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What A Week It Was: Apocadocuments from
View By Scenario:
Species Collapse:(3)
Climate Chaos:(10)
Resource Depletion: (3)
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This Week's Top Ten Very Scary Tags:
health impacts  ~ contamination  ~ economic myopia  ~ global warming  ~ ecosystem interrelationships  ~ carbon emissions  ~ unintended consequences  ~ oil issues  ~ airborne pollutants  ~ climate impacts  ~ deniers  

ApocaDocuments (26) gathered this week:
Sun, Dec 19, 2010
from London Daily Mail:
Sandal-wearers won't save us from global warming - but greed and the U.S. Navy will
...I was in Cancun for the talks. But as the days passed, I spent less and less time chronicling the blather of the diplomats. It was moonshine at the Moon Palace. Instead, I cruised the numerous side meetings, where experts were discussing deeds rather than words. And what I heard was staggering. People you would never suspect of being wedded to fighting climate change - rear admirals and farmers, shipping magnates and loggers - were all discussing their plans to cut their pollution and create a new low-carbon world, without the UN or any other global agreement. Because they wanted to, and because it will make them money. Many environmentalists hate them for it. They want burden-sharing and hair shirts. They insist we must all suffer to fight climate change. But the truth is we are at a tipping point where green burden-sharing gives way to green profit-seeking. ...

Whatever works, dude, whatever works.


Sun, Dec 19, 2010
from Toronto Globe and Mail:
On the move in a warming world: The rise of climate refugees
... Across the Sahel, a band of semi-arid land south of the Sahara stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, an estimated 10 million people suffered food shortages this year, including 850,000 children who are acutely malnourished and could die without urgent care. In the Sahel region of Chad, more than 20 per cent of children are acutely malnourished, on top of a chronic malnutrition rate of about 50 per cent. In some regions, mothers are desperately digging into anthills in search of tiny grains and seeds for their children. And this is just one of many places around the world where the changing climate has left the people dependent on foreign aid. When the 190-nation climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, staggered to an end last weekend, there was no binding agreement on curbing carbon emissions and no sign of a treaty to replace the soon-expiring Kyoto Protocol. The negotiators will try again next December. But regardless of those negotiations, the facts on the ground will not change: The climate is growing more precarious, and millions of people are on the move. The question now is whether to encourage them to migrate - or to salvage their ravaged land with long-term investment, instead of simply handing out emergency aid. ...

Is there no other option, such as colonizing Mars? C'mon, people, where's the can-do vision?


Sun, Dec 19, 2010
from Washington Post:
Probable carcinogen hexavalent chromium found in drinking water of 31 U.S. cities
An environmental group that analyzed the drinking water in 35 cities across the United States, including Bethesda and Washington, found that most contained hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen that was made famous by the film "Erin Brockovich." The study, which will be released Monday by the Environmental Working Group, is the first nationwide analysis of hexavalent chromium in drinking water to be made public. It comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to set a limit for hexavalent chromium in tap water. The agency is reviewing the chemical after the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, deemed it a "probable carcinogen" in 2008. ...

The EPA should review the film as well.


Sat, Dec 18, 2010
from IRIN:
Nigeria: Corruption-fed unrest in Delta keeps communities in turmoil
According to the military's Joint Task Force (JTF), the 1 December attack by its troops on the village of Ayakoromor, 50km south of Warri, was a planned operation, targeting suspected criminals. But the Red Cross says thousands of people fled, many taking refuge in swamps, then heading to nearby villages.... Civil society and human rights activists say as long as the Nigerian authorities do not achieve a long-term solution to unrest and criminality in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, local communities will continue to suffer the fallout. They say a 2009 government amnesty programme, while a potentially positive step, will not resolve the longstanding causes of the Niger Delta conflict. The vast wetlands region sits atop more than 30 billion barrels of top-grade oil and substantial gas deposits, but it is one of the most impoverished regions in Nigeria, according to the UN Development Programme. "Unless the government addresses the political and financial corruption - at both the state and federal level - that has robbed the people of their right to health, education and the development of their region, the anger that drives militancy and criminality will continue," Eric Guttschuss, Human Rights Watch's Nigeria researcher, told IRIN. ...

