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Archives - January 2004

January 29, 2004

Rachael Carson? "How industry hijacked 'sound science'" - "Gov. Kathleen Blanco seized the opportunity to buttonhole President Bush on his visit to New Orleans recently and pitch the long-awaited coastal restoration plan. The president reportedly replied that he'd support it, provided it was based on "sound science." To which our governor, in good faith, replied that she agreed.

How could she not? Who could be against sound science? But chances are that the president and the governor meant very different things by the term. And that difference is a major factor in the holdup.

Time was, science took the lead in America's environmental policy. Rachael Carson, Barry Commoner and other researchers sounded the alarm, and others went on to point out exactly what needed fixing and how." (Oliver Houck, The Times-Picayune)

We hope the professor is good at the law for he does not appear too flash when it comes to evaluating science. Here's a clue for you Oliver, Rachael Carson began Silent Spring with the phrase "This is a fable..." - sadly, in the sense "fiction or falsehood," labelling it a fable may have been the only correct statement in her book.

"Mad Cow Disease Raises Safety Issues Beyond the Kitchen" - "Cows are everywhere, and they are not just for dinner anymore.

Their carcasses provide the glues that hold the human universe together, like the gelatin in Gummy Bears, the lipids in lipsticks, the foam in fire extinguishers and the rubber in tires.

With a few exceptions, public health experts say, there is little chance that these products will cause harm as a result of mad cow disease. Nonetheless, the rare exceptions are startling, like diet supplements containing raw cow brain." (New York Times)

"People are 'fully protected'" - "America is highly unlikely to suffer even one human case of ''mad cow'' disease. This was true even under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that existed before the recent discovery of a lone mad cow in Washington state.

Since then, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have imposed additional precautionary measures on the beef and feed industries to ensure against a U.S. mad cow epidemic. The new rules, already followed by a majority of American beef producers, have reduced the risks to people from near zero to even nearer zero." (Dennis Avery and Alex Avery, USA Today)

"Look WHO's talking" - "Forget about taxes on "bad foods" and subsidies for "good foods," as the World Health Organization's draft report on a worldwide solution to obesity recommended before the evil Satan United States pointed out the science behind the plan was, well, a bit thin.

After all, what's a good food and what's a bad one? Consider the history. Peanuts and avocados, once out of favor, are now in. Carbohydrates in breads and pastas that were once in are now out -- but only after American public obesity levels increased 60 percent. Milk, kicked out by schools for being fatty, now reportedly provides much needed help in battling weight because of its calcium.

You'd think that if you were going to have a tax and subsidy regime that you would want one with a strong scientific basis that wouldn't change with the latest diet fad, unless of course you are the Center for Science in the Public Interest (whose motto should be: Act First, Study Later)." (Duane D. Freese, TCS)

"Human rights groups are complicit in murder, says Trimble" - "The Nobel Peace laureate and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble called human rights organisations a "great curse" yesterday and accused them of complicity in terrorist killings.

"One of the great curses of this world is the human rights industry," he told the Associated Press news agency at an international conference of terrorism victims in Madrid.

"They justify terrorist acts and end up being complicit in the murder of innocent victims." (The Guardian)

"Pacific dictates droughts and drenchings"- "The cooler and drier conditions in Southern California over the last few years appear to be a direct result of a long-term ocean pattern known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), according to research presented at the 2004 meeting of the American Meteorological Society." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"EU Links Russia's WTO Entry to Kyoto" - "BERLIN - A senior European Union official has hinted at a possible trade-off in the coming months between Russia ratifying the Kyoto environment treaty and the EU easing Moscow's path to joining the World Trade Organisation." (Reuters)

"ExxonMobil's Contribution To Global Warming Revealed" - "ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, has caused some five per cent of global, man-made, climate changing carbon dioxide emissions over the last 120 years, new research by Friends of the Earth reveals today. The study could prove vital in paving the way for compensation claims against companies by victims of climate change resulting from man-made pollution." (Fiends of the Earth press release)

"Has global oil production peaked?" - "Today's civilization depends on an abundant and relatively cheap supply of oil. It fuels most of our vehicles, aircraft, ships, and trains. It provides the raw material for fertilizer, some clothing fabrics, most plastics, and many chemicals. Oil heats many of our homes and businesses.

So when experts discuss when oil production will begin to decline, the world pays heed. The question now making the rounds in energy circles: Has production already peaked?" (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Turbine plans stir Agincourt storm" - "French authorities are to hold a public inquiry into plans to build wind turbines near the site of the historic Battle of Agincourt between the French and the English in 1415." (BBC News Online)

"Driving Away Pollution" - "Your next new car or truck will be the cleanest-burning one you've ever owned. And it means the end to the already-diminishing problem of air pollution." (Ben Lieberman, TCS)

"Plants to uncover landmines" - "Genetically engineered plants turn red when growing over a mine." (NSU)

"EU Moves Step Closer to Ending GM Food Ban" - "BRUSSELS - The European Union took one more step toward removing a five-year unofficial ban on new biotech crops and products on Wednesday when its executive backed a proposal to allow imports of gene-altered sweetcorn." (Reuters)

"Brussels clears GM maize 'to please US'" - "The European commission was accused of kow-towing to the United States yesterday by trying to dismantle the EU ban on new GM food by approving a variety of modified maize.

The commission approved the sale of a variety of canned genetically modified maize produced by the Anglo-Swiss firm Syngenta, which wants to import the food and sell it frozen and as corn on the cob as well as in tins.

The product is already on sale in the US, Canada, Australia and Switzerland, and EU scientists have concluded that it is "as safe for human food use as its conventional counterpart". EU states now have three months to endorse or reject the commission decision in the council of ministers.

If they cannot reach agreement the commission can use its power to step in and approve it anyway." (The Guardian)

"Brazil soy trade to pay Monsanto royalties" - "SAO PAULO, Brazil, Jan 28 - The farm sector in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state agreed to pay royalties to biotech seed giant Monsanto Co for the use of its genetically modified soy, the state cooperatives federation and Monsanto said on Wednesday.

This would be the first time in Brazil the farm sector agreed to pay royalties to Monsanto, which has been trying for years to collect from producers for the use of Roundup Ready-based GMO soybeans.

"There are still a few items that are being worked out," Fecoagro President Rui Polidoro Pinto said. "But the accord with Monsanto has been agreed upon -- we just have to define some of the details." (Reuters)

January 28, 2004

"Green movement is morally bankrupt" - "THE view most people have of colonialism and imperialism is largely negative. So any charge that a group, individual or government is guilty of them is bound to be resisted strongly by the recipient.

Recently, in New York City, a broad charge of eco-imperialism was laid at the feet of the environmental movement. The Congress of Racial Equality (Core ) blames government officials, aid agency bureaucrats as well as sandal-wearing greens for mass disease and death in the poorest countries of the world because they export their most vile regulatory policies.

According to Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore: "The environmental movement has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity". Last week he said: "The pain and suffering it inflicts on families in developing countries can no longer be tolerated." So far the green movement has ignored the criticism, but it will soon have to respond, since "eco-imperialism" is becoming a more widely heard, if not yet fully appreciated, term." (Roger Bate, Business Day)

Book: "Ecomyth" - "Challenging the dogma and ideology of the international 'green' movement" (Lance Kennedy, Dunmore Press)

"Monkey lab is cancelled over terror fears" - "MEDICAL researchers are likely to leave Britain to work overseas after the threat of animal rights terrorism forced the abandonment of plans for a national brain research centre in Cambridge.

The collapse of the project to build a laboratory which would have used monkeys to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons, will drive experts and pharmaceutical companies to pursue vital research abroad, scientists and patient groups said.

Cambridge University dropped the research project yesterday, despite winning a four-year planning battle and the support of the Prime Minister, because of financial shortfalls caused by the delay and a huge anticipated security bill." (Mark Henderson, The Times)

"Leading Article: Scientific ransom - A victory for extremists is a setback for humanity" - "A collective failure of nerve has led a civilised institution to cave in to violence. Cambridge University’s decision to drop its plans to build a primate research centre was clearly driven by the threats from animal rights activists whose determined professionalism and ruthless tactics should put them in the same bracket as the other extremists who are rightly held in contempt for their inhumanity.

The failure to take a clear and swift decision about the centre was much to blame. Ostensibly, the plans failed because they became too expensive at a time when the university was facing a budgetary squeeze. Yet by equivocating over planning permission for four years, Cambridge City Council gave succour to the extremists and effectively increased the estimated cost of securing the site. The police then seem to have compounded the problem by arguing that it would be too expensive for them to protect a new laboratory as well as the offices of Huntingdon Life Sciences. For the police to send such a clear message that violence pays is disappointing for all those scientists who have endured fire bombs, intimidation and threats in the belief not only that right is on their side, but also the law." (The Times)

"Cambridge makes a monkey of academic freedom" - "As significant to the future of universities as the hot air and posturing at Westminster was the decision of Cambridge University to axe its plan to set up a primate research laboratory. For this decision strikes at academic freedom itself and so at the heart of what a university is." (Anthony O'Hear, The Times)

"Sinister activists widen target to strike at will" - "PLACARDS and demonstrations are the public face of animal welfare protests but scores of men and women live in fear because of the more sinister actions of people opposed to drug testing or research involving animals.

Victims of terror tactics include staff who work with animals in laboratories or those who support or condone such research activities." (Valerie Elliott, The Times)

Figures... "Farmed salmon industry to face lawsuit over contaminants in fish" - "SAN FRANCISCO — The farmed salmon industry faces legal action in California for failing to warn consumers that the fish contain what environmental groups say are potentially dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group and the Center for Environmental Health filed notice last week of their intent to sue 50 salmon farms, fish processors, and grocery chains under a California antitoxics law." (Associated Press)

"Pressure grows for curbs on junk food ads" - "Pressure is mounting on the government to introduce greater restrictions on advertising junk food to children, after research showed more than eight out of 10 people believe existing controls are not enough.

Despite the growing levels of childhood obesity, the government has so far resisted a ban on food advertising aimed at children.

But a survey published today shows 85% of Britons believe there should be greater controls on the way fast foods are promoted to children." (The Guardian)

Well gosh! "Most consumers think parents have main responsibility for children's diets" - "Most consumers think that parents should be responsible for improving their kids' diets, according to the results of a poll carried out on behalf of the Food Standards Agency. The poll forms part of the Agency's current activity to debate and consider the way foods are currently promoted and advertised to children.

When asked to list who should take responsibility for improving children's diets in order of importance, 88% of consumers thought parents had most responsibility. 43% of consumers thought that schools were second most responsible, with food manufacturers third (30%) and broadcasters fourth (26%)." (Press Release)

Uh-huh... "Global Chilling" - "BOSTON — It seemed incongruous when former Vice President Al Gore gave a speech on global warming on a bitterly cold day in New York City this month. But in fact it was an appropriate topic: New Yorkers may be able to blame the city's current cold spell — the most severe in nearly a decade — on global warming." (Paul Epstein, New York Times)

The above wouldn't have anything to do with Oceans & Your Health: Academics to Discuss on Capitol Hill The Public Health, Food Dangers of Marine Changes From Global Warming (Press Release) would it Paul?

Tandem hand-wringer: "CLIMATE COLLAPSE: The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare" - "The climate could change radically, and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues." (David Stipp, Fortune)

"Winter Weather Wonder" - "With record-breaking cold-spells striking North America, Siberia, Turkey and even Bangladesh, one would think that the rhetoric on global warming would momentarily soften. On the contrary, during the same week when many of America's homeless and the poor struggled with the reality of cold spells, the article "Global warming evidence is mounting" pronounced that 2003 was another record warm year.

Experts from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) complained about the unfairness in suggesting that one cold spell would disprove the CO2-global warming theory. One NCAR climate expert said that "Mother Nature keeps reminding us that [global warming] is going on. The evidence never really comes out to contradict it, even though the man on the street says, `It's bloody freezing out here'."

Meanwhile, one reporter spun the recent cold snap this way: "Global warming may be playing a role in Americans' sense that January was especially cold. Because winters have been milder in the 1990s and 2000s, cold snaps feel colder, as people are unaccustomed to them." Is it true that the global warming of the 1990s and 2000-2003 is causing us to "feel " colder and to be incapable of being objective about the past one to two weeks of cold air outbreaks? That's unlikely. The cold spells are reality - not just relative reality. Air temperatures for much of the U.S. Northeast were at or near the all-time record lows.
" (Willie Soon, TCS)

"U.S. Rebuffs Europe at Climate Conference" - "Early last month, several Republican senators, House members and aides traveled to Milan, Italy, for the ninth round of international global climate negotiations.

Despite heavy criticism from European officials and radical environmentalists, the Republican delegation declared Kyoto, and similar energy suppression policies being advanced in the Senate, absolutely dead in the United States, while staunchly defending American prosperity and growth." (Human Events Online)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Earth's Temperature History: Putting the 20th Century in Proper Perspective" - "A new study suggests there is nothing about the global temperature rise that occurred between the Little Ice Age and the Modern Warm Period that requires anthropogenic-induced warming to explain it." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Climate Oscillations (Millennial Variability: Asia)" - "The vast continent of Asia has a vast amount to tell us about the degree and attribution of 20th-century global warming via the comparison of its climatic history with that of similar warmings of prior millennia and other parts of the world." (co2science.org)

"Effects of Ozone on Plants (Tree Species: Aspen)" - "Rising ozone concentrations raise havoc with aspen trees in a host of different ways; but concurrent increases in the air's CO2 concentration generally compensate for the negative consequences." (co2science.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: Couch Grass, European Beech, Norway Spruce, Rice and Teak." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Drought and War in Old Mexico" - "What's the connection?  And is there yet another connection to global warming or cooling?" (co2science.org)

"Subarctic Water Moved South Along US West Coast in 2002" - "What does this phenomenon either represent or portend?" (co2science.org)

"Berseem Production Boosted by Elevated CO2" - "This important fodder crop of India looks poised to benefit tremendously from the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content." (co2science.org)

"Water Use Efficiency of Temperate Grassland Species Soars in Elevated CO2 Environment" - "Couch-grass is no "couch potato" when it comes to responding to atmospheric CO2 enrichment, boosting the efficiency by which it uses water in producing organic matter by a truly phenomenal amount." (co2science.org)

"Do FACE Studies Significantly Underestimate the Growth Responses of Plants to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment?" - "This is a question that most scientists have never seriously considered, and one for which they likely never suspected the answer implied by this study." (co2science.org)

"'Grey goo' misconceptions could harm poor in developing world" - "A report published today on the Institute of Physics website Nanotechweb.org will say that Prince Charles' claims about nanotechnology could widen the chasm between have and have-not countries and damage the emerging nanotechnology industry in the developing world. This new analysis comes from a leading bioethics think-tank, the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics and is the first-ever survey of nanotechnology research in developing countries." (Institute of Physics)

"Human gene implants repel public, survey shows" - "The first public survey by the Government's new Bioethics Council has found overwhelming opposition to the idea of putting human genes into other organisms. The suggestion was described as "repulsive" and the product of a "sick mind", though it already happens in genetic modification experiments in this country. The survey, commissioned to launch the council's first public consultation exercise, found an "almost universal rejection" of the idea among 58 people selected to represent a demographic cross-section of the population. They were interviewed in 10 focus groups around the country." (New Zealand Herald)

What are these people thinking? Are they expecting animals with human faces or something? And how were they asked? Were they given examples of say, haemophiliacs having a guaranteed, risk-free source of factor 8 by having perhaps a herd of modified goats express it in their milk? Or were these 60-odd individuals given no useful indications of what was contemplated and what would result but left with the fanciful horror images generated by anti-biotech zealots?

"GMO Patent Nonsense" - "One of the most contentious issues in the debate over GM crops and foods is the existence of intellectual property protection and patents on GM organisms and processes. Anti-biotechnology NGOs fret about a future clouded by corporate control of agriculture, while even many biotech supporters worry that intellectual property rights could prevent resource-poor farmers in less developed countries from sharing the benefits of the Gene Revolution.

Recent events, however, should help demonstrate why patents are not the scourge they are sometimes made out to be. On December 22, 2003 and January 16, 2004, the first three GM plant patents expired, reminding us that only diamonds are forever; patents are just temporary." (Gregory Conko, BioScience News)

"EU Commission Plan To OK Syngenta's GM Corn Sparks Debate" - "BRUSSELS -- Plans by the European Union Commission to authorize imports of Syngenta AG's genetically-modified sweetcorn are set to re- ignite the debate over Europe's resistance to biotech foods." (Dow Jones)

"Science 'does not know all GM crop facts yet'" - "MORE pressure has been heaped on the government to reject genetically modified crops, after warnings that the scientific community is not in a position to answer all possible questions about the controversial technology.

Both the Westminster and Scottish parliaments are to make major policy announcements next month on whether to proceed with commercial growing of three GM crops tested in recent trials. But Dr Ruth Levitt, a senior visiting research fellow at the Economic and Social Research Council, at the University of London, the UK’s largest research-funding agency, says many questions are not about hard facts but about values and arguments that are construed very differently by the interested parties.

According to Dr Levitt, the implications of the decision go way beyond the particular fate of the crops in question - genetically-modified oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize.

She said: "The underlying question, what are the potential benefits of GM crops and foods, and the possible risks to human health and to the environment, cannot yet be answered ‘factually’, because the necessary evidence simply does not exist." (The Scotsman)

"ITALY: GM wine proposals attacked" - "An environmental group and a wine association have joined forces to oppose genetically modified wine. Legambiente has joined forces with the national Citta’ del Vino (city of wine) association, in claiming that Italy’s wine sector has been the one which has benefited the most by shifting towards quality and transparency in production.

Italy’s Senate agriculture committee will discuss the use of genetically-modified substances in wine production tomorrow. The committee will examine a revision of regulations defining wines as being of controlled origin (DOC) and controlled and guaranteed origin (DOCG).

The two groups warn that if GM technology is allowed into the production of quality wines, then the relationship between the wine and its originating land will be lost. This will affect not only the quality of the wine itself, say the groups, but also damage rural culture and history with repercussions on the whole sector." (just-drinks.com) [Complete]

January 27, 2004

Available for free download: Life On a Modern Planet: A manifesto for progress (Richard D North, Manchester University Press, 1995)

"Who is minding the USA's food store?" - "When shoppers fill their grocery carts, most assume that each of the foods they've chosen has been examined by an inspector employed by the government.

But the furor raised by the discovery last month of the first case of mad cow disease in the USA masks a truth about the nation's food supply: Meat is by far the most regulated and overseen item in the grocery cart; fruits and vegetables get only a fraction of the attention.

And yet federal health surveillance of food-borne diseases from 1993 to 1997 found 2,751 outbreaks. Those outbreaks totaled 12,537 individual cases involving fruits and vegetables, compared with 6,709 cases involving meat.

Industry critics are concerned that produce may be the Achilles' heel in the nation's food-safety network. There are no inspections of domestically grown produce unless there is a disease outbreak." (USA TODAY)

"Statistics research offers new forecast of El Niño" - "A statistical model from Ohio State University is forecasting sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean in a new way. The model gives scientists a way to quantify the uncertainty that surrounds the climatic phenomenon known as El Niño, which triggers severe weather changes in North and South America and Australia and endangers crops and wildlife, said Noel Cressie, professor of statistics and director of the university's Program in Spatial Statistics and Environmental Sciences." (Ohio State University)

"URI oceanographers investigate link between last Ice Age and Indonesian volcanic eruptions" - "In the current issue of Geology, University of Rhode Island geological oceanographers Meng-Yang Lee and Steven Carey; Chang-Hwa Chen and Yoshiyuki Iizuka of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan; and Kuo-Yen Wei of National Taiwan University describe their investigation into the possibility that eruptions from the Toba caldera on the island of Sumatra caused a severe "volcanic winter" and the initiation of a glacial period." (University of Rhode Island)

"Puzzling height of polar clouds revealed" - "Scientists have discovered why icy clouds found at the edge of space are higher at the South Pole than at the North. The answer to this puzzle is that the intensity of solar radiation at the South Pole is six percent higher than at the North Pole during the austral summer, as the Earth comes closer to the sun. New research from British Antarctic Survey and University of Illinois is reported in this month's Geophysical Research Letters (online 29 January 2004)." (British Antarctic Survey)

"Climate model predicts even hotter summers" - "The record-breaking heat wave that affected much of Europe in the summer of 2003 "took place 50 years too early" according to a Swiss climate scientist. Martin Beniston of the University of Fribourg says that last year's heat wave was not like those that occurred in 1947 and 1976, and more like the conditions that might be expected towards the end of this century. He hopes that governments will use the heat wave as an indication of "a shape of things to come" to devise new strategies for coping with future climate change and global warming (M Beniston 2004 Geophys. Res. Lett. 31 L02202).

Beniston used the HIRHAM regional climate model developed by the Danish Meteorological Institute to run two 30-year simulations. The "current climate" simulation was run for the period from 1961 to 1990, while the "greenhouse-gas climate" simulation covered from 2071 to 2100." (Institute of Physics press release)

New items posted Still Waiting For Greenhouse

Ooh but this is a goody! "Global warming may cause songbirds to avoid certain foods" - "In another example of the far-reaching impact of global warming, a URI student found evidence that suggests some songbirds may avoid eating insects that consume leaves exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide." (University of Rhode Island)

Now here's a classic example of attempting to hang mildly interesting but far from Earth-shattering research on "hot button" hooks. Rather than stating that better nourished, more robust plants (grown in enhanced CO2 atmospheres) produce greater quantities of defensive compounds, which are absorbed by feeding insects, the release authors make the irrelevant claim about global warming (major problem - there's no mention of temperature ranges affecting tannin and/or phenolic production in feed plants, only CO2 - oops!). Then, just in case reporters aren't thrilled about global warming stories when much of the northern hemisphere is experiencing a significant freeze, we get "mad cow" thrown in for good measure!

