The politics of harsh winters

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 2:30pm

In the past, extreme weather and disastrous harvests have proved socially divisive. We have been warned, say climate researchers

In the winter of 1432-33 people in Scotland “had to use fire to melt the wine before drinking it” ran a line in the research about the coldest decade of winters in the last 1,000 years.

Short of real temperature readings, descriptions of such incidents and records of rivers and lakes freezing over for months at a time, tree rings and ice cores are what climate scientists have to use to trace weather extremes of the past.

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Categories: Environment

Climate change: 90% of rural Australians say their lives are already affected

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 12:01pm

Overwhelming majority believe they are living with the effects of warming and 46% say coal-fired power should be phased out

Ninety per cent of people living in rural and regional Australia believe they are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and 46% believe coal-fired power stations should be phased out, according to a new study.

A poll of 2,000 people conducted by the Climate Institute found that 82% of respondents in rural and regional Australia and 81% of those in capital cities were concerned about increased droughts, flooding and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change, and 78% of all respondents were concerned there would be more bushfires.

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Barrage of questions for Swansea Bay tidal lagoon | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 11:35am

You report (Tidal lagoon power is ‘reliable and affordable’, 13 January) that the Swansea Bay scheme “would be the first of its kind in the world”. In France, the Rance estuary plant has been operating since 1966. In Canada, in the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world, the plant at Annapolis Royal has been operating since being opened by Prince Charles in 1984. However, the French have no firm plans for more such plants and the Canadians have abandoned them altogether. In Canada, a major consideration has been the devastating impact on fish stocks.

It seems to me that the major objective of the proposal might be to extract taxpayer funding for no useful purpose, and the government needs to study the proposals very carefully to ensure we do not end up with a number of very large white elephants in the Severn estuary.
Ian Brittain
Owermoigne, Dorset

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Categories: Environment

English green belt set to get 360,000 new homes

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 11:33am

Countryside campaigners fear ministers are set to weaken green belt protection in order to meet housebuilding targets

The number of homes being planned on green belt land in England has increased to more than 360,000, according to countryside campaigners, who fear ministers are poised to weaken protections to meet ambitious building targets.

The assessment by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) found that the number of homes planned on sites previously meant to block urban sprawl has risen from 81,000 in 2012 to 362,346, with the largest number slated for development in the north-west and east of England.

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Categories: Environment

Prince Charles pens Ladybird book on climate change

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 9:53am

Prince teams up with campaigners Tony Juniper and Emily Shuckburgh to create peer-reviewed ‘basic guide’ for adults

Prince Charles, a vocal critic of climate change sceptics, has penned a Ladybird book on the subject after lamenting with experts the lack of a basic guide to the subject.

The prince has joined forces with two leading environmental campaigners to produce The Ladybird Book on Climate Change, the first in a new series aimed at adults, The Ladybird Expert, is to be published later this month.

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Fischer Energy joins UK retail market with 100% renewable offer

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 9:49am

New supplier hopes to sign up 40,000 single variable tariff customers in first year, two months after collapse of GB Energy UK

The ranks of the 40-plus energy companies jostling for householders’ business will swell on Monday with the launch of a new supplier that delivers electricity from windfarms.

Fischer Energy hopes to sign up 40,000 customers in the first year to its single variable tariff, with renewable power bought from Denmark’s Dong Energy.

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Levels of e-waste soar in Asia as gadgets become affordable, UN says

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 9:29am

Amount of electronic waste up 63% in five years, with China’s more than doubling, United Nations University report finds

Levels of electronic waste are rising sharply across Asia, as higher incomes mean hundreds of millions of people can afford smartphones and other gadgets, according to a UN study.

The amount of e-waste in Asia has risen by 63% in five years, a report by United Nations University said, warning of the need to improve recycling and disposal methods across the region to prevent serious environmental and health consequences.

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Bountiful Beach Buffet: Fresh Seaweed Is Making Waves Among Foragers

NPR News - Environment - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 5:00am

Ocean algae is plentiful and grows rapidly, and most of it is safe to eat. People have been harvesting seaweed for thousands of years, but now it's become so popular, you can even take a class.

