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British fishermen warned Brexit will not mean greater catches

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 19:05

Fisheries chiefs and campaigners say current catch quotas will continue until the UK leaves the EU, and new arrangements may not be more generous

British fishermen have been warned that, despite the promises made by the leave campaign, they cannot expect to be granted greater catches after the UK leaves the European Union, and they may face increased economic turmoil.

Fishermen will have to remain within their current catch quotas while the UK is still a member, and even if new arrangements are negotiated after a Brexit, they will not necessarily be more generous, fisheries chiefs and campaigners have warned.

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Cecil the lion's legacy: death brings new hope for his grandcubs

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 19:00

Cecil’s death could spark a global rethink on how to protect lions – ending Africa’s dependence on hunting revenues to sustain wildlife habitats and crucial conservation projects

The tiny lion cubs bounce down the dusty track alive with curiosity about their new world from their inquisitive faces to the tips of their tails. This new life is a symbol of the surprising good that has stemmed from the tragic death of their grandfather, Cecil.

Cecil, killed by US dentist Walter Palmer one year ago, has 13 surviving sons and daughters and 15 known grandcubs so far. They, like Cecil before he died, have survived brushes with death.

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Universal support needed to tackle global warming, UN climate chief says

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 18:52

Private sector needs to work in Africa, Asia and Latin America to drive down carbon emissions, Christiana Figueres to tell business and climate summit

“Universal support” is needed from businesses across the world to tackle global warming, the United Nations climate chief says.

Business leaders and politicians are meeting in London to discuss how to implement the first comprehensive climate agreement, secured at UN talks in Paris in December, to cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous temperature rises.

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Keepers of the flame: fire fishing in Taiwan - in pictures

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 17:10

The number of boats using the traditional fire fishing method in Jinshan, Taiwan, has fallen from 300 to just three. The remaining fishermen have a seasonal window from May to July when they can catch sardines using fire, a practice that dates back hundreds of years

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Leave vote makes UK's transition to clean energy harder, say experts

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 16:00

Analysts say Brexit will create uncertainty for energy sector, which could hit £20bn investment a year needed to replace ageing, dirty power plants

The UK’s challenge to build a clean, secure and affordable energy system has become significantly harder amid the political and economic turmoil following the nation’s vote to leave the European Union.

Higher customer bills and delayed or cancelled projects are expected by experts, the most pessimistic of whom warn of the lights going out. The optimists argue that the global rush towards clean energy and strong domestic UK climate change targets can keep the transition to clean, green energy moving forward.

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Marine rescue crews work to help entangled blue whale in California – video

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 15:32

Rescuers off the coast of southern California work to help a blue whale which had become entangled in fishing gear. The whale, said to measure between 70ft (21 metres) and 80ft (24 metres) long, appeared around 5 miles (8km) off the coast of Dana Point. It was not immediately clear to the marine crews whether they had succeeded in detangling the whale before it disappeared

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Diligent insects in the summer garden

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 14:30

Allendale, Northumberland There’s a low hum from bumblebees foraging deep inside the comfrey flowers

The day presses down, close and sultry, as I sit cross-legged in front of our three compost bins. There’s a low hum from bumblebees foraging deep inside the nearby comfrey flowers, but I’m interested in a different type of bee. In front of the wooden bins are some large stone slabs, the thumb-width gaps between them unmortared. There, coming and going, are several large black bees. One lands on my trousers, brushing golden pollen from its body on to the hairs of its hind legs. With pollen sac neatly packed, it flies to the edge of the paving and slips beneath the lip.

The chocolate mining bee, Andrena scotica, is often found in gardens; firm sandy paths and terraces are favourite nesting places. They are solitary bees, the females laying eggs in separate burrows but sharing a common entrance hole. Each egg will hatch into a larva, eat the stored pollen and pupate before emerging as an adult.

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Inside Porton Down

BBC - Tue, 2016-06-28 12:08
Dr Michael Mosley investigates Britain's most secretive and controversial military research base, Porton Down, on its 100th anniversary.
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Risks, ethics and consent: Australia shouldn't become the world's nuclear wasteland

The Conversation - Tue, 2016-06-28 11:59

Last month the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission recommended that the state government develop a business venture to store a large fraction of the world’s high- and intermediate-level nuclear power station wastes in South Australia. It proposes to do this by first building an interim above-ground store, to be followed by permanent underground repository.

