Tuesday 21 October 2014
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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From Spend Shifters to Strategic Buyers: How Soon Will Climate Become a Reason to Purchase?
[Ed: My favourite topic, consumerism, and a hopeful story about business taking note of consumer behaviour]
One of the highlights of Sustainable Brands ‘13 London was Chip Walker’s talk about The Shifting Landscape of Consumer Values and Implications for Your Brand’s Future. The power in Walker’s delivery was, in common with all the best talks, that he provided insight into questions that everyone in his audience has. Specifically, he shed new light on how consumers think about brands. One of the main revelations was about the shift from mindless purchasing pre-2008 to mindful purchasing. Interestingly, he highlighted that his firm’s research (which included 65,000 responders globally) revealed that this shift was gathering momentum around 2007 just before the global economic collapse — people were already figuring out that consumption might not be the friend they once thought it to be.
Energy and Climate Change
Climate change: it’s only human to exaggerate, but science itself does not
To exaggerate is human, and scientists are human. Exaggeration and the complementary art of simplification are the basic rhetorical tools of human intercourse. So yes, scientists do exaggerate. So do politicians, perhaps even when, as the UK’s former environment secretary Owen Paterson did, they claim that climate change forecasts are “widely exaggerated”. But this is not the case when scientists speak publicly through their own very special form of mass media, the peer-reviewed literature. In peer-review, statements that do not follow deductively from the data are subject to forensic examination and often expunged, or at least subjected to the “death by caveat” that makes so much academic writing almost indigestible.
2014 on track to be hottest year on record, says US science agency
The world is on course for this to be the hottest year ever, with global land and sea temperatures for September the highest ever recorded for the month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Monday. The findings, which confirm September as the warmest such month on record, continue a string of record-beating months for global temperature. The year to date for 2014 is already tied with 1998 as the warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880, Noaa scientists said.
Don’t get too excited, no one has cracked nuclear fusion yet
Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s announcement this week that it could make small-scale nuclear fusion power a reality in the next decade has understandably generated excitement in the media. Physicists, however, aren’t getting their hopes up just yet. I recently returned from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Fusion Energy Conference in St Petersburg, Russia, the world’s leading conference on the development of fusion power. There was no announcement of research by Lockheed Martin, and the company did not field any scientists to report on their claims.
Environment and Biodiversity
Brazil must target smallholders to curb rising deforestation
Farmers with smallholdings are not responsible for most of the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, but their contribution to deforestation is rising and must be addressed if the country is to hold on to recent gains, according to an environmental research group. Government efforts led to a 77% fall in deforestation in the Amazon between 2004 and 2011, but progress has slowed and deforestation is rising, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said in a report.
Bugs as treatment: coming to a clinic near you…
When you’re sick, you want the most effective treatment to help get you back on your feet. But what if that involved bugs? Maggots and leeches have been used for decades and are still supplied to hospitals for speciality treatments. Researchers are now investigating whether hookworms can allow people with coeliac disease to safely consume wheat.
Economy and Business
Clean tech stocks outperformed ASX200 for first quarter
Australian clean tech stocks have outperformed the general market for the month of September and the first quarter of the financial year, the Australian CleanTech Index shows. Over the past three months, the Index saw an improvement of 5.7 per cent, while the ASX200 fell by 1.9 per cent. For September the ASX200 fell by 5.9 per cent, while the CleanTech Index rose 1.5 per cent. And over the past year, the CleanTech Index has gone up 10.6 per cent, 9.2 per cent ahead of the ASX200, gaining just 1.4 per cent.
A multibillion dollar opportunity – Service for wind farms in China
China is the world’s largest wind market with more than 100GW of wind capacity, equivalent to about 65,000 turbines, and is currently adding more than 30 new turbines per day. Operating and maintaining these turbines costs $500m per year, but this will increase to $3bn per year by 2022, according to research just published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an analysis company. In total, it found that $16bn will be spent to operate and maintain China’s wind turbines from 2015 to 2022. The task of providing O&M for the estimated 250GW of wind capacity that China is forecast to have in 2022 (several times that in any other country) will be a major challenge, creating business opportunities not just for turbine manufacturers but for specialist service providers and other players. It will also create many tens of thousands of jobs.
Hit fossil fuel firms where it hurts and support divestment
Glasgow recently became the first European university to join the rapidly-expanding fossil free divestment movement. Following hot on the heels of the Australian National University, Glasgow promised to move £18m of investment over the next ten years. The international, grass-roots, student-led fossil-free movement now has the support of religious, medical and charitable bodies across the world (181 and counting). These organisations have divested because they can no longer endorse the activities of the fossil fuel sector.
Politics and Society
Canberrans protest Commonwealth Bank fossil fuel investment
A movement calling for the big four banks to stop supporting fossil fuel projects gains strength from the hysterical reaction of politicians, according to an environmental activist behind the Canberra face of the campaign. About 40 Canberrans gathered in Garema Place on Monday to close their accounts with the big four banks to protest their continued financing of coal and gas projects, joining hundreds of people across Australia. Since 2013, the divestment campaign has gathered momentum, but sparked criticism from politicians most recently with Prime Minister Tony Abbott labelling the Australian National University (ANU)’s decision to dump investments with seven resource companies as “stupid”.
Beijing marathon runners brave thick smog as pollution levels rise
Thousands of runners have braved thick smog at the Beijing marathon, with some athletes donning masks as air pollution soared to 16 times the maximum recommended level. Organisers rejected calls to postpone the race despite the soupy white haze over the Chinese capital, instead providing extra medical staff to treat injuries among the more than 25,000 registered runners. The level of small pollutant particles known as PM2.5, which can embed themselves deep in the lungs, reached more than 400 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Beijing as the racers lined up. [Ed: I thought running was supposed to be good for you?!]
Fed Square on track to achieve carbon neutrality
Federation Square in Melbourne’s CBD is on track to be carbon neutral by the end of the year, its managers have announced. The 3.2 hectare mixed-use development, which features galleries, restaurants, public space and event space, has reduced carbon output from 9456 tonnes in 2010 to just 804 tonnes in 2013, with the 2014 figure expected to be zero. Fed Square chief executive Chris Brooks said it hadn’t been an easy achievement.