Efter brylluppet (2006) – “After The Wedding”

January 10, 2008

[spoiler]

Overview

Director:
Susanne Bier

Writers:
Anders Thomas Jensen (screenplay) and
Susanne Bier (story)

Release Date:
9 March 2007 (UK)

Genre:
Drama

Plot Outline:
A manager of an orphanage (Mikkelsen) in India is sent to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he discovers a life-altering family secret. more

Cast
(Cast overview, first billed only)

Mads Mikkelsen … Jacob
Neeral Mulchandani … Pramod, 8 year
Tanya Sharma … Indisk Pige 1
Swini Khara … Indisk Pige 2
Meenal Patel … Mrs. Shaw
Vallabh Gada … Suit No. 1
Hitesh Kotak … Suit No. 2
Suhita Thatte … Indisk Kvinde
Rolf Lassgård … Jørgen
Dispesh Mistry … Pramods Venner
Shivam Vicha … Pramods Venner
Frederik Gullits Ernst … Martin
Kristian Gullits Ernst … Morten

Sidse Babett Knudsen … Helene
Mona Malm … Farmor (Grandmother)

[/spoiler]

I had heard of this film by title only before I watched it, and when Casino Royale’s Bond bad guy came up on the screen as the lead I thought, ‘Oh, no. As much as I don’t want it to that role is going to haunt him throughout this film for me.’

And as such the opening, half an hour say, was tainted. But once I managed to get that out of my head, I was treated to an amazingly emotionally visceral film. Rolf Lassgård puts in a truly great performance as the, shall we say, antagonist. The depth there is simply stunning.

The story itself is gripping and binding through the performances all the actors give and the camera work; although flitty, works for the most part, giving an edge to the shots.

The realism imparted in a plausible story allows this film to shine brighter than I thought it’s station could.


Some News…

December 15, 2007

Top 11 Warmest Years On Record Have All Been In Last 13 Years

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2007) — The decade of 1998-2007 is the warmest on record, according to data sources obtained by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global mean surface temperature for 2007 is currently estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F.

[spoiler]

