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Updated: 19 hours 18 min ago

Scottish Power owner: ditch 'moonshot' green technologies

Sun, 2018/07/01 - 10:00pm

Head of Spanish Iberdrola welcomes UK’s scrapping of £1.3bn Swansea tidal project

The boss of one of the world’s biggest energy companies has said governments should abandon expensive “moonshot” green technologies – such as the £1.3bn Swansea tidal project, axed last week – in favour of wind and solar.

Ignacio S Galan, chair of Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, which controls Scottish Power in the UK, said the decision on Swansea must see the end of support for what he described as unproven technologies that are a distraction and waste of resources.

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Categories: Environment

The politics of quitting plastic: is it only a lifestyle option for the lucky few? | Stephanie Convery

Sun, 2018/07/01 - 9:08pm

Reducing plastics when shopping for food, toiletries and travel products should be easy – so why is it so difficult?

A few months ago, my partner and I went snorkelling off the coast of Indonesia. We dove off tiny deserted islands and swam in the deep with giant manta rays, but what I remember most vividly about that trip was not the stunning coral or dazzling array of colourful, curious fish; it was the sheer amount of garbage in the water.

Shopping bags, plastic cups, toothpaste tubes, orange peel, all manner of human debris followed the currents; waves and waves of junk pooling in the shallow waters. In these parts of the reef, the water was cloudy and full of so much microscopic debris that it stung the skin. I remember watching a majestic giant turtle swim through the gloom as my head bumped against an old Coke bottle bobbing on the surface of the water.

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Categories: Environment

Dry weather boosts UK's most endangered butterfly

Sun, 2018/07/01 - 4:01pm

High brown fritillary population rises due to harsh winter and sunny spring

The combination of a harsh winter and sunny May and June has given the population of the UK’s most endangered butterfly, the high brown fritillary, a welcome boost.

Volunteers have been counting rare butterflies in a wooded valley on the Devon coast, which has been the focus of a project to encourage species such as the high brown fritillary.

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Categories: Environment

I’m terrified of flying insects – could a twerking bee cure me?

Sun, 2018/07/01 - 7:59am

The campaign to save our bees is something we can all get behind, so I decided to face my fears at an urban apiary

You know what really makes a summer? Being besieged by flying insectoid life forms with venomous stingers. As a child, I discovered a wasps’ nest in the shed while trying to retrieve a lawnmower and it didn’t end well. Now a grown man, I’m terrified of anything airborne. The list of things that have triggered freak-outs includes flies, butterflies, poplar fluff and falling leaves, as well as the hair on my own neck. So, I am uncomfortable to be at Black Bee Honey, an apiary in Woodford, east London. I’m here to face my fears by putting my face next to things I’m afraid of: insects with wings and stings.

The company’s co-founder, Chris Barnes, is swinging a smoker around like a Russian Orthodox priest, attempting to pacify the bees, or me. He explains that bees sting only to defend their hive, that stinging a human will kill them, that these bees have been bred to be docile. The thing is, he is wearing a full protective suit, as is everyone else around. “That sounds great,” I say. “But can I wear what you’re wearing? And you mentioned gloves. Where are they?”

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Categories: Environment

Firefighters from seven counties fight Greater Manchester moor fires

Sun, 2018/07/01 - 5:45am

Crews from across northern England deployed to tackle ‘rapidly developing’ blazes

Firefighters from across the north of England and Midlands have travelled to Greater Manchester to help control fires that have destroyed at least 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of moorland over the past week.

Crews from Cumbria, Tyne and Wear, Nottingham, Humberside and Warwickshire joined teams from Lancashire and Greater Manchester tackling fires in Saddleworth, east of Manchester, and on Winter Hill, north-west of Bolton.

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Categories: Environment

‘Taps aff’: the native Glaswegians’ response to a heatwave

Sat, 2018/06/30 - 11:20pm
The removal of outer garments is de rigueur in the city during an unbroken spell of high temperatures

A distinctive temperature scale seems to have evolved in Glasgow caused by recent extreme UK weather patterns. In other parts of Britain abnormally high temperatures such as those recorded over the last week or so are referred as a heatwave. In Glasgow we now call this “taps aff” weather. When the taps aff point has been reached it is universally deemed appropriate for men of all ages and sizes to remove their tops.

