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

Atauro Island coral reef.

Coral reef on Atauro Island, Timor Leste. (© Conservation International/photo by Paul Hilton)

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. Scientists discover giant deep-sea coral reef off Atlantic coast 

An 85-mile reef was discovered off the coast of South Carolina this week, and scientists are rejoicing.

The story: Erik Cordes, chief scientist of the expedition, boarded a deep-sea exploration vehicle named Alvin with the hope of exploring a site called Richardson Ridge, about 160 miles off the coast of Charleston, Chris D’Angelo with the Huffington Post wrote Saturday. Seven hours later, Cordes and colleagues resurfaced from their half-mile dive with bountiful coral specimens and a sense of overwhelming awe at their findings. “We couldn’t find a place that didn’t have corals,” Cordes said. Successive dives in nearby areas resulted in the same discovery: flourishing coral ecosystems previously undiscovered. Cordes said the coral structures could be hundreds of thousands of years old.

The big picture: This discovery, part of an on-going project called Deep Search, comes as a sweeping offshore drilling plan is being proposed by the Trump administration. The plan, if passed, would result in large parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic being exposed to oil exploration, potentially destroying coral reefs. “Cordes said Saturday that this complex and diverse coral habitat must be protected from oil and gas development,” D’Angelo wrote. Coral reefs have numerous benefits like providing habitats for fisheries, jobs and tourism and protection from weather like storms and tsunamis.

Read more here.

  1. Trump administration scraps Obama-era regulation on coal emissions

The Affordable Clean Energy plan proposed by the Trump administration wipes out climate-saving regulations.

The story: The plan would remove federal caps for emissions put on power plants and instead allow states to decide the regulations for their plants, Oliver Milman with The Guardian wrote Tuesday. According to the EPA, the new plan could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by up to 1.5 percent by 2030, compared to the 32-percent reduction in emissions under Obama’s Clean Power Plan proposal in 2005. In fact, the “clean energy” portion of this new plan is not particularly clean when the potential negative effects on climate change and human health are taken into account.

The big picture: Aside from the negative environmental impact of this new plan, the toll it would take on human lives is devastating. Buried in a 289-page impact analysis, the EPA states the adverse health effects related to this new plan: “As compared to the standards of performance that it replaces (i.e., the 2015 Clean Power Plan) … implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and increase the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.” This could result in as many as 1,400 premature deaths per year, 40,000 cases of worsened asthma and 60,000 lost school days by 2030.

Read more here.

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  1. Watch as the Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for the first time on record

A region of sea ice that experts expected to be among the last to be adversely affected by global warming has already broken and melted twice this year.

The story: The Arctic Ocean north of Greenland is supposedly the strongest and oldest sea ice in the Arctic, and it has been frozen since records began — that is, until this year — Trevor Nace reported in Forbes Magazine Wednesday. Temperature spikes in February and August caused part of the ice to briefly melt, resulting in it breaking into pieces and being moved to warmer waters. “As the sea ice begins to break up, it is increasingly easier to further break up and melt,” Nace wrote. According to NASA, Arctic sea ice levels have been decreasing over the past few decades, and 2015 through 2018 had the lowest recorded maximum extents, the measure of Arctic sea covered by ice.

The big picture: This warmer weather in the Arctic means hotter and drier summer weather in North America and Europe, according to an article published in Nature Communications. Melting of Arctic ice has been shown to slow global ocean circulation, a process responsible for helping to regulate global climate. Not only does the melting ice mean changes in weather patterns and extremity, but it also increases sea levels, affecting people living in low-lying coastal regions.

Read more here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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