Tag Archives: Kristine l Ming Blog

Bosnia’s silent killer: The coal industry

After the US decision to quit the Paris climate agreement, the European Union set its sights on becoming a global leader in curbing fossil fuel emissions.

But some of its eastern neighbours that seek to join the bloc have severe levels of air pollution.

Many people are switching back to coal as a cheaper alternative to imported gas from Russia.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the high level of air pollution has become a cause for alarm for the locals.

Produced by Camelia Sadeghzadeh; filmed by Marek Polaszewski

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42000232

Fishing ‘best argument for seagrass conservation’

An indigenous child fisher in Indonesia collecting urchins and porcupine fish in seagrassImage copyright
Chris Smart

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An indigenous child fisher in Indonesia collecting urchins and porcupine fish in seagrass

The importance of seagrasses is further emphasised in a new report that looks at how they underpin fishing worldwide.

These flowering plants, which grow in near-shore waters, are under intense pressure – some estimates suggest global losses are running at 7% a year.

The grasses provide shelter and food for many sea creatures and that makes them a natural draw to fishers.

But Richard Unsworth and colleagues say this valuable resource will need better management if it is to be sustained.

Our study is really the first to show just how important seagrass meadows are to fishing,” explained the researcher from Swansea University in the UK.

“Wherever you get seagrasses, you get fishing, basically,” he told BBC News.

Seagrass meadows are found around every continent except Antarctica.

The plants cycle nutrients, stabilise sediments, and – as photosynthesisers – act as a “sink” for carbon dioxide.

They also provide nursery habitat for juvenile fish, which hide from predators among the stems.

However, the scale of the importance of the meadows to fisheries has been more supposition than fact because of a paucity of data on how they are actually used, according to Dr Unsworth.

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Richard Unsworth

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The study details the many different types of gear used to fish among the plants

His team set about correcting this by interviewing experts – including other scientists and fisheries managers – on what they were observing around the world.

The team also took in case studies covering all regions from the Philippines to Zanzibar, Indonesia, the Turks and Caicos Islands and locations in the Mediterranean.

The picture that emerges is much the same everywhere.

Fishers actively target seagrasses because they recognise the habitats’ great productivity.

This is true from small-scale recreational activity all the way through to large-scale commercial practice.

Image copyright
Benjamin Jones

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Fixed fyke nets are commonly placed in many seagrass meadows in Eastern Indonesia

The study details the types of tools and equipment used – from spears to nets – and the variety of species taken, from invertebrates such as crabs, shrimp and clams, to popular finfish such as mullet, herring and snapper.

One critical point to emphasise from the assessment is that many hundreds of millions of people worldwide depend on the catch from seagrass meadows for their daily protein intake.

This makes their conservation and proper management all the more important, says the team.

There is a claim that a meadow area equivalent to two football pitches is disappearing every hour.

Such statements are very hard to verify, but there is no doubt that seagrasses are being diminished by poor water quality in coastal areas as a result of agricultural and urban run-off, among several threats that also include insensitive fishing practices.

Team member Lina Nordlund, from Stockholm University, said: “The ecological value of seagrass meadows is irrefutable, yet their loss continues at an accelerating rate.

“Now there is growing evidence globally that many fisheries associated to seagrass are unrecorded, unreported and unmanaged, leading to a tragedy of the seagrass commons.”

Image copyright
Richard Unsworth

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Netting for shrimp among seagrasses in north Wales

Leanne Cullen-Unsworth, from Cardiff University, added: “Arguments in support of seagrass have in the past too often focused on the fluffy – such as the conservation of seahorses.

“I don’t want to dismiss seahorses’ importance, but the reality is that seagrasses have much higher value in supporting fisheries. And I’ve come across numerous occasions where fishermen have been against conservation of seagrasses because they can’t moor their boats in these locations, when it’s those seagrasses that support their activity in the first place.

“What we need to do is increase the level of understanding and appreciation of these habitats.”

The team’s study – Global significance of seagrass fishery activity – is published in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42028699

Trump puts elephant trophy imports on hold

Elephants at Mana Pools, ZimbabweImage copyright

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service argues hunting “will enhance the survival of the African elephant”

President Donald Trump has suspended the import of elephant hunting trophies, only a day after a ban was relaxed by his administration.

