There are already a lot. For example, in Germany, the two most important tree species for timber production are the Scots pine and European spruce, and their ranges are both retracting because of climate change. So they retract up the mountains, and they retract to Scandinavia. This has huge impacts, because models say that by the year 2100, 20 to 60 percent of the forest land will only be suitable for Mediterranean oak forest types—and they have much lower economic output.

Are there species that might leave a cultural loss as they move away?

Probably the people most affected by species shifts are Indigenous people, and that’s because they live close to nature, and many of them depend on specific animals or plants. Many of them have circled their whole culture around just one species—like the Inupiat in Alaska, who hunt bowhead whales. Bowhead whales now migrate much farther north. That’s a big problem for the Inupiat. Everything is changing, and they can’t easily adapt by choosing another species as their main species.

Is there a similar situation with the disappearing kelp forests in Japan? That was another example you mention in the book that seems like a big shift, considering how central kelp and the fish species found in kelp forests are to Japanese culture and cuisine.

The kelp forests, on one hand, are so important for the Japanese as a food resource but also culturally. They do everything to protect them, but in the end, they can’t stop this process. Maybe one good thing is that the species that follow the kelp forests are corals, so they have new coral reefs emerge. I find that kind of magical.

That was actually something that I took away as a glimmer of hope: some of the most at-risk species are moving, so maybe they won’t go extinct.

I think this is the main message in the book: that species are able to respond to climate change. So this is a positive thing. In the last 2.6 million years of the ice age, there were many times that species had to respond to climate warming and climate cooling. And the interesting thing is that every time there were not many species that did go extinct. So they managed to do this. And this is a very hopeful thing.

What is different about today?

The thing that’s different today is us. First of all, we have occupied so many places on Earth—about half the surface of Earth—with agricultural land and cities. And we also crisscrossed the land with streets and canals. That makes it very hard for many species to move to respond to climate change.

How can we help species adapt to this very drastic change in climate?

So the most important and most obvious thing is to curb emissions. Without stopping climate change and curbing emissions fast enough, species don’t have a chance. But on the way to do this, we can do a lot of other things. In general, we have to give species the room to respond to climate change and to create enough conservation areas where they can thrive and to connect them with enough wildlife corridors—and that’s starting to happen already. Some scientists recommend protecting about 30 percent of Earth’s surface and some even more—around 50 percent. In fact, at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, coming up in autumn, nations are about to decide on [how much land to protect]. So this is a real possibility, and I think this will be an important first step. But afterward, one has to see, “Okay, where are the conservation areas built?” and “Will this be implemented?”

Can individual people help by, for example, not growing lawns?

I think everybody who has a garden can help species to create a stepping-stone so that they can move to higher latitudes. And yeah, as you said, a lawn isn’t very helpful. Here in Berlin, I see many gardens that are even paved or full of gravel—and that’s also not very helpful. What you can do is to have a hedge instead of a fence, to have fruit trees and berry bushes where bumblebees or honeybees can thrive or have little branch piles so birds and rodents can hide. You can do a lot with the garden.