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What A Week It Was: Apocadocuments from
View By Scenario:
Species Collapse:(4)
Plague/Virus:(3)
Climate Chaos:(15)
Resource Depletion: (1)
Biology Breach:(11)
Recovery:(9)
This Week's Top Ten Very Scary Tags:
contamination  ~ faster than expected  ~ global warming  ~ anthropogenic change  ~ bad policy  ~ arctic meltdown  ~ climate impacts  ~ food safety  ~ smart policy  ~ methane release  ~ permafrost meltdown  



ApocaDocuments (43) gathered this week:
Sun, Dec 21, 2008
from London Daily Telegraph:
Neanderthals could have died out because their bodies overheated
Analysis of DNA obtained from Neanderthal remains has revealed key differences from modern humans that suggest their bodies produced excess heat. While in the cold climate of an ice age this would have provided the species with an advantage, as the earth warmed they would have been less able to cope. Ultimately this would have caused their extinction around 24,000 years ago. ...


This story is soooooo hot!

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Sun, Dec 21, 2008
from National Geographic News:
VIDEO: Animal-to-Human Disease Watch
In remote corners, a research team is monitoring contact between humans and wild animals -- particularly wild animal meat -- in hopes of stopping pandemics before they start. ...


This is an especially pertinent story, given the news on Dec. 19 that Ebola virus had been found in pigs in the Philippines.

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Sun, Dec 21, 2008
from Time Magazine:
Making Hospitals Greener -- and Patients Healthier
A doctor's principle code is, "First, do no harm." The irony is that your doctor's office or hospital may be making you sicker. Indeed, many hospitals are built with materials, like particleboard, PVC flooring and even conventional paint, that can leach poisonous substances. What's more, the chemicals used to clean hospitals -- chlorine, laundry detergents and softeners, ammonia -- contain toxic ingredients and can cause respiratory disease. In fact, studies suggest that nurses, who spend long hours at the hospital, have among the highest rates of environmentally induced asthma of any profession....Enter "green medicine" -- the effort to detoxify the healing environment and enhance patients' and employees' health, while reducing costs all around. ...


Making the Hippocratic Oath less hypocritical.

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Sun, Dec 21, 2008
from Chicago Tribune:
Tribune investigation prompts stores to pull food items
Chicago-area supermarkets, gourmet shops and bakeries routinely sell mislabeled products that pose a danger to those with food allergies, according to Tribune testing and a comprehensive check of grocery aisles. When informed of the findings, more than a dozen food companies said they would remove products from shelves or fix labels to properly disclose all ingredients. In one of the nation's largest examinations of undisclosed ingredients in food, the Tribune reviewed thousands of items at more than 60 locations, finding dozens of products obviously mislabeled. The newspaper also conducted 50 laboratory tests—more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration combined over the last several years—to try to determine precise ingredients. ...


What I don't know ... could actually hurt me?

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Sun, Dec 21, 2008
from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
EPA veils hazardous substances
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency routinely allows companies to keep new information about their chemicals secret, including compounds that have been shown to cause cancer and respiratory problems, the Journal Sentinel has found. The newspaper examined more than 2,000 filings in the EPA's registry of dangerous chemicals for the past three years. In more than half the cases, the EPA agreed to keep the chemical name a secret. In hundreds of other cases, it allowed the company filing the report to keep its name and address confidential. This is despite a federal law calling for public notice of any new information through the EPA's program monitoring chemicals that pose substantial risk. The whole idea of the program is to warn the public of newfound dangers. The EPA's rules are supposed to allow confidentiality only "under very limited circumstances." ...


So remind me ... why isn't this a crime? Why aren't these peope in jail? Why don't people rise up?

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Sat, Dec 20, 2008
from BBC:
Swiss glaciers 'in full retreat'
Swiss glaciers are melting away at an accelerating rate and many will vanish this century if climate projections are correct, two new studies suggest. One assessment found that some 10 cubic km of ice have been lost from 1,500 glaciers over the past nine years. The other study, based on a sample of 30 representative glaciers, indicates the group's members are now losing a metre of thickness every year. Both pieces of work come out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. "The trend is negative, but what we see is that the trend is also steepening," said Matthias Huss from the Zurich university's Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology. ...


