The Global Extinction Crisis
More than 20 species on the U.S. endangered list are now gone forever, officials said Wednesday. A million more are at risk.,
We’re also covering oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and skyrocketing rates for flood insurance.
By Catrin Einhorn
These days, with climate change such a pressing issue, people often think it’s the main cause of animal and plant extinctions. It’s true that it will play an increasingly devastating role. But for now, the biggest driver is simply people taking over or changing the habitats of wild animals on land and at sea.
That dynamic was on full display on Wednesday when federal officials announced a batch of new extinctions. In all, 22 animals and one plant should be declared extinct and removed from the endangered species list, they said.
It might be a glimpse of the future. The announcement comes amid a worsening global biodiversity crisis that threatens to make a million species vanish, many within decades.
I interviewed biologists, federal wildlife officials, activists and birders. Some choked up as we talked. Many hoped that these extinctions would serve as a lesson to humans. Please read the full article here.
Quotable: “Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity,” said Bridget Fahey, who oversees species classification for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”
Join us at the Glasgow climate talks
World leaders will gather in Scotland in November for COP26, the next round of international climate negotiations, and you can be there, too. Join us at The New York Times Climate Hub, in person or online, to explore one of the most urgent questions of our time: How do we adapt and thrive on a changing planet? Tickets at nytclimatehub.com.
A low-carbon economy could be a bargain
By the end of the century, more frequent and severe natural disasters could shrink the eurozone economy by 10 percent if no new policies to mitigate climate change are introduced, a new report has found. By comparison, the costs of transition would be no more than 2 percent of gross domestic product.
Oil poured into the Gulf after Hurricane Ida
By Hiroko Tabuchi
Hurricane Ida, which barreled into the Louisiana coast with near 150 mile-per-hour winds this summer, appears to have caused a spike in oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration started using satellite images to track oil leaks a decade ago. Normally, the agency detects about 25 spills a month nationwide. In the two weeks after Ida, though, officials issued a total of 55 spill reports for the Gulf alone, including one near a fragile nature reserve.
It underscores the susceptibility of the region’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure to intensifying storms fueled by climate change. You can see an interactive map of the spills in the article I wrote with my colleague Blacki Migliozzi.
Quotable: “Old pipelines are going to break loose, get moved about, dragged across other things,” said Frank Rusco, the federal accountability office’s director of natural resources and environment. “It really is a hazardous situation out there.”
Biden’s first big move to regulate greenhouse gases
By Lisa Friedman
The Biden administration has finalized a critical climate change regulation to curb the use of planet-warming chemicals used in refrigeration and air-conditioning.
The Environmental Protection Agency rule would reduce the chemicals, known as hydrofluorocarbons, by 85 percent over the next 15 years, according to official estimates. It would also help achieve President Biden’s goal of cutting America’s greenhouse gas emissions roughly in half by 2030.
That’s key for American credibility. The United States will be expected to show progress on its efforts to curb emissions when world leaders meet at a global climate summit in Scotland in November. So far, the Biden administration has few other completed policies in place.
Also important this week:
Ford said it would build four new factories in a big electric vehicle push. The automaker said the three battery factories and a truck plant would create 11,000 jobs.
Democrats are considering adding a carbon tax to the budget bill. It could be politically explosive.
Deadly flooding in the Zhengzhou subway this summer revealed how years of go-go construction has left China’s cities vulnerable to climate change.
Arctic sea ice hit its annual low this month and it wasn’t as low as recent years. The overall trend, however, is still downward.
Sherwood Boehlert, a 12-term Republican congressman, has died. A moderate and champion of environmentalism, he was known for chiding climate-change deniers.
Flood insurance costs are about to skyrocket for some
By Christopher Flavelle
Starting on Friday, the United States will begin a nationwide experiment in climate adaptation: Forcing Americans to pay something closer to the real cost of their individual flood risk, which is rising as the planet warms. The change will be felt most acutely in cities and towns around Tampa Bay, where some homeowners will eventually see the cost of their federal flood insurance rise tenfold.
Federal officials say the goal is fairness — many homeowners farther from the coast, whose flood insurance premiums often exceeded their risk under the old pricing system, will see their rates fall. But another goal is getting homeowners in dangerous areas to understand the extent of the risk they face, and perhaps move to safer ground, reducing the human and financial toll of disasters.
Lawmakers from both parties are lining up to block the new rates, which will be phased in over several years. But if the new system goes ahead, it could have profound consequences for coastal real estate — changing where Americans build houses, and how much people are willing to pay for them.
I spoke with Florida homeowners facing big jumps in their insurance bills, as well as elected officials who oppose the changes and flood experts who insist they’re long overdue. Whoever wins, the flood insurance fight previews an essential truth about large-scale efforts to reduce Americans’ exposure to climate change: Not everyone will be happy with the outcome.
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