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Kenya suffers worst locust infestation in 70 years as millions of insects swarm farmland

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2020/01/25 - 8:51pm

UN urges immediate action as east African nations already experiencing devastating hunger see large areas of crops destroyed

The worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years has seen hundreds of millions of the insects swarm into the east African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger.

“Even cows are wondering what is happening,” said Ndunda Makanga, who spent hours Friday trying to chase the locusts from his farm. “Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.”

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Categories: Environment

Australian government adviser urges threatened species overhaul after bushfires

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2020/01/25 - 12:00pm

Exclusive: Helene Marsh backs calls for the creation of national scientific monitoring system to help protect wildlife

A senior adviser to the federal government on threatened species has backed calls for the creation of a national scientific monitoring system after the bushfire crisis to help fix Australia’s “very uneven” record in protecting endangered wildlife.

Helene Marsh, chair of the national threatened species scientific committee and an emeritus professor of environmental science at James Cook University, said the scale of the ecological tragedy had made Australians more aware of the risks facing the country’s unique animals and plants and provided an opportunity to improve conservation.

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Categories: Environment

Court to probe Carrie Symonds’ influence on PM after cancellation of badger cull

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2020/01/25 - 10:35am
Boris Johnson’s partner and animal rights activist was briefed by Badger Trust weeks before the policy was changed

The influence exerted on the prime minister by his partner, Carrie Symonds, will be explored in court after permission was granted last week for a judicial review into how the government came to pull a cull on badgers in Derbyshire.

The case could embarrass Boris Johnson and raise questions about the government’s willingness to listen to its advisers when formulating policy.

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Categories: Environment

Cacao not gold: ‘chocolate trees’ offer future to Amazon tribes

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2020/01/25 - 6:00am

In Brazil’s largest indigenous reserve thousands of saplings have been planted as an alternative to profits from illegal gold mining

The villagers walk down the grassy landing strip, past the wooden hut housing the health post and into the thick forest, pointing out the seedlings they planted along the way. For these Ye’kwana indigenous men, the skinny saplings, less than a metre high, aren’t just baby cacao trees but green shoots of hope in a land scarred by the violence, pollution and destruction wrought by illegal gold prospecting. That hope is chocolate.

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Categories: Environment

'Kids are taking the streets': climate activists plan avalanche of events as 2020 election looms

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2020/01/25 - 4:00am

Young demonstrators aim to make the climate crisis a central issue of the presidential campaign

Organizers in the youth climate movement plan an avalanche of activities beginning next week, determined to make the future of the climate the major issue of the 2020 election.

Capitalizing on turnout in the September climate strikes, when 6 million people worldwide turned out to demand urgent action to address the escalating ecological emergency, young US organizers are making the leap from mobilization to demands. They’re planning widespread voter activation in the 2020 US presidential election as well as direct action targeting the fossil fuel industry and the banks and politicians that enable it.

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Categories: Environment

A rewilding triumph: wolves help to reverse Yellowstone degradation

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2020/01/25 - 4:00am

Twenty-five years ago, the national park attempted to reintroduce wolves – now scientists are celebrating it as one of the greatest rewilding stories ever

Twenty-five years ago this month, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, America’s first national park and an ecosystem dangerously out of whack owing to the extirpation of its top predator.

This monumental undertaking marked the first deliberate attempt to return a top-level carnivore to a large ecosystem. Now scientists are celebrating the gray wolves’ successful return from the brink of extinction as one of the greatest rewilding stories the world has ever seen.

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Categories: Environment

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The Field Lab - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 4:05pm

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Categories: Sustainable SW Blogs

Ministers doing little to achieve 2050 emissions target, say top scientists

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 11:38am

Experts call for sweeping policy changes and warn against Heathrow expansion

Expanding Heathrow airport is unlikely to be compatible with the UK’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, leading scientists have said, adding that government policies are lacking in many other key areas from home insulation and transport to carbon capturing.