And everyone knows, Swiss glaciers are the very best kind of glaciers.

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Sat, Dec 20, 2008
from Reuters:
Chromosomal changes seen in long-term airline pilots
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research suggests that airline pilots with long-term flying experience may be exposed to higher than average levels of radiation, resulting in more chromosomal translocations than usually seen. Further studies with longer follow-up and more subjects, however, will be needed to determine if these pilots are at increased risk for cancer, according to the report in the online issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Chromosomal translocations occur when a chromosome fragment breaks off and attaches to another. This can lead to a range of medical problems, such as leukemia, breast cancer, schizophrenia or muscular dystrophy, depending on were [sic] the fragments reattach. ...


Fly the toxic skies...

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Sat, Dec 20, 2008
from The Economist:
Fiddling with words as the world melts
...At this pace, it seems hard to believe that a global deal on emissions targets (reconciling new emitters with older ones) can be reached next December at a meeting in Copenhagen, seen as a make-or-break time for UN efforts to cool the world. In the background of the Poznan meeting, there was mild optimism (and a reluctance by others to put fresh cards on the table) ahead of an expected change of stance by an Obama administration in America; resentment (among the poor and green) over the refusal of Japan and Canada to promise deeper cuts; and strong demands from China for the transfer of technology from the rich to others. In the final hours of the conference, the governments of small, sinking island nations were delighted to learn that they, and not some global body, would control a fund to help them adapt to a warming world. Their mood changed when it became known that no extra money had been set aside for this purpose. ...


If we don't stop squabbling about all this and get busy, we're screwed.

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Sat, Dec 20, 2008
from Norfolk Daily Eastern Press:
Pesticides ban to hit farmers and prices
Families will be hit by even higher basic food prices following a drastic European-led ban on pesticides that could change the face of farming in East Anglian. Farmers' leaders have condemned a European Parliament deal to outlaw 22 chemicals that they say could mean a 20 to 25 per cent drop in yields for staple East Anglian produce such as potatoes, carrots and peas - and inevitably lead to increased prices in the shops. They fear that if the plan goes ahead, following a vote next month, many of the corner-stone crops currently grown in the region will become unviable. But groups in favour of the ban say it is justified because of evidence that the pesticides in question can trigger cancer or cause neural, hormonal or genetic damage. ...


I say let's keep using pesticides until we -- and the earth -- adapt to 'em.

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Sat, Dec 20, 2008
from Minneapolis Star Tribune:
X-rayed venison is on its way to food shelves
Minnesota officials are all but finished X-raying donated venison for lead bullet fragments, and meat found to be lead-free is now being shipped to food shelves around the state. Of about 10,000 packages of venison tested, 560 -- or 5.9 percent -- tested positive for lead, officials said. That meat -- about 1,100 pounds -- will be destroyed after it is tested further to determine lead levels. About 18,000 pounds of venison that showed no detectable lead have been released to food shelves. ...


Great news! ... um ... unless there's something potentially dangerous with X-rays.

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Fri, Dec 19, 2008
from London Guardian:
Scientists fear new wave of human BSE deaths may kill up to 350
Scientists were warning today of a possible new wave of deaths from the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) amid fears the disease might have taken hold in a wider range of the population than had first appeared. Chris Higgins, head of the group that advises the government on variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), suggested up to 350 people might die if it emerged that the long-incubating illness appeared to have infected a patient with a different gene type from previous British victims. The first wave of infections almost certainly came from eating infected beef products after BSE struck cattle in the 1980s, although three of the 164 people who have died from the human disease since 1995 are thought to have contracted the disease from contaminated blood transfusions donated by people who were unwittingly carrying the disease. The first wave of deaths peaked at 28 in 2000, and only one person has died from the disease this year. But Higgins, chairman of the spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee (SEAC), said that if another patient with the disease was found to have the different gene type, more could die. ...


