Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Horn of Africa sees 'worst drought in 60 years'"

From the BBC:

More than 10 million people are thought to be affected across the region.

The UN now classifies large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya as a crisis or an emergency.

Charity Save the Children says drought and war in Somalia has led to unprecedented numbers fleeing across the border into Kenya, with about 1,300 people arriving every day.

Three camps at Dadaab, just inside Kenya, are home to well over 350,000 people, but they were built to hold just 90,000 and are severely overcrowded.

A prolonged failure of rains, which began in late 2010, is now taking its toll.

The UN's Office for the Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) warns that the situation is continuing to deteriorate, and the number of people in need will continue to increase.

The numbers now affected are huge, Ohca says: 3.2m in Ethiopia, 3.2m in Kenya, 2.6m in Somalia and more than 100,000 in Djibouti.

Every month during 2011, about 15,000 Somalis have fled their country, arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia, according to Ocha.

While conflict has been a fact of life for them for years, it is the drought that has brought them to breaking point. Many have walked for days, are exhausted, in poor health, desperate for food and water.

Nearly one third of all children in the Juba region of Somalia are acutely malnourished, while in parts of Ethiopia the figure is even higher, the UN research says. Parts of Uganda are also suffering from the drought.

"US climate skeptic Soon funded by oil, coal firms"

* Funding came from Koch Foundation, Southern, Exxon, API
* Private science funding gets close look amid budget cuts
* Soon says never motivated by financial reward

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) - Willie Soon, a U.S. climate change skeptic who has also discounted the health risks of mercury emissions from coal, has received more than $1 million in funding in recent years from large energy companies and an oil industry group, according to Greenpeace.

Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has also gotten funding from scientific sources including NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But starting early in the last decade, Soon began receiving more funding from the energy companies, Greenpeace reported.

Last year, the foundation of Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of privately held Koch Industries, gave Soon $65,000 to study how variations in the Sun are related to climate change.

Koch is co-owned by David Koch, founder of Americans for Prosperity, a group aligned with the Tea Party movement, which opposes new air pollution regulations.

Beginning in 2002, Soon's funding mostly came from oil companies, including Southern Co (SO.N: Quote), one of the largest coal burners in the United States, and the American Petroleum Institute, according to documents uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act request by Greenpeace and seen by Reuters.

"A campaign of climate change denial has been waged for over twenty years by Big Oil and Big Coal," said Kert Davies, a research director at Greenpeace US.

"Scientists like Dr. Soon who take fossil fuel money and pretend to be independent scientists are pawns."

Soon was criticized by many climate scientists for a 2003 paper he co-wrote, concluding that 20th century warming was not unusual compared to that of centuries past. About 5 percent of the study's funding, or $53,000, came from the API, they said.

Soon, who says global warming is mostly caused by changes in the Sun, not emissions from burning oil, gas and coal, has written some peer-reviewed studies on global climate change.

More recently, he has written non-peer reviewed papers. In 2007 he co-wrote a paper that concluded polar bears are not threatened by human-caused climate change, which was also funded partially by grants from the oil industry.

While corporate funding of science is not new, the focus on the ethics of such aid is growing as state and federal science grants are reduced amid budget cuts.
Soon co-wrote a May 25 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called "The Myth of Killer Mercury." In the piece, Soon was identified as a natural scientist from Harvard, but the newspaper did not disclose that he receives most of his funding from the energy industry. The Journal did not return a request for comment.

Soon wrote that the EPA, which is under court order to finalize rules on the pollution from power plants, wants to discipline the energy industry. "To build its case against mercury, the EPA systematically ignored evidence and clinical studies that contradict its regulatory agenda, which is to punish hydrocarbon use," the piece said.

...Soon agreed he had received funding from all of the groups and companies, but denied any group would have influenced his studies....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Species Migrate Across Newly Ice-free Northwest Passage"

From the Washington Post:

AMSTERDAM — (AP) When a 43-foot (13-meter) gray whale was spotted off the Israeli town of Herzliya last year, scientists came to a startling conclusion: it must have wandered across the normally icebound route above Canada, where warm weather had briefly opened a clear channel three years earlier.

