Steve Bell on the badger cull – cartoon

10.10.13: Steve Bell on thge badger cull

Climate change: Indigenous Australians ‘face disproportionate harm’

Second leaked IPCC report warns number of heatwave-related deaths in Sydney could triple by end of the century

Indigenous children Alice Springs
Indigenous children on the outskirts of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Photograph: AAP/Marianna Massey

Indigenous Australians face “disproportionate” harm from climate change, according to a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The second IPCC report, which is due to be released next March, also warns that climate change could swamp $226bn worth of coastal property via sea-level rises and cause the number of heatwave-related deaths in Sydney to triple by the end of the century.

It says there is “high agreement” among scientists that Indigenous people will face significant challenges from heat stress, extreme weather events and heightened rates of disease by 2100.

“Little adaptation of Indigenous communities to climate change is apparent to date,” the report says.

A sharp increase in heatwaves will impact the broader Australian population, especially older people, through heat-related deaths and hospitalisations. In Sydney, the number of deaths caused by heatwaves is expected to triple from 2.5 deaths for every 100,000 people to 7.4 deaths for every 100,000 people by 2100.

Water and food-borne diseases are projected to increase, with up to 870,000 new cases of bacterial gastroenteritis by 2100. But the IPCC warns there is minimal scientific consensus when it comes to specific disease projections and their link to climate change.

Australia is set to suffer financial as well as human loss, with the IPCC saying sea-level rise is a “significant risk” to the country because of the heavy population skew towards coastal cities and towns.

A rise of 1.1m would affect assets worth $226bn, according to the report, threatening 274,000 residential and 8,600 commercial buildings. Risks to road and rail infrastructure would “increase significantly” with a rise above 0.5m, the report indicates.

“While the magnitude of sea-level rise during the 21st century remains uncertain, its persistence over many centuries implies that realisation of these risks is only a question of time,” it says.

The leaking of the second IPCC report of three comes in the wake of the official release of the headline first report, which was unveiled in September. The initial document, a summation of the work of hundreds of climate scientists from around the world over the past five years, said there was a 95% certainty that humans are responsible for most of the 0.89C rise in average temperatures since 1901.

Australia is set to experience a 6C rise in average temperatures on its hottest days, with the loss of many reptile, bird and mammal species, as well as the celebrated Kakadu wetlands.

Separate research published this week by Australian scientists shows that the impact of el Niño years will be exacerbated by climate change. El Niño is a periodic climate condition which causes warming of the ocean and shifting rainfall patterns in parts of the Pacific region. It can help drive extremely warm years, such as in 1998.

The study team found that areas in the western Pacific, such as eastern Australia, will experience worse droughts during el Niño years.

Scott Power of the Bureau of Meteorology, the lead author of the report, said: “Projections produced by the models indicate that global warming interferes with the impact that el Niño sea-surface temperature patterns have on rainfall. This interference causes an intensification of el Niño-driven drying in the western Pacific and rainfall increases in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.”

Dr Wenju Cai of the CSIRO added: “During el Niño, western Pacific countries – Australasia, including Australia – experience unusually low rainfall, while the eastern equatorial Pacific receives more rainfall than usual.

“This study finds that both the wet and dry anomalies will be greater in future el Niño years. This means that [el Niño]-induced drought and floods will be more intense in the future.”

CHINA : Draft regulation raises fines for polluters

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Editor’s note: In Beijing‘s five-year air pollution control plan unveiled in September, the city said it aims to cut air pollution by a quarter by the end of 2017 (based on 2012 levels). The government plans to inject 200 billion yuan to 300 billion yuan to support different measures to fulfill its targets, including stronger punishments for violations, a congestion tax, promoting clean energy, improving public transport and curbing companies that pollute the air. Source : China Daily 

Violators of Beijing’s air pollution rule may see penalties above 1 million yuan

Beijing is weighing whether to remove its upper limit on fines for violating air pollution regulations next year.

The Beijing government released its second draft of the regulation on Sept 25, scrapping the 1-million-yuan ($163,396) limit and adding five categories of illegal behavior to a list of those for which fines will be doubled.

If the draft is approved, it means that certain actions, such as barbecuing food out in the open and discharging more vehicle exhaust than allowed, may result in heavier fines than currently applied, while serious breaches of regulations may exceed the current 1-million-yuan upper limit.

The new regulation is expected to be implemented in early 2014.

Many polluters have found that obeying pollution regulations is more costly than paying the fines, and the new regulation is an attempt to correct this situation, said Wang Delin, vice-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Beijing People’s Congress.

Chai Fahe, vice-president of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, said that any increases in penalties should be harsher on businesses and more tolerant of individuals.

“It is laudable that the fines have generally become tougher in the second draft of the regulation, but I don’t agree with the item stating that polluting enterprises that fail to relocate or shut down as required will not be subject to a doubled fine,” Chai said.

