|ApocaDocuments (21) gathered this week:|
Sun, May 29, 2011
from NatureClimate, via EurekAlert:
Tiny bubbles signal severe impacts to coral reefs worldwide
The research team studied three natural volcanic CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea to better understand how ocean acidification will impact coral reefs ecosystem diversity. The study details the effects of long-term exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide and low pH on Indo-Pacific coral reefs, a condition that is projected to occur by the end of the century as increased man-made CO2 emissions alter the current pH level of seawater, turning the oceans acidic.
"These 'champagne reefs' are natural analogs of how coral reefs may look in 100 years if ocean acidification conditions continue to get worse," said Langdon, UM Rosenstiel School professor and co-principal investigator of the study....
The study shows shifts in the composition of coral species and reductions in biodiversity and recruitment on the reef as pH declined from 8.1 to 7.8. The team also reports that reef development would cease at a pH below 7.7. The IPCC 4th Assessment Report estimates that by the end of the century, ocean pH will decline from the current level of 8.1 to 7.8, due to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
"The seeps are probably the closest we can come to simulating the effect of man-made CO2 emissions on a coral reef," said Langdon. "They allow us to see the end result of the complex interactions between species under acidic ocean conditions." ...
Tiny bubbles, in the brine / Tiny bubbles, don't feel fine.
Sun, May 29, 2011
Mystery Virus in South Korea Claims Second Victim
Health officials in South Korea reported that a second person has died after being infected with an unknown virus.
According to news reports, eight patients from different parts of the country have been hospitalized in recent months with similar cold or flu-like symptoms, including cough and difficulty breathing. Seven of the eight had recently given birth or were expecting. The first victim to die was nine months pregnant; the second was also due to deliver before her death. Doctors were able to save both babies. The expectant women died of multiple organ failure triggered by severe scarring and thickening of the lung tissue. ...
This is one way to neutralize population growth!
Sat, May 28, 2011
Big oil companies face growing concern on fracking
Large blocks of investors in the two biggest U.S. oil companies on Wednesday demanded more disclosure about the environmental risks of extracting oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing.
Exxon Mobil Corp defended the practice at its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, even as investors peppered Chief Executive Rex Tillerson with concerns and questions about it.
A proposal requiring more disclosure by Exxon on the impact of "fracking" received about 30 percent of the votes by shareholders in the world's largest publicly traded oil company.
At rival Chevron Corp, which became heavily involved in fracking through a recent acquisition, 41 percent of shareholders backed a similar resolution.
"Breaking 40 percent on a first year resolution has only happened a few times in the last few decades, so it shows how seriously the company's shareholders are taking this issue," said Michael Passoff, who focuses on fracking at San Francisco-based corporate responsibility group As You Sow....
However, Passoff said even regulators acknowledge that the current regulation by states is inadequate. ...
It's as if stockholders recognized a potential liability from pumping toxics willy-nilly into shattered subterranean layers. Can it be so?
Fri, May 27, 2011
Australia's burping cows more climate friendly than thought
Australia's huge cattle herd in the north might be burping less planet-warming methane emissions than thought, a study released on Friday shows, suggesting the cows are more climate friendly.
Cattle, sheep and other ruminant livestock produce large amounts of methane, which is about 20 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. One cow can produce about 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
Half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and most of that is from sheep and cattle. Most of the cattle and sheep emissions are, contrary to popular belief, from burping.
Scientists at Australia's state-backed research body the CSIRO say the amount of methane from cattle fed on tropical grasses in northern Australia could be nearly a third less than thought. ...
Well played! That headline is lots better than "Australian cow-burps a third less lethal"!
Fri, May 27, 2011
from San Francisco Chronicle:
FDA finds BPA in nearly every item tested
The FDA has been under significant pressure to regulate Bisphenol-A, a chemical component in plastics and resins that has been linked to health problems ranging from hyperactivity and early puberty to infertility and cancer. 90 percent of all Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
While the effects of the stuff have been fairly abundantly demonstrated, the mode of exposure has not been rigorously charted. Some FDA scientists decided to take the matter up themselves, testing the most popularly consumed canned foods. (Most cans of food are lined with resins that contain BPA.)
They found BPA in virtually all of the items they tested -- including green beans, chile, pasta and fruit.
But the amount of BPA in the items varied widely. One can of peas contained BPA at 113 times the concentration of another. Pasta, pork and beans, chile and soups tended to contain BPA at levels between 10 - 80 parts per billion. Both different types of resin and different chemical properties of the food likely account for the variety.
