A new study in Nature adds to the growing evidence that the Earth is on course for its sixth mass extinction event. In an article titled "Has the Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived?," scientists analyze the fossil record and modern conservation biology data, and conclude that we are headed for the first mass species die-off since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The current rate of extinction is between 3 and 80 times higher than normal, placing us on a trajectory for a mass extinction sometime in the next 300 to 2,000 years. A mass extinction occurs when 75 percent of all species disappear within a geologically short span of time.
How sad, then, that the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the chief international instrument for conserving biodiversity, has adopted a moratorium on geoengineering, even one that is less than meets the eye (see The Meaning of the Moratorium, 10/31/10). It is possible if not probable that geoengineering techniques will enhance biodiversity in a world undergoing climate change, stabilizing ecosystems that would otherwise change too quickly for many species to adapt. At the very least, the terms of the Convention would seem to compel parties to research the possible biodiversity benefits of climate engineering.