The University of East Anglia and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre have released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850.
Other remarkable global climatic events recorded so far in 2007 include record-low Arctic sea ice extent, which led to first recorded opening of the Canadian Northwest Passage; the relatively small Antarctic Ozone Hole; development of La Niña in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific; and devastating floods, drought and storms in many places around the world.
The preliminary information for 2007 is based on climate data up to the end of November from networks of land-based weather stations, ships and buoys, as well as satellites. The data are continually collected and disseminated by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) of WMO’s 188 Members and several collaborating research institutions. Final updates and figures for 2007 will be published in March 2008 in the annual WMO brochure for the Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.
WMO’s global temperature analyses are based on two different sources. One is the combined dataset maintained by both the Hadley Centre of the UK Meteorological Office, and the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK, which at this stage ranked 2007 as the seventh warmest on record. The other dataset is maintained by the US Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which indicated that 2007 is likely to be the fifth warmest on record.
Since the start of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74°C. But this rise has not been continuous. The linear warming trend over the last 50 years (0.13°C per decade) is nearly twice that for the last 100 years.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 4th Assessment (Synthesis) Report, 2007, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”
2007 global temperatures have been averaged separately for both hemispheres. Surface temperatures for the northern hemisphere are likely to be the second warmest on record, at 0.63°C above the 30-year mean (1961-90) of 14.6°C/58.3°F. The southern hemisphere temperature is 0.20°C higher than the 30-year average of 13.4°C/56.1°F, making it the ninth warmest in the instrumental record since 1850.
January 2007 was the warmest January in the global average temperature record at 12.7°C/54.9°F, compared to the 1961-1990 January long-term average of 12.1°C/53.8°F.
Regional temperature anomalies
2007 started with record breaking temperature anomalies throughout the world. In parts of Europe, winter and spring ranked amongst the warmest ever recorded, with anomalies of more than 4°C above the long-term monthly averages for January and April.
Extreme high temperatures occurred in much of Western Australia from early January to early March, with February temperatures more than 5°C above average.
Two extreme heat waves affected south-eastern Europe in June and July, breaking previous records with daily maximum temperatures exceeding 40°C/104°F in some locations, including up to 45°C/113°F in Bulgaria. Dozens of people died and fire-fighters battled blazes devastating thousands of hectares of land. A severe heat wave occurred across the southern United States of America during much of August with more than 50 deaths attributed to excessive heat. August to September 2007 was extremely warm in parts of Japan, setting a new national record of absolute maximum temperature of 40.9°/105.6°F on 16 August.
In contrast, Australia recorded its coldest ever June with the mean temperature dropping to 1.5°C below normal. South America experienced an unusually cold winter (June-August), bringing winds, blizzards and rare snowfall to various provinces with temperatures falling to -22°C/-7.6°F in Argentina and -18°C/-0.4°F in Chile in early July.
Prolonged drought
Across North America, severe to extreme drought was present across large parts of the western U.S. and Upper Midwest, including southern Ontario/Canada, for much of 2007.  More than three-quarters of the Southeast U.S. was in drought from mid-summer into December, but heavy rainfall led to an end of drought in the southern Plains.
In Australia, while conditions were not as severely dry as in 2006, long term drought meant water resources remained extremely low in many areas. Below average rainfall over the densely populated and agricultural regions resulted in significant crop and stock losses, as well as water restrictions in most major cities.
China experienced its worst drought in a decade, affecting nearly 40 million hectares of farmland. Tens of millions of people suffered from water restrictions.
Flooding and intense storms
Flooding affected many African countries in 2007. In February, Mozambique experienced its worst flooding in six years, killing dozens, destroying thousands of homes and flooding 80,000 hectares of crops in the Zambezi valley.
In Sudan, torrential rains caused flash floods in many areas in June/July, affecting over 410,000 people, including 200,000 left homeless. The strong southwesterly monsoon resulted in one of the heaviest July-September rainfall periods, triggering widespread flash floods affecting several countries in West Africa, Central Africa and parts of the Greater Horn of Africa. Some 1.5 million people were affected and hundreds of thousands homes destroyed.
In Bolivia, flooding in January-February affected nearly 200,000 people and 70,000 hectares of cropland. Strong storms brought heavy rain that caused extreme flooding in the littoral region of Argentina in late March/early April. In early May, Uruguay was hit by its worst flooding since 1959, with heavy rain producing floods that affected more than 110,000 people and severely damaged crops and buildings. Triggered by storms, massive flooding in Mexico in early November destroyed the homes of half a million people and seriously affected the country’s oil industry.
In Indonesia, massive flooding on Java in early February killed dozens and covered half of the city of Jakarta by up to 3.7 metres of water. Heavy rains in June ravaged areas across southern China, with flooding and landslides affecting over 13.5 million people and killing more than 120. Monsoon-related extreme rainfall events caused the worst flooding in years in parts of South Asia. About 25 million people were affected in the region, especially in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Thousands lost their lives. However, rainfall during the Indian summer monsoon season (June-September) for India was, generally, near normal (105% of the long-term average), but with marked differences in the distribution of rainfall in space and time.
A powerful storm system, Kyrill, affected much of northern Europe during 17-18 January 2007 with torrential rains and winds gusting up to 170km/h. There were at least 47 deaths across the region, with disruptions in electric supply affecting tens of thousands during the storm.
England and Wales recorded its wettest May-July period since records began in 1766, receiving 406 mm of rain compared to the previous record of 349 mm in 1789. Extensive flooding in the region killed nine and caused more than US$6 billion in damages.
Development of La Niña
The brief El Niño event of late 2006 quickly dissipated in January 2007, and La Niña conditions became well established across the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific in the latter half of 2007.
In addition to La Niña, unusual sea surface temperature patterns with cooler than normal values across the north of Australia to the Indian Ocean, and warmer than normal values in the Western Indian Ocean, were recorded. These are believed to have modified the usual La Niña impacts in certain regions around the world.
The current La Niña is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2008 at least.
Devastating tropical cyclones
Twenty-four named tropical storms developed in the North-West Pacific during 2007, below the annual average of 27. Fourteen storms were classified as typhoons, equalling the annual average. Tropical cyclones affected millions in south-east Asia, with typhoons Pabuk, Krosa, Lekima and tropical storms like Peipah among the severest.
During the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane season, 14 named storms occurred, compared to the annual average of 12, with 6 being classified as hurricanes, equalling the average. For the first time since 1886, two category 5 hurricanes (Dean and Felix) made landfall in the same season.
In February, due to tropical cyclone Gamède, a new worldwide rainfall record was set in French La Reunion with 3,929 mm measured within three days.
In June, cyclone Gonu made landfall in Oman, affecting more than 20,000 people and killing 50, before reaching the Islamic Republic of Iran. There is no record of a tropical cyclone hitting Iran since 1945.
On 15 November, tropical cyclone Sidr made landfall in Bangladesh, generating winds of up to 240 km/h and torrential rains. More than 8.5 million people were affected and over 3,000 died. Nearly 1.5 million houses were damaged or destroyed. Often hit by cyclones, Bangladesh has developed a network of cyclone shelters and a storm early-warning system, which significantly reduced casualties.
Australia’s 2006/2007 tropical season was unusually quiet, with only five tropical cyclones recorded, equalling the lowest number observed since at least 1943-44.
Relatively small Antarctic ozone hole
The 2007 Antarctic ozone hole was relatively small due to mild stratosphere winter temperatures. Since 1998, only the 2002 and 2004 ozone holes were smaller. In 2007, the ozone hole reached a maximum of 25 million square kms in mid-September, compared to 29 million square kms in the record years of 2000 and 2006. The ozone mass deficit reached 28 megatonnes on 23 September, compared to more than 40 megatonnes in the record year of 2006.
Record-low Arctic sea ice extent opened the Northwest Passage
Following the Arctic sea ice melt season, which ends annually in September at the end of the northern summer, the average “sea ice extent” was 4.28 million square kms, the lowest on record. The “sea ice extent” at September 2007 was 39% below the long-term 1979-2000 average, and 23% below the previous record set just two years ago in September 2005.For the first time in recorded history, the disappearance of ice across parts of the Arctic opened the Canadian Northwest Passage for about five weeks starting 11 August. Nearly 100 voyages in normally ice-blocked waters sailed without the threat of ice. The September rate of sea ice decline since 1979 is now approximately 10% per decade, or 72,000 square kms per year.
Sea level rise continues
The sea level continued to rise at rates substantially above the average for the 20th century of about 1.7 mm per year. Measurements show that the 2007 global averaged sea level is about 20 cm higher than the 1870 estimate. Modern satellite measurements show that since 1993 global averaged sea level has been rising at about 3 mm per year.
Global 10 Warmest Years Mean Global temperature (°C) (anomaly with respect to 1961-1990)
1998 0.52
2005 0.48
2003 0.46
2002 0.46
2004 0.43
2006 0.42
2007(Jan-Nov) 0.41
2001 0.40
1997 0.36
1995 0.28
UK 10 Warmest Years Mean UK Temperature (°C) (anomaly with respect to 1971-2000)
2006 +1.15
2007 (Jan to 10th Dec) + 1.10
2003 + 0.92
2004 + 0.89
2002 + 0.89
2005 + 0.87
1990 + 0.83
1997 + 0.82
1949 + 0.80
1999 + 0.78
Adapted from materials provided by World Meteorological Organization.

