Global warming is an increasingly pressing environmental challenge that affects not only humans but also plants and animals alike. Consequently, the shift in climate has had a detrimental impact on some of the creatures we share this planet with, potentially bringing them to a point of extinction.
Firstly, global warming has already taken a toll on many species. For example, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Living Planet Report 2018’, the average global population of vertebrates plummeted by 60 per cent between 1970 and 2014. This can be attributed to rising temperatures which have caused flooding, drought and subsequent mass migration, making certain habitats uninhabitable. For instance, polar bears are increasingly threatened as the melting of their icy habitat accelerates at an alarming rate. Similarly, the decrease in penguin populations is mainly due to the fact that the warmer temperatures mean that the fish they rely on for food are migrating farther away from their colony.
Global warming has not only affected the availability of food for species like polar bears, but has also had a direct impact on the health of some animals. A study conducted in Australia showed that a rise in temperature is associated with lower fertility rates in koalas, making them more vulnerable to extinction. Additionally, certain creatures like dolphins, sea turtles and even humans are negatively impacted by ocean acidification- a phenomenon caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that has been linked with rising sea temperatures. This reduces the number of healthy specimens available, preventing them from reproducing and further threatening their populations.
Nevertheless, some species have displayed an adaptive behaviour. For instance, when temperatures rise, certain animals migrate to more suitable environments- ranging from colder altitudes to wetter areas. Therefore, this allows them to avoid the negative effects of global warming for a certain period of time. For example, red deer in the UK have adapted by beginning the rutting season a month earlier, when conditions are much cooler. Similarly, certain species of birds have adapted to new feeding grounds, allowing them to keep up with the changes in the environment.
In spite of this, it is important to take a proactive approach to climate change and discover new ways to protect the world’s animals. Governments must build on the Paris Agreement and continue to develop policy that incentivises the use of renewable energy and limits the emissions of greenhouse gases. This pursuit of sustainable energy sources by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is pivotal in maintaining a healthy planet. Furthermore, we must encourage initiatives such as reforestation, solar panels, and energy conservation to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible.
In conclusion, global warming has had severe consequences for the animals on our planet; however, if all of us take responsibility for our impact on the environment and implement effective policies to protect this planet, we can still hope to create a safe and healthy habitat for all species and preserve the future of the world.