Dbytes #462 (10 February 2021)

Info, news & views for anyone interested in biodiversity conservation and good environmental decision making


“We are not worried, or I’m certainly not worried, about what might happen in 30 years’ time,” Michael McCormack, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party (in The Guardian)

“Australians are five times more likely to be displaced by a climate change-fuelled disaster than someone living in Europe. In the Pacific, that risk is 100 times higher,”
Will Steffen (in The Climate Council’s new report: Hitting home: The compounding costs of climate inaction.)

Editor’s note: see item 7 on disasters


In this issue of Dbytes

1. Economics’ failure over destruction of nature presents ‘extreme risks’
2. The Adaptation Gap Report 2020 (and nature-based solutions)
3. To fix Australia’s environment laws, wildlife experts call for these 4 changes — all are crucial
4. Taking care of business: the private sector is waking up to nature’s value
5. Review of Indigenous engagement in the National Environmental Science Program
6. Emerging evidence that armed conflict and coca cultivation influence deforestation patterns
7. What a disaster – three recent reports on the growing frequency of ‘natural’ disaster and our inability to adapt to them

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1. Economics’ failure over destruction of nature presents ‘extreme risks’

New measures of success needed to avoid catastrophic breakdown, landmark Dasgupta Review finds

Economics’ failure over destruction of nature presents ‘extreme risks’ | Biodiversity | The Guardian

The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review can be found at
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/final-report-the-economics-of-biodiversity-the-dasgupta-review

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2. The Adaptation Gap Report 2020 (and nature-based solutions)

The Adaptation Gap Report 2020 found that 72 per cent of countries have adopted at least one national-level adaptation planning instrument, while a further 9 per cent are developing one. Most developing countries are preparing National Adaptation Plans.

More than half of countries have added nature-based solutions to their Nationally Determined Contributions – as climate pledges under the Paris Agreement are known. However, most of these describe broad goals and less than a third include measurable targets.

Adaptation Gap Report 2020 | UNEP – UN Environment Programme

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3. To fix Australia’s environment laws, wildlife experts call for these 4 changes — all are crucial

The independent review of Australia’s main environment law, released last week, provided a sobering but accurate appraisal of a dire situation. The review was led by Professor Graeme Samuel and involved consultation with scientists, legal experts, industry and conservation organisations. Samuel’s report concluded Australia’s biodiversity is in decline and the law (the EPBC Act) “is not fit for current or future environmental challenges”.

The findings are no surprise to us. As ecologists, we’ve seen first hand how Australia’s nature laws and governance failure have permitted environmental degradation and destruction to the point that species face extinction. Even then, continued damage is routinely permitted. And the findings aren’t news to many other Australians, who have watched wildlife and iconic places such as Kakadu and Kosciuszko national parks, and the Great Barrier Reef, decline at rates that have only accelerated since the act was introduced in 1999. Even globally recognisable wildlife, such as the platypus, now face a future that’s far from certain.

To fix Australia’s environment laws, wildlife experts call for these 4 changes — all are crucial (theconversation.com)

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4. Taking care of business: the private sector is waking up to nature’s value

For many businesses, climate change is an existential threat. Extreme weather can disrupt operations and supply chains, spelling disaster for both small vendors and global corporations. It also leaves investment firms dangerously exposed. Businesses increasingly recognise climate change as a significant financial risk. Awareness of nature-related financial risks, such as biodiversity loss, is still emerging.

My work examines the growth of private sector investment in biodiversity and natural capital. I believe now is a good time to consider questions such as: what are businesses doing, and not doing, about climate change and environmental destruction? And what role should government play?

https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786

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5. Review of Indigenous engagement in the National Environmental Science Program

The report and Appendices are over 430 pages, and provide a useful record of Indigenous engagement in the NESP over the period 2015 to 2020, and will provide a useful resource for the four new NESP Hubs that the Minister announced in December.

https://www.sgsep.com.au/projects/desk-top-review-of-indigenous-engagement-in-the-national-environmental-science-program

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6. Emerging evidence that armed conflict and coca cultivation influence deforestation patterns

The effect of armed conflict on deforestation in biodiverse regions across Earth remains poorly understood. Its association with factors like illegal crop cultivation can obscure its effect on deforestation patterns. We used Colombia, a global biodiversity hotspot with a complex political history, to explore the association of both armed conflict and coca cultivation with deforestation patterns. We generated spatial predictions of deforestation pressure based on the period 2000–2015 to understand how armed conflict and coca cultivation are associated with spatial patterns of deforestation and assess the spatial distribution of deforestation pressure induced by armed conflict and coca cultivation. Deforestation was positively associated with armed conflict intensity and proximity to illegal coca plantations.

Emerging evidence that armed conflict and coca cultivation influence deforestation patterns – ScienceDirect

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7. What a disaster – three recent reports on the growing frequency of ‘natural’ disaster and our inability to adapt to them

7.1. Exposure to natural hazard events unassociated with policy change for improved disaster risk reduction

Natural hazard events provide opportunities for policy change to enhance disaster risk reduction (DRR), yet it remains unclear whether these events actually fulfill this transformative role around the world. Here, we investigate relationships between the frequency (number of events) and severity (fatalities, economic losses, and affected people) of natural hazards and DRR policy change in 85 countries over eight years. Our results show that frequency and severity factors are generally unassociated with improved DRR policy when controlling for income-levels, differences in starting policy values, and hazard event types. This is a robust result that accounts for event frequency and different hazard severity indicators, four baseline periods estimating hazard impacts, and multiple policy indicators. Although we show that natural hazards are unassociated with improved DRR policy globally, the study unveils variability in policy progress between countries experiencing similar levels of hazard frequency and severity.

Exposure to natural hazard events unassociated with policy change for improved disaster risk reduction | Nature Communications

Editor’s note: Does it matter that we’re not learning from our experience with disasters? Of course it does, especially when you consider disasters are on the rise. Munich Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, has reported that natural catastrophes around the world resulted in losses of US$ 210 bn in 2020 (with insured losses of US$ 82 bn). This figure was up from US$ 166 bn losses in 2019, following a record hurricane season in the north Atlantic and historic wildfires in the western United States. Munich Re said that climate change “will play an increasing role in all of these hazards” and called on the global community to act to keep warming below 2°C.

7.2. Record hurricane season and major wildfires – The natural disaster figures for 2020

Record hurricane season: More storms in the North Atlantic than ever before
Historic wildfires in the western United States
Worldwide, natural disasters produced losses of US$ 210bn, with insured losses of US$ 82bn
Floods in China were responsible for the highest individual loss of US$ 17bn, only around 2% of which was insured

Five years after the Paris Climate Agreement: 2020 on the way to being the second warmest year on record

Record hurricane season and major wildfires – The natural disaster figures for 2020 | Munich Re

and also see the World Economic Forum’s
7.3 Global Risks Report 2021
Now in its 16th edition, the report finds that extreme weather, climate action failure and human-led environmental damage are among the highest likelihood risks over the next decade, with climate action failure considered “the most impactful and second most likely risk”.
WEF_The_Global_Risks_Report_2021.pdf (weforum.org)

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About Dbytes

Dbytes is a weekly eNewsletter presenting news and views on biodiversity conservation and environmental decision science. From 2007-2018 Dbytes was supported by a variety of research networks and primarily the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). From 2019 Dbytes is being produced by David Salt (Ywords).

If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info.

Anyone is welcome to receive Dbytes. If you would like to receive it, send me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

David


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