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The Guardian view on tidal energy: cost is not the whole story | Editorial

Tue, 2018/06/26 - 10:43am
Ministers’ decision to shelve a pioneering wave power scheme in Swansea Bay is based on evidence – but also ideology

The UK government’s decision to shelve plans to build the world’s first tidal lagoon off Swansea Bay is a hard blow for Wales. That it comes in the wake of Airbus’s warning that 6,000 jobs at its Broughton factory in Flintshire are being put at risk by continuing uncertainty over Brexit, and on the same day that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders sounded the alarm over the future of car building in the UK, only serves to increase the pain. Ford employs 1,700 people at its Bridgend plant, while a new Aston Martin factory is due to open in south Wales next year. The tidal lagoon project, had it gone ahead, was expected to create 2,200 jobs, plus more in the supply chain. These are the kinds of jobs that Wales, so damaged by steel and coal closures, needs. But the business secretary, Greg Clark, has decided the country can’t have them because they would be too expensive.

It’s true that tidal lagoon power is costly at the moment. The so-called strike price that the government would have to agree for Swansea’s electricity, to get the project off the ground, lay between £92.70 and £150 per megawatt hour (MWh), with the difference accounted for by a Welsh government subsidy, and the duration of the contract. While the UK government’s rejection of the scheme – on which the company says it has spent £35m – was based on the higher figure of £150 over 30 years, the company said that, given a longer contract of 60 years, it could supply electricity at £92.70, the same as Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, the government’s flagship energy project in Somerset (Hinkley Point’s strike price is fixed for 35 years). The Welsh government said that its offer of a £200m subsidy made the Swansea project – meant to be the first of six British tidal lagoons, four of them in Wales – competitive with Hinkley even on a similar time span. Welsh politicians have reacted with understandable fury to Mr Clark’s announcement, which comes almost exactly 12 months after the government abandoned plans to electrify the railway from Cardiff to Swansea, and just a day after MPs voted to press ahead with another expensive infrastructure project: a third runway at Heathrow.

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Categories: Environment

Palm oil ‘disastrous’ for wildlife but here to stay, experts warn

Tue, 2018/06/26 - 5:00am

The deforestation it causes is decimating species such as orangutans and tigers - but the alternatives could be worse, finds authoritative report

It is consumed daily by billions of people but palm oil is “disastrous” for wildlife such as orangutans and tigers, according to an authoritative new report. However, the analysis warns that alternatives are likely to drive biodiversity losses elsewhere, rather than halt them.

The analysis, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found that rainforest destruction caused by palm oil plantations damages more than 190 threatened species on the IUCN’s red list, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also found that palm oil certified as “sustainable” is, so far, only marginally better in terms of preventing deforestation.

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Categories: Environment

Rising seas: 'Florida is about to be wiped off the map'

Tue, 2018/06/26 - 4:37am

Sea level rises are not some distant threat; for many Americans they are very real. In an extract from her chilling new book, Rising, Elizabeth Rush details how the US coastline will be radically transformed in the coming years

In 1890, just over six thousand people lived in the damp lowlands of south Florida. Since then the wetlands that covered half the state have been largely drained, strip malls have replaced Seminole camps, and the population has increased a thousandfold. Over roughly the same amount of time the number of black college degree holders in the United States also increased a thousandfold, as did the speed at which we fly, the combined carbon emissions of the Middle East, and the entire population of Thailand.

About 60 of the region’s more than 6 million residents have gathered in the Cox Science Building at the University of Miami on a sunny Saturday morning in 2016 to hear Harold Wanless, or Hal, chair of the geology department, speak about sea level rise. “Only 7% of the heat being trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the atmosphere,” Hal begins. “Do you know where the other 93% lives?”

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Categories: Environment

All single-use plastics should be banned by 2023 Senate inquiry recommends

Tue, 2018/06/26 - 2:47am

A national container deposit scheme should be established in response to the recycling crisis, the report says

A Senate inquiry into Australia’s recycling crisis has recommended that all single-use plastics – which could potentially include takeaway containers, chip packets and coffee cups with plastic linings – be banned by 2023.

The wide-ranging report also recommends the establishment of a national container deposit scheme as a response to an unfolding crisis in Australian recycling that forced some councils to tip their recycling into landfill.

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Categories: Environment

'Mini-Holland' schemes have proved their worth in outer London boroughs | Peter Walker

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 11:00pm

First formal study into their impact finds that boroughs with the schemes have boosted walking and cycling rates

The so-called mini-Holland schemes – much-debated changes to boost cycling and walking in outer London boroughs – have done precisely that, according to the first formal study into their impact.

