Limiting warming to 1.5 degree C would save majority of global species from climate change

May 17, 2018

Limiting global warming to 1.5oC would save the vast majority of the world's plant and animal species from climate change - according to new research led by the University of East Anglia.

A new report published today in Science reveals that limiting warming to the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement would avoid half the risks associated with warming of 2oC for plants and animals, and two thirds of the risks for insects.

Species across the globe would benefit - but particularly those in Southern Africa, the Amazon, Europe and Australia.

Reducing the risk to insects is particularly important, the team say, because they are so vital for 'ecosystem services' such as pollinating crops and flowers, and being part of the food chain for other birds and animals.

Previous research focused on quantifying the benefits of limiting warming to 2oC above pre-industrial times - the upper limit for temperature as set out in the Paris Agreement - and did not look at insects.

This is the first study to explore how limiting warming to 1.5oC would benefit species globally.

Researchers at UEA and James Cook University in Australia studied some 115,000 species including 31,000 insects, 8,000 birds, 1,700 mammals, 1,800 reptiles, 1,000 amphibians and 71,000 plants in this, the largest scale study of its kind.

Lead researcher Prof Rachel Warren, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA, said: "We wanted to see how different projected climate futures caused areas to become climatically unsuitable for the species living there.

"We measured the risks to biodiversity by counting the number of species projected to lose more than half their geographic range due to climate change.

"We found that achieving the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement, to limit warming to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels, would reap enormous benefits for biodiversity - much more so than limiting warming to 2oC.

"Insects are particularly sensitive to climate change. At 2oC warming, 18 per cent of the 31,000 insects we studied are projected to lose more than half their range.

"This is reduced to 6 per cent at 1.5oC. But even at 1.5oC, some species lose larger proportions of their range.

"The current global warming trajectory, if countries meet their international pledges to reduce CO2, is around 3oC. In this case, almost 50 per cent of insects would lose half their range.

"This is really important because insects are vital to ecosystems and for humans. They pollinate crops and flowers, they provide food for higher-level organisms, they break down detritus, they maintain a balance in ecosystems by eating the leaves of plants, and they help recycle nutrients in the soil.

"We found that the three major groups of insects responsible for pollination are particularly sensitive to warming.

"If temperatures rise by 3oC, ecosystem services provided by insects would be greatly reduced. Other research has already shown that insects are already in decline for other reasons, and this research shows that climate change would really compound the problem."

The study includes the ability of species to relocate to more suitable locations as the world warms. Birds, mammals and butterflies have the greatest ability to disperse. The dispersal means that a small number of species can gain in range by 2100.

Prof Warren added: "If warming is limited to 1.5oC by 2100 then more species can keep up or even gain in range, whereas if warming reached 2oC by 2100 many species cannot keep up and far more species lose large parts of their range."

Co-author Dr Jeff Price, also from UEA, added: "Examples of animals to really benefit from limiting warming to 1.5 include the critically endangered Black Rhinoceros, which is already highly threatened by poaching and habitat loss.

"There are also species which have been important in evolutionary theory and studied since the time of Charles Darwin, which would benefit from limiting warming to 1.5oC. These include Darwin's Finches of the Galapagos, such as the Large Ground Finch."
-end-
'The projected effect on insects, vertebrates and plants of limiting global warming to 1.5oC rather than 2oC' is published in the journal Science on May 18, 2018.

University of East Anglia

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.