Trees of life: tiny beetles turn Californian forests into tinder for energy

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/06/19 - 8:00am

Dry weather in California and growing fire risks are prompting a new effort to cull dead trees affected by bark beetles and use them to make electricity

California’s record four-year drought has primed its coastal forests for a bug invasion. Millions of native bark beetles, which thrive in warm conditions, are burrowing into trees weakened by a lack of water, leaving in their wake dry, dead wood that becomes natural tinder. The beetles and drought have already killed off 29m trees, with tens of millions more expected to become casualties.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), a California company, decided to turn the serious fire hazard into a source of low-carbon energy. It received the state’s approval last week. PG&E plans to clear away dead or dying trees close to its power lines and use them to produce electricity.

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Carbon capture: UK pays firms £30m despite scrapping projects

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/06/19 - 6:17am

Government is accused of pouring money away with payments to companies including Shell and Drax

The government has handed out almost £30m to Shell and other companies for work on carbon capture and storage (CCS) despite scrapping their projects that could have played a role in beating climate change.

The payments, revealed in a written parliamentary answer, come as the UK government is about to host the international Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum even though it has just mothballed a £1bn CCS research programme.

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Wentworth activists GetUp to mischief with Malcolm Turnbull's election posters

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/06/19 - 1:10am

Lobby group says ‘guerilla street nannas’ are out in the PM’s electorate hanging climate change posters below Turnbull’s own

While the ordinary voters of Wentworth sheltered from the rain on Sunday afternoon, a small group of activists set out on a stealthy campaign against their local member, the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Dubbed the “guerilla street nannas” by GetUp climate campaign director, Sam Regester, the group, mostly comprised of women in their 60s, braved the weather to check on their latest endeavour: a set of corflute signs showing the torso of a man in a business suit crossing his fingers.

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The lifeboat rescue teams hanging by a thread

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/06/18 - 11:00pm

As one of our best-loved charities, the RNLI attracts enormous public support. But is it making life difficult for Britain’s independent lifeboat crews?

It’s a sunny day on the Isle of Wight. Mark Birch is building an extension for a local shop when his pager goes off. He scans the device briefly then turns and starts running. His colleagues are not surprised. They’re used to it. Within minutes he arrives at the local lifeboat station in Sandown on the southeast coast. Soon he and his two crew are at sea, powering towards Culver Cliff, where two swimmers, men in their 30s, are trapped against the rocks by a heavy swell.

It’s a tricky operation to steer the rigid inflatable boat close enough without it, too, being smashed against the rocks. Mark has to bring it in quickly then hover, balanced carefully at 90 degrees to the swell. The crew hoist one man out and Mark swings the boat round for the other before turning for home. With both men delivered safely to the emergency services, the boat is rehoused, washed and prepared for the next incident. Within two hours Mark is back at the building site.

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Categories: Environment

The eco guide to reusables

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/06/18 - 10:00pm

Single-use packaging is still normal practice, but every reusable receptacle saves about 100 disposable versions

I recently bought a set of top-of-the-range reusables. For coffee I got a KeepCup (keepcup.com), which fits neatly under any coffee machine, ensuring baristas don’t hate you during the morning rush. For water, famously available for free from a tap, I bought a Jerry Bottle (jerrybottle.com) and to add bubbles, a SodaStream (sodastream.co.uk) – each carbonator displaces 40 bottles.

For every reusable receptacle you bring into your life, you save about 100 disposable versions. Plus, I’ve made new friends. When I bring my KeepCup to the coffee stand people want to know where I got it. Single-use packaging is so normalised – the average UK household gets through 500 plastic bottles a year – that it turns out you have to re-make the case for reusables quite often.

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/06/18 - 4:25pm

Swarming mayflies, a black-naped monarch and beached whales are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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The Barrier Reef is in danger – but it’s still one of the world’s great sights

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/06/18 - 4:04pm
In Cairns, north Queensland, coral bleaching isn’t the real worry – it’s the fear that tourists won’t come because they think the reef is already dead

Anyone in the Cairns tourism industry who might be feeling a sense of panic about the largest destruction of coral on the Great Barrier Reef since divers first strapped on snorkels is not letting it show.

The north-eastern Australian city – a global holiday destination where the natural wonder’s name festoons everything from the signs greeting airport arrivals to the local casino – is celebrating a storming tourist trade over the last 12 months.

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Obama at Yosemite attacks 'lip service' to natural beauty amid climate inaction

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/06/18 - 1:18pm

Barack Obama warned on Saturday that climate change could ravage many of America’s vaunted national parks, criticizing political opponents who “pay lip service” to areas of natural beauty while opposing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Related: Donald Trump would allow Keystone XL pipeline and end Paris climate deal

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Colorado mother fights off mountain lion that attacked five-year-old son

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/06/18 - 6:07am
  • Boy playing outside home suffers injuries to face, head and neck
  • Lion killed as presumed to be ‘either injured or very ill’, authorities say

Authorities say a mother fought off a mountain lion that attacked her five-year-old son in Colorado on Friday night.

