Australia must help Pacific islands at Paris climate summit, says PNG leader
The region’s largest economic power should push hard for a deal to help the Pacific islands at the summit beginning on 30 November, says Peter O’Neill
28 November 2015 07.35 GMT
Papua New Guinea’s prime minister Peter O’Neill has urged Australia to be an advocate for the Pacific in pushing for a strong agreement at this month’s worldwide climate change talks in Paris.
The governments of more than 190 nations will meet at COP21 in the French capital, beginning on 30 November, to discuss a new global climate accord.
O’Neill and other Pacific leaders – whose countries are already experiencing the impacts of climate change – are preparing to vigorously prosecute their concerns on global climate action in Paris.
But as the largest economy in the region, Australia must also lend its authority to the position of the Pacific islands, O’Neill argued.
“(Climate change) is a huge challenge for Pacific Island nations,” O’Neill said in Port Moresby on Monday. “We are hoping that Australia will take a leadership role in stating our position to the global community.”
The PNG leader asked that the world recognise the impact of climate change on the Pacific was not simply economic, but existential.
“I think Pacific islanders are not really looking for a financial reward,” he said. “We are looking to make sure the international community can assist in the resettlement exercise and rebuilding some of the communities.”
Climate change is likely to be a massive driver of forced migration over the next century, as densely populated, low-lying areas become unliveable because of rising sea levels, inundation, and salinity.
Nasa satellite data suggests a sea level rise of 90 centimetres or more is unavoidable over the next 100 to 200 years.
More than 150 million people, most of them in Asia, live within one metre of the current sea level.
And while rising seas will have “profound impacts” around the world, Nasa earth science division director Michael Freilich said this year, those impacts will be acutely felt in the low-lying Pacific.
“It may entirely eliminate some Pacific island nations,” he said.
The comments came as Labor leader Bill Shorten, shadow foreign minister Tanya Plibersek and shadow immigration minister Richard Marles, met O’Neill in Port Moresby on Monday.
Shorten said Australia needed a “credible” position on its own emissions in order to be an effective advocate at Paris.
“The message I’m already getting loud and clear is that climate change is a first order issue for our neighbours and we need ... Australia to have serious policies, credible policies which will help to contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change in our region.”
The government’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, is also in the region this week, visiting New Caledonia, Fiji, and Niue.
“Australia recognises climate change is a critical issue for our region, with significant potential to impact prospects for economic growth and stability. We are working with Pacific Island countries on resilience measures through the Green Climate Fund and our regional aid program.”
Nations across the Pacific are already experiencing the effects of climate change, compounded this southern hemisphere summer by a severe El Nino weather pattern.
At the Pacific Islands Forum in September, smaller island countries pushed for a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, instead of the international aim of 2 degrees.
Australia and New Zealand refused to back the lower goal but agreed to let the islands take their position separately to Paris.
Pacific islands make last-ditch plea to world before Paris climate change talks
‘Unless the world acts decisively in coming weeks, the Pacific as we know it is doomed,’ says Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama
Sunday 1 November 2015 22.08 GMT
Amid the rustling palm trees, blissed newlyweds and colourful attire of a tropical island resort, Pacific leaders have been getting blunt with wealthy nations about the unfolding calamity of climate change that is gradually gnawing away their remote idylls.
We in the Pacific are innocent bystanders in the greatest act of folly of any age
Fiji prime minister, Frank Bainimarama
At a summit in Fiji last week, the last major gathering of Pacific island nations before crunch UN climate talks in Paris next month, islanders thrashed out their collective plea to the world to help address the health impacts of climate change, particularly upon women, infants and adolescents.
Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s foreign minister, said the country was dealing with the re-emergence of climate-influenced diseases such as typhoid, dengue fever, leptospirosis and diarrhoeal illnesses. Last year, a dengue outbreak in Fiji infected 20,000 people.
But the meeting also showed that Fiji, for one, is not pulling any more punches with large, industrialised nations it sees as culpable for climate change.
“We in the Pacific are innocent bystanders in the greatest act of folly of any age,” said Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama.
“Unless the world acts decisively in the coming weeks to begin addressing the greatest challenge of our age, then the Pacific, as we know it, is doomed.
“The industrialised nations putting the welfare of the entire planet at risk so that their economic growth is assured and their citizens can continue to enjoy lives of comparative ease. All at the expense of those of us in low-lying areas of the Pacific and the rest of the world.”
Bainimarama added that he has yet to see the “necessary political will” amongst wealthy nations to head off the worst impacts of climate change at the Paris talks.
These gloomy warnings are becoming grimly regular fodder for Pacific islanders to digest and, increasingly, experience first-hand.
“It’s an everyday issue here,” said Dr Karen Allen, Unicef’s representative in 14 Pacific nations. “Children here in the Pacific talk about climate change like children elsewhere talk about school or TV. It’s so routine.”
Media coverage of climate change in Fiji doesn’t have the luxury of wallowing in the sort of cosseted denialism seen in the US, Britain or Australia.
The lead story in the Fiji Times one day last week featured the tale of a seven-year-old child who drowned in an unprecedented high tide in the Namena district. A new FIJI$670,000 ($436,000) sea wall has been approved but the area’s commissioner, Meleti Bainimarama, conceded: “What we are doing is remedial action. I think the best thing to do is relocate the village, but it will come at a cost.”
The other front-page tale featured a man in the same village complaining how his house is regularly swamped by seawater that once lapped 20 metres from his front door. While wealthy nations mull over climate projections and agonise over potential dips in GDP, the stereotypically ebullient Pacific islanders aim to bring some steely reality to Paris.
