5 Conservation Milestones to Celebrate on This International Day for Biological Diversity
Scientists are increasingly realizing the importance of biodiversity for sustaining life on earth. The most comprehensive biodiversity study in a decade, published in March by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), warned that the ongoing loss of species and habitats was as great a threat to our and our planet's wellbeing as climate change.
Plus, biodiversity makes life on earth more worthwhile. Who wants to live in a world without baby elephants rolling in the mud, or monarch butterflies landing on summer flowers?
That's why the UN is celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity May 22.
May 22 is the day that the text of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the international legal pact that oversees the protection of this important resource, was adapted.
This year marks 25 years since the CBD entered into force, so the UN is using this year's International Day for Biological Diversity to highlight this achievement: The theme for this year's day is "Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity." While there is clearly still a lot of work to do, it is important to take the time to reflect on what humans can achieve when we work together to protect other species, so that we can get inspired to build on our successes. Here, then, are five biodiversity milestones from the past 25 years.
1.The Convention on Biological Diversity
The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (green) and signatories, but not ratified (purple), as of 2014L.tak / CC BY-SA 3.0
The CBD, which aims at "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources," entered into force on Dec. 29, 1993. It has been ratified by 196 countries and led to further agreements such as the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Since the CBD entered into force, the amount of land set aside as protected has almost doubled, accounting for 15 percent of the earth's terrestrial area.
2. Gray Wolves Restored to Yellowstone National Park
Wolves in YellowstoneDoug Smith / National Park Service
The last wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park was killed in 1926, and for forty long years their howls were silenced. All that changed in 1995 and 1996 when 31 gray wolves from Western Canada were released in the park. The population has been successful enough to be delisted from protection under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho. But more than that, according to the National Park Service, the wolves look likely to boost biodiversity in the park overall. The carcasses they leave behind help scavenging species, including grizzly bears in lean years. They also deter coyotes, which might have a beneficial impact on rodents and birds of prey. It is also possible that the wolves had a role in the resurgence of aspen trees in the park, since they eat the elk that consume the trees, PBS reported.
3. The Amazon Soy Moratorium
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Amazon rainforest is home to a staggering 10 percent of the earth's biodiversity. That's why it was so alarming in 2004 and 2005 when the Brazilian Amazon saw its second highest deforestation rates, partly driven by the increased clearing of forest to grow soy, according to Greenpeace. To fight this threat, Greenpeace proposed a moratorium on the purchase of soy that came from deforested fields, used slave labor or invaded indigenous territories. The result was the Amazon Soy Moratorium, signed by 90 percent of the companies involved in the Brazilian soy market, which Mongabay called the "first major voluntary zero-deforestation agreement achieved in the tropics." It was extended indefinitely in 2016. As Mongabay pointed out, the agreement isn't perfect; for example, farmers would continue to clear land they already owned and claim compliance. One 2014 study found that the agreement was responsible for 5 to 10 percent of the significant decrease in deforestation after its passing, but a 2017 study from the University of Kansas found the moratorium played a greater role in halting deforestation than previously believed.
4. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument
In 2014, President Barack Obama expanded a national monument around a group of remote atolls in the central Pacific into what was then the largest marine reserve in the world, National Geographic reported. The reserve is three times the size of California and larger than all U.S. land-based national parks. The area protects corals, sea birds, sharks and five endangered species of sea turtles. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, it is farther from a population center than any other U.S. area and represents the largest protected coral reef, shorebird and sea bird habitat under one nation's control. As the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization points out, more than half of marine species could be threatened with extinction by 2100, yet only one percent of the oceans are protected, so reserves like this one are a key part of preserving the amazing biodiversity of marine life.
