Bush aide says warming man-made and other news.

September 17, 2007

The US chief scientist has told the BBC that climate change is now a fact.

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Professor John Marburger, who advises President Bush, said it was more than 90% certain that greenhouse gas emissions from mankind are to blame.

The Earth may become “unliveable” without cuts in CO2 output, he said, but he labelled targets for curbing temperature rise as “arbitrary”.

His comments come shortly before major meetings on climate change at the UN and the Washington White House.

There may still be some members of the White House team who are not completely convinced about climate change – but it is clear that the science advisor to the President and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is not one of them.

In the starkest warning from the White House so far about the dangers ahead, Professor Marburger told the BBC that climate change was unequivocal, with mankind more than 90% likely to blame.

Despite disagreement on the details of climate science, he said: “I think there is widespread agreement on certain basics, and one of the most important is that we are producing far more CO2 from fossil fuels than we ought to be. “And it’s going to lead to trouble unless we can begin to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we are burning and using in our economies.”

Trouble ahead

This is an explicit endorsement of the latest major review of climate science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Professor Marburger said humanity would be in trouble if we did not stop increasing carbon emissions.

“The CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and there’s no end point, it just gets hotter and hotter, and so at some point it becomes unliveable,” he said. Professor Marburger said he wished he could stop US emissions right away, but that was obviously not possible.

US backing for the scientific consensus was confirmed by President Bush’s top climate advisor, James Connaughton.

The chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality told BBC News that advancing technology was the best way to curb the warming trend.

“You only have two choices; you either have advanced technologies and get them into the marketplace, or you shut down your economies and put people out of work,” he said.

“I don’t know of any politician that favours shutting down economies.”

‘Arbitrary’ targets

Mr Bush has invited leaders of major developed and developing nations to the White House later this month for discussions on a future global direction on climate change.

It will follow a UN General Assembly session on the same issue.

Last week the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Sydney backed the UN climate convention as the right body for developing future global policy.

The European Union wants such a policy to adopt its own target of stabilising temperature rise at or below 2C.

But Mr Marburger said the state of the science made it difficult to justify any particular target.

“It’s not clear that we’ll be in a position to predict the future accurately enough to make policy confidently for a long time,” he said.

“I think 2C is rather arbitrary, and it’s not clear to me that the answer shouldn’t be 3C or more or less. It’s a hunch, a guess.”

The truth, he said, was that we just do not know what the ‘safe’ limit is.

Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

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I wouldn’t be expecting Bush or the US to be making any big changes to their environmental and economic policies quite yet. He’s one species of monkey I don’t think needs saving. The epitome of short term thinking, if you can call it thinking.

Tuvalu about to disappear into the ocean

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SEOUL (Reuters) – The tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu on Thursday urged the rest of the world to do more to combat global warming before it sinks beneath the ocean.

The group of atolls and reefs, home to some 10,000 people, is barely two meters on average above sea-level and one study predicted at the current rate the ocean is rising could disappear in the next 30 to 50 years.
“We keep thinking that the time will never come. The alternative is to turn ourselves into fish and live under water,” Tuvalu Deputy Prime Tavau Teii told Reuters in the South Korean capital where he was attending a conference on the environment.

“All countries must make an effort to reduce their emissions before it is too late for countries like Tuvalu,” he said, calling the country one of the most vulnerable in the world to man-made climate change.

He reeled off a list of threats to the country, one of whose few export earnings comes from its Internet country suffix which it can sell to anyone wanting their Website site to end with .tv.

Coral reefs are being damaged by the warming ocean and so threatening fish stocks — the main source of protein.

The sea is increasingly invading underground fresh water supplies, creating problems for farmers, while drought constantly threatened to limit drinking water.

Annual spring tides appear to be getting higher each year, eroding the coastline. As the coral reefs die, that protection goes and the risk only increases.

And the mounting ferocity of cyclones from a warmer ocean also brought greater risks, he said, noting another island state in the area had been buffeted by waves three years ago that crashed over its 30 meter cliffs.

“We’ll try and maintain our own way of living on the island as long as we can. If the time comes we should leave the islands, there is no other choice but to leave.”

Teii said his government had received indications from New Zealand it was prepared to take in people from the islands. About 2,000 of its population already live there.

But Australia, the other major economy in the region, had only given vague commitments.

“Australia was very reluctant to make a commitment even though they have been approached in a diplomatic way.”

Reuters

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For some people the reality of climate change is very real. People sit in there homes thinking a lot of things about climate change. Most think it’s terrible but that it is never going to affect me. Well maybe it won’t directly at this moment in time, but in the near future it will affect our generations to come. And for some unfortunate people the time has come when there is no time to stop and think ‘thats terrible’ because the effects are already hitting them hard.

