tagged w/ Apathy
5 months ago
History was made at the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University on Monday night. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, sparred over American policy in Libya and Iran. They traded generalities on trade with China and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and made brief mentions of renewable technology and "energy independence."
But as noted by several debate watchers, climate change was never mentioned -- not by the candidates, and not by the debate moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS News. Given the absence of the topic at the two preceding meetings between Obama and Romney, the close of Monday night's event marked the first time in roughly a generation that climate change has failed to receive an airing at any of the presidential debates.
Nearly 25 years after NASA scientist James Hansen famously told Congress that the science behind the greenhouse effect was clear -- and after similarly long-lived efforts to raise awareness of global warming and to force the topic into the national dialog -- the meaning behind Monday's milestone is likely to be hotly debated. To some, it is a sign that climate change has become a niche issue -- and is now being treated like any other special interest. To others, the candidates are merely playing the political odds in an election in which Americans are highly focused on jobs and other more immediate concerns.
But in the hours immediately following the debate, activists and climate scientists simply expressed a mixture of anger and disillusionment.
"Climate change is a global threat that requires a global response. Yet neither candidate saw fit to address climate change’s implications for foreign policy," said Erich Pica, president of the environmental group Friends of the Earth Action, in a prepared statement. "By ignoring climate change, both President Obama and Governor Romney are telling the rest of the world that they do not take it seriously, and that America cannot be expected to act with the intensity and urgency needed to avert catastrophe.
"Their silence prepares a future for our children and grandchildren in which we will face deeper droughts, fiercer forest fires and killer storms, messier spills and dirtier air," Pica added. "America deserves better."
In an email message to HuffPost, Michael E. Mann, a prominent physicist and climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested he was disappointed.
"There's not a whole lot to say here," Mann said. "Bob Schieffer obviously made the decision not to broach the topic. That's really too bad. Given that climate change may be the greatest challenge we face in the decades ahead, to be silent on the issue over the course of four debates does a real disservice to the country."
While the Romney campaign has charted a far more equivocal path on climate change and emissions reductions than Obama -- suggesting, for example, that the science remains too unsettled to justify dramatic and potentially expensive action -- both candidates have been chastised by environmental groups for failing to vigorously discuss what they see as one of the nation's most pressing issues.
The Obama administration, in a sign that it is sensitive to the criticism, reportedly reached out to several prominent environmental groups in an email message over the weekend, according to The Hill blog, which obtained a copy of the memo. It highlighted numerous instances in which President Obama has mentioned the issue on the stump over the last many months, including during a visit to Mount Vernon, Iowa, late last week.
During that visit, Obama decried Romney's plan to do away with a production tax credit that advocates say has helped to keep the wind power industry afloat.
"My plan will keep these investments, and we’ll keep reducing the carbon pollution that's also heating the planet, because climate change isn't a hoax," the president said. "The droughts we've seen, the floods, the wildfires -- those aren't a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And we can do something about it. That's part of what’s at stake in this election."
But many environmental advocates have been lobbying for a much more substantive airing of the issue during one of the presidential debates, and the failure of that to materialize was vexing.
"For the first time since 1984, the presidential and vice presidential debates have ignored the threat of climate change," wrote Brad Johnson, the campaign manager for the group Forecast the Facts, which launched the website ClimateSilence.org with Friends of the Earth late last month. "President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Governor Mitt Romney, and [Romney's running mate] Representative Paul Ryan have failed to debate the greatest challenge of our time. Climate change threatens us all: the candidates' silence threatens to seal our fate."
The issue did not go completely ignored by presidential candidates on Monday night, however.
During a simultaneous shadow debate between candidates from the Green and Justice parties and hosted by the progressive nonprofit news network Democracy Now!, the Justice Party candidate, Rocky Anderson, delivered an impassioned statement of the sort many environmental activists have long been hoping to hear from the two major party candidates:
The most important issue in terms of the long term impacts on the greatest number of people -- an absolute tragedy in the making -- is the climate crisis. And our nation -- although every science academy in the world agrees that this is a huge problem with horrendous consequences -- our government continues to abdicate its highest responsibility to provide international leadership on the climate crisis. And the most tragic part of this is the window of opportunity was very, very small the last 10 years to do anything about it, to save our children and later generations from experiencing the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. And we still fail under Barack Obama, who promised to do otherwise. We still fail to provide that essential leadership internationally, and the consequences will be horrendous. Later generations will look back and ask what in the world were the American people thinking to allow these people to continue to violate their responsibilities, and to continue drilling and caving into the fossil fuel industry the way our federal government -- both Republicans and Democrats -- are doing.
