Climate change could lead to the extinction of almost one in six plant and animal species, according to a new report.
Mark Urban, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut, also discovered that as the planet will continue to warm in the future, species will start disappearing at a faster rate, according to a research published Thursday in the journal Science.
“We have the choice. The world can decide where on that curve they want the future Earth to be,” he warned in an interview.
As critical as Dr. Urban’s findings are, other scientists said the real events might turn out to be even worse. The number of species disappearance “might well be two to three times higher,” explained John J. Wiens, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona.
Global warming has elevated the planet’s average surface temperature with almost 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution. Species are reacting to the changes by shifting their habits and ranges.
In 2003, Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas and Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University carried out an analysis of more than 1,700 animal and plant species. The two researchers found that, on average, the species ranges moved approximately 3.8 miles per decade closer the planet’s poles.
If emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide continue to increase, climate scientists project the world will warm by almost 8 degrees Fahrenheit. While the climate continues to change, experts fear some species will remain without a suitable habitat and disappear.
Hundreds of reports published over the past 20 years have offered a wide range of predictions on the number of extinctions that will happen as global warming worsens. Some have said that only few extinctions will occur, while others have foreseen that half of species face extinction.
Some scientists examined only plants from the Amazon regions, while others analyzed butterflies in Canada. In some cases, experts assumed only a couple of degrees of warming, while others considered much hotter scenarios, which could explain the difference in opinion. Because researchers were not always able to explain just how quickly a specific species will shift ranges, they sometimes offered a range of estimates.
Dr. Urban focused on 131 studies examining plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and invertebrates which live all around the planet. He discovered that 7.9 percent of species were expected to become extinct because of climate change.
Image Source: Earth Times