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PostApoc Scenario News Updates
News pertaining to any of the Seven Scenarios, PostApoc Trends, and Glints of Recovery are provided by our newsgathering staff. Click on an icon for recent news on a specific Scenario.
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2009-03-06 12:12:44
Fri, Mar 6, 2009: from Bloomberg News
India Failing to Control Open Defecation Blunts Nation’s Growth
Until May 2007, Meera Devi rose before dawn each day and walked a half mile to a vegetable patch outside the village of Kachpura to find a secluded place. Dodging leering men and stick-wielding farmers and avoiding spots that her neighbors had soiled, the mother of three pulled up her sari and defecated with the Taj Mahal in plain view. With that act, she added to the estimated 100,000 tons of human excrement that Indians leave each day in fields of potatoes, carrots and spinach, on banks that line rivers used for drinking and bathing and along roads jammed with scooters, trucks and pedestrians.... In the shadow of its new suburbs, torrid growth and 300- ­million-plus-strong middle class, India is struggling with a sanitation emergency. From the stream in Devi’s village to the nation’s holiest river, the Ganges, 75 percent of the country’s surface water is contaminated by human and agricultural waste and industrial effluent. Everyone in Indian cities is at risk of consuming human feces, if they’re not already, the Ministry of Urban Development concluded in September.
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2009-03-06 12:05:43
Fri, Mar 6, 2009: from BBC
'No proof' of bee killer theory
Scientists say there is no proof that a mysterious disease blamed for the deaths of billions of bees actually exists. For five years, increasing numbers of unexplained bee deaths have been reported worldwide, with US commercial beekeepers suffering the most. The term Colony Collapse Disorder was coined to describe the illness. But many experts now believe that the term is misleading and there is no single, new ailment killing the bees.
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2009-03-06 12:01:57
Fri, Mar 6, 2009: from London Independent
Revenge of the rainforest
It covers an area 25 times bigger than Britain, is home to a bewildering concentration of flora and fauna and is often described as the "lungs of the world" for its ability to absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide through its immense photosynthetic network of trees and leaves. The Amazon rainforest is one of the biggest and most important living stores of carbon on the planet through its ability to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into solid carbon, kept locked in the trunks of rainforest trees for centuries. But this massive natural "sink" for carbon cannot be relied on to continue absorbing carbon dioxide in perpetuity, a study shows. Researchers have found that, for a period in 2005, the Amazon rainforest actually slipped into reverse gear and started to emit more carbon than it absorbed. Four years ago, a sudden and intense drought in the Amazonian dry season created the sort of conditions that give climate scientists nightmares. Instead of being a net absorber of about two billion tons of carbon dioxide, the forest became a net producer of the greenhouse gas, to the tune of about three billion tons. The additional quantity of carbon dioxide left in the atmosphere after the drought - some five billion tons - exceeded the annual man-made emissions of Europe and Japan combined. What happened in the dry season of 2005 was a stark reminder of how quickly the factors affecting global warming can change.
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2009-03-06 11:44:58
Fri, Mar 6, 2009: from USA Today
Obama veers from Bush's environmental course
Even before George W. Bush can settle into his new house in Dallas, his legacy on the environment is being dismantled by his replacement in the White House. In less than two months, President Obama has put on hold Bush's plans for power-plant pollution, offshore oil drilling, nuclear waste storage and endangered species.
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2009-03-05 19:48:25
Fri, Mar 6, 2009: from Port Elizabeth Herald
Starvation a likely outcome of climate change in Africa
The global community is failing to meet the threat of climate change, says the chairman of the international body researching and tracking the climate change phenomena, Dr Rajendra Pachauri. Addressing the National Climate Change Summit here on a video clip, Pachauri, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said things had gone backwards since the first global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 16 years ago. "Despite that commitment, between 1970 and 2004 emissions rose 70 per cent, and carbon dioxide alone rose 80 percent." ... Focusing on Africa, Pachauri said the prediction for some countries was that, as early as 2020, agricultural yield would drop by up to 50 percent. "In most cases, these are countries where people are already suffering from malnutrition, so this will exacerbate that suffering." Also by 2020, largely as a result of climate change, it is expected that between 75 million and 250 million people across the continent will be suffering from "water stress" -- a shortage of drinkable water.
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2009-03-05 19:14:48
Thu, Mar 5, 2009: from New York Times
Grass-Roots Uprising Against River Dam Challenges Tokyo
First, the farmers objected to an ambitious dam project proposed by the government, saying they did not need irrigation water from the reservoir. Then the commercial fishermen complained that fish would disappear if the Kawabe River's twisting torrents were blocked. Environmentalists worried about losing the river's scenic gorges. Soon, half of this city's 34,000 residents had signed a petition opposing the $3.6 billion project. In September, this rare grassroots uprising scored an even rarer victory when the governor of Kumamoto prefecture, a mountainous area of southern Japan, formally asked Tokyo to suspend construction. The Construction Ministry agreed, temporarily halting an undertaking that had already relocated a half-dozen small villages, though work on the dam itself had not started. The suspension grabbed national headlines as one of the first times a local governor had succeeded in blocking a megaproject being built by the central government.
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2009-03-05 19:17:43
Thu, Mar 5, 2009: from Reuters
Arctic summer ice could vanish by 2013: expert
The Arctic is warming up so quickly that the region's sea ice cover in summer could vanish as early as 2013, decades earlier than some had predicted, a leading polar expert said on Thursday. Warwick Vincent, director of the Center for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec, said recent data on the ice cover "appear to be tracking the most pessimistic of the models", which call for an ice free summer in 2013. The year "2013 is starting to look as though it is a lot more reasonable as a prediction. But each year we've been wrong -- each year we're finding that it's a little bit faster than expected," he told Reuters. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and the sea ice cover shrank to a record low in 2007 before growing slightly in 2008. In 2004 a major international panel forecast the cover could vanish by 2100. Last December, some experts said the summer ice could go in the next 10 or 20 years.
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2009-03-05 11:23:49
Thu, Mar 5, 2009: from LA Weekly
San Fernando Valley's Galaxy of Chemical Goo
West Hills resident Bonnie Klea is vivacious and no-nonsense. She won a battle over a rare bladder cancer diagnosed in 1995, and has long suspected the toxins that taint a big piece of land near her home -- land on which, if Los Angeles planners get their way, more building will soon be allowed. "I had surgery and was in the hospital nine times in nine months," Klea says. Of the cancer itself, Klea says, "It’s in the neighborhood. On my little street alone, I have two neighbors who have had bladder cancer." Sixteen cancers have afflicted residents in 15 homes on Klea’s block. A 1990 state health department survey of cancer records showed elevated levels of bladder cancer in west San Fernando Valley census tracts, including tract 1132, where Klea lives. Klea is in a fight that she began 14 years ago, battling Los Angeles city planners and state Department of Toxic Substances Control bureaucrats over a proposed development at "Corporate Pointe at West Hills" in Canoga Park, where a well-known West Valley landmark, the former DeVry University, stands. The expanse of land is riddled with heavy metal, chemical and radiological contamination.
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2009-03-05 11:13:37
Thu, Mar 5, 2009: from Charleston Gazette
C8 might damage sperm, study says
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Men with higher levels of C8 and similar chemicals in their blood have lower sperm counts and fewer normal sperm, according to a new scientific study published this week. The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is believed to be the first to link exposure to perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, to problems with human semen quality. Authors of the study say the findings might "contribute to the otherwise unexplained low semen quality often seen in young men," but added that more research is needed. The study also adds to the growing body of science about the potential dangers of exposure to C8, which also is known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. In January, another study found that women with higher levels of these chemicals in their blood took longer to become pregnant than women with lower levels. Scientists in Demark produced the study, based on blood and semen samples from more than 100 men examined in 2003. The data was collected as part of a program through which such samples are provided when men report for Denmark's military draft. They found that men with high combined levels of PFOA and a related chemical, PFOS, had a median of 6.2 million normal sperm in their ejaculate, compared to 15.5 million normal sperm among men with lower levels of the chemicals.
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2009-03-04 16:54:12
Wed, Mar 4, 2009: from Wall Street Journal
U.S. Climate Official Urges Congress To Curb Greenhouse-Gas Emissions
The top U.S. negotiator of international climate-change agreements urged Congress to pass legislation curbing greenhouse-gas emissions in advance of an international summit this December, saying it would give other countries "a powerful signal" to cut their own emissions. "It's been a long time now that countries have been looking to the U.S. to lead," Todd Stern, President Barack Obama's special envoy for climate change, said in response to questions from audience members after a speech at a conference on global warming. Mr. Stern acknowledged that passage of climate-change legislation before December would be "an extremely tall order," but added that "nothing would give a more powerful signal to other countries than to see a significant, major, mandatory plan" from the U.S. before the start of international talks that are intended to forge a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which committed many industrialized nations to cutting their emissions.
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2009-03-04 16:40:10
Wed, Mar 4, 2009: from Environmental Health News
Migrating vultures succumb to lead
An increasingly rare species of vulture that migrates from Mongolia to overwintering grounds in South Korea can pick up enough lead along the way to poison and kill them. Lead poisoning may be the reason a globally threatened species of vulture is frequently found dead in the wild. The vulture is native to Europe and Asia. One large population overwinters in South Korea near the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Researchers examined 20 dead birds found in the area. They analyzed the animals' kidneys, liver and bones for lead and other metals. They found very high levels of lead in these birds. Fourteen individuals had potentially toxic levels in their liver and kidneys.... The results also highlight that wildlife can transport toxic chemicals to new locations where it can then enter different food webs. The authors suggest that the birds may pick up the poisonous lead during their migration by feeding on other animals that are contaminated with the heavy metal. The lead might come from ammunition used for hunting.
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2009-03-04 16:32:48
Wed, Mar 4, 2009: from The Denver Post
The cold truth about ozone
Ozone pollution -- considered a summer problem -- is being detected across the West this winter, raising questions about the program to monitor and cut the pollutant. First detected in February 2005 near the oil and gas fields of Pinedale, Wyo., elevated winter ozone is now being found in New Mexico and Utah, according to state data, and could eventually be found in Colorado. "Now that we know to look for it, I think we'll find high levels of winter ozone across the West and the world," said Russell Schnell, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist. Schnell's Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder is probing how ozone -- corrosive gas linked to respiratory problems -- is created in winter. "It is a sign of the rapidly industrializing West," said Vickie Patton, air programs manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. "We are seeing a hallmark Western resource-- healthy, clean air -- vanish."
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2009-03-04 15:56:45
Wed, Mar 4, 2009: from New Scientist
Inbreeding sabotages rare species' sperm
It's a triple whammy for male animals on the brink of extinction: not only are there fewer mates around to have sex with, but, to make things worse, their sperm are more likely to carry genetic abnormalities and less likely to be good swimmers, research shows.... The team found that, on average, 48 percent of the sperm of endangered species was abnormal, compared with 30 percent in non-endangered species. In addition, the percentage of the sperm that was motile -- or capable of movement -- was around 10 percent lower in endangered species. Earlier research has shown that both characteristics make a male less likely to produce viable offspring.
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2009-03-04 15:46:53
Wed, Mar 4, 2009: from New Energy Finance, via EurekAlert
Clean energy investment not on track to avoid climate change
The world economic crisis has hit investment in clean energy and means its growth is no longer on track for the world to avert the worst impact of climate change, according to leading clean energy and carbon market analysts, New Energy Finance.... Investment in clean energy -- renewables, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage -- increased from $34bn in 2004 to around $150bn in each of 2007 and 2008. New Energy Finance's latest Global Futures report demonstrates that investment needs to reach $500bn per annum by 2020 if CO2 emissions from the world's energy system are to peak before 2020.
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2009-03-03 14:48:44
Tue, Mar 3, 2009: from National Geographic News
Glacier(less) National Park in 2020
It's an oft-repeated statistic that the glaciers at Montana's Glacier National Park will disappear by the year 2030. But Daniel Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist who works at Glacier, says the park's namesakes will be gone about ten years ahead of schedule, endangering the region's plants and animals.... The 2020 estimate is based on aerial surveys and photography Fagre and his team have been conducting at Glacier since the early 1980s.
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2009-03-03 13:13:07
Tue, Mar 3, 2009: from BusinessGreen
Research warns two degree rise will halve rainforest 'carbon sink'
The impact of global warming on tropical rainforests will be so severe that even increases in temperature that are widely regarded as "safe" could raise tree mortality rates to such a level that almost 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. That is the sobering warning contained in new research from a team of Australian scientists, which suggests that even a two degree increase in average global temperatures will see the "carbon sink" effect currently provided by the world's rainforests cut in half.... The researchers calculated that for each degree Celsius global temperatures rise, the rainforests will shrink at such a rate that 24.5 billion tons of carbon is released to the atmosphere. In comparison, man-made emissions of greenhouse gases in 2007 reached a peak of 10 billion tons CO2 equivalent.
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2009-03-03 12:55:01
Tue, Mar 3, 2009: from KSU, via EurekAlert
Birds in Flint Hills of Kansas, Oklahoma face population decline despite large habitat
"Because of its size, the Flint Hills is assumed to be a population stronghold for grassland birds," said Kimberly With, a K-State associate professor of biology who led the study. "Mostly this has been based on bird counts, but they can be misleading because they don't show what the region is capable of producing. Birds are very mobile and thus birds could come from elsewhere to give the appearance of a stable population year after year. This is especially true if the region attracts birds because of its size, but birds do not breed successfully once they settle here."... They conducted a two-year study of regional viability of three grassland birds: the dickcissel, grasshopper sparrow and eastern meadowlark. With and her colleagues found that none of these bird species is viable in the 4 million-acre Flint Hills region. They estimated population declines of as much as 29 percent per year during the years studied.
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2009-03-03 12:49:44
Tue, Mar 3, 2009: from Chicago Tribune
Going green: Entire Swedish city switches to biofuels to become environmentally friendly
KALMAR, Sweden -- Though a fraction of Chicago's size, this industrial city in southeast Sweden has plenty of similarities with it, including a long, snowy winter and a football team the town's crazy about. One thing is dramatically different about Kalmar, however: It is on the verge of eliminating the use of fossil fuels, for good, and with minimal effect on its standard of living. The city of 60,000—and its surrounding 12-town region, with a quarter-million people—has traded in most of its oil, gas and electric furnaces for community "district heat," produced at plants that burn sawdust and wood waste left by timber companies. Hydropower, nuclear power and windmills now provide more than 90 percent of the region's electricity.... Just as important, the switch from oil and gas is helping slash fuel bills and preserve jobs in a worldwide economic downturn. And despite dramatic drops in fossil fuel consumption, residents say nobody has been forced to give up the car or huddle around the dining table wearing three sweaters to stay warm.
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2009-03-03 12:32:03
Tue, Mar 3, 2009: from Minneapolis Star Tribune
More lake fish contain former 3M chemical
A former 3M chemical has been found in fish taken from more metro area lakes, including Cedar, Calhoun and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. The compound, known as PFOS, was measured at levels of concern in 13 of 22 lakes, mostly in bluegills, black crappies and largemouth bass. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released the data Monday from fish tested in 2008, the agency's third year of checking fish. Pat McCann, research scientist for the Minnesota Department of Health, said that the data are being reviewed and that the department may issue advice about eating fish less often from some of the lakes.
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2009-03-03 12:24:45
Tue, Mar 3, 2009: from Associated Press
Study: Combining pesticides makes them more deadly for fish
Common agricultural pesticides that attack the nervous systems of salmon can turn more deadly when they combine with other pesticides, researchers have found. Scientists from the NOAA Fisheries Service and Washington State University were expecting that the harmful effects would add up as they accumulated in the water. They were surprised to find a deadly synergy occurred with some combinations, which made the mix more harmful and at lower levels of exposure than the sum of the parts. The study looked at five common pesticides: diazinon, malathion, chlorpyrifos, carbaryl and carbofuran, all of which suppress an enzyme necessary for nerves to function properly. The findings suggest that the current practice of testing pesticides - one at a time to see how much is needed to kill a fish - fails to show the true risks, especially for fish protected by the Endangered Species Act, the authors concluded in the study published Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
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2009-03-03 10:40:39
Tue, Mar 3, 2009: from London Daily Star
10,000 Could Die in Summer Heatwave
The Government is said to be "very concerned" that as many as 10,000 lives will be lost as temperatures soar to 40C across the country. Sun stroke, dehydration, air pollution and wildfires all contribute to a rise in deaths during sizzling summers. The highest temperature measured in the UK was 38.5C, recorded in Kent on August 10, 2003. And it could become a regular occurrence in the near future.
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2009-03-02 16:58:55
Mon, Mar 2, 2009: from Baltimore Sun
Indoor air can be risk for kids with asthma
Parents have long known that the polluted, pollinated air outdoors can bring on asthma attacks in their children. Now it turns out that many asthmatic inner-city kids are under assault inside their homes - where cigarette smoke, dust mites, mold and even cooking smells can make them sicker than car exhaust or ragweed. Researchers are finding a direct link between the air children breathe at home and the asthma attacks that are the source of hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits in the U.S. every year. The latest study, published last month by Johns Hopkins researchers, quantified the increase in asthma symptoms for every increase in air pollution particles inside Baltimore homes. Such findings have begun a movement of health professionals who are going door to door to educate families about the potential dangers of indoor air and helping them clean up their homes. Their goal is to reduce childhood asthma by 50 percent by 2012.
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2009-03-03 10:41:25
Mon, Mar 2, 2009: from Agence France-Presse
19 dead in Bolivia dengue outbreak, 31,000 affected
In Bolivia's worst national outbreak in a decade, 19 people have died from dengue fever since January and 31,000 people have been affected, official estimates showed Thursday. Twelve people died from the disease in the tropical eastern region of Santa Cruz, three others died in central Bolivia, two others in the Andean west and one in the capital city of La Paz, according to an official toll cited by ATB television. A Bolivian national died on arriving in neighboring Peru, and Health Minister Ramiro Tapia said that one additional death brought the overall death toll to 19. A total of 30,870 dengue cases have been counted, 71 percent of them in Santa Cruz, -- the region most affected by the outbreak, where authorities have declared a health emergency, Beni, Pando and Cochabamba departments. More than 15,000 troops have been mobilized to assist health teams. Transmitted by the Aedes aegypti, or yellow fever mosquito, dengue is the most widespread tropical disease after malaria. The highly infectious disease causes high fever, headaches and joint pain. Its deadly hemorrhagic variant is much more dangerous than the classic type because it causes violent internal bleeding and swift fluid loss, which can lead to a quick, painful death if not treated in time. Tapia said that 88 confirmed dengue cases were from the hemorrhagic variant.
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2009-03-02 15:27:05
Mon, Mar 2, 2009: from CNN
Can a 'smart grid' turn us on to energy efficiency?
... According to research sponsored by the U.S. Government, improving the efficiency of the national electricity grid by 5 percent would be the equivalent of eliminating the fuel use and carbon emissions of 53 million cars. For years environmentalists have been talking up the idea of a "smart grid" -- an electricity distribution system that uses digital technology to eliminate waste and improve reliability -- as a way of achieving this. Advocates of a "smart grid" also say that it would open up new markets for large and small scale alternative energy producers by decentralizing generation. "It would give consumers the potential to have a much more complex relationship with their energy supplier," says John Loughhead, Executive Director of the United Kingdom Energy Research Center. "Essentially, with a smart grid, traffic goes both ways. If you wanted to install some kind of micro-generation facility in your home, you could use it to sell to the grid and get money back."
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2009-03-02 19:08:42
Mon, Mar 2, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
China plans 59 reservoirs to collect meltwater from its shrinking glaciers
China is planning to build 59 reservoirs to collect water from its shrinking glaciers as the cost of climate change hits home in the world's most populous country. The far western province of Xinjiang, home to many of the planet's highest peaks and widest ice fields, will carry out the 10-year engineering project, which aims to catch and store glacier run-off that might otherwise trickle away into the desert. Behind the measure is a concern that millions of people in the region will run out of water once the glaciers in the Tian, Kunlun and Altai mountains disappear. Anxiety has risen along with temperatures that are rapidly diminishing the ice fields. The 3,800-metre Urumqi No1 glacier, the first to be measured in China, has lost more than 20 percent of its volume since 1962, according to the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (Careeri) in Lanzhou.
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2009-03-02 18:59:32
Mon, Mar 2, 2009: from Mongabay
Time to give up on Tasmanian tiger, says DNA expert
The Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine, has captured the imagination of cryptozoologists ever since the last known individual died in the 1936 in the Hobart Zoo, which closed the next year.... Austin's lab has examined numerous dropping believed to be from the Tasmanian tiger only to find that most belong to the Tasmanian devil. This continued lack of success for Austin means there is little to no hope of discovering a living Tasmanian tiger.... According to a Tasmanian newspaper, The Mercury, Austin is also doubtful of efforts to clone a Tasmanian tiger. He believes that DNA fragments of the animal are too broken to create a complete genome, and even if a Tasmanian tiger could be cloned, it would only provide the world with a single individual which couldn't reproduce. The millions of dollars it would take to clone a Tasmanian tiger would be better spent on conservation efforts for the hundreds of threatened species including several in Tasmania, according to Austin.
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2009-03-03 13:04:11
Mon, Mar 2, 2009: from The Canadian Press
Large fish going hungry as supplies of smaller species dwindle: report
HALIFAX, N.S. -- Dolphins, sharks and other large marine species around the world are going hungry as they seek out dwindling supplies of the small, overlooked species they feed on, according to a new study that says overfishing is draining their food sources. In a report released Monday, scientists with the international conservation group Oceana said they found several species were emaciated, reproducing slowly and declining in numbers in part because their food sources are being fished out. "This is the first time that we're seeing a worldwide trend that more and more large animals are going hungry," Margot Stiles, a marine biologist at Oceana and the author of the report, said from Washington, D.C. "It's definitely starting to be a pattern."
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2009-03-01 20:20:55
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from PressTV (Iran)
Persian Gulf faces possible environmental crisis
The Persian Gulf has been polluted by more than 5,000 cubic meters of toxic industrial waste including heavy metals. The waste material from Mobin Petrochemical Company, located in Assaluyeh in southern Iran, has been discharged into the Persian Gulf without being treated, Iran's Environmental News Agency reported. The news report added that the petrochemical company's waste materials are toxic and replete with hazardous industrial materials.... According to the latest studies, the level of the pollution in The Persian Gulf as a semi-closed sea is 47 times more than the open seas and the water in eastern coast of the area contains more pollutants.
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2009-03-01 20:19:47
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from Tribune Democrat (PA)
Pollution pinches Chesapeake crabs
The blue crab population is at an all-time low, and two factors are to blame: Pollution and overfishing. There are six sub-basins of the 444-mile Susquehanna that feed the bay. Acid-mine drainage is blamed for pollution from this region, while farm runoff is the main culprit to the east. There is less crab food, less crab habitat and too much catching of fish the crabs feed on. In 2007, watermen suffered the worst crab harvest since Chesapeake Bay recordkeeping began in 1945. Last year was even worse in Virginia, and only slightly better in Maryland, causing more than $640 million in losses, reports show.
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2009-03-01 20:18:45
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
American taste for soft toilet paper 'worse than driving Hummers'
The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country's love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public's insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom. "This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.... More than 98 percent of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin forests, said Hershkowitz. In Europe and Latin America, up to 40 percent of toilet paper comes from recycled products. Greenpeace this week launched a cut-out-and-keep ecological ranking of toilet paper products.... Those brands, which put quilting and pockets of air between several layers of paper, are especially damaging to the environment.
