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

Anzihe Protected Area

Anzihe Protected Area, Chongzhou, Sichuan. (© Kyle Obermann)

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. Welcome to the Eocene, where ice sheets turn into swamps

Human-caused climate change will cause Earth to undergo changes that it hasn’t seen in all of its history.

The story: A new study found that if we don’t dramatically reduce emissions, we will cause Earth to enter into a state similar to the Eocene period — about 56 million years ago — with massive repercussions, Eric Holthaus reported for Grist last week. During the Eocene, Earth was 8 degrees Celsius warmer, which resulted in mass extinctions and rains that were strong enough to “scour away the land surface at a continent scale.”

The big picture: Based on the study, Earth could enter into this apocalyptic state in just 120 years, and in 250 years, at least 9 percent of its surface would be unlike anything the Earth has ever experienced. “The longer we wait to institute radical changes in society, the more likely the climate will become radically and irreversibly different, during the lifetimes of people alive today,” Holthaus wrote.

Read the story here.

  1. Following Trump’s lead, Republicans avoid addressing climate change

Even though Democratic lawmakers have always discussed climate change more than their Republican counterparts, under Trump’s presidency, Republicans have been discussing it far less.

The story: A study looked at how many times climate change was mentioned by Congress and found that in 2015, Republican lawmakers mentioned it 678 times compared with only 215 in 2018, Neal Rothschild wrote for Axios last week. For comparison, Democratic lawmakers mentioned climate change 5,360 times in 2018.

The big picture: The divide separating Republican and Democratic lawmakers on climate change is becoming deeper, and it’s occurring when more extreme weather events and scientific studies are bringing attention to the issue. One reason Republicans are mentioning it less, Rothschild wrote, could be that now they are being asked explicitly about the science and causation of climate change, and “have retreated where they might otherwise acknowledge the science at a more gradual pace.”

Read the story here.

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  1. Trump administration to strip pollution protections, harming vital wildlife

Trump administration to allow pollution into thousands of streams and millions of acres of wetlands.

The story: The streams and wetlands were previously protected by a law that required land users to obtain permits before being allowed to pollute the water, Emily Holden and Oliver Milman reported in The Guardian last week. But, the repeal of those protections would allow pollutants including fertilizers, pesticides and industry waste into streams and wetlands.

The big picture: The pollutants can harm wetlands, which provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and help to purify water and protect against floods, and the chemicals can also contaminate drinking water. Major rivers would still be protected, but smaller streams, ditches and converted cropland would not — which means pollution could still make its way to larger rivers through watershed.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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