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ANOTHER PLANET?

cc-1-300x180EU ministers have agreed to ratify the landmark Paris climate agreement at an extraordinary summit in Brussels on Friday, all but guaranteeing that it will pass a legal threshold to take effect next week and sparing the bloc’s blushes in the process. The EU’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The EU’s member states decided to make history together and bring closer the entry into force of the first ever universally binding climate change agreement. We must and we can hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies.

September 2016 is a major milestone for the world’s climate. At a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide is usually at its minimum, the monthly value failed to drop below 400 parts per million (ppm). That all but ensures that 2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes, according to scientists.  And global temperature has increased to a level not seen for 115,000 years, requiring daunting technological advances that will cost the coming generations hundreds of trillions of dollars, according to the scientist widely credited with bringing climate change to the public’s attention. A new paper submitted by James Hansen, a former senior Nasa climate scientist, and 11 other experts states that the 2016 temperature is likely to be 1.25C above pre-industrial times, following a warming trend where the world has heated up at a rate of 0.18C per decade over the past 45 years.

Electricity generated by solar panels on fields and homes outstripped Britain’s ageing coal power stations over the past six months in a historic first. Climate change analysts Carbon Brief found more electricity came from the sun than coal from April to the end of September, in a report that highlighted the two technologies’ changing fortunes.

FrackOffHorizontal fracking can go ahead, the government has said, in a landmark ruling for the UK shale gas industry. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has approved plans for fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire. Environmentalists and local campaign groups reacted angrily, saying it was a denial of local democracy. It means, for the first time, UK shale rock will be fracked horizontally, which is expected to yield more gas. A second site, Roseacre Wood, has not yet been given the green light amid concerns over the impact on the area.  Javid  overturned Lancashire council’s rejection of a fracking site, paving the way for shale company Cuadrilla to drill in the county next year and provoking outrage from local groups, environmentalists and politicians. The council cited visual impact and noise when it turned down the company’s two planning applications to frack on the Fylde last year, but a month later Cuadrilla submitted an appeal.

pangolinPangolins, the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, were thrown a lifeline at a global wildlife summit on Wednesday with a total trade ban in all species. More than a million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade, to feed the huge and rising appetite in China and Vietnam for its meat and its scales, a supposed medicine. The unique scaly anteaters are fast heading for extinction in Asia and poachers are now plundering Africa. But the 182 nations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) unanimously agreed a total ban on international trade on all species at the summit in Johannesburg, prompting cheers and applause from delegates.  More on the Guardian website here.

air pollutionChina is the world’s deadliest country for outdoor air pollution, according to analysis by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN agency has previously warned that tiny particulates from cars, power plants and other sources are killing 3 million people worldwide each year. For the first time the WHO has broken down that figure to a country-by-country level. It reveals that of the worst three nations, more than 1 million people died from dirty air in China in 2012, at least 600,000 in India and more than 140,000 in Russia. At 25th out of 184 countries with data, the UK ranks worse than France, with 16,355 deaths in 2012 versus 10,954, but not as poorly as Germany at 26,160, which has more industry and 16 million more people. Australia had 94 deaths and 38,043 died in the US that year from particulate pollution.

Shoppers in England have become much more likely to take their own bags to the high street since the introduction of a plastic bag charge nearly a year ago, a study has found. More than nine in 10 people now often or always carry their own bags, up from seven in 10 before the 5p charge came into effect, and the public became much more supportive after it started. The number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets and big retailers in England has fallen by 85%.

The Labour party has strengthened its opposition to fracking, saying it would ban the controversial technique for extracting shale gas if it came to power. Speaking at the Labour conference in Liverpool, shadow energy and climate secretary Barry Gardiner is to announce the party will be going further than its previous policy of a moratorium until environment conditions are met.

Virgin_atlanticThe Guardian reports that world’s first agreement to curb aviation’s greenhouse gas pollution has been struck by 191 nations in a landmark United Nations accord, although environmental groups have warned the deal doesn’t go far enough. A meeting of 2,000 delegates at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency, in Montreal has settled upon a global emissions-reduction scheme that will apply to passenger and cargo flights that generate more than 10,000 tonnes of annual greenhouse gases. The deal, aimed at reducing the growing climate impact of plane travel, follows years of disagreement between nations on how to slow emissions from the sector. Instead of facing a cap or charge on emissions, airlines will be involved in an offsetting scheme whereby forest areas and carbon-reducing activities will be funded, costing about 2% of the industry’s annual revenues. Global aviation emissions in 2020 will be used as a benchmark, with around 80% of emissions above 2020 levels offset until 2035. A push by the shipping and oil industries for a five-year delay to curbs on toxic sulphur emissions would cause an extra 200,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease, according to an unpublished International Maritime Organisation (IMO) study.

