Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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In the lead up to December’s Conference of the Parties (COP24), today’s top story anticipates the next report from the IPCC and it will be about action. Meanwhile, Australia’s emissions continue to rise rapidly, but who would notice when the government releases the report on AFL and NRL grand final weekend. Other news argues that if we want action, sub-national government leadership is required and one journalist is optimistic that humans will be capable of a rapid transition to low emissions. Elsewhere, Anthony Bourdain presents a documentary on food waste (available on SBS OnDemand); cutting recidivism by educating prisoners in schooling and life skills at a third of the cost; and media responsibility for reporting correctly on Islamist terrorism.

Top Story

IPCC: Climate scientists consider ‘life changing’ report | BBC News
It is likely to be the most critical and controversial report on climate change in recent years. Leading scientists are meeting in South Korea this week to see if global temperatures can be kept from rising by more than 1.5C this century… After a week of deliberations in the city of Incheon, the researchers’ new report is likely to say that keeping below this limit will require urgent and dramatic action from governments and individuals alike. One scientist told BBC News that our lives would never be the same if the world changed course to stay under 1.5C.


Climate Change

Australia’s emissions data would shame the Coalition, if such a thing were possible | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Late on Friday, under the cover of the release of the first interim report from the Hayne royal commission into the financial sector and the day before a weekend of AFL and NRL grand finals, the government released the latest quarterly data showing greenhouse gas emissions had once again risen.

Unlocking Climate Action: When Nations, States and Cities Reinforce Each Other, Everybody Wins | World Resources Institute
We know that national commitments are not enough to stabilize the climate, and the efforts of cities and local governments, while crucial, can only go so far toward achieving the Paris Agreement goals. To pick up the pace, we need to strengthen the mutually reinforcing relationship between national and subnational climate actions to support and unlock greater ambition. Subnational innovations can inspire national policy change, which in turn can spread these ideas and actions throughout countries that adopt them.

The speed of #MeToo gives me hope – we can still stop climate change | The Guardian (Opinion)
After smoking and drink-driving, could climate change provide the next big behaviour-change challenge? The latest science tells us that nothing short of rapid, transformative change in our infrastructure and behaviour can prevent the loss of the climate we depend on – yet the message is only now being officially endorsed at the highest scientific level, because the implications are terrifying for today’s political and economic gatekeepers. It means real change, which incumbents always fear. But are we better at society-wide changes in attitude and behaviour than we give ourselves credit for?

Environment and Biodiversity

How Scientists Used Lasers, Satellites and Planes to Map One of Indonesia’s Biggest Sources of Emissions | World Resources Institute
INDONESIA – The Asian Forest Fires of 1997-1998 burned thousands of miles of rainforest, creating a haze and air quality disaster that caused $5-6 billion in economic losses and endangered the long-term health of 70 million people. The rampant spread of the fires through the vast tropical rainforest struck Siegert. Why were these fires happening, and why were they so aggressive? Seeking answers to those questions led Siegert to where he is today, the winner of a $1 million prize for mapping Indonesia’s peat, boggy lands composed of decaying organic matter. It’s just the latest achievement in a long career exploring peat, an often overlooked yet vitally important ecosystem in the global battle to fight climate change.

Queensland needs more national parks to protect threatened species, conservationists say | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Despite being home to nearly 1,000 threatened animal species, Queensland has one of the smallest percentages of land listed as national park in Australia. Although the Queensland Government has committed to ensuring that 17 per cent of the state is covered by environmental protection by 2021, conservationists argue that these areas need to additionally be protected against resource extraction.

Liberals ‘cave in’ and reject calls for new Great Forest National Park | ABC News
A new national park in Victoria’s central highlands — home of the state’s animal emblem, the leadbeater’s possum — will not be created if the Coalition win government. Speaking at Melbourne Zoo on Monday, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the creation of a Great Forest National Park was not on the Coalition’s agenda. Junior Coalition partner the Nationals have been clear in opposing the park. Mr Guy said the Liberals and Nationals were unified on their policy towards a Great Forest National Park.