Related: Disney World to post alligator warning signs in wake of child's death

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Categories: Environment

Curiosity rewarded in a New Forest clearing

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 9:30pm

Knightwood Inclosure, New Forest This clearance was done so long ago that many of the stumps dotting the area are punctured with holes made by wood-boring larvae

We crossed the ditch together into the clear-felled area of this inclosure. At once, she dropped at my feet and disappeared into the heather. She didn’t budge as I gently pulled the stems apart to find her, and no doubt would have been more active on a warmer and less overcast day.

The common heath moth Ematurga atomaria atomaria comes in a variety of colours. This female is the dark form; her wings, barely two centimetres in span, are crossed by ragged black lines set against a weave of tawny scales. No doubt her pheromones are already wafting on the breeze, inviting suitors to come and mate.

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Categories: Environment

EDF’s top managers tell MPs that Hinkley Point should be postponed

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 10:11am

Senior figures at French energy company declare in letter that delay is needed until issues including reactor design are solved

Senior managers at EDF have told MPs that they remain convinced that the French state-controlled group should postpone the Hinkley Point project until it has solved a litany of problems, including the reactor design and multibillion-euro lawsuits over delays on similar schemes.

The letter from EDF managers to the UK parliament’s energy and climate change committee is the latest setback for the proposed £18bn nuclear plant, a flagship government energy policy that is intended to provide 7% of Britain’s electricity from about 2025, at a time when old coal and atomic plants are closing down.

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Southwestern, Plains States Brace For Record High Temperatures This Weekend

NPR News - Environment - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 10:01am

Temperatures in Phoenix are forecast to go as high as 120 degrees. A massive high-pressure system has prompted excessive-heat warnings for parts of five states in the Southwest and the Plains.

Categories: Environment

Rajshahi: the city that took on air pollution – and won

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 8:57am

In Bangladesh, one of the world’s most polluted cities has led the way globally in ridding itself of harmful PM10 particles

Once, Rajshahi’s sweltering summers were made worse by a familiar problem on the Asian subcontinent: windows would have to be shut, not because of the wind or monsoon, but because of the smog.

Dust blown up from dry riverbeds, fields and roads, and choking smog from ranks of brick kilns on the edge of town helped to secure the place a spot in the top tier of the world’s most polluted cities.

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Categories: Environment

Seven climate records set so far in 2016

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 8:26am

From soaring temperatures in Alaska and India to Arctic sea ice melting and CO2 concentrations rising, this year is smashing records around the world

1) Arctic sea ice is melting at a rate that by September could see it beat the record low set in 2012. The maximum extent of sea ice in winter was at a record low, and the extent in May was the lowest for that month ever, by more than 500,000 sq km.

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Shattered records show climate change is an emergency today, scientists warn

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 8:23am

Unprecedented temperature levels mean more heatwaves, flooding, wildfires and hurricanes as experts say global warming is here and affecting us now

May was the 13th month in a row to break temperature records according to figures published this week that are the latest in 2016’s string of incredible climate records which scientists have described as a bombshell and an emergency.

Related: Seven climate records set so far in 2016

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Categories: Environment

Green news roundup: Russian wildfires, microbeads ban and hot May

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 8:00am

The week’s top environment news stories and green events. If you are not already receiving this roundup, sign up here to get the briefing delivered to your inbox

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The sculpture controlled by bees: Wolfgang Buttress's Hive

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 4:41am

Its 170,000 pieces of aluminium are a hive-like structure of latticework, controlled by the vibrations of honeybees in a hive at Kew that is connected to the sculpture

“My approach to a sculpture seeks to frame nature so one can experience it more intimately,” says British artist Wolfgang Buttress, whose 17-metre high Hive installation opens at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, in London on Saturday. “I want visitors to feel enveloped, wrapped-up and involved in the experience, rather than adopting the position of an external observer.”

Related: How much do you know about bees? - quiz

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Malcolm Turnbull rules out changes to penalty rates in Facebook debate

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2016/06/17 - 3:33am

Fewer than 13,000 Australians stream final leaders’ debate, with audience members handing victory to Bill Shorten

Malcolm Turnbull ruled out a change to penalty rates in the next term of government and Bill Shorten called on the prime minister to lead on marriage equality regardless of who was elected in the third and final leaders’ debate.

Fewer than 13,000 of more than 23 million Australians streamed the final leaders’ debate on Facebook, though it was aired on the ABC and Sky. Of the 30 audience members, only seven felt Turnbull won the debate while 17 voted for Shorten.

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Categories: Environment

Rogue crocodiles: Indigenous councils want more power 'before a human life is taken'

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2016/06/16 - 11:42pm

Mayors in Queensland’s far north call for council rangers to be able to capture problem crocodiles rather than wait for state wildlife officers to take action

Rogue crocodiles are terrorising communities in Queensland’s far north and Indigenous councils are pleading for greater powers to deal with them before someone is killed.

They want the state government to give their rangers the authority to capture and relocate problem crocodiles from local waterways.

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Unique underwater caves link Mexico's Caribbean coast to the jungle – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2016/06/16 - 10:00pm

The Mexican government is planning a marine reserve extending 200 miles out from the Caribbean coast on the Yucatán peninsula. However a network of caves connecting the sea to the jungle will remain outside of the reserve. Environmentalists are calling for this unique ecosystem to be protected too to safeguard its future and that of the wider reserve

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