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Wanted: UK site for prototype nuclear fusion power plant

Wed, 2020-12-02 17:00

Communities are being asked to bid to host the plant, which a state-backed project plans to build by 2040

Communities in the UK are being asked to bid to host a prototype nuclear fusion power plant, which a government-backed programme plans to build by 2040.

The site does not need to be near existing nuclear power stations but will need 100 hectares of land and a plentiful water supply. Ministers say the project would bring thousands of skilled jobs and be part of its planned “green industrial revolution” to tackle the climate crisis.

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Australian researchers find 81-year-old snapper, oldest known tropical reef fish

Wed, 2020-12-02 16:23

The midnight snapper caught at Rowley Shoals off Western Australia is 20 years older than the previous record holder

When it was born, the second world war was several years away, none of the Beatles were alive and there were about five billion fewer people above the waves than today.

An unnamed 81-year-old midnight snapper, caught by the Australian Institute of Marine Science in 2016, has been revealed as the oldest tropical reef fish known to science.

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Global sustainable fishing initiative agreed by 14 countries

Wed, 2020-12-02 15:01

Governments to reduce pollution in oceans and end subsidies that contribute to overfishing

Governments responsible for 40% of the world’s coastlines have pledged to end overfishing, restore dwindling fish populations and stop the flow of plastic pollution into the seas in the next 10 years.

The leaders of the 14 countries set out a series of commitments on Wednesday that mark the world’s biggest ocean sustainability initiative, in the absence of a fully fledged UN treaty on marine life.

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UN climate summit president thanks Australian states – but not Morrison government – for backing net zero

Wed, 2020-12-02 12:03

UK energy minister Alok Sharma urges ‘all of you who have not already done so to join the race’ to net zero emissions by 2050

The British president of the next major UN climate change summit has pointedly thanked Australia’s states and territories for backing a goal of net zero emissions by 2050 while urging unnamed others – including the Morrison government – to join them.

In a speech to an Australian audience on Wednesday, Alok Sharma, the president-designate of the COP26 summit in Glasgow and a member of Boris Johnson’s Conservative cabinet, said more than 120 countries had announced carbon neutrality or net zero emissions targets and urged others to follow.

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High-definition video used to identify new deep-sea blob – video

Wed, 2020-12-02 10:09

For the first time, scientists have used high-definition underwater cameras to identify a new species. The small gelatinous blob known as Duobrachium sparksae is a type of ctenophore, or comb jelly. Scientists from the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered the creature in an underwater canyon north-west of Puerto Rico in April 2015 but it has only now been described in a research paper

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No-kill, lab-grown meat to go on sale for first time

Wed, 2020-12-02 10:01

Singapore’s approval of chicken cells grown in bioreactors is seen as landmark moment across industry

Cultured meat, produced in bioreactors without the slaughter of an animal, has been approved for sale by a regulatory authority for the first time. The development has been hailed as a landmark moment across the meat industry.

The “chicken bites”, produced by the US company Eat Just, have passed a safety review by the Singapore Food Agency and the approval could open the door to a future when all meat is produced without the killing of livestock, the company said.

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The Coalition will lose more former heartland seats to independents without a climate plan | Malcolm Turnbull

Wed, 2020-12-02 09:27

Progressive female independents hold three once-safe Liberal seats. Their victories are templates for further change

On 11 November, Joe Biden received congratulatory phone calls from Scott Morrison and Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga. The office of the president-elect published brief summaries, readouts, of the calls.

This is diplomacy at its most conventional. But a friend of mine in Washington picked up a not so subtle difference in the two readouts.

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Whitebark pine trees are dying across the US west. Could a federal proposal protect them?

Wed, 2020-12-02 07:13

The high-elevation tree – a key source of food for grizzly bears – is vulnerable to climate crisis, beetles and disease

Climate crisis, voracious beetles and disease are imperiling the long-term survival of a high-elevation pine tree that’s a key source of food for some grizzly bears across the US west.

