19th September 2020

Technology Google’s zero carbon footprint and other tech news

Technology Google’s zero carbon footprint and other tech news


BBC Click’s Paul Carter reports on some of the best technology news stories this week including:

  • Apple announces a new workout subscription programme called Fitness Plus
  • Google says it has now compensated for all the carbon it has ever created – the company became carbon neutral in 2007
  • Scientists discover phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus – on Earth the gas is typically associated with microbes

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick

19th September 2020

Environment £14k alligator bag destroyed over missing import permit

Environment £14k alligator bag destroyed over missing import permit


environment An alligator handbag.Image copyright
Australian government

An alligator-skin handbag worth A$26,000 (£14,000; $19,000) is to be destroyed after a woman imported it into Australia without a permit.

The luxury bag, from a Saint Laurent boutique in France, was seized by the Australian Border Force in Perth.

Alligator-skin products are allowed to be imported into Australia, but shoppers must obtain an A$70 permit.

Australia’s environment minister called it a “costly reminder” to apply for the correct paperwork.

While the woman is out of pocket A$26,313, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said it decided to take no further action.

The maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences in Australia is 10 years in prison and a A$222,000 fine.

While products made from alligator are allowed into Australia they are strictly regulated through its Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“We all need to be aware of what we’re purchasing online as restricting the trade of animal products is crucial to the long-term survival of endangered species,” said Sussan Ley, the country’s Minister for the Environment.

She said the government “closely monitors what comes in and out of Australia to stop and deter the illegal wildlife trade”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionFlorida home finds reptile intruder

The handbag shopper had arranged a CITES export permit from France, but didn’t make an application for an import permit from the Australian CITES Management Authority.

Governments across the world have been clamping down on the trade of over-exploited species such as alligators, with critics say are fuelled by the fashion industry.

The Australian government added that it works hard to “detect cases of illegally imported exotic wildlife products at the border, including fashion accessories, tourist trinkets, furs, taxidermy animals and ivory”.

19th September 2020

Environment Thai national park mails trash back to tourists

Environment Thai national park mails trash back to tourists


environment Trash plastic bagImage copyright

If you litter in this Thai national park, your rubbish may just come back to haunt you.

Well, not exactly haunt, but it’ll be shipped to your home as a pointed reminder that when out in nature, you had better clean up after yourself.

Authorities in the popular Khao Yai National Park near Bangkok will start sending rubbish back to litterers, Thailand’s environment minister said.

Offenders will also be registered with the police.

Visitors to the park have to register with their addresses, making it easy for rangers to track them down if they leave rubbish behind.

Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa posted pictures of litter collected in cardboard parcels ready to be shipped on his Facebook account.

“Your trash – we’ll send it back to you,” the post warns, reminding people that littering in a national park is an offence and punishable with up to five years in prison and hefty fines.

Along with empty plastic bottles, cans and chips wrappings, the box in the Facebook post contains a polite note saying: “You forgot these things at Khao Yai National Park”.

Park authorities say the rubbish left behind can be particularly dangerous for animals who may try to eat it.

Khao Yai National Park which is north-east of the Thai capital Bangkok stretches across more than 2,000 sq km (770 sq miles) and is very popular with hikers.

It’s the oldest national park in Thailand and known for its waterfalls, animals and scenery.

19th September 2020

Environment Environment activists: ‘I got death and rape threats’

Environment Environment activists: ‘I got death and rape threats’


Last year, 212 environmental activists around the world were killed. It’s the worst year on record since the charity Global Witness started tracking deaths in 2012.

Women and indigenous activists are particularly under threat.

BBC Minute’s Olivia Le Poidevin speaks to environmental activists from the Philippines and Colombia who say they have received death and rape threats.

Reporter: Olivia Le Poidevin

Producer: Hannah Simpson

19th September 2020

Environment US election 2020: What is Trump’s record on the environment?

Environment US election 2020: What is Trump’s record on the environment?


environment US President Trump speaks during a briefing on wildfires with local and federal fire and emergency officials in SacramentoImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

President Trump at a briefing on wildfires in California

As forest fires blaze in the western states and a new hurricane hits the southern coast of America, President Donald Trump has caused controversy by questioning the science around climate change.

