Humans, as a species, seem pretty intent on ending our own existence sometimes. Between obvious things like nuclear weapons and more complicated issues like climate change, there are plenty of ways we might manage to wipe ourselves off the planet.
Reddit user u/SmokoMan asked:
Some of the answers are pretty out there, but many seem startlingly plausible.
What's the strangest way you think humans could die out?
A new United Nations assessment has concluded that humans have now put 1 million animal and plant species at risk of extinction, confirming the "unprecedented" effect of human activity on the planet at large.
The 1,500 page report, approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released yesterday in Paris.
Over 1,000,000 species on the planet are facing extinction, says the UN's first comprehensive report on global biod… https://t.co/yOY60h9p0A— TicToc by Bloomberg (@TicToc by Bloomberg)1557150160.0
Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which was established in 2012 by the United Nations Environment Programme, said in a statement:
"The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide."
"For a long time, people just thought of biodiversity as saving nature for its own sake. But this report makes clear the links between biodiversity and nature and things like food security and clean water in both rich and poor countries."
Among the report's key findings:
- 25 percent of mammals, more than 40 percent of amphibian species, nearly 33 percent of sharks and 25 percent of plant groups are threatened with extinction.
- The average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more.
- Global warming has accelerated wildlife decline.
- Biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050 unless countries make strong commitments to conservation.
- Approximately 1 million animal and plant species could die out "within decades."
- Changes in land use, pollution, poaching, overfishing and climate change are the primary threats to the planet's biodiversity.
The human impact on nature has been so devastating that the study's authors call for "transformative changes" to either halt or reverse the threat to biodiversity.
Watson says governments must make this a priority as climate change:
"Loss of biodiversity is just as important as climate change for the future of mankind. The two are highly coupled. You can't deal with climate change without dealing with biodiversity."
Many policymakers are calling for changes in the wake of the report.
According to a new @UN report, as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk for extinction. We c… https://t.co/wllpuK2awE— Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan Omar)1557175500.0
Further evidence that time is running out. We have no choice but to confront climate change, commit to clean energy… https://t.co/yQzK2y2v8h— Richard Blumenthal (@Richard Blumenthal)1557191073.0
Every day, new research emerges about the deteriorating state of our planet. To those who say #ClimateChange is n… https://t.co/1FKZcrlGHt— François-Philippe Champagne 🇨🇦 (@François-Philippe Champagne 🇨🇦)1557190107.0
This alarming UN report reminds us why we must take bold action to safeguard the vitality and biodiversity of our p… https://t.co/enYnPtakbj— Kamala Harris (@Kamala Harris)1557178544.0
The U.N.'s report comes as the world grapples with a sixth mass extinction, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The publication blames human overpopulation and overconsumption for the "biological annihilation" of wildlife in recent decades.
In February, an alarming study published in the journal Biological Conservation found that 40 percent of insect species on the planet are in population decline as a result of climate change, pesticide usage, and the introduction of invasive species that "could have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind."
You can read a summary of the U.N. report's findings HERE.
That's the phrase buzzing around the internet since the first global scientific review of insect population decline was published this week in the journal Biological Conservation.
Insects are superlative and have a crucial role in food webs and ecosystems. But they're dying out quite fast.
According to the study's authors:
"The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin.
We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline ... to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction ... eight times higher. It is evident that we are witnessing the largest [insect] extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods."
Overall, 40 percent of insect species on the planet are declining. Another third are considered endangered. The review's authors concluded that the total mass of insects worldwide is declining by 2.5 percent annually.
The numbers in this insect apocalypse metastudy are nightmarish: - Total mass of insects falling by 2.5% *a year*… https://t.co/rGBHrDEkSp— Alice Ross (@Alice Ross)1549886150.0
"It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none," study co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, an environmental biologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, told The Guardian. "If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind."
Habitat loss is largely responsible for the decline in insect populations. Pesticides, climate change, and invasive species all play a significant role in hastening the decline, too.
"Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades," the review's co-authors wrote. "The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least."
Fairly strong words for a scientific paper, & it all comes down to what we eat... “Unless we change our ways of pro… https://t.co/s4eH4sLJrL— Louise Gray (@Louise Gray)1549880247.0
The researchers note:
The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of many of the world's ecosystems since their rise at the end of the Devonian period, almost 400 million years ago.
People responded with alarm:
This collapse of insect numbers is another sign that our planet is in crisis and we need urgent action to protect n… https://t.co/B7VXdIHP9A— WWF Cymru (@WWF Cymru)1549884382.0
Crazy to think “Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain.… https://t.co/yr2DgDKEN1— Mustafa Suleyman (@Mustafa Suleyman)1547743736.0
This headline alone is the gravest I have read in years... Plummeting insect numbers 'threaten collapse of nature' https://t.co/r8CkVcaxrJ— Sebastian Roché (@Sebastian Roché)1549885213.0
The study is imperfect, however. Scientists do not know how many species of insect exist and lack adequate population data for all of them. Much of the data also comes from "developed" countries like the United States and those in Europe. The study lacks information from tropical regions, which are areas where new species of insect keep being discovered.
