A ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ Coming Up? Crunching the Numbers

By Paul MacRae

In a popular textbook on writing creative non-fiction, the authors echo a familiar claim of global-warming alarmists: that thanks to our carbon emissions, we are creating a “sixth mass extinction” that will wipe out most of the planet’s animals and possibly humanity itself. The authors write:

Your [the reader’s] life has witnessed the eclipse of hundreds of thousands of species, even if they passed out of this world without your awareness. (The current rate of species extinction is matched only by that of the age of the dinosaurs’ demise.)[emphasis added][1]

This belief in a “current” mass extinction (usually blamed on climate change but also, much more plausibly, on habitat encroachment) is widely held and often cited by the environmental and anti-global-warming movements.

For example, eco-crusader and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, contended that we are losing 100 species a day, or almost 40,000 species a year.[2] Gore took this figure from a book by biologist Norman Myers; where Myers got his numbers is discussed below.

In his 2006 film and accompanying book, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore makes a similar although slightly vaguer claim:

Global warming, along with the cutting and burning of forests and other critical habitats, is causing the loss of living species at a level comparable to the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That event was believed to have been caused by a giant asteroid. This time it is not an asteroid colliding with the Earth and wreaking havoc; it is us. [emphasis added][3]

In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), issued a news release warning that a million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction in the next few decades due to human activities, activities that include but are not limited to climate change.[4]

As a story, the prospect of a sixth mass extinction is certainly highly dramatic and conveys what many feel is an “emotional” as well as factual truth—that many species are at threat due to human activities (as they are) and that we should be concerned (as we should).

But is Gore’s claim of 40,000 extinctions a year; or the textbook authors’ assertion of “hundreds of thousands” (or more) extinctions in a lifetime, as a “match” to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs; or the IPBES’s prediction of a million possible extinctions in the next few decades—are these claims based on actual empirical data? Or are they based on computer algorithms plus a lot of guesswork to create an alarming picture that doesn’t reflect reality?

Extreme claims need strong evidence

Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), also known as “Darwin’s bulldog,” was a pioneer of modern science. A basic principle of science, he wrote in 1896, is that

It is a canon of common sense, to say nothing of science, that the more improbable a supposed occurrence, the more cogent ought to be the evidence in its favour. [emphasis added][5]

More recently, astronomer Carl Sagan put the same idea this way:

Apocalyptic predictions require, to be taken seriously, higher standards of evidence than do assertions on other matters where the stakes are not as great.” [emphasis added][6]

(Huxley’s and Sagan’s view, by the way, is the opposite of the “precautionary principle,” which argues that if an apocalyptic disaster could occur, we must act as if it will occur, whether we have credible evidence or not.)

A sixth mass extinction certainly qualifies as “apocalyptic,” with high stakes for humanity and the natural world if true. But is there a “high standard” of evidence, as Sagan suggests, to support this claim?

The five ‘mass extinctions’

Mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Source: Our World in Data, “Extinctions”. Note that the extinction rate for present times would have to be many times current numbers to reach the same levels as the five earlier “mass” extinctions.

Let’s look at the five earlier mass extinctions to see how our human-caused so-called “sixth mass extinction” stacks up so far.

The graph clearly shows shows that the extinction rate for present times would have to be many times current numbers to reach the same levels as the five earlier “mass” extinctions. It also shows there have been many smaller extinction events interspersed among the five big ones (and we may well be causing one of these minor extinction events).[7]

  • The “fifth” mass extinction 65 million years ago, caused by an asteroid impact, killed almost 100 per cent of dinosaurs (except for a few that evolved into birds) and an estimated 75-85 per cent of all species, including all land mammals larger than 25 kilograms. Before the asteroid strike, massive volcanic activity (the Deccan Traps) may have already reduced the number of species.[8]
  • The “fourth” mass extinction, 200 million years ago, killed 70-75 per cent of all species; volcanic activity and some sort of asteroid strike may have been the cause.
  • The “third” mass extinction, 252 million years ago, was the worst of the five and claimed 90-95 per cent of all species. It was probably triggered by massive volcanic eruptions (the Siberian traps) that reduced oxygen levels in the oceans (anoxia).[9]
  • The “second” mass extinction, about 360 million years ago, took about 70 per cent of all species. Again, volcanoes may have been involved.
  • The “first” mass extinction, about 450 million years ago, killed 85 per cent of all species, likely due to global cooling, with, again, low levels of oxygen.

All these mass extinctions were caused by enormous geological and/or cosmic forces. Does an extinction rate of 70-95 per cent of all species in present times, with no killer asteroid or massive volcanic eruptions in sight, seem probable? Or highly “improbable,” to use Huxley’s wording?

We don’t know how many species exist

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) keeps track of known extinctions and threatened animals and publishes its results as a “Red List” online at https://www.iucnredlist.org.

And, for a start, while the IUCN is vitally concerned about vanishing species—it believes up to 40,000 species (not a million) are currently “at risk”—it also acknowledges that we don’t know how many species there are on the planet, surely a key piece of information if we’re going to claim a sixth “mass” extinction rivaling the previous five.

The IUCN estimates the number of possible species as anywhere from five million to 30 million; its best guess is 14-18 million.[10] A 2011 paper on biodiversity estimates 8.7 million species, plus or minus 1.3 million, based on statistical analysis.[11]

However, at the moment, the IUCN reports that only about 2.1 million species have actually been identified and named. The additional millions of species that underpin the sixth “mass extinction” claim may exist, or they may be imaginary. We don’t know.

Known extinctions = 900 species over 500 years

The IUCN’s estimate of the number of known extinctions since 1500 is about 900.[12] That’s just under two known species extinctions a year over 500 years. Two extinctions a year over 500 years is regrettable and, given the quickened pace of human industrial and agricultural activity, it’s likely the recent extinction rate per year is higher than the overall average of two species a year. But how much higher? Enough to justify the label “sixth mass extinction”?

A 2012 academic paper reported that 129 bird species and 61 mammal species—the species we tend to care most about because they’re the most visible to us—were known to have gone extinct since 1500.[13]

That’s fewer than one species per year (about 0.4 species per year to be more precise) but, of course, this figure does not include the many non-avian/non-mammalian species, such as insects, reptiles, amphibians, slugs, corals, etc., that are included in the 900 known extinctions.

However, the 2012 study also found that the vast majority of known extinctions—95 per cent—were on islands; only five per cent of known extinctions were on continents. On continents, the study reported, six bird and three mammal species are known to have gone extinct since 1500. On islands, where species at risk have no place to go and are therefore more vulnerable to environmental stress than continental species, the numbers were much higher—123 extinct bird species and 58 extinct mammal species.

These losses are, again, very unfortunate, but they are still far from a mass extinction given that the vast majority of species live on the continents and continents make up about 95 per cent of the world’s land surface.

Zeroing in on more recent research, a 2020 paper estimates that ten bird species and five mammal species have gone extinct since 1993.[14] That’s 15 species in 27 years (1993-2020), or about half a species a year (at least for mammals and birds; again, other forms of life such as insects, reptiles, amphibians, corals, etc., aren’t included).

Many species are saved from extinction, too

By contrast, however, the article also estimates that the number of species of birds saved from extinction by conservation since 1993 was 9-18 species; the number of mammal species similarly saved is estimated at two to seven. (As anyone who watches the nature channels knows, humans are working very hard to save endangered species, with some success.)

Taking the worst-case scenario—that is, that the “saved” species were also allowed to go extinct—we would in total have lost 28 bird species and 12 mammal species, for a total of 40 species in 27 years. This is just over one and a half bird and mammal species a year.