“I won’t be going to Paris wearing the usual friendly, compliant Pacific smile,” warned Bainimarama. “In fact, I won’t be going to Paris in a Pacific frame of mind at all. I fear that our interests are about to be sacrificed.”
Previous UN climate change forums, where dreary jargon often pours treacle over any sense of urgency, have been enlivened by entreaties from Pacific island leaders. But Paris will see an escalation. Pacific islanders will be turning up in numbers – almost all leaders are expected to attend, unlike in Copenhagen in 2009 – and with a string of demands.
The latest, the Suva Declaration, calls for an end to new coalmines and a more ambitious limit to global warming. The language has sharpened beyond Fiji – Kiribati president Anote Tong recently called Australia, previously venerated as a benevolent protector in the Pacific, “selfish” for its continued enthusiasm for burning vast amounts of fossil fuels.
The cause for concern is clear – Nasa recently reported the world’s sea level has risen nearly 8cm since 1992, with the Pacific experiencing a more rapid increase than other oceans.
A rise of around a metre by the end of the century now looks likely. For low-lying islands in the Pacific, this means coastal erosion, saltwater seeping into precious rainwater catchments and ruined crops.
Meanwhile, rising temperatures will heighten the risk of diseases, including those carried by mosquitos. Cyclones are expected to become more severe. The World Health Organisation estimates climate change will cause around 250,000 deaths globally between 2030 and 2050.
At the Fiji summit, delegates wearing Sulu va Taga, a type of traditional kilt, and floral shirts spell out the problems and what must be done. Jarringly, the gathering is being held at a luxury resort on Denarau island, a manmade construction featuring manicured lawns, fountains and an 18-hole golf course, created through seabed dredging and reshaping of the coastline.
But the Pacific islands mean business. A lack of regional leadership from Australia – where senior government ministers apparently consider seawater inundation hilarious – is forcing Pacific islanders to set aside their reputation for gentle amiability in order to make themselves heard internationally.
“We don’t want to change the way we are but we need to change our approach so that when we say enough is enough, we are heard,” said Satini Tulaga Manuella, health minister of Tuvalu, which is comprised of nine scattered islands, none of which peak higher than 4.5m above sea level.
In March, Tuvalu was pummelled by Cyclone Pam, which washed huge waves over the atolls and ripped apart buildings with 350kmph winds. The dead were upturned from their resting place in cemeteries, crops were ruined, islands reshaped. Tuvalu, the fourth-smallest nation in the world at just 26 sqkm, caught a glimpse of what may cause its demise. But the government is determined the population will not migrate.
“People are worried but they want to stay, our priority is to save our country,” Manuella said. “We say if you save Tuvalu you save the world, because if you bring down emissions enough to save us, the rest of the world will be OK.
“Science is telling politicians in other countries what is happening. So why aren’t they listening? They have to look after their own people but they also have an obligation to the world. Imagine if a whole race, Tuvaluans, we have our own culture, our own ways, is made extinct overnight because we are hit by a cyclone.”
There’s recognition that the smaller of the Pacific islands face the brunt of climate change, even among those in Fiji who have had to move due to its impact.
In January last year, the Fijian village of Vunidogoloa had to relocate several kilometres inland because of the merciless advance of the sea. Saline intrusion was causing crops such as barley and cabbage to fail. The leaves on the trees were turning yellow from the salt. Children were no longer left to play unsupervised after a king tide washed away a young boy.
“We were most vulnerable at night because we didn’t know what was happening with the sea,” said Sailosi Ramatu, leader of the village. “Now people are happy, they can sleep at night. We have land that is higher up in Fiji but other countries don’t have that.”
The unfairness of islanders suffering the consequences of greenhouse gases they mostly didn’t emit is mirrored by the raw deal suffered by the women who form the cornerstone of family life in the Pacific.
The Fiji summit, hosted by the government and the UNFPA, focused on how to deal with the health and gender equity problems thrown up by climate change.
According to figures cited to delegates by Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, ambassador for the Every Woman Every Child program, women and children are 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster than men.
“Cooking food, taking care of children, fetching water, taking care of livestock – climate change disrupts every element of a woman’s life,” said Zeid, who is the latest royal to lend stardust to the Pacific islands’ cause after Prince Albert of Monaco provided his backing, reportedly sinking a few cans of XXXX with aid workers at a recent call to arms in Kiribati.
“When climate impacts are rapid, the consequences for women and children are also severe,” said Zeid. “The greater the gender inequality, the greater the difference.”
As women in developing countries do the bulk of caring for children and elderly relatives, they are less likely to escape floods and cyclones. This was demonstrated by 2008’s cyclone Nargis in India, where most of the fatalities were women who held onto children while the men clung to coconut trees.
In the Pacific, there are a myriad of problems to work through – many health clinics are at risk from inundation and are inaccessible to those in remote areas. Delivery of maternal and reproductive health is patchy and the risk of sexual assault and abuse is heightened following disaster.
“In the Pacific, men surround their thatched homes and hold the poles together to keep their women and children safe inside during a cyclone,” said Unicef’s Allen. “The Pacific has the most incredible strong community spirit of anywhere in the world I’ve been.
“That makes it all the harder to face the reality of abuse. Because when your whole culture is built around how much you love and care for each other, it may be difficult to face the fact abuse is increasing.”