Global warming impact like “nuclear war”: report

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LONDON (Reuters) – Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said on Wednesday.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.
While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.
“The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition … that if the emission of greenhouse gases … is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic — on the level of nuclear war,” the IISS report said.
“Even if the international community succeeds in adopting comprehensive and effective measures to mitigate climate change, there will still be unavoidable impacts from global warming on the environment, economies and human security,” it added.

Scientists say global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport.
The IISS report said the effects would cause a host of problems including rising sea levels, forced migration, freak storms, droughts, floods, extinctions, wildfires, disease epidemics, crop failures and famines.
The impact was already being felt — particularly in conflicts in Kenya and Sudan — and more was expected in places from Asia to Latin America as dwindling resources led to competition between haves and have nots.
“We can all see that climate change is a threat to global security, and you can judge some of the more obvious causes and areas,” said IISS transnational threat specialist Nigel Inkster. “What is much harder to do is see how to cope with them.”
The report, an annual survey of the impact of world events on global security, said conflicts and state collapses due to climate change would reduce the world’s ability to tackle the causes and to reduce the effects of global warming.
State failures would increase the gap between rich and poor and heighten racial and ethnic tensions which in turn would produce fertile breeding grounds for more conflict.
Urban areas would not be exempt from the fallout as falling crop yields due to reduced water and rising temperatures would push food prices higher, IISS said.
Overall, it said 65 countries were likely to lose over 15 percent of their agricultural output by 2100 at a time when the world’s population was expected to head from six billion now to nine billion people.
“Fundamental environmental issues of food, water and energy security ultimately lie behind many present security concerns, and climate change will magnify all three,” it added.

Jeremy Lovell -Reuters

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A pretty stark accessment. Sometimes it baffles me how complacent people really are. I remember reading an article a few months ago about the misconception that scientists weren’t in agreement about the fact that global warming is real and that man is causing it. The article put that to bed quite easily by pointing out that the only articles in the past 20 years not to agree were ones sponsored by companies with something to gain by denying it. Out of every single non biased report and article written every single one agreed with the above statement. Seems pretty straight forward to me.

Eating Less Meat May Slow Climate Change

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LONDON (AP) — Eating less meat could help slow global warming by reducing the number of livestock and thereby decreasing the amount of methane flatulence from the animals, scientists said on Thursday.

In a special energy and health series of the medical journal The Lancet, experts said people should eat fewer steaks and hamburgers. Reducing global red meat consumption by 10 percent, they said, would cut the gases emitted by cows, sheep and goats that contribute to global warming.

“We are at a significant tipping point,” said Geri Brewster, a nutritionist at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, who was not connected to the study.

“If people knew that they were threatening the environment by eating more meat, they might think twice before ordering a burger,” Brewster said.

Other ways of reducing greenhouse gases from farming practices, like feeding animals higher-quality grains, would only have a limited impact on cutting emissions. Gases from animals destined for dinner plates account for nearly a quarter of all emissions worldwide.

“That leaves reducing demand for meat as the only real option,” said Dr. John Powles, a public health expert at Cambridge University, one of the study’s authors.

The amount of meat eaten varies considerably worldwide. In developed countries, people typically eat about 224 grams per day. But in Africa, most people only get about 31 grams a day.

With demand for meat increasing worldwide, experts worry that this increased livestock production will mean more gases like methane and nitrous oxide heating up the atmosphere. In China, for instance, people are eating double the amount of meat they used to a decade ago.

Powles said that if the global average were 90 grams per day, that would prevent the levels of gases from speeding up climate change.

Eating less red meat would also improve health in general. Powles and his co-authors estimate that reducing meat consumption would reduce the numbers of people with heart disease and cancer. One study has estimated that the risk of colorectal cancer drops by about a third for every 100 grams of red meat that is cut out of your diet.

“As a society, we are overconsuming protein,” Brewster said. “If we ate less red meat, it would also help stop the obesity epidemic.”

Experts said that it would probably take decades to wane the public off of its meat-eating tendency. “We need to better understand the implications of our diet,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director of director of the World Health Organization’s department of public health and the environment.

“It is an interesting theory that needs to be further examined,” she said. “But eating less meat could definitely be one way to reduce gas emissions and climate change.”

Associated Press

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There are some people out there who think the fact that animal waste products such as methane contribute to the greenhouse effect is just plain stupid. It can even strike them as humourous. Methane is more than x20 more effective as a green house gas than CO2 and farmed animals produce a lot of it.  Couple that with the fact that we have many times the population of farmed cattle on the planet as humans and things begin to add up.  “Gases from animals destined for dinner plates account for nearly a quarter of all emissions worldwide”.  There are plenty of scientific studies out and published on the subject.


