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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 73134 times)
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« Reply #765 on: Oct 25, 2013, 06:18 AM »

Barnacles join big list of sea creatures that consume plastic in Earth’s increasingly littered oceans

By Travis Gettys
RawStory
Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:45 EDT

Researchers say that about one-third of the barnacles caught in the North Pacific gyre, which is notoriously littered with trash, have plastic material in their digestive system.

Scientists aren’t sure whether eating the plastic refuse hurts the sea creatures, but they say it could fill them up with non-nutritious material.

The open-access journal PeerJ reported Wednesday that at least 267 marine species have been found to eat plastic, including birds, fish and turtles.

Laboratory studies suggest filter feeders such as barnacles eat plastic pellets, but researchers said only three species of invertebrates – sand fleas, Norway lobsters and flying squid – are known to eat plastic in the wild.

Researchers caught two species of barnacles, Lepas anatifera and Lepas pacifica, in the North Pacific gyre, and then dissected them and checked their digestive systems.

The study found that 129 of the 385 barnacles collected had ingested microplastics, which are worn by wind and sea to less than 5 mm in diameter.

Most of those barnacles had only a couple of pellets in their guts, but researchers said 57 had three or more, and one had 30 pellet particles.

Scientists said they found no sign of digestive backup in the samples they collected, but long-term health effects remain unknown.

Researchers said the barnacles don’t eat enough plastic to clean up the litter, and they apparently don’t digest it.

“The barnacles just poop out the plastic & it floats away again,” tweeted Miriam Goldstein of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

    @maddisonkincade @WhySharksMatter @thePeerJ Unfortunately not. The barnacles just poop out the plastic & it floats away again.

    — Miriam Goldstein (@MiriamGoldste) October 22, 2013


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« Reply #766 on: Oct 26, 2013, 06:18 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/25/2013 04:13 PM

Reality Check: Germany's Defective Green Energy Game Plan

A Commentary By Alexander Neubacher

Germany pretends to be a pioneer in the green revolution. But its massively expensive Energiewende has done nothing to make the environment cleaner or encourage genuine efficiency. One writer argues: Either do it right, or don't do it at all.

So, perhaps you've heard about Germany's heroic green revolution, about how it's overhauling its entire energy infrastructure to embrace renewable energy sources? Well, in reality, our chimney stacks are spewing out more than ever, and coal consumption jumped 8 percent in the first half of 2013. Germans are pumping more climate-killing CO2 into the air than they have in years. And people are surprised.

Why coal, you might ask? Aren't Germans installing rooftop solar panels and wind turbines everywhere? What's being done with the billions of euros from the renewable energy surcharge, which is tacked onto Germans' power bills to subsidize green energy and due to rise again soon? This is certainly not how we imagined the Energiewende, Germany's push to abandon nuclear energy and promote renewable sources, which Chancellor Angela Merkel's government launched in 2011 in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

This same government acts as if this coal fever were merely a growing pain or transitional problem. But that's not true. Instead, it stems from structural flaws in the Energiewende. Renewable energy and the coal boom are causally linked. The insane system to promote renewable energy sources ensures that, with each new rooftop solar panel and each additional wind turbine, more coal is automatically burned and more CO2 released into the atmosphere.

Counterincentives Galore

Indeed, Merkel's Energiewende is morphing into an environment killer. It burdens the climate, accelerates the greenhouse effect and causes irreversible damage.

Take the fluctuation/storage problem: Sun and wind sometimes provide an abundance of electricity, and then nothing at all -- depending on the time of day and the weather. When they are pumping out lots of power, however, very little of the surplus can be stored because there is a lack of appropriate technology and the incentives to develop it.

German law stipulates that renewable energy always has priority in the grid. When gaps emerge in the electricity supply, though, they have to be bridged by conventional power plants. Unfortunately, these are usually not gas plants, but ones burning cheaper coal. As long as there are no storage facilities for green electricity, every wind turbine and every rooftop solar panel will cast a dark shadow.

And then there is the brake on investments: The price of electricity at noon used to be particularly high due to the large demand. Today, it's often particularly low because large amounts of solar power are flowing into the grid. Subsidized and privileged solar electricity is forcing other power plants out of the market. Only cheap coal can compete on price. Nearly all plans for the construction of new, better and more efficient power plants have been shelved. Nobody invests in facilities that don't pay off. Instead, the energy companies are drawing as much electricity as possible from their power plants that are slated to be phased out.

Likewise, there is the dilemma over the right to pollute: Germany's efforts to promote green energy are colliding with the European emissions trading system. Every kilowatt hour of renewable energy frees up emissions allowances.

These allowances are regrettably not discarded, but are instead sold and used elsewhere to offset pollution by the Spanish cement industry, Polish lignite plants and German steel mills, for example. All of the wind turbines, rooftop solar panels, hydroelectric and biogas plants in Germany have not reduced CO2 emissions in Europe by a single gram. On the contrary, they have helped lower the price of emissions allowances on the European carbon market -- much to the delight of Europe's dirtiest industries.

And let's not forget the bureaucracy monster: German bureaucrats have come up with over 4,000 different subsidy categories for renewable energy, apparently adhering to the principle that what is particularly expensive has to be lavishly subsidized. As a result, a large proportion of the subsidies are used to support highly inefficient technology, such as solar parks in regions of eastern Germany that receive relatively little sunlight and wind turbines far off Germany's North Sea coast.

The bureaucratic system also puts the brakes on innovation. Little research is conducted in areas in which no subsidies beckon. Technical progress is hobbled by the ploddingly predictable imagination of civil servants.

Change It, or Ditch It

Unfortunately, the debate on the Energiewende revolves almost entirely around costs. Germany is about to get a new coalition government -- and one without the business-friendly Free Democrats. But the future government has to do much more than just continue to squabble over the financial details. It has to remedy the fundamental design flaws; and, if it doesn't, the Energiewende will lose its legitimacy.

Granted, it's annoying that switching to renewable energies is driving up the price of electricity. But it can't be avoided. Still, if the Energiewende turns out to be a climate killer, it would be better to call the whole thing off.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen


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« Reply #767 on: Oct 27, 2013, 06:06 AM »

Oil companies in North Dakota fail to report almost 300 oil spills since 2012

By Scott Kaufman
RawStory
Friday, October 25, 2013 16:12 EDT

According to the Associated Press, the nation’s second largest oil-producing state, North Dakota, failed to inform the public of almost 300 oil pipeline spills in the last two years.

Even though many of the spills were small,
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« Reply #768 on: Oct 28, 2013, 07:03 AM »

Nebraska conservatives demand flawed climate study; scientists refuse

By George Chidi
RawStory
Sunday, October 27, 2013 21:44 EDT

First, Virginia’s legislature calls for a $50,000 climate change study that omits the words “climate change” and “sea level rise” from the study’s description. Then, North Carolina decides to ignore a study predicting the sea will rise on its coast.

Now, Nebraska’s legislature has asked its state climate scientists to look at climate change … but apparently without accounting for human activity on the climate.

