Archive for the ‘Desertification’ Category

Desert is claiming southeast Spain

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Lush fields of lettuce and hothouses of tomatoes line the roads. Verdant new developments of plush pastel vacation homes beckon buyers from Britain and Germany. Golf courses – 54 of them, all built in the past decade and most in the past three years – give way to the beach. At last, this hardscrabble corner of southeast Spain is thriving.

There is only one problem with this picture of bounty: This province, Murcia, is running out of water. Spurred on by global warming and poorly planned development, swaths of southeast Spain are steadily turning into desert.

This year in Murcia farmers are fighting developers over water rights. They are fighting each other over who gets to water their crops. And in a sign of their mounting desperation, they are buying and selling water like gold on a burgeoning black market.

“Water will be the environmental issue this year,” said Barbara Helferrich, spokeswoman for the European Union’s Environment Directorate. “The problem is urgent and immediate.”


The Way Back Machine…

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

– I think the first time I was seriously alarmed about the world’s situation was back in 1992 when I received a copy of the WORLD SCIENTISTS’ WARNING TO HUMANITY from The Union of Concerned Scientists. Prior to that, I’d paid attention here and there – but this warning woke me up. “If these people are alarmed“, I thought, “It’s time to take a look at this stuff.

– I present that original warning, below.

– Consider it and think to yourself how many years have gone by since their warning was issued, how very little we’ve done to respond, and what sort of shape our world is in today because of our denial. It is sobering stuff.

– In the end, no one will be able to say, “We didn’t know.” Anyone who says so, has a very selective memory indeed given all the warnings that have been issued over the years.

= = = = = = = = = = = – – – – – – – – – – – – = = = = = = = = = = =


Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.


The Atmosphere

Stratospheric ozone depletion threatens us with enhanced ultra-violet radiation at the earth’s surface, which can be damaging or lethal to many life forms. Air pollution near ground level, and acid precipitation, are already causing widespread injury to humans, forests and crops.

Water Resources

Heedless exploitation of depletable ground water supplies endangers food production and other essential human systems. Heavy demands on the world’s surface waters have resulted in serious shortages in some 80 countries, containing 40% of the world’s population. Pollution of rivers, lakes and ground water further limits the supply.


Destructive pressure on the oceans is severe, particularly in the coastal regions which produce most of the world’s food fish. The total marine catch is now at or above the estimated maximum sustainable yield. Some fisheries have already shown signs of collapse. Rivers carrying heavy burdens of eroded soil into the seas also carry industrial, municipal, agricultural, and livestock waste—some of it toxic


Loss of soil productivity, which is causing extensive land abandonment, is a widespread byproduct of current practices in agriculture and animal husbandry. Since 1945, 11% of the earth’s vegetated surface has been degraded—an area larger than India and China combined—and per capita food production in many parts of the world is decreasing.


Tropical rain forests, as well as tropical and temperate dry forests, are being destroyed rapidly. At present rates, some critical forest types will be gone in a few years and most of the tropical rain forest will be gone before the end of the next century. With them will go large numbers of plant and animal species.

Living Species

The irreversible loss of species, which by 2100 may reach one third of all species now living, is especially serious. We are losing the potential they hold for providing medicinal and other benefits, and the contribution that genetic diversity of life forms gives to the robustness of the world’s biological systems and to the astonishing beauty of the earth itself.

Much of this damage is irreversible on a scale of centuries or permanent. Other processes appear to pose additional threats. Increasing levels of gases in the atmosphere from human activities, including carbon dioxide released from fossil fuel burning and from deforestation, may alter climate on a global scale. Predictions of global warming are still uncertain—with projected effects ranging from tolerable to very severe—but the potential risks are very great.

Our massive tampering with the world’s interdependent web of life—coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change—could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.

Uncertainty over the extent of these effects cannot excuse complacency or delay in facing the threat.


The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth’s limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair.

Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth. A World Bank estimate indicates that world population will not stabilize at less than 12.4 billion, while the United Nations concludes that the eventual total could reach 14 billion, a near tripling of today’s 5.4 billion. But, even at this moment, one person in five lives in absolute poverty without enough to eat, and one in ten suffers serious malnutrition.

No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished.


We the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it, is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.


Five inextricably linked areas must be addressed simultaneously:

1. We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth’s systems we depend on.

We must, for example, move away from fossil fuels to more benign, inexhaustible energy sources to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of our air and water. Priority must be given to the development of energy sources matched to third world needs—small scale and relatively easy to implement.

We must halt deforestation, injury to and loss of agricultural land, and the loss of terrestrial and marine plant and animal species.

