Nestlé admits slavery in Thailand while fighting child labour lawsuit in Ivory Coast

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 10:00pm

The company has won plaudits for its admission of forced labour in the Thai seafood industry but much of the supply chain remains hidden

It’s hard to think of an issue that you would less like your company to be associated with than modern slavery. Yet last November Nestlé, the world’s largest foodmaker and one of the most recognisable household brands, went public with the news it had found forced labour in its supply chains in Thailand and that its customers were buying products tainted with the blood and sweat of poor, unpaid and abused migrant workers.

By independently disclosing that Nestlé customers had unwittingly bought products contaminated by the very worst labour abuses, the company said it was moving into a new era of self-policing of its own supply chains. A year-long investigation by the company confirmed media reports that the seafood industry in Thailand is riddled with forced labour and human trafficking and that slave labour was involved in the production of its Fancy Feast catfood brand.

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Categories: Environment

Australia must catch up as industry 4.0 heralds fourth industrial revolution

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 9:24pm

While the world’s economy gets ready for smart cities and industry 4.0, experts say bureaucracy and inertia are holding Australia back

The Swiss town of Davos might seem like an unlikely place for a revolution but that was the hot topic for those there to attend the World Economic Forum last month.

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another,” wrote the economist, engineer and founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab. “In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

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Categories: Environment

Airports Commission case for Heathrow expansion 'opaque'

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 5:01pm

Treasury committee chair Andrew Tyrie says more information required over reasons for Davies report’s conclusions

A decision on airport expansion is being taken on the basis of “opaque” information, a senior MP has warned.

Andrew Tyrie, chair of the influential Commons Treasury select committee, said parliament and the public had been left partly in the dark on the case for a new runway at Heathrow.

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Categories: Environment

Nature awakens early from winter slumber: Country diary 100 years ago

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 3:30pm

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 4 February 1916

The sleepers awaken; indeed in many cases winter slumbers have been light and fitful. Up and down the lane, between and round the black-budded ashes and above the grassy borders, where pale green nettles form thick and treacherous beds for those who would pick the first flowers, the bats fly at dusk. Early this week it was not one bold straggler who had ventured out to test the weather, but whole colonies were on the wing; in less than a mile I counted ten different bats, and at least of two species. Evidently it was not a disappointing effort on their part, for the air was full of dancing winter gnats, though no doubt less full when the bats ended their crepuscular flight.

A correspondent, writing from Old Colwyn, speaks of another early riser, a small tortoise-shell butterfly, which she saw sunning its beautiful wings. In autumn this fly sought out some sheltered and cosy retreat, and, folding those many-coloured wings so that the marbled under-surface alone was visible, slept the sleep of the just - dreamless or otherwise we cannot tell. Unlike too energetic wasps, however, its awakening will probably not be useless; it can fulfil its life-history. The same warm touch which stirred its stiffened limbs had pushed on those young nettles beneath the hedge: they are ready to receive the eggs which the fly has waited so long and patiently to give them. She may have emerged late in the autumn, and at once, after one rapturous nuptial flight, have sunk into winter oblivion, and, when the nettle bed is found and provided with its future colony of stiff-spined caterpillars, she may pass at once into the deeper sleep of death; but if the eggs are safely deposited, however short her life as a perfect insect, she will have played her part in the economy of nature.

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Categories: Environment

Supervolcano – super mystery

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 2:30pm

Every hour or so the “Old Faithful” geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, shoots a column of boiling water up to 50m into the air. This incredible natural spectacle, along with multiple other geothermal features and the one to two thousand earthquakes that occur every year, are just some of the signs that this region is sitting atop a whopping great volcano. The last super-eruption was nearly 640,000 years ago, but gentle swelling of the ground indicates that the underlying magma chamber is refilling, and Yellowstone will erupt again one day.

Related: Yellowstone national park: scientists discover huge magma chamber

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Spending watchdog to examine scrapping of £1bn carbon capture plan

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 8:04am

National Audit Office to investigate taxpayer value for money in George Osborne’s scrapping of CCS and question plans to secure UK energy supply

The National Audit Office is to investigate George Osborne’s decision to scrap a £1bn prototype carbon capture scheme which cost the taxpayer at least £60m, a letter seen by the Guardian shows.

The spending watchdog said it would be looking into the expenses incurred in running, and then prematurely halting, a CCS auction. It will also examine how the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) plans to secure the country’s future energy needs.

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Tanzania searches for elephant poacher killers of British pilot

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 5:50am

Search begins after Roger Gower died when his helicopter was shot down over the Maswa game reserve on Friday

Authorities in Tanzania have launched a search after poachers shot down a helicopter and its British pilot during an operation to track down elephant killers, officials have said.

British pilot Roger Gower was tracking poachers on Friday in the Maswa game reserve when he died after his helicopter crashed after being hit by an AK-47 rifle fired from the ground, Tanzania’s tourism and natural resources minister, Jumanne Maghembe, said.

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Categories: Environment

Tell the truth, ExxonMobil: a low-carbon future is affordable – and necessary

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 5:00am

Exxon’s narrative of preferring, and even encouraging, inaction in the face of climate change is the oil giant’s well-established modus operandi

Over the past year the price of oil has collapsed and taken ExxonMobil’s share price with it. As the oil giant prepares to release its latest set of results this week, the company continues to show little genuine interest in preparing for a less carbon-intensive future.

Even as world leaders gathered in Paris for the recent climate summit, where hundreds of nations and corporations stepped forward to underscore their commitment to action, ExxonMobil followed an odd course that has been lost in all the fanfare surrounding the international gathering.

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Categories: Environment

Aberdeen should go green, not back to black

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 4:18am

Aberdeen and the UK oil industry have been promised £500m in state help while support for renewables and carbon capture has been slashed. The future of the UK’s energy capital should be green, not black

That the government should step in with £250m to help ailing Aberdeen, the centre of Britain’s oil and gas industry, seems right given the billions in tax revenues ministers have extracted from the North Sea over several decades. And though it might seem counterintuitive to come to the rescue of a city built on fossil fuels – given the threat of global warming – it also makes sense for Britain to keep producing its own oil and gas until it can find ways of doing without them.

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Categories: Environment

What is holding back the growth of solar power?

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/01/31 - 1:00am

Solar sector needs better power storage, grid infrastructure and government support to meet bullish growth predictions

Sixty years ago, the price of solar panels was astronomical. At a cost of $1,910 (£1,350) per watt in today’s money, the only practical use for them was in space on the US Vanguard 1 satellite, which launched in 1958.

But slowly and then precipitously the price of building a solar cell came down. Today it is less than $0.80 (£0.55) per watt. The subsequent proliferation of panels (especially in Europe, China, US and India) has tracked along the dizzying curve that eventually lead to the market domination of the car, the mobile phone and electricity itself.

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Categories: Environment

The eco guide to planting more trees | Lucy Siegle

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 11:00pm

In the UK we need to double our planting rate over the next 50 years if we want our woodlands to survive

It is hard to overestimate the value of trees. They are carbon sinks that keep us alive. They suck up pollution and soak up water. For more ways in which trees rock, the Trees and Design Action Group has a list in its report, No Trees No Future – an apocalyptic title that highlights their importance.

Yet, although we may profess to love trees, the UK is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe. Woodland covers just 12% of the land. What’s good about trees is that you can always plant more, but we are not too hot at that, either. The planting of broadland species (as opposed to mineral-leaching fast-growing conifers) has halved over the last six years.

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Categories: Environment

Blooming January! Wildflower species think spring’s here

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 5:06pm
More than 600 varieties of plant are already flowering, according to a new survey, long before spring

From London’s Walthamstow marshes to Thirsk in North Yorkshire, the mayflower has been in unprecedented early bloom.

A survey by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) found that just over 600 wildflower species have begun to bloom across Britain and Ireland, far more than the 20-30 that are usually expected at this time of year.

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Categories: Environment

Here is the weather forecast for the next five years: even hotter

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 5:05pm
Long-range forecast predicts generally upward temperature trend, possibly interrupted by La Niña event in 2017

Global temperatures will continue to soar over the next 12 months as rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions and El Niño combine to bring more record-breaking warmth to the planet.

