Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Climate change is not a future threat anymore

The rate of warming over the past 50 years (0.13 °C ± 0.03 °C per decade) is nearly twice that for the previous 50 years, and the global temperature by 2100 is likely to be 5–12 standard deviations above the Holocene mean. The effects of climate change on some species are already being witnessed, with changes documented in spatial distribution, abundance, demography, phenology and morphology. However, to date, no quantification of the number of species for which at least one population has been currently impacted by climate change, and the extent of these impacts, has been conducted, even for the better-studied taxa such as birds and mammals. 

In an international study published yesterday a team of international researchers present evidence of observed responses to recent climate changes in some 700 bird and mammal species. The researchers reviewed the observed impacts of climate change on birds and mammals using a total of 130 studies, making it the most comprehensive assessment to date on how climate change has affected our most well studied species.

Only 7% of mammals and 4% of birds for which the colleagues found evidence of a negative response are actually coded on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as threatened by ‘climate change and severe weather'. This severe under-reporting is also very likely in less studied species groups which represent the vast majority of life. The authors strongly argue for big improvements of assessments of the impacts of climate change on all species right now:

We need to communicate the impacts of climate change to the wider public and we need to ensure key decision makers know significant change needs to happen now to stop species going extinct. Climate change is not a future threat anymore.

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