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Climate change threatening iconic British species says WWF

·2-min read

The future of some of the UK's most treasured species including puffins, bluebells and bumblebees is dependent on the outcome of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. 

That's according to a new report by the leading conservation organisation WWF. Called Feeling the Heat, it identifies 12 species worldwide whose habitats are already being badly impacted by climate change.

WWF is calling on the UK government to show global leadership at November's summit, and make tangible pledges to ensure the world's temperature doesn't rise by more than 1.5°C.

Mike Barrett is the Executive Director of Science and Conservation at WWF and says global leaders must act now to avoid sliding "faster and faster towards catastrophe".

"While a half-degree increase beyond this may not sound significant, it will permanently damage a variety of natural ecosystems, leading to the extinction of even more species across the globe and risking the lives of millions more people worldwide."

The 1.5°C cap was agreed under the Paris Climate Agreement, but the WWF report states that current global policy pledges are projected to lead to a temperature rise of 2.4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

The report notes the effect of climate change on several species across the globe. The common factor across them all is the impact rising temperatures has on habitat. Among those highlighted is the emperor penguin, which has seen numbers decline rapidly.

As the Antarctic ice melts it reduces the space penguins have to nest and breed, or to escape from predators.

In central and south Asia, the snow leopard, already under threat from poaching and habitat destruction, is seeing climate change alter its mountainous territories.

The WWF report says snow leopard habitat is projected to decline by 23% by 2070 if the world fails to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In the UK, puffin populations have crashed over the last two decades, and the birds face multiple threats. Overfishing has reduced their food source, and now a rise in extreme weather events caused by climate change is cutting the time puffins can spend finding food.

And a 2C rise in temperature could see the end of the stunning springtime displays of bluebells in southern and central England.

However WWF's President Tanya Steel says there is hope. "The UK's presidency of the UN climate conference known as COP26, later this year, provides a unique opportunity for us to lead the way.

"We must act to ensure we can keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C and make nature our 'climate hero'."