Communication, Education & Public Awareness

The International Day for Biological Diversity:
Biodiversity and Climate Change
22 May 2007

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity is pleased to announce the focus of the 2007 International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD), 22 May, will be on:

Biodiversity and Climate Change

This complements the designation of 2007 as the International Polar Year and coincides with UNEP’S World Environment Day theme of Climate Change. Lectures, seminars, film presentations, cultural events, exhibitions and school outreach activities are just some suggestions that you may wish to implement to help draw attention to one of the most critical issues facing our planet today.

Facing Climate Change

Since the mid-1800s global temperatures have increased by about 0.6°C , impacting the entire world, from low-lying islands in the tropics to the vast Polar Regions. During the last century:

  • The largest glacier on Mount Kenya has lost 92% of its mass
  • Sea levels have risen by 10 - 25 cm
  • Thickness of sea ice in the arctic has decreased by 40%

Predicted impacts from a temperature increase of only 2.5°C include:

  • 210 million more people at risk from malaria
  • Up to 3.1 billion more people suffering from water scarcity
  • 50 million more people facing hunger

The New Great Threat to Biodiversity

Climate change is already forcing biodiversity to adapt either through shifting habitat, changing life cycles, or the development of new physical traits. Impacts already observed include:

  • Coral bleaching, caused by increased sea temperatures, is causing die-offs amongst coral reef communities from Australia to the Caribbean
  • The Common Murre has advanced breeding by 24 days per decade over the past 50 years in response to higher temperatures
  • The Baltimore oriole is shifting northward and may soon disappear entirely from the Baltimore area
  • Polar bear populations are coming under threat as food becomes harder to hunt

Those species that are unable to adapt are facing extinction. In fact, predictions estimate that up to 1 million species may become extinct as a result of climate change including Boyd’s forest dragon and Brazil’s Virola sebifera tree.

The recently extinct Golden Toad and Gastric Brooding Frog have already been labeled as the first victims of climate change.

The Biodiversity Safety Net

The links between biodiversity and climate change run both ways: biodiversity is threatened by human-induced climate change but, biodiversity resources can reduce the impacts of climate change on people and production:

  • the conservation of habitats can reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere Currently deforestation is estimated to be responsible for 20% of human-induced CO2 emission
  • conserving certain species such as mangroves and drought resistant crops can reduce the disastrous impacts of climate change effects such as flooding and famine
  • the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity can strengthen ecosystem resilience, improving the ability of ecosystems to provide critical services in the face of increasing climatic pressures

Responding Actions

Given the importance of climate change -biodiversity links, it is important to:

  • conserve biodiversity that is especially sensitive to climate change
  • preserve habitats so as to facilitate the long-term adaptation of biodiversity
  • improve our understanding of climate change – biodiversity linkages
  • fully integrate biodiversity considerations into mitigation and adaptation plans