General / Off-Topic Recycle or Die! (the elite environmental thread)

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When i first played Frontier on my Amiga back in the day (oh what glorious days!) one of the side parts of the game that really chimed with me, and helped make Elite one of my all time great games, were those 'Recycle or Die' banners you got to see when docking/docked. It was a message that stuck with me and added to my growing understanding about all our collective impact on the world around us, and helped push me to be a keen 'recycler' long before we started getting bins from the government to help. Anyway this thread will be where i post, and welcome others too also, stuff related to the general environmental concerns we are all facing today.

To kick it off some latest news on the state of the melting Arctic ice cap:

'Melting Arctic ice cap falls to well below average':

The Arctic ice cap melted to hundreds of thousands of square miles below average this summer, according to data released late on Tuesday.

Climate change is pushing temperatures up most rapidly in the polar regions and left the extent of Arctic sea ice at 1.79m sq miles at the end of the summer melt season.

This is the time when it reaches its lowest area for the year, before starting to grow again as winter approaches. The 2017 minimum was 610,000 sqmiles below the 1981-2010 average and the eighth lowest year in the 38-year satellite record.

Scientists from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said the rate of ice loss this summer had been slowed by cool mid-summer weather over the central Arctic Ocean. The record minimum came in 2012, when the ice area fell to 483,000 square miles below the 2017 extent.

Ted Scambos at NSIDC said the Arctic sea ice had set a record for the smallest winter extent earlier in 2017 and was on track to be close to the 2012 record minimum until July. But a cloudy and cooler than normal August slowed the melting.

“Weather patterns in August saved the day,” Scambos said. The fast shrinking Arctic ice cap is increasingly thought to have major impacts on extreme weather patterns much further south, due to its influence on the jet stream. Floods, heatwaves and severe winters in Europe, Asia and North America have all been linked to the Arctic meltdown. “It’s bound to have an impact on global climate,” Scambos said.
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I always recycle all of my modules and never just sell them or throw them away. Does that count?

It is interesting that the 'we really need to recycle or bad things are going to happen' thing; has been around for decades and yet we (countries in general) still recycle less than 50% of what we could do. Plus, over the last few years another word has come into the recycling area; renewables. Which gives big business licence to just burn the stuff, to generate heat and power. Instead of re-using the product in some way.
A very interesting development:

'Oil companies sued to pay for cost of rising sea levels, climate change':

I predicted this sort of action a few years ago (and the reasons why it would be needed as part of the cost-management to off-set AGW (or human caused climate change). It will be very interesting to see where this suit goes, and what the global impact of it will be. As an environmentalist (as in one whom cares what world i leave to my children) i can only welcome this.


In other environmental news, a new study aims to look at the issues of modern day agricultural pesticide use, and the harm it is doing:

'Assumed safety of pesticide use is false, says top government scientist':

I wonder how long they will remain a 'top government scientist'? But this is much needed 'honesty' on the subject, and i hope will start an internal debate and further study. The Great British wildlife needs it, as do we all.
We are right in a 'tipping point' in terms of our (mankinds) global effect on our natural worlds environment, we can carry on as before, and maybe have a couple hundred years of 'manageable' negative effects, before things get so messed up we probably will be facing some kind of global collapse; in relation to how we run the world and the chaos that follows this period. Certainly it would not be a world we recognise (no internet forums to discuss stuff etc).

The other option is we change things, change the normal state of play and how we operate in our world, and it all starts with us, each one of us. Every action we take (or don't take) has a consequence, and unlike the classic narrative of the lone hero on a quest to save the world, our current and future narrative is about all of us 'heroes' doing their bit to save the world. And on that subject here are a few topics to think about.

'David Attenborough on the scourge of the oceans: 'I remember being told plastic doesn't decay, it's wonderful':

His sequel to The Blue Planet will focus not only on the marvels of sea life but also the threats to it. The naturalist explains why plastic pollution, climate change and overpopulation are problems too urgent to be left to ecologists

David Attenborough vividly remembers, nearly 80 years on, his first encounter with one of the worst scourges of the planet. He was a schoolboy. “I remember my headmaster, who was also my science master, saying: ‘Boys, we’ve entered a new era! We’ve entered, we’ll be proud to say, the plastic era. And what is so wonderful about this is we’ve used all our scientific ingenuity to make sure that it’s virtually indestructible. It doesn’t decay, you know, it’s wonderful.’”

