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Sustainable Development News, Thursday 08 May 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Barack Obama to make climate change case to weather forecasters
Barack Obama has signed up for eight interviews with TV meteorologists on Tuesday to defend a landmark report against those who deny climate change.  The interviews were scheduled as part of a carefully co-ordinated rollout of the National Climate Assessment.  The exhaustively detailed account of the impact of climate change on America will be formally launched at the White House on Tuesday.

Climate change severely impacting US economy, ecology, health: report
BARACK OBAMA: We’re not going to be able to solve this problem just through mitigation efforts. We’re also going to have to slow down the pace at which the planet is warming, and that’s something we can do, but only if the American people push Washington to do it, because typically politicians are wary about doing something on their own, particularly if they’re not sure that the public supports it.

US already seeing wide impact of climate change, major study finds
The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more likely and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.

Can Senate Force Approval of Keystone Pipeline?
The pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, has been under review for more than five years.  In April, the State Department extended the review process indefinitely, citing pending litigation in Nebraska and the need to study the “unprecedented” number of public comments it had received.

Great Barrier Reef’s ‘unprecedented’ threat from dredging, dumping
The impact of dredging and dumping sediment on the Great Barrier Reef has been far greater than the mining industry has claimed, with nearly 150m tonnes of new dredging set to take place in the reef’s waters, a study shows.  The report collated by the Australian Marine Conservation Society states that the reef is under “unprecedented” threat from the proposed expansion of coastal ports and industrial development.

Environment

‘Catastrophic’ decline in numbers of small native animals
It’s the great extinction whodunnit.  Small native animals are facing “an extraordinary decline” across the northern third of Australia, with the spread of feral cats largely to blame, a leading ecologist said.In Kakadu National Park alone, the numbers of such animals, including bandicoots, northern quolls and tree rats, has crashed 90 per cent in the past two decades, said Chris Johnson of the University of Tasmania.

Sugar gliders are eating swift parrots – but what’s to blame?
Swift parrots are one of Australia’s most endangered birds, but until very recently we didn’t know why. New research shows that they’re being eaten by sugar gliders at their breeding grounds in Tasmania, but even that’s not the full story.  Conservationists have known for decades that swift parrots are in trouble. Across southeastern Australia, the forests and woodlands where swift parrots live have been converted to farmland, swallowed by urban sprawl and been chipped away by logging.  These processes are well known to drive the decline of forest wildlife, but until recently, we didn’t fully understand the subtler effects of deforestation on swift parrots.

Economy and Business

Booming demand for Australian beeswax
Beeswax is used to make cosmetics like lipstick, but in the northern hemisphere, it’s tainted by a chemical called miticide, which is used to control varroa mite, a tiny parasite which attacks bees and eventually destroys their hives.  Australia doesn’t have varroa mite and beeswax is rarely exposed to chemicals or residual sprays or pesticides.

Politics and Society 

The 2014 Australian budget is an opportunity to end fossil fuel subsidies, so why won’t it happen?
“Australia may sell assets and cut welfare spending to rein in a debt burden that is already the second-smallest among developed nations” reported Bloomberg breathlessly early in May.  Such is the madness of the deeply unpopular conservative Australian government, which will lay down its budget for the coming 12 months next week.  In order to justify its right-wing agenda, the Abbott government ordered a National Commission of Audit. The Commission’s report was released a week ago, and was described as a “document that appears to hates Australia”.

More Chinese than Europeans identify themselves as environmentalists
China’s massive pollution problems have given rise to a new force of environmental campaigners, with double the number of Chinese identifying themselves as environmentalists compared to Europe and the US, new research finds.  In Europe, financial crisis has knocked environmental policy down the political agenda and populist movements see environmentalism as a hobby of European elites.

Built Environment

Sustainable office buildings are about saving costs as well as saving the planet
Large corporations have long used their headquarters to reinforce or change their corporate identity. The thrusting opulence of the buildings that house many of the major banks in New York and London is no accident. In a similar vein, the Co-operative’s headquarters mark a growing trend among large companies looking to showcase their green credentials through their HQs.  “As a headquarters, it’s a brand statement about being progressive,” says Hugh Jones, managing director of Carbon Trust Advisory, a Carbon Trust-owned business that advises companies on resource efficiency.  One Angel Square has been designed to use half of the energy and 80% less carbon than the Co-operative’s previous HQ. Operation costs have dropped by a third as a result.

Food Systems

How to convince the world to get over the ‘yuck factor’ and eat insects
Insects are already part of the diets of 2 billion people worldwide: crispy fried beetles are a common street food in Thailand, caterpillars are a popular snack in sub-Saharan Africa, and grasshoppers are fried in garlic and eaten in parts of Mexico. But in the west, the idea of eating insects fills us with disgust; they are fed to squirming celebrities on our reality TV shows.

Technology

Drones striking a high-tech blow for conservation and the environment
The use of drones has generally been synonymous with controversial globalised warfare, but falling costs and higher performance are now making them increasingly useful for conservation and environmental organisations.  In the US, a non-profit group called Conservation Drones is working with manufacturers to scale up production, making drones more affordable for environmental groups and conservation scientists, with results that have already benefited Australian research groups

New adhesive system makes a circuit board that is 90% recyclable
Three British companies have developed a 90% recyclable and reusable circuit board, whose components can be easily separated by soaking in hot water. Funded by the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board with a view to help industry conform to European electronic waste regulation, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), In2Tec and Gwent Electronic Materials have devised an adhesive that helps manufacturers take apart electronic circuit boards and reuse their components to make new components. They call it ReUse – Reusable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics.

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