Thursday 25 August 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.
The Industrial Revolution kick-started global warming much earlier than we realised
In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, no one would have thought that their burning of fossil fuels would have an almost immediate effect on the climate. But our new study, published today in Nature, reveals that warming in some regions actually began as early as the 1830s. That is much earlier than previously thought, so our discovery redefines our understanding of when human activity began to influence our climate. Determining when global warming began, and how quickly the planet has warmed since then, is essential for understanding how much we have altered the climate in different parts of the world. Our study helps to answer the question of whether our climate is already operating outside thresholds that are considered safe for human society and functional ecosystems.
Energy and Climate Change
Five years to zero emissions – Australia’s climate reality check
Just five years to slash emissions to zero – that is the growing reality check for Australian policy makers if they fail to ratchet up the nation’s climate policies between now and 2030. That estimate was part of an omnibus report from the Climate Institute on Wednesday, which included new modelling from Climate Analytics that shows that Australia is facing double the environmental and economic costs if average global warming is capped at 2°C, rather than the 1.5°C aspirational target agreed to in Paris.
Obama’s offshore drilling puts whales and dolphins in peril, groups warn
On Wednesday, leases for oil and gas exploration across 23.8m acres of the Gulf of Mexico will be auctioned off to fossil fuel companies. A total of 218.94m acres, about double the size of California, will have been offered up for leases in federal waters by the end of next year, with further leasing planned by the government in a new five-year program that will extend this process.
How air pollution is causing the world’s ‘Third Pole’ to melt
The snow-covered Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountains and the Tibetan Plateau, spanning a broad area in Central and East Asia, together contain the largest ice mass on the planet outside of the polar regions. In fact, it’s earned itself the nickname of the “Third Pole.” But as in Greenland and Antarctica, there’s trouble afoot: Glaciers in the Third Pole are also shrinking… Rising temperatures, the product of global warming, are certainly one threat facing the glaciers, said Shichang Kang, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research. But air pollution in the region is also helping to accelerate the melting. And now, Kang and a group of colleagues have helped shed some new light on where all this pollution is coming from and how it could be stopped.
Environment and Biodiversity
Indonesia fires: Environmentalists urge authorities to act as smoky haze returns to islands
Smoke is rising once again from the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, one year after haze from Indonesian land-clearing fires caused major health problems across South-East Asia. Environmentalists have urged Indonesian authorities to make good on their promises to get serious about the burning-off. So far, much of the haze seems to be coming from the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo.
Raging Amazon forest fires threaten uncontacted indigenous tribe
In April 2012, Survival International launched a global campaign to save the Awá, an uncontacted indigenous people that has been called “Earth’s most threatened tribe.” Two years later, the campaign claimed victory when the Brazilian government sent troops to remove illegal cattle ranchers and loggers from Awá land. But now the Awá are facing yet another existential threat in the form of forest fires. According to Survival International, fires are “raging” in Awá territory on the edge of the Brazilian Amazon and “threatening to wipe out uncontacted members of the Awá tribe.”
Prize-winning short video looks at genetic dangers after drastic falls in bird populations
How hard is it to bring New Zealand bird populations back from the brink of extinction? A prize-winning three-minute video looks at the genetic perils confronted in trying to rescue species after drastic population reductions. “Unfortunately, New Zealand is an excellent place to study population bottlenecks and inbreeding, as so many of the country’s unique native species have been decimated by introduced mammalian predators and habitat loss,” Otago University researcher Dr Helen Taylor says.
Picton predator-free group targets less than 5 per cent pests by 2020
NEW ZEALAND – A Picton group that pre-empted the Government’s predator-free push by 12 months plans to create a line of defence surrounding the entire town. Volunteer group Picton Dawn Chorus has already started setting 150 traps, or a trap every 100 metres, on public walkways in the town’s Victoria Domain to kill rats, stoats and possums. The next step is to set more than 700 traps in private gardens and outlying coastal and bush areas, eventually covering an expected 2000 hectares.
Economy and Business
Investing in off-grid renewables in the developing world: what you need to know
At the Paris climate talks last December, governments agreed to work towards limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. But the topic of financing developing countries to help them adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy became a sticking point during the
negotiations. We recently brought together a panel of experts to debate how developing countries can reach 100% renewables. Here’s what we learned.