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2009-03-01 12:24:15
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
States' patchwork ballast rules has a few holes
A battle to force overseas ships to stop dumping biological pollution in the Great Lakes is taking shape in the harbors of Wisconsin. The state Department of Natural Resources recently released a proposed set of ballast water discharge rules for oceangoing vessels that is far stricter than anything that has been adopted by any other Great Lakes state except New York. Ballast water is used to steady less-than-full cargo ships and is a problem for the Great Lakes because oceangoing vessels traveling from distant countries can arrive with tanks teeming with unwanted organisms. Those foreign species can wreak havoc on the environment when the ballast is flushed as cargo is loaded. Congress has been talking about a uniform national ballast law for the better part of a decade, with little to show for it.
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2009-03-01 12:18:44
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from Associated Press
Part of Lone Star State now driest region in the nation
LUBBOCK -- Central Texas cattle raiser Gerry Shudde remembers Texas' drought of record in the 1950s when his family's ranch sometimes got a couple of 4-inch rainfalls a year. But the drought ongoing now is far different. "This is just cut off completely," the 74-year-old rancher said. "In a lot of ways, it's worse." Across the nation's No. 2 agricultural state, drought conditions are evaporating stock tanks, keeping many crop farmers from planting into long-parched soil, forcing cattle producers to cull their herds, and dropping water levels in state lakes. Despite hurricanes Dolly, Gustav and Ike soaking Texas in 2008, almost every part of the state -- nearly 97 percent -- is experiencing some drought, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map, released Feb. 26.
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2009-03-01 12:11:02
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from New York Times
Obama's Backing Raises Hopes for Climate Pact
Until recently, the idea that the world’s most powerful nations might come together to tackle global warming seemed an environmentalist's pipe dream. The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, was widely viewed as badly flawed. Many countries that signed the accord lagged far behind their targets in curbing carbon dioxide emissions. The United States refused even to ratify it. And the treaty gave a pass to major emitters in the developing world like China and India. But within weeks of taking office, President Obama has radically shifted the global equation, placing the United States at the forefront of the international climate effort and raising hopes that an effective international accord might be possible. Mr. Obama's chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, said last week that the United States would be involved in the negotiation of a new treaty -- to be signed in Copenhagen in December -- "in a robust way."
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2009-03-01 11:31:12
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
UK Government 'to recommend siestas' to combat heatwaves
People in areas hit by extreme heat will be advised to stay indoors during hottest time of the day -- between 11am - 3pm -- swap suits for casual loose-fitting clothes, avoid hot food, drink lots of water and use fans. The alert was prepared by the Department of Health, in consultation with other agencies including the Met Office. Met Office scientists have predicted that climate change means heat waves will become more frequent over the next two decades, becoming regular after 2030.
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2009-03-01 11:15:34
Sun, Mar 1, 2009: from New Scientist
Drug-resistant gonorrhoea on the rise
In the latest setback, quinolone resistance seems to have spread to Canada. Kaede Ota and her colleagues at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto found that quinolone-resistant infections in Ontario soared from 4 per cent of infections in 2002 to 28 per cent in 2006 (Canadian Medical Association Journal, DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.080222). The team blames the surge on a mixture of unsafe sex and people not completing prescribed courses of antibiotics. The fear is that strains resistant to all antibiotics will appear. The first cephalosporin-resistant strains appeared in 2008 in Japan.
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2009-03-01 12:50:14
Sat, Feb 28, 2009: from New York Times
Why 2007 I.P.C.C. Report Lacked 'Burning Embers' Diagram
Several authors of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the projected effects of global warming now say they regret not pushing harder to include an updated diagram of climate risks in the report. The diagram, known as "burning embers," is an updated version of one that was a central feature of the panel's preceding climate report in 2001. The main opposition to including the diagram in 2007, they say, came from officials representing the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. That frustration led them to seek publication of the climate-risk diagram in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In emails and phone interviews over the past week, several of researchers said the diagram was omitted in favor of written descriptions of levels of risk from increments of warming. Some scientists thought that the diagram's smears of color, reflecting gradients of risk, were too subjective. But Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University who has been involved in writing the I.P.C.C. reports since 1988, said the real opposition came from a bloc of countries that thought the colorful diagram was too incendiary.... "Unfortunately governments of 5 fossil fuel dependent and producing nations opposed it.... No matter how much New Zealand, small islands states, Canada, Germany, Belgium and the UK said this was an essential diagram, China, the U.S., Russia and the Saudis said it was too much of a "judgment".
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2009-02-28 09:00:59
Sat, Feb 28, 2009: from Mongabay
Of China's 45 percent CO2 rise (2002-2005), a third was Western demand
Thirteen-and-a-half percent of China's 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions between 2002 and 2005 can be attributed to export production for Western countries, reports a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. In other words, outsourcing of manufacturing by American and European firms accounted for larger share of carbon dioxide emission growth than rising domestic consumption in China (which made of 7 percent of the figure). The results, which indicate that Western companies are effectively outsourcing emissions along with manufacturing, have implications for future climate treaties, says one of the authors.
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2009-02-28 12:08:25
Sat, Feb 28, 2009: from New York Times
Obama's Greenhouse Gas Gamble
In proposing mandatory caps on the greenhouse gases linked to global warming and a system for auctioning permits to companies that emit them, President Obama is taking on a huge political and economic challenge. Business lobbies and many Republicans raised loud objections to the cap-and-trade program Mr. Obama proposed as part of his budget this week, saying the plan amounted to a gigantic and permanent tax on oil, electricity and manufactured goods, a shock they said the country could not handle during economic distress.... "Let’s just be honest and call it a carbon tax that will increase taxes on all Americans who drive a car, who have a job, who turn on a light switch, pure and simple," said John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader. "And if you look at this whole budget plan, they use this carbon tax as a way to fund all of their big government ideas." ... "It's a coal state stickup," ...
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2009-02-28 08:25:26
Sat, Feb 28, 2009: from University of Alberta, via ScienceDaily
Solar Energy Performance With Plastic Solar Cells Improved With New Method
The University of Alberta and the National Research Council's National Institute (NINT) for Nanotechnology have engineered an approach that is leading to improved performance of plastic solar cells (hybrid organic solar cells). The development of inexpensive, mass-produced plastic solar panels is a goal of intense interest for many of the world's scientists and engineers because of the high cost and shortage of the ultra-high purity silicon and other materials normally required.... "[A metaphor might be] a clubhouse sandwich, with many different layers. One layer absorbs the light, another helps to generate the electricity, and others help to draw the electricity out of the device. Normally, the layers don't stick well, and so the electricity ends up stuck and never gets out, leading to inefficient devices. We are working on the mayonnaise, the mustard, the butter and other 'special sauces' that bring the sandwich together, and make each of the layers work together. That makes a better sandwich, and makes a better solar cell, in our case".... After two years of research, these U of A and NINT scientists have, by only working on one part of the sandwich, seen improvements of about 30 per cent in the efficiency of the working model.... The team estimates it will be five to seven years before plastic solar panels will be mass produced but Buriak adds that when it happens solar energy will be available to everyone. She says the next generation of solar technology belongs to plastic. "Plastic solar cell material will be made cheaply and quickly and in massive quantities by ink jet-like printers."
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2009-02-28 12:09:47
Sat, Feb 28, 2009: from Purdue University, via EurekAlert
Prehistoric global cooling caused by CO2, research finds
Ice in Antarctica suddenly appeared-- in geologic terms-- about 35 million years ago. For the previous 100 million years the continent had been essentially ice-free. The question for science has been, why? What triggered glaciers to form at the South Pole? ... Additional computer modeling of the cooling suggests that the cooling was caused by a reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Even after the continent of Antarctica had drifted to near its present location, its climate was subtropical. Then, 35.5 million years ago, ice formed on Antarctica in about 100,000 years, which is an "overnight" shift in geological terms.
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2009-02-28 08:03:29
Sat, Feb 28, 2009: from BusinessGreen
Aquamarine Power touts 'biggest deal in the history of marine energy'
Fresh from securing "the biggest deal in the history of marine energy" with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), wave and tidal power specialist Aquamarine Power is in talks to agree similar supply deals with utilities in Ireland and Portugal. Earlier this week, the company signed a major alliance with SSE's renewables division Airtricity that could see the developer of tidal and wave energy systems provide the company with up to one gigawatt of marine energy by 2020. Under the terms of the deal, the two companies will launch a 50:50 joint venture that will work to gain consent for wave and tidal energy sites in the UK and Ireland.
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2009-02-27 17:33:43
Fri, Feb 27, 2009: from New York Times
Way back in 1994: Emissions Must Be Cut to Avert Shift in Climate, Panel Says
Sept. 20, 1994: EVEN if worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide were capped at present levels, atmospheric concentrations of the heat-trapping gas would continue to increase for at least two centuries, rising well beyond the point at which the earth's climate would be disrupted, an international panel of scientists has reported.... "If you want to stabilize eventually, you've got to consider what you do now; that's a message that comes clearly through from the figures in our report," said Sir John Houghton, a British atmospheric physicist who is co-chairman of the intergovernmental panel's scientific working group, which issued the new report in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Dr. Houghton said he was speaking for himself, not the group.
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2009-02-28 09:08:04
Fri, Feb 27, 2009: from Edmonton Journal
Athabasca 'mostly untouched': report
Biodiversity institute finds only 7 percent of region affected by oilsands projects.... When the institute examined the region north and east of Edmonton, home to most of Alberta's oilsands development, only seven per cent of the 93,000 square kilometres had been altered by human development.... The report found that: 29 of the 52 bird species were below the normal level; 62 of the 97 plant species were below normal. However, most of the species were close enough to their normal levels that when averaged out, the intactness of biodiversity ended up at 94 per cent.
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2009-02-28 09:25:08
Fri, Feb 27, 2009: from Scientific American
The Great Garbage Patch
In 1997 Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, set sail from Hawaii and discovered, in a remote part of the North Pacific, an island -- made of plastic. Moore measured about 300,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometer back then, but a decade later there are approximately 2.3 million pieces of plastic per square kilometer. What is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now the size of the United States, according to Moore.... The plastic never degrades, but sunlight and wave friction break it into tiny particles, smaller than five millimeters, that remain suspended in the water. Holly Bamford, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says it's likely that filter feeders like clams or jellyfish are eating the plastic, which may prove dangerous all the way up the food chain. Ongoing studies will try to determine the patch's impact.
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2009-02-27 11:42:49
Fri, Feb 27, 2009: from New York Times
Worst Drought in Half Century Shrivels the Wheat Belt of China
a long rainless stretch has underscored the urgency of water problems in a region that grows three-fifths of China’s crops and houses more than two-fifths of its people — but gets only one-fifth as much rain as the rest of the country.... Normally, the new land he was offered lies under more than 20 feet of water, part of the Luhun Reservoir in Henan Province. But this winter, Luhun has lost most of its water. And what was once lake bottom has become just another field of winter wheat, stunted for want of rain. Water supplies have been drying up in Northern China for decades, the result of pervasive overuse and waste. Aquifers have been so depleted that in some farming regions, wells probe a half-mile down before striking water.
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2009-02-27 11:34:57
Fri, Feb 27, 2009: from KSTP (MN)
MDH: Rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria alarming
Health officials in Minnesota say they are seeing increasing evidence of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria in the state, prompting a reminder to health care providers and patients about the importance of using antibiotics carefully and appropriately. A report, released this week, detailed the finding by health officials in Minnesota, North Dakota and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta of an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacterium, Neisseria meningitidis, that causes meningococcal disease....
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2009-02-27 10:49:59
Fri, Feb 27, 2009: from Forbes
25 more Oklahoma wells tested in E. coli probe
At least 25 more private water wells have been tested near a northeastern Oklahoma town where an E. coli outbreak last summer killed one man and sickened hundreds more, the state's Department of Environmental Quality said.... But earlier this month, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson suggested that it could have been the result of contamination from nearby poultry farms. He released a report concluding that the well at the Country Cottage "is, and has been, contaminated with poultry waste and associated bacteria, including E. coli." The report also noted 49 poultry houses within a six-mile radius of Locust Grove that have the capacity to produce 10,000 tons of waste a year. The poultry industry has denied these claims, saying the DEQ testing did not identify "any link between bacteria in water wells and poultry."
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2009-02-26 18:14:08
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from Nature
International Polar Year: In from the Cold
...It might seem that, as so often in the past, science reigns supreme at the planet's poles. But as climate change opens up vast parts of the Arctic to commerce, nations are starting to exert their influence in the region more purposefully, and long-simmering political tensions might soon boil over.... Warming in the Arctic, and the retreat of summertime sea ice, is opening up the region to interests such as mineral exploitation, shipping, fishing and tourism. Some researchers fear that the commercial potential could shift international interactions from mainly scientific collaboration to hard-nosed politics. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have proposed a 50-year moratorium on all exploitation in the Arctic, but this is unlikely to gain much support. The shift towards economic and geopolitical competition poses a new threat for vulnerable Arctic environments, which should prompt scientists to speak out...
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2009-02-27 12:00:31
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from New York Times
In Climate Debate, Exaggeration Is a Pitfall
Social scientists who study the interface of climate science and public policy say that campaigners and officials who seek to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases face an uphill battle in changing people's minds about the issue. Even with the success of "An Inconvenient Truth," the Oscar-winning 2006 documentary featuring Mr. Gore, and widely publicized images of melting Arctic ice, surveys show that most Americans are either confused about climate change, mildly concerned about it or completely disengaged from the issue. A variety of surveys show that roughly 20 percent of Americans are in Mr. Gore's camp and another 20 percent in Mr. Will's, rejecting the idea that humans could dangerously alter global climate. That division is unlikely to change any time soon, said David Ropeik, a consultant on risk communication who teaches at Harvard University.
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2009-02-26 13:55:05
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from Mongabay
'Ecstasy Oil' Threatens Cambodian Rainforests
Authorities, working with conservationists, have raided and closed several 'ecstasy oil' distilleries in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains. The distilleries posed a threat to the region's rich biological diversity, reports Fauna and Flora International (FFI), the conservation group involved in the operation. "The factories had been set up to distill 'sassafras oil'; produced by boiling the roots and the trunk of the exceptionally rare Mreah Prew Phnom trees and exported to neighbouring countries," said FFI. "The oil is used in the production of cosmetics, but can also be used as a precursor chemical in the altogether more sinister process of producing MDMA -- more commonly known as ecstasy. The distillation process not only threatens Mreah Prew Phnom trees, but damages the surrounding forest ecosystem. Producing sassafras oil is illegal in Cambodia."
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2009-02-26 13:44:23
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from USFS, via EurekAlert
Study finds hemlock trees dying rapidly, affecting forest carbon cycle
Otto, NC -- New research by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists and partners suggests the hemlock woolly adelgid is killing hemlock trees faster than expected in the southern Appalachians and rapidly altering the carbon cycle of these forests.... Eastern hemlock, a keystone species in the streamside forests of the southern Appalachian region, is already experiencing widespread decline and mortality because of hemlock woolly adelgid (a tiny nonnative insect) infestation. The pest has the potential to kill most of the region's hemlock trees within the next decade. As a native evergreen capable of maintaining year-round transpiration rates, hemlock plays an important role in the ecology and hydrology of mountain ecosystems.... The authors suggest that infrequent frigid winter temperatures in the southern Appalachians may not be enough to suppress adelgid populations.
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2009-02-26 12:35:03
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from Charleston Gazette
White-nose disease confirmed in Pendleton bats
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bats in Pendleton County have white-nose syndrome, a condition associated with the death of more than 100,000 hibernating bats in the Northeast, a laboratory has confirmed.... West Virginia caves provide some of the nation's most important hibernation sites for endangered Virginia big-eared bats and Indiana bats, as well as for a variety of more abundant bat species. A cold-loving fungus not previously scientifically described has been linked to white nose syndrome, which was first observed in bat hibernation sites near Albany, N.Y., in 2006. Since then, the syndrome has spread to caves and abandoned mines in Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia, and is suspected to be present in New Hampshire.... "The void in the night skies created by the absence of thousands of bats could affect all West Virginians, because bats prey on a variety of insect pests."
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2009-02-26 11:54:21
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from New Scientist
How to survive the coming century
ALLIGATORS basking off the English coast; a vast Brazilian desert; the mythical lost cities of Saigon, New Orleans, Venice and Mumbai; and 90 per cent of humanity vanished. Welcome to the world warmed by 4 degrees C. Clearly this is a vision of the future that no one wants, but it might happen. Fearing that the best efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions may fail, or that planetary climate feedback mechanisms will accelerate warming, some scientists and economists are considering not only what this world of the future might be like, but how it could sustain a growing human population. They argue that surviving in the kinds of numbers that exist today, or even more, will be possible, but only if we use our uniquely human ingenuity to cooperate as a species to radically reorganise our world. The good news is that the survival of humankind itself is not at stake: the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained. But maintaining the current global population of nearly 7 billion, or more, is going to require serious planning.
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2009-02-25 21:15:01
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from Edinburgh Scotsman
RIP -- rest in (freeze-dried) pieces
BODIES could be freeze-dried and shattered into dust to save space and help the environment, under plans being considered by a Scottish local authority. East Lothian Council thinks the technique, invented in Sweden, could help ease cemetery congestion, while cutting emissions from cremations. The process would involve freezing the dead body to -18C before submerging it in liquid nitrogen. This would make the body so brittle it would disintegrate into dust when a vibration was passed through it... The process, known as promession, is considered more environmentally friendly than cremation, largely because it avoids the mercury pollution created by burning fillings in teeth and other metal objects in the body, such as replacement joints or surgical implants.
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2009-02-25 20:49:20
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from Los Angeles Times
NASA satellite crashes
A NASA satellite designed to measure greenhouse gas emissions and pinpoint global warming dangers crashed Tuesday after a protective covering failed to separate from the craft shortly after launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The loss of the $278-million satellite came as a severe blow to NASA's climate monitoring efforts, as well as the builder of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. "Our whole team, at a very personal level, is disappointed," Orbital Science's John Brunschwyler said at an early-morning briefing just hours after the satellite plunged into the ocean near Antarctica.
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2009-02-25 20:32:38
Thu, Feb 26, 2009: from The Daily Climate
Saving the oceans: 'Mission Possible'
...[oceanographer and coral reef geologist Jeonie] Kleypas is one of the world's experts on the effects of climate change on the world's coral reefs, testifying to Congress and presenting papers around the world. She believes that societies must immediately and drastically reduce worldwide carbon emissions, but is also training her research to see if there are ways "to bolster coral reef health so they can weather the climate crisis."....Like many scientists, she struggles to find ways to impart the importance of biodiversity to humans in ways both poetic and prosaic. Losing a third of the coral species on a reef, she says, "is like losing a third of the colors from a Van Gogh painting." Reaching for a different demographic, she adds, "The loss of biodiversity is like having a football team with only tight ends."
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2009-02-26 12:46:33
Wed, Feb 25, 2009: from New Scientist
Hacking the planet: The only climate solution left...
Previously, the idea of tweaking the climate in this way was anathema to most scientists. Apart from the technical challenges and environmental risks, many argued that endorsing the concept might scupper international negotiations for a post-Kyoto protocol to reduce global emissions. But it's becoming clear that moves to cut global carbon emissions are too little and too late for us avoid the worst effects of climate change. "There is a worrying sense that negotiations won't lead anywhere or lead to enough," says Lenton. "We can't change the world that fast," says Peter Liss, who is scientific adviser to the UK parliamentary committee investigating geoengineering. Extraordinary measures may now be the only way of saving vulnerable ecosystems such as Arctic sea ice.... What's more, geoengineering could turn out to be relatively cheap. Early estimates suggest some schemes could cost a few billion dollars, small change compared to the cost of slashing emissions - estimated by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern to be at least 1 per of global GDP per year. In his testimony to the UK politicians last year, John Latham of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, argued that all of the above reasons make it "irresponsible" not to examine geoengineering.
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2009-02-25 14:08:07
Wed, Feb 25, 2009: from Courier-Mail (Australia)
Human activity seen as a threat to marine echinoderms
CREATURES are falling victim to human activities, and scientists say it could interfere with the evolutionary process and lead to extinctions. Known as echinoderms, the species are essential for keeping ecosystems healthy and if their populations either crash or multiply, degraded seascapes may result.... "Each of these 28 cases was experiencing difficulties because of human activity, including over-fishing, nutrient run-off from the land, species introductions and climate change," Dr Uthicke said. "We suggest that human-induced disturbance, through its influence on changes to echinoderm population densities, may go beyond present ecosystems impacts and alter future evolutionary trends." In the Caribbean, sea urchins have died off and on the Great Barrier Reef an over-fished sea cucumber area closed six years ago has not recovered.
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2009-02-25 13:57:05
Wed, Feb 25, 2009: from BusinessGreen
First Solar reaches 'dollar per watt milestone'
The company said that during the fourth quarter of last year, the manufacturing cost for its solar modules stood at 98 cents per watt, taking it below the $1 per watt mark for the first time.... First Solar said it was confident that plans to more than double its production capacity through 2009 to more than one gigawatt would allow it to reduce costs further to a point where energy from solar panels can undercut that from natural gas and coal. According to the company, it has already reduced costs from more than $3 a watt in 2004 to less than $1 a watt now and there is every indication that the trend will continue as production capacity increases.
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2009-02-25 11:25:24
Wed, Feb 25, 2009: from International Council for Science
Polar research reveals new evidence of global environmental change
The wide-ranging IPY findings result from more than 160 endorsed science projects assembled from researchers in more than 60 countries. Launched in March 2007, the [International Polar Year] covers a two-year period to March 2009 to allow for observations during the alternate seasons in both polar regions.... [R]esearch vessels ... have confirmed above-global-average warming in the Southern Ocean. A freshening of the bottom water near Antarctica is consistent with increased ice melt from Antarctica and could affect ocean circulation. Global warming is thus affecting Antarctica in ways not previously identified. [International Polar Year] research has also identified large pools of carbon stored as methane in permafrost. Thawing permafrost threatens to destabilize the stored methane -- a greenhouse gas -- and send it into the atmosphere. Indeed, IPY researchers along the Siberian coast observed substantial emissions of methane from ocean sediments.
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2009-02-25 09:50:46
Wed, Feb 25, 2009: from NASA, via EurekAlert
2008 was Earth's coolest year since 2000
Climatologists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City have found that 2008 was the coolest year since 2000. The GISS analysis also showed that 2008 is the ninth warmest year since continuous instrumental records were started in 1880. The ten warmest years on record have all occurred between 1997 and 2008. The GISS analysis found that the global average surface air temperature was 0.44 deg C (0.79 deg F) above the global mean for 1951 to 1980, the baseline period for the study. Most of the world was either near normal or warmer in 2008 than the norm. Eurasia, the Arctic, and the Antarctic Peninsula were exceptionally warm (see figures), while much of the Pacific Ocean was cooler than the long-term average.
