Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Can superfoods boost the planet’s health, too?
It can seem like new health food fads pop up every week — fads that often fade as quickly as they appear. Two gaining steam lately, though, may be worth a longer look: baobab and moringa. Traditional fare in parts of Africa (and for moringa, Asia as well), these foods offer the potential not only to strengthen local economies, but to encourage conservation and carbon sequestration, too. Time and again, when the world “discovers” a food previously consumed by a small pocket of the planet, global demand grows and production shifts from small and sustainable toward large-scale monoculture operations. In some cases, that ends up wreaking havoc on local ecosystems and spelling economic trouble for local producers and indigenous food supplies.
Energy and Climate Change
Gwynne Dyer: Climate tipping point could be here
If you spend a lot of time talking to scientists about climate change, there’s one word you’ll hear time and time again, and yet it’s hardly ever mentioned in the public discussion of climate change. The word is “non-linear”. Most people think of global warming as an incremental thing. It may be inexorable, but it’s also predictable. Alas, most people are wrong. The climate is a very complex system, and complex systems can change in non-linear ways. In other words, you cannot count on the average global temperature rising steadily but slowly as we pump more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It may do that – but there may also be a sudden jump in the average global temperature that lands you in a world of hurt. That may be happening now.
Phasing out fossil fuels for renewables may not be a straightforward swap
To have any chance of preventing dangerous climate change, the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or even negative by mid-century. Many experts suggest this means we need to completely phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Several studies have concluded that 100% renewable energy supply systems are technically and economically feasible. This informs the widespread view that fossil fuels can be more or less “swapped out” for renewables, without significant economic consequences. We are strongly sympathetic to the need for a rapid global shift away from fossil fuels. But new modelling conducted independently and made publicly available by my colleague at the Understandascope, Josh Floyd, suggests that such a transition may face significant challenges.
Renewable energy target in doubt as $10b investment needed
AUSTRALIA – Fresh doubts have been raised about the country’s ability to meet the 2020 renewable energy target after a new analysis found that $10 billion of extra investment is needed in a market where lenders are wary because of changing regulations. In research to be released on Monday, BIS Shrapnel has determined it is “highly doubtful” the 2020 target of 33,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy output can be achieved given the stalling of investment over the past few years that means a huge catch-up effort is required. It expects the goal may only be reached one or two years late.
Maritime industry refuses to change emissions course
Two weeks ago, the eyes of the world were on the U.N. headquarters in New York, watching 175 national governments step up to the stage and in (relatively) quick succession formally commit their countries to the most wide-ranging and ambitious climate deal in history. But in stark contrast to the sweeping ambition on display in New York, in London a meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) showed an industry moving at a markedly slower pace towards decisive climate action. Despite the hopes of many climate campaigners, last week’s meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) did not deliver a greenhouse gas reductions target for the industry.
Solar Impulse aeroplane heads for Phoenix, Arizona
Solar Impulse is back in the air. The zero-fuel aeroplane has left Mountain View, California, bound for Phoenix, Arizona, on what is the 10th leg of its round the world quest. Swiss adventurer Andre Borschberg is at the controls, having taken over from Bertrand Piccard, who brought Solar Impulse to the West Coast of the US from Hawaii just over a week ago.
Environment and Biodiversity
Acidic oceans are dissolving shells of tiny sea snails, researchers find
Small organisms are struggling to survive as the ocean becomes more acidic, researchers say, including tiny sea snails whose shells are dissolving. Researchers fear an increase in acidification in the Southern Ocean could have a severe impact on the food chain off Australia’s south coast. The concerns come as 350 scientists from more than 30 countries gather in Hobart for an international symposium on the impact of carbon dioxide on the world’s oceans.
Biologists lose hard-fought ground in race to save bats as white-nose syndrome spreads west
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey last month delivered a sobering update on the white-nose syndrome (WNS) epidemic in North America. WNS has been confirmed in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) near North Bend, Washington, over 1,300 miles west of the previously identified western edge of the disease front, Nebraska.
Economy and Business
Instead of Lobbying, Top 25 Utilities Could Have Doubled US Solar Capacity
USA – The Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute just released a report analyzing the top 25 US investor-owned electric utilities, and one of the highlights is that these 25 largest utilities collectively spent over $400 million of money (from their ratepayers) lobbying in the past four years. In many cases, this involved lobbying against net metering, renewable energy standards, or incentives for solar energy. What could that money have bought if instead spent on the things that most electric customers want, such as solar energy?
Waste and the Circular Economy
Scientists Turn Florida’s Rotten Tomatoes Into Clean Energy
Each year, the state of Florida throws out nearly 400,000 tons of tomato waste, according to the researchers. In addition to imperfect tomatoes not suitable for grocery store shelves, waste also can come from the leftovers of manufacturing processes of sauces, ketchup and other cooking products.
Politics and Society
Strong plan can deliver a 100% renewable energy future
AUSTRALIA – Anyone who has ever tried going on a family holiday without a clear plan knows that the end result is generally chaos. A little planning can be the difference between a group of happy campers and a car full of grumpy kids getting lost on the way to second-rate accommodation in a third-rate destination. If you have no clear plan – or one that keeps changing – you can still achieve things, but it’s unlikely you’ll take the most efficient road to get you there. Last month leaders from across the globe gathered in New York to sign on to the global climate agreement that was reached in Paris. After years of talking, the event has provided hope for the future – and a clear long-term destination at the very least. But Australia still lacks a plan that takes us beyond 2020.
Federal government steps up on cities
AUSTRALIA – More than seven months after appointing a cities minister and promising a fresh approach to engagement on cities, the federal government has released its Smart Cities Plan for consultation, and it has the support of major built environment players.
Farmer understanding of water quality at odds with regional plan
NEW ZEALAND – Ronlyn Duncan thinks farmers are at odds with their regional plans over water quality. She talks to Pat Deavoll on her research into the divergence. Farmer understanding of the issues of water quality is at odds with the scientific models in the regional plan, says Lincoln University lecturer in water management Ronlyn Duncan. Duncan argues the difference affects the laying down of good management and, beyond that, achieving farmer compliance with the regional plan. Managing water quality must also involve understanding people, Duncan says.
Overfishing puts $42bn tuna industry at risk of collapse
Overfishing is jeopardising a global tuna industry worth more than $42bn (£29bn), according to the first assessment of its kind. A report produced by the Pew Charitable Trusts has highlighted the significant revenues that fishermen, processors and retailers are generating from severely depleted species of tuna.
Ballance award winners working toward sustainable farm
NEW ZEALAND – Shane Gibbons and Bridget Speight want a sustainable and productive future for their Te Anau basin farm. The pair were named the supreme award winners at the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in April. They also picked up the farm stewardship award, the water quality and biodiversity award and the integrated management award. At the couple’s field day on Thursday the public were invited to take a look at the sheep, beef and dairy support 1820 hectare property Whare Creek at the southern end of the Te Anau Basin.