Guardian Environment News

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Updated: 20 hours 33 min ago

Walmart invests billions to buy from women-owned businesses – but is it enough?

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 4:08pm

Women-owned suppliers make up just 2% of the retailer’s global purchases – but Walmart will join Coca-Cola, Pepsi and others in committing to buy more

Walmart announced Wednesday it has achieved its goal to buy $20bn worth of goods and services from women-owned businesses in the US over five years. The company also conceded that it’s failed to reach another goal set around the same time: to double the amount of products and services sourced from women-owned companies outside of the country.

Related: Why employers' efforts to support pregnant workers can backfire

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Categories: Environment

Number of robins visiting UK gardens hits 20-year high

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 4:01pm

British gardens also saw a ‘waxwing winter’ in this winter’s Big Garden Birdwatch, conservationists say

The number of robins visiting gardens hit a 20-year high in this winter’s Big Garden Birdwatch, conservationists said.

Average numbers of the robin seen in gardens were up to their highest levels since 1986, making it the seventh most commonly seen bird in the citizen science survey in January.

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Renewables roadshow: how Canberra took lead in renewable energy race

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 2:30pm

In the latest in our series on Australian green energy projects, we find out how the ACT is transitioning to 100% renewable energy, aided by the country’s largest community-owned solar farm

• How the ‘nonna effect’ got Darebin’s pensioners signing up to solar
• How Daylesford’s windfarm took back the power

As Australia remains mired in a broken debate about the supposed dangers of renewable energy, some states and territories are ignoring the controversy and steaming ahead.

While Australia is far from the renewable capital of the world, the Australian Capital Territory may soon be among the world’s top renewable energy regions. And as it transitions, the ACT is demonstrating the benefits of the renewables boom to the rest of the country.

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Renewables roadshow – Canberra: '100% renewable by 2020. It will happen' – video

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 2:30pm

Helped by the country’s largest community-owned solar farm, Australia’s capital is making plans to provide all its energy from renewables. Wind turbines now being built around Canberra and the 1.2MW community-owned solar farm will ensure the ACT meets its 2020 goal. About 600 locals have a share in the scheme

Renewables roadshow: how Canberra took lead in renewable energy race

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Categories: Environment

'Climate change is real': companies challenge Trump's reversal of policy

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 12:06pm

Mars Inc, Staples, The Gap and others speak out against Trump’s sweeping executive order that begins to dismantle Obama’s Clean Power Plan

In 2015, when Barack Obama signed the nation’s clean power plan, more than 300 companies came out in support, calling the guidelines “critical for moving our country toward a clean energy economy”. Now, as Donald Trump moves to strip those laws away, Mars Inc, Staples and The Gap are just a few of those US corporations who are challenging the new president’s reversal on climate policy.

Related: Trump's order signals end of US dominance in climate change battle

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Categories: Environment

Senate coal inquiry's split result blamed on 'squabbling' parties

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 12:00pm

Australian Conservation Foundation says Coalition and Labor failing workers and risking the country’s energy security

A major environment group has blasted Australia’s political parties for squabbling while energy security suffers after a Senate inquiry into the retirement of coal-fired power stations split three ways.

The Senate’s environment and communications references committee has been inquiring into mechanisms for an orderly transition away from coal-fired power to lower emissions energy sources for several months.

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Thousands of pollution deaths worldwide linked to western consumers – study

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 10:00am

Study shows extent to which US and western European demand for clothes, toys and mobile phones contributes to air pollution in developing countries

Western consumers who buy cheap imported toys, clothes and mobile phones are indirectly contributing to tens of thousands of pollution-related deaths in the countries where the goods are produced, according to a landmark study.

Nearly 3.5 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution, the research estimates, and about 22% of these deaths are associated with goods and services that were produced in one region for consumption in another.

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Categories: Environment

Ray Collier obituary

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 5:16am
Country Diarist who adopted the wilds of Scotland as his home and inspiration

Ray Collier, who has died aged 79, was devoted to the wildlife and landscape of Scotland, and used his years of experience, depth of knowledge and lively writing to kindle a similar love in others. A longstanding member of the Guardian’s band of Country Diarists, he also wrote for a sheaf of Highland newspapers, took eagerly to blogging when the world went online and was the author of two respected books.

Born in Gloucestershire, he adopted the magnificent wilds of Scotland as his home and inspiration when his work for the Nature Conservancy took him north in the 1960s. When he retired in 2002, he was the chief warden for Scottish Natural Heritage, and so absorbed in his patch that he let his passport lapse and never renewed it. The scenery and wildlife on his doorstep were more than ample, especially as the doorstep extended from his porch in Strathnairn, near Inverness, to the Western Isles, Cape Wrath and the English border.

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Categories: Environment

Dead Sea evidence of unprecedented drought is warning for future

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 4:48am

A 30-metre layer of salt discovered beneath Dead Sea reveals drought worse than any in human history – and it could happen again

Far below the Dead Sea, between Israel, Jordan and Palestinian territories, researchers have found evidence of a drought that has no precedent in human experience.

From depths of 300 metres below the landlocked basin, drillers brought to the surface a core that contained 30 metres of thick, crystalline salt: evidence that 120,000 years ago, and again about 10,000 years ago, rainfall had been only about one fifth of modern levels.

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Categories: Environment

Soybeans could surpass corn plantings amid solvency concerns for US farmers

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 4:00am

Department of Agriculture survey of planting intentions hints at record acreage for soybeans as agricultural community worries over low crop prices

Is “king corn” finally dead? For decades, corn has been the US’s most profitable crop, but after three straight years of low prices its dominance is being challenged and, this week, could officially end.

