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News articles on environment
Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.
(12/14/2009) The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a list of ten species that are likely to be among the hardest hit by climate change, including beloved species such as the leatherback sea turtle, the koala, the emperor penguin, the clownfish, and the beluga whale. The timing of the list coincides with the negotiations by world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference to come up with an international agreement to combat climate change.
Sea levels set to rise more than expected due to 'deeply surprising' Greenland melt
(12/14/2009) A new study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program estimates that the sea will rise by 0.5 to 1.5 meters by 2100, threatening coastal cities and flooding island nations. This is double the predicted rise estimated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, which did not incorporate sea level rise due to the melting of Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets.
African nations return to the negotiating table after walkout in Copenhagen
(12/14/2009) African nations that staged a walkout during negotiations at the Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen have returned to the table, according to the BBC. African nations accused industrial nations of attempting to throw out the Kyoto Protocol.
Brazil grants deforestation amnesty for farmers and ranchers
(12/14/2009) A decree issued by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva suspends up to $5.7 billion in fines and gives ranchers and farmers in the Amazon two more years to come into compliance with environmental laws aimed to curtain deforestation, reports the Associated Press.
Forest destruction by Sinar Mas undermines efforts to develop and promote greener palm oil
(12/14/2009) An investigation commissioned by Unilever, the world's largest buyer of palm oil, confirms that Indonesian group Sinar Mas, the world's second largest producer of palm oil, has been destroying forests and peatlands despite committing to "greener" palm oil production as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Unilever has now suspended its $32.6 million contract with Sinar Mas.
Ecuador’s Rafael Correa: Copenhagen Climate Hero or Environmental Foe?
(12/14/2009) As climate change negotiations continue full force in the Danish city of Copenhagen, Latin American countries are hoping the Global North will commit to its “climate debt” by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing resources to poor nations. It’s certainly an understandable aspiration: Latin America only produces five per cent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, a chief greenhouse gas, yet the region has borne the brunt of extreme weather ranging from droughts to flooding.
New REDD text is weak, say activists
(12/12/2009) Activist group have condemned the latest draft text of an agreement that aims to protect rainforests as a means to mitigate climate change.
Amazon cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's CO2 emissions
(12/12/2009) Cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions according to a new study led by scientists from Brazil's National Space Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Unilever suspends palm oil contract after supplier found to be destroying rainforests
(12/12/2009) The world's largest user of palm oil, Unilever, has suspended its $32.6 million contract with the Indonesian group Sinar Mas after an independent audit proved that Sinar Mas is involved in the destruction of rainforest, reports Reuters. The audit was conducted early this year after a report by Greenpeace alleged that Sinar Mas was engaged in deforestation and the draining of peatlands, both of which release significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Deforestation across Indonesia and Malaysia, in part for oil palm plantations, has also added pressure on many many endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.
New poll: 70 percent of Americans agree that global warming is occurring
(12/11/2009) A new poll, taken in the midst of the scandal involving hacked emails from climate change scientists, shows that a significant majority (70 percent) of Americans agree with climatologists that the earth is warming.
Canada's reign of shame in Copenhagen
(12/11/2009) In the first five days of Copenhagen, Canada has won a lot of awards. Only these are not positive awards for good and constructive behavior, but so-called 'fossil awards' given to the countries that most impede progress at Copenhagen by the environmental organization, Climate Action Network (CAN).
United States to speed up green technology patents
(12/11/2009) Green technology patents will see a year shaved off the average forty month wait time to approve new patents in the US. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is implementing a one-year pilot program to push green technology patent applications through the process more quickly, so that the technologies can reach the market faster.
REDD may miss up to 80 percent of land use change emissions
(12/11/2009) The political definition of 'forest' used in REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) threatens to undermine the program's objective to conserve ecosystems for their ability to sequester carbon, according to a new analysis by the Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) Partnership for Tropical Forest Margins. In an analysis of three Indonesian provinces using REDD proposals for carbon accounting, ASB found that REDD may miss up to 80 percent of the actual emissions due to land use change. The carbon accounting problems could be fixed, according to ASB, by expanding REDD's purpose from reducing emissions linked to deforestation (considering the problematic definition of forests) to reducing emission from all land use changes that either release or capture greenhouse gases, including but not limited to forests.
Cheat sheet on climate finance
(12/11/2009) The Global Canopy Project has released a cheat sheet on proposals for financing climate change mitigation.
