We’ve Consumed More Than the Earth Can Produce This Year: Its 2015 and Thursday, August 13, is Earth Overshoot Day, when resource use is expected to outstrip the capacity for production—and it’s getting earlier every year.
A “Godzilla” El Niño may be on the way – with one of the strongest since record-keeping began in 1950. Above-normal, or very warm, temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are warmer than they were in August of 1997, when the strongest El Niño on record occurred. This is an indication that we could be rivalling the 1997-1998 record El Niño event that caused devastating flooding and mudslides across California. California is in the midst of a severe four-year record weather drought, with little relief in sight, but things may be changing in the coming months. “This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño,” Bill Patzert of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, said.
Scottish ministers are planning to formally ban genetically modified crops from being grown in Scotland, widening a policy divide with the Conservative government in London. Ministers in Edinburgh are to apply to use recent EU powers that allow devolved administrations to opt out of a more relaxed regime, which is expected to increase commercial use of GM crops around the EU. The move will reinforce a long-standing moratorium on planting GM crops in Scotland and allow the Scottish National party to further distance itself from the UK government.
Amber Rudd MP
So much for empowering local communities. Fine – as long as they don’t make decisions the UK government doesn’t want. I for one dnt want polluted water tables,the risk of earthquakes and massive environmental damage: Many many agree. BT Shale gas (fracking) planning applications are to be fast-tracked under new government measures to crack down on councils that delay on making a decision. Councils will be told they must rule on applications within the current 16-week statutory timeframe. If they repeatedly delay, ministers might take over the power to decide all future applications in that local area. The applications to frack in Lancashire by energy company Cuadrilla was massively opposed by local people. The proposal, to drill and frack eight wells, were first submitted in May 2014, but Lancashire county council’s development control committee repeatedly delayed to consider more evidence. The committee finally rejected the bids in June, on the grounds of unacceptable visual impact and noise. Environmentalists say it makes a mockery of the government’s promise to give power to local people. The government says it will take local views into account, but that developing shale gas is a national priority that must not be held up. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said: “We need more secure, home grown energy supplies – and shale gas must play a part in that” and “We can’t have a planning system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years. We need a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers.” More on the BBC here and the Guardian here.
Are you pro-fracking? Have a look at this article: “Shirley “Sug” McNall is leaning up against a fence staring at a natural gas well about 40 meters from a playground behind the primary school where her daughter used to teach in Aztec, New Mexico. She believes that the gas industry and the explosion of fracking in her state is responsible for serious impacts on local air quality which are affecting people’s health. Her fears were boosted last year when Nasa satellites identified a methane bubble over Aztec visible from space. The bubble suggests that during drilling and production the natural gas industry is not capturing all of the gas they unlock from deep in the ground and significant amounts of this methane and other chemicals are leaking into the sky. McNall believes that other more dangerous gasses are being released too.” MORE HERE.
In South Africa, the practice of ‘canned hunting’ has come to light after the recent killing of Cecil the Lion in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Some 1,000 lions are killed each year by mainly American recreational big-game hunter – but these are not wild lions – these are lions which have been raised on ‘farms’ – bred to be slaughtered. It seems that American tourists leaf through brochures to pick the lion they wish to ‘hunt’;. some 7.000 lions are kept in often very confined captivity (more than three times the number who live wild) – with an average price for a kill being £20,000 andf the industry is worth about £14 million each year to the South African economy. Most kills are stuffed and mounted although recently a number of airlines said they would no longer ship the kills home to the USA. Wild lions are protected by law.
The UK is the worst-performing country in Europe when it comes to food waste, throwing away almost 6kg of food per household every week.
A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that Europe as a whole wastes 22m tonnes of food a year. But the UK was the worst offender, wasting the equivalent in weight of one can of beans per person, every single day. Romania was the most efficient country, but still threw out the equivalent of an apple per person per day. The study found that 16% of all food that reached consumers was thrown away, with the vast majority of this waste being avoidable.
Close to 1,000 health professionals from around the world have thrown their weight behind an open letter asking the multi-billion pound health charity, the Wellcome Trust, to move its money out of fossil fuels on ethical grounds. The letter invokes one of the foremost principles of medical ethics, asking the Trust to “do no harm” because of the current and future impacts of climate change on global public health. The 946 signatories to the letter span the health profession and include nurses, academics, therapists, doctors, students, retired practitioners and dentists. While hundreds come from the UK, the US and Australia, many other countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Malaysia are also represented. Some of the largest US Catholic organisations have millions of dollars invested in energy companies, from hydraulic fracturing firms to oil sands producers, according to their own disclosures, through many portfolios intended to fund church operations and pay clergy salaries. This discrepancy between the church’s leadership and its financial activities in the US has prompted at least one significant review of investments. The Archdiocese of Chicago, America’s third largest by Catholic population, told Reuters it will re-examine its more than $100m (£64m) worth of fossil fuel investments.
Major “shocks” to global food production will be three times more likely within 25 years because of an increase in extreme weather brought about by global warming, warns a new report. The likelihood of such a shock, where production of the world’s four major commodity crops – maize, soybean, wheat and rice – falls by 5-7%, is currently once-in-a-century. But such an event will occur every 30 years or more by 2040, according to the study by the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience. Such a shortfall in production could leave people in developing countries in “an almost untenable position”, with the US and the UK “very much exposed” to the resulting instability and conflict, said co-author Rob Bailey, research director for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House. More on edie.net here.