So long, and thanks for all the fish

September 16, 2007

Yangtze River Dolphin

If the Yangtze river dolphin isn’t quite extinct yet, it soon will be. Conservationist Mark Carwardine tells the tale of its last daysThe first time I went in search of the Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was in 1988 with Douglas Adams, author of ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, as part of a year spent travelling the world in search of endangered species for a book and radio series called ‘Last Chance to See’. We explored a small part of the Yangtze, which runs for 6380 kilometres through the heart of China.

We were overwhelmed by the dolphins phonomenally high profile in CHina. We drank Baiji beer and Baijicola, stayed in the Baiji Hotel and used Lipotes vexillifer toilet paper. We even came across Baiji weighing scales and Baiji fertiliser. It was the aquatic equivalent of the giant panda.

Unfortunately, though, we failed to see a single dolphin in the wild. We weren’t surprised – the Yangtze river is vast and the dolphins were notoriously hard to see, surfacing briefly without a splash.

Douglas and I did meet Qi-Qi (pronounced chee-chee), a beautiful bluish-grey dolphin with a long, narrow, slightly upturned beak, a low triangular dorsal fin, broad flippers and tiny eyes. Qi-Qi was just a year old when he was injured by fishing hooks in 1980 and taken into captivity to be nursed back to health. He was kept at the Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan for 22 years, where he taught scientists much about his disappearing species until his sad death on 14 July 2002. He reminded me of Martha, the last of the passenger pigeons, who died in Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

I’ve been back several times since that first visit and, to my eternal regret, never did encounter a wild free Yangtze river dolphin. Now I never shall. The Yangtze river dolphin, Lipotes vexillifer, is the first cetacean to be driven to extinction by human activity.

Last month a Chinese man captured video footage of what might have been a lone baiji, boosting hopes that there might be a few survivors. Of course, that is a possibility, though the validity of the distant, poor-quality video has been questioned by experts. However, any hope of capturing a breeding pair has all but vanished, and the continued deterioration of the Yangtze ecosystem means that without human intervention the dolphins have no chance of survival. The species is functionally extinct, even if it is not actually extinct.

This is no ordinary extinction. We have lost large mammal species before, most recently the Caribbean monk seal, Monachus tropicalis, which was hunted to extinction in the 1950’s. The Yangtze river dolphin, however, was especially remarkable because it was the sole member of a distinct mammal family, the Lipotidae. It diverged from other cetaceans more than 20 million years ago, so its disappearance represents the end of a much longer branch of the evolutionary tree than most extinctions.

It’s a shocking tragedy. It’s also downright inexcusable. We had plenty of warning that the dolphin was in serious trouble – more than 20 years, no less – yet we failed to provide it with adequate protection. Accidental deaths due to fishing and shipping, over fishing, the rapid deterioration of the Yangtze river, an outrageous lack of funds, ineffective project management and incessant bickering between the Chinese authorities and western scientists sealed its fate a long time ago.

Even before it vanished, surprisingly little was known about the baiji. It wasn’t brought to the attention of western scientists until 1916, when a lone individual was killed by an American missionary’s son and taken back to the US. Another 40 years passed before scientists in China began to study the species.

An exclusively freshwater dolphin, unique to China, the Yangtze river dolphin once lived along a 1700-kilometre stretch of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river, from the magnificent Three Gorges region all the way to the river mouth. It also lived in two vast lakes connected to the Yangtze, Dongting and Poyang, and, until the 1950s, in the Qiantang, a river a few hundred kilometres to the south of the Yangtze.

The baiji was active during the day, typically living in small groups of three or four individuals, and apparently resting at night in areas where the current was slow. It fed mainly on fish, using its long beak to probe into the muddy riverbed around water confluences and sandbars with large eddies. It was a slow breeder, the females giving birth to a single calf once every two years.

Yangtze river dolphins had little need to see in the turbid waters of their riverine home, where viability can drop to about 12 centimetres in late summer. They could distinguish objects placed on the surface, so their eyes were functional – but only just. Instead, they used a highly developed sense of echolocatio, like other dolphins, to find their food and to navigate.

The species is mentioned in Chinese literature dating back 2200 years and Guo Pu (AD 276-324), a scholar of the Jin dynasty, described the river as “teeming” with dolphins. Revered as the “Goddess of the Yangtze”, according to legend the baiji was the reincarnation of a princess who had refused to marry a man she did not love and was drowned by her father for shaming the family. Fishermen believed its appearance was a friendly warning of an impending storm and that anyone who hurt one would come to a tragic end. Until recently, this superstition helped protect the animal.

All that changed during the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s. The dolphin’s respected status was suddenly denounced and, instead of being revered, it was hunted for its flesh and skin. A factory was even established to make handbags and gloves out of dolphin skin, though it did not last long as the animals quickly became scarce.