Fri, May 27, 2011
from National Geographic:
Prozac Killing E. coli in the Great Lakes
Scientists in Erie, Pennsylvania, have found that minute concentrations of fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac, are killing off microbial populations in the Great Lakes.
Traces of antidepressants such as Prozac have been found in both drinking and recreational water supplies throughout the world, in quantities experts say are too dilute to affect humans but which have been found to damage the reproductive systems of mollusks and may even affect the brains of animals like fish....
Killing off bacteria might seem like a good thing. "Your immediate thought is, 'well, that's good, because they're not supposed to be there anyways," said Mercyhurst College microbiologist Steve Mauro, whose team found fluoxetine in low doses in water near Lake Erie's beaches. "But what about all the other bacteria that are supposed to be there and part of that ecosystem?"
Best of all, the E. coli don't even mind.
Thu, May 26, 2011
Global Food Production to see 'Massive Disruption' as Climate Shifts, UN Forecaster Says
Global food output may be hurt as climate change brings more extreme weather over the next decade, with China likely set for harsher droughts and North America getting heavier rain, said the World Meteorological Organization.
"Extreme events will become more intense in the future, especially the heat waves and extreme precipitations," Omar Baddour, a division chief at the United Nations' agency, said in a phone interview from Geneva. "That, combined with less rainfall in some regions like the Mediterranean region and China, will affect crop production and agriculture."
The more extreme weather -- including in the U.S., the world's largest agricultural exporter -- may disrupt harvests, possibly cutting production of grains, livestock and cooking oils and boosting prices. Global food costs reached a record in February, stoking inflation and pushing millions into poverty.
"We foresee with high confidence in climate projections that intense precipitation in some parts of the world will be more intense, and drought will be more intense," said Baddour, who's tracked the subject for more than two decades. Extreme heat waves "will also be more intense and more frequent."...
Baddour's comments add to projections that more extreme weather may affect farm production. Sunny Verghese, chief executive officer at Olam International Ltd. (OLAM), among the world's three biggest suppliers of rice, forecast in February that food- supply chains face "massive disruptions" from climate change. ...
Well, only if you believe in the "future."
Thu, May 26, 2011
First Legal Roadmap to Tackle Local Ocean Acidification Hotspots
Coastal communities hard hit by ocean acidification hotspots have more options than they may realize, says an interdisciplinary team of science and legal experts. In a paper published in the journal Science, experts from Stanford University's Center for Ocean Solutions and colleagues make the case that communities don't need to wait for a global solution to ocean acidification to fix a local problem that is compromising their marine environment. Many localized acidification hotspots can be traced to local contributors of acidity that can be addressed using existing laws, they wrote....
"We identified practical steps communities can take today to counter local sources of acidity." The paper, entitled "Mitigating Local Causes of Ocean Acidification with Existing Laws," is the first to lay out how acidification hotspots can be reduced by applying federal and state laws and policies at a local level....
That roadmap doesn't show too many rest areas ahead.
Thu, May 26, 2011
from The Independent:
Slash and burn: Brazil shreds laws protecting its rainforests
Brazil has taken a big step towards passing new laws that will loosen restrictions on the amount of Amazon rainforest that farmers can destroy, after its lower house of parliament voted in favour of updating the country's 46-year-old forest code.
In a move described as "disastrous" by conservationists, the nation's congress backed a bill relaxing laws on the deforestation of hilltops and the amount of vegetation farmers must preserve. The law also offers partial amnesties for fines levied against landowners who have illegally destroyed tracts of rainforest. The legislation, which must still be passed by the Brazillian Senate and approved by President Dilma Rousseff, aims to help owners of smaller farms and ranches compete with under-regulated rivals in countries such as the USA and Argentina....
"It's a disaster. It heightens the risk of deforestation, water depletion and erosion," Paulo Gustavo Prado, head of environmental policy at Conservation International-Brazil, told Reuters. He believes that the new bill will result in the loss of roughly 10 per cent of Brazil's remaining rainforest. ...
Use it and lose it.
Thu, May 26, 2011
from Bill McKibben, 350.org:
Stay calm, it's just natural variation
Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week's shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn't mean a thing.
It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas -- fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they've ever been -- the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they're somehow connected....
It's far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change....
It's very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. ...
Just keep repeating: It's only a theory. It's only a theory.
