Archive for June, 2007

Thunder? It’s the sound of Greenland melting

Monday, June 11th, 2007

ILULISSAT, Greenland (Reuters) — Atop Greenland’s Suicide Cliff, from where old Inuit women used to hurl themselves when they felt they had become a burden to their community, a crack and a thud like thunder pierce the air.

“We don’t have thunder here. But I know it from movies,” says Ilulissat nurse Vilhelmina Nathanielsen, who hiked with us through the melting snow. “It’s the ice cracking inside the icebergs. If we’re lucky we might see one break apart.”

It’s too early in the year to see icebergs crumple regularly but the sound is a reminder. As politicians squabble over how to act on climate change, Greenland’s ice cap is melting, and faster than scientists had thought possible.

A new island in East Greenland is a clear sign of how the place is changing. It was dubbed Warming Island by American explorer Dennis Schmitt when he discovered in 2005 that it had emerged from under the retreating ice.

If the ice cap melted entirely, oceans would rise by 23 feet, flooding New York and London, and drowning island nations like the Maldives.

A total meltdown would take centuries but global warming, which climate experts blame mainly on human use of fossil fuels, is heating the Arctic faster than anywhere else on Earth.

“When I was a child, I remember hunters dog-sledding 50 miles on ice across the bay to Disko Island in the winter,” said Judithe Therkildsen, a retiree from Aasiaat, a town south of Ilulissat on Disko Bay.

“That hasn’t happened in a long time.”

Greenland, the world’s largest island, is mostly covered by an ice cap of about 624,000 cubic miles that accounts for a 10th of all the fresh water in the world.

Over the last 30 years, its melt zone has expanded by 30 percent.

“Some people are scared to discover the process is running faster than the models,” said Konrad Steffen, a glaciologist at University of Colorado at Boulder and a Greenland expert who serves on a U.S. government advisory committee on abrupt climate change.


The wisdom of babes…

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

– Thx to Lisa G for alerting me to this YouTube video.

More on Severn Cullis-Suzuki:

070608 – Friday – Another day

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Alright – another day. Let’s see what’s happening out there; let’s try to be upbeat.

Well, Bush has successfully frustrated any momentum at the G8 meeting to craft anything with definite edges on it. Bush’s actions (can we call them successes?) at the G8 meeting expand farther than that august body and its pontifications because he has also, within the last week, probably put the final nails in the Kyoto coffin and left Kyoto II stillborn.

So, nothing’s going to be done but what can be done without interfering with ongoing consumption patterns and economic growth – that’s was a central part of China’s pledge to try to do better environmentally. Jeez – that made me feel better. Australia has also begun to think environmentally but only if the economy is not damaged. Oh, that’s good – we certainly wouldn’t want to put a crimp in anyone’s consumption obsessions.

The US feels so strongly about the rightness of this “Consume, Grow the Economy and Ignore the Nay Sayers” mantra that they’ve decided that even the military’s concerns are probably just tree-hugger deceptions.

Meanwhile, the UN is warning that millions of livelihoods will be affected by declining snow and ice cover as a result of global warming.

Well, that environmental stuff is such a downer – let’s find some better news. Ah, here’s a breaking news item via Email from CNN. “Preacher’s wife Mary Winkler, who killed her husband with a shotgun blast to the back as he lay in bed, is sentenced to three years — 210 days in prison and the rest on probation.” Well that’s not too bad. We’ll just have to overlook the fact that there are currently folks in Texas serving hard time for possessing a few joints of marijuana. And that there are other folks who’ve robbed God know how many folks of their life savings and retirements with savings and loan scandals who served a few years in plush country-club prisons and then walked free. Equal justice under the law? Teach the up and coming generations to respect our institutions? If we can just ignore a few small inconsistencies and ruined lives, we should be able to smooth this over, eh? No problem.

Well, speaking of crime and punishment, heard the other day that 33% of the entire world’s prisoner population is incarcerated here in the US. That’s pretty amazing considering that we have only 5% of the world’s population. The latest FBI report shows that violent crime is up again. Maybe if we make the punishments even tougher for being poor, everyone will shape up? Does it sound to anyone else like maybe the wealth here in the US is not being distributed sufficiently and that those who are being ground up at the bottom of the pile and who have the audacity to complain or rebel are being humored with prison time so they can better learn their places? Naw, I didn’t really think that! Some one in this FBI report called the new statistics a “wakeup call”. Seems like I’ve been hearing that bell and it’s been ringing for awhile.

It would be nice if the people who think they are trying to make the world a better place would do some regression analysis and see if they could work their way back to the original causative problems rather than nailing bigger and bigger band-aids over the effects. But no. Here’s an interesting report that comes to us from New Zealand. Seems that Scotland Yard is scanning the world looking for “bad people” and they’ve determined that Internet users in the New Zealand cities of New Plymouth and Auckland are the keenest in the world to find recipes for making bombs. Well, I’m certainly not supporting folks making bombs but it strikes me as odd that Scotland Yard’s got it’s nose in New Zealand’s underwear. Maybe the British government has decided that it is easier to locate and suppress problems than to regress back to why such problems occur and attack the problems at their root. Ah, but they are an entire government and a former world empire while I am just a tiny blogger.

Perhaps, if we had a free and idealistic press to debate the issues before mankind fairly, we could better educate ourselves and then elect leaders to represent our concerns and try to get this mess sorted out. But, I read here that the ownership of the world’s media is becoming more and more concentrated in the hand of the rich and elite. And some folks suspect that what they think is in their best interests (globalization, anyone?) may not be in ours?

Will it be right, Mate?

Gosh, I’m sure I can take anymore cheering up today. I think I’m going to go do some accounting and see if that adds up.

Chinese gangs ‘behind fake drugs’

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

– To me, it’s irrelevant that these gangs are Chinese.   What’s relevant is that this is such a strong and clear case of what’s wrong when anyone; be it individual, gang, corporation or nation puts profits above people.   Until we mature to see that all of humanity is a ‘we’ and not an ‘us against them’ scenario, we will use and abuse each other this way.  We’re a pretty sad case so far.

— — — — —

Trans-national ethnic Chinese gangs are behind the growing trade in counterfeit anti-malarial drugs in South East Asia, the BBC has been told.

John Newton, a senior investigator with Interpol, said counterfeits are now starting to appear in Africa too.

He said the gangs involved organised criminals working across national boundaries and faking the drugs on an industrial scale.

He described them as businessmen with a sophisticated network of conspirators.

In some cases, fake drugs operations are run alongside trade in fake credit cards, weapons and narcotics, he said.

Sophisticated fakes

The gangs are close-knit and hard to penetrate.

“The common denominator is that they are ethnic Chinese,” said Mr Newton, a senior investigator and specialist in counterfeiting with the international police force.

“By that, what I mean is that they may be Malaysians, they may be from the People’s Republic of China or Myanmar, the former Burma.

“Because they know each other, they’re very difficult to infiltrate. They have established networks in the various countries. They’re able to exchange and distribute the product. And that makes it very difficult for us to counter,” he said.

The fakes are increasingly sophisticated. That, plus the scale of production, suggests a large investment by the criminals.

International health officials warn that anti-malarial drugs are just the tip of the iceberg. There is also growing concern about fake antibiotics and fake anti-retrovirals used to treat HIV/Aids, and even fake versions of the drugs used to treat avian flu.

The profits are huge.

The UN said that within a few years, global sales of fake drugs could be worth $75bn a year.

To the original:

070605 – Tuesday – Through a future, darkly

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

I am, by nature, an upbeat person. I’m rarely depressed and when I am, it only lasts a day or so. I have to admit though that blogging on our coming future wears at me at times.

If we were facing a future that we couldn’t do anything about, then I could accept that stoically. And if we were facing a future with enormous problems but we were dealing with them, however slowly, then I could accept that as well. But, we’re facing a terrible future which we could avoid, and which we are not. Knowing that and knowing what’s at stake wears at my heart.

Today, I posted three more briefings from Stratfor on samadhisoft here: , here: and here: .

The first is reporting on chaos in the Ukraine where the Rule of Law, weak at best, is rapidly fading and giving way to might-is-right strategies. Not a good sign for Central Asia.

The second discusses the huge mess swirling around the US, Iran and Iraq. There are many players in this game and no one seems to hold a winning hand. And, in the mean time, some of our best, idealistic and naive young people are giving up their lives – but for exactly what it’s hard to say.

It’s the third one, however, that is the most discouraging to me. Global climate change is a problem that simply doesn’t care if we understand, doesn’t care if we are preoccupied over questions of who should do what first and who’s responsible for things. It doesn’t care if it is an election year or if corporate profits are going to rise or fall.

The mismatch between the magnitude of the threat and our dithering responses to it are going to make for amazing reading in future history … if we have a future.

So, the US has now effectively killed the Kyoto Treaty, if we are to believe Stratfor’s analysis in favor of setting up a Pacific alignment group with China, India, Australia and Canada. In terms of possobly being effective, this is a powerhouse group because between themselves, they are responsible for emitting half the world’s greenhouse gases. But the promise of this group is really slim. The US has always avoided caps on greenhouse emmissions on favor of voluntary measures and China, just last week, announced its plans for dealing with global climate change and made it quite clear that while it wants to do better, it will do nothing that slows its economic growth or dampens the aspirations of its huge population for greater wealth and consumption.

Kyoto previously had the hope of evolving into Kyoto II with all the incremental improvements that accrue through experience and the hope of bringing major players on board who had until now been slacking. But, now the US administration’s refusal to comprehend the seriousness of the threat combined with some deft political footwork has essentially gutted the one semi-effective international protocol focused on mounting a response to global climate change.

Unless there’s another sea-change among the world’s nations concerning how to deal with global climate change, then from here out we will have gestures, hand-waving, flag-waving, promises and every type of political compromise required to ensure that our consumption patterns as a species go on unabated until the consequences of our inattention are painted in technicolor strokes of death and environmental destruction which we can no longer ignore.

Environmental Performance Index

Monday, June 4th, 2007

– Well you might ask what an Environmental Performance Index is?

– It’s a report created by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University.

It’s a massive document. The part I like the best is the Summary for Policymakers Brochure ➡ which boils its findings down.

Here’s the Executive Summary to give you the flavor:

By identifying specific targets for environmental performance and measuring how close each country comes to these established goals, the Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) provides benchmarks for current national pollution control and natural resource management results. The issue-by-issue and aggregate rankings facilitate cross-country comparisons both globally and within relevant peer groups. The EPI thus provides a powerful tool for improving policymaking and shifting environmental decisionmaking onto firmer analytic foundations.

The EPI centers on two broad environmental protection objectives: 1) reducing environmental stresses on human health and 2) protecting ecosystem vitality. Derived from a careful review of the environmental literature, these twin goals mirror the priorities expressed by policymakers, most notably the environmental dimension of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Environmental health and ecosystem vitality are gauged using sixteen indicators tracked in six established policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Quality, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Sustainable Energy.Here’s a link to the entire document in PDF form:

– A side note here. This report ranks New Zealand #1 in the world in its overall Envoronmental Performance Index score. That relates back to what I was saying here about New Zealand as a destination: &

– Thx Brian C. for the tip about this report!

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change

Monday, June 4th, 2007

– There are people of every flavor with strong opinions about Global Climate Change out there. Just Googling the subject will expose you to the full range of supporters and deniers of the idea that mankind’s activities are changing the global climate.

– Amid all this controversy, I’ve chosen to align my beliefs with what the majority of the world’s scientists believe. And that is that humanity’s activities are affecting global climate and the changes are likely to be ugly (see IPCC Reports ➡).