The research found that after one year, people living in parts of such boroughs were, on average, walking and cycling for 41 minutes a week more than those living in comparable areas.

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Categories: Environment

The amazing return of the starfish: species triumphs over melting disease

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 10:00pm

After a mysterious ‘mass mortality event’ turned ochre stars to goo, experts say rapid evolution may have saved the creatures

Five years after a mysterious virus wiped out millions of starfish off the western coast of North America, causing them to lose legs, dissolve into fleshy goo and taking various species to the brink of disappearance, scientists have announced a remarkable reversal.

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Categories: Environment

Scott Morrison hits back at Labor's 'tax grab to go' – politics live

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 8:31pm

The Coalition treasurer says tax plan should apply across all businesses. Follow all the day’s events, live

4.28am BST

The Business Council chief Jennifer Westacott will also wade in on Labor’s announcement – just ahead of question time.

I am going to go out on a limb and say she is against it.

4.24am BST

Ever felt bad about getting a favourite Australian author’s book out of the library instead of buying it, because you want to support them, but money is tight?

Well, you are still financially supporting them. Authors and publishers are compensated through the Australian government lending rights scheme, which this year paid out $22.3m through 17,200 creators and publishers this year.

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Categories: Environment

'Toxic garbage will be sold here': Outcry as Brazil moves to loosen pesticide laws

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 8:07pm

A controversial bill, dubbed the ‘poison package’, is set to go to Brazilian Congress

A Brazilian Congress commission has approved a controversial bill to lift restrictions on pesticides despite fierce opposition from environmentalists, prosecutors, health and environment ministry bodies, and even United Nations special rapporteurs.

Driven by a powerful agribusiness lobby, the bill now needs to be voted on in both houses of Congress and sanctioned by President Michel Temer before becoming law.

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Categories: Environment

MPs back Heathrow third runway project as Johnson faces criticism

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 2:16pm

Plan passes with majority of 296 but foreign secretary was flying back from Afghanistan

Boris Johnson has faced sharp criticism from fellow Conservative MPs over his decision to miss Monday night’s crunch vote on Heathrow expansion by flying out of the country on an official visit to Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary claimed that resigning over his opposition to the £14bn project, which the Commons backed on Monday night by 415 votes to 119 – a majority of 296, would achieve “absolutely nothing” and that he would lobby against it privately instead.

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Categories: Environment

Government rejects plan for £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 11:06am

Ministers say project is too expensive but decision sparks widespread criticism

The government has rejected plans for a £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, dashing industry hopes of Britain leading development of a new source of renewable energy and sparking widespread criticism.

Ministers said the project, which would have been subsidised through household energy bills for decades, was too expensive compared with alternatives such as offshore windfarms and nuclear power.

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Categories: Environment

Waste crisis: where's your recycling going now?

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 11:00am

China’s limits on contamination levels have sparked a recycling industry crisis. What are local and state governments doing to solve the problem?

“Did you put the recycling out?”

It’s a phrase regularly recited in millions of households across Australia, followed by a hollow rumble as the yellow-lidded wheelie bin is hauled to the kerb. It’s a ritual that, in one form or another, takes place in more than 90% of Australian homes.

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Categories: Environment

Where have all the butterflies gone? | Brief letters

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 10:15am
Disappearing butterflies | Patriarchy and religion | Protesting Trump | Getaways in a Morris Minor | Ikea

I don’t know whether to be happy or sad. No cabbage white butterfly caterpillars chomping through my veg is great, but where have all the butterflies gone (Letters, passim)? Not only have I not seen a single cabbage white butterfly this year but no red admirals, no peacocks and no tortoiseshells. Very worrying.
Peter Hanson
Exeter

• As she dissected the subtle and not so subtle outrages of patriarchy experienced from Virginia Woolf to “labouring women in Mexico”, I wonder what discretion or inhibition Charlotte Higgins (Patriarchy: the return of a radical idea, 22 June) exercised not to mention the pronounced patriarchy in the Catholic church (the Holy Father for goodness sake), the male-delineated roles in ultra-orthodox Judaism, and in the various iterations (institutional or cultural) of Islam, all elided (that is to say obscured) in the one word reference to “religion”.
Philip Stogdon
London

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Categories: Environment

Red deer on the Isle of Rum – in pictures

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 9:23am

A team of six scientists has descended on Rum, a small island in the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland, to catch red deer calves. During the month-long initiative, overseen by the Isle of Rum Red Deer Project, newborns will be tagged so data can be gathered on them over the course of their lifetimes. The island is home to hundreds of deer and about only 30 people, all of whom live in Kinloch village on the east coast

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Categories: Environment

Flying cameras can spot lethal disease sweeping through world's olive groves

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 8:00am

Fast-spreading Xylella fastidiosa is devastating species from citrus to oak trees, but can now be detected from the air

A devastating and fast-spreading infection killing olive trees and grapevines around the world can now be detected from the air, long before symptoms are visible to the human eye.

