Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good News and Bad News

By Mark Morford, Columnist

The good news: The pendulum is swinging. Can you feel it? From toxic war-happy neocon evangelical groupthink, back toward something resembling progress, and intelligence, and thoughtfulness, spiritual openness, a renewed respect for science and the environment and ethical foreign policy right along with a renewed desire for a president who doesn't embarrass us on the international stage every single day?

The bad news: It's a pendulum, not a stone. It swings one way, it's bound to eventually swing back again....

"Toyota builds third hybrid battery plant"

Detroit News

Toyota is preparing to rev up production of hybrids, announcing Tuesday its third plant in Japan for producing batteries that are key components for the "green" cars.

Just last week, it announced that it was building a second such battery plant.

Toyota Motor Corp. has emerged the world leader in hybrids with its hit Prius, which has sold more than a cumulative 1 million vehicles over the last decade. Sometime after 2010, it hopes to sell 1 million hybrids a year.

For that, it needs to boost battery production as Honda Motor Co. and other automakers aim to catch up with their new gas-and-electric hybrids -- a technology that is growing in appeal for the world's drivers as gas prices soar.

The 30 billion yen ($291 million) plant in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan, will be operated by Panasonic EV Energy Co., Toyota's joint venture with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

Set to be running by 2010, the factory will make nickel-metal hydride batteries, with production capacity at 200,000 a year, with start-up production at about half of that.

The latest move follows a similar announcement just last week about Toyota's plans to build a 20 billion yen ($194 million) plant in Shizuoka, in central Japan, also to produce nickel-metal hydride batteries for gas-electric hybrid vehicles.

Hybrids reduce pollution and emissions that are linked to global warming by switching between a gasoline engine and an electric motor to deliver better mileage than comparable standard cars.

Last week, Honda, Japan's second-biggest automaker after Toyota, said it will boost hybrid sales to 500,000 a year by sometime after 2010. Honda said it will introduce a new hybrid-only model next year for a lineup of four hybrids.

Nissan Motor Co., which still hasn't developed its own hybrid for commercial sale, said it will have its original hybrid by 2010.

Nissan says its joint venture with electronics maker NEC Corp. will start mass-producing lithium-ion batteries in 2009 at a plant in Japan.

Lithium-ion batteries, now common in laptops, produce more power and are smaller than nickel-metal hydride batteries. Toyota has said lithium-ion batteries may be used in plug-in hybrids, which can be recharged from a home electrical outlet, but it has not given details about a plant on such batteries.

"Numbers of migrating shad dip"

Baltimore Sun

Conowingo Dam counts down 90% over 7 years

The number of shad migrating up the Susquehanna River in Maryland has fallen by almost half over the past year, part of a worrisome decline up and down the East Coast, scientists say.

The drop means that counts of American shad at Conowingo Dam have fallen by more than 90percent over the past seven years. That is a stark reversal from the 1990s, when the construction of fish lifts at dams - and bans on shad fishing - spurred a revival of what has been called "the founding fish" because of its dominance as a food in Colonial times.

Researchers count the shad in April and May as they swim through a fish elevator that allows them to pass over a dam in Harford County to go upstream to spawn.

Because of the decline here and elsewhere, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is planning public hearings on whether more restrictions should be imposed on catching American shad, officials said. Fishing for the species is banned in Maryland and Pennsylvania, but not in New Jersey, Delaware, New York, North Carolina and other states.

"We've seen decreases in American shad at fish lifts all along the East Coast, suggesting it's not just at the Conowingo Dam," said Erica Robbins, fisheries management plan coordinator at the commission.

The shad's rise and fall has created a twist to an environmental success story. Populations of rockfish, or striped bass, in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries surged after a ban on catching them. But the bass eat shad. And as the bass have multiplied, they seem to be gobbling up the shad, said Dilip Mathur, a fisheries biologist who has run the annual shad count at Conowingo Dam for decades.

"The striped bass are taking a good chunk of the American shad," said Mathur, an environmental consultant for Exelon Corp., which owns the hydroelectric dam. "There wasn't really a large population of striped bass until 10 or 15 years ago, and since then the population has exploded - and now the organisms are trying to reach a balance."

But pollution and excessive fishing also are likely factors, scientists said.

American shad are silvery fish with rows of darks spots along their sides. They grow to about 2 feet and are oily and bony but famously tasty - especially their eggs, or roe.

Until nets stretched across rivers nearly wiped out the species in the 19th and early 20th centuries, shad was among the most popular dishes in the Chesapeake region.

In the spring, shad swarm up rivers and streams all along the Atlantic Coast to spawn. After laying their eggs, the adults return to the ocean and spend the summer feeding on plankton off the coasts of Maine and Canada.

Striped bass grow to three times the size of shad and eat just about anything. Like shad, they were nearly eliminated by overfishing, but a ban on catching them in Maryland and elsewhere in the late 1980s helped their numbers rebound, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Dale Weinrich, manager of the finfish program at the agency, said the rising numbers of striped bass, catfish and other predators probably are eating American shad.

But he said that's only part of the picture - and he doubts that's the main reason for the shad's recent drop. He noted that shad and bass coexisted in abundance for thousands of years before people messed up the ecological balance with pollution, dams and overfishing...

"China Sacks Plastic Bags"

Scientific American

SHANGHAI—Thin plastic bags are used for everything in China and the Chinese use up to three billion of them a day--an environmentally costly habit picked up by shopkeepers and consumers in the late 1980s for convenience over traditional cloth bags. Fruit mongers weigh produce in them, tailors stuff shirts into them, even street food vendors plunk their piping hot wares directly into see-through plastic bags that do nothing to protect one's hands from being burned or coated in hot grease. They even have a special name for the plastic bags found blowing, hanging and floating everywhere from trees to rivers: bai si wu le, or "white pollution," for the bags' most common color.

Yet, the Chinese government is set to ban the manufacture and force shopkeepers to charge for the distribution of bags thinner than 0.025 millimeters thick as of June 1—and no one seems prepared. "I don't know what we'll do," Zhang Gui Lin, a tailor at Shanghai's famous fabric market, tells me through a translator. "I guess our shopping complex will figure it out and tell us what to buy to use as bags."

His wife adds: "Maybe it will be like this," tugging a thicker mesh orange plastic bag she is using to carry some shoes. Such thicker bags may prove one replacement for the ubiquitous thinner versions.

The clothes makers are not alone. "I don't know actually," says a vendor of Chinese tamales, known as zong si, who declined to give her name. "I'm sure the government will come up with a solution. Maybe people will just eat it [the zong si directly.]"

The Chinese government is banning production and distribution of the thinnest plastic bags in a bid to curb the white pollution that is taking over the countryside. The bags are also banned from all forms of public transportation and "scenic locations." The move may save as much as 37 million barrels of oil currently used to produce the plastic totes, according to China Trade News. Already, the nation's largest producer of such thin plastic bags, Huaqiang, has shut down its operations...

"Rockefellers Seek Change at Exxon"

New York Times

The Rockefeller family built one of the great American fortunes by supplying the nation with oil. Now history has come full circle: some family members say it is time to start moving beyond the oil age.

The family members have thrown their support behind a shareholder rebellion that is ruffling feathers at Exxon Mobil, the giant oil company descended from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust.

Three of the resolutions, to be voted on at the company’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday, are considered unlikely to pass, even with Rockefeller family support.

The resolutions ask Exxon to take the threat of global warming more seriously and look for alternatives to spewing greenhouse gases into the air.

One resolution would urge the company to study the impact of global warming on poor countries, another would encourage Exxon to reduce its emissions and a third would encourage it to do more research on renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines.

A fourth resolution, which the Rockefellers are most united in supporting, is considered more likely to pass. It would strip Rex W. Tillerson of his position as chairman of Exxon’s board, forcing the company to separate that job from the chief executive’s job.

A shareholder vote in favor of that idea would be a rebuke of Mr. Tillerson, who is widely perceived as more resistant than other oil chieftains to investing in alternative energy...

“Exxon Mobil needs to reconnect with the forward-looking and entrepreneurial vision of my great-grandfather,” Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, a Tufts University economist, said in a statement to reporters.

“The truth is that Exxon Mobil is profiting in the short term from investments and decisions made many years ago, and by focusing on a narrow path that ignores the rapidly shifting energy landscape around the world,” she added...

The Rockefeller family has always been identified with oil and the legacy of Standard Oil, but for several generations, it has also been active in environmental causes and acquiring land for preservation. John D. Rockefeller’s grandsons devoted themselves to conservation issues, and Rockefeller charitable organizations have long promoted efforts to fight pollution.

Ms. Goodwin, one of the most vocal Rockefellers on the environment today, is co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts...

The involvement of the Rockefellers, said Robert A. G. Monks, a shareholder who has been urging a separation of the chairman and chief executive jobs for years, shows that “this is not just a matter of the self-appointed good guys against the cavemen, but also a matter of the capitalists wanting to make money.”

Nineteen institutional investors with 91 million shares announced last week that they would support resolutions asking Exxon to separate the top executive positions and tackle global warming. They included the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the New York City Employees’ Retirement System.

California’s treasurer, Bill Lockyer, who serves on the boards of the two California funds, said the company’s “go-slow approach” on global warming “places long-term shareholder value at risk.”...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Peak Oil: Everything is going to change"

(This piece ran online with an ad for an "All-New" Chrysler Town and Country Mini-Van "Engineered Beautifully" in the middle - and an ad for a Jeep "Have fun out there" - next to it. That's America.)

By STATE REP. TERRY BACKER in the Connecticut Post

There is little government can do about the price of oil. That is not what people want to hear. Yet it is a fact. The U.S. government and all the states have no "Plan B." They continue to rely on a delusional "Plan A" — more oil and cheaper oil all the time. Politicians, generally asleep at the wheel on this issue, have been shocked into trying to do something about the current and future problems arising from oil costs. They are spinning around looking for someone to blame, dazed by the precipitous rise from $50 per barrel last January to $126 this past week.

In an election year, members of Congress are beating the bushes trying to escape the fallout of their years of dozing in their seats. They point at speculation, greedy profit takers or big oil companies, perhaps all true to one extent or another. However, despite the rising chorus of voices pointing out rising demand coinciding with falling or flat production, they seem to be ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room that is "Peak Oil" production. Just a few years ago, Mexico, Russia, Norway, England and Indonesia were producing vast amounts of oil for the world market. Today, England and Indonesia are net importers of oil, Russia's production is flat, Norway's production is falling and Mexico has informed us that their giant oil field, Canterall, is in terminal decline and may not be able to export after 2015.

Neither drilling in Alaska, the continental shelf or other ultra-deep-water sites will change the trends of less and more expensive oil. Only changing our infrastructure and consumption patterns will preserve somewhat our current lifestyle.
Connecticut broke out of the pack this month to become the first state in the country to make a major step forward in planning for the increasingly high cost and reduced availability of petroleum. With only 15 minutes remaining until the end of the 2008 General Assembly session, the state Senate approved by unanimous consent and sent to Gov. M. Jodi Rell the "Energy Scarcity and Security" bill.

The measure requires the state to develop a planning scenario model that will predict impacts based on the price of oil. The model will predict future impacts on heating, transportation, food cost, road paving, fleet operations, education, public health I think you get the idea. The outputs of the model will guide us in formulating Plans B, C and D for the state.

The model won't make more oil or cheaper oil; it will reveal to us the impacts on our citizens and our state before they happen. It will allow the Legislature and municipal governments to reprioritize what is possible and what is not.

Thanks to the members of the Connecticut Legislative Peak Oil and Natural Gas Caucus, state government opened its eyes for a quick peek into the future. A small awareness has begun in the Legislature, but it is not an understanding. The public now must educate itself about the issues of oil supply and help lead its government to make the changes that will surely be painful, but needed.

State Rep. Terry Backer is co-founder of the Connecticut Peak Oil and Natural Gas Caucus and a member of the General Assembly's Energy and Technologies Committee. He represents Stratford's 121st Assembly District.

"Red tide has spread from Maine to Mass."

From The Boston Globe

Red tide has spread from central Maine to Gloucester, making it unsafe to harvest soft-shell clams or mussels from those coastal waters and potentially signaling the onset of a business-damaging season, state officials say.

The single-celled algae carries toxins that concentrate over time in shellfish, making them poisonous, even lethal. Red tide often occurs in late spring and summer, when the algae grow rapidly. Crabs, lobsters, fish, and shrimp are not affected.

A combination of abundant beds of the algae seeds and excess winter precipitation could translate into the worst red tide season since 2005, oceanographers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution say.

The 2005 outbreak, which also began in the middle of May, extended from northern Maine to Nantucket with algae counts 40 to 100 times higher than normal. It halted business for nearly 2,000 clammers, oyster farmers, and mussel harvesters for much of the summer. They lost tens of millions of dollars.

"I'm not in a position to make predictions, but we're always worried," said Michael Hickey, chief biologist for the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

He said the no-harvesting order along the North Shore took effect on Thursday for mussels, carnivorous marine snails, and soft-shell clams. But he said it was not unusual to see red tide this time of year.

"We are always watchful of this from the beginning of May," he said.

Hickey added there's no risk for residents who eat clams or mussels already on the market. The state suspends harvesting when officials find 80 micrograms of the toxin for 100 grams of shell fish meat. It takes 250 to 300 micrograms to make people ill.

