Newsdesk – May 9

The Rio Grande near Mesilla in 2014. Photo Credit: Laura Paskus

How Climate Change Is Contributing to Skyrocketing Rates of Infectious Disease.  Indeed, over the past few decades, the number of emerging infectious diseases that spread to people — especially coronaviruses and other respiratory illnesses believed to have come from bats and birds — has skyrocketed In fact, one crucial study estimates that more than as many as 3,200 strains of coronaviruses already exist among bats, awaiting an opportunity to jump to people. Today, the planet’s natural defense systems are being demolished by climate warming and results in reckless deforestation and use of wildland for economic development that pushes farms and people closer to the wild and opens the gates for the spread of disease. COVID-19, the disease that has become a pandemic and is believed to have originated from Chinese horseshoe bats, is one of the coronaviruses coming from southern China where scientists have warned that swift climate and environmental change there — in both loss of biodiversity and encroachment by civilization — was going to help new viruses jump to people. In fact, there are three ways climate influences emerging diseases. Climate is bringing old viruses back from the dead and vector-borne diseases — those carried by insects like mosquitoes and ticks and transferred in the blood of infected people — are also on the rise as warming weather and erratic precipitation vastly expand the geographic regions vulnerable to contagion. And in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic, even as it unfolds in the form of an urgent crisis, is offering a larger- lesson. It is demonstrating in real time the enormously undeniable power that nature has over civilization and even over its politics, which alone may make the pandemic prologue for more far-reaching and disruptive changes to come. But, finally, it also makes clear that climate policy today is indivisible from efforts to prevent new infectious outbreaks, or, as Bernstein put it, the notion that climate and health and environmental policy might not be related is “a ​dangerous delusion”- NM Political Report

  • Coronavirus lockdown speeds India’s shift from coal to solar power – Climate Home News
  • New satellite maps show dire state of ice melt in Antarctica and Greenland – LiveScience
  • One billion people will live in insufferable heat within 50 years – study – The Guardian
  • Supercharged by climate change, ‘megadrought’ points to drier future in the West – AZ Central
  • Greta Thunberg and children’s group hit back at attempt to throw out climate case – The Guardian
  • The importance of climate education in a COVID-19 world – World Economic Forum
  • Can planting a trillion trees reverse the damage of climate change? – TreeHugger
An urban beekeeper tends to apiaries on a Ljubljana rooftop. One in every 200 Slovenes keeps bees. Luka Dakskobler

The Bee Whisperers of Slovenia Have a Plan to Save Colonies from Climate Change.  In Slovenia, beekeeping is a way of life. In this small European nation of 2 million, 1 out of every 200 people is a beekeeper. That is four times as many as in the European Union as a whole. And not even the coronavirus, which has infected over 1,400 people and killed at least 96, slowed down the country’s dedication to keeping bees. However, certain bee species are on the decline. Europe’s bumblebee populations, for instance, fell by 17% from 2000 to 2014 while in North America, the population dropped by 46%, rates scientists say constitute a mass extinction. Although colonies of honey bees are not collapsing at the same rate, they are still in decline in many parts of the world. Yet in Slovenia, bee populations are flourishing. While differing survey methods and limited data makes it difficult to compare bee populations across countries, the Slovenian Beekeepers Association reports a 2% annual increase in the number of bee colonies throughout the country. But especially now, as the climate crisis threatens bee populations around the world, Slovenian beekeepers see an opportunity to be more than just stewards of a beloved tradition. The country’s beekeepers can be a powerful force. The Slovenian Beekeepers Association, formed in 1873, has 8,000 members and its activities range from organizing beekeeping classes in schools to pushing out a nationwide campaign in 2007 to promote a traditional, Slovenian honey breakfast. Unlike Slovenia, in many other countries, politicians may not have listened to anecdotal evidence from small-scale beekeepers. But in Slovenia, they constitute an important voter demographic. “Because we have so many beekeepers, we have a lot of power,” says Kozmus, who is the chair of the beekeeping council for the Ministry of Agriculture. “Politicians don’t want to anger beekeepers because when there are elections, beekeepers are an important population.” Slovenia’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Aleksandra Pivec, who also serves as the country’s Deputy Prime Minister added that it’s important to listen to beekeepers because “the fact is that every third spoonful of the world’s food depends on pollination.” The world can take action to curb global heating, ban dangerous pesticides and an end to ecological degradation. “Every person can do something for the bees,” he says – Time

A shuttered storefront in Newark in March. Credit: Bryan Anselm for The New York Times