Kenya this week made it official: Anyone manufacturing, importing, selling or even using plastic bags faces thousands of dollars in fines or up to four years in jail. It’s not just shopping bags; garbage bags also count. The ban could help reduce the hundreds of millions of plastic bags used in Kenya each year, but it’s also controversial, as many Kenyans rely on plastic bags to carry charcoal for heating and cooking, or even for sanitation. Still, the BBC reports that people are already adapting by wrapping goods in old newspapers or carrying them in their hands.
The Trump administration this weekend announced it has disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, the 15-person panel responsible for long-term climate-change planning. The committee’s responsibilities include the National Climate Assessment, next due for publication in 2018. NOAA told the Washington Post on Saturday that the updated assessment would not be affected by the committee’s dismissal, although the report has already been a hot-button topic inside the administration.
Toxic algae can threaten our drinking water, but a new study also reveals that it causes economic harm. According to The Toledo Blade, research from Ohio State University reveals that algal blooms in two of the state’s lakes over the past six years have cost homeowners an amazing $152 million in property values. The blooms have also had an impact on recreational fishing, affecting not just the fishing industry but nearby businesses that rely on the tourism. A summer-long bloom could cause more than $5 million in economic harm to the angling industry, according to the researchers.
Lady Liuwa, the lonely lioness who spent more than a decade as the last of her kind in Zimbabwe’s Liuwa Plain National Park, has died of natural causes on the eve of World Lion Day. A survivor of poaching and illegal trophy hunting, Lady Liuwa wandered the park by herself from the late 1990s until 2010, when the first of several companions were successfully transported to Liuwa. Alas, the story since then remained full of near-constant tragedies, but also some hope. Lady Liuwa never bred, but her impact continues with efforts to restore the once-ravaged park. African Parks has the history and a tribute to this resilient big cat.
The federal Court of Appeals this week reinstated Endangered Species Act protection for the gray wolf populations in the Great Lakes region, vacating a previous decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The court ruling says the previous decision did not take into account the potential impact on other wolf populations, a decision which could have implications for other species sub-populations or “distinct population segments” which have similarly lost protections.
Fossil fuel development companies have abandoned their leases on more than 1 million hectares of oil sands in northern Alberta. The areas have become less desirable (and less profitable) following the worldwide plunge in crude oil prices. Even the infamous Keystone XL pipeline — which President Trump approved almost as soon as he took office — now seems to lack the necessary support for its construction. What could replace it? Oh, maybe a little thing called solar power.
Just two weeks after France said it will no longer allow the sale of gas- and diesel-powered autos after 2040, the United Kingdom has followed suit. In addition, the UK announced it is also exploring ways to tax the dirtiest vehicles on the road as a way to lower current air pollution levels in the most-affected local areas. About half of all cars registered in the UK each year are diesel-powered; electric and hybrid vehicles, although a growing market, still represent a tiny fraction of all new cars sold there. Experts predict that should start to shift in the mid-2020s as prices become more competitive.
A stunning new report reveals that utilities knew about the potential dangers of climate change nearly 50 years ago. Scientists first warned the electric utility industry about CO2 emissions back in 1968, according to a report from the watchdog Energy & Policy Institute. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, utilities actually sponsored what the watchdog agency calls “cutting edge” climate-change research. Knowing that this could cause a shift away from fossil fuels, some utilities started a disinformation campaign against climate change, something that some industry players continue to do today.
Two years after the infamous shooting of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, one of his sons has also been shot and killed. Xanda, a six-year-old father with his own cubs, wandered outside of protected Hwange National Park earlier this month and was legally shot by a trophy hunter. Like Cecil before him, Xanda carried a radio collar as part of a long-term scientific research effort. Conservationists now fear that Xanda’s seven cubs could die as other males vie to take over for the late pride leader.
The cruel practice of tapping and mutilating caged bears for the bile from their gall bladders will soon come to an end in Vietnam. Trade in bear bile, a component of traditional medicine, is illegal in the country but a legal loophole allowed for its continued production. An agreement signed this week between Animals Asia and the Vietnam Administration of Forestry will close that loophole and ensure that the approximately 1,000 bears currently in private hands will move to sanctuaries. This doesn’t completely end the practice; a 2011 report from TRAFFIC found bear bile production and sales in 12 Asian countries.