In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Giant panda

Giant panda in Sichuan, China. (© Piotr Naskrecki)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a new feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about. 

Forests versus hurricanes

Forests may provide defend against hurricanes and cyclones — by inhibiting them from forming, according to a top forestry scientist.

The story: Through complex atmospheric mechanics that are only now beginning to become clear, forests may effectively compete with cyclones for the moisture that powers such storms, writes Douglas Sheil of the Center for International Forestry Research. As Sheil writes, “Our work suggests that forests may protect continental regions from extreme storms. … Evidence suggests that by importing atmospheric moisture from the ocean, forests deplete the vapor available to generate and support cyclones.” Read more here.

The big picture: This hypothesis is still being tested, and it will be some time before the relationship between forests and cyclones is completely understood. But it may yet be further evidence that the loss of the planet’s forests is detrimental to ecosystems and for people — including in ways we may not fully understand yet. “Ignoring the plight of forests,” Sheil writes, “is asking for trouble.”

14 states: We’re on track to meet Paris climate goals, despite Trump

A group of U.S. governors, whose states represent more than a third of the country’s population, delivered a strong message last week on climate change, reported Georgina Gustin (@georgina_gustin) for Inside Climate News.

The story: A group called the U.S. Climate Alliance, formed after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, announced that the 14 states they represent (as well as Puerto Rico) are on track to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to up to 29 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. From 2005 to 2015, the states in the alliance had already cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent, the report said, while their economic output grew 14 percent. Read more here.

The big picture: The alliance is among a surge of initiatives among U.S. cities and states continuing the effort to curb climate change. They’ll need to keep at it: Two weeks ago, the U.S. Energy Information Agency forecast that at current rates, global emissions of carbon dioxide would grow 16 percent by 2040 from 2015 levels.

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The giant panda is on a bit of a roll

Lastly, a bit of good news: China’s commitment to protecting the animals is bringing results.

The story: The population of pandas in China growing, thanks to concerted efforts by the country to protect the habitats that the bears need to survive, wrote The Economist. Look no further than the number of national reserves: 67, up from just four in the 1960s. Read more here.

The big picture: Whether this trajectory can continue is the big question: China continues to develop rapidly westward into places where pandas roam. Moreover, the country’s growing thirst for wine — it is one of the fastest-growing wine-producing regions in the world — could also pose challenges. The areas in China well-suited for growing wine grapes “happen to be in the same mountains that are habitat for giant pandas,” wrote Conservation International scientist Lee Hannah in 2015. “Wine expansion in China may have repercussions for what is arguably the world’s most iconic animal.”

Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director. 

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