West of Scotland climatologists have yet to pinpoint specifically at what point on the Celsius scale taps aff happens, but are believed to be carrying out tests. At the other end of the evolving Glasgow temperature scale is “bawbag” weather. Thus when the temperatures drop a Glaswegian might be heard to say to his chum: “I think we’re in for some real hurricane bawbag weather.” The term was coined in 2011 for the cyclone that Berlin scientologists had named Friedhelm. Bawbag was felt to be a more appropriate term in Glasgow because it conveyed a measure of defiance in the face of oncoming climactic adversity.

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Categories: Environment

Think you know how to recycle? Take the quiz

Sat, 2018/06/30 - 9:37pm

What goes in the blue bin, what goes in the yellow bin, and what do you do with pizza boxes?

Recycling should be straightforward: paper goes in the blue bin; plastics, glass and metal in the yellow bin; dead plants in the green bin and everything else in the red bin – right?

Except it’s not always quite that easy. What do you do with mixed packaging? How do you deal with neighbours doing the wrong thing? And what to do with pizza boxes?

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Categories: Environment

‘Smell this! It tastes alive...’ A day on the streets with the urban forager

Sat, 2018/06/30 - 10:07am

Nurdin Topham is on a mission to tap the flavours of the plants and herbs we walk past in our cities. We joined him in east London

‘Smell this!” Chef and wild food enthusiast Nurdin Topham is inhaling a lungful of shrub called pineappleweed, picked fresh from a stretch of east London formerly known as Murder Mile. He hands me a couple of yellow buds with an instruction to sniff; sweet fruitiness floats under my nose. Topham takes a chew. I gamely follow suit. The clue, it seems, is in the name: we’re eating what vaguely tastes like pineapple and feels a lot like chewing grass. “This is food,” he explains, as we ramble on, to forage for a lunch he will be cooking later.

The future of food and our relationship with nature is at the core of Topham’s philosophy for what he calls “nourishing gastronomy”, a subject he will deliver a lecture on this week at FutureFest in London. He has two decades of experience in the field, first as a qualified nutritionist and personal development chef for Raymond Blanc, and later as head of NUR, his own Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong.

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Categories: Environment

Lettuce crops flop as Britain wilts in hot weather

Sat, 2018/06/30 - 6:26am

Salad basics stop growing and hosepipe use is banned as 30C-plus temperatures continue

Britain is continuing to feel the effects of the long, hot weather as moor fires keep burning, hosepipe bans are imposed and horticultural crops suffer.

The high temperatures have increased the demand for lettuce – a record 18m heads sold last week, 40% more than in the same period last year – but the salad crop is wilting under the high pressure.

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Categories: Environment

The dirty little secret behind 'clean energy' wood pellets

Sat, 2018/06/30 - 3:00am

US communities near pellet mills complain of fumes while experts say burning wood is a ‘disaster’ for climate change

It is touted as a smart way for Europe to reach its renewable energy goals. But try telling Lisa Sanchez thousands of miles away in America that burning wood chips is a form of clean energy.

The bucolic charm of her rural home in the Piney Woods forest region of east Texas is undercut by the big German Pellets manufacturing plant just beyond the bottom of her garden. The German-owned plant is capable of producing 578,000 tons of wood pellets a year, which are destined to cross the Atlantic to satisfy a vibrant market for the product there.

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Categories: Environment

India's huge solar ambitions could push coal further into shade

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 5:35pm

Foreshadowed 100 gigawatt tender is off the scale of country’s energy needs but represents ‘brilliant statement of intent’, analysts say

India says it intends to launch a tender for 100 gigawatts of solar power, 10 times the size of the current largest solar tender in the world – another Indian project scheduled to open for bids next month.

But analysts have said the country has neither the infrastructure nor the energy demand to warrant installing so much solar capacity in one go, saying the announcement reflects the scale of India’s ambition to become a renewable energy leader.

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Categories: Environment

Why farmers are getting behind the science on climate change – Australian politics live

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 4:48pm

Katharine Murphy talks to Fiona Simson, president of the National Farmers’ Federation, about how farmers attitudes towards climate change are evolving. Simson says dissenters need to ‘get out of the way’ of creating an energy policy framework for the future and calls on politicians to ‘stop picking winners’ and put their trust in the market. Plus, what’s the future for live exports and why more women are needed in politics

‘We’ve turned a corner’: farmers shift on climate change and want a say on energy

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Categories: Environment

First great white shark in decades spotted near Spain's Balearic Islands

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 11:16am

Five-metre shark seen in area’s first confirmed sighting since fisherman caught one in 1976

A great white shark has been spotted near Spain’s Balearic Islands for the first time in at least 30 years.

