Warning of Sixth Mass Extinction, Scientists Implore Global Action

“The serious warning in our paper needs to be heeded because civilization depends utterly on the plants, animals, and microorganisms of Earth that supply it with essential ecosystem services.”
—Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday argues based on “current trends of population declines and extinctions” that we are currently witnessing Earth’s “sixth mass extinction.”

“Population extinctions today are orders of magnitude more frequent than species extinctions,” the study’s authors—scientists Gerardo Ceballos, Paul Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo—argue.

They continue:

The scientists suggest that while multiple factors have contributed to the “biological annihilation” that has accelerated rapidly in recent decades, “the ultimate drivers” are “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich.”

Given that “the sixth mass extinction is already here” and not merely a dire possibility to be guarded against in the distant future, “the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most,” the scientists write.