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« Reply #1080 on: Jun 02, 2014, 06:45 AM »

Bacteria that causes lyme disease discovered in 15-20 million-year-old amber

By Newsweek
Sunday, June 1, 2014 11:01 EDT

Lyme disease may only have been recognized 40 years ago, but the bacteria that causes it is older than the human race, according to researchers who found the offending bacteria in 15 million- 20 million-year-old amber.

Humans have probably been getting tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, as long as there have been humans, George Poinar Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology of the Oregon State University College of Science, said in a press release. Lyme is currently on the rise and is considered by the U.S. government to be “far more common” than West Nile and other insect-borne diseases.

The team from Oregon State University, who published their findings in the journal Historical Biology on Friday, studied four amber-fossilized ticks found in the Dominican Republic. Each had cells that bear a close resemblance to Borrelia, the spirochete-like bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

Typically, soft-bodied bacteria do not get preserved in fossil form. But amber, which begins as free-flowing tree sap and slowly hardens, makes for an exception.

Lyme disease itself was not identified until 1975, and to this day it continues to be often misdiagnosed. The disease has myriad symptoms, and can cause flu-like symptoms, joint pain, fatigue, and in extreme cases can affect the heart and central nervous system. Ticks can also carry other bacteria that cause "co-infections," like Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis, which can present symptoms ranging from fever and headaches to altered mental status and death.

Deer typically carry Lyme disease–bearing ticks, and tick-borne diseases have been on the rise, in part due to growing deer populations in populated areas. Lyme disease cases in Nova Scotia, for example, nearly tripled in 2013 from the prior year.

"In the United States, Europe and Asia, ticks are a more important insect vector of disease than mosquitoes," noted Poinar.

The oldest known case of Lyme disease was found in a 5,300-year-old Tyrolean "iceman" mummy from the Italian Alps.

"Before he was frozen in the glacier, the iceman was probably already in misery from Lyme disease," Poinar said.


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« Reply #1081 on: Jun 02, 2014, 06:47 AM »

How do pollen particles in the atmosphere influence climate?

By RedOrbit
Sunday, June 1, 2014 10:42 EDT

Researchers study water cycle and cloud formation and design computer algorithm models to understand impact

In the past, many atmospheric scientists believed that pollen particles probably had a negligible effect on climate because they were so big. In recent years, however, as they began to realize that pollen particles were not as sturdy as they once thought, they have been rethinking their old assumptions.

"Pollen can rupture and generate a lot of small, tiny particles," says Allison Steiner, an associate professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan. "They can break pretty easily."

Moreover, pollen, the same airborne material that wreaks misery during certain seasons in the form of drippy noses and itchy eyes, apparently can have an influence on weather. When big pollen particles break into fine ones, they can take up water vapor in the air to promote the formation of clouds, potentially altering weather systems as a result. Unlike greenhouse gases, which contribute to warming, these fine particles can have a cooling effect.

This is a process that Steiner wants to learn more about, particularly now, when much of the scientific community is devoting considerable attention to the anthropogenic--or human--causes of climate change.


"The impact of pollen in the atmosphere may change weather and it could change our understanding of the climate system," says the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientist.

"How much is nature contributing?" she adds. "How important will that be in understanding what we will see in the absence of human influences? It's easier to understand the human causes, but these natural aerosols like pollen are something we don't understand very well."

Prior research indicates that when pollen becomes wet, it easily ruptures into very small particles. She wondered whether these small, pollen fragments could, "seed" the creation of clouds.

"If you have water vapor in the atmosphere, it's hard to form droplets all by itself," she explains. "But if you have a little particle already there, it's easy for water to condense on it and grow into a droplet, which enables the formation of cloud droplets.

"Most people think of pollen as being pretty inert in the atmosphere, and it's not," she adds. "It's interacting with the water cycle, and can influence clouds in ways that people hadn't realized before."

She and her team are using ground based observation data obtained from across the nation to design a computer algorithm emissions model. The model includes the different types of pollen, and takes into account various conditions that can have an effect on pollen when it enters the atmosphere, for example, rain.

Furthermore, tiny pollen particles can react with radiation. "The models simulate the ability of pollen particles to interact with incoming solar radiation to understand how these particles will affect climate," she says. By using computer models, she can estimate the effect these particles have on regional climate.

She also has been working in the laboratory of Sarah Brooks, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, to demonstrate pollen's effect on cloud formation. Using a cloud condensation nuclei chamber, an instrument that can reproduce the atmospheric conditions that form clouds, they were able to demonstrate that pollen can in fact grow and act as cloud droplets.

"This means that pollen could have an impact on climate," says Steiner, who conducted the experiments at Texas A & M in the spring. "One thing we are still trying to figure out is how big that effect actually is."

Steiner is conducting her research under an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, which she received in 2010. The award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. NSF is funding her work with $599,940 over five years.

As part of the grant's educational component, she has worked with middle schools and high schools in Detroit and Ypsilanti. Using the sites and numerous hands-on activities will introduce students to hypothesis development, data collection and analysis, and interpretation, and also will help the pollen emissions model development.

She also plans to integrate elements of the pollen project with University of Michigan undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as form a partnership with the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy to train scientists from developing nations on the role of biosphere-atmosphere interactions.

Steiner says she is especially gratified by the response of the young middle school students "who find it a real change to have a college professor come into their classroom on a regular basis," she says, adding: "It can be a real challenge to make our research relevant for middle-school students. But the students have asked great questions, and we've developed some novel hands-on activities that have really helped the students to see how fun and exciting scientific research can be."


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« Reply #1082 on: Jun 02, 2014, 06:48 AM »

The Worst Carbon Polluters Ever: Map And Timeline From SLATE

PlanetSave
06/02/2014

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Worst carbon polluters 2011 (slate.com)
Thankfully, this headline does not single out the United States as the worst carbon polluter, although we have certainly done more than our part to choke the world in a gaseous greenhouse. No, the honor belongs to humans in general.

If you’re wondering which countries have emitted the most carbon over the past couple of centuries, take a look at the interactive map and graphs produced by Eric Holthaus and Chris Kirk with CAIT 2.0 software for the magazine Slate‘s “Future Tense” section, produced in collaboration with New America and Arizona State University. (Only a screen shot is shown here. To play out the years and nations on the interactive map, go to this link.)

Holthaus and Kirk used the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT 2.0) from the World Resources Institute to put together this telling live infographic of global carbon emitters over time. The authors titled their interactive map “A Filthy History.”

In the mid-19th century, when the map starts, “Jolly old England was really the only game in town.” That’s where and when the Industrial Revolution began.

With the end of the American Civil War, the “taming” of the frontier West, and the rise of factories and industry—not to mention the coming of coal locomotives and electric power—the US took over as #1 carbon pollution emitter. For a long time, and with incontestable help from an invention popularized by Henry Ford, the US produced more CO2 than the rest of the world combined.

In 1991, China reached the #2 spot. Only after the turn of 2000 did China overtake the US.

Pointing fingers won’t help us out of the whirling spiral of climate change we humans have unwittingly brought on ourselves. And resentments are really just a big waste of time. What might help us out is universal recognition of the reality and wholehearted pitching in to meet, adapt to, and ideally transform the climate challenges into viable new ways of life.


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« Reply #1083 on: Jun 03, 2014, 06:03 AM »


China pledges to limit carbon emissions for first time

Absolute cap to come into effect from 2016, climate adviser says on the day after US announces ambitious carbon plan

Adam Vaughan   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 3 June 2014 09.01 BST      

China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has pledged to limit its total emissions for the first time.

He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that an absolute cap on carbon emissions will be introduced later this decade.

"The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap," Reuters reported He, an adviser to the government, as saying.