These challenges require money and Pacific islands are eying the $100bn in climate finance that has been repeatedly promised by wealthy nations. The Paris talks have left open the possibility of major help for adaptation, such as sea walls, new types of crops and relocated facilities, as well as a 1.5C, rather than 2C limit on warming.
But proposals for a facility to deal with people displaced by climate change, required because they do not fall under the UN refugee convention, have been dropped, to the dismay of Kiribati, which has purchased land in Fiji and has a “migration with dignity” policy, and the Marshall Islands, where residents of the famous Bikini atoll are currently looking to relocate to the US.
It’s a mixed picture that leaves Pacific leaders far from confident that this will finally be the year where their existential crisis triggers a response.
“We will see,” said Jone Usamate, Fiji’s health minister. “The world is a system – you do something at one end of the world and it has an impact at the other end.
“So we all need to be responsible but this is not our fault. Unfortunately, we are paying the price for it.”
Labor says Australia must 'tell story of Pacific to world' at Paris climate talks
Climate change impact on Pacific nations is a focus for government and opposition ahead of COP21 where 190 nations will discuss a global climate accord
Sunday 1 November 2015 07.38 GMT
Australia should “tell the story of the Pacific to the world” when global leaders sit down to climate change talks in Paris at the end of this month, Labor has said.
The impact of climate change on the nations of the Pacific is a focus for both the government and opposition ahead of COP21, where governments of more than 190 nations will gather to discuss a possible new global climate accord.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, accompanied by foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek and immigration spokesman Richard Marles, will visit Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati over four days this week, while the government’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, will travel to New Caledonia, Fiji and Niue.
The Labor leaders said climate change was an existential threat to some countries in the region.
“The dangerous consequences of climate change is no more evident than in the Pacific region. Pacific leaders have consistently identified climate change as the greatest threat to their livelihoods, food production, housing, security and wellbeing.
“This is a serious problem that demands serious attention.”
Marles, the former parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs, told Guardian Australia that it was important for Australia to have strong and constructive relations with its Pacific neighbours.
He praised Pacific leaders, in particular Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong, for highlighting the issues being faced by Pacific nations on the international stage.
“It is crucial that, in the lead-up to Paris, the world understands the problems being faced by the Pacific. And it’s important that Australia plays a role in telling that story of the Pacific to the world.”
Ciobo said in a statement that climate change, along with the linked areas of economic growth and trade, were key challenges for Australia’s relationship with the region.
“Australia recognises climate change is a critical issue for our region, with significant potential to impact prospects for economic growth and stability. We are working with Pacific island countries on resilience measures through the Green Climate Fund and our regional aid program.”
Australia’s relationship with the Pacific, especially over the issue of climate change, was damaged in September when the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, was picked up by a boom mic joking about climate change with then prime minister Tony Abbott.
Joking with Abbott about a meeting starting late, Dutton quipped it was running to “Cape York time”, to which Abbott replied: “We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby.”
Dutton replied: “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door.”
Pacific leaders excoriated the minister. The Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum, said he was “dismayed” by the “insensitivity ... [of] the big polluting island down south”. PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill said the comments were unfortunate, and Tong described the joke as “vulgar”.
“As long as there is this kind of attitude, this kind of arrogance in any position of leadership, we will continue to have a lot of tension,” Tong said.
The impacts of climate change are being felt acutely by Pacific nations, many of which are low-lying, remote, and with vulnerable infrastructure.
Eight Pacific nations are in the top 20 in the world of highest losses of gross domestic product (GDP) from natural disasters, the World Bank says.
Natural disasters – an average of 41 tropical cyclones hit the region each year – cost the Pacific islands two percent of their GDP annually.
The Marshall Islands and Kiribati are particularly vulnerable. The land mass of the Marshall Islands is less than five metres above sea level and 97% of Kiribati’s land mass is below that level.
Climate change effects are being exacerbated by a significant El Niño weather pattern in the southern hemisphere this summer, which has already caused widespread drought across the Pacific, and could threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions.
An estimated 2.4 million people could face food and water shortages in Papua New Guinea alone, the country’s national disaster centre has reported. Up to two dozen people have already died from hunger and drinking contaminated water.
In Fiji and Tonga, emergency water supplies are being shipped into remote areas.
“El Niño has the potential to trigger a regional humanitarian emergency and we estimate as many as 4.1 million people are at risk from water shortages, food insecurity and disease across the Pacific,” said Sune Gudnitz from the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs.
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:40 AM
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on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:39 AM
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I appreciate you taking time and getting back . Just need one help . Can you suggest someone you know off that i can message privately . Im cool with some one who eould charge me for this as its matter of my life
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:31 AM
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Malcolm Turnbull asks Commonwealth leaders to send climate change signal
Australian PM urges his fellow leaders to sign up to a climate change statement and agrees to contribute $1m to help poorer nations respond to its effects
Australian Associated Press
Saturday 28 November 2015 02.34 GMT
Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has encouraged other Commonwealth leaders to send a powerful signal to other nations that strong climate change action is needed.
Turnbull was speaking at Friday’s special climate change session at the Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Malta, also attended by special guests French president Francois Holland and UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon.
On Sunday, Turnbull flies to Paris for the key COP21 summit aimed at achieving a global accord on tackling climate change and reducing carbon emissions.
He urged those around the table on Friday to sign up to the Commonwealth leaders’ climate change statement.
“Ahead of COP21 it is a powerful signal to other countries of the world to show a similar level of ambition and commitment to working together for a strong result in Paris,” he said.
Turnbull announced an Australian contribution of $1m to the Commonwealth climate finance access hub to be based in Mauritius.