On a microscopic level, scientists also have found plankton in the North Atlantic where it had not existed for at least 800,000 years.

The whale’s odyssey and the surprising appearance of the plankton indicates a migration of species through the Northwest Passage, a worrying sign of how global warming is affecting animals and plants in the oceans as well as on land.

“The implications are enormous. It’s a threshold that has been crossed,” said Philip C. Reid, of the Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in Plymouth, England.

“It’s an indication of the speed of change that is taking place in our world in the present day because of climate change,” he said in a telephone interview Friday.

Reid said the last time the world witnessed such a major incursion from the Pacific was 2 million years ago, which had “a huge impact on the North Atlantic,” driving some species to extinction as the newcomers dominated the competition for food.

Reid’s study of plankton and the research on the whale, co-authored by Aviad Scheinin of the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center, are among nearly 300 scientific papers written over the last 13 years that are being synthesized and published this year by Project Clamer, a collaboration of 17 institutes on climate change and the oceans.

Changes in the oceans’ chemistry and temperature could have implications for fisheries, as species migrate northward to cooler waters, said Katja Philippart, of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research who is coordinating the project funded by the European Union.

“We try to put the information on the table for people who have to make decisions. We don’t say whether it’s bad or good. We say there is a high potential for change,” she said.

The Northwest Passage, the route through the frigid archipelago from Alaska across northern Canada, has been ice-free from one end to the other only twice in recorded history, in 1998 and 2007. But the ice pack is retreating farther and more frequently during the summers.

Plankton that had previously been found only in Atlantic sea bed cores from 800,000 years ago appeared in the Labrador Sea in 1999 — and then in massive numbers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence two years later. Now it has established itself as far south as the New York coast, Reid said.

The highly endangered gray whale sighted off the Israeli coast in May 2010 belonged to a species that was hunted to extinction in the Atlantic by the mid-1700s. The same animal — identified by unique markings on its fluke, or tail fin — appeared off the Spanish coast 22 days later, and has not been reported seen since.

Though it was difficult to draw conclusions from one whale, the researchers said its presence in the Mediterranean “coincides with a shrinking of Arctic Sea ice due to climate change and suggests that climate change may allow gray whales to re-colonize the North Atlantic.”

That may be good for the whales, but other aspects of the ice melt could be harmful to the oceans’ biosystems, the scientists warn...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Oceans on brink of catastrophe"

"State of seas 'much worse than we thought', says global panel of scientists"

The world's oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests today. The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted, the report says, because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.

The coming together of these factors is now threatening the marine environment with a catastrophe "unprecedented in human history", according to the report, from a panel of leading marine scientists brought together in Oxford earlier this year by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The stark suggestion made by the panel is that the potential extinction of species, from large fish at one end of the scale to tiny corals at the other, is directly comparable to the five great mass extinctions in the geological record, during each of which much of the world's life died out. They range from the Ordovician-Silurian "event" of 450 million years ago, to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction of 65 million years ago, which is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. The worst of them, the event at the end of the Permian period, 251 million years ago, is thought to have eliminated 70 per cent of species on land and 96 per cent of all species in the sea.

The panel of 27 scientists, who considered the latest research from all areas of marine science, concluded that a "combination of stressors is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth's history". They also concluded:

* The speed and rate of degeneration of the oceans is far faster than anyone has predicted;

* Many of the negative impacts identified are greater than the worst predictions;

* The first steps to globally significant extinction may have already begun.

"The findings are shocking," said Dr Alex Rogers, professor of conservation biology at Oxford University and IPSO's scientific director. "As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

"This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, in the lifetime of our children and generations beyond that." Reviewing recent research, the panel of experts "found firm evidence" that the effects of climate change, coupled with other human-induced impacts such as overfishing and nutrient run-off from farming, have already caused a dramatic decline in ocean health.

