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Climate Change

World’s wildlife under threat from climate change, report warns

WWF is urging leaders meeting at the Cop26 climate summit to commit to action to curb global temperature rises to 1.5C and avoid catastrophe.

WILDLIFE RANGING FROM bluebells and bumblebees to snow leopards and emperor penguins is under threat from climate change, according to a new report.

Even the coffee plants which produce one of the world’s favourite brews are at risk from rising temperatures, WWF has warned.

The conservation charity is calling on world leaders meeting for Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November to ensure action to cut greenhouse gas emissions to curb global temperature rises to 1.5C and limit the damage to nature and people.

WWF’s Feeling The Heat report warns that climate change is warming oceans and landscapes, and increasing the frequency of heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires, creating conditions that many species cannot cope with.

In the UK, puffins, mountain hares, bumblebees and bluebells are already feeling the heat, while overseas, species including sea turtles, Amazonian monkeys, frogs, coral and hippos are all under threat.

Mike Barrett,  the charity’s executive director of science and conservation, said: “This isn’t a far-off threat – the impacts of climate change are already being felt, and if we don’t act now to keep global warming to 1.5C, we will slide faster and faster towards catastrophe.”

The report said temperatures are already 1C above levels before the industrial revolution, and failing to curb global warming to 1.5C could spell catastrophic damage for wildlife – and people, who rely on the services nature provides.

But on current plans and pledges, the world is on track for temperature rises of 2.4C, with severe consequences for coastal communities and crops, as well as plants and animals already under pressure from other human activity.

Global wildlife populations have fallen by an average of 68% since 1970, and the report calls for action to protect and restore habitats from tropical forests to Welsh seagrass meadows, and transform farming and how the land is used.

This will help store carbon, boost wildlife and support communities, tackling both the climate and nature crises, the report argues.

It highlights 12 species at risk from climate change, including in the UK, where Atlantic puffins are being hit by more extreme storms and bad weather and a reduction in their seafood diet due to warming seas.

The much-loved sight of carpets of woodland bluebells could become rarer as warmer temperatures lead the plants to bloom out of sync with optimum spring conditions, putting them at risk, the report said.

Bumblebees are at risk from overheating and mountain hares in the Scottish Highlands are keeping their white coat camouflage too long as winter snow cover reduces – putting them at higher risk from predators.

Around the world, warming temperatures are putting species at risk, reducing the habitat of creatures ranging from monkeys which live in Amazonian forests and snow leopards that are at home in the remote Himalayas.

Hippos risk losing their wetlands and will struggle in higher temperatures, while the Arabica coffee plant does not cope well with warming temperatures, low or unpredictable rainfall or extreme weather, the report said.

Warm water coral reefs will be badly affected even by a 1.5C rise in temperatures but will all but disappear with global warming of 2C, and emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica face a bleak future in the face of ice loss without action to curb emissions, the report said.

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: “If we are to secure a future for some of our most iconic species and habitats, and indeed ourselves, then 2021 must be a turning point.

“World leaders must seize the chance at Cop26 to build a greener, fairer future – one with nature at its heart.

“As hosts, the UK Government needs to show it can deliver on its ambitious climate targets by publishing a credible action plan without delay, outlining the steps it will take to cut harmful emissions and reach net zero.

“At the same time, ministers must recognise nature’s vital role in helping to deliver a 1.5C world, and urgently scale up efforts to protect and restore nature at home and overseas, including critical places like the Amazon and the polar regions.”

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