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Nov 18, 2017, 01:57 PM
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 on: Today at 05:45 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The U.S. Is Tackling Global Warming, Even if Trump Isn’t

NOV. 18, 2017
NY Times

World leaders have been meeting in Bonn, Germany, since last week to discuss carrying out the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Sadly, though not unexpectedly, the White House and federal agencies have largely been absent from the negotiating table. But American leaders from state capitols, city halls and businesses across the country have shown up in force, and we have delivered a unified message to the world: American society remains committed to our pledge under the agreement.

Over the past two months, Americans have experienced or witnessed raging wildfires and devastating storms, from Santa Rosa, Calif., to San Juan, P.R. Warming seas, along with hotter and drier days, make these storms and fires more intense and destructive. Climate change is not a future threat; it is happening now, and we are paying for it in lost lives and billions of dollars in damage.

The United States has always led the way in confronting global challenges, especially ones that profoundly affect our own country. President Trump’s vow to withdraw from the Paris agreement by 2020 was a troubling abdication of that leadership, and it threatened to send a dangerously wrong message: that we are abandoning the pledge we made in Paris to reduce emissions at least 26 percent by 2025.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Most Americans strongly support the Paris agreement, and thousands of mayors, governors, chief executives and others stepped forward to reaffirm their commitment to it after the president walked away from the accord. Together, these states, cities and businesses constitute more than half of the United States economy and, if they were a separate country, would make up the third-largest economy in the world.

President Trump’s action has had the effect of galvanizing these groups — and many have taken bold actions in recent months.

California just extended its landmark cap-and-trade emissions program through 2030, and has adopted incentives that will help put 1.5 million electric and other zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. Chicago has proposed an energy rating system for its large buildings to drive down emissions substantially, with $70 million in projected annual savings on utility bills. Companies in a wide variety of industries — from Bloomberg to Wal-Mart — have pledged to procure 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025 or sooner. And broader trends, including falling renewable energy costs and the retirement of additional coal-fired power plants, continue to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate the decarbonization of the American economy.

Even Oklahoma and Texas — the home states of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Rick Perry, the energy secretary, who both oppose the climate accord — are national leaders in wind power production. Coal is a fading energy source in both states.

Climate progress has historically been driven from the bottom-up, not the top down from Washington. Though Congress failed to pass a cap-and-trade bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 during the Obama administration, the United States has still reduced emissions faster and farther than any other large nation.

In fact, we are already almost halfway to reaching our Paris commitment, thanks largely to consumer preferences and market forces. Half the country’s coal plants have closed or are being phased out while air quality improves and electricity bills fall for American consumers.

In the current political climate, however, there is a risk that nonfederal actions will go unrecognized by the global community. To ensure the world sees the continued commitment of the United States to tackling climate change, and the extent to which local governments and businesses are driving progress, we have introduced an initiative called America’s Pledge, which will document the progress we are making — and the bolder actions we must still take — to meet our Paris commitments.

This week in Bonn, we released a report detailing existing nonfederal climate initiatives and policies across America. The report also identifies major new opportunities for cities, states and businesses to take climate action without the federal government.

For instance, more states can opt in to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon pricing program involving nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to drive down power plants emissions, or California’s independently managed vehicle emissions programs, including its Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, which nine states have adopted. More cities can adopt greener building codes, policies and programs to reduce electricity waste.

And more businesses can follow the lead of the 43 American supermarket chains that have committed to reducing their emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in refrigeration. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Red Bull and Unilever have installed more than 5.5 million air-conditioning units using HFC-free refrigerants worldwide, with nearly 400,000 of those installed in the United States.

Together, these actions will strengthen the economy and improve public health, while also helping the United States move faster toward its Paris commitment. Over the next year, we will aggregate and quantify these actions and continue pushing for new efforts to speed up decarbonization.

The Paris agreement succeeded where previous attempts failed because it solicited nationally determined pledges from nations based on local actions already taking place. For the United States to reach its commitment, much more needs to be done. But the world should know: We are not waiting for Washington.


North Carolina Youth File Climate Petition to Protect Their Futures


Tuesday, three teenagers filed a climate change petition for rulemaking with the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission. The petition calls on the commission to reduce North Carolina's CO2 emissions to zero by 2050, in accordance with the best available science.