Even if we include the much more numerous insects, frogs, reptiles, and other less visible forms of life that have also undoubtedly perished in these 27 years, there is no statistical gymnastics that could plausibly produce the 100 extinctions a day, or 40,000 extinctions a year, that climate alarmists like Gore, the IPBES, and many other alarmists predict as constituting a “mass” extinction.

Indeed, some scientists have even reported that new species have evolved within the last century to cope with the pressures of humanity. For this good news, see Chris D. Thomas, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.[15]

Extinctions: inflating the numbers

So, how do alarmist environmentalists come up with these wildly inflated extinction figures amounting to a “sixth mass extinction” comparable to that of the dinosaurs’?

For a start, again, the actual number of species isn’t known. But let’s say there are 8.7 million species, the vast majority still not identified. Using the IUCN yardstick (900 known lost species for 2.1 million known species) gives us an extinction rate of .04% of all (known) species over 500 years.

If we apply this 0.04% extinction rate to 8.7 million species (three-quarters of them unknown and therefore hypothetical) we would expect 3,480 extinctions in 500 years (of which, to repeat, only 900 are actually known). That’s about seven extinctions a year since 1500, which is far, far from the 40,000 extinctions a year estimated by Gore, Myers, and other alarmists.

Let’s consider the highest number of possible species estimated: 30 million—maybe that will give us the tens of thousands of extinctions a year that Gore and others would have us believe. No such luck.

For 30 million species, pro-rated at 0.04%, the total extinctions over 500 years would be 12,000, or 24 extinctions a year. This is bad, but, again, far from the “100 extinctions a day,” or “40,000 extinctions a year” that alarmists like Gore and others would have us believe. That said, those 12,000 hypothesized species extinctions in 500 years are based on an unrealistically high estimate of species numbers (30 million) that may or may not (and almost certainly don’t) exist.

But whatever species number we use—2.1 million, 8.7 million, even 30 million—by no stretch of the imagination does a plausible extinction rate in our time compare to the mass die-off of 65 million years ago nor the four mass extinctions before that.

In the last major extinction, huge regions of the planet were destroyed in an asteroid-strike disaster that has been compared to the results of nuclear war (including a years-long “nuclear winter”). If we were approaching this level of extinctions in our own time, wouldn’t we notice? Especially in an era of mass communications in which humans are vitally concerned with, for example, the numbers of condors and spotted owls?

So, again, where do these wildly exaggerated estimates of modern-day extinctions, the “sixth mass extinction,” come from?

Extinction ‘estimate’ taken as fact

Ecologist Dr. Norman Myers was one of the first to warn about what he called a “human-caused biotic holocaust.” In his 1979 book The Sinking Ark, Myers wrote:

“Let us suppose that, as a consequence of this manhandling of the natural environments, the final one-quarter of this century witnesses the elimination of one million species, a far from unlikely prospect. This would work out, during the course of 25 years, at an average rate of 40,000 species per year, or rather over 100 species per day.” [emphasis added][16]

As it might, if there were any empirical evidence to support this claim. However, as Myers himself later acknowledged: “The estimate of 40,000 extinctions per year was strictly a first-cut assessment, preliminary and exploratory, and advanced primarily to get the issue of extinction onto scientific and political agendas.” [emphasis added][17] In other words, Myers was using scare tactics rather than scientific facts to make his case.

That is, the “40,000 extinctions a year” figure is a propaganda tool, an “emotional truth,” with no actual evidence whatsoever behind it. This “emotional truth” is then taken up and passed on to the public as factual truth by environmentalist campaigners like Gore.

In a 2006 talk in Australia, Myers stuck to his rhetorical guns, claiming that 50 per cent of the earth’s 10 million species (Myers’s estimate) may be lost if fossil-fuel use continues.[18]

It’s worth remembering that Myers’s 2006 estimate of massive extinctions to come is still, like his 1979 estimate, pure speculation, based on no empirical evidence. (In the same talk, Myers urged Australians to abandon fossil fuels and nuclear power in favor of “renewable” energy sources, which would be a great way of causing the extinction of hundreds of millions of people who depend on modern technological civilization.)

With these facts in mind, shouldn’t we all be asking ourselves: Does this claim of a “sixth” mass extinction seem reasonable, or even plausible?

‘Sixth mass extinction’ exists only in computer models

If we do some actual investigation we discover that, quite apart from well-meant but fanciful propaganda efforts like Gore’s and Myers’s, other claims of hundreds of thousands of current and future extinctions are in part based on computer models that purport to estimate the number of extinctions for a certain area. Of these models, science writer Fred Pearce asks:

Can we really be losing thousands of species for every loss that is documented? Some ecologists believe the high estimates are inflated by basic misapprehensions about what drives species to extinction. So where do these big estimates come from? Mostly, they go back to the 1980s, when forest biologists proposed that extinctions were driven by the “species-area relationship.”[19]

Species-area relationship studies, Pearce explains, assume that an area of a habitat, such as a tropical rain forest, holds a certain number of species, many or most of them unknown to us, so the species number in that area is estimated by a computer algorithm.

If a portion of the pristine habitat is logged, burned, developed or otherwise lost, then the algorithm predicts that a similar proportion of species will also be lost (go extinct)—perhaps dozens or even hundreds a day, assuming these postulated species actually exist in the numbers the computer models predict.

Using this mathematical calculus of many hypothesized (but actually unknown and possibly imaginary) species, it’s possible to predict thousands of extinctions a year from habitat loss and climate change, even though these lost creatures are never actually seen by anyone because they exist only in the computer models.

For example, biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that the rain forests (e.g., the Amazon) contain about 10 million species (again, nobody knows the actual number).

If the destruction of rain forests is more than one per cent a year, then using the species-area formula, Wilson calculated that 77,000 species would be lost every year (which is even more than Gore’s and Myers’s more “conservative” estimates).[20] This really would constitute a “biotic holocaust”—770,000 species lost in a decade, 7.7 million lost in a century! We’d lose about 70 per cent of all species in a few lifetimes! That would definitely be a “mass extinction.”

But let’s assume Wilson is right in his calculations. How much would the physical existence of humanity be affected by the loss of these “77,000 species” a year in sections of destroyed rain forest, given that no one has ever seen 90 per cent of these species and that they exist only in computer models?

And the realistic answer is: we would survive. While we might feel emotionally devastated, the fact is we didn’t know these thousands of species were in the rain forest before and we would therefore not be aware of their loss (unless the planet’s biosphere collapsed, which is unlikely—see death of the megafauna in the Americas, below).

Under the species-area formula, wrote Australian researcher Nigel Stork in a 2009 paper cited by Pearce, the planet would have lost up to half its species in the last 40 years, which is patently not the case. Instead, Stork concluded: “There are almost no empirical data to support estimates of current extinctions of 100, or even one, species a day.”[21]

But these vastly inflated numbers are widely accepted and cited not because they are based in actual, like, you know, scientific evidence, but because they are “dramatic” and convey an “emotional truth” that advances the alarmist environmental agenda.

The Americas: Death of the megafauna

We know that humans have had and are having a major impact on the animal and plant world. Indeed, one of the largest human impacts occurred when aboriginal people from Siberia migrated to North and South America 11,000 years ago (or earlier) and, in the view of many researchers, exterminated all of the megafauna then existing on those continents: mammoths and mastodons, giant sloths, giant wolves and bears, huge predatory cats including the sabre-tooth cat (Smilodon), even giant beavers and armadillos.

