If greenhouse emissions go unchecked, endemic species will disappear

The lemurs of Madagascar and Himalayan snow leopards are among the hundreds of endemic species that will all but disappear if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked.

The plants and animals that are unique to a single location, such as one island or one country, are particularly vulnerable to climate change, according to research by a global team of scientists published in the Biological Conservation journal on Friday. They’re almost three times more likely to go extinct, according to an analysis of almost 300 biodiversity hotspots on land and sea.

“Unfortunately, our study shows that those biodiversity rich-spots will not be able to act as a safe haven from climate change,” said Mariana Vale, a researcher at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and a co-author of the study. “This could greatly increase extinction rates worldwide.”

Some 92% of all endemic species on land and 95% of those in the sea will shrink in numbers or even disappear under current emissions levels, which put the world on track to warm 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century from pre-industrial levels. On mountains, 84% of endemic plants and animals face extinction, while the percentage rises to 100% on islands.

The study also found that most will survive if warming remains at 1.5ºC or below 2ºC, the levels governments committed to in 2015 when they signed the Paris Agreement. Even at 1.5ºC, 2% of land and marine species will go extinct. If the world warms 2ºC, then 4% will disappear.

“The risk for such species to be lost forever increases more than 10-fold if we miss the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Stella Manes, lead author and a researcher at Federal University. “Biodiversity has more value than meets the eye —a healthy nature provides indispensable contributions to people, such as water, food, materials, protection against disasters, recreation, and cultural and spiritual connections.”

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