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More grim news about climate change comes in two separate reports out this week.
A report released early today by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Association showed levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a record high in 2013, fueled by an alarming surge in carbon dioxide. Concentrations of this gas rose more between 2012 and 2013 than in any other year since 1984. Methane and nitrous oxide also reached new highs last year.
“The laws of physics are non-negotiable. We are running out of time.” — WMO Secretary-General Michel JarraudThese record gas levels come from still-rising emissions put in the atmosphere by humans, but also a reduced ability by the Earth’s plants, oceans and soil to soak up and absorb that carbon.
“Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a statement that accompanied the report. “The laws of physics are non-negotiable. We are running out of time.”
This comes just weeks before the United Nations Climate Summit, to be held in New York City on Sept. 23.
Meanwhile, the bald eagle, the burrowing owl, the cerulean warbler and the white-throated sparrow are among the North American birds facing severe population decline caused by climate change, according to a separate report released Monday by the Audubon Society.
After analyzing 30 years of climate data, scientists concluded that the survival of more than half of the 588 bird species studied are in danger. Audubon reports: “Our models indicate that 314 species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080.”
This means they’ll be driven to smaller spaces and forced to find new habitat. If they can’t, many could become extinct.
“Common sense will tell you that with these kinds of findings, it’s hard to believe we won’t lose some species to extinction,” David Yarnold, the president of the National Audubon Society told the New York Times. “How many? We honestly don’t know. We don’t know which ones are going to prove heroically resilient.”
Jenny Marder is a senior science writer for NASA and a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and National Geographic. She was formerly digital managing editor for the PBS NewsHour.
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