Tag Archives: climate change

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EU1The European Union will “vastly overshoot” its Paris climate pledges unless its coal emissions are completely phased out within 15 years, a stress test of the industry has found. Coal’s use is falling by about 1% a year in Europe but still generates a quarter of the continent’s power – and a fifth of its greenhouse gas emissions. If Europe’s 300 coal plants run to the end of their natural lifespans, the EU nations will exceed their carbon budget for coal by 85%, according to a report by the respected thinktank Climate Analytics. It says the EU would need to stop using coal for electricity generation by 2030. More here.   Renewable energy sources made up nearly nine-tenths of new power added to Europe’s electricity grids last year, in a sign of the continent’s rapid shift away from fossil fuels. But industry leaders said they were worried about the lack of political support beyond 2020, when binding EU renewable energy targets end.

The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered. However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly. Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted.
The hamburger chain Burger King has been buying animal feed produced in soy plantations carved out by the burning of tropical forests in Brazil and Bolivia, according to a new report. Jaguars, giant anteaters and sloths have all been affected by the disappearance of around 700,000 hectares (1,729,738 acres) of forest land between 2011 and 2015. The campaign group Mighty Earth says that evidence gathered from aerial drones, satellite imaging, supply-chain mapping and field research shows a systematic pattern of forest-burning.  Photo of a sloth by G Dallorto.

The UN’s climate chief has been unable to secure a meeting with the US state department as Donald Trump’s administration mulls whether to withdraw the US from the international climate effort. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is currently in the US and has sought a meeting with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and other officials over the commitment of the new administration to global climate goals.

One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. That is the stark view of the world’s leading biologists, ecologists and economists who will gather on Monday to determine the social and economic changes needed to save the planet’s biosphere. “The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” say the organisers of the Biological Extinction conference held at the Vatican this week.

An EU review has revealed multiple failings by the UK in applying environmental law, on the same day that the commission escalated its action against Britain for breaching air pollution limits. Britain has been in breach of EU nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits since 2010, with London overshooting its annual air pollution limit for the whole of 2017 in just the first five days. The Guardian understands that a “reasoned opinion” will now be sent on 15 February to the UK and four other countries: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. If a satisfactory response is not received within two months, a case at the European court could follow.

The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings. The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade. The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.

Supplements of healthy fats could be an immediate way of cutting the harm caused to billions around the world by air pollution, according to emerging research. However, the research also shows air pollution particles can penetrate through the lungs of lab animals into many major organs, including the brain and testicles. This raises the possibility that the health damage caused by toxic air is even greater than currently known. The new research on mice showed that omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs), found in flax, hemp and fish oils, can both prevent and treat the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by air pollution, with the OFAs delivering a 30-50% reduction in harm.

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droughteastafrica2016 was the hottest year on record, setting a new high for the third year in a row, with scientists firmly putting the blame on human activities that drive climate change. The final data for 2016 was released on Wednesday by the three key agencies – the UK Met Office and Nasa and Noaa in the US – and showed 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century. Direct temperature measurements stretch back to 1880, but scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years. More on the Guardian here.

The world must not allow the Paris climate deal to be “derailed” or continue to inflict irreparable damage on the environment, Chinese president Xi Jinping has said, amid fears the rise of Donald Trump could strike a body blow to the fight against global warming. Trump, who will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, has threatened to pull out of the historic Paris agreement and dismissed climate change as a Chinese “hoax” and “expensive… bullshit”. But in an address to the United Nations in Geneva on Wednesday, which observers saw as a high-profile bid to bolster China’s image as a reliable and dedicated climate leader, Xi issued a direct challenge to those views, warning “there is only one Earth in the universe and we mankind have only one homeland”.

Radiation levels inside a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station are at their highest since the plant suffered a triple meltdown almost six years ago. The facility’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said atmospheric readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded inside the containment vessel of reactor No 2, one of three reactors that experienced a meltdown when the plant was crippled by a huge tsunami that struck the north-east coast of Japan in March 2011.

Scotland is seeking to dramatically cut its reliance on fossil fuels for cars, energy and homes after setting a radical target to cut total climate emissions by 66% within 15 years. In one of the world’s most ambitious climate strategies, ministers in Edinburgh have unveiled far tougher targets to increase the use of ultra-low-carbon cars, green electricity and green home heating by 2032. The Scottish government has set the far higher target after its original goal of cutting Scotland’s emissions by 42% by 2020 was met six years early – partly because climate change has seen winters which are warmer than normal, cutting emissions for home heating.

babyorangMore than half of the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises are now threatened with extinction as agriculture and industrial activities destroy forest habitats and the animals’ populations are hit by hunting and trade. In the most bleak assessment of primates to date, conservationists found that 60% of the wild species are on course to die out, with three quarters already in steady decline. The report casts doubt on the future of about 300 primate species, including gorillas, chimps, gibbons, marmosets, tarsiers, lemurs and lorises.

