Newsdesk – May 12

Illustrations by Yann Kebbi

Life as We Know It. (Opinion)  Plant and animal species are disappearing faster than at any time in recorded history. We know who is to blame. Last Monday in Paris, a summary of the full 1,500-page report was released, which will be available in its entirety later in the year. Its findings are very grim. Biodiversity (all living flora and fauna) is declining faster than at any time in human history,” it says, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades,” unless the world takes transformative action to save natural systems. Biodiversity loss is an urgent issue for human well-being. It provides billions and billions of dollars in so-called “ecosystem services.” Wetlands clean and purify water. Coral reefs nourish vast fish populations that feed the world. Organic matter in the soil nourishes crops. Bees and other threatened insects pollinate fruits and vegetables. Mangroves protect us from floods made worse by rising seas – The New York Times

  • Almost every country in the world agrees deal to cut plastic pollution – except US – Independent
  • Climate change: Ireland declares climate emergency – BBC News 
  • The climate crisis is a story for every beat – Columbia Journalism Review
  • Climate change: Ireland declares climate emergency – BBC
  • Sea level rise will transform coastal forests into ghost forests –
  • This houseboat of the future is a $5.5 million floating home designed for sea level rise – Miami Herald 
  • Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard: ‘Denying climate change is evil’ – The Guardian
  • Middle schoolers may be the secret weapon in fight against climate change – CNN
Airline emissions will need offsetting and no new home should be connected to the gas grid after 2025, the CCC said. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

This report will change your life: what zero emissions means for UK. Committee on Climate Change sets out how UK can reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Setting the legally binding target will be the easy bit, but the scale of transformation needed to meet the target is enormous. By 2050, petrol and diesel cars should be a distant memory, ideally banned from sale in favour of electric vehicles two decades earlier. That certainly means more offshore windfarms. Big storage will also be needed, but battery costs are plummeting. Homes heated by natural gas will also be long gone. Hydrogen could be an alternative to natural gas, if it can be produced cleanly at scale. Electrified heating will be more common. A fifth of all farmland – 15% of land – will be converted to tree planting and growing biofuel crops. New trees are the simplest solution but tree planting must triple from today’s rate.  Flying is included in the net zero target of the CCC.  There could be a limited expansion of aviation if airlines can cut their emissions per flight, potentially with electric planes for short-haul flights. A few nuclear power stations may still be running, if they can compete on cost, though they are not necessary to meet the target – The Guardian 

Aerial view of where the Araguaia River splits into the Coco River (to the left) in Brazil. Credit: Day’s Edge Productions / WWF-US

Two-thirds of world’s longest rivers throttled by mankind: study. The international team looked at the connectivity of 12 million kilometres of rivers worldwide, providing the first global assessment of human impact on the planet’s waterways. They found that out of the 91 rivers longer than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) in length, just 21 retained a direct connection between source and sea. The underlying report, which will be made public in the coming weeks, found that 50 percent of rivers “manifest severe impacts of degradation” from human activity. It estimated there was now a total of 60,000 large dams at least 15 metres tall severing rivers. The blocking or damming of rivers disrupts the flow of nutrients vital to replace those lost through agriculture, and diminishes the amount of river-bourne species that can complete their life-cycles.  The team warned that dams had already led to a significant fall in river fish, which provide nearly all the animal protein eaten by close to 160 million people –