October 9, 2008

Two Degree Climate Increase Could Put Antarctic Penguins In Peril

Over half of all colonies of penguins in Antarctica face a decline or total wipe out if the earth's temperature rises by just 2 degrees Celsius, a new report said on Thursday.

"The problem is very serious. Antarctica and the Arctic are the most threatened regions from climate change," said Juan Casavelos, WWF's Antarctic Climate Change Coordinator.

In the WWF report titled "2 deg C is Too Much" experts said unless nations slash carbon emissions, the world would warm by an average 2 deg C in less than 40 years.

An increase in temperatures would cause sea ice in the Southern Ocean to melt around Antarctica, leaving fewer nesting grounds for populations of penguins.

"In the Antarctic Peninsula, the temperature has risen 2.5 deg C in the past 50 years, which is five times faster than the global average," he told Reuters from Barcelona, Spain, where the report was released at this week's International Union for Conservation of Nature congress.

Since the industrial revolution, global temperatures have risen on average by about 0.6 deg C. This rise is largely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.

However, near the poles, temperatures have been rising noticeably faster.

"The situation is quite critical because in the past 50 years, the emperor penguin population has decreased by 50 percent in all of Antarctica," Casavelos said.

On the Antarctic Peninsula's northwestern coast, Adelie penguin numbers have dropped dramatically over the past 25 years, WWF's report said, calling for rich nations to agree to steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in U.N.-led climate talks.

"Fifty percent of the colonies of the iconic emperor penguin and 75 percent Adelie penguin colonies face marked decline or disappearance if the global temperature is allowed to rise 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels," the report said.

"Under 2 deg C global warming and the projected decrease in sea ice thickness and increase in open water area, emperor penguins will find it increasingly difficult to find new nesting areas," it said.


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