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Updated: 7 hours 42 min ago

All in on renewable energy: Jay Weatherill to ramp up SA target to 75%

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 5:52pm

South Australian premier also promises country’s first renewable energy storage target in a ‘rejection of the federal government’s approach’

The South Australian premier, Jay Weatherill, has gone all in on the state’s transition to renewable energy, promising to lift the state-based renewable energy target from 50% to 75% by 2025 and to introduce the country’s first renewable energy storage target.

A re-elected Labor government would set a target that 25% of the state’s peak demand be met by stored renewable energy, equating to about 750MW of storage. The target would be met with subsidy arrangements, the premier said.

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Categories: Environment

Climate change 'will push European cities towards breaking point'

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 5:01pm

Study highlights urgent need to adapt urban areas to cope with floods, droughts and heatwaves

Major British towns and cities, including Glasgow, Wrexham, Aberdeen and Chester, could be much more severely affected by climate change than previously thought, according to new research.

The study, by Newcastle University, analysed changes in flooding, droughts and heatwaves for every European city using all climate models.

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Categories: Environment

Plantwatch: seagrass meadows are vital – but in serious decline

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 2:30pm

Seagrass shelters fish and acts against erosion and climate change, but is under threat

Meadows of seagrass are one of our great but sorely neglected wild plant spectacles. This humble plant spreads out in lush green carpets that can stretch for miles around much of Britain’s coast. There they shelter young fish and shellfish, as well as protecting against erosion of the coast by storms and floods, by trapping sediment in their roots.

And the seagrass meadows also play a big part in fighting climate change. They soak up carbon dioxide and hold tremendous stores of carbon on the sea floor, more than twice the carbon stored by a forest of similar area. And across the world, seagrasses are believed to lock away more than 10% of all the carbon buried each year in the oceans.

Related: Species and habitats found in recommended marine conservation zones – in pictures

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Categories: Environment

Airlines sound alarm over 'blank cheque' for Heathrow third runway

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 12:16pm

Bosses from British Airways, Virgin and easyJet urge MPs to secure pledge on cost before vote

The true cost of Heathrow expansion is likely to be “grossly” higher than the £14.3bn the airport has cited, airlines have told MPs, adding that transparency and guarantees should be supplied ahead of a crucial vote.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, British Airways’ parent company and the main operator at Heathrow, said parliament should not trust Heathrow and said he had “zero confidence” that a third runway would be delivered on time and budget.

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Categories: Environment

Plastic bans worldwide will dent oil demand growth, says BP

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 7:31am

But oil giant expects demand for crude to grow and not peak until late 2030s

Bans around the world on single use plastic items such as carrier bags will dent growth in oil demand over the next two decades, according to BP.

However, the UK-headquartered oil and gas firm said it still expects the global hunger for crude to grow for years and not peak until the late 2030s.

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Categories: Environment

'Sloppy and careless': courts call out Trump blitzkrieg on environmental rules

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 4:00am

A cascade of courtroom standoffs are beginning to slow, and even reverse, the EPA rollbacks thanks to the administration’s ‘disregard for the law’

In its first year in office, the Trump administration introduced a solitary new environmental rule aimed at protecting the public from pollution. It was aimed not at sooty power plants or emissions-intensive trucks, but dentists.

Every year, dentists fill Americans’ tooth cavities with an amalgam that includes mercury. About 5 tons of mercury, a dangerous toxin that can taint the brain and the nervous system, are washed away from dental offices down drains each year.

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Categories: Environment

Scientists race to explore Antarctic marine life revealed by giant iceberg

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 3:37am

British Antarctic Survey is trying to reach a newly revealed ecosystem that had been hidden for 120,000 years below the Larsen C ice shelf

A team of international scientists is due to set off for the world’s biggest iceberg on Wednesday, fighting huge waves and the encroaching Antarctic winter, in a mission aiming to answer fundamental questions about the impact of climate change in the polar regions.

The scientists, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), are trying to reach a newly revealed ecosystem that had been hidden for 120,000 years below the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula.