The bill for a Climate Assessment Response Committee allocates up to $44,000 for a study of “cyclical” climate change — a term that has no scientifically-defined meaning, the state’s scientific community noted in response to the request. The legislation asks the committee to “provide timely and systematic data collection, analysis, and dissemination of information about drought and other severe climate occurrences to the Governor and to other interested persons,” and to supply advice for requests for federal disaster declarations.

Nebraska has been in a severe drought for about two years. Recent flooding in Colorado has somewhat mitigated the drought conditions, but the state’s climatologists worry that a dry winter may return the state to drought conditions.

The Omaha World Herald reported that State Sen. Beau McCoy, a Republican candidate for governor and anthropogenic climate change denier, added the word “cyclical” to the legislation.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists said they wouldn’t participate in the climate study if it didn’t take human activity into account, refusing to be political pawns, as Al Dutcher, Nebraska state climatologist, told the legislative committee.


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« Reply #769 on: Oct 29, 2013, 05:48 AM »

Brazilian judge suspends work on huge Amazon dam project

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, October 28, 2013 17:31 EDT

A Brazilian judge has ordered that work on the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon be halted on grounds that environmental commitments were not met, the court said Monday.

A spokesman for the Federal Court in Brasilia said Judge Antonio Souza issued the ruling Friday, suspending the project’s environmental license as well work at the dam, located in the northern state of Para, following objections from state prosecutors

The judge said the license was granted on condition that the environmental commitments be honored.

The ruling also means that Brazil’s BNDES development bank, which is bankrolling the project, is barred from disbursing funds until the commitments are met.

“We are not against the country’s development. But we say that the law must be applied,” said Para prosecutor Thais Santi.

Norte Energia, the consortium in charge of the construction work, told AFP it had yet to be notified of the court’s decision.

It insisted that it was “rigorously complying with its obligations and commitments.”

Indigenous groups fear the dam across the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon, will harm their way of life. Environmentalists have warned of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and irreparable damage to the ecosystem.

Belo Monte, a $13 billion project aiming to produce 11,000 megawatts of electricity, is expected to flood a 500-square-kilometer (200-square-mile) area, displacing 16,000 people, according to the government.

It would be the third-biggest dam in the world,after China’s Three Gorges and Brazil’s Itaipu in the south.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #770 on: Oct 29, 2013, 06:52 AM »

Administration has dangerously ‘regressive’ policy on curbing antibiotic use in livestock

By Scott Kaufman
RawStory
Monday, October 28, 2013 13:59 EDT

A new analysis by the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future deems the administration and Congress’s response to industrial food animal systems issues has been “regressive” due to the influence of farm and pharmaceutical lobbies.

According to the Hopkins study, which echoes recent comments by the CDC, curbing the use of antibiotics in humans and livestock is crucial to preventing the further development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Over 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant strains of formerly treatable bacteria in the United States each year, and the mass distribution of antibiotics to livestock is only accelerating the resistance-building process.

However, both the National Beef Packing Company and the National Pork Producers Council are vigorously fighting any legislation that would stop the practice of feeding livestock antibiotics prior to slaughter in order to fatten them. The two groups have spent a combined $430,000 directly lobbying against legislation introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) that would put a stop to the practice.

Pharmaceutical companies like Merck & CO and Eli Lilly & Co, both of whom manufacture antibiotics used to fatten livestock, have spent northward of a combined $14.8 million lobbying so far this year.


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« Reply #771 on: Nov 01, 2013, 05:33 AM »

Russia and China block bid to create two massive Antarctic ocean sanctuaries

By Agence France-Presse

Friday, November 1, 2013 6:27 EDT

Plans to create two vast ocean sanctuaries in Antarctica to protect the pristine wilderness failed Friday for a third time, with Russia and China blocking the bids, delegates at multi-nation talks said.

The proposals for two huge Marine Protected Areas were on the table at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Hobart, which brought together 24 countries and the European Union.

But the 10-day talks ended with the nations unable to agree to a US-New Zealand proposal for a protected zone in the Ross Sea and another by Australia, France and the European Union for a sanctuary off East Antarctica.

“The international community came together in Hobart to protect key parts of the Antarctic Ocean — one of the last pristine environments in the world — yet Russia chose to stand in the way,” said Joshua Reichert, executive vice president of US-based Pew Charitable Trusts, which had a delegate inside the talks.

Environmentalists said an ocean wilderness that is home to 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses, penguins and unique species of fish, was at stake.

CCAMLR — a treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean — has not yet made any official comment.

The head of the Swedish delegation Bo Fernholm said the outcome was disappointing.

“There was sadness,” he told AFP. “We were quite unhappy with the fact that it didn’t go ahead, that they couldn’t get it through now was a disappointment.”

Another delegate, who did not want to be named, confirmed the details.

“The talks have failed. Russia and China wanted more details, more time. It’s very disappointing,” he told AFP.

The sanctuaries required the support of all 25 members of CCAMLR to be passed. Despite the scale of the New Zealand-US proposal being reduced, Russia was not won over.

While Russia and Ukraine actively blocked both proposals, China withdrew support for the East Antarctic sanctuary, said the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, a coalition of high-profile individuals such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio and conservation groups.

This was the third attempt since 2012 by CCAMLR to protect large areas in the Southern Ocean. Fernholm said while “substantial discussions” took place, Russia had reservations, believed to be related to the limits on fishing.

“I think there are some major problems remaining on some of the major things like how long does a marine protected area need to stay in force, and there were also objections about the size of these marine protected areas,” he added.

The US-New Zealand bid for a sanctuary in the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica’s Pacific side, had been considered the best hope after its size was reduced, with its no-fish zone to be 1.25 million square kilometres (482,000 square miles).

The second proposal called for a 1.6 million square kilometre protected zone off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent’s Indian Ocean side.

Their creation would make the largest marine protection areas in the world.

Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Southern Ocean sanctuaries project, said safeguarding the teeming marine life of the Antarctic had far-reaching consequences for the world’s oceans.

“This is a dark day not just for the Antarctic, but for the world’s oceans,” she said.

“The scientific basis to create these reserves is overwhelming. The stubborn self interest of a few should not be allowed to deny the will of the majority of countries around the world.”

Environmentalists said CCAMLR’s conservation mandate had been brought into question.

“What we have witnessed over the last few years is the steady erosion of the spirit and mandate of CCAMLR to conserve our last intact ocean ecosystem remaining on earth,” said Farah Obaidullah from Greenpeace International.

“This year’s failure denigrates the reputation of CCAMLR and is symptomatic of a dangerous global trend where corporate and political interests override any genuine efforts to protect the oceans for the sake of future generations.”

*************


The Christian Science Monitor

Name that mammal: Researchers find new humpback dolphin species near Australia

For years, biologists have argued over the number of species of humpback dolphins. Recent research somewhat settles the debate, as a team of biologists have discovered at least four distinct species – one of which had previously gone unnoticed.