(Image credit: Joy Lanzendorfer for NPR)

Categories: Environment

Protests escalate over Louisiana pipeline by company behind Dakota Access

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 5:00am

Louisiana residents are starting to get involved in environmental issues and are making themselves heard about the disputed Bayou Bridge pipeline

Scott Eustis did not stop smiling for hours. The coastal wetland specialist with the Gulf Restoration Network was attending a public hearing in Baton Rouge. Its subject was a pipeline extension that would run directly through the Atchafalaya Basin, the world’s largest natural swamp. Eustis was surprised to be joined by more than 400 others.

“This is like 50 times the amount of people we have at most of these meetings,” said Eustis, adding that the proposed pipeline was “the biggest and baddest I’ve seen in my career”.

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Photos show Japanese whalers killing minke in sanctuary, says Sea Shepherd

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/01/15 - 3:32am

Anti-whaling campaign group alleges it photographed Japanese whalers carrying out a slaughter inside Australia’s Antarctic whale sanctuary

Anti-whaling campaign group Sea Shepherd says it has photographed Japanese whalers carrying out a slaughter inside Australia’s Antarctic whale sanctuary, the same day the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was in Australia on a state visit.

In the first documented killing since the international court of justice ruled Japan’s Antarctic whaling illegal in 2014, Sea Shepherd released photographs of what it says is a dead minke on the deck of the whaler Nisshin Maru at 11.34am on Sunday.

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Categories: Environment

Our next Scandi import: organic ‘folk food’ for all

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 5:05pm
EU pledges £9m to help Britain turn niche market mainstream

Never mind hygge, the new Danish buzzword is folkeligt and it’s going to give Britain’s organic food industry a Scandi makeover.

Organic supremos in both nations are drawing up plans for a charm offensive after securing €10.4m (£9m) from the EU to turbocharge industry growth. Britons spend only a tiny portion of their food budget on organics, and the marketing push aims to bring them into line with the Danes, who are the world’s biggest consumers of organic food and drink.

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Categories: Environment

Call of the wild: can America’s national parks survive? | Lucy Rock

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 5:05pm

America’s national parks are facing multiple threats, despite being central to the frontier nation’s sense of itself

Autumn in the North Cascades National Park and soggy clouds cling to the peaks of the mountains that inspired the musings of Beat poets such as Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg 60 years ago. Sitting on a carpet of pine needles in the forest below, protected from the rain by a canopy of vine maple leaves, is a group of 10-year-olds listening to a naturalist hoping to spark a similar love of the outdoors in a new generation.

This is one of 59 national parks which range across the United States, from the depths of the Grand Canyon in Arizona to the turrets of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. All – plus hundreds of monuments and historic sites – are run by the National Park Service (NPS), which celebrated its centenary last year. The parks were created so that America’s natural wonders would be accessible to everyone, rather than sold off to the highest bidder. Writer Wallace Stegner called them America’s best idea: “Absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

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Categories: Environment

Two cheers for Swansea’s tidal lagoon

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 5:04pm
The go-ahead for the Swansea Bay project could help end fossil fuel reliance. But ministers have pulled the plug on other inventive schemes

Britain’s west coast is facing a revolutionary change. If renewable energy advocates get their way, swaths of shoreline will soon be peppered with giant barrages designed to turn the power of the sea into electricity for our homes and factories. These tidal lagoons could supply more than 10% of the nation’s electricity, it is claimed.

Last week former energy minister Charles Hendry published a review that strongly backed the construction of a £1.3 billion prototype lagoon in Swansea Bay. The trial project was a “no regrets option”, Hendry concluded.

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Categories: Environment

Epic Antarctic voyage maps seafloor to predict ocean rise as glacier the size of California melts

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 3:25pm

Global research group will trace Totten glacier’s history back to last ice age, in hope of predicting future melting patterns

In East Antarctica, 3,000km south of the West Australian town of Albany, an ice shelf the size of California is melting from below.

