Environment

The planet is dying faster than we thought

Humanity is barreling toward a “ghastly future” of mass extinctions, health crises and constant climate-induced disruptions to society — one that can only be prevented if world leaders start taking environmental threats seriously.

A eam of 17 researchers based in the United States, Mexico and Australia describes three major crises facing life on Earth: climate disruption, biodiversity decline and human overconsumption and overpopulation. Citing more than 150 studies, the team argues that these three crises — which are poised only to escalate in the coming decades — put Earth in a more precarious position than most people realize, and could even jeopardize the human race.

What will that future look like? Nature will be a lot lonelier. Since the start of agriculture 11,000 years ago, Earth has lost an estimated 50% of its terrestrial plants and roughly 20% of its animal biodiversity. If current trends continue, as many as 1 million of Earth’s 7 million to 10 million plant and animal species could face extinction in the near future.

Such an enormous loss of biodiversity would also disrupt every major ecosystem on the planet, with fewer insects to pollinate plants, fewer plants to filter the air, water and soil, and fewer forests to protect human settlements from floods and other natural disasters.

Meanwhile, those same phenomena that cause natural disasters are all predicted to become stronger and more frequent due to global climate change. Overpopulation will not make anything easier. By 2050, the world population will likely grow to ~9.9 billion. This booming growth will exacerbate societal problems like food insecurity, housing insecurity, joblessness, overcrowding and inequality.

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