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  • Logan Young

How climate change is affecting animals ability to adapt

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

With climate change happening at a faster rate than ever seen before, many species are finding it hard to keep up with all of the changes and some won’t be able to outrun them. Let’s talk about it.

Territorial Species will be hit the hardest

According to Columbia University, animals that live in higher latitudes and elevations are having trouble with climate change because many species can only relocate so far(Cho, 2018).

The most affected animals in danger are plants, reptiles, amphibians & tropical species(Briggs, 2016). This is similar to the species that live in higher elevations, they are trapped and have no place to go, unlike others that live in areas that have often changes in their weather.

We also have to look at cold-blooded animals. Cold-blooded animals are going to have a hard time with climate change as well.

Their bodies only can tolerate a few degrees above their regular body temperature, and compared to how fast our planet is heating this isn’t a good sign(Climate change could cause cold-blooded animals' thermal tolerance to shrink, 2015).

They will need to find new ways to keep themselves cool and migrate to areas that aren’t their usual environment.

How fast can they really adapt

The world heats and cools itself naturally in approx. 100,000-year intervals said OSS(Global Warming Natural Cycle, 12 Oct. 2014). In this chart by grist, you can see that we are changing the natural direction of our natural global warming cycle.

Sourced From:, “Global warming is part of a natural cycle’–This idea is one short step above appealing to magic.”

So you can say plenty of species had time to adapt, but with the help of humans, we have sped up this process of global warming. Giving them a very small window to adapt.

If we don’t cut down drastically on our greenhouse gases, those that are territorial and those that are unable to adapt properly will see a drop in population or even be presented with extinction, unfortunately.

Some species are in luck

But before we become depressed at these facts, there is some good news. Some species are becoming more resilient to climate change.

For example, the pink salmon populations. Since they are animals that move from oceans to freshwater streams, they are focused more on migration, which gives them a crucial advantage over other animals that don’t migrate as often(Thompson, 2014).

Red squirrels are also an animal that has an advantage. White Spruce tree’s like to produce more cones when it is warmer and drier(Thompson, 2014). Which is a source of food for red squirrels. Females also are more likely to give birth earlier if they eat more cones in the fall months(Thompson, 2014).

It seems to be that we will be facing higher extinction levels than normal because of the rate of change in the climate. Animals that are more used to having to migrate, like the pink salmon will have a better chance at surviving. But animals that aren't used to migrating often, will be hit hard.

Some won’t be able to go far, and some will just not be able to handle the changes to the environment. Let’s hope that with the help of setting and following the 1.5C goal we can limit this impact on those species that need the most help.


Cho, Renee. “What Helps Animals Adapt (or Not) to Climate Change?” State of the Planet, 3 Apr. 2018,

Penman, Ali. “CLIMATE & WEATHER.” Climate Change - Effects on Animals, n.d,

Souders, Paul. “7 Species Hit Hard by Climate Change-Including One That's Already Extinct.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 5 July 2016,

Thompson, Helen. “Ten Species That Are Evolving Due to the Changing Climate.”, Smithsonian Institution, 24 Oct. 2014,

Briggs, Helen. “Climate Changing 'Too Fast' for Species.” BBC News, BBC, 23 Nov. 2016,

Marris, Emma. “How a Few Species Are Hacking Climate Change.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 6 May 2014,

McKie, Robin. “Climate Change Is Happening Too Quickly for Species to Adapt.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 July 2013,

Bertelsmeier, Cleo, et al. “Impacts of Climate Change on the Future of Biodiversity - Bellard - 2012 - Ecology Letters - Wiley Online Library.” Ecology Letters, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), 18 Jan. 2012,

“Global Warming Natural Cycle.” OSS Foundation, 12 Oct. 2014,

Climate change could cause cold-blooded animals' thermal tolerance to shrink (2015, May 19) retrieved 23 July 2019 from