Attenborough lets the last word hang in the air, eyebrows and hands raised. Then the hands fall. “Now we dump thousands of tonnes of it, every year, into the sea, and it has catastrophic effects.”
Sir David is certainly right up there as one of my life long heroes, so i'm really looking forward to his new series.


'Sixth mass extinction of wildlife also threatens global food supplies':

The sixth mass extinction of global wildlife already under way is seriously threatening the world’s food supplies, according to experts.

“Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” said Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, a research group that published a new report on Tuesday.

“If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said in an article for the Guardian. “This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing. It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”

Three-quarters of the world’s food today comes from just 12 crops and five animal species and this leaves supplies very vulnerable to disease and pests that can sweep through large areas of monocultures, as happened in the Irish potato famine when a million people starved to death. Reliance on only a few strains also means the world’s fast changing climate will cut yields just as the demand from a growing global population is rising.
A growing problem, especially as we enter into the stronger feedback loops of AGW (human caused climate change). There have been some spectacular crop failures over recent years, nothing to so far completely disrupt the global food supply chain, but it is going to happen and maybe not too far off?


'In shift towards electric vehicles, Volkswagen looking for cobalt contracts':

Volkswagen is looking for serious, long-term contracts with cobalt producers, according to a Reuters report on Friday. Cobalt is a common component in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and it's projected to command more and more demand as electric vehicles are adopted in greater numbers. Currently cobalt is trading at about $26 per pound.

Securing reserves of the kinds of materials used in batteries will be key to Volkswagen’s future growth. After the so-called “dieselgate” scandal of 2015, Volkswagen Group pledged to pivot away from diesel to electric vehicles (EVs). The German automaker has said it wants to produce up to 3 million electric vehicles by 2025 and offer 80 electric vehicle models across all 12 brands by 2030. If VW Group succeeds, it would be a considerable feat given that so far there are only about 2 million EVs of any brand on the road worldwide.

As more automakers move to develop EVs, the minerals used to make car batteries will become more and more important. In 2015, Tesla secured two contracts with mining companies Bacanora Minerals and Rare Earth Minerals, as well as Pure Energy Minerals, to explore lithium deposits in northern Nevada and Mexico. Cobalt is often used as a component in electric powertrain batteries because cobalt-based lithium batteries tend to have high energy density (although other materials like nickel and manganese can be used in lithium-ion batteries as well, depending on the battery application).

Cobalt is primarily mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), often under exploitative conditions. According to UNICEF and Amnesty International, around 40,000 children are involved in cobalt mining in DRC where they make US$1-2 per day. Apparently, the wording of Volkswagen’s request for proposals stipulates that child labor is not to be used to produce the cobalt the company buys. (As always, such stipulations are only good when enforced. A 2016 report from The Washington Post shed light on the fact that many companies turn a blind eye to human rights abuses perpetuated by materials suppliers.)
I'm a bit of an EV fan, nearly got one a couple of years back, but at the time as a one car family, the range was just not good enough on the affordable options, and the house electrics needed modernisation. It's different now, and i wish i'd probably kept running the old banger a few more years before buying a new (low CO2 emission petrol version) ICE car (ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine, and the term is used quite widely in EV circles). But yeah new technology that can offer us a way out of increasing CO2 output, does come with some drawbacks as the arstechnica article goes into. There is no easy option going forward, but we do need to make this shift (to a global green/clean energy usage) sooner rather than later.
One of the big issues at the heart of our current CO2 output crisis is the way this is being publicly funded, without most of us having a say in the matter:

'European countries spend billions a year on fossil fuel subsidies, survey shows':

Shelagh Whitley, head of climate and energy at the ODI, said: “The air pollution crisis in cities across Europe and the recent diesel emissions testing scandal have rightly led to increased pressure for governments to act [on air quality]. Yet our analysis shows European countries are providing enormous fossil fuel subsidies to the transport sector.”

“This study shows how governments in Europe and the EU continue to subsidies and finance a reliance on oil, gas and coal, fuelling dangerous climate change and air pollution with taxpayers’ money.”

The EU has provided only about £3bn a year in assistance to fossil fuels through its own budget. Most of that goes towards building infrastructure for gas, which produces far less carbon dioxide than coal, on which much of eastern Europe has been heavily reliant for more than a century.

