Oceans are the Heart and Blood of the Earth — But are They Healthy?

By Stephen Leahyapollo17_earth.jpg

Nov 27 (IPS) – If continents are the Earth’s sturdy bones and the atmosphere its thin skin, then the oceans are its heart, circulatory system and blood. And despite the crucial role played by the oceans in the health of the planet, and to our own health and well-being, there is little monitoring of ocean health.

Once the oceans were too big and too deep to probe, measure and observe, but between satellites, undersea robots, electronically tagged fish and deep sea sensors, scientists now have the tools.

On Tuesday, high-level officials began meeting in Cape Town, South Africa to see if governments have the will to create a Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) — a 10-year project to create a comprehensive monitoring system of what has been described as the last frontier.

“We have pathetically few measurements of the oceans relative to their importance to life on Earth and the extent to which we rely on them for energy, weather, food and recreation,” said D. James Baker, former administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Continue reading

Philippines hit by 13 Major Storms – Two Arrive Today


Although the Atlantic hurricane season has been relatively quiet, the Eastern Pacific has already seen 24 typhoons (hurricane). The Philippines have been hit by 13 this season and two arrived this week, including one that killed 13 people last week and and then completely reversed itself and returned. Over a half million people have been forced from their homes.

Related stories:
First Ever: Two Hurricane Landfalls on Same Day – Pix
Hurricane Felix Category Five — Pix
Steve’s Hurricane Handbook 2007
Hurricane Katrina Only Cat 1/2 When It Hit New Orleans – NOAA

Junk Food and Smoking to Kill 100s of Millions in Poor Countries

By Stephen Leahy


Man lighting a cigaret

Nov 26 (IPS) – Chronic, non-infectious diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes kill more than twice as many people than HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis, experts warn.

In the next 10 years, some 388 million people will die of these largely preventable diseases, which are caused mainly by smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. Often thought to be diseases of the rich, most of these deaths will be in the developing world, conclude the authors of a study published in the journal Nature this month.

“We have a huge health crisis here that few policymakers and other officials are aware of,” said lead author Dr. Abdallah S. Daar of the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Developing countries, and medical and donor groups have focused almost entirely on infectious diseases, Daar told IPS. “But that’s like putting out one fire in a house burning from both ends,” he said.

Continue reading

5 Year Countdown to an Extreme Climate (podcast)

Alex Smith, podcaster extraordinaire and host of Radio Ecoshock, features a blunt and terrifying assessment of climate change by Sir David King, the United Kingdom’s chief scientist.

Smith writes:

“Sir David King warns we are headed toward a hot-state planet, not seen since 55 million years ago (when life huddled on Antarctica).

The only way out, he says, is a binding international agreement by 2009. Even so, we only have a window of 5 years to act, to cut carbon drastically. Otherwise, the global climate may shift by 5 degrees C. ( 9 degrees Fahrenheit) or more. Keep in mind, that’s the just the global average. The arctic may go up 14 degrees or more.”

Listen to Sir David King interview on Australia’s ABC radio network as he addresses a wide range of issues including the so-called sceptics, politics and the latest science.

As Sir David points out the international community must finalize an agreement to dramatically cut emissions of carbon dramatically by 2009. Those negotiations begin in Bali Dec 3. While I won’t be in Bali, I will be writing some stories about the negotiations and the implications.

Related stories:
Climate Change Experts Warn World
Kill Kyoto or Kyoto II Our Only Hope?

Kill Kyoto or Kyoto II Our Only Hope?

franke-polar-sml.jpg“We don’t have time to start over… global carbon emissions have to peak in 2015 …”Jonathan Pershing, World Resources Institute

By Stephen Leahy

Nov 21 (IPS) – Total greenhouse gas emissions of 40 industrialised countries rose to a near all-time high in 2005, but the Kyoto Protocol will still exceed its reduction targets, a United Nations agency said two weeks before political leaders meet in Bali, Indonesia to begin negotiations on a new and more aggressive treaty to battle climate change.

“Greenhouse-gas emissions between 1990 and 2000 went down, but then between 2000 and 2005 they increased again, by 2.6 percent,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol are expected to achieve reductions of 11 percent compared to 1990 by 2012 if their policies deliver the promised reductions, the UNFCCC report said — a significant achievement and surpassing the Kyoto Protocol target of five percent.

“For the totality of Kyoto signatory countries, reductions of 15 percent are feasible should additional policies be planned and implemented,” de Boer said. Continue reading

30 Million Lead-laden TVs Dumped on Poor Countries

“The US has an appalling system that makes it easy to dump e-waste on the developing world.”Barbara Kyle, Electronics TakeBack Coalition.

