This is a guest post by Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, for the Hopenhagen blog, a grassroots movement to build public support for a strong international climate agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. It is also posted at the Take Part website, a cause-related site that is a project of Participant Media.
The world’s attention is finally focused on the harm climate change presents and serious actions are being taken. While we will all feel the heat soon, some of us are already being impacted. Communities living in low-lying coastal areas know the threat is here now. The same holds true for wildlife. While all wildlife will likely be impacted, some are particularly vulnerable—those species already on the brink of extinction: endangered species.
Climate change has begun threatening these endangered wildlife, birds, fish and plants. Melting sea ice, warming oceans, shifting life cycles and migration are impacting polar bears, penguins, coral, salmon and migratory birds. According to a White House report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, there could be no wild polar bears United States by the end of the century. Animals that live in the mountains, like the pika and the wolverine, are being forced into smaller islands of high elevation habitat as temperatures rise. The Audubon Society recently published a study showing that North American migratory birds were increasingly moving northward and inland in an attempt to find suitable habitat. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world's species will be at an increased risk of extinction if global temperature rises above 1.5 to 2.5° C above pre-industrial levels.
Currently, the U.S. Congress is considering a climate change bill. To truly protect wildlife, the bill needs the following three pillars: 1) funding to help wildlife adapt to climate change, 2) CO2 emissions targets based on what the best available science indicates is needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming to humans and wildlife alike, and 3) existing environmental protections, such as the Clean Air Act to remain in place.
Senators Baucus, Bingaman, T. Udall and Whitehouse have also introduced separate legislation to protect wildlife and wild places from climate change. The Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Act addresses the impacts of climate change on natural resources such as forests, coastlines and wildlife habitats, and on the people and economies that depend on those resources. The programs outlined in the bill will help manage forest health, restore watersheds to ensure abundant clean water supplies, and restore wetlands to protect coastal communities.
The bill is designed to show support for these critical programs to protect natural resources from climate change. We need to ask our Senators to support the Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Act and support all efforts to protect wildlife and wild places from the impacts of climate change before it is too late.
To find out more about saving species in a warming world, please visit the Endangered Species Coalition website.