If you spend time along Britain's waterways you're sure to glimpse the iridescent flash of a dragonfly or damselfly - there are 57 species recorded in the UK. Here is a pick of reader photographs from our Green shoots Flickr group
The iridescent dragonflies that flit alongside the UK's waterways could become a rarer sight in coming years after this winter's deluge, the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) have warned.
The mosquitoes and midges that dragonflies prey upon may increase as a result, boosted by the pools and puddles left by southern Britain's wettest winter for at least 250 years.Continue reading...
Announcement comes after campaigners shamed company over issue and international court banned Southern Ocean hunt
The decision by Rakuten comes soon after the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) exposed the company as the worlds biggest online retailer of whale products and elephant ivory.Continue reading...
Largest ever settlement for environmental contamination reached over cleanup of thousands of sites tainted with hazardous chemicals
The federal government on Thursday reached a $5.15bn settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, the largest ever for environmental contamination, to settle claims related to the cleanup of thousands of sites tainted with hazardous chemicals for decades.
The bulk of the money $4.4bn will pay for environmental cleanup and be used to settle claims stemming from the legacy contamination.Continue reading...
Witnesses report seeing three- or four-metre shark before Christine Armstrong disappeared during her regular swim
Swimmers have been warned to stay out of the water at a New South Wales tourist beach after a 62-year-old woman was killed by a shark during a regular morning swim.
Christine Armstrong, a member of the local surf lifesaving club, was with a swimming group at Tathra beach on the states south coast when she went missing on Thursday.Continue reading...
A bright early spring has filled our countryside and parks with butterflies, more than I can ever remember at this time of year. The four species we have admired basking in the sunshine or twirling in aerial dogfights are small tortoiseshells, peacocks, commas and brimstones, the original "butter-coloured fly".
Unlike most of our 59 native species, which endure winter as caterpillars and hatch later in the summer, this quartet tackle the challenge of winter as adults. They close their wings and hunker down in hollow trees and garden sheds, and invariably emerge first.Continue reading...
Battles over water and food will erupt within the next five to 10 years as a result of climate change, the president of the World Bank said as he urged those campaigning against global warming to learn the lessons of how protesters and scientists joined forces in the battle against HIV.
Jim Yong Kim said it was possible to cap the rise in global temperatures at 2C but that so far there had been a failure to replicate the "unbelievable" success of the 15-year-long coalition of activists and scientists to develop a treatment for HIV.Continue reading...
Country diary: South Uist: Suddenly the whooper swans are here, pure white against a flawless blue sky
The morning's brisk northwesterlies have died away almost entirely and the stinging hail showers have given way to unbroken sunshine. Despite the lovely afternoon I have the whole long curve of the beach to myself, the expanse of sand made greater by the lowness of the tide. It is incredibly peaceful even the oystercatchers who take off at my approach do so quietly, while the bar-tailed godwit feeding at the sea's edge don't take off at all and merely trot along a few paces to keep their distance before getting down to business again.
It's not until I'm approaching the dunes at the end of the walk that I hear the first bird calls a flock of approaching geese hidden by the wall of sand. But as the sound gets louder I realise it's not geese at all but the far more musical babble of whooper swans in flight. And then suddenly they are here, winging their way over the crest of the dunes. There are a hundred or more, pure white against a flawless blue sky, so low one can see the flash of yellow on the bill and the shine of reflected light in their eyes. They fly not in a mass but wingtip to wingtip in a long line, and as I'm still gazing up at them, entranced by the sight and the sound, further along the dunes a second, smaller flight of swans appears.Continue reading...
David Cameron has come under withering attack from the European Commission, accused of failing to get to grips with the levels of air pollution in Britain after he labelled the smog afflicting parts of the country a "naturally occurring weather phenomenon".
As ambulance services in London reported a 14% spike in 999 calls due to breathing problems and forecasters predicted the poor conditions would subside by the weekend, Cameron urged people to take heed of warnings from the Met Office and public health officials. "It is unpleasant, and you can feel it in the air I didn't go for my morning run. I chose to do some work instead. You can feel it.Continue reading...
We knew this powerful carnivorous mammal ate kangaroos, but I now think we can speculate on how it caught them too
I've been thinking as one does about marsupial lions. Of all the species that became extinct after people first arrived in Australia, between 40 and 50,000 years ago, this is the one that intrigues me most.
Even more, that is, than the spiny anteater the size of a pig; a relative of the wombat the size of a rhinoceros; a marsupial tapir as big as a horse; a ten-foot kangaroo; a horned tortoise eight feet long and a monitor lizard bigger than the Nile crocodile. The lost Australian megafauna looks like a science fiction film directed by an acid casualty.Continue reading...
Climate change will likely hurt food production, raise food prices and increase hunger. But those calamities may not be inevitable, according to a group of international agriculture researchers.
A fisherman has been ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £50,000 after he was caught dredging for scallops in a conservation area protected because it is a precious habitat for marine animals including dolphins.
Mark Powell, the skipper of The Golden Fleece II, was spotted by a Royal Navy patrol dredging for scallops in a special area of conservation off the coast of Wales.Continue reading...
Conservationists save more than 800 endangered chicks from starvation after they are abandoned by their parents
More than 800 endangered African penguin chicks have been saved from starvation in South Africa as part of a conservation project led by the Bristol Zoological Society.
Conservationists working on the Chick Bolstering project took chicks from a number of colonies and hand-reared them to ensure their survival. Around 500 were taken into temporary captive care in November and December alone, after being identified as underweight and unwell due to abandonment by their parents during the moulting period at the end of the breeding season.
David Cameron has been accused of trying to hide the role of pollution in causing the severe smog affecting parts of the UK after he blamed the problem solely on Saharan dust, while the London mayor, Boris Johnson, said the air seemed "perfectly fine" to him.
Some ministers are claiming there is little they can do about the poor air quality, with Cameron insisting the smog is just "a naturally occurring weather phenomenon".
- More areas of England warned of 'very high' air pollutions
- David Cameron skips his morning run due to smog
- Cleaner air forecast for Friday
- Government sends out conflicting advice about health risks
- Share your smog pictures and stories via GuardianWitness
- Read the latest summary
Here's a summary of today's events:
Record levels of air pollution have continued to hit the UK. Pollution levels reached level 9 early on Thursday morning in the south-east, Greater London and eastern England, the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) reported on its website. Very high levels of pollution were also forecast later on Thursday for the east midlands.
The government sent out conflicting public health information about what to do in the smog. Defra's helpline said "everyone is advised to reduce physical exertion particularly outdoor," in areas where the air pollution is rated as "very high". But Public Health England said it is only those with heart and lung conditions and old people who should avoid strenuous physical activity.
South westerly winds will not bring better conditions until Friday. Rain is forecast to wash away a cloud of Saharan dust coating more cars with a film of sand.
The government continues to send out conflicting public health information about what to do in the smog.
Defra's helpline said "everyone is advised to reduce physical exertion particularly outdoor," in areas where the air pollution is rated as "very high" (see earlier).
Jenny Jones, the Green London assembly member and former deputy mayor, has accused Boris Johnson and the government of being "bystanders during a public health emergency."
In a blogpost on Left Foot Forward she said: "Both Boris Johnson and the government continue to stand idly by while millions of Londoners are exposed to pollution that can permanently damage their health."
Dave Throup, the environment agency's manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, warns that more Saharan dust is heading our way. He said rain forecast for Thursday night meant that it would be deposited on England.
Loads more Saharan dust on its way (map for 6pm today) Tonight's rain likely to deposit much of it on us! pic.twitter.com/ai0LpSSrAf
Bad air quality is primarily a result of road transport, according to the environment campaign Stephen Tindale.
In a blogpost for the Fabian Society, Tindale, who is also Labour activist, writes:
Diesel is worse than petrol for air quality (though less bad for the climate). Diesel engines can be relatively clean if well maintained. But good maintenance is not always a strong point of white van men (or indeed white van women), or of cab drivers.
Instead, cars and vans should run on electricity. That would dramatically improve air quality. It could also reduce climate pollution, if the electricity was generated by renewables, nuclear power or fossil fuels with CCS. So central and local government must use all available levers to promote electric vehicles.
Friends of the Earth has urged the government to do more to improve air quality.
Its airpollution campaigner Jenny Bates said:
We cant just rely on a change of weather or wind direction to tackle the deadly air pollution incidents which regularly hit Britain strong Government action is needed to tackle the underlying problem too.
