Iconic animals are under threat if we breach 1.5°C warming, warns WWF – New Scientist
Wildlife ranging from bluebells and bumblebees to snow leopards and emperor penguins is under threat from climate change, according to a new report.
Even the coffee plants that produce one of the world’s favourite brews are at risk from rising temperatures, WWF has warned.
The conservation charity is calling on world leaders meeting for COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, UK, in November to take action to restrict global temperature rises to 1.5°C and limit the damage to nature and people.
WWF’s Feeling The Heat report warns that climate change is warming oceans and landscapes, and increasing the frequency of heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires, creating conditions that many species cannot cope with.
In the UK, puffins, mountain hares, bumblebees and bluebells are already feeling the heat, while overseas, species including sea turtles, Amazonian monkeys, frogs, corals and hippos are all under threat.
Mike Barrett, the charity’s executive director of science and conservation, said: “This isn’t a far-off threat – the impacts of climate change are already being felt, and if we don’t act now to keep global warming to 1.5°C, we will slide faster and faster towards catastrophe.”
The report said temperatures are already 1°C above levels before the industrial revolution, and failing to curb global warming to 1.5°C could spell catastrophic damage for wildlife – and people, who rely on the services nature provides.
But on current plans and pledges, the world is on track for a temperature rise of 2.4°C, with severe consequences for coastal communities and crops, as well as plants and animals already under pressure from other human activity.
Global wildlife populations have fallen by an average of 68 per cent since 1970, and the report calls for action to protect and restore habitats from tropical forests to Welsh seagrass meadows, and to transform farming and how the land is used.
This will help store carbon, boost wildlife and support communities, tackling both the climate and nature crises, the report argues.
It highlights 12 species at risk from climate change, including in the UK, where Atlantic puffins are being hit by more extreme storms and bad weather and a reduction in their seafood diet due to warming seas.
The much-loved sight of carpets of woodland bluebells could become rarer as warmer temperatures lead the plants to bloom out of sync with optimum spring conditions, putting them at risk, the report said.
Bumblebees are at risk from overheating and mountain hares in the Scottish Highlands are keeping their white coat camouflage too long as winter snow cover reduces – putting them at higher risk from predators.
Around the world, warming temperatures are putting species at risk, reducing the habitat of creatures ranging from monkeys that live in Amazonian forests and snow leopards in the remote Himalayas.
Hippos risk losing their wetlands and will struggle in higher temperatures, while the Arabica coffee plant does not cope well with warming temperatures, low or unpredictable rainfall or extreme weather, the report said.
Warm water coral reefs will be badly affected even by a 1.5°C rise in temperatures, but will all but disappear with global warming of 2°C, and emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica face a bleak future in the face of ice loss without action to curb emissions, the report said.
Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: “If we are to secure a future for some of our most iconic species and habitats, and indeed ourselves, then 2021 must be a turning point.
“World leaders must seize the chance at COP26 to build a greener, fairer future – one with nature at its heart.”
Sign up for Countdown to COP26, our free newsletter covering this crucial year for climate policy
More on these topics: