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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 55077 times)
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« Reply #1095 on: Jun 17, 2014, 07:34 AM »

Decline in winter ice threatens animals in the Antarctic

June 16, 2014
Grant Burningham

Adelie penguins stand atop ice near the French station at Dumont d’Urville.Pauline Askin/Reuters

In Antarctica, the movement of icebergs is seasonal. When winter hits, the sea surface freezes, locking icebergs into place and preventing them from colliding on the seabed—where most Antarctic species live. For at least the last half century, however, global warming has led to a dramatic decline in this winter ice, meaning there are more glacial collisions, known as “scouring,” on the Antarctic seabed. In a Current Biology paper published Monday, scientists argue that this increase in scouring might negatively alter how species on the shallow portion of Antarctica’s seabed interact with one another—and they worry this is a harbinger of climate change–linked ecosystem changes around the globe.

The boulders on Antarctica’s shallow seabed play host to a wide variety of filter-feeding, aquatic invertebrates called Bryozoa. These organisms, commonly called “moss animals,” often live in colonies, encrusting large rocks. Several years ago, researchers in Western Antarctica, adjacent to the Rothera research station, noticed that a “pioneer species” of moss animal seemed to be dying at an increased rate. (A pioneer colonizes hard-to-inhabit areas and in doing so, makes the area more livable, often by leaving nutrients behind in the rock or soil when it dies and decomposes.) David Barnes, of the British Antarctic Survey, and his colleagues wondered whether the same held for other species and decided to survey the area.

They found that the normal, complex set of interactions once present on the rocks, which involved lots of species competing for space, had been reduced to “a very, very simple one with one competitor (a weak, weedy one!) monopolizing all interactions because other species cannot cope with the rising level of iceberg disturbance,” Barnes writes in an e-mail to Newsweek.

This could impact the area’s biodiversity—defined as the “variety, of plants and animals and other living things in a particular area or region”—drastically.

“Usually the structure of biodiversity is governed by biological interactions such as competition for resources and predation. The stability and fragility of biodiversity of most networks (such as a food web) depends on these,” Barnes writes, adding “This is what has changed.”

To see whether this shift is taking place elsewhere in Antarctica, Barnes’s team is working with scientists from Argentina operating out of the Carlini Base (formerly known as the Jubany research station), located on King George Island at the top of the Antarctic Peninsula. That team’s chief scientist will meet with the British Antarctic Survey in July and discuss their results, Barnes says.

Barnes worries that similar losses of biological complexity might take place in ecosystems beyond the South Pole.

“The Antarctic Peninsula can be considered an early warning system—like a canary in a coal mine,” Barnes says in a press statement about the study. “Physical changes [in Antarctica] are amongst the most extreme and the biology considered quite sensitive, so it was always likely to be a good place to observe impacts of climate change—but impacts elsewhere are likely to be not too far behind.”

Monday’s paper comes a month after two groups of scientists released reports that Antarctic ice melt had passed “the point of no return.” According to these reports, melting glaciers will cause sea levels to rise between 10 and 32 inches by the end of the century.


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« Reply #1096 on: Jun 17, 2014, 07:38 AM »

Obama to enlarge US marine sanctuary: report

AFP
06/17/2014

President Barack Obama will on Tuesday announce plans to significantly expand a US sanctuary in the central Pacific Ocean in a move that could create the world's largest such protected area, the Washington Post reported.

Obama will announce his intent to enlarge the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from almost 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles, the Post said.

The order, which would come into force later this year after a comment period, would make fishing, energy exploration and other activities off limits in the area, which includes uninhabited islands in a remote region.

The new area is adjacent to islands and atolls controlled by the United States and would include waters up to 200 nautical miles offshore from these territories.

The move is likely to trigger a political battle with Republicans over the scope of President Barack Obama's executive powers, the paper said.


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« Reply #1097 on: Jun 19, 2014, 06:39 AM »


Scientists say weakness in 'superbug' bacteria could herald new treatments

Barrier around infectious cells can be defeated, say British researchers, potentially overcoming their resistance to antibiotics

Press Association
theguardian.com, Thursday 19 June 2014 03.01 BST   

A weakness in the defences of "superbug" bacteria has been uncovered by British scientists, raising the prospect of new treatments to tackle infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

The researchers have identified a weakness affecting the membrane barrier that surrounds some of the most drug-resistant bacterial cells.

The discovery, reported in the journal Nature, may pave the way to a new generation of drugs that work by bringing down the defensive wall.

At the heart of their findings is the way "gram negative" bacterial cells transport the barrier's molecular "bricks". Professor Changjiang Dong, from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Norwich Medical School, said: "We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked.

"This is really important because drug-resistant bacteria is a global health problem. Many current antibiotics are becoming useless, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

"The number of superbugs are increasing at an unexpected rate. This research provides the platform for urgently needed new-generation drugs."

Experts have warned that the rise of resistant bacteria around the world poses a global threat greater than that of climate change. Bugs such as MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are becoming increasingly immune even to antibiotics that are the last resort in treatment, adding risk to operations and procedures that should be routine.

In a report this year England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warned that antibiotic resistant bacteria capable of causing untreatable infections posed a "catastrophic threat". She called for urgent action worldwide to address the problem.