It's hard to say what could be worse / than blessed with petroleum, thus doubly cursed.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010
from BBC:
Poisoning drives vulture decline in Masai Mara, Kenya
Vulture populations in one of Africa's most important wildlife reserves have declined by 60 percent, say scientists. The researchers suggest that the decline of vultures in Kenya's Masai Mara is being driven by poisoning. The US-based Peregrine Fund says farmers occasionally lace the bodies of dead cattle or goats with a toxic pesticide called furadan. This appears to be aimed at carnivores that kill the livestock, but one carcass can poison up to 150 vultures.... "People may think of vultures as ugly and disgusting, but the birds are essential for the ecosystem," he says. Their taste for carrion actually makes them the landscape's clean-up team - ensuring the region is not littered with bodies, helping contain the spread of disease and recycling nutrients.... The terrible consequences of a vulture population crash have already been demonstrated during a case that became known as the Asian vulture crisis.... "If we lost the vultures," says Dr Murani, "tourists would have to travel around the reserve with face masks on, because the stench from rotting wildebeest carcasses would be unbearable." ...

"Ugly and disgusting," yes, but less so than a landscape littered with rotting wildebeest carcasses.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010
from NPR:
Long Wait May Be Over For Science Guidelines
Long-awaited guidelines ordered by President Obama last year to prevent government research from being altered or suppressed for political purposes so the integrity of government scientists can be protected could be released as early as Friday. The guidelines are nearly 11/2 years overdue. During that time, the administration has drawn criticism for its own scientific missteps. ...

Let's hope the guidelines emerge without revision!


Fri, Dec 17, 2010
from DesdemonaDespair:
The Twelve Doomiest Stories of 2010
Ice-capped roof of world turns to desert: Scientists warn of ecological catastrophe across Asia as glaciers melt and the continent's great rivers dry up.... Death of coral reefs could devastate nations, have 'tremendous cascade effect for all life in the oceans': Coral reefs are part of the foundation of the ocean food chain. Nearly half the fish the world eats make their homes around them. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide -- by some estimates, 1 billion across Asia alone -- depend on them for their food and their livelihoods.... Ocean fish extinct within 40 years: The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 unless fishing fleets are slashed and stocks allowed to recover, UN experts warned.... Oceans acidifying much faster than ever before in Earth's history: "It is not the first time in the history of the Earth that the oceans have acidified, but a disturbing aspect now is that it is occurring much faster than ever before. As a consequence, not only the pH value drops, but the saturation state of the oceans with respect to carbonate falls as well. Times are tough, especially for calcifying organisms," says Prof. Jelle Bijma, marine biogeoscientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute. ...

Thank goodness this is all a game, and we can just hit "reset" whenever we want to start over!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010
from New Scientist:
Carbon trading tempts firms to make greenhouse gas
A handful of Chinese and Indian chemicals companies seemingly have the world over a barrel - or rather a large number of barrels of a super-greenhouse gas called HFC-23, which is 14,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This week, apparently following Chinese threats to vent stockpiles of HFC-23 into the atmosphere, a UN panel issued two million valuable carbon credits to a company called Juhua. It has a factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, where the gas can be destroyed. Nobody needs HFC-23. It is a waste by-product of the manufacture of a refrigerant called HCFC-22, used mostly in developing nations.... The offer only applies to HCFC-22 plants that were built before 2000. Even so it has proved highly lucrative. By some estimates, the value of the carbon credits is up to 100 times the cost of incinerating HFC-23. The resulting income of Chinese companies alone is estimated to reach $1.6 billion by 2012.... As a result, the "waste gas" HFC-23 has become much more profitable to refrigerant factories than HCFC-22 itself. ...

Blackmail once again leads to murder.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010
from NASA, via environmentalresearchweb:
Humans consume increasing amounts of the biosphere
NASA satellite images have revealed that the biosphere is being placed under increasing strain as rising population on a global scale is accompanied by increased consumption of crops and animals per capita. If population and consumption continue to grow at present rates then by 2050 more than half of the new plant material generated on Earth each year will be required for humans. These findings were presented on Tuesday by NASA scientists at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco.... "These images tell us very dramatically that we do need to look at what kind of impact human consumption rates have on the ability of the biosphere to generate the supply," said Imhoff. He believes that the need for more plant products will have big implications for land management. As more land is required for agriculture, planning authorities will be faced with difficult decisions as they try to protect important ecosystems, such as boreal forest. ...

Don't worry -- the natural law of "supply and demand" means that the biosphere will just produce more widgets.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Earthworms Absorb Discarded Copper Nanomaterials Present in Soil
In a study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a team of scientists from the University of Kentucky determined that earthworms could absorb copper nanoparticles present in soil. One crucial step in determining the uptake of nanomaterials was discerning whether uptake of metal ions was released from the nanomaterials or the nanomaterials themselves. Using x-ray analysis, researchers were able to differentiate between copper ions and copper nanoparticles by examining the oxidation state of copper in the earthworm tissues.... Jason Unrine, the lead author of the study said, "This was one of the first studies to demonstrate that engineered nanomaterials can be taken up from the soil by soil organisms and enter food chains, and it has significant implications in terms of potential exposure to nanomaterials for both humans and ecological receptor species." ...