[/spoiler]

More fuel for the metaphorical fire.

PS3 one ups Xbox 360 with its DivX support

The Xbox 360 may have beaten Sony to to the punch with regards to supporting the DivX format but it seems that the PS3 will have the last laugh on the matter. First of all, unlike the Xbox 360, the PS3 is DivX certified meaning it will get full DivX functionality. This even allows for developers to utilize the solid form of compression for various in-game cut scenes.

quote:

Last month, DivX announced that the PS3 will soon support DivX, and, this month, Gizmodo met with the company, which shared some interesting details on the big move.

First of all, unlike the Xbox 360, the PS3 is DivX certified. While Microsoft’s console can only playback some DivX files, the PS3 will get full DivX functionality. This includes the ability for game developers to use the very efficient compression format for in-game cut-scenes.

This means DivX video cut scenes will reduce stress on the machine, theoretically allowing for better load times, less power consumption, and less heat output.

News Source: Blorge

Hurrah!  Well ok, I’m not a PS3 fanboy per say, but I do own one.  So in the interests of keeping the inter console wars fresh…. Hurrah!


Deal agreed in Bali climate talks

December 15, 2007

A compromise deal for a new international climate change agenda was agreed at the UN summit in Bali today.The move was hailed by environment secretary, Hilary Benn, as “an historic breakthrough”.

Ministers from around 180 countries were united in accepting the agenda for a global emissions cuts agreement to launch negotiations for a post-2012 agreement to tackle climate change.

Consensus for the road map followed a dramatic U-turn by the US, which had threatened to block the deal at the 11th hour and been booed by other countries.

It dropped its opposition to poorer countries’ calls for technological and financial help to combat the issue.

[spoiler]

Applause

The sudden reversal by the US in the marathon talks which saw the country duelling with European envoys was met with rousing applause.

