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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Research shows that a Carbon Tax helps achieve Paris Targets without harming the economy

In Chapter 7 of my book (pages 160-162), I describe the carbon tax and how it has helped reduce carbon emissions in the countries that have introduced it.  I particularly cite the the example of Australia, which introduced a carbon tax in 2012, whilst led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, under a coalition with the Greens. In Australia, the act was very unpopular, particularly amongst business leaders, and it was repealed two years later by Prime Minister, Tony Abbot.  In my book, I provide a figure (Figure 67 in chapter 7), showing that during the two years of a carbon tax being in operation, carbon emissions in the country fell, only to start rising again after the act was repealed.

An OECD Environmental Review, published in 2014, describes how Sweden introduced a carbon tax in 1991. Since that time, their economy has grown by 50% and their emissions of greenhouse gases have declined.  See: https://issuu.com/oecd.publishing/docs/sweden_ar_brochure_web

Now, new comprehensive research has shown that a carbon tax has the effect of reducing carbon emissions of a country and, at the same time, enabling the growth of the economy in that country. An American study on the effects of a carbon tax has been reported in detail in the Guardian by Dana Nuccitelli on 16th July 2018.  See:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/jul/16/comprehensive-study-carbon-taxes-wont-hamper-the-economy

The study was carried out by the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) project and involved 11 teams who examined the economic and environmental impacts of a carbon tax.  The findings consistently showed that a carbon tax is effective at reducing carbon pollution and that it has a very modest impact on the economy, as measured by GDP.

The study looked at four different types of carbon tax policy and the following quote is included in the Guardian article:

“in every policy scenario, in every model, the U.S. economy continues to grow at or near its long-term average baseline rate, deviating from reference growth by no more than about 0.1% points. We find robust evidence that even the most ambitious carbon tax is consistent with long-term positive economic growth, near baseline rates, not even counting the growth benefits of a less-disrupted climate or lower ambient air pollution”

They found that coal power plants would be the biggest losers if the carbon tax were implemented, which may explain the resistance encountered in Australia.  In addition, there were substantial cost savings in relationship to health improvements.  Some of the pollutants released by burning coal (eg soot, mercury) have a severe impact on health.

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The article also argues convincingly that curbing global warming, in line with the Paris agreement, also has a positive economic effect.

So, it sounds like a WIN WIN situation.

The following website gives details of those countries which have implemented a carbon tax:

https://www.carbontax.org/where-carbon-is-taxed/

 

 

 

 

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Help for bees as Environment Agency trials pollinator project

Press release published on 11 July 2018

The project seeks to create more habitat for mining bees - like this one - as well as bumblebees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators

 

The beloved bumblebee is one of dozens of species set to benefit from an Environment Agency project to improve habitat for pollinators.

A pioneering pilot scheme in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire sees Environment Agency teams adapting their routine work in a bid to boost biodiversity.

The teams, who maintain thousands of kilometres of river and reservoir banks that serve as flood defences, have been experimenting with the frequency and timings of maintenance work, like grass-cutting, on the banks to see what best preserves the wildflowers and herbs bees need.

They have also compared the results of removing the grass-clippings or leaving them in situ – and have found that removing them helps plants like clover, ox-eye daisies, dandelions and buttercups flourish.

Tapping into expert guidance from a consultant botanist and entomologist, the trial aims to increase the native bee population including bufftail, solitary, carpenter, mining and leaf-cutting bees, as well as butterflies, moths, and other pollinators.

This season marks the third year of the 5 year pilot – and also marks the third annual Bees Needs Week, an initiative by government, conservation groups, industry and retailers to raise awareness of simple things anyone can do to support pollinators, like growing more flowers and leaving patches of their garden to grow wild.

At the same time, biodiversity officers have also been making the most of EA-owned buildings like pumping stations and unused land to install bee boxes, hotels and havens made of natural scrap material – many of which were occupied almost immediately.

Nikki Loveday, biodiversity officer with the Environment Agency, said:

It’s our mission to protect people and wildlife and this is a brilliant example of how being flexible and innovative can help us achieve more for our environment.

We’re adapting how we carry out vital maintenance on our flood defences and looking for any opportunity to support our precious pollinators and the wider ecology.

Ultimately, if we can make small changes at no cost we’ll aim to share our learning and inspire others to do the same to have a big impact.

Meanwhile, a series of workshops for staff are helping them learn more about pollinators and how to identify and create simple habitats. More than 50 staff have are already putting this training to use in their daily work – for example, drilling holes in wooden posts for carpenter bees when fixing fences.

