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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 52996 times)
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« Reply #1170 on: Aug 21, 2014, 05:14 AM »

39 kilotons a year: Mysterious source of ozone-depleting chemical banned since 2009 baffles NASA

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, August 21, 2014 5:55 EDT

A chemical used in dry cleaning and fire extinguishers may have been phased out in recent years but NASA said Wednesday that carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) is still being spewed into the atmosphere from an unknown source.

The world agreed to stop using CC14 as part of the Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol, which attained universal ratification in 2009.

“Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012,” the US space agency said in a statement.

“However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect.”

CC14 levels are not enough to reverse the decreasing trend of ozone-depletion, but experts are still mystified as to where it is coming from.

With no new reported emissions, atmospheric concentrations of the compound should have declined at an expected rate of four percent per year since 2007.

However, observations from the ground showed atmospheric concentrations were only declining one percent per year.

“We are not supposed to be seeing this at all,” said Qing Liang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources.”

Researchers used NASA’s 3-D GEOS Chemistry Climate Model and data from global networks of ground-based observations to establish the first estimate of average global CC14 emissions from 2000 to 2012.

In going through the data, researchers also learned that the chemical stays in the atmosphere were 40 percent longer than previously thought.

“People believe the emissions of ozone-depleting substances have stopped because of the Montreal Protocol,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for atmospheres at NASA.

“Unfortunately, there is still a major source of CCl4 out in the world.”

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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« Reply #1171 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:19 AM »

Ancient scourge? Myanmar still sees 3,000 new leprosy cases a year

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, August 21, 2014 5:22 EDT

High in the hills of Myanmar’s war-torn borderlands, a clutch of new leprosy cases among communities virtually cut off from medical help is a sign that the country’s battle with the ancient disease is far from over.

It took six days by plane, boat, motorcycle, bus — and an arduous mountain trek — for a group of medical workers to treat two leprosy patients in a remote corner of the country, where conflict and neglect are the legacy of decades of military rule and even access to basic medicines is a distant dream.

But the charity-funded medics were also on the lookout for evidence that the disease had spread.

They soon found three more leprosy sufferers, including one man who had such a severe case he required hospital care.

“I promised him that I would come back for him or I would send someone to pick him up,” said Doctor Saw Hsar Mu Lar, after the May expedition, as he returned to his hospital in Mawlamyaing, Mon state — one of only two specialising in leprosy in Myanmar.

Weeks later the patient was still waiting to travel as tensions between the Myanmar army and local rebels closed transportation routes.

Myanmar reached so-called ‘elimination’ status for leprosy in 2003 — meaning less than one person per 10,000 has the illness.

But there are still around 3,000 new cases found each year and medical workers warn that the debilitating disease could be on the rise once more as the country’s creaking healthcare system fails to reach those at risk.

Decades of civil war in ethnic regions have also left vast swathes of its border areas cut off from all but the most basic medical help, meaning the disease could be passing undetected.

“There can be pocket areas, hidden areas,” Saw Hsar Mu Lar told AFP.

“We have to tell the world that it’s not finished yet.”

- A curable curse -

Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest — and most feared — diseases.

The bacteria affects the skin and deadens the nerves, meaning sufferers are prone to injure themselves, which results in ulcers and can lead to limb loss. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

It is not particularly infectious, passing only through close contact over long periods, and modern medicine is able to cure patients relatively quickly.

But Myanmar has one of the world’s least developed medical systems, with government funding consistently among the lowest of any country, even with recent increases under a post-junta semi-civilian government.

State health workers are technically in charge of outreach and aid groups are banned from conducting leprosy awareness campaigns or looking for new patients — although they can treat people they find through dermatology clinics and during follow-up field trips.

The respected local aid group that organised the border expedition asked AFP not to give specific details of their work fearing that it could jeopardise future missions.

Saw Hsar Mu Lar’s Mawlamyaing Christian Leprosy Hospital, with its bright, simple wards, trained staff and plentiful supply of drugs, is a medical haven — funded mainly by international donations.

Most of the patients AFP met were farmers or had turned to begging to make ends meet.

“We had no medicine at our village even though we had a clinic,” said 40-year-old Mu Hai, who had travelled from western Rakhine state for treatment.

The hospital’s matron, Ni Ni Thein, is worried. In 2011 they saw 58 new leprosy cases, but that rose to 62 in 2012 and 68 last year.