Not only are there severe declines in many fish species, to the point of commercial extinction in some cases, and an "unparalleled" rate of regional extinction of some habitat types, such as mangrove and seagrass meadows, but some whole marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, may be gone within a generation.

The report says: "Increasing hypoxia [low oxygen levels] and anoxia [absence of oxygen, known as ocean dead zones], combined with warming of the ocean and acidification, are the three factors which have been present in every mass extinction event in Earth's history.

"There is strong scientific evidence that these three factors are combining in the ocean again, exacerbated by multiple severe stressors. The scientific panel concluded that a new extinction event was inevitable if the current trajectory of damage continues."

The panel pointed to a number of indicators showing how serious the situation is. It said, for example, that a single mass coral bleaching event in 1998 killed 16 per cent of all the world's coral reefs, and pointed out that overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks and populations of "bycatch" (unintentionally caught) species by more than 90 per cent.

It disclosed that new scientific research suggests that pollutants, including flame-retardant chemicals and synthetic musks found in detergents, are being traced in the polar seas, and that these chemicals can be absorbed by tiny plastic particles in the ocean which are in turn ingested by marine creatures such as bottom-feeding fish.

Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms – which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

The experts agreed that when these and other threats are added together, the ocean and the ecosystems within it are unable to recover, being constantly bombarded with multiple attacks....

The report's conclusions will be presented at the UN in New York this week, when delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

The five great extinctions

The Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction (the End Cretaceous or K-T extinction) 65.5 Mya (million years ago)

Plankton, which lies at the bottom of the ocean food chain took a hard hit in an event that also saw the demise of the last of the non-avian dinosaurs. The giant mosasaurs and plesiosaurs also vacated the seas. An asteroid or volcano eruptions are thought to be to blame.

The Triassic–Jurassic extinction (End Triassic) – 205 Mya

Having a profound affect on sea and land, this period saw 20 per cent of all marine families disappear. In total, half the species known to be living on Earth at that time went extinct. Gradual climate change, fluctuating sea-levels and volcanic eruptions are among the reasons cited for the disappearing species.

The Permian–Triassic extinction (End Permian) 251 Mya

A period known as the "great dying" was the most severe of the earth's extinction events, when 96 per cent of marine species were lost, as well as almost three-quarters of terrestrial species. The planet took a long time to recover from what has also been called "the mother of all mass extinctions".

The late Devonian extinction 360–375 Mya

Three-quarters of all species on Earth died out in a period that may have spanned several million years. The shallow seas were the worst affected and reefs would not recover for another 100 million years. Changes in sea level and climate change were among the suspected causes.

The Ordovician–Silurian extinction (End Ordovician or O-S) – 440–450 Mya

The third largest extinction in Earth's history had two peak dying times. During the Ordovician, most life was in the sea, so it was sea creatures such as trilobites, brachiopods and graptolites that were drastically reduced. In all, some 85 per cent of sea species were wiped out.

Waves of destruction

Case Study One in the panel's report assesses the "deadly trio" of factors – global warming, ocean acidification and anoxia (absence of oxygen). Most if not all of the five global mass extinctions in prehistory carry the fingerprints of these "carbon perturbations", the report says, and the "deadly trio" are present in the ocean today.

Case Study Two looks at coral reefs, and the fact that these "rainforests of the sea" (so-called for their species richness) are now facing multiple threats. The panel concluded that these threats acting together (pollution, acidification, warming, overfishing) will have a greater impact than if they were occurring on their own, and so estimates of how coral reefs will respond to global warming will have to be revised.

Case Study Three examines pollution, which is an old problem, but may be presenting new threats, as a wide range of novel chemicals is now being found in marine ecosystems, from pharmaceuticals to flame retardants, and some are known to be endocrine disrupters or can damage immune systems. Marine litter, especially, plastics, is a huge concern.

