Note: I am reposting this article I wrote in April 2018 about ‘Wildlife in a Warming World’ as I plan to spend much of my writing time on this topic as I relaunch the Endangered Species Journalist website.
Wildlife in a Warming World
“Up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon and the Galapagos, could face local extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked” according to a new report issued by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University, and WWF.
Interestingly, and importantly, this new study comes at a time when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to “roll back” fuel efficiency standards implemented by the Obama Administration in 2012. Standards that were designed to help prevent the kind of “unchecked” carbon emissions that the new report says are contributing to the climate change that will negatively impact so many species on the planet.
According to the report, “Thinking globally and siting locally – renewable energy and biodiversity in a rapidly warming world,” areas like the Miombo Woodlands in southeastern Tanzania, which is one of Africa’s largest protected areas, southwest Australia and the Amazon-Guianas are projected to be some of the most affected areas.
“Hotter days, longer periods of drought, and more intense storms are becoming the new normal, and species around the world are already feeling the effects,” said Nikhil Advani, lead specialist for climate, communities, and wildlife at WWF. “While we work to ratchet down emissions, it’s critical we also improve our understanding of species’ response to climate change and develop strategies to help them adapt.”
The report says that with a global temperature rise of 4.5 degree -which is 2.5 degrees more than the 2-degree upper limit afforded in the Paris Climate Agreement- climates are projected to be unsuitable for many the plants and animals which could mean:
Up to 90 percent of amphibians, 86 percent of birds and 80 percent of mammals could potentially become locally extinct in the Miombo Woodlands in Southern Africa. The Amazon could lose 69 percent of its plant species. Up to 89 percent of amphibians in Southwest Australia could become locally extinct and 60 percent of all species are at risk of localized extinction in Madagascar.
The Fynbos in the Western Cape Region of South Africa, could face localized extinctions of a third of its species, many of which are unique to that region.
“Our research quantifies the benefits of limiting global warming to 2°C for species in 35 of the world’s most wildlife-rich areas,” said Rachel Warren, lead researcher from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “We studied 80,000 species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and found that 50 percent of species could be lost from these areas without climate policy.
However, if global warming is limited to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, this could be reduced to 25 percent. Limiting warming to within 1.5°C was not explored but would be expected to protect even more wildlife.”
But the new EPA standards will most likely only complicate, not help the scenario laid out by Warren.
According to federal reports, the average mpg for cars and trucks in the U.S. was around 30 mpg in 2017. The current Obama standards, the ones that are in line to be repealed, would have increased that average to over 50 miles per gallons by the year 2025. And now, it is unclear what those standards will be.
However, considering the US transportation sector is now considered the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S having emitted over 1.9 billion tons of carbon emissions in 2017, any reduction of transportation emission standards will not be good news for the species this new report says will be so negatively impacted by any increase in carbon emissions.
World Wildlife has produced a corresponding study WWF has produced a corresponding summary report titled “Wildlife in a Warming World”