Entomologist Steven Falk, an expert in bees, hoverflies and other pollinators, who has delivered the training and advised on the project, said:

Bees and other pollinators put approximately a third of all the food we eat onto our plates, and it’s so important we support them by protecting and enhancing their habitat.

We know from experience that doing the right things, like enriching their nesting and foraging spaces, will increase the population of our pollinators. Even small changes can make a big difference of lots of people do them at lots of sites.

The Environment Agency is in a good position to contribute since it oversees so much land and it gives me great pleasure to work with them to give a boost to our bees.

For more on small actions you can take to support pollinators, visit https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/bees-needs/.


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Ocean sanctuaries in the Antarctic

News out today from Greenpeace states that the majority of the krill fishing industry has agreed to voluntarily stop fishing in sensitive Antarctic waters and back the campaign for ocean sanctuaries in the Antarctic.

This is not just a welcome relief for penguins and other Antarctic wildlife that feed on krill. It also means that, when the Antarctic Ocean Commission meet in October to decide on a massive Sanctuary, the influential krill industry won’t be standing in the way.

The industry body represents nearly every krill company working in the Antarctic – including Aker Biomarine – the main supplier of krill oil to the UK.

Greenpeace started campaigning on the krill industry in April and a number of actions  helped to drive progress towards this unprecedented commitment. The campaign included:

  • over 45,000 emails sent to Holland & Barrett calling on them to ditch krill oil products fished from areas that needed protection.
  • over 11,000 tweets and Facebook messages sent to Boots, calling on them to stop sourcing krill oil products from sensitive Antarctic waters.
  • Stickered krill products with a Greenpeace message on Holland & Barrett and Boots shelves nationwide, raising the profile of the issue with UK customers.
  • Visited over 30 Boots shops across the UK, with ‘krill-o-meters’ that asked people to choose between an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary and industrial krill fishing.

Other stores that stock dodgy krill oil products were also contacted. Amazingly, Superdrug, Morrisons, Nature’s Best, and many more listened to the demands.

This is a major step forward on the road to protecting the Antarctic. With many krill fishing companies now joining the 1.7 million people across the globe already calling for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, we are looking ahead with hope to the Antarctic Ocean Commission’s meeting in October.


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New environment law to deliver a Green Brexit

Environmental Principles and Governance Bill announced as consultation launches on new body to hold government to account.

A picture of rolling green hills

A new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure environmental protections will not be weakened as we leave the EU, the government has confirmed.

consultation has started today on the contents of the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, which will establish a world-leading body to hold government to account for environmental outcomes.

The body will support our commitment to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than that in which we inherited it. It will provide scrutiny and advice as we protect and enhance our precious landscapes, wildlife and natural assets and would be able to hold government to account on environmental legislation.

Subject to consultation, the new body could specifically be responsible for:

  • providing independent scrutiny and advice on existing and future government environmental law and policy;
  • responding to complaints about government’s delivery of environmental law; and
  • holding government to account publicly over its delivery of environmental law and exercising enforcement powers where necessary.

The Government is also consulting on its intention to require ministers to produce – and then have regard to –a statutory and comprehensive policy statement setting out how they will apply core environmental principles as they develop policy and discharge their responsibilities. Currently environmental decisions made in the UK – from improving air and water quality to protecting endangered species – are overseen by the European Commission and underpinned by a number of these principles, such as the precautionary principle, sustainable development and the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

While these principles are already central to government environmental policy, they are not set out in one place besides the EU treaties. The new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure governments continue to have regard to important environmental principles through the policy statement, which would be scrutinised by Parliament. The consultation seeks views on whether or not the principles to be contained in the policy statement should be listed in primary legislation.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

As the Prime Minister has made clear, we will not weaken environmental protections when we leave the EU. A new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure core environmental principles remain central to government policy and decision-making. This will help us to deliver a Green Brexit and the vision set out in our 25 Year Environment Plan.

But we will only achieve our aims by also creating a strong and objective voice that champions and enforces environmental standards. That’s why our Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will also create an independent and statutory watchdog. This will hold governments to account for delivering their commitments to the natural world.

The consultation, which will run for 12 weeks, seeks views on the most effective way for the new body to hold government to account, which would include, as a minimum, the power to issue advisory notices. The consultation asks what further enforcement mechanisms may be necessary.

The Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will be published in draft in the autumn. Public consultation on the environmental principles policy statement will follow in due course. The Bill will be introduced early in the second session of this Parliament, ensuring these measures are introduced in time for the end of the implementation period in December 2020. EU environmental governance structures will continue to apply during the implementation period.

The consultation is concerned with environmental governance in England and reserved matters throughout the UK, for which the UK government has responsibility. However, we are exploring with the devolved administrations whether they wish to take a similar approach. We would welcome the opportunity to co-design proposals with them to ensure they work across the whole UK, taking account of the different government and legal systems in the individual nations.

