Climate Crisis Weekly: The Red List — which animals are at risk of extinction

  • The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has been released, identifying the species most at risk of extinction.
  • Vermont becomes the first state in the US to pass a ban on food waste.
  • Colorado State University raises its 2020 hurricane forecast in July from 19 named storms up to 20.
  • And more…

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released its newest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It’s the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi, and plant species.

The IUCN Red List now assesses 120,372 species. Of these, 32,441 are threatened with extinction.

Two significant examples: Almost a third (31%) of all lemur species in Madagascar are now Critically Endangered — just one step away from extinction — with 98% of them threatened. (This includes Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur, the smallest primate in the world, pictured above.)

Lemurs are threatened as a result of deforestation and hunting in Madagascar. This includes slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as logging for charcoal and fuelwood.

Also on the Critically Endangered list is the North Atlantic Right Whale. There are fewer than 250 mature North Atlantic Right Whales. Why? Climate change. As IUCN explains, warmer sea temperatures have likely pushed their main prey species further north during summer, into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the whales are more exposed to accidental encounters with ships and also at high risk of entanglement in crab-pot ropes.

The IUCN Red List threat categories are as follows, in descending order of threat:

  • Extinct or Extinct in the Wild
  • Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: Species threatened with global extinction.
  • Near Threatened: Species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing conservation measures.
  • Least Concern: Species evaluated with a lower risk of extinction.
  • Data Deficient: No assessment because of insufficient data.

Dr. Grethel Aguilar, IUCN acting director general, said:

At the heart of this crisis is a dire need for alternative, sustainable livelihoods to replace the current reliance on deforestation and unsustainable use of wildlife. These findings really bring home the urgent need for an ambitious post-2020 biodiversity framework that drives effective conservation action.

Vermonters, up your already-savvy composting game! Your state just implemented the very first state law in the US, the Food Waste Ban, that requires residents to compost inedible scraps either in their own composters or at a compost facility from the beginning of July.

The state’s goal to divert 50% of all waste from landfills to places where it can be composted, recycled, or reused has been in place for 10 years. But because Vermont has only reached 36% of waste diversion, it decided to pass this law.

But state workers won’t be digging through people’s trash; they’re expecting voluntary compliance, and they’ll probably get it. 72% of Vermonters already compost or feed food scraps to their pets or livestock, according to the University of Vermont.

Meredith Niles, UVM Food Systems and Nutrition and Food Sciences assistant professor and lead author of the study, said:

The trend in big cities has been to offer curbside compost pickup programs, especially in densely populated areas, but there isn’t a one size fits all for how we manage food waste. Our study suggests that, especially in more rural areas, people may already be managing their food waste in a way that leaves it out of the landfills.

Previous University of Vermont research showed that Americans waste nearly a pound of food daily.

Food waste is a significant source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to warming the earth.

It’s not hard to do. There are a plethora of options for composting, from this indoor OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin to the Miracle-Gro Small Composter for outdoors.

On July 7, Colorado State University raised its annual June hurricane forecast from 19 named storms up to 20 — 150% of the average season. Why? The researchers cite the likely absence of El Niño as a primary factor. Further:

Sea surface temperatures averaged across portions of the tropical Atlantic are somewhat above normal, while the subtropical Atlantic is much warmer than average. This type of sea surface temperature configuration is also considered favorable for an active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

Warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures provide more fuel for tropical cyclone formation and intensification. “Through May, world ocean and land temperatures are second-warmest on record, lagging only 2016, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information,” writes Bloomberg Green.

You can see CSU’s forecasting chart here. CSU will update it again on August 6.

The United Nations Environment Programme and the International Livestock Research Institute have released a report, “Preventing the next pandemic — Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission.”

It identifies seven trends driving the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases, including climate change, and 10 recommendations to prevent future zoonotic outbreaks. Have a watch here, and you can read the report by clicking on the link above.

Environmental health and human health are intricately connected.

Everyone needs a break, especially now. Prune is a soothing game in which you, well, prune trees. It’s a digital reminder of the beauty of nature. Here’s what you get:

  • A unique digital bonsai tree for your pocket.
  • Beautiful, minimalist art and a super clean interface — it’s just you and the trees.
  • Meditative music and sound design for you to zen out to.
  • No IAP, no monetization strategy, no currencies.
  • Share screenshots of your unique tree creations with friends.

It’s on sale on Google Play for 99 cents, according to my colleagues over at 9to5Toys, and it’s $3.99 on the Apple Store. It’s not new, but it’s certainly timely.

Just the preview video alone is soothing, and someone commented on YouTube:

This game always reminds me of the ray of hope and how every living thing is searching for light.

We agree.

According to a study from the University of York in the UK, “Air pollution has remained at lower levels in UK towns and cities despite a return to near-normal traffic levels after the easing of coronavirus restrictions,” according to the Guardian.

Analysis of data from more than 100 urban roadside locations shows nitrogen dioxide pollution levels were 30% below normal at the end of June, despite HGV traffic being back at 95% of normal levels, vans at 90%, and cars at 75%.

Scientists think the small reduction in traffic has enough of an impact to reduce emissions. People may be staggering their commutes to work, which would also cut congestion.

This finding could help inform cities to improve the way they cut pollution on a long-term basis.

Here’s what happened this week in the #FridaysForFuture protests. But first, we’re going to kick it off with TIME magazine’s cover this week, which nails the entire premise of this weekly column. It truly is a defining year. And the #FridaysForFuture protesters know that.

Looks like Düsseldorf is no longer on pandemic lockdown so has hit the streets again:

Hello to Maureen Damen in Senegal:

And Nyombi in Uganda:

And Greta Thunberg is still at it in Sweden, of course — and good.

Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.