Two RCMP police officers wear gas masks in the smoke from the wildfires near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on 6 May 2016. Photo: Mark Blinch / Reuters

31 December 2016 (Desdemona Despair) – Another disastrous year for wildlife, another year closer to living under green skies. The year 2016 saw the largest number of refugees since World War Two and the worst bleaching ever recorded in the Great Barrier Reef. The dissolution of coral reefs globally may be an apt metaphor for the foundations of civil society and their fragility: slow erosion punctuated by sudden, catastrophic failure.

Bleached soft coral in the Lakshadweep Reefs, May 2016. Photo: Nature Conservation Foundation

Bleached soft coral in the Lakshadweep Reefs, May 2016. Photo: Nature Conservation Foundation

India coral reefs experiencing widespread bleaching, scientist says

Bushfires threaten a structure in Tasmania, 21 January 2016. Photo: AAP

Bushfire threatens a structure in Tasmania, 21 January 2016. The fires destroyed vegetation that is unique to Tasmania, including iconic alpine species, such as the Pencil Pine and cushion plants, as well as temperate rainforests. The fires burned up large areas of organic soils, on which the unique Tasmanian vegetation depends. It is extremely unlikely burnt areas with the endemic alpine flora will ever fully recover. Photo: AAP

Fires in Tasmania’s ancient forests are a warning for all of us

Area blackened in northern Tasmania after bushfire, 30 January 2016. Photo: Dan Broun

Area blackened in northern Tasmania after bushfire, 30 January 2016. The first images to emerge from within Tasmania's fire-affected World Heritage Area (WHA) illustrated the level of destruction caused by bushfire, as experts warned such incidents are signs of a changing climate. Photo: Dan Broun

Tasmania fires: First images of World Heritage Area devastation emerge, show signs of system collapse – ‘The scene is complete and utter devastation. There is kilometres of burnt ground, everything is dead.’

A wall of smoke and fire looms over a village in Buryatia, Siberia, 11 May 2016. Photo: Vkontakte / Siberian Times

A wall of smoke and fire looms over a village in Buryatia, Siberia, 11 May 2016. Photo: Vkontakte / Siberian Times

Wildfires rage in Siberia and Russian Far East

This natural-color image was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite on 19 September 2016. Red outlines show warm land surface temperatures — a sign of fire. Photo: LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

Smoke from forest fires covers a wide area of Siberia, on 19 September 2016. This natural-color image was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite. Red outlines show warm land surface temperatures — a sign of fire. Photo: LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

Image of the Day: Satellite view of Siberia wildfires in September 2016

The sun shines through dense smoke from fires at Fort McMurray, Alberta, 3 May 2016. Photo: Ben Bennett / Instagram

The sun shines through dense smoke from fires at Fort McMurray, Alberta, 3 May 2016. Photo: Ben Bennett / Instagram

Video: Largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history forces tens of thousands of Fort McMurray residents to flee

Smoke and flames from the wildfires erupt behind a car on the highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, 7 May 2016. Photo: Mark Blinch / REUTERS

Smoke and flames from wildfires erupt behind a car on the highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on 7 May 2016. Photo: Mark Blinch / REUTERS

Homecoming begins for residents of fire-ravaged Canadian city – ‘It is not a clean, safe, normal environment that you're walking into’, Unusual heat wave fuels fire at Fort McMurray

Photographer Sebastian Copeland was trekking in the Canadian Arctic when he came across this distressing sight of a polar bear's emaciated corpse on a patch of rocky ground. The animal starved to death as a result of climate change which have caused the ice to retreat, making it impossible to hunt seals. Photo: Sebastian Copeland

Sebastian Copeland was trekking in the Canadian Arctic when he came across a polar bear’s emaciated corpse surrounded in molted fur on a patch of rocky ground. Mr. Copeland believes it serves as a graphic illustration of the plight facing polar bears as the sea ice retreats, making it harder to hunt seals and forcing them further inland for food. Photo: Sebastian Copeland

Photographer captures heartbreaking image of Arctic polar bear which ‘starved to death as a result of climate change’

No snow, no ice? A solitary bear sits on the edge of one of the Barter Islands in 2016. There is no snow, when at this time of year, there should be. In speaking with the locals in Kaktovic, they've noted that it's been an unseasonably warm winter, and that the ice will be late in forming this year. This will have an impact on the local polar bear population, when it comes time to hunt seals for their food in the winter months. Photo: Patty Waymire / National Geographic Your Shot

A solitary polar bear sits on the edge of one of the Barter Islands in 2016. There is no snow, when at this time of year, there should be. Photo: Patty Waymire / National Geographic Your Shot

Photo gallery: National Geographic asked photographers to show the impact of climate change, here’s what they shot

In this photo taken on Sunday, 28 February 2016, Fur Rondy mushers drive their dog teams down a ribbon of snow that was placed on 4th Avenue in a snowless downtown Anchorage for the annual winter festival event. In the 2015-2016 season, Alaska had the second-warmest December through February of the last century, and many parts of the state, including Anchorage, are seeing their warmest winters ever. Photo: Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News

In this photo taken on Sunday, 28 February 2016, Fur Rondy mushers drive their dog teams down a ribbon of snow that was placed on 4th Avenue in a snowless downtown Anchorage for the annual winter festival event. In the 2015-2016 season, Alaska had the second-warmest December through February of the last century, and many parts of the state, including Anchorage, saw their warmest winters ever. Photo: Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News

