Brazil's forgotten state: oil and agribusiness threaten Amapá forests – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/02/16 - 3:30am

Pristine Amazon rainforest and conservation areas are being rapidly opened up to dams, gold mining and soya plantations in Brazil’s least developed state

Read more: Amazon’s final frontier under threat from oil and soya

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Categories: Environment

Millions of premature births could be linked to air pollution, study finds

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/02/16 - 12:00am

Premature births across 183 countries may be associated with fine particulate matter, a common air pollutant, with Africa and Asia especially affected

Air pollution could be a contributing factor in millions of premature births around the world each year, a new report has found.

Nearly 15 million babies are born annually before reaching 37 weeks gestation. Premature birth is the leading cause of death among children younger than five years old, and can cause lifelong learning disabilities, visual and hearing problems, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

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Urban butterfly declines 69% compared to 45% drop in countryside

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 11:01pm

Pesticides, paving and higher temperatures have put huge strain on butterflies in cities over past two decades, finds study

Butterflies have vanished from towns and cities more rapidly than from the countryside over the past two decades, according to a new study.

Industrial agriculture has long been viewed as the scourge of butterflies and other insects but city life is worse – urban butterfly abundance fell by 69% compared to a 45% decline in rural areas over 20 years from 1995.

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Categories: Environment

Wagging tongues of ferns and salty yarns

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 10:30pm

Egglestone, Teesdale Near the hart’s tongues, mosses clinging to the rock were becoming fossilised, encased in tufa

This section of moist, shady, wooded bank above the footpath, extending for perhaps 150 metres, is covered with the largest concentration of hart’s tongue ferns I have ever seen. This fern, Phyllitis scolopendrium, dominates because it thrives in calcareous woodland soils over limestone and the conditions here are perfect.

This morning, as I approached, hundreds of long, undulating, emerald-green tongues wagged in the breeze: if these plants needed a collective name “a gossip” of hart’s tongues would do nicely.

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Categories: Environment

Climate change doubled the likelihood of the NSW heatwave – let’s be clear, this is not natural

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 8:31pm

Rapid warming trend sees heat records in Australia outnumber cold records by 12 to one over the past decade

The heatwave that engulfed southeastern Australia at the end of last week has seen heat records continue to tumble.

On Saturday 11 February, as New South Wales suffered through the heatwave’s peak, temperatures soared to 47℃ in Richmond, 50km northwest of Sydney, while 87 bushfires raged across the state, amid catastrophic fire conditions.

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Electricity pricing is confusing and that's why they're using it to mislead us | Greg Jericho

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 5:29pm

One of the more frustrating aspects of energy policy is that it begins and ends with electricity prices and the over-arching issue of climate change is a side issue

The government has clearly decided that electricity prices is its key message for the next three years – and as a result the prime minister has ensured the policy debate will be biased towards climate change denial and will continue to treat Australians as idiots.

When the prime minister let fly against Bill Shorten in parliament last week, amid the personal attacks, the only policy areas he broached were company tax and energy prices. Pointedly, energy price was the first issue that came to him after he told his jokes about Shorten dining with Dick Pratt.

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Coalition gives $54m from CEFC to large-scale solar and renews pumped hydro push

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 2:55pm

Plan for pumped hydro project co-located with a large-scale solar farm demonstrates government’s ‘strong commitment to energy security’, PM says

The Turnbull government has given a $54m loan from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to a large-scale solar development which it says has the potential for pumped hydro storage.

Malcolm Turnbull and the energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, have announced the government had directed the CEFC and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) to fund large-scale storage and other flexible capacity projects including pumped hydro.

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Categories: Environment

European commission issues 'final warning' to UK over air pollution breaches

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 11:38am

UK is one of five countries persistently contravening legal nitrogen dioxide levels with pollution from factories and vehicles

Britain has been sent a final warning to comply with EU air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or face a case at the European court of justice.

If the UK does not show Brussels how it intends to comply with EU law within two months, a court hearing with the power to impose heavy fines could begin later this year, as the Guardian revealed last week.

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Categories: Environment

The Trump Presidency's Potential Impact On Climate Change

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 11:24am

ProPublica senior reporter Andrew Revkin discusses President Trump's possible cuts to the EPA, as well as the potential impact of pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

Categories: Environment

For and against a return to the land | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 11:19am

Richard Higgins (Letters, 15 February) writes: “Farming is about maintaining the land in such a way as to support the animals and people who live upon it”. The late Tony King, professor of politics at Essex University, argued that all successful popular revolutions, good and bad, were accompanied by land reform and redistribution. One criticism of the EU levelled historically by the progressive, internationalist wing of the Labour party has been that the common agricultural policy encourages wasteful use of our common agricultural wealth. Max Weber, more than 100 years ago, showed that there was a relationship between the existence of large, capital-intensive farming estates and reliance on seasonal, immigrant labour.

When the inevitable leftwing reaction to this rightwing Brexit comes we would do well to consider how to reframe agriculture to involve a greater portion of the population and to ensure that a greater portion of our basic needs can be met at a local level rather than, as we seem to do at the moment, relying entirely on production for export and thus throwing ourselves open to the tempestuous nature of global commodity markets in the hope we can be saved by financial calculus alone.
Tom Muddiman

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Categories: Environment

Mary Welsh obituary

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 10:53am

My mother, Mary Welsh, who has died aged 88, inspired thousands of people to walk the wilds of Scotland and northern England and appreciate their flora and fauna, through her numerous books and published articles. While Alfred Wainwright guided walkers up high fells, Mary described walks that explored less visited lower slopes, moorlands and valleys, often covering three or four different habitats in one circular route and providing views of famed peaks from little-known vantage points.

