It's beloved, but Australia's magpie is an international bird of mystery | Leo Joseph

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2017/12/12 - 1:30am

Our magpies are not the same as Europe’s, so why do they share a name? The bird of the year has a complicated back story

The Australian magpie has been crowned bird of the year but how much do we really know about it? Where do magpies fit in the evolutionary scheme of things? Why do we even call them magpies?

DNA sequencing technology has revolutionised biology. Our understanding of the evolutionary tree of bird life – that is how species and groups of birds are related to each other and how their evolution has unfolded on the planet’s changing continents – is no exception. We now have a much better understanding than we did just 30 years ago of where all the species of the world’s birds perch, so to speak, on that tree.

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Categories: Environment

Insurance giant Axa dumps investments in tar sands pipelines

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2017/12/12 - 1:00am

Axa will also stop insuring US oil pipelines for business and ethical reasons, taking fossil fuel divestment to new level

One of the world’s biggest financial services companies is both dumping investments and ending insurance for controversial US oil pipelines, taking fossil fuel divestment to a new level.

Axa is also quadrupling its divestment from coal businesses and increasing its green investments fivefold by 2020. The moves were announced at the One Planet Summit in Paris, called by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to accelerate the use of global finance in fighting climate change.

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Categories: Environment

It's not asking the earth for independent watchdog to fill EU gap

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2017/12/12 - 1:00am

Michael Gove must deliver on his promise to give ‘the environment a voice’ to ensure short-term politics do not interfere with the natural world

Michael Gove has raised the stakes for those of us determined to see a world-class environment for the UK. The environment secretary has vowed that the government will establish a “new, world-leading body to give the environment a voice and hold the powerful to account, independent of government and able to speak its mind freely”.

MPs will debate this new institution during the next stages of the withdrawal bill in parliament on Tuesday and must ensure Gove’s promises are turned into legally binding commitments.

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Categories: Environment

Wet wipes make up 93% of matter causing UK sewer blockages

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2017/12/12 - 12:15am

City to Sea campaign says we must rethink bad habits and only flush ‘three Ps: pee, paper and poo’ as study finds blockages cost UK £100m a year

Baby wipes are causing hundreds of thousands of blockages in the UK sewer system and costing the country £100m every year, according to a new report.

The study from Water UK, the trade body representing all of the main water and sewerage companies in the country, found that wipes made up about 93% of the material causing the sewer blockages.

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Categories: Environment

Green Investment Bank sold too cheaply, watchdog says

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 11:01pm

National Audit Office report puts Macquarie deal at low end of valuation with extra tens of millions lost from rejection of phased sale option

Ministers missed out on tens of millions extra on the sale of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) in August, according to the spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office said the £1.6bn paid in cash by the Australian bank Macquarie came in at the low end of the government’s valuation. Macquarie agreed to spend a further £500m to cover the bank’s existing commitments.

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Categories: Environment

Wild elephant attacks vehicles in China – video

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 7:08pm

Footage from local residents and forestry officials shows the moment an elephant attacks two vehicles in the middle of a road in southwest China’s Yunnan Province

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Categories: Environment

Macron Awards U.S. Climate Scientists Grants To 'Make Our Planet Great Again'

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 6:57pm

A day before an international summit on the climate, the French president offers some researchers an opportunity to make France a "second homeland."

(Image credit: Michel Euler/AP)

Categories: Environment

Theresa May puts tackling climate change back on Tory agenda

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 5:16pm

Prime minister says there is a ‘moral imperative’ to help vulnerable countries as she prepares for summit in Paris

Theresa May has declared that tackling climate change and reducing its effects on poorer countries is a “moral imperative”, as the Conservative party renewed its push to portray itself as environmentally friendly.

Related: It’s Britain’s duty to help nations hit by climate change

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Categories: Environment

Theresa May: It’s Britain’s duty to help nations hit by climate change

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 5:00pm

The benefits of clean growth lay at the heart of our industrial strategy. But we must be at the forefront of the effort to keep global temperature rises at manageable levels

Tackling climate change and mitigating its effects for the world’s poorest are among the most critical challenges the world faces. That is why I will join other world leaders gathering in Paris today for the One Planet Summit.

There is a clear moral imperative for developed economies such as the UK to help those around the world who stand to lose most from the consequences of manmade climate change. But by putting the UK at the forefront of efforts to cut carbon emissions and develop clean energy, we can also make the most of new economic opportunities. And by taking action to create a secure natural environment, we are fulfilling a duty we owe to the next generation.

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Categories: Environment

California Officials Say Thomas Fire Is The Fifth Largest In State History

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 2:38pm

California officials say the Thomas Fire advancing on Santa Barbara is now the fifth worst in state history. This announcement comes after firefighters lost ground in containing it over the weekend.

Categories: Environment

Macron awards US scientists grants to move to France in defiance of Trump

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 2:16pm

France’s president awards millions of euros to 18 American scientists to relocate in effort to counter Donald Trump on the climate change front

Eighteen climate scientists from the US and elsewhere have hit the jackpot as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, awarded them millions of euros in grants to relocate to France for the rest of Donald Trump’s presidential term.

The “Make Our Planet Great Again” grants – a nod to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan – are part of Macron’s efforts to counter Trump on the climate change front. Macron announced a contest for the projects in June, hours after Trump declared he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

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Categories: Environment

Troubled Papua New Guinea deep-sea mine faces environmental challenge

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 10:00am

Community groups accuse PNG government of keeping documents for its approval under wraps

A controversial experimental deep-sea mine is being challenged in court by environmental groups who have accused the Papua New Guinea government of withholding key documents about its approval.

