Dbytes #514 (9 March 2022)

Info, news & views for anyone interested in biodiversity conservation and good environmental decision making

“Oil and gas companies with carbon capture facilities are selling captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery and what can’t be sold is more often vented. CCS/CCUS [carbon capture] effectively extends the life of fossil fuel companies, giving them a licence to ramp up production.”
Bruce Robertson [see item 7; note: half of the carbon captured by the world’s oldest and biggest carbon capture facility has been vented into the atmosphere]


In this issue of Dbytes

1. Extinction crisis: native mammals are disappearing in Northern Australia, but few people are watching
2. Slippery answers like bare-handed barrel-fishing, The latest Senate Environment Committee ‘Estimates’ hearings
3. The koala in the coal mine
4. ‘The sad reality is many don’t survive’: how floods affect wildlife, and how you can help them
5. Using a leverage points perspective to compare social-ecological systems: a case study on rural landscapes
6. Extinction, de-extinction and conservation: a dangerous mix of ideas
7. Carbon capture in today’s world: Shute Creek – world’s largest carbon capture facility sells CO2 for oil production, but vents unsold

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1. Extinction crisis: native mammals are disappearing in Northern Australia, but few people are watching

But tragically, in the years since, many of these mammals have disappeared. Four species have become extinct and nine face the same fate in the next two decades. And we know relatively little about this homegrown crisis. Monitoring of these species has been lacking for many decades – and as mammal numbers have declined, the knowledge gaps have become worse.

https://theconversation.com/extinction-crisis-native-mammals-are-disappearing-in-northern-australia-but-few-people-are-watching-178313?  

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2. Slippery answers like bare-handed barrel-fishing, The latest Senate Environment Committee ‘Estimates’ hearings

The most recent Environment Estimates were held last month. This year they revealed the Government was disingenuous about planning for 2050 Net Zero and about their billion-dollar reef investment. But the revelations were not so clear as to damage the Government. The Estimates, as such, fail as a tool for accountability.

Slippery answers like bare-handed barrel-fishing

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3. The koala in the coal mine

With the scrutiny on climate change, the collapse of Australian ecosystems has received scant attention. But saving them is entirely possible. Australia’s iconic koala, listed as endangered in the Australian regions of Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory in 2022, is unfortunately far from alone.

https://360info.org/the-koala-in-the-coal-mine/

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4. ‘The sad reality is many don’t survive’: how floods affect wildlife, and how you can help them

Land-dwelling animals typically don’t fare as well in floods. Some may be able to detect imminent inundation and head for higher, drier ground. Others simply don’t have the ability or opportunity to take evasive action in time. This can include animals with dependent young in burrows, such as wombats, platypus and echidnas.

https://theconversation.com/the-sad-reality-is-many-dont-survive-how-floods-affect-wildlife-and-how-you-can-help-them-178310?

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5. Using a leverage points perspective to compare social-ecological systems: a case study on rural landscapes

A leverage points perspective recognises different levels of systemic depth, ranging from the relatively shallow levels of parameters and feedbacks to the deeper levels of system design and intent. Analysing a given social-ecological system for its characteristics across these four levels of systemic depth provides a useful diagnostic to better understand sustainability problems, and can complement other types of cause-and-effect systems modelling. Moreover, the structured comparison of multiple systems can highlight whether sustainability challenges in different systems have a similar origin (e.g. similar feedbacks or similar design). We used a leverage points perspective to systematically compare findings from three in-depth social-ecological case studies, which investigated rural landscapes in southeastern Australia, central Romania, and southwestern Ethiopia. Inductive coding of key findings documented in over 60 empirical publications was used to generate synthesis statements of key findings in the three case studies. Despite major socioeconomic and ecological differences, many synthesis statements applied to all three case studies. Major sustainability problems occurred at the design and intent levels. For example, at the intent level, all three rural landscapes were driven by goals and paradigms that mirrored a productivist green revolution discourse. Our paper thus highlights that there are underlying challenges for rural sustainability across the world, which appear to apply similarly across strongly contrasting socioeconomic contexts. Sustainability interventions should be mindful of such deep similarities in system characteristics. We conclude that a leverage points perspective could be used to compare many other types of social-ecological systems around the world.

Full article: Using a leverage points perspective to compare social-ecological systems: a case study on rural landscapes (tandfonline.com)

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6. Extinction, de-extinction and conservation: a dangerous mix of ideas

Preventing extinction is the central driver of almost all conservation action. Conservation biologists are sensitive about extinction because it is final and irreversible. The concept of de-extinction however threatens the finality of extinction to offer the option to reverse some of the iconic extinction events. Here we explore the place that extinction plays in conservation and argue that; (1) deliberate extinction by humans is surprisingly rare and extinction is a cultural taboo, (2) Australia has an acute sense of extinction guilt linked to our world renowned extinctions of iconic mammals and; (3) extinction, like death, is irreversible, meaning that extinct species hold a special martyr-like status as iconic consequences of the excesses of humans. We argue that de-extinction is a dangerous idea for conservation because it will undermine the value provided by extinct species as martyrs for the conservation cause.

https://meridian.allenpress.com/australian-zoologist/article/38/3/390/135113/Extinction-de-extinction-and-conservation-a

Also, see
Can we resurrect the thylacine? Maybe, but it won’t help the global extinction crisis

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7. Carbon capture in today’s world: Shute Creek – world’s largest carbon capture facility sells CO2 for oil production, but vents unsold

A new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has found that the world’s largest carbon capture, utilisation and storage project, the Shute Creek facility in the USA run by ExxonMobil, has consistently failed to reach its carbon dioxide capture targets. Over its 35 year history, the project has captured around 120 million tonnes of CO2, which is 34 per cent less than its capturing capacity targets. Nevertheless this amounts to 40 per cent of all anthropogenic CO2 which has ever been captured globally. Of this total, 114 million tonnes were sold for enhanced oil recovery purposes and 6 million tonnes were stored geologically. Another 120 million tonnes was vented into the atmosphere for want of buyers.

IEEFA: Shute Creek – world’s largest carbon capture facility sells CO2 for oil production, but vents unsold – Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis

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About Dbytes

Dbytes is a weekly eNewsletter presenting news and views on biodiversity conservation and environmental decision science. ‘D’ stands for ‘Decision’ and refers to all the ingredients that go into good, fair and just decision-making in relation to the environment. From 2007-2018 Dbytes was supported by a variety of research networks and primarily the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). From 2019 Dbytes is being produced by David Salt (Ywords). Dbytes is supported by the Global Water Forum.

If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info.

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David Salt
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