China's emissions have risen dramatically in the last two decades, overtaking those from the US – the previous biggest producer – in 2006. Although the average Chinese person's carbon footprint is still much lower than the average American's, it is catching up, and is now on a par with the average European's.

The timing of the announcement – just a day after the Obama administration implemented tough new rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants 30% by 2030 – appears deliberately chosen to show China will also take a leadership role on climate change.

China set its first ever carbon targets in 2009, in the run-up to a major UN climate talks summit in Copenhagen, attended by Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and other world leaders. The previous target was for a cut of emissions relative to its economic growth, by 40-45% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, meaning absolute carbon emissions could still increase as China's economy grew.

But the new cap will be the first time that the country, which has been plagued by pollution problems in large part due to the burning of carbon-intensive coal, has promised to limit absolute emissions. Officials have not yet put a figure on what level the cap will be.

He told Reuters that the country's emissions were likely to peak at around 11bn tonnes CO2 equivalent – up from 7-9.5bn tonnes CO2e now – by 2030.

The move is likely to be welcomed by Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, who oversees long-running efforts to reach an international deal on climate change. The Copenhagen meeting ended in a weak deal with non-binding targets, but countries have agreed to reach a new deal next year at a blockbuster summit in Paris.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK's chief scientist, said that the move by China, so shortly after the US announcement, showed "momentum" in the climate talks process.

“In the last 24 hours we’ve had two major announcements from China and the US which send a powerful signal to other world leaders ahead of crucial climate talks later this year. The Chinese government has already set out ambitious plans to cut the country’s reliance on coal – an additional cap on CO2 suggests the country’s leaders are serious about tackling their emission problem," he said.

The UN climate negotiations resume on Wednesday in Bonn.


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« Reply #1084 on: Jun 03, 2014, 06:05 AM »


Obama defends new carbon emission rules in face of mounting backlash

Obama urged supporters to ignore 'naysayers' and build support for rules which would cut carbon pollution from power plants 30% by 2030
   
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
theguardian.com, Monday 2 June 2014 23.43 BST    

Barack Obama took personal charge of the campaign for historic new climate change regulations on Monday, defending a 30% cut in carbon pollution from power plants from a backlash by business lobbies, conservative groups and Democrats in oil and coal states.

The new rules, unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, would cut carbon pollution from power plants 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.

They represent the first time Obama, or any other US president, has moved to regulate carbon pollution from power plants – the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions – and supporters said they could help put America on a path to a clean energy economy and unlock a global deal to end climate change.

But they also set in motion an epic battle for the mid-term elections. A Washington Post-ABC news opinion poll on Monday found 70% of Americans supporting regulation of power plants.

But the Republican leadership still came out en masse against the rule, with the minority leader, Mitch McConnell – who comes from coal state Kentucky – slamming the new rules as “a dagger in the heart of the American middle class”.

Obama, in his first public comments on the new rules, urged supporters to ignore the “naysayers” and “misinformation” and help build support for the EPA's power plant rules. “This is something that is important for all of us. As parents, as grandparents, as citizens, as folks who care about the health of our families and also want to make sure that future generations are able to enjoy this beautiful blue ball in the middle of space that we’re a part of,” he told a conference call hosted by the American Lung Association.”

The EPA said the new rules would help deliver on Obama's promise to act on climate change – while assuring reliable and affordable power. European and United Nations diplomats said the rules would take America within striking distance of Obama's commitment to the international community to cut the country's overall emissions 17% by 2020 – and could shake out additional commitments from big emitters like China and India. "This represents real leadership,” said Lord Stern, the climate economist.

America's 1,600 power plants are responsible for nearly 40% of the country's carbon dioxide emissions – with a disproportionate share of carbon pollution generated by a relatively small number of ageing coal plants.

The rules – which now undergo 120 days of public comment before they are finalised a year from now – were designed for a 30% cut in the national average of carbon pollution from power plants.

The 30% national target will not be applied uniformly across the country. The EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, said the the targets would be “customised” to reflect the energy mix of each state.

The EPA is also granting states more time – which means the plans will not come into effect in some states until long after Obama has left office.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. States can pick from a portfolio of options,” she said in a speech at EPA headquarters. “”It’s up to states to mix and match to get to their goal.”

States and power companies can retrofit existing power plants to make coal less polluting, switch from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas, expand renewables such as wind and solar power, or encourage customers to use less electricity. They can also join regional cap-and-trade systems, McCarthy said.

“They can hang out with other states, and join up with a multi-state market based program.”

The new rules were not as ambitious as some environmental groups had hoped, largely because of the EPA's decision to compare the cuts with carbon pollution levels in 2030. America's carbon pollution has fallen since 2005 – largely because of a flood of cheap natural gas produced by fracking – and the country is already a third of the way towards meeting the national average of a 30% cut in emissions.

Some states, especially those in the north-east, have already exceeded the standard. EPA officials in a conference call with reporters admitted that even by 2030 coal and natural gas will still be the country's leading energy sources, with renewables accounting for just 9%. That's only a sliver higher than renewables' share of the energy mix now, at about 6%.

Even so, reaction from mainstream environmental groups to the new power plant rules ranged from “momentous” to “historic”. Al Gore said the new rules were “the most important step taken to combat the climate crisis in our country's history”.

Michael Brune, the director of the Sierra Club, told The Guardian the new rules would probably spur a far greater expansion of renewable power sources than the EPA envisaged.

Erich Pica, the president of Friends of the Earth, said the new EPA standard – while historic – still did not go far enough. “This is the most any president has done to regulate climate change in US history,” he told The Guardian. “The problem is that previous ambition has been really low. We should be judging what the president is doing based on what the science said needs to be done and unfortunately this isn't nearly strong enough or aggressive enough.”

But even with the full-on promotion campaign led by Obama, McCarthy, Democratic leadership in Congress, sustainable business networks, environmental and public health groups, the rules ran into an immediate tide of opposition on Monday from business lobbies, Republicans in Congress and even Democrats facing tough election battles.

The coal industry – which will be hit hardest by the new rules – said the regulations would hurt the economy and lead to power outages. “If these rules are allowed to go into effect, the administration, for all intents and purposes, is creating America's next energy crisis,” the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said.

Democrats in conservative states who are facing tough races in these mid-terms also moved to distance themselves from the EPA rules. Alison Lundergan Grimes who is fighting to unseat McConnell in Kentucky said the rules were “more proof” Washington did not have the state's interest in mind. “When I’m in the US Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority,” she said.

Louisiana's Democratic Senator, Mary Landrieu, also opposed the regulations saying that it was not up to EPA to regulate carbon pollution. “This should not be achieved by EPA regulations,” she said in a statement. “Congress should set the terms, goals and timeframe.”

Congress was Obama's first choice for climate action as well. But after attempts to move a climate bill collapsed in 2010 and Republicans in Congress as a bloc opposed cutting carbon pollution – with a strong contingent even acknowledging climate change was occurring – Congress was no longer an option.

Obama decided last year to use his executive authority to cut carbon pollution. The EPA put out new rules for future power plants late last year, delivering the second installment of its plan to regulate the electricity sector on Monday.


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« Reply #1085 on: Jun 04, 2014, 07:01 AM »

House Republicans Refuse to Discuss Climate Change Because They Aren’t Scientists

By: Rmuse
PoliticusUSA
Tuesday, June, 3rd, 2014, 10:11 am

Only incredibly stupid human beings refuse to heed experts’ statements that indicate certain impending danger or some other extremely unpleasant situations just because they are not experts themselves. In the month leading up to the terror attacks on 9/11, Republican George W. Bush’s administration was warned more than once that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were planning to hijack commercial airliners and fly them into American buildings. It is old news today, but Bush and company ignored the warnings as a hoax and likely did not want to discuss it because they were not intelligence experts. Not much has changed for Republicans.

