Cougar kills one mountain biker and injures another in Washington state

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2018/05/19 - 7:04pm
  • Mountain lion tracked and killed after attack in backwoods
  • Second biker called 911 and shouted: ‘Can you hear me? Help!’

A mountain lion killed one mountain biker and mauled another in Washington state on Saturday when they rode into its territory. State officials later tracked the animal and shot it dead, police said.

The mountain bikers were riding together down a remote, backwoods trail at 11am local time in an area near North Bend, Washington state, around 30 miles (48 km) east of Seattle, when the they encountered the animal.

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Categories: Environment

Brexit could wreck green agenda, says UN

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2018/05/19 - 1:30pm

UK’s ‘reputation could suffer if environmental protections are weakened after leaving EU’

The United Nations has warned the government that Britain’s reputation is at risk over plans that would significantly weaken protections for the environment after Brexit.

In a stern intervention, Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme, called on the environment secretary Michael Gove to honour his promise to deliver a “green Brexit”, ensuring the environment would not suffer from Britain’s EU departure.

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Categories: Environment

USDA Unveils Prototypes For GMO Food Labels, And They're ... Confusing

NPR News - Environment - Sat, 2018/05/19 - 4:55am

The labels use the letters BE, for bioengineered, not GMO, which critics say could baffle consumers. One design features a smiling sun that a skeptic calls "essentially propaganda for the industry."

(Image credit: Department of Agriculture )

Categories: Environment

Adventure in Albania: kayaking in one of Europe's final frontiers

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2018/05/19 - 2:00am

With wild rivers, mountains and Unesco sites aplenty, Albania is emerging as an exciting Mediterranean destination – but its wilderness could be devastated by huge dam-building projects

‘Go, go, go!” The white-water rafting guide shouted orders from the back of the boat and our five-strong crew paddled hard to stay on course. We were tackling a stretch of the Vjosa, a 270km river that begins in Greece (where it is called the Aoös) and flows through Albania and into the Adriatic just north of the city of Vlora. I was on a recce trip for a new southern Albanian break with Much Better Adventures, which specialises in long weekends to wild places in Europe and North Africa. But this trip was not just a fun adventure – rather just part of a campaign to save the river, which is under threat from proposed dams. A documentary film, Blue Heart, out this month, will highlight the fight to protect Europe’s last wild rivers, with help from ecotourism.

From May to October, the Vjosa’s canyons are navigable by raft – at thrilling speeds and with waves well over a metre high. We were there in early March, when these narrow stretches of water were too dangerous, so rafted a wider, gentler section: it offered less adrenaline, but gave a flavour of the full trip. Swirling downriver, we seemed to be journeying through an untouched land.

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Categories: Environment

Rocks or climate change? HIV or HPV? Take our Big Republican Science Quiz!

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2018/05/19 - 12:01am

Take our quiz and see if you know more about political faux pas than some politicians seem to know about science

This week the GOP reminded us once again just how much they champion science. First Mo Brooks, a congressman from Alabama, pondered whether rocks falling into the ocean could be causing rising sea levels at a hearing of the House science, space and technology committee. Then Bill Gates revealed that president Trump asked him if HIV and HPV were the same same thing.

Brooks and Trump are not the only Republicans to have a creative interpretation of the world. Take our quiz and see if you know more about politicians getting things wrong than some US politicians seem to know about science.

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Categories: Environment

Why I filled a 50,000 litre aquarium with plastic debris | Douglas Coupland

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2018/05/18 - 9:26am

When Douglas Coupland saw debris from the Japanese earthquake washing up in Canada, he became fascinated by the centrality of plastic in our lives – and began to pick it up

In 1999, I was in a Tokyo department store walking down a household cleaning products aisle and had what you might call an ecstatic moment when the pastel-tinted plastic bottles on both sides of the aisle temporarily froze my reptile cortex: pink, yellow, baby blue, turquoise — so many cute-looking bottles filled with so many toxic substances, all labeled with bold katakana lettering.

I bought 125 bottles and took them back to my hotel room where I emptied them down the toilet. Yes, I can hear you judging me as an ecological criminal, but then let me ask you this: if I’d added some dead skin flakes or some shit to these chemicals, would that then have made it OK to deliver them into the Tokyo harbour?

