Slowing Global Warming Could Save a Majority of Earth’s Species

Following the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement would benefit plants and animals around the world, according to a new study.

May 17, 2018
Ashley Yeager

WIKIMEDIA, HARALD ZIMMERIf global warming is kept in check, with only a 1.5 °C increase in temperatures by the end of the century, a vast majority of plants and animals will be spared extinction, researchers report today (May 17) in Science.

“We found that achieving the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement, to limit warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels, would reap enormous benefits for biodiversity—much more so than limiting warming to 2 °C,” study coauthor Rachel Warren of the University of East Anglia says in a statement.

In the study, Warren and her colleagues looked at the effects of rising temperatures on roughly 115,000 species and counted how many would lose more than half their geographic habitat as a result of different global warming scenarios. The team found that limiting global air temperature increases to only 1.5 °C would “avoid half the risks associated with warming of 2 °C for plants and animals, and two thirds of the risks for insects,” according to the statement. Preserving insect populations is important for pollination of plants and food products, Warren adds.

“Warming by more than two degrees will take the world into a temperature state that it hasn't seen for several millions of years,” Guy Midgley of Stellenbosch University who was not involved in the study notes in a separate media release. Midgley wrote a commentary accompanying Warren’s paper in Science. “There is way too much debate about the issue of climate change and whether or not it is real. What we really need to be doing is debating how we solve this problem.”