The headlines are difficult to bear, as day by day Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brings further suffering, devastating millions of lives and making us all feel more fearful about the future. The impact and implications of the events unfolding in Ukraine will be felt around the world in countless ways, and we begin this week’s news round-up with some of the most recent coverage of how it is impacting environmental efforts in Europe and beyond.


Two weeks since the invasion began, several reports, including these by Wired and Insider, have looked at ways the war could contribute to an environmental crisis in Ukraine itself. In the Financial Times, Leslie Hook and Neil Hume ask whether the crisis could ‘derail the green transition’ if European countries seeking to wean themselves off Russian gas and oil pursue domestic fossil fuel alternatives – or even turn to cheaper alternatives like coal – rather than speeding the transition to renewables. The conflict’s impact on the global food supply is also beginning to become clearer. The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey has this assessment of how war between two of the world’s biggest wheat exporters is exacerbating an already grave, climate-driven crisis. And in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro is using the squeeze on Russian fertiliser exports to justify mining on indigenous lands, Reuters reports.


New research, meanwhile, has provided further evidence that the Amazon may be nearing a “tipping point” at which vast swathes of what was once tropical forest become sparsely forested savannah, Helen Briggs reports for the BBC. The study by experts from the University of Exeter, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Technical University of Munich is published in the journal Nature Climate Change and is based on three decades of satellite data.

Trees are taking longer to recover from the effects of droughts, deforestation and fires. Credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/Fauna & Flora International


The bad news keeps coming, unfortunately, with Patrick Greenfield in the Guardian reporting on a new study that suggests carbon emissions from deforestation may be higher than we thought – and still rising. Meanwhile, Louise Boyle of the Independent reports on the International Energy Agency’s assessment that carbon emissions rose to their highest ever levels in 2021 as the world “rebounded” from the pandemic.


Finally, a fascinating study concludes that plants around the world are increasing their rate of photosynthesis in response to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Chen Ly reports for New Scientist. Trevor Keenan, co-author of the University of California, Berkeley study says that plants “may … grow faster and sequester more carbon” as a result. But don’t get carried away. “Although plants are buying us time by taking up more CO2 in response to more CO2 in the atmosphere, it is not nearly enough to stop climate change,” Keenan adds. Oh well. As you were.

An increase in the rate of photosynthesis due to elevated CO2 levels is known as the CO2 fertilisation effect. Credit: Jeremy Holden/Fauna & Flora International

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