As the earth reacts to man-made climate change, it's not only humans who are feeling the heat -- due to rising sea levels and shifting temperatures, numerous animal species will face extinction, according to a major new report released by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Animals have already responded to climate change by altering migratory patterns, population sizes and the areas where they live, the IPCC study notes. Due to warmer and more acidic seawater, for example, fish and other ocean animals have headed for the poles. The U.N. panel estimates this marine migration will result in a 40 to 60 percent decrease in the size of tropical fisheries. And at the same time, polar bears, walruses and other creatures adapted to living in the earth's coldest regions face ever-shrinking habitats.
In 1999, the Golden toad went extinct, prompting concern about global warming's role in the survival of animal species. A 2004 study published in the scientific journal Nature estimates that, by 2050, climate change will play a role in the extinction of approximately one-fourth of animal species. A change of a few degrees, according to the recent IPCC report, puts 20 to 30 percent of species at "high risk" of extinction.
"We know the security risks of water scarcity and flooding; widespread land and marine species extinction; and devastated crop yields in some of the poorest nations on earth," said Secretary of State John Kerry, responding to the IPCC. "We can already see the damage it's causing to our ecosystems, wildlife, glaciers, and countless other natural habitats."