But the commission’s recommendation is based on several debatable assumptions, including:

  • an economic analysis that purports to show huge profits with negligible commercial risk

  • the notion that social consent could be gained by “careful, considered and detailed technical work”

  • the argument that Australia, as a net exporter of energy, has an ethical responsibility to help other countries lower their carbon emissions by means of nuclear power.

I have analysed critically these and other assumptions of the royal commission in a scholarly paper published in the international journal Energy Research and Social Science.

Risky economics

The commission’s economic analysis rests on the heroic assumption that customers would, upon delivery of their nuclear wastes to South Australia, pay up-front for both interim above-ground storage and permanent underground storage. This would be up to 17 years before the underground repository has actually been built. The estimated total payment would be about A$1.75 million per tonne of heavy metal (tHM) for storing possibly 138,000 tHM in total.

However, this ignores the huge financial risk to the government and taxpayers in the following scenario: the SA government builds the initial facilities – port, underground research and an interim above-ground storage – at a cost of about A$3 billion. Commencing in year 11, customers deliver their nuclear wastes in dry casks, but pay initially only for the costs of interim storage of the casks, declining to pay for geological storage until the underground repository has been built and becomes operational in year 28.

Despite the royal commission’s claim that the government would not develop the project under these conditions, the government could be influenced to accept the wastes by pressure, both positive and negative, from overseas governments, multinational corporations and/or internal politics.

Then, after a large quantity of nuclear waste has been placed into interim storage in SA, the government might not proceed with the geological storage, costing an extra A$38 billion, for technical, political or financial reasons.

A similar situation occurred in the United States with the termination of funding for the Yucca Mountain repository after US$13.5 billion had already been spent.

In this scenario, SA would be locked into managing a large number of dry casks, designed only for interim storage and located above ground, which will gradually erode and leak their dangerous contents over several decades. The physical hazards and the corresponding financial burden on future generations of all Australians would be substantial.

In this scenario, it would also be risky for customers who relied upon it and so failed to provide their own domestic geological repository.

Social consent

Aware that Australians are divided on the nuclear industry, the royal commission acknowledges that gaining “social consent warrants much greater attention than the technical issues during planning and development”.

Then, on the same page of its report, it postulates that community support could be gained by “careful, considered and detailed technical work”. It thus creates the false impression that all social and ethical concerns can be reduced to technical issues.

Ultimately, gaining social consent is a socio-political struggle that draws only slightly on research and education on science, technology and economics. This is demonstrated by current debate in Australia on climate science, in which citizens are influenced by a print media that in many cases is biased towards denial, and a Coalition government that contains several vocal climate sceptics.

Indigenous Australians have successfully opposed for 20 years an above-ground dump for low-level national nuclear waste on their land at Muckaty in the Northern Territory. Indigenous communities are already mobilising, together with environmentalists, to resist very strongly any development of intermediate- and high-level repositories in South Australia. The social impacts of a low-level waste dump are bad enough, but would be dwarfed by the social, physical and financial impacts of a high-level waste repository.

Ethics

One of the assumptions underlying the royal commission’s ethical argument is that nuclear power will continue to be a low-carbon energy source.

However, the life-cycle CO₂ emissions from conventional nuclear power will increase greatly as high-grade uranium ore is used up and low-grade ore is mined and milled with fossil fuels. This limitation could be avoided only if mining and milling are done with renewable energy or if new fuel is produced in fast breeder reactors, but neither of these options appears likely on a commercial scale within the next 20 years.

Second, the royal commission assumes that those countries that lack sufficient indigenous renewable energy cannot be supplied by trade of renewable electricity via transmission lines or renewable liquid and gaseous fuels delivered by tanker. After all, countries that lack fossil fuels or uranium are supplied by sea trade.

Third, it assumes that it is ethically a good thing to foster the expansion of an energy technology that has risks with huge potential adverse impacts, possibly comparable in magnitude to those of global climate change.

The risk with the highest impacts could be its contribution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons (for details see the Nuclear Weapon Archive and chapter 6 of Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change) and hence the likelihood of nuclear war that could cause a nuclear winter.

Politics

In a country that is divided about nuclear power and where the annual economic value of uranium exports is a modest A$622 million (roughly equal to Australia’s cheese exports), the origin of the nuclear waste proposal is puzzling and inevitably involves speculation.

