Wildlife loss, flight footprints, Irish action: 3 big stories you might have missed

Black rhinos

Mother and baby black rhino in warm evening light in Etosha National Park, Namibia. (© WLDavies)

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. Climate change: Half of world’s biggest airlines don’t offer carbon offsets

Air travel contributes 2 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, but less than half of the world’s biggest airlines offer options to offset those emissions.

The story: The majority of airlines don’t offer carbon offsets, which let passengers pay a small fee to the airline to offset the carbon emissions of their flight, Dulcie Lee and Laura Foster reported for BBC last week. The money from these offsets is invested into “green” initiatives such as solar panels or planting trees.

The big picture: Airlines are required to begin reducing their carbon footprint starting in 2020, with the goal of halving the sector’s carbon footprint by 2050. But, this can only go so far in fighting climate change when more than 4 billion people board an airplane every year, but fewer than 1 percent of passengers actually use carbon offsets provided by airlines.

Read the story here.

  1. UN report: Humans accelerating extinction of other species

Humans are destroying the very nature they need to survive, a new report finds.

The story: One million plant and animal species are at risk of becoming extinct — altering life on the planet as we know it. The report’s findings made headlines around the world (AP’s Seth Borenstein reported it here). The study is one of the first to directly link human activity such as greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use to the extinction crisis.

The big picture: The only way to save the natural world is to rapidly change human behavior, including changing farming practices and switching to clean energy, on a global scale. “We’re in the middle of the sixth great extinction crisis, but it’s happening in slow motion,” said Lee Hannah, senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International.

Read the story here.


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  1. Irish Parliament declares climate emergency

Ireland is now the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency.

The story: The Irish Parliament officially included an amendment that declares a climate emergency and requires the governing body to “examine how [the Irish government] can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss,” The Guardian reported last week. The U.K. declared a climate emergency earlier this month.

The big picture: There is no defined action that countries must take for a “climate emergency,” so the declaration is at least partly symbolic, The Guardian writes. However, the U.K. has announced a goal of zero net emissions by 2050, which exceeds the country’s Paris Agreement target of reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International. 

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