Environment

Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 8:39am

No seeds were lost but the ability of the rock vault to provide failsafe protection against all disasters is now threatened by climate change

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

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Categories: Environment

Live Q&A: What impact is human development having on the world’s elephant populations?

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 8:37am

The conflict between humans and elephants for space and resources is driving the rapid decline of elephant populations. Join us on Wednesday 24 May from 1-2.30pm BST to discuss how elephants and humans can live together

This week an elderly man was killed by a wild elephant in central India as he picked tendu leaves in the Surajpur forest. A few days earlier, a father and his son were injured after two elephants wandered into their house in Tamil Nadu. As human populations grow and communities live in closer proximity to elephants, one of the world’s most unique and beautiful animals can become the most dangerous.

But human development is also contributing to the severe decline in elephant populations. Across Asia and Africa, elephants’ natural habitats are being destroyed by rapid urbanisation and industrial and agricultural expansion.

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Categories: Environment

Obese Thai monkey who got big on tourists' junk food placed on strict diet

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 8:14am
  • Monkey nicknamed ‘Uncle Fat’ weighs 26kg – three times more than he should
  • ‘He had minions and other monkeys bringing food for him,’ veterinarian says

A morbidly obese wild monkey who gorged himself on junk food and soda left behind by tourists has been rescued and placed on a strict diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables.

Wildlife officials caught the chunky monkey – nicknamed “Uncle Fat” by locals – after photos of the animal started circulating on social media last month.

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 6:00am

Tasmanian devils, a Saimaa ringed seal and a white wolf are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Categories: Environment

Study: inspiring action on climate change is more complex than you might think | John Abraham

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 3:00am

People have to grasp how climate change impacts them, and we need to value environmentally sound behavior

We know humans are causing climate change. That is a fact that has been known for well over 100 years. We also know that there will be significant social and economic costs from the effects. In fact, the effects are already appearing in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and so on.

So why haven’t humans done much about the problem? Answering that question may be more challenging than the basic science of a changing climate. Fortunately, a new review just out in Science helps us with this question. Lead author, Dr. Elise Amel, a colleague of mine, completed the review with colleagues Drs. Christie Manning, Britain Scott, and Susan Koger. Rather than focusing solely on the problems with communicating the science of climate change, this work takes a wider view on the hurdles that get in the way of meaningful action.

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Categories: Environment

Anti-smog bikes: could pedal power clean China's polluted air?

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 2:37am

The bikes designed by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde would suck in polluted air, using positive ionisation to purify it, before releasing it back into the atmosphere

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde has announced the next phase of his Smog Free Project: a bike that sucks in polluted air and releases purified air in a cloud around the cyclist.

According to Roosegaarde, whose design firm Studio Roosegaarde has offices in both Rotterdam and Beijing, the idea for his Smog Free Project came just over three years ago, as he gazed out of his Beijing apartment’s window. On a Saturday, the city skyline is visible; on weekdays, it’s shrouded in smog.

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Categories: Environment

Public To EPA On Cutting Regulations: 'No!'

NPR News - Environment - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 1:38am

The Environmental Protection Agency asked for public input on "job-killing regulations" and has received more than 28,000 comments, many of which urge the agency not to roll back protections.

(Image credit: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Inc.)

Categories: Environment

Woodside says it was behind oil spill that regulator kept secret

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/05/19 - 12:01am

The company reported a leak from a well off the coast of Western Australia to Nopsema last year, and says there was no lasting impact on the environment

Woodside Petroleum has confirmed it was behind an oil spill off the coast of Western Australia that was kept secret by the regulator for more than a year.

The company said on Friday that it reported a leak from a well in the Cossack field on the North West Shelf to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) in April 2016.

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Categories: Environment

Great white shark study could be used to drop protected status, Greens warn

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 11:18pm

Government may justify delisting the threatened species or order a cull despite its treaty obligations, senator says

A scientific study of great white shark numbers could be used by the government to justify delisting the species as threatened or ordering a cull despite international treaty obligations, the Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson has warned.

Whish-Wilson, who is chairing a committee inquiring into shark mitigation and deterrence, has accused the Liberals of politicising recent deaths in Western Australia, including that of 17-year old Laeticia Brouwer through their calls to end protection of great whites.

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Categories: Environment

National Grid boss says Labour plan will stall green energy drive

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 11:05pm

John Pettigrew claims switch to public ownership will disrupt transition to cleaner forms of energy

Labour’s plan to take the National Grid back into public ownership would harm the UK’s switch to green energy, the grid’s chief executive has said. John Pettigrew said renationalisation was “the last thing the industry needs” as it invests to accommodate more wind and solar power on the UK’s power grids.

“Clearly, on nationalisation, we do not think it is a good idea,” Pettigrew said, as the company reported operating profits up 14% to £4.7bn for 2016-17. Its market capitalisation is about £38bn, including its US business.

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Categories: Environment

Could British homes be powered by Icelandic volcano?

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 10:00pm

Commercial interest is growing in plans to harness geothermal energy from Iceland’s magma lakes and use it to supply the UK and Europe

Harnessing the power of Iceland’s volcanoes to provide energy to British homes is one of those ideas that resurfaces every few years, but sounds too good – or whacky – to be true.

