Best of our wild blogs: 23 Apr 14

Western Johor Straits - dirtiest Singapore? @ 18Apr2014
from sgbeachbum

ST Forum letter: Benefits of having wildlife in our midst
from Through the Eyes of the Leopard Cat

Paint along with Pui San on 27 April 2014
from Art in Wetlands

Cyrene Reef (19 April, 2014)
from teamseagrass

Job opportunities: Executive Secretary (ICZN) & Senior Manager/Manager (Operations and Visitor Services) from LKCNHM News

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Why Singapore needs Project Jewel (and more malls)

Guan Chong Today Online 23 Apr 14;

Announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech in August last year, Project Jewel at Changi Airport will become another iconic international attraction when it opens in 2018. It will cement Singapore’s position as a top tourist destination and also better serve domestic consumers.

Project Jewel will also join other recent retail developments in Singapore, namely Westgate and Jem in Jurong East and Bedok Mall. With the iconic Orchard Road area and the many heartland malls already in existence, it begs the question: Does Singapore need so many malls? The answer is yes.


Tourism is an important part of Singapore’s economy, representing 4 per cent of its gross domestic product and supporting about 160,000 jobs. Singapore Tourism Board data show that, from 2002 to 2012, the tourism industry has witnessed a strong annual growth rate of 10 per cent in tourism receipts and 6.6 per cent annual growth in visitor arrivals. The rapid growth in international visitor arrivals has been fuelled by the completion of a number of tourist-oriented developments, such as Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, as well as the growth in popularity of internationally renowned events, examples of which are the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix and the Singapore Arts Festival.

It is estimated that tourists’ retail spending in Singapore for 2012 reached S$7.4 billion, accounting for around 17.6 per cent of total retail sales, property consulting firm Urbis said. Furthermore, international visitor arrivals are expected to continue to grow over the next few years, translating into an increase in the proportion of tourists’ spending in total retail sales over time, reaching 19 per cent in 2016. The high proportion of total retail sales contributed by international tourists highlights the importance of tourism to the overall retail market here.

Domestically, the Republic has recorded strong economic growth since 2000, with an average annual real GDP growth rate of 5.3 per cent over the 2001 to 2012 period. Driven by the growth in household disposable income and a developed market with sophisticated consumers, Singapore’s retail industry has been transformed over the last decade, with department stores and hypermarkets appearing in all parts of the island.

For Singaporeans, although housing, utilities and transport still account for the largest proportion of household expenditure, there is a significant amount being spent on lifestyle goods and services. The Business Monitor International’s 2014 Singapore Retail Report showed household expenditure on recreation and culture is projected to hit US$17.5 billion (S$22 billion). Spending in hotels and restaurants is expected to reach US$11.1 billion and will continue to grow by an average of 10.3 per cent a year between this year and 2018, hitting the US$16.4 billion mark by 2018.

As incomes continue to rise, household spending is expected to grow over the next five years across all areas of the retail sector, including product categories such as clothing and footwear, household goods, food, drink and tobacco, and personal care.


The rapidly growing needs of international tourists and local consumers in the lifestyle sector have imposed growing pressure on the capacity of the retail sector. For example, Orchard Road used to be the place where one could shop and hang out leisurely, but it is getting increasingly crowded for anyone to truly enjoy.

This can be partially explained by the constraints on retail floor space per capita in Singapore. Urbis said retail floor space per capita was approximately 10.7sqf in 2012 and is expected to grow marginally to 11.0sqf by next year. This provision is relatively lower than other developed Asian economies such as South Korea (14.4sqf in 2010) and Japan (16.6sqf in 2009) and Western developed countries such as Australia (23.7sqf in 2012) and the United States (50.5sqf in 2010).

Yet, with recent new developments such as Westgate in Jurong East, Singapore is slowly catching up with Hong Kong (11.3sqf in 2012) and mainland China (12.9sqf in 2012) in retail space to satisfy consumers’ increasing demand.

With resilient domestic demand and strong growth in the number of international tourists, the outlook for the Singapore retail sector is relatively positive. The completion of Project Jewel will better serve local and international consumers in the lifestyle sector. Located close to the Changi residential heartlands, Project Jewel is very well connected by the public transport system and Singaporeans who are willing to travel a little bit more will benefit greatly from it. Connected seamlessly to 275 cities worldwide, this new world-class destination will also capture the heart of international travellers.

That said, for Project Jewel to effectively satisfy the rapidly growing needs of consumers, its retail concepts need to be carefully chosen to appeal to specific consumer segments.


