Climate Change to Become ‘Greatest Pressure on Biodiversity’ by 2070
By Daisy Dunne
The combined effects of global warming and land-use change could cause the world's ecosystems to lose more than a third of their animal species by 2070, a new study finds.
The local loss of species could greatly impair the ability of ecosystems to function as normal, the lead author told Carbon Brief, which could, in turn, threaten natural services, such as pollination.
However, restricting global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels—which is the limit of the Paris agreement—could reduce the risk facing the world's ecosystems, the author adds.
Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are expected to make existing habitats inhospitable for many animal species. Biodiversity is also under threat from land-use change caused by agriculture, deforestation and land degradation.
The new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, considers how both of these threats could combine to affect ecosystems across the world in the coming decades.
The research finds that, in a future with relatively high amounts of global warming and land-use change, the number of animal species in the average ecosystem could fall by 38 percent, when compared to conditions from 1961-90.
However, some ecosystems are expected to face larger species losses than others, said study author Dr. Tim Newbold, a research fellow at the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London. He told Carbon Brief:
"Climate change is to become, perhaps, the greatest pressure on biodiversity and overtake land-use in terms of impacts on biodiversity. If you combine these things together, the predictions are—at least under business as usual—for very large losses of biodiversity."
For his research, Newbold used modelling to produce a set of maps showing the expected impact of global warming and land-use change—and where these threats could overlap—in different parts of the world.
His results were based on four possible future scenarios, known as the "Representative Concentration Pathways" (RCPs). Each scenario makes assumptions about a range of parameters, including the future rate of greenhouse gas release, the efforts made to combat climate change (mitigation) and the rate of global population growth.
The scenarios include: an "optimistic" scenario which assumes global warming is restricted to below 2C (RCP2.6); a scenario where warming reaches 2-3C (RCP4.5); a scenario where warming reaches 2.6-3.7C (RCP6.0); and a "business-as-usual" scenario where warming reaches 4-6C (RCP8.5). (Carbon Brief has previously described these four RCPs in more detail.)
The maps below show where losses are expected to be "high" (greater than 10 percent of species lost) as a result of climate change (orange) and land-use change (blue) for each scenario. Areas where high losses from global warming and land-use change overlap are also shown (black), as well as where species loss is expected to be low (grey).
Expected biodiversity loss from climate and land-use change by 2070 under (top left to bottom right) RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and RCP8.5. The maps include where losses are expected to be "high" (greater than 10% of species lost) as a result of climate change (orange) and land-use change (blue) for each scenario. Areas where high losses from global warming and land-use change overlap are also shown (black), as well as where species loss is expected to be low (grey).
The charts show that the combined impacts of climate change and land-use are expected to be highest under the "business-as-usual" scenario. In this scenario, land-use change is expected to cause biodiversity losses of 2 percent, while global warming is expected to cause losses of 29 percent.
Biodiversity losses are expected to be particularly high in the tropical grasslands and savannahs of southern Africa and southern America. This is because these regions are the most likely to be converted to agricultural sites, possibly for the production of palm oil, Newbold said.
The analysis also suggests that amphibians and reptiles could be disproportionately affected by both global warming and land-use change, when compared to mammals and birds.
Many amphibians have complex reproductive life cycles that rely on the availability of both land and freshwater. (For example, tadpoles are restricted to water while adult frogs live on land.) This reliance on multiple environments is likely to increase the group's vulnerability to climate change.
Reptiles could also be uniquely vulnerable to climate change. One reason for this is because reptiles rely on their external environment to regulate their body temperature, meaning they can overheat if temperatures are unusually high.
Bargaining with BECCS
The results show that the RCP2.6 scenario, which projects the smallest level of future climate change, leads to the second most negative land-use impacts on biodiversity.
This is largely because the scenario relies on considerable use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to limit the effects of climate change.
Put simply, BECCS involves burning biomass—such as trees and crops—to generate energy and then capturing the resulting CO2 emissions before they are released into the air.
In theory, this process could reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere – making BECCS a "negative emissions technology."
However, using large-scale BECCS to limit warming to 2C could require up to 18 percent of the land surface to be converted to biomass plantations—which could pose a significant threat to biodiversity.
The new study, however, shows that when the impacts of global warming and land-use change are considered together, RCP2.6 still projects the lowest risks for biodiversity out of all of the scenarios.
