April 2022

1. Five ways AI is saving wildlife

The State of Conservation Technology 2021, Wildlabs.net (13 Dec 2021.  bit.ly/3s65spf

Results of this research, published in Conservation Biology, synthesize survey input from 248 conservation tech users and developers across 37 countries, as well as focus group discussions with 45 leading experts in the field. The research focuses on three main areas of investigation – perceptions of existing tools’ current performance and potential impact, user and developer constraints, and key opportunities for growth.

In a nutshell, results show that:

  • The technologies perceived as having the highest untapped potentials were machine learning and computer vision, eDNA and genomics, and networked sensors
  • The most pressing challenges affecting the field as a whole were competition for limited funding, duplication of efforts, and inadequate capacity building
  • The key opportunities identified for growth were increasing collaboration and information sharing, improving the interoperability of tools, and enhancing capacity for data analyses at scale

See, also Graeme Green, “Five ways AI is saving wildlife – from counting chimps to locating whales,” The Guardian (21 Feb 2022).  bit.ly/3t2HMBI

2.The IPCC bleakest warning yet

IPCC, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

The Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change. bit.ly/35mrJXg

See also, Fiona Harvey, “IPCC issues ‘bleakest warning yet’ on impacts of climate breakdown,” The Guardian (28 Feb 2022). bit.ly/36ITd9T

“Climate breakdown is accelerating rapidly, many of the impacts will be more severe than predicted and there is only a narrow chance left of avoiding its worst ravages, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said.

Even at current levels, human actions in heating the climate are causing dangerous and widespread disruption, threatening devastation to swathes of the natural world and rendering many areas unliveable, according to the landmark report….

The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet… Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”

… some scientists termed “the bleakest warning yet”

3. Rising carbon loss from tropical deforestation

Feng, Y., Zeng, Z., Searchinger, T.D. et al. “Doubling of annual forest carbon loss over the tropics during the early twenty-first century.” Nat Sustain (2022). bit.ly/3HoUuj3

See, also Patrick Greenfield, “Deforestation emissions far higher than previously thought, study finds,” The Guardian (28 Feb 2022).   bit.ly/3hrRp7y

A study published on Monday in Nature Sustainability shows that carbon loss from tropical deforestation in the last two decades has doubled and continues to rise, driven largely by the expansion of agricultural frontiers. The findings contrast with previous assessments, such as the Global Carbon Budget 2021, which had suggested a slight decline in carbon loss from deforestation.

Using high-resolution satellite data, researchers found that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Brazil recorded the largest acceleration in forest loss from 2001 to 2020, with the South American country responsible for the largest total emissions from clearing in the Amazon and other forest ecosystems. The analysis found that about a fifth of land clearing in the tropics took place in mountainous regions, which are home to relatively high carbon stocks, especially in Asia.

4. The Amazon rainforest is approaching a tipping point

 Boulton, C.A., Lenton, T.M. & Boers, N. “Pronounced loss of Amazon rainforest resilience since the early 2000s.” Nat. Clim. Chang. (2022). bit.ly/3pMtGUa

See also,  Damian Carrington, “Climate crisis: Amazon rainforest tipping point is looming, data shows,” The Guardian (7 March 2022).  bit.ly/3ClNnqQ

“The Amazon is approaching a tipping point, data shows, after which the rainforest would be lost with “profound” implications for the global climate and biodiversity.

Computer models have previously indicated a mass dieback of the Amazon is possible but the new analysis is based on real-world satellite observations over the past three decades.

Novel statistical analysis shows that more than 75% of the untouched forest has lost stability since the early 2000s, meaning it takes longer to recover after droughts and wildfires.

The greatest loss of stability is in areas closer to farms, roads and urban areas and in regions that are becoming drier, suggesting that forest destruction and global heating are the cause. These factors “may already have pushed the Amazon close to a critical threshold of rainforest dieback”, the scientists conclude.”