Over the past twenty years, at least, climate scientists have perpetually warned that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels was warming the Earth’s climate and would create devastatingly extreme weather events, severe droughts, flooding, wildfires, melt the polar ice-caps and raise the sea-level. Republicans and their fossil fuel campaign donors claimed the warnings were a hoax perpetrated by liberal scientists, and refuse to even acknowledge man-made climate change or its damage to America because as John Boehner told a group of reporters last week, he would not discuss climate change on the grounds he was not a scientist. Other Republicans have refused to talk about the issue on the same grounds including Florida Governor Rick Scott, “I’m not a scientist,” Marco Rubio, “I’m not a scientist,” and until a month ago, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) said “I’m not sure, I’m not a scientist.” It is true, none of the Republicans are scientists, but they are beholden to the fossil fuel industry and will not discuss climate change because they cannot possibly deny the reality it is genuine and is devastating America.

Actual climate scientists say the tactic is irresponsible, dangerous, and ignores mountains of credible scientific information that is readily available for anyone to see, but by avoiding acknowledging or denying the reality of climate change, Republicans can continue doing the Koch brothers bidding and fight every regulation to stop it. The malice so evident in Republicans sidestepping the issue is not just that they will go to extreme measures to protect the profits of their campaign donors, but that they have utter contempt for the health and safety of the American people.

Thankfully, President Obama heeded the warnings of 97% of scientists and announced he was directing the Environmental Protection Agency to begin imposing regulations to cut coal-fired carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. Predictably, before the President even announced the EPA would begin imposing regulations to cut carbon emissions for Americans’ health and to reduce climate changes’ damage, several Republican states took pre-emptive action to prohibit federal interference in their handiwork to increase carbon emissions driving the devastating effects of global climate change. The Republicans claim the regulations are unfair and will cut into the profits of the fossil fuel industry and hurt electrical power providers too greedy to transition to renewable solar and wind power.

In the House of Representatives, Republicans signaled to the world that not only are they not discussing the veracity of man-made climate change, they signaled to the world they are smarter than climate scientists and officially denied that what 97% of climate scientists say is wrong and that there is no climate change threat. The House just passed, on a strictly party line vote, an amendment sponsored by Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia to prevent funds going to the Defense Department to address how climate change affects national security.

McKinley’s amendment says, “None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order.” McKinley’s amendment is in response to yet another Department of Defense warning that “the threat of climate change impacts a very serious national security vulnerability that will enable further terrorist activity.” The warning was in the very latest Defense Department 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, and accordingly Republicans took action to ensure the threat reaches fruition and America is vulnerable to a “very serious national security threat.”

Republicans are certainly not scientists, but they know man-made climate change is real and that their constituents have been feeling its devastating effects whether they want to discuss it or not. Most of the Republicans’ constituents are not scientists either, but results from a new Yale University poll released three days before President Obama’s announcement on Monday revealed that 65% of Americans support strict regulations on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from existing coal-fired power plants in order to fight global warming and improve public health.

At this point in the “discussion,” no conscious American can deny man-made climate change is real or that its effects are wreaking havoc across the nation. For dog’s sake, even a 2012 Koch-funded comprehensive study found that “global warming is real, on the high side, and all due to man-made carbon emissions,” and yet they, their conservative think tanks, and Republicans not only refuse to acknowledge or discuss it because they are not scientists, they are actively fighting any attempt to stop it. However, it is the Republicans’ bovine excrement excuse that “I’m not a scientist so I can’t discuss it” that defines them as pure evil and without one shred of regard for national security, the American people, or the welfare of this nation.

The distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences, lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 report and the most recent (2014) National Climate Assessment detailing the current and very real effects of climate change, Donald J. Wuebbles said, “I don’t think it proper for any American to use that argument.” According to Wuebbles, the preponderance of climate change reports were written by scientists and other experts specifically so members of Congress could understand climate change and how it affects the country. Apparently, they cannot understand, or see with their own eyes the extreme droughts, flooding, wildfires, increased incidents of childhood asthma, or severe storms, so scientists made that report readily available and accessible for morons just so climate change could be “readily understood by any policymaker.” Wuebbles said, “The assessment represents the latest understanding of the science and is the most comprehensive report ever prepared for the American people on climate change. The report itself was done for Congress under a law passed by Congress.”

The effects of man-made global climate change are beyond refute and even for non-scientists, the increase in extreme weather events such as super-storms, severe flooding, wildfires, and particularly the extreme droughts affecting the entire the Western and Southwestern United States cannot be denied. Still, Republicans are taking pre-emptive action to thwart the President’s efforts to reduce the cause of climate change to protect the fossil fuel industry’s profits; the American people’s health, welfare, food source, and water be damned. It is the ultimate affront to the American people and yet in the Yale poll, 35% oppose any efforts to regulate carbon emissions and it is not because they are not scientists, but because they are bible stupid and too cognitively challenged to comprehend climate change. One wonders if, as they are washed away in floods, driven out of their homes by wildfires, or forced to suck rocks because they lack water, they will still doubt climate change’s reality and refuse to discuss it on the grounds they are not scientists or just die waiting for Jesus to save them.


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« Reply #1086 on: Jun 05, 2014, 06:27 AM »

Mineral site that holds clues to Antarctica’s history gets protected status

By Reuters
Thursday, June 5, 2014 6:17 EDT

Antarctica pact partners have set up a new protected geological site on the frozen continent in a bid to preserve rare minerals that could shed light on the region’s history and evolution over millions of years.

At a meeting in Brazil last month, the signatories to the Antarctic Treaty designated the Larsemann Hills region of the continent as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area.

Geological analysis shows that one billion years ago, the nearby Stornes Peninsula was a shallow inland basin, rich in boron and phosphorus, the key chemical constituents of the rare minerals.

At the time of their discovery, four of the minerals – boralsilite, stornesite, chopinite and tassieite – were new to science, while the rest were extremely rare elsewhere.

“It’s fantastic to see these extremely unusual, unique minerals being protected, and being recognized for their geological significance,” Chris Carson, the head of Australia’s Antarctic Geoscience program, told Reuters.

Carson, who helped map the area more than 10 years ago, collected small samples of rock that were taken to Australia for analysis, to yield insights into the geological processes that led to the evolution and formation of Antarctica.

“Geological features are extremely valuable to science and to our understanding of how Antarctica has evolved and developed over millions of years,” Carson said.

“We can actually say things about this sedimentary basin in Stornes Peninsula that we can’t say about anywhere else.”

Environmental protection status in Antarctica is usually given to sites of biological or cultural importance, but only five sites, in total, have been covered for geological significance.

The protection includes curbs on use of surface vehicles and survey markers, as well as construction activity. Access to each site is to be restricted through the use of a permit system, with limits on the numbers of samples taken.

Australia led the protected area proposal, which was jointly sponsored by other nations with research programs in the area, including China, India and Russia.

Much of Antarctica is protected by the 1959 pact, which has the backing of major powers including the United States and China. It bars nuclear explosions, radioactive waste disposal and military deployment, and sets environmental safeguards.


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« Reply #1087 on: Jun 06, 2014, 07:09 AM »

World’s Oldest Solar Device

Originally published on Green Building Elements.
06/06/2014
By John Perlin

Special thanks to author John Perlin for this contribution about what is believed to be the world’s oldest solar device – a solar ignitor, or yang-sui . The material comes from Perlin’s recently published book, Let It Shine: The 6000-Year Story of Solar Energy.

During the sixth century BCE, Confucius wrote about the common use of curved mirrors shaped from shiny metal to concentrate the rays of the sun for making fire. These became known as yang­­-suis ­­– translating to solar ignitors, or burning mirrors.

