Nasa has said that this year will almost certainly be the hottest yet recorded, after September narrowly turned out the warmest in modern temperature monitoring. Last month was 0.91C above the average temperature for that time of year from 1951 to 1980, the benchmark used for measuring rises. The new findings follow record-breaking monthly anomalies throughout this year, leading the agency to believe that because of the highs reported so far, 2016 will take the crown as warmest in the 136 years of modern data-keeping.
At the UN conference in Rwanda, 197 nations have now agreed to drastically reduce their use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the powerful greenhouse gas used in air conditioners, refrigerators, and foams – introduced to replace CFCs which were then destroying the ozone layer in the 1990s. By cutting these pollutants, the world could avoid between 0.2°C and 0.44°C of warming by the end of the century, according to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. But its not all good news – developing economies have quite some time to phase out the gases. Developed countries like the United States will start cutting HFC use to phase out the greenhouse gases beginning in 2019. Countries like Brazil and India will have to cap their HFC use by 2024 — and they’ll receive aid to ease the transition. Ultimately, the deal could cut global HFC use up to 85 percent by 2047, the World Resources Institute estimates. Delegates meeting in Rwanda accepted the amendment to the Montreal and US Secretary of State John Kerry said it was a major victory for the Earth. “It’s a monumental step forward, that addresses the needs of individual nations but it will give us the opportunity to reduce the warming of the planet by an entire half a degree centigrade,” he told BBC News.
The number of plug-in electric cars on the world’s roads is set to pass the landmark of 2m vehicles by the end of 2016, with industry observers saying the electric car revolution is finally underway. A surging market in China is leading the way and Chinese-made models have pushed into the top five best-selling models. Europe is the second biggest market, followed by the US, but their traditional car manufacturers face a stern challenge from China and from Tesla, whose much-anticipated Model 3 is expected to go into production in 2017. In the United Kingdom, drivers of electric vehicles could be allowed to use bus lanes in five UK cities and even go first at traffic lights, to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, the government has suggested. Launching its consultation on clean air zones to be introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton, the Environment Department said air pollution killed 50,000 people each year at an annual cost to society of £27.5bn.
Old growth forests in the Tarkine could be logged by private companies under plans being considered by the Tasmanian government to reverse a moratorium on harvesting 400,000 ha of high conservation value forests. The forests were part of 500,000 ha protected under the forest peace deal signed by the former Labor government in 2013, which would have seen them eventually gazetted into national parks. That deal was scrapped by the Hodgman Liberal government when it came to power in 2014, and the 400,000 ha of future forest reserves were rebadged as future potential timber production forests, to remain formally in reserves until 2020. More here.
Germany is taking steps to curb its booming windfarm sector in what it claims is a necessary move to stop the renewables revolution from undermining its own success. Critics, however, say the step will deal a blow to the country’s reputation as a leader in green energy. According to leaked plans from the German federal network agency, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the government has had to halve its original target for expanding its windfarms in the windy northern flatlands because it cannot extend its power grid quickly enough to the energy-hungry south. On the UK, public support for onshore windfarms is far higher than widely believed, according to a new opinion poll, even in rural areas. Wind turbines are also far more popular than fracking or nuclear power, contrasting with the UK government’s decision to block onshore windfarms but back shale gas exploration and new nuclear power plants. The ComRes poll, conducted for climate change charity 10:10, found that 73% of the British public supported onshore windfarms, with just 17% opposed, and the rest not sure. Strong support remained even when only considering the views of those from rural areas, who might live near windfarms: 65% support versus 25% against.
The UK’s Big Butterfly Count has recorded its lowest number of common species since records began. Normally ubiquitous butterflies such as the gatekeeper, comma and small copper experienced their worst summers in the history of the count, which is run by Butterfly Conservation and began in 2010. Scientists said the low number of butterflies is “a shock and a mystery” because this summer was warmer than average and much drier in England than the previous worst year for butterflies, 2012, which was unusually cold and wet.
Many of the areas that have been recently marked as potential sites for fracking are rich in wildlife that perform crucial functions from pollination to decomposition, researchers have found. Scientists say that almost two-thirds of the areas that have been labelled as suitable for shale gas extraction have levels of biodiversity equal to or above the national average, according to a new analysis of records collected from across the country. “A lot of the areas that have opened up to shale gas licensing actually harbour much higher than average levels of biodiversity,” Tom Oliver, of University of Reading who is a senior author of the study in the Journal of Applied Ecology told the Guardian. “We only have one natural heritage and we have to protect it and so using these data to highlight those very valuable sites and to facilitate their protection is hopefully a useful thing to do.”
A report from Traffic says that hundreds of snow leopards are being killed every year across the mountains of central Asia, threatening the already endangered big cat, according to a new report. There are as few as 4,000 of the solitary and elusive cat remaining and numbers have fallen by a fifth in the last 16 years. But between 220 and 450 are killed each year, says Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, ahead of a meeting on the crisis at the UN in New York. The number could be much higher, the NGO warned, as killings in remote mountain areas often go undetected. An Ounce of Prevention: Snow Leopard Crime Revisited. Combatting poaching and illegal trade of snow leopards is a key objective of the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), which unites all 12 snow leopard range countries with intergovernmental and non-governmental organization partners.
A lawsuit has been filed against the Norwegian government over a decision to open up the Barents Sea for oil exploration which campaigners say violates the country’s constitution and threatens the Paris climate agreement. The case is being brought by an alliance including Greenpeace, indigenous activists, youth groups, and the former director of Nasa’s Goddard institute for space studies, James Hansen. And Exxon Mobil Corp asked a US federal court to throw out a subpoena from New York state that would force the oil company to hand over decades of documents as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into whether it misled investors about climate change risks. The filing means Exxon has now requested the US district court in Fort Worth, Texas for injunctions against two major climate subpoenas: one issued by New York and another from Massachusetts that the company challenged in June. Exxon, which for more than a decade has acknowledged the risks of climate change, has criticised the prosecutors’ inquiries as politically motivated.