Dr Guan Chong is a marketing lecturer at SIM University.

More malls add up to a zero-sum game
Donald Koh Today Online 25 Apr 14;

The perspective on “Why S’pore needs Project Jewel (and more malls)” (April 23) should be re-examined. Tourism and consumerism do generate money for Singapore, and if we were a corporation, then more malls would indeed mean more growth.

However, we are a nation and although many treat this country like Singapore Inc, such a numbers game would have a negative impact on us.

Firstly, we are facing a labour crunch in the retail and food and beverage sectors. With Singaporeans becoming more educated and affluent, many have shunned this line of work, known for its long hours and low pay.

Businesses have relied on foreigners to fill the gap, but it is widening and will continue to widen if the writer’s suggestion is adopted rapidly. Retail and F&B sectors are still labour-intensive industries where automation cannot easily be applied.

Businesses would be fighting even more for precious headcount, leading to inflated wages. The ones to suffer would be sole proprietors and small businesses.

Multinational corporations and big competitors would have the funds and synergy to pay well and offer better benefits, but small businesses would face a more daunting task in trying to recruit or retain employees.

Levies would continue to rise as the Government tries to contain the over-reliance on foreign workers. This would contribute to higher labour costs, which are then passed on to consumers. In time, it would be an upward trend.

Secondly, with a land area of 716 sq km, Singapore’s land use must be planned carefully. We are not China nor Australia, but a little red dot.

A country with such limited space must consider residential needs, essential services such as hospitals and schools, as well as open spaces such as parks and nature trails, which contribute intrinsically to citizens’ well-being. I would exchange some malls for public hospitals.

Also, we are losing our identity as a nation due to rapid development. Who would we be if we trade our heritage sites, old neighbourhoods and memories for homogeneous malls with the same brands and F&B outlets?

There is also the issue of rising rentals, which would force small businesses to relocate, or worse, close for good. I agree that Singapore should continue to grow, but more is at stake than only chasing numbers.

More malls, restaurants and shops would mean bringing in more people and more spending, but resulting also in higher rentals, labour and food costs, as well as a lower quality of life and decreasing sense of identity, adding up to a zero-sum game.

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More companies going green in Singapore

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 22 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE: More local companies and organisations are seeking ways to integrate green features into their work spaces, according to environmental groups.

They say it is a result of greater awareness of the long-term cost benefits that come with going green.

The Westin Singapore, located in the heart of Singapore's financial centre, launched its Green Rooms in conjunction with Earth Day.

Fifty-six of 305 hotel rooms are equipped with an energy meter, found on the room's television screen, to monitor a guest's individual energy consumption.

The rooms are located on the 38th and 39th floors of the hotel.

"We have a meter bar on our main screen of the television, or IPTV, that clearly indicates to the guest the average energy consumption during their stay, which has a green, an orange and a red (indicator),” said Sushil Sharma, manager of The Westin Singapore.

“Hopefully those bars remain at the green which leads us to then contributing a dollar to UNICEF and which also indicates that the guest has reduced energy consumption by 20 per cent compared to an average guest in our hotel."

Reducing energy consumption could be as simple as turning off the lights when not needed and setting the air conditioning to 24 degrees Celsius.

It took the hotel three months of backend testing before it rolled out the programme.

Other features include environmentally friendly limousines which are powered with used cooking oil from the hotel's kitchens. The hotel has a conversion machine to convert the used oil to biodiesel.

A study by the Singapore Environment Council last year found that Singapore uses an average of three billion plastic bags every year. While that is a lot, there is some good news with supermarkets coming on board the conservation process.

For example, some NTUC FairPrice stores have special checkout counters that do not provide plastic bags for your purchases.

FairPrice also gives out rebates when shoppers bring their own bags.

As a result of such initiatives, FairPrice recently announced that customers used a record 8.2 million fewer plastic bags in 2013 -- a 12 per cent decrease compared to 2012.

FairPrice says it is also on track to install eco-friendly features such as LED lighting and energy-saving refrigeration systems in all its stores by 2016.

According to some environmental experts, more companies are going green.

The Singapore Environment Council says it conducted 79 audits for workplaces as part of its Eco-Office certification last year, up from 62 in 2012.

The audits look at whether spaces have water and energy-saving features, among others.

The Building and Construction Authority says the number of office spaces certified with the Green Mark for Office Interiors has increased from four in 2009 to more than 80 last year.

