Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Dr Tim Spector on the hidden microbial world inside us (Audio 33:08)
Tim Spector has spent much of his career studying the trillions of microbes that live on us and inside us. They outnumber our own cells 10-to-1. The microbes in our guts are essential to how we digest food, they control the calories we absorb,  provide vital enzymes and vitamins and keep our immune system healthy.

Energy and Climate Change

Carbon emission release rate ‘unprecedented’ in past 66m years
Humanity is pumping climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere 10 times faster than at any point in the past 66m years, according to new research. The revelation shows the world has entered “uncharted territory” and that the consequences for life on land and in the oceans may be more severe than at any time since the extinction of the dinosaurs.

2015 One for the Climate Record Books
The long-term warming of the planet, as well as an exceptionally strong El Niño, led to numerous climate records in 2015, including milestones for global temperatures, carbon dioxide levels and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s annual State of the Climate Report.

Current record-shattering temperatures are shocking even to climate scientists | Dana Nuccitelli
“Stunning,” “wow,” “shocker,” “bombshell,” “astronomical,” “insane,” “unprecedented”– these are some of the words climate scientists have used to describe the record-shattering global surface temperatures in February 2016. It’s difficult to see any ‘pause’ or slowdown in the global warming over the past 50 years. To put the current temperatures into context, prior to last October, monthly global surface temperatures had not been more than 0.96°C hotter than the 1951–1980 average, according to Nasa. The past 5 months have been 1.06°C, 1.03°C, 1.10°C, 1.14°C, and 1.35°C hotter than that average, absolutely destroying previous records.

Marshall Islands ratifies Paris Agreement
The Republic of the Marshall Islands has become the third country in the world to ratify the Paris Agreement after its Nitijela – national Parliament – approved the treaty late last night. The country joins Fiji and Palau in ratifying the landmark treaty, which commits more than 190 nations to work together to limit global warming to “well below” two degrees by the end of the century.

Environment and Biodiversity

Heatwave surprise: Plants’ response will make events more intense than thought
Heatwaves in the northern hemisphere may become as much as 5 degrees warmer than previously estimated by mid-century because plants’ response to higher carbon dioxide levels has been miscalculated, according to new research by Australian scientists. As atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas increase, plant stomata – the tiny pores on leaves that open to take in CO2 and let out water vapour – won’t need to open as much.

New Galápagos Sanctuary Has World’s Highest Abundance of Sharks
A new sanctuary now protects the unique marine life around the Galápagos Islands, including the highest abundance of sharks known in the world.  Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, announced creation of the marine sanctuary Monday, together with 21 smaller conservation areas scattered through the volcanic archipelago, protecting over 18,000 square miles (47,000 square kilometers), or about one third of the water around the Galápagos Islands (which Ecuador administers).

Darwin Island (background) and Darwin's Arch (foreground) are home to stunning biodiversity. Photograph by Neil Gelinas, National Geographic

Darwin Island (background) and Darwin’s Arch (foreground) are home to stunning biodiversity. Photograph by Neil Gelinas, National Geographic

Broome fish kill mystery solved, likely ‘one-off’ warming event
A large-scale fish kill on Western Australia’s Kimberley coast appears to have been a one-off, caused by warm waters and big tides, according to the Department of Fisheries. The fish started washing up dead about a week ago, along a 10-kilometre stretch of coast in the Manari area, about 60 kilometres north of Broome.

Environment Southland target for farmers completing environment plans is on track
NEW ZEALAND – Despite a slow start, farmers buy-in for Environment Southland’s farm environment plans is ramping up. Focus Activity Farm Plans identify environmental risks for farms and Environment Southland’s land sustainability team has a target of getting 200 plans over farms totalling 50,000 hectares completed by the end of the financial year on June 30.

Economy and Business

Brands must become sustainable or risk irrelevance
There has been much talk in marketing circles over the past few years about brands with purpose, brands with meaning, brands that matter – whatever you chose to call them. In fact purpose was one of the three most used words at the Cannes Lions festival back in 2013 along with storytelling and data.

Sea-level rises: why flooding is the next big business risk
As climate change risks go, rising sea levels fail to sound the same alarm bells as dramatic weather events and melting ice caps. Yet their long-term effects are among the most alarming. Flooded cities, submerged coastal areas, mass migrations.

Wine-lovers raise their glasses to climate change – but there may be a hangover
Connoisseurs of fine wine should be drinking a toast to global warming, according to new research. Higher temperatures in France are producing exceptional vintages, but scientists have warned that if the trend continues too long, the current run of outstanding grape harvests could end. Records dating back more than 500 years show that wine grapes across France are now being harvested two weeks earlier on average than they were in the past.

