In case you missed it: 4 big stories from our world

Indo-Chinese tigers, pictured above in Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia. (© Conservation International/photo by Haroldo Castro)

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

   1. Animals’ popularity ‘a disadvantage’

The story: A study found that popular animals that appear frequently in media and advertisements, could be at a disadvantage because the public believes that they are prospering in the wild, Mary Halton reported for the BBC on April 13. These “charismatic” animals including tigers, lions and elephants might not be fairing as well as people think.

The big picture: Non-profits and other environmental organizations often use images of these beloved animals to draw attention to their cause. This can cause misconceptions about the welfare of wildlife around the world. “Mostly I think because people see giraffes and lions every day of their life, they unconsciously think they are in abundance,” said Dr. Franck Courchamp, the study’s lead author. This makes people less concerned about wildlife protection and less likely to donate to these causes.

Read more here. 

   2. Michael Bloomberg pledges $4.5m to cover US Paris climate commitment

The story: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday that he will write a US$ 4.5 million check to cover this year’s U.S. commitment to the Paris climate agreement, Martin Pengelly reported for The Guardian. Bloomberg said that he wouldn’t fund next year’s commitments because he hopes that U.S. President Donald Trump will change his mind and rejoin the Paris agreement.

The big picture: Trump pulled the U.S. federal government out of the Paris climate agreement last year, citing negative impacts on the U.S. economy, but has since said that he could “listen to others and change his mind.” The decision by the President of one of the most influential nations in the world sent a message to other countries that fighting climate change was not this administration’s top priority. “He should change his mind and say look there really is a problem here,” Bloomberg said. “America is part of the problem. America is a big part of the solution and we should go in and help the world stop a potential disaster.”

Read more here.

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  1. Global warming has changed the Great Barrier Reef ‘forever,’ scientists say

The story: A study found that in 2016 about 30 percent of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals were lost, with the most severe damage in the isolated northern sector, Chris Mooney reported for The Washington Post on April 18. Many corals died faster than expected and at a lower level of sustained heat than scientists predicted to be deadly. Also, the branching corals that provide key fish habitats are being replaced by bulky, “dome-shaped” corals.

The big picture: The reef experienced two consecutive summers, 2016 and 2017, when the ocean was far above the average temperature and stayed that way for a long time. This doesn’t mean the end of the reef as a whole, but it does mean that the corals and fish species that makeup the reef will have to change to survive. “The 2016 marine heat wave has triggered the initial phase of that transition on the northern, most-pristine region of the Great Barrier Reef, changing it forever as the intensity of global warming continues to escalate,” the study said.

Read more here.

  1. To curb ocean pollution, UK may ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton swabs

The story: Prime Minister Theresa May announced Wednesday that the United Kingdom plans to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, Laurel Wamsley reported for NPR. Retailers would stop selling single use plastics after the government launches a “consultation” later this year. May’s statement also said the government “will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt.”

The big picture: Several other countries and states have proposed similar bans. Taiwan plans to impose a complete ban on plastic utensils, straws and bags by 2030. In January, McDonald’s committed to making 100 percent of packaging from renewable, recycled or certified materials by 2025.  In February, Scotland announced that it planned to ban plastic straws by 2019 and California lawmakers proposed a rule that would make plastic straws illegal with penalties that could include a US$ 1,000 fine or jail time. “Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world,” May said in a statement, in which she called the U.K. government “a world leader on this issue.”

Read more here.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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