The Preservation Predicament
On the front page of today’s (Jan. 29, 2008) Science section, the New York Times discussed “The Preservation Predicament.” Echoing concepts previously discussed in this blawg, the Gray Lady tackled the green dilemma; namely, how to manage and protect the environment in the face of climate change. As a Nature Conservancy leader explained, “Our whole strategy is going to have to shift.”
These types of nuanced articles reflect a fundamental shift in the national dialogue on global climate change. Indeed, climate change related resources on the web seem to grow daily. Blogs like ClimateArk and RealClimate and even The Weather Channel provide regular news and commentary. The federal government, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a valuable web portal with dozens of links and explanations on climate change and its related subtopics. Even television's venerable news magazine, 60 Minutes, recently broadcast an hour long look at Antarctica and the realities of global climate change. See The Age of Warming.
Predictably, all this information reveals frightening implications for endangered and threatened species. As explained by the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and its Working Group II-- dedicated to the analyis of "impacts, adaptation and vulnerability" -- substantial changes in structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and marine and other aquatic ecosystemsare very likely to occur with a global warming of more than 2 to 3°C above pre-industrial levels. In fact, "approximately 20 to 30% of plant and animal species assessed so far (in an unbiased sample) are likely to be at increasingly high risk of extinction as global mean temperatures exceed a warming of 2 to 3°C above preindustrial levels."
In other words, for threatened and endangered species, labeling global climate change a mere "predicament" is quite an understatement.