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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 17-04-2012 07:30    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems impossible to wean ourselves off fossil hydrocarbon fuel:

Fracking 'should continue with checks'
By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News

A controversial gas extraction method which triggered two earth tremors near Blackpool last year should continue under strict conditions, a government-appointed panel of experts says.

The process - fracking - involves pumping water and chemicals into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas.
Shale gas is seen as a way of ensuring relatively cheap energy supplies.
But critics have warned of possible side effects - including the contamination of ground water.

Test fracking by the Cuadrilla company near Blackpool stopped in 2011 when two earthquakes were felt at the surface.
The government-appointed panel believes there will probably be more quakes but that they will be too small to do structural damage above ground. It recommends more monitoring.

The panel's report now goes out for a six-week consultation period, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) issuing a firm set of regulations at some point after that.
The panel agrees with a Cuadrilla report from late last year that test fracks at the company's Preese Hall site did cause two earthquakes of Magnitudes 2.3 and 1.5 in April and May.

"[Cuadrilla's experts] said there was a very low probability of other earthquakes during future treatments of other wells," said Peter Styles from Keele University.
"We agree that [last year's] events are attributable to the existence of an adjacent geological fault that had not been identified.
"There might be other comparable faults, (and) we believe it's not possible to categorically reject the possibility of further quakes."

Report author Prof Peter Styles says any earthquakes are "not likely to cause significant damage"
Such events might well be felt at the surface but are extremely unlikely to be significant.
Shale gas is found in layers of relatively weak sedimentary rock, typically several kilometres underground.

Coal mining has generated thousands of earthquakes down the years; and on the basis of all the data gathered from this, the panel says, fracking is unlikely to produce anything larger than a Magnitude 3.
"There's no record of a quake at this size doing any structural damage," said Prof Styles. "But they would be strongly felt, and there is a possibility of superficial damage."

The panel recommends four precautions regarding Cuadrilla's Preese Hall operation and other projects in the Bowland Shale:

-all injections of fracking fluid must include a preliminary injection, followed by monitoring
- the growth of fractures in the shale should be monitored
- operations should monitor seismic events in real time
- operators should observe a "traffic light" regime, with quakes of magnitude 0.5 or above triggering a "red light" and an immediate halt, followed by remedial action.

This is a considerably lower threshold than the 1.7 proposed by Cuadrilla's experts, though the panel emphasised that other countries such as Switzerland use the still higher threshold of 2.3.
"We've opted for a much lower, more conservative option," said Brian Baptie, head of seismology at the British Geological Survey (BGS).
"Even with real-time monitoring, there will be a time lag between what we've put into the ground and what we get back out in the form of earthquakes."

Operators should also minimise quakes by allowing the fracking liquid to flow back up the well soon after injection, the panel says, rather than keeping the rock under prolonged pressure.

It also recommends that seismic hazards should be properly assessed before new exploration is permitted.
This would involve seismic monitoring to establish what levels of activity are normal in that location, analysis of geological faults, and the use of computer models to assess the potential impact of any induced earthquakes.

The three members of the panel - Prof Styles, Dr Baptie and Dr Chris Green, an independent fracking expert based in Lancashire - said this information should be publicly available.

Mark Miller, Cuadrilla's chief executive, welcomed the report.
"We are pleased that the experts have come to a clear conclusion that it is safe to allow us to resume hydraulic fracturing, following the procedures outlined in the review," he said.
He said the company had already begun to amend procedures in light of expert advice.

The government sees shale gas as a valuable energy resource for the future.
Cuadrilla claims that the site it has explored in the Bowland Shale contains 200 trillion cubic feet of gas, more than the UK's known offshore reserve - though only a portion of this would be economically recoverable.

"If shale gas is to be part of the UK's energy mix we need to have a good understanding of its potential environmental impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts," said David MacKay, Decc's chief scientific adviser.
"This comprehensive independent expert review of Cuadrilla's evidence suggests a set of robust measures to make sure future seismic risks are minimised - not just at this location but at any other potential sites across the UK."

Other companies want to explore for shale gas in Fermanagh, the Vale of Glamorgan, Somerset, Kent and Sussex.
But local groups are concerned about groundwater contamination as well as earthquakes, while environment groups point out that basing the UK's energy strategy on gas will make it much harder to achieve climate change targets.