Don Anderson, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who specializes in red tide issues, said his oceanographic models show this year's bloom could approach the damage that occurred in 2005...

The state has sampling stations that test shellfish every two days. Massachusetts has been monitoring red tide since 1972, when there was also a large outbreak.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Famine Looms as Wars Rend Horn of Africa"

From the New York Times

DAGAARI, Somalia — The global food crisis has arrived at Safia Ali’s hut.

She cannot afford rice or wheat or powdered milk anymore.

At the same time, a drought has decimated her family’s herd of goats, turning their sole livelihood into a pile of bleached bones and papery skin.

The result is that Ms. Safia, a 25-year-old mother of five, has not eaten in a week. Her 1-year-old son is starving too, an adorable, listless boy who doesn’t even respond to a pinch.

Somalia — and much of the volatile Horn of Africa, for that matter — was about the last place on earth that needed a food crisis. Even before commodity prices started shooting up around the globe, civil war, displacement and imperiled aid operations had pushed many people here to the brink of famine.

But now with food costs spiraling out of reach and the livestock that people live off of dropping dead in the sand, villagers across this sun-blasted landscape say hundreds of people are dying of hunger and thirst.

This is what happens, economists say, when the global food crisis meets local chaos.

“We’re really in the perfect storm,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia economist and top United Nations adviser, who recently visited neighboring Kenya.

There has been a collision of troubles throughout the region: skimpy rainfall, disastrous harvests, soaring food prices, dying livestock, escalating violence, out-of-control inflation, and shrinking food aid because of many of these factors.

Across the border in Ethiopia, in the war-racked Ogaden region, the situation sounds just as dire. In Darfur, the United Nations has had to cut food rations because of a rise in banditry that endangers aid deliveries. Kenya is looking vulnerable, too.

A recent headline in one of Kenya’s leading newspapers blared, “25,000 villagers risk starving,” referring to a combination of drought, higher fertilizer and fuel costs and postelection violence that displaced thousands of farmers. “These places aren’t on the brink,” Mr. Sachs said. “They’ve gone over the cliff.”

Many Somalis are trying to stave off starvation with a thin gruel made from mashed thorn-tree branches called jerrin. Some village elders said their children were chewing on their own lips and tongues because they had no food. The weather has been merciless — intensely hot days, followed by cruelly clear nights.

This week, Saida Mohamed Afrah, another emaciated mother, left her two children under a tree and went scavenging for food and water. When she came back two hours later, her children were dead.

She had little to say about the drought. “I just wish my children had died in my lap,” she said.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I give up, says Brazilian Environmental Minister

From the Independent

Brazil has been accused of turning its back on its duty to protect the Amazon after the resignation of its award-winning Environment Minister fuelled fresh fears over the fate of the forest. The departure of Marina Silva, who admitted she was losing the battle to get green voices heard amidst the rush for economic development, has been greeted with dismay by conservationists.

"She was the environment's guardian angel," said Frank Guggenheim, executive director for Greenpeace in Brazil. "Now Brazil's environment is orphaned."

In a letter to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Ms Silva said that her efforts to protect the rainforest acknowledged as the "lungs of the planet" were being thwarted by powerful business lobbies. "Your Excellency was a witness to the growing resistance found by our team in important sectors of the government and society," she wrote.

The decision by Ms Silva to walk away five years on from her triumphant unveiling as a minister in President Lula's first term has underlined just how far the former trade union hero's administration has drifted from the promises made in its green heyday.

"Her resignation is a disaster for the Lula administration," said Jose Maria Cardoso da Silva, of Conservation International. "If the government had any global credibility in environmental issues, it was because of minister Marina."

The Latin American giant's supposed progress on environmental protection has unravelled in the past year as revelations of record levels of deforestation, violent land disputes and runaway forest fires have followed in quick succession. The worldwide boom in agricultural commodities has created an unparalleled thirst for land and energy in Brazil, and the result has been a potentially catastrophic land grab into the world's largest remaining rainforest. The Amazon basin is home to one in 10 of the world's mammals and 15 per cent of its land-based plant species. It holds more than half of the world's fresh water and its vast forests act as the largest carbon sink on the planet, providing a vital check on the greenhouse effect.

Since President Lula won a second term Ms Silva found herself a lone voice in a government acutely aware that its own political future depended on the vast agribusiness interests she was trying to rein in. The final breakdown in her relationship with the President came after he gave the green light to massive road and dam-building projects in the Amazon basin, and a plan she drafted for the sustainable management of the region was taken from her and handed to a business-friendly fellow minister.

Marcelo Furtado, the campaign director for Greenpeace Brazil, said the resignation was "disastrous" and blamed it on the government's Amazon policy and pressure to ease environmental regulations on factories....

"Obesity Contributes To Global Warming"

It doesn't take a study to know the obvious - that more consumption contributes to global warming - whether it is eating or other things....

Posted on Planet Ark ->

Obese and overweight people require more fuel to transport them and the food they eat, and the problem will worsen as the population literally swells in size, a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says.

This adds to food shortages and higher energy prices, the school's researchers Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts wrote in the journal Lancet on Friday.

"We are all becoming heavier and it is a global responsibility," Edwards said in a telephone interview. "Obesity is a key part of the big picture."

At least 400 million adults worldwide are obese. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects by 2015, 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese.

In their model, the researchers pegged 40 percent of the global population as obese with a body mass index of near 30. Many nations are fast approaching or have surpassed this level, Edwards said.

BMI is a calculation of height to weight, and the normal range is usually considered to be 18 to 25, with more than 25 considered overweight and above 30 obese.

The researchers found that obese people require 1,680 daily calories to sustain normal energy and another 1,280 calories to maintain daily activities, 18 percent more than someone with a stable BMI.

Because thinner people eat less and are more likely to walk than rely on cars, a slimmer population would lower demand for fuel for transportation and for agriculture, Edwards said.

This is also important because 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions stem from agriculture, he added.

The next step is quantifying how much a heavier population is contributing to climate change, higher fuel prices and food shortages, he added.

"Promotion of a normal distribution of BMI would reduce the global demand for, and thus the price of, food," Edwards and Roberts wrote.

"Los Angeles Eyes Sewage as a Source of Water"

New York Times
Faced with a persistent drought and the threat of tighter water supplies, Los Angeles plans to begin using heavily cleansed sewage to increase drinking water supplies, joining a growing number of cities considering similar measures.

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who opposed such a plan a decade ago over safety concerns, announced the proposal on Thursday as part of a package of initiatives to put the city, the nation’s second largest, on a stricter water budget. The other plans include increasing fines for watering lawns during restricted times, tapping into and cleaning more groundwater, and encouraging businesses and residents to use more efficient sprinklers and plumbing fixtures.

