CBS: Penguins ‘Canaries In the Coal Mine’ On Global Warming

Debbye Turner, CBS On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on global warming by fretting: "...are penguins sending us warning signs about global warming?" Later, correspondent Debbye Turner talked to biologist Dee Boersma, who claimed that "Well, penguins are the canaries in the coal mine. Penguins are telling us, as marine sentinels, that our southern oceans are changing."

Boersma, who according to newsmeat.com donated $1,000 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, went on to condemn a wide range of human activity that she felt was harming global penguin populations: "Penguins are affected not only by climate variation and climate change, but they're affected by lots of activities that we do from moving oil around, because we spill oil, from plastics that we dump into the oceans, to fishing that takes away their food."

Earlier in the segment, Turner lamented: "We've all seen pictures like these. Polar bears in danger because global warming is literally melting their habitat. But they are far from the only animal affected by climate change." She later discussed the dire situation facing penguins: "Academy award winning documentary March of the Penguins chronicled the Emperor Penguins amazing struggle to reproduce and survive. Experts say because of soaring temperatures and decreasing ice that the day could come that they make their final march."

Near the end of the segment, Boersma warned: "We can't just hope that the wildlife can make it. There's not any place that's left for them. So we're going to have to pay more attention and change how humans do business." Turner and co-host Julie Chen concluded the segment by expressing their concern:

TURNER: And that's really her message. Now there are some penguin colonies around the world that are doing better, but many of them are really suffering, like the African Penguin now has only about 60,000 numbers worldwide and that's from, at one time, 1 billion. So this is a-

JULIE CHEN: Wow, incredible.

TURNER: -big problem we've got to keep our eye on.

CHEN: Absolutely.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:19AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Coming up next, are penguins sending us warning signs about global warming?

7:22AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: A biology professor at the University of Washington claims that the number of penguins in the wild are dwindling at an alarming rate. "Early Show" correspondent and resident veterinarian Dr. Debbye Turner is in the Bronx with more. Debbye good morning.

DEBBYE TURNER: Good morning to you, Julie. I'm here at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo. I'm ready to feed the penguins, I've got the fish and the gloves and the boots. But I guess they're not quite ready for breakfast. They're right over here, these are Patagonian Penguins, or Mangellanic. And one biologist says these and many other penguins are sensitive to the environment and when the environment changes, that brings harm to the penguins. And in her article in Bio Science magazine, she says that's not just bad for the penguins. That's bad for humans, too. We've all seen pictures like these. Polar bears in danger because global warming is literally melting their habitat. But they are far from the only animal affected by climate change.

DEE BOERSMA: Where I'm working now, there's probably about half the number of penguins that were there in the early 1980S.

TURNER: Dr. Dee Boersma has studied Patagonian Penguins in Argentina for 25 years. But it's not just these. Of the 17 species worldwide, ten are considered endangered or at risk.

BOERSMA: Penguin numbers, depending on the species, have declined very rapidly.

TURNER: And Boersma says, as penguins go, so goes planet Earth.

BOERSMA: Well, penguins are the canaries in the coal mine. Penguins are telling us, as marine sentinels, that our southern oceans are changing. Penguins are affected not only by climate variation and climate change, but they're affected by lots of activities that we do from moving oil around, because we spill oil, from plastics that we dump into the oceans, to fishing that takes away their food.

TURNER: Academy award winning documentary March of the Penguins chronicled the Emperor Penguins amazing struggle to reproduce and survive. Experts say because of soaring temperatures and decreasing ice that the day could come that they make their final march.

BOERSMA: We can't just hope that the wildlife can make it. There's not any place that's left for them. So we're going to have to pay more attention and change how humans do business.

TURNER: And that's really her message. Now there are some penguin colonies around the world that are doing better, but many of them are really suffering, like the African Penguin now has only about 60,000 numbers worldwide and that's from, at one time, 1 billion. So this is a-

CHEN: Wow, incredible.

TURNER: -big problem we've got to keep our eye on.

CHEN: Absolutely. Debbye Turner, thanks so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC