Climate change is one of the biggest threats to our planet and its inhabitants. It is no longer a matter of debate that human activities are contributing to the change in climate. The rise in global temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and changing weather patterns are some of the visible effects of climate change. But, what about the impact of human-caused climate change on biodiversity and the planet’s ecosystem? Are we causing a mass extinction event?
The Link between Climate Change and Mass Extinction
Mass extinction refers to a sudden and rapid loss of biodiversity in a relatively short period of geological time. The most well-known mass extinction event was the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Today, scientists warn that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event, but this time, humans are the cause. Climate change is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss and species extinction. The warming of the planet, changes in precipitation patterns, and rising sea levels are just some of the factors that are impacting ecosystems and pushing species towards extinction.
It is estimated that the global wildlife population has declined by 69 percent since 1970.WWF Living Planet Report 2022
Climate Change and Biodiversity
Animals living in cold areas, like polar bears, seals, and penguins, face a particularly high risk of extinction according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Their lives would be under serious threat if temperatures were to rise by 2 degrees or even less.
Climate change has already had a significant impact on biodiversity. Species that are adapted to specific climatic conditions are struggling to survive as the climate changes. Polar bears, for instance, are losing their sea-ice habitat as Arctic sea ice melts due to rising temperatures. Similarly, coral reefs, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, are dying due to warmer and more acidic oceans. The changing climate is also affecting migration patterns and breeding cycles of many animals, which can have ripple effects throughout entire ecosystems.
The Role of Humans in the Mass Extinction Event
Human activities are the primary driver of climate change and, therefore, the mass extinction event. We are responsible for emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat, causing the planet to warm. Our actions are also causing deforestation, land-use change, and pollution, all of which are contributing to the loss of biodiversity.
What Can We Do?
The situation may seem bleak, but there is hope. We can take steps to reduce our impact on the planet and mitigate climate change. The most important thing we can do is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This can be done by transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, reducing waste, and adopting sustainable land-use practices. We can also protect biodiversity by conserving habitats, creating wildlife corridors, and reducing pollution.
In the IPCC’s worst-case scenario, global emissions would double by 2050, causing temperatures to rise an average of 2.4 degrees Celsius between 2041 and 2060. But in the best-case scenario, the global temperature would rise just 1.5 degrees between now and 2040, then dip back down by the end of the century.Business Insider Africa
Human-caused climate change is causing a mass extinction event that threatens the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystem. We have a responsibility to take action to mitigate our impact on the planet and protect the species we share it with. By reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and protecting biodiversity, we can create a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.