Climate change could put up to half of animals and plants from the the world’s most treasured natural environments at risk of extinction by the turn of the century if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked, a new WWF report has revealed.
The report examined how climate change might affect nearly 80,000 different plant and animal species in 35 of the world’s most nature-rich areas. Researchers explored the impact of different climate change scenarios including a no-emissions-cuts case, meaning global mean temperatures rise by 4.5°C, and a 2°C rise, which is the upper limit for temperature in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Species living in the Amazon, the South African Miombo Woodlands and south-west Australia would be among the most affected areas, according to the findings.
If temperatures were to rise by 4.5°C, the Amazon could lose 69% of its plant species, while 60% of all species would be at risk of localised extinction in Madagascar. Even if the Paris Climate Agreement is upheld, areas such as the Amazon and the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands could lose one quarter of their species.
The report also predicted that increased average temperatures and more erratic rainfall could become be the “new normal”, with significantly less rainfall in the Mediterranean, Madagascar and the Cerrado-Pantanal in Argentina.
This would greatly impact certain species’ habitat. For example, one of the world’s largest tiger population, the Sundarbans, could lose 96% of its breeding areas if sea levels continue to rise, while Amur tigers are believed unlikely to survive until the next century due to the demise of the size and quality of theirs.
Water temperature heavily affects the sex determination of tortoises and turtles, warmer temperatures generally producing more females, making pro-creation and survival much more difficult.
According to the experts, the best way to protect these species is to keep global temperatures as low as possible. WWF are calling for as many people a possible to commit to Earth Hour, a movement that demonstrates its commitment to the environment by turning off all non-essential lights for one hour on 24 March.
Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF said: “Within our children’s lifetime, places like the Amazon and Galapagos Islands could become unrecognisable, with half the species that live there wiped out by human-caused climate change.
“Around the world, beautiful iconic animals like Amur tigers or Javan rhinos are at risk of disappearing, as well as tens of thousands plants and smaller creatures that are the foundation of all life on earth. That is why this Earth Hour we are asking everyone to make a promise for the planet and make the everyday changes to protect our planet.”