Friday 12 February 2016
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.
How the great phosphorus shortage could leave us all without food
You know that greenhouse gases are changing the climate. You probably know drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce, and that we’re living through a mass extinction. But when did you last worry about phosphorus? It’s not as well-known as the other issues, but phosphorus depletion is no less significant.
Energy and Climate Change
Global warming: uneven changes across planet
Less than 2C of global warming for the Earth, the target agreed by leaders at the COP21 climate conference in Paris last November, doesn’t really sound too ambitious. In fact, many of us would welcome an extra couple of degrees warmth. So what is all the fuss about? Unfortunately the warming would not occur evenly around the world. A study published recently in Nature shows what 2C of warming – a rise, of this level, above the pre-industrial global mean surface temperature – might really feel like and which regions may be hit hardest.
The planned aviation emissions rules will just delay the heavy lifting until later
There appeared to be some rare good news this week for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft. At a meeting in Montreal, the environment committee of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) unanimously recommended that new CO₂ emissions standard be applied to new aircraft designs from 2020, and to new deliveries of current in-production aircraft types from 2023. Aircraft that do not meet the standards would cease production by 2028.
Massive Tree Farms May Be a Really Bad Climate Idea
To meet the Paris climate deal’s goal of deep greenhouse gas cuts, nations appear to be relying on costly, possibly harmful large-scale projects to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, says a new paper with sobering calculations of the risks.
GTM Research: Residential solar has passed grid parity in 20 states already
Grid parity – the point when generation from solar PV is cheaper than retail electricity – is widely accepted as the point when distributed solar beats centralized generation on economics, regardless of other benefits. And while this for years was held as a far-away “Holy Grail”, a new report by GTM Research finds that residential solar has already hit grid parity in 20 U.S. states.
Environment and Biodiversity
Watch: The World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird Just Hatched a Chick
By their sixth decade, many parents start to think more about retirement and grandkids, the worries of childrearing a distant memory. But for 65-year-old Wisdom the Laysan albatross, motherhood is still very much on her mind. The oldest wild bird, which nests annually at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Ocean, recently hatched her most recent chick, Kūkini, which is the Hawaiian word for “messenger.”
Toxic chemicals found in beached whales in Fife
A pod of whales stranded in Fife had high concentrations of toxic chemicals, some of which had reached the mammals’ brains, scientists have found. The pod of long-ﬁnned pilot whales were stranded on a beach between Anstruther and Pittenweem on 2 September 2012. Out of the 31 mammals which beached, only 10 could be refloated and 21 – 16 females and five males – died. The tests were led by the University of Aberdeen and the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme.
Bushfires are pushing species towards extinction
AUSTRALIA – Massive bushfires in recent months have tragically claimed people’s lives and destroyed their homes. These events are becoming more common as our warming and drying climate increases the frequency, intensity and extent of fires. But these impacts aren’t just restricted to humans. Our native animals and plants are also affected by fire. Some species have even been pushed to the verge of extinction by the way fire patterns have changed. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List identifies “fire and fire suppression” as a threat to more than 100 threatened species in Australia.
Concerns raised over number of children not engaging with nature
More than one in nine children in England have not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least 12 months, according to a two-year study funded by the government.
Bee hotel to attract native bees to Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra
When we think of bees we usually think of swarms and busy hives, but most Australian native bees actually prefer to live alone. The Australian National Botanic Gardens wants to help Canberra’s native bee population feel more at home by providing a hotel equipped with individual “rooms”.
Beekeeping in the ‘burbs: Adelaide Hills apiarist teaches city slickers how to host hives
AUSTRALIA – Beehives in the suburbs are making a comeback, and keeping bees in your backyard is a lot easier than you may think. “One of the best places to put bees for a little bit of honey production is in the urban area,” Adelaide Hills beekeeper Crispin Boxhall said. “There are a lot of lovely suburbs with lots of lovely, flowery gardens that are well maintained and well watered.”
Environment ministry CEO Vicky Robertson tests the waters
NEW ZEALAND – As a goal keeper for the Black Sticks, Vicky Robertson acquired the sort of skills which have stood her in good stead in her new job as the Ministry for the Environment chief executive… Robertson will be drawing on those defensive qualities as she continues to take on the big challenges of her 5-year tenure, which started in June last year. She rates the quality of fresh water as the largest of those. This summer the issue has come sharply into focus, especially in Canterbury where a third of monitored river sites are unsafe for swimming.
