UN Predicts Grim Future For Aquatic Animals Thanks To Climate Change
The latest and last in a series of U.N. climate change reports was released in early November, and the results are grim for wild species.
Among other projections, the report notes with "high confidence" that many aquatic species have already undergone significant changes, including altering where they live, their migratory patterns and how they spend seasons. In addition, the U.N. climate scientists predict:
A large fraction of species face increased extinction risk due to climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors (high confidence). Most plant species cannot naturally shift their geographical ranges sufficiently fast to keep up with current and high projected rates of climate change in most landscapes; most small mammals and freshwater molluscs will not be able to keep up at the rates projected under RCP4.5 [Editor's Note: RCP4.5 is one of the U.N.'s intermediate scenarios, in which climate change is partially mitigated.] and above in flat landscapes in this century (high confidence).
Marine organisms will face progressively lower oxygen levels and high rates and magnitudes of ocean acidification (high confidence), with associated risks exacerbated by rising ocean temperature extremes (medium confidence). Coral reefs and polar ecosystems are highly vulnerable. Coastal systems and low-lying areas are at risk from sea-level rise, which will continue for centuries even if the global mean temperature is stabilised (high confidence).
Should the global temperature rise to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-Industrial Revolution averages by the end of the century - a plausible scenario - species extinction will be "substantial."
"Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message," United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said Sunday, according to the New York Times. "Leaders must act. Time is not on our side."
It's not the first time this year the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned about the risk climate change poses to wildlife - and the panel has been criticized as being too conservative. As two-and-a-half decades' worth of evidence show, it's time to listen up.
(Or, as Gawker puts it, time to "kill the oil companies before they kill us.")