95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OOS 33-8 - CANCELLED - Climate change and extinctions: Time for triage?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010: 4:00 PM
310-311, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Terry Root, Jerry Yang & Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building, Woods Institute for the Environment / Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Background/Question/Methods and Results/Conclusions

Over the last 100 years our globe has warmed ~0.8oC and the warming continues to escalate.  Depending on policies and new technologies we implement, global average temperature could follow various trajectories.  A lower trajectory has the globe warming only a degree or 2 hotter than it was at the beginning of the 20th Century, and a higher trajectory could mean at the later part of 21st Century the warming could be up 6o or 10oC. Because of time lags that are expected with implementing different policies and distributing new technologies, these two temperature-trajectory extremes are predicted to have roughly similar temperatures until around 2050. Therefore, plants and animals at mid-century will quite likely be facing anywhere from 2o to 4oC rise in global temperatures.  The most recent Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change states that around 2oC, as many as 20% of the known species could be committed to extinction.  Thus, the number of possible extinctions will be larger than humans can prevent using different management strategies.  Saving as many species as possible in this crisis may require barrowing a technique “triage” that is used in medical crises, when the need is much larger than the available resources.  Triage requires a lot of advanced planning.  Should we start now?