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Monday 10 September 2018

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Five years in the making, today’s top story covers the launch of The Ocean Cleanup’s System 001, a massive c-shaped boom and skirt designed to herd plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for collection. Also on climate and energy, a third generation farmer calls for Australian politicians to take climate action, while the Resources Minister says the Paris Agreement doesn’t stop Australia building new coal power plants; and manufacturing starts up in South Australia again with battery production. In other news, how easy it is to trash a business brand and conjecture on how easy it might be to trash Australia’s world reputation.

Top Story

Scientists get ready to begin Great Pacific Garbage Patch cleanup | The Guardian
A team of scientists and engineers will on Saturday begin an ambitious cleanup of plastics in the Pacific Ocean targeting a stretch of water three times the size of France known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A 600m-long floating barrier will be launched off the coast of San Francisco and, powered by currents, waves and wind, will aim to collect five tonnes of plastic debris each month.

The 600m-long floating barrier, known as System 001, will be launched off the coast of California. Photograph: System 001/Ocean Cleanup

The 600m-long floating barrier, known as System 001, will be launched off the coast of California. Photograph: System 001/Ocean Cleanup

Climate Change

Dear politicians, get your heads out of the coal pit and into the real world | The Guardian (Opinion)
AUSTRALIA – As a third-generation farmer from Harden in New South Wales, I’ve weathered climate extremes my whole life. It’s simply part of doing business in one of the most variable climates in the world. The truth is, Australian farmers are good at what they do, and we know when things are changing.

This is not a “hard done by farmer” narrative. We’re tough and we manage our resources carefully, making decisions based upon the best available evidence’ Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

This is not a “hard done by farmer” narrative. We’re tough and we manage our resources carefully, making decisions based upon the best available evidence’ Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

Paris climate deal doesn’t stop us building new coal plants, Canavan says | The Guardian
Australia does not need to quit the Paris climate agreement because our commitments are non-binding, and new coal plants can continue to be constructed, according to the resources minister, Matt Canavan.

One of the biggest tsunamis ever recorded was set off three years ago by a melting glacier | The Washington Post
A rare and extreme tsunami ripped across an Alaskan fjord three years ago after 180 million tons of mountain rock fell into the water, driving a devastating wave that stripped shorelines of trees and reached heights greater than 600 feet, a large team of scientists documented on Thursday. The October 2015 cataclysm in Taan Fiord in southeastern Alaska appears to have been the fourth-highest tsunami recorded in the past century, and its origins — linked to the retreat of a glacier — suggest that it’s the kind of event we may see more often because of a warming climate. The new study even bluntly calls it a “hazard occasioned by climate change.”

Environment and Biodiversity

World leaders meet to discuss United Nations ocean treaty | Climate Action Programme
Global leaders have begun talks in New York this week to discuss the long-awaited UN ocean treaty, a decade in the making. The intergovernmental conference to draft the first‑ever treaty to conserve and protect marine diversity on the high seas is of extreme importance because currently there is no global policy that protects our oceans.

Japan says it’s time to allow sustainable whaling | BBC News
Few conservation issues generate as emotional a response as whaling. Are we now about to see countries killing whales for profit again? Commercial whaling has been effectively banned for more than 30 years, after some whales were driven almost to extinction. But the International Whaling Committee (IWC) is currently meeting in Brazil and next week will give its verdict on a proposal from Japan to end the ban.

Wasps, aphids and ants: the other honey makers | The Conversation
There are seven species of Apis honey bee in the world, all of them native to Asia, Europe and Africa. Apis mellifera, the western honey bee, is the species recognised globally as “the honey bee”. But it’s not the only insect that makes honey. Many other bee, ant and wasp species make and store honey. Many of these insects have been used as a natural sugar source for centuries by indigenous cultures around the world.

Myrmecocystus honeypot ants, showing the repletes, their abdomens swollen to store honey, above ordinary workers. Greg Hume via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Myrmecocystus honeypot ants, showing the repletes, their abdomens swollen to store honey, above ordinary workers. Greg Hume via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

A billion trees and a trillion weeds | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Planting trees is only part of the battle to scale up native tree regeneration efforts. In order for the trees to thrive, a war must be waged on weeds and wildings. The issue of weed and wilding conifer control dominated a lecture given by ecologist Willie Shaw at the Auckland Museum on challenges to revegetate New Zealand with indigenous trees.

Koalas face extinction in New South Wales by 2050 due to land clearing, scientist warns | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Koalas are on track to be extinct by 2050 in New South Wales if current land clearing rates continue, according to conservation biologist Martin Taylor, who today released a new report on the issue. The report, released by WWF Australia and the Nature Conservation Council (NCC), used select satellite images of northern NSW to assess land clearing and its impact on vulnerable and endangered species. Mr Taylor said if the rate of clearing wasn’t wound back there could be serious consequences for native wildlife. “We see koala habitat disappearing at an alarming rate,” he said.

Three of four NZ fish ‘staring extinction in the face’ | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand’s freshwater fish species are in peril – and especially in our pastoral countryside, researchers say. In a study published today, Victoria University’s Dr Mike Joy and colleagues compared land use changes and more than 20,000 freshwater fish records since 1970. The data, which covered fish distribution and abundance trends, along with a key measure of water pollution called the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), showed more than three quarters of 25 analysed species were in decline.

The giant kokopu was among native freshwater species that have experienced big declines over past decades. Photo / Auckland Council

The giant kokopu was among native freshwater species that have experienced big declines over past decades. Photo / Auckland Council

Economy and Business

Profits v planet: can big business and the environment get along? | The Guardian
Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” It has been more than two decades now since a 1996 issue of Life magazine depicted a Pakistani boy sewing a Nike soccer ball, reportedly for six cents per hour. After the story, the company lost more than half its market capitalisation in just one year – it took Nike six years of demonstrated social responsibility to recuperate. Even today Nike is – fairly or unfairly – ranked low on lists of ethical companies. It has survived financially, but the reputation of the brand may never recover.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Push to cut copper brakes from mainstream use over pollutants | RNZ News
Local councils are calling for a nation-wide ban on copper brake pads. This comes after copper was found to be contaminating waterways at a fifth of sites sampled around Christchurch. University of Canterbury senior research fellow Dr Aisling O’Sullivan said copper was one of the most eco-toxic metals in New Zealand with devastating effects on freshwater wildlife. Every time a vehicle brakes, small particles of copper are shaved off and end up being washed into groundwater and flowing into wastewater drains.

Related: Local Focus: Raglan’s stunning harbour at risk from stormwater drains | NZ Herald

Politics and Society

Shark tourism can change your mind about these much-maligned predators | The Conversation
Shark ecotourism can change people’s attitudes about sharks and make them more likely to support conservation projects – even after allowing for the fact that ecotourists are more likely to be environmentally minded in the first place. In our research, published in the journal Marine Policy, we surveyed 547 participants in a shark ecotourism program oriented towards education and conservation off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

Lack of climate policy threatens to trip up Australian diplomacy this summit season | The Conversation
Australia is neither a small nation nor one of the most powerful, but for many years it has been a trusted nation. Historically, Australia has been seen as a good international citizen, a country that stands by its international commitments and works with others to improve the international system, not undermine it. But in recent years climate change has threatened this reputation. This is especially so among our allies and neighbours in the Pacific region, who attended this week’s Nauru summit.

Rise for Climate: thousands march across US to protest environment crisis | The Guardian
Tens of thousands of people took part in marches and other events across the US on Saturday, calling for a swift transition to renewable energy in order to stave off the various perils of climate change.

Energy

Sonnen to manufacture home batteries at old Holden factory in Adelaide | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – German battery storage giant Sonnen has announced plans to manufacture up to 10,000 battery storage units a year at the old Holden car manufacturing site in Adelaide, confirming that there is a future for manufacturing in a state with high renewables. The announcement by Sonnen came just a day after the South Australia Liberal government unveiled the details of its $100 million Home Battery Scheme, a subsidy of up to $6,000 per household that will be supported by a further $100 million in finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Global Electricity Demand to Increase 57% by 2050 | Bloomberg NEF
Global electricity demand will reach around 38,700 terawatt-hours by 2050 from 25,000 terawatt-hours in 2017, driving new investment in power generating capacity, according to our New Energy Outlook 2018. In the emerging countries of Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia, increasing population, GDP growth and enhanced access to electricity lead to a doubling of demand. However, in the developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD, demand growth is expected to be anemic, or even begin to contract, reflecting a combination of improved energy efficiency, modest rates of economic expansion, and an ongoing retreat from energy-intensive industries.

Built Environment

Invasion of the e-scooters | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Auckland and Christchurch are about to be invaded by bright green e-scooters. They’re the next big thing in connective public transport – or the “micro-mobility” sector – but their presence in some overseas cities has become so annoying they’ve been banned.

Food Systems

Food price hikes of £2 billion due to extreme weather are completely avoidable – here’s how | The Conversation
Extreme hot and cold weather in the UK will have driven up average household food prices by £45m a week in 2018, according to recent research from the Centre for Economic and Business Research. Cue numerous press articles laying out the details of the damage, focusing almost entirely on the supply and demand problems with farms. In reality, this story is not quite as it seems.