Track: Plenary Session
Ecological integrity and solutions under anthropogenic climate change
Emissions of greenhouse gases from cars, power plants, deforestation, and other human sources have raised carbon dioxide to its highest level in the atmosphere in 2 million years, causing anthropogenic climate change. This has increased global mean surface temperature 1.1ºC above the pre-industrial period (1850-1900), its highest level in the past 125 000 years. Detection analyses of field observations and attribution analyses of causal factors have found that anthropogenic climate change has increased the area burned by wildfire up to double natural levels, driven drought-induced tree mortality in North America and the African Sahel up to 20%, and caused biome shifts in boreal, temperate, and tropical ecosystems, up to 20 km latitudinally and 300 m upslope. These impacts drive carbon emissions from ecosystems to the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change in self-reinforcing feedbacks. Through increased wildfire, tree mortality, biome shifts, and carbon losses, anthropogenic climate change is damaging key aspects of the integrity of ecosystems and their ability to provide water, food, and other essential services for people. Cutting carbon emissions from human sources is the fundamental solution to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Scientific research indicates that energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, public transit, a plant-based diet, halting tropical deforestation, and other currently available practices could limit the global temperature increase to less than 2ºC. Vital connections of ecologists to these solutions include applied research that guides natural carbon solutions, fire management, biodiversity conservation, and other actions, providing key scientific information to policymakers, engaging the public, and standing strongly for scientific integrity against any attempted suppression of climate change research and communication. Recent progress on cutting carbon emissions demonstrates how each person can advance meaningful action on climate change to protect nature and human well-being.
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