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Archives - December 2003

December 26, 2003

"Fishy Mercury Warning" - "The Food and Drug Administration just issued a new warning to pregnant women about mercury in seafood. You can “protect your baby” from developmental harm by following three rules, claims the FDA.

But there’s no evidence that the rules will protect anyone and they’re only likely to foster undue concern about an important part of our food supply." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

December 24, 2003

"Mad Cow Disease — Where's the Beef?" -- Here's the Junkman's column on mad cow hysteria from earlier this year when BSE was detected in a Canadian cow.

December 19, 2003

"Arsenic-laced Presidential Campaign?" - "The environmentalists continue their war with the Bush administration, invoking the arsenic controversy to fight new mercury regulations." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Time and chance" - "Natural climate change may have started civilisation. And the spread of farming may have caused as much global warming as industry is causing now." (The Economist)

Hmm... possibly much more accurate than The Economist realises. For example, forest albedo and grain field albedo are quite dissimilar, with forests absorbing significantly more solar radiation than, say, a field of ripening wheat - did the advent of agriculture cause significant global cooling? Then again, industry has certainly been responsible for an increase in atmospheric particulates which, in turn, increased atmospheric albedo as well as terrestrial shading - so industry may be equally culpable where cooling of the Earth is concerned. Somehow, I doubt that The Economist meant a negative value "global warming." They are correct in noting, however, that cold is certainly biosphere-unfriendly with all manner of population crashes and even complete civilisation collapse occurring when the planet cools.

"More time needed to decide on Kyoto Protocol" - "KYOTO, December 17 - “A little more time is needed than it seemed a year ago” to pass a decision on Russia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol”, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov stated here on Wednesday. He went to Kyoto in keeping with the agenda of his official visit to Japan in order to meet with businessmen of Kansai District, a major economic centre of Japan.

Noting that preparations to endorse this document, designed to prevent global warming, has dragged out, Kasyanov said the Russian government was still set on ratifying it. Russia, he added, regards the Kyoto Protocol commitments “not separately from the other problems and tasks, which we are now tackling with due account of our agreements with the international community on other economic problems. The prime minister also said work would be continued to prepare Russia’s public opinion for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. (Itar-Tass)

"Earth warming at faster pace, say top science group's leaders" - "Leaders of one of the nation's top scientific organizations issued a new warning this week that human activities -- most notably the greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other industries -- are warming Earth's climate at a faster rate than ever.

The statement came from the 28-member council of the American Geophysical Union, whose 41,000 members include more than 10,000 experts on the planet's atmosphere and changing climate.

Although the vast majority of climate researchers are persuaded that the evidence, combined with computer models, show that global warming is real and dangerous, a few scientists still hold to the view that most of the changes are due more to natural cycles than human-induced causes." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Average surface temperature falls to five-year low" - "Bucking the recent warming trend, the average surface temperature in Japan this year was the lowest since 1997, according to the Meteorological Agency. Based on data through the end of November, the average surface temperature for 2003 was only 0.1 degree above the annual average for the 1971-2000 period. The agency attributed the cool weather to westerly winds and other factors." (The Japan Times)

"Focus on Climate" - "Climate change is the biggest over-arching environmental challenge presently facing humankind. In a special media partnership, Deutsche Welle is running a series of interviews in which leading experts of the United Nations Climate Secretariat explain how global warming is affecting the planet and what can be done to combat climate change or least mitigate its effects." (Deutsche Welle)

"US Energy Demand to Grow 1.5 Pct Annually" - "WASHINGTON - U.S. energy consumption is expected to grow 1.5 percent a year over the next two decades, with America using less natural gas and crude oil but more coal, nuclear power and renewable energy sources than previously thought, the government said this week." (Reuters)

"British Plan Major 'Wind Farm' to Generate Power Along Coasts" - "LONDON, Dec. 18 — Energy companies plan to erect more than 1,000 turbines off England's coast in a $12.4 billion project to build the largest source of wind energy. The wind farms, which received preliminary approval on Thursday, would generate as much as seven gigawatts of electricity — enough to supply four million households, or to meet 7 percent of Britain's energy needs. Britain has pledged that 10 percent of its energy will come from renewable resources by 2010. The Crown Estate, which controls British public lands, including its seabeds, asked companies to submit bids for coastal wind farms in July. Royal Dutch/Shell, Warwick Energy, Powergen and Total are among companies that won leasing rights of up to 50 years for the project, which involves 15 sites and is expected to start generating electricity in 2007. The project is vast. Groups of hundreds of turbines will be installed in the shallow waters of the Thames Estuary, in the East Coast area known as the Greater Wash, and off the northwest coast of England." (New York Times)

"Monsanto Canada Says to Go Slow on Modified Wheat" - "WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Monsanto's Canadian division on Thursday promised a go-slow approach for its genetically modified wheat, and said it would not seek registration for the grain for production in 2004. Instead the company will test the wheat further and wait until this time next year to gauge how close it is to meeting a series of commitments it has for commercializing wheat that has been genetically modified to resist a specific weedkiller. "This is not a product that is imminent," spokeswoman Trish Jordan told Reuters. "We're taking a cautious, go-slow approach." The company has said it will commercialize the wheat only after it has been approved for use in the United States, Canada and Japan. It said it needs to be sure grain handlers can keep it separate from regular wheat and that it can find buyers." (Reuters)

"[South Africa] GM food concentrated in three provinces" - "The growing of genetically modified (GM) cereal seed crops is concentrated largely in three provinces of South Africa - the Free State, Mpumalanga and western KwaZulu Natal, according to South African Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza. Replying to a question from African Christian Democratic Party MP Kent Durr, the minister said according to the crop estimates committee of the directorate of agricultural statistics in her department 2.8% of the total area planted with white maize and 17.3% of the total area planted with yellow maize was grown from genetically modified seed." (Business Day)

"UC Davis Mistakenly Ships Biotech Seeds" - "SAN FRANCISCO -- Researchers at one of the most prestigious agricultural schools in the country said Thursday they shipped a small number of genetically engineered tomato seeds they thought were naturally grown to fellow scientists during the last seven years. The University of California, Davis, said all the seeds were shipped exclusively for research purposes, and that there is no evidence the mistake ended up in food. Even if the engineered tomato did inadvertently end up on the dinner table, school officials said the public would still not be at risk. The Food and Drug Administration approved the genetic modification for human consumption in 1994 and a tomato paste containing the engineered crops was sold in Great Britain until 1999." (AP)

December 18, 2003

Egg (and Danish bacon) all over The Guardian - the case against Bjorn Lomborg is remitted... (EnviroSpin Watch)

Curiously, despite having previously had much to say regarding Lomborg and the DCSD, The Guardian appears to have no comment on Denmark's albeit tardy return to evidence-based science. Remiss of them really.

"Lomborg cleared" (Financial Times Editorial)

"Skeptical Environmentalist Vindicated!" (James K. Glassman, TCS)

"Skeptical Environmentalist Vindicated" (Ronald Bailey, Reason)

"Lomborg Vindicated -- Again" - "Bjorn Lomborg is an inconvenience for statist environmentalists, who have yet to produce any credible objections to the bulk of his work. Yes, he made a few minor mistakes, which he has acknowledged, but they do not amount to a repudiation of his main thesis -- that things are generally getting better for man and the planet, and will continue to do so.

That is why the weird decision of the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty has been deployed so often by his enemies. The committees found that Lomborg had been scientifically dishonest, but didn't mean to be, which is a pretty odd definition of dishonest, if you ask me. The committees did no independent investigation of the charges, instead relying almost exclusively on a series of articles in Scientific American by scientists whose conclusions Lomborg disagreed with.

Well, Bjorn's institute in Denmark today issued this press release:" (Iain Murray)

"Lomborg Decision Overturned by Danish Ministry of Science" (Press Release)

"Prince's influence 'bars science honours'" - "HONOURS for leading scientists involved in animal experiments and GM crop research have been blocked because of the influence of the Prince of Wales, it is claimed today." (Mark Henderson, The Times)

"World Bank Lauds North American Deal's Impact on Mexico" - "WASHINGTON, Dec 17 - Contradicting a number of recent studies and findings by independent think tanks and activists, the World Bank says the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has spurred economic development in Mexico." (IPS)

"Who's Fat?" - "Nations used to compete over trade and military spheres of influence. These days it is hard to find a country that does not claim it is the fattest in the world." (Dominic Standish, TCS)

Oh woe, oh gloom [insert much hand-wringing here]: "Global warmth up, ozone hole at record, Arctic ice down for 2003 – UN" - "17 December – This year is on track to be the third warmest over the past century and a half, the size of the Antarctic ozone hole matched an all-time high and the extent of Arctic sea ice neared a record low, according to new figures from the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO)." (UN News)

Usual hysterical release - consider "It noted that the rate of change since 1976 was roughly three times that for the past 100 years as a whole...". Well duh! The period 1930s-1970s was one of cooling (remember the great global cooling scare? The ice age cometh - we'll all freeze/starve! [more hand-wringing]) - of course a brief period will exhibit greater rate of change than will an average taken over a longer period containing both increases and decreases in estimated mean temperatures. The only conceivable reason for "noting" it is to mislead or deceive.

but, oh my... "Earth is 20% darker, say experts" - "Human activity is making the planet darker as well as warmer, scientists say. They believe levels of sunlight reaching Earth's surface have declined by up to 20% in recent years because air pollution is reflecting it back into space and helping to make bigger, longer-lasting clouds.

The "global dimming" effect could have implications for everything from the effectiveness of solar power to the growth of plants and trees. "Over the past couple of years it's become clear that the solar irradiance at the Earth's surface has decreased," said Jim Hansen, a climate scientist with Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York.

Experts say global dimming is probably down to tiny particles such as soot, and chemical compounds such as sulphates accumulating in the atmosphere. "Data from 100 stations around the world show that the amount of black carbon in the atmosphere is twice as big as we assumed," said Dr Hansen." (The Guardian)

"Medieval Global Warming" - "A controversy over 14th century climate shows the peril of letting politics shape the scientific debate." (Richard Muller, Technology Review)

"Stable isotope data provide evidence for huge global methane release about 600 million years ago" - "The Earth's most severe ice coverings are thought to have occurred about 600 million years ago, with frozen ice sheets covering much of the globe. Some scientists have suggested the oceans froze over during that time, resulting in a white planet or "snowball Earth" that would have reflected much of the Sun's heat and resulted in a condition of persistent extreme cold." (National Science Foundation)

"New study reports large-scale salinity changes in the oceans" - "Tropical ocean waters have become dramatically saltier over the past 40 years, while oceans closer to Earth's poles have become fresher, scientists report in the December 18th issue of the journal Nature. These large-scale, relatively rapid oceanic changes suggest that recent climate changes, including global warming, may be altering the fundamental planetary system that regulates evaporation and precipitation and cycles fresh water around the globe." (National Science Foundation)

"Studies show global warming is likely to drive big changes in California's coastal waters" - "Global warming could have profound effects on the wind-driven upwelling of deep ocean water along the California coast, according to recent studies by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The studies showed changes in both the intensity and the seasonal timing of the upwelling, which brings cold, nutrient-rich water into coastal ecosystems." (University of California - Santa Cruz)

"Illarionov Makes His Case On Kyoto" - "Andrei Illarionov, President Vladimir Putin's top economic adviser, has fast become Moscow's most consistent and vocal messenger on the Kyoto Protocol, rising above the cacophony of voices emanating from the Kremlin.

Europeans are accusing Russia of "playing poker" with the treaty to limit emissions. But Illarionov's message is clear: Kyoto contradicts Putin's stated goal of doubling gross domestic product by 2010.

Russia's ratification is crucial to the success of the treaty, which the European Union is championing but other key countries like the United States are boycotting.

Without Russia on board, an EU official said this week, it would be "suicide" for Europe to follow the protocol, which calls on signatory countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

But Illarionov, who says he speaks for Putin, claims Russia has no choice." (The Moscow Times)

"Kyoto Triggers Palacio Revolution in the EU" - "About a week ago I was quarrelling with the Dutch Assistant Secretary for Environment and Climate Issues on the Netherlands TV. On the basis of a report published last month by the European Environment Agency, I argued that almost all 15 EU nations were falling behind their CO2 emission targets. He replied that I was wrong: he was confident that the targets would be met. Moreover, I argued that Kyoto was dead because Russia would not ratify, so that there would be too few countries for the Treaty to enter into force. He retorted that I was wrong again: he was sure that Russia would eventually join. Finally, I said that if Europe would be the only party to comply with Kyoto it would damage its worldwide competitiveness. Again the Assistant Secretary begged to disagree with me by pointing out that this issue was currently addressed in the WTO." (Hans Labohm, TCS)

This blatant lie is wearing thin: "As seas rise, Tuvalu calls for emission cuts" - "Tuvalu Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga urged industrialized nations Wednesday to cut greenhouse-gas emissions as soon as possible by shifting to renewable energy sources, fearing his island nation will sink if global warming continues. Tuvalu Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga is welcomed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo. "Particularly for us, (global warming) is a matter of life and death," Sopoanga told reporters at a Tokyo Hotel. Tuvalu, consisting of nine small islands in the South Pacific, is one of the first casualties of climate change. Global warming, which is believed caused by greenhouse gas emissions, is raising sea levels, which in turn are poisoning the country's soil and threatening to drown it." (The Japan Times)

Tuvalu has demonstrable trouble with salinity in its arable soil and groundwater but that is a result of excessive groundwater extraction and the removal of protective coral reefs for concrete making, not sea level rise (which intensive study by Australian scientists cannot find at Tuvalu).

"Kyoto a good start, but emphasis needs to be long term, say researchers" - "Clearly defined strategies to achieve more stringent long-term emissions reductions are needed to supplement the short term goals of the Kyoto Protocol if the world is to succeed on curbing climate change, according to new research.

Scientists from the European Climate Forum have said that because of the long residence time of CO2 of more than 100 years in the atmosphere, climate response is governed by cumulative rather than current CO2 emissions.

"Thus the detailed reductions achieved during the Kyoto period are less critical than the start of a transition to a sustainable path of continually decreasing emissions. This requires policies extending well beyond the Kyoto horizon," say the researchers in an article which appears in the latest edition of Science." (Edie.net)

"[Australia] Money to plant trees" - "VICTORIAN farmers are to be paid to plant native trees to soak up carbon dioxide under a state government scheme to help slow global warming. Under the scheme launched in the Otway Ranges today by Environment Minister John Thwaites property owners in the state's Otways, West Gippsland and north-east Victoria were invited to plant blocks of trees to trap carbon dioxide." (AAP)

"Argentina Foresees Export Loss From New EU Food Rules" - "Washington, Dec. 17 - New European Union traceback and labeling laws will block about $1 billion worth of agricultural exports each year from Argentina, the country's agriculture minister said during a visit this week to the U.S. Miguel Campos, in an interview with OsterDowJones, said he is seeking support for Argentina's efforts to oppose the E.U. laws and possibly take a complaint to the World Trade Organization. About 95% of the soybeans and 35% of the corn Argentina produces are genetically modified, according to Mariano Ripari, a spokesman for the Argentine Agriculture Ministry." (OsterDowJones)

December 17, 2003

"No cure for the great British panic attack" - "THE big whooping-cough vaccine scare was more than 20 years ago, possibly nearer 25. No matter, the MMR vaccine panic of recent months reminded me of it because the path followed has been almost identical - a useful vaccine doing a good job of protecting children from a nasty disease threatened by a dubious research finding, a half-baked theory, lots of publicity from a media anxious to spread bad news, and terror and panic-stricken reaction from just enough susceptible parents to start a campaign." (Fordyce Maxwell)

"The Kitchen Faucet Is a Vegetable's Best Friend" - "ONLY in New York would a stranger walk up to a woman about to pop a grape from a produce display in her child's mouth and say, "Don't do that!" The mother retreated, but the busybody's point was well taken. Produce should be washed before being eaten. Only recently has it become clear that fruits and vegetables have been responsible for about as many reported cases of food poisoning as beef, chicken, fish and eggs combined. In the 1930's, when sanitation was the watchword, no baby's bottle that fell on the floor was put in the baby's mouth without a sterilized nipple replacing the old one. Everything that went in your mouth was scrubbed within an inch of its life. But because Americans have long been confident that food was clean and safe, precautions like washing fruits and vegetables have sometimes gone by the boards. And many assume that because packaged, precut salads say triple-washed on the label, they are safe to use straight out of the bag." (New York Times)

"Antibiotic use on swine farms increases efficiency, profits" - "Antibiotics used on swine farms may stir controversy about their potential role in the rise of anti-bacterial resistance, but a new study says their use means significant production efficiency and a 9 percent boost in pork producer profits." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"EU Insists Its Support for Kyoto Policy Unwavering" - "BRUSSELS - European Commission President Romano Prodi insisted the EU's support for the Kyoto Protocol was unwavering on Tuesday, after a commissioner said the EU must prepare for the possible failure of the global warming treaty. Prodi's colleague, Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, called into question the EU executive's staunch support for the landmark treaty on Monday due to Russian hesitation over implementing the accord. "We are not changing our position or going back on the targets that we have agreed," Prodi said in a statement." (Reuters)

"Little has been done so far to meet goals of Kyoto climate change deal" - "OTTAWA - A year after Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol, homeowners are rushing to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes, but there is little evidence of the big, economy-wide changes needed to meet the Kyoto targets.

