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Friday, November 5, 2010

Climate and consumers biggest threats to future: UN

UK official says 'negative forces' delaying US climate planHong Kong (AFP) Nov 4, 2010 - A British official said Thursday that "negative forces" in the United States are holding up a climate change policy, while praising China's efforts in adopting a low-carbon economy. John Ashton, special representative for climate change at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said a tug-of-war between "positive forces" and "some very negative forces" was delaying a US plan on curbing the carbon emissions blamed for global warming. "There are plenty of positive forces (in the US), but there are some very negative forces too," he told a climate change conference in Hong Kong, without elaborating. "That will make it very difficult to move forward." Ashton praised a California referendum that rejected calls to freeze the state's own ambitious plan to curb emissions. "I take a lot of encouragement from that," he said.

Leaders of the Republican Party, which took control of the House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate at elections this week, opposed a bill last year to impose the first US restrictions on carbon emissions. Ashton on Thursday said Beijing's "high ambition" on climate-change policy was "in some ways stronger... than anywhere else". China has set itself a target to reduce carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product -- or carbon intensity -- in 2020 by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels. It invested a world-leading 34.6 billion dollars in clean energy initiatives last year -- 30 percent of the global total and nearly double US spending. China and the US -- the world's biggest polluters -- clashed at a United Nations climate gathering in October, accusing each other of blocking progress ahead of the UN's annual climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, this month.
by Staff Writers United Nations (AFP) Nov 4, 2010 The warming Earth and the globalization of the consumer society are becoming the biggest threats to future wealth and happiness, the United Nations said Thursday. Rich countries "need to blaze the trail" on making economic growth less dependent on fossil fuels and helping poor nations get onto the path of sustainable development, said the annual Human Development Report.
Highlighting the failure of last year's Copenhagen climate summit, it called for international commitment at events such as new UN-sponsored climate talks in Cancun, Mexico next month "if we are to face up to what may be the most serious threat the world has ever faced."
The report -- "The Real Wealth of Nations" says that overall most of the world has become wealthier, healthier and better educated over the past 20 years that the study has been released.
But it added: "The main threat to maintaining progress in human development comes from the increasingly evident unsustainability of production and consumption patterns."
"Increased exposure to drought, floods and environmental stress is a major impediment to realizing people's aspirations," said the UN Development Programme study.
With the world population expected to hit nine billion by 2050 and incomes rising, pressure on energy and fuel sources will grow, the report said.
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Simulating A Century Of Agriculture Impact On Land And Water

Findings from simulations like this can help farmers, policymakers and conservation agents make informed decisions about best practices for managing farmland to reduce the environmental impact and enhance productivity. MO (SPX) Nov 05, 2010 Estimating the long-term impact of agriculture on land is tricky when you don't have much information about what a field was like before it was farmed. Some fields in Missouri started producing crops more than a century ago-long before anyone kept detailed records about the physical and chemical properties of the soil in a field. Researchers can't go back in time to revisit old fields in their pristine state, but a University of Missouri graduate student did perhaps the next best thing, using a detailed computer model to simulate, year-by-year, the effects of 100 years of farming on claypan soils.
This can help determine the impact of certain conservation practices on farmland's crop yields and soil and water quality, said Ashish Mudgal, who recently completed his doctorate in soil science at MU.
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Climate Change 20,000 Years Ago Reversed Circulation Of Atlantic

The study shows that the ocean circulation was very different in the past and that there was a period when the flow of deep waters in the Atlantic was reversed. This happened when the climate of the North Atlantic region was substantially colder and deep convection was weakened., Spain (SPX) Nov 05, 2010 The Atlantic Ocean circulation (termed meridional overturning circulation, MOC) is an important component of the climate system. Warm currents, such as the Gulf Stream, transport energy from the tropics to the subpolar North Atlantic and influence regional weather and climate patterns. Once they arrive in the North the currents cool, their waters sink and with them they transfer carbon from the atmosphere to the abyss. These processes are important for climate but the way the Atlantic MOC responds to climate change is not well known yet.
An international team of investigators under the leadership of two researchers from the UAB now demonstrates the response of the Atlantic MOC to climate change in the past. The new research results will be published on 4 November 2010 in the international front-line journal NATURE.