However, one could suggest the political influence of BHP-Billiton, owner of Olympic Dam in South Australia, Australia’s largest uranium mine and the second-largest in the world, and Rio Tinto, owner of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

A global nuclear waste site would lock future generations of Australians into an industry that is dangerous and very expensive. It’s unlikely to gain social consent from Indigenous Australians, or indeed the majority of all Australians. Given the risks, it would be wise not to proceed.

The Conversation

Mark Diesendorf receives funding from the CRC on Low Carbon Living and the Australian Research Council.

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US, Canada and Mexico pledge 50% of power from clean energy by 2025

The Guardian - Tue, 2016-06-28 10:41

Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto to announce new ‘aggressive but achievable’ goal at ‘Three Amigos’ summit in Ottawa

Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto will commit to a new regional clean power goal at a summit this week in Ottawa, the White House has said.

The leaders of the US, Canada and Mexico, meeting on Wednesday at the so-called “Three Amigos” summit, will pledge to have their countries produce 50% of their power by 2025 from hydropower, wind, solar and nuclear plants, carbon capture and storage, as well as from energy efficiency measures.

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Nature Writing with Inga Simpson

ABC Environment - Tue, 2016-06-28 10:33
What do we mean by the term 'nature writing' and how has it changed?
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We can have fish and dams: here's how

The Conversation - Tue, 2016-06-28 05:28

Fish are the most threatened group among Earth’s freshwater vertebrates. On average, freshwater fish populations have declined by 76% over the past 40 years. Damaged fish communities and declining fisheries characterise global freshwater environments, including those in Australia.

Fish migrate to complete their life cycles, but water-resource developments disrupt river connectivity and migrations, threatening biological diversity and fisheries.

Millions of dams, weirs and smaller barriers – for storage and irrigation, road and rail transport and hydropower schemes – block the migration of fish in rivers worldwide.

These barriers serve our needs for water supply, transport and energy. But, by obstructing fish migrations, they also degrade ecological integrity and reduce food security.

This is bad news for those who depend on fish for food. For example, in the Mekong River fish supply over 70% of the people’s animal protein, but catches are falling drastically following dam building.

In our paper published today in CSIRO’s Marine and Freshwater Research, we take stock of the impact these barriers have on our freshwater fish, most (perhaps all) of which migrate, and how we can help them.

Dam it all

There are countless barriers across Australia’s rivers. Roughly 10,000 barriers of all kinds obstruct flows in the Murray-Darling Basin. Flow is unobstructed in less than half of the basin’s watercourse length.

Native fish numbers in the basin’s rivers have declined by an estimated 90% through habitat fragmentation by barriers together with altered flows, overfishing, coldwater pollution and invasive species.

Similar problems also affect coastal river systems. One or more barriers obstruct 49% of rivers in southeast Australia.

Local species extinctions and loss of biodiversity have occurred nationwide in developed regions, especially upstream of large dams.

Overcoming barriers

One way to help fish overcome barriers is to build fishways (or “fish ladders”).

Fishways are designed to aid fish travelling upstream or downstream at high (dams, weirs) or low (road crossings, barrages) barriers. These are classed as “technical”, with hard-engineering designs, or “nature-like”, mimicking natural stream channels.

Recognition that dams threaten freshwater fish communities lagged well behind their construction. Nonetheless, European and American observations of declining fisheries for species moving from the sea to breed in rivers prompted early attempts in Australia to provide for fish passage.

The first Australian fishway was built near Sydney in 1913. By 1985, 52 had been built, but they adopted Northern Hemisphere designs for salmon and trout. These were unsuitable for Australian species, which rarely leap at barriers, and their flow velocities, turbulence and other aspects were excessive.

Seeing the failure of these fishways, New South Wales Fisheries sought advice in 1982 from George Eicher, an American expert, who advised on research to create designs for local species.

This led to expanding fishways research and construction in eastern states. The result was markedly improved performance, for example in the Murray-Darling’s Sea to Hume program.

Fishway performance

Our research shows that regrettably few Australian fishways have yet been shown to meet ideal ecological criteria for mitigating the impact of barriers. Furthermore, fishways are in place at relatively few sites.

In NSW, for example, only about 172 in total serve several thousand weirs and 123 dams. They can be expensive to build and operate, so costs retard mitigation at numerous important sites.

Fishways have seldom been built on dams (fewer than 3% of Australia’s 500 high dams have one); they have generally cost tens of millions of dollars; and most operate, with limited effectiveness, for less than 50% of the time. The need for much greater investment in innovation, research and development is pressing.

