|ApocaDocuments (22) gathered this week:|
Sun, Aug 28, 2011
Warming of the Mediterranean Sea hampers the resistance of corals and mollusks to ocean acidification
Some calcifiers (mussels, gastropods and corals) protect their shell or skeleton from the corrosive effects of increasing ocean acidification. They can therefore resist some of the damaging effects of increasing ocean acidity generated by the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere through human activities. This resistance is diminished when organisms are exposed to extended period of elevated temperature (28.5 deg C). This is a result of an international study (1), co-led by Jean-Pierre Gattuso, research scientist at Laboratoire d'océanographie de Villefranche (CNRS/UPMC), published in the journal Nature Climate Change. These results suggest that the ongoing and future warming of the Mediterranean combined with the rise of its acidity will increase the frequency of mass-mortality events....
The tissues and organic layers covering the shells and skeletons play a major role to protect them from the corrosive action of high-acidity seawater. However, the areas of shells and skeletons that are not protected by tissues or organic layers are vulnerable and more prone to dissolution. The higher the acidity, the faster dissolution is. The scientists have shown that this capacity to resist is much lower when the organisms are subject to an extended period of elevated temperature (28.5°C). At this temperature, mortality is increasing with increasing acidity.
Some Mediterranean invertebrates already live at their upper limit of temperature tolerance and have already experienced mass-mortality events. The combined effect of warming and increased acidity will likely increase the frequency of these events in the future. ...
That'll just leave more beach, right?
Sun, Aug 28, 2011
from ACS, via EurekAlert:
150 reports on sustainability and green chemistry at American Chemical Society Meeting
Here are the National Meeting's sustainability-related symposia, with the program area in parentheses for use in searching the online Technical Program for times and locations of individual presentations:
* Future Agricultural Consumer Safety Demands for the Global Market (AGFD)
* Advances in Protection of Agricultural Productivity, Public Health, and the Environment (AGRO)
* Endangered Species Act and Pesticide Regulation: Scientific and Process Improvements (AGRO)
* Managed Ecosystems, Pesticides, and Biodiversity (AGRO)
* Modern Agriculture and Biotechnology: Tools for Sustainability (AGRO) *
* Sustainability and Innovation for a Cleaner Environment (BMGT) *
* Nitrogen and the Human Endeavor: Chemistry, Effects, and Solutions (CASW) *
* Green and Advanced Technologies: Protection and Regulation (CHAL) *
* Creating Innovation by Collaboration in Green Chemistry Between Industry University Centers and Students (CHED) *
* Greening Undergraduate Education: Lecture and Laboratory Innovations (CHED) *
* A Sustainable Future: Interface of Energy, Food, Water, and Climate Sustainability (COMSCI) *
* Effects of Wildfire on Watersheds and Water Supply (ENVR)
* Emerging Issues and Solutions for Sustainable Water and Wastewater Systems (ENVR)
* Heterogeneous Catalysis for Sustainable Energy Applications (ENVR)
* Novel Solutions to Water Pollution (ENVR)
* Urban Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Climate Change, and Mitigating Impacts (ENVR)
* Advances in Membranes and Separation Science and Technology for Fuels and Energy Production (FUEL)
* Emerging Energy and Fuel Technologies: Batteries, Solar Cells, and Alternative Fuels (FUEL) *
* Emerging Energy and Fuel Technologies: Solar Hydrogen Production (FUEL) *.... ...
The theory of "chemistry" has not been fully proven, y'know.
Sat, Aug 27, 2011
from New York Times Environment:
Time to Start Work on a Panic Button?
For two decades, the world's governments have failed to meet their own commitment to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas. As frustration builds among scientists, some of them have begun to argue for research on a potential last-ditch option in case global warming starts to get out of control. It is called geoengineering -- or directly manipulating the Earth's climate....
Perhaps the single most prominent idea is to scatter sulfur compounds into the upper atmosphere, mimicking volcanic eruptions and causing some of the sun's light to bounce back to space. Other ideas include designing machines to capture carbon dioxide from the air and store it underground or in the deep ocean.
Most scientists who support this kind of research are emphatically not advocating that geoengineering schemes be undertaken now, and most of them hope society will never reach that point. But they do want a research program to quantify the potential risks and benefits, so that future political leaders will have some scientific basis if they ever have to make decisions on the issue....
The Government Accountability Office, an auditing and analysis arm of Congress, found that no geoengineering scheme could be responsibly deployed today, given the uncertainties. But it also found that a large majority of experts it interviewed were in favor of research to narrow those uncertainties. And the agency did public-opinion research that suggested the American people would favor such research, too, while also being concerned about the potential harm. ...
We've done it once; surely we can do it again, this time on purpose!
Sat, Aug 27, 2011
from Summit County Voice:
Biodiversity: Can aquatic fleas save the world's amphibians?
Working in a laboratory setting, Oregon State researchers say they've discovered a freshwater organism that eats the free-swimming spores of a fungal pathogen that's been devastating amphibian populations worldwide, including Colorado's endangered boreal toad.
This tiny zooplankton, called Daphnia magna, could provide a desperately needed tool for biological control of this deadly fungus if field studies show that the same process works in a natural setting....
"These are just your average Daphnia," zoologist and lead author Julia Buck said Friday in a telephone interview before heading into the field for more research. The small organisms are sometimes described as aquatic fleas. They're native northern and western North America and have been used for decades to test water for toxins.
"They're filter feeders ... so they're just taking in these zoospores," she said.
"There was evidence that zooplankton would eat some other types of fungi, so we wanted to find out if Daphnia would consume the chytrid fungus," said Buck, an OSU doctoral student in zoology and lead author on the study. "Our laboratory experiments and DNA analysis confirmed that it would eat the zoospore, the free-swimming stage of the fungus." ...
"Average," they may be, but they could become a mighty force for maintaining average!
Fri, Aug 26, 2011
from Science News:
Helping Bats Hold On
There, a pathologist confirmed that white-nose syndrome had officially reached Nova Scotia as well.
This year's Canadian cases mark the northernmost expansion of the syndrome. In the five years since the disease first arrived in caves near Albany, N.Y., it has spread to more than 190 sites in 16 eastern states -- with suspected cases in two more, west of the Mississippi -- and to four Canadian provinces. The disease's toll now exceeds well over 1 million bats.
It's "the most devastating wildlife disease in recorded history," says biologist Thomas Kunz of Boston University....
A mine that for ages served as New York's largest hibernaculum used to host more than 200,000 bats. Once white-nose struck, the resident population plummeted to 2,000 within just three years....
But there is growing concern that the initial waves of infection won't leave enough survivors to successfully breed and reproduce, jeopardizing the chance of building a more resistant population, says ecologist Winifred Frick of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Although bats mate in the fall, a female doesn't ovulate and become pregnant until the following spring, and then only if she is fat and healthy enough to support a pup. ...
Isn't about time we gave that fungus a stern talking-to?
Fri, Aug 26, 2011
from The Independent:
British team the first to row to the North Pole
A team of British adventurers was poised last night to become the first to row to the magnetic North Pole.
They were less than a mile from the end of their journey after a 28-day struggle through Arctic waters to complete a historic trip only made possible by climate change.
The retreat of the Arctic's summer ice sheet has left navigable water where only a few years ago explorers would have to walk if they wanted to reach the pole. It was still a close-run thing, with wind-driven ice floes threatening to smash into the reinforced rowing boat and destroy it. Ironically, the last two miles of the journey had to be completed by hauling the boat onto an ice floe which had floated over the pole as the team approached....
Mr Wishart, who has rowed across theAtlantic, added: "We are all exhilarated and relieved that weather conditions were in our favour. It is an enormous achievement, and a privilege for our team to have been part of what is one of the world's last great firsts." ...
I guess we humans still have a few things to discover.
Fri, Aug 26, 2011
from Washington Post:
State Department review to find pipeline impact "limited," sources say
The State Department will remove a major roadblock to construction of a massive oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas when it releases its final environmental assessment of the project as soon as Friday, according to sources briefed on the process.
The move is critical because it will affirm the agency's earlier finding that the project will have "limited adverse environmental impacts" during construction and operation, according to sources familiar with the assessment who asked not to be identified because the decision has not been made public.
