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London smog warning as Saharan sand sweeps southern England

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59pm
Strong winds and desert storms deposit fine dust on UK streets amid fears of high air pollution levels in capital

The Met Office has forecast one of the year's worst smogs in London this week, following a combination of strong winds and powerful dust storms in the Sahara that has deposited fine red dust on the streets of southern England.

Cars in London, including the prime minister's outside 10 Downing Street, were covered in a thin layer of dust after overnight showers deposited the sand on much of the city.

Categories: Environment

Telegraph and Mail concede on climate change

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59pm

Newspapers critical of climate change science tell MPs global warming is happening and humans play a role in it

One is home to some of the UK's best known commentators casting doubt on climate change science, while the other claims "climate change is on ice" and "huge uncertainties surround the science of climate change".

But both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail have now told MPs they believe climate change is happening and humans play a role in it.

Categories: Environment

Japan considers smaller whale catch after international court ruling

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59pm
Tokyo says it could try to rescue its Antarctic whaling programme by sharply reducing catch quotas

Japan could try to rescue its Antarctic whaling programme by sharply reducing catch quotas after the highest UN court ordered a halt, rejecting Tokyo's argument that the catch was for scientific purposes and not mainly for human consumption.

Categories: Environment

Clegg blocks Cameron's plan for windfarm cap

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59pm
Lib Dems claim leader rejected Tory proposal to limit the number of new onshore turbines

Nick Clegg has blocked a proposal by David Cameron to restrict the construction of onshore windfarms, a Liberal Democrat source has said.

It is understood the prime minister presented Clegg with the plans more than a week ago, which would have put an overall cap on the number of turbines built in the countryside.

Categories: Environment

WA coral reefs at risk from highest ocean temperatures in 215 years

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59pm

Scientists say warmer waters are 'unprecedented since at least 1795' and coral at severe risk

High ocean temperatures off the West Australian coast are unprecedented since at least 1795 and pose a significant threat to the states coral reefs, scientists say.

Core samples taken from coral colonies around the Houtman-Abrolhos Islands, west of Geraldton, have provided scientists with records of ocean temperature and sea levels going back 215 years.

Categories: Environment

Halt to whaling program will not harm Japanese relations, says George Brandis

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59pm

Attorney general says ties remain in excellent condition despite differences on 'narrow issue of whaling

The attorney general, George Brandis, has said the decision by the International court of justice to rule in Australias favour, ordering a halt to Japans whaling program in the Southern ocean, will not affect relations between the two countries.

The UN court ruled 12-4 on Monday that Japans whaling program was not, as it claims, conducted for scientific research, and should cease with immediate effect.

A whale of a win! Paul Watson is a global hero and Australians can all feel proud.

Categories: Environment

Jane Goodall blames 'chaotic note taking' for plagiarism controversy

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59pm
Scientist revises her book Seeds of Hope after allegations 12 sections were lifted from other websites

Leading primatologist Jane Goodall has blamed a "hectic work schedule" and her "chaotic method of note taking" for a plagarism controversy surrounding her reissued book.

Speaking ahead of the publication of a revised edition of Seeds of Hope, first published in August 2013, Goodall, said she had learned lessons following reports in the Washington Post last year that at least 12 sections of the book were lifted from other websites including Wikipedia.

Categories: Environment

tip to tip

The Field Lab - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 6:23pm
Ben's April tip to tip... 49 1/2".  81,94,46,0,B
Categories: Sustainable SW Blogs

Death of Cincinnati's Sumatran rhino Suci deals blow to breeding program

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59pm

Sumatran rhino Suci, one of only 10 in captivity, died Sunday
As few as 100 may remain in native Indonesia and Malaysia

The death of the Cincinnati zoo's lone female Sumatran rhino has dealt a blow to a breeding program aimed at saving one of the world's most critically endangered species.

