The outlook for wildlife would be grim even if the world wasn’t warming. According to a major report last year, 1 million species could soon be wiped out – a sixth mass extinction. The main cause at present is the loss of habitat, but over this century the changing climate is expected to push ever more species over the brink.. For many plants and animals, their current habitats will simply get too hot. Many are already moving to stay in their comfort zone. In the oceans, some organisms have shifted their ranges by hundreds of kilometres.
But on land there are few spaces left for animals to relocate to, and those that do exist are highly fragmented, which makes it very hard for wildlife to adapt. In polar regions, the loss of sea ice is posing problems for the polar bear and other animals. In Bangladesh Bengal tigers are clinging on in the mangrove swamps of the Sundarbans, but by 2070 there might be no suitable habitat left for them.
New protected areas are necessary as the world warms and coasts flood, along with corridors that allow animals to move between such places. But almost nothing is being done about warming in the rich countries, let alone in poorer countries ones.
It’s inevitable that a population crash will happen unless they are able to move. When Defenders of Wildlife, based in Washington DC, analysed official plans for saving 459 animals in the US that could soon go extinct, they found only 18% of the strategies included specific plans to compensate for climate change. The situation is similar elsewhere, such as Australia, and, as for plants, researchers have concluded that some 240 plants are at high risk of going extinct because of climate change. There are no plans at all for saving most of these species.
Why is this? A lack of resources, an inability to believe that things could get as bad as forecast, a reluctance to intervene and a focus on short-term threats such as invasive species? (a precised versión of a article in New Scientist, Jan 4, 2020)
If the planet keeps warming, entire habitats could disappear along with all the species that rely on them. Examples? Most coral reefs, the Emperor penguin and the entire Amazon rainforest. Limiting global warming is essential. Denial is an irresponsible cop-out.