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Global warming – environmental crises go hand in hand

Global warming – environmental crises go hand in hand

Humans have greatly changed the Earth system. Man-made greenhouse gas emissions have caused the average global temperature to rise by more than 1.1°C compared to pre-industrial times. In Europe it is already 2.2 degrees, according to the annual report of the Climate Change Service of the European Union’s Earth observation program Copernicus, published on Thursday. Plus, the glacier in the European Alps melted more than ever last year. Research team confirmed Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven. In a study, researchers show that the climate crisis and biodiversity loss go hand in hand.

“The climate crisis they caused is probably the greatest challenge to Homo sapiens in their 300,000-year history,” explains climate researcher Hans-Otto Portner of the AWI. “But at the same time, another equally serious crisis is developing that is often overlooked: the catastrophic loss of plant and animal species on our planet. The two catastrophes – the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis – are linked and mutually reinforcing, which is why they never want to be seen as one. Two separate things,” the scientist explains.

A climate impasse looms

The study is the result of a virtual science workshop attended by 62 researchers from 35 countries. In it, experts describe the rapid deterioration of species loss using sobering numbers: They estimate that human activities have altered about 75 percent of the Earth’s surface and 66 percent of sea water. This has happened on such a scale that today about 80 percent of mammalian biomass and 50 percent of plant biomass have been lost, while more species are threatened with extinction than at any other time in human history. The study says that global warming and the destruction of natural habitats not only lead to the loss of biodiversity, but also reduce the ability of organisms, soils and sediments to store carbon, which in turn exacerbates the climate crisis.

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Because every organism has a certain tolerance range to changes in its environmental conditions, global warming is also shifting species’ habitats. Mobile species follow their temperature range and migrate towards the poles, to higher altitudes, or even into the water to greater depths. However, organisms such as corals are trapped in a temperature trap, which means extinction in the long run. But even mobile species can end up in dead ends – for example on mountain peaks, on coasts or at the poles – if they can no longer find a suitable habitat, according to the journal. “Sciences” Published study.

In order to overcome these crises, the researchers propose a combination of emission reduction, remediation and protection measures, smart land-use management and enhanced cross-institutional efficiencies for political actors.

The ice melts

In the future, Portner said, it will only succeed “if climate protection, biodiversity conservation and social benefits for local populations are pursued simultaneously in all approved measures.”

The Climate Change Service stated that the crisis was particularly noticeable in the summer of 2022, which was the hottest in Europe since records began. For 2023, at least in parts of the continent, there are signs that the situation will be difficult again. It is “likely” that persistent drought will lead to lower crop yields.

And the ice melts. Alpine glaciers have lost more than five cubic kilometers of mass. The European Space Agency, ESA, said Thursday that ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica has quintupled since the 1990s. Since then, the sea level has risen by 21 mm due to the melt.

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