- CNA/ec

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Failed race track project site not cleared a year on

Christopher Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Apr 14;

It has been almost a year since the final curtain fell on plans to build a permanent race track here, but the 41ha plot of land off Changi Coastal Road where the high-octane project sputtered and died still bears signs of its dramatic failure.

Dozens of steel and concrete piles still stand on the ground where the Changi Motorsports Hub was supposed to have been sited.

SG Changi, the Japanese-Singapore consortium that won the tender to develop the hub but later went broke, was tasked with removing them. But it looks like the piles are staying put.

In a joint response to queries from The Straits Times, the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said it was not feasible to remove the structures completely.

"SLA and SG Changi's professional engineers have assessed that a complete extraction of the installed piles is not feasible as it will weaken the soil layers and affect the stability of the adjacent sea walls," they said.

Instead, there are plans now to cut the piles "2m below ground level". Work has already started, they added.

While the sports council estimated last June that the removal of the piles and reinstatement of the land to its original form would take about a year, that prospect looks bleak now.

A check by The Straits Times last week found that dozens of piles were still standing, with no signs of cutting activity.

Sources estimate that it will take another year before the land can be restored.

Besides the piles, tonnes of soil that was dumped there from another construction site will have to removed, one source said.

Even when everything is cleared, industry watchers said the plot may not be as attractive to developers as before, because buried sections of the piles will restrict development plans.

But the SSC and SLA said detailed information of where the structures are will be recorded and provided to potential developers, so that they can "plan to incorporate or avoid the piles in future development".

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Malaysia: Little change in Sungai Selangor dam water level despite rain

The Star 23 Apr 14;

PETALING JAYA: Yes, it has been raining. But no, it has not helped raise the water level at the Sungai Selangor dam – the largest in the state and the main supplier in the Klang Valley.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department said unsuitable atmospheric conditions were partly the reason water levels at dams had not increased much despite cloud seeding.

Its atmospheric science and cloud-seeding division director Azhar Ishak said the department would continue to conduct cloud seeding in water catchment areas until the dams were at safe levels.

Explaining some of the problems the department faced, Azhar said: “We identify the areas for cloud seeding based on our observations but sometimes, by the time we get to these water catchment areas, the atmospheric conditions have changed and may not be suitable.

“When this happens, we go to the areas nearby and conduct the exercise. There has been rain in the water catchment areas, including Sungai Selangor. However, the amount of rainfall there is still insufficient.”

Sungai Selangor supplies water to 60% of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor.

However, the dam has been below 40% for the past few months. The water level is deemed critical if it dips below 30%.

According to the Selangor Water Management Authority website, water level at Sungai Selangor stood at 38.9% as of 8am yesterday.

Azhar admitted the present technology for cloud seeding was “old”.

He said the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, in collaboration with Universiti Putra Malaysia, would carry out research to improve it.

The ministry approved a two-year grant worth RM870,000 last week for the purpose.

As for the Thai “Royal Rainmaking Technology” which the Selangor government is planning to use to help ease the water crisis in the state, Azhar said: “We heard about the proposal but have not receive any instructions yet. Our responsibility at the moment is to ensure the water level in dams increases so we will continue with cloud seeding.”

Insufficient raw water at the dams
The Star 23 Apr 14;

WE wish to respond to the letter “Water companies should be penalised for current woes” (The Star, Mar 22). The writer claimed that the water quality he received was bad and water companies should be penalised for not managing water resources properly and resulting in the disruption of water supply.

We wish to state that Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) is only responsible for the distribution of treated water supplied by the existing water treatment operators to the consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

The four water treatment operators that sell treated water to Syabas are Puncak Niaga (M) Sdn Bhd, Konsortium ABASS Sdn Bhd, Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor and Konsortium Air Selangor Bhd.

Thus the quantity of treated water distributed by Syabas is solely dependent on the quantity supplied by these water treatment operators based on their respective concession agreements entered with the Selangor Government.

Currently, the Cheras Mile 11 and Bukit Tampoi water treatment plants (WTP) have been frequently forced to close down since Jan 27 this year due to the ammonia content in Sungai Langat frequently breaching the threshold imposed by the Health Ministry (MOH) for safe drinking standard.

