Nearly 100 wildfires burn
Authorities are assessing damage from almost 100 wildfires burning across Australia’s most populous state that killed one man, razed an unknown number of homes and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. Milder conditions were helping firefighters early today after Thursday’s unseasonably hot temperatures and strong winds fanned flames across the parched landscape and threatened towns surrounding Sydney.
Treaty to target mercury
A new global treaty could eliminate within three decades the commercial use of mercury in everything from batteries, paints and skin-lightening creams to utility plants and small-scale gold mining, Achim Steiner, the head of the U.N.’s environment agency, said Thursday. The agreement still needs ratification by dozens of countries, and includes a concession to nations with small-scale gold mining — one of the biggest sources of pollution.
Famed frescoes at risk
The head of the Vatican Museums warned Thursday he might be forced to limit the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel if its new air conditioning and air purification systems don’t significantly reduce “dangerous” pollution levels. Antonio Paolucci told a conference that he was confident the new system, which is expected to be operational at the end of 2014, would curb the dust, humidity and carbon dioxide that are dulling and discoloring Michelangelo’s frescoed masterpiece.
Heated fracking protests
Police near the New Brunswick city of Rexton said Thursday that they arrested at least 40 people at a violent protest over shale gas development. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the people were arrested for firearms violations, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating a court-ordered injunction. In Romania, meanwhile, Chevron said Thursday it has suspended searching for shale gas in the country’s northeast after anti-fracking protests in the capital and elsewhere.
Compiled from wire reports.