The following blog post was written by Ashley Haugo, Legislative and Policy Aide for the BlueGreen Alliance.
Today the National Wildlife Federation released its report, “Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis,” highlighting the severe impacts a changing climate can and will have on wildlife. From arctic polar bears to the whitebark pine, species across the board will find climate change their number one threat in the coming century.
Continuing down our current path, global temperatures will rise by at least 7 degrees Celsius by 2100. In that scenario, it is predicted that almost half of wildlife species would suffer mass extinction. The devastation has already begun.
With Arctic sea ice reaching its smallest surface area in 33 years in 2012, polar bears and walruses are fighting long, perilous swims between sea-ice platforms. Fires running rampant in the drought-stricken western portion of the United States have left numerous species without a home and have provided an open invitation for the mountain pine beetle to wreak havoc among the pine forests. In the US alone, the cost of wildfire suppression has tripled since the late 1990s. In the heart of the nation, high temperatures have led to decreased oxygen levels in the once teeming streams; in the summer of 2012 alone, nearly 58,000 fish died along 42 miles of the Des Moines River in Iowa.
The list continues. Touching on each section of our nation, the report makes it unquestionably clear that our ecosystems will be drastically altered by climate change.
Much of what plagues our flora and fauna also threatens the human population. Droughts leave our water and food supply withering. Severe storms render our infrastructure useless. And climatic warming threatens our very health and sanitation. However, unlike other species, we have the ability to plan and prepare for such drastic events . . . the question now is if we will or not. Making our nation — both the built environment and the natural one — climate resilient requires action now.
Recently, environmental and labor leaders came together to advocate for a three-pronged approach to addressing our current climate crisis that would benefit the human and animal populations. In a joint press tele-conference with representatives from Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA); National Wildlife Federation (NWF); Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Union; and BlueGreen Alliance (BGA), the group highlighted the need for President Obama to foster a national conversation on climate change; stricter limits on carbon pollution; and addressing the terrible deficit in our nation’s infrastructure. Integrated discussions such as these — alongside informative reports like NWF’s — are key to adequately addressing the crises at hand. Let’s make sure this conversation continues.