The link between climate change and animal extinction has long been known, but now that link is thought to be more dire than ever. A new study by University College London (UCL), published this month in Nature, predicted that over one million plant and animal species could suffer extinction sooner than previously believed, unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
Alex L. Ligot, a scientist at UCL and one of the study’s authors, said, “For a long time things can seem OK, and then suddenly they’re not. Then, it’s too late to do anything about it because you’ve already fallen over this cliff edge.”
Researchers studied over 30,000 species to predict how a rise in the earth’s temperature would impact them, and found that sudden collapse could occur across almost all species if greenhouse gas emissions remain at current levels. In the next decade, tropical ocean ecosystems could begin to collapse, devastating coral bleaching events could occur, and tropical forests could be in danger as soon as 2040.
Christopher Trisos, one of the study’s authors and a scientist at the University of Cape Town, said, “The benefits of early and rapid action are massive and prevent the extinction of thousands of species. If we take action now, we limit this abrupt disruption to two percent of the planet, but that two percent of the planet still has a lot of people living there in tropical regions. And they need our help.”