Changes in climate and extreme weather events have already begun to affect biodiversity across the globe. And climate change also worsens other threats like habitat destruction, overexploitation, and disease. We will see almost 50% species loss in areas studied if global temperatures rise by 4.5°C. We will see less than 25% species loss in areas studied if we limit global temperature rise to 2°C. Up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas including the Amazon and the Galápagos could face extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked.
A new study examines various climate change scenarios from 4.5°C rise in global mean temperatures if we don’t cut emissions to a 2°C rise if we meet the upper limit for temperature set in the Paris Agreement and their impact on nearly 80,000 plant and animal species in 35 of the world’s most diverse and naturally wildlife-rich areas. Researchers selected each area for its uniqueness and the variety of plants and animals found there.
However, if global warming is limited to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, this could be reduced to 25 percent. Limiting warming to within 1.5°C was not explored but would be expected to protect even more wildlife. But the new EPA standards will most likely only complicate, not help the scenario laid out by Warren. According to federal reports, the average mpg for cars and trucks in the U.S. was around 30 mpg in 2017. The current Obama standards, the ones that are in line to be repealed, would have increased that average to over 50 miles per gallons by the year 2025. And now, it is unclear what those standards will be. However, considering the US transportation sector is now considered the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S having emitted over 1.9 billion tons of carbon emissions in 2017, any reduction of transportation emission standards will not be good news for the species this new report says will be so negatively impacted by any increase in carbon emissions.
Hotter days, longer periods of drought, and more intense storms are becoming the new normal, and species around the world are already feeling the effects. The best way to protect against loss of wildlife and plant life is to keep global temperature rise as low as possible. The Paris Agreement pledges to reduce the expected level of global warming from 4.5°C to around 3°C, which reduces the impacts. But we see even greater improvements at 2°C. And if we can limit that even more, to a 1.5°C rise, we could protect even more life. Although the US government has signaled its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, America’s cities, states, businesses, and others are working with world leaders to turn the promise of that agreement into concrete action through the We Are Still In movement.