MIT nuclear fusion record marks latest step towards unlimited clean energy

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 8:38am

Scientists create the highest plasma pressure ever recorded with the Alcator C-Mod reactor in a breakthrough for clean energy technology

A nuclear fusion world record has been set in the US, marking another step on the long road towards the unlocking of limitless clean energy.

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created the highest plasma pressure ever recorded, using its Alcator C-Mod tokamak reactor. High pressures and extreme temperatures are vital in forcing atoms together to release huge amounts of energy.

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Categories: Environment

Heathrow third runway close to getting government green light

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 5:16am

Whitehall study into air quality expected to give all-clear as Greenpeace and local councils prepare to launch legal challenge

Heathrow is edging closer to securing government approval for a third runway after the airport indicated that a last-minute Whitehall study into concerns over pollution will give the all-clear.

The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said he had “no reason to believe” that any issues had been raised in research conducted this year by the Department for Transport into air quality around Heathrow, despite consistent breaches of legal limits. He said: “Everything we have seen suggests that it won’t be an issue. I suspect if it were we would know about that by now.”

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Morally and legally, the UK government has failed us on air pollution | James Thornton

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 4:59am

A lack of urgency and failure to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide is why ClientEarth is taking the UK government back to court this week

No less than 17 years have passed since new rules were approved in the UK to save thousands of lives by limiting deadly air pollution in our towns and cities.

Pollution is the “invisible killer” because, for the most part, it goes unseen. Its impact on human health and the planet is why those laws were necessary.

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Climate change could drive 122m more people into extreme poverty by 2030

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 4:32am

UN report warns that without measures to halt and reverse climate change, food production could become impossible in large areas of the world

Up to 122 million more people worldwide could be living in extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change and its impacts on small-scale farmers’ incomes, a major UN report warned on Monday.

Climate change is “a major and growing threat to global food security”, said the report, warning that it could increase the global population living in extreme poverty by between 35 and 122 million by 2030, with farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa among the hardest hit.

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Categories: Environment

Global warming experiment turns up the heat in Puerto Rican forest

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 4:31am

A pioneering research project is aiming to determine how forests in the Amazon, the Congo and elsewhere in the tropics will reacting to rising temperatures

Mid-morning in the Luquillo experimental forest in north-west Puerto Rico, and the thermometer already reads 26C. Tana Wood, an ecologist employed by the US Forest Service, pulls on a pair of heavy gloves for insulating against electrical shock.

Over two years, her team here has laid out hexagonal plots four metres across, each about the size of a backyard trampoline. Industrial-strength heaters suspended several metres above the ground from metal scaffolding on the perimeter of three plots will heat the soil and undergrowth to 4C above the forest’s ambient temperature.

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Attenborough hails construction of ship nearly called Boaty McBoatface

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 3:12am

Naturalist to attend Merseyside ceremony marking the start of work on the RSS Sir David Attenborough, but public’s choice will be given to attached submersible

Sir David Attenborough has hailed the start of construction of a polar research ship, which shot to fame amid calls to name it Boaty McBoatface, as a “marvellous occasion”.

It was eventually decided to name the ship after the naturalist and TV presenter, and he will lay the first block of the keel on Monday.

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Categories: Environment

Finance for deep-rooted prosperity is coming | Joseph Robertson

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 3:00am

We’re entering a new age for the Earth’s climate and for the way we conceive of finance

“Macrocritical resilience” may be the most mystifying two-word phrase you need to know. Though you may never have heard these two words before, what they describe affects everything you live and strive for. Wonky as it sounds, it is a common sense idea: what generates value is more valuable than what we count in dollars. And yet, it is only in the last few years that we are truly beginning to understand that macrocritical indicators—elements of human experience that shape the health and viability of the overall economy—really do describe how and where value and capability come into being.

On Christmas Eve, 2013, the small island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines experienced the most intense rainfall in its history. 15 percent of gross domestic product was wiped out in just a few hours. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan caused $900 million worth of damage in Grenada—more than twice the nation’s GDP. One of the executive directors of the International Monetary Fund noted that when so much value can be lost so suddenly, “you no longer know what the value of a dollar is.”

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Categories: Environment

On Energy And Climate Change, Clinton And Trump Differ Sharply

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 2:03am

Presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have very different views on energy and climate change. In our series, What's The Issue, we find out just how much they differ.