"Gram-negative" bacteria, which include Escherichia coli (E coli) and the bugs that cause gonorrhea, cholera and Legionnaire's disease, are especially resistant to antibiotics. They can evolve a number of mechanisms to make them immune to drugs, including reducing the permeability of their outer membrane. But if the membrane barrier falls the bacteria die.

Haohao Dong, another member of the UAE team, said: "The really exciting thing about this research is that new drugs will specifically target the protective barrier around the bacteria, rather than the bacteria itself. Because new drugs will not need to enter the bacteria itself, we hope that the bacteria will not be able to develop drug resistance in future."


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« Reply #1098 on: Jun 20, 2014, 05:46 AM »


Russia 'secretly working with environmentalists to oppose fracking'

Nato chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, says Moscow mounting disinformation campaign to maintain reliance on Russian gas

Fiona Harvey   
The Guardian, Thursday 19 June 2014 16.34 BST      

The head of one of the world’s leading groups of democratic nations has accused Russia of undermining projects using hydraulic fracturing technology in Europe.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House thinktank in London on Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to reports.

Rasmussen said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations - environmental organisations working against shale gas - to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

He declined to give details of those operations, saying: “That is my interpretation.”

Fracking, a process that involves blasting dense shale rocks with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to release the tiny bubbles of natural gas trapped within, has been the subject of protests in the UK and other parts of Europe, and is opposed by many environmental groups.

It has been associated with methane leaks and the pollution of water sources in the US, and green campaigners fear that it will lead to a rise in the use of fossil fuels, exacerbating global warming.

Rasmussen made clear that fracking should be used, in his view, to increase Europe’s energy security, by providing a new source of gas and oil supply.

Nato's press office said the remarks were Rasmussen's personal views, not official policy.

Nato was originally formed at the start of the cold war as an alliance of western states, including the US and many European nations, and historically has often opposed Russia. Rasmussen himself has spoken out previously against Russia's actions in Ukraine.

A Nato official told the Guardian that Russia's influence on energy supplies was causing problems for Europe. The official said: "We don't go into the details of discussions among allied leaders, but Russia has been using a mix of hard and soft power in its attempt to recreate a sphere of influence, including through a campaign of disinformation on many issues, including energy. In general, the potential for Russia using energy supplies as a means of putting pressure on European nations is a matter of concern. No country should use supply and pricing terms as tools of coercion.

"As energy supplies and routes are an issue mostly for the EU, we count on the EU to take into account the new security realities in Europe and look at whether there is a need to review diversifying energy sources and expanding energy infrastructure. Clearly, it is in the interest of all Nato allies to be able to have adequate energy supplies. This is critical to our economies, our security and our prosperity. We share a concern by some allies that Russia could try to obstruct possible projects on shale gas exploration in Europe in order to maintain Europe’s reliance on Russian gas."

Surveys in the UK have found that there is a potentially large supply of shale gas and oil, perhaps enough to fulfil gas needs for several decades, though it is unclear how much of that can be profitably extracted. No shale gas has yet been produced in the UK.

Russia, a major source of international gas supplies, recently signed a $400bn deal with China to supply gas for decades to come, and has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, emphasising its willingness to exploit its dominant position in fossil fuel markets for political ends.

But the future of fracking in Europe is less clear than Rasmussen acknowledged.

The Polish government’s leading fracking expert recently told the Guardian that geology, rather than political concerns, was likely to be the main obstacle.

Katarzyna Kacperczyk, under-secretary of state for non-European policy and public and economic diplomacy in the Polish foreign ministry, and its leading voice on fracking, told the Guardian: “It is all about geology, whether you can extract the gas. Different parts of the world have different geologies.”

She said that there was “political will” to explore fracking in the country, but that even so there was no guarantee that Poland would be able to access its shale gas reserves. Poland is thought to have some of the best shale gas formations in Europe, but attempts to exploit it have so far come to nothing, though companies are still trying.

In the US, the development of modern fracking technology has led to a boom in gas production, but that situation may not be easily replicated in other, more densely populated countries, with differing geologies.

Green groups were swift to attack Rasmussen’s views, saying that they were not involved in any alleged Russian attempts to discredit the technology, and were instead opposed to it on the grounds of environmental sustainability.

“The idea we’re puppets of Putin is so preposterous that you have to wonder what they’re smoking over at Nato HQ,” said Greenpeace, which has a history of antagonism with the Russian government, which arrested several of its activists on a protest in the Arctic last year.

Andrew Pendleton, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, added: “Perhaps the Russians are worried about our huge wind and solar potential and have infiltrated the UK government.”


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« Reply #1099 on: Jun 21, 2014, 07:10 AM »

Atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean may be getting in gear for El Niño

By Climate Central
Friday, June 20, 2014 15:22 EDT

The atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean may be getting its act together and finally cooperating with shifting ocean waters to signal that an El Niño has arrived, climate scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in their latest outlook.

El Niño watchers have been waiting for the climate phenomenon to show up since anEl Niño Watch was issued back in March, meaning that conditions were favorable for one to develop in the next six months. Potential El Niño events are so closely watched because of the influence they can have on the world’s weather. Depending on when this El Niño develops, it could also bump up Earth’s already warming temperature enough to make 2014 or 2015 a record warm year, scientists have said.

