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Monday, May 13, 2013

Study: Climate disruption will shred the web of life

Just days after atmospheric concentrations of CO2 exceeded their highest levels in at least 3 million years, the frightening climate news continues to cascade in.  A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change says that more than half of all plants and a third of all animal species are at risk of “dramatic declines” as their habitats shrink over the next seven decades due to climate disruption.
Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss finds that 57 percent of ALL plants and 34 percent of ALL animal species were likely to lose more than half the area with a climate suited to them by the 2080s if nothing was done to limit emissions.  Neither common species nor rare and endangered ones will be spared, and the impacts of those losses on biodiversity and ecosystems are not understood.

This is shocking – and fundamentally immoral. 

And the study's estimates are "probably conservative."

As if the decimation of the natural world through human activity were not enough to spur action, the authors added that humans will be directly affected, too (duh).  Wetland vegetation helps to filter and clean fresh water.  Air quality is improved by forests.  Tree and plant cover prevent soil erosion and limit flood damage.  All of those benefits will be severely compromised as we continue to push the climate further into the unknown. Fresh water will be harder to find, and the air will be more polluted and even less healthy to breathe as the planet warms. And the collapse of ecosystems will have major economic impacts on agriculture and tourism.  

While the world and many of its inhabitants are on the brink, the study found that the damage would be greatly reduced if emissions were scaled down in time. Losses are reduced by 60% if global warming is cut to 2% above preindustrial levels, with emissions peaking in 2016 and then being reduced by 5% a year. If emissions peak in 2030, losses are reduced by 40%.  

In performing the largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment in history – the carbonization of our atmosphere – we are shredding the web of life. The consequences for all life – including our own – are dire.  When will we wake up?

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