Around The Web

Farms could slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals

The Guardian - Fri, 2017-04-07 01:04

Study shows almost all farms could significantly cut chemical use while producing as much food, in a major challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry

Virtually all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use while still producing as much food, according to a major new study. The research also shows chemical treatments could be cut without affecting farm profits on over three-quarters of farms.

The scientists said that many farmers wanted to reduce pesticide use, partly due to concerns for their own health. But farmers do not have good access to information on alternatives, the researchers said, because much of their advice comes from representatives of companies that sell both seeds and pesticides.

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UN report: Clean power is up, costs are down

BBC - Thu, 2017-04-06 23:07
UN celebrates fall in renewables costs but warns that investment is slipping
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Stargazing Live viewers find four-planet solar system

ABC Science - Thu, 2017-04-06 21:30
ALIEN SOLAR SYSTEM: Australian volunteer citizen scientists find four previously unknown planets orbiting a nearby star thanks to a crowd-sourcing project aired on the ABC's Stargazing Live.
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Secret footage obtained of the wild elephants sold into captivity in Chinese zoos

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 21:01

Animal welfare advocates have filmed some of the wild elephants captured in Zimbabwe last year and shipped to China

Last year more than 30 young elephants were captured from the wild in Zimbabwe and flown by plane to China. The elephants – some reported to be as young as three – were dispersed to a number of zoos throughout the country, including the Shanghai Exhibition Park, the Beijing Wildlife Park and the Hangzhou Safari Park, according to conservationists.

But what are their lives like now?

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The race to fly passengers into space

BBC - Thu, 2017-04-06 20:36
Amazon's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is investing $1bn (£801m) a year to fund his Blue Origin company.
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Don't fund coal mine, activists plead with Australian export credit agency

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 19:53

Green groups say the Resgen Boikarabelo project in South Africa will lead to worker exploitation and hinder Paris commitments

Environmental action groups including Greenpeace, Oxfam and GetUp have signed an open letter to Australia’s export credit agency asking it not to fund a controversial new coal mine.

The groups say a loan to the proposed Resgen Boikarabelo mine in South Africa will lead to human rights abuses and hinder Australia’s Paris commitment to keep global warming below 2C.

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South Africa lifts ban on domestic rhino horn sales

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 19:13

Ruling by South Africa’s highest court means rhino horns can be sold locally by traders holding permits

South Africa’s highest court has rejected a bid by the government to keep a ban on domestic trade in rhino horn, a court document shows.

The ruling by the constitutional court effectively means rhino horns may be traded locally.

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New Zealand town evacuated in wake of ex-cyclone Debbie – aerial video

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 18:18

Aerial footage shows severe flooding in the New Zealand town of Edgecumbe in the North Island on Thursday, after the tail-end of ex-cyclone Debbie brought two days of heavy rain and burst river banks. Thousands of people have been evacuated and states of emergency have been declared in numerous regions of the North Island

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Gridlock? Making sense of the electricity market

ABC Environment - Thu, 2017-04-06 17:30
Electricity bills have doubled in the last five years. In fact, in the last decade Australia has gone from having almost the cheapest power in the world to some of the most expensive.
Categories: Around The Web

Gridlock? Making sense of the electricity market

ABC Environment - Thu, 2017-04-06 17:30
Electricity bills have doubled in the last five years. In fact, in the last decade Australia has gone from having almost the cheapest power in the world to some of the most expensive.
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Dive into the twilight zone off Easter Island reveals new species

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 16:45

A diving expedition off Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) in the Pacific pushes the boundaries of both technology and the human body to reveal a world of unique species just waiting to be discovered

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Britons expected to send 235m items of clothing to landfill this spring

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 15:30

Study finds three-quarters of consumers throw away rather than recycle or donate unwanted garments

A predicted 235m items of Britons’ unwanted clothing are expected to end up in landfill unnecessarily this spring, according to new research.