My poor kids already have a case of bovine spongebob-iform encephalopathy.

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Fri, Dec 19, 2008
from Wall Street Journal:
Philippines Moves to Fight Pig Ebola
Global health authorities are preparing an emergency mission to the Philippines after U.S. scientists discovered a strain of the Ebola virus in dead pigs there that had previously only been found in monkeys. Unlike more-deadly strains of Ebola virus, health officials say this particular strain, known as the Reston strain, has never caused human illness or death, and it's not immediately clear there is a public-health issue. But health officials say it is too early to rule out a possible threat to humans, and expressed concern over the fact that this incident, first revealed in an Oct. 30 teleconference between the Philippine government and U.S. health authorities, wasn't made public until a news conference for local media in Manila last week. Pigs have served as genetic mixing vessels for viruses that pass from animals to humans, which makes the Philippine discovery significant. "When a virus jumps species, in this case from monkeys to pigs, we become concerned, particularly as pigs are much closer to humans than monkeys in their ability to harbour viruses," says Peter Cordingley, Western Pacific spokesman for the World Health Organization in Manila. ...


This little piggy went to market ... this little piggy staye home ... this little piggy wiped out a billion people!

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Fri, Dec 19, 2008
from Christian Science Monitor:
World's oceans turning acidic faster than expected
Parts of the world's oceans appear to be acidifying far faster than scientists have expected. The culprit: rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere pumped into the air from cars, power plants, and industries. The Southern Ocean represents one of the most high-profile examples. There, scientists estimate that the ocean could reach a biologically important tipping point in wintertime by 2030, at least 20 years earlier than scientists projected only three years ago. Among the vulnerable: a tiny form of sea snail that serves as food for a wide range of fish. Similar trends are appearing in more temperate waters, say researchers. The studies suggest the CO2-emission targets being considered for a new global warming treaty are likely to be inadequate to prevent significant, long-lasting changes in some ocean basins. ...


The only thing going slower than expected is us, doing something about it!

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Want more context?
Try reading our book FREE online:
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
More fun than a barrel of jellyfish!
Fri, Dec 19, 2008
from Boston Phoenix:
20 reasons the Earth will be glad to see Bush go
...We've selected 20 specific environmental transgressions of the Bush administration for scrutiny here, drawn primarily from conversations with and reports issued by the nation's leading environmental-advocacy groups. Were we to have written about all the ecological crimes committed by the Bush team -- the damage already done, the policies that have since been reversed, the individuals who have moved on to do their damage elsewhere -- we'd only be wringing our hands and wasting more paper. Thus, we've limited our Top 20 list to the horrific environmental scenarios still ongoing � these are the assaults on the planet that Bush and his cronies are continuing to this day, and surely would go on doing were their time not coming to a merciful end.... ...


Really? Did I do all this? Well, if Mother Nature doesn't love me, at least my own mom does. Doesn't she?

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from UCLA, via EurekAlert:
No quick or easy technological fix for climate change, researchers say
Global warming, some have argued, can be reversed with a large-scale "geoengineering" fix, such as having a giant blimp spray liquefied sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere or building tens of millions of chemical filter systems in the atmosphere to filter out carbon dioxide. But Richard Turco, a professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a member and founding director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment, sees no evidence that such technological alterations of the climate system would be as quick or easy as their proponents claim and says many of them wouldn't work at all.... "The size distribution of the particles is critical," Turco said. "If the particles are too large, that will actually create a warming effect, a greenhouse warming. Small particles are not useful because they don't reflect much radiation; you need something in between, and we have shown that is hard to achieve reliably." ...


I do believe in Tech Fixes, I do believe in Tech Fixes, I do I do I do I do....

