Climate change revs up extinction risks

polar bear with cubs

Climate change will boost the risk of extinction rates to species worldwide, possibly including polar bears, which are already endangered by the affects of global warming.

Valerie/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If global warming continues unabated, up to 1 in 6 species on Earth could face extinction, scientists report in the May 1 Science.

Ecologist Mark Urban at the University of Connecticut in Storrs analyzed 131 published studies on extinction rates for specific species and regions to predict global extinction risks.

With current warming, about 2.8 percent of species worldwide are at risk of extinction. If global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, 5.2 percent of species will face extinction. If temperatures rise 4.3 degrees C, about 16 percent of species will be threatened.

Species in South America, Australia and New Zealand face the highest risks.

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