By Stephen LeahyCopyright EMPA, Switzerland

Nov 21 (IPS) – U.S. citizens will buy 30 million new digital televisions this year alone, sending their old lead-laden TVs to the dump, or more likely, overseas to China or India.

“It’s an astonishing number that will send millions of pounds of lead to landfills or overseas,” said Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition.

Non-digital TVs contain up to eight pounds of lead, which is a potent neurotoxin. While new digital flat screen TVs don’t have lead, they do contain mercury, another neurotoxin.

“It’s no longer illegal in the U.S. to export e-waste (electronic waste) to developing countries,” Kyle said.

Changes in rules and regulations in recent years to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have created an “appalling system that makes it easy to dump e-waste on the developing world”, she said. Continue reading

Climate Change Experts Warn World

We are riding in an airplane with the bolts falling out while heading into a storm.”

By Stephen Leahy*

TORONTO, Nov 19 (Tierramérica) – In the end, governments accepted evidence from the world’s top scientists that climate change impacts could be abrupt and irreversible, and that they require urgent action.

“The threat is real,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“I have seen the impacts of climate change in Antarctica and the Amazon with my own eyes,” Ban said in a press conference in Valencia, Spain, at Saturday’s public unveiling of the Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“It is a very strong document. It sends a stark message that we face abrupt and irreversible impacts,” said Hans Verolme, director of the climate change programme for the international environmental group WWF.

Continue reading

‘Climate Apocalypse Around the Corner’ says Renowned Scientist


The rapid warming of our planet is unstoppable and will be apocalyptic Professor James Lovelock said in a speech at the Royal Society in London, England 29th October 2007 (video link of speech below)

[See also my 2009 interview with Lovelock “I Hope We Are Civilised When Climate Disaster Hits” -Stephen]

An eminent and influential scientist, Lovelock first proposed the Gaia Hypothesis that the Earth as a single highly complex organism the 1970s. Now proven correct, Lovelock told the experts in attendance that “now we are at war with the Earth and as in a blitzkrieg, events proceed faster than we can respond“.

james-lovelock.jpgHe calculates that Earth’s average global temperature will shoot up an apocalyptic 6 degrees C when the atmosphere has 500 ppm of CO2 (carbon dioxide). At the current, accelerating rate of CO2 emissions that may come in as soon as 30 years but almost certainly before 2050.

Some tipping points have been reached. Positive feedbacks “on heating from the melting of floating Arctic and Antarctic ice alone is causing an acceleration of system-driven heating whose total will soon or already be greater than that from all of the pollution CO2 that we have so far added.”

What Do We Do Now……?

Lovelock’s Five Step Survival Guide: Continue reading

Human Cloning Likely Legal and Popular

“Chances are clones will soon be sharing the planet with us.” — Brendan Tobin, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland


Photo: “Jamie Clone” © 2007 citymorningblue. Used with kind permission.

By Stephen Leahy

Nov 13 (IPS) – As scientists master the technology to clone primates, some legal experts worry that human clones are no longer in the realm of science fiction, and wonder what legal rights they would have in the absence of an international ban on the practice.

More than a dozen animal species have been cloned in the last decade, including sheep, cows, dogs and pigs. Just last summer, a U.S. research team reported the first-ever cloning of a primate. A rhesus monkey embryo was cloned from adult cells and then grown to generate stem cells.

“Human clones are absolutely inevitable,” says Brendan Tobin, a barrister with the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, who researched a United Nations University (UNU) report on the issue.

Continue reading

Acid Oceans to ‘Dissolve’ Coral Reefs in 30 years

By Stephen Leahy

BROOKLIN, Canada, Nov 12, 2007 (IPS)

Coral reefs face certain extinction in a few decades unless there are unprecedented reductions in carbon emissions, leading Australian scientists warn.

Corals around the world may be nothing but rubble before a child born today turns 30 years old, and almost certainly before they’re 50.

The reason? Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere are turning the oceans acidic far faster than previously observed.

“It isn’t just the coral reefs which are affected. A large part of the plankton in the Southern Ocean, the coccolithophorids, are also affected,” said Malcolm McCulloch, an environmental research scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra.

[Update Sept 2010 – wide spread coral bleaching reportedWhat if our air was 30% more acidic like the Oceans? May be 120% more acidic by 2060]

“These (coccolithophorids) drive ocean productivity and are the base of the food web which supports krill, whales, tuna and our fisheries,” McCulloch said in a statement. Continue reading