Wed, May 25, 2011
NRDC et al. Files Lawsuit to Preserve Antibiotics for Sick People, Not Already-Healthy Livestock
Today NRDC and our allies filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to finally end the use of antibiotics in animal feed--a practice that's contributing to the rise in drug-resistant superbugs and endangering the health of our families.
Roughly 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to healthy farm animals to promote faster growth and compensate for unsanitary conditions. These cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys receive doses too low to actually treat disease, but high enough to allow bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatment to survive and thrive.
Those bacteria don't stay on the farm. They spread to humans and can lead to superbugs that are difficult or impossible to cure. Last month, for instance, 55,000 pounds of frozen raw turkey burgers had to be recalled because of a salmonella strain the Centers for Disease Control said is immune to commonly prescribed antibiotics....
This lawsuit will have no bearing on the use of antibiotics for treating sick animals. We simply want to end the practice of giving these critical disease fighters to healthy livestock when it's not medically necessary. ...
I suppose that means we can't keep our cows locked knee-deep in manure any more. What about the economy?
Wed, May 25, 2011
from Scientific American:
Fatal Bat Disease Confirmed in All New England with Maine Find
White nose syndrome, a devastating disease that has killed more than one million bats in the Northeast, has been found in Maine, the last New England state to discover it, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.
Diminishing populations of bats, an important predator of insects, could have harmful consequences for humans, experts say.
Bats at two sites in Maine's Oxford County that displayed signs of a fungal pathogen linked with white nose syndrome tested positive for the disease, said scientists with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Until this year, Maine appeared insulated from white nose, although nearby states and Canada were not....
Oklahoma is the furthest west the fungal pathogen Geomyces destructans linked with white nose has been detected, while full-blown white nose has gone as far west as Kentucky and Tennessee....
In some Northeast caves, 90 to 100 percent of populations have died.
The batastrophe continues.
Wed, May 25, 2011
Germany 'really worried' by E. coli outbreak
Germany's consumer minister expressed deep concern Wednesday at an outbreak of poisoning by dangerous bacteria believed to have killed three women and left hundreds ill.
"This is really worrying," Ilse Aigner said on ARD public television. "We do not know what is the source (of the poisoning) and we cannot rule out there will be more cases."
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease agency, more than 80 people have become seriously ill in the past two weeks after ingesting enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).
Across Germany, mostly in the north, there are hundreds of other suspected cases, including some 200 in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, 100 in Lower Saxony, and in Hamburg close to 50....
RKI head Burger on Tuesday called the recent number of recorded cases "scarily high".
Normally in a year there are around 1,000 EHEC infections and some 60 cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening disease caused by EHEC infection.
According to the World Health Organization, HUS is characterised by acute renal failure and blood problems, with a fatality rate of between three and five percent. It can also cause seizures, strokes and coma. ...
Diese E. coli ist super gruselig.
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Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
More fun than a barrel of jellyfish!
Wed, May 25, 2011
from via ScienceDaily:
Mediterranean Sea Invaded by Hundreds of Alien Species
More than 900 new alien species have been encountered in the coastal environments of the eastern Mediterranean Sea in recent decades, including the poisonous pufferfish. The invasion of alien species has had the consequence that the whole food chain is changing, while there is a lack of knowledge on which to base relevant risk assessments, a four-year study conducted at the University of Gothenburg shows. ...
Just so everybody's still eating everyone else.
Wed, May 25, 2011
Cold shoulder for climate change
Climate scientists are in a tough spot.
They have never been more certain about what they know. Powerful new satellites can hone in on mountainous regions to measure ice melt. Stronger computers model changes in disruptive weather patterns. Scientists are even more comfortable attributing climate change to visible effects around the globe, from retreating Himalayan glaciers to southwestern U.S. droughts and acidifying oceans. Yet scientists are still stuck in the mud trying to get that message out in Washington, where House Republicans made one of their first orders of business passing legislation to zero out research budgets for domestic and international climate efforts and unraveling a key EPA declaration that humans have played a critical role in changing the planet.
Oh you Republicans what a fantastical world you inhabit!
Wed, May 25, 2011
from Yale Environment 300:
By Barcoding Trees, Liberia Looks to Save its Rainforests
Nearly two-thirds of West Africa's remaining rainforests are in the small but troubled nation of Liberia. That is a small miracle. A decade ago, Liberia's forests were being stripped bare by warlords to fund a vicious 14-year civil war that left 150,000 dead. In 2003, the United Nations belatedly imposed an embargo on Liberian "logs of war." Revenues crashed and, coincidentally or not, the war swiftly came to an end.
