Adding crushed rock dust to farmland could draw down up to two billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air per year and help meet key global climate targets, according to a major new study led by the University of Sheffield. The technique, known as enhanced rock weathering, involves spreading finely crushed basalt, a natural volcanic rock, on fields to boost the soil's ability to extract CO2 from the air. In the first nation-by-nation assessment, published in Nature, scientists have demonstrated the method's potential for carbon drawdown by major economies, and identified the costs and engineering challenges of scaling up the approach to help meet ambitious global CO2 removal targets. The research was led by experts at the University of Sheffield's Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation, and the University's Energy Institute.
Meeting the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global heating to below 2C above pre-industrial levels requires drastic cuts in emissions, as well as the active removal of between two and 10 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This new research provides a detailed initial assessment of enhanced rock weathering, a large-scale CO2 removal strategy that could make a major contribution to this effort.
According to Paul Hawkens’ Drawdown Project that dubs itself “The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming”, compiled in 2017 from data up to 2016, Enhanced Rock Weathering, isn’t listed within the top 80 Solutions at all but rather listed in the “Coming Attractions” section because the research into the efficacy is so cutting edge. Going strictly by the sequestration capacity addressed in this paper, this method would rank the results around 60th highest reduction of CO2 but this is first time these costs, savings, and relative ease of application have been explored.
Federal Judge rules Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline shut down until environmental review complete
In a surprise decision, a federal judge ruled that the Dakota Access pipeline must be shut down by Aug. 5, saying federal officials failed to carry out a complete analysis of its environmental impacts. And an April decision by a federal judge in Montana dealt a blow to the Keystone XL pipeline and raised questions about whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to conduct more extensive environmental reviews for other projects.
The Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines have been in and out of the news since 2015 and in April were dealt a large legal blow. This latest is testament to the years of committed diligence of environmental advocates and NGOs.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline canceled as delays and costs mount
Two of the nation’s largest utility companies announced that they had canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have carried natural gas across the Appalachian Trail, as delays and rising costs threatened the viability of the project. Duke Energy and Dominion Energy said that lawsuits, mainly from environmentalists aimed at blocking the project, had increased costs to as much as $8 billion from about $4.5 billion to $5 billion when it was first announced in 2014. The two energy companies won a victory just last month in the Supreme Court over a permit from the U.S. Forest Service, but said that “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays” for the pipeline. They cited the potential for further legal challenges.
Similar to the Dakota and Keystone pipelines, this is a highly contested oil line and environmentalists were reeling from the loss in the Supreme Court only a couple weeks ago. The cancellation of the project is a further example that disruption, advocacy, and legal challenges
Endangered California condors in Sequoia National Park for the first time in 50 years
For the first time in nearly 50 years, California condors have been spotted at Sequoia National Park. The majestic scavengers, the largest land bird in North America, with a 9.5-foot wingspan, once inhabited areas stretching from California to Florida and Western Canada to Northern Mexico. They were listed as endangered in 1967 by the federal government, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At least six condors were spotted in the park in late May, including two near Moro Rock, a popular hiking destination. Four others were seen in the Giant Forest, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday in a joint news release. Condors historically occupied the Sierra Nevada mountains and were known to nest in the cavities of giant sequoia trees. But by 1982, the flock’s population had dropped dramatically — largely because of lead poisoning — leaving less than 25 surviving condors, officials said. The handful of remaining birds were placed in a captive breeding program at the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park to prevent them from going extinct, wildlife officials said. Condors were released back into the wild in 1992 in the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California.
The condor rewilding is one of the premiere conservation stories of all times and you can hear more about it in our Conservation Conversations episode: Big Birds and Tall Rocks: California Condors at Pinnacles National Park with Rachel Wolstenholme
US 9th Circuit upholds Endangered Species protections for Yellowstone Grizzlies
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Montana District Court’s opinion that reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for the Yellowstone region’s grizzly bear population. The decision spares the grizzlies from plans for trophy hunts in the states of Wyoming and Idaho. Earthjustice, representing the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association, argued for restoring protections to Yellowstone grizzly bears.
Tim Preso, Earthjustice attorney says the “The court rightfully rejected the misguided proposal to subject Yellowstone grizzlies to trophy hunting for the first time in 40 years. The grizzly is an icon of our remaining wildness at a time when our wilderness is shrinking and our wildlife is under assault.”
According to Wikipedia - There are currently about 55,000 wild grizzly bears located throughout North America, most of which reside in Alaska. Only about 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48 states of the US. Of these, about 800 live in Montana. About 600 more live in Wyoming, in the Yellowstone-Teton area. There are an estimated 70–100 grizzly bears living in northern and eastern Idaho.
On 9 January 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove Yellowstone grizzlies from the list of threatened and protected species. In March 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "de-listed" the population, effectively removing Endangered Species Act protections for grizzlies in the Yellowstone National Park area. Several environmental organizations, including the NRDC, brought a lawsuit against the federal government to relist the grizzly bear. On 22 September 2009, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy reinstated protection due to the decline of whitebark pine tree, whose nuts are an important source of food for the bears. The bears were again removed from protection by the Trump administration in 2017. It was argued that the population had sufficiently recovered from the threat of extinction, however numerous conservation and tribal organizations argued that the grizzly population remained genetically vulnerable. They successfully sued the administration (Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke) and on July 30, 2019, the Yellowstone grizzly was officially returned to federal protection
work even if not in the courtroom.
The House of Representatives passed the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Act with $300 million funding
Marking a significant step for U.S. wildlife conservation and biodiversity protection, the bipartisan Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act along with $300 million for wildlife crossings and provisions to support wildlife road crossings passed the House floor as part the Moving Forward Act stimulus package. These important provisions will both stimulate the U.S. economy and support rural jobs, while also reducing highway fatalities and safeguarding wildlife.
With one in five U.S. species at risk of extinction and nearly 60% of the natural vegetation lost in the U.S. lower 48 states, biodiversity loss and disruption of natural wildlife habitats is one of our nation’s greatest conservation challenges. Connecting habitats through corridors and crossings enables wildlife to access resources for survival, and to migrate and better adapt to changing landscapes and climate. Reported collisions between motorists and wildlife cause more than 200 human fatalities and over 26,000 injuries each year, at an annual cost to Americans of more than $8 billion. More than 1-2 million large animals are killed annually by motorists on U.S. roads – roughly one every 26 seconds. Numerous research studies show that wildlife crossing structures and fencing that guide animals over or under our nation’s highways are highly effective, reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 97%. The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act grants authority to key federal agencies to develop a National Wildlife Corridor System on federal public land and creates a $50 million per year Wildlife Movement Grant Program to incentivize the protection of wildlife corridors by state and tribal agencies and interested private landowners on non-federal lands.
