Environment and Climate Change

Whale sharks gather at a few specific locations around the world – now we know why

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The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, but much of its lifecycle remains shrouded in mystery. Authors: The Conversation These gentle giants gather in just a handful of places around the globe – something which has long baffled scientists – but our new research has started to explain why. Better understanding of whale shark movements could help prevent further population loss in a species that has already experienced a 63% population decline over the past 75 years. ... Read More »

E.P.A. Chief Scott Pruitt Resigns Under a Cloud of Ethics Scandals

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WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and architect of President Trump’s aggressive effort to rewrite the government’s rule book on environmental regulations, resigned on Thursday in the face of numerous ethics investigations that… By Coral Davenport, Lisa Friedman and Maggie Haberman The New York Times Despite Mr. Pruitt’s efforts to nurture a close relationship with the president, Mr. Trump himself announced the resignation in a tweet sent from Air Force One. He thanked Mr. Pruitt for an “outstanding job” and said the agency’s ... Read More »

Prawn white spot virus, and how we tracked down its source in Asia

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This week Four Corners aired Outbreak – an investigation into alleged “quarantine failures putting the Australian economy at risk”. Wayne Knibb The Conversation The story in part reviewed how a pathogen known as White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) had decimated prawn farms located along the Logan River in Queensland. Some of my published research was presented as part of this ABC report. These data, with earlier reports, support the argument that Australia’s biosecurity arrangements were breached by WSSV from Asia. ... Read More »

3 reasons why the US is vulnerable to big disasters

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During the 2017 disaster season, three severe hurricanes devastated large parts of the U.S. Morten Wendelbo The Conversation The quick succession of major disasters made it obvious that such large-scale emergencies can be a strain, even in one of the world’s richest countries. As a complex emergency researcher, I investigate why some countries can better withstand and respond to disasters. The factors are many and diverse, but three major ones stand out because they are within the grasp of the ... Read More »

What happens when you give up plastic, and is it a lifestyle option for the lucky few?

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Reducing plastics when shopping for food, toiletries and travel products should be easy – so why is it so difficult? Stephanie Convery The Guardian A few months ago, my partner and I went snorkelling off the coast of Indonesia. We dove off tiny deserted islands and swam in the deep with giant manta rays, but what I remember most vividly about that trip was not the stunning coral or dazzling array of colourful, curious fish; it was the sheer amount ... Read More »

Plastic-eating bacteria discovered by student could help solve global pollution crisis

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Exclusive: Microbes found near plastic refinery degrade material, turning it into food Tom Embury-Dennis Independent A student may have found a solution to one of the world’s most urgent environmental crises – breeding bacteria capable of “eating” plastic and potentially breaking it down into harmless by-products. The microbes degrade polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – one of the world’s most common plastics, used in clothing, drinks bottles and food packaging. It takes centuries to break down, in the meantime doing untold damage to its… Plastic-eating bacteria… Read More »

‘We’ve turned a corner’: farmers shift on climate change and want a say on energy

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National Farmers’ Federation head Fiona Simson says people on the land can’t ignore what is right before their eyes Katharine Murphy The Guardian Out in the bush, far from the ritualised political jousting in Canberra, attitudes are changing. Regional Australia has turned the corner when it comes to acknowledging the reality of climate change, says the woman now charged with safeguarding the interests of farmers in Canberra. Fiona Simson, a mixed farmer and grazier from the Liverpool plains in northern ... Read More »

Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes. We have to save it

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The creatures we feared our grandchildren wouldn’t see have vanished: it’s happened faster than even pessimists predicted George Monbiot The Guardian It felt as disorienting as forgetting my pin number. I stared at the caterpillar, unable to attach a name to it. I don’t think my mental powers are fading: I still possess an eerie capacity to recall facts and figures and memorise long screeds of text. This is a specific loss. As a child and young adult, I delighted ... Read More »

‘Bringing reusable bags has been a challenge’: Woolworths backflip on plastic bags

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Woolworths has backflipped on its plastic bag ban after irate customers refused to pay for plastic bags at the checkout. Melissa Cunningham Brisbane Times The supermarket giant will hand out free reusable plastic bags for 10 days, after stores were inundated with complaints from customers who refused to pay for bags or did not have enough of their own stored up. It comes a week after Woolworths issued a ban on single-use plastic bags in stores across Victoria, New South Wales, ... Read More »

China’s scrap plastic ban saddles neighbors with piles of problems

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Thailand and Vietnam struggle with redirected waste but is there a silver lining? NIKKI SUN and APORNRATH PHOONPHONGPHIPHAT, Nikkei staff writers Nikkei Asian Review HONG KONG/BANGKOK — The world is awash with scrap plastic, six months after No. 1 importer China closed its doors to the recyclable materials on environmental grounds. The ripple effects are hitting the shores of Southeast Asia’s emerging countries, which have seen a surge in plastic shipments — not all of them legal. “Thai people are ... Read More »

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

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The deforestation it causes is decimating species such as orangutans and tigers – but the alternatives could be worse, finds authoritative report Damian Carrington The Guardian 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… Palm oil ... Read More »

An island nation in the Mediterranean Sea is running dry

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Countries in the eastern Mediterranean are increasingly vulnerable to drought as the changing climate brings higher temperatures and less precipitation. NBC2 MARONI, Cyprus — The salty water of the Mediterranean in plain view from Charis Christoforou’s olive farm is no help to the cracked, white earth suffering from a third year of drought. A shortage of rain combined with clouds of dust carried over from the water-starved Middle East has slashed Christoforou’s olive production to a quarter of what it ... Read More »

China Just Handed the World a 111-Million-Ton Trash Problem

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The world’s biggest waste importer is no longer buying. So where’s all that trash going to go? Eric Roston Bloomberg Few people consider used plastic to be a valuable global commodity. Yet China has imported 106 million tons of old bags, bottles, wrappers and containers worth $57.6 billion since 1992, the first year it disclosed data. So when the country announced last year that it finally had enough of everybody else’s junk, governments the world over knew they had a problem. They just didn’t know exactly ... Read More »

Anger grows in Philippines over China’s control of shoal

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Public backlash as documentary shows Filipino fishermen accusing Chinese para-military forces of forcibly taking the best of their catch Richard Javad Heydarian Asia Times Once again, the Scarborough Shoal dispute is threatening to torpedo Philippine-China relations. Two years into office, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is facing a widespread public backlash over reports that the Chinese coast guard is controlling the contested shoal and surrounding areas and routinely harasses Filipino fishermen. In a widely-watched documentary broadcast on the GMA Network, a… ... Read More »

High risk of food shortages without pesticides, says chemical giant

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Head of Syngenta, world’s biggest pesticide maker, says rejecting farming tech could have serious consequences within 20 years Damian Carrington in Basel The Guardian The world is likely to face food shortages within 20 years if pesticides and genetically modified crops are shunned, according to the head of the world’s biggest pesticide manufacturer. J Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Syngenta, also said the technologies to produce more food from less land are vital in halting climate change, but that better targeting ... Read More »

Harvard scientists: Trump environmental policies could result in 80,000 more deaths per decade

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A new essay from two Harvard University scientists concluded that the Trump administration’s environmental policies could result in an additional 80,000 deaths per decade. Avery Anapol The Hill The research, from public health economist David Cutler and biostatistician Francesca Dominici, pointed specifically to the health impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) policies on air pollutants and… “This sobering statistic captures only a small fraction of the cumulative public health damages associated with the full range of rollbacks and systemic actions proposed ... Read More »