Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Earth Overshoot Day is the earliest its ever been, falling on 1 August this year. Today’s top story explains what it is. In other news, the right words to use when appealing to the public’s concern for the environment; a storm brings literal waves of waste to the Dominican coast (you may have caught the video of waves of plastic on Facebook); and the blockbuster series ‘War on Waste’ returns to Aussie screens tonight.

Top Story

Earth’s resources consumed in ever greater destructive volumes | The Guardian
Humanity is devouring our planet’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes, according to a new study that reveals we have consumed a year’s worth of carbon, food, water, fibre, land and timber in a record 212 days. As a result, the Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the point at which consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate – has moved forward two days to 1 August, the earliest date ever recorded. To maintain our current appetite for resources, we would need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organisation that makes an annual assessment of how far humankind is falling into ecological debt.

Climate Change and Energy

‘Time bomb’: Tropics expansion nudges cyclone formation into new areas | SMH
Tropical cyclones are forming further from the equator as the planet warms, bringing new regions into the zone of the intense storms including parts of eastern Australia, new research has found. The findings are based on data for 1980-2014 analysed by Melbourne University scientists trying to understand how the expanding tropics are already affecting the development of cyclones.

Scientists detect a human fingerprint in the atmosphere’s seasonal cycles | The Guardian
We know that humans are causing Earth’s climate to change. It used to be that “climate change” mostly referred to increasing temperatures near the Earth’s surface, but increasingly, climate change has come to mean so much more. It means warming oceans, melting ice, changing weather patterns, increased storms, and warming in other places. A recent study has just been published that finds ‘fingerprints’ of human-caused warming someplace most of us don’t think about – in the higher atmosphere.

Rising temperatures linked to increased suicide rates | The Guardian
Rising temperatures are linked to increasing rates of suicide, according to a large new study. The researchers warn that the impact of climate change on suicides may be as significant as economic recessions, which are known to increase rates of self-harm. The links between mental health and global warming have not been widely researched but the new work analysed temperature and suicides across the US and Mexico in recent decades.

China must take stronger climate leadership role, says report | Climate Action Programme
A new report from Columbia University has provided a clear assessment of China’s role in responding to climate change. The country is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, contributing 27 percent of the world’s total. This is greater than both the United States and European Union combined, following China’s precipitous economic growth over the past 20 years. The Guide to Chinese Climate Policy points out that “there is no solution to climate change that doesn’t involve China.” The report, written by David Sandalow, a former senior official at the US Department of Energy, draws attention to the inconsistencies in China’s response to climate change.

Environment and Biodiversity

A numbers game: killing rabbits to conserve native mammals | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Food webs are complex. Because of this, once an invasive species is embedded in a food web, simply eradicating them without considering the potential knock-on effects to other species they interact with, could cause unintended and undesirable consequences. We modelled different rates of rabbit population reduction to assess what level of control might be best for aiding the conservation of native mammals and not causing negative outcomes.

Dead coral to give new life to Great Barrier Reef | UQ News
AUSTRALIA – Broken and dead coral will be recycled to help protect and grow the Great Barrier Reef in a collaborative project involving University of Queensland researchers. UQ Civil Engineering and Biological Sciences researchers are working with engineering, science and technology consultancy BMT, to investigate creating coral-filled net structures to turn unstable rubble into coral structures known as bommies.

Economy and Business

Reports: Nippon Life Insurance to end coal power investments | Business Green
JAPAN – Nippon Life Insurance Co is to halt lending activity and investment in coal-fired power plants, according to Reuters reports. The news agency reported that the company is set to become the first major Japanese institutional investor to restrict investment in coal assets over environmental concerns… Nippon Life Insurance did not divulge how much it had invested in coal assets in recent years, although it boasts total assets under management worth $667bn and as such campaigners will hope it could trigger other Japanese investors to take similar steps.