– But there are other ways to get at the truth through all the rhetoric and hand waving and that is to ask yourself who is it that has a deep and vested interest in discovering the truth rather than pandering to political or monetary forces. Well, the insurance industry is one and military think tanks are another. Neither of these entities can afford to be wrong because the bottom line of their very survival is directly linked to their ability to discern the future accurately.

– Here’s a report from the CNA Corporation, a military think tank based out of Alexandria, Virginia. This is not the first time I’ve seen assessments of the likely impact of global climate change on national security matters and it won’t be the last, I’m sure.

— — — — —

During our decades of experience in the U.S. military, we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to terrorism and extremism in recent years.

Global climate change presents a new and very different type of national
security challenge.

Over many months and meetings, we met with some of the world’s leading climate scientists, business leaders, and others studying climate change. We viewed their work through the lens of our military experience as warfighters, planners, and leaders. Our discussions have been lively, informative, and very sobering.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are greater now than at any time in the past 650,000 years, and average global temperature has continued a steady rise. This rise presents the prospect of significant climate change, and while uncertainty exists and debate continues regarding the science and future extent of projected climate changes, the trends are clear.

The nature and pace of climate changes being observed today and the consequences projected by the consensus scientific opinion are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security. Moving beyond the arguments of cause and effect, it is important that the U.S. military begin planning to address these potentially devastating effects. The consequences of climate change can affect the organization, training, equipping, and planning of the military services. The U.S. military has a clear obligation to determine the potential impacts of climate change on its ability to execute its missions in support of national security objectives.

Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States. Accordingly, it is appropriate to start now to help mitigate the severity of some of these emergent challenges. The decision to act should be made soon in order to plan prudently for the nation’s security. The increasing risks from climate change should be addressed now because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay.

To the full report:

To a number of news reports about this report:

, , , , ,

– All of these stories were drawn from the first page of a Google search for ‘National Security and the Threat of Climate Change‘. There’s a TON of stuff out there if you go looking.

– Thx to Michael D. for the lead to this story.

Australia PM pledges climate plan

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced a shift in policy on climate change, promising to set up a carbon trading scheme to cut pollution.

Mr Howard said he would set a target next year for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and also pledged to put in place a carbon trading scheme by 2012.

Australia is one of the worst polluters per head of population in the world.

Despite his new plans, Mr Howard has warned that setting a cap on carbon emissions would hurt the economy.

His announcement comes ahead of a national election later this year, in which Mr Howard will be seeking his fifth consecutive win.

The opposition Labor party, which has a strong lead in the opinion polls, has portrayed the government as dithering and backward-looking on global warming, reports the BBC’s Phil Mercer in Sydney.

Labor has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050. Mr Howard does not plan to reveal his targets until next year, once the economic costs of carbon trading have been fully studied.

“Implementing an emissions trading scheme and setting a long-term goal for reducing emissions will be the most momentous economic decision Australia will take in the next decade,” Mr Howard told an annual meeting of his Liberal Party.

“If we get this wrong it will do enormous damage to the economy, to jobs and to the economic well-being of ordinary Australians, especially low-income households.”


US Control Strategies May Make Flu Epidemics Worse, Study Shows

Friday, June 1st, 2007

Science Daily Regular as clockwork, the flu arrives every year. And, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population on average will come down with it. About 36,000 people will die.

But among health experts, a bigger concern than the seasonal flu is an outright flu pandemic, such as a human strain of avian flu. And officials say it is not a question of if such a health crisis will come but when. Are we prepared? In a word, say three UCLA researchers, no.

In a report to be published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Computational Biology and currently available online, Sally Blower, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and Romulus Breban and Raffaele Vardavas, postdoctoral fellows in Blower’s research group, used novel mathematical modeling techniques to predict that current health policy — based on voluntary vaccinations — is not adequate to control severe flu epidemics and pandemics unless vaccination programs offer incentives to individuals.


See also 1 ➡, 2 ➡, 3 ➡, 4 ➡, & 5 ➡