Archive for August 2008
In just two years from now 40 percent of the current weather and science satellites will be out of service. NASA budget cuts means few if any replacements are on the way. Billions of dollars will go into manned space efforts instead.
“The [George W.] Bush administration has decided going to Mars and the International Space Station is more important,” said Judith Curry, chair of climate and remote sensing at Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
“Earth sciences has taken a huge hit at NASA. That’s not a good thing for those of us living on Planet Earth,” Curry said.
“This is a very serious issue.”
For more see:
So why isn’t there a massive effort to “green up” existing buildings and set green standards for all new construction?
Apparently energy costs aren’t high enough. And then there are multi-billion-dollar government subsidies paid to the energy sector to lower the actual cost of energy, tilting the market away from green buildings towards the cheapest built structures.
FACT: The most efficient buildings today use about 70 percent less energy than conventional properties.
Despite proven environmental, economic and health benefits of green buildings they only account for 2% of all new commercial buildings and even smaller percentage of new homes.
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A new multi-million government PR campaign claims Canada is a “clean energy superpower“. Meanwhile oil production from Canada’s oil sands — the world’s dirtiest oil — is ramping up from 1.2 million barrels a day to 3.5 million. Sadly yet another example of a government resorting to the “big lie”.
By the way virtually all of this oil goes to the US market.
I wrote a series of investigative articles for IPS on the enormous environmental impacts of Canada’s oil sands in 2006. That series has been updated and collected into an e-Book format (download for free).
Here’s an excerpt from Oil Stains in the Boreal Forest: The Environmental Cost of Canada’s Oil Sands
THE ‘RECIPE’ TO MAKE A TANK (75 litres/20 gallons) OF OIL SANDS GASOLINE :
* Dig up two tonnes of earth and rock
* Burn up to 1500 cubic feet of natural gas to boil approx 700 litres of fresh water to process the dirt
* Throw away 950 litres of toxic mine tailings and emit 480 kilograms of CO2, the main greenhouse gas causing global warming
REPEAT 1.2 million times a day (one barrel of oil makes about 75 litres of gasoline)
Note: this analysis does not include local air pollution, impacts on wildlife and local people from oil sands operations and pipelines.
“Few people realize our health is directly tied to the health of the natural world,” – Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Harvard Medical School
Bernstein and colleagues reveal the latest scientific evidence to make a persuasive case that the current extinction crisis, with species vanishing every day, is a serious threat to humanity equal to, if not greater than, climate change.
“When we harm nature, we are harming ourselves,” says Bernstein.
Interview with Marine Scientist Roberto Iglesias-Prieto
By Stephen Leahy
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, U.S., Jul 31 (Tierramérica)
“There would be no white sands on the beaches of Cancún without the Mesoamerican reef,” Professor Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, a marine ecophysiologist working at the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Tierramérica.
Tourism is Mexico’s third leading source of revenue, and the country needs to invest much more in protecting its valuable coral systems, says the expert. But to explain the problems that coral reefs face “it is not enough to be an ecologist; one has to be an economist and political scientist as well,” he adds.
The Mesoamerican reef, which is off the Yucatán Peninsula and is shared by Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, extends 1,100 kilometres, making it the largest in the Atlantic Ocean and the second largest in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef east of Australia.
Corals are crucial for the health of oceans and are home to 25 to 33 percent of marine life. The livelihoods of one billion people rely on coral reefs, directly or indirectly.
But the reefs are dying as a result of excessive fishing, pollution and climate change, which is heating up the water and causing acidification.
Few coral reefs will be healthy beyond 2050 if significant reductions in emissions from the burning of fossil fuels do not occur in the near term, most experts in this field agree.
Tierramérica’s Stephen Leahy spoke with Iglesias-Prieto during the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in July in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Interview with climate expert Sir David King:
Humanity is now the primary driver of our climate
BARCELONA, Spain, Jul 22 (IPS) – Humanity faces enormous challenges at the start of the 21st century, says Sir David King, Britain’s former chief scientific advisor and now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University in England.
The crises surrounding climate change, population growth, water, food and land are deeply interconnected, Sir David said at the opening of the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, Friday.
The Forum, known as ESOF, is a biannual gathering of scientists, researchers, policy makers and journalists that has become Europe’s largest scientific showcase. This year, 4,700 people registered for the five-day conference in Barcelona from Jul. 18- 22.
In his role as chief scientific advisor, Sir David was outspoken in his warnings to political leaders that climate change is a far greater threat than terrorism and that the failure to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels would make terrorism far worse and create millions of environmental refugees.
IPS environmental correspondent Stephen Leahy spoke to Sir David at the symposium in Barcelona.
IPS: Population growth rates are slowing, what is your concern?
DK: Growth rates are beginning to slow. There are 6.8 billion people now and that will rise to 8 billion in 2028 and then peak at 9 billion in 2050, according to recent projections. However, that number of people will exert an impossible strain on the Earth’s natural resources.
For example, there isn’t enough fresh water for more than 8.5 billion people at our current average usage. Food production is limited by water availability and the only way forward will be to use genetic modification to create drought-tolerant crops. We here in Europe need to change our minds on GM crops. Those anti-GM attitudes probably crippled research and are responsible for a large number of hunger fatalities in Africa.
IPS: What about the current global food crisis? Read the rest of this entry »