Air pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day in China, according to a new study by researchers at Berkeley Earth. The California-based climate-science group found air pollution resulted in up to 17% of all China’s deaths, with 38% of the country’s population of 1.3bn breathing air that would be considered ‘unhealthy’ by US standards. The results of Berkeley Earth’s report estimated around 1.6 million Chinese are killed each year as a result of air pollution, particularly from PM2.5 particulate matter which damages lungs, causes heart attacks, cancer and asthma. The researchers argue most of the air pollution comes from China’s coal consumption and say switching from dirty coal to nuclear power, natural gas and renewable energy could bring down emissions.
Leaked documents show the UK is pushing for watered-down EU air pollution laws to be weakened further, arguing they would cause pit closures leading to substantial job losses and the need to import coal. The EU rules could help curb toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, although campaigners criticised them following revelations that they were partly drafted by the same companies they were meant to regulate. But a confidential government submission to Brussels, seen by the Guardian, says that the UK would have to import coal from Russia, Colombia and South Africa to meet the new standards, because British coal has such a high sulphur content.
One of the UK’s largest banks, Standard Chartered, has announced it is pulling out of a major coal mining project in Australia. The announcement follows an extended campaign by environmental groups. Standard Chartered is the second financial institutional to walk away from the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland in the last few days. Last week the Commonwealth Bank of Australia also announced it was abandoning the venture after the federal court of Australia overturned the government approval for the mine.
Shell is set to restart its controversial hunt for Arctic oil, three years after the company’s last ill-fated venture north. The Polar Pioneer rig began drilling on 30 July, but US safety standards have prevented the company from sinking a well deep enough to hit oil until a key safety vessel, an icebreaker called the Fennica, was in the Chukchi Sea. Shell said that the vessel was now in the area and it had informed the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement that it was ready to go for oil. A spokeswoman for the company said: “Fennica is in the Chukchi Sea, drilling continues, and we have requested the permit to drill deeper in this exploration well.” More here.
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has called for the EU to drop import tariffs on Chinese solar modules, claiming the cheaper equipment could help the industry overcome subsidy cuts. Since December 2013, Chinese imports to Europe have been subject to anti-dumping tariffs, which enforce a minimum price of €0.56 per watt and annual import quota of 7GW. The rules are intended to protect European manufacturers who cannot produce important equipment at the same price as Chinese firms – who are supported by substantial Government subsidies. However the REA says the tariffs, known minimum import pricing (MIP), have prevented module costs from coming down in the UK over the past few years.
Renewable electricity generation outpaced natural gas this month to become the second largest source of electricity worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency. Globally, coal remained king with 9,613TWh of electricity produced, around 41% of global electricity production compared to 5,130TWh (22%) from renewable energy sources. In OECD economic zone countries, electricity production fell slightly by 0.8% from 2013-14, with massive decreases in coal electricity production offset by increases in non-hydro renewable energy production from wind and solar power. The report also found in OECD countries that solar power had overtaken solid biofuels, used in biomass plants, to become the second largest non-hydro renewable source after wind power.
A new contender for Britain’s greenest home has been unveiled in North Yorkshire. The four-bed house, known as Furrows, will have a unique renewable energy system, allowing it to generate more than 13,000 kWh of electricity and heat a year. Around 5,000 kWh will be used by Furrow’s homeowners with the remaining 8,000 kWh exported to the grid – enough electricity to run two further houses. Furrows features a combination of 64 solar PV and solar thermal panels, with all spare energy diverted to an on-site storage system for evening use outside of sunlight hours. More here.
German energy company E.ON has started constructing the world’s first modular large-scale battery in the German town of Aachen. The modular aspect of the design means that various battery technologies can be ‘plugged in’ to the system – a world-first for a battery of this size. The system, known as M5BAT, will be housed in a former office building that is being converted specially for the installation. In total, the batteries and other components of the storage system will stretch over two floors and the roof, covering around 500 m² of floor space. M5BAT is backed by a €6.7 million grant from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as part of its “Energy Storage Funding Initiative”.
This year for the first time, fans across the entire football league are being encouraged to cut emissions by car-sharing their way to away games, while Premier League giants Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have all embraced ambitious sustainability strategies. As the football seasons kicks off, the greenest football club in the UK doesn’t feature in the Premier League. In fact, it plays in a division four tiers below the top flight. Forest Green Rovers have taken up the cause their name proclaims, aiming to become the most sustainable football club in Britain and “probably the world”. Chaired by Dale Vince, CEO of green energy company Ecotricity, who told reporters “The pitch is organic, we recycle all the water that lands on the pitch and reuse it, we’ve got solar panels on the roof of the stand, electric pumps to charge electric cars and we have a fully vegan from the start of this season.” The club says it is aiming to irrigate the pitch using only collected rain water and runoff to make it independent from the mains. It has also received national and international coverage of its sustainability work, including for its meat free, fully Vegan menu – another first for UK football clubs. The club is planning further sustainability developments with Ecotricity releasing concept designs last month for a new Eco Park, a 100-acre sports complex and green technology centre near Stroud. In the top flight, Chelsea have strong Green credentials. The club became the first football team to join the Green 500 Campaign, with pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 10%. Chelsea has also installed energy efficient lighting systems and recycles 100% of its waste, much of which is used for renewable energy generation. Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium saw a raft of new sustainability measures implemented which makes the ground one of the greenest in the country. As well as watching its spending following the multi-million pound move, the club has introduced a number of green initiatives, such as the use of voltage optimisation equipment and LED lights which have reduced power use by up to 20%. The stadium’s recycling policy sees waste minimisation across the club as well as the recycling of plastic and glass for fans on match days. The club says it recycles an average of 10 tonnes of cardboard and plastic and month as well as diverting 1.5 tonnes of glass per match from landfill. More here.