Climate Warming Spells Species Wipeout, Experts Say
EXETER, England Whole species of animals from frogs to leopards, living in vulnerable areas and with nowhere else to go, face extinction due to global warming, scientists said on Wednesday.
And the faster the temperature rises the worse it gets.
Steve Schneider from Stanford University, California, said there was clear proof that species were reacting to the 0.7 degrees centigrade warming of the atmosphere that had already taken place over the past century.
"This is a harbinger -- nature is already responding," he told reporters at a meeting on climate change. "There is a direct threat to the viability of many species on the planet."
The complication with rapid change was not only the need to speed up the rate of adaptation, mostly through moving territory, but that at the margins, like at the poles or high up in mountains, there was nowhere to go and human settlements may lie in the way.
"The only way rapid climate change can affect species is through extinctions," Schneider said.
Bill Hare from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that as the climate changed, fragile ecosystems would collapse, taking with them their inhabitants.
Rachel Warren from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change told the meeting that even a one degree temperature rise put butterflies and birds like the Australian Golden Bowerbird under pressure.
At two degrees the pressure spread to fish, frogs, geese, snow leopards, seals and polar bears among other species.
Much beyond that, the species wipeout became wholesale.
Scientists say climate warming is caused by so-called greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and most accept that much of this is from human activities like car exhausts or electricity generation and urgently needs to be curbed.
Almost alone in the developed world, the United States disputes the human element to climate change.
The UN International Panel on Climate Change predicted in 2001 that the world could warm up by between 1.5 and nearly six degrees by the end of the century -- with clear proof that people were to blame for most of the rise.
On Tuesday, IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri said new evidence suggested that the upper limit range might have to be raised.
Scientists have predicted that above two degrees the warming will push the planet into the unknown as ice caps melt, sea levels rise and weather patterns change at accelerating rates.
But Schneider said even at the lower level there could be serious adverse impacts.
"There is a five to 10 percent chance we will have dangerous outcomes just from what is already in the pipeline," he said.