While there are still climate change skeptics who deny the facts vehemently, there is one very real effect that has been noticed by scientists around the world. Animals and plants are actually migrating to cooler climates to escape the warmer temperatures that are a result of climate change.
In a study published in Science, researchers found that species are moving at about triple the pace than previously. The studies covered over 2,000 plants and animals, and on average, they are moving to higher elevations at about 40 feet per decade in order to escape the heat, and are moving further away from the equator at about 11 miles per decade.
According to York University biologist Chris Thomas, this is equivalent to plants and animals moving from the equator at about 20 centimeters per hour, 24/7. This is expected to continue for the rest of the century.
There has been evidence demonstrating this before, but this analysis also shows that species have moved the furthest in areas where temperates have risen the most. This is the strongest evidence so far that global warming is the reason for such drastic shifts. Some species have moved further than others. For example, the comma butterfly (pictured) has gradually moved 137 miles north in the past 20 years.
Aside from these drastic changes, another study estimates that as much as ⅓ of plants and animals could suffer extinction by 2050 due to climate change, despite claims that it is difficult to legitimately predict this. While it may seem alarming that species are moving at such a rapid pace, shifts in location also happen as a result of changing food patterns, predators and disease.
As we noted on World Population Day, it’s expected that there will be 9 billion people on the planet by about 2050. If we grow in population but choose to do nothing substantial to decrease our impact on our environment, where else do these species have left to go but off the planet?