Case Study Four looks at over-fishing: it focuses on the Chinese bahaba, a giant fish which was first described by scientists only in the 1930s, but is now critically endangered: it has gone from discovery to near-disappearance in less than 70 years. A recent study showed that 63 per cent of the assessed fish stocks worldwide are over-exploited or depleted.

The Mini-Ice-Age and Global Warming

There have been articles recently about the lack of sunspot activity and the possible link to a mini-ice age. It has been my idea from what I have read that we probably would be in the midst of an ice age if it were not for rise in CO2 due to industry and cars, etc.

"The reality is that, while the sun may well be about to give us a shove in the direction of cool temperatures, the evidence suggests it won't be anything like enough to drown out the warming effects of our greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

Scientists are in no doubt that the sun has been acting oddly in recent years. Sunspot numbers ebb and flow in cycles lasting around 11 years but over the past three years, observable sunspots have been mostly missing.

These spots have been used by scientists to indicate the sun's magnetic activity is diminishing, and that the sun may even be shrinking. Since 2007, visible sunspot activity has stalled, leading researchers to suggest that the next solar maximum (due in 2013) could be a long while coming. Instead, the sun could go into a prolonged lull lasting several decades.

This has happened before, the most famous example is the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715 when a period of solar inactivity coincided with a "Little Ice Age" -- rivers that were normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes, according to NASA.

There is plenty of evidence that such "grand minima" cool the Earth and that the sun's sunspot cycle is closely tied to these phenomena...He cites research conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany that modelled what would happen to temperatures if a grand minimum started now and continued until 2100. They found that it would lower temperatures by 0.3 °C at most.

Now, when you take into account current greenhouse gas emissions, which are set to raise global temperatures by 2-4°C by 2100, even the most optimistic scenario would see a rise of 2 °C reduced to 1.7 °C. Not an ice age at all, in other words.

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research has an article Arctic Warming Overtakes 2,000 Years of Natural Cooling with this graph:
New research shows that the Arctic reversed a long-term cooling trend and began warming rapidly in recent decades. The blue line shows estimates of Arctic temperatures over the last 2,000 years, based on proxy records from lake sediments, ice cores and tree rings. The green line shows the long-term cooling trend. The red line shows the recent warming based on actual observations. A 2000-year transient climate simulation with NCAR?s Community Climate System Model shows the same overall temperature decrease as does the proxy temperature reconstruction, which gives scientists confidence that their estimates are accurate....

The new study is the first to quantify a pervasive cooling across the Arctic on a decade-by-decade basis that is related to an approximately 21,000-year cyclical wobble in Earth's tilt relative to the Sun. Over the last 7,000 years, the timing of Earth's closest pass by the Sun has shifted from September to January. This has gradually reduced the intensity of sunlight reaching the Arctic in summertime, when Earth is farther from the Sun.

The research team's temperature analysis shows that summer temperatures in the Arctic, in step with the reduced energy from the Sun, cooled at an average rate of about 0.2 degrees Celsius (about .36 degrees Fahrenheit) per thousand years. The temperatures eventually bottomed out during the "Little Ice Age," a period of widespread cooling that lasted roughly from the 16th to the mid-19th centuries.

Even though the orbital cycle that produced the cooling continued, it was overwhelmed in the 20th century by human-induced warming. The result was summer temperatures in the Arctic by the year 2000 that were about 1.4 degrees C (2.5 degrees F) higher than would have been expected from the continued cyclical cooling alone.

"If it hadn't been for the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases, summer temperatures in the Arctic should have cooled gradually over the last century," says Bette Otto-Bliesner, an NCAR scientist who participated in the study.

If the amount of global warming people are causing was small - a person could argue that the greenhouse effect is being beneficial. But it is not minimal, the CO2 is also causing acidification of the oceans, as well as droughts, and more powerful storms and other problems. At the rate the world is warming, along with related problems, denial about problem solving at this point is quite lame, and in my opinion - obnoxious.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"China evacuates 500,000 as flooding breaks worst drought in 50 years"

From the Guardian.UK:

China has evacuated more than 500,000 people from deadly floods that are devastating areas in the south of the country following the worst drought in 50 years.

