Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Monday, 31 October 2016

Air quality worsens in Greece as recession bites

From the Guardian - the ban on diesel cars in Athens and Thessaloniki has been lifted and the price of heating oil has tripled. Hard-pressed Greeks have turned to burning logs – and other things

"Greece’s financial recession is leaving its footprint on the environment. This follows twenty years of huge improvements in Greece’s air pollution. While most European countries struggle with the consequences of failure to control exhaust pollution from diesel vehicles, Greece benefitted from long-standing bans on diesel cars in the two biggest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki.

This allowed the country to reap the full benefits of technologies to control petrol exhaust, without these being offset by the poor performance of diesel cars. As a consequence nitrogen dioxide from traffic approximately halved alongside Greek roads between 1996 and 2006, in contrast to the lack of improvement elsewhere in Europe.

Lifting the diesel car ban in 2012 and lower taxes on diesel fuel acted as a huge incentive for those struggling with travel costs. Amongst new car sales diesels leapt from less than 20% (around zero in Thessaloniki) to over 60%, but, so far, economic pressures have reduced traffic volumes averting a possible deterioration in air pollution.

However, a tripling in the cost of heating oil brought about larger changes as hard-pressed Greeks have switched to burning wood. Wintertime particle pollution increased by around 30% in Thessaloniki in 2013 and air toxicity worsened on evenings when fires were lit. Analysis of wintertime air in Athens shows that it is not just logs that are being burnt. Along with chemicals from wood burning, scientists found lead, arsenic and cadmium particles, showing that people are burning painted and treated wood, and also their rubbish, to keep warm."

300 million children live in areas with extreme air pollution, data reveals

From the Guardian - global study reveals huge number of children breathing toxic fumes more than six times over safe limits, while billions are affected by air pollution that exceeds guidelines

"Three hundred million of the world’s children live in areas with extreme air pollution, where toxic fumes are more than six times international guidelines, according to new research by Unicef.

The study, using satellite data, is the fist to make a global estimate of exposure and indicates that almost 90% of the world’s children - two billion - live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits.

Unicef warned the levels of global air pollution contributed to 600,000 child deaths a year – more than are caused by malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution, Unicef warned, pointing to enduring damage to health and the development of children’s brain and urging nations attending a global climate summit next month to cut fossil fuel burning rapidly.

“The magnitude of the danger air pollution poses is enormous,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s executive director. “No society can afford to ignore air pollution. We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future.”

The full article can be read here.

Imagine a world without animals. You’ll soon see how much we need them

From the Guardian - hand-pollinating crops, growing meat in labs and dealing with the stench of scavenging fungus – this is the future we face

"A couple of years ago we heard news that 50% of all vertebrate species had disappeared in 40 years. On Thursday, we were greeted with news that by 2020 the figure is likely to rise to 66% of all vertebrates. It is no wonder that the conservationists are shouting. It is no wonder that they are so desperate to get their message heard. Animals, it seems, are on the way out. And no one appears to much care.

So, allow me to entertain the idea of a post-animal Britain. Could we make the best of this world, in true Theresa May fashion? Are animals, perhaps, all a bit overrated? Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad?

Sure, there would be some tough choices at first. One particularly pressing matter would be finding a way to cross-pollinate flowering crops. As is well known, trees and insects co-evolved, the plants offering a sugary reward to insects in return for their pollination services. How might we achieve this without bees and flies? Simple. The problem of cross-fertilisation could quite simply be solved by robots or people on day release from jail (or even children who don’t get into grammar schools). They could be made to hand-fertilise flowers. They could be like little unthinking bees."

The full article can be read here.

Dakota Access pipeline protesters set for 'last stand' on banks of Missouri river

From the Guardian - completion of controversial oil pipeline near as work moves quickly, but one protester says: ‘There is no time for waiting any more’

"Native American protesters are preparing to take a “last stand” against the Dakota Access pipeline after police raided their camps and arrested hundreds, paving the way for construction of the final stretch of the controversial oil project.

The Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota have been fighting the $3.8 bn pipeline since April but were dealt a blow last week when police successfully pushed them off the property where construction is rapidly advancing.

While claims of excessive use of force by police and inhumane treatment in jail have sparked national outrage, native leaders camped out in the cold in Cannon Ball said they have also grown increasingly concerned that time is running out to stop the project on the ground. Pipeline workers, they say, are getting frighteningly close to the sacred water of the Missouri river.

“There isn’t much land left between the water and the equipment,” said Cheryl Angel, a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe who in the spring helped form the first Sacred Stone camp for protesters who call themselves “water protectors”.

“They’re right there. They have breached our sacred ground. There is no time for waiting any more,” the 56-year-old said, tears streaming as she gestured toward the water and encroaching pipeline. “It is almost complete. All they need to do is go under that river.”

The full article can be read here.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Dakota Access pipeline: Native Americans allege cruel treatment

From the Guardian - activists released after arrest treated ‘like we’re not human beings’. Standoff with law enforcement continues with peaceful Saturday rally.

"Native Americans protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) on Saturday accused law enforcement officers of cruel and inhumane treatment in jail, but said mass arrests and violent confrontations with police would not deter them from fighting construction of the oil project.

Activists were reunited at the Standing Rock camps in North Dakotaafter their release from local jails. Some told the Guardian police aggressively detained them, crowded them into vans, wrote numbers on their arms to track them, conducted invasive body searches and showed a lack of respect for native culture.

“They treat us like we’re not human beings,” said Russell Eagle Bear, a member of the Rosebud Sioux, who was one of 141 people arrested on Thursday when protesters tried to block pipeline construction. “We’re simply numbers to them.”

In tears, Caro Gonzales, a member of the Chemehuevi tribe who was one of the first arrested, said police temporarily detained her and three other women in a large cage that she described as a “dog kennel”.

The full article can be read here.

Secret government papers show taxpayers will pick up costs of Hinkley nuclear waste storage

From the Guardian - documents show steps Whitehall took to reassure French energy firm EDF and Chinese investors

"Taxpayers will pick up the bill should the cost of storing radioactive waste produced by Britain’s newest nuclear power station soar, according to confidential documents which the government has battled to keep secret for more than a year.

The papers confirm the steps the government took to reassure French energy firm EDF and Chinese investors behind the £24bn Hinkley Point C plant that the amount they would have to pay for the storage would be capped.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – in its previous incarnation as the Department for Energy and Climate Change – resisted repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act for the release of the documents which were submitted to the European commission.

“The government has attempted to keep the costs to the taxpayer of Hinkley under wraps from the start,” said Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace chief scientist. “It’s hardly surprising as it doesn’t look good for the government’s claim that they are trying to keep costs down for hardworking families.”

The full article can be read here.

Friday, 28 October 2016

What does New York do with all its trash? One city's waste – in numbers

From the Guardian - the Big Apple generates more than 14 million tonnes of rubbish a year, and spends around $2.3bn disposing of it – sometimes 7,000 miles away in China. Max Galka counts the costs of a city literally built on trash

"As the largest city in the world’s most wasteful country, New York generates more than 14 million tonnes of trash each year; reputedly (though possibly inaccurately) more than any other city in the world.

