Global Climate Change and Wildlife


Evidence indicates that wildlife and wildlife habitats have been, and will continue to be, affected by ongoing large-scale rapid climate change, the causes of which are exacerbated by human activities.  The Wildlife Society believes that climate change and its impacts on wildlife must be taken into account in long-term land and wildlife management plans and strategies.

In 2004, The Wildlife Society prepared a Technical Review on Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America. TWS is also actively advocating the inclusion of funding for wildlife and their habitats in any legislation that addresses global climate change.


IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007)

More than 2,500 scientists from 130+ countries reached consensus that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were “very likely” (>90% chance) the main driving force behind the “unequivocal” and “unprecedented” global warming trend observed over the past half century.  The observed increase in carbon dioxide emissions from pre-industrial times to the present has primarily been attributed to the use of fossil fuels, with changes in land use a smaller, but still significant, contributor. 

Implications for Wildlife

Since wildlife are closely adapted to their environments, they respond readily to variation in climate.  As detailed in The Wildlife Society’s Technical Review, the extent of current climate change has the potential to affect wildlife throughout North America in a species-specific and highly variable manner.  Potential effects include range shifts toward more northerly latitudes, earlier bird migration times, changes in plant-animal community structure, decoupling of necessary species relationships, and an increase in the spread of invasive species. 

Current Issues

The question is no longer whether climate change is occurring, but how to address its effects on wildlife and their habitats.  There have been several bills introduced in the 110th Congress intended to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to address global climate change.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also created the >Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to investigate the issues and make recommendations for the U.S. to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

TWS is actively advocating the inclusion of funding for wildlife and their habitats in any legislation that addresses global climate change.  If a cap-and-trade system were implemented, for example, the auctioning of carbon emissions credits would generate a new revenue stream, with potentially $500 million to $2 billion a year directed toward wildlife conservation.

Relevent TWS Documents

TWS Position Statement

TWS Technical Review

Recent Wildlife Policy News Articles

Government Affairs Involvement

Further Information

How to Get Involved

The Wildlife Society | 5410 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 200 | Bethesda MD 20814-2144| Phone: (301) 897-9770 | Fax: (301) 530-2471