According to the great philosopher, upon waking up the eldest son would attach a solar ignitor to his belt as he dressed for the day. It was his duty to focus the solar rays onto kindling to start the family’s cooking fire.

According to another early text, the Zhouli, which describes rituals dating far back into Chinese antiquity, “The Directors of the Sun Fire have the duty of transferring with burning mirrors the brilliant flames of the sun to torches for sacrifice.”

Although scholars found over the years many ancient texts discussing solar ignitors, the discovery of an extant yang sui eluded them for centuries. Quite recently came the Eureka moment. Digging up a tomb that dated to about three thousand years ago, a team of archaeologists found in the hand of a skeleton a bowl-shaped metal object. While the inner side could have passed for a wok, the exterior trough had a handle in its center. That’s what caught the eye of the two archaeologist in charge of the dig, Lu Demming and Zhai Keyong. They immediately brought the relic back to the local museum and ordered its specialists to make a mold from the original and then cast a copy in bronze.

After polishing its curved surface to a high degree of reflectance, the inquisitive archaeologists focused sunlight onto a piece of tinder just as the eldest son would have done so many years past, and in seconds the combustible material burst into flames. “This verified without a doubt that the purpose of the artifact is to make fire,” Lu and Zhai later wrote, assured of having found the oldest solar device in the history of humanity.

Now that the world could see what a real yang-sui looked like, museums retrospectively identified 20 more previously unclassified objects as solar ignitors. Multiple molds for turning out yang suislater found at a Bronze Age foundry in Shanxi province, close to the first find, suggest a mass market once existed for them. In fact, yang suis were probably as ubiquitous in early China as are matches and lighters today. The yang sui “should be regarded as one of the great inventions of ancient Chinese history,” remarked its discoverers, impressed by the ability of their forefathers to figure out the complex optics for such optimal performance so early in time.


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« Reply #1088 on: Jun 07, 2014, 07:29 AM »

Republicans Label Obama’s Plan To Combat Climate Change a Terrorist Attack

By: Rmuse
PoliticusUSA
Friday, June, 6th, 2014, 10:01 am   

Something that promotes and contributes to social well-being, particularly on a national level, is regarded as beneficial. It goes without saying that a nation’s population expects their leaders to work tirelessly to promote policies and agendas that contribute to the well-being of the nation in general, and the people in particular; unless they are Republican leaders. Over the past five years, at least, Republicans have not only resisted doing anything beneficial for the American people, they have actively and with great contempt obstructed any attempt by President Obama and Democrats to pass legislation or enact policies to benefit the people and it has become their defining characteristic as conservatives.

It is, or should be by now, common knowledge that Republicans have not, and will not, propose, support, or advance any policies or agenda that benefit the people because their entire focus is serving the rich and their corporations. It was little surprise, then, that even before President Obama was forced to take it upon himself to address the devastating effects of climate change on the people and the nation, Republicans and their dirty energy donors lashed out against a proposal that benefitted the population. It is just what Republicans do.

The President’s action to reduce carbon emissions responsible for climate change have been labeled by Republicans as a terrorist attack, an assault on democracy, an deliberate Obama crusade to kill jobs, and an illegal use of executive power. Of course, everything Republicans claim are filthy lies, but it is their preferred action anytime this President, or Democrats, attempt to do anything to benefit the people or the nation’s well-being. Republicans know that reducing carbon emissions is the only course of action to reduce the devastating effects of climate change; including warnings from the Department of Defense of the likelihood of increased terrorist threats to America’s national security if climate change continues unabated. It is beyond refute that Republicans are united in supporting any policy advancing the devastation of climate change regardless the effect on the economy, Americans’ health, or national security including lying to protect their fossil fuel donors.

First, the President is not illegally using executive power in imposing new carbon emission limits according to the 1970 Clean Air Act; particularly Section 111 the President employed like Congress specifically intended to regulate pollution from power plants over 40 years ago. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell accused the President of assaulting democracy itself, putting a “dagger in the heart of the American middle class, launching an Obama job-killing crusade,” and claimed “it is the single worst blow to Kentucky’s economy in modern times.” Subsequently, McConnell immediately introduced legislation to block the new EPA rules and rein in the African American President for attempting to benefit the nation and American people.

What McConnell, or any Republican beholden to the dirty fossil fuel industry, refused to acknowledge is that President Obama realized the challenge to reduce carbon emissions may hit coal producing states’ energy providers’ profit margins where it hurts and gave the states with the most carbon-intensive power plants a break. Instead of reaching the 30% reduction goal, states like Kentucky and West Virginia are only required to make reductions of 19.8% and 18.3% respectively. Instead of acknowledging the President’s generosity to make the new standards as economically manageable as possible, Republicans are already using them as election-year posturing and point-scoring.

Now, Republican claims based on the fascist U.S. Chamber of Commerce report that came out in advance of the President’s new EPA rules that reducing carbon emissions meant total economic annihilation have been thoroughly debunked as more GOP filthy lies to protect the dirty fossil fuel industry’s profits. Still, it has not stopped Republicans like McConnell, Rand Paul, David Vitter, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, and House Speaker John Boehner from citing the Chamber’s dirty lies as proof that “The president’s plan would cause a surge in electricity bills and “put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year.” Besides being dirty vile liars, Republicans are projecting their own despicable three year job-killing crusade on the President. As usual they use mendacity as a fear-mongering tool to convince their stupid supporters that President Obama’s attempt to assuage the health and economic devastation of climate change is a deliberate job-killing, economy-devastating, terrorist assault on Americans.

The Chamber of Commerce, like the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), may lead and speak for Republicans, but they do not have the support of some seriously major corporations, and surprisingly utility providers, that are distancing themselves from the fascist tax-exempt business organization’s lies and opposition to the President’s climate change rules. In fact, the communications director of Public Citizens’ U.S. Chamber watch, Sam Jewler said, “There are utilities that are major players in American energy and are part of the Chamber that think these regulations are fair and flexible enough for them to work with. It’s another case of the Chamber not doing what’s best for the economy or the American people and not representing the full range of businesses in the economy.” Several dozen of the major corporations that either contribute to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or have executives currently serving on its board of directors do not endorse the new lie-filled report.

The President’s bold move to benefit America and its people had another effect that cannot be understated; China said that since America is moving forward to reduce carbon emissions, it will follow Obama’s lead and place an absolute cap on carbon emissions. According to Reuters, chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that after President Obama’s announcement, “The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions; by intensity and an absolute cap.” China and America are the largest CO2 (green-house gas) emitters in the world, and China previously complained that America had no right to point a finger at China while it was not willing to take steps to reduce carbon emissions driving climate change. China is suffering the same extreme droughts, wildfires, and devastating floods as Americans, as well as air pollution posing a serious health risk that is killing its people.

Republicans could not possibly care any less about the damaging effects climate change is having on Americans or the nation’s economy. The vicious droughts plaguing the Central and Western states are due to drastically drive up food costs across the nation, and as rivers dry up, reservoirs run out of water, there are serious concerns that states that produce a major portion of the nation’s food supply will run out of water within a few years; if not sooner. Still, Republicans are fighting each and every attempt to reduce carbon emissions to protect the dirty fossil fuel industry’s profits by either outright denying climate change is real or refusing to discuss it because they are not scientists. Republicans are not gynecologists either, but they have no issue discussing, and imposing restrictions, on every woman in America’s uterus to regulate their reproductive health.

