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World leaders from 175 countries signed the historic Paris climate accord Friday, using Earth Day as a backdrop for the ceremonial inking of a long-fought deal that aims to slow the rise of harmful greenhouse gases. “We are in a race against time.” U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering at the United Nations headquarters in New York. “The era of consumption without consequences is over.” “The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” Ban added. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the document while holding his young granddaughter. She was one of 197 children at the event to represent the parties that adopted the agreement, Ban said.
The oil industry’s knowledge of dangerous climate change stretches back to the 1960s, with newly unearthed documents showing that it was warned of “serious worldwide environmental changes” more than 45 years ago. The Stanford Research Institute presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1968 that warned the release of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels could carry an array of harmful consequences for the planet. The emergence of this stark advice follows a series of revelations that the fossil fuel industry was aware of climate change for decades, only to publicly deny its scientific basis. “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change,” the 1968 Stanford report, found and republished by the Center for International Environmental Law, states. “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis. http://www.ciel.org/
The Guardian reports that The EU abandoned or weakened key proposals for new environmental protections after receiving a letter from a top BP executive which warned of an exodus of the oil industry from Europe if the proposals went ahead. In the 10-page letter, the company predicted in 2013 that a mass industry flight would result if laws to regulate tar sands, cut power plant pollution and accelerate the uptake of renewable energy were passed, because of the extra costs and red tape they allegedly entailed. The measures “threaten to drive energy-intensive industries, such as refining and petrochemicals, to relocate outside the EU with a correspondingly detrimental impact on security of supply, jobs [and] growth,” said the letter, which was obtained by the Guardian under access to documents laws.
The sun provided British homes and businesses with more power than coal-fired power stations for 24 hours two weekends ago. While solar power has previously beaten coal for electricity generation over a few hours in the UK, that Saturday was the first time this happened for a full day. Analysts said the symbolic milestone showed how dramatic coal’s decline had been due to carbon taxes, as solar had “exploded” across the UK in recent years. National Grid data gathered by climate analysts Carbon Brief showed that 29 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power was generated on Saturday by solar, or 4% of national demand that day, versus 21GWh from coal-fired power stations. MORE HERE.
Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal producer, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US following a collapse in commodity prices. The move was blamed by financial analysts partly on a mistimed and debt-fuelled expansion into Australia, but others saw it as a sign that the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel was threatened by tightening environmental regulation.
For the first time, Australians can see on a map how rising sea levels will affect their house just by typing their address into a website. And they’ll soon be able to get an estimate of how much climate change will affect their property prices and insurance premiums, too. the website Coastal Risk Australia takes Google Maps and combines it with detailed tide and elevation data, as well as future sea level rise projections, allowing users to see whether their house or suburb will be inundated. Coinciding with that is the launch of a beta version of Climate Valuation, a website that gives users an estimate of how much climate change will impact their property value and insurance premiums over the life of their mortgage. http://coastalrisk.com.au/.
The UK government has been accused of including a large loophole in its legal definition of fracking which could enable companies to bypass safety regulations, according to a leading geologist. In rules that came into force on 6 April, fracking is defined by the amount of high-pressure fluid used to fracture shale rocks and release gas or oil. However, the only well fracked in the UK so far, which caused small earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011, would not qualify as fracking under the definition.Furthermore, according to Prof Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh, analysis of more than 17,000 gas wells fracked in the US from 2000-10 shows 43% would not be defined as fracking under UK rules. More than 4,500 US wells were fracked to release oil in that time but 89% would not be covered by the UK definition. The safety regulations in the new rules, such as independent inspection of the integrity of the well and sealing it after use, only apply if the drilling activity is defined as fracking.
Scotts Miracle-Gro, a major global pesticide company, just announced it will end the use of 3 dangerous bee-killing chemicals by 2017, while phasing out neonics in eight of its garden products by 2021. It is the first major pesticide company to do this, and proof that our years of dedicated campaigning is paying off. OneMiracle-Gro’s biggest competitors, Bayer, has not been so responsive. With its annual shareholder meeting weeks away, campaigners are going to take their message right to Bayer in Germany to make sure it follows suit and protects the bees. You can donate to SumofUs’s campaign here.
The European Commission is planning to relicense a controversial weedkiller that the World Health Organisation believes probably causes cancer in people, despite opposition from several countries and the European Parliament. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer – WHO’s cancer agency – said that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide made by agriculture company Monsanto and used widely with GM crops around the world, was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans. It also said there was “limited evidence” that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time Monsanto said it could not understand the decision and that the scientific data did not support the conclusion.
