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Latest Environment news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice
Updated: 1 hour 58 min ago

What’s paralysing thousands of rainbow lorikeets? Scientists search for the cause as volunteer carers are overwhelmed

12 hours 54 min ago

A mystery paralysis syndrome is afflicting lorikeet populations in south-east Queensland and northern NSW at a rate scientists say they have never seen

Dr Tim Portas pulls the patient from a cardboard box, wraps him in a towel and touches a cotton bud on his eye to see if he can blink.

Patient number 1,433,093 is one of about 3,500 Rainbow lorikeets that have come into the RSPCA’s wildlife hospital near Brisbane since the beginning of the year with a mystery paralysis.

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WWF shelved report exposing River Wye pollution ‘to keep Tesco happy’

17 hours 54 min ago

The wildlife charity allegedly dropped a study highlighting farm pollution linked to the supply chain of its former supermarket partner

The wildlife charity WWF-UK shelved a report that warned how intensive chicken production is devastating the River Wye, the Observer can reveal.

Since 2018, the charity has received more than £6m in donations from the supermarket chain Tesco, which has faced action from campaigners over the decline of the Wye because many of the intensive poultry farms in the river’s catchment area are in its ­supply chain.

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AI’s craving for data is matched only by a runaway thirst for water and energy | John Naughton

19 hours 59 min ago

The computing power for AI models requires immense – and increasing – amounts of natural resources. Legislation is required to prevent environmental crisis

One of the most pernicious myths about digital technology is that it is somehow weightless or immaterial. Remember all that early talk about the “paperless” office and “frictionless” transactions? And of course, while our personal electronic devices do use some electricity, compared with the washing machine or the dishwasher, it’s trivial.

Belief in this comforting story, however, might not survive an encounter with Kate Crawford’s seminal book, Atlas of AI, or the striking Anatomy of an AI System graphic she composed with Vladan Joler. And it certainly wouldn’t survive a visit to a datacentre – one of those enormous metallic sheds housing tens or even hundreds of thousands of servers humming away, consuming massive amounts of electricity and needing lots of water for their cooling systems.

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Ski resorts’ era of plentiful snow may be over due to climate crisis, study finds

Sat, 2024-03-02 23:30

US ski industry is losing billions as average season has become five to seven days shorter in past half century

If you have been enjoying lushly covered mountains by skiing or snowboarding this winter then such an experience could soon become a receding memory, with a new study finding that an era of reliably bountiful snow has already passed due to the climate crisis.

The US ski industry has lost more than $5bn over the past two decades due to human-caused global heating, the new research has calculated, due to the increasingly sparse nature of snowfall on mountain ranges. Previous studies have shown that in many locations precipitation is now coming in the form of rain, rather than snow, due to warming temperatures.

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Government documents ‘blow gaping hole’ in its case for Cumbrian coalmine

Sat, 2024-03-02 16:00

Michael Gove said UK needed coal to make steel, but business department papers drafted around same time say it will not

Previously unseen documents have emerged that appear to contradict the government’s case for a new coalmine in Cumbria.

When Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, approved plans to build the Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven in December 2022, he said the UK would need the coal in order to carry on making steel.

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Danish firm’s ‘climate-controlled pork’ claim misleading, court rules

Sat, 2024-03-02 00:53

Campaigners say decision against Danish Crown, Europe’s largest pork producer, sends resounding message

Europe’s largest pork producer misled customers with its “climate-controlled pork” campaign, Denmark’s high court has ruled in the country’s first climate lawsuit.

Campaigners argued that Danish Crown greenwashed its meat with round, pink stickers on its packaging that said pigs were “climate-controlled”, along with a marketing campaign that claimed its pork was “more climate-friendly than you think”.

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Act to save Dartmoor rainforest from sheep, urge campaigners

Fri, 2024-03-01 23:00

Authorities asked to step in to protect Black-a-Tor Copse, an ancient temperate rainforest in Devon at risk from overgrazing

There are acorns galore and tiny oaks sprouting from tussocky grass beside the gnarled ancient trees of Black-a-Tor Copse on the northern slopes of Dartmoor national park.

