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Wildlife conservationists: Pledge to address climate crisis is a good first step

Austria Polar Bear Cub
Posted at 2:48 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 18:54:53-04

The Biden administration has pledged to "address the climate crisis at home and abroad."

While some of the details have yet to be released, wildlife conservationists say it's a step in the right direction.

Scientists say polar bears, koalas, elephants, and butterflies are just some of the species directly impacted by climate change.

“We have huge drivers of rapid environmental change like climate change, and it’s impacting wildlife species," said Dr. Megan Owen, Senior Director of Wildlife Conservation Science at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. "And wild places and the very planet we all share across the globe it’s a huge problem."

And while she says it's a "huge" problem, she also says it's a chance for humans to make a difference.

“I can tell you that in the most straightforward way that we have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, there’s no alternative," said Dr. Owen. "The faster we do it, the bet. It’s a commitment to being a part of a solution rather than continuing to behave as we always have, knowing that we’re degrading our own habitat in that process.”

The evidence, Dr. Owen said, is there.

She uses polar bears as an example.

“I don’t think any other species illustrates as well the real tangible impact of climate change the polar bear sea ice habitat is literally melting away.”

Butterflies are experiencing a 2% decline in population as temperatures are warmer and warmer for more extended periods.

“People don’t necessarily notice a catastrophic decline in the case of butterflies, for example," Dr. Owen said.

And then there are koalas, who we all quite literally watched disappear as fires raged through Australia in 2019 and 2020, killing thousands of koalas.

As for elephants, they are living with drought just like people.

“There are more wells dug for people because they need water to survive as well, and the wells that get dug are traps for baby elephants and are in no way intentional," Dr. Owen said.

As for what we can do about it, Dr. Owen said we should support regulatory action to support green energy policies.

She also added that we should support people in local governments, state governments, national governments that are climate forward and think about how we can move our energy sources into greener pastures.

Paul Baribault is President and CE of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, which operates the zoo, safari park, and 200 conservation scientists that support work at home and abroad.

“We have to think about collectively, as humanity, how do we best manage that balance?" Baribault said. "How do we keep wildlife in balance with our own balance and maintain our healthy ecosystem maintain healthy wildlife because that will have a direct result on our own health.”

The Biden administration announced that the U.S. would target reducing emissions by half by 2030.

Baribault says making that effort is a good step for the future co-existence of both animals and people.

"If we get everyone to focus on their own community and small things that they can do, simple things, like turning off lights, not running water while brushing teeth,” says Baribault.

It's little things that turn into big things for the greater good.