Environment

Lake Tahoe’s best clarity in 40 years is the work of this ‘natural cleanup crew’

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2023/04/11 - 3:12pm

Scientists attribute the ‘unprecedented’ visibility of the water body to a boom in the population of zooplankton

Lake Tahoe has attained a clarity that scientists haven’t seen in 40 years – and it’s all because of a microscopic animal acting as a “natural cleanup crew” to restore the clear blue waters.

On Monday, researchers from the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) released their annual report showing that the lake’s average visibility in 2022 was at 71.7ft – compared with 61ft in 2021 – which was largely due to a spike in clarity in the last five months of the year.

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Categories: Environment

Investing in public transport could give economy £50bn annual boost, says TUC

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2023/04/11 - 2:30pm

Radical rise in spending on trains, trams and buses needed to cut car use, reports body representing unions in England and Wales

Ministers have been urged to ramp up spending on public transport in England and Wales to tackle the climate emergency, and to unlock a £50bn a year boost to the economy, in a report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The report released by the TUC, a federation representing 48 unions, argues for a radical increase in investment – calling for £18bn more a year to be spent on operating trains, trams and buses to help cut car use by 20%, improve quality of life and boost the UK economy.

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Categories: Environment

Climate models warn of possible ‘super El Niño’ before end of year

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2023/04/11 - 8:00am

Climate researchers say magnitude of predicted weather event uncertain but if an extreme El Niño occurs ‘we’ll need to buckle up’

Climate models around the globe continue to warn of a potential El Niño developing later this year – a pattern of ocean warming in the Pacific that can increase the risk of catastrophic weather events around the globe.

Some models are raising the possibility later this year of an extreme, or “super El Niño”, that is marked by very high temperatures in a central region of the Pacific around the equator.

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Categories: Environment

EPA faces questions over plastic-based fuel with huge cancer risk

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2023/04/11 - 2:00am

Agency sued after ProPublica and the Guardian revealed the EPA gave a Chevron refinery approval for a fuel that could leave people nearby with a one-in-four lifetime risk of cancer

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a lawsuit filed by a community group and questions from a US senator over the agency’s approval of fuels made from discarded plastic under a program it touted as “climate-friendly”.

The new scrutiny is in response to an earlier investigation by ProPublica and the Guardian that revealed the EPA approved the new chemicals even though its own scientists calculated that pollution from production of one of the plastic-based fuels was so toxic that one in four people exposed to it over their lifetime would be expected to develop cancer. That risk is 250,000 times greater than the level usually considered acceptable by the EPA division that approves new chemicals, and it’s higher than the lifetime risk of cancer for current smokers.

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Categories: Environment

Menindee fish kill may have been partly caused by release of ‘black’ and clean water by authorities, researchers claim

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2023/04/10 - 8:22pm

Exclusive: Satellite analysis shows toxic blackwater flowed into the Darling-Baaka River via the Wetherell outlet two days before the deaths

The worst mass fish kill in living memory, which saw millions of animals floating dead on the Darling-Baaka river near Menindee, may have been contributed to by an alleged failed strategy to release a combination of “blackwater” and clean water by authorities, researchers have claimed.

The researchers, who host a water program on Broken Hill’s local community radio, also allege that a smaller fish kill in the same river in February was the result of a similar water release strategy by WaterNSW and should have set alarm bells ringing.

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Japanese-funded $500m project to extract hydrogen from Victorian coal is at risk, sources say

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2023/04/10 - 8:00am

Exclusive: funding requests, uncertain responsibilities and a failure to secure long-term contracts has critics asking if the fossil fuel-based venture is still a good deal

A multibillion-dollar Japanese plan to extract hydrogen from Victoria’s brown coal is at risk of failing due to demands for extra subsidies and a lack of willingness from Japanese customers to sign up for long-term deals.

People familiar with the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project said only a portion of the ¥220bn (A$2.48bn) funding would actually be spent on developing a liquefaction plant in the Latrobe valley and export facilities at the nearby Hastings port.

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Categories: Environment

Swimming pools of the rich driving city water crises, study says

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2023/04/10 - 8:00am

Pools and well-watered gardens at least as damaging as climate emergency or population growth

The swimming pools, well-watered gardens and clean cars of the rich are driving water crises in cities at least as much as the climate emergency or population growth, according to an analysis.

