The fluid geographies of marine territorialisation processes

By Paula Satizábal, University of Melbourne, and Simon P J Batterbury, Lancaster University.

Image

(c) Photo by Paula Satizábal, small-scale fishers on the Gulf of Tribugá.

Empty-yet-full imaginaries

Oceans are framed by policy makers and governments as being empty of people and full of resources available for capital accumulation (Bridge 2001). They are portrayed as containers of open access public goods (e.g. the Exclusive Economic Zones prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). These images are used to facilitate the privatisation of fishing grounds and other productive areas, as well as to justify the overexploitation of marine resources, which are generally under very limited state control. People who live near coasts are often excluded from conversations about how marine territory is negotiated.

People living at the intersection of land and sea have not been passive observers of these processes of accumulation by dispossession. Despite an absence of institutional instruments that recognise peoples’ marine territorial rights, several groups and communities have relied on marine conservation enclosures as the only legal tool available to legitimise their authority over the sea. However, for many, this is not a long-term solution; once a marine protected area has been established coastal peoples are often excluded from decision-making arenas.

Previous research has highlighted the key role played by state and non-state actors in negotiating land-based territorialisation. However, the role played by socio-cultural dynamics on guiding and informing marine territorialisation processes has been largely overlooked. Our recent publication in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, entitled ‘Fluid geographies: marine territorialisation and the scaling up of local aquatic epistemologies on the Pacific Coast of Colombia’ (Satizábal & Batterbury 2017), addresses this gap. We examine the participatory process undertaken by coastal Afro-descendant communities along the Gulf of Tribugá on the northern Pacific coast of Colombia, which enabled them to take part in the state production of territory at sea through the creation of a marine protected area.

Local aquatic epistemologies

Ulrich Oslender (2016) coined the concept of ‘local aquatic epistemologies’ to denote the ways of knowing that result from the entanglements of humans in aquatic environments. We argue that coastal dwellers in the Gulf of Tribugá hold ‘local aquatic epistemologies’, which is where knowledge has been produced through the individual and collective experiences of people entangled in the fluid dynamics of rain, rivers, and sea, as well as through their interactions with indigenous and expert knowledge.

Coastal people along the Gulf generally conceived the sea as a lived space, where territory is constructed through everyday practices, moving beyond marine/riverine/coastal divides. However, the collective territorial rights granted to Afro-descendant communities in Colombia since 1993 only recognised their rights over the land, reproducing the spatial logics of the colonial period. Conflicts between coastal communities and the deep-water shrimp and tuna industrial fisheries have escalated since the 1990s due to the impacts of overfishing and excessive bycatch. These conflicts cannot be reduced to threats to coastal food security or access to fishing resources; they are an important part of coastal dwellers’ efforts to defend their marine social spaces and authority over the sea.

The marine protected area

With the support from conservation NGOs, and informed by their local aquatic epistemologies, these communities are navigating the state institutional apparatus. They have used formal institutional mechanisms to claim their marine rights through the creation of a marine protected area. The process has been centred on the conservation of fishing resources, relegating the socio-cultural dimensions of their marine claims to the background.

The creation of the marine protected area on the Gulf of Tribugá involved the scaling up of local aquatic epistemologies. This has enabled Afro-descendant territorial struggles to reach national negotiation arenas, transforming relations of authority at sea. The marine protected area emerges as a space of resistance that subverts the lack of legal mechanisms to assert the marine territorial rights of coastal people. These spaces are, however, still dominated by the interests of the fishing industry.

Although this process contests marine empty-yet-full imaginaries, the creation of marine protected areas remains centred on access and control over fishing resources. We emphasise the importance of developing legal instruments that overcome marine coastal divides and recognise the relevance of marine social spaces as part of indigenous and afro-descendant peoples’ territorial rights.

About the authors: Paula Satizábal is a PhD Candidate at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne, and Simon P J Batterbury is Professor of Political Ecology at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.

