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Wildlife catastrophe if climate change continues

01.02.2005


Evidence is mounting that climate change is adversely affecting wildlife, an international scientific conference on climate change will hear today.



John Lanchbery, Head of Climate Change at the RSPB, Europe’s largest wildlife conservation group, will present a paper to the conference warning that failure to cut levels of the greenhouse gases responsible for air and sea temperature rises, could cause the loss of thousands of species.

“There is substantial and compelling evidence that climate change is adversely affecting wildlife and it is going to take very little further change to catastrophically affect other species and ecosystems,” he said.


“It is not a question of whether, but how, we tackle climate change if we care at all about our health, our food and water supplies, and our wildlife.”

A previous paper, published in the journal Nature by RSPB Research Scientist Dr Rhys Green and others, warned more than a year ago that 25 per cent of land based species had no future if temperatures rose as climate experts predict.

Greenhouse gas levels are still rising, however, despite this warning from researchers. John Lanchbery said: “If you judged the action to tackle temperature rise by the evidence for climate change, you would think there was barely any evidence at all.”

The RSPB says that global temperature rise must be limited to less than two degrees Celsius above that in pre-industrial times. That means global emissions must start to fall in the next decade.

“Whilst developed countries, particularly the US, must take the lead in cutting emissions, the large, rapidly industrialising countries should be limiting their emissions too. Developed countries need to cut their emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2050 but even that reduction may be far too small to save many species.

Last year was the worst for breeding seabirds on UK shores, probably due to the movement of plankton from warming coastal waters. Sandeels, a small fish, feed on plankton and in turn are the main food for millions of seabirds. Sandeel numbers have plummeted.

The golden toad of Costa Rica is extinct, probably due to climate change; in the UK, Dr Green’s research predicted a bleak future for the Scottish crossbill. He also warned that birds such as the cirl bunting and woodlark were likely to move northwards from southern England bases, but only if they could find suitable habitats.

John Lanchbery said: “If we lose it now, we will never get back the wealth of wildlife this planet boasts. The US government is the world’s biggest polluter and we cannot allow its denial of climate change to railroad the rest of us into letting that happen.”

Cath Harris | alfa
Further information:
http://www.rspb.org.uk

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