Almost nothing has been done to meet the most important goal in the current program - a 55 megatonne cut in emissions from industrial plants. Although some big emitters have worked out a voluntary agreement which could set the stage for emission cuts, Ottawa has not introduced the legislation needed to spread the burden across regions and industrial sectors.

"The federal government has made detailed commitments on implementing the Kyoto protocol and in the year since ratification we've not seen significant progress on most of those commitments," Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute said in an interview Tuesday.

Nor has there been any progress in convincing the auto industry to improve the fuel efficiency of new vehicles, an important element of the climate action plan." (Canadian Press)

Fluorescent big-G Green organisations regularly organise form-letter campaigns to pressure political leaders to conform to their misguided world-view. Occasionally, too rarely some say, more-rational organisations mount counter-campaigns. Here's your opportunity to partake in one such counter-action:

"Take Action: Encourage Russia to stay out of Kyoto!" - "At the World Climate Change Conference held in Moscow from 29 Sep to 3 Oct 2003, climate scientists spoke out about the fundamental science flaws of the Kyoto Protocol. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government are listening carefully to these scientists and decided to NOT ratify Kyoto until they have had a chance to properly examine the full range of the treaty's implications — its economics, its politics and its science.

President Putin is now being pressured by the governments of Canada, the EU and Japan, as well as environmental activists and even some within Russia itself, to forego a proper examination of the agreement and to ratify Kyoto quickly. Those of us who understand the very serious shortcomings in the scientific foundation of the treaty need to express our support for President Putin's move to delay a ratification decision and encourage him to take whatever time he and his government need to properly examine the science. We need to also express our belief that ratifying the accord would be a significant mistake." (EnviroTruth.org)

"Heat high for 2003 but no record" - "Despite expectations that it would turn out the hottest year ever, 2003 looks unlikely to enter the record books. Provisional data from the UK Met Office suggest it will prove to have been only the third warmest year globally, and the fifth warmest recorded in the UK. The global temperature was lower than expected because of a weak El Nino, the periodic weather upset in the Pacific. The UK experienced a cooler October than usual, which helped to kill any chance of setting a new British record. The Met Office said the summer's record-breaking temperatures and a prolonged dry spell were not enough to move 2003 higher than fifth place since records began in 1659. It said: "The mean Central England Temperature (CET) so far this year has been 10.82 Celsius, 1.09 C above the long-term average." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"US science body warns on climate" - "One of the most influential US science organisations dedicated to studying the Earth and its environment says human influence on the climate is increasing. The American Geophysical Union has just adopted a new policy position on global warming in which it states its concern over rising greenhouse gas emissions. The AGU's council says carbon dioxide concentrations may be climbing faster now than at any time in Earth history. It calls for concerted worldwide study to understand how Earth will change." (BBC News Online)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"The Cloud-Climate Conundrum" - "Can it ever be solved?  And if so, when? … and at what cost?" (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Rapid Climate Change (Thermohaline Circulation)" - "Do ocean currents hold the key to hemispheric warming and cooling, as suggested by Ruhlemann et al. (1999)?  And if they do, can they be altered to any significant degree by continued anthropogenic CO 2 emissions?" (co2science.org)

"Low Temperature Tolerance" - "Do higher levels of atmospheric CO 2 have any effect upon the frost hardiness or low temperature tolerance of plants?" (co2science.org)

Plant Growth Data:
"This week we add new results (blue background) of plant growth responses to atmospheric CO 2 enrichment obtained from experiments described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for: Emblic, Gum Arabic Tree, Myrobalan, Tall Albizia and Terminalia." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"On the Use of Borehole Temperatures to Deduce Earth's Climatic History" - "How good is this approach to reconstructing surface air temperature values over the past millennium, and what does it tell us about the ongoing controversy over the nature of late-20th century warming?" (co2science.org)

"Historical Context of the 1998 Coral Bleaching Event" - "Just how unique was this supposedly "unprecedented" marine biological experience that saw many corals throughout the world's oceans suffer various degrees of bleaching?" (co2science.org)

"Vegetative Propagation of Aspen Clones in CO 2 -Enriched Air" - "Growing them in greenhouses with elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO 2 prior to out-planting in agroforestry and afforestation projects can provide the boost they need to better survive the rigors of the outdoor environment." (co2science.org)

"Effects of Elevated CO 2 and O 3 on Tree-Herbivore-Parasite Interactions" - "A complex multi-trophic-level FACE study of a quaking aspen ecosystem exposed to tropospheric ozone and carbon dioxide levels predicted for the year 2050 reveals the importance of allowing the air's CO 2 content to rise unimpeded by counterproductive CO 2 emissions restrictions." (co2science.org)

"Insect Herbivores in a CO 2 -Enriched Warmer World" - "Surely they will have a rough time of it, struggling to adapt to temperatures far in excess of those to which their predecessors were accustomed, as well as being forced to dine on foliage of considerably lower quality than that which was their species' standard fare for untold generations past.  Right?" (co2science.org)

"Hope for better malaria vaccine" - "Human trials of a new type of malaria vaccine are planned for next year after encouraging results in mice." (BBC News Online)

"US consumers will not shun biotech wheat -- Kraft" - "WASHINGTON, Dec 16 - U.S. consumers will most likely accept genetically engineered wheat in their bread, breakfast cereal and pasta as biotech crops are already widely used in many food products, a Kraft Foods Inc. official said on Tuesday. Despite very public anti-biotech campaigns from some consumer advocates and environmental groups, Americans have not shunned food products that contain genetically engineered corn (maize) and soybeans." (Reuters)

"Iowa Leads the Nation in GMO Crop Values" - "Iowa leads the nation in garnering value from genetically modified crops, but Nebraska isn't far behind. GM technology creates high-paying science jobs in states where farmers plant more biotech crops, and that is an impetus to push the economic impact of biotechnology beyond the farm." (USAgNet)

"Monsanto's vision of biotech" - "CHESTERFIELD, MO. — On this 210-acre Monsanto Co. campus outside St. Louis, grow lights make dozens of rooftop greenhouses glow yellow-green each night. The massive buildings themselves contain research laboratories and experimental growing chambers for the development of bioengineered seeds and herbicides, with 1,000 employees working on site. Monsanto has 120 of these growth chambers in Chesterfield, some the size of freezers, most roughly 20 feet by 25 feet - rooms where artificial sunlight, heat, humidity and other environmental factors can be controlled and recorded.

"We can make it a desert or a northern Minnesota soybean field," said Robert Harness, a retired Monsanto executive who still serves as a government and media affairs consultant. He stood inside one of the chambers that contained rows and rows of small corn plants.

To Monsanto, the work being done here is both profitable and virtuous: Scientists work to improve nature and feed a hungry world. To critics, though, the facility is a kind of Frankenstein laboratory, where humans are tampering with the environment in ways that could ultimately harm the Earth." (Portland Press Herald)

December 16, 2003

Comment du jour: Thomas Jefferson and the curse of 'Present-Mindedness'... (EnviroSpin Watch)

"Precautionary Blasts" - "It's rarely wise to throw caution to the wind. But the precautionary principle? As it is currently promoted by some environmental organizations and practiced by some countries, it deserves to be blown away." (Duane D. Freese, TCS)

"All I need is the air that I breath" – "Sustainable Development. The phrase is muttered like a mantra by thoughtful people the world over. It is the environmentalists' code and governments around the globe are accepting its goals, albeit in varying degrees that usually relate directly to whether they are poor or rich governments. Ordinary citizens everywhere give at least tacit agreement that we need to take action to protect ourselves from ourselves." (Paul Harris, YellowTimes.org)

"Network to monitor climate change" - "Federal scientists will switch on a system of weather stations next month to monitor climate change across the USA for the next 50 to 100 years.

The new "Climate Reference Network" will constantly record temperature, rainfall, wind and solar radiation more precisely than most of today's weather stations. The data the network collects will help researchers measure global warming.

Scientists project that the temperature of the Earth will increase by 2 to 10 degrees by the end of this century. Higher temperatures would lead to droughts and heat waves. Glaciers and polar ice caps would melt.

"It's an accepted fact that we have global warming. What we're trying to do is pin down how much and over what time," says Bruce Baker, chief scientist for the network, a project of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The center analyzes national and global climate statistics for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration." (USA Today)

Mahlman and make-believe worlds: "Listening to the Climate Models, and Trying to Wake Up the World" - "DENVER — In the stormy world of climate science, Dr. Jerry D. Mahlman, 63, is considered a giant.

Until three years ago, Dr. Mahlman, now a senior researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research here in Colorado, headed the federal Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J.

There he studied how the earth's troposphere and stratosphere work. To that end, he developed mathematical models showing how natural forces and chemicals interact in the atmosphere. The models consistently show that carbon dioxide emissions are likely to heat up the air, water and land." (New York Times)

The Gazette continues scare-mongering: "[Editorial] Danger: Global warming reports" - "SEVERAL new scientific studies warn that coal and other fossil fuels pose ever-worse threats of global warming peril.

The most extreme report was issued by the German Advisory Council on Global Change, a government board of eight top professors. It warned that “catastrophic” results will occur if the Kyoto Protocol against air pollution isn’t implemented worldwide, and strengthened.

If emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” aren’t reduced, they said, melting polar ice caps will raise sea levels 30 feet, inundating much of New York, London, Miami, Calcutta, Sydney, Tokyo and other low-lying cities. The Independent of London related: “Global warming already kills 150,000 people a year worldwide, and the rate of climate change is soon likely to exceed anything the planet has seen ‘in the last million years,’ says the report.” The 150,000 deaths stem mostly from the spread of tropical diseases farther from the equator." (The Charleston Gazette)

"The Bear's Lair: Warming after Kyoto" - "WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 -- Assuming the Russian reluctance to sign the Kyoto protocol on global warming holds, the treaty isn't going anywhere. Meanwhile, whatever global warming was occurring is still occurring. What to do? A Cato Institute conference Friday discussed the problem, and produced some fairly clear answers." (UPI)

?!! "US fails to block Kyoto Protocol on climate change" - "LONDON, Dec 12--Environment groups were celebrating the failure of the United States Friday to block the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The US made several attempts behind the scenes at the ninth conference in Milan of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to derail the agreement, environmentalists say. But other nations attending the meeting reaffirmed their commitment to the treaty.

With Russia now expected by many to sign up, the Kyoto Protocol could finally reach the target of ratification by countries producing 55 percent of the emissions or more." (Inter Press Service)

"The Kremlin That Killed Kyoto" - "MOSCOW, Russia -- Andrey Illarionov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's libertarian economic adviser, almost single-handedly engineered the Kremlin's commitment to kill the Kyoto Protocol -- a climate control treaty heavily promoted by the European Union and environmentalist movement. UN Secretary General Koffi Annan called upon Putin last Thursday to ratify the treaty. Without the Russian and American signatures, the Protocol is dead in the water." (Ariel Cohen, TCS)

Kyoto On/Off spin to, um... burn:

"Kyoto Protocol has a better chance of survival than would seem" - "MILAN - In the 1980s, negotiators from NATO and Warsaw Pact countries used to meet in Vienna for talks on cutting conventional weapons in Europe. An arcane exercise in counting tanks, artillery and troops, and ultimately abandoned after the Warsaw Pact collapsed, the Mutual Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks were quietly known among bored participants as the "Most Bizarre Form of Ritual." That tag of time-wasting absurdity can all too easily be applied to the United Nations (news - web sites)' Kyoto Protocol to combat global warming." (AFP)

"Russia doubts and emission concerns cloud Kyoto pact" - "As the latest round of international climate talks closed on Friday, Europe's environment ministers insisted that "the Kyoto Protocol is the only game in town". But the dogged optimism of Kyoto's champions at Milan was challenged by Russia's continuing ambivalence and claims that the treaty will need to be radically rethought if it is to survive beyond the next decade." (Financial Times)

"Kyoto's Global Warming Policy Going Cold?" - "BRUSSELS - The European Union must review its strategy of backing the Kyoto Protocol on global warming as Russian hesitations over the accord have put its implementation under doubt, the bloc's top energy official said on Monday. European Energy and Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio's remarks were the first time the EU executive has suggested the bloc might reconsider its stance on the landmark environmental treaty, which the EU has strongly backed. "We are following a strategy (of respecting the Kyoto Protocol) at the moment, but we need to look at other possible scenarios," de Palacio told a news conference after a meeting of EU energy ministers." (Reuters)

wait, there's more: "Russia's Position on Kyoto Forces Rethink in Europe" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union, a strong champion of the Kyoto Protocol for combating global warming, displayed doubts Monday about sticking to the pact if Russia follows the United States in abandoning it. EU Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio told national energy ministers meeting in Brussels that it would be "suicide" for the 15-nation bloc to follow the treaty if Russia, whose support is crucial to the treaty, does not come on board." (The Associated Press)

"Kyoto Treaty Said Powerless To Stop Global Warming" - "U.S. scientists on Friday defended the position of President George W. Bush's administration not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, saying the protocol would not stop global warming because it targets only one of the many causes for change in temperatures worldwide." (UNwire)

December 15, 2003

"Chilling theory on bowel disease" - "The rising popularity of domestic fridges during the 20th century may be responsible for a similar rise in Crohn's disease, say French scientists. Their theory, published in the Lancet, is that bugs which grow in the fridge may play a role in the gut disorder. Traces of these have been found in the bowel ulcers of Crohn's patients. However, other experts point out there is no proof these cause the illness - and say fridges prevent dangerous food poisoning cases." (BBC News Online)

"Governing commons still a struggle, but fight not without hope, according to new report" - "BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Thirty-five years after biologist Garrett Hardin issued his prophetic essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons," which warned that human beings would ultimately destroy commonly shared resources, a re-examination of the state of common pool resources by three researchers, including Indiana University Bloomington political scientist Elinor Ostrom, offers an urgent yet hopeful message." (Indiana University)

Facryinoutloud! "Climate change causing thousands of deaths, says UN report" - "11 December – Climate change is affecting human health, causing 150,000 deaths worldwide in 2000, according to a United Nations report issued today, together with guidelines offering governments and organizations practical advice on how to respond to the problems." (UN News)

How come they didn't mention the number of cold deaths prevented?

"Climate change disease link quashed" - "A claim by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that a key reason to halt global warming is to prevent the spread to mosquito-borne diseases has been discredited by a leading specialist. The suggestion was raised at the COP9 meeting in Milan, where ministers from around the world are discussing climate change action.

Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute and Harvard University highlighted the complex variables regarding diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever, and explained that temperature was not one of the main issues behind the problems.

