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How can climate change affect animal welfare?

RSPCA Australia acknowledges that there is scientific consensus that climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities including electricity generation, agriculture (including livestock farming), industry, waste, and land use [1,2].

Climate change can have a negative effect on animal health and welfare directly (e.g. increased risk of heat and cold stress) and indirectly (e.g. reducing availability of suitable habitat, decreasing quantity and quality of food and water, changing distribution of infectious disease agents, and increasing the risk of flood, fire, and drought) [3].

Climate change negatively affects terrestrial (land), aquatic (freshwater), and marine (saltwater) environments. It is expected that many animals have and will continue to suffer and die from these effects [4].

RSPCA Australia recognises the critical need to address and mitigate climate change through approaches including evidence-based policy, legislation, emission-reducing technologies, and structural changes [5]. Where climate change mitigation strategies pose animal welfare risks, these risks must also be carefully considered [6].

References

[1] Oreskes N (2004) The scientific consensus on climate change. Science 306:1686–1686. doi:10.1126/science.1103618. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/306/5702/1686.full.

[2] Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (2015) Livestock emissions. http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/climatechange/australias-farming-future/livestock-emissions.

[3] Lacetera N (2019) Impact of climate change on animal health and welfare. Animal Frontiers 9:26–31. doi:10.1093/af/vfy030. https://academic.oup.com/af/article/9/1/26/5168813.

[4] Fey SB et al (2015) Recent shifts in the occurrence, cause, and magnitude of animal mass mortality events. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:1083–1088. doi:10.1073/pnas.1414894112. https://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1083.

[5] Frank S et al (2019) Agricultural non-CO 2 emission reduction potential in the context of the 1.5°C target. Nature Climate Change 9:66. doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0358-8

[6] Shields S & Orme-Evans G (2015) The Impacts of Climate Change Mitigation Strategies on Animal Welfare. Animals 5:361–394. doi:10.3390/ani5020361. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/5/2/361

Updated on May 8, 2019
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