El Niño: 5 questions answered

Chyulu Hills, Kenya.

Chyulu Hills, Kenya. (© Charlie Shoemaker)

After one of the hottest years on record worldwide, it seems as if the next few months will offer no respite. According to the Climate Prediction Center, there is a 90 percent chance that there will be an El Niño this season. What does that have to do with weather and climate change? Human Nature is here with answers.

  1. What is El Niño?

The definition of “El Niño” — “little boy” or “Christ child” in Spanish, as it typically occurs in December around Christmas — is a natural weather event that causes warmer-than-usual waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and cooler-than-usual waters in the western tropical Pacific. These changes drive weather patterns that have global consequences. El Niño means below-average temperatures and more rain for the southern U.S., but hot, dry conditions for Australia, Indonesia, southeastern Africa and northern Brazil. The above-average ocean temperatures mean that fish migrate further north in search of cooler waters, and their predators follow suit. These migrations affect not only the marine food chain, but also humans that depend on those fish populations for nutrition and income. El Niño also causes a shift in precipitation, which means some areas may get more rain than usual while others get less, which affects agriculture.

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In case you missed it: 4 big stories from our world

Sorting corn in Tanzania.

Woman sorting corn in Tanzania. In order to feed the world’s growing population in a changing climate, agricultural methods must shift. (© Benjamin Drummond)

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 news stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Can we grow more food on less land? We’ll have to, a new study finds

In order to fight climate change, we have to change the way we produce food, a new report finds.

The story: The world’s population is supposed to be almost 10 billion by 2050, and that means we’re going to need more food, Brad Plumer reported in The New York Times last week. If farmers were to produce this food the way they have been — by clearing forests — they would end up destroying an area two times the size of India, which would release enough carbon to almost certainly prevent us from reaching the 2 degree goal set by the Paris Agreement.

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Companies largely blind to magnitude of climate change risks, new study finds

Only 3 percent of companies are including nature as part of their adaptation strategy, a new study finds. Conservation International is working with companies to implement “green-gray infrastructure,” or infrastructure that combines mangroves and engineered structures, in the Philippines to protect communities on the coast. (© Nandini Narayanan)

Companies around the world are vastly underestimating the risks that climate change poses to their business, a new study finds.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, analyzed disclosures from more than 1,600 global companies and found that they are collectively underreporting the financial implications of climate risks to investors by at least 100 times.

Human Nature spoke with Allie Goldstein, a scientist at Conservation International and the study’s lead author, about the findings.

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From ‘Tarzan’ to tarsiers: one conservationist’s wild journey

Wallacea Biodiversity Hotspot

Wallacea Biodiversity Hotspot, Indonesia. (© Conservation International/photo by Aulia Erlangga)

He has discovered 18 species new to science. He has eight species — including three frogs, a lizard and a monkey — named after him. He has visited every tropical forest on Earth.

His inspiration? Tarzan.

One of the world’s foremost conservationists, Russ Mittermeier, credits the venerable fictional jungle dweller with helping to launch his celebrated career in protecting nature.

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As emissions rise, UN climate talks take on greater urgency

National park in Mexico

Lagunas de Zempoala National Park, Mexico. (© Jessica Scranton)

This has been an alarming year for climate change effects. Wildfires scorched California, hurricanes took heavy tolls and coral reefs are dying. In the face of these natural disasters, greenhouse gas emissions, the main driver of climate change, aren’t decreasing — in fact, they’re going up, according to a new report.

A commentary on the report, published this week by Christiana Figueres, the former head of the United Nations climate change body and distinguished fellow at Conservation International, comes as countries gather this week and next for the UN climate talks (COP 24) in Poland.

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

Katydid in Costa Rica

A newly discovered katydid in Costa Rica. (© Piotr Naskrecki)

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. The insect apocalypse is here

Insect populations are rapidly declining due to climate change, herbicides and pesticides and loss of habitat due to human expansion.

The story: Insect populations are declining worldwide, and a recent study in Germany found that overall insect abundance had decreased by 75 percent over just 27 years, Brooke Jarvis reported in The New York Times last week. Because of insects’ declining numbers, bird and fish populations have been affected — one half of farmland birds in Europe have disappeared in the last three decades.

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Protected areas are not forever

Anzihe Protected Area

Patrolling at the high-altitude area of Anzihe Protected Area, Sichuan. (© Kyle Obermann)

A new report offers insight into the world’s protected areas — and the challenges they face.

Protected area coverage worldwide has grown since 2016 — now covering 14.9 percent of land and 7.3 percent of oceans —  but a new analysis reveals gaps in the protected area system, highlighting essential places for biodiversity and ecosystems that need further protection.

The 2018 Protected Planet Report, released last week at the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) 14th meeting, comes at a critical moment as governments around the world gear up to define new global conservation targets for the next decade. The report acts as a progress check for protected areas regarding Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, which requires signatories to the CBD to protect 17 percent of lands and 10 percent of waters by 2020. However, it does not fully account for an important reality: the impermanence of protected areas.

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

Yasuni National Park

Amazon rainforest in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador. (© Lucas Bustamante)

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. Major Trump administration climate report says damage is ‘intensifying across the country’

Authors of the National Climate Assessment, published last week by the Trump administration, warn that climate change is already affecting the country, and will get worse in the future.

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Holiday gifts you can feel good about giving

Bloomist, a nature-inspired home décor and design company, helps save forests through Conservation International’s Protect an Acre program. (Image courtesy of Bloomist)

Holiday gift-giving can be fraught. Finding the right gift for everyone on your list — something heartfelt yet useful, meaningful yet affordable — is no easy task.

Finding the right gift for the environmentalist in your family can seem even more daunting.

Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.

Conservation International’s 2018 gift guide offers a range of unique items that you can feel good about giving — meaningful ideas that give back to nature. Here are some of the top picks from Conservation International’s newest partners.

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

Young mountain gorilla

A young mountain gorilla rides on its mother’s back in Rwanda. (© 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. Rare conservation win: Mountain gorilla population ticks up

Mountain gorillas were just updated from “critically endangered” to “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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