In the Iditarod, global warming makes it a year for the record books – ‘I’m not sure winter ever came to south-central Alaska’

A sculpture named 'Unbearable' at front of Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish Parliament, in Copenhagen. Photo: Reuters

A sculpture, named Unbearable, in front of Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, the seat of the Danish Parliament. Photo: Reuters

Image of the Day: Sculpture of impaled polar bear on display in Denmark

On 10 November 2016, scientists on NASA's IceBridge mission photographed an oblique view of a massive rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf. Icebridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, completed an eighth consecutive Antarctic deployment on 18 November 2016. Photo: John Sonntag / NASA

On 10 November 2016, scientists on NASA's IceBridge mission photographed an oblique view of a massive rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf. Icebridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, completed an eighth consecutive Antarctic deployment on 18 November 2016. Photo: John Sonntag / NASA

NASA captures image of Antarctic ice shelf rift that will produce an iceberg the size of Delaware

Aerial view of houses destroyed by Cyclone Winston on Fiji's Koro Island, 24 Feburary 2016. Photo: Brant Cumming / ABC News

Aerial view of houses destroyed by Cyclone Winston on Fiji's Koro Island, 24 Feburary 2016. Photo: Brant Cumming / ABC News

Cyclone Winston: Fiji death toll reaches 42 with entire villages wiped out on remote islands – ‘Maybe by next week there will be no more food’, Photo gallery: Aftermath of Cyclone Winston in Fiji

A woman holds a baby sitting by a fire near the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Thursday, 3 March 2016. Some thousands of refugees and migrants wait on the border between Greece and Macedonia and about 30,000 refugees and other migrants are stranded in Greece. Photo: Vadim Ghirda / AP Photo

A woman holds a baby sitting by a fire near the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Thursday, 3 March 2016. Some thousands of refugees and migrants waited on the border between Greece and Macedonia and about 30,000 refugees and other migrants were stranded in Greece. Photo: Vadim Ghirda / AP Photo

UN warns of imminent humanitarian crisis in Greece amid disarray in Europe over asylum

A crucifix and a radiation warning sign in front of apartment buildings in the ghost city Pripyat near to Chernobyl Power Plant, 22 January 2016. Photo: Genya Savilov / AFP / Getty Images 

A crucifix and a radiation warning sign in front of apartment buildings in the ghost city Pripyat near the Chernobyl Power Plant, 22 January 2016. Photo: Genya Savilov / AFP / Getty Images

Chernobyl 30 years on: former residents remember life in the ghost city of Pripyat

11 March 2016, the canal connecting the Ganges to coal-fired power station dried up because of a lack of water. By next day, authorities were forced to suspend generation at the 2,300-megawatt plant in Farakka town causing shortages in India's power grid. Photo: Ronny Sen / BBC News

By 11 March 2016, the canal connecting the Ganges to coal-fired power station dried up because of a lack of water. By next day, authorities were forced to suspend generation at the 2,300-megawatt plant in Farakka town causing shortages in India's power grid. Photo: Ronny Sen / BBC News

Is India facing its worst-ever water crisis? ‘The unthinkable is happening’

A field in Bac Lieu Province, Vietnam, that was abandoned due to the region's worst drought on record, 1 March 2016. Irrigation canals and lakes are also dried up and the biggest fear of the farmer is saltwater intrusion. If they try to pump water from canals to their fields, their rice will die faster. Photo: VietNamNet Bridge

A field in Bac Lieu Province, Vietnam, that was abandoned due to the region's worst drought on record, 1 March 2016. Irrigation canals and lakes also dried up, and the biggest fear of the farmer is saltwater intrusion. If they try to pump water from canals to their fields, their rice will die faster. Photo: VietNamNet Bridge

Vietnam’s southern Mekong Delta faces worst drought in history – ‘Those who have rice in hands will make fat profits’

Caimans were hit particularly hard when Paraguay's Pilcomayo River dried up in 2016. In some places along the river, they lost 98 percent of their population. Photo: Jorge Adorno / Reuters

Caimans (Caiman yacare) were hit particularly hard when Paraguay's Pilcomayo River dried up in 2016. In some places along the river, they lost 98 percent of their population. Photo: Jorge Adorno / Reuters

Wildlife dying en masse as South American river runs dry

In this 12 January 2016 photo, Abraham Fulguera shows his fisherman's credential, in the dried up Lake Poopo, on the outskirts of Untavi, Bolivia. 'I am the president of the September 10 Fishing Cooperative. We used to be 30 fishermen and there used to be ten or more fishing cooperatives in Lake Poopo. Now we work as construction laborers. Others have left to look for jobs. I hope we do not become a ghost town. We have faith that the lake will come back.' Fulguera said. Photo: Juan Karita / AP Photo

In this 12 January 2016 photo, Abraham Fulguera shows his fisherman's credential, in the dried up Lake Poopo, on the outskirts of Untavi, Bolivia. “I am the president of the September 10 Fishing Cooperative. We used to be 30 fishermen and there used to be ten or more fishing cooperatives in Lake Poopo. Now we work as construction laborers. Others have left to look for jobs. I hope we do not become a ghost town. We have faith that the lake will come back.” Fulguera said. Photo: Juan Karita / AP Photo

Second largest lake in Bolivia dries up – ‘There’s no future here’

