Greens signal they may not back Labor in blocking Coalition's marine park plans

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 7:26pm

Plans ‘woefully inadequate’, party says – but it fears replacing some protections with none at all

The Greens have signalled that they might not back a move by Labor to disallow controversial new marine park management plans proposed by the Turnbull government, calling for time to consider their position.

The Greens’ healthy oceans spokesman, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, told Guardian Australia on Thursday that if the new government plans were disallowed, “then we move from some protections to no protections, and the protections of our oceans have to rely on Labor winning government and the conservative major and minor parties not having the numbers to disallow whatever plans Labor put in place”.

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Categories: Environment

Climate science on trial as high-profile US case takes on fossil fuel industry

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 4:18pm

Courtroom showdown in San Francisco pitted liberal cities against oil corporations, and saw judge host unusual climate ‘tutorial’

The science of climate change was on trial Wednesday when leading experts testified about the threats of global warming in a US court while a fossil fuel industry lawyer fighting a high-profile lawsuit sought to deflect blame for rising sea levels.

The hearing was part of a courtroom showdown between liberal California cities and powerful oil corporations, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP. San Francisco and Oakland have sued the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, arguing that they are responsible for damages related to global warming.

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Categories: Environment

'Leader to laggard': the backlash to Australia’s planned marine park cutbacks

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 3:57pm

Conservation groups produce analysis showing protection for 35m hectares of ocean will be downgraded

More than 35m hectares of “no-take” ocean will be stripped from Australia’s marine parks if plans released by the government go ahead, according to analysis commissioned by conservation groups.

The environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, released plans for 44 marine parks on Tuesday, claiming a “more balanced and scientific evidence-based approach to ocean protection”.

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Categories: Environment

Australia's birds are not being protected by environmental laws, report says

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 2:31pm

BirdLife says loopholes, exemptions, omissions and powers open to politicisation have been exploited

Some of Australia’s favourite birds are threatened with extinction and Australia’s environmental laws are failing to protect them, a new report by BirdLife Australia has found.

The report identified in the existing laws a slew of loopholes, exemptions, omissions and discretionary powers open to politicisation, each of which have been exploited to allow the decline of birds including the Carnaby’s black cockatoo, the swift parrot and the southern black-throated finch.

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Categories: Environment

Murray-Darling system under strain as orchard plantings increase 41%

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 12:39pm

Farmers and others in Mildura region are warning trees could be left to wither and die

A huge expansion of irrigated crops in the Mildura region of the lower Murray is threatening to overtake the water available in the river, and has set the scene for a disaster if drought conditions return.

A 16-day heatwave that hit the region this summer exposed the vulnerability of the Sunraysia and western New South Wales regions. During that time, the Murray-Darling basin’s water managers scrambled to meet demand, as the region experienced a run of days over 35C between 16 and 29 January.

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Categories: Environment

Bulgarians rush to save a phalanx of distressed, frozen storks

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 11:33am

Villagers come to the rescue after icy wings ground hundreds of migrating birds

What would you do if you encountered scores of distressed storks covered in ice lying in a snow-covered field? In Bulgaria, people have been taking them home.

A cold snap in the north-east of the country has stranded hundreds of the migrating birds this week, covering their wings in ice and grounding them.

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Categories: Environment

WATCH: Robotic Fish Moves Like The Real Thing — So It Can Observe The Real Thing

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 11:25am

MIT researchers unveiled a Soft Robotic Fish prototype in hopes of boosting aquatic observation. It can wiggle like a fish, dive to 18 meters, work autonomously — and hopefully avoid getting eaten.

(Image credit: MIT CSAIL)

Categories: Environment

This is just fracking by another name | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 10:35am
By declaring all sources of oil and gas in limestone and sandstone as ‘conventional’, writes Kathryn McWhirter, the government and oil companies are hoping the controversy over fracking will go away

The threat that you refer to (National parks land faces new oil threat, campaigners warn, 16 March) actually looms over a great swathe of south-east England, not just national parks. And the plethora of promised wells will not be “conventional” as your article states – at least not in the scientifically accepted meaning of the word. A new, political definition of “conventional” was inserted into national minerals planning guidance in March 2014 by the then Department of Energy and Climate Change. It declared “conventional” all sources of oil and gas in limestone and sandstone. This is not true. Both limestone and sandstone, geologically speaking, can be conventional or unconventional. The scientific divide between the two pivots on permeability – how freely oil or gas can flow through the rocks. And, deep within the shale under the Weald, the thin, muddy limestone layers that are currently the target of oil companies have low permeability. They are unconventional.

It is convenient for the oil industry to be able to claim its drilling to be conventional. To the public, media and planners it makes oil wells seem a more minor issue. But the industry’s plans are major. Precisely because of the low permeability of the target rocks (now muddy limestone, soon no doubt the surrounding shale), there will be a need for a great many wells. You can extract oil only by getting up close to each bit of “unconventional” rock, and dissolving it with acid or cracking it open. Stephen Sanderson, CEO of UK Oil and Gas, said of his plans for Surrey and Sussex: “This type of oil deposit very much depends on being able to drill your wells almost back to back.”

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Categories: Environment

NSW Labor refuses to approve forestry agreements based on 'out-of-date' science

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 10:00am

In wake of Guardian Australia report, Penny Sharpe says regional forest agreements must include climate change as a consideration

NSW Labor has demanded that climate change be on the table as part of a full scientific assessment of the state’s regional forest agreements (RFAs), which are set to expire over the next two years.

Penny Sharpe, opposition environment spokeswoman, said NSW Labor would not sign off on proposed extensions because the government “knows the science underpinning the RFAs is out of date and incomplete”.