Investors controlling $13tn call on G20 leaders to ratify Paris climate agreement
A group of 130 institutions that control US$13tn of investments have called on G20 nations to ratify the Paris agreement this year and accelerate investment in clean energy and forced disclosure of climate-related financial risk. Countries that ratified the Paris agreement early would benefit from better policy certainty and would attract investment in low-carbon technology, the signatories said in a letter before the G20 heads of government meeting in September.
Setting the Bar High Enough, Part 5: Why Setting Science-Based Targets Isn’t Enough
In this series of articles, the team at the Carbon Trust outlines the reasons for businesses to adopt science-based targets on climate change. This is the fifth and final part of the series. After having discussed many of the positive attributes of science-based targets in previous parts of this series, it is worth reflecting briefly on their limitations.
Science-based targets to achieve Paris Agreement targets
Science-based targets need to be established for companies to reflect the carbon reduction goals of the countries in which they operate. The Science Based Targets Initiative is a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, WRI and WWF and it aims at helping businesses to determine the emissions cuts needed to help achieve global warming targets.
Can a company ever claim to be making a better world?
Companies such as Dell and Dow are working to define ‘net positive’ – where they put more into society than they take. Some suggest it’s self-serving rhetoric.
PACT | Organic Wants to Help Clean Up Fashion, Starting with Your Underwear
Ethical apparel brand PACT | ORGANIC today launched a new campaign that aims to show how dirty the fashion industry really is. “The Skidmark,” a new digital campaign produced by the creative firm Denizen Company, shines a light on the proverbial (and in this case, literal) stain the $3 trillion global fashion industry is leaving on the environment and people affected by its production. What starts as your basic sexy underwear ad quickly shifts gears, and (fair warning) comes to a rather explosive conclusion.
Three ways employers get well-being at work wrong
New research into the experience of staff in a large secondary school shows how there are at least two kinds of well-being at play in organisations. There’s a “rational” kind, which is tied to things like productivity and efficiency and is boosted by practical offerings like free gym memberships and health insurance. Then there’s also an “emotional” kind of well-being, which is more ephemeral and forms the basis of good citizenship. It is fostered through non-exploitative relationships, a culture of respect for negotiated autonomy and mutual support, and offers a caring environment and space for creativity.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Former Nespresso boss warns coffee pods are killing environment
When George Clooney became the face of Nespresso’s coffee pods in 2006, it spelt the beginning of a worldwide love affair with the product that allowed people to brew espresso at home with the touch of a button. The global market for fresh ground coffee pods went from $7 billion in 2010 to $17 billion in 2015. Last year, Australians spent $215 million on coffee pods. Former Nespresso chief executive Jean-Paul Gaillard says it is time for consumers to think about the price of convenience. “It will be a disaster and it’s time to move on that. People shouldn’t sacrifice the environment for convenience,” he said.
Trending: Edible, Recyclable, Biodegradable Packaging Latest Weapons in War on Plastic Waste
Wrapping food in plastic can reduce spoilage, but presents challenges related to waste recovery and recycling. It presents a tough choice for producers between prioritizing food waste or plastic waste, both of which are top-of-mind with consumers. For this reason, solutions that are biodegradable, recyclable, or both are gaining traction.
Balkan countries unite in a war on waste
Balkan countries once divided by war, nationalism and religion have been quietly uniting to confront a common foe: rubbish. Under the rubric of the Let’s Do It campaign, Albanian and Kosovar activists jointly cleared their border area and the polluted Lake Vermica last April, in a Wombles-style campaign that has involved more than 5% of Albania’s population, and 7% of Kosovo’s.
Pedalling Wellington’s food scraps into compost
NEW ZEALAND – Approximately 75,000 tonnes of organic waste goes to landfill every year and, according to Wellington City Council, how we manage and minimise this waste is critical. Kaicycle, a food waste bicycle collection service based in Wellington, is currently fundraising with PledgeMe to further their impact of reducing this waste. Their “food recyclists” collect organic waste from residents and businesses in the Wellington CBD which want to be environmentally friendly, but don’t have access to composting facilities.
Air pollution threat hidden as research ‘presumes people are at home’: study
The true impact of air pollution has been obscured by the failure to consider people’s exposure as they move around during the day, according to a new study that has mapped the hotspots of New York’s air pollution based on where people gather for work or recreation.