Gold mining activity led to more forest clearing in Peru in the first few months of 2016. Data from Planet Labs, SERNANP. Photo: MAAP

Since November 2015, a major gold mining camp has been established within Tambopata National Reserve's buffer zone in Peru. Data from WorldView-2 de Digital Globe (NextView). Photo: MAAP

Satellite views of the Bahuaja Sonene National Park (USD35), located between the regions of Madre de Dios and Puno in Peru, showing deforestation due to illegal gold mining in July 2016 (right). Photo: Digital Globe

The before-and-after is stark in the Madre de Dios region of the Amazon rainforest in Peru: forest on the left-hand side of this image has been stripped by illegal gold mining. Photo: Miguel Bellido

22 April 2016 (mongabay.com) – The quest for gold has been stripping rainforest from around rivers in the Amazon Basin, with not even protected areas immune from mining. The situation has gotten so out of hand that the Peruvian government launched an intervention in January, destroying a slew of mining equipment and more than a thousand gallons of fuel in the southern part of the country in effort to stamp out production. But recent satellite and aerial data show this hasn’t had the intended effect, with a big recent uptick in mining-related deforestation along the Upper Malinowski River inside Tambopata National Reserve.

Gold mining ramps up, pushes deeper into Peruvian Amazon rainforest, Illegal gold mining threatens tropical forest in Peruvian Amazon, Peru: Mercury poisoning epidemic sweeps tribe

A dead alligator is a victim of Belo Monte dam construction. Amazon rainforest is burned by Norte Energia, a company outsourced by Belo Monte to clear the area that will become a lake after the Belo Monte dam is built. Monkeys, sloths, and numerous other species are slaughtered as the rainforest is cleared. Photo: Márcio Isensee e Sá

A dead alligator is a victim of Belo Monte dam construction. Amazon rainforest is burned by Norte Energia, a company outsourced by Belo Monte to clear the area that will become a lake after the Belo Monte dam is built. Monkeys, sloths, and numerous other species are slaughtered as the rainforest is cleared. Photo: Márcio Isensee e Sá

Wildlife slaughtered as Amazon rainforest burns for Belo Monte dam construction – Burning timber fuels Brazil’s illegal lumber market

Three Batek women on their way to gather forest herbs pass by signs forbidding entry to land clear-cut two years ago to create an oil palm plantation. Photo: James Whitlow Delano

Three Batek women on their way to gather forest herbs pass by signs forbidding entry to land clear-cut two years ago to create an oil palm plantation. Photo: James Whitlow Delano

Photo gallery: Endangered Batek tribe faces the loss of their last parcel of Malaysia rainforest

Workers scoop oil out a stream near Chiriaco, in northern Peru, where crude spilled from a pipeline in late January 2016. Photo: Barbara Fraser

Workers scoop oil out of a stream near Chiriaco, in northern Peru, where crude spilled from a pipeline in late January 2016. Photo: Barbara Fraser

Another Amazon oil spill puts Peruvian communities at risk – ‘We don’t drink river water any more. It gives us diarrhea and stomachaches’

A worker carries spray bottles of gel fuel to help the burning, as he walks past pyres of ivory that were set on fire in Nairobi National Park, Kenya Saturday, 30 April 2016. Kenya's president Saturday set fire to 105 tons of elephant ivory and more than 1 ton of rhino horn, believed to be the largest stockpile ever destroyed, in a dramatic statement against the trade in ivory and products from endangered species. Photo: Ben Curtis / AP Photo

Kenya’s president sets fire to 105 tons of elephant ivory and more than 1 ton of rhino horn, believed to be the largest stockpile ever destroyed, in a dramatic statement by this East African country against the trade in ivory and products from endangered species. Photo: Ben Curtis / AP Photo

Kenya burns 105 tons of elephant ivory to protest poaching, largest stockpile ever burned – ‘Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants’

Aerial view of the body of a rare Kordofan giraffe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three of which were killed only for their tails. Photo: David Hamlin / National Geographic

Aerial view of the body of a rare Kordofan giraffe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three of which were killed only for their tails. Photo: David Hamlin / National Geographic

Poachers are wiping out giraffes in central Africa just for their tails, Giraffes suffer ‘silent extinction’ in Africa – ‘Many species are slipping away before we can even describe them’

Spiders of Chernobyl weaving deformed webs. Thirty years after the worst nuclear radiation catastrophe in history, which released 100 times the combined amount of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, two scientists were allowed total access to the area surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Video: Radioactive spiders of Chernobyl weave deformed webs

Hundreds of Burundian refugees aboard the 'MV Liemba' making the 3-hour journey down Lake Tanganyika to Kigoma, from where they were transferred to Nyaragusu refugee camp. More than 122,000 Burundian refugees have arrived in Tanzania since the beginning of 2015 fleeing political violence in Burundi. Only able to carry 600 people at a time, the 100-year-old ship travelled day and night between Kagunga and Kigoma. Photo: UNHCR

Hundreds of Burundian refugees aboard the MV Liemba making the 3-hour journey down Lake Tanganyika to Kigoma, from where they were transferred to Nyaragusu refugee camp. More than 122,000 Burundian refugees have arrived in Tanzania since the beginning of 2015 fleeing political violence in Burundi. Only able to carry 600 people at a time, the 100-year-old ship travelled day and night between Kagunga and Kigoma. Photo: UNHCR

‘Unprecedented’ 65 million people displaced by war and persecution in 2015 – ‘With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome. But these do exist, all around the world.’

