Google's New Timelapse Shows 37 Years of Climate Change Anywhere on Earth, Including Your Neighborhood
Google Earth's latest feature allows you to watch the climate change in four dimensions.
The new feature, called Timelapse, is the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017. It is also, as far as its developers know, the largest video taken of Earth on Earth. The feature compiles 24 million satellite photos taken between 1984 and 2020 to show how human activity has transformed the planet over the past 37 years.
"Visual evidence can cut to the core of the debate in a way that words cannot and communicate complex issues to everyone," Google Earth Director Rebecca Moore wrote in a blog post Thursday.
Moore herself has been directly impacted by the climate crisis. She was one of many Californians evacuated because of wildfires last year. However, the new feature allows people to witness more remote changes, such as the melting of ice caps.
"With Timelapse in Google Earth, we have a clearer picture of our changing planet right at our fingertips — one that shows not just problems but also solutions, as well as mesmerizingly beautiful natural phenomena that unfold over decades," she wrote.
Some climate impacts that viewers can witness include the melting of 12 miles of Alaska's Columbia Glacier between 1984 and 2020, Fortune reported. They can also watch the disintegration of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. The changes are not limited to the impacts of global warming, however.
Moore said the developers had identified five themes, and Google Earth offers a guided tour for each of them. They are:
- Forest change, such as deforestation in Bolivia for soybean farming
- Urban growth, such as the quintupling of Las Vegas sprawl
- Warming temperatures, such as melting glaciers and ice sheets
- Sources of energy, such as the impacts of coal mining on Wyoming's landscape
- Fragile beauty, such as the flow of Bolivia's Mamoré River
However, the feature also allows you to see smaller-scale change. You can enter any location into the search bar, including your local neighborhood, CNN explained. The feature does not offer the detail of Street View, Gizmodo noted. It is intended to show large changes over time, rather than smaller details like the construction of a road or home.
The images for Timelapse were made possible through collaboration with NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellites and the European Union's Copernicus program and Sentinel satellites. Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab helped develop the technology.
To use Timelapse, you can either visit g.co/Timelapse directly or click on the Ship's Wheel icon in Google Earth, then select Timelapse. Moore said the feature would be updated annually with new images of Earth's alterations.
"We hope that this perspective of the planet will ground debates, encourage discovery and shift perspectives about some of our most pressing global issues," she wrote.
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By Michel Penke
More than every second person in the world now has a cellphone, and manufacturers are rolling out bigger, better, slicker models all the time. Many, however, have a bloody history.
Though made in large part of plastic, glass, ceramics, gold and copper, they also contain critical resources. The gallium used for LEDs and the camera flash, the tantalum in capacitors and indium that powers the display were all pulled from the ground — at a price for nature and people.
"Mining raw materials is always problematic, both with regard to human rights and ecology," said Melanie Müller, raw materials expert of the German think tank SWP. "Their production process is pretty toxic."
The gallium and indium in many phones comes from China or South Korea, the tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo or Rwanda. All in, such materials comprise less than ten grams of a phone's weight. But these grams finance an international mining industry that causes radioactive earth dumps, poisoned groundwater and Indigenous population displacement.
Environmental Damage: 'Nature Has Been Overexploited'
The problem is that modern technologies don't work without what are known as critical raw materials. Collectively, solar panels, drones, 3D printers and smartphone contain as many as 30 of these different elements sourced from around the globe. A prime example is lithium from Chile, which is essential in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.
"No one, not even within the industry, would deny that mining lithium causes enormous environmental damage," Müller explained, in reference to the artificial lakes companies create when flushing the metal out of underground brine reservoirs. "The process uses vast amounts of water, so you end up with these huge flooded areas where the lithium settles."
This means of extraction results in the destruction and contamination of the natural water system. Unique plants and animals lose access to groundwater and watering holes. There have also been reports of freshwater becoming salinated due to extensive acidic waste water during lithium mining.
But lithium is not the only raw material that causes damage. Securing just one ton of rare earth elements produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste, and has devastated large regions of China, said Günther Hilpert, head of the Asia Research Division of the German think tank SWP.
He says companies there have adopted a process of spraying acid over the mining areas in order to separate the rare earths from other ores, and that mined areas are often abandoned after excavation.
"They are no longer viable for agricultural use," Hilpert said. "Nature has been overexploited."
China is not the only country with low environmental mining standards and poor resource governance. In Madagascar, for example, a thriving illegal gem and metal mining sector has been linked to rainforest depletion and destruction of natural lemur habitats.
States like Madagascar, Rwanda and the DRC score poorly on the Environmental Performance Index that ranks 180 countries for their effort on factors including conservation, air quality, waste management and emissions. Environmentalists are therefore particularly concerned that these countries are mining highly toxic materials like beryllium, tantalum and cobalt.
But it is not only nature that suffers from the extraction of high-demand critical raw materials.
"It is a dirty, toxic, partly radioactive industry," Hilpert said. "China, for example, has never really cared about human rights when it comes to achieving production targets."
Dirty, Toxic, Radioactive: Working in the Mining Sector
One of the most extreme examples is Baotou, a Chinese city in Inner Mongolia, where rare earth mining poisoned surrounding farms and nearby villages, causing thousands of people to leave the area.
In 2012, The Guardian described a toxic lake created in conjunction with rare earth mining as "a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond nearby factories discharge water loaded with chemicals used to process the 17 most sought after minerals in the world."
Local residents reported health issues including aching legs, diabetes, osteoporosis and chest problems, The Guardian wrote.
South Africa has also been held up for turning a blind eye to the health impacts of mining.
"The platinum sector in South Africa has been criticized for performing very poorly on human rights — even within the raw materials sector," Müller said.
In 2012, security forces killed 34 miners who had been protesting poor working conditions and low wages at a mine owned by the British company Lonmin. What became known as the "Marikana massacre" triggered several spontaneous strikes across the country's mining sector.
Müller says miners can still face exposure to acid drainage — a frequent byproduct of platinum mining — that can cause chemical burns and severe lung damage. Though this can be prevented by a careful waste system.
Some progress was made in 2016 when the South African government announced plans to make mining companies pay $800 million (€679 million) for recycling acid mine water. But they didn't all comply. In 2020, activists sued Australian-owned mining company Mintails and the government to cover the cost of environmental cleanup.