An El Niño is characterized by warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. It is the warm phase of a larger cyclical climate phenomenon called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation; La Niña is the cool phase and is characterized by colder-than-normal temperatures in the same parts of the Pacific.

But the phenomenon isn’t limited to the oceans; it also affects the wind patterns over those ocean waters. During an El Niño, the trade winds that normally blow from east to west across the tropical Pacific relax and reverse.

Sea surface temperatures have been hovering around the mark that determines an El Niño, which is defined as temperatures that are 0.5°C (0.9°F) above normal. Back in March, a large pulse of warm water called a Kelvin wave surged toward the eastern tropical Pacific from the western part. This happened because of the slackening of the trade winds, which normally pile that warm water up in the western part of the basin, but cause it to go tumbling to the east when they dissipate.

That Kelvin wave resulted in temperature anomalies that were comparable to those seen before the intense El Niño event of 1997-1998. But since then, temperatures have cooled somewhat, though they still indicate a developing El Niño, possibly just a more moderate one, climate scientists who monitor the phenomenon have said.

But as of the latest official forecast update from the Climate Prediction Center, issued on June 5, the atmospheric signals of an El Niño weren’t quite there, keeping forecasters from issuing an El Niño Advisory (which means El Niño conditions have been observed and are expected to continue). In particular, forecasters were waiting to see enhanced convection — the process that drives thunderstorms — over the area, as well as drier conditions over Indonesia, Michelle L’Heureux, a CPC meteorologist who helps put together the updates, told Climate Central at the time.

The latest update from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, issued on June 17, concurred with the CPC’s assessment.

In the last week or two, though, scientists have seen convection near the International Date Line in the tropical Pacific and have seen the trade winds behaving more like they should during a developing El Niño, Stephen Baxter, a seasonal forecaster with the CPC, told reporters during the Thursday briefing on the NOAA outlook.

“There is some indication that the atmosphere has become a little more responsive,” Baxter said.

Some other climate factors could be muddying the waters, L’Heureux told Climate Central in an email this week. A climate cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which as its name suggests acts over decades, has been in a phase that tends to favor cooler conditions in the Pacific since the late 90s, just after the major 1997-1998 El Niño.

On the opposite time scale, a cycle called the Madden-Julian Oscillation acts over just a month or two and influences the trade winds. L’Heureux thinks the relative cooling over the past couple of weeks can be attributed to the MJO, which amps up the easterly winds, pushing away those warmer waters. But it’s possible the MJO could flip around in the next few weeks and set off a westerly wind burst, warming things up again.

“We’re in a ‘wait and let’s see’ mode,” L’Heureux said.

Even without that westerly wind burst, Baxter told reporters, there are indications that the Pacific is still headed for an El Niño.

“We’re nicely on track for a weak to moderate, but still potentially impactful” El Niño in the fall to winter months, he said.
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« Reply #1100 on: Jun 21, 2014, 08:55 AM »

West Africa Ebola Outbreak 'Out of Control'

IB Times
By Umberto Bacchi
06/21/2014
   
An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 330 people in West Africa is "totally out of control", Doctors Without Borders (DWB) officials said.

The deadly disease started in Guinea's Guekedou region in February and has since spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia infecting some 500 people.

The outbreak appeared to slow after an initial peak but health officials have since recorded a strong return for the killer virus in recent weeks.

"The reality is clear that the epidemic is now in a second wave," said DWB director of operations in Brussels Bart Janssens. "It is totally out of control."

Fourteen deaths and 47 new cases have been reported in the region in just the last week, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"I'm absolutely convinced that this epidemic is far from over and will continue to kill a considerable amount of people, so this will definitely end up the biggest ever," Janssens said.

International organisations and governments are struggling to contain the disease which has, for the first time on record, affected multiple locations across several countries.

Earlier this week, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said they were facing one of the "most challenging Ebola outbreaks ever".

The virus struck a densely populated area where people are very mobile, experts said.

Health officials said there is an urgent need to increase public awareness urging people to come forward as soon as symptoms appeared.

"There needs to be a real political commitment that this is a very big emergency," Janssens said. "Otherwise, it will continue to spread, and for sure it will spread to more countries."

There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, which kills up to 90% of those infected.

It is spread by close contact with symptoms including internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.

The WHO said 337 people have so far been killed by the virus in the region. The worst affected country was Guinea is with 264 Ebola-related deaths, followed by In Sierra Leone with 49 and Liberia where 24 people have died.
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« Reply #1101 on: Jun 22, 2014, 06:17 AM »

Australians want renewable energy target retained by big margin

Polling shows 72% of Australians want to keep or expand RET, as Abbott government considers abolishing it

Lenore Taylor, political editor
theguardian.com, Saturday 21 June 2014 22.04 BST      

Australians overwhelmingly want the renewable energy target to be retained or even increased, as the Abbott government considers abolishing the incentive for new renewable projects.

Polling for the Climate Institute shows 72% of Australians want to keep or expand the renewable energy target (RET), which requires that 20% of energy is sourced from renewables by 2020.

This is slightly higher than the 69% who said they wanted the RET maintained or increased when the same questions were posed in last year’s poll, despite a strong campaign over the past year by industry groups and Coalition backbenchers arguing that the RET was increasing power prices.

