Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Two thirds of the world’s vertebrate wildlife could be gone by 2020, report warns | Washington Post
A new report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) predicts devastating declines in wildlife populations over the next five years, unless quick action is taken. By the end of the decade, we’re likely to have lost 67 percent loss of all vertebrate wildlife compared to 1970, it claims. According to this year’s Living Planet Report, released by the WWF every two years, wildlife populations have already suffered tremendous losses in the last few decades.


Energy and Climate Change

Gut instinct drives battery boost
Scientists have designed a new prototype battery that mimics the structure of the human intestines. It’s a type of battery called lithium-sulphur, which – in theory – could have five times the energy density of the lithium-ion forms in wide use today. But the prototype developed by a UK-Chinese team overcomes a key hurdle to their commercial development by taking inspiration from the gut. Details appear in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Magma power: how superheated molten rock could provide renewable energy
Iceland is about to tap into water as hot as lava. Several kilometres below ground, a drilling rig named Thor will soon penetrate the area around a magma chamber, where molten rock from the inner Earth heats up water that has seeped through the seafloor. This water – up to 1,000°C and saturated with corrosive chemicals – will eventually be piped up to the surface and its heat turned into usable energy.

WA must embrace dawn of renewable energy era or risk being left behind
According to Beyond Zero Emissions’ report, Renewable Energy Superpower, the world will invest $US28tn in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the next 20 years.  But Western Australia risks being left behind. Here investors have poured more than $100bn into liquefied natural gas (LNG) over the past decade yet the state has little to show for it.

Why I’m spending three months sailing right around Antarctica for science
Spending three months inside a metal container on board an icebreaker in the Southern Ocean, filtering water while attempting to ignore freezing temperatures and huge ocean swells outside. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun … but it’s what I’ll be doing next year, in the name of climate science.

Environment and Biodiversity

Only 3 Irrawaddy dolphins remain in Laos
The small population of Irrawaddy dolphins in Lao People’s Democratic Republic is now functionally extinct, the World Wildlife Fund announced yesterday. Only three Irrawaddy dolphins are thought to remain in Laos now, down from six individuals surveyed earlier this year, a WWF team found. This tiny population is no longer viable, scientists say, because there aren’t sufficient potential breeding pairs of dolphins that can ensure survival of the population.

Efforts to stop deforestation in DRC may be misplaced, study finds
Deforestation rates have been climbing in the DRC, threatening wildlife and releasing huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. Research conducted in the country’s northeast found that much of the region’s deforestation was the result of farmers clearing land to earn extra money, not subsistence agriculture as previously believed. The researchers say current REDD+ efforts to curb deforestation in the region may be focusing on the wrong driver – and even making the situation worse.

Scheme to reopen river Severn to fish wins almost £20m in funding
UK – A scheme to open up miles of the river Severn and its major tributary to help threatened fish has won almost £20m in funding. The £19.4m project will reopen the UK’s longest river to fish species, many of which vanished from its upper reaches after weirs were installed in the 1800s to help river transport during the industrial revolution.

Changes to Australia’s marine reserves leave our oceans unprotected
Ocean health relies on a strong backbone of protection and management. Marine reserves can be part of the solution, but only if they’re constructed in the right way. Recent recommendations on Australia’s marine reserves would leave more ocean unprotected.

Will the Great Barrier Reef recover from its worst-ever bleaching?
A fifth of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals are dead after the worst bleaching event on record. Most of these deaths occurred in the northern part of the reef above Lizard Island.  Months after the bleaching event, research teams are now taking stock of the damage. Corals can recover from bleaching. But in a changing world they will have less time to do so before the next event.

NZ oceans deteriorating, marine wildlife threatened | Stuff
NEW ZEALAND – The Ministry for the Environment has released an in-depth look at the state of the marine environment in collaboration with Statistics New Zealand. Ocean acidification and warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of extinction of most of our native marine birds and coastal degradation are the report’s top worries. It says the increase in acidification and warming of oceans has widespread implications for species and ecosystems, and the overall conservation status of seabirds is worsening. Read the report Our Marine Environment 2016.