Not only that, New York is also America’s densest city: its narrow, traffic jammed streets make collecting all that garbage a logistical Gordian knot. And New York is located smack in the centre of the Northeast megalopolis, a giant urban expanse where available land for disposing of garbage is in short supply.

To deal with these challenges, the city relies on a complex waste-management ecosystem encompassing two city agencies, three modes of transport (trucks, trains and barges), 1,668 city collection trucks, an additional 248 private waste hauling companies, and a diverse network of temporary and permanent facilities extending halfway around the world."

The full article can be read here.

We must protect the Grand Canyon before time runs out - Robert F Kennedy Jr

From the Guardian - Americans must prevail on President Obama to establish a national monument around Grand Canyon National Park before we lose this historic chance

"In 1967, my father took me and eight of my brothers and sisters on a whitewater trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. We camped on its massive sandbars, swam in its silty waters and explored the ancient geology of this iconic American landscape. He wanted us to experience the river and to understand the benefits that stem from our nation’s commitment to protecting its inspiring natural treasures.

I had these ideas in mind when I took my own daughter, Kick, down the Grand Canyon 40 years later, in 2007. We joined my old friend, the great anthropologist Wade Davis, and his daughter Tara. Davis was working on a book, and the four of us were guests of Imax cinematographer Greg MacGillivray, who released his film about our journey, Grand Canyon Adventure: River At Risk, in 2008.

The trip, book and film focused on the myopic water management policies that led to the construction of the two giant dams that bookend the Grand Canyon – Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam – and the environmental devastation they’ve wrought.

We weren’t aware, at that time, of another insidious threat facing the Canyon’s fragile ecosystems and the people who depend on them: uranium mining. As rock climbing phenom Alex Honnold pointed out here in the Guardian last May in a bold call to protect our public lands, the Grand Canyon is at once grappling with contamination from past mining and threatened by proposed new mining.

Uranium’s boom-and-bust history has left hundreds of abandoned mines leaching toxic contaminants into this desert region’s vital water sources. In 2010, the US Geological Survey found that 15 springs and five wellswithin the Grand Canyon’s watershed had dangerous levels of uranium “related to mining processes”.

North Dakota pipeline protesters pushed back from site after 141 arrested

From the Guardian - deploying pepper spray and armored vehicles marked beginning of new phase to thwart demonstrations to prevent construction of the controversial oil pipeline

"Law enforcement officials arrested 141 people in North Dakota after police surrounded protesters, deploying pepper spray and armored vehicles in order to clear hundreds of Native American activists and supporters from land owned by an oil pipeline company.

The move marked the beginning of an aggressive new phase in ongoing police efforts to thwart a months-long demonstration by hundreds of members of more than 90 Native American tribes to prevent the construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten the regional water supply and destroy sacred sites.

The confrontations marked the most intense conflict to date at the protest, which has become a flashpoint across the US for Native American rights and climate change activism.

Clashes between Morton County law enforcement and protesters escalated on Thursday during a tense all-day standoff, as police pushed protesters off the private land where the pipeline is slated for construction, forcing activists to retreat back to the camps that have sprung up since the protest began in April."

The full article can be read here.

Amitav Ghosh: where is the fiction about climate change?

From the Guardian - the climate crisis casts a much smaller shadow on literary fiction than it does on the world. We are living through a crisis of culture – and of the imagination

"It is a simple fact that climate change has a much smaller presence in contemporary literary fiction than it does even in public discussion. As proof of this, we need only glance through the pages of literary journals and book reviews. When the subject of climate change occurs, it is almost always in relation to nonfiction; novels and short stories are very rarely to be glimpsed within this horizon. Indeed, it could even be said that fiction that deals with climate change is almost by definition not of the kind that is taken seriously: the mere mention of the subject is often enough to relegate a novel or a short story to the genre of science fiction. It is as though in the literary imagination climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel.

There is something confounding about this peculiar feedback loop. It is very difficult, surely, to imagine a conception of seriousness that is blind to potentially life-changing threats. And if the urgency of a subject were indeed a criterion of its seriousness, then, considering what climate change actually portends for the future of the Earth, it should surely follow that this would be the principal preoccupation of writers the world over – and this, I think, is very far from being the case. But why?

Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world? Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration? But the truth, as is now widely acknowledged, is that we have entered a time when the wild has become the norm: if certain literary forms are unable to negotiate these waters, then they will have failed – and their failures will have to be counted as an aspect of the broader imaginative and cultural failure that lies at the heart of the climate crisis."

The full article can be read here.

EU proposes total commercial fishing ban on Atlantic sea bass

From the Guardian - move would also cut Scottish whiting catches to zero, while Celtic cod and Irish sole face hefty reductions to prevent stocks collapsing

"The European commission has proposed closures on commercial fishing for sea bass in the Atlantic and whiting in the waters west of Scotland from next year, in order to prevent a collapse in fish stocks.

The total allowable catch (TAC) for cod in the Celtic Sea will also be cut by 68% under the plan, while sole quotas in the Irish Sea will be trimmed by a hefty 82%.

The move, to cut sea bass catches from 570 tonnes a year to zero, follows what the EU calls “very alarming” advice from fisheries scientists, who found that numbers had fallen below “safe biological limits”.

The same was true for Celtic cod, although cod from the North Sea which makes up a much higher percentage of British catches is in a healthier state and will be unaffected.

“Celtic Sea cod could collapse,” without the proposed limits, one EU official said. “There is a reason why scientists are recommending such harsh proposals,” the source added. “There are just not enough fish in the sea.”

The full article can be read here.

Climate change rate to turn southern Spain to desert by 2100, report warns

From the Guardian - Mediterranean ecosystems will change to a state unprecedented in the past 10,000 years unless temperature rises are held to within 1.5C, say scientists

"Southern Spain will be reduced to desert by the end of the century if the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, researchers have warned.

Anything less than extremely ambitious and politically unlikely carbon emissions cuts will see ecosystems in the Mediterranean change to a state unprecedented in the past 10 millennia, they said.

The study, published in the journal Science, modelled what would happen to vegetation in the Mediterranean basin under four different paths of future carbon emissions, from a business-as-usual scenario at the worst end to keeping temperature rises below the Paris climate deal target of 1.5C at the other.

Temperatures would rise nearly 5C globally under the worst case scenario by 2100, causing deserts to expand northwards across southern Spain and Sicily, and Mediterranean vegetation to replace deciduous forests.

Even if emissions are held to the level of pledges put forward ahead of the Paris deal, southern Europe would experience a “substantial” expansion of deserts. The level of change would be beyond anything the region’s ecosystems had experienced during the holocene, the geological epoch that started more than 10,000 years ago."

The full article can be read here.

Latest WikiLeaks dump ties Clinton Foundation to personal enrichment claims

From the Guardian - former advisers boast of securing more than $100m for ‘Bill Clinton Inc’ after being questioned about their own conflicts of interest

"Donald Trump’s campaign has seized on embarrassing revelations of blurred lines between the Clinton Foundation and the family’s business interests, as fresh WikiLeaks emails cause their biggest political stir yet.

