The EU’s Carbon Footprint Is Bigger Than You Think

The European Union (EU) prides itself on being among the developed world’s most progressive champions of a low-carbon economy. Since 1990, the EU has decreased its carbon emissions by 8% — a good achievement compared to other large powers.

cropland bordering rainforest, Iguacu National Park, Brazil

Cropland bordering rainforest habitat near Brazil’s Iguacu National Park. According to a recent study, one-third of Brazil’s emissions from deforestation are “exported” in the form of soy and cattle. (© Frans Lanting / Frans Lanting Stock)

That story, however, hides another one: Throughout the same period of time, the EU has massively increased its imports of carbon-intensive products.

One example is the importation of consumer goods to the EU from China, the global leader in greenhouse gas emissions. Since 1990, a large number of EU factories have relocated to China, essentially transferring emissions from one continent to another. A lot of the demand remains in Europe, however, and that side of the footprint is not accounted for.

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Women’s Collective Revitalizes Costa Rican Island Community

women's collective founders, Chira Island, Costa Rica

Liliana (left) and Isabel (right), two founding members of a women’s collective on the Costa Rican island of Chira. (© Conservation International/photo by Annette Fischel)

“We had always known our mangroves were very important.” So began Liliana’s story.

My colleague Emily Pidgeon and I were sitting with Liliana and Isabel, two founding members of the Chira Island women’s collective, in a lodge called La Amistad (“Friendship”). It was they — together with the collective’s 13 other members — who had first dreamt of building this lodge with their own hands.

Sitting in a quiet, tree-covered property on the outskirts of the community of Palito, the lodge is now managed by Liliana, Isabel and Teodora, the only members of the collective who withstood the group’s difficult early stages.

Throughout the next two hours the women calmly described how they had overcome extreme opposition from their husbands, families, community and beyond to bring income, education and security to Palito, a striving coastal community on Costa Rica’s largest island, Chira. The island is located within the Gulf of Nicoya, the country’s most productive estuary.

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Why Palm Oil Isn’t the Enemy

If you watched last night’s premiere of “Years of Living Dangerously,” the new Showtime series about the impacts of climate change, you likely found yourself thinking palm oil’s pretty bad stuff.

oil palm fruit in Malaysia

Oil palm fruit in Malaysia. Palm oil may be found in half the products on an average supermarket shelf. (© Benjamin Drummond)

As CI vice chair Harrison Ford flew over scorched patches of former forest being planted with palm oil and visited orphaned orangutans in Indonesia, it’s hard not to have a visceral reaction to this devastation.

So you may be surprised to hear an environmentalist say that palm oil itself isn’t the enemy — it’s where and how it’s grown that we need to change.

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Assessing the Health of Brazil’s Ocean

Every year, millions of people pour onto Brazil’s beaches to soak up the sun, supporting local economies and thousands of jobs. The country’s sardine, corvina and snapper fisheries provide food and livelihoods for millions more.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro’s famous Ipanema Beach. (© OSTILL)

With a coastline stretching 7,491 kilometers (4,655 miles) and over two-thirds of the country’s population residing in its 17 coastal states, Brazil is undoubtedly big ocean country. However, there has been no way of assessing the health of the country’s oceans and coasts in a holistic way — until now.

This week, an Ocean Health Index regional assessment of Brazil’s coastal states was published in the journal PLOS ONE, providing a much-needed mechanism to understand and manage the country’s oceans.

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The New Face of Climate Change

Earlier this week, Fabio Scarano blogged about the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Today, Sanjayan shares his own take on the newest findings.

children in Madagascar

Children in Madagascar. (© Cristina Mittermeier)

According to the latest IPCC report, climate change will cause massive food shortages, put coastal communities at risk, destroy freshwater supplies and increase conflict worldwide. And the impact will not be evenly spread; those who can least afford it, in marginal crowded geographies, will suffer the most.

It’s enough to make you batten down the hatches and look for tips from the National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers.” But I don’t look at it entirely that way.

The report finally puts a new face on climate change: ours. And that’s a change we need.

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Is There a Silver Lining to the New IPCC Climate Change Report?

If you’ve been paying attention, the findings in the newest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will not come as a surprise.

From Typhoon Haiyan to drought in California and Australia to extreme flooding in the Amazon, shifting weather patterns attributed to climate change are taking a toll on lives and livelihoods across the globe.

mangroves and coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Mangroves and coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Coastal ecosystems like these help buffer coasts from storms, which are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change. (© Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock)

The Fifth Assessment Report released today in Japan further underscores the dangerous path we are on. However, I believe there’s a silver lining: a greater understanding of the most effective ways to fight back. To successfully adapt to climate change, it is essential to reduce poverty while protecting nature.

