Nature and Biodiversity

Humans could use 60% more natural resources by 2060, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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A view of the MP Materials rare earth open-pit mine in Mountain Pass, California, U.S. January 30, 2020. Picture taken January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Top nature and climate news: Humans could use 60% more natural resources by 2060, and more. Image: REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Humans could use 60% more natural resources by 2060; US 'warming hole' cooled by reforestation; Study reveals how the ocean's largest whales produce their songs.

1. US 'warming hole' cooled by reforestation, study shows

While the intensifying climate crisis continues to break temperature records around the world, reforestation conducted during the last century in many southeastern US states has helped stall its warming effects. The reforestation programmes were conducted to replace tree cover destroyed by early settlers.

Trees draw water through roots to the leaves in a process known as transpiration, which is then released as vapour that helps cool the surrounding atmosphere.

“The reforestation has been remarkable and we have shown this has translated into the surrounding air temperature,” study lead Mallory Barnes of Indiana University environment told The Guardian.

“The ‘warming hole’ has been a real mystery and while this doesn’t explain all of it, this research shows there is a really important link to the trees coming back,” she said.


2. Humans could use 60% more natural resources by 2060, says UN

Humans consumption of the planet's natural resources is set to see a 60% increase by 2060, according to the United Nations Environment Programme's flagship Global Resources Outlook report 2024.

Urbanization, industrialization and runaway population growth are increasing resource intensity for sectors like food, mobility, housing and energy.

The UN estimates the global population will expand from around 8 billion currently to 9.7 billion by 2050, reaching nearly 10.4 billion by 2080. This would put an unprecedented strain on the Earth's natural resources.

Population, material footprint and GDP growth index, 2000-2017
Population, material footprint and GDP growth index 2000-2017 Image: Unstats

As the chart shows, the total amount of raw materials extracted to meet final consumption demand (material footprint) has been increasing over time, consistent with population growth and output.

The report outlines the need to switch to more sustainable and responsible resource use to avoid exhausting the planet's finite resources, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

How the ocean's largest whales produce their songs has been revealed in a study, published in Nature, which highlights the threat of human activity to communication between whales for mating.

Weak monsoon rains have caused an acute water shortage in Bengaluru, leaving residents of the region dubbed "India's Silicon Valley" facing water rationing and surging bills, Reuters reports.

A Google-backed mission to map methane hot spots from space is due to launch in March 2024, which will see satellites orbit 300 miles above Earth to identify harmful methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Intensifying atmospheric rivers – narrow sections of the planet's atmosphere channelling trillions of gallons of water – in California have led to a spike in a fungal pathogen called 'Valley fever' in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health.

More than 2,000 people are being evacuated from towns in Australia's Victoria state, as ferocious wildfires that have destroyed properties and killed livestock threatened to spread further.

The UN Environment Assembly, the world's most prominent environmental decision-making authority, will hold its 6th session in Kenya in February, with the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and pollution expected to dominate the agenda.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

Two-thirds of African birds of prey are on the brink of extinction a new study shows, which could cause disruption in the food chain and impact human health. Here's why.

Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will require around $5 trillion in investment says the IMF. Here, Al Gore outlines three key drivers of efforts to scale green investments in 2024.

Chemicals in the air may be disrupting plant reproduction, making it harder for pollinators like bees to find food. This could impact plant health, food systems and food security, a new study shows.

Take a look at some of the amazing images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023, including the winning entry capturing a sleeping polar bear adrift on an iceberg and moon jellyfish in a fjord illuminated by the aurora borealis.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate Action
1. US 'warming hole' cooled by reforestation, study shows2. Humans could use 60% more natural resources by 2060, says UN3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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