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FOOTPRINTS #25 – October 2008
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Megafauna biomass tradeoff as a driver of Quaternary and future extinctions – UCLA
Earth's most recent major extinction episode, the Quaternary Megafauna Extinction, claimed two-thirds of mammal genera and one-half of species that weighed more than 44 kg between 50,000 and 3,000 years ago. Estimates of megafauna biomass (including humans as megafauna) suggest that growth of human biomass largely matched the loss of non-human biomass until about 12,000 years ago. Then, total biomass crashed, because many non-human megafauna species suddenly disappeared, whereas human biomass continued to rise. After the crash, the global ecosystem gradually recovered into a new state where biomass was concentrated around one species, humans, instead of being distributed across many species. Pre-crash biomass levels were finally reached just before the Industrial Revolution began, then skyrocketed above the pre-crash level as humans augmented the energy available to the global ecosystem by mining fossil fuels.
Seaside landowners draw battle line in the sand - The Age
Property owners along Gippsland's Ninety Mile Beach have had 95% of the value of their land wiped out over concerns climate change will see their coastal blocks swamped. Some owners have seen the value of their properties drop from $45,000 to $2,500. Already $30 million has been slashed from 2500 properties along Victoria's Gippsland coast.
Sydney Morning Herald cartoon: PM Rudd struggling with the economy .....
European Union makes power firms pay for all emissions – Australian
The future of coal-fired power generation in Europe has been called into question after the EU backed laws that would force power companies to pay for all their carbon dioxide emissions from 2013. The decision could cost the power industry E30 billion a year and could trigger a steep rise in electricity bills, represents a huge boost for the renewable energy industry. The Bill effectively prevents the building of new coal-fired power plants from 2015 unless equipped with CCS (carbon capture and storage technology). The move came despite fierce resistance from power industry lobbyists, who said the EU's aggressive emissions-cutting targets should be weakened because of the global financial crisis.
Is California on the Brink of Environmental Collapse - Rachel Olivieri
California has the greatest, most ecologically destructive water projects on Earth. It has spared no expense to either taxpayers or natural ecosystems to attain its status as the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet. It would surprise few that California was built on gold, greed, extraction, depletion, extinction, dubiously acquired large-landed semi-desert agricultural empires, well-gifted railroad land grants fueling speculative growth, and highly subsidized stolen water -- all comprising a tunnel vision for overextended populations and infinite growth in a world utterly finite. The incomprehensible vulnerability of California's over-reaching population centers, the projected urban expansion of the Central Valley, and the weight of climate-warming models leaves one haunted by civilization's lack of respect for a land's entitlement to its water and the food systems that it naturally perpetuates.
Planet Eaters- Andrew Glikson
The history of Earth includes five major mass extinctions which define the ends of several periods, including the Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Each were triggered by extraterrestrial impacts, massive volcanic eruptions, or methane release and related greenhouse events. Yet, with the exception of the role of methanogenic bacteria in relation to methane eruptions in the past, the Sixth mass extinction is a novelty: For the first time in its history, the biosphere is in crisis through biological forcing by an advanced form of life, namely the activity of a technological carbon-emitting species. The sharp glacial-interglacial oscillations of the Pleistocene (1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago), with rapid mean global temperature changes by up to 5C over short periods of, in some instances, a few years, culminated in an extreme adaptability .....
The ultimate gas leak that scientists dreaded - The Independent
Methane is about 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and there are massive stores of it locked away under the permafrost of the northern hemisphere. Methane is produced naturally by the decay of water-logged vegetation. Over thousands of years it has accumulated under the ground at northern latitudes and has effectively been taken out of circulation by the permafrost acting as an impermeable lid. What makes methane so potentially dangerous is that its release from under the now-leaking permafrost could accelerate global warming, which in turn would speed the melting of the permafrost and release even more methane. This has happened in the geological past with devastating consequences for the global climate and life. Methane concentrations in the atmosphere have risen significantly from about 700 parts per billion (ppb) in 1800 to about 1,790ppb today. Much of this increase is down to human activities, notably oil and gas exploration, and agriculture.
Government pledges to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 – Guardian
Ed Miliband, the new energy and climate change secretary, said that the current 60% target would be replaced by the higher goal. He warned energy companies to act "in a satisfactory way" to reduce charges for customers with pre-payment meters, Greenpeace said: "This is a hugely encouraging first move from the new climate change secretary. In a decade in power Labour has never adopted a target so ambitious, far-reaching and internationally significant as this. To meet it will require determined action from Gordon Brown and every one of his successors for the next four decades. Hard choices will be made that will touch every Briton, but it can and must be done.
Borneo's Moment of Truth - National Geographic
The majestic forests are vanishing in smoke and sawdust, but there's still hope for the island's fabled biodiversity—if the palm oil rush can be slowed. Considering the island's unsurpassed biodiversity—from orangutans and rhinoceroses to tiny mosses and beetles not yet discovered—and the rate at which its forests are being lost, Borneo's future may well be the most critical conservation issue on our planet. It's an increasingly desperate sory for lowland forests, the prime habitat for most of Borneo's wealth of biodiversity, including orangutans and elephants. During the past two decades, an estimated two million acres were cleared annually prompting warnings of "dire consequences" of "the current state of resource anarchy". It is believed that lowland forests could be totally destroyed by 2010. Also, in the past 20 years vast, single-crop plantations of oil palm have spread across Borneo to meet the demand for the versatile (and vastly profitable) oil derived from palm oil is used for cooking, cosmetics, soap, desserts, and a seemingly endless list of other products, including biofuel. Indonesia and Malaysia provide 86 percent of the world's supply; growing conditions are perfect on Borneo for this green gold. Even as conservationists spread the news about palm oil's contribution to global deforestation Indonesia has become the world's number one producing country, with 15 million acres under cultivation, a figure that may double by 2020.
15 EU countries on track to meet Kyoto targets – AAP
The EU's 15 original member nations are on target to meet Kyoto treaty commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions pledging by 2012 to reduce by 8% their C)2 emissions. The bloc was still far from implementing other measures, including a European Commission proposal that the bloc derives 20 percent of its energy from renewable supplies by 2020.
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