Another massive issue around mining is water consumption. Since the extraction of critical raw materials is very water intensive, drought prone countries such as South Africa, have witnessed an increase in conflicts over supply.
For years, industry, government and the South African public debated – without a clear agreement – whether companies should get privileged access to water and how much the population may suffer from shortages.
Mining in Brazil: Replacing Nature, People, Land Rights
Beyond the direct health and environmental impact of mining toxic substances, quarrying critical raw materials destroys livelihoods, as developments in Brazil demonstrate.
"Brazil is the major worldwide niobium producer and reserves in [the state of] Minas Gerais would last more than 200 years [at the current rate of demand]," said Juliana Siqueira-Gay, environmental engineer and Ph.D. student at the University of São Paulo.
While the overall number of niobium mining requests is stagnating, the share of claims for Indigenous land has skyrocketed from 3 to 36 percent within one year. If granted, 23 percent of the Amazon forest and the homeland of 222 Indigenous groups could fall victim to deforestation in the name of mining, a study by Siqueira-Gay finds.
In early 2020, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a bill which would allow corporations to develop areas populated by Indigenous communities in the future. The law has not yet entered into force, but "this policy could have long-lasting negative effects on Brazil's socio-biodiversity," said Siqueira-Gay.
One example are the niobium reserves in Seis Lagos, in Brazil's northeast, which could be quarried to build electrolytic capacitors for smartphones.
"They overlap the Balaio Indigenous land and it would cause major impacts in Indigenous communities by clearing forests responsible for providing food, raw materials and regulating the local climate," Siqueira-Gay explained.
She says scientific good practice guidelines offer a blueprint for sustainable mining that adheres to human rights and protects forests. Quarries in South America — and especially Brazil — funded by multilaterial banks like the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group have to follow these guidelines, Siqueira-Gay said.
They force companies to develop sustainable water supply, minimize acid exposure and re-vegetate mined surfaces. "First, negative impacts must be avoided, then minimized and at last compensated — not the other way around."
Reposted with permission from DW.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
A new study published Wednesday found that the destruction of primary forest increased by 12% in 2020, impacting ecosystems that store vast amounts of carbon and shelter abundant biodiversity.
Brazil saw the worst losses, three times higher than the next highest country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the report from Global Forest Watch (GFW) citing satellite data.
The driving factor of deforestation has been a combination of a demand for commodities, increased agriculture, and climate change.
2020 was meant to be a "landmark year" in the fight against deforestation in which companies, countries and international organizations had pledged to halve or completely stop forest loss, said the report.
What Were the Main Takeaways?
The report, which included data from the University of Maryland, study cited in the report registered the destruction of 10.4 million acres (4.2 million hectares) of primary forest.
The loss of tree cover ー which refers to plantations as well as natural forest ー was a total of 30 million acres. Australia saw a ninefold increase in tree cover loss from late 2019 to early 2020 compared to 2018 primarily driven by extreme weather.
Heat and drought also stoked huge fires in Siberia and deep into the Amazon, researchers said.
The findings did, however, show signs of hope, particularly in southeast Asia. Indonesia and Malaysia saw downward trends for deforestation after implementing regulations such as a temporary palm oil license ban — although that is set to expire in 2021.
Researchers Voice Concern
These losses constitute a "climate emergency. They're a biodiversity crisis, a humanitarian disaster, and a loss of economic opportunity," said Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute, which is behind the
The destruction of tropical forests released vast amounts of CO2 in 2020, a total of 2.6 million tons. That equals the annual amount of emissions from India's 570 million cars, researchers said.
COVID's Impact on Deforestation
The study suggested that COVID-19 restrictions may have had an effect when it came to illegal harvesting because forests were less protected or the return of large numbers of people to rural areas.
Researchers, however, said that little had changed when it comes to the trajectory of forest destruction. They warned the worst could still be to come if countries slash protections in an attempt to ramp up economic growth, hampered by the pandemic.
If deforestation goes unchecked it could lead to a negative feedback loop ー where trees lost leads to more carbon in the air, which in turn leads to increased climate change impacts leading to more trees being lost, researchers said.
The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic could offer and opportunity to reimagine policies and economies in a way that protects forest before it is too late, the report suggests.
Seymour said the most "ominous signal" from the 2020 data is the instances of forests themselves falling victim to climate change.
"The longer we wait to stop forestation, and get other sectors on to net zero trajectories, the more likely it is that our natural carbon sinks will go up in smoke," she said.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
An Indonesian forestry company with possible links to pulpwood and palm oil powerhouse Royal Golden Eagle has cleared forests the size of 500,000 basketball courts since 2016, some of them home to critically endangered orangutans, according to a new report.
Nusantara Fiber controls 242,000 hectares (598,000 acres) of industrial tree plantations via six subsidiary companies in the Bornean provinces of West, Central and East Kalimantan. Industrial trees include acacia and eucalyptus, which are used in the production of paper and textile fibers; timber trees; and trees grown for biomass energy generation.
The Nusantara Fiber group obtained most of its permits from 2009-2011 and started clearing forest areas to develop its plantations in 2016, according to a spatial analysis by the research consultancy Aidenvironment. The analysis used satellite imagery, forest cover maps from Indonesia's Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and Global Forest Watch maps of tree cover loss.
The analysis shows that from 2016 to 2020, the group cleared 26,000 hectares (64,200 acres) of forests, making it the top deforester among all company groups with industrial tree concessions in Indonesia during this period.
Most recently, the group cleared 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) of forests in 2020. It contends these areas were designated as degraded land, and that its clearing activity was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which Aidenvironment acknowledged in its report. "Indeed, the Indonesian government has not banned all forest-clearing," it said.
But the forests that were lost were still valuable, according to the NGO. It cited a concession managed by PT Industrial Forest Plantation (IFP), one of Nusantara Fiber's six subsidiaries, in Kapuas district, Central Kalimantan province. Based on a 2016 assessment of orangutan habitat in Indonesia, the forests inside IFP's concession overlapped almost fully with a known habitat of the southwestern subspecies of the Bornean orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii, a critically endangered animal.
A 2014 assessment commissioned by IFP had also identified the presence of orangutans inside the concession boundaries, as well as other protected fauna and flora, including 29 bird species, 22 mammal species, six types of reptiles, and 15 tree and plant species.