This has caused a loss of 56 million litre per day (MLD) treated water supply for several areas in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

At the same time, five WTPs namely Sungai Selangor Phase 1, Sungai Selangor Phase 2, Sungai Selangor Phase 3, Rantau Panjang and Sungai Rasa that are depending on the raw water supply from Sungai Selangor with support from Sungai Selangor dam and two WTPs namely Bukit Nenas and Wangsa Maju that are extracting raw water from Klang Gate dam, are forced to reduce treated water production by 1,030 MLD as the Selangor Government had commenced reduction of raw water release from these dams by similar quantity per day in order to prolong the sustainability of the depleting water storage level in the dams.

The raw water resources are under the responsibility of the Selangor Government. The said responsibility under the legislation clearly states that the Selangor Government is responsible to ensure sufficient and sustainable raw water supply in the river, dams and water catchments with the quality of raw water consistent within the treatable level as stipulated by MOH.

The water supply industry in peninsular Malaysia and Federal Territory of Labuan is governed and regulated by Water Services Industry Act 2006 (Act 655) and enforced by the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), the industry regulator.

The Act is a focused and uniform approach in regulating the water services industry. Policies and decisions pertaining to the industry are also being subjected to the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry.

With regards to the deteriorating trend of the water storage level in Sungai Selangor and Klang Gates dams, and uncertain ammonia contents in Sungai Langat, the Selangor Government has requested for water rationing in certain areas and this was approved by SPAN.

In this aspect, the water rationing plan was prepared by Syabas on the directive from the Selangor Government. The on-going water rationing is implemented under Stage 1, Stage 3 and Stage 4.

The Stage 1 water rationing in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang is due to the closure of Cheras 11 Mile and Bukit Tampoi WTP.

The Stage 3 and 4 water rationing involves Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling, Klang/Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor, Hulu Selangor and parts of Kuala Langat, Hulu Langat and Sepang.

The appearance of brownish water when consumers turn on the tap after the water cuts is caused by sediment in the pipe distribution system. The sediment is taken up with the flow of water at the beginning and will disappear after several minutes.

In terms of water quality, the treated water quality parameters are set based on the National Drinking Water Quality Standards enforced by the MOH, and the treated water distributed to the consumers tap is definitely safe for consumption and complies with standards.

Nevertheless, the quality of water at the consumers’ tap especially on colour and odour is also influenced by the internal piping systems including the water tank of the consumers’ premises.

Consumers are strongly advised to check the internal piping systems regularly to ensure it does not affect the quality of water at the premises.

With regards to not paying the water bill as water supply was interrupted, Syabas would like to stress that the water bill is based on the quantity of water consumed.

In the event of water rationing, the consumers may consume less and thus would pay less for their water.

Syabas would like to urge the consumers to extend their cooperation towards the Government’s water rationing plan by conserving water, using water for critical use only and avoiding excessive usage.

The ongoing water rationing was initiated by the Government to ensure sustainability of the depleting raw water level in Sungai Selangor and Klang Gates dams. Water rationing was carried out to ensure consumers continue to receive water supply for their critical needs.

Assistant General Manager
Corporate Communication & Public Affairs
Syabas Sdn Bhd

State FMM members seek alternative water supply sources
The Star 23 Apr 14;

PETALING JAYA: Industries in Selangor are stepping up efforts to conserve water and seek alternative sources of supply as the state’s water woes show no signs of abating soon.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers’ (FMM) Selangor branch chairman Datuk Soh Thian Lai said members were already running water conservation projects and seeking alternative sources.

“One of the fastest and most used methods by members is to instal a system to draw water from the ground.

“A company can be set back by between RM450,000 and RM650,000 to get the system running but it is something that must be done,” he said.

Other methods include harvesting rainwater and enlarging existing reserve tanks to hold water to last at least two days.

Companies are also renting tankers to buy supply from Syabas at prices ranging between RM110.35 and RM149.68 per tanker, inclusive of the RM100 quality testing fee for each vehicle.

Soh disagreed with calls for Syabas to stop providing water in tankers for industrial and commercial users during the rationing period,

He said while domestic consumers were the priority, it did not mean companies should be deprived from buying water.

It was previously reported that a food and beverage company based in Shah Alam required alternative supply of about 120 tankers of water a day at a cost of RM150,000.

If the company does not get the supply, it stands to lose about RM15mil a day in costs and sales as production would be stopped.

Soh said if rationing was extended to industrial areas in the state, it should be one day on and one day off, instead of the two days on, two days off system applicable to domestic users.

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Malaysia: Hawksbill turtle carcasses found at Tanjung Purun beach

New Straits Times 22 Apr 14;

LABUAN: The decomposed carcasses of two Hawksbill sea turtles were found washed ashore at the Tanjung Purun beach here yesterday morning.