If ever there was a “human-caused biotic holocaust” this was it, and the same biotic holocaust of large animals and birds is believed to have occurred in Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, and elsewhere (mostly islands) after the arrival of humans.

Of course this view of human “overkill” contradicts the politically correct view that aboriginal peoples are and always have been the “conservators” of their lands. Therefore Ross D.E. McPhee, in his 2019 book End of the Megafauna, argues that many researchers are reluctant to place the blame on aboriginal hunters, and believe that climate change and other environmental factors were more likely the main cause of the North and South American megafauna extinctions.[22]

A book from a slightly earlier (1997), less politically correct era is unequivocal after examining the evidence for and against the human “overkill” hypothesis:

“We know ‘whodunit.’ We did it. Our species, our kind—humanity—armed only with stone-tipped spears, caused the extinction of the great mammoths and mastodons and perhaps that of many other large mega-mammal species. We did it simply by killing off about 2% of the population per year, year after year.”[23]

E.O. Wilson is also solidly on the side of humans, not climate, as “the planetary killer” in his 2002 book The Future of Life. In fact, Chapter 4 of his book is entitled “The Planetary Killer” and notes, “The noble savage never existed.”[24]

But political correctness aside, how can we be sure humans almost certainly “dunnit”, in the Americas and elsewhere? Because these same megafauna survived more than one previous interglacial warm period like our own (we are currently in the latest interglacial of a two-million-year-old ice age). Only in the current interglacial, with the growing human presence, were the megafauna of the Americas, Australia and elsewhere exterminated.

To be consistent with alarmist “sixth mass extinction” claims of impending planetary doom, the deaths of all the megafauna in North and South America should have precipitated a biological and ecological collapse (the “biotic holocaust”), a cascade of extinctions (like pulling the thread on a sweater that unravels the whole sweater) that included the Stone Age aboriginal hunters who caused them.

Again, no such luck—nature is much more resilient than eco-alarmists believe. Somehow the biosphere of the two American continents and their remaining animals, including the humans, survived and managed to thrive, as did the surviving animals and people of Australia, New Zealand, and other regions. In other words, the loss of these megafauna was a tragedy, but it did not pose an existential threat to humans or other animals on any of the continents.

Yet today many environmental groups claim that their cause is aimed at preventing an existential crisis for humanity (we’re all gonna die!). For example, a British Columbia old-growth-forest campaigner argues: “It’s literally our future, the future of humanity is dependent on protecting these carbon sinks and lowering carbon emissions.”[25]

The reality is that even if a “sixth mass extinction” that didn’t include a planet-killer asteroid or massive volcanic eruptions did occur (highly unlikely, but if), humanity and its civilizations would almost certainly survive. The megafauna extinctions in the Americas and elsewhere show that, by any rational standard, these “biotic holocaust” claims are pure rhetorical “overkill.”

The ‘background’ extinction rate myth

One final alarmist claim needs to be mentioned: that the current extinction rate is a “hundred” to a “thousand” (or even “ten thousand”) times higher than the “background” rate of extinctions (that is, the extinctions that would occur without human interference).

This sounds very scary and the strong implication is that extinctions a “hundred” or a “thousand” times above the “background” level are equivalent to the “sixth mass extinction” (40,000 extinctions a year) claimed by Gore, Myers, Wilson and others. [26] As we’ll see, this impression is seriously misleading.

E.O. Wilson sets the “background” extinction rate at one species per million species per year.[27] This fits well with the known extinction rate: two million known species, two known species extinctions a year since 1500. If there are eight million species, then we’d expect eight species extinctions a year as “background.” In other words, the known extinction rate appears to be about the same as the estimated “background” extinction rate.

But, for Wilson, the human-caused rate is actually a hundred to a thousand to ten thousand times higher than the background rate thanks to the “species-area” hypothesis. This gives us extinction figures for eight million species of 800 species a year (if a hundred times) to 8,000 extinctions a year (if a thousand times) to 80,000 extinctions a year (if ten thousand times), which is more or less Wilson’s estimate of 77,000 extinctions a year.

Only if we accept the most extreme estimate—ten thousand times the “background” extinction rate—do we approach and then almost double Gore’s and Myers’s 40,000 lost species a year. But a death rate of 80,000 species a year seems highly “improbable,” in Thomas Huxley’s words, and lacks “cogent” empirical proof, unless computer models are considered empirical proof.

A 2015 paper estimates that the natural, “background” extinction rate (i.e., without humans) for vertebrates—mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish—was nine vertebrate species since 1900. That’s about one-tenth of a vertebrate species a year in 114 years (up to 2015), which is quite a bit lower than Wilson’s estimate for all species, vertebrate and non-vertebrate, of two species a year (assuming two million known species).

The likely extinctions, according to this paper, are 468 vertebrate species in 114 years, or about four species a year.[28]

Doing the math: If the natural “background” extinction rate for vertebrates is nine species in 114 years, or about one-tenth of a species a year, and the observed rate is 468 species over that time, or about four vertebrate species a year, then we have an extinction rate for vertebrates that is 52 times the “background” rate. This is half the “hundred” times the background rate, and nowhere near a “thousand” or “ten thousand” times the natural rate.

Four extinct vertebrate species a year is four too many and humans need to do better. And, of course, this calculation doesn’t include non-vertebrates, which might bring the extinction number closer to the claimed “hundred” times the background rate, or about ten species a year over 114 years (again recognizing that these are largely computer-generated numbers, not actual known species).

But even with a fudge factor for unknown species, four or ten or even twenty extinct species a year—numbers that might actually approach a “hundred” times the postulated “background” rate—are a far, far cry from Gore’s or Myers’s “100 species a day” or “40,000 species a year.” Ten or twenty species a year is bad, but it is not a “sixth mass extinction,” even if it is a scary-sounding “one hundred times” the background rate. The numbers just don’t add up and this argument is just more misleading alarmist propaganda.

For alarmists, however, even ten extinctions a year can be seen as equivalent to a “mass extinction” since this rate of extinction is considerably higher than the “background” rate and, at this rate over many years, extinctions could eventually reach the 70-plus percentage of extinct species that defines a “mass” extinction (assuming humans did nothing to stop or slow down the slaughter, which we would).

Taking a reasonable worst-case-scenario of ten extinct species a year, and assuming ten million species, a “sixth mass extinction” of 70 per cent of species (seven million) would take 700,000 years. In that very long time (anatomically modern humans have only existed for about 200,000 years), humanity would undoubtedly take steps to prevent this level of species loss, assuming humans still exist in 700,000 years.

In other words, claims of a modern-day “sixth mass” extinction may be “rate-based” rather than “numbers-based,” even if the actual number of extinct species was nowhere near 70 per cent or higher. It’s another example of torturing the data until it says what the alarmist researchers want it to.[29]

Again, this doesn’t mean extinctions aren’t occurring and in greater numbers than previously. It just means that we aren’t facing a “sixth” mass extinction, with losses ranging from 70 to 95 per cent of all major species, as occurred during the previous five “mass” extinctions.

Why do scientists exaggerate?

Which raises the question, at least for reasonable people: why are scientists, who should be the keepers of the flame of Truth, continuing to support this absurd “sixth mass extinction” scare story?

The answer, or part of the answer, is that working almost entirely with computer models, rather than empirical data, many scientists sincerely believe that global warming will be a disaster, although to do this they have to ignore or downplay evidence that Earth’s climate has been much warmer in the geological past without destroying the planet and its creatures.