The rhino, named Suci, was one of only 10 in captivity worldwide and died Sunday after showing symptoms of a disease that killed her mother, although zoo officials say it will be months before the final results of a necropsy are available.

Categories: Environment

We must act now to stop the devastating effects of climate change

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59pm

The one thing lacking in your otherwise excellent coverage of the latest devastating IPCC report on the likely impacts of climate change was a sense of urgency. Your editorial (31 March) suggests that the report represents a "careful, nuanced attempt to wake people up".  But these very same alarm bells have been sounding ever louder since the first IPCC report was published nearly 25 years ago, yet over that same period annual global greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 60%.

As a result, an increasing number of experts agree that we will need to leave around 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we're to have any chance of avoiding 2 degrees warming.

Categories: Environment

Stourhead steps back to Jane Austen's time

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59pm
Stourhead, Wiltshire: A circle of cheerful children, some very small, all in period dress and garlanded with flowers, were vigorously dancing a round

There is always a sense of expectation when you take first-time visitors to Stourhead and down the winding path towards the spot where they stop and stare in sheer wonder, past the Palladian Bridge and the sheet of water fringed by temples, at the Pantheon framed in that perfectly contrived classical landscape. But this time, our attention was caught long before.

The yard of the Spread Eagle Inn, close to Stourton church on the Stourhead estate, is a place where people often gather, and maybe sit down for a rest, a chat and an ice-cream after their walk. This time there were musicians with mandolin and drum, and a circle of cheerful children, some very small, all in period dress and garlanded with flowers (they might have been extras in a Jane Austen dramatisation), vigorously dancing a round, supported by smiling parents and friends clapping and stamping in time to the drum.

Categories: Environment

Does Japan's 'research whaling' help conserve whales?

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59pm

The International Court of Justice will hand down its decision today in the case against Japan's whaling activities brought by Australia. Japan says its whaling is part of a scientific programme. With your help, Karl Mathiesen asks, does the research help save whales?

Join the debate. Post your views in the comments below, email karl.mathiesen.freelance@guardian.co.uk or tweet @karlmathiesen

5.36pm BST

Today's ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) displayed a level of resolution and common sense rarely seen in global decision making. While they declined to assess the scientific merit of the programme, the judges found that Japan's behaviour was inconsistent with a nation solely interested in whale research. The conclusion was that the Japanese whaling research programme, Jarpa II, is simply a front for a not very successful commercial operation.

This conclusion is backed by scientists working in the field, who say there is no justification for the use of lethal methods in research. Technology allows scientists to track and identify whales, gather DNA samples and assess diet without killing a single whale. Even if dead whales were deemed to be necessary, says Ken Collins, thousands of the mammals strand themselves on beaches worldwide each year.

5.32pm BST

Reminder: Tony Abbott is off to Japan in just over a week to talk trade. Needs a position on this pronto. #icj #whaling

@GreenpeaceUK Great news.. Now to stop Japan whaling in North Pacific and the dolphin drives. The fight goes on, the cruelty has to stop.

A whale of a win! Paul Watson is a global hero and Australians can all feel proud.

And my thanks also for the great Australian legal team who helped bring this about. KRudd

4.54pm BST

There are also other valid arguments as to why the Japanese, Norwegians, Greenlanders, etc. should not kill and eat these animals:

"Some 18-thousand Dalls porpoise are killed each year off Northern Japan. Permits to kill some three thousand dolphins and small whales off the main island of Honshu are in effect. Most of the dolphins taken are slaughtered for meat. An increasing number are taken into captivity and shipped to oceanaria, mostly in Asia.

Why interview Greenpeace for an opinion? They did NOTHING!!!! Sorry, not nothing, they dressed some people up as whales and collected money. They also collected some more money near one of their ships in port on some open days. Oh yeah, almost forgot, they also did a few mail outs to collect more money.

And didn't all that money go some good direct action. They certainly wrote a very stern letter, well not stern....more apologetic..., but they did write a letter.

