mass extinction

Scientists say Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction event, with plant and animal species dying off at a rapid rate. The Trump administration’s latest action could make it even worse.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press (AP) the Trump administration is proposing sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act — the legislation credited with saving the Bald Eagle and other plant and animal species from extinction.

An official not authorized to speak publicly on the proposed changes told the AP that the proposed changes would end blanket protections for species that had been newly deemed to be endangered, and would allow government agencies to consider the “economic cost” of protecting endangered species. Federal authorities would also be allowed to disregard the impact of global warming in determining whether or not a plant or animal species is to be deemed endangered.

This is particularly significant, as the Center for Biological Diversity warned back in 2010 that the planet was “in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals — the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years.”

We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at up to 1,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.

And they aren’t the only ones warning of mass extinction — a United Nations committee warned earlier this year that roughly 12.5% of Earth’s eight million species face extinction in the coming decades if there is no drastic action to slow the effects of global warming and curb human activity in sensitive ecosystems. According to the committee’s report, which was composed by scientific experts from 50 different countries, humans are “eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Other warnings of mass extinction have been more dire. In 2018, atmospheric chemistry professor James Anderson — whose research led to the creation of the Montreal Protocol of 1987 — called for a global “Marshall Plan”-like endeavor involving all countries drastically reducing their CO2 output by 2023, or else the trend of global warming would be irreversible and would eventually lead to the mass extinction of humanity.

(Featured image: Staecker/Wikimedia Commons)

 

Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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