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Categories: Environment

Ikea joins Big Clean Switch to offer 100% renewable energy tariff

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 12:01am

Joint venture claims cheaper green power could save UK households £300 a year

Ikea is calling for households to join its latest joint venture – a collective energy switch that promises an exclusive 100% renewable electricity tariff.

The furniture retailer has joined forces with the “Big Clean Switch” campaign to use a collective switch to secure cheaper green power for the households that sign up.

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Categories: Environment

It's time football started to take cycling seriously | Robin Ireland

Tue, 2018/02/20 - 12:00am

Few clubs cater for fans who choose to cycle to the ground, but simple changes could help reduce traffic jams and pollution on match days

I am a football fan and I am a cyclist. These identities do not need to be mutually exclusive – so why is it often such a challenge to go to the game by bike?

I support Norwich City and I live in Liverpool, which is the first hurdle. Liverpool is 238 miles away from Norwich, and the direct train takes more than five hours. Because of this, I have pretty much given up on home games.

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Categories: Environment

Problem-solving could be key to grey squirrels' success, study finds

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 11:00pm

Research in UK shows invasive species bests native red squirrels in complex tasks

The ability to solve problems may explain why grey squirrels are thriving at the expense of native red ones in the UK, research suggests.

Wild greys and reds were presented with an easy task (opening a transparent lid) and a difficult version (a more complex process of pushing and pulling levers) to get hazelnuts.

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Categories: Environment

Faster reproduction could hold key to saving critically endangered frog

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 6:48pm

Researchers believe introducing frogs to lower elevation areas would help them reach sexual maturity earlier

Researchers are hoping to increase the population of one of Australia’s most endangered frogs by helping them reach sexual maturity earlier.

The number of wild northern corroboree frogs, which are only found in cold, mountainous areas of the ACT and New South Wales, has been in sharp decline, mostly due to chytrid fungus. The fungus causes an infectious disease that is killing frogs around the world. There are only 20 of the small black and yellow striped frogs left living in the wild in the ACT and fewer than 1,000 in NSW.

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Categories: Environment

'Much work needed' to make digital economy environmentally sustainable

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 5:01pm

MPs cast doubt on whether energy efficiency gains can keep offsetting rising power demand

A cross-party group of MPs has raised doubts over whether the growing energy demand from digital technology and the proliferation of internet-connected gadgets can continue to be offset by energy efficiency improvements.

More efficient smartphones, networking gear and data centres have so far largely staved off increased power demand from the internet and computing – which now accounts for about 6% of global electricity use.

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Categories: Environment

A less timid version of Justin Trudeau won’t cut it. The NDP must be bolder | Martin Lukacs

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 4:29pm

To challenge the Liberals, Jagmeet Singh will have to overthrow Canada’s neoliberal consensus

At the New Democratic Party’s convention this weekend in Ottawa, their new leader Jagmeet Singh declared “the time to be timid was over.” For a party whose shambling meekness in the last election let Justin Trudeau claim the mantle of progressive champion, such a shift could not come sooner.

That an opportunity exists to capitalize on enormous hunger for change is apparent. Trudeau harnessed it for his route to power, only to betray it in office. The environmental Adonis transformed into an oil barons’ salesman. An electoral reform promise was broken with a shrug. Instead of a peace offensive, we’ve gotten a military spending spree; instead of novel social programs, novelty socks.

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Categories: Environment

Transport secretary wins injunction to stop HS2 protesters

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 11:20am

High court order bans eight campaigners from ancient woodland in west London

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has been granted an injunction banning campaigners opposed to the construction of the HS2 line on an area of ancient woodland in west London from “unlawful protest” on the site.

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Categories: Environment

'Fantasy documents': recovery plans failing Australia's endangered species

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 10:00am

Expired, unfinished or undeveloped: conservationists call for more transparency and accountability in species management systems

Less than 40% of Australia’s nationally-listed threatened species have recovery plans in place to secure their long-term survival.

And close to 10% of listed threatened species are identified as requiring plans to manage their protection but the documents are either unfinished or haven’t been developed, according to data published by the environment and energy department.