"Wind farms 'make people sick who live up to a mile away'" - "Onshore wind farms are a health hazard to people living near them because of the low- frequency noise that they emit, according to new medical studies. Doctors say that the turbines - some of which are taller than Big Ben - can cause headaches and depression among residents living up to a mile away." (Daily Telegraph)

"Guest Editorial – Environment and Sustainability" - "Biotech businesses are unique in corporate history. They form the first industry to confront an unrelenting, unpredictable and information-rich opposition on a global scale. From the beehive-shaped building that houses the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament, to quiet villages nestled in the fertile valley’s of the United Kingdom’s Worcestershire, to the sanctity of the Vatican, and to the heart of famine-stricken Africa, activists oppose genetically engineered food. Such worldwide opposition to a single industry is unprecedented.

In response to this unique situation, the biotech industry insists on using antiquated and ineffective communications tactics and strategies. The industry believes – wrongly – that if people only understood biotech better the opposition would disappear, or at least lessen. If legislators appreciated the technology’s capacity to enhance sustainability, reduce chemical usage, and cut on-farm fuel consumption, government’s would see the folly of imposing further biotech regulations.

To make its point, the biotech industry hauls out scientists in white lab coats, leading academic, and other “experts” as spokesmen. The belief is that the most credible people to explain the technology are the people who know it best. Such an approach, however, is simplistic. It fails to acknowledge the breadth, depth and goal of anti-biotech activism.

Much of the anti-biotech activism is not aimed at the technology or a specific law or regulation. Rather, biotechnology is merely a focal point around which many activists rally." (Ross S. Irvine, BioScience News)

"EU Commission gets set to grapple with GMO policy" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission aims to thrash out the thorny subject of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) this week, with a view to pressing EU states to lift the bloc's five-year ban that has angered its top trading partners.

In its first general debate on GMOs in more than three years, the EU executive is also expected to approve a proposal from one of its own number to allow imports of a genetically modified sweet maize." (Reuters)

"Monsanto says biotech wheat approvals on track" - "ATLANTA, Jan 26 - Monsanto Co. said on Monday its genetically modified wheat seed should soon receive its first regulatory approvals from the U.S. government, and that will help it promote the biotech crop to regulatory agencies in other countries. The Food and Drug Administration, which is assessing the safety of Monsanto's Roundup Ready herbicide-resistant wheat for human and animal consumption, is expected to approve the product "in the near future," said Monsanto wheat industry affairs director Michael Doane." (Reuters)

January 26, 2004

"Salmon safety" - "THE FIRST worldwide study of toxic contaminants in salmon has confirmed what other researchers had already found: that farmed salmon have much higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and similar compounds than wild salmon. According to the study, reported in the Jan. 9 issue of Science, the highest levels are in farmed salmon from northern Europe. Farm-fish samples from North America are less contaminated, and those from Chile are even cleaner. The study should spur changes both in the way the government weighs the risk of contaminants in salmon and the way the fish themselves are raised." (The Boston Globe)

"Look at the source of scary headlines" - "Junk science doesn't get too much fishier than the recent scary headlines about farmed salmon being a cancer risk. Farmed salmon is so contaminated with PCBs, dioxins and other "toxic" chemicals, reported the news media, that it shouldn't be consumed more than once per month. It was gullible media alarmism run amok as even the "scientists" whose much-reported study appeared in the Jan. 9 issue of Science plainly acknowledged there was no factual basis for concern." (Steven Milloy, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

"More and More Autism Cases, Yet Causes Are Much Debated" - "No one disputes it. Cases of autism, the baffling and often devastating neurological disorder that strikes in early childhood, are rising sharply.

In California alone, the number of children receiving special services for autism tripled from 1987 to 1998 and doubled in the four years after that. National figures tell a similar story.

The upsurge has lent urgency to calls for more research on autism and more government spending to educate autistic children and has inspired federal officials, who late last year held an "autism summit" meeting in Washington, where they presented a 10-year plan of action.

But what lies behind the increase in cases is sharply debated. To some, the upswing has all the hallmarks of an epidemic and indicates that autism itself is increasing rapidly.

To others, the rise can in large part be explained by increased public awareness of autism in recent years, changes in the way the disorder is diagnosed and the incentive of tapping into federally mandated services for autistic children." (New York Times)

"It's a Family Affair" - "TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Policy responses to obesity can only address a very small part of the problem, the public part. And by focussing attention on that public part, they may divert attention from the real problem, which is that individuals and parents need to take responsibility for their and their children's expanding waistlines." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"Gained in Translation" - "The environmentalists have been defeated on a number of occasions in the last few months. First, the Kyoto Protocol is dead, as the Russians have refused to ratify it. Second, the case for solar activity as a main cause of global warming has been made stronger in many reports and the McCain-Lieberman bill has not been ratified by the US Senate. These are important steps, but there is one more. Bjorn Lomborg's landmark book, the Skeptical Environmentalist, is becoming more and more famous. What's more, it has just been published in the French language." (Dr. Cécile Philippe, TCS)

"Threat to life from global warming" - "Sir, Two authoritative warnings about the disastrous effects of global warming have been published recently in the foremost scientific journals.

In Science, Sir David King, the Government’s chief scientist, urges immediate action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (report, January 9; letters, January 22, etc): “delaying action for decades or even just years is not a serious option.” Sir David deplores the US refusal to participate in remedial action now or in the future and urges the US and all other countries to get involved “in what is truly a global problem”.

In Nature, Professor Chris Thomas and his colleagues estimate that the higher temperatures to be expected by 2050 will cause the loss of more than one million plant and animal species (report, January 8).

The evidence is completely convincing that the future of life, human as well as all other, depends on slowing and ultimately stopping global warming. The crucial question is of course: can it be done? Even if governments pledge action, and even if the US Government can be made to toe the line, what can be achieved from the top down is surely limited." (Professor Gustav Born, Letter to The Times)

Wonder why the William Harvey Research Institute, which specialises in pharmaceuticals, employs a professor who seems to regard himself expert in rather different fields?

"Extreme Measures" - "James Hansen, one of the fathers of global warming theory, commented in the online journal Natural Science in September last year, "Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue... Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions." It seems that few in the movement got the memo, however. Recent weeks have provided a couple of excellent examples of how the environmental alarmist movement works. Emphasis on "extreme scenarios" is still at the forefront of its tactics." (Iain Murray, TCS)

"Shell, ChevTex to benefit from UK emissions proposal" - "LONDON - Oil majors Shell and ChevronTexaco are set to benefit from the British government's proposals to slash greenhouse gases, as their UK refineries have been given generous emissions allowances, an industry body said last week. The UK's Petroleum Industry Association Limited (PIAL) said most UK refineries had been given unrealistically large emissions cuts to make, but Shell 's Stanlow refinery and ChevronTexaco 's Pembroke plant had been allowed to increase their emissions." (Reuters)

"Climate test sets sail - Will throwing iron in the ocean help stop global warming?" - "Researchers have embarked on a test to see whether dumping iron into the ocean can help remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, possibly alleviating global warming.

The controversial idea has been tested in small-scale projects before. But it has never been clear whether it would actually work, in part because it is difficult to track exactly what happens to the ecosystem after iron is added to the water. Now scientists intend to watch a large patch of ocean for a relatively long period of time in an attempt to find out." (NSU)

"Innovative carbon dioxide storage project under way in Wyoming" - "CASPER, Wyo. -- The government is trying to hide something at its Teapot Dome oil field again. Not secret oil leases, as it did during the infamous scandal of the 1920s, but carbon dioxide -- lots of it.

The Energy Department wants to inject the greenhouse gas into underground oil reservoirs in what could be one of the world's largest test sites for burying CO2 in hopes of slowing global warming.

The Teapot Dome project, now in the planning stages, will store carbon dioxide from a natural gas processing plant more than 300 miles away beneath the 10,000-acre oil field in central Wyoming." (The Associated Press)

"This is your car on hydrogen" - "In a decade, fuel cells may power how we live. Ohio leaders bet emerging technology pays off in new jobs." (Akron Beacon Journal)

"Don't Bet on Fuel Cells, Manufacturer Says" - "DAVOS, Switzerland - The producer of fuel cells that can recharge mobile phones and portable music players told industrialists and policymakers last week not to count on the power packs to solve the energy crisis. "Don't hold your breath on fuel cells. Every 10 years they say commercial deployment is only 10 years away. We're still not seeing any real fuel cells that can run, say, a car," said Robert Lifton, chief executive of Medis Technologies." (Reuters)

"Safety of Adding to Nuclear Plants' Capacity Is Questioned" - "WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 — Safety experts are questioning an effort by the nation's nuclear industry that has expanded its output by the equivalent of three large reactors without adding a single new plant.

In the last two decades, nuclear plants have won permits to uprate, meaning add capacity to reactors, with almost no opposition. With these upgrades, plus expanded working hours and 20-year extensions on operating licenses, the nuclear industry has expanded its electrical output to a point that safety experts say could be dangerous." (New York Times)

"Biotech wheat pits farmer vs. farmer" - "Terry Wanzek, a farmer and politician, promotes genetically modified wheat as a potential savior for the state's sluggish farm economy. But that position damaged his political career: Wanzek lost his state Senate seat to an opponent who ran on an anti-biotech wheat platform.

The lonely wheat fields of North Dakota have become the front line in an escalating international debate over genetically modified wheat, a new product from agricultural giant Monsanto that is being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.

The battle has pitted farmer against farmer, with proponents of the new technology arguing that biotech wheat will pull the grain growers out of years of malaise and opponents worrying that it could contaminate their fields and scare off foreign customers who are wary of genetic modification." (Chicago Tribune)

January 25, 2004

JunkScience.com's efforts draw attention far and wide: "Christopher Pearson: Green errors began with DDT" - "TO many, the green movement still seems a harmless enough nature cult, not to be taken too seriously. But evidence and arguments have been emerging to suggest otherwise with increasing momentum and effect. The environmental lobby now stands charged with direct responsibility for millions of needless deaths, mostly of children in the Third World, from malaria.

At issue is the banning of DDT. Bjorn Lomborg, of The Skeptical Environmentalist fame, puts the basic science briskly. "Our intake of coffee is about 50 times more carcinogenic than our intake of DDT before it was banned ... the (cancer) risk for DDT is about 0.00008 per cent." (The Australian)

"Eating chicken poses no risk of avian flu, says food body" - "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that eating chicken will cause anyone to become infected with the potentially fatal avian flu virus which has caused several deaths in the Far East, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said yesterday. Its reassurance followed the imposition of a ban by the European Commission on poultry products from Thailand, where up to three people have contracted the virus." (Irish Times)

"Study Links Some Hair Dyes to Kind of Cancer" - "Scientists have found more evidence for a possible link between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and long-term use of dark hair dye. A study of more than 1,300 women in Connecticut shows that those who began coloring their hair before 1980 increased their chance of developing the disease by 40 percent.

And among those who used permanent rather than nonpermanent dyes, who chose dark colors — browns, reds and black — and who dyed their hair frequently (eight times a year or more) for at least 25 years, the risk doubled, said Dr. Tongzhang Zheng, a Yale epidemiologist who led the study. The results are published in the current issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"For those who used light colors, there was no such increase in risk," Dr. Zheng noted." (New York Times)

From the how-did-this-get-in-a-journal? files: "Deodorants plus shaving linked to breast cancer" - "Frequent underarm shaving combined with deodorant use might increase women's chances of getting breast cancer, claims a study based on a survey of over 400 women with breast cancer in the US. It is the first evidence of such a link to appear in a peer-reviewed journal, but it is far from conclusive." (New Scientist)

The Old Gray Lady taking herself rather too seriously: "Warming Up" - "That President Bush ignored the environment in his State of the Union address was either an admission that he has nothing to boast about on the issue or a judgment that nobody cares enough about it to make a difference in the presidential race. Whatever the reason, he has created a policy vacuum that offers substantial rewards for any ambitious Democrat willing to fill it.

Nowhere is this truer than on global warming. Each day brings evidence that the climate is changing, that the consequences are likely to be unpleasant and that the responses offered by the administration and its allies in Congress are inadequate.

Two recent reports illustrate the dangers. A study by an international research team, published in Nature, warned that unabated warming could drive 15 to 37 percent of 1,103 living species the team studied toward extinction by 2050. Shortly thereafter came an ominous report by The Times's Andrew Revkin on warming's impact in the Arctic, where the sea ice is in rapid retreat, and its potentially devastating effect on Alaska's fragile tundra. (New York Times editorial)

Hmm... the Nature 'study' was a bizarre piece of virtual world fantasy and Andrew Revkin is The Times's own, sadly rather environmentally-gullible, reporter. Hardly compelling support for a clarion call.

It's so warm it'll get cold: "Global warming will plunge Britain into new ice age 'within decades'" - "Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by global warming, new research suggests. A study, which is being taken seriously by top government scientists, has uncovered a change "of remarkable amplitude" in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic." (Independent on Sunday)

New items posted Still Waiting For Greenhouse

"Russia says pressure over Kyoto delay 'unfair'" - "Russia says it is not alone in delaying approval of the Kyoto Protocol and any suggestion it was holding up the environmental treaty aimed at cutting greenhouse gases was unfair. Officials say they are still studying the potential impact of the treaty on Russia's economy. Moscow, which can effectively veto Kyoto, has in recent months backed away from promises to ratify it. "I believe it would be unfair to say that Russia holds the key to the success of the Kyoto protocol," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters after talks with French counterpart Dominique de Villepin. "There are a considerable number of countries which have not ratified the protocol for one reason or another." (Reuters)

"Wind farms threaten the red kite" - "At first, it was dismissed as another routine, if tragic, death. The dismembered body of one of Britain's rarest birds, the red kite, had been found on a remote hillside, its right wing efficiently severed.

Local enthusiasts, saddened by the loss of the bird they had christened Filled Heart, launched an investigation. Now their findings have triggered a rebellion among ornithologists which threatens to derail Tony Blair's attempts to tackle climate change. It could thwart a £1 billion investment in building wind farms across Britain.

The death of Filled Heart is also blamed for a series of impending lawsuits against planned wind turbines, which some believe could reduce bird populations to the extent that internationally recognised nesting sites lose their global importance." (The Observer)

"Liquid Asset" - "A global water crisis is looming. More than a billion people worldwide lack access to clean and safe water -- with devastating effects: 12 million deaths annually and millions of others struck by disease and poverty. In 2003, more people most likely died from lack of water than from armed conflicts. The situation is precarious, as recognized by the UN, making halving the number of people without water one of its Millennium Goals." (Fredrik Segerfeldt, TCS)

"GM free food is a Garden of Eden fantasy, says Fischler" - "Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler has warned delegates at a conference on organic farming that food which is completely free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a thing of the past. And when it comes to setting acceptable thresholds for the levels of GMOs in organic and conventional products, the Commissioner said that Europe must take guidance from scientists, rather than politicians. 'We have been banished from paradise. The idea of a zero per cent threshold was no doubt possible in the Garden of Eden, but not in the real world,' said Dr Fischler." (Cordis News Service)

"Commissioners to plough through GMOs" - "European Commissioners will on Wednesday tackle the sensitive issue of genetic modification in Europe, for the first time in four years. The discussion will take in a wealth of EU policies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), from the idea of identifying codes for GM foods, mooted by the commission last week, to the controversy surrounding the approval of new GM strains. “We are having this meeting to take stock of progress made over the past years and to look at proposals currently on the agenda,” said a commission spokesman on Friday." (EUpolitix.com)

"Monsanto Seeks Support for GMO Wheat" - "ATLANTA - U.S. wheat industry leaders must fully embrace Monsanto Co's. planned genetically modified wheat and assist the company in gaining market acceptance or the leading biotech developer may abandon its wheat research efforts, a Monsanto official said on Saturday." (Reuters)

January 23, 2004

"Tobacco Animal Farm" - "Do smokers who reduce, but don’t quit smoking, reduce their risk of smoking-related disease? Reminiscent of past allegations of tobacco industry lying, the anti-tobacco industry apparently doesn’t want smokers to know the truth." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"US Agent Orange Study Finds Raised Cancer Risk" - "WASHINGTON - Air Force veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War have a higher-than-average risk of prostate and skin cancer, military researchers reported on Thursday." (Reuters)

At least a number of caveats are included in this report.

"Pseudoscience and Globesity" - "When the Bush administration announced last week it will demand significant changes to the World Health Organization's initiative against global obesity, it sparked a flurry of international protest from special interest groups accusing him and the food industry of putting corporate interests ahead of the obesity crisis. The WHO report, Obesity - Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic, was produced with the International Obesity Task Force, whose stated mission is "to convince world leaders that something can be done to address the problem [of globesity]." The Administration stated the plan was based on faulty scientific evidence and succeeded in blocking its approval. Tuesday, WHO decided to table it until the end of February to allow for changes to the text." (Sandy Szwarc, TCS)

"Hydro gas plant makes joke of Kyoto" - "Hydro-Québec plans to begin construction this spring of a massive gas-fired power plant in the Montreal region. Its greenhouse-gas output will be equivalent to that of about 600,000 cars.

Most new industrial plants, even the dirtiest, seldom add more than a fraction of one per cent to Quebec's output of these gases which, most scientists believe, contribute to climate change. This single Hydro-Québec project, to be located a stone's throw from the Beauharnois dam near Valleyfield, would boost the province's total greenhouse-gas emissions by a staggering 2.6 per cent.

The Charest government's approval of the Suroît plant, as the project is called, raises serious questions about how Quebec intends to square its economic development with the problem of global warming." (The Gazette)

Silly title on this. The Protocol has always been a joke. Admittedly a very bad joke but a joke nonetheless.

"NFB-CBC documentary series carries dramatic message about global warming" - "TORONTO - February might not be the best month of the year to air a documentary series on the Canadian Arctic, especially one with a message about global warming. Viewers might prefer, say, July. But Montreal-based writer-producer Jean Lemire is delighted that his project, Arctic Mission, was taken up jointly by the National Film Board and the CBC and will begin airing next Wednesday night on David Suzuki's The Nature of Things." (Canadian Press)

"Kyoto's last gleaming" - "JANUARY has not been Al Gore's best month. Last week, Gore gave a speech on global warming -- on what turned out to be a record-cold day there in New York. Then Howard Dean tanked Monday in the Iowa caucuses even though Gore's endorsement was supposed to coronate the former Vermont governor as the Democratic presidential nominee. On Tuesday, President Bush delivered a strong State of the Union address that didn't so much as mention Gore's signature issue, global warming.

But wait, as the TV ads say, there's more. Some top Democratic contenders for the White House now are distancing themselves from the Kyoto international global-warming treaty that Gore negotiated in 1997." (Debra J. Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle)

Good heavens! "The Red Planet should be a red flag for Earth" - "President Bush's proposal to focus our resources on sending humans to Mars is intriguing, but it is not the most compelling reason that Americans ought to focus our interest on the Red Planet.

Instead, as we looked up into the night sky this past August and saw Mars hanging at its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, we could have had a collective epiphany by recognizing that a planet's climate can change dramatically. We could have resolved to protect our climate from changes disruptive to human civilization and adopt a new energy policy that would also create millions of jobs for our country.

Mars may have suffered a dramatic climate change, which plunged it into conditions apparently inhospitable for complex life. On Earth, we still have a beautiful atmosphere that precisely maintains a thermally driven climatic system that shelters, shields and sustains our natural treasures." (Jay Inslee, Seattle Times)

"Big chill killed off the Neanderthals" - "It is possibly the longest-running murder mystery of them all. What, or even who, killed humankind's nearest relatives, the Neanderthals who once roamed Europe before dying out almost 30,000 years ago?

Suspects have ranged from the climate to humans themselves, and the mystery has deeply divided experts. Now 30 scientists have come together to publish the most definitive answer yet to this enigma.

They say Neanderthals simply did not have the technological know-how to survive the increasingly harsh winters. And intriguingly, rather than being Neanderthal killers, the original human settlers of Europe almost suffered the same fate." (New Scientist)

"One type of carbon so resilient it skews carbon cycle calculations" - "Scientists interested in the Earth's carbon cycle – something that must be understood to assess the ongoing effects of carbon dioxide created by human actions, such as driving cars – have a new problem. They need to adjust various calculations because one component, graphitic black carbon, similar to the material found in pencil lead, turns out to be so tough." (University of Washington)

"Pollution hits clouds on high" - "Pollution from the burning of fossil fuels reduces the formation of icy clouds, US researchers have found. The discovery could influence future models of climate change, though whether it will make our temperature predictions warmer or colder no one yet knows." (NSU)

"Organic Farming - Panacea or Delusion?" - "Proponents of organic farming argue that, as a primary producing nation, New Zealand should adopt organic systems entirely and abandon alternatives. This argument is underpinned by a belief that lower yielding organic production systems are more environmentally friendly, less polluting, more animal welfare friendly and more sustainable than conventional agriculture. Nutritional superiority of organic food over conventional varieties is also claimed.

The line of reasoning goes something like this: New Zealand is perceived as a ‘clean and green’ producer of safe and wholesome food using environmentally sound (read non-GM) production systems. The world is increasingly rejecting conventional and GM foods, in favour of that which is organically produced and there is an ongoing and increasing demand for such products. There is a pot of gold waiting out there if only we abandoned conventional production, went GE-free and grew exclusively organic food. This would give us a unique selling point and a competitive advantage over other food producers in a world awash with food.

It is worth examining each of these claims in turn." (Murray Gibb, BioScience News)

"Welcoming Weeds Back to Civilization" - "A committee of the California legislature recently voted to ban hand-weeding on the State’s commercial farms. California wants its weeds controlled without anybody having to bend, squat, crouch, or kneel and thus risking degenerative back problems.

At the same time, other activists want to force farmers to control the weeds without using any chemical sprays. Political activists in both California and Canada are attempting to ban the use of chemical weed-killers as a lurking, if unproven, threat to worker and consumer health.

