March 17, 2021 5 min read

According to a new report from the University of New South Wales.We are now facing the largest extinction event in Australias history, says David Bowman, a professor of environmental change biology at the university and the lead researcher on the study. The research is the first comprehensive analysis of the impacts of the wildfires that swept through the state of New South Wales in February 2017, Bowman says. The fires burned through an area of land roughly the size of the United Kingdom, destroying more than 2,000 square miles (5,200 square kilometers) of bushland. Wildlife experts had feared the worst after the fires, but it wasnt until this study that they realized the extent of the devastation. The researchers used data from the World Heritage Atlas of Living Australia to assess the possible effects in more than 1,600 species of vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. They found that at least 111 species have beenextirpated, or had all their populations wiped out. Thats almost one-fifth of the total number of species living in the affected area. At least 404 species were at risk of extinction, according to the researchers analysis.This has been a wake-up call for how we manage our environment, Bowman says. The fire, which was the most destructive in the states history, was sparked by lightning and quickly spread across the landscape, fueled by record-breaking temperatures, strong winds, and dried-out vegetation. The fires, which lasted for days, killed two people and burned more than 1,500 houses and buildings. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate. The researchers findings show the extent to which these fires can have on the landscape, says Thomas Newsome, a professor of ecology at the University of Sydney who was not involved in the research.The fires were so extensive, they burned for such a long time, and they were so hot that they could cause direct mortality or mortality through habitat loss of species, Newsome says. The results also highlight the importance of conserving wilderness areas where species can flee, he adds.The lesson here is that because of human development, especially around the edges of cities, we dont have these areas anymore, he says.We need to bring back the areas that are natural, where species can be safe and persist. With their data, Bowman and his team built a map of the affected habitats. They identified areas where species were most vulnerable to extinction, and where they might have the best chance of surviving. Now, they hope to work with government agencies to identify which species can be reintroduced to the areas that are now safe.

 

Climate Change:

Warnings for 1.5C and 2C targetsThe world could face a greater rise in sea levels and more frequent flooding if it aims to limit climate change to 1.5C, scientists warn. Their report, published in Nature Climate Change, says a 2C rise could see global sea levels rise by three metres, enough to overwhelm coastal defences. The research is being presented in Melbourne, Australia. The Paris climate agreement, which came into force in 2016, aims for a maximum of 2C of global warming. It's also possible to aim for 1.5C, which would require global net zero emissions by 2050. The report is the first to compare the two scenarios. The researchers say the 1.5C goal would be easier to achieve but would have less of an impact on sea level rise. "There are winners and losers," said lead author Prof Steve Cornelius, from the Victoria University of Wellington. "We would still get the same benefits but it's a bit like a trade off. You lose a bit." The study says the difference between the two goals would be about 10cm (4in) of sea level rise, which would be enough to cause flooding in many places and over-topping of existing dikes. Overall, the 1.5C limit would also result in fewer extreme weather events and less coral bleaching. "What I find fascinating is that the benefits of the 1.5C target are going to be there for the long haul," said Prof Cornelius. "It's not as if there is some point at which we are going to have to take the benefits away. "The 2C target may well be worse for me today but the 1.5C target is going to be better for my children and grandchildren."

 

Corporate Control of Nature:

How big business is taking overCan we save the planet from the people who run it? The corporate takeover of nature - and the environment - is accelerating. From 2000-2017, more than one-fifth of the world's land was acquired by foreign investors. That's nearly the area of the UK, or 1.8 billion acres. Meanwhile, companies are buying more than 4 million acres per year in Europe alone. And in the United States, many states have enacted laws to make it easier for companies to buy up land. This is creating a public backlash, with communities fighting back - and some winning. The battle over land and water in Kenya is emblematic of this struggle. The "big man" of the Maasai tribe, Sengo Barasa, is watching the world he knows come to an end. A strong, tall man, he is the third generation of his family to live on the land. Now the land is being taken from him. It's not by force but by the courts - and by a powerful multinational. Mr Barasa is fighting but he knows he is fighting a losing battle. "The land was never for sale," he says. "The land is the community's, not for the benefit of one person." He is referring to a private company, Vivian Lake and Farm Limited, which has been granted a lease from the government to use the land. For Mr Barasa, the land is everything. It is his home and livelihood. He is a farmer and the land is home to his cattle. "We are a community of Maasai who live on the land and we can't survive without the land," he says. Vivian Lake and Farm Limited is a subsidiary of the South Africa-based company, Mondi. It is a global corporation that owns seven pulp and paper mills and a hundred other companies in over 40 countries. But, for the Maasai, the company is a foreign intruder, the latest in a long line of companies to seek to profit from their land.

 

The Power of Young Voices:

Why school climate strikes are needed nowThe science is clear, future generations are in danger. But who will speak for them? A 12-year-old girl in the United States has been arrested for protesting on behalf of the climate. She was one of 20 children and young people who refused to leave the office of a US senator in Washington DC. The young people were protesting the lack of action on climate change from members of Congress. They were part of a global protest that saw hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren and young people take to the streets to demand their leaders tackle climate change. The movement started in Australia and has spread to more than 100 countries, including the United States. It has been dubbed a "climate strike". It's an interesting choice of words, as the term "strike" implies that children will be missing school. This has upset some teachers. But the strike is a powerful way to bring attention to the issue. In the US, many of the young activists have been inspired by the actions of their own teachers, who have led classroom discussions on climate change. A number of US states have introduced climate change education into the curriculum. In some cases, teachers have risked losing their jobs by speaking out on climate change. It is not just children who have been inspired - in April, a group of scientists in the US called for a climate change strike. They proposed that scientists and their supporters hold a strike on 5 April, the day of the first global strike by school students. This, they said, would be a "day on, not a day off".