Categories: Environment

Xenophon shoots down Abbott's proposal on 18C with 'no, no and no' – as it happened

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 12:06am

The Coalition prepares to bring registered organisations bill to crack down on unions while the windfarm commissioner will appear before Senate estimates. As it happened

8.05am BST

Estimates will continue into the evening, until 11pm. So let’s wrap for today:

8.00am BST

The lively day in Canberra is powering right through to close of business. As we speak the Labor left is having a specially convened caucus meeting to deal with tensions that have boiled over since Bill Shorten last Friday night backed his friend and factional ally, the controversial lawyer Kimberley Kitching, to replace the departing Stephen Conroy.

Let’s keep this as simple as possible. Tensions in the Victorian left have been bubbling away for months, ever since the majority of the faction tried to run the veteran leftwing powerbroker, Kim Carr, off the front bench. Folks aligned with Carr have been cranky that some of their Victorian colleagues lined up with colleagues in Sydney to try and remove Carr from the frontbench after the election.

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Categories: Environment

The Science Museum has lost its way

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2016/10/17 - 12:00am

Wonderlab, the new interactive gallery for children at the Science Museum, is a mess of ethical and science communication contradictions.

“What do you wonder?” That is the question the Science Museum has been asking for many months now, in posters, celebrity videos and in online images. It’s been part of the museum’s strategy to ramp up excitement around its new “Wonderlab” gallery, a space full of interactive science exhibits designed to inspire children. But what many have been wondering is how Statoil, a major oil and gas company with plans to drill up to seven new wells in the Arctic, was allowed to become the gallery’s title sponsor? Welcome to Wonderlab – the Science Museum’s latest ethical contradiction.

Related: Science Museum condemned for oil company sponsorship

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Categories: Environment

Wolves once hunted these Helsfell slopes

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 9:30pm

Kendal, Lake District A skeleton unearthed by a Victorian archaeologist should give us clues as to when wolves last roamed the Lakeland fells

From my study window I watch jackdaws making their chattering sorties above the rooftops and over Kendal Fell. Across the road a footpath leads up the fell, less well known now as Helsfell, and on through two small areas of woodland. What I can’t see, and hadn’t known until recently, though I walk the area most days, is that deep in the far wood is a cave of significant archaeological importance.

In the 1880s an amateur archaeologist, John Beecham, spent five summers excavating it. He discovered the bones of bear, wild cat, polecat, wild boar and iron age oxen – Bos longifrons, the first domesticated cattle – and the complete skeleton of a wolf. All undated, the collection became dispersed, but the wolf still resides in Kendal Museum, which is having it restored with the help of Arts Council funding].

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Antarctic marine reserves deal within reach as Russia thaws environmental stance

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 8:10pm

After five years of failed negotiations, conservations are hopeful Russia is prepared to make a deal to protect the Ross Sea and East Antarctica

An international agreement to protect some of Antarctica’s unique and pristine marine ecosystems could be reached within a fortnight, with scientists and conversationists hopeful of a breakthrough after five years of failed negotiations.

Delegates from 24 nations and the European Union gathered in Hobart on Monday to commence two weeks of talks at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

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Australian fisherman fends off great white shark with a broom – video

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 7:51pm

Dan Hoey, an angler from Port Fairy, a coastal town in Victoria, Australia, was out fishing with his brother and a client when he noticed a great white shark circling his boat. Video captured by Hoey’s chartered fishing business, Salty Dog Charters, shows him fending off the shark with a household broom

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Japanese anti-nuclear candidate wins election at site of world's biggest atomic power station

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 7:11pm

Ryuichi Yoneyama, the newly elected governor of Niigata, says he will not restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station shut down after Fukushima

An anti-nuclear candidate has been elected in a region of Japan that houses the world’s biggest atomic power station, striking a blow to Tokyo Electric Power’s attempts to restart the plant in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed mostly by leftwing parties, won the race for governor of Niigata, north of Tokyo, Japanese media projected on Sunday. Shares in Tokyo Electric Power fell 8% on Monday after the news broke.

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Categories: Environment

Use of strongest antibiotics rises to record levels on European farms

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 4:01pm

Medicines classified as ‘critically important in human medicine’ appear to be in frequent use, says European Medicines Agency

Use of some of the strongest antibiotics available to treat life-threatening infections has risen to record levels on European farms, new data shows.

