ANOTHER PLANET?

princeofewalesThe Prince of Wales has said that he is haunted  by images of dead sea birds killed by discarded  plastic in the oceans. In a speech where he focussed on the impact of waste on marine wildlife, Prince Charles said that eight million tonnes of plastic entered the oceans every year and half of all marine mammals now have plastic in their gut. The Prince went on to highlight the circular economy (where resources are recovered, re-used and recycled rather than being  designed to be discarded once used) and said “the circular economy is the solution, which speaking as a grandfather, we owe it to everyone’s grandchildren to grasp”.

The number of used wet wipes littering UK beaches has increased by 50% in the last year, according to the Marine Conservation Society. This is because many people put them down the toilet instead of in the bin, said the MCS. Rubbish on UK coasts rose by 6.4% from 2013 to 2014, it said in a report. The report – published as part of the MCS’s annual Great British Beach Clean – was based on litter found by more than 5,000 volunteers on 301 UK beaches, from 19 to 22 September last year. The MCS is calling on the government to implement a national marine litter action plan to address the main sources of rubbish in the UK’s seas, from the public, fishing, shipping and sewage-related debris. The government is currently consulting on the measures needed to meet EU standards on marine litter.

bluefin-tunaThe UK is to establish the world’s largest continuous marine reserve in waters around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific, the government has said. While not mentioned in chancellor George Osborne’s speech, the new budget confirms that the government will go ahead with designating the ocean around Pitcairn – famous partly as the island where the mutineers of the Bounty settled – as a marine protected area (MPA). The zone is expected to ban commercial fishing, and will cover a 834,000 sq km (322,000 square miles) bio diverse area.

There is a writer in the Times newspaper called Matthew Ridley who usually drives me mad – writing blinkered and ill informed articles, usually littered with insults about climate change scientists and environmentalists, and singularly lacking in one thing – common sense. I only found out recently (a) he has a seat in the UK’s House of Lords as he is a hereditary peer – yes in the UK you can still be in Parliament by virtue of your birth – and (b) says this about his interests in coal mining “I have a financial interest in coal mining on my family’s land. The details are commercially confidential, but I have always been careful to disclose that I have this interest in my writing when it is relevant; I am proud that the coal mining on my land contributes to the local and national economy; and that my income from coal is not subsidized and not a drain on the economy through raising energy prices. I deliberately do not argue directly for the interests of the modern coal industry and I consistently champion the development of gas reserves, which is a far bigger threat to the coal-mining industry than renewable energy can ever be. So I consistently argue against my own financial interest.” HOWEVER – he has just penned a remarkably sensible piece on the threat to our oceans – its a shame its still peppered with ‘anti green’ rhetoric (he starts with ‘ignore the eco doom-mongers obsessed with climate change’) but rightly points out that over fishing is the biggest threat to our seas  – rightly pointing out that the fishing free for all in almost all of our oceans with species after species being fished to extinction or near extinction – and also points out that over fishing has far more impact than climate change on ocean acidification – and of course the negative effect over fishing on other species that feed on fish like puffins, kittiwakes and arctic terns (although then calls the ‘climate obsession’ a ‘red herring’ – ho ho ho). Ridley’s solution is technological – tracking all fishing vessels and investing in technology to police fishing – which surely are all desperately needed.

As Britain warms up there is an ever approaching risk – tropical disease such as malaria, dengue fever and west nile virus are all thriving further and further North and in Britain climate change and the growth of wetlands makes our environment more and more attractive to these diseases. Mosquitoes are spreading, and Malaria has already reached Greece – west nile has killed 1,900 people in the USA since 1999.

Greenpeace UK tells us that Costa Rica has been powered only by renewable energy for 75 days in a row! No fossil fuels have been burnt to generate electricity since December last year. Cleaner, greener energy is possible.

sea_ice_polar_bearThe Huffington Post reports that Arctic sea ice this year is the smallest in winter since satellite records began in 1979, in a new sign of long-term climate change, U.S. data showes. The ice floating on the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole reached its maximum annual extent of just 14.54 million square kms (5.61 million sq miles) on Feb. 25 – slightly bigger than Canada – and is now expected to shrink with a spring thaw. “This year’s maximum ice extent was the lowest in the satellite record, with below-average ice conditions everywhere except in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait,” the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said in a statement. A late season surge in ice was still possible, it said. The ice was 1.1 million sq kms smaller than the 1981-2010 average, and below the previous lowest maximum in 2011. With the return of the sun to the Arctic after months of winter darkness, the ice shrinks to a minimum in September. The U.N. panel of climate scientists links the long-term shrinkage of the ice, by 3.8 percent a decade since 1979, to global warming and says Arctic summertime sea ice could vanish in the second half of the century.

DRAX POWERAs news broke that the Gates Foundation, the charity run by Bill and Melinda Gates, who say the threat of climate change is so serious that immediate action is needed, held at least $1.4bn (£1bn) of investments in the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, according to a Guardian analysis of the charity’s most recent tax filing in 2013, and the Guardian Reports that the Wellcome Trust has quietly sold off a $138m (£94m) investment in ExxonMobil, the oil giant which previously funded climate change denial, the Guardian can reveal. But the medical charity, which says “climate change is one of the greatest contemporary challenges to global health”, has refused to divest all its fossil fuel assets, the Guardian’s Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridger has penned a article saying yes, that The world has much more coal, oil and gas in the ground than it can safely burn. That much is physics. Anyone studying the question with an open mind will almost certainly come to a similar conclusion: if we and our children are to have a reasonable chance of living stable and secure lives 30 or so years from now, according to one recent study 80% of the known coal reserves will have to stay underground, along with half the gas and a third of the oil reserves. If only science were enough. If not science, then politics? MPs, presidents, prime ministers and members of congress are always telling us (often suggesting a surrender of civil liberties in return) that their first duty is the protection of the public. Much more here.  Students occupied an administrative building at Oxford university  in protest at the university’s decision to defer a decision on whether to dump its shares in fossil fuels. Around 15 student activists peacefully occupied the Clarendon Building and unveiled a banner. One activist told the Guardian that two police vans and two squad cars arrived at the university. “There’s lots of police around. They’ve put two security guards inside here with us,” she said.

elephantAfrica: frontline of a ‘wildlife war’ that the world is losing’. This excellent article in the Observer by David Smith highlights the increase in poaching accross Africa and the somewhat limited actions being taken to combat the organised criminal gangs behind the trade in ivory, rhino horns and other animal parts. The illegal wildlife trade is thought to be worth £12 billion each year and has joined drugs, human trafficing and arms as one of the world’s biggest criminal rackets. And yet very few of those behind the trade ever face prosecution as corruption, political indecision and incompetence – although some countries like Tanzania and Botswana are starting to take real action to protrect what’s left of their wildlife, not least as the beneficial economics of tourism become ever clearer – and countries such as Thailand begin to fight back against end users – recently launching a campaign against ivory. More here.

The boss of BHP Bilton has said that carbon capture and storage could be a ‘goldmine’. Whilst its good to know Andrew Mackenzie is reacting to the problems of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, the problem is – that’s a short term fix as the oil, gas and coal producers clearly know – their business model is built on producing and burning fossil fuels, and now they want everyone else to pay for the pollution! A better solution? Look at the sky – the sun is up there ready to provide us with FREE energy! feel the wind. HArness the tides and the energy in rivers. Mackenzie thinks that the investment in carbon capture should be at the same level as renewable energy – here at AGF we think thats the wrong way round – carbon capyure and storage is surely a last gasp policy which asks the public to protect and fund the dangerously damaging and polluting fossil fuel industries.

An employee of Florida’s environmental protection department was forced to take a leave of absence and seek a mental health evaluation for violating governor Rick Scott’s unwritten ban on using the phrases “climate change” or “global warming” under any circumstance, according to a complaint filed against the state. Longtime employee Barton Bibler reportedly included an explicit mention of climate change in his official notes from a Florida Coastal Managers Forum meeting in late February, during which climate change, rising sea levels and the possible environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline were discussed.]

The amount of carbon the Amazon’s remaining trees removed from the atmosphere fell by almost a third last decade, leading scientists to warn that manmade carbon emissions would need to be cut more deeply to tackle climate change. Trees in untouched areas of the forest have been dying off across the basin at an increasing rate, found the study, published in Nature. Meanwhile the tree growth produced by higher CO2 levels in recent decades levelled off. The authors said this may be because the Amazon’s seasonal weather variation had become more extreme. They also suggested more CO2 in the atmosphere was, counterintuitively, leading to trees dying younger. Dr Roel Brienen of Leeds University said the Amazon was responsible for one-fifth to one-quarter of carbon sequestered on land, so any decline in its efficiency as a carbon sink was of consequence to efforts to combat climate change.

short-haired_bee_masterEurope’s wild bee population is in dramatic decline with nearly one in 10 species facing the threat of extinction, according to the first ever assessment of all the continent’s nearly 2,000 bee species. Another 5.2% of bee species are likely to be threatened in the near future, while more than a quarter of species such as the European bumblebees are at risk of dying out, said the study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Energy Secretary Ed Davey has  lifted the lid on Coalition in-fighting over green policies that provided cheap or free home insulation for tens of thousands of Londoners. In an interview with the Evening Standard, he accused the Conservatives of “panicking” when Labour leader Ed Miliband vowed to freeze energy bills in Autumn 2013 — triggering a dispute that went all the way up to the Coalition’s inner circle of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander. The Lib-Dem Cabinet minister said the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had repeatedly tried behind closed doors to block energy efficiency rules and wind power. Mr Davey said he thought the Prime Minister was torn between genuinely supporting green energy and pressure from Right-wingers, while some Tories had been “dinosaur-like, both on the back benches and in the Cabinet”.

Treehugger tells us that Taron Stead, a 17-year-old from Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, England, had just bought a new mountain bike. He went for a maiden ride to test it out, but unfortunately was hit by a car in the early morning rush hour. So far, so sadly banal. Accidents happen. But what happened next makes my blood boil: The silver-colored Ford (either a Focus or a Mondeo) that hit Taron stopped, a woman who was sitting in the passenger seat got out (the driver was male), told the bloodied teen that she had kids in the car, that they were late for school, and that she didn’t want his blood to upset them. Then she got back in the car and they left. They didn’t even ask if he was okay or left their information.

Levi-Strauss-wash-less.jpg.650x0_q85_crop-smartAnd more from Treehugger:  Levi’s have released a new Life Cycle Assessment for their jeans as part of an effort to promote more sustainable water usage. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a useful tool that looks at the different environmental impacts of a product. It follows the process from the very beginning where the raw materials are grown, mined or synthesized, through manufacturing and consumer use, to disposal or recycling. Levi’s has taken a number of steps to reduce its water footprint throughout the production chain, including working with the Better Cotton Initiative and introducing water saving and recycling processes to their manufacturing facilities. According to Stephen Leahy’s “Your Water Footprint,” it takes 7,600 liters of water to grow the cotton and manufacture a typical pair of jeans. According to Levi’s Life Cycle Assessment, a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans uses 2,835 liters of water for the same steps. Levi’s wants to promote the idea that you can wear your denim ten times or more before washing is needed.

 

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