Posts Tagged ‘environmental’

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: Scientist Hope They Have a Solution for Dying Coral

July 20, 2018

Australia announced plans Friday to explore concepts such as firing salt into clouds and covering swathes of water with a thin layer of film in a bid to save the embattled Great Barrier Reef.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef, about the size of Japan or Italy, is reeling from two straight years of bleaching as sea temperatures rise because of climate change.

Experts have warned that the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) long area could have suffered irreparable damage.

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While the government has pledged to tackle climate change — the greatest threat to the world’s largest living structure — there has also been a push to explore shorter-term measures to buy the reef some time.

Canberra in January offered Aus$2.0 million (US$1.5 million) to attract innovative ideas to protect the site, which is also under pressure from farming runoff, development and the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish.

Six schemes selected out of a total of 69 submissions will be tested to see if they are feasible.

One selected concept is cloud brightening where salt crystals harvested from seawater are fired into clouds, making them more reflective and therefore deflecting solar rays back into space.

David Mead, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the idea might seem wacky but the proposal has real potential.

“The team have been looking at using a very fine nozzle to pump small droplets of salt water at the rate of several billion per second,” he told national broadcaster ABC.

“The water vaporises and you’re left with a salt particle which will float around, and if you can introduce those into the system you can increase the amount of sunlight reflected back.”

Another idea was a biodegradable “sun shield”, where an ultra-thin film containing light-reflecting particles covers some reef waters to protect corals from heat stress.

“The great thing about the film is it is only a molecule thick so you can swim straight through it and it’ll just keep self-forming,” Andrew Negri from the Australian Institute of Marine Science told the ABC.

Other short-listed projects include mass producing coral larvae with the aid of 3D-printed surfaces to support new growth, and large-scale harvesting and relocation of larvae.

The experimental commissions came as Canberra said Friday it was updating its Aus$2.0 billion “Reef 2050” plan — first unveiled in 2015 — to protect the reef, with further measures to improve water quality.

AFP

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The Great Barrier Reef Is Losing Its Ability to Recover from Bleaching Events

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/qvmb7w/the-great-barrier-reef-is-losing-its-ability-to-recover-from-bleaching-events

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HALF OF THE WORLD’S CORAL REEFS ARE DEAD, BUT A SCIENTIST MAY KNOW HOW TO SAVE THE REST

https://www.newsweek.com/how-save-coral-reefs-extinction-climate-change-1015438

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Apple launches $300 mn ‘green’ fund for China suppliers

July 13, 2018

Apple said on Friday it has established a fund to invest nearly $300 million over the next four years to connect its Chinese suppliers to renewable energy as Beijing pushes an anti-pollution drive.

The US giant said it and 10 initial suppliers would jointly provide the money for the China Clean Energy Fund, aimed at helping the companies make the transition to clean energy.

Apple said the project would produce an initial one gigawatt of clean energy, equivalent to powering nearly a million homes.

© AFP/File | Apple said the project would produce an initial one gigawatt of clean energy, equivalent to powering nearly a million homes

Most of Apple’s products worldwide are assembled in vast production networks in China that employ hundreds of thousands of workers, and the company has taken various steps to reduce resulting carbon emissions.

Apple said in April that its headquarters in Cupertino, California, had gone 100 percent renewable and announced initiatives to achieve the same in other Apple facilities worldwide.

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China’s four-decade transition into an industrial behemoth has brought the side effects of severe air, soil and water pollution, and the government is pushing various initiatives to clean things up including incentives for renewable energy and the electric-car industry.

Among other projects, in late 2016 Apple said it bought a 30 percent stake in subsidiaries of China-based Goldwind, the world’s largest wind turbine maker, to produce renewable energy.

AFP

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Great Barrier Reef: Tourist industry wakes up to reef’s climate risks

July 8, 2018

Tourist operators on the Great Barrier Reef are shifting their stance on climate change, with the peak industry body opposing Adani’s “mega coal mine”, and acknowledging fossil fuel use has to be phased out.

In an unprecedented declaration, a year in the making, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) called on “all our political leaders…to fight for the future of our reef”.

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Great Barrier Reef tour operators are shifting their stance on climate change, and the threat it poses for corals in Australia and around the world.

