Monthly Archives: January 2012

Shiite v. Sunni and Middle East stability

James Cogan, 26 January, 2012,

Relations between the Turkish and Iraqi governments have deteriorated sharply. In a speech to parliament on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the head of a Sunni Islam-based religious party, accused his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of a Shiite-coalition, of promoting sectarian violence against the Sunni minority in Iraq.

 Erdogan warned: “Maliki should know that if you start a conflict in Iraq in the form of sectarian clashes it will be impossible for us to remain silent. Those who stand by with folded arms watching brothers massacre each other are accomplices to murder.”

Erdogan was responding to complaints by Maliki that Turkey has been interfering in Iraqi domestic politics through its support for the largely Sunni-based Iraqiya coalition, which is engaged in a fierce power struggle with the government in Baghdad.

The implications of Erdogan’s statement are unmistakable. They amount to a direct threat that Turkey will support an intervention into Iraq on the same pretext of “defending civilians” used to justify the NATO-led intervention to oust Gaddafi regime in Libya. In the case of Iraq, intervention would be justified with the allegation that Maliki is persecuting the country’s Sunnis. Continue reading

Flooding worst threat facing UK

Flooding rated as worst climate change threat facing UK

Flood defences in summer 2007 at Upton on Severn, Worcestershire

Flooding is the greatest threat to the UK posed by climate change, with up to 3.6 million people at risk by the middle of the century, according to a report published on Thursday by the environment department.

The first comprehensive climate change risk assessment for the UK identifies hundreds of ways rising global temperatures will have an impact if no action is taken. They include the financial damage caused by flooding, which would increase to £2bn-£10bn a year by 2080, more deaths in heatwaves, and large-scale water shortages by mid-century.

Unusually for such documents, it also highlighted ways in which the country could benefit from milder winters and drier summers, such as fewer cold-related deaths, better wheat crops and a more attractive climate for tourists.

Lord John Krebs, chairman of the adaptation committee of the independent advisory group Committee on Climate Change, said that without planning and investment to deal with the threats the UK would “sleepwalk into disaster”. The benefits of climate change should also not be taken as reason to stop worrying about it, even with policies to reduce the threats, said Krebs: “Whether it will result in a net benefit we simply can’t tell.”

Scientists and other experts, led by Defra, identified 700 impacts of climate change in the UK, including the possibility of refugees arriving from wars over dwindling water and food.

High-impact events expected by mid-century included decreased forestation caused by red band needle blight, shortages in public water supply (especially in the north, Midlands and south of England), and worse water quality.

The assessors selected the 100 most pressing threats and opportunities and rated these according to their impact, the confidence of the modellers, and how soon the threats might occur. All the report’s forecasts assume no governmental action to reduce or remove the threats.

The four most immediate “high consequence” risks all concerned flooding, with the expectation that in 10 years or so there will be increased flood damage to homes, with knock-on effects on insurance premiums and mental health.

Between 1.7 million and 3.6 million people are expected to be at risk of flooding by 2050, without investment to lessen the threat.

Other issues highlighted by the report include changes in wildlife migration, alterations in species communities as plants and animals fail to move fast enough to thrive, sewer overflows polluting the coast, changes in the soil, erosion from heavier rains, loss of staff working-time from heat stress, changes in fish stocks, and wildfires in drier summers.

Julian Hunt, emeritus professor of climate modelling, at University College London, said the report’s finding that there would be longer periods of “static weather” and cloud cover, could threaten solar and wind energyfrom solar and wind sourcesenergy.

“This leads to dangerous urban heat island temperatures and droughts. But it also indicates the danger of lengthy, very low, wind conditions, or cloudy conditions – so low-carbon energy alternatives to wind and solar are essential,” said Hunt.

Peter Mallaburn, reader in climate policy at De Montfort University, said the need to save energy was in conflict with government policies not pushing for higher energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings.

“This report says, for the first time, that not only are our homes and offices leaky, but that they will start to overheat in a warmer world,” said Mallaburn. “We need a coherent strategy to sort out this mess. Let’s hope that this report acts as a wake-up call.”

Honeybee Colony Collapse Critical

Lets not forget that without pollination half of our foods cannot re germinate. 

