ANOTHER PLANET?

sunken new yorkClimate change has advanced so rapidly that the time has come to look at options for a planetary-scale intervention, the National Academy of Science  have said. The scientists were categorical that geoengineering should not be deployed now, and was too risky to ever be considered an alternative to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. But it was better to start research on such unproven technologies now – to learn more about their risks – than to be stampeded into climate-shifting experiments in an emergency, the scientists said.

The Campaign Against Climate Change says Britons now have to ‘pay to protest’ after London’s Metropolitan Police refused to close roads along route for a planned  Time to Act march – which is supported by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, the Stop the War Coalition, Global Justice Now, Avaaz and Friends of the Earth.  A similar march last September, which was the largest of its kind in history, attended by 40,000 people as part of a global day of action, was policed by the Met. “In previous years, the MPS (Met) may have undertaken this role but following a review of what services we provide, we have stopped doing this,” a Met spokeswoman confirmed to the Guardian. The Met spokeswoman said the police’s core responsibilities were “preventing and detecting crime, maintenance of the Queen’s Peace and protecting life and property”. She said that because the proposed demonstration, on 7 March, was expected to be crime-free there was little requirement for it to provide a policing operation. The Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC) says it is facing costs to hire private security after discussios with the Police, Westminster Council and the Greater London Authority – effectively being made to “pay to protest”.  Festival and sporting event orgainsers will be familiar with  the actions taken by some police frces in demanding fees for policing: Both Festival Republic, organisers of the Leeds and Reading Festivals and Leeds United Football Club have won court cases over policing costs.

The taps will soon run dry in San Paulo – the seventh biggest city in the world. A perfect storm of mismanagement, localised climate change, global warming, a recent drought and a population boom have meant that local authorities will beginning rationing water to the 20 million inhabitants when the dry season starts – with taps off for up to five days each week. Brazil’s South East is suffering a prolonged dry spell, and some experts are blaming the massive deforestation of the Amazon for a lack of water vapour (needed for rain). The city itself, almost devoid of any greenery, heats up quickly and this causes storms and flash floods which do little to replenish reservoirs: the City’s main Cantareira reservoir is at just 5% capacity and local temperatures have risen 2C since the 1950s.

droughtThe US South-West and the Great Plains will face decade-long droughts far worse than any experienced over the last 1,000 years because of climate change, researchers have said. The coming drought age – caused by higher temperatures under climate change – will make it nearly impossible to carry on with current life-as-normal conditions across a vast swathe of the country. The droughts will be far worse than the one in California – or those seen in ancient times, such as the calamity that led to the decline of the Anasazi civilizations in the 13th century, the researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said. As many as 64 million people were affected by those droughts, according to Nasa projections. Those conditions have produced lasting consequences. In California, now undergoing its fourth year of drought – and the worst dry spell in 1,200 years, farmers have sold off herds, growers have abandoned fields and cities have imposed water rationing.  Futire droughts could be more extreme. The report can be found in Science Advances here.

America’s biggest state pension funds came under rising pressure  to dump coal companies from their combined $500bn portfolio, in a major escalation of the fossil fuel divestment campaign. The California senate leader, Kevin de Leon, said he was introducing a bill calling on the two state funds – CalPERS, the public employees’ pension fund, and CalSTRS, the teachers’ pension funds, drop all coal holdings. The bill is part of a larger package of climate measures – endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown – aimed at gearing up California’s efforts to fight climate change.

solarThe world’s largest solar farm capable of powering 160,000 homes has opened  in the Southern Californian desert.  The Desert Sunlight solar project is technically the same size as the existing Topaz solar project, also in California, at 550-megawatts but as the sunlight is more consistent where the Desert Sunlight project is situated it will actually generate more power. The project is the last of five large-scale solar projects funded by a loan from the Department of Energy to come online. The guarantee scheme has been criticised for wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, including losing $535m when a solar panel manufacturer went bankrupt in 2011. However the department of energy has described the $1.5bn funded Desert Sunlight project as a mark of the scheme’s success and has reported it expects to make profits of $5bn to $6bn from the programme. More here.

And Apple CEO Tim Cook has announced the tech giant is committing $848m to clean energy in the form of a 280MW solar farm in California.  The 2,900-acre California Flats Solar Project is being developed by First Solar and will include a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) which will see Apple receive 130MW of the generated electricity to power the corporation’s new ‘spaceship’ headquarters in the Californian city of Cupertino.