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore

The Trump administration is mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. The communications director for Donald Trump’s transition team at the EPA, Doug Ericksen, said the review also extends to content on the federal agency’s website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth’s climate is warming and manmade carbon emissions are to blame. Former EPA staffers said on Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.  And Donald Trump was sharply criticised by Native Americans and climate change activists  after he signed executive orders to allow construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. Both pipe projects had been blocked by Barack Obama’s administration, partly because of environmental concerns. But Trump has questioned the science of climate change and campaigned on a promise to expand energy infrastructure and create jobs.  The environmental movement is “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world”, according to an adviser to the US president Donald Trump’s administration. Myron Ebell, who has denied the dangers of climate change for many years and led Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) until the president’s recent inauguration, also said he fully expected Trump to keep his promise to withdraw the US from the global agreement to fight global warming. The Republicans have backed off bill to sell 3.3m acres of public land after an outcry. Congressman Jason Chaffetz withdraws House bill 621 as conservationists and outdoorsmen vowed to continue fight over similar legislation. Chaffetz, a representative from Utah, wrote on Instagram that he had a change of heart in the face of strong opposition from “groups I support and care about” who, he said, “fear it sends the wrong message”.

Falling costs of electric vehicles and solar panels could halt worldwide growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020, a new report has suggested. A scenario that takes into account the latest cost reduction projections for the green technologies, and countries’ pledges to cut emissions, finds that solar power and electric vehicles are “gamechangers” that could leave fossil fuels stranded. Polluting fuels could lose 10% of market share to solar power and clean cars within a decade, the report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found.

Shell_oil_croppedBut ……. global demand for oil will still be growing in 2035 even with an enormous growth in electric cars in the next two decades, with numbers on the road rising from 1m to 100m, BP has predicted. The oil and gas giant predicted that despite electric cars spreading rapidly and renewable energy recording exceptional growth, oil demand would still rise because of rising prosperity in the developing world. BP said electric cars would not be a “gamechanger” for the oil industry. “It’s not Teslas and the US. It’s the fact that 2 billion people, much of that in Asia, are moving to middle incomes, can buy their first motor car and that drives up oil demand. It’s that stuff that really matters,” said Spencer Dale, BP group’s chief economist.

In the final week of January London was put on “very high” alert as cold and still weather, traffic, and a peak in the use of wood-burning stoves combined to send air pollution soaring in the capital – and across swaths of the UK. According to data from King’s College London, areas of London including Camden, the City of London and Westminster all reached 10 out of 10 on the air pollution index, with many other areas rated seven or higher.

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cc-1-300x180The Paris agreement on climate change has now come into force, marking the first time that governments have agreed legally binding limits to global temperature rises. However, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement. As the agreement came into force, a $1bn fund for cutting the climate change impact of oil and gas has been announced by 10 of the world’s biggest oil companies, aimed at keeping the firms in business and cutting the burning of coal.

reefA landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean has been brokered in Australia, after five years of compromises and failed negotiations. More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed. Significantly, the protections are set to expire in 35 years. Evan Bloom from the US state department, the head of the US delegation to the meeting, told the Guardian he was “thrilled”.

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

container-ship-560789_960_720The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has agreed to set a cap on the sulphur content of marine fuels, in a move that campaigners predict will save millions of lives in the coming decades. At a meeting of the IMO’s environment protection committee this week shipping officials agreed to cap the sulphur content of marine fuels sold around the world at 0.5% by 2020, finally making good on a 2008 agreement to cap sulphur levels by 2020 or 2025. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions have been linked to premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease. The current limit on sulphur content for marine fuels is 3,500 times higher than for diesel in European road vehicles, and the shipping sector is by far the biggest emitter of SO2. The move is expected to slash SO2 emissions in the shipping industry by 85% compared to today’s levels, and according to one study reduce the number of premature deaths by 200,000 every year.