"We don't need earth tremor-causing fracking to meet our power needs - we need a seismic shift in energy policy," said Andy Atkins, director of Friends of the Earth UK.
"We should be developing the huge potential of clean British energy from the Sun, wind and waves, not more dirty and dangerous fossil fuels."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17726538
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 18-04-2012 06:54    Post subject: Reply with quote

rynner2 wrote:
It seems impossible to wean ourselves off fossil hydrocarbon fuel:

But many motorists are doing what they can:

Sales of low emission cars soar in UK

UK drivers are increasingly choosing fuel efficient cars with historically low carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to motor industry body SMMT.
Demand for frugal, low emission cars has risen as a result of rising fuel prices, and technological advances have increased the supply of such cars.

The SMMT said 46.8% of cars sold in 2011 emitted less than 130 grammes per kilometre, up from 10.6% in 2007.
Average emissions from new cars sold in 2011 stood at 138.1g/km.
The average must fall below 130g/km by 2015, then below 95g/km by 2020, in line with European Union regulation.
The 2020 target may be changed, however, pending an impact assessment.

Technology improvements, coupled with changing consumer tastes, have resulted in a 23% fall in average CO2 emissions since 2000, according to the SMMT.
New cars are 18% cleaner than the UK average, according to the report.
They are also more frugal, delivering an average 54 miles per gallon of fuel, it said.
The changing consumer behaviour is closely linked to rising fuel prices, as well as to tax and insurance costs, which are higher for thirsty and powerful cars that generally emit more CO2 than smaller models.

So far, alternatively fuelled cars, such as petrol-electric hybrids or all-electric vehicles, have contributed relatively little to the overall reduction in CO2 emissions.
In 2011, just 1.3% of the market was made up by such cars.

The emission reductions have thus resulted mainly from improvements to the efficiency of petrol and diesel engines.
But to achieve further improvements, the SMMT has long been lobbying for the government to adjust taxes to encourage investment in new technologies and to offer consumers incentives to encourage them to buy more fuel efficient, less polluting cars.

"Future environmental and economic success will be determined by sustained investment in new technology, research and development, infrastructure and consumer incentives," said SMMT's chief executive, Paul Everitt.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17740356
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 18-04-2012 07:09    Post subject: Reply with quote

rynner2 wrote:
rynner2 wrote:
It seems impossible to wean ourselves off fossil hydrocarbon fuel:

But many motorists are doing what they can:

But problems still remain:

Traffic pollution kills 5,000 a year in UK, says study
By Roland Pease, BBC Radio Science Unit

Road pollution is more than twice as deadly as traffic accidents, according to a study of UK air quality.
The analysis appears in Environmental Science and Technology, carried out by Steve Yim and Steven Barrett, pollution experts from MIT in Massachusetts.
They estimate that combustion exhausts across the UK cause nearly 5,000 premature deaths each year.
The pair also estimate that exhaust gases from aeroplanes cause a further 2,000 deaths annually.
By comparison, 2010 saw, 1,850 deaths due to road accidents recorded.

Overall, the study's findings are in line with an earlier report by the government's Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP), which found that air pollution in 2008 was responsible for about 29,000 deaths in the UK.

The new study arrives at a slightly lower annual figure of 19,000, a difference the lead author of the COMEAP study, Fintan Hurley, attributes to differing methodology.
The latest study adds to the debate by breaking down mortality rates according to sector - transport, energy and industry.
The researchers combine models of atmospheric circulation and chemistry with source data and clinical studies to arrive at their independent figures for the health effects of pollution.

Although the popular perception of air pollution involves images of smoke stacks billowing out toxic black fumes into the atmosphere, industry and the power sector turn out to kill fewer than vehicle emissions, the data shows.
"Cars and lorries emit right by where people live and work and so have a greater impact," explains lead author Steven Barrett
.

The findings also pinpoint where the deaths happen: 2,200 every year in Greater London, another 630 in both Greater Manchester and West Midlands.

Because the model includes Europe-wide weather patterns, it also reveals how far the deadly effects of air pollution can reach.
Of the 19,000 annual UK deaths estimated, 7,000 are due to pollutants blown in from the continent. In London, European pollutants add 960 deaths each year to the 2,200 caused by UK combustion fumes.

