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Plastics to outpace coal’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030: report

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The carbon-intensive production of plastics is on pace to emit more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants within this decade, undercutting global efforts to tackle climate change, a report released on Thursday said.

The report by Bennington College and Beyond Plastics projected that the plastic industry releases at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases each year throughout its lifecycle from the drilling for oil and gas to fuel its facilities to incineration of plastic waste. That is the equivalent of 116 coal-fired power plants.

“The scale of the plastics industry’s greenhouse gas emissions is staggering, but it’s equally concerning that few people in government or in the business community are even talking about it,” said Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator and president of Beyond Plastics.

Also, the report found that petrochemical facilities tend to be clustered in just 18 largely low-income and minority communities, where 90% of the pollution occurs.

With at least a dozen more plastic production plants under construction and 15 more planned, resulting emissions would undercut any gains made by phasing out coal power and shifting toward more renewable energy, Enck said.

The report also said authorities probably have undercounted emissions and air pollution related to different stages of the production of plastics and export of plastic waste. That is because U.S. regulations do not require the plastic industry to report them and no federal agency tracks them, said report author Jim Vallette of research group Material Research.

Plastics Industry Association spokesman George O’Connor said in a statement that the report “cherry picks data” and pointed to other studies that found that plastic actually results in lower carbon emissions due to its lighter weight and durability compared to alternatives like glass and paper.

Enck said the report is based on data from federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and Commerce Department, which are based on plastic industry reporting. She conceded that plastic was lightweight and durable but added that the industry’s calculations neglect other factors that increase emissions.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211022/plastics-to-outpace-coal-s-greenhouse-gas-emissions-by-2030-report/63713.html

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Taiwan rushes to contain sudden cane toad invasion

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Toads are a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in Taiwan, but the unexpected discovery of an invasive species has officials and environmentalists scrambling to contain their spread.

With flashlights in hand and shielded by protective gloves, dozens of volunteers from the Taiwan Amphibian Conservation Society worked through the night searching rice fields and vegetable plots for their quarry — the cane toad.

There should be no reason for these large and highly toxic amphibians to exist in Chaotun, a township in the foothills of Taiwan’s central mountain range.

Cane toads are indigenous to South and Central America and while they have wrought a famously destructive path through places like Australia and the Philippines they had not been recorded in Taiwan.

Cane toads are indigenous to South and Central America and while they have wrought a famously destructive path through places like Australia and the Philippines they had not been recorded in Taiwan. Photo: AFP

Cane toads are indigenous to South and Central America and while they have wrought a famously destructive path through places like Australia and the Philippines they had not been recorded in Taiwan. Photo: AFP

That was until a few weeks ago when a local resident discovered some large amphibians hanging out in her community vegetable garden and uploaded a photograph online, a move that sparked an immediate toadhunt.

“A speedy and massive search operation is crucial when cane toads are first discovered,” Lin Chun-fu, an amphibian scientist at the government-run Endemic Species Research Institute told AFP as he explained why conservationists have since rushed to find and remove any cane toads.

“Their size is very big and they have no natural enemies here in Taiwan,” he added.

Cane toads are voracious predators, they are hugely successful at breeding and they are poisonous. Photo: AFP

Cane toads are voracious predators, they are hugely successful at breeding and they are poisonous. Photo: AFP

Fingertip search

Soon after the photo was uploaded Yang Yi-ju, an expert at National Dong Hwa University, sent a group of volunteers from the Amphibian Conservation Society to investigate.

They arrived at the vegetable garden and were shocked to find 27 toads in the immediate vicinity.

She quickly identified the interlopers as rhinella marina thanks to the tell-tale large partoid glands behind the ears where cane toads secrete a dangerous poison.

“I was shocked and worried when they found more than 20. This is not going to be an easy thing to tackle,” she recalled.

“We began to notify and mobilise everyone to act,” she said, adding the presence of juveniles showed the toads were breeding.

Cane toads are a dangerous invasive species for three key reasons.

They are voracious predators, they are hugely successful at breeding and they are poisonous. That latter quality, a defence mechanism, is especially dangerous to dogs who might lick or bite one.

Local farmers told conservationists they had noticed the arrival of these burly toads but never reported it.

“Taiwanese farmers generally ignore toads and even look favorably at toads when they find them because they help rid the land of pests and are also a good luck symbol,” explained Yang.

“It never occurred to them that this is an invasive species from a foreign land.”

Conservation officials and environmental volunteers have been working non-stop to do a painstaking search.

“We have divided (the township) into 200 by 200 meters square grids to investigate one by one if there are marine toads present,” field researcher Lin Yong-lun said, pointing to a series of colour-coded maps.

The search perimeter has since been expanded to a 4-kilometer radius.

Toads are a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in Taiwan, but the unexpected discovery of an invasive species has officials and environmentalists scrambling to contain their spread. Photo: AFP

Toads are a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in Taiwan, but the unexpected discovery of an invasive species has officials and environmentalists scrambling to contain their spread. Photo: AFP

Symbols of fortune

So far more than 200 marine toads of various sizes have been captured and housed at the Endemic Species Research Institute.

Cane toads are among the world’s ‘100 Invasive Alien Species’ list compiled by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), an international advisory body of scientists and policy experts.

Also known as marine toads, their most common English name came from the fact that it was used in sugar plantations to hunt cane beetles.

They were introduced into plantations in Australia, the Philippines, Japan, the Caribbean as well as Florida and Hawaii where they have caused damage to the local ecosystems.

Despite their warty appearance, toads are a symbol of wealth, longevity and good luck in Chinese culture. They are also used in Chinese medicine and their totems are common in feng shui to ward off bad luck.