The concerning trend was confirmed by Australian scientists in December, who reported that warming ocean temperatures were causing the rapid melt of the end of the Totten glacier, which is holding back enough ice to create a global sea rise of between 3.5 metres and six metres.

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Categories: Environment

UK Police defend choice to warn thousands to evacuate as storm falters

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 1:30pm

East coast residents have derided the severe storm warnings as ‘a load of rubbish’

Police and Environment Agency officials today defended their decision to warn tens of thousands of people living near the east coast of England to leave their homes because they were at risk of flooding.

Thousands were evacuated on Friday after the Environment Agency issued 17 severe weather warnings – which warn of danger to life – with people living in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex told they were most at risk.

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Categories: Environment

Patagonia, Black Diamond take on Utah officials over public land rights

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 6:30am

The outdoor industry is leading the fight to protect America’s public lands from being developed for gas and oil

Utah, a state rich in epic landscapes and national parks, is becoming ground zero for a fight between the $646bn outdoor industry and state lawmakers over public land management.

At a trade show for outdoor clothing and gear makers in Salt Lake City this week, two prominent figures from the industry called on their peers to move the semi-annual event out of the state unless Utah leaders stop supporting efforts by Republicans in Congress to transfer or sell federal land to states. Utah governor Gary Herbert was also called out for challenging a federal law that allowed President Obama to create the new, 1.4m-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah last month.

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Relief for thousands on UK east coast as flooding threat wanes

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 5:54am

Evacuated residents allowed to return home as seven people rescued from sinking cargo ship off Kent coast

Thousands of people evacuated from their homes along Britain’s east coast have been told they can return to their properties after an anticipated storm surge failed to cause the disruption expected.

Some homes in Yorkshire were flooded, but conditions along much of the east coast did not reach the forecast level of danger, which had prompted the Environment Agency (EA) to issue 17 severe flood warnings and tell those in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex that they were most at risk.

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Categories: Environment

‘The last five years have not been great at Greenpeace’

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/01/14 - 1:00am

With former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson poised to lead US foreign policy, activists like Peter Willcox, skipper of the Rainbow Warrior, are needed more than ever. But are they losing their nerve?

Dawn was breaking when the campaigners used slingshots to fire ropes on to the rig. But as they began to scale the Prirazlomnaya, aiming to unfurl a banner denouncing Russia’s attempts to drill for oil in the Arctic, their hopes of another successful Greenpeace “action” swiftly faded. They had been anticipating high-pressure hoses that sprayed freezing seawater at intruders. They weren’t prepared for balaclava-wearing soldiers shooting at their inflatable boats.

One soldier grabbed the rope used by one of the climbers, slamming her body repeatedly against the rig. They captured two other activists. Then the Russians demanded to board the Greenpeace ship. But the Arctic Sunrise’s captain, Peter Willcox, fearing his boat would be seized, resisted.

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Categories: Environment

It's never too early for spring song

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/01/13 - 10:30pm

Airedale, West Yorkshire A book from a century ago tells me when I might hear the ‘spring’ songs of each common songbird

The robin has uncorked its spring song. This one – a male, I suspect, giving it some welly in the upper reaches of a bare horse chestnut – is the loudest, the fullest, I’ve heard so far.

David Lack, the author of the landmark 1943 study The Life of the Robin, wrote that its autumn song was “thinner and less rich” than its spring reprise. In autumn, robins are more likely to mutter, to essay half-hearted impersonations of other birds, to engage in circling, absent-minded vocalisations known as sub-song, like a man whistling idly to himself as he walks in the woods.

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Categories: Environment

Adani coalmine activists gear up to fight: ‘This will dwarf the Franklin blockade’

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/01/13 - 2:05pm

As the protest against the Carmichael project – Australia’s largest proposed coalmine – moves beyond the courts and into the realm of civil disobedience, activists have a clear warning: ‘If you’re in bed with Adani, you’re a target’

Across Australia a secretive network of activists are laying the groundwork for what they expect will be the biggest environmental protest movement in the country’s history.

Of course this won’t materialise if Adani and the rest of the miners proposing to open up one of the world’s biggest coalfields walk away from Queensland’s Galilee basin first.

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