Good news of 2020: The healing environment
Covid-19 lockdowns brought down air pollution: A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found that concentrations of pollutants known to cause asthma, heart and lung disease, and other ailments were significantly reduced during covid-19 lockdowns, largely as a result of the reduction in transport sector emissions. The study looked at samples from over 10k locations in 34 countries, and found that nitrogen dioxide decreased by 60%, while particulate matter — the sum of liquid and solid particles suspended in the air — decreased by 31%. Though the reduction may have been temporary, it demonstrates how simple lifestyle changes could go a long way to rapidly decreasing pollution levels in urban areas.
China announces its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060: It’s going to take a while, but China has announced it is aiming to reach carbon neutrality — removing as much CO2 from the environment as it produces — by 2060, the BBC reports. Though it comes with a caveat of a long timeline, this is pretty significant news considering that China is the world’s biggest carbon producer and is single handedly responsible for 28% of emissions. China is also the biggest financier and consumer of fossil fuels, meaning its commitment is likely to have an impact on the global oil industry and reverberate much further afield. And it’ll only be a decade behind the EU, which is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050.
BP is moving towards sustainable energy: The oil producer plans to slash its oil and gas production by as much as 40% over the next 10 years, in its bid to become an integrated energy company, CEO Bernard Looney announced in September. The company plans on increasing its renewable energy generating capacity 20-fold, and investing USD 5 bn a year in low carbon energy sources. This is a major step, since the world is moving faster than ever towards renewables, and a traditional oil producer like BP can help accelerate the trend. Solar and wind power outpaced traditional forms of energy for the first time ever, with solar power alone making up 45% of new energy generated in 2020, and solar and wind combined going from less than a quarter in 2010 to two thirds this year, Bloomberg found.
In animal kingdom news, a thought-to-be-extinct dolphin is alive and well: The Delphinus Delphis, known to its friends as the short-beaked common dolphin, has returned to the adriatic sea after it was thought to be regionally extinct, according to inhabitat. Apparently, a ridiculous policy begun in the 1970s had encouraged the killing of the dolphins as pests to prevent them competing with humans for fish, decimating their numbers and putting them on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s endangered species red list. Four of the dolphins have been spotted in the Adriatic over the past four years, which may not seem like much, but is a step towards regaining the biodiversity necessary for a healthy seas.
So is the adorable elephant shrew: This rodent-like mammal, also called the Somali sengi was spotted in Djibouti after 50 years of laying low, the BBC reports. Though small as a mouse, the little-studied sengi is in fact a distant relative of the elephant. Its rediscovery by a scientific expedition will give conservationists and biologists the chance to become better acquainted with the shrew.
… and some actual baby elephants in Kenya: The country’s Amboseli National Park saw the birth of over 170 calves this year, compared to 113 in 2018, NPR reports. The African elephant is classified as a vulnerable species and is threatened by loss of habitat and continued illegal poaching, so baby elephants are definitely good news.
… and an adventurous brown bear in a Spanish national park: The 3-5 year old male was the first to be spotted in North-West Spain’s Invernadeiro national park in 150 years, the Guardian reports. The bear is thought to have crossed over from Southern Spain, indicating that years of conservation efforts on the national park are paying off, attracting species that once roamed, but had long since abandoned the region.