Unless countries dramatically improve their carbon-reduction commitments under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the planet’s richest animal and plant populations will be irreversibly destroyed by global warming.
An analysis of 8,000 published species risk assessments showed a high risk of extinction in nearly 300 biodiversity hotspots on land and at sea if temperatures rise 3 ° C above pre-industrial levels, scientists reported in the journal Biological Conservation.
The Earth’s surface has so far warmed by 1°C, and the Paris Agreement requires countries to limit warming to “well below” 2°C and 1.5°C, if possible.
National commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – provided they are met – will still cause temperatures to rise well above 3 ° C by the end of the century, if not sooner. The so-called endemic species – plants and animals found exclusively in a specific area – will be hardest hit by warming conditions.
From snow leopards in the Himalayas to the Vakita porpoise in the Gulf of California, to lemurs in Madagascar and elephants in Central Africa, many of the planet’s most famous creatures will disappear if humanity does not cut CO₂ and methane emissions, researchers say. Endemic terrestrial species in biodiversity hotspots are nearly three times more likely to suffer losses due to climate change than more widespread flora and fauna, and 10 times more likely than invasive species.
Climate change threatens areas overflowing with species not found anywhere else in the world. The risk that such species will disappear forever will increase 10 times if people do not achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. That being said, more and more scientists are acknowledging that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is probably not achievable.