Seeing is Believing:
Earth's Climate Crisis


The climate crisis is happening now. On a global scale. Impacting all life on Earth. Humans, fauna, and flora.

As we speak, the world is experiencing a zoonotic pandemic. Species are dying out. Floods and fires are threatening the Earth’s landscapes. Intense storms and sea-level rise are wiping away coastlines. Communities are being forced to relocate. Wildlife must adapt or find different habitats. These new extremes are changing how all species function, including us. These are not distant problems, which is why viable solutions are more critical than ever.

Here we will share photographs that represent how individual people feel the climate crisis is already affecting the places they care most about. We aim to engage our global community on this personal level to encourage the actions needed to avert the climate crisis and protect our planet.

Seeing Is Believing | Walruses

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Seeing Is Believing | Aguadas

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Seeing is Believing | Selva Maya

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Seeing is Believing | Coral

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Seeing is Believing | Penguins

Other Impacts on the Ground

United States

Total Colony Collapse

"Lately, there are tons and tons of dead sea birds washing up on the shores of Alaska. One contributing factor is the drop in sea ice cover due to warming temperatures. Before, the way the Arctic marine food web worked is you would get algae forming underneath the ice. When that algae died, it would drop down through the water and get eaten by other organisms. Without that algae, the food web has been upset. Certain birds are now feeling the effects of this shift."

—Rebecca McGuire, Avian Ecologist, Formerly with WCS Arctic Beringia


Indigenous community flooded

"An Indigenous community flooded by the Bocay River in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve after Hurricane Iota. The flooding of rivers following the incredible amount of water produced by hurricanes Eta and Iota also affected staple food crops and sources of drinking water, around Indigenous communities, which put thousands of Indigenous families in danger of hunger and diseases."

—Edgard Scott, Director, WCS Honduras/Nicaragua

Photo Credit: ©Fabricio Diaz/WCS Nicaragua
Photo Credit: ©Roan McNab/WCS


Increasing threat from fire

"The forests of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve are under increasing threat from fire as the climate warms and weather patterns become more unpredictable. Long periods of drought such as that experienced between 2019 and 2020, allow fires to burn through wetlands, killing hundreds of freshwater turtles such as this “tres kias” or guao turtle."

—Roan McNab, Advisor to the WCS Selva Maya Program

South Africa

Drought in Cape Town

"In 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, dealt with an historic drought. This photo was taken at a small dam outside the city. You can see that it dried up completely and all the fish subsequently died, even the catfish (locally called barbel). Catfish are able to survive in shallow mud for long periods between rainy seasons, but it seems that the rains took too long to arrive this time."

—Dave van Beuningen, WCS Shark and Ray Associate Conservation Biologist

Photo Credit: ©Dave Van Beuningen
Photo Credit: ©Michael Lunde/WCS

United States

Coastal Erosion in Arctic Alaska

"The village of Kivalina is primarily an Indigenous community. It's located along the edge of a spit separating a coastal lagoon and the Chukchi Sea. The village is threatened by climate change-induced coastal erosion, and an evacuation causeway (seen in the photo) and a new townsite on higher ground were constructed recently to mitigate this."

—Kevin Fraley, Fisheries Ecologist, WCS Arctic Beringia


Drought in the Paraguayan Chaco

"This is a property devoted to cattle production, located next to the largest protected area in Paraguay, the Defensores del Chaco National Park, Alto Paraguay, Chaco. The proprietor has signed a conservation agreement with WCS to preserve the existing biodiversity. Water used to reach the place where the solar panel is, but the deficit in rainfall occurring since 2020 is already showing its effects."

—Maria del Carmen Fleytas, Director, WCS Paraguay

Photo Credit: ©WCS Paraguay
Photo Credit: ©Max Pulsinelli

United States

Red Sun Over Queens, N.Y.

"Wildfires in the western U.S. sent smoke 3,000 miles across the country. From my rooftop, the New York City sky was hazy, and the normally clear view of the Manhattan skyline was obscured."

—Max Pulsinelli, Executive Director, Communications, WCS Zoos and Aquarium

Photo Credit: ©Roger Widmann

United States

Orange Moon Over Massachusetts

"The moon rising over Baldwin Hill in Egremont, MA, on a Friday night, one night before the full moon. The moon was large and bright orange due to smoke from the wildfires out west. It looked more like a sunset than the moon."

