New Audubon report paints bleak future for birds because of climate crisis

Kathy Castor talks about climate change effects on birds

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Because of the worsening climate crisis, many bird species “will be forced to relocate to find favorable homes. And they may not survive.” Those are some of the findings of a new report from Audubon.

At a press conference Tuesday morning in South Tampa along the shore of Tampa Bay, the executive director of Audubon of Florida, Julie Wraithmell, warned that popular Florida birds might suffer.

celery fields Sarasota

Roseate spoonbill feeding at the Celery Fields in Sarasota. By David Karp / Flickr / CC.

“Because some of the birds we think of it as being most iconic for Florida, are some of the ones that are most endangered. Things like charismatic, pink roseate spoonbills. Those long-legged waders with the goofy spatula bills that you see flying about Tampa Bay. They nest right here in Tampa Bay. And, their islands are under threat of going under water entirely.

“Things like brown pelicans. What would Florida be without pelicans at the beach? These same birds depend upon these islands for their nesting habitat. And, sea-level rise and erosion are slowly but steadily wearing away at these places.

“Black skimmers that nest on our beaches. Even some of the common songbirds that we see — like redstarts in the winter. All of the things that make Florida, Florida, are at risk of being no more.”

Tampa-area Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is the chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. She warns that two-thirds of bird species are in danger if people don’t take action soon to dramatically cut pollution by greenhouse gasses.

Bradenton mangroves Carlos Beruff Manatee County

Mangroves and pelicans line the shore at the Bradenton development site. Courtesy of Jane von Hahmann.

“Just over the past few months, July was the hottest month on record for the planet, in history. Right here, in the Tampa Bay area, the month of October was our hottest October, ever, since they started keeping records. In fact, the Tampa Bay area set another unfortunate record, where we had more consecutive days over 70 degrees than ever before. That simply broke a record from 2018.

“We’re seeing very damaging sea-level rise, more intense tropical storms. So, it’s important that Audubon — along with many other organizations — is urging us to take action.

“Of course, our press conference is a day after President Trump said that the United States of America will withdraw from the international Paris climate accord. That means that the United States of America will be the only country — the only country on the planet — that will not be working to reduce carbon pollution, and to make sure we’re tackling the climate crisis. …

“The decision by President Trump yesterday to withdraw the United States of America from the international Paris climate agreement is a horrendous decision. It’s going to cost families more. It’s going to make our climb steeper.

“Fortunately, though, we have local communities, states, businesses, academic institutions, that are in the lead right now, working on reducing carbon pollution, setting robust goals.

“The State of Florida, unfortunately, is a laggard.

“And, in fact, today, it appears that our own Public Service Commission is going to eliminate any goals for our electric utilities to encourage energy conservation. That’s not smart. And that’s going to cost consumers a whole lot more down the road. So, State policymakers need to take action there.

“Our job on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in Congress is to develop a bold climate action plan. And we are developing those recommendations now with scientists, entrepreneurs, academic institutions, working folks all across America. We’ll roll out those recommendations in March. We’re asking for everyone’s input.

“And this Audubon report, and call to action, it comes at a very important time. [It] helps us raise the profile of what could happen if we do not take action. It’s quite dire indeed.”

Watch the press conference: