For coffee drinkers, there's really nothing more terrifying than the thought of waking up one morning and being all out of java. One way to ensure that never happens is to sign up for a coffee subscription service. This not only keeps you well-stocked, but it also gives you the opportunity to sample some high-quality and organic coffee beans from around the world.
Of course, like any eco-friendly meal kit service, a coffee subscription box should match your own preferences while also being good for people and the planet. You can now get a subscription for almost anything, including vitamin subscription services and eco-friendly cleaning products. Why not add coffee to your list? In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the top organic and specialty coffee subscription options on the market today.
Our Picks for the Top Coffee Subscriptions
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Organic Coffee - Purity Coffee
- Best Keto Coffee - Bulletproof Coffee
- Best Subscription - Yes Plz Coffee
- Best Coffee Selection - Angels' Cup
- Best Carbon-Free Coffee - Grounds for Change
- Best B Corp Coffee - Conscious Coffee
- Best for International Coffees - Atlas Coffee Club
- Best for Specialty Coffees - Bean Box
- Best for Artisan Coffees - Mistobox
- Most Eco-Friendly - Driftaway Coffee
- Best Variety of Brews - Blue Bottle Coffee
- Most Affordable - Peet's Coffee
- Best for Home and Office - Crema Coffee
How We Chose the Best Coffee Subscriptions
Min Kim / Getty Images
Before we get into specific recommendations, it may be helpful to note some of the criteria we used for making our assessment. Our ranking factors include:
Some subscription services do a better job than others of giving coffee lovers lots of options, not only allowing you to pick between different beans, but also allowing you to pick from whole bean vs. ground coffee. We also gave bonus points to subscription services that provide freshly-roasted craft coffee.
Another important consideration is how much flexibility you have in your actual subscription. We love services that give you some choice in how much coffee you actually need, how often you wish to receive your next box, and the ability to try new flavors.
USDA Organic/Fair Trade/Rainforest Alliance Certifications
Many coffee drinkers will want to verify that their purchase is Fair Trade and/or USDA organic certified. We looked for the best coffee subscriptions that make the environment and the people that grow their coffee a priority in sourcing. If they didn't have these certifications, we looked to see if they explained how they approached their sourcing instead.
A lot of enthusiasts prefer single-origin coffee; that is, coffee made exclusively from beans grown in one specific geographic area. Single-origin coffee tends to provide unique characteristics and flavor notes that blended coffees cannot match.
If you're looking to minimize your environmental footprint then you'll definitely want to account for the sustainability practices of each subscription service. This can encompass the service's supply chain, production, packaging, and shipping.
Naturally, one of the deciding factors in your organic coffee or healthy energy drink subscription will be the price. Some subscriptions are more budget-friendly than others. We tried to select subscription options that that are affordable and still offer subscribers amazing coffee they can't find at the grocery store.
Our 13 Favorite Organic and Specialty Coffee Subscriptions
Best Organic Coffee: Purity Coffee
Purity Coffee claims that their process maximizes the health benefits naturally found in coffee. They only use 100% USDA-certified organic coffee beans for all of their coffees. These are then screened for pesticides and molds, and then roasted using a special smokeless roasting process to ensure it contains the highest-possible levels of antioxidants. Subscribers can save on each order, and prepaid subscriptions receive free shipping.
Why buy: Not only is Purity Coffee 100% organic, it's also sustainably sourced. They offer several specialty Founders' Roasts that are Rainforest Alliance-certified and Smithsonian Bird Friendly-certified for the grower's commitment to biodiversity and habitat conservation.
Best Keto Coffee: Bulletproof Coffee
Bulletproof Coffee is a keto coffee, or butter coffee, that contains both high-quality coffee and good fats to provide even more fuel to your mornings. It's meant to replace carb and sugar-heavy breakfasts while giving you what you need to get going. Bulletproof Coffee uses Rainforest Alliance-certified beans grown in direct partnership with farmers on high-altitude estates in Guatemala and Colombia. With their subscription option you can save 10% on each order, and receive free shipping on orders over $35.
Why buy: Not only can Bulletproof Coffee change the way you start your day with a keto-friendly cup of coffee, but the coffee itself is grown using sustainable methods, is sustainably washed and mechanically dried, and then thoroughly tested for toxins and impurities.
Best Subscription: Yes Plz Coffee
Yes Plz Coffee offers a coffee subscription service that delivers a new and unique blend every single week. You can choose the size and schedule of your deliveries, including an 8.8 oz or 12 oz package delivered every week, every two weeks, every three weeks, or once a month. They source their coffee beans from smaller importers who prioritize transparency and relationships with their growers and millers.
Why buy: We love that Yes Plz Coffee offers so many different subscription options to fit your schedule, and that they can provide a unique roast each and every week. This is a great way to experience a new, expertly roasted coffee every week, or every month, that you can cancel any time.
Best Coffee Selection: Angels' Cup
If you're just getting into serious coffee consumption, or want to dip your toes into the subscription model, Angels' Cup is an excellent starting point. You can begin by getting just a single 12 ounce bag of coffee, and they also offer blind sampler packs and subscriptions with different frequency levels, including weekly, twice monthly, or monthly. Their mobile app will help you discover the different tasting notes to find your favorites.
Why buy: There's a lot of flexibility built into the Angels' Cup model, making it an ideal choice for those who are new to the gourmet coffee scene. While they don't source the coffees themselves, they do work with roasters who pay well-above Fair Trade prices.
Best Carbon-Free Coffee: Grounds for Change
Grounds for Change has a reputation for being one of the most progressive, stewardship-minded coffee companies out there. If you're looking for Fair Trade, organic, and/or carbon-free options, this certified B corp is where you can find them. They also showcase a lot of unique collections, from single-origin coffees to some enticing decaf options, that are well worth investigating. We're more than happy to include Grounds for Change on our list.
Why buy: In terms of social responsibility, Grounds for Change can't be topped. They are the only company on our list that offers carbon-free coffee, meaning they offset 100% of the emissions from their coffees.
Best B Corp Coffee: Conscious Coffees
Conscious Coffees has made some really admirable investments in coffee-growing communities across the world. Their model of sustainability and corporate responsibility is commendable, but they are equally passionate about exquisite roasting. They belong on our list for these reasons and so many more, including their emphasis on 100 percent organic coffee, small-batch freshness, and sustainable sourcing.
Why buy: Conscious Coffees sets a high bar for stewardship and responsibility. We strongly recommend them to anyone who wants to invest in sustainable coffee-farming across the world.
Best for International Coffees: Atlas Coffee Club
One of the many reasons to consider a subscription coffee service is that it will give you a chance to explore different flavors from around the world. And there is no subscription service that serves up international variety quite like Atlas Coffee Club. Each month, you'll get a new coffee from a different country like Costa Rica, Colombia, or Ethiopia, in a bag that's modeled after indigenous textiles or local landscapes. For anyone who loves to travel or simply likes to try new things, Atlas Coffee Club offers a truly transportive experience.
Why buy: There's no better option for trying out different coffee flavors from across cultures. The company also pays well above market prices to growers to support ethically sustainable farming practices.
Best for Specialty Coffees: Bean Box
Bean Box is another outstanding choice for java enthusiasts who are curious to sample different tastes. Based in Seattle, Bean Box partners with different coffee roasters who specialize in single-origin coffees and coffee blends from around the world, including Africa, South America, and more. They'll send you a different blend each month, allowing you to develop a really broad and sophisticated palette. We also really love the price point on this one, which offers a great value.
Why buy: If you're looking for a budget-friendly way to sample specialty coffees, Bean Box is a great coffee subscription service to consider.
Best for Artisan Coffees: Mistobox
If you're attempting to maximize your coffee variety, you'll probably be over the moon about Mistobox. This coffee subscription company boasts partnerships with more than 50 roasters across the world, which is all but unparalleled. We also recommend them due to their commitment to Fair Trade and ecologically sustainable practices. Mistobox has a coffee curation service that will help you determine just where to start. So, if you feel overwhelmed by all the different organic coffee options, Mistobox has you covered.
Why buy: We recommend Mistobox for their sustainability, their corporate citizenship, their sheer variety of organic coffees, and their curation options.
Most Eco-Friendly: Driftaway Coffee
With Driftaway Coffee, the name of the game is personalization. Their service will actually enable you to establish "coffee profiles," pinpointing your tastes and helping them determine exactly what to send you each month. As if that weren't enough, Driftaway guarantees single-source whole bean coffees, and they also do an exemplary job of providing compostable packaging. Finally, they have a sustainability program that supports regional farmers.
Why buy: A great pick for single-origin whole bean coffee, and also a really great model for sustainability within the single-origin coffee subscription vertical.
Best Variety of Brews: Blue Bottle Coffee
If you really want your coffee to be as fresh as can be, then we heartily recommend Blue Bottle Coffee. They ship everything within 48 hours of roasting, ensuring you get the most vibrant flavors. Another thing we'll mention about this organic coffee subscription service is that they provide a lot of different options for espresso, decaf, single-origin, and blended coffees. There's definitely a lot to like here, especially if you're keen on small-batch coffee.
Why buy: For fresh flavors and plenty of variety, Blue Bottle Coffee is a great choice. The majority of their coffees are certified organic, and they pay at least Fair Trade prices to growers, often more.
Most Affordable: Peet's Coffee
Peet's Coffee has a ton of great products to consider, including some eclectic subscription options. You can take your pick between their small batch series, single-origin coffees, signature blends, and beyond. What's more, they boast plenty of flexibility with scheduling, making it easy to get coffee exactly when you need it. Plus they offer free shipping on coffee subscriptions.
Why buy: Peet's is an outstanding choice for anyone seeking plenty of variety and built-in flexibility. You may recognize them from the grocery store, but this brand is seriously committed to responsible sourcing, support for local farmers, and energy-efficient roasting.
Best for Homes and Offices: Crema Coffee
Crema Coffee is a popular choice among coffee connoisseurs, and it's not hard to understand why. There are over 450 coffees to choose from, spanning roasters located all over the world. You can customize your subscription to make certain you only get the roasts you're really going to be into, and you can even rate coffees to help keep track of your tastes. Crema Coffee offers subscription packages for your household and for your workplace.
Why buy: Crema Coffee offers incredible variety, plenty of options for personalization, and even a subscription model for your office. They ensure that they only work with roasters committed to an ethical coffee supply chain.
How Does a Coffee Subscription Work?
Clearly, there are plenty of options to choose from as you seek a subscription-based coffee delivery service. But if you're new to this whole concept, you may have some lingering questions about precisely what you can expect from your coffee subscription.
First of all, keep in mind that these subscriptions, like ones you can get for eco-friendly laundry detergent subscriptions, all work a little bit differently. Most of the companies on our list offer a coffee of the month club and provide different coffees to try with each delivery.
For a general overview of the coffee subscription process, though, you can typically expect something a bit like this:
Select the Type of Subscription You Want
Are you looking to get just a sampler of coffee beans each month? Or do you want to stay well-supplied, with new coffees arriving more frequently? Choosing your preferred subscription model is usually the first step.
Choose What Kind of Coffee You Want
Different subscription services will allow you different levels of customization, but there is always some way of indicating your preferences, whether you like dark roasts over light roasts, single-origin coffees over blends, etc.
Get Coffee Delivered to You
Most coffee subscription services will box your coffee in recyclable/compostable materials and deliver right to your front door. Because it's so important to maintain freshness, most subscription companies ship within a day or two of roasting.
Prepare Your Coffee
Note that, with whole bean options, you'll actually need a grinder to grind your coffee; if you choose ground coffee, then it will be ready to brew as soon as it shows up at your door.
Try New Types of Coffee
Finally, note that subscription coffee companies tend to rotate their roaster throughout the year. Make sure you explore some different options, and you might just discover your next favorite coffee!
Coffee Subscription FAQ
What is Fair Trade coffee?
We've highlighted the importance of Fair Trade coffee, but what exactly does this term mean? Essentially, when you buy Fair Trade coffee, it means that you are directly supporting local coffee-growing families in the developing world. More specifically, Fair Trade denotes a commitment to fair prices, community development efforts, and good stewardship of the environment. The Fair Trade designation is an important way to verify that you're getting ethically-sourced coffee beans. Fair Trade sets a floor on prices that allow coffee farmers to make a living, and many specialty coffee roasters pay much more than Fair Trade prices to local growers.
How is Organic Coffee Grown?
Another common question: What does it mean for coffee to be USDA-certified as organic? Fundamentally, organic coffee is grown without the use of any artificial chemicals, including prohibited pesticides and herbicides. To achieve the official USDA certification, a coffee must be at least 95 percent organic. Growers in certain regions may have trouble attaining this certification for various reasons, but specialty roasters typically seek to support sustainable farming practices and supply chains.
What is Single-Origin Coffee?
Single-origin coffee refers to a coffee made with beans that are all grown in one specific region. This type of coffee offers some really unique flavors and characteristics. The alternative is blended coffee, which may mix beans that come from a multiple places. Many coffee enthusiasts prefer the purity of single-origin, though of course, this is all a matter of personal preference.
Order Your Coffee Subscription Today
Looking for a way to get organic, Fair Trade coffee delivered straight to your front door? There are plenty of subscription models that will do just that, all while letting you sample some incredible beans from across the world.
Take a look at the options we've listed here, and look for the coffee subscription service that seems like it's best aligned with your tastes and your budget. And from there, just sit back and wait for your next bag of coffee beans to show up at your home or office.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
By Kimberly Nicole Pope
During this year's Davos Agenda Week, leaders from the private and public sectors highlighted the urgent need to halt and reverse nature loss. Deliberate action on the interlinked climate and ecological crises to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive economy is paramount. At the same time, these leaders also presented a message of hope: that investing in nature holds the key to ensuring economic and social prosperity and resilience.
2021 will be a critical year to ensure a net zero, nature-positive future as world leaders come together for several key events and negotiations related to climate and nature. Ensuring a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is also essential to ensure a prosperous and resilient future for humankind.
In honor of UN World Wildlife Day on March 3 and to provide inspiration for the important year ahead, seven members of the Champions for Nature community – which is leading the way towards a nature positive future by 2030 – have shared what they are reading that is giving them motivation to build a better world for people and planet.
Small Ideas to Change the World – Cyril Dion
Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica
Cyril Dion invites us to "change stories to change history." The challenge of climate change for what it is, to change the history of humanity, where each person counts and each action, big or small, counts. As it should be in an interconnected world, we dream of more solidarity.
A Stone Sat Still – Brendan Wenzel
M Sanjayan, Chief Executive Officer, Conservation International
Our 19-month-old daughter would have it no other way. Brendan Wenzel's A Stone Sat Still has been read 600 times in our home during lockdown. Even so we still turn the pages with unhurried pleasure. We linger on its dreamy, dusky illustrations and its spring-water clear prose.
Each time we read it we fall in love with a new way of seeing nature; when viewed in different lights and at different heights, nature becomes the source of endless possibilities. For a grinding and tragic pandemic, a reminder of the value of nature and the importance of place is the perfect antidote.
The Essentials of Theory 'U' – Otto Scharmer
Cherie Nursalim, Vice-Chairman, Giti Group
"U" is a movement. "U" is a philosophy of "seeing" and "sensing" our system. "U" is a way of letting go and letting a new "U" emerge. "U" enables "ego" to "eco system shift." Otto lays out and synthesizes the core essences of his decades of practice with corporates, civil society and governments around the world in integrating science arts and consciousness. This is to me a must-read book and offers a pathway to happiness by bridging social, ecological and spiritual divides (Tri Hita Karana ways to Happiness in Balinese) aligned with UN SDGs.
Stones of Silence – George Schaller
Malik Amin Aslam Khan, Federal Minister of Climate Change and Adviser to the Prime Minister, Pakistan
The Himalayan travelogue by one of the world's leading conservationists searching for an encounter with one of the most elusive creatures on the planet – the mystical snow leopard – is what I am currently reading. The book is both a celebration of nature, as it beautifully penetrates and unravels the myth around the "mountain ghost," and an avid description of the spirituality residing in the vast emptiness of the mighty Himalayan landscapes.
George Schaller, the author of Stones of Silence (1980), is the person who, in the early 70's, inspired the creation of Pakistan's iconic Khunjerab National Park, which today conserves one of the world's largest populations of the snow leopard, Markhors, Himalayan Ibex and Marco Polo Sheep and who, a few months back, during COVID-19 quarantine supported the start of Pakistan's Protected Areas Initiative. As the world looks for a nature-positive recovery, the book is a must-read for all who yearn to taste a bit of nature – Himalayan magic mixed with the mystery of the snow leopard.
I quote from the book: "Wisps of clouds swirled around, transforming her into a ghost creature, part myth and part reality… Balanced precariously on a ledge and bitterly cold, I too stayed, unwilling to disrupt the moment… Then the snow fell more thickly, and dreamlike, the cat slipped away as if she had never been."
The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution – Maria Ivanova
Inger Andersen, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme
I highly recommend The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution by Maria Ivanova. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the genesis and evolution of global environmental governance. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the UN Environment Program in 2022, this book provides valuable insights into how UNEP – and, indeed, environmental multilateralism – must rise to the challenges of a planet in crisis and lead us towards sustainable development.
Reality Bubble – Ziya Tong
Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF International
The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong is a provocative book about humanity's main blind spots: what we didn't evolve to see, and what we should but don't see. The blindness, often convenient, of modern society. A reminder of our limitations, and the dangers of ignoring the impact we are having on the health and balance of the planet we should call home. A particularly important reminder in a year when only humanity's full awareness of our role in the natural world can trigger the deep cultural revolution in our minds and systemic change in our economy to avert disaster.
Losing Earth – Nathaniel Rich
Svein Tore Holsether, President & CEO, Yara International
The essence of this book is that we knew but didn't act. Nathaniel Rich tells the history of fighting climate change, and how the Charney report already in 1979 predicted the devastating effects of global warming. Based on this, I have used every opportunity to tell people that we have been sitting on the fence for four decades and have less than a decade to fix it. We don't have the time anymore to work in isolation, only collaboration can save us. The book was an eye-opener about how we have failed, how we can't afford to fail now, and how we must have a science- and fact-based way of working.
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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The sprawling size and sunny days of Texas make it one of the top states for solar energy. If you live in the Lone Star State and are interested in switching to a solar energy system, you may be wondering: What's the average solar panel cost in Texas?
In this article, we'll discuss the cost of solar panels in Texas, what factors affect pricing, Texas' solar incentives and more. Of course, the only way to know for sure how much you would pay to install a solar panel system on your roof is to receive a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company near you. You can get started by filling out the quick form below.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Texas?
Thanks to the growing investment in renewable energy technology statewide, homeowners now enjoy a below-average cost of solar in Texas. Based on market research and data from top brands, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Texas to be $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is especially valuable when you take into account the unpredictable Texas energy rates.
Here's how that average calculates into the cost of the most common sizes of home solar panel systems:
|Size of Solar Panel System||Texas Solar Panel Cost||Cost After Federal Tax Credit|
Though this data reflects the statewide averages, you'll need to contact a solar installer near you to get an accurate quote for your home. Savvy customers will get free quotes from multiple companies and compare them to the state averages to make sure they receive the best value possible. Bear in mind that the biggest providers of solar won't always have the best prices.
What Determines the Cost of Solar Panels in Texas?
The main factor determining the cost of solar panel installations in Texas is the homeowner's energy needs. No two homes are the same, and installation costs will look far different for a home needing a basic 5kW system and a home needing 10kW with backup power capabilities. The solar financing and installation company a homeowner chooses will also affect a customer's overall solar costs in Texas. Here's how each factor comes into play:
Similar to phones, cars and other technology, solar products and system costs vary greatly based on their quality, scale and included features. Some customers may be satisfied with a modest array of affordable solar panels and inverters, while others may opt for a system with premium panels, full-home backup power and cutting-edge energy monitoring technology.
The overall cost of solar depends significantly on how a customer chooses to finance their system. The three most common solar financing options include paying in cash, taking out a solar loan and solar leasing.
- The most economical way to purchase solar, an upfront cash purchase provides the best long-term return on investment and the lowest overall cost.
- Customers can choose to take out a solar loan to purchase the system outright and make monthly payments to repay the loan. The typical payback period for a solar loan averages around 10 years. Systems purchased with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit.
- Signing a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) allows a solar customer to rent solar panels from a company or third party. Though requiring the least amount of money upfront, solar leases provide the least amount of overall value. Also, solar leases aren't eligible for the federal tax credit, as the homeowner doesn't actually own the system.
Solar Installation Company
Texas has seen some of the strongest solar energy market growth over the last few years, and the SEIA reports that there are now nearly 600 solar companies based in Texas, and each is looking to expand its market share.
Price ranges can differ significantly based on the installer. Larger solar providers like Sunrun offer the advantage of solar leases and quick installations. Local providers, on the other hand, provide more personalization and competitive prices to undercut the biggest national companies.
Because of this, it's wise to get quotes from a few local and national installers and compare rates — because of the stiff competition between companies, you could end up saving several thousand dollars.
Texas Solar Incentives
For the most part, Texas taxes are administered by local governments. As a result, the state doesn't offer a large number of statewide solar-related policies, and incentives will depend more on the locality in which you live.
However, all homeowners in the state remain eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and there are some statewide local property tax exemptions for both photovoltaic solar and wind-powered renewable energy systems. Let's walk through how to find what incentives are available to you.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
All Texans can claim the federal solar investment tax credit, or ITC, for PV solar panels and energy storage systems. By claiming the ITC on your tax returns, the policy allows you to deduct 26% of the total cost of the solar system from the taxes you owe the federal government.
The tax credit is available to both residential and commercial system owners who have installed solar panels at any point since 2006. The credit is worth 26% through the end of 2022 and will drop to 22% in 2023. It is set to expire at the end of 2023 unless congress extends it.
Net Metering Policies in Texas
Net metering programs allow customers to sell unused solar energy back to their local utility company in exchange for credits that can be cashed in when panels aren't producing energy. Due to the energy bill savings, this incentive can greatly reduce the solar investment payback period.
As is true with most of Texas' solar rebates and incentives, there is not one net metering program that is offered throughout the entire state. Rather, your eligibility will depend on the policy of your local utility company or municipality. Most utilities in the state have a net metering policy, including American Electric Power (AEP), CPS Energy, Green Mountain Energy, El Paso Electric, TXU Energy in Dallas and more.
The rate at which your local utility will compensate for this excess energy will depend on your local policy, so we encourage you to look into the policy offered by your utility company.
Local Solar Rebates in Texas
In addition to identifying your local net metering program, look into any local rebates available to you. Homeowners who live in the top cities for solar in Texas, like Austin, San Marcos or Sunset Valley might have more luck than customers in other areas. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency has a full list of local rebates, solar loan programs and more.
FAQ: Solar Panel Cost Texas
Is it worth going solar in Texas?
Long, sunny days and below-average solar installation costs make Texas one of the best states in the U.S. for generating energy with solar panels. The ample sunshine provides more than enough energy for most families, serving up huge benefits to homes in Texas equipped with solar panels.
How much does it cost to install solar panels in Texas?
As of 2021, the average cost of solar panels in Texas is $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is slightly below the national average due to the resource availability in Texas, current energy costs and the state's available sunlight. The best way to assess how much solar would cost you is to consult local providers near you for a free estimate.
Do solar panels increase home value in Texas?
Solar panels increase home value everywhere, but mostly in areas with generous net metering policies and solar rebates. As such, the proportion at which solar panels increase home value in Texas corresponds with the areas with the most solar-friendly policies.
How much do solar panels cost for a 2,500 sq foot house?
Though knowing the size of a house is helpful in determining how many solar panels could fit on its roof, the energy use of the house is the more important factor in determining solar panel cost in Texas. The higher your energy use, the greater your solar needs will be.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
A large landslide caused by torrential rains during Hurricane Eta buried half a small village's residents, leaving the other half searching for family members and neighbors in Guatemala on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.
Officials deemed Queja, a farming community of a few hundred residents, "uninhabitable," and ended rescue operations, calling for the survivors to abandon the area now mostly covered in tons of rock and mud. 99 people were reported missing, with 44 confirmed deaths.
Mayor Ovidio Choc, representing the San Cristobal Verapaz region, including Queja, said the evacuated village would be declared a cemetery.
The former director of Guatemala's national disaster management agency said the country is ranked among the highest risk countries for natural disasters, based on data by the World Risk Index.
"It is a structural problem that is linked not only the threat or the probability of producing elements like Eta, but rather other factors that make us vulnerable and are directly tied to the development of the country," Alejandro Maldonado said, The Washington Post reported.
The inability to invest in mitigation plans, and deforestation were likely to be circumstances that caused the landslide, noted Maldonado.
The residents of Queja are the latest addition of what is being called the "great climate migration." Climate change is causing sea level rise and extreme weather conditions, such as intense heat, drought, wildfires and enlarged hurricanes and typhoons, which induce mudslides, landslides and flooding, forcing many to flee their homes, never to return.
And climate refugees are predicted to increase in number in the coming years as more natural disasters occur. According to Ecological Threat Register, a September 2020 report by the non-profit think tank Institute for Economics & Peace, one billion people live in areas were there is not enough infrastructure in place to combat ecological changes.
Eta first made landfall just south of Puerto Cabezas, a city on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast on Nov. 3, as a Category 4 hurricane, causing 140 mph winds, massive downpours and destructive flooding to several countries in Central America, including Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras.
Hurricane Eta is expected to hit Florida's Gulf Coast in its fourth landfall on Wednesday, as a Category 1 hurricane, bumped up from a subtropical storm with rains hitting southern Florida on Sunday and Monday. While diminished in intensity from its peak in Central America, landslides and flooding are expected.
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Iota was a Category 1 storm 10 a.m. Sunday, with winds of around 90 miles per hour, The New York Times reported. However, it strengthened rapidly overnight and is now a Category 4 storm with winds up to 155 miles per hour, according to a 7 a.m. EST update from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
"Iota could be a catastrophic category 5 hurricane when it approaches Central America tonight," the NHC warned.
#Hurricane #Iota has rapidly strengthened overnight and now has 155 mph (245 km/h) sustained winds. It could reach… https://t.co/WFgoTuDwGH— National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center)1605527817.0
Iota is expected to make landfall in northeastern Nicaragua or eastern Honduras Monday night. It threatens a storm surge of up to 12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels, as well as "catastrophic wind damage" as it moves onshore. The NHC predicts it will dump eight to 16 inches of rain on Honduras, northern Nicaragua, Guatemala and southern Belize, with some parts of Nicaragua and Honduras seeing up to 20 to 30 inches.
"This rainfall will lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain," the NHC warned.
The situation will likely be made worse by the after-effects of Hurricane Eta, the NHC noted Sunday night.
Hurricane #Iota continues to strengthen. Forecast to become a dangerous category 4 hurricane before it reaches Cen… https://t.co/g2KjzL18DD— National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center)1605494480.0
The fact that the soil has not yet dried out after the earlier storm could make landslides and floods even more likely, The Independent explained.
"Our ground is already saturated, so it's to be expected that we have more farming and infrastructure damage," Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said, as BBC News reported.
Hurricane Eta killed at least 200 people in Central America. One of the worst tragedies occurred in Guatemala, when mudslides in the village of Quejá buried dozens of homes and likely killed around 100 people. Overall, the storm displaced thousands of people after it made landfall as a Category 4 storm Nov. 3, as CNN reported. More than 3.6 million people in the region were impacted by the storm in some way, the Red Cross said.
Now, Central Americans face further evacuations to prepare for Iota. There are around 63,000 hunkering down in 379 shelters in northern Honduras, The Independent reported. In Nicaragua, 1,500 people were evacuated from low-lying areas as of Sunday afternoon, but 83,000 people in the area were actually in danger.
"In a 36-hour period [Eta] went from a depression to a very strong category 4," Climate Adaptation Center CEO Bob Bunting told The Guardian. "That is just not normal. Probably it was the fastest spin up from a depression to a major hurricane in history."
2020 overall has been a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, with 30 named storms, the most ever in a single season. But it is less the number of storms that scientists attribute to climate change than their power and substantial rainfall.
The back-to-back attack of Eta and Iota has put Central America in the crosshairs of climate change, but the storms are not the only way that global warming has impacted the region. Drought in an area known as the dry corridor, which stretches from northern Costa Rica to southern Mexico, has devastated subsistence farmers and been linked to migration away from the region.
"Central America is one of the regions where climate change is felt the most," Guatemala's Giammattei said, as BBC News reported.
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- Hurricane Iota Breaks Records as It Slams Nicaragua ›
- Back-to-Back Hurricanes in Central America Push Migrants North, Adding to Humanitarian Crisis ›
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
NASA and the European Copernicus Climate Change Service rated 2020 as tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record (NASA rates the margin of error at .05 degrees C); the Japan Meteorological Agency rated 2020 as the warmest year on record. Minor differences in rankings often occur among various research groups, the result of different ways they handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.
Global ocean temperatures in 2020 were the third-warmest on record, global land temperatures the warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in 2020 for the lowest eight kilometers of the atmosphere were the second-warmest or warmest in the 42-year record, according to the University of Alabama, Huntsville and Remote Sensing Solutions, respectively.
The Northern Hemisphere had its warmest year on record in 2020 and the Southern Hemisphere its fifth-warmest. By continent, here are the 2020 temperature rankings:
Europe: first warmest
Asia: first warmest
South America: second warmest
Africa: fourth warmest
Australia (and Oceania): fourth warmest
North America: 10th warmest
As detailed in a January 12 post at this site by Bob Henson, 2020 for the U.S. was the fifth-warmest year in history going back to 1895. Ten states had their second-warmest year on record and four had their third-warmest year. None of the contiguous 48 states was below-average in temperature in 2020.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
The remarkable global warmth of 2020 means that the seven warmest years on record since 1880 were the most recent seven years — 2014 through 2020. The near-record global warmth in 2020 is all the more striking since it occurred during the minimum of the weakest solar cycle in more than 100 years and during a year without a strong El Niño. Record-warm global temperatures typically occur during strong El Niño events and when the solar cycle is near its maximum. The warmth of 2020 is a testament to how significantly human-caused global warming is heating the planet.
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Warmest Year on Record for Total Ocean Heat Content
Despite the presence of a prominent La Niña event that began in August, the total heat content of the world's oceans in 2020 was the warmest in recorded human history, according to a January 13, 2021 paper by Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. In the uppermost 2,000 meters of the oceans, there were 211 to 234 zettajoules more heat in 2020 than the 1981-2010 average, and 2020 had 1 to 20 zettajoules more ocean heat content than in 2019 (a zettajoule is one sextillion joules — ten to the 21st power). For comparison, in 2010, humans used a total of 0.5 zettajoules of energy.
More than 90% of the increasing heat from human-caused global warming accumulates in the ocean because of its large heat capacity. The remaining heating manifests as atmospheric warming, a drying and warming landmass, and melting land and sea ice. Increasing ocean heat content causes sea-level rise through thermal expansion of the water and melting of glaciers in contact with the ocean. It also produces stronger and more rapidly intensifying hurricanes; causes more intense precipitation events that can lead to destructive flooding; contributes to "marine heat waves" that damage or destroy coral reefs; and disrupts atmospheric circulation patterns.
A Slew of Heat Records in 2020
International records researcher Maximiliano Herrera keeps the pulse of the planet in remarkable detail, and he logged 11 nations or territories that set or tied their all-time heat records in 2020. That total fell far short of the record of 24 such records in 2019. No nations or territories set or tied an all-time cold record in 2020. Here are the all-time heat records set in 2020:
Colombia: 42.6°C (108.7°F) at Jerusalem, February 19 (tie);
Ghana: 44.0°C (111.2°F) at Navrongo, April 6;
Cuba: 39.2°C (102.6°F) at Palo Seco, April 10; broken again April 11 with 39.3°C (102.7°F) at Veguitas, and again on April 12 with 39.7°C (103.5°F) at Veguitas;
Mayotte, France department: 36.4°C (97.5°F) at Trevani, April 14;
Taiwan: 40.5°C (104.9°F) at Taimali Research Center, July 16;
Lebanon: 45.4°C (113.7°F) at Houche Al Oumara, July 27;
United States: 54.4°C (129.9°F) at Death Valley, California, August 16;
Japan: 41.1°C (106.0°F) at Hamamatsu, August 17;
Dominica: 35.7°C (96.3°F) at Canefield Airport, September 15;
Puerto Rico (U.S. territory): 37.8°C (100.0°F ) at Aguirre, September 17; and
Paraguay: 45.5°C (113.9°F ) at Pozo Hondo, September 26.
Among global weather stations having at least 40 years of record-keeping, Herrera documented 348 that exceeded their all-time heat record in 2020; only eight stations with a long-term period of record set an all-time cold record in 2020. For comparison, 632 stations set their all-time heat record in 2019 and 11 their all-time cold record.
Notable Global Heat and Cold Records for 2020
Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 54.4°C (129.9°F) at Death Valley, U.S., August 16;
Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -66.0°C (-86.8°F) at Summit, Greenland, January 2;
Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 48.9°C (120.0°F) at Penrith Lakes, Australia, January 4;
Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -80.8°C (-113.4°F) at Dome Fuji, Antarctica, August 16;
Highest 2020 average temperature worldwide: 31.5°C (88.7°F) at Yelimane, Mali, and Matam, Senegal; and
Highest 2020 average temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 29.8°C (85.6°F) at Surabaya Airport, Indonesia, and Wyndham, Australia.
Earth's record for hottest yearly average temperature was 32.9°C (91.2°F) at Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in 2010 and 2016.
126 Additional Monthly National/Territorial Heat Records Beaten or Tied
In addition to the 11 all-time national heat records, 126 other national monthly heat records were set in 2020, for a total of 137 national monthly heat records:
– January (13): Norway, South Korea, Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Dominica, Mexico, Indonesia, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Cuba, British Indian Ocean Territory, Singapore;
– February (12): Spain, Antarctica, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, Switzerland, Maldives, Gambia, Russia, Seychelles, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands;
– March (7): Paraguay, Cabo Verde, Mozambique, Seychelles, United States, Thailand, Northern Mariana Islands;
– April (14): Paraguay, Niger, St. Barthelemy, Honduras, Guernsey, Haiti, Congo Brazzaville, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, China, Saba, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic;
– May (10): Niger, Greece, Saba, Cyprus, Solomon Islands, Turkey, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Chile, Uzbekistan;
– June (6): Maldives, Thailand, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saba, Kenya, Ghana;
– July (7): Mozambique, U.S. Virgin Islands, Laos, Myanmar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Northern Mariana Islands;
– August (6): Solomon Islands, Mexico, Australia, Cocos Islands, Paraguay, U.S. Virgin Islands;
– September (18): Laos, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Mexico, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Botswana, St. Barthelemy, Mayotte, Argentina, Brazil, British Indian Ocean Territory;
– October (11): Algeria, Brazil, Tunisia, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Peru, Myanmar, Northern Marianas Islands, Botswana, Maldives;
– November (11): Luxembourg, Finland, Nepal, Mexico, Aland Islands, Sweden, Maldives, Northern Marianas, Taiwan, Swaziland, Sudan; and
– December (11): Mexico, Ghana, Pakistan, Algeria, Qatar, Maldives, Niger, Taiwan, Dominica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands.
One Monthly National/Territorial Cold Record Beaten or Tied in 2020
– April: St. Eustatius.
An October monthly record reported in Aruba was judged to be unreliable.
Hemispherical and Continental Temperature Records in 2020
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere in January: 29.1°C (84.4°F) at Bonriki, Kiribati, January 17;
– Highest maximum temperature ever recorded in North America in January: 42.0°C (107.6°F) at Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, January 21;
– Highest temperature ever recorded in continental Antarctica and highest February temperature ever recorded in Antarctica plus the surrounding islands: 18.4°C (65.1°F) at Base Esperanza, February 6;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February in Antarctica: 7.6°C (45.7°F) at Base Marambio, February 9;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February in the Northern Hemisphere: 32.0°C (89.6°F) at Yelimane, Mali, February 23;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in April in the Southern Hemisphere: 31.1°C (88.0°F) at Argyle, Australia, April 2;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May in Europe: 30.1°C (86.2°F) at Emponas, Greece, May 17;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May in North America: 35.0°C (95.0°F) at Death Valley, California (U.S.), May 28;
– Highest temperature ever recorded in the polar regions: 38.0°C (100.4°F) at Verkhoyansk, Russia, June 20;
– Highest reliable temperature ever recorded on Earth: 54.4°C (129.9°F) at Death Valley, California, August 16;
– Highest reliable minimum temperature ever recorded in August in North America: 40.0°C (104.0°F) at Death Valley, California (U.S.), August 17;
– Highest temperature ever recorded in Australia and Oceana in August: 40.7°C (105.3°F) at Yampi Sound, Australia, August 22; beaten again with 41.2°C (106.2°F) at West Roebuck, Australia, on August 23; and
– Highest temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere in November: 44.8°C (112.6°F) at San Francisco and Tubares, Mexico, November 5.
December 2020: Earth's Eighth-Warmest December on Record
December 2020 was the eighth-warmest December since global record-keeping began in 1880, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information reported January 14. NASA and the European Copernicus Climate Change Service rated the month as the sixth-warmest December on record, and the Japan Meteorological Agency rated it as the tenth-warmest. Again: Minor differences in rankings often occur among various research groups, the result of different ways they handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
A Moderate La Niña Event Continues
La Niña conditions remained in the moderate range during December and early January, prompting NOAA to continue its La Niña advisory in a January 14 monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.
Over the past month, sea surface temperatures in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W) have been approximately 1 degree Celsius below average. The threshold for "strong" La Niña conditions is 1.5 degrees Celsius below average; "moderate" La Niña conditions are 1.0-1.5 degrees below average.
Forecasters at NOAA and at Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society expect La Niña conditions will continue through the winter (95% chance during January-February-March), and potentially transition to "neutral" during the spring (55% chance during April-May-June). About half of all La Niña events continue into a second year, but fewer than 20% of the ENSO models predicted that La Niña conditions would last into the summer of 2021.
Arctic Sea Ice: Third-Lowest December Extent on Record
Arctic sea ice extent during December 2020 was the third-lowest in the 42-year satellite record, behind 2016 and 2017, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Antarctic sea ice extent in December 2020 was near-average.
Notable Global Heat and Cold Marks for December 2020
– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 41.5°C (106.7°F) at Matam, Senegal, December 2;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -57.5°C (-71.5°F) at Oymykon, Russia, December 29;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 48.7°C (119.7°F) at Birdsville, Australia, December 5; and
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -44.9°C (-48.8°F) at Dome A, Antarctica, December 3.
Major Weather Stations' New All-Time Heat or Cold Records in December 2020
Among global stations with a record of at least 40 years, two stations set all-time cold records in December, and no stations set an all-time heat record:
Hamamasu (Japan) min. -21.5°C (-6.7°F), December 31; and
Bibai (Japan) min. -26.5°C (-15.7°F), December 31.
Statistics courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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By John R. Platt
A few months ago a group of scientists warned about the rise of "extinction denial," an effort much like climate denial to mischaracterize the extinction crisis and suggest that human activity isn't really having a damaging effect on ecosystems and the whole planet.
That damaging effect is, in reality, impossible to deny.
This past year scientists and conservation organizations declared that a long list of species may have gone extinct, including dozens of frogs, orchids and fish. Most of these species haven't been seen in decades, despite frequent and regular expeditions to find out if they still exist. The causes of these extinctions range from diseases to invasive species to habitat loss, but most boil down to human behavior.
Of course, proving a negative is always hard, and scientists are often cautious about declaring species truly lost. Do it too soon, they warn, and the last conservation efforts necessary to save a species could evaporate, a problem known as the Romeo and Juliet Effect. Because of that, and because many of these species live in hard-to-survey regions, many of the announcements this past year declared species possibly or probably lost, a sign that hope springs eternal.
And there's reason for that hope: When we devote energy and resources to saving species, it often works. A study published in 2019 found that conservation efforts have reduced bird extinction rates by 40%. Another recent paper found that conservation actions have prevented dozens of bird and mammal extinctions over just the past few decades. The new paper warns that many of the species remain critically endangered, or could still go extinct, but we can at least stop the bleeding.
And sometimes we can do better than that. This year the IUCN — the organization that tracks the extinction risk of species around the world — announced several conservation victories, including the previously critically endangered Oaxaca treefrog (Sarcohyla celata), which is now considered "near threatened" due to protective actions taken by the people who live near it.
"We can turn things around. We don't just have to sit there and cry," says conservation scientist Stuart Pimm, founder of the organization Saving Nature.
But at the same time, we need to recognize what we've lost, or potentially lost. We can mourn them and vow to prevent as many others as possible from joining their ranks.
With that in mind, here are the species that scientists and the conservation community declared lost in 2020, culled from media reports, scientific papers, the IUCN Red List and my own reporting.
32 orchid species in Bangladesh — One of the first papers of 2020 to report any extinctions announced the probable loss of 17% of Bangladesh's 187 known orchid species. Some of these still exist in other countries, but even regional extinctions (or extirpations, as they're called) tell us that we've taken a toll on our ecological habitats. A similar paper published just days later suggested that nine more orchid species from Madagascar may have also gone extinct.
19th-century drawings of orchid species recently declared extinct in Bangladesh.
Smooth handfish (Sympterichthys unipennis) — One of the few extinctions of 2020 that received much media attention, and it's easy to see why. Handfish are an unusual group of species whose front fins look somewhat like human appendages, which they use to walk around the ocean floor. The smooth species, which hasn't been seen since 1802, lived off the coast of Tasmania and was probably common when it was first collected by naturalists. Bottom fishing, pollution, habitat destruction, bycatch and other threats are all listed as among the probable reasons for its extinction. Even though the local fishery collapsed more than 50 years ago, the remaining handfish species are still critically endangered, so this extinction should serve as an important wake-up call to save them.
65 North American plants — This past year researchers set out to determine how many plants in the continental United States had been lost. They catalogued 65, including five small trees, eight shrubs, 37 perennial herbs and 15 annual herbs. Some of these had been reported before, but for most this is the first time they've been declared extinct. The list includes Marshallia grandiflora, a large flowing plant from the American Southeast that was declared its own species this past year. Too bad it was last seen in 1919 (and has been confused with other species for even longer).
The original Marshallia grandiflora holotype. Smithsonian NMNH / Creative Commons
22 frog species — The IUCN this year declared nearly two dozen long-unseen Central and South American frog species as "critically endangered (possibly extinct)" — victims of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus. They include the Aragua robber frog (Pristimantis anotis), which hasn't been observed in 46 years, and the Piñango stubfoot toad (Atelopus pinangoi), which mostly disappeared in the 1980s. A single juvenile toad observed in 2008 leads scientists to say this species "is either possibly extinct or if there is still an extant population, that it is very small (<50 mature individuals)."
Chiriqui harlequin frog (Atelopus chiriquiensis) and splendid poison frog (Oophaga speciosa) — Last seen in 1996 and 1992, these frogs from Costa Rica and Panama fell victim to the chytrid fungus and were declared extinct in December.
15% of mite species — This requires a lot more research, but a paper published this past August announced "evidence of widespread mite extinctions" since the year 2000 following similar disappearances of plants and vertebrates. Mites may not look or sound important, but they play key roles in their native ecosystems. If 15% of the world's 1.25 million mite species have been lost, we're talking more than 8,300 extinctions — a number the researchers predict will continue to rise.
Simeulue Hill mynas — An alarming paper called this an "extinction-in-process" of a previously undescribed bird that probably went extinct in the wild in the past two to three years due to overcollection for the songbird trade. A few may still exist in captivity — for now.
17 freshwater fish from Lake Lanao, Mindanao, the Philippines — A combination of predatory invasive species, overharvesting and destructing fishing methods (such as dynamite fishing) wiped these lost species out. The IUCN this year listed 15 of the species as "extinct" following extensive searches and surveys; the remaining two as "critically endangered (possibly extinct)." The predators, by the way, are still doing just fine. Here are the 15 extinct species:
- Barbodes disa — last seen in 1964.
- Barbodes truncatulus – last seen in 1973.
- Barbodes pachycheilus – last seen in 1964.
- Barbodes palaemophagus – last seen in 1975.
- Barbodes amarus – Last seen in 1982.
- Barbodes manalak – Once a commercially valuable fish, last seen in 1977.
- Barbodes clemensi – last seen in 1975.
- Barbodes flavifuscus – last seen in 1964.
- Barbodes katolo – last seen in 1977.
- Barbodes palata – last seen in 1964.
- Barbodes baoulan — last seen in 1991.
- Barbodes herrei — last seen in 1974, when just 40 pounds' worth of fish were caught.
- Barbodes lanaoensis — last seen in 1964.
- Barbodes resimus — last seen in 1964.
- Barbodes tras — last seen in 1976.
Some of the extinct species from Lake Lanao. Photo © Armi G. Torres courtesy IUCN.
Bonin pipistrelle (Pipistrellus sturdeei) — Scientists only recorded this Japanese bat one time, back in the 19th century. The IUCN listed it as "data deficient" from 2006 to 2020, a period during which its taxonomy was under debate, but a paper published in March settled that issue, and the latest Red List update placed the species in the the extinct category. The Japanese government itself has listed the bat as extinct since 2014.
Pseudoyersinia brevipennis — This praying mantis from France hasn't been seen since 1860. Its declared extinction comes after some extended (and still unresolved) debate over its validity as a unique species.
Agave lurida — Last seen in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2001, this succulent was finally declared extinct in the wild this year after numerous expeditions searching for remaining plants. As the IUCN Red List notes, "There are only a few specimens left in ex-situ collections, which is a concern for the extinction of the species in the near future."
Falso Maguey Grande (Furcraea macdougallii) — Another Oaxacan succulent that's extinct in the wild but still exists in cultivated form (you can buy these cacti online today for as little as $15). Last seen growing naturally in 1973, the plant's main habitat was degraded in 1953 to make way for agave plantations for mezcal production. Wildfires may have also played a role, but the species' limited distribution also made it easier to kill it off: "The restricted range of the species also made it very vulnerable to small local disturbances, and hence the last few individuals were easily destroyed," according to the IUCN.
Eriocaulon inundatum — Last scientifically collected in Senegal in 1943, this pipewort's only know habitat has since been destroyed by salt mining.
Persoonia laxa — This shrub from New South Wales, Australia, was collected just two times — in 1907 and 1908 — in habitats that have since become "highly urbanized." The NSW government still lists it as "presumed extinct," but the IUCN placed it fully in the "extinct" category in 2020.
Nazareno (Monteverdia lineata) — Scientific papers declared this Cuban flowing plant species extinct in 2010 and 2015, although it wasn't catalogued in the IUCN Red List until this year. It grew in a habitat now severely degraded by agriculture and livestock farming.
Wynberg conebush (Leucadendron grandiflorum) — This South African plant hasn't been seen in more than 200 years and was long considered the earliest documented extinction from that country, although it only made it to the IUCN Red List recently. Its sole habitat "was the location of the earliest colonial farms," including vineyards.
Wolseley conebush (Leucadendron spirale) — Another South African plant, this one last seen in 1933 and since extensively sought after, including high rewards for its rediscovery. The IUCN says the cause of its extinction is unknown "but is likely the result of habitat loss to crop cultivation, alien plant invasion and afforestation." Oh yeah, and it probably didn't help that in 1809 a scientist wrote that the species possessed "little beauty" and discouraged it from further collection.
Schizothorax saltans — This fish from Kazakhstan was last seen in 1953, around the time the rivers feeding its lake habitats were drained for irrigation. The IUCN did not assess the species before this past year.
Alphonsea hortensis — Declared "extinct in the wild" this year after no observations since 1969, the last specimens of this Sri Lankan tree species now grow at Peradeniya Royal Botanic Garden.
Lord Howe long-eared bat (Nyctophilus howensis) — This island species is known from a single skull discovered in 1972. Conservationists held out hope that it still existed following several possible sightings, but those hopes have now been dashed.
Deppea splendens — This IUCN declared this beautiful plant species "extinct in the wild" this year. All living specimens exist only because botanist Dennis Breedlove, who discovered the species in 1973, collected seeds before the plant's sole habitat in Mexico was plowed over to make way for farmland. Now known as a "holy grail" for some gardeners, cultivated plants descended from Breedlove's seeds can be purchased online for as little as $16.95.
Pass stubfoot toad (Atelopus senex) — Another Costa Rican chytrid victim, last seen in 1986.
Craugastor myllomyllon — A Guatemalan frog that never had a common name and hasn't been seen since 1978 (although it wasn't declared a species until 2000). Unlike the other frogs on this year's list, this one disappeared before the chytrid fungus arrived; it was likely wiped out when agriculture destroyed its only habitat.
Spined dwarf mantis (Ameles fasciipennis) — This Italian praying mantis was only scientifically collected once, in or around 1871, and never seen again. The IUCN says the genus's taxonomy is "rather confusing and further analysis need to be done to confirm the validity of this species." Here's what we do know, though: There are none to be found today, despite extensive surveys.
Scleria chevalieri — This Senagalese plant, last seen in 1929, once grew in swamps that have since been drained to irrigate local gardens.
Hawai'i yellowwood (Ochrosia kilaueaensis) — This tree hasn't been seen since 1927. Its rainforest habitat has been severely degraded by invasive plants and goats, as well as fires. It's currently listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but the IUCN declared it extinct this past year.
Roystonea stellate — Scientists only collected this Cuban palm tree a single time, back in 1939. Several searches have failed to uncover evidence of its continued existence, probably due to conversion of its only habitats to coffee plantations.
Jalpa false brook salamander (Pseudoeurycea exspectata) — Small farms, cattle grazing and logging appear to have wiped out this once-common Guatemalan amphibian, last seen in 1976. At least 16 surveys since 1985 did not find any evidence of the species' continued existence.
Faramea chiapensis — Only collected once in 1953, this Mexican plant lost its cloud-forest habitat to colonialism and deforestation.
Euchorium cubense — Last seen in 1924, this Cuban flowing plant — the only member of its genus — has long been assumed lost. The IUCN characterized it as extinct in 2020 along with Banara wilsonii, another Cuban plant last seen in 1938 before its habitat was cleared for a sugarcane plantation.
Aloe silicicola — Last seen in 1920, this plant from the mountains of Madagascar enters the IUCN Red List as "extinct in the wild" due to a vague reference that it still exists in a botanical garden. Its previous habitat has been the site of frequent fires.
Chitala lopis — A large fish from the island of Java, this species hasn't been seen since 1851 (although many online sources use this taxonomic name for other "featherback" fish species that still exist). It was probably wiped out by a wide range of habitat-degrading factors, including pollution, unsustainable fishing and near-complete deforestation around nearby rivers.
Eriocaulon jordanii — This grass species formerly occurred in two known sites in coastal Sierra Leone, where its previous habitats were converted to rice fields in the 1950s.
Amomum sumatranum — A relative of cardamom, this plant from Sumatra was only scientifically collected once, back in 1921, and the forest where that sample originated has now been completely developed. The IUCN says one remaining cultivated population exists, so they've declared it "extinct in the wild."
Lost shark (Carcharhinus obsoletus) — This species makes its second annual appearance on this list. Scientists described this species in 2019 after examining decades-old specimens, noting that it hadn't been observed since the 1930s. This year the IUCN added the species to the Red List and declared it "critically endangered (possibly extinct)."
"Lost shark." Photo: PLOS One
Cora timucua — This lichen from Florida was just identified from historical collections through DNA barcoding. Unfortunately no new samples have been collected since the turn of the 19th century. The scientists who named the species this past December call it "potentially extinct" but suggest it be listed as critically endangered in case it still hangs on in remote parts of the highly developed state. They caution, however, that it hasn't turned up in any recent surveys.
Dama gazelle (Nanger dama) in Tunisia — This critically endangered species still hangs on in a few other countries, and in captivity, but the death of the last individual in Tunisia marked one more country in which the gazelle has now been extirpated and serves as a stark reminder to keep the rest from fading away.
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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New Zealand’s Ardern Pledges 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 if Her Labour Party Wins Next Month’s Election
"The COVID-19 economic recovery represents a once in a generation opportunity to reshape New Zealand's energy system to be more renewable, faster, affordable and secure," she said.
#BREAKING: We’ve just released our clean energy policy, which outlines that if re-elected we will bring forward our… https://t.co/xgc78zxlHb— New Zealand Labour (@New Zealand Labour)1599700686.0
Ardern's pledge ups her Labour Party's previous goal of phasing out non-renewable energy by 2035. New Zealand currently produces 84 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, according to the government. However, these only account for 40 percent of the energy actually used in the country, since it still imports coal and oil from outside.
The promise is part of Labour's broader clean energy policy, unveiled Thursday. The plan also includes electrifying transportation and industry, investing in new technologies like green hydrogen, working to make energy more affordable and spending an additional $70 million on a pumped hydro storage solution for dry years.
...and accelerating the electrification of transport and industrial sectors to position New Zealand as a world lead… https://t.co/zeEpDqeYyw— New Zealand Labour (@New Zealand Labour)1599700717.0
"We are setting ourselves the new goal of 2030, five years earlier than our previous goal, for us to become one of the few nations in the world with 100 percent renewable electricity," Labour energy spokesperson Megan Woods said in the announcement.
As of 2018, Iceland and Paraguay received 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources, while Costa Rica got 99 percent, Think Progress reported. At the time, New Zealand's South Island was also entirely powered by renewable energy.
Ardern has emerged as a climate leader since taking office in 2017. She vowed to focus on addressing the climate crisis during her first campaign, and announced a plan to plant 100 million trees a year upon taking power. During her tenure, she oversaw the passage of New Zealand's Zero Carbon Bill, which set the country a 2050 deadline for carbon neutrality and committed it to the goals of the Paris agreement.
However, New Zealand's Green Party said that Labour's clean energy plan did not go far enough. While the Green Party plan also set a 2030 deadline for 100 percent renewable energy, it included further measures such as making it cheaper for people to switch to solar and ending permits for fossil fuel extraction.
Read our bold energy plan here: https://t.co/eCJXAbl4FZ #nzpol— Green Party NZ (@Green Party NZ)1599703323.0
The National Party, Labour's current opposition, said the party's energy plan would lose jobs and raise electricity costs by as much as 40 percent.
"This is a policy that will cost thousands of jobs and put even more people on to the unemployment benefit," National Party leader Judith Collins told RNZ. However, the party still said it wanted more renewable energy.
Ardern, meanwhile, touted the new renewable energy goal as a job creator.
"Investment in renewable energy is also jobs rich. Our plan will creating new jobs and develop the high skill workforce our future economy needs to thrive," she said in the plan announcement. "Labour's Clean Energy Plan is a critical element of Labour's wider COVID-19 recovery plan that will both prepare New Zealand for the future while boosting jobs and the economy now."
The election, which was delayed because of the coronavirus, is slated to take place Oct. 17, according to The Guardian. Labour is currently favored to win, and may even gain enough seats that it can govern on its own without having to form a coalition. During Ardern's current tenure, Labour governed with New Zealand First, with the Green Party offering support through a Confidence and Supply Agreement.
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Ecuador authorities are keeping tabs on a fleet of roughly 260 fishing boats near the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ecuadorian boats are patrolling to try to stop the fishing boats from entering the area, according to Reuters.
The ships are just outside the perimeter of the 188-mile-wide economic zone. "This fleet's size and aggressiveness against marine species is a big threat to the balance of species in the Galápagos," Yolanda Kakabadse, former environment minister told The Guardian.
Chinese vessels travel to the region each year in search of marine species, including endangered hammerhead sharks.
"Unchecked Chinese fishing just on the edge of the protected zone is ruining Ecuador's efforts to protect marine life in the Galápagos," Roque Sevilla told The Guardian.
Sevilla, former mayor of Ecuador's capital, Quito, was tasked with designing a "protection strategy" for the islands, which lie 563 miles west of the South American mainland. He said the first step would be diplomatic efforts requesting the withdrawal of the Chinese fishing fleet.
Past Chinese fleets have violated international boundaries to capture marine life. In 2017, a Chinese vessel was caught in the marine reserve with 300 metric tons of wildlife, mostly consisting of sharks, according to the BBC.
"We are on alert, [conducting] surveillance, patrolling to avoid an incident such as what happened in 2017," Ecuadorean Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin told reporters, the BBC reported.
So far, the Chinese fishing boats have stayed in international waters, Reuters reported.
In a series of tweets, Ecuador's president, Lenin Moreno, used #SOSGalapagos to draw attention to the boats surrounding the protected islands. He described the islands as "one of the richest fishing areas and a hotbed of life for the entire planet," SkyNews reported.
BBC reported that Moreno plans to hold consultations with Colombia, Peru, Chile, Panama and Costa Rica in order to confront the threat.
Kakabadse told The Guardian that Ecuador will also try extending the economic zone to a 350-mile circumference around the islands in order to connect with the mainland's economic zone, effectively closing off the international water corridor where the Chinese fleet is currently located.
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By Gianna-Carina Grün
While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.
What's the Current Global Trend?
The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue part of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section reported zero new cases both this week (past seven days) and the week before.
Currently, that is the case for 14 out of 209 countries and territories.
How Has the Covid-19 Trend Evolved Over the Past Weeks?
The situation has improved slightly: 87 countries report more cases this week than last week.
What Is the Current Covid-19 Trend in My Country?
Based on the newly reported case numbers – which can reflect local outbreaks as well as country-wide spread – in the past 14 days, countries and territories classify as follows:
More than twice as many new cases this week as last week:
- Asia: Cyprus, Philippines, Vietnam
- Africa: Benin, Djibouti, Gambia
- Americas: Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Turks and Caicos islands, US Virgin Islands
- Europe: Estonia, Finland, Greece, Jersey, Malta, Norway
- Oceania: Guam, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea
More new cases this week than last week:
- Asia: India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Singapore, Syria, Timor Leste, Turkey, Uzbekistan
- Africa: Angola, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Seychelles, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, Zimbabwe
- Americas: Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba, British Virgin Islands, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela
- Europe: Albania, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom
- Oceania: Australia
About the same number of new cases in both weeks (no change or plus/minus seven cases):
- Asia: Bhutan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand
- Africa: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Mali, Uganda
- Americas: Bermuda, Curacao, Nicaragua, Sint Maarten (Dutch part)
- Europe: Gibraltar, Monaco
- Oceania: Northern Mariana Islands
Fewer new cases this week than last week:
- Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Georgia, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
- Africa: Algeria, Botswana, Cameroon, Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Zambia
- Americas: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, United States of America, Uruguay
- Europe: Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Faroe Islands, Hungary, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia
Less than half as many new cases as last week:
- Asia: Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Oman, Sri Lanka
- Africa: Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Cote dIvoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Mauritania, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia
- Americas: Antigua and Barbuda, Greenland, Grenada, Saint Lucia
- Europe: Liechtenstein
Zero new cases this week as well as last week:
- Asia: Brunei Darussalam
- Africa: Tanzania, Western Sahara
- Americas: Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Europe: Guernsey, Holy See, Isle of Man
- Oceania: Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia
These charts and this article are updated every Friday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (UTC/GMT).
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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Costa Rica aims to have net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and if it's energy production in 2019 is a sign of things to come, then it is well on its way to that goal. The small Central American nation produced the most electricity in its history during the month of May and nearly 100 percent of it was from renewable sources, according to Think Geoenergy.
The 984.19 GWh of electricity generation in May surpassed all historical counts and it meant that Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), the state-owned power and telecoms provider, stopped buying energy from the Regional Electricity Market and instead started selling electricity back to other Central American nations in the marketplace, as Think Geoenergy reported.
The May numbers are a crucial milestone since nearly 75 percent of the nation's renewable energy comes from hydropower produced in rivers and Costa Rica was in the midst of a historic drought before the rainy season started in May.
"This achievement is the result of the planning and optimization of resources of the national matrix, which protects its regulatory reservoirs in dry periods – like the one just faced – while increasing the geothermal quota," said ICE in a statement, according to Think Geoenergy.
The dry spell was the first big test of an ambitious push for clean energy, said Javier Orozco, planning director at ICE, as Reuters reported. A renewable electricity supply is one of the "most important advances" toward liberating the economy from dependence on fossil fuels, according to a national decarbonization plan launched in February.