Youth petitioners argue that the commission has statutory, public trust and constitutional obligations to protect North Carolina's essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, for present and future generations. As detailed in the petition, the proposed rule could create jobs, reduce energy costs and avoid billions in climate damages.

With the support of Our Children's Trust, Alliance for Climate Education and represented by Duke's Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, the petitioners are the latest group of young people from across the country to file legal action seeking science-based action by governments to secure a safe climate and healthy future.

"With a family history of lung disease and a love for hiking, I have personally experienced both the negative health impacts of pollution and the steady destruction of our most important natural resources, our national and state parks, due to climate change and higher CO2 emissions," Arya Pontula, 17-year-old petitioner and Alliance for Climate Education fellow from Raleigh, said.

"I hope this petition pushes our state to take concrete steps to reduce CO2 emissions, thus ensuring cleaner air for all generations. The bottom line is that, when it comes to our health, we have no other choice but to set our differences aside and work towards a common goal for cleaner, breathable air and preservation of our natural resources," Pontula added.

"North Carolina's laws declare that the Environmental Management Commission must protect water and air resources for the benefit of all, not shield polluters through delaying tactics," Ryke Longest, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic director, said. "It is long past time for the commission to act on the best available science and commit to reducing carbon dioxide emissions to zero in time for the climate to stabilize."

The North Carolina petition is one of many related legal actions supported by Our Children's Trust and brought by youth in several states and countries, including Juliana v. United States, seeking science-based action by governments to secure a safe climate and healthy atmosphere for present and future generations.


Why I Disrupted Trump's Fossil Fuel Agenda at COP23: A Young Person's First-Hand Account

By Michaela Mujica-Steiner

President Donald Trump's fossil fuel agenda was met with disdain Monday evening at COP23. The only official White House event was titled, "The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation." Everyday people from across the world attended it, but they were not there in support of the event, but rather in protest.

As a young person from the United States and a youth delegate with SustainUS, I felt a personal responsibility to hold the United States government accountable for continuing to block progress on the Paris agreement via their ties to a small handful of fossil fuel billionaires. I could feel my palms sweating as I waited in the security line to the get into the event.

I was so nervous, but it helps to know that you're not alone—seven out of ten Americans support urgent climate action and staying in the Paris agreement. Everyday Americans and people from across the globe were standing with me at that very moment. And young people have always been at the forefront of social change movements, pushing the boundaries of what our societies believe is possible. Doing so helps to create space beyond the status quo, which is necessary to advancing the needle in favor of progressive values. By disrupting the status quo, we help to define its boundaries, and by establishing the limits, we determine and set the terms of the debate.

So that's what I set out to do on Monday evening: set the terms of the debate on fossil fuels at COP, disrupt the Trump administration's lies, inspire people back home, and most importantly, stand on the right side of history. I know that I'll remember Monday's action for the rest of my life, and I hope it will forever be a defining point throughout history when the people declared "No More" to being bullied by corporate elites for profit.

We the people stood in our full dignity and power, filling the U.S.-backed event with at least a hundred voices. Midway through our song, I looked back at the administration's baffled faces, as I quickly unfurled a banner that read "We the People" with the words "fossil fuel CEOs" crossed out at the top of it. And even when we were escorted out, we continued to sing a beautiful rendition of "God Bless the USA." Walking out of the event doors into a 200+ crowd, I started to tear up.

I have always looked up to the social movement leaders of the past whose work carries into the present. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi are my heroes. On Monday night, I imagined all the social change makers of the past right by my side as cosmic companions. They've left a legacy, and this generation can follow in their footsteps. Never in my life have I ever considered myself to be a "hero," and that's because, in these dire times, we all have to step up to the plate in being the heroes in this tragic story that is the reality of climate change.

Local action has global implications. When I come back from these talks, I'm getting straight to work back home to ensure that my governor in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper, does not succumb to the interests of the one percent by increasing hydraulic fracking. Together, we can build local movements that have the strength to create a people's uprising outside of this panel event.


US cities and companies declare 'we are still in' Paris Agreement despite Trump

Coalition sets up a pavilion at the UN climate change conference which the official US delegation is also attending

Mythili Sampathkumar New York

A coalition of US cities, companies, and other groups have pledged to stay committed to the Paris Agreement on climate change, despite President Donald Trump initiating US withdrawal from it.