Photo: Dean Miller, Great Barrier Reef Legacy

“The carbon pollution from coal, oil and gas is heating the air and the oceans to dangerous levels,” the statement said, noting the record marine heatwaves in 2016 and 2017 had damaged coral reefs worldwide. “It’s not too late to save our Reef but time is critical.”

“On climate change, I’m sold,” Col McKenzie, AMPTO’s long-serving chief executive, told Fairfax Media. “It’s a man-made issue.”

By Peter Hannam

The declaration has already drawn dozens of signatories among tourist businesses and adds to local calls for climate action from local government such as Douglas Shire council.

Imogen Zethoven, the society’s reef campaign director, said the tourism industry had been “in a state of shock” after the first bout of mass coral bleaching in 2016, and had resisted discussing climate change.

But a second bout in 2017 brought a recognition that a warming planet “is an existential threat to the reef and the tourism industry”, Ms Zethoven said.

‘Overdue’

Tony Fontes, a dive operator based in the Whitsundays since the 1980s, called AMPTO’s shift “a huge step”.

“It’s overdue but it is happening,” Mr Fontes said. “Basically we need a mass campaign” to protect the reef.

How far the tourist industry push dovetails with the anti-Adani campaign remains to be seen.

Bob Manning, Cairns Regional Council mayor, doubts opposition to the Indian miner’s proposed giant Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin “gets us anywhere”.

Still, “Adani has done us no favour overseas”, Mr Manning said. “It’s hard for us to say we are responsibly managing the reef…but at the same time we’re letting those coal ships through.”

A spokeswoman for Adani said the company remains “100 per cent committed to the Carmichael project and are confident of securing finance”.

“Strict safety and environmental standards already governing shipping along the Queensland coast will ensure there is no impact to the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

‘Global issue’

Ian Macfarlane, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, said coal from the basin “is high energy, lower emission coal when compared with lower quality, higher emission coals sourced from Indonesia and India”.

“The addressing of climate change is a global issue and requires all countries to be involved in lowering emissions,” he said.

Mark Read, acting director of field management at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said the tourism industry’s new stance comes even as visitor numbers rebound to record levels.

“These are the people who spend their lives taking people out, [who have] lived and breathed and tried to make a living through these tough times,” Dr Read said.

Still, the authority is not in a position to discuss curbs on Australian coal, such as the Adani mine.

Climate change “is the thing that the global community most desperately needs to tackle if we’re going to…give the reef a real possible chance for a long-term future,” Dr Read said.

The author travelled to the Great Barrier Reef courtesy of the Climate Council.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/huge-step-tourist-industry-wakes-up-to-reef-s-climate-risks-20180706-p4zq0x.html

Japan aims for 24% renewable energy but keeps nuclear central

July 3, 2018

Japan’s government on Tuesday pledged to modestly boost the amount of energy coming from renewable sources to around a quarter in a new plan that also keeps nuclear power central to the country’s policy.

The plan aims to have 22-24 percent of Japan’s energy needs met by renewable sources including wind and solar by 2030, a figure critics describe as unambitious based on current levels of around 15 percent.

© JIJI PRESS/AFP/File | Six nuclear reactors are currently operating, and utilities face public opposition to activating more despite political support for the nuclear industry

Japan’s own Foreign Minister Taro Kono earlier this year called the goal “significantly low” and described the country’s commitment to renewables as “lamentable”.

The European Union this month agreed to raise its renewable energy target to 32 percent by 2030.

Japan’s policy also envisions nuclear providing more than 20 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2030, reflecting the government’s ongoing commitment to the sector despite deep public concern after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The government has reduced Japan’s reliance on the sector, but defends nuclear as an emissions-free energy source that will help the country meet its climate change commitments.

Critics though say the government has done too little to push renewable energy as a viable option.

Japan currently generates around 90 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, and the plan calls for that figure to drop to just over half, with energy efficiency policies to cut demand.

Reliance on fossil fuels like coal increased in Japan after the Fukushima disaster, as public anger over the accident pushed all of the country’s nuclear reactors offline temporarily.

Six reactors are currently operating, and utilities face public opposition to activating more despite political support for the nuclear industry.

Japan’s TEPCO, which operated the Fukushima plant, signalled last week that it was ready to resume work on the construction of a new nuclear plant in the country’s north.