At least 105 people have been swept to their deaths or killed in landslides and another 65 are missing after rivers burst their banks. The authorities have issued the highest level of alarm about dykes and dams under dangerous pressure.

Television channels that were only recently broadcasting images of dried-up lake beds are now carrying footage of flooded homes and boats plying their way through inundated streets. China Daily said 550,000 people have been forced to leave their homes.

The dramatic shift is in line with weather trends identified by the Beijing Climate Centre, which says rain is coming in shorter, fiercer bursts, interspersed by protracted periods of drought.

The worst affected province is Zhejiang, where some stretches of the Qiantang river have risen to their highest level since 1955, according to the Flood Control and Drought Relief Office.

In the Zhuji district, which has had 40.5cm of rain since the start of the month, the Puyang river inundated 88 villages and 13,000 hectares of crops.

In neighbouring Jiangxi province, troops have helped 122,400 residents evacuate from vulnerable lowlands, according to the China News Service. Roads have been closed and bridges have collapsed in the floods, which have also affected Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces.

Monitoring stations on 40 rivers have recorded water levels above the safety limit, including Asia's biggest waterway – the Yangtze – which is simultaneously suffering a flood downstream and a drought closer to its source.

Monday, June 13, 2011

" Hot Particles From Japan to Seattle Virtually Undetectable when Inhaled or Swallowed"

Video of Arne Gunderson on

He talks about collecting samples from car air filters in Tokyo and other places in Japan. And the "metallic" taste people get in their mouth when hot particles are abundant (which people got following 3Mile Island, Chernobyl and are now getting in Seattle as well as Japan).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June Heat Wave in USA

From ThinkProgress:

HEAT WAVE SHATTERS 2,852 U.S. RECORDS, KILLS EIGHT | The fossil-fueled heat wave blazing across the United States east of the Rockies has killed at least eight people, knocked out power from Detroit to Connecticut, and set 1,859 high-temperature and 993 high-minimum-temperature records this week:


As you might expect, Toronto and other Canadian areas had record-breaking heat this past week.

Next week is supposed to be cooler.

Formaldehyde, Styrene - carcinogens


After David Koch Leaves NIH Board, NIH Hands Down Long-Delayed Classification Of Top Koch Pollutant As A Carcinogen

Large manufacturers and chemical producers have lobbied ferociously to stop the National Institutes of Health from classifying formaldehyde as a carcinogen. A wide body of research has linked the chemical to cancer, but industrial polluters have stymied regulators from action.

Last year, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported that billionaire David Koch, whose company Georgia Pacfic (a subsidiary of Koch Industries) is one of the country’s top producers of formaldehyde, was appointed to the NIH cancer board at a time when the NIH delayed action on the chemical. The news was met with protests from environmental groups. Faced with mounting pressure from Greenpeace and the scientific community, Koch left offered an early resignation from the board in October.

Yesterday, the NIH finally handed down a report officially classifying formaldehyde as a carcinogen:

Government scientists listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and said it is found in worrisome quantities in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. They also said that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer but is generally found in such low levels in consumer products that risks are low. Frequent and intense exposures in manufacturing plants are far more worrisome than the intermittent contact that most consumers have, but government scientists said that consumers should still avoid contact with formaldehyde and styrene along with six other chemicals that were added Friday to the government’s official Report on Carcinogens. Its release was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry, which disputed its findings.

