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Monday 5 March 2018

Sustainable Development News

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

‘Global deforestation hotspot’: 3m hectares of Australian forest to be lost in 15 years | The Guardian
Australia is in the midst of a full-blown land-clearing crisis. Projections suggest that in the two decades to 2030, 3 million hectares of untouched forest will have been bulldozed in eastern Australia. The crisis is driven primarily by a booming livestock industry but is ushered in by governments that fail to introduce restrictions and refuse to apply existing restrictions.

Climate Change and Energy

The freak warm Arctic weather is unusual, but getting less so | The Conversation
The Arctic has been unusually warm since the beginning of 2018. In the past week air temperatures have hovered around 20℃ above normal or even higher. On February 25, the Cape Morris Jesup weather station in northern Greenland recorded 6.1℃, despite the fact that at this time of year, when the sun is still below the horizon, temperatures are typically around -30℃.

 

Daily Arctic temperatures in 2018 (thick red line), for 1958-2002 (thin lines) and the average for 1958-2002 (thick white line). Zack Labe

Daily Arctic temperatures in 2018 (thick red line), for 1958-2002 (thin lines) and the average for 1958-2002 (thick white line). Zack Labe

 

See also: ‘Beast from the East’ and freakishly warm Arctic temperatures are no coincidence

GE unveils massive new 12MW wind turbine | RenewEconomy
US engineering giant General Electric has released its next-generation offshore wind turbine design, a whopping 12MW machine with a rotor star “five times the size of the Arc de Triomphe” and the ability to generate 67GWh of electricity a year – 45 per cent more than current best-in-class machines.

Environment and Biodiversity

Hauraki Gulf marine life has fallen by more than half since 1925, report finds | Stuff.co.nz
NEW ZEALAND – More than half the marine life in the Hauraki Gulf has vanished in the past 93 years, a new report says. Snapper and crayfish populations have fallen fivefold since 1945, and there are “serious concerns” about the area’s critically endangered seabirds, including fairy terns and storm petrels. The findings were published in the State of Gulf 2017 report, released by the Hauraki Gulf Forum on Friday.

Secret penguin supercolony find is a joy. Now for their protection | The Guardian (Opinion)
ANTARCTICA – The discovery of an additional 1.5 million Adélie penguins living quietly on the Danger Islands, in the east Antarctic peninsula, is the conservation equivalent of finding a substantive amount of change down the back of a sofa on the day rent is due. Eviction and extinction have seemingly been postponed. But we shouldn’t count our chicks. Announcing the secret colony to the world will be an anxious time for the scientists. In popular imaginations, populations are either endangered or fine. The nuances get lost.

Economy and Business

Rio Tinto faces $84bn shareholder revolt over membership of Minerals Council | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The voice of Australia’s coal lobby is under renewed threat as the country’s second biggest miner, Rio Tinto, faces a shareholder revolt over its membership of lobby groups including the Minerals Council of Australia and the role it plays in Australia’s climate and energy debate. Global investors worth $84bn have joined together to file a shareholder motion calling on Rio Tinto to rethink its membership of the MCA, NSW Minerals Council (NSWMC) and the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).

Waste and the Circular Economy

Recycling in Australia is in crisis. Can it be fixed? | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – It turns out recycling is not so simple, and there are major problems in the Australian industry. A Four Corners investigation last year and more recent Fairfax investigation found significant amounts of recyclable materials are being dumped in landfill. And when China stopped taking Australia’s recyclable plastics at the beginning of this year, it became apparent just how dependent our industry was on shipping our waste overseas. Industry leaders admit Australia’s recycling industry is in crisis, but they also say there are some very simple ways it can be fixed.

Politics and Society

Project Janszoon: Looking back on five years in the park | Stuff.co.nz
NEW ZEALAND – A stainless steel boat skims across the turquoise waters off the coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park. Instead of ferrying tourists into one of the country’s most visited spots, Department of Conservation boat the Otuwhero carries volunteers and staff focused on restoring the ecology of the national park. They are searching out invasive flora and fauna instead of the golden sands and crystal clear water.

Running from the sea: How mass relocation could save coastal communities | Stuff.co.nz
New Zealand is extremely vulnerable to climate change; the country faces greater frequency and intensity of extreme events such as higher temperatures, droughts, wildfires in the coming years – and increased sea-level rise and flooding… Such rises are potentially devastating, and those living along the 15,000km or so of coastline face the gravest risk. A report released in December to inform the development of local government policy noted that 133,265 people are at risk of sea level rise, and 68,170 buildings – of which 43,680 are houses – are vulnerable, with a replacement cost of $19 billion.

Government apologised to landholders suspected of planning unlawful clearing | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – In December 2015 and January 2016, the federal department of environment took the exceptional step of asking 51 landholders with approval from the Queensland government to clear their land, to explain why the clearing wasn’t unlawful under federal environmental law. But within two months, the department issued the unusual apology letter to every recipient of the initial letter, Guardian Australia can reveal.

Built Environment

Amazonian dirt roads are choking Brazil’s tropical streams | The Conversation
Scientists have long known that roads contribute to deforestation, both in the Amazon and in other rainforests. But my research reveals that these transportation networks also harm Amazonian waterways, affecting the fish that thrive in this delicate habitat and endangering local communities.

Food Systems

While politicians question the reality of climate change, farmers and businesses act | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – David Bruer has been growing vines and making wine at his Temple Bruer vineyard in the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia since 1978.  In his vineyard laboratory, weather records for every vintage for nearly 40 years are stacked in plastic folders.  They clearly show a steady increase in maximum temperatures over that time of about 1 degree. It might seem like a relatively small change but the impact has been dramatic.  Harvested fruit is turning up hotter. The sugar levels are higher and the vintage now has to be picked earlier.

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