Despite the grim scenarios projected by the IPCC seven years ago in the Fourth Assessment Report — which, I should add, earned the group a Nobel Peace Prize — our global society did not take significant action to halt greenhouse gas emissions or attempt to reduce the devastating impacts of climate change. Therefore, while a drastic reduction in global emissions is still critical, it is no longer enough. We are already living in the age of adaptation.

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Carnival Parade Celebrates Brazil’s Natural Treasures

Carnival is Brazil’s most famous celebration, known across the globe for its colorful costumes, lively dances and parties that continue virtually nonstop for several days and nights. But this year’s festival in Rio de Janeiro, held earlier this month, was about more than feathers and beads.

ocean-themed flat at samba school Carnival parade, Rio

The ocean-themed float of the Unidos de Vila Isabel samba school’s parade during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The theme for the school’s parade, “Portraits of a plural Brazil,” was based on a book published by CI-Brazil. (© Conservation International/photo by Beto Mesquita)

During the parade of Rio’s samba schools — one of Carnival’s most highly anticipated events — one of the schools used their parade theme to raise awareness about the value of Brazil’s natural and cultural treasures. I’m proud to say this group was inspired by one of CI-Brazil’s own publications.

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Maasai Woman Inspires Change in Rural Kenya

Conservation International indigenous fellow Beatrice Lempaira in rural Kenya

CI indigenous fellow Beatrice Lempaira explains how communities in rural Kenya are working together to improve livestock management and reduce land degradation. (© Conservation International/photo by Kame Westerman)

Earlier this month, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, which honors the achievements made toward the advancement of women throughout history and around the world.

The observance began in 1911 as part of the women’s suffrage movement in North America and Europe. But growing up in rural Wisconsin, we never learned about it in school or celebrated it in any way.

It was only when I became a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Madagascar that I realized the inspiration and celebration that the day generates in other parts of the world.

In the remote northeastern Malagasy village I lived in, Ambinanitelo, International Women’s Day was one of the most eagerly anticipated days of the year. As I walked through the village, strains of music, dance and laughter spilled out of houses where groups of women practiced for the big day.

The feten’ny behivavy (women’s festival) brought the whole village to a standstill. People took a break from their ubiquitous rice farming, dirty clothes were left soiled until tomorrow and students had the day off. Young and old gathered in the center square to watch the colorfully dressed women sing and dance about their lives. I felt honored to be a part of this exciting day.

A decade later, I had the good fortune to spend this most recent International Women’s Day back in Africa — this time in rural Kenya, where I was visiting one of CI’s indigenous fellows.

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Reducing Protection for Tasmanian Wilderness Would Be Bad News for Forests

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared a few weeks ago that too much of Australia’s forests are “locked up” in protected areas. He announced his intention to ask the World Heritage Committee to de-list 74,000 hectares (183,000 acres) of forest that were added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage site just last year.

temperate rainforest, Australia

Temperate rainforest in Tasmania, Australia. (© Keiichi Hiki)

This is an astonishing announcement for a leader of a country with a proud conservation tradition — and until now a model in celebrating and applying the World Heritage Convention. It is also unprecedented. There is no record of a country attempting to withdraw areas from the World Heritage List just one year after their inscription.

In an open letter to the prime minister, over 100 members of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas quickly pointed out that Australia is far from being in a position where it has conserved too much.

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Urban Jungle: No Forest, No Water for Mexico City

In honor of the International Day of Forests (today) and World Water Day (tomorrow), we bring you a story that highlights how closely tied ecosystems are. This is the second post in our new “Urban Jungle” series, which explores the inextricable connections between nature and thriving cities. Read the first post

fig tree, Morelos, Mexico

Fig tree in Water Forest in the Mexican state of Morelos. Among other benefits, forests help filter fresh water and prevent erosion. (© Jürgen Hoth)

My relationship with the forest began when I was two weeks old and my mother took me to Desierto de los Leones National Park — at the time a deep, humid fir forest that crowned much of the mountains southwest of Mexico City.

This park is part of what is increasingly known as the “Water Forest,” a 2,500 square-kilometer (about 1,000 square-mile) area of forest and natural grassland-covered mountains. Although the Water Forest only makes up 0.1% of Mexico’s land area, it provides water for 23 million people inhabiting three neighboring cities — including Mexico City, one of the world’s largest metropolises.

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