Wendel Trio, the director of Climate Action Network, said: “The €4bn spent by the EU on fossil fuels, most of which goes to gas infrastructure, locks Europe into fossil fuel dependency for the decades to come. This violates the Paris agreement’s requirement to make finances work for the climate. In addition, over £1.6bn a year is provided by EU member states to support coal-fired power, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. It is unacceptable.”
I'm interested in how western (we European) governments are providing subsidies to the transport sector for fossil fuel usage.

I get how gas may be getting a subsidy via infrastructure building and even how coal may be getting subsidies in a similar way but transport fuel is overwhelmingly petrol and diesel.

A subsidy would imply the full cost of providing the product is not borne by the end user which would mean that the price consumers pay for fuel is less than the production prices.

But a liter of petrol or diesel costs in the region of 20p a liter to find, extract, refine, transport and market, with the remainder being tax (in the UK, most of the EU has similarly high fuel duties).

So unless the actual cost of getting a litre of fuel in a car or trucks tank is more than the £1.20ish we pay (a bit less for those who are able to claim fuel as an expense) how is road fuel subsidised?

I can see a case for sea and air transport fuel being in some way subsidised.
I'm interested in how western (we European) governments are providing subsidies to the transport sector for fossil fuel usage.
By the same measure used to produce these "massive subsidies" (which are actually a decision not to tax, as opposed to a transfer of money from the government to the supplier), you'd say that we're also "subsidising" energy and heating for the populace by not charging full VAT on domestic supply, charitable organisations of any persuasion, small businesses etc etc.

And the report hasn't touched on that much of this "subsidy" (and I object to the use of the term in this context) is necessary to support the renewable industry (both in terms of generation and infrastructure). Put up taxes on "carbon generation", both collapse.

Cheap and readily available energy is the absolute cornerstone of our modern society. Taking that away will kill more people and disrupt global society far more than 2C of warming.

Specifically, fuel poverty is already an issue of note here in the UK. 10% of households in England (Guardian, 2016) are already suffering from it. It's worse in rural areas (20%) which also have less supporting infrastructure. Excess winter deaths (note: this isn't just cold-related but it's a okay proxy) are about 25'000 a year. It's an issue which is absolutely going to get worse, partly because of green levies and associated disruption in the supply market.

And these numpties want to jack the prices up and accomplish what, exactly?
Poor, poor energy companies! They certainly have never taken advantage of their status by inflating prices when it suits them too. I think we can all feel our growing energy bills are obviously fair and nothing to do with profiteering ;)
You miss the point.

Removal of these "subsidies" will immediately add at least 20% (VAT) onto every domestic power bill in the UK. It's nothing to do with the "poor energy companies", because they don't get any direct benefit from these "subsidies". We, the consumer, do at the expense of the public purse not receiving this additional taxation. Some consumers get more because they're already suffering hardship and you're saying that this is collectively a bad thing.

I ask again - what will the removal of this "subsidy" accomplish? Putting the same question more bluntly; how much more energy poverty, financial hardship and cold-related deaths are an acceptable price for the removal of these "subsidies"? Assuming a straight line impact (which it won't be), you're basically advocating for pushing an additional 1.5m UK households into fuel poverty.

I don't think that's a very good idea.
I think you are also missing a point, about how modern global companies focus on profits above all other concerns, even if it means pushing thousands of people into fuel poverty each winter (which is what they do). This is a link that you can also find on the Finnancial Times (but that is behind a paywall), but the figures and gist of it is here in this Guardian link:

So the question becomes, how when these companies keep making record profits each year, are we the suffering consumer expected to think the massive public subsidies they receive are 'fair'?

EDIT: and this more recent article goes into the details of energy companies overcharging us all, to the sum of 1.4 billion between 2012-2015:


Over the years one of the things i've come to realise in my own life is how much stuff i don't actually need, and it is quite an interesting process when you think about how it is my generation (and it started a little with my parents in the 60's onwards) that does not mostly 'make do' or 'repair' their broken things (and mostly have forgotten how to!) but buys new stuff all the time. If you look back to our grandparents era (pre war and just after the war in the 50's), they lived a much more 'sustainable' life. Anyway this coming documentary from a former marine turned nature presenter could have a useful message for many of us?

'Our desire for goods is at the heart of this': Why Bruce Parry wants us all to live more sustainably:

Bruce Parry has made a career out of going native. The Royal Marine-turned-celebrity explorer may not yet be as fully-fledged an institution as David Attenborough, but if the British public were to nominate anyone to paddle up a crocodile-infested creek, tuck into a wriggling dinner or liberate their mind with shamanistic drugs, Parry would surely rank near the top.