By Amelia Pak-Harvey, Contributor / October 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm EDT

Humpback dolphins have the scientific community stumped.

A team of biologists have recently discovered a brand new species of the marine mammal, which is classified as a member of the genus Sousa and has a distinct hump under its dorsal fin. The discovery clears up a longstanding debate over the exact number of humpback dolphin species.

In the past, biologists had proposed the existence of three species, National Geographic reports. But after studying the genetics and physical features of more than 200 Sousa dolphins, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups say they have found a fourth, unnamed kind.

“Based on the findings of our combined morphological and genetic analyses, we can suggest that the humpback dolphin genus includes at least four member species,” said Dr. Martin Mendez, the study's lead author, in a press release. “This discovery helps our understanding of the evolutionary history of this group and informs conservation policies to help safeguard each of the species.”

Researchers say the discovery could help in preserving the animal.

New species information "provides the needed scientific evidence" for protecting the habitats and genetic diversity of the dolphin, said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, senior author of the paper, in the release.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Atlantic humpback dolphin, a typically acknowledged species, as "vulnerable" – just one step below the "endangered" category.

There are about 36 species of oceanic dolphins, and establishing a new one is rare. But remarkably, this is the second oceanic dolphin discovery to surprise scientists in two years.

In 2011, Monash University researcher Kate Charlton-Robb discovered a new coastal dolphin species she named the Burrunan dolphin. She called the finding "incredibly fascinating" because only three new dolphin species had been officially recognized since the 1800s.

Oceanic dolphins fall under the delphinidae family, although they are often confused with the shorter, stouter porpoises of the Phocoenidae family.

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« Reply #772 on: Nov 01, 2013, 06:23 AM »


Hamburg's answer to climate change

The German city is planning a green network that will cover 40% of the city area, contributing to resilience and allowing biking, swimming and nature watching in the city

Elisabeth Braw   
Guardian Professional, Thursday 31 October 2013 14.33 GMT   

Boris Johnson, don't read this: there's a European commercial hub that promotes bicycling as the main mode of transportation. It is, in fact, embarking on a plan to build a network around bikes and pedestrians, linking car-free roads to parks and playgrounds, from the city centre to the suburbs.

Welcome to Hamburg, an environmental pioneer in the mould of its regional neighbour Copenhagen. Its planned green network will cover 40% of the city's area. "It will connect parks, recreational areas, playgrounds, gardens and cemeteries through green paths", Angelika Fritsch, a spokeswoman for the city's department of urban planning and the environment, tells Guardian Sustainable Business. "Other cities, including London, have green rings, but the green network will be unique in covering an area from the outskirts to the city centre. In 15 to 20 years you'll be able to explore the city exclusively on bike and foot." The green network will even connect animal habitats, enabling critters to crisscross the city without risk of being run over. Perhaps more importantly, the network will absorb CO2 emissions and help prevent floods when inevitable superstorms strike.

"Hamburg has always been a green city with lots of parks", notes Jens Kerstan, leader of the Green Party in Hamburg's state parliament. "The green network makes sense from a climate change adaptation perspective, especially since our residents are quite progressive when it comes to climate change adaptation. Many Hamburgers are willing to give up their cars, which is very unusual in Germany."

Climate change will, in fact, leave cities little choice but to develop plans like the green network. Fritsch points out that thanks to its sea winds, Hamburg is better positioned to combat warmer temperatures than, say, Berlin. But increasing temperatures are already affecting this North Sea metropolis as well. "Today the average annual temperature is nine degrees Celsius, 1.2 degrees more than it was 60 years ago", reports Dr Insa Meinke, director of the North German Climate Bureau at the Institut für Küstenforschung (Institute of Coastal Research). "When we have a cold winter there are always people saying, 'so where's your climate change now?', but the cold winters are simply fluctuations." According to data from the Institute for Coastal Research, Hamburg had five hot (above 30 degrees Celsius) summer days last year, compared to two in 1952.

Climate change is already affecting the port city's water level as well. "Compared to 60 years ago, the sea level here has risen by 20 centimetres", explains Meinke. "As a large city, Hamburg is truly at risk. Storm surges could rise by another 30 to 110 centimetres by 2100." Hamburg, in other words, needs its green network because it will help limit the effects of floods.

There are benefits to tackling climate change early on. Cities know that if they make themselves greener and more pedestrian-and-bike-friendly, they'll attract more of the people they need to remain competitive. According to Fritsch, given that residents – especially children, the elderly and the ill – will suffer when temperatures rise, making the city climate as comfortable as possible is "very important in order to provide quality of life for our residents looking ahead to 2050". Dr Sven Schulze, an analyst at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI), notes that the green network could take up space that's needed for housing and businesses, but "on the other hand, it brings economic advantages because it attracts highly educated and competent people to the city."

That's, of course, a recipe successfully pioneered by Copenhagen. But unlike Copenhagen, Hamburg hasn't got very far in implementing its grand design. "The green network is an excellent idea, but we're still in the early stages", notes Kerstan. "The visionary thinking is done by the civil servants, not by the politicians currently in charge. Ever since Fukushima, the focus in Germany has been on moving away from nuclear power, not on climate change adaptation."

Currently some 30 city staff are developing the green network, aided by personnel in the city's seven districts. When politicians make the green web a priority, it will be an extensive network indeed, covering some 7,000 hectares. And Fritsch's team envisions a network that doesn't just help residents get from point A to point B in a sustainable fashion. "It will offer people opportunities to hike, swim, do water sports, enjoy picnics and restaurants, experience calm and watch nature and wildlife right in the city", she explains. "That reduces the need to take the car for weekend outings outside the city, which further reduces the damage to the environment."

Modern city life: walking, biking, watching nature right where you live. Climate change is already generating a surprising mix of futuristic and back-to-nature solutions.


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« Reply #773 on: Nov 01, 2013, 06:24 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
11/01/2013 11:16 AM

Fuel-Cell Revolution: Can Toyota Save the Electric Car?

By Christian Wüst

Toyota has developed a new long-range electric vehicle powered entirely by a cutting-edge fuel cell. The project represents a dramatic departure from the goal of developing a mass-produced, effective, battery-driven electric car. But what does it mean for our future?

Soon there will be an electric car on the market that, believe it or not, works like a normal car. It will have a range of 600 kilometers (375 miles). Recharging it will take minutes, not hours. In fact, it won't even require an electrical outlet, because its fuel is hydrogen and it makes its own electricity. And, just as surprising, this car isn't the product of some bold startup company trying to secure venture capital -- but of the world's largest automaker.

At this year's Tokyo Motor Show in late November, Toyota will unveil a sedan that -- despite the company's traditionally mediocre design and the car's moderate total output of about 100 kilowatts -- is likely to attract attention. It will be the world's first series-produced fuel-cell car to be sold on the market. Toyota has announced that it will be available for purchase starting in 2015.

