Monday 04 May 2015

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Top Story

A manifesto for a more sustainable world
Today, we humans are eating away at our own life support systems at an unprecedented rate. What’s more, we are living in turbulent political times across the globe. Politics is broken and business-as-usual is taking us in the wrong direction. But what can be done? Escaping old ideas, as Keynes said, is difficult. When ideas and concepts that benefit or represent one powerful group of people at the expense of the majority are universalised, they become the norms that shape our thinking: they become what’s ‘common sense’ and ‘natural’. We end up accepting a simplistic and beguiling mantra: more growth, more profits, more stuff.

Energy and Climate Change

7 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint – Green Tips for a Cleaner Environment
Want to save some dollars while conserving the environment? Even few simple changes around your home can reduce your carbon footprint. From opting for a shower instead of a bath to supplying your own reusable bags at the grocery store, you can prevent waste and pollution. Take a look at some fixes that will have you living greener in no time.

Tesla Energy Set to Revolutionize Solar Storage for Homes, Businesses, Utilities
Tesla Energy, the latest from Tesla Motors visionary Elon Musk, was introduced last night onstage at the company’s design studio in Hawthorne, California, just south of LA. A statement from the company describes the new development as “a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels.” “We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky, called the Sun,” said Musk, who’s long been a proponent of solar energy, and in March announced an electric car charger that could also power homes. There’s one sticky problem preventing a widespread switch to solar: The sun sets.

A selection of more news on Tesla’s new battery storage offering:

  1. SMH | Tesla’s battery announcement shows the coming revolution in energy storage
  2. The Guardian – Will Tesla’s home battery really transform our energy infrastructure?
  3. Bloomberg New Energy Finance | Musk’s SolarCity Customers First in Line for Tesla Batteries (2)
  4. The Fifth Estate | Tesla’s battery announcement another nail in the coal coffin
  5. Renew Economy | Tesla launches home, business and utility battery storage range
  6. Triple Pundit | 7 Things You Need to Know About Tesla’s Home Battery

AGL Energy offers storage batteries to customers with solar power
AUSTRALIA – AGL Energy will offer suitcase-sized storage batteries to help customers better match the ups and downs of solar energy to their demands in a step towards a less fossil fuel-dependent world.  The energy giant’s push into the small but growing home storage market came as electric vehicle pioneer Elon Musk said his Tesla company would supply batteries for home use from its $US5 billion ($6.3 billion) auto battery plant being built in Nevada.

Teslas in Victoria aren’t greener than diesels
The Tesla in front of me was shiny, sleek and silent, but my Fast-&-Furious-inspired daydreams were interrupted with a question: does a Tesla charged by Australian electricity emit less CO2 per kilometre than an efficient diesel car? The answer turns out to be: no in Victoria, yes in Tasmania or South Australia, and in the other states it’s pretty much even.

Japan accused of ‘sleight of hand’ in climate targets
Japan is proposing to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26% from 2013 levels by 2030, the government revealed to a panel of experts on Thursday. Environment officials said this was more ambitious than either the US or EU over that period, according to a Reuters report. But observers accused the world’s fifth largest emitter of “sleight of hand” in choosing the baseline year to make weak plans look better. Japan is using the Fukushima nuclear disaster as cover to pursue coal-friendly policies, according to a report by London-based think-tank E3G.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Church of England dumps coal as fossil-fuel divestment campaign spreads
It appears coal mining isn’t God’s work. The Church of England will dump its holdings in coal and oil-sand producers and has ruled out backing companies with exposure to the most polluting fossil fuels, joining the movement that wants investors to help fight climate change. The church’s investment arm said on Thursday that it will sell its 12 million pound ($24 million) coal and tar sands investments. The church also vowed not to invest in any business that get more than 10 per cent of its revenues from the fuels, ruling out companies including Peabody Energy and Suncor Energy.

Scientists’ urgent call to divest …
[The Guardian] Keep it in the ground campaign has met with support from scientists across the globe, imploring the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust to divest from fossil fuels. From university professors to field researchers, marine biologists to astrophysicists, these are just a few of the many impassioned messages we have received.