The 3.5-metre and 1.5-metre turtles were found by an employee of Labuan Marine Museum Department, Suriani Abd Ghani, who immediately alerted the Labuan Fisheries Department (LFD).

LFD Marine Unit Base chief Jamari Abu Bakar told Bernama the last such discovery in the area was in 2010.

"There was a rope at the necks and feet of the turtles, probably from a fishing net. We will investigate the actual cause of death" he said.

Jamari stressed that although such occurrences were rare in Labuan, the authorities viewed the case seriously as it was important to protect the endangered species, which were also a tourist attraction here. -- BERNAMA

Read more: Hawksbill turtle carcasses found at Tanjung Purun beach - Latest - New Straits Times

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Japan will conduct Pacific whale hunt in wake of court ruling

Elaine Lies PlanetArk 22 Apr 14;

Japan said on Friday it would conduct a sharply scaled down form of its annual Northwest Pacific whaling campaign this year despite an international court ruling last month against the mainstay of its whaling program in the Antarctic.

The decision to proceed with the hunt was certain to provoke international anger and promptly drew the fire of environmentalists.

Tokyo's decades-old and disputed "scientific whaling" program suffered a blow last month when the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in a surprise ruling, ordered a halt to its annual hunts in the Southern Ocean. That prompted Japan to cancel whaling there for 2014-2015.

The Pacific hunt, not as widely known internationally, was not specifically mentioned in the ruling, which did call on Japan to re-examine its overall whaling program. Yet in the 2012-2013 campaign, the Pacific hunt took three times as many whales as the Antarctic hunt, including three sperm whales.

Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the ruling upheld the notion of "the sustainable use of whales as a resource".

"Based on this ... and in line with international law and scientific principles, our nation will carry out research whaling to get the scientific information essential to manage whales as a resource," he said.

Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and began what it called scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an international moratorium came into effect.

It has also said it hopes for the eventual resumption of commercial whaling, a view Hayashi said was unchanged.

"We will stick to a basic plan that aims at a resumption of commercial whaling," he told reporters. Japan, he said, had made "substantial accommodations" to the court ruling.

The ministry said quotas for the Pacific hunt would be reduced in consideration of the court ruling. One proposal, still to be finalized by scientists, would cut the number from 380 whales to 210 in activity extending from Japan's coastline out into a broad swathe of the Pacific.

In the 2012-2013 season, the fleet killed 319 whales in the Pacific. The Antarctic hunt took 103 whales out of a quota of more than 1,000, partly due to the sometimes violent attempts by environmental groups, such as Sea Shepherd, to disrupt it.

According to the proposal, no sperm whales will be taken and the quota of minkes will be reduced to 100 from 220.


The ministry said it would submit a new plan for Antarctic whaling to the International Whaling Commission in 2015 for the purpose of resuming whaling in that area later in the year.

"We will also consider measures against anti-whaling activists," the ministry said.

Japan says eating whale is a cherished cultural tradition, but costly whale meat now rarely appears on Japanese tables.

Fears of complaints from key allies such as the United States, as well as the cost of maintaining Japan's ageing whaling fleet, prompted some observers to say Tokyo might cancel the Pacific hunt this year.

But a vocal lobby pressed for it to continue, citing economic benefits to the Pacific hunt's home port of Ishinomaki,

devastated by the 2011 tsunami.

No details were given about when the fleet would depart. It was originally set to leave on April 22, the day before U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Japan for a state visit, but media reports said its departure would be delayed until April 26, the day after Obama leaves.

Environmental group Greenpeace said the decision to proceed with hunt was a disappointment.

"This defiant announcement, mere days before President Obama's visit to Japan, will damage Japan's international standing," said Junichi Sato, at Greenpeace Japan.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Great Barrier Reef safer with success of starfish cull

Crown-of-thorns starfish dying faster with new single-injection method
Oliver Milman 22 Apr 14;

The government has said it is making good progress in culling coral-eating starfish that have been blamed for munching through much of the Great Barrier Reef.

Greg Hunt, the environment minister, said 250,000 crown-of-thorns starfish had been killed by a new culling method over the past 21 months, a four-fold increase on the previous rate of removal.

The new method, developed by James Cook University, involves a single injection into the starfish; previously the multi-armed creatures needed to be injected about 20 times.