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from Science Daily (US):
Scientists Find Increased Methane Levels In Arctic Ocean
A team led by International Arctic Research Center scientist Igor Semiletov has found data to suggest that the carbon pool beneath the Arctic Ocean is leaking.... Geophysical measurements showed methane bubbles coming out of chimneys on the seafloor. "The concentrations of the methane were the highest ever measured in the summertime in the Arctic Ocean," Semiletov said. "We have found methane bubble clouds above the gas-charged sediment and above the chimneys going through the sediment."... The new data indicates the underwater permafrost is thawing and therefore releasing methane.... Methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is thought to be an important factor in global climate change. ...


Said the Permafrost to his mother: "I can't hold it in any longer!"

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from The Epoch Times:
Desalination Plants Increase - As do Concerns
...Is this a valid source of drinking water? What are the ramifications of desalination? The desalination process removes salt and other minerals from water to make it drinkable. This is achieved by filtering using reverse osmosis. It sounds a good idea, just to take the salt out of the sea water and the result is water for us to drink; so why the fuss? And is it destructive to the oceans? Yes, says Wal Grahame, It is destructive. A desalination plant here will have a footprint bigger than the MCG [Melbourne Cricket Ground] and four stories high. To produce 50 gigs of water they will have to emit 1 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.... Around 11,000 litres of sea water per second are pumped into the desalination works resulting in between 25 to 60 tonnes of waste. This is sludge from the pretreatment process which uses chemicals to remove solid bits and to destroy any biological life such as, fish, plankton and biota. The chemicals used in the pre treatment process are chlorine, caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, and ferric chloride. Some of these chemicals get discharged back into the sea. Using the reverse osmosis process, the water is then pushed through a series of membranes which filters out everything except the water. ...


At least we won't be thirsty as the planet boils -- and becomes one giant dead zone.

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from Nature:
Drinking water contamination mapped
The most comprehensive survey so far has found a slew of drugs, personal care products, pesticides and other contaminants in drinking water being delivered to millions of people across the United States. None of the compounds appeared at levels thought to be immediately harmful to human health. But the researchers were surprised to find widespread traces of a pesticide, used largely in corn (maize) growing, that has, at higher levels, been linked to cancer and other problems. ...


We are all pests now.

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from Times Online (UK):
Seas will rise faster than predicted, say scientists
Sea levels will rise much faster than previously forecast because of the rate that glaciers and ice sheets are melting, a study has found. Research commissioned by the US Climate Change Science Program concludes that the rises will substantially exceed forecasts that do not take into account the latest data and observations. The adjusted outlook, announced at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, suggests that recent predictions of a rise of between 7in and 2ft over the next century are conservative. ...


YAFTE -- yet another "faster than expected"...

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from Communication Theory, via EurekAlert:
Narrative entertainment programming can lead to persuasive outcomes
Persuasive communication is often perceived as a threat to one's freedom, even if the message recommendation is in one's best interest. This results in message rejection as a way to reassert independence. Moyer-Gus contends that different types of involvement in the narrative, such as engagement with the plot or identification with characters, may help to overcome resistance, thus resulting in persuasive effects. The narrative format can allow viewers to become "sucked in" to the world in which the drama takes place, reducing viewers' perception that the message is persuasive in nature. The enjoyment associated with transportation into a narrative may allow individuals to process messages they would otherwise find too threatening. ...


Ah! So that's what we're doing!

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from BBC:
Changes 'amplify Arctic warming'
...Theory predicts that as ice is lost in the Arctic, more of the ocean's surface will be exposed to solar radiation and will warm up. When the autumn comes and the Sun goes down on the Arctic, that warmth should be released back into the atmosphere, delaying the fall in air temperatures. Ultimately, this feedback process should result in Arctic temperatures rising faster than the global mean. Dr [Julienne] Stroeve and colleagues have now analysed Arctic autumn (September, October, November) air temperatures for the period 2004-2008 and compared them to the long term average (1979 to 2008). The results, they believe, are evidence of the predicted amplification effect. "You see this large warming over the Arctic ocean of around 3C in these last four years compared to the long-term mean," explained Dr Stroeve. ...


Sing with me: Tiiiiiimmmeee.... is NOT on our side....

