Monday 09 March 2015
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change
Time to Act: climate change protesters march in London
Thousands of climate change protesters gathered in central London on Saturday to urge strong action at the Paris climate conference in December. Protesters set off from Lincoln’s Inn Fields and headed for Westminster to hear from speakers including the Green party MP Caroline Lucas and the head of Greenpeace UK John Sauven. The Campaign Against Climate Change, who organised the march, said “well over 20,000” people attended. The number of attendees was buoyed by the bright sunshine of early spring. Last September 40,000 people took to London’s streets as part of the biggest demonstration on climate change action in history.
Naomi Klein: How will everything change under climate change? (Book Extract)
The alarm bells of the climate crisis have been ringing in our ears for years and are getting louder all the time – yet humanity has failed to change course. What is wrong with us? Many answers to that question have been offered, ranging from the extreme difficulty of getting all the governments in the world to agree on anything, to an absence of real technological solutions, to something deep in our human nature that keeps us from acting in the face of seemingly remote threats, to – more recently – the claim that we have blown it anyway and there is no point in even trying to do much more than enjoy the scenery on the way down. Some of these explanations are valid, but all are ultimately inadequate.
Europe submits UN climate pledge, urges US, China to follow
The European Union on Friday submitted its formal promise on how much it will cut greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations ahead of climate change talks starting in November and called on the United States and China to follow its lead. The European Union is the first major economy to agree its position before the talks in Paris aimed at seeking a new worldwide deal on global warming. “We expect China, the United States and the other G20 countries in particular to follow the European Union and submit their contributions by the end of March,” Miguel Arias Canete, climate and energy Commissioner, told reporters after a meeting of EU environment ministers in Brussels.
Why Your Fridge Pollutes and How It’s Changing
Your home’s refrigerator does more than store milk and meat. It also contains chemicals that emit greenhouse gases. New fridges will likely be greener. In a switchover that will be largely invisible to consumers, more fridges and air conditioners are entering the U.S. market that will do less harm to the planet. This week, the U.S. government took a step to expedite that rollout. As part of President Barack Obama’s climate plan and ahead of global climate talks, the Environmental Protection Agency approved five less-polluting chemicals or refrigerants, one of which is flammable propane.
Environment and Biodiversity
El Nino declared as climate scientists watch on with ‘amazement’
Unusual warming of waters in the central equatorial Pacific has prompted the US government to declare an El Nino event and predict a better-than-even chance that it will linger through the middle of the year. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the above-average sea-surface temperatures had exceeded key thresholds, triggering the declaration of the “long-anticipated” El Nino. However, the location of the main warming – about 10 degrees west of the International Dateline rather than to the east – and its timing early in the year are puzzling climate experts looking for similar events.
Infrastructure boom threatens world’s last wildernesses
Infrastructure is being built at the fastest rate in human history and could unleash a wave of road-building that puts many of the world’s remaining wildernesses at risk over the coming decades, scientists warn. As developing countries continue to grow their populations and economies, new dams, mines, oil wells and cities will be built to support the expansion. But in a study published on Thursday, researchers said the localised impacts of these projects was “almost trivial” compared to the litany of woe caused by the roads that service them.
Wild boars arrive in Istanbul due to loss of habitat
Wild boars are returning to Istanbul as giant construction projects shrink their habitat in the city’s northern forests. Last week, a group of boars stormed the garden of a luxury housing complex in Sariyer on Istanbul’s European side, sending residents and a security guard running. The animals quickly disappeared into a nearby wood, but sightings of boars in the inner districts of Turkey’s largest city have become more frequent over the past months.
Why Do Butterflies Have Such Vibrant Colors and Patterns?
Ask a social butterfly where she got that great dress, and she’ll say, “This old thing?” and then tell you its entire history. Ask an actual butterfly about its colorful attire, and things get a lot more complicated. Our Weird Animal Question of the Week comes to us from National Geographic’s own Angie McPherson, a volunteer at the Smithsonian Butterfly Garden in Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History. She asked, “Why does the paper kite butterfly create a gold chrysalis?” The paper kite butterfly, native to Asia, is light yellow or off-white with an elaborate pattern of swooping black lines and dots. But its chrysalis—a hard case that protects the caterpillar during its final transformation into a butterfly—is a shiny, golden hue.
Economy and Business
Increased demand for fresh berries following hepatitis A outbreak could lead to higher prices
AUSTRALIA – Blueberry growers in northern New South Wales are reporting an increased demand for their product following last month’s hepatitis A scare. The recall of some Nanna’s frozen berry products, imported from China, prompted calls for Australians to support local farmers. The Department of Primary Industries’ blueberry industry development officer Phillip Wilk said local growers could benefit.
