At the time of writing, Australia is on fire. The fires have killed at least 25 humans and more than a billion animals. Animals such as koalas are especially at risk, since their normal response to threats – climbing to the tops of trees – leaves them vulnerable in the case of fire. As a result, an estimated 25,000 koalas have died and many more will die in the coming weeks.
In 2018, Hurricane Florence swept through North Carolina. The floods killed at least 59 humans and many animals, including at least 3.4 million farmed animals and an unknown number of wild animals. Since farmed animals live in captivity, they not only had no help from us but also had no way to help themselves. They were left alone as the waters rose, with predictable results.
More generally, changing weather conditions are causing animals to suffer and die all around the world. Aardvarks in the Kalahari are starving because of increasing drought. Black bears in the United States are unable to hibernate because warming temperatures are waking them up and preventing them from going to sleep. The Australian mosaic-tailed rat is now extinct because of rising sea levels. Countless aquatic animals are dying each year because of ocean acidification.
Human-caused climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of such events. As global average temperatures rise, we can expect rising sea levels, an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, flooding coastal areas, and regional conflicts over land, water and food. And while some animals will adapt, many will not. If we stay on this path, we will subject quintillions of animals over the next century to the ravages of disease, weather and ecosystem collapse. [Continue reading…]