A paleontologist warns that our planet may be on the verge of a “mass extinction—when more than 75% of the Earth's known species die off in a geological eye blink.” This has occurred “five times in the 550 million years that diverse life has occupied Earth.”
Barnosky (Integrative Biology/Univ. of California; Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming, 2008, etc.) offers an assessment of how we can avert such a disaster while providing a decent standard of living for the world's human population and protecting our fellow species. In support of his prediction of a looming catastrophic event, he notes that today, increasing numbers of species are threatened with extinction as their death rates exceed their birth rates. As the author writes, the sum of “vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered species is a whopping 20,614 species.” In some instances, this is directly attributable to climate, but it is also due to the encroachment of humans. Barnosky examines recent evidence about the effects of global warming that supports his claim, including the calamitous results from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when Arctic air moving south intensified the effects of the storm. The author emphasizes the need for a rapid shift to alternative energies. In his opinion, such a transformation can, and should, take place without jeopardizing “the high quality of life that billions of people now enjoy and billions more aspire to.” Barnosky's goal is to significantly reduce global carbon emissions by 2050 using a variety of methods: carbon capture, protecting forests, soil conservation, a shift to wind and solar power, biofuels made from special grasses, electric cars and even advanced-design nuclear power generators. The author emphasizes that for such a program to succeed within 35 years, incentives must be offered entrepreneurs to encourage them to invest in green technologies.
A pragmatic approach to finding workable solutions to a looming crisis.