There is not one conservative alive, not one Republican, teabagger, or libertarian who can cite even one instance of conservatives doing anything to benefit the nation or the American people, but they devote every waking moment in Congress and state legislatures working for the fossil fuel industry’s benefit. It is inconceivable that Republicans have any supporters after they have not supported even one policy to benefit their constituents, but it is likely their racist supporters regard opposing anything the President proposes as beneficial. One only hopes that as they are saved from being washed away in floods, burned out of their homes in wildfires, or forced to drink recycled urine they remember it is not because of the Republicans beholden to the fossil fuel industry, but because that Black President they hate worked for all Americans’ benefit; even those who least deserve it.


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« Reply #1089 on: Jun 09, 2014, 05:57 AM »

FL woman sentenced for burning down 3,500-year-old tree so she could see her meth

By Tom Boggioni
RawStory
Sunday, June 8, 2014 18:19 EDT

A Florida woman was sentenced on Wednesday to 2 1/2 years in prison, with all time suspended if she completes the terms of her probation, for her part in burning down a landmark 3,500-year-old cypress tree in 2012 so she could see the drugs she was using in the dark.

Sara Barnes, 28, pleaded no contest  to unlawful burning of lands and possession of methamphetamine and must perform 250 hours of manual labor, pay restitution, and must submit to a substance-abuse testing, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Barnes set fire to The Senator in Big Tree Park, reputed to be one of the largest and oldest baldcypress trees in the world. The Senator was 118 feet tall and about 18 feet wide, and was estimated to be 3,500 years old.

Prior to the opening of Disney World, The Senator was a popular tourist attraction, as well as a favorite of locals.

According to Barnes, she set the fire that consumed the tree because it was dark and she wanted to see the drugs she was using, court records show.

Barnes still faces a court appearance related to a February DUI arrest and for violating the terms of her parole.

Click to watch in horror so this pig women could get her drugs........

http://launch.newsinc.com/share.html?trackingGroup=69016&siteSection=seorlandosentinel&videoId=25540558


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« Reply #1090 on: Jun 11, 2014, 07:02 AM »


How El Niño will change the world's weather in 2014

With a 90% chance of the global weather phenomenon striking this year, impacts both devastating and beneficial will be felt from India to Peru

Damian Carrington in London, Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington DC and Graham Readfearn in Brisbane
Guardian
Wednesday 11 June 2014 10.11 BST

The global El Niño weather phenomenon, whose impacts cause global famines, floods – and even wars – now has a 90% chance of striking this year, according to the latest forecast released to the Guardian.

El Niño begins as a giant pool of warm water swelling in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, that sets off a chain reaction of weather events around the world – some devastating and some beneficial.

India is expected to be the first to suffer, with weaker monsoon rains undermining the nation’s fragile food supply, followed by further scorching droughts in Australia and collapsing fisheries off South America. But some regions could benefit, in particular the US, where El Niño is seen as the “great wet hope” whose rains could break the searing drought in the west.

The knock-on effects can have impacts even more widely, from cutting global gold prices to making England’s World Cup footballers sweat a little more.

The latest El Niño prediction comes from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which is considered one the most reliable of the 15 or so prediction centres around the world. “It is very much odds-on for an event,” said Tim Stockdale, principal scientist at ECMWF, who said 90% of their scenarios now deliver an El Niño. "The amount of warm water in the Pacific is now significant, perhaps the biggest since the 1997-98 event.” That El Niño was the biggest in a century, producing the hottest year on record at the time and major global impacts, including a mass die-off of corals.

“But what is very much unknowable at this stage is whether this year’s El Niño will be a small event, a moderate event – that’s most likely – or a really major event,” said Stockdale, adding the picture will become clearer in the next month or two. “It is which way the winds blow that determines what happens next and there is always a random element to the winds.”

The movement of hot, rain-bringing water to the western Pacific ramps up the risk of downpours in the nations flanking that side of the great ocean, while the normally damp eastern flank dries out. Governments, commodity traders, insurers and aid groups like the Red Cross and World Food Programme all monitor developments closely and water conservation and food stockpiling is already underway in some countries.

Professor Axel Timmermann, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, argues that a major El Niño is more likely than not, because of the specific pattern of winds and warm water being seen in the Pacific. “In the past, such alignments have always triggered strong El Niño events,” he said.

El Niño events occur every five years or so and peak in December, but the first, and potentially greatest, human impacts are felt in India. The reliance of its 1 billion-strong population on the monsoon, which usually sweeps up over the southern tip of the sub-continent around 1 June, has led its monitoring to be dubbed “the most important weather forecast in the world”. This year, it is has already got off to a delayed start, with the first week’s rains 40% below average.

“El Niño could be quite devastating for agriculture and the water supply in India,” said Dr Nick Klingaman, an El Niño expert at the University of Reading in the UK. Two-thirds of Indian farmland lacks irrigation and is reliant solely on rainfall, meaning even current official prediction of a 5% reduction in monsoon rains would have a major impact: a 10% fall is an official drought. Krishna Kumar, an Indian meteorologist and El Niño expert, said that even if the 2014 El Niño turns out not to be a very hot one, it can still have a major effect on the monsoon because it is the specific location of the warm Pacific water which is the critical factor. “The moderate El Niños of 2002 and 2009 impacted the monsoon in India much more greatly then the major 1997 event,” he said, adding that the biggest cut in rainfall is not usually felt until September.

Rana Kapoor, president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India, warned: “We recommend the government to immediately announce steps to control food inflation in view of the impending El Niño and the cascading negative affect it will have on crop production.” The impact on farmers means past monsoon failures have cost the nation $20bn (£12bn) in lost output and, because the Indian market dominates global gold prices, the cost of the precious metal has already fallen.

New research in May showed the global impact of El Niño events on food supplies, with corn, rice and wheat yield much lower than normal, although soybean harvests tend to rise. While food production has improved in the last year, El Niño is set to reverse that trend, according to Leo Abruzzese, global forecasting director for the Economist Intelligence Unit. “It may reduce agricultural output over the next few years, which could weigh on global food security”. Drought linked to the 2007 El Niño led to a surge in food prices in 2008 that sparked riots in countries as far afield as Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti.

After India, El Niño’s impacts roll eastwards and officials in Cebu, the Philippines’ second city, have already urged all households to save water to reduce the impact of the drier weather due to hit by the end June. In Malaysia, the national water authority is preparing for a dry spell of up to 18 months and calling for water rationing, while meteorologists have warned of forest fires.

The hot, dry skies will then track to heat-wracked Australia, where 2013 was already its hottest year on record and El Niño is threatening to turn the temperature up even further. Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction services at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said: “El Niño is one of the largest influences on Australia’s climate. It’s why historically Australia has had one of the most variable climates on the planet.” Watkins said El Niño increases the chances of low rainfall in the country’s southern and most populous half and tends to deliver hotter years and higher extreme temperatures.
Low water levels at Lake Hume (a man-made reservoir near Albury Wodonga) during dry summer of 2007, when occured El Nino, in northeastern Victoria, Australia. Low water levels at Lake Hume, north-eastern Victoria, Australia, during the dry summer of 2007, when the last El Niño occurred. Photograph: Ashley Whitworth/Alamy

Brent Finlay, president of Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation, said he was hoping El Niño just does not happen. “We have farmers and graziers in New South Wales and Queensland who are in drought now, and so to have this prediction of a possible El Niño will be of grave concern.” Severe drought at any time could have “tragic” consequences on rural communities where he said some farmers had even taken their own lives, he said: “That is what drought does.”

However, on the opposite side of the Atlantic, in the US, El Niño holds out the prospect of relief for the parched western states and nowhere is more desperate for rain than California. The entire state is in severe or extreme drought, after receiving barely a quarter of its annual rainfall, and communities have been under water rations since March, which ordinarily would still be the rainy season. The result is a tinder box, with governor Jerry Brown warning the state faces the worst wildfire season on record.