The new disclosures detail the extent of what was dubbed “Bill Clinton Inc” by advisers who boasted of securing more than $100m for the former president when challenged about their own conflicts of interest.

One email discussing an internal investigation into whether the foundation’s charitable status was at risk reveals Chelsea Clinton warning that her father would be “horrified” to hear that comparisons were being made between his activities and “Tony Blair’s profit motivations”.

Now the affair threatens to cast a cloud over Hillary Clinton’s campaign as demands are made for the full internal audit to be made public rather than just the snapshots provided via WikiLeaks."

The full article can be read here.

World's largest marine park created in Ross Sea in Antarctica in landmark deal

From the Guardian - EU and 24 countries sign long-awaited agreement to protect 1.1m sq km of water in Southern Ocean, ensuring that fewer younger fish will be caught

"A landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean has been brokered in Australia, after five years of compromises and failed negotiations.

More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed.

Significantly, the protections are set to expire in 35 years.

The agreement came on Friday at the conclusion of two weeks of discussions between delegates from 24 countries and the EU in Hobart, at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)."

The full article can be read here.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Climate change wars are coming and building walls won’t help, top general warns

From the Independent - the effects of global warming ‘are becoming so severe they hold tremendous conflict potential’ in some areas and the world should prepare for millions of refugees

"Climate change is threatening to force millions of people to become refugees and spark major wars that could “completely destabilise” the world, a leading general has warned.

And countries which attempted to deal with the coming crisis by resorting to “narrow nationalistic instincts” – for example, by building walls to keep out refugees – will only make the problem worse, according to Major General Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council On Climate Change (GMACCC).

He added that, while countries had talked a lot about the problems posed by global warming and how to address them, there did not seem to be “much action” on the ground.The GMACCC was set up in 2009 to investigate the security implications of climate change and its members include serving and retired military officers from around the world, such as the UK’s Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti and Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, a former US Marine."

World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020, major report warns

From the Guardian - Living Planet Index shows vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67% on 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact

"The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.

The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders.

The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of theAnthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point,” said Prof Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, in a foreword for the report.

The full article can be read here.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The expansion of Heathrow is unforgivable – we will fight this decision

From the Independent - Caroline Lucas - This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year – this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly

"It’s finally been confirmed: the Government is ignoring the abundant evidence and backing expansion of Europe’s biggest airport. For those of us who care about Britain’s role in combating climate change, and for people living in west London, today’s decision is a disaster.

This will directly affect those living around Heathrow, with increased pollution, noise and daily disruption to their lives – and it will benefit only the wealthier fliers, with just 15 per cent of UK residents accounting for seven out of 10 of all flights taken. This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year (and most people don’t even do that); this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly.

We are living under a Government that says it wants to allow people to “take back control”, yet it is pressing ahead with a decision that will inflict more noise and pollution on a local community that’s already suffering – all for the benefit of aviation lobbyists and the business-class set.

The expansion announcement today comes days after leading scientists said that the world is entering a new “climate change reality”, as average carbon dioxide levels are now more than 400 parts per million. The effects of burning more and more dirty fossil fuels are well known, but worth reiterating. From an increase in devastating flooding in Britain, to wildfires in Indonesia and more hurricanes hitting the Caribbean – climate change affects everyone’s lives, but hits the most vulnerable communities hardest."

The full article can be read here.

The Guardian view on Heathrow’s third runway: climate loses out to growth

From the Guardian - the decision is taken, but enacting it will be a fight between old-fashioned economics and the future of the planet

"It is a sign of the British political world’s current priorities that Theresa May has finally made the decision to opt for a third runway at Heathrow. She promised it was a decision for “jobs and growth”, both of which may be scarcer in the post-Brexit era in which the new runway will come into service. Pumping hope into the economy is now considered worth alienating every Conservative council and MP whose voters live under the flightpath of planes using the new runway, including Mrs May’s own Maidenhead constituents. It is worth at least one backbench resignation (and maybe a lost byelection) and a novel reinterpretation of the convention about cabinet responsibility in order to accommodate public dissent from at least two ministers. It is worth what will probably be millions of pounds fighting legal challenges over air and noise pollution. Most of all, the decision puts old-fashioned economics firmly ahead of tackling climate change, which turned out not to be worth a single mention intransport secretary Chris Grayling’s opening statement to MPs.

The decision, which has now to be incorporated into a national policy statement on aviation that MPs will vote on some time in the next 18 months, comes heavily gilded with incentives to local residents to take the money and keep quiet. About 750 homes will be subject to compulsory purchase: £1.5bn has been set aside to pay compensation at the market rate for the unblighted value of each home and for the resettlement costs of the residents. At least another £1bn will be paid out for noise insulation in schools and improvements in public facilities. There will be a new community resource fund. Mr Grayling promised MPs that there would be a 50% increase in travellers arriving at Heathrow by public transport, and the cost of improving road access would fall not to the taxpayer but to the developers. The £17bn bill for development is to be picked up by the developers and not passed on to air passengers. A senior retired judge has been appointed to oversee the consultation period. “This is not expansion at any cost, but the right scheme at the right price,” Mr Grayling declared."

The full article can be read here.

Hacked emails reveal plan to counter Rupert Murdoch's climate denial

From the Guardian - emails sent to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta reveal $3m campaign aimed to put media mogul ‘on the defensive’ and help conservative politicians support global warming action

"A well-funded international campaign to counter the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire on climate change has been planned, emails to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman reveal.

The plan to use “guerilla tactics”, civil disobedience and targeted advertising appears to have been hatched by David Fenton, founder of Fenton Communications, a US public relations agency.

The proposal aimed to “make Murdoch’s climate denial a major issue,” and “bring the scientific facts on climate change to his audiences directly in print and on television”. It would involve adverts in his and other publications, and the creation of websites that disseminated facts about climate change, and directly challenged the reporting in Murdoch media.

The goal was to put Murdoch “on the defensive on climate change,” and make it possible for conservative politicians to support action on climate change. Part of the plan involved “public shaming” of Murdoch so that his children, who have more progressive views on climate change, would have “leverage with their father”.

Alaska seal can be protected based on future climate threat, court says

From the Guardian - ruling over species’ ‘threatened’ status could set key precedent as animals face changing environments in projections to end of century

"Species can be listed as “threatened” and receive protection based on climate change projections that stretch until the end of the century, a federal appeals court has ruled, in a decision that could have major implications for the fate of animals as their environment rapidly changes.

A three-judge panel at the US ninth circuit court unanimously rejected an appeal by a coalition of oil companies, the state of Alaska and indigenous Alaskans to prevent a subspecies of the Pacific bearded seal from getting federal protection.

The federal government’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decided that the Alaska-based populations of bearded seals would “almost certainly” be at risk of being wiped out due to disappearing Arctic sea ice by 2095.

Alaska, along with the oil companies, argued that listing the species as threatened wasn’t warranted because the climate predictions were speculative. The appeals court disagreed, potentially opening the way for other species to be protected due to long-range climate forecasts."

Over 120 arrested at North Dakota pipeline protests, including journalists

From the Guardian - reporters and activists accused police of stifling free speech, saying they aggressively targeted nonviolent protesters with batons and pepper spray

"North Dakota police arrested more than 120 people over the weekend at Native American oil pipeline protests, including film-makers and journalists, prompting accusations that law enforcement officials are stifling free speech and using excessive force against peaceful protesters.

There were increasingly tense clashes between police and demonstrators against the Dakota access pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is a threat to its water supply and cultural heritage.

Reporters and protesters recently released from jail told the Guardian that police aggressively targeted nonviolent demonstrators with batons and pepper spray and indiscriminately arrested journalists and film-makers before issuing “riot” and “criminal trespassing” charges.

“I’ve covered conflicts overseas, and I never imagined I would see this kind of show of force against peaceful people,” said Jihan Hafiz, a freelance journalistwho was arrested hours after she arrived on Saturday. “This is the kind of thing you see in the Middle East.”

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

'The atmosphere is being radicalized' by climate change

From the Guardian - to paraphrase Donald Trump, this is radical atmospheric change and Republicans won’t even mention the words

"Climate change’s impacts on extreme weather and society are becoming increasingly clear and undeniable. While we are making progress in solving the problem, we’re still moving too slowly, and one of the two political parties governing the world’s strongest superpower continues to deny the science. This led astrophysicist Katie Mack to make the following suggestion, related to a common refrain from Donald Trump and Republican Party leaders:

"Maybe governments will actually listen if we stop saying "extreme weather" & "climate change" & just say the atmosphere is being radicalised"

Global warming intensified Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew set a number of records. Its record-breaking rainfall and storm surge caused historic flooding and destructive winds along the coasts of Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Hillary Clinton touched upon the science linking global warming and hurricane impacts in a recent speech in Florida:

At Climate Progress, Joe Romm summarized the various ways in which global warming makes hurricanes like Matthew more intense:
Hotter sea surface and upper ocean temperatures fuel hurricanes, leading to more of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) storms.
Hotter ocean temperatures also cause more rapid intensification of hurricanes, and the most intense storms are those that undergo rapid intensification.
Global warming causes sea level rise, which creates larger storm surges and thus worse flooding.
Global warming also adds more water vapor to the atmosphere, which causes more intense rainfall and exacerbates flooding.

In short, global warming made Hurricane Matthew and its impacts more severe, and will lead to more such devastating hurricanes in the future."

The full article can be read here.

Murder of Brazil official marks new low in war on Amazon environmentalists

From the Guardian - Luiz Alberto Araújo, a local government official in Pará state, was gunned down in front of his family: ‘It sends a message that no one is untouchable’

It was just after sunset in Altamira, a small town nestled on a curve of the Xingu river in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, when Luiz Alberto Araújo, the secretary for the environment on the city council, arrived home with his family.

Before he could get out of his car, two men on a motorcycle pulled up and the passenger shot seven bullets into the 54-year-old, who was still sitting in the driver’s seat.

The killer got off the bike, opened the car door and shot him twice more. Araújo slumped on to his wife, who was seated beside him. Neither she, nor his two stepchildren, were injured. No attempt was made to steal anything.

The killing, on Thursday 13 October, had all the hallmarks of the sort of assassination that is common in the lawless Pará state, in the eastern Amazon, where illegal logging, clandestine mining and modern slavery are rife.

More than 150 environmental activists have been killed in Brazil since 2012, with studies showing the country accounts for half the global toll of such murders.

Many of those killed, including the high-profile cases of Chico Mendes, Dorothy Stang and Zé Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, were campaigners. But Araújo was a government official, and advocates say his murder is a rare and worrying development.

The full article can be read here.

Humans and global warming to blame for sharp rise in shark attacks, study finds

From the Independent - scientists believe building work, pollution and tourism linked to rise in maulings

"Human activity in coastal development, pollution and tourism activities such as scuba diving are partly to blame for a record number in shark attacks worldwide, scientists have found.

Researchers at Bond University in Queensland, Australia, found human interference with the animals’ habitat - and global warming - is causing the sharp rise.Shark attacks on people have significantly increased in recent years. There were 98 reported bites last year – a 11 per cent increase on the previous record of 88 in 2000 and a 69 per cent rise in the last decade.

Some 84 per cent of shark bites occurred in just six countries or territories: the USA, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, the Bahamas and Reunion. More than half took place in US waters, with Florida the most frequent location.

Dr Blake Chapman and Dr Daryl McPhee, who conducted the study, believe a combination of pollution, coastal development and tourist activity is partly to blame for the increase in attacks. Climate change is thought to have the greatest impact of all, as warmer seas allow shark populations to increase rapidly."

The full article can be read here.

Detroit incinerator is hotspot for health problems, environmentalists claim

From the Guardian - the country’s biggest trash-burning facility has been issued with a notice to sue, with local residents complaining of the bad smell and pollution it produces

"At the intersection of two highways just outside downtown Detroit, a hulking relic of the city’s past looms over the skyline: the largest municipal trash incinerator in the US. It’s a facility that has raised concerns of nearby residents since its construction in the 1980s.

And some days, it stinks.

“The odors, if you ride I-94, you get this foul, rotten egg smell,” said Sandra Turner-Handy, who lives about three miles from the facility.

The 59-year-old said her son used to work a block away from the incinerator and said the smell was “constant”. Her granddaughter developed asthma while attending a school near the incinerator, but hasn’t used an inhaler since she graduated and moved away.

The persistent odor and emission of other polluting substances are among 40 alleged Clean Air Act and state violations that have been logged against the company that owns the facility, Detroit Renewable Energy, since March 2015, according to a notice to sue by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center."

The full article can be read here.

Monday, 24 October 2016

CO2 levels mark 'new era' in the world's changing climate

From the BBC - levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have surged past an important threshold and may not dip below it for "many generations".

"The 400 parts per million benchmark was broken globally for the first time in recorded history in 2015.

But according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), 2016 will likely be the first full year to exceed the mark.

The high levels can be partly attributed to a strong El Niño event.

Gas spike

While human emissions of CO2 remained fairly static between 2014 and 2015, the onset of a strong El Niño weather phenomenon caused a spike in levels of the gas in the atmosphere.

That's because the drought conditions in tropical regions produced by El Niño meant that vegetation was less able to absorb CO2. There were also extra emissions from fires, sparked by the drier conditions.

In their annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the World Meteorological Organisation says the conditions helped push the growth in the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere above the average for the last ten years.

At the atmospheric monitoring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, levels of CO2 broke through 400 parts per million (ppm), meaning 400 molecules of CO2 for every one million molecules in the atmosphere.

The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago, say experts.

Prior to 1800 atmospheric levels were around 280ppm, according to the US National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

The WMO says that the rise through the 400ppm barrier has persisted and it's likely that 2016 will be the first full year when the measurements show CO2 above that benchmark, and "hence for many generations".

