by Staff Writers
Brussels, Belgium (SPX)
Volcanic eruptions, such as the one of the Karymsky volcano (Russia) in 2004, release sulphur dioxide to the atmosphere, which has a cooling effect. Geoengineering an ‘artificial volcano’ to mimic this release could be a solution to global warming, but one that may have undesirable effects for the Earth. Credit: Photo by Alexander Belousov of the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
A geoengineering solution to climate change could lead to significant rainfall reduction in Europe and North America, a team of European scientists concludes. The researchers studied how models of the Earth in a warm, CO2-rich world respond to an artificial reduction in the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface. The study was published in Earth System Dynamics, an Open Access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Tackling climate change by reducing the solar radiation reaching our planet using climate engineering, known also as geoengineering, could result in undesirable effects for the Earth and humankind.
In particular, the work by the team of German, Norwegian, French, and UK scientists shows that disruption of global and regional rainfall patterns is likely in a geoengineered climate.
“Climate engineering cannot be seen as a substitute for a policy pathway of mitigating climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” they conclude in the paper.
Geoengineering techniques to reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface range from mimicking the effects of large volcanic eruptions by releasing sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere to deploying giant mirrors in space. Scientists have proposed these sunlight-reflecting solutions as last-ditch attempts to halt global warming.
But what would such an engineered climate be like?
To answer this question, the researchers studied how four Earth models respond to climate engineering under a specific scenario. This hypothetical scenario assumes a world with a CO2 concentration that is four times higher than preindustrial levels, but where the extra heat caused by such an increase is balanced by a reduction of radiation we receive from the Sun.
“A quadrupling of CO2 is at the upper end, but still in the range of what is considered possible at the end of the 21st century,” says Hauke Schmidt, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany and lead author of the paper.
Under the scenario studied, rainfall strongly decreases – by about 15 percent (some 100 millimetres of rain per year) of preindustrial precipitation values – in large areas of North America and northern Eurasia.
Over central South America, all models show a decrease in rainfall that reaches more than 20 percent in parts of the Amazon region. Other tropical regions see similar changes, both negative and positive. Overall, global rainfall is reduced by about five percent on average in all four models studied.
“The impacts of these changes are yet to be addressed, but the main message is that the climate produced by geoengineering is different to any earlier climate even if the global mean temperature of an earlier climate might be reproduced,” says Schmidt.
The authors note that the scenario studied is not intended to be realistic for a potential future application of climate engineering. But the experiment allows the researchers to clearly identify and compare basic responses of the Earth’s climate to geoengineering, laying the groundwork for more detailed future studies.
“This study is the first clean comparison of different models following a strict simulation protocol, allowing us to estimate the robustness of the results. Additionally we are using the newest breed of climate models, the ones that will provide results for the Fifth IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Report,” explains Schmidt.
The scientists used climate models developed by the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre, the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace in France, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Norwegian scientists developed the fourth Earth model used.
by Staff Writers
Berkeley CA (SPX)
The Earth may be approaching a tipping point due to climate change and increasing population. Credit: Cheng (Lily) Li.
A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.
“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the journal Nature.
“The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”
The Nature paper, in which the scientists compare the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species, and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where.
The paper by 22 internationally known scientists describes an urgent need for better predictive models that are based on a detailed understanding of how the biosphere reacted in the distant past to rapidly changing conditions, including climate and human population growth. In a related development, ground-breaking research to develop the reliable, detailed biological forecasts the paper is calling for is now underway at UC Berkeley.
The endeavor, The Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology, or BiGCB, is a massive undertaking involving more than 100 UC Berkeley scientists from an extraordinary range of disciplines that already has received funding: a $2.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and a $1.5 million grant from the Keck Foundation. The paper by Barnosky and others emerged from the first conference convened under the BiGCB’s auspices.
“One key goal of the BiGCB is to understand how plants and animals responded to major shifts in the atmosphere, oceans, and climate in the past, so that scientists can improve their forecasts and policy makers can take the steps necessary to either mitigate or adapt to changes that may be inevitable,” Barnosky said.
“Better predictive models will lead to better decisions in terms of protecting the natural resources future generations will rely on for quality of life and prosperity.” Climate change could also lead to global political instability, according to a U.S. Department of Defense study referred to in the Nature paper.
“UC Berkeley is uniquely positioned to conduct this sort of complex, multi-disciplinary research,” said Graham Fleming, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for research. “Our world-class museums hold a treasure trove of biological specimens dating back many millennia that tell the story of how our planet has reacted to climate change in the past.