2. We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively.

We must give high priority to efficient use of energy, water, and other materials, including expansion of conservation and recycling.

3. We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.

4. We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.

5. We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions.

The developed nations are the largest polluters in the world today. They must greatly reduce their overconsumption, if we are to reduce pressures on resources and the global environment. The developed nations have the obligation to provide aid and support to developing nations, because only the developed nations have the financial resources and the technical skills for these tasks.

Acting on this recognition is not altruism, but enlightened self-interest: whether industrialized or not, we all have but one lifeboat. No nation can escape from injury when global biological systems are damaged. No nation can escape from conflicts over increasingly scarce resources. In addition, environmental and economic instabilities will cause mass migrations with incalculable consequences for developed and undeveloped nations alike.

Developing nations must realize that environmental damage is one of the gravest threats they face, and that attempts to blunt it will be overwhelmed if their populations go unchecked. The greatest peril is to become trapped in spirals of environmental decline, poverty, and unrest, leading to social, economic and environmental collapse.

Success in this global endeavor will require a great reduction in violence and war. Resources now devoted to the preparation and conduct of war—amounting to over $1 trillion annually—will be badly needed in the new tasks and should be diverted to the new challenges.

A new ethic is required—a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must recognize the earth’s limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility. We must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This ethic must motivate a great movement, convince reluctant leaders and reluctant governments and reluctant peoples themselves to effect the needed changes.

The scientists issuing this warning hope that our message will reach and affect people everywhere.

We need the help of many.

We require the help of the world community of scientists—natural, social, economic, political;

We require the help of the world’s business and industrial leaders;

We require the help of the worlds religious leaders; and

We require the help of the world’s peoples.

We call on all to join us in this task.