5. EU Bans Bee-Killing Pesticides
A European honeybeeJohn Severns
One important win for biodiversity came just last month, when the EU decided to expand its partial 2013 ban on three pesticides called neonicotinoids, completely restricting their outdoor use. Studies had shown the pesticides were harmful to bees and other pollinating insects. A 2016 IPBES study on pollinators found that their decline put global food production at risk, and recommended limiting pesticide use for the sake of bees. As we celebrate the International Day of Biodiversity, April's pesticide ban is a reminder that protecting life on earth isn't just a series of historic milestones; it must also be a task for the present and a goal for the future.
- Chemicals in Cosmetics Linked to Lung Damage in Children, New ... ›
- 33 Toxic Hair Straighteners Under International Recall Still Sold in US ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As the coronavirus has spread around the globe, so have the germs of misinformation and conspiracy theories about the new disease. Fake news about the virus is so prevalent that health professionals have started referring to it as an "infodemic."
- Doctors Aren't Just Fighting a Pandemic, but Also an 'Infodemic ... ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Facebook, Twitter Remove Trump Posts Sharing False COVID-19 Info ›
A new report shows the U.S. government bought more than $350 million in bonds issued by oil and gas companies and induced investors to loan the industry tens of billions more at artificially low rates since the coronavirus pandemic began, Bloomberg reported.
- Fed's Corporate Debt-Buying Could Mean Big Oil Bailout - EcoWatch ›
- Marathon Petroleum Takes Bailout Tax Breaks During Pandemic ... ›
By Karen Charman
When President Donald Trump visited California on September 14 and dismissed the state Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot's plea to recognize the role of climate change in the midst of the Golden State's worst and most dangerous recorded fire season to date, he gaslighted the tens of millions of West Coast residents suffering through the ordeal.
Foxes Guarding the Henhouse<p>Before he assumed power, Trump attacked regulations as unnecessary barriers to freedom and economic prosperity. Since taking office, he has targeted anything enacted by the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and taken steps to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, the international effort to combat climate change. He has also staffed heads of key agencies with climate deniers of various stripes, forced out career public servants and created a hostile work environment for those who don't profess loyalty to his deregulatory agenda.</p><p>Like Trump himself, some of his cabinet choices displayed an audacious penchant for <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage" target="_blank">self-dealing</a> and abusing their positions of authority. One example is Trump's first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, who aggressively worked to overturn Obama's climate regulations, spent most of his time in <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-epa-head-steps-down-after-wave-of-ethics-management-scandals/2018/07/05/39f4251a-6813-11e8-bea7-c8eb28bc52b1_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">private meetings</a> with fossil fuel and chemical company executives, sidelined career EPA staff and reconfigured independent scientific advisory boards to make them more supportive of the industries EPA is charged with regulating. Dubbed "<a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-pruitt-leaves-20180705-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one of the most scandal-plagued Cabinet officials in U.S. history</a>," Pruitt resigned in disgrace after revelations about his multiple brazen abuses, including using the agency as his personal concierge service and piggy bank.</p><p>Pruitt's deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/andrew-wheeler-acting-epa-administrator-former-number-two-before-scott-pruitt-resignation/" target="_blank">former coal industry lobbyist</a> and longtime Republican Washington insider, took over and has continued Trump's deregulatory agenda apace.</p><p>At the Department of Interior (DOI), a sprawling agency that oversees 75 percent of the country's public federal lands and includes the U.S. Geological Survey, which is tasked with evaluating natural hazards that threaten life and the health of our ecosystems, Trump installed another flamboyant anti-environmentalist to head the agency. Like Pruitt, Trump's first Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke aggressively attacked environmental regulations, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/05/07/epa-dismisses-half-of-its-scientific-advisers-on-key-board-citing-clean-break-with-obama-administration/" target="_blank">ditched more than 200 advisory panels</a>, and pushed to open up vast swaths of public land to oil and gas drilling. Described by one environmental group as "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/interior-secretary-zinke-resigns-amid-investigations/2018/12/15/481f9104-0077-11e9-ad40-cdfd0e0dd65a_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation's history</a>," Zinke was forced out after numerous highly publicized conflict-of-interest scandals.