References

60-world2 Alexandersen A, Juhl S, Munk Neilsen J 2017 Ocean grabs: fighting the ‘rights-based’ corporate take-over of fisheries governance The Ecologist 21 November 2016 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988355/ocean_grabs_fighting_the_rightsbased_corporate_takeover_of_fisheries_governance.html 

books_icon Bridge G 2001 Resource triumphalism Environment and Planning A 33 2149–2173.

60-world2 Jarvis R and Bennett N 2017 Ocean conservation needs a Hippocratic oath – we must do no harm The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jun/28/ocean-conservation-needs-a-hippocratic-oath-we-must-do-no-harm 28 June 2017

books_icon Oslender U 2016 The geographies of social movements: Afro-Colombian mobilization and the aquatic space Duke University, United States.

60-world2 Ota Y and Cisneros-Montemayor A 2017 For indigenous communities, fish mean much more than food The Conversation https://theconversation.com/for-indigenous-communities-fish-mean-much-more-than-food-70129 30 January 2017 

books_icon Satizábal, P. and Batterbury, S. P. J. (2017), Fluid geographies: marine territorialisation and the scaling up of local aquatic epistemologies on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Trans Inst Br Geogr. doi:10.1111/tran.12199

60-world2 Silver Herrera J 2015 Los pescadores del Chocó que se empeñaron en cuidar su mar http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-15474539 (Spanish)

60-world2 Smiths M, Beal D, Lind F, Portafaiz A, Chaundry T 2017 The Economic Imperative to Revive Our Oceans Boston Consulting Group https://www.bcg.com/en-au/publications/2017/transformation-sustainability-economic-imperative-to-revive-our-oceans.aspx

Does green infrastructure represent a sound investment opportunity?

By Steve Cinderby, University of York, UK, and Sue Bagwell, London Metropolitan University, UK. 

Globally our societies are becoming increasingly urbanised with the United Nations (UN) reporting that already the majority of people live in urban settings with predictions this will rise to 66 per cent by 2050. Historically this has often meant increasingly constructed, grey, environments, however, there are increasing demands to green our cities with the introduction of more plants and trees.

Last month London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, unveiled plans to make the English capital the world’s first “National Park City” by 2019. With initial funding of £9M the intention is to increase the amount of green space including encouraging the development of more green roofs, green walls and rain gardens. This initiative connects to the UN Sustainable Development goals for cities and the calls for accessible greenspace made in the New Urban Agenda that emerged after the 2016 UN Summit on Future Cities.

Whilst some have highlighted the challenges for an existing cityscape like London of introducing more green into the urban fabric alongside demands for housing, businesses and service infrastructure recently published research indicates that the Mayor’s plan could bring not just environmental benefits (reducing surface water flooding, improving air quality, cooling urban heat islands and increasing local wildlife diversity) but also improve the mental health and well-being of Londoner’s and increase the economic vitality of the city.

Our newly published Area paper describes the impact of introducing a relatively small number of green infrastructure schemes around Victoria station in London. The findings illustrate that as well as the known environmental returns investing in urban green infrastructure within existing neighbourhoods could also make sound financial sense. The research provides new evidence that city greenery can increase customer footfall particularly for retail and leisure businesses, encouraging visitors to ‘linger-longer’ and potentially ‘spend more’ in a pleasanter environment. In our city workplaces the study found that investing in office greenspace improved staff member’s morale and work satisfaction. Greener workplace setting also seem to encourage staff to adopt more sustainable behaviours including better energy saving and recycling again potentially bringing both environmental and economic benefits.

This new evidence indicates that, alongside the London Mayoral investment, the city’s private enterprises should also consider financing the incorporation of more green infrastructure into new building schemes whilst retrofitting green walls and street trees into existing neighbourhoods where possible. These improvements could boost their economic value for retail and desirability for employers. A National Park City investments could not only make environmental sense but could bring sound financial and well-being benefits as well.