"It is naive to attempt to predict the effects of 'global warming' on malaria on the mere basis of temperature," he commented. "The natural history of all the mosquito borne diseases is extraordinarily complex, and the interplay of climate, weather, ecology and the biology of the vector and its hosts defies simple analysis. Of course temperature is significant, but many other factors, particularly agricultural practices, human behaviour and living standards, are often far more important.” (Green Consumer Guide) [Complete]

Same old... "Sinking islands battle for climate aid cash" - "A group of 40 small islands, many in the Pacific and under imminent threat of disappearing beneath the waves, last night blocked attempts by big nations to delay climate talks for 18 months.

The Alliance of Small Island States, some of the smallest countries in the world and the most vulnerable to climate change, desperately need the £30 million ($71 million) relief fund agreed on by the climate change conference in Milan to help them adapt to environmental changes.

But the release of the funds depends on agreement between the 120 countries party to the Kyoto Protocol, which deals with reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

Enele Soponga, chairman of the small islands' alliance and ambassador to the UN of Tuvalu, said his country and its 12,000 people would be the first to go under. The main island had been inundated three times this year. Vegetable plots had been washed away and there was no drinking water. Some families had moved to New Zealand, but older people wanted to stay." (The Sun-Herald)

"Jump-start needed on climate change" - "Hungary's charismatic Environment Minister, Miklos Persanyi, is fond of telling tales. One of his favourites is that of the frogs who went swimming in a warm pool of water.

As the water got hotter, the frogs bickered over when to get out. "By the time they realised they were in a pot of boiling water," he says, "it was too late."

As convener of the UN climate summit in Milan last week, Persanyi used his Hungarian parable to draw parallels to the world's creeping response to climate change.

By the time the talks wrapped up at the weekend, Russia was playing roulette with the Kyoto climate treaty as scientists warned that human-induced global warming has kicked in decades sooner than expected." (The Australian)

"Sen. Inhofe: Straight Talk, No Nonsense" - "They just don't want to talk about the science. They don't want to listen." (James K. Glassman, TCS)

"Scientists contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions" - "Meeting delegate chides conference-hopping climate experts." (NSU)

New items posted Still Waiting For Greenhouse

"Scientists 'reconstruct' Earth's climate over the past millennia" - "Using the perspective of the last few centuries and millennia, speakers in a press conference at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco discussed the latest research involving climate reconstructions and different climate models." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"NASA's satellites watch world's cities grow" - "Researchers used NASA's Landsat satellite to measure and analyze urban growth among a global cross-section of 30 mid-sized cities during the 1990s, according to a two-part study presented at the Fall American Geophysical Union Meeting in San Francisco." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

The Urban Heat Island effect and 'global warming'... (EnviroSpin Watch)

"Are cities changing local and global climates?" - "New evidence from satellites, models, and ground observations reveal urban areas, with all their asphalt, buildings, and aerosols, are impacting local and possibly global climate processes. This is according to some of the world's top scientists attending a special session at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Russia holds climate key" - "The Sun came out at the end of this troubled two-week conference, lifting spirits after several days of grey Milanese gloom. But whether the cloud has lifted from the Kyoto climate change agreement is another matter." (Tim Hirsch, BBC News Online)

"NASA scientists discover spring thaw makes a difference" - "Using a suite of microwave remote sensing instruments aboard satellites, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Montana, Missoula, have observed a recent trend of earlier thawing across the northern high latitudes." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Russia sinks as it swims in oil" - "Russia's future will be defined as much by geology as by ideology – while leaders can pick their ideology, they don't have much of a choice when it comes to geology.

Russia has a lot of oil, and this inescapable geological fact will determine many of the policy choices available to it. Oil and gas account for 20 per cent of Russia's economy, 55 per cent of all its export earnings and 40 per cent of its total tax revenues.

Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, and its subsoil contains about 30 per cent of the world's gas reserves. It supplies 30 per cent of Europe's gas needs." (The Australian)

"UNFCCC Meeting Ends With Russia Demanding Rules On Kyoto" - "The Kyoto Protocol marked its sixth anniversary yesterday during the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Milan, as the Russian delegation chief raised new doubts that the country — whose ratification is needed to bring the protocol into force — will ratify. Alexander Bedritsky voiced objection to a number of technical points related to the protocol, which were being negotiated in an attempt to have diplomats come to a consensus before the end of the conference today." (UN Wire)

"UN climate conference ends with expressions of support for Kyoto protocol" - "12 December – As government ministers warned that climate change remains the most important global challenge to humanity, a United Nations climate convention ended its annual meeting today with expressions of support for the Kyoto protocol, renewed pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars to developing countries, and adoption of a host of legal decisions." (UN News)

"OPEC Row Clouds Last Day of UN Climate Talks" - "MILAN - A dispute over aid to OPEC states clouded the last day of a U.N. conference on global warming last week with the Kyoto protocol hanging by a thread amid uncertainties over Russian ratification. Kyoto backers reaffirmed their support for the 1997 pact despite scant progress at the 12-day Milan talks on ways to fight rising temperatures blamed for more droughts, storms and for melting glaciers that may raise sea levels." (Reuters)

"The Kyoto Protocol Creeps Along" - "MILAN, Italy, December 12 -- "The Parties conducted a fruitful and rich dialog in a good working atmosphere," declared Miklos Persanyi, the Hungarian Environment Minister who served as president of the ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the closing press conference here in Milan. Which is to say that the 5000 delegates and 95 ministers who attended the meeting didn't end up yelling and calling one another names. But was anything -- other than civil discussions over canapés and the opportunity for delegates to browse Milan's posh shops -- accomplished at COP9?" (Ronald Bailey, TCS)

"Kyoto and beyond" - "The Kyoto protocol and short-term reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions are an important first step in tackling climate change. However, these need to go hand in hand with long-term commitments. Model-based estimates up to the year 3000 show that a gradual transition to an emission-free economy is possible at an acceptable price within the next 50 to 100 years." (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft)

"The AGs' Power Grab" - "SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The big danger from greenhouse gases isn't what those being emitted by SUVs and other motor vehicles may do to the climate. It's what the hot air being emitted by some attorney generals threatens to do to the nation's system of federalism and to the economy by playing politics with the issue of global warming." (Duane D. Freese, TCS)

The old grey goo is dead! (Number Watch)

"Life-Saving Swine" - "Even the hardened Russian police were horrified. In the nick of time, they had rescued five-year-old Andrei in a small city near Moscow. He had no idea he was about to be sold for the equivalent of $90,000, nor that his sellers were his own grandmother and uncle. Nor could he imagine that the buyer wasn't interested in the whole "package" – just the kidneys, eyes, and possibly heart and lungs.

Ironically, it's precisely because techniques in organ transplantation have tremendously improved that grisly trafficking in human organs has increased tremendously and the waiting list for organ transplants keeps growing. It now stands at about 83,000 Americans. In 2001 over 6,100 died on that waiting list, including a friend of mine. He was 44.

Someday, researchers will be able to grow new organs for us before we need them. But until then, our best hope lies in xenotransplantation. This means transferring organs such as hearts, kidneys, lungs, and livers from pigs or other animals to humans." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"Eco-Myth and Agricultural Reality" - "Modern agriculture has become a villain of choice for many who reject modernity finding the trends of the last half of the 20th and beginnings of the 21st century to be ecologically destructive if not life threatening. It is increasingly being used as an all encompassing category by critics of globalization and transgenic (genetically modified) food crops and by street protestors and their mentors and organizers." (BioScience News)

"Facts Put Hawaii Biotech Issues in Perspective" - "We may live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but misstatements and misperceptions are not confined to our shores. In recent weeks, journalists from around the world have come to Hawaii to learn the facts about our biotechnology industry. They have heard the concerns raised by anti-biotechnology groups on the islands, and they came here to get the story for themselves.

The USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service, which helped to arrange the visits, was eager for the journalists to hear the truth about Hawaiian papaya, which is one of biotechnology's greatest success stories.

Anti-biotech activists, including some in Hawaii's organic farm industry, have been fostering fears that pollen from virus-resistant biotech papayas is a threat to any organic papayas that might be grown and sold into foreign markets." (Hawaii Reporter)

"Study: Biotech Crops Lift Minn. Economy" - "MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota biotech crops were valued at $2.15 billion last year, but also led to benefits beyond farms in the form of high-paying jobs, income and investment in the agricultural food chain, according to a new study. The study by the University of Minnesota shows that the value of such crops in Minnesota was behind Iowa and Illinois last year." (AP)

December 12, 2003

"Smithsonian Wrongs Wrights ... Again" - "Institution celebrating 100th anniversary of Wright Brothers' first flight with a Web presentation, opening of new branch of the National Air and Space Museum" (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

December 11, 2003

"Federal Warning On Tuna Planned Mercury a Danger To Fetuses, Children" - "The federal government plans to warn pregnant women, nursing mothers and even those thinking of getting pregnant to limit their consumption of tuna as part of a broad advisory concerning the dangers of eating fish and shellfish with elevated levels of harmful mercury.

A draft advisory from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency cautions women of childbearing age as well as young children to limit their intake of tuna and other fish and shellfish to 12 ounces a week, the equivalent of two to three modest meals. Among seafood, tuna ranks second only to shrimp in popularity in the United States." (Washington Post)

"Are You What You Eat?" - "You Are What You Eat is one of the most widespread and troublesome myths about food that exists in our culture today. According to the American Dietetics Association, it implies that "everything from mood and behavior to intellectual capacity is determined by diet,"(1) that food is the crucial determining factor for healthy living. If we eat the right foods we will live a long, healthy life. But, does food really make the man (or woman)? Are vegetarians really different from meat and potatoes people? Is food really a cure for all that ails us? Is this kind of thinking helpful for people?

Aside from the obvious fact that people do not in any way resemble the salad or plate of spaghetti they had for lunch, (unless they have spilled some on their shirt or tie you can't tell who has eaten what) the you are what you eat perspective on food is not only misleading, but potentially dangerous as well." (Jonathan Robison, TCS)

Letter(s) of the moment: "The real expert at exploiting the media" - "George Monbiot claims that Sense About Science, the Institute of Ideas and other organisations that happen not to share his personal agenda constitute a "bizarre and cultish network", which seeks to "dominate scientific and environmental broadcasting" (Invasion of the entryists, December 9).

This seemingly conspiratorial cabal must have been reading Monbiot's pamphlet, An Activists' Guide to Exploiting the Media. To get journalists hooked, he suggests, "create an atmosphere of secrecy, excitement and intrigue... All journalists love to imagine they're in the Famous Five." Columnists too, it seems." (Dr Peter Marsh, The Guardian)

"Civil Rights, Environmental Leaders Call on Ashcroft to Drop Greenpeace Prosecution - Cite Justice Department Threat to First Amendment Right to Peaceful Protest" - "Washington, DC - Leaders from a wide range of advocacy groups will join with Greenpeace at a Dec. 11 press conference to call on Attorney General John Ashcroft to drop his prosecution of Greenpeace for a nonviolent protest by several of its supporters. The criminal prosecution of an advocacy group for the free speech activities of its members - and the chilling effect on its activities - is unprecedented in the U.S. It sets a dangerous precedent threatening the First Amendment right to peaceful protest." (CSRwire)

Hmm... it would be easier to view the 'peas, et al, as selfless seekers of right and justice if they did not constantly seek guaranteed consequence-free status for their reckless fundraising activities. That they have attempted nothing of value to man or planet for decades does not help their cause (whatever that may be). Perhaps it will help the organisation, and NGOs generally, if all their antisocial actions are prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law - that way we will know at least the hapless foot soldiers believe in what they are doing sufficiently to risk personal freedom and/or finance. Having the organisation as a whole made responsible for the actions of its members and/or agents merely means these multimillion-dollar multinationals face the same rules as everybody else.

"Environmental Justice: Where Selma and the Cuyahoga River Fire Meet" - "Environmental justice" seeks to integrate civil rights concerns with environmental regulation. However, the idea is ill-defined, and much of the research purporting to show racial bias in environmental regulation is slipshod or superficial. A new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights adds to the confusion and misses real opportunities to analyze the distributional effects of regulation on low-income and minority communities." (Steven F. Hayward, AEI Online)

Groan... "Costs of natural disasters in 2003 rise nearly 10 per cent – UN report" - "10 December – Natural disasters, the lion's share of them weather-related catastrophes, cost the world over $60 billion in 2003, up from around $55 billion the year before, and are part of a worrying trend that is being linked with climate change, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today." (UN News) | Extreme weather of climate change gives insurers a costly headache (The Guardian)

This silly chestnut again... readers are supposed to be foolish enough to believe increased insurance claims equate to more severe weather rather than increased insured asset value (same floodplain, historically containing say a few haysheds and fences, now a housing estate, similar storms and suddenly, dramatic increase in insurance claims for storm damage. Duh!).

"Climate change has started: UN" -"Leaders at a UN conference on climate change, backed by fresh data from the insurance industry, said global warming was already kicking in, years ahead of most scientific predictions. But the vehicle designed to combat the threat, the Kyoto Protocol, remained deep in the mire, awaiting a clear sign from Russia that it would transform the draft deal into an international treaty to cut greenhouse-gas pollution. The meeting of environment ministers, gathered under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), heard many delegates say the flurry of droughts, storms and floods of the past few years pointed to a planetary weather system that was already being disrupted." (AAP)

"Annan calls for urgent action to combat global warming" - "10 December – Warning of an urgent need for real progress in dealing with the causes and consequences of climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on governments to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and to do much more besides.

“The Kyoto Protocol is an essential first step in this direction, and its entry into force is of utmost importance. But of course, much more effort will be needed,” Mr. Annan said in a message to the ninth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Milan, Italy, delivered by Jose Antonio Ocampo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs." (UN News)

"Life remains in Kyoto treaty" - "After the US author Mark Twain read his obituary notice in the press, he famously commented that rumours of his death had been greatly exaggerated. That has, more or less, been the message here from supporters of the Kyoto climate change agreement, after some newspapers sounded its death knell last week." (BBC News Online)

"Kyoto Protocol gasping for air as Berlusconi fails to show for UN talks" - "MILAN - Europe's efforts to save the Kyoto Protocol on global warming were dealt a double knock at UN talks here by a no-show by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a fresh row over the pact's environmental integrity. Berlusconi had been scheduled to make the opening speech Wednesday at a two-day global conference of environment ministers, where he had been expected, as the EU's current president, to hammer home European support for Kyoto. But in a message, Berlusconi said he was unable to attend because of preparations for a key EU summit in Brussels on Friday and Saturday.

Green activists described Berlusconi's no-show as a grievous blow in the campaign to save the climate deal from oblivion." (AFP)

"The First Refuge of Scoundrels" - "Oregon and Washington and 10 other states are suing the Bush administration over its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming. The lawsuit stems from the recent declaration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other "greenhouse gases" (GHGs) are not pollutants.

Regulating CO2 as a pollutant would significantly increase energy prices, especially for electricity. Consumers would pay substantially higher electricity bills in the future -- 43 percent higher in 2010 and 38 percent higher in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Transportation and space heating prices would also rise significantly.

And what do we gain from such an expensive undertaking? Almost nothing. Dr. Tom Wigley, Senior Scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, calculated that if every nation met its obligations under the well-known Kyoto Accord of 1997, the temperature of the atmosphere would be only 1/8 of a degree F cooler in 2050 than if "business as usual" were to occur. Such a miniscule change would be undetectable." (George H. Taylor, TCS)

"Inuit threat over global warming" - "The Inuit people of the Arctic say their human rights are being violated by countries who refuse to sign up to international action on global warming. They are now exploring legal ways of linking human rights and climate change to put pressure on nations such as the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions." (BBC News Online)

"Kyoto Protocol's Future Hangs on Russia" - "MILAN, Italy, Dec. 10 - The future of the Kyoto Protocol has been thrown into doubt by Russia's recent wavering on whether it will ratify the treaty. The question has divided the delegates at the ninth conference on climate change and given rise to discussions of alternative mechanisms, including a new global agreement." (IPS)

"COP Out" - "MILAN, Italy -- I was starting to wonder why I'd come to the COP-9 conference. It didn't threaten to be very newsy, and just about everyone now realizes that the Kyoto Protocol, the reason for these regular gatherings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is deader than a gathering of Iowans for Al Sharpton. Other than the rather seductive allure of Milan's shopping district, there wasn't much to recommend the journey here.

