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

Slit shell snail found in the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean. (© NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research/Flickr Creative Commons)

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 three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Even the ocean’s deepest reaches are not safe from plastic trash

The story: Researchers captured an image of a plastic bag in the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the ocean at 35,775 feet below sea level, James Rainey reported for NBC News on May 16. In a paper released last month, scientists found 3,425 cans, bits of plastic and stray fishing gear captured in photos and videos taken by deep-sea remotely operated vehicles, mostly in the Pacific.

The big picture: Most of the trash found at 18,000 feet and below comes from single-use products — the plastic bags and containers that many communities have begun to outlaw. Governments in Taiwan, Scotland and California have banned or announced plans to ban straws and other single-use plastics this year. David Gallo, an oceanographer said the new findings confirm what he has seen since his first research trip into the Pacific in the 1970s. “I thought we would be venturing into something like an alien planet, where there had never been sunlight,” he said. “Then we get to the bottom and, lo and behold, one of the first things we see is a brightly colored piece of plastic.”

Read more here.

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2. Hurricane season may be even worse in 2018 after a harrowing 2017

The story: New research shows powerful Atlantic storms are intensifying far more rapidly than they did 30 years ago, Oliver Milman reported for The Guardian on May 11. Hurricane season, which officially starts in June, is set to spur as many as 18 named storms, with up to five of them developing into major hurricanes, according to forecasts from North Carolina State University and Colorado State University.

The big picture: In 2017, the Atlantic experienced storms including Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria, which devastated Texas and Puerto Rico. Scientists found that the warming oceans and atmosphere, caused by climate change, will produce stronger hurricanes in the future. “The implication is that the warmer oceans increased the risk of greater hurricane intensity and duration,” said Kevin Trenberth, a National Center for Atmospheric Research senior scientist and lead author of the study. “As climate change continues to heat the oceans, we can expect more supercharged storms like Harvey.”

Read more here.

  1. Blockchain alliance aims to track carbon credits to fight climate change

The story: Veridium Labs and IBM launched a blockchain network designed to track how companies buy and sell carbon credits, Stephen Shankland reported for CNET on May 15. Carbon credit systems cap allowed carbon dioxide releases but let companies that don’t reach the cap sell credits to those who go over. Carbon credit systems also let companies pay others that do things like plant forests to offset their carbon emissions.

The big picture:  Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that can record virtually everything of value while ensuring these transactions are incorruptible and completely transparent. An IBM spokesperson said that the blockchain network can help make measuring environmental impact, transferring ownership rights and redeeming the underlying carbon offset more efficient. In August, Jennifer Morris, president of Conservation International, spoke at the Blockchain 2017 Summit. Morris said that blockchain has the potential to trace high-value commodities and increase the scale and efficiency of conservation payments. “While blockchain solutions to conservation challenges are very much in their infancy, the possibilities are boundless and we are only limited by our imagination,” Morris said.

Read more here.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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