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Tuesday 26 January 2016

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

How science can teach us to be more relaxed
As a clinical psychologist, cognitive neuroscientist and mindfulness teacher, I am fascinated by how our thoughts and emotions relate to our physical responses. They are a key to understanding our ability to tolerate and respond to stress. Scientific research has highlighted a range of ways our individual perception and experience of stress vary. For example, the amounts of certain chemicals in our bodies that affect how we feel, such as cortisol and oxytocin, can be negatively affected by a lack of attachment, social support and even how confident we are that we can control our situation.

Energy and Climate Change

Germany says solar and wind have won technology race
The minister responsible for Germany’s ambitious Energiewende, or energy transition, from coal and nuclear to renewable energy says it is clear that solar and wind energy have won the technology race. In an interview with RenewEconomy in Abu Dhabi last week, special minister of state Rainer Bakke said the task now for Germany was to focus on integration, “digitising” the electricity grid, and on storage, efficiency, and other energy uses such as transport and building and industrial heat.

Hot summer nights, and cold winter evenings: how to be comfortable and save money all year long
Every summer, the number of Australian homes equipped with air conditioners goes up and up. Recent statistics show that 74% of Australian homes – 6.6 million so far – have some form of air conditioning. This stands to reason because our summers are becoming hotter and hotter while we increasingly demand constant comfort… If you make the right decisions when buying an air conditioner this summer, you can enjoy even greater benefits over the long and dreary winter months to come.

We just had the hottest year on record – where does that leave climate denial?
Even if global emissions begin to decline, as now appears possible after the agreement signed in Paris last December, there is no reasonable scientific doubt that the upward trends in global temperature, sea levels, and extreme weather events will continue for quite some time. Politically and ideologically motivated denial will nonetheless continue for a little while longer, until it ceases to be politically opportune. So how does one deny that climate change is upon us and that 2015 was by far the hottest year on record? What misinformation will be disseminated to confuse the public?

Environment and Biodiversity

The New Copernican Revolution: Fritjof Capra on the Shift to ‘The Systems View of Life’
Fritjof has described his latest book, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision as “the realisation of a dream” and it has been written with his long-time friend and colleague Pier Luigi Luisi, one of the world’s leading authorities on the origin of life and self-organisation of synthetic and natural systems. The result is a book that presents, for the first time, a coherent systemic framework that integrates four dimensions of life — biological, cognitive, social and ecological — and discusses the profound philosophical, social and political implications of this new paradigm.

Toxic chemicals found in most outdoor gear
Greenpeace said on Monday that hazardous chemicals were “widely present” in a range of outdoor gear it tested, from clothing and footwear to backpacks, tents and sleeping bags.  The environmental activist group said out of 40 products tested, only four were free of per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).

Economy and Business

The fight over the future of carbon pricing has arrived
Putting a price on carbon. It’s not a particularly novel idea, but it’s one that people in powerful positions are talking about again in the wake of the Paris climate talks and the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Granted, high-level talk about the social, environmental and economic risks associated with climate change isn’t the same as taking concrete action to curb the carbon emissions contributing to hotter average temperatures. There is reason to believe, however, that the political calculus around carbon pricing is changing — even if it’s not on the global scale that advocates envisioned heading into the COP21 United Nations climate talks in December.

China’s carbon market to cover eight industries
China’s carbon-trading system will include eight industries when it is introduced in 2017, according to the country’s economic planning agency. In a statement on Friday, the National Development and Reform Commission said the system will cover the petrochemical and power industries, along with chemicals, construction material, nonferrous metals, steel, papermaking and aviation.

China approves $15bn green bonds
The Chinese government has approved two green bonds worth a total of 100 billion Yuan (US$15.2 billion) in a boost for global climate finance. The China Industrial Bank and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank will issue green bonds worth 50bn Yuan ($7.6bn). The two green bonds will be the first such issues after the China’s central bank announced a quota system for financial institutions to raise 300bn Yuan ($45bn).

US blizzard: Washington struggles to rebound from ‘Snowzilla’, analysts predict ‘multi-billion-dollar’ losses
The eastern United States has emerged wearily from a massive blizzard that dumped huge amounts of snow, killed at least 25 people, and is predicted to have left behind billions of dollars in economic losses.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman – the optimistic pessimist
The world is in a more challenging situation than many people perhaps realise,” Paul Polman explains. Depending on your point of view, the chief executive of Unilever, one of the biggest companies in the world, is either a gloomy pessimist or a unique figure in international business who believes his company has a duty to help the world tackle its big issues.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Study reveals your nitrogen footprint – and who it is impacting
You’ve heard of managing your carbon footprint. But how about your nitrogen footprint? Emissions of reactive nitrogen into the environment have increased more than 10-fold over the past 150 years, contribute to deaths from air pollution and water pollution, and have countless other impacts including acid rain and degradation of ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef. Now, for the first time, researchers have calculated the average nitrogen footprint of people from 188 countries, as well as where exactly they cause that pollution, helping pave the way to policy that could help the world reduce its emissions of reactive nitrogen.