The number of clauses in the second draft now stands at 130, while the original issued in July had just 96.

 

Public feedback channels set up

Beijing authorities are soliciting suggestions from the public as the capital unveiled a five-year plan to improve air quality.

According to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, suggestions about air pollution measures and sustainable lifestyles have been submitted since mid-September.

People can comment through several channels:

• Bjee.org.cn, the website of the Beijing Public Net for Environmental Protection

• Micro-bloggers can follow and send messages to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service

• Mobile users can follow the Beijing Public Net for Environmental Protection on WeChat, a popular mobile chatting application in China. The QR code for the WeChat account is available on bjee.org.cn

• Suggestions can be e-mailed to jyxc201309@126.com, with the subject line marked “Suggestions for Beautiful Beijing”

• A hotline, 12369, has been set up for complaints and questions about environmental issues

• Letters can be sent to the environmental protection communication center: No 67, Suzhoujie, Haidian district, Beijjing 100089. Envelopes should be marked “Suggestions for Beautiful Beijing”

The authority plans to hold more events in the capital, calling for public participation to improve air quality, including a photography contest. The deadline for submissions is Nov 20.

— Jin Haixing

 

In the first draft, fines would be doubled for those violating a regulation more than twice, with an upper limit of 1 million yuan. Eight exceptions were given to this rule.

The new draft, however, has reduced from eight to three the number of circumstances in which a doubled fine can be avoided, while canceling the upper limit.

In other words, illegally barbecuing food in the open air or dismantling the pollution control devices on motor vehicles without permission may result in doubled fines with no upper limits.

“It is encouraging that open air barbecuing may face much higher fines than the previous upper limit of 20,000 yuan, because such acts greatly affect the air quality nearby,” said 28-year-old Wang Yichen, a resident of the capital.

Wang said there are at least 10 restaurants in a street about 500 meters away from her home on the third floor of a residential building. All of them offer open-air barbecue food in the summer.

“The smoke coming from that street chokes my family so much that we never open our windows at night in summer time,” she said.

Rights and responsibilities

Another highlight in the second draft is a section dedicated to the responsibilities of the government, polluting enterprises and the public, and also the environmental rights of the public.

According to the draft, the public has the right to acquire information about air quality, and to take part in the monitoring and protection of the ambient air.

Residents can ask for information and data on pollution emergencies, the control of exhaust emissions, punishments handed down to local enterprises and so on, from all levels of the capital’s government bodies.

Residents may report polluting behavior to relevant government bodies. Those affected by pollutants may ask the polluters to abide by their responsibilities, eliminate the hazards and compensate for any damage caused. They may even institute legal proceedings through the courts if needed.

“This is a breakthrough because it’s the first time the public’s detailed environmental rights have been officially mentioned,” said Ma Yong, director of the supervision and litigation department at the environmental legal service center of the All-China Environmental Federation, an environmental NGO supervised by the Environmental Protection Ministry.

However, experts on environmental laws and regulations who participated in the creating the draft pointed out that there remains some uncertainty as to how these rights will be exercised in reality.

During the discussion of the draft, some experts suggested that penalties should be calculated on the basis of the number of days on which an infringement occurred, rather than the number of times that a rule was broken. However, this suggestion was not adopted in the new draft.

“Calculating penalties by day is actually more of a principled item than removing the upper limit for fines because the previous 1-million-yuan limit may already be hard enough to reach when the regulation is being implemented,” Ma said.

However, he said that the Environmental Protection Law, which is also currently being amended, has included penalties calculated by day in its draft, and such rules may also be added to the air pollution regulation in the future.

wuwencong@chinadaily.com.cn

The problem with education? Children aren’t feral enough

belle outdoorsView larger picture

‘Instead of being encouraged to observe and explore and think and develop, children are being treated like geese in a foie gras farm.’ Illustration by Belle Mellor

George Monbiot writes in The Guardian What is the best way to knacker a child’s education? Force him or her to spend too long in the classroom. An overview of research into outdoor education by King’s College London found that children who spend time learning in natural environments “perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies”. Exploring the natural world “makes other school subjects rich and relevant and gets apathetic students excited about learning”.

Fieldwork in the countryside, a British study finds, improves long-term memory. Dozens of papers report sharp improvements in attention when children are exposed to wildlife and the great outdoors. Teenage girls taken on a three-week canoeing trip in the United States remained, even 18 months later, more determined, more prepared to speak out and show leadership, and more inclined to challenge conventional notions of femininity.

A child holding some acornsA child from south-east London holding some acorns she found on a forest trail in Wales. Photograph: John RussellStudies of the programmes run by The Wilderness Foundation UK, which takes troubled teenagers into the mountains, found that their self-control, self-awareness and behaviour all improved. Ofsted, the schools inspection service, reports that getting children out of the classroom raises “standards, motivation, personal development and behaviour.”