The hub will help the least-developed countries and small island developing states including those in the Pacific to access funds for environmental projects in response to climate change.
Turnbull said Australia would join the working group to explore the Commonwealth’s $US1bn ($A1.38bn) green finance facility initiative, also aimed at developing nations.
Hollande told reporters after the climate change session that what he sought in Paris was “a binding agreement, a universal agreement, one that is ambitious”.
“Man is the worst enemy of man. We can see it with terrorism,” he said, after flying in from Paris where he led ceremonies on Friday to remember the victims of the 13 November terror attacks in the city.
“But we can say the same when it comes to climate. Human beings are destroying nature, damaging the environment.
“It is therefore for human beings to face up to their responsibilities for the good of future generations.”
Ban said he was encouraged by the “strong commitment” shown by Commonwealth leaders to tackle climate change.
Earlier in the day, avowed republican Turnbull met the Queen and exchanged pleasantries with her.
The pair met at a luncheon for new Commonwealth leaders hosted by the Queen at Malta’s San Anton Palace on Friday.
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:28 AM
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Paris climate summit: world leaders told to iron out differences
France steps up diplomatic efforts to get consensus on a global deal six days before official talks conclude
Laurent Fabius, French minister of foreign affairs
Saturday 28 November 2015 07.01 GMT
Negotiators at key UN climate talks in Paris that open next week are being told by the French government they must iron out their main differences six days before the end of the talks, according to the foreign minister, Laurent Fabius.
World leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel and David Cameron are preparing to fly to the French capital to open the COP 21 negotiations, which begin on Monday and aim to produce an international deal to reduce carbon emissions that will kick in from 2020.
The highly unusual demand by the French hosts is a sign of their confidence that they believe a deal is within sight and that the huge diplomatic push they have made to ensure the talks succeed has not been knocked off course by the terrorist attacks two weeks ago.
But Fabius’s request to have the final version of the negotiating text signed off by next Saturday will be met with scepticism among some observers of the talks. Frequently, previous incarnations of the UN talks have finished one or even two days after deadline.
Fabius vowed in an interview to forge an agreement that would be “universal, legally binding, durable and dynamic”.
In the wake of the attacks, Fabius confirmed that security would be tightened around the conference centre, which is on the outskirts of Paris, near the airport where a planned attack was foiled and not far from the St-Denis district where the attacks were planned. There will be a total lockdown on the area of Paris surrounding the conference centre on Sunday afternoon, when many of the heads of state and government are expected to arrive, in time for the first official day of talks on Monday.
Fabius praised the climate activists who had agreed to call off their planned march through Paris as a result of the attacks. “I have to salute the responsibility of the organisations who would have liked to demonstrate but who understand that if they demonstrate in a public place there is a security risk, or even a risk of panic.”
He said: “The first week [of the fortnight-long talks] will be devoted to reducing the number of options in the text,” in which delegates have suggested multiple alternatives in wording on certain issues. “I will ask that by [next] Saturday midday the text will be transmitted to me, the president of the COP, and at that moment everyone will know where we are and the procedure to follow. Obviously, I hope a maximum number of options will have been lifted but I will have to take into account the situation at that moment.”
In a veiled reference to the situation at the last climate summit in Copenhagen, when negotiations were thrown into chaos by rumours of a draft text that had been circulated to some governments, he added: “I don’t have a text in my pocket that I can pull out. I have found with the delegations that there is a real willingness to move forward, a willingness to be transparent.
“If there is no agreement by Saturday, of course I will take the initiative. I will see the different groups with the facilitators,” he said. “Success is at our door, but it is not yet won.”
Fabius, speaking in his resplendent office in France’s foreign ministry, was in ebullient mood. Amply gilded and frescoed, with French windows looking out on to ornamental gardens on the banks of the Seine, the ministry was built with the intention of impressing France’s many allies, and potential enemies.
The French are hoping that the discord that has marked previous talks, preventing a legal agreement at the last climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, will be averted by meticulous planning. Fabius, despite his punishing schedule since the atrocities in Paris, has been habitually squeezing questions on climate change into every meeting with his foreign counterparts and heads of state, as has the French president, François Hollande.
Before the talks, governments responsible for more than 90% of global emissions – including all major developed economies and most of the biggest developing nations, such as China and India – have laid out plans for cuts or curbs to their emissions. These will form the centrepiece of any deal, and even if a deal is not reached, these commitments will be hard for governments to renege on.
Fabius said the COP 21 talks were “a success in terms of numbers and actions” pledged by countries on emissions reductions. “If we add together all these contributions, we avoid catastrophe, in the form of the consequences of inaction, a world four, five or six degrees [warmer]. But we are still not at 2C or 1.5C, which is the goal of Paris.”
Scientists estimate that if the world warms by more than 2C on average above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, the effects of climate change will become catastrophic and irreversible. A 2C limit has long been the goal of UN climate conferences, and current pledges from all countries are estimated to lead to warming of 2.7C to 3C, although the proposed deal has a provision for increased emissions cuts in future.
Fabius urged governments to move beyond the entrenched positions of the past. “We must do our utmost to avoid the blocking of an agreement because of irreconcilable principles. A good approach is to take this issue subject by subject.”
On financing, for instance, he said there was general agreement that rich countries would ensure the funds promised to poor nations to help them cut emissions and adapt to global warming would be forthcoming.
In a pointed reference to one of the countries that may hold out on an agreement, Fabius said: “I was talking to the prime minister of India and he said for the moment my resource is coal, so he is approaching this on how he can make coal more clean.”