The car is powered by a fuel cell -- a sort of power plant on wheels which combines hydrogen and oxygen in a controlled manner, producing electricity in the process. Although fuel cells have been around for a long time, they lost their allure when battery technology advanced, making fuel cells, in comparison, too expensive, too complicated and too inefficient. The battery seemed to have won the race.

This makes Toyota's project both revolutionary and sobering because it marks a turn away from the purely battery-driven electric car, which is being developed by almost every other automaker in the world. And ironically, this categorical renunciation is coming from the great master of alternative engine technology.

Toyota's First Revolution

Toyota, based in Toyota City near Nagoya, delivered the key to electrifying engines when it unveiled the first successful hybrid automobile 16 years ago. Since then, the company has sold almost six million of these vehicles, in which an electric motor supports the gasoline engine and braking energy is fed into the battery, resulting in high fuel efficiency.

It was the first time in the history of automobile manufacturing that a Japanese producer had assumed technological leadership and outpaced the rest of the industry by an entire decade. Toyota's fleet of hybrid vehicles already outperforms the European Union's 2020 emissions target, which would limit CO2 emissions to an average of 95 grams per kilometer, a target German automakers havetried to make less stringent via lobbying efforts and substantial campaign contributions to the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Now Toyota's competitors are about to be humiliated a second time. Many viewed hybrid cars as a bridge technology to battery-based electric vehicles. But now that they have started selling electric cars, they are confronted with an unresolved problem: The cars cost too much and are inefficient. Their ranges are too small and it takes hours to recharge their batteries. Electric cars have not managed to become the standard anywhere in the world. Engineers and politicians alike are realizing that batteries will not enable our mobile society to reduce its dependency on the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.

Battery Cars: 'Loss Makers'

Koei Saga of Toyota is a short, sturdy man who speaks very openly, but preferably not in English. The 62-year-old is part of the generation of Japanese business executives who prefer using an interpreter. Saga spent about 10 years working on hybrid drives before becoming the carmaker's chief developer last year.

Saga is standing in a reception room at Toyota's administration building in Nagoya, speaking loudly and confidently. Battery development has brought Toyota to the "half-point to our target," he says, but he doubts this goal will ever be attainable. Electric cars based on today's battery technology, says Saga, are "loss makers."

Tesla, a California startup miracle that produces electric sports and luxury cars and was briefly profitable, could serve as a counter-argument to Saga's statement. "Tesla is a rare case," says Saga. "They are targeting rich people, and you have many rich people in California." The battery car could exist as a niche toy for eco-snobs, says Saga, but it isn't suitable for the masses.

Toyota does use Tesla as the supplier of a battery engine for an electric version of its RAV4 SUV, but not out of conviction -- it does so to satisfy a California quota rule requiring a certain percentage of cars to be electric. Tesla was a suitable partner for the venture, says Saga. "We don't have resources for everything," he notes.

Toyota is directing its energies elsewhere. Company officials note that about 500 Toyota engineers are working on fuel-cell technology, which, even for a major corporation, is a considerable number. This suggests the technology is Toyota's top R&D priority.

The Catch: Green Energy

The key figures in the company's earlier advance into hybrid technology are the ones who are now pressing ahead with the project. In addition to chief developer Saga, they include nuclear physicist Katsuhiko Hirose, the descendant of a family of Samurai warriors.

Hirose, an eccentric intellectual, is sitting in a hotel lobby in Nagoya, wearing a wrinkled sports coat and a shirt open at the collar. He explains nuclear fusion with sugar cubes and the world's energy problem with charts on a scratched laptop, which he always has with him. He praises the Energiewende, Germany's shift away from nuclear energy and toward renewable energy, and wants to see Japan move in a similar direction. The island of Hokkaido has "enormous potential for wind energy," says Hirose.

One thing is clear to the decision-makers at Toyota: The environmental benefit of the fuel cell car hinges on an oversupply of green energy.

As tempting as the short refueling times and large ranges of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle are, this energy footprint is also a substantial deterrent. To be climate-neutral, hydrogen has to be split from water using green electricity. Then it has to be transported, condensed to the enormously high pressure value of 700 bar, converted back into electricity by the fuel cell in the automobile, and then converted into motion.

About 70 percent of the energy is lost along the way. In an electric car, which is charged slowly, thereby saving electricity, more than 70 percent of the energy is utilized. But from Toyota's perspective, this enormous benefit is worthless if the result is not a fully-operational car capable of traveling longer distances.

A Global Energiewende?

The efficiency drawback of the fuel cell car, physicist Hirose explains, would be offset in the long term if other economies emulated the German Energiewende and one day had a surplus of green energy -- and therefore hydrogen.

But when would this scenario become a reality? After the Fukushima disaster, Japan's energy economy has been inundated with problems. The island nation currently generates most of its electricity with natural gas, coal and oil. In Germany, with its Energiewende, wind turbines have marred large swathes of the countryside. And yet wind energy satisfies only 8 percent of demand, and doesn't even provide a reliable base supply because it depends on the vagaries of the wind. Energy storage technologies are urgently needed so that green energy can be reliably stored in the grid, in anticipation of times when the wind isn't blowing.

According to a report by the German Federal Environmental Agency, "a realistic expansion of renewable energy to the greatest extent possible will not result, by 2030, in a significant potential for surplus electricity" from solar, wind or biomass sources that could be used for hydrogen production. "This cannot be expected to be achieved on a large scale until at least 2050." A rejection of the environmental vision of the hydrogen car couldn't be put more clearly.

Forcing Change

This helps explain why there is so little interest in developing an infrastructure for this type of fuel. German has only 15 hydrogen fueling stations. And the recent announcement -- by an industry association affiliated with gas supplier Linde -- that this number will be increased to 400 stations by 2023 seems neither realistic nor environmentally desirable.

Toyota is aware of this. "We cannot solve these problems," says chief developer Saga. But, he adds, the carmaker must perform a pioneering role. According to Saga, it is Toyota's duty to offer a product that will make large-scale hydrogen production from solar electricity make sense in the first place. "Otherwise the change will never come."

There is a valuable idea in what he's saying, and it explains why the gasoline engine prevailed despite the fact that, at the time of its invention, hardly any oil had been discovered. It also explains why the electric car has been a failure. It is failing because it is an immature product, not because of a shortage of electrical outlets.

Competitors Get Into the Game

No one can predict whether the fuel cell car will ultimately be the key to our automotive future. But the competition is certainly impressed by Toyota's dedication. "I have great respect for Toyota, because they think on a long-term basis and they don't engage in technology hopping," says Herbert Kohler, head of R&D at Daimler.

The Stuttgart-based company was the first automaker to show its support for hydrogen-powered cars. Back in 1994, Daimler researchers unveiled a small truck powered by fuel cells. At the time, the fuel cells and secondary batteries took up much of the truck bed.

Daimler has since invested more than €1 billion ($1.37 billion) in fuel cell drives, has entered into an R&D alliance with Ford and Nissan to bring down costs and is preparing for possible series production of the technology. As with Toyota, Daimler's drive modules have since been reduced to such a compact size they can be housed in a standard car without impeding on the passenger or trunk space. The three companies envision a market introduction in 2017.

