The Story: Experts agree that political pushback and a psychological inability for people to fully grasp the long-term impacts of crises contribute to ineffective global efforts to address both the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, reported Somini Sengupta for The New York Times. For example, the current U.S. administration has made deep cuts to federal funding for scientific research in recent years — particularly climate research — which has disrupted efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus, according to chemist Holden Thorp. In addition, several behavioral scientists concur that people have trouble processing the consequences of both the current pandemic and the climate crisis because many of the negative impacts are on a longer timescale.
The Big Picture: “Both [COVID-19 and climate change] demand early aggressive action to minimize loss,” said climate scientist Kim Cobb. “Only in hindsight will we really understand what we gambled on and what we lost by not acting early enough.” From the bushfires that raged through Australia in 2019 to increased flooding in coastal cities, the impacts of the climate crisis are already affecting populations around the world. By 2100, however, researchers project that climate breakdown could kill approximately as many people as the number of individuals who die of cancer and infectious diseases today if global warming is not limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Read the full story here.
2. Poaching, deforestation on the rise since COVID-19 lockdowns
The destruction of nature could cause future animal-borne disease outbreaks, experts say.
The Story: Poaching and deforestation have increased since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect, according to recent reports from Conservation International field offices. While bushmeat and ivory poaching incidents have become more frequent in Africa, Amazonian deforestation in Brazil has reached a nine-year high since the pandemic began in 2019, reports show. Evidence suggests that the majority of these activities were enabled by weakened enforcement efforts that people exploited — some driven by desperation, others by profit.
The Big Picture: “Poaching and deforestation are unfortunate and disturbing, as our health — and the health of our economies — are inextricably linked to the health of our planet,” said Conservation International’s CEO M. Sanjayan in a recent statement. “Now, by accelerating the destruction of nature, we are only increasing the risk of future pandemics.” To minimize poaching and land degradation in Africa, Conservation International is working with governments to help provide alternative livelihoods. Through a community-based approach, Conservation International’s Herding 4 Health program will work with farmers to help degraded rangelands recover, while improving cattle health and providing a steady stream of income — even during uncertain times.
Read the full story here.
Further reading: Coronavirus disrupts illegal wildlife trafficking, for now
Though poaching is on the rise in Africa, a new report suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted illegal wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia. This could have a lasting impact on the industry — if countries enforce stricter bans on the global trade of wild animals.
Further reading: The hidden toll of lockdown on rainforests
“This narrative of nature having been given a break during COVID, it’s not entirely accurate,” said Sebastian Troeng, executive vice-president of Conservation International, in response to the recent surge in deforestation. From endangering indigenous peoples to exacerbating forest fires in the Amazon, this destruction of nature could have long-term impacts on the world’s biggest rainforest, experts say. Read more coverage here.
3. How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting CO2 emissions
Individual greenhouse gas emissions are fluctuating in response to the recent coronavirus pandemic.
The Story: As people around the world self-isolate to curb the spread of COVID-19, they could be impacting their carbon footprint — both positively and negatively, reported Chelsea Harvey for Scientific American. Depending on weather conditions, geography and lifestyle, people that are spending more time at home could be using more energy — and releasing more individual emissions over time. For example, residents of colder regions of the world may need to use individual heaters to stay warm while working from home, which is a significant part of the average individual’s carbon footprint.
The Big Picture: “The biggest potential impact of this virus is the effect on the economy,” said climate policy expert Christopher Jones. “So if it affects the entire economy, then that’s going to affect economic output, consumption and emissions.” To support the economy without increasing global emissions, companies must invest in sustainable funds — those screened for environmental, ethical and social practices — which have outperformed traditional funds during the recent stock market collapse.
Read the full story here.
4. Expert: To prevent pandemics like COVID-19, ‘take care of nature’
Giving nature space could help curb future disease outbreaks, according to a renowned ecologist.
The Story: As the global wildlife trade persists and development projects expand deeper into tropical forests, humans are increasing their exposure to wild animals — and the diseases they may carry, said Lee Hannah in a recent interview with Conservation News. When human activities such as mining and logging degrade wildlife habitats, animals are forced together and are more likely to become stressed or sick, Hannah explained, which drives the transmission of disease between human and wildlife populations.
The Big Picture: “Ecosystems in nature function similarly to the human body: When they are robust and healthy — which means they have diverse species and space for healthy animal populations — they are more resistant to disease,” said Hannah. “We must take care of nature to take care of ourselves.” To protect nature while preventing future pandemics, governments can implement protected areas, national parks, community conservancies and indigenous-managed conservation areas, according to Hannah.
Read the full story here. Read Bloomberg coverage here.
Further reading: Conservationist: Protecting nature an ‘investment’ in our health
In a recent video, Conservation International’s CEO M. Sanjayan calls for renewed efforts to stop deforestation and to clamp down on the illegal trade of wild animals, particularly in the tropics, where many recent infectious disease outbreaks have originated.
5. 2020 was supposed to be the 'super year for nature.' What now?
The coronavirus pandemic has derailed several major global climate conferences, but experts agree that climate action must continue.
The Story: Following the postponement of several major global climate conferences due to COVID-19, Conservation International climate experts argue that there are still critical steps that countries can take to tackle the climate crisis in 2020. From engaging local communities to implementing national climate policies, governments can continue to tackle climate change despite lockdown restrictions, said Maggie Comstock, Conservation International’s senior director of climate policy. On an individual level, Shyla Raghav, the vice president of climate strategy at Conservation International, urged people to learn from the world’s rapid and definitive responses to the coronavirus.
