As sea levels rise and ice starts to melt, the survival of penguins will depend on their ability to adopt and reposition themselves in new environments. There are many species of penguins and not all of them might be able to survive climate change with several species, such as, the Gentoo penguin that might be hit the hardest. According to BirdLife International, Gentoo penguins live a very sheltered life, even outside the breeding season when many adults no longer need to hurry back to feed their hungry offspring, they are rarely seen more than 50 km offshore, resulting in little genetic mixing. Another species of penguin, King penguins, have unfortunately moved from the colony they were born in, spotted more than 5600 kilometers away from them. In other words, King penguins needed to relocate themselves in order to survive.
One of the major problems affecting penguins is the climate change that is happening in Antarctica. South Antarctica is beginning to become hotter than any other place in the southern hemisphere due to the rapid warming of the sea ice along the western Antarctic Peninsula, that is shrinking in size. This loss of sea ice is harming Emperor penguin chicks and adults. These penguins live near their chicks on landlocked sea ice, so when the ice breaks before their chicks have matured into adults and have grown their waterproof feathers, they are unfortunately swept into the ocean and are most likely to die. As for the adults, the loss of sea ice can lead to lower food availability, resulting in an increased likelihood of death. As for the penguins that live in the Southern Ocean which encircles Antarctica, global changes are having huge impacts on them as well. Ocean warming and the melting ice are linked to the decline of penguins’ major food supplies. Researchers have pointed out that a one degree Celsius (°C) rise in sea surface temperature in this region could result in a further 95% reduction of krill, which are Penguins’ main food supply. There is also evidence that ocean warming has led to a penguin population decline in other regions of South Antarctica due to the reduction in their food supply. In addition to climate change, there are two emerging threats from the world’s greenhouse gas pollution, the rise in sea level and ocean acidification that will affect penguins. When sea levels rise, it threatens to drown important coastal nesting sites for penguins, especially within places where natural blockades like cliffs or human blockades like roads and developments, prevent penguins from ebbing inland. The warm water ushered in prevents cold water from reaching the surface and directly affects the penguins living in these ecosystems. Ocean acidification refers to the reduction of the pH levels of the ocean over an extended period caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even though all oceans are affected by acidification, the Southern Ocean, where penguins live, will be one of the first regions to be affected. One of the animals that will be the most affected is the planktonic snail, a key component of the food web in the Southern Ocean, which may be unable to last as early as 2030. So, how can we defend penguins from more decay? Rapidly reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is the single most important action we need to take to protect penguins from global climate change. If we continue on our current course then the global temperature will rise by an average of 2.8-4°C in this century alone, which is four to six times more than during the previous century. We will not only be risking the loss of penguins but also destroying life itself.