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Intermittent approach to renewable energy | Letters

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 8:44am
We need an energy storage infrastructure, says Jim Waterton, the Swansea lagoon decision should be reviewed, argues Robert Hinton, while Dr Tim Lunel wants solar subsidies restored

Intermittency – in one word, the main problem facing many (not all) forms of renewable energy; in the UK, principally wind and solar, and now tidal (Hinkley Point C got the go-ahead despite its cost. So why not Swansea Bay? 27 June). So far, electricity from these renewable sources has been in modest amounts, and intermittency has been dealt with (I simplify, but only slightly) by backing-off gas-fired combined cycle (CCGT) plant which, together with nuclear, forms the backbone of the UK electricity generating system. When the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, CCGT plant is there to take the strain.

But this simple strategy fails if wind, solar, and now tidal presume to take over this backbone role. Smart metering (affecting consumers’ usage patterns) and international power exchanges can help, but the main action has to come from energy storage and regeneration plant, involving a new infrastructure to supplement hugely the existing pumped storage capability. This is bound to have serious cost implications, and until this is openly acknowledged, direct comparison of projected MWh costs from any intermittent renewable source with corresponding MWh costs from non-intermittent new nuclear generation is fundamentally invalid, and likely to be badly misleading.
Jim Waterton

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Categories: Environment

Tackling bad driving will encourage cyclists – but more money is needed

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 8:14am

It’s time for the Treasury to allocate significant funding so the nation can reap the huge benefits of more people cycling

The government has announced £1m of funding to help police forces across the UK crack down on close passing of cyclists by drivers, and to improve driving instructor training around cycling safety.

Although the sum is small beer indeed in transport terms, split between two projects, poor driver behaviour is a key reason people are discouraged from cycling in the UK. If we can start to tackle the culture of poor driving, including at source with driving instructors, we could eliminate a major reason more people don’t cycle – but it needs more money.

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Categories: Environment

More Saddleworth-style fires likely as climate changes, scientists warn

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 7:35am

Saddleworth fires will also exacerbate problems as the UK’s peatlands store huge amounts of carbon that they will release

Northern Europe should brace itself for more upland fires like the one on Saddleworth Moor this week as the climate changes and extreme weather events become more common, scientists have warned.

As the army joined firefighters to tackle the blaze near Manchester and a second fire was reported on nearby upland, scientists said similar events are increasingly likely in future, with potentially devastating consequences for the environment and human health.

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Categories: Environment

UK households urged to conserve water as heatwave continues

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 6:04am

Northern Ireland Water to introduce hosepipe ban this weekend after rise in demand

Water companies have urged UK households to conserve supplies as the country continues to bask in a near record-breaking June heatwave that has caused train tracks to buckle after reaching temperatures approaching 50C.

The hot weather is likely to continue over the weekend with temperatures forecast to be in the high 20s.

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 5:42am

Flying pink flamingos, Hebridean red deer and a Sumatran tiger are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Categories: Environment

Climate change has turned Peru's glacial lake into a deadly flood timebomb

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 4:55am

Lake Palcacocha is swollen with water from melting ice caps in the Cordillera Blanca mountains. Below, 50,000 people live directly in the flood path

Nestled beneath the imposing white peaks of two glaciers in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, the aquamarine Lake Palcacocha is as calm as a millpond. But despite its placid appearance it has become a deadly threat to tens of thousands people living beneath it as a result of global warming.

A handful of residents of Huaraz, the city below the lake, can recall its destructive power. In 1941 a chunk of ice broke away from the glacier in an earthquake, tumbling into the lake. The impact caused a flood wave which sent an avalanche of mud and boulders cascading down the mountain, killing about 1,800 people when it reached the city.

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Categories: Environment

Britain's biggest butterfly threatened by rising seas

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 4:27am

New charity warns Britain’s largest butterfly could be lost within four decades as rising seas turn its habitat into saltmarsh

Britain’s biggest butterfly, the swallowtail, could become extinct within four decades because of rising sea levels, a new charity has warned.

New inland habitat needs to be created for the swallowtail because rising seas are predicted to turn much of its current home, the Norfolk Broads, into saltmarshes later this century.

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Categories: Environment

US meatpacking workers face new hazard: threat of deportation by Ice

Fri, 2018/06/29 - 3:00am

In industry where one-third of workers are immigrants, Ice’s largest raid at an Ohio plant strikes fear in local communities

Meatpacking has never been the safest, or the most pleasant, job. Now, under the Trump administration, workers are facing another hazard – the threat of deportation.

“We were working in the plant and the agents showed up with machine guns and started taking everyone outside,” 20-year-old “Carlos”, a meatpacker at the Fresh Mark meatpacking plant in Salem, Ohio, told the Guardian.

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Categories: Environment

Norway pledges £12m to global fight against forest crime

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 11:00pm

Money will be spent on expanding an Interpol taskforce dedicated to investigating the gangs driving illegal deforestation

The Norwegian government has announced a pledge of 145m kroner (£12m) to help fight forest crime such as illegal tree clearances.

The money will be shared by Interpol, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Rhipto Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses, which collects data on illegal logging. The funds will allow Interpol to expand its dedicated taskforce from six to 15 detectives.

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Categories: Environment

Birdbrainy: New Caledonian crows make tools using mental images

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 5:38pm

Study finds birds have design templates in their minds and may pass them on to future generations

New Caledonian crows use mental pictures to twist twigs into hooks and make other tools, according to a provocative study that suggests the notoriously clever birds pass on successful designs to future generations, a hallmark of culture.

“We find evidence for a specific type of emulation we call mental template matching,” co-author Alex Taylor, director of the Language, Cognition and Culture Lab at the University of Auckland, told AFP.