While it will be two years before a final deal on post-2012 is likely to be struck, countries have been fighting for the kinds of things they want to see on the table for those talks.

Mr Benn said: “This is an historic breakthrough and a huge step forward.

“For the first time ever all the world’s nations have agreed to negotiate on a deal to tackle dangerous climate change.”

He said it was the compelling clarity of the science and the strength of the case for urgent action that has made this agreement possible.

But it was political leadership that made it happen, Mr Benn added.

He continued: “Our changing climate has changed our politics, because we knew that we could not let people down.

“We came here saying we wanted a road map that included every country and covered emission reductions from developed countries and fair and equitable contributions from developing countries.

“We leave here with all of this and more – a groundbreaking agreement on deforestation, and others on adaptation and technology.

“And against predictions these negotiations will be guided by ambitious goals for emission reductions.

“What we have achieved here has never been done before.

“Less than a year ago, many would have said this agreement was impossible.

“Now we must make it work, and in the next two years agree the detail of a comprehensive global climate deal that will take us beyond 2012.”

The agreement follows two weeks of insults, arguments and threatened boycotts and trade sanctions, as countries wrangled over who should take responsibility for cutting carbon pollution

UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, who returned to Bali as the conference stretched into another day, had earlier said he was “disappointed” at the lack of progress.

A highly emotional Mr Ban had told delegates: “Now the hour is late. It’s time to make a decision.

“You have in your hands the ability to deliver to the people of the world a successful outcome to this conference.”

Ministers worked through the night to hammer out the details of an agenda for the agreement, which will replace the current Kyoto Protocol.

The EU conceded on one of the main sticking points – the inclusion in the road map of a reference of 25% to 40% emissions cuts by developed countries by 2020, which scientists have said are necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

The EU had insisted the figures were in the document because they are based on the science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and an ambitious road map was needed.

But the US demanded – and won – their removal, claiming they could “prejudge” outcomes of negotiations over the past two years.

This morning the Europeans accepted a road map in which the targets were missing, as were references to the need for emissions to peak within 10 to 15 years and for global greenhouse gas output to halve by 2050.

Instead the document said countries recognise that “deep cuts in global emissions” will be required, and calls for a “long-term global goal for emissions reductions”.

In turn the US conceded over the issue in the road map of how much developing countries need to do to curb their emissions.

Paula Dobriansky, the head of the US delegation, said: “I think we have come a long way here.

“In this, the United States is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure we all act together.

“We will go forward and join consensus.”

Campaigning groups said the deal had been stripped of important targets and hit out at the US’s “wrecking policy”.

Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF UK, said:

“We are not at all pleased.

“We were looking for a road map with a destination.”

But he praised the talks having been brought back from the brink of collapse, with the alliance of the G77 developing countries with the EU.

He said positive aspects included the beginning of a framework to ramp up the finance to help poorer countries adapt and potential for “real movement” with technology transfer.

Looking ahead, Mr Allott hoped for a new administration in the US.

“We are seeing a dynamic situation in many of the countries,” he said.

“We have had a sea change in Australia.”

Greenpeace said that the agreement had been stripped of the emission reduction targets that humanity needs.

“The Bush administration has unscrupulously taken a monkey wrench to the level of action on climate change that the science demands,” said Gerd Leipold, executive director of Greenpeace International.

“They’ve relegated the science to a footnote.”

Greenpeace said it remains confident that mounting public pressure on every continent will force governments over the next two years to agree “inevitable” deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The group criticised the US’s strategy, saying the Bush administration was “shamed” by the firm resolve of the developing countries China, India, Brazil and South Africa, who came to Bali with concrete proposals.

Nelson Muffuh, a Christian Aid senior climate change policy analyst, said: “For most of the conference, the US delegation in particular proved a major obstacle to progress.

“They appeared to operate a wrecking policy, as though determined to derail the whole process.

“We welcome their last minute agreement to support the consensus in accepting the Bali road map, having said less than an hour earlier that it was unacceptable, and we sincerely hope they are serious in their stated desire to negotiate.

“But the way ahead will be hard. The Bush administration has said throughout that it wants to see developing countries agree to cuts in carbon emissions.

“A number of emerging economies put creative, flexible plans on the table, but will have little incentive to negotiate further until the industrialised world agrees deeper cuts.

“Climate change is already having a devastating impact on the lives of some of the world’s poorest communities through drought and flooding.”

He said the lack of clear targets in the road map leaves them exposed to further catastrophe.

