Biden vs Trump on environmental issues and climate change

September 22, 2020 by  
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As the U.S. has grown increasingly polarized, it seems more and more like the two presidential candidates inhabit different planets. If you listen to Joe Biden on climate change, you might feel the urge to junk your car and invest in wind power. Meanwhile, the incumbent’s message seems to be that fossil fuels are A-OK. You might find yourself wondering, does Trump believe in climate change? What’s actually in Joe Biden’s climate change plan? Here’s a quick rundown on where the presidential candidates stand on environmental issues and climate change . Imminent need for climate action The most striking difference between the two candidates environmentally is the novella-length treatises the Biden campaign is generating with ideas about how to solve climate problems versus Trump’s more meager approach. Related: Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan: create millions of jobs, reverse climate change Biden has a long record of working on behalf of the climate, dating back, at least, to introducing the Global Climate Protection Act , the first climate change bill to reach the Senate. During his stint as vice president, Biden oversaw the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 , which allocated $90 billion toward clean energy. At that time, he called fighting climate change “the single most important thing” the executive team could do while in the White House. He also supported President Obama’s signing of the Paris Agreement. Trump, on the other hand, immediately withdrew from the 2015 Paris climate accord as soon as he took office. Now, the U.S. is the only member country to refuse to participate in the agreement to reduce global emissions . Trump avoids discussing global emission reduction and has refused to sign certain international documents unless climate change references are removed. The Environmental Protection Agency under Trump has taken a distinctly anti-science bent, with half the members of the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors dismissed in 2017 and a 2018 disbanding of a panel of scientists tasked with advising the agency on safe air pollution levels. Trumps agenda has been distinctly anti-environment, including loosening restrictions on methane emissions , waiving environmental laws during the pandemic , rolling back fuel efficiency requirements , repealing water protections and weakening the Endangered Species Act . Making America “great again” seems to mean reverting to the good old days before anybody gave a hoot about the planet. Fossil fuels The fossil fuel issue is a tricky dance for Democratic politicians. While most agree that the future lies in renewable energy, most cars and airplanes still run on fossil fuels. Biden pledged not to take any fossil fuel money for his campaign. But he still has a weakness for natural gas, which he has supported in the past as a “bridge fuel” between dirtier gasoline and coal and cleaner renewable energy. He has not called for a ban on fracking . Biden has promised to end all subsidies to fossil fuel companies. Trump doesn’t have a problem with fossil fuel. As it says on WhiteHouse.gov , “Americans have long been told that our country is running out of energy, but we now know that is wrong.” The president has promoted using more fossil fuel, especially coal. He’s chosen lobbyists and leaders in the fossil fuel industry for important federal posts, including as EPA administrator and as secretary of the Interior Department. Trump has worked to expand gas and oil drilling , including in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. He’s claimed victory over what he calls “the war on coal .” Renewable energy Biden talks about the U.S. achieving a target of 100% clean energy. His strategies include grid-scale storage that will be 10 times more economical than lithium-ion batteries, small modular nuclear reactors, net-zero energy buildings, development of carbon-neutral construction materials, doubling offshore wind production by 2030 and the development and deployment carbon capture sequestration technology. His track record in the Senate and as vice president bears out his commitment to clean energy. Trump has dismembered the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which privileged clean energy construction over oil and gas. His administration repeatedly sliced funding that incentivized developing clean energy, proposing to cut up to 87% of the Department of Energy’s Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy budget. He’s also proposed eliminating electric vehicle tax credits. While initially the Trump administration embraced new federal leases for offshore wind farms, it cut federal incentives for harvesting offshore wind. A 2018 tariff on solar panels manufactured outside the U.S. that was meant to boost jobs backfired, costing American jobs and upping panel prices. Environmental justice Biden has officially recognized that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change and addresses how to change this in the Joe Biden climate change plan. Trump has not addressed the subject. Via Joe Biden and WhiteHouse.gov Images via Adobe Stock and Pixabay

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Biden vs Trump on environmental issues and climate change