The accord was signed in December 2015 by nearly 200 countries in an effort to curb carbon emissions and limiting global warming to under 2C.

Called the “We Are Still In” coalition, the group set up a pavilion outside of the official United Nations climate change conference (COP23) venue, where countries - including the US - are meeting for the next few weeks to negotiate how the Paris Agreement will be implemented. 

For a size comparison, the coalition pavilion is a massive 27,000 sq ft (2500 sq meters) while the official US delegation office inside the UN venue is 100 sq meters.

Republicans and Democrats alike make up the “We Are Still In” coalition, which has more than one thousand CEOs, mayors, and governors in the US.

"There is a tradition of non-partisanship for protecting our planet," said James Brainard, Republican mayor of the town of Carmel, Indiana, at an opening event.

"It is unfortunate we have moved away from it,” he noted.

The purpose of the pavilion and its exhibitions is to showcase how Americans - at the sub-national level - are still fighting climate change in spite of the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle Obama-era environmental regulations.

The coalition claims it represents more than 130 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of annual economic output.

Fiji, which is presiding over this year’s UN talks, welcomed the coalition as a "perfect example" of how the Paris accord aims to widen action beyond national governments.

"I am confident that coalitions like yours will scale up because they are noble and inspiring," said Inia Seruiratu, the Fijian minister for agriculture and disaster management.

The private sector has also taken an active role as the US official delegation’s plans at the conference include promoting coal, gas, and fossil fuel use by lower income countries to grow.

But, Director of product advocacy for Ingersoll-Rand Jeff Moe said the company was seeking to halve its greenhouse gas emissions.

The "We Are Still In" pavilion is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Hewlett Foundation and NextGen America.

California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor and UN special envoy on cities and climate change Michael Bloomberg will speaking at the pavilion later on during the conference.

The US is now the only country withdrawing from the agreement since previous holdouts Syria and Nicaragua announced they would be joining the rest of the world.

Agencies contributed to this report.

 on: Today at 05:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Slaughter of 90,000 Wild Horses Could Proceed Despite 80% Objection From American Public


The American Wild Horse Campaign on Thursday harshly criticized Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's appointment of Brian Steed, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as dangerous and out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.

"Rep. Stewart is leading the charge to slaughter America's wild horses and burros over the opposition of 80 percent of Americans," said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. "Putting his deputy at the helm of the agency charged with protecting these national icons is like putting the wolf in charge of the chicken coop."

"Americans don't want the government to be in the horse slaughter business, and Interior Secretary Zinke should appoint someone to lead the Bureau of Land Management who is committed to protecting, not destroying, America's historic mustangs," Roy concluded.

Roy added that the long-term leadership for this agency, which manages 245 million acres of public land in the West, should be determined through a full and transparent confirmation process, not a late-in-the-day political appointment by the secretary.

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives issued what AWHC called a "death warrant" when it passed the "Stewart Amendment" to a 2018 spending bill that would allow for the destruction of wild horses and burros the BLM considers to be surplus. The Senate has yet to weigh in on the subject, but if it concurs, the amendment could lead to the killing of more than 90,000 wild horses on the range and in holding facilities.

Stewart and Zinke are pushing for the destruction of America's mustangs to appease the special interest livestock lobby, which views wild horses as competition for cheap taxpayer subsidized grazing on public lands. (Public lands ranchers pay $1.87 per animal per month to graze livestock on public lands while the going rate for private land grazing in the West is $22.60.)

Livestock industry groups like the National Cattleman's Association are lobbying for the killing and slaughter of wild horses and burros on public lands even though 80 percent of BLM land grazed by livestock has no wild horses present on it.

AWHC is calling on Congress to reject the Stewart amendment in favor of appropriations language that would require the BLM to use non-lethal birth control to manage America's wild herds, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. The Senate is expected to release its 2018 Interior Appropriations bill later this month.

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moJLz2Ivv-k

 on: Today at 05:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Italy Bans Use of Circus Animals

By Jessica Corbett

Animal rights advocates are celebrating a move by the Italian parliament on Wednesday to, over the next year, phase out the use of all animals in circuses and traveling shows.

"We applaud Italy and urge countries like the U.K. and the U.S. to follow this example and end this cruelty," said Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, which supported the launch of the bill.

