‘Carbon-neutrality is a fairy tale’: how the race for renewables is burning Europe’s forests

‘Carbon-neutrality is a fairy tale’: how the race for renewables is burning Europe’s forests

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 14, 2021 SNIP: [I]n 2015, the Estonian government allowed what is known as clear-cutting in some parts of the Haanja nature reserve. The practice involves stripping entire areas of mature forest and removing whole tree trunks. This relaxation of the logging rules came as international demand for Estonian wood soared – not just for furniture or construction, but because of an unlikely culprit: Europe’s renewable energy policies. Forests cover 2m hectares or more than half of Estonia. Around 380,000 hectares (939,000 acres) of that, including the Haanja nature reserve, fall under the EU’s Natura 2000 network, which is designed to protect Europe’s forests and offer a haven to rare and threatened species. Haanja is home to 29 protected species, including the black stork, the lesser-spotted eagle and the corncrake. Natura-protected zones are managed under the legally binding provisions of the 1979 EU birds directive and the 1992 habitats directive. But logging is governed by domestic laws, and Estonia permits it as long as it does not damage bogs and other special habitats, or fall within bird mating seasons. Campaigners say that by allowing intensive clear-cutting in Natura 2000 sites, Estonia is in breach of the habitats directive and undermining the EU’s climate goals. Siim Kuresoo of the non-profit Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) doesn’t just blame the Estonian government. He says there is a direct connection between the subsidised growth in the biomass industry encouraged by EU renewable energy policies and the acceleration of unsustainable Baltic tree-felling. “There is clear evidence that the intensification of logging is at least partly driven by higher demand...
Trump Opens Habitat of a Threatened Owl to Timber Harvesting

Trump Opens Habitat of a Threatened Owl to Timber Harvesting

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: January 13, 2021 SNIP: The Trump administration on Wednesday removed more than 3 million acres of Pacific Northwest land from the protected habitat of the northern spotted owl, 15 times the amount it had previously proposed opening to the timber industry. The plan, issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, grew out of a legal settlement with a lumber association that had sued the government in 2013 over 9.5 million acres that the agency designated as essential to the survival of the northern spotted owl. The federal protections restricted much of the land from timber harvesting, which companies claimed would lead to calamitous economic losses. But rather than trim about 200,000 acres of critical habitat in Oregon, as the agency initially proposed in August, the new plan will eliminate protections from 3.4 million acres across Washington, California and Oregon. What is left will mostly be land that is protected for reasons beyond the spotted owl. The decision is the latest in a series of midnight regulations the Trump administration has pushed out in recent weeks that privilege industry over protecting the environment, including shielding industry from fines and prosecution if they kill migratory birds and reducing protections for animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation groups are almost certain to sue, and they said they would lean on House and Senate Democrats to use the Congressional Review Act — a procedural tool that allows lawmakers to nullify recently finalized regulations with a simple majority vote. But it could fall to the incoming Biden administration to do the slow work of...
Top scientists warn of ‘ghastly future of mass extinction’ and climate disruption

Top scientists warn of ‘ghastly future of mass extinction’ and climate disruption

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 13, 2021 SNIP: The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises. The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood. “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges. The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.” The report warns that climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken. An estimated one million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, according to a recent UN report. “Environmental deterioration is infinitely more threatening to civilisation than Trumpism or Covid-19,” Ehrlich told the Guardian. In The Population Bomb, published in 1968, Ehrlich warned of imminent population explosion and hundreds of millions of people...
‘Extremely Hazardous’ Pesticide Federally Approved For Use On Florida Citrus

‘Extremely Hazardous’ Pesticide Federally Approved For Use On Florida Citrus

SOURCE: WUSF Public Media DATE: January 13, 2021 SNIP: The neurotoxin aldicarb is banned in about 100 countries, and is only one of 36 pesticides that the World Health Organization has called “extremely hazardous.” It’s now allowed to be used on Florida oranges and grapefruits. The Environmental Protection Agency announced late Tuesday its approval for registering the expanded use of the harmful pesticide aldicarb on Florida citrus trees to combat the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that has spread citrus greening and decimated production. “The registration limits the product’s sale and distribution to an amount allowing up to 100,000 acres in Florida to be treated each application season (Nov. 15-April 30) for three growing seasons, expiring on April 30, 2023,” said federal officials said in the release. The agency is also allowing citrus growers across the country to use the antibiotic streptomycin, typically used to treat certain forms of tuberculosis, as a pesticide on oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have raised concerns that using the important antibiotic in this way could increase the risk for bacterial resistance to it. Streptomycin is banned for use as a pesticide in the EU and Brazil. “Only the Trump EPA would approve use of a medically important antibiotic and a pesticide banned in over 100 countries on citrus crops,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Make no mistake, these unbelievably reckless decisions will harm children and farmworkers, and further hamper our ability to combat major public health crises.” Aldicarb has been linked to brain damage in young children and...
Climate crisis: record ocean heat in 2020 supercharged extreme weather

Climate crisis: record ocean heat in 2020 supercharged extreme weather

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 13, 2021 SNIP: The world’s oceans reached their hottest level in recorded history in 2020, supercharging the extreme weather impacts of the climate emergency, scientists have reported. More than 90% of the heat trapped by carbon emissions is absorbed by the oceans, making their warmth an undeniable signal of the accelerating crisis. The researchers found the five hottest years in the oceans had occurred since 2015, and that the rate of heating since 1986 was eight times higher than that from 1960-85. Reliable instrumental measurements stretch back to 1940 but it is likely the oceans are now at their hottest for 1,000 years and heating faster than any time in the last 2,000 years. Warmer seas provide more energy to storms, making them more severe, and there were a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic in 2020. Hotter oceans also disrupt rainfall patterns, which lead to floods, droughts and wildfires. Heat also causes seawater to expand and drive up sea levels. Scientists expect about 1 metre of sea level rise by the end of the century, endangering 150 million people worldwide. Furthermore, warmer water is less able to dissolve carbon dioxide. Currently, 30% of carbon emissions are absorbed by the oceans, limiting the heating effect of humanity’s burning of fossil fuels. “Ocean warming is the key metric and 2020 continued a long series of record-breaking years, showing the unabated continuation of global warming,” said Prof John Abraham, at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota, US, and one of the team behind the new analysis. “Warmer oceans supercharge the weather, impacting the biological...
CDFW Fall Trawl Survey yields no Delta smelt for third year

CDFW Fall Trawl Survey yields no Delta smelt for third year

SOURCE: RecordNet DATE: Jan 12, 2021 SNIP: For the third year in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found zero Delta smelt in the agency’s 2020 Fall Midwater Trawl Survey throughout the Delta. The 2- to 3-inch-long Delta smelt, found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is an indicator species that reveals the overall health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. It was once the most abundant fish in the entire estuary, numbering in the millions. Now it’s on the verge of extinction in the wild. “All signs point to the Delta smelt as disappearing from the wild this year, or, perhaps, 2022,” according to a California Water Blog post by Peter Moyle, Karrigan Börk, John Durand, T-C Hung and Andrew L. Rypel. The Delta smelt collapse is part of an overall decline of pelagic (open water) fish species in the Delta that also includes striped bass, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, American shad and threadfin shad. The survey samples 122 stations each month from September to December and a subset of these data is used to calculate an annual abundance “index,” a relative measure of abundance. While there are many factors contributing to the fish’s decline, including toxics, invasive species and decreasing water quality, none is more key to the fish’s collapse than the changes in the Delta resulting from the giant state and federal water pumping facilities that have diverted water for decades to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California water...