News / Science & Technology

Climate Change Threatens Loss of Common Plants, Animals

An endangered poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is seen at the Santa Fe Zoo in Medellin, Colombia, Jan. 15, 2013.
An endangered poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is seen at the Santa Fe Zoo in Medellin, Colombia, Jan. 15, 2013.
Rosanne Skirble
Unchecked climate change will cause widespread global loss of plants and animals, according to a new study of 50,000 common species. It's the most comprehensive analysis ever done of global warming's potentially calamitous impact on biodiversity.

The study looks at plant and animal losses in a world that is four degrees Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial days. Under this scenario, the report predicts dramatic declines by the end of this century, according to lead author Rachel Warren, associate professor of climate research at the University of East Anglia in Britain.

“And we found that if there is no action to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, that more than half of the plants and one third of the animals would lose more than half of their climatic range,” said Warren.

Warren said if nothing is done to stop or slow the warming, biodiversity would be impacted almost everywhere.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
“And we found those losses were greater, although they are quite large everywhere, the biggest losses were in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia, Australia, North Africa, Central Asia and southeast Europe,” she said. 

So picture a world where common species like cocoa beans, coffee or frogs have become rare or endangered. Warren said even small losses in global biodiversity can significantly harm ecosystems and the life-support services they provide.

“These are things like the purification of water and air, the cycling of nutrients, which is very important for our agriculture, pollination, the provision of food and fuel for societies that depend on the land. Flood control and soil erosion, all of these are affected by ecosystems,” she said.

The study results did not calculate the effect of other symptoms of climate change - such as frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, pests and diseases - which means, Warren said, that the estimates reported in the paper could be even greater.
    
But the report does calculate the benefit of action. Warren said if, for example, in a world where greenhouse gases peak in 2016, followed by annual global reductions between two to five percent a year…  

“In that scenario we found that we could avoid 60 percent of these range losses," added Warren. "We then compared that with a situation where emissions peaked in 2030 and then were reduced at 5 percent annually and found that we could still avoid 40 percent of the losses.”  

The fact is, however, that greenhouse gas emissions keep climbing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week that the average daily concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached 400 parts per million, aggravating the impact of climate change.  

“The emissions are currently increasing at a rate that slightly exceeds that in our 4 degrees [warmer] scenario, in fact,” she said.

Rachel Warren said the study makes clear the need to reduce emissions. The alternative, the paper concludes, “is a world with an impoverished biosphere where ecosystems have been eroded to the detriment of agriculture and human well-being.”

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid