One in six of the planet’s species will be lost forever to extinction if world leaders fail to take action on climate change, according to a new analysis.
Relatively small land masses in Australia and New Zealand mean that many species there will be unable to migrate to cope with rising temperatures, found the study, published in the journal Science on Thursday.
The study is the most comprehensive look yet at the impact of climate change on biodiversity loss, analysing 131 existing studies on the subject. The stresses on wildlife and their habitats from global warming is in addition to pressures such as deforestation, pollution and overfishing that have already seen the world lose half its animals in the past 40 years.
But even if governments do manage to hold global warming to 2C, one in 20 species (5.2%) still face extinction, the study found.
If manmade greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current record-breaking rate, leading to a temperature rise of more than 4C by the end of the century, 16% of species, or one in six, face extinction.
The study also emphasises that even for the animals and plants that avoid extinction, climate change could bring about substantial changes in their numbers and distribution.
The golden toad was once native to the cloud forests of Costa Rica, but climate change aggravated the threats from deadly chytrid fungus and pollution, eventually driving the species to extinction. Photograph: Alamy
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One in six of world’s species faces extinction due to climate change – study
Featured Photo: A Bramble Cay Melomy, the first mammalian extinction due to climate change. (2016) Melomys used to inhabit a small island in the Great Barrier Reef. Rising sea levels destroyed 97% of their habitat and much of their food supply, and likely drowned many of them.