SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 29, 2013

Column: Some good — and bad — environmental news

I’ve been on a tear to find good news about the environment, because there is so much bad news. Here are two positive developments that made headlines recently I’d like to share.

First, a landmark federal study on “fracking” made public last week finds that no chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing — the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock — leak into groundwater or drinking water. This is apparently due to the fact that those chemicals are exploded thousands of feet below where drinking water resources reside.

Second, some scientists were much relieved to find deforestation in one of the world’s largest rainforests, Africa’s Congo Basin, has slowed. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. studied satellite images of the Basin that revealed deforestation has fallen by about a third since 2000.

OK, so there’s the good news. Now for the bad. The Iberian lynx is headed quickly toward extinction, despite millions of dollars spent trying to save it. Why? Shifting climate conditions are killing the rare cat’s food source. Turns out these bearded, pointy-eared predators eat the European rabbit, which is dying due to climate change. Scientists trying to save the lynx haven’t taken that into account until now. So, saving the lynx (only 300 are left in Spain and Portugal, where thousands used to roam) means moving the few survivors to higher, more fertile ground, where the rabbits can repopulate and so can the cats.

It would be great if the Iberian lynx were the only species on the brink of extinction. If you research the terms “extinction” and “climate change,” you’ll see the lynx is the most endangered member of the felid family. But it is hardly alone.

The highly respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates 20 to 30 percent of species will be at “increasingly high risk of extinction if global temperatures rise by more than 2 (degrees Celsius) to 3 (degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels. Given that temperatures have already gone up by nearly 1 (degree Celsius), and carbon continues to pile up in the atmosphere, that amount of warming is almost a certainty.” This was reported by Time magazine.

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