Indicators of Ecological Collapse

Climate Destabilization

Climate change is affecting us now.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods.35

Climate change will dramatically reduce access to fresh water.

Climate change over the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions, intensifying competition for water among sectors. In presently dry regions, drought frequency will likely increase by the end of the 21st century. Climate change is projected to reduce raw water quality and pose risks to drinking water quality even with conventional treatment, due to interacting factors: increased temperature; increased sediment, nutrient, and pollutant loadings from heavy rainfall; increased concentration of pollutants during droughts; and disruption of treatment facilities during floods.

The more warming that occurs in the 21st century, the more people will experience water scarcity and the more people will be affected by major river floods.36

Coastal and low-lying areas will suffer from rising sea levels.

Due to sea-level rise projected throughout the 21st century and beyond , coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion.36

Climate change may reduce crop production.

For the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production for local temperature increases of 2°C or more above late - 20th - century levels.36

Global temperatures are increasing dramatically.

According to the EPA, the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 1.40 F in the last 100 years.1 Climate models predict that the average temperature of the Earth could increase up to 11°F by the year 2100.33

For some perspective, the last ice age occurred at 11°F less than the current global temperature.

Global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise.

Global annual carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have risen from ~2,000 teragrams (2 million metric tons) in 1900 to ~32,000 teragrams (32 billion metric tons) in 2010.1

Human activity (especially in industrial economies) releases roughly 7.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere. That’s 20 million tons of carbon dioxide per day, 843,000 tons per hour, 14,000 tons per minute, and 230 tons per second.32

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide continue to rise.

Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have increased to 385 parts-per-million by volume (ppm)2, a 100-ppm increase since pre-industrial times.3 It rises by more than 2ppm each year.5 “The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5° to 10° F higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.”30

A 2008 conference of climate experts reported carbon levels are highly unlikely to be restricted to 650 ppm, or perhaps even 1000 ppm. Such levels would translate to an increase of roughly 11°F (6° C), enough to “bring extreme food and water shortages in vulnerable countries and cause floods that would displace hundreds of millions of people.” Other experts agree “we’re at the very top end of the worst case [emissions] scenario.” Carbon levels of 350 ppm or lower are required to “preserve a planet similar to that on which...life on Earth is adapted.”5

“It is also important to note that even reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050 will not eliminate all serious risks and damages.”6

Methane is escaping from the melting permafrost.

Gaseous methane has recently begun entering the atmosphere after escaping from melting permafrost in many Arctic regions. Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The Arctic region as a whole has seen a 4°C rise in average temperatures over recent decades.4

The Oceans

The oceans help sustain our atmosphere and provide a large portion of the world’s oxygen. When the healthy functioning of these systems becomes threatened, so does the very health of the biosphere.

Coral reefs are dying.

On the whole, coral reefs are dying. One quarter of the world's reefs have already been lost, and those remaining are under stress from pollution, sedimentation, destructive fishing practices and global climate change. Reefs have existed on Earth for millions of years, but up to 70% of the world's shallow reefs could be gone in the next few decades.25

Reefs harbor at least one quarter of all marine life. Besides giving habitat to creatures with their own inherent right to live, reefs comprise about 10% of the world's fisheries, with much of the catch feeding protein-starved people in underdeveloped countries. Because they support so much biodiversity, reefs, like tropical rain forests, offer excellent prospects for new medicines and natural compounds that can benefit humanity. Finally, reefs provide a natural seawall that protects many coastal populations from tides, storm surges and hurricanes.

Oceanic dead zones found all over the world are increasing at alarming rates.
Oceanic oxygen-deprived "dead zones" have been increasing since the 1970s and now number nearly 150, threatening fisheries as well as humans who depend on fish. These "dead zones" are caused by excess nitrogen from farm fertilizers, sewage, and emissions from vehicles and factories. In what experts call a “nitrogen cascade,” the contaminants flow untreated into oceans and trigger the proliferation of plankton, which in turn depletes oxygen in the water. While fish might flee this suffocation, slow moving, bottom-dwelling creatures like clams, lobsters and oysters are less able to escape.26
Corporations dump horrifying amounts of toxins into the oceans.
Corporations “dump on equivalent, at the smallest, 5,000,000 gallons per day of toxins...everything from benzene, acrylic nitrile, mercury, copper, you name it, they got it.”27

In 1997, the US Academy of Sciences estimated 6.4 million tons of annual global input of marine litter into the oceans.28

Phytoplankton populations are collapsing.