Waitrose has come under fire for continuing to use a weedkiller on farmland despite banning it from its stores. The grocer delighted anti-pesticide campaigners last month after deciding to remove glyphosate-based weedkillers, including Roundup, from its shelves. At the time, Waitrose told customers the decision was part of its ‘commitment to protecting the bee population’. However The Times revealed that the supermarket is continuing to use glyphosate to kill weeds on its retail estate and at Leckford, its showcase farm in Hampshire.
Betty, a mature ash tree in Norfolk, is offering hope that ash dieback disease will not be as destructive as first feared after scientists identified her “strong tolerance” to the disease. Researchers from a government-backed consortium of universities and research centres have developed three genetic markers to enable them to predict whether a tree is likely to be tolerant to the disease, raising the possibility of using selective breeding to develop strains of disease-resistant trees.
The number of tigers in the wild has risen for the first time in more than a century, with some 3,890 counted in the latest global census, according to wildlife conservation groups. The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum.
Leaving the EU would threaten the UK’s air and water quality, biodiversity and the countryside, a committee of MPs has warned. The UK has benefited from an EU-wide environmental cleanup in the past four decades, and giving up membership would lead to a damaging policy vacuum and an end to influence over green regulations, the commons environmental audit select committee has said in a report. Britain was once “the dirty man of Europe”, pouring out toxic pollutants that caused acid rain, industrial pollution, poor air quality, contaminated land and sewage-filled beaches. After taking on EU membership, successive governments had to mend their ways in line with rules on the environment developed over decades.
The German city of Hamburg has announced a ban on the purchase and use of coffee pods in all government-run buildings and institutions across the city. “Capsule-coffee is expensive and the pods don’t have a good ecological balance sheet,” said Jan Dube, media spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment and Energy. “They have lots of packaging compared to the small amount of coffee and we just decided we don’t want to buy those products anymore with public money.” Hamburg has also banned a number of other environmentally polluting hazards including plastic water bottles, disposable cutlery, paint containing biocides, and chlorinated cleaning products. Hamburg also plans to increase the number of electric vehicles in the city’s fleet. Though other cities in Germany have taken progressive measures when it comes to the environment, Hamburg is the first to go this far. The new environmental guidelines, passed in January and published in the form of a 150-page text, are the result of years of work. “We prepared these guidelines and the details for several years within the administration,” said Dube. “The main aim was to use this purchasing power of the city administration — of more than 250 million euros per year — to give better chances to ecologically friendly products and not to environmentally harmful products.” As Senator for the Environment Jens Kerstan explained in a press release, “From now on, mandatory environmental criteria such as raw material consumption, durability, and transport distances will play an even more important role in purchasing decisions. It sends out an important signal to business and private individuals, encouraging them likewise to take greater account of the consequences of their purchasing decisions and to pay attention to each product’s history.” The UK Government? Wants to sell of school playing fields, allow the poison of fracking and wants to kill bees. Great.
A post-mortem was conducted on 13 beached sperm whales, found ashore near the town of Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, showed their stomachs were full of plastic This included a 13-metre-long (43-foot-long) fisherman’s net and a 70-centimetre (28-inch) piece of plastic from a car. But the sperm whales probably didn’t die by being poisoned by plastic, however. Scientists thought it was likely they perished from heart failure due to starvation “These findings show us the results of our plastic orientated society,” Schleswig-Holstein environment Minister Robert Habeck told the Daily Mail – animals starving with full stomachs – full of our discarded waste.
The World Bank has made a “fundamental shift” in its role of alleviating global poverty, by refocusing its financing efforts towards tackling climate change, the group said on Thursday. The world’s biggest provider of public finance to developing countries said it would spend 28% of its investments directly on climate change projects, and that all of its future spending would take account of global warming. At last year’s landmark conference on climate change in Paris, the World Bank and its fellow development banks were made the linchpins of providing financial assistance to the poor world, to enable countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of global warming. More here.
Last week, marine biologists dropped some horribly depressing news: the Great Barrier Reef is dying. The world’s largest reef is in the midst of a widespread coral bleaching event, and scientists aren’t sure whether it will fully recover. Over the past few days, Terry Hughes of James Cook University has led aerial surveys of more than 500 reefs from Cairns to Papa New Guinea, including the most pristine sections of the Great Barrier Reef. Everywhere Hughes traveled, he was met with a nightmarish scene—the ghostly white remains of a once vibrant ecosystem. All told, Hughes estimates that 95 percent of the northern Great Barrier Reef is “severely bleached,” marking the worst such event on record. More on Gizmodo here.