Blackout in the Venezuela capital's El Calvario neighbourhood, where people took to the streets in anger over energy rationing. The power shortages are adding to existing concerns around inflation, food shortages and crime. Photo: Fernando Llano / AP

Blackout in the Venezuela capital's El Calvario neighbourhood, where people took to the streets in anger over energy rationing. The power shortages add to existing concerns around inflation, food shortages, and crime. Photo: Fernando Llano / AP

Venezuelans ransack stores as hunger stalks crumbling nation – ‘We’re not at war and we’re living worse than in a war situation’

Aerial view of the Batagaika Crater in Siberia. The ominous crater is a thermokarst so large that it's called a 'megaslump'. It looms a mile long and reaches depths of nearly 400 feet. It appeared without warning some 25 years ago. According to geological surveys, it's been growing at an annual rate of more than 60 feet. Photo: Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North / Alexander Gabyshev

Aerial view of the Batagaika Crater in Siberia. The ominous crater is a thermokarst so large that it's called a 'megaslump'. It looms a mile long and reaches depths of nearly 400 feet. It appeared without warning some 25 years ago. According to geological surveys, it's been growing at an annual rate of more than 60 feet. Photo: Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North / Alexander Gabyshev

Global warming opens ‘Gateway to the Underworld’ in Siberia

Aerial view of bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef. This aerial survey in March 2016 found 95 per cent bleached coral off Cape Grenville in north Queensland. Photo: ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies

Aerial view of bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef. This aerial survey in March 2016 found 95 per cent bleached coral off Cape Grenville in north Queensland. Photo: ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies

Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching at 95 per cent in northern section, aerial survey reveals – ‘This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever’, Coral crisis: Great Barrier Reef bleaching is ‘the worst we’ve ever seen’

Staghorn corals at Carysfort Reef in 1976 (above) and 2016 (below). The extensive thickets of staghorn corals are gone today replaced by a structureless bottom littered with the decaying skeletons of staghorn coral. Photo: Chris Langdon, Ph.D.

Staghorn corals at Carysfort Reef in 1976 (above) and 2016 (below). The extensive thickets of staghorn corals are gone today, replaced by a structureless bottom littered with the decaying skeletons of staghorn coral. Photo: Chris Langdon, Ph.D.

New study finds ocean acidification destroying coral reefs in the Florida Keys – ‘We don’t have as much time as we previously thought. The reefs are beginning to dissolve away.’

Coral on reefs around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef after the worst mass bleaching event in recorded history, in 2016. Photo: Justin Marshall / University of Queensland

Coral on reefs around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef after the worst mass bleaching event in recorded history, in 2016. Photo: Justin Marshall / University of Queensland

Great Barrier Reef suffers complete ecosystem collapse after record ocean heat wave – Bleaching event is ‘much more extreme than we’ve measured before’

Bleached Coral off Lizard Island in May 2016. Photo: The Ocean Agency

Bleached coral off Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef,  in May 2016. Photo: The Ocean Agency

Video: Diving in the stench of millions of rotting animals at the bleached Great Barrier Reef

Thousands of dead mussels washed ashore near United Riverhead Oil Terminal on Long Island Sound near Jamesport, New York, on 24 August 2016. It is likely that high water temperatures due to the prolonged hot temperatures in Summer 2016 is the cause. Photo: Grant Parpan

Thousands of dead mussels washed ashore near United Riverhead Oil Terminal on Long Island Sound near Jamesport, New York, on 24 August 2016. It is likely that high water temperature due to the prolonged hot temperatures in Summer 2016 is the cause. Photo: Grant Parpan

Dead mussels ‘as far as the eye can see’ on Long Island Sound beach – ‘They’ve been hit with these consecutive heat waves that are just too hot for them’

Healthy green coloured Lake Baikal sponge sponge has been replaced by ailing brown-tinted growths, or even swathes of pink sponge. Photo: Sergey Belikov / Science First Hands

Healthy green coloured Lake Baikal sponge sponge has been replaced by ailing brown-tinted growths, or even swathes of pink sponge. Photo: Sergey Belikov / Science First Hands

Lake Baikal sponge has died out completely in several areas

The image shows NASA MODIS-Aqua satellite data processed using a global algorithm developed by Prof. Shanmugam of IIT Madras. Red, green, and blue colour gradients depict very high, intermediate, and very low algal bloom density respectively. Photo: Gokul and Shanmugam, 2016 / JGR

NASA MODIS-Aqua satellite image processed using a global algorithm developed by Prof. Shanmugam of IIT Madras. Red, green, and blue colour gradients depict very high, intermediate, and very low algal bloom density, respectively. Photo: Gokul and Shanmugam, 2016 / JGR

Ocean slime spreading quickly across the Earth – ‘Here the change is just massive – this one species is just taking over.