Then I picked up a press release on "Gender and Climate." Now here was something worth writing home about." (Craig Winneker, TCS)

"Satellite Makes 3-D Maps of Ice Sheets" - "SAN FRANCISCO - After less than a year of work, an Earth-orbiting satellite has churned out the most detailed, three-dimensional maps ever of the ice sheets blanketing Greenland and Antarctica. The baseline measurements collected by the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or Icesat, should allow scientists to track the growth and shrinkage of the ice sheets, and to gauge the effect that might have on global sea levels." (AP)

"NCAR scientists investigate air above Antarctica" - "Four scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are studying the chemistry of sulfur and nitrogen in the air above Antarctica. The investigation will help them understand the continent's chemical processes better, as well as refine scientists' interpretations of ice cores, which provide information on past climates." (National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

"Where Are the Hydrogen Mines?" - "MILAN, Italy, Dec. 10 -- "Of course climate change is an environmental issue, but it is fundamentally one of economics and development," declared Elliot Diringer, director of International Strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change at a press conference on Tuesday where he unveiled the Pew Center's new Beyond Kyoto report. Pew Center president Eileen Claussen added that nothing less than a "technological revolution" is needed to stop global warming.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, who is heading up the US delegation to the COP9 meeting here in Milan, appeared to agree with the Pew Center about the need for a technological revolution. She noted in her first COP9 press conference on Wednesday that meeting the challenge of climate change "requires the development and deployment of transformational technologies." Such transformational technologies would produce no net emissions of greenhouse gases said Dobriansky.

The technological revolution being proposed by Pew and others worried about global warming goes by the name of the "hydrogen economy." Hydrogen is the "forever fuel" according to promoters. Why hydrogen? Because it burns cleanly producing only energy and water. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to produce electricity." (Ronald Bailey, TCS)

"Study examines genetically modified corn in livestock" - "Genetically modified corn has a number of benefits that are positive for agronomy, but researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln want to make sure this corn won't have a negative impact on livestock. Nebraska produces plenty of corn, but much of it is used as feed corn for growing livestock, said Galen Erickson, a UNL assistant professor of animal science and extension feedlot specialist. "We wanted to make sure anything done to enhance the corn doesn't hurt the use of it as feed," he said." (Daily Nebraskan)

"EU Food Agency To Assess Safety Of Three More GMOs" - "Europe's top food agency, keen to raise its profile on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), plans to deliver its safety verdict on three more gene-spliced types early next year. With EU countries split down the middle on whether to lift their five-year ban on new biotech foods and crops, the views of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are seen as key to the debate since it is independent and non-political. Last week, EFSA issued its first verdict on the safety of GM foods, giving a clean bill of health to a modified maize type engineered by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, saying it was safe for human and animal consumption. Now, EFSA specialists are assessing three other products -- two maize types and one oilseed rape, all from Monsanto. EFSA expects to publish its assessments in January and February." (Crop Decisions)

December 10, 2003

"Common airborne substance makes asthmatics more sensitive to house dust mites: study" - "Exposure to endotoxin, a bacterial substance found commonly in outdoor and indoor air, makes mite-allergic asthmatics more sensitive to house dust and may place them at increased risk of asthma attack." (University of North Carolina School of Medicine)

"Bill would block environmental cleanup suits for bullet pollution" - "TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Bullets at gun ranges may fall harmlessly to the ground after hitting or missing their target, but some say all the lead that builds up underground might not be so safe. A measure approved Tuesday by a state House committee would protect gun range owners from regulators' efforts to get them to clean up lead contamination on their property - or on neighboring land or water." (Associated Press)

"Trees link leukaemia clusters" - "Ring study hints that childhood cancer could be connected to tungsten." (NSU)

"History of frog deformities suggests emerging disease" - "A historical examination of amphibian deformities - frogs with extra legs growing out of the abdomen, for example - suggests that these aberrations are not a new phenomenon, but part of an emerging disease that could jeopardize the survival of these organisms." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

"Remarks to the Commonwealth Club" - "I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance." (Michael Crichton)

"Water Is Not 'Different'" - "Water must be declared and understood for all time to be the common property of all. No one has the right to appropriate it for profit." These are the words of the Canadian water activist Maude Barlow, but they could have been said by any number of leftist commentators and organisations that oppose any private water ownership or private provision of water services. Yet constantly repeating these water mantras is not going to magically improve the access the people have to clean water; in fact it will do quite the opposite and encourage the misuse and waste of a precious resource." (Richard Tren, TCS)

"Down on the Farm" - "It's Christmas time in Europe, and that means of course it's time for animal rights activists to start complaining about agricultural practices: chickens that don't have enough ranging room, pigs that don't have soft enough beds, etc. Animal husbandry issues are not new, but they gained prominence in the public debate in the 1990s when the notion spread that agriculture in the EU was not the rural idyll of old, but rather a high-tech industry. The Greens started working to bring an alternative view of nature into society. At first they met with little success. Their ideas were unable to progress through the institutions, because they wanted to eliminate the entire system. Success came when they managed to get the concept of "sustainability" into the political vocabulary." (Waldemar Ingdahl, TCS)

"U.N. Predicts Much Slower Growth in Population" - "UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 8 -- The world's population, which nearly quadrupled in the 20th century, will grow far more slowly over the next 300 years, increasing from 6.3 billion today to 9 billion in 2300, according to a U.N. population forecast released Monday.

The U.N. report, titled "World Population 2300," concludes that the fertility rates that characterized the last century are simply unsustainable and that people across the globe will have fewer children. It asserts that poor countries, including Congo, Afghanistan and Liberia, will either scale back fertility rates or face major declines of population from civil unrest, hunger and disease.

"The 20th century was indeed the demographic century," said Joseph Chamie, the director of the population division at the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. "In a matter of 100 years, there was a near-quadrupling of world population. It is unprecedented, and it will not happen again. We will not likely see a doubling of the world's population over the next 300 years."

The long-range U.N. forecast seeks to provide a demographic snapshot of the distant future to help environmental scientists, government policy makers, businesses and others assess the long-term implications of population growth." (Washington Post) | World population likely to be about nine billion by 2300 - UN projections (UN News)

"Scientist Links Man to Climate Over the Ages" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 9 — Humans have altered the world's climate by generating heat-trapping gases since almost the beginning of civilization and even prevented the start of an ice age several thousand years ago, a scientist said on Tuesday.

Most scientists attribute a rise in global temperatures over the past century in part to emissions of carbon dioxide by human activities like driving cars and operating factories.

Dr. William Ruddiman, an emeritus professor at the University of Virginia, said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union here that humans' effect on climate went back nearly 10,000 years to when people gave up hunting and gathering and began farming." (New York Times)

Darn humans! Spreading global warming across the Solar System now! "Mars Emerging from Ice Age, Data Suggest" - "Scientists have suspected in recent years that Mars might be undergoing some sort of global warming. New data points to the possibility it is emerging from an ice age." (space.com)

"Moveable Feast" - "MILAN, Italy -- Here they go again.

In this vibrant northern Italy city, with the snowy Alps in the background and the most gorgeous Gothic cathedral in Europe in the foreground, thousands of delegates from 188 countries have gathered for a United Nations conference to discuss how to implement the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gases caused by human activity and, so the controversial theory goes, limit global warming.

The meeting is called COP-9, for "conference of the parties, nine." It's an annual moveable feast, funded with gouts of U.N. money (the budget is $18 million a year). What's expected to happen here? Basically, nothing -- besides the aggrandizement of the ever-growing climate-change industry, fueled by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have been scaring the pants off donors for a decade.

There are a lot of gloomy environmentalists walking around the halls of the gigantic Feria Milano. They have finally gotten the message that Kyoto is on its deathbed." (James K. Glassman, TCS)

"Meet Me in Milan" - "Some 4000 delegates from 188 countries have been convened since December 1 in Milan at the ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The delegates will be joined later this week by at least 74 environment ministers from around the world.

The delegates and environmental activists had hoped that the COP9 would be the occasion for announcing that the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC had at long last come into force. The Kyoto Protocol has already been ratified by 100 or so countries but is not yet internationally binding. That's because it must be ratified by a set of industrialized countries whose collective emissions add up to 55 percent of their total emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001, which means that the 55 percent limit can only be reached if Russia ratifies the treaty. And that may not happen. Russia has been very coy about whether it will in fact ratify the treaty. Just last week, a prominent advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly suggested that his country would not ratify the treaty on the grounds that it would harm Russia's economic growth.

What happens if the Kyoto Protocol fails to come into force? Why then the UNFCCC simply launches another round of negotiations in 2005 searching for a way to control future temperature increases. UN processes and bureaucracies never die." (Ronald Bailey, TCS)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Will Lack of Nitrogen Limit the Ability of Earth's Forests, Shrublands and Grasslands to Slow the Rate of Rise of the Air's CO 2 Content?" - "In last week's Editorial (3 Dec 2003), we crossed swords with people who claim that too much nitrogen is wreaking havoc with earth's forests.  This week we contend with folks who claim that the planet's forests are receiving too little nitrogen.  Can both views be wrong at one and the same time?" (co2sience.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Rapid Climate Change (Temperature Effects)" - "How much or how fast earth's climate may warm in response to a radiative perturbation is a function of what its temperature is at the time of the perturbation.  So what does this imply about potential CO 2 -induced global warming?" (co2sience.org)

"Wetlands" - "In summarizing the results of several studies of the effects of elevated CO 2 on wetland ecosystems, we find they provide additional support for our critique of the study of Hungate et al. (2003) that is the subject of this week's (10 Dec 2003) Editorial." (co2sience.org)

Plant Growth Data:
"This week we add new results (blue background) of plant growth responses to atmospheric CO 2 enrichment obtained from experiments described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for: Coastal Scrub Wattle, Emblic Tree, Gum Arabic Tree, Robusta Poplar Clone and Spring Wheat." (co2sience.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Arctic Sea Ice Thickness: More Variable Than Suggested by Models" - "How many different ways can climate models possibly be wrong in dealing with this single aspect of Arctic climate change?" (co2sience.org)

"Still Seeking Answers to Basic Questions Regarding Earth's Climate System" - "If you think we know all we need to know to correctly predict how the planet's climate will respond to the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content - or anything else, for that matter - you better think again, for that's what some of the world's best scientists who struggle with the problem every day of their working lives are doing … and they haven't got there yet." (co2sience.org)

"The Urban CO 2 Dome of Copenhagen, Denmark" - "The urban CO 2 dome of the European city that sits on the edge of the sea bears a striking similarity to that of Phoenix, Arizona, USA, which sits in the middle of a desert." (co2sience.org)

"Effects of Elevated Atmospheric CO 2 on Sap Flow in Mature Deciduous Trees" - "Does atmospheric CO 2 enrichment lead to reductions in the transpiration rates of mature deciduous trees that are large enough to enable them to "bank" sufficient soil moisture to profitably use during subsequent periods of high evaporative demand or little rainfall?

"Slowdown in Rate of Caribbean Coral Decline: What's Causing It?" - "Just as beauty is said to reside in the eye of the beholder, so too do the implications of data reside in the analyses (and possibly prejudices) of those who work with those important pieces of empirical evidence." (co2sience.org)

"Climate change doubles Britain's stormy weather" - "Britain has become twice as stormy in the past 50 years as climate change has forced the deep depressions that used to hit Iceland further south, it was revealed yesterday. In a second disturbing discovery, the Hadley Centre for climate prediction and research in Exeter added that pressure changes in the atmosphere had caused storms to become more intense." (The Guardian)

"[UK] Vow to cut greenhouse gas divides ministers" - "Two of the Government's senior ministers are locked in a struggle over Labour's most ambitious environmental pledge - the manifesto commitment to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal gas causing global warming, by 20 per cent by 2010." (Independent)

"Global Warming Threatens Lake Bursts in Nepal" - "KATHMANDU, Dec 9 - Although Nepal's share in the global emission of greenhouse gases is almost nil, the consequences of global warming and climate change - receding snowlines, lake bursts and flash floods - threaten to wash away vast areas of the country, including the region that's home to Mount Everest. The meltdown has sent a chill across the Himalayan nation. Over the last couple of years, it has recorded a hazy winter, hotter summer months and frequent landslides, which experts attribute to climatic change." (OneWorld.net)

"Global lip service" - "LAST WEEK, after a prominent Russian economic adviser announced that the Putin government might not ratify the 1997 Kyoto global warming treaty, environmentalists blamed President Bush, not Russian President Vladimir Putin (even though Russia's failure to ratify likely would scotch the global warming pact, and Russia was probably just angling for a better deal anyway).

When the news came out that the Europeans are expected to fall far short of their Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2010, the blame fell to President Bush again. (The Euros will have reduced emissions by only .5 percent, even though they cherry-picked a favorable baseline year, 1990. Some countries had all but reached their goals before negotiations began.)

As Dan Becker, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, told me Monday, "Because President Bush revoked America's signature to the treaty, it's given some other countries license to renege on their commitment (to the pact) because they know that the world's biggest polluter, the United States, isn't doing anything to reduce its emissions."

A few facts are in order." (Debra J. Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle)

"Italy Faults EU Commission on Russia Kyoto Tactics" - "MILAN - Italy accused the European Commission yesterday of wrongly using strongarm tactics to try to get Russia to ratify a key U.N. pact on global warming that will collapse if Moscow says "No." Environment Minister Altero Matteoli, whose country is hosting 180-nation U.N. talks on climate change and the Kyoto protocol from December 1-12, said he felt confident that Moscow would ratify Kyoto in the end but urged softer methods." (Reuters)

"Russian poker game is key to survival of UN's Kyoto Protocol" - "MILAN - The fate of the UN's global warming pact appears to hinge on Russia's demands for new concessions, led by President Vladimir Putin's drive to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), experts here say. Specialists at a major conference on climate change say that behind Russia's on-again, off-again noises about ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is the hope of squeezing concessions from the European Union on Moscow's WTO membership bid." (AFP)

"Russia: Show me the money" - "MOSCOW - Russia first said "yes" to the Kyoto Protocol, then "maybe", then "no", then "yes" again, then another "no" last week. This pattern of mercurial behavior, far from being a sign of indecisiveness, is an indication of hard-nosed bargaining, with Moscow trying to use its Kyoto vote as a bargaining chip.

Such flip-flopping has fueled speculation that Russia's threats to derail the Kyoto Protocol are a tactical maneuver to receive concessions, and possibly guarantees of financial incentives, from the European Union and Japan - two of the protocol's most ardent and affluent backers. Hence a Russian "yes" to Kyoto may mean big yen and euros." (Sergei Blagov, Asia Times)

"[Australia] Govt accused of inaction on climate change" - "The Federal Government is being accused of recognising the impact global warming could have in Australia without doing enough to stop it. A report by the Government's Greenhouse Office suggests that over the next 30 years there could be a doubling in the number of days where temperatures reach 35 degrees and an increase in tropical cyclones and severe storms. It projects that in just under 30 years average temperatures in Australia will increase by up to two degrees. It also projects more severe droughts and bushfires, outbreaks of tropical diseases and increasingly difficult farming conditions." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"World Economic Forum Creates Global Greenhouse Gas Register" - "The World Economic Forum today announced it is creating a Global Greenhouse Gas Register to facilitate the disclosure and management by companies of their worldwide climate emissions. Developed in partnership with leading business and environmental organizations, the Register is intended to stimulate voluntary corporate climate action around the world by creating a transparent, internationally consistent framework for the disclosure of emissions inventories and reduction targets. Eight companies representing nearly 5% of global GHG emissions have already committed to registering their emissions inventories with the Global GHG Register, and discussions are well advanced with an additional 12 major corporations operating in a variety of sectors and regions." (WEF)

"GM trees trigger row at UN climate talks" - "MILAN - Talks here on a scheme to plant forests that will help offset global warming were foundering over whether to include genetically-modified trees in the package, diplomats said." (AFP) | [Gasp!!] U.N. Talks Permit GMO Forests Under Kyoto (Reuters)

"EU Panel Deadlock May Augur Change in Biotech-Food Stance" - "The European Union returned a split decision Monday in a pivotal case on whether to admit new genetically modified food, both raising hopes for biotech proponents and underlining the difficulty of resolving an issue that has strained trade relations with the U.S.

