Chile floods: millions of people without water in Santiago

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 8:12pm

Heavy rain during usually dry summer months causes landslides and flooding, leaving three dead and 19 missing

Millions of people are without water after heavy rains struck Chile over the weekend during the country’s usually dry summer months, leaving three people dead and at least 19 missing.

The rains, which caused rivers to overflow their banks in mountain valleys near Chile’s capital, Santiago, had isolated 373 people, the Onemi emergency service said late on Sunday.

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How talking to air conditioners could help prevent blackouts

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 7:56pm

An integrated energy grid could monitor power shortfalls, predict demand and respond accordingly, according to experts, although data will need to be shared

For South Australia, it was a cruelly ironic one-two punch – a burst of the extreme heat conditions that are so much more likely because of climate change, and a power cut linked to a simultaneous drop in wind that hobbled the renewable energy systems introduced to minimise global warming in the first place.

On 8 February, South Australians had their air conditioners on full blast while sweltering through temperatures in excess of 46C in some parts of the state, and wind turbines had stopped turning just when energy demand was at its highest. The Australian Energy Market Operator chose not to bring online a standby gas generator and, thanks to an additional computer glitch at SA Power Networks, three times as many houses had their power cut than necessary – a familiar plunge into darkness for the sweat-laced locals of a state that has had more than its fair share of energy problems in recent times.

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Categories: Environment

Country diary 50 years ago: A wild week in the Cairngorms

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 3:30pm

Originally published in the Guardian on 27 February 1967

THE CAIRNGORMS: It didn’t seem at all strange to discover a bedraggled reindeer sheltering from the storm just inside the entrance to the chair-lift the other day, for the wind was like a knife and the ski-runs like tilted ice-rinks. Of course, he might have merely come in for the company – you could see his fellows higher up the snowbound hillside – or he might have been hoping for a chance of something more succulent than the frozen heather roots these creatures seem to live on. But he wasn’t very friendly, responding to a cautious stroking by an angry swing of the head, so I left him standing disconsolate near the ticket office and looking as if he’d lost both Father Christmas and his sledge. I suppose they’re harmless enough although a notice farther down the mountain warns “Beware of Reindeer,” but doesn’t explain why. These were the only wild life we saw in the hills during a wild week, except for the ptarmigan in their white winter plumage hurrying through the snow, and once a handsome pheasant strutting across the track through the Rothiemurchus pines. Indeed, there were days, so fierce the winds, when these popular slopes were even deserted by the humans who normally at this time of year swarm like ants, and one day, especially, when I seemed quite alone in the mountains. Ski-ing that day was out of the question – you needed ice-axe and crampons just to get across the runs – and the wind so strong on the plateau it took you all your time to avoid being blown over the edge. But down by Loch Morlich in the late afternoon the wind suddenly dropped for half an hour, and there was the quiet splendour of purpling hills and a foreground of silvered loch with the birches and pines showing black against a golden sunset like a Chinese painting.

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Fearing Climate Change Policy Under Trump, STEM Group Works To Get Scientists Elected

NPR News - Environment - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 3:19pm

Scientists across the country are planning to go to Washington — and take office. Shaughnessy Naughton is the founder of 314 Action a non profit that helps scientists run for office.

Categories: Environment

Australia's summer heat hints at worse to come

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 2:30pm

If the third warmest January on record occurred during a La Niña event, scientists are asking what El Niño has in store

Right now south-eastern Australia is having an unbearable summer. Temperatures in Sydney have regularly been in the upper 30s in recent weeks, while inland areas have had several days in the mid-40s.

January was the hottest month on record for Sydney since 1859, and the persistent warmth into February (with many places topping 35C day after day) may topple the New South Wales record of 50 hot days in a row.

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How Prince Charles plans to sterilise the nation’s squirrels – with Nutella

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 10:30am

More than 3.5m of the invasive rodents live in Britain, and their presence is harming the welfare of their native red cousins. Luckily, HRH has a cunning plan to reduce their numbers

Name: Grey squirrels.

Age: First introduced to the UK in the 1870s.

