The Weekly Roundup – Mar 29, 2019

March 31, 2019
UK / Climate Change

1/ UK will miss almost all its 2020 nature targets, says official report. The nation is failing to protect threatened species; end the degradation of land; reduce agricultural pollution; and increase funding for green schemes, the assessment concludes. It also says the UK is not ending unsustainable fishing; stopping the arrival of invasive alien species; nor raising public awareness of the importance of biodiversity. (The Guardian)

World / Animals

2/ Many sharks closer to extinction than feared. Seventeen of 58 species evaluated were classified as facing extinction, the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation (IUCN) said late Thursday in an update of the Red List of threatened animals and plants. The IUCN’s shark group is conducting a two-year review of more than 400 species of sharks. Sharks have lorded over the world’s oceans for some 400 million years, playing a critical role in global food chains. They have proven especially vulnerable to human predation: they grow slowly, become sexually mature relatively late in life, and produce few offspring. A study estimated that upward of 100 million sharks are fished every year to satisfy a market for their fins, meat, and liver oil. More than half of shark species and their relatives are categorized as threatened or near-threatened with extinction. (Phys)

World / Climate Change

3/ Greenhouse gas emissions from energy production rose strongly again last year, according to new data from the International Energy Agency, with a young fleet of coal-fired power plants in Asia accounting for a large proportion of the increase. Energy demand grew at its fastest pace this decade, with a 2.3% increase globally driving rises in fossil fuel consumption. Carbon emissions rose by 1.7 per cent in 2018 to a record 33.1 billion tonnes, despite energy generation from wind and solar farms growing at a double-digit pace. Gas consumption in the US leapt by 10%, or the equivalent of the UK’s entire gas consumption in a year. Fracking has been a key driver, and oil production in the US also grew. New data from the UK suggests Britain is bucking the trend with emissions down by 3%. (The Guardian / ABC)

World / Environment

4/ Great swathes of the Amazon rainforest could be wiped out thanks to the bitter trade war between the US and China, scientists have warned. The expanding global market for soya bean has already led to massive deforestation of one of the planet’s most valuable ecosystems. Now, scientists think the trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies, championed by US president Donald Trump, may exacerbate this problem. Last year, the US introduced tariffs of up to 25% on imported goods from China. China responded with its own 25% tariffs on US goods. Crucially, among these goods were soya beans, which led to bean exports from the US to China being slashed in half. Brazil, which already supplies around half of China’s soya, is identified as the most likely source to fill the gap. Using United Nations data, the team estimated that the South American nation could ramp up its production by 39%, a move that would require an additional 13 million hectares of forest to be removed. (Independent)

World / Climate Change

5/ The world is seeing record sea level rises (the global average 3.7mm higher in 2018 than in 2017, with melting ice from the ice sheets the main cause) and devastating floods, storms, heatwaves and wildfires as climate change impacts grow, a United Nations (UN) report has said. It details continuing increases in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to new highs, sea levels rising at a faster rate as ice sheets melt, record hot oceans and the world’s glaciers in retreat. Last year most of the natural hazards that affected nearly 62 million people were linked to extreme weather and climate events. Growing numbers of people are going hungry as climate extremes such as drought threaten to reverse gains in ending malnutrition. The oceans are becoming increasingly acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide, while Arctic ice cover was well below average throughout 2018. (Independent

Australia / Animals

6/ Australia has highest rate of mammal extinction in the world but government admits it ‘does not have data’ on plans. The federal environment department has admitted it does not know whether recovery plans meant to prevent extinctions of threatened species are actually being implemented.“What’s the point in listing threatened species if there’s no plan for the species to recover? Even a species as iconic as a koala, which I listed more than six years ago, still doesn’t have a recovery plan.” Australia has the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world. More than 500 animal species are currently at risk of extinction, a number that is increasing but which is also likely to be an underestimate of how many are truly vulnerable. (The Guardian)

The good news…

Denmark / Climate Change

7/ Copenhagen intends to be net carbon neutral by 2025, meaning it plans to generate more renewable energy than the dirty energy it consumes. In the case of Copenhagen, that means changing how people get around, how they heat their homes, and what they do with their trash. The city has already cut its emissions by 42 percent from 2005 levels, mainly by moving away from fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity. A new subway line, scheduled to open this year, will put most residents less than half a mile from a station. Buildings are heated, in part, by burning garbage in a new high-tech incinerator — what garbage there is to burn, that is, considering that every apartment building now has eight separate recycling bins. For every unit of fossil fuels it consumes, Copenhagen intends to sell units of renewable energy. The city has invested heavily in wind turbines.

