Survey finds majority of voters support initiatives to fight climate change, climate deniers shift tactics to ‘inactivism’, and UK bison rangers wanted
Welcome to this week’s news roundup. As always we’ll be mixing it up - there’ll be some good news stories, some not so good news stories, and maybe some stories you won't have seen elsewhere!
Hope you enjoy!
“A majority of registered voters of both parties in the United States support initiatives to fight climate change, including many that are outlined in the climate plans announced by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to a new survey. The survey, which was conducted after the presidential election, suggests that a majority of Americans in both parties want a government that deals forcefully with climate change instead of denying its urgency — or denying that it exists. In the survey, published Friday by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, 53 percent of registered voters said that global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress, and 66 percent said that developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority. Eight in 10 supported achieving those ends by providing tax breaks to people who buy electric vehicles or solar panels, and by investing in renewable energy research.”
“Europe’s shift from fossil fuel-based electricity to renewable sources has reduced environmental problems while also cutting the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Monday. Renewable power generation in the European Union has nearly doubled since 2005, producing 34% of EU electricity in 2019 compared with the 38% produced by fossil fuels like coal and gas. The EU’s switch from fossil fuel-based power production to sources like wind and solar since 2005 has “significantly decreased” emissions, while also yielding “clear improvements” in key environmental problems, the EEA - an EU agency - said in a study. These include soil acidification, eutrophication - where freshwater becomes overloaded with nutrients, causing algal blooms and low oxygen levels - and the formation of particulate matter, a type of air pollution linked to 379,000 deaths in Europe in 2018.”
“Yellow mealworm finger foods, smoothies, biscuits, pasta and burgers could soon be mass produced across Europe after the insect became the first to be found safe for human consumption by the EU food safety agency. The delicacies may not be advisable for everyone, however. Those with prawn and dustmite allergies are likely to suffer a reaction to the Tenebrio molitor larvae, whether eaten in powder form as part of a recipe or as a crunchy snack, perhaps dipped in chocolate. The conclusion of scientists at the EU food safety agency, following an application by the French insect-for-food production company, Agronutris, is expected to lead to EU-wide approval within months of yellow mealworm as a product fit for supermarket shelves and kitchen pantries across the continent. The insect’s main components are protein, fat and fibre, offering a potentially sustainable and low carbon-emission source of food for the future. When dried, the maggot-like insect is said to taste a lot like peanuts.”
“As vaccines start to be administered across the world, the beginning of the end of the pandemic is at last in sight. But some countries are at risk of missing out. While the African Union has secured 270 million vaccine doses for distribution across the continent, in addition to those promised by the global vaccine program COVAX, this could still fall short of demand for the region. Even if enough vaccines are secured, there is an enormous logistical challenge: how to transport temperature-sensitive vaccines to places without reliable electricity and refrigeration. The answer is in developing a "cold chain" -- a network of vehicles, fridges and cold rooms -- that can be used to transport the vaccine seamlessly from the manufacturer to the immunization point. We should have been designing the cold chain the day we started designing a vaccine," says Toby Peters, a professor in cold economy at the University of Birmingham, in the UK, who is working with the UN-backed Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain to improve refrigeration networks in Africa. We knew we were going to have to move billions of vaccines around the world, all the way out to rural communities, and that we'd need a temperature-controlled environment," he adds.”
“This makes Norway the first country to have sold more electric cars than petrol, hybrid, and diesel engines in a year. The Norwegian government plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, and is using tax breaks and financial incentives to encourage the purchasing of more sustainable vehicles. Battery electric vehicles made up 54.3% of new car sales in 2020, up from 42% in 2019, according to figures published by the Norwegian Road Federation (OFV) on Tuesday. Cars with diesel-only engines have fallen from a height of being 75.7 per cent of the Norweigen vehicle market in 2011 to just 8.6 per cent in 2020.”
The not so good:
Climate Deniers Shift Tactics to ‘Inactivism’ (Scientific American)
“Michael Mann is no stranger to the war against climate science. A climatologist at Pennsylvania State University who is currently studying the impact of climate change on extreme weather events, Mann is best known for the “hockey stick graph,” which he and his colleagues published in a 1998 scientific paper. The data visualization—featured prominently in former vice president Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth—illustrates the precipitous rise in global temperatures since the dawn of the industrial era. The graph also helped make the researcher a target of attacks by climate change deniers. Mann’s e-mails were stolen, and he was investigated by government bodies and received death threats in a years-long campaign he says was orchestrated by fossil fuel companies and their allies to discredit his work. Those experiences compelled him to “enter the fray” and “speak out about the very real implications of our research,” he wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times in 2014.
Although it is too soon to declare victory, Mann cautions, the initial war of disinformation against climate science is now essentially over. The scientific evidence has become impossible to dispute in light of the dramatic increases in extreme weather events, megafires and polar melting in recent years, he says. The deniers have not given up the battle, however. They have merely changed their tactics, Mann contends in his book The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet. He spoke with Scientific American about the book and why he believes that the world is finally getting ready to move more aggressively on the climate crisis.”
Outgoing administration’s last-minute changes to wildlife protections draw criticism (National Geographic)
“Over the past four years, wildlife and environmental protections in the United States have been under attack. President Donald Trump’s administration has pursued a campaign of deregulation, undoing or weakening scores of laws and policies that protect threatened species and the environment. Policies that hurt wildlife have included scuttling a complex compromise to conserve sage grouse, plowing through wilderness areas to build a border wall, and removing gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act. “The Trump Administration has been consistently bad on wildlife... from day one until the last days,” says Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation for Earthjustice, an environmental law group. That pattern has continued in the final hours of Trump’s presidency. Here are a few of the key environmental developments, which during the pandemic, impeachment, and political unrest, haven’t received enough attention, experts say.”
“A wheelbarrow and a handful of metal grids for capturing litter, emblazoned with the words “Renew Oceans,” sit rusting outside an empty, padlocked office in the Indian city of Varanasi, a short walk from the Ganges. It is all that is left of a programme, funded by some of the world’s biggest oil and chemical companies, that they said could solve a runaway ocean plastic waste crisis which is killing marine life - from plankton to whales - and clogging tropical beaches and coral reefs. The closure of Renew Oceans, which has not previously been reported, is a sign that an industry whose financial future is tied to the growth of plastic production is falling short of its targets to curb the resulting increase in waste, according to two environmental groups. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a Singapore-based nonprofit group set up two years ago by big oil and chemical companies, said on its website in November 2019 that its partnership with Renew Oceans would be expanded to the world’s most-polluted rivers and “ultimately could stop the flow of plastic into the planet’s ocean.” Exxon Mobil Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Dow Inc, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co and about 50 other companies committed to spend $1.5 billion over five years on the Alliance and its projects. The Alliance has not said publicly how much money it has raised from its members or what it has spent overall.”
And something a bit different:
“Can you handle a beast as heavy as a small car, that can hurdle high fences from a standing start, and is a peaceful bulldozer for biodiversity? If you’re not intimidated by the weightiest wild land mammal in Europe, you could become Britain’s first ever bison ranger. Two people are being sought to manage a small herd of wild European bison (Bison bonasus) being introduced into Blean Woods, near Canterbury, to help restore the woodland for wildlife. Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust hope that the bison, the closest living relative to the ancient steppe bison that once roamed Britain, will positively disrupt pine plantations within the ancient woodland for the benefit of other species.”