Despite these assessments, IFP went on to deforest 10,700 hectares (26,400 acres) between 2016 and the end of October 2020. Most of the deforestation took place in 2019 and 2020, with 3,200 hectares (7,900 acres) and 5,800 hectares (14,300 acres) of forests cleared respectively.
"Bornean orangutans are Critically Endangered, so any disturbance of their habitat is massively concerning," Aidenvironment Asia program director Chris Wiggs told Mongabay.
Aidenvironment said IFP's case shows how the cleared areas were still valuable, even though they might have been classified as secondary or degraded forests. As of now, there are approximately 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) of forests remaining in Nusantara Fiber's concessions. They are at risk of disappearing too, as the concession holders are licensed to clear them.
"If it's cleared it could have a devastating impact on orangutans and wider biodiversity in this area." Wiggs said. "Nusantara Fiber must urgently halt forest clearance on its concessions."
Aidenvironment also called on Nusantara Fiber to publish assessments of high conservation value (HCV) and high carbon stock (HCS) areas inside the concessions. Audits of some of Nusantara Fiber's subsidiaries make references to HCV assessments that appear to have been conducted, yet none of these assessments are publicly available. There's also no information on any HCS assessments that may have been carried out.
Who's Behind Nusantara Fiber?
Despite being the top industrial tree plantation deforester, the Nusantara Fiber group is shrouded in secrecy, with its owners' identities concealed thanks to the offshore secrecy jurisdiction of Samoa. That's where Nusantara Fiber's parent company, Green Meadows Holdings Limited, is registered.
While registering in an offshore jurisdiction is not in itself illegal, it's often done to shield the beneficial owners of a company from liabilities, obligations and accountability in the territory where it operates.
"Establishing connections between companies is always difficult, and it's made harder when companies use secrecy jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands," Wiggs said.
In the case of Nusantara Fiber, Aidenvironment has unearthed historical records and incorporation documents that potentially link the group to palm oil and pulp and paper conglomerate Royal Golden Eagle (RGE). A subsidiary of Green Meadows Holdings Limited is Hong Kong-based Green Meadows Fiber Products Limited. This company is also the majority owner of Nusantara Fiber's plantation subsidiaries.
Two of the three first directors of Green Meadows Fiber Products Limited previously worked at RGE, Aidenvironment found. "Another couple of the first directors are or were involved in various palm oil businesses totalling 27 palm oil mills and/or kernel crushers, and RGE is a customer of all 27 companies," the report says. "Historical ownership records of Nusantara Fiber group's companies reveal past control by entities that are part of or connected to RGE, before the companies were moved to secrecy jurisdictions."
These records, Wiggs said, "clearly connect the group to Royal Golden Eagle," and should be reason enough for RGE to step up and put an end to the deforestation conducted by Nusantara Fiber's industrial tree plantations.
"The RGE group of companies should engage with the Nusantara Fiber group, and use its leverage to immediately stop the present and any future deforestation," Aidenvironment said. "The leverage should decisively include the palm oil businesses RGE undertakes with past or present directors of the Nusantara Fiber group."
A chart of Royal Golden Eagle trade volume and deforestation within Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
RGE is the fourth-biggest palm oil refiner in Indonesia, which in turn is the world's top producer of palm oil. Like its major competitors, RGE has a policy of no deforestation, no developing on peatland, and no exploiting workers and local communities, known as an NDPE policy. It covers commitments to preserve HCV and HCS areas as well as peatlands, but is restricted only to its palm oil business.
For its pulp and paper business, which is supplied by industrial tree plantations, RGE has adopted what it calls a Forestry, Fibre, Pulp & Paper Sustainability Framework across the group. While it's similar to the NDPE policy in use across its palm oil business, this sustainability framework still allows development of peatland as long as it's not forested, Aidenvironment said.
It called on RGE to apply its NDPE policy to all its businesses, not only palm oil.
"Whenever the palm oil refiners adopted a cross-commodity NDPE policy, they could stop more deforestation," Aidenvironment said.
Even then, the policy would only apply to companies and their suppliers that RGE acknowledges as being part of the RGE group of companies. In the case of Nusantara Fiber and its subsidiaries, RGE has denied any connection.
"We can confirm that neither RGE nor [pulp and paper unit] APRIL Group's supply chain have any connection to the six Nusantara Fiber Group companies mentioned in Aidenvironment's February 2021 report," RGE spokesman Ignatius Ari Djoko Purnomo told Mongabay.
He added the fact that two of the Nusantara Fiber group's directors were past RGE employees didn't constitute any kind of link. "We operate in a free and open employment market in which employees can choose to join or leave employers as they wish," Ignatius said.
In response to the ownership of the 27 Nusantara Fiber-linked palm oil mills that RGE sources from, Ignatius said the group had no knowledge of the alleged ownership links listed in the report.
"There was no alleged violation against palm oil industry standards or Apical's sustainability policy by these suppliers noted in the report," he said, referring to RGE's palm oil arm, Apical. "Apical is not the sole buyer of palm oil from these suppliers."
Wiggs said RGE should have provided its own data to back up its denials and be fully transparent.
"We welcome any willingness by Nusantara Fiber and Royal Golden Eagle to clarify any incorrect data in our report," he said. "Agricultural sectors must be fully transparent about their ownership structures, corporate links and operations."
Instead, he said, RGE is able to deny any connection to Nusantara Fiber because both entities use opaque and complex company structures.
"Industrial tree and palm oil businesses should refrain from using opaque company structures," Aidenvironment said, "because this hinders their accountability for unsustainable practices."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
The study, published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change on Thursday, is the first to consider emissions other than carbon dioxide, such as methane from floods and cattle, and black carbon from forest-clearing fires.
"Cutting the forest is interfering with its carbon uptake; that's a problem," Kristofer Covey, lead author and Skidmore environmental studies professor, told National Geographic. "But when you start to look at these other factors alongside CO2, it gets really hard to see how the net effect isn't that the Amazon as a whole is really warming global climate."
The Amazon rainforest has long been touted as a carbon sink and natural ally in the fight against the climate crisis. However, recent studies have warned that humanity may lose the rainforest's help with continued deforestation. A study published in January found that forests worldwide still absorb 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, but rainforests in Southeast Asia have now become net emitters of carbon dioxide because of land use changes, EcoWatch reported at the time.