Also in the running are a manufacturers' alliance consisting of General Motors, Honda and South Korean automaker Hyundai. After paying little serious attention to the issue for a long time, German automotive giant Volkswagen formed an alliance with Canadian fuel cell producer Ballard this year, so as not to be caught unawares in case the technology takes off.

The big question of whether Toyota will once again outpace the competition will depend mainly on the price at which it can sell a hydrogen-powered car. Costs were the main reason behind the slow development of the fuel cell drive. The first units still contained about a pound of platinum. Now, says Daimler executive Kohler, the amount of the precious metal being used has declined to about the level of the first catalytic exhaust converters, and it will continue to decline even further. The question is: how far? Can this car end up being cheaper than a battery-powered electric car?

What Will It Cost?

Satoshi Ogiso is standing in front of a party tent on an asphalted open-air site in Tokyo. He is smiling. Ogiso, 52, is one of the hybrid developers in Saga's team and his potential successor. Japanese and American test drivers are driving prototypes of the fuel-cell car. The engines are on display inside the tent. They are small, relatively light and easy to install. No one doubts anymore that this technology works. Everyone wants to know how much the car will cost.

Ogiso cites two numbers. The price of the first series-produced fuel-cell car will range between five and 10 million yen, he says. That's about €37,000 to €74,000. The higher number would be astonishingly cheap, while €37,000 would be a sensation -- a car with a completely new drive technology for the price of a well-equipped, conventional mid-range car.

Daimler's Kohler prefers not to comment on these numbers, but he doesn't hide the fact that he's impressed. "It's certainly not a marketing gag," he says.

That much is clear.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


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« Reply #774 on: Nov 01, 2013, 07:28 AM »

‘Eco-warrior’ bucks Interpol arrest warrant and arrives in Los Angeles

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, October 31, 2013 16:45 EDT

After 15 months at sea, fugitive eco-warrior Paul Watson has disembarked in the United States despite an international Interpol request for his arrest, his organisation Sea Shepherd announced Thursday.

Watson, a 62-year-old Canadian, arrived in Los Angeles on Monday, passed through customs and “was not arrested”, Lamya Essemlali, head of Sea Shepherd France, told AFP.

He decided to disembark to testify in a court case due to take place next week in Seattle over his marine conservation organisation’s actions in Antarctica against Japanese whalers, Essemlali said.

Watson was arrested in May last year in Frankfurt on a warrant from Costa Rica, where he is wanted on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

He was released on bail after paying a fine, and was ordered to appear before police twice a day. But he skipped bail on July 22, 2012 and fled Germany.

The following month, France-based Interpol issued an international request for his arrest.

The organisation does not have the power to issue international arrest warrants but can ask member countries make arrests based on foreign warrants through a “Red Notice”.

Watson, known to his supporters as “The Captain”, had been on the run at sea since then, and even participated in a new campaign against Japanese whalers in Antarctica last winter.

But he said on Twitter Thursday that he was no longer the subject of Interpol’s “Red Notice”.

And when an anti-whaling fleet he had been on docked in Australia in March, he made no appearance on the ground but the country’s attorney-general had hinted he would not be detained if he came to shore.

Japanese authorities describe methods used by Sea Shepherd against whaling ships — for example blocking the boats’ propellers — as “terrorist”.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #775 on: Nov 01, 2013, 12:29 PM »

Executive Order -- Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change

EXECUTIVE ORDER


- - - - - - -

PREPARING THE UNITED STATES FOR THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change by undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The impacts of climate change -- including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise -- are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation. These impacts are often most significant for communities that already face economic or health-related challenges, and for species and habitats that are already facing other pressures. Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the Federal Government, as well as by stakeholders, to facilitate Federal, State, local, tribal, private-sector, and nonprofit-sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience; help safeguard our economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources; and provide for the continuity of executive department and agency (agency) operations, services, and programs.

A foundation for coordinated action on climate change preparedness and resilience across the Federal Government was established by Executive Order 13514 of October 5, 2009 (Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance), and the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force led by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition, through the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), established by section 103 of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (15 U.S.C. 2933), and agency programs and activities, the Federal Government will continue to support scientific research, observational capabilities, and assessments necessary to improve our understanding of and response to climate change and its impacts on the Nation.

The Federal Government must build on recent progress and pursue new strategies to improve the Nation's preparedness and resilience. In doing so, agencies should promote: (1) engaged and strong partnerships and information sharing at all levels of government; (2) risk-informed decisionmaking and the tools to facilitate it; (3) adaptive learning, in which experiences serve as opportunities to inform and adjust future actions; and (4) preparedness planning.

Sec. 2. Modernizing Federal Programs to Support Climate Resilient Investment. (a) To support the efforts of regions, States, local communities, and tribes, all agencies, consistent with their missions and in coordination with the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Council) established in section 6 of this order, shall:

(i) identify and seek to remove or reform barriers that discourage investments or other actions to increase the Nation's resilience to climate change while ensuring continued protection of public health and the environment;

(ii) reform policies and Federal funding programs that may, perhaps unintentionally, increase the vulnerability of natural or built systems, economic sectors, natural resources, or communities to climate change related risks;

(iii) identify opportunities to support and encourage smarter, more climate-resilient investments by States, local communities, and tribes, including by providing incentives through agency guidance, grants, technical assistance, performance measures, safety considerations, and other programs, including in the context of infrastructure development as reflected in Executive Order 12893 of January 26, 1994 (Principles for Federal Infrastructure Investments), my memorandum of August 31, 2011 (Speeding Infrastructure Development through More Efficient and Effective Permitting and Environmental Review), Executive Order 13604 of March 22, 2012 (Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects), and my memorandum of May 17, 2013 (Modernizing Federal Infrastructure Review and Permitting Regulations, Policies, and Procedures); and

(iv) report on their progress in achieving the requirements identified above, including accomplished and planned milestones, in the Agency Adaptation Plans developed pursuant to section 5 of this order.

(b) In carrying out this section, agencies should also consider the recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Task Force) established in section 7 of this order and the National Infrastructure Advisory Council established by Executive Order 13231 of October 16, 2001 (Critical Infrastructure Protection in the Information Age), and continued through Executive Order 13652 of September 30, 2013 (Continuance of Certain Federal Advisory Committees).

(c) Interagency groups charged with coordinating and modernizing Federal processes related to the development and integration of both man-made and natural infrastructure, evaluating public health and social equity issues, safeguarding natural resources, and other issues impacted by climate change -- including the Steering Committee on Federal Infrastructure Permitting and Review Process Improvement established by Executive Order 13604, the Task Force on Ports established on July 19, 2012, the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska established by Executive Order 13580 of July 12, 2011, and the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice established by Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994 -- shall be responsible for ensuring that climate change related risks are accounted for in such processes and shall work with agencies in meeting the requirements set forth in subsections (a) and (b) of this section.