I wonder if Tony Abbott will have the guts to give praise to Kevin Rudd for stopping the Japanese Whale hunt.

Well, let's hope this puts it to rest. The meat has been going to waste in Japan for years. Hardly anybody eats the stuff beyond a few old duffers nostalgic for the bad old days when protein was scarce, and a few ridiculous rump-imperialist uyoku.

There has been a fall in the amount of scientific papers in the last few years and it seems only one requires the killing of whales.

4.49pm BST

The 2005 report of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) found that:

The research claims to address a question or questions that cannot be practically or scientifically achieved by non-lethal means. In this case, the use of non-lethal means (biopsy) has been clearly demonstrated to address temporal and spatial changes in stock structuring, which is an important component of the RMP.

3.06pm BST

Ken Collins, a senior research fellow at the University of Southampton, said there was no justification for using lethal methods for researching whales.

"We do not need to kill whales to study them. Science has moved on a long way. We can learn much more by keeping them alive. There is a huge raft of techniques based on direct observation, photography and tracking available," said Collins.

2.55pm BST

The ICJ ruling is available here.

2.45pm BST

It will be interesting to watch how the Australian coalition government reacts to this given that the court action was the former Labor government's initiative, prime minister Tony Abbott publicly opposed the move and the PM is heading to Japan next week for trade talks.

''Coalition policy is not to take Japan to the international court. We are against whaling, but we wouldn't seek to advance [the cause] in that particular way,'' Abbott said in 2010.

This is a truly historic decision & vindicates the decision our action. It means that so called scientific whaling is no more!

Great news upholding Australia's case against whaling in International Court of Justice-proud of decision of Labor Govt to take legal action

Labor is proud to have launched the action in the #ICJ to finally bring Japan's so-called scientific whaling program to an end

2.21pm BST

Philip Hoare's fascinating comment piece looks at cultural context of Japanese whaling and asks what the decision means for international whaling as a whole.

Japan's claim to commercial whaling as a cultural expression is surely a shaky one, since it only began large-scale whaling in the 20th century but it was taught to them by European whalers. Then came the second world war and the horrors of the nuclear bomb. Having reduced the Japanese nation to submission, the occupying Allied powers turned decommissioned Japanese vessels into whaling ships, and with western observers aboard were sent out to kill whales and use their meat to feed a starving nation...

Meanwhile, here in the west, unchallenged by international courts, Norway, Iceland and Greenland continue whaling. In the Faroes, in "European" waters, thousands of pilot whales die each year, driven from the open Atlantic on to the islands' beaches and butchered. What will today's decision mean for these whale hunts being carried out on our own doorstep? Many more whales and dolphins die each year through pollution, bycatch, ship-strike: who is going to legislate for them?

2.15pm BST

Japan has accepted the court decision, saying it "regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision". The Financial Times said:

Koji Tsuruoka, Japans representative in the case, said his country was disappointed but will abide by the judgment of the court as a state that places a great importance on the international legal order and the rule of law as a basis of the international community. He did not elaborate on the specific steps Japan would take.

2.04pm BST

I contacted Peter Bethune from Earthrace Conservation, who earlier said the decision in the Hague would deter "copycat" programmes from emerging in Russia and Korea.

Bethune said there were rumours in Japan that Russia was planning to introduce a scientific whaling programme of it's own. The Russian proposal was reportedly predicated on Japan winning today's case in the Hague.

1.09pm BST

The ruling in the Hague will not stop Japan from developing another scientific whaling programme to replace the now outlawed JARPA II. But it will have to prove the research cannot be done without killing whales.

The court did not find that lethal research methods were unscientific. Judge Peter Tomka said in summing up: "The use of lethal samples per se is not unreasonable in achieving the objectives of JARPA II."

12.41pm BST

Paul Jepson, a wildlife population researcher at the Zoological Society of London, said there was no need for whales to be killed for research.