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from The Charleston Gazette:
Energy secretary nominee sees coal as 'nightmare'
... Carbon capture and storage research is still in its early stages, said Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist announced by Obama this week as his nominee to run the U.S. Department of Energy. Real-world projects to pump millions of tons of carbon dioxide might also be rejected unless scientists show it can be done safely, Chu said during an April speech. "Coal is my worst nightmare," said Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Stanford University professor. ...


All I can say to Dr. Chu is gesundheit!

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Thu, Dec 18, 2008
from USA Today:
Cooperation helped Louisville clean up air
LOUISVILLE For years, Louisville has been known for fast horses, fine bourbon, a love of college basketball and lousy air. People who lived near a complex of chemical plants, called Rubbertown, put up with odors, burning eyes and fears that their every breath might contribute to asthma, cancer or other illnesses. But that began to change about a decade ago, after a minister from the predominantly African-American neighborhoods around Rubbertown organized protests, demanding aggressive government action to clean up the toxic air and reduce the chemical emissions from factories. The campaign soon ranged beyond those neighborhoods, attracting the help of university scientists, industry representatives and government officials. It has led to an ambitious and successful anti-pollution effort that has gained national attention. ...


Way to go, sluggers!

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Wed, Dec 17, 2008
from DailyMonitor, via AllAfrica:
Ethiopia: Authority Urges Paradigm Shift in Agriculture Law On Genetically Modified Organisms Proposed
Amid the price of chemical fertilizer showing little sign of decreasing, Federal Environmental Protection Authority urged on Tuesday for a paradigm shift to ecological agriculture.... While expressing his support to using chemical fertilizers to attain food security in the country, the Director said the country has as much as much as possible stick to ecological agriculture, adding the country's high capacity to produce compost could support the shift.... "If genetically modified remained unregulated in the country, they could suffer the general set up of our society as well as the environment," Dr.Tewolde said [in an obviously rough translation]. ...


Sustainable natural agriculture? Hey, that's so crazy, it just might work.

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Wed, Dec 17, 2008
from Genetic Engineering News via EurekAlert:
Benefits of breastfeeding outweigh risk of infant exposure to environmental chemicals in breastmilk
A study comparing breastfed and formula fed infants across time showed that the known beneficial effects of breastfeeding are greater than the potential risks associated with infant exposure to chemicals such as dioxins that may be present in breastmilk, according to a report published in the December issue (Volume 3, Number 4) of Breastfeeding Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (www.liebertpub.com) and the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. The paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/bfm.... [T]his study's findings, based on epidemiologic data, do not downplay the adverse effects of exposure to dioxins and other environmental toxins. However, the authors distinguish between the statistical significance of risk/benefit assessments in an individual compared to population effects. ...


Why in God's name are we even having to have such a study? What part of "Natural Systems Deficit Disorder" does this fall into?

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Wed, Dec 17, 2008
from Queen:
Study links ecosystem changes in temperate lakes to climate warming
The scientists studied changes over the last few decades in the species composition of small, microscopic algae preserved in sediments from more than 200 lake systems in the northern hemisphere. These algae dominate the plankton that float at or near the surface of lakes, and serve as food for other larger organisms. Striking ecosystem changes were recorded from a large suite of lakes from Arctic, alpine and temperate ecozones in North America and western Europe. Aquatic ecosystem changes across the circumpolar Arctic were found to occur in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. These were similar to shifts in algal communities, indicating decreased ice cover and related changes, over the last few decades in the temperate lakes.... "The widespread occurrence of these trends is particularly troubling as they suggest that climatically-induced ecological thresholds have already been crossed, even with temperature increases that are below projected future warming scenarios for these regions," adds Dr. Paterson.... "We are entering unchartered territory, the effects of which can cascade throughout the entire ecosystem," concludes Dr. Smol. ...


Whattaya do if you discover a rogue fire? You put it out!

