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climate impacts  ~ anthropogenic change  ~ weather extremes  ~ ocean warming  ~ global warming  ~ technological innovation  ~ poverty  ~ alternative energy  ~ stupid humans  ~ endocrine disruptor  ~ renewable energy  



ApocaDocuments (39) gathered this week:
Sun, Aug 29, 2010
from Reuters, via Scientific American:
Pakistanis too broken to rebuild in flood crisis
He has been walking for two days with a 20-kg (44 lb) sack of wheat on his back. Food shortages caused by the disaster have sent prices soaring and the only market he can afford is many kilometers away. "How can I think about rebuilding? I have no way of making money and I am just too tired," said the 50-year-old farmer. Madyan, in the northwest Swat valley, looks more like an earthquake zone than a flood-stricken area. Four-storey hotels that fueled the local economy vanished. Buildings have been flattened, with cars sandwiched between slabs of concrete. Roads were dragged down and all that's left behind are 30-meter (100-foot) dirt cliffs crumbling into a river. Pakistan's government was heavily criticized after its sluggish response to the floods, which hit about one-third of the country, made more than 6 million homeless, and threaten to the bring the economy to its knees without outside intervention.... "The government is robbing everything from us," he said. "If this continues there will be lots of angry young men here. They could join the Taliban. They have nothing else to do." ...


Act of God, or act of Man, betrayal has consequences.

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Sun, Aug 29, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Deadly Bat Fungus Found in Several European Countries, No Ill Effects
Since 2006 unprecedented mass mortalities have been recorded in North American hibernating bat populations. More than a million animals died and the scale of the problem continuous to increase. Initially the first dramatic declines remained within the northeastern states of the US, then spread in a radial fashion to neighbouring regions. This year the Canadian border was breached. Cause of the mass mortalities is a fungal infection. In Europe, concerns are rising that this fungus might be transferred to the European continent and then might possibly pose a similar threat to native bat species here.... Now a collective project by researchers from Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and the United Kingdom, the mycology department of the hospital of Munich Technical University, the Robert Koch Institute and the IZW shows that the fungus Geomyces destructans actually occurs in several European countries -- the only previous record was that of a single bat reported from France. The scientists also unearthed early reports indicating that the fungus was already noted on hibernating bats in Germany 25 years ago. "So far it seems that a colonisation by the fungus has no detrimental effect on European bat species," says IZW project leader Dr. Gudrun Wibbelt.... "Surprisingly, comparative molecular genetic analyses revealed a 100 percent identity between gene segments of the North American and European fungal strains. Now the most important task is to understand why European bats do not die after being colonised by the fungus.... ...


Could bats be allergic to free-market capitalism's effect on the environment?

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Sun, Aug 29, 2010
from SolveClimate:
Chinese Climate Negotiator Provides Candid Take on What Happened in Copenhagen
First, by announcing programs and targets for the coming decade prior to the talks, the government continued to show the world that China is a responsible nation. Those plans were unconditional, as we do not believe that the future of mankind should be used as a bargaining chip - a position that contrasts sharply with the stance of developed nations.... They did not consider that their proposed 30 percent cuts have a long list of conditions attached, yet when we aim to cut carbon-intensity by 40 percent they say we are doing nothing.... The talks focused on two issues. One was long term goals. As disagreement over atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations and 2050 emissions targets was too great, these were not covered in the agreement, which specified only a goal of limiting any temperature increase to two degrees Celsius [above pre-industrial levels].... China is bound to be dependent on coal for energy - we cannot afford oil as an alternative when it costs more than US$100 dollars (680 yuan) a barrel.... Many problems can only be solved through development. We cannot blindly accept that protecting the climate is humanity's common interest - national interests should come first.... The individual can save power, but there are 600 million people in India without electricity - the country has to develop and meet that need. And if that increases emissions, I say, "So what?" The people have a right to a better life.... Some EU nations have done well on emissions reductions, but the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Spain and Italy have not just failed to make cuts they have significantly increased their emissions. And they do not seem to feel they have done anything wrong. ...


This is the way the world ends / not with a bang, but an economic justification.

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Sun, Aug 29, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Pioneering study finds only small amounts of dairy antibiotics in groundwater
In the first large study to track the fate of a wide range of antibiotics given to dairy cows, UC Davis scientists found that the drugs routinely end up on the ground and in manure lagoons, but are mostly broken down before they reach groundwater. The findings should help alleviate longstanding fears that dairy farms, and the fields fertilized with their waste, might lead to large-scale groundwater contamination. "What we found is that antibiotics can frequently be found at the manure-affected surfaces of the dairy operation (such as corrals and manure flush lanes) but generally degrade in the top 12 inches of soil," said Thomas Harter, an expert on the effects of agriculture on groundwater quality.... "A very small amount of certain antibiotics do travel into shallow groundwater. Our next task is to determine whether these particular antibiotics are further degraded before reaching domestic and public water wells." ...


Was that your longstanding fear of the consequences of massive, indiscriminate, prophylactic use of antibiotics?