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End UK tax incentives for diesel vehicles, ministers are urged

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 8:26am

Campaigners write to chancellor to urge him to end tax breaks and bring in scheme to encourage switch to greener cars

Ministers are coming under growing pressure to remove tax incentives for diesel cars and offer compensation to motorists so they can swap to more environmentally friendly vehicles.

A group of medical professionals, environmental campaigners and lawyers has written to the chancellor ahead of the budget to demand a change to the vehicle excise duty that they say subsidises diesel cars.

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How drones are helping design the solar power plants of the future

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 7:00am

A cottage industry is growing around new technology for solar power developers to design, build and operate solar farms to help compete with fossil fuel power

At the edge of a plot of muddy farmland, a few miles down the road from the University of California at Davis, an engineer takes a few quick steps across crop rows and lets go of a three-foot drone. Within seconds, the device – which weighs less than 2lbs and carries a powerful camera – ascends hundreds of feet into the cold, clear, blue sky and begins to snap detailed photos of the ground far below, including a long row of large solar panels mounted on steel poles.

This flight is just a test, demonstrated by Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator for SunPower at the solar company’s research and development center, which is under construction and about a two-hour drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The drone will enable SunPower to survey a wide region and help design a solar power farm that can fit more solar panels on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.

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Call to investigate arrest of protesters in Sheffield tree-felling battle

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 6:23am

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner is urged to investigate ‘repressive’ arrests as CPS drops charges

South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner has been urged to investigate the “repressive” arrests of campaigners in the battle against tree-felling in Sheffield.

The call came after prosecutors dropped charges against two protesters who were arrested while trying to save a 100-year-old tree in November.

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Categories: Environment

Why It's Been So Warm On The East Coast

NPR News - Environment - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 6:12am

The east coast saw record-breaking high temperatures this past week. Meteorologist Bob Henson talks with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about what's behind the early spring weather.

Categories: Environment

Windfarms aren’t the real reason energy bills are rising. Blame the free market

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/02/26 - 12:00am

Complaints about ‘green crap’ have been a convenient excuse for governments unable or unwilling to intervene and cap suppliers’ prices

Last week, photographs of wind turbines were once again juxtaposed with headlines about rising energy prices. The cause on this occasion was no less pre-eminent a body than a Lords committee, comprising former chancellor Norman Lamont and other heavyweight peers.

“To reduce carbon emissions, governments have subsidised renewables, passing on the cost to consumers in their electricity bills. The average domestic electricity bill was 58% higher in 2016 than it was in 2003,” the economic affairs committee said in its report on energy policy.

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The eco guide to greener salads

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/02/25 - 11:00pm

The salad shortage focused attention on the failures of our 24/7 dietary culture. But it also provides a chance to rethink the way we eat fresh fruit, veg and green leaves

I’m afraid the lettuce shortage was just the tip of the iceberg. We may have run low on salad leaves but, more worryingly, we were low on empathy for poor southern Spain where flash floods followed by snow wrecked the crop. Our relentless consumer-rights focus meant that the emphasis was clearly on “weather-related supply challenges”, supermarket speak for “My God, we are running out of salad!” Sustaining a dietary culture of 24/7 access to all fresh fruit and veg in all seasons was never going to be easy.

A packed salad uses at least 10 times more energy than a local lettuce

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Categories: Environment

From the Observer archive: this week in 1929 | From the Observer archive

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/02/25 - 5:05pm
Fuel and the future – how coal can compete with oil

There have been reports of late of increased activity in the coal trade. Those qualified to judge have rightly warned the public against facile optimism. The Continental orders are the result of the abnormal weather. They are not a sign that the old trade is coming back. It will never come back, because the conditions which created it have ceased to exist.

But the last few days have also brought two items of news really suggestive of a turn of the tide. If coal is to compete with oil it must do one or both of two things. It must alter its form so that it may rival oil in convenience of handling, or it must alter its substance so as to yield up the oil which it contains. Both aims have been assiduously pursued by experiment, and the results are at last beginning to admit of commercial exploitation.

