Climate change threatens one million species | WWF

Climate change threatens one million species

Posted on
07 January 2004
A study to be published tomorrow in the science journal Nature reveals that human-induced climate change could, within the next 50 years, result in the eventual extinction of more than a million terrestrial species.

Based on investigations in six biodiversity-rich regions around the world, the study estimates that between 15 and 37 per cent of terrestrial species could be committed to extinction by 2050, depending on the rate of global warming. The authors believe that these six regions are indicative of potential species extinction in other regions as well.

"Climate change is emerging as the biggest threat for nature in this century," says Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF's Climate Change Programme. "The only possible answer is to immediately cut down emissions of gases known to cause climate change."

Practical steps to reduce these emissions are clearly laid out in PowerSwitch!, a new WWF campaign that challenges the power sector in industrialized countries to become CO2-free by the middle of this century, and in developing countries to make a major switch from coal to clean energy.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important gas causing global warming, and 37 per cent of it stems from electric power production, mainly through the burning of coal. PowerSwitch! calls on power companies to replace polluting coal power with clean alternatives, such as wind, biomass and energy efficiency. WWF has produced detailed scenarios for the US, the EU (with special reports on Germany and Italy), the Philippines and Japan to demonstrate how this can be achieved.

"We have to act now if the loss of species is to be kept at the lowest possible figure," says Jennifer Morgan. "As the biggest polluting industrial sector, the power sector must act first."

The study published in Nature is probably the most comprehensive analysis to date on climate change and its impact on species survival. It confirms findings of several reports published earlier by WWF, such as No Place to Hide, a study on climate change impacts on protected areas (September 2003), and Habitats at Risk (February 2002), which looks at species loss in key ecosystems due to global warming.

For further information:
Martin Hiller
WWF Climate Change Programme
Tel: +41 79 347 2256
E-mail: mhiller@wwfint.org
Found in Queensland, Australia, Boyd's forest dragon (Hypsilurus boydii) could lose about 90 per cent of its habitat by 2050 due to global warming, according to the Nature report.
© WWF / Martin Harvey