We’re in a crisis of confidence about the future of the planet, scientists warn, as a new study suggests a global warming spike is now “almost certain” and “unprecedented”.
Key points:The world is experiencing a warming surge that scientists say is nearly certain to trigger a mass extinctionThe study, published in the journal Science, said it was now “very unlikely” there would be any mass extinctions in the next 50 to 100 yearsThe study found that there was “now very likely” that a warming spike would lead to a mass extinction within the next half century, as well as “a rapid increase in temperature”.
“It’s very likely that, if we don’t take steps to mitigate climate change, the world will go through this in the same way that the dinosaurs went through this, because we will not have any significant, sustained change in the climate, we will have no long-term solution for the problems we face,” said lead author Prof Anthony Leiserowitz, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds.
The research, conducted by a team of scientists led by Professor Leiserows, showed that the rate of climate change and its effects on marine species were set to become more extreme.
It was the first time scientists had estimated how much of a change in temperature could cause a mass mortality.
“If you want to understand how fast we’re going to see the world go extinct, we have to know when the tipping point is,” Professor Leisers told Al Jazeera.
“That’s what we’re really trying to understand, so that we can understand what happens when the threshold is crossed and what happens if it’s exceeded.”
Professor Leiserow said the study was important because it showed there was now a very good chance that global warming would lead not only to mass extirpations but also to a rapid increase, with the chances of extinction growing by a factor of two every year.
“We are heading for extinction, the tipping points are almost there, we just have to deal with it now,” he said.
“The question now is what are we going to do about it?
And that’s what I think we need to understand in the coming months.”
The study’s findings echo those of earlier research that found a “mass extinction event” was becoming more likely in the years to come.
In 2016, a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) reported that the number of extinctions was set to surpass 1,000 within the decade, with an increase of more than 200% in the last 100 years.
In response to the WHOI study, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in 2018 which said there was a 70% chance that the world would become uninhabitable by 2065.
This year, scientists have also warned that the Earth may become unlivable within the same timeframe.
The latest study, from the researchers at the universities of Leeds and Oxford, was conducted on data from a database of coral reef ecosystems around the world, which are used to monitor and quantify global ocean conditions.
The data shows a steady rise in the number and frequency of mass extulsions in the past half century.
In the past 10 years, for example, the number one recorded event in the global coral reef system, the extirpy coralline algae, was increased by more than 300%, and the number in the marine algae group, the polychaete algae, by more that 2,000%.
“The coral reefs around the globe have been under pressure over the last 50 years and we have seen this increase in the rate at which these species are dying,” said Prof Leiserots.
“I think the most worrying thing is that the ocean has been warming faster than the coral reefs.
The warming of the oceans is changing the conditions of the reefs and we are seeing these changes now.”
The researchers said this increase was a result of “a large-scale, coordinated, and widespread loss of coral reefs across the globe, and the increasing impacts of climate and pollution.”
“Our study shows that mass extictions will likely occur more frequently as we go through a global climate change that is very likely to result in mass extinction,” said Professor Leisherowitz.
“It is likely that we will see an increased likelihood of mass extinction in the 2070s, a year before we go into a new ice age, when we could see mass extunctions occurring in the Arctic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and across the oceans.”
In the first study, researchers mapped the locations of the most extreme events, such as coral bleaching, coral death, and coral death caused by algae and CO2.
They then measured how much coral was surviving, using methods known as “biogeochemical techniques”.
They then looked at the results of those methods to see how much time had elapsed since the first mass extinction event.
“A lot of the time, we can see that coral is not growing back fast enough,” said professor