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2009-02-24 21:28:35
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from New Scientist
Lizards will roast in a warming world
GLOBAL warming is set to make life distinctly uncomfortable for reptiles and other cold-blooded animals. Unable to produce heat, they rely on strategies such as moving from colder to warmer areas to function. Soon that might not be an option for tropical species. Many species will need to adapt to climate change to survive, so Michael Kearney of the University of Melbourne, Australia, and his team designed a model to get an idea of how cold-blooded species, or ectotherms, would fare. They make up the majority of the world's species. The researchers first assessed how an ectotherm's body temperature would change with body shape and colour, and surrounding environment. They then used satellite data to model wind speed, shade and air temperature in a warmer world. For most ectotherms, a body temperature of 30 to 35 degrees C is ideal, with performance declining at higher and lower temperatures. Above 40 degrees C can be lethal. Kearney's model showed that on a summer's day in the shade, a 3 degrees C rise in average temperature - the mid-range estimate for the end of this century - would send the body temperature of ectotherms in Australia's tropical deserts over 40 degrees C for at least an hour...
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2009-02-24 18:03:28
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from AAAS
Dwindling Resources of Soil, Water and Air Require 'CDC for Planet Earth'
In her plenary address to the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting, Kieffer called for the creation of a "CDC for Planet Earth"--an organization that could respond to planetary threats such climate change with the same kind of coordination the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed during the SARS and bird flu outbreaks of the late 1990s.... Ocean acidification, spreading deserts, dry aquifers and degraded soils are stealth disasters, altering the planet in ways that "will undermine our survival and evolution into the civilized global society that we might become," warned Kieffer.... And for the first time in history, "societies of the whole planet are so interconnected that Planet Earth is essentially one island," where the stealth disasters of one region can become a crisis for the whole globe, she suggested.
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2009-02-24 17:53:00
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from SciDev.net
China's water deficit 'will create food shortage'
A leading climate change expert has warned that water shortage is the greatest threat to China's agricultural sector this century, amid a drought across the country. As demand for water continues to rise and less is available for agriculture, "China will see a food shortfall of 5-10 per cent -- a disastrous outcome in a country of 1.3 billion people -- unless effective and timely measures are taken," said Lin Erda, one of China's top climate change experts and leader of a joint China-UK project, 'Impacts of Climate Change on Chinese Agriculture'.... When the current episode of drought reached its peak in early February it was affecting 1.6 million hectares of farmland in at least 12 provinces in northern China -- considered the country's breadbasket. Thanks to snow and rainfall last week the affected area has dropped to 497,000 hectares across eight provinces.
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2009-02-24 16:56:26
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from McGill University, via EurekAlert
Peptides-on-demand: McGill researcher's radical new green chemistry makes the impossible possible
Fast and simple 'enabling technology' being offered to the world on open basis... McGill University chemistry professor Chao-Jun (C.J.) Li is known as one of the world leading pioneers in green chemistry, an entirely new approach to the science which eschews the use of toxic, petrochemical-based solvents in favour of basic substances like water and new ways of making molecules. The environmental benefits of the green approach are obvious and significant, but following the road less travelled is also paying off in purely scientific terms. With these alternative methods, Li and his colleagues have discovered an entirely new way of synthesizing peptides using simple reagents, a process that would be impossible in classical chemistry.... "This is really an enabling new technology," he added, "and since McGill has decided not to patent it, we're making our method available to everyone. We are paying the journal's open access fee, so anyone in the world can access the paper."
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2009-02-24 16:46:26
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from Science Alert (Australia)
Warm oceans slow coral growth
It's official: the biggest and most robust corals on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) have slowed their growth by more than 14 per cent since the "tipping point" year of 1990. Evidence is strong that the decline has been caused by a synergistic combination of rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification.... "It is cause for extreme concern that such changes are already evident, with the relatively modest climate changes observed to date, in the world's best protected and managed coral reef ecosystem," according to AIMS scientist and co-author Dr Janice Lough.... "The data suggest that this severe and sudden decline in calcification is unprecedented in at least 400 years," said AIMS scientist and principal author Dr Glenn De'ath.
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2009-02-24 17:41:39
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from National Geographic News
How TB Jumps From Humans to Wildlife -- Vet Seeks Clues
...one sunny day in June 2000, [Kathleen Alexander] encountered a different problem: two banded mongooses, so thin their ribs stuck out, wandering around the sand pit where the children liked to play. These groundhog-sized animals are common through sub-Saharan Africa, but they run away from humans. Alarmingly, these mongooses weren't afraid of her. "It was clear they were sick," she recalled.... Alexander trapped one of the animals and tested it. Her tests revealed it was sick with tuberculosis--the human version. For the first time, free-range wild animals were confirmed to have contracted a human disease. Banded mongooses aren't in danger of going extinct. They live across southern Africa in large numbers. But if a disease can jump from humans to one wild animal, it could do the same with others. A new human disease could be disastrous for an endangered species. That includes a lot of primates. Since they're so closely related to humans, it's not hard for them to get our diseases.
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2009-02-24 12:05:05
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from London Daily Mail
Social websites harm children's brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist
Social networking websites are causing alarming changes in the brains of young users, an eminent scientist has warned. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred. The claims from neuroscientist Susan Greenfield will make disturbing reading for the millions whose social lives depend on logging on to their favourite websites each day. Baroness Greenfield, an Oxford University neuroscientist and director of the Royal Institution, believes repeated exposure could effectively 'rewire' the brain. "We know how small babies need constant reassurance that they exist," she told the Mail yesterday. 'My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment."
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2009-02-24 17:52:17
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from New York Times
Many Plans to Curtail Use of Plastic Bags, but Not Much Action
SEATTLE -- Last summer, city officials here became the first in the nation to approve a fee on paper and plastic shopping bags in many retail stores. The 20-cent charge was intended to reduce pollution by encouraging reusable bags. But a petition drive financed by the plastic-bag industry delayed the plan. Now a far broader segment of Seattle's bag carriers -- its voters -- will decide the matter in an election in August. Even in a city that likes to be environmentally conscious, the outcome is uncertain. "You have to be really tone-deaf to what's going on to think that the economic climate is not going to affect people," said Rob Gala, a legislative aide to the city councilman who first sponsored the bill for the 20-cent fee.
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2009-02-24 17:47:34
Tue, Feb 24, 2009: from Washington Post
MIT Group Increases Global Warming Projections
Report: High odds of warming over 5 degrees C (9 degrees F) if no action New research from MIT scientists shows that in the absence of stringent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, 21st century climate change may be far more significant than some previous climate assessments had indicated. The new findings, released this month by MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, showed significantly increased odds that by the end of the century warming would be on the high end of the scale for a so-called "no policy scenario" as compared with similar studies completed just six years ago. The main culprits: the cycling of heat and carbon dioxide in the climate system are now better understood and projections of future greenhouse gas emissions have increased. The results also showed that even if nations were to act quickly to reduce emissions, it is more likely that warming would be greater than previous studies had shown. However, the increase in projected temperatures under the "policy scenario" was not as large as for the no policy scenario.
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2009-02-23 16:32:06
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from Reuters
U.S. renewable energy faces weak economy, old grid
People in the industries say the stimulus will help speed the process, but it still may not be fast enough to meet the Obama administration's goal of ramping up renewable energy production and related investments to revive the economy. The stimulus extends tax breaks for generating electricity from renewable sources. The government also will provide incentives for homeowners and businesses to buy solar power equipment, and will help fund other energy-saving measures.... Even if demand for renewable energy surges, moving those power supplies will pose problems. The electricity grid is little changed from the one that powered the radios that carried President Roosevelt's fireside chats in the 1930s.
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2009-02-23 16:00:23
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from The Louisville Courier-Journal
Indiana ash ponds pollute bird habitat, drinking water
The ash ponds at the nation's third-largest coal plant near here have contaminated a new wildlife sanctuary for endangered birds and the drinking water of a neighboring community. And while a federal agency and the company that owns the Gibson plant, Duke Energy, have taken steps to alleviate both problems, advocates say the situation underscores the need for a fresh look at the hazards of coal combustion waste. Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency promised such a review following the 1.1billion-gallon ash slide in Tennessee in December that smothered several hundred acres. The House Natural Resources Committee is weighing national standards for ash impoundments, and the new EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, has promised to study whether national standards are needed to prevent toxic contaminants in ash from polluting water.
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2009-02-23 16:05:50
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from Associated Press
Chicago touts environmental efforts
Plants cool 3 million square feet of rooftops throughout the city. Wind, hydropower and biofuels provide one-fifth of its energy. And last year, the mayor announced one of the country's most ambitious plans to slash greenhouse-gas emissions. So when Chicago promises to host the greenest Summer Olympics ever if it's awarded the 2016 games, organizers say it's not a gimmick. It's an extension of efforts that have been transforming this former Rust Belt city for years. "We've got a real opportunity to take the best aspects of our city, the parks, the lakefront and the environmentalism and bring a real asset to the table," Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. "It's certainly one of the great strengths of the city of Chicago that we have to offer." In Chicago's official Olympic bid book, released earlier this month, organizers tout a low-carbon "blue-green" event, with most venues along Lake Michigan, which is lined with parks, and a focus on environmentalism. Regardless of whether Chicago gets the Olympics, Mayor Richard M. Daley says he'll continue to focus on a goal he set a long time ago: to make his city the greenest in the United States. "When I started planting trees they thought it was a waste of money," Daley said during an interview at his City Hall office. "We started planting a green roof. They said, 'Oh, this is silly. What are we doing that for?'"
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2009-02-23 15:35:12
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from Washington Post
Climate Fears Are Driving 'Ecomigration' Across Globe
Adam Fier recently sold his home, got rid of his car and pulled his twin 6-year-old girls out of elementary school in Montgomery County. He and his wife packed the family's belongings and moved to New Zealand -- a place they had never visited or seen before, and where they have no family or professional connections. Among the top reasons: global warming. Halfway around the world, the president of Kiribati, a Pacific nation of low-lying islands, said last week that his country is exploring ways to move all its 100,000 citizens to a new homeland because of fears that a steadily rising ocean will make the islands uninhabitable.
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2009-02-23 16:07:16
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from New York Times
Antibodies Offer a New Path for Fighting Flu
In a discovery that could radically change how the world fights influenza, researchers have engineered antibodies that protect against many strains of the virus, including even the 1918 Spanish flu and the H5N1 bird flu. The discovery, experts said, could lead to the development of a flu vaccine that would not have to be changed yearly. And the antibodies already developed can be injected as a treatment, going after the virus in ways that drugs like Tamiflu do not. Clinical trials to prove that the antibodies are safe in humans could begin within three years, a researcher estimated.... "It's not yet at the point of practicality, but the concept is really quite interesting." The work is so promising that Dr. Fauci's institute will offer the researchers grants and access to its ferrets, which can catch human flu.
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2009-02-23 16:14:43
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from Environment Magazine
The Short List: The Most Effective Actions U.S. Households Can Take to Curb Climate Change
U.S. households account for about 38 percent of national carbon emissions through their direct actions, a level of emissions greater than that of any entire country except China and larger than the entire U.S. industrial sector. By changing their selection and use of household and motor vehicle technologies, without waiting for new technologies to appear, making major economic sacrifices, or losing a sense of well-being, households can reduce energy consumption by almost 30 percent -- about 11 percent of total U.S. consumption.... Table 3 below, based on Table 2, prioritizes actions in a few simple categories. It stands in contrast to common laundry lists by providing a short, prioritized, accurate, accessible, and actionable list of the most effective household actions to help limit climate change.
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2009-02-23 10:05:32
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from Environmental Health News
A worldwide pollutant may cause gene loss
A new study suggests that long term exposure to a common water pollutant reduced the genetic diversity of the midge - a common water insect. Aquatic insects are the foundation of healthy waterways. Other insects, invertebrates and fish depend on the tiny creatures for food. A loss of their genetics is a loss for ecosystem diversity. The pollutant, called tributyltin (TBT), is a widely used pesticide. While TBT affected the growth, survival and reproduction of the midge insect, the greatest effects were found in the genes. TBT-exposed insects lost gene diversity two times greater than non-exposed insects.... Most toxicity studies look at high dose, single generation effects. But, in reality, organisms -- including humans -- are exposed to low-levels of chemicals over long periods, sometimes for many generations. Little is known about how these types of exposures may affect health. In this study, scientists exposed the midge to TBT at levels found in the environment for 12 generations. They monitored growth, weight, mortality and genetic diversity, which was determined by studying DNA sequences known as microsatellites.
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2009-02-23 16:15:38
Mon, Feb 23, 2009: from American Chemical Society
Off-Balance Ocean
Marine scientists who have measured the pH of the ocean's surface waters for decades see that it has been dropping. They say that the pH is currently about 8.1, down from about 8.2 in the 18th century. If CO2 emissions continue at current rates, they expect the pH to fall by approximately 0.3 more units in the next 50-100 years. And as the ocean becomes more acidic, scientists anticipate myriad changes to the ocean's chemistry.... For example, almost all reaction rates are pH dependent, so acidification may change processes in the ocean ranging from enzyme activity to the adsorption of metals onto particle surfaces in seawater... Many sea organisms without shells, such as anemones and jellyfish, may be especially susceptible to even the smallest changes in ocean pH because their internal pH tends to vary with that of the surrounding seawater. These organisms cannot actively regulate their internal pH as mammals do.
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2009-02-22 12:42:08
Sun, Feb 22, 2009: from London Daily Telegraph
Scientists capture dramatic footage of Arctic glaciers melting in hours
Glaciologist Jason Box has been testing a Moulin, a shaft that allows water to travel from the glacier's surface to its bottom, in a glacier on the Greenland ice cap to find out how fast it is melting. Dr Box said: "The Moulin is the epicentre of our concern because all the water is running down at this one point. "It's just bottomless, no light escapes." Balanced on the edge of an ice sheet the team used a flow meter to measure the water speed.... The team found that in just one day 42 million litres fresh water drained down this one Moulin. Dr Box thinks there are hundreds, possibly thousands more Moulins across the Greenland ice cap. Greenland is losing enough water each year to cover Germany a metre deep. Dr Box, from Ohio State University, thinks the way to combat melting glaciers is to cover them with blankets that will reflect the sun's rays.
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2009-02-22 12:30:56
Sun, Feb 22, 2009: from Associated Press
Mass migrations and war: Dire climate scenario
If we don't deal with climate change decisively, "what we're talking about then is extended world war," the eminent economist said. His audience Saturday, small and elite, had been stranded here by bad weather and were talking climate. They couldn't do much about the one, but the other was squarely in their hands. And so, Lord Nicholas Stern was telling them, was the potential for mass migrations setting off mass conflict.... Stern said: "People would move on a massive scale. Hundreds of millions, probably billions of people would have to move if you talk about 4-, 5-, 6-degree increases" - 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. And that would mean extended global conflict, "because there's no way the world can handle that kind of population move in the time period in which it would take place."
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2009-02-22 12:22:10
Sun, Feb 22, 2009: from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Great Lakes scourge infects West
...Zebra and quagga mussels have been making a particular mess of the Great Lakes ecosystem and economy since they were discovered in the late 1980s. The filter-feeding machines have cost this region billions of dollars by plugging industrial water intake pipes, starving fish populations and spawning noxious algae outbreaks that have trashed some of the Midwest's most prized shoreline. For nearly two decades the western U.S. was spared this havoc. No more. The first quagga mussel west of the Continental Divide was discovered on Jan. 6, 2007. It was likely a stowaway hiding on the hull or in the bilge water of a Midwestern pleasure boat pulled across the Great Plains, over the Rockies and down a boat ramp at Lake Mead near Las Vegas, where a marina worker found some suspicious shells clinging to an anchor.... What took decades to unfold in the Great Lakes has played out in a matter of months in Lake Mead. Quaggas can lay eggs six or seven times a year in the warmer water, compared with once or twice a year in the Great Lakes. If you drained Lake Mead above Hoover Dam, says National Park Service biologist Bryan Moore, it would reveal that brown canyon walls that were mussel-free just two years ago are now black with quaggas at densities of up to 55,000 per square meter.
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2009-02-22 12:11:56
Sun, Feb 22, 2009: from The Center for Public Integrity
Coal Ash: The Hidden Story
...For decades, the dangers of coal ash had largely been hidden from public view. That all changed in December 2008, when an earthen dam holding a billion gallons of coal ash in a pond collapsed in eastern Tennessee, deluging 300 acres in gray muck, destroying houses and water supplies, and dirtying a river. But what happened in the Volunteer State represents just a small slice of the potential threat from coal ash. In many states -- at ponds, landfills, and pits where coal ash gets dumped -- a slow seepage of the ash's metals has poisoned water supplies, damaged ecosystems, and jeopardized citizens' health. In July 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified 63 "proven or potential damage cases" in 23 states where coal ash has tarnished groundwater and harmed ecology. Additional cases of contamination have since surfaced in states as far-flung as Maryland, New Mexico, Indiana, and Virginia. And in some locations, like Colstrip, the contamination has resulted in multimillion-dollar payouts to residents enduring the devastation. Despite the litany of damage, there's no meaningful federal regulation of coal ash on the books; indeed, oversight of ash disposal -- much of it stunningly casual -- is largely left to the states.
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2009-02-22 12:44:20
Sun, Feb 22, 2009: from Newsweek
Greenest Nation
This is a trick question. What big country is, by most measures, greener than Japan and Germany and produces more geothermal energy than all of Europe combined? It might help to know that this nation is also a pioneer in environmental stewardship, having passed many of the world's toughest regulations on vehicle emissions, energy efficiency and nature conservation.... California, with its 37 million people, emits 20 percent less CO2 per dollar of GDP than Germany. It generates 24 percent of its electrical power from renewable fuels like wind and solar, compared with only 15 percent in Germany and 11 percent in Japan. It also has the world's largest solar-power plant (550 megawatts in the Mojave Desert), the largest wind farm (7,000 turbines at Altamont Pass) and the most powerful geothermal installation (750 megawatts at The Geysers north of San Francisco). Although California isn't immune to the economic crisis -- its finances are on the brink of collapse, which could translate into growing support for those who argue that green measures cost jobs -- its green accomplishments put it at the head of the pack. If California were a country, its economy would rank as the world's 10th largest and could lay claim to be one of the world's greenest.
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2009-02-21 14:11:39
Sat, Feb 21, 2009: from San Francisco Chronicle
Investors put Chevron on 'climate watch'
A group of activist investors, including the giant California State Teachers' Retirement System, on Wednesday placed Chevron Corp. and eight other companies on a "climate watch list" of corporations that aren't adequately addressing global warming. The investors want the companies to pay more attention to how their operations are affecting, and will be affected by, climate change. The investors placed San Ramon's Chevron on the list because of its investments in Canadian oil sands. Squeezing petroleum from the sand releases more greenhouse gas emissions than ordinary oil production does. A Chevron spokesman on Wednesday did not address the sand issue but noted that Chevron has its own climate change action plan and has a subsidiary that promotes energy efficiency and renewable power.
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2009-02-21 14:04:33
Sat, Feb 21, 2009: from Cleveland Plain Dealer
January was seventh-warmest on Earth, climate scientists say
This may not play well in Northeast Ohio, but federal climate officials this week reported that planet Earth just had its seventh-warmest January in more than 125 years of records. That's right, even though Cleveland just finished 6.5 degrees colder than normal (remember that 13-below-zero day?), most of the rest of the world got hotter last month -- including Australia, where records were broken with one 114-degree day. The most recent report from the National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina asserts that the combined global land and ocean surface temperature for January was 54.55 degrees Fahrenheit -- or 0.95 degrees above the 20th-century average temperature.
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2009-02-21 13:54:22
Sat, Feb 21, 2009: from Toronto Globe and Mail
French-fry chemical may go on toxic list
Worries that Canadians might be inadvertently ingesting too much cancer-causing acrylamide from French fries, potato chips and other processed foods has prompted Health Canada to recommend adding the chemical to the country's toxic substances list. Acrylamide is an industrial chemical that isn't naturally found in foods, but is produced accidentally when sugars and other items in potatoes and grains are exposed to high cooking temperatures. It has also been detected in breakfast cereals, pastries, cookies, breads, rolls, toast, cocoa products and coffee, although at levels far below those in fried potato products.... The toxic announcement was greeted positively by environmentalists, who have been arguing that potentially dangerous chemicals in consumer goods need to be limited.
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2009-02-21 12:39:19
Sat, Feb 21, 2009: from Science
Arctic Coastal Erosion Doubles in 50 Years
As if record-breaking losses of sea ice and thawing permafrost weren't enough, climate change is also sweeping parts of the Arctic out to sea. New research in Geophysical Research Letters reports that the rate of erosion along a stretch of Alaska's northeastern coastline has doubled over the past 52 years. Such deterioration of arctic coastlines is likely to have significant impacts on local ecosystems, communities living in the Arctic, and oil and gas development. Arctic shorelines are especially susceptible to erosion because their sediments are often held together by nothing more than ice. Scientists have been concerned about these fragile coasts, because they will be pounded harder by waves as the sea ice disappears and storms intensify. Warmer water and rising sea levels make matters even worse. Ground zero might well be the coastline along the Beaufort Sea in northeastern Alaska, where the sediments are particularly ice-rich and the shore unprotected.
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2009-02-22 14:50:03
Sat, Feb 21, 2009: from Los Angeles Times
Bubbles of warming, beneath the ice
As permafrost thaws in the Arctic, huge pockets of methane -- a potent greenhouse gas -- could be released into the atmosphere. Experts are only beginning to understand how disastrous that could be.... International experts are alarmed. "Methane release due to thawing permafrost in the Arctic is a global warming wild card," warned a report by the United Nations Environment Programme last year. Large amounts entering the atmosphere, it concluded, could lead to "abrupt changes in the climate that would likely be irreversible." Methane (CH4) has at least 20 times the heat-trapping effect of an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (CO2). As warmer air thaws Arctic soils, as much as 50 billion metric tons of methane could be released from beneath Siberian lakes alone, according to Walter’s research. That would amount to 10 times the amount currently in the atmosphere.
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2009-02-21 07:42:28
Sat, Feb 21, 2009: from New York Times
E.P.A. Expected to Regulate Carbon Dioxide
The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and climate change legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States' negotiating position at United Nations climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.... "We here know how momentous that decision could be," Ms. Jackson said. "We have to lay out a road map."
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2009-02-20 18:20:20
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from Times Online (UK)
Windmills flap helplessly as coal remains king
If you flick a switch today, the light goes on because of coal. Almost half the power generated in Britain on Tuesday came from coal and a bit more than a third from natural gas. Nuclear power stations were contributing 17 per cent and windmills provided 0.6 per cent.... After all the politics, we are breathless as our bright new whirligigs stand motionless on a beach horizon. The wind has failed, as it does during periods of intense heat and cold, and although we have built, with enormous subsidy, enough wind turbines to generate 5 per cent of our electricity, no more than 1 per cent is operational when we need it.... The reason why we are still stuffing black lumps of carbon into furnaces is simple: it makes economic sense and the financial markets are shouting this message louder than ever before.
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2009-02-20 17:55:35
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from Michigan Technical University, via EurekAlert
Abandon hope
Do you "hope" that everyone will see the light and start living more sustainably to save the environment? If so, you may be doing more harm than good.... For decades, say Vucetich and Nelson, we have been hammered by the ceaseless thunder of messages predicting imminent environmental cataclysm: global climate change, air and water pollution, destruction of wildlife habitat, holes in the ozone. The response of environmentalists—from Al Gore to Jane Goodall—to this persistent message of hopelessness has focused on the need to remain hopeful. But hope may actually be counter-productive, Vucetich and Nelson suggest. "I have little reason to live sustainably if the only reason to do so is to hope for a sustainable future, because every other message I receive suggests that disaster is guaranteed," they explain. People are hearing radically contradictory messages:
  • Scientists present evidence that profound environmental disaster is imminent.