“Now cases are increasing… the complication rate is increasing,” she said, adding that the age range for the disease had also appeared to have widened, with one four-year-old treated this year.

The fight to stop leprosy has been a major international success, with around 16 million people cured by multi-drug therapy (MDT) medicine in the last two decades.

But experts warn against complacency.

Myanmar is one of 18 countries that together account for almost all new cases of the disease.

The number of new cases it finds annually is dwarfed by its populous neighbour India, where there were some 127,000 new patients identified in 2011 according to World Health Organisation figures.

But while India managed an over 50 percent reduction between 2004 and 2011, Myanmar struggled to reduce its new incidences by 18 percent.

The WHO’s goodwill ambassador on leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, said stagnation in Myanmar’s new case numbers over several years could indicate authorities are not doing enough to root out the disease.

One problem is that the numbers affected seem small compared to other health challenges like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

“It is quite easy to be brought down the priority list,” he told AFP during a recent mission to the country.

- ‘He shall dwell alone’ -

Even if patients are cured, many around the world still fall victim to the stigma that clings to the disease, ending up living in segregated colonies.

Public vilification dates back over two thousand years.

The Bible says of leprosy sufferers: “he is unclean: he shall dwell alone”.

Saw Roger was chased out of his village when he started to show signs of leprosy aged 18 in the 1950s.

“I lived only with the animals in the jungle and I was frightened. I used to go into my village under the moonlight and I took rice and fish paste before going back into the dark forest,” the 76-year-old told AFP.

After two years sleeping in the woods, Roger was found by missionaries and taken to the Mawlamyaing hospital.

Roger, whose legs, left hand and eye have been ravaged by the disease, has found sanctuary there ever since.

Passing the time reading and leading the church choir, he said he has found happiness despite a lifetime of travails caused by the illness.

“I can continue to look forward,” he added.


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« Reply #1172 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:22 AM »

New study highlights precarious state of the world’s primary forests

By RedOrbit
August 20, 2014

An estimated 95 percent of the primary forests that existed prior to the advent of agriculture have been lost in non-protected areas, according to new research published online Thursday in the Society for Conservation Biology journal Conservation Letters.

The paper, which was prepared by an international team of experts in forest ecology, conservation biology, international policy and practical forest conservation issues, details what the authors are calling a global analysis of the ecosystem also known as old-growth forests and also features a map illustrating their findings.

Lead researcher Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and colleagues from organizations such as the US Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Geos Institute and Australian National University conclude that primary forest protection is a global concern and should be the responsibility of both developed and developing countries.

In a statement, the Wildlife Conservation Society said that old-growth forests, which are “forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted,” have been “largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats.”

The organization added that these forests “are home to an extraordinary richness of biodiversity, with up to 57 percent of all tropical forest species dependent on primary forest habitat and the ecological processes they provide.”

Their analysis has determined that nearly 98 percent of all primary forests can be found in 25 countries, and that roughly half of that figure is located in just five developed nations: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Russia and the US.

Professor Mackey cautions that human activities such as industrial logging, mining and agriculture pose a grave threat to these forest lands, especially those located outside of protected areas. He also said that new policies were urgently needed in order to reduce the pressure to make primary forests available for industrial land use.

“International negotiations are failing to halt the loss of the world's most important primary forests,” he explained. “In the absence of specific policies for primary forest protection in biodiversity and climate change treaties, their unique biodiversity values and ecosystem services will continue to be lost in both developed and developing countries.”

“Primary forests are a matter of significant conservation concern. Most forest-endemic biodiversity needs primary forest for their long-term persistence and large intact forest landscapes are under increasingly pressure from incompatible land use,” added co-author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Mackey, Watson and their colleagues devised four new actions that they believe could serve as a foundation for new international forest-protection policies, starting with the recognition of primary forests as a matter of global concern and not just an issue in developing countries.

They are also calling for the incorporation of these forests into environmental accounting, including acknowledgement of their services to the ecosystem, including freshwater and watershed services, and the use of a science-based definition to distinguish primary forests. In addition, they are calling for policies seeking to avoid further biodiversity loss and emissions from primary forest deforestation and degradation to become a priority.

Finally, they are calling for the universal acceptance of the important role that indigenous and community conserved areas play in the protection of these forests, calling on governments to use this issue as “a mechanism within multilateral environmental agreements to support sustainable livelihoods for the extensive populations of forest-dwelling peoples, especially traditional peoples, in developed and developing countries.”


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