Romania has banned all trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats in a surprise decision that gives Europe’s largest population of large carnivores a reprieve from its most severe and immediate threat.

plasticbagThe vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined. A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the “great Pacific garbage patch”, located between Hawaii and California. The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated.

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ANOTHER PLANET?

bez and fracking!The UK’s fracking debate has turned up a few more notches, with neither of the main two parties seemingly safe custodians of our health or for our environment. Yes, whilst the Tories plot new laws to allow fracking under homes and schools, with Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osbourne focussed only on the economic benefits, Labour seemed like deer caught in the headlights and refused to support the move for a total moratorium on fracking  after pressure from Unions (again, we need leaders and thinkers in our Parliament and in our Unions, not sheep). What we ended up with are some ‘safeguards’ which this blogger doubts will guard anyone’s safety: Yes the Tory led coalition government has accepted amendments to planned legislation conceding that there will be no fracking in National Parks, sites of special scientific interest (SSIs) and areas of natural beauty – in the face of opposition from their own party led by ex Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and the former home office minister Lib Dem Norman Baker. But no – no temporary moratorium on fracking.  Other ‘safeguards’ supported by Labour include the depth of drilling and the need for an environmental impact assessment for fracking and maybe protecting drinking water.  And lets not forget earthquakes – yes, trial drilling in 2011 triggered two quakes here in the UK. Great! The fossil fuel companies, compliant politicians and our blinkered media have really pulled a fast one here. For more comment – there’s an interesting feature in the Observer on Joe Corre, who set up and then sold on lingerie business Agent Provocateur, who now with his Mum, fashion guru Vivienne Westwood is putting his money where his mouth is and campaigning against fracking. highlighting the health issues – along with water contamination, air pollution and environmental damage and who says the anti-fracking campaign “is an alliance of people right across the political spectrum. Fracking has opened their eyes to the whole way government is corrupted by lobbyists and scientists are corrupted by corporations. That’s why fracking is such a hot election issue”.

FrackOffBAD NEWS is that the Prime Minister’s plan to make citizens powerless to stop fracking firms drilling under our homes has been approved by MPs. Though 52 MPs pushed for a moratorium, it wasn’t enough to stop the new laws from getting the go ahead. Greenpeace organised a petition calling on MPs to vote against Cameron’s plan and that now stands at 360,000 strong — an incredible number. And while this awful law was approved today, Greenpeace says this: “Under the weight of huge public pressure, the consensus on fracking is crumbling. And the evidence that the industry is bad for the environment and for the climate grows week after week.” But not a good day.

The Sum Of Us says this:  The government still got its corporate-sponsored fracking bill onto the statute books — allowing the fracking industry to drill right under our homes without our permission. And it has another plan up its sleeve: It wants to spend £80 million of taxpayer money to boost the fracking industry’s terrible reputation.

No fracking way! The Business Department will soon make the final decision about this plan, so we need to take action now. The Business Department plans to fund the drilling of hundreds of boreholes all over the country. It’s trying to persuade us that fracking is safe — which it isn’t. Affected communities around the world have shown us that fracking pollutes the groundwater and air, is dangerous for our health, and emits large amounts of greenhouse gas. Instead of listening to its own parliamentary report, our desperate government is plotting to spend millions of pounds of our own money on duping us — but it’s not too late to squash this plan. David Cameron has boasted that his government is going ‘all out for shale’ — regardless of the fact that less than a quarter of the UK public thinks fracking is a good idea. And opposition to fracking has exploded all around the world: Protest camps, mass demonstrations and multiple rejections of local fracking applications have sprung up everywhere. Fracking will not lead to more affordable energy, nor will it tackle global warming — whereas investing in renewable energy will. We cannot frack the British countryside and hit our climate change targets. With yesterday’s vote the government love-in with the shale industry has taken a hit — let’s keep on fighting it.

Yes we need energy. But every pound spent on fracking is a pound not spent on sustainable energy – wind, water, tidal and sun. It’s there to have – but out lobbied by the fossil fuel corporates. With Lancashire County Council are about to decide on whether to allow the first fracking sites in the UK. We’re standing with people in Lancashire. As 38 Degrees say “Together, we can stop fracking” – sign 38 Degree’s petition here

And interestingly, Shanghai has become China’s first big local government area to ditch a formal growth target based solely on economic criteria – Shanghai is dropping economic growth from its annual work report – and will now look at factors including improvements to the environment, employment and the ability to keep bad debt under control. Shanghai had a 2014 GDP of $250 billion – although commentators say the new targets may not be easy to gauge.

