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Study:  Global Warming Could Wipe Out Up to One-Third of World's Species - 2004-01-08

A new study concludes that up to 37 percent of the world's population of mammals, birds, and trees could near extinction within the next 50 years, if global warming continues at its current rate. A team of international scientists says, so-called, greenhouse gasses produced by burning organic fuels are causing the atmospheric warming endangering the wildlife.

The conclusion was based on an analysis of previous biodiversity studies - looking at animal populations in a range of habitats, including wetlands, deserts, and temperate climates in Great Britain, Mexico, and northern Australia.

Using a computer model, the biodiversity researchers concluded that between 15 and 37 percent of the world's species could be almost extinct by the year 2050 if global warming continues at the rate it is going. They predict up to 10 percent of plants and animals could be completely wiped out.

Co-author Townsend Peterson, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, says there are a number of reasons people should care about the threatened extinction of plants and animals in the wild.

"We rue the loss of the species in terms of the information, the potential, maybe, for pharmaceutical products that are not known yet, and just because they are part of the natural heritage of the planet," he said.

The investigators urge countries to quickly put in place technologies to reduce the emission of harmful greenhouse gases and their byproducts.

The study is published in the journal Nature.