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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Countries join forces to save life on Earth Historic deal aims to halt mass extinctions By Steve Connor, Science Editor

White's tree frog, Litoria caerulea, a native of New Guinea, one of the last great forest wildernesses
Brian Bevan/Alamy
White's tree frog, Litoria caerulea, a native of New Guinea, one of the last great forest wildernesses
A historic deal to halt the mass extinction of species was finally agreed last night in what conservationists see as the most important international treaty aimed at preventing the collapse of the world's wildlife.
Delegates from more than 190 countries meeting in Nagoya, Japan, agreed at the 11th hour on an ambitious conservation programme to protect global biodiversity and the natural habitats that support the most threatened animals and plants.
After 18 years of debate, two weeks of talks, and tense, last-minute bargaining, the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity agreed on 20 key "strategic goals" to be implemented by 2020 that should help to end the current mass extinction of species. 
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Geoengineering sparks international ban, first-ever congressional report

A senior House Democrat from Tennessee issued the first congressional report on geoengineering Friday, just as delegates from 193 nations approved a ban on such research under a global biodiversity treaty.
The debate over whether humans should explore ways to manipulate the climate has taken on increased urgency over the past year, as efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming have encountered political roadblocks in the United States and elsewhere.
The measure adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which recently concluded in Nagoya, Japan, states "that no climate-related geo-engineering activities that may affect biodiversity take place, until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts, with the exception of small-scale scientific research studies" under controlled circumstances.
While some scientists and environmentalists have called for geoengineering research as a precautionary measure against catastrophic global warming, activists hailed the moratorium as a way to keep individual actors from altering the climate. The prohibition does not apply to the United States, which has yet to ratify the convention.
House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D) said his report was "in no way meant as an endorsement of climate engineering," but instead an effort to give "insight into where existing federal research capacities lie that could be leveraged for these activities."More at:
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Is South Pole Ice Melting? Gravity Field Satellites Observe Antarctic Ice Mass Fluctuations Due to El Niño

 ScienceDaily (Oct. 29, 2010) — The change in the ice mass covering Antarctica is a critical factor in global climate events. Scientists at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences have now found that the year by year mass variations in the western Antarctic are mainly attributable to fluctuations in precipitation, which are controlled significantly by the climate phenomenon El Niño. They examined the GFZ data of the German-American satellite mission GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). The investigation showed significant regional differences in the western coastal area of the South Pole area. More at:

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Global warming 'unquestionably' linked to humans: France

Global warming exists and is unquestionably due to human activity, the French Academy of Science said in a report published Thursday and written by 120 scientists from France and abroad. "Several independent indicators show an increase in global warming from 1975 to 2003. This increase is mainly due to the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide," the academy said in conclusion to the report.
"The increase in carbon dioxide, and to a lesser degree other greenhouse gases, is unquestionably due to human activity," said the report, adopted unanimously by academy members.
The report contradicts France's former education minister Claude Allegre, a geochemist, who published a book called "The Climatic Deception" which claimed that carbon dioxide was not linked to climate change.
The report was commissioned in April by Minister for Research Valerie Pecresse in response to hundreds of environmental scientists who complained that Allegre in particular was disparaging their work.
Allegre is a member of the Academy of Sciences and also signed off on the report.
"He has the right to evolve," the academy's president Jean Salencon said. Pecresse said: "The debate is over."
But Allegre told AFP that the document was a compromise and "I have not evolved, I still say the same thing, that the exact role of carbon dioxide in the environment has not been shown."
"Of course it's a compromise, but it's a satisfactory compromise because what I defend, that is the uncertainty in our knowledge about climate change, is explicitly mentioned, the word uncertainty appears 12 times," he said.
In his book, Allegre questioned the work of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and criticised worldwide mobilisation around "a myth without foundation."
He disagreed with linking climate change and an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and said clouds or solar activity had more of an influence.
The IPCC, established to sift through scientific research and produce the most authoritative report possible on climate change for world leaders, has been hit by a raft of criticisms and the UN has said it needs a major overhaul.
Glaring errors were revealed in the panel's landmark 2007 Fourth Assessment Report -- notably that Himalayan glaciers which provide water to a billion people in Asia could be lost by 2035, a claim traced to a magazine article.
The Academy's report said that "solar activity, which has dropped slightly on average since 1975, cannot be dominant in warming observed during this period" even if the mechanisms involved "are not yet well understood."
"Major uncertainties remain on how to model clouds, the evolution of marine ice and the polar caps, the connection between the oceans and the atmosphere, the biosphere's evolution and the carbon cycle," the report said.
Allegre wrote that it was impossible to predict the climate's long-term evolution, but the Academy said that "climate evolution predictions of 30 to 50 years are little affected by uncertainties on modelling slow evolution processes."
"These predictions are particularly useful in responding to society's current concerns, worsened by the predictable population growth."
The IPCC's deputy head, Frenchman Jean Jouzel, welcomed the report.
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World Bank calls for ecosystems to be valued

