This weeks environment news has seen great strides in both conservation and tackling climate change; from G20 to Pandas back from the brink, and even the 'Obama Fish', here's your weekly news roundup:
US and China agree to ratify Paris climate agreement
This week marks a groundbreaking moment whereby two of the world’s most influential superpowers, the USA and China, take a major step towards positive climate change. This comes in the form of their agreeing to ratify the Paris climate agreement. Established in December 2015, the Paris climate agreement is the world’s first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The 197 countries that have adopted it must abide by its rules, one of which is a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C. Why 2°C? There is a mutual consensus between scientists working in the field that 2°C should be the benchmark for global warming as beyond this point global warming would be irreversible with catastrophic effects.
The move made on the eve of the G20 summit in Hangzhou was described by Obama to be a “Pivotal moment in history in the battle against global warming”, whilst Chinese President Xi vowed to “Unwaveringly pursue sustainable development”. If the Paris agreement should come into full force the US will have to make a concerted effort in cutting emissions (such as those produced by cars and power plants) by 28% by the year 2025, compared with 2005. However in order for this to occur the Paris agreement must be endorsed by the 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions. Even still, the news that the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases have authorized the Paris agreement marks a significant milestone, an example that hopefully many countries will soon follow.
Pandas no longer endangered
“It’s a good day to be a panda” states Ginette Hemley senior vice president for wildlife conservation at the WWF ngo. Natives to Chinese bamboo forests this iconic black and white creature has been upgraded from endangered to vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species. The news is like music to the activists of Honolulu, Hawaii whom have been campaigning for half a century in regards to the dangers that threaten this animal after it was declared endangered in 1990. Similarly it’s welcoming news also to China, whom has been trying for years to preserve the panda. Their success is due to their efforts to recreate and repopulate bamboo forests. Bamboo is critical to the pandas diet, they must eat 12kg to 38kg worth of bamboo each day to maintain their energy levels. The panda’s decline was a result of a loss of habitat, causing their numbers to wilt to 1,200 in the 1980s.
Thankfully though there has been a change in their luck. A 2014 nationwide consensus found 1,850 giant pandas in wild China, with 2,064 overall on the planet. The news is indicative of the fact the giant panda population has firmly risen by 17 percent in the decades leading up to this point. Sadly however the good news only stretches so far. The International Union for Conservation of Nature whom track the movements of these creatures predict that in the next 80 years more than one-third of pandas’ bamboo forests will be affected by climate change, causing the population to decrease again. Once again demonstrating the degree to which the battle against climate change, and that of protecting endangered species is intertwined.
A fish called Obama
Ironically the US’ decision to address climate change coincides with the newly discovered Tosanoides genus fish being named Obama. The unique fish, a blend of maroon and gold, can be found 300 feet deep in the Pacific off the coast of Kure Atoll, Hawaii. The Obama fish is in fact the only fish known to live within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, an expanse of coral reefs and seamounts home to millions of seabirds and endangered animals of over 7,000 species. Since the Hawaiian born President exercised his power to quadruple the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and declare it a protected area exempt from commercial fishing, it seemed only fair they pay homage to him.
The most notable feature of the Obama fish is its distinctive dorsal fin coloration; a circular red spot ringed with blue, the colouring is reminiscent of Obama’s own campaign logo. Furthermore according to Richard Pyle, a marine biologist with Hawaii’s Bishop Museum, the newly discovered species of fish is like the king of the kingdoms, therefore Obama’s credential suitably fit.
If your interested in the conservation of Panda's check out our China Panda Breeding Project
By Bex Shorunke - Online Journalism Intern