Birds are on the ballot
For the better part of the last decade, scientists at the National Audubon Society have been sounding the alarm about climate change by focusing on the future for birds if the climate continues to warm. In 2019, they released Survival by Degrees: 389 Species on the Brink, a report that provides detailed forecasts for birds in North America under various warming scenarios. No fewer than 389 out of 604 species could be at risk if carbon emissions aren’t cut back — and soon, the report said.
I find it overwhelming to consider the report as a whole. The projections about individual species, however, are both easier to understand and gut-wrenching in their specificity. This issue’s cover bird, the crowd-enticing Snowy Owl, is projected to lose 53 percent of its summer range when global surface temperatures reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. We could hit that warming level as soon as 2026 or as late as 2042. At 2°C of warming, the owl would lose 77 percent of its summer range.
Of course, governments around the world need to do more to move humanity away from our carbon-fuel-based economies, but individuals can have an impact as well. On page 14 of this issue, writer Sneed B. Collard III explains that we birders can all do more to reduce our carbon footprints. This year, with mid-term elections coming up, that includes voting for candidates up and down the ballot who support pro-environment policies. Birds can’t vote but make no mistake: Their future is on the ballot! Election Day is November 8. Please make sure you’re registered — and go vote!
— Matt Mendenhall, editor