Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

CO2 market hurt by Australian, Russian policy, World Bank says
Efforts to put a value on greenhouse- gas emissions to contain global warming are being hurt as countries from Australia to Russia and Japan pull back from carbon-reduction commitments, according to the World Bank.  “While some nations are taking concrete steps forward on carbon pricing, recent developments in others are a setback,” the World Bank said in its State & Trends of Carbon Pricing 2014 report published on Wednesday. Policy changes amount to “two steps forward, one step back,” it said.


Fewer polar bear cubs are being born in the Arctic islands, survey finds
The proportion of polar bear females around the Arctic islands of Svalbard who gave birth to cubs crashed to just 10% in 2014, according to a small scientific survey of the animals. It follows a series of warm years and poor sea ice.  The Barents Sea population of a few thousand polar bears is one of the biggest in the world. But global warming is rapidly reducing the extent of sea ice on which the bears hunt seals, their main food.

Mosquito invasion: Queensland scientists breed aggressive Asian tiger mosquito
Queensland researchers have begun breeding an aggressive and potentially dangerous mosquito species as they prepare for it to invade mainland Australia.  The Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is named for its striped body and aggressive bloodlust.  It is thought to be the most invasive mosquito in the world and has caused epidemics that have affected millions of people.  Scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane are now breeding the mosquito in order to study its potential threat to Australia.

Conservationists fear land for project in Gilbert River catchment cleared before permit issued
Conservationists are demanding the Queensland Government investigate concerns about illegal clearing in the state’s north.  The Wilderness Society says it is worried bulldozing of a 30,000-hectare area in the Gilbert River catchment began before a permit was issued.  Queensland campaigner Karen Touchie says the State Government is failing to properly regulate clearing of native vegetation.

Wasp Bores Into Fruit With Metallic “Drill Bit”
To lay her eggs, the female parasitic fig wasp has to pierce the tough skin of unripe figs. Luckily, she has a built-in power tool: A drill-bit-like appendage that’s thinner than a human hair and tipped with zinc, a new study reveals.  “If you look at this structure, it’s so beautiful in the sense that it’s hard but maneuverable, which is a tough challenge” for a drilling tool.

Economy and Business

How HP and Kyocera are applying circular economy to printing
Despite the advent of electronic media, much of our communication and documentation still leaves a paper trail. The environmental impacts of printing, from deforestation to energy use, remain significantly high and as print equipment manufacturers look for smarter ways to reduce their footprints, the application of product lifecycle analysis is coming to the fore.

The Value Of The Global Natural Environment Has Been Calculated For The First Time And The News Isn’t Good
A group of international researchers has for the first time calculated the value of the natural environment.  And the value to human well-being, health and livelihoods fell by around $20 trillion a year between 1997 and 2011 due to loss of wetlands, coral reefs and tropical forests.  The study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, found the total value of global ecosystem services in 2011 was $124.8 trillion a year, down from $145 trillion a year in 1997. That compares to global GDP of just $75.2 trillion in 2011.\

Carbon offsets can do more environmental harm than good
When was the last time you booked a flight? That extra A$1 in the final stages of booking may seem a small price to pay for offsetting the carbon emissions you generate travelling by air. But globally and across consumer companies, offsets are not only green-washing, but can do more harm than good.  Many consumer companies, from airlines to electricity companies to car dealerships and even some wedding and funeral homes, give their customers the opportunity to “neutralise” the environmental impacts of their products through carbon offsetting.

Politics and Society

What kills 3,000 Australians a year?
There’s something that kills 3,000 Australians a year. You probably won’t have read about this significant danger.  It’s not cancer. It’s not sharks, or drop bears, or funnel web spiders. And it’s not car accidents or heroin overdoses.  It causes serious health problems for even more Australians each year, and for many people there is no “safe” level of exposure.  It also targets disadvantaged (socially and economically) people the most.  What is it?  Air pollution.

Mike Baird gives backing for renewable energy target
The NSW government has broken ranks with conservative counterparts in Canberra and the other states by declaring its strong support for the national renewable energy target.  Unlike other Coalition leaders, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Mike Baird makes clear in his government’s submission to the federal RET review that renewable energy benefits consumers, helps energy security by diversifying sources and cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste reduction

Industry calls for universities to offer degrees in pollution and waste
Universities should offer more degree courses focused on waste management and pollution, as there is a lack of skilled graduates available to “get their hands dirty”, according to a waste management firm.  BusinessWaste said there are not enough young people with sufficient knowledge of pollution and waste management, and that higher education institutions should offer more courses in these areas.

Food systems

Irresponsible use of farm drugs causing harm to humans, report suggests
The increased use of antibiotics in livestock herds has been condemned by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in a new report.  The study suggests that the link between the unsupervised administration of antibiotics by US farmers to their livestock is causing the hardening of microbes and infections – with their resistance being carried through to humans.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced recently that 23,000 deaths were from infections resistant to the standard treatment.

Built Environment

Timber: the next evolution in construction (Max, this one is for you)
Growing value-added manufacturing and building with timber is a logical move in terms of decarbonising our built environment. It’s an idea which is gaining popularity, with local examples like Forté, Netball Central and The Library at The Dock showing what can be done with engineered massive timbers, and the reconstruction effort in New Zealand spurring the development of a “grow to wow” industry. But why are there so few of these carbon-storing projects getting off the ground in Oz? And how can we develop a local manufacturing industry?  Rod Bligh explains the New Zealand projects are using pre-stressed LVL frames incorporating LVL columns and beams that have tension cables inside the built up timber sections. During the movement of an earthquake, the stabilising LVL shear walls mean the building returns to equilibrium due to the prestressing.


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