Microbeads report reveals loopholes in pledges by biggest firms

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/07/20 - 4:25am

Greenpeace urges legal ban to tackle problem after finding that top personal care companies fell short on commitments

Loopholes in the voluntary pledges by the biggest personal care companies to phase out polluting microbeads have been revealed in a report from Greenpeace, which says a legal ban is needed.

Tiny plastic beads are widely used in toiletries and cosmetics but thousands of tonnes wash into the sea every year, where they harm wildlife and can ultimately be eaten by people, with unknown effects on health. A petition signed by more than 300,000 people asking for a UK ban was delivered to the prime minister in June A US law banning microbeads was passed at the end of 2015.

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Categories: Environment

Conservative groups push back against Republican party's climate denialism

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/07/20 - 3:30am

Partnership for Responsible Growth and other groups launch campaigns to urge Republicans and Rupert Murdoch’s media empire to accept climate change

Conservative and free-market groups have staged a rearguard effort to get the Republican party to accept the dangers of climate change, criticizing climate denialism within the GOP and Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Climate change, and other environmental concerns, are unlikely to receive much, if any, attention during the Republican convention in Cleveland this week. This is despite a slew of temperature records being broken – June was the 14th consecutive month of record heat around the world – and extreme examples of Arctic ice decline and drought and wildfires in the US west.

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Categories: Environment

Former EU fisheries chief brands UK's post-Brexit plan an ‘illusion’

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/07/20 - 3:18am

Maria Damanaki questioned feasibility of UK controlling stocks or setting its own catches without input from Europe

The EU’s former fisheries chief has said it is an illusion that the UK will be able to dictate its fishing policies after Brexit.

Maria Damanaki, the former commissioner for fisheries, who oversaw the most sweeping reforms of the EU’s common fisheries policy in decades, said: “The idea that you can control fisheries at a national level is an illusion for any country, but especially the UK - with Brexit or without. International cooperation is needed to keep stocks and control.”

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Categories: Environment

Investors' neglect of small-scale renewables threatens universal energy access

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/07/20 - 3:04am

From east Africa to India, finance for off-grid clean energy projects offers a wealth of benefits beyond tackling climate change

Investing in a large-scale wind farm is a better guarantee of profits than multiple, small, off-grid renewables projects but without the latter, argues a recent report, the sustainable development goal of low-carbon energy access for all will never be met.

It is estimated (pdf) close to $50bn a year is needed to achieve universal access to electricity and clean cooking facilities by 2030. Yet traditional forms of climate finance are not working.

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Categories: Environment

Why is the World Bank backing coal power in Europe's youngest country?

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/07/20 - 3:00am

The World Bank is poised to support a new coal plant that would modernise Kosovo’s creaking energy infrastructure, but also lock the young nation into a future powered by a regressive fossil fuel

In the early days of December 2015, as the Paris climate talks veered off course and off schedule, the US secretary of state John Kerry left his team of negotiators and flew to Kosovo to voice his support for a proposed US-built, World Bank-sponsored coal power station.

Speaking alongside the prime minister, Isa Mustafa, Kerry told reporters at Pristina airport that the Kosovo e re (New Kosovo) plant would help the tiny, impoverished country do “its part to contribute to this global effort of nations who are committed to dealing with climate change” by replacing an extremely high-polluting cold war-era power plant. Kerry then returned to Paris and helped land a deal intended to bring the fossil fuel era to an end.

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Categories: Environment

Could vertical take-off electric planes replace cars in our cities?

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/07/20 - 2:25am

Nasa and a host of aviation startups are developing aircraft that could transform the way we travel, with lower emissions and runway-free landings

The end of the jet age could be in sight. Innovative new electric aircraft are starting to find their way off the drawing board and onto runways, funded by startups, government agencies and the world’s biggest jet makers. They promise flights that are cleaner, quieter and safer than today’s jets, and with a fraction of their carbon footprint.

Earlier this month, Nasa announced that it would be building a high-speed research aircraft called Maxwell that would use electric motors to drive 14 propellers. The four-seater aircraft should be able to fly at speeds of up to 175mph (about as fast as many small aircraft), using a fifth of the energy of a normal private plane.