The full article can be read here.

How ministers' spending on flood defences favours the rich: Scheme is tilted towards the South East because it is allocated by the value of property

From the Mail:

"The system for allocating taxpayers’ money to flood defence schemes favours protecting wealthy families and those in the South East, analysis suggests.

The Government has said it applies a strict economic formula to deciding where money should be spent.

But an investigation has shown the methods to determine where cash goes focuses on the value of assets protected – which could tilt the system towards richer households and those in parts of the country where house prices are higher.

It has prompted calls for a fairer system to prevent the poor being worst hit by floods.

To secure funding, a flood protection scheme has to demonstrate that it delivers more in benefits than it costs to implement and maintain the defences – by calculating the economic losses avoided through protecting property and infrastructure.

The calculation looks at direct damages for homes and other buildings and their contents, clean-up costs, loss of agricultural production and commercial stock as well as indirect damages such as disruption to transport, water, electricity or access to amenities."

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Charge up! Government scheme gives £4m drive to firms for electric powered trucks

From the Express - TRUCKERS are being urged to go electric with a new £4million government scheme to reduce air pollution by making lorries greener.

"Grants of up to £20,000 will be given to firms to help them switch gas-guzzling trucks to new electric-powered equivalents.

Previously the scheme was open only to so-called white van men driving vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tonnes, but it has now been extended to include lorries above that weight.

Unveiling the plans during a visit to Japan yesterday, Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The electric car revolution is well under way with consumers and this funding will encourage more businesses to consider switching to cleaner vans and trucks.”

Mr Clark met with the bosses of Nissan, Honda and Toyota, which all have major factories in the UK, to reassure them about Brexit.

Nissan has already raised concerns about the referendum result and chief executive Carlos Ghosn held talks at Downing Street earlier this month.

A decision on whether to build the new Qashqai model at the firm’s Sunderland plant is expected to be taken next month.

Mr Clark added: “Our automotive sector is thriving with the world’s most popular electric car already made in the UK and we are forging ahead to deploy new engine technology to make low-carbon vehicles mainstream, and leading the way in driverless car technology.

“The Government and industry continue to work together to support the UK’s world class automotive industry to ensure we continue to be the number one place in the world to develop and manufacture cars.”

The drive to boost electric goods vehicles comes after disappointing take-up of the original grant offer for electric vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, which has been available since 2012."

Blowing our money? Taxpayer's money spent on windfarms doubled in five years

From the Express - PUBLIC spending on onshore windfarms has almost doubled in the past five years, according to newly-published figures.

Last year £803million of taxpayers’ cash was ploughed into the building of wind turbines compared with £483million in 2011, a rise of more than 40 per cent.

It comes as a public inquiry has opened into plans to create England’s largest onshore wind farm. Peel Energy and United Utilities want to add a further 16 wind turbines at Scout Moor in Greater Manchester.

There was strong opposition to the site being built in 2008, led by environmental campaigner David Bellamy, who has claimed it will damage the countryside and create a blot on the landscape.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Farage on US Presidential Election

From YouTube - Emergency! Man Behind Brexit Issues Warning For America

Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage breaks down the dire importance of America's upcoming presidential election, and warns that if the U.S. doesn't act now we could be facing a collapse like we've never seen before.

Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks urges supporters to STOP HACKING after shock Twitter crash

From the Express - WHISTLEBLOWING website WikiLeaks last night called on its followers to “stop taking down the US internet” after a co-ordinated cyber attack shut down a handful of major websites.

"Twitter, Amazon, Paypal and Spotify all experienced crippling problems following the strike, going offline for hours.

Later, Julian Assange's infamous website – famed for its exposure of the Afghan war diaries in 2010 – tweeted: “Mr Assange is still alive and WikiLeaks is still publishing.

“We ask our supporters to stop taking down the US internet. You proved your point.”

The account followed this up with another tweet reading: “The Obama administration should not have attempted to misuse its instruments of state to stop criticism of its ruling party candidate.”

The coordinated strike comes after Assange – barricaded in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 – claimed the US government last week silenced him by cutting off his internet connection.

Connection to dozens of sites was lost following an attack from “millions” of internet users around 6AM Eastern Time (11AM GMT), according to Internet service company Dyn."

Kansas chemical plant spill: Accident causes ‘noxious cloud’ and evacuations

From the Independent - the factory and a nearby school was evacuated, 34 people were treated at Aitchison Hospital

"A chemical plant spill caused a “noxious cloud” to form over northeastern Kansas, forcing the evacuation of the factory and a school.

At least 34 people were treated at Atchison Hospital for respiratory discomfort on Friday, authorities said.

Smoke was reported from the MGP Ingredients plant in Atchison, posing a breathing threat, according to Atchison County emergency manager Wes Lanter.

Two chemicals were inadvertently mixed within the sewage facility at the plant, creating a gaseous plume, said city manager Trey Cocking.

The St Joseph News Pressreported that one school was evacuated and several classes kept students and staff indoors as a thick fog spread over the town, which smelt like chlorine.

"This was a large plume that enveloped a large area. We’re very fortunate this time that there were not more injuries," Atchison fire chief Ted Graf said."

The full article can be read here.

Four in 10 UK councils exceed air pollution limits, figures show

From the Guardian - Ministers reveal 169 local authorities breached annual legal limits on nitrogen oxide, linked to lung disease, last year

"Four in 10 of Britain’s local authorities breached legal air quality limits last year, largely due to heavy road traffic, government records reveal.

Ministers have admitted that 169 local authorities were found to have gone over annual limits on nitrogen dioxide. It is an invisible gas produced predominantly by road traffic, and is linked to lung disease and cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Monitoring stations in councils across all four nations of the UK recorded breaches of the legal limits on NO2, data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows.

A report in April from the environment, food and rural affairs select committee stated that poor air quality was linked to more than 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. The committee is chaired by Neil Parish, the Tory MP who obtained the latest figures from the government."

The full article can be read here.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Emergency order for Flint water crisis should have come sooner, EPA admits

From the Guardian - Inspector general says the agency had the authority and ‘sufficient information’ to address lead contamination seven months before it finally took action

"The Environmental Protection Agency should have issued an emergency order to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, seven months before it eventually decided to take action, according to a report from the agency’s inspector general.

The EPA’s office of inspector general on Thursday said the agency had the authority and “sufficient information” to act far sooner than it did to address vast lead contamination in the city.

“These situations should generate a greater sense of urgency,” said Arthur Elkins, the inspector general, in a statement. “Federal law provides the EPA with emergency authority to intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised. Employees must be knowledgeable, trained and ready to act when such a public health threat looms.”

The full article can be read here.

Documentary film-makers face decades in prison for taping oil pipeline protests

From the Guardian - Deia Schlosberg and Lindsey Grayzel face felony charges that first amendment advocates say are part of a growing number of attacks on freedom of the press

"Two documentary film-makers are facing decades in prison for recording US oil pipeline protests, with serious felony charges that first amendment advocates say are part of a growing number of attacks on freedom of the press.

The controversial prosecutions of Deia Schlosberg and Lindsey Grayzel are moving forward after a judge in North Dakota rejected “riot” charges filed againstDemocracy Now! host Amy Goodman for her high-profile reporting at the Dakota Access pipeline protests.

But authorities in other parts of North Dakota and in Washington state have continued to target other film-makers over their recent reporting on similar demonstrations, raising concerns that the lesser-known journalists are not getting the same kind of public support and national attention."

The full article can be read here.

Royal Society accused of allowing ‘anti-scientific coal baron’ to preach benefits of global warming

From the Independent - ‘You couldn’t invent a better climate-change-denier villain,’ says Professor Michael Mann

"One of the world’s leading climatologists has attacked Britain’s prestigious Royal Society for hosting an “anti-scientific” speech about the benefits of global warming by “coal baron” and “climate change denier villain” Matt Ridley.

Viscount Ridley, a journalist and hereditary peer, insisted mainstream scientists were exaggerating the risks because they had a “vested interest in alarm” during the event run by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a sceptic think tank, at the world’s oldest scientific institution.

He claimed “environmental predictions of doom” would “always” turn out to be wrong; the “best evidence” suggested the planet would not get as warm as experts predict; and that climate models had been “consistently wrong”.

Higher amounts of carbon dioxide, which plants use to grow, were also causing beneficial “global greening”, Lord Ridley said, citing academic research.

However, Professor Michael Mann, who led research that produced the famous “hockey stick” graph showing how humans were dramatically increasing the Earth’s temperature, accused Lord Ridley of buying “into the sort of conspiratorial thinking uttered by Donald Trump”. The US presidential candidate has claimed global warming is a hoax perpetrated by China on the US.

The Royal Society’s decision to host the speech was “presumably as a gesture of ‘open-mindedness’”, Professor Mann, of Penn State University in the US, told The Independent.

“The motto of the Royal Society is ‘Nullius in verba’, which translates to ‘take nobody's word for it’. It is an affirmation of legitimate scepticism, but not the sort of pseudo-sceptical, anti-scientific, bad-faith contrarianism displayed by the Matt Ridleys of the world,” he added.

Global wine production expected to fall by 5% due to 'climatic events'

From the Guardian - South America, particularly Argentina and Chile, likely to see biggest decline, which may concern fans of wines such as malbec

Global wine production is expected to fall by 5% in 2016 because of “climatic events” causing steep drops in production in most of the southern hemisphere, particularly Chile and Argentina.

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) has estimated that output will reach 259.5m hectolitres (mhl) this year, making 2016 one of the lowest production years in the past two decades.

While the amount of wine produced should meet consumer demand, the figures are a reminder of how global warming and natural climate variability are having a profound effect on wine, and perhaps where it will be grown in future.

The full article can be read here.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Cameron aide said government was ‘exposed on Heathrow’ over air quality

From the Guardian - as Theresa May prepares for airport expansion decision, memo emerges in which former PM was told he did not ‘have an answer’ on pollution concerns

"David Cameron’s No 10 policy chief warned him a year ago that he was “exposed on Heathrow” because the government did not have an answer to its impact on air quality, an internal Downing Street note has revealed.

The memo was written by Camilla Cavendish, a former Downing Street adviser, who was scathing about the first draft of a government air quality plan from the department of the then environment secretary, Liz Truss.

“There are three problems with Liz’s clean air plan as currently written,” the note from September 2015 says. “First it is still very much a draft which quotes initiatives that are likely to be abolished … Second it both overclaims and underwhelms.

“It says we want the cleanest air in the world but does not even begin to tackle the fundamental question of how we might help people to shift away from diesel cars. Third, it leaves us exposed on Heathrow where we don’t yet have an answer on air quality.”

The full article can be read here.

Onshore windfarms more popular than thought, UK poll finds

From the Guardian - some 73% of the British public polled by ComRes support onshore windfarms in contrast with government decisions to block them

"Public support for onshore windfarms is far higher than widely believed, according to a new opinion poll, even in rural areas.

Wind turbines are also far more popular than fracking or nuclear power, contrasting with the UK government’s decision to block onshore windfarms but back shale gas exploration and new nuclear power plants.

The ComRes poll, conducted for climate change charity 10:10, found that 73% of the British public supported onshore windfarms, with just 17% opposed, and the rest not sure. Strong support remained even when only considering the views of those from rural areas, who might live near windfarms: 65% support versus 25% against.

However, when people were asked what level of support they thought windfarms had across the country, just one in 10 said it was more than 70%. The average level of support estimated by people was just 42%, far below the true figure. Research for 10:10 conducted by Imperial College London showed that more than two-thirds of newspaper comment and editorial articles in the last five years were negative overall about windfarms.

“The UK public love wind power and they don’t even realise,” said Max Wakefield, at 10:10, which launched its Blown Away campaign on Thursday. “It’s plainly not true onshore wind is unpopular with the UK public. It’s time our politicians caught up. Onshore wind is already the cheapest tool we have to achieve energy independence, keep bills under control and tackle climate change.”

The full article can be read here.

Air pollution more deadly in Africa than malnutrition or dirty water, study warns

From the Guardian - annual human and economic cost of tainted air runs to 712,000 lost lives and £364bn, finds Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

"Africa’s air pollution is causing more premature deaths than unsafe water or childhood malnutrition, and could develop into a health and climate crisis reminiscent of those seen in China and India, a study by a global policy forum has found.

The first major attempt to calculate both the human and financial cost of the continent’s pollution suggests dirty air could be killing 712,000 people a year prematurely, compared with approximately 542,000 from unsafe water, 275,000 from malnutrition and 391,000 from unsafe sanitation.

While most major environmental hazards have been improving with development gains and industrialisation, outdoor (or “ambient particulate”) air pollution from traffic, power generation and industries is increasing rapidly, especially in fast-developing countries such as Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

“Annual deaths from ambient [outdoor] particulate matter pollution across the African continent increased by 36% from 1990 to 2013. Over the same period, deaths from household air pollution also continued to increase, but only by 18%”, said a researcher at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development development centre. The OECD is funded by the world’s richest 34 countries."

The full article can be read here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Wealthy countries doing ‘nowhere near enough’ to help poorest cope with climate change

From the Independent - a drought in southern Africa affecting 40 million people is just ‘a grim foretaste of just the kind of suffering and hunger we are going to see in the years ahead’ unless poor countries get more help

"Wealthy nations are doing “nowhere near enough” to help the world’s poorest people cope with the effects of climate change, Oxfam has warned after 38 developed countries claimed they were on track to meet their pledges to provide aid.

As part of the Paris Agreement of Climate Change, rich states promised to raise $100bn (about £81bn) a year by 2020 to help the poorest ones, either by providing money directly or persuading private companies to contribute.

While the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found earlier this year that they were on course to fall billions of dollars short of this target, the countries themselves have now produced a “roadmap” report saying they are “confident” it will be met based on a few “modest assumptions”.