The World Bank on Thursday called for a radical shift in countries' economic models to include the values of forests, mangroves, coral reefs and other ecosystems. India and Colombia will be among the first countries to take part in a five-year pilot programme with the World Bank to start the economic revolution.
World Bank president Robert Zoellick announced the programme on the sidelines of a UN biodiversity summit in the Japanese city of Nagoya.
"The natural wealth of nations should be a capital asset valued in combination with its financial capital, manufactured capital and human capital," Zoellick said.
"National accounts need to reflect the vital carbon storage services that forests provide and the coastal protection values that come from coral reefs and mangroves."
Zoellick said including the trillions of dollars worth of value from ecosystems in national accounts would help to protect the world's rapidly diminishing biodiversity.
He gave an example of coastal mangroves being cleared for shrimp farming.
Under the proposed economic model, the value that mangroves have in protecting coastal areas from flooding and the loss of fish would also be factored in.
People would then be in a better position to determine the economic consequences of clearing the mangroves, rather than look at the short-term benefit of shrimp farming.
The World Bank move comes after a UN-backed report was released at the Nagoya summit saying degradation of the world's ecosystems was costing the global economy between two and five trillion dollars a year.
That report raised alarm about the need for the global economy to put a value on ecosystems, and Zoellick said the World Bank wanted to work out a way to implement its recommendations.

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Oil grab may lead to violence, says study

Oil politics have changed dramatically with the rise of major producers and exporters outside OPEC, increasing the risk of violence among nations that export or consume large quantities of crude oil, a new study said. "Seizing Power: The Grab for Global Oil Wealth -- How Oil Volatility May Lead to Violence Among Oil Powers," by Robert Slater, argued volatility and uncertainty of global supplies of crude oil was a recipe for conflict.
He called nation states willing to use oil as a weapon "petroaggressors" with Russia top of the list. He said other nations, including Iran and Venezuela, were using oil as a weapon in global politics.
As oil dwindles, these "outlaw nations" may turn upon one another in the fight for what oil is left, Slater argued.
"Seizing Power: The Grab for Global Oil Wealth," published by Wiley, argues oil was "toxic" to world stability and introduced elements of uncertainty and exposed consumer nations to manipulative politics by oil producers.
Slater cited predictions that crude oil prices could climb to $150-$200 a barrel within two years as growth in supply fails to keep pace with increased demand from developing countries.
The price forecast was made in a 2008 Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysis that said, "The possibility of $150-$200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next six
to 24 months, though predicting the ultimate peak in oil prices as well as the remaining duration of the upcycle remains a major uncertainty."
Slater said not enough was being done to forestall global instability resulting from oil price spikes.
"The solutions proposed so far -- from "gas-tax holidays" to presidential requests to the Saudis to increase supply -- have been only Band-Aids, not long-term solutions, and the proposed reasons for rising oil prices have been controversial: Was it the Arabs, acting as a greedy cartel?
"Was it the 2 billion Chinese and Indians whose burgeoning middle classes were placing unsustainable demands on scarce supplies?"
Slater asked, "Was it some sort of satanic lobbying on the part of big Western oil companies against alternative-energy programs? Was it Wall Street speculators? What would the inflated oil prices do to economies already nearly down for the count from the subprime credit crisis?"
He said the West's ally Saudi Arabia was one of a few exceptions that hadn't used oil as a weapon of aggression but others had either become or were in the process of becoming "petroaggressors."
Slater argued the balance of oil power is shifting away from the United States and the Arab states toward national oil companies in Russia, China and some emerging economies in Africa and South America.
"As developing countries seek a middle-class existence, their demand for oil grows exponentially, causing oil prices to spiral, turning some into international bullies. Until another fuel is found the world risks being at the mercy of these tyrants whose insatiable appetites for higher oil prices heighten competition and spur the threat of violence, domestic as well as global."
The populist and provocative tone of Slater's arguments has had little reaction yet from the market where traders cite a more complex scene, with new oil emerging in nations pragmatic in their dealings with the West and concerned with financing their economic advancement with increased oil revenues.
In Thursday's trading, crude oil prices rose modestly overnight despite a rise in U.S. stockpiles, the price for December delivery topping $82 per barrel in New York.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Climate change threatens Asian coastal megacities

