In a hard-hitting study, a Stanford University professor says the window of opportunity to reverse the damage caused by humans is rapidly closing and the effects could be felt in three generations.
Their analysis claims human activity has brought near the worst diversity disaster since dinosaurs were swept from the planet 65m years ago.
In the last century, vertebrates have been disappearing at a rate 114 times higher than would normally be expected without the destructive influence of humans. If the current pace of extinction is allowed to continue, it would take millions of years for nature to recover.
Paul Ehrlich, from Stanford University in California, a leading member of the team, said: “Without any significant doubt… we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event. There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead. We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on.”
Mexican lead researcher Gerardo Ceballos, from the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, warned humans could one day follow in the footsteps of the dinosaurs.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” he said.