Global warming, scientists say, is responsible not only for shrinking ice caps but also for a surge in extreme weather that is causing heat waves, wildfires, and droughts, not to mention sea level rise.
Researchers agree that even small changes in temperature are enough to threaten hundreds of already struggling animals. Up to half of the animal and plant species in the world’s most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon and Galapagos, could face extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change, according to a study published in the journal Climate Change. From polar bears in the Artic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate, even as that is not the only risk.
The key impact of global warming on wildlife is habitat disruption, in which ecosystems—places where animals have spent millions of years adapting—rapidly transform in response to climate change, reducing their ability to adjust. Habitat disruptions (mainly deforestation) are often due to changes in temperature and water availability, which affect the native vegetation and the animals that feed on it. Loss of wetlands, sea level rise, invasive species and disease are all also implicated.
CREDIT: National Climate Assessment