</p><p>The DOI is now run by Zinke's deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, another longtime Republican Washington insider and former oil industry lobbyist who has also been the subject of <a href="https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/05/this-is-still-happening-david-bernhardt-trump-lincoln.html" target="_blank">several government ethics complaints</a> for various violations favoring polluting industries.</p><p>More recently, longtime climate change denier David Legates, a climatologist at the University of Delaware previously <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/19032015/u-delaware-refuses-disclose-funding-sources-its-climate-contrarian" target="_blank">funded by fossil fuel interests</a>, was hired for a <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/12/912301325/longtime-climate-science-denier-hired-at-noaa" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">top job</a> advancing weather modeling and prediction at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Legates has called for <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2020/9/18/noaa_david_legates_climate_crisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increasing carbon emissions</a>.</p><p>The Trump administration has done much more than stack government agencies with fossil fuel industry proponents. It has removed or diluted discussion of climate change from as many government platforms as it can and decimated independent scientific advisory boards that provide unbiased, fact-based information the government needs to enact policies that protect the public. It has also <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/482352-trump-budget-slashes-funding-for-epa-environmental-programs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slashed environmental agency staffing and budgets</a>.</p>
The Damage So Far<p>A September 17 <a href="https://rhg.com/research/the-rollback-of-us-climate-policy/" target="_blank">report</a> by the Rhodium Group calculates that 1.8 billion tons more greenhouse gases will be released over the next 15 years as a result of climate change rollbacks the Trump administration has achieved so far. These include repealing Obama's main climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce dirty emissions from power plants; increasing pollution from cars by rolling back fuel economy standards and challenging California's longtime authority to set stricter emissions standards; targeting controls on hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigerators and air conditioners that also destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer; and allowing unreported and unregulated emissions of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, by oil and gas companies.</p><p>Besides these measures, Trump is also trying to gut core environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, all of which were enacted to protect human health and preserve a livable world.</p><p>The Paris agreement aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and hopefully cap it at 1.5 degrees C or lower. We are now at approximately 1.2 degrees C and counting.</p>
- Trump Admin Guts Endangered Species Act in the Midst of Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Purged From White House Website - EcoWatch ›
- California Burns Because of the Climate Crisis While Trump ... ›
By Jan Ellen Spiegel
It wasn't so long ago that the issue of climate change was poised to play a huge – possibly even a decisive – role in the 2020 election, especially in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Many people supporting Democratic candidates saw a possible Democratic majority as a hedge against a potential Trump re-election … a way to plug the firehose spray of more than 100 environmental regulation rollbacks and new anti-climate initiatives by the administration over its first term.
Potential Climate Voters<p>In a September 1 memo on climate and the election, Andrew Baumann, vice president of the consultants Global Strategy Group, wrote: "Few issues have seen as dramatic a shift in public opinion as climate change has over the last few years. Only marriage equality and the recent shift in views around racial justice outpace the rapid growth in the salience of climate change as an issue."</p><p>Calling it a "winning political issue" the memo says: "First, it is clearly a motivator for both younger and Latinx voters. Second, it has the power to move swing voters, particularly center-right white women."</p><p>Baumann points to a finding that when a group of such women were asked generic ballot questions, Democrats trailed by nine percentage points. But when the question was revised as a choice between:</p><p>"A Democrat who supports taking strong government action to combat climate change.<br>A Republican who opposes taking strong government action to combat climate change."</p><p>… the result was a 29 percentage point shift, putting Democrats ahead by 20 percentage points among that same group.</p><p>"I think it is playing a role," says Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, a longtime outspoken climate activist who is on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and also on the Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. If Democrats win back the Senate, he stands to play an even more pivotal climate role as part of the majority. He is not up for re-election this year.</p><p><span></span>"I think from the Democratic side it's playing a role in generating enthusiasm – particularly making younger voters feel that they have a real stake in this election. On the Republican side, I think things have moved enough that candidates can no longer get away with simply scoffing about climate change."</p>