Even after the hunting ended, fishing – the main killer of porpoises, dolphins and whales worldwide – took a heavy toll. The dolphins liked to feed exactly where fishermen set their gill nets and fyke nets, resulting in many being caught accidentally, and drowned. At least half of all known dolphin deaths in the 1970s and 1980s were caused by rolling hooks – lines of hooks up to a kilometre long – and other fishing gear. Electro fishing – applying a current to water – accounted for 40 per cent of deaths during the 1990s. Rolling hooks and electrofishing are illegal, but still common.

Blinded and deafened

Indeed, the dolphin couldn’t have picked a worse place to live. The Yangtze river basin is home to an astonishing tenth of the human population. Accessible to ocean-going vessels up to 1000 kilometres from the sea, the Yangtze is one of the busiest rivers in the world. A 2006 survey counted 19,830 large ships – more than one per 100 metres of river surveyed – and 1175 +fishing vessels. Not only did collisions with boats and propellers kill many dolphins, the roar of the ships’ engines both ‘blinded’ and deafened them, making echolocation and communication with other dolphins near impossible.

There was also less food for the dolphins. Catches have plummeted to a fifth of what they were in the 1950s due to over fishing and other problems. With industrialisation and the spread of modern agricultural practices, ever more pollution pours into the river each year. The natural banks of the river have been dredged and reinforced with concrete along much of its length to prevent flooding, yet flood plains are crucial for the reproduction of many riverine fishes.

Then there is the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam ever built, which has dramatically changed water levels, stratification, currents and sandbanks. Smaller dams along other parts of the river fragmented dolphin popualtions, blocked migration and made important feeding and breeding areas inaccessible.

From as many as 5000 or 6000 dolphins in the 1950s, the population shrank to 400 by around 1980, 200 to 300 by 1985, fewer than 100 in 1990 and just 13 by 1998. The warning signs don’t get more obvious than that. The last authenticated sightings were of a stranded pregnant female found in 2001 and a live animal photographed in 2002. There have also been four unconfirmed reports since then, including the indistinct video filmed in August. And that’s it. There hasn’t been a confirmed sighting for years.

The last organised search was an intensive six-week expedition for 6 November to 13 December 2006 (Biology Letters, DOI:10.1098/rsbl.2007.0292). The survey, by researchers from China, Japan, the US, Switzerland and the UK, used two vessels operating independantly. Covering the entire historical range of the species, they twice scanned the 1669 kilometres of the river with binoculars and listened for telltale squeaks and whistles with high-tech hydrophones. All to no avail.

Importantly, both vessels counted the same number – around 400 – of Yangtze finless porpoises (Neophocaena phocaenoides asiaaeorientalis), a freshwater subspecies unique to the river. This suggests that the scientists really did see everything there was to see, so their failure to find any evidence of Yangtze river dolphins strongly implies that there were none to find. This week the World Conservation Union (IUCN) will change the species’ status from “critically endangered” to “critically endangered (possibly extinct)”.

The original aim of the survey was not to sound the death knell but to rescue any surviving dolphins and translocate them from the river to a 21-kilometre long, 2 kilometre wide oxbow lake in Hubei province, called Tian’ezhou. It has healthy fish stocks and is already home to a small popualtion of about 25 finless porpoises, introduced in 1990. Conditions would almost certainly have suited the dolphins, and the plan was to establish an intensive breeding programme. Ecotourism could have generated much-needed revenue for its upkeep.

It was a good plan, but it was 20 years too late. The idea of moving individuals to a safe reserve was first mooted in the mid-1980s and had been consistently advocated ever since. Douglas Adams and I went to visit one potential reserve, near Tongling, during our visit in 1988. In the 1990s, six capture attempts were made, but with little success. A female was finally caught and relocated to Tian’ezhou in 1995, but she was found dead seven months later, entangled in the escape-prevention nets at the outlet of the reserve.

All along, efforts were hampered by disputes among conservationists, scientists and the Chinese authorities about whether this was the best approach. Admittedly, it would have been an expensive strategy. it required boats to capture the dolphins, helicopters to transfer them, holding pens and veterinary staff to care for them before they could be released into the semi-natural reserve, a proper inventory – and management – of fish stocks, and round-the-clock protection. But the dolphins should have been a conservation priority, so why wasn’t the money forthcoming?

If only everyone had agreed on a recovery programme 20 years ago, when establishing a semi-natural population was still a viable proposition, the outcome could have been very different. Even in the shadow of China’s economic boom and burgeoning population, the baiji could have been saved. Ultimately, it was as much a victim of incompetence, indecision and apathy as it was of environmental deterioration.