According to the Met Office’s forecast for the next five years, 2016 is likely to be the warmest since records began. Then in 2017 there will be a dip as the effects of El Niño dissipate and there is some planet-wide cooling.

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Categories: Environment

Stranded whales provide new clues on the threats to sea creatures’ survival

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 12:57pm
Ocean giants lying dead on North Sea coasts is a sad event, but it gives marine scientists a valuable chance to detect man-made dangers

A body washes up on a beach in eastern England. Then another. And another. Soon, people living in two coastal communities have five deaths on their hands.

Things take a further macabre twist when it emerges that more than a dozen bodies are littering the shores of the Netherlands and Germany. What could possibly link the deaths? A CSI team, dispatched to hunt for clues, faces a race against time. Scavengers and saltwater will devour the carcasses and destroy potentially vital evidence.

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Categories: Environment

Man who hid $2m prize leads search to find missing treasure hunter

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 8:11am

Randy Bilyeu was last seen earlier this month seeking gold and artifacts hidden by Forrest Fenn, 85, who has been chartering helicopters to track him down

An antiquities dealer who inspired tens of thousands to search the Rocky mountains for $2m in hidden treasure now leads an increasingly desperate mission to find one of his fans.

Forrest Fenn has been flying out in chartered helicopters or planes, searching remote stretches of the upper Rio Grande for any sign of Randy Bilyeu, missing in the wild for more than three frigid weeks. Fellow treasure hunters also are searching for Bilyeu, who was last seen on 5 January while trying to solve Fenn’s mystery.

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Categories: Environment

How Scientists Are Working To Eradicate Zika Mosquitoes

NPR News - Environment - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 6:08am

Can the spread of the Zika virus be curtailed by eliminating mosquitoes that carry it? Professor Anthony James of UC Irvine discusses the consequences of pesticides to our health and on the ecosystem.

Categories: Environment

Baltimore warns that children are at risk of lead poisoning from paint

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 5:00am

After seven homes certified as lead-free were found to be contaminated, doubts over inspections mean 384 families have been urged to have their children tested

Environmental officials found this week that at least seven Maryland homes certified as lead-free were actually contaminated by lead paint or not inspected at all. The findings by the Maryland department of the environment and the Environmental Protection Agency have prompted a broader investigation into the unnamed private inspector, and notices to 384 families urging them to have their children tested for lead poisoning.

Related: The EPA's lack of integrity has cost the lead-poisoned children of Flint dearly | Marsha Coleman-Adebayo and Kevin Berends

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Categories: Environment

Republicans might as well deny climate change if they don't plan to address it | Suzanne Goldenberg

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 4:30am

Mere acknowledgement that the environment is in peril without a plan to mitigate it is a huge oversight

Let’s call it the non-denial denial. Some Republican presidential candidates are beginning to peer out from behind the wall of climate denial that has defined the party as long as Barack Obama has been in the White House. Finally, it seems, the most open expressions of climate denial – such as dismissing long-established scientific fact – may be seen as a bit retrograde, and possibly embarrassing, even by some who are looking for votes from an increasingly rightwing Republican party.

In response to a rare question about climate change in Thursday night’s Republican debate, Marco Rubio offered up an answer that was rarer still in the 2016 campaign. He did not reduce climate change to a punchline or bash the science underlying climate change, as Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have been doing throughout the primary.

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Categories: Environment

The 20 photographs of the week

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 3:58am

The Zika virus in Latin America, refugees struggle in the Balkan winter, Donald Trump support – the best photography in news, culture and sport from around the world this week

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Categories: Environment

We print money to bail out banks. Why can’t we do it to solve climate change?

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2016/01/30 - 3:00am

We need an estimated $1tn per year to stay below a global temperature rise of 2C. Creating new money might be the only way to meet this financial challenge

The international community has agreed on an ambitious agenda to curb climate change. Some 195 countries have decided to try and cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2C. The question we now face is: how are we going to finance the changes needed to reach this goal? Quantitative easing – creating new money – might just be the answer.

Related: Wanted: unprecedented collaboration to solve poverty and climate change

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