The plastic polluters won 2019 – and we're running out of time to stop them

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2020/01/02 - 5:46am

Further steps have been taken to clean up beaches and seas in 2019 – but much more needs to be done

The beach at Muncar on the island of Java was revolting. The 400-yard wide, mile-long stretch of sand was feet deep in foul-smelling sauce sachets, shopping bags, nappies, bottles and bags, plastic clothes and detergent bottles. Bulldozers had cleared away and buried some of the huge mat of plastic and sand two years ago, but every tide since then had washed up more rubbish from the ocean, and every day tonnes more plastic was washed down the rivers from upstream towns and villages. Now it was fouling the fishing boats’ propellers.

“We fear for the future,” one elderly woman said. She remembered Muncar only a decade ago as one of the most picturesque towns in Indonesia and a tourist hotspot. “If it carries on like this we will be buried in plastic. We have no choice but to throw plastic into the rivers. Now we are angry. Something must be done,” she said.

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Categories: Environment

A warm welcome? The wildlife visitors warning of climate disaster

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2020/01/02 - 12:00am

Britain’s milder weather is attracting exotic guests. While we may celebrate their arrival now it should also alert us to what’s ahead

Mediterranean egrets balancing on the backs of cows, multicoloured moths the size of a human hand, and impossibly exotic bee-eaters hawking for insects under English skies. All are here as a direct consequence of the climate crisis, which has allowed continental European species to extend their ranges northwards, and then make the leap across the Channel to gain a foothold in southern Britain.

Whenever I take a walk along the disused railway line across the Avalon marshes, near my Somerset home, I can’t help noticing these new arrivals. Tall and elegant, great white egrets first arrived here from France just a few years ago; now I encounter them every time I visit. Down the road, at the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Catcott Lows, flocks of cattle egrets – the same species we see in wildlife films from Africa – gather to feed, perched appropriately on the backs of cattle. Elsewhere on the marshes, secretive night herons and little bitterns have also bred in recent years.

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Categories: Environment

Country diary: vanished giants of the age of coal

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 10:30pm

Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire: There was something monumental about these terracotta-coloured funnels, these magical vessels of rain-river-cloud

And there they were, gone. We stood on the boathouse steps in Dale End park below the Albert Edward bridge, staring over the river into trees above which the four cooling towers of the power station loomed. Except that, now, they didn’t. We had come to see their absence, to look into the space where they had been, as had others. A small group of folks gathered at the riverside; I’m not sure what we expected to see. There was nothing to witness; the crowds that assembled to watch what television news showed as synchronised explosions wobbling the great towers like sloppy clay on a potter’s wheel had long gone. Dust had settled; lumps of Buildwas power station concrete were already on eBay; rain fell into the void.

Perhaps we had seen them as landmarks, heard stories about construction workers falling to their deaths; stories about coal-fired pollution causing acid rain in faraway forests. Perhaps we had come to ponder dismantling symbols of an engineering genius that began here in Coalbrookdale in the 18th-century birthplace of the Industrial Revolution to become the leviathan of 21st-century climate chaos and ecological crisis. Buildwas power station was the last big working industrial structure in the Ironbridge Gorge, once fed by local coal and local people who spent their entire working lives here until it closed a few years ago.

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Categories: Environment

Australia fires live: NSW state of emergency declared as 17 missing in Victoria bushfires – latest

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 9:50pm

At least nine people have died since Christmas Day, and the RFS is urging people to evacuate the New South Wales south coast before dangerous conditions on the weekend. Follow the live news and latest updates today

4.50am GMT

An ADF liaison officer has been sent to the ACT in case things change suddenly.

There is an ADF liaison officer in every fire command centre in NSW and Victoria.

4.47am GMT

The state of alert for the ACT is because of the severe weather conditions which are going to hit the wider Canberra area.

We’ve decided to take this action, a state of alert, in the ACT as a formal precaution to ensure that we can alert Canberrans about the risk that’s occurring for the ACT into this near future. We see Saturday as a severe fire rating day.

Winds will change.

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Categories: Environment

New Zealand glaciers turn brown from Australian bushfires' smoke, ash and dust

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 9:43pm

Snow-capped peaks and glaciers discoloured as former PM says ash could accelerate glacial melting

Snow and glaciers in New Zealand have turned brown after being exposed to smoke, dust and ash from the Australian bushfire crisis.

On Wednesday many parts of the South Island woke up to an orange haze and red sun, after smoke from the Victorian and New South Wales blazes drifted east on Tuesday night, smothering many parts of the island for most of the day.

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Categories: Environment

NSW Young Liberals' climate push puts them at odds with Morrison government

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 7:49pm

President says the party’s young membership understands the risk if no climate change action is taken

The New South Wales division of the Young Liberals’ push for a change in the government’s climate policy was spurred on by a membership which understands the risk it faces if no action is taken, its president has said.

The NSW branch passed a motion at the Young Liberal council in early December calling for a “practical, market-based means” for Australia to cut emissions by 30% of Kyoto levels by 2030, and provide energy market certainty.