Sign of the Times: Hearings on "Scientific Fraud" of Global Warming Expected FireDogLake

Mean surface temperature change for the period...Image via Wikipedia

 So the Republicans run and win a campaign in a treacherous economic environment, when people are desperate for something tangible to improve their situation in life. And the Republicans will start that new era by putting science on trial.

Fresh off a dramatic victory in which it retook the House leadership, the Republican Party intends to hold major hearings probing the supposed "scientific fraud" behind global climate change.
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder related the news in a little-noticed article Wednesday morning.
The effort is a likely attempt to out-step the White House on energy policy moving forward. Legislation on energy and climate change reform, one of President Barack Obama campaign promises, has yet to materialize, though Obama's EPA recently classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
Holding hearings would please the Republicans' conservative base, which increasingly doubts the scientific basis for global warming — especially human-induced global warming — and provide a reflection of the new GOP's tenor.
What this Scopes Monkey trial for climate change won't do is create one new job or improve one life in America. Well, maybe some climate denier whose new book could get a bump.
If show trials are really the answer the GOP thinks they have to the question of how to govern the country, this House majority could be a blip. More at:

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Groundwater Threat To Rivers Worse Than Suspected

Groundwater and surface water interact in complex ways to determine the health of ecosystems. Image credit - Ian Overton, CSIRO. Canberra, Australia (SPX) Nov 03, 2010 Excessive groundwater development represents a greater threat to nearby rivers and streams during dry periods (low flows) than previously thought, according to research released by CSIRO. In an address to the Groundwater 2010 Conference in Canberra, CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship scientist, Dr David Rassam, said land-use practices that reduce groundwater recharge into rivers and streams could significantly reduce low flows in nearby rivers and streams.
"Many rivers are highly dependent on 'base-flow' from groundwater to keep running through dry times and traditional ways of managing groundwater pumping follow a 'safe yield' approach which balances the amount of water extracted with the amount known to be 'recharging' the aquifer," Dr Rassam said.
However, the study, conducted at Tarcutta in NSW, showed that application of this 'safe yield' approach in times of low-flow can reduce recharge much more severe than previously thought.
"The yield of an aquifer must be considerably less than recharge to ensure sufficient water to maintain the quantity and quality of low flows in streams, springs, wetlands and other groundwater-dependent ecosystems," Dr Rassam said.
"Many people don't realise that groundwater discharge from shallow aquifers to surface water systems represents an environmentally critical component of the flow in most rivers.
"It's the groundwater discharging into the channel through the bed and banks of the stream that keeps it flowing during the dry period. Most rivers are basically sustained by groundwater during the dry season.
"What we found was that the impact on base-flow of reducing recharge might be small at first, but that each subsequent reduction of recharge has a disproportionately large impact on base-flow in the stream.
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Archaeological Sites Threatened By Rising Seas

These are archaeological sites coded according to a Cultural Resource Vulnerability Index. Credit: Leslie Reeder Washington DC (SPX) Nov 03, 2010 Should global warming cause sea levels to rise as predicted in coming decades, thousands of archaeological sites in coastal areas around the world will be lost to erosion. With no hope of saving all of these sites, archaeologists Torben Rick from the Smithsonian Institution, Leslie Reeder of Southern Methodist University, and Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon have issued a call to action for scientists to assess the sites most at risk.
Writing in the Journal of Coastal Conservation and using California's Santa Barbara Channel as a case study, the researchers illustrate how quantifiable factors such as historical rates of shoreline change, wave action, coastal slope and shoreline geomorphology can be used to develop a scientifically sound way of measuring the vulnerability of individual archaeological sites.
They then propose developing an index of the sites most at risk so informed decisions can be made about how to preserve or salvage them.
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Scientists Urge Faster Installation Of Global Ocean Monitor System