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You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Wed, Dec 17, 2008
from Cafe Sendito:
Flawed International Farm Seed Rules Establish Permanent Spread of Patented GM Brands
The Canadian courts ruled that the individual farmer had to shoulder the burden of ferreting out any instance of "contamination" of his crop by pollen from nearby genetically-modified (GM) planting, as Monsanto held a patent on the seeds. The farmer, and those who support his claims, argue that there is no means by which anyone can prevent cross-pollination from GM plants.... The group warned that due to the strict rules regarding harvesting, seed storage and repurchase, the system established by the marketing of patented GM seeds could force poor farmers onto "an expensive treadmill of dependence on the firms' seeds and chemicals".... "Because our rapeseed is contaminated with GMOs the economic effect has been disastrous for farmers, as we can no longer sell rapeseed to many countries in the world. The price of rapeseed has dropped almost in half." ...


They'll be suing farmers for accepting the wind off "their" fields before we know it.

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Wed, Dec 17, 2008
from Oregon State University, via EurekAlert:
Some climate impacts happening faster than anticipated
A report released today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union provides new insights on the potential for abrupt climate change and the effects it could have on the United States, identifying key concerns that include faster-than-expected loss of sea ice, rising sea levels and a possibly permanent state of drought in the American Southwest.... While concluding that some projections of the impact of climate change have actually been too conservative -- as in the case of glacier and ice sheets that are moving and decaying faster than predicted -- others may not pose as immediate a threat as some scenarios had projected, such as the rapid releases of methane or dramatic shifts in the ocean current patterns that help keep Europe warm.... The "overarching" recommendation of the report is the need for committed and sustained monitoring of these climatic forces that could trigger abrupt climate change, the researchers concluded. ...


"Sustained monitoring" is all well and good -- but let's also do some "sustained remediation," shall we?

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Report: Politics corroded Bush decisions on endangered species
Politics corroded Bush administration decisions on protecting endangered species in regions nationwide, federal investigators have concluded in a sweeping new report. Former interior department official Julie MacDonald frequently bullied career scientists to reduce species protections, the interior department investigators found. "The results of this investigation paint a picture of something akin to a secret society residing within the interior department that was colluding to undermine the protection of endangered wildlife and covering for one another's misdeeds," Congressman Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia, said late Monday afternoon. ...


My surprise knows no bounds.

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from SmashHits (India):
Fruit based drinks contaminated with pesticides
Fruit based soft drinks outside the US are highly contaminated with pesticides, especially in countries like Britain and Spain, says a new study.... They tested for pesticides such as carbendazim, thiabendazole, imazalil and malathion, which are applied to crops after harvest and can remain on fruits and vegetables during processing, according to a release of the American Chemical Society. They found relatively large concentrations of pesticides, in the micrograms per litre range, in most of the samples analysed. Samples from Spain and Britain had the highest levels of pesticides, while samples from the US and Russia were among the lowest. ...


Cui bono? That is, who benefits from this?

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Emissions: Where do you draw the line?
Supporters of this system say that a cap-and-trade, market-based solution is the only realistic way a reduction in global emissions will ever be achieved. Carrots are always better than sticks, they say. But in such a world, it will be rare for a distinction to be made between why emissions were created in the first place. There will be a market-determined price to pay for emitting a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but no one will be asking why you emitted it as long as you pay the going rate. But is it beyond our collective wit to also judge our energy use against a set of criteria that gives extra weighting to our essential and most worthy needs?... But who is going to draw that line between essential and non-essential use? What, for example, would you place into the "essential" trolley? Two thousand miles' worth of petro-fuelled driving a year? Enough energy to heat your living room to 18C during winter? ...


Maybe... a benign tyrant? A philosopher-king? Do we have the collective wit?

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Last decade is the warmest on record, scientists say
Global warming has pushed the world's temperature up by more than 1.26F (0.7C), said the Met Office, as they unveiled figures that show the dramatic effect human influence has had on the Earth's climate. They predict that this year will be the tenth warmest worldwide since records began in 1850, with a global mean temperature of 58F (14.3C). This would have been "exceptionally unusual" just a few years ago, but is now "quite normal," say climate scientists. Dr Peter Stott from the Met Office said: "Human influence, particularly emission of greenhouse gases, has greatly increased the chance of having such warm years." ...


