The risk of Earth’s species becoming extinct will accelerate as global temperatures rise, new research shows.
After reviewing more than one hundred scientific papers, the study finds as many as 16% of plant and animal species on land and in the oceans would be under threat with four degrees of warming.
Climate change could even overtake habitat loss and degradation as the main cause of extinctions, the lead author tells Carbon Brief (click here to access the full story). In the new study, Prof Mark Urban from the University of Connecticut aggregates the results of 131 studies on extinction risk to give a global picture of the risks posed by climate change.
The rate at which plants and animals are becoming extinct is now a thousand times higher than before humans inhabited the Earth.
Habitat loss is the principal cause of extinctions, as forests are cleared and urban areas expand. But a new study, published in Science, suggests that climate change could soon become a key threat to species around the world.
A warmer world could have many different impacts on plants and animals, not least by pushing temperatures beyond species’ physical tolerance. Shifting seasons can affect breeding patterns, and hot days may mean animals have less energy to search for food.
Predicted extinction rates from climate change rise with global temperature: the predicted extinction percentage increases as global temperatures rise beyond the 2C limit. Blue bubbles show individual studies, and their size shows how many species the study assessed. Source: Urban ( 2015).
The study also considered how risks vary between the different species and habitats around the world. Carbon Brief summarised these in an infographic below.
Predicted extinction rates from climate change by region and group. Credit: Rosamund Pearce, Carbon Brief, based on data from Urban (2015).
- Cahill et al. 2012. How does climate change cause extinction?
- Pimm et al. 2014. The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection.
- Urban 2015. Accelerating extinction risk from climate change.
- IPCC AR5 Chapter 4.