Drivers of polluting diesel vehicles could soon be charged to enter many city centres across Britain, after the government accepted that its current plans to tackle the nation’s air pollution crisis were so poor they broke the law. The legal defeat in the High Court is the second in 18 months and ends years of inadequate action and delays to tackle the problem which causes 50,000 early deaths every year. Ministers are now bound to implement new measures to cut toxic air quickly and the prime minister, Theresa May, indicated the government would this time respond positively: “There is more to do and we will do it.” More here.

Bryde´s_whaleThe world’s whaling watchdog has voted to conduct stricter reviews of whales killed under an exemption to a 30-year-old moratorium which Japan’s critics say it abuses to hunt for meat. The resolution, opposed by Japan and fellow whalers Norway and Iceland, was adopted by 34 yes votes to 17 against, at the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Submitted by Australia and New Zealand, the resolution seeks to “improve” the review process for scientific whaling programmes – which Japan alone conducts, netting more than 15,000 of the marine mammals since 1986. It is not legally binding on members of the commission, which has no policing or penalty function.

UK water companies are urging a national trading standards body to help stamp out “misleading” labelling on disposable wet wipes that are marketed as flushable but clog up drains and litter oceans at huge environmental cost. They are calling on manufacturers of moist toilet tissues and other non-biodegradable cleaning cloths such as bathroom cleaning wipes – which are routinely flushed away by consumers in their toilets – to ensure that such products are prominently labelled as not flushable and are to be disposed of in a bin.

Greece appears on track to win access to a controversial EU programme that could earmark up to €1.75bn (£1.56bn) in free carbon allowances for the building of two massive coal-fired power plants. The 1100MW coal stations will cost an estimated €2.4bn, and emit around 7m tonnes of CO2 a year, casting doubt on their viability without a cash injection from an exemption under Europe’s carbon trading market. Bonkers? The Guardian explains more here.  The amount of electricity generated from UK coal power stations is on track to fall by two-thirds this year, a decline which analysts said was so steep and fast it was unprecedented globally. Climate change thinktank Sandbag said the drop was due to a doubling in the price of a carbon tax and the lower price of gas. The group has written to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, urging him not to water down the carbon floor price in this month’s autumn statement, which the steel industry has been lobbying the government to do.

african-elephant2The poaching crisis wiping out Africa’s elephants is costing the continent’s economies millions in lost tourism revenue, according to a new study. Researchers looked at visitor and elephant data across 25 countries, and modelled financial losses from fewer visitors in protected areas due to the illegal wildlife trade, which has caused elephant numbers to plummet by more than 100,000 in the last decade. They concluded that Africa was most likely losing $25m in tourism revenue a year. Around $9m of that is lost from tourists’ direct spending, such as staying at hotels and buying crafts, with the rest through indirect value in the economy such as farmers and other suppliers supporting the tourist industry.

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sea_ice_polar_bearThe United States and China, the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have announced they will formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement in a move campaigners immediately hailed as a significant advance in the battle against global warming.

Arctic sea ice this summer shrank to its second lowest level since scientists started to monitor it by satellite, with scientists saying it is another ominous signal of global warming. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said the sea ice reached its summer low point  extending 4.14m sq km (1.6m sq miles). That’s behind only the mark set in 2012, 3.39m sq km.

Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there may be none left within a century if trends continue, according to an authoritative new study. The Guardian reports that researchers found a vast area the size of two Alaskas – 3.3m square kilometres – had been tarnished by human activities between 1993 and today, which experts said was a “shockingly bad” and “profoundly large number”. The Amazon accounted for nearly a third of the “catastrophic” loss, showing huge tracts of pristine rainforest are still being disrupted despite the Brazilian government slowing deforestation rates in recent years. A further 14% disappeared in central Africa, home to thousands of species including forest elephants and chimpanzees.

Orangutan3WE NEED TO SAVE THE ORANG UTAN. WE REALLY DO.  The Bornean Orangutans are now officially classified as “critically endangered” – meaning they’re on the very brink of extinction. Greenpeace are campaigning to stop oil palm producers destroying their natural habitat and end deforestation. PLEASE SUPPORT THIS.

A coalition of 25 military and national security experts, including former advisers to Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, has warned that climate change poses a “significant risk to US national security and international security” that requires more attention from the US federal government. The prominent members of the US national security community warned that warming temperatures and rising seas will increasingly inundate military bases and fuel international conflict and mass migration, leading to “significant and direct risks to US military readiness, operations and strategy”. More here (Three Bipartisan Groups of Military and National Security Leaders Urge Robust New Course on Climate Change).

beesUnpublished field trials by pesticide manufacturers show their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels, leading to calls from senior scientists for the companies to end the secrecy which cloaks much of their research. The research, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency and obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request.

