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Half the World's Animal Population Vanished Since 1970
The just-released tenth biennial edition of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet report found that between hunting, habitat destruction, environmental degradation and the effects of climate change, the world's animal populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish has dropped 52 percent since 1970. The study, produced in partnership with the Zoological Society of London, Global Footprint Network and Water Footprint Network, measured 10,000 species.
Freshwater species are particularly endangered, losing 72 percent of their numbers in that time. Tropic marine populations, including species of sharks and turtles, as well as seabirds such as petrels and albatross, are also in danger, primarily due to the impacts of overfishing. It found that animals like the African rhino were declining due to poaching for their valuable horn.
"We are using nature’s gifts as if we had more than just one Earth at our disposal," said WWF International general director Marco Lambertini in the report's introduction. "By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our very future. Nature conservation and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. They are not only about preserving biodiversity and wild places, but just as much about safeguarding the future of humanity—our well-being, economy, food security and social stability—indeed, our very survival.
The report discusses Earth's biocapacity and how we are overdrawing it, as well as "planetary boundaries"—thresholds beyond which we run the risk of catastrophic changes to life on the planet.
"Three of these nine planetary boundaries appear to have already been crossed: biodiversity is declining far faster than any natural rate; the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already causing significant changes to our climate and ecosystems; and—while converting nitrogen from the air into fertilizer has helped feed the world—nitrogen pollution has become a significant, if under-appreciated, environmental threat," the report says.
It also addressed the frequently heard assertion that addressing environmental issues carries a too-steep economic cost.
"People talk earnestly of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of development," it says. "Yet we continue to build up the economic component at considerable cost to the environmental one. We risk undermining social and economic gains by failing to appreciate our fundamental dependency on ecological systems. Social and economic sustainability are only possible with a healthy planet."
“The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming," said professor Ken Norris, director of science at the Zoological Society of London. "This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live. Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from businesses.”
Programs to protect various ecosystems from environmental damage and their animal inhabitants from human predation—both those underway and those proposed—make up a significant part of the 168-page report, which is written in layman's terms and copiously illustrated. It found that areas of Nepal where they are protected, the tiger population rose 63 percent between 2009 and 2013. It describes how the rise of "gorilla tourism" in Uganda and Rwanda has caused their populations to rebound. It talks about working to establish a network of marine protected areas in Chile and programs for better wetland management in South Africa, as well as initiatives for environmental protection in Australia, Belize and Denmark.
Lambertini said that while we should "feel a strong sense of urgency," we should also "celebrate a number of positive elements."
"The planet has never been more aware of the problems and the solutions," said Lambertini. "We've never been able to engage so many people across the world. Particular sectors have shown incredible engagement, particularly the private business sector. But what really excites me most is the booming of civil society engagement across the whole world. That's particularly at the local level—community based, local NGOs, groups of concerned citizens are really coming together and creating a new global movement that I think has the potential to turn things around."
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.