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Eight Nobel Laureates Join Forces to Ban Tar Sands Oil in Europe

Climate

Friends of the Earth Europe

Eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates have written to European Heads of State and Ministers of the Environment urging them to tackle the most climate polluting sources of transport fuel, notably tar sands.

Oil produced from highly polluting sources, such as tar sands and coal-to-liquids, causes far more climate damaging emissions than conventional oil. Tar sand extraction in Canada has destroyed pristine wilderness areas and has had devastating impacts on local communities and aboriginal groups.

A copy of the letter is available by clicking here.

“Tar sands oil is the dirtiest of all, it emits 23 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil," said Darek Urbaniak, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. "Tar sands also do untold damage to the environment and wildlife and threaten indigenous communities around the globe. If the EU doesn't put the proper policies in place it will be equally responsible for the damage caused by tar sands.”

EU government representatives will vote next week (Feb. 23) whether to force fuels such as tar sands to clean up or face an effective ban from the EU market under the bloc’s Fuel Quality Directive.

The law was approved in 2009 but still has to be implemented. Canada, a major tar sands producer, has lobbied extensively against the proposal that is being put to the vote next week, together with oil companies.

“If Europe doesn’t act now, our addition to oil is going to turn into a much more damaging dependence on high carbon oil," said Nusa Urbancic of Transport & Environment. "The science shows that tar sands oil does lead to higher emissions than other sources. The EU's plan to make these fuels clean up is the right one and member states should support it.”

“Even oil-obsessed America refused to take the gamble and shelved plans for a tar sands pipeline this winter," said Greenpeace EU transport policy adviser Franziska Achterberg. "The question is whether Europe is prepared to say ‘no’ to the oil lobby and to tar sands, which represent the exact opposite of the clean, climate-friendly future that we urgently need.”

For more information, click here.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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