A Warmer World: From Polar Bears to Butterflies, How Climate Change Affects Wildlife
By Caroline Arnold; illustrated by Jamie Hogan
52 pages, for ages 7 -10
“In 1964 a biologist working in the cloud forests of Costa Rica found a tiny toad whose bright yellow skin shone like a jewel,” writes Caroline Arnold. Twenty-five years later the golden toads had disappeared. The warming climate had caused the cloud forests to move higher up the mountains, leaving the golden toads behind.
Shorter winters, earlier springs, hotter summers - can a small change in temperature really cause all this? A one-degree increase over 100 years may not seem like much, says Arnold, “but a little change can make a big difference.” Arnold highlights how some animals have adapted to climate change. Red foxes are expanding their range north, into new territory. But that means they are hunting the same prey as the Arctic foxes already living there.
Arnold started thinking about this book a few years ago when she was writing about pterosaurs. “I found an article describing the discovery in Antarctica of both dinosaur and pterosaur fossils,” she said. “It turns out that the world was so warm in the Dinosaur Age that there was no permanent ice at the poles!”
But, she emphasizes, “there’s a big difference between global warming then and the current trend. Now the Earth is warming at a faster rate than ever before, making it hard for animals to adapt.” Arnold has written about many of those animals in other books, and had learned how environmental changes are threatening their survival. This book, she says, gave her the chance to focus on the environmental issues.
Arnold starts her book projects in the library, reading books and articles. She scours the internet for information and talks with scientists and other experts. “Whenever possible, I try to make my own observations about the animals,” she says. One year she visited a penguin nesting colony in southern Chile, but more often she visits zoos and wildlife parks. She observed some of the animals in this book at Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.
“The neat thing about zoos is that you can see huge animals like these just inches away on the other side of the glass,” says Arnold. “I discovered that walruses are huge lumps. They are a bit like your living room sofa with tusks. And yet, they are surprisingly agile in the water.”
Every author – even those who have written scads of books – learns something new when they write. Arnold learned about “trophic mismatch”. That’s the scientific term for a mismatch between the light cycle and the breeding cycle of an animal, she explains. “For example, warmer temperatures are causing some birds to nest earlier. But their food supply depends on longer days, and isn’t ready when their hungry chicks hatch.