"Traveling from place to place, week after week, using temporary collapsible cages and pens, circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of the animals," Creamer said in an Animal Defenders International statement that also featured declarations from the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and the British Veterinary Association that there are no means by which the physiological, mental and social needs of these animals can be adequately met within a traveling circus.

Creamer traveled to Italy to advocate for the bill's passage. Following a screening of her group's film Lion Ark which is about rescuing animals from illegal circuses in Bolivia, she addressed Italian lawmakers at a workshop to further explain how Animal Defenders International's undercover investigations "have shown the violence and abuse that is used to force these animals to obey and perform tricks."

"Italy has an estimated 100 circuses with some 2,000 animals making this one of the biggest victories in the campaign to stop circus suffering," according to Animal Defenders International's Stop Circus Suffering campaign. The European nation joins 40 other countries and several more municipalities that have outlawed the use of animals in circuses and traveling shows.

The news from Italy comes on the heels of a similar move by the Indian government, and just days before Animal Defenders International plans to host a week of action, beginning Nov. 13, to support the Traveling Exotic Animal & Public Safety Protection Act (also called TEAPSPA or H.R.1759), a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prohibit traveling wild and exotic animal acts.

Animal rights advocates celebrated the new law on Twitter, and called on other countries to follow suit:

 on: Today at 05:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Nasa map of Earth's seasons over 20 years highlights climate change

The visualization shows spring coming earlier and the Arctic ice caps receding over time

Associated Press
18 November 2017 03.12 GMT

Nasa has captured 20 years of changing seasons in a striking new global map of planet Earth​.

The data visualization, released this week, shows Earth’s fluctuations as seen from space.

The polar ice caps and snow cover are shown ebbing and flowing with the seasons. The varying ocean shades of blue, green, red and purple depict the abundance – or lack – of undersea life.
Spacewatch: Nasa space telescope faces cuts to reduce costs
Read more

“It’s like watching the Earth breathe. It’s really remarkable,” said Nasa oceanographer Jeremy Werdell, who took part in the project.

Two decades – from September 1997 to this past September – are crunched into two and a half minutes of viewing.

​Werdell said the visualization shows spring coming earlier and autumn lasting longer in the Northern Hemisphere. Also noticeable to him is the Arctic ice caps receding over time – and, though less obvious, the Antarctic, too.

​In the oceans, Werdell was struck by “this hugely productive bloom of biology” that exploded in the Pacific along the equator from 1997 to 1998 – when a water-warming El Nino merged into cooling La Nina. This algae bloom is evident by a line of bright green.

In considerably smaller Lake Erie, more and more contaminating algae blooms are apparent, appearing red and yellow.

All this data can provide resources for policymakers as well as commercial fishermen and many others, according to Werdell.

Programmer Alex Kekesi of Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland said it took three months to complete the visualization, using satellite imagery.

​The visualization will continually change, officials said, as computer systems improve, new remote-sensing satellites are launched and more observations are made.

Click to watch: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/science/video/2017/nov/18/its-a-delicate-place-nasa-captures-20-years-of-earths-seasonal-changes-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 on: Today at 05:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Switching to organic farming could cut greenhouse gas emissions, study shows

Study also finds that converting conventionally farmed land would not overly harm crop yields or require huge amounts of additional land to feed rising populations

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Converting land from conventional agriculture to organic production could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the run-off of excess nitrogen from fertilisers, and cut pesticide use. It would also, according to a new report, be feasible to convert large amounts of currently conventionally farmed land without catastrophic harm to crop yields and without needing huge amounts of new land.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that by combining organic production with an increasingly vegetarian diet, ways of cutting food waste, and a return to traditional methods of fixing nitrogen in the soil instead of using fertiliser, the world’s projected 2050 population of more than 9 billion could be fed without vastly increasing the current amount of land under agricultural production.

This is important, as converting other land such as forests, cerrado or peatlands to agricultural use would increase greenhouse gas emissions from the land. The authors found that an increase in organic farming would require big changes in farming systems, such as growing legumes to replenish nitrogen in the soil.

However, other scientists were cautious over endorsing the report’s findings, pointing out that the size of the world’s agricultural systems and their variability, as well as assumptions about future nutritional needs, made generalisations about converting to organic farming difficult to make.

