Cape York property with tree-clearing plans given part of $4m reef funding

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 5:23pm

Conservationists say proposal would make sediment problems on the reef – which funding is designed to prevent – much worse

A property in Queensland with one of the biggest tree-clearing proposals in Australia, and which is specifically identified by experts as a risk to Great Barrier Reef water quality, is one of the beneficiaries of a $4m federal government reef water quality program.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Andrew Picone said that it showed the federal government “isn’t taking its reef commitments seriously” since the proposed clearing would exacerbate the very problem the funding is meant to mitigate.

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Categories: Environment

Green Investment Bank sell-off process 'deeply regrettable', say MPs

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 5:01pm

Committee says government should have got stronger commitments on bank’s future

MPs have accused the government of a “deeply regrettable” failure to put in place strong guarantees that the UK’s green investment bank will continue to support renewable energy after its privatisation.

The public accounts committee said it was unclear whether the bank would continue to support the government’s energy policy or climate change goals, because the bank’s new owner is not legally bound to stick to its green aims.

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World’s great forests could lose half of all wildlife as planet warms – report

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 5:01pm

From the Amazon to Africa, WWF report predicts catastrophic losses of as much as 60% of plants and 50% of animals by the end of the century

The world’s greatest forests could lose more than half of their plant species by the end of the century unless nations ramp up efforts to tackle climate change, according to a new report on the impacts of global warming on biodiversity hotspots.

Mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds are also likely to disappear on a catastrophic scale in the Amazon and other naturally rich ecosysterms in Africa, Asia, North America and Australia if temperatures rise by more than 1.5C, concludes the study by WWF, the University of East Anglia and the James Cook University.

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Categories: Environment

Birdwatch: beguiling song of the serin

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 2:30pm

The liquid tinkling of this tiny finch adds to the springtime chorus in Spain but can we expect to see the bird in Britain?

Under a fiercely blue sky, the sun shines down on groves of oranges and almond blossom. I am in the mountain village of Sella, in Spain’s Alicante province, enjoying a sneak preview of spring – a month or more before it arrives in Britain.

The migrant birds are not yet back, but half a dozen different butterflies are on the wing and birdsong fills the air. The scratchy sound of Sardinian warblers, the metallic song of the black redstart, and, from every little bush and tree, the liquid tinkling of serins.

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Plastic tax: coffee cups and food packaging could face levy

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 12:23pm

Phllip Hammond accused of delaying action after he announces consultation

Everyday single-use plastic items such as disposable coffee cups, takeaway boxes and polystyrene packaging could be hit with charges akin to the 5p levy on plastic bags, the government has warned.

The Treasury said it was looking at changes to taxation and new levies to tackle plastic waste, but campaigners and politicians accused the government of delaying action.

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Categories: Environment

UK farmers to be given first ever targets on soil health

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 9:52am

New bill will be first step by ministers to protect and restore soil as fears grow over a future soil fertility crisis

A new bill will be brought before parliament this year mandating, for the first time, measures and targets to preserve and improve the health of the UK’s soils, amid growing concern that we are sleepwalking into a crisis of soil fertility that could destroy our ability to feed ourselves.

The UN has warned that the world’s soils face exhaustion and depletion, with an estimated 60 harvests left before they are too degraded to feed the planet, and a 2014 study in the UK found matters are not much better, estimating 100 harvests remaining.

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Extreme winter weather becoming more common as Arctic warms, study finds

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 9:00am

Scientists found a strong link between high temperatures near the pole and unusually heavy snowfall and frigid weather farther south.

The sort of severe winter weather that has rattled parts of the US and UK is becoming more common as the Arctic warms, with scientists finding a strong link between high temperatures near the pole and unusually heavy snowfall and frigid weather further south.

A sharp increase in temperatures across the Arctic since the early 1990s has coincided with an uptick in abnormally cold snaps in winter, particularly in the eastern US, according to new research that analyzed temperature data from 1950 onwards.

