Emperor penguins endure Antarctica’s extreme cold and biting winds. But global warming may prove too much for these tough birds to handle.

Stephanie Jenouvrier of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says emperor penguins need a stable platform of sea ice to raise chicks. But they also need openings in the sea ice where they can feed.

As the climate warms, sea ice is declining in many parts of Antarctica.

In a recent study, Jenouvrier found that if carbon pollution continues rising at current rates, emperor penguin colonies will be at risk of extinction.

“Ninety-eight percent of the colony will have disappeared by the end of this century,” she says.

But she found that meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement would dramatically reduce the risk to penguins.

So she says the emperor penguin’s future depends on people working together to reduce carbon pollution.

And Jenouvrier says people can draw inspiration for this work from the penguins themselves. To survive harsh weather, they huddle together.

“Only together they can brave the harshest climate on Earth,” she says. “And I think only together can we face a difficult climate future.”

Read: What the latest science says about Antarctica and sea-level rise

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media