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Categories: Environment

Hydrogen is the energy future | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2018/05/18 - 8:39am
Renewably generated hydrogen could supply energy storage at scales many times beyond which even the largest battery systems could attain, writes Mike Koefman; while John Ellis says it’s time for joined-up thinking on our future energy strategy

There is truth in Professor Underwood’s assertion (Letters, 16 May) that nothing can surpass the “round trip” efficiency of lithium-ion batteries from, for example, solar input to final user’s output. But in focusing on this undoubted advantage he omits the overriding issue of energy storage at very much larger scales. It is this concern which has driven the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (not in the “gas industry’s pocket”, by the way) to take a serious look at hydrogen, which used to be a substantial component of our former “town gas”, derived rather filthily from coal, but which can now can be derived very cleanly from solar and wind power, directed through the water-splitting magic of modern electrolytic machinery. Such renewably generated hydrogen could supply energy storage at scales many times beyond which even the largest battery systems could attain, and could do so both in the UK and in diverse economies throughout the world. Batteries will always be needed for specific uses, but in order to displace the carbon-laden fossil fuels which now imperil climate, ocean and the whole biosphere something rather different must be adopted – something storable at all scales, transmissible, fully functional as a fuel, and climate-neutral. Only hydrogen fills this particular bill.
Mike Koefman
Director, Planet Hydrogen, Manchester

• Professor Underwood correctly asserts that the efficiency of a Li-ion and heat pump system in terms of heat generation is far better than electrolysing water to make hydrogen. But the purpose of storing hydrogen was, it seems, to smooth out the supply of electricity from renewables in dead periods, not generate heat per se. Electricity generation is usually provided by turbines which are driven by steam at high temperatures. I may be wrong, but I thought heat pumps did not generally reach much above 80C and would not be suitable for electricity generation.

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Categories: Environment

Point Nemo is the most remote oceanic spot – yet it’s still awash with plastic

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2018/05/18 - 8:04am

The area is so far flung that the nearest humans are often those aboard the International Space Station. But even that hasn’t saved it from the scourge of microplastics

Name: Point Nemo.

Age: First discovered in 1992 by survey engineer Hrvoje Lukatela.

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2018/05/18 - 6:18am

Sea otters, an African forest elephant and endangered Francois’ langurs are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Categories: Environment

Students go on hunger strike to pressure Cambridge University to divest

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2018/05/18 - 4:53am

Three undergraduates are embarking on the direct action as part of an ongoing campaign to stop the university investing in fossil fuels

Three students at the Cambridge University have gone on hunger strike as part of an increasingly bitter campaign to stop the university investing in fossil fuel companies.

The move by the three undergraduates is part of an ongoing divestment campaign at the university that has been supported by hundreds of academics and scientists – including Sir David King, until recently the UK’s permanent special representative for climate change, Thomas Blundell, the former president of the UK Science Council and the author Robert Macfarlane.

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Categories: Environment

Is Napa growing too much wine? Residents seek to preserve treasured land

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2018/05/18 - 3:00am

Industry insiders and local environmentalists fear agricultural development has become untenable, threatening the valley’s future

The rise of Napa began with an upset. Warren Winiarski would know – his wine, a cabernet sauvignon, was a firm underdog at a legendary 1976 blind tasting in Paris, which pitted the best of France against the little-known California region.

His winery, Stag’s Leap, shocked the wine world by taking top honors. “It broke the glass ceiling that France had imposed on everyone,” he recalls. “People’s aspirations were liberated.”

Today Winiarski, 89, is speaking not of liberation, but of limits. A growing coalition of industry veterans and longtime residents fear that Napa has become a victim of its own success, pointing to the ecological transformation of the valley floor from dense oak woodland to a sea of vine-wrapped trellises. And they are posing a thorny question: has a unique agricultural region reached a tipping point at which agriculture itself becomes the threat?

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Categories: Environment

Bank faces lawsuit over Honduras dam project as spirit of Berta Cáceres lives on

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 9:00pm

Organisation co-founded by murdered activist sues Dutch bank over support for Agua Zarca dam on Gualcarque river

The organisation co-founded by the murdered environmental activist Berta Cáceres is taking legal action against a Dutch bank over its involvement in the construction of a controversial dam project in Honduras.