Legislation o The Senate Passes the Great American Outdoors Act § https://apnews.com/5796d62b4d9600744d1a277ea3745b44?syndicated=true § Senate approves $2.8B plan to boost conservation and parks § The Senate has approved a bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands, a measure supporters say would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. § The 73-25 vote states that he bill would spend about $900 million a year — double current spending — on the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund, and another $1.9 billion per year on improvements at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and rangelands. § For context: · Since 2017 there have been about 100 major environmental laws under attack with about 60 that have been rolled back in some way or another. Similarly, funding for conservation has been reduced dramatically and critical conservation science has been dismissed or dismantled. These policies and funding directly affect our water, air, and food, not to mention wildlife and threatened habitats. With the current attack on environmental laws and regulations, this bipartisan bill allocating such a large commitment to conservation projects is a happy reprieve. o French Citizens’ council on the environment proposes making ‘ecocide’ illegal § https://www.france24.com/en/20200622-french-citizens-council-on-the-environment-proposes-making-ecocide-illegal § After nine months of deliberations, a citizens’ council set up by French President Emmanuel Macron to explore measures for cutting carbon emissions urged the French leader to hold referendums on adding environmental protection to the Constitution and making the destruction of nature a crime, calling the crime ‘ecocide.’ § Ecocide is criminalized human activity that violates the principles of environmental justice, such as causing extensive damage or destroying ecosystems or harming the health and well-being of a species. § The Citizens’ Convention on Climate (CCC), made up of 150 randomly selected members of the French population, was established as part of government efforts to quell the “Yellow Vest” anti-government protests that erupted in response to a new carbon tax on diesel. § The French president indicated that he would consider holding a referendum on several of the council’s proposals, according to members of his ruling (LREM) party. § For Context: · This is interesting because it’s one of the first times this word and idea have been proposed for a country’s legislation. · The Ecocide idea took hold in September 2019 and in December 2019, the Pacific island state of Vanuatu made a bold statement at the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s annual Assembly of States Parties in The Hague when they recommended the Hague recognize Ecocide as an international crime · Other similar Environmental Rights issues have been explored to expand the moral circle beyond the human that include: Non-Human Personhood, extending personhood to things like mountains and rivers; Animal sentience projects as in New Zealand; and Constitutional Environmental Rights that are increasingly being considered globally. All of these cutting-edge reforms emanate from the revolutionary and precedent setting Endangered Species Act that was enacted in 1973 by the United States · Science and Technology o One-fifth of Earth’s ocean floor is now mapped § https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53119686 § The initiative that seeks to galvanise the creation of a full map of the ocean floor says one-fifth of this task has now been completed. § When the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project was launched in 2017, only 6% of the global ocean bottom had been surveyed to what might be called modern standards. § That number now stands at 19%, up from 15% last year. § Some 14.5 million sq km of new bathymetric (depth) data was included in the GEBCO grid in 2019 - an area equivalent to almost twice that of Australia. § It does, however, still leave a great swathe of the planet in need of mapping to an acceptable degree. § For context: · "Today we stand at the 19% level. That means we've got another 81% of the oceans still to survey, still to map. That's an area about twice the size of Mars that we have to capture in the next decade," project director Jamie McMichael-Phillips told BBC News o Iceland is undoing carbon emissions for good, turning C02 into stone § https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200616-how-iceland-is-undoing-carbon-emissions-for-good § Carbon emissions are causing climate change – so rather than sending carbon dioxide into the sky, in Iceland, some are turning it into stone. § Heavy industry in Iceland contributes 48% of the country’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Even though these industrial facilities run on renewable energy from hydroelectricity and geothermal power, CO2 is released as part of the process of producing metals like aluminium. The larger of the country’s industrial facilities produces silicon metals, which are used in steel manufacturing, as well as aluminium, much of which is exported and used in the automobile industry. Capturing the CO2 released from the facilities’ smokestacks, injecting it into the Icelandic basalt rock nearby and waiting for it to turn into stone. § For context · The concept is known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), and versions of the technology have been tried and tested for years. Typically, carbon capture and storage involves capturing the CO2 and separating it from other gases, transporting it by pipeline or ship to a suitable site, and then injecting it deep underground. It can be injected into large areas of sedimentary rock or depleted oil and gas fields, among other sites. There it is stored, usually at depths of at least one kilometre, and over time it is turned into a harmless carbonate mineral, such as calcite – one of the main components of marble and limestone. · However, most of these are small-scale or still under construction. Only two large-scale power plants with carbon capture and storage currently in operation, Petra Nova Carbon Capture in the US and Boundary Dam CCS in Canada · Animals o Almost 50 Blue Whales spotted off the coast of San Francisco - A possible record number § https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/06/16/feeding-blue-whales-gathering-off-san-francisco-maritime-officials-issue-warning-to-freighter-captains/ § biologists sighted at least 47 blue whales over a single one-hour period on June 13. Observers the day before spotted 23 whales. § It’s extraordinary. It may be an absolute record,” said NOAA Greater Farallones spokeswoman Mary Jane Schramm. “Essentially, the driver here is krill and that’s the food they feed upon this time of year and we have it in such great abundance in the marine sanctuary that the blue whales have apparently targeted our water specifically to feed.” § Blue whales — the largest animal on the planet — are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Eastern North Pacific population, the West Coast stock of blue whale populations, have seen no significant increase since the early 1990s, despite being protected. o White Rhinos numbers increased 34,000% § https://www.wlfi.com/content/news/571417952.html § In the late 19th century, the southern white rhino was on the brink of extinction due to game hunting. § However, by 2011, numbers had increased from fewer than 50 to over 17,000, mainly due to the work at HIP Park in South Africa o Dutch Parliament votes to shut down all 128 mink farms § https://www.livekindly.co/dutch-parliament-shuts-mink-fur-farms-covid/ § China, Denmark, Finland, and Poland lead the world in fur production. Approximately 100 million animals including mink, fox, raccoon, and dogs, are killed every year for their fur. § After infections were discovered at more than a dozen of the nation’s mink farms, the government ordered culling of hundreds of thousands of mink. “All mink breeding farms where there is an infection will be cleared, and farms where there are no infections won’t be,” spokeswoman Frederique Hermie told the Guardian. § According to Sentient Media, the latest data show nearly 600,000 mink from 13 farms have been killed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. More culling is expected to follow o Pangolins return to region where they were once extinct § https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/its-a-success-pangolins-return-to-a-region-where-they-were-once-extinct/ § Temminck’s pangolins have been “ecologically extinct” in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province Africa for the past 30 or 40 years, but a new program managed by the African Pangolin Working Group is reintroducing the scaly anteaters back into this region. § Pangolins rescued from the illegal wildlife trade tend to be physically ill and mentally stressed, and need to go through a lengthy rehabilitation process before they can be released. § Instead of simply releasing pangolins back into the wild, the African Pangolin Working Group puts the animals through a “soft release” program, and continues to closely monitor them through GPS satellite and VHF radio tracking tags. § In 2019, seven pangolins were released at Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal; two died of natural causes, but the remaining five are doing well. o New Ocelot spotted at Laguna Atascosa § https://www.portisabelsouthpadre.com/2020/06/19/new-ocelot-spotted-at-laguna-atascosa/ § A new male ocelot has been sighted at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, captured by camera trap photos. § The young male, being identified as OM344, was first detected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) remote cameras on March 29. § “Within a couple of months of the initial detection, he was captured on camera well enough to be given a unique identifier (OM344) and added to our population count as a known individual,” according to FWS Ocelot Biologist Dr. Hilary Swarts. § “The sighting of a new ocelot at Laguna Atascosa is major news for the species,” Dr. Sharon Wilcox, Texas representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said. “With only 13 other recorded individuals documented living at the refuge, the addition of another young male is certainly cause for celebration.” § With a total U.S. population of fewer than 60 individuals, the ocelot is predicted by the FWS’s Recovery Plan to disappear from Texas within 40 years unless there are dramatic efforts to expand its habitat and decrease mortality, according to a press release from Defenders of Wildlife. o Endangered smoky mouse, feared wiped out during bushfires, found alive in Kosciuszko § https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/21/endangered-smoky-mouse-feared-wiped-out-during-bushfires-found-alive-in-kosciuszko-national-park § The critically endangered smoky mouse has been discovered alive and well in the Kosciuszko national park after it was feared the native species had been wiped from the area during the summer bushfire crisis. § Motion-sensor cameras set up over the last five weeks have recorded images of the mouse at seven burnt-out sites in southern New South Wales. § The NSW Office of Environment set up 58 cameras to monitor wildlife