A 6-6 deadlock, with three abstentions, by a panel of food experts from the 15-nation bloc on an application to import a strain of sweet corn effectively transfers the issue to EU agriculture ministers. They, in turn, are expected to pass the decision to the union's executive arm, the European Commission, which favors the application.

Monday's decision marks the first time the EU has even considered approving a new type of biotech food or animal feed since 1998, when the bloc imposed a moratorium on genetically modified products amid Europeans' worries about the long-term health and environmental risks of biotechnology." (Scott Miller, The Wall Street Journal)

"Indian scientists unveil protein-rich rice" - "Indian scientists who created protein-rich potato by genetic modification (GM) say they have now put the same gene in rice to enhance its protein content. "We have transformed the rice by adding the amaranthus gene (AmA1) in the laboratory," Subhra Chakraborty of the National Centre for Plant Genome Research in New Delhi said." (Press Trust of India)

"[Israel] Olmert: Genetically engineered foods to remain unmarked" - "Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert announced yesterday that he would not order that food produced using genetic modification techniques be marked as such. According to the minister, despite all the tests and studies that have been conducted around the world, there is still no explicit evidence indicating that genetically modified food constitutes a health threat. "There is no need to require that products whose production process or some of their ingredients included genetic engineering be marked as such, as this additional information will not serve the public in the least," Olmert said." (Haaretz Daily)

"Scientist attacks GM opposition" - "One of the world's leading plant scientists has described opposition to genetically modified crops as a crime against humanity.

Dr Ingo Potrykus is a former professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and was responsible for the creation of the so-called golden rice, genetically modified to contain vitamin A.

He wants to give it to farmers in developing countries for free, to fight vitamin A deficiencies, but Dr Potrykus says he's encountered significant opposition from anti-GM groups.

"If the opposition would offer any alternative which could do the job then I could in part understand the opposition, but as the opposition has nothing to offer instead, I must blame the opposition that it is responsible for unnecessary suffering and deaths of millions of people, and I consider this a crime to humanity." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) [Complete]

"The World is Slowly Turning to GMO" - "TUSKEGEE, Alabama -- I was dismayed to learn from colleagues that anti-technology groups continue to stand in the way of progress in Thailand by creating and promoting misinformation about the safety and benefits of biotech or GMO crops, as evidenced in the recent opinion piece by Greenpeace ["Monsanto offers false promises", November 28].

Scientific and regulatory authorities across Asia and all over the world have endorsed the extensive and growing base of published scientific information that upholds the safety and benefits of biotech crops and foods, also known as genetically-modified organisms (GMO). Spreading false and misleading information in an effort to polarise opinion is irresponsible and does not serve the public good.

The reality is that crops developed through plant biotechnology are among the most well-tested, well-characterised and well-regulated food and fibre products ever developed. This is the overwhelming consensus of the international scientific community, including the British Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the European Commission, the French Academy of Medicine and the American Medical Association." (CS Prakash, The Nation)

December 9, 2003

"How harmful are additives and preservatives in childhood vaccines?" - "After reviewing dozens of scientific studies, a leading vaccine expert concludes that preservatives, additives and other substances contained in vaccines pose very little risk to children receiving those vaccines. "Parents can be reassured that the trace quantities of mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde contained in vaccines will not harm their children," says the study's lead author, Paul A. Offit, M.D., director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia." (Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia)

"In Ethiopia's Malaria War, Weapons Are the Issue" - "With a major malaria outbreak sweeping Ethiopia, a doctors' group working there contends that outdated drugs are being used to fight it and may even worsen the epidemic." (New York Times)

"Air travel may increase the risk of blood clots, especially long flights" - "Two articles in the December 8/22 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, report an increased risk of blood clots associated with air travel." (JAMA and Archives Journals Website)

"Windmills Take Toll on Wildlife" - "ALTAMONT PASS, Calif. — When the giant Altamont wind farm sprouted here two decades ago, the only major objections were aesthetic. Local residents didn't appreciate the forest of 7,000 ungainly wind towers cluttering their view.

No one, apparently, thought about the birds.

Since the phalanx of giant windmills began churning in the air above the Altamont Pass east of San Francisco Bay, an estimated 22,000 birds have died, including hundreds of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and other raptors, after flying into the spinning blades of the wind turbines.

Now, some environmental groups that routinely supported wind power as a clean, alternative source of electric power are opposing the renewal of permits for the wind farm until steps are taken to reduce the bird deaths." (Los Angeles Times)

Today's chuckle: "New Symbol To Express Concern About Climate Change" (Press Release: Greenpeace)

II: "Climate Scientists Zoom In on Changes" - "he New York City region has been likened to a quilt — a stitched-together patchwork of neighborhoods and communities so different in their economic and ethnic profiles that location can sometimes seem like the only thing they have in common. Now, for the first time, scientists are beginning to look at the future climate in the same way. Their key insight is that just like everything else in and around New York — from the quality of the schools to crime rates and taxes — global warming and climate change over the coming century will affect people and their health differently depending on where they live." (New York Times)

"When Good Trees Go Bad" - "Could a massive marine extinction have been caused by . . . trees?" (Kathy A. Svitil, Discover.com)

"NCAR model shows decrease in global dust by 2100" - "One of the first global-scale simulations of dust and climate from preindustrial times to the year 2100 projects a worldwide decrease in airborne dust of 20–63% by the end of this century. The computer model studies show less wind, more moisture, and enhanced vegetation in desert areas as carbon dioxide increases over the next century, keeping more of the world's dust on the ground." (National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

"Abandoned penguin colonies may help refine Antarctic climate studies" - "A previously unnoticed cooling trend that persisted for a millennium caused enough ice to build up in Antarctica's Ross Sea that thousands of Adelie penguins abandoned their colonies beginning about 2,000 years ago, according to newly published research." (National Science Foundation)

"Atmospheric compound is double-edged sword in climate change" - "An atmospheric compound derived primarily from coal combustion may have contradictory effects on the earth's climate. Under many conditions, sulfuric acid may cool the earth's atmosphere. Sulfuric acid particles seem to scatter ultraviolet light back into space before it has a change to enter the troposphere - the bottom layer of earth's atmosphere. But if conditions are right, this same chemical can warm the earth by combining with other compounds in the atmosphere to form clouds." (Ohio State University)

"Study reveals complex changes in West Antarctic Ice Streams" - "New research shows a complex picture of change occurring in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Scientists calibrated data from NASA's ICESat Satellite, and using the satellite, studied the ice streams that carry ice from the interior of the WAIS out to sea. Early results of the study clearly show that all the ice streams of the WAIS have changed substantially in the last five years, but each in its own way." (Ohio State University)

"Major Greenland glacier, once stable, now shrinking dramatically" - "One of the world's fastest-moving glaciers is speeding up and retreating rapidly, a recent study has revealed. The finding has surprised scientists, because while the margins of the Jakobshavn (pronounced "yah-cub-SAH-ven") Glacier had been slowly retreating from the southwest coast of Greenland since before 1900, this retreat appeared to have stopped by the early 1990s when the first accurate measurements were made. Now the glacier is accelerating." (Ohio State University)

"Climate talks must focus more on poor, says UN expert" - "MILAN - Climate talks in Italy this week should involve poor states more in slowing global warming because the UN's Kyoto protocol governing rich states does not go far enough, the head of a UN commission said on Monday.

Delegates at a UN climate conference in Milan also said that Sunday's parliamentary elections in Russia, which has an effective veto on Kyoto, could make ratification by Moscow more likely -- but not until after presidential polls in 2004.

"We will need stronger measures after Kyoto," Boerge Brende, the chairman of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, told Reuters, saying that the 180-nation talks should focus beyond Kyoto despite uncertainties about Russia." (Reuters)

"Experts discount generic fix for global warming" - "The failure or success of the embattled Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions should not sway countries in the South from developing their own, more appropriate agreements, according to a new report.

Kyoto—or a Kyoto-type of agreement—will not work for developing countries, Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, told IPS.

A wide range of mechanisms, and regional approaches in particular, will be needed instead, the Pew report says." (Stephen Leahy , InterPress Service)

"Administration eyes burying carbon dioxide" - "This summer, scientists began drilling deep into the earth of West Virginia. Their goal: to determine whether a spongy layer of rock 9,000 feet beneath the surface can hold a gas that causes global warming. The project is being closely watched by the Bush administration, which is funding it, and by the power industry. Both see burying the gas, carbon dioxide, as a possible long-term solution to keeping gases from power plants out of the atmosphere." (USA TODAY)

"'Homegrown' relief for victims of arsenic poisoning in South Asia" - "A well-head device invented by Lehigh University engineering professor Arup SenGupta slashes arsenic levels in drinking water. Arsenicosis sufferers in more than 100 treated villages in India are enjoying relief from their symptoms. Reports of new cases have plummeted. SenGupta will visit several of the villages in late December." (Lehigh University)

"GM sugar beet 'far more environmentally friendly'" - "Modified sugar beet is far more environmentally friendly than conventional beet. So concludes a controversial new analysis that is the first to measure the wider impact of such crops, including their contribution to global warming, damage to the ozone layer and toxicity to aquatic life. "Overall, herbicide-resistant GM beet was 15 to 50 per cent better for the environment, depending on what impact was being measured," says Richard Phipps of the School of Agriculture at the University of Reading in Berkshire, UK." (New Scientist)

"[California] Farm groups divided on modified crop ban" - "Two influential Mendocino County agricultural groups are split over a local initiative to ban cultivation of genetically modified organisms. If approved by voters next March, the county would become the first in the nation to impose such a ban. Measure H does not target the sale of genetically modified foods, but seeks to prevent planting of genetically modified crops to avoid possible contamination of organically grown products." (The Press Democrat)

"Divided EU Fails to Lift Biotech Crop Ban" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - A divided European Union failed to agree on lifting its 5-year-old moratorium on new biotech foods, dragging out a dispute that Washington charges violates world trade rules and contributes to starvation in Africa. A committee of national experts split 6-6 with three abstentions Monday on allowing the sale of canned sweet corn from a strain developed by the Swiss-based Syngenta company. Spain, Britain, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Ireland were in favor; Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal and France against; and Germany, Italy and Belgium abstained." (AP)

December 8, 2003

"The UN Wants to Control the Internet" - "Throughout the history of mankind, any time the spark of liberty has been ignited, one force or another has rushed to extinguish it.

Today, in a world already suffocating under the weight of rules and regulations designed to control, tax and consume every outlet of human expression, the Internet stands as the only unregulated source of liberty in the world.

True to form, the United Nations is holding yet another international gathering to plot the takeover of the Internet. Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, government diplomats and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have gathered at the World Information Summit to discuss the "role of the media," in order to set "acceptable boundaries to freedom of expression." Acceptable to whom?" (Tom DeWeese, CNSNews.com)

"U.N. control of Web rejected" - "GENEVA — The United States, backed by the European Union, Japan and Canada, has turned back a bid by developing nations to place the Internet under the control of the United Nations or its member governments. But governments, the private sector and others will be asked to establish a mechanism under U.N. auspices to study the governance of the Internet and make recommendations by 2005." (The Washington Times)

"New California Farm Law Angers Activists" - "LOS ANGELES -- A new state law designed to shield farms from protesters and protect the food supply from contagious disease has angered activists, who say the law will keep them from documenting animal abuse. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, makes trespassing on lands where animals are raised for human consumption a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Currently, someone who trespasses faces a citation and a $10 fine. This year, seven states considered bills to make so-called animal and ecological terrorism subject to stiffer penalties, said Sandy Liddy Bourne of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The bills are based on model legislation developed by the Washington-based group." (AP)

"The greening of America" - "Some of the boldest environmental decisions are now coming from the world's most reviled country." (Will Hutton, The Observer)

New items posted Still Waiting for Greenhouse

Ever-more psychotic: "Melting ice 'will swamp capitals'" - "Measures to fight global warming will have to be at least four times stronger than the Kyoto Protocol if they are to avoid the melting of the polar ice caps, inundating central London and many of the world's biggest cities, concludes a new official report.

The report, by a German government body, says that even if it is fully implemented, the protocol will only have a "marginal attenuating effect" on the climate change. But last week even this was thrown into doubt amid contradictory signals from the Russian government as to whether it will allow the treaty to come into effect.

Global warming already kills 150,000 people a year worldwide and the rate of climate change is soon likely to exceed anything the planet has seen "in the last million years" says the report, produced by the German Advisory Council on Global Change for a meeting of the world's environment ministers to consider the future of the treaty in Milan this week." | Michael Meacher: The Kyoto Protocol and a deadly game of Russian roulette (Independent on Sunday)

II: "Global warming to chill Europe" - "WESTERN Europe may actually get colder as a result of global warming, because the melting Arctic ice cap is cooling off the warm ocean current that is largely responsible for Europe's mild weather, scientists and environmentalists said today.

If the ice cap in Greenland and the Arctic continued to melt at its current rate, Europe's temperatures would take a sharp dip after five or more decades of increasingly warm weather.

That turnaround could spell trouble for regions that by then would have adapted to more tropical conditions, the experts told reporters at a UN climate change conference in Milan." (AP)

III: "More big storms to be weathered as the earth warms" - "CSIRO has predicted that there will be an increase in extreme events in Australia, with coastal areas particularly vulnerable.

Tuesday night's storm wasn't Melbourne's first example of extreme weather. There were similar storms in the inner bayside in 1989 and in the CBD in 1972. And in 1891, two days of rain caused the Yarra to swell to 305 metres wide and rise 14 metres.

Natural climate variability has always been the main villain behind extreme weather, but now there is another - global warming. Tuesday's storm hit Melbourne on the day that the Kyoto treaty, designed to cut greenhouse gases, reached a new crisis point.

By 2100, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse emissions will warm the earth by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees, melting some of the polar caps and increasing the sea level by nine to 88 centimetres." (The Age)

... "The four degrees: How Europe's hottest summer shows global warming is transforming our world" - "It was the summer, scientists now realise, when global warming at last made itself unmistakably felt.

We knew that summer 2003 was remarkable: Britain experienced its record high temperature and continental Europe saw forest fires raging out of control, great rivers drying to a trickle and thousands of heat-related deaths. But just how remarkable is only now becoming clear." | Britain heads for hottest year since 1659 (Independent)

... "Kyoto Protocol/Russia waffles, others advance" - "Obituaries for the Kyoto Protocol were premature, as it turns out. Just one day after an adviser to President Vladimir Putin made global headlines by predicting Moscow would never ratify the pact, a senior Russian trade minister declared that ratification is still on track, and Canada's prime minister said Putin had personally assured him he will sign the agreement.

This is good news for a few reasons:

First, Russia's support is critical to sustaining a treaty that, however imperfect and outdated, remains the only wide-reaching international instrument addressing the truly global problem of daunting climate change.

Second, Russian participation can only encourage those industrial democracies that have already ratified Kyoto to keep working on strategies that reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases.