But he said that generally the world was moving towards decarbonised energy. “We must not, it seems to me, present this climate question as a constraint, but an opportunity. China is a big leader in the world on solar energy. There are lots of opportunities in different countries,” he went on. “For instance, programmes suggested for Africa – we have to help this development, it can give direct employment, and in the case of Africa can be a factor for growth.”
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:25 AM
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Unbranded review – four Texans, 16 mustangs and a wild journey across the west
Navigating the US with mustangs as sole transport provides some breathtaking scenery, even if it does look a bit like a Marlboro ad without cigarettes
28 November 2015 22.15 GMT
This good-natured, Kickstarter-funded documentary shows the adventures of four young guys from Texas as they attempt to travel 3,000 miles on horseback from the Mexican to the Canadian border, using only “adopted” wild horses, or mustangs, which they have trained themselves. We get to see some beautiful country along the way, and there’s some pertinent thinking on the levels of intervention needed in managing America’s wild horse population. Unbranded does sometimes look a little bit glossy and self-congratulatory, like a 105-minute commercial for itself, or indeed a Marlboro ad without cigarettes. One argument the young men have looks a bit staged, to create drama, though there is one very real and disconcerting disagreement they finally have about all crossing the finish line together: a really strange moment that the movie doesn’t fully investigate or explain. At any rate, there are some breathtaking landscapes in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
Click to watch the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQmmaiWHYHQ
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:22 AM
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A strong tug might have pulled the moon to its inclined orbit
Researchers have created a new model that could explain the 'lunar inclination problem' with gravity.
By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer November 27, 2015
The moon’s orbital plane, its path around the Earth, is inclined. The angle of that incline has puzzled scientists.
The moon is generally thought to have formed in a disk of debris created when a planet-sized body slammed into the still-forming Earth some 4.5 billion years ago. In that scenario, the plane of the moon's orbit should be inclined only 0.5 degrees off the plane of Earth’s current orbit. But, in what’s called the "lunar inclination problem," the moon's orbital plane is actually angled at about 5 degrees.
Now, researchers propose that a separate, later cosmic event pulled the moon into its current tenfold greater incline.
In the new model, a small planetary body swung by the early Earth, tugging at the moon. That gravitational force could explain the moon's inclined orbital plane, according to a new paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
"This would be a natural way to have the moon start in an equatorial orbit and, without invoking any special circumstances, to naturally come out with the system that we have," says Kaveh Pahlevan, author of the study and the Henri Poincaré Fellow at the Observatory of Côte d'Azur, in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor.
"We did a numerical experiment where we considered that lunar formation happened in the context of Earth’s formation," says Dr. Pahlevan.
"There are collisions in Earth’s formation that happened both before the moon-forming event and after," Pahlevan says. Those collisions brought more material to the early Earth, making it to grow. "We wanted to test whether the accretion that happened after lunar formation can be the cause of this tenfold additional excitation of the lunar orbit."
The researchers' numerical model simulated many flybys of cosmic bodies of about the same mass of the moon or less. Using these models, the scientists were able to examine the effects of such close encounters with the early Earth-moon system.
"We’ve had this idea that Earth may have accreted a small amount of mass after the moon formed," says Pahlevan. "As the Earth is accreting, there are bodies in its vicinity and before any particular body collides with the Earth, it has many misses. This is how it can potentially tug at the moon and alter and 'excite' its orbit."
Such a collision-less interaction could explain why the moon’s orbital plane is angled tenfold higher than expected.
Other explanations have been proposed in the past, says Pahlevan. "[They] involve events that are more or less simultaneous with moon formation,” he says.
In the previous models, the excitation that angled the moon's orbital plane happened as part of the aftermath of the moon-forming collision itself, in the thousand years following the event, Pahlevan says. "Whereas our scenario envisions that the moon in fact did start in that well-behaved equatorial orbit and only much later, millions or tens of millions years later, its orbit was excited."
Pahlevan says the results surprised him. "We expected the lunar orbit to be excitable, but I didn’t anticipate it to be this sensitive, this excitable [after] collision-less events," he says.
There’s still much more work to be done. That sensitivity leads to further research and the new model still needs more testing, says Pahlevan.
Although the incline of the moon’s orbital plane puzzles scientists, it is also the reason lunar eclipses are special. "The fact that the lunar orbit is inclined by ~5 degrees from the Earth's orbital plane is the reason we do not have eclipses every month," Pahlevan explains in an e-mail. "Since the moon itself subtends ~0.5 degree on the sky as seen from Earth, if the lunar orbit were only inclined by ~0.5 degree, we would have had at least partial solar eclipses every month!"
"The story of the moon’s formation is part of the story of Earth’s formation," says Pahlevan in the interview. "So this is really a chapter in the story about how the Earth came to be the planet that it is. The record of how the Earth formed is fragmentary, so any characteristic of the modern system that can let us see and infer that very distant history is valuable. It provides a new window into our own origin story."
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:20 AM
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2015 will be hottest on record, say scientists
The World Meteorological Organization said that this year will be the hottest on record, and that 2016 could be even hotter.
By Tom Miles, Reuters November 27, 2015
Geneva — This year will be the hottest on record and 2016 could be hotter due to the El Niño weather pattern, the World Meteorological Organization said on Wednesday, warning inaction on climate change could see temperatures rise by 6 degrees Celsius or more.
But decisions taken at a summit of world leaders in Paris starting on Monday could keep global temperature rises within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times, a target set down in 2010 to try to prevent dangerous climate change.
