Sustainable Development News

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

The time has come to turn up the heat on those who are wrecking planet Earth | Bill McKibben
An interesting question is, what are you waiting for? Global warming is the biggest problem we’ve ever faced as a civilisation — certainly you want to act to slow it down, but perhaps you’ve been waiting for just the right moment.  The moment when, oh, marine biologists across the Pacific begin weeping in their scuba masks as they dive on reefs bleached of life in a matter of days. The moment when drought in India gets deep enough that there are armed guards on dams to prevent the theft of water. The moment when we record the hottest month ever measured on the planet, and then smash that record the next month, and then smash that record the next month? The moment when scientists reassessing the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet have what one calls an ‘OMG moment’ and start talking about massive sea level rise in the next 30 years?

Energy and Climate Change

TremAc Project To Study Noise And Vibrations From Wind Turbines
With wind energy growing in popularity and share in Europe, a new project has set out to discover the impact of wind and vibrations from wind turbines. The South-German WindForS research cluster, comprising seven universities and research institutions from Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in Germany, has initiated the TremAc project, short for Objective Criteria for Vibration and Noise Emissions of Inland Wind Power Plants cooperation project. Funded by the Germany Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the TremAc project intends to study how wind turbines produce noise and vibrations, how they are related, and how they can be better foreseen and reduced.

Incumbents’ tariff war on rooftop solar accelerates “death spiral”
The refusal of Australian utilities to recognise the value of local generation – such as rooftop solar and battery storage – means that they are undermining their own business models and effectively accelerating the “death spiral” they fear so much. That’s the broad but inescapable conclusion of a new government-funded study that looks at the current tariff structure in much of Australia, and whether individual consumers, the utilities, and the broader community are getting value for money.

Western Australia leading on solar storage innovation
National energy market reform is one step closer following the recent announcement of two trials in Western Australia that will enable new ways of storing and transferring excess solar energy. The Alkimos Beach development to the city’s north is set to become a carbon neutral neighbourhood and will host a community energy storage facility aimed at softening peak energy demand while still remaining connected to the grid. State land developer LandCorp’s chief operating officer Dean Mudford said the size of the energy storage trial at Alkimos was unprecedented.

River on fire: even if it’s not coal seam gas we should still be concerned
Astonishing footage of a river in Queensland on fire has once again stoked the coal seam gas (CSG) debate. The video shows NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham setting fire to methane seeping from the Condamine River. CSIRO researchers, who have been researching the Condamine since 2012, have stated that the gas seep is unlikely to be due to CSG production… Even if the gas seep is natural, it suggests that we do not know enough about how gas exploration could affect this precious resource.

Environment and Biodiversity

Great Barrier Reef bleaching is just one symptom of ecosystem collapse across Australia
Media reports around the world have brought the mass coral bleaching of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef into people’s offices and homes. With 93% of individual reefs showing bleaching, the devastation among researchers, celebrities and the public is palpable. Unfortunately, mass coral bleaching is just one example of a far broader problem. Although it represents a rapid and extensive example of ecosystem degradation, coral bleaching is not surprising: it is consistent with many changes that are occurring now across Australia’s natural environments.

Florida’s Coral Reef Is Disintegrating
Florida’s coral reef, the only tropical reef in the continental United States, is disintegrating faster than scientists predicted and in a way that will accelerate as the oceans become more acidic, according to new research published Monday. University of Miami scientists called the collapse of the reef’s limestone framework, a critical habitat for fish, “unprecedented” and “cause for alarm.”

Beautiful new jellyfish looks like it came from outer space
There’s a lot we don’t know about the deep ocean, and just as we send ships into space to discover what’s above us, vessels dive into the Earth’s watery depths to uncover what lies below. Take this bizarre-looking creature. The “stunningly beautiful jellyfish” was discovered last week during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expedition into one of the deepest ocean regions in the world.

The mesmerizing creature was thought to have been out hunting when captured on film.

The mesmerizing creature was thought to have been out hunting when captured on film.

‘Bombshell’: Just one-sixth of rural land-clearing tracked in NSW, ANU’s Philip Gibbons says
Farmers are clearing land six times faster than detected by the NSW government, and most offsets used to compensate for vegetation destruction merely preserve existing conservation areas, according to unpublished research by Philip Gibbons, a leading biodiversity expert. The results are “a bombshell”, the NSW Nature Conservation Council said, and come as the government prepares to release its new biodiversity conservation bill for public comment as soon as Tuesday. The findings are based satellite data, which picked up the clearing of 81,000 hectares of land in the state from 2007-2011.

UK wins satellite contract to ‘weigh’ Earth’s forests
British industry is to lead the construction of a satellite that will weigh all the world’s trees. The Biomass mission’s novel space radar will make 3D maps of forests, improving our understanding of how carbon is cycled through the Earth system. Its data will be important for climate research, and will create a baseline for treaties that seek to monitor the status of global forest resources.