Candelas hydrofoil boat is the worlds first electric speedboat

September 22, 2020 by  
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Candela is a Sweden-based start-up company on a mission to switch the world’s marine transport industry to electric power. Now, the company has announced its new hydrofoil boat, the Candela Seven, as the world’s first fully electric speedboat. According to Candela, the biggest hurdle keeping the electric marine craft industry from reaching its full potential is the discrepancy between speed and range. Electric water-bound vehicles typically either have speed or range, but not both, because planing motor boat hulls need enormous amounts of energy to go fast. A standard 25-foot boat, for example, needs 15 times the amount of energy of a standard car. Building an electric boat with the capability to perform just as efficiently as a boat that uses fossil fuels with contemporary batteries poses the biggest challenge. Related: Cool retro boats restored with electric motors In order to reduce friction from the water, Candela uses submerged hydrofoils under the surface of the water. These wings provide enough lift at 17 knots to completely lift the boat’s hull out of the water, reducing energy use by as much as 80%. The result is an exceedingly long all-electric range at high speeds, upward of 50 nautical miles or 92 kilometers, on one charge. Speeds go up to 20 knots, and the range is three times more efficient than the best electric boats currently on the market. In addition to the range and speed, these hydrofoils also provide a smoother ride thanks to their ability to move above the water’s wake and chop. Rather than feeling the boat bounce up and down on the water as it moves, occupants on the hydrofoil boat get to effortlessly glide along the water as the hydrofoils lift the vessel up and over rough water. According to the company, a series of onboard computers and sensors went into the design of the Candela Seven. In order to monitor the boat’s stability, these sensors constantly measure the height and adjust the foils to maintaining pitch, roll and height automatically. + Candela Speed Boat Via Electrek Images via Candela Speed Boat

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Candelas hydrofoil boat is the worlds first electric speedboat

The endangered school shark is being sold as food in Australia

July 14, 2020 by  
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Last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ) listed the school shark as critically endangered. But that hasn’t stopped it from being regularly sold in Australian fish shops. While the international group chose one designation for the shark, Australian authorities put the species in a category known as “conservation dependent.” This means people can commercially trade the shark despite it being endangered. Related: Right Whales now ranked as critically endangered species “It’s a quirk in our national laws that prioritizes commercial exploitation and economic drivers over environmental ones,” said Leonardo Guida, a shark scientist and spokesperson for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, as reported in The Guardian . “We stopped harvesting whales for that very reason. Why is it different for a shark? Why is it different for a fish? There is no reason why any animal that has had a 90% decline in modern times should still continue to be harvested.” School sharks are smaller sharks that can measure up to 6 feet long and live for up to 60 years. This migratory species is found in many parts of the world, including off the shores of Brazil, Iceland, British Columbia, the U.K., Azores, Canary Islands and New Zealand. But they would be wise to steer clear of Australia , where their meat is sometimes sold as “flake,” Australia’s generic term for the shark meat popularly sold by fish and chip shops. The school shark is one of several animal species listed as conservation dependent that experts say should actually qualify for stronger protection. The school shark population has plummeted to 10% of its original numbers since 1990, when the species was officially declared as overfished. Countries recently voted to list the school shark on the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) appendices. This international agreement tries to get countries to cooperate in conserving migratory species. Australia was the only country to vote against it, claiming that the school shark population found in the ocean around Australia doesn’t migrate. Via The Guardian Image via Queensland State Archives

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Orcas threatened by highly contagious respiratory virus, CeMV

June 1, 2020 by  
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Marine mammal conservationists warn of a contagious respiratory pathogen, cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV), that could potentially harm already  endangered  orca populations. Like the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that is causing the current COVID-19 pandemic, CeMV similarly has high transmission and mortality rates. With orcas being highly social animals, an outbreak could threaten entire pod populations, in turn drastically affecting the ecosystem, since  orcas  are apex predators. According to  National Geographic , more than a million cetaceans ( whales , dolphins and porpoises) are eliminated each year through “bycatch [species caught unintentionally by fishermen], intentional killing, ship strikes, seismic surveys done for oil exploration, and naval sonar.” Oil spills are another risk, as are municipal and industrial waste polluting their marine environment. Chemicals accumulating in marine food chains are thereby ingested, leading to high toxicity levels that suppress cetacean immune systems. Related:  Federal agencies propose designated marine habitat to help protect Pacific humpback whales Worryingly,  Emerging Microbes & Infections  journal affirms CeMV as the pathogen posing the greatest risk of triggering widespread disease in cetacean populations worldwide. What’s worse, CeMV is highly contagious, capable of spreading between cetacean populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Cases of CeMV first appeared in cetaceans during the 1980s. So far,  Science Direct  acknowledges at least six distinct strains of CeMV — porpoise morbillivirus (PMV),  dolphin  morbillivirus (DMV), pilot whale morbillivirus (PWMV) and beaked whale morbillivirus (BWMV).  Interestingly,  Viruses  journal states that CeMV is part of a virus family — the morbilliviruses — which includes the measles virus in humans and primates, the rinderpest virus in cattle, the peste des petits ruminants virus in goats and sheep, the canine distemper virus in dogs and the phocine distemper virus in seals and walruses.  Meanwhile,  NOAA Fisheries  estimates that of 50,000 orcas worldwide, about 2,500 reside “in the eastern North Pacific Ocean…[with] Southern Residents in the eastern North Pacific… listed as endangered in 2005.” This pocket of orcas has garnered media attention for their dwindling numbers as their primary food source, chinook salmon, is depleted. Human-induced noise also interferes with echolocation, threatening the orcas’ normal behavior. Additionally, lingering polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), despite being banned for decades, persist in the  oceans , contaminating the food chain. As  The Guardian  revealed, “PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer and damage the immune system.” Immuno-compromised orcas are left susceptible to pathogens like CeMV. Researchers ran simulations to see what would happen should the highly infectious CeMV enter a pod population. Models indicated 90% of the population would succumb. Biologist Michael Weiss of San Juan Island’s Center for Whale Research explained in a  Biological Conservation  journal study, “The social structure of this population offers only limited protection from disease outbreaks.” While immunization against measles in humans and canine distemper in pets has been successful, vaccines against CeMV for whales might not be deployed practically — unlike the morbillivirus vaccine program under development for endangered seals. A more viable solution may be to enhance the  conservation  of chinook salmon to minimize the chances of orca hunger and boost their immune systems. + KUOW and NPR Images via Pixabay