The researchers said the vast difference in water use between rich and poor citizens had been largely overlooked in seeking solutions to water shortages, with the focus instead on attempts to increase supply and higher prices for water. They said the only way to protect water supplies was by redistributing water resources more equally.

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Miami and New Orleans face greater sea-level threat than already feared

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2023/04/10 - 7:46am

Twin studies reveal that ‘acceleration’ of sea-level rise under way, leaving southern US cities in even greater peril

Coastal cities in the southern US, including Miami, Houston and New Orleans, are in even greater peril from sea-level rise than scientists already feared, according to new analysis.

What experts are calling a dramatic surge in ocean levels has taken place along the US south-eastern and Gulf of Mexico coastline since 2010, one study suggests, an increase of almost 5in (12.7cm).

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Categories: Environment

Lights, camera, insects? Invertebrates missing out on starring screen roles

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2023/04/10 - 4:00am

They make up as much as 97% of the animal kingdom, yet wildlife film-makers routinely overlook bugs

While running a biodiversity workshop at a local primary school, Kate Howlett, a zoologist, encouraged children to turn over the bricks and logs at the edges of their playing field to see what was living underneath.

That’s when one child asked her if she had come to their school early that morning to plant the woodlice for them to find. Even after insisting that the bugs were living there all along, the suspicious pupils were reluctant to believe her.

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Categories: Environment

Environmental defenders reel from Mexico and Central America attacks

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2023/04/10 - 3:30am

At least two dozen activists in Indigenous and rural areas murdered, disappeared and jailed in wave of attacks

A wave of attacks against environmental defenders has left Indigenous and rural communities across Mexico and Central America reeling amid a lack of government protection and widespread impunity.

At least two dozen defenders have been murdered, disappeared and jailed across the region so far this year, according to research by the Guardian. On Wednesday, the Indigenous rights and anti-mining activist Eustacio Alcalá Díaz was found dead in Michoacán, Mexico, three days after he was abducted by armed men while traveling with Catholic missionaries.

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Categories: Environment

Exxon’s new ‘advanced recycling’ plant raises environmental concerns

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2023/04/10 - 3:00am

Advocates warn plants like the latest addition to the Texas complex generate hazardous pollutants and provide cover for oil giants to produce new plastic products

ExxonMobil just launched one of the largest chemical recycling plants in North America – but environmental advocates say the technology is a dangerous distraction from the need to reduce plastic production.

On the surface, the latest addition to ExxonMobil’s giant petrochemical refinery complex in Baytown, Texas, sounds like it could be a good thing: An “advanced recycling” facility capable of breaking down 36,000 metric tons of hard-to-recycle plastic each year. But plastic waste advocates warn that plants like it do little actual recycling, and instead generate hazardous pollutants while providing cover for oil giants to keep producing millions of tons of new plastic products each year.

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A jail for wayward polar bears? You must be in Churchill, Canada…

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2023/04/09 - 11:00pm

The 900 residents of the Manitoba town have learned to share their streets on the edge of the Arctic with the huge animals and the eager tourists who come to see them

Words and photographs by Zed Nelson

Perched on the southern edge of the Arctic on the shores of Hudson Bay, residents of the Canadian town of Churchill share their streets with the world’s largest land carnivore. Their regular encounters with polar bears have earned Churchill the nickname “Polar bear capital of the world”.

Sparring polar bears on the Hudson Bay shore near Churchill, Manitoba. The bears congregate here every year while waiting for the sea to freeze over so they can resume hunting seals. Photographs by Zed Nelson / Copyright © not to be reproduced without permission

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More stockpiles of soft plastics from failed REDcycle recycling scheme uncovered

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2023/04/09 - 8:05pm

Dozens of storage sites found across Australia but estimated amount of plastic reportedly falls from 12,350 tonnes to 11,000

New stockpiles of soft plastics from the failed REDcycle recycling scheme have been uncovered as the work to develop an alternative program continues.

The program was wound up in November 2022 after it emerged that plastics consumers had returned to supermarkets to be recycled were instead put into storage.