But the international trade in deaths goes both ways. More than 3,000 European deaths can be attributed to UK emissions the authors say.
"We are all in this together," agrees Fintan Hurley of COMEAP.
"If one city were to clean up its traffic, it would still be dealing with pollution from traffic elsewhere."

The propensity for air pollution to straddle boundaries has political, as well as medical, implications.
The UK is currently facing the threat of prosecution by the European Union for serial violations of air-quality standards.
But the new study suggests that 40% of the key pollutant, PM2.5 (particles up to 2.5 micrometres in diameter) comes from abroad.

"The EU-attributable particulates in London are likely to have significantly contributed to the violations, because they raised the background concentration on which local short-term peaks were superimposed," explains Steven Barrett.

Not that these legal niceties are of any help to those most at danger from polluted air. The analysis identifies key improvements that would help reduce the health burden of air pollution.
Practical measures include the reduction of black carbon emitted in car exhausts - especially from older cars that fail to burn their fuel completely.
Reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions would also help, though perhaps at a cost of making vehicles less efficient.

Far more effective, experts say, would be to invest in public transport, taking cars off the road altogether.
Such improvements would come at a cost, but so does continuing with business as usual
.

"We estimate the premature deaths are costing the UK at least £6 billion a year," says Steven Barrett, "and perhaps as much as £60 billion."
For comparison, Crossrail is projected to cost £14.8 billion to build and expected to remove 15,000 car journeys during the morning peak.

Meanwhile, Steven Barrett is moving his attention to another form of public transport, and hopes soon to conclude a detailed assessment of the health impacts of either a third runway at Heathrow and of the alternative Thames Estuary Airport proposal.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17704116
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 20-04-2012 07:13    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rare UK butterflies 'bounce back'
By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC Nature

Record-breaking temperatures and dry weather in spring has led to an increase in the numbers of many species of rare butterfly, a study suggests
The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and charity Butterfly Conservation said the weather had provided "perfect conditions" for "spring specialists".
Their study was based on assessments of over 1,000 UK butterfly habitat sites.

Species that did particularly well included the Duke of Burgundy butterfly - listed as threatened in the UK.
Long-term, this species has declined by more than 40% in the last 30 years.
It found that the species bucked that declining trend between 2010 and 2011, increasing in numbers by 65%.

Spring butterflies fared particularly well: numbers of grizzled skipper rose by 96% and the pearl-bordered fritillary population leapt by 103%.

The much colder weather in the summer was, however, very bad news for more familiar garden species, including the peacock, small tortoiseshell and common blue.
The populations of all three of these species fell significantly.

Marc Botham from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology stressed that it was "important to look beyond the short term boost that last year's weather provided."
"In the long term [many rare species] are still declining," he told BBC Nature.
"What's important is to have good conservation in place, so that when the weather is good the habitat is there to allow these species to benefit."

He pointed out that such targeted conservation - actively managing and improving butterfly habitat - had resurrected some species.
"The heath fritillary was deemed the next species to become extinct [in Britain]," he said.
Work to preserve the coppiced woodland this species needs in the South East of England has meant that in one particular woodland the species is now "thriving".

Dr Tom Brereton, head of monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said that butterflies relied on "old-fashioned landscapes" that were declining in the UK.
"We have 58 species in Britain and about 30 of them are restricted to semi-natural habitats," he said, "Ancient woodlands, heathland, sand dunes or marshland - they're all habitats where there hasn't been any agriculture or development.
"Targeted conservation [of these habitats] will be the only thing that helps them."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/17769868
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 07:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big rise in North Pacific plastic waste
By Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News

The quantity of small plastic fragments floating in the north-east Pacific Ocean has increased a hundred fold over the past 40 years.
Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography documented the big rise when they trawled the waters off California.
They were able to compare their plastic "catch" with previous data for the region.
The group reports its findings in the journal Biology Letters.

"We did not expect to find this," says Scripps researcher Miriam Goldstein.
"When you go out into the North Pacific, what you find can be highly variable. So, to find such a clear pattern and such a large increase was very surprising," she told BBC News.

All the plastic discarded into the ocean that does not sink will eventually break down.
Sunlight and the action of the waves will degrade and shred the material over time into pieces the size of a fingernail, or smaller.

