News

In this section, you can browse through our wide range of News articles. The most recent news is at the top of the page:

Arctic ice volumes were at a new low this winter. The European Space Agency’s radar satellite, Cryosat has been observing the volume of the ice in the Arctic for the last three years. It estimated that there was a little under 15,000 cubic kilometres of ice in March/April 2013, when the ice is at its thickest. This is less than half the amount of ice there would have been just 30 years ago. The ice was thinner than usual this year, and thickness is more important than just the area the ice covers, which previously has been the measure used.

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The World’s largest solar boat has recently docked in London. The MS Tûranor Planetsolar is 35 metres long, is up to 24 metres wide when its solar panels are fully extended and weighs in at 100 tonnes. It can hold a crew of up to nine people and is powered by twin 60kW electric engines, which are capable of propelling the vessel to speeds of up to 14 knots (26 kmh, 16 mph). With its panels fully extended, it has 512 square metres of solar panels, which are capable of generating 1,000 Watts per square metre.

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Still higher radiation readings have now been discovered at Fukushima. Levels of 2,200 millisieverts have now been recorded at ground level near some of the water storage tanks surpassing the 1,800 Millisievert levels recorded on Saturday.

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The Japanese government has today announced that it will be contributing around £300M to build a wall of frozen earth around the damaged and leaky nuclear plant at Fukushima. The idea, which has never been tested, is that massive metal cooling rods will be sunk deep into the earth surrounding the plant and that these will freeze the soil in a ring around the plant, which will prevent any radiactive water, currently leaking at a rate of about 300 tonnes a day from leaching into the groundwater or indeed into the sea.

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I have been watching developments at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan with increasing horror, but not much surprise over the last couple of weeks. Radioactive water had been discovered leaking from at least one of the water storage tanks that are gradually increasing in number around the reactor. The water is used to cool the fuel rods in the reactor, at a rate of 400 tonnes per day. Once it has come into contact with the fuel rods, it is highly radioactive and needs to be stored for processing to remove some of the more dangerous elements. So more and more water storage tanks are being built and there are now around 1,000 on the site.

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Sustainable travel is a big concern for many of us. We often choose to live some distance from where we go to work or school. Whilst a century ago, people thought nothing of a five mile walk to work, nowadays, we just don’t have enough spare time to do all that walking. There’s always so much going on and we’re in too much of a hurry.

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As of yesterday, all fuel sold at forecourts in the UK has to contain 5% biofuel, thanks to an EU Directive. Good news for the environment? On the face of it, yes. When we burn biofuels, it is carbon that was absorbed from the atmosphere by the crops used to make the biofuel that gets released back into the atmosphere. So, carbon neutral fuel, yes? Well, no actually. You see, you also have to take into account the use of fertilisers and farm machinery when the crops are growing and the refining process needed to create the fuels. And even more importantly, to make room to grow more biofuels, rainforests have already been destroyed and peatlands drained.

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When we look for the best ways to protect are environment, the answers are often complicated. Take for example the electric car. On the face of it, an electric car would seem to be far less polluting than a petrol or diesel one. After all, the car itself produces zero emissions, so it must be better, right? Well, in terms of direct emissions from the car, yes it is.

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I was at a screening at the House of Commons today of model and actress Lily Cole’s new film ‘Lily Cole’s Amazon Adventure’, which will be shown on Sky Arts 1 later this month. It’s a great film, featuring some beautiful and highly evocative camerawork and a thought provoking narration from Lily herself. A big feature of the film are the people who live in the rainforest and who are learning how to make the forests worth more to them standing than they are when cut down. Living sustainably in the rainforest is now something that the Brazilian government , working with organisations like WWF is trying to promote.

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Now this could be something very special. A small British company based in Stockton-on-Tees is producing petrol refined from the carbon dioxide and water vapour that’s naturally present in the air. They haven’t got much of the stuff so far – only five litres – but they reckon they can have a commercial-scale plant producing a tonne of fuel per day up and running within two years.

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