On 31 March, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will release its highly anticipated prospective plantings report, the government’s survey of US farmer spring-planting plans. It’s the first major forecast for the 2017 growing season, with the USDA releasing acreage intentions for all major row crops such as corn, soybeans, spring-planted wheat, cotton and other smaller grains.

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Categories: Environment

Rare Indochinese tigers caught on camera in Thai jungle – video

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 2:57am

Critically endangered Indochinese tigers are captured on sensor-triggered cameras throughout 2016, set up in Thailand’s Eastern Forest Complex by the Forest Department and wildlife NGOs Freeland and Panthera. Conservationists say it gives hope for the survival of an animal whose total population is estimated at 221, spread across Myanmar and Thailand

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Categories: Environment

Mount Everest climbers enlisted for canvas bag clean-up mission

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 2:40am

Recreational climbers and Sherpas asked to help remove hundreds of kilograms of litter after series of deadly quakes on world’s highest peak

The government of Nepal and Everest expedition organisers have launched a clean-up operation at 21,000ft to remove rubbish left on the world’s highest peak after a series of deadly avalanches.

Sherpas and other climbers have been given 10 canvas bags each capable of holding 80kg (176lbs) of waste to place at different elevations on Mount Everest.

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Categories: Environment

Government badger cull kill targets 'deliberately set too low'

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 2:06am

Lower cull targets are easier to achieve but risk increasing instances of TB in cattle rather than reducing them, warns expert

The government’s killing targets for the controversial badger cull in England are “deliberately being biased down”, according to a leading animal population expert.

The badger cull, now rolled out to seven counties in England, is part of efforts to reduce the scourge of tuberculosis in cattle but has been heavily criticised by scientists.

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Categories: Environment

Fear of solar geoengineering is healthy – but don't distort our research

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 1:30am

Models suggest solar geoengineering could reduce climate change and our independently assessed studies are vital to understanding its full potential

Even if the world were to cut emissions to zero tomorrow, global temperatures and sea levels would rise for decades. If our roll of the climate dice is unlucky, they could rise for centuries. It is in this context that some climate researchers have begun to reluctantly take seriously ideas first proposed in the 1960s: the possibility of using solar geoengineering to help restore the world’s climate, alongside aggressive actions to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions to zero and below.

Fear of solar geoengineering is entirely healthy. Its mere prospect might be hyped by fossil fuel interests to thwart emissions cuts. It could be used by one or a few nations in a way that’s harmful to many. There might be some yet undiscovered risk making the technology much less effective in reality than the largely positive story told by computer models.

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Categories: Environment

A strong parliament will be nature’s last line of defence during Brexit

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 1:30am

EU membership has given Britain vital environmental laws. Any changes to legislation must be done with full public scrutiny to protect us from exploitation

When Theresa May fires the Brexit starting gun by triggering article 50, she will start a process that could dramatically reshape almost every aspect of British life – from our economy, laws, and place in the world to our natural environment. The difficult choices our politicians make in just a few years could change the face of Britain for generations to come.

Even before the tough bargaining with the EU and other countries start in earnest, another, more domestic negotiation process will get underway – the constitutional power struggle between parliament and government over who will have the final say on the momentous Brexit decisions. A lot will ride on the outcome of this tug of war, and that includes the fate of many vital environmental safeguards we take for granted.

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Westinghouse bankruptcy move casts shadow over world nuclear industry

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 1:20am

Plight of US firm, which has technology in about half world’s reactors, deals blow to building of new plants

The US bankruptcy filing by nuclear giant Westinghouse has been branded a major blow to the prospects for new atomic power globally.

The nuclear arm of Toshiba proudly states “we are nuclear energy” on its website, a boast underpinned by its technology being in around half the world’s reactors.

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Categories: Environment

Cyclone Debbie rescue efforts hit by flooding amid 'phenomenal' rain

Wed, 2017/03/29 - 12:54am

Category-four storm has damaged thousands of north Queensland properties and communities face days without power

• Police search for owners of cars found in floodwaters – as it happened

Cyclone Debbie has damaged thousands of north Queensland properties, leaving some residents homeless in communities that face days without power after being cut off by floodwaters.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the scale of Tuesday’s disaster was “significant” and it would take months for the communities worst hit by the category-four cyclone to recover.

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Categories: Environment

Cycle freight: why the bike is good for moving more than people

Tue, 2017/03/28 - 11:20pm

Better infrastructure for transporting people by bike is great. But cycle freight could free up roads and transform cities and towns too

The plastic bike basket I bought online was billed as “large”, but even so I was amazed when it arrived. This was a behemoth – a cavernous, black box into which you could as easily fit a decent-sized dog as a bag of shopping.

Fitted to my new commuter bike, the initial effect was comical. But such worries were soon forgotten given how astonishingly useful it proved.

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An extraordinary battle between sperm whales and orcas – in pictures

Tue, 2017/03/28 - 11:15pm

While observing sperm whales off the Sri Lankan coast, Philip Hoare came face to face with eight hunting orcas who had no fear of the 100-strong sperm whale pod

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Cyclone Debbie's cooling effect won't prevent Great Barrier Reef bleaching, scientist says

Tue, 2017/03/28 - 9:41pm

OceanWatch had expressed hope cyclone could have alleviated pressure the reef is under and prevented further bleaching

The cooling effect of Cyclone Debbie will not be enough to prevent further mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, a leading marine scientist has said.

The category-four tropical storm made landfall on the north Queensland coast on Tuesday, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Airlie Beach, Proserpine and Bowen were among the worst hit, though Hamilton, Hayman and Daydream islands were also affected.

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