  • It is urgent to live up to an extremely high standard of sustainable living.
  • The reason to live sustainably is that doing so gives hope for averting disaster.
  • Yet disaster is inevitable....
"Instead of hope, we need to provide young people with reasons to live sustainably that are rational and effective," they say. "We need to lift up examples of sustainable living motivated by virtue more than by a dubious belief that such actions will avert environmental disaster."

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2009-02-20 12:10:43
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from SciDev.net
World's fisheries face climate change threat
Researchers examined the fisheries of 132 nations to determine which were the most vulnerable, based on the potential environmental impact of climate change, how dependent their economy and diet were on fisheries, and the capacity of the country to adapt. Climate change can affect the temperature of inland lakes, the health of reefs and how nutrients circulate in the oceans, the researchers say. They identified 33 countries as "highly vulnerable" to the effects of global warming on fisheries. These countries produce 20 per cent of the world's fish exports and 22 are already classified by the UN as "least developed". Inhabitants of vulnerable countries are also more dependent on fish for protein -- 27 per cent of dietary protein is gained from fish, compared with 13 per cent in other countries. Two-thirds of the most vulnerable nations identified are in tropical Africa.
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2009-02-20 17:57:53
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Customising clouds to stop global warming
Stephen Salter, professor of engineering design at the University Edinburgh, and Professor John Latham, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, have been using Salt Flares to test if it is possible to seed or even create Marine Stratocumulus Clouds. These clouds, which are common, low-flying clouds, could help reflect the suns rays and therefore combat global warming. Prof Salter said: "We need to make them reflect about 10 per cent more than they are reflecting now." Prof Latham added: "We’ve got the most massive global problem that we’ve ever had, so we’ve got to think big." The flares will spray up salt water into the clouds. When the particles rise into a cloud they redistribute the moisture, increasing its reflectivity. As a result the cloud bounces more sunlight back into space.
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2009-02-20 11:29:50
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from Mongabay
Indonesia confirms that peatlands will be converted for plantations
Indonesia's Minister for the Environment has approved a decree that will allow the conversion of carbon-rich peatlands for oil palm plantations, reports The Jakarta Post. Rachmat Witoelar said that oil palm plantations will only be established in areas where peat is less than 3 meters (10 feet) deep. Conversion will require an environmental impact analysis (Amdal). "The conversion of peatlands is possible for certain criteria, but should be done very selectively," Rachmat told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. "The conversion is strictly forbidden in [peatland] more than 3 meters deep." ... "Allowing the destruction of more peatlands is a disaster for the fight against climate change, and will only confirm Indonesia's status as the world's third biggest polluter," Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar told The Jakarta Post.
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2009-02-20 11:04:27
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from New Scientist
Ban on mountaintop mining overturned
Even as public opinion in the US turns against coal, judges have overturned a ban on blasting away mountaintops to get at seams. In the central Appalachians, including West Virginia, mining companies have lopped up to 300 metres off hundreds of mountains, destroying biologically diverse hardwood forest. The debris is often dumped into valleys, sometimes burying streams in the process. A lawsuit filed by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) based in Huntington, West Virginia, argued that such valley fills violate the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and a US district court ruled in their favour in March 2007. But on 13 February, a Court of Appeals panel voted 2:1 to reverse the decision.
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2009-02-20 11:21:19
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from London Guardian
Melt-pools 'accelerating Arctic ice loss'
New research has revealed that melt-water pooling on the Arctic sea ice is causing it to melt at a faster rate than computer models had previously predicted. Scientists have been struggling to understand why the northern sea ice has been retreating at a faster rate than estimated by the most recent assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in 2007. The IPCC's computer models had simulated an average loss of 2.5 percent in sea ice extent per decade from 1953 to 2006. But in reality the Arctic sea ice had declined at a rate of about 7.8 percent per decade. Arctic sea ice has retreated so much that in September 2007 it covered an all-time low area of 4.14m km sq, surpassing by 23 percent the previous all-time record set in September 2005. And during the summer of 2008, the north-west and north-east passages - the sea routes running along the Arctic coastlines of northern America and northern Russia, normally perilously clogged with thick ice – were ice-free for the first time since records began in 1972. Part of the reasons for the discrepancy has to do with melt ponds, which are pools of melted ice and snow that form on the sea ice when it is warmed in spring and summer. As they are darker than ice and snow, they absorb solar radiation rather than reflect it, which accelerates the melting process.
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2009-02-19 20:02:40
Fri, Feb 20, 2009: from Reuters
Hunt begins for world's most polluted places
Researchers will fan out across more than 80 developing countries beginning this month to hunt out and assess many of the world's dirtiest industrial waste sites. The New York-based nonprofit Blacksmith Institute is training the researchers from local semi-government agencies, universities and nonprofit groups in the countries to create a database of the sites called the Global Inventory Project.... the inventory is a "first step" to help governments and international organizations prioritize the clean up of waste sites that pose health threats to people including cancer risks to adults and learning disability risks to children. Asthma and other respiratory ailments are other problems millions of locals suffer at sites like abandoned metal mines in Africa and factories that made weapons or industrial chemicals in former Soviet Union states.
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2009-02-19 15:47:33
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from San Jose Mercury News
At least 500,000 gallons spewed in Sausalito sewage spill
A broken pipe gushed at least 500,000 gallons of partially treated sewage into San Francisco Bay by Wednesday afternoon as Sausalito sanitary plant officials worked to get the spill capped more than 24 hours after it was spotted.... Workers in wetsuits placed a metal "saddle" around the 24-inch-wide pressure pipeline resting along the shore below the Fort Baker treatment plant to redirect wastewater back into the plant.... After several hours of unsuccessful attempts to plug the 2 1/2-inch hole before being submerged, the leak was allowed to continue overnight until work continued Wednesday morning.... [The Councilman] blamed the problem on "an incredibly leaky, neglected collection system" and "small banana-republic sewer districts" afraid to do anything because of rate increases.
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2009-02-19 13:36:48
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, via EurekAlert
Cleaning the atmosphere of carbon: African forests out of balance
"If you assume that these forests should be in equilibrium, then the best way to explain why trees are growing bigger is anthropogenic global change -- the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could essentially be acting as fertilizer." says Muller-Landau, "But it's also possible that tropical forests are still growing back following past clearing or fire or other disturbance. Given increasing evidence that tropical forests have a long history of human occupation, recovery from past disturbance is almost certainly part of the reason these forests are taking up carbon today." Muller-Landau, who directs a project to monitor carbon budgets in forest study sites worldwide as part of the Smithsonian's Center for Tropical Forest Science and the HSBC Climate Partnership, advises that this newfound sink shouldn't be taken for granted, or presumed to continue indefinitely. "While we still can't explain exactly what is behind this carbon sink, one thing we know for sure is that it can't be a sink forever. Trees and forests just can't keep getting bigger. Tropical forests are buying us a bit more time right now, but we can't count on them to continue to offset our carbon emissions in the future."
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2009-02-19 13:30:20
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from Slashdot
Arctic Ice Extent Understated Because of 'Sensor Drift'
In May, 2008 they went so far as to predict that the North Pole would be ice-free during the 2008 'melt season,' leading to a lively Slashdot discussion. Today, however, they say that they have been the victims of 'sensor drift' that led to an underestimation of Arctic ice extent by as much as 500,000 square kilometers. The problem was discovered after they received emails from puzzled readers, asking why obviously sea-ice-covered regions were showing up as ice free open ocean. It turns out that the NSIDC relys on an older, less-reliable method of tracking sea ice extent called SSM/I that does not agree with a newer method called AMSR-E. So why doesn't NSIDC use the newer AMSR-E data? 'We do not use AMSR-E data in our analysis because it is not consistent with our historical data.' Turns out that the AMSR-E data only goes back to 2002, which is probably not long enough for the NSIDC to make sweeping conclusions about melting. The AMSR-E data is updated daily and is available to the public. Thus far, sea ice extent in 2009 is tracking ahead of 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, so the predictions of an ice-free north pole might be premature.
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2009-02-19 09:35:21
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from Science Daily (US)
Permafrost Is Thawing In Northern Sweden
"At one of our sites, permafrost has completely disappeared from the greater part of the mire during the last decade," she says. In areas where permafrost is thawing the ground becomes unstable and can collapse. This can be a local and regional problem in areas with cities and infrastructure. Moreover, the thaw can cause increased emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane from the ground. Roughly 25 percent of all land surface in the northern hemisphere are underlain by permafrost. The thawing of permafrost that occurs today is likely to continue, in Margareta Johansson's view. She regards it as probable that there will be no permafrost in lowland areas around Abisko in 50 years.
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2009-02-19 09:20:36
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from Desdemona Despair
Dramatic decline in size of trophy fish
Archival photographs spanning more than five decades reveal a drastic decline of so-called "trophy fish" caught around coral reefs surrounding Key West, Florida.... large predatory fish have declined in weight by 88 percent in modern photos compared to black-and-white shots from the 1950s. The average length of sharks declined by more than 50 percent in 50 years, the photographs revealed. The study mirrors others that reveal stark changes to animal sizes caused by hunting or fishing, in which the largest of a species are often sought as trophy specimens.
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2009-02-19 10:04:23
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from New Scientist
Arctic's personal greenhouse turns up the heat
The warming of the Arctic has been explained before as being due to a positive feedback loop: as the ice cap melts and disappears, more of the dark ocean is exposed: the Arctic's reflectivity, or albedo, decreases. This means less energy is reflected back out into space and the region warms still further. But that infamous arctic albedo feedback is only a small part of the problem.... [L]ess ice means more exposed sea, and a larger surface from which water can evaporate. Since water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas, the evaporation effectively creates an Arctic energy trap.... All this means the shrinking ice cap is playing a triple role in warming the Arctic. The ice is reflecting less energy, the open water is storing more energy, and is also supplying greenhouse gas to the atmosphere in the form of water vapour. Those three factors combine to produce a strong regional greenhouse over the Arctic.
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2009-02-18 21:18:14
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from Agence France-Presse
Unchecked economic growth imperils Amazon: study
Unbridled economic development fuelled by globalisation is devastating large swathes of the Amazonian basin, the United Nations warned in a major study released Wednesday. A population explosion concentrated in poorly planned cities, deforestation driven by foreign markets for timber, cash crops and beef, and unprecedented levels of pollution have all taken a heavy toll on the planet's largest forest basin, the United Nations Environment Programme said. The report, which pooled research by more than 150 experts from the eight countries that straddle Amazonia, acknowledged that these governments have individually taken steps to address environmental degradation. But coordinated action is urgently needed to stem and possible reverse the damage, it said.
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2009-02-18 19:24:39
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from Reuters
Los Angeles nears water rationing
With a recent flurry of winter storms doing little to dampen California's latest drought, the nation's biggest public utility voted on Tuesday to impose water rationing in Los Angeles for the first time in nearly two decades. Under the plan adopted in principle by the governing board of the L.A. Department of Water and Power, homes and businesses would pay a penalty rate -- nearly double normal prices -- for any water they use in excess of a reduced monthly allowance. The five-member board plans to formally vote on details of the measure next month. The rationing scheme is expected to take effect in May unless the City Council acts before then to reject it -- a move seen as unlikely since Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for the measure under a water-shortage plan last week.
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2009-02-18 21:11:11
Thu, Feb 19, 2009: from Associated Press
Pope tells Nancy Pelosi life must be protected
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI received Nancy Pelosi, one of the most prominent abortion rights politicians in America, and told her Wednesday that Catholic politicians have a duty to protect life "at all stages of its development." The U.S. House speaker, a Catholic, was the first top Democrat to meet with Benedict since the election of Barack Obama, who won a majority of the U.S. Catholic vote despite differences with the Vatican on abortion. On his fourth day in office last month, Obama ended a ban on funds for international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option � a sharp policy change from former President George W. Bush's Republican administration. The Vatican's attempts to keep the Pelosi visit low-profile displayed its obvious unease with the new U.S. administration. Benedict and Bush had found common ground in opposing abortion, an issue that drew them together despite their differences over the war in Iraq.
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2009-02-18 18:49:20
Wed, Feb 18, 2009: from NOAA, via Mongabay
CO2 levels rise to a new record
Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations climbed 2.28 parts-per-million (ppm) in 2008 to the highest level in at least 650,000 years -- and possibly 20 million years -- reports NOAA. The average annual growth rate of CO2 concentrations this decade is now 2.1 ppm a year or 40 percent higher than that of the 1990s. CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are increasing at four times the rate of the previous decade.... Some scientists, including James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warn that CO2 levels must be kept below 350 ppm to avoid serious impacts from climate change. CO2 concentrations are presently around 386 ppm.
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2009-02-18 18:51:52
Wed, Feb 18, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Manure could power two million homes
According to Defra, the UK produces more than 100 million tonnes of organic material per year that could be used to produce biogas, 90 million tonnes of which comes from manure and slurry. The National Farmers' Union has a target to have 1,000 on-farm anaerobic digestion (AD) plants by 2020, which will power farms and produce fertilisers as a by-product of the process. Speaking at the NFU conference in Birmingham today, Farming and Environment Minister Jane Kennedy is expected to say: "We're producing more organic waste in this country than we can handle, over 12 million tonnes of food waste a year -- and farmers know too well the challenges of managing manure and slurry.
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2009-02-18 12:15:52
Wed, Feb 18, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Giant oil slick heading for British shores
The slick, which covers nearly nine square miles, is thought to have been leaked into the Celtic Sea when a Russian warship was refuelling. Environmentalists said it is the biggest oil spill in waters around the British Isles since the Sea Empress ran aground off Milford Haven in 1996, causing widespread damage to the Pembrokeshire coast. They warned that damage to marine life, including breeding birds, seals and dolphins, is likely to be devastating when the slick begins washing up on Welsh and Irish coasts within two weeks.
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2009-02-18 12:09:24
Wed, Feb 18, 2009: from World Bank, via AFP
Andean glaciers 'could disappear': World Bank
LIMA (AFP) -- Andean glaciers and the region's permanently snow-covered peaks could disappear in 20 years if no measures are taken to tackle climate change, the World Bank warned Tuesday. A World Bank-published report said rising temperatures due to global warming could also have a dramatic impact on water management in the Andean region, with serious knock-on effects for agriculture and energy generation.
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2009-02-18 11:51:04
Wed, Feb 18, 2009: from University of Georgia, via EurekAlert
Link between unexploded munitions in oceans and cancer-causing toxins determined
During a research trip to Puerto Rico, ecologist James Porter took samples from underwater nuclear bomb target USS Killen, expecting to find evidence of radioactive matter -- instead he found a link to cancer. Data revealed that the closer corals and marine life were to unexploded bombs from the World War II vessel and the surrounding target range, the higher the rates of carcinogenic materials. "Unexploded bombs are in the ocean for a variety of reasons -- some were duds that did not explode, others were dumped in the ocean as a means of disposal," said Porter. "And we now know that these munitions are leaking cancer-causing materials and endangering sea life." ... According to research conducted in Vieques, residents here have a 23 percent higher cancer rate than do Puerto Rican mainlanders. Porter said a future step will be "to determine the link from unexploded munitions to marine life to the dinner plate."
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2009-02-18 11:52:15
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Astronomer devises giant sun shield to reverse global warming
Professor Roger Angel thinks he can diffract the power of the sun by placing trillions of lenses in space and creating a 100,000-square-mile sunshade. Each lens will have a diffraction pattern etched onto it which will cause the sun's rays to change direction. He intends to use electromagnetic propulsion to get the lenses into space. If work was started immediately Prof Angel thinks the sunshield could be operation by 2040. He said: "Things that take a few decades are not that futuristic."
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2009-02-17 16:05:44
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from Associated Press
Beaver sighted in Detroit River; first in 75 years
DETROIT – Wildlife officials are celebrating the sighting of a beaver in the Detroit River for the first time in decades, signaling that efforts to clean up the waterway are paying off. The Detroit Free Press reports that a beaver lodge has been discovered in an intake canal at a Detroit Edison riverfront plant. Officials believe the beaver spotted by the utility's motion-sensitive camera marks the animal's return to the river for the first time in at least 75 years. Photos and video were taken in November, but Detroit Edison didn't want to release them until they could ensure the animal's safety. John Hartig, Detroit River refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the cleanup along the river has also brought back sturgeons, peregrine falcons and other species.
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2009-02-17 15:18:25
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from Mother Jones
The Stimulus Goes Green
The conference bill's near-final numbers contain $11 billion for the creation of a smart energy grid; $8.4 billion for public transit; $6.3 billion for state and local energy efficiency grants; $6 billion for the cleanup of contaminated Department of Defense sites; $4.5 billion to green federal buildings; and $1.2 billion for the EPA's cleanup programs. Loan guarantees for nuclear and so-called clean coal technology development -- included in the Senate bill -- were cut. Tax credit programs, incentivizing research and investment in clean renewable energy, will add further to the bill's green tally. "This is unbelievable," says Josh Dorner, a spokesman for Sierra Club. "This is an unprecedented investment in building a clean energy economy. The Clinton Global Initiative, about a year or so ago, their big challenge was to get spending on energy efficiency to reach $1.5 billion, total, in all of America. And this bill, just on federal buildings, has $4.5 billion. It's just kind of sinking in that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and Congress and President Obama really stepped up to the plate."
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2009-02-17 15:10:09
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from Mother Jones
What Invasive Species Are Trying to Tell Us
Nowadays when species obey the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply, to fill the waters in the seas, to let the birds multiply on the Earth," all is decidedly not good. Proliferation on a biblical scale generally signals biological apocalypse, what scientists call invasion—the establishment and spread of introduced species in places they've never lived before. Species have always been on the move. But they've also been held in check by Earth's geographical barriers, like mountains and oceans. Today the rate of invasions has skyrocketed because of our barrier-hopping technology—jets, ships, trains, cars, which transport everything from mammals to microorganisms far beyond their natural ranges. The process is further accelerated by global climate change, that enormous human experiment unwittingly redistricting the natural world. The results devastate both planetary and human health—most disease organisms, from influenza to malaria, are invaders over most of their range -- and few invasions can be stopped once they're successfully established. Biological invasions are now second only to habitat loss as a cause of extinction -- the leading cause of the extinction of birds and the second-leading cause of the extinction of fish. Twenty percent of vertebrate species facing extinction are doing so because of pressures from invasive predators or competitors. In a classic example, brown tree snakes arrived in Guam (snakeless but for a worm-sized insectivore) sometime after World War II and systematically ate 15 bird species into extinction while consuming enough small reptiles and mammals to redesign the food web. They also began traveling an expanding network of power lines, electrocuting themselves and causing about 200 power failures annually. In all, invasive species are estimated to cost $1.4 trillion each year.
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2009-02-17 14:32:29
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from Rutland Herald
VT Residents Warned about Bats and White Nose Syndrome
WATERBURY -- The Vermont Agency of Natural Resource's Fish & Wildlife Department recently issued a reminder to residents who live near caves and mines to expect unusual levels of bat activity as a result of the White Nose Syndrome that is afflicting hibernating bats. Reports of sick bats have been coming in most recently from Norwich, Thetford and Strafford, near the Elizabeth Mine, where thousands of bats hibernate each winter. Some people are finding dead bats on their porches or screen windows, some have bats entering their homes and some are seeing bats flying during the day. "One of the symptoms of White Nose Syndrome is that bats are extremely emaciated, and many are awakening early and flying out of the cave in search of food," said State Wildlife Biologist Scott Darling.
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2009-02-17 12:14:58
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from University of Cincinnati, via EurekAlert
Estrogen found to increase growth of the most common childhood brain tumor
CINCINNATI -- University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers have discovered that estrogen receptors are present in medulloblastoma -- the most common type of pediatric brain tumor -- leading them to believe that anti-estrogen drug treatments may be beneficial in limiting tumor progression and improving patients' overall outcome.
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2009-02-17 10:58:16
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from University of Texas, via EurekAlert
Scientists uncover secrets of potential bioterror virus
GALVESTON, Texas —Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have discovered a key tactic that the Rift Valley fever virus uses to disarm the defenses of infected cells. The mosquito-borne African virus causes fever in humans, inflicting liver damage, blindness and even death on a small percentage of the people it infects. Rift Valley fever also afflicts cattle, goats and sheep, resulting in a nearly 100 percent abortion rate in these animals. Its outbreaks periodically cause economic devastation in parts of Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe, and bioterrorism experts warn that its introduction to the United States would cripple the North American beef industry.
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2009-02-17 09:45:54
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from New Era (Namibia)
Overfishing Threatens Global Shrimp Industry - FAO
WINDHOEK -- Reducing fishing capacity and limiting access to shrimp fisheries are likely to mitigate over-fishing, by-catch and seabed destruction, which the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations said are some of the major economic and environmental side effects of shrimp fishing.... [S]hrimp fishing is also associated with over-fishing, the capture of juveniles of ecologically important and economically valuable species, coastal habitat degradation, illegal trawling, and the destruction of sea-grass beds.... Estimates are that shrimp trawl fishing, particularly in tropical regions, produces large amounts -- if not the greatest amount -- of discards, or 27.3 percent (1.86 million tonnes) of discards. The environmental impact of trawling -- and including shrimp trawling -- has been likened to forest clear-cutting and accused of being the world's most wasteful fishing practice.
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2009-02-17 16:20:51
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from Indianapolis Star
Study: Birds wintering farther north could signal climate change
A recently released report by the National Audubon Society has tied changes in migratory bird habits to global warming. According to data from the group's annual Christmas bird count gathered over the past 40 years, nearly 60 percent of the 305 bird species sampled in North America now winter farther north than they did previously.... "The birds are an indicator of what's happening," said Greg Butcher, the lead scientist on the study and the National Audubon Society's director of bird conservation. "They are showing us that global warming has been going on for years, and it's having strong biological effects in Indiana and elsewhere."
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2009-02-17 09:07:29
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from Mount Holyoke News
Toxic BPA found in everyday products
Epidemiological studies have shown that endocrine disruptors like BPA and other foreign chemicals, also known as xenobiotics, can influence the onset of precocious puberty, increase infertility and accelerate the progression of breast, vaginal, prostate and uterine cancer.... Recently, there has been a number of controversial discussions about safe levels of BPA exposure. The Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA currently warn against no more than 50 [micrograms] of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day. Recent research shows evidence that many of the abnormalities observed were at far lower concentration levels of BPA.
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2009-02-17 09:23:07
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from New York Times
The Unintended Consequences of Changing Nature's Balance
In 1985, Australian scientists kicked off an ambitious plan: to kill off non-native cats that had been prowling the island's slopes since the early 19th century. The program began out of apparent necessity -- the cats were preying on native burrowing birds. Twenty-four years later, a team of scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division and the University of Tasmania reports that the cat removal unexpectedly wreaked havoc on the island ecosystem. With the cats gone, the island's rabbits (also non-native) began to breed out of control, ravaging native plants and sending ripple effects throughout the ecosystem. The findings were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology online in January.