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Categories: Environment

'My work is done': Greg Hunt says mission accomplished on environment portfolio

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2016/07/20 - 12:44am

‘World’s best minister’ makes way for Josh Frydenberg, listing emissions reduction fund among achievements

With the trophy of world’s best minister already on Greg Hunt’s mantle, he’s declared his work done in the environment portfolio.

After almost a decade overseeing Coalition environment policy, Hunt stepped aside to make way for the Liberal party rising star Josh Frydenberg.

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Categories: Environment

'The graveyard of the Earth': inside City 40, Russia's deadly nuclear secret

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 11:30pm

Ozersk, codenamed City 40, was the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme. Now it is one of the most contaminated places on the planet – so why do so many residents still view it as a fenced-in paradise?

• View the trailer for the documentary City 40 here

Those in paradise were given a choice: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. There was no third alternative.” (From the dystopian novel We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, 1924)

Deep in the vast forests of Russia’s Ural mountains lies the forbidden city of Ozersk. Behind guarded gates and barbed wire fences stands a beautiful enigma – a hypnotic place that seems to exist in a different dimension.

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Categories: Environment

Treasury cut to carbon capture will cost UK £30bn, says watchdog

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 10:00pm

Government says carbon storage technology not cost-efficient, while critics say U-turn will double cost of tackling climate change

The government’s cancellation of a pioneering £1bn competition to capture and store carbon emissions may have pushed up the bill for meeting the UK’s climate targets by £30bn, according to a report from the UK’s official spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report, published on Wednesday, says the move has delayed by a decade the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in the UK, which takes emissions from power stations and industry and buries them so they do not contribute to global warming.

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Categories: Environment

Clifftop memories of a Devon shipwreck

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 9:30pm

Bolt Head, South Devon This Finnish windjammer loaded with thousands of tons of grain had reached Falmouth from south Australia in just 86 days

Eighty years ago the cliff-land here was thronged with curious sightseers, including my grandfather and uncle who drove from St Dominic to view the wreck of the Herzogin Cecilie with its masts towering towards the spectators. This Finnish windjammer – a four-masted barque loaded with thousands of tons of grain – had reached Falmouth from the Boston Island anchorage in south Australia in just 86 days, but on the last lap towards Ipswich it foundered on the Ham Stone off Soar Mill Cove.

Hosegoods, the Plymouth grain merchants, salvaged damp wheat, and my grandfather bought some cheaply for delivery to Cotehele Mill via the river Tamar and his barge, the Myrtle. It was mixed with extra-dry Persian barley, made into pig and poultry meal, and sold to local farmers.

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Categories: Environment

Hottest ever June marks 14th month of record-breaking temperatures

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 7:54pm

US agencies Nasa and Noaa say last month was 0.9C hotter than the 20th century average and the hottest June since records began in 1880

As the string of record-breaking global temperatures continues unabated, June 2016 marks the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking heat.

According to two US agencies – Nasa and Noaa – June 2016 was 0.9C hotter than the average for the 20th century, and the hottest June in the record which goes back to 1880. It broke the previous record, set in 2015, by 0.02C.

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Categories: Environment

'Mr Coal's' super ministry and the challenges of merging energy with the environment | Dan Cass

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 6:39pm

Josh Frydenberg has been sworn in as minister for both the environment and energy. Is it a clash of objectives or a brilliant opportunity?

Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to merge the environment and energy portfolios could lead to a breakthrough in the toxic climate politics that was unleashed when Tony Abbott rolled him in the December 2009 leadership coup.

Or the new super-ministry and its new minister Josh Frydenberg could be set up for failure.

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Categories: Environment

Full of holes: why Australia's mining boom will leave permanent scars

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 3:03pm

With the coal boom on the wane, mining companies want to escape the cost of rehabilitating their sites. But even if governments effectively restrain them, many of the huge voids in the landscape will never be filled in

Australia is teetering on the edge of a massive hole – one left by huge mines that may soon close. As they do, the country is playing a desperate game of catch-up to make sure the mining companies pay for the cleanup. But a legacy of limited environmental requirements means that even if that succeeds, the end of the coal boom will leave Australia pockmarked with unfilled holes.