An investigation by ProPublica found that Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) had used their power to add years of delay to the report. The piece linked Vitter to lobbying from Koch’s Georgia Pacific company, which has plywood plants in Louisiana.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"The Whole Fracking Enchilada"

By Biologist Sandra Steingraber - from

Fracking is linked to every part of the environmental crisis—from radiation exposure to habitat loss—and contravenes every principle of environmental thinking. It’s the tornado on the horizon that is poised to wreck ongoing efforts to create green economies, local agriculture, investments in renewable energy, and the ability to ride your bike along country roads. It’s worth setting down your fork, pen, cellular phone—whatever instrument you’re holding—and looking out the window.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS can be viewed as a tree with two trunks. One trunk represents what we are doing to the planet through atmospheric accumulation of heat-trapping gasses. Follow this trunk along and you find droughts, floods, acidification of oceans, dissolving coral reefs, and species extinctions.

The other trunk represents what we are doing to ourselves and other animals through the chemical adulteration of the planet with inherently toxic synthetic pollutants. Follow this trunk along and you find asthma, infertility, cancer, and male fish in the Potomac River whose testicles have eggs inside them.

At the base of both these trunks is an economic dependency on fossil fuels, primarily coal (plant fossils) and petroleum (animal fossils). When we light them on fire, we threaten the global ecosystem. When we use them as feedstocks for making stuff, we create substances—pesticides, solvents, plastics—that can tinker with our subcellular machinery and the various signaling pathways that make it run.

Natural gas is the vaporous form of petroleum. It’s the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of fossil fuels: when burned, natural gas generates only half the greenhouse gases of coal, but when it escapes into the atmosphere as unburned methane, it’s one of the most powerful greenhouse gases of them all—twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat and with the stamina to persist nine to fifteen years. You can also make petrochemicals from it. Natural gas is the starting point for anhydrous ammonia (synthetic fertilizer) and PVC plastic (those shower curtains).

Until a few years ago, much of the natural gas trapped underground was considered unrecoverable because it is scattered throughout vast sheets of shale, like a fizz of bubbles in a petrified spill of champagne. But that all changed with the rollout of a drilling technique (pioneered by Halliburton) that bores horizontally through the bedrock, blasts it with explosives, and forces into the cracks, under enormous pressure, millions of gallons of water laced with a proprietary mix of poisonous chemicals that further fracture the rock. Up the borehole flows the gas. In 2000, only 1 percent of natural gas was shale gas. Ten years later, almost 20 percent is.

International investors began viewing shale gas as a paradigm-shifting innovation. Energy companies are now looking at shale plays in Poland and Turkey. Fracking is under way in Canada. But nowhere has the technology been as rapidly deployed as in the United States, where a gas rush is under way. Gas extraction now goes on in thirty-two states, with half a million new gas wells drilled in the last ten years alone. We are literally shattering the bedrock of our nation and pumping it full of carcinogens in order to bring methane out of the earth.

And nowhere in the U.S. is fracking proceeding more manically than Appalachia, which is underlain by the formation called the Marcellus Shale, otherwise referred to by the Intelligent Investor Report as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” and by the Toronto Globe and Mail as a “prolific monster” with the potential to “rearrange the continent’s energy flow.”

In the sense of “abnormal to the point of inspiring horror,” monster is not an inappropriate term here. With every well drilled—and thirty-two thousand wells per year are planned—a couple million gallons of fresh water are transformed into toxic fracking fluid. Some of that fluid will remain underground. Some will come flying back out of the hole, bringing with it other monsters: benzene, brine, radioactivity, and heavy metals that, for the past 400 million years, had been safely locked up a mile below us, estranged from the surface world of living creatures. No one knows what to do with this lethal flowback—a million or more gallons of it for every wellhead. Too caustic for reuse as is, it sloshes around in open pits and sometimes is hauled away in fleets of trucks to be forced under pressure down a disposal well. And it is sometimes clandestinely dumped.

By 2012, 100 billion gallons per year of fresh water will be turned into toxic fracking fluid. The technology to transform it back to drinkable water does not exist. And, even if it did, where would we put all the noxious, radioactive substances we capture from it?