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Categories: Environment

Four new wild swimming sites in England open for summer season

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2023/04/09 - 4:01pm

Bathing waters in Rutland, Devon and Suffolk will be monitored for water quality regularly

Wild swimming fans will be able to enjoy access to four new sites in the UK that are being designated as bathing waters ahead of summer, the government has announced.

The sites in Rutland, Devon and Suffolk will receive bathing water status from next month, meaning they will soon benefit from regular water-quality monitoring.

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Categories: Environment

Thousands of whales are being killed by passing ships. Can we save them?

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2023/04/09 - 7:00am

Large numbers of cetaceans are dying from lethal collisions with vessels, even in protected areas. Now science may provide the means to protect them

Janie Wray could tell there was something horribly wrong from the way her colleague gasped. They were on a research station off the coast of British Columbia and Wray’s colleague was watching live drone footage through a pair of goggles. “She just went, oh my God,” says Wray.

She had spotted a humpback whale on its migration south, swimming without the use of its tail. Wray and her colleagues at BC Whales crowded around a computer screen to watch the footage. “Immediately, we all knew that we had a whale that most likely had a broken back,” she says. It was almost certainly the result of a ship strike. Later, they discovered it was a whale they knew: Moon.

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Categories: Environment

UK insulation scheme would take 300 years to meet government targets, say critics

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2023/04/09 - 6:34am

Exclusive: National Energy Action says progress on energy efficiency is too slow and not well targeted at fuel-poor households

The government’s home insulation scheme would take 190 years to upgrade the energy efficiency of the UK’s draughty housing stock, and 300 years to meet the government’s own targets to reduce fuel poverty, according to industry calculations.

Critics of the Great British Insulation Scheme, which aims to insulate 300,000 homes a year over the next three years, have raised concerns that the plan does not go far enough to reach the 19m UK homes that need better insulation.

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‘A plague of locusts’: Barcelona battles port authorities to curb cruise tourists

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2023/04/09 - 1:00am

Councillors and residents hope to limit the number of daytrippers arriving by boat to preserve the city’s streets and character

The ships, at times dwarfing the average apartment building, begin lumbering into Barcelona while much of the city is still asleep. Stretching as long as five buses, some come to embark or disembark passengers, while others disgorge thousands of daytrippers keen to glimpse the city’s modernist architecture and stroll the narrow streets of the gothic quarter.

It’s a scene that plays out daily in Barcelona – much to the chagrin of some local officials. Last Monday, five cruise ships were slated to arrive; this Friday, on 14 April, eight are expected.

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Categories: Environment

Snow, floods and wildlife in peril: grueling winter leaves Yosemite scarred

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2023/04/08 - 10:00pm

The national park is open again but intense storms mean the specter of climate crisis is more evident than ever

It’s been a winter few in Yosemite valley will ever forget.

After wildfires left the national park’s dramatic views shrouded in smoke over the summer, winter brought a series of historic storms that left the region inundated with snow. The deluge buried homes, cars and fire hydrants, chewed into stretches of winding mountain roads and downed trees along the park’s slopes.

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Why don’t whales get cancer? Cracking one of medicine’s greatest mysteries

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2023/04/08 - 6:00am

Understanding why some animals are more susceptible to the disease could lead to improved screening for humans

Scientists are homing in on one of medicine’s most baffling mysteries: why some species avoid getting cancers while others are plagued by tumours that shorten their lives.

Whales tend to have low rates of cancer but it is the leading cause of death for dogs and cats. Foxes and leopards are susceptible while sheep and antelopes are not. Bats are also relatively well protected against cancer but not mice or rats. In humans, cancer is a leading cause of death that kills around 10 million people a year.

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Categories: Environment

‘Headed off the charts’: world’s ocean surface temperature hits record high

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2023/04/07 - 5:00pm

Scientists warn of more marine heatwaves, leading to increased risk of extreme weather

The temperature of the world’s ocean surface has hit an all-time high since satellite records began, leading to marine heatwaves around the globe, according to US government data.

Climate scientists said preliminary data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) showed the average temperature at the ocean’s surface has been at 21.1C since the start of April – beating the previous high of 21C set in 2016.

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