However Oxfam warned that instead of giving money, most countries were lending it, while others were rebranding ordinary aid as climate finance."

The full article can be read here.

George Osborne accused of illegally blocking moves to cut air pollution because they cost too much

From the Independent - ‘ClientEarth’s evidence on how the Treasury has prioritised costs and political comfort over people’s lives is hard to overstate,’ environmental campaigner says

"Measures designed to cut air pollution were illegally blocked last year by the then Chancellor George Osborne on the grounds of cost, the High Court has heard.

Environmental law group ClientEarth is taking legal action against the Government over its “failure to tackle the national air pollution crisis”.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is “wreaking havoc on human health” and the UK Government estimates it causes the premature death of 40,000 people a year. Campaigners have also described diesel fumes as the “biggest public health catastrophe since the Black Death”.

Under European Union law, the Government was supposed to have taken action to reduce air pollution, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), to within a set limit by 2010."

The full article can be read here.

Amy Goodman showed us the perils of standing up to the fossil fuel industry

From the Guardian - The rights of activists and journalists are under threat wherever communities challenge Big Oil – in North Dakota and beyond

"For far too long, the world had been ignoring the North Dakota anti-pipelines protests. Then the Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman captured private security forces (employed by a fossil fuel company) sicking dogs on Native Americans during a peaceful demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which encroaches on their sacred lands and waters. For that, she nearly went to jail.

The video made Goodman a target of North Dakota authorities, who brought charges of trespassing and rioting against her and the native leaders on the ground during the dog attack. Yes, a journalist was threatened with punishment for reporting on the horrific attack on indigenous people.

Authorities said Goodman didn’t deserve press protections because her opinions made her an “activist” instead of a journalist. Are we to punish every journalist who calls out state violence as he or she sees it? How could you not have an opinion in the face of such brutality? Should Walter Cronkite have gone to prison for his words about Vietnam?"

2016 locked into being hottest year on record, Nasa says

From the Guardian - data shows September was the warmest in modern temperature monitoring following months of record-breaking anomalies this year

"Nasa has all but declared this year to be the hottest yet recorded, after September narrowly turned out the warmest in modern temperature monitoring.

Last month was 0.91C above the average temperature for that time of year from 1951 to 1980, the benchmark used for measuring rises.

The new findings follow record-breaking monthly anomalies throughout this year, leading the agency to believe that because of the highs reported so far, 2016 will take the crown as warmest in the 136 years of modern data-keeping.

The full article can be read here."

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

MIT nuclear fusion record marks latest step towards unlimited clean energy

From the Guardian - Scientists create the highest plasma pressure ever recorded with the Alcator C-Mod reactor in a breakthrough for clean energy technology

"A nuclear fusion world record has been set in the US, marking another step on the long road towards the unlocking of limitless clean energy.

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created the highest plasma pressure ever recorded, using its Alcator C-Mod tokamak reactor. High pressures and extreme temperatures are vital in forcing atoms together to release huge amounts of energy.

Nuclear fusion powers the sun and has long been touted as the ultimate solution to powering the world while halting climate change. But, as fusion sceptics often say, the reality has stubbornly remained a decade or two away for many years.

Now MIT scientists have increased the record plasma pressure to more than two atmospheres, a 16% increase on the previous record set in 2005, at a temperature of 35 million C and lasting for two seconds. The breakthrough was presented at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s fusion summit in Japan on Monday.

Successful fusion means getting more energy out than is put in and this requires the combination of pressure, temperature and time to pass a critical value at which point the reaction becomes self-sustaining. This remains elusive but the MIT record shows that using very high magnetic fields to contain the plasma may be the most promising route to practical nuclear fusion reactors."

Slow-motion wrecks: how thawing permafrost is destroying Arctic cities

From the Independent - cracking and collapsing homes are a growing problem in cities such as Norilsk in northern Russia. As climate change accelerates the problem, what can be done to maintain the resource-rich hubs the country relies on?

"At first, Yury Scherbakov thought the cracks appearing in a wall he had installed in his two-room flat were caused by shoddy workmanship. But then other walls started cracking, and then the floor started to incline. “We sat on the couch and could feel it tilt,” says his wife, Nadezhda, as they carry furniture out of the flat.

Yury wasn’t a poor craftsman, and Nadezhda wasn’t crazy: one corner of their five-storey building at 59 Talnakhskaya Street in the northern Russian city of Norilsk was sinking as the permafrost underneath it thawed and the foundation slowly disintegrated. In March 2015, local authorities posted notices in the stairwells that the building was condemned.

Cracking and collapsing structures are a growing problem in cities like Norilsk – a nickel-producing centre of 177,000 people located 180 miles above the Arctic Circle – as climate change thaws the perennially frozen soil and increases precipitation. Valery Tereshkov, deputy head of the emergencies ministry in the Krasnoyarsk region, wrote in an article this year that almost 60% of all buildings in Norilsk have been deformed as a result of climate change shrinking the permafrost zone. Local engineers said more than 100 residential buildings, or one-tenth of the housing fund, have been vacated here due to damage from thawing permafrost."

New pictures show Great Barrier Reef is not repairing itself as it should

From the Independent - 'If it was a person, it would be on life support'

"New images of the Great Barrier Reef have revealed the extent of the damage climate change has caused to the coral.

The world’s largest reef system, which stretches for over 1,400 miles off the coast of Australia, has been severely affected by rising water temperatures.

In May, researchers found more than a third of corals in central and northern parts of the reef had been killed and 93 per cent of individual reefs had been affected by a condition known as coral bleaching, where too warm water causes corals to expel algae living in their tissue and turn completely white. Corals depend on a symbiotic relationship with algae-like single cell protozoa, so when these are expelled they stop growing and often die.

New research shows the damage has worsened rather than begun to repair.

Amanda McKenzie, CEO of the Australian Climate Council, said at the start of this year scientists had described the reef as “110% alive”.

"After the bleaching event in May, 60 per cent of what we saw was bleached very white,” she said. “Another 19-20 per cent was covered in sludgy brown algae. Even of what remained healthy, some looked a bit on edge.

“When we went back a few weeks ago to see if they [the affected corals] had recovered or died, quite a large proportion had died.”

The full article can be read here.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Feeling the squeeze: Florida faces worst orange harvest crisis in a century

From the Guardian - US officials predict this year’s harvest will be down 14% from last year as trees reel from disease and hurricanes – and orange prices surge

"Florida might need to consider redesigning its license plates. The state’s plates feature a pair of ripe oranges above the famous “Sunshine State” slogan, but the region is in the midst of the worst orange harvest crisis since records began in 1913 – and prices are soaring.

The state’s orange trees, which are mostly used to produce juice, have been devastated by disease and hurricanes, causing harvest totals to fall for five successive seasons. The US Department of Agriculture this week predicted that the 2016 harvest would amount to just 70m boxes of oranges, a 14% drop on last year and a huge decline from bountiful days at the turn of this century when more than 23m boxes, each containing 90lb of fruit, were produced each year.

