|ApocaDocuments (20) gathered this week:|
Sat, May 14, 2011
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Deadly diet of marine plastic kills seabirds
Seabirds which forage in the Tasman Sea are mistaking plastic for food, eating it and perishing on Lord Howe Island.
"The problem is here - in our backyard," a zoologist, Jennifer Lavers, said.
Large amounts of plastic are being recovered from flesh-footed shearwaters on Lord Howe. In the latest survey, one bird's stomach contained more than 200 pieces and others held more than 50.
The sharp-edged fragments tear internal organs and toxic substances bind to the plastic. Mercury, which is toxic to birds at four parts per million, was found in the shearwaters at up to 30,000 ppm, according to Dr Lavers.
The bird's numbers are plummeting on Lord Howe, once an Australian stronghold. Dr Lavers, of the Tasmanian Museum, said in last month's survey 95 per cent of nesting shearwaters had some plastic in their stomachs and it was hard to find living chicks....
The shearwater population on Lord Howe has at least halved since the 1970s. Even so, in a good year 50 per cent of burrows contained chicks. "This year we checked more than 200 nests and we found six chicks - one of them dead," Dr Lavers said. "We have to ask: 'is this just a bad year, or is this population tanking?'."
Our society's challenge: How do we make plastic more nutritious?
Fri, May 13, 2011
Wikileaks cables show race to carve up Arctic
The opportunity to exploit resources has come because of a dramatic fall in the amount of ice in the Arctic.
The US Geological Survey estimates oil reserves off Greenland are as big as those in the North Sea....
Tom Burke, who advises mining company Rio Tinto and the UK Foreign Office on climate change and business, told Newsnight that political tensions were rising because "the ice is declining much faster" than expected, so "everybody who thinks they've got a chance to get at those resources wants to get in there and stake their claim".
Since the 1970s, Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University has made repeated trips under the North Pole in Royal Navy nuclear submarines to measure the thickness of the ice.
He told Newsnight the graph "has gone off a cliff" because the ice sheet has thinned as well as shrunk.
The Pan-Arctic Ice-Ocean Modelling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) which measures ice volume shows that last September there was only a quarter of the ice in the Arctic that there had been in 1979.
Prof Wadhams says in summer "it could easily happen that we'll have an ice-free North Pole within a year or two". ...
Sometimes it's the offhand comments that hit the hardest.
Fri, May 13, 2011
from National Research Council, via New York Times:
Scientists' Report Stresses Urgency of Limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The nation's scientific establishment issued a stark warning to the American public on Thursday: Not only is global warming real, but the effects are already becoming serious and the need has become "pressing" for a strong national policy to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases....
"The risks associated with doing business as usual are a much greater concern than the risks associated with engaging in ambitious but measured response efforts," the report concludes. "This is because many aspects of an 'overly ambitious' policy response could be reversed or otherwise addressed, if needed, through subsequent policy change, whereas adverse changes in the climate system are much more difficult (indeed, on the time scale of our lifetimes, may be impossible) to 'undo.'"...
The report's authors -- an unusual combination of climate scientists, businessmen and politicians -- said they were very aware that the political mood on climate change had changed significantly from when the committee was formed in 2009....
But Representative Joe L. Barton, Republican of Texas, who has been leading the charge against further regulating carbon emissions, swiftly dismissed the council's findings in an interview Thursday. "I see nothing substantive in this report that adds to the knowledge base necessary to make an informed decision about what steps -- if any -- should be taken to address climate change," Mr. Barton said. ...
Silly scientists. All we need to do is Cntrl-Alt-Delete and restart the ecosystem.
Fri, May 13, 2011
from Discovery News:
Lake Slime Loaded With Pollutants
Pesticides, plasticizers, pharmaceuticals and other hormone-disrupting chemicals soak into the slime that coats rocks at the bottom of lakes and streams, found a new study. Fish and aquatic insects then feed on those contaminated slimes, also known as biofilms.
By documenting biofilms as covert hiding places for toxic chemicals, the study offers the potential for aquatic slimes to help remove pollution from wastewater effluents. For now, the findings also raise new concerns about how the chemicals in our drugs and personal care products work their way through food chains....
Concern has been building for years about the environmental effects of endocrine disrupters, a class of chemicals that can interrupt the hormonal systems of both people and animals that are exposed to them. These chemicals, which include hormones from birth control pills and ingredients of many plastics, end up in the discharge that flows out of wastewater treatment plants all over the developed world. ...
Slimant Green comes from people!
