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Pope Francis: These 4 'Perverse Attitudes' Could Push Earth to Its Brink

Climate
Martin Schulz / Flickr

Pope Francis issued a strong message to negotiators at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany on Thursday, warning them not to fall into "four perverse attitudes" regarding the future of the planet—"denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Francis, who has long pressed for strong climate action and wrote his 2015 encyclical on the environment, renewed his "urgent call" for renewed dialogue "on how we are building the future of the planet."


"We need an exchange that unites us all," he said, "because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, and its human roots, regards us all, and affects us all."

The pontiff also said he hopes the COP23 talks would be "inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit" of COP21, which led to the landmark signing of the Paris agreement to avoid global temperature rise well below 2°C.

"The Agreement indicates a clear path of transition to a low- or zero-carbon model of economic development, encouraging solidarity and leveraging the strong links between combating climate change and poverty," Francis said.

Although the pope did not call any countries out by name, the U.S. is the only country not in support of the Paris agreement due to President Donald Trump's declared withdrawal from the pact. Syria and Nicaragua, which were the only other holdouts, recently joined the accord.

Trump, who notoriously said global warming is a hoax, has filled his administration with lawmakers who question the science of climate change or reject mankind's role in causing the global issue.

Francis has spoken against global warming skeptics several times before. In September, during an in-flight press conference from Colombia to Rome, the pope said that those who reject climate science remind him of a psalm from the Old Testament about stubbornness.

"Man is stupid, the Bible said. It's like that, when you don't want to see, you don't see," he said as the papal plane flew near Caribbean islands pummeled by Hurricane Irma. His statement was not addressed to any political leader in particular.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration used its only public forum at COP23 to promote coal.

According to the Associated Press, the top American representative at the talks told other delegates that the U.S. is still committed to reducing greenhouse gas even though the Trump wants to exit the Paris accord.

Dozens of nations have joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, launched Thursday at the climate talks, to phase out the use of coal by 2030. The alliance involves more than 20 nations including Angola, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Portugal and Switzerland, according to Reuters. The states of Oregon and Washington have also joined.

The climate talks are expected to end Friday.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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