Global forest map moves forward
(12/11/2009) A plan to create a pan-tropical map of forest cover and carbon stocks is moving ahead with data now available on Google Earth, reports the Woods Hole Research Center.
Obama on global warming and forest protection
(12/10/2009) President of the United States, Barack Obama, was in Oslo, Norway this morning accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won in part for promising to bring the United States to the negotiating table on climate change—something he has recently done.
Rainforest tribe sues the Malaysian government for enabling deforestation
(12/10/2009) Five Penan rainforest communities are suing the Sarawak state government and the Malaysian timber giant Samling for violation of their native customary rights, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a group that works on behalf of indigenous groups in Malaysia.
1700 UK researchers sign statement standing behind global warming science
(12/10/2009) 1,700 British scientists have signed a statement put out by the Met Office declaring that they have the "utmost confidence" in the science behind climate change. The statement and signatures comes after emails by prominent climate change researchers were stolen from the University of East Anglia. Critics say that the emails show that the researchers have hidden and manipulated evidence. However, many scientists, including those who sent the emails, contend that statements in the emails have been taken out of context by climate change deniers and the media.
Google Earth to monitor deforestation
(12/10/2009) It what could be a critical development in helping tropical countries monitor deforestation, Google has unveiled a partnership with scientists using advanced remote sensing technology to rapidly analyze and map forest cover in extremely high resolution. The effort could help countries detect deforestation shortly after it occurs making it easier to prevent further forest clearing.
Brazil allocates first funds under plan to save the Amazon
(12/10/2009) Brazil's development bank BNDES has announced the first five recipients of grants under the South American country's ambitious Amazon Fund, which aims to reduce deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade.
US think-tank: islands affected by global warming should wait for trickle-down money
(12/09/2009) Poor island nations threatened by rising seas should wait for money through trickle-down economics, according to the founder of the US Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Washington-based free-market think tank believes that curbing greenhouse gas emissionss to combat climate change will be too costly to the US and global economies.
Cattle company bulldozing UNESCO site, threatening uncontacted natives
(12/09/2009) A Brazilian ranching company is bulldozing land within UNESCO Chaco Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay, home to the only uncontacted natives outside of the Amazon in South America. While the UNESCO status provides no legal protections to the area, it is meant as an international marker to protect the tribe of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode and the forest they inhabit.
Islands and African nations present toughest treaty yet to combat global warming
(12/09/2009) Led by the small island state of Tuvalu, developing nations particularly vulnerable to climate change have put forward the most ambitious plan yet to mitigate climate change. Their move has split them from usual partners, such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, who are concerned about the economic consequences of the proposal.
Gore, Moon, and Rasmussen attempt to regain trust after 'Danish Text' leak in Copenhagen
(12/09/2009) The head of the UN, Ban-Ki Moon; the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen; and American climate change leader, Al Gore, all attempted to downplay the leak of the 'Danish Text' which has riled developing countries due to portions of its content, such as allowing a climate fund to be controlled by the World Bank, seemingly overturning the Kyoto principle whereby developed countries are held responsible for climate change, and setting higher emission per capita standards for industrialized countries over developing countries even in forty years time.
Developed countries plan to hide emissions from logging
(12/09/2009) While developing countries in the tropics have received a lot of attention for their deforestation emissions (one thinks of Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia), emissions from logging—considered forest cover change—in wealthy northern countries has been largely overlooked by the media. It seems industrialized countries prefer it this way: a new study reveals just how these countries are planning to hide forestry-related emissions, allowing nations such as Canada, Russia, and the EU to contribute to climate change without penalty.
REDD+ could turn deforesters into forest protectors
(12/09/2009) Payments for conservation and sustainable management of forests could turn agents of forest destruction into forest protectors, according to a comprehensive analysis of national policy options to reduce deforestation released in Copenhagen by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
New tree species discovered in Guyana is rich source of oil
(12/09/2009) Botanists working have described a new species of tree with commercial significance in Guyana. The discovery is published in Brittonia, a journal put out by the New York Botanical Garden.
Brazilian tribe owns carbon rights to Amazon rainforest land
(12/09/2009) A rainforest tribe fighting to save their territory from loggers owns the carbon-trading rights to their land, according to a legal opinion released today by Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. The opinion, which was commissioned by Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based forest conservation group, could boost the efforts of indigenous groups seeking compensation for preserving forest on their lands, effectively paving the way for large-scale indigenous-led conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous people control more than a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon.