Politics and Society

The Zika virus foreshadows our dystopian climate future | Bill McKibben
I’ve spent much of my life chronicling the ongoing tragedies stemming from global warming: the floods and droughts and storms, the failed harvests and forced migrations. But no single item on the list seems any more horrible than the emerging news from South America about the newly prominent Zika disease. Spread by mosquitoes whose range inexorably expands as the climate warms, Zika causes mild flu-like symptoms. But pregnant women bitten by the wrong mosquito are liable to give birth to babies with shrunken heads.

Zika virus: Outbreak ‘likely to spread across Americas’ says WHO
The Zika virus is likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas, the World Health Organization has warned.  The infection, which causes symptoms including mild fever, conjunctivitis and headache, has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America.  It has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains and some countries have advised women not to get pregnant. No treatment or vaccine is available.

How your friends affect your health
Think about your five closest friends. What do they care about? Do they love the gym? Long walks on the beach? Maybe they smoke, or are overweight. You should choose your friends wisely, because they can have a big influence on your health. Growing evidence suggests disease spreads through social networks.

Twelve questions: Urban pantry founder Emily Harris
NEW ZEALAND – Urban Pantry founder Emily Harris threw in her law career to help community groups set up inner city food gardens like the vegetable gardens in Aotea Square for ‘Summer in the Square’.

50c per Kiwi buys Abel Tasman National Park
If all Kiwis donated 50c each, a private beach in Abel Tasman National Park could be ours to share. The 7ha private beach, in the park’s Awaroa Inlet, is selling for $2 million. The beach is listed with real estate company Bayleys, which describes it as “picturesque” with 800m of golden sand and beautiful native bush. Christchurch resident Duane Major, who regularly visited the private beach, has taken matters into his own hands and created a Givealittle page for Kiwis to pledge money to buy the land.

Kiwis deprive themselves of holidays – study
New Zealand workers are among the most holiday deprived in the world, according to a global study. The research for online booking firm Expedia finds Kiwis on average have 20 days of annual leave but last year only took 15 of them.

Fifteen million people facing food shortages in Ethiopia
It’s being called a “code red emergency” by aid groups, yet the international response to the drought in Ethiopia has been criticised as ponderous. Fifteen million people in the east African country are believed likely to face food shortages this year. The UN says the strongest El Niño climate system in decades has decimated livestock herds and caused crops to fail.

Solar Impulse pilot defends UK subsidy cuts
Bertrand Piccard , the pioneer of a solar-powered attempt to fly around the Earth, has defended a decision by David Cameron’s government to cut subsidies for householders installing solar panels by 65%. A cap on subsidies has fanned industry fears that the rate of domestic solar panel installations is set to halve, and the government admits that more than half the UK solar industry’s 32,000 jobs could be lost.

Built Environment

Explainer: why are cities warmer than the countryside?
In cities, the air, surface and soil temperatures are almost always warmer than in rural areas. This effect is known as the Urban Heat Island – a term which first came into use in the mid-20th century. Until the 1980s, this effect was considered to have relatively little practical significance. In fact, given that most studies were done in cities with cold winter climates, a warmer temperature was seen as a potential benefit, because it reduced the need for heating. But since then, we’ve found a number of reasons to be concerned.

Business leaders call for fresh green infrastructure insight
Green Alliance and National Grid are among a clutch of business and environmental groups that have launched a national consultation asking for insights on the UK’s future infrastructure needs and how they could be met.

Energy Efficiency Hides In Plain Sight At Masdar City
While much of the energy efficiency spotlight has been shining on next-generation materials, smart meters, and high tech building design, Masdar City is taking a different tack. Located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the planned community is in the early stages of development with an eye towards tapping the energy efficient know-how accumulated by ancient city dwellers.

Electric cars to use bus lanes in UK cities
UK cities are to allow electric car drivers to beat congestion by using bus lanes, as part of a government drive to encourage uptake of the cleaner vehicles. Milton Keynes and Derby will copy similar measures in Norway and allow the cars to drive in miles of bus lanes, while owners in Hackney will be able to plug in at street lights. York drivers will be able to recharge their batteries at a solar-powered park-and-ride and electric car owners in Bristol and Milton Keynes will be allowed to park for free.

Food Systems

Health Check: do we really have to pay attention to ‘use-by’ and ‘best-before’ dates?
To protect consumers against poor quality or potentially hazardous foods, governments have introduced “date codes” to help consumers evaluate the “freshness” of foods. Food producers also embrace date codes to help them provide safe, high quality products to consumers.

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