Germany’s floods foreshadow climate catastrophe, experts say: 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. Experts fear Germany’s deadly floods are a glimpse into climate future 

Climate change is making storms more severe — and many countries are unprepared, experts say.

The story: Record levels of rainfall pummeled Germany and Belgium last week, triggering devastating floods that claimed more than 125 lives. According to experts, climate change exacerbated these deadly storms, causing them to last longer and produce more rain. As global temperatures rise, warmer air holds more water, which condenses into vapor and accumulates in the atmosphere, reports Sarah Gibbens for National Geographic. Eventually, these waterlogged clouds burst — and slow-moving weather systems like those in Germany result in longer, more severe storms and flooding. 

The big picture: Recent research found that every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming could increase moisture in the atmosphere by 7 percent. To help countries prepare for a deluge of rain and flooding, Conservation International experts are working to combine efforts that restore natural buffers against sea-level rise, such as mangroves and coral reefs, with conventional engineering approaches to stop flooding —including seawalls — through a technique called “green-gray” infrastructure

“As climate change accelerates, nature-based activities must work in tandem with more conventional man-made infrastructure,” explained Jennifer Howard, marine climate change director at Conservation International, in an interview with Conservation News. “Green-gray infrastructure can help strengthen a community’s protection against extreme floods, storms and rapid sea-level rise; provide crucial benefits such as fresh water and fisheries; and remove carbon from the atmosphere — it’s a win-win-win.”

Read more here

Food waste from farming is fueling the climate crisis. 

The story: A new report found that farms account for nearly half of the 2.5 billion metric tons of food that is wasted worldwide each year. Food production requires massive amounts of land, water and energy — and food waste now accounts for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the report’s authors determined. In farms, food waste is typically a result of miscommunications between markets and farmers on factors such as the volume of production, the types of crops planted and when they are harvested, reports Hanna Ziady for CNN. 

The big picture: The world’s food system — from farming to transportation to grocery store packaging — is a top cause of deforestation, though roughly 40 percent of all food that is produced goes uneaten. To minimize food waste — and reduce deforestation — experts urge governments and businesses to set food waste reduction targets, use sustainable farming techniques and reforest degraded lands. A recent study found there are 1.7 billion hectares (4.2 billion acres) of treeless land around the world where forests could thrive, without encroaching on food production or living space.

Read more here

Overfishing is depleting one of Earth’s most biodiverse lakes. 

The story: Straddling the borders of Albania and North Macedonia, Lake Ohrid provides habitat for more than 212 species native to this area alone, including the Ohrid trout. However, consumer demand for this trout has skyrocketed in recent years, and overfishing has halved their population since the 1990s, reported Jessica Bateman for BBC Future. In an effort to rebuild Ohrid trout populations, fishers have partnered with scientists and the local government to create a hatchery, where trout eggs are harvested and hatched, with the aim of  releasing fish back into the wild. 

The big picture: Freshwater ecosystems such Lake Ohrid cover less than 1 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet they support more than half its fish species. However, freshwater species have fallen, on average, by 84 percent since 1970, largely as a result of habitat loss and overfishing. 

In a recent study, co-authored by Conservation International freshwater expert Ian Harrison, experts offered six strategies to protect freshwater biodiversity, including improving water quality by reducing pollution, preventing and controlling invasive species and managing overfishing. 

Read more here.


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

Cover image: Schloss Drachenburg - Scenic view Palace Dragon Castle, Bonn, Germany (© SKLA)

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