Image by Lawrence Hur from Pixabay

Climate change is both an existential threat and a defining challenge. Sadly, it is not the only one. Biodiversity loss and the collapse of ecosystems is just as big a problem, with equally serious consequences — food and freshwater shortages, mass displacement, crippling adaptation costs, and increased vulnerability to extreme weather.

The global wildlife population has fallen by 68% since 1970 and the rate of extinction in recent decades is as high as 1,000 times the natural background rate[1]. Scientists believe that we are at the start of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event[2].

If that were to happen, it…

None of the 2020 global biodiversity targets will be met. For the sake of both nature and humanity, we must urgently change course.

Image by Michael Kleinsasser from Pixabay

George Bowling, the middling protagonist of Orwell’s Coming up for Air, has a simple dream — to escape to the nature-filled days of his childhood. When he wins some money on the horses, he tries to realise that dream, but it doesn’t go to plan. His hometown has changed, his old girlfriend lives in poverty and doesn’t recognise him, and the woods have been cut down for a housing estate.

George’s disappointment peaks when he discovers that…

Green hydrogen has fuelled optimism in politicians and investors alike for its potential to decarbonise the trickier sectors of the economy, like heavy industry and long-haul transport. It is a tantalising proposition — hydrogen behaves in a similar way to hydrocarbons, but burns clean, offering a pathway to net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions whilst maintaining life as we know it.

Germany unveiled its national hydrogen strategy[1] in June 2020, dedicating €7 billion to become a world leader in the technology. In July, the EU followed with its hydrogen strategy[2], which seeks to drastically ramp up production over the next…

If you ask a random stranger about economics — as you do — chances are, they won’t know much. They will probably be able to tell you that economic growth is important, recessions are bad, and they are likely to have heard of Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

The economy consistently ranks among the top issues for voters, even if it is a somewhat nebulous concept. For example, according to YouGov polling, it was the second most important issue in the 2017 UK election and the third most important in 2019 (excluding Brexit). In practice, voters are likely to view…

Strap yourselves in, we’re likely to be in this fight against the coronavirus for the long haul.

By now, you’ve probably heard the term ‘flattening the curve’ — the idea being that if we can limit the peak of COVID-19 cases to below the capacity of health systems, we’ll save millions of lives. It sounds eminently sensible, which is probably why there is generally strong public support for increasingly strict social distancing measures.

Chances are, your social media feeds are currently filled with social distancing advice ranging from the jokey — I saved lives by watching Netflix all day — to the hysterical — if you go for a walk outside you are effectively destroying the health…

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

We are living through truly remarkable times. COVID-19 is proliferating and threatens to infect between 40% and 70% of the population, which would result in millions of deaths.

Society’s response to COVID-19 is equally alarming — to date, we’ve observed overt racism, hoarding, travel bans and lockdowns. The measures taken to arrest COVID-19 — which are virtually unprecedented outside of wartime — threaten to derail the economy, destabilise financial markets and fray our already fragile social fabric.

The poor are likely to suffer disproportionately. Those on the breadline simply can’t afford a disruption to their income and, depending on their…

It breaks my heart to read about the devastating bushfires in Australia. Each day, new horrifying accounts emerge, seemingly with no end in sight. Thankfully there are some heart-warming stories too, stories of the courage of firefighters — affectionately known as firies — and the generosity of strangers.

While I’m a world away in London now, I grew up in a small town called Cockatoo in Victoria, Australia. Our home was a tree-changer’s delight — a big isolated plot surrounded by eucalyptus trees, with a forest just across the road. …

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It really shouldn’t have come to this. As we embrace this new decade, we are faced with the daunting task of needing to halve global CO2 emissions to limit the increase in global average temperatures to the ‘safe’ level of 1.5°C above pre-industrial times. This is despite not yet managing to find a way to arrest the relentless rise in emissions — global emissions have increased by 4% since the Paris Agreement was struck in 2015.

It is tempting to point the finger at others for getting us into this mess — oil companies, governments, lobby groups, capitalism. However, this…

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

Midnight Oil achieved global success in the ’80s with their single Beds Are Burning. You’d probably know it if you heard it. And you’d probably recognise the lead singer — Peter Garrett — with his characteristic shiny head, beanpole figure and wooden-push-puppet-esque dancing style.

Up until then, the Aussie pub rock band had steadily been building a cult domestic following with their politically charged lyrics on environmental issues, consumerism and militarism. But it was ultimately a song about the treatment of indigenous Australians that the world connected with. The chorus ‘how can we sleep while the beds are burning?’

On 6 May 2019, the UN IPBES released a summary of its landmark global assessment report on biodiversity. The warnings were stark — as a result of human activities, nature is declining at a rate unprecedented in human history, placing a million species at risk of extinction. Put simply, nature is in trouble, therefore we’re in trouble.

Such a grave conclusion from the most comprehensive assessment of biodiversity to date should have been a wake-up call. Instead, it barely got a mention on news programmes, at least in the UK. …

Travis Elsum

Actuary, runner, writer and nature lover. My articles aim to apply long-term thinking to environmental problems.

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