A dead deer snagged on a razorwire fence, designed to stop migrants crossing into Europe, in Radenci in Slovenia. The death toll of animals killed by the fence is mounting, amid warnings that bears, lynx, and wolves could become locally extinct if the barrier is completed and consolidated. Photo: Martin Lindic

A dead deer snagged on a razorwire fence, designed to stop migrants crossing into Europe, in Radenci in Slovenia. The death toll of animals killed by the fence is mounting, amid warnings that bears, lynx, and wolves could become locally extinct if the barrier is completed and consolidated. Photo: Martin Lindic

Balkan wildlife faces extinction threat from border fence to control migrants, Aimed at refugees, fences are threatening European wildlife – ‘The big problem is that from Mongolia to the United States to Europe, building fences and walls – that’s a trend’

A dock worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos in the Philippines. The cargo vessel spends up to two months at sea with a fleet of a dozen tuna boats working to fill its freezer. Photo: Adam Dean / National Geographic

A dock worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos in the Philippines. The cargo vessel spends up to two months at sea with a fleet of a dozen tuna boats working to fill its freezer. Photo: Adam Dean / National Geographic

One of the world’s biggest fisheries is on the verge of collapse – ‘It’s just chance, whether or not we can feed our families now’

The water of the Daldykan River in Siberia runs red with pollution from the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant, 7 September 2016. Photo: Vkontakte / Siberian Times

The water of the Daldykan River in Siberia runs red with pollution from the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant, 7 September 2016. Photo: Vkontakte / Siberian Times

Siberia river turns ‘puce from pollution’ – Local nickel plant blamed for discharge

Firefighters battle a fire in the Calais refugee camp known as 'the Jungle', 26 October 2016. Photo: Francois Nascimbeni / AFP / Getty Images

“Deeply troubled” that while fires burned in parts of the Calais refugee and migrant camp that became known as “the Jungle”, many children were forced to sleep out in the cold, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) underscored that authorities on the ground must guarantee their protection.

As fires burn through Calais ‘Jungle’, UNICEF urges protection of children remaining in the camp

A boy pauses on his bike as he passes an oil field that was set on fire by retreating ISIS fighters ahead of the Mosul offensive, on 21 October 2016 in Qayyarah, Iraq. Photo: Carl Court / Getty Images

A boy pauses on his bike as he passes an oil field that was set on fire by retreating ISIS fighters ahead of the Mosul offensive, on 21 October 2016 in Qayyarah, Iraq. Photo: Carl Court / Getty Images

In Iraq, the environment itself has once again become a weapon of war

On 10 October 2016 in Jérémie, Haiti, a toddler rests near collapsed homes on top of a hill. One week after Hurricane Matthew, as schools re-open across the country, more than 100,000 children will be missing out on learning after their schools were either damaged or converted into shelters. Photo: UNICEF

On 10 October 2016 in Jérémie, Haiti, a toddler rests near collapsed homes on top of a hill. One week after Hurricane Matthew, as schools re-open across the country, more than 100,000 children missed out on learning after their schools were either damaged or converted into shelters. Photo: UNICEF

Nearly a quarter of the world’s children live in conflict or disaster-stricken countries, Hurricane Matthew leaves ‘catastrophic’ devastation in Caribbean – U.N. calls it the largest humanitarian event in Haiti since 2010 quake, New images show scale of Haiti destruction from Hurricane Matthew

 

In below-freezing weather on 20 November 2016, law enforcement deployed tear gas, water cannons, percussion grenades, and rubber bullets against hundreds protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. News reports confirm more than 300 people have been injured. Many were knocked to the ground after being hit in the head by rubber bullets. One woman may lose her arm. Photo: Sacred Stone Camp

In below-freezing weather on 20 November 2016, law enforcement deployed tear gas, water cannons, percussion grenades, and rubber bullets against hundreds of people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. News reports confirmed more than 300 were injured. Many were knocked to the ground after being hit in the head by rubber bullets. One woman’s arm was nearly torn off. Photo: Sacred Stone Camp

Seattle doctor at Standing Rock: ‘People had sheets of ice hanging off them’ – Protester’s arm nearly torn off

Inside President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal antidrug campaign in the Philippines, the basketball court at the Quezon City Jail has become a sleeping area. Photo: Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times

Inside President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal antidrug campaign in the Philippines, the basketball court at the Quezon City Jail became a sleeping area. Photo: Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times

‘They are slaughtering us like animals’ – Inside President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign in the Philippines

A blueberry hermit crab (coenobita purpureus) on Okinawa, using the top of a glass bottle as its shell. Photo: Shawn Miller

A blueberry hermit crab (coenobita purpureus) on Okinawa, using the top of a glass bottle as its shell. Photo: Shawn Miller

Photo gallery: Hermit crabs who live in trash

A sperm whale lies dead after becoming stranded on a beach between Old Hunstanton and Holme on 5 February 2016 in Hunstanton, England. The whale is the 29th to have died after beaching in Europe in the past two weeks. Photo: Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images

A sperm whale lies dead after becoming stranded on a beach between Old Hunstanton and Holme on 5 February 2016 in Hunstanton, England. The whale was the 29th to have died after beaching in Europe in two weeks. A post-mortem of the creatures, found ashore near the town of Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, showed their stomachs were full of plastic. This plastic included a 13-metre-long (43-foot-long) fisherman’s net and a 70-centimetre (28-inch) piece of plastic from a car. Photo: Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images

Researchers find plastic, nets in stomachs of dead sperm whales

Larval Damselfish from the Baltic Sea that has ingested microplastic particles. Photo: Oona Lönnstedt

A larval Damselfish from the Baltic Sea, after ingesting microplastic particles. In a study published in Science, researchers from Uppsala University found that larval fish exposed to microplastic particles during development display changed behaviors and stunted growth which lead to greatly increased mortality rates. Photo: Oona Lönnstedt

Microplastic particles threaten fish larvae – ‘This is the first time an animal has been found to preferentially feed on plastic particles and is cause for concern’

