With an estimated one third of species facing extinction by 2050, Ellina Webb looks into some of the most unusual creatures – from the world’s oldest tree to the world’s rarest Possum that are rapidly disappearing due to climate change.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word ‘extinct’ I feel a great sadness, loss and emptiness. Much like grasping onto a memory of better times, the thought of something great passing you by is torture and this impending fate of some of the world’s most marvellous living things lies heavy on my shoulders.

But really the sad thing is that these species aren’t being sent into extinction due to natural selection or a world altering disaster (as was the case with the dinosaurs). Prior to the industrial revolution the longevity of these species had spanned millions of years and it’s only now, in the past 200 years, that changes in our climate due to industrialisation, a continued reliance on fossil fuels and a drive towards urbanisation that so many species are becoming extinct.

Of course we all know about the Tigers, the Orangutans (my favourite animal) and the White Rhinos, whose habitats are being destroyed by deforestation, palm oil production, hunting and trafficking (some of the top human related reasons animals become endangered), but what about those lesser known species who are on the cusp of extinction due to climate change?

Orangutan endangered
The plight of the orangutans The past 16 years has seen the loss of over 100,000 Bornean orangutans

Plant Species – The Giant African Baobab Tree

The Adansonia, also known as Baobabs are native to arid regions such as Africa and Australia. They can reach up to 98ft and their trunk diameters can be up to 36ft – making them on of the largest living individuals in the World. They can also live up to a jaw dropping 3,000 years old making them one of the longest living species and establishing their position as one of the most interesting wonders of the natural world.

The age and longevity of these stunning trees makes news of their demise even more shocking as in the last 10 years it has been reported that greenhouse gasses, climate change and global warming are causing them to die due to dehydration.

On 11th June 2018 The Guardian reported that a number of Africa’s oldest and biggest Baobabs have abruptly died, highlighting a deplorable reality that our planet is dying too. 

Water Mammal Species - The Arctic Narwhal

The Monodon monoceros, also known as a Narwhal is mostly recognised due to its fantastical and mythical looking tusk which protrudes from the front of its head – much like a unicorn. It lives in the Arctic waters of Greenland, Canada and Russia and is part of the whale family.

Due to this helical tusk, Narwhals have been harvested for years for both their meat and ivory and now due to climate change they are even more at risk.

The issue is that their habitats are disappearing and while other Arctic creatures such as Polar Bears have the ability to adapt to this, Narwhals do not.

Narwhals live in areas that are 99% heavy ice so the melting polar caps mean they are more susceptible to predators like the Orca/Killer Whales. Less ice also allows for more maritime traffic which increases noise pollution and affects communication between Narwhal pods.

On 18th May 2017 New Scientist reported that while at threat of climate change, Narwhals are also key in helping us understand climate change. Scientists have begun tagging them with temperature sensors to accurately measure underwater sea ice melt.

Land Mammal Species - The White Lemuroid Ringtail Possum

The White Lemuroid Ringtail Possum is native to Australia, extremely rare (it used to make up 40% of the possum population in Queensland) and believe it or not lives on leaf moisture to survive. Possums are known for living in cooler climates so rising temperatures have been blamed for their demise. In the last few years it was been reported that this Lemuroid Possum was likely to be Australia’s first victim of climate change and in 2014 it was actually classed as “ecologically extinct”.

If that wasn’t shocking enough it was suggested in 2017 that global warming will likely send a third of all specifies to extinction by 2050.

Global warming and climate change will have a huge effect on rainforests, drying up the ground and changing the natural habitat for every species that lives there.

Aves/Avian Species - The Hawaiian Honeycreeper

The Hawaiian Honeycreeper is a small colourful bird closely related to a finch which evolved in the forests of the Hawaiian Islands. Due to this, they only live in a small geographical range meaning their habitat is very particular.

The population of birds in Hawaii has been on the decline for over 200 years and now the Honeycreeper is on the verge of extinction due to rising temperatures. Much like the Lemuroid Possum, the Honeycreeper likes colder temperatures high up in the mountains due to the lack of disease and mosquitos.

With the rising temperatures causing climate change, avian diseases are becoming more of a threat and their precise habitats are degrading.

Honeycreeper
The Hawiian Honeycreeper Honeycreeper populations have decreased as much as 98% the past 15 years

Final Thoughts

While having a significant impact on reducing climate change and the fate of these species seems very difficult, the easiest thing to do on an individual level is raise awareness. Discussing the issues, discussing solutions and educating yourself on your own carbon footprint or on environmental topics that you feel strongly about will go a long way.

For me that environmental topic is wildlife and helping a huge selection of fascinating and beautiful creatures that can’t make a difference themselves.

On a larger level, if you are part of an organisation, have an influence in your business or own your own company there is even more you can do to help.

At Mitsubishi Electric, being green and environmentally friendly has been tapped into our DNA and with initiatives like Green Gateway we consider every step of the lifecycle (from manufacturing to service) and how it impacts our environment.

Environmental initiatives and Corporate Social Responsibility not only demonstrations your companies values and lets the public know how you operate; it also engages employees and ensures sustainability is at the forefront of our minds. Research also shows that customers are choosing to buy from companies that have clear policies in place.

As part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Mitsubishi Electric we strive to link with major players in the environmental arena, from UK Green Building Council to the United Nations.

In fact as part of our commitment to becoming a ‘Global Leading Green Company’ we signed the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) on 31st May 2018. This means we will conduct our CSR activities in line with the UNGC principles to help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric