Preserving biological diversity despite losses due to abrupt climate change.


By Joseph V. Siry, Ph.D., Rollins College.

                  Environment and Climate Change

                  Harris Manchester College, Oxford University

                  England, UK.

                  25 July 2012



Abrupt climate change challenges us to mitigate pollution and take adaptive action to manage a pervasive, persistent and pernicious problem that we currently face. A minority of specialists disputes the seriousness of global warming and even fewer argue that such warming is a hoax.[1] Presently evidence exists for decreasing regional biological diversity–or the species richness, habitat variety and genetic variability of plants and animals–due to climate chaos. Polluting the air as to change the temperature balance of the earth is the greatest market failure ever endured by a modern economy. More significantly human health risks rise with a disproportionate impact falling on those people unprepared to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to the problems associated with climate change. But the extent, duration, and the degrees of damage remain difficult to know with precise certainty for three related reasons.


• First, levels of heat trapping gases are rising more swiftly than they have in 10,000 years.

• Next, this shift since 1950 has occurred with a profound suddenness.

• And finally, the accumulated level of carbon dioxide in the air is unprecedented in the past 800,000 years at over 400 ppm (part per million).


Currently, remedies of preserving land and water resources are ever more important, as evidence indicates an abrupt physical shift triggering biological responses such as wildlife and subsistence populations’ dislocation due to polar wildlife declines.[2]  The necessity for a new priority for protecting people and wild lands is emerging. We are beginning to realize that wild animals are our seeing-eye dogs with regard to the unpredictable character of future weather patterns. We must see wildlife as our partner in suffering and who can assist us through the difficult loss of life and diversity in the coming century. In scope, the depth of its causes in consumerism and persistence over time climate chaos due to global warming gives us few effective means to correct our mistakes without restoring the native regenerative world we have so extensively and carelessly polluted. 


Evident in wildlife and botanical studies in the Antarctic, in the Central American isthmus, among mountain terrains in the Great Basin, and in southern Africa are observed patterns of decline in flora and fauna that are indications of what may come. No simple, predictive pattern emerges aside from case specific examples of mammals, amphibians, butterflies or flowering plants responses to unparalleled temperature and rainfall changes. However, IPCC scientists in 2006 advised that given a three degree Celsius rise in temperatures over the next century up to twenty percent of the species may face extinction and minimally twenty million people may become climate refugees.[3] Global climate disruption is such a pressing environmental matter that even a corporate CEO for Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s second largest private utility, said when testifying before Congress “climate change is an urgent issue.”[4] Such tepid language reveals a need for more precise descriptive vocabulary to see together the root cause of Inuit village destruction, Haitian flooding, Somalian drought and rising ocean levels to the Maldive islands. Abrupt climate change consequently leads to deforestation and soil moisture decline in adversely affecting farm communities. People, wildlife, fisheries and their dependent communities face a common and underlying problem of unpredictable weather patterns that indicate shifts in prevailing climatic conditions. The spread of “dead zones” in the oceans and the prospect for “large scale declines in oceanic oxygen,” due to climate change are apparent now in Oregon, Peru, and South Africa as a global warning that large scale, long-term, unpredictable shifts are affecting wild areas, local communities and world protein supplies.[5]


Such assertions are based on studies revealing that declining soil moisture, average land and ocean temperature increases, changes in the frequency and abundance of precipitation, an advance in the onset of spring in the northern hemisphere, and ocean acidification are all persistent physical patterns with predictable power to further impair biodiversity. These impacts do not reveal –in their pronounced abruptness or accelerating rate– any natural cycle. These globally evident patterns are not due to orbital variations of the earth about the sun, or a periodic wobbling of the planet about its axis of rotation. Instead these climate shifts arise from pollution and loss of vegetative or forest cover. The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the air has accelerated from an average of over 1 ppm annually in the 1960s to over 2 ppm in the last decade. By 2007, the rate of increase had reached 3 ppm per year. The biotic responses associated with observed changes in the range of butterflies, abundance of amphibian species, and populations of prey for puffins, penguins and polar bears indicate that abrupt temperature shifts in higher latitudes and upper elevations are well underway. Most people poorly understand the risk they are taking by relying on ice, glaciers, and long-lived plant communities when adapting to these new pressures. [6]




Archer conclusion | Christianson | Gelbspan | James Hansen, 04 : Hansen 06 | McKibben| Schmidt | Weart | Wigley

[1] Spencer R. Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 2003).

[2] "Conservation for the People" by Kareiva and Marvier, Scientific American, 297:4, October 2007, pp. 50-57. p. 51.

[3] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis,

Summary for Policymakers, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report,” pp. 8, 14-18.

[4] Darbee, Peter A.  Testimony of Peter A. Darbee. Chairman, CEO and President PG&E Corporation, Committee on Environment and Public Works, United States Senate Hearing on the U.S. Climate Action Partnership Report  (February 13, 2007), page 1.

[5] Barbara Juncosa, “Suffocating Seas”, Scientific American, 299:4, (October, 2008), pp. 20-22.

[6] Camille Parmesan , ‘”Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Recent Climate Change,’’ The Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, on August 24, 2006 , p. 637.



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