Plastic bags charge set to be extended to small shops

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 5:06pm

Expansion expected of highly successful policy of charging 5p for each bag could be extended beyond large retailers

The 5p charge for plastic bags is expected to be applied to small shops under government plans to be unveiled by Theresa May this week as she seeks to tackle Britain’s “throwaway culture”.

In a major speech on the environment, the prime minister will promise to hold consultations on removing an exemption that allows retailers with fewer than 250 employees to continue to give out free bags. The levy on supermarkets and other large retailers resulted in a 90% decline in use, with nine billion fewer plastic bags being used.

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Categories: Environment

U.K. Enacts Ban On Plastic Microbeads In Rinse-Off Products

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 3:59pm

The measure, which follows a similar 2015 law in the U.S., aims to reduce the amount of plastic getting flushed into the ocean. Backers are hailing it as a small step in the right direction.

(Image credit: imagehub88/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Categories: Environment

Weatherwatch: can we keep the lights on when the wind fails to blow?

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 2:30pm

The UK now has more offshore wind power capacity than any other country – but we need a plan B for ultra-cold winters with soaring energy demands

Last year was one of the greenest for power in the UK. Nearly one-third of all electricity came from renewable sources, and wind and solar provided more power than coal on 315 days of the year. Rapid growth in both solar and wind (the UK now has more offshore wind power capacity than any other country in the world) has enabled the UK to achieve these impressive statistics, but will the rise in renewables also make UK power more vulnerable to the whims of British weather?

Researchers working on the European Climatic Energy Mixes project have been investigating future risk by assessing how the UK would fare with a repeat of the unusually cold winter of 2009-10. From mid-December 2009 a southward-displaced jet stream allowed cold air to pour in from eastern Europe, bringing widespread snow and plunging temperatures. The mean UK temperature for the entire winter was just 1.5C, the lowest since 1978-79 when it was 1.2C . As a result power demand surged, with electricity consumption between 10 and 20% above average on a number of occasions.

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Categories: Environment

Californians Evacuated Out Of Fear Of Mudslides Where Thomas Fire Scorched Land

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 2:18pm

Thousands of Californians have been evacuated from the Santa Barbara area among fears of mudslides after heavy rains hit the hillsides denuded by the enormous Thomas fire.

Categories: Environment

The Guardian view on the future of fracking: keep it in the ground | Editorial

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 12:30pm
The rewards are uncertain and time limited. Massive investment in a short-lived fuel may not make business sense

Just a few short years ago, fracking – the underground extraction of gas from rock – was to revolutionise Britain’s energy production as it has transformed it in the US. Under David Cameron and George Osborne, it was to produce the fuel that would build a bridge from the high-carbon past to the no-carbon future. Just 18 months after the two leading politicians of their generation quit the scene, fracking’s prospects are uncertain. Now companies are preparing for a make-or-break year. On Tuesday Cuadrilla won permission from West Sussex county council to test for oil at its site in Balcombe, where five years ago hundreds of local protesters saw off the company’s efforts to explore its potential. Cuadrilla may read this as a positive message, and insists it is not interested in fracking. But well-organised objectors do not believe the company, and it may be wise not count its chickens just yet.

Another of the big four frackers, Ineos, has also aroused antagonism after a freedom of information request revealed at the weekend that while it had denied in public that it wanted to prospect for gas beneath the scientifically sensitive parts of Sherwood Forest, it has in fact now acquired permission to do just that. It has also announced a legal challenge to Scotland’s fracking ban. Meanwhile, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is imminently expected to approve fracking by the oil and gas company Third Energy at a site in North Yorkshire. It would be the first well to be fracked in the UK since 2011. It would also be a leap of faith. After the activism of the Cameron-Osborne years, Theresa May has shown no interest. She abolished the climate change department, and sounds more concerned about cheaper energy than cleaner energy; last October’s Clean Growth strategy failed to mention fracking at all. Yet Britain is committed to huge cuts in carbon emissions by 2030 – a 57% reduction on 1990 levels. The role for shale gas needs explaining. There is a chance that what might have been a useful stopgap on the road to zero-carbon energy is running out of road to secure a return on the large investments already made.

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Categories: Environment

Development for the north? Let them eat wood | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 12:27pm
Readers respond to the government’s pledge of £5.7m towards the creation of a northern forest stretching from Liverpool to Hull, and to a report on agroforestry

The government’s tossing a few million towards a grand £500m “northern forest” (Government pledges £5.7m for northern forest, 8 January) is an example of the puny tokenism operating today, where acts of vandalism against our precious environment, such as HS2, can be so casually “offset”. HS2 is a folly, the stubborn imposition of a luxury fairground ride built over never-to-be-seen-again landscapes.

Improve what we have, protect the things that are good around us, cancel HS2. And for sure, plant some more trees (and not just pine and spruce, please – we don’t want more Forestry Commission-style bland industrial forestry). There are thousands of acres of aristocratic grouse-shooting estates all over the North Pennines and North Yorkshire, where trees are not allowed because they spoil all the fun of the chase. Wonderful places to plant some new trees, if the Tories really are suddenly into tree-planting.
Catherine Francis
Skipton, North Yorkshire

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Categories: Environment

UK must be ready for rise of electric vehicles, says ABB chief

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 11:45am

Charging point manufacturer’s CEO warns that UK power grid needs to handle expected 9m electric vehicles by 2030

The UK should speed up preparations for the rise of electric vehicles, according to the chief executive of ABB, the world’s largest supplier of fast-charging points.