How to store water and also rehabilitate fish

To reduce the impact of dams on fish we need to look at resolving problems at river-basin scale; improving our management of barriers, environmental flows and water quality; removing barriers; and developing improved fishway designs.

One way to accelerate improvements nationally would be to pass legislation for routinely re-licensing waterway barriers at regular intervals. This would mean that older barriers are re-evaluated and upgraded or removed where necessary. Under the NSW Weir Removal Program, 14 redundant weirs have already been removed, with others under assessment.

We are developing an innovative pump fishway concept at UNSW Australia. It combines aquaculture fish-pumping methods for safe fish transfer with existing fishway technology.

Young Australian bass during trials of an experimental model of the pump fishway.

We hope the project may help transform past practices through less-costly modular construction, adaptability to a wide range of barriers and improved effectiveness.

Better fishway developments will mean that we can store and supply much-needed water while also restoring fish migrations. This will be increasingly important as climate change reduces streamflows in many regions, and will help rehabilitate fish populations.

The Conversation

John Harris receives funding from the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust and has previously consulted with State, Commonwealth and industry water-resources agencies.

Bill Peirson and his affiliates have received funding from a wide range of government and industry sources within the water sector.

Richard Kingsford receives funding from the Australian Government through Australian Research Council, Murray-Darling Basin Authority as well as state governments, including NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

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Voters approve controversial French airport relocation

The Guardian - Mon, 2016-06-27 20:50

Majority in the local referendum on the Nantes Atlantique airport ends long battle between environmental activists and the government

Voters in western France gave the go-ahead Sunday to a controversial airport development that has been at the centre of a years-long battle between environmental activists and the government.

The local referendum on the new Nantes Atlantique airport passed with a 55% majority, ending a 50-year argument that saw the government’s environment advisers resign in 2014.

Authorities argue that the new airport will provide a major boost to tourism in western France, but environmental campaigners have fiercely opposed the plans to build it on protected swampland just outside Nantes.

Related: Nantes airport: thousand-strong protest over farmer eviction court hearings

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The inter-generational theft of Brexit and climate change | Dana Nuccitelli

The Guardian - Mon, 2016-06-27 20:00

Youth will bear the brunt of the poor decisions being made by today’s older generations

In last week’s Brexit vote results, there was a tremendous divide between age groups. 73% of voters under the age of 25 voted to remain in the EU, while about 58% over the age of 45 voted to leave.

How does Thursday's referendum vote break down? #Brexit #EURefResults https://t.co/ArbedCgHDr pic.twitter.com/XPIdg0s8HP

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Can Australia go coal free?

ABC Environment - Mon, 2016-06-27 19:15
Scotland has turned off the coal burners and Costa Rica is 99 percent fossil free, but is the same possible for a country as large as Australia?
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House owned by Bondi hoarders saved from auction again

ABC Environment - Mon, 2016-06-27 18:43
The Bobolas family home has been at the centre of a legal dispute for several years.
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Chapeau! Stylish cycling gear for the road

The Guardian - Mon, 2016-06-27 18:00

From action cameras to heads-up displays, we select gear to propel you to the front of the peloton this season

• Filament: a custom carbon-fibre bicycle made for one

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How time-poor scientists inadvertently made it seem like the world was overrun with jellyfish

The Conversation - Mon, 2016-06-27 15:02

When is a jellyfish plague not (necessarily) a jellyfish plague? When time-poor scientists selectively cite the literature to make it look like the oceans are flooded with jellies – even when it’s far from clear that they really are.

What does scientists being in a rush have to do with jellyfish populations? Let’s start from the beginning.

The identification of patterns and trends in nature happens through the accumulation of consistent observations, published in scientific reports. Once observed, the emerging patterns are usually reported in narrative reviews, which often stimulates a flurry of research activity in that field.

Eventually, the purported patterns are formally tested using “meta-analyses” of the published literature, to either confirm the pattern and establish it as theory, or refute it.

This path from the primary observations to theory can be traced through a network of citations.

Science, however, is done by humans and citation practices are subject to errors of bias and accuracy. Citation practices that are biased in a particular direction have the potential to lead to the identification of false patterns and flawed theory.

