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Tuesday 24 April 2018

More plastic, our top story is about the discovery of microplastics, in a ‘pristine’ biodiversity hotspot, 2km below the seabed.  In more exciting news, the CHOGM meeting has ended with all 53 member states pledging to meet the 1.5oC Paris Agreement target (err, this includes Malcolm Turnbull and Australia, I’m going to reserve my excitement there for the moment).  And New Zealand is doing some great things with freshwater ecologists working on creating simple solutions to reduce soil run off, nitrogen, phosphorus and aquatic weeds, with some great results, and the EPA will  map the use of 300 chemicals so they can quantify the impact on the environment.

Top Story

‘Wake-up call’: microplastics found in Great Australian Bight sediment | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Plastic has been found in ocean-floor sediments 2km below the surface in one of Australia’s most precious and isolated marine environments. CSIRO scientists discovered the microplastic pieces while analysing samples taken hundreds of kilometres offshore at the bottom of the Great Australian Bight – a so-called “pristine” biodiversity hotspot and marine treasure. “Wherever you are, the organisms passing through those areas will have come in contact with it – whether it was a fishing line or a plastic bag that’s broken down into thousands of tiny pieces. This is hundreds of kilometres offshore at a couple of kilometres of depth – that’s pretty confronting that, even there, we find it. This stuff is everywhere.”

Climate Change and Energy

Commonwealth leaders pledge to pursue 1.5C temperature goal | businessGreen
The green theme that ran through last week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London continued to the end of the summit with the final communique committing all 53 member states to redoubling efforts to limit global warming to below 1.5C. In a communique signed off by all heads of state, governments “recognised that temperature and sea level rise and other adverse impacts of climate change are a significant reality and risk to many of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable member countries”.

One of the most worrisome predictions about climate change may be coming true | The Washington Post
Two years ago, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen and a number of colleagues laid out a dire scenario in which gigantic pulses of fresh water from melting glaciers could upend the circulation of the oceans, leading to a world of fast-rising seas and even superstorms. Hansen’s scenario was based on a computer simulation, not hard data from the real world, and met with skepticism from a number of other climate scientists. But now, a new oceanographic study appears to have confirmed one aspect of this picture — in its early stages, at least.

Environment and Biodiversity

This online tool shows how we, and our planet, are changing | World Economic Forum
Anecdotal evidence of urban sprawl, renewable energy uptake, deforestation and bleached corals are all over our newsfeeds and social-media channels. Yet to date, demonstrating the drivers and consequences of planetary change on a global and local level simultaneously has been difficult to do. That’s set to change with the launch of EarthTime. This online, open-source geospatial tool allows a user to zoom into any location on the planet and see changes to the surface of the Earth since 1984. By layering 300 geospatially tagged and peer-reviewed data sets over this satellite layer, the platform brings to life systems in transition through time, all the way up to the present moment.

World’s newest great ape threatened by Chinese dam | The Guardian
INDONESIA – The discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan has not stopped a Chinese state-run company from clearing forest for a planned dam. Conservationists fear this will be the beginning of the end for a species only known for six months.

Scientists calculate likelihood Australian birds, mammals will not survive next 20 years on Earth | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Seventeen unique Australian birds and mammals are likely to disappear from the face of the Earth in the next 20 years unless Australia improves its protection of threatened species. Researchers at Australia’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub have been working to calculate the precise risk of extinction for the country’s most imperilled birds and mammals. If their numbers are correct — and nothing is done to slow things down — the losses would accelerate Australia’s already world-leading extinction rate, which has seen it lose at least 30 mammals and 29 birds since colonisation — the highest mammalian extinction rate in the world.

One in eight bird species is threatened with extinction, global study finds | The Guardian
One in eight bird species is threatened with global extinction, and once widespread creatures such as the puffin, snowy owl and turtle dove are plummeting towards oblivion, according to the definitive study of global bird populations. The State of the World’s Birds, a five-year compendium of population data from the best-studied group of animals on the planet, reveals a biodiversity crisis driven by the expansion and intensification of agriculture.

Water

Scientists work on simple ways to clean streams | Stuff.co.nz
NEW ZEALAND – On the Canterbury Plains alone, there are about 17,000km of waterways, many of which carry high levels of nitrogen, phosphate-laden sediment and faecal bacteria and a huge effort is going into ways to reverse this decline in water quality, with local and national government agencies, farm industry bodies, iwi and farmers all joining in. Adding some science to the mix is the Canterbury Water Rehabilitation Experiment (Carex), a project by the University of Canterbury’s Freshwater Ecology Research Group, funded by the Ashburton-based Mackenzie Charitable Foundation. The Carex team comprises nine scientists including professors, researchers and students.

A Carex project at Five Springs, the source of Silverstream, a tributary of Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora. Photo: Tony Benny

A Carex project at Five Springs, the source of Silverstream, a tributary of Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora. Photo: Tony Benny

Economy and Business

Report: Carbon pricing now covers up to a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions | businessGreen
The adoption of carbon pricing policies around the world is accelerating and now covers between 20 and 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according the Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE). However, the French think tank warned that while the reach of emissions markets are increasing rapidly, carbon prices are still far below the level needed to ensure international climate goals are met.

