Discover more from Talking Climate with Katharine Hayhoe
EU Passes New Nature Law
New European law to protect nature, climate standoff in Texas, and how to be an Earth Hero
Last week, the European Union’s member nations committed to restoring 20% of their degraded natural land and marine area. Spanning a colossal 1.6 million square miles, from the icy Arctic Circle to the balmy Mediterranean Sea, this measure represents an important step towards a more sustainable and resilient planet.
The new EU nature restoration law, which will be finalized in the coming months, follows the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework signed by 190 nations last December. Europe’s initiative is one of the first tangible actions driven by this international commitment, and it comes while the region is wrestling with unprecedented heat, drought, and flooding fueled by climate change.
Last summer, extreme heat claimed more than 61,000 lives across the EU, while the worst flooding in over a century displaced another 30,000 people in Northern Italy. This week, southern Europe is bracing for another sweltering heatwave, with temperatures predicted to hit a blistering 48C (almost 120F) in parts of Italy and Spain.
The EU's new law aims to do more than just safeguard existing species and ecosystems — it calls for restoring polluted and depleted forests, wetlands, fields, rivers, lakes, and oceans. This is a win-win, as investing in nature tackles both the climate and the biodiversity crises.
Millions in Texas are facing another month of triple-digit temperatures and extreme humidity, even after sunset. A heat dome over the state is trapping hot ocean air like a lid, while the nearby Gulf of Mexico is reaching bathtub-level warmth.
The heat blanketing the state is blamed for 13 deaths so far, including a postal worker and a dad and his son hiking in Big Bend National Park. Last summer, which was the second hottest on record in the state, Texas recorded 279 heat-related deaths, a number that is virtually certain to be an undercount even though it was also the highest in two decades.
Weeks of extreme heat is also straining the state’s power grid. In May, state officials warned that demand may outpace supply on the hottest days this summer; and the only reason the grid hasn’t failed so far is because wind and solar is keeping the power on. It’s hard to believe that Texas policymakers are pushing new legislation to curb new wind and solar projects—but it’s true. Conservative state lawmakers recently voted to spend billions to encourage the construction of gas-fueled power plants and make it more complicated for renewable energy producers to connect to the grid in rural areas.
All this comes after the Texas State Board of Education directed schools to emphasize the “positive” aspects of fossil fuels in the state’s science textbooks this spring. The changes threaten to influence a generation of children who could be “profoundly miseducated about a severe risk,” says my colleague Andy Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University. (Andy also has a new newsletter called “The Climate Brink” that focuses on climate science and policy, which I highly recommend. Subscribe here.)
So why do Andy, and I, and so many others who care about climate action live in Texas? Because Texas represents change. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. And despite the litany of bad news above, things are changing in Texas: from the city of Houston’s ambitious climate action plan to the state’s meteoric solar energy rise. In fact, I suspect many of the recent political challenges are reactions to all the progress that’s been made over the last decade. Check out this Global Weirding episode for more; it might just change your perspective on Texas!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
When it comes to climate action, did you know there’s an app for that?
Designed in collaboration with climate scientist Peter Kalmus, Earth Hero is your personal guide to making climate-conscious choices. It offers sustainable lifestyle tips, science-based resources, and ways to make your voice count, all ranked on a scale from easy to ambitious.
I love that it doesn’t only focus on our personal footprint; Earth Hero also includes ways to connect with others who are making a change. As its description says, the app is intended to “connect you to a global movement rising to the interconnected crises of climate change and rapid species loss.” We can’t fix climate change alone, but I know we can do it together.