In response to the dolphin’s obvious decline, the Chinese government did give it official protection in 1975, making the deliberate catching or killing of a dolphin a punishable offence. It also declared the animal a “national treasure”. In 1992, it set aside five protected areas along roughly 350 kilometres of the Yangtze river and established five baiji protection stations, each with two observers and a small motor boatm to conduct daily patrols, make observations and investigate illegal fishing. In 2001 fishing was banned in parts of the river between April 1 and 30 June.

It all looked good on paper, but it was too little too late and lacked the resources and coordination to work. The patrol boats were old and too slow to catch illegal fishermen, for example, and the laws were poorly enforced.

Meanwhile, international conservation organisations kept calling for action. While some did make a positive contribution to conservation efforts, many didn’t. Others withdrew their support because of the enormitiy of the challenge and the dwindling sense of optimism for the baiji’s chance of survival. It turns my stomach to read their official statements expressing ‘shock’ and ‘dismay’ at the loss of the species, when they were too slow, too cautious and too downright inept to do anything constructive. Despite all their workshops, conventions and meetings on the Yangtze river dolphin, conservation organisations must shoulder a large part of the blame for its demise.

Will we learn any lessons from the loss of the baiji? It’s an important question, because there are other endangered species in the river that could disappear soon unless immediate action is taken. These include the Asian softshell turtle, Chinese alligator, and the smooth-coated otter, as well as the fast-declining Yangtze finless porpoise.

In other parts of the world, we barely have time to mourn the baiji before worrying about two of its closest relatives: the Indus river dolphin, with around 1000 remaining in Pakistan; and the Ganges river dolphin, of which a few thousand remain in western India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. They face remarkably similar threats to their vanished Chinese relative, and their fate could be exactly the same.

How loud, and for how long, do the alarm bells have to ring before we take decisive action? If we can’t save an appealing and charismatic dolphin – one that has lived on Earth for more than 20 million years – what can we save. Mark Carwardine New Scientist #2621

That last paragraph rings so true.

How loud and for how long do the alarm bells have to ring……?

And really, in this depressing ecological age, what can we save?


Arctic thaw opens fabled trade route For centuries explorers sought the Northwest Passage. Global warming has finally opened it up

September 16, 2007

For centuries explorers sought the Northwest Passage. Global warming has finally opened it up.

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The Arctic’s sea covering has shrunk so much that the Northwest Passage, the fabled sea route that connects Europe and Asia, has opened up for the first time since records began.

The discovery, revealed through satellite images provided by the European Space Agency (Esa), shows how bad the consequences of global warming are becoming in northerly latitudes. This summer there was a reduction of a million square kilometres in the Arctic’s ice covering compared with 2006, scientists have found.

As a result, the Northwest Passage that runs between Canada and Greenland has been freed of the ice that has previously blocked it and that, over the centuries, has frustrated dozens of expeditions that attempted to sail northwest and open up a commercial sea route between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

In addition, scientists have found that the Northeast Passage, a corresponding route that runs parallel to the north coast of Russia, may also soon become navigable – though the clearing of both passages is likely to fuel animosity between countries trying to exploit the region’s oil, fish and mineral resources, experts have warned.

According to scientists led by Leif Toudal Pedersen of the Danish National Space Centre, Arctic ice this summer dropped to around 3 million square kilometres, a decrease of 1 million square kilometres on last year’s coverage. Given that for the past 10 years Arctic ice has been disappearing at an average annual rate of only 100,000 square kilometres, this year’s reduction is ‘extreme’, said Pedersen.

‘The strong reduction in just one year raises flags that the ice [in summer] may disappear much sooner than expected and that we urgently need to understand better the processes involved,’ he added.

Pedersen and his team used 200 images – acquired earlier this month by the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument aboard Esa’s Envisat satellite – to create a mosaic that shows the Northwest route across northern Canada is currently navigable, while the Northeast Passage along the Siberian coast remains blocked, but only partially.

Finding a Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific was a dream of European merchants since the 16th century. Explorers including Martin Frobisher and Henry Hudson tried to find a route but failed.

Finally, in 1845, a well-equipped two-ship expedition led by Sir John Franklin attempted to find the passage. It disappeared, with all its 129 crewmen. Subsequent investigations found the bodies of Franklin’s sailors and uncovered evidence that contaminated food may have helped doom the expedition. It is also thought some crewmen may have resorted to cannibalism to try to save themselves.

The passage was finally conquered in 1906 by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who completed the journey in a converted 47-ton herring boat called Gjoa. However, some of the waterways used by Amundsen were extremely shallow, making his route commercially impractical.

Although the discovery that the passage is now opening up dramatically, indicating it may soon be possible for shipping to take highly profitable northerly short cuts between the Europe and Asia, scientists are also very worried about the rate at which the region’s ice is melting. They fear the polar regions may have passed a crucial tipping point.