“We were expecting a road map, and we’ve got one,” said Mr Muffuh. “But it lacks signposts and there is no agreed destination.”

A spokesman for the Carbon Markets Association (CMA) welcomed the breakthrough “of a road map to engaging all nations, including the US, in meaningful negotiations toward long-term commitments by 2009.

“The process to 2009 should at a minimum deliver an extension of the first phase binding commitments beyond 2012 as well the engagement of a broader group of nations with binding commitments.”

The US is the only major industrial nation to reject Kyoto.

President George Bush has complained that it would unduly damage the US economy, and emission caps should have been imposed on China, India and other fast-growing developing countries.

The Bush administration favours a voluntary approach with each country deciding how it can contribute in place of internationally negotiated and legally binding commitments.

[/spoiler]

Source

So the US makes some concessions to strike a deal. But not before ‘targets’ are take out of the deal, which in my opinion taints the whole ‘historic moment’. It’s something, but not the everything I was hoping for. And i don’t think I’m the only one.

With emerging economies coming to the fore as major contributors to climate change, fair or not, we in the west need to lead the way and try and compensate for the damage these relatively new, to the climate problem, countries are causing.  Now is the time, and the USA needs to put the world before themselves for a change.


Is the biofuel dream over?

December 14, 2007
  • 15 December 2007
  • From New Scientist Print Edition.
  • Fred Pearce
  • Peter Aldhous

Can biofuels help save our planet from a climate catastrophe? Farmers and fuel companies certainly seem to think so, but fresh doubts have arisen about the wisdom of jumping wholesale onto the biofuels bandwagon…….

About 12 million hectares, or around 1 per cent of the world’s fields, are currently devoted to growing biofuels. Sugar cane and maize, for example, are turned into bioethanol, a substitute for gasoline, while rapeseed and palm oil are made into biodiesel. That figure will grow because oil is so costly, and because biofuels supposedly emit fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

But a slew of new studies question the logic behind expanding biofuel production. For a start, there may not be enough land to grow the crops on or water to irrigate them, given other demands on global agriculture. Worse, any cuts in carbon dioxide emissions gained by burning less fossil fuels may be wiped out by increased emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from fertilisers used on biofuel crops.

In parts of the world, shortage of water is already putting a brake on agricultural productivity. According to Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden, switching 50 per cent of the fossil fuels that will be devoted to electricity generation and transport by 2050 to biofuels would use between 4000 and 12,000 extra cubic kilometres of water per year. To put that in perspective, the total annual flow down the world’s rivers is about 14,000 km3.

A more modest target of quadrupling world biofuel production to 140 billion litres a year by 2030 – enough to replace 7.5 per cent of current gasoline use, would require an extra 180 km3 of water to be extracted from rivers and underground reserves, calculates Charlotte de Fraiture at the International Water Management Institute, based near Columbo in Sri Lanka.

That target may be manageable across much of the globe. But in China and India, where water is in short supply and most crops require artificial irrigation, de Fraiture argues that there is not enough water even to meet existing government plans to expand biofuel production.

Another contentious issue is how much land is available to grow biofuels (New Scientist, 25 September 2006, p 36). And the answer appears to be not much, a point that Sten Nilsson, deputy director of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, makes using a “cartographic strip-tease” based on a new global mapping study.

Beginning with a world map showing land not yet built upon or cultivated, Nilsson progressively strips forests, deserts and other non-vegetated areas, mountains, protected areas, land with an unsuitable climate, and pastures needed for grazing (see Maps). That leaves just 250 to 300 million hectares for growing biofuels, an area about the size of Argentina.

Even using a future generation of biofuel crops – woody plants with large amounts of cellulose that enable more biomass to be converted to fuel – Nilsson calculates that it will take 290 million hectares to meet a tenth of the world’s projected energy demands in 2030. But another 200 million hectares will be needed by then to feed an extra 2 to 3 billion people, with a further 25 million hectares absorbed by expanding timber and pulp industries.

So if biofuels expand as much as Nilsson anticipates, there will be no choice but to impinge upon land needed for growing food, or to destroy forests and other pristine areas like peat bogs. That would release carbon now stashed away in forests and peat soils (New Scientist, 1 December, p 50), turning biofuels into a major contributor to global warming

De Fraiture is more optimistic. Her modest projection for a quadrupling of biofuel production assumes that maize production will be boosted by 20 per cent, sugar cane by 25 per cent and oil crops for biodiesel by 80 per cent. Assuming future improvements in crop yields, de Fraiture estimates that this might be done on just 30 million hectares of land – or 2.5 times the area now under cultivation.

