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VW scandal must change how we think about transport and the environment | Letters

It is unsurprising but disappointing that the initial reaction to Volkswagen’s deceit (Volkswagen scandal: US chief says carmaker ‘totally screwed up’, 22 September) focuses on falling share prices. The impact of this scandal, however, runs far deeper. Research has shown that many car brands tested in factory settings do not perform as expected by European emission standards on the road. With tens of thousands of deaths hastened by exposure to pollution every year, the real lesson to learn is that we absolutely cannot continue to rely on manufacturers for accurate information about vehicles’ emissions. We need independent, real-world testing. This will not only prevent manufacturers from self-certifying results but, by providing accurate data with which to inform both consumer choice and government pollution-reduction strategies, will go a long way in protecting the health and lives of thousands.

Signed by members of the Healthy Air Campaign:

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Source: Guardian Environment

Top science book prize won by woman for first time

Adventures in the Anthropocene, a study of human plundering of Earth’s resources, makes Gaia Vince first female outright winner of Royal Society Winton prize in award’s 28-year history

The most prestigious science book prize in Britain has been won by a solo female writer for the first time in its 28-year history.

Gaia Vince, a journalist and broadcaster based in London, was named the winner of the 2015 Royal Society Winton prize for Science Books at a ceremony in London on Thursday evening.

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Source: Guardian Environment

VW scandal: UK to rerun emissions tests

Department of Transport vows to rerun laboratory tests on engines and compare results with on-the-road emissions

The British government is to start its own inquiry into car emissions and testing, running new lab tests on engines from across the industry and comparing the results with on-the-road emissions.

The Vehicle Certification Agency, a division of the Department for Transport, will work with manufacturers across the industry as it reruns tests in the wake of the VW test-rigging scandal. The government also called on the European commission to launch a Europe-wide investigation into the car industry.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Car manufacturers were warned about risk of $1bn emission fines

Volkswagen was among companies warned in February they could risk fines for failing to meet stringent emissions targets

In February, CDP published a report for investors looking at the auto manufacturing sector and the potential impact of increasing legislation and the shift towards hybrid and electric vehicles. We highlighted that several companies (including Volkswagen) could be at risk from fines for failing to meet stringent emissions targets for their vehicle fleets.

We estimated some of these fines at potentially a billion dollars or more and, while investors accepted the findings of the research, there was some scepticism as to whether anyone would ever get fined that sort of money by the authorities. All that has changed this week with the announcement of the US EPA’s discovery that VW was dishonestly underestimating emissions from its vehicles.

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Source: Guardian Environment

British anglers on alert for alien salmon species

Unusual specimens spotted in UK waters may be product of Russian breeding programme in Arctic Ocean, says conservationist

British anglers have been told to watch out for an alien salmon species that is normally native to the chillier waters of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

Eight specimens of wild pink salmon have been caught in the rivers Tyne and Wear, and off the coast of South Shields. The fish is native to the north Pacific basin and its surrounding rivers, and is the smallest and most common of the Pacific salmon.

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Source: Guardian Environment

The Company of Trees by Thomas Pakenham review – memoir of an intrepid tree obsessive

From seed-hunting expeditions in the Andes to grim encounters with the timber trade, this memoir of an intrepid tree obsessive stands tall

Few have ever indulged their inclinations on a grander scale than Thomas Pakenham, whose passion is for trees. The scarlet maple was his first love, the ginkgo remains his favourite, and he would give his eye teeth for a Magnolia sargentiana. He says he is prepared to die for the silver fir that guards the approaches to his crumbling Irish castle, where the blue pine in his Chinese garden waggles her sinuous brown hips for him “like a dancing girl … in a shimmering skirt of blue-green needles”.

This is an exuberant tale of greed and gratified desire by a romantic who, for 50 years and more, has been planting trees by the thousand on his family estate at Tullynally in Westmeath. Pakenham is currently in his 82nd year, and buying magnolias like a madman “in what the Germans call Torschlusspanik” (last-minute or door-closing panic). He wants a packet of monkey puzzle seeds from Patagonia so that “when I am old I shall look up from my wheelchair lost in a forest of monkey puzzles”. They grow 20cm a year at best, so there should be plenty of time for further instalments of Pakenham’s ongoing tree saga that started nearly 20 years ago with Meetings with Remarkable Trees. His fourth volume, The Company of Trees, chronicles a year in its author’s life of planning, planting and travelling in pursuit of the great plant-hunters, Joseph Hooker, George Forrest and Ernest Wilson, who scoured the world for 19th-century garden-builders like the Williamses at the Cornish castle of Caerhays, and the Holfords of Westonbirt in Gloucestershire.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Pope Francis urges Congress to treat immigrants in 'humane and just' way

Pontiff says divisive rhetoric is not in ‘the spirit of the American people’ and calls for action to combat ‘human activity’ that has caused climate change

The first pope from the Americas called on US lawmakers to open their hearts to new generations of immigrants on Thursday in a historic address to Congress that urged them to reject a rising xenophobic tendency in politics.

Related: Pope Francis calls on Congress to confront immigration in ‘land of dreams’ – live

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Source: Guardian Environment

Celebrated NASA planet hunter shifts his sights back to climate change on Earth | Dana Nuccitelli

William Borucki donated Shaw Award prize money for pioneering planet finding to the Union of Concerned Scientists for its climate change efforts

William Borucki has had an amazing scientific career. One of his first jobs was at NASA Ames Research Center, where he worked on the Apollo moon missions, including helping to develop the heat shield for the space shuttle. After the successful moon landings, Borucki shifted to NASA’s Theoretical Studies Branch in the 1970s, where he developed models of the Earth’s atmosphere to predict the effects of nitric oxides and chlorofluoromethanes on the ozone layer. Both were determined to contribute to the problem of ozone depletion and the hole in the ozone layer.

In the 1980s, Borucki began advocating the development of a space mission that could detect Earth-size planets. He published a paper in 1984 showing that a photometer 1,000 times more precise than any in existence could detect Earth-size planets. Undeterred by rejections of four proposals in the 1990s for a planet-finding mission, Borucki was ultimately appointed Principal Investigator in 2001 for NASA’s new Keppler Mission to discover these planets. During its four years of its operation, the Keppler Mission discovered over 4,600 planetary candidates, confirmed more than 1,000 as planets, and made numerous contributions to stellar astrophysics.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Blackadder creator checks with UN over portraying them as animals in advert

Richard Curtis’ ad for Global Goals for Sustainable Development to debut in cinemas on Saturday in more than 30 countries aiming to reach 7 billion people

Film director Richard Curtis had to phone the UN to make sure they didn’t mind being portrayed as animals in a new cinema ad to promote global development goals.

The ad for Global Goals for Sustainable Development is set to debut on Saturday in more than 30 countries and aims to reach 7 billion people in seven days.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Renewable energy outstrips coal for first time in UK electricity mix

Wind, solar and bioenergy surge to supply a record 25% of the country’s electricity for a whole quarter

Renewable energy has for the first time surpassed coal in supplying the UK’s electricity for a whole quarter, according to government statistics released on Thursday.

The revelation of the surge in wind, solar and bioenergy to a record 25% comes in a week when the government has been heavily criticised by business leaders and Al Gore for cutting support for clean energy.

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Source: Guardian Environment