So it is worthy of note that this affable and – until now – mainstream film-maker has been forced to part ways with the BBC for his latest project, a documentary that stresses environmental defence begins on the home front.

Due for release from Friday, Tawai: A Voice From the Forest is an empathetic, sumptuously filmed homage to indigenous groups, particularly the Penan, a Bornean community that is held up by anthropologists as a model of a peaceful and egalitarian society.
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A rather surprising and disturbing discovery; 'Alarm as study reveals world’s tropical forests are huge carbon emission source':

The world’s tropical forests are so degraded they have become a source rather than a sink of carbon emissions, according to a new study that highlights the urgent need to protect and restore the Amazon and similar regions.

Researchers found that forest areas in South America, Africa and Asia – which have until recently played a key role in absorbing greenhouse gases – are now releasing 425 teragrams of carbon annually, which is more than all the traffic in the United States.

This is a far greater loss than previously thought and carries extra force because the data emerges from the most detailed examination of the topic ever undertaken. The authors say their findings – published in the journal Science on Thursday – should galvanise policymakers to take remedial action.

“This shows that we can’t just sit back. The forest is not doing what we thought it was doing,” said Alessandro Baccini, who is one of the leader authors of the research team from Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University. “As always, trees are removing carbon from the atmosphere, but the volume of the forest is no longer enough to compensate for the losses. The region is not a sink any more.”

But he said the numbers should be a driver for action. “We need to be positive. Let’s turn tropical forests back into a sink. We need to restore degraded areas” he said. “As far as technology for reducing carbon is concerned, this is low-hanging fruit. We know how to protect and sustain forests. It’s relatively cost effective”
'Coca-Cola increased its production of plastic bottles by a billion last year, says Greenpeace':

Coca-Cola increased its production of throwaway plastic bottles last year by well over a billion, according to analysis by Greenpeace.

The world’s biggest soft drinks company does not disclose how much plastic packaging it puts into the market. But analysis by the campaign group Greenpeace reveals what they say is an increase in production of single-use PET bottles from 2015-2016.

The increase puts Coke’s production at more than 110bn bottles each year, according to Greenpeace.

Coca-Cola has confirmed that single-use plastic bottles made up 59% of its global packaging in 2016 compared to 58% in the 12 months before.

The scale of production contributes to a plastic mountain which is growing vastly year on year. Figures obtained by the Guardian reveal that by 2021 the number of plastic drinks bottles produced globally will reach more than half a trillion.

But only a tiny fraction of these bottles are recycled. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead, most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Louise Edge, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace, said: “Coca-Cola talks the talk on sustainability but the astonishing rate at which it is pumping out single-use plastic bottles is still growing.
One of the companies that has been 'banned' in our family for many decades.
I used to live and work in the Big Smoke, but moved to the country years ago and have never been happier. Anyway while in the city i liked to cycle to work (always on back streets and/or the Thames path), and was amazed at how grubby my day-glow yellow high-vis cycling jacket would get each month due to air pollution (i guess it was that). It seems London has a real critical air-pollution problem currently:

'Revealed: every Londoner breathing dangerous levels of toxic air particle':

The scale of London’s air pollution crisis was laid bare on Wednesday, with new figures showing that every person in the capital is breathing air that exceeds global guidelines for one of the most dangerous toxic particles.

The research, based on the latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, shows that every area in the capital exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for a damaging type of particle known as PM2.5.

It also found that 7.9 million Londoners – nearly 95% of the capital’s population – live in areas that exceed the limit by 50% or more. In central London the average annual levels are almost double the WHO limit of 10 µg/m3.
Pretty serious sounding. Time to break out the air filters and go 'Japanese'?
I used to live and work in the Big Smoke, but moved to the country years ago and have never been happier. Anyway while in the city i liked to cycle to work (always on back streets and/or the Thames path), and was amazed at how grubby my day-glow yellow high-vis cycling jacket would get each month due to air pollution (i guess it was that). It seems London has a real critical air-pollution problem currently:

'Revealed: every Londoner breathing dangerous levels of toxic air particle':

Pretty serious sounding. Time to break out the air filters and go 'Japanese'?
I have always said that you can taste the difference in the air, when you get into London.
I have always said that you can taste the difference in the air, when you get into London.
Living in it, it is hard to tell, but once i had become aware of it (via the 'soot' stains on my cycling jacket) i tend to notice it more when i do a visit back into the Big Smoke (an old name for a current issue). The diesel scandal really has not helped, and governments need to do more over that, and asap.