“That, combined with new technologies and data mining methods used by our distinguished faculty in a broad array of disciplines, will help us decipher the clues to the puzzle of how the biosphere will change as the result of the continued expansion of human activity on our planet.”
One BiGCB project launched last month, with UC Berkeley scientists drilling into Northern California’s Clear Lake, one of the oldest lakes in the world with sediments dating back more than 120,000 years, to determine how past changes in California’s climate impacted local plant and animal populations.
City of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, chair of the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee, said the BiGCB “is providing the type of research that policy makers urgently need as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare the Bay region to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. To take meaningful actions to protect our region, we first need to understand the serious global and local changes that threaten our natural resources and biodiversity.”
“The Bay Area’s natural systems, which we often take for granted, are absolutely critical to the health and well-being of our people, our economy and the Bay Area’s quality of life,” added Bates.
How close is a global tipping point?
The authors of the Nature review – biologists, ecologists, complex-systems theoreticians, geologists and paleontologists from the United States, Canada, South America and Europe – argue that, although many warning signs are emerging, no one knows how close Earth is to a global tipping point, or if it is inevitable. The scientists urge focused research to identify early warning signs of a global transition and an acceleration of efforts to address the root causes.
“We really do have to be thinking about these global scale tipping points, because even the parts of Earth we are not messing with directly could be prone to some very major changes,” Barnosky said. “And the root cause, ultimately, is human population growth and how many resources each one of us uses.”
Coauthor Elizabeth Hadly from Stanford University said “we may already be past these tipping points in particular regions of the world. I just returned from a trip to the high Himalayas in Nepal, where I witnessed families fighting each other with machetes for wood – wood that they would burn to cook their food in one evening. In places where governments are lacking basic infrastructure, people fend for themselves, and biodiversity suffers. We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth.”
The authors note that studies of small-scale ecosystems show that once 50-90 percent of an area has been altered, the entire ecosystem tips irreversibly into a state far different from the original, in terms of the mix of plant and animal species and their interactions. This situation typically is accompanied by species extinctions and a loss of biodiversity.
Currently, to support a population of 7 billion people, about 43 percent of Earth’s land surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use, with roads cutting through much of the remainder. The population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2045; at that rate, current trends suggest that half Earth’s land surface will be disturbed by 2025. To Barnosky, this is disturbingly close to a global tipping point.
“Can it really happen? Looking into the past tells us unequivocally that, yes, it can really happen. It has happened. The last glacial/interglacial transition 11,700 years ago was an example of that,” he said, noting that animal diversity still has not recovered from extinctions during that time. “I think that if we want to avoid the most unpleasant surprises, we want to stay away from that 50 percent mark.”
Global change biology
The paper emerged from a conference held at UC Berkeley in 2010 to discuss the idea of a global tipping point, and how to recognize and avoid it.
Following that meeting, 22 of the attendees summarized available evidence of past global state-shifts, the current state of threats to the global environment, and what happened after past tipping points.
They concluded that there is an urgent need for global cooperation to reduce world population growth and per-capita resource use, replace fossil fuels with sustainable sources, develop more efficient food production and distribution without taking over more land, and better manage the land and ocean areas not already dominated by humans as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
“Ideally, we want to be able to predict what could be detrimental biological change in time to steer the boat to where we don’t get to those points,” Barnosky said. “My underlying philosophy is that we want to keep Earth, our life support system, at least as healthy as it is today, in terms of supporting humanity, and forecast when we are going in directions that would reduce our quality of life so that we can avoid that.”
“My view is that humanity is at a crossroads now, where we have to make an active choice,” Barnosky said. “One choice is to acknowledge these issues and potential consequences and try to guide the future (in a way we want to). The other choice is just to throw up our hands and say, ‘Let’s just go on as usual and see what happens.’ My guess is, if we take that latter choice, yes, humanity is going to survive, but we are going to see some effects that will seriously degrade the quality of life for our children and grandchildren.”
US report finds injecting fracking wastewater underground can trigger seismic activity – with implications for CCS viability
Capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground could give rise to small earthquakes, according to a new report from the US National Research Council.
But the authors said there was too little research to be firm on the findings, and called for more work to be done.
The report examined sites where hydraulic fracturing – the practice of blasting dense rocks apart with water, sand and chemicals in order to release tiny bubbles of natural gas trapped within them – had been used. The authors found that fracking in itself carries only a low risk of causing earthquakes of sufficient magnitude to be felt by people.
