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Finding that Global Warming Threatens Over One Million Species Underscores Urgent Need for Action

WASHINGTON - A new scientific study in Nature predicting over one million species could die out due to global warming is an urgent message to reduce the heat-trapping gases emitted by dirty energy sources, according to World Wildlife Fund. It confirms the findings of previous WWF reports.

The Nature article revealed that human induced climate change could result in the extinction of more than a million terrestrial species in the next fifty years.

"Climate change is emerging as the single biggest threat for wildlife," said Dr. Lara Hansen, chief scientist, WWF Climate Change Program. "The recent study in the scientific journal Nature reinforces the urgent need to take immediate action to reduce heat-trapping gases known to cause climate change."

Practical steps to reduce these emissions are clearly laid out in a WWF campaign, PowerSwitch! which challenges the power sector to increase energy efficiency and switch to clean energy sources like wind, solar and biomass. Heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions are key culprits in global warming, and 37 percent of CO2 emissions stem from electric power production, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. PowerSwitch! also calls on power companies and elected officials to support policies to limit heat-trapping CO2 emissions. WWF has produced detailed scenarios for the United States, the European Union (with specific reports on Germany and Italy), the Philippines and Japan to demonstrate how this can be achieved.

"We have to act now to minimize damage to the wildlife and wild places that we all love," said Dr. Hansen. "With many clean energy alternatives available, the power sector has the opportunity to take the lead by implementing responsible solutions rather than continuing to emit heat-trapping gases."

Although the study published in Nature is probably the most comprehensive analysis to date on climate change and its impact on species survival, it echoes the findings of previous WWF reports. The WWF report "Habitats at Risk," (PDF format - 754k) published in February 2002, was the first study to look specifically at how global warming in the coming decades could impact our most treasured natural habitats - outstanding areas still rich in species and biological distinctiveness. It examined 113 land-based regions of significant size and vegetative surface and found that huge parts of the world, from the tropics to the poles are at risk.

At the World Parks Congress in September 2003, WWF released a study, entitled ">"No Place to Hide," (PDF format - 1.1M) on climate change impacts on protected areas. The WWF study found that climate change impacts are already being observed in many parks worldwide, including in the United States, and that climate change is the most consistent explanation for many alterations in the range or behavior of animals and plants.