Published by the American Museum of Natural History, this book tries to validate or invalidate claims that climate change will be disastrous to biodiversity. It’s not written by a naysayer, only a scientist interested in accuracy over media hype. Chapters take you around the world to examine different situations and relationships, evidence for and against the impact of climate change on species. In many situations, the impacts are clearly evident.

Certain plants and animals are found moving toward the poles. In some cases, the impacts may come more from side-effects than temperature. The loss of certain amphibians like the Golden Tree Frog of Costa Rica is likely a result of changing moisture levels and a disease that thrives at certain temperatures that were spread around the world by the importation of African Clawed Frogs because they were handy for human pregnancy tests. In some situations, species become out of sync with one another such that the food is not available for the predators when they hatch or arrive. But the relationships are very species-specific. So some species are much less likely to be affected, either because their cycles and those of their food are tied to photoperiod (length of days) or because they have adaptive behaviors (like polar bears preying on goose eggs, which then begs the question, what will happen to the geese and the ecosystems dependent upon them.)

In the end, Pearson concludes, “Overall, it is fair to say that, unless major changes in international policies lead to substantial decreases in greenhouse gas emissions, the most likely outcome is that global warming will lead to extensive and irreversible transformations of ecosystems. But whether this will amount to catastrophe‑meaning the collapse of ecosystems and mass extinction—is unclear. My intention is not to sit on the fence on this central matter, but rather to make the important point that the future is uncertain. The fact that we cannot predict how bad the impacts will be is perhaps the most compelling reason for taking action to reduce the risks.” (p204-5)

His major recommendation is that we need to facilitate the dispersal of species. There are programs, like Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y), but approximately 40 percent of the land on earth is devoted to agriculture so programs known as agri-environment schemes will be particularly important. 


Pearson, R. (2011). Driven to extinction: the impact of climate change on biodiversity. New York: Sterling. ASIN: 1402772238