Respondents were then told “opponents of the scheme say the RET is a subsidy that drives up electricity bills, while supporters say it has helped create jobs and has tripled Australia’s wind and solar energy since 2009”. 71% still thought it should remain at its current level, 20%, or be increased, even after hearing the arguments. Support was especially high among women, with only 7% wanting the RET decreased or abolished.

But government sources said the Abbott government is likely to “grandfather” the scheme after it receives the final report from its review of the program, led by businessman and self-professed climate sceptic Dick Warburton. This would see it deliver only about one third of the renewable power that was originally legislated – with bipartisan support.

The sources said the challenge now was to work out how this could be achieved in practice.

The Coalition went to the election promising to keep the RET, which underpins investment in energy sources such as wind and solar, but saying it would review the fact that the policy was exceeding its original goal of delivering 20% renewable energy by 2020 because of falling electricity demand.

As yet unreleased modelling for business groups including the Business Council of Australia, the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has considered four options: leaving the RET as it is, reducing it to a “real” 20%, “grandfathering” it to allow only existing investments to continue, and abolishing it altogether.

In its submission, the Institute of Public Affairs think tank, which favours abolition of the RET, says the government has three options, abolition, “grandfathering” or reducing it to a real “20%”.

The RET is currently required to deliver 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewables by 2020 (which was 20% of what it was incorrectly estimated that the market would be). To deliver 20% of the current market this would have to be reduced to 33,000GWh. Grandfathering would deliver only 15,000GWh.

The poll also found that 76% of people think state governments should do more to provide incentives to renewable energy. Again the strongest support came from women (82%).

The poll was conducted for the Climate Institute by JWS research from May 16-20. The sample size was 1,145 and the margin of error is 2.9%.

Warburton, a veteran industrialist and the chairman of the Westfield Retail Trust, described his views on climate science in a 2011 interview on ABC in this way: “Well, I am a sceptic. I’ve never moved away from that. I’ve always believed sceptical,’’ he said. “But a sceptic is a different person than a denier. I say the science is not settled. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’ve never said it’s wrong, but I don’t believe it’s settled.”


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« Reply #1102 on: Jun 23, 2014, 05:58 AM »


Drifting off the coast of Portugal, the frontrunner in the global race for floating windfarms

Three prototype technologies are competing to provide the first commercial floating wind turbines that could harness the world's strongest winds in the deepest waters

Damian Carrington in Aguçadoura, Portugal
theguardian.com, Monday 23 June 2014 07.00 BST   

Above the inky Atlantic water and beneath a clear blue sky, the giant wind turbine turns gracefully in the steady sea breeze. But the secret of this solitary turbine, sited 5km off the Portuguese coast, lies beneath the gentle swell: it has no foundations and it is floating freely on the ocean, steadied by a triangular yellow platform and decorated by lines of crab-hunting seagulls.

The Windfloat turbine is one of the frontrunners in a global race to develop flotillas of wind turbines that can conquer the deep oceans and reap the strongest winds on the planet. Existing offshore wind turbines, standing on concrete and steel foundations driven into the ocean floor, flounder on heavy costs in depths greater than about 40 metres.

Floating windfarms could play a key role in re-powering Japan, whose love affair with nuclear power ended after the Fukushima disaster, and whose seabed plunges steeply offshore, leaving little space for fixed turbines. The US is also keen, with huge populations near both coasts.

In the UK, home to some of the world's best winds and already hosting the most offshore windfarms, floating turbines could arrive as soon as 2016. Far out to sea, they could also tackle the galeforce antipathy that in some areas have blown out plans for onshore turbines.

Perching a tall windblown tower on a floating platform might seem optimistic, but hundreds of millions of dollars have already been sunk into a menagerie of prototype technologies (see The race to float below) and more than 40 projects are in various stages of development. Most are inspired by rugged oil and gas rigs that have weathered storms for decades.

In this Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 photo, the University of Maine's 9,000-pound prototype wind turbine generates power off the coast of Castine, Maine. It is the country's first floating wind turbine. Records show Gov. Paul LePage s administration was working behind the scenes to derail Norwegian company Statoil s proposal for an offshore wind project that s projected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to the state. America's first floating wind turbine generates power off the coast of Castine, Maine.

Pointing out the shells encrusting the legs of the Windfloat platform, Alla Weinstein, chief executive of the US company Principle Power that designed it, joked: “We're thinking of starting a Windfloat mussel business.” But the electrical engineer is deadly serious in her view of the technology's potential: “We are changing the paradigm of offshore wind and making it suitable for any location in the oceans.”

The platform is only the second fullscale floating turbine to be deployed at sea and has survived a brutal winter of storms that blasted Portugal's coast, removing beaches and producing the monstrous wave that English surfer Andrew Cotton tamed in February.

The turbines' blades reach 120m above the sea, stabilised by a three-pillared platform, 35m on each side. The standard 2MW turbine fixed on top has been generating electricity since 2012 and is about to pump out its 10 billionth kilowatt-hour. The rig's legs, extending 20m under the sea, contain ballast water which shifts around to control swaying.

Windfloat has performed well so far and Weinstein is looking ahead to next stage of development.

