Tesla gets green light from German court to chop down trees for its new Gigafactory

Tesla gets green light from German court to chop down trees for its new Gigafactory

SOURCE: CNBC DATE: February 21, 2020 SNIP: Tesla has been given the go-ahead from a German court to cut down trees [trees that are part of a forest] for its new European factory. Though it doesn’t yet have planning permission to build the so-called Gigafactory in Brandenburg, the local government agency overseeing its intended site gave it permission to clear 91 hectares of forest land. Environmental campaigners opposed to the chopping down of trees had managed to get the higher administrative court of Berlin and Brandenburg to issue an injunction to temporarily halt the preparatory work. But the court, which oversees the region in which Tesla plans on building its new plant, on Thursday decided to throw out the injunction. The decision is “final,” the court said in a statement, paving the way for the U.S. electric car giant to resume the forest clearance. The Green League activist group in Brandenburg, which is situated south-east of Berlin, had expressed anger over the environmental impact of Tesla’s European Gigafactory. But the company said it had addressed such concerns and would replant trees to cover an area “three times the factory plot.” [Common mistake: trees do not equal a...
New £20 notes featuring JMW Turner enter circulation

New £20 notes featuring JMW Turner enter circulation

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 20, 2020 SNIP: The new polymer £20 note featuring the artist JMW Turner is to go into circulation, as the Bank of England begins a mammoth operation to replace the most popular banknote in the country. At least 2bn have been printed, and the Bank expects half of the country’s cash machines to have switched over within the next fortnight. In Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale will launch their polymer £20 notes on 27 February, with Royal Bank of Scotland following on 5 March. Banks in Northern Ireland will also change over in 2020, but there is no specific date. The Bank said the banknote will be the single biggest switchover to polymer attempted anywhere in the world. While first adopted by Australia in 1988, US dollars and euros have so far resisted the switch to plastic. According to the Bank of England, if the new £20 notes were laid end to end, they would stretch around the world almost seven times and weigh a total of 1,780 tonnes. The notes are manufactured in England by De La Rue. Old notes removed from circulation are either turned into compost, or burned to generate...
Fates of humans and insects intertwined, warn scientists

Fates of humans and insects intertwined, warn scientists

SOURCE: The Guardian and Biological Conservation (1 & 2). DATE: February 20, 2020 SNIP: The “fates of humans and insects are intertwined”, scientists have said, with the huge declines reported in some places only the “tip of the iceberg”. The warning has been issued by 25 experts from around the world, who acknowledge that little is known about most of the estimated 5.5 million insect species. However, enough was understood to warrant immediate action, they said, because waiting for better data would risk irreversible damage. The researchers said solutions were available and must be implemented immediately. These range from bigger nature reserves and a crackdown on harmful pesticides to individual action such as not mowing the lawn and leaving dead wood in gardens. They also said invertebrates must no longer be neglected by conservation efforts, which tend to focus on mammals and birds. The alert has been published as two articles in the Biological Conservation journal. “The current [insect] extinction crisis is deeply worrisome. Yet, what we know is only the tip of the iceberg,” the scientists write. “We know enough to act immediately. Solutions are now available – we must act upon them.” “Insect declines lead to the loss of essential, irreplaceable services to humanity. Human activity is responsible for almost all current insect population declines and extinctions.” The report notes that only about a fifth of the world’s insect species have even been named, mostly from only single specimens. “Many insect species are going extinct even before being described,” the researchers said. “It is likely that insect extinctions since the industrial era are around 5-10%, ie 250,000...
Oil and gas firms ‘have had far worse climate impact than thought’

Oil and gas firms ‘have had far worse climate impact than thought’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 19, 2020 SNIP: The oil and gas industry has had a far worse impact on the climate than previously believed, according to a study indicating that human emissions of fossil methane have been underestimated by up to 40%. Methane has a greenhouse effect that is about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and is responsible for at least 25% of global heating, according to the UN Environment Programme. In the past two centuries, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled, though there has long been uncertainty about whether the source was biological – from agriculture, livestock or landfills – or from fossil fuels. There were also doubts about what share of fossil methane was naturally released and what share was from industry. The findings, published in Nature, suggest the share of naturally released fossil methane has been overestimated by “an order of magnitude”, which means that human activities are 25-40% more responsible for fossil methane in the atmosphere than thought. This strengthens suspicions that fossil fuel companies are not fully accounting for their impact on the climate, particularly with regard to methane – a colourless, odourless gas that many plants routinely vent into the atmosphere. An earlier study revealed methane emissions from US oil and gas plants were 60% higher than reported to the Environmental Protection Agency. Accidents are also underreported. A single blowout at a natural gas well in Ohio in 2018 discharged more methane over three weeks than the oil and gas industries of France, Norway and the Netherlands released in an entire...
French ski resort moves snow with helicopter in order to stay open

French ski resort moves snow with helicopter in order to stay open

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 16, 2020 SNIP: A French ski resort has angered ecologists by using a helicopter to move snow from higher up the mountains after exceptionally mild weather left its slopes bare. Officials at Luchon-Superbagnères in the Pyrenees authorised the “exceptional” emergency operation overnight on Friday. The helicopter spent two hours transporting 50 tonnes of snow to drop on the lower slopes used by beginners and ski schools. Hervé Pounau, the director of the local department council, said the cost of the operation would be recouped many times over by the business that would have been lost to a lack of snow. “It will cost us between €5,000 and €6,000, in the knowledge that over the long term we will get at least 10 times’ return on that investment,” Pounau said in a statement. Keeping the station open safeguarded 50 to 80 jobs, including lift operators, ski school teachers, childminders, ski equipment rental shop staff and restaurant owners, he added. “We’re not going to cover the entire ski station in snow, but without it we would have had to close a huge part of the ski domain, and it’s during the holidays that we have the most activity for beginners and the ski schools,” Pounau said. He admitted it was not “very ecological”, but added: “It’s really exceptional and we won’t be doing it again. This time we didn’t have a choice.” The operation has angered French ecologists. Bastien Ho, the secretary of Europe Écologie Les Verts party, said the snow transfer operation was evidence of an “upside-down world”. “Instead of adapting to global warming we’re...
Believe it or not, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was even worse than previously thought

Believe it or not, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was even worse than previously thought

SOURCE: Grist DATE: February 14, 2020 SNIP: After the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the spring of 2010, oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months straight, resulting in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. More than 200 million gallons of light crude flowed into the sea, devastating marine life and fisheries. Ten years later, scientists are still uncovering new facets of the disaster and its aftermath. A study published Wednesday from researchers at the University of Miami found that fisheries closed by federal and state agencies after the spill only accounted for about 70 percent of the actual extent of the toxicity that emanated from the drilling platform. The closures were based on satellite images of so-called surface slick — the visible oil on the surface of the water. This metric was ultimately not sensitive enough to capture lower concentrations of oil that nevertheless were still harmful to animals. Igal Berenshtein, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami and lead author of the new study, said he originally set out to look at the effect of fishery closures on communities in the Gulf. One of the first things he did was run a model that his advisor, Claire Paris-Limouzy, developed that mapped where oil would have travelled after the spill, based on the specific conditions in the Gulf at the time. When he compared that map to the fishery closures, the results were intriguing: The model showed that oil likely traveled well beyond the bounds of the fishery closures. After the spill, as oil floated around in the Gulf, it was exposed to...