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2009-02-17 07:58:46
Tue, Feb 17, 2009: from New Scientist
North Atlantic is world's 'climate superpower'
IF EVER there was a superpower of the oceans, the North Atlantic, with its ability to control global weather systems, is it. The bad news is that this region also happens to be especially sensitive to the effects of climate change, so what is happening there could affect the world. The planet's climate goes through periodic convulsions that affect every region simultaneously. The most recent were in the early 1940s and mid-1970s. The latter coincided with the start of more frequent El Nino events in the Pacific and a strong global warming trend.... But the findings will leave most climate scientists more worried. Today's climate is changing most dramatically in the far North Atlantic, with record warming and ice loss in recent years. If the climate's "tipping point" resides in these waters, then nature's synchronised chaos could unleash unexpectedly sudden and severe consequences.
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2009-02-16 18:53:22
Mon, Feb 16, 2009: from Associated Press
British, French nuclear subs collide in Atlantic
LONDON -- Nuclear submarines from Britain and France collided deep in the Atlantic Ocean this month, authorities said Monday in the first acknowledgment of a highly unusual accident that one expert called the gravest in nearly a decade. Officials said the low-speed crash did not damage the vessels' nuclear reactors or missiles or cause radiation to leak. But anti-nuclear groups said it was still a frightening reminder of the risks posed by submarines prowling the oceans powered by radioactive material and bristling with nuclear weapons. The first public indication of a mishap came when France reported in a little-noticed Feb. 6 statement that one of its submarine had struck a submerged object -- perhaps a shipping container. But confirmation of the accident only came after British media reported it. France's defense ministry said Monday that the sub Le Triomphant and the HMS Vanguard, the oldest vessel in Britain's nuclear-armed submarine fleet, were on routine patrol when they collided in the Atlantic this month. It did not say exactly when, where or how the accident occurred.
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2009-02-16 09:34:47
Mon, Feb 16, 2009: from BusinessGreen
Microsoft takes carbon reporting to the mainstream
In contrast, Microsoft is going after the mainstream.... Microsoft's Dynamics AX 2009 business application suite -- to which it has just added a free Environmental Sustainability Dashboard capable of providing execs with access to data on their company's fuel consumption, energy use and carbon footprint, amongst other performance indicators -- is aimed squarely at midmarket firms... And once all executives, regardless of their company's size, know how much carbon their organisation is emitting they are in the perfect position to start doing something about it.
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2009-02-16 09:27:29
Mon, Feb 16, 2009: from BusinessGreen
Vegas water watchers raise drought fears
Water supplies to Las Vegas could run dry within six years thanks to receding water levels at Lake Mead, officials warned last week, bringing into question the long-term viability of the fastest growing city in the US.... Over the past nine years, the Colorado river, which feeds Lake Meade, has experienced an average inflow two-thirds of its normal intake, Mulroy said in his presentation.... But scientists remain fearful that in the long term the desert city will have to find alternative water supplies and may even become unviable.
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2009-02-16 18:39:16
Mon, Feb 16, 2009: from Mongabay
Mass media 'screwing up' global warming reporting, says renowned climatologist
"Business managers of media organizations," [Stephen Schneider] said, "you are screwing up your responsibility by firing science and environment reporters who are frankly the only ones competent to do this." Schneider points to CNN, which in December fired all of its science and technology reporters. "Why didn't they fire their economics team or their sports team?" asks Schneider. "Why don't they send their general assignment reporters out to cover the Superbowl?" ... Schneider's frustration doesn't stop at the media. He believes scientists are not living up to their responsibility to actively participate in scientific discussions with the mainstream media.
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2009-02-16 08:53:37
Mon, Feb 16, 2009: from New York Times
Bringing Wind Turbines to Ordinary Rooftops
WIND turbines typically spin from tall towers on hills and plains. But in these green times, some companies hope smaller turbines will soon rise above a more domestic spot: homes and garages. The rooftop turbines send the electricity they generate straight on to the home's circuit box. Then owners in a suitably wind-swept location can watch the needle on their electricity meter turn backward instead of forward, reducing their utility bills while using a renewable resource.
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2009-02-16 08:44:52
Mon, Feb 16, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Tropical forests are drying out because of global warming
Damp regions that had previously been considered immune to the type of blazes that blighted Australia this month could turn to tinderboxes as temperatures rise, it is claimed. Rainforests currently play a critical role in regulating climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. But if they were to catch alight they would become carbon producers, accelerating climate change.... "It is increasingly clear that as you produce a warmer world, lots of forest areas that had been acting a carbon sinks could be converted to carbon sources."
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2009-02-16 18:57:23
Sun, Feb 15, 2009: from New Scientist
Burp of Arctic laughing gas is no joke
It seems the Arctic['s melting permafrost] is belching out nitrous oxide -- commonly known as laughing gas. Unfortunately, the punchline is that it is a powerful greenhouse gas. Previously, emissions of N2O were thought to enter the atmosphere mainly from tropical forests and intensively managed farmland, with only a negligible amount from northerly environments.... Although this means N2O remains a small contributor to the greenhouse effect, compared with methane and carbon dioxide, the gas persists unaltered in the atmosphere for over 110 years, compared with around 10 years for methane -- which is also periodically released by the tundra.
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2009-02-15 17:40:52
Sun, Feb 15, 2009: from Stanford University, via EurekAlert
When fish farms are built along the coast, where does the waste go?
All those fish penned up together consume massive amounts of commercial feed, some of which drifts off uneaten in the currents. And the crowded fish, naturally, defecate and urinate by the tens of thousands, creating yet another unpleasant waste stream. The wastes can carry disease, causing damage directly. Or the phosphate and nitrates in the mix may feed an algae bloom that sucks the oxygen from the water, leaving it uninhabitable, a phenomenon long associated with fertilizer runoff. It has been widely assumed that the effluent from pens would be benignly diluted by the sea if the pens were kept a reasonable distance from shore, said Jeffrey Koseff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment. But early results from a new Stanford computer simulation based on sophisticated fluid dynamics show that the icky stuff from the pens will travel farther, and in higher concentrations, than had been generally assumed, Koseff said.
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2009-02-15 17:34:09
Sun, Feb 15, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
'Crazy ideas' to fight global warming revealed by scientists
The science known as "geo-engineering" is considered dangerous by some for interfering with the world's delicate ecosystems, however advocates claim that it could "save the world" from catastrophic global warming.... However Robin Webster of Friends of the Earth said it was dangerous to rely on untested science. "We cannot afford to close our eyes to new ideas but the fear is politicians see geo-engineering as the magic bullet that will get us out of trouble and take attention away from making difficult choices to cut carbon emissions now. We need to look at tried and tested technologies like renewables that work and can start reducing the threat climate change now."
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2009-02-15 11:03:07
Sun, Feb 15, 2009: from BBC (UK)
Global warming 'underestimated'
The severity of global warming over the next century will be much worse than previously believed, a leading climate scientist has warned. Professor Chris Field, an author of a 2007 landmark report on climate change, said future temperatures "will be beyond anything" predicted. Prof Field said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had underestimated the rate of change. He said warming is likely to cause more environmental damage than forecast.... "We are basically looking now at a future climate that is beyond anything that we've considered seriously in climate policy," he said.
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2009-02-15 10:57:04
Sun, Feb 15, 2009: from Washington University, via Eurek
Biologist discusses sacred nature of sustainability
Like all religious traditions, religious naturalism is anchored in a cosmological narrative, a set of stories accounting how the earth and its inhabitants came to be. While conventional religions are generally based on older cosmological narratives such as those found in the Old and New Testaments, religious naturalism is based on a much more recent narrative.... She explains, "In more and more mainstream religions, you're seeing an increased emphasis on the earth and its creatures as sacred." This paradigm shift is due, at least in part, to a growing awareness that the old stories might not be sufficient to frame an ethic that alters the environment's current trajectory. She suggests that the new story offers a basis for understanding what a sustainable trajectory might look like.
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2009-02-15 10:49:34
Sun, Feb 15, 2009: from Desdemona Despair
Greenland fishing villages abandoned as fish are driven to colder water
Coastal fishing villages such as Ikateq used to be home to families who relied on regular catches of Arctic char, a fish closely related to salmon. But warmer ocean temperatures in recent years have forced the char to migrate north to cooler waters, ending a way of life. Traditional villages are now ghost towns, with dogsleds and fish-drying racks lying unused outside abandoned houses. With no way to support themselves, villagers have been forced to move to urban centres the largest city and capital, Nuuk, has a population of about 15,000. Ms Smirk says most of the displaced have no other way to earn a living and rely on social welfare.
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2009-02-14 18:31:43
Sat, Feb 14, 2009: from Wall Street Journal
Shrinking Water Supplies Imperil Farmers
The state's water supply has dropped precipitously of late. California is locked in the third year of one of its worst droughts on record, with reservoirs holding as little as 22 percent of capacity.... At the Harris Farms near Coalinga, managers said they plan this year to sideline 9,000 of 11,000 acres they used to plant with tomatoes, onions, broccoli and other vegetables. Harris has been reducing production for two years because of declining water, and now must cut even more than planned. "You feel like a general in a battle," said John Harris, chairman and chief executive of the business. "You're in constant retreat."... In the Modesto metropolitan area, housing prices have declined 55 percent...
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2009-02-14 12:49:45
Sat, Feb 14, 2009: from Contra Costa Times
Newest Delta victims: Killer whales
California's thirst is helping drive an endangered population of West Coast killer whales toward extinction, federal biologists have concluded. The southern resident killer whale population, which numbers 83, spends much of its time in Puget Sound but since 2000 many of them have been spotted off the California coast as far south as Monterey Bay. In a draft scientific report, biologists conclude the damage that water operations are doing to California's salmon populations is enough to threaten the orcas' existence because the water mammals depend on salmon for food. Federal officials confirmed the conclusions of the report to MediaNews on Friday; the data have not been released.... The findings, contained in a draft report by the agency's scientists, could elevate public support for environmental protection in the Delta, where the conflict between environmental advocates and water users has centered on Delta smelt, a nondescript fish that grows a couple of inches long and smells like cucumbers. "People have a hard time looking at the Delta smelt for its own sake," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "If it's Shamu, that's a different thing."
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2009-02-14 12:37:59
Sat, Feb 14, 2009: from Reuters
Sea sponge shows promise as superbug antidote
CHICAGO (Reuters) -- A compound from a sea sponge was able to reverse antibiotic resistance in several strains of bacteria, making once-resistant strains succumb to readily available antibiotics, U.S. researchers said on Friday. "We can resensitize these pathogenic bacteria to standard, current-generation antibiotics," said Peter Moeller of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. Drug-resistant bacteria are a growing problem in hospitals worldwide, marked by the rise of superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA. Such infections kill about 19,000 people a year in the United States. Moeller, who is working with researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and North Carolina State University, said the team noticed a sponge thriving in what was an otherwise dead coral reef. "It begged the question how is it surviving when everything else is dying?" Moeller told reporters at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago. "This opened up a whole new arena for us." The researchers began chopping the sponge into smaller and smaller bits to isolate the properties that helped the sponge thrive in hostile marine conditions. The team found that these bits of sponge were able to repel bacterial biofilms -- a slimy substance bacteria form to help stick to surfaces.
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2009-02-18 11:17:18
Sat, Feb 14, 2009: from The Economist
Drought in northern China
...After 100 days without precipitation in the region, the government has declared a "Level 1" emergency for the worst drought in 50 years, authorising an extra 300m yuan ($44m) in special drought-relief spending. It will finance everything from cloud-seeding rockets to the digging of new wells and tankers to deliver water. This year's winter-wheat harvest is at risk. February 8th saw some rain, but only 5-10 millimetres, compared with 200mm farmers say they need in coming months. The drought comes at a difficult moment. The global downturn has hit China's exporters hard, and millions of rural migrants have lost their jobs in coastal factories and returned to their villages....China's water woes will only worsen, especially for farmers. When supplies tighten, urban and industrial users usually have priority. Ma Jun, a water specialist in Beijing, says that since the 1950s China has been digging ever deeper wells, and building ever more dams, canals, and water diversion projects. But all this has taken a toll. Because of lower water-tables and depleted aquifers, many rivers can no longer replenish themselves in the dry season.
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2009-02-14 12:10:30
Sat, Feb 14, 2009: from London Independent
Toxic waste blamed for birth defects
Families of children born fingerless or with webbed hands and feet are to go to court on Monday to try to secure a multimillion-pound payout for birth defects which they claim were caused by a council's mismanagement of toxic waste dumps. The case is being compared to the thalidomide scandal of the 1960s and 1970s, when parents brought claims arising from their children's severe birth defects caused by having taken the drug for morning sickness. In the new case, mothers allege that during their pregnancies in the 1980s and 1990s they were exposed to contamination from waste sites left over from the clean-up of Northamptonshire's former steel industry based in Corby. Toxicology and medical experts have told the families that the rate of upper and lower-limb abnormality in Corby is 10 times higher than the national average. Des Collins, the solicitor running the case, said he had medical evidence that would prove the children's deformities are linked to the toxic waste dumps left by the former steel industry. He said: "We have now got medical reports that rule out alternative explanations for what caused the limb deformities in these children."
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2009-02-13 22:01:05
Sat, Feb 14, 2009: from Portland Oregonian
Climate change threatens 'rock rabbits,' environmentalists say
The tiny American pika, the "boulder bunny" that chirps at hikers high in the Western mountain ranges, may join the polar bear as a victim of climate change. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide by May whether to protect the pika under the federal Endangered Species Act in a court settlement reached today in San Francisco. Environmentalists say the animal is threatened by habitat loss due to global warming. More than one-third of the pika population has vanished in Oregon, where it lives high in the Cascades and Eastern Oregon mountains. The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice sued the government in August, saying it was dragging its heels in providing protection for the pika. The polar bear was placed last year on the endangered species list because its habitat is under assault by warming temperatures.
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2009-02-13 12:45:27
Fri, Feb 13, 2009: from London Times
Penguins in peril as food search turns into marathon
Penguins from the largest colony on mainland South America are being forced to swim the equivalent of two marathons farther to find food because of the effects of climate change. The survival of the Magellanic penguin colony at Punta Tombo, on the Atlantic coast of Argentina, is being threatened by the increasing distances the birds must travel to feed themselves and their chicks, research has shown. Dee Boersma, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said that Punta Tombo penguins were now routinely swimming 25 miles farther on their foraging expeditions than they did a decade ago... The longer foraging trips have contributed to the colony's decline: penguin numbers have fallen by more than 20 per cent in the past 22 years, leaving only 200,000 breeding pairs today.
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2009-02-13 12:12:03
Fri, Feb 13, 2009: from Seattle Post-Intelligencer
State not ready for 'climate refugees'
"Climate refugees." It's a term we should get used to, researchers warned on Thursday, predicting a flood of new residents driven north by heat waves, fires and other calamitous effects of global warming. With one speaker raising the specter of a new migration on the scale of the Great Depression, state and county officials admitted they have barely started getting ready. The warnings came at a conference of planners, scientists and government officials drilling into the results of a study released this week examining what Washington faces -- for our food supply, our forests, our drinking-water supplies and public health, among other fronts -- as the globe warms in coming decades. "We're going to have an influx of climate refugees," said Richard Hoskins, an epidemiologist with the Washington Health Department. "This is going to have a tremendous impact on our public health (system). Local public health has a very full plate as it is."
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2009-02-22 17:43:09
Fri, Feb 13, 2009: from BBC
Bleak forecast on fishery stocks
The world's fish stocks will soon suffer major upheaval due to climate change, scientists have warned. Changing ocean temperatures and currents will force thousands of species to migrate polewards, including cod, herring, plaice and prawns. By 2050, US fishermen may see a 50 percent reduction in Atlantic cod populations.... "The impact of climate change on marine biodiversity and fisheries is going to be huge," said lead author Dr William Cheung, of the University of East Anglia in the UK. "We must act now to adapt our fisheries management and conservation policies to minimise harm to marine life and to our society."
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2009-02-13 10:41:40
Fri, Feb 13, 2009: from Forbes
Secondhand Smoke Linked to Dementia
People exposed to secondhand smoke may face as much as a 44 percent increased risk of developing dementia, a new study suggests. While previous research has established a connection between smoking and increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease, this new study is the largest review to date showing a link between secondhand smoke and the threat of dementia, the authors said. "There is an association between cognitive function, which is often but not necessarily a precursor of dementia, and exposure to passive smoking," said lead researcher Iain Lang, a research fellow in the Public Health and Epidemiology Group at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England. What's more, Lang said, the risk of impaired cognitive function increases with the amount of exposure to secondhand smoke, the findings suggest. "For people at the highest levels of exposure, the risk is probably higher," he said.
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2009-02-22 16:45:05
Fri, Feb 13, 2009: from Latin America Press
Farming chemicals cause kidney failure
More than 3,000 workers at a sugar plant owned by Nicaragua's most powerful company have died from chronic renal failure since 1990 and a victims' group says another 5,000 workers have since developed the condition for the company's use of agrochemicals. The San Antonio Refinery is owned by the Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited, a part of Grupo Pellas, which produces Flor de Cana rum as well as ethanol and runs an electricity generator in Chichigalpa in the northern León department... Grupo Pellas denies any wrongdoing, accuses the sick workers of being alcoholics or drug addicts, and says that the illness is provoked by other causes. But a 2006 study by the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, cited by Artoni, found that 95 percent of the 26 wells that serve the northwest of the country and close to 96 percent of the small family-only use wells are contaminated with feces, herbicides, bacteria and agrochemicals. According to a recent investigation by the university, there is a possible cause-effect relation between the laborers' work and kidney failure. Dr. Cecilia Torres, an occupational health researcher at the university told the Latin American Regional Office of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations that environmental neurotoxins, such as heavy metals -- arsenic, cadmium and lead -- and agrochemicals such as aldrin, chlorothalonil, maneb, copper sulfate, endrin and Nemagon, are major causes of chronic kidney failure in Nicaragua.
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2009-02-12 12:09:27
Thu, Feb 12, 2009: from New York Times
Big Science Role Is Seen in Global Warming Cure
WASHINGTON -- Steven Chu, the new secretary of energy, said Wednesday that solving the world�s energy and environment problems would require Nobel-level breakthroughs in three areas: electric batteries, solar power and the development of new crops that can be turned into fuel....Dr. Chu said a "revolution" in science and technology would be required if the world is to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and curb the emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. Solar technology, he said, will have to get five times better than it is today, and scientists will need to find new types of plants that require little energy to grow and that can be converted to clean and cheap alternatives to fossil fuels.
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2009-02-12 11:15:10
Thu, Feb 12, 2009: from Reuters
U.S. and Russia track satellite crash debris
Space officials in Russia and the United States were on Thursday tracking hundreds of pieces of debris that were spewed into space when a U.S. satellite collided with a defunct Russian military satellite. The crash, which Russian officials said took place on Tuesday at about 1700 GMT (12:00 p.m. EST) above northern Siberia, is the first publicly known satellite collision and has raised concerns about the safety of the manned International Space Station. The collision happened in an orbit heavily used by satellites and other spacecraft and the U.S. Strategic Command, the arm of the Pentagon that handles space, said countries might have to maneuver their craft to avoid the debris. "The collision of these two space apparatuses happened by chance and these two apparatuses have been destroyed," Major-General Alexander Yakushin, first deputy commander of Russia's Space Forces, told Reuters. "The fragments pose no danger whatsoever to Russian space objects," he said. When asked if the debris posed a danger to other nations' space craft, he said: "As for foreign ones, it is not for me say as it is not in my competency."
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2009-02-16 10:46:38
Thu, Feb 12, 2009: from Christian Science Monitor
On 'Darwin Day,' many Americans beg to differ
...In the US, though, Darwin remains a controversial figure. Two centuries after the famed naturalist's birth, more than 40 percent of Americans believe human beings were created by God in their present form, according to recent polls from Gallup and the Pew Research Center – a view impossible to reconcile with evolution propelled by natural selection. Such creationist beliefs lack scientific merit, educators say, and in classrooms evolution reigns supreme. Opponents have tried an array of challenges over the decades, and the latest tactic recently scored its first major victory. It's a tack that is changing the way the cultural battle over evolution is fought. In June of last year, Louisiana became the first state to pass what has become known as an "academic freedom" law. In the past, fights over evolution took place at the local school board level, but academic freedom proponents specifically target state legislatures. Such laws back away from outright calls for alternative theories to evolution, electing instead to legislate support for teachers who discuss the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of issues such as evolution in the name of protecting the freedom of speech of instructors and students alike.
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2009-02-12 10:11:16
Thu, Feb 12, 2009: from Associated Press
Africanized bees found in Utah for the first time
Africanized honey bees have been found for the first time in the Beehive State. The bees, long the subject of lore as "killer bees," were recently discovered in Utah's Washington and Kane counties, the state Department of Agriculture said Wednesday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that seven hives — three in the wild and four managed by private beekeepers — contained Africanized bees. The hives have since been destroyed. The bees in Utah do not appear to be widespread and no injuries to people or animals have been reported. State and local officials have been anticipating the bees' arrival since they showed up in Mesquite, Nev., in 1999, just a few miles from the Utah line.
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2009-02-11 17:19:19
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from New Scientist
Eating less meat could cut climate costs
Cutting back on beefburgers and bacon could wipe $20 trillion off the cost of fighting climate change. That's the dramatic conclusion of a study that totted up the economic costs of modern meat-heavy diets. The researchers involved say that reducing our intake of beef and pork would lead to the creation of a huge new carbon sink, as vegetation would thrive on unused farmland. The model takes into account farmland that is used to grow extra food to make up for the lost meat, but that requires less area, so some will be abandoned. Millions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, would also be saved every year due to reduced emissions from farms. These impacts would lessen the need for expensive carbon-saving technologies, such as "clean coal" power plants, and so save huge sums, say Elke Stehfest of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and colleagues.
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2009-02-11 17:05:12
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from Reuters
Can algae save the world - again?
Can algae save the world again? The microscopic green plants cleaned up the earth's atmosphere millions of years ago and scientists hope they can do it now by helping remove greenhouse gases and create new oil reserves. In the distant past, algae helped turn the earth's then inhospitable atmosphere into one that could support modern life through photosynthesis, which plants use to turn carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars and oxygen. Some of the algae sank to sea or lake beds and slowly became oil. "All we're doing is turning the clock back," says Steve Skill, a biochemist at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. "Nature has done this many millions of years ago in producing the crude oil we're burning today. So as far as nature is concerned this is nothing new," he said. The race is now on to find economic ways to turn algae, one of the planet's oldest life forms, into vegetable oil that can be made into biodiesel, jet fuel, other fuels and plastic products.
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2009-02-11 16:46:20
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from London Daily Telegraph
Scottish ski industry could disappear due to global warming, warns Met Office
The country's five resorts are currently enjoying exceptional conditions after heavy snowfall in the Highlands, but climate change may mean they have less than 50 years of ski-ing left. Alex Hill, chief government advisor with the Met Office, said the amount of snow in the Scottish mountains had been decreasing for the last 40 years and there was no reason for the decline to stop. He added: "Put it this way, I will not be investing in the ski-ing industry. Will there be a ski industry in Scotland in 50 years' time? Very unlikely."
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2009-02-11 16:36:01
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from New Scientist
New antibiotics would silence bugs, not kill them
In future, the most effective antibiotics might be those that don't kill any bacteria. Instead the drugs will simply prevent the bacteria from talking with one another. Drug-resistant bugs are winning the war against standard antibiotics as they evolve resistance to even the most lethal drugs. It happens because a dose of antibiotics strongly selects for resistance by killing the most susceptible bacteria first. If, however, researchers can identify antibiotics that neutralise dangerous bacteria without killing them, the pressure to evolve resistance can be reduced. One way to do that is to target the constant stream of chatter that passes between bacteria as molecular signals.... Individual bacteria monitor the concentration of signalling molecules, and when it reaches a certain level, change their behaviour. That concentration provides a rough indication of when the number of cells in a particular population has reached a certain critical mass - known as a quorum. When a quorum is reached, pathogenic bacteria shift from a benign state and begin attacking the host by secreting toxins.