Pulse trawling – that’s fishing by electrocuting fish & shellfish is classed as illegal by the European commission. But there are currently 80+ licences for a so-called ‘trial’ in the North Sea – in current UK MPAs!! So ‘Special Areas of Conservation’ are effectively meaningless. no one knows the impacts this fishing has on long term health of sandy habitats & species. It’s known to break the backs of fish, & probably kills the food of commercial fish – do you think worms & sandeels are adapted to electric shocks? No, nor do we or most uk scientists and fishermen. 80+ licences is no ‘trial’. It is a commercial activity. Read this article in today’s Guardian http://bit.ly/1vd5hBO

Orangutan3-226x300Right now, diggers are obliterating Indonesia’s rainforests, pushing orangutans, tigers and sun bears to the edge of extinction. Santander has ploughed tens of millions of pounds into Indonesia’s number one rainforest destroyer. Tell Santander to stop financing extinction. Over the last few years, Santander has loaned millions to a pulp and paper company called APRIL that is chopping down Indonesia’s rainforests at an alarming rate. If Santander want to be a responsible company, it needs to end these loans now. Ending these loans hits APRIL where it hurts most – in the pocket. Sign the Greenpeace petition NOW.

Zombie-Bee_2Final petition ……, but an important one. Its for the BEEs.  SumOfUs say this: Bayer and Co. are suing the European Commission to overturn a ban on the pesticides that are killing millions of bees around the world. A huge public push won this landmark ban — and we can’t sit back and let Big Pesticide overturn it while the bees vanish. Last summer, 37 million bees were discovered dead on a single Canadian farm. The dangerous chemicals Bayer and Co. make are neonicotinoids, or neonics. Neonics are soaked into seeds, spreading through the plant and killing insects stopping by for a snack. These pesticides can easily be replaced by other chemicals which don’t have such a devastating effect on the food chain. But companies like Bayer, BASF and Syngenta make a fortune from selling neonics — so they’ll do everything they can to protect their profits.  And unless we act now, the bees will keep dying. We have to show Bayer now that we won’t tolerate it putting its profits ahead of our planet’s health. Sign the petition to tell Bayer, BASF and Syngenta to drop their bee-killing lawsuits now.

The Manu National Park in Peru was international news early last year after scientists found it is “top of the [world’s] list of natural protected areas in terms of amphibian and reptile diversity”, beating off stiff competition from the Yasuni national park in neighbouring Ecuador. What these news reports didn’t acknowledge, not surprisingly, are the immense threats facing Manu – a Unesco biosphere reserve in the south-east Peruvian Amazon where Unesco states the biodiversity “exceeds that of any other place on earth”. The first such threat, to the park itself, is from oil and gas exploration and exploitation. For years Manu has been believed to hold significant oil and gas reserves and  fossil fuel industry maps depict “undrilled prospects”, “seeps” and a “spring” lying under the park. According to Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, five distinct “geological structures” in Manu could hold more than 14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Another, arguably more serious threat to the park is the extension of the southern branch, dubbed “PE-5S”, of the national “jungle highway” network, parts of which were first built in the 1960s. According to Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC), the total projected length of the “PE-5S” is just over 1,000 kms, with only 109 kms paved to date, 74 kms unpaved, and 890 kms “en proyecto”. More on the Guardian blog here.

Millions of dicarded plastics bags pollute our oceans

Millions of dicarded plastics bags pollute our oceans

Coastal populations put about 8m tonnes of plastic rubbish into the oceans in 2010, an annual figure that could double over the next decade without major improvements in waste management efforts, scientists warn. The mountain of plastic litter, including bags, food packaging and toys, was equivalent to five full shopping bags of debris for every foot of coastline bordering nearly 200 countries the team studied. Though researchers have known about plastic waste in the oceans for 40 years, the latest report, published in the journal Science, is the first to attempt a detailed estimate of how much plastic made on the planet finds its way into the oceans. More here.

The UK government has broken a key pledge to support green energy abroad over “dirty” energy projects by spending more than three hundred times as much backing fossil fuel energy compared with clean energy projects via the government’s export credit agency. In the coalition agreement, the Tories and Lib Dems promised in 2010 that UK Export Finance (UKEF), a small government department, would “become champions for British companies that develop and export innovative green technologies around the world, instead of supporting investment in dirty fossil fuel energy production”. But over the course of the parliament, the department has given financial support worth just £3.6m to green energy projects around the world, data released to the Guardian under freedom of information rules shows. By comparison, UKEF allocated £1.13bn to help fossil fuel energy operations in the same period, 314 times more. The support was in the form of loans, loan guarantees and other export credit support.