following the Dunns Road fire which devastated the region over the summer. o Manatee mother and calf released in Sarasota § https://mote.org/news/article/mother-manatee-and-calf-released-into-sarasota-bay-thanks-to-rescue-and-reh#:~:text=The%20Florida%20Fish%20and%20Wildlife,male%20calf%20at%20SeaWorld%20Orlando. § It was a very exciting day at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium! The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), SeaWorld Orlando and Mote came together to release a manatee and her calf into Sarasota Bay. The female manatee was rescued by Mote staff, FWC, and other partners on Mother’s Day weekend, and later gave birth to a male calf at SeaWorld Orlando. o Floppy-nosed Saiga antelope has baby boom, raising hope for critically endangered species § https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/06/saiga-antelope-baby-boom-endangered-species/ § In 2019, only 4 calves were counted § This year, over 500 § A sign that conservation efforts are working o One of the world’s rarest dolphins is rebounding in Pakistan § www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/06/rare-indus-dolphins-rebounding-pakistan § There are now 1,987 Indus River Dolphins, up from 132 in 1972 o Researchers capture drone footage of African ‘tree lions’ in conservation study § www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2020/jun/20/researchers-capture-drone-footage-of-african-tree-lions-in-conservation-study-video o Gujarat now home to 674 lion, 29% increase in population § https://zeenews.india.com/india/asiatic-lion-population-in-gujarat-rises-to-674-in-five-years-up-by-almost-29-2289258.html § Gandhinagar: The population of Asiatic Lions in Gujarat has witnessed a massive jump in the last five years, from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020. The growth rate is a jump of almost 29%. o California Channel Island Fox has remarkable recovery story § https://dailynexus.com/2020-06-13/the-remarkable-recovery-of-the-channel-island-fox/ § In the late 1990s, the foxes were on a precipice. On Santa Catalina Island, an epidemic of canine distemper virus — likely introduced from the mainland — killed 95% of all the foxes on the island by 1999, while up north on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, invasive golden eagles began feasting on the foxes in large numbers. § In order to drive them away, non-native ungulates, which the golden eagles preferentially preyed on, would have to be removed for good. Concurrently, work began to reintroduce bald eagles to the islands to occupy their former territory and drive away any wayward golden eagles that were inclined to return. § Meanwhile, in order to jump-start their recovery, programs for captive breeding and furthering the long-term monitoring of the foxes became established all across the archipelago. § “And we went from that to a fully wild and recovered population by 2016, when the three northern islands were delisted, which has been reported as the fastest recovery of any mammal listed under the Endangered Species Act.” o An armada of 65k sea turtles caught on drone cam, flock to Great Barrier Reef § https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/an-armada-of-turtles-caught-on-drone-cam-flocks-to-the-great-barrier-reef/ § New drone video shows thousands of endangered green turtles swimming ashore to Raine Island on the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef. § Researchers captured this video to help survey the nesting turtle population, and in the process demonstrated that this technique is more effective than manually counting turtles from boats. They recorded 64,000 turtles nesting on Raine Island this season. § There’s been an increase in the number of nesting green turtles around the world, including Raine Island, likely due to conservation efforts and fishing moratoriums. § Team members at the Raine Island Recovery Project are working to restore the island’s beaches to ensure that green turtles can continue to safely nest there.
Representation · Inaugural ‘Black Birders Week’ Promotes Diversity and Takes on Racism in the Outdoors o https://www.audubon.org/news/black-birders-week-promotes-diversity-and-takes-racism-outdoors o The inaugural event was organized in direct response to the racist confrontation Christian Cooper experienced while out birding in New York’s Central Park. Since Memorial Day, the video Cooper recorded of a white woman making a false report to authorities that he was “threatening her life” has received international attention, with over 40 million views on Twitter, and orchestrated a discourse in the United States about the history of false allegations made against Black people to the police. It has also fostered discussions about the hazards Black people face when working in, or simply enjoying the great outdoors. Amidst the anger, hurt and frustration that the encounter has caused, it has also galvanized support for the very first Black Birders Week. o Organized by the grassroots group Black AF in STEM, the initiative has united Black professionals working across science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, and amassed over 40 thousand social media followers. The core message of Black Birders Week has been to amplify and encourage more participation and diversity within the outdoor and environmental spaces. · Charges dropped against 22 Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders (wet so a tin) o https://www.democracynow.org/2020/6/8/headlines/charges_dropped_against_22_wetsuweten_land_defenders?fbclid=IwAR2-bR2OpUyVI4vOzUrFCeOmiSh5IOP_aS2IeYWljt8WJ1g5omx6WqXVal4 o We’ve reported on this story in January, February, and again in March, and this past week charges were dropped last week against 22 Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their allies, who were arrested this past February in northern British Columbia after a days-long raid in Indigenous territories where hereditary chiefs have been in a protracted battle to protect their land from the construction of TransCanada’s 400-mile, $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. · NWT First Nations shares prestigious UN prize for environmental work o https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/n-w-t-first-nations-community-gets-un-award-for-work-on-new-national-park o A remote community in Canada’s North has been awarded a major United Nations prize for decades of work to help create a new national park and vast protected area. o The Equator Prize recognizes innovative solutions to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and economic resiliency. The Lutsel K’e Dene in the Northwest Territories are one of 10 winners worldwide, the first time in the prize’s 11-year history it has been given in Canada. o Thaidene Nene — Land of the Ancestors — protects 26,376 square kilometres of pristine waters and healthy forest. About 14,000 square kilometres is managed as a national park, with another 12,000 square kilometres under territorial legislation with similar protection. o Wildlife in the area includes moose, muskox, wolves, bears, wolverines, caribou and many species of birds and fish. o The management deal, signed last summer, gave four local First Nations an unprecedented role in the park’s operation. o The deal took more than 50 years to work out. Overlapping land claims and concerns about mineral resources complicated the talks and about 8,000 square kilometres originally proposed for it were removed because of potentially valuable deposits. o The award comes with a $10,000 prize. It also comes with an invitation to join events associated with the UN General Assembly, the UN Nature Summit and the Global Climate Week in late September. the deal is a model for future parks and protected areas. · Long time environmental professional, lawyer, and diplomat, Elizabeth Mrema, is named new Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity o https://www.cbd.int/secretariat/executive-secretary/ o United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the appointment of Elizabeth Maruma Mrema of Tanzania as Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). o Ms. Mrema has been the Acting Executive Secretary of the CBD Secretariat since December 2019 and has previously served as Director of the Law Division at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya. From 2009 to 2012, she served as the Executive Secretary of the UNEP/Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals as well as served as the Acting Executive Secretary of the UNEP/ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas) as well as Interim Executive Secretary of the UNEP/Gorilla Agreement, all based in Bonn, Germany. Drawdown · EU’s greenhouse gas emission continue to fall as coal ditched o https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/29/eus-greenhouse-gas-emissions-continue-to-fall-as-coal-ditched o Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe’s environment watchdog. o Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc’s emission cuts under the UN’s climate agreements. o The continuing fall, revealed in a report by the European Environment Agency, came as the result of EU-wide and country-specific policies, with energy generation showing the biggest decline in emissions as coal was phased out further and renewable power increased. o Carbon dioxide emissions from transport flattened off in 2018, after rising for the previous four years, giving hope that this major source of emissions may be brought under control. · Plunging solar energy prices spell bright future for clean electricity o http://www.marketexpress.in/2020/06/plunging-solar-energy-prices-spell-bright-future-for-clean-electricity.html o Solar prices have sunk low enough to make photovoltaics the cheapest source of electricity in most of the world — undercutting fossil fuels in price even before counting costs like air pollution and climate change. Averaging about $0.05/kWh, the cost of generating solar electricity has reached lows that six years ago the International Energy Agency did not expect to come until the middle of the century. o For example - When Jenny Chase started working on solar energy in 2006, her job title was head of “improbable technologies” — and she thought solar could only ever provide 1% of the world’s electricity mix. “Now, it’s already gone north of 2%,” said Chase, a solar analyst at energy consultancy BloombergNEF. · Indonesia to receive $56m payment from Norway for reducing deforestation o https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/indonesia-norway-redd-payment-deforestation-carbon-emission-climate-change/ o Indonesia is set to receive $56 million from Norway as the result of the Southeast Asian country’s efforts to preserve its vast tropical rainforests to curb carbon dioxide emissions. o The payment is for Indonesia preventing the emission of 11.23 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) through reducing its rate of deforestation in 2017. o Indonesia will be the latest country to receive a results-based payment from Norway, a decade after Norway pledged to disburse $1 billion for Indonesia’s emission reduction from deforestation and forest degradation. o Both countries have agreed to continue their partnership after the initial agreement expires this year.
