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Archives - March 2004

March 31, 2004

You've gotta be sh!++!ng me! "A positive spin-off from the Aids crisis" - "It may be a dim silver lining to a particularly dark cloud, but one apparent result of the Aids pandemic in Swaziland is that fewer people in the country are smoking." (Mail & Guardian)

What kind of demented puritanical zealot comes up with an maniacal concept like that? AIDS is good because people smoke less?

"[Uganda] NEMA Sets Terms On DDT" - "THE National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has asked the Ministry of Health to do an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before re-introducing DDT. The use of DDT is not allowed in Uganda and most other countries on grounds that it persists in the environment and has adverse effects on health, fertility and the environment. However, the Ministry of Health wants to re-introduce the chemical, known in full as dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane, for indoor spraying as one of the means to fight malaria. The ministry says DDT will be used only for indoor spraying and will not harm the environment." (New Vision (Kampala))

"Antibiotic resistance can occur without heavy use" - "NEW YORK - Germs that have become resistant to antibiotics can be found even in a very remote Bolivian community, where the drugs are not widely used, according to new study results.

As Dr. Alessandro Bartoloni, from Universita di Firenze in Italy, and colleagues put it, "In certain settings, the spread and maintenance of antimicrobial resistance can occur regardless of the selective pressure generated by the use of antimicrobial agents." (Reuters Health)

Here we go again: "Call for new pylon cancer probe" - "Experts have called on the government to investigate the possibility of a link between radiation from electricity power lines and childhood leukaemia. A review of research has found families exposed to long-term electromagnetic radiation levels above 0.4 microtesla are at double the risk. Around one in 20 people fit this category - but overall risk is small. The National Radiological Protection Board, which conducted the review, stressed no link has been proved. It also admits that the new findings may be no more than a statistical quirk." (BBC News Online)

"Radiation rules made stricter 'as precaution'" - "Radiation exposure limits for electromagnetic fields were reduced by 80 per cent yesterday in response to concerns that vulnerable people might be at risk.

The National Radiation Protection Board (NRPB) said the safety thresholds for exposure to power lines, mobile phones and radio transmitters should be reduced to bring Britain into line with international guidelines." (Daily Telegraph)

"Texas Study Challenges 'Violent Behavior' Predictions" - "Expert witnesses called by the state were wrong 95% of the time in making such forecasts in capital cases, according to the report" (LA Times)

"Overhaul of Nature Conservancy Urged" - "An independent panel of experts created by the Nature Conservancy last year to revamp the environmental group's operations has issued a final report calling for sweeping reforms that the group hopes will become a model of ethical standards for nonprofit organizations.

The panel is urging the Conservancy to make its finances more public, to scrutinize tax deductions taken by its donors and to vow to "walk away" from financial transactions that fail to meet the proposed standards.

Conservancy board members and their companies should be barred from selling land to the Conservancy or buying property from the group, the report says, and the Conservancy's conflict of interest policy for board members and executives should be extended to cover major donors of cash or land." (Washington Post)

The Week That Was March 27, 2004 (SEPP)

"The Earth's accidental sun shade" - "Studies show days have been growing dimmer for years" (Newhouse News Service)

"Senators revisit global warming" - "Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman, after losing the battle last year, yesterday reintroduced their bipartisan bill to curb global warming, saying scientific evidence of its harmful effects are now "irrefutable." (The Washington Times) | Historic Bi-Partisan House Bill to Limit Carbon Dioxide Pollution (U.S. Newswire) | Global Warming Bill Will Devastate Economy; NCPA Experts Say Measure Would Unilaterally Implement Kyoto While World is Backing Away (U.S. Newswire)

"Failed Global Warming Policy Returns to Congress - House Sponsors of McCain Bill Want Higher Gas Prices" - "Washington, D.C., March 30, 2004—Today in the U.S. House of Representatives a version of the Senate’s Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act is being introduced that would create restrictions on the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases in the name of combating global warming. If made law, these restrictions would amount to a stealth tax on consumers. Progressively steeper restrictions on emission levels, as planned by backers of the proposal, would create a system of energy rationing that would raise prices through all sectors of the economy." (CEI)

"Scientist renews climate attack" - "The UK government's chief scientist has repeated his controversial remarks that climate change poses a bigger threat than terrorism." (BBC News Online)

"Air Travel 'Of Enormous Concern' for Global Warming" - "The growth of air travel and its impact on global warming is “an issue of enormous concern”, the Government’s chief scientific adviser warned today.

Sir David King, who earlier this year sparked controversy when he said climate change was a more serious threat to the planet than terrorism, told an all-party committee of MPs: “It is not perhaps unusual that the (aviation) industry would like to continue in a relatively unregulated fashion.”

He added that he believed this was “an issue of enormous concern in terms of climate change.” (PA News)

"Overcoming the 'cavalier attitude toward science'" - "SALT LAKE CITY -- Most scientists of merit remain convinced that global-warming trends are popping up all around the globe. These rapid ecological changes, most believe, are escalating in intensity and are the subject of detailed studies, international treaties and great concern all around the world. And yet, despite the best efforts of many, the emissions that cause global warming are still on the rise." (U-WIRE)

So, there you have it, if you don't adhere to the eco-orthodoxy of disastrous enhanced greenhouse-forced global warming you are unlikely to be a "scientist of merit." I wonder if the editor had to cut something along the lines of "Nyah! So there!" from the item's opening statement.

"EU industries hit back over carbon scheme" - "The European Union's attempt to curb the emissions of gases blamed for climate change is facing a strong backlash from industry, which says it cannot afford the cost of its latest and most ambitious scheme." (Financial Times)

"Berlin forges deal on carbon emissions" - "BERLIN - The German government reached a compromise deal on carbon dioxide emission targets early Tuesday to meet a European Union deadline and ward off a dispute threatening the Social Democrat-Greens coalition.

In the last-ditch meeting, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder personally took over to get his feuding Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement (SPD) and Environment Minister Juergen Trittin (Greens) to agree on compromise targets." (Expatica)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"More Intimations of a Human Longevity Dependence on Atmospheric CO 2 Concentration" - "New research findings on the role of ozone and other oxidants in plaque formation in human arteries stimulates us to think once again, i.e., speculate, about the role of the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content on this ubiquitous life-threatening phenomenon." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Medieval Warm Period (Asia: Miscellaneous)" - "As we round out our review of the evidence for the existence of the Medieval Warm Period in Asia, the climate-alarmist picture of "unprecedented" 20th-century global warming is beginning to look more and more like what it really is: an unprecedented effort to rewrite history." (co2science.org)

"Nitrogen Fixation (Herbaceous Plants)" - "As the air's CO 2 content continues to rise, will it stimulate the process by which atmospheric nitrogen (N 2 ) is fixed (converted into a form useable by plants) by the symbiotic bacteria living in nodules attached to the roots of herbaceous legumes?" (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: Chapman's Oak, Rice, Soybean and Stinkingtoe." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"A Century of Sea Level Rise At New Zealand" - "Over the past century of what climate alarmists typically describe as having experienced unprecedented global warming (relative to the past millennium), which they further claim to have been greatest over the past quarter-century, the rate of sea level rise would be expected to have accelerated recently.  Did it?" (co2science.org)

"Millennial-Scale Cycling of the East Asian Monsoon" - "A new study demonstrates linkages of the East Asian Monsoon with millennial-scale climatic oscillations of the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific Oceans." (co2science.org)

"Holocene Climate in the Indian Ocean" - "What relation does it bear to the Holocene climate of the North Atlantic Ocean?" (co2science.org)

"Volcanic Eruptions and Forest Productivity" - "How do the former affect the latter?" (co2science.org)

"Impact of Climate Change on Malaria Transmission in Africa" - "Has close to a century of experience and data acquisition in Africa indicated the planet faces a resurgence of the deadly disease in response to global warming, as many climate alarmists have argued?" (co2science.org)

"Generators warn of power shortages from CO2 targets" - "Britain will suffer a 10% shortfall in electricity output from next year under the government's current plans for carbon dioxide emissions trading, executives at Drax, the country's biggest coal-fired power station, warned yesterday.

Nigel Burdett, Drax's head of environment, told ministers that the overall power market could be "short" of 35m-40m megawatt/hours out of a UK total of 340m MWh because of a squeeze on generators.

His comments came as the government missed today's deadline for submitting its national allocation plan to Brussels for combating greenhouse gases under a new EU trading scheme. This comes into effect on January 1.

Industry has warned ministers that their plans to cut CO2 emissions by 16.3%, far beyond the Kyoto targets adopted by other EU countries, will damage competitiveness." (The Guardian)

"Hopes of Building Nation's First New Nuclear Plant in Decades" - "WASHINGTON, March 30 — In an effort to revive the nuclear reactor construction industry, seven major companies plan to announce on Wednesday that they will apply for a license to build a new commercial power plant. The last time a plant was ordered but not later canceled was 1973." (New York Times)

"Pirates of the high fields" - "Is the search for plants that are useful to genetics leading to the exploitation of nature and the public? Paul Evans reports" (The Guardian)

Umm... what living thing does not "exploit" its environment (a.k.a. "nature")? In order to preserve "nature" (minimise our ecological footprint or however you wish to term it), are we not honour-bound to make said "exploitation" as efficient as practicable? Genetics are one means of so doing.

Good grief! "Norman conquest" - "Just who persuaded Tony Blair to congratulate Norman Borlaug on his 90th birthday? Few people outside the fevered GM debate know that Borlaug, an American Nobel prize winner in 1970, is known as the "father of the green revolution" and that for some years has been the world's most eminent pro-GM activist. But Blair is pleased to thank him, "on behalf of the government and the British people", for his "lifelong selfless devotion to the humanitarian cause of bringing the benefits of scientific discovery in food production to those most in need". Hmmmm." (John Vidal, The Guardian)

I've never met Vidal and don't even know what he looks like but, from his eco-scribbling, I do get a vivid image - sort of a caricature of a monobrowed paranoid-psychotic actually. Who/what else could be suspicious of the British PM acknowledging one of the world's great humanitarians?

"Father of 'Green Revolution' Derides Organic Movement" - "NPR's Robert Siegel talks with biologist Norman Borlaug, who turned 90 years old this week, about the "Green Revolution" in agriculture his research helped to spark. Borlaug promoted inorganic fertilizers to create higher yields crops -- and for his efforts at curbing world hunger, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. But today, many environmentalists are challenging the "Green Revolution" and urge a shift back to organic fertilizers. Borlaug says the theories of who he calls "extreme greenies" would be inadequate to feed the world." (NPR)

"Big Green Lies" - "In 1993, journalist (now ACT MP) Deborah Coddington published an article in North and South magazine entitled Little Green Lies. She exposed some of the fallacies in arguments about the ozone layer, climate change, recycling and genetic engineering. For her pains she received death threats." (BioScience News)

"The God Effect" - "America's religious conservatives aren't the only ones who object to science on spiritual grounds—so do Europe's Greens. The big winner is Asia." (Lee M. Silver, Newsweek International)

"Treaty on Biodiversity to Become Law" - "48 Countries Have Ratified First Ever Legally Binding Treaty on Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture

WASHINGTON and ROME, March 31 -- Twelve European countries and the European Community have ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, triggering the 90-day countdown to the Treaty's entry into force, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

The latest ratifications bring to 48 the number of countries worldwide that have ratified the agreement, which will therefore enter into force on 29 June 2004." (PRNewswire)

"USDA and the Peterkin Papers" - "The U.S. Department of Agriculture's biotechnology regulations have been a shambles for more than fifteen years. Its compulsory case-by-case review and costly field test design and other requirements have made gene-spliced plants disproportionately -- and unnecessarily -- expensive to develop and test. A field trial with a gene-spliced plant may be 10-20 times more expensive than the same experiment performed with a plant that has identical traits, but that was modified with less precise genetic techniques!" (Henry I. Miller, TCS)

"GM food under scrutiny" - "Scientists from 20, mostly African, countries gathered under the umbrella of the Africa Genome Initiative in Cairo, Egypt, to look at the future health of Africa.

The debate around the health risks posed by genetically modified foods received a lot of attention. No decision was made over whether GM-foods are healthy or not but delegates agreed that more research is necessary. They say governments should insist on independent risk assessment studies before they decide to import GM food.

In many quarters of the world Zambia and Zimbabwe's earlier refusal to accept GM maize from the US were strongly criticised but at this conference their decision was widely supported by some of the world and continent's greatest scientific minds.

The first person to introduce the topic was Arpad Pusztai - who has been collaborating in a Norwegian Research programme into GM-Foods since 2001. He says there is no scientific evidence that proves the safety of GM-food and its irresponsible to assume that it is fine." (SABC News)

"Canada Urged to Tighten Scrutiny of GM Crops" - "WINNIPEG - Canada's food safety watchdog needs to do more to protect against environmental threats from genetically modified plants, the country's auditor-general said on Tuesday.

Sheila Fraser said in a report that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's files on crops it reviewed for large-scale plantings were incomplete, disorganized and lacked evidence of quality control.

The CFIA also did not provide enough information about how it evaluated the long-term effects of genetically modified crops -- officially referred to as having "novel traits" -- on the environment, the auditor-general's report said." (Reuters)

"GM giant abandons bid to grow crops in Britain" - "In a huge blow to the genetically modified food lobby, Bayer Cropscience has given up attempts to grow commercial GM maize in Britain. The decision, blamed by the company on government restrictions, means no GM crop will be grown commercially in the UK in 2005 and raises questions about the future of GM in this country." (Independent)

March 30, 2004

"At the Center of the Storm Over Bush And Science" - "WASHINGTON — The average scientific dispute is a joust in obscurity, a clash over technical matters that few but the immediate combatants grasp or are even aware of.

Dr. John H. Marburger III, President Bush's science adviser, might relish a dose of that obscurity right now. Instead, he has become the first line of defense against accusations that the Bush administration has systematically distorted scientific fact and stacked technical advisory committees to advance favored policies on the environment, on biomedical research and on other areas like the search for unconventional weapons in Iraq.

Dr. Marburger says that pattern is illusory, a product of stringing together a few unrelated incidents within the vast canvas of government science, most of which is working just fine.

"From all the evidence I can find," he said, "it's certainly not true that science is being manipulated by this administration to suit its policy. It's simply not the case." (New York Times)

"Scientists vs. the administration" - "In February, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report accusing the Bush administration of systemically suborning objective science to a political agenda. However, it failed to describe the political biases of those making the charges, which raise serious questions about the credibility of the charges and the organization behind them." (Washington Times editorial)

"Junk Science" - "In a city swept by major maelstroms, a smaller but not insignificant one swirling through our Nation’s Capital concerns a purported Republican effort to employ something called “sound science” to loosen environmental regulations. What keeps this one spinning is pressure by Democrats to purportedly strengthen regulations using what they too deem to be “sound science.”

Sound science is science its proponents find to be agreeable. What they find scientifically disagreeable is labeled “junk science.” Sad to say, whenever you hear someone using the term “sound science” you’ll hear a lot of the first word and not see very much of the second." (GES)

"Acrylamide in food: Unraveling exposure and risk" - "Two years ago, Swedish scientists first reported unexpectedly high levels of the chemical acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen, in carbohydrate-rich foods, including potato chips, French fries, and some breads. How does acrylamide form? Which foods carry the highest levels? Does acrylamide pose a significant cancer risk? These and other question will be discussed at the 227th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim March 28-April 1." (American Chemical Society)

"No link between acrylamide and breast cancer" - "Food chemical may pose little risk to humans." (NSU)

"Sea 'dead zones' threaten fish" - "Sea areas starved of oxygen will soon damage fish stocks even more than unsustainable catches, the United Nations believes. The UN Environment Programme says excessive nutrients, mainly nitrogen from human activities, are causing these "dead zones" by stimulating huge growths of algae. Since the 1960s the number of oxygen-starved areas has doubled every decade, as human nitrogen production has outstripped natural sources." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Global Methyl Bromide Exemptions Over 13,000 Tons" - "MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, March 29, 2004 (ENS) - Eleven industrialized countries have won "critical use exemptions" to a year end ban on the use of the pesticide and fumigant methyl bromide at an intergovernmental meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Some 360 participants from 114 countries as well as observer organizations took part in the meeting, which concluded on Friday." (Environment News Service)

"Nanoparticles from the ocean and vehicle emissions" - "Under the right conditions, nanoparticles can form spontaneously in the air. These atmospheric nanoparticles are an important missing factor in understanding global climate change." (University of California - Davis)

"Germany to host emissions trade meeting" - "WASHINGTON - The new field of carbon emissions trading, estimated to reach USD 10 billion (EUR82 billion) globally by 2005, will get its own trade fair, at a time when greenhouse gas emissions are rising despite efforts made to reduce them.

The "Carbon Expo" trade fair, running 9-11 June in Cologne will be the first such event in the rapidly growing field of emissions trading, one of its sponsors, the World Bank said.

A recent report showed greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming were on the rise, with carbon dioxide emissions rising 11 per cent in the decade since the United Nations treaty on climate change had been ratified." (Expatica)

"EU states to wait until last moment with CO2 plans" - "BRUSSELS, March 29 - EU countries will wait until the last minute to submit plans for curbing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and know they face legal action if they fail to meet this week's deadline, Europe's environment chief said on Monday.

All the EU's 15 governments must send in their plans by Wednesday for distributing CO2 credits in their countries, as part of the EU's scheme to launch emissions trading from next January. So far, none has submitted a formal plan.

Around eight countries have published draft plans and are likely to land their official versions in Brussels on time. But several more are widely expected to miss the deadline." (Reuters)

"Germany, Other EU Nations May Cause Delays in Emissions Trading" - "March 29 -- Germany, Italy, Greece and nine other European Union members may miss a March 31 deadline to set limits on carbon-dioxide emissions, hampering development of the world's first compulsory trading program in pollution credits.

``Delays may reduce trading volumes because there's more regulatory uncertainty,'' said Lucy Mortimer, European broker at CO2e, a unit of New York-based broker Cantor Fitzgerald LP.

Emissions trading was estimated to reach $10 billion a year by 2007, according to Norwegian research firm Point Carbon. The market is the EU's way to meet promises made under the Kyoto Protocol to limit the spread of greenhouse gases and impose pollution caps on companies from utilities such as Dusseldorf, Germany-based E.ON AG to steelmakers including Arcelor SA. Companies that emit more than allowed must buy credits to do so." (Bloomberg)

"Germany's Clement says won't resign over emissions" - "BERLIN, March 28 - German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement was quoted on Sunday as saying he would not resign over a cabinet dispute on carbon dioxide emission limits ahead of a deadline for a decision this week.

But he repeated his opposition to proposals by Environment Minister Juergen Trittin of the Greens to cut the amount of permitted industrial carbon dioxide emissions in the wake of the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

"Growth isn't possible that way. I can't support that as Economy Minister," Der Spiegel quoted him as saying. But in a separate interview he said the matter was not a resigning issue." (Reuters)

"EC warns Australia on Kyoto refusal" - "AUSTRALIA should reconsider its bipartisan stand with the US against the Kyoto protocol or risk being left out in the cold as the European Union prepares to launch its multi-billion-dollar emissions trading scheme, a European Commission environment director said yesterday.

In the EC's most pointed criticism yet of Australia's climate change policies, Timo Makela warned Australia could regret not building bridges with Europe over climate research and emissions trading, given a growing level of co-operation between the EU and the US." (The Australian)

Don't worry about it Timo, I believe Australians are quite content to let Europe corner the market for hot air and the EU is pretty much the only bunch sniffing around for such a commodity anyway.

See also: The Kyoto Protocol: A Post-Mortem by S. Fred Singer.

"Europe's Cold Sweat Over Kyoto" - "The erratic weather of recent years in Europe, from devastating floods to lengthy heat waves, has convinced many on the Continent that human-induced climate change is no mere theory.

Then why are so many European Union leaders getting cold feet about doing something about global warming?

Because despite the change in weather patterns and Europe's green rhetoric, the EU faces a reality check on March 31, the day each member nation must submit a plan for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Kyoto Contingencies Confound Commissioner" - "EU Environmental Commissioner Margot Wallstrom is stubbornly defending moribund Kyoto Protocol, going as far as to equate climate change to terrorism." (Christopher C. Horner, EU Reporter)

"Permafrost Becomes Insecure" - "Russian scientists have discovered territories in the North that will run the greatest risk in the course of permafrost thawing, they have also calculated degree of risk for towns, industrial facilities and main lines.

Global climate warming makes attacks on permafrost. Accurate forecast is very important as the permafrost ground status would drive the future of all northern towns and industrial facilities. Researchers of the State Hydrological Institute (St. Petersburg) have undertaken such a forecast. Their effort resulted in prognostic maps, where the higher risk zone was determined along the Arctic coast and degree of risk for towns, main lines, pipelines and other infrastructures of the North were calculated.

The researchers used several climate change scenarios based on five mathematical models to forecast the spread area, temperature and depth of seasonal permafrost thawing through." (Innovations Report)

"Greenland’s Secret" - "Here’s some hot news: Temperatures in Greenland have been rising like a rocket during the past decade or so, only to restore them to what they were in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s! Yet that bit of climate history — that temperatures were as warm or warmer in Greenland fifty years ago than they are today — appears to be lost on the global warming crowd. Instead, they point their fingers at and cluck their tongues over conditions in Greenland as they have changed during the past decade, claiming them to be a clear sign of anthropogenic global warming." (GES)

"Coal source of jet fuel for next generation aircraft" - "New fuel for the next generation of military aircraft is the goal of a team of Penn State researchers who are demonstrating that jet fuel can be made from bituminous coal." (Penn State)

"Improved crop production and fewer greenhouse gases" - "Kevin G. Harrison, an assistant professor in Boston College's Geology and Geophysics Department, has published research on a farming technique that can both increase crop yields and reduce the release of carbons that develop into greenhouse gases. In the book Changing Land Use and Terrestrial Carbon Storage, Harrison and his co-authors, Michelle Segal and Matthew Hoskins, describe the results of a study of three different methods of soybean farming." (Boston College)

"Scientists Win Prize for High-Yield Rice" - "WASHINGTON -- Scientists from China and Sierra Leone were named co-winners Monday of the annual $250,000 World Food Prize for their work in producing high-yield rice.

The winners were Professor Yuan Longping, director general of the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center in Hunan Province, and Dr. Monty Jones, executive secretary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa in Accra, Ghana." (AP)

"EDITORIAL: Regulate, but don't alienate bioprospecting" - "There may not be a moratorium on bioprospecting after all. A legislative committee on economic development last week struck that provision from a bill calling for restrictions on bioprospecting, which, in a nutshell, is the scientific search for commercially valuable and exploitable organisms.

Of course, the language could be replaced in conference committee. But that would not be good. The benefits of bioprospecting outweigh the costs, regardless of the myths that have been perpetuated over this age-old practice." (The Honolulu Advertiser)

Anti-biotech scaremongers must be proud: "Angola's Plan to Turn Away Altered Food Imperils Aid" - "JOHANNESBURG, March 29 — A United Nations effort to feed nearly two million hungry Angolans, most of them former war refugees, is imperiled because Angola's government plans to outlaw imports of genetically modified cereals, officials of the World Food Program here said Monday.

Most food assistance from the United States, which at last count provided more than three-quarters of United Nations aid to Angola, consists of genetically modified corn and other crops that apparently would be barred under the new rules.

That includes 19,000 tons of genetically modified American corn now bound for an Angolan port. The corn — roughly a month's supply for the United Nations feeding program in Angola — must be cleared for unloading by Wednesday, said Mike Sackett, the World Food Program's director for southern Africa." (New York Times)

"Research director puts case for GM crop production" - "FARMERS and the general public must take a more broad-minded view of the agricultural industry and be willing to embrace new technologies, according to Professor John Hillman, director of the Dundee-based Scottish Crop Research Institute. In his annual report, Hillman argues that while agriculture is less important in economic terms in the developed countries of the world, there must be no slowing down in research." (The Herald)

"Genetically altered crop coming to California" - "YUBA CITY - An experimental new form of rice, engineered to produce commercial quantities of prescription drugs, is placing California in the middle of a raging international dispute over the use of genetically modified crops.

Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience is seeking state approval to grow rice that can produce commercial quantities of two human proteins, normally found in breast milk and tears, for use in treating human illness." (Mercury News)

"GM crops to be expanded" - "GM crop giant Monsanto has said its likely future developments in genetic agriculture engineering will take in a much wider variety of plants, including those grown in the world's poorest regions." (BBC News Online)

March 29, 2004

Nanny's Big Brother? "Quick, hide, the bin police are coming" - "IF YOU live in Barnet, North London, the unexpected knock at the door could soon be a sign that Big Brother is watching your every move. Drop that wine bottle or the old Yellow Pages into your wheelie bin, and the waste police (sorry, “recycling assistants”) will be at your door to rummage through your rubbish. First they warn, then they fine you £1,000 for crimes against the environment. The authoritarian puritans are at the garden gate and they mean business. It sure is grim up North London. But don’t scoff — it could be Barrow or Banff next." (Philip Stott, The Times) [Subscription required outside UK]

See also Philip's return to some old-fashioned deconstruction of environmental news reporting and commentary (EnviroSpin Watch)

"Attention old shipping: more storms ahead" - "The good ship Olwen, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel which did sterling service supporting Operation Grapple off the Bosnian coast during the wars there, is no more. After getting to grips with Grapple, it was grappling irons at Alang, a beach in India where she was broken up using little more than sledgehammers and child labour to deal with her asbestos, toxic chemicals (PCBs) and Lord knows what else.

Ah, well. India is far away, and if we all worried about the working conditions in the Third World, we'd be too depressed to get out of bed, so it's fortunate that we have some fine pressure groups to worry on our behalf. These groups need to tweak our consciences to produce the donations to avoid suffering the fate of the Olwen themselves, and nothing brings in the dosh like a good stunt." (Neil Collins, Daily Telegraph)

"Traffic reduction may lead to fewer stuffy noses" - "NEW YORK - A road bypass built to ease traffic congestion in one neighborhood appears to have relieved some residents' nasal congestion as well, a UK study has found.

A year after the bypass opened in an industrial town in North Wales, "heavy goods" traffic was down by nearly half in neighborhood streets that had previously been highly congested. And the people who lived there were reporting fewer episodes of runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes, according to researchers.

Dr. Michael L. Burr of the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff led the study. The findings appear in the March issue of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Although significant air pollution is known to cause respiratory symptoms, the extent to which everyday traffic fumes contribute to asthma and allergies has been less clear, according to Burr's team.

Some studies have suggested that people who live near high-traffic roads are more prone to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, while other studies have failed to make such a connection.

The new research suggests that traffic reduction may offer more relief from nasal and eye symptoms than from the chest symptoms that mark asthma, according to Burr. "It suggests that nasal and eye symptoms are more sensitive responses to these pollutants than are lower respiratory symptoms," he told Reuters Health." (Reuters Health)

Hmm... let's just reiterate that: "It suggests that nasal and eye symptoms are more sensitive responses to these pollutants than are lower respiratory symptoms."

Doesn't do much for the fine particulates (PM10s) hypothesis really - especially considering that nearby low-traffic regions exhibited even greater reductions in asthma incidence. The allegation that exposure to PM10s causes increased heart attacks (supposedly because such fine particles are drawn more deeply into the lungs) fails because these particles are apparently not increasing adverse asthma events. So the hypothesis now becomes: exposure to PM10s may increase incidence of nasal congestion and/or itchy eyes... which cause heart attacks? By what biologically plausible mechanism eye-wiping or mouth-breathing might precipitate adverse coronary events remains unclear.

"Long flights raise risk of strokes, warn doctors" - "Thousands of long-haul airline passengers could be at risk of a stroke because of cramped seating conditions, doctors have warned.

The problem caused by restriction of movement - particularly in economy class - is already being blamed for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which has caused a number of deaths.

George Geroulakos, a consultant vascular surgeon at Ealing Hospital, London, discovered the further health threat after seeing a 49-year-old man who had suffered a serious stroke in London last year, two days after arriving on a 19-hour flight from Alaska. The man is now permanently disabled and unable to speak. Mr Geroulakos has since found 12 similar cases in medical studies. The cause, he believes, is blood clotting caused by airline passengers' restricted movement." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Rich and poor to clash over sugar in WHO’s healthy diet plan" - "Poor nations whose income is based on producing basic commodities are set to clash with their wealthy, industrialised counterparts when the World Health Organization’s 192 member states gather in May to adopt a global plan to combat obesity that proposes limits on daily sugar intake.

The final text of WHO’s global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health was completed last week and will be published in April, a month before WHO member states consider it at the World Health Assembly from 17 to 24 May in Geneva, Switzerland.

A WHO spokesman, David Porter, said that experts had "taken into consideration" amendments proposed by 50 members but were not obliged to use them, suggesting the final draft remained faithful to WHO’s original." (BMJ)

"The Case of the Cherry Hill Cluster" - "At least nine people who ate at the Garden State Race Track in New Jersey have died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease since 1997. Evidence of mad cow — or a strange coincidence?" (New York Times)

"The Human Factor" - "How much is your life worth to you? On the face of it, that's an idiotic question. No amount of money could compensate you for the loss of your life, for the simple reason that the money would be no good to you if you were dead. And you might feel, for different reasons, that the dollar value of the lives of your spouse or children -- or even a stranger living on the other side of the country -- is also infinite. No one should be knowingly sacrificed for a sum of money: that's what we mean when we say that human life is priceless." (New York Times)

"Wanted in Germany: a few good risk-takers" - "Once an economic powerhouse, Germany now seeks to counter a culture that stymies innovation." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Eleven countries win UN exemption from ban on ozone-depleting pesticide" - "MONTREAL - The United States and 10 other countries won an exemption to a 180-country UN ban of an ozone-depleting pesticide. International envoys in session since Wednesday hammered out an agreement to allow use of methyl bromide, a pesticide harmful to humans and the ozone layer. The UN's 1987 Montreal Protocol banned use of the pesticide which is supposed to be phased out by next year." (AFP)

Imagine that... "World getting 'literally greener'" - "The world seems to have begun to turn greener, in the strictly literal sense, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep). Satellite data show plant growth has been measurably more vigorous over the last 25 years." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

They still don't admit that increased atmospheric CO2 is good for the biosphere despite greenhouse gardeners using CO2 enrichment for fun and profit for decades now, usually raising ambient level (~375ppmv) to between 1,000ppmv and 1,300ppmv.

Interestingly, the loss of plant growth in controlled atmosphere conditions where CO2 levels are reduced to 200ppmv (about the level believed to have existed pre-Industrial Revolution) is similar to the gain exhibited when levels are increased from current ambient to 1,300ppmv, suggesting Earth's biosphere has thrived post-Industrial Revolution specifically due to human activity. However, it seems highly unlikely that we'll see Pals of the Planet or whoever lauding humanity's contribution and protesting attempts to deny the biosphere further liberation of previously biologically sequestered CO2 (the life-sustaining carbon currently locked out of the cycle and denied to Earth's biosphere).

Regardless, it is good to see UNEP's acknowledgement of the literal greening of the Earth and, startlingly, the BBC's admission that approximately one-third of the Earth's ice-free land surface remains forest covered.

Good grief! "Global warming spirals upwards" - "Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have jumped abruptly, raising fears that global warming may be accelerating out of control.

Measurements by US government scientists show that concentrations of the gas, the main cause of the climate exchange, rose by a record amount over the past 12 months. It is the third successive year in which they have increased sharply, marking an unprecedented triennial surge.

Scientists are at a loss to explain why the rapid rise has taken place, but fear that it could show the first signs that global warming is feeding on itself, with rising temperatures causing increases in carbon dioxide, which then go on to drive the thermometer even higher. That would be a deeply alarming development, suggesting that this self-reinforcing heating could spiral upwards beyond the reach of any attempts to combat it." (Independent on Sunday)

See CO2 Report Makes the Rounds (Still Waiting For Greenhouse) for some pretty pictures.

"Greenhouse gases increase, claim" - "GREENHOUSE gases have grown at an alarming rate in the past two years due to the burning of fossil fuels, a new CSIRO study has found. The scientific agency found 18.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere in 2002 and another 17.1 billion tonnes last year. The average during the past 10 years has been 13.3 billion tonnes. The increase has come despite efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The chief research scientist of CSIRO's atmospheric division, Paul Fraser, said the results were disturbing. "The results are concerning because carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change," he said in a statement." (AAP)

Wow! You just have to admire Paul Fraser's confidence since he apparently knows what thousands of scientist are busily trying to figure out - namely: "Is carbon dioxide a significant driver of climate change?" (current indications suggest not since reconstructions to date indicate temperatures historically rose prior to atmospheric CO2 levels, making increased atmospheric CO2 levels an effect, rather than a cause). Fraser is actually game enough (or silly enough) to label CO2 the main driver... He's probably safe doing so though - by the time there's a definitive answer to the question "What drives climate change?" it'll probably be my grandchildren's grandchildren who get to hear what are the various forcings and their relative strengths.

Number of the month: 0.005 (Number Watch) [scroll to end of page]

"Canada waging war on climate change - one light bulb at a time" - "OTTAWA - The federal government has issued a national call to battle, a battle in which no sacrifice is too small. It will not be fought on the beaches, but in the kitchens and laundry rooms of the nation; not in the air, but in the attics. Under the One-Tonne Challenge program, officially launched Friday, Canadians are being urged to take on the enemy of climate change one light bulb at a time." (Canadian Press)

Not so unified Europe? "Germany raises doubts over EU's Kyoto policy" - "BRUSSELS, March 26 - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Friday Europe should not rush into enforcing targets to curb greenhouse emissions if Russia fails to sign the Kyoto treaty on climate change, warning it could harm industry." (Reuters)

"UK industry falling foul of clean-up campaign" - "Despite a high profile Government-backed campaign urging British business to cut carbon emissions, latest figures show Britons are pumping more carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

Department of Trade and Industry statistics show that coal consumption for 2003 was up 7.1pc on the previous year, while oil usage rose 2pc.

Climate change policy aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 20pc between 1990 and 2010 but levels of the greenhouse gas rose 1pc last year. The DTI blamed a rise in energy consumption and a switch to coal following rises in wholesale gas prices." (Daily Telegraph)

"Greenhouse effect heats up battle of the skies" - "Cheap flights mean more planes and more pollution. Someone will have to pay if the cycle is to be stopped, writes Juliette Jowit." (The Observer)

"Health Concerns in Nanotechnology" - "Buckyballs, a spherical form of carbon discovered in 1985 and an important material in the new field of nanotechnology, can cause extensive brain damage in fish, according to research presented yesterday at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif." (New York Times)

"Eco-Politics and the English Language: From 1984 to 2004" - "Walk into any food store. Unless it is a market that carries only ocean fish or meat harvested from wild animals, the food that it sells is a product of domestication and modification by humans. In any supermarket, we find a bewildering variety of foodstuffs that bear only the slightest resemblance to the wild progenitors from which they were once derived. The ancestors of many of our everyday foodstuffs are known to us only because of twentieth-century developments in the science of genetics, which allowed us to identify the wild plants from which they were derived. It is now understood, for instance, that two interspecies crosses led to our modern bread-wheat." (Thomas R. DeGregori, HealthFactsAndFears)

"Piracy on the High Plains" - "What's behind the world's opposition to genetically modified crops? A distaste for the food or an aversion to paying Monsanto an honest royalty?" (Mark Tatge, Forbes)

"Greenpeace activists occupy GM crop field" - "Around 40 Greenpeace activists have held a protest at a field in Switzerland – site of the country’s first outdoor trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat. The protesters called for the experiment near Zurich to be scrapped, claiming it poses a risk to the environment. Greenpeace activists ringed the field with white sheets and chained themselves to fencing. They hung banners proclaiming, “Stop genetically modified wheat”. They also called on the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, which is conducting the field trial, to destroy the seedlings." (SwissInfo)

March 26, 2004

"DDT curbs malaria in Africa, saves thousands of children's lives" - "WASHINGTON--Although misguided environmentalists are attempting to eliminate DDT worldwide, its effectiveness against malaria has been dramatically demonstrated in South Africa. That nation's ban on the use of DDT increased malaria infection and death rates. However, once the country reintroduced DDT several years later, death and infection rates dropped dramatically, underscoring the necessity of the insecticide in combating malaria throughout Africa, according to a new Cato Institute study." (CATO)

"Global Warming: The Movie" - "Coming to a multiplex near you on May 28 is the global warming disaster movie, “The Day After Tomorrow.” I’ve only seen the trailer, but my money is on the movie, not global warming, being the disaster." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Warming Activist calls Vermont Wind Power Moratorium 'Ridiculous'" - "Mar. 24--CLAREMONT, N.H. - Climate change caused by global warming will wait for no man, and Vermont would be mistaken in holding on efforts to tap wind power in the state, said a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist turned environmental activist.

A three-year moratorium on wind power projects in the Green Mountain State "makes no sense," said Ross Gelbspan, who also called the idea "ridiculous" from more than one point of view." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

Ah, Gelbspan - the man's a legend! Well, the bit about him being "a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist" is anyway.

Oh dear... "U.S., world can no longer afford to put off actions to reverse climate change" - "Federal scientists have found the "smoking gun" that proves human activity is having an effect on earth's climate. The only question is whether we will act before it is too late." (Asheville Citizen-Times)

This reads as though someone has been smoking something alright but I wasn't aware it was called a gun now.

