Almost 30% of tree species in the wild are facing extinction, according to a report published by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
The group’s report, entitled “the State of the World’s Trees,” concluded that 17,510 out of Earth’s 58,497 documented tree species are increasingly threatened by extinction. That amount converts to a shocking 29.9% of tree species.
But thats not all. This number excludes species that scientists have not yet recorded or species that experts do not have sufficient information on. If this figure were to include the latter category, the percentage of tree species facing extinction could be as high as 51.3%
Tree species are facing extinction as a result of climate change
“Assuming that Data Deficient species are equally likely to be threatened as all other tree species, we can estimate that 38.1% of tree species are classified as threatened,” the report explained.
“The main threats to tree species are forest clearance and other forms of habitat loss, direct exploitation for timber and other products and the spread of invasive pests and diseases,” the report continued. “Climate change is also having a clearly measurable impact.”
“As the temperature and weather of the world changes, many trees risk losing areas of suitable habitat,” it added. “This affects species in both temperate and tropical habitats, with Cloud Forest tree species of Central America being at particular risk.”
Trees are a central feature of the environment, absorbing 2.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually while also providing water and habitat for other vulnerable species.
The BGCI’s report comes at a time where the world has faced an onslaught of devastating severe weather events due to climate change. President Biden recently called for the urgent confrontation of the issue in the wake of Hurricane Ida:
“The past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the West and the unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder that these extreme storms in the climate crisis are here,” Biden said in a speech he gave from the White House. “We need to be much better prepared.”
The media’s reckoning with the climate crisis
These stark, unflinching statements from politicians are coming at a moment where the media is a startlingly reticent on the impact of the climate crisis. While most major networks have been reporting on the floods in Tennessee and Hurricane Ida, they are wary of connecting these extreme weather disasters to the phrase “climate change,” and very infrequently use the term on air.
Six of America’s major news stations–ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and MSNBC– reported on Hurricane Ida 774 times between August 27-30, but only 34 of those stories acknowledged climate change.
While major news networks cannot ignore catastrophic weather events as they happen, they appear to be treating them as isolated incidents and choosing not to connect them to a larger narrative surrounding climate change, a grand-scale view that president Biden is urging Americans to be aware of now more than ever.