Environment and Biodiversity

One in six species faces extinction as a result of climate change
The Earth is on course to lose up to one in six of all its species, if carbon emissions continue as they currently are. This global extinction risk masks very large regional variations. Up to a quarter of South American species may be doomed. These are some of the findings of a comprehensive piece of new research conducted by evolutionary ecologist Mark Urban and published in Science. You may console yourself that these are the very upper estimates of some of the consequences of uncontrolled carbon emissions. We can’t really be facing such a collapse in biodiversity can we? What Urban establishes is that far from being fanciful, these estimates are in fact the results of very robust analysis. What’s more they could be worse. Much worse.

Wildlife decline may lead to ’empty landscape’
Populations of some of the world’s largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an “empty landscape”, say scientists. About 60% of giant herbivores – plant-eaters – including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research.  Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss.  A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines. Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University, led the research looking at herbivores weighing over 100kg, from the reindeer up to the African elephant. “This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole,” he said.

Cut pesticide use to boost yields? It’s worked for millions of farmers in Asia and Africa
Pesticides are intended to be harmful. They kill pests, diseases and weeds. But some also harm humans and wildlife. Pesticides are a huge global business, worth around US$45 billion. Each year, 3.5 billion kilogrammes of pesticides are applied to food crops and their use is growing. Much use of this use is at best ineffective and at worst outright harmful. In recent research we showed that farmers in Asia and Africa have been able to cut the use of pesticides while boosting crop yields, reducing costs and delivering healthier profits. Even the landscape surrounding the farms benefits. Each kilogramme of pesticide used in agriculture imposes €3-15 (US$4-19) of external economic costs on the environment, wildlife and human health – money spent by water companies to remove them from drinking water, for instance, or the loss of valuable pollinating insects.

Farmers urge Government to tackle drought as natural disaster
Farmers are warning the Queensland beef industry is on the brink of collapse and the dire and enduring drought needs to be declared a natural disaster. Around 75 per cent of Queensland is drought-declared and graziers are coping with their third or fourth year of drought.

Disposing of dead livestock a challenge for flooded farmers in NSW Hunter Valley
Farmers and emergency response teams in New South Wales are dealing with the grisly aftermath of the Hunter floods.  Local Land Services (LLS) report more than 1,000 cattle and tens-of-thousands of birds on poultry farms may have died. Two-hundred cows and horses have been removed to landfill so far, but the remaining carcasses are decomposing and will have to be disposed of on site.

Lyttelton Port development may affect endangered Hector’s dolphin
NEW ZEALAND – The endangered Hector’s dolphin could be seriously affected by Lyttelton Port’s proposed development, an Otago University report says. A report by Otago University’s Marine Mammal Research Group, commissioned by Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC), said the port’s development plans, which involved reclaiming 27 hectares of land, dredging and driving piles, had the potential to adversely affect marine mammals in Lyttelton Harbour. “Noise from pile driving can cause physical injury, mask vocalisations and cause behavioural changes that could result in declines in relative population abundance,” the report said.

Sponge v coral: overfishing brings Caribbean reefs to the brink of a new battle
SpongeBob SquarePants, perhaps the world’s most famous sponge, is the star of his own cartoon show set in the ocean-floor city of “Bikini Bottom”. In the real world, however, sponges are often perceived as playing only a supporting role to the real reef stars: corals. But new research, published in PeerJ, has once again highlighted sponge-power. These squishy creatures, it is feared, might take over coral reefs if not kept in check by sponge-eating fishes – and overfishing is removing their natural predators.

Economy and Business

Financing the transition to a green global economy
Investment in clean energy has risen substantially over recent years, but we are still not safe from the 2°C threshold for climate change. The world needs greater access to climate finance, explains Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Five warning flags that a business is failing
When companies fail, our first instinct is to start pointing fingers. Usually we point them at the people at the top – the chairman or chief executive. They were in charge, after all; the decisions that drove the company to the wall must have been made by them. Whatever went wrong is their fault. Change the leaders and the problem will go away. But very often the problem does not go away – and this is because, in actual fact, leaders have only limited control over the organisations that they purport to lead.

