Thursday 04 February 2016
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Extinction means more than a loss of species to Australia’s delicate ecosystems
European settlement of Australia, and the exotic predators and herbivores they brought with them, caused rapid widespread biodiversity loss. As a result, for the past 200 years Australia has had the highest mammal extinction rate in the world… When a species is lost from a community, the processes and functions it performed are also lost. All species contribute to the maintenance of their community ecology, but few contribute more than fossorial (digging) species such as bettongs, potoroos and bandicoots.
Energy and Climate Change
Here is the weather forecast for the next five years: even hotter
Global temperatures will continue to soar over the next 12 months as rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions and El Niño combine to bring more record-breaking warmth to the planet. According to the Met Office’s forecast for the next five years, 2016 is likely to be the warmest since records began. Then in 2017 there will be a dip as the effects of El Niño dissipate and there is some planet-wide cooling. But after that, and for the remaining three years of the decade, the world will continue to experience even more warming.
EU parliament fails to close loopholes in controversial car emission tests
MEPs have failed to veto loopholes in air pollution limits on new diesel cars, despite public anger in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions will now be allowed at twice the EU’s 80mg per km limit from 2019 and 50% more from 2021, despite the exemptions being deemed unlawful in a separate vote by the parliament’s legal committee last night.
Thousands sign petition for mandatory rooftop solar on new homes
An online petition calling on Australia’s federal and state governments to make rooftop solar mandatory for all new-build houses has attracted nearly 12,000 signatures in just one week. The Change.org petition wants governments to legislate that all newly constructed have solar panels installed to generate a minimum power output, a cause that – at the time of publication – has won support from 11,763 Australians.
Two years away: perovskite promises a cheap, new form of solar power
In 2018, the long-promised “third generation” of solar cells will be ready to come to market. These are very different from the solar panels we see around us today. Transparent, lightweight, flexible and highly efficient, they will be able to be applied to windows, metal, polymers (as in cladding) or cement, effectively turning buildings into energy generators. They can work in lower light conditions than current solar technologies, and don’t have to face the sun.
Environment and Biodiversity
Why Are These Male Fish Growing Eggs?
Sixty miles south of Montreal, near the U.S.-Canada border, Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most productive and pristine wetland ecosystems in the Northeast. Yet even here, scientists have found an abundance of fish with bizarre abnormalities that suggest exposure to hormone-disrupting water pollution.
Genome sequencing every living kakapo
NEW ZEALAND – Conservationists and geneticists have embarked on an ambitious programme to sequence the genome of all 125 living kakapo – and crowd-funding looks set to make it possible. This will be the first time in the world that an entire population of animals has had its genome sequenced.
You can support the crowdfunding project or support the sequencing of an individual kakapo genome.
Scientists warn of last chance to rid Madagascar of invasive toxic toad
Madagascar must wipe out an invasive, toxic toad immediately to save the country’s unique wildlife from disaster, scientists have warned. A report published on Wednesday says that the Asian toad is spreading unchecked through the eastern part of the island, and poses a direct threat not only to the country’s biodiversity, but to human health and the economy.
Climate change will remove birds’ control over hatching eggs: study
Parent birds control incubation by modifying the temperature that triggers embryo development, which is one way that species ensure roughly synchronous hatching. However, climate change – particularly the increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves – will take some of that control away from birds, causing some eggs to hatch earlier than others, according to new research published in the Royal Society Open Science journal on Wednesday.
Economy and Business
Green bonds market could reach $50bn in 2016
The green bonds market could reach $50 billion in 2016 in the wake of the international Paris climate deal, Moody’s Investor Service said on Tuesday.
India declares appetite for green bonds to fund new infrastructure
The Indian financial regulator has thrown its weight behind the use of green bonds to finance infrastructure to service the country’s smart cities program, energy needs and its commitments under the Paris climate change agreement.