Three-quarters of consumers admit to binning their discarded garments, usually because they do not realise that worn-out or dirty clothes can be recycled or accepted by charities, a survey of 2,000 people commissioned by the supermarket Sainsbury’s has found.

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Network limits on solar, storage could accelerate “death spiral”

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 14:58
Newly introduced limits on rooftop solar and battery storage capacities could motivate some households to go at least partially off-grid. - potentially bringing forward the much discussed death spiral. Meanwhile, a regulator warns that system upgrades will require the entire system to meet latest standards.
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Off-grid design – consider the variables carefully

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 14:49
Going off-grid is a big step. It requires careful consideration, good design and engaged users.
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The Great Barrier Reef's safety net is becoming more complex but less effective

The Conversation - Thu, 2017-04-06 14:38
The Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing a second wave of bleaching. AAP Image/WWF AUSTRALIA, BIOPIXEL

The Great Barrier Reef is under serious threat, as the coral-bleaching crisis continues to unfold. These problems are caused by global climate change, but our ability to react to them – or prevent more harm – is clouded by a tangled web of bureaucracy.

Published this week, my latest research shows the increasingly complex systems for governing the Reef are becoming less effective.

Earlier this month, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the National Coral Reef Taskforce confirmed that a second wave of mass bleaching is now unfolding on the Reef. The same week, the Australian government quietly announced an unexpected review of the governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

This most recent coral bleaching crisis brings the governance of the reef into stark relief.

How did we get here?

Yet this problem didn’t always exist. In 2011, a state-of-the-art system governed the complete range of marine, terrestrial, and global threats to the reef. The management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was (and still is) the responsibility of the Australian government, primarily through the statutory Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

A highly collaborative working relationship, dating back to 1979, existed with the State of Queensland. Complementary marine, land, water, and coastal arrangements were established over four decades. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provided important international oversight as a consequence of the 1981 World Heritage listing.

By 2011, the management of the reef had received international acclaim, with the 2004 rezoning process (which divides the reef into eight zones for different activities) receiving 19 international, national, and local awards.

Yet despite the attention of federal lawmakers and considerable acclaim, in 2014 UNESCO was considering the Great Barrier Reef for an “In Danger” listing. Appearing on this list is a strong signal to the international community that a World Heritage area is threatened and corrective action needs to be taken.

Lizard Island in 2016, after the worst climate change-induced coral bleaching event ever recorded. AAP Image/XL Catlin Seaview Survey What went wrong?

So what went wrong? My study examined the structure and context of the systems for protecting the reef, which offers insight into how well they’re working.

It’s worth noting that complex systems aren’t inherently bad. A polycentric approach – which literally means “multiple centres”, instead of a single governing body – can be both stable and effective. But I found that in the case of the Great Barrier Reef, it masks serious problems.

A number of stresses, like climate change, economic crises, resource industry pressure and local political backlashes against conservation, have all combined to impact effective management of the reef.

Furthermore, successive governments keep making new announcements (new laws, programs, funds, and plans) while at the same time chipping away at the pre-existing laws, departments and funding.

Low visibility examples include the 2012 introduction of a policy that requires developers who want to build on or near the reef to make an offset payment into the Reef Trust, which funds activity to improve water quality. However, this has also made getting consent for development easier.

It’s also concerning that, while there is no evidence of actual corruption, there is no mechanism to minimise the potential for undue industry influence under this policy. The Department of Environment grants approval for developments, and also oversees the offset fund into which the developers pay. Most people would regard this as a conflict of interest.

More visible examples include the dismantling of complementary policies and institutions, including the repeals of Queensland coasts and catchments legislation in 2013, and Australian climate law and policy in 2014.

A 2015 study of OECD countries singled out the Australian Department of Environment for unusually frequent changes of both name and composition. The same study also showed that Australia has one of the sharpest declines in staff at national environment authorities since the 1990s, relative to other OECD countries.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority itself has seen its resources plateau, and an increasing politicisation of decisions. Its independence has also been reduced through a series of small, incremental actions. Since 2005, there has been at least ten “regime changes”, ranging from small tweaks to large restructurings.