The Big Picture: “Crises like this pandemic demonstrate the incredible capacity of societies to come together in the face of unprecedented, insurmountable challenges and adapt,” said Raghav. “This is exactly what we need to tackle climate change.” According to a 2018 UN report, humanity only has about a decade left to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gas emissions — and the recent decline in global emissions illustrates that changes in human behavior can show tangible results for climate action. “Countries must find ways to make their emissions reductions goals a reality and increase the ambition, conferences or no conferences,” added Comstock.
Read the full story here.
3/ Disaster Reduction
Disaster Risk Reduction in UNESCO designated sites
UNESCO-designated sites (World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves and UNESCO Global Geoparks) promote sustainable development, and focus on the protection of natural and cultural heritage or the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and geological resources. In that context, they are mobilized to address the challenges of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
UNESCO-designated sites are often an important source of employment and income, through tourism-based activities and environmental goods and services. They may be partly or entirely exposed to natural hazards and extreme weather events, with potential impacts on the communities living in or near the sites, and on their livelihoods. Because of their high cultural and symbolic value, the impact of the loss or damage of a UNESCO-designated site can resonate across the world.
At the same time, these iconic sites have tremendous potential as platforms to share knowledge on Disaster Risk Reduction. Many UNESCO-designated sites have community and tourism-oriented programmes to raise awareness about the source of natural hazards, associated risks and ways to reduce their impact.
Call for Applications: Development of Smart Phone Application for IOS/Android for Know Disaster in Africa – Awareness among Youth / Children and common Public
Disaster risk is the potential loss expressed in lives, health status, livelihoods, assets and services, which could occur in a community or a society due to the impact of a natural hazard. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a systematic approach to identifying, assessing and reducing that risk. Specifically, the purpose of disaster risk reduction is to minimise vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society in order to avoid (prevent) or to limit (mitigate and prepare for) the adverse impacts of natural hazards, and facilitate sustainable development
DRR in education equips people with knowledge and skills so that hazards cause the least possible loss of human life, as little damage and destruction as possible, and cause only minimum disruption to economic, social and cultural activities. What people know is more important than what they have when it comes to saving lives and reducing loss. It strengthens individual’s and community’s resilience to hazards, while enhancing the education system’s preparedness for and responses to disasters. It thus ensures that schooling continues after a hazard strikes, and limits damages to the education sector. As an integral part of education for sustainable development, preparing the education system includes conducting a multi-hazard risk assessment, drafting plans and policies to address threats, and implementing those plans sustainably. Embedding DRR in education policy is critical for its application and sustainability. The policies and plans need to address DRR in teaching and learning, school safety and disaster management, and the provision of safe school environments.
Promote DRR in teaching and learning Teaching and learning about DRR is key to increasing individuals’ and community’s knowledge about hazards and what to do when they strike.
The learning materials developed in smart phone as an outreach material the DRR in teaching and learning, could be done as learning by playing. Key elements of mainstreaming DRR in teaching and learning involve:
- Mainstreaming of DRR into the virtual media activities, starting from the primary level to secondary level standards this includes multi-hazard education.
- Including DRR in non-formal multimedia channels with children friendly
- Ensuring teachers, school managers and staff have incorporated DRR into their training activities.
- Ensuring DRR learning materials and resources are available to key stakeholders.
- Encouraging children and youth to be champions and leaders in DRR.
- Supporting professionalization of and research in DRR in institutes of higher education.
UNESCO hosts SHELTER workshop on GLOCAL user requirements for Disaster Risk Reduction and Cultural and Natural Heritage
Within the context of the Horizon 2020 project SHELTER, the International workshop on GLOCAL user requirements for Disaster Risk Reduction and Cultural and Natural Heritage convened by UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe at its premises in Venice, Italy, took place on 5-6 December 2019 with the support of UNESCO’s Disaster Risk Reduction unit and guidance of SHELTER’s project partners, notably the project coordinator Tecnalia.
RURITAGE: bolstering resilience in rural areas stricken by disasters
The one-year anniversary of RURITAGE project highlights UNESCO's contribution to building resilience within vulnerable communities.
The role of intangible and tangible heritage is of great strength to increase human ability to cope with the shock and stress of surviving hazardous events, also during the recovery process of restoring their normal life. The 4-year EU-funded RURITAGE project, launched in June 2018 under the Horizon 2020 programme, has completed its first anniversary and is already harvesting fruits in establishing a new paradigm for the regeneration of rural areas. More than 40 communities around the world are being turned into living demonstration laboratories, handling their own cultural and natural heritage as a key approach for sustainable development, economic growth and social inclusion.
Resilience is one of the 6 Systemic Innovation Areas (SIAs) through which a region's unique potential is identified. A strategy based on heritage traits enhances the chances of a community to restore their vital conditions quicker, building resistance and flexibility not only economic-wise but also related to the people's morale when faced with the unpredictability of disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
Situated within a majestic area of great geographical diversity and geological treasures that present high risks related to various natural hazards, Katla UNESCO Global Geopark, in Iceland, is one of RURITAGE’s Role Models. Their innate wonders populated with ice-capped active volcanoes, tuff mountains and black volcanic beaches attract a big number of visitors yearly.By making use of landscape storytelling, merging holistic concepts of protection, education and sustainable development, Katla created a network of governmental agencies that provide guidance and assistance to the local population, teaching prevention and safeguard strategies, as well as promoting the local culture by placing a strong emphasis on nature tourism.
Another Role Model of the project is the Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark, located on the central part of Crete, in Greece, which offers a superb landscape geodiversity, with many volcanos, a wide range of animals and plants, as well as unique cultural heritage of oral history and mythology. In collaboration with the Natural History Museum of the University of Crete, the Geopark provides numerous educational activities daily. The local population, especially kids, and tourists can learn good practices, based on useful cases of previous setbacks, through training activities, programmes and tools developed to prevent and prepare for hazards, such as earthquake simulator, seismometer, educational suitcase, and a tsunami generator called “Make your vibration”.