Sec. 3. Managing Lands and Waters for Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Within 9 months of the date of this order and in coordination with the efforts described in section 2 of this order, the heads of the Departments of Defense, the Interior, and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies as recommended by the Council established in section 6 of this order shall work with the Chair of CEQ and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to complete an inventory and assessment of proposed and completed changes to their land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations necessary to make the Nation's watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate. Further, recognizing the many benefits the Nation's natural infrastructure provides, agencies shall, where possible, focus on program and policy adjustments that promote the dual goals of greater climate resilience and carbon sequestration, or other reductions to the sources of climate change. The assessment shall include a timeline and plan for making changes to policies, programs, and regulations. Agencies shall build on efforts already completed or underway as outlined in agencies' Adaptation Plans, as discussed in section 5 of this order, as well as recent interagency climate adaptation strategies such as the National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate, released October 28, 2011; the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, released March 26, 2013; and the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, released April 16, 2013.

Sec. 4. Providing Information, Data, and Tools for Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience. (a) In support of Federal, regional, State, local, tribal, private-sector and nonprofit-sector efforts to prepare for the impacts of climate change, the Departments of Defense, the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and any other agencies as recommended by the Council established in section 6 of this order, shall, supported by USGCRP, work together to develop and provide authoritative, easily accessible, usable, and timely data, information, and decision-support tools on climate preparedness and resilience.

(b) As part of the broader open data policy, CEQ and OSTP, in collaboration with OMB and consistent with Executive Order 13642 of May 9, 2013 (Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information), shall oversee the establishment of a web-based portal on "Data.gov" and work with agencies on identifying, developing, and integrating data and tools relevant to climate issues and decisionmaking. Agencies shall coordinate their work on these data and tools with relevant interagency councils and committees such as the National Science and Technology Council and those that support the implementation of Presidential Policy Directive-21 of February 12, 2013 (Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience).

Sec. 5. Federal Agency Planning for Climate Change Related Risk. (a) Consistent with Executive Order 13514, agencies have developed Agency Adaptation Plans and provided them to CEQ and OMB. These plans evaluate the most significant climate change related risks to, and vulnerabilities in, agency operations and missions in both the short and long term, and outline actions that agencies will take to manage these risks and vulnerabilities. Building on these efforts, each agency shall develop or continue to develop, implement, and update comprehensive plans that integrate consideration of climate change into agency operations and overall mission objectives and submit those plans to CEQ and OMB for review. Each Agency Adaptation Plan shall include:

(i) identification and assessment of climate change related impacts on and risks to the agency's ability to accomplish its missions, operations, and programs;

(ii) a description of programs, policies, and plans the agency has already put in place, as well as additional actions the agency will take, to manage climate risks in the near term and build resilience in the short and long term;

(iii) a description of how any climate change related risk identified pursuant to paragraph (i) of this subsection that is deemed so significant that it impairs an agency's statutory mission or operation will be addressed, including through the agency's existing reporting requirements;

(iv) a description of how the agency will consider the need to improve climate adaptation and resilience, including the costs and benefits of such improvement, with respect to agency suppliers, supply chain, real property investments, and capital equipment purchases such as updating agency policies for leasing, building upgrades, relocation of existing facilities and equipment, and construction of new facilities; and

(v) a description of how the agency will contribute to coordinated interagency efforts to support climate preparedness and resilience at all levels of government, including collaborative work across agencies' regional offices and hubs, and through coordinated development of information, data, and tools, consistent with section 4 of this order.

(b) Agencies will report on progress made on their Adaptation Plans, as well as any updates made to the plans, through the annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan process. Agencies shall regularly update their Adaptation Plans, completing the first update within 120 days of the date of this order, with additional regular updates thereafter due not later than 1 year after the publication of each quadrennial National Climate Assessment report required by section 106 of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (15 U.S.C. 2936).

Sec. 6. Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

(a) Establishment. There is established an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Council).

(b) Membership. The Council shall be co-chaired by the Chair of CEQ, the Director of OSTP, and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. In addition, the Council shall include senior officials (Deputy Secretary or equivalent officer) from:

(i) the Department of State;

(ii) the Department of the Treasury;

(iii) the Department of Defense;

(iv) the Department of Justice;

(v) the Department of the Interior;

(vi) the Department of Agriculture;

(vii) the Department of Commerce;

(viii) the Department of Labor;

(ix) the Department of Health and Human Services;

(x) the Department of Housing and Urban Development;

(xi) the Department of Transportation;

(xii) the Department of Energy;

(xiii) the Department of Education;

(xiv) the Department of Veterans Affairs;

(xv) the Department of Homeland Security;

(xvi) the United States Agency for International Development;

(xvii) the Army Corps of Engineers;

(xviii) the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xix) the General Services Administration;

(xx) the Millennium Challenge Corporation;

 

(xxi) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration;

(xxii) the U.S. Small Business Administration;

(xxiii) the Corporation for National and Community Service;

(xxiv) the Office of the Director of National Intelligence;

(xxv) the Council of Economic Advisers;

(xxvi) the National Economic Council;

(xxvii) the Domestic Policy Council;

(xxviii) the Office of Management and Budget;

(xxix) the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs;

(xxx) the United States Trade Representative; and

(xxxi) such agencies or offices as the President or Co-Chairs shall designate.

(c) Administration. CEQ shall provide administrative support and additional resources, as appropriate, for the Council to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations. Agencies shall assist and provide information to the Council, consistent with applicable law, as may be necessary to carry out its functions. Each agency shall bear its own expenses for participating in the Council.

(d) Council Structure. The Co-Chairs shall designate a subset of members of the Council to serve on a Steering Committee, which shall help determine priorities and strategic direction for the Council. The Co-Chairs and Steering Committee may establish working groups as needed, and may recharter working groups of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, as appropriate.

(e) Mission and Function of the Council. The Council shall work across agencies and offices, and in partnership with State, local, and tribal governments (as well as the Task Force established in section 7 of this order), academic and research institutions, and the private and nonprofit sectors to:

(i) develop, recommend, coordinate interagency efforts on, and track implementation of priority Federal Government actions related to climate preparedness and resilience;

(ii) support regional, State, local, and tribal action to assess climate change related vulnerabilities and cost-effectively increase climate preparedness and resilience of communities, critical economic sectors, natural and built infrastructure, and natural resources, including through the activities as outlined in sections 2 and 3 of this order;

 

(iii) facilitate the integration of climate science in policies and planning of government agencies and the private sector, including by promoting the development of innovative, actionable, and accessible Federal climate change related information, data, and tools at appropriate scales for decisionmakers and deployment of this information through a Government-wide web-based portal, as described in section 4 of this order; and

(iv) such other functions as may be decided by the Co-Chairs, including implementing, as appropriate, the recommendations of the Task Force established in section 7 of this order.

(f) Termination of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force (Adaptation Task Force), established in 2009, created the framework for coordinated Federal action on climate preparedness and resilience, driving agency-level planning and action. The Adaptation Task Force shall terminate no later than 30 days after the first meeting of the Council, which shall continue and build upon the Adaptation Task Force's work.

