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 1,000 years. This increase coincided with development that raised the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and accelerated what is essentially a natural process.

Scientific consensus holds that climate change is interrupting natural cycles, causing habitat loss and prompting more extreme weather patterns. All of this affects animals.

What Is the Zoo Doing?

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 greenhouse 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. Burning coal to generate electricity and using natural gas to produce power or heat our homes puts more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. These gases trap the energy that arrives from the sun. The trapping of this solar energy before it re-radiates back into space is the greenhouse effect. With higher concentrations of heat-trapping gases, we increase the residence time of the sun’s energy in the Earth’s atmosphere—just as throwing on another blanket will keep you warmer, throwing on more greenhouse gases means the earth will be warmer. Trees and other plants capture CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen. But the combined effect of human’s long history of forest clearing and current level of burning fossil fuels has far outstripped natural CO2 absorption. So we all need to help, and 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.