"Emperor penguins thrive on Antarctica’s coastlines in icy conditions any human
would find extreme. Yet, like Goldilocks, they have a narrow comfort zone: If
there’s too much sea ice, trips to bring food from the ocean become long and
arduous, and their chicks may starve. With too little sea ice, the chicks are
at risk of drowning.
Climate change is now putting that delicate balance and potentially the entire
species at risk.
In a new study, my colleagues and I show that if current global warming trends
and government policies continue, Antarctica’s sea ice will decline at a rate
that would dramatically reduce emperor penguin numbers to the point that almost
all colonies would become quasi-extinct by 2100, with little chance of
That’s why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the emperor
penguin as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal will be
published in the Federal Register on Aug. 4, 2021, starting a 60-day public
The greatest threat emperor penguins face is climate change. It will disrupt
the sea ice cover they rely on unless governments adopt policies that reduce
the greenhouse gases driving global warming.
The U.S. Endangered Species Act has been used before to protect other species
that are primarily at risk from climate change, including the polar bear,
ringed seal and several species of coral, which are all listed as threatened.
Emperor penguins don’t live on U.S. territory, so some of the Endangered
Species Act’s measures meant to protect species’ habitats and prevent hunting
them don’t directly apply. Being listed under the Endangered Species Act could
still bring benefits, though. It could provide a way to reduce harm from U.S.
fishing fleets that might operate in the region. And, with expected actions
from the Biden administration, the listing could eventually pressure U.S.
agencies to take actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics