Over the last decades, consequences of global warming on biodiversity have become obvious [1–3], with many species likely to be committed to extinction by 2050 . Climate warming has already led to changes in species phenology , physiology (increased metabolic rates ), morphology (shrinking body size ), life cycle demography , and distribution , and, as a consequence, in community structure . Because their body temperature, and hence their basic physiological functions, directly depend on environmental conditions, ectotherms are particularly at risk with climate change , while the number of studies assessing their response to changing climate is far lower than for endotherms . The evaluation of their vulnerability is therefore urgent. For instance, a recent study predicted local extinctions of populations from various lizard families worldwide to reach 39% by 2080 due to climate change . Theoretical studies predict that climate change will principally threaten tropical ectotherms [11–14], while temperate ectotherms should resist or even benefit from the warmer temperatures [13,15–17]. However, most evidence on the impacts of climate change on species comes from long-term field survey data [1,8], or on the contrary, on short term laboratory experiments lacking ecological realism and complexity [18–20]. Despite the growing evidence on the strong impact of ecological context on species adaptation to temperature , there is little large scale realistic experimental evidence on animals, especially on vertebrates [20,22–25]. More importantly, to our knowledge, the impact of climate change on a species’ entire life cycle and population persistence has never been experimentally tested on a vertebrate . This information gap hinders the prediction of future impacts, because unraveling the impact of predicted climate on different demographic parameters is essential for the precise estimation of extinction probability [27,28]. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a global temperature increase between +0.3 and +4.8°C over the next century, depending on the CO2 emission scenarios . Experimental studies should thus implement realistic IPCC climate change projections relying on several greenhouse gas emission scenarios and describe population responses to said scenarios in large field experiments [24,25].
As hinted by the French president, Canada plays a leading role in destroying the atmosphere. Mechanical engineer John Abraham of the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota told Scientific American: “If we burn all the tar sand oil, the temperature rise, just from burning that tar sand, will be half of what weve already seen — an estimated additional nearly 0.4 degrees Celsius from Alberta alone.”
The Summary for Policymakers, expected to be unveiled on Sunday, November 2, 2014, is a synthesis of three IPCC reports released over the past year, which covered the science of climate change, our vulnerability to it, and what options are available to mitigate it.
“The IPCC reports are a clear, compelling case for immediate climate action,” says EESI Executive Director Carol Werner. “In a nutshell, they confirm that climate change is already causing damage and that it will only get worse unless we act now. The good news is, it’s not too late to act to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. I think the most important take-away from the IPCC’s work is that climate action makes good economic sense. Becoming sustainable and preventing disasters is good for business, good for economic growth, and good for the well-being of our people and communities!”
The reports, drafted by 830 authors and 1,200 contributors–and evaluated by 3,700 expert reviewers–leave no room for doubt: climate change is happening, and it is caused by humans. Unless we change our ways rapidly, average global temperatures will rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels, with potentially devastating results. The effects of climate change are already making themselves felt–the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy this past week is a grim reminder of what rising sea levels and more extreme weather can lead to.
The Summary for Policymakers should not make for a depressing read, however. Instead, it is expected to focus on the fact that action is still possible, that it won’t be excessively costly, and that it will indeed likely create the conditions for strong economic growth. Many of the actions we need to take to address climate change have a whole host of ancillary benefits, in particular when it comes to public health and the long-term sustainability of our economies.
On October 24, the European Union led by example, agreeing on an ambitious, binding target for its greenhouse gas emissions. The 28 member countries agreed to cut emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and to source a minimum of 27 percent of their energy from renewable power generation. “With major UN climate negotiations just a year away [the U.N. Climate Change Conference will take place in Paris starting November 2015], now is the time for nations to show their determination and commitment to address climate change,” said Werner.
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