Principle Power's consortium, which includes the major Iberian energy companies EDP and Repsol, have won a promised €50m of EU support to scale up and deliver three or four huge 6-8GW floating turbines off Portugal by 2017, and are now raising the €100m needed to go ahead. They also aim to have five 6GW turbines in 350m-deep water off Oregon in the US by 2017, aided by $50m for the Department of Energy.

The much bigger turbines will generate more power and hence more money, says Weinstein: “Size really matters in this case.”

Japan is also set to be a big player, with its high population and steeply shelving coasts. “It became a market overnight, after Fukushima, and the Japanese are moving very fast,” says Weinstein. Japan's first floating turbine started operation in November 2013 and the industrial giants of Mitsibushi and Mitsui are both in the race to install 1GW by 2020 – equivalent to a nuclear power station – including 80 turbines off the Fukushima coast.

The floating wind turbine pioneers are surprisingly relaxed about competition. “You can't have an industry with just one company. We need a critical mass for credibility: the more the better,” says Weinstein.

The first fullscale floating turbine – Hywind - went to sea off Stavanger, Norway in 200m-deep water and sent electricity to the grid from 2010. Its design is radically different: a single, very long ballast column sinking 100m below the sea surface. Like Windfloat, it is loosely anchored to the sea bed with mooring lines.

Morton Eeks, from Hywind's developer Statoil, says one feature of the design is a positioning system: "You can remote control it to keep it on the site you want to get the best wind.” Statoil next intends to tow five 6MW turbines to the Buchan Deep, 25km off Peterhead in Scotland, as early as 2016.

Eeks agrees with Weinstein about competition: "What is needed is to see more concepts put into practice: competition will bring the prices down.” Floating wind turbines should benefit from being able to be assembled onshore, then towed to position, avoiding costly bad-weather delays.

Iñigo Palacio Prada, from Spanish energy company Repsol, which has invested in Windfloat as well as windfarms off Scotland, says: “Floating turbines won't be cheaper [to install] than onshore, but you have to go where the best wind is.” Turbines at sea can run 50% more efficiently due to the stronger winds.

Breanne Gellatly, co-leader of the UK Carbon Trust's Offshore Wind Accelerator, says floating wind turbines will be essential in unlocking the offshore wind resource in deeper waters.

She also notes a particularly British advantage: “They can be placed 20 miles offshore and therefore have the advantage of being 'out of sight and out of mind'.” Conservative cabinet minister Eric Pickles has recently blocked a series of onshore windfarms.

The potential is - in theory – great, says Gellatly, noting that two-thirds of the very windy North Sea is between 50m and 220m: “Energy produced from floating turbines in the North Sea alone could meet the EU’s electricity consumption four times over.”

However, Micha Strauss, vice president at Enercon, a German turbine manufacturer that has a large factory at the nearby Portuguese port of Viana do Castelo, disagrees.

The plant turns out hundreds of turbines a year: every one for onshore windfarms. “We don't believe offshore wind is a good business model on cost grounds,” he says. “As long as there is enough land on Earth, we don't need to increase the difficulty of installation by going to sea.”

For politicians, the jobs brought by renewable energy are as important as the power, and Portugal's government – unlike Spain's – was careful to avoid killing investment with retroactive cuts to subsidies. Jorge Moreira da Silva, Portugal's energy and environment minister, told the Guardian: “It isn't just an energy sector, it's an industrial sector, an innovation sector and a regional development sector.”

His aim is to make Portugal a key supplier of green energy to Europe: “We will be able to produce it at lower cost as we have better wind and sun than other countries. It is a win-win: citizens get cheaper energy and it is good for jobs an investment in Portugal too.” He adds: “We can also be a solution to reducing the European reliance on Russian gas.”

Da Silva backs floating wind turbines as part of this: “We really think it can be a cutting-edge solution for coasts like Portugal and California.”

For Thomas Becker, the Danish CEO of the European Wind Energy Association, the commercial viability of floating windfarms will be proven – or not – in the next few years: “But it looks good so far.”

He is scathing about the anti-wind power sentiment of some in the UK. “Maybe they are there, but I can't see the other big industrial ventures that the UK is going to live off in the future,” he says. “One sector where the UK clearly have a great advantage is wind: you have a great resource and great engineers. It is so obvious.”

All agree that the key to launching a global flotilla of floating turbines is driving costs down, with Gellatly estimating the price will have to fall two to four times to reach the same level as fixed turbines.

But the technology is still very young and has survived all the sea can throw at it so far, unlike a predecessor on the very site now occupied by Windfloat. Experimental wave power machines were tested here in 2008 but, in that case, the savage sea won.
The race to float

Three key designs are racing to provide the first commercial floating wind turbines, all adapting technologies proven by the offshore oil and gas industry.

Semi-submersible

A broad platform provides stability by largely lying below the sea surface and using water as ballast. It is loosely anchored to the sea floor. Windfloat has had its full-scale prototype in the ocean off Portugal since 2011 and its 2MW wind turbine is on the brink of generating 10GWh of electricity.

Key companies: Principle Power (US), Mitsubushi (Japan), Mitsui (Japan), DeepCWind (US) Gusto (Netherlands), HiPRwind (Spain)

Tension-leg platform and spar

Spar

A long single column extends far below the water to dampen movement and uses sand and water as ballast. It is also loosely moored to the sea floor. Hywind's fullscale prototype has been generating electricity off Norway since 2010.

