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Common Loon Photo: Richard Pick/Audubon Photography Awards

Section 2

Projected Impacts

Projected impacts mean more losers than winners.

For birds: shrinking ranges; intense distribution shifts; population declines. And for humans, more frequent and intense bouts of some extreme weather, such as heat waves and drought, and heightened risk of some diseases.

Studies from conservation biology, public health, epidemiology, political science and more show negative climate impacts will intensify with additional warming. Yet in addition to posing new direct threats, climate change will also amplify the threats already facing humans and nature.

  • More species are projected to decline under climate change than are likely to benefit

    Emperor Penguins Photo: Christopher Michel

    More species are projected to decline under climate change than are likely to benefit

    Although some species are projected to benefit from climate change because their distributions and populations are expected to expand, there are likely to be many more species that lose out. Worryingly, many threatened species are likely to become more imperilled, while most of the species projected to be impacted according to recent studies were not previously recognised as under threat. This implies that the challenge for conservation will grow substantially.

    Case Studies
  • Many species will experience distribution shifts and population declines

    Great Frigatebird Photo: Daniela A Nievergelt

    Many species will experience distribution shifts and population declines

    Results from studies across the world suggest that a high proportion of species are projected to experience shifts in their distributions and range contractions, and their populations may decline even faster. Many montane species will experience decreased populations as their ranges shift upslope, whereas sea level rise will imperil species restricted to low-lying islands.

    Case Studies
  • Climate change will exacerbate existing threats

    Allen’s Hummingbird Photo: Tony Britton/Audubon Photography Awards

    Climate change will exacerbate existing threats

    Extreme weather events are projected to increase in intensity and frequency, which will likely have negative impacts on many species. Climate change will also increase the severity of existing threats, for example, by increasing the frequency of fires or by facilitating the spread of disease or invasive species.

    Case Studies
  • Bird communities will be disrupted in protected areas and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas

    Lilac-breasted Roller Photo: Anthony Goldman/Audubon Photography Awards

    Bird communities will be disrupted in protected areas and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas

    The bird species of conservation concern for which IBAs have been identified may not remain in these sites as climate changes, or other species could colonise as climate becomes suitable. Such turnover will be high in the majority of IBAs and Protected Areas. Although these site networks as a whole will provide suitable conditions for nearly all species of conservation interest, disruption of bird communities may affect ecosystem functioning and the benefits to people.

    Case Studies
  • Climate change will have profound consequences for people

    Cracked ground near Boulder City, Nevada Photo: John Locher/AP

    Climate change will have profound consequences for people

    Climate change threatens the essentials of life for people around the world: food, water, health, and security. The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed; the poorest countries and people will suffer soonest and to the greatest extent.

    Case Studies
  • Human responses to climate change will likely be more important than direct impacts on nature

    Great Blue Turaco Photo: Serguei Koultchitskii/Adobe Stock

    Human responses to climate change will likely be more important than direct impacts on nature

    People will be forced to respond to climate change, such as through changes in where and how crops are grown, energy is produced, and people live. Southern Africa, for example, could lose more than a third of its maize crop by 2030, requiring alternative staples to be grown. Fiji, on the other hand, has allocated entire islands to people emigrating from the Republic of Kiribati, which is losing land to rising sea levels. Such human responses will likely affect birds and other biodiversity more than the direct effects of climate change.

    Case Studies