At the same time, he has called himself a “great environmentalist”, touting successes in conservation, wildlife protection and the banning of some off-shore drilling.

We have taken a look at what he has said and done on environmental issues.

Environment Trump: ‘It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch… I don’t think science knows, actually.’

These comments were in response to California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, who said to the president: “We want to work with you to really recognise the changing climate.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Mr Trump’s record on the environment has become a controversial campaign issue

Mr Trump has received widespread criticism from scientific experts on this issue.

Dr Chris Brierley, an associate professor in climate science at UCL, said the world was getting warmer and would continue to do so.

“You’ll have some anomalously cold years and some anomalously hot years but it is certainly going up,” he said.

And there is an overwhelming scientific consensus these rising temperatures are being driven by human actions.

Nasa, the US space agency, says: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

But the president has shown little, if any, commitment to tackling climate change and last year withdrew the US from the Paris accord, a multilateral agreement to tackle global warming.

Environment Trump: ‘Right now we have the cleanest air we’ve ever had in this country, let’s say over the last 40 years.’

Over the past few decades, air quality – a measure of six major pollutants – has improved significantly in the US.

From 1970 to 2019, the overall level of these pollutants fell by 77%, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

And this trend has largely continued into Mr Trump’s administration, with a 7% fall between 2017 and 2019, which is why the EPA says the US currently has the cleanest air on record.

Environment Air pollution in the US has been improving

But whether these achievements are a result of actions taken by the president or part of a longer-term trend away from polluting energy sources such as coal is contested by experts.

“The decisions of his administration to weaken numerous air-quality standards reveal his clear intent to worsen air quality in the long run,” says H Christopher Frey, a professor at North Carolina State University and former chief of the EPA’s air-quality scientific advisory board.

Other factors such as weather events can also have a heavy impact on pollution.

Environment Trump: ‘We’re just a small speck. They make up a big preponderance of the pollution.’

President Trump said this in reference to China, India and Russia, seeking to downplay America’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Nobody ever talks about that,” he said.

Environment Carbon dioxide emissions from world powers

But the US is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide worldwide, behind China.

And when you look at emissions per person, it ranks higher than all of the three countries Mr Trump mentioned.

Environment Greenhouse gas emissions per capita

Environment Trump: ‘I’m committed to ensuring the United States has the… cleanest water on Earth.’

The US is ranked 26th in the world on sanitation and drinking water, according to Yale University’s 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

On this ranking, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the UK have the cleanest water.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The Colorado River

The government has been criticised for repealing the 2015 Waters of the United States rule.

This had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near bodies of water but was seen as restrictive for farmers and industrial workers.

“The revisions to the Waters of the US rule remove a significant number of waters and wetlands from the protection of the Clean Water Act, potentially impacting water quality and leading to the destruction of more wetlands,” says Hana Vizcarra, an environment lawyer at Harvard University.

Environment Trump: ‘I signed the Great American Outdoors Act, the most significant investment in our national parks in over a century.’

The US Congress has approved $9.5bn (£7.5bn) of funding for national parks over the next five years.

The bill, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, will also increase by $900m a year funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, created in 1965.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Yosemite National Park

President Trump had previously expressed support for cutting funding for conservation but changed his mind this summer and signed the bill into law.

“Passing the Great American Outdoors Act is quite simply the most significant investment in conservation in decades,” National Wildlife Federation president and chief executive Collin O’Mara says.

And National Parks Conservation Association president and chief executive Theresa Pierno says: “This is the largest investment our country has made in our national parks and public lands in more than 50 years.”

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19th September 2020

Environment West Indies name strong squad for England Twenty20 tour

Environment West Indies name strong squad for England Twenty20 tour


environment West Indies' Shemaine Campbelle catches the ball as England's Nat Sciver runs towards the wickets
England beat West Indies to reach the T20 World Cup semi-finals in March

West Indies have named a strong squad for September’s five-game Twenty20 tour of England.

Fourteen of the 18-strong squad were included in the side at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia earlier in 2020.

All players were given the option to decline selection for any Covid-19-related concern, with Anisa Mohammed the only one to do so.

Kaysia Schultz is the only uncapped played in the squad.

West Indies will play five T20 matches against England from 21-30 September in a bio-secure environment, with games at the Incora County Ground in Derby.