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Sun, Aug 29, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Encephalitis kills 215 in India, toll expected to soar
At least 215 people, mostly children, have died in an outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in an impoverished region of northern Indian and the death toll is likely to soar, officials said Saturday. Eastern parts of India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh are ravaged by encephalitis each year as malnourished children succumb to the virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes from pigs to humans but this is one of the worst outbreaks, officials said. The deaths of four more children on Saturday pushed the toll to 215, with hundreds sick, some two to a bed, in hospitals in Gorakhpur, a deeply neglected area of 14 million people, regional health officer U.K. Srivastava told AFP by telephone from Gorakhpur. "A total of 1,324 patients had been admitted in hospitals until Saturday in Gorakhpur," which is the epicentre of the outbreak, and "more encephalitis patients are coming into our hospitals," Srivastava said. ...


Poverty is so expensive.

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Sun, Aug 29, 2010
from Telegraph.co.uk:
UN climate change panel to be warned over reports
Conducted by a committee of representatives from the world's leading scientific bodies, the analysis is expected to recommend a number of changes to the way the IPCC compiles and checks its extensive 1,000 page reports. The committee, which is made up of scientific organisations that form the InterAcademy Council, is also expected to recommend changes to help the IPCC keep its reports, which take around six years to complete, more up to date with current science.... The IPCC has been under scrutiny after it admitted making an error in its 2007 report, that stated Himalayan glaciers could melt to a fifth of current levels by 2035 - a statement that was wrong by over 300 years.... Speaking ahead of his lecture, he said: "The IPCC has not sufficiently adapted to the changing science and politics of climate change, nor to the changing expected and demanded role of science and expertise in society. "The IPCC's approach of seeking consensus obscures and constricts both scientific and wider social debates about both knowledge-driven and value-driven uncertainties that surround climate change politics." ...


Glad someone has a time machine.

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Sat, Aug 28, 2010
from New York Times:
Pacific Hot Spells Shifting as Predicted in Human-Heated World
Federal researchers have published work concluding that a particular variant of the periodic El Nio warmups of the tropical Pacific Ocean is becoming more frequent and stronger. The pattern appears to fit what is expected from human-driven warming of the global climate, said the researchers, Tong Lee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Michael McPhaden of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.... "The two threads of evidence together-from data and from computer models--suggest that climate change is affecting El Nino, rather than a natural variation in El Nino causing trends that may appear as if they are the result of man-made climate change. We can't be 100 percent certain that this interpretation is correct because the data are limited and the models are imperfect. But it provides us a plausible working hypothesis for further investigation into the nature and impacts of a changing face to El Nino."... "To add to that, some folks have suggested the possibility of natural variability in causing the warming (for example, we just happen to capture the rising part of a 60-year natural cycle). While that is possible, the so-called Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) index that is used to characterize decadal and multi-decadal variability of the Pacific Ocean has not shown a significant increasing or decreasing three-decade trend from the 1980's to the 2000's (it's dominated by quasi-decadal fluctuation since 1980). So it's difficult to blame the El Nio change to PDO." ...


Can't blame El Nino, can't blame PDO. Why isn't science doing its job?

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Sat, Aug 28, 2010
from BBC:
Anti-whaling NGOs warn of 'contaminated' whale meat
Environmental and animal-welfare groups are urging the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to persuade the World Health Organization (WHO) to act over fears about eating whale meat. The coalition of organisations wants the WHO to issue guidelines amid fears about the safety of the meat. The groups say whale meat is highly contaminated with mercury and should not be eaten. But whaling nations say they already have health guidelines in place.... They say dangerously high levels of mercury accumulate up the food chain. Small cetaceans, like tooth whales and pilot whales, are near the top of it and therefore a lot more toxic compounds tend to accumulate in these mammals' tissues than in smaller inhabitants of the marine world, warn the NGOs.... [Faroe Island whaling defender]: "It's true that pilot whales have very high levels of mercury in the meat and PCBs in the blubber and in 1998, the relevant health authorities at the Faroes issued a safety recommendation advising people on how much it was safe to eat. And people have taken that advice on board."... "If we don't have the whale meat and the blubber, what do we eat instead? We don't have meat production as such in the Faroes other than sheep and a limited amount of cattle that is kept mostly for milk. The sheep population is certainly not enough to serve the meat needs," [she continued].... Though the conservationists think it is rather unlikely for the IWC to extend the whaling ban to cover the small cetaceans, many hope that getting people to think about their health will do the trick. ...


I have the right to murder an intelligent mammal, because I want to eat its toxic fat and meat. How hard is that to understand?