Economy and Business
Fund managers who ignore climate risk ‘could face legal action’
Pension and investment fund managers who ignore the risks of climate change face the prospect of legal action, according to financial and legal experts. Global warming poses a systemic risk to the world economy and could significantly cut the value of investments, the experts argue, so those with fiduciary responsibility have a duty to act to reduce that risk, or be taken to court.
The rise of internet veg box schemes in sub-Saharan Africa
Growing up on a farm in central Kenya, Winston Wachanga witnessed the piles of fruit and vegetables that perished after never making it to a market… To solve this gap, Wachanga set up online delivery company Kitchen Soko. In less than a year he has built up a network of 80 local farmers in Kenya whose produce is delivered in a box straight to the customer’s front door. Customers can find out exactly which farm the produce has come from.
Waste and the Circular Economy
New approach to plastic a must for the health of our oceans
Within a few decades, there could be a higher volume of plastic in our seas than fish if new strategies aren’t developed. Despite hosting a number of impressive economies, Asia also has to contend with a vast number of environmental concerns.
WRAP shows job potential of circular economy in each constituency at Parliament exhibition
UK – An exhibition set up in Parliament by WRAP shows how many jobs could be created in each UK constituency by the circular economy. As part of the exhibition, it has also launched a new interactive tool created through Google, that enables individuals to look at each constituency and understand the scope of circular economy employment potential.
Politics and Society
Interview With Gro Harlem Brundtland, Grandmother of Sustainability (Video)
Gro Brundtland is the “grandmother of sustainability.” She is a true legend, and the roots of “sustainability” and “sustainable development” sprouted in the famous report named after her, Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report.
CSIRO chief defends cuts, promising to keep ‘vital’ climate capability
AUSTRALIA – CSIRO executives informed a key manager of cuts of at least half his climate research staff just days before revealing the sharp reduction to the rest of the organisation, questioning in Senate estimates has revealed. Chief executive Larry Marshall opened the two hour-long grilling from Labor and Greens senators by declaring he was “not a climate change sceptic or denier” and that CSIRO would ensure “vital” modelling and monitoring of climate change would continue. He said the changes were necessary to improve the value and impact of the science the organisation was doing.
Tree clearing debate to be a key political battle as Queensland Parliament resumes for 2016
AUSTRALIA – Changes to tree clearing laws in Queensland are shaping up to be a key battle for the State Labor Government in 2016. Prior to last year’s election, now-Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk committed to reintroducing strict vegetation management rules that were relaxed by the previous LNP administration. Twelve months on, the State’s peak agriculture lobby group AgForce is calling on Labor to present its planned changes.
Victorian climate review calls for 1.5°C long-term emissions target
AUSTRALIA – An independent review into the Victoria’s Climate Change Act has found the current legislation to be “inadequate” in its response to the threat of global warming, and has made 33 recommendations on how it can be strengthened.
London drivers urged to turn off engines in bid to tackle air pollution
London drivers will be encouraged by volunteers and signs to turn off their engines in traffic jams to tackle the capital’s illegal air pollution levels, under plans announced by Boris Johnson on Thursday. But campaigners accused the mayor of failing to take hard measures to cut the city’s pollution problem, which has seen six sites including Oxford Street, Knightsbridge and Brixton Road already breach annual limits just weeks into 2016.
How Kiwi Property adopted sustainability as a de-risking strategy
NEW ZEALAND – In the 12 years since it made sustainability core to its development and management of the commercial and retail property portfolio, Kiwi Property is finding the market is taking notice, according to David Johnson, general manager commercial portfolio.
It’s time to power down our greenhouses (Book extract)
UK – When we sow seeds, the worst we can expect if things go wrong and the seeds fail to germinate is disappointment. We can try again and hope for better luck, but life goes on. In some parts of the world, if seeds fail to germinate, or crops fail to establish, those that sowed them could face death. If their seeds don’t come up, they don’t nip to the garden centre for another packet – they start living on food aid.
Opposition to genetically modified animals could leave millions hungry
According the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there are 795 million people (more than 10% of the world population) who are chronically undernourished. This includes 161 million children, of which 3.1 million die from hunger each year. We need to double food production, with less land and less water, and prevent further environmental degradation. One of the most promising approaches is genetically modified (GM) animals to produce more food with less, and improve animal health and welfare.