An obvious concern is that this micro-material could be ingested by marine organisms, but the Scripps team has noted another, perhaps unexpected, consequence.
The fragments make it easier for the marine insect Halobates sericeus to lay its eggs out over the ocean.
These "sea skaters" or "water striders" - relatives of pond water skaters - need a platform for the task.
Normally, this might be seabird feathers, tar lumps or even pieces of pumice rock. But it is clear from the trawl results that H. sericeus has been greatly aided by the numerous plastic surfaces now available to it in the Pacific.

The team found a strong association between the presence of Halobates and the micro-plastic in a way that was just not evident in the data from 40 years ago.
Ms Goldstein explained: "We thought there might be fewer Halobates if there's more plastic - that there might be some sort of toxic effect. But, actually, we found the opposite. In the areas that had the most plastic, we found the most Halobates.
"So, they're obviously congregating around this plastic, laying their eggs on it, and hatching out from it. For Halobates, all this plastic has worked out well for them."

Ms Goldstein and colleagues gathered their information on the abundance of micro-plastic during the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (Seaplex) off California in 2009. They then compared their data with those from other scientific cruises, including archived records stretching back to the early 1970s.

The natural circulation of water - the North Pacific Gyre - tends to retain the debris in reasonably discrete, long-lived collections, which have popularly become known as "garbage patches". In the north-eastern Pacific, one of these concentrations is seen in waters between Hawaii and California.

This Scripps study follows another report by colleagues at the institution that showed 9% of the fish collected during the same Seaplex voyage had plastic waste in their stomachs.
That investigation, published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, estimated the fish at intermediate ocean depths in the North Pacific Ocean could be ingesting plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tonnes per year.

Toxicity is the issue most often raised in relation to this type of pollution, but Ms Goldstein and colleagues say broader ecosystem effects also need to be studied.
The abundance of ocean debris will influence the success, or otherwise, of "rafting communities" - those species that are specifically adapted to life on or around objects floating in the water.

Larger creatures would include barnacles and crabs, and even fish that like to live under some kind of cover, but large-scale change would likely touch even the smallest organisms.
"The study raises an important issue, which is the addition of hard surfaces to the open ocean," says Ms Goldstein.

"In the North Pacific, for example, there's no floating seaweed like there is in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic. And we know that the animals, the plants and the microbes that live on hard surfaces are different to the ones that live floating around in the water.
"So, what plastic has done is add hundreds of millions of hard surfaces to the Pacific Ocean. That's quite a profound change."

Ms Goldstein's co-authors were Marci Rosenberg, a student at the University of California Los Angeles, and Scripps research biologist emeritus Lanna Cheng.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17991993

Evolution in action - a change in the environment that harms some species, but benefits others.
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 07:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

A remarkable story:

Battling the brown tree snake in Guam
By Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, BBC News, Guam

In the dense tropical forest, a slither of movement can just be made out in the glow of our head torches.
A snake is entwined in the undergrowth. It is about 1m long, mostly dull brown but with a vivid yellow underbelly.
We are face to face with Guam's "nemesis": the brown tree snake. And the forests here are dripping with them.

The US territory, in the western Pacific, is only 50km (30 miles) long and 10km wide, but it is packed with two million snakes.
This reptile arrived here only 60 years ago but has rapidly become one of the most successful invasive species ever.

Wildlife biologist James Stanford, from the US Geological Survey, says: "Our belief is that they came at the end of World War II.
"We've looked at their genetics and they are all extremely closely related, and it appears they came from the Island of Manus in Papua New Guinea."

He explains that military equipment used by the US in Papua New Guinea while the war raged in the Pacific was eventually sent back to Guam to be processed. A snake probably crept on to a ship or a plane destined for the island.
"And from that handful, or maybe even one already impregnated female, we now have a population that is unbelievable in scale," he says.

The venomous snakes have caused many problems. They get everywhere, and people have even woken up with them in their beds.
The island's power system is regularly shorted out by snakes crawling on the lines. It is so frequent the locals now call power cuts "brown outs".

But the biggest impact has been on the wildlife - it has been decimated. The forests here are eerily quiet. Now the only place where the Guam's native birds, such as the koko, can be seen on the island are in cages in a captive breeding centre.