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Rare blue bee spotted in Florida

May 20, 2020 by  
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While most Americans have been inside watching Netflix and cultivating sourdough starter, Chase Kimmel has scoured the Central Florida sand dunes for the blue calamintha bee . The rare bee hadn’t been spotted since 2016, but Kimmel’s diligence paid off. The postdoctoral researcher has caught and released a blue bee 17 times during its March-to-May flying season. Scientists think the bee lives only in the Lake Wales Ridge region, which is due east of Tampa in the “highlands” — about 300 feet above sea level. This biodiversity hotspot traces its geological history back to a time when most of Florida was underwater. The high sand dunes were like islands, each developing its own habitat. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is quickly disappearing. Related: UK bees and wildflowers thrive during lockdown “This is a highly specialized and localized bee,” Jaret Daniels, a curator and director at the Florida Museum of Natural History and Kimmel’s advisor, told the Tampa Bay Times . The bee pollinates Ashe’s calamint, a threatened perennial deciduous shrub with pale purple flowers. Scientists first described the blue calamintha bee in 2011, and some feared it had already gone extinct . It’s only been recorded in four locations within 16 square miles of Lake Wales Ridge. “I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,” Kimmel said. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is funding Kimmel’s two-year study. Before the Ashe’s calamint began blooming this spring — and before the pandemic upended some of his research strategies — Kimmel and a volunteer positioned nesting boxes in promising areas of the ridge. After the flowers bloomed, he has continued to return and look for bees. When he sees what he thinks is a blue bee, he tries to catch it in a net and puts the bee in a plastic bag. Then, he cuts a hole in the corner of the bag and entices the bee to stick its head out so he can look at it with a hand lens. After photographing the bees, he releases them. Kimmel says their stings aren’t too bad. + Florida Museum Photography by Chase Kimmel via Florida Museum

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Sea turtles thrive on empty beaches during COVID-19 lockdowns

April 21, 2020 by  
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As more people around the world stay inside, more animals are able to thrive in places that are typically crowded by humans. In the southeastern U.S., sea turtles are enjoying a peaceful nesting season without pesky sunbathers, fishermen or boats. “It’s going to be a very good year for our leatherbacks,” Sarah Hirsch, senior manager of research and data at Loggerhead Marinelife Center , told WPEC . “We’re excited to see our turtles thrive in this environment. Our world has changed, but these turtles have been doing this for millions of years and it’s just reassuring and gives us hope that the world is still going on.” Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s researchers have located 69 nests on the 9.5 miles of beach they study, which is significantly more than normal. Related: Baby turtles officially return to the beaches of Mumbai after largest beach cleanup in history All seven types of sea turtles are endangered or vulnerable. The odds are stacked against hatchlings; only one in 1,000 live to become adults. While hatchlings elude natural predators, such as dogs, seabirds, raccoons, ghost crabs and fish, turtles of all ages face many threats from humans. These include microplastics, fishing gear, coastal development, boat strikes, global warming and the illegal trade in eggs, meat and shells. David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy , said thousands of turtles are currently migrating to nesting beaches in the sotheastern U.S. and that “all of the potential positive impacts relate to changes in human behavior.” With fewer boats on the water, the number of boat strikes on turtles and other marine animals will also drop. “All of the reduced human presence on the beach also means that there will be less garbage and other plastics entering the marine environment,” Godfrey said. A 2016 University of Florida study concluded that removing trash and debris from beaches can increase the number of turtle nests by 200%. In 2019, Florida reported more than 395,700 sea turtle nests during hatching season. Because many beaches preferred by turtles are also prized by tourists, researchers will watch with concern as parts of Florida begin to open their beaches to humans again. Via CBS News Image via Pixabay

