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Before Two Degrees: Introduction

By Savannah Miller, GWC guest blogger

I never imagined that I would meet Jane Goodall, and I certainly had not imagined meeting her under dire circumstances. I was lingering in a hallway of the Le Bourget, the Paris headquarters of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) in 2015. There she was. The woman, world leader, scientist, and educator I had idolized for years stood humbly in the hallway, alone. COP 21 had a certain electricity to it; it emitted an energy that made one feel empowered, galvanized. So I walked over and introduced myself. She smiled and did the same.

Goodall was at Le Bourget that afternoon on a mission with implications extending far beyond her world-renowned chimpanzee research. She was taking a stand on the devastations that climate change wreaks on global biodiversity.

“Within the tapestry of life,” she stated, “you pull a thread, and our world begins to disintegrate.”

The dodo, a flightless bird living in Mauritius, became extinct during the mid- to late 17th century after humans destroyed the forests in which they made their homes and introduced mammal species that ate their eggs. (Presented to the British Museum by George Edwards in 1759, having previously been in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane.)

The dodo, a flightless bird living in Mauritius, became extinct during the mid- to late 17th century after humans destroyed the forests in which they made their homes and introduced mammal species that ate their eggs. (Presented to the British Museum by George Edwards in 1759, having previously been in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane.)

The tapestry we enjoy and depend upon is now pulled in all directions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, is in consensus that human activities have caused—and will continue to cause—a loss in biodiversity. The organization also notes that climate change is expected to affect all aspects of biodiversity. The United States’ National Climate Assessment agrees, stating that increased climate disturbances are already forcing massive species migrations, altering reproductive cycles and causing intense stress to local habitats. The Bramble Cay Mosaic-tailed Rat recently became the first mammal species to go extinct, according to National Geographic.

It is clear: the consequences of climate change for biodiversity are already in full throttle.

Within this series, I join GWC associate director of communications Lindsay Renick Mayer in examining the inextricable link between climate change and wildlife extinction through the stories of those most at risk. I will explore the Neotropics, where a fungal disease has devastated populations of amphibians, some of which have been forced by climate change into environments where they’re more susceptible to disease. I will talk to the experts about the interplay between climate change and pollinators. I will then head home to better understand how several U.S. states are at risk of losing their official bird species as they shift their range in response to climate change. The consequences of these losses are paramount and jeopardize not only the security of the species’ surrounding ecosystems, but also to us—our economies, our health and even our own identity.

So join us over the coming weeks and months as we examine the changing climate’s effect on the fabric of life: biodiversity.

Part I: The Silencing of a Symphony
Part II: Diagnosing the Pollinator Problem

About the Author

Savannah Miller

Savannah Miller

Savannah Miller is an environmental advocate looking to make a difference through communication, collaboration and policy. As founder of the web domain www.sustainable-directions.com, Savannah intends to engage her generation in climate change science through what she calls the “millennial environmental literacy project.” Her content is largely pulled from her fieldwork in Sub-Saharan Africa, Peruvian Amazon and, most recently, Antarctica with the 2041 Foundation. In addition, Savannah is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Administration within environmental sciences and policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and The Earth Institute. Savannah holds a dual degree in environmental sciences and creative writing from Emory University.

Comments

  • Clayton Louis Ferrara

    Great article. Love the DODO picture. I have been to the museum in London and have seen a lot of his collection. The veins of Naturalism run deep.