Ministers, local authorities and the London Mayor must get much tougher on the causes of air pollution especially traffic fumes.
Schools should decide for themselves whether to keep children with asthma indoors, according to Asthma UK.
The government's clean air adviser, Professor Frank Kelly, told the Guardian that all children in polluted areas should be kept in during break time.
Online retail giant Amazon told my colleague Josh Halliday that it has seen a 15% rise in sales of its face masks.
West Midlands Ambulance Service, which covers Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, is also reporting a noticeable spike in call-outs linked to breathing problems and chest pains, PA reports.
Daily figures for calls reporting breathing or chest problems were largely level at around 460 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday last week.
But the corresponding figures for the first three days of this week were 547, 510 and 501.
GuardianWitness users continue to share their images and experiences of the smog. One said
"Horrible feeling of someone sitting on my chest," said Vanterhyden.
Horrible feeling of someone sitting on my chest - this is more than just dust from the Sahara this is all of Europes Pollution combined - Disgrace we are destroying the planet like this
Sent via GuardianWitness
3 April 2014, 9:20
More than 80% of Asthma sufferers have reported using their inhalers more than usual in the last two days, according to a snap poll by Asthma UK.
It also showed that 30% of respondents have had an asthma attack as a result of the pollution, and more than half of people said they had avoided going outside.
So far 30% have said theyve had an asthma attack because of the current air pollution. pic.twitter.com/Lcm7sckQ7a
This new data demonstrates that the current high levels of air pollution are having a significant impact on the health and quality of life of people with asthma and that they need to take urgent action to stay safe. Asthma can be very serious, it takes the lives of three people every day so we want to do everything we can to help people minimise their risk of a potentially life threatening attack.
We suggest that people keep an eye on their symptoms and know what to do in an asthma attack. You know youre having an asthma attack if your reliever isn't helping, your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest) or you're too breathless or its difficult to speak, eat or sleep. Children may complain of a tummy ache.
The London Ambulance Service saw a 14% rise in 999 calls for patients with breathing problems yesterday, according to PA.
The service said it is still experiencing higher volumes of calls for people with breathing difficulties, asthma and heart problems.
Before we get too alarmed by the current smog alert it is worth remembering how bad it got in the Great Smog of 1952.
The week-long pea-souper caused the deaths of at least 4,000 people, and eventually led to the Clean Air Act.
Pharmacists are reporting an increase in customers reporting breathing problems, according to the chain LloydsPharmacy.
Anthea Lacey, one of its pharmacist at Virginia Water in Surrey, said:
Weve seen lots of people presenting with symptoms related to the smog cloud. As well as those experiencing breathing difficulties, weve had customers come in with inflamed eyes, which I suspect is from the sand.
In particular, weve had people with chronic asthma in need of support - we have helped them with an asthma check-up, where we can make sure they are using their inhalers effectively. If anyone is worried or experiencing symptoms that they think may be related to the smog, they can speak to their local pharmacist for support.
A government helpline is advising "everyone" to cut down on physical exertion in areas hit by "very high" levels of air pollution.
The advice is part of a robotic sounding helpline set up by the government about smog levels and how it may affect health.
The Guardian's environment commentator, George Monbiot, is one of the many people who feel they are suffering because of the smog.
Woke feeling awful: sore throat, tight chest. 1st time I've been conscious of direct effects of pollution. How are the rest of you doing?
People who are experiencing breathing problems are being urged to call a helpline set up by the British Lung Foundation.
Anyone who is experiencing breathing problems due to the high pollution levels can call the BLF helpline for advice on 03000 030 555. Pls RT
Today in one of our group meetings a number of people were already reporting that they were feeling under the weather, including myself. We couldnt nail down a particular illness but we were feeling more breathless than usual. This made a lot more sense today when I found out that pollution levels had been on the increase.
The medical advice is that it can take a while for pollution to have an impact a persons health so if this was what we were feeling like yesterday when the pollution wasnt as bad, Im worried about what the impact it will be later in the week, once the impact of today has really taken hold. Already were worried to go outside the house.
Deputy prime minister appears to be taking the smog problem more seriously than his coalition partner, writes Peter Walker.