But each tiny sapling grows no higher than a sheep’s chin and there it stays, its new shoots and tender leaves repeatedly shorn each spring by the livestock roaming through this national nature reserve.

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Texas farmers claim company sold them PFAS-contaminated sludge that killed livestock

Fri, 2024-03-01 21:00

Two ranches also allege biosolids with ‘forever chemicals’ ruined crops, polluted drinking water and left their properties worthless

A Texas county has launched a first-of-its-kind criminal investigation into waste management giant Synagro over PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge it is selling to Texas farmers as a cheap alternative to fertilizer.

Two small Texas ranches at the center of that case have also filed a federal lawsuit against Synagro, alleging the company knew its sludge was contaminated but still sold it. Sludge spread on a nearby field sickened the farmers, killed livestock, polluted drinking water, contaminated beef later sold to the public and left their properties worthless, the complaint alleges.

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The week in wildlife – in pictures: hugging bear cubs, quarrelling birds and London goslings

Fri, 2024-03-01 18:00

The best of this week’s wildlife photographs from around the world

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Devolved leaders reject shortlist for climate watchdog chair over Tory links

Fri, 2024-03-01 16:00

Refusal by Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish leaders to approve candidates means whole recruitment process may have to be rerun

Ministers in Westminster have been accused of trying to blunt the teeth of the UK’s net zero watchdog by appointing a Tory loyalist to the post of chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The leaders of the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have refused to approve any of the six shortlisted candidates, saying they are all too close to the Conservatives and lack diversity.

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Tories accused of hypocrisy for supporting farmers’ protests

Fri, 2024-03-01 16:00

Campaigners and human rights experts point to crackdown on climate and Gaza protests

The Conservatives have been accused by human rights experts of hypocrisy after cracking down on climate and Gaza protests while celebrating and endorsing farmers’ protests in Wales.

Rishi Sunak joined a protest of farmers in Wales last Friday, after they had obstructed a road while campaigning against the Labour government’s new farming subsidies scheme. But this week he vowed to crack down on protests, referring to them as “mob rule”. On Wednesday, the Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew Davies, along with many of his colleagues greeted and posed for photographs with farmers who formed a large group outside the Senedd and blocked a main road with tractors.

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Ofwat accused of cover-up over dinners with water companies

Fri, 2024-03-01 02:51

Calls for inquiry after regulator failed to declare hospitality with those it holds to account over sewage spills

The water regulator for England and Wales has been accused of a cover-up after failing to declare dinners its chairman had with water company executives at a private members’ club as hospitality.

The Guardian revealed earlier this month that the Ofwat chairman, Iain Coucher, went for dinner with the water company chairs at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, an exclusive private members’ club, to discuss how to quell public anger over bill rises and sewage spills. But there was no sign of these dinners on his official hospitality logs that were revealed under freedom of information requests from the Liberal Democrats.

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El Niño forecast to drive record heat from the Amazon to Alaska in 2024

Fri, 2024-03-01 02:00

Coastal areas facing ‘enormous and urgent climate crisis’ as event supercharges human-caused global heating, scientists say

The current climate event known as El Niño is likely to supercharge global heating and deliver record-breaking temperatures from the Amazon to Alaska in 2024, analysis has found.

Coastal areas of India by the Bay of Bengal and by the South China Sea, as well as the Philippines and the Caribbean, are also likely to experience unprecedented heat in the period to June, the scientists said, after which El Niño may weaken.

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UK gives £600m backing to Jim Ratcliffe’s ‘carbon bomb’ petrochemical plant

Fri, 2024-03-01 01:35

Campaigners say Ineos project in Antwerp will turbocharge plastic production on a scale not seen before in Europe

The UK government is providing a €700m (£600m) guarantee for the billionaire Jim Ratcliffe to build the biggest petrochemical plant in Europe in 30 years that will turbocharge plastic production.

The huge petrochemical plant has been described as a “carbon bomb” by campaigners. Being constructed in the Belgian city of Antwerp by Ratcliffe’s company Ineos, it will bring plastic production to Europe on a scale not seen before, just as countries are trying to negotiate a binding global treaty to tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution.

