Climate change

Oregon Zoo's position on climate change

The earth's climate is changing as a result of human activities that produce greenhouse gases. Scientists predict that if temperatures continue to rise at the current rate there will be catastrophic consequences to human systems, wildlife and their habitats. While it will take an unprecedented effort to control production of greenhouse gases, there are many actions that individuals, families and businesses can take that will collectively reduce climate impacts while providing a range of other benefits.

The Oregon Zoo believes that curbing greenhouse gas emissions while reducing pressures on wildlife will help species better cope with climate change.

Key points

  • Climate change is altering the habitats of thousands of wildlife species worldwide. With alterations in air, water and soil temperatures come changes in timing of germination, pollination and seed production; changes to reproductive, hibernation and migration patterns; increased intensity, range and frequency of wildfires; ocean acidification, diseases and spread of invasive species. Many species already struggle to cope with these changing conditions and it is expected that many more will be affected.
  • Some of the most iconic animals at the Oregon Zoo, including polar bears, elephants, orangutans and penguins, are severely impacted by the effects of climate change. Much-loved Pacific Northwest species such as pikas, salmon, bumblebees, sage grouse and wolverines are also experiencing increased challenges to survival. Climate change is affecting species worldwide, living in habitats ranging from coral reefs to mountain tops.
  • Climate change is both a critical conservation concern and a threat to human health and prosperity. In December 2015 in Paris, 195 countries acknowledged that climate change is an immediate threat and signed on to an historic agreement to work together toward carbon reduction.  This collective recognition of the significance of this issue marks a turning point for the world community that is anticipated to lead to an inevitable change away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Each of us can encourage this change by supporting public policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Americans make up 5 percent of world population but contribute more than 17 percent of the world's carbon emissions. As a wealthy developed country, the U.S. per capita contribution of greenhouse gases is second only to Canada. Under current conditions, a child born in the United States will be responsible for almost seven times the carbon emissions of a child born in China and 168 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh.
  • A global issue may seem overwhelming but there is so much that each of us can do just by making simple changes in how we conduct daily life. Each person's actions combined with those of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and classmates, have a cumulative effect — small actions taken by large numbers of people result in substantial changes.
  • Consider how you travel, how you heat and light your home and what you buy. The best way to ensure a better future is by being mindful of your consumption of energy and material goods today. The routine decisions that shape our days — what to have for dinner, where to shop, how to get to work — may seem small, but collectively they have a big effect on global warming.
  • In Portland and across Oregon, people are coming together to find ways for our society to transition away from the use of fossil fuels and to make more sustainable choices about our daily lives and purchasing decisions. You can join others and be part of your community's solutions.
  • Most of the actions we can take to lower our carbon footprint provide lots of other great benefits. For example, walking, biking and using mass transit help improve air quality in our communities while encouraging us to get outside and exercise – both pluses for better health. By choosing locally-grown food in season, we eat better quality and better tasting food while reducing climate impacts that come from shipping food long distance.
  • There are dozens of ways that each of us can help animals cope with climate change, many of them right here in our own backyards and communities.