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

Humpback whale, Alaska.

Humpback whale, Tongass National Forest, Alaska. (© Art Wolfe)

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. Many major airports are near sea level. A disaster in Japan shows what can go wrong.

Kansai International Airport was covered in seawater this week after a typhoon hit Japan. According to experts, it’s not the only airport in danger of rising sea levels.

The story: Much of Kansai International Airport was underwater this week, a danger faced by many other airports around the world, Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times Friday. “All told, extreme weather and rising sea levels today pose one of the most urgent threats to many of the world’s busiest airports, which often weren’t designed with global warming in mind,” Tabuchi said. A quarter of the 100 busiest airports across the globe are less than 10 meters above sea level, including those in Shanghai, San Francisco and New York. Sea levels are continually rising due to climate change, putting them at risk.

The big picture: Sea-level rise is accelerating at a rate of one-eighth inch per year. Many highly populated cities and countries, where high volume airports are located, are at risk of being covered in sea water. Ten percent of the world’s human population live at or below 10 meters above sea level. Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, has already seen two islands covered in sea water.

Read the story here.


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  1. World’s largest offshore windfarm opens off Cumbrian coast

An offshore wind farm with the energy to power 590,000 homes opened in the Irish sea, making it the largest in the world.

The story: The new wind farm, Walney Extension, uses half the number of wind turbines of the London Array (until recently the world’s largest offshore wind farm), but produces more energy, Adam Vaughan with The Guardian wrote Thursday. More windfarms are slated to appear on the British coastline, meaning Walney Extension may not hold this title for long, which experts say is a great step for renewable energy.

The big picture: Offshore windmills provide almost one-tenth of the United Kingdom’s energy and the U.K. is home to seven of the world’s largest offshore windfarms. Renewable energy sources, such as windfarms, minimize emissions released into the atmosphere and are better for the environment than other energy sources such as coal. By focusing on clean energy sources, countries can minimize their impact on the environment.

Read the story here.

  1. Alaska refuge can’t protect its wildlife from climate change

Declines in wildlife populations on an Alaskan wildlife refuge are likely due to climate change.

The story: Species such as murres, puffins, seals, sea lions and whales living on Alaska’s Adak Island are dying off due to warming of the Bering Sea, Samantha Yadron wrote in National Geographic Thursday. Some experts say the warming of the Bering Sea is due to climate change. The warming causes phytoplankton, an essential part of the food chain, to bloom late. Animals, such as birds and whales, starve as a result. Since May 2018, more than 1,400 birds were found dead or starving on Bering Sea beaches.

The big picture: “Marine heat waves are becoming more frequent and more intense,” Timothy Jones, a researcher at the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team at the University of Washington, said. Marine heat waves are made worse by global warming and are at least partially due to human activities. These heat waves have resulted in the starvation and death of wildlife species in many different marine ecosystems such as Australia, California and most recently, Alaska.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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