The Guardian reports that climate change could cut the value of the world’s financial assets by $2.5tn (£1.7tn), according to the first estimate from economic modelling. In the worst case scenarios, often used by regulators to check the financial health of companies and economies, the losses could soar to $24tn, or 17% of the world’s assets, and wreck the global economy. The research also showed the financial sense in taking action to keep climate change under the 2C danger limit agreed by the world’s nations. In this scenario, the value of financial assets would fall by $315bn less, even when the costs of cutting emissions are included.
The first critically endangered Sumatran rhino to be found in an area of Borneo for 40 years has died, wildlife experts said. The species had been thought to be extinct in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, until a few years ago when surveying found evidence through camera traps and footprints of 15 Sumatran rhinos in the area. Last month conservationists hailed the first physical contact with a Sumatran rhino for decades when a four- or five-year-old female was safely captured in Kutai Barat, with plans to move her to a protected forest around 90 miles away. But now wildlife charity WWF has said it is saddened by news the animal had died.
And tigers are “functionally extinct” in Cambodia, conservationists conceded for the first time on Wednesday, as they launched a bold action plan to reintroduce the big cats to the kingdom’s forests. Cambodia’s dry forests used to be home to scores of Indochinese tigers but the WWF said intensive poaching of both tigers and their prey had devastated the numbers of the big cats. The last tiger was seen on camera trap in the eastern Mondulkiri province in 2007, it said. “Today, there are no longer any breeding populations of tigers left in Cambodia, and they are therefore considered functionally extinct,” the conservation group said in a statement.
Scrapping plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset and building huge amounts of renewable power instead would save the UK tens of billions of pounds, according to an analysis that compares likely future costs. The Intergenerational Foundation thinktank calculated that Britain would pay up to £40bn less for renewable alternatives that would generate the equivalent power to Hinkley over the plant’s planned lifetime. A final investment decision by EDF on the nuclear power plant’s expansion is expected in May. The deal involves the government committing £92.50 per megawatt hour over 35 years for its electricity output, more than twice the current wholesale price. But a report published by the thinktank “The Toxic Time Capsule – why nuclear energy is an intergenerational issue” which campaigns on fairness between generations, found that onshore windfarms would cost £31.2bn less than Hinkley, and solar photovoltaic power £39.9bn less over 35 years to build and run. The estimate is based on both the value of subsidies paid by the taxpayer for the electricity and the cost of building the infrastructure. http://www.if.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Toxic-Time-Capsule_Final_28-Mar.pdf
A Greener Festival has developed the course “Introduction to Environmental Assessment of Festivals and Events” drawing upon the last 10 years of experience in assessing festivals around the world, as well as associate expertise in the areas such as waste management, power, transport, land use, communication and behaviour.
Designed to train auditors to complete assessments at festivals and events on behalf of the Greener Festival Awards, the training course, launched at the Green Events & Innovations Conference in March is also relevant for those wishing to work in event sustainability, or those seeking to improve their own events environmental management.
There are still a limited number of places available on the 1 day course delivered in Manchester at the MMU, Friday 29th April. To find out more and to reserve a space on this course contact email@example.com
Course topics covered:
Environmental Systems & the Big Picture
Legal Framework for Festivals and Environment
Local Impacts & Risks of Events
Transport and Travel
Solid Waste & Recycling
Water Usage, Waste Water & Sewage
Assessment Form Familiarisation & Post Event Reports
FRIDAY 29TH APRIL, MANCHESTER
Manchester Metropolitan University,
All Saints Campus,
BS 1.23 10am – 5pm
By Beth Lillian
One of the most significant advantages of the modern Information Age is our ability to gather, process and analyze data with a level of speed and precision that would have been unheard of just a decade prior. Almost everything we do online and within the increasingly vast “Internet of Things” ecosystem leaves behind a digital footprint that can then be used to trace purchasing history, media consumption and other activities.
Using “Big Data” in this way has had a remarkably powerful impact on the private sector and within the realm of politics. Marketing research teams are able to construct highly detail profiles of consumers they wish to target – and political candidates are able to do the same, albeit with the intent of attracting and persuade specific chunks of the electorate.
As the worldwide revolution in data unfolds further, it’s pertinent to examine the way these new methodologies are evolving to change the way we think about our relationship to the planet and the issue of climate change. The United Nations has already recognized the utility in employing data to develop solutions to address the complex challenges presented by warmer temperatures, rising seas, and more extreme weather patterns.