Research published in the journal Nature reveals there has been a 40% decline in ocean phytoplankton populations since 1950. These creatures are the foundation of the marine food web, produce as much as half the world's oxygen, and absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide.3

The oceans are acidifying.

Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago, when a mass extinction of marine species occurred.34

Mass Extinction

One-half of all species are threatened with extinction, primarily by industrial activity.

If nothing is done, one-half of all species will be gone by the end of the century14, including 1 in 4 mammal species, 1 in 8 bird species8, and 1 in 3 amphibian species. Just two years ago, only 1 in 4 mammal species were threatened with extinction.9

"The current extinction event is due to human activity, paving the planet, creating pollution, many of the things that we are doing today." The Earth might well lose half of its species in our lifetime.7

More than 100 species go extinct every day.10

The rate of extinction is increasing.

For the past 300 million years, excluding this century, approximately one species went extinct every four years. Today, scientists see one species going extinct every 15 minutes.11

Species extinction has increased to rates of 10 to 100 times greater than that of 30 years ago.12 Furthermore, current species extinction rates are thought by some experts to be grossly underestimated due to mathematical misdiagnosis.13

Deforestation

Forests are critical parts of many healthy ecosystems, as they prevent soil erosion and support healthy topsoil. Trees also act as huge carbon sinks, sequestering as much as 10% of the annual carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.18

The planet has lost 80% of its forest cover to deforestation.

The planet has already lost 80% of its forest cover to deforestation, and at the alarming rate at which trees are being cut, it won’t take much time for that figure to reach the 100% mark. The West African region, which boasted of lush green tropical forests in the 19th century, has been stripped of 90% of its forest cover over the last century. The same trend of deforestation continues in the two remaining rainforest biomes in South America and Asia respectively.37 The U.S. has lost 95% of its old growth forests.29

70 countries in the world no longer have any intact or original forests.15

Deforestation continues at incredibly unsustainable levels.

More than 72 acres of rainforest are destroyed every minute15, approximately enough to cover the entire state of Florida each year.

Between 8 and 16 billion trees are cut down every year. That averages to 22-44 million trees per day, 916,000 trees cut down per hour, 15,000 trees cut down per minute, 250 trees cut down per second.31

Formerly healthy land becomes desert at frightening rates

Every hour, more than 500 acres of land become desert. More than 4.8 billion acres worldwide are degraded. Loss of arable lands is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate,38 which was already dramatically higher than the natural rate.

Topsoil is lost far faster than it can be recreated.

More than 75% of the topsoil that existed worldwide when Europeans first colonized North America is now gone. Over 300 tons of topsoil are lost worldwide every minute. It takes an average of 400 years for a forest to create enough topsoil able to sustain crops.17

Agriculture is the most important cause of deforestation and soil loss.
Subsistence farming accounts for 46% of world deforestation, commercial agriculture for 32%, and logging for 14%.37 Cultivation of annual crops leads to massive soil loss.

Toxification

Industrial processes are contaminating the bodies of nearly every individual in this culture, as well as many others. Although the levels of toxins found in the body are often deemed as acceptable, their presence is a clear sign of the unhealthy nature of this culture's practices. We should not be surprised by the enormous increase in cancer rates in the United Sates when nearly every baby is receiving carcinogens from their mother's breast milk.

Dioxin is found in almost every mother's breast milk.
A 1987 study showed nearly every mother has dioxin, a known carcinogen, in her breast milk. The level of the most toxic form of dioxin in breast milk was enough to cause cancer eventually in 27 out of every million children who nurse for a year.19 Samples from mothers also show contaminants of over 350 chemicals from substances such as perfumes, suntan lotion, and pesticides.20

The percentage of girls under 8 years old with swollen breasts or pubic hair has gone from 1% to over 6% in just the last 8 years.21

Male sperm counts have dropped more than 30% in the past 60 years.22

More than a dozen highly toxic chemicals are present in our environment in large quantities.
Industrial technology has polluted our environment with these, and more:23
  • PCBs (Poly-chlorinated biphenyls), which are carcinogens
  • Dioxins, which are carcinogens
  • Furans, which are carcinogens
  • Aldrin, which is both a carcinogen and mutagen
  • Dieldrin, which is a carcinogen and linked to Parkinson’s disease
  • DDT, which is a carcinogen and xenoestrogen (artificial estrogen)
  • Endrin, which is toxic and adversely affects the nervous system
  • Chlordane, which damages the nervous system, digestive system, and liver, as well as being highly toxic
  • Hexachlorobenzene (HCB), which is a carcinogen
  • Mirex, which is a carcinogen
  • Toxaphene, which harms the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system
  • Heptachlor, which harms the liver and decreases fertility

