Nature & Environment

New Study: Parts of Texas Could Face Abrupt Ecological Collapse By 2030

A Nature study describes a chain reaction that will accelerate the massive die-off of species in regions throughout Texas and the American South

There’s a horrifying new study out today, published in the journal Nature (sub required), that reports that temperatures warmed by the increase of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere are poised to kick-start a chain reaction of ecological collapse, accelerating the process of rampant mass extinction. And while these kinds of climate stories often involve devastating impacts in far away, exotic places—drowning islands, bleaching coral reefs—this new report says that 20 to 40 percent of animal species in Texas could face new ecological conditions that place their survival in doubt. It may all start by 2030.

From Inside Climate News:

In [the southern states from Texas to Florida] many species live in small geographic areas under a narrow range of climatic conditions. As global warming heats their habitat to the point that it is intolerable, many species have no place to go. Some will go extinct, with a domino effect that affects scores of other species. If it gets too hot for bumblebees, for example, it affects the reproduction of plants. If it gets too warm for insects and reptiles, it affects food supplies for birds and mammals.

“I hope our predictions are wrong. But increasingly, what we’re observing around us are the signs of this happening,” said [Alex] Pigot [a University College, London biodiversity officer and the study’s lead author], referring to research showing how global warming affects individual species. “I think these studies are showing that many species are already living very near their thermal limits. Our results suggest that these losses are likely to involve multiple species near simultaneously rather than happening gradually, one species at a time,” he said.

I know there is a lot of depressing news out there right now, and our bandwidth for problems that extend beyond our very anxious immediate concerns is limited. But one of the many, many side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has essentially hit the pause button on, well, everything. One of the things that has been placed on hold is important conversation about the environment. The timing is especially significant — and unfortunate — because this month is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Dallas, being the home of the largest Earth Day celebration in the world, has recently played an increasingly prominent role as the setting of a variety of important conversations about the health and future of our planet.

One of the most compelling aspects of EarthX—the brainchild of Trammell S. Crow—is that it has attempted to cut through some of the partisan divides that have dogged much progress on conservation and environmental issues over the past 30 years. (It didn’t used to be that way). A key component of EarthX’s mission is to push towards some level of consensus and action on climate issues before time runs out. Lake many festivals, EarthX is doing its best to adjust to our new, pandemic-induced online social existence. EarthX and EarthXFilm will move a chunk of its program online this April.

This new study underscores the urgency of those efforts. Even if you aren’t particularly excited by nature, don’t consider yourself an environmentalist, weren’t saddened by the news this week that all Texas state parks are now closed, or believe global ecological collapse is a dystopian fantasy dreamed up by the left as a ploy to assert some kind of new world snowflake order — the timing of this latest study should raise an alarm. In some ways, you could see the pandemic as the climate crisis in miniature. Initially, there were few visible or tangible reasons to fear the threat—only distant warnings and reports, doctors and scientists waiving their arms at a distracted world. It was only when the threat became immediate, visible, and frighteningly tangible, that action was taken. And at that point, the required action was very severe.

If the pandemic has taught us anything about global crises, it is that being prepared is everything, and preparedness means trusting the science, heading the warnings, and working to build a more resilient and sustainable society before it is too late.

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