The study’s author, Mark C Urban has compiled the results of 131 existing studies at the impact of climate change on biodiversity loss and has pinpointed three areas most at risk of losing fauna – South America, New Zealand and Australia.
“The risk if we continue on our current trajectory is very high. If you look out your window and count six species and think that one of those will potentially disappear, that’s quite profound. Those losses would affect our economy, our cultures, our food security, our health. It really compels us to act.” said Urban.
The news is particularly dire when you take into account that even if governments do manage to hold global warming to 2 °C, one in 20 species still face extinction, the study found.
If current emission levels continue the Earth could see a temperature rise of more than 4 °C by the end of the century. If this occurs Urban predicts that 16% of species, or one in six, face extinction.
The study also emphasizes that even for the animals and plants that manage to avoid extinction, climate change could bring about substantial changes in their numbers and distribution.
Despite his analysis, Urban remains upbeat. “This isn’t just doom and gloom. We still have time. Extinctions can take a long time. There are processes that could be important in mediating these effects, for example evolution, but we really need to very quickly start to understand these risks in a much more sophisticated way,”