A strong El Niño would bring rain, typically double the annual average in southern California. “I commonly refer to El Niño as the great wet hope,” said Bill Patzert, a climate scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. “Everyone in the west has their fingers crossed because we are bone dry. We have had three of the four driest years in the west in recorded history. Dry land farmers and ranchers are definitely on their knees right now. We are running on reserves, we are pumping aquifers, and our reservoirs are at record lows.” El Niños also typically lead to wetter winters in Texas, and other parts of the south-west, which also depend on getting most of their rain in the winter months.
Griffith Observatory stands as clouds gather above the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Feruary. 27, 2014. Forecasters are saying that a storm dumping light to moderate rain across Los Angeles County is moving faster than expected, which could mean an extended break before a more powerful system arrives.

However, big El Niños like the 1997-98 event – what Patzert calls “godzillas” – are rare and forecasters at the US government’s climate prediction centre said on 5 June that time was running out for a significant El Niño to be set in train. A modest or small El Niño would have little impact on the drought, said Patzert, noting that the 2006-07 drought – the worst on record at the time – occurred during a weak El Niño year. Even a “godzilla” would not be enough on its own to bail California out, he said: “But it would be a fantastic down payment on drought relief.”

Strong El Niños also typically bring warmer winters to the northern US states, which would be a relief after last winter’s Arctic conditions.

El Niños also typically damp down hurricane activity. But Prof Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at MIT, said even in an El Niño year a hurricane, given the right conditions, could still cause tremendous destruction. Hurricane Andrew, one of the deadliest and costliest in recent history, roared through Florida in 1992, which was an El Niño year. “It would be tragic if everyone let their guard down,” Emanuel said.

Elsewhere in the Americas, a careful watch is being kept in Peru, where the huge anchovy fishery has been wiped out by previous El Niños – it was Peruvian sailors who first named the phenomenon “the Christ child” because its peak occurs at Christmas. The 1997-98 El Niño slashed the catch by 80%, as the fish migrated away from the abnormally warm waters. Luis Icochea, a fisheries expert at the National Agrarian University in Lima, warned that the event this year is developing in a similar way.

Rodney Martínez, at Ecuador’s International El Niño Centre, said El Niño would affect the whole of south America, meaning heavy rainfall and floods in Ecuador, Peru, Chile and northern Argentina but potential drought relief in Chile and Bolivia. The early effects of El Niño in Brazil are expected to raise temperatures during the football World Cup.

But, despite better El Niño warnings nowadays, Martinez said many nations were worse prepared than in 1997: “In many cases the vulnerability has increased: more exposed population, more land degradation, river sedimentation, collapse of underground water sources, degradation of natural protection in riversides, badly designed infrastructure and lack of coordination and planning to cope with El Niño.”

Stockdale said other global impacts could be droughts in the Caribbean and southern Africa at the end of the year, and also in central Asia, although the precise impacts of each El Niño vary due to local climatic variations. Europe is the continent least affected by El Niño by virtue of being on the opposite side of the world.

However, in the tropics and sub-tropics, another deadly impact of El Niño is becoming better understood: its ability to spark civil wars. Solomon Hsiang, at Columbia University, New York, showed in 2011 that 50 of the 250 conflicts between 1950 and 2004 were triggered by the El Niño cycle, probably due to the loss of crops, jobs and the psychological effects of hotter weather.
Predicting El Nino blindfolded Predicting El Niño blindfolded?

Hsiang told the Guardian that, based on historical data, a Pacific warming of 0.8C is associated with a rise in the annual risk of conflict of 15%. The current forecasts indicate that this year’s warming will most probably lie between 0.5C and 1.5C. “Of course, conflicts may not occur just because the risk of conflict is higher, in the same way car accidents don’t always occur on rainy days when the risk of accident is higher,” Hsiang said. “But it is certainly a developing situation that we should keep track of and it would be excellent to have policy-makers and the public aware of the potential risk.”

Policymakers are likely also to feel the heat of El Niño in the negotiations towards a global deal to cut carbon emissions and tackle global warming, which must culminate in Paris in December 2015. Since the scorching year of 1998, the rate of global warming has slowed, with over 90% of the heat trapped by CO2 going into the oceans.

“A lot of energy that should have been in the atmosphere has gone into the Pacific,” said Kumar. “If El Niño does set in that could trigger the release of that heat and faster warming: that has been a major concern.” An El-Niño-boosted 2015 could well be the hottest year on record, according to Klingaman, just as nations have to agree a climate change deal.

“If 2014 turns out to be an El Niño year as currently forecast, increased public awareness of the dangers of human-induced climate change is likely to follow,” said Prof Michael Raupach, director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. “However, it is very important that our policy responses do not wax and wane with El Niño.”

The link between global warming and El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon, is not yet well understood by scientists. But a study published in January predicted a doubling of extreme El Niño events, as climate change ramps up.

Either way, adding the impacts of El Niño to the extreme weather already being driven by climate change increases the damage caused, said Stockdale: “El Niño can be the thing that pushes you over the edge. It will be in the years when you get a big El Niño when you feel the impact of climate change the most.”


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« Reply #1091 on: Jun 14, 2014, 06:07 AM »

Earth may have underground ‘ocean’ three times the size of surface oceans combined, scientists say

By Melissa Davey, The Guardian
Friday, June 13, 2014 10:35 EDT

After decades of searching scientists have discovered that a vast reservoir of water, enough to fill the Earth’s oceans three times over, may be trapped hundreds of miles beneath the surface, potentially transforming our understanding of how the planet was formed.

The water is locked up in a mineral called ringwoodite about 660km (400 miles) beneath the crust of the Earth, researchers say. Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University in the US co-authored the study published in the journal Science and said the discovery suggested Earth’s water may have come from within, driven to the surface by geological activity, rather than being deposited by icy comets hitting the forming planet as held by the prevailing theories.

“Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” Jacobsen said.

“I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.”

Jacobsen and his colleagues are the first to provide direct evidence that there may be water in an area of the Earth’s mantle known as the transition zone. They based their findings on a study of a vast underground region extending across most of the interior of the US.

Ringwoodite acts like a sponge due to a crystal structure that makes it attract hydrogen and trap water.

If just 1% of the weight of mantle rock located in the transition zone was water it would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans, Jacobsen said.

The study used data from the USArray, a network of seismometers across the US that measure the vibrations of earthquakes, combined with Jacobsen’s lab experiments on rocks simulating the high pressures found more than 600km underground.

It produced evidence that melting and movement of rock in the transition zone – hundreds of kilometres down, between the upper and lower mantles – led to a process where water could become fused and trapped in the rock.

The discovery is remarkable because most melting in the mantle was previously thought to occur at a much shallower distance, about 80km below the Earth’s surface.

Jacobsen told the New Scientist that the hidden water might also act as a buffer for the oceans on the surface, explaining why they have stayed the same size for millions of years. “If [the stored water] wasn’t there, it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountaintops would be the only land poking out,” he said.


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« Reply #1092 on: Jun 14, 2014, 06:19 AM »

From Untended Farmland, Reserve Tries to Recreate Wilderness From Long Ago

By SUZANNE DALEY
JUNE 13, 2014
IHT

LA ALAMEDILLA, Spain — The forces of nature were getting more than a little prodding recently on the grassy 1,200-acre reserve outside this village near Spain’s border with Portugal.

Two gamekeepers were building a nest the size of a patio table to help endangered black storks attract mates. Others were feeding chicken carcasses to vultures. Nearby, ancient breeds of horses and cattle, transplanted to these parts, were quietly grazing.

Five years ago, this reserve was a cattle farm. Its ponds were clogged with animal waste. Its oak trees were squat from years of pruning. But signs of change are easy to notice, from the waist-high bushes sprouting everywhere to the abundant frogs in the pond, which are so loud at times that conversation is virtually impossible.

