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Climate action, humanity’s footprint, landmark forest support: 3 stories you may have missed

© Flavio Forner

Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Three keys to climate action, five years after Paris 

In an op-ed, a Conservation International climate expert shares three steps to slow climate change.

The story: To prevent climate catastrophe and reach the emissions reductions set out in the Paris Agreement, actions must speak louder than words, argued Shyla Raghav, Conservation International’s vice president of climate strategy, in a recent op-ed for Our Daily Planet.  According to Raghav, businesses must go beyond intentions and actually implement strategies to reduce their emissions by shifting to cleaner energy sources and minimizing the environmental impact of their supply chains. Meanwhile, governments must use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to create stimulus packages that support nature and divest from industries that contribute to pollution and deforestation, added Raghav. 

The big picture: “Five years after the Paris Agreement, in the midst of a devastating pandemic, we have a choice about the economy and the future we want to create,” wrote Raghav in the article. “Our best chance of avoiding climate catastrophe is for everyone — corporations, governments, and communities — to reject complacency and pursue immediate action. Investing in nature is an enormous opportunity to couple commitments with immediate action.” Research led by Conservation International scientist Bronson Griscom found that protecting and restoring tropical forests and mangroves can provide at least 30 percent of the emissions reductions needed to avoid the worst climate scenarios by 2030. 

Read more here

The production of manufactured materials is outpacing the growth of living things on Earth, recent research found.  

The story: According to a new study, the mass of human-made materials such as concrete and plastic is now roughly equivalent to the weight of all living things on Earth, reported Maddie Stone for National Geographic. Using field estimates, satellite data and large-scale datasets, a team of researchers tracked how artificial materials have accumulated over the past 120 years. They found that the mass of human-made materials has grown from 35 billion metric tons to 1.1 trillion metric tons, while the mass of living things has remained relatively consistent at roughly 1.1 trillion metric tons. 

The big picture: Earth is undergoing a material transition that “happens not just once in a lifetime, but once in an era,” Ron Milo, one of the study’s authors, told National Geographic. Researchers say the mass of artificial materials could surpass that of living things as soon as this year, largely due to the ongoing production of plastic and concrete. Studies show that the increased production of these artificial materials could disrupt wildlife habitats, emit a massive amount of greenhouse gases and pollute the ocean.

Read more here

Citizens of the EU are rallying around a new cause: protecting the world’s forests. 

The story: This week, more than 1 million people voiced their support for the European Union to enact a law that would limit deforestation and protect the world’s forests. Along with condemning imports of products that contribute to global deforestation, supporters of Together4Forests, an NGO-led campaign, urged lawmakers to ensure that the production of agricultural commodities does not violate human rights. The public consultation was the largest on environmental issues in the history of the EU. 

The big picture: “More than one million people have chosen to stand up for our forests, nature and the rights and well-being of people who depend on them,” said Herbert Lust, who leads Conservation International’s work in Europe. “This shows that the deforestation linked to the products we consume daily is not invisible to consumers – people want to do better.” Research shows that the consumption of products such as beef, soy, coffee, cocoa and palm oil in the EU is responsible for roughly 10 percent of global deforestation. Experts agree that creating a law that limits the import of products that drive deforestation could help conserve the world’s forests — and the services they provide. 

Read more here

News spotlight

A new report co-authored by Conservation International experts found that protecting mangroves and tropical forests in Southeast Asia could potentially generate a return-on-investment of up to US$ 27.5 billion per year. 

For the release of their new single, songwriters Burt Bacharach and Melody Federer teamed up with nature photographer Roger Fishman to create a music video that highlights — and supports — some of the world’s most spectacular ecosystems. A portion of the proceeds from the song will be donated to Conservation International. 


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: Sustainable palm oil production in Brazil (© Flavio Forner)