_Anatole Abragam, Physicist; Fmr. Member, Pontifical Academy of Sciences; France
_Carlos Aguirre President, Academy of Sciences, Bolivia
_Walter Alvarez Geologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Viqar Uddin Ammad, Chemist, Pakistani & Third World Academies, Pakistan
_Claude Allegre, Geophysicist, Crafoord Prize, France
_Michael Alpers Epidemiologist, Inst. of Med. Research, Papua New Guinea
_Anne Anastasi, Psychologist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Philip Anderson, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Christian Anfinsen, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; USA
_How Ghee Ang, Chemist, Third World Academy, Singapore
_Werner Arber, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Switzerland
_Mary Ellen Avery, Pediatrician, National Medal of Science, USA
_Julius Axelrod, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Michael Atiyah, Mathematician; President, Royal Society; Great Britain
_Howard Bachrach, Biochemist, National Medal of Science, USA
_John Backus, Computer Scientist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Achmad Baiquni, Physicist, Indonesian & Third World Academies, Indonesia
_David Baltimore, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_H. A. Barker, Biochemist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Francisco J. Barrantes, Biophysicist, Third World Academy, Argentina
_David Bates, Physicist, Royal Irish Academy, Ireland
_Alan Battersby, Chemist, Wolf Prize in Chemistry, Great Britain
_Baruj Benacerraf, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Georg Bednorz, Nobel laureate, Physics; Switzerland
_Germot Bergold, Inst. Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas, Venezuela
_Sune Bergstrom, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Sweden
_Daniel Bes, Physicist, Argentinean & Third World Academies, Argentina
_Hans Bethe, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Arthur Birch Chemist, Australian Academy of Science, Australia
_Michael Bishop, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Konrad Bloch, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Nicholaas Bloembergen, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_David Mervyn Blow, Wolf Prize in Chemistry, Great Britain
_Baruch Blumberg, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Bert Bolin, Meteorologist, Tyler Prize, Sweden
_Norman Borlaug, Agricultural Scientist, Nobel laureate, Peace; USA & Mexico
_Frederick Bormann, Forest Ecologist; Past President, Ecological Soc. of Amer.; USA
_Raoul Bott, Mathematician, National Medal of Science, USA
_Ronald Breslow, Chemist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Ricardo Bressani, Inst. of Nutrition, Guatemalan & Third World Academies, Guatemala
_Hermann Bruck, Astronomer, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Great Britain
_Gerardo Budowski, Natural Resources, Univ. Para La Paz, Costa Rica
_E. Margaret Burbidge, Astronomer, National Medal of Science, USA
_Robert Burris, Biochemist, Wolf Prize in Agriculture, USA
_Glenn Burton, Geneticist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Adolph Butenandt, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Fmr. President, Max Planck Inst.; Germany
_Sergio Cabrera, Biologist, Univ. de Chile, Chile
_Paulo C. Campos, Medical scientist, Philippine & Third World Academies, Philippines
_Ennio Candotti, Physicist; President, Brazilian Soc. Adv. of Science; Brazil
_Henri Cartan, Wolf Prize in Mathematics, France
_Carlos Chagas, Biologist; Univ. de Rio de Janeiro; Fmr. President, Pontifical Academy of Sciences; Brazil
_Sivaramakrishna Chandrasekhar, Center for Liquid Crystal Research, India
_Georges Charpak, Nobel laureate, Physics; France
_Joseph Chatt, Wolf Prize in Chemistry, Great Britain
_Shiing-Shen Chern, Wolf Prize in Mathematics, China & USA
_Christopher Chetsanga, Biochemist, Affican & Third World Academies, Zimbabwe
_Morris Cohen, Engineering, National Medal of Science, USA
_Stanley Cohen, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Stanley N. Cohen, Geneticist, Wolf Prize in Medicine, USA
_Mildred Cohn, Biochemist, National Medal of Science, USA
_E. J. Corey, Nobel laureate, Chemistry, USA
_John Cornforth, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Great Britain
_Hector Croxatto, Physiologist, Pontifical & Third World Academies, Chile
_Paul Crutzen, Chemist, Tyler Prize, Germany
_Partha Dasgupta, Economist, Royal Society, Great Britain
_Jean Dausset, Nobel laureate, Medicine; France
_Ogulande Robert Davidson, Univ. Res. & Dev. Serv., African Acad., Sierra Leone
_Margaret Davis, Ecologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Luis D’Croz, Limnologist, Univ. de Panama, Panama
_Gerard Debreu, Nobel laureate, Economics; USA
_Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Nobel laureate, Physics; France
_Johann Deisenhofer, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Germany & USA
_Frederica de Laguna, Anthropologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Paul-Yves Denis, Geographer, Academy of Sciences, Canada
_Pierre Deligne, Mathematician, Crafoord Prize, France
_Frank Dixon, Pathologist, Lasker Award, USA
_Johanna Dobereiner, Biologist, First Sec., Brazilian Academy of Sci.; Pontifical & Third World Academies, Brazil
_Joseph Doob, Mathematician, National Medal of Science, USA
_Renato Dulbecco, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, Mathematician, African & Third World Academies, Zimbabwe
_Manfred Eigen, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Germany
_Samuel Eilenberg, Wolf Prize in Mathematics, USA
_Mahdi Elmandjra, Economist; Vice President, African Academy of Sciences; Morocco
_Paul Ehrlich, Biologist, Crafoord Prize, USA
_Thomas Eisner, Biologist, Tyler Prize, USA