The UK will fail to meet its targets on renewable energy generation, with take-up of clean fuels for heating and transport falling badly behind aims, MPs have warned. The findings of the influential Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) show that ministers have little clear plan for meeting the 2020 target to meet 15% of UK energy needs from renewable sources. This includes a target to generate 30% of electricity from wind, solar and other low-carbon sources by the end of the decade, and to generate 12% of heating energy and 10% of transport fuels from clean sources by the same date. The UK is not legally bound to meet the heat target, which is advisory.

Humpback_Whale_underwater_shotThe soaring temperature of the oceans is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation” that is altering the make-up of marine species, shrinking fishing areas and starting to spread disease to humans, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of ocean warming. The oceans have already sucked up an enormous amount of heat due to escalating greenhouse gas emissions, affecting marine species from microbes to whales, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report involving the work of 80 scientists from a dozen countries.

The UK’s new flood defence plans anticipate significantly higher extreme rainfall, after new research was published as part of the government’s National Flood Resilience review. The government, which had been criticised for not taking full account of the impact of climate change in driving up flood risk, will now plan for 20-30% more extreme downpours than before. The review, prompted by severe flooding in recent winters in towns and cities including Carlisle, Keswick, Kendal, Cockermouth, York, Manchester and Leeds, also found that 530 critical infrastructure sites, such as water and telecoms, are at serious risk from floods, each potentially affecting at least 10,000 people. Utility companies have pledged to have new protection in place by the end of the year. The government’s official climate change advisers recently warned that flooding could cause a cascade of emergencies by knocking out energy, transport, water and communications links. The review allocates £12.5m for more temporary defences, such as barriers and pumps, at strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the government said, four times more temporary barriers will be available. More here.

HoneyBeeMore bad news for bees: Beekeepers around the south-eastern US fear a new threat to their livelihood: a fine mist beaded with neurotoxin, sprayed from the sky by officials at war with mosquitos that carry the Zika virus. Miami fears Zika virus may hit $24bn tourism industry hard but earlier this week, South Carolina beekeepers found millions of dead honey bees carpeting their apiaries, killed by an insecticide. Video posted by a beekeeper to Facebook showed thousands of dead insects heaped around hives, while a few survivors struggled to move the bodies of fellow bees. “This is what’s left of Flowertown Bees,” a despondent keeper says in the video. Company co-owner Juanita Stanley told the Associated Press her farm looked “like it’s been nuked” and estimated 2.5 million bees were killed. In another Facebook post, South Carolina hobbyist Andrew Macke wrote that he had lost “thousands upon thousands of bees” and that the spraying had devastated his business. “Have we lost our mind,” he wrote, “spraying poison from the sky?”

Even more bad BEE news – please GIVE BEES A CHANCE:  the Asian hornet’s long-feared arrival on the UK mainland has been confirmed, government scientists have said, with ecologists warning of dire consequences for honeybees if the species is not swiftly eliminated. The hornets eat honeybees and have become widespread in central and southern France, prompting warnings in recent years that they could arrive in the UK via potted plants from France. While not considered a threat to humans, the arrival of the hornets add to the woes of Britain’s honeybees, which are vital for pollination of many crops but have been suffering declines for decades.

mantaray2The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories. In total, the UK government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands. A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area. And President Barack Obama will establish the first US national marine monument in the Atlantic, a move that’s designed to permanently protect nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains off the coast of New England. The White House said the designation will lead to a ban on commercial fishing, mining and drilling, though a seven-year exception will occur for the lobster and red crab industries. Also, recreational fishing will be allowed within the monument.

african-elephant2The government must implement a total ban on ivory sales in the UK, according to scores of politicians, conservationists, scientists and entertainment stars including William Hague, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking and Ricky Gervais. Ministers this week announced a ban on ivory younger than 70 years old, but stopped short of a total ban. The group have written to prime minister Theresa May “appealing to the government for a total ban on ivory sales”, which was a pledge made in both the 2010 and 2015 Conservative party manifestos. The Guardian says elephants are being slaughtered by poachers for their ivory in huge numbers and, while the international trade is illegal, critics say legal domestic trade allows illicit ivory to be passed off as antique and therefore legitimate. “The legal ivory trade in the UK feeds one of the largest markets for ivory in Europe,” write the group. “The closure of all ivory markets, both international and domestic, is critical for elephants’ survival.”

