Waging a Climate War Against Wildlife
February 4, 2013
Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams & Amanda Staudt Ph.D., Corey Shott, Doug Inkley Ph.D., and Isabel Ricker / National Wildlife Federation
Climate change has already pushed the nation's wildlife into crisis, according to a report from the National Wildlife Federation, and further catastrophe, including widespread extinction, can only be curbed with swift action to curb the carbon pollution that has the planet sweltering.
Report: Climate Change Has Already Brought Catastrophe to US Wildlife
Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams
'Only by rejecting dirty energy and embracing clean energy solutions -- will we begin to alter the path we are on to catastrophic climate change.'
(January 30, 2013) -- Climate change has already pushed the nation's wildlife into crisis, according to a report released Wednesday from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and further catastrophe, including widespread extinction, can only be curbed with swift action to curb the carbon pollution that has the planet sweltering.
Entitled Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis [See story below], the report looks at 8 regions across the US where "the underlying climatic conditions to which species have been accustomed for thousands of years," the report explains, have been upturned by human-caused climate change.
"Some of America's most iconic species -- from moose to sandhill cranes to sea turtles – are seeing their homes transformed by rapid climate change," stated Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist at the National Wildlife Federation.
Among the impacts the report details:
Arctic: Reduction is sea ice is having a dramatic impact on polar bears, and "the increasing distance between land and the offshore sea ice creates a perilously long swim -- some as long as 12 excruciating days -- that can result in drowning of both adults and their cubs."
Western Forests: Increasingly frequent and severe wildfires are bringing cascading effects to wildlife and their ecosystems, with wildlife struggling to find suitable habitat in the aftermath, and ash from the fires contaminating water sources and the aquatic life within them.
Great Plains: Climate change-caused heat waves and drought are bringing large fish die-offs, and the increased heat in northern areas like Minnesota is impacting moose, which seek shelter in extreme heat rather than forage for needed nutrients. The moose also suffer from tick infestations, on the rise due to increased temperatures, which cause the animals blood loss and bare patches on their protective hair.
Atlantic Coasts: This area "will experience some of the most direct and costly impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, warming ocean waters, enhanced coastal storms, and ocean acidification, all of which place both natural systems and coastal communities at risk."
Warming waters are already pushing some fish species to move their habitats further north to cooler waters, while the warmer waters could spell doom for sea turtles, as sea turtle hatchlings' gender is temperature-dependent.
"We can't leave this problem for our children and grandchildren to fix – they'll judge us based on what we do now," stated Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
Staudt adds, "Climate disruption is the most serious threat facing America's wildlife and requires action at the local, state and federal levels."
Writing on the NWF blog Wildlife Promise, Corey Shott, who works with the group's Climate and Energy Program, responds to the report with a call for greater and immediate climate action:
If 2012 was a wake-up call for the American people -- with devastating drought, intense wildfires, and destructive storms -- then 2013 must be a wake-up call for policymakers to finally take swift, bold action to reduce the carbon pollution heating the planet and properly deal with the unavoidable impacts of an already changing climate. […]
Only by taking the threat seriously -- by rejecting dirty energy and embracing responsible, clean energy solutions -- will we begin to alter the path we are on to catastrophic climate change.
Wildlife in a Warming World
Confronting the Climate Crisis – Executive Summary
Amanda Staudt Ph.D., Corey Shott, Doug Inkley Ph.D., and Isabel Ricker / National Wildlife Federation
(January 30, 2013) -- Our nation's plants, fish, and wildlife already facing a climate crisis.
Pine trees in the Rocky Mountains are being jeopardized by beetle infestations, while new forests are encroaching on the Alaskan tundra. East coast beaches and marshes are succumbing to rising seas, especially in places where development prevents their natural migration landward. Polar bears, seals, and walrus are struggling to survive in a world of dwindling sea ice, which is their required habitat.
Birds and butterflies have had to shift their breeding season and the timing of their seasonal migrations. Fish are dying by the thousands during intense and lengthy droughts and heat waves. Many plant and wildlife species are shifting their entire ranges to colder locales, in many cases two- to three-times faster than scientists anticipated.
Now is the time to confront the causes of climate change.
Without significant new steps to reduce carbon pollution, our planet will warm by 7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with devastating consequences for wildlife. America must be a leader in taking swift, significant action to reduce pollution and restore the ability of farms, forests, and other natural lands to absorb and store carbon.
This means rapidly deploying clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal and sustainable bioenergy, while curbing the use of dirty energy reserves. And it means reducing the carbon pollution from smokestacks that is driving the climate change harming wildlife.
Wildlife conservation requires preparing for and managing climate change impacts.
Because of the warming already underway and the time it will take to transform our energy systems, we will be unable to avoid many of the impacts of climate change. Our approaches to wildlife conservation and natural resource management need to account for the new challenges posed by climate change.
We must embrace forward-looking goals, take steps to make our ecosystems more resilient, and ensure that species are able to shift ranges in response to changing conditions. At the same time, we need to protect our communities from climate-fueled weather extremes by making smarter development investments, especially those that employ the natural benefits of resilient ecosystems.
Only by confronting the climate crisis can we sustain our conservation legacy.
The challenges that climate change poses for wildlife and people are daunting. Fortunately, we know what's causing these changes and we know what needs to be done to chart a better course for the future. As we begin to see whole ecosystems transform before our very eyes, it is clear that we have no time to waste.
Download the full report: Wildlife in a Warming World (pdf) here:
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.