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Sat, Aug 28, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Fertilizer Chemicals Linked to Animal Developmental Woes
Fertilizer chemicals may pose a bigger hazard to the environment -- specifically to creatures that live in water -- than originally foreseen, according to new research from North Carolina State University toxicologists.... [W]ater fleas take up nitrates and nitrites -- common chemicals used primarily in agriculture as fertilizers -- and convert those chemicals into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can be toxic to many organisms. The study shows that water fleas introduced to fertilizer chemicals in water were plagued with developmental and reproductive problems consistent with nitric oxide toxicity, even at what would be considered low concentrations.... "Nitrite concentrations in water vary across the United States, but commonly fall within 1 to 2 milligrams per liter of water," he says. "We saw negative effects to water fleas at approximately 0.3 milligrams per liter of water." Harmful effects of nitric oxide included developmental delay -- water flea babies were born on schedule but were underdeveloped; some lacked appendages important for swimming, for instance. ...


Those water flea babies are so cwute, even without their widdle appendages.

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Fri, Aug 27, 2010
from Guardian:
Pakistan flood victims flee Thatta after another levee is breached
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have fled the historic southern city of Thatta in Sindh province after the swollen Indus river broke a levee and flooded new areas. Around 175,000 people, about 70 percent of the city's population, were believed to have fled their homes overnight, said Manzoor Sheikh, a senior government official. Authorities were trying to repair the broken levee 78 miles south-east of the major port city of Karachi and arranging transport for people trying to leave. "The situation is getting worse," said local disaster official Hadi Baksh Kalhoro. "The water is flowing into a nearby canal endangering Thatta city."... Many historic tombs, graves and other sites linked to the Mughal empire that once ruled the subcontinent are at risk in Sindh. Some people have refused to leave the danger zone while others have taken shelter in an ancient graveyard for Muslim saints.... The floods began with the onset of the monsoon and have ravaged large parts of Pakistan, from the mountainous northwest to the agricultural heartlands. More than 1,500 people have died, almost 17.2 million people have been significantly affected, and about 1.2m homes have been destroyed or badly damaged, according to the UN. ...


That "Pakistan Flood" story is still around? It's been weeks!

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Fri, Aug 27, 2010
from Planet Green:
Mobile Farm Trucks Bring the Produce to the People
[I]t isn't surprising that some clever entrepreneurs are capitalizing on both trends by bringing farm fresh produce to those in both urban and rural areas. They are calling themselves Mobile Farm Trucks or Mobile Farmers' Markets, and they don't just cater to high-end shoppers, but provide low-income residents with affordable, fresh produce, grown using sustainable and/or organic methods. For example, in New York City, the Holton Farms Mobile Farm Truck has taken to the streets. Not a mobile farm stand, but a CSA on wheels. As they say on their site, "... The Farm Truck allows us access to neighborhoods throughout the Five Boroughs without having to open a store." The Farm Truck is run by sustainable farmers who partner with other farms and artisan producers to bring other products to its members including ice cream, cheeses, breads, coffee, grains, and soaps. They are still working on getting the appropriate permits to sell to non-CSA members and they are also accepting Food Stamps and discounting their prices by 20 percent for low-income New Yorkers.... Last year, Maine's Jordan Farm started a Mobile Farm Stand that travels to senior housing sites in South Portland and to Portland and Scarborough businesses. Using a renovated school bus, they offer the same fresh produce that is available at their farm stand in Cape Elizabeth. Like Holton Farms, Jordan's Farm uses sustainable farming practices, and also brings products from other producers in their area, including eggs, cream, butter, meat, cheese, pasta, honey, and maple syrup. ...


This story has wheels.

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Fri, Aug 27, 2010
from Guardian:
Coffee threatened by beetles in a warming world
A tiny insect that thrives in warmer temperatures -- the coffee berry borer -- has been spreading steadily, devastating coffee plants in Africa, Latin America, and around the world.... The beetle is a relatively recent problem in Ethiopia and Latin America, where most Arabica coffee is grown. A field survey of Ethiopia's coffee-growing regions conducted in the late 1960s found no trace of the beetle, but in 2003 researchers reported that the pest was widespread.... Until recently, the coffee berry borer was confined to just a few regions in Central Africa. But since the 1980s, the beetle has gradually spread to every coffee-growing region except Hawaii, Nepal, and Papua New Guinea. Juliana Jaramillo, a biologist at Kenya's International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, suspects temperature increases are to blame. ...


A collapsing environment and no coffee?

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Fri, Aug 27, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Artificial Enzyme Removes Natural Poison
For the first time ever, a completely artificial chemical enzyme has been successfully used to neutralise a toxin found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Chemzymes are designed molecules emulating the targeting and efficiency of naturally occurring enzymes and the recently graduated Dr. Bjerre is pleased about her results. "Showing that these molecules are capable of decomposing toxins ... proves the general point that it's possible to design artificial enzymes for this class of task," explains Bjerre.... But where natural enzymes are big and complex, the artificial ones have been pared down to the basics. One consequence of this simplicity is that designing chemzymes for targeted tasks ought to be easier. With fewer parts, there's less to go wrong when changing the structure of chemzymes.... Manmade enzymes take on heat and solvents without batting a molecular eyelid. One of the consequences of this is that chemzymes can be mass-produced using industrial chemical processes. This is a huge advantage when you need a lot of product in a hurry. ...


Should I be thrilled, or terrified?