Trending: ‘Low-Carb’ Clothing, a T-Shirt Vending Machine and a Nordic Action Plan for Sustainable Fashion
The past week saw continued momentum in the global push for a more sustainable fashion industry, some from some surprising sources. On Monday, the day after John Oliver’s blistering takedown of fast fashion on “Last Week Tonight,” leaders from Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland presented an action plan to establish their region as a driver of sustainable design, production and consumption by creating a circular economy for garments and textiles no later than 2050. “Sustainability must not be an accessory,” said Kirsten Brosbøl, Denmark’s minister of the environment, in her opening remarks. “It has to be straight to the core, and it should be in every fiber.”

Waste and the Circular Economy

Where does all the stormwater go after the Sydney weather clears?
Every year around 500 billion litres of stormwater – enough to fill Sydney Harbour – runs from Sydney to the sea. This is an account of its epic journey through the streets.

Politics and Society

Reducing science to sensational headlines too often misses the bigger picture
We are all being lied to, but it’s okay because we sort of know it. Exaggeration, sensationalism and hype are in the newspaper headlines and on the magazine covers we read and in the films we watch. Even the conversations we have with each other are exaggerated to make things sound that little bit more interesting. But what happens when you try to sensationalise science, and put little lies into something that revolves around truth?

Lily Cole on climate change: why does money trump long-term thinking?
…round about 16 or 17, I not only started travelling more, getting more of an appreciation for nature, I also simultaneously started learning more about the science around climate change. And the combination of falling in love with nature, with the realisation that there was a genuine threat to the natural world as we know it, kind of worked together. It went from being an issue that I wasn’t really that engaged with at all, to being probably the one I thought was the most important to try and address in some way – and continue to think is the most important.

Vote who, go green? Parties diverge on how to save the planet
“Whoever wins the election, the costs of the low-carbon transition will rise sharply over the parliament and this will need to be carefully managed if that programme is to succeed,” said Jimmy Aldridge, at the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank. The impact of the government’s choice will stretch even further than 2020, according to Pidgeon: “Energy is the biggest infrastructure challenge we face. Decisions taken in the next parliament will affect people for the next 50 years.”

Africa, made by China
I recently returned from a 12 week mission, writing stories from the frontline of Africa’s poaching crisis, a witness to a war on greed where elephants and rhinos are now staring down the barrel of extinction. But what I also witnessed, in the six years passing since I was last living in Southern Africa, was the heart-wrenching, juggernaut destruction of the environment, and relentless mortgaging of priceless natural resources. All roads lead to China, Africa’s number-one trading partner after surpassing the US in 2009. But in order to understand how African leaders have allowed their natural heritage to be shredded in a very short space of time, it was imperative that I got my head around China in Africa politics.

Angry Birds set out to save endangered real life counterparts
Angry Birds are getting angrier, because some of their real-life colourful counterparts in the South Pacific are facing extinction. Rovio, the creator of the hugely popular Angry Birds games, is teaming up with nature conservationist group BirdLife to disseminate information and help collect funds to protect birds in the region that are particularly vulnerable to attacks by non-native predators introduced by humans, such as rats.

Built Environment

Leftover industrial heat to warm Sweden’s chilly northern city
Factories generate heat they don’t need, but the towns around them do. So far, connecting the two obvious partners has been tricky, with nobody quite sure who’s doing the other a favour and who should pay for the arrangement. But now the city of Kiruna in northern Sweden has joined with its largest employer, mining company LKAB, to warm its homes cheaply using the factory’s leftover heat.

Food Systems

All major Australian tuna brands set to use sustainable fishing methods by end of year, Greenpeace says
Environmental group Greenpeace says by the end of this year all major Australian tuna brands will be using sustainable fishing methods. In its annual ranking of Australian tuna brands, the group said it had good news: all major brands are changing from using unsustainable and destructive fishing techniques to sustainable methods. Greenpeace’s oceans campaigner, Nathaniel Pelle, said five years ago companies were buying tuna caught with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).

Gribbot robot could take chicken deboning out of human hands
You’ll probably have heard horror stories about hens being caged inhumanely in battery sheds, and poor health and safety standards leading to salmonella contamination, but not so much about the process of deboning. The boneless, skinless chicken breast industry is big business. In the US alone, the average person consumes about 20 pounds of fillet per capita; this is expected to rise to 30 pounds by 2030. To meet this demand, it is thought that the industry will need to produce 10bn pounds of fillets annually. The process of deboning requires skilled hands, but the task can be grim and repetitive.


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