"After these critical months, we don't think we'll need more thermal production (using fossil fuels)," said Orozco to Reuters.
Orozco added that even though rivers were exceptionally low and hydropower generation was stressed, a strong push in wind energy allowed Costa Rica to generate 97 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, during the dry summer months of January to April.
The dependence on hydropower means that the dry months can be particularly costly for ICE since it must maintain twice the hydropower capacity than it regularly uses, according to Jose Daniel Lara, a researcher at the University of California Berkeley, as Reuters reported. Those costs may increase as extreme weather associated with the global climate crisis increases the frequency, severity, and duration of droughts.
To address that concern and ICE's mounting debts, Costa Rica is looking to diversify its renewables. Wind power has grown to 15 percent, up from 4 percent in 2011. Geothermal power accounted for nearly 13 percent of energy generation in May.
Last month, Costa Rica opened a brand new geothermal plant, the country's seventh, with a projected annual generation of 410 gigawatt hours. The country's drive to harness the power contained in volcanic steam will mitigate its dependence on hydropower. Costa Rica is now the third-largest producer of geothermal power in the Americas, according to the Costa Rica based Tico Times.
"Anyone who has doubt of what Costa Rica is capable of should come to Pailas II in Guanacaste and see what we are capable of accomplishing," said President Carlos Alvarado, as the Tico Times reported. He added that Costa Ricans should be proud of their sustainability efforts.
The nation's push to sustainability as part of its decarbonization plan will also include a push toward cleaner public transport, improving waste management and expanding the country's forests, according to Reuters.
The cocaine trade and efforts to combat it, including the U.S.-led war on drugs, are helping to drive deforestation in Central America, new research shows.
The findings, released Tuesday at UN events sponsored by the government of Costa Rica, show that traffickers are being pushed into more remote forested areas to avoid law enforcement, causing $214.6 million in "natural and cultural resource loss" each year.
Cocaine is driving deforestation, climate change, and migration https://t.co/UCpgx1GOWu https://t.co/l0o74HrxxQ— The Verge (@The Verge)1570570782.0
Traffickers also launder money through industries like ranching and farming, which are additional drivers of deforestation. Researchers say that government funds that currently promote a "military-based" approach to fighting drug trafficking should be put towards strengthening Indigenous and community land rights to protect local forests and conservation efforts.
For a deeper dive:
By Tara Lohan
The Sargasso Sea, an area of the Atlantic Ocean between the Caribbean and Bermuda, has bedeviled sailors for centuries. Its namesake — sargassum, a type of free-floating seaweed — and notoriously calm winds have "trapped" countless mariners, including the crew of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria.
For the past 500 years, most of the stories that have come from the Sargasso have been about stranded ships and sunken vessels. But in recent years scientists have rewritten the sea's narrative. It's not a life-stealing sea, but a life-giving one. The seaweed alone helps support 100 species of invertebrates, 280 species of fish and 23 species of birds.
That's one of the reasons why a team of scientists from 13 universities and institutions included the Sargasso Sea as one of 10 biodiversity hotspots in the high seas — areas of the ocean outside of national boundaries — that their research indicates should be considered for designation as marine protected areas.
Their recommendations, published earlier this year in the journal Marine Policy, took more than a little bit of work to develop.
Results from the global data-driven conservation planning analysis showing priority areas to be considered for protection (green) in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. Visalli et al
Quantifying the Great Unknown
The high seas make up two-thirds of the ocean, much of which is remote. Scientists are still learning about the diversity and complexity of life there.
"We're discovering new species in the high seas all the time," said Morgan Visalli, lead author of Marine Policy study and a project scientist with U.C. Santa Barbara's Benioff Ocean Initiative.
But at the same time, her colleague and study coauthor Douglas McCauley, director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative, said there's also a lot we do know that can help guide conservation.
They began their study by reaching out to networks of colleagues across the world to help gather data.
"I was really impressed by how much we actually know — how much data we have for what is out there, biologically speaking," he said. "And also what people are doing in that space. We can't fall back on the excuse of not knowing enough."
The researchers ended up analyzing 22 billion data points — a huge data-processing challenge — to identify areas of the high seas that could warrant protection.
That included looking at indicators such as seafloor habitat, ocean productivity, diversity and richness of species, and extinction risks. They also identified certain physical features — like seamounts and hydrothermal vents — where changes in elevation and temperature help foster biodiversity.
Their results identified priority regions in nearly all the major ocean basins, with the largest areas in the South Pacific Ocean. Key areas also included the Sargasso Sea, as well as the Costa Rica thermal dome in the Pacific Ocean; the South Tasman Sea; the Emperor Seamount Chain northwest of the Hawaiian Islands; the Mascarene Plateau in the Indian Ocean; and the Walvis Ridge, an undersea mountain range off southwestern Africa.
UCSB analysis; Marineregions.org; Natural Earth. © 2020 The Pew Charitable Trusts
Their model avoided areas of high fishing activity in order to avoid what the study calls "real or perceived negative socioeconomic impacts" of setting aside conservation areas. It also took into consideration how climate change could alter biodiversity by selecting areas critical today and ones likely to be important in the future as well.
The Need for Protection
The research comes at a critical time for the future of the ocean — and the high seas, specifically.
A new United Nations treaty to protect and conserve biodiversity in the high seas is currently being negotiated, and a focus of those talks is how to create a framework for establishing marine protected areas outside of national waters. This could help ensure that unique ecosystems like the Sargasso Sea and others identified in the Marine Policy study aren't overexploited.
The current law that governs the high seas, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was finalized in 1982. But since then, our collective impact is starting to reveal gaps in governance.
Marine shipping traffic is up 1,600 percent and plastic pollution has increased 100-fold. At least one-third of fish stocks are being overharvested, and many migratory fish species, such as tuna, have declined more than 60 percent. Technological advances have led to more prospecting in the ocean's depths for minerals and other genetic resources, as well as more destructive practices, like trawling along the ocean floor. Climate change, which is warming waters and increasing acidification, poses even more risks to ocean life.
Coral bleaching in the Gulf of Thailand. Petchrung Sukpong / CC BY-SA 2.0
This has all taken a toll.
A landmark report last year from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found massive declines in biodiversity globally — including in the ocean, with one-third of all reef-forming corals and marine mammals threatened with extinction.
A recent study in the journal Nature, published just a few days after the Marine Policy study, suggests that we've come to a critical crossroads.
"We are at a point at which we can choose between a legacy of a resilient and vibrant ocean or an irreversibly disrupted ocean, for the generations to follow," wrote the researchers, led by Carlos Duarte, a professor of marine science at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
They posited that with enough resources and global will, we can see a "substantial recovery of the abundance, structure and function of marine life" by 2050. But to do that, we need to scale up efforts to protect vulnerable species and habitats, reduce pollution and — most critically — curb climate change.
That's why Visalli and McCauley believe efforts like the emerging high seas treaty are important.
So far fully implemented marine protected areas span just 5 percent of the ocean. And the vast majority of these reserves are in national waters, which are only one-third of the ocean. But a high seas treaty would help create a framework to more easily set aside conservation-rich areas in a much greater expanse.
"Even though there is industry out there and it has been increasing over the past several decades," said Visalli, "there is still a lot of wilderness in the high seas, and we are at this moment where we have an opportunity to protect these wild places before industry continues to expand even further."
To truly protect and restore ocean health, scientists have been calling for a bare minimum of 30 percent of the ocean to be protected. More protected areas in the high seas are important for meeting that goal. But just as crucial as how much space, is also where that space is.
The Need for Protected Spaces
The major driver for changing and threatening biodiversity in the long term is climate change, said McCauley, which makes protecting these spaces vital in the short term.
"We are already seeing the first manifestation of these threats and we need to think about climate change and always manage the oceans — from fishing regulations to ocean parks — with that in mind," he said. "Climate change is changing where biodiversity will be in the high seas, and we can use data to plan for that."
Duarte and authors of the Nature study wrote that "Climate change is the critical backdrop against which all future rebuilding efforts will play out." But well-managed marine protected areas, they said, can help ecosystems be better equipped to handle threats from climate change, like warming temperatures and changing ocean chemistry.
Getting there won't be cheap. A global network of marine protected areas that conserves 20–30 percent of the ocean could cost $5–19 billion a year, the researchers write in Nature.
But supporting local economies, feeding communities, and fostering biodiversity don't have to be mutually exclusive. The money spent on conservation will be more than returned in economic gains from the new jobs, revenue from ecotourism, restored fisheries, and protections for coastal areas, their research found.
But establishing the policy and international agreements, like the high seas treaty, to set plans in motion will require a lot of compromise, said McCauley.
"We need that space to have an ocean economy and we need that space to have biodiversity," he said. "Can we find a sweet spot?"
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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