And finally – a loose coalition of more than 100 countries, including the US and European nations, is pushing for an early phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a powerful greenhouse gas that if left unchecked is set to add a potentially disastrous 0.5C to global temperatures by the end of the century.  At a meeting in New York on Thursday, world leaders called for an “ambitious phase-down schedule” for HFCs, which are commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioning systems, and pledged adaptation money for developing nations where HFC use is rapidly increasing.

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paris smogThe planet is warming at a pace not experienced within the past 1,000 years, at least, making it “very unlikely” that the world will stay within a crucial temperature limit agreed by nations just last year, according to Nasa’s top climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, who says “in the last 30 years we’ve really moved into exceptional territory”.  This year has already seen scorching heat around the world, with the average global temperature peaking at 1.38C above levels experienced in the 19th century, perilously close to the 1.5C limit agreed in the landmark Paris climate accord. July was the warmest month since modern record keeping began in 1880, with each month since October 2015 setting a new high mark for heat. But Nasa said that records of temperature that go back far further, taken via analysis of ice cores and sediments, suggest that the warming of recent decades is out of step with any period over the past millennium. More here on RT.

greatapesContinents and oceans in the northern hemisphere began to warm with industrial-era fossil fuel emissions nearly 200 years ago, pushing back the origins of human-induced climate change to the mid-19th century. The first signs of warming from the rise in greenhouse gases which came hand-in-hand with the Industrial Revolution appear as early as 1830 in the tropical oceans and the Arctic, meaning that climate change witnessed today began about 180 years ago. Researchers in Australia found evidence for the early onset of warming after trawling through 500 years of data on tree rings, corals and ice cores that together form a natural archive of Earth’s historical temperatures.

A group of 130 institutions that control US$13tn of investments have called on G20 nations to ratify the Paris agreement this year and accelerate investment in clean energy and forced disclosure of climate-related financial risk. More here from the Guardian.

orcaBarack Obama has created the world’s largest marine protected area by expanding an existing ocean reserve off Hawaii to cover 582,578 square miles, providing what’s likely to be the grandest, and final, chapter in the president’s conservation legacy. The sweeping move quadruples the size of the Papahānaumokuākea marine national monument, which was originally designated by George W Bush in 2006 and was declared a World Heritage site in 2010. The monument, which is now now double the size of Texas, stretches outward from the north-western Hawaiian islands and includes Midway Atoll, famed for its former military base and eponymous battle that was crucial in the US defeat of Japan in the second world war. President Obama has also given  two major speeches on climate change in the space of a day, one in Nevada and another in Hawaii, after Air Force One managed to safely dodge two hurricanes lurking in the Pacific. “No nation, not even one as powerful as the United States, is immune from a changing climate,” Obama told an audience of Pacific island leaders in Honolulu. “I saw it myself in our more northernmost state of Alaska, where the sea is swallowing villages and eating away at shorelines, where the permafrost thaws and the tundra is burning. Where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times. It’s a preview of our future if the climate changes faster than our efforts to address it.”

Cosmetics companies must be banned from using plastic microbeads in scrubs, toothpaste and beauty products because of the marine pollution they are causing, say a group of MPs. Members of the environmental audit committee have called for a ban within 18 months after hearing that trillions of tiny pieces of plastic are accumulating in the world’s oceans, lakes and estuaries, harming marine life and entering the food chain. About 86 tonnes of microplastics are released into the environment every year in the UK from facial exfoliants alone, they were told. Microplastic pollution comes from the fragmentation of larger pieces of plastic waste, small synthetic fibres from clothing and the microbeads used in cosmetics and other products. The microbeads in scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes are an avoidable part of this plastic pollution problem. A single shower could result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean, said the committee chair, Mary Creagh.

rjfp3A group of researchers has published a study in the science journal Elementa in which they describe various models that compare 10 eating patterns: the vegan diet, two vegetarian diets (one that includes dairy, the other dairy and eggs), four omnivorous diets (with varying degrees of vegetarian influence), one low in fats and sugars, and one similar to modern American dietary patterns. What they found was that the carrying capacity—the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely by the resources of an ecosystem—of the vegan diet is actually less substantial than two of the vegetarian diets and two out of the four omnivorous diets they studied. https://www.elementascience.org/articles/116

If Italian MP Elvira Savino has her way, parents in Italy could go to jail for forcing their children to follow a vegan diet. Savino, who used to work in public relations and now holds a position as deputy for the Forza Italia party, believes that parents should be prosecuted for imposing such “reckless and dangerous eating behavior” on children 16 and under. Treehugger has more.

