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IFCE Global Environmental Weekly Events [10/5 - 10/11/2018]

Release time:2018-10-17


1.World leaders 'have moral obligation to act' after UN climate report

A new UN report shows that with the global temperature increase 1.5C, hundreds of millions of people will suffer from the negative impact of global warming, intensifying heat extremes.


Currently, fossil fuel interests have been increased, leading to politician view climate ations as a neglectable part. For example, a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) report highlights the importance of reforestation and forest protection. After couple hours, Jair Bolsonaro, who promise that Brazil will quit from Paris Agreements and open Amazon rainforest to the market,  has a great advantage in the first round of the Brazilian presidential election. Meanwhile, Donald Trump also announced that the United States will quit from the climate deals. Furthermore, Scott Morrison, prime minister at Australia, states that there is no fund for global climate conference.


Jim Skea, a co-chair of the IPCC working group on mitigation, said:“I hope world leaders could pay attention to climate issue instead of making some minor changes. ”

Source: the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/world-leaders-have-moral-obligation-to-act-after-un-climate-report


2.US economists win Nobel prize for work on climate and growth

Two US economists have been co-awarded the Nobel prize for their work on climate change and the role of government in growth. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences explains that  William Nordhaus and Paul Romer could awarded the Nobel prize because they research the basic and pressing issues in our era.


The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences also states that the two US economists construct a model to analyze the interaction between market and natural and knowledge. The method could solve a basic and pressing economic issue which is how to create long-term and sustainable economic growth.


Furthermore, Romer responses to a newest UN report  about discussing the safe limitation of climate change. Romer said:“ If we try to limit carbon emissions, we will find this mission is not as hard as we imaged. People believe environmental protection is expensive and hard, leading them to ignore environmental issues. However, if we pay attention to the environmental issues, humans are able to obtain amazing achievements in environmental area. ”

Source: The Guardian


https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/08/two-us-economists-win-nobel-prize-for-work-on-climate-and-growth-william-nordhaus-paul-romer




3.Australia defies climate warning to back coal

Australia defies climate warning to back coal industry. The latest UN’s report indicates the importance of setting the safe limitation of climate change as 1.5C. However, Michael McCormack, Australia's Deputy PM, announced that Australia government would continually use coal to power its domestic electricity.


UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that shutting down all kinds of coal-fired power projects before 2050 for avoiding our earth suffer from the negative of heat extremes. Michael McCormack added that coal industry supports 60% 60% of Australia's electricity and creates 50,000 jobs. Thus, his government will not change its plan and projects only because of someone’s suggestion.


Currently, coal lobbies promote a technique, carbon capture and storage (CCS), as a solution to remove the negative impact of coal industry development on climate change. IPCC recognizes this new technology. However, many analysts believe that the development of this CCS technology is too slow to achieve the emissions reduction goals.

Source: BBC


https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45798643


4.New York City area wetlands may be unwitting generator of greenhouse gasses

New York City release combined sewage overflow (CSO) into Hudson River Estuary annually. However, there is limited information about the effect of CSO on climate change. Recently, a new research, publishing in the Soil Science Society of America Journal shows that CSO could increase the carbon dioxide and methane emissions which are greenhouse gas.


Researchers at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (GC/CUNY) and Queens College simulated the situation when CSO was inputted into Hudson River Estuary and conduct a control experiment to measure the effect of CSO. The result of the research indicates that CSO could increase several times of the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane.


Jeffrey Bird, professor of biology and earth and environmental sciences at GC/CUNY and Queens College, said:“ As we all knew, CSO impacts the public health. Unfortunately, there is limited research pay attention to the effect of CSO on climate change. New York City is necessary to identify and qualify all emission sources of greenhouse gas for reducing its contribution to climate change. ”. The study group plan to analyze how CSO impacts nitrous oxide emissions in the next step.