If current climate change trends persist, Asia’s coastal mega-cities will flood more often, on a larger scale, and ultimately hurt economic growth in the respective countries.
A study jointly undertaken by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank, determined that costs from major flooding events on infrastructure and the economy could run into the billions of dollars, with urban poor populations likely to be the hardest hit.
A villager who has been displaced by floods wades through floodwaters as he pulls an improvised raft with his belongings on top while searching for higher ground in Khairpur Nathan Shah, about 42 km (26 miles) from Dadu in Pakistan's Sindh province October 13, 2010.
The report focused on Bangkok, Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Manila, Philippines, all of which have populations close to or over 10 million. Two are capital cities and all three are centers of national and regional economic growth contributing substantially to the GDP of the respective countries.
“In all three cities, there is likely to be an increase in the number of persons exposed to flooding in 2050 under different climate scenarios compared to a situation without climate change” the report stated.
“Costs of damage likely to be substantial and can range from 2 to 6 percent of regional GDP.” More at:
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Palau Announces Massive Marine Sanctuary By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 25, 2010 (IPS) - One of Japan's closest allies declared over the weekend that all of its oceans - more than 600,000 square kilometres - would be a sanctuary for whales, dolphins, dugongs, sharks and other species.

"There will be no hunting or harassment of marine mammals and other species in our waters," said the Honourable Harry Fritz, minister of the environment, natural resources and tourism of the Republic of Palau.

"We urge other nations to join our efforts to protect whales, dolphins and other marine animals," Fritz said at a press conference during Oceans Day at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.
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Arctic sea ice loss linked to severe U.S. winters

Arctic sea ice loss linked to severe U.S. winters
Arctic sea ice extent at the end of the 2010 melt season (solid white) was 22 percent below the 1979-2000 average (red outline) and the third-lowest in the satellite record.

Last winter's record wallops of heavy snow had many in the mid-Atlantic wondering what happened to global warming. If the planet were warming as scientists say it is, shouldn't we be receiving less snow? (Not necessarily, I reported at the time). Now comes word that, paradoxically, cooler winters with heavier snowfall in regions such as the mid-Atlantic may be connected to rapid warming and sea ice loss in the Arctic.

In other words, Arctic climate change, which studies have concluded is likely due in part to human activities, could favor cooler and snowier winters in places far removed from the far north.

Of course, this would not hold true in every winter, since multiple natural climate factors, such as El Nino in the Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) in the Atlantic, compete for influence over the region's weather, in addition to longer-term climate change. But a new "Arctic Report Card" released last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and prepared by an international team of researchers contains curious insights into how Arctic climate change, which may at first seem disconnected from events here at home, may be influencing weather patterns in the northern mid-latitudes.

As Nick Sundt reports on the WWF climate blog, the Report Card discusses the aptly named "Warm Arctic-Cold Continents" pattern that existed last winter, and ties it in part to sea ice loss from a warming climate.