"Yes, it's still possible to keep to the 2 degree target but the more we wait for action the more difficult it will be," WMO director-general Michel Jarraud told a news conference.
"You have scenarios assuming very strong decisions, very quick and sharp reduction of greenhouse gases, and you have other scenarios with business as usual, where you end up with predictions of additional warming of 5, 6 degrees, maybe even more. That will very much depend on the decisions (in Paris)."
Global average surface temperatures in 2015 were likely to reach what the agency called the "symbolic and significant milestone" of 1C above the pre-industrial era.
"This is due to a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming," the WMO said in a statement.
Jarraud said El Niño may be responsible for 16-20 percent of the rise and longer-term averages showed temperatures were rising regardless of El Niño or its cooling counterpart La Niña.
El Nino, a naturally occuring weather pattern marked by warming sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, causes extremes such as scorching weather, droughts and flooding around the world. Meteorologists expect El Niño to peak between October and January and to be one of the strongest on record.
A preliminary estimate based on data from January to October showed the global average surface temperature for 2015 was around 0.73C above the 1961-1990 average of 14C and around 1C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 period, the WMO said.
"This is all bad news for the planet," Jarraud said.
The years 2011-2015 have been the hottest five-year period on record, with temperatures about 0.57C (1.01 Fahrenheit) above the 1961-1990 reference period.
Global ocean temperatures were unprecedented during the period, and several land areas -- including the continental United States, Australia, Europe, South America and Russia -- broke temperature records by large margins.
"The world's ten warmest years have all occurred since 1998, with eight of them being since 2005," the WMO said.
Next year may be even warmer -- levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have risen to a new record every year for the past 30 years and El Niño is likely to continue into 2016.
"The year whose annual mean temperature is likely to be most strongly influenced by the current El Niño is 2016 rather than 2015," the WMO said. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
UN weather office: Why 2015 is the hottest year ever
As world leaders gather to discuss climate change in Paris next week, increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a strong El Niño weather pattern has caused temperatures to reach record highs.
By Max Lewontin, Staff November 25, 2015
Predictions about Earth’s weather patterns reaching a “new normal” appear to be coming true, as 2015 will be the hottest year on record, while 2016 could be even hotter, the United Nations World Meteorological Association (WMO) announced Wednesday.
Man-made global warming and a strong El Niño weather pattern, where warming sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean can cause flooding, droughts and blazing temperatures, are likely the causes, the organization said.
The report comes as world leaders are set to meet for a climate change summit in Paris, where they will work to keep global temperature increases within 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 Fahrenheit) beyond pre-industrial times, a target set in 2010 to try to prevent harmful climate change.
"...It's still possible to keep to the 2 degree target, but the more we wait for action the more difficult it will be," WMO director-general Michel Jarraud told a news conference, Reuters reports.
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"You have scenarios assuming very strong decisions, very quick and sharp reduction of greenhouse gases, and you have other scenarios with business as usual, where you end up with predictions of additional warming of 5, 6 degrees, maybe even more. That will very much depend on the decisions (in Paris),” he added.
While the organization’s report is not surprising, with scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies predicting that 2015 would be the hottest year on record, temperatures will likely reach 1 degree Celsius above those of pre-industrial times, from 1880 to 1899. The organization’s records date to 1880.
That’s a "symbolic and significant milestone,” the WMO says. The organization adds that El Niño, a naturally occurring weather pattern is likely responsible for 16 to 20 percent of the rising temperatures, but longer-term numbers show that temperatures were rising regardless of El Niño (or La Niña, its cooling counterpart), pointing to an urgent need for action to address climate change, Reuters reports.
"This is all bad news for the planet," Mr. Jarraud of the WMO said in a statement.
Previously, scientists at NOAA, NASA, and Japan’s weather agency have said that 2014 was the hottest year on record, with a global temperature of 14.57 degrees Celsius (58.23 degrees Fahrenheit). 2015 is set to surpass that record, with El Niño peaking between October and January.
"I would call it certain," NOAA's chief climate monitor, Deke Arndt told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "Something game-changing massive would have to happen for it not to be a record."
The WMO’s preliminary estimate based on data from January to October 2015 reveals that the global average surface temperature was around 0.73 degrees Celsius above the average from 1961 to 1990, which was 14 degrees Celsius.
The organization says the years between 2011 and 2015 have been the hottest five-year period on record, while the 10 warmest years have all been since 1998. Temperatures in several land areas, including the continental US, Russia, Australia, South America, and Europe have broken existing records by several margins.
Due to the influence of El Nino, which is set to last into the middle of 2016, and continually rising levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, which come from the burning of coal, oil and gas, 2016 may even surpass those levels, the WMO says.
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:17 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
For homing pigeons, it takes speed to lead
When homing pigeons fly in flocks, the fastest birds take the lead and learn the most efficient routes most quickly, according to new research.
By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer November 27, 2015
How does a flock of homing pigeons decide who goes first? Is it charisma? Intelligence? Seniority?
The answer, it turns out, may be quite simple: speed.
According to a new study, the fastest pigeon takes the lead in flocks. And as a bird leads the pack, its leadership is reinforced by learning. The leading birds learn to navigate the most efficient route more quickly than the others, according to the paper published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology.
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The researchers tested the birds both individually and in flocks, looking to see how fast they flew and if they took an efficient route.
“The faster birds showed a strong tendency to take the lead in flock flights regardless of their initial navigational ability,” zoologist and study author Benjamin Pettit tells The Christian Science Monitor in an interview.