Don't we read this story every year?

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from AP News:
More than 2 trillion tons of ice melted in Arctic since '03
More than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted since 2003, according to new NASA satellite data that show the latest signs of what scientists say is global warming. More than half of the loss of landlocked ice in the past five years has occurred in Greenland, based on measurements of ice weight by NASA's GRACE satellite, said NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke. The water melting from Greenland in the past five years would fill up about 11 Chesapeake Bays, he said, and the Greenland melt seems to be accelerating.... A second study suggests even larger amounts of frozen methane are trapped in lakebeds and sea bottoms around Siberia and they are starting to bubble to the surface in some spots in alarming amounts, said Igor Semiletov, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. In late summer, Semiletov found methane bubbling up from parts of the East Siberian Sea and Laptev Sea at levels that were 10 times higher than they were in the mid-1990s, he said based on a study this summer. ...


Don'tcha hate it when they use numbers you can't understand? I mean, who can get their mind around "eleven Chesapeake bays"?

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Forbes, via CBC:
Inside the world's superdumps
The largest garbage dump in the world is roughly twice the size of the continental U.S. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a continent-sized constellation of discarded shoes, bottles, bags, pacifiers, plastic wrappers, toothbrushes and every other type of trash imaginable, floating in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Hawaii and San Francisco.... Truckloads of printers, fax machines, hard drives and all kinds of defunct electronics arrive daily in Guiyu from warehouses in the port of Nanhai, where the imported waste comes ashore in sea-going containers. Roughly half these computers and electronic components are recycled; the rest are dumped. Nobody knows for sure, but evidence suggests most of the discarded components are dumped locally, despite the substantial risk that the waste, laden with toxic lead, mercury and cadmium, will contaminate local soil and water supplies.... Old ships are, more often than not, chock full of toxic chemicals, like insulation with asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls in hoses, foam insulation and paint. In addition, most ships contain huge quantities of heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. If ships are not properly dismantled, they contaminate the area where they are broken down. ...


Garbage? It's out of sight, out of mind, for me. Just toss it and forget it!

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Ashville Citizen-Times:
Ramping down the toxins we eat
Some of the signs of an emerging crisis include: the presence of toxic chemicals, heavy metals and disease-causing bacteria in a host of foods; a rise in obesity and diet-related diseases; and air and water pollution from factory farms. Our current system isn't healthy and it's not sustainable.... Here are nine ideas for ways to improve health and send a strong signal to farmers, grocery stores and policymakers about the kinds of food we want to eat. ...


I get arsenic in my chicken fajita? Toxic chemicals from my plastic wrap?

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from New Scientist:
Jumbo squids in acid: What future oceans hold in store
Swimming through warmer, more acidic oceans will feel like swimming through molasses for jumbo squid.... Jumbo squid blood carries very little oxygen -- with each cycle through its body, the oxygen can be used up entirely. This means they must "recharge" constantly, and makes the animals very dependent on what oxygen is available in the water around them. Yet, the warmer water is, the smaller the amount of oxygen it can hold.... To make matters worse, the squid's blood cells are able to carry even less oxygen in acidic water.... Last year, the first study to simultaneously track a predator and its prey suggested that sperm whales may take advantage of moments when jumbo squid slow down to catch them. ...


It's like a bad dream -- the predator is gaining on you, and you seem to be running in slo-mo...

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Mon, Dec 15, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Jellyfish on the menu as edible fish stocks become extinct
Fish stocks around Britain have been reduced to 10 per cent of what they were 100 years ago due to overfishing. Common skate and angel fish are already extinct while favourites like cod are in danger of being wiped out.... However scientists have said that unless the system is completely overhauled fish stocks will continue to deplete to the point of extinction by 2048, leaving consumers little option but to eat jellyfish or the small bony species left behind at the bottom of the ocean. ...


Deep-fried, those jellyfish are a little tough. If only the phytoplankton sauce wasn't so bitter!

