Study: Climate change will cut habitats by 2080
Climate change leaves many plants and animals only a few decades to adjust. A study warns that losses of living space will afflict plants and animals worldwide, raising extinction worries.
Global warming will destroy more than half of the habitats of most plants and a third of animals by 2080, biologists conclude, unless steps are taken to limit greenhouse gases.
Over the past century, average global surface temperatures have increased about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Academy of Sciences. This global warming is largely due to burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, which retain heat and warm the atmosphere. Temperatures worldwide are expected to rise roughly 7 degrees by 2100 if the use of fossil fuels continues without attempts to mitigate their effects.
Without mitigation, "large range contractions can be expected even amongst common and widespread species," concludes the study led by Rachel Warren of the United Kingdom's University of East Anglia. It was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
In the study, biologists and climate researchers looked at the effects of these increasing temperatures on the living space of 48,786 animal and plant species worldwide. "With no mitigation, the climate becomes particularly unsuitable for both plants and animals in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia and Australia."
Overall, the study finds that 57% of plants and 34% of animals will see their habitats cut by 50% or more by 2080, as temperature changes make them unsuitable for the species. Given warming that has already occurred, some of those losses are locked in already, but they could be reduced by 60% if greenhouse gas emissions were to peak in 2016, the study shows.
"The terrifying loss of biodiversity predicted by this study shows that climate chaos will fundamentally transform our planet," Shaye Wolf of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, says in a statement on the study. "We need to cut emissions now, before our ecosystems suffer catastrophic damage."
The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report had estimated that more than 20% of species worldwide are at "high risk" of extinction if temperatures rise more than 3.6 degrees in this century.
Copyright 2013 USA Today.
This article originally appeared here.
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