Monday 23 May 2016
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Only five years left before 1.5°C carbon budget is blown
In its most recent synthesis report, published in early 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) laid out estimates of how much CO2 we can emit and still keep global average temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C, 2°C or 3°C above pre-industrial levels. That same year, Carbon Brief used these estimates to calculate how many years of current emissions were left before blowing these budgets. Updating this analysis for 2016, our figures suggest that just five years of CO2 emissions at current levels would be enough to use up the carbon budget for a good chance – a 66 per cent probability – of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C.
Energy and Climate Change
Coal Generation Is Too Thirsty For A Changing World
Burning coal to generate electricity has serious problems related to climate change and air pollution, but it’s also too thirsty to keep up. If the average home in the US received all of its electricity from coal, about 370 eight-person hot tubs full of water would have been wasted to generate that electricity. Now that wind and solar are as cheap as they are, it’s time to leave our freshwater alone.
Protesting to #Breakfree of fossil fuels – in pictures
From 3-15 May, thousands of young people around the world took part in civil disobedience on six continents, calling for oil, coal and gas to be kept in the ground. Anna Pérez Català from Climate Tracker shares some of her favourite pictures from the Break Free protests.
Want to know if the Paris climate deal is working? University divestment is the litmus test
If Paris has truly signalled to the world that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close, then it should put the movement to divest from fossil fuels on steroids. And universities are better placed to divest than many other types of institution. It therefore follows that the success of Paris can be measured by whether it spurs universities to quit investing in fossil fuels.
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AUSTRALIA – Network operators are usually keen to underline the importance of the grid – to both them and to their consumers – but survey by Western Power of regional consumers has shown that an overwhelming majority are either very keen or are open to the idea of cutting the line altogether… The survey was undertaken by Western Power because it has identified 500 regional and remote customers where it could provide a stand-alone power station – renewable energy and battery storage – at around half the cost of the current network connection.
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Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says she will set up a high-level taskforce to drive down New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions after the latest annual report revealed another 1 per cent increase in 2014. The annual Environment Ministry report says gross emissions rose 1 per cent by the equivalent of 0.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, and gas removed through forestry dropped 2.5 per cent by 0.6 million tonnes, producing a total increase in net emissions of 1.4 million tonnes.
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NEW ZEALAND – Z Energy is about to open the country’s first commercial scale biofuels plant in what it says is a bid to become part of the solution to the emissions equation, rather than part of the problem. The fast-growing listed company is putting its money – $26 million – where its mouth is and not expecting to make much of a return on it, at least in the short term.
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Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, enshrined its climate targets in law on Wednesday. The new laws cover emissions reduction, an emissions trading scheme and green investment plans. Ontario has a population of 14 million and is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37 per cent from by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and 80 per cent by 2050.
Environment and Biodiversity
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From illegal hunting for the exotic pet trade to illegal hunting for fun, criminal acts have a devastating impact on some of the world’s most loved species, as well as some of the more obscure. To mark Endangered Species Day, Wildlife Watch looks at how crime jeopardizes seven animals facing extinction.
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May 22 has been designated as the “International Day for Biological Diversity” by the United Nations to “increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues”. In celebration of World Biodiversity Day, below is a look at the world’s ten most biodiverse countries as measured by species richness.
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Dear Umbra, I’m a full-time environmental activist living on an anti-aviation protest camp. When I first came here, I was shocked by the number of environmentalists who smoke tobacco. Given that it’s grown in the Americas, probably on poorly managed land with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and shipped across to the UK only to eventually go up in smoke, I’ve always had a suspicion that tobacco has a fairly large environmental footprint. Can you confirm or deny this?
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A group of tourists were treated to a stunning display of nature off the Australian coast when they encountered dozens of sharks feasting on a whale carcass. The footage was taken by Eco Abrolhos tour operator Jay Cox on Friday during a tour from Geraldton to Broome, Western Australia, using a GoPro camera and a drone.
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NEW ZEALAND – The Government this month announced that an extra $20.7 million in operating funding, sourced from the previous Budget, would be spent on the largest pest control operation in the country’s history to protect threatened birds and other species. But the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) said higher baseline funding for the Department of Conservation was needed to help reverse the overall trend of biodiversity decline.