TOWER-BRIDGE (1) TonyCollins www.thedesignhouse.org.ukIn better UK news,  London ranks as the world’s second most sustainable city, with Manchester and Birmingham also cracking the top 20 of the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index Report.  According to the report, Frankfurt is the only city in the world with greener credentials than the UK capital. Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam round out the top five, with not a single US city in the top 10. The research examines 50 cities from 31 countries ranking them across three broad subcategories – People, Planet and Profit – to estimate the sustainability of each city. Copehagen comes third and Amsterdam fourth, with rotterdam fifth and Berlin sixth.

Straw panels have been used to build seven eco-homes in Bristol in a first for a low-cost and fuel efficient building material which promises to reduce heating bills by 90% over that of brick-built housing.  The new Modcell factory-built straw panels, going on sale this week, have been developed with the University of Bath’s department of architecture and civil engineering. University of Bath professor Pete Walker said: “The construction sector must reduce its energy consumption by 50% and its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, so radical changes are needed to the way we approach house building” adding “As a construction material straw is a low-cost and widely available food co-product that offers real potential for ultra-low carbon housing throughout the UK. Building with straw could be a critical point in our trajectory towards a low-carbon future.” Bristol in the European Green Capital in 2015.

Edie.net reports that energy consumption by European Union members has fallen to its lowest level since the early 1990s, but the EU is still heavily reliant on imported energy to meet its needs, the latest research shows.  The report by Eurostat; the statistical office of the European Union, shows energy consumption by the EU in 2013 was 1,666 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), down 9.1% from the amount consumed in 1990. The drop reflects efforts taken by member states and businesses to cut energy use and improve energy efficiency in order to hit the 20% energy savings objective the EU committed to by 2020. The UK is the third greatest consumer of energy at 201.1 Mtoe, behind Germany at 324.3 Mtoe and France at 259.3 Mtoe. However the UK’s consumption has dropped by almost 5% compared with 1990. Last month the Association for Decentralised Energy reported that the UK had avoided building 14 new power stations by improving energy efficiency.

Governments and businesses should commit to zero-net emissions by 2050 according to the ‘B Team’ – a group of 16 renowned CEO’s and policymakers headed up by mogul Richard Branson.  Members of the B Team – including Arianna Huffington, Paul Polman and Ratan Tata – authored an open letter to UN climate chief Christina Figueres calling for ‘bold action’ ahead of the Paris 2015 climate talks. “Setting a net-zero GHG emissions target by 2050 will drive innovation, grow jobs, build prosperity and secure a better world for what will soon be nine billion people,” said Branson. “Why would we wait any longer to do that?”

rainforestwikiOne of the world’s largest paper companies, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), has made ‘moderate progress’ on its forest conservation efforts, according to an independent investigation by the Rainforest Alliance.  The Alliance was tasked with evaluating APP’s Forest Conservation Program (FCP) – created two years ago after the paper company was targeted by Greenpeace for its destructive impact on the forests of Southeast Asia. The report concluded that APP had achieved ‘varying’ levels of success on its four main conservation targets, with ‘moderate success’ overall.  “The Rainforest Alliance evaluation found that many building blocks essential for change – policies and standard operating procedures, training and outreach, for example – are in place,” said Alliance senior vice president Richard Donovan. “There is still work to be done in implementing some of those policies and procedures in the field. This is a gap APP must address as it continues to implement its Forest Conservation Policy.”

And finally back to the UK:  The Government should expand its popular Green Deal support scheme to include water efficiency, according to a new report from environmental think-tank Green Alliance.  The report – Cutting the cost of water: The case for improving water efficiency in the UK – finds that UK water prices are set to rise thanks a growing population, more one-person households and increasingly common extreme weather events. The Alliance, which works with influential leaders from the NGO, business, and political communities, says the best way to mitigate this growing water stress is to utilise the existing infrastructure of the Green Deal to address water efficiency in homes, where the UK gets through 150 litres per person per day – 50% more than some of our Northern European neighbours.  And Scotland has launched a new 10-step guide advising how public bodies can save water and help to save £2bn for the Scottish economy. The Government-funded Resource Efficient Scotland programme released A Guide to Improving Water Efficiency which provides simple, free or low-cost solutions to improve water efficiency in the NHS, local authorities, emergency services, colleges, universities, and government agencies, giving advice on areas ranging from toilet flushing and hand washing through to measuring and monitoring.

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