Writing on the Climate Progress blog, Stephen Lacey echoed a number of other activists in noting that one question from Schieffer -- “What do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?" -- offered an opening for either Obama or Romney to visit global warming. But in the end, neither took the opportunity.
"Even as the world has seen 331 consecutive months with global temperatures over the 20th century average," Lacy wrote, "even as extreme weather gets more intense and expensive, even as the Arctic sees unprecedented melt of sea ice, and even as scientists issue dire warnings about an approaching climate 'tipping point,' the issue got no mention at all within three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate."
Taking to his Twitter account at the conclusion of the debate, Jamie Kilstein, a comedian and co-host of Citizen Radio, summed up the popular frustration.
"Maybe they didn't mention global warming," he wrote, "because they are hoping it wipes us all out before we can hold them accountable."History was made at the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University on... more
A sobering study released today shows more than half of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has disappeared over the past 27 years.
Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville have found the loss of coral is caused mainly by cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish.
Coral bleaching is also to blame.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, warns the rate of the reef's decline has been higher than previously thought.
It says if current trends continue, its coral cover could halve again by 2022 and it may lose the biodiversity for which it was listed as a World Heritage Area.
The study argues that stopping the progress of the crown-of-thorns starfish is crucial to the recovery of the 3,000km-long reef.
But scientist John Gunn says the future of the ecosystem could be under threat if the loss of coral is not stopped.
"Accumulative impacts of storms and crown-of-thorns and two bleaching events have had a quite devastating effect over the last three decades," he said.
"We're very concerned that this is a bit of a crossroads for the reef and this data is very authoritative.
"I can't pretend that if we had this type of impact continuing and we had some of the possible impacts of climate change in the future that the Great Barrier Reef really is at threat."
Mr Gunn, chief executive of the institute in Townsville, says damage to the reef is patchy, with some areas affected more than others.
"There are parts of the reef that are still pretty much as we'd like the whole of the reef to be, and they give us some hope that that's what we could achieve with the whole of it.
"These are areas north of Cooktown and they're pretty healthy reefs, in fact they're beautiful.
"It's the areas that really have these cumulative impacts, the three factors that we take account of in the study that have really come under sort of major pressure.
"But even there, there are reefs that are still very, very lovely to visit."
Last week AM reported a Climate Commission study that found global warming was putting increasing pressure on the Great Barrier Reef, potentially causing more bleaching events.
AIMS research director Dr Jamie Oliver says stopping the crown-of-thorns starfish could be the key to the reef's long-term survival.
"Now this is a native species which outbreaks in enormous proportions, killing off large proportions of the reef, and this is something that we may be able to take some action on," he said.
"If we can at least disrupt these outbreaks, that may give the reef a chance to recover from the other factors that we describe such as cyclones and coral bleaching."
More at the link, as well as video interview with John Gunn.A sobering study released today shows more than half of Australia's Great Barrier... more
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Walking a mile does not seem like much to some people but for anyone who has cerebral palsy its a challenge. One man with the condition in the area is planning on using his great strength to walk 75 miles.
CJ Campbell left Rockford today on one big walk all the way to the Chicago suburb of Evanston where Over the Rainbow Association is headquartered. The organization offers housing and employment opportunities to adults with disabilities with seven complexes thought the state. Campbell lives at the Rockford location and feels our country's greatest disability is one of apathy.
Campbell spoke to WIFR, "I can impact the world around me too. Also I don't have to define myself by the disabilities I have but I can define myself as the human being that I am"
Walking at a pace of about seven miles a day, CJ expects to get there august 12Th.ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Walking a mile does not seem like much to some people but for... more
If Lake Michigan looks like it has shrunk in the past year, it's not a mirage.
Water levels are eight inches below last July, and 20 inches below their long-term average for this month. The lake now hovers a little less than a foot above its record low for July, set in 1964.
Nature - precipitation, temperature, lack of winter ice cover - is a driving force behind lake levels, but humans have a played a significant role as well.
It long has been acknowledged that historic dredging and mining in the St. Clair River, the primary outflow for Lakes Michigan and Huron, permanently lowered the connected lakes by about 16 inches.
A recently completed $15 million study funded by the U.S. and Canadian governments found that unexpected erosion since a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging project on the river in the early 1960s dropped the lakes' long-term average by as much as an additional five inches. But that study, co-led by an Army Corps employee, concluded that the erosion is not ongoing and is therefore not triggering further water loss.