“While we have strong obligations resulting from the Fukushima accident, we believe that it is our duty to ensure sufficient electricity supplies to avoid cuts,” TEPCO chief Tomoaki Kobayakawa said Friday.

The government’s plan also includes a pledge to reduce the country’s 47-tonne stockpile of plutonium, which is large enough to produce 6,000 atomic bombs, though it is mostly stored overseas.

Japan has sought to generate energy from the material, but decades of research has not produced an effective and commercially viable method, leading to international criticism of Tokyo for continuing to produce and possess plutonium.

AFP

A Climate Shakedown Flops

June 30, 2018

A federal judge tosses the left coast’s suit against fossil fuels.

A undated file picture of the Chevron oil refinery in El Segungo, California.
A undated file picture of the Chevron oil refinery in El Segungo, California. PHOTO: ARMANDO ARORIZO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

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The first wave of lawsuits to make oil companies atone for their alleged climate sins was beaten back this week by federal Judge William Alsup. One hope is that this victory for judicial sanity will stop the tide of litigation from spreading across the country.

The cities of San Francisco and Oakland sued BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, demanding billions of dollars to remedy future environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The Supreme Court ruled in AEP v. Connecticut (2011) that regulating emissions is the Environmental Protection Agency’s bailiwick. But the cities tried to circumvent the ruling by arguing that the mere production and sale of oil is a public nuisance.

Judge Alsup, a Bill Clinton appointee, rightly refrained from trying to regulate global carbon emissions from the bench. The problem of climate change “deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government,” he wrote.

The judge also ridiculed the notion that fossil fuels are a public nuisance and even suggested that they have been a boon for humanity. “Our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible,” he noted. Fetch the smelling salts for Tom Steyer.

Judge Alsup shrewdly saw through the gambit by Democratic politicians and plaintiff attorneys to loot big oil companies to pad their coffers. Six other California cities and counties, Seattle, New York and Massachusetts have filed similar suits. While Judge Alsup’s ruling doesn’t bind other courts, his ruling is a sound legal guide for them to follow.

Appeared in the June 30, 2018, print edition.

India: Monsoon covers entire country, 17 days ahead of normal schedule

June 29, 2018

The monsoon has covered the entire country, 17 days ahead of its normal onset date, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Friday.

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India Facing Higher Monsoon Rains Than Forecast

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The monsoon reached Sriganganagar, its last outpost in the country located in west Rajasthan. Its normal date to reach Sriganganagar was July 15.

“The monsoon today covered the entire country,” additional director general Mritunjay Mohapatra said.

The monsoon covers the entire country by July 1 but West Rajasthan gets rains later, he said.

Image result for Monsoon, India, photos

But this year, due to good easterly rain, it has reached the entire country early, Mohapatra added.

The four-month monsoon season normally begins from June 1 and ends on September 30.

This year, monsoon touched Kerala on May 29 + , three days ahead of its normal onset date of June 1. It battered the western coast in the first half of June.

The monsoon deficiency, which until early this week was 10 per cent, went down to six per cent today.

The Southwest Monsoon gives 70 per rains to the country, where agriculture still remains a major contributor to the GDP.

However, after a brief lull, it made a steady advance.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/monsoon-covers-entire-country-17-days-ahead-of-normal-schedule/articleshow/64794673.cms

When all your basic needs are covered, you can fight for ‘freedom’

June 29, 2018

I have an idea for a new affluence indicator – the more privileged you are, financially and socially, the more likely you are to engage in culture wars involving “freedom”.

Academic freedom, freedom of speech, the right to be a bigot that former Attorney-General George Brandis so famously advocated – the fight for such liberties is a luxurious hobby for people who have all their basic needs covered.

Opinion

By Jacqueline Maley
Sydney Morning Herald

A contentious new law that carries a prison term for anyone who reveals information about certain secret security operations was aimed at Edward Snowden-like leakers rather than investigative reporters, Australia’s attorney-general said on Thursday.

I have a hunch that the people who have enjoyed the greatest personal freedom the modern world can offer – those with money, freedom of career choice, and few caring responsibilities at home – are the ones most pre-occupied with freedom-based culture wars.

That doesn’t mean these freedoms are unimportant, on the contrary.

It just means we need to be hyperaware that the people with time on their hands to fight for them are highly unlikely to be representative of the mainstream.