The move comes as California braces for the possibility of the most severe water shortages in decades.

Snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, which supplies about a third of Los Angeles’s water, is short of expectations. At the same time, the Western drought has lowered supplies in reservoirs, while legal rulings to protect endangered species will curtail water deliveries from Northern California.

Worsening the problem, Los Angeles is expected to add 500,000 people by 2030, forcing the city to examine new ways to meet demand. One option off the table, Mr. Villaraigosa said, is a repeat of the city’s troubled history, fictionalized in the movie “Chinatown,” of diverting a distant river southward to slake the city’s thirst.

The city, pushed by legal claims, is already paying millions to restore dried-up portions of the river, the Owens.

“There simply are no more holes or straws to pitch,” Mr. Villaraigosa said at a news conference at a water plant.

Many cities and towns across the country, including Los Angeles, already recycle wastewater for industrial uses and landscaping.

But the idea of using recycled wastewater, after intense filtering and chemical treatment, to replenish aquifers and reservoirs has gotten more notice lately because of technological advances that, industry leaders say, can make the water purer than tap water. San Diego and South Florida are also considering or planning to test the idea, and Orange County, Calif., opened a $481 million plant in January, without much community resistance, that is believed to be the world’s largest such facility.

None of the proposals or recycling projects already under way send the treated water directly into taps; most often the water is injected into the ground and gradually filters down into aquifers.

That is what Los Angeles would do, too. But the city abandoned that idea seven years ago in the face of political opposition, and is likely to face some debate about it now.

Fran Reichenbach, a founder of the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association, one of the groups that opposed the plan, said she remained unconvinced the water would be safe.

“I appreciate them trying to save us in a time of water shortage, but the fact remains the kind of toxins and chemicals that are created on daily basis cannot be tested for,” Ms. Reichenbach said, disputing industry claims to the contrary. She said the group would push for independent testing and analysis of the treated water.

But Mr. Villaraigosa and H. David Nahai, the general manager of the Department of Water and Power, said they would push forward.

It will cost about $1 billion to retool the water works to treat the sewage, capture more rainfall and make other improvements. The money, city officials said, will come in part from state grants and fees on polluters, though they have not ruled out increases in water bills as well. The City Council must approve some of the changes.

Heat Wave on West Coast

Yesterday, according to, it was 100 degrees in Palo Alto. The previous record high for the day was 91 - the average high is 73 degrees. There are heat warnings today.

The whole west coast up to Seattle is having a heat wave from a high pressure system.

From the Stanford Daily, Heat wave scorches Stanford, Bay Area

Students waded through the Claw fountain in White Plaza to beat the heat wave passing through the Bay Area. Temperatures peaked at 97 degrees on Thursday, and the National Weather Service issued a second “Excessive Heat Warning” for Friday afternoon, forecasting temperatures up to 98 degrees.

“It is not uncommon for the Bay Area to experience temperatures nearing 100 degrees during the latter part of the summer, but it is very uncommon this early in the season,” said Associate Vice Provost for Environmental Health and Safety Lawrence Gibbs in an email to The Daily.

According to -that area has not been this hot this early in the year since records began in 1874.

From AP - Sea lions likely died from the heat

PORTLAND, Ore. - The deaths of six sea lions found in traps on the Columbia River earlier this month were likely caused by the heat, and not by gunshots as officials first suspected, the National Marine Fisheries Service said.

Oregon and Washington officials had been trapping the animals as part of a federally approved removal process because they feast on salmon at the Bonneville Dam....

The fisheries service said Wednesday the results of necropsies on all six animals were consistent with death from heat stroke. Studies of tissue samples taken after the May 4 deaths are expected in about 10 days and might reveal more...

Meanwhile - it's unseasonable cool out here in Indiana. We usually average around 74 as a high - but it only got up to 60 yesterday. I planted some wildflowers that I normally plant at the end of March - and the temperatures have been so low - the soil temps and all should be fine.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"In Spain, the Pain of No Rain"

On May 15, a tanker ship from Marseilles will pull into a specially equipped dock in Barcelona's busy port, connect to a new pipeline, and discharge a liquid cargo essential to the running of the city. The ship will not, however, be carrying oil or petroleum. It is the first of many shipments of drinking water that form part of a program to slake the thirst of this drought-plagued city. Other proposals, such as a controversial plan to divert water from the Ebro river, have pitted the Catalan capital against farmers and other cities, in a mild foretaste of the water-wars that some have darkly predicted will afflict major regions of the planet in the coming years.

Spain is in the grip of its worst drought in a century as a result of climate change — this year's total rainfall, for example, has been 40% lower than average for the equivalent period, and the country's reservoirs are, on average, only 30% full. The reservoirs serving Barcelona are only 20% full, and without significant rainfall, supplies of drinking water will likely run dry by October. "We're in crisis," says Joan Armengol, professor of ecology at the University of Barcelona. "And you can't leave 5.5 million people in crisis. The government has to take the bull by the horns."

Emergency measures being taken by local authorities range from turning off Barcelona's beach showers to building a desalination plant that will be completed in 2009. Shipping in water is a stopgap measure to fend off the pressure on the city's supplies of this summer's thirst. The Catalan water agency has contracted 10 vessels for the next six months to ferry water from the French port of Marseilles and from the Spanish regions of Tarragona and Andalusia. The boats are expected to deliver some 92 million cubic feet of water each month, at a total cost of $68 million.

But channeling water from elsewhere in Spain to Barcelona raises political tensions in an increasingly thirsty country. The supply ferried by boat from Tarragona, for example, will come from newly dug wells that risk salinating local aquifers, provoking concern among that region's farmers. Members of the Peasants' Union, an agricultural syndicate, protested on Sunday against the deliveries by parking about 100 tractors in the center of the region beneath a banner reading, "The fields of Tarragona don't have a drop to spare." Even the farmers to the north of the city are suffering from the city's all-consuming thirst. "Already, some farmers in the Ter area are prohibited from irrigating because the water is needed for Barcelona," says Peasants' Union spokesman Felip Domenech. "This diversion could cause entire harvests to fail."

...Ground Zero of Spain's new water wars, however, may be Barcelona's planned diversion of the Ebro, Spain's largest river, which is expected to be completed in October. The Socialist government of recently reelected Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero plans to build a pipeline alongside the highway to transport diverted Ebro water north to Barcelona. But when he was first elected in 2004, Zapatero's government overturned a similar plan, hatched by the conservative Popular Party (PP), to divert water south to Valencia. The fact that Barcelona's government is Socialist, while Valencia is ruled by the PP, has fed suspicions of political favoritism. "The government has humiliated us," said Francisco Camps, president of the Valencia region and a PP member.

Murcia, another conservative-governed coastal region that would have benefited from the original diversion, is also outraged. "Barcelona is a major metropolis, and their economy depends on a steady water supply, so it is completely logical and necessary that they have this diversion," says Antonio Cerda, city councilman for agriculture and water. "But Murcia is one of the most important agricultural regions of Spain. We need the water diversion for our economy. It's only fair that we have one too."...

Monday, May 12, 2008

50,000(+?) Die from 7.9 Earthquake in China

Officials say 50,000+ (updated from 10,000 5/15) people are dead after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck China on Monday, and the death toll is expected to rise. In Sichuan's Beichan county, about 80 per cent of the buildings have collapsed.

Ten thousand people are estimated to be injured, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The quake... struck at 2:28 p.m. local time, when office buildings, factories and schools were full. Nearly 900 Chinese students were feared buried after two schools collapsed in the municipality of Chongqing...

The quake made buildings sway in Beijing, about 2,000 kilometres away, and was also felt in Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and as far away as Pakistan.

"We're really in the very early stages," Francis Markus of the Red Cross Federation told Canada AM from Beijing. "We don't know what the situation is at the heart of these earthquake-stricken areas."...

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake's epicentre is 92 kilometres northwest of Chengdu, Sichuan's capital, and 10 kilometres below the surface.

Ten million people live in Chengdu, best known for its giant panda breeding centre. Sichuan province is also home to about 1,200 pandas, which constitute about 80 per cent of the surviving panda population in the wild....

"An unusually early and violent tornado season"

From the Wunder Blog
Cumulative tornado activity in the U.S. through May 11, compared to average. This year's 905 tornadoes match the total usually seen by late July. Image credit: NOAA Storm Prediction Center.

An EF-4 tornado with winds of 166-175 mph swept through Oklahoma and Missouri Saturday, killing 21 people. Hardest hit were the towns of Picher, OK, where six died, and Seneca, MO, where ten died. The violent tornado was up to a mile wide. It's been an unusually early and violent tornado season in the U.S. There have been 905 tornadoes so far this year, a total usually not seen until late July (Figure 1). Saturday's deaths bring the 2008 U.S. tornado death toll up to 96--the most tornado fatalities since 1998, when 130 people died. With at least another month left in peak tornado season, 2008 ranks as the 12th deadliest year in the 59-year record. The Picher tornado was the sixth violent EF-4 tornado of the year.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"How the world's oceans are running out of fish"

By Alex Renton from the Guardian

"The future of our seas has never been more precarious. Ninety years of industrial-scale overfishing has brought us to the brink of an ecological catastrophe and deprived millions of their livelihoods. As scientific guidelines are ignored and catches become ever bigger, Alex Renton tells why the international community has failed to act"

It is early morning in Barcelona's La Boqueria market and the fish stallholders are setting out their wares. Mounds of pink and grey glisten down the dim alleys - shoppers and tourists peering at the fins and tentacles. It is not like any fish shop in Britain - some stalls sell five different species of squid and cuttlefish, half a dozen types of shrimp and prawn, 10 different cuts of salt cod. It is a fish eater's haven in the heart of a city that eats and sells more fish than anywhere else in Europe.

Anyone who cares about where their fish come from - and this should mean anyone who wants to go on eating them - should take two tools when they visit the fishmonger. One is the handy guidance provided by the Marine Conservation Society, Fish to Avoid and Fish to Eat (the latter is still the longer); the other is a ruler. My ruler is the type handed out to commercial fishermen by the international advisory body, Incofish, and has pictures of key species with marks indicating when they can be considered mature (and, thus, OK to catch).

So I set about lining up my ruler against the La Boqueria fish, starting with the mackerel (should be 34cm), the plaice (39cm) and the redfish (45cm). All turn out to be mere babies. The mackerel is half the designated length. A glance around the stalls shows 10 or more species on the MCS's Avoid list, including hake, swordfish, monkfish, bluefin tuna and, of course, cod.

I don't spend much time doing this because the Catalan fishmongers don't like my ruler - or me. They don't want to talk about why they are selling tiny hake (one of Europe's most endangered species) and why not a single fish in the market has any 'sustainable' labelling.

One old lady asks me what I'm after. 'I want to know why the Spanish are eating so many undersized fish from populations that are running out,' I say. 'It's simple,' she says. 'We like fish and small fish taste better.'

Is anyone not aware that wild fish are in deep trouble? That three-quarters of commercially caught species are over-exploited or exploited to their maximum? Do they not know that industrial fishing is so inefficient that a third of the catch, some 32 million tonnes a year, is thrown away? For every ocean prawn you eat, fish weighing 10-20 times as much have been thrown overboard. These figures all come from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which also claims that, of all the world's natural resources, fish are being depleted the fastest. With even the most abundant commercial species, we eat smaller and smaller fish every year - we eat the babies before they can breed.

Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at York University, predicts that by 2050 we will only be able to meet the fish protein needs of half the world population: all that will be left for the unlucky half may be, as he puts it, 'jellyfish and slime'. Ninety years of industrial-scale exploitation of fish has, he and most scientists agree, led to 'ecological meltdown'. Whole biological food chains have been destroyed...

Strangely one of the first international attempts to conserve fish stocks, especially for the more easily exploited nations, also became part of the disaster. The United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, signed in 1979, extended national rights over fisheries to 200 miles from a country's coasts. But it included a provision that, if fish stocks in that zone were surplus to national needs, the country could sell its rights to outsiders. That convention allowed cash-strapped and sometimes corrupt countries in west Africa to raise funds by letting the industrial trawler fleets in. Since 1979 the EU has negotiated deals on fishing rights with a string of impoverished African countries. Despite the EU's own studies indicating massive and quite possibly irreversible damage to fish stocks off west Africa, these deals continue to be struck.

In 2002, the year an EU report revealed that the Senegalese fish biomass had declined 75 per cent in 15 years, Brussels bought rights for four years' fishing of tuna and bottom-dwelling fish on the Senegal coasts, for just $4m a year. In 2006, access for 43 giant EU factory fishing vessels to Mauritania's long coastline was bought for £24.3m a year. It's estimated that these deals have put 400,000 west African fishermen out of work; some of them now take to the sea only as ferrymen for desperate would-be migrants to the Canary Islands and Europe. And among the millions of Africans who depend on fish as their main source of protein, consumption has declined from 9kg per year to 7kg.

North Atlantic fish stocks have been in decline for well over a century. Callum Roberts points out in his recent book The Unnatural History of the Sea that it was obvious from the 1880s that fish stocks were in decline. Fish catch records from the 1920s onwards show that, despite the enormous improvements in boat design and trawling technology and better refrigeration, catches of the great Atlantic species, such as haddock, cod, hake and turbot, remained constant or slowly declined. As they have ever since.