The study authors initially decided there was no need to explore some type of physical fix on the St. Clair to slow the outflow from Michigan and Huron and restore the lost water, but they were overruled by the International Joint Commission, which funded the study and oversees U.S. and Canadian boundary waters issues.
The study authors subsequently evaluated a range of options and concluded a variety of structures could indeed be built to throttle flows on the St. Clair, but they determined that any such project could take decades to complete, cost up to nearly $200 million and inflict harm in some areas of the lakes as well as benefit others.
They also noted such a "fix" could cause trouble for endangered sturgeon in the St. Clair, as well as exacerbate erosion and other problems if high water returns in the coming years, which is a distinct possibility given the vagaries of long-term weather patterns, as are further declines.
The ultimate conclusion of the study submitted to the Joint Commission this spring is that learning to live with ever-fluctuating lake levels is the best way to deal with the problem. But the Joint Commission has not decided whether to accept that recommendation, and on Thursday about 60 people turned out for a public hearing in Milwaukee to weigh in on the issue. Most who spoke didn't buy the study board's recommendation to essentially do nothing.
More at the linkIf Lake Michigan looks like it has shrunk in the past year, it's not a mirage.... more
The cool La Niña phase has been dominant in the past three years and that is normally associated with cooler global temperatures.
NOAA has released its “State of the Climate Global Analysis” for May 2012. Here are the highlights:
~The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for May 2012 was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F). This is the second warmest May since records began in 1880, behind only 2010.
~The Northern Hemisphere land and ocean average surface temperature for May 2012 was the all-time warmest May on record, at 0.85°C (1.53°F) above average.
~The globally-averaged land surface temperature for May 2012 was the all-time warmest May on record, at 1.21°C (2.18°F) above average.
This warmth is particularly impressive because, as NASA noted earlier in the year, “The cool La Niña phase of the cyclically variable Southern Oscillation of tropical temperatures has been dominant in the past three years” – and that is normally associated with cooler global temperatures. NOAA points out, “ENSO neutral“ ocean conditions just emerged in May. It’s just hard to stop the march of manmade global warming … other than by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is.
Unfortunately, this record-breaking Northern Hemisphere warmth for May is in the worst possible places, with temperatures as much as 5°C (9°F) above the 1971-2000 base period over large parts of both southern Greenland, home to a fast disintegrating ice sheet, and northern Russia, home to vast stores of frozen carbon in the form of the permafrost (aka permamelt).
Last year, a major study by NOAA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, found that thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100. Then Nature published a study warning that thawing permafrost could cause 2.5 times the warming of deforestation. We need to act to reduce emissions quickly before this “anomalous” temperature becomes the norm for the tundra.
Continued at link
By Joe Romm on Jun 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/06/14/499800/noaa-second-hottest-may-on-record-globally-hottest-for-northern-hemisphere/The cool La Niña phase has been dominant in the past three years and that is... more
Six years after the Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), or baiji, was declared "functionally extinct" by scientists, another marine mammal appears on the edge of extinction in China's hugely degraded Yangtze River. In less than two months, 32 Yangtze finless porpoises (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis), a subspecies of the finless porpoise, have been dead found in Dongting and Poyang Lakes in the Yangtze, reports the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The porpoises are suffering from many of the same impacts that pushed the baiji to extinction: illegal electrofishing, strikes by boat propellors, poisons, and possibly pollution and food shortages from lower water levels linked by officials to climate change. Autopsies show that at least two of the animals were killed by electrofishing and boat propellers.
"This tragedy shows that Yangtze finless porpoise is facing enormous challenges," Lei Gang, head of WWF China's Central Yangtze program, said in a press release. "The porpoise deaths illustrates that without effective measures to fundamentally reverse the trend of ecological deterioration, future of the incredible creature is far from certain. We have to act immediately."
Researchers believe that around 1,000 Yangtze finless porpoises survive in the river with the population in dramatic decline. Currently, the IUCN Red List is evaluating the subspecies to see if the situation warrants classifying the population as Critically Endangered.
Breakneck development, including a series of dams, with little environmental regard has left the ecology of the Yangtze River in shambles. Aside from the baiji's extinction, many of the river's key species are vanishing. The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), arguably the world's biggest freshwater fish, is listed as Critically Endangered with only two fish confirmed since 2002. Scientists fear the fish may be soon gone for good, if not already, after a 2009 survey couldn't find a single fish. In addition the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis), the Yangtze sturgeon (Acipenser dabryanus), and the Yangtze soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) are all listed as Critically Endangered.