Meanwhile, most Australians, preoccupied with paying mortgages, raising children, worrying about looming HECS debts or laughing with incredulity at the impossibility of buying a home have their views consistently misrepresented by people with an ideological agenda.

Recently we have seen this dynamic play out over a few very important issues.

 

Image result for Tony Abbott, photos
Advocate for Western civilisation: Tony Abbott.

The Ramsay Centre/Australian National University debacle is perhaps the most infuriating example of the gaping chasm between mainstream values and the agenda pushed by cultural warriors.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, funded by a bequest from the late billionaire Paul Ramsay, had been in talks to finance a Western Civilisation degree at the Australian National University.

Then Tony Abbott wrote an article for Quadrant magazine. The piece is well argued and worth looking up, if only because it reads like Abbott had been binge-watching Dead Poets Society before he wrote it.

In it, Abbott explains the Ramsay Centre is not simply “about” Western civilisation but “in favour” of it, and asserts that “respect for our heritage has largely been absent for at least a generation in our premier teaching and academic institutions”.

 

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Freedom stops when you have the culture warriors sitting in on your tutorials.

This statement is as false as it is sweeping, and proof, if it was needed, that Abbott is out of touch with what is being taught in universities.

Crucially, Abbott also wrote that “a management committee including the Ramsay CEO and also its academic director will make staffing and curriculum decisions” for the new degree, which was wrong, insomuch as it had not been agreed upon.

Abbott’s article helped cripple the negotiations, which were at a delicate stage when it was published.

But what truly killed the deal was the imposition that the centre wanted to make on the academic freedom of the university.

ANU chancellor Gareth Evans and vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt wrote this week that: “We took our decision for no other reason than the centre’s continued demands for control over the program that were inconsistent with the university’s academic autonomy.”

They said the Ramsay Centre had “an extraordinarily prescriptive micro-management approach to the proposed program” and most extraordinary of all: “the centre has gone so far as to insist on the removal of ‘academic freedom’ as a shared objective for the program”.

In his Quadrant piece, Abbott quoted a Tennyson poem on Britain as a land where “freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent”.

Such freedom stops when you have the culture police sitting in on tutorials to make sure the professor stays on message.

Abbott and his supporters are out of touch with mainstream Australia on issues like climate change.
Abbott and his supporters are out of touch with mainstream Australia on issues like climate change.

Photo: Jessica Shapiro

Similarly, Abbott and his small band of supporters in the Coalition party room are out of touch with mainstream Australia on the issue of reducing Australia’s carbon emissions.

Their continued opposition to the National Energy Guarantee, which Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is trying desperately to wrestle into legislation, shows zero regard for the majority of Australians who support renewable energy.

The 2018 Lowy Institute Poll showed 84 per cent of people agree that “the government should focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable”.

This is up from 81 per cent last year.

Likewise, the vote of the federal Liberal Party executive to “privatise the ABC”, the latest step in an anti-ABC campaign based on criticisms the broadcaster is a swamp of left-wing bias, only shows how out-of-step the executive is with average Australians.

The Roy Morgan MEDIA Net Trust Survey, published this week, shows the ABC is Australians’ most trusted media brand, followed by fellow public broadcaster SBS, with Fairfax Media, the only commercial publisher in the top three, coming third.

Finally, the campaign to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which occupied the culture warriors for half a decade, was one of the most marginal of their un-Australian causes.

A Fairfax-Ipsos poll taken in March 2017, amid the second round of debate over the section, showed 78 per cent of Australians opposed legalising speech that “offends, insults or humiliates” on the basis of race.

Most trusted brand; 84 per cent; 78 per cent – they are the kinds of polling results politicians can only dream of.

Australian values, mainstream values, the values of Western civilisation that we have been hearing so much about lately: they are too important to be hijacked by men (for it is mostly men) who have too much time on their hands and little care for what most Australians actually believe in.

Let the culture warriors play their Boy’s Own war games over academia, free speech or even climate policy.

But not for a minute can they tell us, with a straight face, that their views represent “mainstream Australian values”.

@JacquelineMaley

Follow Jacqueline Maley on Facebook

China to Militarize Coast Guard amid Maritime Rivalry from US, Southeast Asia — Mobilizing Fishermen

June 28, 2018

China’s Coast Guard has been more and more of a military-type force for years….

