Thursday, February 12, 2009

Birds and Climate Change: What to Do

Now that we know that birds are already moving their ranges due to climate change, what can we do to prevent the worst effects of climate change, both on birds and on ourselves?

Audubon's recommendation is basically the same as most other environmental organizations: we must reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Each year in which the U.S. Congress fails to pass significant climate legislation deepens my pessimism regarding the likelihood of timely action. However, if you want to make climate action more likely, join me and others in signing Audubon's petition based on the study.

Birds that move north will also need available habitat. Protecting boreal forest habitat remains an important goal. This petition asks the Canadian government to set aside at least 50% of the boreal forest from development.

While action by national governments is likely to make the biggest difference, we can all reduce our own contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Audubon lists some good steps at the link. I would add that tropical deforestation is a contributor to climate change, since it releases carbon that was previously sequestered and reduces the ability of tropical forests to absorb more carbon. Drinking shade coffee not only preserves habitat for bird species, but also helps to mitigate the effects of deforestation, or in some cases even prevent it.

In addition, it is likely no accident that Audubon released its report this week. The data used as the basis for this climate change report was gathered by volunteers – birdwatchers like you and me – over several decades through Christmas Bird Counts. You can help conservationists track future climate-related shifts in bird populations by participating in citizen science projects, such as:

Better yet, submit your bird sightings year-round through eBird.