Earth Day Network

New study proves climate change’s threat to endangered species

A new study that compiles research from 130 previous studies shows that climate change’s impact on endangered species is much worse than previously thought.  Studies have indicated that endangered mammals and birds are particularly affected by the changing climate.  Scientists had previously thought that 7 percent of mammals and 4 percent of birds on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s “red list” had been harmed by climate change. But this paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that almost half of endangered mammals and almost a quarter of endangered birds have been subjected to the damage of climate change, totaling around 700 species.

James Watson, co-author of the study and director of the Science and Research Initiative at the Wildlife Conservation Society, says that despite the fact that most climate and biodiversity studies concentrate on climate change’s impact 50 to 100 years in the future, changing temperatures are already a considerable hazard to many species around the world.

Analyzing about 130 studies, the group of researchers concluded that animals on every continent are being affected by climate change, especially those in high altitudes and those with very particular diets.  Slow breeding patterns found in animals such as primates and elephants have made it more difficult for said animals to adapt to changing temperatures.  Watson says that the study focused on “mobile species” like mammals and birds, and didn’t cover cold-blooded animals and plants, which will probably be even more affected by climate change.

The researchers of the study are advocating for conservation efforts and governmental action to help combat the effects of climate change on endangered species.  Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the revision  of the Endangered Species Act, which helps protect animals and their habitats.  Some Republicans in Congress are hoping to scale back the act, arguing that it targets land owners. Proponents of the law point out that under President Barack Obama, 29 species were taken off the endangered species list. Brad Cardinale, professor at the University of Michigan, argues that the law not only protects endangered species, but humans and the economy as well.  The act helps to protect ecosystems around the world, which in turn provides cleaner air and water for humans. These ecosystems absorb pollutants like carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change. Keeping pollinating insects safe also helps to ensure a healthy food supply for humans.

Sources:

Scientific American: Climate change has already harmed almost half of all mammals
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-has-already-harmed-almost-half-of-all-mammals/

CBS News: Climate threat to wildlife may have been massively underreported
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-threat-to-wildlife-may-have-been-massively-underreported/

Inside Climate News: Climate change has likely harmed nearly half of threatened mammals, study says
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14022017/climate-change-endangered-species

Time: How the Endangered Species Act Helps Save Humans, Too
http://time.com/4671860/endangered-species-act-reform-climate-change/

CNN: Republicans explore curbing the endangered species act
http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/endangered-species-act-republicans-congress/index.html

By Ben Gruin, Intern

Earth Day is April 22, 2017
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