Unlike global warming, the science of fish stock collapse is old and its practitioners have been pretty much in agreement since the 1950s...

Europe is by far the worst criminal among the developed nations. It is in the Far East, in Japan and Korea, that most fish are eaten, per head - the Japanese eat 66kg each a year, as opposed to Spain's 44kg and Britain's 20kg. But the Chinese (at 25kg) alone eat around a third of the world's fish, and, as with meat, the fish proportion of their diet is soaring as the population gets more wealthy. (The fact that much Asian fish is farmed is little consolation - their feed may often be derived from wild fish.)...

Roberts has one solution: marine reserves. Protecting up to 40 per cent of the world's oceans in permanent refuges would enable the recovery of fish stocks and help replenish surrounding fisheries. 'The cost, according to a 2004 survey, would be between £7bn and £8.2bn a year, after set-up. But put that against the £17.6bn a year we currently spend on harmful subsidies that encourage overfishing.'...

The Newfoundland cod fishery, for 500 years the world's greatest, was exhausted and closed in 1992, and there's still no evidence of any return of the fish. Once stocks dip below a certain critical level, the scientists believe, they can never recover because the entire eco-system has changed. The question is whether, after 50 years of vacillation and denial, there's any prospect of the politicians acting decisively now. 'It is awful and we are on the road to disaster,' says Tudela. 'But the collapse - in some, not all the situations - is still reversible. And it's worth trying.'

Shark's fin consumption doubled in Singapore

Shark's fin consumption more than doubled in Singapore last year from 2006, with demand driven by an economic boom and an increase in wedding celebrations, a report said Saturday.

Singapore consumed more than 470 tonnes in 2007, up from 182 tonnes the previous year and reversing a four-year decline, the Straits Times reported.

Strong economic growth in 2007 and a rise in the number of people getting married drove demand despite a 30-percent rise in shark's fin soup prices and appeals by environmental groups to ease consumption, it said.

Shark's fin soup is popular at Chinese wedding banquets, where it is seen as a status symbol.

"Most of the couple's parents consider this dish a premium and without it, they would lose face," Ruth Soh, communications director at the Mandarin Oriental, told the newspaper...

Michael Aw, a marine conservationist, said more than 30 sharks have to be killed to feed a wedding banquet with 300 guests, according to the report.

"We must continue to educate the younger generation and make them see that sharks are guardians of the sea that ensure a balance in the food chain," Aw said...

Weather Photo Posted on the Wunder Blog

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"More killer germs resisting world's antibiotics"

From McClatchy Newspapers

The threat of death-defying bacteria, stubborn organisms that refuse to be conquered by antibiotic medicines, is growing more alarming.

Infectious microbes that used to be able to resist only one drug, such as penicillin or methicillin, now resist multiple drugs. Some can survive virtually every weapon in doctors' medicine cabinets.

``This is very worrisome,'' said Stuart Levy, a microbiologist at Tufts University in Boston. ``In many cases, there might be only one or no drugs to treat (an infection). We are not keeping up with the bacteria.''

Two troubling recent developments:

Some bacteria have acquired the ability to ``eat'' the very antibiotic medicines that are supposed to eat them.
``Almost all the drugs that we consider as our mainline defense against bacterial infections are at risk from bacteria that not only resist the drugs but eat them for breakfast,'' George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, wrote in the April 4 issue of the journal Science.

A lethal new form of tuberculosis, known as XDR-TB, that's virtually impossible to cure has exploded in Africa, Asia and Russia. There are also a small number of cases in the United States.
These XDR-TB bacteria possess ``such extensive drug resistance as to be nearly untreatable with currently available drugs,'' Sarita Shah, a epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, reported in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.

Wildlife Suffering Due to Farmer's E-coli responses

I thought it sounded like the e-coli problem (ie spinach) was probably from factory farmed animals and bad waste practices. At any rate - there has to be a better solution than what they are doing... (From the Wall Street Jounal)

Farmers around California's "Salad Bowl" have mounted an assault against wildlife to appease buyers who worry about E. coli in their leafy greens.

About one-third of the farmers surveyed in the region have cleared wide swaths of land surrounding their fields, leaving felled trees scattered along the Salinas River. Most used poisons, traps or fences to keep out frogs, squirrels and other wildlife last year, according to a Monterey County Resource Conservation District survey. Some farmers let ponds and irrigation reservoirs -- potentially prime wildlife habitat -- go dry.

But the effort to eradicate the threat of E. coli rests on squishy science. Some fresh-produce processors and food retailers impose tough restrictions on the farmers they buy from. They have banned many animals, including tadpoles, that haven't shown a high risk of carrying the dangerous E. coli strain that caused the 2006 outbreak, killed three people and sickened 200 more. While that crisis was linked to fresh spinach grown in the Salinas Valley, the Food and Drug Administration hasn't been able to nail down the cause. It cited feral pigs and cattle grazing nearby as suspects. Throughout the region, farmers are struggling with problems their predecessors faced going back to the origins of agriculture: How to keep hungry herbivores out of their fields. Now the worry isn't so much what they eat, but what they leave behind...

Caught in the middle is wildlife whose complicity in the transmission of E. coli is unconfirmed. And farmers. While fresh-produce farmers are forced to absorb skyrocketing food-safety costs, not all of the measures are justified by science. "Nobody wants unsafe food, but at what cost? As a society, I don't think we answered that," says Rob Atwill, who heads the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of California at Davis. He and other scientists are studying the risk of E. coli contamination from wildlife...

With no single standard among processors and retailers, many farmers struggle to meet the toughest ones. One set of rules -- 17 pages -- was written by the Food Safety Leadership Council, a group of food-service companies including McDonald's Corp., Walt Disney Co.'s Walt Disney World Resort and Darden Restaurants Inc., whose restaurant chains include Red Lobster. It states farmers must "reduce the presence of reptiles, insects, birds, rodents or other potential sources of contamination...through evaluation of adjacent land and elimination of possible vector attractants (rotting fruit, cull piles, etc)."...

Some smaller farmers opt out. Dale Coke, owner of a 250-acre farm in San Juan Bautista, said he lost $50,000 to $60,000 in sales to Canadian buyers because he isn't participating in a California initiative that set standards for leafy-green growers. Had he signed up, he says, he would have to apply the rules to all of his crops, even though 70% aren't leafy greens. Although Mr. Coke spends more than $10,000 a year on food safety, he sells to wholesalers who don't require him to follow the "draconian measures" imposed by processors, he says. Consumers need to communicate that "they will not tolerate environmental destruction for the production of their leafy greens," says Jo Ann Baumgartner, director of the Wild Farm Alliance. "These current practices in the Salinas Valley are bad for human health and bad for wildlife."

