Connect with us

Economy

RSPB Scotland: 779 Protected Birds Of Prey Illegally Killed 1994 to 2014

Published

on

RSPB Scotland has published a detailed 20 year review of the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland, which confirms that 779 protected raptors were illegally killed between 1994 and 2014. In total, 468 birds of prey were poisoned. 173 were shot and 76 were caught in illegal traps. There were also seven attempted shootings. The figures include 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles (pictured), 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and 10 white-tailed eagles.

(Join RSPB Scotland/Gift RSPB Membership here)

RSPB Scotland’s specialist Investigations team has been meticulously documenting the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland for 20 years to provide a thorough public record of the scale, location and methods of wildlife crime. This effort, supported by an extensive body of peer reviewed science, has shown the severe impact of criminal activities on some of Scotland’s most iconic and vulnerable bird species.

The report deals only with incidents that have been confirmed as involving criminal activity, either by post mortem at a government laboratory or by reliable witnesses. The number of birds actually killed will therefore be much higher.

In a further 171 incidents, poison baits and/or non-bird of prey victims of poisoning were found, including 14 domestic cats and 14 dogs. There were also an additional 134 incidents where, although no victim was recovered, clear attempts had been made to target raptors – through the use of illegal traps for example.

RSPB Scotland’s review shows that over the past 20 years a significant majority of cases take place in areas associated with game-bird shooting, and in particular within upland areas managed intensively for driven grouse shooting. It is also noted however, that in recent years there have been some significant and welcome reductions in the number of cases reported from lowland areas of Scotland.

Director of RSPB Scotland, Stuart Housden, said: “We recognise that many landowners and their staff have helped with positive conservation efforts for birds of prey, particularly with reintroduction programmes for white–tailed eagles and red kites, and that the majority operate legitimate shooting businesses; but there are still far too many who do not act responsibly, and there will be no improvement in the conservation status of raptors until all land management is carried out wholly within the law.”

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said: “I welcome this extensive review of the data that RSPB have collated over a 20 year period. There is no doubt that the figures in this report make for uncomfortable reading, but we have made progress in recent years with the new vicarious liability provisions, the publication of the report from the Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group, new measures implementing restrictions on the use of General Licences and earlier this year the Scottish Government funded pesticide disposal scheme that removed over 700kg of illegally held poisons in Scotland.

“RSPB are a key partner in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland and they have worked with us to support the fight against wildlife crime for many years. I am pleased also that RSPB recognise the efforts made by Police Scotland and the Crown Office in dealing with this difficult area of crime, which is often very complex to investigate.

“I have noted that the RSPB are calling for the Scottish Government funded review into game licensing in other countries to be commenced and I can confirm that tenders to carry out this important research were invited on 11 December.”

There is now well documented scientific evidence of the impact of illegal human killing on Scotland’s golden eagle, hen harrier, peregrine, and reintroduced red kite populations. The last national hen harrier survey for example showed the population had declined by 22% in Scotland between 2004 and 2010. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee Hen Harrier Framework 2011 concluded that illegal killing was having a significant impact on this species, particularly on land managed for driven grouse shooting in the southern uplands and eastern Highlands.

The report on illegal killing by RSPB Scotland has provided reliable data to inform Scottish Government conservation efforts for the country’s internationally important populations of birds of prey, and also re-affirms the need for continued vigilance; good wildlife protection laws; effective enforcement powers for the police; and strong sanctions in the courts to act as an effective deterrent.

Stuart Housden continued: “We welcome measures taken by the Scottish Government over the past 20 years to improve the laws protecting our birds of prey, and the recent improvements by Police Scotland and the Crown Office in tackling wildlife crime. However, our data shows that illegal killing of raptors continues to be a widespread problem in significant parts of upland Scotland. These crimes impact the natural wealth of Scotland and undermine our international reputation, wildlife tourism and diversified rural businesses.

“Scotland’s shooting industry, in contrast to the rest of Europe, has ‘light touch’ regulation and little public accountability. Self policing has been given more than a fair chance and numerous public warnings, from ministers aimed at upland sporting managers, have not been heeded. It is long overdue that sporting management should be licensed, conditional on compliance with wildlife protection laws. We encourage the Scottish Government to initiate the planned review of game-bird licensing systems in other similar countries as soon as possible so we can learn and adopt best practice to ensure a sustainable future for sports shooting.”

Image credit: Golden Eagle  by Brocken Inaglory via Wikipedia

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

Published

on

self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

Continue Reading

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

Published

on

renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Trending