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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Biodiversity to suffer hard hit from climate change

If we want to “buy” time for some species to adapt and reduce risks of extinction by 60 %, CO2 emissions have to be cut in ~3 years from now.

Just in the same week that the Mauna Loa laboratory recorded, for the first time, an atmospheric concentration of CO2 above 400 ppm (note that in pre-industrial times it was ca. 280 ppm), we published a paper in Nature Climate Change on the importance of climate change mitigation for avoiding biodiversity loss.

Amazonian biodiversity was predicted amongst the most negatively impacted

Amazonian biodiversity was predicted amongst the most negatively impacted

A group of scientists from University of East Anglia, James Cook University, CIAT, and the UK’s MetOffice, conducted a major model-based study to quantify the impacts of climate change on global biodiversity. Importantly, we also quantified the direct effects of reducing emissions on expected impacts. We analysed a total of ~50,000 common and widespread species using state-of-the-art species distributions models.

The findings of the study indicate that almost two thirds of common plants and half the animals could lose ~50% of their distributional range by 2080, if no action is taken.

But acting quickly to mitigate climate change could reduce losses by 60 per cent and buy an additional 40 years for species to adapt. This is because this mitigation would slow and then stop global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial times (1765). Without this mitigation, global temperatures could rise by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Scarying enough, our projections may underestimate the effect of anthropogenic activities, since we didn’t take into account land use changes, which we know are a major threat to biodiversity, particularly in the Amazon.

Further reading:

See the paper here, which has received intense media coverage from The BBC, The Guardian, The LA Times, and various others.


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