More than 3,500 churches across Britain have moved their electricity supply to renewables, or are planning to do so, according to data released on Thursday. Those switching away from fossil fuels include the majority of the Salvation Army’s sites, about a third of Quaker meeting houses, and about 2,000 churches belonging to 16 Catholic dioceses which are running entirely on renewable energy. But the number represents a relatively small proportion of the 50,000 Christian churches estimated to be active across the UK.

desertAustralia is the worst country among the G20 when it comes to action on climate change, according to a comprehensive assessment before the G20 summit in China. Under China’s leadership, this weekend’s G20 in the eastern city of Hangzhou has had a strong focus on climate-related issues. By analysing the policies and actions of each of the 20 countries, which together produce 75% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Climate Transparency produced a report, scorecard and series of country profiles detailing their findings, revealing Australia was not pulling its weight. On the scorecard, Australia was the only country to receive a rating of “very poor” in a majority of categories.

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plastic-334546_960_720-300x200The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction of a 5p charge last October, early figures suggest. More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

The “carbon footprint” for the pollution caused by UK consumption has increased slightly, official figures show. The amount of greenhouse gases linked to goods and services consumed by UK households, including emissions from the foreign manufacture of imported products, rose by 3% between 2012 and 2013, the most recent data shows.

The Glastonbury Festival has  ditched plastic portable toilets after organisers decided they were causing too much anguish. The portable toilets – last year there were 3,000 on site – have been replaced almost entirely by organic compost toilets designed to minimise smells. These are supplemented by open-air “long drop” toilets. The festival management team felt the plastic “Tardis-like” toilet had passed its sell-by date. There was particular concern at how the toilets filled up too quickly and frequently overflowed. Jane Healy, Glastonbury’s sanitation manager, said: “The old plastic Tardis style is gone. Toilets have always been a massive talking point, and no one ever talks about toilets in everyone’s day-to-day life, but as soon as they get to a festival that’s all they want to talk about.

The European Commission has launched the world’s first system for classifying and banning endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), against a barrage of criticism from scientists, NGOs, industry and consumer groups. Endocrines are hormone-altering chemicals common in everyday substances from paint to pesticides that have been linked to an array of illnesses including cancer, infertility, obesity, diabetes, birth defects and reproductive problems. The Guardian reports that attempts to regulate them have been plagued by missed deadlines, buried official papers, censure from EU courts, and US pressure within the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations.

We’re one step away from a glyphosate-free EU. For the third time in a row, member states have refused to back the Commission’s proposed licence extension for weedkiller glyphosate. But the Commission won’t take no for an answer, and will try to force through a last-ditch appeal in Brussels June 24. Otherwise, a whole lot of Monsanto’s Roundup will be coming down from shelves across Europe this year. SumofUs.org tells us that instead of heeding the cancer warnings of the WHO, the European Commission has tried to do Monsanto’s dirty work by pushing through a licence extension despite experts agreeing that a ban of the pesticide is necessary to prevent contamination of our food, water, and soil. Make your voice heard and Tell EU member states to deal the final blow and reject any extension of the glyphosate licence on June 24.

greatapesForest wildfires rampaging across Russia are being significantly under-reported by authorities, according to analysis of satellite data. Climate change is making wildfires much more likely in Russia, but regional officials have been reluctant to report the true extent of the problem, and campaigners are warning that the harm to forests, property and human lives could rise. While the recent forest fires around Fort McMurray, Canada, destroyed more than 580,000 hectares, those in Russia have burned up to 3.5m hectares since the start of 2016, according to Greenpeace Russia. It said at least 1m hectares were in flames at the end of May in the country, which is home to the largest forests in the world.

The Guardian tells us that a UK shale gas company is considering dumping waste water from fracking in the sea, emails from the company show. Ineos, which owns the Grangemouth refinery and holds 21 shale licences, many in the north-west, North Yorkshire and the East Midlands, has said it wants to become the biggest player in the UK’s nascent shale gas industry. In an email sent in March to a resident in Ryedale district, North Yorkshire, where councillors gave the go-ahead to a fracking application by another company in May, a senior executive said that water produced during fracking could be discharged in the sea after being treated. It has not previously said where treated water would be released.

Norway’s parliament has approved a radical goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030, two decades earlier than planned. MPs voted for an accelerated programme of CO2 cuts and carbon trading to offset emissions from sectors such as Norway’s oil and gas industries, which are unlikely to be phased out in the near future. The minority government’s ruling Progress and Conservative parties withdrew their support for the motion at the last minute. But their argument, that ambitious emissions reductions now could interfere with future climate negotiations, was roundly defeated.

