Coronavirus causes, virtual protests, aviation carbon offsets: 3 stories you may have missed

© Pete Oxford/iLCP

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. 'Tip of the iceberg': is our destruction of nature responsible for COVID-19? 

The majority of global disease outbreaks originated from animals — and they could become more frequent due to human activities. 

The Story: From mining to logging in forests, human activities that encroach on nature are driving the transmission of animal-borne illnesses, such as COVID-19, reported John Vidal for The Guardian. As deforestation and development projects expand deeper into pristine tropical forests, humans are increasing their exposure to wild animals — and the diseases they may carry. Nearly 75 percent of emerging diseases that infect humans originated in animal populations, and recent research projects that this will continue to increase if countries do not limit development projects that disrupt wildlife habitats. 

The Big Picture: “Major landscape changes are causing animals to lose habitats, which means species become crowded together and also come into greater contact with humans,” said disease ecologist Thomas Gillespie. Along with destroying wildlife habitats, many of these land activities release massive amounts of carbon emissions which are driving climate breakdown. As climate change accelerates, species are going to try to follow those climates that are suitable for them rather than adapting to new ones — which could also increase human-wildlife contact, according to recent research

Read more here.

Worldwide, activists are using virtual protests to support climate action during a global pandemic. 

The Story: As people across the globe self-isolate to stop the spread of the coronavirus, climate activists are moving public protests online, reported Shola Lawal for The New York Times. Recognizing that large social media climate campaigns may not have as strong of an impact as public demonstrates, many activists are instead focusing their efforts on targeting selected officials through direct messages on Twitter and high-volume telephoning campaigns to government offices to push for climate action. 

The Big Picture: “Intersecting crises will be a feature of our times,” said youth activist Saoi O’Connor, who helps organize the “Fridays for Future” climate strikes in Ireland. “We can’t let one stop action on the other.” While the rapid spread of coronavirus could derail many major global climate conferences, virtual protests and local conservation efforts could help people continue to support climate action during this global pandemic. 

Read more here.

Under new rules, airlines will be able to purchase high-quality carbon offsets to reach their emissions reductions targets. 

The Story: The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the U.N. body that regulates the air travel industry, recently approved a decision to help airlines reach their climate goals by purchasing carbon offsets — which allow airlines neutralize their carbon emissions by supporting conservation projects that reduce emissions made somewhere else, reported Maxine Joselow for E&E News. Under these new rules, airlines will be able to purchase verified carbon offsets from a number of projects that cut carbon emissions and have occurred or will occur between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2020— including nature-based solutions such as mangrove restoration programs.  

The Big Picture: “This outcome is a huge win for nature,” said James Roth, senior vice president of global policy and government affairs at Conservation International, in a recent statement. “ICAO is sending a clear signal to the world that nature-based credits are credible and should be eligible in carbon markets — which we hope will be replicated in other markets around the world.” If nature-based carbon credits secure 30 percent of the projected demand from airlines under this new carbon market, it could contribute up to US$ 5 billion in new investments to reduce deforestation while also helping to reduce the carbon footprint of international air travel and cargo over the next 15 years. 

Read more here.


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: Logging in a forest of Guyana (© Pete Oxford/iLCP)

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