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Economy and Business

10 years on from the Stern report: a low-carbon future is the ‘only one available’
Clean, green development is the sole route to future global economic growth, according to British economist Lord Nicholas Stern, with a continuation of polluting, high-carbon growth only leading to self-destruction.

7 steps to take if your company oversteps its planetary boundaries
Corporations are failing to report their impact on planetary boundaries and social thresholds. Few, if any, understand the fragility and interconnectedness of the commodities and resources they rely upon, although nonprofits and governments widely consider them to inform policies. This oversight will cause unforeseen social and climate catastrophes once the Earth’s thresholds for chemical pollution, ocean acidification and other forces are reached, according to a recent report by British consultancy Article 13.

In a loss for ExxonMobil, NY Supreme Court orders oil giant to produce climate documents
In a loss for ExxonMobil, the New York State Supreme Court has ordered the oil giant and its accounting firm to produce documents subpoenaed in a highly charged investigation of whether the company concealed from investors and the public what it knew about climate change as long as four decades ago.

Politics and Society

Mosul battle shows link between war and environmental degradation, says U.N. agency
The United Nations Environment Programme is highlighting the battle by Iraqi forces to reclaim Mosul from the Islamic State as the latest instance in the complex but very real linkage between military conflicts around the world and extreme environmental degradation.

Fears for isolated Bolivian tribe met by Chinese oil firm in Amazon
Teams from a Chinese oil and gas company exploring in the remote Bolivian Amazon have reportedly had near encounters with a group of indigenous people living in what the United Nations calls “isolation”, raising major concern for the group’s welfare.

DOC give the green light to mining company wanting to mine in South Taranaki
NEW ZEALAND – Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) have applied to mine a 66 square kilometre area of 50 million tonnes of iron-ore laden sand from the seabed off the coast of Patea.  Their application is the second in as many years after their first was rejected on the grounds not enough was known about the environmental effects of the mining.  The public can now make submissions on TTR’s application but DOC have chosen to refrain from making a submission saying in a statement that they’re satisfied all conservation measures have been met.

Built Environment

Are priority measures for electric cars really a good idea?
With as many as 40,000 premature deaths linked to air pollution each year, five UK cities are considering a novel approach to reduce emissions. Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton may adopt “clean air zones”, where electric cars are given priority, as part of a £40m government initiative to tackle pollution. By 2020, the drivers of electric vehicles could have their own designated lanes, priority at traffic lights and exemptions from one-way systems.

Air pollution on Wall Street might actually be bringing down the stock market
In a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, three economists demonstrate that poor air quality may even be capable of dinging stock market returns, produced by traders who are very much indoors at the New York Stock Exchange.

Food Systems

EU proposes total commercial fishing ban on Atlantic sea bass
The European commission has proposed closures on commercial fishing for sea bass in the Atlantic and whiting in the waters west of Scotland from next year, in order to prevent a collapse in fish stocks… The move, to cut sea bass catches from 570 tonnes a year to zero, follows what the EU calls “very alarming” advice from fisheries scientists, who found that numbers had fallen below “safe biological limits”.

Is it time for a moratorium on commercial fishing of Pacific bluefin tuna?
A stock assessment released last April found that the Pacific bluefin population has dropped by 97.4 percent from its historic, pre-fishing levels, leaving just 2.6 percent of the species’ original population in the wild. The chances of the population rebounding are not exactly robust, either. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, projections show that Pacific bluefin tuna numbers have less than a one percent chance of recovering within two decades barring immediate and decisive action from fisheries managers. The group says that it may be time to consider a commercial fishing ban to ensure the survival of the Pacific bluefin tuna.

Why Australian dietary recommendations on fat need to change
A recent editorial in the journal Open Heart suggests many of us have it all wrong when it comes to the balance of fats we eat.  The authors urge a return to equal amounts of specific types of fats known as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in order to help combat global obesity.


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