Third, it maintains some pressure on the United States to reconsider its shameful abandonment of Kyoto, and of its responsibility to help solve the problem it has done so much to create." (Star Tribune)

"Demand for 'Kyoto tax' on the US" - "Countries refusing to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases should face trade sanctions, according to a British independent think-tank. The United States has not signed the Kyoto agreement on climate change and Russia has indicated it may follow. The New Economics Foundation wants the EU to tax imports from these countries because they enjoy a competitive disadvantage as energy costs increase." (BBC News Online)

"Italy Offers Russia Kyoto Carrots" - "MILAN, Italy -- Italy plans to help finance projects in Russia to reduce greenhouse gases and to demonstrate to President Vladimir Putin the economic benefits of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, an international accord to combat global warming. This week Italy will announce its intention to invest in a fund for Russian projects, regardless of whether Russia ratifies the accord, Corrado Clini, director general of Italy's Environment Ministry said at the United Nations convention on climate change in Milan. If Russia were to ratify Kyoto, the projects would help Italy meet its emission-reduction goals." (Bloomberg)

"Carbon Market Seen Worth $10Bln by '07" - "LONDON -- The emerging global market in carbon emissions will soar to be worth $10 billion by 2007 even if the United Nations Kyoto Protocol fails, analysts said on Friday. The UN pact on climate change, which envisages global trading, still relies on being ratified by a wavering Russia, after the world's biggest polluter the United States pulled out of the deal. But Oslo-based consultancy Point Carbon said international trading would take off from 2005 when the European Union will impose caps on industry emissions of carbon dioxide, blamed for contributing to global warming. "The lion's share of the market will be from the EU scheme, with the rest mostly coming from investments in projects in developing countries," analyst Atle Christiansen of Point Carbon said. "This doesn't hinge on the Kyoto Protocol entering into force, but that would affect future investment in emissions reduction projects," he added." (Reuters)

"Brazil forest earns multinationals points" - "Buying buffalos may sound like an odd way to help the fight against global warming. But that is what environmental groups are doing on the Atlantic coast of southern Brazil, as part of a project to restore a damaged forest rich in unique wildlife. And it is funded by three major corporations seeking to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions against the carbon dioxide which will be soaked up by the new trees being planted here." (BBC News Online)

"[Australia] 'No benefit' from costly ethanol plan" - "AMBITIOUS plans to expand the ethanol industry in Australia would cost taxpayers a fortune for virtually no national benefit, a secret government report shows. In a damning assessment of a scheme promoted by Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, the CSIRO report says the industry would require massive ongoing assistance resulting in a net loss to the economy of up to $504,000 for every job created. The government-commissioned study into the biofuel industry found that massive taxpayer subsidies would be needed if the scheme were to reach production levels being targeted for 2010 by Mr Anderson." (The Australian)

"Greens urge air travel tax hike" - "Environmentalists have urged the government to increase the tax paid by air passengers to make up for the pollution they generate." (BBC News Online)

"The Battle Over Caution - A Brussels philosophy antagonizes the United States and others" - "Dec. 15 issue — It is hard to argue that we’re not “better safe than sorry,” but Europe and the United States are indeed debating that motherly point. The European Union has enshrined the “precautionary principle” in its approach to regulation, which is to ban anything that might be dangerous, even before the scientific proof is in. The United States bans only what is proved harmful, after weighing the benefit to public health against the costs—and U.S. officials don’t hide their impatience with what they see as soft and fuzzy European logic. Earlier this year a top Office of Management and Budget official told an EU audience that a universal application of precaution is a “mythical concept, perhaps like a unicorn.” (Newsweek International)

"EU decision on biotech sweetcorn set to fuel US anger" - "BRUSSELS - The European Union will Monday vote on whether to lift a ban on bio-engineered crops, with all the signs pointing to a "no" decision that is sure to anger the United States. The EU's standing committee for the food chain, which gathers scientific representatives from the 15 member states, is due to decide whether to allow the import of a form of genetically modified (GM) sweetcorn, Bt-11. If the experts agree to allow Bt-11, that would effectively lift a de-facto moratorium in place since 1999 against the import and cultivation of GM products in the EU. But sources say the committee is deeply split on the issue, against a backdrop of public disquiet in Europe on the issue of "Frankenfoods." (AFP)

"Monsanto sees US bio-wheat approval within 3 yrs" - "WASHINGTON - The chairman of Monsanto Co said on Friday that the U.S. government would likely take two to three years to approve the company's controversial proposal to commercialize genetically modified wheat. Hugh Grant, who is also Monsanto's chief executive officer, told reporters that approval of biotech varieties traditionally required two or three years in the United States and Canada. Grant said Monsanto intended to soon resubmit an application for U.S. approval of its biotech wheat." (Reuters)

"Biotech firms muscle in on rice research" - "LOS BANOS, Philippines : Biotech companies are muscling in on rice research as donor funds for studies on what is possibly the planet's most important crop are dwindling, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) officials say. The sequencing of the rice genome recently not only opened up the largely untapped commercial possibilities of the tiny cereal but also set the pace for potential intellectual property rights disputes between corporate entities and governments. "The advent of biotechnology has caused a spurt in patents on gene products associated with rice," said Ronald Cantrell, director of the Philippines-based IRRI, founded in 1960 to conduct cutting-edge research to boost yields and raise pest resistance of tropical rice varieties. Rice is the staple food of half of mankind but compared to wheat or maize, rice patents comprise "a very small percentage" among the cereals, he added." (AFP)

December 5, 2003

"Eco-Imperialism's Deadly Consequences" - "The United Nations’ global warming bureaucracy is meeting (vacationing?) in Milan this week pondering how to revive the beleaguered international global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol. This week’s news that Russia might say “nyet” to the treaty all but seals its doom." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Strong's latest prize sends science downhill" - "The ever-lengthening list of awards won by Maurice Strong -- Canadian super envirocrat, businessman interruptus and close advisor-or-not to incoming prime minister Paul Martin -- has always looked stranger than fiction. He has scored The Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, The Brazilian National Grand Order of the Southern Cross, the Swedish Royal Order of the Polar Star, the Blue Planet Prize, the International Saint Frances Prize and the Charles A. Lindbergh Award, to name but a few.

This week, however, Mr. Strong was revealed to be the recipient of an award that strains credulity beyond breaking point. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has selected him as the first non-American to receive its "Public Welfare Medal."

His other awards bespeak an Olympian commitment to world betterment inconceivable to mere mortals and sustainable only within the five-star, jet-set UN confer-osphere. But science?" (Peter Foster, Financial Post)

"The politics of global warming: Is it nyet or not on Kyoto accord?" - "Treaty's future rests with Russians, who're issuing conflicting signals, in maneuvering driven by economics not environment." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Is Kyoto dead?" - "The United Nations treaty on climate change is in less trouble than it looks." (The Economist)

"U.N. Official Hopes for Kyoto Protocol" - "MILAN, Italy - The head of the U.N. climate change conference insisted Thursday that Russia hadn't said its final word on the Kyoto Protocol, holding out hope that Moscow will ratify the pact to curb global warming." (Associated Press)

"President stands firm on Kyoto: he will not ratify the present protocol" - "After days of conflicting statements from ministers, Russia made clear yesterday that it was not prepared to ratify the Kyoto protocol in its present form." (The Guardian)

"France links fatal floods to global warming" - "Floods that have killed five people and forced 15,000 from their homes in south-eastern France eased around the city of Marseilles yesterday, but the situation remained critical elsewhere.

Concern focused on the wine-growing region further west around the River Herault, whose level continued to rise amid torrential rain and heavy winds early yesterday.

A government minister directly linked the floods to global warming." (Reuters)

"You have been warmed" - "Tom Fort goes to St James’s, Piccadilly, and hears Michael Meacher and others warn that the end is nigh." (The Spectator)

"Greenhouse gas trading doubled in 2003, says World Bank" - "WASHINGTON — Worldwide trading of greenhouse gas emissions more than doubled over the last year to about 71 million tonnes, with governments and multilateral agencies accounting for more than half of the purchases, according to a World Bank study released Thursday. The bank is pioneering the market for project-based ways to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that many scientists believe is a cause of rising global temperatures. Power plants and oil refineries that burn fossil fuels are among the biggest producers of carbon dioxide emissions." (Reuters)

"Suit Cites Global Warming to Mask a Grab for Power" - "Some lawsuits are filed in pursuit of just compensation. Some are undertaken in the hope for a windfall. Still others are filed in the quest for political power. And so 11 attorneys general, three large cities and a number of large environmental lobbies have joined in legal actions arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency be forced under federal law to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles.

The stated goal is a reduction of the purported dangers of global warming; the actual goal is the acquisition of political power — the power to regulate — over whole industries in major geographic regions." (Benjamin Zycher, Los Angeles Times)

Eek! The bread done it! "Asthma risk from baking" - "People who bake their own bread and cakes were warned yesterday they face a health hazard from flour inhalation. The British Thoracic Society and safety experts urged caution while home cooking after researchers confirmed that commercial bakers were at an increased risk of asthma and other breathing complaints." (The Guardian)

Another good reason to Just Say No to Toast

"Mercury in ocean fish may come from natural sources, not pollution" - "Mercury levels in yellowfin tuna caught off the coast of Hawaii have not changed in 27 years, despite a considerable increase in atmospheric mercury during this time, according to a new study. The findings suggest that the high levels of mercury that have been found in tuna and other ocean fish may not be coming from pollution, but from natural sources." (American Chemical Society)

"GloFish Have Greens Seeing Red" - "OK, this is a fish story. But it's not about the big one that got away; it's about the little ones arriving in stores next month called "GloFish." They're ornamental pets, nothing more. Yet they shed light on both the tremendous promise of bio-engineered fish and the fanaticism of agricultural biotech opponents." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"Brussels urges rational debate on GM foods as EU vote looms" - "BRUSSELS - Europeans must base their view of food safety on science rather than fear, EU Health Commissioner David Byrne said as experts prepare to vote on the future of an EU ban on bio-engineered crops. The Irish commissioner said EU citizens risked a "collective neurosis" over the issue of genetically modified (GM) foods despite scientific evidence that he said showed GM products to be safe. "The science-based message simply fails to get across. Citizens seem, by and large, to have made up their minds," he told a conference on "risk perception" in public attitudes and policy-making." (AFP)

"EU food agency says Monsanto GM maize safe" - "BRUSSELS - The EU's food safety agency gave a clean bill of health on Thursday to a type of genetically modified maize made by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, assuring its safety for human and animal consumption. The positive assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of Monsanto's NK603 maize is only one step down a long road toward lifting the 15-nation bloc's five-year unofficial ban on new genetically modified foods and crops, which have faced intense opposition in parts of Europe. "The panel has concluded that the herbicide-tolerant GM maize NK 603 is as safe as conventional maize and therefore that its placing on the marketing for import for processing and food or feed use is unlikely to have an adverse effect on human or animal health," EFSA said in a statement. EU member states will now have to decide whether to allow imports of the GM maize. Growing the GM maize seed in the ground would remain banned. Monsanto's application for authorization relates to imports as a food and also for processing." (Reuters)

"Science chief extols opportunities of GM" - "PAUL Rylott of Bayer CropScience told a government committee yesterday that genetically modified crops provide an exciting opportunity for agriculture. He told a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, hosted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh: "An overview of UK farming makes it clear that it is a patchwork. About two thirds of the land is down to grass and of the arable land the same proportion is in cereals with a third down to a range of break crops. "That means the potential area of land that might be used for GM crops is no more than 5 per cent." Under stiff questioning from members of the ACRE committee, Rylott insisted that farmers were more than capable of meeting any standards of husbandry needed to grow GM crops. He said: "I would dispute any allegation that farmers would be unable to follow new protocols. The evidence from oilseed rape trials shows that they are more than capable and over the three years of field scale trials GM crops yielded 20 per cent more than conventional crops." (The Scotsman)

"A kinder, gentler Frankenfood" - "Genetic modification: Might a clever technological twist help to make GM foods more widely acceptable?" (The Economist)

December 4, 2003

"Air pollution cancer fears grow" - "Men living in areas with polluted air may be more likely to develop lung cancer, according to scientists." (BBC News Online)

"Car fumes linked to child coughs" - "Young children living near a major road suffer more coughing attacks, research has found." (BBC News Online)

Of course, there are those who could wish they had such developed-world 'problems': "Smoke From Cooking Kills 1.6 Million Yearly, Study Says" - "Smoke from indoor cooking on wood, dung, crop residues and charcoal kills 1.6 million people per year in poor countries, according to a new study released by the British nongovernmental organization Intermediate Technology Development Group.

Smoke: the Killer in the Kitchen finds that 2.4 billion people — more than one-third of the world's population — burn biomass for cooking and heating. The particles released from the fuels affect the lungs, making people more vulnerable to diseases such as pneumonia, cancer, tuberculosis and asthma." (UNwire)

Doh! "[Ireland] Regulator halts wind power links to grid" - "The electricity regulator Mr Tom Reeves has taken unprecedented emergency measures to curb the amount of wind power on the electricity grid, following major concerns about the "security and stability of the power system". Acting on advice from the National Grid, the regulator has halted - with immediate effect - allowing new wind farms to connect to the system." (The Irish Times) [Subscription required]

"Russian death knell for Kyoto treaty is echoed in EU forecast" - "IS THE Kyoto treaty dead? Is Russia prepared to be the country that kills off the world’s most ambitious attempt to curb global warming? It looks like the answer is “yes” to both, to the shock of ministers preparing for the huge gathering in Milan next week, when 180 countries will try to patch together some deal on climate change." (Bronwen Maddox, The Times) | Putin puts last spike in Kyoto (Terence Corcoran, National Post) | Russian 'roulette' on Kyoto (The Australian) | Illarionov: Russia Won't Ratify Kyoto (Moscow Times) | Jay Ambrose: Ding dong! Kyoto's dead (Scripps Howard News Service)

Meanwhile, back in Milan... "In Turnaround, Russia Says May Yet Ratify Kyoto" - "MOSCOW - In an apparent about-face, Russia signaled it might yet salvage the U.N.'s Kyoto protocol on curbing global warming -- a pact that will collapse without Moscow's backing.

"There are no decisions about ratification apart from the fact that we are moving toward ratification," said Mukhamed Tsikhanov, deputy economy minister responsible for Kyoto.

Michael Williams, a United Nations spokesman for climate change, welcomed the remark.

"We are pleased to hear today's comments. We are confident that they (Russians) will ratify the protocol at some point," he told Reuters from a climate change conference in Milan." (Reuters) | Russia 'still open' to Kyoto pact (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online) | Russia seeks to allay fears over ratification of Kyoto (Financial Times) | Doubts cast on Russian 'rejection' of Kyoto Protocol (New Zealand Herald) | Kyoto’s not dead yet (The Economist) | Into Thin Air: Kyoto Accord May Not Die (or Matter) (New York Times)

but wait, there's more: "Kremlin Aide Says Putin Rejects Kyoto Protocol" - "Filed at 4:47 a.m. ET (09:47 GMT), 12/04/03 - MOSCOW - A Kremlin economic adviser said on Thursday he was speaking for President Vladimir Putin when he rejected the Kyoto environmental pact this week, adding that the deputy economy minister who contradicted him was mistaken.

``The statement was made physically by me, but the words I was using were those of the Russian president,'' Andrei Illarionov told reporters.

Illarionov said Tuesday Russia would not approve the pact in its current form, but Mukhamed Tsikhanov, deputy economy minister responsible for Kyoto, said Wednesday Russia was moving toward ratification.