This suggests that the large land-use costs associated with BECCS may be offset by the resulting reduction in climate change impacts.
However, it is important to consider that there could be other solutions for tackling climate change that would not take up large amounts of land, Newbold said. Such options would be the most beneficial for biodiversity, he added:
"The results of studies like this suggest that we should be looking for solutions that mitigate climate change that don't rely on using lots of land—because we know that has large impacts."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
New Zealand could be the first country in the world to require its major financial institutions to report on the risks posed by the climate crisis.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Eco-friendly outdoor brand Patagonia has a colorful and timely message stitched into the tags of its latest line of shorts. "VOTE THE A**HOLES," it reads.
- 'Go Out and Vote' Patagonia Endorses Candidates for First Time in ... ›
- Tesla, Patagonia Join Growing Resistance Against Trump - EcoWatch ›
This year, the UK National James Dyson Award went to a team of student designers who want to reduce the environmental impact of car tires.
- Humans Eat More Than 100 Plastic Fibers With Each Meal - EcoWatch ›
- Microplastics Are Raining Down on Cities - EcoWatch ›
- Microplastics Are Wafting in on the Sea Breeze - EcoWatch ›
By Brett Wilkins
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the meatpacking industry worked together to downplay and disregard risks to worker health during the Covid-19 pandemic, as shown in documents published Monday by Public Citizen and American Oversight.
<div id="13077" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="11b9fe5ff48ebc437353df6df9c2c892"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1305915938148147205" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Just a week before the Trump administration issued an executive order aimed at keeping meat packing plants open, th… https://t.co/DkbXgPm4YR</div> — ProPublica (@ProPublica)<a href="https://twitter.com/propublica/statuses/1305915938148147205">1600189597.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="36e4c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e7c8048c2755109629a3b3072fcb3261"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1304424041814593539" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Meatpacking union @UFCW, which reps workers at this plant (four of whom died), slams OSHA for the small $13k fine a… https://t.co/tnhfKd89ab</div> — Dave Jamieson (@Dave Jamieson)<a href="https://twitter.com/jamieson/statuses/1304424041814593539">1599833901.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents Smithfield Foods workers, <a href="https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2020/09/10/osha-fines-smithfield-foods-sioux-falls-south-dakota/5768786002/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=f7bf3f03-ce98-4df4-9c45-f44d9a6a5890" target="_blank">slammed</a> the fine as "insulting and a slap on the wrist."</p><p>"How much is the health, safety, and life of an essential worker worth? Based on the actions of the Trump administration, clearly not much," said UFCW president Marc Perrone.</p><p>"This so-called 'fine' is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic," Perrone added. </p><p>Other critics, including vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights and environmental advocates argued that the accelerated spread of Covid-19 from meatpacking facilities is but the latest compelling argument in favor of reducing—or eliminating—meat consumption.</p><p>"We know that Covid-19 originated in a meat market and that previous influenza viruses originated in pigs and chickens," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-shortage-slaugherhouses-go-vegan/" target="_blank">said</a> in April amid news that a Foster Farms slaughterhouse in Livingston, California was <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/coronavirus-covid-19-slaughterhouse-meat-concerns/?utm_source=PETA::Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=0420::veg::PETA::Twitter::Workers%20Blame%20Major%20Pig%20Slaughterhouse%20600%20Infected%20COVID-19::::tweet" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ordered closed</a> by local health authorities due to a Covid-19 outbreak that killed eight employees.</p>
<div id="28490" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="48ddd3480a2beb42597d9516ef652f0f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1252416495990140929" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! @SmithfieldFoods allegedly took NO PRECAUTIONS to protect the safety of its workers, leaving o… https://t.co/viAJ026pLy</div> — PETA (@PETA)<a href="https://twitter.com/peta/statuses/1252416495990140929">1587434336.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"It's not a matter of <em>whether</em> using and killing animals for food will give rise to another disease outbreak—it's a matter of <em>when</em>," said PETA. "There has never been a better, more obvious time for businesses to put an end to their dirty trade of slaughtering animals for their flesh." </p>
By Andrea Willige
More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and most future population growth is predicted to happen in urban areas. But the concentration of large numbers of people and the ecosystems built around their lives has also been a driver of climate change.