The Brazilian Amazon was also a net emitter of carbon dioxide between 2001 and 2019, the study authors found, even though the Amazon as a whole remained a carbon sink. However, a 2020 study warned that could change in the next 15 years.
All of these studies were limited because they focused exclusively on carbon dioxide emissions.
"As important as carbon is in the Amazon, it's not the only thing that's going on," Tom Lovejoy, study coauthor and senior fellow in biodiversity with the United Nations Foundation, told National Geographic. "The only surprise, if you can call it that, is how much more there is when you add it all up."
To address this gap, more than 30 scientists teamed up to analyze the existing data of "more." They found that it included emissions from the following sources:
- Black carbon: This is released from fires, such as the 2019 Amazon blazes that destroyed an area roughly the size of New Jersey. Soot particles from black carbon absorb sunlight and increase warming.
- Nitrous Oxide: This is naturally produced by forests, but gas emissions increase when wetlands dry and logging compacts the soil.
- Methane: This is also released naturally by rainforests from microbes in wet soil, which gets filtered into the atmosphere by trees. In the past, the Amazon's carbon storage abilities counteracted its methane emissions. Human activity is now limiting the forest's ability to store carbon as increased flooding, dam building and cattle grazing also release methane.
"We're taking away all the ability for the Amazon to absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere while also causing it to release other greenhouse gases," CNN Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin explained.
- Amazon Rainforest on the Brink of Turning Into a Net Carbon Emitter ... ›
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Aiming to preserve 30 percent of the world's land and water by 2030, dozens of countries will take part in a UN biodiversity conference later this year – but Indigenous people won't have a seat at the table.
Indigenous communities have repeatedly mobilized to block logging, mining and overfishing, with great success. More than a quarter of the world's lands are managed by Indigenous communities, and studies show that these areas often boast more biodiversity than lands marked out for conservation by national governments.
And yet, while Indigenous communities will be able to attend the UN conference as observers, they are not recognized as parties to the biodiversity talks and cannot vote on the outcome, a dynamic that is likely to limit the ambition of the final agreement. Indigenous groups have said the goal of saving 30 percent of land and water is insufficient, a claim backed by science, and have called for saving 50 percent.
For a deeper dive:
- Why Biodiversity Loss Hurts Humans as Much as Climate Change ... ›
- World Leaders Urged to 'Act Now' to Save Biodiversity - EcoWatch ›
By Jack McGovan
In 1931, Soviet scientists were on the hunt for a natural source of rubber that would help the USSR become self-sufficient in key materials.
They scoured the vast and various territories of the Soviet Union and tested over 1,000 different species looking for an alternative to the South American rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensi. Eventually, on the steppes of Kazakhstan, they found one.
By 1941, the Russian dandelion, Taraxacum koksaghyz, supplied 30% of the USSR's rubber. During the Second World War, shortages of Havea rubber prompted other countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany, to begin cultivating dandelion rubber.
Once the war was over and supplies returned to normal, these countries — including, ultimately, the Soviets — switched back to Hevea tree rubber because it was cheaper.
But now, with demand for rubber continuing to grow, there is renewed interest in the Russian dandelion, particularly from the tire industry, which consumes 70% of the world's rubber supply.
Diversifying Natural Rubber
Overall, 65% of rubber consumed worldwide is derived from fossil fuels. This synthetic rubber is cheaper and more hardwearing than its natural counterpart. But natural rubber disperses heat better and has better grip, which is why tires are made with a mix of both.
Today, 90% of natural rubber comes from Havea plantations in Southeast Asia, which have been linked to deforestation. And there are commercial as well as environmental reasons the tire industry would like to find an alternative.
Havea rubber trees are vulnerable to a fungal leaf blight that has hit plantations in South America, making some in the tire industry nervous about such dependence on a single crop, with little genetic diversity, grown in a single geographical region.
Developing the Dandelion
Over recent years, projects in both Europe and the US have been taking a fresh shot at making dandelion rubber commercially viable.
Among them is Taraxagum, a collaboration between Continental Tires and the Fraunhofer Institute of Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Aachen, Germany.
"Continental Tires tested the performance of the material and said that it was brilliant — in some cases better than Hevea rubber," said Dirk Prüfer, a plant biotechnologist on the Taraxagum team.
Both Continental and competitor Apollo Tyres have used dandelion rubber to manufacture bike tires, and Continental reports "promising" tests on dandelion truck tires.
Apollo was part of the EU-funded DRIVE4EU consortium, a project that ran from 2014 to 2018 and worked on developing the entire production chain for dandelion rubber, starting with cultivation.
Unlike the rubber tree, the Russian dandelion thrives in temperate climates.
"We cultivated the dandelion in Belgium, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan," said Ingrid van der Meer, coordinator of DRIVE4EU, adding that other researchers had previously cultivated the crop in Sweden, Germany and the United States.
Fewer Chemicals and Poorer Soils
The Russian dandelion can also be grown on relatively poor soils, meaning it doesn't have to compete with agriculture. Prüfer said his team was researching whether brownfield land — former industrial sites that may be heavily polluted — might even be suitable.
"There are big areas like this near Cologne or Aachen that could potentially be used for cultivation," Prüfer said.
Once the dandelions are harvested "hot-water extraction" is used to separate out the rubber. "The roots are chopped up mechanically and water is added," van der Meer explained. "It has to be heated up, but no large volumes of chemicals are needed.
This is in contrast to Hevea rubber extraction, which requires the use of organic solvents, resulting in chemical waste that poses an environmental hazard if not disposed of properly.
Environmental Problems Persist
But while the Russian dandelion could make the production of tires greener, it won't improve their environmental impact once they leave the factory.
As tires are used, they shed microplastics, which are then carried on air and end up in oceans. A recent study found that this source of ocean microplastics amounts to 100,000 metric tons each year.
Then, at the end of their life, most tires finish up in landfill, in part because the mix of rubbers make them difficult to recycle.
"Tires are meant to optimize different kinds of properties, so it's not easy to just use one kind of rubber," said Francesco Piccihoni, an expert in rubber recycling at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
"You could make tires from only natural rubber but it degrades faster, meaning you would have to change the tires much more often," Piccihoni added.