"The brown tree snake has had a devastating impact. Ten out of 12 native forest bird species disappeared in 30 years," says Cheryl Calaustro from Guam's Department of Agriculture.
"The birds here evolved without predators. They were quite naive. And when the snake arrived on Guam it ate eggs, juveniles, adults. Whole generations disappeared."

But the snakes did not stop there.
Dr Stanford explains: "We thought it would be limited: 'OK, if it wipes out the birds, it will decline.' It wasn't the case. It just switched what it was feeding on - rodents, lizards, small mammals - across the board."

Now the locals are fighting back. And they are unleashing some unusual weapons in their war against the snake.
One effort has involved air-dropping mice that have been laced with poison and fitted with parachutes out of helicopters. It provides a deadly dinner for any unsuspecting snakes below.

"Right now we are using acetaminophen. It commonly used as a pain reliever and fever reducer in humans, but it is 100% lethal to all brown tree snakes," explains Dan Vice of the US Department of Agriculture.
"If they eat that dead mouse containing acetaminophen, they will die."

But this is a battle on two fronts. Not only is the US government trying to clear the snakes, it is also trying to prevent the problem being passed to anyone else.
And to do this, it has enlisted the help of some small dogs.
In a busy cargo depot close to the airport, Elmo the Jack Russell, kitted out in a smart, green uniform, is sniffing box upon box of goods waiting for export.
He is on the hunt for any unwanted stowaways.
As he catches wind of an unusual scent, he begins to scrabble, alerting the government inspector to the presence of a snake - and is rewarded with a treat.

A small army of dogs check every single item of cargo before it leaves Guam.
"It is a monumental project. We're working 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Mr Vice.
"Cargo doesn't stop, the airport doesn't shut down, so we have to be there to make sure the cargo going on the airplane has indeed been snake inspected."

Letting the snakes on a plane could have devastating consequences.
Mr Vice says: "Economics researchers have tried to apply the impact of snakes to Hawaii. They found it could cost $400m or more if the snake became established.
"The impacts are running across all kinds of parts of the economy. It includes healthcare for humans because the snakes bite people, damage to the power system, lost revenue associated with declines in tourism and ecotourism."

However, with so many snakes on the island, controlling the problem is an uphill battle.
And today, Guam serves as an example to the world of what happens when an invasive species takes hold.
The worry is that it may be too late to clear the infestation, but Mr Vice says this should not stop the islanders from trying.
"Our long-term goal is to eradicate the snake," he says.
"The problems here are so profound we don't want to let them go anywhere else, and the only way to achieve that is to get rid of them completely."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17992053
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 08:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

A story which could fit into several threads. I put it in Snakes.
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 12:26    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it just me or do you all now have a mental picture of dead mice parachuting out of the sky?
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 12:32    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kondoru wrote:
Is it just me or do you all now have a mental picture of dead mice parachuting out of the sky?


Yeah, its mind boggling. I see snakes manning anti-aircraft guns. For some reason I even see a senior German cleric manning one of the AA guns.
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 12:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kondoru wrote:
Is it just me or do you all now have a mental picture of dead mice parachuting out of the sky?

If they're dead, why do they need parachutes?!
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 13:21    Post subject: Reply with quote

rynner2 wrote:
Kondoru wrote:
Is it just me or do you all now have a mental picture of dead mice parachuting out of the sky?

If they're dead, why do they need parachutes?!


So they still look like mice when they land? Laughing
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 13:45    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mythopoeika wrote:
rynner2 wrote:
Kondoru wrote:
Is it just me or do you all now have a mental picture of dead mice parachuting out of the sky?

If they're dead, why do they need parachutes?!

So they still look like mice when they land? Laughing

The snakes are nocturnal, so I'm guessing they find prey by infrared sensing. so the mice have to be alive to be detectable - hence the parachutes.
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PostPosted: 09-05-2012 15:46    Post subject: Reply with quote

rynner2 wrote:
Mythopoeika wrote:
rynner2 wrote:
Kondoru wrote:
Is it just me or do you all now have a mental picture of dead mice parachuting out of the sky?

If they're dead, why do they need parachutes?!

