Far from just warming the planet, climate change is deadly, it kills people, plants, trees and entire forests. It is also decimating some wildlife species and destroying entire aquatic ecosystems. Climate change is killing the western prairie fringed orchid and the Quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma). Climate change is even putting entire forests at risk. One prominent example involves the pine and aspen forests of the Rocky Mountains. Climate change is making them more susceptible to insect infestations and wildfires.
Climate change is killing off a number of terrestrial species. The Golden toad (Bufo periglenes) has already gone extinct due to climate change and polar bears are at risk as are koalas. Grizzly bear, lynx, akikiki, bog turtle and the flatwoods salamander are just a few of the species located in the U.S. that are being hit hard by climate change.
In addition to ocean warming, one of the byproducts of climate change is ocean acidification. Together warming and acidification have far-reaching impacts that are destroying entire marine ecosystems. Some of the species hardest hit by climate change are acropora cervicornis and coral (including the elkhorn coral in the US). The death of coral has ancillary consequences as a number of species depend on coral as a source of food and as nurseries.
Other aquatic species being hit by climate change include the North Atlantic cod, orange-spotted filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris), the Adélie penguin and the leatherback turtle. In the US the bull trout and seven species of salmonids are being killed by climate change, including the sockeye, Coho, and Chinook salmon species.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions not only cause climate change they are also toxic pollutants that are deadly to people. According to research from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, air pollution causes about 200,000 deaths in the US each year.
A 2012 report from climate change advocacy group DARA indicates that global climate change and pollution from fossil fuels killed more than 5 million people in 2010 alone. Almost three-quarters of deaths associated with climate change and GHG pollution occur in ten countries.
Here is a breakdown of the number of climate and pollution-related deaths in each of the top ten countries in 2010: There were 1.5 million deaths in China and 1 million deaths in India. There were 200,000 deaths in Nigeria and 150,000 deaths in both Indonesia and Pakistan respectively. There were 100,000 deaths in each of the following countries: Russia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Afghanistan saw 90,000 deaths.
The study suggests that these deaths are on the rise. By 2030 the estimated number of climate and pollution deaths will rise by 20 percent to 6 million per year.