 5. Winners and losers in biodiversity

W. John Kress and Gary A. Krupmick, “Lords of the biosphere: Plant winners and losers in the Anthropocene,” Plants People Planet (10 March 2022).   doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10252

See also, Sofia Quaglia, “Plants humans don’t need are heading for extinction, study finds: Bleak picture for biodiversity as analysis of over 80,000 species forecasts more losers than winners,” The Guardian (10 March 2022).  bit.ly/35Pzd5D

“Researchers have categorised more than 80,000 plant species worldwide and found that most of them will “lose” in the face of humanity – going extinct because people don’t need them.

This means that plant communities of the future will be hugely more homogenised than those of today, according to the paper published in the journal Plants, People, Planet.

The findings, which paint a stark picture of the threat to biodiversity, cover less than 30% of all known plant species, and as such are a “wake-up call”, say the researchers, highlighting the need for more work in this field.”

6.  Link between particulate matter and autoimmune diseases

Gioni Adami et. El., “Association between long-term exposure to air pollution and immune-mediated diseases: a population-based cohort study,” Rheumatic & Musculoskeletal Diseases (15 March 2022).  bit.ly/3Jhi1UR

See also, Kevin O’Sullivan, Long-term exposure to air pollution linked to autoimmune disease risk, study finds,” The Irish Times (16 March 2022).  bit.ly/3CMrKjC

“Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to a heightened risk of autoimmune disease, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases, according to a major study of more than 80,000 adults.

The research provides further evidence of the health threat from tiny airborne pollutants, known as particulate matter (PM), arising from vehicle exhausts, burning of material, especially fossil fuels, and from industrial emissions.

Environmental air pollution from such sources usually triggers “adaptive immunity” – whereby the body reacts to a specific disease-causing threat. But sometimes this adaptive response misfires, prompting systemic inflammation, tissue damage, and ultimately autoimmune disease, the large study conducted by Italian scientists confirms.”

7.  Non-carbon dioxide benefits of different forests

Deborah Lawrence, Michael Coe, Wayne Walker, Louis Verchot and Karen Vandecar, “The Unseen Effects of Deforestation: Biophysical Effects on Climate,” frontiers in Forests and Global Change (March 2022).  bit.ly/3iEYHp7

See also, Nina Lakhani, “The world’s forests do more than just store carbon, new research finds,” The Guardian (24 March 2022) bit.ly/3tKGBIs

The world’s forests play a far greater and more complex role in tackling climate crisis than previously thought, due to their physical effects on global and local temperatures, according to new research.

The role of forests as carbon sponges is well established. But comprehensive new data suggests that forests deliver climate benefits well beyond just storing carbon, helping to keep air near and far cool and moist due to the way they physically transform energy and water.

The study, which is the first to pinpoint the non-carbon dioxide benefits of different forests, found that the band of tropical rainforests spanning Latin America, central Africa and south-east Asia generate the most local and global benefits.

8.  Benefits from access to urban green and blue spaces

EEA, Who benefits from nature in cities? Social inequalities in access to urban green and blue spaces across Europe ! Feb 2022.  bit.ly/3qM1W2d

Key messages:

  • The health benefits of urban green space are well recognised for children, whose physical and mental development is enhanced by living, playing and learning in green environments. The elderly also benefit significantly from visiting green and blue spaces, through improved physical health and social well-being.
  • Access to green and blue spaces differs across Europe. Overall, cities in the north and west of Europe have more total green space within their area than cities in southern and eastern Europe. Green areas that are publicly accessible form a relatively low share of the total green space, but the provision of publicly accessible green space is location specific and varies between cities.
  • Within cities, the degree of greening varies across neighbourhoods, with less and lower quality green space typically found in communities of lower socio-economic status.
  • The World Health Organization recommends that all people reside within 300m of green space. In contrast, national and local recommendations vary across Europe. Guidance on access for specific vulnerable groups is rare.
  • Targeted action to reduce inequalities in access to high-quality green space can maximise the health and well-being benefits of nature in cities.
  • Involving local communities in the design and management of green space has been found to foster a sense of ownership and promote use.

