Birds: Literally, the Canaries in the Coal Mine

October 12, 2019

Needed: More Wind Turbines.
And solar panels. And efficiency.


Above, rural officials with wind turbines in their local area, and Garry George of the Audubon Society.


“A lot of people paid attention to last month’s report that North America has lost nearly a third of its birds. This new data pivots forward and imagines an even more frightening future,” Yarnold said. “And, you can use a first-of-its kind web tool to find threatened birds in your zip code, as well as a list of things everyone can do.”

Audubon scientists studied 604 North American bird species using 140 million bird records, including observational data from bird lovers and field biologists across the country.

Audubon’s zip code-based tool, the Birds and Climate Visualizer, helps users understand the impacts to birds where they live, making climate change even more local, immediate and, for tens of millions of bird fans, deeply personal.

“Birds are important indicator species, because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people too,” said Brooke Bateman, Ph.D., the senior climate scientist for the National Audubon Society.“When I was a child, my grandmother introduced me to the Common Loons that lived on the lake at my grandparent’s home in northern Wisconsin. Those loons are what drive my work today and I can’t imagine them leaving the U.S. entirely in summer but that’s what we’re facing if trends continue.”

Dr. Bateman and her team also studied climate-related impacts on birds across the lower 48 states, including sea level rise, Great Lakes level changes, urbanization, cropland expansion, drought, extreme spring heat, fire weather and heavy rain.

“We already know what we need to do to reduce global warming, and we already have a lot of the tools we need to take those steps. Now, what we need are more people committed to making sure those solutions are put into practice,” said Renee Stone, vice president of climate for the National Audubon Society. “Our elected officials at every level of government must hear from their constituents that this is a priority. Audubon is committed to protecting the places birds need now and in the future and taking action to address the root causes of climate change.”

Audubon has outlined five key steps:

  1. Reduce your use of energy at home and ask your elected officials to support energy-saving policies that reduce the overall demand for electricity and that save consumers money.
  2. Ask your elected officials to expand consumer-driven clean energy development that grows jobs in your community – like solar or wind power.
  3. Reduce the amount of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere. In order to drive down carbon emissions, we will need innovative economy-wide solutions that address every sector of the economy – like a fee on carbon. Another option is to address carbon emissions one sector at a time like setting a clean energy standard for electricity generation.
  4. Advocate for natural solutions, from increasing wetlands along coasts and rivers that absorb soaking rains to protecting forests and grasslands that are homes to birds and serve as carbon storage banks, and putting native plants everywhere to help birds adapt to climate change.
  5. Ask elected leaders to be climate and conservation champions.

Audobon Position on Wind Power:

Audubon strongly supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threats posed to birds and people by climate change. However, we also advocate that wind power facilities should be planned, sited, and operated in ways that minimize harm to birds and other wildlife, and we advocate that wildlife agencies should ensure strong enforcement of the laws that protect birds and other wildlife.


6 Responses to “Birds: Literally, the Canaries in the Coal Mine”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Around the world a lot of birds suffer from both volatiles and particulate pollution. It’s just not as obvious as a raptor hitting a wind turbine.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    ALL living things on the planet are being threatened by climate change and our failure to deal with it adequately. What’s needed is is a green revolution that will rapidly cut the use of fossil fuels. That will not be achieved by more yada-yada-yada, but by political action.

    Get rid of every Repugnant at every level of government ASAP, get dirty money out of elections, and get rid of lobbyists. We here in VA STILL do not have any wind farms—–large scale solar farms are being attempted in many locales around the state but are being fought in many by the rich and entitled because they are “industrial” in nature and destroy the “ambience” of country living.

  3. indy222 Says:

    On energy efficiency – you STILL don’t get it. Improving energy efficiency only speeds economic growth, which only speeds the added burden of higher energy consumption rates to support the enlarged civilization. We need the non-carbon equivalent of a new large nuclear power plant built PER DAY just to keep new global growth not adding yet higher CO2 emission rates, already at 40 billion tons/year. To keep at 40 billion tons/year, add 33 square km of new solar panels, or 1 hefty sized nuclear power plant per day. Then we keep the march towards the Abyss at only a linear rate, not an exponential rate (well, linear optimistically assuming there is NO anthropogenic indirect carbon emissions from melting permafrost, drying warming soils, deforestation at a football field per second, etc).
    Study the Garrett Relation

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Take a look at the Bayes’ Theorem as well. Just came across a book titled THE DOOMSDAY CALCULATION: HOW AN EQUATION THAT PREDICTS THE FUTURE IS TRANSFORMING EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT LIFE AND THE UNIVERSE, by William Poundstone, Little Brown Spark, 2019. Flipping through, it looks to be quite llluminating and entertaining.

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    Coal once killed 17 times more birds per KWh than wind energy, not counting the effects of climate catastrophe, which will soon be the main cause of bird deaths and extinctions. But the already small number killed by wind is falling per KWh, as siting and turbine design continue to improve and old sites are outnumbered by new, better ones.

    Nuclear reactors kill twice as many birds per KWh as wind. Solar saves even more birds compared to wind, and the whole mix of clean safe renewable energies save even more of the other animals and plants killed by fossil and fissile fuels.

    Everything humans do effects nature (which naturally includes humans); only not doing has no effects. So despite the pseudo-scientific nonsense being peddled here, using energy more efficiently is crucial, through both simple efficiency and wiser lives, and for the energy we need, replacing fossil fuels as fast as possible is crucial.

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