About the authors: Steve Cinderby is a Senior Researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), University of York. Sue Bagwell is Research Development Manager at the Cities Institute London Metropolitan University. 

60-world2 BBC 2017 London mayor launches bid to improve city’s green credentials http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40899234 11 August 2017

books_icon Cinderby, S. and Bagwell, S. (2017), Exploring the co-benefits of urban green infrastructure improvements for businesses and workers’ wellbeing. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12361

60-world2 Sofianos G (2017) Mayor wants to make London world’s first National Park City LondonLovesBusiness http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/business-news/london-news/mayor-wants-to-make-london-worlds-first-national-park-city/17132.article 11 August 2017

60-world2 UN New Urban Agenda http://habitat3.org/

Digital Data: Opening up the Weather Archive – Geo at #RGSIBG17

Geo: Geography and Environment

Join us on Wednesday 30 August at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference for our Geo sponsored session ‘Digital Data: Opening up the Weather Archive’ (Education Centre, session 3, 14.40-16.20), convened by Georgina Endfield (The University of Liverpool), Lucy Veale (The University of Liverpool), and Sarah Davies (Aberystwyth University).

This session brings together researchers working on weather and climate history, existing or potential end users of research databases, and custodians of manuscript weather data, to critically evaluate the construction, management, application, and implications of digital weather data. Emphasis will be placed on thinking about the future of these tools and how we can improve connections between them, both technical and geographical.

The session will also include a live demonstration of the TEMPEST database (Tracking Extremes of Meteorological Phenomena in Extent across Space and Time). TEMPEST’s c.20,000 records are drawn from primary research into original documentary sources held in archives around…

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Decolonising geographical knowledges: new papers in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and Area

The 2017 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference Chair, Sarah Radcliffe, University of Cambridge, has chosen the theme ‘Decolonising geographical knowledges: opening geography out to the world’.

A series of articles that directly engage with the conference theme have been published in the RGS-IBG journals Transactions and Area. The following papers are free to access until August 2018.

Transactions Themed Intervention, Decolonising Geographical Knowledges. Guest edited by Sarah A Radcliffe

Decolonising geographical knowledges  by Sarah A Radcliffe (University of Cambridge) and RGS-IBG Conference Chair.

Mainstreaming geography’s decolonial imperative by Tariq Jazeel  (UCL)

From where we stand: unsettling geographical knowledges in the classroom by Michelle Daigle and Juanita Sundberg (The University of British Columbia)

Decolonial theory in a time of the re-colonisation of UK research by Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham)

Decolonialism by Stephen Legg (University of Nottingham)

Area Special Section, Decolonising Geographical Knowledge in a Colonised and Re-colonising Postcolonial World. Guest edited by Patricia Noxolo

Introduction: Decolonising geographical knowledge in a colonised and re-colonising postcolonial world by Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham)

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) student and staff in contemporary British Geography by Vandana Desai (Royal Holloway University of London)

A day in the life of a Geographer: ‘lone’, black, female by Divya P Tolia-Kelly (Durham University)

Decolonising geographical knowledges: the incommensurable, the university and democracy by Andrew Baldwin (Durham University)

‘Free, decolonised education’: a lesson from the South African student struggle by Adam Elliott-Cooper (King’s College London)

Commentary: The 2017 RGS-IBG chair’s theme: decolonising geographical knowledges, or reproducing coloniality? By James Esson (Loughborough University), Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham), Richard Baxter (Queen Mary University of London), Patricia Daley (University of Oxford), and Margaret Byron (University of Leicester)

 

“Ethical Oil”: Does geography matter?

