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

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park. (© Etienne Desclides)

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. Africa’s black panthers emerge from a century in the shadows

A black panther was captured on camera in Kenya. It’s the first confirmed sighting of one in Africa in almost 100 years.

The story: The last documented black panther spotting in Africa occurred in Ethiopia in 1909. Despite the name, black panthers are actually a type of leopard — an extremely rare one that makes up only 11 percent of all leopard populations — Iliana Magra reported for The New York Times last week.

The big picture: That darker coat is thanks to a particular gene, one that scientists believe gives black leopards an evolutionary advantage. The color serves as camouflage, enabling the big cats to more easily hunt prey and hide from predators — including humans, who are decimating leopard habitat though development and agriculture. As of 2015, leopards have been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List,  the global program that evaluates the extinction threat to the world’s species.

Read the story here.

  1. The Senate just passed the decade’s biggest public lands package. Here’s what’s in it.

The bill would protect 1.3 million acres of wilderness. First, it must pass the U.S. House of Representatives and be signed into law by the president.

The story: The proposed package would provide strict protections for public lands, establish four new national monuments and reauthorize and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni reported for The Washington Post last week. The fund, which uses offshore drilling revenue to conserve national parks and wildlife preserves, has faced funding issues in the past, including during the most recent government shutdown.

The big picture: According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the bill  “touches every state, features the input of a wide coalition of our colleagues, and has earned the support of a broad, diverse coalition of many advocates for public lands, economic development and conservation.” Despite President Trump’s vocal opposition to environmental initiatives since taking office, he is expected to sign the bill into law — signaling a big win for conservationists.

Read the story here.

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  1. What will the climate in your city feel like in 60 years?

A new interactive tool shows how climate change will affect your city’s average temperature and precipitation by 2080.

The story: To use the tool, you pick a city and a future: one where the current rate of emissions stays the same, or one where emissions are slashed, slowing climate change. The result is a city whose current climate matches your city’s projected climate 60 years in the future. For example, while Washington, D.C. will feel like the southern city of Greenwood, Mississippi if emissions continue at current levels, it will feel like Mississippi’s northern neighbor, Paragould, Arkansas, if emissions are reduced.

The big picture: The impacts of climate change extend far beyond a map of the U.S. If we don’t take action to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade, coastal cities will be buried under rising sea levels and heat extremes will force millions of climate refugees from their homes.

Check out the map here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International. 

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