Global Warming Puts Emperor Penguins on a Thin Sheet of Ice » Yale Climate Connections

Emperor penguins endure the extremely cold and biting winds of Antarctica. But global warming may prove too much for these picky birds to handle.

Stephanie Jenouvrier of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says emperor penguins need a stable platform of sea ice to raise chicks. But they also need openings in the pack ice where they can feed.

As the climate warms, sea ice is shrinking in many parts of Antarctica.

In a recent studyJenouvrier found that if carbon pollution continues to increase at the current rate, emperor penguin colonies will be at risk of extinction.

“Ninety-eight percent of the colony will be gone by the end of this century,” she says.

But she found that meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement would significantly reduce the risk to the penguins.

So she says the emperor penguin’s future depends on people working together to reduce carbon pollution.

And Jenouvrier says people can take inspiration for this work from the penguins themselves. To survive the bad weather, they stick together.

“Only together can they brave the harshest climate on the planet,” she says. “And I believe that only together can we face a difficult climate future.”

Read: What the latest science says about Antarctica and sea level rise

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media

Teresa H. Sadler