• Critically endangered Amur leopard and Hawksbill turtle

Critically endangered Amur leopard and Hawksbill turtle (Photo : WWF)

One in six animal species on the Earth stand to go extinct if greenhouse gas emissions by countries, especially by leading polluters such as China, the United States and India, continue unchecked.

This massive die-off will lead to "The Sixth Extinction," the worst extinction event in Earth's history since the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid 65 million years ago, said Inside Climate News.

Like Us on Facebook

New research published in the journal Science pointed to climate change as a huge factor in the upcoming Sixth Extinction, which will also threaten the world's economy and human health.

"Imagine if we lose an important predator for an agricultural pest," said Mark Urban, an expert in ecology and evolution at the University of Connecticut and author of the new study. "Suddenly we have a major pest problem that threatens our ability to grow food."

The study also said the rates of biodiversity loss will rise with every degree Celsius increase in temperature.

Plants and animals living in South America, Australia and New Zealand are most at risk because of shrinking habitats, said Urban, who came to this conclusion after a meta-analysis of 131 previously published biodiversity studies.

"Extinction risks from climate change are expected not only to increase but to accelerate for every degree rise in global temperatures," he said. "The signal of climate change-induced extinctions will become increasingly apparent if we do not act now to limit future climate change."

Urban found that endemic species with smaller ranges and certain taxonomic groups such as amphibians and reptiles are predicted to face greater extinction as temperatures rise.

World leaders will meet in Paris later this year to negotiate an agreement to limit climate change. The aim of any deal is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Centigrade or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over what they were in preindustrial times.

Most scientists argue this limit will avert the worst impacts of climate change such as worldwide droughts, heat waves and flooding.

Despite this, Urban said the global extinction risk will almost double from its 2.8 percent risk to 5.2 percent risk. And if global warming continues without any intervention and reach a 4.3 degree Celsius post-industrial increase, 16 percent of species could face increased risks.

If the Earth warms by 3 degrees Celsius, the extinction rate jumps by 8.5 percent. Were temperatures to rise by 4.3 degrees, 16 percent of species will be lost.

South America faces the worst extinction events, with 23 percent of its species likely to go extinct because of climate change. Australia and New Zealand could see 14 percent of its animal species disappear while North America would lose five percent and Europe, six percent of its animals.