Sec. 7. State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

(a) Establishment. To inform Federal efforts to support climate preparedness and resilience, there is established a State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Task Force).

(b) Membership. The Task Force shall be co-chaired by the Chair of CEQ and the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In addition, its members shall be such elected State, local, and tribal officials as may be invited by the Co-Chairs to participate. Members of the Task Force, acting in their official capacity, may designate employees with authority to act on their behalf.

(c) Mission and Function. Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Task Force shall provide, through its Co-Chairs, recommendations to the President and the Council for how the Federal Government can:

(i) remove barriers, create incentives, and otherwise modernize Federal programs to encourage investments, practices, and partnerships that facilitate increased resilience to climate impacts, including those associated with extreme weather;

(ii) provide useful climate preparedness tools and actionable information for States, local communities, and tribes, including through interagency collaboration as described in section 6 of this order; and

(iii) otherwise support State, local, and tribal preparedness for and resilience to climate change.

 

(d) Sunset. The Task Force shall terminate no later than 6 months after providing its recommendations.

Sec. 8. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a) "preparedness" means actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build, apply, and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, ameliorate the effects of, respond to, and recover from climate change related damages to life, health, property, livelihoods, ecosystems, and national security;

(b) "adaptation" means adjustment in natural or human systems in anticipation of or response to a changing environment in a way that effectively uses beneficial opportunities or reduces negative effects; and

(c) "resilience" means the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions.

Sec. 9. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with U.S. obligations under international agreements and applicable U.S. law, and be subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

BARACK OBAMA
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« Reply #776 on: Nov 02, 2013, 06:57 AM »


November 1, 2013

Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies

By JUSTIN GILLIS
IHT

Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.

In a departure from an earlier assessment, the scientists concluded that rising temperatures will have some beneficial effects on crops in some places, but that globally they will make it harder for crops to thrive — perhaps reducing production over all by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century, compared with what it would be without climate change.

And, the scientists say, they are already seeing the harmful effects in some regions.

The warnings come in a leaked draft of a report under development by a United Nations panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The document is not final and could change before it is released in March.

The report also finds other sweeping impacts from climate change already occurring across the planet, and warns that these are likely to intensify as human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise. The scientists describe a natural world in turmoil as plants and animals colonize new areas to escape rising temperatures, and warn that many could become extinct.

The warning on the food supply is the sharpest in tone the panel has issued. Its previous report, in 2007, was more hopeful. While it did warn of risks and potential losses in output, particularly in the tropics, that report found that gains in production at higher latitudes would most likely offset the losses and ensure an adequate global supply.

The new tone reflects a large body of research in recent years that has shown how sensitive crops appear to be to heat waves. The recent work also challenges previous assumptions about how much food production could increase in coming decades because of higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The gas, though it is the main reason for global warming, also acts as a kind of fertilizer for plants.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the principal scientific body charged with reviewing and assessing climate science, then issuing reports about the risks to the world’s governments. Its main reports come out every five to six years. The group won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore, in 2007 for its efforts.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent every year to reduce emissions in response to past findings from the group, though many analysts have said these efforts are so far inadequate to head off drastic climatic changes later in the century.

On the food supply, the new report finds that benefits from global warming may be seen in some areas, like northern lands that are now marginal for food production. But it adds that over all, global warming could reduce agricultural production by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century.

During that period, demand is expected to rise as much as 14 percent each decade, the report found, as the world population is projected to grow to 9.6 billion in 2050, from 7.2 billion today, according to the United Nations, and as many of those people in developing countries acquire the money to eat richer diets.

Any shortfall would lead to rising food prices that would hit the world’s poor hardest, as has already occurred from price increases of recent years. Research has found that climate change, particularly severe heat waves, was a factor in those price spikes.

The agricultural risks “are greatest for tropical countries, given projected impacts that exceed adaptive capacity and higher poverty rates compared with temperate regions,” the draft report finds.

If the report proves to be correct about the effect on crops from climate change, global food demand might have to be met — if it can be met — by putting new land into production. That could entail chopping down large areas of forest, an action that would only accelerate climate change by sending substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the air from the destruction of trees.

The report finds that efforts to adapt to climate change have already begun in many countries. President Obama signed an executive order on Friday to step up such efforts in the United States. But these efforts remain inadequate compared with the risks, the report says, and far more intensive — and expensive — adaptation plans are likely to be required in the future.

The document also finds that it is not too late for cuts in emissions to have a strong impact on the future risks of climate change, though the costs would be incurred in the next few decades and the main benefits would probably be seen in the late 21st century and beyond.

The leak of the new draft occurred on a blog hostile to the intergovernmental panel. In a brief interview, a spokesman for the panel, Jonathan Lynn, did not dispute the authenticity of the document.

“It’s a work in progress,” Mr. Lynn said. “It’s likely to change.”

Several scientists involved in drafting the document declined on Friday to speak publicly about it. In the Internet era, the group’s efforts to keep its drafts secret are proving to be a failure, and some of the scientists involved have called for a drafting process open to the public.

A report about the physical science of climate change leaked in August, then underwent only modest changes before its final release in Stockholm in late September. The new report covers the impact of climate change, efforts to adapt to it, and the vulnerability of human and natural systems.

A third report, analyzing potential ways to limit the rise of greenhouse gases, is due for release in Berlin in April.


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« Reply #777 on: Nov 05, 2013, 05:45 AM »

Activists warn: 200 million people are at risk from toxic pollution

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 4, 2013 20:40 EST

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide risk exposure to toxic pollution, environmental groups warned Monday, publishing a list of the world’s worst areas, including an African processing site for European electronics.

“We estimate that the health of more than 200 million people is at risk from pollution in the developing world,” said Richard Fuller, who heads US-based environment watchdog the Blacksmith Institute.

The institute and Green Cross Switzerland published a new top 10 list of the “World’s Worst Polluted Places” — their first since 2007 — based on more than 2,000 risk assessments at contaminated sites in 49 countries.

West Africa’s second largest processing area for the world’s swelling piles of electronic waste, at Agbogbloshie in Ghana’s capital Accra was among new additions.

Each year, Ghana imports around 215,000 tonnes of secondhand consumer electronics, mainly from Western Europe — a number that is expected to double by 2020, according to the report.

The main health concern linked to e-waste processing in Ghana is the burning of sheathed cables to recover the copper inside, the report said, pointing out that the cables can contain a range of heavy metals, including lead.

Soil samples from around Agbogbloshie have shown concentrations of that toxic metal that are 45 times more than accepted levels, the report said.

“E-waste is really going to be a challenge. It’s growing exponentially. Everybody wants a computer, a laptop, the modern devices, so I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Blacksmith research director Jack Caravanos told reporters in a conference call.

Other newcomers to the 2013 list included Indonesia’s Citarum River Basin in West Java, an area that is home to around nine million people, but also some 2,000 factories.

The river, which is used among other things for human consumption and to irrigate rice farms, is contaminated by a wide range of toxins, including aluminium and manganese.

