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.
African wildlife could be under threat as most of the continent continues its lockdown.
The Story: Experts predict that wildlife poaching incidents will rise due to COVID-19, reported Meredith Deliso for ABC News. A decline in travel coupled with strict lockdowns have caused a sharp drop in African tourism revenues, which sustain wildlife reserves and community conservancies across the continent. Without money to support rangers’ salaries and airplane patrols, nature reserves — and the animals they protect, such as elephants and rhinos — are left vulnerable to illegal poachers.
The Big Picture: “There has been an alarming increase in bushmeat harvest and wildlife trafficking that is directly linked to COVID-19-related lockdowns, decreased food availability and damaged economies as a result of tourism collapses,” said Matt Lewis, the regional director of wildlife trafficking in Africa for Conservation International. Tourism is one of Africa’s most profitable industries — generating US$ 194.2 billion in 2018 alone. It is crucial for governments and conservation organizations to continue to protect the wildlife that will help African communities generate ecotourism revenues in the wake of the pandemic.
The long-term benefits of climate action could help boost the global economy, according to a recent study.
The Story: A recent study revealed that the global economy could lose up to US$ 600 trillion by 2100 due to the impacts of climate change if countries do not sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions, reported Fiona Harvey for The Guardian. Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 nations pledged to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), but current emissions targets are projected to cause an estimated 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming — which could increase the frequency of extreme weather events and mass flooding. After calculating the economic benefits of cutting emissions, the authors of the study concluded that slowing climate change could improve social welfare and spur economic growth worldwide.
The Big Picture: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, countries across the globe are facing economic downturns — and many governments and businesses are retracting their commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to cut costs. Echoing the results of the 2019 Global Economic Risks Report — which revealed that the top five risks to the global economy are environmental — this study illustrates that countries and businesses must increase their climate commitments to avoid future economic losses.
An island nation in Africa is running out of water — and climate change is making it worse.
The Story: Due to climate change and deforestation, the island nation of Comoros off the eastern coast of Africa is suffering severe water shortages, reported Tommy Trenchard for The New York Times. Between 1995 and 2014, 80 percent of Comoros’ cloud forests were cut down and converted into agricultural plots. Due to this forest degradation and the unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change, most of Comoros’ soil is eroded and no longer capable of absorbing the water that typically feeds into its river systems. Over the last 50 years, the island has lost more than 40 of its rivers.
The Big Picture: Without ample water resources and fertile soil, the agricultural plots in Comoros are producing increasingly small crop yields. “There’s been a big reduction in agricultural production, and that leads to food insecurity,” said Ahmed Ali Gamao, a contractor for the Comoros environment ministry. As the population of this island nation grows, farmers are continuing to cut down large tracts of cloud forests to meet agricultural demands — which could decrease water supplies even more, according to experts.
To stop climate catastrophe, there are certain carbon-rich places on Earth that we simply must protect, according to new research by Conservation International scientists.
Cover image: Rhinos in Kenya (© Jonathan Irish)