Time to cut losses not native trees, as deficit climbs, Australia Institute says
AUSTRALIA – Logging of native forests has cost NSW taxpayers $78 million over the past six years for a declining industry that is also a primary risk for the state’s rising number of threatened species, according to a report by The Australia Institute. The losses have been clocked up by the hardwood unit of the Forestry Corporation of NSW in the six years to the 2014-15 financial year. About 95 per cent of the division’s revenue comes from logging in native forests rather than hardwood plantations, the report said.

Algorithms are changing business: here’s how to leverage them
Companies like Uber, WhatsApp and Alibaba clearly show that smart algorithms can disrupt an entire industry. But we are just at the start of this disruption and the coming decade will likely see all industries being disrupted thanks to algorithms. Gartner calls this trend the “Algorithmic Business” and it will fundamentally change how we do business.

Uber for commuters? Employers catch onto on-demand rides
Enter Ride, a commuter-focused ridesharing company that aims to adapt the sharing economy model of on-demand rides and carpools for co-workers heading to the same office. The service works through a mobile app that pairs workers going to the same place, divvying up the costs of commuting by car and completing the payment online.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Scottish £18 million circular economy fund launched
Zero Waste Scotland has launched an £18 million fund to help small- and medium-sized enterprises pioneer ways to develop a circular economy. The Circular Economy Investment Fund is part of a £70 million circular economy programme launched by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last month.

Politics and Society

Looking beyond ‘the refugee crisis’, can migrants be the new agents of democracy?
Over the last few decades, the focus on migration has widened beyond a narrow preoccupation with integration – a positive development. However, while issues of migration and development, migration and securitisation, migration and climate change, and migration and gender are all relevant, something is conspicuously absent from the debate – the relationship between migration and the spread of democracy.

4 traits that define the next generation of climate leaders
Friday, December 18, 2009, is a day I will never forget. It was cold, grey and foggy, as if the weather were mirroring what was happening in the city. It was the final day of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, and as the hours ticked by it became clear that we were witnessing a historic collapse of a global deal… That day in December, as I watched our global leaders fall staggeringly short of what was urgently needed, I knew that something had to change.

Leonardo DiCaprio says China can be climate change ‘hero’
Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio has said China can be a “hero” for the environmental cause while on a trip to the world’s most populous nation to promote The Revenant. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s stark and harrowing western scored a hugely impressive $33m on debut at the Chinese box office this weekend, pushing the film’s worldwide debut close to $500m. At a Beijing news conference to promote the film, DiCaprio praised China for moving towards renewable energy in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Governments and business must speak “in one voice” to curb climate impacts on sustainable development: Minister Nomvula Mokonyane
Sustainable development needs integrated planning across governments, the private sector and research and development “to find innovative solutions” for climate adaptation, said Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, South Africa.

Big thorns, small roses in climate news from Australia, China and world
AUSTRALIA – While pyjamas, fart references and electoral reform dominated political news from our national capital last week, climate news ranged from the downright terrifying to the possibly hopeful – there were big thorns and some small roses.

Universities challenge Government’s ‘watered-down’ zero-carbon homes policy
UK – The Government’s ability to meet EU targets for delivering low and zero-carbon homes has become threatened by a ‘deregulation agenda’ that resulted in the scrapped plans to make all new homes carbon-neutral, according to a new report from two UK universities.

Built Environment

“The 30-minute city”: how do we put the political rhetoric into practice?
AUSTRALIA – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promoted the benefits of a “30-minute city” in explaining his approach to cities and urban transport. The opposition infrastructure spokesman, Anthony Albanese, notes he talked about this idea at the National Press Club in 2014. The reality is that the 30-minute city is hardly a new idea in town planning, but it is good to see political leaders recognising its value and grappling with what it means. It’s likely to bring significant change to how we build our cities.

Seattle’s ‘aggressive plan’ to cut pollution with 15,000 electric vehicles
This week’s pick of city stories from around the web take us from Seattle to the Finnish city of Tampere as we learn more about green transport, Batman’s hometown and a building called “Top Sexy Tower” (seriously).

EV Revolution Hits Touristy London Double Decker Buses
Last summer, the Mayor of London proudly unveiled plans to test a fleet of double-decker electric buses to ply the tourist-friendly Route 16, and things must have gone swimmingly because just last week a fleet of five of the hulking EVs was announced for Route 98. Aside from pleasing commuters and tourists alike with a quieter ride, the zero-emission buses — from China’s BYD — will help to calm a pollution hotspot in the city.


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