Wildlife rangers go virtual, carbon dioxide’s new high and a ‘green wall’ for Sinai

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

The Sinai Peninsula, which connects African and Asia, has a hot desert climate. nanebbb, Unsplash
9 April 2021
9 April 2021

Can 247 people change the world? The remote archipelago of Tristan da Cunha with its tiny population is setting up the world’s fourth-largest marine reserve. Here’s why.

Also in this Landscape News bi-weekly news roundup: cloud seeding, green bonds, fundraising for the Amazon and the continued funding of fossil fuels.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

Drought is a recurrent issue in Madagascar's "Deep South". 2photopots, Unsplash
Drought is a recurrent issue in Madagascar’s “Deep South”. 2photopots, Unsplash

As Bitcoin surges to record highs, we explore how cryptocurrencies are impacting the climate – and how they could help us repair our relationship with the planet.

The climate crisis is taking a massive toll on the Earth’s drylands. In southern Madagascar, some 1.3 million people are on the brink of famine after the worst drought in a decade.

circular bioeconomy could be part of the solution, according to panelists at a recent CIFOR event featuring Prince Charles.

COVID-19

Vaccines supplied through the COVAX program will be crucial for low-income countries, particularly in Africa. Mat Napo, Unsplash
Vaccines supplied through the COVAX program will be crucial for low-income countries, particularly in Africa. Mat Napo, Unsplash

Around 1.4 million people with tuberculosis missed out on treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, eliminating 12 years of progress in just 12 months.

Governments should increase taxes on the wealthy to cover the cost of the pandemic, says the International Monetary Fund.

Vaccine nationalism is taking hold as the coronavirus surges. India has suspended vaccine exports until at least June, while the E.U. has tightened export rulesThe U.S. has not exported any vaccines at all.

India’s move will hit low-income countries particularly hard, with Indian-made vaccines making up 71 percent of the initial supply for the UN’s COVAX initiative.

The U.S. government now holds the patent for a technology used in five mRNA vaccines – and advocates are pushing it to use that power to ramp up global production.

Regardless, new vaccines could soon be needed to deal with mutations.

CLIMATE

Flooding has destroyed crops in South Sudan and threatens communities with hunger. UNMISS, Flickr
Flooding has destroyed crops in South Sudan and threatens communities with hunger. UNMISS, Flickr

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reached a new record of 421 parts per million.

A year on from its worst ever wildfires, Australia has suffered its worst flooding in decades, while communities in South Sudan are slowly rebuilding after two years of rain.

Meanwhile, much of the western U.S. is experiencing drought. Eight states have started seeding clouds in an attempt to make it rain.

Bottom trawling isn’t just harmful to life in the ocean: it causes more carbon emissions than the entire aviation industry.

PEOPLE

Kashmir is famous for its apples and other temperate-climate fruits. Basharat Alam Shah, Flickr
Kashmir is famous for its apples and other temperate-climate fruits. Basharat Alam Shah, Flickr

Meet the informal waste pickers of Barcelona, an army of mostly migrant men who collect 100,000 tons of metal for recycling across Catalonia each year.

Lawyer Steven Donziger took Chevron to court on behalf of Indigenous groups in the Amazon. He’s now been under house arrest for 600 days.

French musicians Gojira have launched a fundraising campaign to benefit the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, along with a new single, “Amazonia.”

In Mexico, Indigenous communities are battling organized crime groups to defend a forest sanctuary for monarch butterflies.

But fracking companies are given free rein to pollute Navajo land, and river-bed mining is threatening the livelihoods of apple farmers in Kashmir.

PLANET

Since 2017, 80,000 kg of plastic waste have been hauled to shore and recycled by Kerala fishermen. Mike Finn, Flickr
Since 2017, 80,000 kg of plastic waste have been hauled to shore and recycled by Kerala fishermen. Mike Finn, Flickr

The average westerner’s diet causes the destruction of four trees each year, with coffee, chocolate and beef among the worst culprits.

Not even a global pandemic was enough to slow deforestation: tropical forest loss was about 12 percent higher in 2020 than in 2019.

The African elephant is now recognized as two species, both of which have been listed as endangered.

Seaspiracy, a documentary about the fishing industry’s environmental impact, is making waves on Netflix, but it’s also come under fire from scientists and conservation groups for containing inaccuracies and misleading claims.

Fishers in the Indian state of Kerala are recycling ocean plastic to build roads, and South Africa’s nature reserves are now recruiting “virtual rangers” to keep tabs on poachers.

POLICY

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Flickr
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Flickr

The World Bank has revised its climate policy, but it has stopped short of ending funding for fossil fuels.

India is unlikely to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions, arguing that the burden should lie with rich countries responsible for the bulk of historic emissions.

U.S. President Joe Biden has unveiled a USD 2 trillion infrastructure plan that includes employing hundreds of thousands of workers to clean up old fossil fuel plants.

Canada’s federal carbon tax is constitutional, the country’s supreme court has ruled.

However, the Brazilian military has given up fighting deforestation in the Amazon.

Saudi Arabia plans to plant 50 billion trees across the Middle East, though critics question how this will be implemented in such an arid climate.

BUSINESS

The Sinai Peninsula may have been covered with waterways, grasslands and even forests several thousand years ago. Max Benidze, Flickr
The Sinai Peninsula may have been covered with waterways, grasslands and even forests several thousand years ago. Max Benidze, Flickr

The climate crisis could reduce the credit ratings of over 60 countries by 2030, with China, Chile, Malaysia and Mexico among the hardest hit.

Green bonds are leaving many emerging markets behind, including some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.

But could sustainable investing just be a “deadly distraction,” as a former BlackRock executive claims?

After all, the world’s largest banks have provided USD 3.8 trillion in financing for fossil fuels since 2015.

Speaking of fossil fuels, the oil industry knew about the health risks of air pollution at least 50 years ago.

But even aviation is turning electric, with this 19-seat aircraft set to join Norwegian airline Widerøe by 2026.

And Africa could soon have another Great Green Wall, this time across Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.


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