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2009-02-11 09:29:25
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from Associated Press
Salazar rejects Bush drilling plan
WASHINGTON - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has rejected a Bush administration plan to open vast waters off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas drilling, promising "a new way forward" in offshore energy development including new wind projects. Salazar at a news conference Tuesday criticized "the midnight timetable" for new oil and gas development on the country's Outer Continental Shelf proposed by the Bush administration four days before President Barack Obama took office Jan. 20. The secretary said the previous administration's plan did not take into consideration the views of states and coastal communities, nor a need to better understand what energy resources are at stake, especially off the Atlantic coast where oil and gas estimates are more than three decades old. "We need to ... restore an orderly process to our offshore energy planning program," declared Salazar, criticizing "foot dragging" by the Bush administration in pushing for renewable energy development in coastal waters.Salazar did not rule out expanded offshore drilling, but criticized "the enormous sweep" of the Bush proposal, which envisioned energy development from New England to Alaska including lease sales in areas off California and in the North Atlantic that have been off-limits for a quarter century.
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2009-02-11 09:21:34
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from Wilmington News Journal
DuPont gets more time to test PFOA
DuPont Co. has been given a last-minute pass on a federal deadline to complete testing on products thought to be a source of a controversial chemical in the environment. The Environmental Appeals Board has given the company another three years to finish the testing, the second federal action taken in the waning days of the Bush administration on perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a DuPont-made chemical used in Teflon and other products. In January, the Environmental Protection Agency also set provisional guidelines on drinking-water exposure to PFOA at a level that was more lax than state guidelines in New Jersey and elsewhere. "There's no science supporting either of these decisions. They're purely political gifts from the Bush administration," said Richard Wiles, executive director of Environmental Working Group, one of the first groups to sound the alarm on PFOA. Growing evidence of the chemical's harmful health effects calls for a sharper response from the federal government, Wiles said.
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2009-02-11 09:12:50
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from Minneapolis Star Tribune
Road salt spreading into our water
Rain and melting snow in the Twin Cities have flushed away road salt residue from hundreds of streets and tens of thousands of cars. But that might not be a good thing. Now a University of Minnesota study estimates that 70 percent of the deicing salt used on metro-area roadways does not travel far when it drains off the pavement. It gushes into area wetlands and lakes and seeps into groundwater, and it is making them saltier with each successive year. About 30 percent goes to the Mississippi River.
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2009-02-10 21:19:22
Wed, Feb 11, 2009: from Vietnam.net
Urbanisation threatens food security
Since 2001 the area under crops has dropped from more than 4.3 million ha to 4.13 million ha, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. In 2007 alone, the area under rice shrank by 125,000 ha, as authorities tried to restructure crop patterns and develop the services and industrial sectors and urban sprawl overran surrounding areas. Farmlands are forecast to continue shrinking as they are appropriated for non-agricultural purposes.
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2009-02-10 12:06:40
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from NPR
Cholera Exhausts Zimbabwean Health Care System
In December, the World Health Organization's worst-case scenario for Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak was that 60,000 people might become infected before the end of March. But already, nearly 70,000 cases of cholera have been reported. Despite the fact that cholera is relatively easy to treat and to prevent with basic hygiene and appropriate sanitation, more than 3,300 people have died of the disease since the outbreak began in August 2008, according to the WHO. A simple treatment of oral rehydration can save most lives, but health experts who have visited Zimbabwe recently say those measures simply aren't available because the economy is in meltdown.
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2009-02-10 11:55:09
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from Associated Press
US relies on states for food safety inspections
The U.S. government has increasingly relied on food-safety inspections performed by states, where budgets for inspections in many cases have remained stagnant and where overburdened officials are trained less than their federal counterparts and perform skimpier reviews, an Associated Press investigation has found. The thoroughness of inspections performed by states has emerged as a key issue in the investigation of the national salmonella outbreak traced to a peanut processing plant in Blakely, Ga. The outbreak, which has highlighted weaknesses in the nation's food-safety system, is blamed for 600 illnesses and at least eight deaths in 44 states.... State investigators performed more than half the Food and Drug Administration's food inspections in 2007, according to an AP analysis of FDA data. That represents a dramatic rise from a decade ago, when FDA investigators performed three out of four of the federal government's inspections.
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2009-02-10 09:59:21
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
Tories propose 'biocredits' to put cash value on damage to habitats and species
Under radical new Conservative proposals to stop biodiversity loss in the UK, all would be given a cash value. The scheme is designed to halt the decline of hundreds of habitats and species by assigning a cost to be paid by proposed development schemes that would lead to their destruction. The damage done by a project would be given a cash value and developers asked to compensate for that damage by investing an equivalent amount in projects to protect or improve biodiversity at another location. The plan being put forward by the new Conservative shadow environment secretary, Nick Herbert, is modelled on similar "bio-credits" initiatives, including in the US, Malaysia and Australia, which have created markets in biodiversity worth tens of millions of pounds a year.
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2009-02-10 11:49:01
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from New York Times
Oil Contaminates Des Plaines River
ROCKDALE, Ill. (AP)-- A holding tank at a Caterpillar facility in southwest suburban Chicago broke open early Sunday morning, spilling about 65,000 gallons of oil sludge and contaminating a three-mile section of the Des Plaines River, officials said. "It is being contained, and there is no evidence of a fish kill or harm to water fowl," Maggie Carson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said by e-mail.
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2009-02-10 07:16:00
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from Stanford University, via EurekAlert
No joy in discoveries of new mammal species -- only a warning for humanity
In the era of global warming, when many scientists say we are experiencing a human-caused mass extinction to rival the one that killed off the dinosaurs, one might think that the discovery of a host of new species would be cause for joy. Not entirely so, says Paul Ehrlich, co-author of an analysis of the 408 new mammalian species discovered since 1993. "What this paper really talks about is how little we actually know about our natural capital and how little we know about the services that flow from it," said Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford. "I think what most people miss is that the human economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the economy of nature, which supplies us from our natural capital a steady flow of income that we can't do without," Ehrlich said. "And that income is in the form of what are called 'ecosystem services' -- keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, supplying fresh water, preventing floods, protecting our crops from pests and pollinating many of them, recycling the nutrients that are essential to agriculture and forestry, and on and on."
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2009-02-10 07:12:05
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from UC Berkeley, via EurekAlert
Scientists document salamander decline in Central America
The decline of amphibian populations worldwide has been documented primarily in frogs, but salamander populations also appear to have plummeted, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, biologists. By comparing tropical salamander populations in Central America today with results of surveys conducted between 1969 and 1978, UC Berkeley researchers have found that populations of many of the commonest salamanders have steeply declined. On the flanks of the Tajumulco volcano on the west coast of Guatemala, for example, two of the three commonest species 40 years ago have disappeared, while the third was nearly impossible to find.... Frog declines have been attributed to a variety of causes, ranging from habitat destruction, pesticide use and introduced fish predators to the Chytrid fungus, which causes an often fatal disease, chytridiomycosis. These do not appear to be responsible for the decline of Central American salamanders, Wake said. Instead, because the missing salamanders tend to be those living in narrow altitude bands, Wake believes that global warming is pushing these salamanders to higher and less hospitable elevations.
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2009-02-16 10:44:24
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Cedarburg native wants to make it to both poles, Everest in one year
Arctic explorer Eric Larsen, a Cedarburg native, intends to be the first person ever to reach the South and North poles and the summit of Mount Everest within one year. The three-legged expedition to what Larsen calls "the top, bottom and roof of the world" is scheduled to begin in November in Antarctica. Travel across the Arctic to the North Pole would come second, beginning in February 2010. The push to Everest's summit - the world's highest at 29,029 feet above sea level - might start in September 2010.... Larsen plans to reach the three destinations in quick succession to draw public attention to the impact of global warming on each of these remote places. The name of the proposed expedition: Save the Poles.
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2009-02-18 11:16:51
Tue, Feb 10, 2009: from Washington Post
Pride of Argentina Falls on Hard Times
Argentina is suffering its worst drought in decades and the cattle are dying by the barnload. Since October, the drought has taken down 1.5 million of the animals, according to an estimate by the Argentine Rural Society, in a country that last year sent 13.5 million to slaughter. The cattle for the most part are dying of hunger, as the dry skies have shriveled up their pastures, along with huge swaths of Argentina's important soy, corn and wheat fields. "The drought has affected practically the entire country, the cattle-ranching sector, agriculture. It is the most intense, prolonged and expensive drought in the past 50 years," Hugo Luis Biolcati, the president of the Argentine Rural Society, said in the organization's offices in Buenos Aires. "I think we are facing a very bad year." The cattlemen at the century-old Liniers Market in Buenos Aires, one of the largest cow auctions in the world, with about 40,000 animals passing through each week, tend to agree. In wooden pens, spines and ribs jut out under the many taut hides jostling together.
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2009-02-09 17:55:41
Mon, Feb 9, 2009: from Agence France-Presse
Pollution preferable to unemployment for Romanian town
COPSA MICA, Romania (AFP)-- For the residents of Copsa Mica, a tiny town in central Romania, the closure of its local smelting plant is a worse catastrophe than having a reputation as the most polluted place in Europe. "I know the plant was a threat to our health, but at least people had a job," said Diana Roman, a 22-year-old woman who sells potatoes and carrots on the market square of Copsa Mica, which has a population of 5,500 and is situated 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Bucharest. Roman's husband is one of the 820 workers being laid off -- out of a total workforce of 1,050 -- at the Sometra smelting plant, Copsa Mica's biggest employer... [Copsa Mica's mayor, Tudor] Mihalache acknowledged the heavy pollution caused by Sometra, making the air "unbreathable", despite investments to curb the emissions of sulphur dioxide and heavy metals such as lead, zinc and cadmium.
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2009-02-09 13:46:53
Mon, Feb 9, 2009: from London Times
MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism
THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found. Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients' data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition. The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children's conditions.... Despite involving just a dozen children, the 1998 paper's impact was extraordinary. After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92 percent to below 80 percent.
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2009-02-09 20:03:36
Mon, Feb 9, 2009: from BusinessGreen
Emergency Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen to be held in March
Climate change scientists are to hold an emergency summit in Copenhagen next month to collate the latest findings in climate science and step up pressure on the UN negotiating process to ensure any deal agreed later this year is informed by the scientific realities of global warming. The International Scientific Congress on Climate Change will run from 10-12 March and is being organised by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), including the University of Copenhagen, Yale, UC Berkeley, Tokyo, Oxford and Cambridge. It will feature keynotes from IPCC Chairman Dr. RK Pachauri, Lord Nicholas Stern, and President of the European Commission Jose M. Barroso, as well as a raft of the world's top climate scientists and will address the extent to which a "technological fix" to climate change is now possible, the likely costs of inaction, and the scale of the global security threat climate change presents. In addition, the conference aims to "bridge the four year data gap left by the leading global scientific body on climate change -- the IPCC -- with its latest reports".
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2009-02-09 10:33:19
Mon, Feb 9, 2009: from Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader
As bat deaths rise, mosquito invasion looms
Here's a prediction: We will see more mosquitoes this summer. Why? Because something is killing bats. Wiping out entire populations of the insect-eating mammals, and nobody knows why or how to stop it. Considering a single little brown bat can eat more than 2,000 mosquitoes in a night, and factoring in that bats in our area are starting to perish just like bats in New York and New England did, one of our top insect predators might be absent from the evening sky this summer. Last week the Pennsylvania Game Commission discovered dead bats in two mine sites in Lackawanna County.... Something is causing the thousands of bats to use up their winter energy reserves early. As a result, the bats are emerging from hibernation six weeks early and flying out of the mines in search of insects. The problem is there aren't any bugs in February, and the bats are literally starving to death in mid-air.
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2009-02-09 10:13:43
Mon, Feb 9, 2009: from Times Online (UK)
Polar ice caps melting faster
THE ice caps are melting so fast that the world's oceans are rising more than twice as fast as they were in the 1970s, scientists have found. They have used satellites to track how the oceans are responding as billions of gallons of water reach them from melting ice sheets and glaciers. The effect is compounded by thermal expansion, in which water expands as it warms, according to the study by Anny Cazenave of the National Centre for Space Studies in France. These findings come at the same time as a warning from an American academic whose research suggests Labour's policies to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 are doomed.
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2009-02-08 15:06:36
Sun, Feb 8, 2009: from Carlisle Sentinel
Anti-idling truck law goes into effect
As of Friday, most trucks and buses are no longer allowed to sit with their engines running for more than five minutes out of every hour. The enactment of statewide legislation was sweet and long-awaited news for members of the Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania (CAB), which advocated such a bill for two years before it was passed in October 2008. "We had our usual monthly public meeting on Thursday night, and we were celebrating," said CAB board member Rev. Duane Fickeisen of Unitarian Universalists of Cumberland Valley. CAB's emphasis has been on reducing the level of PM 2.5, a fine air particulate that is produced by diesel engines and linked to a variety of heart and lung ailments, and Fickeisen said he thinks the new law will help but not cure the problem.
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2009-02-08 12:31:27
Sun, Feb 8, 2009: from McClatchy Newspapers
Citizen scientists' notes document affects of climate change
WASHINGTON -- It has to do with brown-headed cowbirds and clear-cut forests, lilacs and wildfires, vineyards in the Rhine Valley, marmots, dandelions, tadpoles, cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington and musty old records stuffed in shoe boxes in people's closets and stacked on museum shelves. As scientists track global warming, they're using sometimes centuries-old data to assess its impact on plants, animals, insects, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Increasingly, they're discovering that it can take only one seemingly insignificant change to disrupt an entire ecosystem. "People talk about a 1- or 2-degree rise in temperature and it's inconsequential to us. Who cares?" said Greg Jones, an environmental studies professor at Southern Oregon University who's been studying wine grapes. "But in an ecosystem it can have dramatic effects." As the study of phenology, or life cycles, attracts growing attention, researchers are turning more and more to citizen scientists for help.
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2009-02-08 12:23:22
Sun, Feb 8, 2009: from Associated Press
DEP uncertain if coal slurry injection is safe
Two years after it was charged to do so, and 13 months after its original deadline, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection remains unable to answer a question that worries thousands in the southern coalfields: Are water supplies and human health at risk when a chemical soup from the cleaning of coal is pumped into worked-out underground mines? "We have some concerns, to be quite honest with you," DEP Director Randy Huffman told The Associated Press about coal slurry injection. "We have questions we're trying to get some answers to, to make sure it's safe." Yet coal operators are still permitted to inject slurry at 15 locations. The DEP cannot say precisely what's in that waste, how much is injected annually, or whether and where it migrates. Nor is it under any pressure to do so: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hasn't studied the practice in a decade and said in 2002 its existing rules were adequate to protect groundwater.
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2009-02-08 12:15:51
Sun, Feb 8, 2009: from London Independent
New nuclear plants will produce far more radiation
New nuclear reactors planned for Britain will produce many times more radiation than previous reactors that could be rapidly released in an accident, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. The revelations -- based on information buried deep in documents produced by the nuclear industry itself -- calls into doubt repeated assertions that the new European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) will be safer than the old atomic power stations they replace. Instead they suggest that a reactor or nuclear waste accident, [sic] althouguh less likely to happen, could have even more devastating consequences in future; one study suggests that nearly twice as many people could die.
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2009-02-08 10:41:35
Sun, Feb 8, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
Carbon price falls to new low
The price of carbon has hit new lows as power generators and industrial companies continue to cash in credits under the emissions trading scheme (ETS) to bolster their balance sheets.... Analysts at Barclays Capital warned the price could fall further to €9 while Utilyx, the carbon information provider, said: "There seems to be no bottom to carbon prices at the moment." Market experts blame the decline on profit taking and a collapse in manufacturing, which has reached its lowest levels since 1981 in Britain. Power generators and industrial firms are selling their credits to raise cash during the credit crunch but also because they are confident they will not need as many pollution permits at a time of falling demand for their products.
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2009-02-09 11:04:31
Sat, Feb 7, 2009: from Reuters Health
Testosterone-blocking chemicals found in wastewater
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Testosterone-inhibiting chemicals appear to be finding their way into UK rivers, possibly helping to "feminize" male fish -- and raising questions about what the effects on human health might be, according to researchers. In tests of treated sewage wastewater flowing into 51 UK rivers, the researchers found that almost all of the samples contained anti-androgen chemicals -- substances that block the action of the male sex hormone testosterone. What's more, when the researchers studied fish taken from the rivers, they found that exposure to anti-androgens seemed to be contributing to the feminization of some male fish - male fish with feminized ducts or germ cells. What this means for humans is not clear. But the findings raise the possibility of effects on male fertility, the investigators report in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Past studies have suggested that estrogen-disrupting pollutants -- from sources like industrial chemicals and birth-control pills -- may be leading to the feminization of some wild fish. Researchers have discovered river-dwelling male fish with female characteristics, including eggs in their testes. There have been doubts about whether the findings are relevant to men's fertility, however, since the presumed culprit chemicals in fish do not disrupt testosterone. But now these latest findings implicate anti-androgens in the feminization of fish as well.
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2009-02-07 19:07:29
Sat, Feb 7, 2009: from New York Times
Fallout Widens as Buyers Shun Peanut Butter
Many consumers, apparently disregarding the fine print of the salmonella outbreak and food recall caused by a Georgia peanut plant, are swearing off all brands of peanut butter, driving down sales by nearly 25 percent. The drop-off is so striking that brands like Jif are taking the unusual step of buying ads to tell shoppers that their products are not affected, and giving them a coupon to make sure they do not learn to live without a staple that almost every child loves -- and more than a few of their parents, too.
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2009-02-07 13:17:31
Sat, Feb 7, 2009: from Minneapolis Star Tribune
Probe: Did 3M firefighting foam contaminate water?
Minnesota health officials are launching a major investigation into whether drinking water in 15 Minnesota cities is contaminated with chemicals formerly manufactured by 3M Co. and used in municipal fire-fighting foam. The tests, set to begin next month, will be important to residents and fire officials in communities across the country where a 3M firefighting foam has been used for years in training exercises, often on city-owned property adjacent to municipal wells. The foam is flushed into storm sewers or left to seep into the ground, raising the possibility that drinking water has been affected. "This could have national significance," said Doug Wetzstein, supervisor in the superfund section at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Firefighters virtually everywhere have used the foam for decades, he said, at city practice areas, community college training courses, and especially at military bases, airports and refineries where jet fuel and other petroleum-based fires are a major concern.
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2009-02-07 19:08:04
Sat, Feb 7, 2009: from AFP
US green groups hail reversal of Bush-era land lease
WASHINGTON (AFP) -- US environmentalists including actor Robert Redford have hailed US President Barack Obama's administration's reversal of a Bush-era move to lease wilderness land in Utah to energy companies. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has ordered the Bureau of Land Management "not to accept the bids on 77 parcels" that, he said, former president George W. Bush's administration had rushed to sell off in its dying days in office. The lands involved sit "at the doorstep of some of our nation's most treasured landscapes in Utah," including Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon, Salazar said Wednesday. Actor, environmental activist and Utah resident Robert Redford called the move "a sign that after eight long years of rapacious greed and backdoor dealings, our government is returning a sense of balance to the way it manages our lands."
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2009-02-07 19:17:54
Sat, Feb 7, 2009: from Associated Press
Octuplet birth doctor under investigation
LOS ANGELES -- The spotlight on the mother of octuplets is turning to the fertility doctor who helped her give birth not once but 14 times by implanting Nadya Suleman with fertilized embryos. The Medical Board of California investigating the doctor -- whom it did not name -- to see if there was a "violation of the standard of care," board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said Friday. She did not elaborate. Suleman, 33, of Whittier, already had six children when she gave birth Jan. 26 to octuplets. The births to an unemployed, divorced single mother prompted angry questions about how she plans to provide for her children. But the backlash seems to have extended as well to Suleman's doctor...."All I wanted was children. I wanted to be a mom. That's all I ever wanted in my life," Suleman said in the portion of the interview that aired Friday. "I love my children."
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2009-02-06 16:53:23
Fri, Feb 6, 2009: from CBC News (Canada)
World's fish at risk as countries flout fishing code, study finds
The time has come for responsible fishing guidelines to be enforced as law internationally because the voluntary code of conduct currently in place has failed to save the world's fish from being depleted, fisheries researchers say. A recent study found "dismayingly poor compliance" among countries around the world with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1995, said a commentary published this week in Nature.... "Overall, compliance is poor, with room for improvement at every level in the rankings," the commentary said, adding that even top-ranking countries such as Canada were given "fail" grades for certain practices and none achieved a "good" ranking. Only Norway, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Iceland and Namibia received overall compliance scores of 60 per cent, and 28 countries that haul in 40 per cent of the global catch had "unequivocal fail grades overall," the study said.... It added that while it may have been necessary 13 years ago to make the agreement voluntary, there is more widespread agreement now that continued overfishing is hurting ecosystems and threatening food supplies, and something needs to be done.
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2009-02-08 16:19:26
Fri, Feb 6, 2009: from MedPage Today
Bisphenol A Mimics Estrogen, Phthalates Target Testosterone
Although they have been linked to reproductive problems in both sexes, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates -- common chemicals found in household plastics -- have gender-specific effects.... "BPA looks like estrogen," Dr. Taylor, whose research focuses on uterine development and endocrine disruption, said of its chemical structure. "By itself it is a very weak estrogen." ... Mice that were exposed to BPA as fetuses developed abnormalities of the ovaries, uterus, and vagina, Dr. Taylor said. Other murine studies found genetic abnormalities in eggs, an increased risk of mammary cancers, and early puberty in females.... Phthalates, on the other hand, have antiandrogenic effects, Dr. Taylor said. Studies in male animals have found reduced sperm production, undescended testes, hypospadias, decreased testosterone production, and reduced anogenital distance.
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2009-02-06 15:09:02
Fri, Feb 6, 2009: from New Scientist
Why sustainable power is unsustainable
Renewable energy needs to become a lot more renewable -- a theme that emerged at the Financial Times Energy Conference in London this week. Although scientists are agreed that we must cut carbon emissions from transport and electricity generation to prevent the globe's climate becoming hotter, and more unpredictable, the most advanced "renewable" technologies are too often based upon non-renewable resources, attendees heard.
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2009-02-06 15:11:27
Fri, Feb 6, 2009: from Scientific American
U.S. Arctic May Close to Fishing
All U.S. waters north of the Bering Strait may soon be closed to commercial fishing. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council—the government body charged with administering Alaskan waters—voted unanimously in Seattle today to close 196,000 square miles (150,000 square nautical miles) of ocean to any fishing. "This will close the Arctic to all commercial fishing," says Jim Ayers, vice president for Pacific and Arctic affairs at Oceana, based in Juneau, who testified before the vote. "This is the beginning of a concept of large protected marine areas." ... While this is good news for fish, it does not mean that the Arctic is free from industrial threats. The Bush administration sold leases for oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea to Shell and global warming is wreaking havoc by melting sea ice, softening permafrost and even eroding villages and towns. That prompted towns like Shishmaref to file a lawsuit requiring a reduction in greenhouse gases to preserve their traditional way of life.