I do not believe that scientific studies of whales (or any cetacean species) must be lethal in order to be effective for management and conservation of the species. There are many other methods scientists can use to monitor marine mammal populations. The use of the term scientific to justify the lethal killing of whales by Japan is not supported by any marine mammal scientists that I know in the present age. Instead, as a scientist myself, I always felt the practice of scientific whaling gave science (and scientists) a very bad name in the public eye. There are many other alternative scientific methods: aerial/boat surveys; satellite telemetry; micro-dart skin biopsies, etc. that can now be used as to effectively study the health and conservation status of marine mammals populations without the need to kill them.

11.48am BST

Earthrace Conservation founder Pete Bethune said the decision would set a precedent for whaling practices worldwide:

The verdict makes Japans Research Whaling program, which has killed many thousands of whales in the name of science, illegal. It also halts any likely copycat programs from the likes of Russia and Korea which had the decision favoured Japan had been expected to introduce research whaling programs of their own.

We welcome this verdict which will hopefully mark the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The myth that this hunt was in any way scientific can now be dismissed once and for all. We urge Japan to abide by this decision and not attempt to continue whaling through any newly invented loopholes.

Todays decision wasnt about science or geography or politics. It wasnt about Australia versus Japan. It was about the unacceptable exploitation of animals.

"Whether in international waters or not, one whale hunted is one too many. Neither commercial nor scientific whaling have any place in the 21st century.

For a long time it has been evident that science has been abused at a breath-taking scale to justify Japans continued commercial hunting of protected whales and despite a heavily subsidised and ever-dwindling market for whale meat in Japan.

With this ruling, Japan must clearly cease its whaling activities in the Antarctic. Next, the world needs to focus its attention on Japans whaling in the North Pacific, where it continues to issue permits to kill up to 500 whales annually in hunts using the same scientific clause that has now been condemned beyond dispute by the international court.

Despite the moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan has continued to claim the lives of thousands of the gentle giants of the sea in a place that should be their safe haven. Sea Shepherd and I, along with millions of concerned people around the world, certainly hope that Japan will honour this ruling by the international court and leave the whales in peace.

11.14am BST

Japan's whaling research plan issued after the international convention for the regulation of whaling (ICRW) banned commercial whaling in 1986, said:

Japan neither believes that the cessation of commercial whaling subsequent to the moratorium decision exempts the contracting governments from [scientific whaling], nor does it believe that it is proper to disrupt the continuous progress being made on the study of whales.

10.44am BST


The court has voted 12 to 4 that Japan has not acted in conformity with several clauses of the international convention for the regulation of whaling. It must cease all special permits and refrain from issuing any more.

10.29am BST

You can watch the verdict live here.

10.12am BST

ICJ verdict, Judge Peter Tomka said:

The court has concerns whether Japan's research programme is actually designed to meet its stated goals.

The increased take size under Japan's JARPA II programme was not driven by scientific considerations.

"The court finds that the use of lethal samples per se is not unreasonable in achieving the objectives of JARPA II."

"The target sample sizes in JARPA II are not reasonable in achieving the programmes objective."

10.07am BST

I'm watching the long-winded verdict from the ICJ now. It seems like the court will allow the Japanese to continue whaling, but at much reduced rates. Stay tuned.

The 'vibe' of the #ICJ decision so far- #Whaling can be done for scientific research... but Japan doing on too big a scale.

10.01am BST

Australia's court action against Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean will be decided this morning in the UN's nternational court of justice in the Hague.

Australia says Japan's claim that its whaling is purely for scientific purposes is a disguise for commercial whaling banned under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, to which Japan is a signatory.

"Japan's whaling is purely for the purposes of obtaining scientific data, so that whale resources can be sustainably maintained."