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Adorable baby gorilla wants you to recycle your phone

February 21, 2020 by  
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The first lowland gorilla born in the Los Angeles Zoo in 20 years is building her fan base while raising awareness about the connection between cell phone manufacturing and critically endangered gorilla populations. Baby Angela was born last month to mom N’dijia and dad Kelly. Along with Rapunzel and Evelyn, the LA Zoo is now home to five western lowland gorillas. This species is native to Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because only about 100,000 western lowland gorillas still survive in the wild, any new baby is cause for celebration. Related: Hope for mountain gorillas — new census results reveal the population is increasing Female lowland gorillas typically give birth every six to seven years in the wild. But the stress of captivity often short-circuits normal breeding habits. So far, mom and baby seem extremely bonded, zookeepers told the Today Show. N’dijia carries Angela around constantly, and Kelly shows affection by sniffing the baby and sometimes putting his lips against her. Gorillas in the wild face many dangers, including poachers, diseases, such as Ebola, and mining operations. While these threats may seem far away from the life of the average city dweller, most humans have a direct tie to gorillas through their cell phones. The Congo Basin is rich in coltan, a black metallic ore used in mobile phone manufacturing. Not only do miners disrupt gorilla life and ruin habitats, the miners — who are often there illegally — hunt wildlife, including gorillas, for food. Recycling your old cell phones is an easy way to help gorillas. A recycling company called ECO-CELL partners with primate conservation groups including Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), the Jane Goodall Institute and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Many zoos in the U.S. and Canada collect phones for ECO-CELL. So far, the company has recycled about 1 million cell phones. Phones that still work are sometimes reused by gorilla care staff and in veterinary labs. “ECO-CELL’s focus is squarely on the informed consumer piece,” Eric Ronay, founder of ECO-CELL, told Mongabay . “If we can reach consumers en masse, especially young consumers, and inspire them to demand ethical, gorilla-safe products, then the entire electronics landscape will change dramatically.” + LA Zoo Via Mongabay and Today Image by Jamie Pham via LA Zoo

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Light pollution, habitat loss and pesticides push fireflies toward extinction

February 7, 2020 by  
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There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies, and scientists are sounding the alarm that some of these species are on the brink of extinction . Research published in BioScience indicates that habitat loss, light pollution and pesticides are threatening these delightful insects. According to Tufts University biology professor Sara Lewis, the study’s lead author, “If people want fireflies around in the future, we need to look at this seriously. Fireflies are incredibly attractive insects, perhaps the most beloved of all insects, because they are so conspicuous, so magical.” Related: New Animal Endangerment Map shows global distribution of threatened animal species Habitat loss is the main culprit disrupting the environmental conditions and cues conducive to firefly development and lifecycle completion. One example cited was the Malaysian firefly species Pteroptyx tener , which needs particular mangroves and plants to breed appropriately, but their mangrove swamp habitats have been displaced by aquaculture farms and palm oil plantations. The second issue leaving fireflies vulnerable is light pollution . As CNN reported, light pollution can arise from “streetlights and commercial signs and skyglow, a more diffuse illumination that spreads beyond urban centers and can be brighter than a full moon.” Artificial lights can interfere with firefly courtship. Male fireflies flash particular bioluminescent patterns to attract females, who must flash responses in return. Unfortunately, artificial lights can mimic and thus confuse the signals. Or, worse yet, light pollution can be too bright for the fireflies to emit and properly recognize their ritual signals for mating to be initiated or completed. Thirdly, pesticides have been a significant driving factor in the decline of firefly populations. The Center for Biological Diversity has documented that “Systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids that get into the soil and water harm firefly larvae and their prey. Also, because fireflies are generally found in wetland habitats, they are threatened by insecticide spraying targeting mosquitoes.” As a result, the larvae either starve or have developmental anomalies that prevent population growth. Public outcries by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Firefly Specialist Group as well as the Fireflyers International Network have raised some awareness about the dwindling firefly populations. Yet, as stated by the Center for Biological Diversity, “There are at least 125 species of fireflies in the United States, but despite the many threats they face, none are protected by the Endangered Species Act.” To protect these luminous insects that have long captivated the imagination with their fairytale-like lights, much work still needs to be done, especially given the U.K. Wildlife Trusts ’ similar report on the ‘quiet apocalypse’ taking place now, wherein 41% of global insect species face extinction. + BioScience Via CNN , the Center for Biological Diversity and The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Light pollution, habitat loss and pesticides push fireflies toward extinction