Achieving the net zero goal will require sweeping policy changes, but scientists are concerned that little has so far been forthcoming from ministers.

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 10:28am

The pick of the best flora and fauna photos from around the world, including white-tailed eagles and a detained lion cub

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Categories: Environment

High risk of injuries in Denmark's live piglet export trade, audit warns

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 9:08am

Cheaper labour and welfare costs have driven animal exports from Denmark to Poland, but critics fear corners are being cut

The Danish government has been labelled “unsatisfactory” and “ineffective” in an audit of its ballooning piglet trade published today.

In 2008 3.2 million live pigs were exported from Denmark; by 2018 that number had risen to 9.6 million. But the government continued to carry out just 100 checks a year up until 2018, according to the audit, with just 0.4% of transports being checked.

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Categories: Environment

Proposed changes to regulations 'will make buildings less energy efficient'

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 8:05am

Damning assessment by group of leading architects and engineers describes government plan as ‘a step backwards’

Proposed changes to building regulations in England and Wales are likely to make buildings less energy efficient not more, a group of leading architects and engineers has warned.

In a damning assessment of proposals to reform Part L of the Building Regulations, which sets the minimum energy performance standards for new dwellings, a growing coalition of professionals has described the changes as “a step backwards, in a climate where we need a huge leap forward”.

“The proposals are framed as an improvement, but they actually represent a reduction in the energy performance standards of buildings,” says Clara Bagenal George, a building services engineer at Elementa Consulting and founder of the London Energy Transformation Initiative (Leti), a voluntary group of more than 1,000 architects and engineers that has been calling for radical changes to how building energy consumption is assessed.

Under current regulations, all new building designs are assessed against a “notional” benchmark design, using parameters such as the thermal performance of materials, the orientation and size of the windows, airtightness and heating and ventilation systems (pdf). The proposed building must meet the performance of the notional design to pass the test.

Critically, the new changes to the regulations would remove something called the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard, meaning a building designed next year could be allowed to perform much worse than one built in 2013, when the current standards were introduced. Similarly, a building that would fail to meet the current regulations would pass under the new system. Part L applies to all buildings, although the current consultation covers only dwellings.

Secondly, Leti warns that a proposed emphasis on overall carbon footprint will help to mask the actual energy performance of new homes. The government intends to introduce a new factor into the assessment, related to the energy efficiency of the grid, not the building itself. Because the National Grid has been rapidly decarbonising over the last few years, as more renewables have been connected, the new method of assessment would show that a home produced lower carbon emissions than before – despite the design being exactly the same.

“The new proposals totally mask the actual energy efficiency of a home,” says Clare Murray, head of sustainability at architecture firm Levitt Bernstein and member of Leti. “They make the building look like it is performing better, when the reality is it could be much worse.”

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Categories: Environment

Calls for global ban on wild animal markets amid coronavirus outbreak

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 7:31am

Experts say wildlife sold for human consumption raises risk of new epidemics

Wild animal markets must be banned worldwide, say experts in and outside China, warning that the sale of sometimes endangered species for human consumption is the cause both of the new coronavirus outbreak and other past epidemics.

The Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, which has been closed down as the source of the infection, had a wild animal section, where live and slaughtered species were on sale. An inventory list at the Da Zhong domestic and wild animals shop inside the market includes live wolf pups, golden cicadas, scorpions, bamboo rats, squirrels, foxes, civets, hedgehogs (probably porcupines), salamanders, turtles and crocodiles. In addition, it offered assorted parts of some animals, such as crocodile tail, belly, tongue and intestines.

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Categories: Environment

Fracking protester's sentence reduced by court of appeal

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 6:30am

Judges say greater leniency should be shown in cases of non-violent civil disobedience

A fracking protester’s sentence has been reduced by the court of appeal, which said greater leniency should be shown in convictions for non-violent civil disobedience.