_Mohammed T. El-Ashry, Environmental scientist, Third World Academy, Egypt & USA
_Gertrude Elion, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Aina Elvius, Astronomer, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden
_K. O. Emery, Oceanographer, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Paul Erdos, Wolf Prize in Mathematics, Hungary
_Richard Ernst, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Switzerland
_Vittorio Ersparmer, Pharmacologist, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy
_Sandra Faber, Astronomer, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Nina Federoff, Embryologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Herman Feshbach, Physicist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Inga Fischer-Hjalmars, Biologist, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden
_Michael Ellis Fisher, Physicist, Wolf Prize in Physics, Great Britain & USA
_Val Fitch, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Daflinn Follesdal, President, Norwegian Academy of Science; Norway
_William Fowler, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Otto Frankel, Geneticist, Australian Academy of Sciences, Australia
_Herbert Friedman, Wolf Prize in Physics, USA
_Jerome Friedman, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Konstantin V. Frolov Engineer; Vice President, Russian Academy of Sciences; Russia
_Kenichi Fukui, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Japan
_Madhav Gadgil, Ecologist, National Science Academy, India
_Mary Gaillard, Physicist, National Academy of Sciences. USA
_Carleton Gajdusek, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Robert Gallo, Research Scientist, Lasker Award, USA
_Rodrigo Gamez ,Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Costa Rica
_Antonio Garcia-Bellido, Biologist, Univ. Auto. Madrid, Royal Society, Spain
_Leopoldo Garcia-Collin, Physicist, Latin American & Third World Academies, Mexico
_Percy Garnham, Royal Society & Pontifical Academy, Great Britain
_Richard Garwin, Physicist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Georgii Georgiev, Biologist, Lenin Prize, Russia
_Humam Bishara Ghassib, Physicist, Third World Academy, Jordan
_Ricardo Giacconi, Astronomer, Wolf Prize in Physics, USA
_Eleanor J. Gibson, Psychologist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Marvin Goldberger, Physicist; Fmr. President, Calif. Inst. of Tech., USA
_Maurice Goldhaber, Wolf Prize in Physics, USA
_Donald Glaser, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Sheldon Glashow, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_James Gowans, Wolf Prize in Medicine, France
_Roger Green, Anthropologist, Royal Society, New Zealand
_Peter Greenwood, Ichthyologist, Royal Society, Great Britain
_Edward Goldberg, Chemist, Tyler Prize, USA
_Coluthur Gopolan, Nutrition Foundation of India, Indian & Third World Academies, India
_Stephen Jay Gould, Paleontologist, Author, Harvard Univ., USA
_Roger Guillemin, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Herbert Gutowsky, Wolf Prize in Chemistry, USA
_Erwin Hahn, Wolf Prize in Physics, USA
_Gonzalo Halffter, Ecologist, Inst. Pol. Nac. ,Mexico
_Kerstin Hall, Endocrinologist, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden
_Mohammed Ahmed Hamdan, Mathematician, Third World, Academy, Jordan
_Adnan Hamoui, Mathematician, Third World, Academy, Kuwait
_A. M. Harun-ar Rashid, Physicist; Sec., Bangladesh, Academy of Sci., Bangladesh
_Mohammed H. A. Hassan, Physicist; Exec. Sec., Third World Academy of Sciences; Sudan & Italy
_Ahmed Hassanli, Chemist, African Academy of Sciences, Tanzania & Kenya
_Herbert Hauptman, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; USA
_Stephen Hawking, Mathematician, Wolf Prize in Physics, Great Britain
_Elizabeth Hay, Biologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Dudley Herschbach, Nobel laureate, Chemistry, USA
_Gerhard Herzberg, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Canada
_Antony Hewish, Nobel laureate, Physics; Great Britain
_George Hitchings, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Great Britain
_Roald Hoffman, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; USA
_Robert Holley, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Nick Holonyak, Electrical Engineer, National Medal of Science, USA
_Lars Hormander, Wolf Prize in Mathematics, Sweden
_Dorothy Horstmann, Epidemiologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_John Houghton, Meteorologist; Chairman, Science Working Group, IPCC; Great Britain
_Sarah Hrdy, Anthropologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Kenneth Hsu, Geologist, Third World Academy, China & Switzerland
_Kun Huang, Physicist, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
_Hiroshi Inose, Electrical Engineer; Vice President, Engineering Academy; Japan
_Turner T. Isoun, Pathologist, African Academy of Sciences, Nigeria
_Francois Jacob, Nobel laureate, Medicine; France
_Carl-Olof Jacobson Zoologist; Sec-Gen., Royal Academy of Sciences; Sweden
_Dorothea Jameson, Psychologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Daniel Janzen, Biologist, Crafoord Prize, USA
_Cecilia Jarlskog, Physicist, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden
_Louise Johnson, Biophysicist, Royal Society, Great Britain
_Harold Johnston, Chemist, Tyler Prize, USA
_Victor A. Kabanov, Chemist, Lenin Prize in Science, Russia
_Jerome Karle, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Robert Kates, Geographer, National Medal of Science, USA
_Frederick I. B. Kayanja, Vice-Chnclr., Mbarara Univ., Third World Academy, Uganda
_Joseph Keller, Mathematician, National Medal of Science, USA
_Henry Kendall, Nobel laureate, Physics; Chairman, Union of Concerned Scientists; USA
