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News on Australia
Scientists ask Australia to strengthen, not weaken, protection for Great Barrier Reef
A convening of nearly 600 tropical biologists and conservation scientists has called upon the Australian government to strengthen protection of the Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The declaration, issued at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott pushes to allow industrial dumping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as well as port development in a nearby coastal area.
Scientists blast Australian government's moves to dismantle environmental protections
On Tuesday a prominent group of conservation scientists condemned the Australian government's recent moves to eliminate protections for native ecosystems, cut research funding, backtrack on commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and step up persecution of individuals and organizations that speak out for the environment.
Two years after coming into effect, Australia kills carbon tax
In a significant victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australian Senate has voted to repeal the country's two-year-old carbon tax. Abbott made dismantling the tax one of the cornerstones of his campaign last September even as Australia remains one of the highest carbon emitters per capita in the industrialized world.
World Heritage Committee takes ten minutes to reject Australia's bid to strip forests of protection
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee today unanimously rejected a controversial proposal by the Australian government to strip 74,000 hectares of temperate rainforest from a World Heritage Site in Tasmania. In an embarrassing setback for the Australia government, it took the committee less than ten minutes to unanimously reject the proposal.
Australia sees rise in greenwashing front groups
Australia is seeing a rise in groups that purport to champion environmental causes but are actually actively undermining them as front organizations for industrial interests, argues an op-ed published in The Ecologist.
Tree-huggers: koalas cuddle up to keep cool
For animals that live in places that are both hot and dry, using valuable water stores to cool off via evaporation may put them at risk of dehydration. Now, as described in a new study published in Biology Letters, it seems that koalas have figured out a way to stay both cool and dry: by hugging trees.
Plan to shrink World Heritage forest in Tasmania 'clearly inappropriate,' says IUCN
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has roundly criticized Australia's proposal to remove 74,000 hectares of temperate rainforest from the World Heritage Committee. In a report to the global organization, the IUCN argues that the removal of these forests would "impact negatively" on the site's overall value.
Olinguito, tinkerbell, and a dragon: meet the top 10 new species of 2013
Out of around 18,000 new species described and named last year, scientists have highlighted ten in an effort to raise awareness about the imperiled biodiversity around us. Each species—from a teddy-bear-like carnivore in the Andes to a microbe that survives clean rooms where spaceships are built—stands out from the crowd for one reason or another.
Scientists discover giant sperm fossilized in bat feces (PHOTOS)
In a cave in Australia, researchers from the University of New South Wales discovered giant fossilized sperm. The sperm were produced 17 million years ago by a group of tiny, shelled crustaceans called ostracods, making them the oldest fossilized sperm ever found. The results were published recently in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Coral could prevent HIV: newly discovered protein blocks infection
In the waters off the coast of northern Australia lives a species of feathery coral. Years ago, bits of it were collected by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and stored at the National Cancer Institute’s extract repository, along with 200,000 other samples. Researchers retrieved and tested this coral sample, and recently reported that it was very effective at blocking HIV infection of host cells.
Australians rally to save World Heritage Site from chopping block
Yesterday, nearly 2,000 people held a rally to show support for a Tasmanian forest that the Australian government wants stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites and logged.
Australia proposes banning environmental boycotts
What do you do when a company is repeatedly caught trashing the environment and refuses to change its ways? Boycott! Activists and campaigners often use boycotting a company's products when other methods have failed, yet in Australia such boycotts could soon become illegal.
Court partially stops Japan's 'scientific' whaling, but Pacific harvests to continue
Japan has harvested thousands of whales in North Pacific and Antarctic waters since the implementation of a global ban on whaling, eliciting harsh criticism from the international community. Now, in a landmark decision, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that Japan must cease its whaling activities in the Antarctic.
Scientists blast Australian leader's proposed ban on parks
A group of prominent scientists have blasted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pledge to oppose the creation of any new protected areas in Australia. The Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers or ALERT, a coalition of conservation scientists, said Abbott is sending the wrong message to the world in promoting industrial logging over protection of the country's native forests.
Australia proposes removing old-growth forests from World Heritage Site
Last year, after decades of fighting, environmentalists and the forestry industry reached a landmark agreement that added 170,000 hectares of old-growth forest in Tasmania as a part of a World Heritage Site. But less than a year later and that so-called peace agreement is in danger of unraveling. The new Australian government, under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is going ahead with removing 74,000 hectares (43 percent) from the World Heritage site.
Environmental groups: top secret Pacific trade agreement to sacrifice wildlife, environment
Environmental groups have blasted draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) released yesterday by WikiLeaks as potentially devastating to the environment and wildlife. The massive 12-nation free trade agreement has been negotiated in secret now for almost four years, and the information release by WikiLeaks shows that key environmental safeguards in the agreement are being stripped away, including a ban on shark finning and illegal logging, as well as legally-enforced pollution regulations.