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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, Aug 27, 2010
from CBC:
Pursuing the mystery herring loss near Nova Scotia
Scientists from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography are on a mission to find out why herring fishermen in Nova Scotia are reporting fewer and smaller fish this season. The researchers are using sounders and sonars to count the number of herring in an area known as the German Bank, off the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia. The count may help explain why the catches have been coming up smaller this year. "When the fishermen don't land fish, people think that there may not be fish," said Gary Melvin, a research scientist. "There can actually be fish. But we want to be sure, one way or the other." Some fishermen said they believe the catches are smaller because the fish are avoiding warmer water temperatures near the surface and diving deeper, thereby eluding the large nets used to catch them. ...


Avoiding warmer temperatures would be a smart survival strategy.

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from CBC:
Huge ice chunk breaks off Ellesmere Island
A large parcel of ice has fractured from a massive ice shelf on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, marking the third known case of Arctic ice loss this summer alone. The chunk of ice, which scientists estimate is roughly the size of Bermuda, broke away from the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on the island's northern coast around Aug. 18, according to NASA satellite imagery. At 40 metres thick, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf is estimated to be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, jutting off the island like an extension of the land. "The cracks are going right to the mainland, basically, right to Ellesmere Island," John England, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences with the University of Alberta, told CBC News on Tuesday. "So, in the core of the ice shelf itself, the fracturing is occurring. "I think that's really quite significant, that it's like the most resistant and most tenacious part of the ice shelf is now being dismantled."... England said there is still a month to go in the summer ice loss season in the Arctic Ocean, raising the possibility that other parts of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf -- particularly on the eastern side -- could easily break off. ...


It's those eco-nazi terrorists, blowing ice up to convince us that the greenhouse thing is real.

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from New York Times:
Enviro Groups Cheer as Scientist Bombards Atrazine Manufacturer With Profane E-Mails
It sounds like fodder for a PR flap that might benefit the leading producer of the controversial herbicide atrazine: reams of explicit, taunting e-mails sent to company employees by a professor whose research on the health risks of their product had won nationwide notice.... Hayes' e-mails to Syngenta officials date to 2002, according to a 102-page file the atrazine manufacturer posted to its website to buttress an ethics complaint filed against the tenured biology professor last month. His communiques run the gamut from spoken-word poetry to music lyrics -- Phil Collins, Tupac Shakur and other artists are quoted -- to profane intimations of violence against Syngenta officials. The company's latest complaint furthers its long-simmering feud with Hayes, who has become an outspoken critic of atrazine after years-long research that found the weed killer disrupting the sexual development of frogs, in some cases turning male subjects into females. But the intensely personal clash over Hayes' e-mails, described by a Sygenta lawyer as "aggressive, unprofessional, and insulting," is failing to cut into his support from environmental and farmworker advocates who have helped amplify his warnings about the herbicide's human health risks.... "This is straight out of big tobacco's PR handbook," said Pesticide Action Network North America spokeswoman Heather Pilatic. "The news Syngenta is trying to distract people's attention from, as we're heading into the fall and the tail end of EPA's review, is that atrazine is a serious contaminant."... "I'm not offended by the term 'activist,'" Hayes said. "I am biased because I've seen the data. ... I'm biased in that I don't want [atrazine] in my water. Why shouldn't I make that research available to others?" ...


OMG! Science can be subjective too?

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from Agence France-Press via TerraDaily:
Cholera epidemic now threatens all of Nigeria: ministry
A cholera epidemic that has killed more than 350 people in Nigeria since the start of the year now poses a threat to the entire country, the health ministry said on Wednesday. "Epidemiological evidence indicates that the entire country is at risk," the ministry said in a statement. "Reports received so far from 11 states show we have recorded 6,437 cases with 352 deaths from cholera this year. Most of the outbreaks occurred in the northwest and northeast zones" of the country, it stated. Surveys carried out by the ministry showed that less than 40 percent of the population in the affected states have access to adequate toilet facilities, the statement said. ...


Can't somebody get these people some squeezably soft toilet paper?

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from Yahoo News:
Behold the awesome power of the fire tornado
It turns out that "firestorm" isn't just a figure of speech. In a scene that looks like something straight out of the Book of Revelation, brushfires in Brazil combined with strong wind gusts to spark a tornado of fire. The bizarre weather event trailed flames in its wake as it touched down in the town of Aracatuba and around its surrounding countryside. Aracatuba hasn't seen any rain in three months. The flames brought traffic to a halt on a nearby road then disappeared. One local citizen caught the fearsome spectacle on camera. You can watch the raw footage... ...


The Apocalypse is going to be way cool!

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from Church of England, via Christian Ecology:
Bellringing for Biodiversity, Sept. 22
Church bells across the country will ring in tune with the United Nations next month to mark crucial international talks on biodiversity. As the bells toll at the UN headquarters in both New York and Nairobi, bell ringers from small parish churches to large cathedrals and minsters are being encouraged to ring on September 22. 2010 is the UN's International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) and the Church of England is one of the official partners in the UK. The UN General Assembly will discuss for the first time ever the crisis affecting the world's biodiversity on September 22, underlining the importance of how plants, animals and life as we know it are all linked and the loss of one species through human actions can affect many others.... "Ringing the church bells is a great way for the wider community to be reminded and to celebrate the beauty of creation. Rural churches are at the heart of village life and their churchyards are part of the collective history and memory of that community. Celebrating the biodiversity of countryside and churchyard will bring a community together and ringing the bells is a very prominent way of doing it." ...


