A topic covered in this Eco-friendly news issue: One of the migrating species at risk, the Monarch butterfly, pollinating a white cosmos surrounded by flower field during sunset.
Feb 26, 2024
weekly eco news

Beyond The Paris Agreement: Escalating Global Temps and Threatened Migratory Species Population - 16th Issue

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A Year Above the 1.5C Warming Limit

An illustration displaying melting earth, a thermometer at high temperature, and industrial factories with plumes of smoke, capturing the concept of global warming.

Earth’s climate reached a symbolistic milestone this month. February 2024 marks a whole year with average temperatures past the warming limit of 1.5C listed by the Paris Agreement.

Driven by human activities, the past 365 days have been a taste of the potential future with extreme heat waves, catastrophic floods, and sweeping wildfires. The world’s ocean temperatures are also at record levels. 

Since the Industrial Revolution, the continuous addition of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere increased Earth’s temperatures and caused an imbalance in its systems. If no changes are made to emissions, the warning limit of 1.5C as a long-term average, as opposed to a single year, can be crossed within the next decade.

Encouragingly, the huge strides in green technologies and climate policies made a difference, preventing the worst-case scenarios. Scientists believe the warming trajectory of the planet will shift at net zero carbon emissions. 

​​"That means we can ultimately control how much warming the world experiences, based on our choices as a society, and as a planet," says Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at US group Berkeley Earth. "Doom is not inevitable."

The Bleak State of Migratory Species

One of the migrating species at risk, the Monarch butterfly, pollinating a white cosmos surrounded by flower field during sunset.

Each spring and autumn, thousands of species transverse the planet in search of optimal temperatures, food, and breeding grounds. Butterflies, whales, and birds sometimes travel thousands of miles. Their movements help shape the complex web of life.

Released in February, the State of the World’s Migratory Species report is the most comprehensive study to date on these important migratory species. The report listed population decline for nearly half of the 1,200 species under the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS), a treaty that aims to protect migratory wildlife across international borders. 

One-fifth of CMS listed species are threatened with extinction. That number skyrockets to 97% for migratory fish. The situation could be more dire than reported with almost 400 migratory species not considered. The root cause of this decline is habitat loss and overexploitation. Other factors include pollution, including light, and physical barriers, such as roads, dams, and fences. Migratory species have heightened risks due to their predictable patterns for poachers and their need for connectivity between their routes. 

The authors describe a range of actions to reverse the bleak trends, including the creation of conservation areas, connection of these protected habitats, and much more. 

“There is hope if we act now to protect, connect and restore species populations and their habitats,” said Malsch, the head of Nature Conserved at the U.N. Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Sustainable Startups Upcycle Food Waste

A colorful illustration of fresh and packaged food against white background surrounding a recycling and upcycling symbol.

From vegetable-enriched burgers to probiotic sodas and pasta sauces, many sustainable-minded startups hope to tackle the massive food waste problem. These businesses upcycle edible food scraps and byproducts that would otherwise end up in landfills. 

Nearly 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S. This contributes the same amount of emissions as the entire aviation industry, including commercial, private and government needs.  

In 2021, the Upcycled Food Association launched a third-party certification program. In a study, about half of consumers intend to purchase Upcycled Certified products, which shows demand from eco-conscious shoppers. These products have diverted an average of 390,000 tons of food waste annually for the last three years.

Since most food waste occurs in the home, these startups cannot solve the problem alone. Experts say that a collection of initiatives are required to transform the system, including education, government policies, and supply chain operations. 

A Rare Dragonfly Rebounded in England

A Norfolk hawker dragonfly on  branch.

After the continuous degradation of its wetland habitats, the Norfolk hawker dragonfly vanished from the Cambridgeshire Fens in 1893 and became confined to the Norfolk Broads. With credit to the improved habitats, this species, known for its bright green eyes and golden body, spread its wings and returned to its original home in Cambridge and beyond. 

It is now expected to be removed from the red list of endangered species, according to the The British Dragonfly Society (BDS).

“Although the hawker’s overall range has expanded greatly, there are still huge gaps in its current distribution,” said Dr. Pam Taylor, the convener of the BDS dragonfly conservation group. “It will need to infill many of these gaps before the species is truly secure in this country and only time will tell whether it will succeed.”

The climate crisis is believed to be the main cause of population decline in multiple dragonflies species. Drought eliminates their breeding grounds among ponds and small streams. This rebound of the Norfolk hawker can be viewed as a call to action to prevent further wetland habitat loss.

U.S. Shows Commitment to Clean Energy Employment

A clean energy worker with white safety hat surveying wind turbines.

To reach 100% clean electricity by 2035, the Department of Energy allocated $24 million in funds to boost clean energy jobs that do not require a four-year degree. 

The funds will be dispersed to educational institutes, such as trade schools, community colleges, and other training programs, providing more equitable opportunities in the workforce. Small to mid-sized manufacturers can also apply for funds to minimize waste and heighten productivity.  

Jennifer Granholm, The US Secretary of Energy, commented: “When it comes to building up the nation’s workforce, there is no doubt that a clean energy transition means developing new, exciting opportunities.

This move shows the nation's commitment to the clean energy movement by finding sustainable solutions from multiple sources.