Big Money oChina to allocate $57bn to environmental protection §https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-environment-budget/china-to-allocate-57-billion-to-environment-protection-idUSKBN22Y0BU §China’s finance ministry will allocate a total of $57.22 billion to ecology and environment protection in 2020 §China will also promote the official launch of the national green development fund, and step up efforts to establish trans-regional compensation mechanisms for ecological conservation in the Yangtze and Yellow river basins oEU pledges to raise €20bn a year to boost biodiversity §https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/20/eu-pledges-20bn-a-year-on-boosting-biodiversity-aoe §The European Commission has committed to protecting 30% of the EU’s land and oceans by 2030 as part of the European Green Deal §The 10-year plan includes commitments to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50%, plant 3bn trees by 2030 and reverse the decline in pollinators. Within the 30% protected areas, a third of land and sea will be under “strict protection”, meaning there should be no human intervention besides minimal management to keep the area in good condition for wildlife oWorld’s biggest wealth fund dumps $3billion in fossil fuels, drops major Brazil miner from its portfolio §https://finance.yahoo.com/news/world-biggest-wealth-fund-extends-054842550.html §Norway’s $1 trillion wealth fund is doubling down on its climate action by making deeper cuts to its fossil fuel exposure. §Norway’s fund, which owns about 1.5% of listed stocks worldwide, was built on the country’s revenue from oil and gas production. It has sought to take a leading role on responsible investment, with ethical guidelines spanning from a ban on tobacco and some weapons to restrictions tied to human rights and environmental issues. §The central bank, which manages the fund, even argued for a full exit from oil stocks in order to reduce Norway’s exposure to oil-price risk. But the proposal was watered down by the government last year, sparing the world’s biggest oil producers. Innovations oCoca-Cola and Carlsberg introduce plant-based bottles that degrade in a year §https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/coke-carlsberg-plant-based-bottles-a4443886.html §A collection of global corporations has backed a project aimed at developing plant-based biodegradable bottles by 2023. §Coca Cola, Carlsberg and L’Oréal are among companies supporting the “Paper Bottle Project,” executed by Dutch renewable chemicals company Avantium, paper packaging developer BillerudKorsnäs, and bottle manufacturers ALPLA. §The project will use plant sugars to develop more eco-friendly plastics than those made with fossil fuels. §The plastic - known as ‘PEF’ - could be used to line cardboard bottle from the inside, to make them both functional and biodegradable. This PEF reportedly has better thermal barrier properties than standard PEF. §The plant-based polymer is 100 per cent recyclable. It will also rot within a year if using a composter and within a few years if simply left outside, but it should be recycled where possible. Standard plastics can take hundreds of years to decompose. oEngineers develop near-zero emissions engine technology §https://techxplore.com/news/2020-05-near-zero-emissions-technology.html §Southwest Research Institute engineers have developed the next generation of clean diesel engine technology to reduce hazardous nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide emissions while minimizing fuel consumption. Working with regulatory agencies, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, SwRI combined engine modifications with integrated aftertreatment technology and control strategies to reach near-zero emissions levels. SwRI developed the technology for the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a state organization charged with combatting air pollution. oScientists successfully develop ‘heat resistant’ coral to fight bleaching §https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2020/Scientists-successfully-develop-heat-resistant-coral-to-fight-bleaching §A team of scientists has successfully produced in a laboratory setting a coral that is more resistant to increased seawater temperatures. §The team included researchers from CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the University of Melbourne. §The team made the coral more tolerant to temperature-induced bleaching by bolstering the heat tolerance of its microalgal symbionts – tiny cells of algae that live inside the coral tissue. Drawdown oEquinor, Shell and Total sign off on building world’s first carbon capture network §https://www.rechargenews.com/transition/equinor-shell-and-total-sign-off-on-building-worlds-first-carbon-capture-network/2-1-810005 §International oil giants hand in $685m Northern Lights plan to Norwegian government to develop project to capture 5 million tonnes of CO2 a year from European heavy-emitters §The flagship CCS development – the lead-off well for which was drilled late last year – could eventually capture and store up to 5 million tonnes of CO2 from heavy-emitters around the EU in a giant saline aquifer south of the Troll offshore oil & gas field in the North Sea. oThe largest solar project in the US gets green light §https://e360.yale.edu/digest/the-largest-solar-project-in-the-u-s-gets-green-light §The United States’ largest solar project to date received final approval from the Department of the Interior, clearing the way for the $1-billion, 690-megawatt array to break ground on federal land in the Mojave desert in Nevada. The project, which also includes battery storage, is expected to produce enough electricity to power 260,000 homes and offset the greenhouse gas emissions of about 83,000 cars annually. §Construction of the Gemini Solar array is expected to start this year and last until 2022 or 2023. The first phase of the project will cover 11 square miles in the Mojave Desert about 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas. COVID Updates oDaily global CO2 emissions ‘cut to 2006 levels’ during height of COVID §https://www.carbonbrief.org/daily-global-co2-emissions-cut-to-2006-levels-during-height-of-coronavirus-crisis §The amount of CO2 being released by human activity each day fell by as much as 17% during the height of the coronavirus crisis in early April, a new study shows. §This means daily emissions temporarily fell to levels last seen in 2006, the study says. In the first four months of the year, it estimates that global emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production were cut by 1,048m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), or 8.6%, compared with 2019 levels.