Waste and the Circular Economy

War on Waste returns: Craig Reucassel dishes dirt on recycling crisis | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Who would have thought a show about garbage could be so compelling? The success of last year’s sleeper hit War on Waste was a happy surprise to its presenter, Craig Reucassel, and the team behind the ABC TV show – not least because of how responsive audiences were to many of its suggestions. Sales of reusable coffee cups shot up, worm farm suppliers struggled to keep up with demand and the #BantheBag campaign helped to spur supermarkets to get rid of single-use plastic bags. This week the show returns, with three episodes focused on plastics, food waste and e-waste.

Video footage shows ‘garbage emergency’ in the Dominican Republic | Climate Action Programme (including video 0:16)
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – New footage from the Dominican Republic has highlighted the drastic problem of plastic waste. A video released by conservation group Parley for the Oceans shows wave after wave of garbage flowing into Montesinos Beach in the capital Santo Domingo. Countless numbers of plastic bottles, styrofoam boxes, and mangled waste parts can be seen littering the ocean following a heavy storm in the country.

Recycled packaging ‘may end up in landfill’, warns watchdog | BBC News
UK – You try to be virtuous, wiping the curdling yoghurt off a plastic pot, then putting it in the recycling bin. Perhaps you envisage the pot eventually re-incarnated as a frisbee or maybe even a plastic bench. But don’t rest easy. Your pot might get burned or buried in landfill, and you’d never know. The National Audit Office (NAO) says over half of the packaging reported as recycled is actually being sent abroad to be processed.

Politics and Society

Ask not what nature can do for you | CEED
Biodiversity is in crisis and there is an urgent need to raise public awareness of the issues, but is the way that nature is talked about by scientists and policymakers actually ‘disengaging’ the public? Emerging evidence suggests, yes, that is the case. We focused on the term ‘ecosystem services’ and believe it has been ineffective at bolstering public support for nature conservation.

Meat industry faces growing concerns over health and environmental impact | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Dr Cristina Cleghorn, a senior research fellow at the University of Otago says the consumption of processed meat is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer and processed and red meat may also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Reducing consumption of processed and red meat could reduce the substantial health loss and costs to the New Zealand health systems those diseases currently caused. “This new review reports transitioning from high meat to more plant-based diets might reduce global mortality rates by 6 per cent to 10 per cent.”

Thousands of British families homeless despite being in work | Thomson Reuters Foundation
UK – More than half of homeless families in Britain now have at least one adult in work after a sharp rise in the number of employed people unable to afford a secure home, a leading homelessness charity said on Monday. More than 33,000 working families do not have a stable place to live, a 73 percent rise from 2013, according to a study by Shelter’s social housing commission that blamed rising private rents, a freeze on benefits and a shortage of social housing.

After Nearly a Decade, A Step Toward Bipartisan Engagement in Congress on Climate Change | World Resources Institute
USA – Today Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo introduced the Market Choice Act (co-sponsored by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), which would charge for carbon emissions from fuel combustion and large industrial sources. WRI welcomes the return, after nearly a decade, of positive bipartisan engagement in Congress on the critical issue of climate change, and this bill could be a first step toward a comprehensive, durable solution.

Food Systems

Fishing company and skipper fined for failing to protect seabirds |
NEW ZEALAND – A Hawke’s Bay seafood company and one of its skippers have been fined $37,500 for failing to take steps to protect sea birds. Esplanade No.3 and skipper Stephen Harvey were sentenced in Napier District Court on Monday. The company’s boats Danielle, skippered by Harvey, and Stella B, skippered by David Macale, were using long lines between East Cape and Cape Turnagain between May and June, 2016, and failed to use tori lines.

Black petrels are declining with commercial fishing having the biggest impact. MPI requires fishing vessels to undertake seabird mitigation measures, such as tori lines, in order to protect them.

Black petrels are declining with commercial fishing having the biggest impact. MPI requires fishing vessels to undertake seabird mitigation measures, such as tori lines, in order to protect them.