Even shifting rubber farming to European wastelands wouldn't automatically avert deforestation in Asia. Georg Cadisch, an expert in tropical agronomy at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, says forests will continue to be felled as long as the land can be used more profitably for agriculture.
"Rubber farmers need to survive, so they would simply produce other crops," he said, adding that rubber plantations in China and Thailand have already been replaced with crops like palm oil or bananas.
Still, proponents of the Russian dandelion argue that as demand rises, we need a source of rubber that doesn't rely on expanding into new areas of forest. Growing it close to European and US tire factories would also means fewer CO2 emissions from transport.
And as far as performance goes, tire makers are impressed.
"The moment natural rubber from the dandelion is available in significant quantities, Apollo will resume using the material and develop other tire products," chief technical officer Daniele Lorenzetti said.
As things stand, though, the supply chain needs some work. "To compete with other rubbers, the production costs of dandelion rubber need to match the market price. This is not yet the case," said van der Meer, who will continue working on optimizing Russian dandelion cultivation.
For now, Europe's wastelands aren't about to be swathed in sunny yellow. But there might just be a bright future for a material that had been consigned to Soviet history.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Thomas Hertel
Growing food in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way – while also producing enough of it – is among the most important challenges facing the U.S. and the world today.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that food security can't be taken for granted. Putting affordable food on the table requires both innovative producers and well-functioning markets and global supply chains. With disruptions to the system, prices rise, food is scarce – and people go hungry.
But feeding the world's 7.8 billion people sustainably – including 332 million Americans – presents significant environmental challenges. Farming uses 70% of the world's fresh water. Fertilizers pollute water with nitrates and phosphates, sparking algal blooms and creating dead zones like the one that forms every summer in the Gulf of Mexico.
Clear-cutting land for farms and ranches is the main driver of deforestation. Overall, the planet loses about 48,000 square miles (125,000 square kilometers) of forest each year. Without habitat, wildlife disappears. Farming also produces roughly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
All of these challenges make balancing food production with environmental security a crucial issue for the Biden administration, which is working to address both a hunger crisis and an environmental crisis in the U.S.
Two Different Pathways
As an economist studying food systems, I'm keenly aware that trying to provide affordable food and a thriving agricultural sector while also preserving the environment can result in many trade-offs. Consider the different strategies that the U.S. and Northern Europe have pursued: The U.S. prioritizes increased agricultural output, while the EU emphasizes environmental services from farming.
Over the past 70 years, the U.S. has increased crop production with ever more sophisticated seed technologies and highly mechanized farming methods that employ far fewer workers. These new technologies have contributed to farm productivity growth which has, in turn, allowed U.S. farm output to rise without significant growth in the aggregate economic index of agricultural input use.
This approach contrasts sharply with Northern Europe's strategy, which emphasizes using less land and other inputs in order to protect the environment. Nonetheless, by achieving a comparable rate of agricultural productivity growth (output growth minus the growth rate inputs), Northern Europe has been able to maintain its level of total farm output over the past three decades.
Boosting Prices Versus Benefiting Nature
The U.S. also has a long history of setting aside agricultural land that dates back nearly a century. In response to low prices in the 1920s, farmers had flooded the market with grain, pork and other products, desperately seeking to boost revenues but only pushing prices down further.
Under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, the U.S. government paid farmers to reduce their output and limited the supply of land under cultivation to boost farm prices. This strategy is still in use today.
In 1985 the U.S. launched a new program that created real incentives to protect environmentally sensitive land. Farmers who enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program "rent" environmentally valuable tracts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 10-15 years. Withdrawing these acres from production provides food and shelter for pollinators and wildlife, reduces erosion and improves water quality.
But this is a voluntary program, so enrollment ebbs and flows in tandem with crop prices. For example, when corn, soy and wheat prices fell in the late 1980s and early 1990s, enrollment grew. Then with the commodity price boom of 2007, farmers could make more money from cultivating the land. Protected acreage dropped more than 40% through 2019, erasing many of the environmental benefits that had been achieved.
Enrollment in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program dropped by almost 13 million acres from 2007 to 2016. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Rental rates for agricultural land in the U.S. vary widely, with the most productive lands bringing the highest rent. Current rental rates under the Conservation Reserve Program 2021 range from $243 per acre in Cuming, Nebraska to just $6 in Sutton, Texas.
The EU also began setting aside farmland to curb overproduction in 1988. Now, however, their program focuses heavily on environmental quality. Policy reforms in 2013 required farmers to allocate 5% of their land to protected ecological focus areas. The goal is to generate long-term environmental benefits by prioritizing nature.
This program supports both production and conservation. Within this mix of natural and cultivated lands, wild pollinators benefit both native plants and crops. Birds, insects and small predators offer natural bio-control of pests. In this way, "rewilded" tracts foster biodiversity while also improving crop yields.
Who Will Feed the World?
What would happen if the U.S., a major exporter of agricultural products, followed the EU model and permanently withdrew land from production to improve environmental quality? Would such action make food unaffordable for the world's poorest consumers?
In a study that I conducted in 2020 with colleagues at Purdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we set up a computer model to find out. We wanted to chart what might happen to food prices across the globe through 2050 if the U.S. and other rich economies followed Northern European conservation strategies. Our analysis focused on the world's most food-insecure region, sub-Saharan Africa.
We discovered that altering food production in this way would raise food prices in that region by about 6%. However, this upward price trend could be reversed by investing in local agriculture and new technologies to increase productivity in Africa. In short, our research suggested that conserving the environment in the U.S. doesn't have to cause food insecurity in other countries.
Implications for U.S. Farm Policy
Many experts on hunger and agriculture agree that to feed a growing global population, world food output must increase substantially in the next several decades. At the same time, it's clear that agriculture's environmental impacts need to shrink in order to protect the natural environment.
In my view, meeting these twin goals will require renewed government investments in research and dissemination of new technologies. Reversing a two-decade decline in science funding will be key. Agriculture is now a knowledge-driven industry, fueled by new technologies and improved management practices. Publicly funded research laid the foundations for these advances.
To reap environmental gains, I believe the U.S. Department of Agriculture will need to revamp and stabilize the Conservation Reserve Program, so that it is economically viable and enrollment does not fluctuate with market conditions. The Trump administration reduced incentives and rental payment rates, which drove down enrollments. The Biden administration has already taken a modest step forward by extending the yearly sign-up for the program indefinitely.