Drinking water tests have shown lead at levels more than 1,000 times above US standards, the report said.

Another Indonesian area, Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, was also added to the list due to the widespread artisanal small-scale gold mining there.

Most practitioners of this craft use mercury in the extraction process, and contribute to a large portion of global emissions of the hazardous metal each year.

This year’s list also includes Hazaribagh in Bangladesh, which is home to most the country’s 270 registered tanneries.

Every day, they collectively dump around 22,000 cubic litres of toxic waste, including cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, into the Buriganga, Dhaka’s main river and key water supply.

The Niger River Delta in Nigeria and the Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin in Argentina were also added to the list.

Several toxic industrial areas in the former Soviet Union, including the site of the devastating 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine, were carried over from the last list, as was Zambia’s lead-mining city Kabwe.

Unlike the list six years ago, which was dominated by Chinese and Indian sites, those two countries are missing from the list published Monday.

“There has been a reasonably strong movement towards clean-up in India and China,” Hanrahan explained.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #778 on: Nov 05, 2013, 05:47 AM »


The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com
Good news on global warming? Emissions going up, but more slowly.

A new study suggests that carbon-dioxide emissions last year – while still a record high – grew more slowly than over the past 10 years on average. That could signal an important change.

By Pete Spotts, Staff writer / November 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm EST

Despite a record-setting increase in the amount of carbon dioxide released from power plants, factories, and other human activities last year, there may have been a silver lining: emissions increased at a significantly slower rate than they have during the past 10 years on average, according to a new report.

The reduction in the rate of increase took place even as the global economy grew. This could signal that countries are using more green energy, which allows them to grow economically without similarly increasing their CO2 emissions. But other variables suggest 2013 could also be an anomaly.

The report comes on the eve of global climate talks set to take place in Warsaw Nov. 11-22. The talks are aimed at laying the groundwork for a new international agreement to combat global warming in ways that include major greenhouse-gas emitters such as China and India as well as industrial countries that historically have been the major emitters.

CO2 emissions in 2012 reached a record 34.5 billion tons, according to a preliminary estimate published Oct. 30 by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment in The Hague and the European Commission's Joint Research Center in Brussels. But that represented a one-year rise of 1.4 percent, compared with an average annual increase of 2.9 percent per year since 2000. When the authors adjusted their figures to account for a leap year in 2012 the increase fell to 1.1 percent.

Either way, prior to 2012, the lowest rate of increase occurred between 2008 and 2009 when the rate of increase in emissions fell from 1.9 percent to 1.3 percent.

The rate of increase eased even though the global economy continued to grow by 3.5 percent, roughly the annual pace it has experienced during the past decade, according to the report.

One contributor: an increase in the use of energy from renewable sources. The report's authors note that the use of new sources of renewable energy doubled between 1992 and 2007 to 1.1 percent. It doubled again in less than half the time, reaching 2.4 percent in 2013, the study notes.

But other factors also were at play that had less to do with climate-motivated green-energy policies than than with economic cycles or policies aimed at softening the effects of those cycles.

The report notes that last year, the European Union was still grappling with recession. Emissions declined by 1.3 percent largely because the economy burned less oil and gas and required less electricity, while reduced production at factories reduced the demand for fuel to transport parts to factories and goods to market.

Within those broader numbers, key EU players shifted their energy mix in ways that could undercut the decline in CO2 emissions when economic conditions improve. While Poland and the Czech Republic reduced their use of coal last year by 4 and 8 percent respectively, Britain increased its coal consumption by 24 percent, with France and Spain increasing their coal consumption by comparable amounts. Germany, which has made significant progress in expanding the use of solar and wind energy, nevertheless increased its coal consumption by 4 percent as it works to phase out its nuclear power plants in the wake of last year's nuclear disaster at Fukushima, triggered by a tsunami that followed an earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011.

In China, with an economy that tops the charts on CO2 emissions, the government has throttled back on policies designed to stimulate the economy during the past decade – policies that led to annual growth rates that ranged from 6 to 13 percent per year, the report observes. At the same time, however, the government has moved to increase the country's use of renewable energy sources and has set increasingly strict efficiency standards. Generally, compliance has been good, but enforcement is inconsistent, note researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in a new study, published on line in the December issue of the journal Energy Policy.

Meanwhile, the US continues to see declines in CO2 emissions triggered largely by the onset of the Great Recession and more recently through increased use of natural gas at power plants. That increase has come as natural gas prices have tumbled with the use of hydraulic fracturing to draw gas from underground formations once thought to be too difficult to exploit. The US has become the world's largest natural-gas producer as a result.

The report notes that the world could be seeing the beginning of a long-term slowdown in CO2 emissions growth if China meets its internal targets for energy efficiency and boosts the use of natural gas. In addition, the US would need to increase its use of natural gas and renewables, and the EU would need to improve the emissions-trading scheme it set up to comply with emissions-reduction targets in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The protocol's first enforcement period expired last year.

Beyond policy measures, trends in the expansion of various fuels, especially shale oil and fracking-extracted gas, and the effect of that expansion on fuel costs will also play a vital role in determining how carbon intensive the global economy becomes.

Moreover, while the rate of increase in emissions eased last year, researchers note that CO2 concentrations accumulate in the atmosphere far faster than natural processes can remove it and so accumulate at ever larger levels. To stabilize concentrations of climate-warming gases, let alone reduce the concentrations, emissions need to fall to virtually zero.


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« Reply #779 on: Nov 05, 2013, 05:50 AM »

Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.2 billion to settle health care fraud allegations

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 4, 2013 12:46 EST

Global health-care giant Johnson & Johnson will pay more than $2.2 billion to settle allegations that it misrepresented drugs and used kickbacks to promote their sales, the Justice Department said Monday.

In one of the largest health-care fraud settlements in US history, J&J’s criminal and civil fine covers allegations the company promoted Risperdal and other prescription drugs for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the department said.

The settlement further covers kickbacks J&J allegedly paid to physicians and pharmacies for prescribing and promoting those drugs.

“This global settlement resolves multiple investigations involving the antipsychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega — as well as the heart drug Natrecor and other Johnson & Johnson products,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

“The settlement also addresses allegations of conduct that recklessly put at risk the health of some of the most vulnerable members of our society — including young children, the elderly, and the disabled.”

J&J is to pay $485 million in criminal fines and forfeiture and a total of $1.72 billion in civil settlements with the federal government and states.

The government charged that J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals had promoted Risperdal without FDA approval for treatment of psychotic symptoms and associated behavioral disturbances exhibited by elderly, non-schizophrenic dementia patients.

Janssen will pay a total of $400 million, including a criminal fine of $334 million and forfeiture of $66 million. Janssen’s guilty plea requires approval by the US district court.

In separately filed civil complaints, the government alleged that J&J and Janssen promoted Risperdal and Invega to doctors — and to nursing homes — as a way to control behavioral disturbances in elderly dementia patients, children, and the mentally disabled.


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