Around The Web

European utilities commit to no new coal plants after 2020

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 13:29
As part of meeting its commitment under the Paris Agreement, the European Union announced it will build no more coal plants after 2020.
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What is the social cost of carbon?

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 13:28
Donald Trump aims to extend the party for fossil fuels, even if it that means we make a much bigger mess.
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Canadian Solar appoints Entura as Owner’s Engineer for two solar farms in Queensland

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 13:12
Specialist power and water consulting firm Entura has been appointed by Canadian Solar, one of the world’s largest solar companies, as Owner’s Engineer for two solar farms in Queensland.
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Baby siamang gibbon born at National zoo in Canberra – video

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 13:07

The National zoo and aquarium in Canberra is celebrating its first birth of a siamang gibbon. The species is classified as endangered and it is estimated that the wild population has decreased by 50% over the past 40 years. Zookeepers do not know the sex of the gibbon yet and may not for a few months

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Scientists sniff out way to lure reef-killing crown-of-thorns starfish to their death

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 12:50

Researchers trying to protect the Great Barrier Reef fabricate environmentally safe bait by harnessing the pheromones the marine pests use to communicate

Marine biologists may have devised a new way to protect the Great Barrier Reef after decoding the pheromones of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.

Researchers say the discovery can be used to create pheromone lures that attract the marine pest in large numbers and make them easier to remove.

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Huge fleet of icebergs hits North Atlantic shipping lanes

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 12:08

About 450 icebergs – up from 37 a week earlier – have drifted into waters where Titanic sank, forcing vessels to divert and raising global warming fears

More than 400 icebergs have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week in an unusually large swarm for this early in the season, forcing vessels to slow to a crawl or take detours of hundreds of kilometres.

Related: Greenland: the country set to cash in on climate change

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Coalition of 17 states challenges Trump over climate change policy

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 11:38

A coalition led by New York state insists Trump administration has a legal obligation to regulate the emission of carbon pollution: ‘The law is clear’

A coalition of 17 US states filed a legal challenge on Wednesday against efforts by Donald Trump’s administration to roll back climate change regulations, deepening a political rift over his emerging energy policies.

Led by New York state, the coalition said the administration has a legal duty to regulate emissions of the gases scientists believe cause global climate change.

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Thermo-chemical energy: Uni Newcastle unveils challenge to solar + storage

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 11:15
Uni Newcastle and Infratech unveil thermo-chemical competitor to rooftop solar and battery storage - apparently able to produce heat, hot water and 24-hour power.
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Rapid rise of clothes moths threatens historic fabrics

BBC - Thu, 2017-04-06 10:11
Rare furnishings in England's historic houses are under threat from a new species of the insect.
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Opera House & EnergyAustralia light the way with major sustainability partnership

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2017-04-06 10:07
The Sydney Opera House and its energy supplier EnergyAustralia today announced a major partnership to help the country’s pre-eminent performing arts centre and number one tourist destination deliver its Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP).
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Salt, silicon or graphite: energy storage goes beyond lithium ion batteries

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 09:47

Technologies that use gels, liquids, and molten silicon or salt could all claim a slice of the growing renewable energy storage market

Between the political bickering following a spate of blackouts in South Australia and the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk tweeting that he had a fix, and then the South Australian government announcing that it will build a grid-connected battery storage facility, interest in renewable energy storage has never been higher.

While lithium ion batteries sold by Tesla and others are perhaps the most widely known storage technology, several other energy storage options are either already on the market, or are fast making their way there.

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Crown-of-thorns starfish DNA reveals coral killer's weakness

ABC Science - Thu, 2017-04-06 09:40
MARINE BIOLOGY: A unique messaging system used by the crown-of-thorns starfish to 'talk' to each other could hold the key to developing a bio-control to help save the Great Barrier Reef from the marine predator's devastating attacks.
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Minister's claim 'beggars belief': water expert

ABC Environment - Thu, 2017-04-06 08:36
Groundwater expert Tom Crothers says Adani got special treatment for its water licence.
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Adani mine railway loan would breach government's policy, says legal group

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 06:23

Complaint lodged over prospect of Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility partially funding 400km rail line

A $1bn federal loan to builders of a railway line between the proposed Adani coalmine and the coast would be a direct breach of government policy, a legal group has claimed.

Environmental Justice Australia has lodged a formal complaint with the Productivity Commission over the prospect of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility partially funding the 400km rail line.

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Love connection: breakthrough fights crown-of-thorns starfish with pheromones

The Conversation - Thu, 2017-04-06 05:27
Hundreds of thousands of crown-of-thorns starfish have invaded North Queensland, devastating reefs. iStock

Crown-of-thorns starfish are one of the most aggressive reef-destroyers in the world. A single female can produce up to 120 million offspring in one spawning season, and these spiny invaders eat coral, weakening entire reef systems. They’re a serious problem in northern Queensland, and are likely to move south.

But after three years of work, my colleagues and I have made a discovery, published in Nature today, that could offer a whole new way to fight them: we have decoded the gene sequence for the crown-of-thorns’ pheromones, which prompt them to gather for mating.