—Miriam Widmann, WCS Senior Associate General Counsel

Photo Credit: ©Joel Berger/WCS


More Rain, Less Food for Musk Oxen

"The growth of young musk oxen is being hindered by climate change, our research has shown. Mothers can't access food when it rains in winter instead of remaining cold and snowy. The ice that forms blocks them from getting to the plants they usually eat."

—Joel Berger, WCS Senior Scientist

United States

California Wildfires

"In San Francisco, we often see, smell, and breathe smoke during wildfire season. But the scale and intensity of the nearby wildfires on September 9, 2020, became eerily apparent when the entire day remained in red darkness as smoke and ash blocked out the sun. Taken from my balcony a few months apart, the photo on the right shows San Francisco in darkness at 9:54am compared to a typical sunny day on the left."

—Theresa Duncan, WCS Director of Individual Giving, Western Region

Photo Credit: ©Theresa Duncan
Photo Credit: ©Coty Sidnam


Storms and Rising Temperatures

"Off Lizard Island and the Great Barrier Reef, living giant oysters are nestled in among hard corals damaged, bleached, and dead as a result of Category 5 tsunamis in 2014 and '15 and mass bleaching events due to rising water temperatures in 2016 and '17."

—Coty Sidnam, WCS Trustee


Obvious Signs

"Drying river beds and receding glaciers in Bolivia are impossible to ignore and have wide ranging impacts."

—Lilian Painter and Robert Wallace, WCS Bolivia

Photo Credit: ©Robert Wallace/WCS
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS


Rapidly Receding

"In the Apolobamba protected area, in the high Andes, farmers are worried that a drier climate will mean increased competition for resources among wildlife, domestic animals, and the people themselves."

—Julie Larsen Maher, WCS Staff Photographer


Extreme Dry Seasons

"Clouds from fire hang over Manaus, the capital of Amazonas. These fires are human-caused but made worse by extreme dry seasons related to climate change."

—Carlos Durigan, Director, WCS Brazil

Photo Credit: ©Joel Berger/WCS


Swept Away

"Takin crossing a glacial fed stream in a high mountain valley of the Bhutanese Himalayas. Takin are Bhutan's national mammal and often are described as a cross between a bee stung moose and a wildebeest. They are a true goat antelope. In the Himalayas, rapid glacial melting increases stream flow and torrents, and at times both people and animals are swept away. I have watched this happen to takin."

—Joel Berger, WCS Senior Scientist


Desiccating Glacier

"The world's highest elevation equids—Kiang, in this photo on the Tibetan Plateau—are an elegant cold-adapted yet endangered wild ass. Here, they run along the fringe of the desiccating yet massive Buakbada glacier in western Tibet. Along with kiang in these distant and high elevation realms are also several endangered species including wild yak, chiru and snow leopard."

—Joel Berger, WCS Senior Scientist

Photo Credit: ©Joel Berger/WCS
Photo Credit: ©WCS Congo


Floods at Base Camp

"Lac Télé Community Reserve is a vast flooded wetland and forest in northern Congo. The ecosystem relies on annual floods and dry periods and provides year-round fish to local communities. The last few years, however, have seen erratic weather, from extremely low rainfall in 2018 to catastrophic flooding in 2019. This is the WCS base in Epena during the floods."

—Ben Evans, WCS Project Director, Lac Télé Community Reserve


Cyclone Winston

"Fiji's coastal communities depend on healthy underwater ecosystems. But the impacts of climate change—including damage from hurricanes like Cyclone Winston as seen here—present an unprecedented challenge."

—Sangeeta Mangubhai, Former Director, WCS Fiji

Photo Credit: ©Sangeeta Mangubhai/WCS


Signs at Mont Blanc

"Thanks to these postings, you can track the height of the glacier over the last 30 years. As you can see, it has retreated significantly."

—Nat Moss, Executive Director, WCS Strategic Communications

Photo Credit: ©Nat Moss/WCS


Fires in Mesoamerica

This infant howler monkey has lost its home. In early Spring 2020, with forest rangers sheltering due to the COVID-19 crisis, fires, exacerbated by drought, raged uncontrolled across Mesoamerica, including in northern Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, which WCS has worked to conserve for more than two decades. The young monkey was found alone in the ashes of a burned tree in the community forests of San Miguel la Palotada there.