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Mon, Dec 15, 2008
from Science Daily (US):
Waste Coffee Grounds Offer New Source Of Biodiesel Fuel
Researchers in Nevada are reporting that waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel for powering cars and trucks.... The used or "spent" grounds remaining from production of espresso, cappuccino, and plain old-fashioned cups of java, often wind up in the trash or find use as soil conditioner. The scientists estimated, however, that spent coffee grounds can potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world's fuel supply. To verify it, the scientists collected spent coffee grounds from a multinational coffeehouse chain and separated the oil. They then used an inexpensive process to convert 100 percent of the oil into biodiesel. ...


Say -- that might offset some of the energy costs to ship it here!

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Mon, Dec 15, 2008
from The Bracebridge Examiner and Gravenhurst Banner:
Muskoka's lakes face new environmental threat: report
According to the study, long-term consequences of calcium decline could result in areas where forests won't grow back well. Lakes could also start to lose calcium-rich organisms. A type of water flea, Daphnia, was the aquatic creature studied in the report, said Yan. The water flea is a crustacean, like little tiny shrimp, not an insect, he said.... "We are kind of likening these water fleas to canaries in the coal mine," Yan explained. "So if one calcium-rich animal is in trouble, then we darn well better find out about all the other calcium-rich animals, like crayfish and snails."... In the industrial age, minerals in the soil were leached through acid rain and logging. "What takes the minerals away is six decades of acid rain and then logging, followed by forest regrowth," said Yan. ...


It's the decline of the wee ones that make me weep.

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Mon, Dec 15, 2008
from Ohio State University, via EurekAlert:
Greenland's glaciers losing ice faster this year than last year, which was record-setting itself
Researchers watching the loss of ice flowing out from the giant island of Greenland say that the amount of ice lost this summer is nearly three times what was lost one year ago.... [T]he loss of ice since the year 2000 is 355.4 square miles (920.5 square kilometers), or more than 10 times the size of Manhattan. "We now know that the climate doesn't have to warm any more for Greenland to continue losing ice," Box said. "It has probably passed the point where it could maintain the mass of ice that we remember. "But that doesn't mean that Greenland's ice will all disappear. It's likely that it will probably adjust to a new 'equilibrium' but before it reaches the equilibrium, it will shed a lot more ice. ...


Equilibria have no natural state -- they only equilibrate in relation to a static environment. Which we no longer have.

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Mon, Dec 15, 2008
from Innovations Report (Germany):
Climate change: a dark future for migratory fish
In Europe, most migratory fish species completing their cycle between the sea and the river are currently in danger.... This study has shown that for most species the situation will deteriorate. For example, the smelt and the Arctic char will lose approximately 90 percent of the watersheds that are favourable for reduced or null gains. Only two species, the thinlipped mullet and the twaite shad, will be able to expand their territory towards the north, beyond their initial distribution area. Finally, in accordance with the predictions, the southern watersheds risk losing most of their species. ...


Maybe if you'd just stop moving around so much you'd have a chance to build a family.

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Mon, Dec 15, 2008
from SciDev.net:
New Agency to be global 'Voice of Renewables'
A new agency to be launched next month (26 January) in Bonn, Germany, aims to promote a swift transition towards the use of renewable energy worldwide. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which was initially driven by Denmark, Germany and Spain, will be the first worldwide agency solely dedicated to promoting renewable energy, acting as the "voice of renewable energy", according to its website.... It plans to support projects in biomass, hydropower, wind, solar and geothermal energy and biofuels. ...


Can we get an amplifier for that voice?

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Mon, Dec 15, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Global oil supply will peak in 2020, says energy agency
Global oil production will peak much earlier than expected amid a collapse in petroleum investment due to the credit crunch, one of the world's foremost experts has revealed. Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum. The prediction came as oil companies from Saudi Arabia to Canada cut their capital expenditure on new projects in response to a fall in oil prices, moves that will further reduce supply in future. ...


My Hummer says the gas tank is full!

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