Scientists explore on and beneath polar ice. Their aircraft remotely sense animals through properties of scattered light. Marine animals themselves carry tags that store records of their travels and dives and communicate with satellites. Fish carry tags that revealed their migration past acoustic listening lines. Sounds that echoed back to ships portray schools of fish assembling, swimming, and commuting up and down. Standardized frames and structures dropped near shores and on reefs provide information for comparing diversity and abundance. Manned and unmanned undersea vehicles plus divers photograph sea floors and cliffs. Deep submersibles sniff and videotape smoking seafloor vents. And nets and dredges catch specimens, shallow and deep, for closest study. Credit: E. Paul Oberlander / Census of Marine Life DC (SPX) Nov 03, 2010 The ocean surface is 30 percent more acidic today than it was in 1800, much of that increase occurring in the last 50 years - a rising trend that could both harm coral reefs and profoundly impact tiny shelled plankton at the base of the ocean food web, scientists warn. Despite the seriousness of such changes to the ocean, however, the world has yet to deploy a complete suite of available tools to monitor rising acidification and other ocean conditions that have a fundamental impact on life throughout the planet.
Marine life patterns, water temperature, sea level, and polar ice cover join acidity and other variables in a list of ocean characteristics that can and should be tracked continuously through the expanded deployment of existing technologies in a permanent, integrated global monitoring system, scientists say.
The Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO), representing 38 major oceanographic institutions from 21 countries and leading a global consortium called Oceans United, will urge government officials and ministers meeting in Beijing Nov. 3-5 to help complete an integrated global ocean observation system by target date 2015.
It would be the marine component of a Global Earth Observation System of Systems under discussion in Beijing by some 71 member nations of the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations.
The cost to create an adequate monitoring system has been estimated at $10 billion to $15 billion in assets, with $5 billion in annual operating costs
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Increased Arctic Shipping Could Accelerate Climate Change

Ship traffic diverting from current routes to new routes through the Arctic is projected to reach 2 percent of global traffic by 2030 and to 5 percent in 2050. In comparison, shipping volumes through the Suez and Panama canals currently account for about 4 percent and 8 percent of global trade volume, respectively.
by Tracey Bryant Newark DE (SPX) Nov 03, 2010 As the ice-capped Arctic Ocean warms, ship traffic will increase at the top of the world. And if the sea ice continues to decline, a new route connecting international trading partners may emerge - but not without significant repercussions to climate, according to a U.S. and Canadian research team that includes a University of Delaware scientist. Growing Arctic ship traffic will bring with it air pollution that has the potential to accelerate climate change in the world's northern reaches. And it's more than a greenhouse gas problem - engine exhaust particles could increase warming by some 17-78 percent, the researchers say.
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Earth's climate change 20,000 years ago reversed the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean

Earth's climate change 20,000 years ago reversed the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean
An international team of investigators under the leadership of two researchers from the UAB demonstrates the response of the Atlantic Ocean circulation to climate change in the past. Global warming today could have similar effects on ocean currents and could accelerate climate change.
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Volcanoes have shifted Asian rainfall
Scientists have long known that large volcanic explosions can affect the weather by spewing particles that block solar energy and cool the air. Some suspect that extended "volcanic winters" from gigantic blowups helped kill off dinosaurs and Neanderthals. In the summer following Indonesia's 1815 Tambora eruption, frost wrecked crops as far off as New England, and the 1991 blowout of the Philippines' Mount Pinatubo lowered average global temperatures by 0.7 degrees F -- enough to mask the effects of manmade greenhouse gases for a year or so.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Is The Ice At The South Pole Melting

