The Double Tsunami of Climate Change

Why be concerned about Climate Change?

2015 is the year that Climate Change broke into the front lines of social and political issues. With the Pope's encyclical this year it even became an endorsed moral imperative.  However, hiding just behind the first wave of environmental crisis that is Climate Change, upon which we are now focused, is a second wave still ignored (@2030now, @climatechange, @speciesextinction, @UNFCCC).  Just like the climate change issue, scientists in their fields of expertise have been warning about this second threat for decades and up till now have largely been ignored.  As Climate Change will likely amplify and expedite this second global crisis, it will soon take its rightful place along side Climate Change as the focus for our attention: the 6th Mass Extinction. It is as if nature is demanding an overhaul of humankind's way of relating to the environment. Or else.

Like a double tsunami, it will be a one/two punch.  The challenges are greater than you think. We will see, within our lifetimes..

1. CLIMATE CHANGE

  • more extreme weather
  • more severe storms - more flooding and more wind damage
  • more numerous, bigger and more severe wildfires
  • rising sea levels
  • food insecurity- unpredictable, extreme weather means unpredictable food production
  • mass migrations of refugees seeking water and food

How many things in that list have you seen reported in the news already? uh-huh. They will get worse before we can turn them around. As if that wasn't troubling enough, Climate Change also means...

2. MASS EXTINCTION

  • loss of up to 50% of species, both plants and animals
  • loss of genetic variability results in weakened populations with reduced capacity to resist disease and respond to environmental changes in subsequent generations.
  • loss of genetic stock also reduces our options for future medicines and therapies.
  • acidification of the oceans:

- coral reef die-off, 25% of ocean life requires the reefs for part of their lifecycle, and
- planktonic die-off, the foundation of the food pyramid of the ocean impacting populations of   all marine life and source for nearly 50% of atmospheric oxygen

  • migrations of wildlife searching for more suitable habitat and food
  • stressed wildlife host more disease, some of them contagious and lethal to humans
  • increased erosion, loss of topsoil - foliage mitigates weather and storm damage
  • loss of oxygen - nearly half of our oxygen comes from forests (which are in decline)
  • an impoverished environment with loss of the aesthetic and spiritual qualities of life.

Mass Extinction represents a great loss of natural resources - living things are our source for food, medicines, clothing, breathable air, and even manufactured goods- the foundation of our civilization and our very lives.

Climate Change has effects that are all up-in-your-face. Severe storms are easy to notice.  Species Extinction, however, is far less visible in the beginning. It is more subtle and easy to ignore early on. To a significant degree, Climate Change can be corrected - if humans respond quickly  and vigorously enough.  Extinctions, however, are forever. They can not be reversed. Further, the complex communities of interdependencies species comprise can not easily be reconstituted.  So while species extinctions may be more stealthy upon human awareness than Climate Change, their importance to the course of our future are no less profound.  According to the experts, the 6th Great Mass Extinction is already underway and deserves much more attention and effort than we have seen thus far, in order to curtail it. We can not afford to do too little, too late.

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About the author: Ken Jones is Founder and CEO of the conservation nonprofit called, A-Team For Wildlife.  A-Team For Wildlife represents professional wildlife conservation scientists, extinction experts, and the International A-Team For Wildlife of youth prodigies of conservation, come together for wildlife conservation.

www.A-TeamForWildlife.org


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