Imports of trophies from elephants legally hunted in Zambia and Zimbabwe had been set to resume, reversing a 2014 Obama-era ban.

But late on Friday, President Trump tweeted the change was on hold until he could “review all conservation facts”.

The move to relax the ban had sparked immediate anger from animal activists.

“Your shameful actions confirm the rumours that you are unfit for office,” said French actress Bridget Bardot in a letter sent to President Trump.

Image Copyright @realDonaldTrump

Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump: Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!Image Copyright @realDonaldTrump

Protests spread on social media with many sharing images of President Trump’s sons posing with dead animals during their hunting trips in Africa.

One photo of Donald Trump Jr shows him holding the amputated tail of a dead elephant.

Image Copyright @funder

Twitter post by @funder: Trump administration plans to reverse Obama-era ban on import of elephant trophies from Africa. Great news for @DonaldJTrumpJr. Image Copyright @funder

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) had argued that hunting fees could aid conservation of the endangered animals.

Experts say that populations of African elephants are plummeting.

Their numbers dropped by about 30% from 2007-14, according to the 2016 Great Elephant Census.

The non-profit group’s report found a population drop of 6% in Zimbabwe alone.

Despite their listing under the Endangered Species Act, there is a provision in US law that allows permits to import animal parts if there is sufficient evidence that the fees generated will actually benefit species conservation.

In 2015 a US dentist from Minnesota killed a famous lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

Cecil’s death triggered an outrage in the US and Zimbabwe, and briefly forced the hunter into hiding.

Media captionThe BBC’s Rebecca Morelle: “The black market is growing and growing”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42035832

Small steps forward as UN climate talks end in Bonn

Fiji Cop23Image copyright
Malcolm Senior

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This climate conference, presided over by Fiji, has achieved progress on technical issues

UN climate talks in Bonn have concluded with progress on technical issues, but with bigger questions about cutting carbon unresolved.

Delegates say they are pleased that the rulebook for the Paris climate agreement is finally coming together.

But these technical discussions took place against the backdrop of a larger battle about coal, oil and gas.

It means that next year’s conference in Poland is set for a major showdown on the future of fossil fuels.

This meeting, known as COP23, was tasked with clarifying complex operational issues around the workings of the Paris climate agreement.

One of the most important elements was the development of a process that would help countries to review and ratchet up their commitments to cut carbon.

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Fiji, holding the presidency of this meeting, proposed what’s being called the Talanoa Dialogue.

Over the next year, a series of discussions will take place to help countries look at the promises they have made under the Paris pact.

“A key element in Poland is this Talanoa dialogue, to make sure it doesn’t result in just a talk show,” said Yamide Dagnet with the World Resources Institute.

“In Poland, ministers will have to look each other in the eye and say they will go home and enhance their actions, so that by 2020 we end up with national plans that will be a much more ambitious set of climate actions.”

Looming over these discussions in Bonn was the question of coal, oil and gas.

US coal and nuclear companies organised a presentation here arguing that fossil fuels should be a key part of the solution to rising temperatures.

Glimmers of hope

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin

Optimistic would be too strong. Slightly less pessimistic would be more accurate. After two decades of grindingly under-ambitious conferences, at last a faint glimmer of light.

The flamboyant flourish of the Paris accord offered more dramatic cause for optimism, with its world leaders, hugs and tears.

But dull Bonn gave a more prosaic hint of what might be achieved if politicians can capitalise on a world shifting towards clean technology far faster than anyone could have expected.

Trump’s snub didn’t derail negotiations, which were mostly cordial, with a clear common goal.

Governments can now see a clean energy future is not just achievable but affordable. Many know they need to cut emissions further, and some are ready to do so.

However, the gulf remains between aspiration and actions. There is acrimony also over the lack of cash to help poor nations.

And the venue of the next annual meeting – Poland’s coal capital Katowice.

So, the battle’s not over, but real-world energy economics are on the cusp of overtaking politics as the main driver of climate protection.

And that’s a glimmer indeed.

Their meeting was interrupted by dozens of singing protestors, who echoed the feelings of many delegates that unabated fossil fuels shouldn’t be part of the future energy mix.

The US seemed to have a divided presence at this gathering.

Leaders from states and cities that want to stay in the Paris agreement were highly visible.

President Trump could “tweet his fingers off, but he won’t stop us,” said Governor Jay Inslee from Washington State.