Source: phys.org


https://phys.org/news/2018-10-york-city-area-wetlands-unwitting.html



5.Coca-Cola and Nestle among worst plastic polluters based on global clean-ups

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle are worst plastic polluters, contributing a lot to global plastic pollutions. From the UK to Vietnam, volunteers found the frequency of these brand’s packing is high during the global clean-ups. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola’s packing is the most frequently identified in the global clean operations.


Von Hernandez, global coordinators at Break Free From Plastic, said:“ These brand provide undeniable evidence about how companies play a role in the global plastic crisis. These companies committed a serious crime through continuity trashing the earth by utilizing unrecyclable throwaway plastic packaging.” According to this finding, a spokesperson from Coca-Cola responded that they would try their best to solve this problem. Meanwhile, PepsiCo and Nestle also announced that they would use recyclable plastic packaging to reduce plastic pollutions.


Eoin Dubsky, campaigner at SumOfUs, said:“ Plastic pollution is not only an issue, relating to a corporate image. Over 250,000 people have already signed our petition to ask the European Parliament Environment Committee for making companies responsible for their plastic products. Only legislation process could help the environment committee to build a beautiful world without plastic pollutions.”

Source: Independent


https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/plastic-pollution-coca-cola-nestle-pepsico-nestle-beach-clean-greenpeace-a8576276.html



6.Why the laundry industry is in a spin to save water

As water shortages become more common around the world, the laundry industry is under pressure to reduce consumption of this precious resource and generally minimise its environmental impact.

When Johannesburg native Charl de Beer moved back to South Africa, he started a company aiming to rent out freshly laundered linens to the 18,000 Airbnb hosts in Cape Town.

But then Cape Town experienced a water shortage crisis that threatened his business - his water costs quadrupled in a year. "If you're a business, that's catastrophic," he says. Fortunately for him he came across a new technology - polymer beads to replace water - that could apparently reduce the amount of water laundry uses by up to 80%

British tech firm Xeros had started selling these specially designed washing machines, under the name Hydrofinity, on the back of scientific research from the UK's University of Leeds. Nylon polymers "have an inherent polarity that attracts stains" and can replace most water in a laundry cycle, says Stephen Burkinshaw, chair of textile chemistry at the university.

Source: BBC

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45711230



7.Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn


Governments around the world must take "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" to avoid disastrous levels of global warming, says a stark new report from the global scientific authority on climate change.


The report issued Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.


The date, which falls well within the lifetime of many people alive today, is based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The planet is already two-thirds of the way there, with global temperatures having warmed about 1 degree C. Avoiding going even higher will require significant action in the next few years.


"This is concerning because we know there are so many more problems if we exceed 1.5 degrees C global warming, including more heatwaves and hot summers, greater sea level rise, and, for many parts of the world, worse droughts and rainfall extremes," Andrew King, a lecturer in climate science at the University of Melbourne, said in a statement.


Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C. Lowering emissions to this degree, while technically possible, would require widespread changes in energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities, the report says. "The window on keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is closing rapidly and the current emissions pledges made by signatories to the Paris Agreement do not add up to us achieving that goal," added King.

Source: CNN

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/07/world/climate-change-new-ipcc-report-wxc/index.html



8.US plan to genetically alter crops via insects feared to be biological war plan

Government-backed researchers in America are aiming to use virus-carrying insects to genetically engineer crops – raising fears the technology could be used for biological weapons.

 

A new article in the journal Science explores the shadowy program funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).

The program aims to disperse infectious, genetically modified viruses that have been engineered to alter the chromosomes of crops – using insects to spread the viruses to the plants.

 

Researchers have budgeted more than $45m to pursue the genetic engineering scheme, in a program dubbed Insect Allies.

The agency describes the research as a way to improve crop security: bugs like aphids, leafhoppers and whiteflies will be used to spread a virus to plants including corn and tomatoes, which will then impart beneficial genes making the plants resistant to disease or drought.

