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.
Heat-related deaths are skyrocketing due to climate change.
The story: A new report found that climate change is having increasingly negative impacts on human health, reported Megan Rowling for Reuters. Co-authored by a group of physicians, climate scientists and public health experts, the report revealed that the number of people over 65 who have died due to heat-related illnesses has increased by more than 50 percent in the last 20 years. Additionally, the report’s authors concluded that the impacts of climate change have overwhelmed public health facilities such as hospitals, which are largely unprepared for the influx of patients with illnesses and injuries related to air pollution, heat and other environmental causes.
The big picture: “Climate-induced shocks are claiming lives, damaging health and disrupting livelihoods in all parts of the world right now,” Ian Hamilton, a lead author of the report, told Reuters. According to the report’s authors, countries and businesses must rapidly reduce their emissions to limit the impact of climate change on human well-being. To adapt to the unavoidable effects of climate-driven natural disasters, experts agree that governments must help hospitals and physicians prepare for a sharp rise in patients by increasing their funding and making healthcare more accessible to vulnerable communities.
Traditional knowledge is helping Native American tribes protect nature in the Pacific northwest of the United States.
The story: By combining traditional knowledge with scientific research, the Swinomish tribe of northwestern Washington is working to restore their territory’s wetlands, reported Jim Morrison for The Washington Post. As coastal waters in Washington have warmed due to climate change, salmon populations have dwindled, threatening food security among the Swinomish people. In response, this Native American tribe has developed a multipronged strategy to restore tidelines and channels in the area, rebuild clam and salmon populations, and cool warming waters by planting shade trees along streambeds.
The big picture: The Swinomish tribe “is doing really innovative climate adaptation,” climate expert Meade Krosby told the Washington Post. “They were way ahead of the curve. And that really shouldn’t be surprising, because the tribes have shown tremendous leadership in climate adaptation and mitigation.” Since the Swinomish enacted their climate action plan in 2010, more than 50 Native American tribes in the northwestern U.S. have created climate strategies to protect their territories. Recent research found that indigenous-managed lands show less species decline and pollution, and more well-managed natural resources.
Destructive farming is threatening the health of soil around the world, bringing potentially catastrophic consequences for humans and nature.
The story: According to a new UN report, soils are becoming increasingly degraded around the world — which could negatively affect all life on Earth, reported Damian Carrington for The Guardian. Research shows that soils provide habitat for a quarter of the world’s animal species, underpin the global food system and absorb as much carbon as plants above ground. However, roughly 135 billion tons of soil (70 billion pounds) has been lost or converted to farmland since the industrial revolution, diminishing soils’ capacity to support species and slow climate change.
The big picture: “If you’re losing the topsoil through bad treatment and then erosion, then it takes thousands of years until the soil is produced again,” Nico Eisenhauer, a lead author on the report, told The Guardian. The study’s authors agree that the most critical steps to saving the world’s soil are to protect existing soil from damage and restore degraded soil by growing a variety of plants to improve its nutrient composition. According to a recent study co-authored by Conservation International’s Bronson Griscom, protecting or restoring carbon in soil can provide 3 billion tons of cost-effective climate mitigation per year.