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

Jellyfish in West Papua

Jellyfish on Karawapop Island, Southeast Miso, Raja Ampat. (© Keith A. Ellenbogen)

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. Australian jellyfish swarm stings thousands, forcing beach closings

Several beaches in Australia are closed after thousands of people were stung by bluebottle jellyfish — a potentially troubling sign for ocean health.

The story: Since December 1, there have been 22,787 jellyfish stings recorded in Australia, Livia Albeck-Ripka reported for The New York Times last week. Typically, bluebottle jellyfish — whose stings are not normally fatal — stick to deeper waters, but strong winds and warmer waters have caused “a relentless influx” on beaches.

The big picture: Although the connection between climate change and jellyfish isn’t explicit, scientists agree that the worldwide spike in jellyfish populations is likely a sign that the oceans are in trouble. “The prevalence of jellyfish, especially in particular locations, can be a real signal of an ecosystem that’s not functioning properly,” said Juli Berwald, a marine research scientist.

Read the story here.

  1. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions spiked in 2018 — and it couldn’t happen at a worse time

In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. rose approximately 3.4 percent.

The story: Scientists worry that the spike in emissions means that the U.S. will be unable to meet its Paris agreement pledge, Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis reported for The Washington Post last week. The rise in emissions was mainly due to the booming economy, but it was also fueled by President Trump’s environmental rollbacks, particularly in the electric power sector.

The big picture: Global emissions also increased in 2018, despite urgent warnings from scientists about the effects of runaway climate change. If countries, especially the U.S. —  the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter — do not drastically reduce emissions in the next decade, the world will warm beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius and experience devastating losses, Mooney and Dennis wrote.

Read the story here.

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  1. In India’s fast-growing cities, a grassroots effort to save the trees

In some of the world’s most densely populated areas there are little to no trees — protests have broken out in result.

The story: Recent protests against the destruction of trees in Mumbai and Bangalore highlight a global issue: Trees benefit people, but in developing cities, there often aren’t many, Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar reported for Yale Environment 360 last week. Cities in Europe and America often have 20 percent tree cover, but those in developing countries typically have less than 5 percent.

The big picture: Trees could save large cities more than US$ 500 million each year in public health, energy and environmental protection costs. The problem is that old trees — ones already destroyed for buildings and infrastructure — offer more benefits in terms of carbon sequestration and photosynthesis than young trees that are replanted — which means that replanting efforts by companies do not make up for cutting trees down.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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