 9. Climate change and armed conflict

Sophie P. de Bruin, “Projecting long-term armed conflict risk: An underappreciated field of inquiry?” Global Environmental Change (2022).  bit.ly/3iJfaZp

Little research has been done on projecting long-term conflict risks. Such projections are currently neither included in the development of socioeconomic scenarios or climate change impact assessments nor part of global agenda-setting policy processes. In contrast, in other fields of inquiry, long-term projections and scenario studies are established and relevant for both strategical agenda-setting and applied policies. Although making projections of armed conflict risk in response to climate change is surrounded by uncertainty, there are good reasons to further develop such scenario-based projections. In this perspective article we discuss why quantifying implications of climate change for future armed conflict risk is inherently uncertain, but necessary for shaping sustainable future policy agendas. We argue that both quantitative and qualitative projections can have a purpose in future climate change impact assessments and put out the challenges this poses for future research.

10.  UNEP Adaptation Gap

UNEP, The Gathering Storm:  Adapting to climate change in a post-pandemic world  (Nov 2021). bit.ly/3wNxkBe

“Even as the world looks to step up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change already locked in are just as important. The sixth edition of the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report: The Gathering Storm looks at how the world is doing in adapting to these intensifying impacts.

The report finds that there is an urgent need to step up climate adaptation finance. Estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the adaptation finance gap is widening.

COVID-19 recovery stimulus packages are also becoming a lost opportunity to finance climate adaptation. Less than one third of 66 countries studied explicitly funded COVID-19 measures to address climate risks up to June 2021. Meanwhile, the heightened cost of servicing debt, combined with decreased government revenues, may hamper future government spending on adaptation.

On the positive side, climate change adaptation is increasingly being embedded in policy and planning. Around 79 per cent of countries have adopted at least one national-level adaptation planning instrument – an increase of 7 per cent since 2020. Implementation of adaptation actions is also continuing to grow slowly, with the top ten donors funding more than 2,600 projects with a principal focus on adaptation between 2010 and 2019.

Overall, though, the report finds that further ambition is needed to progress in national-level adaptation planning, finance and implementation worldwide.”



EDITORS NOTE (August 2021) re revision to Reports section

In August 2021, we revised the Reports section of the magazine.   In the past we used the Reports section to provide digests of generally long, complex and usually technical discussions of environmental issues or developments.  The authors of these reports were typically environmental agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), or academics.  The intent was to make these reports more accessible to a wide, general audience so readers could get a sense of what the reports covered and what they concluded. Readers then could connect to the link for the reports and delve further into the details and findings.

Over the past dozen years publications of technical reports have included executive summaries, often written in simpler language than the reports themselves.  At the same time there has been a rapid growth in environmental studies across the globe and just finding relevant or interesting reports through the internet is a challenge.

So we have converted the Reports section to a list of ten of the most interesting, long form examples of writing on key environmental issues and developments.  We will include the information necessary to find the writing — authors, title and link to publication — and we will add a short subheading to provide more clues about what is covered in the writing, much like a subheading expands on the headline for a newspaper article.  We interpret the term “reports” liberally to include almost any format that provides us with data, information, and opinion on environmental matters.  For instance, in the first of these new reports, we included a website, The Geography of Future Water Challenges, derived from a written report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency with the same name and found at bit.ly/3fgSK0n

On one level this list of reports will do for long-form writing what our News section does for newspaper articles.

With the explosion of information across the internet, just finding what’s out there can be difficult.  We hope this new version of the Reports is helpful.

As with the other material in the irish environment magazine, the focus is on environmental matters on the island of Ireland, and that necessarily requires coverage of developments in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.  We will also continue to include material from across the globe as developments everywhere can inform developments anywhere.


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