By collecting vast amounts of data regarding our natural surroundings and then looking at it closely, scientists can gain a better understanding as to just how our actions impact the environment. Scarce resources can also be more effectively managed by taking a comprehensive view of supply and demand and adjusting output accordingly. Extensive swathes of climate data help us construct more accurate climate models than ever before, enabling more accurate predictions of future events and faster, more effective action plans. Of course, any computer model is only as good as the input that’s fed into it, so the ability to gather mountains of accurate information is crucial to the success of these projects.
The Global Ecological Land Units map is a project being jointly undertaken by the U.S. Geological Survey and ESRI, a software firm that tries to solve big problems. They aim to map ecosystems across the entire world in unprecedentedly fine detail by taking into account local vegetation, geology, topography, precipitation and other features. As opposed to similar efforts in the past, this one will be based on actual data as opposed to the opinions of experts. This map will hopefully allow researchers to better understand the impact of climate change on specific areas of the world and help authorities better conserve the environmental resources located within their jurisdictions. Because the relevant info will be displayed in an interactive map, the workings of Mother Nature will become more easily comprehensible to people with only a lay understanding of science – like elected officials.
On a smaller scale, Opower is trying to get individual people to conserve energy. Many pay lip service to sustainability, but it’s hard to remain focused on such an intangible goal without some spurring along. After collecting information about energy use in specific neighborhoods, Opower sends its clients reports that let them know how they’re performing vis-à-vis their neighbors in terms of saving energy. This system harnesses our natural competitive instincts in order to get us to act responsibly by comparing ourselves against our nearby peers.
There are plenty of other attempts to apply big data to pressing ecological issues. Some are being made under the auspices of public organizations while others are being directed by private groups. They have in common a commitment to the philosophy of using all the data we have available to make the best possible decisions regarding the future of our planet.
Beyond allowing for the study and analysis of ecological happenings, data also plays an increasingly crucial role shaping public perceptions about global warming and climate action. “Addressable” advertising, which allows corporate entities as well as political campaigns to beam ad spots directly to specific viewers, has the capacity to direct public sentiment on a myriad of important issues. This year, pay cable companies DirecTV and Dish Network partnered to give presidential candidates access to their vast cache of customer information, thereby altering the way specific voters are engaged in the environmental debate. The Cruz campaign, for instance, has become well-known for its messages carefully tailored with information gained through “sentiment” data mining.
When confronting the serious issues tied to global warming and climate change, we ought not to remain wedded to the past. The development of new technology, such as inexpensive solar panels and time-shifting batteries, is making a big positive impact on our ability to cleanly satisfy our energy demands. The proper use of “Big Data” is another cutting-edge advancement that we can mobilize towards the benefit of the entire planet.
Climate change may actually bring deserts back to life – and arid parts of California, central Asia, the Sinai, Southern Africa and central Australia may see more frequent downpours. Researchers say that climate change is already driving an increase in extremes of rainfall and snowfall across most of the globe, even in arid regions, and this trend will continue as the world warms. The article in Nature Climate Change says the role of global warming in unusually large rainfall events in countries from the United Kingdom to China has been hotly debated, but the latest research shows that climate change is driving an overall increase in rainfall extremes. “In both wet and dry regions, we see these significant and robust increases in heavy precipitation,” says Markus Donat, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, who is the study’s lead author. John Connor, Chief Executive of the Climate Institute in Australia pointed out that in Queensland what were ‘once in 100 years’ downpours were now happening every 2 or 3 years. The results suggest that both annual precipitation and extreme precipitation increased by 1–2% per decade in dry regions, including western North America, Australia and parts of Asia. Wet areas, including eastern North America and Southeast Asia, show similar increases in the size of extreme precipitation and smaller increases for annual totals. More here and Nature Climate Change here.
The world is on track to reach dangerous levels of global warming much sooner than expected, according to new Australian research that highlights the alarming implications of rising energy demand. University of Queensland and Griffith University researchers have developed a “global energy tracker” which predicts average world temperatures could climb 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2020. That forecast, based on new modelling using long-term average projections on economic growth, population growth and energy use per person, points to a 2C rise by 2030. The UN conference on climate change in Paris last year agreed to a 1.5C rise as the preferred limit to protect vulnerable island states, and a 2C rise as the absolute limit.
And February smashed a century of global temperature records by a “stunning” margin, according to data released by Nasa. The unprecedented leap led scientists, usually wary of highlighting a single month’s temperature, to label the new record a “shocker” and warn of a “climate emergency”. Record-breaking temperatures ‘have robbed the Arctic of its winter’ and the Nasa data shows the average global surface temperature in February was 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month between 1951-1980, a far bigger margin than ever seen before. The previous record, set just one month earlier in January, was 1.15C above the long-term average for that month. More here.