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Categories: Environment

Flooding and heavy rains rise 50% worldwide in a decade, figures show

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 10:00am

Such extreme weather events are now happening four times more than in 1980, according to a European science paper

Global floods and extreme rainfall events have surged by more than 50% this decade, and are now occurring at a rate four times higher than in 1980, according to a new report.

Other extreme climatological events such as storms, droughts and heatwaves have increased by more than a third this decade and are being recorded twice as frequently as in 1980, the paper by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (Easac) says.

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Categories: Environment

Europe faces 'biodiversity oblivion' after collapse in French birds, experts warn

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 8:31am

Authors of report on bird declines say intensive farming and pesticides could turn Europe’s farmland into a desert that ultimately imperils all humans

The “catastrophic” decline in French farmland birds signals a wider biodiversity crisis in Europe which ultimately imperils all humans, leading scientists have told the Guardian.

A dramatic fall in farmland birds such as skylarks, whitethroats and ortolan bunting in France was revealed by two studies this week, with the spread of neonicotinoid pesticides – and decimation of insect life – coming under particular scrutiny.

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Categories: Environment

Loopholes in Queensland's new land-clearing laws 'would allow broadscale razing'

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/03/21 - 12:01am

Environmental Defenders Office to urge Palaszczuk government to amend proposed laws

The Queensland Environmental Defenders Office says proposed new land-clearing laws in the state leave significant loopholes that would allow broadscale clearing to continue unchecked.

The group will on Thursday lodge a submission urging the Palaszczuk government to amend its proposed vegetation management laws.

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Categories: Environment

A judge asks basic questions about climate change. We answer them

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 10:00pm

California judge William Alsup put out a list of questions for a climate change ‘tutorial’ in a global warming case

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Categories: Environment

Narrabri gas project fire risk unacceptable, firefighters say

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 6:59pm

The Santos project would be exempt from complete fire bans and allowed to flare gas, even in catastrophic fire weather

Firefighters with decades of experience working around the bushfire-prone Pilliga forest say Santos’s controversial Narrabri gas project will create an unacceptable fire risk to workers at the site, as well as to surrounding properties.

Those firefighters, who have also opposed the project on other environmental grounds, say fires in the area can be so fast and ferocious that in some weather conditions the project site would need to be evacuated, since if a fire did start there would likely not be enough time to evacuate workers.

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Categories: Environment

Indigenous group 'offered $10m in water' to help pass Murray-Darling plan

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 5:00pm

Fred Hooper says he interpreted offer as an attempt to get him to persuade Labor to support Coalition’s plan to reduce water for environmental flows

The government offered an Indigenous group $10m in water entitlements as it tried to get its plan to reduce water for environmental flows in the Murray-Darling basin through the Senate, a senior Indigenous leader has said.

Fred Hooper, who heads the Northern Murray-Darling Basin Aboriginal Nations group, said he interpreted the 11th-hour offer as an attempt to get him to persuade Labor to support the government.

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Categories: Environment

‘Monty Pythonesque’: $80m water buyback was 25% more than asking price

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 1:29pm

Australia Institute says commonwealth paid far more than initial price for Condamine-Balonne river system buyback

“Monty Pythonesque” is how the Australia Institute has described the federal government’s decision to pay $80m for a water buyback in the Condamine-Balonne river system in Queensland last year.

The Guardian reported this month that the company selling the water to the commonwealth, Eastern Australian Agriculture, had immediately recorded a $52m gain on the sale of its water in July 2017. The company itself had valued the water rights much lower in its accounts.

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Categories: Environment

Gove tells Tory MPs to 'keep eyes on prize' in row over fishing waters

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 11:47am

Environment secretary says UK control of fishing waters delayed, not abandoned, by Brexit deal

Michael Gove has attempted to reassure Conservatives angry about Britain conceding on fisheries during the Brexit transition by urging them to keep their “eyes on the prize”.

The environment secretary said he understood the fishing industry’s grave disappointment at Theresa May’s agreement that would effectively keep the UK inside the common fisheries policy (CFP) until 2020, but without the same level of influence. However, he argued in parliament that the implementation period was a necessary step on the path to the ultimate goal.

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Categories: Environment

Subsidy-free renewable energy projects set to soar in UK, analysts say

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 11:00am

Falling cost of wind and solar will unlock £20bn of investment, Aurora Energy Research says

The UK is well on the way to a new era of subsidy-free renewable energy projects that will largely kill off prospects for new gas power stations, according to industry analysts.

The falling cost of wind and solar projects combined with advances in battery storage technology will unlock about £20bn of investment in the UK between now and 2030, Aurora Energy Research said. Onshore wind and solar will both be viable without subsidies by 2025 in the UK, it added.

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Categories: Environment

Exclusive: legal concerns over plan to roll over forestry agreements without reviews

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 10:00am

Documents reveal government plans to extend RFAs without fresh environmental or scientific reviews

Federal and state ministers have discussed legal concerns that imminent extensions to logging agreements might be invalid as they are based on old scientific assessments.

Commonwealth and state concerns about the “legal and political risks” to the regional forest agreement extensions that are about to be agreed are highlighted in a collection of 10 documents – including briefing notes and “contentious issues briefs” – prepared for the New South Wales primary industries minister, Niall Blair, and the state’s lands and forestry minister, Paul Toole, and obtained by Guardian Australia.

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Categories: Environment

Last male northern white rhino's death highlights 'huge extinction crisis'

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/20 - 9:25am

The tragic death of Sudan the rhino should act as a warning of the need to act to prevent mass extinctions around the world, say conservationists

Conservationists have warned that the death of the last male northern white rhinoceros in Kenya is a sign that unsustainable human activity is driving a new era of mass extinctions around the globe.

Sudan, the “gentle giant” who lived in the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya, was put down on Monday after the pain from a degenerative illness became too great.

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