Tens of millions of people along the East Coast of the U.S have hunkered down for a snowstorm thay could be the worst on record. Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service said Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, could get the most snow, about 2 feet. New York could see 10 inches to 20 inches, Hartford, Connecticut, 1 to 2 feet, and Philadelphia and central New Jersey about 6 inches. The National Weather Service over the weekend had issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions. On Monday, life abruptly stopped across the region as officials ordered workers to go home early, banned travel, closed bridges and tunnels, and assembled their biggest plowing crews. 7,700 fligts were cancelled in and out of the Northeast were canceled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday and Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark. “When you wake up in the morning, it is going to look like a blizzard,” said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, echoing the concern of many government leaders. Forecasters originally said the storm could bring 1 to 3 feet of snow and punishing hurricane-force winds. But early Tuesday, they downgraded most of those numbers, saying New England would fare the worst, but even then not as bad as expected. But still bad!

Claims that 2014 was the hottest year ever on record may not be 100% accurate. The UK’s Met Office 2014 had not been quite as warm as predicted although it probably equalled the record set in 2010.  2014 was certainly one of the top ten hottest years on record and “adds to the set of near record temperatures seen over the last two years”. NASA and the NOAA in the USA recently announced 2014 was the warmest since records began in 1880.

pangolinA £1 million cache of ivory and pangolin skins has been seized in Uganda – the three crates were destined for Amsterdam and were labelled as ‘communications equipment’. The tusks in the crates weighed more than 700KG and there were two tonnes of pangolin skins – Pangolins are scaly mammals that live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Poaching for illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss have made these extraordinary creatures one of the most endangered mammal groups in the world – pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Image from http://savepangolins.org/

Prince Charles has warned World leaders that they will be condemned by their grandchildren if they fail to take effective action to protect rainforests and prevent dangerous climate change. The Prince warned that politicians in an “increasingly uncertain world” had one “last chance before we end up with an irreversible situation” calling for an “integrated approach to forestry, agriculture, fisheries, water and energy”.

greenpeace fishingTalking of fishing ……  Greenpeace is taking the UK government to court over fishing quota saying “Who should be first in line to get fishing quota? We think it should go to those who fish sustainably. And hard-won reforms to EU fishing laws now gives our government a mandate to do just that. But the UK government is failing to take action. Instead, they’re keeping the status quo, and favouring the industrial fleet instead” . Read more here http://www.independent.co.uk/…/greenpeace-comes-to-the-aid-  … and like/share if you agree that fishing should be low-impact and support the UK economy.

ANOTHER PLANET?

solar powerLondon Mayor Boris Johnson has warned that the the power stations that feed the capital are working at full capacity and that London faces blackouts caused by population growth. Energy watchdog Ofgem says that maximum capacity could be just 2% above demand peak demand in 2015.  Mr Johnson has given drivers of diesel vehicles six years notice that he will then implement a additional £10 per day charge for diesel cars vehicles. An air pollution monitoring station on London’s Oxford Street has recorded one of the highest levels of NO2 in the world – nitrogen dioxide is linked to 7,000 UK deaths each year. The average central London reading is three times the EU’s limit.

The White House has warned that delaying action on climate change would carry a heavy price, racking up an additional 40% in economic losses from climate impacts and other costs over the course of 10 years.White House officials said the stark finding from the president’s council of economic advisers underlined the urgency of Barack Obama’s efforts to cut carbon pollution. In addition to a new report on the economic cost of delay, the White House is poised to launch two new initiatives on Tuesday dealing with fast-rising methane emissions from the natural gas industry, and buffering food security against future climate change.  “We are pushing across the board on the elements of the climate action plan,” John Podesta, Obama’s counsellor, told a conference call with reporters.

Sainsburys have launched a new cycle friendly lorry with proximity sensors and 360 degree video vision, side guard extensions and more indicators along the sides and extra lights to illuminate the tarmac around the lorries. Seven lorries are ready to roll, with nine more in the pipeline with a Nationwide roll out over 5 years.

waspThe current heatwave in the UK has been very beneficial to fruit and flowers – and with many fruits ripening ahead of schedule – marvellous for wasps! Biting and stinging insects like midges, wasps and ticks –  are multiplying in the warm weather – after a warm 2013-2014 winter which did little to curb numbers. The NHS has reported a big uplift in enquiries and says this – “buzzing bees, marching ants and swarms of midges are becoming as much a part of the British summer as deckchairs, picnics and ice creams.  The warm winter was also beneficial to gas bills – down 25% on average in the “UK!