Photo Credit: ©Edwin Godoy


A Drought in the Lagoon

"In Laguna del Tigre National Park in the Maya Biosphere Reserve lies El Peru Lagoon. At the WCS field station there, we detected an alarming drop in the water level in early 2019. Although we've recorded low water levels in other years (2003 and 2010), in 2019 the water surface sunk even lower due to an extended drought."

—Rony Garcia, Director of Biological Research, WCS Guatemala


Coral Bleaching

"Hard, soft corals, and anemone all lost their color when seawater temperatures rose to historical highs. This loss of color is also a loss of photosynthetic energy used to feed these invertebrates. Widespread thermal stress is challenging the survival of the species that build reefs."

—Tim McClanahan, Senior Scientist, WCS Global Marine Programs


Forest Fires

"Extensive Miombo forest fires create uncontrolled carbon emissions into the atmosphere and greatly disrupt the food chain within the ecosystem."

—Peter Trevor, WCS Operations and Logistics Director, Niassa National Reserve

Photo Credit: ©Philip McLellan/WCS
Photo Credit: ©Jake LaBelle/WCS

New Zealand

In Only a Decade

"I did a glacier walk on the Franz Joseph Glacier on the South Island in 2007 (left). Thirteen years later, my parents went to the area. You can't access the glacier on foot anymore, but they returned to the same spot and snapped a picture (right). The differences are astounding."

—Jake LaBelle, WCS Research Program Officer

Photo Credit: ©WCS Russia


Sika Deer Advances

"The sika deer once could be found only in the southernmost parts of the Russian Far East. But over the past 30 years, it has greatly expanded to the north by about 185 miles (300 km). In the southern parts of the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, it has completely replaced the red deer, which was once common."

—Dale Miquelle, Director, WCS Russia

Photo Credit: ©WCS Russia


Ussuri Moose Retreats

"Unlike the Sika deer, the Ussuri moose is not very tolerant of warmer summers. With temperatures rising over the past 50 years, it has retreated northward."

—Dale Miquelle, Director, WCS Russia


Rain, Rain, and More Rain

"Floods are affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. Farms and habitats are being destroyed."

—Tim Davenport, former Director, WCS Species Conservation, Africa

Photo Credit: ©Tim Davenport/WCS
Photo Credit: ©Joel Berger/WCS

United States

Broken AC

"In Glacier National Park in Montana, mountain goats seek out patches of snow in the summertime to reduce heat stress. Problem is the area has already lost some 75% of its glaciers and those patches are dwindling."

—Joel Berger, WCS Senior Scientist

United States

Following Environmental Cues

"In the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, elk time their migration with environmental cues. As plants begin to green, they start their move uphill. That timing is shifting with a change in the snow melt and that will have wider impacts."

—Jon Beckmann, former WCS Senior Scientist

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

United States

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy devastated many communities in 2012, including Coney Island, NY, the location of WCS’s New York Aquarium. The entire campus of the aquarium was underwater as neighborhoods across New York experienced severe flooding and damage. Here the aquarium’s director, Jon Forrest Dohlin, visits with a sea lion in the aftermath of the storm.

United States

Rising Waters on Isle de Jean Charles, Terrebonne Parish, LA

Higher Ground

The shifting shoreline has caused families living there to either move or build their homes up higher.

Dying Trees

Plant life on the island, like this live oak, is dying as saltwater has moved in.

—Mary Dixon, Senior Vice President, WCS Communications

United States

Selling Point

"A sign selling a not-yet-finished development in Houma, LA. Its advertising is not focused on low prices, a community pool, or tennis courts, but higher ground."

—John Waldman, Conservation Biologist and Professor

Photo Credit: ©John Waldman
Photo Credit: ©WCS Climate Adaptation Fund

United States

Sea Level Rise in Hawaii

"Over 97% of all black-footed albatrosses, Bonin petrels, and Tristram’s storm petrels nest on low-lying atolls threatened by sea level rise and increasing storm surges due to climate change. Pacific Rim Conservation, a WCS Climate Adaptation Fund grantee, is restoring suitable habitat that's projected to survive the changes."

—Elizabeth Tully, Associate Director, WCS Climate Adaptation Fund

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