All the homing pigeons studied were released for solo flights first. The scientists noted how fast the birds flew and how well they navigated. Then, the birds flew as a flock from the same release site four times. After the flock flights, the birds flew the route solo again.
“After their experience in flocks, it was those faster leaders that had improved most in their efficiency,” says Dr. Pettit. “So it seems that they were more effective at learning if they were a leader in the flock and were flying toward the front of the flock.”
This navigational learning could be likened to being a driver versus being a passenger in a car. Although traveling the same route, the driver is more likely than the passenger to remember the directions.
In both the birds and the human scenario, it’s not clear what makes the leaders, or drivers, better learners. Perhaps it has to do with the concentration required or spacial learning. Or perhaps the followers are expending more energy trying to keep up, diverting resources away from navigation.
This learning was a surprise to Pettit. “We know that all of these pigeons could make the journey themselves, it wasn’t that any of them were particularly bad navigators,” he says. “From our experience releasing these pigeons on their own, we would expect all of them to improve over time.”
Pettit expects more research to investigate the interaction between learning and collective motion in these animals.
The birds selected for this study were relatively equally inexperienced with the routes the researchers had them navigate. But in the wild, a flock might not start off so uniform.
That differing experience could complicate the role of speed in determining who leads. But, says Pettit, it would take a significant amount of experience to tip the balance.
From the results, Pettit sees leadership as less related to social complexities and more related to differing individual abilities. “Leadership is a necessary consequence of the individual differences in the population,” he says. This is in contrast to “some kind of adaptive social complexity where they decided who to follow,” Pettit explains.
“Bird flocks are mesmerizing and beautiful phenomena of nature,” says Pettit. “They’re really quite spectacular to watch.”
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:16 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
November 28, 2015
It’s official: Ötzi the Iceman has the oldest tattoos in the world
by Aaron Deter-Wolf
What are the world’s oldest tattoos?
If you ask the Internet this question you find a quick and easy answer: The oldest tattoos belong to Ötzi, aka the Iceman, who died and was frozen beneath an Alpine glacier along the Austrian-Italian border between about 3370 and 3100 BC. Thanks to numerous studies, including new findings published earlier this year, we know that Ötzi had a total of 61 tattoos across this body. These were arranged in groups on his left wrist, lower legs, ankles, and lower back, created using ink made from campfire soot, and may have been applied as part of therapeutic treatments for his various injuries and ailments.
While Ötzi has been popularly regarded as having the oldest tattoos, if you posed this same question to the global community of tattoo scholars you were likely to receive a different answer. Until recently many–including myself–would have instead pointed to a tattooed mustache on the mummified body of a man from the Chinchorro culture of South America as being the world’s oldest surviving tattoo.
The Chinchorro culture was a preceramic fishing society that lived in the coastal regions of Southern Peru and Chile between about 7000 and 1100 BC. Some of the earliest Chinchorro burials are naturally mummified as a result of the arid environment of the Atacama Desert, and are among the oldest human mummies identified anywhere in the world. The reported age of the tattooed Chinchorro mummy ranges between about 4000 and 6000 BC, therefore apparently predating Ötzi.
Finding the Chinchorro Mummy
Identifications of the Chinchorro man having the world’s oldest tattoos generally reference a discussion of early mummies from coastal Peru and Chile published in the 1996 volume “Human Mummies: A Global Survey of their Status and the Techniques of Conservation.” That report describes that the oldest tattoo identified in the region is “a thin pencil mustache” on the upper lip of a Chinchorro man dated to about 6000 Before Present (BP). Because of the intricacies of radiocarbon dating–which we’ll get into more below–this date is the equivalent of about 4050 BC thereby making the Chinchorro specimen some 700 years older than Ötzi. However, the 1996 source does not specify where the Chinchorro mummy was discovered or how the date estimate was reached, and does not provide an illustration of the tattooed mustache.
A desire to discover the specific identity and age of the tattooed Chinchorro mummy prompted a collaborative research effort between myself, Benoît Robitaille, Lars Krutak (National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution), and Sébastien Galliot (Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l'Océanie at Aix-Marseille Université). As a result of that work we were able not only to uncover the identity of the Chinchorro specimen, but also to compile a reference list of tattooed mummies from across the globe and thereby demonstrate that Ötzi does indeed sport the oldest tattoos identified to date. Our findings were published online this week in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
By working back through the literature we were able to determine that the Chinchorro mummy in question was recovered in 1993 from the site of El Morro in the city of Arica, Chile. The naturally-mummified Chinchorro man known as “Mo-1 T28 C22” was between about 35- and 40-years-old at the time of his death. His tattoos consist of single lines of black dots across his upper lip to either side of the nose, with eight dots to his left and four to his right. Although these dots did not meet our expectations for the “thin pencil mustache” described in 1996, so far as we are able to determine no other Chinchorro mummies have been recorded as having facial tattoos.
Archaeologists will date anything
Without getting too far into the weeds, there are a couple of important points in understanding how archaeologists reference dates. This first is that years “BP” and “BC” or “BCE” are not identical. Before Present, or BP, is typically used to reference radiocarbon dating, which calculates how many years in the past an organism died and therefore stopped taking in the naturally-occurring isotope carbon 14 (14C). Secondly, for the purposes of radiocarbon dating, “Present” is AD 1950. Finally, because it is not possible to measure 100% of the 14C in a sample, there are small errors in the calculation, which are expressed either as a ± value or as a date range. What all this means is that when presented with a radiocarbon date you should read that number as indicating “approximately _____ years before AD 1950.” When, for example, Ötzi’s age is given as 5300 BP or 5300-years old, this means he died approximately 5,300 years before AD 1950, or around 3350 BC.