Welcome back the weeds!" (Dennis T. Avery, CGFI)

"Africa: You Can't Eat Potential" - "You can't eat potential," observed Norman E. Borlaug winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize while referring to Africa's economic predicament. "I am very angry. Very angry at Africa's present condition," Prof. George Ayittey lamented recently. "We are talking about a continent which is tremendously rich in mineral resources. Name the mineral and you will find it in Africa. Yet it is mired in grinding poverty and appalling squalor." Ayittey argued that Africa's development potential has been plundered and squandered by vampire states. Is the fate of Africa sealed?" (James Shikwati, Inter Region Economic Network)

"Pew report finds GM insects may offer benefits, but clear regulatory oversight is lacking" - "Researchers are using biotechnology to develop genetically modified insects for a wide variety of purposes, including fighting insect-borne diseases like malaria and controlling destructive insect agricultural pests, but the federal government lacks a clear regulatory framework for reviewing environmental safety and other issues associated with GM insects, according to Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects, a new report released by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology." (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology)

"Bioconfinement or Terminator II - now a good Green idea..." - "The National Academies have just issued a fascinating 'News Release' (January 20) about an important forthcoming publication entitled: Biological Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms (2004). This 'Report' will be available in hard-copy form later this winter from the National Academies Press: tel. (US) 202-334-3313, or 1-800-624-6242, or via the Internet at The National Academies Press. However, in the meantime, you may read this valuable report free online here (in separate Chapters)." (EnviroSpin Watch)

"Rules on Biotech Crops to Be Revised - USDA Will Examine Environmental Impact of Genetic Engineering" - "Department of Agriculture officials said yesterday they will begin revising their rules governing genetically engineered crops, a process that will include for the first time a comprehensive review of the regulations' effect on the environment.

Government restrictions covering the development of gene-altered plant species have been the subject of great controversy in recent years, with environmental groups arguing that rules are not tough enough and do not properly take into account the effect of engineered species on the surrounding ecology. Agriculture officials agreed yesterday to reexamine regulations with an eye toward updating them, though that process will not necessarily result in tighter restrictions. Department officials said they simply want the rules to better reflect reality." (Washington Post) | USDA revamps policies on biotech fruits, vegetables and grains (USA TODAY)

January 22, 2004

"UK study shows Gulf War veterans healthy" - "LONDON - Veterans of the 1991 Gulf War - many of whom complain of "Gulf War Syndrome" - are on average as healthy as soldiers who were not sent to the region, Britain said on Wednesday. The Ministry of Defense said latest results from a continuing study also showed the Gulf veterans were healthier than the public at large. Britain and the United States deny there is a "Gulf War Syndrome" of specific symptoms tied to serving in the conflict, although both countries often pay pensions to sick soldiers who link their illnesses to deployment in the Gulf." (Reuters)

"Supreme Court says EPA can overrule state in clean air case" - "WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal Environmental Protection Agency can override state officials and order some anti-pollution measures that may be more costly. The 5-4 decision, a victory for environmentalists, found the EPA did not go too far when it overruled a decision by Alaska regulators, who wanted to let the operators of a zinc and lead mine use cheaper anti-pollution technology for power generation. The four justices who dissented said the ruling undercut the states' power to control their environmental policies." (AP)

Virtual world forecast: "Climate change: More long hot summers?" - "Last year's European heatwave was highly unusual, even when taking into account the warming that has been observed in the late twentieth century. But in simulations of future climate, a summer like 2003 does not appear out of the ordinary, according to a paper published in this issue. Schär et al. simulated the future effects of increasing greenhouse-gas emissions on European climate. They find not only mean warming, but also a much higher variability of temperatures, suggesting that extreme summers may become more common. Climate records of the past 150 years show that mean global temperatures have risen, but whether variability has also changed is not clear. According to the new research, summer 2003 was either an extremely unusual event, or it was a first glimpse of climate variability to come." (Nature)

"Report - North America, Europe May Cool in Warmer World" - "STOCKHOLM - Parts of Europe and North America could get drastically colder if warming Atlantic ocean currents are halted by a surprise side-effect of global warming, scientists said on Wednesday. The possible shut-down of the Gulf Stream is one of several catastrophic changes -- ranging from collapses of fish stocks to more frequent forest fires -- that could be triggered by human activities, they said in a book launched in Sweden." (Reuters)

"Cold Facts on Global Warming" - "We live in an age where facts and logic have a hard time competing with rhetoric — especially when the rhetoric is political alarmism over global warming." (James Schlesinger, Los Angeles Times)

"Cosmic Rays Are Not the Cause of Climate Change, Scientists Say" - "Eleven Earth and space scientists say that a recent paper attributing most climate change on Earth to cosmic rays is incorrect and based on questionable methodology. Writing in the January 27 issue of Eos, published by the American Geophysical Union, Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and colleagues in Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States challenge the cosmic ray hypothesis.

In July 2003, astrophysicist Nir Shaviv and geologist Jan Veizer wrote in GSA Today that they had established a correlation between cosmic rays and temperature evolution over hundreds of millions of years. They also claimed that current global warming is not primarily caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide. Their findings have been widely reported in international news media." (American Geophysical Union) | Link to paper in HTML & PDF formats (PIK)

"Don't fear global warming" - "In a recent article published in your paper entitled " What was hot in 2003? Weather," author Seth Borenstein correctly notes that the thermometer-based global temperature record has shown a warming of approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 124 years. We also learn that 2003 was the second-warmest year on record and that recent years have been unusually warm when compared to the entire time series. The article makes the case that the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gases is the culprit, and that a continued warm-up is in the cards for the rest of our lifetimes.

As a long-time participant in the greenhouse debate, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a professor of climatology at Arizona State University and an author of multiple books and articles on the subject, I am writing to point out the following facts: (Robert C. Balling Jr., The Oklahoma Daily)

"'Sons-of-Kyoto' Legislation: States React to the Myth of Global Warming" - "WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 -- With the failure of the Kyoto Protocol at the federal level, several states are advancing so-called "Sons-of-Kyoto" legislation to eliminate affordable fossil fuels -- such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas -- from the nation's energy mix, according to the second edition of "Energy, Environment, and Economics: A Guidebook for State Legislators" prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

"Like Mark Twain, the reports of Kyoto's death in this country have been greatly exaggerated," said Sandy Liddy Bourne, ALEC's Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Task Force Director." (U.S. Newswire)

"UK emission cuts could damage oil refining-industry" - "LONDON, Jan 21 - Britain's plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions could seriously damage the UK oil refining sector, with companies facing crippling bills to buy the right to pollute, a leading industry body said on Wednesday. Britain said on Monday it would cut its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in excess of its international treaty obligations, prompting protests from industrial consumers who fear higher electricity costs." (Reuters)

"If poor get richer, does world see progress?" - "In Shanghai this month, bicyclists found themselves banned from certain portions of main thoroughfares. By next year, this ubiquitous two-wheel mode of transportation will have been kicked off such roads altogether. Why? To make way for all the new cars - 11,000 more every week - pouring onto Chinese streets and highways. A sure sign of growing affluence in the developing world? Without a doubt. A consumer trend portending a better world? That depends on one's point of view." (Brad Knickerbocker, The Christian Science Monitor)

"No way back on globalisation, ex-president tells Davos" - "A tight security net was thrown around the alpine ski resort of Davos yesterday as former United States president Bill Clinton opened the annual world economic forum by asserting there should be no turning back from globalisation." (The Guardian)

"Mad Cow and Madder Organic Agriculture" - "One cow known to be infected with BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a. mad cow disease) has set-off such a blizzard of comment that one hates to imagine what the response would have been had there been the 100,000 to 200,000 infected cows, which was the experience in the United Kingdom. A Rip Van Winkle who took a brief month or two snooze before Thanksgiving and awoke amidst the extended media response would have wondered what public health catastrophe had blighted our fair land, driving some people away from meat consumption and mainstream agriculture." (Thomas R. DeGregori, ACSH)

"What's the beef?" - "The FDA weighs whether to allow meat and milk from cloned animals to enter the food supply. Opponents fear the impact." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"GloFish zoom to market" - "Genetic engineering promises a long line of improvements to animals - from fish that glow to mosquitoes without disease - but are federal regulators keeping a watchful eye?" (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Making Way for Designer Insects" - "The insect world could shortly undergo a genetic makeover in the laboratory. Scientists are at work developing silkworms that produce pharmaceuticals instead of silk, honeybees resilient enough to resist pesticides and even mosquitoes capable of delivering vaccines, instead of disease, with every bite." (Washington Post)

"Biotech Insects Raise Hopes, Concerns" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Some high-tech insect experiments soon may be flitting out of the laboratory: Mosquitos genetically modified to eliminate malaria. Silkworms engineered to produce bulletproof vests. Bollworm moths designed to self-destruct before they can wipe out cotton crops.

Genetically engineered insects hold the promise of benefiting millions, eradicating diseases and plagues that cause famine in the developing world. But despite such good intentions, many scientists are alarmed that few safeguards exist to keep unintended consequences from harming humans or the environment.

Fast-producing insects anchor food chains around the globe. Yet the impact that genetically engineered bugs could have on ecosystems is only now being explored, even as researchers push to release biotech insect experiments into the wild." (The Associated Press)

"Genetically Modified Food: The Americas' New 'Green Revolution'?" - "Washington, DC, January 21, 2004 (PAHO)—A PAHO publication notes that genetically modified foods could herald a new era of food security in the Americas and other developing regions. But lingering public doubts about their safety must first be addressed." (PAHO)

"Biotech rift brews in Canada" - "OTTAWA – A minor dispute between a Saskatchewan canola grower and agribusiness titan Monsanto Co. has blossomed into a full-blown review of biotechnology and its effect on farming by the Canada Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case Tuesday. Monsanto sued Percy Schmeiser in 1998 after its agents found the company’s canola, genetically engineered to live through the application of the company’s weed killer, growing on his farm. Monsanto believes Schmeiser obtained the company’s seeds without paying for them. Schmeiser says the company’s canola accidentally found its way onto his farm, perhaps falling from a passing truck." (Associated Press)

"Schmeiser, Monsanto argue about whether plants can be patented" - "OTTAWA -- After ruling one year ago that animals cannot be patented, the Supreme Court was warned Tuesday Canada will become a biotechnology backwater if plants are blacklisted too.

The court reserved judgment in the appeal, which pitted Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser against Monsanto Canada Inc. in a far-reaching legal battle over whether the corporate giant should have been awarded a federal patent for its genetically engineered canola seeds.

Arguments focused largely on the controversial bioethical debate of whether researchers can secure protection for higher life forms, and if so, whether that includes plants and plant genes." (CanWest News Service)

"Biotech plants get legal test" - "Though the court's decision is not expected for months, it will be the world's first high court ruling on gene patent infringement. As such, it will serve as a guidepost for developing countries eager for the promises of seed technology but cautious about giving giant corporations more control over food and farmers.

The case has inspired a U.S. think tank to search for a grower who can challenge the nation's biotech laws just as 73-year-old Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser has done in Canada." (Sacramento Bee)

"Seeds of Confusion Sown in Court" - "Percy Schmeiser is 73 and says he'd rather be fishing with his grandchildren. Instead, on Tuesday, he fought agribusiness giant Monsanto in the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 1997, Monsanto agents found the company's patented gene in Schmeiser's canola plants, and accused him of stealing the company's genetically modified seed. Since then, his life has consisted of preparing for and losing two lower-court cases. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard his appeal.

Schmeiser says the canola crop he had developed over a period of 50 years was destroyed when genetically modified seeds blew into his fields from a neighboring farm. He has refused to settle out of court with Monsanto like many other farmers have, and he now owes the company about $140,000 in judgments, has legal fees of $230,000, and has rented out all but 140 acres of his farm. Still, he says he'd do it all over again, because the future of North American farmers depends on the outcome of his case." (Wired News)

"Biotech firms urge Canada to uphold canola patent" - "OTTAWA — Representatives for scientists and biotech firms warned Tuesday that companies could abandon Canada unless the Supreme Court upholds a patent for canola that has been modified to resist a certain type of weedkiller.

Lawyers opposing Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser in a landmark Supreme Court case argued that Schmeiser must be accountable for growing genetically modified canola for which he had no license, because if that did not happen Canada's Patent Act would prove hollow.

"You'll have this chilling effect, with severe economic and social costs," Anthony Creber told the high court for his client, BioteCanada, which represents biotechnology companies and researchers." (Reuters)

"Canadian Anti-Biotech Fraud Goes To Court " - "What do you do when you've been caught stealing, and two judges have already ruled against you? Take your case to the Supreme Court, of course. That's the story of 73-year-old Canadian farmer/activist Percy Schmeiser, a confirmed thief of genetically improved canola seeds who has become an "international hero to anti-biotech forces" -- thanks to the efforts of anti-business and anti-technology groups like Greenpeace and the Green Party. At yesterday's hearing before the Canadian Supreme Court, Schmeiser's lawyers didn't even try to defend their client against the original charges. Schmeiser himself told reporters: "I don't like to get into the facts." (Center For Consumer Freedom)

January 21, 2004

"Eco-imperialism: Green Power; Black Death" - "Despite the best efforts of historian, Niall Ferguson, to demonstrate the better side of the British Empire (see Empire, Basic Books, 2002) the overwhelming view of the American people to colonialism and imperialism is largely negative. So any charge made against a group, individual or government that involves these words is bound to be resisted strongly by the recipient.

At recent events in Washington and New York a broad charge of eco-imperialism has been laid at the feet of the environmental movement. Government officials, aid agency bureaucrats, as well as sandal-wearing greens, are blamed for mass disease and death in the poorest countries of the world because they export their most vile regulatory policies. So far, the green movement has largely ignored the criticism, but it is slowly having to respond, since "eco-imperialism" is becoming a more widely heard, if not yet fully appreciated, term." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"A SAD occasion" - "January 28th is Salt Awareness Day — or SAD for short. It is organised by a group called Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) whose Chairman is the ubiquitous Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at St George's Hospital in London. But rather than being an opportunity to increase appreciation of this fundamental, life-preserving ingredient in our diet, SAD 2004 promises to be a very joyless occasion." (Peter Marsh, SIRC)

"Fishy Science" - "Last year an environmental activist group warned us, based on a survey of fourteen fish, that salmon from fish farms represent a grave cancer threat due to man-made pollutants such as PCBs and dioxin. The group recommended eating only wild salmon or avoiding salmon consumption altogether.

Now these same alarmist warnings have been echoed in the pages of Science, the world’s most respected scientific journal. The journal has just published a survey of the contaminants in nearly 700 salmon from Europe, North and South America, funded by the Pew Trust Environment program.

There is no doubt that this research accurately reflects the current levels of man-made chemicals in both wild and farm-raised salmon from various parts of the world. On that there is no dispute.

But whether or not these chemical traces pose any appreciable cancer or other health risk is open to debate. In fact, some say this latest research merely proves that all salmon is safe. Purdue University toxicologist Dr. Charles Santerre says, “In my view, the study says we should be eating more farmed salmon.” (Alex A. Avery, Center for Global Food Issues)

"Time to Move On" - "No doubt trying to distract attention from the recent Bush-Hitler ad controversy and its sponsorship of an event where B-list celebrities used the F-word to describe Republicans, the liberal organization MoveOn.org hosted an event on global warming recently in a freezing New York City. The speaker was a man whom few associate with cursing, former Vice President Al Gore. Yet, ironically for an organization called MoveOn, Gore's speech was very much stuck in the past." (Iain Murray, Capitol Hill Blue)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Demise of the Maldives: Greatly Exaggerated?" - "Press reports to the contrary notwithstanding, the Maldives appear to be in no danger of disappearing under the waves of the sea any time soon." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries
"Climate Oscillations (Millennial Variability: Antarctica)" - "What can the study of millennial-scale oscillations of climate at the "bottom of the world" tell us about the cause of the global warming that has ushered in the Modern Warm Period?" (co2science.org)

"Effects of Ozone on Plants (Tree Species: Birch)" - "Rising ozone concentrations raise havoc with birch trees in a number of different ways; but concurrent increases in the air's CO2 concentration generally compensate for these negative consequences." (co2science.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: Berseem, Black Alder, Eastern Cottonwood and Rice." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Six Centuries of Climate Along the Southern Norwegian Continental Margin" - "What do they tell us about the controversial temperature history of Mann et al. (1999)?" (co2science.org)

"Breakup of the Arctic's Ward Hunt Ice Shelf" - "It was a big story in the fall of 2003, portrayed by the media as a harbinger of coming climatic catastrophe.  In reality, it was but another small step in the planet's recovery from the cold conditions of the Little Ice Age." (co2science.org)

"El Niño Warming: Effects on Costa Rican Corals" - "They're not as straightforward as climate alarmists would have one believe, nor are they any less complicated anywhere else." (co2science.org)

"CO2 Effects on Nitrogen Fixation and Growth of Common Alder Trees" - "The authors of this study hypothesized that unfertilized trees would show similar positive growth and physiological responses to elevated CO2 as fertilized trees.  Were they correct?" (co2science.org)

"Responses of Young Beech and Spruce Trees to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment May Be Affected by Genotype and Soil Type" - "A huge open-top chamber study in Switzerland demonstrates that trees of a given species don't necessarily perform alike when grown on different soils in atmospheres of different CO2 concentration." (co2science.org)

Major Report:
"Enhanced or Impaired?  Human Health in a CO2-Enriched Warmer World" - "Hardly a heat wave passes but what climate alarmists are quick to blame global warming for any excess deaths that may have been associated with it.  If the whole truth be told, however, global warming would likely reduce the number of lives lost to extreme thermal conditions, considering what happens at the cold end of the temperature spectrum.  In addition, CO2-induced changes in the composition of the plants we use for food and medicine may actually be improving human health and extending human lifespan." (co2science.org)

Uh-huh... "Be proud but prepare for pain in the battle against CO2" - "GET WORRIED about the cost of energy. Crude oil is again above $30 per barrel, and the Government wants to penalise cheap coal-fired power stations in favour of expensive windmills.

As demand for oil rises in America and China, a cartel is keeping a lid on supplies, but our Government wants to make energy more expensive for less selfish reasons. Downing Street has decided that the carbon economy is a bad thing and therefore Britain must set an example in choking back the amount of gas we pump into the atmosphere.

Be proud, but be prepared for pain. We are fighting global warming on the beaches, in the air and in the fields and streets, although perhaps not yet in France. And we are going it alone." (Carl Mortished, The Times)

A Green dilemma! "Coal needs protection in EU emissions scheme-Germany" - "BERLIN, Jan 20 - Germany's economics minister said on Tuesday a European Union emissions trading scheme to reduce levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere should not threaten coal's ability to replace nuclear power.

Coal accounts for over half of Germany's power generation, but 50 percent of this is home-produced brown coal, a big emitter of CO2, which many scientists believe is a major contributor to global warming.

The coal industry argues that without the fuel, Germany will not be able to meet its target to phase out nuclear power by the 2020s.

"I don't want any structural changes from the emissions trade scheme. I think Germany's present energy mix (for power generation) is reasonable," Wolfgang Clement told reporters during the annual Handelsblatt energy conference.

"We must safeguard coal's role as an alternative source to replace nuclear energy." (Reuters)

Meanwhile: "China unable to quench thirst for oil" - "China's fast-growing economy has overtaken Japan to become the world's second largest consumer of crude oil after the US, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Chinese government.

Latest IEA estimates say China consumed 5.46m barrels a day last year, compared with Japan's 5.43m b/d. In the last quarter of 2003, the IEA says, China was the "main driver of global oil demand growth".

The US remains by far the biggest oil user, consuming more than 20m b/d. The growth in Chinese demand is expected to continue this year, at a time when Opec has little room to boost oil output and US commercial oil inventories are at their lowest levels since 1975, creating tight conditions in the global market." (Financial Times)

"Blinded With Science" - "Is Europe coming to its senses and choosing science over hysteria and political correctness? Don't bet your last euro on it, but there have been some encouraging signs of late.

News of man-bites-dog proportions came last week with the revelation that Germany was on the verge of approving the production and marketing of genetically-modified corn within its borders. This, in a country where the Green Party is part of the governing coalition and holds several of the top cabinet positions.

Most surprising of all is that the announcement came from Agriculture Minister Renate Künast, who is a Grüne herself and, polls show, the second-most-popular politician in the country after Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

Künast is the kind of public figure who likes to be photographed rollerblading to work and making sure pigs are comfy and emotionally stable on their way to slaughter. So it comes as a bit of a shock that she would announce that the government saw no risks associated with GM food -- something scientific study after scientific study has shown -- and that she expected products to be on German shelves by this autumn." (Craig Winneker, TCS)

"New advance to combat antibiotic-resistant pneumonia and malaria" - "New biochemical studies may hold clues to more powerful malaria and pneumonia treatments that could save more than 2 million lives worldwide. Using baker's yeast as a surrogate disease model, researchers are exploring why enzymes in organisms that cause pneumonia and malaria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. This work could provide the answer to testing a new generation of drugs to combat these prevalent diseases." (Dartmouth Medical School)

"Hard to Say How to Tame Gene-Altered Life -Report" - "WASHINGTON - Genetically engineered crops may be handy for farmers who want to freely use weedkillers, but what is to keep the altered plants from spreading their pollen and creating superweeds?

On Tuesday, a National Research Council panel said most genetically engineered plants or animals will likely pose little threat and will not need to be controlled. Those that do will probably need more than one layer of control to be safe.

"Confinement won't be warranted in most cases, but when it is, worst-case scenarios and their probabilities should be considered," committee chairman T. Kent Kirk of the University of Wisconsin and a former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist, said in a statement." (Reuters)

"Employers hear from scientists on GMOs" - "When it comes to the topic of Measure H there appears to be a divide not in the organic community itself but in the community of organic officials.

