Sorry, Climate Change. There's Another Problem

Tamar Stelling has a new way to measure Earth's loss of species
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2020 6:00 PM CDT
Sorry, Climate Change. There's Another Problem
In this file photo provided by the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre, the tail fluke of a white whale migrates along Australia's east coast off Byron Bay, 300 miles north of Sydney, Australia.   (AP Photo/Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre, Dan Burns, File)

Climate change isn't our only environmental problem—and evidence lies in the North Sea. Back in the 16th century a Dutch fishmonger could witness "whales everywhere, as far as the eye can see," writes Tamar Stelling at the Correspondent. "Some majestically spring from the water as they migrate from north to south. For hours on end. Can you picture it?" Since then, such massive whale migrations have vanished along with much of the world's whale population. That loss is part of an ongoing biodiversity crisis that some consider an even greater threat than weird weather and rising oceans. But Stelling sees a problem with quantifying that die-off and communicating it to the public, so she's offering a solution, called Gross Biomass Product or GBP.

At issue is the counting of species. It's been said that "a million species are threatened with extinction," but that's just an estimate. Enter Israeli biologist and physicist Ron Milo, who measured the carbon weight of all species in 2018. Apparently it comes to 500 gigatonnes of carbon, 90% of which is plants, 5% bacteria, and only 0.4% animals! "In the last thousand years there has been a strong decrease in biomass, caused by humans," says Milo. "Without a doubt." And humans need non-human life to keep living on Earth. So Stelling suggests we have a constant GBP rating and see how it affects people's life choices. "Me, I would happily trade some material goods to see thousands of whales moving in unison along Dutch shores again," she writes. Click for her full piece. (Or see what's happened to the Endangered Species Act.)

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