Honeybee Problem Nearing A ‘Critical Point’

By Claire Thompson
13 January, 2012

Colony Collapse Disorder is a myth, neurotoxic pesticide causes bee deaths

Although news about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has died down, commercial beekeepers have seen average population losses of about 30 percent each year since 2006, said Paul Towers, of the Pesticide Action Network. Towers was one of the organizers of a conference that brought together beekeepers and environmental groups this week to tackle the challenges facing the beekeeping industry and the agricultural economy by proxy.

“We are inching our way toward a critical tipping point,” said Steve Ellis, secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board and a beekeeper for 35 years.

In addition to continued reports of CCD — a still somewhat mysterious phenomenon in which entire bee colonies literally disappear leaving not even their dead bodies behind — bee populations are suffering poor health in general, and experiencing shorter life spans and diminished vitality. And while parasites, pathogens, and habitat loss can deal blows to bee health, research increasingly points to pesticides as the primary culprit.

Of particular concern is a group of pesticides, chemically similar to nicotine, called neonicotinoids (neonics for short), and one in particular called clothianidin. Instead of being sprayed, neonics are used to treat seeds, so that they’re absorbed by the plant’s vascular system, and then end up attacking the central nervous systems of bees that come to collect pollen. Virtually all of today’s genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonics. The chemical industry alleges that bees don’t like to collect corn pollen, but new research shows that not only do bees indeed forage in corn, but they also have multiple other routes of exposure to neonics.

The Purdue University study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found high levels of clothianidin in planter exhaust spewed during the spring sowing of treated maize seed. It also found neonics in the soil of unplanted fields nearby those planted with Bt corn, on dandelions growing near those fields, in dead bees found near hive entrances, and in pollen stored in the hives.

“The insects start taking [the pesticide] home, and it contaminates everywhere the insect came from – we have become a nation driven by the chemical industry.”

Beekeepers have teamed up with the almond and blueberry industries — both of which depend on honey bee pollination — to tackle the need for education.

Unfortunately, it was the EPA itself that green-lit clothianidin and other neonics for commercial use, despite its own scientists’ clear warnings about the chemicals’ effects on bees and other pollinators. That doesn’t bode well for the chances of getting neonics off the market now, even in light of the Purdue study’s findings.

“The agency has, in most cases, sided with pesticide manufacturers and worked to fast-track the approval of new products, and failed in cases when there’s clear evidence of harm to take those products off the market”.


Solar power success!

Successful attempt to supply solar power over 24-hours. Even when the sun is not shining this Spanish installation provides power all the time. The only cost is maintenance. Why cant we do the same? Why dont we support geothermal also?

The Gemasolar power plant near Seville, Spain generates baseload electricity from the sun 24 hours a day. It stores heat in molten salt tanks to power the steam turbines when the sun is not shining.

Carbon emissions highest in 800,000 years

CARBON dioxide emissions increased by a record 5.9 per cent worldwide last year after a brief pause caused by the global financial crisis, according to new Australian-led research.

The annual analysis by the Global Carbon Project found that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2010 rose to 389.6 parts per million, the highest recorded in at least the past 800,000 years.

The countries which poured the most CO2 into the atmosphere last year were China, the US, India, the Russian Federation and the European Union, said CSIRO’s Pep Canadell, the project’s executive director.

Coal burning was at the heart of the growth in fossil fuel and cement emissions, accounting for 52 per cent.

Emerging economies were making a continuously increasing share of CO2 emissions, the research found.

The CSIRO’s Mike Raupach, who co-authored the study that was partly funded by the Australian government and appears in journal Nature Climate Change, said last year’s CO2 figures represented the highest annual growth recorded and highest annual rate of growth since 2003.

State of the planet in 2011

A few statistics from 2011

  • Last year was the largest increase in CO2 ever, almost 6%.
  • Last year the Arctic ice was less than ever and neighbouring Alaska and Siberia have never been hotter
  • Alaska and Siberia hold most of the world’s peat in permafrost
  • Peat contains methane, in unbelievable quantities, which is  21 times more potent than CO2
  • This methane is already being released as the permafrost melts
  • The last four times the earth reached 11C was when more methane escaped than C02.
  • This is the tipping point we are at!