So they still look like mice when they land? Laughing

The snakes are nocturnal, so I'm guessing they find prey by infrared sensing. so the mice have to be alive to be detectable - hence the parachutes.


You have uncovered a conspiracy Rynner. The mice are alive and will land alive.

Remember The War Between Cats & Dogs? The mice allied themselves with the cats. This is really part of a war between cat scientists and jungle dwelling dogs.
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PostPosted: 12-05-2012 08:18    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can the Dead Sea be brought back to life?
The Dead Sea has lost a third of its surface area. Finally a rescue plan is being drawn up, financed by the EU.
By Geoffrey Lean
8:55PM BST 11 May 2012

If you keep a sharp eye open as you drive the world’s lowest road, along the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, you may spot a short black line painted on a cliff face some feet above your head. It was made a century ago by British geographers, floating on a boat on the sea’s surface, to mark its level at the time.

But if you then turn, as I did this week, to look for the present-day sea, you’ll only spot it far beneath you, at the bottom of another cliff. For its level has since fallen by more than 80 feet, mainly over the past few decades.

At the same time the sea, famously the saltiest on Earth, has lost a third of its surface area. Indeed, the maps and atlases that show it as a single stretch of water are long out of date. It has shrunk so much that it has separated into two distinct lakes, connected by a canal to prevent the southernmost one from drying up altogether. And the waters are continuing to drop by more than three feet a year.

The dying of the Dead Sea is a huge, under-reported, environmental disaster. It was once described by a water minister of Jordan, on the opposite shore, as worse than the better-known catastrophe of the desiccation of Central Asia’s Aral Sea, because it is happening faster and threatens greater danger to the region’s economy and ecosystems, as well as the world’s cultural and religious heritage. Yet this weekend sees the beginning of an attempt to save it.

Certainly the Dead Sea is extraordinary, indeed unique. Glittering turquoise blue, more than 1,300 feet below sea level, amid dramatic golden mountains, it is a place of stark, breathtaking beauty. Some 10 times saltier than the world’s oceans, it is lifeless – apart from its own species of bacteria – but is at the heart of a complex ecosystem of nearly 600 species, many endangered, and some found only there. And around it, of course, Sodom and Gomorrah rose and fell, Moses glimpsed the promised land, Masada was besieged, the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden, and Jesus was baptised.

Since Cleopatra, countless hordes have bathed in its waters and plastered themselves with its mud in search of healing. Yet resorts built on its shores are now up to half a mile from the sea, their empty lifeguard towers and folded beach umbrellas left high and dry. In almost biblical retribution, more than 2,000 deep pits have yawned open on the western shore alone, dangerous “sink holes” created by the falling waters.

The sea is under attack from both ends. To the north, the once mighty Jordan, on which it depends for replenishment, has shrunk to a polluted trickle, carrying only one fiftieth of the water it did 70 years ago: after gushing spectacularly out of the side of Mt Hermon far to the north, the river is almost entirely depleted by domestic and agricultural use. And to the south, big industrial concerns deliberately evaporate the sea’s waters to gain valuable minerals.

The crisis has long been recognised – the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty bound both nations to restore the river, holy to half of humanity – but international squabbling has often got in the way. A decade ago, the two countries agreed to bring water by pipeline from the Gulf of Aqaba, but a crucial World Bank feasibility study due at the end of last year has still not been published, reputedly because the Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians cannot agree.

It might not be the best plan anyway. Both environmentalists and the industrialists fear that importing water could change the chemistry and ecology of the sea, making it harder to extract minerals, reducing its therapeutic qualities and causing toxic substances to form. And it does nothing to revive the River Jordan.

Friends of the Earth groups in Israel, Jordan and Palestine have long argued for an alternative plan, based on persuading the industries to adopt new technologies that do not evaporate water, and replenishing the Jordan through increasing conservation (for example, even though Israel leads the world in water-efficient agriculture, it discourages recycling rainwater in homes). But earlier this year the Israeli cabinet rejected a bill from its environment minister that would have facilitated this approach.