Background

  1. You can respond to our consultation on the Citizen Space website
  2. Read ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’


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The Carbon Footprint of Smartphones

A report in March 2018 from Fastcodesign suggests that smartphones are far from being carbon-neutral devices.  Analysis has shown that buying a new smartphone consumes as much energy as continuing to use one’s old smartphone for another 10 years.  The report suggests that it is better to buy a new battery than to upgrade.

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Researchers at McMaster University analysed the carbon impact of the whole ICT industry for the period 2010-2020. This included PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and servers.   They found that the overall environmental impact of technology from 2007 has increased for 1% to the 14% predicted for 2040.

Smartphones have a particularly strong effect. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.

An independent study of Apple iPhones concluded that the iPhone 6s created 57% more CO2 than the iPhone 4s, even though Apple claim that their more recent iPhones are environmentally friendly.  See:

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (August 2015), Vol. 20, 8, 1181-1196.  Authors Suckling and Lee.

Another independent study found that the iPhone 6s creates 57% more CO2 than the iPhone 4s.  The article suggests that even keeping a smartphone for three years, rather than two, can have a considerable impact on a person’s carbon footprint.  It’s down to the need for mining the rare minerals needed to make a new phone.  This sounds like a similar situation to that I described in another post of this website, in which the mining of cobalt (in Africa) for a new electric car can create more environmental damage that continuing to drive an old petrol-driven car.  It’s greener to keep an old phone than upgrade to a new one.

The full report by Mark Wilson can be found at:

https://www.fastcodesign.com/90165365/smartphones-are-wrecking-the-planet-faster-than-anyone-expected

 

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Ancient African baobab trees are dying

In a report on the BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44418849, international scientists have discovered that many of the oldest baobab trees on the African continent are dying.  Most of the oldest and largest African trees have died in the last 12 years.

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The trees have a characteristic shape, as they store water in their trunks.

Baobabs store water in the trunk (up to 120,000 litres or 32,000 US gallons) to endure harsh drought conditions.[12] All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season. Across Africa, the oldest and largest baobabs began to die in the early 21st century, likely from a combination of drought and rising temperatures.[5] The trees appear to become parched, then become dehydrated and unable to support their massive trunks.[6]

Baobabs are important as nest sites for birds, in particular the mottled spinetail and four species of weaver.

It is suspected that the death of the trees is due to climate change.  The trees that have died or are dying are found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. They are all between 1,000 and more than 2,500 years old.

 


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Research shows humans insignificant globally in terms of numbers but are responsible for destroying 83% of wild mammals

This research, published in the Proceedings  of the National Academy of Sciences by Prof Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, has been reported in The Guardian (21st May 2018).

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study

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Image with thanks to http://www.mammal.org.uk

According to Milo, the 7.6 billion people on earth represent just 0.01% of all life forms, yet have caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants. The data was derived by calculating the total biomass of each group.  Thus,

All life on earth is made up of:

82% Plants; 13% Bacteria and 5% of everything else (including the 0.01% of humans).

86% of life is found on land and 1% in the oceans.  Of all the mammals on earth, 96% are livestock and humans (60% livestock, 36% humans, 4% wild mammals).  Even more surprising is that 70% of birds on the planet are poultry and 30% wild birds.  Further statistics and graphics are available in The Guardian.

The original article can be found at: http://www.pnas.org/content/115/25/6506

The article argues that humans have been extremely efficient in utilising the resources available on the planet.  However, I would not describe this as efficient, if it has led to the loss of much of the diverse life on the planet. Humans have plundered the planet but not sustainably.

Another article from The Mammal Society (www.mammal.org.uk), states that almost one in five British mammals face a high risk of extinction.  These include:

the red squirrel; the wildcat; the grey long-eared bat, the hedgehog and the water vole.

redsquirrel

wildcat

Another article in The Guardian, cites Chris Packham (a BBC Springwatch presenter) as having warned of ‘an ecological apocalypse’ in Britain and that Britain is becoming “a green and unpleasant land”.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/11/chris-packham-springwatch-warns-of-ecological-apocalypse-britain?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=278208&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631

Packham is also reported to have said: “We need a peaceful public uprising. We need people to say we’ve had enough. We do that every time there’s a terror attack. We need a similar movement for nature. We need people to stand up and say we want action now. We have the ability to fix our countryside.”

He is urging people to join him next month on a10-day “bioblitz”, visiting road verges, farmland, parks, allotments and community nature reserves across the country to record what wildlife remains – from butterflies to bryophytes, linnets to lichens.