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Amount of electricity demanded by homes and businesses one afternoon was lower than it was during night for first time ever
Last weekend’s sunny weather was not only good for beers, barbecues and bees, but also drove solar power to break a new UK record.
For the first time ever, the amount of electricity demanded by homes and businesses in the afternoon on Saturday was lower than it was in the night, because solar panels on rooftops and in fields cut demand so much.Continue reading...
Takahama reactors, which Greenpeace says have serious unresolved safety issues, will restart within a month
Japan’s struggling nuclear power industry has won a victory against a landmark legal injunction that halted the running of two reactors.
Six years on from the triple-meltdown at Fukushima, the industry faces concerted opposition from residents and some officials due to lingering concerns about safety.Continue reading...
Trump’s climate blitzkrieg is unlikely to herald the end of civilization, but it risks US geopolitical dominance and could help ‘make China great again’
Is Donald Trump’s determination to send US climate change policy back into the dark ages an “existential threat to the entire planet”, as the architect of many of Barack Obama’s green measures warns? Or is global momentum towards a cleaner, safer future “unstoppable”, as the UN’s climate chief said recently?Continue reading...
UK ranks fifth in table assessing EU actions to cut carbon emissions by 40%, with most countries gaining wiggle room via loopholes
Sweden, Germany and France are the only European countries pursuing environmental policies in line with promises made at the Paris climate conference, according to a new ranking study.
The UK is in fifth position in the table which assesses policy actions taken by EU states to meet Europe’s pledge of a 40% cut in carbon emissions by 2030.Continue reading...
The B6305 Allendale road, Northumberland Colours and sights shift across the seasons, all seen from this one road
It’s late morning and I’m driving from Allendale to Hexham along the straight road known as the Paise dyke. Cars bowl along here at speed, but to do that is to miss the far views and the birds. There’s always something to catch the eye. Ahead, on this warm March morning, starlings swarm like bees across the fields, a rushing wind as I drive under them, about 3,000 birds. The flock is so regularly spaced that I feel a vast net has been cast over me before they settle on a field pocked by mole hills and rich in worms.
There’s a farm and a wood called the Paise but the road’s name is not on the Ordnance Survey map. In his book published in 1970, Goodwife Hot and Others: Northumberland’s Past as Shown in Its Place Names, the historian and farmer Geoffrey Watson thought the name referred to land where peas were grown. Though these are upland fields, he believed they would have been adequate for growing this staple diet. The dyke might refer to a stone wall or a causeway over the boggy moorland.Continue reading...
‘Environmental vandalism’ proposal would put vulnerable species, including Leadbeater’s possum and Sooty owl, at risk of extinction
A proposal to release areas of protected Victorian old-growth forest for logging is “environmental vandalism crossed with bad economics” that would put a number of vulnerable species at risk of extinction, a leading Leadbeater’s possum expert has said.
Professor David Lindenmayer, from the Australian National University, is recognised as the world expert in the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum.Continue reading...
Eyewitness accounts of large, dog-like animals in state’s far north spur scientific hunt for thylacines, thought to have died out in 1936
“Plausible” possible sightings of a Tasmanian tiger in north Queensland have prompted scientists to undertake a search for the species thought to have died out more than 80 years ago.
The last thylacine is thought to have died in Hobart zoo in 1936, and it is widely believed to have become extinct on mainland Australia at least 2,000 years ago.Continue reading...
Yet among this growing destruction there is a degree of resilience to climate change, as Australian animals and plants evolve and adapt.
Some of this resilience is genetic, at the DNA level. Natural selection favours forms of genes that help organisms withstand hotter and drier conditions more effectively.
Over time, the environmental selection for certain forms of genes over others leads to genetic changes. These genetic changes can be complex, involving many genes interacting together, but they are sufficient to make organisms highly tolerant to extreme conditions.
Some of this resilience is unrelated to DNA. These are “plastic” changes – temporary changes in organisms’ physical and biochemical functions that help them deal with adverse conditions or shifts in the timing of environmental events.
Plastic changes occur more quickly than genetic changes but are not permanent – the organisms return to their previous state once the environment shifts back. These changes also may not be enough to protect organisms from even more extreme climates.What about Australia?
In Australia there is evidence of both genetic and plastic adaptation.
Some of the first evidence of genetic adaptation under climate change have been in vinegar flies on the east coast of Australia. These flies have a gene that encodes the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. This gene has two major forms: the tropical form and the temperate form. Over the past 30 years, the tropical form of the gene has become more common at the expense of the temperate one.
Plastic adaptation due to climate change has been demonstrated in common brown butterflies in southern Australia. Female butterflies are emerging from their cocoons earlier as higher temperatures have been speeding up their growth and development by 1.6 days every decade. According to overseas research, this faster development allows butterfly caterpillars to take advantage of earlier plant growth.Higher temperatures are causing the common brown butterflies in southern Australia to come out of their cocoons earlier. John Tann/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
In many cases, it is not clear if the adaptation is genetic or plastic.
The average body size of Australian birds has changed over the the past 100 years. Usually, when comparing birds of the same species, birds from the tropics are smaller than those from temperate areas. In several widespread species, however, the birds from temperate areas have recently become smaller. This might be the direct result of environmental changes or a consequence of natural selection on the genes that affect size.
In the case of long-lived species like eucalypts, it is hard to see any adaptive changes. However, there is evidence from experimental plots that eucalypts have the potential to adapt.
Different eucalypt species from across Australia were planted together in experimental forestry plots located in various environments. These plots have unwittingly become climate change adaptation experiments. By monitoring the plots, we can identify species that are better at growing and surviving in extreme climatic conditions.
Plot results together with other forms of DNA-based evidence indicate that some trees unexpectedly grow and survive much better, and are therefore likely to survive into the future.What’s next?
We still have much to learn about the resilience of our flora and fauna.
There will always be species with low resilience or slow adaptive ability. Nevertheless, plastic and genetic changes can provide some resilience, which will change the predictions of likely losses in biodiversity.
Much like how our worst weeds and pests adapted to local climate conditions, as demonstrated many years ago, our local plants and animals will also adapt.
Species with short generation times – a short time between one generation (the parent) and the next (the offspring) – are able to adapt more quickly than species with longer lifespans and generation times.
For species with short generation times, recent models suggest that the ability to adapt may help reduce the impacts of climate change and decrease local extinction rates.
However, species with long generation times and species that cannot easily move to more habitable environments continue to have a high risk of extinction under climate change.
In those cases, management strategies, such as increasing the prevalence of gene forms helpful for surviving extreme conditions and moving species to locations to which they are better adapted, can help species survive.
Unfortunately, this means doing more than simply protecting nature, the hallmark of our biodiversity strategy to date. We need to act quickly to help our animals and plants adapt and survive.
Ary Hoffmann receives funding from the Australian Research Council, National Health and Medical Research Council, and Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network. He is affiliated with the Climate Change Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The Victorian plant will close down this week after half a century of electricity generation. The brown coal-powered station supplies more than 5% of Australia’s total energy demand – but is the country’s dirtiest and least efficient power plant, producing 3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. It will shut down entirely on 31 March after its owner, the power company Engie, decided it was uneconomical and unsafe to continue running the plant without major upgradesContinue reading...