At a lecture on Friday afternoon at the luncheon meeting of the Employers Council of Mendocino County, Peggy G. Lemaux, a University of California Cooperative Extension Specialist from the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, gave an overview of biotechnology in plants as it pertained to Measure H.

If passed by the voters in March, Measure H would ban the use of genetically modified organisms in the county and it contends that "if organic crops become contaminated by GMOs, the organic farmers and wineries will lose organic certification and their products will not be marketable as organic."

But Lemaux highlighted the fact that she personally called Ray Green, the Organic Supervisor for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and asked him if an organic farmer would "automatically lose his accreditation" if his crop became pollinated with pollen from a GMO crop.

The answer was no, Lemaux said, "as long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with the products of excluded methods." (The Daily Journal)

"'Frankenfood' and the ensuing debate" - "The practice of gene manipulation has been in existence ever since the onset of agriculture in human civilization. The introduction of new plants and methods of growing crops led to the inadvertent modification of genes, in response to natural factors. The present day genetic modification of food, therefore, in theory, applies the same principle of modification of genes, in response to the need for better-adapted traits. The difference essentially lies in the fact that GM food involves biotechnological manipulation of genes, as opposed to the traditional natural means of allowing genes to modify." (USA Vanguard)

"EU's New Biotech-Crop Laws May Raise, Not Lower, Barriers" - "WASHINGTON -- As the European Union prepares to launch new laws in April to label and track all genetically modified food, U.S. farmers and government officials are warning that this doesn't mean that new biotech crops can now come to market easily. In fact, the new laws may turn out to be stronger trade barriers than the biotech-approval ban they are intended to replace, say the farmers and officials." (Dow Jones)

January 20, 2004

Check out "Pressure Politics!" - "Single issue campaigners - how they work, their role in modern democracies" (A Living Issues site)

"New Home Test Boosts Case Against Smoking" - "The manufacturer, Nymox Corp. of Maywood, N.J., says the $15 test can be used to measure the secondhand smoke exposure of employees in smoky workplaces and people who live with smokers. One expert says it could be used in child custody cases.

The company's medical director, Michael Munzar, says it can show whether teenagers have sneaked cigarettes, athletes have violated no-smoking policies or life insurance applicants have been truthful about qualifying for nonsmoker rates. He says TobacAlert also can be used to monitor the progress of people trying to quit smoking and to encourage them." (The Washington Post)

"Dear Aunt Sophie," - "I am a public figure who is also an influential scientist. Lately, however, people have not been taking me seriously. This is bad for my image, not to mention my ego, which is still pretty fragile after I won an election but wasn’t allowed to take office. I sure hope you can help me out." (Judith Weizner, FrontPageMagazine.com)

"Burning Fossil Fuels Has A Measurable Cooling Effect On The Climate" - "Atmospheric researchers have provided observational evidence that burning fossil fuels has a direct impact on the solar radiation reflectivity of clouds, thereby contributing to global climate change.

Joyce Penner, professor in the University of Michigan Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, U-M graduate student Yang Chen, and assistant professor Xiquan Dong from the University of North Dakota Department of Atmospheric Science, reported their findings in the Jan. 15 issue of the journal Nature.

Most evidence that increased levels of fossil fuel particles (aerosols) affects the reflectivity of clouds, thereby producing a cooling effect on the climate, has been indirect. "This made it difficult to determine the impact this phenomena, known as the indirect aerosol effect, has on the global climate," Penner said. "Our data makes the direct connection and opens new areas of study."

Solar radiation, which adds to global warming, is reflected back into space by clouds. Cloud droplets are increased with higher levels of aerosols, allowing for less radiation, or heat, to reach the lower atmosphere. The end result is a measurable cooling effect on the climate." (Science Daily)

"Europeans 'can save climate pact'" - "Europe can still save the Kyoto Protocol, the international climate treaty, a US environmental leader says. Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, told BBC News Online the Europeans held "the trump card" in making the treaty a reality. He said Europe should offer Russia the diplomatic and economic gains it was seeking if it ratified the protocol." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Government in drive to cut CO2 emissions" - "LONDON - The government says it aims to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 16.3 percent from 1990 levels by 2010 in the first phase of a European Union programme to meet Kyoto protocol commitments on greenhouse gas targets." (Reuters)

"Industry warns over 'suicidal' increase in emissions target" - "Industry reacted with fury yesterday after the Government announced ambitious targets for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases far in excess of those committed to under international agreements. The Kyoto protocol signed in 1997 commits the UK to a 12.5 per cent reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide by 2010 compared with 1990 levels. But ministers yesterday announced a two-stage plan to cut emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels. In the first phase, emissions will have to fall by 16.3 per cent. The burden will fall disproportionately on a handful of heavy industries such as electricity generation, oil refining, and steel, cement, glass and paper production, which presently account for about half of Britain's CO2 emissions." (Independent) | CO2 limits suicidal for competitiveness, says industry (The Guardian)

"Spotlight falls on 'big emitters'" - "Environmentalists welcome UK Government proposals to cut carbon emissions from industry, of which a significant percentage comes from power companies. A 20% cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2010 is likely to place considerable pressure on UK industry. But other EU countries need to take even tougher action, say campaigners." (BBC News Online)

"Manufacturers bemoan pollution targets" - "Government pollution targets published today were condemned by manufacturers, who fear that business competitiveness will suffer as a result." (BusinessEurope.com)

"Emission cuts to raise energy prices" - "Electricity prices in the UK could rise as a result of government plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions beyond EU targets, it emerged today. The energy minister, Stephen Timms, said household bills may rise by 3%, while prices for industry could go up by as much as 6%. "Our suggestion is that industrial electricity prices will increase, on a reasonably conservative set of assumptions by something like 6%, not just in the UK but in major European industrial economies, in a fairly uniform way. The comparable figure for domestic bills would be about 3%, but it may actually prove to be rather less than that," Mr Timms told a press conference." (The Guardian)

"Battle Over GMOs Heads to Canada's High Court" - "OTTAWA - A narrow legal case over whether a Canadian farmer infringed on biotech patents held by Monsanto Co. has mushroomed into a broader battle over genetically modified organisms that will be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada today. Monsanto has already won two lower-court judgments against Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, successfully arguing he used its canola without a license. The grain has been genetically modified to be resistant to its herbicide Roundup." (Reuters)

"Small farmer's fight becomes anti-biotech crusade" - "OTTAWA — The case of a small-time farmer from the remote Saskatchewan plains, now before Canada's highest court, may represent the best chance yet for foes of the global biotech revolution to get the law on their side." (Associated Press)

"Benefits outweigh risks of biotechnology in farming" - "Genetically engineered crop plantings increased 15 percent last year despite continued consumer resistance in Europe and elsewhere, according to a group that promotes use of the technology in poor countries.

Seven million farmers in 18 countries grew engineered crops on 167.2 million acres last year, compared with 145 million acres in 2002, according to a report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

In 1996, the first year genetically modified crops were commercially available, about 4.3 million acres of biotech crops were under cultivation.

"Farmers have made up their minds," the group's founder and chairman, Clive James, told The Associated Press. "They continue to rapidly adopt biotech crops because of significant agronomic, economic, environmental and social advantages."

Still there is significant opposition, as shortsighted as it is." (The Times and Democrat)

January 19, 2004

"US sugar barons 'block global war on obesity'" - "Leading scientists accused the Bush administration last night of putting the interests of powerful American sugar barons ahead of the global fight against obesity.

Professor Kaare Norum, leader of the World Health Organisation's fight to prevent millions developing diet-related diseases, has sparked an international war of words with a highly critical letter to US Health Secretary Tommy Thompson. In it he tells of his grave concern over American opposition to the WHO's blueprint to combat obesity. He accuses the US of making the health of millions of young Americans 'a hostage to fortune' because it has failed to take action over the fat epidemic as a result of its business interests, particularly the sugar lobby." (The Observer)

"WHO Guilty of 'Medical Malpractice'" - "As President Bush's speech writers begin working on his State of the Union address they should note a claim made today in the British medical journal, The Lancet, that medical malpractice is occurring in the supply of useless malaria drugs to Africa. The World Health Organisation and the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM), are responsible for this deadly policy failure. AIDS activists and Democrats, who attack Mr. Bush for his miserly funding of these agencies for the treatment of AIDS should acknowledge that the Bush administration is right to retain control of the funds it delivers, since it is far from certain the Geneva-based multilateral health agencies can be trusted.

In 1998 the WHO said it would halve malaria deaths by 2010. Today, half way through the allotted time, malaria deaths are increasing globally. The WHO recently blamed energy policies and climate change for the increase but its own policy failures are responsible. Furthermore, the GFATM has been spending more money buying ineffective drugs to treat malaria patients in Africa than on effective drugs, claims The Lancet paper, authored by Dr. Amir Attaran, of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and a Who's Who of the malaria medical fraternity. The authors accuse both the WHO and GFATM of medical malpractice and call for some wide ranging reforms." (Richard Tren and Roger Bate, TCS)

"Farming 'killing Europe's birds'" - "Modern farming in Europe has reduced the numbers of 24 common bird species by a third in a quarter of a century, a report by European ornithologists says." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

Hmm... let's see, Europe leads world in restricting/banning most useful agricultural chemicals over the last 3-4 decades, mostly to save the birdies, bugs and other critters. Europe suffers 'catastrophic' crash in common bird populations in farming regions during same period... So, Europe's 'green' chemo-phobia decimates bird populations?

"The Perils of the Precautionary Principle: Lessons from the American and European Experience" - "The concept of a universal precautionary principle apparently has its origins in early German and Swedish thinking about environmental policy, particularly the need for policymakers to practice foresight in order to prevent long-range environmental problems. The concept was included in the Amsterdam Treaty--an important step toward establishment of the European Union--but the concept was left undefined and was applied only to environmental policy. In the past 20 years, there have been numerous references to precaution in various international treaties, statements of advocacy groups, and academic writings, but the significance of the principle in international law remains uncertain." (John D. Graham, The Heritage Foundation)

"Place in the sun for everyone - except George Bush, Coke and Windows" - "On the edge of a large field in a sprawling northern suburb of Mumbai, formerly Bombay, the French sheep farmer and mascot of the anti-globalisation movement, José Bové, is holding forth among a group of farm workers from South America. Mr Bové, pipe clenched firmly between his teeth, is selling his message that "le capitalisme" is not the only way.

Agreeing with him are 80,000 people from 130 countries at the World Social Forum, who want to prove that they are not just noisy anarchists but can offer alternatives to create a fairer planet. At the forum, held for the first time in Asia, are professors from Tunisia, a Pakistani hard rock band, nuns from Ireland and a woman wearing a sign reading "Australians for Peace".

Everybody is sure of what they are against - capitalism, imperialism and George Bush. Posters proclaim that "Asia Pacific women say no to war", and there are talks on "US hegemony and the Arab street".

Nobody can say what precisely they are all for." (The Guardian)

"IRS to Audit Nature Conservancy From Inside" - "A team of IRS examiners will move into the global headquarters of the Nature Conservancy in Arlington to begin auditing the charity, the world's largest environmental organization.

A letter sent to the Conservancy by the Internal Revenue Service last month indicates that the audit will be of uncommon scope for a charity, tax specialists said. The memorandum proposes a preliminary meeting between four IRS examiners and the Conservancy's chief financial officer to discuss logistics, communications, telephone access, equipment and accommodations. The IRS will examine 2002 tax returns, the letter said.

"It is unusual," said former IRS commissioner Donald C. Alexander, now a private tax lawyer. "This is an extraordinary case. . . . It is an indication of a pretty strong audit." (Washington Post)

"Not Having a Cow Over Mad Cow – What Gives?" - "Why no stampede of panic over the American mad cow? Remember those Wendy's commercials from 20 years ago? The ones where the granny would go into competing fast food restaurants, examine the hamburgers and obnoxiously demand, "Where's the beef?" I'm reminded of those ads as I watch the media and public reaction to the news that mad cow disease has slipped over the border into the United States. My question is: "Where's the beef . . . hysteria?" (Michael Fumento, Washington Post)

"Volcanic impact not so chilling - Super-eruptions might not be as environmentally devastating as we thought" - "Immense volcanic eruptions are not necessarily triggers for catastrophic global cooling, say researchers in China and the United States. Super-eruptions are predicted to occur roughly once every 50,000 years, so these findings are relatively reassuring.

It has long been known that giant volcanic eruptions leave an imprint on the climate. When Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines blew in 1991, for example, it lowered average global temperatures by about 0.25 °C for a few years, as the dust it spewed into the atmosphere shielded the surface from the Sun. Super-eruptions, which are much bigger, are widely expected to be able to trigger an effect similar to a 'nuclear winter', killing off life world-wide." (NSU)

New items posted Still Waiting for Greenhouse

"Government Steps Up Fight to Curb Global Warming" - "The Government is shortly expected to unveil the next key move in the battle to curb global warming. The new EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme introduces limits or caps on the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by industry." (PA News)

"Resource Allocation and Sea-Level Rise" - "The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, warned in late September that by the year 2100 with the "ever-increasing emission of greenhouse gases" some environmental catastrophes may be possible, including "many small islands gone..." as sea levels rise from melting glaciers. New research bears on this possibility for the Maldives." (Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon, TCS)

... before truth has gotten its trousers on: "A sacrifice of species" - "SCIENTISTS have long warned that global warming is causing such changes in habitats that many plant and animal species might not be able to survive the heat. Now, 19 researchers have predicted just how severe the impact will be if current climate trends continue: By 2050, 15 to 37 percent of the 1,103 species they studied will be extinct or beyond the point of no return. The study in a recent issue of Nature should spur President Bush and Congress to end their irresponsible neglect of climate change and its consequences." (Boston Globe editorial)

"Garbage in, garbage out " - "The prestigious scientific journal Nature recently published a new study by Dr. Chris D. Thomas, et al, that predicted more than a million species will become extinct by 2050 if global warming is allowed to continue unabated. The story was carried in major media around the world, and National Public Radio interviewed one of the scientists who droned on and on about the imminent disaster, unless the United States gets on board with the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol.

The New York Times report of the study says, "The analysis is built on layers of computer models of climate change and other models of the ways species become extinct. ..."


Computer models of extinction patterns based on computer models of global warming? Wasn't it computer models that gave birth to the concept of "garbage in, garbage out?" (Henry Lamb, WorldNetDaily.com)

"C02 cuts will raise prices, says industry" - "January 17: Britain's heavy industry, including power stations, will have to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 16% over the next few years under strict new national guidelines for implementing EU regulations to be announced by ministers on Monday." (The Guardian)

"So, when do we all run out of oil?" - "How much oil do we have left? According to the United States Geological Survey's latest report, published in 2000, the planet had 3 trillion barrels of oil and gas before we started using it up. It calculates we have used some 700 billion, leaving 2.3 trillion barrels underground.

A simple calculation using data from the Centre for Global Energy Studies shows that with 28.8 billion barrels currently being used a year (79 million a day), there is some 80 years of supply left in the ground.

However, the 2.3 billion barrels left includes 1.4 billion which, according to USGS analysis of global geology, exist but have yet to be discovered. That leaves roughly 890 billion barrels of oil and gas that have been discovered and are booked as proven reserves - roughly 31 years' supply.

This estimate is lower than the industry's. BP's oil statistics - the industry bible - indicate some 1047 billion barrels of proved reserves - 36 years supply on current usage." (Oliver Morgan, The Observer)

"Official report backs green power" - "New research on the impact of renewable energy has concluded that it could sustain tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. The findings will strengthen the resolve of the Scottish Executive to encourage wind farms. The executive's target is to have 40% of Scotland's energy supplied from green sources by 2020. But it has to overcome determined campaigners who oppose the large-scale development of wind power." (BBC News Online)

"Report on renewable energy use in Australia angers environmentalists" - "A new report, commissioned by the Australian Government, has outraged environmental groups by recommending against an increase in the country's target for renewable energy use. Our reporter, James Gruber, says an independent panel has concluded the current 2 per cent mandatory target for business is appropriate. The report has questioned the costs associated with increasing the renewable energy target." (Radio Australia)

"Danger renewable energy will stall" - "The fledgling renewable energy sector will stall in just four years unless long-term targets are adopted for the amount of electricity coming from so-called clean sources such as wind and solar, a report has warned.

The review of the mandatory renewable energy target, published yesterday, found the industry was well ahead of meeting the 2010 deadline for generating an extra 2 per cent of estimated electricity from environmentally friendly sources such as the hydro, wind and solar hot water sectors.

The four-member panel, chaired by the former Northern Territory senator Grant Tambling, found that the renewable energy industry would generate enough power by 2007. But, unless the Federal Government set further targets, "investment is expected to rapidly fall away." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"EU Commission Seeks to Increase Biotech Food Safety" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission sought to calm consumer concerns over genetically modified organisms on Friday by giving each GMO variety a unique code so it can be traced throughout the food chain. Under the legislation adopted by the EU executive Commission, each GMO variety used in food and animal feed would be assigned a specific code consisting of letters and digits. "This will allow products containing these GMOs to be accurately traced and labeled when they come to the marketplace," the Commission said in a statement. The European Union is divided over whether to lift its de facto five-year ban on new genetically modified food and crops, which is under attack mainly from the United States for breaking trade laws." (Reuters)

"Germany Sees Biotech Foods Advancing" - "BERLIN - Germany says the European Union can't hold out against new biotech foods much longer, signaling a public shift by the most populous country even as the 15-member group remains split over lifting a 1998 moratorium on such foods. The German government this week presented planting rules for genetically modified crops and hinted it expects the EU suspension on new biotech foods to be lifted this year. That prospect dominated talk at the world's biggest annual food fair, which opened Friday in Berlin with a strong representation by organic food producers, reflecting their rising market share in Germany over the last few years." (Associated Press)

"GM corn to be approved for one year only" - "GM crops will be given the go-ahead for a single season in Britain, in a move largely crafted to save the Prime Minister's face, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. The Government is preparing a very limited approval for just one crop, GM maize, which will effectively mean that it will only be able to be grown in 2005 and then under strict conditions that may make it uneconomic. The plan, which will be announced next month, is designed to save Tony Blair from abandoning the technology, while placating public outrage by ensuring that few controversial crops are actually planted in British soil." (Independent on Sunday)

"China: No verdict on Nestle drink hearing" - "Nestle's Nesquik product contains "very few" ingredients considered genetically modified (GM) by certain laboratory standards, says a report by Agro-Biotech Centre of the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Invited by the Shanghai No 2 People's Court to settle a consumer dispute, the Centre's report also noted that by Ministry of Agriculture standards, the instant drink can be also considered "free of any GM ingredients."

A Shanghai consumer is battling the Switzerland-based food giant claiming it uses genetically modified ingredients in its products." (People's Daily Online)

"Monsanto Exits Argentina Soy Biz Despite Soy Boom" - "BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Soy's star may be rising in Argentina but Monsanto Co., the U.S. pioneer in agricultural biotechnology, has stopped selling soybean seeds in the world's No. 3 producer, because it can't make a buck.

The company says a huge black market for the genetically modified seeds makes it impossible to recoup its investments. Until that changes, Monsanto Argentina said, it won't sell new-and-improved soy seeds or carry out research to develop new varieties tailored to local conditions.

The move has fueled fears that farmers will lose out on biotech advances and new seed varieties, and that other businesses may pull out of Argentina -- which has been struggling to recover from an economic collapse that sparked the world's biggest debt default in 2002.

"The last thing you want to see in your country is investment in research being cut off. That undermines the future of the whole agriculture industry," said Arturo Vierheller, a former agriculture department official." (Reuters)

January 16, 2004

"Eco-Extremism, Not Science, Behind Fishy Salmon Scare" - "Junk science doesn’t get too much fishier than last week’s scary headlines about farmed salmon being a cancer risk." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Mad Cow and the Media" - "The coverage of mad cow disease is demonstrating the tendency for reporters and editors to play up the dramatic, the frightening and the controversial aspects of risk stories, and to play down or omit altogether information that puts the risk in perspective. This fans public fears and drives demands that the government spend time and money protecting us from risks that aren't as big as such coverage leads us to believe." (David Ropeik, The Washington Post, December 31, 2003)

"Action needed to prevent spread of vCJD" - "Urgent action is needed to protect the public from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a senior member of the Medical Research Council writes in this week's BMJ." (BMJ-British Medical Journal)

"US accused of sabotaging obesity strategy" - "The US was accused yesterday of trying to scupper the World Health Organisation's guidelines designed to curb the rising epidemic of obesity and disease, which could be damaging to its food and drink corporations. The WHO's executive board is to approve a global strategy on health next week, which will spell out to all member governments the links between a bad diet and disease. Among the recommendations are that governments should act on TV advertising to children and should urge people to cut down on fats and sugars in their diet. In a confidential letter to Lee Jong-Wook, the director general of the WHO, which the Guardian has seen, the US department of health and human services makes it clear that it disputes some of the scientific evidence on which the proposals are based." (The Guardian)

Doh! "Study: Smoking Less Cigarettes Could Help in Quitting" - "BOSTON -- Smoking fewer cigarettes could help smokers eventually quit altogether, according to a new study by a group of Yale University researchers. Culling data from a national study of Americans between the ages of 51 and 61 by the University of Michigan, the Yale group found that those who reduced their smoking the most also had the best cessation rate. The finding -- published in this month's edition of Addiction, the journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction to Alcohol and Other Drugs -- could revive a largely ignored method in smoking cessation clinics that have in recent years gravitated toward more drastic theories in helping patients kick the habit." (The Wall Street Journal)

"Mother was wrong, you can eat too much liver" - "Government food safety advisers may soon loosen liver's already diminishing hold on the family menu. Despite the food's unpopularity, experts say as many as one in 10 adults could be endangering their health by eating too much. Liver contains high levels of vitamin A, or retinol, which in reasonable quantities is good for eyesight and skin, and prevents infections. But too much increases the likelihood of fractured bones - a concern for Britain's ageing population. The Food Standards Agency is now considering limiting liver enthusiasts to 50g a week, and telling the supplements industry not to include vitamin A in multivitamins. Pregnant women are already warned to avoid the vitamin." (The Guardian)

"The Battle over Toilets for All" - "I admit I am an occasional fan of "potty humor," at least to the extent that I enjoy the series "South Park" featuring four foul-mouthed little boys. But in many parts of the world, potties are no joke – but literally a matter of life and death.