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Categories: Environment

World’s most controversial fruit may depend on giant bats for pollination

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 7:48am

While we debate whether the durian is the best or worst food on the planet, it turns out this wonderful oddity may require healthy populations of flying fox for survival.

Durian. Depending on whom you talk to it’s either the most beloved or the most despised fruit on the planet. It suffers no moderation, no wishy-washiness. It is the king of fruits or the worst thing you’ve ever tasted. Due to its potent odour – delicate and sweet to its advocates and sewage-like to its detractors – durian has been banned from airplanes, subways, and hotels (though punishments appear light if non-existent). But a recent study in Ecology and Evolution finds there may be no durians at all without bats: big, threatened bats. The scientists found that flying foxes – bats in the Pteropus and Acerodon genus and the largest in the world – are likely vital pollinators for the polarising durian.

“We already knew that flying foxes feed on durian flowers, but there was this unsubstantiated belief, even among some researchers, that flying foxes just destroyed the flowers,” said Sheema Abdul Aziz, the lead researcher on the project that was done as part of her PhD at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in France. “It doesn’t help that a durian flower only blooms for one night, then falls off the tree naturally, regardless of whether it’s been pollinated or not. When people see all the flowers on the ground in the morning, they think it’s the bats.”

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Categories: Environment

Sudden stratospheric warming set to bring lengthy cold snap to UK

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 6:50am

Huge rise in air temperature above north pole will allow chilly winds from eastern Europe to blast UK, Met Office warns

Britain will be gripped by a potentially lengthy cold snap as sudden stratospheric warming looks poised to cause temperatures to tumble.

Forecasters have warned that the meteorological event has disturbed the jet stream – allowing chilly winds from eastern Europe to blast the UK – and could last well into March.

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Categories: Environment

Climate change spells turbulent times ahead for air travel

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 5:00am

From rising temperatures preventing take-off to rising seas flooding runways, aviation needs to adapt to changes already grounding flights around the world

Phoenix gets hot. But not usually as hot as last June, when the mercury at the airport one day soared above 48C. That exceeded the maximum operating temperature for several aircraft ready for take-off. They didn’t fly. More than 50 flights were cancelled or rerouted.

Thanks to climate change, soon 48C may not seem so unusual. Welcome to the precarious future of aviation in a changing climate. As the world warms and weather becomes more extreme, aircraft designers, airport planners and pilots must all respond, both in the air and on the ground. With about 100,000 flights worldwide carrying eight million passengers every day, this is a big deal.

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Categories: Environment

Fracking row: Treasury 'showing shambolic conflict of interest'

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 4:21am

Director of Third Energy, which wants to frack in North Yorkshire, is Conservative donor

Campaigners have accused the Treasury of allowing the appearance of a conflict of interest over its examination of an energy company at the forefront of fracking in the UK.

Third Energy’s financial health is being looked at by a Treasury body, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), whose findings will inform whether the government gives the firm a green light.

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Categories: Environment

Pollen data shows humans reversed natural global cooling | John Abraham

Mon, 2018/02/19 - 4:00am

Current temperatures are hotter than at any time in the history of human civilization

In order to understand today’s global warming, we need to understand how Earth’s temperatures varied in the past. How does the rapid warming we see now compare with past natural climate changes? Also, how long have humans been having an impact on the climate? These are some questions that can be answered through paleoclimate studies. Paleoclimate research uses natural measurements of the Earth’s temperature. Clever scientists are able to estimate how warm or cold the Earth was far back in time, way before we had thermometers.

Readers of this column are probably familiar with some of these paleoclimate techniques that may use ice cores or tree rings to infer temperature variations. A different method that uses plant distribution was a technique used in a very recent study published in Nature. That technique used pollen distribution to get an understanding of where plant species thrived in the past. Those distributions gave them insights about the temperatures. On the surface, it’s pretty straightforward. Tropical plants differ in major ways from plants that live in, say, the tundra. In fact, plants that thrive where I live (Northern USA) differ from plants that populate landscapes further south.

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Categories: Environment