The third T20, on 26 September, will be live on BBC TV – the first time international women’s cricket has been on free-to-air television since the 1993 Women’s World Cup.

West Indies squad: Stafanie Taylor, Afy Fletcher, Hayley Matthews, Aaliyah Alleyne, Cherry Ann Fraser, Natasha Mclean, Shemaine Campbelle, Shabika Gajnabi, Chedean Nation, Britney Cooper, Sheneta Grimmond, Karishma Ramharack, Shamilia Connell, Chinelle Henry, Kaysia Schultz, Deandra Dottin, Lee Ann Kirby, Shakera Selman.

19th September 2020

Environment US Open duo quarantined after physio’s positive Covid test

Environment US Open duo quarantined after physio’s positive Covid test


environment Guido Pella returns a serve at the ATP Cup in 2020
Guido Pella reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year

The participation of two players in the US Open is in doubt after their physio was the only person out of 1,400 to test positive for coronavirus.

Argentina’s Guido Pella, ranked 35th, and Bolivian world number 94 Hugo Dellien have been placed in quarantine following Juan Galvan’s result.

The pair are out of the Cincinnati Masters, which starts on Friday and is also being played at Flushing Meadows.

The US Open takes place at the same New York venue from 31 August.

Both tournaments will be held without fans and players will have to follow strict measures inside the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) safety bubble.

The USTA measures within the controlled environment include regular testing, mitigation measures and increased sanitisation.

Galvan has been told to quarantine for 10 days, with the USTA previously saying players would have to isolate for 14 days.

Pella, speaking in a video on social media, said he hoped he would still be able to play in the first Grand Slam event to take place amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Neither Pella nor Dellien have any symptoms.

“After initiating the internal contact tracing process, it was determined that two players have been in close and prolonged contact with this individual,” said Cincinnati organisers.

“In consultation with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, those two players have been removed from the 2020 Western and Southern Open and are currently under quarantine.”

American great Serena Williams, Serbia’s men’s world number one Novak Djokovic and Britain’s three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray are set to compete at Flushing Meadows.

However, a number of leading players – including defending singles champions Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu – have decided not to play because of safety and travel concerns.

environment Andy Murray's posted his negative test on Instagram
Andy Murray posted the results of his negative test on Instagram on Wednesday

environment Around the BBC - Sounds

environment Around the BBC footer - Sounds

19th September 2020

Environment ‘Total failure’ on English river water quality

Environment ‘Total failure’ on English river water quality


environment TyneImage copyright
Getty Images

All of the rivers, lakes and streams in England are polluted, says the Environment Agency.

The figures reveal a complete lack of progress towards the target of 100% healthy waters by 2027.

The most problematic pollutants are chemical sewage discharge, farming, and industrial chemicals.

In 2016, when figures were last published, 16% of waters were classed as good.

In fact, water quality hasn’t deteriorated since then – but it hasn’t improved as promised.

The figures appear to have got worse because stricter tests brought in by the EU have shown up levels of long-banned pollutants such as PCB in the tissues of living organisms.

The Environment Agency said rivers were in a much better state than in the 1990s when water treatment works often discharged foul water into rivers.

But its chief, Emma Howard Boyd, said: “Water quality has plateaued since 2016. She admitted: “It isn’t good enough.”

She said the new figures showed just 14% of rivers are rated good for wildlife and plants.

The Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said the data showed urgent action was needed to reduce sewage discharge and address pollution from agriculture and chemicals.

She said the data was “not comfortable reading” and continued: “We are absolutely committed to achieving the water quality ambitions to improve at least three-quarters of our waters to be as close to their natural state as soon as possible.”

Dr Janina Gray, from Salmon and Trout Conservation, said English river quality was among the worst.

She blamed a lack of political will, lack of investment and dramatic cuts to Environment Agency monitoring for the “depressing” picture.

Water UK, which represents water companies, said farmers were mostly to blame.

The farmers’ union NFU said farmers had greatly reduced the amount of chemicals they used, but recognise that more needs to be done.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “Farmers have made great strides in reducing key agricultural emissions over recent decades. Central to these efforts is a major reduction in the amount of fertiliser applied to farmland and held in the soil, which means far less nutrients are reaching our rivers than in the past.