Limited environmental impact; unlimited profits for the oil industry.
Thu, Aug 25, 2011
Arctic sea routes open as ice melts
Two major Arctic shipping routes have opened as summer sea ice melts, European satellites have found.
Data recorded by the European Space Agency's (Esa) Envisat shows both Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northern Sea Route open simultaneously.
This summer's melt could break the 2007 record for the smallest area of sea ice since the satellite era began in 1979....
But the Northern Sea Route has been free enough of ice this month for a succession of tankers carrying natural gas condensate from the northern port of Murmansk to sail along the Siberian coast en route for Thailand.
"They're often open at the same time in the sense that with some ingenuity you can get through them," observed Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice expert from the University of Cambridge.
"But this time they've really been open, with a proper Suez-size tanker going through the Northern Sea Route with a full cargo - that's a real step forward," he told BBC News. ...
One step forward, ten steps back.
Thu, Aug 25, 2011
Polar bear death at BP oil field under investigation
Federal authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of a polar bear at an Alaska oil field operated by BP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the oil company said on Thursday.
The female bear was shot in early August by a security guard working for a BP contractor and died of its wounds about 11 days later, the agency and BP officials said.
BP said the guard had been trying to ward off the bear rather than kill it and believed he was firing nonlethal ammunition....Polar bears, considered to be at risk because the Arctic sea ice they depend upon is dwindling, are listed as threatened with extinction under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They are also managed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which generally forbids hunting of the animals.
BP can either wait for global warming to kill them or take matters into their own hands.
Thu, Aug 25, 2011
Romney says he would not put limits on emissions
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in danger of losing his 2012 Republican primary front-runner status, on Wednesday he would not place restrictions on carbon emissions if elected.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, also said he does not know if human activity is the primary cause of climate change and does not favor spending heavily on climate solutions....
"Do I think the world's getting hotter? Yeah, I don't know that but I think that it is," he said. "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans."
"What I'm not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don't know the answer to." ...
Crazy idea: get experts in the field to tell you the answer!
Thu, Aug 25, 2011
from Christian Science Monitor:
Feared Khapra beetle pest intercepted at airport
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol investigators said Tuesday that they intercepted a feared nonnative beetle in bags of rice that arrived at O'Hare International Airport from India, the latest in a surge of discoveries of the hard-to-kill pest that could damage this country's grain industry if it became established.
The beetle, about 2 to 3 mm long, can damage up to 70 percent of grain, and can cause intestinal problems if eaten, officials said. Infestations are difficult to control because the beetle can survive for long periods of time without food or moisture -- including in spices, packaged food and stored grain -- is resistant to chemicals and can hide in tiny cracks and crevices.
If it were to become established in this country, "it's going to disrupt our economy" because of the volume of grain and wheat exported by farmers, Bell said. "Countries know they're getting a clean product (from the U.S.)."
Experts say the number of interceptions of the khapra beetle have increased dramatically in recent years. As of July 26, the bug has been intercepted 100 times nationwide, compared to an average 15 times in 2007-2009 and an average 6 times per year in 2005 and 2006, Bell said. Those shipments mostly have come from northern Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, he said. ...
Globalization, at the species level.
Wed, Aug 24, 2011
Humanity knows less than 15 percent of the world's species
Scientists have named, cataloged, and described less than 2 million species in the past two and a half centuries, yet, according to an new innovative analysis, we are no-where near even a basic understanding of the diversity of life on this small blue planet. The study in PLoS Biology, which is likely to be controversial, predicts that there are 8.7 million species in the world, though the number could be as low as 7.4 or as high as 10 million. The research implies that about 86 percent of the world's species have still yet to be described....
"We have only begun to uncover the tremendous variety of life around us," says co-author Alastair Simpson, also with Dalhousie. "The richest environments for prospecting new species are thought to be coral reefs, seafloor mud and moist tropical soils. But smaller life forms are not well known anywhere. Some unknown species are living in our own backyards—literally."
Less is even known about the threats to species in what scientists say is an age of mass extinction. ...
Ah, species, we hardly knew ye.