Sir Colin Berry, emeritus professor of pathology at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “As for all models, assumptions have to be made and what weight you attach to which item can greatly change outcomes. The assumption that grassland areas will remain constant is a large one. The wastage issue is important but solutions, not addressed here, to post-harvest- pre-market losses will be difficult without fungicides for grains. Some populations could do with more protein to grow and develop normally, despite the models here requiring less animal protein.”

Les Firbank, professor of sustainable agriculture at Leeds University, said: “One of the question marks about organic farming is that it can’t feed the world. [This paper] concludes organic farming does require more land than conventional methods, but if we manage the demand for food by reducing waste and reducing the amount of crops grown as animal feed, organic farming can feed the world.”

He warned: “These models can only be viewed as a guide: there are many assumptions that may not turn out to be true and all these scenario exercises are restricted by limited knowledge [and] are fairly simplistic compared to real life, but realistic enough to help formulate policy. The core message is valuable and timely: we need to seriously consider how we manage the global demand for food.”

Even without converting to organic production, however, the US, India, China and Russia – four of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters – could turn into some of the biggest absorbers of carbon, through better management of their agricultural land.

A separate new study shows that these countries have the greatest potential for the sequestration of carbon dioxide through changing the way soils are protected, through better farming methods that can also help to preserve declining soil fertility.

Scientists said the potential of using soil as a carbon sink was equivalent to taking between 215m and 400m cars off the road, even if only small changes are made, of a kind which should be achievable on all farms. The study, published on Tuesday in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, and conducted by experts from the Chinese Academy of Science, the Nature Conservancy NGO, and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, found that farming crops differently could make a big contribution to achieving the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change.

Today’s intensive agricultural methods, involving frequent tilling of soils and the excessive use of chemical fertilisers, could be replaced with the revival of older methods such as the increased use of manure, cover cropping, mulching and growing trees next to cropland. However, the role of land management in preventing dangerous levels of climate change has often been overlooked at the talks, where discussions over the burning of fossil fuels have dominated. This is partly because of the urgency of switching away from fossil fuels, and partly because land management is a diffuse and diverse problem spread across the globe from small farmers to agri-industrialists, whereas fossil fuel sources tend to be larger and more monolithic, such as coal-fired power plants.

The results will be presented to delegates at the UN COP23 climate talks in Bonn on Wednesday. Nations at the talks are discussing ways to increase the commitments on emissions reductions made alongside the Paris agreement, and which scientists say are currently inadequate to hold the world to no more than 2C of warming, the binding target under the landmark 2015 accord.

 on: Today at 05:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Country diary: peregrine is on the chase, but I can't make out the prey

Wepham Down, West Sussex Most hunts happen in the early morning or just before dusk – except in winter during the short days

Rob Yarham

Skylarks are chasing each other over the fields, their sharp calls piercing the air. Two of the birds climb overhead. The second, having seen off the first, circles back, and begins to hover, singing snatches of its bright, vigorous territorial song. The brown, falling leaves are a reminder that it’s November.

Shadows drift across the hillside. The evening sun, reaching between the breaks in the moving cloud, lights up patches of undulating ground so they glow golden brown and yellow-green before falling into darkness again. A group of white gulls is heading back from the coast to the open fields to find somewhere to roost for the night. The sun catches each one as they pass, and they shine brightly like silvered pearls.

Three dark birds spiral high above them. At first, I think they’re gulls as well, but they are still dark when the sun catches them, and then I see their pointed wings. Peregrine falcons. I watch them soar in climbing circles, two about 100 feet (30 metres) above the third. The lowest one begins to flap its wings faster, picking up speed. It hurtles low, towards the trees, in a stoop. It pulls up, then flaps again, banking left, then right. It is chasing another bird, but I can’t make out the prey. The hunting peregrine flies down, below the treeline. The two falcons that have been shadowing the hunt from above drop down into the valley and out of sight.

Most peregrine hunts happen in the early morning or just before dusk – except in winter during the short days – and are rarely witnessed. I wonder if any of the three birds were among the young I had watched fledge in the summer. It seems surprising the family would still be together – the young have usually moved on, or the adults have chased them away from the territory, by this time of year.

Perhaps two are still learning to hunt from their parent. It was impossible to make out any markings at this distance and in this light – immature birds would still be brown and streaked. The peregrines don’t reappear. I consider searching for them, but it’s turning dark and cold.