In the atmosphere section of the lengthy report, the authors write: "There is evidence that the effect of higher air temperatures in the lower Arctic atmosphere in fall is contributing to changes in the atmospheric circulation in both the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes. Winter 2009-2010 showed a new connectivity between mid-latitude extreme cold and snowy weather events and changes in the wind patterns of the Arctic; the so-called Warm Arctic-Cold Continents pattern."

Two of the three authors of the atmosphere section of the report - Jim Overland of NOAA and Muyin Wang of the University of Washington - published a study last year on changes in atmospheric circulation related to Arctic warming and sea ice loss that came to similar conclusions, but without the benefit of observations during the anomalous winter of 2009-2010.

As detailed in the Report Card, a key reason why Arctic air temperatures have warmed in the fall and winter is because of greater sea ice loss during the summer melt season. Sea ice is white in color, and therefore it efficiently reflects incoming solar radiation, cooling the ocean and lower atmosphere. But when sea ice melts, the darker ocean waters are exposed to the sun, which boosts both water and air temperatures. This phenomenon is known as "Arctic amplification."

The ensuing warming raises the height of atmospheric pressure surfaces (known to meteorologists as "geopotential heights") over the North Pole. In fact, the report notes that the winter of 2009-2010 featured "one of the three largest Arctic high-pressure events since 1850." The higher pressure surfaces are thought to change large-scale wind patterns and can lead to bouts of severe winter weather in the eastern United States and East Asia.

Possible impacts of sea ice loss on atmospheric circulation in the northern mid-latitudes. Credit: NOAA.

A related NOAA website states: "Although progress towards a comprehensive understanding of the connection between Arctic sea ice and climate has been slow, sea ice has been recognized as the primary means by which the Arctic can impact the global climate."

Arctic sea ice at the end of the 2010 melt season was the third-lowest in the satellite record, which dates back to 1979. In a study published in June researchers used "proxy" records, such as sediment cores, to extend the record of sea ice extent much further back in time, and found that recent ice loss is unmatched over at least the last few thousand years. The causes of sea ice loss include both warming related to emissions of greenhouse gases as well as natural variability.

The Report Card appropriately cautions that Arctic warming is just one factor influencing U.S. and Eurasian weather, but it notes that it may become a more prominent driver in coming years if recent warming and melting trends continue. It states:

"While individual weather extreme events cannot be directly linked to larger scale climate changes, recent data analysis and modeling suggest a link between loss of sea ice and a shift to an increased impact from the Arctic on mid-latitude climate. Models suggest that loss of sea ice in fall favors higher geopotential heights over the Arctic. With future loss of sea ice, such conditions as winter 2009-2010 could happen more often. Thus we have a potential climate change paradox. Rather than a general warming everywhere, the loss of sea ice and a warmer Arctic can increase the impact of the Arctic on lower latitudes, bringing colder weather to southern locations."
The Arctic Report Card contains richly detailed information on all aspects of the rapidly changing Arctic environment, including updated data on the melting of Greenland's ice sheet. It is well worth reading in order to understand the profound, and potentially irreversible, transformation taking place at the top of the planet.
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Lack of crop diversity threatens food security: UN

Rome (AFP) Oct 26, 2010 The genetic diversity of the plants that we grow and eat could be lost forever due to climate change, threatening future food security, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday. Experts from the Rome-based organisation warned that the loss of biodiversity will have a major impact on humankind's ability to feed itself in the future as the global population rises to nine billion by 2050.
"There are thousands of wild crop relatives that... hold genetic secrets that enable them to resist heat, droughts, salinity, floods and pests," FAO director general Jacques Diouf was quoted in the report as saying.
"Increasing the sustainable use of plant diversity could be the main key for addressing risks to genetic resources for agriculture," he said.
The report estimated that 75 percent of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000 and called for "special efforts to conserve and use" both cultivated plants and their "wild" relatives, especially in developing countries.
Fifty percent of the increase in crop yields in recent years has come from new seed varieties, the report said.
FAO experts pointed in particular to the success of New Rice for Africa (NERICA), a cultivator of new types of rice suited to drylands that has transformed local economies in several parts of Africa.
The FAO's second report in 12 years on the state of the world's plant genetic resources covers a range of topics from gene bank collections to the effects of climate change.
The study predicts that as much as 22 percent of the wild relatives of important food crops of peanut, potato and beans will disappear by 2050 because of the changing climate.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pacific fisheries face collapse by 2035: study