Categories: Environment

Climate catastrophes in other countries will hit UK's food security, experts say

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59am
Reliance on imported food and rising population leaves Britain exposed and vulnerable to climate shocks overseas

Britain can expect more droughts, heatwaves, storms surges and floods from climate change but may be most impacted by climate shocks in other countries, according to leading business analysts responding to UN climate science report released on Monday.

With nearly 40% of all UK food imported to feed a population of about 63m and overseas assets worth trillions of dollars, the UK is particularly exposed to climate change, says Celine Herweijer, a member of the climate change team at PWC.

Categories: Environment

UK green bank invests £460m in offshore windfarms

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 11:59am

Windfarms off coast of Yorkshire and North Wales receive biggest investments to date, reports BusinessGreen

The UK green investment bank (GIB) has made two of its biggest investments to date, ploughing over £460m into two of the country's largest offshore wind projects.

The government-backed bank confirmed this morning that it is to take equity stakes in both the Westermost Rough offshore wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire and the Gwynt y Môr project off the coast of North Wales.

Categories: Environment

Guest on Special 100th Episode The Higherside Chats - Listen

Holy Scrap - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 9:50am
I was honored when host Greg Carlwood asked me if I would return to his show The Higherside Chats and be a part of a 100th episode featuring his favorite guests. Of course I said yes and I brought Mikey along for fun. Have a listen.
Categories: Sustainable SW Blogs

B&Q to ditch plastic plant trays for biodegradable 'teabags'

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59am
UK's biggest garden retailer to sell bedding plants in up to 95% peat-free compost within trays made from corn starch and coir

The UK's largest garden retailer is to ditch plastic trays used for bedding plants and replace them with biodegradable "teabag-style" packaging which will allow plants to be placed straight into the ground.

The move by B&Q is part of its drive to make gardening more environmentally friendly. The retailer has also committed to removing peat from all its horticultural products. The so-called "Easygrow" technology roots each bedding plant in up to 95% peat-free compost and will be incorporated into 20 varieties of bedding plants at the peak planting time this spring.

Categories: Environment

Somerset Levels river dredging begins after flood-hit winter

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59am
Local residents watch diggers set to work on banks of river Parrett, three months after area was flooded

With a splash and a slurp, the first digger-loads of 400,000 tonnes of silt were scooped out of a west country river on Monday as a £5m dredging scheme was started to try to prevent the Somerset Levels drowning under floodwater again.

Three months after homes and businesses began to go under water, the government's promise to start dredging the rivers Parrett and Tone by the start of April was fulfilled.

Categories: Environment

IPCC report: climate impacts on wildlife

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59am
Plants, animals and entire ecosystems are on the move as rising temperatures force species to seek out cooler climes

One focus of the latest report from the UN panel on climate change is the impact on Earth's ecosystems. The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that in recent decades, many plant and animal species have moved their range, changed numbers or shifted their seasonal activities as a result of warmer temperatures.

Categories: Environment

Climate change action is the best insurance policy in world history

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 5:59am

Insuring our homes and lives is uncontroversial. A new IPCC report on the impacts of global warming on food, health and security shows why planetary insurance is also a no-brainer

As someone living in the rich west, I am far from unusual in insuring my life, my house, my travel, my teeth and even my dog. What I do not have, and what the new landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes very clear is urgently needed, is global warming insurance.

While I am happy to pay relatively small premiums to protect myself from the remote chance of my house collapsing or losing a suitcase, the world - so far - has been unwilling to pay the small premium needed to protect against far more likely and more devastating risks. The new IPCC report, the consensus of hundreds of the best scientists on the planet and signed off by the world's governments, set outs the impacts of global warming and focuses on risk for the first time. The report details what we'd get in our climate change insurance policy: a reduction in the risk of the following:

Categories: Environment

IPCC report highlights the importance of carbon targets

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2014/04/01 - 3:54am
The scientific evidence emphasises the need to stick to the decarbonisation trajectory in the UK's carbon budgets Continue reading...
Categories: Environment
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