Following a series of new heat and melting records in the Arctic, nearly 400 international scientists have called on Barack Obama to rule out further expansion of oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters under US control. The letter, signed by prominent Arctic, marine and climate specialists – including a former member of Obama’s administration, urges the president to rule out any future hunting for oil in the waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. “No new oil and gas leasing or exploration should be allowed in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the foreseeable future, including in the next five-year leasing plan,” the scientists write in the letter.

coffee-mugs-1387830_960_720“I’ve got a megaphone and I’m not afraid to use it!” yelled Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on BBC One last night as the TV chef-turned eco warrior took his ‘War on Waste’ to the high street coffee shops. The problem: more than 5,000 coffee cups are now thrown away every minute across Britain, but less than 1% of those cups are actually recycled due to complex sorting and contamination issues. So, what’s the solution? More innovative cup designs? Better recycling infrastructure? Consumer behaviour change programmes? Or supply chain collaboration? Listen to edie’s latest podcast episode and read the stories that follow to find out how we can solve the great coffee cup conundrum.

badger-44202_960_720Badgers and cattle never came into close contact during a new field study examining how tuberculosis (TB) is transmitted between the animals. Most TB in cattle is contracted from other cattle but some infections come from badgers. The new research indicates that the disease is not passed on by direct contact, but through contaminated pasture and dung, with potentially significant implications for farm practices such as slurry spreading. It also suggests why TB in cattle is so hard to control even when cattle and badgers are culled, as the bacteria can survive in fields for months. Eradicating TB will require addressing this risk, the new research implies. TB is a serious problem for farmers, with 36,000 infected cattle slaughtered in Britain in 2015 at a cost to the taxpayer of about £100m. One key element of the government’s control programme, England’s controversial badger cull, is set to expand. Foremost experts say this “flies in the face of scientific evidence” and that the cull is a “monstrous” waste of time and money. The new research has not changed their conclusion.

amazon-indians-69589_960_720Plans to build a giant hydroelectric dam in the heart of the Amazon rainforest have been halted by Brazil’s environmental protection agency because of mounting concerns about the fate of indigenous communities and wildlife living in the area. The 8,000-megawatt São Luiz do Tapajós (SLT) dam would have been the sixth-largest hydroelectric dam in the world, spanning the five-mile wide Tapajós river and drowning 376 sq km (145 sq miles) of rainforest that is home to some 12,000 Munduruku Indians.

Can a house where wood is burned for heat really be called green?  After writing “From the straw bale wrap to the lime plaster finishes, this cottage is as green as it gets” there was a huge amount of comment about the use of wood for heating. “…as green as it gets”? I would like to respectfully disagree. It’s unfortunate that “renewable” is now equated with “clean”, “green”, “healthy”, and “good-for-the-planet”.Yes, wood is renewable, but burning it as fuel has none of these positive attributes. Make up your own mind by reading the article on TreeHugger.

ANOTHER PLANET?

Portugal-Old-houses-in-portoPortugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone for four consecutive days in a clean energy milestone revealed by data analysis of national energy network figures. Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power in an extraordinary 107-hour run that lasted from 6.45am on Saturday 7 May until 5.45pm the following Wednesday, the analysis says. News of the zero emissions landmark comes just days after Germany announced that clean energy had powered almost all its electricity needs on Sunday 15 May, with power prices turning negative at several times in the day – effectively paying consumers to use it.  And Germany experienced the same phenomenon when a particularly bright and sunny day supercharged their solar and wind power sectors. Around 1 p.m. on May 8, the nation’s renewable energy generating facilities were supplying around 55 gigawatts of the 63 gigawatts being consumed – about 87 percent of the total electricity consumption. With the addition of the country’s conventional power plants, the output actually exceeded the national demand. This energy surplus meant that, for a brief time, energy prices were actually negative, meaning consumers were effectively being paid to consume electricity. A similar feat occurred in Denmark last year, when a terrifically windy day boosted their wind power sector so much that these turbines alone generated 140 percent of the nation’s electricity demand, with the excess energy being exported to Germany, Norway, and Sweden.

paris smogFarming is the biggest single cause of the worst air pollution in Europe, a new study has found, as nitrogen compounds from fertilisers and animal waste drift over industrial regions. When the nitrogen compounds are mixed with air already polluted from industry, they combine to form solid particles that can stick in the fine lung tissue of children and adults, causing breathing difficulties, impaired lungs and heart function, and eventually even premature death. The compounds come from nitrogen-rich fertilisers, which have been in common use for decades. Nitrogen, the major content of the air we breathe, is essential for plant growth, and enhancing that growth has led to a massive industry in putting nitrogen – already naturally present in soils – back into the ground in greater quantities. Ammonia, whose chemical composition is nitrogen and hydrogen (NH3), is a byproduct both of fertilised fields and of animal waste, as it can come from the breakdown of livestock excretions.