Politics and Society
Gone with the wind: How one community embraced its wind farm
Recently a colleague and I got to spend some time in a fine part of New York State with welcoming communities, beautiful rolling hills, picturesque barns and silos—and a ridge-full of wind turbines. What quickly became clear is that, for the host communities, the wind farm isn’t just about economics: the project is also part of the communities’ sense of self.
An open letter to the Prime Minister on the climate crisis, from 154 scientists
Dear The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia, The following is an open letter signed by 154 Australian atmospheric, marine, environmental, biological and medical scientists, including several leading climatologists, for your and your government’s attention.
Labor ready to sacrifice ARENA for medal in budget Olympics
Federal Labor appears ready to sacrifice the Australian Renewable Energy Agency it established just a few years ago as it reacts to Coalition government taunts that it is not serious about “budget repair”.
Queensland solar projects that could create 2,600 jobs at risk in federal cuts
Thousands of jobs could be created in Queensland if 10 large-scale solar projects were to receive funding, according to analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation. The projects, earmarked for funding by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), would create around 2,695 jobs according to the study. The figure compared favourably with the 1,400 jobs which the Indian conglomerate Adani estimates its $16bn Carmichael coalmine would bring to the state if it obtains approval for the controversial project, the study claimed. However, the findings comes as Arena faces defunding by the federal government, placing the projects in jeopardy.
Is the woman doing your nails a slave? How you, the consumer, can help
There have been numerous high profile calls for the British public to open their eyes and ears to spot slavery around them. If they suspect a case of modern slavery, they are asked to report it in a number of ways – online, by calling the police, or by calling a helpline. Yet, my recent research reveals that the public’s understanding of what this crime looks like and whether it actually affects them on a day-to-day basis is dangerously muddled.
Why Some Countries Don’t Want to Do More to Protect Elephants
That African elephants are in deep trouble has been widely publicized in recent years. They’re being poached at an unsustainable rate, and their numbers have dropped from 600,000 a decade ago to some 400,000 today. That’s why next month’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is critical… Two proposals would bring back the ivory trade, while a third would give all of Africa’s elephants the highest level of protection, which would preclude any chance of ivory sales. The battle over these proposals promises to be heated.
END LOOP: Coding to end wildlife trafficking
What’s coding got to do with conservation? The first ever Zoohackathon will convene this October 7-9 across six zoos in the US, Europe, Asia and Pacific. Organized by the US Department of State, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and World Wildlife Fund, the hackathon will address the increasingly rampant global challenge of wildlife trafficking. “The idea is simple: bright coding minds will spend a weekend at local zoos,” said US Undersecretary of State Catherine Novelli, officially launching the initiative on this year’s World Wildlife Day. “There, they’ll consider problems submitted by our partner NGOs and field-professionals and develop tech solutions to address these challenges.”
Trans Tasman Resources reapply to mine iron ore in South Taranaki
NEW ZEALAND – A seabed mining company wanting to extract iron ore from South Taranaki’s seabed is having a second crack at applying for consent. Trans Tasman Resources’ (TTR) application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2014 was rejected on the grounds it did not consider the wider effect on the environment from digging up 50 million tonnes of sand per year. However, the company is back with a fresh application and has applied to the EPA, an action immediately followed by opposition from protesters.
See also: Company makes new iron sand mining attempt
Sustainable housing’s expensive, right? Not when you look at the whole equation
Low-energy or zero-energy housing is international best practice, but is still considered costly. Part of the problem is that studies of housing standards typically use only cost-benefit analysis to assess their value, and so often wrongly conclude that sustainable housing is unaffordable. Our new research shows how such analyses may miss some flow-on financial benefits – such as reduced energy bills and lower mobility costs. Most importantly, these analyses also overlook effects on householders’ health and quality of life arising from factors such as improved thermal comfort.
NABERS for apartments finally sees light of day
The COAG Energy Council has agreed to fund development of a NABERS tool for residential apartments, meaning Australia’s fastest-growing property sector is finally on track to start slashing carbon emissions and reducing energy bills. The development of the tool is being jointly funded by state and federal governments, which have contributed $400,000, with a pilot version expected to be released in 2017. The project is part of the National Energy Productivity Plan’s 2030 targets to achieve a 40 per cent increase in energy productivity.