September 08, 2017

Climate change is, for the most part, a bad thing. We’re seeing sea levels rise, an increase in the number of 100-year storms, and dramatic changes to ecosystems. But, some plants and animals are adapting to the record high temperatures better than others. We talk with University of York ecologist Chris Thomas about why we shouldn’t forget that, as the world changes, the life that flourishes within it will as well. Thomas is the author of the new book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.

Three Takeaways 

  • Biologists often talk about how Earth’s species are being threatened in the face of global warming. But, Thomas says, it’s not all bad news. As the Earth gets warmer, it will also get wetter, which could lead to more species diversity.
  • Climate change often forces animals out of their natural habitat. Thomas says that while some aren’t able to adapt, others — like the butterflies he’s studied — can change their diets and become less dependent on environments they’ve lived in for thousands of years.
  • Humans are changing the planet, but we might not be able to see the full effects of our handiwork for many, many years. And the outcomes could be both good and bad, depending on the species you're talking about. Thomas says some species could end up dying out due to human influence, but other species might eventually thrive once they’re moved to a different environment.
More reading 
  • Take a look at The Guardian’s book review of Thomas’ “Inheritors of the Earth.”
  • The Smithsonian talks about how some invasive species are taking over certain ecosystems thanks to climate change.
  • Scientific American writes that the future could be dominated by ticks, mosquitoes, rodents, and jellyfish (and some nicer creatures, too).

Support for our coverage of environmental issues and sustainable communities comes from The Kendeda Fund.

Chris Thomas, climate change, innovation hub, Kara Miller, WGBH, pri

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