But by exaggerating in this blatant way, alarmist scientists and environmentalists don’t realize that they are, in fact, harming their cause with the public, or at least the informed public. Most of us are vitally concerned with preventing extinctions: we care deeply about endangered gorillas and elephants and rhinos, and even the spotted owl. But, as Stalin put it, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

When we read threats of millions of species dying, we have three choices: we can blindly believe these extreme claims (like Gore and the authors of the writing textbook mentioned at the start of this article); or we can tune out (“a million deaths is a statistic”); or, as I’ve tried to do here, we might actually investigate whether a claim like a current “sixth mass extinction” is plausible.

Once the human-caused “sixth mass extinction” is revealed as wildly improbable, then climate alarmism’s other, possibly more valid assertions also come under suspicion. Scientists must be honest; truth is a scientist’s highest calling. When we learn that scientists are deliberately embellishing the facts, or lying, or misleading the public, as they are with the “sixth mass extinction” claim, science itself is cast into doubt.

To be clear: There is no question that humans are cutting a swathe through the planet’s animal life—we may well be creating one of the many minor “extinction events” that our planet has regularly seen since the “first” great extinction. We should do everything we can to avoid creating extinctions—and we are trying, with some success, to reduce our impact through conservation, species protection, and so on.

That said, the idea of an impending human-caused massive “sixth extinction” and the “end of nature” (as Bill McKibben calls it) that threatens humanity’s very existence is a product, like global-warming alarmism itself, of computer models, not empirical evidence.

This manufactured fear is pure propaganda aimed at stampeding public opinion toward the alarmist global-warming ideology. It’s our job, as rational citizens in a democracy, to examine the so-called “evidence,” look at the actual numbers as I’ve tried to do here, and draw our own, much less alarming, conclusions.

Paul MacRae is the author of False Alarm: Global Warming Facts Versus Fears and publishes his blog False Alarm at paulmacrae.com. He is also a contributor to the website of Climate Realists of Victoria BC, climaterealists.ca.


[1] Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, Telling It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Non-Fiction. Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 2005, p. 35.

[2] Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. Toronto: Penguin Books, 1993 (1992), p. 28.

[3] Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 2006, p. 10.

[4] IPBES, “Nature’s Dangerous Decline: ‘Unprecedented’ Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’.” 2019. Available at https://ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment

[5] Thomas H. Huxley, “An Episcopal Trilogy,” Science and the Christian Tradition. New York: D. Appleton, 1896, p. 135.

[6] Carl Sagan, “Nuclear War and Climatic Catastrophe: Some Policy Implications,” Foreign Affairs, Winter 1983/84, pp. 257-258.

[7] See Wikipedia, “List of extinction events.” The five previous major extinctions are shown in blue highlight; the list includes the many other less deadly extinction events as well. See also Wikipedia “Extinction event” for a more detailed listing of these events and what caused them. The website Our World in Data also offers an excellent overview of what we know about extinctions now and in the past.

[8] Wikipedia, “Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.” The Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry sets the fifth mass extinction rate at 80 per cent for animals. See “K-T extinction,” available at https://www.britannica.com/science/K-T-extinction.

[9] Wikipedia, “Permian-Triassic extinction event.”

[10] IUCN Red List, “Species Extinction—the Facts.” PDF, 2007. Available at https://www.iucn.org/sites/dev/files/import/downloads/species_extinction_05_2007.pdf.

[11] C. Mora et al.,  “How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?”  PLOS Biology, Aug. 23, 2011. Available at http://www.unep-wcmc.org/medialibrary/2011/08/24/ef86d88a/journal_pbio1001127_1_.pdf.

[12] IUCN: “Species Extinction—The Facts”. Available online. See also Our World in Data, “How many species have gone extinct?” which quotes the IUCN. Available at https://ourworldindata.org/extinctions#how-many-species-have-gone-extinct.

[13] Craig Loehle and Willis Eschenbach, “Historical bird and terrestrial mammal extinction rates and causes.” Diversity and Distributions, January 2012 (18,1), pp. 84-91.

[14] Frederick C. Bolam, et al., “How many bird and mammal extinctions has recent conservation action prevented?” Conservation Letters, Society for Conservation Biology, August 23, 2020.

[15] Published in New York by Hachette Book Group Public Affairs, 2019.

[16] Norman Myers, The Sinking Ark. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1979, p. 5.

[17] Myers, “Specious: On Bjorn Lomborg and species diversity.” Grist, Dec. 12, 2001.

[18] Nassim Khadem, “Earth faces mass extinction.” The Age, March 16, 2006. Available online.

[19] Fred Pearce, “Global Extinction Rates: Why Do Estimates Vary So Wildly?” Yale Environment 360, August 17, 2015. Available online

[20] Stephen H. Schneider, Laboratory Earth: The Planetary Gamble We Can’t Afford to Lose. New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. 104.

[21] Nigel Stork, “Re-assessing current extinction rates.” Biodiversity and Conservation, February 2010, pages 357-371.

[22] Ross D.E. McPhee, End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World’s Hugest, Fiercest and Strangest Animals. New York: W.W. Norton, 2019, p. 178

[23] Peter D. Ward, The Call of Distant Mammoths: Why the Ice Age Mammals Disappeared. New York: Copernicus, 1997, p. 222.

[24] E.O. Wilson, The Future of Life. New York: Borzoi Books, 2002, Chapter 4, “The Planetary Killer,” pp. 79-102.

[25] Brenna Owen, “Blockades over old-growth logging aimed at forcing a dialogue: activists.” Victoria Times Colonist, May 4, 2022.

[26] For more details on the “background” rate, see Kate Anderson, “What’s Normal: How Scientists Calculate Background Extinction Rate.” Population Education, Dec. 11, 2018. Available online.

[27] Wilson, The Future of Life, p. 99.

[28] Ceballos, G., et al., “Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction.” Science Advances, Vol. 1, Issue 5, June 19, 2015. Available at https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1400253.

[29] See Our World in Data, “Extinctions/How do we know if we’re heading for a sixth mass extinction?”, for an explanation of this rate-based, rather than numbers-based, definition of a “mass” extinction.

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July 18, 2022 6:20 am

Mass extinctions in the fossil record include the losses of entire genera, families, orders, classes and even sub-phyla. The Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene extinction event led to the loss of about 90 genera of megafauna (mammals weighing at least 44 kg). Yet, this is not classified as a mass extinction event.

The last genus to become extinct was Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian tiger). Thylacine is thought to have become extinct between the 1930’s and 1990’s; although some reports indicate that it might still be extant. Most, if not all, seriously endangered genera are single-species genera, occupying niche habitats.

Comparing the modern extinction rate to a mass extinction is as moronic ad comparing Joe Biden to anything other that a moron.

Last edited 2 months ago by David Middleton
Reply to  David Middleton
July 18, 2022 7:25 am

One could hope that leftists go extinct, but like Joe, they’re thick as a stick right now.

Reply to  Scissor
July 18, 2022 10:37 am

Scam alert

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  MarkW
July 18, 2022 5:33 pm

Speaking of which, I clicked on the fifth star in the ratings, and the rating went from 4.8 to 4.7. WTF?

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
July 18, 2022 7:16 pm

When you open a page, the counter shows the results as of the moment the page is opened. People keep voting, but the results don’t show up on your screen. It’s not till you vote, that your screen is updated again. What you are seeing is your vote, plus the votes of everyone who has voted since you opened the web page.

Reply to  Scissor
July 18, 2022 10:55 am

Spam alert!