The finding comes despite a report into the only major shale gas fracking site in the UK, near Blackpool, that found two earth tremors – far too small to do any damage but enough to be felt in nearby villages – were directly linked to the fracking activities.
However, the US report did find evidence that where wastewater was injected underground as a by-product of fracking – a procedure not used in the UK – earthquakes could occur. It is not clear why injecting wastewater underground carries a higher risk of seismic activity than fracking in itself. But the finding has clear implications for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, because that process would also require the injection of large volumes of gas or liquid – in the case of CCS, carbon dioxide under high pressure.
The authors called for more research to show whether these problems occurred with carbon capture and storage and whether they could be avoided.
The report also noted that despite the potential for earthquakes, no significant damage had been caused by fracking in the US. However, some tremors have been felt – similar to those in the Blackpool region – and have given concern to local residents.
The scientists said: “Technologies designed to maintain a balance between the amount of fluid being injected and withdrawn, such as most geothermal and conventional oil and gas development, appear to produce fewer induced seismic events than technologies that do not maintain fluid balance.”
They recommended closer oversight of such activities.
By Sophie Curtis, Techworld.com
Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, the founders of music-sharing site Napster, have launched a new browser-based video chat service called Airtime, that allows users to converse with friends and strangers via their Facebook networks.
An Airtime screen session. Source: Ben Baker/AirtimeIn some ways, Airtime is similar to Skype, enabling users to engage in one-to-one video chat with people they know. However, Airtime offers a split video-chat window, so that users can watch YouTube clips together while engaging in video chat.
Airtime also connects strangers based on location and shared Facebook interests. When users log on, they are not only presented with a list of friends they might want to talk to, but also a list of topics they might want to talk about, based on their Facebook “likes.”
By clicking on a topic, such as the TV show “Desperate Housewives,” the user is entered into a video chat with someone else who likes that show. Similar connections can be made on the basis of geographic location.
When the user no longer wants to talk to that person, they can press the Next button to move onto somebody different — a bit like Chatroulette, the once-popular online speed dating site which lost traction when it was overrun by users exposing their body parts.
Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning. Source: Ben Baker / Airtime”There’s something exciting about bringing spontaneity to the internet,” said Parker. “All of your interactions online are constrained by the people you already know. That wasn’t always the case.
“As we move from a social graph to an interest graph, there are great possibilities for our world. That’s what we’re trying to tap into with Airtime,” he added.
The founders made the point that all users are anonymous until they decide to reveal themselves. However, a report in Forbes states that Airtime will monitor video interactions by taking “snapshots of users periodically to ensure site safety.”
Airtime has raised a total of $33 million (£21m) in funding from investors including venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Google’s venture arm, actor Ashton Kutcher and pop star Will.i.am.
The new service was launched at an event in New York last week, attended by celebrities including Jim Carrey, Ed Helms, Alicia Keys, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Joel McHale, Olivia Munn, and Snoop Dogg. However, the event was reportedly riddled with technical glitches, leaving many of the attendees nonplussed.
Survival / Sustainability
A Comprehensive Supply List for Economic Collapse
by M.D. Creekmore (a.k.a Mr. Prepper)
This guest post is by Bam Bam and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
The article M.D. posted in last week’s Friday Miscellany on living conditions in Greece really hit home with me. I did a bit more research. There are food shortages. There are shortages of life-saving medications. There are concerns about the power grid. And if the electric grid goes down, clean water may not flow from the tap. In an economic collapse, debit cards may not work; cash will be king. Once awareness of the situation sets in, rioting, looting and violent crime will be the new norm.
If Europe collapses, the United States is sure to follow. This makes me nervous. And when I get nervous, I make lists. This is my best shot at formulating a comprehensive supply list for prepping. Sure, there are other lists on the Internet that claim to be comprehensive. And I have learned much from the lists that I have read. But I wanted to come up with my own list and present it to the Pack. And now for the 50 million dollar question: what have I missed?
If your debit card stopped working tomorrow, would you be ready? Let’s put our minds together and see if we can come up with a comprehensive list of items needed for survival. (I am assuming in what follows that I will not be bugging out. Hence, I have omitted discussion of my BOB.) Assuming you are staying put, what items would you definitely want on hand? Remember the motto: plan today because tomorrow your debit card may not work.
Please note that the order in which the following items are listed is not indicative of their perceived importance—i.e., I did not place cleaning supplies ahead of weaponry and hunting because I felt the former was more important than the latter. Each category is important, hence its inclusion on this list.
