Journal article Open Access

Accelerating extinction risk from climate change

Urban, Mark C.

Current predictions of extinction risks from climate change vary widely depending on the specific assumptions and geographic and taxonomic focus of each study. Here, I synthesize published studies to estimate a global mean extinction rate and determine which factors contribute the greatest uncertainty to climate change-induced extinction risks. Results suggest that extinction risks will accelerate with future global temperatures, threatening up to 1 in 6 species under current policies. Extinction risks were highest in South America, Australia, and New Zealand, and risks did not vary by taxonomic group. Realistic assumptions about extinction debt and dispersal capacity substantially increased extinction risks. We urgently need to adopt strategies that limit further climate change if we are to avoid an acceleration of global extinctions.

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