What is causing the UK's high levels of air pollution?

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm
Pollution originating in the UK and Europe has combined with dust from the Sahara to create particularly unhealthy conditions

The high air pollution across central and southern England and parts of Wales is due to light easterly winds bringing pollutants from the continent and allowing local pollution to linger close to where it is produced.

Dust blown up from the Sahara may also be a factor, according to Defra. Bernd Heinold, who models Saharan dust clouds at the Leipzig Institute for Tropical Research in Germany, said the dust was often carried into the oceans to the east and west of Africa, but around three times a year it was carried north by strong winds over the Sahara.

Categories: Environment

Diesel, not just dust, has helped create this smog

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:00pm
Saharan winds may account for the dirt on cars, but the real problem is soaring levels of particulates in European air

No one doubts that the Saharan dust in the smog affecting parts of the UK is to blame for the layer of grime now sitting on cars but experts agree that the more dangerous element for people's health is the increasingly noxious pollution belching out of our vehicles and industrial plants.

Air pollution from vehicles, factories and homes is now so bad, regularly, in Britain that when it is exacerbated by a storm in the Sahara 2,500 miles away, or by high pressure over northern Europe, it can leave millions gasping, their skin itching and eyes watering.

Categories: Environment

UN - climate 'perfect storm' is already here. Time to slay Zombie Big Oil | Nafeez Ahmed

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 10:06pm
Business as usual is planetary suicide, but the 'incumbency' plans profit at cost of planet. Thing is, they're already dead

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report on the impacts of global warming this century has been widely recognised as clarifying beyond all doubt that we do, indeed, face an unprecedented planetary emergency. Moreover, not one that will arrive far into the future, but that's happening right now.

" recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability."

"By 2100 for the high-emission scenario RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors."

"Bottom line: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet's currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year - and irreversibly so for hundreds of years."

"What our findings very clearly spell out is that since the time of the dinosaurs we have not had climate change at rates as rapid as it's currently happening. So, it's the rates and the magnitudes of those changes which are really important."

" the scenario where governments restrict hydrocarbon production in a way to reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions 80 percent during the Outlook period is highly unlikely. The Outlook demonstrates that the world will require all the carbon-based energy that ExxonMobil plans to produce during the Outlook period We see population, GDP and energy needs increasing for the world over the Outlook period, and that all economically viable energy sources will be required to meet these growing needs."

". renewables will continue to comprise about 5 percent of the total energy mix by 2040. Factors limiting further penetration of renewables include scalability, geographic dispersion, intermittency (in the case of solar and wind), and cost relative to other sources. The cost limitations of renewables are likely to persist even when higher costs of carbon are considered."

"Traditional energy sources have had many decades to scale up to meet the enormous energy needs of the world. As discussed above, renewable sources, such as solar and wind, despite very rapid growth rates, cannot scale up quickly enough to meet global demand growth while at the same time displacing more traditional sources of energy."

"We predict that solar, wind, and biomass continue to gain market share from coal and nuclear into the future As solar, wind, biomass, and other power sources gain market share from coal, nukes, and gas, the LCOE [levelised cost of energy] metric increasingly becomes important to the new build power generation decision-making."

"Given the large expected increase in demand for gas, offset by production gains, gas prices are expected to rise over the long term. As a result, the bar for renewables and other fuel sources to cross continues to rise, thus making it easier for alternatives to gain market share Solar is still early in the growth cycle, and in many countries - Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest US - residential-scale solar has already competed with average residential electricity prices. In 2013, solar was the second-largest source of new generation capacity behind natural gas - its prospects look bright in 2014 and beyond as costs continue to decline and improve the LCOE picture."

"More active forms of transport and the consumption of less red meat will cut death and illness from cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Less air pollution will cut the global burden of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, and heart disease If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change and bequeath a sustainable planet worth living on, we must push, as individuals and as a profession, for a transformed, sustainable, and fair world."

Categories: Environment

Japan confirms cancellation of whale hunt in response to court ruling

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 9:19pm

Annual Antarctic hunt called off for the first time in 25 years, but officials say whaling will go ahead in other areas as scheduled

Japan has cancelled its annual Antarctic whaling hunt for the first time in more than a quarter of a century, in line with a UN court ruling that the program was a commercial activity disguised as science.

A "deeply disappointed" Tokyo said earlier this week it would honour Monday's judgement by the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague, but did not exclude the possibility of future whaling programs.

Categories: Environment

Google-owned Nest launches smart thermostat in the UK

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 5:59pm

Device automatically saves energy from learning how people use their heating at home

Nest, the US technology company bought by Google in January for $3.2bn (£2bn), is launching its hi-tech version of the humble thermostat in the UK.