China’s fishermen increasingly operate in a military role….

By Ralph Jennings

A China Coast Guard vessel patrols at the disputed Scarborough Shoal April 6, 2017.
A China Coast Guard vessel patrols at the disputed Scarborough Shoal April 6, 2017.

Beijing is placing its coast guard under military command to warn foreign nations, including the United States, against interfering with its control over the disputed South China Sea, experts say.This change, effective July 1, follows the passage of U.S. navy vessels through the sea seven times since U.S. President Donald Trump took office last year and a B-52 fighter plane flyover by the United States earlier this month.

The coast guard’s new command fits Chinese President Xi Jinping’s effort since 2012 to improve the reach and capability of the armed forces, scholars believe.

Reassignment of the coast guard from the State Oceanic Administration to the People’s Armed Police will “enable it to play a bigger role in emergencies and crises including war,” the Communist Party-run news website Global Times said Monday.

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“While certainly increasing their presence, also it’s to send a message that they’re determined to protect their territorial integrity,” said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan. “Certainly the U.S. will pay attention to it.”

Stronger coast guard under military control

China will establish a “marine police corps” under the armed police to enforce laws and protect China’s maritime “rights” following a decision June 22, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The government’s Central Military Commission will oversee the new coast guard, letting the fleet get involved more easily in naval exercises, the Global Times said, citing a Chinese military expert.

Xi told the army last year to “enhance its capability to win wars,” Xinhua said. The Chinese navy had been venturing last year past its traditional zone along the Chinese coasts toward the high seas.

The coast guard’s 16,300 personnel and 164 cutters will probably do more joint patrols with the navy, experts say. The two units already patrolled the sea’s Paracel Islands together last month, news media in Asia reported last month.

Warnings to Southeast Asia, United States

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all compete with China’s claims in the sea, which is prized for fisheries, oil and natural gas. China cites historical records to support its claim to about 90 percent of it.

China has built military installations on several islets in the 3.5 million-square-kilometer tropical sea, irritating the other claimants.

The coast guard as a military unit “strengthens the perception and reality of ‘militarization’” of the sea, said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

Chinese coast guard vessels, sometimes sent to protect fishing fleets, have ranged as far into the sea as Indonesia, which protested over an incident in 2016.

Washington regards the sea as an international waterway. The U.S. government sends naval vessels as “freedom of navigation operations.”

“The enhanced cooperation indicates the strengthening of Chinese capability to deter or harass U.S. freedom of navigation operations,” Sun said.

Heightened vigilance

China’s coast guard will “not pose a threat” to other countries if “they don’t provoke China’s sovereignty and maritime rights,” the Global Times said, citing the military expert.

But military command of the Chinese coast guard will put other claimants, as well as the United States and its allies, more on guard, other analysts say.

The Southeast Asian states lack China’s firepower, but Vietnam and the Philippines have turned in the past to the United States for defense.

The other maritime claimants and Indonesia may take a stauncher “posture” toward the military-managed coast guard, Koh said.

“This more muscular posture of putting the navy and the coast guard together is a way to tell the other claimants that you don’t trifle with us,” said Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

When fishing or coast guard vessels from other countries run into China’s coast guard now, they don’t expect it to be “heavily armed,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea think tank in Taipei. They would see the fleet differently under central military command, he said.

“Other countries may have a different view of what the China coast guard represents, and that could definitely make people nervous in those unanticipated encounters, and maybe other countries will see this development as something they need to respond to in terms of restructuring their own coast guards,” Spangler said.

https://www.voanews.com/a/china-maritime/4456513.html

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Chinese J-11 Fighters Deployed To Woody Island In South China Sea

China J-11 Flanker fighters operating from Woody Island located in the northern portion of the South China Sea.

Once a climate leader, Germany risks being ‘left behind’: Al Gore

June 26, 2018

After years of leadership on climate change, Germany risks being left behind as other countries move more aggressively to cut their reliance on coal and phase out the internal combustion engine, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said on Tuesday.

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Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore attends an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Speaking to Reuters in Berlin as a new German government commission met to discuss setting an end-date for coal-fired energy, Gore noted that there had not been any meaningful reductions in German carbon dioxide emissions for four years.

“If I were a citizen of Germany, I would be concerned about Germany being left behind,” said Gore, who is in Berlin to train hundreds of climate activists as part of his “Climate Reality” initiative.