Ring it in the morning, ring it in the evening, all over this la-and.

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Electricity Collected from the Air Could Become the Newest Alternative Energy Source
But new evidence suggested that water in the atmosphere really does pick up an electrical charge. Galembeck and colleagues confirmed that idea, using laboratory experiments that simulated water's contact with dust particles in the air. They used tiny particles of silica and aluminum phosphate, both common airborne substances, showing that silica became more negatively charged in the presence of high humidity and aluminum phosphate became more positively charged. High humidity means high levels of water vapor in the air ― the vapor that condenses and becomes visible as "fog" on windows of air-conditioned cars and buildings on steamy summer days. "This was clear evidence that water in the atmosphere can accumulate electrical charges and transfer them to other materials it comes into contact with," Galembeck explained. "We are calling this 'hygroelectricity,' meaning 'humidity electricity'."... These are fascinating ideas that new studies by ourselves and by other scientific teams suggest are now possible," Galembeck said. "We certainly have a long way to go. But the benefits in the long range of harnessing hygroelectricity could be substantial." ...


Hygro big and strong, little science.

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from IRIN:
Record low water levels threaten millions in Cambodia
Late rains and record low water levels in Cambodia's two main fresh water systems will affect food security and the livelihoods of millions, government officials and NGOs warn. "We expect the impact to be very strong," said Nao Thuok, director of the Fisheries Administration, adding that low water levels along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers were already limiting fish production and migration. Crucial spawning grounds in floodplains along the rivers remained dry. "The places where the fish usually lay their eggs do not have much water so the fish population will decrease a lot," he warned. Approximately six million Cambodians or 45 percent of the population depend on fishing in the Mekong and Tonle Sap basins, the government's Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute, reports. The annual "flood" season of daily rain usually starts in July but began a month late, local agricultural surveyors say.... Not only the fisheries sector is suffering, however. Rice farmer Meas Chan Thorn in western Pursat Province was only able to plant last week, a month behind schedule, because of the late rains, and predicted yields would be halved. ...


I'm sure this is just a "localized weather phenomenon."

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Declining trees spell gloom for planet
LESS rainfall and rising global temperatures are damaging one of the world's best guardians against climate change: trees. A global study, published in the journal Science, shows that the amount of carbon dioxide being soaked up by the world's forests in the past decade has declined, reversing a 20-year trend. It diminishes hopes that global warming can be seriously slowed down by the mass planting of trees in carbon sinks. Although plants generally grow bigger as a result of absorbing carbon-enriched air, they need more water and nutrients to do so, and they have been getting less. ...


There's always kudzu.

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from Inter Press Service:
Climate Change Policy Ignores Women Farmers
...Research has shown that women are more likely to feel the effects of climate change because they have less access to resources. Changing weather patterns increase poor women's work burden on gathering water and firewood. Girls may be forced to forgo school in order to contribute to the increased household work. Where traditional land tenure is practiced, women may lose land normally reserved for growing crops for household consumption to give way for commercial crops. The South African government, through its Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), is in the process of developing a national climate change policy. Consultations with a few environmental experts and civil society organisations took place in May.... ...


Does this mean my foot rub is going to be delayed again?

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Wed, Aug 25, 2010
from PhysOrg:
BPA and testosterone levels: First evidence for small changes in men
An international group of researchers led by the Peninsula Medical School and the University of Exeter have for the first time identified changes in sex hormones associated with BPA exposure in men, in a large population study.... The team measured the amount of BPA excreted per day in urine samples. 715 adults aged between 20 and 74 years were studied. The study aimed to measure the daily BPA loads excreted by adults, and to examine statistical associations between the amount of BPA exposure and serum oestrogen and testosterone concentrations. The average BPA daily exposure level in this European study population (over 5 micrograms per day) was slightly higher than recent comparable estimates for the USA population. The study found that higher BPA exposure was statistically associated with endocrine changes in men, specifically small increases in levels of testosterone in the blood.... "This finding is consistent with the evidence from laboratory experiments. However, this is just the first step in proving that at 'ordinary' exposure levels, BPA might be active in the human body. This new evidence does justify proper human safety studies to clarify the effects of BPA in people." ...


As long as it's increases in testosterone, then it's just fine with me. Want to make something of it?

