The first week in 2017 has been quite an exciting one. Countries are announcing their New Year’s resolutions, NASA is announcing their goals for the years to come, and US journalists are increasingly expressing the urgency in combatting climate change due to the new politicians entering office. The selection of Earth news below is far from complete and is likely to gain additions in the following days.
- China has declared that it will ban all commerce in ivory by the end of 2017. Ivory trade has been globally banned since 1989, but its commerce has continued illegally, especially in China, which accounts for 50-70% of illegal ivory. This move is a huge step towards ending poaching and reabilitating the elephant populations, even though journalists say it wasn’t an entirely altruistic gesture from the President Xi Jinping. They are also skeptical as to whether this will effectively stop poaching as other countries such as Vietnam or Myanmar might fill in the void of the Chinese ivory market. China is, however, progressing to become more environmentally-friendly as they commit to combat climate change regardless of whatever we do in the Western Hemisphere.
- Interested in seeing how our new President might affect our climate? NY Times created a simple animation that shows how much the US is emitting and what it should emit if it is to honour our pledge to the Paris Agreement. It also allows you to compare the CO2 emissions for countries that are combatting climate change and how much they will emit if they either commit to the Paris Agreement or conduct business as usual. China has pledged to cut its carbon intensity by 60-65% compared to its 2005 levels, and the US has pledged to cut its CO2 emissions by 26-28%, using the same baseline (the levels of CO2 it emitted in 2005).
- NASA announced that they will carry out two super cool missions in 2021 and 2023. Both of these will explore asteroids that might hold keys to the early formation of our solar system. The first one, Lucy, will explore the Trojans, which are asteroid-like objects around Jupiter, and the second, Psyche, will explore an asteroid made entirely of metal. Scientists think Psyche might be the exposed core of an old planet.
- If you like animals like dolphins and spider monkeys, then you’ll be interested in knowing the burning news in the biodiversity world – a new biodiversity hotspot threat map has been created. This map links the consumerism of a particular country and the species which that country’s consumerism affects the most. For example, the consumerist map of the United States is shown below:
Source: Moran, D. & Kanemoto, K. Identifying species threat hotspots from global supply chains. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 0023 (2017)
Translating this image with examples: The United States’ coffee-drinking habits have a very damaging effect on the red-faced spider monkey, who lives in Central America. Since the threat is sever, the area where it lives is represented on the map as dark purple. The authors hope that this will illustrate better the fact that our consumer habits are linked to deforestation, habitat degradation and loss in animal life. This video explains the map and shows the links between consumers and endangered species more clearly.