HERE, THEN, are the environmental precepts violated by hydrofracking: 1) Environmental degradation of the commons should be factored into the price structure of the product (full-cost accounting), whose true carbon footprint—inclusive of all those diesel truck trips, blowouts, and methane leaks—requires calculation (life-cycle analysis). 2) Benefit of the doubt goes to public health, not the things that threaten it, especially in situations where catastrophic harm—aquifer contamination with carcinogens—is unremediable (the Precautionary Principle). 3) There is no away.

This year I’ve attended scientific conferences and community forums on fracking. I’ve heard a PhD geologist worry about the thousands of unmapped, abandoned wells scattered across New York from long-ago drilling operations. (What if pressurized fracking fluid, to be entombed in the shale beneath our aquifers, found an old borehole? Could it come squirting back up to the surface? Could it rise as vapor through hairline cracks?) I’ve heard a hazardous materials specialist describe to a crowd of people living in fracked communities how many parts per million of benzene will raise risks for leukemia and sperm abnormalities linked to birth deformities. I’ve heard a woman who lives by a fracking operation in Pennsylvania—whose pond bubbles with methane and whose kids have nosebleeds at night—ask how she could keep her children safe. She was asking me. And I had no answer. Thirty-seven percent of the land in the township where I live with my own kids is already leased to the frackers. There is no away.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Apple's New Building Plan

I think this looks very cool - with the green space in the middle. The parking going underground and more trees planted on the ground - including an apricot orchard. It will be 4 stories and there will be room for 12,000 people to work.

more photos here

"Changing Jellyfish Season Could Alter Chesapeake Bay Food Chain"

From -

By Alyson Kenward

First came hundreds of reports of jellyfish washing ashore in central Florida over the Memorial Day weekend. Since then, people have been spotting blooms of the gelatinous drifters off the coasts Connecticut, Virginia, and South Carolina, all earlier in the summer than expected.

The early appearance of jellyfish along the East Coast is more than just a nuisance for beachgoers. According to scientists, it’s a sign that coastal waters are warmer than usual for time of year, and recent studies suggest the early jellyfish blooms could upset the marine ecosystem in coastal areas, like Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.

“The key thing with jellies is that they do everything so much faster than everything else, they grow and reproduce and are voracious predators, that other animals like fish can’t keep up,” says ecologist Rob Condon from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.

For several years, Condon and colleagues from the Sea Lab and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) have been studying jellyfish that live in the York River, a southern tributary of Chesapeake Bay. They’ve discovered that rapidly-growing blooms of jellyfish are feeding on some of the most nutritious parts of the food web, including small crustaceans, and are converting them into products that sustain bacteria that leave little valuable energy supplies for fish and other sea life.

Condon says the jellyfish are making a similar source of energy-rich material that bacteria feast upon, but that strips the nutritional value out of the river’s food web.

“Ultimately, there is less food for the fish, because the jellyfish are eating it all,” he says. And because not too many animals (including us humans) eat jellyfish, it doesn't seem as though the food energy going into the jellies is moving up the food chain. This week, Condon and his colleagues published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, detailing how jellyfish blooms reduce diversity in the marine food chain....

According to Condon, if these warm waters continue to arrive in the earlier and earlier in the springtime, the effects could be felt throughout Chesapeake Bay. "Jellyfish are an important indicator of the health of a marine ecosystem," he says. "If the jellyfish blooms come earlier, there will be big consequences for fish production in the Bay."

I think we are going to have to learn to like eating jellyfish. I think it can be done.

"Japan mulls closure of N-reactors by April"

As seen at the
TOKYO: All 54 of Japan’s nuclear reactors may be shut by next April, adding more than $30 billion a year to the country’s energy costs, if communities object to plant operating plans due to safety concerns, trade ministry officials said on Wednesday....

Compared with the cost of the disaster - $30 billion sounds like nothing. Sounds like a good move to me.