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Wed, Aug 25, 2010
from BBC Magazine:
Why is Britain braced for a mackerel war?
Britain is said to be bracing itself for a re-run of its Cod Wars with Iceland - except this time the fish being fought over is mackerel. Yet, until recently, few were interested in a fish regarded as unclean. As far as fishing is concerned, relations between the UK and Iceland have been as turbulent as the waters of the North Atlantic where their disputes have been played out. So it is perhaps no surprise to see a British MEP, Conservative Struan Stevenson, calling for an EU-wide blockade of Icelandic boats - along with those from the Faroe Islands - in a row over quotas. However, while rows in the past have been over the coveted and dwindling stocks of cod, this time the nations are clashing over mackerel.... Iceland, which landed practically no mackerel before 2006, has allocated itself a 130,000-tonne quota. The Faroes, a collection of islands 250 miles north of Scotland, has tripled its usual entitlement.... "The mackerel stock has been sustainably managed for many years ensuring that all those involved in the fishery have benefited," he says. "The actions of Iceland and the Faroe Islands could undo all the good work in a matter of months."... But a recent fall in the the island's herring catch means [mackerel] has been "like a Godsend to us". ...


Why? Because every bigger fish has already been fished out!

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Wed, Aug 25, 2010
from Guardian:
British Gas launches solar panels scheme with '1000 pounds a year profit' claim
More than 12 million homeowners would be in line to save up to 1,000 pounds a year, should they install solar panels, says British Gas. The utility firm is the latest in a host of companies offering to install electricity-generating systems on homes to take advantage of a government scheme that pays the owners of solar panels for the 'renewable' electricity they generate. The sudden allure of solar power is less to do with planet-saving and more to do with companies or individuals banking the lucrative feed-in-tariffs (Fits) for every unit of electricity generated - currently 41.3p per KWh, irrespective of whether you consume the power at the time or not. British Gas says the Fits payments can be worth 1,000 pounds per annum, though with export tariffs (for power not used) added, they can be worth even more. They are guaranteed by the government for 25 years, are payable via the utility company, and will rise in line with inflation. British Gas has entered the market with the launch of two schemes. If you opt for its "rent-a-roof" scheme, it will install solar panels on your roof for free and you will benefit from the electricity you generate during the day. The installation is free but you will not own the panels and so British Gas will pocket the Fits cash for the length of the scheme - 25 years. The rent-a-roof deal is limited to the first 1,500 British Gas customers who apply. Alternatively, you can install your own solar panels and British Gas will offer you a two-year interest-free loan, supplied by Hitachi Capital, with which to borrow the upfront costs. You will receive the feed-in-tariffs as well as benefit from the generation of cheaper power. BG says the upfront cost generally ranges from 10,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds depending on the size of the roof. ...


Socialist energy? Not in America!

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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, Aug 25, 2010
from New Scientist:
Pee is for power: Your electrifying excretions
Urine might not pack the punch of rocket fuel, but what it lacks in energy density it makes up for in sheer quantity. It is one of the most abundant waste materials on Earth, with nearly 7 billion people producing roughly 10 billion litres of it every day. Add animals into the mix and this quantity is multiplied several times over. As things stand, this flood of waste poses a problem. Let it run into the water system and it would wipe out entire ecosystems; yet scrubbing it out of waste water costs money and energy. In the US, for instance, waste water treatment plants consume 1.5 per cent of all the electricity the country generates. So wouldn't it be nice if, instead of being a vast energy consumer, urine could be put to use. That thought occurred to Gerardine Botte, a chemical engineer at Ohio University in Athens, during a discussion in 2002 with colleagues about possible sources of hydrogen for use in fuel cells. ...


The answer was at our fingertips all along!

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Wed, Aug 25, 2010
from Climatewire:
If a Country Sinks Beneath the Sea, Is It Still a Country?
Rising ocean levels brought about by climate change have created a flood of unprecedented legal questions for small island nations and their neighbors. Among them: If a country disappears, is it still a country? Does it keep its seat at the United Nations? Who controls its offshore mineral rights? Its shipping lanes? Its fish? And if entire populations are forced to relocate -- as could be the case with citizens of the Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribati and other small island states facing extinction -- what citizenship, if any, can those displaced people claim? ...


If a tree on a submerged island falls and there's no one there to hear it, will it drown?

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Wed, Aug 25, 2010
from New York Times:
Egg Industry Faces New Scrutiny After Outbreak
As it reeled from the recall of half a billion eggs for possible salmonella infection, the American egg industry was already battling a movement to outlaw its methods as cruel and unsafe, and adapting to the Obama administration's drive to bolster health rules and inspections. The cause of the infections at two giant farms in Iowa has not been pinpointed, Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Monday in a television interview. But "there is no question that these farms that are involved in the recall were not operating with the standards of practice that we consider responsible," Ms. Hamburg said in the strongest official indication yet that lax procedures may be to blame. ...


Um, something tells me someone named "Hamburg" ... might have some expertise in corporate farming.

