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Pope’s plea, reef collapse, rewilding: 3 stories you may have missed

© Comstock Images

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 stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Our moral imperative to act on climate change — and 3 steps we can take 

The leader of the Catholic Church is imploring people to protect nature. 

The story: In a recent Ted Talk, Pope Francis shared the urgent steps humanity must take to slow climate change and prevent environmental collapse. According to Pope Francis, the first step to tackle the climate crisis is to improve environmental education curriculums, which could help people understand the link between human needs and nature. He explained that this understanding is crucial to achieving the additional two steps: ensuring that people around the world have access to clean water and food through sustainable farming methods and transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy.

The big picture: “Everything in the world is connected,” said Pope Francis in the Ted Talk. “As the pandemic made sure to remind us, we are interdependent on each other as well as our Mother Earth.” This talk echoes the messages outlined in Pope Francis’ “Laudato si',” his encyclical published five years ago that emphasizes the need to protect the planet — which he refers to as “our common home.” Guiding 1.1 billion people in their faith, Pope Francis — and the messages he shares — could be a crucial force for environmental change

Watch here

As ocean temperatures rise, the world’s largest coral reef is facing mass die-offs. 

The story: A new study found that coral populations in the Great Barrier Reef have declined by 50 percent in the past 25 years, reported Maria Cramer for The New York Times. According to the study’s authors, this rapid loss is largely driven by climate change, which has caused ocean temperatures to rise and triggered coral bleaching — events in which coral expel the algae that helps them produce energy. These bleaching events have decimated populations of breeding adult corals, which could jeopardize the reef’s ability to recover, scientists say

The big picture: “We used to think the Great Barrier Reef is protected by its sheer size — but our results show that even the world’s largest and relatively well-protected reef system is increasingly compromised and in decline,” one of the study’s authors, Terence Hughes, said in a statement. Spanning nearly 350,000 square kilometers (135,000 miles) of the ocean, the Great Barrier Reef provides habitats for thousands of marine species, which could also be at risk if the reef continues to disappear. To protect this reef — and the species is supports — experts say that governments must not only reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change, they must also create marine protected areas to limit human activities such as fishing and boating that could put additional stress on reefs.

Read more here

Restoring degraded forests, coastal wetlands and peatlands is crucial to stopping climate breakdown.

The story: According to a recent study, restoring one-third of the Earth’s most degraded ecosystems could absorb roughly 565 billion tons of carbon emissions — equivalent to half of the emissions released by humans since the industrial revolution, reported Fiona Harvey for The Guardian. The study’s authors also found that restoring these degraded areas and protecting ecosystems that are still in good condition — particularly forests, coastal wetlands and peatlands — could also prevent roughly 70 percent of the species extinctions projected to happen as climate change accelerates

The big picture: Research led by Conservation International expert Bronson Griscom found that nature can contribute at least 30 percent of the carbon emissions reductions and removals necessary to keep average global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Despite being one of the most cost-effective — and just plain effective — approaches to the climate breakdown, natural climate solutions such as restoration and protection currently receive only 2 percent of the funding spent on climate change mitigation. Climate experts and leaders — including climate activist Greta Thunberg — agree that governments and businesses must invest in natural climate solutions to slow climate breakdown, while protecting the planet’s biodiversity. 

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: The Great Barrier Reef (© Comstock Images)

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