 

But in the Science article, an international team of scientists and lawyers warn that the technology could be put to more nefarious purposes, including military applications.

If true, that would violate the international Biological Weapons Convention, say the authors, who include Guy Reeves, a biologist and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, and Silja Voeneky, co-director of the Institute for Public Law at the University of Freiburg. The program has also taken “extra precautions” to identify any unintended consequences, making sure only the targeted plants and insects are affected by the viruses, he said.

Source: The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/04/us-plan-to-genetically-alter-crops-via-insects-feared-to-be-biological-war-plan



9.This killer robot could help save the Great Barrier Reef

It’s a killer robot with a good heart. After years of development and testing, researchers in Australia are preparing to launch an autonomous underwater drone designed to help safeguard the Great Barrier Reef — a mission that includes neutralizing with a lethal injection a coral-eating species of starfish that threatens the reef’s health.

 

Dubbed RangerBot, the briefcase-sized robot has a vision system that lets it navigate underwater, avoid obstacles and identify crown-of-thorns starfish. These creatures, which are covered in venomous spines and can grow almost to the size of a manhole cover, can “devastate large tracts of reef,” said Matthew Dunbabin, an engineering and robotics professor at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and one of the researchers who built the bot.

 

Dunbabin said the robot, which uses thrusters to move around, is able to identify its quarry with 99.4 percent accuracy. “Once the identification is confirmed, RangerBot can instigate an injection which is fatal for the crown-of-thorns starfish but doesn’t affect anything else on the reef,” he said in a statement.

 

But crown-of-thorns starfish are just one threat facing the world’s largest coral reef, which stretches more than 1,400 miles off Australia’s northeastern coast. Water pollution and overfishing are stressing the reef, and warming ocean temperatures are starving the coral of the algae on which it feeds. That can cause bleaching, which gives the coral a ghostly pallor and makes it more likely to die.

 

In 2016, huge swaths of the reef experienced a “mass bleaching” event, and some scientists feared the once-vibrant ecosystem was on the brink of collapse. Recent research shows the reef is recovering, but it remains vulnerable.

Source: NBC

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/killer-robot-could-help-save-great-barrier-reef-here-s-ncna908576



10.After plastic straws, balloons get more scrutiny from environmentalists

Now that plastic straws may be headed for extinction, could Americans' love of balloons be deflated?

The joyous celebration of releasing balloons into the air has long bothered environmentalists, who say the pieces that fall back to earth can be deadly to seabirds and turtles that eat them. So as companies vow to banish plastic straws, there are signs balloons will be among the products to get more scrutiny, even though they're a very small part of environmental pollution.

This year, college football powerhouse Clemson University is ending its tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before games, a move that's part of its sustainability efforts. In Virginia, a campaign that urges alternatives to balloon releases at weddings is expanding. And a town in Rhode Island outright banned the sale of all balloons earlier this year, citing the harm to marine life.

"There are all kinds of alternatives to balloons, a lot of ways to express yourself," says Kenneth Lacoste, first warden of New Shoreham, Rhode Island, who cites posters, piñatas and decorated paper.

Following efforts to limit plastic bags, the push by environmentalists against straws has gained traction in recent months, partly because they're seen as unnecessary for most. Companies including Starbucks and Disney are promising to phase out plastic straws, which can be difficult to recycle because of their size and often end up as trash in the ocean. A handful of U.S. cities recently passed or are considering bans. And the push may bring attention to other items people may not have considered — like festive balloons.

"The issue of straws has really broadened the marine debris issue," says Emma Tonge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. People might not realize balloons are a danger, she says, because of their "light and whimsical" image.

Balloons are not among the top 10 kinds of debris found in coastal cleanups, but Tonge says they're common and especially hazardous to marine animals, which can also get entangled in balloon strings.

Source: NBC

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/away-after-plastic-straws-balloons-get-more-scrutiny-environmentalists-n901001

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