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Species Depletion; Bird Populations Imperiled

January 21, 2011

Right now, 10 countries — including the U.S., China and Russia — are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. The United States is the world’s second largest emitter (China ranks no. 1), sending around 5.8 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year. That’s the equivalent to a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from 1.1 billion average passenger vehicles. Below, a look at today’s big CO2 emitters — and projected emissions giants in 2030.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 6.0. (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, 2009) Credit: Alyson Hurt and Kathleen Masterson / NPR

View Map, click here

Global warming, climate change, overpopulation, habitat destruction — these are all largely manmade influences that are wreaking havoc on species, bio-diversity, and our overall environment. Globalization is encouraging ‘growth economics’ which fuels a cycle of overconsumption and is resource intensive. Species of all types are dying off and many more are under siege.

NY Times Today: Over the next 100 years, many scientists predict, 20 percent to 30 percent of species could be lost if the temperature rises 3.6 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the most extreme warming predictions are realized, the loss could be over 50 percent, according to the United Nations climate change panel.

Birds are good barometers of biodiversity because amateur birdwatchers keep such extensive records of their sightings. But other animals are similarly affected.

Polar bears have become the icons of this climate threat. But scientists say that tens of thousands of smaller species that live in the tropics or on or near mountaintops are equally, if not more, vulnerable. These species, in habitats from the high plateaus of Africa to the jungles of Australia to the Sierra Nevada in the United States, are already experiencing climate pressures, and will be the bulk of the animals that disappear.

Some species that scientists say are at most risk in a warming climate are already considered threatened or endangered, like the Sharpe’s longclaw and the Aberdare cisticola in Kenya. The cisticola, which lives only at altitudes above 7,500 feet, is considered endangered by the international union, and research predicts that climate change will reduce its already depleted habitat by a further 80 percent by 2100.

Entire article: click here

Related story:

NPR Morning Edition Today: As the globe warms up, many plants and animals are moving uphill to keep their cool. Conservationists are anticipating much more of this as they make plans to help natural systems adapt to a warming planet. But a new study in Science has found that plants in northern California are bucking this uphill trend in preference for wetter, lower areas.

Usually, coping with climate change is an uphill struggle for ecosystems — literally. Plants and animals want to be in a temperature zone where they can survive best.

“We see it consistently for mobile species such as insects and animals,” says Solomon Dobrowski, an assistant professor of forest landscape ecology at the University of Montana. “A lot of the real foundation studies of this have come out of studies of butterflies, for example.”

What’s the answer?

1. Stop buying so many manufactured goods
2. Establish a smaller carbon footprint
3. Lower energy use
4. Establish natural habitat zones in your yard for birds, bees, and butterflies
5. Establish rainwater recapture system on your property
6. Drive a hybrid or EV vehicle
7. Use more public transportation
8. Contact your representatives on all the above issues
9. Support Audubon, Sierra Club, and similar organizations
10. Get involved with your community or other eco-friendly organizations.

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