Climate change and biodiversity: Humans will decide
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March 7, 2023
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Climate change and biodiversity: Humans will decide

Researchers argue that we need to reframe the way we understand how climate change threatens biodiversity and our role in it.

Climate change: Not just a factor amongst many

A new study  has found that our response to climate change will most likely determine the fate of our planet’s biodiversity. The study from Brodie and Watson raises concerns in regards to the scarce attention that the human dimension has had in policy makers and conservation scientists, who instead choose to focus on how species are vulnerable to the altered abiotic conditions driven by climate change alone. They argue that climate change is not a separate threat to biodiversity but it also magnifies other threats and is often directly connected to them, a fact which they argue that it has been neglected by conversion scientists and policy makers. They state:

“Policymakers and planners still do not recognize this combined impact when considering how to abate climate disruption and biodiversity loss.”

They argue that it is this combination and interrelation of threats which makes the current extinction crisis unique in Earth’s history. We are also facing extinction at a very accelerated rate, compared to even the largest mass extinction to date at the end of the Permian.

They argue that despite conversation scientists and policymakers have played an important role in slowing down the losses in biodiversity they need to acknowledge the magnifying role climate change plays in a lot of threating factors of biodiversity such as habitat loss, overexploitation and invasive species.

How biodiversity is affected

Regional drying for example has made many tropical rainforests accessible to hunting, fishing and logging pressure. Climate-facilitated expansion of oil palm cultivation in Southeast Asia threatens native species far more than habitat loss or climate change alone. Their point is that climate change shouldn’t be seen as a singular factor threatening diversity but as an accelerating, self-propelling network where everything affects and it is affected by everything else within the same set of relations. For example, rising temperatures can increase the spread of invasive species and increase the toxicity of pollutants. These problems aren’t separate. They’re connected together and magnified by climate change.

Researcher stress the fact that climate change will most likely lead to the largest human migration in history. They argue that the way we deal with climate change and mass displacement will have a direct effect in biodiversity. Climate change is expected to destabilize food security in many countries, something which can lead to conflict. The paper emphasises that biodiversity will be affected and most likely can only be saved by direct human intervention and human decision making in climate threat management. The complexity of the network which climate change sets off is increasingly difficult to predict with certainly. Its precise effects on biodiversity, therefore, remain still ambiguous, with different competing scenarios, albeit, the majority of them are not optimistic. They argue that in order to address this complexity we need systemic change in how biodiversity is accounted for. The timing is critical and the researchers note that the likelihood of the most pessimistic projected scenarios increases with every week, month and year we spend not acting.