Over 2.4 billion people, or 40 percent of the world's population, lack proper sanitation. As a result, diarrhea alone kills about three million children under the age of five each year. Horrible parasites add to the butcher's bill.

But supposedly the last idea we should be considering for these poor folks are the flush-toilet systems that have made waterborne illness virtually non-existent in the West. That would be an "environmental disaster," one speaker at the International Dry Toilet Conference last year in Finland told Cybercast News Service reporter Marc Morano Why isn't entirely clear." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"MPs' lobby: Greener and safer buildings" - "Buildings contribute more to global warming than transport, according to statistics from the World Wide Fund For Nature. The Liberal Democrat's energy spokesman, Andrew Stunell MP, is presenting a bill to promote "greener and safer buildings". The MP for Hazel Grove wants the law to ensure new and existing homes are built or renovated with security and energy-saving features." (BBC News Online)

Parenthetically, Jonathan DuHamel likes "GangGreen" as a collective noun for antis and certainly a gangrene of misanthropists would appear apt.

Hmm... maybe a psychosis is more appropriate for some: "Gore Burns Bush on Environment" - "I have made a series of speeches about the policies of the Bush / Cheney Administration towards the major challenges that confront our nation: national security, economic policy, civil liberties, and today: the environment.

For me, this issue is in a special category because of what I believe is at stake. I am particularly concerned because the vast majority of the most respected environmental scientists from all over the world have sounded a clear and urgent alarm. The international community - including the United States - began a massive effort several years ago to assemble the most accurate scientific assessment of the growing evidence that the earth's environment is sustaining severe and potentially irreparable damage from the unprecedented accumulation of pollution in the global atmosphere." (Al Gore, MoveOn.org) | Webcast & Text (MoveOn.org) | Gore Calls Bush a 'Moral Coward' (Eric Pianin, Washington Post) | Masters of Deception (Bob Herbert, New York Times) | Blunt: 'Al, It's Cold Outside' (PRNewswire) | Al Gore's Speech on Bush and the Environment: Demagoguery (Amy Ridenour, National Center for Public Policy Research)

"A Classic Blunder" - "NEW YORK, Thursday, Jan. 15 -- I was going to go to former Vice President Al Gore's speech today at New York's Beacon Theater where he was talking about the destruction being wrought by global warming and how President George Bush is doing nothing to stop it, but I decided against it. It snowed, making it difficult to get there. And it's four degrees, making it difficult to go outside. Besides, MoveOn.org, the activist group sponsoring the event, was broadcasting it on its website so I could watch it at home. Thank you Al Gore for inventing the Internet!

OK, OK. That's not fair. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Nation writer Eric Alterman have noted, Gore didn't claim he invented the Internet. That was a vicious, despicable slur by the right-wing media to paint Gore as a liar when really he's a good and decent public servant. Here's what Gore said: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Damn you, you right-wing media making Al Gore look bad! Damn you!" (Nick Schulz, TCS)

"Study: Siberian Bogs Big Player in Greenhouse Gas" - "Northern Russia's vast peat bogs may play a pivotal role in regulating greenhouse gas levels throughout the world, according to a new study. The barren peatlands of Siberia have been a massive methane producer since soon after the last ice age some 12,000 years ago, far longer than previously thought, scientists say. They also found evidence that suggests peat bogs rank among the world's top carbon stores, absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere." (National Geographic News)

"Study pinpointing origins of Siberian peat bogs raises concerns" - "Massive Siberian peat bogs, widely known as the permanently frozen home of untold kilometers of moss and uncountable hordes of mosquitoes, also are huge repositories for gases that are thought to play an important role in the Earth's climate balance, according to newly published research by a team of U.S. and Russian scientists in the Jan. 16 edition of the journal Science." (National Science Foundation)

"Climate control stalled by chilly Russian feet" - "It is touch and go whether the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and with it the Government's climate change policy, will survive the year. Central to the policy is a carbon tax on non-farm emissions of greenhouse gases planned for 2007 - but only if the Kyoto Protocol is in force. The Government last year concluded the first negotiated greenhouse agreement - conditional exemptions from the tax for companies whose international competitiveness would otherwise be at risk - with the Marsden Point oil refinery, and has named the next four candidates for such deals. And it has begun to dole out subsides for climate-friendly projects like wind farms payable not in cash but in carbon credits, the tradeable rights created by Kyoto to emit greenhouse gases. But the treaty may yet fall over." (New Zealand Herald)

"Counting the cost of Kyoto, inflicted upon every Australian" - "The nation will lose jobs overseas, without a reduction in global warming if we pursue emissions trading, writes Michael Hitchens. The new year has brought with it another round of debate in the media about the merits or otherwise of the Kyoto Protocol. The protocol seeks to commit developed nations, including Australia, to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These reductions would apply from 2008 to 2012. The debate was reignited in the Herald on Monday with the front-page headline "Greenhouse gas scheme gets the axe." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"Global warming evidence is mounting" - "WASHINGTON - It's cold comfort to people shivering in much of the United States right now, but 2003 tied for the world's second-hottest year, according to federal government data released Thursday. In what meteorologists say is new evidence that global warming is real and worsening, the world's average temperature last year was 58.03 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. That's 1.03 degrees warmer than the 124-year world average." (Knight Ridder News Service)

"Global warming affecting salmon" - "Scientists are blaming global warming for a decline in wild salmon on the opening day of the Scottish salmon fishing season." (BBC News Online)

"Ministers to approve commercial growth of GM crops next month" - "The Government will next month approve the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops in Britain for the first time.

But ministers will impose strict conditions on the cultivation of GM maize and ban commercial GM sugar beet and oilseed rape after trials showed that they could be more damaging to the environment than conventional crops. The decision to go ahead follows this week's recommendations by experts on the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre).

Opponents furiously attacked the prospect of GM plants entering mainstream farming last night but said that supporters of the technology still faced a long battle before the first crops could be planted. They criticised farm-scale tests as flawed and said more research was needed before GM varieties were licensed for widespread use." (Independent)

January 15, 2004

Oh dear... Ozone Al "Gore To Decry 'Global Warming' On New York City's Coldest Day In Decade" - "In what political watchers are calling possibly the biggest gaffe in years, former Vice President Al Gore is set to give a speech tomorrow on the perils of global warming -- on what is expected to be the coldest day in New England in nearly half a century!" (Drudge Report) | Honest Al He Isn't: Don't Trust Al Gore on the Environment (The National Center for Public Policy Research)

Eek! Regulations based on [gasp] science... "Peer Review Plan Draws Criticism" - "A number of leading researchers are mobilizing against a Bush administration plan that would require new health and environmental regulations to rely more solidly on science that has been peer-reviewed -- an awkward situation in which scientists find themselves arguing against one of the universally accepted gold standards of good science." (Washington Post)

"Mobile phones 'appear to be safe'" - "UK government scientists have given a cautious thumbs up to mobile phones and transmission masts. A report from the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation says there is no evidence they harm health. However, the scientists said more research is needed before they can be absolutely certain there is no risk." (BBC News Online)

How, might one ask, does one achieve the state of being "absolutely certain there is no risk"? That cell phones pose insignificant risk has been obvious for some time but no one's ever going to be able to prove an absolute absence of risk (is there any such thing?).

"Protesters vow to fight on after scientists claim mobile phone masts pose no risk" - "Campaigners opposed to mobile-phone masts yesterday branded as a "whitewash" a three-year scientific report suggesting mobile phone technology has no adverse effects, and vowed to continue their opposition around the country." (Independent)

"Chemistry Lessons" - "Editor's note: What follows is a speech delivered to attendees of the Hayek Series in Brussels earlier this month.

The title of today's discussion is "Did the EU get the Chemicals regulation right?" A title like that makes the job of a panelist pretty easy, when you can clearly and unequivocally answer the question with a one word answer: NO!

The proposed chemical policy the EU is being steered towards, would quite simply be an unmitigated disaster -- not only for Europe, but for the global economy. The European Commission's proposal for the REACH directive (or Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals for the uninitiated) is, I believe disproportionate, badly planned, and based on unsound thinking." (Neil Parish MEP, TCS)

"Are You Eating Cancerous Salmon?" - "Smoked salmon with capers and onions was featured at brunch at a friend's house this past Sunday. I dug in and enjoyed two helpings, despite last week's dire headlines that I was recklessly gambling with cancer." (Ronald Bailey, TCS)

"Answer this: who benefits from the salmon scare?" - "This is the true story of the salmon scare which threatened last weekend to bring British salmon farming to its knees. It is a sorry saga of flawed science, selective research and hidden commercial bias. That it was allowed into the pages of the apparently respectable journal Science is inexplicable. Its worldwide promotion by an organisation with a vested interest in undermining farmed Atlantic salmon in favour of the wild Alaskan variety is a scandal. Its central claim, that farmed Atlantic salmon have higher levels of pollutants than wild ones, is simply unproven, since the report itself concedes that it never actually examined wild Atlantic salmon. That a British expert could nevertheless describe the report as “definitive” is dumbfounding." (Magnus Linklater, The Times)

"Rodents bred for alcohol preference live longer than rats bred for alcohol avoidance" - "Researchers and clinicians know that drinking alcohol can have both beneficial and harmful effects. Yet little is known about the effects of long-term, chronic alcohol consumption on survival. A new study has found that rats bred to prefer alcohol are healthier and live longer than rats bred to avoid alcohol, whether they drink alcohol or not. Study authors ponder the implications of this unexpected yet significant finding." (Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research)

Continuing on collectives for antis:

Paul Hurley likes "panic" of environmentalists, while Mike [omitted] proposes that a "hysteria of" is a good description of any such group, econuts, environmentalists, PETA-ists, etc. It's the strident tone and lack of science that marks it as a, or an, hysteria, he says.

Also anonymously offered are: alarm; desolation; despair; despondency [looks like a bit of a theme going here]; dread; frenzy; fright; horror; howling; madness; pain; sadness; terror; trepidation and; wail.

That gives us a collection of fifty (publishable) collective nouns for antis reading: alarm; anguish; babble; blather; bleeding; blight; cacophony; carousel; chump; circus; coven; crowing; delusion; desolation; despair; despondency; dread; frenzy; fret; fright; frivolity; giggle; grandstand; horror; howling; hypocrisy; hysteria; liar; madness; murder; pain; panhandling; panic; phobia; plague; rabble; raggle; rash; sadness; shudder; sideshow; sleaze; spinning; swarm; swelter; terror; trepidation; trouble; wail and; worry.

Interestingly, suggestions were dismissive or derisive but never positive - no one offered the likes of an esteem of anti-globalists, an inspiration of anti-capitalists or an enthusiasm of environmentalists, for example. This is very likely an artefact of selective readership but you have to wonder why the utterances of antis generate so many column-inches when they can not raise a single defender here. Most curious.

"Sunbathing may reduce risk of MS, says study" - "The dangers of exposure to the sun may have to be reassessed after a study by a former government chief medical officer published today suggests that sunshine protects against multiple sclerosis, the degenerative disease that affects 85,000 people in Britain." (Independent)

"NASA satellite surface wind data improve 2-5 day weather forecasts" - "NASA's QuikSCAT satellite is providing meteorologists with accurate data on surface winds over the global oceans, leading to improved 2- to 5- day forecasts and weather warnings. The increased accuracy, already being used in hurricane forecasts, is bringing economic savings and a reduction in weather-related loss of life, especially at sea, according to a recent NASA study." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Pollutants that cool" - "Anthropogenic aerosols (tiny particles that contribute to smog and haze) can enhance cloud reflectivity by increasing the number concentration of cloud droplets. Many small droplets scatter more sunlight back into space than fewer large ones, so in theory an accumulation of aerosol particles can produce cooling, known as the indirect aerosol effect. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the indirect effect of aerosols might be negligible, in part because of a lack of direct evidence that this mechanism affects the balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing infrared. New data from sites of polluted (Oklahoma) and clean (Alaska) air show that aerosol pollutants affect cloud optical depth significantly, at a magnitude expected from the indirect aerosol effect, and hence that this effect is an important factor in climate." (Nature)

"Farmers could get paid to slow global warming" - "MUNCIE - American Electric Power is a partner in protecting and restoring forests in Brazil, Bolivia and Louisiana with the goal of slowing global warming.

Within 10 years, AEP and other utilities could become partners with Indiana farmers to accomplish the same thing, according to the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

"Agreements with utility companies could pay farmers maybe an extra $4 or $5 an acre for carbon sequestration," said Dean Farr, executive director of IASWCD. "But we are just in the infancy stage of this. It will probably be a couple of years before we get something going here. It will probably be 10 or 12 years before a mature industry comes out of this." (The Star Press)

"Saving Venice" - "Plans have been resurrected to raise Venice above the encroaching sea." (NSU)

"New Jersey: Governor Signs “Clean Car Bill” Into Law - First step in reducing air pollution by 20 percent" - "(TRENTON)—Governor James E. McGreevey signed legislation today that will establish the “California Clean Car” emissions standards to automobiles sold in New Jersey. The law’s enactment comes on the heels of the Governor’s State of the State announcement to “Build a Better New Jersey” by reducing air pollution by 20 percent over the next 10 years. “Yesterday, I set a goal of reducing air pollution by 20 percent over the next decade. Today, with the signing of the Clean Car bill, we are taking the first concrete step toward meeting that goal." (State of New Jersey Governor's Office)

Uh-huh... parenthetically, sources tell us the Governor's entourage drove up in (you guessed it) SUVs.

"Power shortage by '06, report says - Ontario still plans to shut coal-burning generators by 2007" - "The Ontario government is sticking with its plans to shut coal-burning generators by 2007, despite a task force report warning of electricity shortages as early as 2006, says Energy Minister Dwight Duncan. Duncan praised the report, which urges a system of more stable, partially regulated power prices for the province, but also warns of looming supply problems. "Without new supply and substantial conservation efforts, Ontario could have insufficient power to meet its peak requirements by 2006," says the report of the task force, chaired by Courtney Pratt, chief executive of Stelco Inc. "By 2014, the province would have only half the generation capacity it needs." (Toronto Star)

"Development Aid Harms Development" - "As a regular subscriber to the Financial Times I have noticed an increasing amount of advertising by the United Nations Development Programme in the paper recently. Several well-respected development economists, including UCLA's Professor Deepak Lal, have noted that agencies have tried to make their grants and loans perform better in the recent past, compared with the dismal failure of aid through much of the past century. But this has left aid agencies having a hard time finding worthy projects to spend taxpayers' money on. And at least some agencies, including UNDP, have responded by using that most expensive of information dissemination devices -- advertising.

The latest full page ad features tennis star Martina Hingis and former World Champion racing driver Jacques Villeneuve, who are promoting the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and especially the aim to halve global poverty by 2015. The sports stars are endorsing the numerous UNDP anti-poverty projects in Latin America and Africa under the "Teams to End Poverty" banner.

One might wonder what spending over $40,000 of taxpayers' money for a page in the FT is going to do for halving world poverty. And even if the FT is giving concessionary terms or even providing the space for free, the UNDP is crowding out more important advertisers since the latter actually might have something worthwhile to sell. The bottom line is that UNDP, USAID and all other development agencies are incapable of achieving the MDGs anyway, because development agencies are part of the problem, and are rarely any part of the solution." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"GM Crops Policy Due Next Month" - "LONDON - A decision on whether genetically modified (GMO) crops will be grown commercially in Britain could come as early as next month, government officials say. "We will be issuing a government policy statement soon. At this stage, it looks as if that will be published in February," an agriculture spokesman said. Ministers are under pressure to come up with a conclusive decision after years of thorny debate now that the European Union is moving towards lifting its five-year-old de facto ban on all new biotech products." (Reuters)

January 14, 2004

"Ancestral Diet Gone Toxic" - "The Arctic's Inuit are being contaminated by pollution borne north by winds and concentrated as it travels up the food chain." (Los Angeles Times)

"UN to beef up green science base" - "The UN Environment Programme has begun an attempt to improve its scientific knowledge about the planet's problems. A meeting at Unep's HQ in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, is seeking to identify gaps in existing knowledge, and how one problem can have impacts on others. One proposal, for a new multi-national body on environmental change, has been met sceptically by many governments. But Unep insists some changes will be needed for it to give better forecasts of how humanity is affecting the world." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

Funny isn't it? Turn off these guys' computer models and many of the world's "problems" simply cease to exist and people tend to focus on genuine (though admittedly less "sexy") problems. Such mundane, real-world problems are, however, much more difficult to use as fundraisers and largely useless as weapons to impose eco-theological social engineering. How odd that governments are reluctant to foot the bill for yet another layer of eco-bureaucracy.

"Inviting All Democrats" - "PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — I'd like to invite Richard Gephardt and the other Democratic candidates to come here to Cambodia and discuss trade policy with scavengers like Nhep Chanda, who spends her days rooting through filth in the city dump.

One of the most unfortunate trends in the Democratic presidential race has been the way nearly all of the candidates, including Howard Dean, the front-runner, have been flirting with anti-trade positions by putting the emphasis on labor, environmental and human rights standards in international agreements.

While Mr. Gephardt calls for an international minimum wage, Mr. Dean was quoted in USA Today in October as saying, "I believe that trade also requires human rights and labor standards and environmental standards that are concurrent around the world."

Perhaps the candidates are simply pandering to unions, or bashing President Bush. But my guess is that they sincerely believe that such trade policies would help poor people abroad — and that's why they should all traipse through a Cambodian garbage dump to see how economically naïve these schemes would be. (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)

"You do not need a helmet to read this column" - "The Tacoma/Pierce County Board of Health has banned smoking inside bars, taverns, restaurants and bowling alleys, and outside of these establishments within 25 feet of the door. The penalty for smoking is $100; for an owner, $100 a day.

In August, the King County Board of Health banned riding a bicycle without a helmet in Seattle. It was banned outside the city already. The penalty: $30.

Seattle has just passed an ordinance banning any recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles in the ordinary garbage can, effective Jan. 1, 2005. Enforcement begins in 2006.

After two warnings, if the garbage collector notices a pop can, a cereal box, a milk bottle or a sheet of paper in your trash, he will leave your entire week's trash on the curb, and you can figure out what to do with it.

What these measures have in common is their itch to manage the citizen, to tell him what is good for him and make him like it. Typically, such nannyism is championed by liberals — a group that once believed in tolerance and personal freedom. They still believe in tolerance in the matter of sex — safe sex, anyway — but not in much else." (Bruce Ramsey, Seattle Times)

Collectives for antis:

Chip Harrison's suggestions are: A fret of environmentalists; A chump of environment minsters; A giggle of NGOs; A rash of IPCC members. Their favorite dance at conventions: the chicane.

John Sutherland offers: A delusion, a frivolity, a hypocrisy, a circus, a carousel, a cacophony, a bleeding, a sideshow, a grandstand, a panhandling, a spinning, a crowing, a phobia.

From Pete Petrakis: A blather of luddites.

Regarding collective nouns for antis, suggestions may still be e-mailed to the Editor for publication. Remember to explicitly state if you do NOT want your name published with your entry(ies) and that this is a family-friendly site (items like cluster-[expletive deleted] of enviros not entertained).

Uh-huh... "UN Aims to Study Link Between Environment, Wars" - "OSLO - The United Nations wants to study links between the environment and human conflict to see how future wars might be sparked by factors like global warming, a senior official said Tuesday." (Reuters)

II ... "Global Warming: Not Just Another Issue" - "I've been in and around the environmental movement since the first Earth Day in 1970, which I attended while living in Philadelphia, Pa. For many years I've been following news reports and articles about the dangers of global warming. In 2002, during my Green Party U.S. Senate campaign in New Jersey, this was one of my top issues. Among other things, we distributed over 100,000 copies of a campaign brochure which prominently featured this position: "Move towards energy independence, reverse global warming and create jobs through a crash program to get energy from the sun, the wind and other renewable fuels."

But the truth of the matter is that, while I've done what I could in the context of my primary political and life commitments, I've seen this as one of a number of major issues, like racism, corporate exploitation, sexism, war, health care, workers' rights, etc. I haven't felt that it needed any special priority.

As the new year begins, however, that has changed. My major new year's resolution is to become more directly involved in helping to build a massive and activist movement as quickly as possible on the issue of global warming or, to be more accurate, catastrophic climate disruption." (Ted Glick, dissidentvoice.org)

"Swiss glaciers shrinking due to climate change: scientists" - "Switzerland's glaciers melted by a record amount during 2003 under the onslaught of long-term climate change, a top Swiss science academy says. The retreat of the glaciers in the Swiss Alps reached up to 150 metres, with an overall melting exceeding that observed in any year since measurements began in the 19th century, the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences said. The shrinkage of the mountain ice was not the direct result of record hot summer temperatures in Switzerland and Europe last year, it said." (AFP)

"Sediment samples suggest how plants would fare in hotter, drier future" - "Sediment samples dating back thousands of years and taken from under the deep water of West Olaf Lake in Minnesota have revealed an unexpected climate indicator that can be factored into future projections." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"New diseases pose threat to world health" - "At least 30 new diseases are expected to appear over the next three decades as a result of environmental disruption, global warming and behavioural change, the Royal Society warned yesterday." (Independent)

"A Massive Extinction of Logic" - "Much has been made of a paper published on Jan. 8 in the journal Nature by Chris Thomas and 18 co-authors, claiming that global warming will cause a massive extinction of the earth's biota. Thomas told The Washington Post "we're talking about 1.25 million species. It's a massive number."

