Faith and conservation, climate insurance, Alaskan ecosystems: 3 stories you may have missed

© Chris Burkard

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. “Eco-pesantren” movement takes Islamic perspective on nature conservation

One Indonesian conservationist is weaving religion with science throughout the country’s boarding schools.

The Story: In Indonesia, Islamic boarding schools known as “pesantren” have started to incorporate nature conservation into their curriculums, an effort led by environmentalist and author Fachrudding Mangunjaya, reported Krithika Varagur for Landscape News. With support from Conservation International, Mangunjayan has trained more than 1,000 Indonesian clerics and educators to use religion as a platform to promote environmental science and protection through the schools, known as “eco-pesantren.”

The Big Picture: At a time when Pope Francis is calling upon religious leaders to step up as environmental stewards, the “eco-pesantren” movement in Indonesia is part of a growing global awareness of the religious underpinnings of conservation. With more than 1.1 billion practicing Muslims across Asia, faith could be a powerful force for environmental change throughout the entire continent — and the rest of the planet.

Read more here.

2. Climate change and soaring flood insurance premiums could trigger another mortgage crisis

Insurance companies are raising prices for flood insurance as climate breakdown accelerates.

The Story: As sea levels rise and severe storms become more frequent due to climate change, the cost of flood insurance premiums is skyrocketing across the United States, reported Jie Jenny Zou for Vox. In anticipation of these impacts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the government agency that provides more than 96 percent of all flood coverage in the U.S. — is expanding the scope of "high-risk" areas in coastal cities, which will increase the price of insurance in those areas. In New York City, many vulnerable communities are unable to afford these high prices and will likely have to sell their homes or be forced into foreclosure.

The Big Picture: “Flood insurance has the potential to be the linchpin in our climate policy. Right now, it’s a liability,” said Anna Weber, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Insurance markets can support the protection of coastal communities and ecosystems around the world, including mangrove forests — which could provide an estimated US$ 82 billion in flood risk prevention annually. In the Philippines, Conservation International created the Restoration Insurance Service Company (RISCO) for Coastal Risk Reduction to help insurance companies incorporate the value of mangroves into insurance products, which will help restore these coastal wetlands to provide communities a natural barrier against floods.

Read more here.

3. Abnormally warm years caused a sea change in coastal Alaska ecosystems

Climate change is wreaking havoc on Alaskan ecosystems, according to new research.

The Big Picture: A recent study revealed that ecosystems in northwest Alaska experienced radical changes and shifting species migrations from 2017 to 2019 due to climate change, reported Chelsea Harvey for E&E News. In recent years, rising sea temperatures and vanishing Alaskan sea ice caused many fish — such as salmon — to shift their migration patterns to follow warming waters and in response, seabird populations plummeted due to starvation. Although conditions have stabilized for now, scientists contend that this research could offer insight into how the Pacific Arctic might respond if global temperatures rise past 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050 — a limit that countries set under the Paris Agreement to avoid climate catastrophe.

The Big Picture: “It’s not how the ecosystem responds to one year — it’s how it cumulatively responds to multiple years in a row,” said Janet Duffy-Anderson, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “That’s when you get these cascading, multiple trophic-level effects — plankton, zooplankton, fish, birds, mammals.” In 2019, Alaska experienced its highest average annual temperatures, and researchers project that temperatures will continue to rise in the coming years if countries around the world do not cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The rate of this global warming could be disastrous for the entire Alaskan ecosystem — and ecosystems across the globe.

Read more here.

Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International.

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Cover image: A cirque of mountains on the Aleutian Islands Uminak (© Chris Buckard)

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