If anyone doubts that climate change is real, that it is happening now and that it is happening even faster than feared, they need go no further than the findings of an international study that shows climate change is occurring so rapidly that many animals may be unable to adapt.
An international team of researchers evaluated more than 10,000 published scientific studies and found that, while animals are adjusting to the current rate of climate change, they may not be able to continue to do so fast enough in order to cope with more rapid warming in the not too distant future. While some species of birds seem to be able to cope with global warming, they are still running out of time.
Climate change doubters might also look across to the continent and see soaring temperatures from Britain, to Sweden to Spain, with parts of France seeing temperatures approach 42 degrees. In the Vosges mountains of eastern France, farmers have been forced to let their cattle graze pastures on what are ski slopes in winter in order to feed them.
Last month’s heatwave in France was 4C hotter than an equally rare June heatwave would have been in 1900, according to the World Weather Attribution (WWA), an international effort to analyse the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events. The current heatwave is likely to be even hotter.
Taken together, the heatwaves and the effect on bird life are further proof that human activity is heating the planet at a dangerous rate. Already more than 30% of our breeding birds are declining and what the bird study also shows is that climate change could wipe out entirely species that are now endangered.
This is an important study and we owe a debt of gratitude for it to the 64 researchers, among them the co-author of the study, Thomas Reed, senior lecturer in zoology at University College Cork. The study focused mainly on birds and included common European species such as the magpie, the great tit, and European pied flycatcher.
The most commonly observed response to climate change was an alteration in the timing of biological events such as hibernation, reproduction or migration.
There is nothing new in using birds to reveal levels of toxicity undetectable, but potentially deadly, to humans. Canaries were once regularly used in coal mining as an early warning system. Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide or gases such as methane would kill the bird before affecting the miners and would act as an early warning system to miners to evacuate the mine.
The idea of using canaries is credited to John Scott Haldane, a Scottish physiologist whose research showed that canaries, like other birds, are good early detectors of carbon monoxide because they’re vulnerable to airborne poisons.
The latest international study confirms this and should be taken as an early warning, but the problem for humanity, as well as other earthbound creatures, is that our “mine” — planet Earth — cannot be evacuated. While those coalminers of old could escape death or serious illness, we cannot.