How to save a species

Climate adaptation isn’t just for humans: scientists have now quantified the impact of climate change on earth’s biodiversity, and it’s not a pretty picture. But, if we are able to mitigate our climate change impact, we could buy time for many of earth’s species to adapt to the changing climate.

If emissions, and related climate change, continue unmitigated,  some 57% of plants and 34% of animals will likely lose at least 50% of their present habitat range by the 2080s. However, we can reduce these losses: by 60% if emissions peak in 2016, or by 40% if they peak in 2030. We know that many species are already in a precarious position, only exacerbated by global warming, but these numbers come from a study looking specifically at nearly 50,000 common species of plants and animals.

If the world’s temperatures rise by the estimated 4ºC (unmitigated change) in 2100, the ranges in which many species live will shift ever pole-ward, habitats will shrink, and many of our fellow creatures will struggle to survive in constrained environments. It will take ‘dramatic and stringent’ action, but if we can reduce greenhouse emissions, such that we keep the temperature rise to 2ºC, we might buy many species some four decades in which to adjust.