Quantifying the Benefit of Early Climate Change Mitigation in Avoiding Biodiversity Loss

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Rachel Warren1, Jeremy Vanderwal2, Jeff Price3, Justin Welbergen2, Ian M Atkinson4, Julian Ramirez-Villegas5, Timothy Osborn6, Luke Shoo7, Andy Jarvis5, Stephen Williams2 and Jason A. Lowe8, (1)University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom, (2)James Cook University, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, Townsville, Australia, (3)Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Norwich, United Kingdom, (4)James Cook University, eResearch Centre, Townsville, Australia, (5)International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Cali, Colombia, (6)University of East Anglia, Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, Norwich, United Kingdom, (7)The University of Queensland, School of Biological Sciences, Queensland St Lucia, Australia, (8)University of Reading, MetOffice Hadley Centre, Reading, United Kingdom
Quantitative simulations of the global-scale benefits of climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss are presented. Previous studies have projected widespread global and regional impacts of climate change on biodiversity. However, these have focused on analysis of business-as-usual scenarios, with no explicit mitigation policy included. This study finds that early, stringent mitigation would avoid a large proportion of the impacts of climate change induced biodiversity loss projected for the 2080s. Furthermore, despite the large number of studies addressing extinction risks in particular species groups, few studies have explored the issue of potential range loss in common and widespread species. Our study is a comprehensive global scale analysis of 48,786 common and widespread species. We show that without climate change mitigation, 57+/-6% of the plants and 34+/-7% of the animals studied are likely to lose over 50% of their present climatic range by the 2080s. This estimate incorporates realistic, taxon-specific dispersal rates. With stringent mitigation, in which emissions peak in 2016 and are reduced by 5% annually thereafter, these losses are reduced by 60%. Furthermore, with stringent mitigation, global temperature rises more slowly, allowing an additional three decades for biodiversity to adapt to a temperature rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels. The work also shows that even with mitigation not all the impacts can now be avoided, and ecosystems and biodiversity generally has a very limited capacity to adapt. Delay in mitigation substantially reduces the percentage of impacts that can be avoided, for example if emissions do not peak until 2030, the percentage of losses that can be avoided declines to 40%. Since even small declines in common and widespread species can disrupt ecosystem function and services, these results indicate that without mitigation, globally widespread losses in ecosystem service provision are to be expected.