EU / Plastics

8/ The European parliament has voted to ban single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers as part of a sweeping law against plastic waste. The vote paves the way for a ban on single-use plastics to come into force by 2021 in all EU member states. Packaging will also warn consumers of environmental damage they do by disposing of these items incorrectly. The directive only has to pass through formalities before it is published in the EU rulebook. Once that happens, EU member states will have two years to implement the directive. (The Guardian)

EU / Environment

9/ One of the world’s most common pesticides will soon be banned by the European Union after safety officials reported human health and environmental concerns. Chlorothalonil, a fungicide that prevents mildew and mould on crops, is the most used pesticide in the UK, applied to millions of hectares of fields, and is the most popular fungicide in the US. Regulators around the world have falsely assumed it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes, according to a chief scientific adviser to the UK government. Other research in 2017 showed farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses, while a UN report denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world. (The Guardian)

America / Oceans
10/ A federal judge ruled that an executive order by Mr. Trump that lifted an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic coast was unlawful. The decision, which is expected to be appealed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, immediately reinstates the drilling ban on most of the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska, a pristine region home to endangered species including polar bears and bowhead whales where oil companies have long sought to drill. Along the Atlantic coast, it blocks drilling around a series of coral canyons that run from Norfolk, Va., to the Canadian border which are home to unique deepwater corals and rare fish species. (NYT)

Other notables…

  • Two populations of mountain lions in Southern California face a significant threat of extinction if actions aren’t taken to protect their environment and safeguard animal transit routes through increasingly developed areas, a new study warns.The mountain lions face increasing dangers from highway accidents, as well as death by rat poison, wildfires and shooting if an animal attack pets or livestock. But the biggest danger over the long term is a dwindling genetic pool as their territories are carved up and movements blocked by roads and development, the study warns. (Huffington Post)
  • The environmental health of wetlands across the world is deteriorating. The authoritative Global Wetland Outlook released by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 2018 highlighted an alarming trend in wetland loss; at least 35 percent of the world’s natural wetlands have been lost since 1970. This will have serious implications on our ability to store carbon and support broader climate adaptation. (Phys)

  • Warming coral reefs are losing their capacity to feed themselves from sunlight, making nutritious deep ocean water critical for their survival, according to a University of Queensland study. (Functional Ecology)
  • Pay attention to the growing wave of climate change lawsuits. Kids, farmers, fishermen, cities, and states are suing the fossil fuel industry and governments. Could they win? (Vox)
  • Nearly 10% of island extinctions can be prevented through the eradication of invasive mammals on 169 islands, global collaboration shows. Restoring islands by eradicating damaging, non-native invasive mammals such as rats, cats, goats, and pigs has repeatedly proven to be a high impact conservation action. (Plos Journal)

  • Australian conservationists push to save critically endangered regent honeyeater’s only known recent breeding site from development. There are only about 350 to 400 mature regent honeyeaters left in the wild, largely due to urban development and the loss of woodland habitat, and the critically endangered species is seen as being on the brink of extinction. (ABC)

  • One of Africa’s last major lion strongholds has experienced a significant decline in its genetic diversity since the end of the 19th century, leaving the animals more vulnerable to future threats. (New Scientist)
  • Dead whale washed up in Philippines had 40kg of plastic bags in its stomach. Marine biologists horrified to find 16 rice sacks and multiple shopping bags inside Cuvier’s beaked whale. (The Guardian)

  • The mutilated corpses of hundreds of dolphins have been found piled up on a French beach. They were some of the thousands accidentally killed by the fishing industry each year that wash up on the country’s coast. (Independent)

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