As I see it, following Northern Europe's model by permanently protecting ecologically rich areas, while simultaneously investing in knowledge-driven agricultural productivity, will enable the U.S. to better preserve wildlife and its natural environment for future generations, while maintaining an affordable food supply.
Thomas Hertel is a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University.
Disclosure statement: Thomas Hertel receives funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Over the past 40 years, about 50 percent of lowland rainforests in Southeast Asia have been converted for palm oil and other plantations, and remaining forests in the region are heavily logged, according to new research. Yet while the impacts of fragmentation on old-growth forests are well understood, how fragmentation impacts regenerating logged forests isn't.
Research published Tuesday in Nature Communications highlights the critical need to protect some of the world's most biologically diverse, yet damaged, forests.
The regrowth of natural forests could offset 25 percent of current annual fossil fuel emissions, the scientists wrote. Yet as the climate grows hotter and drier, little is known about the ability of damaged forests to both recover and sequester carbon. In response, the team looked at how these "human-modified" tropical forests of Borneo recovered, following the 2015-2016 El Niño event of extremely hot and dry environmental conditions, the University of Helsinki wrote in a statement.
Using laser scanners, called airborne LiDAR surveys, scientists scanned 3,300 hectares of small, fragmented parts of regenerating, logged forests in Malaysian Borneo. How these forests were recovering was highly variable.
While the dry climate of 2015-2016 did result in "increased leaf shedding and branch fall," the scientists wrote, they also found that regenerating forests continued to grow, despite "high temperatures and water demand in these logged forests," the University of Helsinki wrote.
However, regenerating forests in close proximity to palm oil plantations faced issues associated with fragmentation, like tree mortality and lower productivity. The closer a forest was to a plantation, the more these impacts "increased exponentially," the University of Helsinki wrote.
Based on their findings, the scientists suggest that buffers for regenerating forests nearby streams and rivers and palm oil plantations must be twice the width of what is currently required by law in Sabah, Malaysia, Matheus Nunes, a postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper, told the University of Helsinki. "If designed and protected appropriately, riparian reserves in oil palm estates support regrowth with potential positive consequences for the global carbon cycle and for ecosystem function," the University of Helsinki wrote.
"Logging will destroy our forests," Penan leader Komeok Joe said in a statement to Al Jazeera, regarding recent plans to cut forests in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo. "It will destroy our rivers and medicines and prevent us from satisfying all of our needs in the forests on which we depend for our lives."
While conservation of Borneo's and much of Southeast Asia's rainforests remains a challenge as the demand for palm oil increases, commitments to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil could pioneer a transformation in the industry. Formed by industry leaders and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the entity was designed in 2004 to end deforestation and improve ethical sourcing for palm oil, Eco-Business reported.
But while the entity has made considerable progress in certifying producers to adopt sustainable methods, nearly 17 years later, only 19 percent of palm oil produced globally is certified by the RSPO, according to Eco-Business.
"[The] RSPO has an appropriate standard, but the system is inadequate at upholding that standard," Robin Averbeck, forest program director at Rainforest Action Network (RAN), told Eco-Business, adding that the entity has often chosen poor leadership.
To save increasing damaged tropical rainforests, efforts need to extend past the RSPO, and onto an international stage, the scientists wrote. A declaration like the "2021–2030 is the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration" by the United Nations, which urges global cooperation on the restoration of damaged ecosystems, could be a step in the right direction.
"Given the rapid pace of land-use change across the tropics, the implications of this study extend beyond Borneo," the scientists wrote. "We voice concerns about the potential of heavily fragmented tropical forests to recover as climate becomes hotter and drier and highlight the need to protect riparian forests."
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By Jessica Corbett
New data from a Norwegian nonprofit is generating fresh concerns about humanity's destruction of the natural world, revealing Monday that people have ravaged about two-thirds of original tropical rainforest cover globally.
The Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) analysis found that human activities including logging and land-use changes—often for farming—have destroyed 34% of old-growth tropical rainforests and degraded 30% worldwide.
RFN defined degraded forests as those that are partly destroyed or fully wiped out but replaced by more recent growth. The group's definition for intact forest, considered too strict by some experts, includes only areas that are at least 500 square kilometers or 193 square miles; trees and biodiversity are at greater risk in smaller zones.
Two-thirds of the world’s original tropical #rainforest cover have been degraded or destroyed, new @RainforestNORW… https://t.co/h4lzA5lyqg— WWF EU (@WWF EU)1615220106.0
The RFN findings, reported by Reuters, show that over half of the destruction since 2002 has been in the Amazon and neighboring rainforests. Deforestation in South America—particularly within Brazil, home to the majority of the Amazon—has caused recent alarm given the role of rainforests in trapping carbon.
"Forests act as a two-lane highway in the climate system," explained Nancy Harris, Forests Program research director at the World Resources Institute (WRI), earlier this year. "Standing forests absorb carbon, but clearing forests releases it into the atmosphere."
A forest carbon flux map released in January by organizations including WRI found that between 2001 and 2019, forests emitted an average of 8.1 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually due to deforestation and other disturbances but also absorbed 16 billion metric tonnes per year over the same period.
Reuters reported Monday on RFN's analysis:
As more rainforest is destroyed, there is more potential for climate change, which in turn makes it more difficult for remaining forests to survive, said the report's author Anders Krogh, a tropical forest researcher.
"It's a terrifying cycle," Krogh said. The total lost between just 2002 and 2019 was larger than the area of France, he found.
Deforestation has surged in Brazil since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro—a foe of both environmental regulations and Indigenous people in his country—took office in early 2019. Brazilian forest loss hit a 12-year high in 2020, according to satellite imagery from the country's space research agency.
"Instead of acting to prevent the increase in deforestation, the Bolsonaro government has been denying the reality of the situation, dismantling environmental agencies, and attacking NGOs who work on the ground in the Amazon," said Greenpeace Brazil Amazon campaigner Cristiane Mazzetti in response to the data.