It turns out that there are a massive number of glaring problems with their study that clearly eluded the peer review process. This is evinced by the rapid turnaround for the manuscript, with acceptance in final form a mere five weeks after original submission. No one can clear revisions through 19 authors in that time unless there weren't many revisions suggested, or, if there were, they were ignored by the journal's editors in a rush to publication." (Patrick J. Michaels, Cato Institute)

"UK Rises Above U.S. to Tackle Climate Change" - "BROOKLIN, Canada, Jan 13 - The recent critique of U.S. climate-change policies by UK Chief Scientific Advisor Sir David King is a reminder of how differently the two nations approach the issue of global warming. In an article in the current issue of the U.S. journal 'Science', Sir David chides the administration of President George W. Bush for insisting that more research is needed on climate change when, "we already know enough about the problem to agree on the urgent need to address it". Global warming is a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism, he adds. Sir David also criticises the U.S. approach of market-based incentives and voluntary measures, which he says have done little to reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Only 50 companies, a small fraction of the thousands of U.S. firms with pollution problems, have agreed to reduce emissions. Of these, only 14 have set goals under the administration's two-year-old Climate Leaders Programme, the 'Washington Post' reported earlier this month. In stark contrast, the British government has a long-range target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 60 percent by 2050. And it wants other developed countries, especially the United States, to follow its lead." (Stephen Leahy, IPS)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Mass Extinction or Massive Exaggeration?  New Study Makes Monumental Claim Based on Erroneous Premise" - "The authors of a new study in Nature suggest that for a mid-range climate-warming scenario for the year 2050, some 15-37% of the species in regions that cover 20% of earth's terrestrial surface will be "committed to extinction."  In reality, it is their claim that will be so committed … and way before 2050!" (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Monsoon" - "A host of climate models suggest that CO2-induced global warming may bring about great changes in earth's monsoonal circulations.  Real-world data, however, provide no support for this thesis." (co2science.org)

"Roots (Miscellaneous)" - "In addition to several well-documented responses of plant roots to atmospheric CO2 enrichment, there are a few reports of some rather unique findings and at least one largely unresolved issue." (co2science.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 Alder, India Mustard, Quaking Aspen, Rice and Sunflower." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"The Sunspot Hockey Stick" - "Does it confirm the reality of the hockeystick temperature history of Mann et al. (1999)?" (co2science.org)

"The Medieval Warm Period in Finland" - "Just how warm was it?" (co2science.org)

"Soil Carbon Response of Grasslands to Woody Plant Invasions" - "There really should be little question about the carbon sequestration consequences of this phenomenon, but some scientists have tried to obfuscate the issue with questionable data and shaky analyses.  This new study, plus others it cites, helps to set the record straight." (co2science.org)

"Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment: Boosting Rice Yields of Asia" - "As the population of Asia continues to grow, there is reason to be concerned about the continent's ability to feed its inhabitants.  From whence will the extra food come?" (co2science.org)

"CO2 and the Phytoremediation of Contaminated Soils" - "The process by which toxic concentrations of metals in soils are reduced to non-toxic levels by vegetative extraction is enhanced several-fold by enriching the air with CO2 for only three hours a day." (co2science.org)

"EU Commission Postpones Decision on GM Maize" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission postponed the adoption of a proposal for the authorisation of a new type of genetically modified maize on Tuesday, further delaying the lifting of a five-year ban on new biotech products. The Commission had been expected to approve the proposal to send the issue to European Union ministers after failing late last year to get a committee of EU experts to approve the BT-11 maize, marketed by Swiss firm Syngenta. But a Commission spokeswoman told reporters that members of the EU executive wanted a debate on the issue and it would now likely be on the Commission agenda for January 28. Once the Commission adopts the proposal, EU ministers have three months to decide." (Reuters)

"GM guessing game spins on and on" - "For supporters and opponents alike of the growing of genetically-modified crops, the latest advice to the UK Government will have shed little light. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre) says some crops can be grown, while others should not. But its recommendations are so hedged with qualifications that the ultimate decision still seems hardly any closer." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"GM experts cautious on maize crop" - "A team of UK Government advisers has given no clear direction to ministers on whether to commercialise GM crops. A report from the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment said a new modified maize should only be grown if its cultivation mirrored recent trials. It added that weedkiller-tolerant beet and rape should not be commercialised if their planting followed the tests, as this would probably harm wildlife." (BBC News Online)

"Scientists clear GM crop for planting" - "The first commercially grown GM crops can be planted in Britain this spring, the scientific committee set up to advise ministers on releases to the environment said yesterday. The advice gives the government only a few weeks to decide whether to allow Britain to go GM or bow to public opinion and block the introduction of the controversial crops - a decision bound to be taken by the full cabinet because of its political implications. The announcement appeared at first sight contrary to the results of three years of farm-scale trials of GM crops announced in October. It brought a hostile reaction from politicians of all parties, among them the former environment minister Michael Meacher." (The Guardian)

"Genetically engineered crops up 15 pct." - "SAN FRANCISCO -- Genetically engineered crop plantings increased 15 percent last year despite continued consumer resistance in Europe and elsewhere, according to a group that promotes use of the technology in poor countries. Seven million farmers in 18 countries grew engineered crops on 167.2 million acres last year, compared with 145 million acres in 2002, according to a report released Tuesday by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. In 1996, the first year genetically modified crops were commercially available, about 4.3 million acres of biotech crops were under cultivation." (AP)

"More Acres Devoted To Biotech Crops" - "The global acreage devoted to genetically altered crops jumped 15 percent last year, the seventh straight year of double-digit growth and a sign that a broad controversy over the safety of the technology has not deterred farmers from adopting it.

The acreage devoted to the crops, which have been modified to resist pests and weeds, continues to rise in the United States, though at a somewhat slower rate than in the past, according to a new report. The biggest change is in developing countries, where increasing numbers of small farmers are growing biotech crops, notably cotton.

From 2002 to 2003, a million more farmers adopted the crops worldwide, raising the total number of farmers growing them to 7 million. Of those, about 6 million are cotton farmers in China, putting that country of small, peasant farmers in the forefront of technological change in agriculture.

While the total acreage devoted to biotech crops remains heavily concentrated in the United States and a handful of other countries with big farms, that appears about to change, with some of the world's largest countries -- such as Brazil, India and Indonesia -- recently embracing the technology." (Washington Post)

"Germany: Farmers to be liable for GMO pollution" - "In short: Through its proposed GMO legislation, the German government has outlined a set of rules on co-existence to clarify the relationship between GMO and traditional farming." (EurActiv.com)

January 13, 2004

"Study Raises Projection For 'Dirty Bomb' Toll" - "A well-executed "dirty bomb" attack on a U.S. city could expose hundreds of people to potentially lethal amounts of radiation, researchers said on Monday in a Pentagon-funded study that sharply raises estimates of the human toll from such an attack." (The Washington Post)

"A cause without a disease" - "Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have become a topic of public concern because they could potentially cause cancer and male infertility. But evidence for a human health problem is hard to find." (EMBO reports 5, 1, 16–18 (2004))

Gasp! "Salmon sales defy health warnings" - "SHOPPERS have demonstrated their confidence in Scottish farmed salmon despite a warning over the level of toxins it contains, with sales increasing or remaining the same both domestically and abroad." (The Scotsman) | Salmon warning fails to deter shoppers (The Guardian)

"EU rules salmon safe after scare fails to deter shoppers" - "The European Commission rejected warnings about the safety of farmed salmon yesterday, saying that levels of harmful chemicals detected in a recent scientific study are within safe limits." (Independent)

"Holding NGOs to Account" - "They're often called simply NGOs, instead of the clunky "nongovernmental organizations." These activist groups abound, taking on a wide range of causes, working alongside governments or often against them. They usually aim to improve the human condition. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, NGOs are working in concert with government efforts to rebuild those countries. But in this new era of heightened accountability, who should watch the watchdogs?" (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Endangered Species Act Targeted - House Resources Chairman Plans to 'Break It Down'" - "The rancher who chairs the House committee for environmental policy says he's finished trying to recast the Endangered Species Act in one fell swoop. "I think it's just a lot easier and a lot more practical to break it down," said Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee. His new approach worries environmentalists, who say the 30-year-old law never has been in more jeopardy. " (Associated Press)

"Environmentalists sue wind energy companies over bird kills in California" - "An environmental group on Monday sued two wind energy companies, claiming that wind farms they operate east of San Francisco are killing thousands of protected birds, including eagles, hawks and owls. The Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit against Florida Power & Light Group Inc. and NEG Micon A/S of Denmark, which together operate about half of the 5,400 wind turbines in the Altamont Pass, one of California's main centers for wind power production. Many environmentalists support wind power as a clean source of energy, but some groups here have started complaining that the wind industry hasn't done enough to reduce bird deaths." (Associated Press)


Hmm... it would appear that environmentalists are largely unloved and mistrusted, since they have been targeted quite aggressively in collective responses so far. I would remind everyone that this site is family-friendly, consequently, a significant percentage of responses will go unpublished (although admittedly they are frequently imaginative and/or amusing). A few early entries follow:

Bill Adams respectfully suggests that as the collective noun for environmentalists, “liar” be considered. A hypothetical use:

News flash: A liar of environmentalists recently met in Hawaii to discuss the important issue of flicking cigarette butts out of car windows. “It may be possible,” the liar unanimously concluded,” that small rodents eat them. Their stomach acids are absorbed”.

The liar is deeply concerned about rodents’ ongoing ability to digest small roots and berries if ingested cigarette butts have depleted their stomach acids.

A spokeswoman for the liar reluctantly admitted that no one had ever seen a rodent eat a cigarette butt. “But, it might happen. Not even the most heartless Republican could deny that.”, the liar concluded in a unanimous vote.

“The entire future of the world’s vital rodent population may be at risk. We are all stakeholders.” was the conclusion of the esteemed liar. “We suggest that butt-flicking be made into a felony and that all butt flickers be fined. The funds generated would be used for research in this and any other areas this experienced liar deems appropriate.”

The liar plans to reconvene next winter in Costa Rica.

Fred Suess: Since the collective noun of crows is "murder", perhaps a descriptive collective of the anti's should be: "swelter". Or, since our response to the global warming people might be disbelief, maybe a collective might be: a "shudder."

Jeff Volberg asks: How about an "anguish" of antis? (I like that)

While Field Roebuck suggests: Raggle is the most appropriate, as in "a raggle of activists." (Assume from raggle-taggle adj. motley or unkempt)

John Sefton offers: How about a "panic" of environmentalists. Or a "sleaze" of anti-globalists (you know, those guys that use the "world-wide-web" to organise and campaign!) Or perhaps a "murder" of anti-capitalists (those who want to see the third world live forever in "pure" poverty, as opposed to "evil" Western lifestyles). (Ouch!)

In the virtual world: "The heat is on - for Europe, Australia" - "Europe's weather forecast for 2030: sweltering. Australia's: even worse. After comparing nine climate projections, the CSIRO says Australia will be hotter and drier in 30 years.

There will be between 10 and 50 per cent more days where temperatures reach 35 degrees or more and a possible dramatic reduction in frosts of up to 80 per cent.

Although the projected increases in Sydney's average temperature does not sound like much, at between 0.4 and 2 degrees, "even a small increase in the average has a big effect on the extremes", said Kevin Hennessy, a senior research scientist in the CSIRO's climate impact group.

That means more bush fires, less rain and temperatures in some parts of the country "quite possibly" reaching the 50s." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"Scorching world of climate politics" - "The White House's top climate advisors are like foxes "guarding the chicken coop", an anonymous source at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has told the BBC. The criticism comes just days after the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, condemned the Bush administration for "failing to take up the challenge of global warming." (BBC News Online)

"Kyoto scorn paints a bleak future" - "Ignoring serious threats to climate and the environment is irresponsible, writes Matt McDonald." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"Alaska Thaws, Complicating the Hunt for Oil" - "DEADHORSE, Alaska — Harry Bader slogged across a patch of America's only Arctic shore, leaning into a late December gale that filled the midday twilight with blowing snow and sent the wind chill to 40 below.

Despite the weather, Mr. Bader, the state's land manager for the oil-rich North Slope, was consumed with one thing — the warming climate. Oil-prospecting convoys in search of new deposits are allowed to crisscross the fragile tundra only when it is snowy and solid. But over three decades, rising temperatures have cut this frozen season in half, to 100 days from 200." (The New York Times)

Andy's hand-wringer: "Unfrozen North May Face a Navy Blue Future" - "With growing accord, Arctic experts say rising temperatures, retreating sea ice, thawing permafrost and other changes at the top of the globe could have far-flung effects, a few beneficial but most potentially harmful. The Arctic changes could accelerate the rise in sea levels that is already being measured as many ice sheets and glaciers melt in response to a century of slow warming, experts say." (The New York Times)

"Natural aesthetes" - "The world, if the biologists' projections turn out to be correct, will soon begin to revert to the Bible's fourth day of creation. There will be grass and "herb-yielding seed" and "the fruit tree yielding fruit". But "the moving creature that hath life", the "fowl that may fly above the Earth", or the "great whales, and every living creature that moveth" may one day be almost unknown to us." (George Monbiot, The Guardian)

"Climate Risk to Million Headlines" - "The usually staid BBC ran a rather sensational (if somewhat grammatically challenged) headline, "Climate risk 'to million species'," on January 7, 2004, announcing a global warming "study" in the journal Nature. The lack of words like "possible" or "may" might be excusable if the headline were in a print publication, where ink costs money, but it would still make the headline wrong. Such inaccuracy is inexcusable in a broadcast/web publication, no less so because many other news sources showed the same lack of objectivity covering the same story." (Louis James, TCS)

"Species Extinction - One Million, or Just One?" - "A new modelling study published in Nature, [Thomas et al, v.427 p.145, 8 Jan 04] and publicised widely in the media (e.g. here and here), has led to claims that a million of the world's species `could' become extinct by 2050 as a direct result of `climate change'.  The study focuses on several regions of the world including Australia, Brazil, Europe, Mexico, South Africa, and Costa Rica.

In one example, the BBC report on the study claims that nearly half of all protea flowering plants in South Africa `could' become extinct due to climate change.  The habitat range of these plants is shown on the left (the area shaded in brown), and the temperature record from Capetown, in the centre of that range, is shown on the right.  As is clearly evident, the warmest period of the last 150 years was the 1930s, not the present.   Clearly if the plants survived that period, they cannot be regarded as being vulnerable to `climate change'.  The claims are therefore entirely speculative and without scientific foundation." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Final major GM crops report due" - "The government is to receive its last major report on GM crops on Tuesday before deciding whether to allow them to be grown commercially in Britain." (BBC News Online)

"EU Commission to Relaunch GM Maize Approval Bid" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission is to resume its fight to authorize the sale of genetically modified sweetcorn this week, another step toward lifting a five-year-old ban on biotech products, officials said yesterday." (Reuters)

"Germany drafting law to regulate genetically modified crops" - "Germany is drawing up a law to regulate cultivation of bio-engineered crops, Consumer Minister Renate Kuenast said Monday, admitting that the controversial technology was here to stay.

Kuenast, a member of the pro-environmentalist Greens party, said the government saw no consumer health risks in genetically modified (GM) foods.

"With or without a law, bio-technology is on the market," she told a press conference.

The law would effectively put into action existing EU directives on exactly what can be grown, where and under what conditions, and on labelling.

Germany, where the pro-environmentalist Greens are a part of the governing coalition, has long been seen as among the countries most sceptical about the technology." (EUBusiness.com)

January 12, 2004

Today's here-we-go-again: "Warning over link between deodorants and breast cancer" - "A controversial study which suggests a potential link between a common chemical found in cosmetics and deodorants and breast cancer is published this week." (The Observer)

The shrink says the vaccine done it: "Official report links vaccine to Gulf War syndrome" - "A CONFIDENTIAL report by a senior army medical specialist has provided the first official backing for claims that the cocktail of vaccines given to soldiers before the 1991 war with Iraq caused illnesses which became known as Gulf War syndrome. For 13 years, the Ministry of Defence has denied that the vaccines , some of which were classified as “secret”, could be blamed for the wide range of debilitating diseases. Independent research projects have also failed to find conclusive evidence of a Gulf War-related syndrome. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Howe, clinical director of psychiatry with the British Forces Health Service in Germany, was asked by the War Pensions Agency to examine the case of former Lance-Corporal Alex Izett, who, since the war, has been suffering from osteoporosis and acute depression." (The Times)

"Keiko the whale could pose environmental threat" - "Keiko the whale, the star of the Free Willy movies who died last month of pneumonia and was buried in Norway, could pose an environmental hazard, Norwegian environmentalists say.

The six-tonne carcass of the killer whale could contain about half a kilo of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) that have been absorbed and built up over the 27 years of his life.

Kaare Olerud, spokesman for the Norwegian Organisation for the Protection of Nature (NOPN), said its decomposition could pollute his burial site or even the groundwater.

"It's a potential threat, nothing has been done to prevent it," he told AFP.

"We wanted to use Keiko's fame to draw the public's attention to the threat of sea pollution by toxic products and its repercussions for the whole food chain," he said." (AFP)

"Has fish had its chips?" - "If you have suddenly lost your appetite for salmon, don't get too fond of the other options. Trouble is brewing for all farmed seafood, reports Stephen Khan" (The Observer)

"In thrall to scaremongers" - "From salmon to al-Qaeda, panic rather than a measured response is now the inevitable reaction." (Mary Riddell, The Observer)

"Farmed salmon perfectly safe to eat: officials dismiss scientific study" - "LONDON : Health and fishing industry officials in Europe and the United States denounced as "misleading" a study which warned that farmed salmon is so full of carcinogens that consumers should eat much less of it.

Reaction to the US-Canadian study reported in Science magazine, which sampled 700 wild and farmed salmon, was swift from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as experts moved to allay public fears that the popular fish caused cancer if consumed more than three times a year." (AFP)

"Chemicals in fish are well known" - "THE discovery of cancer- causing chemicals in farmed salmon is nothing new, and scientists have known about their presence for years. Salmon, like all animals at the top of the food chain, build up toxins in the fat and flesh from their food. In their natural environment they feed on smaller prey in the sea, whereas in fish farms this is replaced with feed pellets containing oil and fish meal. Wild salmon also contain the toxins, but farmed salmon are often fed on pellets made from wild fish that have consumed even smaller fish which live in the mud at the bottom of the North Sea. It is here that some of the worst chemicals from industrial pollution have accumulated. What is at issue is whether the larger amounts of toxins in farmed fish pose an increased health risk. Dr Mike Gallo, a specialist in toxicology at Rutgers University in the US, said: "PCBs are in all salmon. The difference between 5 ppb [parts per billion] and 30 ppb is meaningless. If you use the Environmental Protection agency’s mathematical model...there is no difference." (The Scotsman)

"Health balance over farmed salmon" - "In your coverage of farmed salmon, you claim (Leader, January 10) that the advice on dioxins from the US Environmental Protection Agency is much stricter than from bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the European commission, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Food Standards Agency. You also say, not surprisingly, that many consumers are confused.

The EPA is not "stricter", but bases its risk assessment on out-of-date science from 1991. The WHO takes into account the mechanism by which dioxins cause cancer. It concluded in 2001, using independent experts, that so long as dioxins were kept below thresholds, there would be no adverse effect upon health. The recent US survey did not reveal anything new to challenge the WHO approach. To get things in context, if you were to accept the EPA's risk assessment, people would not only avoid farmed salmon, but also, for no good reason, many other common foods. ..." (John Krebs, The Guardian)

An extraordinarily rational view from ol' "Thousands-to-die": "Is fish really dangerous, or safe as mother’s milk?" - "THE team that reported the analysis of contaminants in farmed salmon found they were higher than in wild salmon. That much is uncontested: “This is a definitive study,” Miriam Jacobs, of the University of Surrey, told Science, where the results appeared.

But what does it mean? And are these levels dangerous? The team, from the US and Canada, looked at 14 contaminants that are widely spread throughout the environment, including polychlorinated biphenyls (found everywhere, from breast milk to the blubber of Antarctic seals), dioxins, pesticides and DDT.

The common characteristics of these chemicals is that they are organochlorines, a target of environmentalists for decades. Since the 1980s exposure to all these chemicals has fallen, fast.


By using the EPA approach it is possible to show that almost every part of our diet, from breast milk onwards, is dangerous. To an environmentalist, this is logical; but a pharmacologist knows that the dose makes the poison.

Even at Seveso-like doses, dioxins — and the other chemicals measured by the US- Canadian team — are far less dangerous than many everyday hazards.

So whether the results worry you depends entirely on whether you view the world as an environmentalist or a pharmacologist." (Nigel Hawkes, The Times)

What collective should be applied here? Is it a babble of antis or perhaps a coven? Maybe a blight of; a worry of; a trouble of... plague, swarm and rabble have been suggested too - hmm... not sure, anyway, here's the antis, a whole bunch of 'em: "Rare world stage for activists at Bombay anti-globalisation meet" - "NEW DELHI - By hosting the world's premier anti-globalisation event this week, Indian activists accustomed to fighting local battles will be thrown onto a world platform ready to hear grievances as diverse as the billion-plus country.

About half of the 75,000 people who plan to attend the six-day World Social Forum starting Friday in Bombay are Indian, organisers say.

It is a far cry the first three World Social Forums, held in 2001, 2002 and 2003 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, when Latin Americans and Europeans were the clear leaders of the anti-globalisation movement.

The most visible of India's contemporary leftist activists is most likely Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning novelist who has won a global audience with her strident denunciations of US foreign policy.

In Bombay, Roy is set to speak against the US invasion of Iraq. But for many Indian campaigners, the World Social Forum will mark their own globalisation of sorts, as they for the first time interact with a broad international audience.

