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Report Details 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming
Polar Bear, Sea Turtles, Spotted Owl, Caribou, and Salmon Could Go Extinct if Carbon Dioxide Not Quickly Reduced to 350 Parts Per Million
SAN FRANCISCO - October 22 - In anticipation of this Saturday's Global Day of Climate Action, the Center for Biological Diversity today released an extensive inventory of species threatened by global warming. The interactive Web site "350 Reasons We Need to Get to 350: 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming" describes the growing risks posed by climate change to 350 imperiled species in every region of the United States and across the globe.
"The Arctic is already melting, sea level is already rising, and polar bears are already dying," said Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity. "We need quick action to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million, and the current legislative proposals won't get us there."
Atmospheric CO2 currently stands at about 387 ppm (parts per million). Scientists, including the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Jim Hansen of NASA, have called on world leaders to reduce that level to 350 ppm. Doing so will require the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent or more below 1990 levels by 2020.
Peer-reviewed studies have concluded that 35 percent of species could be committed to extinction by 2050 if current emissions trajectories continue and that these extinctions could be significantly reduced if emissions fall.
To document the devastating effects of global warming on wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity has profiled 350 climate-threatened species, including the Mexican spotted owl, sea otter, polar bear, and Atlantic salmon.
Users can find species' descriptions and photos through an interactive regional map or through a taxonomic portal.
"As President Obama prepares for the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the time to act is now. If we fail to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million or below, many thousands of species, including our own human race, face a perilous future," said Braz.
The 350 species include:
PACIFIC WALRUS: Earlier this month, Arctic sea ice reached the third-lowest level ever recorded, creating ripe condition for dangerous stampedes as walruses move to shore in large numbers. This year up to 200 young Pacific walruses were trampled to death in Alaska. On September 8, 2009, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced a positive initial finding on the Center's petition to list the walrus under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
POLAR BEAR: The melting of its sea-ice habitat causes individual bears to drown, starve, and even resort to cannibalism. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in May 2008 in response to a Center petition to protect the bear from global warming. U.S. government scientists predict that two-thirds of the world's polar bears will disappear by mid-century.
ATLANTIC SALMON: Sometimes called the "king of fish," the Atlantic salmon has already declined by 90 percent. Hotter river waters are dangerous for these cold-water fish during spawning and for their eggs and young.
MEXICAN SPOTTED OWL: Dependent on cool, shady forests, the Mexican spotted owl is threatened by rising temperatures and higher risk of forest fires.
SEA OTTERS: Off the West Coast, increasingly corrosive waters are making it harder for the invertebrates that are the otter's main prey to form their shells.
SEA TURTLES: Rising temperatures could dramatically tilt the gender balance of sea turtles, endangering reproduction because the gender of hatchlings is determined by temperature. In temperatures just two degrees higher than 29 degrees Celsius, almost all hatchlings are females.
ARCTIC FOX: As temperatures rise, the Arctic fox's tundra and sea-ice habitat is shrinking, its lemming prey are becoming less abundant, and it faces increased competition and displacement by the red fox, which is moving northward.
CORALS: Earlier this week, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the federal government to protect 83 coral species under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming. Corals are at high risk of extinction worldwide from global warming and the related threat of ocean acidification.