Fact-checking Michael Moore, green stimulus and video calls with eels

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

A satellite image from the European Space Agency color-codes different vegetative areas, helping inform watering methods to protect agriculture from effects of climate change. European Space Agency, Flickr
15 May 2020
15 May 2020

Welcome to the Landscape News bi-weekly digest on landscapes, climate and sustainability. From what’s on your shelves to what’s in the atmosphere, here’s the news to know.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

Mark your calendars: from 3–5 June, discover how the world is preparing to feed its growing population at the GLF Bonn Digital Conference. Check out what’s on the menu, and join us at the table.

In the meantime, whet your appetite with some kimchi or miso soup, and learn how these and other fermented foods can boost your health and the planet’s too.

And in case you missed it, our latest episode of GLF Live explores why genebanks might be ever more crucial during times of pandemic.

Greenhouse gas emissions that have dropped due to COVID-19 could rise once again as countries seek to jumpstart their economies. Ian Britton, Flickr
Greenhouse gas emissions that have dropped due to COVID-19 could rise once again as countries seek to jumpstart their economies. Ian Britton, Flickr

COVID-19

Global carbon emissions are set to drop by 8 percent this year, according to the International Energy Agency – but they could rebound even more quickly after the pandemic.

However, governments investing in “green stimulus” projects such as clean energy and ecosystem restoration could help repair both the climate and the economy at the same time.

These investments could have massive long-term health benefits, too: a new study finds that reduced air pollution prevented around 11,000 deaths across Europe in April, mainly due to reduced coal and oil consumption.

2020 is predicted to be the warmest year on record. edward musiak, Flickr
2020 is predicted to be the warmest year on record. edward musiak, Flickr

CLIMATE

Air pollution isn’t the only danger associated with fossil fuels. Potentially deadly heat waves have become increasingly common as the planet warms, and 1 to 3 billion people could be forced to live in intolerable heat over the next 50 years.

And as the worst-affected regions are also among the world’s poorest, many could struggle to adapt and be forced into displacement.

Nevertheless, solar and wind energy are now the cheapest sources of energy for two-thirds of the world’s population, and hydrogen is gaining ground as well.

In the U.S., renewable sources have generated more power than coal for 40 consecutive days, although the pandemic is starting to stall the sector’s growth.

The arm of child at risk of malnourishment is measured by a doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DFID, Flickr
The arm of child at risk of malnourishment is measured by a doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DFID, Flickr

PEOPLE

Filmmaker Michael Moore’s new documentary on renewable energy has come under fire from climate scientists and activists for containing numerous inaccuracies. Here’s a quick fact-check.

One in nine people in the world is malnourished, while one in three is overweight or obese, finds a new report on global nutrition. COVID-19 is exposing the inequities and vulnerabilities of the global food system, the report further suggests.

Across Latin America, Indigenous peoples are walling off their communities and protecting their elders – and the traditional knowledge they hold – from the coronavirus.

Brazil has opened up 98,000 square kilometers of Indigenous lands to outsiders. Critics believe this could facilitate land grabbing by loggers and ranchers, threatening the survival of the area’s Indigenous communities.

With more than a quarter of its land protected in national parks, Costa Rica has developed its ecotourism industry to be a crucial component of its economy. serena_tang, Flickr
With more than a quarter of its land protected in national parks, Costa Rica has developed its ecotourism industry to be a crucial component of its economy. serena_tang, Flickr

PLANET

As the pandemic stifles international travel, communities and conservation groups that depend on income from ecotourism are struggling, and poaching is on the rise. Fortunately though, border restrictions are helping combat wildlife trafficking in Asia, at least for the time being.

Even confined to your home, opportunities abound to engage virtually with nature. An aquarium in Tokyo is asking people to FaceTime its eels, and viewers are embarking on virtual safaris to nature reserves across East and Southern Africa.

Meanwhile, nature is reclaiming many of the world’s locked-down cities, as shown in this series from The Guardian on urban biodiversity.

An Air France 777-328ER lands at Singapore. joolsgriff, Flickr
An Air France 777-328ER lands at Singapore. joolsgriff, Flickr

BUSINESS

Air France will receive EUR 7 billion in state aid – but only if it drastically cuts domestic flights and halves its carbon emissions by 2030.

After having briefly gone negative in late April, oil prices have risen as Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Kuwait all announced plans to cut production from June, and as many countries ease lockdown restrictions.

But oil remains under USD 30 per barrel, and it’s not yet clear how that might impact sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, which now include pickup trucks and S.U.V.s for the North American market.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking in Geneva in 2017. UN Geneva, Flickr
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking in Geneva in 2017. UN Geneva, Flickr

POLICY

Pressure is growing on policymakers to adopt “green stimulus” measures. Leading global investors have joined U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and I.M.F. head Kristalina Georgieva in calling for COVID-19 recovery plans to be tied to climate action.

China, Japan and South Korea, on the other hand, are continuing to invest in new coal plants to stimulate growth.

The E.U. also stopped short of setting climate-related conditions on state aid, but it’s drafting a new climate law that will require all member states to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050.

And kudos to Norway’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s largest at USD 1 trillion – for divesting from Canadian oil sands as well as several global commodities firms for their use of coal.


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