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close to 50 percent of the land surface of the planet has been transformed by humans through actions such as filling in wetlands, converting tall grass prairies into cornfields, or converting forests into urban areas. Humans have also more than doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the environment because of excess fertilizer use and burning of fossil fuel.
About 3,000 species of marine life are in transit in ballast water of ships around the world.
The average lifespan of a species is about 100,000 years, so with an estimated 10 million species currently on Earth, we expect a certain number of species to wink out of existence each year. However, biologists widely believe the current extinction rate to be 100 times greater than the baseline rate, and eminent Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson estimates a factor of 1,000 to 10,000.
As the Earth grows hotter, species will gravitate toward the poles in search of cooler climates. Those unable to drift away from the equator fast enough - and there will be many - will face extinction.
According to conservationists, Earth's steadily rising temperature is causing the polar bear's habitat to melt. Many scientists say the warming is due, in part, to human activities such as driving cars and burning coal, which release heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.
Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.
Average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.
Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.
Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting-for example, Montana's Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.
Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching-or die-off in response to stress-ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.
An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves, and strong tropical storms, is attributed in part to climate change by some experts.
Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth's surface.
Some experts point out that natural cycles in Earth's orbit can alter the planet's exposure to sunlight, which may explain the current trend. Earth has indeed experienced warming and cooling cycles roughly every hundred thousand years due to these orbital shifts, but such changes have occurred over the span of several centuries. Today's changes have taken place over the past hundred years or less.
Sea level could rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 to 59 centimeters) by century's end, the IPCC's February 2007 report projects. Rises of just 4 inches (10 centimeters) could flood many South Seas islands and swamp large parts of Southeast Asia.
Some hundred million people live within 3 feet (1 meter) of mean sea level, and much of the world's population is concentrated in vulnerable coastal cities. In the U.S., Louisiana and Florida are especially at risk if global sea levels rise.
Glaciers around the world could melt, causing sea levels to rise while creating water shortages in regions dependent on runoff for fresh water.
Strong hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters may become commonplace in many parts of the world. The growth of deserts may also cause food shortages in many places.
More than a million species face extinction from disappearing habitat, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans.
The ocean's circulation system, known as the ocean conveyor belt, could be permanently altered, causing a mini-ice age in Western Europe and other rapid changes.
At some point in the future, warming could become uncontrollable by creating a so-called positive feedback effect. Rising temperatures could release additional greenhouse gases by unlocking methane in permafrost and undersea deposits, freeing carbon trapped in sea ice, and causing increased evaporation of water.
The global fleet of motor vehicles is estimated at 830,000,000 (2006).
The global fleet of motor vehicles has been recently growing at the rate of 16,000,000 per year.
The year 1998 was the warmest of record. The year 2002 was the second warmest (to that date). The year 2003 was the third warmest (to that date). The year 2004 was the fourth warmest (to that date). 2005 equaled 1998 as the warmest of record.
Though the exact number is impossible to determine, an unprecedented mass extinction of life on Earth is occurring. Scientists estimate that between 150 and 200 species of life become extinct every 24 hours.
There have always been periods of extinction in the planet's history, but this episode of species extinction is greater than anything the world has experienced for the past 65 million years-the greatest rate of extinction since the vanishing of the dinosaurs
More than 60 per cent of the world's people depend directly on plants for their medicines.
About 12 per cent of mammal species and 11 per cent of bird species were classified as threatened in 1990.
According to the World Resources Institute, the biggest cause of extinction is loss of habitat.
There are as many as 100 million species on Earth, of which only 1.7 million have been identified.
Every second . . we lose an area the size of two football fields! Every minute . . we lose an area 29 times the size of the Pentagon! Every hour . . . we lose an area 684 times larger than the New Orleans Superdome! Every day . . . we lose an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City! Every week . . . we lose an area twice the size of Rhode Island! Every month . . .we lose an area the size of Belize! Every year . . . we lose an area more than twice the size of Florida!
A typical four-mile square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 125 mammal species, 400 species of birds, 100 species of reptiles, 60 species of amphibians, and 150 different species of butterflies.
There are more fish species in the Amazon river system than in the entire Atlantic Ocean.
A single rainforest reserve in Peru is home to more species of birds than the entire United States.
At least 1/3 of the planet's bird species live in the Amazon rainforest.
The Andean mountain range and the Amazon jungle are home to more than half of the world's species of flora and fauna.
At least 1,650 rainforest plants can be utilized as alternatives to our present fruit and vegetable staples.
37% of all medicines prescribed in the US have active ingredients derived from rainforest plants.
70% of the plant species identified by the US National Cancer Institute as holding anti-cancer properties come from rainforests.
90% of the rainforest plants used by Amazonian Indians as medicines have not been examined by modern science.
Of the few rainforest plant species that have been studied by modern medicine, treatments have been found for childhood leukemia, breast cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, and scores of other illnesses.
A hectare (2.471 acres) of rainforest absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
Almost half of the world's original four billion acres of rainforest are now gone. The lost area equals the combined size of Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada and Arizona.
In 1500, there were an estimated six to nine million indigenous people inhabiting the tropical rainforests of Brazil. By 1900, that number had dropped to a million. Today, there are less than 250,000 indigenous people left in Brazil.
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