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2009-02-06 15:12:19
Fri, Feb 6, 2009: from New Scientist
Antarctic bulge could flood Washington DC
Rather than spreading out evenly across all the oceans, water from melted Antarctic ice sheets will gather around North America and the Indian Ocean. That's bad news for the US East Coast, which could bear the brunt of one of these oceanic bulges.... Once the ice melts, the release of pressure could also cause the Antarctic continent to rise by 100 metres. And as the weight of the ice pressing down on the continental shelf is released, the rock will spring back, displacing seawater that will also spread across the oceans.... The upshot is that the North American continent and the Indian Ocean will experience the greatest changes in sea level -- adding 1 or 2 metres to the current estimates. Washington DC sits squarely in this area, meaning it could face a 6.3-metre sea level rise in total. California will also be in the target zone.
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2009-02-05 20:28:22
Fri, Feb 6, 2009: from Entomological Society of America, via EurekAlert
A natural, alternative insect repellent to DEET
Isolongifolenone, a natural compound found in the Tauroniro tree (Humiria balsamifera) of South America, has been found to effectively deter biting of mosquitoes and to repel ticks, both of which are known spreaders of diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease. Derivatives of isolongifolenone have been widely and safely used as fragrances in cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants, and paper products, and new processing methods may make it as cheap to produce as DEET.... Since "isolongifolenone is easily synthesized from inexpensive turpentine oil feedstock," the authors write, "we are therefore confident that the compound has significant potential as an inexpensive and safe repellent for protection of large human populations against blood-feeding arthropods."
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2009-02-05 12:44:33
Thu, Feb 5, 2009: from WV Public Radio
White nose syndrome suspected in WV bats
"On the way to the caves we found five dead bats along the trail, which is unusual," West said. "In the one cave, New Trout, we saw no evidence whatsoever of White Nose Syndrome. In Trout Cave we found two bats that had some fungal growth."... "As the counters proceeded to the rear of the cave, they observed that roughly a quarter of the bats they were counting, and they counted over 400 that day, roughly a quarter that they could examine were displaying a fungal growth that resembled White Nose," West said. When the group left the cave at twilight, a number of bats were leaving the cave presumably in search of food, which they normally don't do in the cold months when there are no bugs to eat. Bats with White Nose Syndrome eventually starve to death.
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2009-02-05 12:45:28
Thu, Feb 5, 2009: from New York Times
Experts in U.S. and China See a Chance for Cooperation Against Climate Change
BEIJING -- When Chinese officials and the Obama administration begin serious discussions over issues at the heart of relations between China and the United States, the usual suspects will no doubt emerge: trade, North Korea, human rights, Taiwan. But an increasing number of officials and scholars from both countries say climate change is likely to become another focal point in the dialogue. American and Chinese leaders recognize the urgency of global warming, the scholars and officials say, and believe that a new international climate treaty is impossible without agreements between their nations, the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases.... "I believe climate change may become a very important issue which will put China-U.S. relations in a new framework in the 21st century because the stakes are high," said Wu Jianmin, a senior adviser to the Foreign Ministry. "We all understand we don't have much time left. We've got to work together."
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2009-02-05 12:30:49
Thu, Feb 5, 2009: from US News and World Report
Not Just HFCS and Peanut Butter: Here are 10 Other Risky Foods
1. Farmed Salmon. It's high in Polychlorinated Biphenyls, with 11 times more dioxins than wild salmon. 2. Conventionally Grown Bell Peppers. They require more pesticides than any other vegetable - with as many as 64 being found on a single sample of pepper in one study. 3. Non-Organic Strawberries. Some growers of strawberries irrigate their plants with Nutri-Sweet-laced water. The sugar substitute is a probable carcinogen. 4. Chilean Sea Bass. The fish is high in mercury, and if eaten consistently over time, can elevate the body's mercury levels to dangerous amounts. 5. Non-Organic Peaches. Pesticides easily penetrate their soft skins and permeate the fruit. 6. Genetically Modified Corn. We still don't know the long-term effects of genetically modified corn, but it's been tied to an increase in allergies for humans. 7. Bluefin Tuna. Not only is it high in mercury, but overfishing may drive the species to extinction. 8. Industrially Farmed Chicken. Arsenic has been found in conventional chickens, as well as antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 9. Non-Organic Apples. When grown in humid Mid-Atlantic states, the crop uses more pesticides than California, Oregon and Washington states. 10. Cattle Treated with rBGH. Recombinant bovine growth hormone has been traced to breast cancer and hormonal disorders.
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2009-02-05 12:33:11
Thu, Feb 5, 2009: from University of Liverpool, via EurekAlert
Software could save organizations $19,000 each month
Software designed by the University of Liverpool which automatically shuts down computer systems after usage, is saving large organisations up to £13,000 in electricity costs each month.... Using the University of Liverpool as a test model the team discovered that 1,600 library-based PC's alone were using 20,000 kW each week unnecessarily – equating to approximately £2,400 in current electricity prices. PowerDown has so far recovered 24 million hours of PC inactivity within the University.
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2009-02-05 12:12:48
Thu, Feb 5, 2009: from BBC
Parched Perth embarks on water rescue
Turning the sea into drinking water is at the heart of Western Australia's multi-faceted approach to satisfying the thirst of a booming population that lives on the edge of a desert. "We had a history of taking gutsy decisions," said Jim Gill, former chief executive of the Water Corporation of Western Australia, a government-owned monopoly. "And that's what put us in a position of world leadership in terms of dealing with a drying climate." The corporation opened the southern hemisphere's first desalination plant, south of Perth, in November 2006. Powered by a wind farm, the move was prompted by the driest winter ever recorded in Western Australia (WA) - a region that was among the first to see the effects of a shifting climate.
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2009-02-05 18:10:57
Thu, Feb 5, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
Obama's energy secretary outlines dire climate change scenario
Unless there is timely action on climate change, California's agricultural bounty could be reduced to a dust bowl and its cities disappear, Barack Obama's energy secretary said yesterday. The apocalyptic scenario sketched out by Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate appointed as energy secretary, was the clearest sign to date of the greening of America's political class under the new president. In blunt language, Chu said Americans had yet to fully understand the urgency of dealing with climate change. "I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," he told the Los Angeles Times in his first interview since taking the post. "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California. I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going."
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2009-02-04 15:31:28
Wed, Feb 4, 2009: from New York Times
Dark Days for Green Energy
Wind and solar power have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting. Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government. Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.
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2009-02-05 18:03:52
Wed, Feb 4, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Japan rejects deal to limit whaling to its own waters
The [International Whaling Commission] has proposed that Japan scale back or halt its whaling in the Antarctic Ocean over the next five years, a suggestion that Shigeru Ishiba, minister of fisheries, dismissed as "unacceptable." Tokyo "will not be able to accept any proposal that would prohibit Japan from continuing its research whaling," he told reporters. Environmental campaigners have also condemned the IWC plan.... "This one-way compromise would lift the commercial whaling moratorium, allow the government of Japan to kill endangered species and permit illegal high-seas whaling to continue," he said.
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2009-02-04 14:34:23
Wed, Feb 4, 2009: from Mongabay
Malaysian government says forest reserve 'plundered' for oil palm development
Responding to allegations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) that indigenous people have been forced from their lands (a charge it denied), the Sabah Forestry Department said that more than 30 percent of Mt. Pock And Tanjong Nagos Forest Reserves were "plundered" by "people with means to plant illegal oil palm including companies" up until 2001. The statement is noteworthy in that leaders of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the marketing and lobbying arm of the Malaysian palm oil industry, have maintained that oil expansion has not taken place at the expense of natural forest in Malaysia. The Forestry Department statement noted that oil palm companies spent million of ringgit "to develop the illegal oil palm including the recruitment of illegal workers to destroy forests and intimidate Forestry Department staff on the ground." It said that 202 people were arrested in the reserves between 2003 and 2006. Statewide, 732 were apprehended for illegal encroachment. 471 of these were illegal immigrants.
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2009-02-04 14:35:06
Wed, Feb 4, 2009: from AGU, via EurekAlert
Global warming may delay recovery of stratospheric ozone
Increasing greenhouse gases could delay, or even postpone indefinitely the recovery of stratospheric ozone in some regions of the Earth, a new study suggests. This change might take a toll on public health.... [They] report that climate change could provoke variations in the circulation of air in the lower stratosphere in tropical and southern mid-latitudes -- a band of the Earth including Australia and Brazil. The circulation changes would cause ozone levels in these areas never to return to levels that were present before decline began, even after ozone-depleting substances have been wiped out from the atmosphere.
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2009-02-03 19:00:26
Wed, Feb 4, 2009: from London Guardian
Biofuels more harmful to humans than petrol and diesel, warn scientists
Some biofuels cause more health problems than petrol and diesel, according to scientists who have calculated the health costs associated with different types of fuel. The study shows that corn-based bioethanol, which is produced extensively in the US, has a higher combined environmental and health burden than conventional fuels. However, there are high hopes for the next generation of biofuels, which can be made from organic waste or plants grown on marginal land that is not used to grow foods. They have less than half the combined health and environmental costs of standard gasoline and a third of current biofuels.... Using computer models developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the researchers found the total environmental and health costs of gasoline are about 71 cents (50p) per gallon, while an equivalent amount of corn-ethanol fuel has associated costs of 72 cents to $1.45, depending on how it is produced. The next generation of so-called cellulosic bioethanol fuels costs 19 cents to 32 cents, depending on the technology and type of raw materials used. These are experimental fuels made from woody crops that typically do not compete with conventional agriculture. The results are published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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2009-02-06 16:58:44
Tue, Feb 3, 2009: from BBC
Water - another global 'crisis'?
Among people who study human development, it is a widely-held view that each person needs about 20 litres of water each day for the basics - to drink, cook and wash sufficiently to avoid disease transmission. Yet at the height of the East African drought, people were getting by on less than five litres a day - in some cases, less than one litre a day, enough for just three glasses of drinking water and nothing left over. Some people, perhaps incredibly from a western vantage point, are hardy enough to survive in these conditions; but it is not a recipe for a society that is healthy and developing enough to break out of poverty. "Obviously there are many drivers of human development," says the UN's Andrew Hudson. "But water is the most important."
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2009-02-03 12:19:23
Tue, Feb 3, 2009: from Globe and Mail (Canada)
Personal-care chemicals go on toxic list
The federal government is placing on its toxic substances list two silicone-based chemicals that are widely used in shampoos and conditioners, where they help give hair the silky, smooth feeling often played up in advertisements for these personal care products. It is the first time any country has taken such regulatory action against the substances, called D4 and D5 by the silicone industry, that are also in hundreds of personal-care products ranging from deodorants to skin moisturizers.... [Ottawa] decided to designate the substances as dangerous, based on fears that they were a threat to wildlife when they get into the environment from the disposal of consumer products and from industrial releases.
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2009-02-03 11:52:43
Tue, Feb 3, 2009: from Seattle Times
Deep trouble for wells in Eastern Washington
A groundwater-mapping study that tracks how water trickles under Eastern Washington shows deep wells in four counties are in deep trouble. The two-year study done by the Columbia Basin Groundwater Management Area, based in Othello, found that aquifer levels are dropping fast, that most deep wells in the study area are drawing water left from the ice-age floods at least 10,000 years ago, and that there is virtually no chance Lake Roosevelt is recharging deep wells in Eastern Washington's driest counties. "This is a major issue for cities and big irrigators," said Paul Stoker, executive director of the groundwater agency.
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2009-02-03 18:37:29
Tue, Feb 3, 2009: from CNN Money
Wind jobs outstrip coal mining jobs
Here's a talking point in the green jobs debate: The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States. Wind industry jobs jumped to 85,000 in 2008, a 70 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday from the American Wind Energy Association. In contrast, coal mining employs about 81,000 workers. (Those figures are from a 2007 U.S. Department of Energy report but coal employment has remained steady in recent years though it's down by nearly 50 percent since 1986.) Wind industry employment includes 13,000 manufacturing jobs concentrated in regions of the country hard hit by the deindustrialization of the past two decades.
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2009-02-03 08:55:19
Tue, Feb 3, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
Britain 'must revive farms' to avoid grave food crisis
Britain faces a major food crisis unless urgent steps are taken to revive its flagging agricultural sector, warns one of the world's most influential thinktanks.... The thinktank on international affairs also claims the UK's consumers must expect to pay significantly more for their food if they want the country to develop a long-term sustainable food policy.... [T]he report's authors quote experts in the food supply chain who believe the prospect of the UK being hit by a crisis is "highly likely". The report claims: "What we had thought of as abundant food supply is anything but. Western societies, in particular, have tended to take their food supply for granted. The global system will reach breaking point unless action is taken."
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2009-02-03 08:44:23
Tue, Feb 3, 2009: from Ecological Society of America, via EurekAlert
Ecologists report quantifiable measures of nature's services to humans
Some of the best-described ecosystem services include pollination of crops, flood and storm protection, water filtration and recreation. The challenging part is translating these services into something with a measurable value. Economic valuation methods take changes in the supply of ecosystem services and translate these into changes in human welfare.... The InVEST software has also shown that high levels of biodiversity often go hand-in-hand with the provision of more ecosystem services, suggesting that the preservation of biodiversity will enhance ecosystem services. This correlation is also reflected in the success of ecosystem service projects: The authors report that although conservation initiatives that focus on ecosystem services are still in their infancy, many are as successful as traditional biodiversity preservation approaches, and can often garner as much or more funding from the private sector.
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2009-02-05 16:02:29
Tue, Feb 3, 2009: from CBC News (Canada)
Mercury levels rising in caribou, contaminants program finds
Caribou in Canada's North are showing increasing levels of mercury, a contaminant that has drifted into the Arctic from other parts of the world, researchers have found. Mercury is one of two contaminants found in northern environments that are of great concern to scientists, said Mary Gamberg, project co-ordinator with federal Northern Contaminants Program in the Yukon. Gamberg said mercury "seems to be increasing in some [wildlife] populations all across the Arctic," she told CBC News in an interview Monday. "In marine mammals, in some populations, it's increasing. And in caribou, in some populations -- and particularly in female caribou -- it seems to be increasing, which is really interesting," she added.
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2009-02-02 16:03:29
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from Popular Science
The Big Thaw
Nowhere is global warming having as obvious an impact as in the Arctic, and people living in Alaska, northern Canada, northern Scandinavia and Siberia have front-row seats. Some experts say that temperatures in these regions have risen by 3 to 5 degrees F over the past 30 years. And the temperature in the Arctic has warmed at twice the global average rate in the past century, according to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Permafrost is ground that maintains a temperature below freezing for at least two years. In some areas, that frozen layer is thawing, causing roads to collapse, runways to crack, and homes to sink, split apart, or even fall into the sea. But inside that icy ground is a threat more dangerous than crumbling infrastructure: massive amounts of greenhouse gases that, if released into the atmosphere, have the potential to quickly intensify climate change.
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2009-02-02 18:41:00
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from Reuters
Rising sea salinates India's Ganges: expert
KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Rising sea levels are causing salt water to flow into India's biggest river, threatening its ecosystem and turning vast farmlands barren in the country's east, a climate change expert warned Monday. A study by an east Indian university in the city of Kolkata revealed surprising growth of mangroves on the Ganges river, said Pranabes Sanyal, the eastern India representative of the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA). "This phenomenon is called extension of salt wedge and it will salinate the groundwater of Kolkata and turn agricultural lands barren in adjoining rural belts," said Sanyal, an expert in global warming. Sea levels in some parts of the Bay of Bengal were rising at 3.14 mm annually against a global average of 2 mm, threatening the low-lying areas of eastern India. Climate experts warned last year that as temperatures rise, the Indian subcontinent -- home to about one-sixth of humanity -- will be badly hit with more frequent and more severe natural disasters such as floods and storms and more disease and hunger.
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2009-02-02 15:03:40
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
UW bacteria study could provide clue to controlling pathogens
Of the thousands of bacteria swimming inside you, relatively few are bent on destruction. Most busy themselves in a communal effort to keep you fit and free from disease - unless something changes. Scientists have long wondered what causes harmful bacteria to cross the species barrier from animals to humans and what causes a good bacterium inside us to turn bad. Now, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered that a single gene can cause bacteria to change hosts. Light-emitting bacteria called Vibrio fischeri colonized pinecone fish, then jumped to the bobtail squid - all because of a regulatory gene, the scientists reported Sunday in the journal Nature. The two species, found in the North Pacific off Japan, receive different benefits from the bacteria. Bobtail squid have used the bacteria to create a light that fools predators. For pinecone fish, a slightly different strain of V. fischeri provides a kind of flashlight into the dark recesses of its reef habitat.
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2009-02-02 14:38:25
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from Associated Press
States fail in latest prairie dog report card
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Whether he sees his shadow or not this Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil has it easy. But in the West, his cousins are in dire straits, according to a report to be released Monday by WildEarth Guardians. The environmental group says North America's five species of prairie dog have lost more than 90 percent of their historical range due to habitat loss, shooting and poisoning. WildEarth Guardians' report grades three federal land management agencies and a dozen states on their actions over the past year to protect prairie dogs and their habitat. Not one received an A. New Mexico, home to the Gunnison's prairie dog and black-tailed prairie dog, earned a D -- the same as last year -- because the group said state wildlife officials weren't actively conserving prairie dogs. The group says oil and gas activity threatens habitat in rural areas, while urbanization in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos is pushing the animals out.
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2009-02-02 18:43:22
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from Wired News
Melting Arctic Prompts Calls for 'National Park' on Ice
With arctic sea ice melting like ice cubes in soda, scientists want to protect a region they say will someday be the sole remaining frozen bastion of a disappearing world. Spanning the northern Canadian archipelago and western Greenland, it would be the first area formally protected in response to climate change, and a last-ditch effort to save polar bears and other animals. "All the indications are of huge change, and a huge response is needed if you want to have polar bears beyond 2050," said Peter Ewins, the World Wildlife Fund's Director of Species Conservation. National Parks have proven to be one of the most important ways to protect and preserve natural areas and wildlife. First established in the United States in 1872, national parks have since been adopted internationally. But protecting an area outside of a single country's borders could prove to be difficult.
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2009-02-02 12:51:27
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from New Scientist
Drought warning as the tropics expand
California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, warned on Thursday that his state "is headed toward one of the worst water crises in its history". Now new research suggests that the three-year drought in the Golden State may be a consequence of the expanding tropics, which are gradually growing as human emissions of greenhouse gases warm the planet....the simplest and most easily tracked characteristic of the tropics lies high above, at the boundary between the troposphere, where weather systems form, and the stratosphere above it. Over the tropics, the tropopause, as this boundary is known, tends to lie several kilometres higher up in the atmosphere. The change in altitude is relatively easy to measure. "It is much more difficult to detect significant changes in the lower levels of the atmosphere and surface rainfall pattern," says Jian Lu of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.
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2009-02-02 12:40:15
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from Reuters
Asian plantation workers face weedkiller health threat
Malaysian plantation worker Rajam Murugasu became blind in one eye after she slipped and accidentally sprayed the weedkiller paraquat in her face. "It was raining. I fell down and the chemical shot straight into my eye," said Murugasu, a 40-year-old mother of four. "I was in and out of hospital for a whole year," she told Reuters at Teluk Intan town in northwestern Malaysia. Paraquat, a herbicide that protects crop yields by killing weeds that compete for water, nutrients, and light, is banned in the European Union and restricted to licenced users in the United States, New Zealand and parts of Latin America. Yet it is widely used in China, India, the Philippines as well as Malaysia, where the government reversed a ban in 2006 after growers demanded they be allowed to use the cheap herbicide...."It is banned in all of the EU, so why are people in Asia putting up with this? Why such double standards? Are our lives of less value than theirs?"
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2009-02-02 08:39:28
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from New York Times (US)
Rising Acidity Is Threatening Food Web of Oceans, Science Panel Says
[As CO2] dissolves, it makes seawater more acidic. Now an international panel of marine scientists says this acidity is accelerating so fast it threatens the survival of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web generally.... "Severe damages are imminent," the group said Friday in a statement summing up its deliberations at a symposium in Monaco last October. The statement, called the Monaco Declaration, said increasing acidity was interfering with the growth and health of shellfish and eating away at coral reefs, processes that would eventually affect marine food webs generally. Already, the group said, there have been detectable decreases in shellfish and shell weights, and interference with the growth of coral skeletons.
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2009-02-02 08:31:43
Mon, Feb 2, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
North Sea sees recovery of cod stocks
New figures from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) show that the number of adult fish in the North Sea is expected to increase by 42 per cent this year, the largest rise in almost 30 years. Significantly, the quantity of fish capable of reproducing is this year expected to exceed 70,000 tons -- the number set by scientists to mark the lowest level possible to ensure the species' long term survival. It is the first time in a decade that the stock has risen above this milestone. The recovery is likely to lead to further calls from British fishermen to increase the quota of cod they are permitted to catch.
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2009-02-02 10:47:39
Sun, Feb 1, 2009: from London Times
Two children should be limit, says green guru
Couples who have more than two children are being "irresponsible" by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the government's green adviser has warned. Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government's Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming. He says political leaders and green campaigners should stop dodging the issue of environmental harm caused by an expanding population. A report by the commission, to be published next month, will say that governments must reduce population growth through better family planning. "I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate," Porritt said.
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2009-02-01 12:31:40
Sun, Feb 1, 2009: from London Times
Plight of the humble bee
Native British bees are dying out -- and with them will go flora, fauna and one-third of our diet. We may have less than a decade to save them and avert catastrophe. So why is nothing being done?...Most people do now get the point about honeybees. Following the multiple crises that continue to empty the hives -- foulbrood, varroa mites, viral diseases, dysfunctional immune systems, and now the mysterious but globally devastating colony-collapse disorder (CCD) -- it is understood that the true value of Apis mellifera lies not so much in the sticky stuff that gives our favourite insect its name as in the service it provides as a pollinator of farms and gardens. If you add retailers’ profit to farm gate prices, their value to the UK economy is in the region of 1 billion a year, and 35 percent of our diet is directly dependent on them. It is an equation of stark simplicity. No pollination: no crops. There is nothing theoretical about it. The reality is in (or, more accurately, not in) the hives. The US has lost 70 percent of its honeybee colonies over the past two winters. Losses in the UK currently are running at 30 percent a year -- up from just 6 percent in 2003.
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2009-02-01 12:17:25
Sun, Feb 1, 2009: from San Francisco Chronicle
Unilever blocking deforestation for palm oil
The word came last spring at a climate change conference here. Unilever, the world's largest buyer of palm oil, would publicly call for a moratorium on deforestation by Indonesian growers of the coveted oil used in food, soaps, detergents, cosmetics and biofuel. The expansion of oil palm plantations is slowly destroying Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo and the habitat of the endangered Bornean orangutan, environmental activists say. During the past two decades, an estimated two million acres have been felled annually in Borneo, which Indonesia shares with Malaysia and Brunei, according to the environmental group, Friends of the Earth. But with Jakarta planning to more than double the acreage of oil palm trees by 2011, activists are scrambling to form new alliances with the palm oil industry to stave off more destruction. They say the potential deforestation in Borneo - which has one of the world's largest standing rain forests - amounts to a "climate bomb" in global warming from increased carbon levels released into the atmosphere by fallen trees.