The report reinforces concerns about the overuse of antibiotics on farms, following revelations from the Guardian of the presence of the superbug MRSA in UK-produced meat, in imported meat for sale in UK supermarkets, and on British farms.

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Categories: Environment

Taking shelter from the blinding sheets of rain: Country diary 100 years ago

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 2:30pm

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 17 October 1916

Grey clouds, like wisps of smoke, raced yesterday across a sullen, leady sky, and the roaring woods scattered their bronzed leaves for the savage wind to play with. Then the scud came, rain wind-driven in blinding sheets, forcing the cattle under the lee of the hedge and rattling on the thatched stack like hail. But soon all changed; the rain stopped, the sky cleared, and the sun found a gap through which it could shine cheerfully; the sheep in the stubbing shook themselves, showering rainbow-tinted drops from their heavy fleeces, and a few larks, rising some fifty feet or so above their chirruping comrades, sang joyfully. In the wood the bracken is yellow or brown, withering fast, but red campions still flower abundantly and there are blossoms on the brambles; these will never fruit, and many of the still red berries cannot ripen unless the sun has more continuous power.

The wind-lashed mere was flecked with white-capped waves, which broke in light spray even against the low-sunk bodies of the grebes and in actual foam against the bluff breasts of the sooty coots. In the shelter of the western wood were four herons, two on the swaying branches, two on mooring stumps, half opening their great wings occasionally when a fiercer gust than usual disturbed their balance; but a score of martins – young birds, too – continued their incessant fly-hunt, skimming this way or that, indifferent to wind or rain, and ready to nip at any gnat or small fly which ventured from its leafy shelter in the fitful gleams of sunshine.

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Categories: Environment

A long-distance traveller on a refuelling stopover

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 1:30pm

A bar-tailed godwit on the mudflats may be on her way from the Arctic to sub-Saharan Africa. But she’s a lightweight compared to her New Zealand cousins

A long-billed, long-legged wader stands on the edge of the mud, waiting for the tide to recede so she can begin to feed. Nothing about her stands out: she isn’t strikingly pied like the avocets; she doesn’t have the curlew’s impossibly long, curved bill; and she isn’t flying around while yelling a frantic, urgent call like the redshanks.

Yet she has a far better story to tell than any of them. For she is a bar-tailed godwit: one of the greatest of all the bird world’s global travellers. She has already flown here to the river Parrett, that muddy river flowing into the Bristol Channel, from her breeding grounds far to the north – somewhere on the Arctic tundra in Scandinavia or Northern Russia.

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Categories: Environment

In their clamour for shale gas, ministers forgot the climate agreement | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 11:59am

No amount of spin or legal obfuscation can reconcile the UK government’s clamour for shale gas with its obligations as enshrined in the Paris climate change agreement. Consequently, when the UK’s communities secretary, Sajid Javid, gave the go-ahead for fracking in Lancashire (Report, 7 October), he was making a clear statement that the government has no interest in abiding by either the spirit or the maths of the Paris agreement.

Shale gas is a high carbon energy source. When used for generating electricity its emissions of carbon dioxide are about 30-90 times higher than the full lifecycle emissions of either renewables or nuclear. Given the rapid phase-out of the UK’s existing coal power stations, shale gas will not be produced at sufficient scale and in the necessary timeframe for it to be a substitute for coal.

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Categories: Environment

Storm Leaves Thousands Without Power In Pacific Northwest

NPR News - Environment - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 6:39am

More rain is expected for Washington state and Oregon on Sunday, after a storm downed trees and flooded roads across the region.

Categories: Environment

This new technology could save the troubled nuclear power industry

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2016/10/16 - 6:30am

Small nuclear reactors, funded by investors like Bill Gates, are emerging in the US as cheaper, safer alternatives to traditional nuclear power plant designs

The future of the nuclear industry may happen somewhere on scenic but relatively isolated land that’s about 100 miles southwest of Yellowstone National Park. Amid the 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory campus, a plan is in motion to build a type of nuclear reactor unlike any that’s currently in use to produce electricity.

The plan belongs to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a consortium of 45 municipal agencies looking to replace their aging coal-fired plants. It won approval from the US Department of Energy earlier this year to scope out a site at the lab to analyze the environmental and safety impacts of what’s called the small nuclear reactor. If all goes well, the consortium plans to build a power plant there with 12 reactors totalling 600 megawatts in capacity.

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