Vandana Shiva, a widely travelled Indian activist who has campaigned against genetically modified crops and the privatisation of natural resources, noted that many Indian movements were not even national in reach." (AFP)

Regarding collective nouns, suggestions for the above should be e-mailed to the Editor, most amusing/imaginative published. Remember to explicitly state if you do NOT want your name published with your entry(ies) and that this is a family-friendly site.

On Worrywart Inc.'s latest hand-wringer: "Richer, stouter, and no happier" - "More people are adopting a lifestyle that leaves them dissatisfied and the Earth impoverished, US researchers say. The Worldwatch Institute says more than 25% of the world's people now enjoy the style which used to belong to the rich. But it says rising obesity and debt, and increasing pressures on time, are reducing many people's quality of life. In its annual report, Worldwatch says consumers' demands are devouring the natural world unsustainably, leaving the poor less able to meet their needs." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

Oh dear... "Doom warnings sound more loudly" - "For the doom merchants amongst us, 2004 showed its fearsome teeth in a cracking start before it was even 10 days old. On 7 January a report in the journal Nature said climate change could speed a million land-based species towards extinction within the next 50 years. The next day the Worldwatch Institute declared modern lifestyles were bad for us and unsustainable for the planet. The UK Government's chief scientist now says climate change is a far worse danger than international terrorism. A triple onslaught like that defies anyone to head into the new year feeling even slightly positive about the human condition." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

Sounds like poor old Alex actually believes the blathering of fundraising fear-merchants, poor fellow. Since sound science apparently provides him solace, perhaps Alex can take comfort from the perfect historical record of end-of-the-world prognosticators - 100% wrong, every one, every time.

"Inadequate water and sanitation adversely effects child growth" - "Inadequate water supplies and sanitation caused Peruvian children to be shorter and have more episodes of diarrea, according to research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other institutions. The public health challenges of unsafe water and inadequate sanitation have plagued humanity for centuries, and will continue to do so unless governments make water and sanitation infrastructure improvements one of their first priorities." (Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health)

New items posted Still Waiting For Greenhouse

Uh-huh... "Giant space shield plan to save planet" - "Humanity could not exist without it - yet in an extraordinary plan that underlines the catastrophic implications of climate change, scientists now want to curb the Sun's life-giving influence to save mankind from its biggest threat: global warming. Key talks involving the Government's most senior climate experts have produced proposals to site a massive shield on the edge of space that would deflect the Sun's rays and stabilise the climate." (The Observer)

"Blair presses Bush to act on global warming" - "Tony Blair is persuading President George Bush to launch a new international initiative to fight global warming. The move, in part an attempt by Mr Blair to shrug off the label as the President's "poodle", is the result of a series of behind-the-scenes meetings between high-level officials, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

The two leaders are close to agreement on combating climate change at the next two G8 meetings of the world's most powerful leaders.

The Prime Minister is ready for the Government to challenge the Bush administration more strongly than before on the need for international action." (Independent on Sunday)

"Climate's New Model Army" - "Climate scientists are claiming that 2003 was the hottest year Britain has seen since record-keeping began in 1659; most blame man's emissions of greenhouse gases as the prime cause. The truth is that we still don't know that the warmer summers of recent years are due to man's handiwork. The variation could be natural and there's no saying that the current trend will continue." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"Key Kyoto emissions plan cast off" - "Australia has walked away from participating in an international emissions trading scheme, a key part of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. It argues that the idea is unlikely to come into effect, and creates no incentive for industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions trading, which the European Union will begin next year, allows industry to invest in projects such as carbon sinks to offset the greenhouse gas emissions they produce that contribute to global warming.

But no more work is being done on emissions trading by the Australian Greenhouse Office, set up by the Howard Government as the first dedicated greenhouse agency in the world, and staff have been either moved to other projects or left. The last two staff left just before Christmas as the Government's opposition towards the proposal firmed." (The Age)

Virtually speaking: "More long, hot summers seen likely" - "LONDON - Extreme summers and scorching heatwaves similar to the one that killed an estimated 20,000 people across Europe last summer could become more frequent in the future, climate scientists say.

Last summer's record-breaking temperatures were very unusual but global warming and an increase in climate variability means more heatwaves are likely in years to come.

"It is likely that these types of events will become more common," Dr Christoph Schar, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich, told Reuters.

"Our simulations show that, roughly speaking, every second European summer is likely to be as warm, if not warmer, than the summer of 2003." (Reuters)

"Extreme heat on the rise - Climate model predicts more stifling summers" - "The heatwave that paralysed Europe last summer was hailed as a harbinger of global warming by many, including climatologists who predicted wilder extremes in floods, droughts and storms thanks to climate change. Results from a climate model now add evidence to the idea that extreme temperature events are set to rise - for Europe at least." (NSU)

but, in the real world: "As temperatures plunge, a nation dons earmuffs" - "ASHLAND, ORE. – Global warming? Fuggedaboutit! North Americans have had a universal case of the shivers in recent days. Sweeping across the country from the Pacific Northwest to New England, the Polar Express brought storms and bone-chilling cold.

For many cities, there were record low temperatures: 19 below zero at Montpelier, Vt.; 16 below at Syracuse, N.Y.; 7 below zero at Scranton, Pa. St. Johnsbury, Vt., bottomed out at 27 below, eight degrees warmer than Whitefield, N.H., at minus 35 degrees for the nation's low. Even Georgia, Alabama, and Florida had freeze warnings." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Bacteriophage genomics approach to antimicrobial drug discovery published in Nature Biotechnology" - "Identifying the targets that bacterial viruses, or phages, use to halt bacterial growth and then screening against those targets for small molecule inhibitors that attack the same targets provides a unique platform for the discovery of novel antibiotics. Researchers from Montreal-based PhageTech, Inc. describe their approach in the February issue of Nature Biotechnology." (Kureczka/Martin Associates)

"Rice centromere, supposedly quiet genetic domain, surprises" - "Probing the last genomic frontier of higher organisms, an international team of scientists has succeeded in sequencing a little understood - but critical - genetic domain in rice." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

"Calif. county to vote on banning genetically engineered plants and animals" - "UKIAH, Calif. -- The center of the nation's anti-biotechnology movement can be found these days in a renegade Northern California county where the biggest cash crop is marijuana.

Mendocino County farmers and businesses are trying to persuade voters on March 2 to pass a first-in-the-nation measure that would prohibit genetically modified plants and animals from being raised or kept in the county." (Associated Press)

No, duh! "GM foods? Yes, if the price is right" - "It was thought that the vast majority of people saw them as 'Frankenstein foods'. And, despite numerous PR offensives, poll after poll suggested the public will not knowingly eat products with genetically modified ingredients. Yet authoritative new research debunks all this as a popular myth. The latest issue of the respected Economic Journal magazine says almost two-thirds of people would eat GM foods, after all, if the price was right." (The Observer)

"EU food agency prepares to assess live GMO crops" - "BRUSSELS - Europe's new food safety agency will soon start its first risk analysis of live gene-spliced crops as the European Union debates lifting a five-year ban, officials said on Friday.

With EU countries split down the middle on whether to lift their ban on new genetically modified (GM) 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." (Reuters)

January 9, 2004

"The Energy Bill's Bright Side" - "Efforts to pass the energy bill that fell two votes short of clearing the Senate in November will resume this month. Filled with subsidies and tax breaks for special interests and pork-barrel spending, the overall bill is hard for limited government-types like me to swallow.

It does have one potentially saving grace, however ― the bill’s provision limiting the liability of manufacturers of the gasoline additive known as MTBE might prevent another unjustified billion-dollar bonanza for trial lawyers." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Little Concern About Mad Cow Disease - By 2-to-1 margin, Americans say problem is minor" - "PRINCETON, NJ -- On Dec. 23, the news media reported that the first case of mad cow disease had been found in the United States. After the announcement, many U.S. trading partners immediately banned imports of American beef, causing billions of dollars in losses for the beef industry.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey, conducted Jan. 2-5, which was after the case was discovered, but before the determination that the cow had been born in Alberta, Canada, found most Americans taking a sanguine view of the situation. The vast majority of Americans have heard about the disease, but only about one in three view the mad cow situation in the United States as a major problem or crisis. Just one in six Americans express worry that they or their families might become victims of the disease -- approximately the same number who say they have cut back or stopped eating meat because of concern about the disease.

The poll found that 55% of Americans have heard a "great deal" about mad cow disease in general, with another 33% saying they have heard a "moderate" amount. But people who have heard more about the disease are not any more likely to express concern than those who have not heard much about it." (Gallup News Service)

"Farmed salmon more toxic than wild salmon, study finds" - "A study of more than two metric tons of North American, South American and European salmon has shown that PCBs and other environmental toxins are present at higher levels in farm-raised salmon than in their wild counterparts." (Indiana University)

"Asthma could be several diseases masquerading as one" - "People who develop asthma as children may have a different disease than those who develop it as an adult. Patients whose asthma began in childhood are more frequently allergic than those whose asthma began as adults, while adult-onset asthma is associated with more rapid loss of lung function. The study adds to the growing body of evidence that asthma is not a single disease, but a group of syndromes with different origins and biological characteristics." (National Jewish Medical and Research Center)

"Air pollution may significantly worsen respiratory allergies in individuals with genetic risk" - "California researchers have found that airborne components of diesel engine exhaust significantly worsen allergy symptoms in people with a certain genetic makeup." (University of Southern California) | Scientists identify genes that regulate allergic response to diesel fumes (NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

"Tiny particles 'threaten brain'" - "Microscopic pollutant particles given off by traffic and industry can enter the bloodstream and the brain after being inhaled, scientists have found. The particles are known to cause lung damage in susceptible patients, and are implicated in cardiovascular disease." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Denmark Backs Maverick Environmentalist" - "COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- A Danish environmental researcher whose work was rebuked by a scientific panel says his government has set a precedent by coming to his defense.

It "has now been established that ... mudslinging is not enough. You have to use solid arguments," Bjoern Lomborg said in a statement on his Web site.

The committee that attacked Lomborg -- and was in turn chastised by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation -- said Thursday it will meet this month to decide whether to withdraw its verdict on Lomborg." (Associated Press)

Hand-wringer du jour: "Global warming 'biggest threat'" - "Climate change is a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism, the government's chief scientific adviser has said. Sir David King said the US had failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And without immediate action flooding, drought, hunger and debilitating diseases such as malaria would hit millions of people around the world." (BBC News Online) | Top scientist attacks US over global warming (The Guardian)

"Midwinter spring is the new season" - "Nature under observation as climate change confuses wildlife." (The Guardian)

"Relative Contributions of Global Warming to Various Climate Sensitive Risks, and Their Implications for Adaptation and Mitigation" (PDF) - "ABSTRACT: A rationale for mitigating global warming (GW) is that warming might exacerbate many of today’s urgent problems — hunger, malaria, water shortage, coastal flooding, and habitat conversion — which could be particularly problematic for developing countries. Recent assessments of the global impacts of climate change indicate that into the 2080s, except for coastal flooding, GW’s contribution to these problems [∆P(GW)] would be small compared to P(BASELINE), the problem’s magnitude in the absence of warming, i.e., under baseline conditions. Hence, mitigation can, at best, reduce only the smaller portion of the total problem [= ∆P(GW) + P(BASELINE)]. To compound matters, costs of markedly reducing ∆P(GW) through mitigation are high; moreover, because of the inertia of the climate system, its benefits are backloaded while costs have to be borne up front for decades. Discounting further magnifies this asymmetry between costs and benefits. By contrast, approaches that would help societies cope with or reduce vulnerabilities to the urgent problems noted above would, by reducing both P(BASELINE) and ∆P(GW), deliver greater benefits. Devising and/or using such approaches now would allow benefits to accrue in relatively short order, and help societies adapt to GW’s future impacts, if and when those impacts become significant. With regard to coastal flooding, the exception to the rule that ∆P(GW) < P(BASELINE), protecting against such flooding (i.e., adaptation) is, into the 2080s, substantially cheaper than the Kyoto Protocol despite the latter’s comparatively modest reduction requirements. Thus, relative to mitigation, for the next several decades the benefits of such adaptation are likely to be larger, occur sooner, more certainly, and more contemporaneously with costs. Hence, over this period adaptation is probably more costeffective than mitigation. In particular, the Kyoto Protocol delivers too little too late, and costs too much. Importantly, by reducing hunger, malaria, water shortage, and habitat loss now, such adaptation approaches would enable sustainable development and improve human well-being in its various dimensions, especially in developing countries. In turn, that would further enhance their ability to adapt to or mitigate climate change." (Goklany, IM. 2003. Energy & Environment 14: 797-822)

In the virtual world: "'Phenomenal' temperature rises threaten India" - "[CHANDIGARH] India is likely to become "phenomenally" hotter and could also become considerably wetter due to global warming, according to initial projections by climate researchers. Scientists at the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) used two models to forecast the impact of global warming. Both models predict that the country's temperatures will rise significantly until the end of the century. But the two models differ on the effect on monsoon rains." (SciDev.Net)

"Virtually Extinct" - "It seems that virtually every news organ in the English language has carried the story of new scientific claims published in Nature magazine that by 2050 over a million species will be doomed to extinction owing to the effects of global warming. Yet few of them realized how flimsy the story actually is. Writing on another claim of mass extinctions almost two years ago, I said, "This area of research is prone to wild exaggerations," and here we have another one.

There are several reasons this claim should be laughed out of the court of public opinion. First, the research doesn't say what the researchers themselves claim. They have extrapolated to all species a model that looked at only 1,103 species in certain areas (243 of those species were South African proteaceae, a family of evergreen shrubs and trees). For one thing, we don't know how many species there are -- estimates vary from 2 million to 80 million -- and have only documented 1.6 million. However, assuming the 14 million figure widely used in the press reports is anywhere near accurate, the sample size is a mere 0.008 percent of the total species population of the planet, with certain species vastly over-represented (there are only 1,000 species of proteaceae on the planet). All the researchers have demonstrated is that, if their model is correct, certain species in certain habitats will run a risk of extinction. Extrapolating to the entire planet from this small, unrepresentative sample is simply invalid. So when the lead researcher told the Washington Post, "We're not talking about the occasional extinction -- we're talking about 1.25 million species. It's a massive number," he was guilty at the very least of over-enthusiasm, if not outright exaggeration." (Iain Murray, TCS)

"Forget cute gophers, it's our survival that counts" - "I was once sent as a young reporter to cover a conference on “the next ice age”. It was sensational. Scientists were predicting that the current “holocene interglacial period” was drawing to a close. Within 10,000 years changes in the Earth’s orbit and axial spin would shift the Gulf Stream. This would plunge the northern landmass into ice and lead to a “massacre of species”. It was a great headline.

Science changes but not headlines. Fear of freezing has become fear of frying. Yesterday a hysteria of scientists predicted that a million species, a quarter of all animals and plants, “could be threatened with extinction” by 2050. “Advanced computers” suggested that something called “action”, presumably involving scientists, might save “up to half” these species, though even the survivors “may” be at risk from “ unspecified threats”. (Simon Jenkins, The Times) [Subscription required outside UK]

"Jumping to Conclusions on Kyoto" - "The public pronouncements by President Vladimir Putin's economic adviser Andrei Illarionov about the Kyoto Protocol on climate change at last brings to the topic the level of attention and debate that it deserves. But it is a pity that he has jumped to conclusions before looking more carefully at the evidence." (Michael Grubb, The Moscow Times)

[Michael Grubb is visiting professor of climate change and energy policy at Imperial College in London; senior research associate at the department of applied economics, Cambridge University; and associated director of policy at the U.K. Carbon Trust. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.]

"Relief for fever catchers in the rye" - "Australia is a world leader in pollen allergies, with up to 40 per cent of us suffering allergic respiratory symptoms at some stage of our lives. But now Australian researchers have produced a world first: rye grasses genetically manipulated to remove their allergenic properties." (The Australian)

January 8, 2004

"Real World Economics: Mad cows and irrational humans" - "Human beings are irrational in how they handle risk. Irrational reactions or poor information about risky choices result in our society being less well off than if we managed risk better. The way we seem to be reacting to news of "mad cow disease" is a good example: We may well increase — rather than reduce — deaths resulting from bad food. Understanding our own irrationality in the face of apparent danger may help improve how we respond as a society." (Pioneer Press)

Another groan from the Here-we-go-again files: "Peregrine falcons may face new environmental threat" - "Less than five years after being removed from the endangered species list, peregrine falcons could be facing a new threat. A Swedish study found that eggs of peregrine falcons in that country contain high levels of a popular flame retardant, deca-BDE, which scientists have long thought could not get into wildlife. Falcons in North America are likely to face the same threat, the researchers say." (American Chemical Society)

"Give the Gift of Life" - "During the recent holiday season, many of us were focused even more than usual on helping people and making the world a better place. Seemingly endless solicitations bid us to support causes that seem eminently worthy. Well-fed, safe in our modern homes, minutes away from good jobs, hospitals and every modern convenience, we responded warmly to them.

Unfortunately, however, good intentions sometimes go awry. Clever appeals often mask a hidden agenda that actually makes life infinitely worse for people on the ultimate "receiving end" of our kind-hearted donations.

Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth importune us for funds to help them battle proposed hydroelectric, coal, gas and nuclear power plants in India and Africa. Put solar panels on huts instead, preserve indigenous lifestyles, they plead. And the money rolls in -- from people, companies and foundations -- to the tune of over $4 billion a year to U.S. eco-groups alone.

The donors get warm fuzzies. The activist groups ramp up another campaign. And 2 billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America continue to live without electricity -- and without lights, refrigeration, hospitals, water purification or better jobs.

Mothers and girls spend hours each day gathering wood or cow dung -- and more hours breathing acrid, polluted smoke from their cooking and heating fires. Four million infants, children and mothers die every year from readily preventable lung infections -- millions more from dysentery and other diseases caused by unsafe water and spoiled food. A huge brown cloud of pollution hangs over much of southern Asia, as a result of all these fires.

Opposition to these electrical energy projects is "a crime against humanity," a man in Gujarat, India says angrily. "People cut down our trees, because they don't have electricity," Uganda's Gordon Mwesigye points out, "and our country loses its wildlife habitats and the health and economic benefits that abundant electricity brings." (Paul Driessen, TCS)

Hand-wringer du jour: "Climate change 'bolsters diseases'" - "Global climate change could be pushing a rise in infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, allergies and malnutrition, scientists warned. Dr Andy Haines and Dr Jonathan Patz warned in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the world's health systems should prepare for the increasing effects of climate change on health." (AAP)

Again with the virtual world... "Climate change may threaten more than one million species with extinction" - "Climate change could drive more than a quarter of land animals and plants into extinction, according to a major new study published in tomorrow's edition of the journal Nature." (Conservation International) | Revealed: how global warming will cause extinction of a million species (Independent) | By 2050 Warming to Doom Million Species, Study Says (National Geographic News) | Scientists Predict Widespread Extinction by Global Warming (New York Times) | Warming May Threaten 37% of Species by 2050 (Washington Post) | An unnatural disaster (The Guardian) | Leader: The death of species (The Guardian) | Action now could still save some threatened species (The Guardian) | Climate risk 'to million species' (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

Don't tell Mann or the IPCC - they've removed the LIA from history... "Did 'Little Ice Age' Create Stradivarius Violins' Famous Tone?" - "Instruments crafted from the late 17th century onwards by revered violin maker Antonio Stradivari sell for millions of dollars today, and musicians and scientists have long sought to explain their superb sound quality. Now, American scientists have come up with a possible explanation: A dramatic European cold spell may have enhanced the quality of wood from which the instruments were crafted." (National Geographic News)

"Estimating future sea level changes from past records" - "Abstract: In the last 5000 years, global mean sea level has been dominated by the redistribution of water masses over the globe. In the last 300 years, sea level has been oscillation close to the present with peak rates in the period 1890–1930. Between 1930 and 1950, sea fell. The late 20th century lack any sign of acceleration. Satellite altimetry indicates virtually no changes in the last decade. Therefore, observationally based predictions of future sea level in the year 2100 will give a value of + 10 cm plus-or-minus 10 cm (or +5 cm plus-or-minus 15 cm), by this discarding model outputs by IPCC as well as global loading models. This implies that there is no fear of any massive future flooding as claimed in most global warming scenarios." (Nils-Axel Morner, 2004; Global and Planetary Change 40: 49–54)

"New perspectives for the future of the Maldives" - "Abstract: Novel prospects for the Maldives do not include a condemnation to future flooding. The people of the Maldives have, in the past, survived a higher sea level of about 50–60 cm. The present trend lack signs of a sea level rise. On the contrary, there is firm morphological evidence of a significant sea level fall in the last 30 years. This sea level fall is likely to be the effect of increased evaporation and an intensification of the NE-monsoon over the central Indian Ocean." (Nils-Axel Morner, Michael Tooley, Goran Possnert, 2004; Global and Planetary Change 40: 177–182.)