Fri, May 13, 2011
from Post Carbon Institute, via Huffington Post:
Natural Gas Revolution Is Overblown, Study Says
A veritable explosion in the number of natural gas wells in the United States in the late 2000's resulted in only modest gains in production, a new study finds, suggesting that the promise of natural gas as a bountiful and economical domestic fuel source has been wildly oversold.
The findings, part of a broader analysis of natural gas published Thursday by the Post Carbon Institute, an energy and climate research organization in California, is one of a growing number of studies to undermine a natural gas catechism that has united industry, environmental groups and even the Obama White House in recent years....
But the actual productivity profile of new, unconventional wells -- often tapped at tremendous expense -- is far less clear than is normally portrayed, Hughes said. Studies at existing fields, or plays, suggest that many shale wells tend to be highly productive in their first year, and then decline steeply -- sometimes by as much as 80 percent or more -- after that, requiring new wells to be plumbed....
If that's the case, Hughes said, then those hoping that the shale gas boom might one day provide enough natural gas to replace coal for electricity generation, or oil as a transportation fuel, will be sadly disappointed. Indeed, he said, the number of new wells that would be needed to meet these goals would create a dystopian landscape of well pads and gas pipelines that few people would want to inhabit. ...
If energy was too cheap to meter, who knows what I'd put up with.
Thu, May 12, 2011
from Toronto Globe and Mail:
Fraser River sockeye face chemical soup of 200 contaminants
Sockeye salmon are exposed to a soup of chemicals in the Fraser River, and some of the ingredients are accumulating to potentially lethal levels in eggs, while others may be disrupting the sexual function of fish, according to a scientific review conducted for the Cohen Commission... While it is unlikely that contaminants are "the sole cause" of sockeye population declines, the report says there is "a strong possibility that exposure to contaminants of concern, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and/or contaminants of emerging concern has contributed to the decline of sockeye salmon." ...
Coldcocking the sockeye!
Thu, May 12, 2011
from Science News:
Idling jets pollute more than thought
Airports can pose a far bigger threat to local air than previously recognized, thanks to the transformative power of sunlight.
In the first on-tarmac measurements of their kind, researchers have shown that oil droplets spewed by idling jet engines can turn into particles tiny enough to readily penetrate the lungs and brain.
Allen Robinson of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and his team collected the pollution spewed from a plane powered by one of the most common types of commercial jet engines as it operated at different loads... Sunlight's oxidation of the exhaust emitted at idling can generate 35 times more particles than the engine originally emitted and 10 times what computer models have typically predicted, the researchers report online May 5 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Robinson says he found these new data "unbelievable. It sort of blew our minds." ...
Apparently, it blows one's mind AND one's brain (and lungs).
Thu, May 12, 2011
from ABC Good Morning America:
Mississippi River Flooding: Pollution, Fertilizers, Sewage in the Flood Waters; ABC News Does its Own Testing
The great Mississippi River flood of 2011, cresting south of Memphis today, carries a mix of fertilizer, oil, pesticides, trash and farm runoff as it flows toward the Gulf of Mexico, say public health officials.
Some of it is nasty stuff, and officials say people are wise to be careful. They urge people not to touch the water unless they're wearing rubber boots and gloves, and wash thoroughly if they get wet.
"There could be a lot of untreated sewage coming downstream," said Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist and activist in Louisiana who has tangled with oil and chemical companies. "People need to be aware." ...
All that shit is going to kill the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Wed, May 11, 2011
from Huffington Post:
Bedbugs With Drug-Resistant MRSA 'Superbug' Germ Found
Researchers are reporting an alarming combination: bedbugs carrying "superbug" germs.
Canadian scientists detected drug-resistant MRSA bacteria in bedbugs from three hospital patients from a downtrodden Vancouver neighborhood.
Bedbugs have not been known to spread disease, and there's no clear evidence that the five bedbugs found on the patients or their belongings had spread MRSA or a second less dangerous drug-resistant germ.
However, bedbugs can cause itching that can lead to excessive scratching. That can cause breaks in the skin that make people more susceptible to these bacteria, noted Dr. Marc Romney, one of the study's authors.
The study is small and very preliminary, "But it's an intriguing finding" that needs to be further researched, said Romney, medical microbiologist at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. ...
Next up: Hemorrhagic fever transmitted by fleas.
Wed, May 11, 2011
Ocean Acidification: Carbon Dioxide Makes Life Difficult for Algae
The acidification of the world's oceans could have major consequences for the marine environment. New research shows that coccoliths, which are an important part of the marine environment, dissolve when seawater acidifies.