Mary’s first book, A Country Journal: The Diary of a Cumbrian Naturalist (1982), chronicled her wonder as she settled into the Lake District village of Broughton-in-Furness, to which she had moved from Islington, north London, a few years before. Her last, Walking Fife: The Ochils, Tayside and the Forth Valley, was published in 2012. She wrote 38 books and 12 substantial booklets, which together sold more than 200,000 copies.

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Categories: Environment

Scottish gamekeepers and mountaineers oppose tree-planting plan

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 9:47am

Two groups unite to oppose proposal to plant thousands of trees saying it could threaten the country’s ‘dramatic open views and vistas’

Scotland’s mountaineers and gamekeepers have rarely seen eye to eye. But now they have put their differences behind them to oppose an apparently innocuous plan that both say threatens the country’s landscape: a proposal to plant thousands of new trees.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) and Mountaineering Scotland admit they are unlikely bedfellows, having historically disagreed over access to land for walkers and issues of wildlife preservation. But they are united in their concerns over proposals that are part of the government’s Draft Climate Change Plan, which they say could threaten the country’s “dramatic open views and vistas”.

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Copeland byelection: May accused of ducking issue of support for nuclear plant

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 9:14am

PM says Tories ‘committed to nuclear’ but fails to confirm funding for a new Cumbrian plant after losses are reported by one of its backers

The prime minister has been accused of ducking the issue of whether the government supports a new nuclear power station in west Cumbria on a visit to Copeland ahead of the constituency’s byelection.

The accusation was levelled after Theresa May said the Conservative party was “committed” to nuclear, but did not offer state support following huge losses reported by one of the backers of a deal to build the Moorside nuclear plant near Whitehaven.

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Categories: Environment

Oroville Dam Evacuations Lifted As Officials Say Structure Can Withstand Next Storm

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 9:13am

People who live downstream of the Northern California dam were allowed to return to their homes more than two days after the structure's concrete spillways suffered serious water damage.

(Image credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Categories: Environment

EU criticised for 'emergency authorisations' of banned bee-harming pesticide

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 8:44am

Just under half of requests for exceptions to the neonicotinoids ban were filed by industry not farmers, legal analysis shows

The EU has been criticised after a new legal analysis showed it had allowed scores of “emergency authorisations” of banned pesticides that threaten bee colonies.

The research emerged as the European court of justice began hearing a case by Syngenta and Bayer to overturn the pesticides ban. A ruling is expected shortly.

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Trump's likely science adviser calls climate scientists 'glassy-eyed cult'

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 6:13am

William Happer, frontrunner for job of providing mainstream scientific opinion to officials, backs crackdown on federal scientists’ freedom to speak out

The man tipped as frontrunner for the role of science adviser to Donald Trump has described climate scientists as “a glassy-eyed cult” in the throes of a form of collective madness.

William Happer, an eminent physicist at Princeton University, met Trump last month to discuss the post and says that if he were offered the job he would take it. Happer is highly regarded in the academic community, but many would view his appointment as a further blow to the prospects of concerted international action on climate change.

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'Opportunity for healing': General Custer's relative visits Standing Rock

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 6:00am

Descendant’s visit served as painful reminder for some Native Americans that historical traumas are closely linked to present-day battles with US government

Floris White Bull couldn’t believe what she was hearing. On the same day the US government granted permission for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river, a descendant of General George Armstrong Custer had arrived at Standing Rock.

Alisha Custer – whose lineage traces back to the US army commander who led the 19th-century wars against Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors – had traveled from Wichita, Kansas, to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, and was ready to speak to Standing Rock members.

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Categories: Environment

UK fishermen may not win waters back after Brexit, EU memo reveals

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 5:12am

Document obtained by the Guardian states existing quotas will remain despite promises made by leave campaigners

The hopes of British fishermen that the UK can win its “waters back” after Brexit are expected to be dashed by the European parliament, despite the campaign promises of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, a leaked EU document reveals.

MEPs have drafted seven provisions to be included in Britain’s “exit agreement”, including the stipulation that there will be “no increase to the UK’s share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks [maintaining the existing quota distribution in UK and EU waters]”.

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Bat hibernation: Scottish quest to solve puzzle – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 3:18am

It remains a mystery as to where most of Scotland’s bats hibernate. Anne Youngman, Scottish officer for the Bat Conservation Trust, and the ecologist John Haddow conduct a survey in a disused quarry tunnel and at Doune Castle

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Categories: Environment

'Filthy glamour': could polluted Marylebone Road help fix London's air?

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/02/15 - 3:00am

Marylebone Road has the odd distinction of being the world’s most studied road in terms of air pollution – yet remains a chief culprit in London’s ‘shameful’ air quality. Now it’s home to a series of new experiments

Daybreak in the capital and on the pavement opposite Great Portland Street underground station runners cut virtuous paths through a crisp, cold winter’s morning. To one side of them lies Regent’s Park, deep green beneath a perfect frost. On the other roars a source of contamination so severe that the health of these runners might have been better served staying indoors.

Marylebone Road, one of London’s main east-west streets, illustrates with filthy glamour why the city suffers from stubbornly poor air quality – with recent record-breaking pollution levels having caused particular concern.

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