Earth Day: Climate Change and Endangered Wildlife
Updated: Jul 8
by Natalie Rico
The theory that human actions could somehow affect the Earth’s temperature has been a concern since the time of the ancient Greeks. While we know that animals have a level of evolutionary resilience when confronting changes in their ecosystems, human activities may have accelerated environmental changes to such a degree that the ability to evolve may not occur with sufficient velocity to protect millions of animals from extinction. The question is less if, more when, climate change will affect different ecosystems throughout the world.
A recent study lead by Alex L. Pigot at the University College London suggests that affects may be more imminent than previously believed. The study, published in Nature on April 8th, 2020, found that climate change will result in the abrupt collapse of many animal species. The study reviewed over 30,000 marine and terrestrial species against projections of temperature and precipitation from the years 1850 through 2100. The purpose of the study was to assess how quickly these species would be affected by climate change and whether they would be affected gradually or more abruptly.
The results of the study were that climate change would cause ecosystems to falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs. Meaning, instead of the previously accepted theory of slippery slope decline, we’d be facing cliff edged declines where entire ecosystems would collapse at a time. These results warn that over one million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction as the result of global warming. Of even more concern is that these catastrophic losses could begin as early as 2030 in tropical areas.
While the study and its projections are bleak, there is a positive takeaway: damage can be mitigated if we act NOW. The projections are based on current greenhouse gas emission rates, but if these emissions are reduced to limit global warming to just two degrees Celsius, the number of species exposed to catastrophic climate change would drop by sixty percent.
There are many different ways we can lessen greenhouse gas emissions. Here are just a few ways YOU can reduce greenhouse gases:
1. Opting for renewable energy at home. Renewable energies include solar, wind or hydro energy.
2. Using energy conscientiously. For example biking or walking to work, keeping the thermostat just a few degrees colder or warmer when using heat and air conditioning.
3. Planting trees. As trees grow, they help stop climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in the trees and soil, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.
4. Small diet changes like Incorporating a meatless Monday. Animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based foods. Incorporating a meatless Monday.
5. Recycling or Repurposing. This produces less waste and creates less of a demand for new products resulting in a smaller carbon footprint.
We can lessen our individual footprints in a myriad of small ways that, cumulatively, will make a big difference.