    This article was amended on 15 November 2017 to add the location of Wepham Down, West Sussex.

 on: Today at 05:29 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Logging in native forests: court to hear challenge to historic 'peace deal'

Green groups are basing challenge on claim that Victorian forestry agreement is not being adhered to
Leadbeater's possum

Michael Slezak
18 November 2017 02.12 GMT

Exemptions allowing logging to occur in Australia’s native forests without approval under federal environmental law are being challenged in court as lawyers claim the agreements creating them are not being adhered to in an area of Victoria.

The case, brought by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) on behalf of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, could have national implications, with other groups raising similar concerns around the country.

Australia’s 10 regional forestry agreements (RFAs) in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia were signed between 1997 and 2001, each running for 20 years.

The agreements between state and federal governments mean proposals to log in designated native forests are not required to be approved through the usual federal process, under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

They were seen by many as a historic peace deal that attempted to preserve conservation values while allowing the forestry industry continued access to native trees.

But the agreements require performance reviews to be conducted every five years. EJA will argue that since those reviews have not been undertaken in Victoria, some logging in the forests covered by the Central Highlands RFA, which threatens Greater gliders and Leadbeater’s possums must gain approval under the EPBC, which has not occurred.

The Victorian Central Highlands RFA was signed in March 1998. But over the 19-year period, the Victorian and federal governments say they have done just one review, which examined the period to 2009 and was completed in 2015.

An EJA lawyer, Danya Jacobs, said the case asked the court to prohibit logging at 34 sites where Greater gliders and Leadbeater’s possums live, unless federal environment laws were complied with.

Logging in those forests is a major threat to the species, both of which are listed as threatened by both state and federal governments.

“The native forest logging industry has operated as if it’s exempt from federal environment law for almost 20 years, on the basis of agreements that have not been complied with,” Jacobs said.

“This case asks the court to examine this situation in specific forests that are home to iconic threatened species that are suffering because of logging.”

On Tuesday afternoon, VicForests agreed to immediately halt logging at two sites named in the claim until Friday, when an urgent hearing of an injunction application may take place.

Nathan Trushell, chief executive of the state-owned commercial logging company, VicForests, said they believed their operations were in accordance with the Regional Forest Agreement.

“Prior to harvesting, a thorough, multi-layered planning process is undertaken to consider the management of many environmental and other values present in the forest,” Trushell said.

“We are keen to see the matter resolved as quickly as possible to minimise disruption of timber supply to local mills and important regional jobs.”

A detailed review of RFAs, conducted in 2016 by the National Parks Association of NSW, concluded the agreements failed in all their aims, the logging of native forests they facilitated resulting in an increase in the number of threatened species.

Lead author of the report, senior ecologist at the National Parks Association of NSW Oisin Sweeney, said the court case in Victoria would be carefully watched around the country and could have major implications for other RFAs.

“It’s absolutely relevant in NSW,” Sweeney said. “We have had the first five-yearly report. It was produced in the ninth year of the RFA. So it was several years late. We still haven’t had the 10 and 15 years reports even though we’re 18 years into the RFA.”

The logging allowed by the RFAs in NSW has been destroying habitat of koalas there. A report released in May by the NSW Environmental Protection Agency found that all koala populations in NSW, with one possible exception, have continued to decline, with at least one population now considered endangered.

In August, the first RFA in the country was rolled over, with an agreement signed between the Tasmanian and federal government.

 on: Today at 05:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Growing number of global insurance firms divesting from fossil fuels

Report shows around £15bn of assets worldwide have been shifted away from coal companies in the past two years as concern over climate risk rises

Jonathan Watts

A growing number of insurance companies increasingly affected by the consequences of climate change are selling holdings in coal companies and refusing to underwrite their operations.

About £15bn has been divested in the past two years, according to a new report that rates the world’s leading insurers’ efforts to distance themselves from the fossil fuel industry that is most responsible for carbon emissions.

Fifteen companies – almost all based in Europe – have fully or partially cut financial ties, says the study by the Unfriend Coal campaign, which represents a coalition of a dozen environmental groups including Greenpeace, 350.org and the Sierra Club.

Zurich, the world’s seventh biggest insurer, is the latest to shift away from coal, announcing this week that it is pulling out of coal to contribute to broader efforts to achieve the Paris accord goal of keeping global warming below 2C.