Ice reflects solar energy. But if it starts to disappear, heat is absorbed by the dark seas and rock below ice floes and glaciers. The Arctic then gets warmer and even more protective ice covering is lost – so melting accelerates dangerously.

The opening up of the sea routes is also like to increase the intensity of international disputes in the Arctic. Canada claims full rights over those parts of the Northwest Passage that pass through its territory and has announced that it will bar transit there if it wants. However, this claim is disputed by the US and the European Union.

In addition, Russia has laid claims to large tracts of the Arctic seabed, claiming these are extension of its maritime zones. Again this claim is disputed by other countries, including Canada, which recently announced it was building a fleet of naval vessels to protect its northern waters.

Source

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If the tipping point has been reached then it’s really going to be a shit storm. I would be less worried or inclined to even care about Canada building a fleet of ships to protect certain waters and such like than the fact that when Global warming really does kick in it’s effects will be worse for us humans than full scale nuclear war.

It’s always short term profit that captures the imagination of industry and economies rather than the profits to be had in the long term by protecting this fragile planet for our future generations.



Vegetable And Lentil Stew

July 3, 2007

After the disaster that was the nut roast last night this was definately a keeper.  I didn’t think something like this could fill you up, but I’m bloated.

It tasted fantasic, I never thought I would say it, but it was the best meal I have had in a long time.  Anyways, if you fancy trying something new, cook it exactly as is said below, minus cumin, didnt have any of that and you get something of a tastebud delight.  I think the red wine did something to the whole thing.  I don’t think I’m gonna mind this Vegan thing if it continues like this.

Yum

‘Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.’
Woody Allen (1935 – )


Vegan

July 2, 2007

I decided last week to do the vegetarian thing, and it went fine but i found it way too easy.  So vegan it is.

Basically I wanted to challenge myself in a different way than I have done in the past.  I don’t have any moral or ethical reason for doing this, though I have to admit the more I read about it the more sense it makes.  Plus the food recipes I have been looking at all sound pretty tastey, my only limitation is haricot beans which I can’t eat due to an allergy.

Some of the things i have read like:

The Healthiest Diet of All

Vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters and live years longer than the general population. No argument, no dispute – these are the simple facts – although you’d be excused for having doubts if you rely on the daily press for your health info.

The better health statistics for vegetarians and vegans aren’t peripheral – a percentage point advantage here or there – but are quite profound. The usual argument put forward to explain these dramatic improvements in health – often by doctors with no nutritional training or by those with a vested interest in the meat industry – is that veggies are puritanical, non-drinking, non-smoking, self-denying, hair-shirt-wearing bores so no wonder they live longer. And who wants to be like that?!

Of course, all good scientific research makes allowances for the differences in people’s life-styles and only compares like with like. And it is this solid, reputable science that will be quoted throughout this guide, much of it obtained from the world’s most authoritative and prestigious health advisory bodies.

Why is diet so important? Well, if you live an average life span of about 72 years, you will scoff your way through an astonishing 30 tonnes of food. It’s the fuel that keeps you going and it’s the nutrients in food that make you what you are. Your heart beats on them, your muscles, kidneys and liver depend upon them. Food keeps you warm, repairs the bits of damage that inevitably occur and it even helps you think. Pretty important stuff is food – but not just any old food.

If you were to eat the same diet as a cat – lots of meat and dairy products and no fresh fruit and veg – you would die and probably quite quickly. Similarly, a cat would be unable to survive on the average vegetarian diet. The reason for the difference is that after millions of years of evolution, all animals have adapted to particular diets and environments. Meat contains no vitamin C so cats have the ability to synthesise it internally. We, on the other hand, are higher apes and have evolved to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, shoots, seeds, nuts and leaves – a diet rich in vitamin C – on a daily basis. Throughout our evolution there was an abundant supply of vitamin C in virtually everything we ate so our bodies have never had to manufacture it.

Those humans who lived in societies that relied heavily on animal products have paid a  high price for it. The Inuit (sometimes referred to as Eskimos) traditionally relied largely on meat and fish, obtaining their vitamin C from mosses in the stomachs of dead animals. They rarely lived beyond their early 30s. One major cause of death was bleeding of the brain – cerebral haemorrhage. One possible cause of this is the thinning of the blood – a well known property of fish oils (137).

“But chimps eat meat,” is the usual cry. Chimps’ eating habits have been closely studied over many years and the amount of meat they eat is minuscule – about the size of half-a-pea a day, mostly made up of insects. So little do they eat that their hands and nails, teeth and digestive tract are those of a strictly vegetarian – vegan – animal.