Still, a controversial new hydroelectric project, the Xiaonanhai Dam, is moving ahead despite concerns that it will finish off a number of the river's endangered fish, many found no-where else in the world. .
Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0501-hance-yangtze-porpoise.html#ixzz1tkD1b58hSix years after the Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), or baiji, was declared... more
In what may be the biggest daily tornado outbreak on record for March, an entire month's worth of twisters struck in a single day.
More photos at the linkIn what may be the biggest daily tornado outbreak on record for March, an entire... more
The biggest trees in the world, known as the true ecological kings of the jungle, are dying off rapidly as roads, farms and settlements fragment forests and they come under prolonged attack from severe droughts and new pests and diseases.
Big trees may comprise less than 2% of the trees in any forest but they can contain 25% of the total biomass and are vital for the health of the whole forest. Credit: us-parks.com
Long-term studies in Amazonia, Africa and Central America show that while these botanical behemoths may have adapted successfully to centuries of storms, pests and short-term climatic extremes, they are counter-intuitively more vulnerable than other trees to today's threats.
"Fragmentation of the forests is now disproportionately affecting the big trees," said William Laurance, a research professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. "Not only do many more trees die near forest edges, but a higher proportion of the trees dying were the big trees.
"Their tall stature and relatively thick, inflexible trunks, may make them especially prone to uprooting and breakage near forest edges where wind turbulence is increased," Laurance said in this week's New Scientist magazine.
Big trees may comprise less than 2% of the trees in any forest but they can contain 25% of the total biomass and are vital for the health of whole forests because they seed large areas. "With their tall canopies basking in the sun, big trees capture vast amounts of energy. This allows them to produce massive crops of fruits, flowers and foliage that sustain much of animal life in the forests. Their canopies help moderate the local forest environment while their understory creates a unique habitat for other plants and animals," Laurance said.
"Only a small number of tree species have the genetic capacity to grow really big. To grow into giants, trees need good growing conditions, lots of time and the right place to establish their seedlings. Disrupt any one of these and you lose them."
In some parts of the world, Laurance said, populations of big trees are dwindling because their seedlings cannot survive or grow. "In southern India an aggressive shrub is invading the understorey of many forests, preventing seedlings from dropping on the floor. With no young trees to replace them, it's only a matter of time before most of the big trees disappear."
According to Laurance, it is not just the biggest trees in the world that are suffering, but also the biggest in their communities. Dutch elm disease killed off many of the stateliest trees in Britain in the 1960s and 70s, and new exotic organisms and bacterial infections, often brought in from other continents via garden centers, are threatening oak, ash and other species.
Longer lasting and more intense droughts, which are becoming more frequent in many tropical areas with climate change, are also taking their toll. Studies in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica suggest that big trees also suffer more in droughts than most other organisms.
"In rainforests droughts promote surface fires that burn through leaf litter on the forest floor. Larger trees were initially thought to survive these fires but, in fact, many die two to three years later. In cloud forests, big trees use their branches and crowns to rake the mist and capture water droplets. Global warming could push clouds up to higher elevations depriving them of sources of moisture," Laurance said.
"The danger is that the oldest, largest trees will progressively die off and not be replaced. Alarmingly, this might trigger a 'positive feedback' that could destabilize the climate: as older trees die, forests would release their stored carbon, prompting a vicious circle of further warming and forest shrinkage."
more at the linkThe biggest trees in the world, known as the true ecological kings of the jungle, are... more
In a field in which all the candidates are weak in terms of protecting the environment, Ron Paul is unquestionably the worst. Here is his position (taken directly from his website):
"Eliminate the ineffective EPA. Polluters should answer directly to property owners in court for the damages they create – not to Washington."
OK, what’s wrong with this proposal? Here are a few things:
Why just property owners? Why not other people with health effects? Is there some reason why a tenant with asthma can’t sue, but a company with paint damage can go to court? Because property values matter, but not human health?
Who would be the defendants? If you live in a big city, how do you sue all of the polluters for damage? Do you sue everyone who has a car or truck for contributing to air pollution? How do you pay for the expert witnesses and legal fees?
Why only damages? If he truly believed in property rights, he’d allow injunctions to stop the harm from continuing.
How would courts handle the immense body of litigation? The pollution suits would be the world’s biggest class actions, with millions of plaintiffs, swarms of defendants, huge fees for expert witnesses, etc. Is that really what conservatives want?
