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Friday, December 7, 2007

Global Warming is destroying Nature

More than 3,000 flying foxes dropped dead, falling from trees in Australia. Giant squid migrated north to commercial fishing grounds off California, gobbling anchovy and hake. Butterflies have gone extinct in the Alps.

Global warming is already wreaking havoc with nature. Most plants and animals are affected, and the change is occurring too quickly for them to evolve.

A variety of species are in big trouble. Globally, 30% of the Earth's species could disappear if temperatures rise 4.5ºF — and up to 70%, if they rise 6.3ºF, a UN network of scientists reported last month.

The hardest hit will include plants and animals in colder climates or at higher elevations and those with limited ranges or little tolerance for temperature change, said Wendy Foden, a conservation biologist with the World Conservation Union, which catalogues threatened species across the world.

Butterflies that lived at high altitudes in North America and southern France have vanished, and polar bears and penguins are watching their habitat melt away.

The carbon dioxide emissions that are a leading cause of global warming also turn oceans more acidic, killing coral reefs and the microscopic plankton that blue whales and other marine mammals depend on for food.

Then there are Australia's flying foxes. More than 3,500 grey-headed and black flying foxes - huge bats - died in 2002 after temperatures rose above 107ºF in New South Wales, according to a report published last week in the Royal Society B journal.

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