"EU warned over solo greenhouse gases curb" - "A unilateral European approach to curbing greenhouse gas emissions will drive energy-intensive industries to move to other countries, according to a joint policy statement by the region's biggest electricity producers and their largest industrial customers.

The International Federation of European Industrial Energy Consumers (IFIEC) and Union of the Electricity Industry (Eurelectric) said bills would rise as a result of European Union policies designed to encourage greater development of renewable energy schemes, such as wind farms.

An EU directive requires the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources to rise from 14 per cent to about 22 per cent by 2010. The actual increase would be even greater, as the directive excludes large hydroelectric schemes which form the bulk of current renewable energy capacity." (Financial Times)

"Rise in CO2 is 'blip' says minister" - "Emission levels of the chief greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, rose by 1.5% between 2002 and 2003, according to new government figures. The rise was largely due to increased burning of coal for electricity and a fall in net imports of electricity. Emissions of carbon dioxide for 2003 are, however, about 7% lower than in 1990, says Defra. The environment minister, Elliot Morley, said: "This blip, although disappointing, was expected and does not knock us off the downward trend on emissions." (Press Association)

"CURBING GLOBAL WARMING: U.N. confirms JQA as emission verifier" - "In a move likely to expedite Japan's efforts to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals, a Japanese organization has become one of the world's first two entities accredited by the United Nations to certify emission reductions. The Tokyo-based Japan Quality Assurance Organization (JQA) won accreditation at an executive board meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that opened Wednesday in Bonn. The other designated entity is Norway's Det Norske Veritas Certification. The designation authorizes the JQA to determine if projects proposed under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for greenhouse gas reductions meet U.N. rules. The JQA will also register projects with the U.N. entity and certify emission cuts." (The Asahi Shimbun)

"Global Warming Enhances Ozone Transport from the Stratosphere to the Troposphere Further Accelerates Global Warming" - "Hajime Akimoto (Director of Atmospheric Composition Research Program), Masaaki Takahashi (Group Leader, joint appointment of professor at Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo), and Kengo Sudo (Research Fellow) at Frontier Research System for Global Change (FRSGC: joint project of JAMSTEC and JAXA), has found that ozone transport from the stratosphere (Note 1) to the troposphere will be enhanced by global warming as studied by chemical/climate model experiment (Figure 1 and 2). It is suggested that the enhanced intrusion of ozone to the troposphere will further accelerates global warming." (Press Release)

"Kerry Is Sticking With Plan to Raise Auto Fuel Efficiency" - "DETROIT, March 25 - In the face of rising gasoline prices and stagnating fuel efficiency, Senator John Kerry is sticking with a plan he backed in the Senate to increase the nation's fuel economy standards 50 percent by 2015. That would be the largest increase, by far, since automotive fuel economy standards were first imposed after the oil shocks of the 1970's." (New York Times)

Comments of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Consumer Alert to the United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Concerning its Technical Report on Vehicle Weight, Fatality Risk and Crash Compatibility (CEI) View PDF

"Report shows 'unequivocal evidence' that media violence has significant negative impact on children" - "The report reviews the large body of research that has investigated the ways in which violent media influence behavior. Across all media genres, the authors found that the research consistently shows that even short-term exposure "increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions." (American Psychological Society)

"Going climbing? Better use scaffolding, says EU" - "Climbers may have to swap ropes for scaffolding and mountain walkers may have to negotiate warning signs telling them that snow is slippery, according to Brussels-inspired safety regulations.

The Temporary Work at Height Directive is aimed at protecting workers such as window cleaners and builders but leading figures in the outdoor sports industry warned yesterday that it was being applied wrongly and could drive them out of business.

Mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, the chairman of the Outward Bound organisation's risk management committee, described it as a case of "the nanny state gone mad." (Daily Telegraph)

"FDA finds cancer-risk acrylamides in more food" - "WASHINGTON - Acrylamide, a cancer-causing substance that caused scares when it was found in fried potatoes and other popular foods, is also found in olives, prune juice and teething biscuits, U.S. regulators said on Thursday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released figures on a new batch of food it tested and confirmed earlier findings that suggest cooked and especially fried snacks contain the highest levels - potato chips, pretzels and popcorn.

Officials found no acrylamides in infant formula but said they would continue looking as it is a sole source of food for so many babies.

Scientists stress that they have no idea what any of this means, yet, for human health." (Reuters) | Results from FDA Acrylamide Research 'Are Not a Finding of Risk,' Says NFPA (PRNewswire)

"Soft Science" - "My Tech Central Station column about the shoddy science of medicine is up. Judging by this comment, things are worse than I thought:

I was a review editor for a prestigious medical journal. As I had a PhD I was asked to review certain classes of submitted papers. In 90% of the papers there were such serious flaws that the validity of the research was nil. The flaws included: lack of statistical soundness, unfounded assumptions, plain errors in interpreting data etc. In a word - shoddy science. All of the papers were published. I asked the editor what was going on. His reply: 'If we turned away papers based on shoddy work we would have none to publish at all!' I resigned.

I'm afraid that might be true. Doctors don't get a lot of training in scientific principles or statistics in medical school. When it comes to basic science, our training is largely memorization. Unfortunately, this ends up being the case in a lot of premed curricula, too. And when medical students grow up to be medical researchers they don't analyze their results themselves. They give their data to a statistician to interpret. We could do a lot better." (Sydney Smith, MedPundit)

This one comes with the notation that there's a distinct likelihood that it possibly may be related (you couldn't make up this stuff):  "Fructose suspected as latest fat factor" - "Move over greasy cheeseburgers and fries. Researchers now say the widespread use of the liquid corn sweetener, fructose, in soft drinks, baked goods and juice drinks might be a big factor in the swift rise in obesity in the United States." (The Washington Times) | No Scientific Evidence to Link Obesity and HFCS; Culprits Are Too Many Calories and Not Enough Exercise (NSDA Press Release)

"Happy Birthday, Love Canal - Some disasters aren't all they're cracked up to be" - "The profound and devastating effects of the Love Canal tragedy, in terms of human health and suffering and environmental damage, cannot and probably will never be fully measured," began the 1978 special report, Love Canal: Public Health Time Bomb. That idea is still alive: "Love Canal Declared Clean, Ending Toxic Horror," ran the New York Times headline last week. The Times article noted, "Hundreds of families were evacuated from the working-class Love Canal section of Niagara Falls, N.Y., after deadly chemicals started oozing through the ground into basements and a school, burning children and pets and, according to experts, causing birth defects and miscarriages." In an op/ed on March 22, the Times declared that Love Canal "should be made a kind of national historic toxic waste site." (Ronald Bailey, Reason)

"Environment 'stunts young brains'" - "The brains of children in many parts of Europe are suffering greater damage from environmental risks than previously recognised, scientists say. The WHO claims lead continues to be a menace - up to 30% of urban children show high blood levels in some places. It says the emphasis from now on should be on the precautionary principle, putting safety first." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

?!! "Growth hormone linked with vCJD" - "A coroner has warned that an unknown number of people could contract vCJD from human growth hormones. Barry Metcalf, from Worksop, died aged 33 after contracting the human form of BSE when he was injected with the hormone as a child. On Thursday, Nottinghamshire coroner Dr Nigel Chapman recorded a verdict of death from a disease caused by the injection of human growth hormones." (BBC News Online)

"A Green Discourse - Blaming civilized society for human suffering" - "Mark Jerome Walters's book Six Modern Plagues: and How We Are Causing Them is relatively new, but its ideas are far from original. Instead, the book more closely resembles an age-old religious pronouncement — and a misguided one at that. With credentials in veterinary science, Walters offers disappointingly little scientific insight and still less constructive advice for addressing some genuine human concerns.

Like many modern-day Greens, Walters expounds a Romantic view of nature reminiscent of Jean Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts in which the philosopher deemed civilization the source of society's perils. Both authors reject the traditional Judeo-Christian view in which sinning against God leads to the eviction of mankind from Eden, thereby leaving human survival hinged on a battle against nature.

Walters's version reads more like a pagan myth in which mankind is punished for a sin against a different deity: Mother Nature." (Angela Logomasini, National Review)

"The Man Who Defused the 'Bomb'" - "In the long history of the global popularity contest known as the Nobel Prizes it's beyond debate that more than a few of them were undeserved. What should also be beyond debate, however, was the merit in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Norman Borlaug in 1970. Despite the fact that Borlaug -- who celebrates his 90th birthday on March 25 -- isn't a household name, he is owed a debt by the world that is simply beyond calculation." (Steven Martinovich, TCS)

"Mosquitoes vs. malaria: How we can win the fight" - "EMBL scientists have identified four mosquito proteins that affect the ability of the malaria parasite (Plasmodium) to survive and develop in the malaria-carrier mosquito (Anopheles). This breakthrough, featured in recent issues of Cell (March 5, 2004) and Science (March 26, 2004), could be used to block the transmission of malaria from mosquitoes to humans." (European Molecular Biology Laboratory)

"Who's Afraid of Big Bad Biotech?" - "Essentially everything positive you've heard about biotechnology is true. It's making inroads against killers such as cancer, heart disease, and organ failure. It's stopping other diseases for which until recently the only treatment was aspirin. Biotech crops will provide malnourished peoples with the vitamins and minerals they need and enough calories to turn them into American-sized butterballs. We can argue about timelines, but all these are a matter of when and not if.

But to many, biotech has a dark side. They fear cloning humans to rip out their organs as replacements, turning our offspring into ubermenschen, and distorting the whole concept of what it is to be human.

Happily, though, almost all of the bad about biotech would be senseless, scientifically impossible, or far more readily done through alternative technologies such as bionics. Or the developments actually don't seem very unusual -- much less scary -- when considered in a broader context." (Michael Fumento, TCS)

"Resistance in Canada to GM wheat hots up" - "MONTREAL - Canada's resistance to growing genetically modified wheat intensifies as the nation's wheat export agency, ecologists and many growers warn of a "terrible disaster" for the nation's agricultural industry. "The greatest threat to wheat farming isn't hail or drought," reads an ad run this week in a number of Canadian newspapers. "It's Roundup Ready Wheat." The accusation comes from the ecology group Greenpeace, allied with three agricultural groups." (AFP)

"China OKs Brazil GMO soybean imports -Brazil AgMin" - "SAO PAULO, Brazil, March 25 - China approved the importation of genetically modified soybeans from Brazil, which should allow shipments to begin as early as Tuesday for the world's largest soybean importer, Brazil's Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

The Brazilian embassy in Beijing informed the ministry the Chinese government had accepted the GMO risk assessment submitted by Brazil's National Technical Biosafety Commission that guarantees there are no biosafety risks related to the GMO soybeans grown in Brazil." (Reuters)

"Row flares between Australian federal, state governments on GM crop bans" - "SYDNEY - Australia's federal government Thursday attacked state governments for banning genetically modified (GM) crops, saying they risked making the country's farmers uncompetitive. Victoria state Wednesday extended a moratorium on GM crops until 2008, while Western Australia and Tasmania both announced plans this week for outright bans." (AFP)

"NSW goes it alone with GM crops" - "NSW may be the only state to plant large amounts of genetically modified canola following Victoria's decision to place a blanket ban on the crop because of consumer and market concerns.

Yesterday's announcement by the Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, has again raised questions about the NSW moratorium, which bans the commercial production of GM food crops but allows large field trials.

Mr Bracks said the Victorian ban would begin later this year and remain in place until 2008, while the Government resolved issues surrounding liability, insurance and the possible contamination of non-GM crops." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"[New Zealand] Government doubts councils' right to control GMOs" - "The Government has poured cold water on Northland hopes of controlling the release of genetically modified organisms in the region.

Responding to a legal opinion from an environment lawyer, the Government said it would be difficult for councils to show a real risk of adverse effects of GMOs as opposed to a perceived risk or fear.

Royden Somerville QC had said in a legal opinion that councils could regulate GMOs under the Resource Management Act through their district plans.

But the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, said it would be difficult for councils to identify issues that would not be adequately and most appropriately addressed by the two Government measures set up to deal with GMOs -- the Hazard Substance and New Organisms Act (HSNO) and the Environmental Risk Management Authority." (Northern Advocate)

March 25, 2004

"Jimmy Carter, George McGovern And Scientists Celebrate 'Father Of The Green Revolution'" - "Auburn, Alabama; March 24 -- Jimmy Carter, George McGovern and many scientists are joining the AgBioWorld Foundation in celebrating the 90th birthday of humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug on Thursday. "The passion that drives Dr. Borlaug's life is an inspiration for all of us to follow," said Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, Chair of The Carter Center and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. "It has been an honor to collaborate with Dr. Borlaug. He is a true humanitarian and a dear friend." (AgBioWorld.org)

"Power to the People?" - "On January 22, Citigroup directors and executives fell all over each other, rushing to claim their Ethical Oscar from the radical activist group, Rainforest Action Network.

Henceforth, promised Citi, it would dramatically scale back investment in developing country projects that some might perceive as being socially or ecologically destructive. From now on, they would minimize investment in hydroelectric and fossil fuel projects, and focus instead on renewable energy, "sustainable development," climate change prevention, and preservation of habitats and indigenous cultures.

Residents of developing countries might be excused if they don't share the jubilation. They understand all too well that Citi's capitulation will further postpone the day when their destitute families will have electricity, safe running water, and a glimmer of hope for a better, healthier, more prosperous future." (Paul Driessen, TCS)

"Report: American Children Under Threat from Fat" - "WASHINGTON - American children are under threat from their own fat, with obesity so common that its effects have wiped out many other health gains, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report, called the Child Wellbeing Index, found that obesity is the single most widespread health problem facing children. When being overweight is included in a statistical profile of how children are faring, health well-being falls nearly 15 percent below 1975 levels.

The report, released by the non-profit philanthropic Foundation for Child Development, finds that U.S. children are better off than they were in 1975, less likely to fall victim to an accident and more connected to their communities." (Reuters)

Tell us again why kids are becoming lardbutts: "Compensation culture 'turns our parks into dreary, fun-free deserts'" - "The arrival of the American-style compensation culture is turning open spaces and public parks into dreary, fun-free, soulless places, the Government's architecture and building advisers said yesterday.

Bouncy castles, ancient trees, boating lakes, adventure playgrounds, public art and even firework displays on windy days, such as the celebrations in Edinburgh last New Year, are all victims of the trend to stop or take down anything that might have the slightest risk attached." (Daily Telegraph)

"A Big Con Man" - "Two weeks ago, I flew to a film festival in Austin, Texas, to watch what could be one of America's hottest movies this spring: an engaging documentary called "Super Size Me," which shows what happens when you stuff yourself for a month and don't exercise.

The creator and star, Morgan Spurlock, won best director honors at Sundance, and Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper have given the movie two thumbs up. It won't reach theatres until May 7, but the word of mouth is already deafening.

Here's the premise: Spurlock eats only at McDonald's and stays sedentary for 30 days. He gains 24 pounds, his cholesterol rises 40 percent, he feels lousy, and his sex life collapses.

The movie is certainly timely. The Centers for Disease Control just reported that the number-two cause of death in the United States after smoking is "poor diet and physical inactivity."

But "Super Size Me" is not a serious look at a real health problem. It is, instead, an outrageously dishonest and dangerous piece of self-promotion. Through his antics, Spurlock sends precisely the wrong message. He absolves us of responsibility for our own fitness. We aren't to blame for being fat; big corporations are! And the remedy, he suggests, is to file lawsuits and plead with the Nanny State and the Food Police for protection." (James K. Glassman, TCS)

"Proposed food-allergy rules dividing parents" - "The debate over what's in students' lunch boxes intensified this week, as parents on both sides packed a Newton School Committee meeting. At issue are proposed guidelines designed to protect children with food allergies.

"I have never been in such an uncomfortable situation in any community," Debbie Debotton, whose child is allergic to several foods, said in an interview after Monday night's meeting. "I'm just trying to keep my child safe."

Other parents have argued that the school district should not legislate what students can and cannot eat in the schools.

The Life Threatening Allergy Guidelines would request that students not bring food that classmates are allergic to, such as peanut butter or dairy products. The guidelines would also discourage the use of candy for rewards or bringing food to school for a classroom birthday party. Additionally, students also would be discouraged from trading or sharing lunches with one another.

The issue, which has led to tears and threats of lawsuits, has placed parents in two camps: those whose children are allergic to certain foods and who are afraid of their child being in the same room as the substance to which the child is allergic, and those whose children live on a steady diet of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches." (Boston Globe)

If someone is allergic to say, sunshine, must everyone stand in the shade?

"Scientists call for more research to better control unhealthy soot pollution" - "The government can improve its standards for limiting soot in the air by doing more research into the possible health risks, a scientific panel recommended Wednesday." (Associated Press)

"Scientists testing national park snow for pollution" - "TACOMA, Wash. — Like little kids saving for summer, scientists are packing blocks of snow from national parks throughout the West into freezers to test it for pollution.

The National Park Service began the study two years ago and is scheduled to conclude it in 2007. The goal is determining whether airborne pollutants have fouled national treasures that many people believe are unspoiled.

"It's really sort of a mystery we're trying to solve," said Dixon Landers, the lead scientist in a multidisciplinary research team working on the Western Airborne Contaminants Assessment Project.

Landers and other scientists are trying to determine what toxic compounds and metals drop from the atmosphere into the parks, where they come from, and whether their concentrations are significant enough to worry about." (Associated Press)

"Bush Allows Forest Fire Control Without Species Consultation" - "WASHINGTON, DC, March 24, 2004 - The Bush administration has finalized new regulations that expedite forest thinning, burning and other fire control projects on public lands by eliminating the requirement that land management agencies consult with wildlife biologists to ensure protection for endangered species. Biologists within the land management agencies will now decide whether or not there is likely to be an adverse effect.

Bush officials say the new rules will not reduce the level of protection for endangered species, but critics believe the decision reflects a far reaching White House policy to undermine and roll back protections for imperiled plants and animals.

The Agriculture, Interior and Commerce departments have signed agreements to implement the new regulations, which conservationists plan to challenge in federal court." (Environment News Service)

"Rising seas point to melting glaciers, icesheets" - "PARIS - Melting glaciers, eroding snowcaps and icefields contributed more to rising sea levels in the last century than is usually estimated, according to a new study that touches on a controversial aspect of global warming." (AFP)

Hmm... rising sea levels are somewhat problematic since empirical measures taken at allegedly soon-to-be-inundated sites actually do not support these alarmist hypotheses. See, for example: Australian Mean Sea Level Survey; Demise of the Maldives: Greatly Exaggerated?; New perspectives for the future of the Maldives; Tuvalu Stung; Tasmanian Sea Levels: The `Isle of the Dead' Revisited; TOPEX-Poseidon Radar Altimetry: Averaging the Averages.

Curious, isn't it, that geologically stable Australia, exposed to the Pacific, Southern and Indian oceans (a representative sample, to be sure), suggests just +30mm/century (overall average relative sea level trend is +0.3 mm per year) when the above report claims between +150mm and +200mm for the century. There's no argument with Australia's National Tidal Facility empirical measures and we all know that Nature wouldn't permit publication of anything not meticulously peer reviewed and validated, which leaves us with a discrepancy of 120-170mm over 70% of the Earth's surface. Quick! Call 911! Someone's nicked between 40,000Km3 and 60,000Km3 of Earth's water!

"Blair's drive to cut global warming hit as CO2 emissions rise" - "The Prime Minister's desire to put Britain at the forefront of the battle to cut global warming is expected to receive a dramatic setback today when figures will show that CO2 emissions in the UK rose last year. Official figures to be released today are expected to show there was an increase of between 1 and 2 per cent in carbon dioxide emissions, despite a pledge to meet targets to reduce them significantly." (Independent)

Wanted: Hot Air Buyers - Vendors standing by! "Tories in Call to Bush on Global Warming" - "US President George Bush should sign up to the Kyoto Protocol and start to make an impact in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, a senior Conservative MP said today. The call for action came from shadow environment secretary Richard Ottaway at a party forum for industry specialists and green group representatives at the Commons. Mr Ottaway told PA News that he would like the US to ratify the deal agreed in 1997, which commits countries to legally binding cuts in carbon dioxide emissions – the chief cause of global warming. Mr Bush angered politicians and environmentalists worldwide when he announced shortly after taking office that America was abandoning Kyoto because he said it would harm the US economy." (PA News)

The Week That Was March 20, 2004; March 13, 2004; March 6, 2004 (SEPP)

They don't say! "Land cover changes affect US summer climate" - "While climate may be impacted by carbon dioxide emissions, aerosols and other factors, a new study offers further evidence land surface changes may also play a significant role." (NASA/GSFC - EOS)

You have to wonder about models that indicate warming when you replace forests with cropland and when deserts are replaced with woodlands. Previous studies have suggested that replacing forest with croplands increases albedo and hence leads to cooling. Like they say, further study required.

"Greenhouse gas 'guru' does sums on New Zealand emissions" - "A leading international greenhouse gas scientist is in New Zealand to examine our system for estimating nitrous oxide emissions.

Despite our clean, green image, New Zealand has a unique greenhouse gas problem. Our many millions of sheep and cattle produce considerable quantities of methane and nitrous oxide. Although much greenhouse gas publicity focuses on carbon dioxide, methane is 21 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping the heat of the sun, and nitrous oxide an astonishing 310 times more effective. Nitrous oxide makes up about a sixth of New Zealand's greenhouse gas output. It is generated mainly from surplus nitrogen in soils, which originates from dung and urine of sheep and cattle." (Media Release)

Stuck in spin cycle: "Africa Braces for the Fallout of Global Warming" - "A number of African scientists are urging governments on the continent to take measures to prepare for the impacts of global warming. "Climate change is now with us and poised to change our pattern of life," said Dr. Cecil Machena, a Zimbabwean ecologist and conservationist. "Yet few people know what climate change is all about."

The vast majority of the greenhouse gases behind global warming have been released by industrial countries like the United States and Europe. Scientists expect, however, that climate disruptions will take their heaviest toll on poor nations, which have contributed relatively little to the problem in the past century." (World Resources Institute)

"Hefty price rises in the wind for electricity consumers" - "Domestic electricity consumers face further rises in their bills from next year after power distribution companies pressed energy regulator Ofgem for a steep increase in their capital spending.

The increases, including a 95% rise in spending in the London Electricity area, part of French state-owned EdF Energy, could push household bills up by at least 2% - on top of the cost of network changes to accommodate the growing use of renewable energy.

The switch to renewables, mainly wind power, and the EU carbon dioxide emissions trading scheme are likely to push up bills by well over 10% as the government tries to combat global warming." (The Guardian)

"Soya-powered planes" - "American biochemists say aircraft fuel based on soya oil is just the thing to give commercial aviation a greener future. The biofuel blend would slash consumption of fossil fuel and slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, because the carbon it releases is from renewable sources." (New Scientist)

Really? How much fossil energy is used to produce the "biofuel" to begin with?

"Sea change for tidal power" - "A British company has invented a simple tidal power system that is relatively easy to install and has little impact on its environment. The device could soon be added to our range of renewable energy resources, and be used to bring power to remote seaside locations.

The TidEl system uses floating turbines that are anchored to the seabed by chains. The underwater windmills drift back and forth with the tide, so they point in the best direction to get power from the spinning blades." (NSU)

"Russia launches huge Arctic floating oil facility" - "MURMANSK, Russia - Russian state oil firm Rosneft yesterday launched a massive floating Arctic oil export tank designed to help the world's second largest oil exporting nation escape bottlenecks on its main export routes." (Reuters)

"Push to have GM salmon approved" - "A Canadian firm developing genetically modified fish says it aims to apply for regulatory approval by the end of 2004. Aqua Bounty has developed salmon which grow several times faster than normal. Environmentalists oppose the technology because, they say, studies have shown how escaped GM fish could breed with and damage populations of wild salmon. But Aqua Bounty, based in Newfoundland, says such impacts can be avoided by making the novel fish sterile and growing them in isolated tanks. If regulatory approval is granted, it could open the door to other varieties of GM fish; about 30 different types have so far been created in various laboratories around the globe." (BBC News Online)

"National interest in GM crop `stunt'" - "RESPONSE to a GM crop `stunt' started in a Gazette & Herald column has sparked major interest.

Liberal Ryedale District Councillor John Clark offered a couple of maize plants to any householder interested in keeping Ryedale GM free.

The move follows a recent announcement by DEFRA minister Margaret Beckett that the Government agreed in principal to allow GM maize to be planted in the UK. But according to European Union law, set distances will have to be established between GM and non-GM crops.

Coun Clark wrote: "If a large number of people were to grow non-GM maize, the sorting out of the separation distances would become extremely difficult. This may well make it impossible for DEFRA to give permission for GM maize to be grown anywhere in Ryedale." (This Is Ryedale)

"Plan to tighten GM label laws rejected" - "A plan by the Australian Greens to tighten the labelling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients has failed to pass the muster of a Senate committee. The Senate's Community Affairs Committee, in a report on a proposed truth in food labelling law, found there was no need to change existing laws that govern GM good labelling. At present, foods which have a detectable level of more than one per cent GM ingredients must be labelled as such. But the Greens wanted the laws changed, requiring all foods derived from genetically altered ingredients to be labelled. It would have also have required the labelling of GM animal feed, although milk, meat and eggs from animals treated with GM medicines would have been excluded from the requirements." (The Age)

"Iowa leader backs US-NZ 'pharma-crop' tie-in" - "A man who might be the next Vice-President of the United States would like to see New Zealand growing genetically modified "pharma-crops" in the American off-season. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, one of a clutch of names being touted as a possible running mate for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, is in New Zealand leading a delegation of Iowa biotechnology businesses. He said farmers in New Zealand, as in the Iowa corn belt, needed new high-value products to replace low-value agricultural commodities. "As Brazil and South America and Africa and some of the other parts of the world get their agricultural act together, our farms are going to be at a serious disadvantage," he said." (New Zealand Herald)

"Monsanto eyes royalties on Latam soy imports to US" - "WASHINGTON - Biotech crop leader Monsanto Co., hoping to capitalize on an expected spurt in soy exports from Brazil to the United States, will try to collect royalties if vessels are found carrying soy or soymeal grown from pirated biotech seeds, according to Monsanto officials." (Reuters)

March 24, 2004

"Malaria: When Politics Kills" - "While featuring on SABC recently, Fiona Kobusingye from Ugandan recounted how malaria wrecked havoc on her family. Two of her sisters and her son died of malaria. Her son's death led to the breakdown of her marriage. Fiona's family members are not the only one malaria has cut down in their prime. The devastating effects of malaria can be heard anywhere in Africa.

The number of those who died of malaria has continued to rise. Many children have been made orphaned. Millions of people have died as a result of the disease. Millions more died from other diseases such as dysentery, typhus and AIDS. Malaria kills more than AIDS. Deaths from other diseases would have been stemmed if they did not have malaria at the same time. Available records in Lagos State alone show that malaria is the most relentless killer disease. Fifteen per cent of admissions in Lagos State hospitals and over 50 per cent out patient cases were involved in malaria treatments. Statistics across Nigeria shows similar trend." (This Day (Lagos))

"Medical 'Truths'" - "A hundred years ago it was accepted as scientific fact that emphysema was an occupational hazard for glass blowers and wind instrument players. Emphysematous lungs are large, limp, and less elastic than normal lungs. Glass blowers and horn blowers suck air in and out of their lungs all day. It only made sense that their lungs would look and behave like a balloon that had been blown up and deflated time and again. It was one theory that was considered well grounded and rational by the standards of its day. But then, someone actually measured the incidence of emphysema in glass blowers and horn blowers and found that the condition was not rampant, but rather rare. Medical science marched on, leaving yet another "fact" in its wake.

And medical science has continued to march on, or so we like to think. Discriminating doctors of the early twenty-first century, unlike the doctors of the early twentieth, pride themselves on practicing "evidence based medicine." Unless there's a paper and statistics to back up a theory, we don't put it into practice. We like to think of medicine as a hard science, as dependent on the observable and quantifiable as chemistry, or some branches of physics. But, the truth is, in many respects medical science has devolved into a science as soft as economics or sociology." (Sydney Smith, TCS)

"Why We Need Sound Science Rules" - "In the United Kingdom, the Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), has just announced that the agency will take steps to combat the growing menace of advertising promoting unhealthy diets to children. The trouble is that the FSA itself has admitted there is no evidence of a problem. It seems that in the UK, politics drives science. There is evidence that the same is happening over here in the US on both sides of the political divide. These problems could be solved by adherence to some simple rules of sound science." (Iain Murray, TCS)

Hmm... "Gulf War 'link to miscarriages'" - "Women whose partners served in the Gulf in the early 1990s may have been more likely to suffer miscarriages in the years that followed, a study suggests. But researchers have rejected claims their babies were more likely to have suffered birth defects. They also found no evidence to suggest the women had higher stillbirth rates." (BBC News Online)

The above headline could have read: "Women whose partners served in the Gulf in the early 1990s may be more likely to self-report early stage miscarriage." Curiously, women who so served are not in a higher reporting category.

"Nasa considers impact alert plan" - "The US space agency Nasa is clarifying the procedure for telling the President if the Earth is in danger of being hit by a newly discovered asteroid. It follows the discovery on 13 January of a possibly dangerous object - 2004 AS1 - which for just a few hours had some observers worried it would hit us. At the time some scientists were unsure at what stage to raise the alarm and who to call, but now the plan is clear." (BBC News Online)

"Ozone-destroying gas in atmostphere increased significantly during Industrial Age, study shows" - "Human activity in the Industrial Age -- approximately the last 150 years -- has significantly increased atmospheric levels of methyl bromide, a gas known for harming the ozone layer in the Earth's stratosphere." (University of California - Irvine)

"US Pushes to Boost Use of Ozone Damaging Fumigant" - "NEW YORK - U.S. fruit growers in Montreal this week will push for an increase in their use of a pesticide known to destroy the ozone layer, claiming that exemptions for developing nations on the chemical are unfair.

Methyl bromide, a fumigant that kills soil and food pests, is due to be phased out by developed nations by January 1, 2005, under the 1987 Montreal Protocol to protect the atmosphere.

The George W. Bush administration last year attempted to exempt farmers from the 2005 ban. Negotiations on how much should be exempted for critical uses deadlocked last November at a U.N.-sponsored negotiating conference in Nairobi. Delegates hope to reach an agreement on the figure at a Montreal meeting this week." (Reuters)

If it ain't broke... "What shall it profit a grower . . ." - "It's hard, at first glance, to link the tomatoes, peppers and strawberries you eat with the high-flying high ozone layer. Even harder to connect a game of golf with the thin gassy shield 50 kilometres above our heads that protects all life on Earth from damaging levels of ultraviolet sunlight. However, for governments meeting today in Montreal, the crucial link between agriculture and the global effort to repair the ozone layer is the major issue on everyone's mind." (Klaus Toepfer, Globe and Mail)

"Talks seek to break deadlock on ozone treaty" - "Talks aimed at preventing a breakdown of the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer, usually seen as the world's most successful environmental treaty, start today in Montreal.

The meeting will attempt to break the deadlock over a US request to continue widespread use of methyl bromide, a powerful ozone-depleting fumigant. A conference intended to resolve the issue ended in stalemate last November.

Failure to reach agreement could prompt the US to violate the treaty, which could deepen the rift between the US and the European Union over other environmental issues. It could also precipitate trade sanctions against the US and jeopardise the recovery of the ozone layer, increasing the risk of skin cancer, cataracts and immunological problems." (Financial Times)

"Twelve countries seek exemption to ozone-depleting chemical ban" - "MONTREAL - The United States, Japan, Canada, France and eight other rich countries asked a UN environmental body for permission to extend use of a toxic pesticide that damages Earth's ozone layer." (AFP)

"Combating Climate Change: Economic Opportunity or Economic Suicide?" - Message By Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on the 10th Anniversary of the Coming into Force of the Climate Change Convention - "Nairobi, 19 March 2004 - When teams from the United States and Britain invented the first computers, they cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars and were thought luxuries with little mass-market appeal.

Indeed there was a time when it was thought that a modern industrialized country might, at a pinch, need only one or two computers.

Today, such a short-term, blinkered view seems amusing. Millions of people across the globe are now employed in the computer and related industries. The Internet revolution, based on the computer and computerised telecommunications, is creating a new, electronic-based, industrial and commercial age.

We are now on the verge on another, separate but related industrial leap forward where the inefficient use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil is being reduced, and where, like the typewriter and the punch card machine of yesteryear, new competition is starting to make its mark." (UN Environment Programme)

How appropriate that Klaus should use computers as an analogy, given that catastrophic enhanced greenhouse-forced global warming exists only in computer-modelled virtual worlds.

"Environmentalists disappointed in budget silence on Kyoto treaty" - "OTTAWA - Environmentalists were disappointed with lack of action on climate change in the federal budget Tuesday and skeptical about the green-technology payoff promised from the sale of Petro-Canada.

Pierre Sadik of the Green Budget Coalition said he could find no reference to the Kyoto treaty in budget documents. But he did find significant subsidies for fossil fuels." (CP)

"Rising seas point to a bigger global problem" - "Paris - Melting glaciers, eroding snowcaps and icefields contributed more to rising sea levels in the past century than is usually estimated, according to a new study that touches on a controversial aspect of global warming.

Ocean levels rose by between 15 and 20cm in the 20th century, most of which can be attributed to runoff from melting ice on land, it says.

The research compares with estimates which put the rate of rise lower and which blame most of that on thermal expansion rather than ice melt." (AFP)

"A Scientific Stick Check" - "Recently, it has been posited that the 1990s were the warmest decade of the past two millennia -- a direct result of an anthropogenic influence on the earth's climate. This view, which has been adopted by global-warming activists and some scientists and loudly touted by many in the media, first appeared in the late 1990s when Dr. Michael Mann, of the University of Virginia, and his colleagues began to challenge the longstanding scientific evidence that global air temperatures have been quite variable. Mann's claim is that the annual temperature for the Northern Hemisphere was nearly constant until 1900; then human activity caused a dramatic warming, particularly during the late 1900s, to produce a curve with a shape resembling an upturned hockey stick.

Then, in a chapter he co-authored in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Mann inserted his claim, thus giving the appearance that it is widely accepted in the scientific community. More recently, Mann and his colleagues have extended their "hockey stick" back to A.D. 200 and to cover both Hemispheres, suggesting now that humans were the sole cause of any variability in the earth's climate over the last two millennia.

But is Mann's "hockey stick" consistent with the data? Along with my colleagues, Harvard astrophysicists Dr. Willie Soon and Dr. Sallie Baliunas, I contend that it is not." (David R. Legates, TCS)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Coal-Mine Canaries Keeping Cool on Greenland" - "What happens climate-wise in earth's polar regions is said by climate alarmists to presage what will subsequently happen to the rest of the globe; and what they say is happening there now is said by them to suggest an unprecedented imminent warming of the entire planet.  Real-world data, however, suggest otherwise." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Medieval Warm Period (Russia)" - "Climate alarmists continue to claim that the Medieval Warm Period was not particularly warm nor of much note beyond the lands that surround the North Atlantic Ocean.  In this summary we explore this claim as it pertains to Russia." (co2science.org)

"Long Term Studies (Non-Woody Plants)" - "Do they reveal a gradual decline of the initial CO 2 -induced stimulation of photosynthesis and growth that is typically observed in short-term experiments, but which has been suggested by certain theoretical studies (and is heavily promoted by climate alarmists) to lead to an equilibrium response of essentially no, or very little, CO 2 -induced productivity enhancement?" (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: Carob, Myrtle Oak, Semi-Natural Grassland and White Poplar." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Holocene Climate in the Gulf of Mexico" - "What relation does it bear to the Holocene climate of the North Atlantic Ocean?" (co2science.org)

"The Medieval Warm Period in Southern Tibet" - "Did it really occur?  And, if so, how did its warmth compare with that of today's?" (co2science.org)

"Dengue Fever: How Will It Respond to Global Warming?" - "IPCC-inspired climate alarmists claim it will become ever more common throughout the world, even in developed countries such as the United States, which should give one a really big clue that just the opposite is more likely to happen, just as long as we don't mess with our carbon-based economy." (co2science.org)

"Pathogens vs. Plants in a CO 2 -Enriched World of the Future" - "Which will be the winners?" (co2science.org)

"Growth Response of a Common Freshwater Microalga to Doubled Atmospheric CO 2 " - "Few experiments have explored this topic, which makes it all the more interesting to find one that does." (co2science.org)

"Forest district eyes the carbon market" - "Your local prairie or forest preserve could help save the planet from global warming. The DuPage County Forest Preserve District is exploring a new market in which polluting industries pay for the creation of forests and grasslands, which convert greenhouse gases into plant tissues. "Essentially you're getting people to let nature do what nature does, and that's what I think is exciting about it," said Commissioner Carl Schultz of Aurora. The program could bring the forest preserve a new source of money to pay for habitat restoration and other projects. John Oldenburg, director of natural resources, plans to develop three pilot programs to present to commissioners in the next year. "The marketplace is very hungry for an organization like ours to participate," Oldenburg said." (Daily Herald)

What marketplace?