RoundUpBestselling weedkillers by Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta could be removed from shops across Europe by July, after an EU committee failed for a second time to agree on a new license for its core ingredient, glyphosate. The issue has divided EU nations, academics and the World Health Organisation (WHO) itself. One WHO agency found it to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” while another ruled that glyphosate was unlikely to pose any health risk to humans, in an assessment shaded by conflict of interests allegations earlier this week. EU officials say that while there could be a voluntary grace period of six-12 months, unless a compromise can be found, the product’s license will be allowed to expire on 30 June.  Now that EU nations have refused to back a limited extension of the pesticide glyphosate’s use, it seems Monsanto’s Roundup and other weedkillers will be withdrawn from shelves if no decision is reached by the end of the month.

Degradation of the world’s natural resources by humans is rapidly outpacing the planet’s ability to absorb the damage, meaning the rate of deterioration is increasing globally, the most comprehensive environmental study ever undertaken by the UN has found. The study, which involved 1,203 scientists, hundreds of scientific institutions and more than 160 governments brought together by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), concludes that without radical action the level of prosperity that millions of people in the developed world count on will be impossible to maintain or extend to poorer countries. Water scarcity is the scourge of some of the poorest regions on Earth, the study found, leaving developing countries increasingly unable to feed themselves, and causing hardship for millions of people. There appears little prospect of this dire situation being remedied, according to the UN, without radical action being taken. More on the Guardian here.

Last April was the hottest April on record globally – and the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records. The latest figures smashed the previous record for April by the largest margin ever recorded. It makes three months in a row that the monthly record has been broken by the largest margin ever, and seven months in a row that are at least 1C above the 1951-80 mean for that month.

Rex Tillerson, the boss of oil giant ExxonMobil, said cutting oil production was “not acceptable for humanity” as he fought off shareholders’ and activists’ attempts to force the company to fully acknowledge the impact of climate change on the environment and Exxon’s future profits. During a long and fractious annual meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, Tillerson, who serves as Exxon’s chairman and chief executive, beat back several proposals to force the company to take more action on climate change.However, dissident shareholders won a vote that could make it easier for them to propose board candidates concerned about climate change and remove incumbent directors. The Guardian reports that Tillerson said Exxon had invested $7bn in green technology, but the science and technology had not yet achieved the breakthroughs needed to compete with fossil fuels. “Until we have those, just saying ‘turn the taps off’ is not acceptable to humanity,” he said.

Biodegradable plastic water bottles and shopping bags are a false solution to the ubiquitous problem of litter in the oceans, the UN’s top environmental scientist has warned. Most plastic is extremely durable, leading to large plastic debris and “microplastics” to spread via currents to oceans from the Arctic to the Antarctic, a UN report found. Greener plastics that breakdown in the environment have been marketed as a sustainable alternative that could reduce the vast amount of plastic waste that ends up in the sea after being dumped. But Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme, told the Guardian that these biodegradable plastics were not a simple solution. “It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50C and that is not the ocean. They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down,” she said.

floodsThe Paris floods, that saw extreme rainfall swell the river Seine to its highest level in decades, were made almost twice as likely because of the manmade emissions driving global warming, scientists have found. A three-day period of heavy rain at the end of May saw tens of thousands of people evacuated across France, and the capital’s normally busy river closed to traffic because the water levels were so high under bridges. As artworks in the Louvre were moved to safety and Paris’s cobbled walkways were submerged, the French president, François Hollande, blamed the floods on climate change. Now a preliminary analysis by a group of scientists, including the Dutch weather agency and the University of Oxford, has concluded the risk of the flooding event in Paris was almost doubled – multiplied by a factor of 1.8 – by humanity’s influence on the climate.

Alaska is on track for hottest year since records began. The warmest spring on record has helped push states’s year-to-date temperature more than 10°F (5.5°C) above average, reports Climate Central.  A record number of Americans believe global warming will pose a threat to their way of life, new polling data shows, amid strengthening public acceptance that rising temperatures are being driven by human activity. “I think a shift in public opinion and consciousness has been underway for several years now,” Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told the Guardian.