Aena, 12, in her village (Muara Angke) by Jakarta, 3 October 2016. The shoreline is smothered by plastic filth. This is what your backyard can look like if you're one of the 3.5 billion humans who don't receive trash pick-up services. Photo: bkkapologist / Instagram

Aena, 12, in her village (Muara Angke) by Jakarta, on 3 October 2016. The shoreline is smothered by plastic waste. This is what your backyard can look like if you're one of the 3.5 billion humans who don't receive trash pick-up services. Photo: bkkapologist / Instagram

Oceans poisoned by plastic –‘No matter where you go, the sea is covered in plastic’

Flood waters lap at the top of the Cherry Street bridge in Shell Rock, Iowa, on Friday, 23 September 2016. Photo: Brian Powers / Des Moines Register

Flood waters lap at the top of the Cherry Street bridge in Shell Rock, Iowa, on 23 September 2016. Photo: Brian Powers / Des Moines Register

Iowa expects more rain, braces for record flooding

'Climate Chronograph', proposed by Azimuth Land Craft members Erik Jensen and Rebecca Sunter, is a finalist for the National Park Service (NPS) competition, 'Memorials for the Future'. 'Climate Chronograph' is a living observatory wherein rising seas incrementally flood cherry trees to author bare-branched delineations of shorelines past. Continually rewritten by the object of contemplation itself, the memorial is a record of the challenges before us, a public witness to our vulnerability and response. Graphic: Azimuth Land Craft / National Park Service

Climate Chronograph, proposed by Azimuth Land Craft members Erik Jensen and Rebecca Sunter, is a finalist for the National Park Service (NPS) competition, 'Memorials for the Future'. Climate Chronograph is a living observatory wherein rising seas incrementally flood cherry trees to author bare-branched delineations of shorelines past. Continually rewritten by the object of contemplation itself, the memorial is a record of the challenges before us, a public witness to our vulnerability and response. Graphic: Azimuth Land Craft / National Park Service

Designers propose memorial to shorelines past in Washington, D.C.

Disappearing homes, 17 September 2016: Due to sea-level rise, many islands in the Ganges Delta region of West Bengal, India, are facing fast erosion. The island of Mousuni is one such island, which is sinking with each passing tide. Homes and lands are sinking at a steady rate, and people are staring at a bleak future, in which the probability of them becoming climate refugees looms large. Photo: Arka Dutta / National Geographic Your Shot

Due to sea-level rise, many islands in the Ganges Delta region of West Bengal, India, are facing fast erosion. The island of Mousuni is one such island, which is sinking with each passing tide. Homes and lands are sinking at a steady rate, and people are staring at a bleak future, in which the probability of them becoming climate refugees looms large. Photo: Arka Dutta / National Geographic Your Shot

Photo gallery: National Geographic asked photographers to show the impact of climate change, here’s what they shot

image

30 December 2016 (Snopes) – An image purportedly showing a billboard advertisement for Trump Tower Mumbai — which shows a photograph of the American businessman and President-elect alongside the slogan "There is only one way to live" with a group of apparently homeless people sitting and sleeping in the street beneath it — was circulated on social media in December 2016. […]

While many people who viewed the image were initially skeptical about its authenticity (including us), the above-displayed image is real. It was originally posted to Facebook on 27 August 2014 by Paul Needham, who took the photograph. [more]

Trump Shillboard

Customs officers stand guard over 3.1 tons of seized pangolin scales at a port in Shanghai, 28 December 2016. It is estimated that up to 7,500 of the endangered creatures may have been killed. Photo: AFP

28 December 2016 (AFP) – Chinese customs seized over three tonnes of pangolin scales, state media said, in the country's biggest-ever smuggling case involving the animal parts.

Shanghai Customs found around 3.1 tonnes of pangolin scales mixed in with a container of wood products imported from Nigeria, state broadcaster CCTV reported Tuesday.

It estimated up to 7,500 of the creatures could have been killed.

The reclusive pangolin has become the most trafficked mammal on Earth due to soaring demand in Asia for their scales for traditional medicine and their flesh, considered a delicacy.

State media have previously said the scales fetch around 5,000 yuan ($700) per kilogram ($700) on the black market—which would make the seizure worth more than $2 million.

Although the international pangolin trade is illegal in China and they are listed as one of the most-protected wild animals, law enforcement remains weak. [more]

China in biggest-ever pangolin scale seizure: reports

The cheetah species has been driven out of 91 percent of its historic range in Africa and Asia. Scientists confirmed on 26 December 2016 that just 7,100 cheetahs remain, globally. Graphic: Panthera

New York (Panthera) – The world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), is sprinting towards the edge of extinction and could soon be lost forever unless urgent, landscape-wide conservation action is taken, according to a study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Led by Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the study reveals that just 7,100 cheetahs remain globally, representing the best available estimate for the species to date. Furthermore, the cheetah has been driven out of 91% of its historic range. Asiatic cheetah populations have been hit hardest, with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in one isolated pocket of Iran.

Due to the species’ dramatic decline, the study’s authors are calling for the cheetah to be up-listed from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Typically, greater international conservation support, prioritization and attention are granted to wildlife classified as ‘Endangered’, in efforts to stave off impending extinction.

Dr. Sarah Durant, ZSL/WCS lead author and Project Leader for the Rangewide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dog, said: “This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date. Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked. Our findings show that the large space requirements for cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was  previously thought.”