Key companies: Hywind/Statoil (Norway), Toda (Japan), Sway (Norway) NauticrAft (Australia), SeaTwirl (Sweden)

Tension-leg platform

A floating platformed is tethered firmly to the sea bed using tensioned cables. BlueH tested a small prototype in 113m of water off Italy in 2008. Turbine can be mounted on the platform onshore, avoiding expensive ships and bad weather delays. It is not suitable for areas with high tidal ranges.

Key companies: BlueH (UK), Gicon (Germany), Pelastar (US), Iberdrola Etorgai (Spain) Mitsui (Japan).

    © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


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« Reply #1103 on: Jun 24, 2014, 05:37 AM »

World must act within five years to save oceans from pollution and overfishing: watchdog

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 7:04 EDT

The world’s oceans need saving from pollution and overfishing, and an independent panel warned on Tuesday that urgent action was needed within five years.

The Global Ocean Commission said cutting down on single-use plastics products, restricting fishing on the high seas, and establishing binding regulations for offshore oil and gas exploration are key parts of the rescue plan.

In all, the former heads of state and business leaders offered eight proposals for ocean health in their report, “From Decline to Recovery – A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean.”

“The ocean provides 50 per cent of our oxygen and fixes 25 per cent of global carbon emissions. Our food chain begins in that 70 per cent of the planet,” said Jose Maria Figueres, co-chair of the commission and a former president of Costa Rica.

“Unless we turn the tide on ocean decline within five years, the international community should consider turning the high seas into an off-limits regeneration zone until its condition is restored.”

The plan called for an immediate cap on government subsidies for fishing on the high seas, and an end to them within five years.

Since only 10 nations engage in high seas fishing, the move will primarily affect the United States, European Union, China and Japan.

“About 60 per cent of such subsidies directly encourage unsustainable practices, and without them, high seas fisheries would not be financially viable,” said the report.

The high seas are the waters that fall beyond the national jurisdiction of countries, making up 64 percent of the ocean’s total surface area and half the biological productivity of the entire ocean, according to the report.

The commission said the lack of jurisdiction over these waters is a big problem, and called for a new agreement to be negotiated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Such an accord should make ocean health a priority, protect the high seas from wasteful exploitation and allow for the establishment of marine protected areas.

“The high seas are like a failed state. Poor governance and the absence of policing and management mean valuable resources are unprotected or being squandered,” said David Miliband, co-chair of the commission.

“The high seas belong to us all. We know what needs to be done but we can’t do it alone. A joint mission must be our priority.”

The commission also called for mandatory tracking of all vessels fishing on the high seas, measures to end plastics pollution, and binding standards for the regulation and control of offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

The Global Ocean Commission was launched in February 2013 to address the threats facing the global ocean, and originated as an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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« Reply #1104 on: Jun 24, 2014, 05:38 AM »

US stands to lose hundreds of billions of dollars due to climate change: bipartisan report

By Reuters
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 6:46 EDT

Annual property losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms of $35 billion; a decline in crop yields of 14 percent, costing corn and wheat farmers tens of billions of dollars; heat wave-driven demand for electricity costing utility customers up to $12 billion per year.

These are among the economic costs that climate change is expected to exact in the United States over the next 25 years, according to a bipartisan report released on Tuesday. And that’s just for starters: The price tag could soar to hundreds of billions by 2100.

Commissioned by a group chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of the Treasury and Goldman Sachs alum Henry Paulson, and environmentalist and financier Tom Steyer, the analysis “is the most detailed ever of the potential economic effects of climate change on the U.S.,” said climatologist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University.

The report lands three weeks after President Barack Obama ordered U.S. regulators to take their strongest steps ever to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including requiring power plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Called “Risky Business,” the report projects climate impacts at scales as small as individual counties. Its conclusions about crop losses and other consequences are based not on computer projections, which climate-change skeptics routinely attack, but on data from past heat waves.

It paints a grim picture of economic loss. “Our economy is vulnerable to an overwhelming number of risks from climate change,” Paulson said in a statement, including from sea-level rise and from heat waves that will cause deaths, reduce labor productivity and strain power grids.

By mid-century, $66 billion to $106 billion worth of coastal property will likely be below sea level. There is a 5 percent chance that by 2100 the losses will reach $700 billion, with average annual losses from rising oceans of $42 billion to $108 billion along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico.

Extreme heat, especially in the Southwest, Southeast and upper Midwest, will slash labor productivity as people are unable to work outdoors at construction and other jobs for sustained periods. The analysis goes further than previous work, said Princeton’s Oppenheimer, by identifying places that will be “unsuited for outdoor activity.”

Demand for electricity will surge as people need air conditioning just to survive, straining generation and transmission capacity. That will likely require the construction of up to 95 gigawatts of generation capacity over the next 5 to 25 years, or roughly 200 average-size coal or natural gas power plants.

As utilities add the construction costs to customers’ bills, people and businesses will pay $8.5 billion to $30 billion more every year by the middle of the century.