Carrying on the theme on the damage that mega-farms and industrial scale farming are doing:

'Vast animal-feed crops to satisfy our meat needs are destroying planet':

The ongoing global appetite for meat is having a devastating impact on the environment driven by the production of crop-based feed for animals, a new report has warned.

The vast scale of growing crops such as soy to rear chickens, pigs and other animals puts an enormous strain on natural resources leading to the wide-scale loss of land and species, according to the study from the conservation charity WWF.

Intensive and industrial animal farming also results in less nutritious food, it reveals, highlighting that six intensively reared chickens today have the same amount of omega-3 as found in just one chicken in the 1970s.

And this is about a sleeping giant in relation to global warming, and the real consequences of a warming planet:

'Carbon emissions from warming soils could trigger disastrous feedback loop':

Warming soils are releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break.

The increased production of carbon comes from the microbes within soils, according to a report in the peer-review journal Science, published on Friday.

The 26-year study is one of the biggest of its kind, and is a ground-breaking addition to our scant knowledge of exactly how warming will affect natural systems.

Potential feedback loops, or tipping points, have long been suspected to exist by scientists, and there is some evidence for them in the geological record. What appears to happen is that once warming reaches a certain point, these natural biological factors kick in and can lead to a runaway, and potentially unstoppable, increase in warming.
One of my concerns around Brexit is mentioned is this news article:

'UK withdrawal bill 'rips the heart out of environmental law', say campaigners':

The cornerstones of wildlife and habitat protection have been quietly left out of the withdrawal bill ripping the heart out of environmental law, campaigners say.

A key principle under EU law which provides a robust legal backstop against destruction of the environment – the precautionary principle - has been specifically ruled out of the bill as a means of legal challenge in British courts.

Based on the idea that the environment is unowned, the precautionary principle creates a bottom line forcing those who want to build or develop, for example, to prove in law what they are doing will not damage the environment.

Other key elements of EU legal protection, the polluter pays, and the principle that preventative action should be taken to avert environmental damage, have also been ruled out in the bill as a means to protect the natural world from damage by policymakers, development or industry after Brexit.
As we have seen with the Fracking debacle, the UK has a certain unique geography that means what works ok in another place (like a huge landmass like the USA where small towns don't count) does not mean it will be fine here, and losing the EU environmental protections could be a very harmful thing for the UK's natural species and habitats post Brexit. Expect to see huge multinationals pushing to do business that will destroy what we have in this respect.
First the Bee crisis (and a big deal that is, still), now this:

'Warning of 'ecological Armageddon' after dramatic plunge in insect numbers':

The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists.

Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.

The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said.

The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.
Now i really think, that like with the Bee, the reason is probably the pesticide use, but then again the EU has banned specific pesticides that seem to be the root of the Bee issue? Hmm. But yeah my money is on the pesticides (the clue might be in the name?).
'Global pollution kills millions and threatens 'survival of human societies':

“Pollution is one of the great existential challenges of the [human-dominated] Anthropocene era,” concluded the authors of the Commission on Pollution and Health, published in the Lancet on Friday. “Pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”

Prof Philip Landrigan, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, US, who co-led the commission, said: “We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the Earth can carry.” For example, he said, air pollution deaths in south-east Asia are on track to double by 2050.

Landrigan said the scale of deaths from pollution had surprised the researchers and that two other “real shockers” stood out. First was how quickly modern pollution deaths were rising, while “traditional” pollution deaths – from contaminated water and wood cooking fires – were falling as development work bears fruit.

“Secondly, we hadn’t really got our minds around how much pollution is not counted in the present tally,” he said. “The current figure of nine million is almost certainly an underestimate, probably by several million.”

This is because scientists are still discovering links between pollution and ill health, such as the connection between air pollution and dementia, diabetes and kidney disease. Furthermore, lack of data on many toxic metals and chemicals could not be included in the new analysis.

The researchers estimated the welfare losses from pollution at $4.6tn a year, equivalent to more than 6% of global GDP. “Those costs are so massive they can drag down the economy of countries that are trying to get ahead,” said Landrigan. “We always hear ‘we can’t afford to clean up pollution’ – I say we can’t afford not to clean it up.”
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