By Jillian Smith, University of Birmingham

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Photo Credit: Peter Essick

The phrase “ethical oil” went mainstream in Canada in 2010 after a national bestseller of the same name.  The book, written by Ezra Levant, a right-wing political activist and lawyer, gave this simplified primer: Canada is a friendly, secure petro state; Saudi Arabia and OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) are conflicted and undemocratic.  In other words, the opinion is that Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and climate change aside, Canada’s oil is “ethical”.  Opinions aside, the International Energy Agency – a Parisian-based intergovernmental organization – states that depending on the region, Canadian oil is 5-10 per cent more GHG intensive than U.S. conventional fuel from extraction to combustion (well-to-wheel) (IEA, 2011).  Bradshaw (2010) recognises that globalisation, climate change, and energy security are intricately linked; he strives to explain why geography complicates the interaction of climate change and energy security. Bradshaw dubs this the ‘global dilemma’.  While the momentum of Levant and his ‘ethical oil’ campaign may have become distant memories, given the scope of climate change and energy security, it is worth reflecting on why it was paradoxical to rebrand Canadian oil, or any oil, as “ethical” in the first place.

Oil sands development constitutes Canada’s fastest growing source of CO2 because of the large amount of energy required to extract bitumen from sand.  Additionally, after accounting for the natural gas that powers the process of converting bitumen to crude and the removal of Boreal forest (a large carbon storehouse), Canadian tar sands oil can emit up to three times more GHG’s than conventional oil (Hatch and Price, 2008).  Despite plans to reduce emissions per barrel, with development scheduled to proceed, overall emissions will inevitably rise and the global issue of climate change could weigh heavily on Canada’s shoulders.

In March of 2017, President Trump gave an enthusiastic green light to the “incredible” Keystone pipeline.  This 1400 kilometre mile pipeline will transport up to 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude to Texas.  The State department said it considered foreign policy and energy security in making the approval.  This aligns with Levant’s argument that the world has a choice: embrace Canada’s peaceful, democratic oil or continue its dependence on OPEC’s dictatorship, conflict oil.  Levant, however, went further to suggest that the question of morality must encompass human rights issues independent of environmental costs.  In his mind, reliance on oil from dictatorships to “save modestly on greenhouse gases” was a misguided notion.  Many Americans and Canadians, however, would beg to differ – environmental costs do matter.

Levant, however, is no stranger to controversy and libel.  A former tobacco lobbyist, he is adept at weaving intricate webs.  His favourite spin in the oil debate was lambasting Saudi oil. Certainly a healthy dose of skeptisim and a critical eye is healthy in any society, yet when skeptics are given the same airtime as legitimate researchers, facts become blurred.

With Canada’s oil being celebrated and extolled, while simultaneously being criticized and decried, it is not surprising that Canadians can be confused about the dizzying array of incongruous oil sands reports.  As such, decisions and reformations must first be based on sound scientific assessments of the facts.  Consequently, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) – Canada’s most prominent group of scholars and scientists, experts in their fields whom are peer-elected to receive this highest academic accolade and fellowship – published a peer-reviewed, comprehensive, 437-page evidence-based study of the oil sands in late 2010.

The report, while not as blasphemous as environmentalists would have liked, is certainly proof that Canada’s oil needs more than a rebranding makeover to be considered “ethical”.  The report concludes that “carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not appear to be a feasible option” and that increasing GHG emissions will create a major challenge for Canada to meet international commitments for overall emission reductions (Gosselin et al., 2010).

Fossil fuels, though intrinsically unsustainable, are the crown jewel of Canada’s multi-billion dollar energy sector.  But virtuous, ethical societies must aim to ultimately reduce oil consumption and pave the way for cleaner, renewable energy developments around the globe.  Additionally, ethical societies must conscientiously manage the resources they are entrusted with and devise coherent energy policies.  To date, North America lags behind the rest of the world in terms of energy efficiency and innovation.  Canada, with its enhanced regulatory oversight, can choose to perform ethically by embracing intergenerational thinking of a world beyond mere decades of oil.  Could some of Canada’s oil proceeds help pave the way toward a more sustainable future?  Regardless, it seems the words “ethical” and “oil”, though a clever marketing pitch, are not to be metaphorically mixed in the long-term interests of the planet or its people.

