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World Oceans Day, Swedish Coal Sales, Light Pollution and a Climate Change Breakthrough: 7th – 13th June 2016

Well that’s another week that has been and gone and along with it came a whole host of environment news. This week we are looking at World Oceans Day, Swedish coal sales, a study related to the world’s light pollution and a climate change breakthrough in Iceland. Here’s your weekly Frontier environment news roundup:

World Oceans Day

Flickr | Jackie KThe 8th June brought with it the annual World Oceans Day. The five oceans are at the very heart of our planet, they keep the world functioning and so it makes sense that we celebrate the immense mass of water that we are graced with. World Oceans Day was first proposed in 1992 but was only formally recognised in 2008, when the United Nations General Assembly concluded that it should be an officially recognised day and since then it has been celebrated every year. The day is marked by a new theme each year and for 2016 that was ‘Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet’. The aim behind the 2016 World Oceans Day theme was to bridge the gap between the land and the oceans and the important message was celebrated across the globe. The UN marked the day with campaigns that were focused on stopping plastic pollution, while thousands of events from beach trips to barbecues were hosted by companies and individuals alike across the world and the hashtag #WorldOceansDay trended on Twitter, allowing the message to be spread even further afield.     

Swedish Coal Sales

Guardian | 350.orgLast week the fact that Sweden was set to make a decision relating to the sales of their coal mines that could cause catastrophic results across the world became common knowledge. Sweden has long been thought of as a ‘clean’ country but depending on which way the Prime Minister Stefan Lofven sways with his decision the country’s reputation could be set to shatter within a matter of weeks. Last week it emerged that Vattenfall, the government-owned energy company, was planning to sell its Germany based coal mines and power plants to a Czech company set on increasing coal sales, called EPH. It is believed that if the deal does go ahead that it will have global implications as it will pave the way for countries such as Australia and Japan to continue with their own coal productions. While the coal mines will no longer be in Sweden’s hands if they do go through with the sale, their clean image is already rocking as a result of predictions that state that the deal could add up to a billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and thus, produce the equivalent of 24 years of emissions from Sweden in a much shorter time frame.

Light Pollution

Flickr | Dmitry KLast week scientists revealed how more than 80% of the world’s population is now living beneath light-polluted skies. Contrary to what may be expected, street lights are not the only major contributors to the artificial glow that the world is exhibiting. In fact, the light pollution is coming from lights that can be seen through windows in homes and businesses, from illuminated billboards and signs and from the headlights of cars.  The updated brightness map released last week showed how 83% of the world’s population now live under skies that are nearly 10% brighter than their natural state would be, while that statistic rises to 99% for people living within Europe and the United States of America. The study went further to reveal that 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans are no longer able to view the Milky Way due to the blinding effect of artificial lighting. The study suggested that in order to tackle this issue lights could be shielded when in use to prevent huge amounts of light pointing up to the sky, while lights that are not in use could be dimmed or turned off to reduce the amount of light pollution.

Icelandic Climate Change Breakthrough

Guardian | Juerg Matter/ScienceClimate Change is an increasingly pressing issue, particularly with the increasingly warm winters the world is experiencing and the fact that the Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest ever in May, but research in Iceland has led to what is now being classed as a ‘breakthrough’ in tackling one of the planet’s biggest issues. Last week it was announced that carbon dioxide had been pumped into the volcanic rock under Iceland and turned into stone, rather than into gas as existing projects had done. This new project provides a much more secure way of burying the fossil fuel and thus preventing it from warming the planet. Equally, this new process was said to have sped up the natural process in which basalt reacts with the gas to form carbonate minerals and researchers were amazed by the fact that the thousands of years they had predicted for this process to take place within had been reduced down to a timeframe of two years.

It seems there was a heavy focus on the issue of climate change in the news from last week, with Sweden’s important coal related decision and the scientific reveal of the amount of light pollution across the planet highlighting just how much damage we are causing across the planet with even the minutest of decisions. But, with that being said, last week’s news also proved that not all climate-related stories need to be negative as World Oceans Day brought attention to conservation efforts in a fun way and Iceland’s study hinted at the possibility of a breakthrough for the future of climate change.

By Shannon Clark - Online Journalism Intern

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