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Date: 30 Apr 2014

Thinking globally and siting locally – renewable energy and biodiversity in a rapidly warming world

Abstract

Increasing greenhouse gas emissions are projected to raise global average surface temperatures by 3˚–4 °C within this century, dramatically increasing the extinction risk for terrestrial and freshwater species and severely disrupting ecosystems across the globe. Limiting the magnitude of warming and its devastating impacts on biodiversity will require deep emissions reductions that include the rapid, large-scale deployment of low-carbon renewable energy. Concerns about potential adverse impacts to species and ecosystems from the expansion of renewable energy development will play an important role in determining the pace and scale of emissions reductions and hence, the impact of climate change on global biodiversity. Efforts are underway to reduce uncertainty regarding wildlife impacts from renewable energy development, but such uncertainty cannot be eliminated. We argue the need to accept some and perhaps substantial risk of impacts to wildlife from renewable energy development in order to limit the far greater risks to biodiversity loss owing to climate change. We propose a path forward for better reconciling expedited renewable energy development with wildlife conservation in a warming world.

A comment to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1205-1.