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 series, Human Nature shares three sobering stories from the past week that you should know about as we go in to Climate Week.
Himalayan glaciers — a crucial source of fresh water for millions of people in South Asia and China — will lose up to a third of their mass, a study found.
The story: The Asian high mountains, the new study said, were already warming more rapidly than the global average, Agence France Presse reported Wednesday in The Guardian. The bad news: This is a best-case scenario, as it assumes that global average temperature rise can be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Read more here.
The big picture: While much of the conservation world’s attention is focused on protecting forests, wetlands and coral reefs, mountains are sometimes taken for granted — yet climate change could crumble their ability to support life as we know it. Mountains’ contributions to fresh water, energy and biodiversity are at risk in a changing climate.
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The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse, writes Helena Bottemiller Evich (@hbottemiller) in Politico — and almost nobody is paying attention.
The story: Much of the food we grow has been growing less nutritious over the years: A 2004 study of fruits and vegetables found that nutrients had declined significantly since 1950. No one has been able to say exactly why, but now, a handful of scientists are beginning to suspect that the atmosphere itself — i.e. higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air — may be changing the food we eat. Read more here.
The big picture: As if we needed another reason to curb climate change, its potential effects on agriculture deserve our attention. While much more research needs to be done on the links between atmospheric carbon dioxide and agriculture, recent research is already highlighting the potential effects of a changing climate on some types of crops — highlighting the stakes we face in mitigating climate change and adapting to the changes already underway.
Climate change could affect the length of the hurricane season, their size and intensity, Chris Mooney (@chriscmooney) reported in The Washington Post.
The story: As Caribbean islands and the U.S. cleaned up from the one-two punch of Harvey and Irma, the national conversation turned to the role of climate change in the powerful hurricanes. Unlike in 2005, when the U.S. was racked by Katrina, Rita and Wilma, scientists are now more willing to link factors like worsened storm surge flooding and hurricane rainfall to climate change, Mooney writes. Read more here.
The big picture: With stronger storms and rising seas, the impacts of hurricanes are likely to worsen worldwide — underscoring the role that nature itself can play in protecting small coastal communities and even major metro areas such as New York. As Conservation International scientist David Hole told Human Nature in 2015: “Following Hurricane Sandy, they’re putting in a lot of engineered infrastructure, but they’re also using ecosystem-based solutions — like restoring oyster reefs and sand dunes — because they are the best and, in that case, the most cost-effective way of reducing risk in some areas.”
Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director.
- In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world
- To weather a changing climate, coffee needs bees, trees: study shows
- Three things we’re reading about hurricanes