"Investor doubts deliver blow to renewable energy programme" - "The Government's ambitious green energy programme was dealt a blow yesterday when big City investors warned that the UK would not hit its targets for increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources." (Independent)

"Canberra funds dioxide emissions cut from coal" - "A MULTI-million-dollar federal funding package is expected to be announced today to encourage the coal industry to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane will launch the COAL21 action plan, a joint government/industry initiative on greenhouse gas reduction technologies. Much of the research will be into the effectiveness of carbon sequestration - capturing carbon dioxide and burying it underground." (The Courier-Mail)

"GM crop opponents blasted" - "OPPONENTS of genetically modified crops have been branded misguided fundamentalists by one of the European Parliament's leading members.

Caroline Jackson, the Conservative Euro-MP for South-West England, who chairs the EU environment, consumer protection and public health committee, said they were choosing the wrong target.

"I'm more worried about imported bugs than GM food," said Dr Jackson. "Making GM a target is misguided fundamentalism." (The Western Mail)

"Should Roundup Ready soybeans be managed differently than conventional soybeans?" - "While much research had been conducted with management of conventional soybeans, little has been conducted to see how Roundup Ready soybeans compare, until now. In the March/April issue of Agronomy Journal, scientists report on a Wisconsin study that measured the effect of adjusting management practices when using Roundup Ready soybeans. They found that it may be economically feasible to reduce seeding rates in parts of the state." (American Society of Agronomy)

"U.S. grain millers seek some biotech crop controls" - "KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 23 - U.S. milling companies are asking the federal government to impose strict controls on the production of medicines or industrial products using genetically modified (GMO) crops.

The North American Millers Association (NAMA) sent a letter late Monday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service warning that the nation's food supply is at risk of contamination from crops that have been genetically modified for pharmaceutical or industrial uses but not approved for use in food." (Reuters)

March 23, 2004

[Gasp!] "Self-reported food intake may thwart research" - "NEW YORK - A new study of overweight, diabetic women casts doubt on the reliability of the self-reported dietary habits often used in medical research. Researchers found that most of the 200 women they studied, as many as 81 percent, reported eating fewer calories than they actually had, based on objective measures. Many also claimed to have eating habits that closely matched the recommended diet for diabetics, which suggests the women were really reporting what they thought they should be eating, according to the researchers." (Reuters Health)

"Time to fire back against video game foes, Seeman says" - "TORONTO - In the face of an onslaught of reports about how video games harm children and adolescents, it takes steady nerves to stand up and be counted in defence of the technology.

"It's about time some we heard some good news about the art of zapping aliens," contends Neil Seeman, a Toronto lawyer and health researcher who is an adjunct research fellow of the conservative Fraser Institute." (Canadian Press)

"UVA rays cancer warning" - "Protecting the skin from burning in strong sunshine may do little to help to protect against cancer, researchers said yesterday. A team of scientists from the University of Sydney say they have found evidence that UVA rays, which do not cause sunburn, penetrate deeper into the skin than the shorter UVB rays which visibly harm skin. Until now, UVA has been considered to be less important as a cause of skin cancer than UVB. As a result of the research, people are being advised to use sunscreens which block both UVB and UVA. The scientists say in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that they have found genetic mutations or "fingerprints" in the deep basal layer of the epidermis, where new skin cells are made. They believe that new cells moving from this layer may be very sensitive to the penetrating UVA rays." (Daily Telegraph)

If so - and there is still some contention, although this is not the first time UVA has been named as the skin cancer culprit - the last hypothetical justification for the Montreal Protocol has just been fatally sunburned. Why? Because alleged ozone depletion is completely irrelevant to UVA (ultraviolet radiation in the 320-400 nanometer [nm] band) exposure - UVA is not blocked by the atmosphere. UVB (270-320nm), which causes sunburn, is both blocked by ozone (O3) and, if allowed to penetrate the atmosphere, creates ozone lower in the atmosphere where it can be an irritant in photochemical smog. It is also blocked by water vapour to some extent with thick cloud acting as a complete shield and thin cloud only a partial shield. UVB powers your skin's production of vitamin D from its cholesterol precursor. UVC (<270nm), which would cause severe burns with short exposure, does not penetrate the atmosphere, blocked completely by atmospheric oxygen (O2) and ozone (O3). Regardless, so-called ozone depletion is a seasonal polar event, where ultraviolet radiation bombardment is roughly 1,000 times less than the equatorial regions receive anyway. Tell us again about Patagonian sheep and blind rabbits in our backyards Al.

"Climate change: UN marks treaty's anniversary by hailing savings of going green" - "21 March 2004 – Fighting climate change makes economic sense in the long run because using energy more efficiently will ultimately produce enormous financial and green benefits, the head of the United Nations' environmental agency said in a message marking the 10th anniversary today of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which came into force in March 1994.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), noted that re-insurance agents last year estimated that the cost of climate-related disasters reached $65 billion." (UN News)

"Climate Debate Gets Its Icon: Mt. Kilimanjaro" - "Kilimanjaro, the storied mountain that rises nearly four miles above the shimmering plains of Tanzania, is beginning to resemble the spotted owl — at least in the way it has become a two-sided icon in an environmental debate.

The owl first entered the spotlight 15 years ago, in fierce debate over clear-cutting of ancient Pacific forests. Millions of acres were placed off-limits to logging when the bird was listed as threatened under the federal endangered-species law. Soon afterward, effigies of it began showing up on the grilles of logging trucks.

Kilimanjaro's majestic glacial cap of 11,000-year-old ice has long captured imaginations the world over, so it was not surprising that environmentalists focused their attention on it when scientists reported in 2001 that glaciers around the world were retreating, partly as a result of global warming caused by emissions of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases from smokestacks and tailpipes.

Campaigners from Greenpeace, the environmental group, scaled the mountain in November 2002 and held a news conference via satellite with reporters at climate-treaty talks in Morocco. Last October, Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is co-author of a bill to curb greenhouse gases, displayed before-and-after photographs of Kilimanjaro during a Senate debate. A British scientist proposed hanging white fabric over the glacier's ragged 10-story-tall edges to block sunlight and stem the erosion.

But now the pendulum has swung. This month, the mountain was taken up as a symbol of eco-alarmism by a cluster of scientists and anti-regulation groups. "Snow Fooling!: Mount Kilimanjaro's glacier retreat is not related to global warming," read a newsletter distributed on March 9 by the Greening Earth Society, a private group financed by industries dealing in fossil fuels, the dominant source of the heat-trapping gases. "Media and scientists blame human activity, but a 120-year-old natural climate shift is the cause." (New York Times)

Glacial Retreat on Kilimanjaro; The Ice Fields of Kilimanjaro: Why Did They Recede So Steadily for So Many Years?; Mount Kilimanjaro Is Visited with Snow

"Plankton theory proved wrong" - "Research by Dunedin oceanographer Dr Philip Boyd has torpedoed a theory that fertilising microscopic plants in the world's oceans could reduce a build-up of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Iron fertilisation of plants in the surface ocean might not be the answer to removing excess "greenhouse gas" carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a paper by Dr Boyd and other overseas researchers, recently published by Nature magazine." (Otago Daily Times)

"Greenland’s Secret" - "Here’s some hot news: Temperatures in Greenland have been rising like a rocket during the past decade or so, only to restore them to what they were in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s! Yet that bit of climate history — that temperatures were as warm or warmer in Greenland fifty years ago than they are today — appears to be lost on the global warming crowd. Instead, they point their fingers at and cluck their tongues over conditions in Greenland as they have changed during the past decade, claiming them to be a clear sign of anthropogenic global warming." (GES)

"Ups and Downs" - "Bells dinged in newsrooms served by the Associated Press (AP) wire over the weekend on reports that the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration grew at a “record pace” last year. What AP’s coverage overlooks are year-to-year fluctuations in the rate of growth. Factor those in and you discover there’s been no significant trend in twenty-seven years" (GES)

"Letter: Global Warming Study" - "To the Editor:

Your March 18 news article "Study Disputes Idea on Global Warming" gives the impression that our research goes against the consensus scientific view that global warming is a serious concern. While our research does suggest that climate models are somewhat overestimating 21st-century warming, our work does not argue against the seriousness of the problem.

The predicted global warming over the 21st century is so large (up to 11 degrees Fahrenheit), and the potential effects so serious, that slight overestimates of this warming make little difference — just as reducing the size of a firing squad from 10 shooters to nine makes little difference to the person being executed. Our research should provide no comfort to those arguing against policies to combat global warming." (Andrew E. Dessler and Ken Minschwaner, New York Times)

"Government leans toward stretching out power plant cleanup of mercury pollution" - "The Bush administration is leaning toward stretching out plans for reducing mercury pollution from power plants until 2018 after concluding that technology for quick cuts isn't available. Some plants would be able to buy their way out of reducing emissions." (Associated Press)

"A Cast of Thousands" - "In Hollywood's glory days, studios peppered movie posters with the words "cast of thousands" in bold type. That phrase does not appear on the cover of Insurrection, a new book on the rise of the anti-globalization movement—but it wouldn't be out of place. Almost every radical non-profit organization and pressure group conceivable makes an appearance in its pages. Everyone from the AFL-CIO and National Labor Council, to Friends of the Earth, the Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club and the Ruckus Society, to Public Citizen, the Environmental Defense Fund, George Soros' Open Society Institute, the Institute for Policy Studies and the National Lawyers Guild garners at least one mention. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has a supporting role—it "provided financial support for the research and writing of this book."

Authors Keith Danaher (of the far-left anti-market group Global Exchange) and Jason Mark (a journalist-turned-activist), believe a new political movement will soon be marching down Main Street USA. It's made up of "environmental activists, human rights groups, trade unionists, and countless other citizens of conscience," who are "demanding that corporations be held accountable to the public. Insurrection says this movement has three main objectives—“to limit or revoke all powers of the modern corporation"; to "revolt against corporate rule [of political institutions]"; and "to re-establish the principle that sovereignty...rests with we, the people, not with corporations." (Neil Hrab, CEI)

Neo-Luddites: "Phone blockade of Bayer Crop Science against gm crops" - "Description: Phone 'blockade' of Bayer Crop Science aimed at disrupting their communications and wasting office time. The phone number will be posted on the upcoming actions page of www.stopbayergm.org on Sunday 21st. By giving as little advance notice as possible we hope to maximise the inconvenience to Bayer. There will also be an email address for an email blockade. It is hoped that people will make repeated calls and send repeated emails throughout the day. Bayer are the target of an ongoing campaign to get them to pull out of gm crops in Britain." (Commercial vandal posting)

"GMO 'Scare Campaign' Deplored, Farmers, Scientists Back Biotech" - "Some of the country's biggest farmer organizations recently branded an "apparent organized campaigns to discredit the government's food security policy using biotechnology as politically-motivated and counter-productive since this will derail the country's bid for food sufficiency".

Farmer-leader Edwin Paraluman, chair of the Agricultural and Fisheries Council of General Santos City, and of the Provincial Farmers Action Council of South Cotabato, said recent attacks on the government's pro-biotechnology policy for agriculture by Norwegian anti-genetically modified food (GMO) activist Terje Traavik "is highly suspect in terms of timing and motivation." (Associated Press)

"Western Australia to ban production of GM food crops" - "Western Australia will become the first state in Australia to officially ban the production of genetically modified (GM) food crops. The decision by the State Government will ensure farmers can continue to market GM-free produce, in a sector that contributes more than $9 billion to the state's economy. The Labor Party was elected to government promising a five-year moratorium on the commercial growth of GM food crops. Agriculture Minister Kim Chance says the legislation will allow the State Government to grant exemptions for trials, including GM cotton and canola. "There are two issues, but they spring mainly from the fact that there is no reason for us to adopt GM technology at this stage, and there are still so many questions unanswered as to the market aspects of GM technology," he said." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"[New Zealand] Local bodies may have right to compo over GE errors" - "Councils may have the right to demand millions of dollars in compensation if things go wrong with genetically modified crops, says a legal expert. Rebellious Northland councils paid the Sustainability Council, an anti-GM group, to explore their rights in regard to the release of GM plants in their areas. The Sustainability Council's report contains advice from top environmental lawyer Dr Royden Somerville that councils may be able to impose GM no-go zones and their own liability regimes. The Far North, Whangarei, Kaipara and Rodney District councils, with help from Local Government NZ, commissioned the GM report after frustration at what they saw as the Government's dismissal of their concerns about GM crop contamination." (New Zealand Herald)

"Japanese consumers tell Canada to stop GM wheat" - "WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 22 - Japan will stop buying Canadian wheat if Canada approves a variety of genetically modified wheat, a delegation of Japanese consumer groups warned on Monday.

Bearing a petition signed by 414 Japanese organizations and companies, and saying that they represent more than 1.1 million people, the activists said they wanted to take their message to Canadian politicians in person.

"We will reject GM wheat," said Keisuke Amagasa of the No! GMO Campaign. "If GM wheat is approved and commercial planting begins here, we will take action to prevent the import of wheat from Canada."

Japanese consumers are worried that biotech crops have not had enough testing to prove they are safe, Amagasa said." (Reuters)

March 22, 2004

Chemical insult? "Health risks of phthalates" - "Phthalates, largely used as plasticisers, have long been suspected in connection with rising infertility rates, particularly among men. These substances are quite common and are considered highly hazardous to human health because they disrupt the hormonal balance and impair reproduction and development." (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)

"Babies Are Larger After Ban on 2 Pesticides, Study Finds" - "Pregnant women in upper Manhattan who were heavily exposed to two common insecticides had smaller babies than their neighbors, but recent restrictions on the two substances quickly lowered exposure and increased babies' size, according to a study being published today." (New York Times)

Hmm... be interesting to know why there is such variation in exposure. Is it correlated to rent/mortgage value, for example? Curious.

"The real health scare" - "Towards the end of last week, there were two health scares. Coca-Cola announced that it was temporarily withdrawing its new brand of purified and bottled water, Dasani, after it was found to contain slightly elevated levels of bromate, chronic exposure to which has been linked with cancer. And at the European Breast Cancer Conference it was revealed that as many as 70 per cent of British breast cancer patients are compromising their chances of survival by using alternative remedies which either do not work or are actually harmful.

There are no prizes for guessing which of the two scares gained the most media attention." (Telegraph)

"Eat Lower-Mercury Fish, US Tells Women, Children" - "WASHINGTON - Shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish should be off the menu for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and women who may become pregnant because they contain too much mercury, the U.S. government said." (Reuters)

Doh! "Homer's dodgy diet is beyond joke for food police" - "HE WEIGHS in at somewhere in excess of 17 stone, has suffered several heart attacks and undergone triple heart bypass surgery. With his protruding belly, addiction to doughnuts and Duff beer and his fear of any form of physical exercise, Homer Simpson is nobody’s idea of a figure of good health.

Unfortunately, the message appears to have gone over the heads of the health police. They want him to change, cut down on the fatty snacks and eat some pasta. It’s not going to go down well with the Atkins people, but they appear to be serious.

A team of researchers from New Jersey’s Rutgers University ploughed through 63 episodes of the hit cartoon show to analyse what sort of a health message it was sending out. Failing to see the joke, they were unimpressed." (The Scotsman) | Introducing the new slim, healthy Homer (as styled by the fat police) (Independent)

"Tackling the obesity time bomb" - "Growing rates of obesity present a major public health problem for government's across the globe. In the UK, ministers have embarked on a public consultation exercise to assess just how best the tackle the problem. However, medical experts fear initiatives will have little effect unless people start taking responsibility for their own health. They are convinced there is no fix solution - the answer lies in the hands of individuals. As the number of child and adult obesity cases continues to rise, people need to take stock of their lifestyle, they argue." (BBC News Online)

Personal responsibility? Imagine that...

"France chokes on the quiche truth" - "QUELLE horreur! French nutritionists have discovered that the Big Mac is healthier than that Gallic classic, quiche lorraine.

In a new book, Savoir Manger: le guide des aliments (Know How to Eat: the food guide), which is climbing the French bestseller lists, Jean-Michel Cohen and Patrick Serog analyse 5,000 dishes available in supermarkets, cafes and restaurants.

Their findings make uncomfortable reading in a country where fast food is considered by many to be a symbol of gastronomic evil and McDonald’s restaurants are seen as legitimate targets by anti-globalisation activists.

The much-maligned burger, it seems, has a far higher protein-to-fat ratio than the seemingly inoffensive but often greasy quiche. “Strangely enough, the products which are the most demonised are not necessarily the worst,” the authors claim." (The Sunday Times) | Vive le 'Big Mac' (The Washington Times)

"Desalination Plants Could Divide California Officials" - "MONTEREY, Calif. — Setting the stage for a potential showdown with the Schwarzenegger administration over desalination, the executive director of the California Coastal Commission laid out his concerns this week about the prospect of private desalting plants along the state's seashore." (Los Angeles Times)

"Forest Service Drops Outside Environmental Reviews" - "WASHINGTON, DC, March 19, 2004, - The Bush administration has advised the U.S. Forest Service to eliminate reviews of its actions by other federal agencies for compliance with endangered species, clean water, and historical preservation laws.

The agency plans to remove any consultation or other "process" it deems unrelated to "the Four Threats" - fire risk, invasive species, unmanaged recreation and loss of open land - according to a memo detailing instructions given in January by Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth.

The memo calls for the elimination of endangered species consultation on "inland aquatic species with both ... Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries."

In addition, building on a recently finalized rule waiving Endangered Species Act consultations on fire-related activities, the Forest Service would expand this no consultation stance "to all land management activities." (Environment News Service)

"Petrel flies back from extinction after 150 years" - "A bird thought to have been extinct for more than 150 years is alive and well and living in New Zealand.

The New Zealand storm petrel has not been seen since three were shot off South Island in the 1850s.

But, following work by two British ornithologists who photographed a flock of seabirds attracted to their boat by a trail of floating fish scraps, it has been officially reclassified from "extinct" to "critically endangered".

Their discovery has been hailed by the bird-watching world as one of the most important of recent years and plans are being made to capture the petrel and find its breeding grounds." (Daily Telegraph)

"Scientists find new carbon pollution called 'tar balls'" - "Scientists have discovered new carbon-bearing particles, which they call "tar balls," in air pollution. At first glance, tar balls may look like soot, a common form of carbon pollution in the air, but when observed through an electron microscope, the differences become clear. While black soot is the major absorber of sunlight in the atmosphere, tar balls may also be absorbing sunlight." (American Geophysical Union)

"Report: Carbon dioxide buildup accelerating" - "MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY, Hawaii -- Carbon dioxide, the gas largely blamed for global warming, has reached record-high levels in the atmosphere after growing at an accelerated pace in the past year, say scientists monitoring the sky from this 2-mile-high station atop a Hawaiian volcano.

The reason for the faster buildup of the most important "greenhouse gas" will require further analysis, the U.S. government experts say." (AP)

"CO2 Report Makes the Rounds" - "Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory, and monthly, and annual, averages have been posted in ppmv at a CDIAC website for several years. Here are graphic summaries of annual averages, and annual increases, since 1960:" (Still Waiting For Greenhouse) | Global Warming: Why Can't the Mainstream Press Get Even Basic Facts Right? (National Center For Public Policy Research)

"U.N. Urges Russia to Save Climate Plan" - "OSLO - The United Nations renewed calls on Friday for Russia to salvage a landmark plan to curb global warming, 10 years after governments agreed to fight a rise in temperatures threatening life on the planet.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said some progress had been made since the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into force on March 21, 1994 as the first global blueprint for tackling climate change caused by humans.

But he said that a stalling of the U.N. Kyoto protocol, which lays down the rules for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from cars and factories under the Convention, was "a major hurdle to effective global action." (Reuters)

"Early signs of climate devastation already visible: Kofi Annan" - "PARIS - UN chief Kofi Annan warned that the first signs of disastrous climate change may already be visible as he lobbied for the Kyoto Protocol, the global warming pact hamstrung by US opposition and Russian reticence.

Annan made the warning in a message to mark the 10th anniversary of the coming into force of Kyoto's parent treaty, the United Nations (news - web sites) Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

"Some of (the) effects (of climate change) are by now inevitable and, indeed, we may already be seeing -- in the increased incidence of drought, floods and extreme weather events that many regions are experiencing -- some of the devastation that lies ahead," he said." (AFP)

"Africa Braces for the Fallout of Global Warming" - "A number of African scientists are urging governments on the continent to take measures to prepare for the impacts of global warming. "Climate change is now with us and poised to change our pattern of life," said Dr. Cecil Machena, a Zimbabwean ecologist and conservationist. "Yet few people know what climate change is all about."

The vast majority of the greenhouse gases behind global warming have been released by industrial countries like the United States and Europe. Scientists expect, however, that climate disruptions will take their heaviest toll on poor nations, which have contributed relatively little to the problem in the past century." (World Resources Institute)

"[New Zealand] Glaciers advance" - "Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are advancing for the first time in five years - but it doesn't spell the end of global warming.

Glacier guides at the popular West Coast destinations confirmed Fox lengthened about 10m over summer while Franz Josef grew several metres in places along its terminal face. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research scientists are doing an annual snow and ice survey of 48 glaciers along the Southern Alps this month.

Niwa senior climate scientist Jim Salinger said the advancements were probably caused by higher than average amounts of snow and ice falling low on the glaciers over the past two winters.

But the full picture would not be known until the data was analysed over the next few months, he said.

The two glaciers advanced from 1984 to 1997 but had been retreating since about 1999. A year ago, all 48 glaciers, including Franz Josef and Fox, stopped retreating. Fox glacier guide Jim Spencer said the glacier, a 13km swathe of snow and ice, had become about 100m shorter over the past five years but had grown 10m in the past six months.

"No one really knows why - it could be because it was cooler so less ice melted or there was less warm rain."

Franz Josef glacier guide Blair Campbell said the glacier had advanced a few metres in places at the terminal face in the past four months." (Sunday Star-Times)

"Emission cuts 'are risking British jobs'" - "Furious executives warn that the UK will pay the price of going green in lost jobs, rising power prices and lack of competitiveness. Sylvia Pfeifer reports

British industry is once again on the warpath. The Government's ambitious proposal to combat global warming by cutting carbon-dioxide emissions by up to 20 per cent by 2010 has precipitated widespread anger among executives who have warned that Britain's international competitiveness is at risk.

Formal responses to the draft plan - part of Britain's contribution to a European Union carbon emissions trading scheme to take effect next year - were submitted by industry bodies earlier this month and are making uncomfortable reading for ministers." (Telegraph)

"Berlin Locks Horns Over Emission Certificates" - "One and a half weeks before a crucial deadline, Germany’s economics and environment ministers are still at odds over a plan to impose emissions trading certificates to industrial companies and energy producers.

The emissions trading plan is to be submitted to the European Commission at the end of March. It’ll be part and parcel of the European Union’s future trading in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission certificates with the aim of achieving greenhouse gas output reductions as agreed under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol." (Deutsche Welle)

"EU draft rules threaten NZ carbon credit cash" - "Draft rules for the European Union's carbon credits market would exclude New Zealand's forest sink credits.

The rules proposed by the European Commission, and now adopted with some amendments by the European Parliament's environment committee, would shut out from the European emissions trading system credits arising from Kyoto forests - those planted since 1990 on land not previously forested - because "they do not achieve permanent emission reduction from sources".

The credits were expected to more than cover growth in New Zealand's emissions of greenhouse gases from 1990 levels (its target under the protocol), leaving an estimated excess of about 50 million tonnes to sell." (New Zealand Herald)

"Green power's allure not worth its cost - Idea's appeal outstrips its reality" - "Depending on their mood, which can be altered by the weather or their local politicians, average energy consumers are a fickle bunch. They gripe about failed energy policies and rising prices, but usually without much conviction. And they demand "clean" energy, but resent the higher price tag that comes with it.

Confronted with the lingering aftermath of the 2001 energy crisis, California consumers and politicians have jumped on the bandwagon of renewable energy, the so-called "clean" or "green" stuff that environmentalists and engineers love. "Green" electricity is any kind that's produced without nuclear power or burning fossil fuels, usually by way of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydro plants.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set a goal of deriving one-third of the state's electricity from green sources by 2020. "We need to assure adequate and diverse fuel for power generation," Schwarzenegger said in his energy strategy plan. "In the longer term, power price stability will require diversification away from natural gas to assure a portfolio of alternate fuel sources for the state."

But the allure of green power always seems to outstrip reality, mesmerizing elected officials and their constituents because both think the other should love it.

The problem isn't effectiveness, it's cost." (Richard Nemec, Los Angeles Daily News)

"Baptists, Bootleggers and Wind Power" - "Have you ever heard of Baptists allying themselves with bootleggers? It actually happened in the early 20th century, when temperance activists in parts of the South struck political bargains with moonshiners and alcohol smugglers. The temperance activists, guided by their religious beliefs, wanted to reduce the number of legal opportunities for consumers to buy liquor. (This campaign culminated in what we remember as Prohibition.) These activists' arguments provided cover for their bootlegging brethren, who wanted to limit those opportunities to purchase booze as well -- but not for religious reasons. The bootleggers supported sales restrictions in order to force consumers to purchase home-made fire water, instead of the legal stuff brewed by their (legal) competitors. Fewer chances to legally buy alcohol meant higher profits for the bootleggers, who would become the vendor of last resort for the South's parched throats.

This odd pairing inspired Bruce Yandle, a professor of economics at Clemson University, to coin the phrase "Baptist-bootlegger alliance." This expression refers to political bargains struck by special interest groups to advance some shared goal, usually at the expense of average consumers. The Baptists enter into the alliance for moral reasons, the bootleggers join out of practical self-interest.

You can observe a latter-day Baptist-bootlegger alliance by studying America's pro-wind power movement. This lobby wants all levels of government to give the wind power industry various forms of assistance, including subsidies and special tax treatment." (Neil Hrab, TCS)

"Car makers secretly lobby EC to reduce air-pollution targets" - "All major car manufacturers are secretly lobbying the European Commission (EC) to relax its target for cutting climate-wrecking pollution from exhausts, a leaked document has revealed.

A confidential memo from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association to the Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström, claims that the proposed cuts will “seriously damage” the industry. The association represents Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Fiat, Renault, Peugeot Citroen, Volvo, Volkswagen and four others.

The revelation has infuriated environmental groups, who are demanding that the EC sticks to its guns. They accuse the industry of ignoring the catastrophes that are being threatened worldwide by the climate chaos caused by vehicle pollution." (Sunday Herald)

"UK leads a wave power revolution" - "Welsh deal with Danish firm will use water energy to generate electricity" (The Observer)

"Agriculture investment is the answer to sub-Saharan Africa in crisis" - "Greater investment in smallholder agriculture could offer a route out of the deepening poverty facing many African nations, a study by Imperial College London economists has concluded." (Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine)

"The Regulation of Food Safety and the Use of Traceability/Tracing in the EU and USA: Convergence or Divergence?" - "Introduction: The profile of risk and risk-related issues has risen markedly in the last 15 years. There has been a growing recognition of the importance of proper risk management and increasing interest in how this can be best used in relation to governance.

Of the various components of risk analysis assessment, management and communication where the perception of risk fits in is perhaps the most difficult aspect to understand and evaluate. The way that individuals, groups and societies react when faced with risk situations can often be difficult to predict and indeed may appear irrational.

With a view to furthering our understanding of risk perception, the European Commission hosted a major conference in Brussels in December of last year which attracted a wide range of participants from different backgrounds to try to get to the heart of the matter.

I am delighted to have the opportunity today to widen the discussion in a trans-Atlantic forum. I am sure that there is much than we can learn from each other. One of the particular issues highlighted by our Brussels conference was the differing attitudes to specific risks which may arise in different societies and cultures. The contrast in public attitudes to GM foods and BSE are two good examples of divergent perception between Europe and the United States.

I will touch on both of these issues in the course of this address in the context of explaining the European Union's broad approach to issues of risk, in particular in the field of food safety." (Mr David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection)

"Executive wins GM crop debate by one vote" - "THE Scottish Executive has escaped a parliamentary defeat over its policy on genetically-modified crops by just one vote

Nationalists had led calls for Scottish ministers to use all their powers to block the commercial growing of Chardon LL - despite the Executive and UK Government having already given qualified consent to the GM maize crop last week.

Deputy environment and rural development minister Allan Wilson told MSPs he had no legal basis to refuse consent since there was no scientific evidence that Chardon LL presented any health or environmental risks." (Edinburgh Evening News)

"New Canada Crop Rules May Be Too Late for GM Wheat" - "WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Canada's main wheat seller said it is worried new rules about how Canada approves genetically modified crops may come too late to stall a controversial new wheat variety.

The Canadian government is mulling over how best to ensure new biotech crops don't upset traditional markets, while taking pains not to stifle research, said Peter Pauker, a federal agriculture official helping to develop the policy.

Ottawa plans formal consultations by summer on whether Canada should ensure markets accept new foods before farmers start growing them." (Reuters)

"Monsanto sees seeds of food revolution in Europe" - "The food industry is showing increased interest in selling genetically-modified foods in spite of continued scepticism among European consumers, the head of a big US biotechnology company insisted this week.

The new generation of GM products with clear consumer benefits - such as vegetable oils that help prevent heart disease - has provoked fresh interest among manufacturers, says Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive of Monsanto. These included European food companies - demonstrating a shift in the industry's attitude.

"We are entering a new phase. Eight years ago a one hour chat would have consisted of them telling us all the mistakes we had made. Now they are asking about what is happening in Brazil [which may soon approve the planting of GM crops], and what are the next wave of products.

"We are getting unprompted calls from food manufacturers inquiring about oil technologies. That would not have happened before," Mr Grant said." (Financial Times)

"Policy Change Makes US Biotech Case Moot - EU Aide" - "WASHINGTON - The European Union will soon approve a genetically-modified crop variety for the first time in five years, rendering moot a trade case brought by the United States, a top EU official said.

"I confidently predict the first of those authorizations will come forward in a matter of weeks," David Byrne, European commissioner for health and consumer protection, told reporters. "Quite obviously, if authorizations are made, (a World Trade Organization) panel wouldn't have any work to do." (Reuters)

March 19, 2004

"Pharmaceutical Fantasy" - "Pfizer’s Lipitor edged out Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Pravachol in a head-to-head competition between the two cholesterol-lowering drugs, a new study reported last week. It appeared to be a disappointing result for study-funder Bristol-Myers. Not to worry, though. There seems to be a move afoot to make sure there are plenty of profits for all." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Food Fights" - "On March 10, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson launched public service announcements depicting dismembered body parts of fat people -- double chins, stomachs, buttocks, and thighs -- caught in grocery cart wheels, found by children along the beach and tripped over by mall shoppers. They're part of Thompson's efforts to educate Americans about obesity and persuade them to change their eating habits by showing fat people what they should "lose."

Yes, eating is becoming political. Our government is increasingly adopting the false science of a special interest group intent on making sure we all eat what they think we should -- and look and behave acceptably, too. If we're not careful, this new eugenics will see to it we're no longer free to eat what we want and we'll pay more for the privilege. If this sounds overly dramatic, look at what's already happened." (Sandy Szwarc, TCS)

"Complementary and alternative therapies: Who uses them and why, their potential and their dangers" - "The use of complementary and alternative therapies (CAMs) is widespread amongst cancer patients, and their use appears to be increasing in Europe, Dr Gillian Bendelow told the 4th European Breast Cancer Conference; while Professor Edzard Ernst said CAMs may have a role to play in palliation for cancer patients, but there is little evidence of their usefulness in the prevention or treatment of breast cancer." (Federation of European Cancer Societies)

"UK wildlife 'heading into crisis'" - "Two new studies of UK wildlife provide alarming evidence that many animal and plant species in Britain are in sharp decline due to human activity. The authors of one report claim their findings support the hypothesis the world could be in the midst of a sixth mass extinction. Falls in numbers of butterfly, bird and plant species could be due to habitat destruction and climate change." (BBC News Online)

"Worldwide Methyl Bromide Phase Out to be Addressed at March Meeting in Montreal" - "Santa Cruz, CA. March 16, 2004 - Over the past decade, great progress has been made under the 1987 Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act to phase out production and use of methyl bromide, the first pesticide to be included under the international Protocol. Production of methyl bromide has been cut 70 percent in industrialized countries since 1999 under the treaty timetable. But during the last year, the Bush administration has made proposals that would reverse these gains and cause methyl bromide production and use to start rising again. The treaty countries will meet at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol March 24-26 in Montreal, Canada, to address exemption requests from the United States and other countries. The United States has requested more exemptions than all other countries combined." (California Certified Organic Farmers)

"Green Activists Threaten Peruvian Golden Goose" - "If you think capitalism works perfectly, you're awfully naive. But if you think free market operations beat the pants off state-run ones, you're right. Case in point: one of South America's largest smelter and refinery facilities in La Oroya, Peru.

In 1974, the Peruvian government took the facility, now more than 80 years old, from an American company. Under nationalization it continued to produce lead, gold, silver, copper, zinc and other metals.

It produced something else as well – disease and death. In 1994, an American environmentalist told Newsweek magazine the metallurgical project was "a vision from hell." The dust was filled with lead and arsenic, while a river running through the facility contained lead levels six times the World Bank limit." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"Mathematical rule said to be widely and wrongly used to forecast future beach erosion" - "A decades-old mathematical model is being inappropriately used in at least 26 nations to make potentially costly predictions about how shorelines will retreat in response to rising sea levels, two coastal scientists contended in the Friday, March 19, 2004, issue of the research journal Science." (Duke University)

"NASA explains 'dust bowl' drought" - "NASA scientists have an explanation for one of the worst climatic events in the history of the United States, the "Dust Bowl" drought, which devastated the Great Plains and all but dried up an already depressed American economy in the 1930's. The study found cooler than normal tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures combined with warmer tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures to create conditions in the atmosphere that turned America's breadbasket into a dust bowl from 1931 to 1939." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Glacial records depict ice age climate in synch worldwide" - "An answer to the long-standing riddle of whether the Earth's ice ages occurred simultaneously in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres is emerging from the glacial deposits found in the high desert east of the Andes." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

"Patagonian ice dam studied from space cracks open" - "Tourists watch as the 70 meters (220 feets) front wall of the glacier Perito Moreno breaks down Sunday, March 14, 2003 for the first time in 16 years in Lago Argentino, some 3,200 kilometers, (2,000 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. A spectacle unseen for 16 years occurred in Patagonia this week: a natural dam of blue ice gave way to crushing lake waters trapped behind it, finally breaking apart. Watching tourists applauded as a section of the 60-metre high Perito Moreno glacier collapsed and the waters of the dammed southern arm of Lago Argentino surged through it. Since last October this section – known as Brazo Sur - had been blocked off from the rest of the lake by the glacier’s flowing ice tongue, which extended a solid wall of ice across the narrow water channel. The 30-km-long Perito Moreno glacier is the most famous part of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the subject of a long-term study by the University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Meteorology and Geophysics, with in-situ observations supplemented by ESA satellite data." (European Space Agency)

"Bottom-up greenery" - "COULD the next grass-roots revolution in America be over climate change? George Bush stomped out of the UN's Kyoto treaty on global warming three years ago and did a U-turn on campaign pledges to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Since then, he has refused to come up with sensible domestic policies. Yet that very obstinacy has fomented a backlash in the states.

Massachusetts led the way by imposing curbs on CO2 emissions from power plants. The New England states have also joined the eastern provinces of Canada in vowing to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 12% by the end of the decade. Emboldened by this, a dozen states and three cities sued the Environmental Protection Agency in October for refusing to treat CO2, the chief greenhouse gas, as a pollutant." (The Economist)

"The Conservatives must attack Kyoto" - "Canada has only one articulated environmental policy, and that is the policy that leads directly to a dangerous and massive uber-state. Our anti-corporate fervour, the fear of modernism, a desire to return (like the late Victorians) to the Middle Ages, to slow things down therefore live forever, play into the hands of irresponsible fame addicts like David Anderson and David Suzuki. Both travel the country ceaselessly selling shrill and preposterous tales of doom, flooding, mega-extinctions, and poisoned future generations. Both grow more crackpot and divorced from reality by the day. Neither seem to understand science, nevertheless both are supported by our government. Not only that, but they have persuaded other power figures, corporate leaders who should know better, to sing the same song." (Elizabeth Nickson, National Post)

"Indian expert warns of climate change risks" - "An Indian expert on global warming warned in a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun that Japan and other countries are at risk of unpredictable climactic events such as water shortages and floods as a result of global warming.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established by the U.N. Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization, said the international community must set a level at which the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should be stabilized." (Yomiuri Shimbun)

"Pack ice of Okhotsk in danger" - "Pack ice in the Sea of Okhotsk--the southernmost sea that freezes--may cease to exist as a result of global warming. The natural phenomenon, which adds poetic charm to Hokkaido's winter, is closely related to the ecosystem of the sea and archipelago.

Ice begins to form in December on the surface of the sea, in which the Sakhalin and Kuril islands lie. As winter progresses, the entire inlet is covered with ice until it starts to thaw in the middle of March." (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Well, it's past the middle of March and, as we can see here and here, the Sea of Okhotsk would appear largely covered in pack ice. Over the years that I have been paying attention to sea surface temperature graphics I've formed the impression that Sea of Okhotsk ice cover varies roughly in phase with El Niño events (the year following strong events appears to have significantly reduced ice cover). Whether that has held consistently true over a sustained period I do not know.