During the 1980s a radiocarbon date was obtained for a sample of lung tissue from the tattooed Chinchorro mummy. That date was reported as 3830 ± 100 BP, the equivalent of 1880 ± 100 BC. Ötzi on the other hand has been the subject of extensive radiocarbon dating since his discovery in 1991. Different studies have dated samples of his bones and tissue, wood from his bow and axe, pieces of his clothing, and even mosses and animal hair recovered from beneath the glacier in the same gully where he was entombed. These studies show that Ötzi died sometime during the period ca. 3370–3100 BC, and is therefore at least 400 years older than the Chinchorro mummy.
Where things went wrong
As we report in our study, the dates of between 4000 and 6000 BC attributed to the tattooed Chinchorro mummy appear to be the result of a series of errors reading the radiocarbon data. The correct date of 3830 ± 100 BP was initially misread as being 3830 ± 100 BC – the equivalent of about 5,780 BP. As a result, the report in Human Mummies identified the Chinchorro specimen as originating “about 6000 BP.” To compound this initial error, several more recent discussions have further misinterpreted the date. By presenting the already incorrect figure of 6000 BP as instead being 6000 BC (the equivalent about 7950 BP) these works have pushed the reported date for the El Morro mummy back some 4,000 years older than its actual age.
Mummies, mummies, everywhere
Before officially declaring Ötzi to be the oldest tattooed individual, we double checked our data by compiling a list of tattooed human mummies from around the globe. This catalog included at least 49 sites spanning the period between around 3370 BC and AD 1600, and spread throughout the American Arctic, Siberia, Mongolia, western China, Egypt, Sudan, the Philippines, and Greenland in addition to Europe and South America. Some of these finds, such as the Princess of Ukok, the men and women from Burials 2 and 5 at the Pazyryk burial ground, and the woman from Grave 50 at 3-J-23, et-Tereif, Sudan have been well-publicized outside of academia. Others are mentioned simply in passing in early archaeological reports, or appear only in regional and hard-to access journals. A number of sites include multiple tattooed individuals, sometimes numbering in the dozens. In all we were able to identify eleven tattooed mummies greater than 4,000 years old (about 2000 BC). In addition to Ötzi and the Chinchorro man these include seven individuals from Egypt, and two from Russia. To date, Ötzi is the oldest of these finds.
New mummified human remains are regularly being discovered throughout the world, particularly in the arid regions of South America’s Pacific coast, along the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan, and throughout China’s Traim Basin. New technologies and advanced imaging techniques being used on these new finds and for reexaminations of previously recovered mummies in museum collections will inevitably reveal additional evidence of tattooing in the ancient world. Although Ötzi presently holds the title of “World’s Oldest Tattoos,” future research may well identify preserved ink predating the marks of the Tyrolean Iceman.
Aaron Deter-Wolf is a Prehistoric Archaeologist for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Middle Tennessee State University, where he teaches the Anthropology of Tattooing. In 2013 he co-edited the volume Drawing with Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North America You can follow his research here: http://tdoa.academia.edu/AaronDeterWolf
on: Nov 28, 2015, 06:11 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
November 27, 2015
Check out this giant purple ‘Cheshire Cat’ galaxy group smiling at us from space
by Chuck Bednar
While the scientific community marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the theory of general relativity this month, NASA researchers have release images of galaxies that provide an in-depth example of one of the key tenants of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
As the US space agency explained in a recent statement, one significant result of the century-old theory is that matter warps space-time—which in turn allows massive objects to cause a detectable bending of light from background objects. Also known as gravitational lensing, this phenomenon has been observed many times and been used by scientists to examine distant galaxies.
Now, in a paper currently available online and published in The Astrophysical Journal, experts at the University of Alabama, the National Observatory of Brazil, the Gemini Observatory, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics take an up-close look at one group of galaxies that demonstrates how gravitational lensing could lead to new discoveries.
Known as the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies because they have features resembling a smiling feline, the closest of these galaxies are located about 4.6 billion light years away, Space Alabama said. Some of those cat-like features are actually distant galaxies whose light has been stretched and bent by the large amounts of mass from dark matter (which can only be detected through the galaxies’ gravitational effect) present in the system.
The Cheshire Cat is slowly becoming a fossil group
This light-distorting mass is primarily located around the two giant “eye” galaxies and a “nose” galaxy. Lensing effects from four different galaxies located far behind the eye galaxies create the arcs of the circular “face,” and both these arcs and the individual galaxies in the system have been observed in optical light using the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.
The eye galaxies are the brightest members of their respective group of galaxies, and both groups are said to be on moving towards one another at speeds topping 300,000 mph. Evidence of this is present in data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which detected gas heated to a temperature of several million degrees and an active supermassive black hole at the center of the left eye.
NASA explained that astronomers believe that the Cheshire Cat group of galaxies will ultimately become a fossil group, or a gathering of galaxies which contain one giant elliptical galaxy along with a handful of other smaller, fainter ones. Fossil groups, they explained, could be a temporary stage of evolution experienced by all galaxy groups, and as a result, astronomers are anxious to learn more about them.
The Cheshire Cat group of galaxies could provide the first opportunity to observe this process as it happens. The study authors estimate that the two eye galaxies will eventually merge and leave behind one extremely large galaxy and dozens of smaller ones. The transformation will not happen quickly, however—NASA believes the merger could take about a billion years.