The faces of fair trade fashion
New to the fair trade fashion stage, registered charity and online store ReCreate sells clothing and accessories for men, women and children. It is currently supplied by a handful of producers in Cambodia, India, and Ethiopia. Co-founder of ReCreate Erica Gadsby says, although many are too small to have been officially Faritrade Certified, the organisation works closely alongside producers to ensure workers are being treated and paid fairly. All profits made through the online store are given back to the people who make the products.
Wilderness Society wants BP to release Great Australian Bight oil spill modelling
The Wilderness Society says oil giant BP is making a farce of consultation regarding proposed drilling in the Great Australian Bight. The society’s South Australian director, Peter Owen, said BP made a very general power point presentation that lacked detail and critical information on modelling for potential oil spills. He said the society would continue to ask BP for more information. “I mean without oil spill modelling on the table, how can the people of South Australia see the risk that is coming to our shores?” he said.
Palm oil firms in Peru plan to clear 23,000 hectares of primary forest
Companies in Peru are planning to clear more than 23,000 hectares of primary rainforest in the northern Amazon in order to cultivate oil palm, according to NGOs. Operations on two plantations called Maniti and Santa Cecilia which would involve clearing more than 9,300 hectares of primary forest could start imminently following a recent government decision.
PNC Bank reduces financing for mountaintop removal coal mining
PNC Bank has said it will no longer finance coal companies that rely on mountaintop removal for more than 25% of their production. The bank in 2010 stopped financing companies that engage in the controversial practice for more than 50% of their production. But the new policy, which came out as part of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based bank’s corporate responsibility report (pdf) Monday, means that the largest US coal producers will no longer be able to get credit from the bank, experts say. “Driven by environmental and health concerns, as well as our risk appetite, we introduced a mountaintop removal (MTR) financing policy in late 2010 and subsequently enhanced that policy in 2014,” the report says.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Four ways water can join the circular economy revolution
The Colorado River no longer reaches the sea; aquifers in the Arabian Peninsula are exhausted; freshwater reserves in China, such as Lake Tai, are polluted. Globally, the picture is bleak: on current trends, demand for water will exceed supply by 40% by 2030. Aged infrastructure, bad policies and ill-defined markets are part of the problem. But the larger issue is that we simply aren’t as clever as we could be about how we use water. Typically, water becomes more polluted as it travels through the system, rendering future use impossible. This linear model is economically and environmentally unsustainable. The better approach is to circulate water in closed loops. In this model, water is reused time and again, retaining full value. This is an example of what we refer to as the “circular economy”.
Politics and Society
Climate is an intergenerational issue, but the report ducked it
The 2015 Intergenerational Report (IGR) fails to engage with the likely impacts of global warming on Australia’s economy, society and environment. In this sense, it is detached from a reality that is far more challenging than Treasurer Joe Hockey dares to represent.
These Are The World’s Safest Cities
For a snapshot of current risks to cities and a ranking of which are the safest, see the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index 2015. Bringing together 40 data indicators, it offers a multifaceted view of 50 cities worldwide across four areas: digital security, health security, infrastructure safety, and personal safety.
Health costs of hormone disrupting chemicals over €150bn a year in Europe, says study
Europe is experiencing an explosion in health costs caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that is comparable to the cost of lead and mercury poisoning, according to the most comprehensive study of the subject yet published. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the human hormone system, and can be found in food containers, plastics, furniture, toys, carpeting and cosmetics. The new series of reports by 18 of the world’s foremost experts on endocrine science pegs the health costs of exposure to them at between €157bn-€270bn (£113bn-£195bn), or at least 1.23% of the continent’s GDP.
Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre
Journalism tends to be a rear-view mirror. We prefer to deal with what has happened, not what lies ahead. We favour what is exceptional and in full view over what is ordinary and hidden… There may be other extraordinary and significant things happening – but they may be occurring too slowly or invisibly for the impatient tick-tock of the newsroom or to snatch the attention of a harassed reader on the way to work. What is even more complex: there may be things that have yet to happen – stuff that cannot even be described as news on the grounds that news is stuff that has already happened. If it is not yet news – if it is in the realm of prediction, speculation and uncertainty – it is difficult for a news editor to cope with. Not her job. For these, and other, reasons changes to the Earth’s climate rarely make it to the top of the news list. The changes may be happening too fast for human comfort, but they happen too slowly for the newsmakers – and, to be fair, for most readers.
