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Humans Are Pushing Migratory Species to Extinction

On population declines, big oil mergers, and ocean current collapse

Humans Are Pushing Migratory Species to Extinction
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: A freak hail storm hit Abu Dhabi • Beaches in Trinidad and Tobago are black after a massive oil spill • It will be another wet week in California.


1. Study: Many migratory species face extinction

One in five migratory species are at risk of extinction, and humans are mostly to blame, according to a grim new United Nations report. The State of the World’s MIgratory Species report from the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (CMS) is the first to study the many creatures – from elephants to butterflies to birds – that travel thousands of miles every year to breed, eat, or find new climates. The report examined 1,189 of these species and found some 44% are in population decline. Perhaps the most shocking takeaway is the dire state of the world’s migratory fish species: Ninety-seven percent are facing extinction. Migratory reptiles are also in trouble, with 70% threatened. Overexploitation and habitat loss due to human activity are the largest pressures contributing to these losses. “These animals are, first and foremost, part of the ecosystems where they’re found,” CMS executive secretary Amy Fraenkel told CNN. “And we have a lot of evidence showing that if you remove these species, if they decline, it will have impacts on the ecosystems where they’re found, and not in a positive way.” Protecting migrating animals can be a challenge because it requires cross-border cooperation.

Proportion of species classified in risk areasCMS

2. Another big U.S. oil merger will create Permian Basin drilling giant

Diamondback Energy announced a $26 billion deal to buy Endeavor Energy Resources, the largest private oil company in America’s biggest oil field, the Permian Basin. The deal catapults Diamondback to the third spot on the list of the region’s largest oil and gas producers. This is “the latest in a flurry of large-scale merger and acquisition activity in the U.S. shale patch as companies look to snap up the best remaining drilling acreage,” explained the Financial Times. Last year saw similar acquisitions targeting the region by ExxonMobil and Chevron. Together Diamondback and Endeavor will pump the equivalent of 816,000 barrels of oil per day, Reutersreported.

3. Study raises new concerns about ocean current tipping point

A new study suggests the “conveyor belt” of Atlantic Ocean currents that sends warm water north and cold water south is in danger of collapse. Climate researchers have long worried that global warming could someday cause the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) to slow or stop. This would trigger major shifts in regional climates and devastate ecosystems, but such an event has always been hard to predict, and most forecasts saw it occuring centuries in the future, if at all. For this new study, researchers used a supercomputer to run through potential warming scenarios and were able to trigger a collapse in the model AMOC, confirming there is indeed a point at which the system breaks down. While the team couldn’t pinpoint when this collapse could happen, they say the findings suggest “we are moving in the direction of the tipping point.” If AMOC were to shut down, parts of Europe, North America, and Asia could see temperatures drop, the southern hemisphere could warm, and Atlantic sea levels could rise by a meter, all within a short timespan that would make adaptation almost impossible, The Guardianreported.

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  • 4. John Deere is going electric

    Tractor company John Deere plans to start making and selling fully electric farm and construction equipment by 2026, Yale Climate Connections reported. The company said its electric lineup will give farmers more flexibility and help them lower costs. “They can manage yield and plant health on a more frequent basis; enabled by the cost of that pass being so low. They are no longer exposed to fuel costs. Producers can focus on the health of the plants/animals, and truly optimize the material inputs such as fertilizers, chemicals, and feeds.” It mentions reduced CO2 emissions, too, but only briefly, suggesting John Deere thinks the key to encouraging farmers to swap out their legacy equipment is to focus on operational improvements rather than environmental benefits.

    5. Twisters trailer debuts

    The first trailer for the disaster film Twisters debuted during the Super Bowl last night. The film, which hits theaters in July, isn’t a remake of the 1996 Twister, but more of a follow up. It promises to be just as nightmare-inducing, especially given how extreme weather has become more common in the years since the first film was released. Back in ‘96, “‘climate change’ didn’t quite carry the very real, very doom-laden weight that it does now,” wrote Cheryl Eddy at Gizmodo. “Is Twisters’ apocalyptic weather even in the realm of science fiction anymore?”


    California is considering introducing an electric bike license for riders who do not already have a regular driver’s license. It would require e-bike drivers to take a course, pass a test, and get a state ID.

    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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