Guardian Environment News

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Renewables barely feature in building programme for 500 schools

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 11:13pm

Solar panels, heat pumps and sustainable designs bypassed – but now one Somerset school is taking a stand

It is a modernist version of a log cabin nestling in a busy south London suburb – and it is about to make history. The new building for Hackbridge primary, in Sutton, opens next week as England’s first zero-carbon school, able to produce and conserve as much energy as it uses, and even put unused electricity generated back into the grid.

With its wood frame and cladding, solar panels, pumps to collect heat from the ground, and insulation made from recycled newspaper, it is the first school in England to meet the ambitious Passivhaus Plus low-energy design standard.

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Categories: Environment

World leaders urged to 'step back from precipice' of ecological ruin

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 10:01pm

As governments prepare to negotiate a Paris-style UN agreement on nature, 23 former foreign ministers have issued a call for urgent action

Humanity’s ongoing destruction of nature threatens the survival of our species, a group of former foreign ministers has warned, calling on leaders to step back from “the precipice” of irreversible ecological ruin and protect the planet.

The planet’s rapidly warming oceans must be the focus of increased conservation efforts due to their importance in producing oxygen and food for billions of people, the former ministers added, as governments prepare to begin negotiations for a Paris-style UN agreement on nature next week.

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Hundreds of thousands of mussels cooked to death on New Zealand beach in heatwave

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 9:38pm

Northland residents describe ‘heartbreaking’ find as experts warn climate crisis could make it a more frequent sight

Hundreds of thousands of mussels have been cooked to death on a beach in New Zealand’s North Island, with experts saying millions more will die as the effects of the climate crisis accelerate.

The mass die-off in Northland was sparked by “an exceptional period of warm weather” combined with low tides in the middle of the day, which had exposed the shellfish, said Dr Andrew Jeffs, a marine scientist from the University of Auckland.

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Categories: Environment

West Midlands canals to help heat hospitals in renewable energy drive

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 5:18pm

Government pledges to spend £20m turning canals, mines and rail lines into heat sources

The canals of the West Midlands may seem an unlikely source of warmth, but these waterways could soon be used to heat hospitals and tower blocks under a plan to harness Britain’s hidden heating sources.

The government has promised to spend more than £20m on nine schemes across the country to exploit cheap, renewable heat from canals, old mineshafts and in London tube lines.

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Categories: Environment

Sydney water restrictions to ease from 1 March following downpour

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 3:49pm

Drop from level 2 to level 1 restrictions announced after the ‘biggest rain event in 20 years’

Water restrictions will be relaxed across Sydney in a fortnight following the boost to dam levels from the “biggest rain event in 20 years”.

The change from level 2 to level 1 restrictions will take effect from 1 March when water quality in the catchment’s dams is expected to have improved.

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Categories: Environment

Researchers claim solar efficiency breakthrough for flexible 'skin'

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 9:30am

Engineers at the University of Queensland say technology could be used to power small devices, such as a phone, within two years

A flexible solar “skin” that could be used to generate power on homes, cars and phones is a step closer to development after the technology was used to break a world record for electricity conversion, researchers say.

Engineers at the University of Queensland have been working with nanoparticles known as quantum dots that pass electrons and generate an electrical current when exposed to solar energy.

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Categories: Environment

211m gallons of sewage spilled into Fort Lauderdale waterways, officials say

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 6:54am

Spill is enough to fill 320 Olympic-sized pools and fouled Tarpon River, Himmarshee Canal and streets in three neighborhoods

Officials say 211.6m gallons of sewage has spilled into Fort Lauderdale waterways in the past few months.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that that was enough to fill 320 Olympic-sized pools.

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Categories: Environment

'It's a photo orgy': is Yosemite's rare firefall too beautiful for its own good?

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 4:00am

Every February Horsetail Fall is lit by the setting sun, bringing thousands of people to Yosemite to watch the phenomenon

Aaron Meyer vividly remembers his first firefall. The spectacle of Yosemite’s famous Horsetail Fall lit up by the setting sun, which lasts for just a few minutes per night for a few weeks in late February, is sought out obsessively by photographers like him.

“The clouds opened up just before sunset and it looked like someone had taken a match to the waterfall, you watched it go light up from top to bottom,” he says of his first visit in 2011. “Everyone erupted in cheers; it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.”

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Categories: Environment

Ranulph Fiennes labels trophy hunters 'bullying bastards' and calls for UK import ban

Mon, 2020/02/17 - 12:00am

Explorer says halting imports would recognise the devastating impact of colonialism on wildlife

Banning the import and export of big game hunting trophies would recognise the destructive impact European powers have had on wildlife in former African and Asian colonies, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has said.

Speaking to the Guardian, the veteran British explorer said hunting endangered species such as rhinos, elephants and lions to keep their body parts as trophies should be viewed with the same scepticism as Chinese traditional medicine in terms of the damage it does to biodiversity.

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Categories: Environment

Australian government granted BHP repeated approval to increase carbon emissions

Sun, 2020/02/16 - 3:30pm

Mining giant allowed 13% increase in emissions in three years under Coalition policy that promised to limit increases in pollution from big industry

Mining giant BHP has repeatedly applied and been granted approval to increase its emissions under an Australian government policy that promised to limit carbon pollution from big industry.

Government data shows BHP exceeded its initial emissions limits, set under the scheme known as the “safeguard mechanism”, at eight of its 14 large Australian industrial sites since 2016-17.