“You can see,” said Diego Benito, who manages the reserve, “there is so much more life here now.”

The reserve, the Campanarios de Azaba Biological Reserve, is at the forefront of an ambitious new conservation movement that is fast gaining ground in Europe, where vast stretches of farmland are falling into disuse. The goal is to take advantage of some of that emptiness to recreate the kind of wilderness that once existed on this continent, but disappeared centuries ago.

Past conservation efforts have tended to focus on stopping the forces degrading an environment or on helping a single species. But the “rewilding” movement preaches far more aggressive intervention. Some advocates want to restore ecosystems that have not existed in 10,000 years, and talk of returning lions, rhinoceroses and breeds of elephants to Europe.

At the Campanarios, gamekeepers are working with the privately owned Dutch Taurus Foundation and several universities to breed and then reintroduce a close approximation of the auroch, a giant species of cattle that went extinct in the 1600s. The idea is to find bovine breeds with primitive characteristics and use cross- and selective breeding to develop an animal that lives and grazes much like the aurochs did.

But so far most of the dozens of projects underway on the Continent are centered on the less radical notion of reintroducing large grazing animals that once roamed unfettered in much of Europe — wild horses, European bison, red deer, ibex — and letting bears, wolves and lynx keep them in check.

Rewilders argue that without such an injection of wildlife, particularly of large herbivores, the untended farmland will become overgrown with thick vegetation that will end up killing off what biodiversity still exists today.

“We need to bring in a few of the parts that are missing because they just aren’t there anymore, and that missing part is often the large herbivores,” said Staffan Widstrand, a nature photographer and author who is also the communications director for Rewilding Europe, a foundation established five years ago that wants to see 2.4 million acres of land in the process of rewilding by 2020.

The foundation grew out of a conference on wilderness held in Prague. It has the support of a variety of conservation groups, including WWF Netherlands, ARK Nature, Wild Wonders of Europe and Conservation Capital, and is helping to fund a half-dozen projects so far, possibly with more to come.

Among its projects are reintroducing European bison in an area of the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, where farms are being abandoned, and ibex along a stretch of the Adriatic coast of Croatia where there are two national parks. The hope, said Mr. Widstrand, is that the wilderness areas will eventually be able to pay for themselves by attracting tourists much in the way Africa’s Serengeti does.

But the foundation’s work is not the only such effort and there is no single formula that constitutes rewilding, a term that most experts say emerged in the United States about a decade ago. Experts say that Europeans have so far been the most active. Some 30 groups belong to the Rewilding Europe Network, which was started by the foundation as a way for interested parties to exchange information.

The projects vary enormously. Some, like the Campanarios, have a multispecies approach, while others focus only on restoring large grazers. Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, 79, a member of the network, has introduced a small herd of European bison to a 32,000-acre expanse of family property in Bad Berleburg, Germany, a hilly, densely forested region near Cologne.

The property, which has been in the prince’s family for 800 years, is still used for logging, and the public has access to its vast network of trails. The prince’s son, Prince Gustav, said the family wanted to show that bison, most of which came from zoo herds, could survive in the forest on their own, even with people and machines present.

Rewilders say that once they have reset the ecological systems, they intend to largely stand back and watch. What happens then is an open question and part of the adventure.

“This movement is about seeing where that takes us,” said George Monbiot, a British journalist and ecologist whose book, “Feral,” published in 2013, advocated rewilding.

“Unpredictable and not controlled and not managed is exactly what we are looking for,” he said. “It’s precisely the surprise that the ecosystem can throw that we want.”

Critics worry about just that, calling the movement more sentiment than science. They say that reintroducing animals in ecosystems that have changed and adapted could have unpredictable consequences. And they believe that such efforts should be more rigorously monitored.

“We don’t see any scientific papers coming out of any of these projects,” said Dustin Rubenstein, an ecologist at Columbia University. “No doubt there may be benefits. But using proxies is a risk. If you put back wolves, fine. But it’s very different than putting elephants in Kansas because there used to be mastodons there.”

Rewilders say they are too impatient to wait for controlled experiments to be set up. Science is not their goal, they say, though scientists are welcome to come and study.

“Our task is to make Europe a wilder place,” said Mr. Widstrand. “Our task is not numbers and spreadsheets and Ph.D’s.”

Just letting nature take its course would take too long, he added, expressing annoyance with the rules that have slowed the introduction of new animals in many places. “You can do a lot of things against nature,” he said, “but when you want to put it back, the red tape is awful.”

Nonetheless some of the projects, like Prince Gustav’s, have faced angry neighbors. Some nearby landowners are furious about the bison, complaining that they have eaten the bark off their trees and caused other damage to their property.

Here in La Alamedilla, many of the villagers welcomed the preserve and hoped it would bring tourists to an area that has emptied in recent years, with young people moving to the cities to find jobs. In 1965, 800 people lived in this village. There were four bakeries and five bars. Today, the population is 165, and most are elderly. Two bars remain. There are only three children living here.

Farming is declining. Of the five farmers still here, one retired recently, said the mayor, Juan Manuel Sanchez.

The Campanarios reserve has four rooms for tourists and is building more. But villagers recognize that change, if it comes, will not happen soon.

“When we first heard about it, we expected hundreds of tourists,” said Maria Angeles Hernandez, 47, who owns one of the bars and has to drive her daughter 10 miles for a play date. “But it is really a place for academics. Maybe in the long term it will give something back. But right now? Not much.”


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« Reply #1093 on: Jun 15, 2014, 08:06 AM »


Ibiza unites against oil prospectors

The waters surrounding the Balearic party island are a world heritage site – and conservationists, politicians and tourist chiefs are adamant that plans to drill in the sea must be stopped

Adam Vaughan in Ibiza
The Observer, Saturday 14 June 2014 22.47 BST   

It is best known for all-night clubbing with top DJs such as Pete Tong and Fatboy Slim, an A-list celebrity crowd and partying, but Ibiza is also home to two national parks, environmentalists living off the grid on solar power, and is considered of such ecological and cultural importance that the UN designated the Balearic island and its surrounding waters a world heritage site.

Now people with interests in both camps are uniting over the prospect of oil exploration several miles off the coast in the glittering Mediterranean waters, which are home to oceanic Posidonia, a giant seagrass only found in Europe. Whales, dolphins and turtles are among the species spotted in the Mediterranean around Ibiza.

Last week in Ibiza Town's port, a crowd of people were vying not to get into the latest upmarket club but for a tour of the Rainbow Warrior. The Greenpeace ship arrived at the island on Wednesday to rally opposition, under a banner reading, simply: "No oil".

Scottish oil explorer Cairn Energy, whose plans to look for oil in the Arctic have made it the target of green campaigners in the past , says that although it holds licences to explore for oil in the Gulf of Valencia, to the north-west of Ibiza, any seismic testing or the drilling of test wells is a long way off. The company is awaiting a decision on its environmental impact assessment by Spanish authorities due in late summer, which will determine whether it can continue. The government says Spain imports more than 99% of its oil and gas, at great expense, and that it must ensure energy security.

In February, more than 10,000 people marched through Ibiza Town, and around 60,000 signed a petition against oil exploration in the region. Twenty people posed naked covered in mock oil for a piece of performance art. The battle went online, with a social media blitz by celebrities who regularly visit Ibiza, including singers Dannii Minogue and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

"I'm against it, completely. Yes, it's selfish to say 'we are against it' and then use cars and phones, and not be against it in Africa or elsewhere. But this is our territory. I can't fight for Africa so I have to fight here. We don't really need oil," says resident Ida Kreisman, who runs a jewellery stall.

Rebecca Gil, working for the summer at a clothes shop in Ibiza Town, says she recognises Spain's need for economic growth but exploring for oil is not the right approach. "I understand the argument for it, but it's not the solution. The promise of money from the oil is a big lie."

