McDonald’s turning restaurants into ‘green labs’: From low-flow water faucets to converting French fry oil to fuel, McDonald’s Corp is testing ways to reduce the impact its 31,000-plus restaurants have on the world’s resources. The hamburger chain, whose iconic brand and presence in 118 countries has made it the target of anti-globalisation activists, is using its scale and broad franchise ownership to address the issue. It is trying out a slew of individualised environmental initiatives, said Bob Langert, vice president of corporate social responsibility, in an interview, adding that it did not make sense to force one solution onto its entire system. Stuff.co.nz

The high price of planting palm oil forests: New data shows that massive amounts of carbon dioxide are being released from tropical Southeast Asian peatland after the conversion of natural swamp forest to oil palm or pulpwood tree plantations. The findings are in accordance with other recent reports on the growing negative environmental impacts of planting palm oil and pulpwood forests. Europa

It’s about more than just whales: Whales and dolphins stir the imagination and evoke our emotions to an extent almost unique among non-human critters. As fellow mammals, whales share a deep evolutionary heritage with us, just as rats, cats, dogs, bats and aardvarks do. Whales are long sundered from us by the vastness of over 60 million years, yet they are our true distant cousins in the sea. Perhaps it is this primeval shared ancestry that contributes to humankind’s long-held fascination with cetaceans. They are like us in numerous ways: generally highly social, with complex behaviour; have sophisticated communication; possess what may best be described as culture; and, after humans and next to chimpanzees, include the most intelligent known organisms. The Age

China says US must do more on climate change: China is glad a climate change roadmap agreed last week in Bali has drawn the United States to the negotiating table, but the world’s only superpower must do more to tackle global warming, a top official said on Thursday. Yu Qingtai, China’s climate change ambassador, said Beijing was satisfied with the hard-won plan, finally agreed after two weeks of talks overran by a day into a dramatic final session marked by tears, booing and a series of standing ovations. Nearly 200 nations agreed to launch negotiations on a new pact to fight global warming after a last-minute reversal by the United States allowed a breakthrough. The deal is important because it draws in countries that currently do not have a binding international obligation to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Yu said, but they could still do more to help others. Reuters

Climate consensus ‘busted’?: The perennial tug of war over what average people should think and do about human-caused global warming has just experienced another big yank, this time from those saying actions to cut greenhouse gases are a costly waste of time. As I’ve written many times before, much of the tugging may be a distraction from fundamentals that are clearly established. There’s more on that below. In the meantime, here’s what’s up: The office of Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican and ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, released a report online today listing hundreds of scientists and links to peer-reviewed studies that it says challenge whether humans are dangerously influencing climate.“This new ‘consensus busters’ report is poised to redefine the debate,” the news release said. New York Times

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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