Uh-oh! Looks like "ecological receptor species" and "humans" are an intersecting set!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010
from Greenpeace:
Free 'print 'n' play' game: Big Oil Vs Greenpeace to save the Arctic
It's a free print & play board game called Deepsea Desperation. It's all about Greenpeace against Big Oil, with one player struggling to establish marine reserves in the very territory the other player wants to exploit. Through a mix of strategic lobbying, oil exploration, direct action and reserve creation, one of you will triumph. But beware: If you choose to be oil and get too many blowouts you'll have a deepwater slaughter on your hands, a mock twitter account handling your PR, pictures of dead animals in the paper, billions in damages and all those things that are so bad for your bottom line. And if a species falls extinct, you both lose.... Of course this isn't just a game. The world's oil companies really are trying to drill in some of the riskiest and most environmentally sensitive areas in the world. Marine reserves - think national parks at sea - really are the answer. World Park Antarctica is closed to industry because you helped us win the campaign to protect it. There's no reason we can't do the same in the Arctic, where oil companies are licking their lips as, without a trace of irony, they welcome the shrinking of the ice caps due to climate change. See, retreating ice frees up more places they can drill for oil. Unfortunately that will lead to more climate change. You see the problem here. We like to call this humanity's "Stupid Test." ...

Maybe the sides ought to be "future civilization" and "carbon producers."


Wed, Dec 15, 2010
from MediaMatters:
FOX boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science
In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."... A month after Sammon sent his memo, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies released data confirming that 2009 was the second warmest year on record and marked the end of the warmest decade on record. ...

FOX just wants us all to be happy. As patriotic Americans, we deserve it!


Wed, Dec 15, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Ancient forest emerges mummified from the Arctic
The northernmost mummified forest ever found in Canada is revealing how plants struggled to endure a long-ago global cooling. Researchers believe the trees -- buried by a landslide and exquisitely preserved 2 to 8 million years ago -- will help them predict how today's Arctic will respond to global warming. They also suspect that many more mummified forests could emerge across North America as Arctic ice continues to melt. As the wood is exposed and begins to rot, it could release significant amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- and actually boost global warming.... "Mummified forests aren't so uncommon, but what makes this one unique is that it's so far north. When the climate began to cool 11 million years ago, these plants would have been the first to feel the effects," Barker said. ...

Mummified forests releasing gases that then reveal more mummified forests -- are we sure this isn't another zombie-movie promo?


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Wed, Dec 15, 2010
from Los Angeles Times:
Livestock in U.S. gobble up the antibiotics
The U.S.-raised animals we eat consumed about 29 million pounds of antibiotics in the last year alone, according to a first-ever Food and Drug Administration accounting of antimicrobial drug use by the American livestock industry... Farmers feed these medications to the animals they raise for market in an effort to prevent disease from spreading among flocks of poultry and herds of livestock living in crowded and often unsanitary conditions. The medications also promote faster growth in many animals. The ubiquitous use of these medications is controversial because they are used to counter the effects of raising livestock in conditions that are unhealthy and widely considered cruel. But they represent a major public health concern too: the widespread administration of antibiotics to prevent infections in animals has made those same antibiotics less effective in fighting off disease in animals and in humans. That is because, when under constant bombardment by existing antibiotic medications, the viruses that cause disease evolve at an accelerated rate just to stay alive. The results: new viruses that are resistant to existing antibiotics, and a population that is is increasingly vulnerable to them. ...

If I were a cow I'd be mad as hell about this!


Wed, Dec 15, 2010
from Associated Press:
Environmentalists sue ExxonMobil over air laws
The largest oil refinery in the United States released more than 8 million pounds of illegal pollution in the past five years, violating the federal Clean Air Act thousands of times, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by environmental groups in Texas. The lawsuit against ExxonMobil is the latest by Sierra Club and Environment Texas as part of their campaign to rein in what they call "illegal emissions" by dozens of refineries and chemical plants that operate in the Texas Gulf Coast. In recent months, the groups have reached multimillion-dollar, out-of-court settlements with Shell and Chevron Phillips after filing similar suits. ExxonMobil denied the allegations and said it would fight the lawsuit... Texas has more oil refineries, chemical plants and coal-fired power plants that any other state and is the nation's leader in greenhouse gases. The state produces more than 20 percent of the nation's oil and one-third of the country's gas is refined along the Texas Gulf Coast. ...