Nick Clegg was asked about the smog on his weekly LBC radio phone in, Call Clegg. Slightly oddly, his co-host Nick Ferrari introduced the issue with the caveat, Obviously, we cant blame the government for this, something others might disagree with.
Clegg said his youngest son, Miguel, had been up much of the night coughing, though he did not know if this was smog-related. He said:
The Green Party has accused David Cameron of trying to shirk responsibility for the smog by blaming the problem on natural causes.
In his interview with BBC Breakfast the prime minister described the smog as a "naturally occurring weather phenomenon".
In the last 10 years nearly 300,000 people have died because of air pollution in the UK, thats the equivalent of a city the size of Newcastle.
Yet, despite the ongoing threat of air pollution and the fact that the EU is taking legal proceedings against the UK on this issue, the Prime Minister has the audacity to lay the entire blame for the smog on Saharan dust.
The areas worst hit so far by pollution are the south-east and London, according to the latest data from a 130 monitoring sites released by Defra.
"Very high" levels were recorded in both regions. The worst of the poor air is forecast to hit East Anglia and parts of the Midlands today.
It is difficult to tell whether dust on cars in the UK comes all the way from the Sahara desert or just a nearby building site.
But there's a lot of it about.
When, as has happened this week, all three factors coincide, the outcome is a "perfect storm" for air pollution, says Helen Dacre, a meteorologist at Reading University.
First, emissions from British traffic and industry have steadily built up in the air. Then gentle easterly winds have brought more pollution from the industrial centres of continental Europe. To make matters worse the dust that has blown in from the Sahara has been whipped up by a storm that produced gale force winds in north Africa.
It is not just England that is being hit by smog. As the corner of that Met Office map shows air pollution is also hitting Holland and Belgium.
Here's the view in Amsterdam:
Twitter users have been sharing smog images from all over England. Here's a selection of the latest:
The pollution is forecast on a scale of one to 10. The purple area shows the places that score 10 on scale where "very high" levels of air pollution are forecast. High levels of pollution are marked in shades of red from 7 to 9 on the scale.
Welcome to our continuing live coverage of the smog alert in the UK as more areas of England are warned to expect "very high" levels of air pollution.
Here's a summary of the latest developments:
On Tuesday the Met Office forecast that there would be high or very high levels of air pollution across southern England and the Midlands yesterday.However, results from 130 monitoring sites showed that it remained low or moderate for most of the day over most of the country.
Don't expect ministers to admit this is a public health emergency. And certainly don't expect local or central government to take action, such as reducing car numbers in the streets or closing down factories. That's what the Chinese and French governments do when the air in their cities is unbreathable and their people are choking. Not us.
Bird experts believe that one of the UK's most valued bird of prey colonies is being targeted after 16 raptors were found dead from poisoning in a small area of the Highlands.
The bodies of 12 red kites and four buzzards have been recovered over the past two weeks within a two-square-mile area on the Black Isle, north of Inverness, in what ornithologists suspect is the largest mass poisoning of birds recorded.
Owen Paterson should be congratulated by scientists, activists and farmers for choosing a science-led alternative to culling
Owen Paterson complained that the badgers moved the goalposts and now the environment secretary has taken his ball home.
The abandonment of a wider roll-out of the badger cull is a stunning and unexpected game-changer. Badgers have proved harder to kill than a rare piece of conviction politics.
Much has been made about the Earth's energy imbalance (extra energy absorbed by the Earth). It is clear the Earth is out of balance, in laypersons' terms, it has a "fever". What isn't clear is how bad the fever is. A new study by Dr. Matt Palmer and Dr. Doug McNeall moves us closer to answering this "fever" question.
"My view is the net radiation at top-of-atmosphere (TOA) energy flow is the most fundamental measure of global warming since it directly represents the accumulation of excess solar energy in the Earth system. The lack of correlation between global surface temperature and TOA over ten years or so tells us that temperature trends are not a good indicator of how much energy is accumulating in the Earth system over the same period. This means that the recently observed "pause" in surface warming may tell us nothing about longer-term global climate change.
"If you want to measure global warming on timescales of about a decade, measure the temperature of the oceans. The deeper you measure, the more accurately you'll measure the warming."
Plans to roll out the controversial badger cull pilots nationwide across England have been dropped by Owen Paterson after a damning independent report found the shoots were not effective or humane.