White House special adviser on climate change, George David Banks, told reporters that President Trump was still open to staying in the Paris pact.

“The President has said multiple times that he is willing to consider re-engaging if he can find or identify terms that are suitable, that are fair to the United States,” he said.

That line didn’t seem to impress many attendees who said there could be no re-negotiation.

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Malcolm Senior

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There are concerns that next year’s conference in Poland could slow progress on cutting carbon

Even the US official negotiating team struck a different tone from the White House when they made their national statement to the meeting. There wasn’t a single mention of coal or fossil fuels.

Instead, it stated that the while the US might be out of the Paris deal, it wasn’t walking away from international climate discussions in one form or another.

“The United States intends to remain engaged with our many partners and allies around the world on these issues, here in the UN Framework Convention and everywhere else.”

In a further rebuff to those who came here to promote fossil fuels, the UK, Canada and Mexico, close allies and neighbours of the US, led a new global alliance to move away from coal.

Some 20 countries have signed up to end their reliance on unabated coal as an energy source. The Powering Past Coal Alliance hopes to have 50 members by the time of next year’s meeting in Poland.

2018′s summit in Katowice is seen as a critical junction on the road to making the Paris agreement work effectively when it comes into force in 2020.

By next December, the rulebook needs to be finished and there is to be a key review of carbon-cutting commitments made in 2015.

Many delegates are concerned that Poland’s widespread and continued use of coal makes it unlikely that there will be decisive steps taken at the meeting.

Some observers believe that measures are being taken to ensure that Poland doesn’t derail the momentum that has built up since Paris, and generally maintained here in Bonn.

“We had to leave Bonn with the process intact,” said one seasoned observer.

“We now need a series of ministerial meetings in the coming months to make political progress on the key elements, so that we box in Poland over the next year.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42032229

SSTL to build Canadian satellite constellation

Brazilian fields: There is a growing market in imagery to assist farmersImage copyright

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Brazilian fields: There is a growing market in imagery to assist farmers

The Canadian UrtheCast company has formally placed a contract with UK firm SSTL to build its UrtheDaily Earth observation (EO) constellation.

This network of spacecraft, due to launch in 2020, will image the entire global landmass (not including Antarctica) every 24 hours.

One of its key uses will be in “smart agriculture” – taking pictures to help farmers better manage their crops.

SSTL is a world leader in manufacturing satellite constellations.

It has produced series of spacecraft for other EO interests, such as the RapidEye network now owned by Planet and the DMC-3 operation leased to the Chinese concern 21AT.

SSTL is also in the consortium that makes multiple spacecraft for the European Commission’s satellite-navigation system, Galileo.

The Guildford-based manufacturer has been working on the UrtheDaily concept with UrtheCast for a while.

It would see, most probably, eight spacecraft launched into a polar orbit about 600km above the planet.

Arranged like a pearl necklace, these satellites would follow each other, crossing the equator at 10:30 local time.

They would gather something on the order of 140 million square km of land imagery a day (clouds permitting) at a resolution of about 5m.

UrtheCast is a relatively new operator. It started out taking pictures of the Earth from the space station using British-built cameras, and has since acquired the Spanish Deimos satellites to complement its business.

It plans also to launch in the 2020s a novel, high-resolution capability that would see eight pairs of optical and radar satellites circling the globe.

This concept is called OptiSAR. Flying radar with optical enables pictures to be gathered in all weathers, even when there is cloud.

The leading radar satellite would also map the cloud cover so that the trailing optical spacecraft could more efficiently target those regions of the Earth’s surface that were clearly observable.

“We’ve been working with UrtheCast on OptiSAR for about three or four years now, and on UrtheDaily for about the the last year, year and a half,” explained Luis Gomes from SSTL.

“There is an identified need in the market for very high-quality imagery at medium resolution, around 5m, for precision agriculture and environmental monitoring.

“We’d already been developing a design for this kind of system and then UrtheCast said it was the kind of thing they wanted.

“The aim is to have all the satellites built by 2020. That’s a challenge, but it’s achievable,” he told BBC News.

SSTL is about to launch a still and video-imaging satellite for the British EO analytics company Earth-i. The spacecraft, dubbed EiX2, will be the first in what is expected to be a large constellation of platforms.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42001852