Economy and Business

Banking on sustainability is good for business
AUSTRALIA – Sustainability has become a lucrative business opportunity, with shifting customer preferences pushing up trends such as the divestment movement leading to an increase in enquiries from potential customers, Bank Australia says. The customer-owned bank, formerly known as bank mecu, is fielding calls from people looking for a financial institution with a low carbon strategy.

New Study Finds FSC Certification Profitable for Businesses
The environmental and social benefits of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification are proven, as the organisation works to ensure sustainable use of forest products. But a recent WWF study has found that there is also a concrete economic benefit. The bottom line? On average, forestry companies can earn an extra US$1.80 for every cubic metre of FSC-certified timber.

How UPS navigates the logistics clean tech ‘Valley of Death’
The average UPS delivery driver makes 120 stops a day, which means that each morning he or she has more potential routes available than there have been seconds in the history of the Earth. That is just one of the more startling revelations the logistics giant stumbled upon with the roll-out of its new ORION route optimization system, which the company credits with already saving it around 9 million gallons of fuel a year, slashing carbon emissions by about 600,000 tons in the process.

Google and eBay refuse to ban ads offering to remove car pollution filters
Google, Gumtree and eBay have refused to ban adverts for a service which removes crucial pollution filters from the exhausts of diesel cars, sending toxic emissions soaring. Over a thousand diesel car owners have already been caught after removing the filter, though experts warn the problem may be far more widespread. Campaigners are now complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that such adverts break its code, which bans motoring “practices that condone or encourage anti-social behaviour”. The service exploits a loophole in the law which means that driving a diesel car without a filter is an offence, but the act of removing it is not.

Waste and the Circular Economy

These tech startups are turning a profit on food waste
Food waste is bad for our wallets. It’s also bad for the environment — the equivalent of throwing away the water, energy and other resources that go into growing it in the first place. But as interest in reducing food waste grows, so does innovation to make it happen. Take a look at what some creative businesses are doing to turn trash into treasure.

The Waste Levy, a waste of time?
NEW ZEALAND – The $10-per-tonne Waste Levy was created eight years ago to fund waste management innovation and cut landfill. Some say it must increase to be effective. Others claim good progress in the sector amid economic turbulence.  So who’s right?

Politics and Society

Lord Krebs: scientists must challenge poor media reporting on climate change
Ocean acidification is causing fundamental and dangerous changes in the chemistry of the world’s oceans yet only one in five Britons has even heard of ocean acidification, let alone believes it a cause for concern. Around 97% of climate scientists believe global warming is principally driven by human activity, yet only 16% of the public know the expert consensus to be this strong. These are just two examples of common misconceptions among the UK public on the science of climate change. When surveyed, many people report feeling unsure and confused about various aspects of the discipline. Furthermore, they lack trust in scientists: in the wake of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, nearly four in ten people felt that scientists were exaggerating concerns.

Climate protesters invade UK’s largest opencast coalmine
Hundreds of environmental activists have invaded the UK’s largest opencast coalmine and halted operations across the vast site. Dressed in red boiler suits, groups of protesters crossed barbed wire fences to gain access to Ffos-y-fran mine near Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. Some chained themselves to machinery, others lay across access roads.

Join the biggest coffee break on Earth!
From 13 – 15 May, the World Fairtrade Challenge will unite coffee drinkers across the globe to support small-scale coffee farmers. The goal is to achieve a record number of cups of Fairtrade coffee drunk within three days. This will send a message that small-scale farmers have global support against climate change.

Phasing out coal, oil and gas extraction in US would drastically cut emissions
Phasing out coal, oil and gas extraction on US federal land would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 100m tonnes a year by 2030 and even more after then, providing a useful brake to climate change, according to a new study. A quarter of all fossil fuel extraction in the US occurs on the 650m acres of land under federal management. The outer shelf of the US’s marine territory, used for oil and gas drilling, is also under federal control.

Revealed: the truth about ethnic diversity of neighbourhoods
In many European countries, people overestimate the share of minority populations and immigration volume. This could be a result of people not being well informed or knowledgeable about the social issues around them. But skewed perceptions of ethnic diversity have implications for social relations and openness towards minority ethnic groups.

Built Environment

David Attenborough unveils UK’s newest nature reserve in east London
The UK’s newest nature reserve was opened in east London over the weekend by Sir David Attenborough. Overshadowed by council tower blocks and swanky high rise developments, the 11 hectare (27 acres) site which includes a reservoir that supplies water to millions of Londoners, has become home to some of Britain’s more threatened birds including kingfishers, bitterns and Cetti warblers.

London City landmarks visible in the horizon. Photograph: Penny Dixie/Woodberry Wetlands

London City landmarks visible in the horizon. Photograph: Penny Dixie/Woodberry Wetlands


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