After decades of industrialisation, deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels, the Earth’s climate is noticeably changing. Climate change, warming temperatures and changing weather patterns have a significant impact on animals and their habitats, putting many species at risk of extinction.
Why should I care?
The earth’s ecosystems are complex and delicate. Any disturbance to one plant or animal species can affect a multitude of others. This can affect humans too, as we are dependent on the same environments for our water, food and resources. Understanding the impact of climate change on animals is not only important to help protect vulnerable species but also to prevent conflict between human populations and wildlife in areas where these resources are limited.
How does climate change affect animals?
Global warming is forcing many animals to leave their usual habitats and seek out cooler areas to live in. Butterflies, birds and other mammals are moving away from the equator. Unfortunately, not all animals can adapt this way. Physical obstacles like highways can often block their path. Animals like the polar bear or snow leopard already live in the coolest regions available to them and have nowhere left to go.
Climate change is also destroying natural forest habitats around the globe through droughts, high temperatures and insect infestations. Forests in North America, Australia, Russia, France and other countries are dying off at an astonishing rate. Warmer temperatures in the Rocky Mountains, for example, allow beetles to attack trees for longer periods of time. This has a devastating impact on wildlife like the grizzly bear, which relies on whitebark pine seeds for food.
Global warming also effects marine animals. Sand temperatures determine the gender of the turtles that hatch. Increased temperatures can affect breeding rates so that female turtles may come to outnumber their male counterparts. Climate change also leads to rising sea levels, higher tides and extreme weather conditions, which can destroy rare and fragile turtle nesting sites. Melting ice also poses a problem for the bowhead whale and narwhal, for example, as they rely on ice for protective cover.
This is just a small snapshot of the devasting impact on animals around the world. If nothing is done to prevent climate change, we risk seeing many more wildlife species become endangered, or even extinct.
How can I be more AnimalKind?
The good news is that, since we as a species are largely responsible climate change, we have the power to limit the impacts and protect animals from harm. Taking measures to reduce your carbon footprint is a good place to start. See our 10 tips for an environmentally-friendly lifestyle for ideas.
Why not also volunteer and help conservation efforts to protect natural habitats and animals?