“One can’t rest on one’s laurels. The leadership provided in years past created a reality that now no longer exists. Other countries are moving much faster than Germany,” he said.

In her early years in office, Angela Merkel was referred to at home as the “Klimakanzlerin”, or climate chancellor, for securing commitments at the European and G8 level to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Germany was also an early leader in solar power.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore attends an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

But in recent years, in an attempt to shield its large auto industry, Berlin has pushed back against efforts in Brussels to toughen emissions targets.

In part because of Merkel’s decision to end Germany’s reliance on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, it has also been slow to shut down its polluting coal plants.

It has acknowledged that it won’t meet its own target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

Gore, who won an Oscar and shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his climate change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, said he had “immeasurable respect” for Merkel and acknowledged that she was operating in a difficult political landscape, but urged Germany to re-establish its leadership on the climate.

Like Hillary Clinton in 2016, Gore won the popular vote in the presidential election in 2000 but ended up losing – to Republican George W. Bush – due to the Electoral College system, which awards points based on the states won.

He said he understood concerns in Europe about the policies of President Donald Trump, who has hit Europe with trade tariffs and pulled the United States out of the global Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal with major powers.

But he predicted that the transatlantic relationship with Washington’s European allies would survive, and said U.S. mid-term elections in the November could bring about “big change” if the Democrats wrest back control of Congress.

“I think that Trump is making so many mistakes and making so many enemies that the outcome I hope for in November may be echoed by the outcome two years later,” said Gore.

He said Trump’s victory over Clinton may eventually be looked upon as an “anomaly”.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Reuters

US imported more seafood in 2017 than any prior year

June 25, 2018

The United States imported more seafood last year than at any point in its history, and the nation’s trade deficit in the sector is growing, federal data show.

The U.S. imported more than 6 billion pounds of seafood valued at more than $21.5 billion in 2017, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees American fisheries. The country exported more than 3.6 billion pounds valued at about $6 billion.

Image result for U.S. commercial fishing boats, photos

The widening gap comes at a time when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who heads the federal agency that includes NOAA, has identified reducing the deficit as a priority for the government.

The U.S. is home to major commercial fisheries for species such as Pacific salmon, New England lobster and Alaska pollock, but it imports more than 90 percent of the seafood the public consumes.

Ross and others in U.S. fisheries are looking at new strategies to cut the deficit, including increasing the amount of aquaculture-based farming, said Jennie Lyons, a NOAA spokeswoman.

The U.S. trades in seafood with countries all over the world, and the countries it buys the most from include Canada, China and Chile. Major buyers of U.S. seafood include China, Japan and South Korea.

While U.S. fishermen would love to grow commercial fisheries, it’s important to note that domestic and imported seafood are both important parts of the supply chain and support thousands of American jobs, said Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute.

He added that the trade imbalance isn’t caused by a lack of fish to catch in U.S. waters, as NOAA announced this spring the number of overfished fish stocks in the country is at an all-time low.

“Our stocks are fished to the maximum sustainable yield. In order to feed Americans, and to feed the raw materials into the jobs that are needed, we have to get it from overseas,” Gibbons said.

Some of the seafood items that American consumers are especially fond of, including tuna, salmon and shrimp, are heavily dependent on foreign imports to make it to U.S. markets and restaurants. Some species, such as lobsters, are caught in the U.S., exported to other countries that have greater processing capacity, and return to the U.S. as imports.

In this way, the U.S. and its trade partners depend on each other to satisfy worldwide demand for seafood products, said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

“Our relationship is vital, and it is symbiotic,” he said.

There are also some fish the U.S. has imported more heavily in recent years because domestic stocks have dried up. One example is Atlantic cod, which was once the subject of a huge fishery in New England. That industry has collapsed due to overfishing and environmental changes.

The U.S. imported more than a half billion dollars’ worth of cod in 2017. That number has grown by more than $100 million since 2014, with fish that once came from Massachusetts now coming from places like Iceland and Norway.

Exports of other species, such as lobster, are up because of emerging markets in Asia, said Mike Tourkistas, founder of East Coast Seafood in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Lobster exports have grown by more than $250 million since 2007, driven by growth in China.

“With lobster, we know that we have had some very big years,” Tourkistas said.

The Associated Press