Oh? "Southern Ocean study to better understand global warming" - "Scientists on a New Zealand research vessel are to test a theory that fertilising oceans with iron sulphate could slow down global warming.

The experiment will be carried out from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) vessel Tangaroa, which is due to leave Wellington today for the Southern Ocean." (NZPA)

but... "New study quashes hopes iron in ocean useful against global warming" - "AUCKLAND: A once-promising theory that seeding oceans with iron to create plankton blooms to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere has turned out to be impractical in the long term, according to a study released.

A study led by New Zealand's University of Otago of Dunedin found that while a ton of iron would fertilise a phytoplankton bloom, it would also require at least 5,000 tons of silicate to sustain it.

"It's just not practical," Otago oceanographer Philip Boyd said in a paper published in the science journal Nature and issued by the university." (AFP)

"Carbon Trading Comes Online" - "Last December, the World Resources Institute became the first group to purchase carbon credits for 2003 on the newly launched Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). The environmental research organization joined a number of corporations -- including American Electric Power, DuPont, and Ford -- in using the exchange to buy and sell "carbon credits" aimed at reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) being released into the atmosphere." (World Resources Institute)

"The New Reason For Pain at the Pump" - "Everyone knows that the recent rise in the price of oil has had an effect at the pump, but something less well known is also affecting gasoline prices. It is something the federal government could reduce, since the federal government created it in the first place. It is gasoline regulations.

Until the mid-1990s, the feds did not micromanage the recipe for gasoline, the only exception being the phaseout of lead in the 1970s. But that changed with the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, which began to take effect a few years later.

As a result of these provisions, we now have a bewildering variety of gasoline requirements. One third of the nation uses something called reformulated gasoline, designed -- very imperfectly as it turned out -- to deal with summer smog in the nation's most polluted metropolitan areas. We also have so-called oxygenated gas in several areas to combat high wintertime levels of carbon monoxide, a problem that was rapidly disappearing before the provisions even took effect. In addition, conventional gasoline is also subjected to a number of requirements, which can vary by geographic location and time of year.

Beyond the direct role of the federal government, several states have also come up with their own unique gasoline blends, often in order to obtain the required federal approval for their pollution-fighting plans." (Ben Lieberman, TCS)

"Report urges power-short Ontario to go nuclear" - "TORONTO - Ontario's sickly electricity sector needs a strong jolt of nuclear power with money from the private sector, a report said yesterday, urging that one nuclear reactor should restart next year at a cost of up to C$600 million ($450 million) to ease a supply crunch." (Reuters)

"World wind power to grow, but boom days over" - "COPENHAGEN, March 19 - The huge growth in the global wind power market will lose a lot of its pace in the next five years but will still expand at an average of 10.4 percent a year, independent Danish windpower consultancy BTM said in an annual industry survey on Friday.

Wind power accounts for around one percent of global energy supply, but the sector is growing fast as part of the struggle to bring down greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists say cause global warming.

The expected average growth for the next five-year period is less than half the average growth of 26.3 percent seen in the five years to 2003. It is also lower than the previous five year 2003-2007 forecast for 11.2 percent growth." (Reuters)

"Europe at the forefront in research on solar, wave and geothermal energies" - "Today at the “Solar platform” test site in Almeria (Spain) the European Commission presented the state of play on its research programmes in alternative energy sources, including solar thermal, wave and geothermal energy. World energy consumption will double over the next 50 years, with Europe currently depending heavily on foreign energy sources. Currently, 41% of EU energy consumption is based on oil, followed by gas (23%), coal (15%), nuclear (15%) and only 6% is based on renewable energies. The threat of global climate change and the warnings about energy security will force Europe to drastically change and diversify its sources of supply, relying more and more on renewable energy. The EU has set out a strategy to double the share of renewable energy, from the present 6% to 12% by 2010. Within its 6th Research Framework Programme (FP6 2003-2006) the EU will devote €810 million to renewable energy sources. The projects showcased today include “European Hot Dry Rock” using geothermal energy, “Wave Dragon” using wave energy, and “Sol Air” using solar thermal." (Innovations Report)

"Blooming bamboo raises spectre of famine in India’s northeast" - "AIZAWL, India - Christians in India’s remote northeast are flocking to churches to offer prayers in a bid to ward off a famine they fear could strike the region anytime.

The worry has been triggered by signs that vast tracts of bamboo forest are about to burst into flower - an event mainly Christian Mizoram state believes signals impending catastrophe.

There is a saying in the tiny hill state of just under one million tribal people bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh that when the bamboo flowers, famine, death and destruction follow.

Behind the superstition lies some scientific truth, as blooming bamboo can trigger an invasion of rats, which proceed to eat away food supplies." (AFP)

"Canadian Wheat Board Says Buyers Concerned About Modified Wheat" - "March 18 -- The Canadian Wheat Board, the world's single largest seller of the grain, says buyers of 87 percent of Western Canada's wheat require guarantees the grain isn't genetically modified.

``We're seeing increasing concern and opposition from our customers over the introduction of genetically modified wheat,'' Ken Ritter, the Wheat Board's chairman, said in an e-mailed statement based on comments he made to a group of growers in Calgary.

The Wheat Board's 10 largest export markets for red spring wheat -- including Japan, the U.K. and Malaysia -- require a guarantee that supplies aren't genetically modified, Ritter said. Canada has yet to approve the use of seeds from companies such as St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. that are engineered to boost yields and to withstand damage from pests and chemicals." (Bloomberg)

"GM crops unlikely to be grown here soon" - "Ireland's 'positive but precautionary' approach to genetically modified foods is unlikely to lead to GM crops being grown here in the near future, according to Government sources." (The Irish Times)

"Farmers promised legal protection over GM" - "No genetically modified food crops will be planted in NSW until farmers are given legal protection against the possibility of contamination, the Agriculture Minister, Ian Macdonald, said yesterday.

Mr Macdonald's advisory council decided on Wednesday to recommend that NSW go ahead with an application by the chemical giants Monsanto and Bayer for a 3500-hectare research trial of genetically modified canola, the first of its kind in Australia.

Legal advice from the federal Department of Agriculture to the advisory council suggested that farmers who found their crops had been accidentally contaminated by genetically modified varieties could be found guilty of breaching the manufacturers' intellectual copyright or of unlawful use of a GM product. This was unacceptable, farming and environmental organisations said.

But Mr Macdonald told Parliament yesterday that he would not make a decision on the council's recommendation until he was satisfied farmers were protected against any possible legal action." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

March 18, 2004

"Experiments establish 'protein-only' nature of prion infections" - "Two independent research groups have established conclusively that prions are proteins, and that they do not depend on genes or other factors for transmission of their traits. According to the scientists, the studies answer a nagging question that had raised doubts among some researchers about the validity of the so-called "protein-only" hypothesis of prion infectivity." (Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

"Video games, not TV, linked to obesity in kids" - "Despite conventional wisdom, simply watching television is not related to a child's weight, but playing video games may be, new research indicates." (Center for the Advancement of Health)

"Fat profits" - "The obesity epidemic is real, but it must not blind us to the role played by industries with plenty to gain from our complex relationship with food ." (Susie Orbach, The Guardian)

"Standard Deviance" - "Well, it's Spring Break time and the promotion of weight loss with its associated array of products and services is reaching a fever pitch ("Lose 10 pounds in just two weeks"; "Melt away fat while you sleep"). Amid all the misrepresentation and hype, how can anyone really know how much they should weigh?" (Jon Robison, TCS)

"Judge Rules Against Bayer on Poultry Antibiotic" - "WASHINGTON - Drug maker Bayer this week lost an appeal of the U.S. government's proposed ban of a poultry antibiotic that regulators partly blame for a rise in drug-resistant germs that infect people.

Bayer still has a chance to convince the Food and Drug Administration that the drug, Baytril, is an important therapy for treating sick chickens and should stay on the market." (Reuters)

"Out of the shadows" - "Invisible for over a decade, the elite Council for Science and Technology has one last chance to prove itself. Alok Jha asks if it still deserves to exist." (The Guardian)

"Ecologist clears the air: world not doomed yet" - "Gene Likens is one of the world's most eminent ecologists. He discovered the phenomenon of acid rain. And he knows much about what is wrong with the planet.

He is an American scientist who has looked at mankind's impact on the environment through a 40-year experiment in a forest in New Hampshire.

This makes him an excellent candidate for the question: "Is the world stuffed?"

The answer, he believes, is no. "If I thought so I wouldn't be giving the lecture," he says. "I would be going to the beach and sitting under an umbrella. I have to be optimistic."

The end may not be nigh, but Professor Likens - who for a few months is a Miegunyah fellow at the University of Melbourne - has a potent message, nonetheless.

Humans, he says, have their foot on the accelerator and are rapidly changing the environment. This includes the key threat of global warming, ozone depletion, massive land use change, toxification of plant, water and air systems, invasion of exotic species, biodiversity loss and infectious diseases that arise from degraded environments." (The Age, Melbourne)

"Lomborg Confronts Newtonian Mechanics... and Wins!" - "Nearly a year ago the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), a governmental panel, ruled that Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg's book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, published after peer review by Cambridge University Press, was "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice" and shows "objective scientific dishonesty." But the DCSD opinion was vacated after careful assessment by its governing body, the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. That body wisely acted to protect science and its scholars from interpersonal and institutional attacks, which even scientists as noteworthy as Newton have made against colleagues since time immemorial. Now, the DCSD has just agreed with the Ministry's decision." (Sallie Baliunas, TCS)

"Did cracking continent trigger a deep freeze?" - "The Earth might have been sent into an ice age by the break-up of a supercontinent 750 million years ago, creating a global snowball.

The break-up probably caused an increase in rainfall and weathering of rock, say climatologists. This would have sucked greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and caused a run-away cooling effect. The mechanism could explain how the entire planet becomes encased in a mass of ice, as many researchers think it has done in the past." (NSU)

"The origins of human-influenced climate change may be traced back 5,000 years" - "Global warming is usually presumed to be a modern problem: a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution and its intensive use of carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels. But humans have been changing the earth's climate for thousands of years, says William Ruddiman, an emeritus professor of environmental sciences from the University of Virginia. And the changes have been substantial.

Even before the start of the industrial era, Ruddiman says, our ancestors may have warmed the globe sufficiently to stave off a new ice age." (Richard Lovett, San Diego Union Tribune)

"Ice age to warming - and back?" - "The Little Ice Age and "the 8,200-year event" are not exactly household terms. Once only a handful of climate scientists puzzled over these episodes of abrupt climate change. Now, the topic is getting close scrutiny from the Pentagon, the halls of Congress, and even Hollywood - where a disaster movie set for release in May depicts a sudden deep freeze.

One reason for all the interest? While policymakers have worried long and hard about global warming, which might raise Earth's temperature 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C by century's end, a growing body of evidence suggests natural forces could just as easily plunge Earth's average temperatures downward. In the past, the planet's climate has changed 10 degrees in as little as 10 years." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Do global warming dangers lie under seas?" - "SEATTLE - Ocean chemist Peter Brewer looks at the map on his laptop computer, jealous of what his terrestrial peers have been allowed to do around the globe. Dozens of red dots show where scientists have tested how increases in a gas tied to global warming affect land ecosystems.

Brewer is still waiting for a first red dot under the seas. For all the tests on land, not a single large-scale test has been sanctioned to simulate what the oceans of the late 21st century might look like if emissions of carbon dioxide, or CO2, continue to rise.

This, despite estimates that the oceans have already absorbed 400 billion tons of CO2 from fossil fuels and continue to take in 21 million tons a day -- emissions that many scientists fear are warming the Earth beyond its natural course.

Granted, the oceans are huge carbon reservoirs, naturally holding an estimated 139,000 billion tons of CO2, but what's not known is how much variation is enough to throw the system out of whack." (MSNBC)

"New international taskforce aims to make global movement on global warming" - "Three of the world's most eminent think tanks joined forces this week to tackle global warming, and in particular to devise a strategy involving nations which have abstained from the only international treaty set up to tackle climate change.

The UK's Institute for Public Policy Research, the Centre for American Progress and the Australian Institute in Canberra launched the International Taskforce on Climate Change this week." (Edie.net)

I believe that should read: The Australia Institute, although there is some question over whether said self-professed green thinktank is composed of anyone other than wearer-of-all-hats Clive "We'll be ru'ned" Hamilton. World's most eminent think tanks? Right...

"Let Kyoto take wing" - "Ottawa signed the accord. Now, let it keep its promise with budget incentives for a green, 21st-century economy, says environmentalist DAVID SUZUKI" (Globe and Mail)

"Prepare for the Worst, Says Next Host of Climate Change Meet" - "BUENOS AIRES, Mar 17- In the past five international conferences on climate change, hopes have focused on attempts to get the United States and Russia to agree to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. But the wait has been in vain, and the global meetings flopped, one after another.

The strategy at the next conference, to be hosted by Argentina in December, will be to change the central focus of the debate, on the premise that climate change is inevitable even if emissions are drastically cut, and that developing countries must start getting ready to deal with the damages." (IPS)

"Clean-up subsidies extended" - "A host of companies will qualify for the full 80% discount on the government's climate change levy because they face fierce international competition under Treasury criteria disclosed yesterday." (The Guardian)

"Climate change: EP committee brings starting date of 'linking directive' forward to 2005" - "In short: The Parliament's Environment Committee wants EU companies to be able to buy 'Kyoto flexible mechanisms' credits to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from 2005." (EurActiv.com)

"Germany minister vetoes emissions deal with Greens" - "BERLIN, March 17 - Germany's Economy Minister has vetoed an apparent breakthrough in a dispute with his environment ministry over what national limit should be imposed on carbon emissions, a government source said on Wednesday.

Under a European Union scheme to introduce emissions trading from January next year, Germany needs to agree national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions limits by March 31, when each member state is required to submit company-by-company caps to Brussels." (Reuters)

"The iceman cometh" - "Erlend Clouston meets a mountaineer who intends to spend weeks navigating a wind-powered iceberg across the Arctic to help solve the world's freshwater crisis" (The Guardian)

"EU May Ease Access for Canada, U.S. GM Foods" - "OTTAWA - The European Union may grant access to more genetically modified foods from countries like Canada and the United States, a top EU official said on Wednesday.

"There will be new authorizations," European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy told Reuters. "It has to be agreed by a majority of member nations but, in the end, it's the (European) Commission that decides." (Reuters)

"Monsanto raises idea of US-only GMO wheat release" - "KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 16 - Monsanto Co. is discussing with the U.S. wheat industry whether it should be held to its promise not to release biotech wheat in the United States unless it can simultaneously market it in Canada, wheat industry officials said.

Monsanto told top officials from wheat growers and wheat marketing organizations over the weekend that it was facing stiff opposition to its biotech wheat product in Canada." (Reuters)

"Not for Our Plates, Thank You" - "PITY the South African consumers trying to make up their minds on the pros and cons of genetically modified food. Beset from all sides with a barrage of half-truths, disinformation and a morass of scientific data, consumers are hard pressed to find such a thing as an honest broker.

Last week the science and technology department made a valiant bid to clarify the fiercely complicated issues relating to the subject, with SA's first Public Understanding of Biotechnology Conference." (Tamar Kahn, Business Day (Johannesburg))

"Vote called on GM crops debate" - "MSPs are being urged to ban the commercial growth of genetically modified maize in Scotland. The Scottish National Party is using its parliamentary time to stage a debate on whether the crops should be grown north of the border. The move follows a decision by Scottish ministers last week to support approval from Westminster for growing GM maize. Political opponents accused the Scottish Executive of failing to use powers to block GM crops in Scotland." (BBC News Online)

March 17, 2004

"Controversial pesticide DDT under the spotlight" - "An academic has slammed the use of the controversial pesticide DDT in South Africa as a means to combat malaria. Tiaan de Jager, a professor of the University of Pretoria, recently released a report with some disturbing findings about the effects of DDT on reproductive health.

De Jager says South Africa should find alternative ways to combat malaria as DDT was banned in the US in the 1940s because of its detrimental effects on health. During 1996-97 DDT was phased out in South Africa, but because of a sharp increase in malaria cases, it was reintroduced in 2000 for indoor spraying, he says." (SABC News)

De Jager needs to check quite a few of his "facts" doesn't he? To begin with, Ruckelshaus arbitrarily and capriciously banned DDT for virtually all uses in the U.S. in June of 1972, not the 1940s when DDT was being deployed to great benefit suppressing louse-borne typhus amongst European war refugees and prison camp survivors and eliminating malaria from the developed world. There are no alternative compounds as near benign as DDT whilst remaining effective against target vectors and certainly nothing in the ballpark where cost-effective health measures are concerned.

"Government Moves Closer to Poultry Drug Ban" - "WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government moved closer to banning an antibiotic given to poultry, as an administrative law judge Tuesday upheld the Food and Drug Administration's conclusion that Baytril's use in chicken causes people to get sick from drug-resistant bacteria.

At issue are a family of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, which include the popular drug Cipro. Some fluoroquinolones are used in animals, but others are a leading treatment for thousands of Americans who get food poisoning from campylobacter, bacteria found mostly in chicken." (AP)

Jane's cashing up again: "Dairy Food as Deadly as Tobacco - Cancer Expert" - "People should avoid milk and cheese as much as tobacco, a scientists said today. Professor Jane Plant says there is strong evidence that dairy products promote breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Speaking at a lecture today on diet and cancer, she said: “My advice is don’t have any dairy products in any form whatsoever. Just cut them out completely.” (PA News)

"Fish oil supplements may contain flame retardants" - "Flame retardant levels have increased significantly during the past four years in dietary supplements based on cod liver oil, according to a new study by European scientists. These products can now be added to a growing list of surprising places where the pollutants have been showing up, from human breast milk to peregrine falcon eggs." (American Chemical Society)

"Suspected Oregon 'Eco-Terrorist' Arrested - FBI" - "PORTLAND, Ore. - A prominent environmental activist, who the FBI says firebombed industrial sites in Oregon, has been arrested in Canada for shoplifting, the FBI said.

Michael James Scarpitti, who was on the FBI's most wanted list, faces four felony counts linked to a fire that damaged logging trucks in Eagle Creek, Oregon, in June 2001. He is also blamed for another fire that damaged concrete mixing trucks in Portland in April 2001." (Reuters) | From tree-sitter to terrorist (The Oregonian)

"US Kyoto stance slammed" - "European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom voiced some thinly-veiled criticism towards the US stance on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol this week, asking “how much more science do we need?”

The Bush Administration has been the most significant opponent to the international climate change initiative so far, officially rejecting the treaty on economic grounds, though the denial of global warming has been a continual factor in the US government’s actions on the issue.

Speaking at the European Business Summit, Wallstrom outlined the scientific evidence of climate change and gave a glowing assessment of the potential effectiveness of Kyoto, calling it an “ingenious instrument.” (Green Consumer Guide)

"Canada's Greenhouse Gas Producers to Start Reporting" - "OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, March 16, 2004 - The government of Canada is getting ready to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 when the Kyoto Protocol kicks into the first commitment phase. Canada is one of the 37 industrialized countries governed by the protocol, so all emitters of climate warming gases in large amounts must begin reporting their emissions to the government as of June 1, 2005.

Environment Minister David Anderson announced the start of the mandatory reporting on Friday. The reporting requirements, set out in a notice published Saturday in the "Canada Gazette," follow a round of collaborative meetings with provincial and territorial governments, as well as consultations with industry and other stakeholders." (Environment News Service)

"Oceans' acidity influences early carbon dioxide and temperature link estimates" - "An international team of geoscientists believes that carbon dioxide, and not changes in cosmic ray intensity, was the factor controlling ancient global temperatures. The new findings resulted from the researchers inclusion of the ocean's changing acidity in their calculations." (Penn State)

"Proxy estimates of paleo carbon dioxide agree, within modeling errors with GEOCARB model results," they say. That's great fellas, now figure out whether temperature responds to CO2 levels or whether the reverse is true - it is a trillion-dollar question.

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Another Arctic Avian Aria" - "From the coal mines of the Arctic, canaries of a different color sing pretty much the same old song: Where is the warming due to CO 2 ?" (co2sceince.org)

Subject Index Summaries"
"Medieval Warm Period (China)" - "Climate alarmists would have you believe there never was a Medieval Warm Period to rival the Modern Warm Period, as that would refute their contention that the last two decades of the 20th century were the warmest of the past millennium, as well as their claim that our current warmth is due to the historical and ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content.  The truth, however, will ultimately prevail, as we demonstrate in this review of the MWP in China." (co2sceince.org)

"Agriculture (Species - Wheat: CO 2 vs. Stress of Drought)" - "Will a less-than-optimal availability of water negate the beneficial impacts of rising atmospheric CO 2 concentrations on the worldwide production of wheat in the years and decades to come?" (co2sceince.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 Poplar, Heather, Purple Moorgrass and Robusta Poplar." (co2sceince.org)

Journal Reviews:
"The Globe's Glaciers: Do We Know What They're Doing?" - "Some people tell us they know; but now and then they admit the obvious, which is something far different." (co2sceince.org)

"The Roman Warm Period in Northwest China" - "Was it as warm as it was in the regions surrounding the North Atlantic Ocean?  Did it occur at the same time?  Did it help or harm the environment?  Did it enhance or degrade the regional economy?  Would the locals like it to make a return engagement?  Your questions answered here." (co2sceince.org)

"Death from Ischaemic Heart Disease in the British Isles" - "Mortality due to heart disease is promoted in the United Kingdom and elsewhere by cold temperatures, suggesting that global warming may be lengthening human life span." (co2sceince.org)

"Cereal Aphids in a CO2-Enriched Warmer World" - "Will there be more of them or less of them?  Or will their numbers be little changed from what they are today?" (co2sceince.org)

"CO 2 Effects on a Parasite-Host Association" - "If atmospheric CO 2 enrichment greatly increases the growth of a parasitic plant, will it increase the damage it does to its host?" (co2sceince.org)

Wonder what it is about the west coast? "Bill fights global warming" - "New power plants will pay a price for greenhouse gas emissions in this state in the years ahead. With bipartisan support, the 2004 state Legislature passed a bill requiring new power plants to offset 20 percent of the carbon dioxide they send into the air through mitigation projects. Eligible projects include energy conservation projects, forestland preservation or converting diesel-powered buses to natural gas. Power producers can either finance the projects on their own or pay an independent third party approved by state authorities to do it for them at the rate of $1.60 per ton of carbon dioxide produced." (The Olympian)

"MEPs clamp down on climate change" - "Europe’s parliamentarians have rejected a proposal to allocate car manufacturers quotas for greenhouse gases in a vote on phasing out harmful emissions.

The European Parliament’s environment committee cast its vote on Tuesday on a proposal to cut the use of fluorinated gases (known simply as 'F-gases'), used in for example car air-conditioning units.

The committee supported conservative MEP Robert Goodwill, responsible for the proposal in parliament, who wanted to delete the new quota system proposed by the European Commission." (EUpolitix.com)

"GM could help plants adapt to CO2 warming -expert" - "LONDON, March 16 - Genetic engineering might offer a way of reducing the impact of global warming on indigenous species of plants and trees, a scientist said on Tuesday.

Simon Thornton-Wood, head of science at Britain's Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), told Reuters that genetic modification (GM) could offer a solution to the steady rise in temperatures.

"There are solutions to all the sorts of problems like climate change, and all the pest and disease problems that we have today...and the answer might in large part be GM," he said on the margins of an RHS science exchange meeting in London." (Reuters)

"US Partnership to Speed Up Corn Genome Sequencing" - "WASHINGTON - Scientists could finish decoding the genetic structure of corn several years ahead of schedule, a breakthrough that could bring advances including a drought-resistant crop, biotechnology companies said after agreeing to make their data public." (Reuters)

"New research shows health effects of GM crops" - "Dramatic new scientific research about the health effects of GM crops was announced at the meeting of the Biosafety Protocol last week. The findings are serious, and make clear the urgent need for certain safety aspects of GM crops to be thoroughly investigated." (The Independent, Malta)

"GM food could be good for you..." - "The widely held fears about ‘Frankenstein’ food are irrational and unscientific, says genetics expert Charles Pasternak." (The Sunday Times)

"Councillor plans to halt GM maize" - "A councillor in Yorkshire is trying a novel way to ruin government plans to grow genetically modified (GM) maize. John Clark, a Liberal on Ryedale District Council, is supplying organic maize for people to grow at home. They would then have to be consulted about any GM maize being planned for the area, to avoid cross-contamination. The government's decision to agree in principle to the growing of a single variety of GM maize, but not beet and oilseed rape, has angered campaigners. Mr Clark told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm going to encourage people to take maize plants from me, to grow in their gardens, allotment and window boxes. "So the government then has to consult with each person if they want to grow GM maize." (BBC News Online)

"Biotech is for the Birds" - "Biotechnology is demonstrating itself to be the most wildlife friendly agricultural technology since the development of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer saved huge swaths of wildlife habitat from conversion to green manure crops.

The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy estimates that biotech crops have already reduced pesticide sprays in the United States by over 45 million pounds per year. Yet these crops yielded an additional 4 billion pounds of food and fiber.

These reductions in overall pesticide use are now showing real world environmental benefits. After the introduction of Bt cotton in 1996, many farmers began reporting increases in bird populations around their fields." (Alex Avery, BioScience News)

"Good Label Manners - Not all 'eco-labels' are created equal" - "What's in a name?" asks Shakespeare. Conscientious food consumers are beginning to realize that the answer too often is, "Not much."

Shoppers increasingly are willing to pay more for food produced in a way that protects human health, water, wildlife, rural communities, and farm workers. And this is not lost on marketers. Many grocery packages today include "eco-labels" that make attractive claims. Grocery shelves are bulging with food labeled "Natural," "Free-Range," and "Sustainable."

But much of this labeling is just spin. "Free-Range" chicken conjures an image of birds pecking contentedly around a farmhouse. In reality, Department of Agriculture standards for the label stipulate only that the chickens must have access to the outdoors for an undetermined period each day.

Such is today's supermarket aisle. So how does a shopper make informed decisions?" (Matthew L. Miller, Grist Magazine)

Hmm... doesn't seem to like CGFI's "Earth Friendly, Farm Friendly" label does he?

March 16, 2004

"Poverty and obesity" - "Unlike the alleged effect of food advertising, the impact of social inequalities on levels of obesity can be measured, and it is very substantial — the largest single factor that has so far been identified. Despite this, it receives scant attention in the media." (Peter Marsh, SIRC

"CJD fears prompt blood donor ban" - "Thousands of people are to be banned from donating blood because of fears over the human form of BSE. The ban, to be announced by Health Secretary John Reid later on Tuesday, will apply to all those who have had blood transfusions since 1980. It comes three months after Mr Reid announced that a British man who died from vCJD may have contracted the disease from infected blood. The man received blood in 1997 and developed the disease six years later. The blood was collected long before the donor was diagnosed with the brain-wasting disease. Speaking in December, Mr Reid said there was no proof the man had contracted the disease as a result of the transfusion. He may have acquired it separately. However, Mr Reid said the possibility of a link could not be discounted." (BBC News Online)

"Endangered right whale may be making a comeback" - "ATLANTA — There is growing optimism that the endangered North Atlantic right whale can come back from the edge of extinction.

The new hopes are prompted by observations of the whales in their only known winter calving area, which is off the coast of Georgia and north Florida.

Scientists who have been surveying the coastal waters now believe that a previously undocumented group of as many as 17 female right whales has started using the calving grounds. This new group joins another group that has been coming there for years.

"It's amazing to me to think that something as big as these animals — 40 to 45 feet long and weighing perhaps 40 tons — could have escaped detection until now," said Brad Winn, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "But that's part of the mystery surrounding these animals." (Associated Press)

"Eco-tourists hurt the things they love" - "Eco-tourism often damages the environment, the cultures and the unspoiled wilderness it sets out to protect, says a University of Manitoba ethics professor.

Speaking at a weekend conference on wilderness medicine, Arthur Schaefer said so many travellers are taking part in ecologically conscious holidays that they are harming the remote parts of the world they are visiting." (Canadian Press)

"The Angler Angle" - "Whalers, game hunters, laboratory scientists and even their bankers, have all felt the brunt of animal rights campaigns; but recently the target was anglers. Driving around Britain a few years ago I saw posters of a dog with a hook through its lip adorning billboards. The caption read: "If you wouldn't do this to a dog, why do it to a fish?" These posters were part of a $45 million campaign of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), to outlaw fishing in Britain.

Although PETA would not miss the anglers if they quit in fear, the fish surely would. Like the hunters who want large numbers of elephants, foxes and pheasants to chase, anglers want lots of fish and for that they need clean water. It is anglers who have been the guardians of the British riverine environment for the past half-century -- before any of the pressure groups even started." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"Red tape threat to fish-farming growth" - "A TANGLED web of bureaucratic red tape is threatening the prospects of expansion for Scotland's fish-farming industry, a report by Aberdeen University researchers claimed yesterday." (The Scotsman)

"Tonnes of haddock set to be dumped as quota exhausted" - "FEARS that thousands of tonnes of marketable fish will have to be dumped overboard intensified yesterday as one of Scotland's largest fish- producer organisations ran out its quota to catch haddock in the North Sea's 40,000-sq-mile cod-protection zone." (The Scotsman)

"Fish vulnerable to climate change, study says" - "WOODS HOLE - Climate changes may have a bigger role in bringing back fish stocks than has been believed, say British researchers, and these findings should be taken into greater account when shaping management plans to rebuild fish stocks in Europe and around the world." (Cape Cod Times)

"Al Gore Tells Stanford Business School Students to be Environmental Activists" - "STANFORD, Calif.--March 15, 2004--The industrialized world is on a collision course with nature, according to former Vice President Al Gore, who passionately urged Stanford Graduate School of Business students to take action to save the environment during a talk March 11 at Stanford University.

Speaking before an audience of mostly students, Gore presented a series of slides and statistics that showed global temperatures skyrocketing over the last 50 years.

"How do we get the message across so that people go, 'Whoa, wait a minute, we've got to do something about this'?" Gore said. "The proper reaction ought to be mass marches, with people saying this is nuts for us to allow all of this global pollution to continue in a way that threatens the sustainability of civilization as we know it." (BUSINESS WIRE)

"Damage from Warming Becoming 'Irreversible,' Says New Report" - "WASHINGTON, D.C., Mar 15 -- Ten years after the ratification of a United Nations treaty on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming are still on the rise, signaling a "collective failure" of the industrialized world, according to the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI), a leading environmental think-tank.

"We are quickly moving to the point where the damage will be irreversible," warned Dr. Jonathan Pershing, director of WRI's Climate, Energy and Pollution Program. "In fact, the latest scientific reports indicate that global warming is worsening. Unless we act now, the world will be locked into temperatures that would cause irreversible harm." (OneWorld)

"Satellite finds warming 'relative' to humidity" - "A NASA-funded study found some climate models might be overestimating the amount of water vapor entering the atmosphere as the Earth warms. Since water vapor is the most important heat-trapping greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, some climate forecasts may be overestimating future temperature increases.

In response to human emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, the Earth warms, more water evaporates from the ocean, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere increases. Since water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, this leads to a further increase in the surface temperature. This effect is known as "positive water vapor feedback." Its existence and size have been contentiously argued for several years." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Ottawa warming to Alberta views on climate change, says provincial minister" - "EDMONTON - Ottawa is beginning to warm to Alberta's position on global warming and the Kyoto accord, says the province's environment minister.

Lorne Taylor said Monday that he sensed a change after receiving a letter from federal officials Friday promising co-operation with the province in setting standards for emission reporting.

He said the letter gives him optimism that the two governments can work together to draft a plan that will be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada." (Canadian Press)

"Green Groups Urge EU to Heed Arctic's Plight" - "BRUSSELS - The European Union must urge Russia to meet global commitments in reducing global warming if the Arctic region is to be saved from destruction, environmentalists said on Monday." (Reuters)

"More hot air" - "People have been so conditioned to hysteria when they hear the words "global warming" that it may be too late to appeal to reason with some folks.

But let's give it the old college try – one more time." (Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily.com)

"Carr joins taskforce to give Kyoto alternative the green light" - "The NSW Premier, Bob Carr, has joined a new international taskforce that will draw up an alternative climate change strategy in case the Kyoto protocol does not come into force. The International Climate Change Taskforce, being launched today in Britain and the United States, will draw together a coalition of politicians, business people, scientists and environmentalists. Specific recommendations will be developed and delivered to governments early next year. Mr Carr said climate change was "a global phenomenon that requires a global response". "Over time climate change will affect everyone in NSW. My position on this is clear. I firmly believe Australia should ratify the Kyoto protocol." The taskforce will be chaired by a British Labour MP, Stephen Byers, and a US Republican senator, Olympia Snowe." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"Airports undermine climate change vow" - "The huge growth in air travel made possible by the Government's decision to expand airports such as Stansted would make Tony Blair's promise to tackle climate change impossible to achieve, MPs said yesterday.

The Department of Transport had failed to realise that aviation's contribution to global warming would be "massive", said the all party Commons environmental audit committee." (Daily Telegraph)

"The new oil" - "Methane hydrates, locked deep beneath the ocean floor and Alaska permafrost, could be the next great energy source. That is, if they don't blow up in our faces and dangerously accelerate global warming." (Salon.com)

"Russian nuclear warheads help to power US" - "LOS ANGELES - Few Americans realize that uranium once intended to destroy their civilization is now helping to keep it very much alive by powering televisions, microwaving dinners and chilling beer.

Uranium extracted from Russian nuclear warheads helps supply about 10 percent of U.S. electricity, according to USEC Inc., which has charge of the "Megatons to Megawatts" project that has helped Russia reap profits from previously loss-making nuclear disarmament." (Reuters)

"Wood fuel scheme to warm up the rural economy" - "FARMERS are being encouraged to join the fight against global warming by growing trees for fuel.

Wales Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies yesterday launched a £7m grants scheme to kick-start a sustainable-energy industry in Wales based on wood fuel.

Mr Davies hailed the Wood Energy Business Scheme as an exciting new opportunity for farmers and wood processing entrepreneurs across Wales to use trees to fuel a clean energy revolution." (The Western Mail)

Arpad Pusztai - still pushing the myth: "Earth Matters: Standing up for the truth about GM food" - "A prominent scientist and his wife tell SARAH SABARATNAM about their study on genetically-modified food and what happened when they went public with the results." (New Straits Times)

"US State Department Promotes Biotech, Garners Critics" - "KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The U.S. government has launched a new Web site about biotech crops as part of a special taxpayer-funded project to promote such crops worldwide - a move criticized by some consumer and farm groups.

The efforts, which come amid a tense global debate over genetically modified foods, outrage opponents, who say the Bush administration is using taxpayer money to support corporate interests for a potentially unsafe technology." (Reuters)

"Rubicon retreats in face of GM cost" - "One of New Zealand's best-financed biotechnology companies, Rubicon, says regulatory costs and "greenies" have driven its research into genetically modified pine trees out of the country.

Rubicon vice-president Bruce Burton told a biotechnology forum in Auckland yesterday that New Zealand had created "a very high regulatory hurdle" that was deterring companies from GM research, despite the official end of the GM moratorium last October.

"Our US partners say the costs and the potential threats of the greenies are too high, so we'll carry on doing tests in the US and Brazil." (New Zealand Herald)

"Put your feet up in an English GM garden" - "The perfect garden, with its immaculate lawns, manicured hedges and vibrant borders comes at a heavy, and back-breaking, price.

For every hour spent enjoying its calm and tranquillity, at least a dozen more are spent on the hated chores of watering, mowing, edging and weeding. But that could be about to change.

According to a leading botanist, traditional gardens are about to get a GM makeover. Within a few years, lawns will need mowing once or twice a month, geraniums will survive the harshest winter frosts, roses will bloom longer and watering cans will be banished to the shed along with shears, hoe and sprinkler.

Some scientists believe the benefits to horticulture from genetic modification will be so clear that garden centres will achieve what the biotech industry has so far failed to do - make GM acceptable." (Daily Telegraph)

"Greenpeace submits GMO-labelling petition" - "Environmental group Green-peace yesterday demanded that the Public Health Ministry tighten regulations on the labelling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to mark World Consumer Rights Day today.

Members of the group handed over the signatures of more than 11,000 Thai consumers to the finance minister's deputy, Yongyut Wichaidit, in support of the demand.

"Thai consumers should have the right to know whether the food they are eating does or does not contain GMO ingredients. And one effective way to do this is stricter labelling measures," the group said." (The Nation)

March 15, 2004

"Helping the Pearl of Africa" - "Ask an American what malaria is, and he might say it's a disease you can get from mosquitoes, if you travel to Africa, Asia or South America. That's all. Few could even name one person who has ever had malaria. When my husband took me to a hospital in New York City a few weeks ago, because my malaria made me very ill again, we could not even find a doctor who had ever treated this disease. Finally, an African doctor who practices in the city helped me.

For us, it is a devastating disease. As a little girl, I already suffered from malaria, as did my parents, sisters and brothers. Two of my sisters and my son died from the disease. Just last year, I lost my nephew, an active young boy 14 years old, to malaria. Another nephew died just months ago, as I myself lay stricken with my sickness in a different hospital. He was a brilliant and gifted 16 year-old, and the pride of our family. We miss him terribly.