As a result, people like scientist and researcher Christian Schwägerl responded with skepticism.
I've written about insect populations and their decline for many years, trying to improve knowledge and raise aware… https://t.co/OEDid8TFGu— Christian Schwägerl (@Christian Schwägerl)1549873842.0
(1) Despite widespread, worrying declines in many parts of world, total insect diversity/abundance are far from kno… https://t.co/xDIkPBDhA4— Christian Schwägerl (@Christian Schwägerl)1549873842.0
For context, I was one of first journalists to cover Krefeld study in Germany, in @FAZ_Wissen, then @YaleE360… https://t.co/iK28dJ033X— Christian Schwägerl (@Christian Schwägerl)1549901736.0
The Guardian, the first publication to report the news, later posted a grave warning from its editorial board that serves as an indictment against what they refer to as "unchecked human greed":
The chief driver of this catastrophe is unchecked human greed. For all our individual and even collective cleverness, we behave as a species with as little foresight as a colony of nematode worms that will consume everything it can reach until all is gone and it dies off naturally. The challenge of behaving more intelligently than creatures that have no brain at all will not be easy. But unlike the nematodes, we know what to do. The UN convention on biodiversity was signed in 1992, alongside the convention on climate change. Giving it the strength to curb our appetites is now urgent. Biodiversity is not an optional extra. It is the web that holds all life, including human life.
The clock is ticking.
It seems climate change could claim another victim: coffee.
Brace yourselves, folks. You might want to hold on to your cup of joe for as long as you can.
Researchers at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK studied endangered coffee species using the latest computer modeling techniques and found that 60% of wild coffee species are on the brink of extinction due to deforestation, droughts, and plant diseases, according to AFP.
Lead researcher, Aaron P. Davis, told CNN about the threat of a perpetually warming planet having adverse effects on the growth of coffee.
"The important thing to remember is that coffee requires a forest habitat for its survival."
"With so much deforestation going on around the world, wild coffee species are being impacted at an alarming rate."
"Considering threats from human encroachment and deforestation, some (coffee species) could be extinct in 10 to 20 years, particularly with the added influence of climate change,"
@NatureNews Every year... https://t.co/VEiHfURA5W— Ben Pile (@Ben Pile)1547723986.0
People are getting justifiably cranky.
@cnni Ohhh no I Love Coffee... https://t.co/EUld4Mrt2L— Caroline Thin (@Caroline Thin)1547840022.0
@cnni Now THAT would be a catastrophe event. I’m too ugly without coffee!— Marguerite Finn (@Marguerite Finn)1547785362.0
Just got done editing the story about #coffee possibly going extinct. I’m reacting appropriately. 🤯☕️ #gmm2 #wmar… https://t.co/UOoKeX44Ut— Chris C. - WMAR 2 News (@Chris C. - WMAR 2 News)1547721234.0
The study published in Science Advances indicated that researchers analyzed 124 species, mostly abundant in tropical Africa, the Indian Ocean islands—which include Madagascar, Comoros Islands, and Mascarene Islands—Asia and Australia and found that 75 species are at risk of extinction, including "13 being critically endangered, 40 endangered, and 22 vulnerable species."
Arabica and Robusta are two of the species made for global consumption, both of which were categorized as endangered.
Unless governments and commercial producers implement ways to protect coffee species, consumers will be paying a lot more for their morning fix.
@nowthisnews I need to invest in coffee shit bout to be 50$ cup— J bizness (@J bizness)1547828762.0
Now coffee drinkers are caring about the environment more than before.
@nowthisnews Ok, NOW I’m taking this climate change thing seriously.— Daryl Eli (@Daryl Eli)1547821005.0
@nowthisnews Now this is a national fucking emergency— Whisker Kenbrook (@Whisker Kenbrook)1547823907.0
@nowthisnews @SandraShearer16 Two important things I care about, Coffee and Climate Change.....— Sunshine (@Sunshine)1547823924.0
@nowthisnews stupid climate change 😡. Who voted for that fool?— Ix (@Ix)1547820245.0
The Kew researchers accessed climate data from Ethiopia in the last 40 years to determine the rate at which deforestation and warming temperatures were destroying the ecosystem.
They discovered that nearly a third of wild Arabica species were grown outside of conservation areas, making them more vulnerable for decimation.
Davis assured there is no immediate threat, but he did warn about the bleak future of coffee farming.
"As a coffee drinker you don't need to worry in the short term. What we are saying is that in the long term if we don't act now to preserve those key resources we don't have a very bright future for coffee farming."
The team also expressed concern for the livelihood of coffee farmers in Ethiopia, many of whom are forced to relocate because of climate change.
Davis suggested that wholesalers should pay the farmers a "fair price" so they can invest and improve upon their methods to secure the future of production.
But that would also require governments to regenerate forests to ensure the future of coffee farming.
According to E-Imports, 150 million Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day. The thought of that many people suddenly on coffee withdrawal because of climate change is a huge wake up call.