The changing climate over the next 50 years is expected to drive a quarter of land animals and plants into extinction, according to the to the first comprehensive study into the effect of higher temperatures on the natural world. The scale of the disaster facing the planet shocked those involved in the research. They estimate that must more than 1 million species will be lost by 2050.
The results are described as “terrifying” by Chris Thomas, professor of conservation biology at Leeds University, who is lead author of the research from four continents published last week in the magazine Nature. Much of that loss-more than one in 10 of all plants and animals is already irreversible because of the extra global warming gases already discharged into the atmosphere. But the scientists say that action to curb greenhouse gases now could save many more.
In South Africa, major conservation areas such as Kruger National Park risked losing up to 60% of the species under their protection, while of 300 South African plant species studied, more than one third were expected to die out, including the national flower, the King Protea.
Studies in Mexico’s Chihuahuan desert confirmed that on flatter land extinction was more likely because a small change in climate would require migrations over vast distances for survival. One third of 1.870 species examined would be in trouble. So many species are already destined for extinction because it takes at least 25 years for the greenhouse effect-or the trapping of the sun’s rays by the carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide-to have its full effect on the planet. The continuous discharge of more greenhouse gases, particulary by the United States and European nations, is making matters worse.
The research sats that, if mankind continues to burn oil, coal and gas at the current rate, up to one third of all life forms will be doomed by 2050.