The Bank recently extended its support to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a union that brings together influential organisations and experts to protect and conserve nature and accelerate the transition to sustainable development. Let’s take a look at the state of climate change and the reasons behind their commitment.
Evolution of the Planet’s Health
Our beautiful blue planet, which currently supports 7.7 billion people, is also undergoing concerning changes. The year 2019 was the second hottest year on record, and saw raging wildfires destroy lives and ecosystems in the Amazon rainforest, Australia, Indonesia, Russia and the United States. The average global surface temperature has risen by about 0.9 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, largely due to the increase in man-made emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world, including the Alps, the Himalayas, the Andes, the Rockies and Alaska.
Animal species are obviously affected by anthropogenic – human-induced – climate change, and its speed reduces the ability of many species to adapt to their environment. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, published annually, revealed that over 30,000 species are now threatened with extinction. Climate change is directly affecting 19% of them, increasing the likelihood of their extinction. The melomys rubicola – a small rodent, is the first mammal whose extinction is directly linked to climate change. It could previously be found on the island of Bramble Cay in north-eastern Australia before its habitat was destroyed by rising sea levels. The origin of the current pandemic is partly due to the lack of respect for the natural habitat and biodiversity of species such as the bat or the pangolin.
Climate change also causes changes in species themselves. For example, rising temperatures have led to:
- ecological changes: for example, the migration of Chinook salmon to Arctic rivers, or the appearance of earlier breeding periods for North American tree swallows;
- physiological changes: warmer temperatures during egg incubation cause imbalance in the sex ratio of green sea turtles, with females representing 99% of newly hatched turtles on some nesting beaches;
- genetic changes: through the emergence of hybridisation, i.e. the interbreeding as species’ habitats change, which affects in particular the common toad and the green toad in southern Italy.