Whitebark pine trees can live up to 1,000 years and are found at elevations up to 12,000 feet (3,600 meters), conditions too harsh for most trees to survive. The trees grow in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and western Canada, but have been all but wiped out in some areas.

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Scientists identify deep-sea blob as new species using only video

Wed, 2020-12-02 03:11
  • Duobrachium sparksae is a type of ctenophore, or comb jelly
  • Video identification without specimen ‘can be controversial’

Scientists have for the first time identified a small gelatinous blob in the deep sea as a new species, using only high-definition underwater cameras.

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Wildflower meadows to line all major new UK roads in boost for biodiversity

Wed, 2020-12-02 01:43

Highways England scheme to encourage species-rich grasslands could create hundreds of miles of rare habitats after decades of loss

Native wildflower meadows will line the verges of all new large-scale road projects under an initiative by Highways England, the Guardian can reveal.

Nodding blue harebells, clusters of yellow kidney vetch and flashes of bird’s-foot-trefoil could soon become the norm on stretches of the road network in England with the infrastructure provider committing to the creation of biodiverse grasslands as standard on all new major schemes.

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No 10 accused of 'cavalier attitude' to UK's climate summit duties

Tue, 2020-12-01 23:32

Boris Johnson’s advisers did not understand how vital UN Cop26 talks were, former minister tells MPs

Boris Johnson’s team had a “cavalier attitude” to hosting a vital UN climate summit in the UK, taking the view “they could wing it with a few press releases and that would all be fine” rather than putting serious work into the talks, the sacked former minister originally in charge has said.

Claire O’Neill was appointed by Johnson to head the Cop26 summit in September 2019 but was summarily dismissed on the eve of the launch of the UK’s presidency in February this year.

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'Mock Cop26' activists vote on treaty ahead of 2021 climate summit

Tue, 2020-12-01 22:00

Young people from 140 countries presented policies to UK climate action champion

Young people from 140 countries who attended an online “mock Cop26” climate summit have presented a treaty of 18 policies to Nigel Topping, the UK’s high level climate action champion.

After two weeks of negotiations, delegates from the international youth-led conference presented their formal treaty to Topping during the event’s closing ceremony on Tuesday, and called on world leaders to prioritise the policies during Cop26, which was postponed for a year because of the pandemic and is now due to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

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Revealed: UK imported 1m tonnes of soya with deforestation risk in 2019

Tue, 2020-12-01 21:58

New analysis finds 40% was brought in without sourcing checks from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay

More than 1m tonnes of soya used by UK livestock farmers to produce chicken and other food last year could be linked to deforestation, according to a new analysis.

Large areas of forest in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are being cleared to produce soya, which is then exported to the UK to be used by farmers, mainly to feed chickens and dairy cows.

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Climate crisis to triple flooding threat for low-income US homes by 2050

Tue, 2020-12-01 20:00

A new study has found that affordable housing in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California will be at particular risk

The amount of affordable housing in the US vulnerable to coastal flooding is set to triple over the next 30 years, a new study has found in a further sign of the escalating hardships faced by low-income Americans amid an unraveling climate crisis.

Affordable housing in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California is at particular risk of flooding from worsening storms or even high tides pushed on by rising sea levels, according to research conducted by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based science organization.

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Trump’s border wall construction threatens survival of jaguars in the US

Tue, 2020-12-01 19:44

Wall is going up in four sections in Arizona’s mountain ranges spanning the US-Mexico border where the cats had reappeared

By the 1960s, the North American jaguar had vanished from the southern US borderland after being hunted to extinction.

Yet in the mid-1990s, there was a remarkable discovery: the jaguar had reappeared in the Sky Islands of Arizona, a region of rugged linked mountain ranges spanning the US and Mexico border that boasts the highest biodiversity in inland North America. Since then, the large cats have been seen over a dozen times in the region, reviving hopes of a full return of the elusive predators to the US.