Nuclear option in Copenhagen?
(12/09/2009) On the first day of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment and Climate Change, surprised many by calling for a 'nuclear option'. The option would allow a document to be ratified by 75 percent of the conference's nations, rather than the usual consensus required. It is thought the nuclear option would give more power to developing countries, since they far outnumber wealthy nations at the conference.
Bangladesh tops list of most vulnerable countries to climate change
(12/09/2009) According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Bangladesh is the most vulnerable nation to extreme weather events, which many scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change. From 1990 to 2008, Bangladesh has lost 8,241 lives on average every year due to natural disasters. In addition, rising sea levels also threaten millions of Bangladeshis.
Leaked document in Copenhagen seen as sidelining poor countries
(12/08/2009) A document leaked late in the day at Copenhagen has threatened to further divide developing nations from wealthy countries during the conference in Denmark. The document, labeled as the 'Danish-text', is seen by many as sidelining poor countries by handing over climate financing to the World Bank, requiring developing countries to cut total emissions, and in forty years time still allowing wealthy countries to emit more than developing per capita.
Destruction of old-growth forests looms over climate talks
(12/08/2009) Destruction of old-growth or primary forests looms large in discussions in Copenhagen over a scheme to compensate tropical countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Some environmental groups are pressing for conservation of old-growth forests — the most carbon-dense, and biologically-rich state of forests — to be the centerpiece of REDD, while industry and other actors are pushing for "sustainable forest management" or logging using reduced-impact techniques to be the primary focus of REDD.
REDD in Madagascar
(12/08/2009) Despite damage from ongoing illegal logging, Madagascar's remaining forests are poised to benefit from the proposed REDD mechanism, a U.N.-backed scheme that would compensate tropical developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, reports a new paper that analyzes efforts to use carbon finance to protect the Indian Ocean island's remaining forests. The research is published in the open-access Madagascar Conservation & Development.
Canada, not Copenhagen, hit by protests over climate policy
(12/08/2009) While tens of thousands of protestors have gone to Copenhagen to call on world governments to do more to fight against climate change, the most surprising protest on the first day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen occurred thousands of miles away: in Canada.
EBay bid to name new shrimp species raises $2,900 for conservation from NBA star
(12/07/2009) Former NBA basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, Luc Longley, has won the EBay auction to name a wild looking red-polka dotted shrimp species. Longley won with a bid of 3,600 Australian dollars (2,900 US dollars): all of the funds go to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). He named the shrimp Lebbeus clarehanna as a gift for his daughter, Clare Hanna Longley's fifteenth birthday.
Photos: four Critically Endangered Somali wild ass born at preserve in Qatar
(12/07/2009) Four Somalia wild ass were born at the Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP) in Qatar. The Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis) is a subspecies of the African wild ass, both of which are classified by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. The four foals all have the same father, a stallion named 'Hector' which came to AWWP in April 2008 from the Montpellier Zoo.
Oil sands pollution in Canada worse than industry and government claim
(12/07/2009) Canada's tar sands have been internationally criticized as one of the world's largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, but the energy-intensive extraction of oil also has a less-noted impact on the local environment. A new study shows that the Alberta's oil sands are likely releasing more PACs (polycyclic aromatic compounds) into nearby Athabasca River and its tributaries than the industry-funded and government-supported Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) has reported.
Europe says US and China emission targets don't go far enough
(12/07/2009) At a press conference during the first day of the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the European Union has stated it will not raise its emissions cuts from 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020 (over 1990 levels) unless the US and China go further in their cuts.
Profile of the carbon footprint of the global poor: the challenge of alleviating poverty and fighting global warming
(12/07/2009) Two of the world's most serious issues—poverty and climate change—are interconnected. With a rise in one's income there usually comes a rise in one's carbon footprint, thereby threatening the environment. Wealthy nations have the highest per capita carbon footprints, while developing nations like India and China—which are experiencing unprecedented economic growth—are becoming massive contributors of greenhouse gases. However, it is those who have the smallest carbon footprint—the world's poor—who currently suffer most from climate change. Food crises, water shortages, extreme weather, and rising sea levels have all hit the poor the hardest.