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Categories: Environment

Bye, Bye Birdies?

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 8:18am

It's the 100th anniversary of one of the nation's first environmental laws, which protects migratory birds.

Categories: Environment

Rain or shine: new solar cell captures energy from raindrops

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 6:15am

New device is designed to prevent power output plummeting when the sun isn’t shining – but practical application is still some years off

A solar panel that can generate electricity from falling raindrops has been invented, enabling power to flow even when skies cloud over or the sun has set.

Solar power installation is soaring globally thanks to costs plunging 90% in the past decade, making it the cheapest electricity in many parts of the world. But the power output can plummet under grey skies and researchers are working to squeeze even more electricity from panels.

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Categories: Environment

Krill fishing poses serious threat to Antarctic ecosystem, report warns

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/03/13 - 1:01am

Greenpeace finds industrial fishing taking place in the feeding grounds of whales and penguins, with vessels involved in oil spills and accidents

Industrial fishing for krill in the pristine waters around Antarctica is threatening the future of one of the world’s last great wildernesses, according to a new report.

The study by Greenpeace analysed the movements of krill fishing vessels in the region and found they were increasingly operating “in the immediate vicinity of penguin colonies and whale feeding grounds”.

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Q&A: Australia's immigration rate should be cut in half, Bob Carr says

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/03/12 - 4:13pm

Former foreign affairs minister says the benefits of immigration could be preserved but effects managed by slowing down rate

The former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr has called for Australia to cut its immigration rate in half, declaring that the country’s experiment of running the fastest rate of immigration in the world was an experiment that was failing.

Monday’s ABC Q&A program concentrated on just one issue: Australia’s immigration levels and the pressures on our cities. As well as Bob Carr, the panel included experts on housing, development, the environment and migration policy.

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Categories: Environment

Greens electric car push: end sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/03/12 - 2:43pm

Tax on luxury fossil fuel cars to fund expansion of Australia’s charging network

The Greens have proposed introducing mandatory fuel efficiency standards, ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and imposing a four-year 17% tax on luxury petrol and diesel cars as part of an electric vehicle policy announced on Tuesday.

Under the proposal Australia would adopt a mandatory fuel efficiency standard of 105g of CO2 a kilometre by 2022, three years earlier than a proposal being considered by the federal government.

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Categories: Environment

The Guardian view on nuclear fusion: a moment of truth | Editorial

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/03/12 - 11:24am
Until recently the attractions and drawbacks of nuclear fusion reactors were largely theoretical. Within a decade this will not be the case

One of the cliches of nuclear power research is that a commercial fusion reactor is only ever a few decades away – and always will be. So claims that the technology is on the “brink of being realised” by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a private company should be viewed sceptically. The MIT-led team say they have the “science, speed and scale” for a viable fusion reactor and believe it could be up and running within 15 years, just in time to combat climate change. The MIT scientists are all serious people and perhaps they are within spitting distance of one of science’s holy grails. But no one should hold their breath.

Fusion technology promises an inexhaustible supply of clean, safe power. If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. For decades scientists struggled to recreate a working sun in their laboratories – little surprise perhaps as they were attempting to fuse atomic nuclei in a superheated soup. Commercial fusion remains a dream. Yet in recent years the impossible became merely improbable and then, it felt almost overnight, technically feasible. For the last decade there has been a flurry of interest –and not a little incredulity –about claims, often made by companies backed by billionaires and run by bold physicists, that market-ready fusion reactors were just around the corner.

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Categories: Environment

Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/03/12 - 9:00am

A study reveals highest microplastic pollution levels ever recorded in a river in Manchester, UK and shows that billions of particles flooded into the sea from rivers in the area in just one year

The number of tiny plastic pieces polluting the world’s oceans is vastly greater than thought, new research indicates.

The work reveals the highest microplastic pollution yet discovered anywhere in the world in a river near Manchester in the UK. It also shows that the major floods in the area in 2015-16 flushed more than 40bn pieces of microplastic into the sea.

