YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
BIODIVERSITY + CLIMATE
The restoration of forests and coasts can simultaneously tackle climate change and the mass extinction of species – but is being worryingly overlooked, an international group of campaigners have said. The group emphasises that natural climate solutions are not an alternative to the rapid decarbonisation of energy, transport and farming. Both are needed. Signatories to the letter include school strikes activist Greta Thunberg, along with climate scientists, writers and musicians.
The United Nations announced a Decade of Ecosystem Restoration early last month, and as the group points out, marine habitats will be key. The fastest accumulation of carbon occurs in vegetated coastal habitats like mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrass beds, research shows, which also protect communities from storms. Here, carbon can be sequestered 40 times faster than in tropical forests.
Two more plastic bans joined the growing list last week, with the EU and the State of New York both passing legislation. The European Parliament first approved a law banning a wide-range of single-use plastic items including straws, stirrers, cotton buds and cutlery by 2021. It also extends to manufacturers of fishing nets so that companies (but not fishing crews) pay the cost of nets lost at sea. The next day, New York State lawmakers agreed to impose a statewide ban on most types of single-use plastic bags.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef was hit hard by warm ocean water in 2016 and 2017, causing back-to-back disasters filled with widespread coral die-offs. The question – asked with fingers firmly crossed – was whether the reefs would find a way to bounce back quickly, repopulating with a new generation of corals. Unfortunately, a new study published this week shows that the first year's data is not encouraging. Instead of a recovery, researchers found a significant decline in new corals settling on the reef.
The Gulf of Maine is in crisis, with the region warming faster than 99% of the global ocean. Fish stocks are moving north, key food web events like the spring plankton bloom are occurring earlier in the year, and regional waters are staying warmer for longer. Now, new research suggests warming seas there will also cause more stranded sea turtles. By 2031, as many as 2,300 Kemp’s Ridleys turtles could strand themselves every year – a significant number for the the most endangered sea turtle species in the world.
THE ARCTIC OCEAN
In another major legal blow to President Trump’s anti-environment policies, a push to expand offshore oil and gas development has been blocked. Judge Sharon L. Gleason ruled that an executive order by Mr. Trump that lifted an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic coast was unlawful. The decision immediately reinstates the drilling ban on most of the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska, a pristine region home to endangered species like polar bears and bowhead whales.