December 15, 2009 / 11:09 PM / 9 years ago

Moderate global warming to wipe out many species

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Up to a fifth of all species of animals and plants risk extinction even if the world manages to limit global warming to levels widely viewed as safe, the head of the Convention on Biological Diversity said.

Ahmed Djoghlaf also told Reuters on the sidelines of December 7-18 talks on climate change in Copenhagen that every nation in the world was set to fail to meet a target of slowing the loss of species by 2010.

The Copenhagen talks are considering adopting a goal of limiting global warming to a 2 degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial times, a target agreed in July by industrialized nations and other leading economies including China and India.

“For each degree centigrade of warmer temperature, it is predicted that 10 percent of all known species will disappear,” Djoghlaf told Reuters.

“Therefore this idea of stabilizing the temperature at no more than 2 Celsius...will lead to the disappearance of 20 percent of known species,” he said. “Climate change is contributing to the loss of biodiversity.”

He said scientists have recorded more than 2 million species, from apples to zebras, but there may be more than 15-30 million. World temperatures have already risen by about 0.7 degrees Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

“We continue to lose biodiversity at unprecedented rates and this has been seriously compounded by climate change but also by land use, urbanization,” and other factors, Djoghlaf said.

A report this week said climate change will disrupt habitats for many creatures other than polar bears whose Arctic home is thawing.

It named another 10 other species vulnerable to climate change — beluga whale, clownfish, leatherback turtle, emperor penguin, quiver tree, ringed seal, salmon, staghorn coral, Arctic fox and koala.

Djoghlaf said reports from more than 100 of 193 countries that are part of the Convention showed that none had managed to reach a goal set in 2002 of significantly slowing the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

“Of the 100 countries that have reported not a single country has claimed to have done it,” he said.

Editing by Michael Roddy

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