Earth entering sixth ‘mass extinction’ phase, scientists warn

By Savi Hensman
June 20, 2015

The earth is entering its sixth mass extinction event, biologists from several universities have warned. Without urgent action, many types of creatures will disappear, and humankind itself is at risk.

Even conservative estimates suggest that vertebrate species are disappearing at over a hundred times the usual rate, stated an article in Science Advances. This is one of the journals of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The evidence is incontrovertible that recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history. Our analysis emphasises that our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years”, the researchers wrote.

At that time an estimated 70-80 per cent of all species, including those dinosaurs that could not fly, perished.

“Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain, and climate change”, the article stated.

If this is allowed to continue, “ life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on," said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México.

In the words of another of the authors, Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, “We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on."

Pope Francis recently launched an encyclical on “care for our common home”, the earth. Various faith leaders also signed a Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change.

Yet, despite the overwhelming consensus among scientists that human action is causing huge environmental damage, there is still widespread denial. Politicians are often unwilling to offend those businesspeople who are concerned that their profits will be affected, and who have powerful media links in some parts of the world.

A change in the way that natural resources are viewed and the economy is run would also involve a major social upheaval. Leaders may be reluctant to tackle the controversy that might arise.

But as the scientific evidence grows, it is becoming increasingly clear that further delay could be catastrophic.


© Savitri Hensman is a widely-published Christian commentator of politics, religion, welfare and allied topics. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the care and equalities sector.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.