The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh), along with the Cáceres family, announced the suit against the Dutch development bank FMO, one of the backers of the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque river, in the Netherlands on Thursday.

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Categories: Environment

Republican congressman explains sea-level rise: it's rocks falling into the sea

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 1:33pm

Mo Brooks rejects notion that global warming is causing sea levels to increase, and says: ‘What about the White Cliffs of Dover?’

A member of Congress has suggested that the White Cliffs of Dover tumbling into the English Channel was causing rising sea levels.

Related: Everglades under threat as Florida's mangroves face death by rising sea level

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Categories: Environment

Banned Ozone-Depleting Chemical Is Still Being Produced Somewhere, Scientists Say

NPR News - Environment - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 12:01pm

Trichlorofluoromethane, or CFC-11, hurts the ozone layer and was phased out of production by 2010. Supposedly. But a NOAA study says CFC-11 emissions began to rise after 2012.

(Image credit: NOAA via AP)

Categories: Environment

They didn't flip: Ukraine claims dolphin army captured by Russia went on hunger strike

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 11:10am

Russia captured the dolphins in 2014 and says the trained mammals refused interact with coaches or eat

Ukraine is home to some of the more adventurous military blue-sky thinking, mostly hangovers from the Soviet era. As well as a 160-metre high, 500-metre long radar that was supposed to be able to warn of nuclear attack, it also has a secret programme that trains sea mammals to carry out military tasks. Ukraine has a dolphin army at the Crimean military dolphin centre, trained and ready for deployment.

Or at least it did, but after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the dolphins were captured. Ukraine demanded their return, but Russian forces refused. Some believed the Russians were planning to retrain the dolphins as Russian soldiers, with a source telling Russian agency RIA Novosti that engineers were “developing new aquarium technologies for new programmes to more efficiently use dolphins underwater”.

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Categories: Environment

A third of world's nature reserves severely degraded by human activity

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 11:00am

New study’s author says failure to protect biodiversity in places identified for that purpose is ‘staggering’

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A third of global protected areas such as national parks have been severely degraded by human activities in what researchers say is a stunning reality check of efforts by nations to stall biodiversity loss.

A University of Queensland-led study, published on Friday in the prestigious academic journal Science, analysed human activity across 50,000 protected areas worldwide.

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Categories: Environment

Climate change on track to cause major insect wipeout, scientists warn

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 11:00am

Insects are vital to ecosystems but will lose almost half their habitat under current climate projections

Global warming is on track to cause a major wipeout of insects, compounding already severe losses, according to a new analysis.

Insects are vital to most ecosystems and a widespread collapse would cause extremely far-reaching disruption to life on Earth, the scientists warn. Their research shows that, even with all the carbon cuts already pledged by nations so far, climate change would make almost half of insect habitat unsuitable by the end of the century, with pollinators like bees particularly affected.

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Categories: Environment

Climate change an 'existential security risk' to Australia, Senate inquiry says

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 11:00am

Threat is not a possible future one but one endangering Australia now, parliament told

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Climate change is a “current and existential national security risk” to Australia, a Senate inquiry has told parliament, one that could inflame regional conflicts over food, water and land, and even imperil life on Earth.

The Senate committee inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security recommended an increase in foreign aid to be dedicated to climate change mitigation and adaptation in the region, as well as a government white paper on climate security, Department of Defence emissions targets and a dedicated climate security post within the Department of Home Affairs.

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Categories: Environment

Chilean villagers claim British appetite for avocados is draining region dry

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 6:50am

UK demand for fruit increased by 27% last year alone, prompting accusations that growers are illegally diverting rivers and leaving locals without water

British supermarkets are selling thousands of tonnes of avocados produced in a Chilean region where villagers claim vast amounts of water are being diverted, resulting in a drought.

Major UK supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl source avocados from Chile’s largest avocado-producing province, Petorca, where water rights have been violated.

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Categories: Environment

Fast-track fracking plan by the government prompts criticism

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2018/05/17 - 4:30am

‘Exploratory drilling will be as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory’ – Greenpeace

Fracking opponents have reacted with anger after ministers unveiled measures to help projects through the planning system in England, which campaigners said would make drilling a shale well as easy as building a conservatory.

Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites in England without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level.

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