It has long been known that the Pacific El Nino climate phenomenon and the snowfall in Antarctica are linked. Berlin, Germany (SPX) Nov 02, 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 Nino. 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.
Two areas in Antarctica are of particular interest because of their potential sensitivity to global climate change: the Antarctic Peninsula, which is currently experiencing a warming exceeding the global mean and the disappearance of large ice shelf areas, and the Amundsen Sector of West Antarctica, where currently the largest flow rates and mass loss of the Antarctic Ice Sheet is occurring.
For some glaciers the ice thickness is decreasing rapidly, and glaciers and ice streams are notably retreating back into the interior. With 0.3 millimeters per year, both regions are currently contributing considerably to the global sea level change of about three millimeters per year.
In the study, the mass balance of both regions is reevaluated from gravity data of the satellite mission GRACE. As a result, the estimates were lower than those of conventional mass balance methods.
"With the GRACE time series, it was for the first time possible to observe how the large-scale ice mass varies in the two areas due to fluctuations in rainfall from year to year," said the GFZ scientists Ingo Sasgen.
It has long been known that the Pacific El Nino climate phenomenon and the snowfall in Antarctica are linked. The complementary piece to the warm phase El Nino, the cold phase known as La Nina, also affects the Antarctic climate: "The cooler La Nina years lead to a strong low pressure area over the Amundsen Sea, which favors heavy rainfall along the Antarctic Peninsula - the ice mass is increasing there.
In contrast, the Amundsen area is dominated by dry air from the interior during this time. El Nino years with their warm phase lead to precisely the opposite pattern: reduced rainfall and mass loss in the Antarctic Peninsula, and an increase in the Amundsen Sectorfield, respectively" explains Professor Maik Thomas, head of the section "Earth System Modelling" at the German Research Centre for Geosciences (Helmholtz Association).
The recording of the entire ice mass of the South Pole and its variations is a central task in climate research and still raises many unanswered questions. In principle, the study could show that the continuous gravity data of the GRACE satellite mission contain another important medium-term climate signal.
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Sunday, October 31, 2010

EPA Administrator Names Executive Director for New Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

WASHINGTON – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has named John H. Hankinson, Jr. to be the executive director of the newly established Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.  President Obama signed an executive order earlier this month establishing the task force, which will coordinate efforts to implement restoration programs and projects in the gulf coast region. Jackson, a New Orleans native, was named as chair of the task force due to her considerable involvement in the Obama Administration’s immediate response efforts following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and her knowledge and extensive experience in environmental issues – factors that will be central in spurring actions to help to restore the region’s ecosystem while providing important support for the economy.
“We’re pleased that John has accepted this responsibility and is willing once again to step up and serve the people of the gulf coast.  He will play an instrumental role in fulfilling our commitment to a full and lasting restoration of this area,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “John’s longtime experience with these issues and this region, along with his proven ability to get things done, will be invaluable assets in what is sure to be a long-term, hard-fought battle to restore the waters of the gulf.  I have every confidence in him.”
“I spent my childhood on the gulf and I am proud and honored to have the opportunity to carry out the president’s commitment to restoring this vital ecosystem,” Hankinson said. “I look forward to hearing from everyone in the gulf coast – from community groups to businesses to scientists – as we go about restoring a national treasure that also happens to be an economic engine for the entire region.”
Hankinson has spent 30 years working on environmental issues in the private, public and non-profit sectors.  The Florida native has brought together industry, government and stakeholder groups to form partnerships to restore ecosystems across the southeast.  He has worked on the National Estuary Program in the Gulf of Mexico and directed the development and implementation of a water quality protection plan for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  He has over 10 years experience overseeing the restoration and protection of the St. Johns River system in Florida.  Hankinson currently serves as an environment and conservation lands consultant, advising on land conservation, strategic land use decision-making, and constructive environmental management and policy projects across the Southeastern United States.  He served as regional administrator of EPA region 4 from 1994-2001.
As the executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, Hankinson – who will report directly to Administrator Jackson – will coordinate interagency efforts, oversee staff and outreach efforts develop a regional ecosystem restoration strategy and ensure that science underpins the task force’s efforts.  Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will each have a state representative on the task force.  The representatives will be selected by the governors of each gulf state and then appointed by President Obama, along with one senior official from each of several federal agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Transportation.  The task force will also integrate local stakeholders, representatives from affected tribes, and the scientific and academic communities.  The task force will have a presence in each of the gulf states, in addition to Washington, D.C.
Administrator Jackson will hold the first meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on November 8 in Pensacola, Fla.  More information about that meeting will be announced as it becomes available.
View President Obama’s executive order: