Climate Change Driving Rapid Biodiversity Loss

The effects of biodiversity loss caused by climate change will be felt much more quickly and intensely than previously thought. As EcoWatch reported, a new study published in Nature showed that in a high-emissions scenario of more than 4° Celsius of warming by 2100, at least 15% of ecosystems would suffer an event in which more than 20% of their key species hit their temperature limits in the same decade. 

However, this scenario is not a given, we have the ability to change course.

Why This Matters: Healthy biodiversity is important to sustain human life and is also key to fighting the impacts of climate change. But particularly relevant to this current moment is that a loss in biodiversity has been linked to the spread of pandemics. The CDC estimates that “3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.” As people continue to destroy nature the risk of human to animal interaction increases as does the risk that infectious disease passes from animals to humans. It also underscores the need for the global community to protect 30% of nature by 2030, a goal more important than ever. 

The Outlook: As the study authors explained in the Conversation, we’re already seeing some of the projected losses to biodiversity. 

Abrupt biodiversity loss due to marine heatwaves that bleach coral reefs is already under way in tropical oceans. 

  • The risk of climate change causing sudden collapses of ocean ecosystems is projected to escalate further in the 2030s and 2040s. 

Under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario, the risk of abrupt biodiversity loss is projected to spread onto land, affecting tropical forests and more temperate ecosystems by the 2050s.

 

But there is hope. If greenhouse emissions begin to be curbed at the Paris Agreement standards and more measures are taken to protect local ecology, then this frightening future can be avoided. 

As Dr. Alex Pigot of University College of London’s Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, explained.

“Keeping global warming below 2°C effectively ‘flattens the curve’ of how this risk to biodiversity will accumulate over the century, providing more time for species and ecosystems to adapt to the changing climate – whether that’s by finding new habitats, changing their behavior, or with the help of human-led conservation efforts.”

 

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