In the Fight Against Climate Change, Humans and Wildlife Are Allies
By Jason Bittel
One million species could soon face extinction. Climate change is accelerating at a breakneck pace, already affecting about half of all threatened mammal species and a quarter of threatened birds. And according to a study published in Science last year, if nothing is done to curb our carbon emissions, nearly 50 percent of the planet's insects, which make up the foundation of food webs all over the globe, could disappear by the end of the century.
Until now, the crises of climate change and biodiversity loss have mostly been framed as separate issues. A 2018 study, for instance, found that climate change receives eight times more media coverage than biodiversity, despite the fact that scientists publish new studies on both subjects at about the same rate. (And to put that into broader perspective, climate change doesn't receive nearly as much press as it should.)
Clockwise from top left: A panther chameleon, a Harris's three spot moth caterpillar, a pale tussock caterpillar.
Simone Sbaraglia, Lance Featherstone, Nick Goodrum
Yet biodiversity and climate are inextricably linked. "We can't stabilize the climate without really addressing biodiversity, and we can't save biodiversity without staying below 1.5 degrees," says Eric Dinerstein, a wildlife biologist at the nonprofit RESOLVE, referring to the maximum increase in global temperature (in degrees Celsius) that scientists agree most species can survive. "You can't solve one without the other."
Dinerstein and his colleagues recently laid out a plan in Science Advances to address biodiversity loss and climate change as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Their Global Deal for Nature calls for the creation of formal, line-in-the-sand protections for 50 percent of the planet's biomes by 2050.
Dinerstein and his coauthors go into great detail about how to achieve this goal, but the heart of the effort comes down to one simple idea: By saving plants and animals, we can save the world.
One of the best strategies for combating global warming is to preserve those habitats that naturally lock up the most carbon. Tropical forests, where giant, ancient trees constantly absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then fix it into the soil, store around 40 percent of all the carbon on land. This is why protecting the lush expanses of the Amazon, the Congo River Basin, and Southeast Asia is so essential.
Clearly, cutting down nature's carbon sequestration machines is terrible for mitigating climate change, but so too is killing off the animals that spread the seeds that allow the forests to flourish. "In the tropics, these giant trees are often dispersed by things like tapirs and rhinos and elephants," says Dinerstein. "This is a critical point."
Seed dispersers aren't the only animals worth saving. Predators also help to conserve their forests—and sometimes, the bigger and scarier, the better.
A tiger in Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India.
James Warwick / www.JamesWarwick.co.uk
Dinerstein has spent much of his career studying tigers. In one study, he determined that forested landscapes that still harbor functional tiger populations in India contain three times the carbon density of landscapes where humans have eradicated tigers. This is because areas that still have tigers are often much better managed and protected. "People tend to stay out of them more," Dinerstein says, "whereas once a forest has lost its tigers, people pretty much go in there all the time and start exploiting other species and cutting down firewood, and they become degraded more quickly."
Similar relationships are playing out in the oceans. For instance, seagrass meadows cover just 0.2 percent of the ocean floor, but they hold more than 10 percent of all the carbon locked up in the sea, thanks to deep roots that can keep the plants in place for thousands of years. Too many grazers, such as sea turtles and dugongs, however, can wipe out seagrass beds and the carbon storage services they provide.
But if you throw in a few tiger sharks, the hungry herbivores are forced to nibble and move on, lest they end up as dinner themselves.
Believe it or not, Dinerstein says, coastal mangroves sequester much more carbon than almost any other habitat. They also serve as nurseries for a huge number of tropical fish species. And they protect coastlines from storm surges and erosion—"a threefold benefit," says Dinerstein. Unfortunately, shrimp farming and other commercial developments have already cleared away large swaths of mangrove habitat, most noticeably in Asia and the South Pacific.
Yes, we need trees and seagrass (and coral reefs and peat bogs and tundra), but we also need the tapirs, tigers, and tiger sharks (and the caribou and the blue whales and the hornbills). Saving the world from mass extinction and climate change is a package deal. To quote the Global Deal for Nature, "It is no coincidence that some of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on land—natural forests—also harbor high levels of biodiversity." From predators and prey to decomposers, parasites, and pollinators, when every niche is full of life, carbon gets locked up like on an assembly line.
But it's one thing to identify the importance of protecting animals and their habitats, and it's another thing to do it. All told, the Global Deal would cost around $100 billion per year to reach the 2050 milestone. That seems like a hefty price tag considering that the international community currently spends $10 billion a year at the most on conservation. But that's the wrong way to look at it, says Dinerstein.
"In the U.S. alone, we spend $33 billion a year on pet food and grooming," he says. "If we just doubled that and included other countries in the world . . . if we love nature just as much, we can easily afford this."
This also isn't simply a case for charity. Numerous industries, the researchers calculate, stand to make considerable gains by mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss. According to the Global Deal for Nature, the global seafood industry could make an additional $53 billion per year. And the insurance industry, if it didn't have to cover losses caused by intensifying wildfires and flooding, could savean annual sum of approximately $4,300 billion.
To be clear, that's $4,300,000,000,000.
Here's another way to look at it: When you consider the amount of subsidies the United States alone gifts the fossil fuel industry each year, $100 billion starts to sound like chump change. As in, we'd be chumps not to invest in fixing our own planet for the cost of building a spaceship to visit another one.
We also, of course, can't afford not to.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
In a dramatic rescue captured on camera, a Florida man ran into a pond and pried open an alligator's mouth in order to rescue his beloved puppy, all without dropping his cigar.
- 'He had green eyes': Florida man will paint alligator that attacked him ›
- Florida alligator attack: A woman was attacked by a 10-foot alligator ... ›
- Weird presidential pets include alligator, tiger cub, dog named Satan ... ›
- Alligators make terrible pets: 'You're basically dealing with a dinosaur.' ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›
- Scuba Divers Make Face Masks out of Recycled Ocean Plastic ... ›
By Bret Wilkins
In a year in which the United States has already suffered 16 climate-driven extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in economic damages, and as millions of American workers face loss of essential unemployment benefits due to congressional inaction, a report published Monday reveals the Trump administration has given fossil fuel companies as much as $15.2 billion in direct relief — and tens of billions more indirectly — through federal COVID-19 recovery programs since March.
- 'We Need People's Bailout, Not Polluters' Bailout': Climate Groups ... ›
- Corporate Polluters Have Received Tens of Millions in PPP Loans ... ›
- Trump Bails Out Oil Industry, Not U.S. Families, as Coronavirus ... ›
- Former Federal Reserve Governor Rebukes Fed for Fossil Fuel Bail ... ›
By Ashia Aubourg
As Thanksgiving approaches, some Indigenous organizations and activists caution against perpetuating further injustices towards Native communities. Indigenous activist Mariah Gladstone, for example, encourages eaters to celebrate the harvest time in ways that do not involve stereotypes and pilgrim stories.
- Why Face Masks Belong at Your Thanksgiving Gathering + 7 Things ... ›
- Reasons to Be Thankful — 8 Food and Farm 'Good News' Stories ... ›
- Why I'm Going to Standing Rock for Thanksgiving - EcoWatch ›
By Alex Middleton
Losing weight and reducing fat is a hard battle to fight. Thankfully, there are fat burner supplements that help you gain your target body and goal. However, how would you know which supplement is right for you?