Extinction risk from climate change

Nature. 2004 Jan 8;427(6970):145-8. doi: 10.1038/nature02121.


Climate change over the past approximately 30 years has produced numerous shifts in the distributions and abundances of species and has been implicated in one species-level extinction. Using projections of species' distributions for future climate scenarios, we assess extinction risks for sample regions that cover some 20% of the Earth's terrestrial surface. Exploring three approaches in which the estimated probability of extinction shows a power-law relationship with geographical range size, we predict, on the basis of mid-range climate-warming scenarios for 2050, that 15-37% of species in our sample of regions and taxa will be 'committed to extinction'. When the average of the three methods and two dispersal scenarios is taken, minimal climate-warming scenarios produce lower projections of species committed to extinction ( approximately 18%) than mid-range ( approximately 24%) and maximum-change ( approximately 35%) scenarios. These estimates show the importance of rapid implementation of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for carbon sequestration.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Geography
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors


  • Carbon