Historic UK Vote Casts Uncertainty on Future of Climate Policy
The UK voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union in a historic referendum last night. Prime Minister David Cameron is resigning in the wake of the vote and markets reacted immediately, as the pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar in 30 years.
Many climate and energy experts, including Christiana Figures, had been outspoken about the potential danger for EU and UK climate policy if the UK were to leave.
Without the UK involved, it is unlikely that the EU would revise up its current 40 percent emissions reduction target, experts say. The "leave" vote and change in government also raises uncertainty about domestic policies. Craig Bennett, head of Friends of the Earth, said the leave vote was a “red alert” for the environment.
Greens/European Free Alliance co-president Philippe Lamberts said in response to the UK vote:
“There can be no doubt that this vote will have a dramatic impact across Europe and the globe. The UK vote is an extreme disappointment but it cannot be the beginning of a domino effect within the EU. The response of European governments must now be to work together to deliver a decisive response, which can shore up confidence in the EU.
“While there were clearly various motivations behind those who voted to leave the EU, there can be no doubt that some of the disillusionment with the European project is shared by many citizens beyond the UK. From the outset, the European project aimed at ensuring lasting peace through the extension of freedom, democracy and shared prosperity. Reconnecting with that ambition is what is needed to address the many legitimate reasons behind this public dissatisfaction and ensure the EU can win back the support of citizens.
“We remain committed to this project and believe we need to highlight the major positive benefits the EU has delivered and the potential it has to allow us to respond to today’s global challenges. In a globalised world, there is no sovereignty if not shared.”
Greens/European Free Alliance co-president Rebecca Harms added:
"We seriously regret the outcome of the referendum. The Greens have always strongly believed that the EU provides by far the best platform for delivering peace and stability and confronting the global challenges we face. In the course of the divisive campaign, there was a concerted effort to delegitimize the EU. However, this vote is also the consequence of the widespread uncertainty and mistrust of the EU, which exists not only in the UK but also in other parts of the EU.
“This vote is a wake-up call for the EU. All pro-European forces need to be self-critical and seek answers to why there is a growing gap to citizens in Europe. We cannot continue with business-as-usual. This means improving how the EU works and, in particular, strengthening democracy and transparency. Without prejudging the outcome of any change, there is also a need to strengthen the involvement of democratic institutions, both the European and national parliaments, in the EU process."
For a deeper dive:
Commentary: The Guardian, Damian Carrington column; Climate Home, Ed King column; Politico, Sara Stefani column; BusinessGreen, James Murray column; Carbon Pulse analysis; Climate Home, Robin Webster op-ed
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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