 

References

books_icon Bradshaw, M. J. (2010). Global energy dilemmas: a geographical perspective. The Geographical Journal176(4), 275-290.

60-world2 Gosselin, P., Hrudey, S. E., Naeth, M. A., Plourde, A., Therrien, R., Van Der Kraak, G., et al. (2010, December). Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from The Royal Society of Canada: http://www.rsc.ca/documents/RSCreportcompletesecured9Mb_Mar28_11_000.pdf

books_icon Hatch, C., & Price, M. (2008). Canada’s Toxic Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth. Toronto: Environmental Defence of Canada.

60-world2 IEA. (2011, April 13). Oil in the global energy mix: Climate policies can drive an early peak in oil demand. Retrieved July 2, 2017, from International Energy Agency: http://www.iea.org

books_icon Levant, E. (2010). Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands. Toronto: McLelland & Stewart Ltd.

Cities as Anthropocene landforms

By Simon Dixon, University of Birmingham, UK

Blog_Area12358

Attributions A) Used with permission of author, appears in Hartland A, Fairchild I J, Lead J R, Dominguez-Villar D, Baker A, Gunn J, Baalousha M and Ju-Nam Y, 2010, The dripwaters and speleothems of Poole’s Cavern: a review of recent and ongoing research Cave and Karst Science 36 37–46, B) Bradley Garrett, used with permission, C) CC BY 3.0, User Σ64 on Wikimedia commons, D) Photo by Aheneen for State of California (public domain)

Sinkholes regularly appear in city streets around the world, but despite often widespread media interest, there is almost no academic research into sinkholes in urban environments. This is symptomatic of a wider lack of urban-based earth surface research. The world is becoming increasingly urbanised, with the majority of people already living in cities and the proportion expected to rise to 66% by 2050. We are undeniably living in the age of humankind, the “Anthropocene”, but we are still coming to terms with what this means for the planet and for ourselves. Researchers and policy makers have begun to consider the social and environmental impacts of our increased urbanisation. There are also efforts to understand the impact human activity is having on the surface of the earth more broadly – for example, through the creation of anthropogenic landforms like open-cast mines, and by changing erosion processes in rivers through human activity. However, so far there has been little attention paid to the way earth surface processes are slowly altering and morphing the fabric of our cities to create new, startling and potentially dangerous features.

In our new Area paper, we argue, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that in neglecting to consider how earth surface processes are changing the urban fabric we risk repeating the fate of Ozymandias, the great king in the Shelley poem of the same name. In the poem the famous lines: “look on my works ye mighty and despair” are inscribed on the plinth of a ruined and eroded statue. One way of interpreting this is the king did not consider whether time and earth surface processes would degrade the monuments he constructed. We argue that without considering the forces acting within our cities we cannot understand the way they will change, decay and potentially fall into ruin in the future.

There are several interesting ways we have identified earth surface processes working on our cities, including the development of limestone cavern-type formations in old tunnels running under cities, formed from dissolved concrete. A key component in how earth surface processes develop in a city is the degree of maintenance. Social pressures and conditions which mean parts of a city are neglected or abandoned could allow these physical processes to proceed unchecked. Indeed places such as Detroit, Chernobyl and Hashima Island provide examples of hybrid urban landforms created by decay and weathering.

One important example of hybrid urban landforms is that of urban sinkholes, which although a natural phenomenon, occur in different ways in the urban environment. The formation processes for sinkholes in areas of limestone bed rock are well-documented and understood, and they can be classified partly according to the layer of rock and soil above the limestone. However, in urban environments we have created a very unusual situation where there is a hard, impermeable “rock” (tarmac/asphalt/concrete) sitting on top of a soft layer (soil or “made earth”). Flowing or percolating water can remove the soil, creating a void under the tarmac, which eventually develops into a sinkhole. It is possible this process played a role in the collapse of the Oroville Dam spillway in February 2017, with flowing water removing material under the spillway. The combination of a hard impermeable layer over a soft, easily-erodible layer only really occurs in nature during some volcanic eruptions where pumice is overlain by lava. We therefore have no natural comparisons for how soil piping sinkholes form in cities. Without specifically researching these it is hard to design ways to prevent them from occurring, or devise early warning systems.