Comprehensive Supply List
1. Water Purification
- Bottled Water
- Rain Barrel
- Water Bottle with Filter
- Water Purification Tablets
- Pool Shock/Bleach
- Kettle w/ Lid for Boiling Water
- Propane Stove
- Matches/Fire Starter
- Charcoal and Sand
- Mosquito Netting
- Coffee Filters
2. Shelf Stable Foods
- Dry Milk
- Lemon Juice
- Cooking Oil
- Canned Goods
- Water Enhancers
- Baking Essentials (Yeast, Salt, etc.)
- Sprouting Seeds
- Non-hybrid Garden Seeds
3. Hygiene Supplies
- Dental Floss
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Shaving Supplies
- Baby Wipes
- Toilet paper
- Insect Spray
- Lotion/Lip Balm
- Manicure Set (Nail Clippers, Nail Brush, File)
- First-Aid Kit
- Extra Band-Aids
- Dental Kit
- Wound Care
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Listerine Mouth Rinse
- Antibiotic Ointment
- Snake Bite Kit
- Respirator Masks
- Latex Gloves
- Prescription Medication
- Birth Control
- Foot Care Products
- Pain Reliever (Tylenol, Aleve, Aspirin, etc.)
- Cold Medicine
- Diarrhea/Constipation Medications
- Allergy Medication
Why raise livestock when I can just hunt?
by M.D. Creekmore (a.k.a Mr. Prepper)
This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Chris J
When I bring up survival or preparedness to my friends, family, or co-workers, most just scoff and say things like “Well, I can keep food on my table by hunting.” Apparently, they think that they are the only ones with this idea, and that they will be in the woods alone to have their fill at nature’s table.
What they fail to understand is that others will be doing the same thing. They are right for the first few days of a disaster, when most people are not running out of food yet.
However, if the disaster lasts longer than a couple of weeks, all but the true survivalist will be out of food. Once their meager supplies of food are consumed or spoiled, the village will empty into the surrounding countryside. Deer, squirrels, rabbits, and other choice game will be hunted out within a few weeks. Hungry people will start turning to the less desirable table fare such as raccoons, possums, and rodents. This happened during the Great Depression in my home state of Tennessee.
Deer were made virtually extinct as poor families did their best to live off the land. A wildly successful restocking program in the sixties made deer available to everyone, but let the wood become the sole provider of food for just 5% of the people and you would see deer all but disappear again.
Even if you own thousands of acres, you won’t be able to keep every poacher off your land, and you can’t protect every wild animal that passes through your land. You can more easily protect livestock, though, because it is generally kept close to the farmstead and will rely on you for care.
Defending something in your yard is easier than defending something moving unseen through the woods a mile away. Livestock comes with its own set of issues for the survivalist, though. Most people don’t own enough land to have enough livestock to truly provide for them. In today’s modern agriculture, even large farms don’t raise all of their own animal feed. If the feed truck stopped running, would their livestock simply starve to death?
Below are a few suggestions and thoughts regarding putting food on your table during an extended crisis:
A Cheap and Easy At-Home Survival Food
by M.D. Creekmore (a.k.a Mr. Prepper)
This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Kim B.
Many years ago, my family knew a gentleman in his late fifties whom was living off-the-grid. He had his own garden to supplement his grocery bill, used lanterns for lighting his home and outhouse, heated his home and cooked all of his food with a wood stove and even caught fish once or twice a week right from his own back yard setup.
In all the time that we knew him, normally running into one another at our local post office, we had visited his residence only once as we had not received an invitation until one special day in which he wanted us to see what he had just installed onto his land.
Taking him up on his invite, we drove to his house and upon arrival we received a smile and an outstretched hand. After a bit of conversation and explanation about how he was living he excitedly began to tell us that he turned a pickup canopy upside down and filled it with water which he let warm up for a few weeks before putting several Gold Fish in. He explained that he set it up so that if the fish were to die then he would know that the water was not safe to drink.
Although we have never seen him since, I have never forgotten him and I still think that his creativity was unique and interesting even though it may not have been a foolproof means of ensuring the safety of that water. Personally, I would not use a canopy because it is made of metal that may not be good for ingestion but I think that if he had lined it with the right materials he would have had something there.
Currently, I am preparing to return to an off-the-grid lifestyle on five acres and planning for a live food supply. To save myself some money, time and labor, I have decided to build a few four-foot long by four-foot wide, two-and-a-half to three-foot high, wooden frames in the style of boxes with the corners reinforced with two-by-two’s, line the bottom with several inches of sand and the interior with a thick food-grade plastic. To not only clean up the exterior but to give the walls a little extra support, which I know is not necessary as I have already built and used an identical tank for years, I will use some small concrete blocks all the way around.