Nautilus Minerals Inc, a Canada-based company primarily owned by Russian and Omani mining firms, wants to extract gold and copper deposits from 1.6km below the surface of the Bismarck Sea, using a seabed mining technique never before used in commercial operations.

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Categories: Environment

Global warming will weaken wind power, study predicts

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 9:00am

Wind farms are key to tackling climate change but warming will significantly cut wind power across US and UK, though Australia will see winds strengthen

Wind farms are key to tackling climate change but warming will significantly cut the power of the wind across northern mid-latitudes, including the US, the UK and the Mediterranean, according to new research. However, some places, including eastern Australia, will see winds pick up.

The research is the first global study to project the impact of temperature rises on wind energy and found big changes by the end of the century in many of the places hosting large numbers of turbines.

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Categories: Environment

‘Tsunami of data’ could consume one fifth of global electricity by 2025

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 6:27am

Billions of internet-connected devices could produce 3.5% of global emissions within 10 years and 14% by 2040, according to new research, reports Climate Home News

The communications industry could use 20% of all the world’s electricity by 2025, hampering attempts to meet climate change targets and straining grids as demand by power-hungry server farms storing digital data from billions of smartphones, tablets and internet-connected devices grows exponentially.

The industry has long argued that it can considerably reduce carbon emissions by increasing efficiency and reducing waste, but academics are challenging industry assumptions. A new paper, due to be published by US researchers later this month, will forecast that information and communications technology could create up to 3.5% of global emissions by 2020 – surpassing aviation and shipping – and up to 14% 2040, around the same proportion as the US today.

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Categories: Environment

Tory MPs bombard social media with pro-environmental messages after Blue Planet II

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 5:22am

Coordinated social media strategy saw Conservatives post preprepared graphics about the government’s environmental policies

After a number of viral headlines last month incorrectly claimed that Tory MPs had voted that animals weren’t sentient and don’t feel pain, Conservative MPs wanted social media users to be left in no doubt where they stood on marine conservation issues.

As the final episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet II finished on Sunday evening, MP after MP went on Twitter to push the government’s environmental policies, with a string of preprepared, Conservative-branded graphics.

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Categories: Environment

No more green rhetoric. A sustainable future is vital and possible

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 5:16am

Climate change is at the heart of Labour’s industrial strategy, which means investing in green tech and renewable energy, and divesting from fossil fuels

The climate crisis is the most significant issue facing humanity. Natural disasters are already displacing entire communities. More intense droughts are leading to unprecedented levels of food insecurity and hunger across the globe. This summer saw hurricanes, floods and fires affect hundreds of millions of people from India to Niger, Haiti to Houston. The UK is also vulnerable to climate impacts, with more destructive storms, prolonged floods, and heatwaves becoming the norm.

Our climate reality is increasingly unpredictable and daunting. However, it is also opening the space to collectively reimagine a different future for the UK. Fossil fuels helped ignite the first industrial revolution, but we now know that their continued use will threaten our very existence. Within the UK we have the skills, ingenuity and people to drive the next energy revolution, powered by renewables. For us to make this change a success, our politics must have environmental sustainability and social justice at its core.

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Categories: Environment

Meat tax ‘inevitable’ to beat climate and health crises, says report

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 4:55am

‘Sin taxes’ to reverse the rapid global growth in meat eating are likely in five to 10 years, according to a report for investors managing over $4tn

“Sin taxes” on meat to reduce its huge impact on climate change and human health look inevitable, according to analysts for investors managing more than $4tn of assets.

The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.

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Categories: Environment

Battling a tide of sewage in Brazil: ‘For 17 days we lived with our feet under water’ | Ciro Barros and Iuri Barcelos

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 4:25am

Residents near the world’s fourth largest hydroelectric power plant say the Belo Monte dam has made their houses prone to floods of waste water

A line on the wall of Carlos Alves Moraes’ house shows the highwater mark of the flood which hit his neighbourhood in August. Houses near the lagoon are built on stilts to protect against seasonal rains, but now, because of the dam, they are prone to flooding throughout the year, he says.

“We spent 17 days in August living here with our feet under water,” he says.

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Categories: Environment

California's hellish fires: a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future | Dana Nuccitelli

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 4:00am

California is burning in December. Climate scientists predicted global warming will make Christmas wildfires more commonplace.

In Charles Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol,’ the Ghost of Christmas Future appears to Ebenezer Scrooge to show what will happen if he doesn’t change his greedy, selfish life. California’s record wildfires are similarly giving us a glimpse of our future hellish climate if we continue with our current behavior.

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Categories: Environment

Why did climate scientists emit 30,000 tonnes of C02 this weekend? | Peter Kalmus

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/12/11 - 1:00am

Around 25,000 of my colleagues flew to a conference, leaving a colossal carbon footprint in their wake. This makes our warnings less credible to the public

This weekend, 25,000 Earth, Sun, and planetary scientists from across the US and abroad flew to New Orleans for the annual American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. These scientists study the impact global warming is having on Earth. Unfortunately, their air travel to and from the meeting will contribute to that warming by emitting around 30,000 tonnes of CO2.

As an Earth scientist and AGU member myself, I know the importance of their work. Still, there’s something wrong with this picture. As scientists, our work informs us – with dreadful clarity and urgency – that burning fossil fuel is destroying the life support systems on our planet. There’s already more than enough science to know we need to stop. Yet most scientists burn more than the average American, simply because they fly more.

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Categories: Environment
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