Climate a Top Concern for Youths, Latinx<p>So who's still thinking climate? Mostly young voters – 18 to 25 or 29 and Latinx voters.</p><p>Climate and the environment are the top concern among young voters, just above racism and healthcare according to <a href="https://circle.tufts.edu/latest-research/poll-young-people-believe-they-can-lead-change-unprecedented-election-cycle" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CIRCLE</a>, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, which focuses on the political life of young people in the U.S. For Latinx youth, it drops a bit but remains in the top three.</p><p>The issues young people care about have an impact on how they volunteer their time, says Kristian Lundberg, an associate researcher at CIRCLE. He says that's played out most notably through the Sunrise Movement, which focuses on climate change and the environment along with other key activist groups such as Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives.</p><p>He points to polling this summer that showed that 83% of 18-to-29-year-olds felt they had the power to change things. "Young people feel much more empowerment than in 2016 and 2018," Lundberg says. "It's intentional these movements are carving out space for young people. It's an important strategy."</p><p>In positions of power in these organizations, young people have developed peer-to-peer outreach on activism. And Lundberg says young people have made the leap that connects activism to voting as a lever for change. "In the past in very close races, young people breaking heavily have provided the margin of victory," he says.</p><p>CIRCLE is highlighting 10 U.S. Senate races as ones in which young voters can be decisive. Several of them have notable climate or environmental components – most prominently the Colorado and Montana races.</p><p>The Republican incumbents in each state – Cory Gardner in Colorado and Steve Daines in Montana – are running against a popular Democratic governor – John Hickenlooper in Colorado, now out of office — and Steve Bullock, still the governor of Montana. Both governors have had to balance their state's fossil fuel economic interests with supporting climate change solutions.</p>
Tying Climate Change to the Economy<p>In August, Data for Progress, a progressive research think tank, released polling on climate change – including in the battleground Senate elections in Arizona, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina – showing voters back a Senate candidate supporting strong climate action.</p><blockquote>Climate change as 'mobilizing issue … key persuasion issue.'<br></blockquote><p>It also showed that linking climate change to the economy may be key. That means talking about clean energy and jobs together, says Danielle Deiseroth, climate data analyst for <a href="https://circle.tufts.edu/latest-research/poll-young-people-believe-they-can-lead-change-unprecedented-election-cycle" target="_blank">Data for Progress</a>. She says that in addition to jobs, climate change issues include climate justice and economic equality – both of heightened interest because of fallout from western wildfires.</p><p>"Climate change, we've observed over the last year or so, is a key mobilizing issue and a key persuasion issue," she says. "Climate issues can only grow support for Democratic candidates.</p><p>"I think it's pretty naive to say climate is the key issue for voters. For a lot of voters it really exemplifies so many things that are wrong with the Trump presidency," Deiseroth says.</p><p>So a factor among others. Helpful, but pivotal only in narrow circumstances.</p><p>At the League of Conservations Voters, a progressive environmentalist organization putting a lot of money and effort into the 2020 races, Senior Director of Political Affairs Craig Auster says: "I'll push back that climate change doesn't matter or isn't registering."</p><p>"It's still showing up in several Senate races. It's been playing a role in almost all of them."</p><p>Candidates are still talking about it, he says, pointing to Colorado, Montana, Iowa, and other states where ads are addressing climate and environmental issues. That shows the candidates believe their opponent is vulnerable on the issue or they're strong on it, he says.</p><p>Like others, Auster calls climate a motivator.</p><p>"Climate change matters," he says. "We have proof point after proof point about what's happening, whether it's a hurricane, a superstorm, derechos in Iowa, or wildfires out west.</p><p>"Pre-COVID it was top tier for Democratic voters along with healthcare. If COVID didn't happen I think climate would be a big deal."</p>
- Green New Deal Champion Ed Markey Defeats Joe Kennedy III ... ›
- These Races Will Shape How U.S. Elections Affect Climate Progress ... ›
- Outdoor Brand Patagonia Wants You to 'Vote the A**holes Out ... ›