Down Under scorching: Australia experiences warmest year on record
Australia had its warmest year on record, with annual temperatures 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1961-1990 average, according to a new analysis from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). This is 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than the previous warmest year on record—2005—for Australia. Global warming due to burning fossil fuels is increasing temperatures worldwide.
Reforestation can't offset massive fossil fuels emissions
With the Australian, Japanese, and Canadian governments making an about-face on carbon-emissions reduction targets during the Warsaw climate summit, some experts are warning that the global need for solutions offsetting CO2 emissions is passing a "red line." Land-based mitigation practices comprise one of the solutions on the table as a result of both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol; however, a paper published in Nature Climate Change by an international team led by Brendan Mackey, has raised the looming question of whether or not land-based practices can actually improve CO2 levels as much as hoped.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2013
1. Carbon concentrations hit 400ppm while the IPCC sets global carbon budget: For the first time since our appearance on Earth, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. The last time concentrations were this high for a sustained period was 4-5 million years ago when temperatures were 10 degrees Celsius higher. Meanwhile, in the slow-moving effort to curb carbon emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) crafted a global carbon budget showing that most of the world's fossil fuel reserves must be left untouched if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Citizen groups walk out of UN Climate Summit to protest lack of ambition
Thirteen citizen groups—including Oxfam, Greenpeace, and WWF—have walked out of ongoing climate talks in Warsaw to protest what they view as a lack of ambition and long-stalled progress on combating global climate change. Nearly 200 governments are currently meeting in Warsaw, Poland at the the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is meant to prepare the way for a new agreement in 2015.
60,000 protest in Australia to keep carbon price
Around 60,000 Australians marched yesterday across the country calling on their government not to go backwards on climate action, according to organizers. Australia has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy with the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, including legislation to end its carbon pricing, cutting funding to renewable energies, and obstructing progress at the ongoing UN Climate Summit in Warsaw.
Is Australia becoming the new Canada in terms of climate inaction?
For many concerned about climate change, Australia has suddenly become the new Canada. With the election of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in September, the land down under has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy, including pushing to end its fledgling carbon emissions program which was only implemented in 2012 and cutting funding for renewable energy. These move come at a time when Australia has just undergone its warmest 12 months on record and suffered from record bushfires.
Giant turtle-devouring duck-billed platypus discovered
Based on a single tooth from Australia, scientists believe they have discovered a giant, meter-long (3.3 feet) duck-billed platypus that likely fed on fish, frogs, and even turtles, according to a new study in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. At least twice the size of a modern duckbilled platypus, the scientists say the extinct giant likely lived between 15 and 5 million years ago.
DNA tests reveal new dolphin species (photos)
With the help of DNA tests, scientists have declared a new dolphin species that dwells off the coast of northern Australia. The discovery was made after a team of researchers looked at the world's humpback dolphins (in the genus Sousa), which sport telltale humps just behind their dorsal fins. While long-known to science, the new, as-yet-unnamed species was previously lumped with other humpback dolphins in the Indo-Pacific region.
New to science: 2 lizards, 1 frog discovered on Australian expedition (pictures)
Researchers from James Cook University and National Geographic discovered three new herp species — a cryptic leaf-tail gecko, a colorful skink, and a frog — during an expedition to northeastern Australia. The species are described in three papers published in October in the journal Zootaxa.
'Sustainable' tropical timber trade a misnomer, says group
The production and trade in 'sustainable' timber products in Southeast Asia is mostly 'a mirage' due to questionable forestry practices and loopholes in import regulations, alleges a new report from Friends of the Earth International.
Australia officially bans imports of illegally-logged timber
Australia has passed long-debated laws to prohibit the import and trade of illegally logged timber.
Shark overfishing hurts coral reefs
Overfishing for sharks is having detrimental effects on coral reefs, finds a new study published in the journal PLOS One.
Loose laws threaten Australia's wildlife
Kookaburras, koalas and kangaroos—Australia is well known for its charismatic animals and vast, seemingly untamable, wild spaces. But throughout the country, the national parks and reserves that protect these unique animals and ecosystems have come under increasing threat. New rules and relaxed regulations, which bolster immediate economic growth, are putting pressure on Australia's already-threatened biodiversity.
Google Earth presents fish-eye view of coral reefs
You can now visit up-close and personal some of the world's most imperiled ecosystems on Google Earth: coral reefs. The Google team is working with scientists to provide 360 degree panoramas, similar to Google street-view, to give armchair ecologists a chance to experience the most biodiverse ecosystems under the waves.