

    And who would do this reorganizing?

    1. Good question. Since we still live in a democracy where the will of the people is relevant, at least in theory (but not in practice), the will of the people as effected through our elected representatives as informed by climate science experts, economists and other relevant authoritative sources should do the reorganizing with an eye to service to the public interest. Is that the wrong source of authority? Should we ignore public opinion, climate science and other experts and instead listen to Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and/or the carbon energy sector like Exxon/Mobile?

      1. The carbon energy sector is what provides fuel for our cars.

  26. […] the global rate of species extinction is massively accelerating, with 1 million now at risk. But Ronald Bailey looks under the study’s hood for Reason and finds plenty of problems. Notably, “insect extinction estimates are where the numbers […]

  27. […] A world bereft of giraffes, tigers, whooping cranes, hammerhead sharks, karner blue butterflies, and hellbender salamanders would indeed be a poorer place. However, many of the transformative changes advocated by the IPBES are already happening as a result of the economic growth the U.N. agency wants us to steer away from. Due to increasing wealth, education, and urbanization, world population will peak later this century at around 8 to 9 billion. As result of urbanization, the number of people living on the landscape will drop by half from 3.6 billion now to 1.8 billion by the end of this century. The result is more land spared for nature. With respect to concerns about “overconsumption,” human ingenuity is dematerializing the economy by constantly squeezing more and more value out of less and less stuff. And to the extent that income and gender equality undergird a sustainable future, the good news is that both global income inequality and gender inequality is falling. Read More > at Reason […]

  28. […] U.N. Says 1 Million Species Will Go Extinct Without a ‘Fundamental, System-wide Reorganization… […]

  29. […] Relativierung in die Leitmedien geschafft. (Dabei gäbe es durchaus Grund, an der plakativen Zahl zu zweifeln oder jedenfalls genauer zu erklären, auf welchen Annahmen und Schätzungen sie […]

  30. […] [ May 16, 2019 ] U.N. Says 1 Million Species Will Go Extinct Without a ‘Fundamental, Syste… […]

  31. […] hearing. In particular, the libertarian magazine Reason analyzed the IPBES report with some pretty fuzzy math, estimating the current rate of extinction is only 16 species every 10 years, or “about […]

  32. […] In particular, the libertarian magazine Reason analyzed the IPBES report with some pretty fuzzy math, estimating the current rate of extinction is only 16 species every 10 years, or “about […]

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