Pelecanus NEWS #9 May 15, 2020
Renewable Energy · America’s renewable energy sources have produced more electricity than coal every day for 40 days straight o https://www.newsweek.com/america-renewable-energy-electricity-generation-tops-coal-plants-april-2020-40-days-1501967 o Renewable sources including solar, wind and hydropower generated more electricity than coal-based plants every single day in April, a new report says. o Analysis shared by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEFA), based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), said the finding marks a major "milestone" in an energy transition that is now underway. o The move away from coal for electricity generation in the U.S. accelerated in 2020 due to lower gas prices, warmer weather and a "significant amount" of new renewable capacity being connected to the grid late last year, the report suggested. o For comparison, last April saw the previous longest continuous stretch: nine days. Wildlife · Iceland To Stop Killing Whales In 2020, Choosing To Watch Them Instead o https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariellasimke/2020/05/10/iceland-to-stop-killing-whales-in-2020-choosing-to-watch-them-instead/#7a32a3313d0d o Iceland recently announced that its long-time annual whale hunt is coming to an end; citing an extended no-fishing zone, coronavirus social distancing regulations, increasing interest in whale watching and declining exports to Japan as reasons why they won’t be hunting this year. o The decision, celebrated by animal rights advocates, is largely profit-based. This is the second year that Iceland has opted out of whaling. o A moratorium on commercial whaling was established in 1986, however Norway, Japan and Iceland have continued whaling despite the international agreement. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), over 30,000 whales have been killed by the three countries since the moratorium was established. · Rare Island Marble butterfly wins Endangered Species protections o https://sanjuanislander.com/news-articles/environment-science-whales/environment/31061/gret-news-island-marble-butterfly-protected-under-endangered-species-list o The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has made the final determination to list the island marble butterfly (Euchloe ausonides insulanus) as an endangered species and designate critical habitat for the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). o The island marble, a beautiful, medium-sized, white butterfly with green ‘marbling’ on its wings, was historically known from southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands of Canada. It went undetected for 90 years until being rediscovered in 1998 on San Juan Island, Washington. Despite subsequent ongoing conservation efforts, such as captive rearing and improving the butterfly’s prairie habitat, the butterfly is in danger of extinction. The small population size of the butterfly makes it especially vulnerable to threats, including habitat loss and predation. · Colorado outlaws cruel and unsporting wildlife killing contests o https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/victory-colorado-outlaws-cruel-and-unsporting-wildlife-killing-contests/ o WildEarth Guardians and our wildlife protection allies are applauding the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission for their vote April 30 to ban wildlife “killing contests” for furbearer and certain small game species in the state. Colorado is now the sixth state in the country to ban these cruel events. The proposal, advanced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff and approved by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, prohibits wildlife competition events, known informally as “killing contest” targeted at species such as coyotes, bobcats, and prairie dogs, amongst others. · Costa Rican suburb gave citizenship to bees, plants, and trees o https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/29/sweet-city-the-costa-rica-suburb-that-gave-citizenship-to-bees-plants-and-trees-aoe o Curridabat, the Costa Rican suburb of San Jose, has granted citizenship to every bee, bat, hummingbird, and butterfly and the idea has transformed the municipality from an unremarkable suburb to a pioneering haven for urban wildlife. o The idea implemented over the last 12 years has gone so well, that they have since extended citizenship to trees and native plants and the city is now known as Ciudad Dulce, or the Sweet City. Their urban planning has been reimagined around non-human inhabitants where green spaces are treated as infrastructure with accompanying ecosystem services that can be harnessed by local government and offered to residents. COVID Updates · Clean air in Europe during lockdown leads to 11,000 fewer deaths o https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/30/clean-air-in-europe-during-lockdown-leads-to-11000-fewer-deaths o The improvement in air quality over the past month of the coronavirus lockdown has led to 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, a study has revealed. o Sharp falls in road traffic and industrial emissions have also resulted in 1.3m fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits and 600 fewer preterm births, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. o While the pandemic continues to take a terrible toll – more than 220,000 deaths worldwide since the start of the year – the authors of the report say the response has offered a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries. · Greenhouse gas emissions predicted to fall nearly 8% - largest decrease ever o https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/30/848307092/greenhouse-gas-emissions-predicted-to-fall-nearly-8-largest-decrease-ever o The COVID-19 pandemic is delivering the biggest shock to the global energy system in seven decades, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. o Global energy demand is expected to fall by 6% this year, seven times the decline brought by the financial crisis 10 years ago. IEA projections show oil and gas being hit hard. But demand for coal could fall by an extraordinary 8% — the largest decline since World War II. o The IEA says the lower emissions will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change by almost 8% this year, which would be the largest annual decrease ever recorded. · Pakistan hires thousands of newly-unemployed laborers for ambitious 10 billion tree-planting initiative o https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-pakistan-trees-fea/as-a-green-stimulus-pakistan-sets-virus-idled-to-work-planting-trees-idUSKCN22A369 o Since Pakistan locked down starting March 23 to try to stem the spread of COVID-19, unemployed day labourers have been given new jobs as “jungle workers”, planting saplings as part of the country’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme. o Such “green stimulus” efforts are an example of how funds that aim to help families and keep the economy running during pandemic shutdowns could also help nations prepare for the next big threat: climate change. o A typical worker now makes 500 rupees ($3) per day planting trees - about half of what they might have made on a good day, but enough to get by. o As the coronavirus pandemic struck Pakistan, the 10 Billion Trees campaign initially was halted as part of social distancing orders put in place to slow the spread of the virus, which has infected over 13,900 people in Pakistan, according to a Reuters tally. o But earlier this month, the prime minister granted an exemption to allow the forestry agency to restart the programme and create more than 63,600 jobs, according to government officials.
Energy oNew renewable energy capacity hit record levels in 2019 §https://hardware.slashdot.org/story/20/04/06/1938223/new-renewable-energy-capacity-hit-record-levels-in-2019 §Fossil fuel power plants are in decline in Europe and the U.S., with more decommissioned than built in 2019. The world has invested about $3 trillion in renewables over the past decade, according to Irena, but annual investments must double by 2030 to tackle the climate emergency. The total green energy installed to date around the world grew by 7.6% oSweden and Austria closer their last coal power plants years ahead of schedule §https://electrek.co/2020/04/22/sweden-third-european-country-to-closes-its-last-coal-power-plant/ §Just days after Austria shut its last coal power plant, Sweden followed suit with the closure of Stockholm Exergi AB’s Värtaverket plant, two years ahead of schedule. Belgium also shut down its last coal power station a couple years ago. §According to Europe Beyond Coal, six more countries are expected to follow suit by 2025 or earlier, including France (2022), Slovakia and Portugal (2023), the UK (2024), Ireland (2025), and Italy (2025). Five more will drop coal by 2030 or earlier, which is the necessary end date for coal generation in Europe for the continent to be in line with the Paris Agreement. This includes Greece (2028), the Netherlands and Finland (2029), and Hungary and Denmark (2030). ·Wild Carnivores oA rare Snow Leopard pair spotted in Uttarakhand’s Nanda Devi Park §https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/destinations/four-rare-snow-leopards-spotted-in-nanda-devi-national-park-in-uttarakhand/as75158515.cms §Camera traps in India’s Nanda Devi National Park reveal a pair of Snow Leopards from earlier this year. When scientists checked a camera trap that was set up in the Malari area of the Park, they noticed four snow leopards. Among them, one was a snow leopard pair which is an extremely rare sighting. oPhotos of wild tiger cubs in Thailand rekindles hope for species §https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/photos-of-wild-tiger-cubs-in-thailand-rekindles-hope-for-species/ §A new scientific survey provides evidence of breeding tiger populations in eastern Thailand’s forest complex, one of the last stands of the Indochinese