Economy and Business
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The forerunners of ExxonMobil patented technologies for electric cars and low emissions vehicles as early as 1963 – even as the oil industry lobby tried to squash government funding for such research, according to a trove of newly discovered records.
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In 1990, a small group of investors offered a resolution at Exxon’s annual shareholder’s meeting asking that it “develop a company-wide plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The company opposed the motion, which won 6% of the vote, on the grounds that “the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.” Here’s what happened since 1990: we’ve had all 25 of the hottest years ever measured on our planet. We’ve lost half of Arctic sea ice. The ocean has become markedly more acidic.
Waste and the Circular Economy
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How does nature put energy-efficient chemical or physical processes to work to manage waste? How do species dispose of waste in more efficient ways or reduce the volume produced in the first place? Is one species’ trash another one’s treasure? Nature has developed incredible systems for managing waste, leading to healthier and more efficient ecosystems. Emulating nature’s strategies in human designs could uncover new solutions to our challenges with waste.
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Biomedical engineers at Tufts University in the United States have invented a cling film-like biodegradable food wrap, made from silk, which can preserve fruit and other produce for more than a week. The material is viewed as a potential alternative to plastic packaging.
Politics and Society
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“I know I should be bothered but I just can’t be”, said a colleague recently as they threw some paper towards the bin, “it’s weird really because at home we’re fastidious about recycling and all that … but at work I just don’t bother.” In one sentence highlighting how hard it can be to encourage employees to be as environmentally friendly in the workplace as they are in their own homes.
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Authorities in a parched western Indian state have sprinkled water in the streets after a heat wave sent temperatures to a record-high 51 degrees Celsius. Several hospitals in the desert state of Rajasthan, which has been hit worst by a heat wave that has spread to many parts of India, have set aside beds to treat heatstroke victims.
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Hundreds of people have joined a protest at Glenelg in South Australia to protest against BP’s proposal to drill for oil in the waters off the Great Australian Bight. The protest which included a fake oil spill was one of many Hands Across the Sand events held across the globe to raise environmental concerns about the oil and gas industries.
Election 2016: Greens pledge to double Australia’s R&D investment share by 2030
The Greens have pledged to double Australia’s investment in research and development by 2030 and reverse deep cuts at the CSIRO to make the economy more competitive and sustainable. Australia now invests about $900 a year per person in public and private research and development, or about 2.2 per cent of the economy. The tally, which lags nations such as Korea’s 4.3 per cent and 2.7 per cent in the US, would be lifted to 4 per cent by 2030 through a combination of restored tax credits and a new investment fund.
State of the World: Can a city be sustainable? | Worldwatch Institute
Cities have emerged as the dominant form of human settlement, and they are major economic and environmental actors. Since 1950, the global urban population has increased by roughly a factor of five, from 0.7 billion in 1950 to 3.9 billion in 2014. It is expected to increase by another 60 percent by 2050, when 6.3 billion people are projected to live in urban settlements.
The world’s largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem
When the gargantuan Harmony of the Seas slips out of Southampton docks on Sunday afternoon on its first commercial voyage, the 16-deck-high floating city will switch off its auxiliary engines, fire up its three giant diesels and head to the open sea. But while the 6,780 passengers and 2,100 crew on the largest cruise ship in the world wave goodbye to England, many people left behind in Southampton say they will be glad to see it go. They complain that air pollution from such nautical behemoths is getting worse every year as cruising becomes the fastest growing sector of the mass tourism industry and as ships get bigger and bigger.
Hazelnuts offer nitrogen option
NEW ZEALAND – Hazelnut trees’ potential to soak up nitrogen leaching will be revealed at three workshops over the next few weeks. Farmers will be able to learn more about how hazelnut trees can fit into their farm management plans. Hazelnut Growers Association chairman Murray Redpath, an Eastern Bay of Plenty sheep and beef farmer and hazelnut grower, says hazelnuts need nitrogen and their spring growth relies on having enough stored in their roots and plant tissues.
Monsanto weedkiller faces recall from Europe’s shops after EU fail to agree deal
Bestselling weedkillers by Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta could be removed from shops across Europe by July, after an EU committee failed for a second time to agree on a new license for its core ingredient, glyphosate.