To date, the Earth has had five mass extinction events, with the most famous one being the giant asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The devastation caused by the asteroid was historic, as 76 percent of the world’s species were wiped out by the asteroid impact and its subsequent after effects.
However, this event was not unprecedented in our blue planet’s 4.5 billion year history, with two other more devastating near apocalypses occurring before it, with four others in total.
Scientists believe that a sixth mass extinction event may be happening right now, and could occur in the form of large-scale natural disasters like volcanic eruptions and flooding.
Unlike previous events, this mass extinction event will not be caused by an asteroid from outer space, but rather by the environmental degradation caused by climate change.
Scientists warn that disasters like flooding, drought and wildfires that are caused by climate change could do as much damage to our planet as a giant asteroid or massive volcanic eruption.
There are also increased threats like the biodiversity crisis, invasive species wiping out native plants or animals, and diseases from human trade, which are all knock-on effects from global warming.
According to research from 2020, human activities like logging and poaching have pushed 500 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians to the brink of extinction.
Speaking to MailOnline, Stanford University’s Professor Paul Erhlich said that there is evidence that the earth is in a sixth mass extinction event.
He said: “There are now massive anecdotal reports and scientific studies that Earth’s biota is well into the sixth mass extinction.
“The mass extinction is just one of the intertwined existential threats civilisation faces, others include climate disruption, global toxification, and the renewed nuclear arms race.
“Although there is some debate about the causes of the previous five mass extinction events, there’s none at all in the scientific community about the cause of the ongoing sixth — too many people and the richer of them consuming much too much, all exacerbated by gender, racial, and economic inequity.”
Scientists have warned that at the current rate, most of the animals that are currently designated as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable will go extinct in the next century.
Moreover, the rate of the loss of species seen currently is much faster than ever seen since the dinosaurs, meaning we could reach the level of mass extinction in around 240 to 540 years.
The WWF believes that this timeframe is even shorter, claiming that the next mass extinction event is likely to occur within the next death, leading to the loss of life for millions of plant and animal species.