Reply to  Scissor
July 18, 2022 3:13 pm

VIDEO: Earth Is NOT in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction: Willis Eschenbach, ICCC7 Here is a video that sums up this myth succinctly:


Ron Long
Reply to  David Middleton
July 18, 2022 8:00 am

Geologists, especially those with a little Paleontology background, are used to walking through stratigraphy and seeing an evolving or disappearing fauna preserved as fossils. As David notes, the only modern fossil is Joe Biden.

Joao Martins
Reply to  Ron Long
July 18, 2022 10:03 am

… and one may doubt if he his still alive.

Ron Long
Reply to  Joao Martins
July 18, 2022 10:26 am

“Weekend at Bernie’s”?

Reply to  Ron Long
July 19, 2022 4:51 am

Yep. Geology is one of the very few branches of science that grasps the filtering effect of time. It’s not even remotely possible to directly compare the very high resolution modern species extinction rate with any of the very low resolution fossil records of past mass extinctions.

Reply to  David Middleton
July 18, 2022 9:27 am

On the list of critically endangered species almost all are to habitat loss, hunting and invasive species and diseases.

For climate change there is a total of two dubious claimed extinctions
1.) Bramble Cay melomys the claim being climate change sea level rise on Bramble Cay island2.) Golden Toad the claim being a climate change induced heatwave.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  LdB
July 18, 2022 11:12 am

“Hunting” is a little broad brush. Market hunting can certainly be blamed for the decline in bison and the passenger pigeon. However, sportsmen have long willingly asked for seasons, limits, and habitat improvement to insure that they maintain a sustainable population. On the other hand, hunting seems unable to control the expansion of feral pigs, particularly in Texas and California.

Thomas Burk
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 18, 2022 4:35 pm

Totally agree with the sportsmen-related aspect of this post. My family has 160 acres in the Tejon Ranch wilderness of the Tehachapi mountains in Southern California. The canyon where our spread is located, used to suffer enormously from the feral pigs. But the Tejon corporation, which allows carefully-controlled hunting on their property during certain periods of the year, allowed a much more liberal “pig-o-rama” hunting schedule a number of years ago. No effect on the carefully controlled deer and elk hunting, but after a few years all the pigs seem to be long-gone from our canyon, for at least the last 5 years. This may not have worked in other parts of California, but seems to have worked really well in our neck of the woods.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Thomas Burk
July 19, 2022 8:39 pm

In some places in California, the human population is too dense to safely allow hunting of feral pigs, such as the coast range east of Santa Cruz. Other places, such as the coastal range south of Monterey (e.g. Big Sur), it is so rugged that even horses can’t get into the narrow deep canyons along the coast. It is challenging for even a young athletic man to get into them with a rifle (I know from personal experience.). Should a pig be taken, then you are confronted with the problem of getting the dead animal out. I have personally seen pigs taken in Monterey County that were so large that two of them filled the 8′ bed of a pickup truck. They will probably never be eradicated from California, especially as long as the legislature is run by tree huggers that hate guns.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 20, 2022 9:18 am

This is why in many locations it is the piglets that are the prime targets. A sow can have at least two litters per year with 8 piglets or so. Half of the piglets will probably be females. Kill them all when you come on them and you severely limit the ability of the hogs to propagate and overrun an area.

That’s one reason why semi-auto rifles with larger magazines are so valuable in hunting these feral hogs. Run onto a litter of 8 with a bolt action rifle having a 3-5 round magazine and half the piglets will get away! An ar-15 or ak-47 style rifle gives a much better chance of getting all the future breeders!

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 18, 2022 8:17 pm

From my reading it always seemed like railway right-of-way hunting was the main cause of bison decline and that few of those went to any market.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  AndyHce
July 19, 2022 8:17 pm

There is no question that shooting from trains was common. However, that was not the systematic shooting that professional market hunters employed to decimate large numbers of bison for their hides, and especially tongues, which were shipped back east. Later, the bones were gathered for other industrial uses resulting in scenes such as this:

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  AndyHce
July 19, 2022 8:22 pm

There is no question but that lots of bison were shot from the limited trains. However, it paled in comparison to the systematic decimation of herds by professional market hunters, killing them largely for their hides and tongues, which were shipped back east by train. Later, people gathered the bones for industrial applications, leading to scenes such as this:
comment image

Last edited 2 months ago by Clyde Spencer
Tim Gorman
Reply to  LdB
July 18, 2022 3:27 pm

Ever since I was big enough to carry a .410 shotgun in the field (age 11) I’ve heard claims that hunting and habitat loss was going to kill off all the deer, coyotes, foxes, hawks, rabbits, squirrels, possums, racoons, mountain lions, pheasant (not even a native species), quail, prairie chickens, wild turkeys, etc.

Yet even today in cities people still run into deer with their cars, racoons still tip over garbage cans, coyotes still kill pet dogs and cats, there are still enough rabbits and squirrels to support hawks and falcons, and on and on and on. The species also still exist in suburbia as well as in rural areas.

We did have some decades out here among the soybean, wheat, and corn fields where things like frog, toad, skink, and honey bee populations seemed to see a great decrease in numbers but guess what? Over the pat ten years even these thing have seemed to recover. I have three skinks living in my sheds, honey bees are everywhere on the clover flowers, and I have a couple of frogs living in the shotguns under my road out front. I don’t see as many black snakes as I remember in the past but that may be because there are fewer mice, rats, and grasshoppers as in the past.

It just seems to me that many so-called “extinctions” are nothing more than cyclical patterns like hawks and rabbits. Species seem to move around as well, probably because of exhausting their food source. Population surveys that are limited in area and time intervals may not give a good picture of species extinctions.

I’m positive that computer “models” won’t give a good picture, they don’t live in the field where the real action is.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
July 19, 2022 1:34 am

burying the modelling computers IN the field would solve a lot of probs
maybe as a bonus inc the operators too?

Reply to  ozspeaksup
July 20, 2022 2:47 am

That might mean a crop of spotty basement geeks every year.

Marty Cornell
Reply to  LdB
July 18, 2022 8:41 pm

Scientists are now agreed that the golden toad’s demise, and that of up to 30 other amphibians in central America, was caused by a chytrid fungus, originating in Africa, to which frogs on other continents are especially vulnerable. How did the fungus reach the Americas? Through the use by scientists of the African clawed toad as a popular laboratory animal. The clawed toad carries the fungus but does not die from it, and it has escaped into the wild in many places. Conservation efforts had been misdirected. Warming had no discernable impact on the golden toad. But the demise was anthropogenic

Reply to  LdB
July 20, 2022 1:25 am

Heat waves cannot credibly be claimed to be climate change induced.

Gunga Din
Reply to  David Middleton
July 18, 2022 10:03 am

And just what do they mean by “extinction” and of what?
If, say, (making up a critter) the 3 spotted cockroach hasn’t been seen in 50 year but there are so many 2 spotted cockroaches that people hire exterminators to get rid of them.
Is anything “extinct”?
There are no more mammoths or mastodons but there are elephants.
Some “breeds” died out but elephants are not extinct.

Reply to  Gunga Din
July 18, 2022 10:39 am

Elephants evolved alongside modern humans. Mammoths and mastadons didn’t bump into our ancestors until after they had learned how to efficiently hunt large mammals.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
July 18, 2022 11:19 am

Animals that have never been hunted are usually not wary of humans. However, it doesn’t take long for them to learn that humans can be dangerous. The only way that our ancestors could have learned “to efficiently hunt large mammals” was by trial-and-error and invention. That should have provided mammoths and mastodons with several generations to learn, and pass on to their offspring, fear of humans. I think that the “humans did it” thesis is too simplistic.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 18, 2022 8:24 pm

You’ve heard of “you can run but you can’t hide”?
Being afraid of humans probably only delayed things a small amount.