An £800 pollution tax should be put on sales of new diesel cars, with the proceeds used for a scrappage scheme for older diesels, according to the thinktank Policy Exchange. The move, proposed ahead of George Osborne’s budget on 16 March, would encourage motorists to move towards lower emission vehicles and significantly reduce air pollution, according to the thinktank, which is close to Osborne. The idea is also backed by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and an influential committee of MPs.
Falling coal use in China and the US and a worldwide shift towards renewable energy have kept greenhouse gas emissions level for a second year running, one of the world’s leading energy analysts has said. Preliminary data for 2015 from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have levelled off at 32.1bn tonnes even as the global economy grew over 3% . Electricity generated by renewable sources played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. Wind power produced more than half of all new electricity generation, said the IEA
And the UK government has slapped down a suggestion by a minister that coffee shop cups could be taxed to prevent millions of them being thrown away. Rory Stewart told MPs there was a “huge” problem with unrecyclable, plastic-lined paper cups. He said the plastic bag tax had been a success and cups would be a “very good thing to look at next”. Mr Stewart’s department Defra released a statement saying there were “no plans” for a tax. Campaigners say that disposable coffee cups handed out in their billions are “virtually impossible” to recycle despite major cafe chains claiming theirs are eco-friendly.
The Obama administration abandoned its plan for oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters on Tuesday, after strong opposition from the Pentagon and coastal communities. The announcement from Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, to bar drilling across the length of the mid-Atlantic seaboard reverses Obama’s decision just a year ago to open up the east coast to oil and gas exploration, and consolidates his record for environmental protection.
The US theme park operator SeaWorld says it is ending its controversial orca breeding programme. The decision means the orcas currently at the parks will be “the last generation”, the company said. SeaWorld, which has 12 parks across the US, has faced heavy criticism over alleged poor treatment of its captive orcas, also known as killer whales. Activists have called for the orcas to be released into the wild but SeaWorld claims they would likely die. “For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks,” the company said in a Los Angeles Times article. The company it would also also scrap plans for a $100 million project called “Blue World” that would have enlarged its orca habitat at SeaWorld San Diego. So the whales stay, in captivity, in misery.
The Guardian reports that fishermen could soon be given carte blanche to overfish without needing to worry about restoring fish populations to a healthy state under a leaked European commission proposal seen by the Guardian. If it is approved, the blueprint for the Baltic Sea could soon be applied to the North Sea too, potentially threatening the future of some cod species, MEPs say. The plan would add exemptions to catch limits that are supposed to become mandatory by 2020 and practically remove a commitment to restoring fish stocks to healthy levels by the same year. “With this proposal, overfishing will continue and, in a worst case scenario, [Baltic] cod will disappear. It is that serious,” Linnéa Engström, the vice-chair of the European parliament’s fisheries committee told the Guardian.
A mutiny by several EU states has forced the postponement of a vote in Brussels on relicensing a widely used weedkiller that the World Health Organisation has found is probably carcinogenic. Italy joined France, Sweden and the Netherlands in opposing a new 15-year licence for glyphosate at a meeting which had been expected to rubber stamp its reapproval on Tuesday. The European Commission may now bring forward a new proposal to cut the licence’s length, or create a list of “co-formulants” whose use can be limited or banned. These surfactants increase a plant’s uptake of glyphosate, and can be more dangerous than the herbicide alone. But the Netherlands is calling for the relicensing to be put on hold until after a separate evaluation of glyphosate’s toxicity next year.
Hunters in Malta will be permitted to shoot 5,000 turtle doves this spring despite the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently adding the migratory bird to the “red list” of species at risk of being wiped out. The Maltese government, the only EU member to allow recreational spring hunting, said it was taking “special measures” to minimise the impact of its shoot on the bird’s plummeting population, cutting the shooters’ allowance from 11,000 birds. But conservationists said continuing the spring hunt went against the best scientific advice and appealed for the EU to take action against Malta.
WELL DONE FRANCE: France have announced plans to completely ban the use of pesticides due to unusually high bee deaths worldwide, which French authorities claims pesticides are responsible for. Lawmakers have approved plans to ban some of the most popular pesticide products on the market, going above and beyond European Union requirements. The French outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides was adopted by a narrow majority late on Thursday by France’s National Assembly as part of a draft bill on biodiversity that also contains an additional tax on palm oil. The senate still needs to approve the new law.