With Meghna Chakrabarti
An epic crisis for marine life and dramatic declines in rainforest insect populations. New reports flag the planet’s hidden climate change effects.
Kerry Cesareo, spokesperson and vice president for forests at the World Wildlife Fund. (@World_Wildlife)
Maurice Tamman, reporter and editor on the enterprise journalism team for Reuters. (@motamman)
Brad Lister, professor of biological sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
From The Reading List
World Wildlife Fund: 2018 Living Planet Report
Reuters: "Ocean Shock: The climate crisis beneath the waves" — "To stand at the edge of an ocean is to face an eternity of waves and water, a shroud covering seven-tenths of the Earth.
"Hidden below are mountain ranges and canyons that rival anything on land. There you will find the Earth’s largest habitat, home to billions of plants and animals – the vast majority of the living things on the planet.
"In this little-seen world, swirling super-highway currents move warm water thousands of miles north and south from the tropics to cooler latitudes, while cold water pumps from the poles to warmer climes.
"It is a system that we take for granted as much as we do the circulation of our own blood. It substantially regulates the Earth’s temperature, and it has been mitigating the recent spike in atmospheric temperatures, soaking up much of human-generated heat and carbon dioxide. Without these ocean gyres to moderate temperatures, the Earth would be uninhabitable.
"In the last few decades, however, the oceans have undergone unprecedented warming. Currents have shifted. These changes are for the most part invisible from land, but this hidden climate change has had a disturbing impact on marine life – in effect, creating an epic underwater refugee crisis."
Washington Post: "Two generations of humans have killed off more than half the world’s wildlife populations, report finds" — "Human activity has annihilated wildlife on a scale unseen beyond mass extinction, and it has helped put humans on a potentially irreversible path toward a hot, chaotic planet stripped clean of the natural resources that enrich it, a new report has concluded.
"Populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined by 60 percent since 1970, according to a report released Monday by the advocacy group World Wildlife Fund. The animals that remain will fight against warming oceans choked with plastic, toppled rain forests may zero out fragile species, and refuges such as coral reefs may nearly die off.
"That will transform life as humanity knows it, said Carter Roberts, the chief executive of the WWF in the United States, if societies do not reverse course to protect the food, water and shelter needed for survival."
The Atlantic: "Animals Are Riding an Escalator to Extinction" — "In 1985, John Fitzpatrick hiked up a ridge called Cerro de Pantiacolla, in the Peruvian Andes, in search of birds. On an eight-kilometer uphill walk, he and his team meticulously documented all the birds that lived on the mountainside. They found dozens of species, many with delightfully ostentatious names. The buff-browed foliage-gleaner. The hazel-fronted pygmy-tyrant. The fulvous-breasted flatbill. The variable antshrike. After their census, they returned to their base camp on the banks of the Palatoa River, and Fitzpatrick took a photo of the Andes, towering in the distance. Then they sailed away.
Thirty years later, Benjamin Freeman, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia and a former student of Fitzpatrick’s, decided to retrace the same hike to see whether the birdlife had changed in the intervening decades. 'We motored up the river in a canoe, literally holding up that photo, until we said, "Oh, we’re here,"' Freeman says.
"As they climbed, the thickets of tall bamboo by the river gave way to big rainforest trees with huge buttress roots. And at the top of the ridge, 1,400 meters up, the team found a 'gnarled, mossy wonderland of stunted trees,' Freeman says. What they did not find, however, was the buff-browed foliage-gleaner, the hazel-fronted pygmy-tyrant, the fulvous-breasted flatbill, or the variable antshrike. They had all disappeared."
This program aired on November 1, 2018.