Wed, Aug 24, 2011
from NorthWest Herald:
NW Illinois mosquito batch tests positive for West Nile
McHenry County Department of Health officials have confirmed that the West Nile virus is in the area.
A trap of mosquitoes in Woodstock tested positive for the virus, the health department said in a news release.
The last positive test for West Nile virus in McHenry County was last year.
The health department has tested 103 mosquito pools this year, but previously none had tested positive, the department said.
Twelve other counties in the state have reported positive mosquito batches and birds for West Nile. ...
West Nile is a river in Egypt.
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Wed, Aug 24, 2011
from National Research Council:
Report Offers Framework To Guide EPA On Incorporating Sustainability In Its Decision Making
A new report from the National Research Council presents a framework for incorporating sustainability into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's principles and decision making. The framework, which was requested by EPA, is intended to help the agency better assess the social, environmental, and economic impacts of various options as it makes decisions.
The committee that developed the framework used the definition of sustainability based on a declaration of federal policy in the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act and included in a 2009 Executive Order: "to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations."...
The report recommends that EPA formally adopt as its sustainability paradigm the widely used "three pillars" approach, which means considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of an action or decision. Health should be expressly included in the "social" pillar. EPA should also articulate its vision for sustainability and develop a set of sustainability principles that would underlie all agency policies and programs.
Where's the money in that?
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from Huffington Post:
"Politics cannot deliver on what science requires": SA Foreign Minister
South Africa's foreign minister said Monday she is hoping for compromise but expects only incremental progress in climate change talks she's hosting, further lowering hopes the Durban meeting will produce a dramatic agreement to stop global warming.
There are fears that "politics cannot deliver on what science requires," Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told South African business leaders in a speech Monday.
She was speaking three months before talks in Durban that follow a failed round in Copenhagen in 2009 that undermined confidence the world could produce a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto provisions capping greenhouse gas emissions by industrial countries expire in 2012....
"I will need to find compromises that will protect the integrity of the process," Nkoana-Mashabane said....
The U.S., a key player, has already said it does not expect this year's climate change conference to yield a binding international agreement. ...
Lowered expectations cannot deliver on what reality requires.
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from Mother Jones:
USDA Scientist: Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide Damages Soil
The problem goes beyond the "superweed" phenomenon that I've written about recently: the fact that farmers are using so much Roundup, on so much acreage, that weeds are developing resistance to it, forcing farmers to resort to highly toxic "pesticide cocktails."
What Roundup is doing aboveground may be a stroll through the meadow compared to its effect below. According to USDA scientist Robert Kremer, who spoke at a conference last week, Roundup may also be damaging soil--a sobering thought, given that it's applied to hundreds of millions of acres of prime farmland in the United States and South America. Here's a Reuters account of Kremer's presentation:
The heavy use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide appears to be causing harmful changes in soil and potentially hindering yields of the genetically modified crops that farmers are cultivating, a US government scientist said on Friday. Repeated use of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup herbicide, impacts the root structure of plants, and 15 years of research indicates that the chemical could be causing fungal root disease, said Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service....
McNeill explains that glyphosate is a chelating agent, which means it clamps onto molecules that are valuable to a plant, like iron, calcium, manganese, and zinc.... The farmers' increased use of Roundup is actually harming their crops, according to McNeill, because it is killing micronutrients in the soil that they need, a development that has been documented in several scientific papers by the nation's leading experts in the field.
100,000,000 acres here, 100,000,000 acres there... pretty soon we're talking about real damage!
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from Brown University, via EurekAlert:
Nickel nanoparticles may contribute to lung cancer
All the excitement about nanotechnology comes down to this: Structures of materials at the scale of billionths of a meter take on unusual properties. Technologists often focus on the happier among these newfound capabilities, but new research by an interdisciplinary team of scientists at Brown University finds that nanoparticles of nickel activate a cellular pathway that contributes to cancer in human lung cells....
Nickel nanoparticles had already been shown to be harmful, but not in terms of cancer. Kane and her team of pathologists, engineers and chemists found evidence that ions on the surface of the particles are released inside human epithelial lung cells to jumpstart a pathway called HIF-1 alpha. Normally the pathway helps trigger genes that support a cell in times of low oxygen supply, a problem called hypoxia, but it is also known to encourage tumor cell growth.