It has transpired that research into whether the ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides (which are thought to be harmful to bees, our main pollinators and vital to the Nation) may be biased – as its being funded by pesticide manufacturers. The House of Commons environmental audit committee says that Defra’s reliance on manufacturer funded research shows its ‘excessive reliance on commercial (rather than scientific) priorities. As Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan told Q Magazine: “Bees are almost honourable, man. Firstly they create some sweet, sweet honey. Which is fucking GREAT. Thanks, bees, for the honey. And if they sting you they die, so when it comes to stinging, they’re really passionate about what they do” adding “They’re like passionate artists. Bees are like painters. All they do is give and give and give, and sometimes they give too much”.

Fracking rules in the UK are to be tightened to avoid damaging areas of outstanding natural beauty. National Parks, world heritage sites and the Broads.  The move was welcomed by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England  but was criticised by the oil and gas industries who say the risks of fracking to the environment and water supplies are low.  But despite overwhelming opposition to the government’s plans to expanding fracking across Britain expressed by interest groups during an official consultation, ministers have signalled a go-ahead for shale gas drilling around the country. The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s report on the government’s Strategic Environmental Assessment of its nationwide fracking plan recorded a wide range of objections, including from bodies such as Public Health England and the Natural England.  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/28/fracking-expansion-shale-gas-opposition-britain?CMP=EMCENVEML1631.

New models by Renault and Volvo helped sales of electric cars in the European Union double in 2013, but the zero-emission vehicles still only account for one in every 250 new cars sold. Electric cars are a crucial part of government policies tackling both air pollution and climate change, but car manufacturers have lobbied hard against rules to cut emissions.

India’s Adami Group has won approval from the Australian Governmentto build one of the world’s biggest coal mines – which could threaten the Great barrier reef as the Abbot Point port would be enlarged The Carmichael coal and rail project in Queensland will produce 60 million tonnes of coal each year for export, mostly to India. The Government has said conditions have been imposed to prevent the environment being damaged and water supplies being compromised.

DRAX POWERAn interesting article in the Times ‘Opinion’ pages on Monday 28th July 2014 by Matt Ridley, a man usually so biased against green energy his comments are  not worth reading. Whilst this article has the usual dollop of anti green vitriol, it makes the good point that burning wood biomass instead of coal to generate electricity is not necessarily green and clean energy – especially of that wood comes from freshly harvested trees shipped over from North America.  The rest f the article is an ill thought out and blinkered  arrack on sustainable energy – but that doesn’t detract from the main point in ‘Another renewable myth goes up in smoke‘ – and comes on the back of news that Drax – who are converting their coal burning power stations to biomass in North Yorkshire – are fighting a government decision to remove new subsidies in the courts – and news that Drax also still receive a subsidy for the coal fired plants they still have  – the “capacity” subsidy to cover possible blackouts when there are dips in supplies from renewable energy sources such as wind farms. Bonkers? Unfortunately for Mr Ridley, new polling data reveals that almost half of UK voters see investing in renewables as a priority over any other form of energy when it comes to ensuring the nation’s energy security. Figures released last week by RenewableUK found that 48% of voters see investing in renewables as their number one priority for maintaining energy security – far ahead of the next most popular choice, building new nuclear reactors, which came in at 15%.

Nasa scientists have revealed an that an unreported near-miss eruption on the surface of the Sun could have devastated Earth and sent us back to the ’18th century’. The chilling report says that Earth was just one week away from disaster after two massive clouds of plasma happened to miss hitting the Earth’s atmosphere. The eruption, which was observed by Nasa’s space probe STEREO, occurred in July 2012. The clouds of plasma, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), were part of what is to date the biggest solar storm in 150 years. More on AOL.

Pangolin_borneoPangolins being eaten to extinction, conservationists have warned – Scaly anteaters are now the most illegally-traded mammal in the world for food and so called medicine, with all eight species listed as threatened in the Red List of endangered animals.