Asked why there appeared to be differences between the two, Illarionov said: ``There are no differences. The deputy economy minister is mistaken. He is mistaken in his timing. What he said was the position of the Russian Federation in August.'' (Reuters)

"Kyoto and Our Adaptive Capacity" - "MILAN, Italy -- A cloud is hanging over Milan as delegates from 188 countries are discussing climate change here. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is holding its ninth conference of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9), ending on 12 December. Many fear that confirmed Russian scepticism towards the Kyoto Protocol means it will not be enforced." (Dominic Standish, TCS)

"That Kyoto Is A Fraud - Owen McShane" - "Two weeks ago I was invited to participate in the Vice-Chancellor's debate at Waikato University. The debate was "That Kyoto is a Fraud". Jeanette Fitsimons took one side and I took the other. I wrote the attached paper to inform myself of the issues." – Owen McShane

"Shrinking glaciers, lower lake levels may be linked to climate change: report" - "OTTAWA -- Shrinking glaciers in the Rockies and sinking water levels in the Great Lakes could be early effects of climate change, says the author of a major Statistics Canada report. Fluctuating water levels are normal in the Great Lakes but the past decade has brought six warmer-than-average years and a decline in ice cover and precipitation, says the report. Francois Soulard, senior research officer at the federal agency, said the decline in water levels goes beyond what can be explained by natural weather variability." (CP)

"Retreating glaciers reveal secrets of ancient forests" - "Glaciers in B.C.'s coastal mountains are retreating at rates of 25 to 50 metres per year and are exposing forests that have been entombed in ice for 2,000 to 5,000 years, a UVic research team is discovering. The sub-fossil forests are yielding a wealth of scientific data on climate change, says Dr. Dan Smith, founder of UVic's tree ring lab and chair of the geography department." (The Ring [University of Victoria community newspaper])

"Utah's redrock may have changed global climate" - "A University of Utah study suggests that Navajo Sandstone -- one of Utah's famed redrock formations -- once may have harbored vast amounts of hydrocarbons, likely natural gas (methane). And when the once-buried sandstone was exposed and started eroding roughly 6 million years ago, the gas would have been released to the atmosphere. Because methane is a so-called "greenhouse gas," the release of large quantities to the atmosphere may have warmed Earth's ancient climate." (University of Utah)

"Forest's new enemies -- environmentalists" - "Canada's great boreal forest was safe until yesterday -- when green groups kicked off their campaign to exploit it The Boreal Initiative will become a powerful lobby for more and more resource extraction." (National Post)

"UN agency issues warnings on shrinking agricultural biodiversity and overfishing" - "3 December – Despite its crucial importance for the survival of humanity, agricultural biodiversity is in ever-greater danger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

The agency stressed that of the estimated 7,000 to 8,000 species that have been used in 10,000 years of agriculture, only 150 are cultivated today and no more than four – wheat, maize, rice and potato – account for more than half of our food calories from plants." (UN News)

"AGRICULTURE : Biotech Boom Linked to Development Dollars - Critics" - "NEW YORK, Dec 3 - Even as an international debate rages over the safety and wisdom of planting genetically modified (GM) crops, they continue to spread like wildfire, particularly in developing countries." (IPS)

"Consumers choose genetically engineered sweet corn over conventional varieties" - "According to research conducted by the University of Guelph's Food Safety Network and published in the latest issue of the British Food Journal, consumers preferred genetically engineered (GE) sweet corn over conventional sweet corn in a 2000 market experiment. By their own accounts, consumers in the study made choices based on taste and quality, as well as reduced use of chemical pesticides in the production of GE varieties. Despite widespread perceptions of consumer concerns regarding the use of genetic engineering in food production, GE varieties outsold conventional sweet corn by a margin of 3:2.

"The study shows that attitudes towards GE foods may depend on what benefits they offer," said Dr. Douglas Powell, scientific director of the Food Safety Network and lead researcher on the project. "In this case, many customers at the farm market chose GE sweet corn because they perceived advantages in the reduced use of chemical pesticides. Further studies are now needed to test these findings with a broader, more diverse audience." (SeedQuest)

"[Canada] Consumers' Association changes course on GM labelling" - "CALGARY - The Consumers' Association of Canada says Canadians want mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods and that it will ask the federal government to introduce legislation making labelling of genetically modified foods mandatory. The association says a new poll conducted by Decima Research in October found that 91 per cent of Canadians want food labels to reflect whether the product contains genetically modified organisms." (CBC News Online)

"Poll shows huge support for GMO labelling" - "An overwhelming majority of Canadians thinks that the government has provided insufficient information about genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food and believes that all foods containing GMOs should be labelled as such. The Consumers' Association of Canada released a study Wednesday which indicates the depth of distrust Canadians have for GMO foods, which have become increasingly common over the last decade." (Globe and Mail)

"[Canada] Ottawa should reject Monsanto offer - Approval process for genetically modified wheat needs to remain beyond questions of integrity" - "The last thing beleaguered Canadian farmers need is for a short-sighted federal agency to do anything that would undermine consumer confidence at home and abroad in the process that exists to ensure food safety. Yet, that's exactly what Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada risks with a deal with Monsanto that would see it receive royalties from the biotechnology giant should a variety of transgenic wheat be approved for sale. While it's been known for several years that Agriculture Canada researchers were working with the company to develop genetically modified wheat, news of a commercial relationship between Ottawa and Monsanto is highly troubling. Quite apart from its responsibilities to develop and support the farming industry, Agriculture Canada is also charged with ensuring the safety of the food supply." (The Toronto Star)

"MEPs call for strict EU-wide rules on GMO co-existence" - "In short: An own-initiative report on the co-existence of GM and conventional crops was adopted by the EP's Agriculture Committee on 2 December, demanding low thresholds for 'seed purity' of non-GMO products." (EurActiv.com)

"French Food Agency Wants More Tests On GM Maize" - "The French state food agency has recommended more tests on a genetically modified Syngenta sweet maize, whose potential approval by the European Union next week would mark the end of the EU's five-year ban on new GM crops and food. In an opinion published on Wednesday, France's AFSSA said it wanted to see more research into Bt-11 maize (sweetcorn), manufactured by Switzerland's Syngenta, as previous tests had not provided enough evidence to say it was safe for humans to eat. A specialist EU committee will meet on December 8 to discuss the European Commission's plans to allow imports of the maize." (Crop Decisions)

December 3, 2003

Finally: "Russia pulls away from Kyoto pact" - "Russia says it will not ratify in its present form the Kyoto Protocol designed to mitigate global warming. "The Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," presidential aide Andrei Illarionov has announced in Moscow. The landmark environmental pact cannot now enter into legal force, especially since the US has also repudiated it." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online) | Russia to Reject Pact on Climate, Putin Aide Says (New York Times) | Russia Will Not Sign the Kyoto Treaty (Los Angeles Times) | Japan Still Hopes Russia Will Ratify Kyoto Treaty (Reuters) | Russia confirms: No Kyoto (National Business Review) | Chrétien confident Russia will OK Kyoto (CBC News Online) but Martin goes cool on Kyoto (Globe and Mail) | Ibbitson: Why he's prepared to abandon dying deal (Globe and Mail)

It's probably asking way too much that we now bury this absurd scare and deal with real-world and quite pressing problems - but we can always hope.

no letup in the propaganda department though: "A year of extremes provides evidence of global warming" - "As the Kyoto protocol, the world climate change treaty, starts to crumble because of Russian reluctance to ratify it, evidence is mounting of the very threat it is designed to counter." | Death knell for the Kyoto treaty (Independent)

... "Global warming threatens many low-level ski resorts with ruin – UN study" - "2 December – Many low-altitude ski resorts face economic hardship and even ruin due to global warming, with the internationally celebrated Austrian town of Kitzbuehl threatened with extinction as a winter sports resort, according to a new study released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

While climate change, in the form of extreme weather such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, put the poorest of the poor in Africa, Asia and Latin America at greatest risk, the study shows that even rich nations face “potentially massive upheavals with significant economic, social and cultural implications," UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said." (UN News)

... (This one from Kev & Tom's Modelling Agency) "'No doubt' human activity is affecting global climate" - "There is no doubt that human activities are having measurable--and increasing--impacts on global climate, say Kevin Trenberth (NCAR) and Tom Karl (NOAA). The scientists cite atmospheric observations and computer models to paint a detailed picture of climate changes in coming decades. The study appears December 5 in Science." (National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

... which we know is oh-so important because NSF broke their own embargo to release: "Top scientists conclude human activity is affecting global climate" - "Two of the nation's best-known atmospheric scientists say human activities are having measurable--and increasing--impacts on global climate. Results of the study cites atmospheric observations and multiple computer models to paint a detailed picture of the climate changes likely to buffet Earth in coming decades, including rising temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events such as flooding." (National Science Foundation)

and, just to see how the EU is going in their Quixotic quest: "COP9: new EEA report undermines EU's credibility on climate change leadership" - "In short: EU Member States are unable to reach their Kyoto targets on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report presented by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on 2 December." (EurActiv.com)

See Environmental issue report 36: Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2003 Summary (European Environment Agency) [PDF, 341KB, 21pp of happy, neutral and sad "smilies" from the EEA] | EU nowhere near meeting Kyoto targets (The Guardian)

"UK public sceptical of Kyoto Protocol - new poll, just out..." (EnviroSpin Watch)

New items posted Still Waiting For Greenhouse

"Facts Are in Fashion in Milan" - "World delegates are assembling at the city of Milan from December 1 through 12 for the ninth session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-9) meeting. The official agenda of COP-9 ranges from the top-level matters related to the Kyoto Protocol and its intricate details, to the more mundane house-keeping matters like the "request from a group of countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, Albania and the Republic of Moldova regarding their status under the Convention."

But much more important is the question of climate science from - and about -- Milan.?" (Willie Soon, TCS)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"What Should Be Done About the Excess Nitrogen Fertilizer That Is Claimed to be Wreaking Havoc with Earth's Forests?" - "As with the excess carbon dioxide that is claimed to be wreaking havoc with earth's atmosphere, very little." (co2sceince.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Rapid Climate Change (History)" - "A review of the history of abrupt-and-rapid climate change suggests there is little to no likelihood that anything man can do in the way of altering the air's CO2 content will ever act as a triggering mechanism for this phenomenon." (co2sceince.org)

"Deserts (Algae and Lichens)" - "These little-noticed plants that hug the surfaces of desert dunes, playas and pavements are playing a major role in the inexorable "greening of the earth" that is resulting from the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content." (co2sceince.org)

Plant Growth Data:
"This week we add new results (blue background) of plant growth responses to atmospheric CO2 enrichment obtained from experiments described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for: Black Poplar, Coastal Scrub Wattle, Native Colorado Shortgrass Steppe Grassland, Spring Wheat and Tall Albizia." (co2sceince.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Rate of Rise of Global Sea Level Appears to be Accelerating" - "But don't hold your breath in anticipation of imminent proof of that proposition." (co2sceince.org)

"Do Asian Dust Events Bring Death to Korea?" - "A new study suggests that they do, while several other studies suggest that the impact of this phenomenon may be reduced in the coming years and decades as the air's CO2 content continues to rise." (co2sceince.org)

"Does Enhanced Transfer of Carbon to Soil Microbes Increase Nitrogen Immobilization and Restrict the Long-Term Growth Response of Grasslands to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment?" - "This question goes to the very heart of the debate over the long-term consequences of the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content for earth's natural ecosystems.  More importantly, the study that prompts it provides some solid indications as to what the answer is." (co2sceince.org)

"Does Soil Nitrogen Availability Limit Ecosystem Productivity Response to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment?" - "This is a question that has vexed many a scientist seeking to determine the long-term responses of various natural and agro-ecosystems to the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content.  Has an answer finally been found?" (co2sceince.org)

"Growth Responses of an N2-Fixing Legume and a Non-N2-Fixing Forb to Elevated CO2" - "How do they differ?  And how do they respond to a wide range of nitrogen additions to a low-N soil?" (co2sceince.org)

"Low flying 'would aid air quality'" - "The environmental havoc wreaked by aviation could be brought under control if aircraft cruised at a lower altitude and flew in straight lines, according to leading scientists." (The Guardian)

"Bush administration weighs weaker rules on mercury pollution" - "WASHINGTON-The Bush administration is about to loosen dramatically an upcoming regulation that would reduce mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to federal documents obtained by environmental activist groups." (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

So they should, for this is not a health issue but rather another enviro-inspired attack on coal-fired electricity generation.

"Giving the Poor Drugs That Don't Work" - "It's bad enough that the World Health Organization (WHO), US Agency for International Development, the World Bank and almost every other aid/development agency will not allow DDT to be bought with their funds to combat malarial mosquitoes. Now it appears that its not just political correctness over insecticides that these groups adhere to, but also bad drug practice: the WHO and Global Fund are supplying useless drugs to African nations. This must stop. At a conference this week at the American Enterprise Institute some of the culprits will be put on the spot and they don't have much wriggle room." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"Pesticide delays sexual maturation" - "Male school children exposed to the pesticide endosulfan showed delayed sexual maturity compared with similar children who were not exposed. Although endosulfan is no longer made in the United States, an estimated 1.4-2.2 million pounds are used in the United States on crops including squash, pecans, and strawberries." (NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)

"'Tis the Silly Season" - "So, we are now fully in the throes of the holiday eating season, during which time, in this era of obesity obsession, we will receive 18,332 warnings, admonishments and friendly pieces of advice to watch what we eat and drink.

Indeed, in the modern spirit of the holidays, the Food and Drug Administration has under consideration a proposal put forth by the Center for Science in the Public Interest that a label be attached to all Santa Claus images, as well as the jolly man himself, warning people that he is not a person to emulate in regards to physique. Trial lawyers, headed by John Banzhaf, in turn have indicated they will sue any chain restaurant that uses Santa's image without such a warning label, claiming such advertising is subliminal enticement for people to super-size their meals.

Just kidding. Well, sort of. As Radley Balko wrote on TCS Nov. 19, "Absurdity is dead. Welcome to post-reductio America. It's sterile. It's antiseptic. And we're all a little less free." (Duane Freese, TCS)

"There's More Future in Your Future" - "For millennia, hucksters have sold worthless baldness remedies ranging from yogurt to dung. You could also buy any number of longevity potions. But now there are two FDA-approved baldness drugs. Get ready for biotech drugs and therapies that will result in many readers of this article living well into the 22nd century." (Michael Fumento, TCS)

"Canola Case Tests GMO Patent" - "The future of genetically modified crops in North America is in the hands of a 73-year-old Canadian canola farmer named Percy Schmeiser. Schmeiser already has lost two court cases dealing with his use of seed designed by Monsanto, but he and his supporters have made it to the Supreme Court of Canada with a new argument: Monsanto's patent is invalid." (Wired News)

Lookit Charlie's sayin' now! "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Eight Years" (Charles M. Benbrook, biotech-info.net) [PDF, 46pp, 1.04MB]

December 2, 2003

"When Fish Fluoresce, Can Teenagers Be Far Behind?" - "Sometime in the future, when the distinction between cosmetologist and molecular biologist has faded and gene shops dot the seedier urban streets like tattoo parlors, the philosophers, moralists and historians of science will try to pin down the moment when the new age began.

Science historians will probably say it started with the discovery of DNA, or the mapping of the human genome. Others will claim it started when Dolly was cloned and it became clear that the tools of biotechnology had moved out of the high church of pure research and into the unpredictable hands of people who bred sheep for profit.

I think the moment is now. And the creature that embodies the escape of biotechnology into the world at large — a movement that will never be reversed — is an aquarium fish that glows in the dark." (James Gorman, New York Times)

Glow-in-the-dark teenagers? Couldn't be worse than the apparent escapees from cyborg chop-shops commonly seen in the mall - you know the ones, with all the ironmongery protrudent? Blacklight fluorescence would be a significant improvement, no?

"Lawsuits Cast Attention on Passenger Blood Clots" - "A former passenger is suing American Airlines for failing to take proper preventive measures that would help passengers avoid blood clots." (New York Times)

"More Atlantic Hurricanes Than Normal as Season Ends" - "NEW YORK - This year's Atlantic hurricane season, which ended on Sunday, exceeded the norm and produced 14 named tropical storms, specialists from the nation's hurricane monitoring group said yesterday." (Reuters)

"COP-Who?" - "The `Ninth Conference of the Parties' (COP-9) of signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is now taking place at Milan, Italy. It opened on 1st December and concludes on 12th December.

Not that the event has excited much interest. It's convening has escaped most of the major world's media and reportage on it is also absent from the major Australian newspapers. This may be a measure of `climate fatigue' on the part of the public. Listening to environmental lobby groups or representatives of the greenhouse industry, there is never, never anything positive to say, always a message of gloom and despair. Such negativity eventually becomes counter-productive - the more there is, the less people listen. The Soviet propaganda machine suffered the same fate - the louder they shouted, the more people turned away.