This game has been highlighted in recent years by a trend of major miners unloading projects to industry minnows amid a coal slump. As they do so, taxpayers risk being lumped with cleanup costs in the wake of their collapse.

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Categories: Environment

NASA Scientists Predict Another All-Time Heat Record For 2016

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 1:29pm

During the 12 months from May 2015 to May 2016, each month set an all-time heat record. That's on average around the world. Some places were not record breakers, but overall, global warming is increasing. NASA scientists talk about what the rest of this year may look like, and whether it will set yet another global record.

Categories: Environment

Liberals, celebrities and EU supporters set up progressive movement

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 11:15am

The cross-party initiative has the support of Lord Ashdown, Jonathon Porritt and Caroline Criado-Perez, and is looking at fielding candidates in the next general election

A new cross-party movement for progressive liberalism that could endorse candidates in favour of the EU and immigration at the next election is being set up by politicians, celebrities and intellectuals.

The initiative has the support of Jonathon Porritt, the environmentalist, Caroline Criado-Perez, the feminist writer, and Luke Pritchard from the band Kooks, as a space for people who want a voice for openness and tolerance.

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Categories: Environment

Andrea Leadsom winging it on the environment | Brief letters

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 10:59am
Butterflies | AE Housman | Melania Trump | Beards | Wendy Sly

It looks like Andrea Leadsom is unconcerned that her children’s children may never see a butterfly unless they climb a mountain (Leadsom’s views make her surprise choice for new role, 15 July), which she sees as a sensible approach to environment planning. Could Patrick Barkham (Wet summer is last straw in disastrous year for butterflies, 15 July) perhaps persuade the family to take part in the big butterfly count?
Helen Esplin
Coleford, Gloucestershire

Perhaps I’m paranoiac, but I rather resented the implication that because I enjoy AE Housman, I must be a xenophobic Brexiteer (Housman Country: Into The Heart Of England by Peter Parker, reviewed by Blake Morrison, Review, 16 July). The bleakness below Housman’s sylvan surface has long been recognised and was concisely captured by Hugh Kingsmill’s parody of Housman’s verse which begins: “What still alive at twenty-two / A clean upstanding lad like you?”
David Edwards
St Helens, Merseyside

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Categories: Environment

States' Lawsuits Say VW Execs Ran A Cover-Up Of Diesel Emissions Cheating

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 10:30am

Citing "a culture of deeply-rooted corporate arrogance" at Volkswagen, New York and Massachusetts have filed civil lawsuits against the carmaker.

Categories: Environment

American farmers are struggling to feed the country's appetite for organic food

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 9:54am

Consumer appetite for organic foods reached $13.4bn in the US last year – so why is only 1% of the country’s cropland dedicated to organic farming?

Marc Garibaldi, a farmer in California’s Central Valley, no longer uses conventional pesticides and fertilizers because he doesn’t want to work with toxic chemicals at his 40-acre cherry orchard. His farm was officially certified as organic a few weeks ago, but the path to securing that designation was long and costly: he spent three years working to demonstrate the use of eco-friendly pest and soil management practices and paid between 10%-20% in higher labor cost.

Yet he was unable to convince processors that pack and ship his harvest to pay more for his fruit – which he was already cultivating by using the organic standards set by the federal government – during that period.

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Categories: Environment

The Smoggy Seas: Cargo Ships Bring Pollution, Health Risks

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 9:29am

Eight of the 10 busiest ports are in East Asia. A new study shows how the growing number of cargo ships are polluting the air and threatening health.

Categories: Environment

WATCH: The Secret Buzz Only Bumblebees Know To Unlock Our Favorite Crops

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2016/07/19 - 6:00am

Some plants will release their pollen only to bees that buzz in just the right way. It's a risky strategy — and it's critical to human agriculture, from tomatoes to blueberries.

Categories: Environment
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