Reply to  MarkW
July 18, 2022 1:25 pm

It’s just not credible that humans caused the extinction of megafauna in the Americas.

Humans have existed in Africa for more than a million years and megafauna still exists there (some tasty ones too – I’ve been told that giraffe ribs are excellent). Yet, supposedly, humans in the Americas killed off all the megafauna in just a few thousand years? 10,000 years ago the human population in Africa is estimated to be ~10 times greater than in the Americas too. The population in Africa ballooned to 100s of times more than in the Americas during the Americas’ megafauna extinction yet, despite the huge population, megafauna still exist in Africa. Bison survived in the Americas, they’re tasty and relatively easy to hunt – why didn’t they go extinct too?

A climate change explanation is far more likely, like the period before the Younger Dryas when the climate changed drastically in just a few decades. Unfortunately, it’s politically inconvenient to admit that the climate can rapidly change without humans causing it resulting in a natural extinction event.

Reply to  Meab
July 18, 2022 7:19 pm

All of these animals have survived several previous inter-glacial periods.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
July 19, 2022 8:44 pm
Last edited 2 months ago by Clyde Spencer
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Meab
July 19, 2022 8:43 pm

And, bison are dumb enough to be stampeded over cliffs, and they were still not wiped out.

Robert Wager
Reply to  David Middleton
July 18, 2022 10:59 am

That very tiger was spotted in the wild this year. A tad premature to call it extinct it seems.

Reply to  Robert Wager
July 19, 2022 4:53 am


The last genus to become extinct was Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian tiger). Thylacine is thought to have become extinct between the 1930’s and 1990’s; although some reports indicate that it might still be extant.

Gunga Din
Reply to  David Middleton
July 20, 2022 8:41 am

When I was a kid I think it was called the Tasmanian Wolf. Maybe just that name went “extinct”? 😎

Mark Whitney
Reply to  David Middleton
July 19, 2022 6:38 am

Old Joe would already be extinct if not for the fact that the species set to replace him, Kamalanexis absurdum, scares even some of the most woke of observers.

July 18, 2022 6:33 am

According to creativenonfiction dot org creative non-fiction is “like jazz —it’s a rich mix of flavors, ideas, and techniques”

“Your [the reader’s] life has witnessed the eclipse of hundreds of thousands of species, even if they passed out of this world without your awareness. “

Some have been rediscovered and it was noticed…

11 Living Species That Were Once Thought to Be Extinct


15 Previously Extinct Animals Who Were Rediscovered


20 Animals Thought to be Extinct Found Alive


“Indeed, some scientists have even reported that new species have evolved within the last century “

Why would evolution grind to a halt? 

This is every bit as believable as your average climate model. Speculative and assuming to get the right [scary] result in a creative non fiction jazzy way..

Reply to  fretslider
July 18, 2022 7:26 am

It’s different this time. /s

Reply to  fretslider
July 18, 2022 9:24 am

“Your [the reader’s] life has witnessed the eclipse of hundreds of thousands of species, even if they passed out of this world without your awareness. “

Isn’t that contradictory? If it happened without awareness, how could it have been witnessed?

Reply to  MarkW
July 18, 2022 11:15 am

Logic isn’t their forte

Kevin Stall
July 18, 2022 6:44 am

Does it really matter that a few minor species thaT haVe never been seen really matter? The only species that has become extinct that I will morn is the Bearing Sea Cow.the Russians aNd natives over hunted them back in the 18th century. Meat high in protein and vitamin C.

Peta of Newark
July 18, 2022 7:18 am

I just had a thought—
They’re probably right (about the extinctions rate)

Remember HG Wells – War of the Worlds

And what was the undoing of the invaders.

There are, or certainly should be ‘quite a lot’ of living things under all ours feet.
The soil bacteria – they very things that make (what many people totally misunderstand) = they are Soil Organic Matter/Material
Folks will suggest that a single handful of soil contains more bacteria than “The Sum Total Number Of Humans That Will Ever Exist”

OK if you say so – but there’s quite a lot.

How many different species are in that one handful?
How many handfuls in your back-yard, your county, state, country, continent and or world.
How many different species in toto – where do you even begin?

Thing is, and we had a story earlier today on the very subject (Dust Storms)- those bacteria are dying.
They are being killed by Ploughs. Nitrogen fertiliser, simply being set on fire, Dessication and Glyphosate

We know that from 2 reasons.

  1. Something like 10E9 fragments of their corpses snow down on every square metre of Earth every 24hours
  2. The sky is filling up with CO2, from when those corpses have either been eaten by other bacteria or Oxygen/Ozone and or UV sunlight got them

What if there actually is ‘Trapped Heat‘ but not actually where it’s imagined to be.
What if those bacteria, while still alive and thus ‘fully hydrated’, are the keyholders of The Heat Trap?
what if indeed

Those tedious Martians were a hubristic lot…… thought they knew everything.
I expect they had supercomputers too, how could they not.

July 18, 2022 7:29 am

By far, most of the species recorded as extinct (at least during the past few decades) are not species; they are sub species, a community, a population or an ecotype. Or something else; but not a species. Mostly it’s a scam by ecozealots to promote hysteria and/or put a stop to some sort of human activity deemed by some to be bad.

Reply to  Bruce
July 18, 2022 9:28 am

If the human species were to be judged by the same standards used to identify different species of non-human animals, how many different species would us humans be divided into.

I say at least 100. Think of all the difference in hair color, eye color, skin color, height. Different shapes of hands, feet, facial features.
In the animal kingdom, any of these would be sufficient to declare a new species.

Reply to  MarkW
July 18, 2022 9:44 am

It has to be more than 100, because there are at least 100 different sexes, and wouldn’t different sexes of different species create new different species when reproducing? Sort of like a Mule?

Reply to  Drake
July 18, 2022 3:02 pm


Joao Martins
Reply to  Bruce
July 18, 2022 10:31 am

Bruce, you touched the central point of the matter!

Some time ago I tried to double check those catastrophistic numbers, and what did I find? Two or three papers that claimed to do that summing up. Then I went on to check EVERY assertion they made with a biblio reference: got dozens of similar papers thar were sensed to sum up the published literature referring to extinction of species. That was already a labyrintic net of interconnected, mutually citing papers. I selected a handful from that spaghetti dish and patiently went on checking the publications they cited, trying to reach the ORIGINAL papers where the extinct organisms would be clearly identified and objectively counted.
Making this long story short: I found dozens of references of a certain bird or lizard or whatever becoming extinct in some little island, for instance, of Indonesia. MANY were honest enough to state that the animal was thriving in a nearby island, but nevertheless the authors who wrote the summing up papers ignored those notes and counted the event as an extinction, without comments.

So, there is an agenda, there is biased scientific publication, there is professional malpractice. After having made that somewhat tedious check, I decided that ALL claims of mass extinction, of human-caused extinction, and even most of the claims of extinction of individual species are pure rubish.

Philip CM
July 18, 2022 7:34 am

Selling doom has become a viable and profitable career choice. Imagine, this is now considered by many to be a good thing. smh

Last edited 2 months ago by Philip CM
July 18, 2022 7:45 am

The only mass extinction that concerns me is the mass extinction of humans due to evil alarmist greenie watermelon policies such as Net Zero, 100% BEVs, a wind and solar grid, all organic farming, and getting rid of all meat to name, a few.