"Nickel exploits this pathway, in that it tricks the cell into thinking there's hypoxia but it's really a nickel ion that activates this pathway," said Kane, whose work is supported by a National Institues of Health Superfund Research Program Grant. "By activating this pathway it may give premalignant tumor cells a head start." ...
Nanothelioma? Nicko-nano-carcinoma? At least we'll know the tumors will be small!
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from ABC News:
Jon Huntsman Comes Out Swinging Against GOP Rivals
Former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman came out swinging against his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, taking aim at Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann for statements made on the campaign trail about global warming, gas prices, and the Federal Reserve.
Huntsman warned that his opponents' stances on the "extreme end" may make them "unelectable" in the general election.... "The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party -- the anti-science party, we have a huge problem," Huntsman told ABC News Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper. "We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012."
"When we take a position that isn't willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said -- about what is causing climate change and man's contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position," Huntsman added. ...
A pro-science Republican? What's the world coming to?
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from Muncie Star Press:
Selma woman says crop duster soaked her
Sheri Stewart didn't know what to do when a crop duster soaked her and her home with pesticide recently.
"What she should have done was call us immediately," said Dave Scott, manager of the pesticide program at the state chemist's office. "If they get sprayed, they should take their clothing off, stick it in a clean garbage bag, take a shower and call us. The bottom line is, it's OK for crop dusters to be out there, but every product says you can't spray people or drift onto people. If you get sprayed, that's the greatest likelihood of absorbing the stuff."
Scott's office, which received a record 24 complaints of aerial agricultural pesticide applications drifting onto Indiana residences last year, didn't investigate Stewart's complaint because she didn't call. ...
Those pesticide people sound a little perverted.
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from New York Times:
Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers
This page opposes the building of a 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL, which would carry diluted bitumen -- an acidic crude oil -- from Canada's Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. We have two main concerns: the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.
The Canadian government insists that it has found ways to reduce those emissions. But a new report from Canada's environmental ministry shows how great the impact of the tar sands will be in the coming years, even with cleaner production methods.
It projects that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest -- a natural carbon reservoir. Extracting oil from tar sands is also much more complicated than pumping conventional crude oil out of the ground. It requires steam-heating the sands to produce a petroleum slurry, then further dilution.
One result of this process, the ministry says, is that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole will rise by nearly one-third from 2005 to 2020... ...
Sometimes it seems as if we want to destroy our world.
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
Water systems at risk from growing demand for food - expert
Efforts to feed an extra 2 billion people by mid-century could lead to widespread destruction of forests, wetlands and other natural systems that protect and regulate the world's water, researchers warn.
But finding ways to boost agricultural production while protecting nature could produce big benefits, including reduced poverty and hunger in some of the world's most fragile countries and hikes in food production that are sustainable beyond 2050... The question is particularly urgent as water runs short in some of the world's most important food-producing regions, including the plains of northern China, India's Punjab and the western United States, as well as in a broad swath of the Middle East and North Africa. ...
We might also rethink our rampant reproductive rates.
Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from Toronto Globe and Mail:
Dozens arrested outside White House during oil sands protest
A Canadian woman was among as many as 50 environmental activists handcuffed and taken to jail Sunday on the second day of peaceful White House protests against TransCanada Corp.'s controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Fifty protesters are already in a downtown D.C. jail following their arrests outside the White House on Saturday, the opening day of a two-week civil disobedience campaign.... President Barack Obama will decide by the end of the year whether to allow Calgary-based TransCanada to build the controversial, $7-billion (U.S.) pipeline. It would transport millions of barrels of Alberta oil sands crude a week through the American heartland and to Gulf Coast refineries.
Opponents say Keystone is an environmental disaster waiting to happen, pointing to a number of recent spills along pipelines. They also oppose Alberta's oil sands due to their high greenhouse gas emissions. Advocates, meantime, say the pipeline will create thousands of American jobs amid a lingering recession, and will also help end U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. ...
Someday soon, we'll all have jobs dying of the heat.
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