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Wednesday 01 November 2017

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Climate change isn’t just hurting the planet – it’s a public health emergency | Christiana Figueres (Opinion)
When the doctor tells you that your cholesterol is too high, you tend to listen and change your diet. When the world’s climate scientists tell us that temperatures are rising to dangerous levels, we should heed their advice. It’s time to give up climate change, it’s bad for our health. I’m not talking about the health of our planet or the health of species such as the polar bear, so often associated with climate change – though they are suffering. I’m talking about human health. The health of you, your family, your neighbours – each and every one of us. A report just published in the Lancet from the specially created Lancet Countdown initiative, reveals just how bad climate change is for public health.

See also: Climate change already bringing disease, air pollution and heatwaves

Ed: The Lancet is one of the top scientific journals in the world.  You can find the Lancet report here.  They arrived at three conclusions:

  • The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible`
  • The delayed response to climate change over the past 25 years has jeopardised human life and livelihoods.
  • The past 5 years have seen an accelerated response, and in 2017 momentum is building across a number of sectors; the direction of travel is set, with clear and unprecedented opportunities for public health.

Climate Change and Energy

Emissions gap remains ‘alarmingly high’ says UN
In its annual review, the UN says the gap between carbon cutting plans and the reductions required to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius is “alarmingly high”. Pledges made so far cover only one-third of the cuts needed by 2030 to keep below that goal, the review warns.  Even if all the promises are kept, temperatures might still rise by 3 degrees by 2100.

See also: Australian emissions to ‘far exceed’ 2030 Paris pledge as need for action rises: UN

Queensland has 14 postcodes where 50% of homes have rooftop solar
AUSTRALIA – Just over a year ago, this One Step Off The Grid article reported that Climate Council data had counted a total of 14 postcodes in Australia where half or more households had installed rooftop solar PV. Fast forward to October 31, 2017, and a new Climate Council report, this time on the state of renewables in Queensland, has found that there are now 14 postcodes in the Sunshine State alone, where more than 50 per cent of households have rooftop solar (APVI 2017).

Environment and Biodiversity

Citizen scientists count nearly 2 million birds and reveal a possible kookaburra decline
AUSTRALIA – The fourth Aussie Backyard Bird Count has just ended, with nearly 2 million birds from 635 species submitted to the BirdLife Australia app. The count, which is in its fourth year, has created a national database of birds found in our backyards. We don’t know yet exactly how many people participated this year, but more than 60,000 people submitted checklists in 2016.

More signs to warn National Park motorists
NEW ZEALAND – New road signs have been put up to try and stop New Zealand’s national bird from becoming road kill. The death of a Kiwi – hit by a car in Raurimu in June – has resulted in the NZ Transport Agency placing more signs in and around Tongariro National Park. Biodiversity services ranger, Jenny Hayward said it was cool to see more signs up around the area including Raurimu.
Ed: So cool… terrible that a kiwi was killed but great that kiwi’s crossing are now becoming an issue… surely that’s a sign of increased populations 🙂

DOC Ranger Jenny Hayward is happy to see more signs warning motorist to watch out for kiwis. Photo: Frances Ferguson / Stuff

DOC Ranger Jenny Hayward is happy to see more signs warning motorist to watch out for kiwis. Photo: Frances Ferguson / Stuff

Deeper corals may be safest from climate change
NEW ZEALAND – A new study, led by Australian Museum researcher Dr Paul Muir and co-authored by Aguirre, looked to the stunning coral reefs in the Maldives islands in the Indian Ocean and found, importantly, that bleaching events might not affect all parts of reefs equally…. Meanwhile… The world’s largest coral genomics sequencing project, the five-year Sea-quence project, has genetically sequenced a whole coral organism – the Porites lutea species, a type of massive boulder coral – for the first time. That included the coral animal, the tiny

Photo: Conservationists want the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion, which stretches from Newcastle to Wollongong, to be earmarked as a marine park. (Supplied: NSW Marine Estate Management Authority)

Photo: Conservationists want the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion, which stretches from Newcastle to Wollongong, to be earmarked as a marine park. (Supplied: NSW Marine Estate Management Authority)

plants, or zooxanthellae, that live in its tissue, and associated microbes including bacteria and viruses.

NSW coastal plan calls for beefed up protections amid push for new marine park
AUSTRALIA – The first ever 10-year plan for the New South Wales marine environment has sparked a debate about whether further protections are needed along a large stretch of the state’s coastline. The Marine Estate Management Authority has released a draft document for public comment, outlining eight initiatives to improve the marine environment.