population. The outcome is the result of a decade-long program to protect tigers in this area. ·Law and Policy oSouth Korea to implement Green New Deal after ruling party election win §https://www.climatechangenews.com/2020/04/16/south-korea-implement-green-new-deal-ruling-party-election-win/ §Seoul is to set a 2050 net zero emissions goal and end coal financing, after the Democratic Party’s landslide victory. Under the plan, South Korea has become the first country in East Asia to pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050. As part of the Paris Agreement, countries have agreed to submit updated climate plans to 2030 and long-term decarbonisation strategies to the UN before the end of the year. In its climate manifesto published last month, the Democratic Party promised to pass a “Green New Deal” law that would steer the country’s transformation into a low-carbon economy. The manifesto explicitly referred to the “Green New Deal” plans of Democratic candidates in the US and the EU’s “Green Deal for Europe”, under which the European Commission promised to make the EU the first carbon-neutral continent. oUS judge cancels permit for Keystone XL pipeline after lawsuit §https://apnews.com/89e3f21d344db86b8743665ea66b892c §A U.S. judge canceled a key permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline that’s expected to stretch from Canada to Nebraska. This is another setback for the disputed project that got underway less than two weeks ago following years of delays. Judge Brian Morris said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to adequately consider effects on endangered species such as pallid sturgeon, a massive, dinosaur-like fish that lives in rivers the pipeline would cross. oEPA can’t kick scientists off science advisory panels, court says §https://www.nrdc.org/experts/nrdc/epa-cant-kick-scientists-science-advisory-panels-court-says §In a victory for science and public health, a federal court determined that the U.S. EPA cannot exclude scientists who have received EPA research grants from serving on its advisory panels. The change, made by former EPA Administrator, had a silencing effect on public health studies. The court’s decision in the case, which was brought by NRDC in 2019, “affirms the role of science in protecting our environment and public health,” says Jon Devine, director of federal water policy for NRDC’s Nature Program. oSupreme Court Rejects White House’s View of Clean Water Act §https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2020/04/27/566428.htm §The Supreme Court ruled last week that sewage plants and other industries cannot avoid environmental requirements under landmark clean-water protections when they send dirty water on an indirect route to rivers, oceans and other navigable waterways. Rejecting the White House’s views, the justices held by a 6-3 vote that the discharge of polluted water into the ground, rather than directly into nearby waterways, does not relieve an industry of complying with the Clean Water Act. ·COVID-19 Updates oMilan’s plan to limit cars after COVID lockdown lauded as Excellent Example §https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/04/21/milans-plan-limit-cars-after-covid-19-lockdown-lauded-excellent-example §Climate activists from across the globe welcomed an ambitious new plan for Milan that will, according to the Guardian, transform 22 miles of street space currently reserved for cars "with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted." oHimalayas visible for first time in 30 years as pollution levels in India drop §https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/himalayas-visible-lockdown-india-scli-intl/index.html §People in the northern Indian state of Punjab are reacting with awe at the sight of the Himalayan mountain range, which is now visible from more than 100 miles away due to the reduction in air pollution caused by the country's coronavirus lockdown oGanges River water becomes fit for drinking §https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/destinations/ganga-water-turns-cleaner-during-lockdown-fit-for-achaman-in-haridwar-rishikesh/as75079848.cms §The Ganges waters at Rishikesh and Haridwar have become very clean according to the observation made by BD Joshi, Environmental Scientist and professor… the cause behind cleaner Ganges water is a 500 per cent decrease in total dissolved solid (TDS), industrial effluent, and sewage from hotels and lodges oData shows 30 percent drop in air pollution over Northeast US §https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/drop-in-air-pollution-over-northeast/ §NASA satellite measurements have revealed significant reductions in air pollution over the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast United States … nitrogen dioxide levels in March 2020 are about 30% lower on average across the region of the I-95 corridor from Washington, DC to Boston than when compared to the March mean of the last 4 years.
Pelecanus NEWS #7 April 15, 2020
Protected Areas · Seychelles creates a marine reserve twice the size of Great Britain o https://news.mongabay.com/2020/03/seychelles-extends-protection-to-marine-area-twice-the-size-of-great-britain/ o The archipelago in the Indian Ocean has committed to protecting 400,000 sq km (154,000 sq miles) of marine area, about 30% of its waters. o A ‘debt-for-nature’ deal allowed the country to restructure its sovereign debt and leverage $21.6 million to fund the creation of the MPAs and adaptation to climate change. o Seychelles hosts giant tortoises, nesting sites for turtles, and fragile coral reef ecosystems that the new MPAs aim to protect. Climate Health · Savannah, Georgia commits to 100% green energy by 2050 o https://climaterealityproject.org/press/savannah-georgia-commits-100-percent-clean-renewable-energy o The City of Savannah, Georgia signed a resolution committing to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable electricity by 2035, and 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, thanks to efforts from the 100% Savannah Coalition. o The Climate Reality Project: Coastal Georgia Chapter spearheaded the 100% Savannah Coalition, which is comprised of faith groups, local businesses, and environmental justice organizations o Savannah will be developing a clean-energy action plan over the next 18 months, and the Climate Reality Project: Coastal Georgia Chapter hopes to continue supporting the city as it enters the next stage of this process through the creation of a citizen’s advisory board. · Earth’s Ozone layer is finally healing o https://www.sciencealert.com/the-ozone-layer-is-healing-and-that-s-good-news-for o According to an article published in Nature from NOAA scientists, last year the Antarctic ozone hole hit its smallest annual peak on record since 1982 o A new study suggests the Montreal Protocol - the 1987 agreement to stop producing ozone depleting substances (ODSs) – is responsible for pausing, or even reversing, some troubling changes in air currents around the Southern Hemisphere. o Using a range of models and computer simulations, researchers have now shown this pause in movement was not driven by natural shifts in winds alone. Instead, only changes in the ozone could explain why the creep of the jet stream had suddenly stopped. o In other words, the impact of the Montreal Protocol appears to have paused, or even slightly reversed, the southern migration of the jet stream. · Court reinstates limits on potent climate-polluting refrigerants o https://www.nrdc.org/experts/nrdc/victory-court-reinstates-limits-potent-climate-polluting-refrigerants o Marking NRDC’s 60th legal win against the current US president’s administration’s environmental rollbacks, a federal court today ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must reinstate limits on how manufacturers can use potent, planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are often found in refrigerants, air conditioners, and aerosol propellants. o “This is an important victory for our climate,” says NRDC attorney Peter DeMarco. “The court’s decision restores commonsense restrictions on HFC use that the EPA had illegally removed.” o Historically, manufacturers have turned to HFCs when phasing out ozone-depleting substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—but HFCs come with their own high climate costs, carrying hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. They’re also prone to leaking from damaged equipment or improper disposal. Unchecked, HFCs alone could add up to a half-degree Celsius of warming by 2100. COVID-19 updates · With humans under lockdown, thousands of Olive Ridley Turtles get to peacefully nest in India’s Odisha beaches o https://www.indiatimes.com/trending/environment/with-humans-under-lockdown-8-lakh-olive-ridley-turtles-get-to-peacefully-nest-on-odisha-coast-509372.html o Olive Ridley sea turtles have come ashore for mass nesting at the six-kilometre-long Rushikulya beach of Odisha’s Ganjam district because of the coronavirus lockdown. o These rare sea turtles are renowned for their mass nesting and come to Indian shores and Odisha’s coast every nesting season; the areas are their largest nesting site in the region. According to the Odisha Wildlife Organisation, nearly 50 per cent of the world population of these rare turtles come to Odisha’s coast for nesting. · With zoo closed to visitors, pandas finally bang after 10 years o https://shanghai.ist/2020/04/07/with-zoo-closed-to-visitors-pandas-finally-bang-after-10-years/ o The coronavirus pandemic has given a pair of pandas in Hong Kong enough alone time to finally get it on. o Keepers at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park have been trying unsuccessfully for 10 years to get 14-year-old pandas Ying Ying and Le Le to mate naturally. A decade-long effort that had proven fruitless. o However, with the zoo closed to visitors since late January because of the Covid-19 outbreak, staff began noticing changes in the animals’ behavior.