Durant continued, “We have worked with range state governments and the cheetah conservation community to put in place comprehensive frameworks for action to save the species, but funds and resources are needed to implement them. The recent decisions made at the CITES CoP17 meeting in Johannesburg represent a significant breakthrough particularly in terms of stemming the illegal flow of live cats trafficked out of the Horn of Africa region. However, concerted action is needed to reverse ongoing declines in the face of accelerating land use changes across the continent.”

While renowned for its speed and spots, cheetahs face a high degree of persecution both inside and outside of protected areas that is largely unrecognized. Even within guarded parks and reserves, cheetahs rarely escape the pervasive threats of human-wildlife conflict, prey loss due to overhunting by people, habitat loss, and the illegal trafficking of cheetah parts and trade as exotic pets.

To make matters worse, as one of the world’s most wide-ranging carnivores, 77% of the cheetah’s habitat falls outside of protected areas. Unrestricted by boundaries, the species’ wide-ranging movements weaken law enforcement protection and greatly amplify its vulnerability to human pressures. Indeed, largely due to pressures on wildlife and their habitat outside of protected areas, Zimbabwe’s cheetah population has plummeted from 1,200 to a maximum of 170 animals in just 16 years - representing an astonishing loss of 85% of the country’s cheetahs.  

Scientists are now calling for an urgent paradigm shift in cheetah conservation, towards landscape-level efforts that transcend national borders and are coordinated by existing regional conservation strategies for the species. A holistic conservation approach, which incentivises protection of cheetahs by local communities and trans-national governments, alongside sustainable human-wildlife coexistence is paramount to the survival of the species.

Panthera’s Cheetah Program Director, Dr. Kim Young-Overton, shared, “We’ve just hit the reset button in our understanding of how close cheetahs are to extinction. The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough. We must think bigger, conserving across the mosaic of protected and unprotected landscapes that these far-ranging cats inhabit, if we are to avert the otherwise certain loss of the cheetah forever.”

The methodology used for this study will also be relevant to other species, such as African wild dogs, which also require large areas of land to prosper and are therefore similarly vulnerable to increasing threats outside designated protected areas.

Learn more about the Rangewide Conservation Programme for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs.

Contact

Susie Weller Sheppard, sweller@panthera.org, 347-446-9904

Sprinting Towards Extinction? Cheetah Numbers Crash Globally


ABSTRACT: Establishing and maintaining protected areas (PAs) are key tools for biodiversity conservation. However, this approach is insufficient for many species, particularly those that are wide-ranging and sparse. The cheetah Acinonyx jubatus exemplifies such a species and faces extreme challenges to its survival. Here, we show that the global population is estimated at ∼7,100 individuals and confined to 9% of its historical distributional range. However, the majority of current range (77%) occurs outside of PAs, where the species faces multiple threats. Scenario modeling shows that, where growth rates are suppressed outside PAs, extinction rates increase rapidly as the proportion of population protected declines. Sensitivity analysis shows that growth rates within PAs have to be high if they are to compensate for declines outside. Susceptibility of cheetah to rapid decline is evidenced by recent rapid contraction in range, supporting an uplisting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List threat assessment to endangered. Our results are applicable to other protection-reliant species, which may be subject to systematic underestimation of threat when there is insufficient information outside PAs. Ultimately, conserving many of these species necessitates a paradigm shift in conservation toward a holistic approach that incentivizes protection and promotes sustainable human–wildlife coexistence across large multiple-use landscapes.

SIGNIFICANCE: Here, we compile and present the most comprehensive data available on cheetah distribution and status. Our analysis shows dramatic declines of cheetah across its distributional range. Most cheetah occur outside protected areas, where they are exposed to multiple threats, but there is little information on population status. Simulation modeling shows that, where cheetah population growth rates are suppressed outside protected areas, extinction risk increases markedly. This result can be generalized to other “protection-reliant” species, and a decision tree is provided to improve their extinction risk estimation. Ultimately, the persistence of protection-reliant species depends on their survival outside and inside protected areas and requires a holistic approach to conservation that engages rather than alienates local communities.

The global decline of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and what it means for conservation

Net favorability of Vladimir Putin among U.S. Republicans and Democrats, 2011-2016. YouGov/Economist poll, 10-13 December 2016. Graphic: Will Jordan

Russia, friend or foe? Poll results for U.S. Republicans and Democrats, 2011-2016. YouGov/Economist poll, 10-13 December 2016. Graphic: Will Jordan

14 December 2016 (Desdemona Despair) – These graphs show the poll results for U.S. Republicans and Democrats when asked about their feelings toward Russia and Vladimir Putin. Over the two-year period from 2014 to 2016, the net favorability of Republicans toward Putin increased by 56 points. Data are from the YouGov/Economist poll, 10-13 December 2016; graphs are by Will Jordan.

Current account balance of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), 2000–2021, in billions of current dollars. Graphic: UNCTAD

15 December 2016 (United Nations) – Even as the international community pledged to ‘leave no one behind’ with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has warned that without stronger global support, 48 of the world’s most vulnerable countries will lose ground in economic development and face increasing levels of poverty.

UNCTAD’s The Least Developed Countries Report 2016: The Path to Graduation and Beyond – Making the Most of the Process, released earlier this week, underscores the need for more action from the international community to help these countries progress.