The report does not make policy prescriptions, concluding only that “it is time for all American business leaders and investors to get in the game and rise to the challenge of addressing climate change.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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« Reply #1105 on: Jun 25, 2014, 05:46 AM »


The strange case of how coal miner Clive turned climate crusader

Clive Palmer brought together an eclectic group to make his 'I'm with Al Gore' policy announcement

Lenore Taylor   
theguardian.com, Wednesday 25 June 2014 11.30 BST      

It was a very strange dinner in the member’s dining room of parliament house. Former US vice president Al Gore. Mining millionaire Clive Palmer. Former chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Don Henry. Former chief of staff to Bob Brown and Christine Milne Ben Oquist. Former adviser to retired independent MP Tony Windsor, John Clements. And Palmer United party senator-elect and former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus. And Gore and Palmer’s staff.

It provided some clues about how Palmer had come to make the even stranger, grand “I’m with Al Gore” climate policy announcement a few moments earlier.

Gore was in Australia to undertake his “climate reality” training program in Melbourne on Thursday. He is close to Henry. The others seem to have somehow become close to Palmer.

But at the end of the day what does Palmer’s announcement mean?

It appears to mean the carbon tax will be indeed be “axed”, but only if the government agrees to keep a kind of “frozen” emissions trading scheme to be re-activated some time in the future and also - and most importantly - if it agrees to give some kind of as-yet-unspecified assurances about lower household power bills.

Odds are Tony Abbott will be able to meet those conditions, although they remain so vague it’s kind of hard to be sure.

What if Clive wants absolute cuts to household power bills - as many voters may have believed were coming - rather than the lower-than-they-would-otherwise-be bills they are going to get under the current state price setting regimes and promises from the big energy retailers? What if he wants a “price setting” power for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or a new power to reverse the onus of proof so that companies have to submit the price cuts that they make? That would be kind of hard for the government to deliver. But it would also be kind of hard for them to refuse, given how long and hard they have mounted the carbon tax is terrible for cost of living argument.

And agreeing to the continuation of any kind of emissions trading scheme would be some concession from Tony Abbott given that he has spent so long telling us that such laws are economy-strangling incarnations of evil.

But let’s assume the tax is axed. What’s left?

Well, actually quite a lot more than we thought would be.

The $10bn Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the renewable energy target and the independent Climate Change Authority to start with.

But not Direct Action it would appear – which many experts might say is not an enormous loss, given how effective it is likely to be.

It is a dramatic, if slightly confusing, eleventh hour conversion to the climate change cause for Clive Palmer, millionaire would-be coal miner who has to pay millions in carbon tax for his Queensland nickel refinery and who just two months ago didn’t seem to think global warming was a thing.

After contributing to the downfall of three Australian prime ministers, two opposition leaders and seven years of bitter and acrimonious debate, carbon policy is now presenting yet another prime minister with some serious dilemmas.


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« Reply #1106 on: Jun 25, 2014, 05:56 AM »


Spanish court gives green light to oil exploration in the Canary Islands

Supreme court rejects seven appeals from environmentalists and local authorities concerned at the impact on tourism

Adam Vaughan   
The Guardian, Tuesday 24 June 2014 15.30 BST   

Spain's top court has rejected seven appeals against oil exploration in the waters around the Canary Islands.

In 2012, Madrid restored a decade-old permit to prospect for oil off the coast of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, but it was then put on hold following challenges on environmental grounds.

On Tuesday, the supreme court threw out the appeals, paving the way for Spanish energy company Repsol to move forward with its exploration plans, which have drawn an angry response from islanders concerned at the impact on tourism.

Environmentalists criticised the court's decision. Ricardo Aguilar, the research director of Oceana in Europe, who was an expert witness during the case, said: "It is a disgrace how the government is handing out exploitation permits that benefit just a few people, while putting the rest of Spain in danger of losing countless essential and extremely fragile habitats."

He added: "The Canary Islands' deep-sea ecosystems are unique and they sustain species that are vital for the tourism and fisheries in the area. It is irresponsible to destroy these habitats in a few years to facilitate the extraction of a finite and highly polluting energy resource."

Julio Barea, responsible for Greenpeace Spain's campaign against oil exploration in the country, said: "Now we know who defends Repsol while the environment is not defended by the ministry for justice. Unfortunately, accidents have shown that there is no safe way to drill for oil in deep waters and fisheries and tourism in the Canary islands will pay the consequences of this suicidal policy of the government."

Oceana said it had documented 82 protected marine species during an expedition it conducted in the oil blocs.

Repsol has said exploration could start in the third quarter of this year with commercial drilling potentially taking place in 2019, Reuters reported.

Separately, the Scottish company Cairn Energy has licences for oil exploration in the Gulf of Valencia, off the coast of Ibiza, where local politicians, business figures and environmentalists have united to oppose the plans.


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« Reply #1107 on: Jun 27, 2014, 05:57 AM »


Land taken over by foreign investors could feed 550m people, study finds

Land grabbing in Africa and Asia for export and biofuel crops is keeping populations malnourished and hungry

Damian Carrington   
theguardian.com, Friday 27 June 2014 10.48 BST      

The land grabbed in some of the world’s hungriest countries by foreign goverments and corporations could feed up to 550m people, according to new research. The crops grown on grabbed land are frequently exported, or used to produce biofuel, but the new work shows it could end malnourishment in those countries if used to feed local people.