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Categories: Environment

Ending 'aqua nullius': calls for laws to protect Indigenous water rights

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 5:00pm

Five-year report makes a case for how Aboriginal custodianship can revitalise ailing rivers

A “ground breaking” new plan to enshrine Aboriginal water rights in law and practice has been released, which gives governments a way to overturn “aqua nullius” and demands Aboriginal people have more say in how water is allocated and managed across Australia.

The national cultural flows research project is the “unfinished business of national water reform,” Nari Nari man and chair of the Murray lower Darling river Indigenous nations (MLDRIN) Rene Woods said.

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Categories: Environment

Heatwave forces UK farmers into desperate measures to save cattle

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 8:34am

Water shortages cause alarm over crop yields and keeping livestock alive

While millions of Britons are enjoying the heatwave, the dry weather is causing problems for farmers who are concerned about their crops and livestock, forcing some into desperate measures to keep their cattle alive.

Guy Smith, the deputy president of the National Farmers Union, said it was too early to predict a disastrous harvest, but every day of heat and lack of rain was likely to make it smaller.

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Categories: Environment

Biodiversity is the 'infrastructure that supports all life'

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 8:17am

Dr Cristiana Pașca Palmer, UN assistant secretary general and executive secretary of the convention on biological diversity, discusses Half Earth, a future biodiversity agreement and where to find the money to save life on Earth

Dr. Cristiana Pașca Palmer has a big job ahead of her: planning the 2020 UN Biodiversity Convention in Beijing. As the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Pașca Palmer is in charge of forming new goals with governments for the natural world post-2020. At the same time, a growing group of scientists are calling for a serious consideration of the Half Earth idea – where half the planet would be placed under various types of protection in a bid to prevent mass extinction.

Do you support the Half Earth model? What tweaks would you make to it?

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Categories: Environment

Scientists call for a Paris-style agreement to save life on Earth

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 8:17am

Conservation scientists believe our current mass extinction crisis requires a far more ambitious agreement, in the style of the Paris Climate Accord. And they argue that the bill shouldn’t be handed just to nation states, but corporations too.

Let’s be honest, the global community’s response to the rising evidence of mass extinction and ecological degradation has been largely to throw crumbs at it. Where we have acted it’s been in a mostly haphazard and modest way — a protected area here, a conservation program there, a few new laws, and a pinch of funding. The problem is such actions — while laudable and important — in no way match the scope and size of the problem where all markers indicate that life on Earth continues to slide into the dustbin.

But a few scientists are beginning to call for more ambition — much more — and they want to see it enshrined in a new global agreement similar to the Paris Climate Accord. They also say that the bill shouldn’t just fall on nations, but the private sector too.

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Categories: Environment

Deepwater Horizon disaster altered building blocks of ocean life

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 7:03am

Oil spill disaster reduced biodiversity in sites closest to spill, report finds, as White House rolls back conservation measures

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster may have had a lasting impact upon even the smallest organisms in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists have found – amid warnings that the oceans around America are also under fresh assault as a result of environmental policies under Donald Trump.

Lingering oil residues have altered the basic building blocks of life in the ocean by reducing biodiversity in sites closest to the spill, which occurred when a BP drilling rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing about 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf.

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Categories: Environment

BP buys UK's biggest electric car charger network for £130m

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 4:34am

Acquisition of Chargemaster, with 6,500 charging points, praised as milestone towards cleaner motoring

BP has bought the UK’s biggest electric car charging network, in the latest sign of major oil producers addressing the threat that low-carbon vehicles pose to their core business.

The acquisition of Chargemaster, which has more than 6,500 charging points across the country, will begin to result in the deployment of fast chargers at BP’s 1,200 forecourts over the next year.

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Categories: Environment

Meet America's new climate normal: towns that flood when it isn't raining

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 3:00am

In this extract from Rising, Elizabeth Rush explains ‘sunny day flooding’ – when a high tide can cause streets to fill with water

I spend the afternoon in Shorecrest, a neighborhood a couple of miles north of downtown Miami. To get there I leave the beach behind and drive past Arky’s Live Bait & Tackle, Deal and Discounts II, Rafiul Food Store, Royal Budget Inn, Family Dollar and Goodwill. As I continue north, the buildings all lose their mirrored glass and their extra floors, until most are single story and made from stucco.

Related: Flooding from sea level rise threatens over 300,000 US coastal homes – study

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Categories: Environment

Housing and car industries should be ‘ashamed’ of climate record

Thu, 2018/06/28 - 1:08am

Failure to build energy-efficient homes and clean cars risks UK missing its carbon targets, says government’s climate adviser

The homebuilding and carmaking industries “should be ashamed” of their efforts to tackle global warming, according to the UK government’s official climate change adviser.

Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said housebuilders were “cheating” buyers with energy-inefficient homes and that motor companies were holding back the rollout of clean cars.

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Categories: Environment

With incentives, industry could tackle Australia's waste crisis | Veena Sahajwalla

Wed, 2018/06/27 - 1:00pm

If waste is burned for energy, recyclable material is lost forever. There are better solutions

The vast recycling problem facing communities right around Australia has been a ticking time bomb.

With China’s restriction of imports of foreign waste now in place and responsible for increased stockpiling around the nation, prices for waste streams such as glass are at a low point. It is now cheaper to import than recycle glass.

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Categories: Environment

Thames Water drains chief's bonus over missed leak targets

Wed, 2018/06/27 - 11:29am

Steve Robertson’s bonus stopped for two years after firm hit with £55m Ofwat fine

Thames Water will not pay its chief executive a bonus for the next two years and after that will link it to leak and pollution targets being met.

Britain’s biggest water company was recently fined £55m by the watchdog Ofwat and ordered to pay £65m to customers for failing to adequately tackle leaks in 2017. It has warned it will miss its leak targets again this year.

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Categories: Environment