A look at tropical rainforest deforestation globally in 2019. Brazil/Americas far and away the leader. The drivers… https://t.co/w2ZWv1pYnd— Jake Spring (@Jake Spring)1615206122.0
Bolsonaro enjoyed a close relationship with former U.S. President Donald Trump—and both leaders faced an onslaught of global criticism for their similar response to various crises, from the raging coronavirus pandemic to the climate emergency.
Comments from Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo on Friday suggest that the recent swearing-in of U.S. President Joe Biden may mean a shift. According to Reuters, Araújo—who has called human-caused climate change a "Marxist conspiracy"—said the administrations are now collaborating on the crisis.
"Something that was regarded as an impediment... is totally out of the way. We are now working together... as key partners towards a successful COP26 and fully implementing climate agreements," said Araújo, referring to the United Nations climate summit rescheduled for November due to the pandemic.
A U.N. report released late last month found that the international community is quite far off from meeting the Paris climate agreement's 1.5°C and 2°C temperature targets based on the greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledges that governments have proposed for the next decade.
Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Brazilian group Observatório do Clima, called Bolsonaro's plan "a trainwreck of reduced ambition" that "violates the Paris agreement by giving the country a free pass to emit 200 million tons to 400 million tons of CO2 more than the 2015 pledge."
"It totally eliminates any mention of deforestation control and it lacks clarity on its conditionality," added Astrini. He warned against accepting "such a dangerous precedent" and called for global pressure on his government "to go back to the drawing board" and formulate a pledge "with real targets."
Our new global report shows humans have degraded or destroyed 2/3 of the world’s original tropical #rainforest cove… https://t.co/aIXLccChAr— Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) (@Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN))1615205235.0
The Amazon "represents the best hope for preserving what rainforest remains," Reuters noted, adding that Krogh found the world's largest rainforest "and its neighbors—the Orinoco and the Andean rainforest—account for 73.5% of tropical forests still intact."
While that fact "gives hope," RFN tweeted Monday, the "current rate of destruction is frightening."
The group found that after South American rainforests, the top deforestation hot zones since 2002 have been Southeast Asian islands where trees have been cleared for palm oil plantations followed by Central Africa—specifically around the Congo River basin, where forest loss results from agriculture and logging.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Worrisome environmental headlines have become all too common. Carbon offset programs provide a real opportunity to be part of the climate change solution. And, in 2021, there are a number of impactful carbon offset programs to choose from. The question is, which one allows you to make the biggest difference? Our review will provide an overview of carbon offset programs and recommend the best ones to help reduce and counterbalance your greenhouse gas emissions.
Our Picks for the Best Carbon Offset Programs
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Online Calculator - NativeEnergy
- Best for Travel and Tourism - Sustainable Travel International
- Most Transparent - myclimate
- Easiest to Use - TerraPass
- Best for Certified Projects - Clear
- Best for Air Travel - atmosfair
- Best for Businesses - 3Degrees
What is a Carbon Offset?
First thing's first: what is a carbon offset program?
Consider it this way: Every day, you are engaged in activities that leave an environmental footprint behind. Specifically, you're adding to the world's carbon dioxide pollution every time you drive your car, purchase goods from a major manufacturer, and so forth.
When you purchase a membership in a carbon offset program, also offered as carbon credits, you invest in clean energy and carbon reduction efforts elsewhere in the world. The goal is basically for this environmental activity to offset your own carbon footprint. The ultimate objective is to become as close to carbon neutral as possible.
Both individuals and corporations can invest in carbon offset programs. While there are a number of options to choose from, many of them involve investment in eco-friendly initiatives in developing countries. The idea is to create an infrastructure that will allow these companies to work towards sustainability and emissions reductions well into the future, while effectively canceling out their carbon emissions in the meantime.
Historically, carbon offset programs have been fairly simple. For example, in some programs, your investment essentially goes to planting trees in reforestation efforts. More advanced carbon offset programs, however, allow you to help fund the development of important sustainability technologies, like efficient cookstoves in developing countries or methane capture at landfills.
How We Chose the Best Climate Offset Programs
Mischa Keijser / Getty Images
While there is much that is admirable about investing in these carbon offset programs, consumers may naturally have some questions about which of these programs actually do the most good.
There are concerns among some activists that carbon offset programs allow certain countries or industries to pay to appear eco-friendly while avoiding actual efforts to reduce the amount of of carbon they produce. When used properly, however, carbon offsets can be a legitimate tool to help encourage sustainable development and reduce the use of fossil fuels.
We vetted a number of climate offset programs to find options making the biggest impact in our world. A number of factors have gone into our choices.
First, we looked for carbon offset programs that came with the endorsement of prestigious environmental stewardship groups. These organizations thoroughly vet all carbon offset projects for transparency, impact, and additionality. The carbon offset programs on our list are endorsed by prominent third-party organizations, including:
- The Gold Standard
- Climate Action Reserve
- American Carbon Registry
- Verified Carbon Standard
- Plan Vivo
- Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance
- Clean Development Mechanism
Additionally, we have been intentional about choosing programs that represent many different types of projects. And, we have considered factors such as the presence of easy-to-use online calculators; the convenience of making a transaction; and the total number of options that each carbon offset program presents.
The 7 Best Carbon Offset Programs
NativeEnergy does a lot of pioneering work to reduce carbon emissions, promote biodiversity in ecosystems, and invest in regenerative agriculture across the world. We like them because they make it easy to get involved, either as an individual or as a corporation, via an intuitive online carbon calculator and a range of investment options. We'll also note that they have been around for more than 20 years, and in that time have taken on some high-level corporate partners, including Ben & Jerry's.
Learn more about NativeEnergy by checking out their website.
This organization made our list because their underlying premise makes so much sense: One of the best ways to support sustainability developments in ecologically vulnerable areas is to invest in their travel and tourism industries in local communities. Sustainable Travel International works with premier destinations, helping them develop their tourist trades while also enacting important environmental protections.
At their website, you can find a ton of information about the work Sustainable Travel International has done to minimize pollution and reduce carbon emissions. And of course, you can purchase carbon offsets to help subsidize their work.
There's a lot to appreciate about myclimate, but above all, we love this organization because of how easy they make it to purchase carbon offsets. When you go to their website, you will immediately see their carbon offset calculator, which will allow you to input information about recent travel (including flights and cruises), household activities, and more. Using this data, myclimate will provide you with an estimate of your total carbon footprint and show you some ways to invest in meaningful offsets.
