Guardian Environment News

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Updated: 2 hours 12 min ago

NSW green light to irrigators to harvest rainfall angers downstream residents

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 9:03pm

Menindee’s Graeme McCrabb, who raised awareness of mass fish kills, says he is heartbroken by the state government’s decision

The New South Wales government has given the green light to irrigation farmers in the north-west of the state to harvest the recent rainfall, pleasing some but causing anger in towns such as Menindee and Wilcannia and on the lower Darling where the river has not flowed for a year.

The lifting of the embargo for three days will be welcomed particularly by cotton farmers who have lobbied the NSW water minister, Melinda Pavey, warning that unless they are able to harvest the water their infrastructure will be damaged.

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Categories: Environment

Wildfires are ruinous - so how to stop them happening in the first place?

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 9:00pm

In the wake of destruction caused by wildfires, most recently in Australia, experts are seeking ways of limiting their impact by managing forests better

Vast waves of fire have torn through Australia in recent months, leaving forests of skinned trees in their wake. The wildfires have been one of the most damaging in the country’s history – more than 11m hectares (27m acres) have burned, killing 33 people and decimating wildlife populations.

But they are just the latest in a succession of destructive blazes that have been flaring across the planet – even in the Arctic circle – in the past five years. The response from authorities, in Australia, the Americas and the Mediterranean often seems scrambled and ineffective.

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Categories: Environment

Trevor St Baker says Collinsville coal plant would need shielding from climate policy change

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 8:55pm

Power baron questions whether there is sound business case for project, saying government would need to indemnify it

Politically connected power baron Trevor St Baker says there is no way a new coal-fired power plant will proceed at Collinsville unless the Morrison government agrees to shield the project from a change of climate policy.

A day after Scott Morrison left open the option of his government indemnifying a new coal plant in Collinsville from future carbon risk, St Baker told Guardian Australia no project at that scale could proceed without an indemnity from the commonwealth.

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Categories: Environment

'Triple whammy': drought, fires and floods push Australian rivers into crisis

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 8:04pm

The combination of extreme weather events will have cascading impacts on fish, platypus and invertebrates, threatening some with extinction

Australia’s rivers are being hit by a “triple whammy” of impacts that will have serious and long-term effects on species and could push some to extinction, according to experts.

Drought, bushfires in river catchments and now widespread heavy rain in the east of the country have created a cascade of impacts on fish, invertebrates and platypus.

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Categories: Environment

Fossil fuel pollution behind 4m premature deaths a year – study

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 8:00pm

Burning gas, coal and oil costs global economy $8bn a day and particularly harms children

Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is responsible for more than 4m premature deaths around the world each year and costs the global economy about $8bn a day, according to a study.

The report, from Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, found that burning gas, coal and oil causes three times the number of deaths as road traffic accidents globally.

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Categories: Environment

Florida: $20,000 reward offered after two dolphins found stabbed or shot dead

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 3:32pm
  • Officials say dolphins had what looked like bullet wounds
  • Dead mammals found in waters off Naples and Pensacola

US federal authorities have offered a reward of up to $20,000 after two dolphins were found with gruesome and life-ending injuries along Florida’s Gulf coast in recent weeks.

Related: DDT and other banned chemicals pose threat to vulnerable dolphins on Great Barrier Reef

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Categories: Environment

Pacific lamprey project in peril after floods wash away hundreds of fish

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 8:27am

At least 250 unaccounted for after heavy rainfall across Pacific north-west overwhelmed cage of fish waiting to be released

A pioneering tribal biodiversity project to restore the sacred Pacific lamprey population has been dealt a major blow after huge floods washed away hundreds of fish before they could be released into the wild.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) have spent two decades reintroducing the lamprey into tributaries of the Columbia River after US government dams and industrial fishing wiped out the endemic species.