The injections, administered by divers, cause an allergic reaction in the starfish, killing it. Warren Entsch, MP for Leichhardt, said divers were now able to cull more than 1,000 crown-of-thorns starfish in a 40-minute dive.

Hunt said the new injection has “immediately improved the efficiency and effectiveness” of reducing crown-of-thorns starfish numbers. In December the government announced an additional $1.1m to combat the problem, which has been used for a new vessel for the starfish-killing divers.

Chemical runoff from agriculture has been blamed for a surge in numbers of the starfish, which are thought to feed on the nutrients from pollution.

Although they are always found on the reef, an explosion in their numbers can cause serious damage because they devour healthy coral.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science estimates the Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the past 30 years; 42% is due to the crown-of-thorns starfish infestation.

Scientists say an outbreak can destroy between 40% and 90% of the corals on the reef.

Injections which kill the starfish are part of the government’s Reef 2050 plan to help improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which has come under severe stress from cyclones, coral bleaching and variable water quality.

Critics of the strategy claim that the injections are largely futile because some female crown-of-thorns starfish can produce up to 60m eggs.

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Apple: climate change is real and it's a real problem

Technology company claims 94% of its corporate facilities are now powered by renewable energy
Adam Vaughan 22 Apr 14;

Climate change is real and a real problem for the world, Apple said on Monday, announcing its progress on environment targets ahead of Earth day.

The technology company, publishing a video narrated by CEO Tim Cook on its green initiatives and updated environment web pages, claimed that 94% of its corporate facilities and 100% of its data centres are now powered by renewable energy sources such as solar power.

Lisa Jackson, the former administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency and Apple's vice-president for environmental initiative, wrote in a letter: "We feel the responsibility to consider everything we do in order to reduce our impact on the environment. This means using greener materials and constantly inventing new ways to conserve precious resources."

Greenpeace, which has previously been critical of Apple for sourcing energy from fossil fuels, recently praised the company for improving the energy mix powering its data centres, ranking it above other technology giants such as Amazon. Apple's Maiden data centre in North Carolina is powered by a large 20MW solar farm and biogas fuel cells.

Apple said its carbon footprint in 2013 was 33.8m metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, or around 5% of the UK's annual CO2 emissions for the same year. Around three-quarters of the emissions come from manufacturing. "We believe climate change is real. And that it's a real problem," the company's website now says.

The company said its new HQ being built in Cupertino, California, will use 30% less energy than an equivalent building, and will be home to around 7,000 trees. It also highlighted a decrease in the material required to make its products – the new iPad Air uses nearly one-third less material, by weight, than the original iPad.

All the company's retail stores will now take back Apple products for recycling, for free; previously customers had to buy a new product to recycle an old one. In the UK and US, an ongoing scheme offering payments for old iPhones, iPads and Macs also continues.

The announcement came ahead of today's 44th anniversary of Earth day, a day of activism born in the US and designed to raise environmental awareness.

Cook recently told climate change sceptics that they should ditch Apple shares if they did not like the company's backing for renewable energy and sustainability, leading Virgin group founder Richard Branson to say he was "enormously impressed" by Cook's stance and his call for climate change deniers to "get out of the way".

Apple has come in for criticism from Friends of the Earth for being slow to admit to using tin in its products sourced from the Indonesian island of Bangka, where mining has caused environmental damage and claimed dozens of lives. Last year, Apple sent a team to investigate conditions on the island and has said it will work to improve them.

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Humanity's Frightening Uncertainty About the Economic Consequences of Climate Change

Diana Liverman and Amy Glasmeier The Atlantic Yahoo News 23 Apr 14;

When Hurricane Sandy pummeled the east coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean in October 2012 it exposed millions of people and billions of dollars worth of economic assets to the sorts of hazards that might be expected to increase as a result of climate change. An estimated 1.8 million structures and homes were destroyed or damaged, with economic losses exceeding $65 billion.

Among the businesses most negatively affected by Sandy were tourism (losses of more than $1 billion and 10,000 jobs) and small- and medium-scale manufacturing and storage. Retailers, such as clothing firm Eileen Fisher, lost inventory when Sandy flooded warehouses and disrupted supply chains.

There were a few bright posts: Building-supply stores like Home Depot saw sales shoot up in locations affected by the storm. In the three months after the storm, the company attributed $242 million in sales to the event as residents and businesses pieced back together their former homes and livelihoods.

