Today the RSPB released an important report and some very interesting polling information.
Let’s deal with the polling first. The polling suggests that we need more posh, young, Labour women living in the southwest of England, for that is the section of society which is most likely to agree with the view ‘Climate change is happening and is mainly caused by human activity’.
Women are generally a bit more likely to believe this than men, and the young are more likely than the old; social category AB are more likely than others and the English more likely than those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Thank heaven for bright young women!
To be fair, hardly anyone thinks that climate change isn’t happening (4% overall) and very few (28%) think that it’s happening but it isn’t mainly caused by human activity. Alongside the 9% of us who ‘don’t know’, the 59% of the population, led by posh, young, Labour women from the southwest, is very impressive. Believing that we have a problem is a majority belief.
And the common sense of the British population does not stop at recognising the problem – if you look at the details of their responses they want action too. And one of their reasons, a strong reason, for wanting action is that they believe that wildlife will suffer from climate change.
79% of Britons are worried about climate impacts on UK wildlife, making it a greater concern than flooding (72%), heat waves (50%), or increased variability and prices of food (60%).
Richard Black, Director of ECIU (Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit), said: ‘It’s quite a surprising finding because you’d think people would be more concerned about potential impacts to their homes, their larders and their wallets. Instead it shows that Britain’s long-standing love affair with birds, flowers and animals shows no signs of abating, and that recent studies demonstrating climate change impacts on animals such as puffins, bumblebees and frogs have raised the alarm.’
The RSPB report on wildlife impacts of climate change is a very good and clear summary of what is happening and is likely to happen. I can’t see who the authors were, but they did a very good job.
Here are the summary statements from the sections of the report;
Shifting ranges: Many species are already moving, predominantly northwards and to higher elevations. This is exactly what we would expect as a response to a warming climate.
New arrivals: Species are starting to successfully colonise new territories as they track suitable climate. Conservation strategies will need to support this.
Changing populations and communities: Changes to the species present in an area, and the abundances of these species, show that climate change is already affecting ecological communities.
Changing interactions between species: Some of the strongest impacts of climate change on wildlife come from changes in interactions between species, in particular the relationships between predators and prey.
Extreme weather: Increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events can be expected to have an increasing impact on wildlife populations.
The future: Further, large shifts could occur in species’ ranges in the future, with many species losing large areas of suitable climate, creating a substantial threat to their survival.
Protected areas and climate change: As species’ ranges shift, both existing and new protected areas will play an important role in helping wildlife cope with the effects of climate change.
Managing sites and landscapes for adaptation: Different site management techniques will become more important to help wildlife to adapt to climate change.
Creating new sites and expanding site networks: Creating, re-creating and protecting new sites for wildlife conservation will play important roles, from helping populations to disperse through inhospitable landscapes, to increasing the size of existing protected areas to enhance their resilience, to providing entirely new locations for populations to inhabit.
Helping people to adapt: Humans and wildlife both need to adapt to climate change. Restoring and conserving natural ecosystems could, in some cases, provide benefits to nature and humans at the same time.
Implications for conservation: This report provides widespread evidence that climate change is already affecting wildlife across Europe, and that impacts are likely to escalate in the not-too-distant future. This will add to, and interact with, many other pressures faced by wildlife. How should we respond?
– Greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced to limit the degree of warming: although wildlife
is already being affected, future climate change is likely to lead to more severe impacts. Reducing emissions is a key step in reducing impacts.
– Species’ ranges are changing as they track suitable climate: providing sufficient, suitable habitat is key in ensuring species can track the conditions to which they are adapted.
– Some species could benefit from climate change, at least at certain geographical scales, whilst many could be adversely affected: resulting changes in ecological communities should be monitored to ensure efficient targeting of conservation action, and identification of mechanisms behind impacts.
– Extreme weather will increasingly affect populations, and wider climatic conditions could become less suitable for many species: under these circumstances it is important to identify site and landscape management actions to aid population resilience and adaptation.
– Non-climatic pressures on wildlife should be reduced. As climate change will have an increasing impact on wildlife, it will be important to ensure other threats are reduced.
– Robust protected area networks are essential now, and will continue to be essential under
climate change. Protected areas support larger populations and more diverse communities, and
aid colonisation of new areas and survival in existing ranges.
– The existing protected area network could be enhanced: “more, bigger, better and joined”
sites will aid population persistence and species’ movement across the landscape.
– Ecosystem-based adaptation could aid human climate change adaptation and benefit
biodiversity at the same time. Working with nature could provide much wider benefits than
considering humans separately from the environment.
Martin Harper, the RSPB Conservation Director said: ‘The report has a clear message that the world’s governments need to act on fast, to limit climate change. They’ve no better opportunity to do this than the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Paris. Countries such as the UK also need to make sure they’re making every possible effort to back up international ambition with action back home, in part by supporting the transition to a low carbon energy system. For wildlife to be able to cope with a changing climate, we’ll need to manage more areas of land and sea for nature, in both protected areas and the wider countryside and seas. There is good evidence that protected areas across the European Union, such as Special Protection Areas, are already helping wildlife to respond to the changing climate. Projections show that protected areas will remain important for wildlife in the future, even as species move due to climate change, and that we will need more of them. The laws they rely on, such as the Nature Directives, need to be maintained and better implemented. This means designating more areas on land and at sea and managing them to a high standard for wildlife.‘.
Will you be at the Climate March in London on 29 November? I will. There seem, today, to be many good reasons for good people to occupy the streets of our capital cities at this time.