A straw poll of waiters, taxi drivers, hotel workers and street entertainers found all apparently opposed to the prospect. "They are crazy. It is a beautiful island. This is a paradise," says busker Juan Sanchez, standing in the shadows of the great medieval walls surrounding the hilltop cathedral.

Even local politicians have been surprised at the degree of unanimity. "It is the first time people speak with one voice against a project like this. I cannot remember another time. This is the beginning of something," says Vicent Serra, president of the island's local government, the Consell of Ibiza. Serra is a member of the Popular Party, which is in power in Madrid and has argued in favour of exploring for oil, but he says he will put Ibiza first. "I am against oil prospecting here. I was voted to represent the people here."

Jaume Ferrer, his counterpart in Formentara, an 82-square mile island off the coast, is equally unequivocal. "We feel threatened, attacked, because tourism is the main part of our economy. The tourism is based on our conservation of the environment. We say no."

José Ramón Bauzà, the president of the Balearics – Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca – told thousands of protesters earlier this year: "Our oil is tourism."

The sentiment is echoed by Joan Tur, president of Pimeef, a federation of 1,700 small and medium-sized businesses on Ibiza. "90% of the economy here is tourism. The island is a jewel. We have pristine water and clean sand, we are careful about our environment. We cannot take the risk to have an incident. Even the fact of having an oil platform [nearby] would mean the island had less value," he says.

The island's natural worth is evident when travelling around the coastline. The Posidonia, a flowering plant commonly known as Neptune grass, creates a five-mile underwater meadow to the south of Ibiza. Conservationists say it provides an important place for fish to breed, and serves an ecological function by cleaning the water.

"Cairn is looking at exploring for oil at depths of 1,000-1,500 metres, which would mean its platform had the same characteristics of Deepwater [Horizon, the source of the 2010 BP oil spill]. If there was a spill, it would be the 'Balearic problem' because of the currents," says Pilar Marcus, a campaigner for Greenpeace, speaking aboard one of the group's fast inflatable boats as two activists in the water held up placards reading, "No prospecting."

Elsewhere in Spain, oil exploration is further ahead. In 2012 the government revived Spanish oil company Repsol's permit to from 2001 to explore for oil in the Canary Islands, which had been cancelled in 2004 by the supreme court after legal challenges. The move prompted outrage from environmentalists and locals who had previously fought the plans. Late last month, an environmental review handed Repsol the green light from Madrid to proceed with its exploration off Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, both popular British holiday destinations.

Around 1,000 people protested in Telde on Gran Canaria during a public speech by the minister for energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, who backs the search for oil. Riot police were deployed and video footage shows an officer hitting a demonstrator, leading to an investigation of an alleged assault.

Wim Geirnaert, a campaigner at the Save Canaries group, said the government is not listening to locals. "Nobody wants these oil rigs. The main concern is our industry is only based on tourism. The other concern is for wildlife – if you go sailing where they have a licence to explore you can see sometimes see hundreds of dolphins."

Many in the Canaries fear that though the Balearics could get a reprieve because the Popular Party is dominant on the island and is in government in Madrid, the Canaries – where the Canarian Coalition party holds sway – will not. "There is a concern they [the government] will find an excuse in the Balearics, such as 'it is too close to the coast', but not in the Canaries," said Gerinaert.

But a spokeswoman for Soria told the Observer that Spain had to look at oil production at home. "Spain is extraordinarily dependent on hydrocarbon imports: we buy from abroad 99% of the oil we consume, which means a bill of about EURO100m every day. We should at least know what kind of mineral resources we have."

She added that it was the first time an environmental assessment had been required before seismic work begins. "The Spanish government has tightened the environmental laws to find hydrocarbons."

A spokesman for ACIEP, the association which represents oil exploration companies in Spain, said he understood concerns but added that the oil industry in the country was safe and mature, with tough legislation for the sector.

"In the Balearic Islands, of course tourism is very important. There may be people worrying about the impact on the tourism and the fishing industry but we have to say there will be no impact. It's possible to have both and no impact, as Norway have shown. Also, it's exploration, not extraction, which is simply a boat on the sea," said the spokesman.

Cairn Energy's Spanish operation insists oil exploration in the region is not remarkable, claiming more than 200 oil wells have been drilled in the Spanish Mediterranean over the past 40 years. "Exploration in the Spanish Mediterranean is not new," says its brochure.

In Ibiza town, Kreisman, who is closing up her stall selling bracelets, remains sceptical. "Everything is safe until it's not. Who says that it's safe?"


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« Reply #1094 on: Jun 16, 2014, 05:51 AM »

US hosts talks to save oceans under 'siege'

AFP News –
Sun, Jun 15, 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry launches an unprecedented global effort Monday to save the world's oceans under siege from overfishing, climate change and pollution.

Heads of government and state as well as ministers from some 80 countries will gather with researchers and experts from the fishing, plastics and farming industries for the two-day conference aiming to find ways to protect the planet's seas and marine life.

"The oceans are a passion of mine and always have been, from the time I was three years old and dipped my toes into Buzzard's Bay," Kerry said, recalling his childhood on the wild, sweeping beaches of Massachusetts.

The ocean, which covers some 72 percent of the planet's surface, "is the essential ingredient of life itself on Earth," the top US diplomat told a handful of reporters, adding that the seas are increasingly under threat.

"The world's oceans, as vast as they are, as much as they elicit a sense of awe... they are under siege," Kerry warned, highlighting the dangers of overfishing, acidification caused by rising global temperatures and pollution.

The health of the oceans and their unique ecosystems has dramatically worsened in the 70 years since Kerry jumped the Atlantic waves as a child, conservationists say.

Today, one in five fish, or some 26 million tonnes a year, are illegally caught, one of the factors pushing many species to the edge of extinction.

Some 96 percent of the world's Pacific bluefin tuna stock, for example, is believed to have been depleted.

Vast areas known as "dead zones," caused by excessive pollution that has sapped the oxygen levels in the water, are devoid of life.

And family trips to the beach are enough to confirm that plastic and debris are sullying once pristine coastal waters.

Kerry and his top environmental staff hope the meeting will act as a catalyst to push governments to use tools already at their disposal to begin to clean up our seas and preserve marine life for future generations.

"There is a critical need to forge a consensus on behalf of the world's nations regarding the value of oceans to people, and the threats we face as a global society if we let the earth’s marine systems fall apart," Pew Charitable Trusts executive vice president Joshua Reichert told AFP.

- Sustainable fishing -

Environmentalists are hoping to see the US set an example and take some concrete action, such as vastly extending marine parks within American waters.

They have already identified three areas -- the remote northwestern Hawaiian islands, the Marianas and the Pacific atolls -- where existing marine parks, some of which date back to the turn of the 20th century, could be vastly expanded.

US officials anticipate that the conference, hosted at the State Department, will make announcements on establishing more marine protected areas, as well as rally around a push to promote sustainable fishing and set specific targets for reducing nutrient run-off from the farming industry.

There are also plans to get the plastics industry to help reduce the amount of waste sloshing around in the oceans, posing a direct threat to marine life that often confuses bottles and bags for food or nesting areas.

Experts will push as well for mandatory identification numbers on all large fishing vessels, to aid the crackdown on "pirate fishers."

And they have called for the US to encourage other nations to sign up to a new international treaty, the Port State Measures Agreement, which will give ports greater powers to inspect vessels believed to have been fishing illegally.

"We've reached a point where the science is good enough to tell us that we have problems that are urgent and that must be addressed in the coming years," said Pew's Reichert.

"Unless there is sufficient political will to tackle these problems, there is virtually no doubt they will get worse and the consequences of that for human society are going to be profound."

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