Speaking as the Switzerland-based engineering firm became the first official sponsor of the electric street racing series Formula E, Ulrich Spiesshofer predicted a flood of consumer take-up of plug-in cars.

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Categories: Environment

PHOTOS: The Sahara Desert, Painted White With Snow

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 11:24am

More than a foot of snow fell Sunday on the Sahara, shrouding the orange and red landscape in hues of white. The rare scene didn't last long. Luckily, some local photographers had their cameras ready.

(Image credit: Karim Bouchetata/Geoff Robinson )

Categories: Environment

Federal Regulator Rejects Energy Department's Bid To Prop Up Coal, Nuclear

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 10:00am

Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed a rule that would essentially subsidize older fuel sources to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewables. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cried foul.

(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Categories: Environment

Bearing Arms: The Amazing World Of The Octopus

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 9:06am

Octopuses are making us rethink what it means to be intelligent.

(Image credit: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)

Categories: Environment

Fracking firm gets green light to test for oil at Balcombe … again

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 7:58am

Approval by West Sussex council comes as another shale company plans a legal challenge against Scotland’s fracking ban

Fracking firm Cuadrilla has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil near a West Sussex village that was the site of the UK’s biggest anti-fracking protests.

The approval came as another shale company said it was planning a legal challenge against Scotland’s fracking ban.

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Categories: Environment

Brexit bill may have broken international environment law, says UN

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 6:56am

Exclusive: compliance committee considers complaint alleging government breached Aarhus convention by not consulting public over withdrawal bill

The British government may have breached a major “environmental democracy” law by failing to consult the public when drawing up Brexit legislation.

A UN-backed committee has confirmed it is considering a complaint from Friends of the Earth that the government’s EU withdrawal bill breached the Aarhus convention, which requires public consultation on any new environmental law.

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Categories: Environment

After Devastating Cyclone, Fiji Farmers Plant For A Changed Climate

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 6:01am

As the Pacific island archipelago of Fiji faces a warming planet, the country's farmers are turning to more climate-resilient techniques that other storm-prone communities worldwide could model.

(Image credit: Sonia Narang)

Categories: Environment

Weather Hampers Efforts To Put Out Tanker Blaze In East China Sea

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 5:13am

The fire occurred after two vessels, an Iranian-owned oil tanker and a Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier, collided on Saturday about 160 miles east of Shanghai.

(Image credit: AP)

Categories: Environment

Hundreds of flying foxes die in searing Australian heat

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 4:14am

More than 400 animals have died in one colony alone as temperatures soar above 47C, causing exhaustion and dehydration

A colony of flying foxes has been nearly wiped out by extreme heat in Campbelltown in south-west Sydney, according to environmentalists.

The Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown campaign posted a series of images to Facebook showing the corpses of the animals lying in the ground, apparently after they had died from dehydration in the soaring temperatures. The group say more than 400 of the animals were lost, many of them juveniles.

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Categories: Environment

The 'imminent mini ice age' myth is back, and it's still wrong | Dana Nuccitelli

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 4:00am

We can’t accurately predict solar activity, and a quiet solar cycle would have a small impact on Earth’s climate anyway

Roughly every two years we’re treated to headlines repeating the myth that Earth is headed for an imminent “mini ice age.” It happened in 2013, 2015, and again just recently at the tail end of 2017.

This time around, the myth appears to have been sparked by a Sky News interview with Northumbria University mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova. The story was quickly echoed by the Daily Mail, International Business Times, Sputnik News, Metro, Tru News, and others. Zharkova was also behind the ‘mini ice age’ stories in 2015, based on her research predicting that the sun will soon enter a quiet phase.

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Categories: Environment

Weather hampers efforts to contain oil tanker fire off China coast

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 3:59am

Body of sailor from Sanchi found and 31 others missing amid fears of environmental catastrophe after crash with container ship

Bad weather has hindered efforts to contain a tanker fire and oil spill off the coast of China, as environmental groups warned of a potential catastrophe.

The body of one sailor had been found and 31 others were missing after an Iranian-owned tanker collided with a container ship about 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai on Saturday evening. The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil or about 1m barrels.

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Categories: Environment

Wildlife photographer of the year people's choice award - in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/01/08 - 11:01pm

The Natural History Museum has chosen 24 of the best images from its Wildlife photographer of the year competition shortlist. Members of the public can vote for their favourite by 5 February 2018

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Categories: Environment

Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/01/08 - 10:01pm

Manufacturing ban means the tiny beads which harm marine life can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products

Plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, after a long-promised ban came into effect on Tuesday. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products and a ban on sales will follow in July.

Thousands of tonnes of plastic microbeads from products such as exfoliating face scrubs and toothpastes wash into the sea every year, where they harm wildlife and can ultimately be eaten by people. The UK government first pledged to ban plastic microbeads in September 2016, following a US ban in 2015.

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Categories: Environment

Daylight robbery: thieves steal chunk of China's new solar highway

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2018/01/08 - 9:21pm

Panels which lie under transparent concrete are dug up in what is believed to be a case of technology theft

Thieves in China have vandalised a newly opened solar highway, less than a week after the road was christened with much fanfare.

The one-kilometre stretch of road in the eastern city of Jinan consists of solar panels under a layer of transparent concrete, allowing cars to drive over the photovoltaic cells.

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Categories: Environment
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