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Tue, Aug 24, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Herbicide Atrazine Causes Prostate Inflammation in Male Rats and Delays Puberty
A new study shows that male rats prenatally exposed to low doses of atrazine, a widely used herbicide, are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals. The research adds to a growing body of literature on atrazine, an herbicide predominantly used to control weeds and grasses in crops such as corn and sugar cane. Atrazine and its byproducts are known to be relatively persistent in the environment, potentially finding their way into water supplies.... The doses of atrazine mixture given to the rats during the last five days of their pregnancy are close to the regulated levels in drinking water sources. The current maximum contamination level of atrazine allowed in drinking water is 3 parts per billion. The doses given to the animals were 0.09 (or 2.5 parts per million), 0.87, or 8.73 milligrams per kilogram body weight.... "We didn't expect to see these kinds of effects at such low levels," Fenton said. She adds that this is the second paper to show low dose effects of atrazine metabolite mixtures. ...


I'm just thrilled there's something to counteract the stuff speeding up puberty.

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Tue, Aug 24, 2010
from AP, via Washington Post:
Experts: Gators in northern waters probably pets
Two gators in the Chicago River. One strolling down a Massachusetts street. Another in bustling New York City. And that's just in the past few weeks. From North Dakota to Indiana, alligators are showing up far from their traditional southern habitats - including a 3-footer captured Tuesday in the Chicago River. But experts say it's not the latest sign of global warming. Instead the creatures almost certainly were pets that escaped or were dumped by their owners. "People buy them as pets and then they get too big and at some point they decide they just can't deal with it," said Kent Vliet, an alligator expert from the University of Florida who tracks media reports about the reptiles.... Vliet said such small alligators don't pose much of a threat to humans - preferring to dine on fish, snails, crayfish, frogs and small snakes - though they probably would bite if handled. "It's not like it's going to hunt you down," he said. The greater risk is to the reptiles, which probably wouldn't survive long in northern climates, experts said. ...


That's presuming there aren't, y'know, sewers.

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Tue, Aug 24, 2010
from PNAS, via Scientific American:
All-out geoengineering still would not stop sea level rise
Mimicking volcanoes by throwing particles high into the sky. Maintaining a floating armada of mirrors in space. Burning plant and other organic waste to make charcoal and burying it--or burning it as fuel and burying the CO2 emissions. Even replanting trees. All have been mooted as potential methods of "geoengineering"--"deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment," as the U.K.'s Royal Society puts it.... Arguably a more devastating consequence would be the rise of the seas as warmer waters expand and melting icecaps fill ocean basins higher, potentially swamping nations and the estimated 150 million people living within one meter of high tide. Can geoengineering hold back that tide? That's what scientists attempted to assess with computer models in a paper published online August 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their words, "sea level rise by 2100 will likely be 30 centimeters higher than 2000 levels despite all but the most aggressive geoengineeering." In large part, that's because the ocean has a lot of thermal inertia: it only slowly warms as a result of increasing greenhouse gas levels--and it will only slowly cool down again.... Perhaps the only way to reduce warming enough to minimize the rise of the oceans is an all-out effort that also includes burning biomass as fuel (either to replace coal or gasoline or both) and pairing it with CO2 capture and storage. Together, they could suck down greenhouse gas levels by 180 ppm--more than enough to bring us below pre-industrial levels. As a result, sea level rise is held to just 10 centimers by 2100, according to the author's modeling. Such extensive geoengineering seems impractical given its economic (and environmental) cost. ...


We can't just build an armada of floating refrigerators?

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Tue, Aug 24, 2010
from PhysOrg:
The world is running out of helium: Nobel prize winner
A renowned expert on helium says we are wasting our supplies of the inert gas helium and will run out within 25 to 30 years, which will have disastrous consequences for hospitals and industry. Liquid helium is vital for its use in cooling the superconducting magnets in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. There is no substitute because no other substance has a lower boiling point. Helium is also vital in the manufacture of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and fiber optics.... Professor Richardson warned the gas is not cheap because the supply is inexhaustible, but because of the Helium Privatisation Act passed in 1996 by the US Congress. The Act required the helium stores held underground near Amarillo in Texas to be sold off at a fixed rate by 2015 regardless of the market value, to pay off the original cost of the reserve. The Amarillo storage facility holds around half the Earth's stocks of helium: around a billion cubic meters of the gas. The US currently supplies around 80 percent of the world's helium supplies.... the reserve is a collection of disused underground mines, pipes and vats extending over 300 km from north of Amarillo into Kansas. He warned that when helium is released to the atmosphere, in helium balloons for example, it is lost forever. There is no chemical way of manufacturing helium, and the supplies we have originated in the very slow radioactive alpha decay that occurs in rocks. It costs around 10,000 times more to extract helium from air than it does from rocks and natural gas reserves. ...


That "Contract with America" really paid off.

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Tue, Aug 24, 2010
from Alabama Press-Register, via DesdemonaDespair:
Mysterious material washing ashore in Alabama not oil, scientists say
Scientists are intrigued by the heavy sheen and persistent clouds of dingy brown water washing up in pockets from Perdido Pass to Petit Bois Island since July.... The residue is not oil, according to chemical analysis. But it probably used to be.... "It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen. It's got some hydrocarbons in it, but it does not match the oil from the Deepwater Horizon," Overton said, adding that he has received samples collected by federal officials in other places that appear similar. "I have to think it is biological in origin."... "At some level, somebody better define oil. This three letter word is starting to get pretty complicated," Graham said. "Are we looking at the remnants of oil, of oil that has been worked over by the microbial community? The microbes take what they can, then just leave the parts they can't eat. That's likely happening out there on a microscopic level. I'd speculate that's what we are seeing." ...