We’ve already tried this approach, and it didn’t work. This is more or less where the law stood fifty years ago. We didn’t pass modern environmental laws because we loved regulation; we passed them because the old system led to massive air and water pollution.
This isn’t a policy proposal. It’s a libertarian fantasy. And a callous one at that.
Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.
More at the linkIn a field in which all the candidates are weak in terms of protecting the... more
The banks of China’s Yangtze River are crowded with chemical factories, which dump massive amounts of toxic waste water into the river, affecting hundreds of millions of people who rely on the river for drinking water. Nevertheless, a Chinese official recently stated that the Yangtze’s water quality “overall is good and can be used safely.”
According to a recent Economics Information Daily report, latest data from the Yangtze River Water Resources Protection Bureau says that the total polluted water discharged into the Yangtze exceeded 33.9 billion tons this year and is increasing at a rate of 2 percent per year.
Data released by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection last December said there are over 400 thousand chemical factories, five major steel manufacturing centers, and seven major oil refineries along the banks of the Yangtze.
The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, measuring 6,300 km. It contains 40 percent of China’s water resources and flows through 11 provinces and regions, with around 550 million people living on its banks.
He Chunyin, director of Jiangsu Environmental Protection Bureau, told Ningbo Daily, the majority of cities along the Yangtze get their drinking water from the Yangtze. If the river is polluted, then there is no other water source. Many new chemical factories are now operating in the middle and western regions of China, but since these regions are less developed, there is not much regulation. Consequently, the polluted water will be discharged into the river, affecting the downstream, he said.
With such massive pollution, water quality has become an issue of major concern for the Chinese public while officials are trying to play it down or turn a blind eye.
Zang Xiaoping, deputy director of the Yangtze River Water Resources Protection Bureau, told Wuhan Evening News there wasn’t much to be worried about. The annual flow of the Yangtze River is nearly 1 trillion tons. 30 billion tons of polluted water will not cause much harm, except create some sectional pollution, he said.
“Overall water quality is good, and can be safely used,” he said.
Chinese netitizens have a different view.
A post on the club.kdnet forum said: “The annual water flow of the Yangtze River is around 951.9 billion, compare to 33.9 billion ton of water: 339/9519 = 3.56 percent. Isn’t this pollution level too high?”
Another person said, “So 3 percent of polluted water, that means 15 ml in a water bottle, how is that safe?”
In April, the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection jointly issued China’s environmental macro strategy research report. The report said that nearly half of China’s drinking water does not meet drinking water standards. 190 million people are drinking water with excessive levels of harmful substances. More than 90 percent of cities’ groundwater supply is contaminated.
The many kinds of pollutants also make water purification very difficult. An employee at a water plant in southwestern China told The Epoch Times, there are over 60 different types of chemicals in the drinking water, making it very hard to purify. However, due to the scarcity of water resources and water reserves, even if the water is not fit for drinking, as long as there is no acute major chemical poisoning situation, authorities will not shut down water supplies due to fear of causing social instability.
Another staff in charge of water quality testing told The Epoch Times, whenever people come from the water quality test center to inspect water quality, the water plant will give them special treatment. Every inspector gets a red envelope with money in it.
“So as long as no major incident happens, everyone will keep one eye open, and one eye closed,” he said.The banks of China’s Yangtze River are crowded with chemical factories, which... more
Scientists are probing whether pollution may have caused 70 pilot whales to strand in north west Scotland last month. The whales may have been poisoned by years of toxic waste.
Experts have now asked the UK government for £20,000 to carry out the first such major diagnostic tests on a super pod in Scotland - which could show the legacy of decades of pouring toxic chemicals into the sea.
No such link between strandings and pollution has ever been proved before - but scientists say they are now finding killer whales with toxic readings "hundreds" of times over the limit.
There are growing fears that Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB's) - which are now banned - are so prevalent in the marine environment that over a period of time they have entered the food chain widely.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is now being asked for £20,000 of the £50,000 of toxicology tests that the Scottish Agriculture College-led investigation into the recent stranding in Sutherland wants to probe.
The Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme is continuing to investigate the cause of what is believed to have been Scotland's largest ever stranding of pilot whales, in the Kyle of Durness on July 22. Some 25 of the 70 whales are believed to have died.
Leading experts from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and Institute of Zoology in London will all be involved in the toxicology tests.
Samples have been taken from 16 of the dead whales.
SAC's Veterinary Investigations Officer Dr Andrew Brownlow said these samples provided an "unique" opportunity to conduct a whole range of diagnostic tests.
"Some of the pilot whales were around 50 years old - and their ages range down to those of a calf," he said.
"We want to run the tests to try and find the underlying cause of the stranding. We know these animals feed high-up in the food chain and many had lived a long time. PCBs have been around in the marine environment - perhaps more than anywhere else - for a very long time."
"They were used as coolants for things like generators and transformers. But they are highly toxic and long lasting. They can have a wide range of physiological effects none of which are good. Cetaceans are prone to them because they build up in the fat. Calves can have a particularly high level because they feed on fatty milk from their mothers.
"We want to see what levels of PCBs there were in this group. Some male killer whales have been found to have PCB levels hundreds of times higher than the suggested limit for humans. We just don't know the effect that PCBs are having on marine wildlife and this investigation will help us understand what is going ion in the seas. It could be very important - that is why we have asked for the funding. We hope to have an answer within a couple of weeks."
Dr Brownlow added that the possibility of killer whales, underwater earthquakes and naval explosive clearance in the area would also be probed.
Navy divers who helped in the rescue had been in the area carrying out explosions on undetonated devices in the days prior to the stranding. Nearby Garvie Island is a major military bombing range.
The Navy has denied that its explosions - which it has carried out for years in the area - could have caused the stranding.
But Dr Brownlow that the situation could be like "Russian roulette" - this time with the explosions going off at the wrong time when whales were in the area.
"We have asked the Navy for a timeline of its underwater explosions. I am also pretty sure that whatever brought them into the Kyle it was not food. It maybe that we never find a physical reason why they stranded but it's important that we look."
In May, around 60 pilot whales appeared in Loch Carnan, South Uist, although they left the loch after one of the mammals died. Another dead whale was later found on an island in the loch.
A post-mortem examination suggested the first had died of infection.
At the end of October last year, other pilot whales almost got stranded in Loch Carnan.
Less than a week later 33 whales, believed to be the same group, were found dead on a beach in Co Donegal in Ireland.
Pilot whales are known to prefer deep water but come inshore to feed on squid, their main food.
The investigation is the first one on a mass stranding in the UK for three years when a group of dolphins beached at Weymouth in Dorset.
More at the linkScientists are probing whether pollution may have caused 70 pilot whales to strand in... more
Somalis Waste Away as Insurgents Block Escape From Famine
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: August 1, 2011
PHOTO: A malnourished child at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. More than 500,000 Somali children are verging on starvation.
Amid Famine, Dangers Hinder Aid to Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia — The Shabab Islamist insurgent group, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
The group is widely blamed for causing a famine in Somalia by forcing out many Western aid organizations, depriving drought victims of desperately needed food. The situation is growing bleaker by the day, with tens of thousands of Somalis already dead and more than 500,000 children on the brink of starvation.
Every morning, emaciated parents with emaciated children stagger into Banadir Hospital, a shell of a building with floors that stink of diesel fuel because that is all the nurses have to fight off the flies. Babies are dying because of the lack of equipment and medicine. Some get hooked up to adult-size intravenous drips — pediatric versions are hard to find — and their compromised bodies cannot handle the volume of fluid.
Most parents do not have money for medicine, so entire families sit on old-fashioned cholera beds, with basketball-size holes cut out of the middle, taking turns going to the bathroom as diarrhea streams out of them.
“This is worse than 1992,” said Dr. Lul Mohamed, Banadir’s head of pediatrics, referring to Somalia’s last famine. “Back then, at least we had some help.”
Aid groups are trying to scale up their operations, and the United Nations has begun airlifting emergency food. But many seasoned aid officials are speaking in grim tones because one of Africa’s worst humanitarian disasters in decades has struck one of the most inaccessible countries on earth. Somalia, especially the southern third where the famine is, has been considered a no-go zone for years, a lawless caldron that has claimed the lives of dozens of aid workers, peacekeepers and American soldiers, going back to the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993, spelling a legacy that has scared off many international organizations.
“If this were Haiti, we would have dozens of people on the ground by now,” said Eric James, an official with the American Refugee Committee, a private aid organization.
But Somalia is considered more dangerous and anarchic than Haiti, Iraq or even Afghanistan, and the American Refugee Committee, like other aid groups, is struggling to get trained personnel here.
“It is safe to say that many people are going to die as a result of little or no access,” Mr. James said.
This leaves millions of famished Somalis with two choices, aside from fleeing the country to neighboring Kenya or Ethiopia, where there is more assistance. They can beg for help from a weak and divided transitional government in Mogadishu, the capital. Just the other day there was a shootout between government forces at the gates of the presidential palace. “Things happen,” was the response of Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Somalia’s new prime minister.
Or they can remain in territory controlled by the Shabab, who have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and have tried to rid their areas of anything Western — Western music, Western dress, even Western aid groups during a time of famine.
Somalis Waste Away as Insurgents Block Escape From Famine
By JEFFREY... more
Greenland's ice sheet melted the most it has in over a half century last year, US government scientists said Tuesday in one of a series of "unmistakable" signs of climate change.
"The world continues to warm," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a briefing paper for reporters.
"Multiple indicators, same bottom-line conclusion: consistent and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom of the oceans."
An annual climate survey, which includes work by scientists from 45 countries, said that ice sheet in Greenland melted at its highest rate since at least 1958, when similar data first became available.
Arctic sea ice shrank to its third smallest area on record, while the world's alpine glaciers shrank for the 20th straight year, the study said.
In line with previous studies, the survey said that 2010 was also one of the hottest years on record.
Last year was either tied for the hottest or the second hottest on record, depending on methodology. But all methodologies used showed the temperature to be at least 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 Celsius) above the average recorded in the three decades through 1990.
The survey noted that 2010 was exceptional for its extreme events, including a deadly heat wave in Russia, floods in Pakistan that displaced more than 20 million people and record snowfall in several US cities.
A series of studies have voiced alarm at the rapid pace of melting in the Arctic Ocean, which could lead to a rise in sea levels that threatens low-lying coastal areas and islands.
The Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program said in May that warming in the Arctic was on track to lift sea levels by up to 5.3 feet (1.6 meters) by 2100, a far steeper jump than predicted a few years ago.
More at the linkGreenland's ice sheet melted the most it has in over a half century last year, US... more
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These days I wish I had Dorothy’s red ruby shoes. I want to slip my feet into them, click my heels three times and go back in time.These days I wish I had Dorothy’s red ruby shoes. I want to slip my feet into... more
Last month the Strokes released a new album ("Angles") after a five-year hiatus, but the too-cool-for-school quintet have struggled to recapture their early magic. Enter infoMania's music expert, Sergio Cilli, to stage a Music Intervention. Because "ennui" is just a silly French word, not an acceptable guiding philosophy for a rock band.
infoMania is a half-hour comedy show that airs weekly on Current TV. Picture the ultimate office water-cooler, only with funnier co-workers who willingly stay up late imbibing all forms of media so you don't have to. Caveat: Bring your own water. Hosted by Brett Erlich and co-starring Sergio Cilli, Erin Gibson, Ben Hoffman and Bryan Safi, infoMania airs on Thursdays at 11/10c on Current TV.
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Current Media, the Peabody-and Emmy Award-winning television and online network founded in 2005 by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, engages viewers with smart, provocative and timely programming -stories that no one else is telling in ways that no one else is telling them. Current's programming shines a light where others won't dare and boldly explores important subjects -- opening minds, sparking conversations and forming deep connections with its viewers. The channel's audience is comprised of affluent, curious, social and connected adults who crave the kind of entertaining, enlightening, witty and informative programming found on Current's TV and online properties. Current is now available via cable and satellite TV in 75 million households worldwide - 60 million households in the US - through distribution partners Comcast (Channel 107); Time Warner ; DirecTV (Channel 358 nationwide); Dish Network (Channel 196 nationwide); Verizon and AT&T. In the UK and Ireland, Current is available on BSkyB (Channel 183) and Virgin Media (Channel 155), and in Italy, Current is available on Sky Italia (Channel 130). Viewers can also find Current online at www.current.com.Last month the Strokes released a new album ("Angles") after a five-year... more
As glaciers melt and island populations migrate from shores to escape rising seas, many scientists remain baffled as to why the research consensus on human-induced climate change remains contentious in the U.S.
The frustration revealed itself during a handful of sessions at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., this past weekend, and it came to a peak during a Friday session, “Science without borders and media unbounded.”
Near the session’s conclusion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel asked a panel of journalists why the media continues to cover anthropogenic climate change as a controversy or debate, when in fact it is a consensus among such organizations as the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Association, National Research Council and the national academies of more than two dozen countries.
"You haven't persuaded the public," replied Elizabeth Shogren of National Public Radio. Emanuel immediately countered, smiling and pointing at Shogren, "No, YOU haven't." Scattered applause followed in the audience of mostly scientists, with one heckler saying, "That's right. Kerry said it."