Reply to  H.R.
July 18, 2022 9:53 am

Don’t forget bug-eating.

H. D. Hoese
July 18, 2022 8:03 am

I have only come across one marine relatively recent extinction, a limpet that required high salinity eelgrass. There was a big epidemic that destroyed eelgrass in high salinities nearly a century ago. We know the organism that caused it, still not well understood. Scallops also required it, still survived but hurt the industry. Limpet may be hiding somewhere. Ocean tough place to earn a living, but ocean critters up to it. Big animals more susceptible, but extinction of great white sharks didn’t happen. Interesting lionfish experiment trying to extinct it in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Carlton, J. T., et al.1991.The first historical extinction of a marine invertebrate in an ocean basin: The demise of the eelgrass limpet Lottia alveus. Biological Bulletin. 180(1):72-80. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1542430
“The fact that most marine invertebrates have large effective population sizes may account for thier relative invulnerability to extinction.”

D. J. Hawkins
July 18, 2022 8:15 am

You shouldn’t fall into the precautionary principle trap that climate chicken-littles have set. The precautionary principle is actually the inverse of what’s commonly stated. If you can’t reasonably foresee the consequences of a course of action, the best thing to do is not pursue it.

Rud Istvan
July 18, 2022 8:16 am

AGW induced extinctions have been a staple of IPCC WG2 since AR4. All based on falsehoods, half truths, and really shoddy ‘science’. One of their tables purporting to cite sources turns out to be based on exactly one paper, itself deeply flawed in 3 different ways. Covered that in essay ‘No Bodies’ in ebook Blowing Smoke.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 18, 2022 9:38 am

AGW induced extinctions have been a staple of IPCC WG2 since AR4.”
And Hollywood.

July 18, 2022 8:19 am

I would like to see WUWT do a full exposé on the UN climate agenda items which are forcing the fertilizer and food shortages now in progress in many countries. The relevance here is that the policy can only possibly make sense if the intent is to cause a massive die-off of humans and a reduction in the habitat space we occupy. Both of which are unacceptable and we ought to be planning how to resist them and save human lives. That’s more important than any possible die-off of other species.

Andrew Halloran
July 18, 2022 8:21 am

Over time, how many species have existed, and then became extinct, and which man has never known to exist? Is there any estimate of such number??

Reply to  Andrew Halloran
July 18, 2022 9:33 am

I’ve heard the statement that 99% of the species that have ever existed are now extinct.
Though I suspect it is actually closer to 99.99%.

Reply to  Andrew Halloran
July 19, 2022 4:56 am

Google: George Carlin Save the Planet… He answered that question very eloquently.


July 18, 2022 8:24 am

Not sure “coming up” is a good descriptor for a coming extinction event when the margin of error is many multiples of the time civilization as we know it has been around.

July 18, 2022 8:33 am

I have asked enviro friends many times to name even one species they can prove that I, as an individual, played a part in extinguishing. And to say what, precisely, it was that I did to help along that extinction, and approximately when I did it. What answer do I get? None.

There’s a lot going on behind this, and the Dutch farmer situation in particular. I’m looking at the facts, and hope to be able to report back fairly soon.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Neil Lock
July 18, 2022 9:44 am

As I recall there is a science fiction theme that crops up from time to time along the lines of someone goes back in time and steps on a butterfly …
Proof enough for CliSci.

July 18, 2022 8:34 am

If we do become extinct it is more likely to come from crooked politicians who have a lust for power and money. There is no limit to the fear they will attempt to instill in the population to get what they want.

It could come from volcano activity or more likely outer space. The only one we can prepare and save ourselves from is to stop the huge rock from space hitting the Earth.

Reply to  Olen
July 18, 2022 10:09 am

Yeah, eventually, a big rock from space will hit the Earth, Olen.

I may be wrong, but I believe Hollywood has thrown more money making movies about that problem than governments have spent working to solve that problem.

July 18, 2022 8:50 am

If we get lucky there will be a mass extinction of leftists !

Smart Rock
July 18, 2022 8:53 am

Of course they never mention that new species are appearing all the time; it just happens on a time scale longer than the career of environmentalist activists or their research grants. It’s been going on at least since the Archean. Darwin clearly understood this, but these jokers can’t spin it into bad news so it never gets a mention.

Steve Keohane
Reply to  Smart Rock
July 18, 2022 10:03 am

Not to mention the species that exist which we have yet to discover.

July 18, 2022 8:55 am

How do I subscribe to Paul’s website?

July 18, 2022 9:17 am

Over the last few decades, a number of species that were thought to have been extinct, have been re-discovered.

July 18, 2022 9:21 am

With the exception of species limited to a few islands, all species have ranges that vary from hundreds of miles across to being continent wide in a few cases.

To compensate for global warming, these species would have to move these ranges a few miles poleward. No big deal. A few individuals lost at the equator side of the range, compensated by a few extra surviving at the poleward limits.

Back to islands, almost all islands have mountains. Some are dominated by mountains. The warming that has been seen would force the animals living there to climb in elevation by a few feet. Once again, no big deal.

July 18, 2022 9:32 am

One has to wonder (rhetorically) why anyone like Gore, Myers et al would be listened to at all. Just more lying idjits.

Last edited 2 months ago by beng135
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  beng135
July 18, 2022 11:28 am

Perhaps for the same reason that many people are comfortable being ruled by monarchs.

Reply to  beng135
July 18, 2022 2:53 pm

Because people want to care. Much more than they want to research.

Trying to Play Nice
July 18, 2022 9:49 am

It strikes me as odd that if I destroyed one percent of a plot of land I would take out close to one percent of the species that lived on that plot of land. Do these activists think the species are all sorted into little groups by specie and when you do something on that land you somehow touch all the specimens of the specie at that time? Don’t they think that the species are a little better distributed so that if you kill off some members of that specie there will be some left to reproduce?

Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
July 18, 2022 10:46 am

In addition to that, even if a species lives in a small area, if that area gets disturbed, they move.

Clyde Spencer
July 18, 2022 11:06 am

… is causing the loss of living species at a level comparable to the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

For those dinosaurs that weren’t incinerated, or killed instantly by the shock wave, the rest would have succumbed from wounds, freezing, and starvation, probably within months at most. It is extreme exaggeration to claim that what happened 65 million years ago was even close to the present-day documented extinctions. While some species are in decline, others, such as coyotes, seem to be enjoying an expansion in population and distribution. Extinctions are part of evolution, and they occur in parallel with the rise of new species. One would expect that all the hand waving of alarmists should be causing them to have extremely tired arms.

Richard Page
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 18, 2022 2:40 pm

But not all the dinosaurs were wiped out; therapods survived to become the modern avian class. Quite a lot of non-dinosaur species also survived, which makes the extinction of the large dinosaurs peculiarly selective.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 18, 2022 3:48 pm

I’m not sure the coyotes of today are the coyotes of yesteryear. Too much cross-breeding with feral dogs. Still sound like coyotes though.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tim Gorman
July 19, 2022 8:52 pm

And there is some thought that the eastern Red Wolf is a wolf/coyote hybrid.

Then there is the twist to the old Cheech and Chong joke: “It looks like a coyote, smells like a coyote, and howls like a coyote. Yep, its a coyote!” Canines are not known for being very selective about what they mate with. And, they don’t even drink beer!

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 20, 2022 9:26 am

Lot’s of stuff on the internet says coyotes howl. I’ve never found that to be true here in Kansas. Their common vocalization is a yip-yip type of sound. Wolves howl. Coyotes do something different.

