According to calculations done by a Japanese climate expert, the next major mass extinction won’t happen until the year 2500 AD at the earliest.
Heatwaves in recent years are a result of climate change that has been accelerated by human activity over the past few centuries. Extreme heat to extreme cold and back again cycles occur on our home planet. There have been instances where a huge number of species have vanished in a relatively short amount of time as the cycle proceeds from the peak of extreme cold to the peak of excessive heat. Events like these are known as mass extinctions.
In case you didn’t know, over the previous 540 million years, the Earth has experienced five such major extinction events. 95 percent of the world’s species perished in the greatest of these episodes, which took place 250 million years ago. When the next one is most likely to occur has been the subject of scientific speculation.
following mass extinction
Previous research has demonstrated that asteroids or volcanic activity-induced climate change are closely followed by catastrophic extinction events. The Japanese climate scientist Kunio Kaiho discovered a nearly linear relationship between them when he attempted to correlate the stability of the Earth’s average surface temperature to that of its biodiversity. The amount of extinctions increases along with a temperature rise.
But there was a little variation. Kaiho discovered that when the Earth cools, extinction rates peak at a 7°C drop in temperature. The biggest mass extinctions, though, occur when temperatures have risen by 9°C as the Earth is warming.
According to Kaiho’s estimations, the Earth is currently in a period of global warming, thus much more warming is required for us to achieve the terrible benchmark. To put that into perspective, prior research has indicated that an increase in Earth’s temperature of just 5.2oC would result in a global extinction event similar to the one that has already occurred.
Additionally, efforts now are concentrated on preventing the Earth from warming by as much as 4.4oC by the end of the century, despite climate scientists’ warnings that this might happen at the current rate of emissions.
Then, do we have more free time?
Even under the worst-case scenario, according to Kahlo, the planet’s temperatures won’t alter by 9°C until 2500 A.D. Did our safety net just get wider then? Is there still time for us to reduce our emissions?
In Kahlo’s opinion, no. Because the reasons for the anthropogenic extinction are different from the causes of mass extinctions in geologic time, Kahlo said it is difficult to predict the future anthropogenic extinction magnitude using simply surface temperature.
He is saying that species are still at risk due to the climatic change that human civilization has exacerbated. His calculations indicate that while the damage may not be as extensive as in other incidents, it is nonetheless occurring more quickly.
Over 60,000 years, the largest mass extinction known to science occurred 250 million years ago. But in a few millennia, what we are currently facing will happen far more quickly. Even if the warming may not be great, the rapid rate of change may not give species enough time to adapt, and we may wind up losing more species in the next extinction event. Only humanity will be accountable for it.