The European Union will “vastly overshoot” its Paris climate pledges unless its coal emissions are completely phased out within 15 years, a stress test of the industry has found. Coal’s use is falling by about 1% a year in Europe but still generates a quarter of the continent’s power – and a fifth of its greenhouse gas emissions. If Europe’s 300 coal plants run to the end of their natural lifespans, the EU nations will exceed their carbon budget for coal by 85%, according to a report by the respected thinktank Climate Analytics. It says the EU would need to stop using coal for electricity generation by 2030. More here. Renewable energy sources made up nearly nine-tenths of new power added to Europe’s electricity grids last year, in a sign of the continent’s rapid shift away from fossil fuels. But industry leaders said they were worried about the lack of political support beyond 2020, when binding EU renewable energy targets end.
The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered. However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly. Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted.
The hamburger chain Burger King has been buying animal feed produced in soy plantations carved out by the burning of tropical forests in Brazil and Bolivia, according to a new report. Jaguars, giant anteaters and sloths have all been affected by the disappearance of around 700,000 hectares (1,729,738 acres) of forest land between 2011 and 2015. The campaign group Mighty Earth says that evidence gathered from aerial drones, satellite imaging, supply-chain mapping and field research shows a systematic pattern of forest-burning. Photo of a sloth by G Dallorto.
The UN’s climate chief has been unable to secure a meeting with the US state department as Donald Trump’s administration mulls whether to withdraw the US from the international climate effort. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is currently in the US and has sought a meeting with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and other officials over the commitment of the new administration to global climate goals.
One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. That is the stark view of the world’s leading biologists, ecologists and economists who will gather on Monday to determine the social and economic changes needed to save the planet’s biosphere. “The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” say the organisers of the Biological Extinction conference held at the Vatican this week.
An EU review has revealed multiple failings by the UK in applying environmental law, on the same day that the commission escalated its action against Britain for breaching air pollution limits. Britain has been in breach of EU nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits since 2010, with London overshooting its annual air pollution limit for the whole of 2017 in just the first five days. The Guardian understands that a “reasoned opinion” will now be sent on 15 February to the UK and four other countries: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. If a satisfactory response is not received within two months, a case at the European court could follow.
The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings. The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade. The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.
Supplements of healthy fats could be an immediate way of cutting the harm caused to billions around the world by air pollution, according to emerging research. However, the research also shows air pollution particles can penetrate through the lungs of lab animals into many major organs, including the brain and testicles. This raises the possibility that the health damage caused by toxic air is even greater than currently known. The new research on mice showed that omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs), found in flax, hemp and fish oils, can both prevent and treat the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by air pollution, with the OFAs delivering a 30-50% reduction in harm.