If you truly want to offset your day-to-day carbon footprint in a calculated and precise way, head to myclimate and get going.
TerraPass is one of the leading names in carbon offsets, and it's not hard to see why. When you visit their website, you will find ways to get involved as an individual, as a small or mid-sized business, and even as a large enterprise. Not only do they provide a great carbon calculator, but they also have a lot of valuable information about embracing sustainability, both within your household and your business. Your investment with TerraPass can help fund energy efficiency through wind power, sustainable farming, and a range of other environmental projects.
You can explore some of the options by checking out the TerraPass website.
Clear is extremely well-regarded. Since 2005, this organization has developed a reputation for only supporting the highest quality projects, including sustainability measures that attain such standards as Certified Emission Reduction (CER) certification and Gold Standard VERs. This is actually the only organization where you can be sure that all carbon offsets are certified by the Quality Assurance Standard for Carbon Offsetting. Additional reasons to choose Clear include ultra-precise carbon offset calculators, fair and affordable pricing, and a range of opportunities for both individuals and businesses.
You can visit the Clear website to learn more about purchasing carbon offsets from them.
atmosfair is a non-profit organization based in Germany. The organization's stated goals are to offset carbon emissions, promote sustainable travel, and ultimately play a role in long-term energy transitions across the planet. They currently have projects in more than a dozen countries, and they rely entirely on carbon offsets purchased by individuals and by companies.
Their big emphasis is on offsetting the environmental impact of air travel, so if that's something that you're passionate about, we'd recommend taking a look at the atmosfair website.
Finally, we're really enthusiastic about all the good work being done by 3Degrees. This organization works with corporations across the world, helping them implement renewable energy sources, decarbonize their transportation, and more. Of course, they also have some options for you to support their work by purchasing carbon offsets. You can find out a lot more about what they do by visiting their website; they have a lot of detailed information about their different projects, including case studies.
Visit the 3Degrees site to find out more.
How to Find a Carbon Offset Program
Nick Brundle Photography / Getty Images
Clearly, there are plenty of ways to support green initiatives, and to counterbalance some of your own carbon emissions. As you seek to find the best carbon offset program for you, the primary factor to keep in mind is transparency. You want to make sure that the dollars you're donating actually go to high-quality projects that make a real-world difference in the amount of carbon produced each year.
That's one of the main reasons why we emphasize the importance of third-party verification. We mentioned a number of independent organizations above that do a lot of important work auditing and accrediting carbon offset programs. Their validation can give you confidence in selecting a carbon offset project to support.
The Benefits and Limits of Carbon Offset Programs
Before investing, it's worth pausing to consider just how much good a carbon offset program can do, and where these projects sometimes come up short.
To start with, here are some benefits to carbon offsetting:
- Carbon offset projects allow you to neutralize any negative impact you make on the environment, specifically in terms of the metric tons of carbon emissions, or CO2e, that contribute to global warming.
- Investments in developing nations can also help provide wages and other benefits to those who need them, while also preventing deforestation and supporting critical forestry projects.
- By backing carbon offset projects, you can incentivize companies to spend more money on sustainability and clean energy measures.
- Carbon offsets also help expedite the development of eco-friendly technology.
As for the potential limitations of carbon offset projects, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The effectiveness of carbon offsetting can fluctuate from one industry to the next.
- Sometimes, carbon offsetting can make it easy to excuse large or irresponsible carbon emissions.
- Without due diligence, it's all too easy to inadvertently back an unscrupulous or non-transparent carbon offset project.
Choose the Right Carbon Offset Program for You
The bottom line is that carbon offsetting, while imperfect, can nevertheless make a positive impact, especially if you choose your carbon offset program wisely. Purchasing carbon offsets shouldn't take the place of reducing your own carbon footprint, but they can make an impact.
Start your research with some of the options here and remember to augment your carbon offsets with other lifestyle changes at work or at home.
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.
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.
James B. Dorey, a Ph.D. student at Flinders University, was sampling more than 225 general and 20 targeted sites for research on native bee populations when he identified P. lactiferus among the specimens. Dorey took samples from areas around Queensland and New South Wales, two areas that have seen an increased loss of biodiversity in the past decades. Dorey recently published his findings in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research.
Prior to the study, the last publication on the bee species was recorded in 1923 in Queensland, with very little information on the bee's biology. However, the study in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research indicates that this bee is in need of special attention. Dorey asserts that the species "requires conservation assessment," due to its increasing loss of habitat.
Deforestation seems to be at the top of the list of concerns for P. lactiferus and neighboring species. WWF predicts that between 2015 and 2030, a mere 11 deforestation areas will account for more than 80% of global deforestation. Australia, specifically Queensland and New South Wales where P. laciferus resides, is in those top 11 regions. An alarming 80% of deforestation in Australia happens in the Queensland region, which threatens not only the endemic bee species but other iconic Australian species such as the koala.
However, Dorey cited bushfires as an equally dangerous threat to P. laciferus and other native bee species. Their dependence on the bushland for shelter and food nectar, coupled with habitat fragmentation from deforestation, has made the increasing intensity of Australian bushfires harder to survive. Dorey stated that "GIS analyses... indicate susceptibility of Queensland rainforests and P. lactiferus populations to bushfires, particularly in the context of a fragmented landscape."
Dorey also noted that the 2019 and 2020 bushfire seasons "burnt a greater area than in any year prior," for the habitats in which P. laciferus resides. However, the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020 are not only affecting the bees in Queensland, but are also potentially fueling the extinction crisis throughout Australia. University of Sydney ecologist, Chris Dickman, told Huffington Post that an estimated 1 billion species were affected during the wildfires. Compounding research on climate change indicates that the wildfire crisis is global, and P. laciferus might be next on the list of species affected.However, there is hope for this rare bee and the other species facing real threats from the world's extinction crisis. Dorey's work in ecology research, as well as wildlife photography, is helping to fuel wildlife preservation in Australia and beyond. To see more of his work with native Australian bees, click here
Savannah Hasty is an environmental writer with more than six years of experience and has written thousands of articles for clients around the world. Her work focuses on environmental news, lifestyle content, and copywriting for sustainable brands. Savannah lives on the sunny coast of Florida and is inspired by this to play an active role in the preservation of the state's marine life and natural ecosystems.