The device, which the company says learns how people use their heating at home and automatically saves energy for them, follows its launch in the UK of a smoke alarm last autumn that can distinguish burnt toast from a real fire, and detect carbon monoxide.

Categories: Environment

Air pollution warning continues for England and Wales

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 5:59pm
Saharan desert dust making haze worse but atmosphere predicted to begin clearing by Friday

"Very high" levels of air pollution made worse by Saharan desert dust will continue in England and Wales for several days, experts have warned.

Large swathes of England and Wales would continue to be affected on Wednesday, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

Categories: Environment

Australian government may ban environmental boycotts

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 4:11pm

Parliamentary secretary says there is 'an appetite' for removing environmental groups' exemption from secondary boycotts ban

Coalition MPs and industry groups are using a review of competition laws to push for a ban on campaigns against companies on the grounds that they are selling products that damage the environment, for example by using old-growth timber or overfished seafood.

The parliamentary secretary for agriculture, Richard Colbeck, said the backbench rural committee and quite a number in the ministry want to use the review to remove an exemption for environmental groups from the consumer law ban on so-called secondary boycotts.

Categories: Environment

Arctic sea ice falls to fifth lowest level on record

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 3:28pm

National Snow and Ice Data Center says findings reinforce trend that Arctic sea ice disappearing much faster than expected

Arctic sea ice remained on its death spiral on Wednesday, with the amount of winter ice cover falling to its fifth lowest on the satellite record, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said.

The scientists said Arctic sea ice extent for March averaged 14.80m sq km. That's 730,000 sq km below the 1981-2010 satellite average.

Categories: Environment

US feared coal ash pollution settlement was too lenient, documents show

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 1:30pm

US Environmental Agency expressed concern last year over deal between North Carolina regulators and Duke Energy

The US Environmental Agency expressed concern last year that a proposed deal between North Carolina regulators and Duke Energy to settle pollution violations at two of the company's coal ash dumps was too lenient.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources released more than 13,000 pages of public records in recent days as a response to media requests following the February 2 coal ash spill at a Duke plant in Eden, which coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge.

Categories: Environment

Food supply and climate change: time for politicians to show leadership | @guardianletters

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 12:59pm

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report makes it clear that the future of world agriculture is precarious (UN warning over world's food supplies, 31 March). The international mechanisms to address the complex challenges remain weak, and the UK must, as it has done in energy policy, show leadership. We need to re-engineer the UK's food and farming system, not only because we can no longer look to global markets for a safe, secure food future, but also because we need that system to play its full part in adapting to, and reducing the severity of, climate change.

As a priority, less food must be wasted from field to fork: producing more is pointless when so much energy, effort and land is squandered through waste. Decarbonising food supply across the supply chain to cut greenhouse gas emissions is essential, but we also need to give farmers incentives to manage land in ways that store carbon to cut emissions further. Last, we need to reappraise the supply of farmland as a long-term productive resource: in a world of falling crop yields, volatile markets and unpredictable weather, farmland cannot for much longer be regarded as simply ripe for "development".
Graeme Willis
Campaign to Protect Rural England

Categories: Environment

Country diary: Achvaneran, Highlands: After a dearth of birds in the winter, they're back round the feeders

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 12:59pm
Achvaneran, Highlands: Those lively little finches, the siskins, have now invaded British gardens in unprecedented numbers

We have lived in this old tacksman's cottage in Strathnairn, just south of Inverness, for 27 years. In that time we have fed wild birds all the year round and have noted some interesting trends.

However, this last winter was exceptional because of the comparative lack of birds coming to the feeders. Some feeders, such as the special ones containing nyjer seeds, remained virtually untouched. The birds that did come in often went for peanuts, but the ones they used most were the three feeders containing sunflower hearts. Though the chaffinch continued to be ubiquitous, some other birds remained absent, including my garden favourites, the siskins. One reader emailed me to say that on 20 March three siskins appeared on a feeder in his garden, the first since mid-August last year. I had seen none. However, since then, British gardens have been invaded by these lively little finches in unprecedented numbers.

Categories: Environment

Air pollution: youngsters, elderly and vulnerable urged to stay indoors

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 12:45pm
Playgrounds should be out of bounds and cyclists should avoid rush hour say experts

Schools are being urged to stop pupils from using playgrounds at lunchtime and employees to avoid cycling, running or walking to work during rush hour in the areas of England worst affected by the ongoing rise in pollution.

The government, public health doctors and experts in pollution are also advising older people and those with a heart or lung problem such as asthma to avoid exercising outdoors and use a gym instead.

Categories: Environment

Should We Close Part Of The Ocean To Keep Fish On The Plate?

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 12:27pm

Tuna, swordfish and other migratory fishes are being overfished by vessels on the high seas. A new proposal says we should close these international waters for a few years to let the fishes rebound.

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Categories: Environment

Tasmania set to allow logging in areas previously protected by peace deal

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59am

Will Hodgman says his government should unveil its alternative to the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement within the next week

Tasmanias new Liberal government is set to outline an expansion of logging in areas earmarked for protection, despite the forestry industry voicing its support for the peace deal that set out the reserves.

Will Hodgman, the Tasmanian premier, is expected to unveil the governments alternative plan to the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, or TFA, within the next week.

Categories: Environment

Ecover adopting algae-based laundry liquid to cut palm oil use

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59am

Green cleaning company says algal oil can replace palm oil, which has been linked to deforestation

People will soon be able to wash their clothes using a cleaning product derived from algae, a more sustainable source than the palm oil that is currently used in most detergents.

Ecover, the green cleaning company, will launch the algae-based laundry liquid in Europe later in 2014, as part of its pledge to ultimately replace all palm oil.

Categories: Environment

MPs criticise BBC for 'false balance' in climate change coverage

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59am
Science and technology select committee says corporation continues to give opinions and scientific fact the same weight

Editors of the Radio 4 Today programme and other BBC news teams have been criticised by MPs for giving political opinions about climate change and scientific fact the same weight of coverage.

Andrew Miller, chairman of the science and technology select committee, publishing a report on how the media communicates climate change science, said: "Given the high level of trust the public has in its coverage, it is disappointing that the BBC does not ensure all of its programmes and presenters reflect the actual state of climate science in its output. The Today programme and other BBC News teams continue to make mistakes in their coverage of climate science by giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight.".

Categories: Environment

Sea turtles were killed by Gladstone harbour dredging, university says

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59am

James Cook researchers contradict Queensland government's finding on damage to marine life

The controversial expansion of Gladstone harbour probably killed dozens of sea turtles, according to a report that contradicts the Queensland governments analysis of the deaths.

The research, conducted by James Cook University, found that the dredging of Gladstone harbour to increase its capacity so it can handle liquefied natural gas exports caused metals to be dispersed from the seabed, contributing to an unusually large number of turtle strandings and mortalities.

Categories: Environment

Koalas may disappear in areas affected by offset scheme, says foundation

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59am

Australian Koala Foundation says current scheme of 'environmental offsets' could doom koalas in some areas

Australias environmental offset system is ridiculous and must change to prevent the koala being wiped out in several areas of the country, according to the Australian Koala Foundation.

The koala has seen much of its habitat cleared for urban expansion and industry, with the marsupial also considered particularly vulnerable to climate change. It was listed as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory in 2012.

Categories: Environment

London pollution: heart disease and asthma sufferers should stay indoors, says Public Health England - video

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 10:05am
Public Health England spokeswoman, Jill Meara, says high levels of pollution in London and other parts of the south east of England may cause sore eyes and sore throats and warns those with heart conditions and asthma to stay inside. The British Lung Foundation has also urged people in affected areas who cycle, walk or run to work to avoid doing so at rush hour and to use backstreets whenever possible Continue reading...
Categories: Environment

Will the new IPCC report help climate action?

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 5:59am
Can more and better scientific evidence about the risks of global warming from the IPCC help change the attitudes of climate deniers like Tony Abbott?

The release of the latest report (PDF) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is yet another sober warning on the perils humanity faces from global warming.

The threats seem written from the dystopian blockbuster Hunger Games: global food-stocks are risk, melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, dying coral reefs, heat waves, mega-rains, and a death toll amongst the poor, weak and elderly. Except for one thing. The effects of climate change are happening now.

For example, due to motivated reasoning, individuals exposed to counterattitudinal messages, such as Republicans receiving a message promoting climate change as problem and calling for climate mitigation policies, may be motivated to interpret available social identity cues, such as geographic location or group membership, in ways that lower their social identification with potential victims of climate change featured in the message. In turn, low social identification with potential victims may decrease the effectiveness of the persuasive impact of the message, possibly resulting in a boomerang effect.

Thus, strong political partisans are likely to employ motivated reasoning when exposed to messages about climate change with ideological predispositions moderating information effects on policy attitudes.

Diabolical distortion from The Australian on the IPCC report today. pic.twitter.com/a37GHvoCm5

Alexander White (@alexanderwhite) April 1, 2014

Categories: Environment
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