Katrina Lawrie, 41, was found guilty of contempt of court in June last year for breaching an injunction that banned trespassers blocking access to the energy firm Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road in Lancashire.

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Categories: Environment

Zero-carbon hydrogen injected into gas grid for first time in groundbreaking UK trial

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 3:07am

Blend of hydrogen and natural gas is being used to heat homes and faculty buildings at Keele University

Zero-carbon hydrogen has been injected into a UK gas network for the first time in a groundbreaking trial that could help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The 20% hydrogen and natural gas blend is being used to heat 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings at Keele University in Staffordshire. Unlike natural gas, when hydrogen is burned it produces heat and water as opposed to carbon dioxide.

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Categories: Environment

‘Hypocrisy’: 90% of UK-Africa summit’s energy deals were in fossil fuels

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 1:27am

Exclusive: Almost £2bn went to oil and gas despite a UK pledge to support cleaner energy in African countries

More than 90% of the £2bn in energy deals struck at this week’s UK-Africa investment summit were for fossil fuels, despite a government commitment to “support African countries in their transition to cleaner energy”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the summit on Monday, citing the climate emergency: “We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky, and we all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms.”

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Categories: Environment

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 1:00am

Revealed: emails show Trump and appointees tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires

Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.

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Categories: Environment

Florida's iguana-geddon: cull of a pesky interloper or tasty windfall?

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2020/01/24 - 12:00am

The cold snap that left the reptiles falling catatonic from trees had residents dusting off recipes for an invasive species whose meat sells for $60 a pound

It was an unseasonable cold snap by south Florida standards, a two-day spell of frigid temperatures pushed deep into the sunshine state by wintry conditions further north.

But for connoisseurs of exotic iguana meat it was the culinary equivalent of money growing on trees: reptiles whose flesh sells online for $60 a pound literally raining from the branches, frozen, for free. The unexpected harvest had residents dusting off old recipes for iguana tacos, curries, gumbos and soups.

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Categories: Environment

How did Isabel dos Santos become Africa's richest woman?

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2020/01/23 - 8:00pm

Dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of the former president of Angola, claims to be a self-made businesswoman, but the Luanda Leaks, a cache of 715,000 emails, charts, contracts, audits and accounts, help explain how she actually built her business empire. Plus, why are California’s oldest trees dying?

Isabel dos Santos amassed a fortune estimated at $2.2bn (£1.7bn) while her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, was president of Angola. She is now battling allegations of corruption and nepotism following the publication of Luanda Leaks, an investigation by the Guardian and other media led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Guardian investigative journalist Juliette Garside tells Rachel Humphreys how Dos Santos has ended up being named as a formal suspect in a criminal investigation. She denies all wrongdoing.

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Categories: Environment

Australian bushfires to contribute to huge annual increase in global carbon dioxide

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2020/01/23 - 6:18pm

Atmospheric concentration of major greenhouse gas forecast to hit 417 parts per million in May with bushfires contributing 2% of increase

Australia’s bushfire crisis is expected to contribute up to 2% of what scientists forecast will be one of the largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide on record.

The atmospheric concentration of the heat-trapping gas is projected to peak at more than 417 parts per million in May, and average about 414.2 parts per million for the year, according to the forecast by the British Met Office. It is a 2.74ppm increase above the 2019 average.

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Categories: Environment

Australian bushfires will cause jump in CO2 in atmosphere, say scientists

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2020/01/23 - 5:01pm

Fires released vast amounts of carbon dioxide and reduced vegetation, pushing planet closer to point of no return

The devastating bushfires in Australia are likely to cause a jump in carbon concentrations in the atmosphere this year, a forecast suggests, bringing the world closer to 1.5C of global heating.

The fires have not only released vast amounts of carbon dioxide and soot, but the unusual extent of the blazes means regrowth is likely to be slower than in previous years. That will reduce the amount of vegetation available to act as a carbon sink, meaning less carbon dioxide is removed from the air.

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Categories: Environment
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