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Categories: Environment

The government must invest in cycling. Here's how to do it

Tue, 2020/02/11 - 12:00am

Co-chair of all-party parliamentary group on cycling and walking sets out a manifesto for active travel

The all-party parliamentary group for cycling and walking has, in collaboration with its 80 member groups, set out a manifesto for cycling and walking. The economic case for investment in these modes of travel is strong. We get £5.50 for every £1 we invest and the benefits are cross-cutting: a healthier population; stronger, safer local communities; better access to jobs and education; and lower levels of pollution.

Almost three years ago the government committed to a cycling and walking investment strategy for England, with a stated aim to return walking levels to 300 stages (ie part of a journey) per person per year, double cycling stages by 2025 and increase walking to school. As many people pointed out at the time, the investment strategy had little in the way of actual investment. Indeed, dedicated funding for cycling from government since then has been sporadic and meagre, with only a handful of cities investing at the levels required to catch up with the level we see in neighbouring, successful countries for active travel such as the Netherlands.

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Categories: Environment

Mike Cannon-Brookes says Zali Steggall’s bill could repair Australia’s reputation on climate

Mon, 2020/02/10 - 7:09pm

Exclusive: Atlassian co-founder says the MP’s bill is the exact type of action we need and deserves bipartisan support

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has thrown his support behind a climate action bill proposed by the independent Zali Steggall and has urged the major parties to put down the cudgels and support it.

And the Australian Energy Council, representing major electricity and gas businesses, said the Steggall bill deserved to be seriously considered as it had the potential to deliver certainty and a path forward for the national economy.

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Categories: Environment

Queensland braces for more wild weather and NSW man rescued after 12 hours in floodwaters

Mon, 2020/02/10 - 6:17pm

Rainfall across the east coast is welcome news for the water grid as Sydney’s Warragamba dam levels reach 69% and continue to rise

Queensland is bracing for more wild weather with storms forecast to lash the state’s southeast.

Heavy falls are expected daily this week before becoming isolated to the state’s south-east corner into the weekend, bureau forecaster Kimba Wong said.

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Categories: Environment

Alarm over collapse of chinstrap penguin numbers

Mon, 2020/02/10 - 5:01pm

Global heating suspected to be behind sharp decline in populations across Antarctic islands

Colonies of chinstrap penguins have fallen by more than half across islands in Antarctica, prompting scientific concern that “something is broken” in the world’s wildest ecosystem.

After more than a month counting chicks in the South Shetland Islands, researchers suspect global heating is behind the sharp fall in numbers of the distinctive birds, which get their name from a black line that runs below the beak from cheek to cheek.

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Categories: Environment

India’s ancient tribes battle to save their forest home from mining

Mon, 2020/02/10 - 12:00am

A rash of newly approved mines could destroy swathes of the Hasdeo Arand forest – and with it the biodiversity local villagers depend on for survival

Words and photographs by Brian Cassey

Laksmi Shankar Porte emerged from the forest. In his hands were an axe, a small scythe and a large crop of grass. Like many of the Gond people living in India’s Hasdeo Arand forest, he will use the grass to make ropes, brooms and mats.

The Hasdeo Arand is one of the largest contiguous stretches of dense forest in central India, covering about 170,000 hectares (420,080 acres) of the state of Chhattisgarh. It is rich in biodiversity, contains many threatened species and is home to elephants, leopards and sloth bears.

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Categories: Environment

Storm Ciara hammers UK with hurricane-force winds and floods

Sun, 2020/02/09 - 7:36pm

Northern English towns inundated again as transport systems struggle to cope, but snow expected on Monday as temperatures drop

Hurricane-force winds and flooding have caused severe disruption across much of Britain, including damage to hundreds of properties and the cancellation of trains, flights and ferries.

Storm Ciara brought heavy rain and winds of more than 90mph, knocking out power to homes in some areas. The upheaval is likely to last into the start of the working week and there is more bad weather to come.

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Categories: Environment

Sydney's Warragamba Dam levels surge to 62% capacity after torrential rain

Sun, 2020/02/09 - 6:20pm

512,452 megalitre deluge across all the city’s catchments equivalent of nine months’ worth of water in less than a week

• NSW floods and weather: rain eases but chaos continues – live

The water level in Sydney’s dams has risen by more than 20 percentage points in one day after torrential rain on Sunday brought the best inflows for nearly three years.