Kudzu  was first introduced to the U.S. at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, it has been swallowing the country from an epicenter in the South-East at the rate of about 50,000 baseball fields per year, occupying an estimated 3,000,000 hectares today. Kudzu can grow up to 60 feet per season, or about one foot per day. Kudzu is extremely bad for the ecosystems that it invades because it smothers other plants and trees under a blanket of leaves, hogging all the sunlight and keeping other species in its shade. It can also survive in low nitrogen areas and during droughts, allowing it to out-compete native species that don’t have those superpowers. The only other plants that can compete with kudzu are other invasive species, so that doesn’t really help…

“Green growth is more than just low carbon and renewable energies. From a technological point of view, renewables alone do not constitute a synergistic technology system. There is not enough technological convergence in knowledge, suppliers, engineering or skills between solar, wind, wave, geothermal or hydroelectric energy equipment. In order to benefit from all the potential synergies, the environmental challenge must be seen with a wider lens. Apart from the technologies that enable flexibility and interaction in the space of renewable energy, such as batteries, smart grids and the like, the green direction would have to encompass what can be termed green growth. This would include conservation; pollution control; reduction of material content per product; designing for durability; replacing products, possession and waste with services, rental and maintenance and recycling, respectively; promoting the flourishing of the creative economy; making cities more liveable and less polluting; revamping transport systems and the built environment; promoting collaborative and sharing economies; focusing on health (including preventive and personalised medicine);  and  promoting  all  forms  of  education,  in  and  out  of  schools.  This  type  of  growth  implies  a redefinition  of  the  optimal  production  practices  and  a  different  view  of  the  ‘good  life’,  shaping  the  desires  and  aspirations  of  the  majority.  In  other  words,  green  growth  involves  a  gradual transformation  of  the  entire  economy,  reversing  the  mass  production  and  consumption  patterns  of the  previous  revolution  and  making  it  cost effective  and  profitable  to  introduce  a  wide  range  of  innovative  changes  in  production  and  lifestyles  that  would  increase  sustainability  and  reduce  carbon,  while  improving  the  quality  of  life  for  all.” More on copyright and a green perspective can be found in   ‘Innovation ‘as Growth Policy: the challenge for Europe’ by Mariana Mazzucato & Carlota Perez, which can be found here

 

After raising a Gorilla in an English zoo, Damian Aspinall ventured out to the jungle where it was released to try to catch a glimpse of him, five years later. Not expecting the Gorrila, “Kwibi”, to recognize him, he was in for a major shock when they crossed paths: http://www.thefreeus.com/gorilla-saw-the-man-who-raised-him/

Two new reports on the global energy-water nexus have concluded that by 2040 there may not be enough water to meet both the world’s drinking water and energy generation demands. With large amounts of water required to generate energy from fossil fuels and nuclear, competing water and energy demands risk a combined water and energy crisis in the coming decades.  The reports estimate a 50% rise in water demands by 2030 driven increasingly by electricity generation which has the potential to leave a 40% gap between supply and demand in some parts of the world.  The data was collected by researchers from Vermont Law School and Aarhus University in Denmark.  The areas highlighted for particular water-stress were in Texas, India and Northern China. In India, 70% of power generation comes from low-quality coal and the World Resources Institute estimates that its water demand will outstrip supply by as much as 50% by 2030, with 79% of new electricity generation capacity expected to be built in water-scare or water-stressed are

tripadReview website TripAdvisor has launched a new online programme that will help travellers around the world plan greener trips by choosing European hotels and B&Bs based on their environmental credentials. The TripAdvisor GreenLeaders programme has awarded more than 6,000 qualifying accommodation businesses a ‘GreenLeader’ status based on a variety of sustainability practices including energy efficiency, recycling and water reduction.

Car clubs are set to receive a £500,000 funding boost, Transport Minister Baroness Kramer has announced. The funding will help to make more efficient use of the road and reduce transport related carbon emissions through support for two pilot car sharing programmes. Pay-as-you-go car use encourages people to walk and cycle and make use of public transport.  Baroness Kramer said: “Car clubs cut congestion, reduce carbon and save people money while still giving people the freedom and flexibility to use a car when they want to. Interest in car clubs is already gathering pace and we want to give that interest added momentum.

A cheap lighting concept which creates solar lanterns from plastic bottle waste is being trialled by designers in the hope it can be scaled up for commercial production.  Turkish creative firm Designnobis has developed what it calls ‘Infinite Light’ – a lantern made by reusing an empty plastic bottle and fitting it with a flexible solar panel and batteries. The solar panel sits inside the bottle and collects sunlight during the day. It then switches over to battery power at night once the solar energy has been depleted.  The lantern is held together by a frame, with a handle so that it can be hung up or carried around. The concept, which has already won an eco-innovation award, is intended to highlight the growing importance of waste materials as a resource.

British paper and technical fibres company and a Swedish forestry giant have unveiled a sustainable alternative to plastic which they claim is strong enough to carry the weight of an adult and can be composted within 100 days. DuraPulp was developed by James Cropper in partnership with Södra, a Swedish forestry cooperative. The bio-composite material is made from pulp and a renewable polymer which, after additional processing, becomes moisture resistant, rigid and strong enough to carry the weight of an adult.