The genetic difference between a chimp and a human is only just over one per cent (138). They are our closest living relative; so close that we share the same haemoglobin (found in our red blood cells). Our digestive tract, hands and teeth are also very similar. Some people claim our teeth are those of a carnivore, which is obvious nonsense and a quick look inside the mouth of a cat or dog will show you why. Our teeth, with their predominantly flat surfaces, are designed to grind and crush tough vegetable matter and are incapable of eating meat unless it’s cooked first. And we haven’t got the canines of a killer – we’d all look like Dracula if we had! Human teeth are not designed for holding or killing prey and they certainly couldn’t bite through the hide of a cow, sheep or pig!

Why does all this matter? Because sensible eating is about distinguishing between healthy and potentially unhealthy foods – for us! Take cats, for instance. No matter how much meat they eat, no matter how fatty it is, their arteries don’t clog up. Ours, on the other hand, do and the damage can start as young as two or three years old. The result is high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes later in life. One in five men and one in six women die from coronary heart disease in the UK – the single most common cause of death. The risks factors for heart disease are almost all diet related – caused by animal products. And some people still claim we’re meant to eat meat!

Professor T. Colin Campbell, of Cornell University, organised a massive piece of dietary research called the China Health Study (see later) – one of the most important ever undertaken. When its findings were published he said: “We’re basically a vegetarian species and should be eating a wide variety of plant foods and minimising our intake of animal foods. Animal foods are not helpful and we need to get away from eating them.” (1)

It seems to make a lot of sense to me.  As does:

The Official Position

The world’s most important health advisory bodies are now in agreement – a balanced vegetarian diet can be one of the healthiest possible. And it seems the fewer animal products it contains such as milk and cheese, the healthier it is. In other words, the closer it is to being vegan, the healthier it becomes. These are some of the health statements that have been made over the past few years. We will expand on each of the terms used later in the guide.

1. The British Medical Association

The BMA was one of the first to distil the growing volume of research on diet and health in its 1986 report (2). It said:

“Vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders, cancers and gallstones. Cholesterol levels tend to be lower in vegetarians.”

It went on to say that when meat eaters change to a vegetarian diet it can actually lower their cholesterol levels. It concluded by saying that vegetarians obtain all the minerals they need, that folate levels are higher and as a consequence it is a diet suitable for infants.

2. The China Health Study

The initial results of this combined Chinese-British-American study, which began in 1983, were announced in 1989 (3). It was a massive piece of work which looked at the health and eating habits of 6,500 real people in real life situations. Its conclusions were accurately summed up in a New York Times headline on 8 May, 1990: “Huge Study of Diet Indicts Fat and Meat”. In short, it found that the greatest single influence on the growth of degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes was the amount of animal fat and animal protein eaten – the more you eat, the greater your risk. It highlighted some extraordinary dietary differences between affluent and not so affluent societies. For example, Chinese people are long living yet eat one-third less protein than Americans and only seven per cent of it comes from animal foods compared to Americans’ 70 per cent. Past dietary advice would probably have cheered this as a good thing but the study found the opposite. ‘Animal protein itself raises the risks of cancer and heart disease.’
These are the two biggest killers in the West but there are others, such as diabetes, strokes, obesity and high blood pressure, which are clearly associated with the West’s affluent lifestyle. They are referred to by the general name of degenerative diseases and the China Health Study found that they increased alarmingly as people changed from a more simple, predominantly vegetarian or vegan diet, to a Western diet obsessed with meat and dairy products.

The study also found that the West’s preoccupation with promoting meat as the best source of iron was wrong. The Chinese diet was predominantly vegetarian and yet adults consumed twice as much iron as an American adult. The Chinese diet also contained three times more fibre than a US diet but there was no evidence that these high levels interfered with absorption of iron or other essential minerals.

The conclusions were unequivocal – that a plant-based diet is more likely to promote good health and reduce the risk of degenerative diseases.

3. The World Health Organisation (WHO)

Next came an even more detailed report from the WHO in 1991. It was interpreted by The Daily Mail newspaper as a call for the world to go vegetarian – stating forthrightly that a diet rich in animal products promotes heart disease, cancer and several other diseases. It confirmed the BMA’s and China Health Study’s list of degenerative diseases and added others – diabetes, strokes and osteoporosis. And it also flagged up kidney impairment with high protein, meat-rich diets.

It said that diets associated with increases in chronic diseases are those rich in sugar, meat and other animal products, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol and added: “If such trends continue, the end of [the 20th] century will see cardiovascular (heart) disease and cancer established as major health problems in every country in the world.” And, of course, its predictions have been proved correct.
But it went even further and condemned the years of public urgings by governments to eat animal products. It went on to say that in future: “Policies should be geared to the growing of plant foods, including vegetables and fruits, and to limiting the promotion of fat containing products.” If anything, the opposite has happened.