“In store fronts you can find toad totems, drawings and even real live toads. It’s a symbol of fortune and good luck,” amphibian scientist Lin said.

Toads are also used in Chinese medicine and their totems are common in feng shui to ward off bad luck. Photo: AFP

Toads are also used in Chinese medicine and their totems are common in feng shui to ward off bad luck. Photo: AFP

Until 2016 it was legal to import cane toads into Taiwan as pets where they can fetch between NT$3000 to NT$4000 (US$107-US$142).

Conservationists believe since imports were banned, people have started breeding cane toads locally and some have since escaped or abandoned by their masters.

So far there have been no other reported sightings in Taiwan and Yang is cautiously optimistic about stopping the spread.

“Next spring during mating season is when we truly know for sure if we have contained it,” she said.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211206/taiwan-rushes-to-contain-sudden-cane-toad-invasion/64569.html

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Japan PM seeks to boost workers’ wages, defence capability

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TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed on Monday to ensure workers’ wage hikesto protect the economy from rising global inflation, while strengthening the country’s defences.

Kishida made the remarks on the opening day of parliament’s extra session convened to debate a supplementary budget to cushion the blow from the COVID-19 pandemic as he aims to restore the economy and then tackle fiscal reform.

Wage hikes hold the key to the premier’s aim of defeating deflation by reversing a cycle of tame wage growth and weak consumer spending while encouraging Japanese firms to spend their record cash piles on boosting wages and investment.

Since he took office in October, Kishida has piled pressure on Japanese firms, urging those whose earnings have recovered to pre-pandemic levels to raise wages by 3% or more.

The government will lay the groundwork to help private-sector firms hike wages by strengthening taxation and give bold deductions for companies that raise pay, he added.

“As anxiety has grown that rising global inflation may have ripple effects on Japan, I will do the utmost to (realise) wage hikes in order to protect the Japanese economy,” Kishida said.

Defense capability

On security policy, Japan will fundamentally strengthen its defence posture by looking into options including acquiring the capability to strike enemy bases, Kishida said.

“In order to safeguard the people’s lives and livelihood, we’ll examine all the options including capability to attack enemy bases … and strengthen our defence posture fundamentally with a sense of speed,” Kishida said.

Such capability would mark a shift in Japan’s military posture as Tokyo, constrained by its post-World War II pacifist constitution, is to play a role of the shield in its security alliance with the United States, while Washington is to play a role of the spear.

As part of effort to boost Japan’s defence capacity, the government will renew three main documents laying out the nation’s security policy – the National Security Strategy, National Defence Programme Guidelines and Medium-Term Defence Programme – in a year, Kishida said.

On Japan’s coronavirus response, Kishida said he planned to make it possible to get a booster shot without waiting for the end of the current waiting period, set by the government, of eight months after the second shot.

Calls for early booster shots have been mounting in Japan as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading globally, although daily COVID-19 cases have remained low in recent weeks.

If infections start picking up pace again, the government will respond swiftly with such measures as stricter restrictions on activities, “while seeking the people’s understanding carefully,” Kishida said.

($1 = 113.2800 yen)

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211206/japan-pm-seeks-to-boost-workers-wages-defence-capability/64568.html

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Poor weather hampers search and rescue efforts at Indonesia volcano

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Heavy rain and wind temporarily halted rescue efforts on Monday after Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupted and killed 14 people on the weekend, and officials urged residents to be vigilant because the danger had not passed.

The tallest mountain on the island of Java erupted dramatically on Saturday, shooting a towering column of ash into the sky that blanketed surrounding villages. More than 50 people had suffered injuries from the eruption, mostly burns.

Aerial footage showed roofs jutting out of an ashen landscape, while on the ground, military officers, police and residents dug through mud with their hands to extricate victims.

Map locating Semeru volcano in Indonesia. Includes locations of other active volcanoes.

On Monday, Liswanto, the head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory, warned people to keep a safe distance from the mountain, amid reports anxious residents had returned to their homes to check on belongings and livestock.

“The status of Mt. Semeru is still at level 2, which means at this level, people need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he said.

Lava flows had destroyed a strategic bridge connecting two areas in the nearby district of Lumajang with the city of Malang.

An aerial view shows volcanic ash rising affected by the Mount Semeru volcano during an eruption in Sumber Wuluh village, Lumajang, East Java province, Indonesia December 5, 2021, in this photo taken by Antara Foto/Zabur Karuru/via Reuters.

An aerial view shows volcanic ash rising affected by the Mount Semeru volcano during an eruption in Sumber Wuluh village, Lumajang, East Java province, Indonesia December 5, 2021, in this photo taken by Antara Foto/Zabur Karuru/via Reuters.

In the Sumberwuluh area, where two trucks lay half-buried by volcanic ash, recovery efforts came to an abrupt halt because of strong winds, a Reuters witness said.

Dewa Arya, from the search and rescue agency, said Monday his team was working to retrieve a family of five victims, but their efforts had been temporarily thwarted by bad weather.

People posted photos of their missing relatives on Facebook, with public pleas for any information about their whereabouts.

Public kitchens and health facilities have been set up for more than 1,000 people who have been displaced.

A trauma healing team to work with children affected by the eruption has been dispatched, CNN Indonesia reported, while hundreds of aid packages, including rice, blankets and clothes and other basic necessities have been sent to the area.

Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a country that straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic activity that rests atop multiple tectonic plates.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211206/poor-weather-hampers-search-and-rescue-efforts-at-indonesia-volcano/64563.html

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