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Categories: Environment

This Is Why You Don't See People-Size Salmon Anymore

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2018/03/12 - 5:00am

Historical photos show fishermen with chinooks almost as tall as they are. A century's worth of dam-building, overfishing, habitat loss and hatcheries has cut the size of the average fish in half.

(Image credit: WikiMedia Commons )

Categories: Environment

Burning coal may have caused Earth’s worst mass extinction | Dana Nuccitelli

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/03/12 - 3:00am

New geological research from Utah suggests the end-Permian extinction was mainly caused by burning coal, ignited by magma

Earth has so far gone through five mass extinction events – scientists are worried we’re on course to trigger a sixth – and the deadliest one happened 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian geologic period. In this event, coined “the Great Dying,” over 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species went extinct. It took about 10 million years for life on Earth to recover from this catastrophic event.

Scientists have proposed a number of possible culprits responsible for this mass extinction, including an asteroid impact, mercury poisoning, a collapse of the ozone layer, and acid rain. Heavy volcanic activity in Siberia was suspected to play a key role in the end-Permian event.

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Categories: Environment

Saving the yellow-eyed penguin – a photo essay

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/03/12 - 12:00am

Photographer Murdo MacLeod visits New Zealand’s South Island where conservationists are seeking to protect the endangered yellow-eyed penguin from predation, disease and habitat destruction

At the end of the day, having avoided being bitten on the flipper by a barracouta or chewed by a shark, a shy yellow-eyed penguin prepares to come ashore and make its bed in the bush. Emerging from the surf, he scans the apparently empty sandy strip with his beady eyes for signs of danger. Though he is a swift swimmer, he is fettered by his stumpy legs when ashore. But he grows confident as he comes close to the dense brush.

Then the unexpected happens: eight dark figures spring from three different locations and sprint toward the hoiho – or “little shouter” as the yellow-eyed penguin is known in Māori. He has been bushwhacked like this before and offers only token resistance. “Oh no, not again!” he may have thought.

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Categories: Environment

Garden bird feeders help spread disease among wild birds

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2018/03/11 - 11:01pm

Some previously rare illnesses are becoming epidemics in some bird populations, scientists say

Garden bird feeders are contributing to the spread of serious diseases among wild birds, scientists have warned, causing previously rare illnesses to become epidemics in some populations.

Poor garden feeder hygiene, droppings accumulations and stale food are promoting the transmission of illnesses between garden birds as the animals repeatedly congregate in the same location, coming into contact with species they would not usually interact with in the wild.

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Categories: Environment

Saving the albatross: 'The war is against plastic and they are casualties on the frontline'

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2018/03/11 - 11:00pm

Following his shocking photographs of dead albatross chicks and the diet of plastic that killed them, Chris Jordan’s new film is a call to action to repair our broken relationship with planet Earth

We are living in a plastic age and the solutions may seem glaringly obvious, so why aren’t all 7.6 billion of us already doing things differently? Shocking statistics don’t guarantee effective change. So what’s the alternative? American photographer and filmmaker Chris Jordan believes the focus should be on forcing people to have a stronger emotional engagement with the problems plastic causes. His famous photographs of dead albatross chicks and the colourful plastic they have ingested serve as a blunt reminder that the planet is in a state of emergency.

While making his feature-length film Albatross, Jordan considered Picasso’s approach: “The role of the artist is to respect you, help you connect more deeply, and then leave it up to you to decide how to behave.”

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Categories: Environment

Krill found to break down microplastics – but it won't save the oceans

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2018/03/11 - 10:06pm

Digestion of plastic into much smaller fragments ‘doesn’t necessarily help pollution’, Australian researchers say

A world-first study by Australian researchers has found that krill can digest certain forms of microplastic into smaller – but no less pervasive – fragments.

The study, published in Nature Communications journal on Friday, found that Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, can break down 31.5 micron polyethylene balls into fragments less than one micron in diameter.

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