Even today’s biofuel yields depend on generous applications of nitrogen-containing fertiliser. That contributes to global warming, as some of the added nitrogen gets converted into nitrous oxide, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Over 100 years it creates 300 times the warming effect of CO2, molecule for molecule. And now researchers led by Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, who won a share of a Nobel prize for his work on the destruction of the ozone layer, claim that we have underestimated these emissions. Factor in their revised figures, and cuts in CO2 emissions as a result of replacing fossil fuels may be wiped out altogether.

“Fertilisers contribute to global warming, as some of the added nitrogen gets converted into a potent greenhouse gas”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that between 1 and 2 per cent of nitrogen added to fields gets converted to nitrous oxide, based on direct measurements of emissions from fertilised soils. But nitrogen from fertiliser also gets into water and moves around the environment, continuing to emit nitrous oxide as it goes. To estimate these “indirect” emissions, Crutzen and his colleagues calculated how much nitrogen has built up in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times, and estimated how much of this could be attributed to the use of fertilisers.

This suggested that between 3 and 5 per cent of the nitrogen added to the soil in fertilisers ends up in the atmosphere as nitrous oxide. Crucially, that would be enough to negate cuts in CO2 emissions made by replacing fossil fuels. Biodiesel from rapeseed came off worse – the warming caused by nitrous oxide emissions being 1 to 1.7 times as much as the cooling caused by replacing fossil fuels. For maize bioethanol, the range was 0.9 to 1.5. Only bioethanol from sugar cane came out with a net cooling effect, its nitrous oxide emissions causing between 0.5 and 0.9 times as much warming as the cooling due to fossil fuel replacement.

These simple calculations, which set increased nitrous oxide emissions against reductions in CO2 emissions caused by replacing gasoline or diesel with biofuels, do not account for all the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing, processing and distributing the various fuels. Now Michael Wang of the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois has taken Crutzen’s upper estimate for nitrous oxide emissions and plugged it into a sophisticated computer model which does just that. When he did so, bioethanol from maize went from giving about a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to gasoline, to providing no advantage at all. Still, Wang suspects that Crutzen’s method may overestimate nitrous oxide emissions. “It is a very interesting approach,” he says. “But there may be systematic biases.”

Crutzen stresses that his paper is still being revised in response to comments he has received since August, when a preliminary version appeared online. “Here and there the numbers may change. But the principle doesn’t,” he says. “It’s really telling us about a general problem with our lack of knowledge about the nitrogen cycle.”

With governments and businesses backing biofuels as part of a “green” future, that represents a disturbing gap in our knowledge.

From issue 2634 of New Scientist magazine, 15 December 2007, page 6-7

So the biofuel solution is running into problems, well its an emerging technology and it isn’t the only solution / possibility for humans to switch away from fossil fuels and other green house contributors.

Onwards, always onwards 🙂


Bali draft says all nations must join climate fight

December 9, 2007

By Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – All nations must do more to fight climate change, and rich countries must make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts, a draft proposal at United Nations talks said on Saturday.

The four-page draft, written by delegates from Indonesia, Australia and South Africa as an unofficial guide for delegates from 190 nations at the December 3-14 talks, said developing nations should at least brake rising emissions as part of a new pact.

It said there was “unequivocal scientific evidence” that “preventing the worst impacts of climate change will require (developed nations) to reduce emissions in a range of 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”

The draft is the first outline of the possible goals of talks on a new global deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which binds just 36 developed nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

“Current efforts … will not deliver the required emissions reductions,” according to the text, obtained by Reuters, that lays out a plan for averting ever more droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising seas.

“The challenge of climate change calls for effective participation by all countries,” it said. The United States is outside the Kyoto pact and developing nations led by China and India have no 2012 goals for limiting emissions.

Echoing conclusions this year by the U.N. climate panel, it said global emissions of greenhouse gases would have to “peak in the next 10 to 15 years and be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by 2050.”

The draft lays out three options for how to proceed after Bali — ranging from non-binding talks over the next two years to a deadline for adopting a new global pact at a U.N. meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009.

Rich nations should consider ways to step up efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases by setting “quantified national emission objectives”, the draft says.

Poor countries should take “national mitigation actions … that limit the growth of, or reduce, emissions,” it says. It adds that “social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities” for poor nations.

Delegates will report back on Monday with reactions.

