Emperor penguins face extinction by the end of the century if a “business as usual” approach is taken to tackling the climate crisis, a new report warns.
Their demise is just one of the horrifying predictions contained in a new Australian report about the impact of global warming on Antarctica.
Biological invasions are also likely to impact the icy continent as the water heats, with their migration likely assisted by an increase of shipping traffic in the region.
Species likely to have a “substantial effect” on the region include the Mediterranean mussel, the sea vase, and the green shore crab.
These forecasts come on top of already declining numbers of whales, seals and krill.
Emperor penguin population numbers have already dropped over the last decade, and changes in sea ice and ice shelf loss are predicted to escalate pressures on the species.
Earlier this month, the Argentine Antarctic Institute predicted emperor penguins could be extinct in just 30 years.
Urgent climate change action needed to protect 2 billion people
Released on Tuesday in Berlin at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, the report confirms the existence of four major issues:
Antarctic ice sheets are melting
The continent’s climate is changing
The Southern Ocean is warming
It’s becoming more acidic and losing oxygen
The result will be rising sea levels which have the potential to harm two billion people through coastal flooding.
A worst case scenario could even see a two-metre sea level rise by the end of the century, which is ringing alarm bells given than a 40cm rise would turn a 100-year coastal flooding event into an annual one.
The report lead author, Monash University’s Professor Steven Chown, said Antartica’s demise will have “profound consequences for all of us”.
“What’s most unnerving is that we are documenting these changes already, but are unsure how large they’ll actually become,” he said.
“We could be facing unmanageable adversity in our lifetimes if we don’t act with urgency.”
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