7 easy steps for telling your sustainability story | GreenBiz
What makes a sustainability story effective? I can tell you it’s not impressive shots of melting glaciers, or, on the other hand, depressing stats about them. What we’ve found to be crucial for an effective story is authenticity: staying true to who a brand is, what problems actually need to be solved and what actually motivates consumers. Here’s how we’ve coached companies to tell an authentic — and effective — sustainability story.

Tesla, Enphase lift household battery storage prices | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The price of household battery storage is defying hopes and expectations of significant price falls, with two of the leading manufacturers – Tesla and Enphase  – quietly lifting their prices in recent months. The rises are being blamed variously on supply bottlenecks and the jump in price of certain commodities, particularly cobalt.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Tasmania’s tonnes of stockpiled tyres finally headed for approved recycling centre | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Tasmania’s mounting mountain of old tyres could soon be a thing of the past. The Launceston City Council has given the green light to Tasmanian company Phoenix Rubber Products to develop a $3.5 million tyre recycling plant. The processing plant would be developed on industrial land at Calvary Rd, Mowbray and will include a purpose-built shed to shred, process and mould about 8,500 tonnes of waste tyres a year.

Politics and Society

Global science festival kicks off in Aussie pubs | CSIRO
AUSTRALIA – Pubs across the country will host some of our brightest science minds from May 14 to 16 to talk about their science, technology, engineering or maths research and careers over a pint (or two). Pint of Science will be celebrated in a record 21 countries this year, and Australia’s east coast will host the first events of 2018. Pint of Science Australia Co-Director, Jirana Boontanjai, said that the volunteer-run festival was a great way to celebrate the contribution and the passion of researchers who drive innovation.

Trump just took the first step of an aggressive effort to drill in the Arctic | The Washington Post
USA – The Trump administration took the first step Thursday toward an aggressive effort to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the country’s most pristine and environmentally sensitive areas. The Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Interior Department, issued a notice of intent to begin an environmental impact analysis of how oil exploration and the heavy infrastructure required to support it would alter a landscape where plants and animals thrive.
There is a 60-day comment period ending mid-June.

Pruitt promised polluters EPA will value their profits over American lives | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
USA – TIME magazine announced last week that Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is among their 100 most influential people of 2018. George W. Bush’s former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman delivered the scathing explanation, “If his actions continue in the same direction, during Pruitt’s term at the EPA the environment will be threatened instead of protected, and human health endangered instead of preserved, all with no long-term benefit to the economy”. As a perfect example of those actions, the Daily Caller recently reported that at a gathering at the fossil fuel-funded Heritage Institute, Pruitt announced that the EPA and federal government will soon end two important science-based practices in evaluating the costs and benefits of regulations.

Built Environment

This One Chart Shows the Radical Changes Needed to Achieve Sustainable Cities | World Resources Institute
Rose Molokoane picked up the microphone at the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur in February, and challenged the room full of policymakers, practitioners and researchers. “I’ve been a part of every World Urban Forum, and government is always talking about needing to work together better,” said the deputy president of the Shack/Slum Dwellers International. The audience, many of them from government themselves, sat up a little straighter. We have heard leaders talk about trust, about integration, about inclusion, she continued. “Well, we don’t know who they’re talking about because they’re not talking to us.” Molokoane is one of 881 million people living in slums, without access to basic services like water, sanitation and housing.

Graphene ‘a game-changer’ in making building with concrete greener | The Guardian
The novel “supermaterial” graphene could hold the key to making one of the oldest building materials greener, new scientific research suggests. Graphene has been incorporated into traditional concrete production by scientists at the University of Exeter, developing a composite material which is more than twice as strong and four times more water-resistant than existing concretes… The composite could be used directly on building sites, enabling the construction of strong and durable buildings using less concrete and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Using graphene meant the researchers were able to roughly halve the amount of materials used to make concrete.

Health of platypus habitat trumps development on outskirts of Brisbane | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – For 18 years Barbara Rosenberg has made a habit of sitting quietly by her property’s lagoon, hoping to spot its resident platypus. It’s hard to tell but she suspects two of them have made homes this year under the banks of a tree-lined waterhole on her three-acre block at Bridgeman Downs in Brisbane’s north. “He is very elusive so he’s hard to see but it’s usually morning or dusk when you see him,” she said. Ms Rosenberg is part of a collective of local residents whose calls for a proposed housing development to be quashed were recently answered. The proposal to subdivide a horse paddock on Bronson Street into 29 separate house blocks attracted 62 submissions — one in support and 61 against.

Food Systems

Mapping New Zealand’s chemical romance | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand relies on chemicals for agriculture, horticulture, and industry but mystery surrounds the volume, where they are used, and the extent of land contaminated by them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief executive, Dr Allan Freeth, wants to create a chemical map of New Zealand to capture usage of hazardous substances in order to manage them more effectively and protect the environment.

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