“These are the countries where the global battle for poverty eradication will be won or lost," stated stated UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, stressing that a year ago, the global community pledged to “leave no one behind” – the rallying call at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – but that is exactly what is happening to the least developed countries.

The proportion of the global poor in those countries has more than doubled since 1990, to well over 40 per cent. They also currently account for the 1.1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to electricity – an increase of two thirds.

Many of these countries are stuck in poverty, where the only way out is with finance, trade and technology support. Countries can also graduate from the category if they meet a certain economic and social criteria. However, for many this goal remains out of reach.

In addition, in order to achieve a long-term development, each country needs to take more than one step. Countries also require what the Report calls “graduation with momentum” – a process of structural change to increase the productivity of their economies, criteria which many graduated countries will not meet.

“Graduation is not the winning post of a race to escape from the [least developed country] category. It is the first milestone in the marathon of sustainable long-term development,” said Mr. Kituyi, adding that ‘how’ is just as important as ‘when’ in terms of graduation.

The Report actively targets the issue of insufficient international support that least developed countries receive to fulfil their developmental needs.

The report suggests a few measures that can be taken, such as faster progress towards 100 per cent duty-free and quota-free access for least developed country exports to developed country markets, renewed efforts to break the stalemate on special and differential treatment for the country’s in World Trade Organization negotiations, improved monitoring of technology transfer to, and fulfilment by donors of their long-standing commitments to provide 0.15–0.20 per cent of their national income for assistance to the least developed countries, to make aid more stable and predictable, and to align it more closely with national development strategies.

Caught in ‘poverty trap,’ least developed countries being left behind – UN report


Least Developed Countries (LDCs) percent share in world population, poverty, and infrastructure shortfalls, 1980–2014. Graphic: UNCTAD

Deteriorating economic performance

Following several years of apparent resilience to the international economic and financial crisis, economic growth in  the  least  developed  countries  (LDCs)  has  declined  steeply  since  2012,  reaching  a  low  of  3.6  per  cent  in  2015. This is the slowest pace of expansion this century, and far below the target rate of at least 7 per cent per annum recommended  by  the  2011  Programme  of  Action  for  the  Least  Developed  Countries  for  the  Decade  2011–2020 (the so-called Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA)). Thirteen LDCs experienced a decline in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 2015. This performance has been strongly influenced by the sharp decline in commodity prices, which  has  particularly  affected  African  LDCs.  Such  weak  economic  growth  is  a  serious  obstacle  to  generating and  mobilizing  domestic  resources  for  structural  transformation  and  investment  in  the  development  of  productive capacities.  It  also  hampers  progress  towards  the  United  Nations  Sustainable  Development  Goals.  This  economic slowdown is likely to be reinforced by the current world economic climate, which remains lacklustre in its recovery.

Depressed exports as a result of falling commodity prices, with a smaller decline in imports, have also led to a doubling of the merchandise trade deficit of LDCs as a group from $36 billion in 2014 to $65 billion in 2015. The largest increase in the merchandise trade deficit took place in the subgroup of African LDCs and Haiti. The services trade deficit fell somewhat for the LDCs as a group, from $46 billion in 2014 to $39 billion in 2015, as a shrinking deficit  across  African  LDCs  and  Haiti  more  than  offset  an  increasing  deficit  across  Asian  and  island  LDCs.  These developments largely account for an increase of almost one third in the LDC current account deficit to a record $68.6 billion in 2015, a trend that is expected to continue over the medium term.

Domestic resource mobilization has been recognized by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) (both adopted in 2015) as an important process for LDCs to finance their development. However, this objective remains elusive  for  most  LDCs  due  to  their  external  resource  gaps,  the  complexity  of  their  development  challenges,  their narrow tax bases, deficiencies in tax collection and administration, resources forgone due to illicit financial flows, and the underdevelopment of their domestic financial sectors. The external resource gap of LDCs as a whole increased to 3.2 per cent of GDP in 2014, due mainly to an increase in fixed investment in Asian LDCs that was not accompanied by  a  corresponding  rise  in  their  domestic  savings.  If  LDCs  are  to  raise  their  fixed  investment,  as  is  essential  for structural  transformation,  the  deficit  will  inevitably  widen  in  the  coming  years,  particularly  in  view  of  the  enormous financing needs associated with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Least Developed Countries Report 2016

Logo of the Prime Minister of Australia. Graphic: www.pm.gov.au

By Greg Jericho
10 December 2016

(The Guardian) – This week was a prime example of how economics and, by extension, politics doesn’t cope very well with the issue of climate change.

The news that Australia economy went backwards in the September quarter was greeted with alarm by politicians and then used as a reason to push their policy barrow. And most of the barrows were piled high with coal.

The treasurer and the prime minister in their press conferences on Wednesday made great mention of the need to keep electricity prices low for the economy to grow.

Malcolm Turnbull especially was in full Tony Abbott 2010 mode out of a desire to cover the silly back flip on the issue of investigating whether or not to introduce an emissions intensity trading scheme.

When asked about the prospect of GDP growth going backwards he immediately responded by suggesting the issue was for Bill Shorten to “explain why he is proposing to increase the price of electricity”.

Never mind that such a scheme would more efficiently price emissions than does the current system, for now we remained trapped in an idiotic netherworld where any mention of pricing carbon (no matter how oblique) must be greeted with shrieks of horror, with the prime minister leading the chorus. [more]

On climate change and the economy, we're trapped in an idiotic netherworld

 

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