By contrast, the positive messages of the climate skeptics are being increasingly listened to as they see a positive future for mankind based on progress and technological advance." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Some 4,000 delegates evaluate implementation of UN climate change treaty" - "1 December – The 188 parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention are meeting in Milan, Italy, from today until 12 December to assess the progress governments have made in reducing manmade climatic changes and to set the global agenda for the coming year.

"The fact that 2003 is on track to be one of the warmest years on record should be a warning that we must all take seriously," said Joke Waller-Hunter, the Convention's Executive Secretary.

"We can see growing evidence that many governments have been inspired by the Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol to strengthen action at the national level, but more needs to be done to stop the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations." (UN News)

"Kyoto Protocol Tops Agenda Of UNFCCC Annual Meeting" - "Italy expressed regret today at the opening of the U.N. Climate Change Convention in Milan that key countries have failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. "We would have liked to announce and welcome here all parties for the first meeting of the Kyoto Protocol," said Italian Environment Minister Altero Matteoli. "Unfortunately, that is not possible." The United States rejected the Kyoto Protocol in the early days of the Bush administration, and Russia has not yet committed to ratifying the pact." (UNwire)

Climate sceptic smear du jour: "Why we don't give a damn" - "Once again, world leaders meet to hear of new threats posed by global warming. Once again, they appear unable to act. George Marshall and Mark Lynas explain why." (New Statesman)

"Cars risk Europe's climate cuts" - "The European Union and many member states will probably fail to meet their promises on cutting greenhouse gases, the European Environment Agency says. It blames a huge growth in transport emissions, especially by road vehicles. These look likely to rise by more than a third between 1990 and 2010, even without a contribution from aviation." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Kyoto Protocol to protect the climate alive and kicking" - "As nations from around the world gather in Milan for the next round of the Kyoto Protocol talks, environmental groups confirmed that the multilateral effort to combat climate change was alive and kicking, despite the efforts of the Bush Administration to kill it.

One hundred and twenty countries have ratified the Protocol and many are already implementing measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, despite the fact that the Protocol has not yet become international law, said The Climate Action Network in Milan. This will happen when Russia ratifies - a move expected to come after the Russian presidential elections in early 2004." ('peas press release)

"MIT Study Sees Nuclear Power as Green Weapon Against Global Warming" - "Although the public doesn't yet view nuclear power as a way to mitigate global warming, an MIT study says a global tripling of nuclear power generation could avoid nearly 2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions annually." (Physics Today)

"Bottom of the barrel" - "The world is running out of oil - so why do politicians refuse to talk about it? " (George Monbiot, The Guardian)

"Safety of food from clones under debate" - "The FDA retracted its OK of meat and milk from replications of animals when an advisory panel challenged the scientific basis of the decision" (Chicago Tribune)

?!! "Earth Matters: New evidence to reject GM crops" - "Dec 2: SARAH SABARATNAM reports on a large-scale study by British scientists which proves that GM crops have adverse effects on farmland wildlife.

IT'S finally been proven: growing genetically modified crops could harm the environment.

The Independent reported recently that British scientists had revealed a "trail-blazing" study that could ultimately lead to a ban on growing the crops.

The three-year study, among others, showed that farmland wildlife is harmed more by the extra-powerful weedkillers used in the growing of GM crops compared to herbicides used in conventional farming.

The study, known as Farm-Scale evaluations, was set up by the government and is part of a succession of reports to the government this year, on the economics, science and public acceptability of GM crops." (New Straits Times)

"EU Food Agency To Give First Verdict On GMO Safety" - "Europe's top food agency will give its first verdict on the safety of genetically modified food next week, days before the EU debates lifting a five-year ban on new GMO crops and foods. The low-profile European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has assessed the safety of a type of GM maize used in feed and marketed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto. EFSA reached its conclusion but will stay silent until December 4. A few days after the EFSA verdict, a specialist EU committee will discuss European Commission plans to authorise imports of a GM sweetcorn, Bt-11 maize, manufactured by Switzerland's Syngenta. This committee, comprising officials from the EU's 15 member states, will meet on December 8. Bt-11 already received the required positive scientific opinion in early 2002 from another EU committee, several months before EFSA came into existence." (CropDecisions.com)

December 1, 2003

"When Breathing Is Believing" - "A report on the E.P.A.'s 9/11 actions, when the agency assured a doubtful public that the air downtown was safe to breathe, is more nuanced than first thought." (New York Times)

"Addiction Inflation" - "Every year more American and European children are classified as obese or overweight. While the classifications may be misleading -- not least because some overweight people are actually healthier than their skinny friends -- there is little doubt that the trend is upwards, or rather outwards. Sadly, the question this gives rise to is, most often, "who can we blame?"

Litigious trial lawyers are targeting fast food and fizzy drink purveyors and some in the media have joined them. But evidence is mixed that calorie intake has jumped drastically over the past few decades, and, even where a rise has occurred there is almost no evidence that fast food is to blame. But there is no doubt we are fatter, so what is the reason?" (Roger Bate, TCS)

"Exercise is as addictive as booze and fags, say scientists" - "It's now official. Some joggers may become addicted to running just as other people become hooked on cocaine, tobacco or booze, according to new research today." (The Guardian)

"The big push" - "Eighteen presidents of medical institutions wrote to The Times on November 25th demanding a ban on smoking in public places." (Number Watch)

New items posted - Still Waiting For Greenhouse

The usual pre-COP propaganda... "Record heat in 2003 shows need to combat climate change: UN" - "BONN - Fast-rising temperatures in 2003 highlight the urgent need to combat global warming, the head of the United Nations Climate Change Convention (UNCCC) warned ahead of a fresh effort to breathe life into the sickly Kyoto Protocol.

"The fact that 2003 is on track to be one of the warmest years on record should be a warning we must all take seriously," UNCCC Executive Secretary Joke Waller-Hunter said in a press statement issued here Wednesday." (AFP)

... "Billions of people may suffer severe water shortages as glaciers melt" - "MILAN - Billions of people will face severe water shortages as glaciers around the world melt unless governments take urgent action to tackle global warming, the environmental group WWF said, ahead of a UN conference on climate change." (AFP)

... "Snowy days on the decline during Christmas season" - "It's looking and feeling a lot less like Christmas in many parts of the country as higher temperatures and fewer snowfalls are becoming the norm from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve." (DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

... "A year of weather extremes. More of the same to come?" - "A few days after some parts of Britain saw a month's rainfall in just 72 hours, the nation was warned that there is a prospect of water shortages next year. And while all of us remember the August heatwave, few are also aware that by the end of the same month there were ground frosts in the north of England.

2003 is shaping up to be a year of extremes, with long-term records for temperature, rainfall and sunshine being broken with increasing regularity. As well as the hottest day, 38.5C at Faversham in Kent in August, it has already been the driest year since records began and the sunniest autumn since 1961." (Independent)

and the circus goes on: "United Nations climate meeting begins in Milan" - "Clean development and carbon sinks set to dominate COP9 policy agenda." (NSU)

"All Eyes on Russia as UN Climate Talks Begin" - "MILAN, Italy - U.N. climate talks get under way today amid evidence global warming may be accelerating and concern Russia could scuttle a key pact aimed at tackling the problem. Government officials and environmental experts from 180 countries will gather in Milan, Italy's business capital, from December 1-12 for an annual review of U.N. efforts to curb climate change. They will haggle about the fine print of the U.N.'s 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming amid worries that it may never enter into force." (Reuters)

"US defends its climate change policies" - "The US administration on Sunday issued a trenchant defence of its climate change policies as the "only acceptable, cost-effective option" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The administration's promotion of "breakthrough energy technologies" will reduce emissions, while allowing continued improvements in the world's standard of living, says Paula Dobriansky, US under-secretary of state for global affairs.

Writing at the start of international talks on the Kyoto protocol on climate change, Ms Dobriansky attacks the treaty as "an unrealistic and ever-increasing regulatory straitjacket." (Financial Times)

"'No solution' found in more trees" - "Planting trees in the Amazon to curb global warming is unlikely to work. Brazilian and US scientists have found the rainforest emits more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than it absorbs when conditions are very wet. Their report, published in the journal Science, comes just three days before the latest United Nations negotiations on climate change take place in Milan. The researchers say previous studies have almost certainly over-estimated how much CO2 the Amazon can take in." (BBC News Online)

"Accelerated global warming from nutrient shortages for trees and soils" - "Many researchers believe that increasing amounts of CO2, belched into the atmosphere by human fossil fuel use, will be captured through nature's ability to lock up the carbon in soil organic matter and faster growing trees. A new report shows that the availability of nitrogen will probably be too low for large increases in carbon storage. This finding will result in a faster increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and thus more rapid global warming." (Carnegie Institution)

"Poor world 'cuts climate gases'" - "Many poor countries are working to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases, a senior United Nations official says. Although they do not yet have to act under the international climate treaty, she says, they are wasting no time. She says the treaty itself, the Kyoto Protocol, which has not yet become part of international law, is "a peanut - but a vital one in the long run". And she believes its signatories are committed to making it work whether or not the treaty is eventually ratified." (BBC News Online)

"[Ireland] Emissions double as cars multiply" - "The surge in car ownership in recent years has been a big factor in boosting Ireland's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to more than double their 1990 levels, according to a new report on energy efficiency in the transport sector." (The Irish Times)

"Greenhouse Gas Soft Sell" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. - When the Bush Administration unveiled its plan to address global climate change in February 2002, a key component was a program called "Climate Leaders." True to the administration's bottom-up approach to business regulation, Climate Leaders invited big manufacturers and others to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases--such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and others thought to contribute to global warming.

The tally so far: 48 companies have signed on as "Partners" in the Climate Leaders program. Twelve of those have agreed to set reduction goals for their greenhouse gas emissions. "We're pretty happy with those numbers," says Kathleen Hogan, director of the EPA's Climate Protection Partnerships division. But the program is just starting its climb up the mountain--Hogan says the goal, eventually, is to have hundreds of Climate Leaders participating." (Forbes)

"Some Businesses Take Initiative to Voluntarily Reduce Emissions" - "WHEN the Bush administration and the Republican leadership in Congress oppose capping emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases implicated in global warming, they argue that doing so would damage the economy. Major business lobbies in Washington like the National Association of Manufacturers support that stand. But a growing number of businesses are finding that they can cut emissions and enhance the bottom line at the same time. Many are pursuing much more ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction programs than the voluntary goals that the Bush administration favors." (New York Times)

"Kyoto benefits will be ‘negligible’ - book" - "The Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, and similar emission-reducing projects, will have limited benefits in the fight against global warming, and alternative measures should be adopted, according to a new book released today. ‘Adapt or Die: The Science, Politics and Economics of Climate Change’ promotes the idea that action on climate change should focus on adaptation, not attempts at prevention. Opponents to Kyoto, including the Bush Administration, have repeatedly cited economic concerns over the plan, although the technical potential of the programme to lower emissions has rarely been in question until now. Kendra Okonski, of the Sustainable Development Project at International Policy Network, and editor of the book commented; "Attempts to control the climate through restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions would have little effect on the earth's climate, but would harm our ability to adapt to climate change by slowing economic growth and diverting resources into inappropriate uses.” (Green Consumer Guide)

"Prescott, a major cause of hot air" - "When The Skeptical Environmentalist was published two years ago, it caused no end of trouble. Bjorn Lomborg was a statistician who was fed up with the flaky numbers that support so many of those doom-and-gloom forecasts, so he set out to try to establish the facts. His conclusions were a bitter disappointment to those who have made careers out of spooking us with tales of impending disaster.

He found that, on the whole, things are getting better. On all objective measures of health, prosperity, access to valuable technology, levels of pollution and general well-being, the proportion of the global population that is benefitting has never been higher. We are not, he decided, heading for hell in a handcart. Fittingly for a statistician, his book made strenuous efforts to track down source material. It contains nearly 3,000 footnotes, and made Lomborg public enemy No 1 among the environmental fascists.

It is probably too much to hope that Adapt or Die* will have the same seismic impact on these sensitive souls, but it represents a long-overdue and concerted attack on the Kyoto Protocol, that far-away agreement whose true costs are only now starting to appear over the economic horizon." (Neil Collins, Daily Telegraph)

"Greens, Big Oil Debate Ethanol Benefits" - "WASHINGTON — The long-negotiated energy bill has stalled in Congress for now, but the politically contentious issue of the fuel additive ethanol (search) is far from dead. Ethanol, manufactured primarily from corn, has become the darling of Midwestern lawmakers who say it increases fuel efficiency in automobiles and helps gasoline burn more cleanly. Critics, including some environmentalists and government watchdogs, call the proposal to double the ethanol requirement for gasoline in the comprehensive energy legislation nothing more than a "boondoggle." (FoxNews.com)

"Sweeping up with Biotech" - "Recently the giant energy group BP announced its earnings fell 19 percent – or $45 billion – in its latest quarter, in great part from the cost of environmental cleanups. That's bad news for BP, but if it makes up its losses by raising the cost of gasoline and home heating gas then it's also bad news for the rest of us. Moreover, such cleanups may cost industry and government a trillion dollars, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

We'll end up paying for that, too.

Fortunately, new technology offers a way out. A biotech development called "bioremediation" can not only slash waste site cleanup costs but also be far easier on the environment than traditional cleanup methods. The technology uses bacteria, fungi and tree and plant roots that are either impervious to our poisons or even see them as the equivalent of cheesecake with strawberries." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"GM crops to feed the world?" - "27/11/2003 - Hunger is on the rise again after falling steadily during the first half of the 1990s, warns the UN’s annual hunger report released on Wednesday. In the same week, a Danish task force asserts that organisations are falling short in their responsibility to developing countries if they fail to adopt a position with regards to genetically modified crops and their use in these countries. Which begs the question – what must the western world do next?" (FoodNavigator.com)

"Calculating the Risks - Chance of Threats to Health, Nature Remains Unknown" - "In theory, the technology that scientists have used to create genetically engineered crops like corn, soybeans and cotton poses two kinds of risks. Are the crops safe for the environment, and are the ones grown for food safe to eat?

For all the controversy that has attended these questions, the technology is really just one small branch of the genetic revolution sweeping through world science. The peculiarities of living things are determined, to a large degree, by specific alterations in their genetic material, and with tools developed over the past three decades, scientists are decoding these variations at a rapid pace. They are gaining the ability to alter genes, to switch them on or off, or even to move them from one species to another to confer new traits.

Potential uses of the science constitute a field called biotechnology, and many applications of it are uncontroversial, offering such possibilities as treatments for cancer or heart disease." (Washington Post)

"GM goods will gain wider public acceptance" - "HI-TECH, genetically modified food will eventually win out over the traditional, including organic foods, claims Sean Rickard. This growth will be driven by consumers’ desires for new food experiences and growing pressure on healthcare budgets, said the Cranfield University guru. No government in the Western world could keep up with a growing health bill that GM products could help to solve, he added. About 84 million hectares of GM crops are grown worldwide with no evidence of harm to human health, he told delegates to the first national Agricultural Industries Confederation conference at Cranfield." (The Scotsman)

"Food Biotech Is Risky Business" - "The genetically modified food industry has battled opposition from consumer and environmental groups to get its food on the table. Its lobbyists have cajoled skeptical politicians; its scientists have produced studies contradicting other studies suggesting the food is somehow tainted. Now the industry faces another hurdle with long-range, dire consequences: It may be uninsurable." (Wired News)

"Scientists harness rice gene in global battle against poverty" - "Clad in a white scrub suit and working behind air-tight double metal doors, Swapan Datta tends to designer rice that scientists say could save the human race, but which some fear is a potential monster. The Indian biotechnologist's potted plants look nothing out of the ordinary. But as the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has modified their genes, they are kept in a special greenhouse so they do not pollinate other plants. The idea that nutrient-rich, yellow-tinged "golden rice" seeds are the culinary equivalent of the Frankenstein monster "doesn't make any sense," Datta told reporters at the IRRI laboratory in the Philippines. "So far no GMO (genetically modified organism) produced and released to the farmer has caused any risk or any adverse effect that's known to us," the 51-year-old Kolkata native said. "Not a single case." (Agence France-Presse)