Because there may be little to no usage of the grid for many people and stores may no longer have fish and other “cold” or “frozen” foods available, I have planned to fill a few tanks with Gold Fish of different ages so that when I want a fish dinner I can go to the tank, slide open a lightweight one-fourth inch Carpenter cloth-covered top frame that will help to keep vipers and other creatures out, and catch and supplement my diet with the oldest of them. Unless I have enormous tanks with hundreds of adults and babies in them, the supply will not be for eating from on a daily basis but will be there when truly needed.
Fish are cheap to feed, easy to care for and have quite a few offspring when the time comes due and, with proper quarantine, I should be able to keep many of the babies from being eaten by their grandparents and thus a food supply going and ready for another day.
by Staff Writers
Three-quarters of the tons of meat from Japan’s controversial whale hunt last year was not sold, despite repeated attempts to auction it, officials said on Wednesday.
The Institute of Cetacean Research, a quasi-public body that organises the country’s whaling, said around 75 percent of roughly 1,200 tons of minke, Bryde’s and sei meat from the deep-sea mission did not find buyers.
It is separate from the smaller coastal whaling programmes in northern Japan, whose meat still attracts buyers because it is fresh — as opposed to frozen — and sold in regions with deep whale-eating traditions.
The institute held regular auctions between November and March to sell frozen meat from creatures caught in Northwestern Pacific waters last summer. It was intended to promote whale consumption and increase revenue.
A spokesman for the institute blamed the “disappointing” auction results on food sellers wishing to avoid trouble with anti-whaling activists.
“We have to think about new ways to market whale meat,” he told AFP.
Japan exploits a loophole in the international moratorium on whaling allowing for lethal research.
Anti-whaling nations and environmentalist groups routinely condemn the missions as a cover for commercial whaling that they say threatens the population of the giant marine creatures.
Japan however says the research is necessary to substantiate its view that there is a robust whale population in the world.
Japan also argues that whaling is part of its tradition and accuses Western nations of cultural insensitivity. The country’s powerful fishing industry, as well as right-wing activists, have urged no compromise.
In a recent report, Japanese anti-whaling campaigners said the poor auction results confirmed that Japanese consumers no longer ate a lot of whale meat.
However, the public supports whaling missions, mainly as a demonstration of their outrage against anti-whaling groups which have harassed Japanese whalers, said a report by freelance journalist Junko Sakuma, released by the Iruka and Kujira (Dolphin and Whale) Action Network.
Sakuma, who studied the institute’s auction outcomes, said the top-grade whale meat from the Northwestern Pacific missions still attracted buyers.
But the low general demand for whale meat and Icelandic whale meat imports are creating oversupply, which in turn makes Japan’s whaling programme unsustainable, Sakuma said.
“Among (Japanese whaling officials) who continue research whaling by relying on Japanese sentiment that ‘anti-whalers are outrageous’, there must be people who are secretly thanking Sea Shepherd,” she said.
Sea Shepherd is a militant environmental group that has routinely attacked Japanese whalers on the high seas to hinder the hunt.
Follow the Whaling Debate
Chinese Abortion Photo Causes Controversy
Published on Jun 14, 2012 by NewsyWorld
An online photo of Feng Jiamei with her aborted 7-month fetus has sparked outrage in China over its one-child policy.
Articles of Interest
DARPA hopes to create real-life “Avatars” in the near future.
Science fiction fans and robot fanatics are familiar with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Government (more familiarly known as DARPA). They are also familiar with James Cameron’s largely successful movie, Avatar. When the two come together, the line between what is fiction and what is real gets blurred beyond all recognition.
Straight out of the movie, the agency has set aside a $7 million of its $2.8 billion budget to essentially create “autonomous bi-pedal machines” that a handling soldier is able to manipulate on the battlefield. This removes the soldier from the heat of battle, reducing real life casualties and adding a greater degree of safety when performing menial but essential tasks.
Some of these tasks include clearing buildings of enemy hostiles, handling the wounded on the field, and controlling other sentries in the area. DARPA robotics has certainly entertained the concept before, so creating unmanned ground troops may not be as impossible as it seems. While we certainly aren’t expecting to see any Jake Sully-controlled giant blue aliens anytime soon, it’ll definitely be interesting to see what DARPA comes up with in the following years.
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