Malaysian land minister attacks credibility of young indigenous rape victims
(12/07/2009) Speaking to the BBC, James Masing, Sarawak Minister for Land Development, dismissed claims by Penan girls and women who said they had been sexually abused and raped by logging workers in a remote jungle area.
Copenhagen and Brazilian Megalomania
(12/07/2009) When people think about preserving the Amazon rainforest, captivating animals may come to mind such as the jaguar, toucan or manatee. But while wildlife must be safeguarded there are now other urgent reasons to protect the jungle. The seriousness of the problem was recently brought home to me when I visited the Amazonian city of Manaus.
Email scandal may be turning against climate change deniers
(12/07/2009) It may be that climate change scientists and policymakers have simply had enough, and it may be that the emails which were hacked did not reveal the massive conspiracy that they were supposed to, either way climatologists and politicians have gone on the offensive against claims that the hacked emails from the East Anglia's Climate Research Unit are evidence that climate change is a conspiracy or hoax.
Obama administration about to declare carbon dioxide a danger to the public, allowing regulation
(12/06/2009) The day before talks start in Copenhagen on a new international treaty to combat climate change, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States is set to declare carbon dioxide a 'public danger' as soon as Monday.
African children on 'gorilla warfare' mission in run-up to COP15
(12/06/2009) "It’s the gorillas I’ve got to thank for bringing me here,” said Sephora Binet-Mboti, (13), as she gazed up, wide-eyed, at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. She was a long way from her in home in Central Africa where she lives in Gabon at subsistence level in a clapboard house with her parents and nine brothers and sisters. Sephora had never traveled as far as the capital of Gabon, let alone to the developed world, but on Thursday (3rd December) she boarded a plane for an all-expenses-paid dream week in Paris, the city of lights.
Video: rare footage of the sun bear, the world's smallest, making a nest in the canopy
(12/06/2009) Sun bear expert, Siew Te Wong, has captured rare footage of the world's smallest bear making a nest high in the canopy. The sun bear in the video is a radio-collared individual that Wong is keeping tabs on in Borneo.
Hyenas cooperate more easily than chimpanzees
(12/06/2009) Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) could show chimpanzees a thing or two about working together, according to a new study. Hyenas, prodigious hunters, pull down prey together. Christine M. Drea, an associate professor in the department of Evolutionary Biology at Duke University, started to ask questions about the cooperative hunting habits of hyenas while she was reading The Spotted Hyena: A Study of Predation and Social Behavior by Hanz Kruuk.
Eco-label for rainforest products could boost sustainability
(12/06/2009) Tropical forests around the world continue to fall, largely the result of logging and conversion to agriculture. But new hope for forests has emerged under a scheme that would reward countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation. Some variations of the concept, which is known as REDD, would allow for "sustainable forest management" (SFM), that is, reduced impact logging of forests, as well as harvesting of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) like seeds, fruit, and game. But the extent to which this harvesting affects forest ecology, and therefore carbon sequestration, is still poorly understood.
How tree communities respond to distance to edges and canopy openness
(12/06/2009) Tropical forests frequently experience the opening and closing of canopy gaps as part of their natural dynamics. When an edge is created, and the area outside the boundary is a disturbed or unnatural system, forests can be seriously affected even at some distance from the fragmented edge, since sunlight and wind penetrate to a much greater extent. This increases tree mortality and, consequently, canopy openness close to the edge. Thus, canopy openness can be both part of a natural gap-dynamics cycle and the direct manifestation of human edge effects.
Forests recover faster from slash-and-burn when near intact forest reserves
(12/06/2009) Areas cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture recover faster when adjacent to a large block of untouched forest, but may take decades to regain a majority of their biodiversity after tree-felling, according to a new review of ecological studies, published in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science, an open access journal.
What types of primates are most prone to extinction in small forest fragments?
(12/06/2009) According to the most recent IUCN assessment, 48 percent of primates are threatened with extinction. Major threats to primates include habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, and the wildlife trade. A new paper published in Tropical Conservation Science looked at ones of these threats — fragmentation — in an effort to determine what traits put primates at highest risk of extinction in forest fragments. Traits investigated all related to various aspects of primate biology, including: the amount of habitat needed, reproductive rate, and types of specialization. Surprisingly the authors, Matthew A. Gibbons and Alexander H. Harcourt of the University of California at Davis, found no significant relationship between extinction risk and any of the biological parameters.
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