Charlie Benbrook again: "GM crops linked to rise in pesticide use" - "Eight years of planting genetically modified maize, cotton and soya beans in the US has significantly increased the amount of herbicides and pesticides used, according to a US report which could influence the British government over whether to let GM crops be grown. The most comprehensive study yet made of chemical use on genetically modified crops draws on US government data collected since commercialisation of the crops began." (The Guardian)

January 7, 2004

"Time for an Extreme Makeover" - "The Endangered Species Act recently turned 30 years old and it's high time we closely examine the results and consequences of the Act. After three decades, and billions of dollars of spending by private parties, as well as local, state, and federal governments to comply with the Act, only 15 species out of the 1,853 species listed as endangered or threatened have been recovered. Clearly, the Act is due for a makeover." (Daniel Simmons, TCS)

"Blue-sky thinking about climate" - "Scientists are studying possible ways of using engineering to help the world to adapt to increasing climate change. A conference in Cambridge, UK, has been convened to consider possible options while ignoring "political correctness." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

Same old nonsense: "That sinking feeling" - "As we continue to defy the Kyoto Protocol, the islanders of the South Pacific watch anxiously as the rising waters wash away their future. Now they are joining forces to fight the tide." (Independent)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"An Alternative Analysis to That of the IPCC" - "As the services of scientists around the world are beginning to be sought for producing the next major report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we offer those scientists an alternative: join with us in an enterprise that will produce a publication that reveals the true state of climate science and what we can realistically expect in the way of future climate change and concomitant biological responses to the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Little Ice Age (South America)" - "Climate alarmists pushing for restrictions on anthropogenic CO 2 emissions want us to believe that the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period were minor phenomena restricted to lands surrounding the North Atlantic Ocean.  If this were true, why do reports of these several-hundred-year-long climatic excursions continue to pour in from Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela?  And why does the evidence suggest they were solar-induced?" (co2science.org)

"Roots (Trees -- Deciduous)" - "Studying the aboveground responses of earth's plants to atmospheric CO 2 enrichment provides only half a picture of what increasing concentrations of this wonderful trace gas can do for the biosphere.  Hence, we here review what the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content may be doing to enhance the robustness and productivity of the planet's deciduous trees beneath the surface of the soil." (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: Black Locust, Mixed Stand of Quaking Aspen and Paper Birch, Quaking Aspen, Spring Wheat, and a Yellow and White Birch Ecosystem." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Cyclical Solar Forcing of Alaskan Subarctic Climate and Biology" - "The story told by the sediments of a small tundra lake in southwestern Alaska has major implications for both global climate science and world energy policy." (co2science.org)

"More Insights from Chinese Climate Records" - "Masses of data spanning three millennia are used to determine the characteristics of a big chunk of China's natural climate variability over this period in an attempt to decide if the warming of the past quarter-century in that region is truly anomalous and the result of the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content." (co2science.org)

"Origin of the Urban CO 2 Dome of Paris, France" - "From whence comes the majority of the CO 2 that is responsible for the elevated concentrations that are typically found within large metropolitan areas?" (co2science.org)

"Effects of Nitrogen Deposition on Soil Carbon Storage" - "Does enhanced anthropogenic nitrogen deposition help or hinder the sequestration of carbon in earth's soils?" (co2science.org)

"Leaf Litter from a High-CO 2 Environment: Implications for Stream Ecosystems" - "Leaves from trees growing in CO 2 -enriched air often are found to contain less nitrogen and more lignin and phenolic compounds than leaves from trees growing in ambient air.  Do these differences reduce the value of this source of sustenance to freshwater food webs?" (co2science.org)

Eek! Fossil hydrogen! "Hydrogen's Dirty Details" - "The day after George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, the president of the National Mining Association, Jack Gerard, wrote him a letter applauding Bush's plan for a pollution-free future powered by fuel cells, the battery-like devices that use hydrogen to release energy. "Coal—reliable, abundant, affordable and domestic," wrote Gerard, "will be the source for much of this hydrogen-powered fuel."

Gerard is right: The so-called hydrogen economy will be a boon for the mining industry. The clean-energy future that many environmentalists have dreamed of has been turned over to the coal industry and a notoriously dirty Siberian mining company run by Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin. A deal personally smoothed over by Bush has given Norilsk Nickel, one of the world's worst polluters, a toehold on American soil—and a major stake in the hydrogen economy.

The new mining frenzy is emerging as yet another piece of Bush's "black hydrogen agenda," according to the Green Hydrogen Coalition, whose members include the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Jeremy Rifkin, a leading proponent of hydrogen fuel cells." (Mark Baard, The Village Voice)

"Questions Seen on Seed Prices Set in the 90's" - "ST. LOUIS — Senior executives at the two biggest seed companies in the world met repeatedly in the mid- to late 1990's and agreed to charge higher prices for genetically modified seeds, according to interviews with former executives from both companies and to court and other documents.

The Monsanto Company and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. acknowledge that their executives met to discuss genetically modified seeds. Monsanto also said the companies discussed prices, but added that they were engaged in legitimate negotiations about changes to an existing licensing agreement, not illegal price fixing.

Interviews with former and current executives of major seed companies, along with company documents, however, show that through much of the 1990's Monsanto tried to control the market for genetically altered corn and soybean seeds. Monsanto spent billions in the 1980's to invent specialized seeds and sold the rights to make them to big seed companies like Pioneer.

More than a dozen legal experts contacted by The New York Times say that if the goal of the talks between the rivals was to limit competition on prices, they would have violated antitrust laws." (New York Times)

"Monsanto, Pioneer Defend Seed Pricing Discussions" - "KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The world's two biggest seed companies on Tuesday said they did nothing wrong in discussing pricing for genetically modified seeds in the 1990s and called allegations of illicit activity unfounded." (Reuters)

January 6, 2004

"Let’s Use Science to Corral ‘Mad Cow’ Disease – and the Public Stampede" - "Madison, Wis. – During the height of the “mad cow” scare in Great Britain, the parody newspaper “The Onion” ran a story headlined “English beef approved for Irish consumption.” The headline was good for a laugh – but it also carried a smidgeon of truth about how choices were made during the 1996 British outbreak.

Most decisions on banning imports or changing feed stocks during the British scare were made by politicians and business people, not by scientists. Those decisions were based on politics and economics rather than actual risk to human health. It is a history that should not be repeated now that mad cow disease (or bovine spongiform encephalopathy) has been discovered in a sick cow slaughtered in Washington state.

Make no mistake: “Mad cow disease” should be taken seriously. However, that’s not because of what we know about its links to a brain-wasting syndrome in humans. It’s because of what we don’t know. Fortunately, science has it within its grasp to learn more.

To this day, no one can say for sure there is a link between eating meat and Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s disease in humans. In fact, there is not direct evidence that Creutzfeldt-Jakob comes from the ingestion of contaminated beef, or that the syndrome deserves to be called the “human form” of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. We simply don’t know enough – yet." (Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Network)

"Public Opinion vs. Public Policy" - "How can you tell whether a whale is a mammal or a fish?" a teacher asks her third-grade class. "Take a vote?" pipes up one of the pupils.

This idea might be amusing coming from a child, but it's a lot less funny when applied by governments to the formulation of complex policies that involve science and technology. And it's an approach that is becoming increasingly common around the world.

During the past two decades, the convening of citizens consensus conferences on a variety of issues has gained popularity in Denmark, where it is believed that non-experts "bring to the conferences a basic 'common sense' derived from worries, visions, general view and actual everyday experience as their basis for asking a number of essential questions concerned with the given subject."

This approach has been applied there to a wide spectrum of scientific and technological issues, including food irradiation; the new biotechnology -- also known as gene-splicing, or "GM," for genetically modified -- applied to agriculture, animals, food and industry; setting limits on chemicals in the environment; fishing policy; and human genome mapping." (Henry I. Miller, TCS)

"Ozone standards pose health risk, scientists report" - "The air Americans breathe contains more ozone from pollution than the Environmental Protection Agency estimates, scientists report. "Our results actually indicate that EPA is overestimating the background level, and as a result is underestimating the health risk associated with ozone pollution," atmospheric chemist Arlene Fiore says. This assumption skews the air quality standards that EPA sets, making them weaker than they could be, she says." (American Geophysical Union)

"DDT Saves Lives" - "Even if you haven't got the faintest idea what the initials "DDT" stand for, you probably 'know' that it is one of the most deadly inventions of mankind. Yes, the environmentalists' spin has taken hold and, in the conventional wisdom, DDT is associated with the death of Nature, if not the end of the world. It's use has been banned in North America and Europe.

However, if this stuff was so bad and we basically dumped tons of it on our farms up until the 1970's, then why haven't we all dropped dead in the streets? Why isn't Spring actually Silent, as Rachel Carson's 1952 best selling book threatened?" (Peter and Helen Evans, American Daily)

"Editorial - Forecast: stormy weather" - "The U.S. response to evidence of global warming looks like a policy of stubborn denial." (The Oregonian)

"El Nino-related fires increase greenhouse gas emissions" - "Year-to-year changes in concentration of carbon dioxide and methane, two important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, can be linked to fire activity associated with the El Nino-La Nina cycle, according to a study conducted by a team of NASA scientists and other researchers." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office) | Fires May Be Previously Undocumented Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Duke University)

"India unveils six-year GM plan" - "The Indian Government has announced details of a six-year plan to develop new genetically engineered crops which will provide better nutrition. Government scientists say this kind of research is urgently needed to improve the health of the developing world. India is currently self-sufficient in most foods but its population is expanding very rapidly." (BBC News Online)

"Building a Better Banana" - "In a new wave similar to the overwhelming interest the Internet and mobile telephony have excited among African youth, biotechnology farming is spurring grown-up farmers eager to increase their farm crop production efficiency and volumes.

In Kenya's Nyanza, Mount Kenya and Coastal areas, tissue culture banana farming is well under way. In Kisii and Murang'a areas of Kenya, farmers are preparing for their third harvest, while others are tending their young banana stems, eager to see the "new miracle" of farming." (Stephen Mbogo, TCS)

January 5, 2004

"Don't Have a Cow, Man" - "We can be assured of one thing when it comes to the safety of our food: media hysteria will be inversely proportional to actual risks.

Alfred Hitchcock knew a shadowy figure was far more terrifying than a well-lit known villain. Nothing haunts us more than our own imaginations, said Frank Furedi, sociologist at the University of Kent in Canterbury and author of The Culture of Fear (Continuum Publishing, 2002). Likewise today's newspapers and television networks have found that fictitious, sensationalized, "what-if?" scares of hidden dangers lurking in our foods make the juiciest stories guaranteed to capture audiences and sell papers.

The mania surrounding mad cow is already proving this point." (Sandy Szwarc, TCS)

"Modern man needs breaks from scary news" - "MAD cow disease hunt in eight states. Terrorists might try to top Sept. 11. Monster quake could hit Pacific Northwest. Quake devastates Iran. Meningitis strikes. Fear of al-Qaida plot cancels flights. Orange security alert. Mudslides. Floods.

Michael Moore was correct.

In his documentary "Bowling for Columbine," Moore suggests that fear is one of the major reasons the United States has a homicide rate so much higher than other industrialized countries. The availability of guns is often cited as a reason, but he found that Canadians own more guns and still that country's murder rate is dramatically lower than ours.

Moore concludes that fear is the culprit and fingers the news media as a purveyor of fear.

It's an interesting theory and you certainly can't argue with the prevalence of scary news. The above list came from just one week of headlines." (Brenda Payton, ANG Newspapers)

"Magnus Linklater: Forget alert, we just want to stay alarmed" - "If this is the age of reason, why are we so prone to panic? Science marches on, telling us more and more about disease and how to treat it, yet a small outbreak of SARS can send an entire nation into quarantine, while one single case of mad cow disease in Washington State threatens the entire US beef industry.

In neither case is this hysteria justified. Compared with the devastating effect of an earthquake in Iran which has killed more than 35,000 people, the threats are minor. Yet politicians and scientists who urge restraint invite ridicule rather than respect. We are, it seems, addicted to paranoia." (The Times)

"Daft science cashing in on the bleeding obvious" - "People who are sick die sooner and drunk gamblers lose more, according to recent research" (Mark Henderson, The Times)

Shiny new year - same old nonsense... "29% fall in men's sperm count worries researchers" - "Researchers are about to deliver another blow to men's self-image by suggesting that there has been a big fall in their sperm count. They will report today a 29% drop in the average sperm concentration in more than 7,500 men attending the Aberdeen Fertility Centre between 1989 and 2002. Tests on nearly 16,000 samples taken in this period indicate that concentrations fell from nearly 87m sperm in a millilitre to just over 62m in the 14 years. The figures may not be typical of the whole male population, since the men or their partners were seeking fertility treatment." (The Guardian)

"Gene 'raises heart attack risk'" - " Scientists have identified a gene that may play a key role in determining who has a heart attack or stroke. Researchers in the United States say they have found a link between a gene called ALOX5 and atherosclerosis. This condition, which causes the arteries to clog up, is the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes." (BBC News Online) | First link found in humans between common gene and artery-clogging disease (University of Southern California)

"Low dose radiation in infancy may affect intellect" - "Exposure to low doses of ionising radiation in infancy affects intellectual capacity in later life, conclude researchers from Sweden in this week's BMJ." (BMJ-British Medical Journal)

Poor old Tribune still doesn't get it: "A missed chance on warming" - "There was, in the 1990s, considerable doubt and debate among scientists about whether global warming was real and exactly how much human activity contributed to it. Not anymore. Most scientists agree that it's real and it's being caused at least in part by human activities like driving cars and burning coal. But you may not have gleaned that by listening to debate in the U.S. Senate a few weeks ago over a bill that would have battled global warming by forcing many companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite a stack of reports from prestigious science organizations, there was Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma on the Senate floor, proclaiming that the whole idea of global warming was simply a "hoax" and that "the science just flat is not there." (Chicago Tribune)

From CO2 Science Magazine December 31, 2003:

"Fungal-Mediated Plant Coexistence" - "Does it help to maintain, or even enhance, ecosystem biodiversity?  And how is it influenced by atmospheric CO 2 enrichment?  Inquiring minds want to know." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Aerosols (Biological - Terrestrial)" - "CO 2 - and temperature-induced biological processes occurring in terrestrial ecosystems possess a wide array of abilities to alter the atmosphere's complement of aerosols in ways that prevent over-heating of the planet." (co2science.org)

"Roots (Trees - Conifers)" - "As the air's CO 2 content rises, earth's trees produce more massive trunks and larger and more numerous branches that sequester ever greater quantities of carbon; but what occurs belowground is often even more impressive." (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: European Beech and Norway Spruce Ecosystem, Loblolly Pine, Perennial Ryegrass, Sand Post Oak and Scotts Pine." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Millennial-Scale Climate Variability in Southern Africa" - "What part does it play in the long-running debate over the global warming of the past century and its likely cause?" (co2science.org)

"The Resiliency of the Reef-Flat Corals of Ko Phuket, Thailand" - "How resilient are they?  And why?  Evidence mounts for the concept of symbiont shuffling." (co2science.org)

"Growth Response of Canada Thistle to the Increase in CO 2 Experienced Over the Course of the Industrial Revolution" - "The CO 2 -induced growth stimulation likely experienced over this period was truly huge. But was it large enough to overwhelm the concomitant growth stimulations experienced by the crops with which Canada thistle typically competes?" (co2science.org)

"Effects of Elevated CO 2 on Litter Decomposition in Desert Ecosystems" - "Are they such as to limit potential increases in desert productivity and carbon sequestration with elevated CO 2 or enhance them?" (co2science.org)

"CO 2 Effects on Shortgrass Steppe Grassland Productivity" - "In addition to the standard growth enhancement produced by the aerial fertilization effect of atmospheric CO 2 enrichment, plants exposed to elevated CO 2 concentrations in water-limited regions get an extra growth boost from increased soil water contents that result from CO 2 -induced reductions in stomatal conductance that lower plant transpiration rates." (co2science.org)

"Sun set food prices in the Middle Ages" - "Changes in solar activity sent wheat prices soaring in medieval England." (NSU) | Astrophysics, abstract astro-ph/0312244 | Full-text: PDF only [Links provided by Miceal O'Ronain]

"Ocean life depends on single circulation pattern in Southern Hemisphere" - "A study has shown that marine life around the world is surprisingly dependent on a single ocean circulation pattern in the Southern Hemisphere where nutrient-rich water rises from the deep and spreads across the seas. The results suggest that ocean life may be more sensitive to climate change than previously believed because most global warming predictions indicate that major ocean circulation patterns will change." (Princeton University)

"Ships' logs uncover past climate" - "An international team is pioneering a new source of information about climate change: old sailing ships' logbooks. The team, which is led by an expert from the University of Sunderland, UK, is the Climatological Database for the World's Oceans, or Cliwoc for short. The 19th and 18th Century logbooks from UK, Dutch, French and Spanish fleets yield "consistent and reliable" data. Cliwoc says its work is slowly building up "one of the most accurate pictures yet of daily weather over the oceans." Cliwoc says it "aims to discover more about the changing climate over the world's oceans before industrialisation could have had any significant influence on climate and weather." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Soot 'makes global warming worse'" - "The effects of soot in changing the climate are more than most scientists acknowledge, two US researchers say. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they say reducing atmospheric soot levels could help to slow global warming relatively simply. They believe soot is twice as potent as carbon dioxide, a main greenhouse gas, in raising surface air temperatures." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Australia 'facing hotter future'" - "There is a warning that Australia faces a future of higher temperatures, more severe droughts and raging bushfires, as well as major outbreaks of tropical diseases. These gloomy predictions are made in a new government report on climate change over the next 70 years." (BBC News Online)

"Bush Plans On Global Warming Alter Little - Voluntary Programs Attract Few Firms" - "Two years after President Bush declared he could combat global warming without mandatory controls, the administration has launched a broad array of initiatives and research, yet it has had little success in recruiting companies to voluntarily curb their greenhouse gas emissions, according to official documents, reports and interviews." (Washington Post)

"Is 'burying' carbon dioxide the cure for global warming?" - "As the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide -- including Japan -- struggle to find quick and effective ways of cutting emissions to curb global warming, projects to store the gas underground are attracting public attention.

Research and development of technology to capture and isolate carbon dioxide started in the early 1990s in Japan. But field tests in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, that were started in July have fueled new hopes that the technology may be a breakthrough in efforts to combat climate change, yet still enable the country to meet its energy needs." (Japan Times)

"[New Zealand] Forest owners expect payout for carbon credits" - "Forest owners aim to get "hundreds of millions" of dollars of government help to make up for the carbon credits effectively nationalised by the government under the Kyoto protocol." (The Dominion Post)

"Philippines minister cites global warming as reason for disasters" - "MANILA - A senior aide of President Gloria Arroyo blamed global warming for the series of landslides and floods that wrought death and destruction in the central and southern Philippines last month." (AFP)

"Natural disasters cost world 60 billion dollars: Munich Re" - "MUNICH, Germany - Natural disasters this year have cost the global economy more than 60 billion dollars (48.4 billion euros), the world's largest reinsurer Munich Re estimated in an annual report released Monday. It estimated the death toll at more than 50,000, including at least 20,000 from the deadly earthquake to hit Iran last week and another 20,000 from the heat wave that swept Europe earlier this year. In its report, the German group said tornadoes, heatwaves, forest fires and floods were the biggest causes of loss of life and economic damage.

Nevertheless, insured losses -- the amount insurance companies are obliged to pay out -- were well below the headline figure at 15 billion dollars. Munich Re said the number of weather-related disasters was a further proof of climate change that increased the risk and potential costs to insurers." (AFP)

"Saddled with poisoned real estate, one city turns to GM trees to mop up the mess" - "While the world gauges its appetite for genetically modified (GM) food, scientists are quietly planting the next big thing in biotechnology: trees genetically tweaked to suck up chemical waste." (Bob Ivry, Popular Science)

"Britain 'has moral duty to fund GM research'" - "Britain's most respected scientific ethics group will urge Ministers this week to pledge millions of pounds to help develop GM crops for poor countries. In a report on 'The Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries', the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says Britain is ignoring a moral imperative to promote GM foods suitable for tropical and sub-tropical nations." (The Observer)

"Nuffield Council Discussion Paper: The Use of GM Crops In Developing Countries" - "Agriculture has a crucial role to play in developing countries, as a source of employment, income and food for the poorest people. This Discussion Paper suggests that genetically modified (GM) crops could make a useful contribution, by tackling some specific agricultural problems.

The Paper concludes that the possible costs, benefits and risks associated with particular GM crops must be assessed on a case by case basis. The Paper also discusses the impact of European regulations on GM crops in developing countries, and makes recommendation about policy, regulation and trade. Issues raised by food aid, micronutrient-enriched GM crops and the impact of GM crops on biodiversity are also considered.

This Discussion Paper is a follow-up to the Council's 1999 Report, Genetically modified crops: the ethical and social issues. The Paper reassesses the recommendations and conclusions in the light of recent developments in science and policy. Download at http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/publications/pp_0000000017.asp" (AgBioView)

"Seeds alter life for Brazil's farmers - Genetically modified soybeans bring prosperity as demand soars" - "JULIO DE CASTILHOS, Brazil They are counting on another bumper soybean crop in southern Brazil, where a new breed of prosperous farmers work the fields in air-conditioned tractors and run to town in big new pickups.

The seeds being sown - and making the farmers rich - are genetically modified to provide bigger yields at lower costs than conventional soybeans. They were originally smuggled into the country during a longstanding ban on so-called transgenic seed.

While Brazil's ban did not stop many farmers, it made it impossible for Monsanto, the world's leading agricultural biotechnology company, to collect seed revenues or crop royalties, as it does from farmers in the United States and elsewhere.

American farmers are livid, but growers in towns like Júlio de Castilhos are beaming. "Every year it's just getting better," said Rodrigo Martins. Now 24, he started farming soybeans at the age of 17 and gave up plans to go to law school because he was making so much money. "With GM soy," Martins said, "you produce lots more profits in six months instead of a year, and it's not as much work."

In response to soaring world demand for soybeans used in products ranging from animal feed to processed food, Brazil's production has skyrocketed. It is expected to surpass the United States as the world's top soybean exporter next year." (Associated Press)

January 2, 2004

"Still No Beef to Mad Cow Mania" - "Mad cow hysteria is once again frightening beef consumers and hammering the beef industry. It would be easy to blame ignorant media, opportunistic anti-meat activists and cut-throat business rivals for the current mania. But I won’t.

The blame for the groundless alarm rests squarely on the shoulders of scientists who have given way too much aid and comfort to the still unproven notion that mad cow disease poses a risk to human health." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Don't Have a Cow" - "The "mad cow" disease diagnosed in a U.S. cow has set off a new round of predictable, but groundless, panic.

Foreign governments promptly banned imports of U.S. beef. Investors dumped the stocks of beef- related companies. And, of course, what health scare would be complete without hyperventilating calls for even more government oversight of an already highly regulated industry? " (Steven Milloy, Los Angeles Times)