Australia & Oceania

Ocean water

Island states win historic climate case in world oceans court

Nine small island states have won a historic climate change case at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which ruled that all signatories to a United Nations treaty on marine activities must do more to protect the world’s oceans from climate change. The tribunal found that signatories to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea’s responsibilities to prevent marine pollution extend to greenhouse gas emissions, which harm oceans by altering the earth’s atmosphere.

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Elderly person smiling

Global life expectancy increased by 6.2 years between 1990 and 2021

A new study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the super-region of Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania had the world’s largest net gain in life expectancy between 1990 and 2021 (8.3 years), largely due to reductions in mortality from chronic respiratory diseases, stroke, lower respiratory infections, and cancer.

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Whale jumping

In move to protect whales, Polynesian Indigenous groups give them ‘personhood’

Indigenous leaders of New Zealand, Tahiti, and the Cook Islands signed a historic treaty that recognizes whales as legal persons in a move conservationists believe will apply pressure to national governments to offer greater protections for the large mammals. “It’s fitting that the traditional guardians are initiating this,” said Mere Takoko, a Māori conservationist who leads Hinemoana Halo Ocean Initiative, the group that spearheaded the treaty. “For us, by restoring those world populations we also restore our communities.”

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Satellite over Earth

New satellite pinpoints global methane pollution in real-time

MethaneSAT, developed by the Environmental Defense Fund in partnership with the New Zealand Space Agency, is the size of a washing machine and cost $88 million to build and launch. While part of its mission is to spot polluters, the other side of the coin is that it can verify that others are indeed managing those emissions in a responsible fashion. Stemming methane leaks is the fastest single way to curb the escalation of average global temperatures, according to The Guardian.

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Vast solar farm

Utility solar dethrones coal as the cheapest power source in Asia

According a new analysis from Wood Mackenzie on the levelized cost of electricity for the Asia Pacific region, the cost of renewables reached a historic low in 2023. Renewable energy costs in Asia last year were 13% cheaper than coal and are expected to be 32% cheaper by 2030. Utility solar is now the cheapest power source in 11 out of 15 APAC countries. New-build solar project costs are expected to fall by another 20% by 2030.

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Aerial view of large electrical power plant with many rows of solar photovoltaic panels for producing clean ecological electric energy in morning

South Australia fast-tracks 100% renewables target to 2027

The South Australia state government says it has fast tracked its target of “net 100%” renewables to 2027 – rather than 2030 – as a result of the state’s new wind and solar developments and its ambitious hydrogen plans. “Net” 100% renewables means producing enough wind and solar to meet the annual demand figure.

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Chromosomes

Gene therapy hailed as ‘medical magic wand’ for hereditary swelling disorder

Hereditary angioedema, or HAE, is a rare disease that affects about one in 50,000 people. It is caused by a genetic mutation that leaves patients with leaky blood vessels, causing erratic bouts of swelling. Dr. Hilary Longhurst, the principal investigator at New Zealand’s Te Toka Tumai, Auckland City hospital, said the new single-dose therapy appeared to provide a permanent cure for her patients’ “very disabling symptoms”.

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Streets of Palau Koror and coves of coral reefs

Palau is the first nation to ratify treaty to protect high seas

Palau has become the first nation to ratify the high seas treaty, a legally binding international agreement that seeks to protect and manage ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction. Other countries, including Chile and the Maldives, are engaged in their ratification processes, pushing the treaty closer to becoming international law. The establishment of the high seas treaty has been under debate for nearly two decades, but U.N. member states finally reached a consensus to approve the treaty in March 2023.

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Solar panels reflect sparkling light from the Sun

Rio Tinto signs contract for Australian grid’s first gigawatt scale solar project

Mining company Rio Tinto has signed a contract to buy all the electricity from what will be the biggest solar project on Australia’s main grid – a 1.1 GW facility near Gladstone in Queensland. Rio Tinto is seeking up to 4 GW of wind and solar to provide clean power to and guarantee the future of its three main assets in the region – the Boyne Island aluminium smelter, the Yarwun alumina refinery, and the Queensland alumina refinery. All three assets are now supplied by coal.

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Molecule of the human hormone glucagon

Australian scientists regenerate diabetics’ damaged cells to produce insulin

For many years, research has focused on identifying novel therapies that stimulate beta-cell growth and function to restore insulin production in type 1 diabetics. Now, researchers at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne have brought us a step closer to making this a reality, regenerating damaged pancreatic cells so they can produce insulin and functionally respond to blood glucose levels. The novel therapeutic approach has the potential to become the first disease-modifying treatment for type 1 diabetes.

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