The Future of Climate Change: 5 Highlights of May 2021

May 31, 2021
Avely Pütsep

“Future of Climate Change” is a monthly series: we choose 5 beautiful things that shaped the future of climate action and ecosystem protection in the past month.

If it makes the world a better place, we want to talk about it.

News on halting biodiversity loss, reducing carbon footprints, becoming carbon neutral, cleantech innovations, climate change solutions, and everything in between. 🌿

Plus, there’s SO MUCH GOOD happening (you just have to notice it!), we just had to include a Biodiversity & Sustainability Bonus at the end.

May brought some amazing news, so let’s dig right in!

Scientists successfully use bacteria to extract microplastics from water

Plastics that end up in landfills and oceans never really disappear. At least, not in our lifetime. Microplastics are serious pollutants that harm everything and everyone: the environment, animals, and humans.

At the end of April, a new study by Hong Kong Polytechnic University was published. Scientists discovered a new way to remove microplastics from the environment using bacteria!

How do bacteria help to get rid of microplastics in the water?

  • The bacteria trap the microplastics and groups them together
  • The researchers could then remove the microplastics
  • The collected microplastics can be safely recycled

“It is imperative to develop effective solutions that trap, collect, and even recycle these microplastics to stop the ‘plastification’ of our natural environments,” said lead author Sylvia Lang Liu.

Of course, society should move towards using less plastic, but this plastic-eating bacteria at least remove the plastic that’s already in nature! 🌿

African rainforests slowed climate change despite record heat and drought

African rainforests slowed climate change despite record heat and drought

Scientists studying the impact of record heat numbers and drought on intact African rainforests discovered something beautiful.

These rainforests - sometimes known as the African Amazon - are incredibly resilient to extreme conditions and continued to slow down climate change!

The study found that before and during the 2015-2016 El Niño record temperatures, the African rainforests continued to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Despite extreme heat and drought in Africa, the African rainforests were still going strong.

"We saw no sharp slowdown of tree growth, nor a big rise in tree deaths, as a result of the extreme climatic conditions. Overall, the uptake of carbon dioxide by these intact rainforests reduced by 36%, but they continued to function as a carbon sink, slowing the rate of climate change." commented the lead author Amy Bennett.

Another reminder of how important it is to protect the ecosystems we have left.

Intact and healthy ecosystems have an amazing power to mitigate the climate crisis through habitat restoration!

Sydney, Australia, pledges a budget of $24 million to accelerate net-zero goal to 2035

When talking about climate change, there’s no time to wait. And the Mayor of Sydney, Australia, understands this.

"While the City of Sydney cannot tackle the climate crisis alone, we can lead and encourage others to do the same within their communities. /../ Climate research tells us we can’t afford to take our time reducing carbon emissions in Australia,” said Mayor Moore.

The Mayor pledged to propel the net-zero emissions goal of Sydney by five years to 2035!

How will Sydney become carbon neutral?

  • Energy consumption: encouraging businesses, residents, and other organizations to use renewable energy sources and opt for 100% GreenPower electricity plans
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from transport: promoting public transport, electric vehicles, walking, and cycling
  • Cutting down plastic and food waste

No city can do it alone, but Sydney is showing it’s crucial to take action. No more empty promises. Will other cities all around the world follow?

New report shows a direct link between human health and ocean health

New report shows a direct link between human health and ocean health

A new report demonstrates that ocean health is “intricately linked” to human health. The ocean has faced unprecedented challenges due to human actions and it seems like humans haven’t done themselves any favors. Not only does this habitat loss lead to more extinct species, it’s also harming humanity.

This is no surprise as the ocean covers 71% of Earth’s surface.

PS: Did you know we don’t have oceans (plural), we only have 1 ocean? This 1 ocean is geographically divided into distinct named regions.

Just two examples of the direct link between ocean health and humans:

  • Swimming among pollution in the ocean is linked to over 250 million cases of respiratory illness and gastroenteritis each year.
  • Coastal communities are exposed to indirect damage to their health when fish stocks collapse which restricts their access to food and severely reduces their livelihoods.

These examples are obviously not good news, but what we should learn from it is: we know now more than ever how important it is to protect the ocean and, ultimately, humankind.

Therefore, restoring the health of oceans shouldn’t only be a priority for marine scientists aiming to save endangered species, but also the entire public and medical community.

Let’s protect the ocean and ourselves!

Leonardo Dicaprio and 40 other partners are donating $43 million to rewild the Galapagos

What’s special about the Galapagos Islands?

  • Its endemic species: species whose range is restricted to a specific geographical area
  • And its central role in scientists’ understanding of evolution and ecology

Who is a part of the rewilding the Galapagos initiative?

More than 40 partners from governments to local NGOs and international organizations. They’re coming together to leverage decades of experience for the best result for Gapalagos’ wilderness future.

How is Leonardo Dicaprio connected with the Galapagos?

He’s a founding member of Re:wild, which was formed together with Global Wildlife Conservation. Re:wild is one of the leading groups in this rewilding of the Galapagos.

“Rewilding, a positive reframing for nature conservation, involves holistic solutions to remove barriers and reestablish vibrant wildlife populations and intact, functional, and resilient ecosystems that effectively integrate people,” said Re:wild in a press release.

Over $40 million will be put into rewilding the Galapagos. When protecting and saving nature in one place, it doesn’t only benefit this area. It benefits the whole planet.

There are more than 50 billion birds in the world

Biodiversity & Sustainability Bonus

  • Breaking: A landmark case! Dutch court rules oil giant, Shell, has to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030!
  • Another breaking landmark case! Children won in court against Australian minister, who now has to do everything in her power to avoid harm caused to young people by climate change.
  • Eleven Madison Park restaurant is going vegan! It’s one of the best restaurants in the world, showing a more sustainable path for other restaurants too.
  • Spain sets a date for a ban on oil and gas exploration as part of its climate change and energy transition bill.
  • The Biden administration approves first major for US offshore wind farm, which “is a significant milestone in efforts to build a clean and more equitable energy future while addressing the climate emergency”.
  • Washington State Senate Passes Styrofoam Ban, which is designed to reduce pollution by prohibiting the sale and distribution of most expanded polystyrene products. Will other states follow?
  • Revolutionary? The UK government is being taken to court for giving public money to big polluters!
  • Alternative protein brand raises $54 million and announces a collaboration with the dairy giant Danone for a scalable and sustainable future.
  • Australia’s meat consumption hits the lowest it’s been for 25 years!
  • Lamborghini plans to launch its first fully electric car in 2030.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) signed a partnership agreement with Siemens Energy to advance the global energy transition.
  • Cool news! There are more than 50 billion birds in the world!

Author note about the “Future of Climate Change” series: the climate crisis has become an inevitable part of our everyday lives, making it easy to get lost in Doomsday thoughts. In reality, attempts to halt climate change are happening all the time. The key is to notice them. That's what this series is about. Will you come back next month to read the new one?

Also, did you see the 5 climate change highlights from April?

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