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Half of plant and animal species at risk from climate change by City-Tech Blogger Angel Delgado

Climate change is pushing our planet to a cliff-edge. Not only do rising temperatures impact people and their wellbeing directly, they threaten the ecosystems and biodiversity which are essential to human life. The EU must act to keep global temperature rise well under 2°C and to work for 1.5°C, as per the Paris Agreement, by ending fossil fuels rapidly, starting with coal by 2030. It must show it means business by publishing this year a 2050 Roadmap to take us to a net zero carbon economy. Oceans are amongst the first ecosystems impacted by climate change. Not only are they impacted by warmer seas, more severe storms and melting sea ice but ocean acidification is also posing a threat to life phases of key marine species and habitats such as corals. The clear danger of climate change for people, the planet and its biodiversity is why on 24 March millions of people across the world will come together for Earth Hour. They will show their commitment to protecting biodiversity and being a part of the conversations and solutions needed to build a healthy, sustainable future – and planet – for all. The global mobilization sparked by Earth Hour also sends a clear message to business and government that there is a global will to change this trajectory.

Impact of climate change scenarios on the Mediterranean region (percentage of species projected to be at risk of local extinction by the 2080s).

High temperatures in the future will rapidly exceed those experienced in the recent years, leading to dangerous heat stresses on natural and human systems. If the temperature rise is constrained to 2°C, almost 30% of most species are at risk, and more than a third of all plants, while at business as usual levels around half of the region biodiversity will be lost. Increasing sea and sand temperatures are expected to disrupt and severely threaten the survival of the most marine species like marine turtles, cetaceans, bluefin tuna, whales and sharks. This will happen in a marine ecosystem already put under pressure from rampant overfishing, unsustainable tourism and energy and transport developments. We urgently need to shift to sustainable energy and economic models in order to protect our ocean and our livelihood. If species can move freely to new locations then the risk of local extinction decreases from around 25 per cent to 20 per cent with a 2°C global mean temperature rise.  If species cannot they may not be able to survive. Most plants, amphibians and reptiles, such as orchids, frogs and lizards cannot move quickly enough keep up with these climatic changes. Up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon and the Galapagos, could face local extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked.

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.

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