Assessing the impact of global climate change on biodiversity
In the face of global climate change, how does science begin to understand its impacts on a planetary level? When so many changes are observed at a local or regional level, how do we begin to assess the degree to which human-driven climate change has itself influenced long-term changes in both natural and managed systems, and to species and continents? These are the fundamental questions that have shaped the work of Professor Camille Parmesan and colleagues in Biological Sciences.
Their research has shown that a global-scale assessment is possible only through meta-analyses of many species distributed across different continents and oceans. This has resulted in the development of a new approach, one that uses inductive reasoning – drawing general principles from a body of observations based on multiple, independent lines of evidence. Using this approach, they’ve shown that wild species have been impacted to a much greater degree than previously thought, and that marine systems have had a stronger response than terrestrial ones. They have also concluded that these biological changes have had a negative impact on human health and food security.
Their research has provided key evidence for determination of a 2°C limit for "dangerous" climate change in the Copenhagen Accord (2009) and again for the Paris Accords (2015) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Research by Parmesan and others has also formed the evidence basis for multiple legal proceedings against the United States Government, at least one of which is destined for the U.S. Supreme Court and has the power to change Federal laws on greenhouse gas emissions.