Silent Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter: WWF Says Global Warming Could Wipe Out Most Birds

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Even if you spend a lot of time reporting on the depressing facts of global warming, every so often (actually, at least once a week) a study comes out that really drives home how dire things are. Today it is this:

“Unchecked climate change could drive up to 72 per cent [ed: see below] of the world’s bird species into extinction but the world still has a chance to limit the losses, conservation group WWF said in a report on Tuesday.

Needless to say, once the birds go, we go with them. They’re pollinators, for one thing. And they keep the numbers of dangerous insects down for another.

Update: The folks at Climate Risk–which is an asset management firm that advises companies and governments how to ” make better strategic decisions based on the best available climate science” (fascinating)–have pointed out that the newswire gloss on the study is slightly wrong (Can I also add that WWF’s site made it impossible to find the actual study? For shame.):

Here’s a more precise summary of the study:

The report also shows that birds suffer from climate change effects in every part of the globe. Scientists have found declines of up to 90 per cent in some bird populations, as well as total and unprecedented reproductive failure in others.

Scientists also analyzed available projections of future impacts, including bird species extinction. They found that bird extinction rates could be as high as 38 per cent in Europe, and 72 per cent in northeastern Australia, if global warming exceeds 2 º C above pre-industrial levels (currently it is 0.8ºC above).

“Birds have long been used as indicators of environmental change, and with this report we see they are the quintessential `canaries in the coal mine’ when it comes to climate change,” said Hans Verolme, Director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Programme. “This report finds certain bird groups, such as seabirds and migratory birds, to be early, very sensitive, responders to current levels of climate change. Large-scale bird extinctions may occur sooner than we thought.”

If high rates of extinction are to be avoided, rapid and significant greenhouse gas emission cuts must be made, WWF says.

So, not quite as bad. Still really, really bad.

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