The large quantities of cheap meat, which have adversely affected health, are only available because of intensive, factory farming and the WHO also had plenty to say about that:

“Farming policies which do not rely on intensive animal production systems would reduce the world demand for cereals. Use of land could be reappraised since cereal consumption by the population is much more efficient and cheaper than dedicating large areas to growing feed for meat production and dairying.” That advice has also been ignored.

In fact, as development takes place in previously undeveloped countries there is a shift towards a more affluent diet, the report says. As a consequence, there is a dramatic increase in the incidence of diet-related diseases.

April 2003 saw the long awaited publication of the update to this 1991 WHO report. If you analyse the 2003 version it takes the same overall view as the previous report. It shows that the worldwide dietary trend towards high saturated fat and refined carbohydrate foods, together with sedentary lifestyles are the principal causes of degenerative diseases such as heart disease and obesity.

However the championing of plant-based diets as the way forward for health – which dominated the first report – has been much watered down. It is now common knowledge that the food industry has infiltrated the WHO since its 1991 report. It would be naïve not to suspect that the meat and dairy industry, which exerts such enormous political and economical clout, has not also been at work behind the scenes of this 2003 WHO report (10).

4. The EPIC Study

In 1992 the largest ever study of diet and health was initiated – the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition – EPIC for short. More than half a million people have been studied in 10 European countries, including the UK. EPIC is what is known as a prospective study where the diets of recruits are recorded and their health is tracked over the coming years to try and establish any links with the foods eaten and subsequent health outcomes. There are two EPIC centres in the UK, at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. EPIC-Oxford includes a total of around 65,000 participants of whom around half do not consume meat, and around 2,500 are vegans. On-going analysis of the results from EPIC studies continue to provide insights into what foods protect health and what foods are harmful to health.

What is clear so far is that non-meat diets tend to reduce blood pressure levels, reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the incidence of obesity. Not surprisingly given these reductions in risk factors for heart disease, vegetarians die less from heart disease than comparable meat eaters. EPIC studies have also confirmed the importance of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as protection against the risk of an early death (139, 140). Preliminary results on the link between meat consumption and colorectal cancer suggest that frequent consumption of red meat such as beef, veal, pork and lamb is associated with a 20-40 per cent increase in colorectal cancer risk (36).

5. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

In 1995 the PCRM – a highly-respected US body which numbers the late Dr Benjamin Spock and William Roberts, editor of the American Journal of Cardiology, amongst its 5,000 doctors and scientists – issued a report to the US government (6). It confirmed the lower rate of disease amongst vegetarians and urged the government to recommend a vegetarian diet to US citizens. Until then, the US Dietary Guidelines had never made any mention of vegetarianism. The following year they did so for the first time and the section began:

“…vegetarians enjoy excellent health: Vegetarian diets are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines and can meet the Recommended Daily Allowances for nutrients. Protein is not limited in vegetarian diets …” (7).

The PCRM report reviewed over 100 pieces of published work from across the world and was in no doubt about what we should be eating: “The scientific literature clearly supports the use of vegetables, fruits, legumes (peas, beans, chick peas – pulses) and grains as staples. Meats, dairy products and added vegetable oils should be considered optional.” It was another clear and unequivocal statement, backed by unimpeachable science, that humans do not need to eat meat and are healthier for not doing so.

6. American Dietetic Association (ADA)

The ADA is probably one of the most respected health bodies in the world and in its most recent report on vegetarianism, has thrown its weight firmly behind meat-free diets, saying they are effective in avoiding or even curing some of the world’s most deadly diseases. Heart disease, strokes, some cancers and diabetes can all be effectively treated by prescribing a vegetarian diet, it says.

The ADA spells out the reason for this by saying that vegetarian diets offer disease protection benefits because of their lower saturated fat and cholesterol content as well as their higher fibre intakes. The ADA also make clear the fact that vegetarian diets can provide all the vitamins, minerals, protein and energy the body needs and provide for all stages of the life cycle including pregnancy and infancy (8).

I can’t really fault any of that, and I do like a new challenge.  I’m going to print out a list of recipes over the next few days so I can sample what my new diet has to offer.  (No nut roasts though, I learned that the hard way tonight heh)

I don’t really know how long I’ll continue with this but, as with everything, time will tell.

These are some of the things I intend to sample: Menu 

Right, if you managed to read all that I salute you!

“I was dead for billions of years before I was born, and it never inconvenienced me in the slightest”

Mark Twain

“Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.”

Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870)


Some Thing I Jotted Down

May 23, 2007

When I breath the essence is in me

My food is tasteless, I don’t need it

I am physically redundant

Sensations are clearer inside me

The sun is more real in my mind

And touch is fabricated by the sense

But yet; my imagination is useless

__________________

A musing by me, I don’t think it could be called prose.

Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.
– Charles Bukowski