Carbon-neutral petrol? Nice try, Ampol.

It's been a big week of climate news. Here's a wrap-up of what's happening – in three minutes or less.

The WfC Editors
August 31, 2022
3 min read
A person wearing a yellow jumper filling a white car with petrol at a service station

Each week, we provide a rundown of the most essential climate news from Australia and around the globe: the good, the questionable, and the conversation starters. Here's what's been going on.

In the climate timeline, we’re officially at the Scientists Super-Gluing Their Hands to Public Buildings phase. Leading scientists have called on their colleagues to commit acts of civil disobedience this week in a desperate effort to draw attention to the climate crisis. “These are decent people who know more than anybody else about how deep in the shit we are,” says political scientist Oscar Berglund. In other news, we’ve got vertical farms, pest-eating ants, and California cracking down on petrol cars. Just another dose of WorkforClimate Weekly. 

The good news 😊

Could vertical farms become more popular than the horizontal kind? That’s what The Guardian is asking this week. Vertical farming refers to indoor agriculture, where herbs, fruits and veggies can be grown in stacked layers, year-round, reducing farm footprint, shrinking water waste, and allowing countries like the UK to ditch carbon-heavy imports and grow their own food instead. Still, the industry is just a seedling at the moment: there are only 30 hectares of operational vertical farmland in the entire world right now.  

California has voted to ban new petrol cars by 2035. It’s only one state, sure, but this is a big deal for the US, with some experts predicting the move could prompt one third of American states to embrace EVs more quickly. Where California goes, the rest will follow, especially since 41% of the state’s greenhouse emissions come from transport. In Australia, Ed Husic, the federal science minister, has joined the growing EV chorus, arguing that all new housing should be ‘EV friendly’, potentially turning entire suburbs into virtual batteries. Cool concept. 

On the radar 🧐

How do you feel about drinking treated sewage water? With the way droughts and climate change are going, we might not have much choice. The boss of the UK’s Environmental Agency says we all have to become “less squeamish” about drinking water derived from sewage, because that’s looking more and more likely in the future. “[It’s] perfectly safe and perfectly healthy,” he says, “but not something many people fancy. We need to remember: when we turn on the tap, what comes out started in a river. The more we take, the more we drain those sources.” 

Australian academics are turning up the heat on the federal government, with a letter signed by 100 scientists calling on environment ministers to consider the effects of climate change in the approvals process for new fossil fuel developments. You’d think arguing that environmental assessments should be “responsible and evidence-based” would be a complete no-brainer, particularly under a Labor government who’s meant to be tough on climate, but here we are… 

It feels like corporate greenwashing is finally copping some well-deserved flack. Last week we mentioned this great clip from John Oliver, and this week petroleum company Ampol’s ‘carbon neutral’ claims are coming under serious, fine-toothed scrutiny. Communications industry group Comms Declare has written a legal letter of complaint, accusing the fuel giant of greenwashing and breaching the Environmental Claims Code. They wouldn’t be the first to do so

Water cooler chat 🗣️

Put down the pesticides. Ants can do it better. According to new research, certain ant species can be more effective than pesticides at helping farmers produce food. They’re better at killing pests (tick), reducing plant damage (tick) and increasing crop yields (tick tick). “Some ant species have similar or higher efficacy than pesticides, at lower costs,” researchers wrote. Head to your local ant dealer for more info, or leave some sugar out and go from there. 

Next time you’re watering your indoor plant collection, spare a thought for the volunteers of Bosk, an eco-awareness project which created a “walking forest” of 1000 trees in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden. Project members literally transported the trees, very slowly, through the city, giving residents a glimpse at what a greener future might look like. “This project gives me hope,” says Johan Lakke, a Bosk member and student at the University of Groningen. “It shows us that if you’re crazy enough to think outside the box, you can achieve things.”

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