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People displaced by climate crisis to testify in first-of-its-kind hearing in US

Thu, 2024-02-29 21:15

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hear how climate is driving forced migration across the Americas

Communities under imminent threat from rising sea level, floods and other extreme weather will testify in Washington on Thursday, as the region’s foremost human rights body holds a first-of-its-kind hearing on how climate catastrophe is driving forced migration across the Americas.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hear from people on the frontline of the climate emergency in Mexico, Honduras, the Bahamas and Colombia, as part of a special hearing sought by human rights groups in Latin America, the US and the Caribbean.

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Scrap subsidies to Scotland’s conifer forests, urges report

Thu, 2024-02-29 19:00

Royal Society of Edinburgh says money should be spent on longer-living native forests with greater biodiversity benefits

A report has called on ministers to scrap the huge subsidies and tax breaks given to conifer forests because they do too little to combat the climate crisis.

The report from the Royal Society of Edinburgh said the tens of millions of pounds in subsidies given to the timber industry should instead be spent on longer-living native forests, which have greater and clearer climate and biodiversity benefits.

In Scotland, ministers have subsidised forestry by more than £390m over the last decade, with roughly 80% of that spent on commercial conifer plantations, as well as extra subsidies for haulage.

Timber companies and landowners pay no corporation tax on their income from forests; profits from timber sales are tax-free; there is no capital gains tax on the value of the trees, and 100% inheritance tax relief on the forestry property.

Forest owners were also able to sell carbon credits, adding to the attractiveness of forestry as an investment.

These grants, tax breaks and carbon credits had helped to substantially drive up land prices in Scotland, up by 73% in a single year, greatly distorting the land market and pricing people out.

Government agencies are not properly enforcing policies which require environmental impact assessments on new forest projects; their approach is “inadequate” and “passive”.

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Asbestos: Rozelle parklands reopening delayed, with critics arguing extension shows EPA is a ‘toothless tiger’

Thu, 2024-02-29 10:39

Environment Protection Authority originally demanded asbestos be cleaned up by end of February but Transport for NSW granted extra month by watchdog

The remediation and reopening of a major Sydney park where asbestos was found in mulch by a child in early January has been pushed back a month, sparking outrage from the local mayor and a state MP as more contamination is found across the city.

Transport for New South Wales on Thursday announced it had been granted an extension for the works at the Rozelle parklands by the state’s environmental watchdog due to the extent of the remediation needed.

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This is what happens when an uncosted Coalition thought-bubble on nuclear power is presented as a concrete proposal | Temperature Check

Thu, 2024-02-29 10:00

Anyone reading the Australian’s Newspoll survey might think there was an actual proposal in place to build small modular nuclear reactors around Australia – except there isn’t

What happens when an uncosted Coalition thought-bubble to deploy an unavailable nuclear power technology across the country’s electricity grid is presented in an opinion poll as a concrete proposal?

You get a page one story in The Australian under the headline: “Powerful majority supports nuclear option for energy security” backed with two pieces of commentary, an editorial and a narrative reliably echoed by Sky News Australia.

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African leaders call for equity over minerals used for clean energy

Thu, 2024-02-29 04:09

‘Crucial’ UN resolution attempts to avoid repeat of injustices produced by Africa’s fossil fuel sector

In an attempt to avoid the “injustices and extractivism” of fossil fuel operations, African leaders are calling for better controls on the dash for the minerals and metals needed for a clean energy transition.

A resolution for structural change that will prioritise equitable benefit-sharing from extraction, supported by a group of mainly African countries including Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Chad, was presented at the United Nations environmental assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday and called for the sustainable use of transitional minerals.

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Humpback sex photographed for first time – and both whales were male

Thu, 2024-02-29 03:26

Scientists confirm sighting of two same-sex marine giants copulating in amorous encounter off Hawaii coast

Humpback whales have been observed having sex for the first time, with this landmark moment having an interesting twist – the two whales were male.

Despite decades of research on humpback whales, sightings of the male’s penis have been rare. Copulation by the species had not been documented by people – until now, when two photographers captured images of a sexual encounter between two whales off the coast of Hawaii.

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