The sad reality is that my story is not unusual in my country, Uganda -- a beautiful land that Sir Winston Churchill called the "pearl of Africa." You could even say it is the story of the people of all Africa, as malaria is the most deadly disease in many parts of our great continent. Millions of people die from it -- and millions more die from dysentery, typhus, AIDS and other diseases that might not have been fatal if they did not have malaria at the same time." (Fiona Kobusingye-Boynes, TCS)

How embarrassing! "Hoax Soaks Aliso Viejo" - "In large quantities, dihydrogen monoxide can cause medical problems in humans and even destroy property. But in Aliso Viejo, it's only causing red faces.

Officials of the south Orange County city were embarrassed to learn Friday that they had tripped over an Internet hoax about dihydrogen monoxide — commonly known as water — in an effort to be environmentally correct." (Los Angeles Times) | SoCal city falls victim to Internet hoax, considers banning items made with water (AP)

Apparently, these guys can't tell satirical/parody sites like the DiHydrogen Research Division and Coalition to Ban DHMO from science sites - it's a worry.

Here we go again: "Autism: new risk in NHS vaccine" - "INFANTS injected with the whooping cough vaccine routinely used by the NHS are six times more likely to contract autism than those given the version used in the United States, according to new research.

A report shown to an investigation by the US Institute of Medicine (IoM) has linked autism to baby vaccines which contain thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. The UK is believed to be the last developed country not to have withdrawn it from baby vaccines." (The Scotsman)

This one even recycles the absurd "thermometer in the lake" thing: "Britain - where medics still inject mercury into babies" - "WHILE Britain has spent years worrying about links between autism and the MMR jab, a far more serious threat has been gathering - involving one of the oldest and most lethal poisons on earth: mercury." (The Scotsman)

Robert Rio has looked into the history of this silly claim here

"Limiting Mercury Pollution Is Focus of Hot Debate" - "Industry, Environmentalists Argue Over How and When to Remove Toxic Metal" (Washington Post)

"Obesity: Who is to blame?" - "Around 300m people around the world are obese and that figure is predicted to rise sharply in the years ahead. Who, if anyone, is to blame?" (BBC News Online

Here's one guaranteed to fire up anti-Atkins zealots: "Put fat children on Atkins diet" - "Fat children should be put on Atkins-style diets to lose weight and prevent illness, a cancer specialist has said. Professor Julian Peto, of the Institute of Cancer Research, said high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets could suppress appetites and keep children slim. Obesity "is now overtaking smoking as the number one killer and I am very concerned that we need to tackle it early," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. He said dietary advice for children was not working and needed a "rethink." (BBC News Online)

"Is 'Good' Cholesterol Good? Scientists Begin to Wonder" - "Some heart experts have concluded that H.D.L. should play at most a minor role in deciding whether to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs." (Gina Kolata, New York Times)

The sky is (still) falling: "Government 'ignores' space threat" - "The UK government is not serious in its study of potentially threatening rocks from space, claim scientists. They say recommendations made by a task force looking into Near Earth Objects (Neos) in 2000 have not been implemented. Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University, accused ministers of being "all spin and no delivery". But the British National Space Centre (BNSC) - the body that coordinates UK space policy - said no specific commitments had been made by the government. The centre said it continued to raise international awareness of the issue." (BBC News Online)

Parenthetically, as far as JunkScience.com is aware there is no truth in the rumour that Michael Meacher and Al Gore are starting up a joint venture to manufacture hats fitted with airbags. Both apparently deny that their constant 'sky is falling' routine has anything to do with market building, insisting they really are as silly as they sound.

"Science panel in Denmark says it won't review 'Skeptical Environmentalist' again" - "COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- A scientific panel said Friday that it won't conduct a new review of the work of a researcher who asserted that concerns about global warming, deforestation, and other environmental issues are exaggerated.

The decision by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty was a victory for statistician Bjoern Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," which won international praise and condemnation by challenging widely held beliefs." (The Associated Press)

The Guardian really thinks voters are stupid: "Hollywood disaster film set to turn heat on Bush" - "Movie depicting horrors of global warming could boost votes for Democrat challenger" (The Guardian)

The Rite Of Spring (Number Watch)

The widely published 'secret' report is still titillating the hyper imaginative: "Attack threat if world starves" - "AUSTRALIA would need to fortify its defences to protect itself from hungry invaders in the event of abrupt climate change, a Pentagon-commissioned report predicts." (Sunday Herald Sun)

... "Hey, George! The Pentagon's scared, too" - "The brass sees global warming as a huge threat" (New York Daily News)

"Climate change could come like lightning" - "Those who think global climate change requires many years to unfold might want to take note of other worldwide temperature alterations in the past 15,000 years, which occurred, in geological terms, quick as a flash.

"Climate has changed abruptly in the past," said Carrie Morrill, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who has just completed a paper on the subject.

For example, Morrill explained, there was a 14 degree Fahrenheit rise at the end of a period called the Younger Dryas – a climate period that occurred nearly 12,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age ended.

While scientists are worried about the potential impact of a 2 degree or 3 degree Fahrenheit global increase over the next century, the 14 degree rise occurred "in a period of decades," she said. "Future climate change probably won't be gradual." (Dan Whipple, UPI)

"Climate risk to UK apple orchards" - "The landscape of much of the southern UK will be altered for ever by climate change, a gardening expert believes. Dr Simon Thornton-Wood of the Royal Horticultural Society told BBC News Online orchards would vanish, and some fruit varieties would no longer thrive. But as they move northwards, he thinks, peaches and other fruit from southern Europe may move in and replace them. He says he also expects "significant" drops in yields of several summer fruit like pears, cherries and blackcurrants." (BBC News Online)

"New England Governors Play Make-Believe...Again" - "In August 2001, shortly after President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, New England's Governors joined with their eastern Canadian counterparts and announced their own climate change agreement (CCA). The CCA calls for each state and province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (principally carbon dioxide) to 1990 levels by 2010, 10% below that by 2020, and "eventually" by 70% or more. The New England Governor's Conference, which has coordinated this international agreement, is holding a big climate change conference in Boston on March 15th and 16th." (Jon Reisman, TCS)

"Insurance Scam" - "Perhaps you read the recent Reuters news item:

"The world's second-largest reinsurer, Swiss Re, warned on Wednesday that the costs of natural disasters, aggravated by global warming, threatened to spiral out of control, forcing the human race into a catastrophe of its own making."

"There is a danger that human intervention will accelerate and intensify natural climate changes to such a point that it will become impossible to adapt our socio-economic systems in time," Swiss Re said in the report. "The human race can lead itself into this climatic catastrophe -- or it can avert it."

The report went on to say that "Scientists expect global warming to trigger increasingly frequent and violent storms, heat waves, flooding, tornadoes, and cyclones while other areas slip into cold or drought. Sea levels will continue to rise, glaciers retreat and snow cover decline."

Let's take a look at the facts." (George Taylor, TCS)

"Swiss Re-diculous" - "There are enough alarmists out there already spewing their sulfurous rhetoric about global warming without private industry chirping about it as well. So a report from Swiss Re, the world's second-largest reinsurer, that warns that climate changes are going to increase the costs of natural disasters is not welcome news for those who like to think their cooler heads will prevail on this issue.

Swiss Re's report is not a fresh development in the global warming wars, though. The Zurich-based company has been concocting scary climate change scenarios for more than a decade and trying to make a buck -- or Swiss franc -- off of it. It would be nice to think that the company had learned something in that time, but apparently not." (C.C. Kraemer, TCS)

"New England-Eastern Canada gas emissions pact failing" - "BOSTON -- A third of the way into a pact between New England and Eastern Canada to cut greenhouse gas emissions 12 percent by 2010, carbon dioxide emissions in the region appear to be growing, in part because people are driving more and using bigger, less-fuel efficient vehicles." (The Associated Press)

"NE must tackle problem of a worsening climate" - "THIS WINTER has been a strange one -- periods of extreme cold followed by unseasonable warmth. While some may consider this a "good old fashioned winter," it bears little resemblance to those of the 1950s or '60s. Scientists and policymakers alike are concerned that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are having an increasingly significant impact on our regional and global climate.

A conference beginning today at Suffolk University Law School and organized by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers highlights this concern. The conference will explore the environmental and economic dangers that a changing climate poses and will consider how we can adapt to the changes so as to minimize their impacts." (Barrett N. Rock, Boston globe)

"Costly gas necessary evil: report" - "CALGARY -- Canadian motorists are enduring high prices at the gas pump, but even bigger hikes will be needed to crimp consumption and tame global warming, according to a major report from the International Energy Agency." (Globe and Mail)

"Air plans 'will hit green policy'" - "Projected increases in UK air travel will make it impossible for government pollution pledges to be met, MPs say. The Commons Environmental Audit Committee says the Transport Department has failed to acknowledge the massive problems caused by aircraft emissions. And it accuses the department of not realising its policies on aviation and targets on cutting so-called greenhouse gases are mutually exclusive." (BBC News Online)

"Large polluters will be required to report greenhouse emissions" - "OTTAWA - Major polluters will be required to report their emissions of greenhouses gases publicly under new regulations announced Friday.

The announcement of the reporting system probably represents the most significant moves on Kyoto implementation file since Prime Minister Paul Martin took power. About 250 to 300 facilities that emit more than 100 kilotonnes of emissions annually will be required to submit annual reports under the system.

Their reports will provide a database to guide governments as they try to produce a plan for meeting Canada's commitments under the Kyoto protocol on climate change." (CP)

"A touch of wind power could go a long way" - "Despite occasional power outages on Long Island, we take electricity for granted, as if it were an immutable law of nature. Flip the switch, and the lights go on - end of story. We give scant thought to how electricity is generated and distributed, or its impact on the environment or national security. That's the Long Island Power Authority's business.

Not anymore. As part of a state plan to require all agencies to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources, LIPA is proposing "Green Choice." Under the program, customers can pay an extra 2 cents per kilowatt-hour to buy electricity generated upstate with non-polluting renewable energy technologies such as windmills." (Marty Hoffert, Newsday)

[Marty Hoffert, a physics professor at New York University, is the lead author of the study "Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet."]

"China's Economic Engine Needs Power (Lots of It)" - "BEIJING — For all the hoopla about China's booming economy, its manufacturing muscle and its potential to become a great power, the world's most populous country is struggling to keep the lights on. And the sporadic blackouts that plagued much of China last year are raising complicated questions for the Communist Party and for the rest of the world:

How and where will China get the energy it needs to maintain its economic growth? And how much will the environment suffer for it?" (New York Times)

Uh-huh... "Eat less meat and you'll help save the planet" - "We have been asked to stop spraying deodorant, guzzle less fuel and recycle our nappies. Now campaigners led by the Government's own environmental champion urge people this week to eat less meat to save the planet.

The campaign by Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) and Jonathon Porritt, the meat-eating chairman of the Government's Sustainable Development Commission, will issue dire warnings of the environmental and health impact of massive increases in meat eating.

It has risen fivefold globally in four decades and the World Bank forecasts that consumption of meat and dairy products will go up another 50 per cent by 2020. Already there are more than twice as many chickens on the planet as humans, plus a billion pigs, 1.3 billion cows and 1.8 billion sheep and goats - most of which eat more food than they produce.

As intensive animal farming increases to cope, more land, water and pesticides are being used to grow the soya, grain and other feed the creatures need." (The Observer)

Which presumably means they are making the case for biotech to help meet these production needs and simultaneously reduce the environmental impact of doing so.

"USDA world survey shows biotech wheat reservations" - "WASHINGTON - Results of a new U.S. survey of global attitudes toward genetically modified wheat indicate widespread opposition or uncertainty about imports if the product were to be approved for commercial sales.

Some major grain-importing countries would refuse to buy genetically modified wheat if it became commercially available, or are uncertain of their reaction, according to the survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture." (Reuters)

"Scotland and Wales 'bullied' over GM crop veto" - "Ministers are threatening to take unprecedented steps under the devolution agreements with Scotland and Wales to ensure that they accept GM crops, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment, made it clear last week that the devolved administrations - which are much more sceptical about the technology than the Westminster government - could not have a veto on planting GM maize across Britain.

Her move, immediately described by environmentalists as "bullying", is bound to lead to a storm of protests in both devolved assemblies, where GM crops have become an explosive political issue, and could cause a constitutional crisis." (The Independent on Sunday)

"Frankenfood approved" - “JUNK science” is how Elliot Morley, Britain's minister responsible for genetically modified farming, describes studies that claim GM crops would be hazardous to Britain's wildlife and consumers. This week the government granted permission for a strain of GM maize to be grown commercially as cattle feed. That has incensed environmentalists and organic farmers, who say GM is unpopular (probably correct) and based on bad science (probably not)." (The Economist)

"Effects of Biotech Corn in Mexico Unclear" - "OAXACA, Mexico - Mexico no longer disputes that U.S. biotech corn has infiltrated its countryside, but how its presence will affect the verdant fields where corn was born remains to be seen." (Associated Press)

What 'pure' seed? "FSA report on the authenticity of Basmati rice" - "A survey carried out for the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found that one in six sample of Basmati rice contained other non-Basmati varieties. Out of 363 samples, 63 (17%) had a non-Basmati content of more than 20%, which is above the limit laid down by the code of practice of the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA)." (RSSL)

"Cheaper GM Seeds Could Boost Adoption, Farm Benefits and Company Profits: The Case of Bt Cotton in Argentina" - "This article analyzes adoption and impacts of Bt cotton in Argentina against the background of monopoly pricing. Based on survey data, it is shown that the technology significantly reduces insecticide applications and increases yields; however, these advantages are curbed by the high price charged for genetically modified (GM) seeds. Studies show that farmers’ average willingness to pay is less than half the actual technology price. A lower price would not only increase benefits for growers, but could also multiply company profits." (CropBiotech Briefs Vol. 4 No. 1)

"Biotechnology has to meet future needs" - "Biotechnology has numerous applications in healthcare, especially in developing new vaccines and drugs as also in sustaining environment, Dr Maharaj Krishan Bhan, Union secretary, department of biotechnology, has said.

Speaking at the inauguration of the two-day National Colloquium on 'Molecular Breeding and Shaping the Future of Rice' here yesterday, he said biotechnology needed to be upgraded as there was widespread micro-nutrient deficiency. Added to the problem was the burgeoning population." (News Today, India)

March 12, 2004

"Obesity Obsession" - "While it’s not disputed that severe obesity may shorten life, the real killer in this latest public health scare seems to be the Centers for Disease Control's statistical malpractice." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Anti-vaccine Activists Get Jabbed" - "Organized international efforts to scare the living tar out of parents of small children have just been dealt a stunning setback with the retraction of an influential but fraudulent article in a major medical journal.

To the extent the retraction is publicized, it should prevent sickness and possible death in kids and help shove anti-vaccination groups back into the conspiracy theory cesspool from whence they arose." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"The Invisible Healing Hand" - "The rise and growth of popular sentiments against globalization in the developed world is one of the most interesting features of our times. In spite of the evidence that shows how open markets and liberal democracy help the poor, thousands of rich-country intellectuals and activists have engaged in intensive high-impact campaigns against these institutions. Lacking evidence to support their sometimes exotic claims, activists have resorted to emotional strategies aimed at "convincing" people in their hearts that globalization is wrong. One of the targets of these campaigns has been the Intellectual Property (IP) system, especially when applied to medicines and health-care technologies." (Andres Mejia-Vergnaud, TCS)

"Scientists call for less destructive remediation at DOE sites" - "Some clean-up efforts have been based on the unrealistic scenario that people will live on slightly contaminated land on U.S. Department of Energy sites for a lifetime and derive their food and water solely from the contaminated site. This and other assumptions often force remediation of even very low levels of radioactive contamination including unnecessary excavation, transport and reburial elsewhere of slightly contaminated soil, and more environmental damage than if the contaminant remained in place." (University of Georgia)

Your tax dollars at work: "EPA Examining Hazards of Microwaved Popcorn" - "The Environmental Protection Agency is studying the chemicals released into the air when a bag of microwave popcorn is popped or opened." (Associated Press)

Doh! It just gets worse: "Tell science your climate fears" - "A big online attempt to predict how the global climate will change this century wants to hear ordinary people's views. climateprediction.net, a British initiative, is asking people to log on and say which of four possible worlds they think will be most likely by 2100. Participants are asked to say how much carbon dioxide they expect the world to emit over the the next hundred years. The scientists say they want to know what people think as their priorities now will affect what really happens." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

and worse: "RAN Issues Earth Day Deadline To US Mega-banks" - "SAN FRANCISCO – March 11 - Rainforest Action Network today sent letters to “The Liquidators,” ten of the most environmentally destructive US-based banks, issuing an Earth Day deadline to meet or beat new industry best practices set by Citigroup’s recently announced environmental initiatives. The letter follows the release of a secret Pentagon report confirming that catastrophic climate change is a greater national security threat than terrorism and a World Bank report recommending it phase out funding for fossil fuel projects by 2008. Both reports agree: “global warming requires immediate action.” (media release)

... "WRI Warns of Worsening Warming as Climate Treaty Celebrates Tenth Year" - "WASHINGTON - March 11 - The World Resources Institute (WRI) today expressed disappointment that despite a decade since the ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the problem is becoming worse and there has been a collective failure to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming." (media release)

C'mon Al, tell the one about the blind Patagonian sheep: "Corporate America can't ignore global warming, Gore says" - "STANFORD, Calif. -- Detroit automakers and other American companies must stop ignoring the mounting scientific evidence of global warming or else the United States will become an economic laggard and the environment will deteriorate beyond repair, former Vice President Al Gore told students at one of the nation's top business schools." (The Associated Press)

"Early UK springs become 'normal'" - "The effects of climate change mean there is increasing acceptance by Britons of spring arriving early, scientists say. They believe people are more and more accustomed to seeing spring flowers at the New Year, and other signs of warm weather several weeks before usual. Launching National Science Week, they said the premature arrival of spring displayed Nature's growing confusion." (BBC News Online)

"Climate Change Research Program is a Good Step" - "The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved and sent to the full Senate a $60 million program for researching sudden or unexpected changes in the climate. Experts from the National Center for Policy Analysis' (NCPA) E-Team welcomed this news as a small but good change.

"This is a welcome breath of fresh air on the climate change front," said NCPA Adjunct Scholar Kenneth Green. "Hopefully this signals a shift of attention from attempts to control speculated man-made climate change to the historically observed natural volatility of the Earth's climate." (National Center for Policy Analysis)

"Energy Department Rolls Out Revised Hydrogen Plan" - "WASHINGTON, DC, March 11, 2004 - The U.S. Department of Energy has released its new plan to shift the nation toward a hydrogen based transportation system. The plan, unveiled Wednesday by Bush administration officials, lays out milestones for technology development over the next decade, with the goal of a commercialization decision by industry in 2015.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the plan includes timelines that provide clear and scientific measures to track and demonstrate progress. "If we achieve our technical objectives, the automotive and energy industries will be in a position to begin to mass market availability of both vehicles and refueling infrastructure by 2020," he said." (ENS)

"Canada Says It May Emulate California on Auto Emissions" - "The environment minister of Canada said yesterday that his country would emulate California's new law aimed at curbing automotive global warming emissions if carmakers did not agree to make significant reductions.

"Unless we get a voluntary agreement, our intention is to make use of the California model," David Anderson, Canada's environmental minister, said in an interview shortly before a speech about global warming at the University of Toronto.

The notion of Canada following in California's footsteps will not appeal to automakers, who have said they will sue to keep the state's global warming law from taking effect. But Mr. Anderson said the Canadian government had not yet given up on reaching a voluntary agreement." (New York Times)

"Green policies blamed for jump in bills" - "British households and industry face hefty increases in their water and electricity bills in 2005, the likely date of the next election, to pay for the government's green policies, it emerged yesterday." (The Guardian)

"GM crop fear renewed" - "Pembrokeshire could see a return to the anti-GM demonstrations of 2001, as frustration mounts on what activists regard as a weakening by Welsh law makers over the commercial growing of genetically altered crops.

Campaigners who fought to stop trial crops of forage maize being planted at Mathry, are worried about the National Assembly Government's apparent growing support for plans to include a genetically modified maize variety on the National Seeds Register. This, fears Pembrokeshire campaigner, Dr Brian John, would effectively open the door to full commercialisation." (The Western Telegraph)

"GM crop planting probe announced" - "A parliamentary inquiry has been ordered into the government's decision to approve the first commercial planting of GM crops in the UK. The Commons environment committee is to investigate the implications of the move to allow the growing of one variety of GM maize for animal feed. The MPs are to look at the risk of cross-contamination, and if it occurs, who will be legally responsible. The planting decision has incensed anti-GM campaigners." (BBC News Online)

"Bleed American: The price of environmentalism" - "If it weren't for the efforts of certain environmental activists, some of the world's most precious treasures wouldn't exist today. Thanks to their hard work, acres of endangered zones, from bio-diverse coral reefs to tropical rainforests, are being preserved. Indeed, environmentalists have dedicated themselves to many worthy causes. But every once in a while, a group of well-intentioned but misguided activists finds a way to discredit the environmental movement, making other eco-crusaders look completely ridiculous.

I present to you Exhibit A: Mendocino County, Calif. Located in the northern part of the state, Mendocino's economy is dominated by agriculture, relying primarily on its vast vineyards to produce wine. Last week, the people of Mendocino voted in favor of a ballot proposal termed Measure H, which made their county the first in the nation to ban genetically modified organisms." (Jennifer Kursman, Arizona Daily Wildcat)

Here we go again: "Study: GM Corn Threatens Mexico's Crops" - "OAXACA, Mexico - If left unchecked, modified genes spread by imported U.S. biotech corn threaten to displace or contaminate native ancestor varieties in Mexico, the birthplace of corn, a NAFTA watchdog group reported Thursday.

The study by the trilateral Commission for Environmental Cooperation said gene transfers could damage Mexico's vast storehouse of native corn, whose wild ancestral genes might one day be needed to help commercial crops overcome diseases or adverse conditions.

The report, presented at a corn symposium in the colonial city of Oaxaca, is still in draft form and must be approved during a commission meeting in June." (Associated Press)

"Research Panel Warns Mexico of Threat From Modified Corn" - "MEXICO CITY, March 11 — Genetically engineered corn has made its way into Mexican fields from modified American seeds and could ultimately displace native corn varieties unless the government moves to protect them, a multinational panel of researchers warned Thursday.

So little is known about the potential effect of altered corn in Mexico — where maize was first domesticated 9,000 years ago — that risks to the country's 60 corn varieties and the larger ecosystem are unpredictable, said the panel, convened by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement." (New York Times)

"Monsanto submits new biotech wheat petition-USDA" - "WASHINGTON, March 11 - Monsanto Co. has withdrawn its initial application and submitted a new petition seeking U.S. Agriculture Department approval for the world's first genetically modified wheat, a USDA spokesman told Reuters on Thursday." (Reuters)

March 11, 2004

Here it is, the one we've all been waiting for! Turns out that obesity, CHD, diabetes, asthma and a world of ills is all because the world has been too damn cold! Roll on global warming and we can all forget about exercise, dieting and chemical hazards/pollutants causing breathing problems - observe:

"Heart risk for cold weather young" - "Babies born during cold weather may be more likely to develop heart disease later in life, a study suggests. Researchers from Bristol and Edinburgh studied 4,286 women between the ages of 60 and 79 from across Britain. They found those born during cold snaps were more likely to have heart disease. Those born into working-class families appeared to be most at risk. Writing in the journal Heart, they said the quality of housing may have been an important factor. The researchers examined the medical records of all those who took part in the study. They compared their place of birth with documented weather at the time. The women were also examined by a GP or nurse. As well as high rates of heart disease, those born during cold weather were more likely to have high rates of cholesterol, insulin resistance and breathing problems." (BBC News Online)

"Lower Manhattan residents and workers sue EPA over air quality" - "NEW YORK - Residents and workers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, saying the agency improperly let thousands of people return to their homes and businesses after the World Trade Center collapsed.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan accused the EPA of repeatedly making misleading and unduly reassuring statements about air quality after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. It sought class-action status." (AP)

"Dioxin exposure not tied to soft-tissue cancer" - "NEW YORK - Exposure to dioxin, a cancer-causing agent, does not appear to raise the risk of an uncommon cancer called soft-tissue sarcoma, new research shows.

Previous small studies investigating the link between dioxin exposure and soft-tissue sarcoma have yielded conflicting results, the authors explain, so there remains a need to assess exposure in studying the potential cancer risk of dioxins.

Dr. Jouni T. Tuomisto from National Public Health Institute, Kuopio, Finland and colleagues measured dioxin levels in fat samples from 110 soft-tissue sarcoma patients and 227 similar patients without sarcoma. The results are reported in the International Journal of Cancer.

The risk of soft-tissue sarcoma did not increase with increasing dioxin exposure, as reflected by the levels in the fat specimens, the authors report. In fact, the risk was highest in patients with the lowest dioxin levels." (Reuters Health)

"Flame retardant in breast milk" - "A flame retardant said to cause brain damage in mice, and used in everything from televisions to soft furnishings to prevent fire deaths, is being found in human breast milk and birds' eggs.

Today a committee of technical experts from the EU will meet in Italy to decide whether the chemical Deca-BDE should be banned or further tests should be carried out to see if there is a safe threshold for humans. Recent studies in the UK showed that one in 12 of those tested had detectable levels of the chemical in the blood and every home which was tested had Deca-BDE in its house dust.

The chemical industry is attacking the validity of a Swedish study which found brain damage in mice and fighting for the continued use of the chemical saying it saves lives by slowing the spread of house fires.

The Environment Agency is urging caution about the continued use of the chemical." (The Guardian)

And this in The Guardian too! "Let's look at those tests again" - "When scientists from Bristol University questioned the accuracy of risk estimates based on the Framingham heart study, there was a collective intake of breath. As accusations go, it was up there with criticising David Attenborough or saying puppies aren't adorable. For Framingham was the most gilded of gold standard medical data sets. But it now looks as though it has been relegated to that league of greats that once ruled the world but which are now recognised as also being able to bamboozle, mislead and generally misinform." (The Guardian)

"House OKs Ban on Fast Food Obesity Suits" - "WASHINGTON - The GOP-controlled House on Wednesday voted to ban supersized lawsuits that blame the food industry for people's expanding waistlines and health woes, saying such cases could bankrupt fast-food chains and restaurants.

The 276-139 vote is intended to prevent class action lawsuits that contend food companies and their offerings are responsible for Americans' putting on the pounds and lurching toward obesity.

House Republicans have in recent years approved similar bills barring suits against the gun industry for gun crimes and against businesses for asbestos-related health problems. Not one measure has passed the closely divided Senate." (Associated Press)

"Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, TB Faces Crunch" - "GENEVA - The global AIDS fund could soon face a cash crisis, due in part to the likes of Britain, Germany and Canada failing to contribute their fair share to the U.N.-sponsored program, its chief says.

The looming funding gap has been compounded by the Bush administration recently proposing to slash the U.S. contribution for 2005 to $200 million, from the current $550 million." (Reuters)

"Environment High on Global Agenda - Focus has shifted to specific environmental issues" - "March 10, 2004—Leading environmentalists say the environment is still at the top of the global agenda, but people now view what was once a single issue as a series of specific topics such as: climate-change, deforestation, carbon emissions, and wildlife conservation. That was the conclusion of a recent roundtable debate hosted by the Environment Department of the World Bank. That conclusion is backed up by recent polls showing that "the environment" has dropped off as a hot topic. Experts say it is because people don't categorize or perceive critical environmental issues under the "fuzzy" generic umbrella of environment, but more as specialized sub-topics." (The World Bank)

"We face climate disaster" - "The Government's chief scientist today set out an "apocalyptic vision" of global warming bringing back the conditions which drove the dinosaurs to extinction.

Professor Sir David King told a House of Lords committee that urgent action was needed "within the next few years" to avert the threat of sudden and severe climate change.

He claimed that last summer's heatwave was a man-made event and a warning sign of worse to come." (Ben Leapman, Evening Standard)

"Still Not Too Late to Prevent a Doomsday" - "With an emerging international movement of citizens and scientists, all hope is not lost for saving the environment" (James Gustave Speth, YaleGlobal)

"Scientist urges US climate help" - "The US will have to help combat climate change if extreme weather events are to be avoided, the government's chief scientist has warned. Sir David King told a Lords select committee inquiry into climate change of concerns about possible environment changes if global temperatures rise." (BBC News Online)

"Abrupt climate change" - "A new element has been added to the debate over global warming, taking it far beyond the realm of just another environmental issue. Scientific experts and even specialists in the Pentagon are recognizing it as a major threat to our economy and even our national security.

It's clearly time for the government to recognize the urgency, to stop the delaying and rationalizing, and to set the country on a clear strategy of cutting back sharply on the amounts of fossil fuels that we burn." (Lynn E. Weaver, Orlando Sentinel)

"Research says NW climate changing" - "Rising temperatures could threaten the Northwest's water supply and endanger the surrounding wildlife, according to UW research.

UW climate experts say the increase in temperature could potentially lead to long droughts and more rain than snow in the wintertime.

"The Cascades will be heavily impacted," said Edward Miles, a scientist in the Climate Impacts Group at the UW. The group believes winter snowpacks in the mountains are the most important indicator of climate variability in the region." (The Daily)

"Yawn - it's just political scientists" - "Face it: There are only about 55 repeating news stories. One speaks of unrest in Haiti. Another claims that people high up in the federal government, maybe even at the White House, are in the business of distorting scientific research.

Ho-hum. Haiti will be a mess, and politicians will mess with science. It isn't surprising. It's inevitable.

That's why I'm surprised that a statement released last month by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), claiming that the Bush administration is distorting science, mainly global warming science, got any press play. Although several of the signees were scientists not in the UCS, the group itself is a left-wing lobbying group best known for being greatly exercised about global warming from fossil fuels and destroying the alternative, nuclear power, at the same time.

The UCS is angry that the Bush administration has pulled a climate assessment report. That report was pulled together mainly by Clinton-era hacks. Now Bush-era hacks have booted it. To the victor goes the delete key, OK?" (Patrick J. Michaels, Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Climate Change: All provisions of the Kyoto Protocol now legally binding in the EU" - "Today, a Decision of the European Parliament and the Council enters into force, which makes all the remaining requirements under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol legally binding in all Member States. The targets of the EU and its individual Member States related to emissions of greenhouse gases became binding in 2002. The new Decision relates in particular to the way in which emissions have to be monitored and reported in accordance with the Protocol. With this step, all provisions of the Kyoto Protocol have become EU law and the EU has reaffirmed its global leadership in fighting climate change and implementing the Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the only international framework to combat global warming." (European Commission)

"Russia's Call on Global Warming" - "Early this year, I moderated a panel on climate change at the World Economic Forum, the global gathering of business and political leaders, pundits, and experts that takes place every year in Davos, Switzerland. The forum's organizers, drawing on an article by a distinguished scientist who joined us, had provocatively titled the panel "Global Climate Change: Mother Nature's Weapon of Mass Destruction?" The discussion was full of surprises." (Jonathan Lash, World Resources Institute)

"UK gardeners hear buzz of early spring" - "BUMBLEBEES are buzzing, daffodils are blooming and frogs spawning in Scotland before spring has officially sprung, according to the biggest survey of its kind into the effects of global warming. The Woodland Trust has recruited 13,500 gardeners and wildlife watchers throughout the UK to monitor the first signs of spring. It is due to present its full set of results today." (The Herald)

"Global warming has gone to the bogs" - "Forget the melting glaciers. Global warming is revealing itself in subtler ways. Think methane. Swedish bogs are releasing more methane as climate warms and permafrost melts. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 25 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide (CO2). With more methane in the air, climate warming could accelerate." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"UC study sheds new light on climate-change processes" - "A new University of California study reinforces concerns that global warming, by melting the glacial ice of Greenland, could quickly and profoundly change salinity and temperatures in the north Atlantic Ocean. One consequence might be much colder weather in northern Europe and Britain and perhaps even in eastern Canada and the U.S. northeast." (University of California - Davis)

And all it would take is a Greenland icesheet meltdown... see: The Greenland Ice Sheet is Melting!

Speculative hand-wringer of the day: "'Untouched' rainforest hit by environmental change" - "Supposedly pristine regions of the Amazon rainforests are being affected by changes in the environment, say researchers in Panama. The species composition of ecosystems is changing even in remote areas, they report in Nature." (NSU)

and varied reporting: "Amazon carbon sink effect 'slows'" - "Scientists have sounded the alarm after spotting changes in the environment in Brazil's tropical rain forests. They say they have found worrying signs that the forests may become less able to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.

again: "'Pristine' Amazonian rainforests are changing" - "Changes to apparently pristine parts of the Amazonian rainforests have been revealed by a survey of trees. Tall, fast-growing trees are doing better than those that grow slowly. The changes - possibly the result of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - threaten to reduce the Amazon basin's crucial ability to store excess CO2." (NewScientist.com news service)Their long-term study in supposedly pristine areas reveals trees have been growing and dying faster than before." (BBC News Online)

and again: "Carbon pollution wreaking havoc with Amazonian forest" - "PARIS - Carbon dioxide (CO2) disgorged by fossil fuels is silently causing a dramatic change in the composition of tree species in the Amazonian forest, the world's most precious wildlife haven, a study says." (AFP)

... "Greenhouse gases threaten tree species in remote parts of the Amazon" - "Pristine parts of the Amazon rainforest that were thought to have escaped the effects of human encroachment have changed dramatically over the past 20 years, scientists have determined.

The delicate balance of tree species growing in some of the most remote regions of the Amazon has been altered significantly and the scientists believe it is a direct result of increases in carbon dioxide emissions caused by humans. Small, slower-growing trees that thrived beneath the forest canopy are losing out to faster-growing varieties because the Amazon is in effect being artificially "fertilised" with increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere." (Independent)

all derived from: "Undisturbed Amazonian forests are changing, say scientists" - "A research team of U.S. and Brazilian scientists has shown that rainforests in central Amazonia are experiencing striking changes in dynamics and species composition. Although the cause of these changes are believed to be completely undisturbed, old-growth forests is uncertain, a leading explanation is that they are being driven by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere." (Smithsonian Institution)

"Global Warming: The D.C. Freeze" - "The contempt of the Bush administration for environmentalists and their concerns certainly is well enough known by now. While the evidence of man-made environmental damage continues to mount, the Bush team stubbornly resists its implications like a defeated army whose rear guard fights off its pursuers as it retreats. That has been especially true of its handling of the most serious of all the environmental issues -- global warming." (Walter Cronkite, Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan)

So, Walt, how goes your fight against that "global warming fighting," "clean energy" offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound, the one that would spoil the view from your Edgartown summer home? Oh, that's right - kind of conflicted about that, eh? Seems some of your neighbours aren't thrilled either.

"Offshore windfarms 'are too expensive'" - "Energy experts poured cold water on East Anglia's chances of changing the way we generate electricity yesterday by claiming that power from offshore windfarms was three times as expensive as conventional sources.

The region is set to become a key centre for offshore windfarms, with the country's biggest marine scheme under construction off the coast at Yarmouth and thousands more turbines destined for sites in the Greater Wash area.

But yesterday the Royal Academy of Engineering said offshore windfarm is by far the most expensive method of generating electricity, costing as much as three times as much as nuclear or gas." (Norfolk Eastern Daily Press)

"Science runs into trouble with bubbles" - "When a US physicist wrote up an experiment that seemed to produce nuclear fusion, rivals dismissed his work. It was published anyway. This month a new paper reignites the controversy." (The Guardian)

"Call for greater investment in energy research" - "The government is planning a £12m energy research centre to help compensate for the scientific research that has been lost with the privatisation of power companies." (The Guardian)

"Electricity users may face £1bn penalty" - "Householders were told yesterday that they will have to stump up £1bn through higher electricity prices to prevent blackouts and rebuild an energy supply infrastructure which is nearing the end of its life." (The Guardian)

"Environmentalists defend Calif's MTBE ban in NAFTA lawsuit" - "Environmental groups on Wednesday defended California's right to ban the gasoline additive MTBE after a Canadian firm sued the United States over the state's environmental regulation.

Methanex Corp., a Vancouver-based maker of an MTBE component called methanol, filed a $970 million suit in 1999 under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The firm claimed the MTBE ban was meant to remove foreign competition for U.S. producers of ethanol, a potential MTBE substitute.

Methanex wants to be compensated for lost profits and business opportunities it says resulted from California's ban, which went into effect this year. Such so-called "investment protection" lawsuits are permitted under NAFTA rules." (Associated Press)

"Flower power" - "The ticklish, often-tragic business of landmine detection might soon be taken over by a civilian armed with nothing more than a spray gun. A plant altered to show civilians the location of planted landmines might do the work instead. The project is one more proof of the power and utility of genetically modified plants, and the need for such seedlings of promise to be passed to the nations that need them most." (The Washington Times editorial)

"Are there drugs in my corn flakes?" - "Seeds for biotech foods are slipping into traditional stocks, raising fears that experimental nonfood seeds are there too." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"GM debate fails to ignite Canada" - "Opinion polls taken over the past few years in Canada reveal that there is a lot of public concern about genetically modified crops and food.

However, there has been very little done to address those concerns by the government, the food industry, retailers and the country's farmers.