The leadbeater's possum is Victoria's animal emblem. Photograph: Zoos Victoria

The leadbeater’s possum is Victoria’s animal emblem. Photograph: Zoos Victoria

Economy and Business

New study finds incredibly high carbon pollution costs – especially for the US and India | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
In 2013, the Obama administration set the federal social cost of carbon estimate at $37 per ton of carbon dioxide (up from the previous estimate of $22). That was a conservative estimate – in recent years, research has pegged the value closer to $200 because recent research has shown that global warming slows economic growth, which makes it quite expensive. A majority of economists in a 2015 survey believed the federal estimate was too low, but Republicans have recently been trying to dramatically lower it anyway.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Anthony Bourdain’s enduring message about waste | SBS Food
AUSTRALIA – Bourdain’s documentary Wasted! The Story of Food Waste asks what we – as home cooks, chefs, and food producers – can do about our food scraps. The film tackles both the problem, and possible solutions. There’s a visit to Seoul, in Korea, where each household’s food waste is weighed and recorded, with a fee charged each month; a trip to Japan, where chef Danny Bowien investigates how feeding pigs different food, including what might be considered waste, affects the taste of the meat; there’s a look at places turning yoghurt whey into electricity, and bread crusts that would normally be wasted into beer; and thoughtful, passionate, encouraging comments from Bourdain, Italy’s Massimo Botturra, writer Mark Bittman and other chefs, farmers and food thought leaders.

"The more you've seen of the world ... it becomes more personal." (Wasted! The Story of Food Waste)

“The more you’ve seen of the world … it becomes more personal.” (Wasted! The Story of Food Waste)

Countdown straws banished without disabled community’s input, advocate says |
NEW ZEALAND – Day one of no straws at Countdown has been a success, and rival New World says they have plans to ban them too. But Countdown have already logged complaints from communities representing customers with disabilities.

Politics and Society

In these humane Brazilian prisons inmates hold the keys to their cells | World Economic Forum
BRAZIL – The horrors of Brazilian prisons are notorious. Brutality, endemic violence, riots and severe overcrowding have given Brazil the ignominy of having one of the worst penal systems in the world. In January 2017, a turf war between rival drug gangs left 56 inmates dead. By the first 20 days of that year, 130 prisoners had died as a result of widespread violence. Sometimes the only way for guards to regain control in a prison riot is to shoot the ringleaders dead.

Explainer: what is Pentecostalism, and how might it influence Scott Morrison’s politics? | The Conversation
Since Scott Morrison became prime minister last month, much has been made about his religious beliefs and the impact they are likely to have on his leadership. Understanding Morrison’s faith and how it influences his worldview requires some basic knowledge about Pentecostalism and how it differs from other forms of Christianity. 

More on Australian politics:

Why the media needs to be more responsible for how it links Islam and Islamist terrorism | The Conversation
Confronted with this reality, the media are playing an essential role in informing us about Islam and influencing how we respond. But, perhaps due to a limited understanding of Islam or a fear of antagonising Muslims, a fundamental point has largely been absent from reporting: the threat of terrorism does not stem from Islam. Rather, it stems from Islamism, a political ideology.

Kavanaugh confirmation a reminder: Accused sexual harassers get promoted anyway | The Conversation
One day after hearing emotional testimony from accuser Christine Blasey Ford, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice pending an FBI investigation. For millions of American women – both those who’ve survived assault and those who have experienced workplace harassment – seeing a man on the path to promotion despite allegations of harassment is jarring yet painfully familiar.

Built Environment

How deadly is 50-degree heat? Australia’s cities face the new reality of climate change | ABC News
With wildfires raging around the Arctic Circle, unprecedented heatwaves in the Northern Hemisphere and record temperatures being set from Algeria to Canada, the world is getting inexorably hotter. And the combination of rising global temperatures with increasing urban density is proving deadly. Now, 50 degrees Celsius, once only associated with places like California’s Death Valley or the desert wilderness of Oman and Iraq, is an increasingly frequent occurrence. A recent study, led by Australian National University climate scientist Dr Sophie Lewis, speculated that 50C days could occur in Sydney and Melbourne within the next few decades.

Food Systems

‘We’ve bred them to their limit’: death rates surge for female pigs in the US | The Guardian
Death rates for female pigs in the US are rising fast, sending alarm bells ringing throughout the farming industry. The mortality rate rose from 5.8% to 10.2% on farms owning more than 125 sows between 2013-2016, according to one organisation that collects data across 800 companies. The numbers have been linked to a troubling rise in prolapse – the collapse of the animal’s rectum, vagina, or uterus.