Once we begin to think of the whole urban fabric as a human created “landform”, and the buildings, and infrastructure within it as like Anthropocene rock formations or outcrops, multiple research avenues open up. Understanding the processes happening within our cities would obviously help civil engineers and municipal authorities, but potentially also help archaeologists studying ancient ruined cities to interpret the features they find. We argue this exciting new frontier in earth science is fundamentally interdisciplinary, as it is not possible to disentangle the social drivers from the physical processes. It is our hope that researchers will start to view the urban environment in a slightly different way and work to together to explore some of the unknown earth surface processes acting in our cities.

About the author: Simon Dixon is a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham.  He is currently working a NERC “MegaScours” project looking at river confluences in the world’s largest rivers.

60-world2 Boxall B 2017 Water under Oroville spillway probably caused February collapse, state consultants say The LA Times http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-oroville-spillway-20170424-story.html

books_icon Dixon, S. J., Viles, H. A. and Garrett, B. L. (2017), Ozymandias in the Anthropocene: the city as an emerging landform. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12358

60-world2 Mitchell K 2017 Denver Uber driver ignores warning, plunges car into sink hole The Denver Post May 27 2017 http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/26/uber-drives-into-sinkhole/

60-world2 Practical Engineering ‘How do sinkholes form?’ http://practical.engineering/blog/2017/6/28/how-do-sinkholes-form

60-world2 Roxburgh H 2017 Endless cities: will China’s new urbanisation just mean more sprawl? The Guardian 5 May 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/may/05/megaregions-endless-china-urbanisation-sprawl-xiongan-jingjinji 

 

Are salamanders finally feeling the heat? The overlooked effects of climate change.

By Catherine Waite, University of Nottingham

Our society is inundated with information about climate change: it is in the news, infiltrating film and television, science, and policy.  And yet misconceptions remain regarding the importance and prevalence of such change.  Often, focus is placed entirely on the impacts to flagship species; the polar bear losing its icy home, for instance.  Unfortunately, this example is just the tip of the iceberg.  Climate change is affecting many more species than previously estimated and in myriad ways, including behavioural and physiological changes, as pointed out in a recent article in Geo: Geography and Environment (McCarthy et al., 2017).

File:Plethodon cinereus.jpg

A Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)
Photo Credit: Brian Gratwick, Wikimedia Commons via CC BY 2.0

In this article, the authors investigated the effects of a warming climate on the body size of redback salamanders, finding that body size varies greatly depending on temperature.  The salamanders were 2.3% larger in warmer areas versus cooler ones.  Meanwhile a size increase of 1.8% was observed within areas that had experienced warming of 0.5-1.2oC between the periods 1950-1970 and 1980-2000.  This is by no means the only species to have been affected by the changing climate.  Both behavioural and physiological changes in other species have been noted: marmots now end their hibernation three weeks earlier compared to 40 years ago, martens in the Americas are getting bigger, and the skull shape of alpine chipmunks is altering due to climate pressure.

It is essential to recognise that such responses and adaptions do not mean that these species are successfully adapting to our warming world.  Ecologists have noted that climate is changing too fast for species, as they cannot adapt fast enough to keep up with projected rates of future climate change (Jezkova and Wiens, 2016).  So, even if the salamanders studied by McCarthy et al., (2017) seem to be adapting to, and tolerating, changes in temperature so far, they may not continue to do so in the future.  The same can be said for other species; if they can’t adapt quickly enough, extinction may be the outcome, and we can forget the notion that this is purely a theoretical, future event.  The first mammal global extinction due entirely to climate change has already been confirmed: the Bramble Cay molomys, an Australian rat-like rodent, went extinct due to rising sea levels inundating the coral island on which it lived.