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Categories: Environment

In Australia Wildfires, Scenes Of Smoke, Sparks And Chaos

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 11:53am

Fires are blazing across southeast Australia. Scenes of smoke, sparks and blazing red capture the destruction happening in towns around the country.

(Image credit: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images)

Categories: Environment

From Texas To Minnesota: 1A Across America In 2019 (Rebroadcast)

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 9:06am

1A Across America has done a lot in its first year. Find out where the team heads next.

Categories: Environment

Water Crisis Puts Oregon Community At A Crossroads

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 3:00am

Groundwater in southeastern Oregon is drying up. Farming, which uses a lot of that water, could decimate the region unless communities make drastic changes soon.

(Image credit: Emily Cureton/Oregon Public Broadcasting)

Categories: Environment

Zero-carbon electricity outstrips fossil fuels in Britain across 2019

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 1:01am

Rise in renewables and decline in coal-fired power leads to cleanest year on record for electrical energy

Zero-carbon energy became Britain’s largest electricity source in 2019, delivering nearly half the country’s electrical power and for the first time outstripping generation by fossil fuels.

Following a dramatic decline in coal-fired power and a rise in renewable and low-carbon energy, 2019 was the cleanest year for electrical energy on record for Britain, according to National Grid, which owns and operates the electricity transmission network in England and Wales, and also runs the Scottish networks.

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Categories: Environment

Wily coyotes take up residence at Trump's New York City golf course

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 12:00am

Once confined to the western states, the wolf’s adaptable smaller cousin has been carving out a niche in urban areas

Donald Trump has a $269m golf course in New York City that is regularly prowled by feared, largely nocturnal individuals that instinctively prey upon those they deem smaller and weaker.

We are, of course, talking about coyotes.

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Categories: Environment

Shipping fuel regulation to cut sulphur levels comes into force

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2020/01/01 - 12:00am

New rules introduced by International Maritime Organisation expected to reduce certain forms of air pollution

Sulphur will be cut drastically from global shipping transport fuels in 2020, in a move that should reduce some forms of air pollution, and may help towards tackling the climate emergency – but which could also lead to a rise in the price of flights.

From 1 January 2020, ships will only be allowed to use fuel oil with a very low sulphur content, under rules brought in by the International Maritime Organisation. This cut in sulphur content has been more than a decade in the planning, and almost all shipping around the world is expected to comply, or face penalties.

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Categories: Environment

Prince William unveils 'Earthshot prize' to tackle climate crisis

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2019/12/31 - 9:49pm

Move is hailed by Sir David Attenborough as ‘the most prestigious environment prize in history’

Prince William has announced what was described as “the most prestigious environment prize in history” to encourage new solutions to tackling the climate crisis.

The “Earthshot prize” will be awarded to five people every year over the next decade, the Prince said on Tuesday, and aims to provide at least 50 answers to some of the greatest problems facing the planet by 2030.

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Categories: Environment

Encore: I Spy, Via Spy Satellite: Melting Himalayan Glaciers

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2019/12/31 - 2:57pm

Scientists are using old spy satellite images to measure the effects of climate change. They're finding that glaciers in the Himalayas are melting twice as fast as they were a few decades earlier.

Categories: Environment

Bushfires In Australia Rage On With No Relief In Sight

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2019/12/31 - 2:57pm

NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with Sydney Morning Herald reporter Laura Chung about the extent of bushfires raging in Australia.

Categories: Environment

The missing 99%: why can't we find the vast majority of ocean plastic?

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2019/12/31 - 2:54pm

What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water

Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world.

But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water.

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Categories: Environment

Reporters Pick Their Favorite Global Stories Of The Decade

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2019/12/31 - 12:19pm

The topics range from a ticking time bomb in the Arctic to the art of taking selfies in an ethical way. Here are the stories selected by our contributors.

(Image credit: From left: John Poole/NPR; Jason Beaubien/NPR; Courtesy of Be Girl Inc.; SAIH Norway/Screenshot by NPR; Marc Silver/NPR )

Categories: Environment

Climate patterns behind Australia's bushfires, heat and drought set to improve

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2019/12/31 - 12:00pm

Bureau of Meteorology says two climate patterns behind the dangerous fire conditions have shifted towards neutral

Two climate patterns that have been influencing Australia’s ongoing drought, deadly bushfire weather and record-breaking heat have shifted towards neutral, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

The changes should reduce the chances of hot winds from the west that have been adding to the extreme risk of bushfires in the south-east.

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Categories: Environment

Barcelona to open southern Europe's biggest low-emissions zone

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2019/12/31 - 5:55am

City bans most polluting vehicles from area 20 times the size of Madrid’s zone

The largest low-emissions zone in southern Europe opens in Barcelona on New Year’s Day, banning the most polluting vehicles from entering an urban area including the city and some satellite towns.

Petrol-driven cars bought before 2000 and diesels older than 2006 will be banned and face a fine of €100-€500 (£85-£425) each time they enter the zone. A moratorium will be in place for the first three months, during which time offenders will receive notification of the infraction but will not be fined.

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Categories: Environment
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