Coccoliths are very small shells of calcium carbonate that encapsulate a number of species of alga. Algae plays an important role in the global carbon-oxygen cycle and thus in our ecosystem. Our seawater has changed because of our emissions of greenhouse gases and therefore it was interesting for Hassenkam and his colleagues to investigate how the coccoliths react to different types of water.
"We know that the world's oceans are acidifying due to our emissions of CO2 and that is why it is interesting for us to find out how the coccoliths are reacting to it....
In fact, it turns out that the shell falls completely apart when we do experiments in water with a pH value that many researchers believe will be the found in the world oceans in the year 2100 due to the CO2 levels...." ...
Shells fall apart; the algae cannot hold.
Wed, May 11, 2011
from Southwest Farm Press, via DesdemonaDespair:
Texas/Southwest gripped in drought; crops 'pretty much shut down'
Crop and forage production has "pretty much shut down" due to severe to exceptional drought conditions, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service statewide crop expert.
"If you look at the U.S. drought monitor, about 26 percent of the state of Texas is an exceptional drought," said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head of the soil and crop sciences department, College Station.
"Exceptional," means it is a one-in-50-year occurrence, Miller explained.
Much of the rest of the state was in what's classified as moderate, severe, or extreme drought. The distinctions are being based largely on how much damage and losses are expected to crops, forage production, livestock and water sources, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor classification scheme....
"But statewide, it's a pretty grim picture," he said. "And it's not just Texas; it's New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas. It's an exceptional drought across a big area."
Corn along the Gulf Coast is stunted and tasselling early, Miller said. "It's in a lot trouble." ...
I'm just glad we can't blame it on climate change!
Wed, May 11, 2011
from Postmedia News:
Pollutants taking toll on polar bears: researchers
Persistent organic pollutants used in industry are changing the genitals and bones of polar bears in East Greenland, says a Danish wildlife veterinarian and toxicologist.
"Shrinking balls and degraded bones," linked to the presence of pesticides and flame retardants in the Arctic, are likely to affect the animals' fertility and reproductive success, said Christian Sonne at last week's conference on Arctic climate change and pollution in Copenhagen.
These impacts are "not just" affecting polar bears, said Sonne who works at the National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark.
People, as well as other animals, in Canada's Arctic may also be at risk of similar effects from these pollutants... ...
Just slip 'em some calcium supplements and viagra and they'll be fine.
Wed, May 11, 2011
from Philadelphia Inquirer:
Duke study finds methane in well water near gas drilling sites
A Duke University study has found that methane levels in private water wells are, on average, 17 times higher when within 1,000 yards of a natural gas drilling site.
Of 60 wells that the researchers tested for methane in northeastern Pennsylvania and New York, they found the gas in 85 percent.
When they fingerprinted the methane - comparing the chemistry of the methane in the wells with that from natural gas wells in the region - "the signatures matched," said Robert Jackson, a professor at Duke and a study author.
"At least some homeowners who claim that their wells were contaminated by shale gas extraction appear to be right," he said. ...
Methinks methane is metoxic.
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Tue, May 10, 2011
from Cardiff Western Mail:
Hi-tech teen lifestyle fuels climate change
TODAY'S teenagers are consuming more energy than any previous generation - despite receiving unprecedented education on climate change and other green issues, an academic has warned.
Mobile phones, gaming devices, televisions, computers and hair straighteners are just some of the gadgets commonly found in the bedrooms of modern teenagers.
Professor Ian Williams, who has studied the Facebook generation's lifestyles and environmentalism, says a typical teenager may have amassed more electrical items than an entire household would have owned a generation earlier.
They were so, like, primitive back then.
Tue, May 10, 2011
from Reno Gazette-Journal:
Fact checker: Don't see consensus on global warming? Look past Fox News
The claim: There is no scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising and humans are significantly to blame.
The background: This week's claim started because of a study done by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes. The study's aim was to determine whether the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court, which allowed unlimited campaign contributions from corporations and unions, affected people's perception of the truthfulness of the information being fed in the midterm elections.
The study wasn't intended to be concerned with where people got their information, just how accurate it seemed. But the researchers noticed a peculiar thing: Although some Americans were misinformed, they generally became more informed if they consumed more news -- with one major exception.
The study found that the more people watched Fox News, the less informed they became. ...
Unfair and unbalanced.