Not many people have heard about the Bramble Cay molomys.  They have heard about the polar bear or the Bengal tiger, though.  These attention-grabbing species have been used as ‘flagships’ for conservation organisations, but are they any more important than their overlooked counterparts?  Is it justifiable to focus on flagship species in an attempt to attract attention and money that can then be used to support conservation at larger scales?  Or, is a disproportionate amount of conservation resources being spent on these flagship species?  It’s a delicate issue, and one that few agree on.  All we can do is remain aware that, even if the intent behind flagship species is to help raise attention and funds for wider conservation efforts, we can’t let them overshadow other, overlook, species that are also in trouble.

It has been suggested that “most species on Earth have been impacted by climate change in some way or another” (The Guardian, 2017).  However, there has been enormous under-reporting of these impacts to date.  The IUCN Red List only classes 7% of mammals and 4% of birds as threatened by climate change and severe weather.  This is undoubtedly an underestimate, as many species wait decades for updates within the list and most of the Earth’s species have never been evaluated.  Indeed, a study published in Science late last year found the current warming of just 1oC has already left marks on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species’ distributions and physical traits.  This is supported by another study published in Nature Climate Change earlier this year, which found 47% of land mammals and 23% of birds have already suffered negative impacts from climate change.  This huge difference in percentages from the IUCN Red List demonstrates how wrong we were about the numbers of species being affected by climate change.  And the full extent is likely worse even than this.  This research only considered two well-studied groups (mammals and birds) and the authors commented that we are likely to be significantly underestimating the extent of climate impacts on lesser studied groups even more.  If we can be so wrong for our most studied groups, how much worse are our predictions likely to be for species we don’t know much about, like corals, bats, fungi and frogs?

Perhaps most disconcertingly, we have only experienced a relatively small amount of warming so far (~1oC), in relation to that predicted by the end of the century (4-5oC). When considering the changes that only 1oC of warming has wrought, it does not seem hyperbolic to say that the effects of further warming may be colossal.  So what can we do?  We need to change the way we think about and report climate change.  It has been pointed out that many studies into climate change focus on forecasting, and tend to ignore the fact that our climate has already altered.  When climate change is viewed only as a future threat, the impetus to do something today may be reduced.  But climate change is happening now, and it is already having serious effects on many more species than we previously thought.  Hopefully, with articles such as McCarthy et al.’s acknowledging alterations that have already taken place, we can begin to accept that changes are already affecting nearly all species on Earth; and that the time to act is now.

60-world2 Briggs, H., (2016) Climate changing ‘too fast’ for species BBC , 23 November 2016

60-world2 Hance, J., (2017) Climate change impacting ‘most’ species on Earth, even down to their genomes The Guardian

books_icon Hunt, E., (2017) Act now before entire species are lost to global warming, say scientists The Guardian

books_icon Jeskova, T., and Wiens, J.,  (2016) Rates of change in climatic niches in plan and animal populations are much slower than projected climate Proceedings of the Royal Society B change doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.2104 

books_icon McCarthy, T., Masson, P., Thieme, A., Leimgruber, P., and Gratwicke, B. (2017). The relationship between climate and adult body size in redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Geo: Geography and Environment, 4:1.

books_icon Pacifici, M., Visconti, P., Butchart, S., Watson, J., Cassola, F., Rondinino, C., (2017) Species’ traits influenced their response to recent climate change Nature Climate Change 7, 205-208 doi:10.1038/nclimate3223

60-world2 Scheffers, B., de Meeseter, L., Bridge, T., Hoffmann, A., Pandolfi J., (2016) THe broad footprint of climate chante from

60-world2 Slezak, M., (2016) Revealed: first mammal species wiped out by human-induced climate change The Guardian 14 June 2016