“However, farmers recognise more needs to be done and will continue to do all they can to protect our water environment.”

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

19th September 2020

Environment Ruby Princess: Australian officials failed to carry out health checks

Environment Ruby Princess: Australian officials failed to carry out health checks



image copyrightGetty Images

image captionInfected passengers were allowed to leave the ship in Sydney in March

Australian officials have admitted they failed to carry out mandatory health checks on board a cruise ship that became the source of one of the country’s largest coronavirus clusters.

Andrew Metcalfe, the secretary for the Department of Agriculture, told the Senate Covid-19 committee on Tuesday that protocols had not been followed.

More than 2,650 people were allowed off the Ruby Princess without being tested.

It led to 28 deaths and about 1,000 infections in Australia and overseas.

Health checks by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment were supposed to be a last line of defence against transmission after coronavirus cases were found on the Ruby Princess.

But the ship was given permission to dock in Sydney and its passengers allowed to leave without being tested, Mr Metcalfe admitted.

“In hindsight, the national protocol was not followed and the officers believed that they were exercising their responsibilities appropriately through the communication that did occur with the [New South Wales] Health Department,” he said.

The Senate committee also heard that Australian Border Force (ABF) officers had checked medical tests of 13 passengers and incorrectly concluded they were coronavirus free, despite the ABF having no authority over such health testing.

Speaking to the committee, the ABF commissioner Michael Outram, acknowledged that it was not his officers’ job to check passengers’ health.

Last week, an inquiry found that New South Wales (NSW) state health authorities made “serious mistakes” in allowing thousands of passengers to disembark when the ship docked in Sydney in March.

The passengers were allowed to leave Sydney Harbour and catch public transport and domestic and overseas flights home.

An inquiry report released last week found NSW Health had mischaracterised the ship as low-risk, and said it was “inexcusable” that officials had failed to immediately obtain results from coronavirus swab tests taken on 19 March – the day the vessel docked.

But the inquiry found no systemic failures and said the mistakes had already been recognised by the state government.

Following the Ruby Princess debacle, at least a dozen other cruise ships were banned from docking at Australian ports due to their virus risk.

19th September 2020

Environment Mauritius oil spill: Satellite images show removal operation

Environment Mauritius oil spill: Satellite images show removal operation



image copyrightMaxar Technologies via Reuters

image captionThe ship’s bow is being towed away from the reef

Satellite images have captured tug boats trying to remove the wreckage of a Japanese-owned ship that ran aground off the coast of Mauritius, spilling tonnes of oil into pristine waters.

The MV Wakashio hit a coral reef, Pointe d’Esny, on 25 July while carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil.

It is now being towed away from the reef, a sanctuary for rare wildlife.

Meanwhile, a team of experts from Japan is travelling to Mauritius to help with the clean-up.

image copyrightMaxar Technologies via Reuters

image captionThe rear of the ship is still stuck

Most of the oil on board was pumped out before the ship broke apart at the weekend but nearly 1,000 tonnes leaked into the sea causing damage to the rich marine ecosystem.

An environment ministry official in Tokyo said the Japanese team would assess the impact on coral reefs. They will also take with them special materials designed to absorb oil.


image captionThe ship has leaked nearly 1,000 tonnes of oil into an area known for its pristine waters and rich biodiversity

“The oil leak from the stranded ship has caused severe damage to the people of Mauritius, the economy of which largely relies on tourism and the beautiful ocean,” said Noriaki Sakaguchi, from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“I am terribly distressed. I would like to assess the situation and provide professional advice so that our contribution as an expert team will meet the demands of local people and the government.”

image copyrightNational Crisis Committee

image captionIt is hoped that high tides will speed up the removal of the bow

The operation to remove the bow has so far been hampered by low tides, reports the BBC’s Yasine Mohabuth in Port Louis, but it should progress as surrounding waters deepen.

Meanwhile, experts are trying to decide how to remove the rear section of the vessel, which is still aground on the reef.


image captionThe ship broke apart at the weekend

The ship’s captain, 58-year-old Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, has been arrested over the incident and charged with endangering safe navigation.

Police said crew members had told them there had been a birthday party on the ship the day it ran aground.

Another theory being investigated is that the ship navigated close to the shore in order to pick up WiFi signal.

All images are subject to copyright.

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