Energy from oranges, Bitcoin mining and how the Amazon is sold on Facebook

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Mining Bitcoins requires massive computational power – and the energy to support it. silverhousehd, Unsplash
5 March 2021
5 March 2021

If Bitcoin were a country, it would use as much electricity per year as Sweden.

The world’s most famous cryptocurrency is hitting new highs – and in this Landscape News bi-weekly news roundup, we explore what this means for the planet and much more.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

A sign at the Shell Scotford Complex in Alberta, Canada, where Shell contains a carbon capture and storage facility. Alberta Newsroom, Flickr
A sign at the Shell Scotford Complex in Alberta, Canada, where Shell contains a carbon capture and storage facility. Alberta Newsroom, Flickr

Elon Musk is offering a USD 100 million prize for a carbon capture invention – but will it be enough to solve the climate crisis? 

Not without massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say. Here are five books to inspire us to take those drastic steps.

A new campaign seeks to tackle growing wildmeat consumption in Congolese cities, which threatens biodiversity and rural food security.

COVID-19

markusspiske, Unsplash
markusspiske, Unsplash

Rich countries have ordered a billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than their citizens need – enough to vaccinate the entire adult population of Africa.

Leaders of the G7 countries have pledged to help, albeit without making any firm commitments. The U.K. could even charge poorer countries for its surplus vaccines.

South Africa and India are leading calls for a patent waiver, which has been heavily opposed by the U.S., U.K. and E.U.

Rather than waiting, Cuba and Iran are trialing their own homegrown vaccines, while Ghana has become the first country to receive vaccines from the U.N.’s COVAX scheme.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported at 400 mink farms in eight European countries.

CLIMATE

Cows stranded on a porch in North Carolina following flooding from Hurricane Florence in 2018. weanimalsmedia, Unsplash
Cows stranded on a porch in North Carolina following flooding from Hurricane Florence in 2018. weanimalsmedia, Unsplash

The Atlantic Ocean’s circulation system is now the weakest it’s been in at least 1,600 years, partly due to the climate crisis.

One potential effect is more frequent floods, which are already causing USD 20 billion in damage to homes in the U.S. alone each year.

Global warming is causing wildfires to spread into previously untouched parts of the world. It could also be making European forests more vulnerable to insect pests.

It also contributed to February’s winter storms, which caused oil refineries in Texas to shut down – but not before releasing tons of pollutants into the air through gas flaring.

After falling by 6 percent last year, global carbon emissions are quickly rebounding. The world needs the equivalent of a lockdown every two years to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

PEOPLE

A World Food Program food distribution in Yemen, which has been wracked by conflict since 2014. Julien Harneis, Flickr
A World Food Program food distribution in Yemen, which has been wracked by conflict since 2014. Julien Harneis, Flickr

Yemen is on the brink of mass famine. The U.N. is seeking USD 3.85 billion in aid to combat hunger in the war-torn country, which could affect more than 16 million Yemenis this year.

Indigenous communities are facing mounting human rights abuses during the COVID-19 pandemic in tropical forested countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Colombia.

Native Americans are rapidly rolling out vaccines to protect their Elders from the pandemic. They’re also resisting an oil pipeline and buying back some of the lands taken from them during colonization.

In India, dwindling groundwater supplies could threaten hundreds of millions of livelihoods, while air pollution caused 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi in 2020.

PLANET

Freshwater fish make up more than half of all fish species. jnnfrchn, Unsplash
Freshwater fish make up more than half of all fish species. jnnfrchn, Unsplash

A massive (and as yet unsolved) oil spill has covered beaches in Israel and Lebanon with tar. Authorities believe the pollution could take years to clean up.

Almost a third of the world’s freshwater fish are at risk of extinction, and migratory fish populations have fallen by three-quarters since the 1970s.

Land grabbers are using Facebook Marketplace to illegally sell parts of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, including plots located on Indigenous lands and national forests.

Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, lost 47,000 hectares of forests to cocoa farming in 2020.

The first cases of H5N8 bird flu in humans have been identified in Russia, though it’s unclear if the virus can be spread between people.

With the discovery of this “super plant” that can absorb roadside air pollution, could magnets and sea cucumbers be the answer to microplastics?

POLICY

Could oranges be a new source of renewable energy? Kamil Porembiński, Flickr
Could oranges be a new source of renewable energy? Kamil Porembiński, Flickr

World leaders are doing nowhere near enough to prevent climate catastrophe, says the U.N., noting that emissions are set to decrease by less than 1 percent by 2030 based on current targets. 

The U.S. and Canada will work together toward achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, with new emission reductions targets to be announced by April.

Mexico will ban the use of glyphosate and the import of genetically modified corn, resisting pressure from Monsanto and U.S. officials.

China’s coal-mining Inner Mongolia region will end cryptocurrency mining and ban new steel and coke projects.

The Spanish city of Seville, famous for its bitter oranges, is now turning its leftover citrus into clean electricity.

BUSINESS

Repairing instead of throwing away damaged devices can reduce e-waste. insungyoon, Unsplash
Repairing instead of throwing away damaged devices can reduce e-waste. insungyoon, Unsplash

In a major boost for the circular economy, consumer electronics sold in the E.U. and the U.K. will now need to be repairable for up to 10 years

BlackRock will now vote against company directors who fail to address climate risks, which could drastically affect the credit ratings of many countries and companies once factored in.

Airbus is now developing hybrid-electric aircraft after disclosing that the aircraft it sold in 2019–20 will emit over 1 billion tonnes of carbon over their lifetimes.

Volvo Cars will only sell fully electric cars by 2030, while this French shipyard is working on an “eco-friendly” cruise ship powered by sails.

But the innovation of the week goes to English football team Forest Green Rovers, which is trialing a kit made from recycled coffee bean waste.


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