However, interest from a clutch of international companies in a geothermal project in northern Iceland suggests the idea is not just achievable but commercially viable too.

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Categories: Environment

Immersive plunge for bored young dipper

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 9:30pm

Milldale, Derbyshire The adult whirred downstream. The juvenile, sat still for a bit, gaped, grew restless, then launched itself into the stream

The grassy east bank of the river Dove below the packhorse bridge at Milldale, in the Peak District, is popular with picnickers and we had to drift downstream to find a little space. Once prone, bagel in hand, I half dozed, half watched insects forming clouds over the river, catching sunlight like chaff.

But then I snapped awake as I realised I was being watched. A rich brown eye glistened as it fixed on mine from no more than three metres away – a juvenile dipper clamped to a broken branch jammed in the rocks, deep in shadow, breaking the flow of water.

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Categories: Environment

Electricity trial to pay users to cut power during high demand or natural disasters

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 8:08pm

Arena and Aemo to trial program that would pay South Australian and Victorian customers to reduce their use

South Australian and Victorian electricity users will be paid to voluntarily forego power use during times of extreme stress on the power grid under a trial program announced by national energy regulators.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) are looking to trial the program next summer, following outages earlier this year in South Australia and New South Wales caused by “an unprecedented level of demand”.

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Categories: Environment

How Australia can use hydrogen to export its solar power around the world

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 4:42pm

Recent innovations in hydrogen generation, storage, transport and use could transform it into the ultimate source of clean energy

Nearly a century ago, British scientist JB Haldane saw an energy future in which wind power would be used to generate hydrogen; a fuel he described as, weight-for-weight, the most efficient known method of storing energy.

He thought this future was four hundred years away, but the so-called “hydrogen economy” may arrive a lot sooner thanks to a recent burst of innovations in hydrogen generation, storage, transport and use. And it could open a new energy export market for Australia.

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Categories: Environment

Energy Companies Urge Trump To Remain In Paris Climate Agreement

NPR News - Environment - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 3:32pm

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden says he wants the U.S. to remain in the 2015 Paris climate accord. Energy companies like Exxon Mobil and BP have also urged President Trump to continue supporting the deal.

(Image credit: Peter Dejong/AP)

Categories: Environment

Tree clearing may have killed 180 koalas in Queensland in two years, says wildlife group

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 1:25pm

World Wildlife Fund calls for public pressure on the Palaszczuk government to reduce habitat destruction

Tree clearing may have killed as many as 180 koalas in south-east Queensland in the two years after the former state government relaxed vegetation protection laws, according to an analysis by the World Wildlife Fund.

The environmental group says a crisis gripping koala populations has its root in a surge in tree clearing given the political green light in both Queensland and New South Wales.

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Categories: Environment

Scientists Glued Fake Caterpillars On Plants Worldwide. Here's What Happened

NPR News - Environment - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 12:28pm

Predators that attacked the clay caterpillars left telltale bite marks, which were later analyzed to help figure the critter's risk of getting eaten. That analysis revealed a striking pattern.

(Image credit: Chung Yun Tak/Science)

Categories: Environment

Cylindrical space for a crab to call home | Brief letters

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 11:30am
Brown hares and hunting | Water in Bagno Vignoni | 35mm film canisters | Letter from the Tories | Granny Seaside and Granny Cat

A repeal of the 2004 Hunting Act would accelerate the demise of our iconic brown hares, already listed in 2011 for potential extinction by 2050 (May pledges free vote on hunting, 10 May). One third of the hunts (with dogs) in England and Wales target these declining hares, not foxes. The act outlaws hare coursing, but a repeal would further encourage this intrusive and destructive activity, already so distressing to farmers and problematic to police forces countrywide.
John Rimington
Technical liaison officer, Hare Preservation Trust

Related: Washing your hair with mineral water or champagne – what lengths would you go to?

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Categories: Environment

Climate change is turning Antarctica green, say researchers

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 9:00am

In the past 50 years the quantity and rate of plant growth has shot up, says study, suggesting further warming could lead to rapid ecosystem changes

Antarctica may conjure up an image of a pristine white landscape, but researchers say climate change is turning the continent green.

Scientists studying banks of moss in Antarctica have found that the quantity of moss, and the rate of plant growth, has shot up in the past 50 years, suggesting the continent may have a verdant future.

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Categories: Environment

Sea level rise will double coastal flood risk worldwide

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/05/18 - 7:10am

Small but unstoppable increases will double frequency of extreme water levels with dire consequences, say scientists

Small but inevitable rises in sea level will double the frequency of severe coastal flooding in most of the world with dire consequences for major cities that sit on coastlines, according to scientists.

The research takes in to account the large waves and storm surges that can tip gradually rising sea levels over the edge of coastal defences. Lower latitudes will be first affected, in a great swath through the tropics from Africa to South America and throughout south-east Asia, with Europe’s Atlantic coast and the west coast of the US not far behind.

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Categories: Environment
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