Yellowfin tuna are being fished as a replaceme...Image via WikipediaPacific fisheries face collapse by 2035: study
Pacific island fisheries face collapse in the next 25 years as overfishing, population growth and climate change threaten one of the region's main economic resources, a study warned Wednesday.
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Fishermen Report Louisiana Bays Filled With Oil

Fishermen Report Louisiana Bays Filled With Oil
Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld, Truthout: "On Saturday, October 23, Truthout spotted what appeared to be massive areas of weathered oil floating near Louisiana's fragile marshlands in both East and West Bays along the Mississippi River Delta. In addition, at least two more oil leaks were spotted near oil and gas platforms along Louisiana's embattled coastline. Four days prior, federal on-scene cleanup coordinator for the BP oil disaster, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, declared there was little recoverable surface oil in the Gulf of Mexico."
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Measuring sea-level rise in the Falklands

Measuring sea-level rise in the Falklands
London UK (SPX) Oct 27, 2010 - Sea levels around the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic have risen since the mid nineteenth century and the rate of sea-level rise has accelerated over recent decades, according to newly published research. The findings are as expected under global warming and consistent with observations elsewhere around the globe. "We have been fortunate in being able to compare modern sea-level mea ... more
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European nations sink bluefin tuna quota reduction

European nations sink bluefin tuna quota reduction
Luxembourg (AFP) Oct 26, 2010 - Europe's Mediterranean nations roundly rejected on Tuesday a proposal by the EU's executive arm to slash the global quota for catching the lucrative sushi mainstay of bluefin tuna next year. Fisheries ministers meeting in Luxembourg made their position known three weeks ahead of an international meeting of fishing nations on bluefin tuna, a species scientists say is endangered. French Ag ... more
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Changes in energy R&D needed to combat climate change

A new assessment of future scenarios that limit the extent of global warming cautions that unless current imbalances in R&D portfolios for the development of new, efficient, and clean energy technologies are redressed, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets are unlikely to be met, or met only at considerable costs.More at:
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Asteroid Impact Could Deplete Ozone Layer

Washington DC (SPX) Oct 26, 2010 - An asteroid crashing into the deep ocean could have dramatic worldwide environmental effects including depleting the Earth's protective ozone layer for several years, a Planetary Science Institute researcher has found. This could result in a huge spike in ultraviolet radiation levels and hamper efforts to grow crops, as well as affect other life forms on Earth. A medium-sized asteroi ... more
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World's plants are atmospheric 'cleansers'

Boulder, Colo. (UPI) Oct 22, 2010 - The world's plants play a bigger role in cleansing the Earth's atmosphere of common air-polluting chemicals than previously thought, U.S. researchers say. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., used observations, gene studies and computer modeling to show that deciduous plants absorb about a third more of a class of air-polluting chemicals known as ... more
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The Doomsday Machine and the Race to Save the World: Geoengineering Emerges as Plan B at the 11th Hour

How close are we to space sunshades, mountaintop painting, 'fertilizing' the oceans with iron, and redirecting hurricanes? Closer than you might imagine.
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New findings could sway thought on climate change

New findings could sway thought on climate change
( -- A newly published paper written by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher and his team could influence the way scientists think about global warming and its effects.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mainstream Media Ignores Changing Orbits

Mainstream Media Ignores Changing Orbits

Huge earth changes are taking place at this time.  L.A. had a record  cool
summer and a few days after summer is over, they shoot up to a  record high 113
degrees.  Parts  of Brazil and Bolivia shattered record cold temps and were
colder than  Antarctica for much of July, killing [...]