But sales of material and lumber aside, Sandy's bill was huge. Likewise Katrina, following which $40 billion in claims were filed, an amount equivalent to almost half of worldwide catastrophic claims made in 2005. And we know from Katrina that it can take years to recover: According to the U.S. Census, eight years later New Orlean's population was only 72 percent of its pre-storm level.

Events like these show how climate change, which will result in more severe storms, will have a huge and varied global economic impact, and that the impacts will hit locally and ripple out by affecting supply chains, consumer behaviors, regional economies, and downstream jobs.

Yet the scientists who met in Japan recently to finalize the much-anticipated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate impacts and vulnerabilities called such economic estimates as “difficult” to make. The closest they came to an overall number was to say that aggregate losses across the world economy have a more than 50 percent chance of being greater than 2 percent of global GDP. They also noted that for most economic sectors, the impacts of climate change would be smaller than the impacts of population and technology change.

For most people, what matters are not the global economic impacts, but the effects on the places they live and work. The IPCC report spends a lot of time on how climate will affect agriculture and natural resources. Although, worldwide, as much as one-third of all those employed work in agriculture, this share is decreasing and the agricultural sector contributes about three percent to the overall value of the global economy. The report says relatively little about the impacts on sectors that now drive economic development and are the major sources of employment: the chemical, textile, electronics, and automobile industries; retail, health services, and real estate.

This is a problem, not only for the relevance of IPCC, but for the research community in general. We look to assessments such as the IPCC's to translate the science for government leaders, and more importantly to increase public awareness of the potential consequences of climate change, not just in the abstract but how it will affect their own jobs and wallets. These reports have far-reaching repercussions. If the panel has little to say or is uncertain about how climate change will impact the important parts of our economies, then everyone is less likely to take the reports seriously.

So why did the panel have so little to say about the economic consequences of climate change?

First, because there is actually very little published, peer-reviewed science on the risks that climate poses to the economy. What data we do have comes from company reports and studies by consultants that do not go through scientific peer review. The last time the panel relied on studies that were less than ironclad, they got burned by the media.

You might remember the field day climate-change deniers had in 2007 when the report cited documents about rapidly melting Himalayan glaciers and forecasts of steep declines in African crop yields though they had not been peer reviewed for scientific accuracy. Some IPCC scientists, including our colleagues Malcolm Hughes and Mike Mann, were sued to obtain access to emails relating to the report. This time around, the scientists were understandably nervous about citing anything not peer-reviewed, especially reports from industry or environmental groups.

That put the panel in a bind. This is not surprising given that the distribution of funding for climate change research is lopsided, favoring physical science rather than social science. The National Science Foundation's Social and Behavioral Science program is the primary source of federally funded basic research in the social sciences, and its whole budget for all social science—not just climate—is one-tenth of the U.S. Global Change Program, which was $2.6 billion in 2013. What this means is that while we have a robust NASA satellite program, we have very little basic social-science research being done on the how climate change will impact the economy.

Still, we are not without data or analytical resources. The best climate cost estimates we have come from the private sector: industry-funded research centers like the American Petroleum Institute. Businesses and industry have both the most at stake and the most to gain from knowing precisely what will happen, given that their assets are exposed to unanticipated climate events. They need to forecast losses and put recovery plans in place.

For example, a report from the Carbon Disclosure Project reported on a survey of more than 2,000 companies and found that 44 percent of them had suffered a disruption in production from rainfall or drought and 31 percent had experienced higher production costs. A new report from the Partnership for Resilience and Environmental Preparedness provides detailed guidelines on how companies might assess the resilience of their supply chains to climate disruptions, and gives examples of how Levi Strauss and Starbucks have managed climate risks by helping their suppliers reduce water use in cotton or adapt coffee production to warmer temperatures.

Some of the most detailed data comes from global insurers. A case in point, the Thai floods of 2011 inundated the automobile and electronics manufacturing facilities that had been built on former rice paddies in the floodplain of the Chao Praya River, near Bangkok, and caused losses estimated at more than $45 billion, reducing Thai economic growth and seriously affecting the profits of companies such as Sony and Honda. Toyota reported losses of almost one quarter million automobiles and suspended production lines across Southeast Asia and North America. Because of the concentration of computer hard-disk manufacturing in the flooded industrial parks, prices of desk and laptop hard drives doubled worldwide. There were several studies comparing the flood's impacts on different sectors and companies.

The reinsurer Swiss Re advertises a proprietary web tool which maps environmental vulnerability to earthquakes, floods and climate events on its home page. Users can tailor their investigation down to their countries cities, infrastructure, and economic assets.