Tue, May 10, 2011
from New York Times:
Barring Cars to Clear the Air
Cruising through cities in cars has been a part of urban life for decades. But for some European drivers, that pastime could be coming to an end where the authorities want to bar the most polluting vehicles.
"The future in city centers belongs to small cars and electric vehicles," Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the French minister for ecology and transport, told a French newspaper, Le Parisien, last month.
Ms. Kosciusko-Morizet was announcing plans for eight of the largest French cities, including Paris and Nice, to restrict or bar access by passenger cars made before 1997, when stricter emissions standards took effect in Europe. ...
Friggin' French always fouling up our fun.
Tue, May 10, 2011
from Agence France-Press:
Ecologists raise alarm over Russia's Olympics
With just over 1,000 days left before the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia is pulling out all the stops to get ready in a drive activists say is leaving a devastating toll on the environment...
"In general, environmental damage in Sochi is much worse than what we expected in the early stages of construction planning," said Suren Gazaryan of the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus....A mudslide from an illegal dump up the hill tore through the park and filled the river's banks with debris from tunnel construction and other waste in January.
"Clearly leaving thousands of tons of waste on a steep hillside is not a good idea, but its convenient, and it can't be stopped," Gazaryan said as he picked off a chunk of the black substance for testing. ...
Maybe they ought to hold the ApocOlympics instead.
Mon, May 9, 2011
from The Walrus:
He's been training his mental telescope on the year 2031, and the nagging question of whether our world will be consumed by a new, climate-related geopolitics....
China and the Pacific Rim nations, meanwhile, are enduring ever-worsening repercussions of climate change: volatile storms, food riots, and rising sea levels that displace millions of people. "Suddenly," he says, drawing out the tale like the pitch for a thriller, "some countries say, 'Screw it. We have to cool this down.'"
How? A bloc of Asian nations underwrites an aggressive geoengineering effort that uses specially designed aircraft to disperse thousands of tonnes of sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere. The goal: to reduce global temperatures and calm regional weather patterns. Relative to the costs of environmental mayhem, this high-leverage project is alluringly affordable and promises quick results. Indeed, the halo of high-altitude particles succeeds in reflecting enough sunlight into space that ocean temperatures begin to drop -- so much so that the summer sea ice in the Arctic refreezes.
Blackstock continues the plot line: Arctic oil and gas exploration halts, triggering a recession as investors anticipate rising energy prices. Resource-rich northern nations, which have reaped a climate change dividend in the Arctic, now find their commercial interests directly threatened by the geoengineering efforts of southern countries hit by global warming symptoms. ...
Surely nobody would change the climate in a way that would harm others, would they?
Mon, May 9, 2011
from Scientific American blogs:
Temperature Tantrum: James Hansen Speaks Out, Gets Busted, and Now Sues to Stop Global Warming
In the 1980s, however, he became so worried about global warming that he started speaking out. At a 1988 Senate hearing on climate change, he made headlines when he asserted with 99 percent certainty that greenhouse gases from human activities were causing global warming. Since then the correlated surge in atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperatures has borne out his assertion....
Hansen advocates civil disobedience to block fossil-fuel operations; in 2009 he was arrested along with other protestors allegedly obstructing traffic into a coal-mining operation in West Virginia. Now he is trying another tactic: suing the government. Hansen serves as a scientific advisor for Our Children's Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit formed "to protect Earth's natural systems for current and future generations." The group has organized a lawsuit that a coalition of environmental groups filed last week against the U.S. and other nations in attempt to force them to take measures to cut fossil-fuel emissions. ...
When science fails, and foresight fails, and prudence fails, and even reason fails to convince, all that's left is the legal system.
Mon, May 9, 2011
from New Scientist:
Unnatural selection: Fish growing up fast
If we humans are good at hunting, we excel at fishing. As we vacuum up stupendous numbers of fish from oceans, rivers and lakes, the nature of the ones that get away is changing at an astonishing rate.
In particular, the targeting of big animals drives the evolution of smaller fish or ones that become sexually mature at a younger age, or both. Many fish populations are changing dramatically, with average size shrinking by 20 per cent and average life histories 25 per cent shorter (PNAS, v 106, p 952). Harvested species show the most abrupt trait changes ever observed in wild populations, Michael Kinnison of the University of Maine and colleagues reported recently....
There is also no doubt about the plausibility of such rapid evolution. A decade-long study of Atlantic silversides kept in tanks has shown that intense targeting of large individuals can halve average size in just four generations.
Pretty soon fish will die before they're born.
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