What comes out of you when there's something you can't digest?

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Tue, Aug 24, 2010
from Jakarta Globe, via DesdemonaDespair:
Indonesia reaches 'super-extreme level of weather'
Indonesia has been experiencing its most extreme weather conditions in recorded history, meteorologists warned on Wednesday as torrential rains continued to pound the capital. All regions across the archipelago have been experiencing abnormal and often catastrophic weather, an official from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said. "We have reached a super-extreme level of weather this year, the first time in our history, and this is much worse than what we experienced back in 1998, when the La Nina caused extreme weather in the country," Edvin Aldrian warned. ...


Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout till you have drenched our... wait, no, don't do that!

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Mon, Aug 23, 2010
from MedicalNewsToday:
PMO Compounds Show Promise Against Deadly Ebola, Marburg Viruses
US scientists have discovered two compounds from a family known as antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, or PMOs, can protect monkeys infected with Ebola and Marburg viruses from going on to develop lethal hemorrhagic fever, which has a 90 per cent fatality rate in humans; and they are now proceeding with clinical trials. The "proof of concept" study that led to these findings was a collaboration between the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) based at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and AVI BioPharma, a Washington-based biotechnology firm, and was published in the 22 August advanced online issue of Nature Medicine. There are currently no vaccines or effective treatments for the Ebola and Marburg filoviruses, which are commonly transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. However, infection can also occur via the aerosol route, which is why they are a cause of grave concern as potential weapons in biological warfare or terrorism. ...


Blood won't gush from my pores, my mouth, my anus, my eyes? What a relief!

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Mon, Aug 23, 2010
from New Scientist:
Biosemiotics: Searching for meanings in a meadow
Biology, of course, already concerns itself with information: cell signalling, the genetic code, pheromones and human language, for example. What biosemiotics aims to do is to weave these disparate strands into a single coherent theory of biological meaning.... "Biosemiotics", then, might sound like the name of some arcane mix of biological science and linguistic philosophy. Luckily, though, the true message of biosemiotics is clear: we may do better to stop thinking about the biological world solely in terms of its physical and chemical properties, but see it also as a world made up of biological signs and "meanings".... For von Uexkll, both views were wrong. Each creature in the meadow lived in "its own world filled with the perceptions which it alone knows", and it was in accordance with that experiential world - and not the entirety of the whole, unseen but physically existing world - that the creature had to coordinate its actions to eat, flee, mate and sustain itself.... [Pierce] saw logic as a formal doctrine of signs, and his theory of signs is important in modern biosemiotics. Most of us naively conceive of a "sign" as standing for something concrete: a red traffic light for most of us simply means "stop". In other words, the two things - a sign and its meaning - are directly connected in a sign relationship. Peirce, however, saw a sign as representing a relation between three things. ...


Said the dying songbird/to the dying bee/I wish those humans/would finally see./Burma Shave

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Mon, Aug 23, 2010
from ACS, via EurekAlert:
Self-cleaning technology from Mars can keep terrestrial solar panels dust free
Imagine keeping dust and grime off objects spread out over an area of 25 to 50 football fields. That's the problem facing companies that deploy large-scale solar power installations, and scientists today presented the development of one solution -- self-dusting solar panels ― based on technology developed for space missions to Mars. In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.... The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level. The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen's edges. Mazumder said that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operations. ...


That's even better than Space Food Stix!

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Mon, Aug 23, 2010
from Guardian:
Coral doctor sounds the alarm about more acidic seas
The changes he sees in ocean chemistry spell trouble for the coral that he studies closely. If the acidification process continues on its current trajectory, it poses a dire threat to the whole marine ecosystem. "What I'm really concerned about with ocean acidification is that we are facing the prospect of a crash in marine food webs." says Guinotte. "There is no question that many of my colleagues in marine science are scared about what is happening. We know we need a more precise understanding of the changes and biological responses now under way -- and we need it as quickly as possible, before it is too late to turn things around."... As carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater, hydrogen ions are released. This lower the pH, making the water more acidic. Measurements indicate that Earth's oceans are already about 30 percent more acidic than they were before the industrial revolution. As the number of hydrogen ions has risen, the number of carbonate ions available in seawater has gone down. This carbonate deficit makes life more difficult for the "marine calcifiers," species such as coral and shellfish that use carbonate to build their skeletons and protective shells.... "From the standpoint of the oceans," Guinotte says, "there is no escaping the fact that we are going to need major reductions in our CO2 emissions -- something like 80 to 90 percent. When we see governments arguing about reductions of 10 to 15 percent, I think all of us in the marine science community need to say that CO2 reductions of this scale are simply not going to be sufficient. We have to get off fossil fuels." ...


CO2 reductions of 85-90 percent? Are you tripping?

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