It may also be some of the fire has gone out of the issue here since it first reared its head in the late 1990s." (BBC News Online)

"Imported GM Contaminating Food" - "Reports today claim that GM material has been found in products labeled organic or GM-free. Friends of the Earth believe it shows a clear indication that where GM is already grown overseas there are no adequate measures in place to prevent cross-contamination.

The Biotechnology Unit at the University of Glamorgan carried out a pilot study to test for the presence of GM ingredients in soya foods from health food stores and supermarkets. It found that 40%, or almost half of the 25 foods tested positively for GM ingredients. The data from the survey has not yet been officially published." (FoE press release)

"GM gets go-ahead; UK to be eaten by giant plant by Monday" - "The UK will be devoured by a colossal "maize monster" within a week, experts revealed today. The worrying news came after the government agreed to allow genetically-modified maize to be grown by farmers. According to Professor Douglas Ramsbottom, a scientist working for the pressure group People Against Frenetic Foods, studies have shown that tampering with plants' genetic structures can have "disastrous consequences." (DeadBrain)

"Opinion: How to grow a packet of profits from seed" - "GM crops will enable a few giant firms to monopolise the food chain" (Camilla Cavendish, The Times)

"Frankenstein food - are we being misled" - "As the dust starts to settle on the Government's decision to give qualified approval to commercially-grown GM maize for animal feed, Environment Correspondent TARA GREAVES asks what it will mean for consumers.

Genetically modified food is not welcomed by the public.

That is a fact backed up by various studies, many UK supermarkets – that refuse to stock goods containing GM ingredients – and consumer groups.

And, just a day after the Government gave the conditional go-ahead for the first commercially grown GM crops, new research shows GM material has been found in products labelled organic or GM-free, which will only add fuel to fire.

But are consumers, a large percentage of whom appear to be ambivalent rather than firmly against or strongly in favour, being misled by scary "Frankenstein food" style stories?" (Norfolk Eastern Daily Press)

"Italy raises fears over British approval for GMO crops" - "ROME - Italian Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno voiced concern that Britain's green light for limited commercial cultivation of genetically modified maize could affect Italy, where such crops are banned.

"After a certain period, a product authorised in one country is commercialised automatically in others. This genetically modified maize could therefore arrive over here," Alemanno told the daily Corriere della Sera.

"Our problem is to defend our traditional methods and in particular to defend the right of consumers and producers to choose," he added Wednesday.

"A choice which would be impossible if it produced a contamination which would progressively eliminate non-GM (genetically modified) cultivation," said Alemanno." (AFP)

"GM Crop Trials Could Pose Threat To Land Values" - "March 9th 2004. "Landowners should tread cautiously with GM crops," warns Mark Hudson, President of the Country Land and Business Association, responding to Margaret Beckett's announcement to agree in principle to the commercial cultivation of GM herbicide-tolerant forage maize in the UK.

Mark Hudson continues: "This is a brave decision on the part of the Secretary of State. It is based on careful scientific evaluation of the information available, on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Release in the Environment (ACRE), and has been considered, as all genetic modification should be, on a case-by-case basis."

"In principle the CLA welcomes the application of safe, well-tested new technologies to produce higher quality, more pest and disease-resistant crops."

"However, while there is no evidence of risks to human health from consuming products derived from currently licensed GM crops, we support consumers' right to know if their food contains ingredients which have been derived from GM crops. There is also concern on the part of organic producers about potential cross contamination from GM varieties."

"Given that consumer reactions to foods containing GM ingredients are unpredictable, and these in turn depend partly on commercial decisions taken by food processors and retailers, the CLA is warning landowners that GM crop trials may pose a threat to land values." (BioPortfolio)

"Mexico farmers seek funds to deal with GM corn" - "OAXACA, Mexico, March 10 - Mexican farmers, anxious to protect corn their ancestors developed over 7,000 years from pollution by transgenic strains, said on Wednesday they need money if they are to preserve the world's largest maize gene pool.

Farmers and scientists in the city of Oaxaca, in the central Mexican state of the same name, want the government to fund local laboratories to develop genetically modified corn technology suited to Mexican needs.

Gathered to discuss the impact of genetically modified (GM) corn in Mexico, scientists also want government monitoring of transgenic maize entering the country and for farmers to be trained to recognize it and alert officials to its presence." (Reuters)

"Protest Over Modified Foods" - "CONSUMER fears over the safety of genetically modified food dominated debate yesterday at the start of SA's first conference on Public Understanding of Biotechnology.

Lobby groups at the conference called for an overhaul of SA's regulatory framework and an end to government's public awareness campaign on biotechnology." (Business Day (Johannesburg))

March 10, 2004

"Public Policy Follies" - "Federal officials have been shooting themselves in the foot on public health issues -- but it is ordinary Americans who hemorrhage. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and officials at the department's Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have made one bad decision after another. Not ideologically motivated decisions (such as the administration's opposition to stem cell research), necessarily, just unwise ones.

These actions -- by the people who determine much of the Nation's public health agenda -- have discouraged research and development; squandered scarce resources; and deprived citizens of important consumer products, while placing them at risk." (Henry I. Miller, TCS)

"Household activities release a cloud of dust, increasing exposure to particulate pollution" - "Ordinary household activities, from dusting to dancing, can increase your exposure to particulate pollution, according to a new study. Whether you are cutting the rug or just vacuuming it, you may be inhaling tiny dust particles that could be harmful to your health." (American Chemical Society)

"Coffee drinking associated with reduced risk of diabetes" - "Researchers have found an association between drinking coffee and a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes in Finnish adults, according to a study in the March 10 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)." (JAMA and Archives Journals Website)

"Poor diet and physical inactivity may soon overtake tobacco as leading cause of death in U.S." - "About half of all deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to largely preventable behaviors and exposures, with tobacco use and poor diet/physical inactivity accounting for the majority of preventable deaths, according to a study in the March 10 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)." (JAMA and Archives Journals Website)

I am intrigued by these "preventable" deaths - would these people otherwise be immortal if not for [tobacco/gluttony/sloth/insert favourite deadly sin here]? Of course they would not (and no one seriously suggests otherwise) so the attribution of blame is rather silly. As coronary care has improved so other 'causes' of death have ascended the rankings. Better coronary and cancer care, smoking slips in the 'top o' the pops' people topping ranks - et voila! gluttony and sloth are the cause celebre du jour. Massive societal effort may be arrayed against these 'killers' but death and taxes will remain inevitable.

"The 'cheeseburger bill'" - "The House votes today on the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, a bill introduced by Rep. Ric Keller, Florida Republican, that would block frivolous lawsuits against food manufacturers, sellers and distributors." (The Washington Times)

"Preparing for the Worst" - "Quite some time ago, I wrote about scientists' questions on whether to deliver bad news. The news in question had to do with a potential life-ending asteroid strike. Perhaps, I suggested, it might be best not to deliver that news, if things were bad enough that nothing could be done. I also noted that this was an active question within the astronomical community." (Glenn H. Reynolds, TCS)

?!! "Flag on Georgia Plates Irks Environmentalists" - "ATLANTA — For years, Georgia has raised money for wildlife protection by selling custom license plates with wildlife scenes. Sales skyrocketed this year for new tags featuring the bald eagle and the American flag.

But some environmentalists say they do not want to contribute to the state's wildlife protection fund through a flag-waving symbol they believe will be seen as being linked to President Bush." (FoxNews.com)

Boy, down-under, we must really have the wrong idea about America. The American flag is associated with the American President - fair enough (would have thought the president was associated with the flag but OK). To what flags do environmentalists and/or Democrats pledge allegiance? Environmentalists do not wish to support wildlife protection because it is associated with the American flag... says it all really.

"Grants Handled Or Mishandled At The EPA?" - "Should liberal and environmental advocacy organizations be receiving "no strings attached" federal grants? Remember, this is Washington, so the common sense answer need not apply - not even when the federal deficit is skyrocketing." (Paul M. Weyrich, Accuracy in Media)

"Caltech student arrested in an SUV arson spree" - "LOS ANGELES -- A California Institute of Technology graduate student was arrested yesterday in connection with an August arson and vandalism spree targeting 125 sports utility vehicles at four car dealerships, the FBI said." (Associated Press)

"Euro back-stabbers for Kerry" - "Last weekend John Kerry, while meeting with a small group of Florida contributors, claimed: "I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that.' " The candidate refused to identify the names of these leaders. I confess, I don't quite know what to make of this claim." (Tony Blankley, The Washington Times)

"Scientists find more keys to the North Pacific Ocean's climate" - "Using satellite and other data, scientists have discovered that sea surface temperatures and sea level pressure in the North Pacific have undergone unusual changes over the last five years. These changes to the North Pacific Ocean climate system are different from those that dominated for the past 50-80 years, which has led scientists to conclude that there is more than one key to the climate of that region than previously thought." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Research links long droughts in U.S. to ocean temperature variations" - "Large-scale, long-lasting droughts in the U.S. – such as the present one in the West -- tend to be linked to warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean. Although droughts remain largely unpredictable, this research increases concern that the current drought in the West could persist due to continuing above normal North Atlantic sea surface temperatures." (United States Geological Survey)

"Senate Panel Backs Climate Research Plan" - "WASHINGTON — A $60 million program for researching sudden or unexpected changes in the climate would be created under legislation that won approval Tuesday by a Senate committee.

By voice vote and with little discussion, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration." (Associated Press)

"Senator McCain Asks GAO for Impacts of Global Warming on Federally Managed Land" - "WASHINGTON - March 9 - Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, joined to request that the General Accounting Office (GAO) prepare a comprehensive assessment of the effects of global warming on our nation’s federally managed land." (Press Release)

"Ice age on the cards by 2100" - "Global warming could disrupt the sea currents, sending Europe into a chill within 100 years and devastating tropical ocean life, a CSIRO scientist said yesterday. Richard Matear, a Hobart-based marine researcher, said the oxygen content of deep ocean water between Australia and Antarctica had fallen 3 per cent since 1968. If research confirmed the decline was not a local phenomenon but global it would be a strong sign that global warming was interfering with sea currents." (The Age)

That deep Southern Ocean water oxygen content is falling is plausible - Antarctic sea ice extent and duration has been increasing for decades (or longer - data deficient), as temperatures have been falling for all of Antarctica with the exception of the northern Antarctic Peninsula (which is actually outside the Antarctic Circle). It does not seem to require a great stretch of imagination to hypothesise that an increasing physical barrier inhibits atmospheric/oceanic oxygen exchange. It requires rather more imagination to view a cooling Antarctic, with associated increase in sea ice extent and duration, as driven by global warming.

Oh dear! "Global Warming as a Weapon of Mass Destruction" (Bruce E. Johansen, ZMag)

II: "Climate change warning for East" - "WATER shortages and increased risk of flooding, subsidence and pollution are faced by the east of England as a result of climate change, according to a new report.

It warns local authorities and businesses in the region to "act now" ready to adapt to climate change before it is too late.

The report – endorsed by the Government – said the region was likely to be one of those most affected by changes caused by global warming and faced hotter, drier summers and milder, wetter winters.

It suggested that hundreds more of the region's residents would die of skin cancer each year as a result of increased exposure to the sun and that coastal erosion would be accelerated." (East Anglican Daily Times)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"The Canary in the Coal Mine: Singing a Song of Something … But Certainly Not CO 2 " - "CO 2 -induced global warming, according to the IPCC and its host of valiant cheerleaders, is supposed to be most strongly expressed and most readily detected in the high latitudes of both hemispheres.  Is it?" (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Climate Oscillations (Millennial Variability - Forcing Factors)" - "To understand what causes these alternating multi-century periods of relative warmth and cold is to understand what has caused the global warming of the past century or more that has loosed the earth from the chilly grasp of the Little Ice Age and ushered in the Modern Warm Period." (co2science.org)

"Agriculture (Species -- Wheat: CO 2 vs. Stress of Soil Infertility)" - "Will wheat crops of the future be able to make full use of the growth enhancement typically provided by elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO 2 if they are grown on infertile soils?" (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: Beaked Sedge, Chee Reedgrass, Peat Moss and Spring Vetch." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Glacial Retreat on Kilimanjaro" - "Has it truly been caused by CO 2 -induced global warming, as fervently claimed by so many climate alarmists and pseudo-scientific politicians?" (co2science.org)

"A 500-Year Temperature History of Europe" - "What can it tell us about the nature of 20th-century warming?  Specifically, does it suggest the rise in temperature was natural or the result of anthropogenic activities?" (co2science.org)

"Isotopic Signal of Fossil Fuel Carbon In Urban Grasses" - "Data from Paris demonstrate the significance of localized anthropogenic CO 2 emissions for urban vegetation." (co2science.org)

"The Effect of Elevated CO 2 on Dark Respiration of Grapevine Cane Wood" - "What is it?  Why does it occur?  And what does it portend about the future of grape cultivation in earth's CO 2 accreting atmosphere?" (co2science.org)

"Atmospheric CO 2 Enrichment Reduces Water Repellency of Soil" - "A soil property of great importance to a wide array of critical phenomena in both agro- and natural ecosystems is significantly improved when the air's CO 2 concentration is raised by approximately 30%." (co2science.org)

"Electricity bills will soar under energy policy, engineers claim" - "EVEN the cheapest forms of renewable energy will cost at least twice as much as gas or nuclear power for the foreseeable future, according to a new report that questions the viability of the Government’s energy strategy.

Electricity bills are likely to rise appreciably over the coming decade as ministers aim to generate more energy from expensive, renewable sources, an independent study commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering has suggested.

Under the recent Energy White Paper the share of electricity generated from renewable sources will rise to 10 per cent by 2010 and 20 per cent by 2020. The Government has also delayed a decision on replacing the present generation of nuclear plants, all but one of which will close over the next two decades." (Mark Henderson, The Times)

"Power cuts 'could hit UK by 2006'" - "The UK could be hit by electricity supply problems within two years, an expert who advises the government on energy policy has said. Dieter Helm told BBC Two's If... The Lights Go Out that the UK had a "very clapped out" power generation system. It was too dependent on imported gas for its electricity, Mr Helm said.

The Department of Trade and Industry did not agree. It said new generating capacity was being created through the reopening of mothballed power stations. Government policy was focused on the safe, secure and affordable supply of electricity, it added." (BBC News Online)

"Kerry Pumping Up Foreign Oil as Issue" - "John F. Kerry's campaign had billed the town hall meeting as a summit on the urban economy. But the woman at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn had something else on her mind: "Sen. Kerry," she demanded, "what are you going to do about the high price of gasoline?"

"The gas prices are going up, and it's an issue," acknowledged Kerry, before delivering a popular campaign line: "No young American in uniform should ever be held hostage to America's dependence on oil in the Middle East."

The crowd cheered — it always does, and loudly, when the Democratic presidential hopeful delivers his pitch on politics and petroleum." (Los Angeles Times)

"Protection not perfection" - "The Marine Stewardship Council aims to do for fish what the Soil Association does for organic food." (The Guardian)

What would that be, scaremonger and sell illusion?

"It may be organic, but it isn't maple syrup" - "EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Elliott Morse, a seventh-generation maple syrup maker, is standing in his gift shop in the middle of his sugarbush here. Squeeze bottles of various grades of 100 percent pure Vermont maple syrup are lined up on a table behind him for customers at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks to taste and compare.

Amid old-fashioned tins and traditional glass bottles filled with his own syrup, Morse examines a big plastic bottle of Shady Maple Farms Certified Organic Pancake Syrup that a reporter has handed him. "They call it organic?" Morse asks indignantly. "Well, all maple syrup is organic. Our trees are organic."

His reaction may be common sense, but it's not the law. Two-year-old USDA regulations spell out what can be labeled organic, and by design, several new products on the market qualify. This month, as Morse and other maple syrup producers across New England collect sap from sugar maples and tend to evaporation pans, two companies are hoping to tap into the market with certified organic "pancake syrups." (Boston Globe)

"UK's tentative go-ahead for GMs" - "Five bitter years after the start of a national debate, UK ministers say GM crops can - on certain conditions - now be grown commercially in Britain.

The Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, told Parliament ministers had agreed in principle to the growing of a single variety of GM maize in England.

Anti-GM campaign groups are vehement in denouncing the decision, while from the biotechnology industry there is relief.

But legal challenges, qualifications and scientific questions still remain." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online) | Predictable divide on crop decision (BBC News Online) | Executive backs UK GM crop move (BBC News Online) | Wales' refuses GM agreement (BBC News Online) | UK doctors alter tack to back GMs (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online) [See: Genetically modified foods & health: a second interim statement (British Medical Association)] | GM crops: What the science says (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online) | British OK GM Maize, Greenpeace Furious (Reuters) | Leader: Misappliance of science (The Guardian) | Anti-GM movement vows to fight maize approval (The Guardian) | Letters: Sowing the seeds of discord (The Guardian)

The alleged contention here appears to be that science has not proven absolute safety of biotech-enhanced crops. Perhaps the appropriate response is to agree to do so - as soon as organic advocates have demonstrated the means of so doing by proving the absolute safety of their potentially noxious produce. After all, there have been no independent organic feeding trials and who knows what the use of organic Bt sprays is doing to earthworms and honey bees?

We cannot accept any data from or funded by organic organisations though, obviously it is tainted by money, driven solely by the profit motives of these multinationals who have stated their desire to gain control of global food production.

Of course, all organic produce should be banned from sale or production outside carefully contained and controlled trials until all safety trials are complete and the absolute safety of consumers and the environment is scientifically proven. Naturally, there will need to be a suitable separation regime to prevent contamination of conventional crops by cross pollination, volunteerism, commingling etc....

Perhaps we should also look at some sort of liability scheme lest it be shown that contamination from organic-approved heavy metals (e.g. copper sulphate), pathogens from organic fertilisers or increased pest loads from infective organic plots should harm human health or reduce adjacent crop values.

Let's not forget the horrendous loss of wildlife habitat caused by low-productivity organic regimes requiring increased cropping area. Such artificially enlarged eco-footprints for minimal output should require say the purchase and restoration of at least an equivalent area for wildlife habitat plus a perpetual annual levy for its maintenance.

Such schemes probably should not disadvantage well-meaning farmers but should be underwritten by wealthy multinational anti-biotech profiteers such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth et al, with assistance from the Soil Association and other organic profiteers.

Organic advocates wish to show us the way? I believe they should be required to do so.

"Green light for GM crop, but rift threatens planting" - "A chasm opened up between the government and the biotech industry yesterday over compensation for conventional and organic farmers should their crops become contaminated with GM material. The disagreement could scupper plans to plant GM maize in Britain." (The Guardian)

"Farm Ministers Final Bid to Break GM Corn Deadlock" - "EU agriculture ministers will make a last-ditch attempt next month to rule on the approval of a genetically modified corn variety and effectively end a six-year ban on new biotech foods.

The application to approve canned sweet corn from a strain developed by the Swiss-based Syngenta company will be discussed at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on April 26-27.

Ministers face a May 1 deadline for a clear decision on whether to approve Syngenta’s Bt11 variety for human consumption following months of deadlock among lower level officials from the 15 EU nations.

If the farm ministers are unable to secure a clear majority to approve or reject the corn, the issue will be passed back to the European Commission, which is expected to clear the corn for sale." (PA News)

March 9, 2004

"The Unnecessary Scourge" - "My friend's four-year-old child hasn't been able to walk for months because of malaria," Ugandan farmer and businesswoman Fiona "Fifi" Kobusingye says softly. "She crawls around on the floor. Her eyes bulge out like a chameleon, her hair is dried up, and her stomach is all swollen because the parasites have taken over her liver. Her family doesn't have the money to help her, and neither does the Ugandan government. All they can do is take care of her the best they can, and wait for her to die."

Malaria is also a personal tragedy for this courageous and eloquent woman. It has killed her son, two sisters and two nephews. Now she means to turn her tragedy into a crusade, to rid Uganda and Africa of this killer disease. It will not be an easy task." (Paul Driessen, TCS)

"Kerry claims world leaders want him to beat Bush" - "John Kerry dropped an early bombshell into the US election campaign yesterday by claiming some foreign leaders have already told him they want him to beat President George Bush in November." (Independent)

Really? As an Australian observer of American politics I'm likely misreading this but I would say that, if true, this should put Kerry right out of contention. What foreign leader does not want to advance their country's interest at the expense of America? If foreign leaders want Kerry it could only be because they see him as bad for America, no? Surely American voters want a president working for them, not for foreign powers and against their interests. What an extraordinary claim by a presidential wannabe.

"Robin Hood is alive in court, say those seeking lawsuit limits" - "For doctors, drugmakers and sellers of everything from tobacco to frozen chickens, America's civil justice system can seem like Sherwood Forest.

They say that some small-town and urban courthouses have become thickets of Robin Hood jurors, predatory trial lawyers and biased judges who allow frivolous lawsuits by consumers to fleece businesses out of billions of dollars.

Now, many of America's most frequently sued corporations are teaming up to complain to the public, state legislatures and Congress about what business leaders call unfounded consumer lawsuits.

Their argument — that the nation's system for compensating consumers in product-liability lawsuits has been thrown out of whack by courts that tilt in favor of huge, anti-business judgments — isn't new. But this year their efforts to make the rules in such lawsuits more friendly to businesses are gaining ground." (USA TODAY)

"Asbestos Exposed" - "Asbestos litigation is in crisis. Fueled by powerful trial attorneys rewriting the books on tort law, some 730,000 asbestos claims have been filed to date, and most are made by healthy, unimpaired individuals. Worse, the flood of unmerited claims has bankrupted so many defendant companies that legitimate victims suffering from asbestos exposure have been squeezed out, unable to collect compensation that is rightfully theirs.

Meanwhile, asbestos lawsuits -- the most expensive type of litigation in U.S. history, according to numbers released last month by the RAND Corporation -- are taking their toll on the U.S. economy, costing businesses a whopping $70 billion and bankrupting 66-plus companies. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates asbestos lawsuits have killed close to 60,000 jobs." (Dana Joel Gattuso, TCS)

"Diets high in fat and animal protein linked to increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma" - "Consuming foods high in animal protein, saturated fat, eggs and dairy leads to an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system, part of the body's immune system, Yale researchers have found." (Yale University)

"USDA to ramp up mad cow testing" - "The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to announce as early as this week that it probably will triple the number of cattle it plans to test this year for mad cow disease.

Since the first U.S. case of mad cow was discovered in December in Washington state, the USDA has been sharply criticized by consumer advocates and lawmakers for not testing more extensively." (USA TODAY)

"Raining on the Global Warming Parade" - "There are many remaining scientific uncertainties that limit our ability to predict how much global warming can be expected due to mankind's use of fossil fuels. The largest uncertainties are related to feedbacks. Feedbacks describe how various elements of the climate system respond to an initial warming tendency, and possibly change it. This warming tendency is caused by increased trapping of infrared radiation in the atmosphere from increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide." (Roy W. Spencer, TCS)

"Climate: Change could come like lightning" - "BOULDER, Colo., March 8 -- Those who think global climate change requires many years to unfold might want to take note of other worldwide temperature alterations in the past 15,000 years, which occurred, in geological terms, quick as a flash." (Dan Whipple, United Press International)

"Could Gulf Stream run out of steam?" - "A ship with scientists from five countries is racing to find out whether the Gulf Stream, which gives much of Europe a livable climate, could stop flowing.

The research vessel RRS Discovery left Britain three weeks ago on a mission to see whether global warming could actually chill one of the greatest heat-carrying mechanisms on the planet.

Not only is this a danger in the far-off future, they say, but there's a chance it could happen in a sudden rush.

"Once considered incredible, the notion that climate can change rapidly is becoming respectable," a summary of the project from NASA says.

"Global warming could plunge North America and Western Europe into a deep freeze, possibly within only a few decades," it says.

"Without the vast heat that these ocean currents deliver -- comparable to the power generation of a million nuclear power plants -- Europe's average temperature would likely drop 5 to 10 C, and parts of eastern North America would be chilled somewhat less. Such a dip in temperature would be similar to global average temperatures toward the end of the last ice age roughly 20,000 years ago."

Climate change generally happens gradually. The Earth's climate is believed to have warmed up by about half a degree Celsius in the past century.

But some scientists believe the Gulf Stream shut down suddenly in the past as the last Ice Age was ending 13,000 years ago.

A sudden rush of cold freshwater from melting glaciers upset its balance, and vegetation records show Europe was plunged into a deep freeze for more than 1,000 years, they believe." (CanWest News Service)

Uh-huh... where's all the fresh water going to come from? It's all very well anticipating massive floodwaters released from huge ice dams created during the retreat of a mile-thick North American ice sheet could shut down the Gulf Stream but no such freshwater reservoir exists today. So, where's all that water supposed to come from?

"State's Dobriansky Says U.S. Committed on Climate Change" - "The United States is "fully committed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and shares its ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate," the U.S. State Department's Paula Dobriansky told the Federation of Austrian Industry in Vienna March 3." (U.S. Embassy in Tokyo)

"This is a transcript from AM: Audit of Australian Greenhouse Office" - "Reporter: Peta Donald

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government often refers to the one billion dollars being spent over 14 years to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases Australia is pumping into the atmosphere.

The question is, are the dollars making a difference?

An audit of the Australian Greenhouse Office reveals that a lot of the money hasn't been spent, and there's little evidence that targets to reduce emissions have been met." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"Blair to be asked if US played role in silencing of chief scientist" - "Tony Blair is to be questioned about an attempt to silence the Government's chief scientific adviser after he claimed that global warming was more serious than terrorism.

Norman Baker, the environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said he would write to Mr Blair asking him whether he had come under pressure from the US government to rein in the scientist Sir David King." (Independent)

"No Trade-off Between Warming and Terrorism - Straw" - "The Government hit back today at claims that it tried to gag its top scientific adviser after he warned global warming was a more serious threat than international terrorism.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said ministers were committed to tackling both challenges but that there was no trade-off between the two." (PA News)

"Scientist denies being 'muzzled'" - "The government's chief scientific adviser says he will not be "muzzled" despite being told by Downing Street to limit his media interviews.  The No 10 memo came after Sir David King said climate change was a more problem than the threat of terrorism. On Tuesday, Sir David appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme - the show he was advised to avoid. He said advice on conveying a message was helpful but people had to know scientists would speak their minds." (BBC News Online)

"The old yellow school bus as a threat" - " Around the nation, a concerted effort has sprung up to fight exposure to toxic diesel exhaust from one of childhood's friendliest icons: the old yellow school bus." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Sierra Club could add immigration to green agenda" - "The Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and arguably most influential environmental group, is being targeted by activists who want it to lobby to limit immigration in addition to its traditional work protecting the environment.

The challengers to the club's mainstream leadership say the nation's population is going to skyrocket and the only way to curb sprawl and pollution is by limiting immigration and lowering the birth rate." (USA TODAY)

"Brazil: The new breadbasket" - "CUIABA, BRAZIL -- The road to the future breadbasket of the world does not go through America's heartland.

It's being paved instead through the heartland of Brazil's Mato Grosso state, where vast stretches of new farmland can be had for $150 an acre, and good farmhands like Noel Garcia de Farias are happy to make $1 an hour." (Star Tribune)

"GM Foods 'Unlikely to Harm Health'" - "Genetically modified foods are highly unlikely to cause harmful health effects, the medical profession said today. The British Medical Association called for an end to the “hysteria” that often surrounded the GM debate. At the same time it spoke of the need for more research and surveillance to allay public concerns and provide “convincing evidence of safety and benefit”. The BMA’s comments come in a report updating its first position statement on GM issued in 1999. It was prepared after a full review of available evidence, and took account of a spectrum of views on GM safety given at a round table meeting of experts. Sir David Carter, chairman of the BMA’s Board of Science, said: “Our assessment of all the available research is that there is very little potential for GM foods to cause harmful health effects." (PA News)

"Starved of the truth" - "Biotech firms are out to corner the market, so they have to persuade us something else is at stake." (George Monbiot, The Guardian)

Letter: "Seed Purity and Biotech Crop Reality" - "The Feb. 29 editorial "Demon Seeds" ignored the biological processes of plants. Anyone working in agriculture and plant biology knows that low levels (0.05 to 1 percent) of conventional seed may contain traces of DNA from biotech-enhanced crops regulated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department." (The Washington Post)

"EU farm ministers to discuss lifting GMO ban April" - "BRUSSELS, March 8 - EU farm ministers will debate dropping a five-year ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) next month by authorising a new biotech sweetcorn variety to be sold in tins on shop shelves, diplomats said on Monday.

Farm ministers from the 15-nation bloc, due to meet April 26-27, are to discuss allowing imports of Bt-11 maize. The EU is split over genetically modified products but in the event of deadlock, the European Commission can endorse the proposal." (Reuters)

March 8, 2004

"CBI cries foul over UN human rights code" - "The government is coming under heavy pressure from business leaders to reject plans by the United Nations to make multinational groups legally liable for human rights, including abuses by their suppliers and customers.

In a move that threatens a huge row between ministers, business and human rights bodies, the CBI is warning that draft norms prepared by a sub-committee of the UN commission on human rights would leave transnational corporations in "a legal no-man's land." (The Guardian)

"Is Less Always More?" - "Pretoria, South Africa -- Against the background of the utter failure of the World Health Organisation's Roll Back Malaria program, the current aim to treat 3 million AIDS patients by 2005 seems delusional. And in the vain attempt to treat the millions, the WHO is prepared to cut too many corners. Next week in Pretoria the US government has arranged a meeting of drug experts from industry, the academy and government to discuss the WHO push for untested fixed-dose combination (FDC) drugs. FDCs are a great idea, and are already being used in a limited setting, but not testing them sufficiently, as WHO is doing, will encourage drug resistance and patient death." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"Extinction threat to more than 1,000 bird species" - "More than 1,000 bird species face extinction because of an alarming and accelerating loss of biodiversity, a study warns today.

Environmental degradation could wipe out 1,211 species, an eighth of the world's total, according to the report by BirdLife International, an umbrella conservation body. Expanded farming and forestry, and the introduction of alien species are cited as threats to African species. Glimmers of good news, such as the rediscovery on a Japanese island of the short-tailed albatross thought to be extinct, fail to lift the gloom from the report, State of the World's Birds 2004.

Collating in one document for the first time all existing research about the status and distribution of the world's birds, it said 129 species had been classified extinct in the past 500 years." (The Guardian)

"Chemicals industry sees threat from EU policy" - "BRUSSELS - Too much European Union red tape could strangle the chemical industry and result in the loss of its world dominant position which is already under threat, the sector's lobby group Cefic said." (Reuters)

"Ancient storms show 'big one' to come" - "Geological evidence from ancient storms could help weather forecasters predict tropical cyclones they would otherwise miss, according to an Australian researcher." (ABC Science Online)

"Theater of the Absurd" - "On March 3, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held yet another in a string of congressional hearings on global warming. These events have become popular theater inside the Beltway since the late 1980s, as troupes of scientists perform in front of "concerned" senators who know that any policy they might espouse will have no detectable effect on planetary temperature for the average lifetime of each of their constituents, while having a considerable impact on their wallets." (Robert Davis, TCS)

"Scientist 'gagged' by No 10 after warning of global warming threat" - "Downing Street tried to muzzle the Government's top scientific adviser after he warned that global warming was a more serious threat than international terrorism.

Ivan Rogers, Mr Blair's principal private secretary, told Sir David King, the Prime Minister's chief scientist, to limit his contact with the media after he made outspoken comments about President George Bush's policy on climate change." (Independent) | How chief scientist attracted heat from No 10 (Independent) | Downing St 'gags chief adviser on global warming' (Daily Telegraph)

"Global warming plausible, but low on priority list" - "Did you hear about the impending ice age? A top-secret report prepared for the Pentagon outlines the steps that U.S. fighting forces will have to take after North America and Europe retreat under a blanket of snow and ice over concrete permafrost.


A Philadelphia alternative weekly broke the story after Fortune Magazine printed the story after Britain’s daily Independent printed the story after the The Daily Telegraph printed a story.

Wait. The Telegraph story was published in 1999, four years before the alarming Pentagon report." (Abram Katz, New Haven Register)

"Salmon's Return Spurs Debate on Spill at Dams" - "PORTLAND, Ore. -- As penance for their late beloved salmon, residents of the Pacific Northwest have taken about $1 billion out of their pockets in the past decade and flushed it down the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The money was lost because the region chose to limit electricity generation in the summer, forgoing lucrative power sales to sweaty Californians during the air-conditioning season. Water was diverted away from fish-killing turbines and poured downstream so endangered salmon could migrate safely to the sea.

The summer spill began in the 1990s, when the Northwest was happily getting rich on high-tech enterprises, when people were moving here as much to recreate as to work, and when regional politicians were tripping over each other to vote greener than thou.

But that sweet season is gone. Unemployment is stubbornly high, electricity rates have soared and endangered livelihoods seem to be trumping endangered fish. Federal managers of the nation's largest hydroelectric system have said that this year they want to halt, or at least limit, the summer spill. Having sniffed the economic winds, many politicians agree. "When we are scratching and crawling for every penny we can get around here, I just don't think it is worth $80 million of lost power generation each summer to save very small numbers of fish," said Rep. Mike Schaufler, a Democrat in the Oregon legislature who represents the outer suburbs of Portland.

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the agency that sells electricity from federal dams on the Columbia and Snake, says it would collect about $1 million a day in extra summertime revenue if not for the spill." (Washington Post)

"EU transport plan 'risk to birds'" - "Ambitious plans for improved transport links in many parts of Europe threaten invaluable wildlife areas and the rare species they harbour, campaigners say.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a UK group, says the projects will do enormous damage to wildlife." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Trains Are Targeted in Smog Fight" - "The expanding rail yards east of Los Angeles, brimming with foreign cargo from the area's two ports, are a brawny symbol of Southern California's growing stature as one of the world's great crossroads of international trade.

But the economic bonanza is exacting a rising price. Exhaust and soot from diesel locomotives, ships and planes are dirtying the air in neighborhoods from Wilmington to Commerce, threatening to undermine decades of progress toward healthful air.

Alarmed by the procession of smoke-belching freight trains rumbling out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles — their number is expected to double by 2020 — Southern California's chief smog-fighting agency is seeking approval from the Legislature to impose a fee on locomotives that do not substantially reduce smog-forming emissions.

The fee proposal is part of a broader attempt by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to strengthen its authority over a variety of pollution sources, including the principal engines of global trade — trains, ships and planes." (Los Angeles Times)

"Legislate fuel-efficiency standards, environment group urges Ottawa" - "The Canadian government should follow the lead of several American states and legislate higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars rather than leave it to automakers, environmentalists say.

Without mandatory standards, Canada will not only fail to meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases but also risks losing its competitive edge to Europe and Japan, they say." (Canadian Press)

"Fat cells may treat heart disease" - "Scientists believe it may be possible to treat circulatory problems by giving patients a dose of their own fat cells.

They have shown that stromal cells found in human fat can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels to boost oxygen supply to the tissues.

It may be possible to use the cells as a treatment for people with heart disease and angina." (BBC News Online)

"Japan Key to U.S. Biotech Wheat Future" - "WASHINGTON - Biotech wheat has yet to show whether it will be a blessing or a curse to U.S. growers, and China's increased interest in biotech is making the dilemma more intense.

If the United States were to sell biotech wheat to buyers in China, it might lose its wheat market in Japan, which wants nothing to do with genetically engineered varieties.

China signaled more interest in biotech products last month by reducing paperwork requirements for imports of five Monsanto varieties of genetically modified corn, soybeans and cotton. Three of the products resist the company's Roundup herbicide, letting growers kill weeds without also killing their crops.

The approvals raise expectations that China might soon accept Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat, said Michael Doane, Monsanto's director of industry affairs.

Chinese acceptance would be a powerful inducement for Americans to grow the wheat." (Associated Press)

"UK minister rejects challenge on biotech crops" - "LONDON - UK Environment Minister Elliot Morley rejected calls by a powerful all-party parliamentary panel last week for more safety testing of genetically modified (GM) crops." (Reuters)

March 7, 2004

"Key ally of MMR doctor rejects autism link" - "THE campaign to discredit the MMR vaccine was in tatters last night after a top research scientist who carried out crucial tests for lawyers suing its manufacturers revealed that he could find no link with autism." (The Sunday Times)

"Psychology of overeating probed" - "Philadelphia moviegoers given large buckets of stale popcorn described as tasting "terrible" ate 31 percent more than those who received medium buckets of the same unpleasant snack, according to a study.

The study is part of a wealth of research conducted by investigators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has shown that large portions or packages, proximity to food, short and wide glasses, taste expectations and descriptive names for dishes are all factors in making people eat and drink more." (The Washington Times)

"'Warning' over three-headed frog" - "Children in a nursery were shocked when they spotted a three-headed frog hopping in their garden. The creature - which has six legs - has stunned BBC wildlife experts who warned it could be an early warning of environmental problems." (BBC News Online)

"Setting the world's priorities" - "The world will have to choose between problems like ending hunger and tackling climate change because it cannot solve them all at once, a prominent Danish environmental writer says." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online) | Economists to put price tag on global problems (Independent)

Greens not enviros? "Greens rebranding to attract June votes" - "The Green party is to ditch its environmentalist tag and rebrand itself as the party of 'real progress' in an effort to increase its number of MEPs and councillors in the June polls." (The Guardian)

People before bugs? Imagine that... "In Bush's world, human wants and needs trump Mother Nature and environmental protections" - "On his Texas ranch, President Bush gets back to nature by cutting down cedar trees with a chain saw to give the native oaks more water and light. Visiting the Santa Monica Mountains, he shovels dirt to fix a trail -- an image the White House keeps alive on one of its Web sites.

