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We Are the Asteroid
Peter Sinclair, Yale Climate Connections
Culled from interviews with seven scientists and writer Elizabeth Kolbert,
these brief statements address the expected and serious loss of species and
biodiversity under climate change. While other mass extinctions have been
caused by such natural factors as volcanism and an asteroid hit, we humans are
causing this one, and it is the fastest such event ever.
(6 minutes, August 2015)
The Biological and Ecological Effects of Climate Change *
Alan Knapp, Department of Biology,
Colorado State University
A lucid overview of some key effects of climate change on plants and animals,
with a wealth of vivid, concrete examples. Contents include what we know from
paleoclimate records (slide 12), how climate change interacts with other
elements of global change (14 and following), changing hardiness zone maps
(21), long-term monitoring and observations (40 ff), changes in the timing of
natural interactions (46 ff), thresholds (61), experiments (76 ff), rainfall
changes and American grasslands (85 ff), and "7 things that keep [the speaker]
awake at night."
(65 minutes, October 2008)
Before They're Gone: A Family's Year-Long Quest to Explore America's Most Endangered National Parks
Michael Lanza. Beacon Press, 2012, 224 pp
With their two small children for company, Lanza and his wife embark on a
year's worth of visits to national parks (all in the West except the
Everglades) that are most likely to feel the impact of climate change.
Eloquent, down-to-earth, and very well researched, this book might be most
compelling for readers who have loved their time in one or more of these
parks, or those who hope that today's and tomorrow's children will have that
The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth
Tim Flannery. Grove Press, 2005, 321 pp plus notes and index.
Australian zoologist, paleontologist, and writer Flannery provides a
well-researched, expansive, lively overview of "the history of climate change,
how it will unfold over the next century, and what we can do about
particular attention to the effects on living creatures, including people.
Paying more attention to the southern hemisphere than American books typically
provide, and taking advantage of his own scientific training as he works
through information from other specializations, this leading public scientist
puts his story-telling skills to good use in this important and engaging book.
||articles & essays
For more annotated links on aspects of the effect of global warming on the
natural world, see the pages on the
Forests and Fires;
Oceans, Coasts and Sea Level; and
Head in the Clouds: The Woman Scaling Fresh Climate Change Heights
Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, December 2018
When the cloud forest of Costa Rica warms and dries, what happens to the
trees, to the amphibians, birds, orchids, and bats, to the nearby coffee
farmers, to all that supports this lush and protected ecosystem, including
tourism? With nearly four decades of research here, pioneering canopy
biologist Nalini Nadkarni (along with other scientists and local people) has
been seeing more and more change‒and becoming more outspoken about what
As Seas Warm, Galapagos Islands Face a Giant Evolutionary Test
Nicholas Casey, with photos by Josh Haner, New York Times, December 2018
As the oceans warm and El Niño events seem to become more intense and
frequent, the stresses of heat and drought on the creatures of these amazing
islands will increase as well, bringing changes no one can predict for sure.
Part of the paper's series "Warming Planet, Vanishing Heritage," this
beautiful and interesting story is also a warning call.
The Big Meltdown
Craig Welch, with photos by Paul Nicklen, Cristina Mittermeier, and Keith Ladzinski, National Geographic, November 2018
This is a gorgeous look at how climate change is affecting the lives and
livelihoods of Antarctic species, especially penguins, seals, & whales.
Complement it with this interesting story about satellite research by Eric
Niiler (December 2018) in Wired:
Penguin Poop, Seen From Space, Tells Our Climate Story.
The Insect Apocalypse Is Here
Brooke Jarvis, New York Times, November 2018
A terrific article about the precipitous and largely invisible drop in insect
numbers around the globe. Highly informative, it touches on a wide variety of
subjects, including the importance of abundance, the role of amateur
naturalists, aka citizen scientists, the difficulty of seeing past the
"sliding baseline" effect, and more. Climate change is only one of the factors
leading to this very dangerous decline, a situation typical of its role as a
threat multiplier. For two more good stories about this important problem,
reporting on a new study, see
Business Insider and
(both February 2019).
This Unique Andean Ecosystem is Warming Almost as Fast as the Arctic
Sarah Fecht, Columbia University Earth Institute, November 2018
This interesting blog covers some of the wide-ranging and integrative science
being done in the (Colombian) páramos to look at past, present, and
possible future climate-linked changes in vegetation and water dynamics.
Evocative photos, too.
Climate Change Could Render Many of Earth's Ecosystems Unrecognizable
Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post, August 2018
Matching data about how vegetation changed as Earth came out of the last ice
age with scenarios for our next century, this extensive study suggests we are
likely heading towards massively altered ecosystems over much of the
globe‒along with equally massive changes in the many ways humans
interact with those ecosystems for food, water, safe shelter, and more.
Spring is Springing Sooner, Throwing Nature’s Rhythms out of Whack
Nathan Rott, NPR, July 2018
For many decades now, scientists have been closely watching the summer unfold
high in the Colorado Rockies at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
Their long-term observations are now illuminating some of the changes in
timing that are likely to bring trouble, as when eaters and their food don't
shift their schedules at the same rates.
Urgent Climate Action Required to Protect Tens of Thousands of Species Worldwide, New Research Shows
John H. Cushman Jr. and Neela Banerjee, Inside Climate News, May 2018
New research keeps on finding that every degree, or even half degree, of
increased warming makes a really big difference in impacts: in the case of the
study described here, on plants, vertebrates, and especially insects.