Chilean Volcano Erupts After 9,000 Quiet Years

It could now erupt for weeks or months. Chaiten, the town closest to the volcano has been evacuated. Places to the east, such as Futaleufu and areas in Argentina - in the path of the plume have also had to evacuate. There is 6" of ash covering some areas.

Chile sits on the Nazca tectonic plates and is one of the most active volcanic areas. 20 of it's 100 volcanoes are active at any given time.
This is from Times online about "Volcanic Lightning":

The photo of lightning bursting out during a volcanic eruption in Chile, above, was a truly awesome sight. Although the picture seemed to show a thunderstorm colliding with the cloud of volcanic ash, it actually showed a marvellous phenomenon known as volcanic lightning.

Usually, lightning is sparked off by countless tiny pieces of ice inside a turbulent thundercloud banging into one another. Each collision generates static electricity, rather like a balloon rubbed on a jumper.

Eventually, the entire cloud turns into a colossal battery and the electricity is discharged as a gigantic spark – lightning.

A recent theory pictures the volcanic cloud as a “dirty thunderstorm”.

As fragments of rock and ash particles shoot upwards in the towering plume, they hit each other and the friction generates static charges that creates lightning bolts. And as the volcanic cloud cools off high up in the atmosphere, water from the eruption turns to ice and adds extra punch to the electrical storm.

Smaller lightning bolts also have been discovered bursting out from the mouth of a volcano’s crater as the gases and ash explode, but what generates this lightning is not known.

Monday, May 05, 2008

N. California surging ahead on solar power

NELVIN C. CEPEDA / Union-Tribune

The California Solar Initiative provides rebates to homeowners, businesses and nonprofit organizations that install rooftop solar panels, also known as photovoltaic systems.

Now a progress report reveals that fogbound homeowners in San Francisco and Northern California are rushing to “Go solar” at a much higher rate than residents in sunny San Diego and the rest of Southern California.

The difference is practically like night and day.

Solar proponents offer a variety of explanations for the difference, but most agree that utility and government support have been stronger for installing rooftop solar systems in Northern California.

But that could change in San Diego.

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. officials and clean-energy advocates say new optional electricity rates that took effect last week are expected to help energize local participation in the statewide solar program.

The California Solar Initiative was intended to spread the benefits of clean energy and fundamentally alter the industry's economies of scale by spending $3.4 billion over 10 years to subsidize solar installations. The program provides rebates to homeowners, businesses and nonprofit organizations that install rooftop solar panels, also known as photovoltaic systems.

Yet most of the residential applications for solar rebates during the first 15 months came from Pacific Gas & Electric's service area, according to the progress report prepared by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Of the 8,786 applications that homeowners filed for solar installations on existing homes, 6,247 came from PG&E's service area. In contrast, 697 residential applications came from San Diego Gas & Electric territory over the same period.

When adjusted for SDG&E's smaller customer base, the application rate among PG&E homeowners is almost 2.5 times the pace in San Diego.

“PG&E really does stand out in that they really do have a lot more residential applications,” said Molly Tirpak Sterkel, who supervises the solar initiative for the commission's energy division. “But I would say just because Northern California is surging forward does not mean that San Diego is lagging behind.”...

Russian scientist discovers gassy permafrost

CHERSKY, Russia — Sergei Zimov waded through knee-deep snow to reach a frozen lake where so much methane belches out of the melting permafrost that it spews out from the ice like small geysers.

In the frigid twilight, the Russian scientist struck a match to make a jet of the greenhouse gas visible. The sudden plume of fire threw him backward. Zimov stood up, brushed the snow off his parka and beamed.

"Sometimes a big explosion happens, because the gas comes out like a bomb," Zimov said. "There are a million lakes like this in northern Siberia."

In a country where many scientists scoff at the existence of global warming, Zimov has been waging a lonely campaign to warn the world about Russia's melting permafrost and its nexus with climate change. His laboratory is the vast expanse of tundra and larch forest along the East Siberian Sea, an icy corner of the world that Zimov has scrutinized almost entirely on his own for 28 years...

While his research has gone largely ignored by Russia's scientific community, it's turning heads in the West.

American science journals have published his findings, and grants from the National Science Foundation and the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation-Russia) fund much of his work.

Among Zimov's findings: The release of greenhouse gases — particularly methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide — from thawing permafrost underneath Siberian lakes could accelerate global warming and represents an especially worrisome trend in the battle to slow climate change.

"He clearly knows what he's doing," said Thomas Grenfell, a University of Washington professor who along with colleague Stephen Warren recently carried out their own climate fieldwork at Zimov's station. "Everyone is worried about global warming, and this is one of the places where you would notice things most strongly."

Few places in the world can provide stark evidence of global warming like the peat bogs, lakes and woodlands that stretch eight time zones along Russia's north Siberian coastline.

Melting permafrost awakens dormant microbes that devour thousands of tons of organic carbon, creating methane as a byproduct if no oxygen is present.

Subsoil layers of ice also are melting, transforming the landscape into a series of bowls and domes and roads into mogul runs...

In Siberia, the permafrost entombs billions of tons of organic matter from the Ice Age, when northern Russia's steppe teemed with mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, musk oxen and other wildlife.

Dormant for millennia, the permafrost is being thawed by global warming, triggering the microbial consumption that results in the release of greenhouse gases.

The process feeds on itself. As the climate warms, permafrost on the banks of Siberian lakes collapses into the water, supplying bacteria with more organic material to consume and further raising the level of methane released into the air...

Death toll 100,00(0?) in Myanmar from Cyclone

(AP) Almost 100,00(0? the # keeps going up) people were killed and nearly 3,000 others are unaccounted for after a devastating cyclone in Myanmar, a state radio station said Monday.

Tropical Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian country, also known as Burma, early Saturday with winds of up to 120 mph. The cyclone blew roofs off hospitals and schools and cut electricity in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon.

The radio station broadcasting from the country's capital, Naypyitaw, said that 2,879 more people are unaccounted for in a single town, Bogalay, in the country's low-lying Irrawaddy River delta area where the storm wreaked the most havoc.

The situation in the countryside remained unclear because of poor communications and roads left impassable by the storm.

"It's clear that we're dealing with a very serious situation. The full extent of the impact and needs will require an extensive on-the-ground assessment," said Richard Horsey, a spokesman in Bangkok, Thailand for United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"What is clear at this point is that there are several hundred thousands of people in dire need of shelter and clean drinking water," Horsey said....

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bill Gates uses 10,000 times the energy of the average American, MIT estimate

Half of the average American's "footprint" is from our share of the military and government services...