Even though corporations frequently withhold specific data on operations, strategy, and performance for reasons of competitive advantage, there are many businesses interested enough in climate risks to provide information to researchers and analysts skilled enough to undertake studies. More importantly, businesses belong to associations, which regularly conduct impact reviews of such topics as trade, regulatory change, and workforce development. By aggregating research findings across firms in an industry, this type of information is used to conduct strategic assessments of likely consequences of threats and opportunities.

Scholars and business analysts regularly retrieve data from firms, process it to obscure sensitive information and then publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. These authors have an enormous incentive to be accurate, and their work should serve as a baseline from which more scientific estimates of economic impact can be made. It should become common practice for scientists to convert and expand such studies into robust peer-reviewed analysis that can be used by climate assessments.

The research community needs to be much better prepared for future assessments, publishing high-quality studies on climate and the economy well in advance of deadlines for IPCC and other reports. But this means that there needs to be collaboration with the private sector to collect good data, and that research funding needs to be balanced. In the U.S. we have spent several decades and billions of dollars observing and modeling the earth and analyzing climate risks to water and ecology, compared to a few million a year for socioeconomic impact studies.

The economic impacts won't necessarily always be negative or large—that's why we need research to examine which sectors, firms, workers and regions will benefit or lose from what type of climate changes. The science community has been ignoring this research at their peril—and at the planet's peril: money talks. Science needs to talk to the money.

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Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

DINA CAPPIELLO Associated Press Yahoo News 21 Apr 14;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won't meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.

The biofuel industry and administration officials immediately criticized the research as flawed. They said it was too simplistic in its analysis of carbon loss from soil, which can vary over a single field, and vastly overestimated how much residue farmers actually would remove once the market gets underway.

"The core analysis depicts an extreme scenario that no responsible farmer or business would ever employ because it would ruin both the land and the long-term supply of feedstock. It makes no agronomic or business sense," said Jan Koninckx, global business director for biorefineries at DuPont.

Later this year the company is scheduled to finish a $200 million-plus facility in Nevada, Iowa, that will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol using corn residue from nearby farms. An assessment paid for by DuPont said that the ethanol it will produce there could be more than 100 percent better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The research is among the first to attempt to quantify, over 12 Corn Belt states, how much carbon is lost to the atmosphere when the stalks, leaves and cobs that make up residue are removed and used to make biofuel, instead of left to naturally replenish the soil with carbon. The study found that regardless of how much corn residue is taken off the field, the process contributes to global warming.

"I knew this research would be contentious," said Adam Liska, the lead author and an assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "I'm amazed it has not come out more solidly until now."

The Environmental Protection Agency's own analysis, which assumed about half of corn residue would be removed from fields, found that fuel made from corn residue, also known as stover, would meet the standard in the energy law. That standard requires cellulosic biofuels to release 60 percent less carbon pollution than gasoline.

Cellulosic biofuels that don't meet that threshold could be almost impossible to make and sell. Producers wouldn't earn the $1 per gallon subsidy they need to make these expensive fuels and still make a profit. Refiners would shun the fuels because they wouldn't meet their legal obligation to use minimum amounts of next-generation biofuels.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said in a statement that the study "does not provide useful information relevant to the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from corn stover ethanol."

But an AP investigation last year found that the EPA's analysis of corn-based ethanol failed to predict the environmental consequences accurately.

The departments of Agriculture and Energy have initiated programs with farmers to make sure residue is harvested sustainably. For instance, farmers will not receive any federal assistance for conservation programs if too much corn residue is removed.

A peer-reviewed study performed at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory in 2012 found that biofuels made with corn residue were 95 percent better than gasoline in greenhouse gas emissions. That study assumed some of the residue harvested would replace power produced from coal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it's unclear whether future biorefineries would do that.

Liska agrees that using some of the residue to make electricity, or planting cover crops, would reduce carbon emissions. But he did not include those in his computer simulation.

Still, corn residue is likely to be a big source early on for cellulosic biofuels, which have struggled to reach commercial scale. Last year, for the fifth time, the EPA proposed reducing the amount required by law. It set a target of 17 million gallons for 2014. The law envisioned 1.75 billion gallons being produced this year.

"The study says it will be very hard to make a biofuel that has a better greenhouse gas impact than gasoline using corn residue," which puts it in the same boat as corn-based ethanol, said David Tilman, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has done research on biofuels' emissions from the farm to the tailpipe.

Tilman said it was the best study on the issue he has seen so far.

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