Audubon: Bird Lovers Flocking to the Cause on Climate Change

The Piping Plover is on the list of Illinois Endagered and Threatened Animals and Plants. Photo courtesy of Shanthanu Bhadwaj/flickr.

The Piping Plover is on the list of Illinois Endagered and Threatened Animals and Plants. Photo courtesy of Shanthanu Bhadwaj/flickr.

The following is an excerpt reprinted, with permission, from
Citizens' Climate LobbyNews 7/13/16.

By Flannery Keck

An unprecedented rate of extinction

Over the last 60 years, Audubon Society members have not only been dedicated bird watchers, but also citizen scientists, collecting data on bird sightings and activity. Audubon’s scientists have used that wealth of data and top climate models to put together a sort of “field guide of the future,” based on the birds’ ideal climatic ranges and how those would shift due to expected greenhouse gas emissions.

In September 2014, they released their findings. “It was pretty staggering,” [Matt] Anderson [Director of the National Audubon Society’s Climate Initiative] admitted. “Of the nearly 700 North American bird species, 314 of those bird species face a greater likelihood of extinction by 2080 — within that, well over 100 face that same threat of extinction due to climate change by 2050.”

“This was a wakeup call,” Anderson said, because the rate of extinction is potentially faster than we’ve ever seen it. “To the best of our understanding, we’ve lost 9 bird species in North America since the Industrial Revolution,” Anderson said, so a span of about 200 years. But now? “We’re talking 314 in the span of 65.”

Flying into action

With that data, the Audubon Society wasted no time taking the necessary steps to protect birds, other wildlife, and ourselves from climate change. First, they committed themselves to on-the-ground conservation and adaptation work within habitats to give birds and other species the best chance to adapt, biologically and behaviorally, to climate change.

Then, they also jumped into public engagement work trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The science is clear that the more we can reduce emissions — and the more quickly we can do that — the better off people and birds will be. So now, field organizers all across the country are working at the municipal, state and federal level to create solutions, from planting native plants and putting solar on more homes to advocating for bird-friendly windmill installation and Washington state’s carbon tax. (Opportunity alert: Anderson said they’ll be hiring more field organizers this fall!)

They’ve also set up a powerful tool on their website, which you can find here, for exploring the effects on specific bird species and areas. Love the Eastern Whip-poor-will? Search it with this tool, and you’ll find that 78% of its breeding range will be lost by 2080 if climate change continues without mitigation. With this specific data, you can open up the conversation with other bird lovers and find common ground for fighting climate change.

To read this entire article, go to the Citizens' Climate Lobby website.