Recently Japan owned up to the idea the the reactors not only melted down - but melted through:
The nuclear fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has melted through the base of the pressure vessels and is pooling in the outer containment vessels, according to a report by the Japanese government.
From the Telegraph.UK

Other Recent Headlines:

Japan: green tea exports banned due to high radiation levels 03 Jun 2011
Japanese prime minister survives no-confidence vote after offering to resign 02 Jun 2011
Japan 'underestimated' impact tsunami would have on nuclear plants' 01 Jun 2011
Wary Japanese send sales of Geiger counters soaring 26 May 2011

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

"Japanese seniors volunteer for Fukushima 'suicide corps'"

From CNN:

Tokyo (CNN) -- Up a narrow flight of stairs in a modest, non-descript office building, three retirees sit in a cramped room, hunched over their computers and mobile phones. They look like the planning committee for a neighborhood senior breakfast, not the leaders of a 250-member team attempting to defuse one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history.

But that's exactly what 72-year-old Yasuteru Yamada hopes his seniors group, the Skilled Veterans Corps, will do: help end the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The group, consisting only of retirees age 60 and up, says it is uniquely poised to work at the radiation-contaminated plant, as the cells of an older person's body divide more slowly than a younger individual. "We have to work instead of them," says Yamada, referring to the estimated 1,000 workers currently at the nuclear plant. "Elders have less sensitivity to radiation. Therefore, we have to work."

Yamada is a former engineer for Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and offers decades of experience, he says. A cancer survivor, Yamada says he values his life but wants to make a difference in the years he has left.

Yamada pauses as his mobile phone rings. He pops out his hearing aids to answer. Another call from the news media, he says, as he excuses himself briefly. Reporters from around the globe have called daily since Yamada announced the existence of his group. They, including this reporter, are calling because of what the prime minister's special adviser to the nuclear crisis publicly dubbed them, the "suicide corps." Goshi Hosono, at a news conference last week, told reporters that while the government was grateful for the offer, there is no immediate need for the elderly volunteers.

Masaaki Takahashi, 65, bristles at the name Hosono gave his team. "I want them to stop calling us the 'suicide corps' or kamikazes," he says. "We're doing nothing special. I simply think I have to do something and I can't allow just young people to do this."

Takahashi is currently tasked with logging the names of donors and volunteers. He says there are more than 900 donors and 250 able-bodied seniors who want to don the white radiation suits and enter the grounds of the plant...

The owner of the nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), tells CNN it is thankful for the offer from the seniors group. But it says they currently have enough workers to control the crisis.

But if Hikaru Tagawa is any indication, the plant is having trouble luring employees to the facility. Tagawa is a former temporary worker at Fukushima who lived just a few miles away, an area that is now a mandatory evacuation zone. When CNN met Tagawa, he was living at an evacuation center near Tokyo. "Nothing can make me go back to work there," he says, as his young daughter played nearby. He points out he has two young children and calls the levels of radiation "too dangerous."

30.6 Billion Metric Tons Carbon-dioxide Emissions - 2010


Worldwide carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels reached a record 30.6 billion metric tons in 2010, an international energy group reports. (1 metric ton = 2204.6 lbs)

A reviving world economy was behind the 5% increase from 2008, mainly led by China's and India's growing industries, says the International Energy Agency, based in Paris. Hopes of dampening global warming are dropping with such increases, the agency warned.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," said IEA economist Fatih Birol, in a statement. Emissions dropped slightly in 2009, following the previous record year.

"It is, I guess, remarkable how quickly emissions have rebounded following the recession," says climate scientist Myles Allen of the United Kingdom's Oxford University.

Despite hopes that the global recession could lead to more efficient and lower-emission energy use, he adds, "That seems to have been wishful thinking."

In May, a report from the U.S. National Research Council warned that "the risk of dangerous climate change impacts is growing with every ton of greenhouse gases."

Sea-level rise, heat waves and drought in Southwestern states could follow, the report warned.

Greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, raise atmospheric temperatures because they are transparent to sunlight but trap heat. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen about 23% since 1958, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration...