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Tony Abbott and allies could scupper national energy plan, warns ACT minister

Wed, 2018/06/20 - 1:16pm

Shane Rattenbury says Josh Frydenberg is being locked into a no-compromise position by federal conservatives

The ACT has warned it will be “very difficult” to sign on to the national energy guarantee in early August if Josh Frydenberg fails to give any ground in the remaining weeks before the definitive meeting of the Coag energy council.

Related: An unconventional gas boom: the rise of CSG in Australia

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Categories: Environment

Scientists genetically engineer pigs immune to costly disease

Wed, 2018/06/20 - 10:00am

Gene-editing technology could be propelled into commercial farms within five years

Scientists have genetically engineered pigs to be immune to one of the world’s most costly animal diseases, in an advance that could propel gene-editing technology into commercial farms within five years.

The trial, led by the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, showed that the pigs were completely immune to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a disease that is endemic across the globe and costs the European pig industry nearly £1.5bn in pig deaths and decreased productivity each year.

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Categories: Environment

Shetland scallop fishery retains eco label despite dredging protests

Wed, 2018/06/20 - 9:34am

Review rejects conservation groups’ complaints that use of dredging gear damages seabed

A scallop fishery in Shetland has retained its coveted eco label after an independent review rejected allegations that it damaged the marine environment.

The marine conservation charity Open Seas and the National Trust for Scotland protested that the fishery’s use of dredging gear to harvest scallops caused unjustifiable damage to the seabed and other marine species.

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Categories: Environment

A world without puffins? The uncertain fate of the much-loved seabirds

Wed, 2018/06/20 - 5:00am

On the small Welsh island of Skomer, puffin numbers are booming. But in former strongholds in Scotland, Norway and Iceland, the picture is ever more worrying

Bryony Baker lies spreadeagled at the edge of a cliff and reaches her hand deep into a hole in the ground that is almost entirely hidden beneath a clump of grass. She pushes further in and her arm disappears up to the shoulder. It is a little like watching a vet getting up close and personal with a labouring cow. “Ouch!” she exclaims suddenly, her face creasing in pain. She pulls her arm out and inspects her fingers, already covered in scars. “That one’s definitely a puffin. They look sweet, but they can be pretty aggressive.”

She presses her lips together in anticipation of another nip and pushes her hand in again. A large, dirty white egg emerges from the burrow – “warm, good” – and she places it safely on a cushion of moss. She reaches into the ground again. When she withdraws it, a second later, she’s holding an irritated puffin by its orange beak. She rings it, notes its number – this is now Bird EZ88918 – then gently replaces it and its precious egg in the burrow.

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Categories: Environment

'Barnacled angels': the whales of Stellwagen Bank – a photo essay

Wed, 2018/06/20 - 2:29am

Off the tip of Cape Cod, pods of humpbacks return every summer to feed. For the past 18 years, Philip Hoare has been joining them to witness this incredible display

At the tip of Cape Cod, a sandy spit reaches out into the Atlantic, like an arm, towards a vast underwater plateau where humpbacks gather each summer to feed. This is the US marine sanctuary of Stellwagen Bank, where for the past three weeks I’ve been a guest on the Dolphin Fleet whalewatch boats, working out of Provincetown.

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Categories: Environment

'The entire habitat is gone': Hawaii's natural wonders claimed by lava

Wed, 2018/06/20 - 1:00am

The Kilauea eruption has wiped out rare sites and whole ecosystems. As the island mourns a tragedy, it also accepts the brutal cycle of nature

In Puna, the area of Hawaii island that’s been hardest hit by the Kilauea volcano eruption, those who lived nearest to the lava flows watched the forest around their homes begin to die first. They said the fruit trees, flowers and ferns began turning brown, languishing in the noxious, sulfur-dioxide-filled air. Then the lava came. Now large swaths of formerly verdant forest has been replaced by rough and barren volcanic terrain.

“Before the eruptions, that area was probably the best forest left in the state of Hawaii,” said Patrick Hart, a biology professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. “There were areas where the native Ohia forest extended right up to the ocean, and you just don’t see that in the rest of Hawaii,” he said. Now it’s covered with 20 to 30ft of lava.

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Categories: Environment

More tigers live in US back yards than in the wild. Is this a catastrophe?

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 11:00pm

It is easier to buy a tiger in some states than to adopt a rescue dog – and only 6% of the animals are housed in approved facilities. This is bad for the big cats – and for humans

According to estimates, the population of tigers in people’s back gardens in the US outnumbers those in the wild. Seven thousand of the big cats live in US captivity, whereas, despite increases, there are as few as 3,890 wild tigers worldwide. Most of the captive animals are kept in unregulated conditions, as the BBC reported last week. Only 6% are housed in zoos or facilities approved by the US Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The rest live in private breeding facilities, back yards, even urban apartments. In some states, it is easier to buy a tiger than to adopt a rescue dog.

Leigh Henry, a species policy expert at the World Wildlife Fund, says the situation threatens the work that has been done to conserve wild populations in Asia. “A patchwork of regulations governs these tigers, meaning no agency can say how many there are, when they are born, when they die and what happens to their valuable parts when they do. Illegal trade in tiger parts remains the primary threat to tigers in the wild, and the last thing we want is parts from captive tigers helping sustain or even fuel this black market.”

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Categories: Environment

Senate to probe Great Barrier Reef grant of $444m to small charity

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 9:12pm

Inquiry will look at what the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is capable of delivering

A parliamentary inquiry will examine how a $444m grant for work on the Great Barrier Reef was awarded to a small not-for-profit charity, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, with no competitive tender process.

Labor, Greens and crossbench senators have backed the inquiry, which was moved by a Greens senator, Peter Whish-Wilson.

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Categories: Environment

Prehistoric platypus-like fish reconstructed by Australian scientists

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 6:23pm

Brindabellaspis had nostrils in its eye sockets and a long bill with jaws

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Palaeontologists have reconstructed an ancient Australian fish that swam on the sea floor like a stingray and had the long bill of a platypus.

Fossils that date back 400m years have allowed scientists to piece together a revealing picture of the strange fish, which had nostrils coming from its eye sockets and a long bill or snout with jaws.

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Categories: Environment

Fracking: Labor pledges to tighten regulations to protect water resources

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 11:00am

Shale gas not covered in by existing water regulations in ‘glaring omission’, Labor’s environment spokesman says

Regulations on unconventional gas development across Australia would be tightened up if Labor wins the next election.

Labor’s shadow minister for the environment Tony Burke says the party, if elected, will keep the commitment it took to the 2016 election to broaden the “water trigger” to include other forms of unconventional gas extraction. The current water trigger, introduced by the Gillard government in 2013, assesses water resources as a matter of national significance only in relation to coal seam gas and coal mining.

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Categories: Environment

Rogue beekeepers and dirty tricks blamed for rise in Belgian hive heists

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 9:26am

150,000 bees stolen near Tessenderlo in latest incident, as interest in hobby grows

Dirty tricks by rival beekeepers have been blamed for a rise in hive thefts in Belgium after huge growth in interest in the hobby.

Following the disappearance of 150,000 bees from hives near the Flemish town of Tessenderlo, keepers have been advised to keep a keen eye on their insects and alert the police to suspicious activity.

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Categories: Environment

Diversion tactics: how big pharma is muddying the waters on animal antibiotics

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 7:07am

Antibiotic use on farms is a major cause of human drug resistance. Yet slick social media campaigns – funded by the multi-billion-dollar industry – are confusing and complicating the issue

Slick industry PR campaigns about antibiotics in food are muddying the water around a serious public health risk, say critics.

Pharmaceutical and meat companies are using similar tactics to the cigarette industry, in an attempt to confuse consumers and hold off regulation, despite the fact that the rapidly growing risk of anti-microbial resistance is one of the biggest health risks of our time. It’s estimated that by 2050 10 million people might die a year because we have overused antibiotics.

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Categories: Environment

Can China kick its animal antibiotic habit?

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 7:07am

It could be a struggle, but the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics is trying to convince its farmers to change their ways

High in the hills of Fuzhou, surrounded by acres of rustling bamboo, is a small farm that is pioneering something genuinely unusual in China. Here in Fujian province, they have turned their backs on industrial farming in favour of natural methods.

After years of working in the industrial farming sector Mr Sun (not his real name – he asked to remain anonymous) wanted to create a space to raise animals with “respect for nature, respect for life”.

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Categories: Environment

How much does big pharma make from animal antibiotics?

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 7:07am

Animal antibiotics are far cheaper than the human equivalent but fears are growing over their real cost

How much money do pharmaceutical companies earn from animal antibiotics?

Pharmaceutical companies are earning about $5bn (£3.77bn) a year from producing antibiotics for farm animals, according to calculations by Animal Pharm, the agricultural business analysts. The European animal antibiotics market is worth about $1.25bn a year, and the US animal antibiotics industry about $2bn a year.

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Categories: Environment

UK solar power growth halves for second year running

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 4:47am

Labour says figures show government’s commitment to green energy is ‘nothing but an empty PR move’

New solar power installations halved in the UK last year for the second year in a row, as the fallout of government subsidy cuts continued to shake the sector.

Labour said the figures showed the government’s commitment to green energy was “nothing but an empty PR move”.

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Categories: Environment

Oil pipelines can be positive for indigenous people. Here's how | Greg McIvor

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 3:00am

Canadians haven’t heard enough about the positive influence that similar projects have had on many indigenous groups

Like many Canadians, and specifically First Nations, I have been following the news on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion pipeline with interest, and attended a protest in Vancouver back in January 2017. The pipeline expansion is on the ropes. Notwithstanding the government’s decision to nationalise it, its future is in serious doubt.

Related: The Squamish Nation are furious about the pipeline – and we aren't alone

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Categories: Environment

Justin Trudeau promised to protect indigenous rights. He lied, again | Khelsilem

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 3:00am

One oil spill from the Trans Mountain pipeline would destroy Squamish territory. So much for Trudeau’s promise

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is no ordinary pipeline. This project, which the government of Canada has just decided to nationalise, will travel more than 1,000km from northern Alberta through unspoiled wilderness to end at the port of Vancouver. The port is on the Salish Sea, part of the hereditary territory of the Squamish People. The Salish Sea is home to some of the world’s largest wild salmon runs. Majestic orcas swim in the waters and feed on the abundance.

Related: You may think all First Nations are against pipelines. Think again

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Categories: Environment

Tony Abbott tells party he was misled by advisers over Paris climate deal

Tue, 2018/06/19 - 12:24am

When the former PM signed in 2015, he said Australia made a ‘definite commitment’

Tony Abbott has claimed he was misled by bureaucrats before he signed Australia up to the Paris international climate agreement in 2015 during another sortie by government conservatives against the national energy guarantee.

Opponents of the government’s energy policy used the opportunity of the regular Coalition party room to resume their attacks on the policy that goes to a critical meeting of state and territory energy ministers in early August.

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Categories: Environment

Elephant calf born at Western Plains zoo – video

Mon, 2018/06/18 - 11:24pm

Taronga Western Plains zoo has welcomed a new member into its fold –a female Asian elephant.  The calf was born of Friday 14 June and is now bonding with her mother, Porntip

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Categories: Environment

‘Huge mistake’: Britain throwing away lead in tidal energy, say developers

Mon, 2018/06/18 - 11:00pm

Nation is a leader in capturing tidal and wave energy, but companies are starting to leave due to lack of government support

Britain is throwing away its opportunity to rule the global wave and tidal energy sector due to lack of government support, a series of leading developers have told the Guardian.

The nation is currently seen as a world leader in capturing renewable energy from the oceans but some companies are already heading for new shores. This is putting other countries, such as France and Canada, in prime position to capitalise on the jobs being created by the emerging industry, the companies say.

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Categories: Environment