Conservation workers saw the five-metre predator as it swam across Cabrera archipelago national park on Thursday morning.

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Categories: Environment

Intermittent approach to renewable energy | Letters

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 8:44am
We need an energy storage infrastructure, says Jim Waterton, the Swansea lagoon decision should be reviewed, argues Robert Hinton, while Dr Tim Lunel wants solar subsidies restored

Intermittency – in one word, the main problem facing many (not all) forms of renewable energy; in the UK, principally wind and solar, and now tidal (Hinkley Point C got the go-ahead despite its cost. So why not Swansea Bay? 27 June). So far, electricity from these renewable sources has been in modest amounts, and intermittency has been dealt with (I simplify, but only slightly) by backing-off gas-fired combined cycle (CCGT) plant which, together with nuclear, forms the backbone of the UK electricity generating system. When the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, CCGT plant is there to take the strain.

But this simple strategy fails if wind, solar, and now tidal presume to take over this backbone role. Smart metering (affecting consumers’ usage patterns) and international power exchanges can help, but the main action has to come from energy storage and regeneration plant, involving a new infrastructure to supplement hugely the existing pumped storage capability. This is bound to have serious cost implications, and until this is openly acknowledged, direct comparison of projected MWh costs from any intermittent renewable source with corresponding MWh costs from non-intermittent new nuclear generation is fundamentally invalid, and likely to be badly misleading.
Jim Waterton

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Categories: Environment

Tackling bad driving will encourage cyclists – but more money is needed

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 8:14am

It’s time for the Treasury to allocate significant funding so the nation can reap the huge benefits of more people cycling

The government has announced £1m of funding to help police forces across the UK crack down on close passing of cyclists by drivers, and to improve driving instructor training around cycling safety.

Although the sum is small beer indeed in transport terms, split between two projects, poor driver behaviour is a key reason people are discouraged from cycling in the UK. If we can start to tackle the culture of poor driving, including at source with driving instructors, we could eliminate a major reason more people don’t cycle – but it needs more money.

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Categories: Environment

More Saddleworth-style fires likely as climate changes, scientists warn

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 7:35am

Saddleworth fires will also exacerbate problems as the UK’s peatlands store huge amounts of carbon that they will release

Northern Europe should brace itself for more upland fires like the one on Saddleworth Moor this week as the climate changes and extreme weather events become more common, scientists have warned.

As the army joined firefighters to tackle the blaze near Manchester and a second fire was reported on nearby upland, scientists said similar events are increasingly likely in future, with potentially devastating consequences for the environment and human health.

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Categories: Environment

UK households urged to conserve water as heatwave continues

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 6:04am

Northern Ireland Water to introduce hosepipe ban this weekend after rise in demand

Water companies have urged UK households to conserve supplies as the country continues to bask in a near record-breaking June heatwave that has caused train tracks to buckle after reaching temperatures approaching 50C.

The hot weather is likely to continue over the weekend with temperatures forecast to be in the high 20s.

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 5:42am

Flying pink flamingos, Hebridean red deer and a Sumatran tiger are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Categories: Environment

Climate change has turned Peru's glacial lake into a deadly flood timebomb

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 4:55am

Lake Palcacocha is swollen with water from melting ice caps in the Cordillera Blanca mountains. Below, 50,000 people live directly in the flood path

Nestled beneath the imposing white peaks of two glaciers in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, the aquamarine Lake Palcacocha is as calm as a millpond. But despite its placid appearance it has become a deadly threat to tens of thousands people living beneath it as a result of global warming.

A handful of residents of Huaraz, the city below the lake, can recall its destructive power. In 1941 a chunk of ice broke away from the glacier in an earthquake, tumbling into the lake. The impact caused a flood wave which sent an avalanche of mud and boulders cascading down the mountain, killing about 1,800 people when it reached the city.

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Categories: Environment

Britain's biggest butterfly threatened by rising seas

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 4:27am

New charity warns Britain’s largest butterfly could be lost within four decades as rising seas turn its habitat into saltmarsh

Britain’s biggest butterfly, the swallowtail, could become extinct within four decades because of rising sea levels, a new charity has warned.

New inland habitat needs to be created for the swallowtail because rising seas are predicted to turn much of its current home, the Norfolk Broads, into saltmarshes later this century.

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Categories: Environment