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

Himalayan mountains

Himalayan mountain range, Nepal. (© Rod Mast)

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. Rising temperatures could melt most Himalayan glaciers by 2100

Even if countries meet the strictest requirements for climate action, one-third of Himalayan glaciers will melt by the end of the century, a new study found.

The story: If no action is taken and greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, two-thirds of the glaciers that provide water to a quarter of the world’s people will melt, Kai Schultz and Bhadra Sharma reported for The New York Times last week. The rapid melting is caused by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere.

The big picture: Around half of India’s population — 600 million people — already face extreme water scarcity. “By 2030, the country’s demand for water is likely to be twice the available supply,” Schultz and Sharma wrote. Taking action against climate change is the only way to protect these glaciers from melting further and save millions of people from suffering.

Read the story here.

  1. The hidden environmental toll of mining the world’s sand

Sand — the world’s largest mining endeavor — is used to create necessities of everyday life, such as buildings and roads, but removing it from nature destroys ecosystems.

The story: Sand is used in everything from concrete for buildings to fracking, but not all types of sand are created equal, Fred Pearce reported for Yale Environment 360 last week. The best sand comes from rivers, as it isn’t eroded like desert sand or full of corrosive salt like marine sand — but extracting sand from rivers is the most environmentally harmful.

The big picture: Miners are removing twice as much sand as rivers can restore from sedimentation, which alters water flow, harms wetlands and fisheries and erodes riverbanks — and that’s if the mining is legal, which oftentimes it’s not. “Sand mining in rivers should not exceed the rate of resupply of sand from upstream,” Pearce wrote. “Until that happens, the stories of heedless sand mining will keep coming.”

Read the story here.


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  1. ‘We have one reef’: Key West bans popular sunscreens to help keep coral alive

Last week the Key West City Commission voted to ban sunscreens that contain certain chemicals from being sold within city limits beginning in 2021.

The story: The two chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been shown to damage coral reefs, Lindsey Bever reported for The Washington Post last week. The Great Florida Reef — the largest reef in the continental U.S. — offers both environmental and economic benefits to Floridians and banning these chemicals is one step toward protecting it.

The big picture: Coral reefs are valued at US$ 30 billion to $172 billion every year because of the numerous benefits they provide people, such as food and tourism revenue. “There are thousands of sunscreens out there, and we have one reef,” Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said. “And we have an opportunity to do one small thing to protect that. I believe it’s our obligation.” This ban is part of a larger trend — Hawaiʻi and Palua, an island nation near Australia, recently announced similar bans in their effort toward protecting reefs and ocean health.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International. 

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