Innocent animals cannot do anything about climate change. Only people can.

Innocent animals cannot do anything about climate change. Only people can.
Innocent animals cannot do anything about climate change. Only people can.  

Caught by a motion-detection trail camera in the Florida wilds, a young panther manages a few steps before its wobbling hindquarters fail and its rear legs collapse to the ground. The cat, among several species stricken by some mysterious neurological ailment possibly connected to environmental changes, struggles to regain footing and continue, only for its legs to fail again steps later.

In New England states, ticks unleashed by milder winters have swarmed and withered moose populations, with tens of thousands of the blood-sucking parasites affixing to just one of the imposing animals or a calf.

Camera crews along the Siberian coast have filmed walruses cartwheeling to their death down cliffs. Forced onto dry land because of sparse Arctic sea ice, according to Netflix's "Our Planet," the animals crowd their way up rocky escarpments only to plunge off.

Human and animal suffering

As the world grows warmer, heart-breaking accounts of animal suffering have multiplied from what scientists suspect, or have established, are the direct result of man-made climate change.

For humans, the consequences of global warming are difficult to internalize because any changes seem, for the moment, to be slow or aberrational. But the impact on the world's delicate ecosystems can be catastrophic:

Vanishing songbirds. Scientists released a study this year calculating that the wild bird populations of the United States and Canada have diminished by almost 30% since 1970. Nearly 3 billion birds are gone, including a quarter of blue jays, nearly half of Baltimore orioles, and hundreds of millions of sparrows and warblers.

►Massive antelope die-off. In three weeks, 200,000 saiga antelopes fell dead across the steppes of Central Asia in 2015, two-thirds of the world's population. Scientists recently solved the mystery when they discovered that warming temperatures might have unleashed a dormant bacterium in the animals, causing massive internal bleeding.

Disappearing state and national symbols. Encroaching heat is driving away state birds, including Alabama's yellowhammer, the California quail, Georgia's brown thrasher, Iowa's and New Jersey's goldfinch, Minnesota's common loon, New Hampshire's purple finch, Pennsylvania's ruffed grouse and Vermont's hermit thrush. A national symbol of Australia - koalas - already threatened by human development, have died by the hundreds in the nation's recent drought-fueled fires.

OTHER VIEWS: Climate change realities emerge

Negotiating Paris climate agreement

In the past few months, ocean surges generated by ever larger storms have swept away dozens of wild horses in North Carolina. Drought has killed hundreds of elephants in Zimbabwe. And rising temperatures are causing sea turtles in some nesting areas to produce only female hatchlings.

A United Nations study this year found that a million plant and animal species risk extinction because of several human-induced factors greatly aggravated by climate change. More U.N. research recently warned that time is growing short for the world's nations to act drastically if catastrophic consequences are to be avoided.

Signatories to the Paris climate accord are gathering this week in Madrid to discuss plans for meeting emission-reduction goals. President Donald Trump has begun the process of pulling America out of the agreement, so no high-level administration officials will be attending.

While most of the focus is on how the climate emergency affects mankind, the cruelty visited upon animals that share in this planet's fate should not be overlooked. The animals can't do anything about the warming globe. People can.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Animals can't do anything about climate change. Paris negotiators can.


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