Switzerland rules lobsters must be stunned before boiling

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 6:35pm

Government bans the practice of plunging live lobsters into boiling water amid fears the animals can feel pain

The Swiss government has ordered an end to the common culinary practice of throwing lobsters into boiling water while they are still alive, ruling that they must be knocked out before they are killed.

As part of a wider overhaul of Swiss animal protection laws, Bern said that as of 1 March, “the practice of plunging live lobsters into boiling water, which is common in restaurants, is no longer permitted”.

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Categories: Environment

BBC follows Blue Planet II with hard-hitting nature documentaries

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 5:01pm

David Attenborough’s landmark series inspires programmes exploring the impact of plastics and textiles on environment

The BBC is to show two major documentaries about challenges facing the environment, and a landmark series in which animals are followed for more than two years, as it looks to build on the extraordinary success of Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.

Drowning in Plastic will air on BBC1 and explore the damage that plastic is doing to the environment – an issue raised by Blue Planet II – while The Truth About What You Wear will investigate the impact of the clothing industry on the environment and wildlife.

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Categories: Environment

Deadly California mudslide 'like Niagara falls' as hills turn to rivers of debris

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 2:30pm

At least 17 people have been killed, with the death toll expected to rise, after heavy rains caused a violent mudslide exacerbated by recent wildfire damage

The mud cascaded down scorched, blackened slopes still blanketed with ash. With no trees or vegetation to slow the surge it swept rocks and boulders from the Verdugo mountains into a thunderous river.

Jeannette Abney, 88, watched in horror not believing slopes could so quickly turn to sludge and so quickly surround her home in La Tuna canyon.

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Categories: Environment

Florida Officials Struggling To Find Affordable Housing For Locals Months After Hurricane Irma

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 2:27pm

With trailer parks destroyed and hundreds of homes ruined by Hurricane Irma, rents have skyrocketed and housing has become unaffordable for many in the Florida Keys. Local officials are scrambling to find ways to provide low-cost rentals affordable for waitresses, fishing guides and others vital to the area's tourist economy.

Categories: Environment

Search Continues For Hundreds After Mudslides In Southern California

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 2:27pm

Emergency responders in Southern California are working to rescue hundreds of people who have been cut off by mud and debris, following a powerful winter storm.

Categories: Environment

'Butterfly Tongues' Are More Ancient Than Flowers, Fossil Study Finds

NPR News - Environment - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 12:33pm

Scientists have discovered the proboscis butterflies use to suck nectar from flowers existed before flowers did. So: What were ancient butterflies using their long, tongue-like suckers for?

(Image credit: Hossein Rajaei/Science Advances)

Categories: Environment

New York City plans to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue oil companies

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 11:35am

Mayor Bill de Blasio: ‘It’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient’

New York City is seeking to lead the assault on climate change and the Trump administration with a plan to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue the world’s most powerful oil companies over their contribution to dangerous global warming.

Related: Hurricanes and heatwaves: stark signs of climate change 'new normal'

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Categories: Environment

Coastal states to Trump: why is Florida exempt from drilling and not us?

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 11:17am

Ryan Zinke confirmed Florida would be exempt from massive offshore plan – which other states claim is simply a favor for Republican governor Rick Scott

Governors of coastal states have urged the Trump administration to scrap its plan to usher oil and gas drilling into almost all US waters, in an unusual bipartisan backlash against the surprise proposal itself – and the controversial twist that suddenly saw Florida, alone, excused from going along with it.

Related: Trump administration won't allow oil drilling off Florida coast

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Categories: Environment

New round of oil drilling goes deeper into Ecuador's Yasuní national park

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 10:30am

State oil company starts second phase of drilling in one of the world’s most biodiverse hotspots

Ecuador’s state oil company has begun drilling the first of 97 planned wells inside a new field of the Yasuní national park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.

The opening of the Tambococha-2 well has triggered fierce criticism from conservationists, who say President Lenín Moreno is backtracking on a promise to protect the Amazon and pay greater heed to the opinion of indigenous groups.

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Categories: Environment

Minerals Council of Australia kicks off coal power campaign despite BHP ​threat

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2018/01/10 - 10:00am

Lobby group aims to curb ‘misinformation from urban activists’ to show ‘potential of Australian minerals sector’

The Minerals Council of Australia will continue hawking the benefits of coal-fired technologies, despite resources giant BHP threatening to pull out of the organisation over previous campaigns.

The lobby group says it is hoping to counteract “misinformation from urban activists”.

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Categories: Environment

China on track to lead in renewables as US retreats, report says

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 8:08pm

IEEFA report says China will dominate international investment in renewable technology over the next several decades

China is moving towards becoming a global leader in renewable technology as the US pulls away, a new report has said.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and still invests in coal but in recent years it has become the largest investor in domestic renewable energy. The country is now on track to lead international investment in the sector, according to the report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

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Categories: Environment

Interior Secretary Zinke: Florida Offshore Oil Drilling Is 'Off The Table'

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 7:06pm

Zinke cites a request from Gov. Rick Scott and his argument that the state relies on tourism. Critics note the state is rich in electoral votes and other states also rely on tourism.

(Image credit: Lynne Sladky/AP)

Categories: Environment

Trump administration won't allow oil drilling off Florida coast

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 5:50pm

In an abrupt reversal after announcing plans to expand offshore oil drilling, administration bows to opposition from Republican Florida governor

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would not allow oil drilling off the coast of Florida, abruptly reversing course under pressure from the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott.

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke said after a brief meeting with Scott that drilling would be “off the table” when it comes to waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off Florida.

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Categories: Environment

Plastic bags charge set to be extended to small shops

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 5:06pm

Expansion expected of highly successful policy of charging 5p for each bag could be extended beyond large retailers

The 5p charge for plastic bags is expected to be applied to small shops under government plans to be unveiled by Theresa May this week as she seeks to tackle Britain’s “throwaway culture”.

In a major speech on the environment, the prime minister will promise to hold consultations on removing an exemption that allows retailers with fewer than 250 employees to continue to give out free bags. The levy on supermarkets and other large retailers resulted in a 90% decline in use, with nine billion fewer plastic bags being used.

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Categories: Environment

U.K. Enacts Ban On Plastic Microbeads In Rinse-Off Products

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 3:59pm

The measure, which follows a similar 2015 law in the U.S., aims to reduce the amount of plastic getting flushed into the ocean. Backers are hailing it as a small step in the right direction.

(Image credit: imagehub88/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Categories: Environment

Weatherwatch: can we keep the lights on when the wind fails to blow?

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 2:30pm

The UK now has more offshore wind power capacity than any other country – but we need a plan B for ultra-cold winters with soaring energy demands

Last year was one of the greenest for power in the UK. Nearly one-third of all electricity came from renewable sources, and wind and solar provided more power than coal on 315 days of the year. Rapid growth in both solar and wind (the UK now has more offshore wind power capacity than any other country in the world) has enabled the UK to achieve these impressive statistics, but will the rise in renewables also make UK power more vulnerable to the whims of British weather?

Researchers working on the European Climatic Energy Mixes project have been investigating future risk by assessing how the UK would fare with a repeat of the unusually cold winter of 2009-10. From mid-December 2009 a southward-displaced jet stream allowed cold air to pour in from eastern Europe, bringing widespread snow and plunging temperatures. The mean UK temperature for the entire winter was just 1.5C, the lowest since 1978-79 when it was 1.2C . As a result power demand surged, with electricity consumption between 10 and 20% above average on a number of occasions.

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Categories: Environment

Californians Evacuated Out Of Fear Of Mudslides Where Thomas Fire Scorched Land

NPR News - Environment - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 2:18pm

Thousands of Californians have been evacuated from the Santa Barbara area among fears of mudslides after heavy rains hit the hillsides denuded by the enormous Thomas fire.

Categories: Environment

The Guardian view on the future of fracking: keep it in the ground | Editorial

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 12:30pm
The rewards are uncertain and time limited. Massive investment in a short-lived fuel may not make business sense

Just a few short years ago, fracking – the underground extraction of gas from rock – was to revolutionise Britain’s energy production as it has transformed it in the US. Under David Cameron and George Osborne, it was to produce the fuel that would build a bridge from the high-carbon past to the no-carbon future. Just 18 months after the two leading politicians of their generation quit the scene, fracking’s prospects are uncertain. Now companies are preparing for a make-or-break year. On Tuesday Cuadrilla won permission from West Sussex county council to test for oil at its site in Balcombe, where five years ago hundreds of local protesters saw off the company’s efforts to explore its potential. Cuadrilla may read this as a positive message, and insists it is not interested in fracking. But well-organised objectors do not believe the company, and it may be wise not count its chickens just yet.

Another of the big four frackers, Ineos, has also aroused antagonism after a freedom of information request revealed at the weekend that while it had denied in public that it wanted to prospect for gas beneath the scientifically sensitive parts of Sherwood Forest, it has in fact now acquired permission to do just that. It has also announced a legal challenge to Scotland’s fracking ban. Meanwhile, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is imminently expected to approve fracking by the oil and gas company Third Energy at a site in North Yorkshire. It would be the first well to be fracked in the UK since 2011. It would also be a leap of faith. After the activism of the Cameron-Osborne years, Theresa May has shown no interest. She abolished the climate change department, and sounds more concerned about cheaper energy than cleaner energy; last October’s Clean Growth strategy failed to mention fracking at all. Yet Britain is committed to huge cuts in carbon emissions by 2030 – a 57% reduction on 1990 levels. The role for shale gas needs explaining. There is a chance that what might have been a useful stopgap on the road to zero-carbon energy is running out of road to secure a return on the large investments already made.

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Categories: Environment

Development for the north? Let them eat wood | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 12:27pm
Readers respond to the government’s pledge of £5.7m towards the creation of a northern forest stretching from Liverpool to Hull, and to a report on agroforestry

The government’s tossing a few million towards a grand £500m “northern forest” (Government pledges £5.7m for northern forest, 8 January) is an example of the puny tokenism operating today, where acts of vandalism against our precious environment, such as HS2, can be so casually “offset”. HS2 is a folly, the stubborn imposition of a luxury fairground ride built over never-to-be-seen-again landscapes.

Improve what we have, protect the things that are good around us, cancel HS2. And for sure, plant some more trees (and not just pine and spruce, please – we don’t want more Forestry Commission-style bland industrial forestry). There are thousands of acres of aristocratic grouse-shooting estates all over the North Pennines and North Yorkshire, where trees are not allowed because they spoil all the fun of the chase. Wonderful places to plant some new trees, if the Tories really are suddenly into tree-planting.
Catherine Francis
Skipton, North Yorkshire

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Categories: Environment

UK must be ready for rise of electric vehicles, says ABB chief

Guardian Environment News - Tue, 2018/01/09 - 11:45am

Charging point manufacturer’s CEO warns that UK power grid needs to handle expected 9m electric vehicles by 2030

The UK should speed up preparations for the rise of electric vehicles, according to the chief executive of ABB, the world’s largest supplier of fast-charging points.

Speaking as the Switzerland-based engineering firm became the first official sponsor of the electric street racing series Formula E, Ulrich Spiesshofer predicted a flood of consumer take-up of plug-in cars.

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