"More than 50 per cent of coastal birds will have to adjust their ranges", said Audubon senior scientist Brooke Bateman.
"This is a bird emergency", David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, said during a teleconference announcing the group's newest report on the impacts of climate change on birds.
Scientists populated climate models with data on 604 North American bird species, compiled from more than 140 million bird records, to predict where birds will live in a warmer world. Climate change, however, was not the major driver of the population plunge, said Ken Rosenberg, an applied conservation scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Bird Conservancy. If climate change is already affecting birds, the consequences are certain to be worse for other less-mobile animals.
"A lot of people paid attention to last month's report that North America has lost almost a third of its birds", David Yarnold, CEO and president of the National Audubon Society, said in a statement.
"Wild birds face a lot of threats of different kinds, but climate change just puts, sort of compounds those threats in a lot of pretty devastating ways", said Travis Audubon Executive Director Nicole Netherton. "Two-thirds of America's birds are threatened with extinction from climate change, but keeping global temperatures down will help up to 76 percent of them".
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"By stabilizing carbon emissions and holding warming to 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels, 76% of vulnerable species will be better off, and almost 150 species would no longer be vulnerable to extinction from climate change", the report said.
Last month, a paper published in Science reported North America's bird population has experienced a loss of 2.9 billion breeding adults since 1970.
Likely problems for birds will be a disruption of food and nesting resources, and decreased habitat, according to the report. The Audubon report looks ahead to describe how climate change will further exacerbate the challenges birds are already facing from human activity. "Those loons are what drive my work today and I can't imagine them leaving the USA entirely in summer but that's what we're facing if trends continue".
Dr. Wells said the results should serve as a wake up call that illustrates the stark differences between taking timely policy action on climate change and delaying efforts to reduce emissions - and a harbinger of the broader potential effects that climate change could have on humans in the coming century.
The report states the threats brought on by climate change include drought, heavy rain, sea or lake level rise, and heat waves.
"We already know what we need to do to reduce global warming, and we already have a lot of the tools we need to take those steps", Renee Stone, vice president of climate at Audubon, tells PEOPLE.