A tone of searching bewilderment was typical of a handful of sessions that dealt with the struggle to motivate Americans on the topic of climate change. Only 35 percent of Americans see climate change as a serious problem, according to a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
It's a given that an organized and well-funded campaign has led efforts to confuse the public regarding the consensus around anthropogenic climate change.
And in the absence of such a campaign, as in South Korea, there is no doubt about the findings of climate science, said Sun-Jin Yun of Seoul National University. All three of the nation's major newspapers—representing conservative, progressive and business perspectives—accept climate change with little unjustified skepticism.
Still, it is hard to explain the intransigence of the U.S. public and policy-makers on the issue.
Explanations: the media, under-education or denialism
Tom Rosensteil of the Project for Excellence in Journalism pointed the finger at the media, focusing on its overall contraction in the past two decades. Shrinking budgets have led to a proliferation of quick, cheap reporting, as well as discussion and commentary formats that rarely provide informative discussions of actual science results.
"What is shrinking is the reportorial component of our culture in which people go out and find things and verify things," he said. Truth has little chance to make itself known in the new narrow and shallow public square.
Poll after poll, and even late night TV, seems to revel in Americans’ ignorance of basic scientific facts, including the fundamentals of physics and biology.
Is this "deficit model" then the reason for our failure to accept climate change? Naomi Oreskes, a University of California, San Diego, science historian rejected that hypothesis that during a session on climate change denialism. "It's quite clear there are many highly educated people who do not accept global warming," she said. Still, scientists "must communicate climate science as clearly and effectively and robustly as we can," she added.
The current political and cultural context drive the nation's denialism around climate change, evolution and vaccines, said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, during a session. Education and scientific literacy and general intelligence levels are not causing the problem.
Meanwhile, most Americans in fact are ignorant of the facts of climate science and even "confuse climate change with the ozone hole," Schmidt remarked. The processes around the latter's disappearance are related to global warming but "how is that a basis for having any sensible conversation?" he asked.
Solutions: Smart talking and media mastery
Surveys show that most people want more information about climate science, Schmidt said, so scientists should engage in public forums such as blogs, question-and-answer sessions and public talks, provided they are not simply stacked with angry debaters.
Scientists must engage with the public and be vigilant against projecting stereotypes of their profession—such as the elitist, arrogant scientist, Schmidt said.
Rosensteil echoed this advice and further urged scientists to bypass the media, who are no longer critical intermediaries for reaching the public given the growth of the blogosphere and the general fragmentation of the industry.
cont.As glaciers melt and island populations migrate from shores to escape rising seas,... more
"An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.
As reflected in previous studies, the likelihood of extreme precipitation on any given day rose by about 7 percent over the last half of the 20th century, at least for the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere for which sufficient figures are available to do an analysis.
The principal finding of the new study is “that this 7 percent is well outside the bounds of natural variability,” said Francis W. Zwiers, a Canadian climate scientist who took part in the research. The paper is being published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.
The paper covers climate trends from 1951 to 1999 and therefore does not include any analysis of last year’s extreme precipitation, including catastrophic floods in Pakistan, China and Australia as well as parts of the United States, including Tennessee, Arkansas and California. However, the paper is likely to bolster a growing sense among climate scientists that events like the 2010 floods will become more common.
Indeed, an increase of weather extremes has been a fundamental prediction of climate science for decades. Basic physics suggests that as the earth warms, precipitation extremes will become more intense, winter and summer, simply because warmer air can carry more water vapor. Weather statistics confirm that this has begun to happen.
Scientists have long been reluctant to attribute any specific weather event to global warming, but a handful of papers that do so are beginning to appear in the scientific literature. One such installment is being published on Thursday in Nature as a companion piece to the broader paper. It finds that severe rains that flooded England and Wales in 2000, the wettest autumn since record-keeping began there in 1766, were made substantially more likely by the greenhouse gases released by human activity.
In that analysis, scientists at the University of Oxford used computer time donated by the public to analyze the climate of Britain in 2000 as it actually existed and to compare that with a hypothetical climate in which the Industrial Revolution never happened and few greenhouse gases were released.
The computers found that the chances of those memorable floods, which sent geese swimming through city streets, were roughly doubled in a climate with the greenhouse gases.
That it took a decade to come to that conclusion illustrates one of the major problems of climate science at the moment. Researchers are barraged with questions about weather extremes like the recent winters in Europe and the United States and the heat waves and droughts of last summer."
"An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries... more