Allianz, Aviva and Axa have previously made similar moves. Lloyd’s and Swiss Re are expected to follow in the coming months.

The campaign has a long way to go. The early movers represent only 13% of all global insurance assets. None of the major US insurers such as Berkshire Hathaway, AIG and Liberty Mutual have taken action, according to the study.

Despite this, the authors say the shift of assets and coverage since 2015 is gaining momentum.

“Coal needs to become uninsurable,” said Peter Bosshard, the coordinator of Unfriend Coal. “If insurers cease to cover the numerous natural, technical, commercial and political risks of coal projects, then new coalmines and power plants cannot be built and existing operations will have to be shut down.”

Such financial pressure is crucial if global warming is to be kept in check.

The International Energy Agency says 99% of coal generation needs to be phased out by 2050 if even the upper goal is be reached, but coal production continues to rise and governments have shown insufficient commitment to reining it back.

Zurich said its decision to pull out was a practical as well as altruistic. “It’s not about politics or blame. It’s about utilising the immense amount of data and analytics we have from internal engineers, as well as external scientific experts, to guide our view of the future,” said Rob Kuchinski, global head of property and energy.

The Bank of England has identified four reasons insurers should be concerned about climate change: their fossil fuel assets could be stranded, they could be held liable for damages linked to their investments, they could see their market diminish, and their payouts could rise.

Payouts are also expected to rise. Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, recently suffered a €1.4bn loss and also faces soaring claims from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“Left unchecked,” British insurer Aviva states, climate change will “render significant portions of the economy uninsurable, shrinking our addressable market.”

The topic of insurance is prominent on the agenda of UN climate talks in Bonn this week, where the focus is on the lack of coverage for small islands and other nations most affected by rising sea levels and worsening droughts. Wealthy nations are proposing a plan to underwrite climate change coverage to 400 million people in developing countries by 2020.

 on: Today at 05:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Trump postpones big-game trophy hunting decision after colossal backlash

18 Nov 2017 at 00:21 ET 

On Friday evening, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would halt his decision to lift a ban on big-game hunting trophies, almost a day after his administration announced that trophy hunters were allowed to kill elephants in countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe and bring home tusks or any other body parts as prizes.

He tweeted, “Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!”

Trump’s decision to roll back an Obama-era ban on such practices caused an uproar among conservation groups and social media users who posted pictures of the president's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, as they were holding a cut-off tail of a killed elephant and other slain animals.

 on: Today at 05:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Underwater castle with ancient ‘fairy chimneys’ found

18 Nov 2017 at 06:48 ET 

Researchers studying a vast lake in Eastern Turkey have unearthed the remains of a 3,000-year-old castle buried beneath its waters.

Tahsin Ceylan, an underwater photographer and videographer, Mustafa Akkuş, an academic from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University’s fishery faculty, Murat Kulakaç, a diving instructor and Cumali Birol, a diver, plunged into Lake Van, Turkey's largest lake, to discover its secrets, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The castle likely dates from the reign of the ancient Urartu Kingdom, which grew up around Lake Van during the Iron Age.

Researchers have identified the castle as Urartian because the stone used in its construction is characteristic of that civilization.

The Urartians left the area around Lake Van as the waters rose but their buildings stayed behind, partly lost to the deep.

Full excavations are yet to be carried out, so researchers do not know how tall the castle’s walls are, but around three to four meters (around 10 to 13 feet) are visible above the lake bed. The ruins overall cover a square kilometer (0.4 square miles).

Researchers say that the alkaline water of the lake has allowed the castle to remain preserved in excellent condition. 

Previous study of the lake discovered stalagmites up to 10 meters (33 feet) in length, dubbed “underwater fairy chimneys.”

Local governor Arif Karaman said: “Studies were done on the underwater portion of the historic Urartian castle in our city, revealing it to be nearly 3,000 years old."

Ceylan said: “Many civilizations and people had settled around Lake Van. They named the lake the ‘upper sea’ and believed it had many mysterious things. With this belief in mind, we are working to reveal the lake’s ‘secrets.’”

He added: “We have shared all these findings with the world...It is a miracle to find this castle underwater. Archaeologists will come here to examine the castle’s history and provide information on it.”

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