Article / 06 May, 2019
IPBES: Climate Change Is a Key Driver for Species Extinction

UN Climate Change News, 6 May 2019 - Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, and climate change is amongst the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far.

This is one key finding of a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), approved by governments in Paris last week and presented to the public today.

The report finds that the distribution of 47% of the proportion of terrestrial flightless mammals and 23% of threatened birds may have already been negatively impacted by climate change. Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly. 

With regard to climate change, the report lists the following additional numbers:

  • 1 degree Celsius: average global temperature difference in 2017 compared to pre-industrial levels, rising +/-0.2 (+/-0.1) degrees Celsius per decade
  • >3 mm: annual average global sea level rise over the past two decades
  • 16-21 cm: rise in global average sea level since 1900
  • 100% increase since 1980 in greenhouse gas emissions, raising average global temperature by at least 0.7 degree
  • 40%: rise in carbon footprint of tourism (to 4.5Gt of carbon dioxide) from 2009 to 2013
  • 8%: of total greenhouse gas emissions are from transport and food consumption related to tourism
  • 5%: estimated fraction of species at risk of extinction from 2°C warming alone, rising to 16% at 4.3°C warming

The report underscores that 22 of 44 of the assessed targets under the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, ocean and land are being undermined by substantial negative trends in nature and its contributions to people.

Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards 80% (35 out of 44) of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land. Loss of biodiversity is therefore shown to be not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well.

The authors of the report also write that negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change – due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.

Read the relevant IPBES press release here.