Our Position on Climate Change

Throughout its history, the Earth’s climate has varied, reflecting our environment’s complex interactions and dependences. Humans have been changing the planet ever since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. However, during the 20th century, the rate of climate change increased dramatically—the greatest in the last 150 years. This increase is due to the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. The rampant burning of these fossil fuels has increased the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere at a rate too fast for the earth's regular processes to handle.

Scientific consensus holds that climate change is interrupting natural cycles, causing habitat loss and prompting more extreme weather patterns. All of this affects animals. As a conservation organization, the Saint Louis Zoo has a responsibility to constructively engage in climate change solutions.

What Is the Zoo Doing?

We believe in protecting the animals here at the Zoo and in the wild from the impacts of climate change, including habitat loss and extreme weather events, among others.

For decades, the Saint Louis Zoo has been working across the globe and in its home region to conserve animals and protect the complex and fragile systems that sustain those animals – and all of us. This has paid off. There are more than 100,000 protected areas around the world, compared with fewer than 10,000 in 1950, and approximately 13 percent of the planet’s landmass has some form of legal protection. Still, we are losing old growth forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America, while species are going extinct at a high rate. Nearly a fifth of existing vertebrate species are threatened.

The Zoo’s scientists are working with academic, conservation and scientific institutions to address the daunting challenges posed by climate change. We are urging government to use the results of scientific research to adapt policy and practices to the immediate challenges created by climate change and to strengthen the case for reducing heat-trapping gas emissions. There is very clear evidence that investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy will not only allow the world to avoid the worst risks of climate change, but could also drive economic growth. At the Zoo, we have a range of climate change goals that we are pursuing.

What’s Behind Climate Change?

The villains of our climate change story are three key heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide. Together we can make the most impact when we focus on carbon dioxide (CO2 ). When we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas for energy, we release rampant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gases are thickening the invisible blanket that covers the earth, trapping in more and more heat and warming our land and oceans. 

The combined effect of human’s long history of forest clearing and current level of burning fossil fuels has far outstripped regular CO2 absorption. When we work together, the opportunities are endless for making a difference. All it takes is that first step in joining others who care about the health of the planet and themselves. See more information on how you can help.