Earlier, trade ministers from 12 nations met for the first time on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference, opening a new front in the global warming battle.

Their two-day discussions ending on Sunday focus on easing tariffs on climate-friendly goods to spur a “green” economy. About 20 finance ministers will join the fringes of the Bali meeting on Monday and Tuesday.

“Climate change solutions open up important opportunities for jobs and trade,” Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean told reporters. Ministers at the trade meeting included those from the United States, Australia, Brazil and India.

Differences over who should take the blame for, and do most to curb, emissions threatened to deadlock the main talks. Canada and Australia joined Japan on Saturday in calling for commitments from some developing countries.

But developing nations would find it “inconceivable” to accept binding targets now, said the U.N.’s climate change chief Yvo de Boer. An alliance of 43 small island states urged even tougher action to fight climate change, saying they risked being washed off the map by rising seas.

Outside the conference centre, Balinese dancers used sticks to burst black balloons labelled “CO2”, the main greenhouse gas.

— For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/

(Reporting by Gerard Wynn and Alister Doyle, Editing by Tim Pearce)

Just do it….


Scientist: Greenhouse Gas Levels Grave

October 10, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Strong worldwide economic growth has accelerated the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere to a dangerous threshold scientists had not expected for another decade, according to a leading Australian climate change expert.

Scientist Tim Flannery told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that an upcoming report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will contain new data showing that the level of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere has already reached critical levels.

Flannery is not a member of the IPCC, but said he based his comments on a thorough review of the technical data included in the panel’s three working group reports published earlier this year. The IPCC is due to release its final report synthesizing the data in November.

“What the report establishes is that the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is already above the threshold that can potentially cause dangerous climate change,” Flannery told the broadcaster late Monday. “We are already at great risk of dangerous climate change, that’s what these figures say. It’s not next year or next decade, it’s now.”

Flannery, whose recent book “The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth,” made best-seller lists worldwide, said the data showed that the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had reached about 455 parts per million by mid-2005, well ahead of scientists’ previous calculations.

“We thought we’d be at that threshold within about a decade, that we had that much time,” Flannery said. “I mean, that’s beyond the limits of projection, beyond the worst-case scenario as we thought of it in 2001,” when the last major IPCC report was issued.

The new data could add urgency to the next round of U.N. climate change talks on the Indonesian island of Bali in December, which will aim to start negotiations on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Flannery said that the recent economic boom in China and India has helped to accelerate the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but strong growth in the developed world has also exacerbated the problem.

“It’s a worldwide issue. We’ve had growing economies everywhere, we’re still basing that economic activity on fossil fuels,” he said. “The metabolism of that economy is now on a collision course clearly with the metabolism of our planet.”

A spokesman for Australia’s IPCC delegate, Ian Carruthers, said he was not available to comment on the report because it was still in draft form.

I’m sceptical, I guess mainly because I don’t want it to be true.  It seems that we as a race are finally coming to grips with the fact that we need to change the way we live our lives on this planet and that we still have a chance to make changes that can reduce the risk of a total climate disaster.  In the short term nothing changes, as in, we need to combat global warming on every front, with every measure possible.


How climate change will affect the world

September 20, 2007

The effects of climate change will be felt sooner than scientists realised and the world must learn to live with the effects, experts said yesterday.

Martin Parry, a climate scientist with the Met Office, said destructive changes in temperature, rainfall and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought. He said vulnerable people such as the old and poor would be the worst affected, and that world leaders had not yet accepted their countries would have to adapt to the likely consequences.

Speaking at a meeting to launch the full report on the impacts of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Parry, co-chairman of the IPCC working group that wrote the report, said: “We are all used to talking about these impacts coming in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. Now we know that it’s us.”

He added politicians had wasted a decade by focusing only on ways to cut emissions, and had only recently woken up to the need to adapt. “Mitigation has got all the attention, but we cannot mitigate out of this problem. We now have a choice between a future with a damaged world or a severely damaged world.”

The international response to the problem has failed to grasp that serious consequences such as reduced crop yields and water shortages are now inevitable, he said. Countries such as Britain need to focus on helping nations in the developing world cope with the predicted impacts, by helping them to introduce irrigation and water management technology, drought resistant crops and new building techniques.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said: “Wheat production in India is already in decline, for no other reason than climate change. Everyone thought we didn’t have to worry about Indian agriculture for several decades. Now we know it’s being affected now.” There are signs a similar shift is under way in China, he added.