Now the environmentalists have another chance. This weekend they are launching a $4 million project, financed by the EU, to draw up a plan for the region, and also encourage its differing peoples to co-operate by making it a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

And if that fails? Well, there is always the alternative, once voiced by another environmentalist. “If we cry enough, perhaps we can refill the sea with our tears.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/9260302/Can-the-Dead-Sea-be-brought-back-to-life.html
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PostPosted: 07-06-2012 07:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

Green decline 'may bring irreversible change'
By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News

With forests and fish stocks declining, water demand rising and lack of action on climate change, humanity's path is anything but sustainable, the UN warns.
The Global Environmental Outlook says significant progress is seen on only four out of 90 environmental goals.

Meanwhile, a team of scientists warns that life on Earth may be on the way to an irreversible "tipping point".
The UN Environment Programme (Unep) urges leaders to agree tough goals at this month's Rio+20 summit.
Where governments have agreed specific treaties, it says, major change has transpired.

However, negotiations leading up to the summit appear mired in problems, with governments failing to find agreement since January on issues such as eliminating subsidies on fossil fuels, regulating fishing on the high seas and obliging corporations to measure their environmental footprint.

"GEO-5 reminds world leaders and nations meeting at Rio+20 why a decisive and defining transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient, job-generating 'green economy' is urgently needed," said Achim Steiner, Unep's executive director.
"If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed, then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation."

This is the fifth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook, Unep's blue-chip five-yearly assessment of the natural world.
The last, published in 2007, warned that factors such as rising demand for freshwater were affecting human wellbeing.

For the current edition, researchers assessed progress in 90 important environmental issues.
They concluded that meaningful progress had been made on just four - making petrol lead-free, tackling ozone layer depletion, increasing access to clean water and boosting research on marine pollution
.

A further 40 showed some progress, including the establishment of protected habitat for plants and animals on land and slowing the rate of deforestation.

Little or no progress was noted for 24, including tackling climate change, while clear deterioration was found in eight, including the parlous state of coral reefs around the world.

For the remainder, there was too little data to draw firm conclusions.

This is despite more than 700 international agreements designed to tackle specific aspects of environmental decline, and agreements on alleviating poverty and malnutrition such as the Millennium Development Goals.

Among the report's "low-lights" are:

- air pollution indoors and outdoors is probably causing more than six million premature deaths each year
- greenhouse gas emissions are on track to warm the world by at least 3C on average by 2100
- most river basins contain places where drinking water standards are below World Health Organization standards
- only 1.6% of the world's oceans are protected.

A few hours after GEO-5's release, the journal Nature published a review of evidence on environmental change concluding that the biosphere - the part of the planet that supports life - could be heading for rapid, possibly irreversible change.

The authors, headed by Anthony Barnofsky from the University of California, Berkeley, combined information on major transformations in the Earth's past (such as mass extinctions) with models incorporating the present and the immediate future.

More than 40% of the Earth's land is used for human needs, including cities and farms; and with the population set to grow by a further two billion by 2050, that figure could soon exceed 50%.
Rising demand for resource-expensive foods such as beef could mean it happens by 2025, Prof Barnofsky's modelling suggests.
"It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point," he said.
"I think that if we want to avoid the most unpleasant surprises, we want to stay away from the 50% mark."

At the core of the Rio+20 agenda is the idea of changing many of the factors driving this pattern of environmental decline while also raising living standards for the world's poor.
Unep adds its voice to many others urging world leaders to seize this baton when they assemble in Rio on 20 June.

Population growth, unsustainable consumption in western and fast-industrialising nations, and environmentally destructive subsidies all need urgent action, it says.

A few years ago the World Bank concluded that destructive fishing practices, fuelled largely by subsidies, had depleted stocks so much that society was missing out on $50bn per year worth of fish it could otherwise have eaten.

The G20 has previously agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies - calculated at over $400bn per year - without setting firm targets or a timetable. Unep says leaders should make specific moves on this in Rio.

The summit - which marks 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit and 40 years since the very first UN environmental gathering in Stockholm - is likely to agree to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs), a concept that Unep endorses.

It points out that factors such as air pollution and climate change are also imposing costs on the global economy - in the US, for example, air pollution is calculated to cut crop yields by $14-26bn each year.

"The moment has come to put away the paralysis of indecision, acknowledge the facts and face up to the common humanity that unites all peoples," said Mr Steiner.
"Rio+20 is a moment to turn sustainable development from aspiration and patchy implementation into a genuine path to progress and prosperity for this and the next generations to come."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18339905
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