Since 2000, at least 31m hectares (77m acres) of land has been acquired by overseas investors seeking to secure food supplies or increase production, a process dubbed land grabbing. Almost half has been in Africa, particularly Sudan. But Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have been targets too. Proponents argue the foreign investment can increase yields and provide development and employment, but critics say the grabs often occur without the consent of those on the land and lead to food being exported.

“Crucial to this debate is the knowledge of the magnitude of the phenomenon: how many people could be fed,” said Prof Maria Cristina Rulli from Politecnico di Milano in Italy, one of the research team. It found that, even accounting for the crops diverted to biofuels, the grabbed land could support 300m-550m people if yields were raised to the levels of industrialised western farming. Even without those yield increases, the land could support 190m-370m people, the researchers calculated.

“Policymakers need to be aware that if this food were used to feed the local populations it would be sufficient to abate malnourishment in each of these countries, even without investments aiming [increase] yields,” said Rulli.

“The world already produces enough food for everyone, yet one in eight people go to bed hungry every night, many of whom are the very people who rely for food on land that big agribusinesses are targeting,” said Hannah Stoddart, head of policy for food and climate change at Oxfam. “Stronger land rights are crucial to ensure that affected communities do not lose out.” She said investment in small-scale farming and more sustainable agricultural practices could reduce hunger for the poorest people.

The new analysis, published on Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, calculated the potential maximum crop yield from every known land grab deal over 200 hectares from 2000-2013 and then used the crop’s food calories to determine the amount of people it could feed. The analysis also revealed that while 43% of grabbed land is in Africa, it is the more productive land and more nutritious crops in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea that could provide the most food.

The researchers found many large scale land grabs are taking place in regions facing hunger problems and in great need of food aid. For example, land grabs in Sierra Leone from 2007-2012, were used to grow food crops for export, resulting in local people finding it harder to get enough food and work. In Cambodia, land grabs are leading to the conversion of rice fields to sugar cane plantations and the relocation of peasants to less fertile land.

“Our numbers raise some concern because the target countries have high levels of malnourishment,” said Rulli. “The problem is that there is often no policy in place to prevent investors from exporting the crops produced in the acquired land. If the land was previously used for subsistence farming, the situation likely becomes worse.”


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« Reply #1108 on: Jun 27, 2014, 09:52 AM »


Study: Koch Brothers Could Make $100 Billion if Keystone XL Pipeline Approved

CrooksAndLiars
06/27/2014

A new study released today concludes that Koch Industries and its subsidiaries stand to make as much as $100 billion in profits if the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is granted a presidential permit from U.S. President Barack Obama.
 
The report, titled Billionaires' Carbon Bomb, produced by the think tank International Forum on Globalization (IFG), finds that David and Charles Koch and their privately owned company, Koch Industries, own more than 2 million acres of land in Northern Alberta, the source of the tar sands bitumen that would be pumped to the United States via the Keystone XL pipeline.
 
(Click to expand or see original source)
 
IFG also finds that more than 1,000 reports and statements in support of the Keystone XL pipeline project have been made by policy groups and think tanks that receive funding from the Koch brothers and their philanthropic foundations.
“The Kochs have repeatedly claimed that they have no interest in the Keystone XL Pipeline, this report shows that is false,” said Nathalie Lowenthal-Savy, a researcher with IFG.

“We noticed Koch Funded Tea Party members and think tanks pushing for the pipeline. We dug deeper and found $100 billion in potential profit, $50 million sent to organizations supporting the pipeline, and perhaps 2 million acres of land. That sounds like an interest to me.”

Nathalie continued, “We all know they will use that money to fund and expand their influence network, subvert democracy, crush unions like in Wisconsin, and get more extremists elected to congress.”


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« Reply #1109 on: Jun 27, 2014, 09:53 AM »

CNBC Caught Soliciting Writer To Promote Global Warming As Hoax

By karoli June 27, 2014 5:30 am -
CrooksAndLiars

Why they thought DeSmogBlog was the right place to do that, we'll probably never know.
CNBC Caught Soliciting Writer To Promote Global Warming As Hoax

Protip for CNBC: If you're going to buy yourself an op-ed claiming climate change is a hoax, maybe you should do some homework on where you're shopping.

Lee Fang:

For a network with an embarrassing history of fudging the science around climate change, one CNBC booker apears to have made a big mistake.

    Responding to the groundbreaking report “Risky Business,” a bipartisan project that compiled the many ways global warming will harm the United States economy over the next cenutry, a CNBC staffer sent an e-mail to a website that she apparently thought was connected to economist and climate contrarian Alan Carlin. In the e-mail, which has been shared with Republic Report, the booker asked Carlin to respond to the report and write an op-ed on “global warming being a hoax.” See below:

        Hi there. Given this new report on the cost of climate change, wanted to extend an invitation to Alan Carlin to write an op-ed for CNBC.com. Can be on the new report or just his general thoughts on global warming being a hoax. If he’s interested, please email me directly

    The e-mail was sent to DeSmogBlog, the hard-hitting climate investigative blog, which has a profile on Carlin. To be clear, DeSmogBlog has no relation to Carlin other than reporting on his many misdeeds and his appearance on the Glenn Beck program.

DeSmogBlog educates about global warming, you idiots at CNBC. They don't deny it and neither should you.


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