The new technique offers hope in the battle against one of the world’s most dangerous plant pathogens, which can infect some 350 different species, including citrus and almond trees, as well as oaks, elms and sycamores. Special “hyperspectral” cameras provide an early warning system by detecting subtle changes in leaf colour.

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Categories: Environment

30 years later, deniers are still lying about Hansen’s amazing global warming prediction | Dana Nuccitelli

Mon, 2018/06/25 - 3:00am

Koch paychecks seem to be strong motivators to lie

Thirty years ago, James Hansen testified to Congress about the dangers of human-caused climate change. In his testimony, Hansen showed the results of his 1988 study using a climate model to project future global warming under three possible scenarios, ranging from ‘business as usual’ heavy pollution in his Scenario A to ‘draconian emissions cuts’ in Scenario C, with a moderate Scenario B in between.

Changes in the human effects that influence Earth’s global energy imbalance (a.k.a. ‘anthropogenic radiative forcings’) have in reality been closest to Hansen’s Scenario B, but about 20–30% weaker thanks to the success of the Montreal Protocol in phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Hansen’s climate model projected that under Scenario B, global surface air temperatures would warm about 0.84°C between 1988 and 2017. But with a global energy imbalance 20–30% lower, it would have predicted a global surface warming closer to 0.6–0.7°C by this year.

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Categories: Environment

Record emissions keep Australia on path to missing Paris target

Sun, 2018/06/24 - 11:33pm

Annual carbon emissions, excluding unreliable data, higher than ever, report says

Australia’s emissions over the past year were again the highest on record when unreliable data from land use and forestry sectors are excluded, according to new data from NDEVR Environmental.

If the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, Australia will miss its Paris target by a billion tonnes of CO2, which is equal to about two years of Australia’s entire national emissions.

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Categories: Environment

Toronto pay-what-you-can store aims to tackle landfills and hunger

Sun, 2018/06/24 - 9:00pm

Initiative aims to reduce dumping of ‘waste’ and sell it at prices set by buyers

In a bright, airy Toronto market, the shelves are laden with everything from organic produce to pre-made meals and pet food. What shoppers won’t find, however, is price tags. In what is believed to be a North American first, everything in this grocery store is pay-what-you-can.

The new store aims to tackle food insecurity and wastage by pitting the two issues against each other, said Jagger Gordon, the Toronto chef who launched the venture earlier this month.

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Categories: Environment

Len McCluskey at odds with Corbyn over Heathrow expansion

Sun, 2018/06/24 - 4:02pm

Union boss and Corbyn ally urges all Labour MPs to back expansion ahead of third runway vote

Len McCluskey has written to all Labour MPs urging them to back Heathrow expansion on Monday, a move that puts the head of the Unite union directly at odds with Jeremy Corbyn.

He said they had “the opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs” by backing the government’s decision to build a third runway.

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Categories: Environment

Ofgem appoints economist Martin Cave as chairman

Sun, 2018/06/24 - 4:01pm

Decision comes as regulator prepares to impose price cap on energy bills

A champion of price caps and a critic of suppliers’ behaviour has been chosen to lead the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem.

In an effort to toughen up the watchdog, which has been criticised for being soft on energy firms, regulatory economist Martin Cave has been selected as the regulator’s new chair just months before it is due to impose a price cap on energy bills.

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Categories: Environment

Little green bag: Morrisons turns to paper in war on plastic

Sun, 2018/06/24 - 4:01pm

Supermarket chains begins UK rollout of paper bags for loose fruit and vegetables

Morrisons is reviving traditional brown paper bags for loose fresh fruit and vegetables, in a move it says will prevent 150m small plastic bags from being used every year.

The paper bags are being rolled out from Monday and will be in all of the supermarket chain’s 493 stores by the end of the summer. Made from 100% recyclable paper, they have a see-though paper strip to help shoppers and staff identify the produce inside.

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Categories: Environment