_________________Bill Gate's house encompasses more than 66,000 square feet which is equal to 1.5 acres.

Cambridge (MA) – Time to start the finger-pointing again. A class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has begun to track the carbon footprint of different lifestyle in different nations. And the picture painted for the U.S. isn’t pretty: Even the most power conscious people in this country use more than twice the energy of the average person around the world. If you are looking for people with the worst carbon footprint, look among the super-rich such as Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, MIT says.

It is common knowledge that energy use in the U.S. has been at obscene levels for decades and that nations around the world aren’t happy with the fact that less than 5% of the world’s population is consuming almost one quarter of the energy available worldwide. A new study published by the MIT sheds additional light on this scenario and claims that no matter who you are, you are estimated to contribute at least twice and as much as five times as much greenhouse gas to the atmosphere as those living in the rest of the world.

The MIT class said that it compared the carbon emissions of Americans in a variety of lifestyles ranging from the homeless to multimillionaires, from Buddhist monks to soccer moms and compared them to those of other nations. What is interesting is that the group found that your carbon footprint impact rises with your income. The class estimated Bill Gates' impact at 10,000 times the national average.

So, what about the average Americans and the ultra-energy conscious? There does not seem to be much hope that Americans can consider themselves as energy-conserving as people living in other countries anytime soon: “Regardless of income, there is a certain floor below which the individual carbon footprint of a person in the U.S. will not drop,” says Timothy Gutowski, professor of mechanical engineering, who taught the class that calculated the rates of carbon emissions.

This “floor” below which nobody in the U.S. can drop, no matter what their energy choices are, turned out to be 8.5 tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions, the class found. That was the usage calculated for a homeless person who ate in soup kitchens and slept in homeless shelters. If you look at a self-sustaining level, the person with the lowest energy usage was a Buddhist monk who spent six months of every year living in the forest and had total annual spending of $12,500. His carbon footprint was 10.5 tons. The average annual carbon dioxide emission per person was found to be 20 metric tons, compared to a world average of four tons.

The carbon footprint calculation was based on someone’s impact on the environment, including the array of government services that are available to everyone in the United States. These basic services-including police, roads, libraries, the court system and the military-were allocated equally to everyone in the country in this study. Services that are more specific, such as education or Medicare, were allocated only to those who actually make use of them. The energy impact for the rich was estimated from published sources, while all the others were based on direct interviews, MIT said.

What appears to have a substantial impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is the economical effect of saved energy and its “rebound effect”. “When you save energy, you save money,” Gutowski explains. “The question is: How are you going to spend that money?” For example, buying a hybrid car may save you gas money, but people are likely to spend that extra cash something that may have an even larger carbon footprint, such as a long plane trip.

The biggest factors in most people's lives were the well-known obvious energy users: housing, transportation and food. “The simple way you get people's carbon use down is to tax it,” Gutowski says. “That's a hard pill to swallow-politicians don't like to step up” to support such measures. Absent such national actions, he says, it is important to study “what role consumer choices can play” in lowering the nation's carbon emissions...

DDT levels in Antarctic penguins

For the past 30 years, DDT's derivatives have persisted in Antarctic penguins at a constant level, and researchers say glacial meltwater may be the source.

The use of DDT peaked several decades ago at more than 36,000 metric tons per year (t/yr). Today, less than 1000 t of the organochlorine pesticide—banned in most countries since the 1980s—is applied annually for mosquito control and farming, mainly in the Southern Hemisphere. Despite this drop, Adélie penguins in the Antarctic continue to have the same levels of total DDT in their bodies as they did 30 years ago. New research published in ES&T (DOI: 10.1021/es702919n) identifies Antarctic meltwater as the continued source of total DDT, and possibly other pollutants, in the southern continent's ecosystems.

DDT and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) follow atmospheric paths to the Antarctic and the Arctic and eventually are deposited there in snow and ice. Animals at both poles sequester the derivatives p,p′-DDT and p,p′-DDE in their fat. But while Arctic-dwelling creatures such as birds, whales, and seals have shown a dramatic drop in total DDT levels during the past decade, levels in Adélie penguins in the Antarctic have remained steady, according to the new results.

Adélie penguins, which are protected under international conservation rules, live across the continent and overwinter there. The birds' stationary behavior makes them apt subjects for studying Antarctic sources of DDT and possibly other POPs; migratory birds such as skuas, which winter in South America or closer to the equator, could pick up these chemicals on their travels.

Focusing on DDT, Heidi Geisz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and her colleagues sampled dead Adélie penguins and abandoned eggs from two different populations. They measured total DDT in the breastplate fat sac of each bird as well as in the addled or frozen eggs. The researchers compared their findings with past measurements reported in the literature as far back as 1964. They found that the ratio of p,p′-DDT to p,p′-DDE declined over time; this shift indicates that the birds are exposed to the remnants of older DDT deposition, not new sources.

To pinpoint where the older DDT might be coming from, the researchers used measurements of glacial outwash taken in the past few years. (Directly measuring ice and snow remains technically difficult.) From those data, they estimated that melted snow and ice could be providing about 1–4 kilograms per year of DDT to offshore Antarctic ecosystems.

The short food chain in the Antarctic, from krill to penguins, for example, means that glacial meltwater is an almost direct delivery system of DDT to birds and other large animals, says Geisz. The measured DDT burdens are too low to be harmful to the animals, but continued exposure to mixtures of persistent pollutants at low levels could eventually prove to be problematic, she adds. "We can never really know where these chemicals are hiding," she says. "They show up in places that have no point source."...

Scientists listed by Hudson Instistute as "Doubters"

... of Global Warming...

From: desmogblog.coms

DeSmogBlog has received 45+ scientists protesting their inclusion on the doubter/deniers list of the Heartland_Institute.

Dozens of scientists are demanding that their names be removed from a widely distributed Heartland Institute article entitled 500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares.

The article, by Hudson Institute director and Heartland "Senior Fellow" Dennis T. Avery (inset), purports to list scientists whose work contradicts the overwhelming scientific agreement that human-induced climate change is endangering the world as we know it.

DeSmogBlog manager Kevin Grandia emailed 122 of the scientists yesterday afternoon, calling their attention to the list. So far - in less than 24 hours - three dozen of those scientists had responded in outrage, denying that their research supports Avery's conclusions and demanding that their names be removed.

This is a brief taste of some of the responses that have been copied to the DeSmogBlog so far:

"I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite."
Dr. David Sugden. Professor of Geography, University of Edinburgh

"I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there."
Dr. Gregory Cutter, Professor, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University

"I don't believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article."
Dr. Robert Whittaker, Professor of Biogeography, University of Oxford

"Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!"
Dr. Svante Bjorck, Geo Biosphere Science Centre, Lund University