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.
A devastating report underscores the accelerating rate of extinctions worldwide.
The story: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week proposed to remove 23 animals and plants from the endangered species list — because none of them can be found in the wild, including the iconic ivory-billed woodpecker. The opening paragraphs of this story, by Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post, are so poignant that we’ve excerpted them here:
The “Lord God Bird” is dead.
The ivory-billed woodpecker, a ghostly bird whose long-rumored survival in the bottomland swamps of the South has haunted seekers for generations, will be officially declared extinct by U.S. officials after years of futile efforts to save it. It earned its nickname because it was so big and so beautiful that those blessed to spot it blurted out the Lord’s name.
Even the scientist who wrote the obit cried.
The big picture: Scientists say extinctions are accelerating worldwide, and a million plants and animals are in danger of disappearing, many within decades. Grandoni reported: “The newly extinct species are the casualties of climate change and habitat destruction, dying out sooner than any new protections can save them.”
This is sad, of course — but why do we need to prevent extinctions, exactly?
“You might think of Earth’s biodiversity as a tapestry,” M. Sanjayan, Conservation International CEO, said earlier this year. “If you pull out a few threads here and there, the tapestry may lose its richness, but it will stay mostly intact. But if you pull one too many threads, or in the wrong places, then the entire tapestry literally starts to fall apart. And our planet’s tapestry of biodiversity is fraying quickly.”
Beijing’s decision reflects a huge shift, but can China kick its own coal habit?
The story: Chinese President Xi Jinping announced earlier this month that the country would no longer finance new coal projects abroad, reported Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone for The New York Times. The announcement, made to the UN General Assembly, was hailed as a significant step toward reducing fossil-fuel use globally and decarbonizing humanity’s energy supply.
The big picture: “This announcement is a strong sign of coal’s global collapse,” said Durand D’Souza of Carbon Tracker, which monitors countries’ emissions policies, the Times reported. Yet China remains the top domestic user of coal (and the world’s top emitter of climate-warming carbon). Last year alone, it added more than three times the new coal power capacity compared to all other countries in the world combined, according to the Times. Will China look to weaning itself off the world’s dirtiest fuel? Time will tell.
Read more here.
Americans’ views about climate change have shifted significantly in just the past six months, a new national survey finds.
The story: Americans who think that global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not happening by more than 6 to 1, according to a new survey from Yale University. In fact, Americans’ recognition that global warming exists has increased six percentage points since March, reports Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which carried out the survey.
Americans’ perception that global warming is a threat has also increased dramatically: An all-time record 70 percent of Americans are now very or somewhat worried about global warming — the percentage of people who consider themselves “very worried” increased 10 points since March.
The big picture: With the United States having experienced a “brutal year” of extreme weather events, as the authors note, and a recent UN report laying out the grimmest climate assessment yet, it seemed only a matter of time before Americans’ beliefs about climate change caught up with reality.
The question is: What do we do with this sentiment? For one, as Leiserowitz and his co-authors note, the survey comes as Congress looks to pass an infrastructure bill that makes a massive investment in climate action. These findings could provide a stronger signal that such a bill would have broad popular support.
What is clear is that there’s no going back to the pre-“Inconvenient Truth” days when one could still respectably demur about climate change. How Americans manifest their increasingly aligned climate views through consumer spending and electoral power, though, remains to be seen.
Read more here.