Now the elected government of Harvard-trained President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed a deal with the European Union to place timber sales on a permanently legal footing. The deal, agreed to this month, makes use of a unique national timber-tracking system that requires every legally harvestable tree and every cut log to carry a barcode that will enable it to be tracked from its origin to its final destination. ...
It's gonna take someone named Sirleaf to save the trees.
Wed, May 25, 2011
from Ohio State University via ScienceDaily:
Two Greenland Glaciers Lose Enough Ice to Fill Lake Erie
A new study aimed at refining the way scientists measure ice loss in Greenland is providing a "high-definition picture" of climate-caused changes on the island. And the picture isn't pretty.
In the last decade, two of the largest three glaciers draining that frozen landscape have lost enough ice that, if melted, could have filled Lake Erie.
The three glaciers -- Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq and Jakobshavn Isbrae -- are responsible for as much as one-fifth of the ice flowing out from Greenland into the ocean. ...
This study makes me feel Kangerdlugssuaq all over!
Tue, May 24, 2011
from Fair Warning:
'Gender-Bending' Chemicals Found in Toys in China
Toy manufacturers are exposing children in China to high levels of industrial chemicals known as phthalates that the U.S. and European Union have banned from children's products, the environmental organization Greenpeace says.
Phthalates, the best-known of which is DEHP, are used to soften plastic children's toys. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified them as probable human carcinogens. They have also been linked to "gender-bending." A 2005 study, for instance, suggested that phthalates could affect the genital development of boys, and other research has associated the chemicals with the early onset of puberty in girls.
Congress passed a ban in 2008 after concluding that the chemicals posed a risk to children who chew on their toys.
But there is no such ban in China and, according to Greenpeace, testing by an independent laboratory found phthalates in 21 out of 30 samples of children's products purchased in four Chinese cities. ...
That's one way to limit population growth in your country.
Mon, May 23, 2011
from New York Times:
Mid-Atlantic Dreads Bad Summer of Foul, Hungry Stink Bugs
The brown marmorated stink bug is believed to have arrived here from Asia in the 1990s. It has made its way from Pennsylvania to at least 33 states, and has been spotted as far west as California and Washington. A continuing advance is inexorable, scientists say, because the bugs have no natural predators and can travel long distances -- not by flying, but via a more convenient method: covertly hitching rides in vehicles.
The insect has caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, munching apples, peppers, corn and soybeans, and has proved to be a general irritant -- in no small part because of its foul odor, which the bug secretes as a defense mechanism.
"The feeling in the bug world is this is the worst bug we've seen in 40 years," said Michael J. Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland. "It eats peaches and grapes and soybeans. It's annihilated organic growers who can't use pesticides. And guess what? After it eats your crops, it comes inside your home. I've never seen another bug do that." ...
The stinky side of globalization.
Mon, May 23, 2011
from New York Times:
How to Rid the Seas of 'Plastic Soup'?
The problem is not just one of unsightliness, or of sea life getting caught up in plastic grocery bags or choking on plastic bottle tops or cigarette lighters.
There are also the tiny fragments formed by disintegrating items. Plastic does not fully biodegrade like wood or cardboard, noted Peter Kershaw of the British marine science center Cefas, who advises the United Nations on marine environmental protection issues. For plastic to biodegrade, you need conditions that are really only found in industrial composters and landfills, including high temperatures.
''You don't have those conditions in the middle of the sea,'' he said. Instead, the plastic trash eventually breaks up into billions of fragments that hover below the surface in vast, soupy patches in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
Easily swallowed by marine life and prone to absorbing contaminants in
the water, this gunk is now a key focus of scientific concern, with some researchers worrying that the stuff could end up in the food chain. ''It is everywhere and in every water sample that we have collected since 1999,'' said Marieta Francis, executive director of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in California. ...
Can't we just throw the plastic soup away?
Mon, May 23, 2011
Seventeen Nobel Laureates Speak Out
On Wednesday, 17 Nobel laureates who gathered in Stockholm have published a remarkable memorandum, asking for "fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change". The Stockholm Memorandum concludes that we have entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene, where humanity has become the main driver of global change. The document states:
Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. [...] We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems. We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial. ...
But I like luxury.
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