Climate Change

Climate Change 101

Climate change is occurring because greenhouse gases, such as those produced by burning coal and oil, are trapping too much heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Over the past 50 years, the average temperature in the U.S. has risen 2°F. Global temperatures have been higher than the 20th-century average every year since the late 1970s. And the Earth will only get hotter going forward.

How Climate Change Affects Wildlife

Many people know that climate change is causing Arctic sea ice to melt, which in turn threatens polar bears who need the ice to hunt for food. But climate change causes problems for all wildlife and habitats. For example, warmer waters can kill coral reefs, which countless marine species depend on for food and shelter. Droughts caused by changes in rain patterns reduce food supply such as desert grasses and flowering plants for the critically endangered Sonoran pronghorn. And warmer temperatures increase the amount of time pests have to grow and multiply, like the pine bark beetle that is devastating forests all over North America.

Because of the wide variety of impacts it has on the environment, climate change is now one of the leading threats to wildlife and habitats.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help Wildlife Threatened by Climate Change

Climate change is a massive problem that needs to be tackled on multiple fronts. Defenders is working to ensure the best science is being used to understand the full impacts of climate change on wildlife and ecosystems. We are a leader in the conservation community when it comes to advocating for laws, policies and funding to help combat the threat. And we’re also devising strategies and guidelines to help wildlife and natural resource managers prepare for the impacts of climate change.

In addition to the work our climate change team is doing, you’ll find more details about our efforts throughout our website because it is related to virtually every aspect of what we do. For example, many of our wildlife pages include details about how climate change specifically affects animals like polar bears and sea turtles; our Habitat Conservation section discusses its impact on different areas like refuges and land trusts; and our work to help develop “smart from the start” strategies for renewable energy development is critically important to helping solve this global problem.

More on Climate Change: Causes of Climate Change »

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Fact Sheet
Known as "prairie ghosts" because they are so elusive, the Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) is the fastest land mammal in North America. Smaller and lighter in color than other pronghorn subspecies, it is uniquely adapted for survival in harsh arid conditions.
Habitat Conservation
Defenders of Wildlife is working to protect and strengthen the National Wildlife Refuge System, the only system of federal lands in the United States dedicated to wildlife conservation.
Fact Sheet
Each spring, thousands of these shorebirds stop in the U.S. as they migrate from South America to the Canadian Arctic.