Oil is the lifeblood of Uhmerica and it's the heart of Texas that pumps it.


Tue, Dec 14, 2010
from Associated Press:
Concerns Over Eagle Safety Stall Wind Projects
Fears that whirling wind turbines could slaughter protected golden eagles have halted progress on a key piece of the federal government's push to increase renewable energy on public lands, stalling plans for billions of dollars in wind farm developments. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management suspended issuing wind permits on public land indefinitely this summer after wildlife officials invoked a decades-old law for protecting eagles, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press. The restriction has stymied efforts to "fast-track" approvals for four of the seven most promising wind energy proposals in the nation, including all three in California. Now, these and other projects appear unlikely to make the year-end deadline to potentially qualify for hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funds. If extensions aren't granted in the lame duck session of Congress, the future of many of these plans could be in doubt. ...

Eagles, hoping to avoid being referred to as "lame eagles," are encouraging the reissue of these wind permits.


Tue, Dec 14, 2010
from BBC:
City lighting 'boosts pollution'
Bright city lights exacerbate air pollution, according to a study by US scientists. Their research indicates that the glare thrown up into the sky interferes with chemical reactions. These reactions would normally help clean the air during the night of the fumes emitted by motor cars and factories during the day. The study was presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. All those people going about their business in a city put a complex cocktail of chemicals into the air. From the tailpipes of cars to the chimneys of factories, it makes for a heady mix of molecules that nature then has to try to clean up. It uses a special form of nitrogen oxide, called the nitrate radical, to break down chemicals that would otherwise go on to form the smog and ozone that can make city air such an irritant on the chest. This cleansing normally occurs in the hours of darkness because the radical is destroyed by sunlight; it only shows up at night. ...

Bright lights, big city... noxious air.


Tue, Dec 14, 2010
from Plataforma SINC via ScienceDaily:
Blooming Jellyfish in Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean: Over-Fishing, Warming Waters to Blame
A study examining over 50 years of jellyfish data by an international team, with the participation of the Balearic Oceanography Centre of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) has confirmed an increase in the size and intensity of proliferations of the jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca. There are several complex reasons for this -- over-fishing and the current increase in sea water temperatures...The increase in jellyfish over the course of the year "directly" affects fisheries, fish farming and tourism "because of the jellyfishes' toxic effects and the poison in their tentacles, and because they appear particularly in the summer, having a significant socioeconomic impact," says Fernandez de Puelles. ...

Let's sic these beasts on climate skeptics!


Tue, Dec 14, 2010
from Edmunton Journal:
Mystery under our feet troubling
...one of Shell Canada's open pit mines in the oilsands...has sprung a leak at the bottom -- but instead of water running out, it's running in. Ever since October, brackish water from an underground source has been pouring into the bottom of the open mine like water filling a bathtub up through the drain hole. Shell initially dumped dirt into the leak as a sort of stopper but the water kept coming. And it's still coming, gradually filling up the pit that at its mouth is 400 metres by 400 metres. Shell officials have built a higher earthen wall around the pit and expect that in the coming months the water pressure will equalize and the leak will stop before it overflows...what's troubling here -- and why you should care about a watery mine pit in a remote part of northeastern Alberta -- is that experts don't know where the water came from, how much has flowed into the pit or how they can stop it.That's troubling because it demonstrates how little we know about the water under our feet. We don't know much about underground sources of drinking water and we know even less about the vast underground aquifers of salt water where we hope one day to dump vast amounts of carbon dioxide via carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). ...

Why, this sounds like a cute little BP blowout!


Tue, Dec 14, 2010
from London Guardian:
Chernobyl: now open to tourists
...the heavily contaminated area around the Chernobyl power plant will be officially open to tourists with an interest in post-apocalyptic vistas, late-period Soviet history, or both. Ukraine's emergency situations ministry said today that visitors would be offered tours inside the 30-mile exclusion zone set up after reactor four at the plant exploded on 26 April 1986, showering northern Europe in radioactive fallout. The disaster killed an unknown number of people - estimates for deaths from radiation exposure range from dozens to thousands - and forced around 350,000 people to leave their homes forever. While the area remains heavily contaminated, a ministry spokeswoman said, tourism routes had been drawn up which would cover the main sights while steering clear of the dangerous spots. ...

I'm only going if they serve hot pretzels on site.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010
from Fast Company:
Wik-Bee Leaks: EPA Document Shows It Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Honey Bees
Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists. The document, which was leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, shows that the EPA has ignored warnings about the use of clothianidin, a pesticide produced by Bayer that mainly is used to pre-treat corn seeds. The pesticide scooped up $262 million in sales in 2009 by farmers, who also use the substance on canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat, according to Grist.... The document invalidates a prior Bayer study that justified the registration of clothianidin on the basis of its safety to honeybees: "Clothianidin's major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects." The entire 101-page memo is damning (and worth a read). But the opinion of EPA scientists apparently isn't enough for the agency, which is allowing clothianidin to keep its registration. ...