The steep drop in production has led orange juice futures prices to nearly double in 13 months, pushing producers to reduce the size of cartons and make more drinks that blend orange with other juices, in order to avoid shocking consumers with too big a price increase at the checkout. Orange juice futures traded on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) rose from $1.03 a pound in September 2015 to $2.05 last week. Some analysts predict that the price could reach $2.20 by the end of the year."

The full article can be read here.

Antarctic marine reserves deal within reach as Russia thaws environmental stance

From the Guardian - after five years of failed negotiations, conservations are hopeful Russia is prepared to make a deal to protect the Ross Sea and East Antarctica

"An international agreement to protect some of Antarctica’s unique and pristine marine ecosystems could be reached within a fortnight, with scientists and conversationists hopeful of a breakthrough after five years of failed negotiations.

Delegates from 24 nations and the European Union gathered in Hobart on Monday to commence two weeks of talks at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The commission has been working since 2011 towards protecting a range of areas in the Southern Ocean.If an agreement is reached, it would represent the first time a marine protected area was established in international waters by consensus. Russia has consistently blocked the agreement, with China also scuppering the deal each year until 2015."

The full article can be read here.

How climate change triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes

From the Guardian - Global warming may not only be causing more destructive hurricanes, it could also be shaking the ground beneath our feet

"The current consensus holds that while a warmer world will not necessarily mean more hurricanes, it will see a rise in the frequency of the most powerful, and therefore more destructive, variety. This view was supported recently by Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane scientist at MIT, who pointed to Matthew as a likely sign of things to come.

Debate within the hurricane science community has in recent decades been almost as hostile as the storms themselves, with researchers, on occasion, even refusing to sit on the same panels at conferences. At the heart of this sometimes acrimonious dispute has been the validity of the Atlantic hurricane record and the robustness of the idea that hurricane activity had been broadly ratcheting up since the 1980s. Now, the weight of evidence looks to have come down on the side of a broad and significant increase in hurricane activity that is primarily driven by progressive warming of the climate. For many, the bottom line is the sea surface temperature, which is a major driver of hurricane activity and storm intensification. Last year saw the warmest sea temperatures on record, so it should not be a surprise. As Michael Mann, an atmospheric scientist at Penn State University, says: “It isn’t a coincidence that we’ve seen the strongest hurricane in both hemispheres [western and eastern] within the last year.” As the Atlantic continues to heat up, the trend is widely expected to be towards more powerful and wetter storms, so that Matthew might seem like pretty small beer when looked back on from the mid-century.

The full article can be read here.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Climate change: global deal reached to limit use of hydrofluorocarbons

From the Guardian - Global deal on HFC greenhouse gases set to bring about ‘largest temperature reduction ever achieved by single agreement’

"A global deal to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the battle to combat climate change is a “monumental step forward”, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has said.

The agreement, announced on Saturday morning after all-night negotiations in Kigali, Rwanda, caps and reduces the use of HFCs – a key contributor to greenhouse gases – in a gradual process beginning in 2019, with action by developed countries including the US, the world’s second worst polluter.

More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter, will start taking action in 2024, sparking concern from some groups that the action would be implemented too slowly to make a difference. A small group of countries, including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states, also pushed for and secured a later start in 2028, saying their economies need more time to grow. That is three years earlier than India, the world’s third worst polluter, had first proposed."

The full article can be read here.

Tornado strikes Oregon coast: 'Suddenly the sky was filled with debris'

From the Guardian - thousands left without power and about 40 people rescued at campsite as utility crews prepare for an even rougher storm throughout the weekend

"A tornado struck an Oregon beach town late Friday, sending debris flying and toppling power lines and trees as strong winds and heavy rain walloped the Pacific north-west.

Thousands of people were without power as utility crews in the region prepared for what’s expected to be an even rougher storm on Saturday."

"Portland had the rainiest 13 October in its history. In addition, the National Weather Service says a 103mph wind gust was recorded at Cape Meares.

In Washington, Puget Sound Energy responded to scattered outages affecting thousands of people throughout the day. Lightning strikes hit the south-west Washington coast."

The full article can be read here.

Friday, 14 October 2016

We finally know what Hillary Clinton knew all along – US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis

From the Independent - there is a bizarre discontinuity between what the Obama administration knew about the jihadis and what they would say in public

"It is fortunate for Saudi Arabia and Qatar that the furore over the sexual antics of Donald Trump is preventing much attention being given to the latest batch of leaked emails to and from Hillary Clinton. Most fascinating of these is what reads like a US State Department memo, dated 17 August 2014, on the appropriate US response to the rapid advance of Isis forces, which were then sweeping through northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

At the time, the US Government was not admitting that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies were supporting Isis and al-Qaeda type movements. But in the leaked memo, which says that it draws on “western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region” there is no ambivalence about who is backing Isis, which at the time of writing was butchering and raping Yazidi villagers and slaughtering captured Iraqi and Syrian soldiers.

The memo says: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.” This was evidently received wisdom in the upper ranks of the US Government, but never openly admitted because to it was held that to antagonise Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Pakistan would fatally undermine US power in the Middle East and South Asia."

The full article can be read here.

Note: This issue and its ramifications is discussed more fully here:

Was a natural gas reserve under the Caspian Sea the real reason behind the war in Afghanistan?

From the Mirror - is the world ruled by a New World Order? Author Robert Howells is an expert on secret societies and thinks there is more to many world crises than meets the eye

"Between 2001 and 2015 the British government spent £27 billion of tax-payers money funding the war in Afghanistan.

During the same period, £12 billion was cut from the National Health Service. As 24-hour news repeated the political justification that we needed to invade Afghanistan to ‘stabilise’ the region, I wondered if that was true.

Historically war tends to have the opposite effect and interfering in the Middle East has increased terrorism and the region appears more chaotic than before the war.

Failing to ‘stabilise’ Afghanistan also cost the lives of 453 British soldiers.

Why the Afghanistan campaign was so prolonged, misguided and expensive might have been pure incompetence on the part of politicians but when searching for the answer I discovered something that had eluded the mainstream news coverage.

Conspiracy theorists talk online about a vast natural gas reserve under the Caspian Sea that the oil companies would like to run a pipe through to the Persian Gulf.

To do this the pipeline would need to go through either Iran or Afghanistan and that, according to the conspiracy theorists, is the real reason the British government is so interested in stabilising the area.

Could this be the real reason we spent all that tax-payers money and sacrificed so many good soldiers just to make oil companies richer?"

Electric vehicles could go first at traffic lights under UK clean air zone plans

From the Guardian - Government proposals to tackle air pollution in five UK cities could see electric vehicle drivers using bus lanes and getting priority at traffic lights

"Drivers of electric vehicles could be allowed to use bus lanes in five UK cities and even go first at traffic lights, to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, the government has suggested.

Launching its consultation on clean air zones to be introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton, the environment department said air pollution killed 50,000 people each year at an annual cost to society of £27.5bn.

Electric vehicles, which emit no pollution directly, are seen as a key way for local authorities to bring down levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the five cities, which are in breach of EU limits."

The full article can be read here.