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2009-02-18 11:16:21
Sun, Feb 1, 2009: from London Independent
Parched: Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in
Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer, railway tracks are buckling, and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles, as much of Australia swelters in its worst-ever heatwave. On Friday, Melbourne thermometers topped 43C (109.4F) on a third successive day for the first time on record, while even normally mild Tasmania suffered its second-hottest day in a row, as temperatures reached 42.2C. Two days before, Adelaide hit a staggering 45.6C. After a weekend respite, more records are expected to be broken this week. Ministers are blaming the heat-- which follows a record drought-- on global warming. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change.
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2009-02-01 12:00:02
Sun, Feb 1, 2009: from Brisbane Times
Fungicide maker in child defect storm
THE chemical linked with fish abnormalities and a possible cancer cluster on the Sunshine Coast has been at the centre of a storm over genetic defects in children born overseas. Manufacturer DuPont withdrew its fungicide Benlate from the US market in 2001 after it was forced to defend hundreds of law suits over the product's link with serious health issues, including a child who was born without eyes. In 2000, DuPont was ordered to pay Ecuadorian shrimp farmers more than $US10 million after Benlate run-off from banana plantations contaminated water supplies and poisoned shrimp stocks. Benomyl, the active ingredient in Benlate products, breaks down when sprayed and produces a fungicide, carbendazim, which Sunshine Coast macadamia farmers use. The hatchery, owned by Gwen Gilson, has a macadamia plantation on three sides. Ms Gilson said fish larvae at the Sunland Fish Hatchery, Noosaville, began convulsing and dying four years ago. In August, 90 per cent of fish larvae spawned at the hatchery from brood stock taken from the Noosa River had two heads.
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2009-01-31 13:23:31
Sat, Jan 31, 2009: from Reuters
Philippines finds four new Ebola cases
Manila - Four more people in the Philippines have been discovered infected by the Ebola-Reston virus and the possibility of pig-to-human transmission cannot be dismissed. It was not a major health risk, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a news conference, adding that the government was however widening testing of people who might have been in contact with sick pigs at hog farms placed under quarantine since October 2008. "The Ebola-Reston virus is both an animal and human health issue, but we still consider this as a low risk situation to human health," Duque said.
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2009-01-31 13:18:39
Sat, Jan 31, 2009: from New York Times
Praise the Lord and Green the Roof
...In setting out to construct an environmentally advanced building to replace the trio of connected brownstones that they now call home, the Episcopal sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit were taking a giant step in their decade-long journey to weave ecological concerns into their daily ministry. While they have long tried to reduce their carbon footprint at 113th Street, the new convent, for which construction will begin in March, will help them be green from the ground up. Of the 14 firms that the sisters had invited to submit proposals, BKSK ultimately wooed them with a plan that features rooftop gardens, water heated by solar power, rainwater collection, natural light and ventilation and the use of environmentally sensitive materials throughout.
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2009-01-31 13:24:44
Sat, Jan 31, 2009: from Abu Dhabi National
"The lake doesn't have a future"
Lake Victoria, spanning 68,800 square kilometres and three countries – Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda – is home to more than 30 million people, a population that depends on this body of water, even as they choke the life out of it. Godfrey Ogonda, an environmental scientist with the Friends of Lake Victoria, describes the assault on the lake as an "integrated" problem. It sounds innocuous enough until he explains that deforestation upstream is speeding soil erosion and washing excessive nutrients into the lake; unplanned settlements are pouring untreated human waste into the mix; overfishing is chronic; climate change is reducing rainfall and raising temperatures; and invasive species are attacking the weakened ecosystem... Named in 1858 after Queen Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world is the reservoir of the mighty Nile river and it is close to joining the ranks of dying lakes.
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2009-01-31 13:02:30
Sat, Jan 31, 2009: from China Daily
Birth defects soar due to pollution
Every 30 seconds, a baby is born with physical defects in China, all thanks to the country's degrading environment, an official of the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) has said. "The number of newborns with birth defects is constantly increasing in both urban and rural areas," Jiang Fan, vice-minister of the NPFPC said at a conference in Beijing recently. "And the rather alarming increase has forced us to kick off a high-level prevention plan." She said that "more than half" of the pregnancies in the country had benefited from the commission's scientific guidance since 2007. A free pre-pregnant examination program has covered eight provinces with the highest rate of birth defects, she said, refusing to divulge further details. "The government must take measures to prevent birth defects," Li Bin, minister of the NPFPC said.
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2009-01-31 13:25:15
Sat, Jan 31, 2009: from The Herald News (MA)
Flowing medicine cabinet
PATANCHERU, India -- When researchers analyzed vials of treated wastewater taken from a plant where about 90 Indian drug factories dump their residues, they were shocked. Enough of a single, powerful antibiotic was being spewed into one stream each day to treat every person in a city of 90,000. And it wasn't just ciprofloxacin being detected. The supposedly cleaned water was a floating medicine cabinet -- a soup of 21 different active pharmaceutical ingredients, used in generics for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments. Half of the drugs measured at the highest levels of pharmaceuticals ever detected in the environment, researchers say. Those Indian factories produce drugs for much of the world, including many Americans. The result: Some of India's poor are unwittingly consuming an array of chemicals that may be harmful, and could lead to the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria.... "I'll tell you, I've never seen concentrations this high before. And they definitely ... are having some biological impact, at least in the effluent," said Dan Schlenk, an ecotoxicologist from the University of California, Riverside, who was not involved in the India research.
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2009-01-30 19:18:58
Fri, Jan 30, 2009: from Michigan State University, via EurekAlert
What we don't know still hurts us, environmental researchers warn
A worldwide 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment enlisted hundreds of scientists to develop a view of ecosystems through the lens of services those ecosystems provide humanity, said Thomas Dietz, director of the MSU Environmental Science and Policy Program and professor in sociology and crop and soil sciences. The MEA found about 60 percent of ecosystem services supporting life -- including fresh water, fisheries, clean air, pests and climate -- are being degraded or used unsustainably. The MEA projected continued deterioration at current rates.... But drawing conclusions is still limited by what researchers call discipline-bound approaches that don't fully describe the range of the Earth's dynamic and complex biophysical and social systems. "In only a few cases are the abilities of ecosystems to provide human well-being holding steady, and in almost every case we're seeing declines in ecosystems underpinning human well-being," said Dietz, who was involved in the original MEA.... "The conclusion that things are getting worse in general comes out of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment," he said. "Our job was to say 'OK, what science do we need to do?'"
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2009-01-30 15:14:26
Fri, Jan 30, 2009: from UCLA, via EurekAlert
Household chemicals may be linked to infertility
[P]erfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs -- chemicals that are widely used in everyday items such as food packaging, pesticides, clothing, upholstery, carpets and personal care products -- may be associated with infertility in women.... In addition to being found in household goods, PFCs, the class of chemicals to which PFOS and PFOA belong, are used in manufacturing processes involving industrial surfactants and emulsifiers. They persist in the environment and in the body for decades.... The researchers say the biological mechanisms by which exposure to PFOS and PFOA might reduce fertility are unknown, but PFCs may interfere with hormones that are involved in reproduction.
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2009-01-30 15:46:39
Fri, Jan 30, 2009: from BBC
Acid oceans 'need urgent action'
The world's marine ecosystems risk being severely damaged by ocean acidification unless there are dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions, warn scientists. More than 150 top marine researchers have voiced their concerns through the "Monaco Declaration", which warns that changes in acidity are accelerating.... It says pH levels are changing 100 times faster than natural variability. ... The researchers warn that ocean acidification, which they refer to as "the other CO2 problem", could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase. They also say that it could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people. "The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable," said Dr James Orr, chairman of the symposium. "The questions are now how bad will it be and how soon will it happen."
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2009-01-30 15:09:29
Fri, Jan 30, 2009: from MauiTime Weekly (HI)
The great garbage swirl
This dry, windless area is dominated by the Northern Pacific Gyre, a wind current that encircles an area twice the size of the continental United States. This ribbon of wind traps floating debris, mostly plastic, in a perpetual clockwise swirl. Part of this massive patch sits between Hawaii and the Mainland. Rich Owen of the Environmental Cleanup Coalition, a Maui-based organization that is launching the beginnings of a cleanup effort for the area, said he first heard of the gyre from a friend. "Literally my stomach just started getting in knots," the scuba instructor says. "I felt ill."... "I actually saw a fish shit a piece of plastic when I was in Bali," he says.... Yet you can't see it in satellite photos, according to Algalita.com, the Web site of the organization for which Moore conducts research, because the debris is more "soup" than continent. Instead of forming a trash island, a literal wasteland on the surface, plastic fragments permeate the sea to great depths. And researchers say it doubles in size every time they go out there, which is on average every two years.
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2009-01-30 08:17:41
Fri, Jan 30, 2009: from Mongabay
Glaciers decline in ice mass for 18th straight year
Glaciers worldwide lost ice mass for the 18th consecutive year due to warming temperatures and reduce snowfall, reports the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service. Alpine glaciers lost on average 1.3 meters of thickness in 2006 and 0.7 meters in 2007, extending an 11.3-meter (36-foot) retreat since 1980. The pace melting has more than doubled since the 1990s.... The environmental consequences of melting glaciers are significant. Glaciers store massive amounts of water and their disappearance puts water supplies and agriculture in many regions at risk. Further, glacial melt is the largest contributor to rising sea levels according to a study published in Science in July 2007.
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2009-01-30 08:14:04
Fri, Jan 30, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
Carbon trading may be the new sub-prime, says energy boss
"We like certainty about a carbon price," he said. "[But] the carbon price has to become simple and not become a new type of sub-prime tool which will be diverted from what is its initial purpose: to encourage real investment in real low-carbon technology." Green campaigners have long been critical of the way the emissions trading scheme was set up, but it is unusual for a leading industry figure to cast doubt on it, as power companies lobbied hard for a market mechanism to deal with global warming. "We are at the tipping point where we ... should wonder if we have in place the right balance between government policy, regulator responsibility and the market mechanism which will deliver the carbon price," said de Rivaz.
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2009-01-29 19:37:19
Fri, Jan 30, 2009: from Alaska Dispatch
Northern life endures a midwinter's thaw
[The] thermometer at KJNP radio station in North Pole registered a low of minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 3 ... On Jan. 16, the same thermometer read plus 55 degrees. In Anchorage, temperatures varied from minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit at Campbell Creek Science Center Jan. 7 to plus 52 degrees at Merrill Field Jan. 16.... In areas where the warm wind was a real snow-eater, leaving the ground bare, red-backed voles lost their network of tunnels under the snow where they live, eat, and sometimes even breed in midwinter when times are good. "It can be 10-to-15 degrees warmer under the snowpack," said Ian van Tets, a biology professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. "For a little furry animal those 10-to-15 degrees can make a big difference. "I think this is going to be a bad winter for voles and lemmings," he said. "There's probably going to be a lot of die-off."
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2009-01-29 18:48:07
Thu, Jan 29, 2009: from Daily Record (NJ)
Bat plague fallout: More bugs, fewer crops?
The potential environmental impact of White Nose Syndrome, recently diagnosed for the first time in New Jersey in the Rockaway Township area, likely would be significant according to bat experts and advocates. "It's one of those experiments you never want to find the results of," said Merlin Tuttle, an internationally-known bat expert and founder of Bat Conservation International in Austin, Texas. Since bats feed on insects, fewer bats would mean more mosquitoes. That could result in additional cases of West Nile Virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, in humans.... He said that Texas, for example, has a cave with 20 million bats credited with devouring 200 tons of insects per night. "You could only imagine what the impact could be on crops," Tuttle said. "Just like birds by day, bats have a huge impact in keeping the insect population in balance -- including some of the worst crop and back-yard pests," Tuttle said.
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2009-01-29 19:35:36
Thu, Jan 29, 2009: from Christian Science Monitor
Earth's big problem: Too many people.
Are there too many people on Earth? That question is rarely raised today, in part because it conjures up the possibility of governments intruding into the most private and profound decision a couple can make. In a worst-case scenario, authorities could impose discriminatory policies that would limit births based on such criteria as race, ethnic origin, cultural background, religion, or gender. But with huge, vexing questions such as food security, poverty, energy supplies, environmental degradation, and climate change facing humanity, some are asking whether aggressive measures to control population growth should be on the public agenda..."You've got to get a president who's got the guts to say, 'Patriotic Americans stop at two [children],'" says Paul Ehrlich, a professor of population studies at Stanford University. "That if you care about your children and grandchildren, we should have a smaller population in the future, not larger."
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2009-01-29 17:44:01
Thu, Jan 29, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
Absence of wolves causes imbalance in US ecosystem, say scientists
Settlers and trappers killed them all in little more than three decades. But the loss of the stealthy predators in the early 1900s left a hole in the landscape that scientists say they are just beginning to grasp. The ripples extend throughout what is now Olympic National Park, leading to a boom in elk populations, overbrowsing of shrubs and trees, and erosion so severe it has altered the very nature of the rivers, says a team of Oregon State University biologists. The result, they argue, is an environment that is less rich, less resilient and - perhaps - in peril. "We think this ecosystem is unravelling in the absence of wolves," said OSU ecologist William Ripple. Everything from salmon to songbirds could feel the fallout from the missing predators, the scientists say.
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2009-01-29 17:39:03
Thu, Jan 29, 2009: from New Scientist
Caterpillar plague strikes west Africa
A throng of crop-eating caterpillars is threatening food supplies across west Africa, and could prove hard to control with pesticides. The crawling menace has appeared in northern Liberia, where hundreds of millions of the black larvae are devouring plants, fouling wells with their faeces and even driving farmers from fields. They are now crossing into neighbouring Guinea, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that in two to three weeks they will turn into moths that can fly hundreds of kilometres and could spread across west Africa, worsening food shortages in the region.
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2009-01-29 17:41:03
Thu, Jan 29, 2009: from New York Times
Detroit Calls Emissions Proposals Too Strict
DETROIT A -- automakers said Monday that they were working toward President Obama's goal of reducing fuel consumption, but rapid imposition of stricter emissions standards could force them to drastically cut production of larger, more profitable vehicles, adding to their financial duress.... The California regulations, if enacted today, "would basically kill the industry, said David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, an independent research organization in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It would have a devastating effect on everybody, and not just the domestics."
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2009-01-29 16:20:23
Thu, Jan 29, 2009: from New Scientist
Cheap, super-efficient LED lights on the horizon
Although the ultimate dominance of LED lights has long been predicted, the expense of the super-efficient technology has made the timescale uncertain. The researchers now say LED bulbs based on their new process could be commercially available within five years. Gallium nitride (GaN) LEDs have many advantages over compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and incandescent bulbs. They switch on instantly, with no gradual warm-up, and can burn for an average of 100,000 hours before they need replacing -- 10 times as long as fluorescent lamps and some 130 times as long as an incandescent bulb. CFLs also contain small levels of mercury, which makes environmentally-friendly disposal of spent bulbs difficult.
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2009-01-28 14:26:46
Wed, Jan 28, 2009: from Guardian (UK)
EU spending spree brings carbon capture closer to reality
The European commission today proposed earmarking €1.25bn to kickstart carbon capture and storage (CCS) at 11 coal-fired plants across Europe, including four in Britain....CCS involves capturing CO2 at power stations and burying it in disused oil/gas fields or other undersea rock formations....
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2009-01-30 08:34:07
Wed, Jan 28, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Recycling 'could be adding to global warming'
"It might be that the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away," he said. "We've got to urgently get a grip on how this material is flowing through the system; whether we're actually adding to or reducing the overall impact in terms of global warming potential in this process."... councils in England and Wales were dumping more than 200,000 tons of recyclable waste every year -- up to 10 per cent of all the glass, paper, plastic and other materials separated out by householders. Thousands of tons of recyclables are shipped to China because of insufficient capacity and demand in Britain.
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2009-01-28 12:17:53
Wed, Jan 28, 2009: from ACS, via EurekAlert
Substantial work ahead for water issues, say scientists at ACS' Final Report briefing
Scientists and engineers will face a host of obstacles over the next decade in providing clean water to millions of people caught up in a water shortage crisis, a panel of scientists and engineers said today... Although Edwards stressed the importance of water conservation in meeting those, he also cited unintended consequences of such efforts. He noted, for instance, that reduced-flush toilets and other water conservation methods are allowing water to remain in household pipes longer. As it stagnates in pipes, the water could develop undesirable characteristics and have unwanted effects on household plumbing.... For instance, hypoxic zones in the Bay -- large areas of low oxygen levels where most animals can't live -- are still growing despite lacking the nutrients they need for expansion. "We don't fully understood why that is so," Ball said. "There's a lot to be learned yet about what locations and causes lead to that phenomenon, whether there are carbon sources coming in from the shallows into the deep that current models and understanding don't capture."... For example, the use of sensors to detect potentially toxic substances in water could provide general benefits for safety. Cost-effective, low maintenance sensors are a Holy Grail, Haas said, but difficult to develop. He warned that over-sensitive sensors could be counterproductive.
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2009-01-28 12:00:50
Wed, Jan 28, 2009: from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
BPA lingers in body, study finds
A study released today finds that bisphenol A, a chemical widely used to make plastic and suspected of causing cancer, stays in the body much longer than previously thought. The findings are significant because the longer the chemical lingers in the body, the greater chance it has of doing harm, scientists say. Researchers from the University of Rochester in New York also say the chemical may get into the body from sources such as plastic water pipes or dust from carbonless paper and not only from food containers that leach the chemical when heated. The study results, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, have sparked a flurry of concern and renewed calls for regulation... BPA, used to make baby bottles, dental sealants, food storage containers and thousands of other household products, was found in 93 percent of Americans tested.
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2009-01-29 18:00:35
Wed, Jan 28, 2009: from New Scientist
Most effective climate engineering solutions revealed
Tim Lenton of the University of East Anglia, UK, has put together the first comparative assessment of climate-altering proposals such pumping sulphur into the atmosphere to mimic the cooling effect of volcanic emissions, or fertilising the oceans with iron. "There is a worrying feeling that we're not going to get our act together fast enough," says Lenton, referring to international efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have reached a "social tipping point" and are starting to wonder which techniques might complement emissions cuts, he says.... First, Lenton says the exercise shows there is no "silver bullet" -- no single method that will safely reverse climate change on its own.
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2009-01-27 16:49:50
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from Salt Lake Tribune
In climate fight, a time for civil disobedience?
Take the train. Dial down your heat. Write your senator. Taking those individual steps surely helps in the battle against global warming. But, scientists and advocates warn, it's no longer enough to fend off climate disaster. Get ready, some of them say, to hijack oil-lease sales (like a college student did in Utah), to climb smokestacks in protest (like Greenpeace activists did in England), to trespass at power plants (like demonstrators plan to do in Washington, D.C.). It's time, these environmentalists say, for some good, old-fashioned civil disobedience -- the types of nonviolent acts proven effective by the famous (Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks) and the faceless (students at Tiananmen Square, anti-war protesters on college campuses, women suffragists in street marches).
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2009-01-27 16:42:53
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from Chicago Tribune
Mercury in corn syrup?
A swig of soda or a bite of a candy bar might be sweet, but a new study suggests that food made with corn syrup also could be delivering tiny doses of toxic mercury. For the first time, researchers say they have detected traces of the silvery metal in samples of high-fructose corn syrup, a widely used sweetener that has replaced sugar in many processed foods. The study was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health. Eating high-mercury fish is the chief source of exposure for most people. The new study raises concerns about a previously unknown dietary source of mercury, which has been linked to learning disabilities in children and heart disease in adults. The source of the metal appears to be caustic soda and hydrochloric acid, which manufacturers of corn syrup use to help convert corn kernels into the food additive.
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2009-01-27 16:53:21
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
Supermarket chain bans use of pesticides in bid to save bees
The supermarket chain Co-op has banned foods grown using pesticides that harm honey bees.... The use of pesticides have been blamed for the collapse and yesterday the Co-operative announced it was banning any foods grown using the chemicals from their own range of fresh products.... Co-operative Farms -- the UK's biggest farmer with 25,000 hectares -- will also invite beekeepers to establish hives on its land as part of a 10-point "Plan Bee".
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2009-01-27 12:39:46
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from AP News
Tougher rules to end overfishing in US waters
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Ocean conservationists are hailing former President Bush for passing tough rules to end the overfishing of 40 struggling marine species before he left the White House. The rules were issued on Jan. 15 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees U.S. oceans policy. Passage of the rules garnered little attention as President Barack Obama prepared to take power. Under the new rules, the nation's eight regional fishery management councils will be forced to draw up measures to end overfishing by 2010. In most instances, this would involve putting caps on how many fish can be caught each year. Fishery managers will need to establish catch limits and goals for each overfished stock. The rules provide for "strong accountability measures" to enforce catch limits, NOAA said.
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2009-01-27 12:52:29
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from NPR
Global Warming Is Irreversible, Study Says
"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide that the climate would go back to normal in 100 years or 200 years. What we're showing here is that's not right. It's essentially an irreversible change that will last for more than a thousand years," Solomon says. This is because the oceans are currently soaking up a lot of the planet's excess heat -- and a lot of the carbon dioxide put into the air. The carbon dioxide and heat will eventually start coming out of the ocean. And that will take place for many hundreds of years.... The answer, he says, is sooner rather than later. Scientists have been trying to advise politicians about finding an acceptable level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The new study suggests that it's even more important to aim low. If we overshoot, the damage can't be easily undone. Oppenheimer feels more urgency than ever to deal with climate change, but he says that in the end, setting acceptable limits for carbon dioxide is a judgment call.
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2009-01-27 10:36:32
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from Telegraph.co.uk
'Immortal' jellyfish swarming across the world
The Turritopsis Nutricula is able to revert back to a juvenile form once it mates after becoming sexually mature. Marine biologists say the jellyfish numbers are rocketing because they need not die. Dr Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute said: "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion."... The jellyfish are originally from the Caribbean but have spread all over the world.
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2009-01-27 09:58:28
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from Functional Ecology, via EurekAlert
Hoarding rainwater could 'dramatically' expand range of dengue-fever mosquito
[C]limate change and evolutionary change could act together to accelerate and expand the mosquito's range. But human behaviour -- in the form of storing water to cope with climate change -- is likely to have an even greater impact.... "The potential direct impact of climate on the distribution and abundance of Ae. aegypti is minor when compared to the potential effect of changed water-storage behaviour. In many Australian cities and towns, a major impact of climate change is reduced rainfall, resulting in a dramatic increase in domestic rainwater storage and other forms of water hoarding." "Water tanks and other water storage vessels such as modified wheelie bins are potential breeding sites for this disease-bearing mosquito. Without due caution with water storage hygiene, this indirect effect of climate change via human adaptation could dramatically re-expand the mosquito's current range," he says.
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2009-01-27 09:58:04
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from BBC (UK)
Emperor penguins face extinction
Based on predictions of sea ice extent from climate change models, the penguins are likely to see their numbers plummet by 95 percent by 2100. That corresponds to a decline to just 600 breeding pairs in the world.... What is more, the extent of sea ice cover influences the abundance of krill and the fish species that eat them -- both food sources for the penguins.... "Unlike some other Antarctic bird species that have altered their life cycles, penguins don't catch on so quickly," she said. "They are long-lived organisms, so they adapt slowly. This is a problem because the climate is changing very fast."
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2009-01-27 09:49:05
Tue, Jan 27, 2009: from Associated Press
Octuplets born in California doing &#