The summary chapter of yesterday’s report was published in April, after arguments between scientists and political officials over its contents. Prof Parry said: “Governments don’t like numbers, so some numbers were brushed out of it.”

The report warns that Africa and the Arctic will bear the brunt of climate impacts, along with small islands such as Fiji, and Asian river megadeltas including the Mekong.

It says extreme weather events are likely to become more intense and more frequent, and the effect on ecosystems could be severe, with up to 30% of plant and animal species at risk of extinction if the average rise in global temperatures exceeds 1.5C-2.5C. The consequences of rising temperatures are already being felt on every continent, it adds.

Prof Parry said it was “very unlikely” that average temperature rise could be limited to 2C, as sought by European governments. That would place 2 billion more people at risk of water shortages, and hundreds of millions more will face hunger, the report says.

So there we have it, spelled out.

A couple of my books arrived the other day, I’ve started on Environment Ethics and I have to admit it isn’t as easy a read as a few others I have started and finished recently, but thats the point of studying, to challenge and push yourself. Despite it not being totally straight forward I am enjoying it and am learning and exploring ideas that wouldnt have come to me as easily as some other concepts that I come across daily on my travels. We’ll see how it goes of course.

In other news The Special One has left Chelsea and it’s a really dark day. I can’t see any other manager in the future being able to bestow the level of success he has in his time with us. Anyway I’m working on a tribute video which I will published as soon as it’s ready. That’s really all I want to say on the subject.


Justa Quickie

September 17, 2007

Was doing my daily tinternet snoop and came across this article/comment:

Dear Umbra,

I see that PETA’s latest campaign says that meat eating is the No. 1 cause of global warming, not SUVs. This statement may be manipulative and political, but — is it true?

J.
Helena, Mont.

Dearest J.,

I’ll bite.

 

The authors of the report offer a global perspective on the environmental impacts of the livestock sector. They expect global production of both milk and meat to more than double from 2001 to 2050, and they contextualize this growth as both nutritionally positive for undernourished humans and negative for — can we say overnourished persons, at risk for obesity, heart disease, etc. Humanity gets half its protein intake from livestock products, FYI. Oh, here’s an interesting global comparison: in 2003, people in India ate 5 kg (11 pounds) of meat per person, Americans 123 kg (271 pounds).Shallow digging on one People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals site quickly uncovered their excitement at a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Over 300 pages on livestock and the environment. It’s riveting and you too can download and read it.

The juicy eco-numbers in the report are that, “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” and, “the livestock sector is … responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.” Thus, the expected doubling of meat and milk production within 50 years clearly presents a challenge.

But as you can see, this is not the same as saying eating meat is the No. 1 contributor to global warming.

I think what you gathered from the PETA campaign is that it was worse to eat a steak than to drive your Excursion to the steakhouse. The FAO report does not address this particular comparison, since it is more focused on global policy changes and industrial practices than on personal shopping choices.

The report does detail the particular impacts animal agriculture has on various environmental categories. Global warming impacts derive from: fossil-fuel use in manufacturing fertilizer and in feed production, on-farm fuel use, forests harvested or burned to make pasture, methane emissions from ruminant digestion and from manure, transportation of products and supplies, and processing. The authors prioritize land use and land degradation as areas for improvement for carbon emissions, through techniques such as agricultural intensification (e.g., intensive rotational grazing), conservation tillage, and erosion reduction. Methane and nitrous oxides, lesser but more powerful greenhouse gases, are a big problem with livestock; here, the authors recommend improving manure management and changing animals’ diets.

How about changing our own diet, with this new piece of global information? That is the basic aim of the campaign by PETA and others, and in theory I support it. I extrapolate that Gristies, who have recreational or employment-based computer access, belong to the group of people who have a choice in the matter. Basically our goals should be the same as always: reduce or eliminate animal products in our diets. Particularly we should look to reduce or eliminate animal foods grown under environmentally disastrous farming techniques.

Two examples of environmentally disastrous techniques include the infamous confinement operations, and massive deforestation for pasture conversion (the Amazon being the poster child here). Those are two simpler systems to track. It’s harder to tell if the farm that raised your anonymous pork is over-applying nitrogen fertilizer. That’s why we like buying locally and/or reading labels such as organic. Of course, not eating meat at all gets you around these issues — and there’s no reason we can’t both eat less livestock and drive fewer miles.

Optimistically,
Umbra

Source

I added the Livestock’s Long Shadow document to the links section of the site.  It’s rather long but an excellent read as the above article / answer states.


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?