Schematic of major changes to regime structure, context, and effectiveness over time. Different types of change influence the structure and effectiveness of the regime in different ways. PNAS

Core funding across all relevant agencies has failed to keep pace with costs, at the same time as demands on them rose in response to the Queensland resources and population boom, not to mention global climate change.

On top of that, reef stakeholders must increasingly focus their attention on how all of this fits together as a streamlined system or as a network, rather than how to actually make it effective.

If we are to save the Great Barrier Reef from climate change, then we need to fix its governance.

What needs to come next

In 2015, after the government released their Reef 2050 Plan, UNESCO decided not to list the Reef as in danger, pending a 2016 assessment of progress. UNESCO is yet to make a recommendation, although the fact that the plan has very little mention of human-induced climate change may prove to be an issue.

Despite scientific outcry, the Australian government successfully lobbied UNESCO to remove the Great Barrier Reef and other Australian sites from its draft report on World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate in 2016.

In response to public concern, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies held a policy consultation workshop with stakeholders and experts from all levels of government, industry representatives, environmental NGOs and peak scientific bodies like the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Participants made various recommendations for reform, including:

  • meeting the national climate mitigation challenge that Australia supported at COP21 in Paris (first and foremost)

  • strengthening independent oversight of environmental decision-making (for example, reinstating the formal joint ministerial council)

  • reinstating the independence and diversity of the Great Barrier Reef Management Authority, by improving the role and composition of the board and executive management

  • properly costing and funding the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

Yes, the Great Barrier Reef is in crisis, but the coral-bleaching problem is also a governance disaster. Regressive change, both large and small, has been masked by the complexity of the governance regime. Clear analysis of the minor and major transformations required to update the regime will be critical. If there’s no real reform, a UNESCO “in danger” listing seems inevitable.

The Conversation

Tiffany Morrison does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Categories: Around The Web

Herald of spring and the timely townhall clock

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 14:30

Wolsingham, Weardale Whitlow grass marks the spring flora advent as moschatel unfurls its luminous green clusters

Three warm days in a row and the longed-for spring had arrived. In a week there would be drifts of wood anemones and primroses everywhere, but on this day I went in search of two of the supporting cast in the annual floral pageant.

I saw the white flowers of whitlow grass (Erophila verna) as I climbed over the stile in the wall. Here it grows on meadow ant nests on a south-facing slope. In some years it blooms in such profusion that each hummock seems snow capped. This year it wasn’t so plentiful, but then 10 days ago this field was covered by snow.

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ANU develops 26.4 per cent efficient cell using perovskites

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 14:19
Researchers at ANU have achieved 26.4% efficiency using a stacked configuration of silicon and perovskite solar cells.
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Renewables roadshow: transforming waste into a cleaner Cowra

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 14:16

An innovative bioenergy project in New South Wales could produce enough electricity to supply 5,000 homes and produce fertiliser

Ed Fagan’s family has been farming the same 1,600-hectare block of land in Cowra, about 240km west of Sydney, since 1886.

These days Cowra is a shire of nearly 13,000 people and straddles the Lachlan river. It’s a diverse agricultural town with a strong industrial sector. And if a keen group of locals get their way, it could soon be home to an innovative bioenergy project that cleans up waste, produces renewable energy and creates valuable fertiliser as a byproduct.

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Renewables roadshow – Cowra: 'It goes from being waste to a resource' – video

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 14:15

A bioenergy project could take the waste streams of a group of farms in New South Wales and turn them into electricity and heat for local residents, and make fertiliser from the leftovers

• Renewable roadshow: transforming waste into a cleaner Cowra

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New standard could restrict and add costs to extra solar and battery storage

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 13:42
New Australia-wide standard gives networks power to limit size of household solar systems – and could push up prices for AC-coupled battery storage products from Tesla, Enphase, Selectronic and others.
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