Last week I saw the evidence myself. With the adventure learning charity WideHorizons, I spent two days taking a group of 10-year-olds from a deprived borough in London rockpooling, and roaming the woods in mid-Wales. Many had never been to the countryside before and had never seen the sea.

I was nervous before I met them. I feared that our differences might set us apart. I thought they might be bored and indifferent. But my fears evaporated as soon as we reached the rockpools.

Within a few minutes, I had them picking up crabs and poking anenomes. When I showed that they could eat live prawns out of the net they were horrified, but curiosity and bravado conquered disgust, and one after another they tried them. Raw prawns are as sweet as grapes: some of the children were soon shovelling them into their mouths. I don’t think there was anyone in the group who managed not to fall into the water. But no one complained.

In the woods the next day we paddled in a stream, rolled down a hill, ate blackberries, tasted mushrooms, had helicopter races with sycamore keys, explored an ant’s nest, broke sticks and collected acorns. Most had never done any of these things before, but they needed no encouragement: the exhilaration with which they explored the living world seemed instinctive. I realised just how little contact they’d had when I discovered that none of them had seen a nettle or knew what happens if you touch it.

But what hit me hardest was this. One boy stood out: he had remarkable powers of observation and intuition. When I mentioned this to his teacher, her reply astonished me: “I must tell him. It’s not something he will have heard before.” When a child as bright and engaged as this is struggling at school, the problem lies not with the child but with the education system. We foster and reward a narrow set of skills.

The governments of this country accept the case for outdoor learning. In 2006 the Departments for Children and Schools, Culture, and the Environment signed a manifesto which says the following: “We strongly support the educational case for learning outside the classroom. If all young people were given these opportunities we believe it would make a significant contribution to raising achievement.” In 2011 the current government published a white paper proposing “action to get more children learning outdoors, removing barriers and increasing schools’ abilities to teach outdoors”.

So what happened? Massive cuts. The BBC reports that 95% of all outdoor education centres have had their entire local-authority funding cut. Instead of being encouraged to observe and explore and think and develop, children are being treated like geese in a foie gras farm. Confined to the classroom, stuffed with rules and facts, dragooned into endless tests: there could scarcely be a better formula for ensuring that they become bored and disaffected.

George Monbiot rockpooling with children from south-east londonGeorge Monbiot rockpooling with children from south-east London. Photograph: John RussellWhen children are demonised by the newspapers, they are often described as feral. But feral is what children should be: it means released from captivity or domestication. Those who live in crowded flats, surrounded by concrete, mown grass and other people’s property, cannot escape their captivity without breaking the law. Games and explorations that are seen as healthy in the countryside are criminalised in the cities. Children who have never visited the countryside – 50% in the UK, according to WideHorizons – live under constant restraint.

Why shouldn’t every child spend a week in the countryside every term? Why shouldn’t everyone be allowed to develop the kind of skills the children I met were learning: rock climbing, gorge scrambling, caving, night walking, ropework and natural history? Getting wet and tired and filthy and cold, immersing yourself, metaphorically and literally, in the natural world: surely by these means you discover more about yourself and the world around you than you do during three months in a classroom. What kind of government would deprive children of this experience?

Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com ; follow @NAEE_UK 

‘The Planet and Stuff’ at The Polka : ‘eye-catching and educational treat’!

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Sarah Simmons of NAEE reports on what happens when climate change hits the stage

The Polka Theatre’s new educational performance, The Planet and Stuff, aims to inform young people about the problems of climate change and what they can do to help solve it. The performance provides fun, interactive and engaging activities which support key areas of both the KS2 and KS3 Science and Geography curricula.

The colourful and eye-catching production, fronted by Felix O’Brien as Joe and Sarah-Jane Scott as Becci, enthusiastically led the audience to tackle the question: “How do we solve climate change?”.  Through bottom wiggles, arm waving, and throwing paper aeroplanes the audience explored the issues of increased levels of carbon dioxide, where it is coming from, and were introduced to ways in which they can help in their every day lives at home and at school.

Uniquely the key facts about climate change weren’t researched by adults, but by the Polka Young Voices Panel, a group of 8 – 13 year olds who come together regularly throughout the year. Prior to the performance, the panel interviewed key players in the climate change debate including: university professors, climate change campaigners and MPs who relayed their thoughts on what children in the audience could do to help solve climate change.

When leaving the auditorium after the performance all the children appeared to be empowered by the performance, chatting amongst themselves about the messages presented and how they plan to solve climate change.  The Planet and Stuff is a thoroughly enjoyable educational performance and definitely well worth a visit to support teaching in both Geography and Science lessons.

 

The Planet and Stuff will be showing at the Polka Theatre until Saturday 26th October 2013. For more information visit http://www.polkatheatre.com/

Twitter : https://twitter.com/NAEE_UK ;  https://twitter.com/polkatheatre ; https://twitter.com/LearnFromNature

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