Submissions can be made on the draft Marine Estate Management Strategy until December 8.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The art and science of composting toilets
NEW ZEALAND – Lisa Johnston and her partner Greg Inwood are part of a group called ‘ Relieve – compost toilets for community resilience’ and have successfully used and managed a compost toilet for several years.  Afternoons’ Jesse Mulligan poo pooed the idea of composting toilets last week, which prompted Ms Johnston to hit back. She said the idea of composting toilets for many New Zealanders probably conjured up ideas of smelly long drops.

Designed to both stand out and blend in, public urinals may finally help end Paris’s centuries-old menace of street urination. Photograph by FALTAZI

Designed to both stand out and blend in, public urinals may finally help end Paris’s centuries-old menace of street urination. Photograph by FALTAZI

How Paris Is Covering Up That Pee Smell
FRANCE – What’s a city to do? Try to turn a public misdeed into something resembling a public service. Earlier this year, officials partnered with Faltazi, a French design agency with a fresh idea: installing public urinals in areas known for abundant urination. The receptacle, known as a Uritrottoir, or “sidewalk urinal,” is filled with odor-fighting straw or sawdust.

Politics and Society

Adani protests ‘could influence undecided voters’ in lead-up to Queensland election
AUSTRALIA – As protesters continue to shadow ALP and LNP election campaigns, the Adani coal mine could become a strong influence on urban undecided Queensland voters, a former Liberal Party insider says.

Pacific Islanders call for Australia not to fund Adani coalmine
Pacific Islanders whose homes face eradication by rising sea levels have called on Australia to not fund the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as a new report reveals the worsening impact of climate change across Oceania. Residents of the endangered islands have described their forced displacement as like “having your heart ripped out of your chest” as they called on the Australian government to do more to combat climate change.

Australia’s top adventurers, conservationists recognised for doing the extraordinary
They have eaten freeze-dried meals for six months straight, trekked unassisted to the world’s highest peak and changed the way thousands of people treat this planet. They are some of the most outstanding adventurers and conservationists Australia has ever seen and they are today being honoured by the Australian Geographic Society.

Government considering experimental climate change visa
NEW ZEALAND – An experimental visa for people from the Pacific displaced by climate change is to be investigated by the Government. Climate Change Minister and Greens leader James Shaw said the intention was to work with the Pacific Islands in the coming months and years on an experimental humanitarian visa category for people from the Pacific displaced by rising seas caused by climate change.

Built Environment

Want better concrete? Just add plastic
Concrete infused with plastic can create stronger, more flexible structures, reducing the material’s global carbon footprint and redirecting plastics from landfill, according to a study by MIT students. Stemming from a class research project, Caroline Schaefer and Michael Ortega wanted to find ways to lower carbon dioxide emissions, and decided to tackle concrete manufacture, as it generates about 4.5 per cent of the world’s human-induced carbon emissions.

Achieving better health outcomes in hospitals by putting people’s needs and nature first
“In many hospitals of the past, commonplace was a blanket one-size fits all approach: confined rooms, low ceilings, glaring artificial light, plain walls, tiny unopenable windows, stark waiting rooms, noisy floors and the presence of medical odours,” Soper says. “But for patients in hospitals where new design ideas have been implemented to help aid a speedier and more comfortable recovery, and reduce ongoing maintenance costs – such as Singapore’s Yishun Community Hospital, or various Aboriginal health facilities in Australia –  the experience is very different, and so too are the impacts.”

Study shows 44 of 51 UK towns and cities breach air quality rules
UK – Research from the Royal College of Physicians shows that 44 UK towns and cities including London, Manchester and Cardiff fail the WHO’s test for particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), which are linked to heart disease and premature death.

Seven EU countries urged the European Commission for stricter vehicle carbon emissions standards
A group of EU countries comprising Austria, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Slovenia has written a letter to the European Commission asking for stricter limits on vehicle emissions standards, ahead of the induction of new standards next month.

Memorial grove of pohutukawa illegally trimmed on Auckland’s North Shore
NEW ZEALAND – Tree “carnage” is becoming an epidemic in Auckland and citizens need to be more vigilant in reporting illegal trimming, an environmentalist says. Most recently, a grove of protected pōhutukawa trees, planted as a World War II memorial, was illegally trimmed on Auckland’s North Shore, with no one held to account.

Food Systems

New Plant-Based Milk Ups the Ante for Declining Dairy Industry Profits
Move over, Bessie. A new vegan milk made from pea protein is the latest product to nudge its way into revenues that once were reserved for the dairy industry. Ripple Foods aims to make big waves and likely will. Its two experienced founders have discovered a way to make a milk that has the same amount of protein as dairy milk, but none of the carbon emissions associated with the dairy industry.

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