GM Unveils Maven, New Mobility Vision
General Motors (GM) announced on Thursday that it has formed a new brand called Maven. The brand will encompass the company’s new car-sharing ventures, including a new service expected to launch next month in Michigan as competition with ZipCar. The move is significant in the context of a fast-changing automotive landscape and is demonstrative of the activities of large car manufacturers, who are aiming to adapt to new trends, rather than resist.
Waste and the Circular Economy
One Man’s Trash: New Technologies, Partnerships Boosting Recycling Around the World
Among the key challenges to the burgeoning recycling market are lack of infrastructure, innovation at scale and funding. But a variety of initiatives — in developed and developing areas alike — are attempting to secure these factors to help spur the development of circular economic infrastructure.
Vote to Allocate Part of €1M Global Change Award to Your Favorite Circular Textile Innovation
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the US alone generates an estimated 24 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW), which ends up in landfills each year — the equivalent of about 70 pounds of textiles per person. Larger apparel brands such as H&M and The North Face are working to help minimize textile waste through take-back programs, campaigns and collections made from recycled fabrics, while enterprising startups and even the European Union are creating circular processes and economic models. Add to the list the solutions presented by the five winners of the first-ever Global Change Award — a €1 million challenge for early-stage innovation in the fashion industry.
Grandmother, 83, turns leisurely walk into clean-up mission at Pukekohe park
NEW ZEALAND – A daily walk at Bledisloe Park has turned into a litter picking expedition for two Pukekohe residents. Grandmother of five Julia Konings, 83, and her daughter Nicky Konings, collect two full bags of rubbish while walking their dogs at Bledisloe Park. “It’s just appalling that a lovely town like Pukekohe is compromised by the levels of rubbish thrown around the park,” Julia said.
‘Recycling is for drunks, addicts and babushkas’ – inside Russia’s mafia-dominated waste industry
Most Europeans take pride in recycling. A good citizen separates glass from plastics, biowaste from metal cans and brags about it to their friends. Recycling helps soothe some of the anxiety driven by endless consumption. However in Russia, recycling comes with a sense of shame.
Politics and Society
Mayors Get Creative as Competition for ‘Coolest City in California’ Heats Up
A competition that began in October, the CoolCalifornia Challenge, is motivating Californians in 22 participating cities to reduce their water and energy consumption. The cities are competing for a share of $150,000 to put towards local sustainability projects and the coveted title of “Coolest City in California,” and Mayors and city officials are joining in the fun by releasing rallying call videos to encourage their constituents to take part.
Tackle cold homes, ministers told
Bringing the UK’s ageing homes into the 21st century should be a key infrastructure priority, ministers have been told. The government is consulting on a multi-billion pound plan for roads, rail, flood defences and energy. But opposition parties and institutions have told BBC News that home energy efficiency is equally important.
How much do you know about the world’s food security challenges? Take the quiz
Demand for food is growing but arable land is being lost; millions are obese but millions still face hunger. Can you put exact figures to these problems?
How healthy is your kid’s lunchbox, really?
A study conducted in Melbourne several years ago found, on average, school lunch boxes contained three packaged snacks in the form of bars, “bites” or snacks with dips, suggesting children are consuming empty calories with little nutritional value. So what can you pack into your kid’s lunch box that won’t take time to prepare but will offer them the right energy for the school day?
[Ed: Based in the Gold Coast, Georgia, a naturopath, runs an excellent website with information on and recipes for kids lunchboxes]
Insects on menus offer more than a gimmick
AUSTRALIA – Shane Warne’s infamous reality television moment, gagging on grotesque concoctions including fly pupae, belies the rise of ants, grubs and unusual tubers in Australian fine dining. It is a point of difference that chef Paul Iskov has used to define his West Australian pop-up restaurant Fervor, after honing his trade in some of the world’s better known kitchens… “It’s starting to pop up a little bit in different restaurants, and people think it’s a little gimmick,” he said. “Not only are they delicious and really do add flavour to dishes, but their [sic] sustainable and can provide a lot of protein as well.