2° Celsius: A World Of Difference To Life On Earth
The World Conservation Union urges parties to Climate Change Convention to keep global warming below 2° Celsius to
prevent massive species extinctions
Montreal, Canada, 28 November (IUCN) – The parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change must
keep global warming below 2o Celsius, says the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The consensus of international conservation organisations is that if temperatures rise above 2o Celsius from
pre-industrial levels, massive species extinctions and dramatic changes in ecosystems will have severe consequences for
“The Kyoto Protocol was an important milestone, but it is simply not enough. This conference must find new ways to
achieve more serious emissions reductions after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires,” says Achim Steiner, Director
General of the World Conservation Union.
Recent studies have even predicted that up to one million species could go extinct due to climate change. Whatever
scenario one may refer to, the number of reports of extinctions and changes in ecosystems are increasing already.
Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and, for the first time, the parties to the Kyoto Protocol are
meeting in Montreal, Canada over the next two weeks, starting today.
One million species could go extinct due to climate change
Canada’s boreal forests may be impacted by climate change more than many other regions. Boreal forests could decline in
response to climate change, through factors such as increased incidences of diseases, pest infestations, fires, invasive
species, severe weather events, or reduced rainfall.
While for some ecosystems there are only warnings for the future, in others the impacts of climate change are already
“We now receive more and more evidence that corals in the Caribbean are dying at an unprecedented speed and scale. While
coral bleaching cannot be attributed to climate change alone, nature is giving us plenty of warning signs to reduce our
emissions and adapt our resource management strategies,” says Carl-Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN’s Global Marine
One-third of all amphibians and reptiles are threatened with extinction, with climate change being one of the causes, as
shown by the Global Amphibian Assessment released earlier this year.
Climate change puts human wellbeing at risk
Extinction of species and changes in habitats put human wellbeing at risk. Human livelihoods are affected if plant or
animal species go extinct, since many communities use them as sources of food, fuel and income. Furthermore, changes in
rainfall and temperatures will impact agriculture - the crops that are produced and the contribution that biodiversity
makes to these production systems, for instance through pollination, water provision, or pest control.
“Poor communities in fragile ecosystems such as montane forests or drylands will be especially vulnerable to the effects
of climate change. Now is the time to accelerate our understanding of climate change impacts and local vulnerability,
and apply adaptive approaches to agriculture, forestry and water management to reduce impacts on people’s lives and
livelihoods,” says Stephen Kelleher, Senior Programme Officer for the IUCN Forest Conservation Programme.
While reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should be the most important target, climate change is already happening and
we need to take steps to adapt.
Adaptation strategies identify ecosystems and communities most vulnerable to climate change impacts, and strive to
reduce these impacts, improve the resilience of ecosystems, and identify or modify livelihood options for people.
Examples of adaptation strategies are forest landscape restoration to increase resilience to climate change by
augmenting quality, quantity and diversity of forests or the restoration of floodplains to improve the buffer capacity
of river systems. It is in these areas that the World Conservation Union is set to make a contribution.
Meaningful emissions reductions remains first and foremost target
But the hard facts remain that humanity is pumping too many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and that global
emissions are still increasing. Reducing emissions to stay below a 2 degree increase in temperature remains the first
and foremost task of the parties to the convention.
“To use a simple analogy: you can mop up water, but only after you have plugged the leak. Investing in adaptation only
makes sense after parties have made serious commitments to and investments in emission reductions,” says Achim Steiner.