I wonder which part of the name got changed: "Environmental" to "Economic", or "Protection" to "Pretension"?


Mon, Dec 13, 2010
from Reuters:
Analysis: Next climate test: how to adapt
...Because nations are unlikely to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to prevent climate change, world leaders must work out how developing nations will adapt to more severe weather predicted in coming years that will hit food and water supplies...Until now, most efforts have been on curbing greenhouse gases from factories, power plants and vehicles -- not on adapting to a changing climate of droughts, floods and a creeping rise in sea levels. The Cancun deal asks countries to submit ideas by February 21 about steps to set up an "Adaptation Committee." ...

I can get used to anything but committees.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010
from Pittsburg Post-Gazette:
'Clusters' of death
In many places around Western Pennsylvania residents see clusters of death and clusters of people sickened by cancer or heart and lung diseases. And, like Lee Lasich, a Clairton resident, they're frustrated that government health and environmental agencies don't see them too, don't do something about the problems and don't take a tougher stance on enforcement of air pollution regulations. Ms. Lasich, whose husband worked in U.S. Steel Corp.'s Clairton Coke Works and died after suffering from lung, prostate and throat cancers in 2004 when he was 53, is typical. She uses all the fingers of her right hand to tick off the names of friends who have died from brain cancer in her Constitution Circle neighborhood. She uses her left hand to count "a whole family that's got pancreatic cancers." ...

Maybe death is just a new trend.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010
from Stanford University, via PhysOrg:
Earthshaking possibilities may limit underground storage of carbon dioxide
Storing massive amounts of carbon dioxide underground in an effort to combat global warming may not be easy to do because of the potential for triggering small- to moderate-sized earthquakes, according to Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback. While those earthquakes are unlikely to be big enough to hurt people or property, they could still cause serious problems for the reservoirs containing the gas. "It is not the shaking an earthquake causes at the surface that creates the hazard in this instance, it is what it does at depth," Zoback said. "It may not take a very big earthquake to damage the seal of an underground reservoir that has been pumped full of carbon dioxide."... The other complication, Zoback said, is that for sequestration to make a significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the volume of gas injected into reservoirs annually would have to be almost the same as the amount of fluid now being produced by the oil and gas industry each year. This would likely require thousands of injection sites around the world. "Think about how many wells and pipelines and how much infrastructure has been developed to exploit oil and gas resources over the last hundred years," he said. "You need something of comparable scale and volume for carbon dioxide sequestration." ...

Well then, I'm sure glad we have clean coal technology that's just around the corner.


Mon, Dec 13, 2010
from Huffington Post:
South Korean Fishing Boat Sinks Off Antarctica
A South Korean fishing boat sank in the Antarctic Ocean's frigid waters Monday, with 22 sailors feared killed in the open sea where vessels trawl for deep-water fish.... Many fishing vessels ply the remote seas to haul in deep-water fish such as the Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass, to sell to restaurants around the world. With world consumption of seafood increasing, commercial fleets have begun to operate farther offshore to meet demand. ...

And how much "farther offshore" can we go, exactly, and for how long?


Mon, Dec 13, 2010
from Guardian: Opinion:
Climate change: human numbers don't add up
Save the planet? Somehow it seems so last year. Cancun - a climate change summit of modest achievement - rates 81 sparse lines of coverage in the Sunday Times, while Chris Huhne's apparent decision not to move in with his mistress rates 118. The BBC, having overspent on Chile's miners, duly hacked back on coverage of Mexico's major meeting. I didn't see one global warming placard in Parliament Square the other day. Protesting youth has other things on its mind. You can explain the fading of interest - and fear - in many ways, of course. Too much snow in November. Too many lectures from the pope. Too much concentration on the here and now of pinched pocketbook politics. Too many XYZ factors.... China's "one child" policy - which may have stopped 250-400 million births, on official calculations - is not a polite subject for discussion anywhere in the west. Indeed, it's often lumped into Beijing's long list of human rights abuses.... It costs 5 pounds on family planning to abate a tonne of CO2 - against 15 pounds for wind power and 31 pounds for solar power. In short, too many happy events equal global misery. It's the harsh truth where Cancun communiques fall silent. ...

If our population continues to grow into a collapsing world, the ApocaDocs will have A Modest Proposal...


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