Sustainable agriculture cleans up rivers in Cuba

February 7, 2020 by  
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New scientific findings reveal that Cuba’s rivers are in better health than the Mississippi River. The research was a joint effort between Cuba and the United States, marking the two countries’ first collaboration in more than 60 years. The work was part of a study on Cuba’s hydrology, focusing on the water quality of the island’s rivers. Despite centuries of cattle and sugarcane farming, research results reveal there hasn’t been much damage to Cuba’s rivers thanks to the country’s other sustainable agriculture methods. Compared to the Mississippi River, Cuba’s 25 rivers surveyed showed lower nutrient concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. This is likely attributed to Cuba’s shift toward sustainable agriculture , particularly the country’s shunning of imported synthetic chemicals. Related: Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products “A lot of stories about the value of Cuba’s shift to conservation agriculture have been based on fuzzy, feel-good evidence,” explained geologist and researcher Paul Bierman. “This study provides hard data that a crucial part of this story is true.” By contrast, the U.S. has more widespread dependence on chemical fertilizers . Hence, dead zones occur where the Mississippi River mouth opens into the Gulf of Mexico, adversely affecting the region’s marine ecosystems with dangerous bacterial and algal blooms caused by elevated nitrogen levels. Another interesting finding is that even though more than 80% of the Cuban river samples had E. coli bacteria, the source was found to be from fecal material by cattle and horses grazing along the riverbanks. The research team believes that this is partly attributed to “Cuba’s intensive use of horses and other draft animals for transportation and farm work.” The researchers concluded that the island country has been committed to promoting more sustainable agriculture to improve both its soil and water. The efforts have led to promising results. The American team was comprised of University of Vermont geologist Paul Bierman and Oberlin College geoscientist Amanda Schmidt. The Cuban team was led by Rita Hernández, representing the Cienfuegos Center for Environmental Studies, an ecological research group. Their joint research, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, was recently published in the GSA Today journal of the Geological Society of America. “This research can help the people of Cuba,” Hernández said, “and may give a good example to other people in the Caribbean and all over the world.” + The Geological Society of America Via Phys.org Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Hurricane Dorian threatens endangered bird species

September 5, 2019 by  
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Those living on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands recently met Dorian as the hurricane’s 185 mph winds wrecked havoc on the islands, destroying and damaging about 13,000 homes. While the hurricane has raised much concern over the rising death tolls and destruction to the island, it also raised concern for endangered species who call the island home, such as the critically endangered Bahama nuthatch. The Bahama nuthatch has been in trouble for some time as a 2004 survey reported its population was around 1,800. Three years later, a 2007 survey noted more hurricanes decreased its numbers to a mere 23. By the time Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016 the bird’s population dropped and in 2018 only two were found. Related: Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change It appears Dorian left very few stones upturned as most of the areas are reportedly still under water and coniferous forests are being killed by saltwater flooding. “It is obviously a humanitarian disaster for people living in these northern islands, and the extent is as yet unknown, but we hope that international medical and infrastructure aid will arrive rapidly and generously,” Diana Bell, professor of Conservation Biology at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told Earther. “It is also highly likely to have also been an ecological disaster affecting the already fragmented areas of Caribbean pine forest which support endemic avifauna.” Aside from trees and the Bahama nutshell, some scientists are worried about the Bahama warbler and the more well-known Kirtland’s warbler, a bird that lives among the pineyards during the winter season. In addition to the nuthatch and the warblers, as recent as July, avifauna in the Bahamas was reported at 374 species, according to Avibase – Bird Checklists of the World. According to a National Climate Assessment, researchers say warmer ocean climes and higher sea levels from climate change will further intensify hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, though some research suggests hurricanes are slowing down but causing longer impacts. Nonetheless, hurricanes of all categories could cause irreparable disaster for all island inhabitants. Via Gizmodo, Audubon, Avibase Image via Dick Daniels

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