With the weight of scientific data pointing to the changes in the environment due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases—called climate change—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has begun monitoring and analyzing impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife and working toward solutions to help species adapt to their changing habitats. Representing a compilation of the work of hundreds of the world’s top scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports are important to the Service’s understanding about how it can meet this challenge.
The IPCC is a scientific organization set up by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program. It assesses, analyzes, and reports on the latest science on climate change and its human and environmental impacts. Hundreds of the world’s most respected scientists have contributed to the IPCC’s Assessment Reports of the state of knowledge on climate change. Many U.S. scientists have contributed to the findings in IPCC Assessment Reports, and these reports are a highly credible source of information on climate change science.
What does the IPCC say about the impact of climate change on natural systems and what does it mean for the future of our fish and wildlife?
In its most recent Assessment Report the IPCC recounts the best and most current evidence of the effects of warming on natural systems on all continents and most oceans. Of more than 29,000 observational data series around the world, examined by the IPCC, more than 89 percent are consistent with the direction of change expected in response to global warming.
In addition, the IPCC identifies other ecosystems likely to be affected by climate change, including tundra and boreal forest and mountain regions (because of sensitivity to warming); Mediterranean-type ecosystems because of reduction in rainfall; and tropical rainforests where precipitation declines.
The IPCC concludes that warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized now, making climate change the greatest single conservation challenge we face in the new millennium. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to anticipate and address this challenge to fulfill its unique role in protecting fish and wildlife habitats and maintaining biodiversity in our world—today and into the future.