Sources

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Basic Information.” http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html
  2. James Hansen et. al. “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2008.
  3. W. L. Hare. State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World. “A Safe Landing for the Climate”. The Worldwatch Institute. 14.
  4. 4 Steve Conner. The Independent. “Exclusive: The methane time bomb.” http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/exclusive-the-methane-time-bomb-938932.html
  5. David Adam. The Guardian. “Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/09/poznan-copenhagen-global-warming-targets-climate-change
  6. W. L. Hare. State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World. “A Safe Landing for the Climate”. The Worldwatch Institute. 13; M. Parry et al. “Squaring Up to Reality”. Nature Reports Climate Change.2008.
  7. “Study: World is Undergoing Mass Extinction.” United Press International.http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2008/10/21/Study_World_is_undergoing_mass_extinction/UPI-86681224612180/
  8. “Half of mammals ‘in decline’, says extinction Red List.” Agence France Presse. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hpftiFBrckhaI_mtTA15UzqTfubg
  9. International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2007 Conference
  10. “Species Extinction.” Rainforest Web http://rainforestweb.org/Rainforest_Information/Species_Extinction/
  11. Richard Leakey, expert on paleoanthropology
  12. Paul Roberts. The End of Food. Houghton Mifflin.
  13. “Species Extinction Threat Underestimated Due To Math Glitch.” Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080702132238.htm
  14. Edward Wilson, Pellegrino University Research Professor in Entomology at Harvard University
  15. Tzeporah Berman. The 11th Hour. Warner Independent Films.
  16. Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (study funded by World Bank and United Nations)
  17. Thom Hartmann. The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Three Rivers Press.
  18. “Executive Summary.” Environmental Protection Agency. http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads06/06ES.pdf
  19. Philip Shabecoff. “Dioxin in Breast Milk is Evaluated in Private Study.” The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9B0DE3DB133AF93BA25751C1A961948260
  20. “Breast milk studied for toxins.” BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/391514.stm
  21. Gldsmith, Zac. “Chemical-Induced Puberty.” Ecologist, January 2004, 4.
  22. Shiva Dindyal. “The sperm count has been decreasing steadily for many years in Western industrialised counties.” http://www.ispub.com/ostia/index.php?xmlFilePath=journals/iju/vol2n1/sperm.xml#r2
  23. “The Dirty Dozen.” United Nations Industrial Development Organization. http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=o29428
  24. “Zooplankton Populations Plunge 70 Percent in Four Decades; Alarming Marine Biologists.” Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/024798.html
  25. “The death of coral reefs.” San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/07/20/ED93305.DTL
  26. “150 'dead zones' counted in oceans.” MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4624359/
  27. Diane Wilson. The 11th Hour. Warner Independent Films.
  28. United Nations Environmental Program
  29. "Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests." By Derrick Jensen and George Draffan. 2003.
  30. "Coupling of CO2 and Ice Sheet Stability Over Major Climate Transitions of the Last 20 Million Years." By Aradhna K. Tripati, Christopher D. Roberts, and Robert A. Eagle. Science 4 December 2009: Vol. 326. no. 958, pp. 1394 - 1397 DOI: 10.1126/science.1178296. Abstract available here:http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/18/science-co2-levels-havent-been-this-high-for-15-million-years-when-it-was-5%C2%B0-to-10%C2%B0f-warmer-and-seas-were-75-to-120-feet-higher-we-have-shown-that-this-dramatic-rise-in-sea-level-i/
  31. "Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005." United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/008/A0400E/A0400E00.pdf
  32. "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast" By David Archer. 3rd Edition, 2008 (with addendum)
  33. "World on course for catastrophic 6° rise, reveal scientists." The Independent, November 2009. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/world-on-course-for-catastrophic-6deg-rise-reveal-scientists-1822396.html
  34. "Nature Stunner: “Global warming blamed for 40% decline in the ocean’s phytoplankton” July 29, 2010. http://climateprogress.org/2010/07/29/nature-decline-ocean-phytoplankton-global-warming-boris-worm/
  35. IPCC PRESS RELEASE: IPCC Report: A changing climate creates pervasive risks but opportunities exist for effective responses. 31 March 2014. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf
  36. IPCC SUMMARY FOR POLICYMAKERS: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf
  37. World Preservation Foundation: Deforestation Statistics. June 2010. http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/blog/news/deforestation-statistics/#.U0nQJ1cVCok
  38. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification: "Desertification, Land Degradation, & Drought"
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