The UK government launches a ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, microplastics discovered near the summit of Mount Everest, and a bird with a a near-human capacity for language mapping
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!
As the world looks to recover from the impact of coronavirus on our lives, livelihoods and economies, we have the chance to build back better: to invest in making the UK a global leader in green technologies.
The plan focuses on increasing ambition in the following areas:
- advancing offshore wind
- driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen
- delivering new and advanced nuclear power
- accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles
- green public transport, cycling and walking
- ‘jet zero’ and green ships
- greener buildings
- investing in carbon capture, usage and storage
- protecting our natural environment
- green finance and innovation
The ten point plan will mobilise £12 billion of government investment, and potentially 3 times as much from the private sector, to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs.
“Young people are often dubbed “Generation Green” – millennials and teenagers championing climate action and environmental values, often with a well-aimed dig at older generations who have failed to prevent a climate catastrophe. Yet it is their baby boomer parents and grandparents who are most likely to act in support of green issues, according to a national survey.
About half of people over 55 say they shop locally, buy fewer clothes that last longer and try to avoid single-use plastics. Only about a quarter of those aged 18-34 said they do the same. And only 16% of 18-34s buy seasonal produce, compared with 35% of over-55s. The Opinium poll asked 2,000 people about their green attitudes. It shows that although a large proportion – 78% – believe they have a personal responsibility to deal with the climate crisis, a substantial number are not prepared to make sacrifices. While some say they want to eat less meat, avoid fast fashion or cycle instead of drive, few manage to achieve their aims, the survey said.”
“Leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies said in a final communique on Sunday they were determined to support African countries in overcoming the coronavirus crisis, including by exploring more sustainable financing options. Debt relief for Africa will be an important theme of the Italian presidency of the G20 in 2021. The G20 group also said tackling climate change was a pressing challenge and that it was committed to a more environmentally sustainable future.”
Otters Show How Predators Can Blunt Climate Damage (Scientific Amerian)
“While scuba diving around the Aleutian Islands in 2014, marine ecologist Doug Rasher saw little sign of the curtains of lush green kelp forests he would have had to push through decades earlier. “It feels like a ghost town,” says Rasher, a researcher at the nonprofit Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. The eeriness did not end there: during a boat ride, one of Rasher’s colleagues pointed to a cove where he had seen hundreds of sea otters splashing in the frigid water in the 1970s. Only a handful remained. The two losses are connected. As sea otters declined (for reasons scientists are still trying to understand), their favorite prey—sea urchins—exploded in number. The voracious echinoderms not only mowed down the kelp but are also tearing apart and devouring the massive, slow-forming limestone reefs on which this seaweed grows, Rasher and his colleagues recently reported in Science. Rising ocean temperatures and acidification are compounding the damage.”
The not so good:
Microplastics discovered near summit of Mount Everest (Independent)
“Microplastics have been discovered at their highest point on Earth, near the summit of Mount Everest. Researchers detected microplastics at 8,440m above sea level in the Balcony of Mount Everest, which is around 400m below its peak, according to preliminary findings. The microplastics could have arrived at Mount Everest from the clothes and equipment of explorers, or been blown up the mountain by winds from nearby cities, the study’s lead author told The Independent. Dr Imogen Napper, a researcher of plastics pollution from the University of Plymouth and lead author of the new study published in the journal One Earth, told The Independent: “I think the most surprising bit for me was looking at the sample from the Balcony, which is just below the summit and seeing that there’s microplastics there.”
Pollution results less impressive during second European lockdown (Financial Times)
“Air pollution levels have remained relatively high despite the latest phase of coronavirus-linked restrictions imposed across many European capitals in recent weeks, according to data analysed by the Financial Times. The environmental benefits from Lockdown 2.0 are much slimmer than that of the spring lockdown, satellite data from Copernicus, the EU climate monitoring agency, shows. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is produced from cars and trucks, have seen only modest declines — and in some cases appeared to increase — as the lockdowns took effect.”
“A new decade-long survey of sea animals harmed by plastic rubbish in US waters has revealed data on which animals are being affected by plastic pollution. Oceana, the world's largest ocean conservation group, tracked about 1,800 cases of animals hurt by plastic since 2009 for a new comprehensive report. Of the animals surveyed, around 88% are listed as threatened or endangered under the US Endangered Species Act. Oceana warns that the numbers are sure to be far higher than the data reveals. The survey released on Thursday examines 1,792 examples of marine animals that became entangled in plastic or that had swallowed it.”
And something a bit different:
Zebra finches amazing at unmasking the bird behind the song (Science Daily)
“If songbirds could appear on "The Masked Singer" reality TV competition, zebra finches would likely steal the show. That's because they can rapidly memorize the signature sounds of at least 50 different members of their flock, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley. In findings recently published in the journal Science Advances, these boisterous, red-beaked songbirds, known as zebra finches, have been shown to pick one another out of a crowd (or flock) based on a particular peer's distinct song or contact call. Like humans who can instantly tell which friend or relative is calling by the timbre of the person's voice, zebra finches have a near-human capacity for language mapping. Moreover, they can remember each other's unique vocalizations for months and perhaps longer, the findings suggest.”