Enter the jellies

In the 1990s and 2000s, reports began to appear in the scientific literature of increased jellyfish populations in some parts of the world’s oceans. Various reviews reported the possibility that jellyfish blooms might be increasing globally. Over time, these became increasingly assertive about the existence and extent of the trend, until researchers were asking what to do about the increasingly “gelatinous state” of the oceans worldwide.

The question of whether the global jellyfish boom was real or not was tested by two meta-analyses – which came to opposite conclusions. A 2012 study concluded that populations were increasing globally because they found evidence for increasing populations in 62% of large marine ecosystems tested (although low certainty was assigned to two-thirds of these). The following year, another study found that only 30% of populations were increasing. It concluded that jellyfish populations wax and wane over several decades.

So, in reality, the scientific community is still divided over whether there really has been a sustained global increase in jellyfish numbers.

What about perception?

We wanted to know whether the perception of a global increase in jellyfish blooms was at least partly due to poor citation practices in the scientific literature. Our research, published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, suggests that it was.

Citation practices can be flawed in several ways:

  • Unsupported citations are when authors cite sources that contain no evidence that could possibly support the author’s claim.

  • Selective citations happen when a paper is cited to support a claim but contrasting evidence provided in the same paper is ignored, or when authors choose to cite earlier papers that have since been refuted.

  • Ambiguous citations happen when an author’s sentence contains multiple phrases, but the citations used to support each phrase are clustered at the end of the sentence, preventing readers from telling which is which.

  • Empty citations are when authors cite a paper that cites another paper as evidence for the claim, rather than the original source (also called “lazy author syndrome”).

We comprehensively searched the literature for papers, published before the two meta-analyses, that issued statements regarding trends in jellyfish populations. We classified each statement according to its affirmation and direction (that is, whether it said jellyfish are “increasing”, “may be increasing”, “decreasing”, or “not sure”), as well as their geographic extent (global, multiple regions, or one region).

We then assessed the papers cited as evidence of the statement, to see whether the citations were accurate or whether they fell into one of the categories of flawed citations outlined above.

A (jelly)fishy tale?

Of 159 papers that had issued statements about trends in jellyfish, 61% claimed that populations were increasing (27% at the global scale and 34% in multiple regions) and 25% asserted that populations may be increasing. Only 10% of papers said the data were equivocal. Just one reported that populations were decreasing (but at a local scale).

Most concerning was that only 51% of papers cited were considered to provide unambiguous support for the statements made by the authors. Almost all statements based on unsupportive citations were those claiming that jellyfish were increasing globally (despite the fact that it would have been impossible to make any claims about global trends before the first global meta-analysis was published in 2012). And in all cases, selective citations were biased towards claims that jellyfish populations were increasing.

Pressure to publish in prestigious journals and win research funds may lead some scientists to make claims that reach beyond the evidence available. In most cases, however, citation errors are not overt attempts to distort the evidence. Rather, they probably arise because increasing academic workloads reduce the time available to evaluate papers accurately and to keep abreast of the almost exponential increase in the volume of literature being published.

As scientists, we need to ensure that our claims are always supported by robust evidence because it is apparent that poor citation practices – and, in particular, selective citation of the literature – can distort perceptions within a research field.

The Conversation

Rob Condon receives funding from US National Science Foundation.

Carlos Duarte, Cathy Lucas, Charles Novaes de Santana, Kylie Pitt, and Marina Sanz Martin do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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Unfettered heathlands of the New Forest

The Guardian - Mon, 2016-06-27 14:30

Country diary: Dibden Purlieu Dusty paths of sun-baked sand provide firm routes into the heathland, widened by walkers seeking peace in the green lung of the forest


West of Dibden Purlieu, isolated from the invasive residential tendrils of the Waterside communities by the teeming bypass, the heathland of the New Forest spreads away almost unfettered. If you choose, as I often have, you can roam for a dozen miles without encountering more than a few minor roads.

A few hundred metres from the village you are already in mature woodland – conifers planted in the 1960s are now being selectively felled, allowing the understorey of holly and birch to break upwards into the canopy. The fences around the plantation have gone now, the edges blurred – managed but no longer strictly linear. Dusty paths of sun-baked sand provide firm routes on into the heathland, some much widened since my last visit by the traffic from walkers seeking peace in the green lung of the forest.

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Depths of the River Murray to be searched for historic South Australian river boat wrecks

Department of the Environment - Mon, 2016-06-27 11:46
Maritime heritage experts are visiting townships along the River Murray to collect information on the wrecks of historic river boats.
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