Nearly every animal on the endangered species list is threatened by human-caused climate change, yet federal agencies aren’t doing enough to protect those species from the threats, a new study finds.
Researchers examined the 459 U.S. endangered animal species to gauge their sensitivity to climate change along with their ability to survive, based on federal plans to protect them.
The study found that 99.8% of the species possess a trait that could make it challenging for them to adapt to global warming.
“Our study demonstrates that while climate change is a pressing threat to imperiled species, agencies that manage federally protected species have not given enough attention to this threat,” said study lead author Aimee Delach, a senior policy analyst at the Defenders of Wildlife.
The study was published Monday in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Climate Change.
Amphibians, mollusks and arthropods – including the Sonoran tiger salamander, white wartyback pearly mussel and Florida leafwing butterfly – were sensitive to the greatest number of factors related to climate change. Mammals such as the North Atlantic right whale and Florida panther were found to be sensitive to the fewest number of factors, the study found.
Climate change can lead to problems with water quality, shifting seasons and harmful invasive species that move in as temperatures climb, the Guardian said.
However, the study found that federal agencies consider only 64% of endangered species to be threatened by climate change and have implemented protection plans for just 18% of listed species.
“Even worse, we found the agencies are moving in the wrong direction, with actions in recovery documents addressing climate change threats declining since 2014,” Delach said. “The current administration produced only one species’ document in 2017-18 that included management actions to address climate impacts.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the endangered species list, told the Guardian that while a species may be sensitive to changes in the climate, this sensitivity may not be so severe as to warrant being put on the list.
Study co-author Astrid Caldas, the senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said “this study confirms that the climate crisis could make it even harder for nearly all of our country’s endangered species to avoid extinction.
“While agencies have increasingly listed climate change as a growing threat to species whose survival is already precarious, many have not translated this concern into tangible actions, meaning a significant protection gap still exists. We still have time to safeguard many of the endangered species we treasure, but the window to act is narrowing.”