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Scott Pruitt vows to slash climate and water pollution regulations at CPAC

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/02/25 - 2:47pm

Head of the EPA told the conservative audience they would be ‘justified’ in believing the environmental regulator should be completely disbanded

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has vowed to roll back flagship regulations that tackle climate change and water pollution, telling a conservative audience in Maryland they would be “justified” in believing the environmental regulator should be completely disbanded.

The Trump appointee signalled that the president is set to start the work of dismantling climate and water rules as early as next week. Pruitt said the administration will “deal” with the Clean Power Plan, Barack Obama’s centrepiece policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the Waters of the United States rule, which gives the EPA wider latitude to reduce pollution of waterways.

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Biologists say half of all species could be extinct by end of century

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/02/25 - 1:37pm

Scientists at Vatican conference are searching for a solution to the manmade ‘major extinction event’

One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. That is the stark view of the world’s leading biologists, ecologists and economists who will gather on Monday to determine the social and economic changes needed to save the planet’s biosphere.

“The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” say the organisers of the Biological Extinction conference held at the Vatican this week.

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Brexit brings new questions about investing down on the farm

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/02/25 - 9:00am
When Common Agricultural Policy payments come to an end, what will they be replaced with? And what should that be spent on?

Compared to most industries subject to the ups and downs of global markets, farming is a cottage industry. Where mining has a few operators dominating the scene, agriculture involves thousands of producers in each country.

That simple fact works against the high levels of investment agriculture minister Andrea Leadsom would like to see in the run-up to a hard Brexit.

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Tracks in the snow where carnivores passed in the night

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/02/24 - 10:30pm

Achvaneran, Highlands The tracks went straight down the garden, through the fence and over the burn with one leap. It knew where it was going

The previous night’s snowfall had been just right for tracking: about 4cm at dusk, then no more until after light. So I was out early and picked up the first tracks under the beech tree at the bottom of the garden, a stoat. It had been quartering the ground, hunting, but did not make a kill until it reached the large pond. There the tracks suddenly veered; a leap sideways and a few specks of blood on the snow revealed where it had taken its prey, probably a mouse or vole.

Related: Daylight encounter hungry pine marten

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Chris Grayling advises motorists to 'think hard' before buying diesel

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/02/24 - 5:38pm

Transport secretary recommends low-emission cars after it emerges that thousands of children breathing toxic air

Drivers should “think long and hard” before buying a diesel car and instead consider purchasing a low-emission vehicle, the transport secretary has said, as the government considers a strategy to tackle air pollution.

Chris Grayling’s intervention took place as the Guardian revealed that tens of thousands of London’s children were attending schools in areas with levels of toxic air in breach of EU legal limits. The minister also said the government had a legal duty to cut emissions of nitrogen oxide from diesel cars, which account for four in 10 vehicles on British roads, after a high court ruling in November ordered the authorities to reduce levels of the toxic fume in the “shortest possible time”.

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Taxpayers to pay for oil spill clean-ups under petroleum resource rent tax

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/02/24 - 12:00pm

Treasury confirms companies would be able to claim tax deduction for expenses incurred from cleaning up pollution

Australian taxpayers will be forced to subsidise the clean-up costs of oil spills in the Great Australian Bight thanks to the terms of the controversial petroleum resource rent tax.

Treasury officials have confirmed that oil companies would be able to claim a tax deduction under the PRRT for expenses incurred cleaning up oil spills.

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Categories: Environment

We need a recipe to save the red squirrel | Brief letters

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/02/24 - 11:34am
Squirrel cull | Housebuilding | PPE and LSE | More leftovers | La La Land

The easiest way to protect the red squirrel (Report, 24 February) is for us to eat the grey ones. The latter are too plentiful and should be easy to trap. Many of us have no problem eating rabbits, so the greys could be a cheap addition to our diet. The bird population would also benefit from a cull of these pests. So, Delia, could we please have a recipe for écureuil à la bourguignonne?
Donald Blow
Kirkcaldy, Fife

• John Harris (What’s the point in building a million new homes if they’re not fit to live in?, 22 February) writes honestly of the difficulties facing new home owners when the rush to build leads to corners being cut. We are also aware of houses being sold leasehold, some with onerous clauses which double ground rent every few years. Caveat emptor.
Brenda Banks
Teignmouth, Devon

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