Climate Change on Track to Cause Major Insect Wipeout, Scientists Warn
Damian Carrington, The Guardian, May 2018
You may not love insects, but they are really, really important to functioning
ecosystems. They are also at high risk from climate change, much more so for
greater than for lesser temperature rises. Here's a good, quick introduction
to this issue.
Climate Change is Making it Harder to Revive Damaged Land
Maya L. Kapoor, High Country News, June 2018
With changing seasons, temperatures, and moisture patterns, it doesn't make
sense any more to try to return damaged places to their former condition.
Instead, ecologists are thinking about how to preserve maximum biodiversity
and ecosystem functions, even if doing so might mean moving plants and even
using non-natives in restoration projects. This is a good introduction to this
new set of challenges.
Climate Change and Biodiversity: Bookshelf
Michael Svoboda, Yale Climate Connections, October 2017
About once a month, Michael Svoboda posts a "bookshelf" focused on some
aspect of climate, with photos of the book covers and descriptive text drawn
from their publishers' text. While these books tend towards the academic, just
scanning the descriptions isn't a bad way to get a sense of what research and
thinking is going on about what topics. Two lists on this subject of
biodiversity do provide such a glimpse‒of
12 books and
11 reports by agencies, NGOs, and research
5 Plants and Animals Utterly Confused by Climate Change
Livia Albeck-Ripka and Brad Plumer, New York Times, April 2018
This very short piece offers five quick examples of ways the natural world is
messing with the timing and thus success of some very old natural
processes‒when bees pollinate flowers, caterpillars nourish birds, birds
lay eggs in farm fields, baby caribou find good food, and snowshoe hares can
hide from predators. Many such stories are beginning to emerge, each one
particular to place, species, and processes, but seen as a whole, they draw a
troubling picture of the kinds of natural disturbances we will be seeing.
Climate Change Impacting 'Most' Species on Earth, Even Down to Their Genomes
Jeremy Hance, The Guardian, April 2017
Addressing three recent studies about how widely climate change is already
affecting life on earth (including through local and global extinctions of
both species and ecosystems), this very good piece will bring you up to speed
on this topic. Here is Hance's first sentence: "Climate change is rapidly
becoming a crisis that defies hyperbole." And near the end: "Does all this
imply nothing can be done? Of course not." Between are plenty of specific,
Climate-driven Species on the Move Are Changing (Almost) Everything
Gretta Petl, Adriana Vergés, Ekaterina Popova, Jan McDonald,
The Conversation, April 2017
This very readable entry on the excellent blog "The Conversation" ("Academic
rigor, journalistic flair") describes the contents and implications of an
article published in the (firewalled) journal Science (one of the three
studies included in the previous entry). Focusing on how so many species are
moving and how those movements change ecosystems, including those that support
human life, it is informative, sobering, and rich with links to scientific
Living Planet Report 2016
World Wildlife Fund
In just the last forty years, according to this report, Earth has lost over
half its mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish‒not half the
species, but half the number of individuals. And, after habitat loss and
hunting and fishing for food, climate change is (already) the third leading
culprit. How can this be? What can we do about it? This is a good place to
start learning and thinking.
The Forests of the World Are in Serious Trouble, Scientists Report
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post, August 2015
A good summary of the August 21 issue of the journal Science that focuses on
this topic, with descriptions of threats‒including those linked to
climate change‒to four kinds of forests, tropical, temperate, boreal,
One in six of world's species faces extinction due to climate change
Adam Vaughan, The Guardian, April 2015
Here is one good story about an important and eye-popping study published in
Science (and thus requiring a subscription to read). Coordinating results from
131 earlier studies, these researchers conclude that if we don't lower our
emissions, up to one in six species will be extinct or on its way to
extinction by 2100‒and that is only considering temperature rises, not
associated stresses like increased wildfire. If we do lower emissions
significantly, we will see substantially fewer extinctions. Other excellent
and complementary accounts are at
Climate Central and
Winged Warnings: What Birds Are Telling Us about Our Planet's Health
Environmental Health News, 2014
This six-week series of articles by a number of writers, produced in
conjunction with National Geographic, looks at a range of threats to the
world's birds, including climate change.
Birds and Climate Change: Special Issue
Audubon Magazine, September-October 2014
If you care about birds, you need to look at this issue, which is all online.
Start with the article by Michelle Nijhuis, which outlines the results of
Audubon's 7-year project looking into the "expected effects of climate change
on North American bird populations. Then look at the other pieces, some of
which elaborate on specific issues while others suggest things we can do.
National Park Service, Climate Change Response Program
A handsome, informative, easy-to-use site covering current and likely climate
changes over the entire park system and the Park Service's responses and
goals-with good links to information about specific parks, regions, and
Global Change Ecology, Impacts and Mitigation|
Professors Joe von Fischer and Julia Klein, Colorado State University
This junior-level course, taught by faculty in biology and natural resources,
works to build connections between the natural earth system and the human
components including economic, political and technological aspects.
Animals at Risk from Climate Change (poster)
The Global Education Project, 2017
This handsome, informative, succinct poster about climate change and some of
the many animals it is putting at risk is suitable for young people but
informative enough for adults. $10 for a paper version (less in bulk), but you
can also read it online.