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Categories: Environment

Human composting could be the future of deathcare

Sun, 2020/02/16 - 12:00pm

Washington becomes first US state to legalise practice as interest in green burials surges in UK

It is viewed as a fitting end for a banana skin or a handful of spent coffee grounds. But now people are being urged to consider human composting and other environmentally friendly “deathcare” options.

Speaking before a talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Seattle on Sunday, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, a professor of soil science and sustainable agriculture at Washington State University, said: “Death certainly isn’t the biggest environmental impact we have in our life process. But we can still look for new alternatives.”

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Categories: Environment

German court orders Tesla to stop felling trees for Gigafactory

Sun, 2020/02/16 - 10:47am

Ruling comes after state environmental office greenlit clearance of 92 hectares of forest

A German court has ordered Tesla to stop clearing forest land near Berlin to build its first European car and battery factory, in what is being hailed as a victory for environmental activists.

The US electric carmaker announced plans last November to build a “Gigafactory” in Grünheide in the eastern state of Brandenburg.

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Categories: Environment

Anger and fear across UK as second storm breaks

Sat, 2020/02/15 - 4:41pm
As Dennis rages in a week after Ciara, flights are cancelled and trains are delayed amid warnings of widespread flooding

Storm Dennis has wreaked havoc on Britain, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and trains, and the deaths of at least two people yesterday.

As the so-called bomb cyclone battered the coastline, as much as a month’s worth of rainfall was predicted overnight and into Sunday morning in some parts of the UK.

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Categories: Environment

More showers expected for NSW as ash and debris found in Sydney's main water supply

Sat, 2020/02/15 - 4:16pm

Wet weather expected to continue in parts of NSW, with showers and possible storms predicted

Sydney and New South Wales coastal residents are in for more wet weather with showers and possible storms predicted throughout the Sunday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said central and southern NSW coastal areas would experience offshore winds, which caused havoc after ex-cyclone Uesi passed through to the south of the country.

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Categories: Environment

Trent Zimmerman backs net zero emissions target but foresees more Coalition infighting

Sat, 2020/02/15 - 12:00pm

The Liberal moderate says a 2050 target will bring Australia into line with its commitments under the Paris agreement

• Australian politics live podcast with Trent Zimmerman: ‘I don’t think we should fund new coal-fired power plants’

The Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman says the Morrison government should work towards adopting a target of net zero emissions by 2050 to bring itself into line with commitments Australia made under the Paris agreement, and to align Canberra’s policy with emissions reduction targets adopted by the states.

In an interview with Guardian Australia’s politics podcast, Zimmerman said it was reasonable for the prime minister to want to do due diligence on what net zero would cost, and to consider what a policy roadmap would look like, “but this is something that we should be looking very seriously at”.

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Categories: Environment

What lies beneath: the nature park covering up a dirty secret

Sat, 2020/02/15 - 6:00am

Once one of western Europe’s biggest landfill sites, Thurrock Thameside is now a thriving haven for wildlife

Standing on top of the visitor centre at Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, you could be forgiven for being disappointed by the view: a large field of brambles. But just 10 years ago, the same view would have been even more disappointing: mountains of rubbish heaped up on one of Europe’s largest landfill sites.

For 50 years, the site absorbed waste belched out by Londoners. Now the only reminder of its past life is the odd piece of discarded metal.

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Categories: Environment

Climate summit calls for urgent action after Australia's fire-hit summer

Fri, 2020/02/14 - 5:43pm

Forceful declaration calls for governments to set short-term zero emissions target to avoid catastrophic warming

The megafires of Australia’s summer “are a harbinger of life and death on a hotter Earth”, a climate summit has said in a forceful declaration for urgent and dramatic climate action.

The Climate Emergency Summit, held in Melbourne this week and of which Guardian Australia was a partner, released a declaration saying the warming world was a clear threat to Australian society and civilisation.

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Categories: Environment

PM must prioritise climate or Cop26 will fail, say leading figures

Fri, 2020/02/14 - 12:05pm

IEA welcomes appointment of Alok Sharma but others worry about nature of his dual role

Boris Johnson must put the climate crisis at the top of his government’s agenda if crunch UN talks this year are to be a success, leading international figures have told the Guardian.

Alok Sharma was appointed on Thursday as the business secretary and president of Cop26, the UN talks on the climate crisis to be held this November in Glasgow. Some climate experts are concerned that he won’t be able to stand up to governments reluctant to make strong commitments to cut greenhouse gases, while at the same time supporting British businesses struggling in the turmoil of Brexit.

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Categories: Environment

Flying high, not getting high: the poppy-eating cockatoos of Tasmania are no opiate addicts

Fri, 2020/02/14 - 12:00pm

Scientists say it’s the poppies’ fat and protein, not their narcotic alkaloids, that keep the birds coming back for more

Tasmanian farmers have reported their poppy crops are being ravaged by cockatoos, but experts say it is likely that it is a taste for the fatty seeds, and not an addiction to opiates, that is attracting the birds.

Tasmanian farmer Bernard Brain told the ABC on Tuesday that flocks of about 300 white cockatoos had decimated his harvest by ripping capsules from his poppy flowers and eating them, leading him to believe that the native birds were addicted to the alkaloid found in the seed.

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Categories: Environment

Delta announces $1bn plan to be first carbon neutral airline

Fri, 2020/02/14 - 9:19am

Airline is committing $1bn over next 10 years to mitigate all emissions from its global business

Delta announced an ambitious plan on Friday to become the first US airline to go carbon neutral, committing $1bn over the next 10 years to mitigate all emissions from its global business.

The move by Delta will put pressure on other airlines to follow suit at a time when the UN is warning that airplane emissions of carbon dioxide will triple by 2050.

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Categories: Environment