Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Biodiversity Benefits of Limiting Warming to 1.5°C

By Australian Science Media Centre

Global temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2°C by 2100. A new study estimates that if this occurs, 26% of vertebrates, 49% of insects and 44% of plants would be unable to survive in about half of the areas they currently inhabit, compared with just 4% of vertebrates, 6% of insects and 8% of plants if warming is limited to 1.5°C.

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A paper just published in Science by a UK and Australian collaboration … is a mighty effort as a piece of research, but it’s also a mighty effort in trying to paint a silver lining on a thundercloud. Habitat loss of species is a good proxy for pressures towards extinction, and this paper simultaneously tells us how many species we could “save”’ by delivering on the Paris agreement. The problem is that the subtext outlines our actual effects on the demise of the world’s species and adds another 150,000 species or so on top of past and vast efforts to measure it.

Let’s cut to the chase. First, it’s already happening worldwide, as the authors point out. Second, it’s conservative. It doesn’t even begin to look at ecological interactions, natural disasters or tipping points. So, be assured, whatever it implies is already something of a “best case” scenario.

The worst hit? Insects and plants, including all the wonderful little beasties that pollinate 80% of our foodstuffs before it’s packaged up in plastic and wacky advertising crap and sent around the world to satisfy urbane tastes for perfect specimens of “out of season” produce. Go out in the garden and tell me the last time you even saw a bee? Then amphibians; children love frogs – I did. Then all the rest of the world’s creations beloved of most of us under the guidance of the great and sainted David...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.