Climate town hall, Amazon forest pact, supercharged hurricanes: 3 stories you may have missed

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. CNN climate town hall: Here’s what you need to know 

CNN hosted a 7-hour town hall where Democratic presidential candidates outlined their strategies to stop climate change.

The Story: After the U.S. Democratic National Committee refused to hold an official climate debate, 10 Democratic presidential candidates participated in a 7-hour town hall on climate change hosted by CNN television news network last Wednesday, reported Lisa Friedman and Maggie Astor for the New York Times. The forum covered a broad range of topics related to climate change, from hydraulic fracking to sustainable agriculture, offering candidates an extended period of time to outline their strategies to address the climate crisis if elected. 

The Big Picture: Cumulatively, the U.S. is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country in the world. And with the planet's  largest economy, America plays an influential role in how other countries address climate change. Yet the current administration has downplayed — and even dismissed — the climate crisis, withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and rolling back emissions regulations. The town hall was the latest opportunity for presidential hopefuls seeking the Democratic nomination to distance themselves from President Trump and his attacks on the environment.     

2. Amazon countries sign forest pact, promising to coordinate disaster response

Several countries across the Amazon basin signed a pact to combat fires and develop a plan for handling future natural disasters.

The Story: In response to the fires burning through the Amazon, seven Amazonian countries signed a pact to protect this tropical forest by coordinating disaster response and supporting reforestation initiatives, reported Luis Jaime Acosta for Reuters. Representatives from Suriname, Guyana and Brazil, along with the presidents of Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, met in Colombia to develop a natural-disaster network and commit to decrease deforestation and illegal mining, engage indigenous peoples and combat forest fires. 

The Big Picture: The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s greatest carbon sinks — a natural reservoir that absorbs and stores carbon emissions — and is critical to helping stop climate change. While deforestation levels in Brazil have surged under the Bolsonaro administration, other countries within the Amazon basin are stepping up to protect this rainforest ecosystem. This pact provides a framework for all Amazonian countries — including Brazil — to work together to address the drivers of deforestation and help prevent similar disasters in the future. 

Read the full story here.

3. How warm oceans supercharge deadly hurricanes

Warmer oceans are intensifying hurricanes, making them slower and more destructive over time.

The Story: Stronger and wetter hurricanes are fueled by warm oceans because the atmosphere around a storm absorbs more water vapor, reported Sarah Gibbens for National Geographic. Last week, Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas, displacing more than 13,000 Bahamians from their homes and flooding clean-water reservoirs. Meteorologists and scientists have agreed that the intensity and duration of the hurricane is likely due to the Bahamas’ warm waters, which have a volatile reaction with the cooler storm clouds that characterize a tropical storm. As ocean temperatures continue to increase due to climate change, scientists fear these super storms could happen in more places around the world. 

The Big Picture: The world’s oceans absorb 93 percent of the heat trapped by human greenhouse gas emissions, slowly heating the water over time. Recent analysis has shown that oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than scientists estimated five years ago, which could have disastrous environmental impacts during hurricanes on everything from coral reefs to marine life. Although research is still being done on the link between hurricanes and climate change, scientists are certain that warmer waters will continue to have an intensifying effect on this destructive natural disaster.

Read the full story here

Kiley Price is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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Cover image: Amazon rainforest in Guyana. (© Pete Oxford/iLPC)



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