The hand tools he favors and the immediate results they produce reflect how in just three years Bush has reshaped the debate over environmental protections." (Associated Press)

"Fury at EU call for 'needless' chemical tests on animals" - "Thousands of animals face laboratory tests involving industrial chemicals because of new European Union legislation.

Dogs, rabbits and rats will be among the animals used so that Britain can comply with tougher EU rules.

Some experiments will be repeats of tests carried out by private companies, the Government has admitted.

The disclosure has angered politicians and scientists, who fear that the move will cause unnecessary suffering.

Bob Spink, a Tory member of the parliamentary select committee for science and technology, was given the figures in answer to a parliamentary question. He said: "This will lead to a massive outcry. This testing is not based on any perception of hazard and might result in no benefits at all. We should be testing chemicals based on real hazard and real risk." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Our Science Can Beat Up Your Science" - "A new front in the war over "sound science" opened on February 29, with the publication of a Washington Post oped by former American Prospect Online editor Chris Mooney, "Beware 'Sound Science.' It's Doublespeak for Trouble." In this article, Mooney argues that the Bush administration has twisted the idea of "sound science" so that "instead of allowing facts to inform policies, preexisting political commitments have twisted facts and tainted information." He warns that, as a result, "The once-cooperative relationship between politicians and scientists in this country seems to be in serious jeopardy." Yet a close look at the facts reveals that Mooney's argument is as much doublespeak as anything he criticizes the administration for." (Iain Murray, NRO)

"Letters to the Editor: 'Sound Science,' Climate Change and Policy Choices" (The Washington Post)

"It's science, not a conspiracy" - "Some see global warming as a hoax concocted by left-wing eco-nuts, deceitful pseudo-scientists, corrupt government agencies, pinheaded journalists (i.e., me) and David Suzuki" (Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun)

And is that a consensus opinion Stephen? If so then they must be right, right? After all, the much-touted "consensus opinion" is what proves enhanced greenhouse-forced global warming, isn't it? (The Hansen article Hume cites can be found here: Can we defuse The Global Warming Time Bomb? (SciAm) [PDF])

So, why would apparently otherwise rational people even entertain suspicions of an eco-theistic conspiracy? Well... they perhaps might note the activities and utterances of Maurice Strong:

"Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialised civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?" -- Maurice Strong, head of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and Executive Officer for Reform in the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Strong has long espoused global governance and what better way to achieve it than by gaining control of energy production/consumption? He is such an interesting character that Ronald Bailey penned: International Man Of Mystery: Who Is Maurice Strong? in 1997.

Regardless, we all know that global warming advocates are totally benign souls, selflessly seeking what is best for humanity and the planet and that not a one has any other agenda or ulterior motive - don't we?

Besides, the billions available for research demonstrating anthropogenic warming and looming catastrophe, along with the dearth of funding available to disprove the hypothesis, could have no possible influence upon the current "apocalypse by media release" barrage - could it?

Anyway, we all know that dissenting alleged scientists (what is an "Alfred P. Sloan professor" anyway?) are just cyclopean monobrows in the employ of evil, polluting, multinational exploiters. Heck! We doubt even one of them even pays due homage to the Earth Mother nurture figure! How dare they argue with David Suzuki when he so obviously likes children and small furry animals?

Next they'll be trying to confuse the issue by introducing unintelligible concepts like near-surface reading amalgam UHIE corruption and failure to verify against mutually-validating satellite and balloon-sonde data sets. All these supposed doubts about human culpability and even whether a problem really exists are just right-wing propaganda after all. Who needs verified data when it's so obvious that they're, well... wrong, eh Stephen?

Uh-huh... "Clouds gather on future of US skiing" - "Global warming could spell the end of skiing in North America within 65 years, according to a new report.

The spring thaw on the continent already comes 10 to 15 days earlier than it did on average in the 20th century and research indicates that seasonal temperatures in the Rockies will rise by up to 14F (8C) over the next 100 years.

Like Europe, North America is currently enjoying a superb ski season with above average snowfall in most destinations, but the report, published by the influential US Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), paints a different picture for future winters." (Daily Telegraph)

"The Fog of Warming" - "On Wednesday and for the fourth time in the past two years, John McCain's Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation staged a platform to publicize global warming. Just the day before, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) preempted the committee to announce another yet another McCain hearing, scheduled for next week, to air a UCS report alleging misuse of science by the Bush administration (report available at here).

The senior senator from Arizona has of late been eager to prove the UCS thesis. He called a hearing in January 2003, prior to Congress even convening, to trot out Sen. "Kyoto Joe" Lieberman as an expert witness. Lieberman is McCain's climate Doppelganger who co-authored their legislation implementing the (unratified) global warming treaty. At that hearing, the Connecticut Yankee did not disappoint, helpfully informing the Senate that 2002 was the second-warmest year on record, and would've been warmer but that there was a manufacturing slowdown (we can't make this stuff up)." (Christopher C. Horner, NRO)

"Kyoto an economic ‘death camp,’ flawed" - "Putin advisor says climate-change treaty would doom Russia to ‘poverty, backwardness;’ says Kyoto science could be flawed" (Petroleum News)

"Tokyo govt may measure firms' CO2 levels" - "The Tokyo metropolitan government is considering introducing a new measure against global warming--rating large business facilities in Tokyo according to their voluntary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide.

The metropolitan government intends to introduce the system in April 2005." (Yomiuri Shimbun)

"Labour highlights carbon tax issues at climate change seminar" - "A seminar on climate change and carbon taxes will take place in Dublin today.

The Labour party is teaming up with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to look at the challenges Ireland faces under commitments to the Kyoto Protocol.

The party is accusing the Government of failing to live up to promises to clean up the environment and says the Government is hopelessly unprepared for the introduction of carbon taxes next year.

Finance spokesperson Joan Burton says she fears ordinary consumers will lose out to big business when the new tax is brought in." (Ireland Online)

"Carbon tax to fail EU's test of credibility" - "THE government strategy for limiting carbon dioxide emissions is likely to be rejected by the European commission on the grounds that it is too soft on big industry. The government’s strategy allocated large companies the lion’s share of carbon tax allowances.

Following pressure from the British and German governments, the commission is to tell the government the strategy it released two weeks ago lacks credibility. They complained that it would give these companies a competitive advantage over European rivals that were forced to pay for emissions under less benign regimes." (Sunday Times)

"Greenhouse gas deal considered by states" - "Victoria and NSW are considering a Kyoto-style trading scheme for greenhouse gas emissions.

Officials from the states met a month ago to discuss a deal as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, after an approach by NSW Premier Bob Carr.

Mr Carr wants to set up a national greenhouse emissions trading scheme as an alternative to the one set out in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which the Federal Government has refused to ratify.

"We need some form of scheme to drive emissions abatement," James Golden, a policy analyst with the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, said." (The Age, Melbourne)

"U.S. Nuclear Industry Intent on New Growth" - "WASHINGTON, DC, March 5, 2004 - Twenty-five years after the nation's worst nuclear power plant accident, industry experts told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that nuclear power could be on the verge of a comeback.

Proponents at the hearing said the industry's improved safety, reliability and regulatory oversight - along with the environmental benefits of energy generation free of greenhouse gas emissions - are ample reasons for the nation to move forward with new nuclear power plants. Critics cite nuclear waste concerns and fears of a catastrophic accident." (Environment News Service)

"Landowners at war over wind farm threat to Britain's golden eagles" - "Wind farms - the "environment-friendly" energy source - are threatening to push the golden eagle, one of Britain's rarest birds, into extinction.

Conservationists say that the rapid spread of the farms in Britain - encouraged by Government subsidies for renewable energy projects - poses a grave threat to birds of prey. Other species at risk are osprey, red kites, merlins, kestrels, honey buzzards, ravens and peregrine falcons." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Mendocino biotech crop ban encourages local advocates" - "EUREKA -- Humboldt County could become the second county in the nation to pass a ban on genetically modified crops.

Area advocates working to make that happen say they're encouraged by the passage this week of Measure H in Mendocino County, which became the nation's first county to outlaw biotech crops.

In Tuesday's election, Mendocino County voters approved the ban on genetically modified crops by a 56 percent to 44 percent vote.

Members of a group called the Humboldt Green Genes Committee are collecting signatures to qualify a measure for this November's ballot. They expect to turn in 7,000 signatures to the county Elections Office by the end of June.

"The passage of Measure H in Mendocino has given our movement wings," said Martha Devine, co-chairwoman of the committee. We expect to generate tremendous county-wide support for this effort as the anti-biotech movement gains ground." (The Times-Standard)

"Chile aims to export genetically modified fruit" - "SANTIAGO, Chile - Chile, the biggest exporter of fresh fruit in the Southern Hemisphere, is developing new gene-modified foods for sale abroad, despite consumer concerns about such products, in a bid to compete with richer countries.

The country now uses only traditional farming methods to produce the $1.5 billion in fruit bound for North America, Europe and Asia during the northern winter.

But Chilean exporters and scientists at the Global Biotechnology Forum in Chile this week said they believe they can develop and patent new species of grapes, nectarines and peaches, using genetic material made in the laboratory and transferred to the plant, within four years." (Reuters)

"GM scientists create brand-new butterfly" - "Imagine a world where butterflies are adorned with advertising slogans, logos and exhortations from the Government to keep fit and eat less. Although scientists frown on this application of their work, designer butterflies are now a possibility after the announcement that one of their kind has been genetically altered for the first time by scientists." (Daily Telegraph)

"MPs claim GM maize trials were flawed" - "A decision to allow the growing of genetically-modified maize would be irresponsible, a committee of MPs said yesterday.

The Cabinet has given qualified approval for the growing of GM maize following trials which found it to be less harmful than the conventional crops and pesticides currently used in Britain.

The Environmental Audit Committee, however, called yesterday for more tests to be carried out because atrazine, one of the pesticides used on conventional crops during the lengthy tests, is about to be banned." (Daily Telegraph)

"GM crop go-ahead 'irresponsible'" - "Major new field tests should be done before any genetically modified crops are allowed to be grown commercially in Britain, MPs have told the government. The Environmental Audit Committee report comes days before ministers are expected to approve the commercial planting of a type of GM maize. The UK's top scientists, the Royal Society, say there is no doubting the validity of the original test results. But the committee calls approval on the basis of the tests "irresponsible." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Delay GM crops, say groups speaking for 8m members" - "Nine organisations representing 8 million members, including the National Trust and the Women's Institute, wrote to Tony Blair yesterday demanding that he postpone the introduction of GM crops. The letter was among an unprecedented number of hostile reactions to the news that Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, is to make a statement on Tuesday giving the go-ahead for the first commercial GM crop in Britain." (The Guardian)

"Revealed: Shocking new evidence of the dangers of GM crops" - "Genetically modified strains have contaminated two-thirds of all crops in US" (Geoffrey Lean, Independent on Sunday)

"GM: the closer it gets, the louder the protests" - "Government plans for the commercial planting of modified maize are facing tough opposition. Geoffrey Lean and Severin Carrell report" (Independent on Sunday)

"Peter Melchett: A sceptical public. Questionable evidence. A determined Prime Minister. Sound familiar?" - "The Government's case for GM crops is no more sound than its case for war on Iraq" (Independent on Sunday)

"Suspicion isn't proof" - "It was public fascination rather than the accusation of creating a "Frankenstein food" which greeted a Middlesex market gardener called Richard Cox when in 1850 he cross-bred a Ribston Pippin with an unknown variety of apple to produce that much-loved national institution, the Cox's Orange Pippin. The Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett can expect a somewhat cooler reception on Tuesday when she grants permission for the commercial growing of Chardon LL T25 - a genetically-modified maize developed by the agri-chemical company Bayer. Greenpeace's spokeswoman Sarah North has already declared that "Tony Blair has picked a fight with the British people." (Sunday Telegraph)

March 5, 2004

"Antibacterial Reports Cause Public Health Scare" - "Antibacterial soaps and cleansers offer little protection against infectious disease, the media smugly reported this week.

Consumers have once again had the wool pulled over their eyes by businesses exploiting the public’s hyper-health consciousness, intoned the media reports.

Once again, though, the media focused on a sensational non-story while utterly missing the real and scurrilous story." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"West stands accused over malaria" - "African health campaigners have accused western countries of deliberately ignoring an effective weapon against malaria.

They say the chemical DDT could help fight the disease, which kills about a million people each year - 90% of them in Africa.

Sprayed annually onto the inside walls of houses, DDT is the main method of malaria control for countries such as South Africa, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Swaziland.

Used in this way, in small amounts under strict control, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that it damages human health or the environment." | Battle over anti-malaria chemical (Richard Black, BBC News Online)

"Court clears General Electric to sue EPA over Superfund cleanups" - "WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court has reinstated a General Electric Co. lawsuit against the federal Superfund program, a decision that may hamper the government's ability to force polluters to clean up long-term toxic waste messes.

The ruling by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found a lower court judge had wrongly dismissed a GE suit challenging a key piece of the 1980 Superfund legislation.

The decision, arising out of the planned $500 million cleanup of PCBs in New York's upper Hudson River, was filed Wednesday and could lead to more legal challenges over the Superfund program.

The EPA has issued more than 1,000 such orders since the program was created in 1980." (Associated Press)

From our " you don't say!" files: "Obese children less physically fit" - "Weight gain is associated with decreased physical fitness, researchers report today at the American Heart Association's 44th annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease, Epidemiology and Prevention." (American Heart Association)

"Learning to love stress" - "Modern life is stressful. Workers, bosses, and even children are apparently suffering. But could stress be something that's actually good for us?" (Brendan O'Neill, BBC News Online)

"'Sin' tax on nappies and fast food supported" - "LONDON - More than half of workers want Chancellor Gordon Brown to impose "sin" taxes on disposable nappies and plastic bags, according to a survey.

The poll by BDO Stoy Hayward on Thursday a fortnight ahead of Brown's annual budget found the public appear most concerned about products which pollute the environment and are prepared to accept "sin taxes" to curb their use.

More than 40 percent of people want to see more tax on pesticides while a third want some kind of financial deterrent on aerosol sprays.

And as warnings of an obesity epidemic grab the headlines, one in three wants a tax on takeaway fast food, with nearly half of those in the 16-24 age group in favour." (Reuters)

"Nature Conservancy Retools Board to 'Tighten' Oversight" - "The Arlington-based Nature Conservancy, facing independent examinations by the Internal Revenue Service and the Senate, has announced a broad restructuring of its governing board to strengthen accountability and oversight at the $3 billion nonprofit organization." (Washington Post)

From the rubber room: "The Bush Administration's New Raid On Ozone Layer" - "Demand for More Ozone-Depleting Pesticide Production Rattles Successful Global Treaty, Raises Major Health and Environmental Threats

WASHINGTON, DC (March 4, 2004) - The Bush/Cheney administration is proposing to increase production of methyl bromide, an ozone-destroying and cancer-causing pesticide set to be phased out under a successful 170-nation treaty to protect the Earth's ozone layer, which protects us from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

The treaty, known as the Montreal Protocol, was signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and has enjoyed the support of every U.S. president since then. But some pesticide, chemical and corporate agribusiness firms are trying to weaken it." (Natural Resources Defense Council)

"NASA research shows heavy smoke 'chokes' clouds" - "Using data from NASA's Aqua satellite, agency scientists found heavy smoke from burning vegetation inhibits cloud formation. The research suggests the cooling of global climate by pollutant particles, called "aerosols," may be smaller than previously estimated." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

Reported sans GW hysteria - very impressive: "Russia scientists on sinking ice" - "Russia is preparing to launch an operation to rescue a group of scientists, after the sinking of their North Pole research base. The 12 researchers were unhurt, but equipment and supplies disappeared into freezing waters as the ice floe beneath the base collapsed late on Wednesday.

The floating station has covered a distance of 2,750km since it was set up last April. It has sent weather reports every six hours. It is currently about 700km north-west of Norway's Spitzbergen archipelago. A spokeswoman for the Russian hydrometeorology service told BBC News Online that the station had strayed too far to the south, hence the problems with melting ice." (BBC News Online)

Well duh! "European summers hottest in 500 years" - "European temperatures over the past few summers have been the highest for more than 500 years, says a survey published today.

The summers between 1994 and last year appeared to comprise the hottest series of consecutive summers in half a millennium, says the study, which provides evidence of the extent of climate change across Europe." (Daily Telegraph)

Time to review a couple of oldies-but-goodies here, I think. Global temperature crashed from the MCO (Medieval Climate Optimum - since relabelled Medieval Warm Period [MWP - I guess we can't have "warm" associated with "optimum" while trying to run a warming scare]) circa 1350 and is still recovering. [Banner headline time:] Europe has warmest summers in about 500 years! [Gasp! How do they do it?]

Possibly the saddest part of all this is that limited (cherry-picked?) data series such as the above are reported as meaningful on their own rather than being placed in context. Check the Sargasso Sea surface temp graph adjacent - for most of the preceding 500 years, temperatures have been increasing - no? Setting your baseline at 1000AD, however, yields a dramatic cooling trend. Look at the warming you can demonstrate since 200AD and the catastrophic cooling since 500BC and 1000BC... Get the picture? Whatever the mean temperature is, it will be warmer or cooler relative to some reference point (and likely both simultaneously relative to selected reference points).

Yet to be clarified in the alleged enhanced greenhouse 'debate' is just what global mean temperature should be thought of as 'normal.'

Is Earth warming? The answer is surely 'yes' - when your reference is the cooler recent period known as the Little Ice Age (and thank Heavens it is!). It's still rather cool in comparison with warmer prior periods (duh!).

Given that change is inevitable (Earth's climate always changes), which is preferable, warmer or colder? The answer depends on what you perceive as desirable - if famine and mass species extinction are your thing then cooling is for you but, for a booming biosphere then warming is definitely the go, as Earth's history so clearly demonstrates.

Two things, however, are certain: 1) Earth will not remain in climatic stasis and; 2) another ice age is inevitable. Fiddling with a few inconsequential variables in the complex, coupled, non-linear, chaotic system we call climate will not alter either certainty.

One point that probably should be highlighted, although the greenhouse industry will not thank these researchers for mentioning it, is that the apparent change was significantly greater at lower latitudes - exactly the opposite effect as could be expected from enhanced greenhouse warming. This is because cooler, drier air masses (i.e., polar regions) should be significantly more sensitive to enhanced greenhouse forcing, which is why the poles will supposedly suffer enormous warming from increasing CO2 forcing while the tropics, where the infrared radiation window is largely saturated already, can expect little or no change. Sadly for that multinational conglomerate, the global warming industry, the South Pole exhibits atmospheric CO2 levels near-identical to the rest of the planet - it also exhibits a cooling trend despite an increase of ~18% in atmospheric CO2 levels over the measured period. As one GW advocate responded when these inconvenient facts were pointed out, "Bummer!"

The hypothesis of catastrophic enhanced CO2-forced global warming just isn't cutting it guys, it's time for another fundraiser.

Serial climate hand-wringers will probably find this more entertaining.

"Senators Grapple With Politics of Global Warming" - "WASHINGTON, DC, March 4, 2004 - The burning of fossils fuels is changing the climate and this change will have profound impacts on humanity and the Earth's biodiversity, a panel of scientists told the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday. The combined testimony of the panelists demonstrated the clear scientific evidence that supports that message, but whether it is enough to convince the elected officials of the U.S. government to take action is far less certain.

"The question of how and when we deal with the threat of global warming is one of the great tests for our generation of elected officials," said Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat. "The question is do we have the courage to begin to bring about the changes to protect us, our children and grandchildren?"

Wednesday's hearing was part of an ongoing effort by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain to rally more support for the climate stewardship bill he and Lieberman have coauthored." (Environment News Service)

For crying out loud! "Climate change could spur worrisome migration, says study for spy agency" - "OTTAWA - Canada could see an influx of environmental refugees from countries rocked by hurricanes, droughts and other disturbing effects of global climate change, says a study prepared for the national spy agency.

Others might be drawn to Canada as icy regions of the vast North become warmer and more hospitable to marine traffic, posing possible new security challenges. "Climate-related disruptions of human populations and consequent migrations can be expected over coming decades," the study says. "Many of the consequent stresses, risks and opportunities have implications for the security community."

The study, Climate Change, Migration and Security, was prepared by Barry Smit, a geography professor at the University of Guelph, and Robert McLeman, a doctoral student at the university and a former foreign service officer.

It was published this week in Commentary, a Canadian Security Intelligence Service publication that does not necessarily reflect the spy service's views." (Canadian Press)

"Saudi says E.U. can't go it alone on Kyoto pact" - "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia's senior delegate on climate change talks said Thursday the European Union should accept that Russia will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol and the 15-nation bloc would hurt itself trying to meet its targets." (Reuters)

"Measures urged to ease climate change" - "Chinese meteorologists have urged authorities to "get ready soon for the worst possible catastrophes" from abrupt climate changes that could cost the nation millions of lives, economic sustainability and its security.

"To secure China's voice in world environmental diplomacy regarding adverse climate changes, China must be well prepared with related strategies, programmes and projects if a climate war is to occur as some foreign experts have predicted," the meteorologists concluded Thursday." (China Daily)

"Uprising Against U.N. Grows in States and Congress" - "WASHINGTON – Threats to U.S. security and sovereignty in recent years have spawned a widening grassroots movement to get the United States out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the United States." (Wes Vernon, NewsMax.com)

"Why Americans' Distrust of U.N. Grows" - "WASHINGTON – Growing anti-Americanism in the United Nations has sparked a backlash in this country. No longer is this debate an intellectual parlor game. Much of grassroots America sees the globalist body as a danger to its safety and survival." (Wes Vernon, NewsMax.com)

"New Weapons in War on Cancer" - "Why is a new colorectal cancer drug that gives patients an average of only five more months of life making international headlines? Because it represents a new era in the fight against cancer, a combination of powerful new technologies." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"Long Awaited GM Crop Decision Next Week" - "The Government’s long awaited decision on whether to back the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops in the UK will be announced next week, it was revealed today.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett will make a wide-ranging policy statement on the controversial technology, following the lengthy farm-scale trials of GM maize, beet and oil-seed rape, a scientific review and a programme of public consultation.

But a positive decision next week will not give an immediate green light to commercial cultivation in the UK, as all applications for planting GM seeds must be approved by the European Union in Brussels." (PA News)

"GM under fire again" - "An impending European ban on certain weed-killers will slash the environmental benefits of genetically modified (GM) maize, according to UK scientists. But the GM crop is still better for wildlife than conventional maize, they say." (NSU)

"UK scientists back GM maize crops" - "In a significant boost to the prospects for GM crops in the UK, scientists say GM maize will be better for wildlife even after a key chemical is withdrawn.

The scientists, writing in the journal Nature, say the maize will not perform as well as it did in recent trials.

But they believe it will still let more weeds flourish than conventional maize, helping birds and insects to survive." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"Call for new tests on GM crops" - "Major new field tests should be done before any genetically modified crops are allowed to be grown commercially in Britain, MPs are to say on Friday.

The Environmental Audit Committee report comes just days before the government is expected to approve a type of GM maize for planting.

The crop is believed less damaging to wildlife than its conventional version.

But the unanimous cross-party committee report will say trials on the maize are invalid and new tests are needed." (BBC News Online)

"Here We Go Again" - "London, March 3rd, 2004 -- It is a well-practised habit of anti-GM campaigners to start a hare running out of nowhere in the hope that, in all the resultant fuss and concern, nobody will remember or care how it that particular scare began. Thus it was with rats suffering intestinal lesions from eating GM potatoes, with Monarch butterflies force-fed GM maize pollen, patients suffering allergic reactions from Starlink maize and birds falling out of the sky because of GM agriculture. Enormous amounts of time, effort and money are spent refuting these stories one after another but the campaigners don't care: causing disruption is what they want and, by the time one story is resolved, they are two or three further down the track.

They have just done it again, this time in the Philippines." (CropGen)

"U.S. sets up panel to prevent biotech abuse" - "WASHINGTON - The U.S. government set up a special advisory board on Thursday to recommend ways to keep legitimate scientific research from being turned to terrorist or warfare uses.

Experts have long warned that vaccine development, genetic engineering and other legitimate areas of research could be easily turned to biological warfare. For instance, the study of influenza to make a better vaccine could also lead to new super-strains of the virus that would kill millions.

This carries the innocuous-sounding name of "dual use" research.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said the government was establishing a National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to take up the issue." (Reuters)

"Uganda gives cautious approval to GM food" - "Kampala - The Ugandan government has announced that genetically modified (GM) foods can be imported into the country — but that they should be used "strictly for consumption", and not for cultivation." (IOL)

"Brazilian scientists develop new GMO soybean" - "FOZ DO IGUACU, Brazil - Brazil's crop research agency Embrapa has developed a new genetically modified soybean, which if approved for sale could end Monsanto's monopoly in the country, scientists said." (Reuters)

March 4, 2004

Here's a new one: "DDT is dangerous, warns expert" - "A senior South African medical researcher has urged the government to give priority attention to phasing out DDT insecticides in anti-malaria campaigns after disturbing new evidence of damage to the human reproduction system - including low sperm counts in men.

Professor Tiaan de Jager of the University of Pretoria's health science and urology department, said he was satisfied that there was now sufficient evidence about the damaging effect of DDT on young lives to merit a thorough re-evaluation of South Africa's malaria control campaign.

South Africa is one of the few countries in the world still using DDT as an emergency chemical tool to fight malaria, particularly in northern KwaZulu-Natal where it has been re-introduced to halt the southward spread of malaria from Mozambique. (Pretoria News)

"Scientists behaving badly" - "Journal editors reveal researchers' wicked ways." (NSU)

"MMR researchers issue retraction" - "Ten doctors who co-authored the study which sparked health fears over the MMR jab have said there was insufficient evidence to draw that conclusion. The study, published in The Lancet in 1998, never proved a link between MMR and autism. However, its findings triggered widespread public concern, and a drop in vaccination rates. The doctors issued a public retraction on Wednesday. However, it was not signed by two of the co-authors." (BBC News Online)

Number Watch has new items posted

"Koalas blamed for island destruction" - "ADELAIDE, Australia -- Cute, cuddly and fast breeding, thousands of koalas are eating themselves out of a home on an Australian island. But authorities are refusing to heed conservationists' pleas to reduce the population, fearing a backlash from tourists and animal rights activists." (AP)

This is a tragedy a long time in the making. As a result of legal action and outrageous "save the koala" campaigns mounted by ignorant greens, "animal rights" activists and dopey celebrities, South Australia has wasted inordinate sums on useless capture and surgical sterilisation campaigns. The choice is and always has been stark: allow the nasty little buggers to destroy the habitat on the island where they are not endemic and then starve to death or deploy marksmen to shoot them out of the trees, which can be done for a few bucks a head. Better yet, reopen the fur trade and turn a profit from the pests.

"Environmental peacemaking" - "More than ever, hostile countries that share borders are working together to save their common environments." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Massive growth of ecotourism worries biologists" - "Something weird is happening in the wilderness. The animals are becoming restless. Polar bears and penguins, dolphins and dingoes, even birds in the rainforest are becoming stressed. They are losing weight, with some dying as a result. The cause is a pursuit intended to have the opposite effect: ecotourism." (New Scientist)

"Aquatic scientists divided on role of sea lice from salmon farms in decline of native salmon in B.C." - "Salmon farms in British Columbia may pose a threat to wild salmon stocks, a paper published today in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences claims. The paper presents evidence that native fish sampled near the farms are more heavily infected with parasitic sea lice. Lead author Alexandra Morton believes the parasites multiply on the farms and are then transmitted to juvenile native salmon, causing recent drastic declines in wild fish populations." (National Research Council of Canada)

"Climate findings let fishermen off the hook" - "Overfishing is not the sole cause of dramatically declining fish stocks in the north Atlantic Ocean, or worldwide, said marine biologists at a Royal Society meeting last week in London. Environmental changes such as climate warming may be just as important, they said, urging governments to consider these factors when managing fisheries." (NSU)

Uh-huh... "Polar thaw opens Arctic sea route" - "A fabled Arctic sea route which claimed the lives of countless sailors during the Age of Exploration looks set to be transformed into a busy shipping lane connecting Europe and Asia.

Shipping experts say that as the polar ice recedes the notorious North-East Passage, which winds its way along Russia's frigid and barren northern coastline past Siberia, could come to rival the Suez Canal as a global trade route.

Scientists say the Arctic icecap has been rapidly thawing, arguably due to global warming, and is shrinking at the rate of about three per cent a decade. The ice is half as thick as it was 50 years ago.

On present calculations, the North-East Passage could be open to year-round commercial shipping within a decade, making it a viable economic alternative to the southern route through Suez, which is much longer." (Daily Telegraph)

Let's see, hmm... not too promising - how 'bout here? Before buying shares in far-northern shipping lines, there's a fellow down the pub offering a bridge that you might be interested in.

Another warming wildlife disaster? "Tiny birds find a home in Suffolk" - "A rare bird driven to the edge of extinction 40 years ago is now thriving in East Anglia.

Only a handful of Dartford warblers survived a series of harsh winters between 1947 and 1963 with small numbers clinging on in southern England.

But having arrived on the Suffolk coast in 1996, the wren-sized birds have successfully established themselves at Dunwich Heath, near Southwold bringing numbers up to 75 pairs by the end of last year.

And despite the recent cold snap, conservationists are confident the 12cm-long insect-eaters have survived and will breed again this year, cementing their return to the region more than 50 years after a deep freeze decimated Suffolk's breeding grounds." (EDP24)

"The Debate Is Warming Up" - "A couple of weeks ago a smallish volume came out: "Man-Made Global Warming: Unraveling a Dogma," co-authored by Simon Rozendaal, Dick Thoenes and me. It was dedicated to debunking the man-made global warming scare. What was the reaction so far in our home country, the Netherlands -- a country which is proud to belong to the vanguard of nations in the fight against global warming?" (Hans Labohm, TCS)

Good Heavens! "Global warming could be the next Flood" - "A senior Church of England bishop has warned that global warming could be the next punishment for “man’s disobedience”, and admitted that Christianity had been used to encourage misuse of the environment.

Within 50 years, 150 million people could be made refugees as a result of man-made climate change, according to the scientist, Sir John Houghton, who was formerly Chief Executive of the Met Office. The richest countries are responsible for the problem by their huge consumption of fossil fuels, he said.

The Bishop of Ely, Dr Anthony Russell, said that society’s selfish desire to be independent of God are bringing disharmony and exploitation to the natural world." (The Church of England Newspaper)

Listen to: "Abrupt Climate Change" (Aired: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - segment begins ~7 minutes into broadcast) - "In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences published a report which concluded that "abrupt climate changes are not only possible but likely in the future, potentially with large impacts on ecosystems and societies."

In 2003, the Pentagon hired Peter Schwartz from "Global Business Network," a scenario-planning think tank, to examine all available research and write a report about a plausible scenario on the national security implications of the threat.

The scenario they chose to examine is one that took place 8,200 years ago and is believed to have been caused by a shut down of the thermohaline conveyor belt. The report concludes that "the risk of abrupt climate change should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern."

On Point talks with Schwartz about the chilling effects of global warming." (On Point Radio (WBUR))

"U.S. Requests Exemptions to Ozone Pact for Chemical" - "The United States is seeking to make more American farmers and industries exempt from an international ban on methyl bromide, a popular pesticide that damages Earth's protective ozone layer, Bush administration officials said yesterday.

Last year, the administration sought to exclude a variety of farmers and food producers from the ban, which takes effect next year that outlaws substances that harm the ozone layer. The exempt businesses would be allowed 21.9 million pounds of methyl bromide next year and 20.8 million pounds in 2006 in uses like fumigating stored grain and treating golf-course sod and strawberry fields." (New York Times)

Hmm... I believe that should read: allegedly damages Earth's protective ozone layer...

"Japan, U.S. to launch hydrogen project" - "The government, looking into the feasibility of producing hydrogen at next-generation nuclear reactors, plans to start a joint research project in the United States with its U.S. counterpart, sources said.

The government aims to accumulate the basic technologies needed to mass-produce hydrogen-the fuel used in fuel cells-at high-temperature, gas-cooled nuclear reactors, or HTGRs.

The project calls for the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI), under the science and technology ministry, to work in tandem with the U.S. Department of Energy to produce hydrogen at an HTGR to be built in Idaho in or after 2005." (The Asahi Shimbun)

"Wind farms fight feathered threat" - "The government believes that 95% of its latest wind-farm licences could be hit by potential legal challenges from the bird protection charity, the RSPB, it emerged yesterday.

But it plans to fight tooth and nail any attempts to blow off course its plans to produce 10% of British electricity from renewable sources, including wind farms, by 2010.

Department of Trade and Industry sources argued that the only alternative to its existing three designated areas for farms was to take turbines into even deeper water off the coast of Britain. "That would double the price," said one insider." (The Guardian)

"Ocean's surface could have big impact on air quality, study says" - "Certain ions bouncing on the ocean's surface and in droplets formed by waves may help increase ozone levels in the air we breathe. These ions cover the ocean surface in an ultra-thin blanket - about one-millionth the thickness of a sheet of paper. Researchers call this region the "interface." Using a technique that employs highly accurate laser beams, chemists for the first time saw the actual structures formed by these halogen ions, or halides." (Ohio State University)

"California County Bans Planting of Biotech Crops" - "KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Opponents of genetically modified foods celebrated a historic victory on Wednesday after voters approved a measure Tuesday night to make Mendocino County, California, the first in the nation to ban genetically modified crops and animals." (Reuters)

"MPs set to throw out 'flawed' plans to grow GM crops" - "ANY moves to grow genetically modified crops commercially in Britain are expected to be rejected this week by an all-party committee of MPs.

The Environmental Audit Committee will criticise the proposal as fundamentally flawed and call for more trials, according to reports. But this would delay their introduction for at least three years.

The MPs’ report is due to be unveiled on Friday.

A source at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said a ministerial decision on commercial growing of GM crops was expected "shortly".

The political row over GM crops, which has been going on at Westminster for the last six years, has been fuelled by environmental groups protesting about potential damage to wildlife from the new crops." (Edinburgh Evening News)

March 3, 2004

"Our Problems Are a Sign of Progress" - "For the last few weeks the big news in Athens, Georgia, the college town where I live, has been the killing of a reportedly rabid raccoon by a member of a local fraternity. The raccoon was shot with a pellet gun after being seen acting strangely in a residential area, and has received more press attention than several of the humans murdered here in recent months. Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been in full cry demanding justice, and the raccoon murderer is now facing criminal charges and the possibility of one year in jail.

With due respect to the late, lamented raccoon, I cannot follow this story without considering how well off we are in this country. If killing a rabid raccoon is worthy of lasting press attention and criminal proceedings, we have put most of our serious problems behind us. To appreciate our good fortune, let's compare some of today's problems with those of the past." (Dwight R. Lee, TCS)

"Old diseases fall off public health radar" - "ATLANTA — Microbial killers such as drug-resistant malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and syphilis continue to ravage the world. Health experts say they know how to prevent and treat these diseases, but first they need to overcome a different kind of public health enemy: complacency.

Public attention in the past two years has focused on new diseases, such as SARS, and new threats, such as bioterrorism, but scientists here at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases say the lack of attention to older diseases is allowing them to flourish." (USA TODAY)

"Forget terrorists, 'supersize' diets are a bigger threat" - "SALT LAKE CITY – Think iraq is one of the biggest challenges confronting Americans?

Maybe the next terrorist attack from Al Qaeda? Or what about the national debt? Eroding Social Security benefits?

It turns out that one of the greatest challenges confronting Americans is the shape of their own bodies. It's obesity, with a really big "O." (John Hughes, The Christian Science Monitor)

"Jowell rules out curbs on junk food adverts" - "The culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, will rule out new curbs on advertising junk foods to children in a speech to the advertising industry today, in which she is expected to call for voluntary action to tackle the crisis of obesity instead.

She will make her comments before the Food Standards Agency has had time to agree its policy recommendations to the government on promoting food and drink to children. Its advice on whether new curbs are needed will not be agreed until its board meeting next week, once it has considered the findings of its systematic review of food advertising to children.

The review concluded that advertising had a significant influence on children's preferences and diet.

The timing of Ms Jowell's speech is likely to provoke the criticism that government thinking on the issue is not "joined up." (The Guardian)

"Cancer health risk significantly underestimated by EPA's ambient model estimates" - "Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that cancer risk figures based on actual measured exposure for communities in Baltimore, Md. were as much as three-fold greater than estimates given by models. The study is the first of its kind to directly compare the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Assessment System for Population Exposure Nationwide (ASPEN) model results to indoor, outdoor and personal exposure measurements." (Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health)

"Herbicide Paraquat Lands in European Court" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 2, 2004 - The herbicide paraquat must not be permitted for agricultural use in Europe, a coalition of international trade union organizations and environmental NGOs has decided. The coalition Monday filed a lawsuit with the European Court of First Instance challenging the European Commission's decision last December to grant approval for the herbicide across the European Union." (Environment News Service)

"UK science strategy launched" - "UK Chancellor Gordon Brown outlined his plans on Tuesday to introduce a long-term strategy for supporting science in Britain over the coming decade.

'The Britain that succeeds in the new world will be a leader in science, skills and enterprise,' he said." (BBC News Online)

This from the same government that is apparently hell-bent on stripping all performance and achievement requirements from eduction and tolerated an environment minister spouting ignorant eco-theism in lieu of rational, science-based positions for, what was it, six years? Right...

"Union Citation Blues" - "The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded at MIT in 1968 by a group of scientists worried that America was heading for nuclear Armageddon. The world did not end in nuclear holocaust, of course, but that hasn't stopped the Union from expressing grave concern about whatever vaguely-scientific issue is currently in the headlines.

It currently being election year, this supposedly nonpartisan 501c3 organization (with an annual income of almost $9 million) has released a 46-page report subtitled "An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science." Leaving aside the propriety of such a foray into the election cycle by a nonprofit, one needs to ask if the Union's accusations are supported by the data. Time and again, however, they aren't." (Iain Murray, TCS)

"Climate change set to poke holes in ozone" - "The thinning of the ozone layer over the Arctic could be much worse than we thought, because of a side-effect of global warming." (NSU)

Gem of a quote though: "I was surprised to see these results," says Drew Shindell, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York. "We never suspected the models were this far out of whack," he says. Atmospheric models are not just "out of whack" but far "out of whack." Imagine that...

Grief! Projo's still recycling this silliness: "Pentagon report plans for climate catastrophe" - "The text describes world instability that could result from global warming, an issue that has been played down by the Bush administration." (Providence Island Journal)

and Projo's not alone. Today's prize for imaginative application of silly prognostications to personal agendas goes to AReCO and AWGNP for:  "Studies Find Climate Change Solution: Limit Jet Flights" - "CHICAGO, March 2 -- Recently, a secret Pentagon report was leaked, warning of grave scenarios in the very near future due to climate change. The report points to the serious threat to our National Security in the event steps are not taken immediately to avert this potential disaster.

According to Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare (AReCO) and The American Working Group for National Policy (AWGNP) the report shows that climate change starting as soon as the next 20 years could be a global calamity, killing millions in wars and natural disasters.

"Now, more than ever, there is support and urgency to demand a U.S. moratorium on all airport expansion projects currently in the works, until the details of the Pentagon report have been fully vetted," said Jack Saporito of AReCO. "Furthermore, there is a real need for environmental impact reviews to be taken seriously and results stringently enforced. Over the years, the review process has been increasingly overlooked as redundant and unnecessary. Now is the time to instead reinforce proper procedures and to move towards transportation that substantially reduces climate change forcing functions." (U.S. Newswire)

"Insurer warns of global warming catastrophe" - "GENEVA - The world's second-largest reinsurer Swiss Re warns that the costs of global warming threaten to spiral out of control, forcing the human race into a catastrophe of its own making.

In a report revealing how climate change is rising on the corporate agenda, Swiss Re said the economic costs of global warming threatened to double to $150 billion (81 billion pounds) a year in 10 years, hitting insurers with $30-40 billion in claims, or the equivalent of one World Trade Centre attack annually.

"There is a danger that human intervention will accelerate and intensify natural climate changes to such a point that it will become impossible to adapt our socio-economic systems in time," Swiss Re said in the report." (Reuters)

Gee, who could have suspected such a result - especially given the 'study' participants: UNDP, Swiss Re and the Harvard Center For Health and the Global Environment embark on groundbreaking study (Press Release, Sept. 22, 2003) Our old mate Paul Epstein is even a listed contact.

"McCain Climate Hearings More of the Same Alarmism" - "One-Sided Testimony Designed More to Frighten Than Inform" (CEI)

"EU firm on climate change, to push Russia on Kyoto" - "BRUSSELS, March 2 - EU environment ministers have resisted a call by Italy to review a planned emissions trading scheme and will push Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to bring it into force, diplomats and officials said on Tuesday.

"I repeat our commitment to fighting climate change. We have unanimous commitment to the Kyoto process. There has been no proposal for an alternative if Russia doesn't ratify," European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said.

"We believe in the Kyoto Protocol, we should continue to fight for early implementation and ratification," she told a news conference after a meeting of EU environment ministers.

Diplomats said the only EU state that had voiced objections to the bloc's momentum on implementing Kyoto was Italy, which insisted on Russian ratification of the pact before the EU presses ahead with its strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions." (Reuters)

"Cars driving high CO2 emissions" - "Europe’s increasing reliance on cars is threatening efforts to combat climate change, according to a report published on Tuesday.

A study from the international energy agency (IEA) claims that even though oil consumption has been declining since 1973 in every other sector, soaring transport demands mean that overall levels did not drop between the 1970s and the 21st century.

And IEA blames the transport trend primarily on the world's growing fondness of cars." (EUpolitix.com)

"Suzuki slams Australia over Kyoto" - "Leading world ecologist David Suzuki slammed the federal government for not doing more to reduce global warming and failing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol." (The Age, Melbourne)

I believe the appropriate response here is something along the lines of: "Take a hike Dave, you're full of it."

The answer to his rhetorical: "... if you don't at least acknowledge that (the private sector has) done something right and give them credit for it, then why the hell should they ever listen to an environmentalist?" is: "They probably never should." After all, the business of business is business, not wacko/green appeasement.

The Week That Was February 28, 2004 (SEPP)

"Climate change could release old carbon locked in Arctic soils, researchers say" - "Scientists have been able to determine the approximate age of dissolved organic carbon in the Arctic for the first time. Most of the carbon that reaches the ocean is relatively young at present, but this could change. Warming of the Arctic could affect northern peats, collectively one of the largest reservoirs of organic carbon on Earth. As the carbon-rich soils warm, the carbon is more susceptible to being transported to the ocean by rivers small and large." (American Geophysical Union)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Kirill Ya. Kondratyev: Our Newest Scientific and Policy Advisor" - "One of the world's living legends in the fields of climate and atmospheric research joins the advisory arm of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Climate Oscillations (Millennial Variability - Hemispheric-to-Global-Scale)" - "Climate alarmists are loath to acknowledge either the hemispheric or global extent of the millennial-scale oscillation of climate that brought the world the Roman Warm Period, Dark Ages Cold Period, Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age, for the existence of this phenomenon usurps their claimed but bogus role for CO 2 in producing the Modern Warm Period." (co2science.org)

"Agriculture (Species -- Wheat: CO 2 vs. Stress of Air Pollution)" - "Atmospheric CO 2 enrichment typically enhances the growth and development of wheat plants under normal environmental conditions.  But can it perform in like manner in the face of significant levels of air pollution?" (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: Freshwater Microalga, Kentucky Bluegrass, Peanut and Yellow Rattle." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"A Fundamental Failure of Current Climate Models" - "Is it a fatal flaw that makes all their predictions meaningless?" (co2science.org)

"Heat-Related vs. Cold-Related Deaths in the Czech Republic" - "How do their numbers compare?" (co2science.org)

"Temporal Trends in the Lengths of Eastern and Western U.S. Frost-Free Seasons" - "How have they varied over the past century?  And why?" (co2science.org)

"Growth and Yield Responses of Peanuts to Increases in Air Temperature and CO 2 Concentration" - "The title of the paper that is the subject of this Journal Review says "super-optimal temperatures are detrimental to peanut reproductive processes and yield at both ambient and elevated carbon dioxide," yet the data and certain ancillary information contained in the paper suggest something far different than what these words likely imply to most people." (co2science.org)

"BVOC Emissions from a Southern California Chaparral Ecosystem Exposed to CO 2 -Erniched Air" - "How do emissions of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) from the plants of Mediterranean-type ecosystems respond to rising atmospheric CO 2 concentrations?  And why do we care?" (co2science.org)

"Carbon dioxide could help pump oil" - "Ottawa and Alberta -- arch rivals in the debate over greenhouse gas reductions in the energy sector -- joined forces Monday in a $30-million experiment to create a market for carbon dioxide emissions.

The plan will see $15 million of federal grant money available to companies looking to jump-start oil production from depleted fields by pumping the gas into the ground.

Known as carbon flooding, the process helps push oil to the surface by increasing the pressure underground." (Calgary Herald)

"Coal company stocks rise on bullish article" - "NEW YORK - Coal company stocks got a lift Monday morning after an article in Barron's said the industry was benefiting from soaring natural gas prices and the advent of new power plants that emit less pollution." (Reuters)

"Birdsong throws wind-farm plans into chaos" - "Government plans to switch Britain to renewable energy were faced with turmoil last night when the RSPB, the bird protection charity, threatened legal action to halt some schemes.

Virtually all the sites licensed for the second round of offshore wind farms are in areas identified as of potential international importance for birds, the RSPB warned.

The government is banking on wind power to deliver its promises to meet Kyoto treaty targets and wants 10% of all electricity to come from alternative energy sources.

But it has already been warned that opposition from the Ministry of Defence, which wants to halve all wind-farm proposals because of fears they interfere with radar, is causing chaos." (The Guardian)

"Evidence bubbles over to support tabletop nuclear fusion device" - "Researchers are reporting new evidence supporting their earlier discovery of an inexpensive "tabletop" device that uses sound waves to produce nuclear fusion reactions. The new findings are being reported in a paper that will appear this month in the journal Physical Review E." (Purdue University)

"French food labeling: consumers disconcerted by certification proliferation" - "March 2, 2004 11:45 AM GMT - France's food accreditation awards were originally intended as a guarantee of quality, but in recent years both small and large companies have been multiplying food certification schemes as a marketing tool. There are now calls for a rationalization of such schemes to avoid misleading consumers." (Datamonitor)

"How science can save the world's poor" - "The huge benefits of GM are being blocked by blind opposition" (Dick Taverne, The Guardian)

"Start-up's work could produce biotech crops with identical traits" - "Chicago is on the bleeding edge of a new kind of technology that could allay some fears about the safety of genetically altered crops.

The focal point is Chromatin, a start-up company with 15 employees on the West Side, where a new technology allows researchers to manufacture artificial chromosomes and introduce their genetic traits in one targeted burst into a plant such as corn or soybeans.

The chromosomes maintain their identity once inside the plant, and replicate their traits just as normal chromosomes do.

Previously, researchers had been able to insert into a plant only one gene, and sometimes two or three at a time, and they did it randomly.

"With the old method, every single plant you make is potentially different," said Richard Dixon, who serves on Chromatin's scientific advisory board and is director of the plant biology division at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla.

Not so with the new technology. It could enable researchers to develop plants with uniform traits, such as being able to fight off insects or resist diseases, reducing the need for pesticides." (Chicago Sun-Times)

"ESA calls for interdisciplinary studies of GEOs" - "From corn to carp to the bacteria in yogurt, people have modified organisms for specific traits for centuries. Today, genetic engineering offers the potential to provide new benefits and new risks. The Ecological Society of America (ESA)'s scientific position paper, "Genetically engineered organisms and the environment: Current status and recommendations," authored by an ESA committee of experts, addresses the nature of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) and their possible impacts on ecosystems." (Ecological Society of America) | Scientists urge caution when releasing engineered organisms into environment (OSU)

A shift in reporting? "Filipino islanders blame GM crop for mystery sickness" - "For the first time there are indications that the pollen from the bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize sown here last year may have contributed to human illness.

Terje Traavik, the scientific director of the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology, who was asked last October to analyse blood samples from 39 of the 100 people who fell ill, has said that a link might exist between GM crops and human health." (The Guardian)

Traavik is further quoted: "My interpretation is there is a coincidence in time between two different phenomena," he said. However, he stressed that more tests were needed before a definite conclusion could be drawn.

"Uganda gives cautious approval to GM food" - "[KAMPALA] The Ugandan government has announced that genetically modified (GM) foods can be imported into the country — but that they should be used " strictly for consumption", and not for cultivation.

In a statement released last month, the government's National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) says that the government "recognises the controversial nature of this subject and has therefore decided to proceed with caution, building consensus at all stages." (SciDev.Net)

"Scientists say new Brazil GMO bill to aid research" - "FOZ DO IGUACU, Brazil, March 2 - The draft of Brazil's new "Biosafety Bill" to regulate the production, sale and research of genetically modified crops such as soy should favor research in biotechnology, scientists said on Tuesday.

But they added that the new bill, in the form that it was passed by the lower house in February, was unlikely to make commercial use of GMO crops easier. The bill may still undergo changes in the Senate before its final vote in Congress.

Brazil has long banned commercial GMO crops and foods, but in early 2003, the government granted amnesty to farmers planting illegal GMO soybeans and proposed the new draft bill to regulate the country's black market in GMO soy." (Reuters)

March 2, 2004

"Creating Cow Concerns Should Make Mad Consumers" - "U.S. consumers are known for their affection for food, so it's a wonder most Americans are responding so calmly to reports of mad cow disease discovered in a single animal in Washington State. That's good news, because clear thinking lends itself to better decision-making. What's not surprising, however, are attempts by activists and special interest groups of all kinds to scare consumers into making irrational choices." (Gregory Conko, U.S. Newswire)

"Consumers Question What Food Safe to Eat" - "DALLAS - Mad cow disease. Fish tainted with mercury and PCBs. Contaminated green onions from Mexico. Bird flu in ducks and chickens. Is anything safe to eat these days?

Across the nation, many consumers have made adjustments to their grocery lists, opting for organically grown meats and vegetables following recent food-borne illness scares.

Most, however, expressed confidence in the safety of the country's food supply." (Associated Press)

"Nanny, What's for Dinner?" - "When every newspaper in the country from Atlanta, GA to Ft. Wayne, IN, every major network from CNN to MSNBC, and virtually every local television and radio station in between simultaneously deliver the same story about a new study, it's no accident. In fact, it's a stunning feat, especially when we realize there are tens of thousands of scientific studies released every year that we never hear about. It's also our clue that what we're hearing is the result of a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign and it might be wise to take it with a healthy dose of skepticism." (Sandy Szwarc, TCS)

"Video games make kids fat, violent: Swedish experts" - "STOCKHOLM - Video games can make children fat and, in the case of violent games popular among teenage and younger boys, aggressive and even criminal, Swedish experts said on Monday." (Reuters)

"Fat: It isn’t always bad for the heart" - "Unwanted fat may have a bigger effect on the heart than physicians previously thought. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered that cells in human fat actually may help the body grow new blood vessels to repair both muscle and heart tissue. These cells, called stromal cells, are immature fat cells. Their findings are reported in the March 1 online issue of Circulation, the scientific journal of the American Heart Association." (Indiana University)

"Magazines: Some lean times ahead" - "Experts can't agree if the low-carb diet works, says Philippa Kennedy. But health titles feel sure that it has shrunk their readerships" (Independent)

'No, duh!' of the day: "Antibacterial soap doesn't prevent viral infection" - "NEW YORK - Using antibacterial soaps and cleansers at home may not necessarily reduce your risk of getting sick, researchers report.

In a new study, people who used antibacterial soaps and cleansers developed cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who used products that did not contain antibacterial ingredients.

Since most common infections, including colds and flu, are caused by viruses, the lack of an effect on symptoms "is not surprising," according to study author Dr. Elaine L. Larson at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York." (Reuters Health)

"Second Thoughts on a Chemical: In Water, How Much Is Too Much?" - "WASHINGTON, March 1 — The Defense Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have squared off in a continuing dispute over the danger from a widespread contaminant of groundwater. Billions of dollars in cleanup costs are at stake.

The contaminant is ammonium perchlorate, an additive that NASA and the Pentagon used for rocket fuel and munitions starting in the 1950's. For disposal, perchlorate was often dissolved in water and poured on the ground because officials did not consider low levels hazardous for people. Perchlorate remains in use and is unregulated." (New York Times)

"Toxin combo common in fish appears capable of impairing motor skills" - "Pups of female rats exposed to a combination of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methylmercury (MeHg) slip and fall more often trying to maneuver on a rotating rod than do pups from non-exposed moms, scientists say." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"Bikini is blamed for rapid rise in melanoma cases" - "Bikinis could be a health risk, researchers said yesterday. The fashion for skimpy swimwear could be behind the rapid increase of melanomas in young women." (Independent)

"Cancer rates in teens and early 20s rising" - "A new analysis of cancer figures for England shows that the overall incidence among teenagers and young adults is rising, with the biggest increase among 20 to 24-year-olds, particularly in lymphoma, melanoma and germ cell tumours, including testicular germ cell tumours, the Teenage Cancer Trust's Third International Conference on Teenage Cancer in London is being told." (Teenage Cancer Trust)

"Fast growth increases teenage cancer risk" - "Teenagers are growing so fast because of better diets and a higher standard of living that their risk of cancer may be increasing, specialists said yesterday. " (Independent)

"Animal rights activists are accused of inciting violence against celebrities" - "Animal rights activists have posted the names, home addresses and telephone numbers of more than 100 famous people on a website inciting fellow activists to carry out firebomb attacks." (Independent)

"Eco-Traitor" - "Three decades ago, Patrick Moore helped found Greenpeace. Today he promotes nuclear energy and genetically modified foods - and swears he's still fighting to save the planet." (Drake Bennett, Wired Magazine)

"California's Fishy Fish Laws" - "California's coastline is one of its greatest natural assets. Below the surface however, a number of serious environmental problems loom, principally over-fishing and the loss of productive marine habitat.

California's answer to these problems was supposed to come in the form of 1999's Marine Life Protection Act, which would create a system of marine reserves where fishing would be prohibited. But the massive deficit means the state does not have the funds needed to make the marine reserves a reality -- at least not now.

While environmental groups lambasted California's recent decision to suspend the reserves program, this fiscal crisis actually gives the state an opportunity to move towards a more effective long-term solution that stresses the cooperation of traditional foes -- fisherman, both commercial and recreational, and environmental advocates." (Michael De Alessi, TCS)

"Lomborg online" - Bjorn Lomborg's talk on the real state of the environment is now online, and it makes good viewing. (It requires QuickTime to be on your computer.)" (Alex Singleton, Adam Smith Institute)

"Dinosaur impact theory challenged" - "Scientists may have destroyed the well-established theory that a single, massive asteroid strike killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. New data suggests the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, supposedly created by the collision, predates the extinction of the dinosaurs by about 300,000 years." (BBC News Online)

"CHANGING CLIMATE: Going to depths for evidence of global warming" - "A puzzling heating trend on the bottom of the North Pacific has left oceanographers scratching their heads.

Since 1985, just south of the Aleutian Islands and about 3 miles beneath the waves, in a pitch-black realm haunted by "Finding Nemo"-style fish with nasty fangs and glowing antennae, the temperature has risen by a tiny fraction of a degree -- five-thousandths of a degree Centigrade, to be exact." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Governments to Fund Carbon Dioxide Projects" - "CALGARY, Alberta - Canadian governments said on Monday they aimed to create a new market for carbon dioxide emissions with a C$30 million ($22 million) scheme to fund projects using the greenhouse gas to boost production from old oil fields.

The Canadian and Alberta energy ministers said they will contribute a total of C$15 million each over two years to companies with proposals to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and inject it back into the ground." (Reuters)

"Australia Pursues Greenhouse Gas Burial as Climate Solution" - "CANBERRA, Australia, March 1, 2004 - David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Climate Center in New York, has appeared over the past 10 days at a series of conferences in Australia urging industry, government and dismissive environmentalists to support research into pumping greenhouse gases underground to combat global warming.

Hawkins hopes that supporting development of the as yet unproven technology of geo-sequestration - also referred to as carbon sequestration, or carbon capture and storage (CCS) - will persuade the fossil fuel lobby to drop its opposition to mandatory climate change mitigation strategies.

“What we are exploring is whether political power that is represented by the fossil energy industry can actually be used to move the process forward rather than have them in their traditional role of opposing action,” Hawkins said.

Both the U.S. and Australian governments have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, largely as a result of a vigorous lobbying campaign by the fossil fuel industry which claims that the economic costs are too high." (Environment News Service)

"No future in Kyoto Protocol" - "During the conference the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body that produces the periodic assessments on global warming and its consequences, issued a press release. Its purpose was to attack and discredit two critics who have been getting under the IPCC's skin for the past year or so.

Those critics are the former head of Australia's Department of Finance and Australian statistician, Ian Castles, and the former director of the OECD's economic research department, David Henderson. Both have international reputations in their field.

Castles and Henderson have exposed basic errors in the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios that underpins the IPCC's projections on global warming. These errors are to use market exchange rates to convert national gross domestic product data to a common measure instead of purchasing power parity exchange rates, and to forecast an improbably high rate of growth in the GDP of developing countries.

Without going into the technical arguments, the result is to substantially overstate likely economic growth and growth in per capita incomes in the developing countries during the next century, and therefore the extent of greenhouse emissions and probably the extent of global warming." (The Australian)

"EU needs to adopt 25% renewable target by 2020 to remain global leader in greenhouse gas reductions" - "Brussels, Belgium – In a letter sent to EU ministers today, WWF and other European NGOs warned that the EU leadership on greenhouse gas reductions is at stake if it does not commit to expand its share of renewable energy to 25 per cent in the next fifteen years. The letter comes ahead of an EU Environment Council meeting that will start later today.

In the joint letter, WWF and 48 other NGOs emphasize that the EU renewable energy market should not stagnate after 2010. The letter highlights the feasibility of a 25 per cent supply of renewable energy by 2020, coupled with reductions in energy demand by 1 per cent per year." (WWF)

"Ocean Power Technologies to Harness Spanish Waves" - "LONDON - The stormy, ship-wrecking seas of the Bay of Biscay are poised to take on a more constructive role as the site of the world's first wave-driven power station on a commercial scale.

Wave power firm Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) said yesterday it had signed a deal with Spanish electricity utility Iberdrola for a pilot project involving 10 power-generating buoys. These will be placed about a half-mile off Spain's north coast, midway between Santander and Bilbao.

OPT has been ocean testing its kit since late 1997, and has a similar pilot scheme running off Hawaii with the support of the U.S. Navy.

OPT Chief Executive and founder George Taylor says his firm has market leadership in "ocean experience" in the youthful wave power industry.

Although both the Hawaiian and Spanish projects will generate a tiny 1.25 megawatts, Taylor expects to have a 100 megawatt wave farm in place by 2006 - helping bring his loss-making company into profit the same year." (Reuters)

"Commentary: Consumers Love Frankenfood" - "If you really want to understand whether European shoppers will buy genetically modified foods given the opportunity, ignore the agents provocateurs, the media and the panicked reactions of the big supermarket chains, and look instead at the behavior of ordinary consumers.

The media has had a field day with the irrationalism displayed by the major stakeholders. Supermarkets are more concerned with enhancing their own image and charging above-average prices than with telling the truth about the products. The GM industry itself, blindsided by an early wave of negative publicity, has retreated into public silence on the merits of its technology." (David Bowe, The Wall Street Journal)

"Racing to Construct the Perfect Rice Plant" - "NEW YORK, Feb 28 - Rice, a crop that feeds half the world's people and supplies income for a billion more, will have to keep pace with surging demand using far fewer resources, a goal for which many scientists believe biotechnology will be indispensable.

Even as public investments into the staple crop fall off, the cultural and economic importance of rice is gaining prominence. In its first-ever endorsement of a commodity, the United Nations declared 2004 ”The Year of Rice”, in hopes of promoting research and addressing the problem of dwindling production growth." (IPS)

"EU food agency says Monsanto GM rapeseed safe" - "BRUSSELS, March 1 - A type of genetically modified rapeseed made by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto is safe for human and animal consumption, the EU's food safety agency said on Monday in its second such assessment of biotech food.

The positive assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of Monsanto's GT73 rapeseed is only one step down a long road towards lifting the 15-nation bloc's five-year unofficial ban on new genetically modified foods and crops." (Reuters)

"Hard to swallow" - "GENETICALLY modified food is potentially dangerous to human health and should be evaluated further before being fed to humans, said an expert at the Meeting of Parties for the Cartagena Protocol.

According to Jeffery M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, a book that documents significant health dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods and the intense industry influence and political corruption that allow them on the market, the science of producing genetically modified food is still in its infancy and it is a long way off before the possibility of introducing genetically modified crops into the wild, or GM foods into our diet, can even be considered." (The Star, Malaysia)

"Earth Matters: An eye on GM infiltration" - "With something as controversial as genetically modified food and organisms being traded around the world, there should be a safety net for unwitting consumers. This was on the agenda of a recent international meeting on biosafety in Kuala Lumpur. SARAH SABARATNAM was there." (New Straits Times)

March 1, 2004

Again with the Prince of Wails: "We have become allergic to our western way of life" - "Complementary healthcare has a vital role to play in the 21st century " (Prince Charles, The Guardian) | Prince Charles foretells doom (or at least a nasty rash) with the rise of soft furnishings (Telegraph) | NHS scornful of Charles on alternative medicines (Independent)

"Are the EPA's mercury claims legit? - Agency set on neglecting our children and the environment" - "As many as one in six newborn babies could be at risk for developmental disorders because of mercury exposure in the womb coming from consumption of what should be a healthy food, fish. That's according to the latest analysis by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists. A staggering figure, and one that should drive all of us to find a solution.

The answer to this potential public health crisis is clear--reduce mercury pollution as much and as soon as possible to limit the damaging effects to hundreds of thousands of American children. Unfortunately, the federal government is not taking the sensible approach backed up by its own scientists, but instead is proposing to delay mercury reductions for 15 years or longer." (Lee Francis, Chicago Tribune)

[Lee Francis is a past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility]

"EPA takes mercury reduction seriously" - "After nearly a decade of discussion and debate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last December proposed a rule to permanently cap and reduce mercury emissions from power plants. For the first time, power companies will have to cut their mercury emissions. They will have specific goals for reductions and there are specific deadlines by which those goals must be met.

Yet the proposal was met with unwarranted criticism. The EPA was accused of dismissing mercury as a toxin, of rolling back limits, of doing too little too late and of promoting policies that would lead to high concentrations of mercury (hot spots) in some areas." (Michael Leavitt, Chicago Tribune)

[Michael Leavitt is the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]

"Pesticide accused of killing 90bn bees" - "Europe's chemical trade faces the prospect of many of its pesticides being banned in a row over the death of French bees." (The Observer)

Chris Mooney prefers unsound science? "Beware 'Sound Science.' It's Doublespeak for Trouble" - "When George W. Bush and members of his administration talk about environmental policy, the phrase "sound science" rarely goes unuttered. On issues ranging from climate change to the storage of nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, our president has assured us that he's backing up his decisions with careful attention to the best available research.

It's not just Bush: Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives, led by Reps. Chris Cannon of Utah and Jim Gibbons of Nevada, have announced the formation of a "Sound Science Caucus" to ramp up the role of "empirical" and "peer reviewed" data in laws such as the Endangered Species Act. And last August the Office of Management and Budget unveiled a proposal to amplify the role of "peer review" in the evaluation of scientific research conducted by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It all sounds noble enough, but the phrases "sound science" and "peer review" don't necessarily mean what you might think. Instead, they're part of a lexicon used to put a pro-science veneer on policies that most of the scientific community itself tends to be up in arms about. In this Orwellian vocabulary, "peer review" isn't simply an evaluation by learned colleagues. Instead, it appears to mean an industry-friendly plan to require such exhaustive analysis that federal agencies could have a hard time taking prompt action to protect public health and the environment. And "sound science" can mean, well, not-so-sound science." (Chris Mooney, The Washington Post)

Environment & Climate News March 2004 (Heartland Institute)

"Dry spell of tornadoes could soon end in Okla." - "MOORE, Okla. — In the first two weeks of May last year, 59 tornadoes ripped across the state from this Oklahoma City suburb to the far end of the Panhandle. It was the third-largest outbreak of May tornadoes in state history.

And then ... nothing." (USA TODAY)

Uh-oh! The Greenhouse Industry is gonna want to burn this one down: "Ice sheets caused massive sea level change during late Cretaceous" - "Scientists using cores drilled from the New Jersey coastal plain have found that ice sheets likely caused massive sea level change during the Late Cretaceous Period -an interval previously thought to be ice-free. The scientists, who will publish their results in the March-April issue of the Geological Society of America (GSA) Bulletin, assert that either ice sheets grew and decayed in that greenhouse world or our understanding of sea level mechanisms is fundamentally flawed." (National Science Foundation)

"Himalayan glaciers head towards hot finish" - "Fears of global warming threatening the Himalayan glaciers have come true. For the first time, Indian space scientists have gathered concrete evidence that four glaciers in the Baspa basin in Himachal Pradesh are facing "terminal retreat." Put simply, they are disappearing.

Fifteen more glaciers in the same basin also face extinction. All of them are showing negative mass balance. That means glaciers are losing more mass of ice due to melting in summers than accumulation of snow in winters." (Hindustan Times)

"Neanderthal Science" - "Five gloom-and-doom articles hyping global warming and climate change, timed just as the Democratic Party must settle on a nominee, aren't an accident. Five articles containing major flaws, inflated claims, or sweeping generalizations about global warming aren't surprising, either.

But what remains unanswered is how this stuff continues to make it through either the scientific review process or through the editorial boards of major newspapers and magazines.

Every scientific article on global warming can be considered a hypothesis, and therefore a proposition that can be tested." (Patrick J. Michaels, Cato)

Still with this nonsense: "Facing a world of fire and ice" - "Frozen countries, massive famine, shattered economies -- even nuclear war -- as a result of climate change. More doom and gloom from eco-radicals? Nope, this is the Pentagon speaking." (Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun)

Ditto: "The Sky is Falling! Say Hollywood and, Yes, the Pentagon" - "AFTER nearly two decades in which global warming seemed about as exciting as the national debt, the subject is getting noticed again - even by Hollywood and the Pentagon.

Since the late 1990's, there has been growing interest in one particularly catastrophic climatic event. It envisions an abrupt fall in global temperatures, caused by incremental warming from rising emissions of heat-trapping gases. What better fodder for movie makers or military strategists?" (New York Times)

"Pentagonal Poppycock" - "Recent headlines on global warming trumpet incredible horrors from a Pentagon report on how abrupt climate change could threaten our national security. The storyline is straight out of the upcoming blockbuster movie entitled "The Day After Tomorrow." Humans (particularly those in the United States) continue to pour greenhouse gases carelessly into the atmosphere, the ocean-atmosphere system crosses some critical threshold, the conveyer belts moving heat through the world's oceans collapse (e.g., bye-bye Gulf Stream), and very quickly, the climates of Europe and North America become substantially colder, drier, and more windy. The report details how our national security would be threatened by resultant battles over food, fresh water, and energy." (Robert C. Balling Jr., TCS)

Amazing! And they figured this out, all by themselves? "Geography affects levels of pollution" - "A country's geography could have a significant impact on the amount of carbon dioxide it produces, new research suggests.

Wealth has long been seen as the key factor in determining the level of carbon dioxide produced, with western nations causing greater pollution than developing states.

But a study published today in the Royal Geographical Society's respected journal Area indicates that climate, population and natural resources could all affect greenhouse gas emissions." (Daily Telegraph) | Cold Climates and Global Warming (Royal Geographical Society)

"Government has made 'basic errors' on CO2 emissions" - "The energy industry has attacked the Government for miscalculating how much carbon dioxide it produces. It fears the errors will distort the carbon-reduction targets the Government will set next month before the European Union emissions trading scheme comes into force next January." (Independent on Sunday)

"AUSTRALIA: Air Conditioners Blow Kyoto Target Out The Window" - "A power-hungry society in love with appliances such as air-conditioners is dwarfing attempts by the Federal Government to reduce Australia's high level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Projections of emissions to 2020 prepared by the Australian Greenhouse Office show greenhouse gases produced by the generation of energy will have shot up by 160 per cent on their 1990 levels." (Sydney Morning Herald)

Still trying: "Tuvalu seeks aid on submerging" - "The Pacific island of Tuvalu is appealing for help from industrialised countries claiming they are responsible for rising tides submerging their islands." (One News)

"Rare duck may scupper plans for giant wind farm" - "Conservationists and migrant birds line up against developers of offshore turbine" (Independent on Sunday)

"MoD 'threatening UK energy plans'" - "The Royal Society says the Ministry of Defence is jeopardising the development of the UK's renewable energy potential. The UK's leading scientific body claims the MoD opposes any application to build a wind farm within 46 miles (74 km) of air defence radars." (BBC News Online)

"US Won't 'Beg OPEC,' Focus on Technology - Abraham" - "LOS ANGELES - Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said last week that the U.S. is not going to "beg OPEC for oil" and was instead developing "game-changing technologies" to counter its dependence on imports.

He noted that a huge rise in Asian demand and a recovery in the U.S. economy had contributed to the recent rise in oil, gasoline and other energy prices." (Reuters)

"Guest Editorial - BioScience News" -"Something very weird has happened in New Zealand over recent years. Superstition, fantasy, fiction and fable have crept into our social and legal frameworks challenging fact, reality and science based reasoning." (BioScienceNews.com)

"GM crops roll-out is blighted as MPs prepare to challenge No 10" - "MPs are poised to reject the Government's plans to approve the growing of GM crops in Britain, just as ministers are preparing to announce them.

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, one of its two most powerful select committees, is putting the final touches to a report concluding that no modified crops should be cultivated commercially until more trials are carried out. This would delay their introduction until the end of the decade.

The MPs believe that the official trial of GM maize, which ministers are using to justify the go-ahead, is invalid and should be repeated. They want lessons to be learnt from North America, where genes from modified crops have contaminated organic and conventional produce." (Independent on Sunday)

"Spain approves nine GM corn varieties for planting" - "Report Highlights: On February 16, 2004, the Minister of Agriculture gave final approval for nine new varieties of genetically modified BT corn for planting in Spain. With these additions, corn area planted with BT corn should reach about 50,000 hectares in the coming season. In addition, in the few weeks the Ministry of Agriculture will publish recommendations on coexistence among GM crops, non- GM crops and organic crops.

These actions reflect once again Spain’s national goal of enhancing its competitiveness as an agricultural producer within the EU." (USDA/FAS GAIN Report SP4004 via SeedQuest)

"Victory over US claimed as rules agreed on GM exports" - "KUALA LUMPUR - Environmentalists claimed victory over the United States as more than 100 countries agreed to international rules covering the export of genetically-modified crops and food.

Signatories to the UN's Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which came into force in September last year, decided at a conference here on a "rigorous system" for handling, transporting, packaging and identifying genetically-engineered exports.

The agreement "foiled attempts by the USA and other GM exporting countries to weaken this newborn international agreement on GMOs (genetically modified organisms)", the Friends of the Earth environmental group said in a statement." (AFP)

"International conference deals blow to US on labelling of gene modified food" - "The US, the world's biggest exporter of genetically modified food, yesterday suffered a setback when an international conference agreed to impose stricter labelling requirements on such products.

The US said the new requirements could disrupt international trade, but Europe and developing nations said the agreement would help improve global trade rules for GM foods.

A EU-led bloc lobbied for detailed information in identification papers that accompany bio-engineered shipments at the conference on biotech safety in Kuala Lumpur, where more than 80 countries were represented." (Financial Times)

"UN announces new measures to boost safety in trade of genetically modified organisms" – "Efforts to promote the safety of international trade in genetically modified organisms received a new boost this week with the adoption of labelling and documentation requirements, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

Under the new system adopted by the 87 member States of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety at a weeklong meeting in Malaysia attended by more than 1,000 delegates and observers, all bulk shipments of living or genetically modified organisms (known as LMOs, or GMOs) intended for food, feed or processing (such as soybeans and maize) are to be identified as "may contain LMOs."

The accompanying documentation should also indicate the contact details of the importer, exporter or other appropriate authority.

Although the new system is binding on countries that are party to the Protocol, many key agricultural producers, such as the United States, have not endorsed that pact." (UN News)

"France should be cautious but open to GMOs - Chirac" - "PARIS - President Jacques Chirac said on Friday that France should be cautious before adopting new genetically modified (GMO) crops but stressed that research had to continue as they had the potential to feed the world's poor.

Speaking ahead of the week-long Paris international farm show, which opens on Saturday, Chirac also said he backed more cuts in the European Union's farm export subsidies, particularly those that hampered production in the world's poorest nations." (Reuters)

"Quarry has promise for life science work - Underground greenhouse is entrepreneur's vision of biotech lab of future" - "MARENGO, Ind. -- Doug Ausenbaugh has big plans for a 60-acre former limestone quarry 200 feet below the surface of this area's knobby hills.

The 39-year-old Indianapolis entrepreneur envisions building a futuristic factory deep within the quarry where his Controlled Pharming Ventures can raise corn and other crops bioengineered for drugs.

The site, not far from Marengo Cave National Historic Landmark, will isolate the crops far from pollens and other outside contaminants and, conversely, prevent pollens from the new crops from reaching the outside." (Indianapolis Star)

"County weighs ban on modified food" - "MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. -- This haven of the counterculture was first in the nation to legalize the growing of marijuana, the undisputed top cash crop in a county famous for its coastal vistas and organic grapes. But even some folks here may have their limits.

The latest pitched debate is over gene-altered crops, which organic-food activists want to prevent from taking root in this county's rich soil. A ballot measure in Tuesday's election seeks to make Mendocino County the first in the nation to ban farming of genetically modified plants and animals." (Boston Globe)

UCS now has Old Gray hand-wringing: "Keeping Seeds Safe" (New York Times Editorial)