Climate believer
July 18, 2022 12:10 pm

There’s a website called “The Extinction Clock”, it lists lofty predictions of extinction and the date it’s predicted to happen.


The current extinction prediction is due in less than a years time.

It was made in April 2003 by Nina Fascione, Vice President for Field Conservation Programs at Defenders of Wildlife, quote:

“Frankly, it looks like we’re on a crash course towards massive species extinctions in the next 20 years […] We could lose one-fifth or 20% of our species within the next two decades. That’s a very short amount of time”.

Technically speaking it’s called making sh!t up to cause alarm.

Then of course there is the Doomster in chief Guy R. McPherson professor emeritus of natural resources and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona  who gives the entire human race only another 4 years before we are all no more, all kicking the bucket at the same time, all shuffling off this mortal coil, and going to meet our maker.

He’s a charming chap.

janice baker
July 18, 2022 12:28 pm

while i agree with the post and can understand most of it (I think). i have a question. I we are not sure of number of species today, how reliable are estimates of past extinctions?? that may be a dumb question, but i confess ignorance

Reply to  janice baker
July 18, 2022 3:00 pm

Fossil records are used to show how many species left fossils before and after certain time frames. Admittedly, not all species are found in fossils, so they do extrapolate based on percentages.

July 18, 2022 1:05 pm

Sorry but I just don’t care about this issue. I am fed up with all those people shouting about this catastrophe or that catastrophe and I have seen nothing. The problem is that there are so many chicken littles screeching at us that I find myself just tuning them out. The problem is how do I know who to tune out. I can’t tune out everything but these people have simply gone too far I don’t care what they say.

July 18, 2022 3:07 pm

the incredible chutzpah of thinking we have enough information to plot such a line is staggering

July 18, 2022 5:36 pm

The IUCN’s estimate of the number of known extinctions since 1500 is about 900. That’s just under two known species extinctions a year over 500 years.”

That is a false presumption.

That certain species failed to keep their populations growing and suffered extinction because they were left behind as other species propagated and edged them out, is not in any sense of understanding a global eon smacking “Extinction Event” on a par with the five known global extinction events.

Nature’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ is definitive and for millions of years, mankind hovered near the extinction boundary.
Yet, mankind’s avoiding the extinction boundary was not involved with any “Global Extinction Event”.

The same goes for all of the believed extinct species since 1,500 CE. They were species who happened to become extinct for one reason or another.

Some of the species were or are the last of their family, others come from families with an abundance of species.

Many were one offs. Animals that roamed outside of regions where they adapted.
A good example here is the Bramble Cay melomys, a mosaic-tailed rat that washed up on a tiny island off the Great Barrier Reef.

What is missing from the whole “Global Extinction Event” viewpoint is that previous extinctions took millions of years to occur.
There are absurd levels of speculation by AGW activists where they presume to believe those events were caused by CO₂.

It is similarly absurd when people claim mankind killed all of the megafauna…
Except where man ignored elephants while killing off mastodons and mammoths?
Ignored giraffes in favor of killing the giant short face cave bear? Imagine! They wanted to hunt the giant cave bear when black, brown and grizzly bears were prolific?
Preferentially killed off the dire wolf and saber tooth tiger instead of regular wolves and mountain lions?
Killed off giant sloths while ignoring camelidae?
Preferred to kill giant armadillos rather than pick up some smaller ones?

What shouldn’t be ignored is that most megafauna died far from areas where mankind have been identified.

Nor should it be ignored that like jackals and other carrion eaters, man was just as attracted to fallen animals, including megafauna as the other carrion eaters.

I suspect, the whole mankind is guilty mantra is really behind the man killed megafauna stories.

July 19, 2022 1:32 am

curiously todays aussie news runs item re the massive loss of critters in aus and how we are the WORST offending nation(again) now labor govt plans to make yet another EPA no idea why? and lock up 40% more land
on the basis oif some damned report and yes i BET its models all the way down and sfa REAL data or proof of anything

July 19, 2022 1:47 am

Just as the fate of the individual is to die, the fate of a species is to go extinct. The “life expectancy” of the average species is on the order of 10^6 yrs, and the number of species is also on the order of 10^6, so one would expect ~1 species to go extinct every year–which agrees well with the author’s calculation of the rate of known species extinctions over the last 500 years.

“The loss of a species is a tragedy.”…??? It’s natural. The ecological niches filled by that lost species will be filled quickly by one or more new species…A matter of “lose one, gain one or more.” When the megafauna died off in NAm, smaller versons of those species came in to fill their niches. As long as the niche is not lost (habitat loss) there will be no net loss of speices.

The Real Engineer
July 19, 2022 2:10 am

And this “area, species number” comes from where? Clearly it is known to be wrong, take a hot desert in Australia, covering a huge area, how many species are ther in that huge area? Not a lot is the result, but in an unfarmed area of the UK it is a lot. The basis of this number is completely flawed, sufficiently so that only an idiot would use it. Clearly there is no direct correlation, unless, possibly, we can accurately count all the species in a particular habitat, which we cannot.

The basis of these claims is just as false and stupid as everywhere else in the “Climate change” nonsense. I wonder why?

Mark Whitney
July 19, 2022 6:25 am

Fascinating article. One other distinction that is important to consider is that the Linnaean binomial system is more of a convenience than an actual concrete method of distinction, and the species concept itself is somewhat plastic. I expect it must be stretched to almost irrelevance to assume perhaps ten times as many members as are currently known to exist.
Even the genus potion is subject to change, as when the fossil genus of fish from the Green River Formation, Eohiodon, was recently reclassified as Hiodon.
There is also the pressure of professional distinction for biologists to identify a new species, like the pressure to publish or perish, as the saying goes.

July 19, 2022 6:36 am

Great post, thanks

July 19, 2022 7:06 am

Well written article. Thank you. As they say alll models are wrong and some are useful. In this case the model projections are clearly useless.

July 19, 2022 7:22 am

There has already been a “Sixth” mass extinction, one that was not mentioned in this article. This extinction was caused by life itself … the Great Oxidation Event (3 BYA ?) in which certain cells acquired the ability to use the Sun’s energy to produce food, releasing oxygen as a waste product.This led to the mass extinction of almost all anaerobic life.

July 19, 2022 1:18 pm

The most likely “sixth” mass extinction won’t quite qualify as a extinction event because some of the intended targets will survive it. The Green radicals want (to judge by their actual proposals) widespread death among human beings, with billions of people dying to get the glasses bal population down to something they consider more reasonable. This smaller number of human beings will be able to survive on the limited food produced and distributed without fossil fueled fertilizers and transportation fuels. This smaller number of human beings may even enjoy some standard of living from the solar and wind-generated electricity supply. And multiple billions of people will have to die in a hurry to get the Green radicals to their utopia, which is why there will be a revolution to hangs the Green radicals instead.

July 19, 2022 3:15 pm

What we need to see is the complete extinction of the morons comprising Extinction Rebellion. I can’t believe how many mentally-ill people are out there among us walking around free, and that they are completely out of their freaking minds.

Y.D. Robinson
July 20, 2022 4:35 am

I donate quite a bit to help out wildlife that’s in crisis one way or another through habitat loss, poaching, etc., as well as protecting ecosystems in general. But directly to causes that claim to mitigate “climate change” through “green energy” or lobbying for that issue or things to that effect…not a single penny!

July 20, 2022 3:52 pm

A sharpley spiked graph is not much use for viewing the extinction rate when Mya on the x axis is so cramped

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