Pelecanus NEWS #6 April 1, 2020
Life, Activism, Circular Economy, and COVID-19 updates Life · Ancestor of all animals identified in Australian fossils https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200323152108.htm Geologists from UC Riverside have discovered the first ancestor on the family tree that contains most animals today, including humans. The wormlike creature, Ikaria wariootia, is the earliest bilaterian, or organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end connected by a gut. It was found in Ediacaran Period deposits in Australia and was 2-7 millimeters long, with the largest the size of a grain of rice. · Scientists have discovered the origins of the building blocks of life https://www.rutgers.edu/news/scientists-have-discovered-origins-building-blocks-life Rutgers researchers have discovered the origins of the protein structures responsible for metabolism: simple molecules that powered early life on Earth and serve as chemical signals that NASA could use to search for life on other planets. Their study, which predicts what the earliest proteins looked like 3.5 billion to 2.5 billion years ago, is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists retraced, like a many thousand piece puzzle, the evolution of enzymes (proteins) from the present to the deep past. The solution to the puzzle required two missing pieces, and life on Earth could not exist without them. By constructing a network connected by their roles in metabolism, this team discovered the missing pieces.
Activism · Huge Victory for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as Federal Court rules DAPL permits violated law https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/25/dakota-access-pipeline-permits-court-standing-rock The future of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline has been thrown into question after a federal court struck down its permits and ordered a comprehensive environmental review. The ruling is a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota, which rallied support from across the world and sued the US government in a campaign to stop the environmentally risky pipeline being built on tribal lands. In the latest ruling, the federal judge James Boasberg, said the environmental analysis by the companies behind the pipeline and the corps was severely lacking. The abysmal safety record of the pipeline parent company, Sunoco, “does not inspire confidence”, he added. Circular Economy · In race for a sustainable alternative to plastic, Indonesia bets on seaweed https://news.mongabay.com/2020/03/in-race-for-a-sustainable-alternative-to-plastic-indonesia-bets-on-seaweed/ A local government initiative to revive seaweed farming off Bali comes amid growing interest in the crop’s promise to tackle environmental problems ranging from carbon emissions to plastic waste pollution. Cultivated at scale, seaweed can grow up to 60 times faster than land-based plants, making it an important carbon sink. Local startups are also exploring its potential to make bioplastic that is naturally degradable and even edible, for use in food packaging and other applications to replace plastic. For the new generation of seaweed farmers in Indonesia, the plant also offers revenue streams through ecotourism as well. · New EU rules could spell end of throwaway culture https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51825089 New rules could spell the death of a "throwaway" culture in which products are bought, used briefly, then binned. The regulations will apply to a range of everyday items such as mobile phones, textiles, electronics, batteries, construction and packaging. They will ensure products are designed and manufactured so they last - and so they're repairable if they go wrong. It should mean that your phone lasts longer and proves easier to fix. It's part of a worldwide movement called the Right to Repair, which has spawned citizens' repair workshops in several UK cities. The plan is being presented by the European Commission. It's likely to create standards for the UK too. · Aldi CEO tells suppliers: 100% recyclable or compostable packaging is non-negotiable https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/100-recyclable-or-compostable-packing-is-non-negotiable-for-aldi/ In a muscly demonstration of solidarity with the environment of the planet, the CEO of the Aldi grocery chain sent a strongly written letter to suppliers informing them that anyone looking to sell to Aldi must package their products in 100% recyclable, compostable, or reusable material by 2025. This extends their corporate responsibility pledge of 2018 which vowed that all Aldi branded items must come in the same sustainable packaging by 2022. CEO Giles Hurley says now that 2,700 tons of plastic and 3,700 tons of non-recyclable material had been saved already since 2018, but that “much more was needed,” adding that the move to sustainability is “non-negotiable,” and that buying decisions moving forward “will be based on our supply partners’ ability to lead and adapt in this area.” COVID · Malawi government bans bush meat in the wake of COVID-19 https://allafrica.com/stories/202003200203.html The Malawi Department of Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) has banned the selling and consumption of bush meat as a precautionary measure against Coronavirus (Covid-19). He further added, "People may think that poaching for, or trading in bush meat is a soft wildlife crime. But the truth is that it is a serious offense and can lead to a prison sentence." · Coronavirus closures reveal vast scale of China’s secretive wildlife farm industry https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/25/coronavirus-closures-reveal-vast-scale-of-chinas-secretive-wildlife-farm-industry Nearly 20,000 wildlife farms raising species including peacocks, civet cats, porcupines, ostriches, wild geese and boar have been shut down across China in the wake of the coronavirus, in a move that has exposed the hitherto unknown size of the industry. Until a few weeks ago wildlife farming was still being promoted by government agencies as an easy way for rural Chinese people to get rich. · China and Vietnam finally ban wildlife trade due to coronavirus https://nypost.com/2020/03/28/china-and-vietnam-finally-ban-wildlife-trade-due-to-coronavirus/ In January, China imposed a ban on all farming and consumption of “terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value,” which is expected to be signed into law later this year. And now, after conservationists sent an open letter to Vietnam’s prime minister recommending action against the wildlife trade as a means of preventing future outbreaks of disease, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that country is also looking to stop importing imperiled animals to eat. The letter — signed by the head of Pan Nature, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Animals Asia Foundation, TRAFFIC, Save Vietnam Wildlife, and Wildlife Conservation Society — to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, stated in part: “Limiting interaction between wildlife and humans through strong enforcement against illegal wildlife trade and wildlife markets is the most effective approach to mitigating future risk associated with transmission of disease between animals and humans.
Pelecanus NEWS #5 March 15, 2020
Legislation, Rewilding, and Money
Virginia lawmakers vote to ban offshore oil drilling
Virginia Democratic-led lawmakers passed a bill to block future oil and gas development off the state’s coastline
The bill prohibits infrastructure such as pipelines or gathering systems in state waters that could be used to transport oil and gas drilled in federal waters to Virginia’s shores. It also repeals a state policy to support U.S. efforts to explore for offshore oil and gas.
The first several eggs of 2020 arrived at the center, and keepers hope to see more throughout the month.
There are 14 condor pairs at the conservation center this year — more than any previous season.
California condor breeding programs are also operated at San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho.
The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act and is classified as critically endangered. In 1982, only 22 individuals remained in the wild and by 1987, the last condors were brought into human care in an attempt to save the species from extinction. Thanks to recovery programs like the Oregon Zoo's, the world's California condor population now totals more than 517 birds, most of which are flying free
The once-endangered Echo Parakeet has officially been downlisted to Vulnerable from just 12 birds in 1970 to 800 today
In this year’s Red List update, the Echo Parakeet moved from Endangered to Vulnerable – an impressive recovery for a species that once numbered just a dozen birds
In the 1970s, there were around a dozen Echo Parakeets (Psittacula eques) remaining.
Like its famous Mauritian cousin, the Dodo, it was heading for extinction.
Fast forward 40 years and the species has made a remarkable comeback, with nearly 800 birds now in the wild. This is the second species the organization has recovered so significantly, and shows that concerted and prolonged conservation work pays off.
The species has been ‘downlisted’ on the Red List twice this century, from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2007, and then to Vulnerable in 2019.
Declared extinct in the wild for nearly 40 years, the bird was, in late 2019, classified critically endangered, according to a news update by animal keeper Erica Royer posted at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
The rail used to be common in Guam, with about 60,000 to 80,000 birds there during the late 1960s and early ’70s. There are now about 200 birds living and producing offspring on Rota
“[T]he species was almost lost entirely due to predation by the invasive brown tree snake,” Royer wrote. It’s believed the snake was accidentally introduced to Guam by military cargo ships after World War II.
