New Caledonia Bans All Types of Extraction Surrounding Pristine Coral Reefs
The French overseas territory of New Caledonia announced Tuesday the highest possible levels of protection for some of the world's last unspoiled coral reefs.
All types of extraction, including commercial and industrial fishing, has been banned in the Chesterfield, Bellona, Entrecasteaux, Pétrie and Astrolabe coral ecosystems, according to a Tuesday press release from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has long pushed the reefs' protection.
The New Caledonia government voted to set up marine protected areas (MPAs) surrounding the five reefs, safeguarding 28,000 square kilometers (10,810 square miles) of waters in all, AFP reported.
President Philippe Germain believes the action has created the largest wilderness reserve in the world, he said in a press conference, as quoted by La Dépêche.
Tourist activity is also expected to be rigorously controlled, making it harder for the 600,000 tourists who visit New Caledonia each year to access the sites, Reuters reported. Small eco-tourist groups and researchers may apply for permits for access.
The reefs and the surrounding waters provide vital habitats for dugongs, seabirds, nesting green turtles and humpback whales. It's also home to 1,700 species of fish and 473 different types of coral, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.
"We welcome New Caledonia's announcement of the classification of its near-pristine coral reefs. These ecosystems are full of life—the ocean's equivalent of tropical forests—and France, through its overseas territories, carries an international responsibility for their protection," Hubert Géraux, WWF-France's manager of the New Caledonia office, said in a statement.
The new protected reefs sit within the Natural Park of the Coral Sea of New Caledonia, one of the largest protected areas on the planet, spanning 1.3 million square kilometers (501,933 square miles). Its protections, however, are not as strict as it would be under an MPA.
Christophe Chevillon, head of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy in New Caledonia, which helped draft the plans, said more could be done.
"Although we believe this to be a major breakthrough, we are convinced that New Caledonia can still go further and lead the way for other Pacific countries," he told AFP.
"In fact, the 28,000 square kilometers protected only represents two percent of the Coral Sea Natural Park."
The world's coral reefs are under grave threat from pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change. The world has already lost about half of its shallow water coral reefs, WWF said.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, a visiting distinguished statesman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, applauded New Caledonia's efforts to fully protect Chesterfield, Bellona, Entrecasteaux, Pétrie and Astrolabe reefs from industrial and human impact.
"Your commitment to preserve all of the remote reefs within the Coral Sea Natural Park, some of the healthiest and most intact reefs found on Earth, is commendable," Kerry wrote in a letter, published by La Dépêche, to President Germain.
Kerry urged the president to expand protections within the park to help strengthen conservation, cultural and economic benefits for New Caledonia.
"I encourage you to continue to establish fully-protected areas within the [Coral Sea Natural Park], safeguarding the seamounts and pelagic areas, to ensure longevity of fish populations for the local people and help preserve New Caledonia's waters for years to come," he wrote.
John Tanzer, oceans practice leader of WWF International, called on other governments to follow New Caledonia's example.
"This is the kind of leadership we need to see in coral reef conservation and we applaud it," Tanzer said in a statement. "With good management, these marine protected areas will help maintain fish populations and ecosystem health that will build the reef's resilience to the impacts of climate change in future. This leadership must inspire similar action by other governments."
New Caledonia has committed to stronger protection of its near-pristine coral #reefs. This is the kind of leadershi… https://t.co/82Y32dCzPc— John Tanzer (@John Tanzer)1534224663.0
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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