Can you imagine a world where more than half of our common plant species and a third of our known animals disappear from sight? That's the scenario1
suggested by new research on the impact of climate change.
An international team of researchers looked at the impact of rising temperatures on nearly 50,000 species of plants and animals. They came to the conclusion that these are to decline due to changes in their habitat.
They looked at temperature and rainfall records for the habitats in which these species now live, and mapped the areas that would remain suitable for them under different weather conditions.
The scientists projected that if no significant efforts were made to limit greenhouse gas emissions2
, by the year 2100 global temperatures would be 4C above pre-industrial levels. In this scenario, some 34% of animal species and 57% of plants would lose more than half of their current habitat ranges.
The impact on species will be felt more heavily in some parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, the Amazon region and Australia.
Our society would be affected3
too, according to Dr Rachel Warren, from the University of East Anglia in Britain. She says: "There'll be a knock-on effect for humans because these species are important for things like water and air purification, flood control and nutrient4
cycling, and eco-tourism."
In spite of the conclusions to this paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, it is not all doom5
and gloom. Dr Warren says: "Swift action to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases can prevent the biodiversity loss by reducing the amount of global warming to 2C rather than 4 degrees."
The researcher believes that this would buy time for plants and animals to adapt to the change.
If nothing is changed and the predictions of this study are confirmed, the world might look very different in a few generations.