Biologists from Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources began an effort to save the Guam rail in the early 1980s, capturing the last 17 birds to start a breeding and recovery program. In 2010, 16 Guam rails were released on Cocos Island, a small, uninhabited daytime resort island 1 mile south of Guam, and the population of 60 to 80 Guam rails there is flourishing and considered self-sustaining.
Following Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase announcements, Wells Fargo rejects funding drilling in the Arctic
Wells Fargo has released an update to its environmental policy ruling out funding for oil and gas projects in the Arctic region, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The update does not make improvements to the bank’s other oil and gas financing policies. The 2019 Banking on Climate Change report lists Wells Fargo as the world’s top banker of fracked oil and gas, and the second largest funder of fossil fuels overall
The release of this change to the bank’s policy comes in the wake of similar announcements by Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, as well as more than a dozen global banks.
Brown University sells 90 percent of fossil fuel investments
Brown decreases their fossil fuel investments decrease from 6.5 to 0.9 percent of endowment
The process of selling investments in fossil fuel companies began in October 2017 and is due in part to the “accelerating decline in the cost of alternative energy sources” and “escalating uncertainty” in the economic future of fossil fuels that the Investment Office made the decision to sell these investments, Dietze wrote. “People know that this sector is dying, … and it’s just not a good long-term investment,” Paxson told The Herald. “It carries too much risk for the endowment.”
The Investment Office also thought that investment in fossil fuel companies did not align with the University’s Environmental, Social and Governance criteria. While these standards have been in place in financial and investment decisions for the past five years, their importance to University investments has increased over time, Paxson said. This decision “positions us to be actively engaged in pushing … the companies we invest in to be more socially responsible,” she continued.
Senators reach $2b deal to boost conservation, parks
Senate leaders have reached an election-year deal to double spending on a popular conservation program and devote more than a $1 billion a year to clear a growing maintenance backlog at national parks
The deal, announced Wednesday by senators from both parties, would spend about $2.2 billion per year on conservation and outdoor recreation projects and park maintenance across the country.
If approved by Congress and signed by the President the bill “will be the most significant conservation legislation enacted by Congress in nearly half a century,” said veteran Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
The program uses federal royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to pay for conservation and public recreation projects around the country. The 55-year-old-fund is authorized to collect $900 million a year but generally receives less than half that amount from Congress.
The Endangered Species Act has been attacked over the last few years and Rep. Raul Grijalva sponsored a House bill that he said is needed to overturn rules by the departments of the Interior and Commerce that undermine the protections of the act. The bill passed the House Natural Resources Committee on a party-line vote after close to an hour of debate. Grijalva, who chairs the committee, said one of the rules his bill targets is the White House’s decision to exclude climate change when officials are considering how a species might fare in the future and whether it should be listed as endangered or threatened.
Scientists discovered a “lifespan estimator” and have estimated that Bowhead Whales live to be 268-years old
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, Dr Benjamin Mayne, a molecular biologist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Canberra, said: “Bowhead whales are thought to be the longest living mammal, with one individual estimated as 211 years old. “It is rarely possible to follow long-lived species from birth to death as they would normally out live a generation of researchers. “Using our lifespan estimator and the bowhead whale genome, we estimated the maximum longevity of the bowhead whale to be 268 years. This lifespan estimate is 57 years more than the oldest aged individual to date.” The team also applied their lifespan clock to extinct species and discovered that the life expectancy of Neanderthals was 37.8. Likewise the Woolly Mammoth would have lived to 60, while the passenger pigeon which died out in 1914 had a lifespan of 28 years.
Harvard University faculty voted overwhelmingly to call on the school’s endowment managers to divest from fossil fuel companies, adding to escalating pressure on the school to take dramatic measures targeting climate change. The vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences does not compel the Harvard Management Co., which manages the school’s endowment, to act. But the results — 179 voting faculty supported the resolution and 20 opposed it — add considerable weight to calls from students and activists. The university’s international reputation and the sheer size of its endowment, which in the most recent report was valued at $40.9 billion, ensure that any decision by Harvard will be closely watched.
The Philippines is making roads and cement with plastic garbage
Philippine companies are using discarded shopping bags, sachet wrappers and plastic packaging to fire cement plants and build roads as the country embarks on an 8 trillion-peso ($157 billion) infrastructure push through 2022. San Miguel has laid down its first road combining plastic scraps with asphalt, it said in November. The surface material, developed with Dow Chemical Co., used 900 kilograms (1,984 pounds) of plastic to pave a 1,500-square meter (16,145-square foot) test site near the capital. “Nestlé is aiming for plastic neutrality, which is essentially recovering plastics equal to what we produce,” Kais Marzouki, chairman and chief executive officer of the Philippine unit, said in a statement. Initiatives to address the issue can have unforeseen consequences. Shredding plastic for asphalt and cement production breaks down waste to microplastics that are even more difficult to collect and reuse, said Beau Baconguis, GAIA’s regional plastic campaigner for Asia-Pacific. Feeding plastic into cement kilns releases toxic fumes, she added. Republic Cement’s Valencia says plastic-derived fuel involves less carbon emission than coal. Unlike incineration, which is banned in the Philippines, the higher temperatures in cement kilns leave behind no plastic ash, Valencia said.
Welsh Zoo welcomes critically endangered black rhino calf
After a 15-month pregnancy, Eastern black rhino Dakima gave birth to a healthy male calf on 16th January. Dakima is an eastern black rhino which is one of the rarest animals in the world. This new calf is one of only an estimated 40 eastern black rhinos to be born in the UK in the past 20 years. It is thought that the calf weighs between a healthy 30-45 kg. Folly Farm’s rhino keepers will monitor mum and baby closely over the coming weeks and will be back out in the enclosure in due course. There are thought to be fewer than 650 Eastern black rhinos left in the wild - and just eight in zoos across Europe.
Greece elected an Environmentalist as its first woman president
Top judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou, 64, won with an overwhelming majority and received 261 votes from members of parliament out of 300 seats, according to CNN. Sakellaropoulou, who became the first woman president of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court in 2018, chairs an environmental law society and is known to advocate for refugee rights. Sakellaropoulou joins such notable female environmental leaders as New Zealand’s Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern in 2017, Mexico City’s mayor Claudia Sheinbaum in 2018, and Finland’s Prime Minster Sanna Marin in December 2019.
Pelecanus NEWS #2 February 1, 2020
The stories we’ve collected today can be categorized as big planetary protections, wildlife, beyond fossil fuels and plastics, and the contribution of zoos to conservation.
Today is the beginning of a new era at Pelecanus… We’re launching a new podcast this week! PELECANUS NEWS will be twice-monthly episodes highlighting the positive conservation stories in the news. At around 10 minutes in length, each episode will be hosted by Taylor Parker focusing on a few recent exciting and inspiring news stories in conservation. We will still be releasing the long-form conservation conversations periodically, but we thought, why not highlight the awesome work being done around the world a little more often? We all need a little more positivity, inspiration, and wonder in our lives, especially when it comes to the natural world and how we interact with it. Our mission remains the same, to show that we can find optimism through science. In this episode we put the spotlight on Denmark making huge moves towards sustainable energy in 2019, the new calculation of the global price-tag of reaching 100% renewable energy, The Netherlands courts ordering a cut of GHG by 25% in 5 years, Copenhagen planting fruit trees, a boost in Grasshopper sparrow populations in Florida, Nene and ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk) conservation efforts paying off, a baby rhino christmas miracle, endangered Storks being bred in captivity, and Svalbard Deer are doing better than expected after years of efforts.