The project was built on the premise that if we could tap into the communications systems of starfish, we could modify their behaviours, and then eventually set up a program to capture them.

The ultimate goal was to find a way to get the starfish to converge, so it’s possible to set traps and remove them from the reef. Currently, crown-of-thorns starfish are removed by divers, who either collect them by hand or inject them with toxic solutions. This is labour-intensive and deeply inefficient.

So how do we get them into one place? Well, we exploited their natural mating behaviour. Starfish, like a lot of other marine animals – including corals – release their eggs and sperm into the water, and fertilisation occurs externally. For starfish to do this successfully they need to form a tight cluster, so there’s a strong imperative gather in one spot, given the right stimulus.

Crown-of-thorn starfish grazing on healthy coral leaving behind dead white skeletons. Outbreaks of this starfish is one of the leading causes of coral reef destruction throughout the Indo-Pacific. Oceanwide Images How do starfish communicate?

We thought if we could figure out how starfish know how to get together, we might be able to replicate it. To find out what was going on, we put a group of crown-of-thorns starfish in a large aquarium, and waited for them to aggregate. We then set up what’s called a choice experiment.

We used a Y-shaped maze, and put new starfish at the base of the Y. The two arms of the Y contained either fresh seawater, or water that had just passed over the aggregating starfish in the other aquarium.

As expected, fresh seawater had no effect. These starfish aren’t very active animals – they just sat there. But as soon as the water from the aquarium hit them, they became highly active and moved towards the source.

That told us immediately that the aggregating starfish had changed the chemistry of the seawater in a significant way.

The next step was to actually sequence the pheromone proteins in that seawater. We then mapped these sequences back to the genome, and identified the genes that encode the pheromones that are making the starfish do this.

The beauty of this whole process is that there’s a direct one-to-one relationship between the sequence of proteins that make up the pheromones, and the gene sequence. Because genes are a lot easier to analyse than proteins, we can then look at them in great detail, and use that information in future projects.

A crown-of-thorns starfish eating a brain coral. Australian Institute of Marine Science Eco-friendly pest control

What’s particularly good about this result is that these pheromones are unique to the crown-of-thorns starfish. The genes that encode the proteins have evolved rapidly and recently, and aren’t shared by other species of starfish that we’ve looked at. It looks like each starfish has its own unique repertoire of pheromones.

This means that any attractants or bait we develop from this project will only be recognised by crown-of-thorns starfish, and won’t impact other species.

We look at this paper as phase one: the discovery of the communication pheromones. We’re now in phase two: trying to mimic those pheromones so we can develop baits for traps to remove the starfish from the reef before they reproduce.

Ultimately we’d like for fishers up and down the Queensland coast to be able to go out and fish them and make some money out of it. That could be through a bounty, or through developing some useful (or edible) product out of the starfish to sell.

We need a quicker way to remove crown-of-thorns starfish, and real incentive to get plenty of people involved. No-one knows how many there are around Australia, but there are some reefs in Queensland that have had hundreds of thousands, or even millions, removed by conservation projects. If we see those amounts on individual reefs, the true numbers across the Indo-Pacific ocean must be astronomical.

The final, most exciting aspect of this project is the possibility of wider applications. This approach hasn’t been used before in a marine environment, but it could potentially work for a wide range of invasive species. Pest organisms are a multibillion-dollar global problem – and this could mean we move beyond mitigating invasive species and actually start controlling them.

The Conversation

Bernard Degnan received funding from the Australian Research Council to fund this project.

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First study finds neonic pesticides in US drinking water

BBC - Thu, 2017-04-06 02:41
Scientists in the US find traces of the most widely used insecticides in tap water for the first time.
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The man who lived inside a giant wooden egg

BBC - Thu, 2017-04-06 02:23
Artist Stephen Turner lived on the egg from July 2013 until July 2014.
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Environmentalists sue EPA for reversing Obama-era move to ban pesticide

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 01:40

The EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, has ignored the scientific recommendation of his own agency to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos, despite its links to brain damage

Environmental groups have filed a complaint against the US government over its support of a pesticide linked to brain damage in children, one week after Donald Trump’s administration rejected federally backed science and reversed an Obama-era policy.

The Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed the case against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday, seeking to force the government to follow through with the Obama administration’s recommendations to ban an insecticide widely used in agriculture.

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Make car makers, not drivers, pay for the diesel crisis, experts say

The Guardian - Thu, 2017-04-06 01:40

German and French governments have already required that manufacturers fix vehicles spewing high levels of toxic pollution but UK is ‘doing nothing’

The diesel-fuelled air pollution crisis should be solved by making motor companies recall and upgrade the dirty cars they sold, experts said on Wednesday.

Current UK plans are focused on making diesel drivers pay to enter cities and a possible taxpayer-funded scrappage scheme.

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Solar + Tesla battery storage offered in new-build Queensland homes

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2017-04-05 23:28
Metricon becomes latest Australian housing developer to offer rooftop solar and storage as optional extra in new-build homes in Queensland.
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