More than 363,681 megalitres flowed into Warragamba Dam alone on Sunday as the dam rose from 43.8% to 61.8% of capacity. Across all of Sydney’s catchments, 512,452 megalitres poured in.

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Categories: Environment

Zali Steggall to unveil climate change bill and push for a conscience vote for MPs

Sun, 2020/02/09 - 9:30am

Now is the time for ‘modern Liberals’ to speak for their community rather than toe the party line, independent MP says

The woman who toppled Tony Abbott in Warringah at the last election on a platform of climate change action now has the whole parliament in her sights as she seeks bipartisan support for a climate change framework bill aimed at transitioning Australia to a decarbonised economy.

Zali Steggall – along with her fellow crossbenchers Rebekah Sharkie, Helen Haines and Andrew Wilkie – will release the climate change national framework for adaption and mitigation bill on Monday, ahead of its introduction to the parliament in March.

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Categories: Environment

Labor's Richard Marles won't rule out supporting new coal developments

Sat, 2020/02/08 - 7:57pm

Deputy leader says market should be allowed to make its own decisions and coal will play a part in the economy for decades

Labor’s deputy leader has not ruled out the party supporting new coal developments, saying it would be a decision for the markets despite previously declaring it would be a “good thing” if the thermal coal market collapsed.

In a somewhat difficult and at times awkward interview with David Speers on the ABC’s Insiders program, Richard Marles struggled to articulate the difference between Labor’s coal policy and the Coalition’s, stating “coal will continue to play a part within our economy for decades to come”, while demanding the government do more on climate policy.

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Categories: Environment

Britain must be a world leader in all forms of green energy

Sat, 2020/02/08 - 3:03pm
The UK must lead the ‘globalisation of the green new deal’ and a first step would be to build a Severn tidal barrage

The phrase “a stitch in time saves nine” dates back to the 18th century, near the start of the Industrial Revolution, from which point global warming has escalated to today’s levels, with the last five years the hottest on record worldwide.

New Labour used a more prosaic phrase – “invest to save” – to describe the concept of spending money now to avoid the much higher costs and potential damage we would face if we waited until a problem reached its peak.

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Categories: Environment

Activists try to occupy British Museum in protest against BP ties

Sat, 2020/02/08 - 11:55am

Environmental group puts pressure on museum to end its partnership with oil company

Dozens of activists have coated themselves in plaster and are trying to occupy the British Museum overnight in a bid to pressure the institution to cut ties with oil corporation BP.

About 60 protesters were taking part in the defiant act of impromptu sculpture making as the museum in London attempted to close its doors at 5pm on Saturday.

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Categories: Environment

Fear in Mexico as twin deaths expose threat to monarch butterflies and their defenders

Sat, 2020/02/08 - 8:19am

The deaths of two butterfly conservationists have drawn focus to a troubling tangle of disputes, resentments and violence

The annual migration of monarch butterflies from the US and Canada is one of the most resplendent sights in the natural world – a rippling orange-and-black wave containing millions of butterflies fluttering instinctively southward to escape the winter cold.

The spectacle when they reach their destination in central Mexico is perhaps even more astonishing. Patches of alpine forest turn from green to orange as the monarchs roost in the fir trees, the sheer weight of butterflies causing branches to sag to the point of snapping. Tens of thousands of the insects bounce haphazardly overhead, searching replenishment from nearby plants.

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Categories: Environment

After the wildfires: tourist firms in California's wine country say no one is coming

Sat, 2020/02/08 - 4:00am

Businesses are still struggling months after a massive wildfire hit Sonoma county and prompted widespread evacuations and panic

Like so many other wine country towns dependent on tourism and out-of-town visitors, the California resort community of Guerneville typically experiences a winter downturn.

Business owners know to prepare for it. Restaurant owners scale back seasonal staff. Hotels offer discounted rates.

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Categories: Environment