Working for Shell didn’t stop me having morals or accepting climate change
Fired by coal and powered by steam, the industrial revolution brought progress from which we all benefit today. Damaging local environmental side-effects were addressed by a gradual switch to cleaner burning and less polluting hydrocarbon fuels. However, another more global side-effect has emerged: climate change… Unfortunately, recognising a problem is not the same as finding a solution. In this case, the solution is made more difficult by the reliance of the present global economy on the supply of relatively affordable and convenient energy from fossil fuels… I suggest that there are two essential drivers of change, both of which require cooperation between different sectors of society.
Gormley climate change artwork shown for first time in the Guardian
A work by the artist Antony Gormley has been shown for the first time in the Guardian as the newspaper published an extract on Friday from Naomi Klein’s book on climate change. The piece, called Connection, shows a disturbing silhouette of a giant body against a deep glow which could be manmade or natural. Both the body and the landscape appear to be equally toxic, raising questions of how humanity is impacting the planet through climate change. “It’s very important that the image is not a didactic one,” said Gormley of the work, made with aniline dye on paper. “Hopefully it gives you an opportunity to put yourself in the place offered by this silhouette and to think about your connection to and dependence on the context in which we find ourselves… the most important being the elemental world that we have managed for the first time ever, for any species, to have destabilised.”
China pollution documentary disappears from video sharing websites, sparking fears of censorship
A popular but controversial documentary on China’s struggles with pollution was inaccessible on China’s video sharing websites on Saturday, sparking concern from Chinese Internet users it had been censored within a week of its launch. Under the Dome, a film by journalist Chai Jing that explains air pollution in straightforward terms, spurred a national debate after its release last weekend and quickly garnered hundreds of millions of views on streaming video sites. Its removal will likely be seen as highlighting the government’s priority on maintaining social stability, even on an issue like pollution, the tackling of which it said was a top priority and around which it had promised greater transparency.
Environmental issues top major meeting in China
China’s severe environmental problems and government pledges to fix them have dominated the start of the country’s annual legislative meeting, as leaders try to ease public worries about air, water and soil contamination that threaten to derail the country’s economic rise and cast doubts on the ruling Communist Party. Two days into the session of the National People’s Congress in a Beijing shrouded with smog, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged Friday to “punish, with an iron hand, any violators who destroy the ecology or environment, with no exceptions,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. At the meeting’s opening event on Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang swore the government would cut back on major pollutants and improve energy efficiency.
‘Her Deepness’ Sylvia Earle returns to Australia for All About Women festival
Sylvia Earle has spent thousands of hours under water, but one moment diving off the north-east coast of Australia has never left her mind. The now legendary marine biologist and oceanographer was exploring the depths of the Coral Sea for the first time in 1976 when she found herself the object of fascination. “At one point I was surrounded by more sharks than I could count. There were as many as 100 grey reef sharks in a big circle around me,” the woman dubbed ‘Her Deepness’ recalled. “It is one of the most vivid memories in my life. Part of the reason that it stands out is that it was a wake-up call to me to realise that any one of those sharks could have taken a big bite out of me but they did not.”
Protesters fight for 500-year-old kauri
NEW ZEALAND – Residents of an Auckland suburb have vowed to fight to the end for a 500-year-old kauri due to be chopped down today. A large group of supporters from around Titirangi will be at a protest in Paturoa Rd, where workers are set to fell a tree experts estimate has been alive since the 1500s. Another tree estimated to be about 300 years old will also come down. Complaining locals say it is unfair to lose such a treasure from their neighbourhood. Community spokeswoman Aprilanne Bonar helped to launch a “Save Our Kauri” Facebook page in a bid to raise awareness. The page has more than 800 supporters and has attracted hundreds of comments from unhappy members of the public. “We’re trying to be the gatekeepers,” Ms Bonar said. “If we can save this tree, it really sends a strong message that there needs to be a balance in any type of development.”
Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis
The consequences are proving to be profound. Across the globe, reports reveal huge areas in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up. More than a billion individuals – one in seven people on the planet – now lack access to safe drinking water. Last week in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, home to 20 million people, and once known as the City of Drizzle,drought got so bad that residents began drilling through basement floors and car parks to try to reach groundwater. City officials warned last week that rationing of supplies was likely soon. Citizens might have access to water for only two days a week, they added. In California, officials have revealed that the state has entered its fourth year of drought with January this year becoming the driest since meteorological records began. At the same time, per capita water use has continued to rise.