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Owls of delight! How online birdwatching became my lockdown treat | Emma Beddington

Tue, 2020-12-01 17:00

I have become obsessed with bird matters, especially the antics of Rocky, Barry and co in New York City

Birdwatching has been a Covid success story: sales of feeders have soared and birdwatchers broke a world record for the most birds observed during Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Global Big Day” in May.

I like watching Small Brown Bird One and Small Brown Bird Two argue over mealworms in my yard until Large Grey Rat appears to settle the squabble, but I am too lazy to make a real hobby of it: it is cold out there. Instead, I watch birdwatchers on Twitter, which brings its own satisfaction. There is a photographer who waits patiently, hand full of seed outstretched, capturing birds when they alight, and I love following my local bird-rescue lady transforming her charges from bedraggled, gloomy clumps of feather to heart-gladdening swooshes of wildness. She also keeps me informed about the shameful, often-unpunished incidents of raptor poisoning and trapping that blight the UK’s lucrative grouse moors.

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Wildlife photographer of the year 2020: people's choice – in pictures

Tue, 2020-12-01 17:00

Now in its 56th year, the wildlife photographer of the year showcases the world’s best nature photography. The competition is run by the Natural History Museum in London and the exhibition there runs until 4 July 2021.

This year’s competition attracted more than 50,000 entries from professionals and amateurs across the world. Voting for the Lumix people’s choice award is open until 2pm on Tuesday 2 February

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Liberal MP Warren Entsch urges Coalition to adopt net zero emissions target by 2050

Tue, 2020-12-01 16:39

Great Barrier Reef envoy tells party room the government should be seen as leaders on climate action, not ‘reluctant followers’

The Morrison government’s special envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch, has called for the Coalition to adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050, and endorsed the prime minister’s recent signal that Australia could meet the 2030 target without needing to use carryover credits.

During Tuesday’s Coalition party room meeting – the second-last parliamentary gathering for 2020 – Entsch said the government should adopt the net zero target during a contribution where he called for targeted intervention to ensure people in north Queensland were able to access affordable insurance for cyclone events.

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Amazon deforestation surges to 12-year high under Bolsonaro

Tue, 2020-12-01 09:43

An area seven times larger than Greater London has been lost in what one activist called a ‘humiliating and shameful’ destruction

A vast expanse of Amazon rainforest seven times larger than Greater London was destroyed over the last year as deforestation surged to a 12-year high under Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

Figures released by the Brazilian space institute, Inpe, on Monday showed at least 11,088 sq km of rainforest was razed between August 2019 and July this year – the highest figure since 2008.

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The UK's farmers face upheaval, but a reform to subsidies is needed | Simon Jenkins

Tue, 2020-12-01 02:00

British agriculture will be transformed utterly by bold new proposals

This is a good week to start a revolution. With Brexit now on the brink of deal or no deal, Britain could yet retreat behind a wall of tariffs and protectionism. But if a free-trade deal is done and borders stay open, the way is clear for British agriculture to be transformed utterly. Today a seven-year transition plan has been announced by the environment secretary, George Eustice. It switches the money, currently £2.4bn a year, pumped into farm support from merely subsidising an industry to safeguarding the countryside and supporting good food and animal welfare. As the plan goes out to consultation, it will face a hundred reservations, but freed from the EU’s longstanding, anti-conservation agricultural policy it is emphatically in the right direction.

Within a decade, taxpayers will stop paying farmers on the size of their farms, now roughly £233 per hectare and comprising a third of farm incomes. This has been a massive distortion in favour of rich landowners. By 2028 farms are expected, says Eustice, to be “sustainable businesses that do not need to rely on public subsidy”. But lest that leads to arable degradation and the erosion of nature, and further exacerbates the climate crisis, the present subsidy is to be redirected to what the plan rightly called “public goods”.

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