_John Kendrew, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Great Britain
_Elisabeth Kessler, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden
_Maung-U Khin, Pediatrician, Third World Academy, Myamnar & USA
_Gurdev Khush, Agronomist, International Rice Institute, Indian Natl. Sci. Academy, India & Philippines
_Susan Kieffer, Geologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Klaus von Klitzing, Nobel laureate, Physics; Germany
_Aaron Klug, Nobel laureate, Chemistry, Great Britain
_E. F. Knipling, Agricultural Researcher, National Medal of Science, USA
_Walter Kohn, Physicist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Janos Kornai, Economist, Hungarian Academy of Science, Hungary
_Aderemi Kuku, Mathematician, African & Third World Acads., Nigeria
_Ikuo Kushiro, Geologist, Japan Academy, Japan
_Devendra Lal, Geophysicist, National Science Academy, India
_Gerardo Lamas-Muller, Biologist, Museo de Historia Natural, Peru
_Torvard Laurent, Physiological chemist; President, Royal Academy of Sciences; Sweden
_Leon Lederman, Nobel laureate, Physics; Chr., Amer. Assn. Adv. Sci.; USA
_Sang Soo Lee, Physicist, Korean & Third World Academies, Rep. of Korea
_Yuan T. Lee, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; USA
_Susan Leeman Pharmacologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Jean Marie Lehn, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; France
_Wassily Leontief, Nobel laureate, Economics; USA
_Luna Leopold, Geologist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Louis Leprince-Ringuet, Physicist, French & Pontifical Academies, France
_Vladilen Letokhov, Physicist, Lenin Prize in Science, Russia
_Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA & Italy
_Li Chang-lin, Environmental Sciences, Fudan University, China
_Shan Tao Liao, Mathematician, Chinese & Third World Academies, China
_William Lipscomb, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Jane Lubchenco, Zoologist; President-Elect, Ecological Soc. of Amer.; USA
_Christopher Magazda, Limnologist, African Academy of Sciences, Zimbabwe
_Lydia Phindile Makhubu, Chemist, Third World & African Academies, Swaziland
_Khursheed Ahmad Malik, Microbiologist, Pakistan & Third World Academies, Pakistan & Germany
_Lynn Margulis, Biologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Paul Marks, Oncologist, National Medal of Science, USA
_George Martine, Inst. for Study of Society, Population, & Nature; Brazil
_Frederico Mayor, Biochemist; Dir. Gen., UNESCO, Spain & France
_Ernst Mayr, Zoologist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Maclyn McCarty, Wolf Prize in Medicine, USA
_James McConnell, Physicist, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Ireland
_Digby McLaren, Past President, Royal Society of Canada; Canada
_James Meade, Nobel laureate, Economics; Great Britain
_Jerrold Meinwald, Chemistry, Tyler Prize, USA
_M. G. K Menon, Physicist; President, International Council of Scientific Unions; India
_Gennady Mesiatz, Physicist; Vice President, Russian Academy of Sciences; Russia
_Jan Michalski, Biologist, Polish Academy of Science, Poland
_Hartmut Michel, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Germany
_Brenda Milner, Neurologist, Academy of Sciences, Canada
_Cesar Milstein, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Argentina & Great Britain
_Franco Modigliani, Nobel laureate, Economics; USA
_Andrei Monin, Oceanologist, State Prize, Russia
_Marcos Moshinsky, Physicist, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Mexico
_Nevill Mott, Nobel laureate, Physics; Great Britain
_Teruaki Mukaiyama, Chemist, Japan Academy, Japan
_Walter Munk, Geophysicist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Anne Murray, Ethnographer, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden
_Joseph Murray, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Noreen Murray, Biologist, Royal Society, Great Britain
_Lawrence Mysak, Meteorologist; Vice President, Academy of Science, Royal Society of Canada; Canada
_Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, Astrophysicist, Indian & Third World Academies, India
_Anwar Nasim, Biologist, Third World Academy, Saudi Arabia
_Kim Nasmyth, Biologist, Royal Society, Great Britain & Austria
_James Neel, Geneticist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Louis Neel, Nobel laureate, Physics; France
_Yuval Ne’eman, Physicist, Natl. Acad. of Sci. & Humanities, Israel
_Oleg M. Nefedov, Chemist; Vice President, Russian Academy of Sciences; Russia
_Erwin Neher, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Germany
_Marshall Nirenberg, Biochemist; Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Yasutomi Nishizuka, Biochemist, Lasker Award, Japan
_John S. Nkoma, Physicist, Third World Academy, Botswana
_Paul Nchoji Nkvvi, Anthropologist, African Academy, Cameroon
_Howard Odum, Ecologist, Crafoord Prize, USA
_Bede Nwoye Okigbo, Agricultural Scientist; Dir., U.N. Unv. Pgm. Natrl. Res. in Afr.; Nigeria & Kenya
_Ayub Khan Ommaya, Neurobiologist, Third World Academy, Pakistan & USA
_Cyril Agodi Onwumechili, Physicist, Fmr. Pres., Nigerian Acad. of Sciences, Nigeria & Great Britain
_Mary Jane Osborn, Microbiologist, National Academy of Scientists, USA
_Yuri Ossipyan, Physicist; Vice President, Russian Academy of Sciences; Russia
_Autzr Singh Paintal, Physiologist, Fmr. President, Indian National Science Academy, India
_George Pake, Physicist, National Medal of Science, USA
_George Palade, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Mary Lou Pardue, Biologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Linus Pauling, Nobel laureate, Chemistry & Peace, USA
_Barbara Pearse, Molecular Biologist, Royal Society, Great Britain
_Muhammed Abed Peerally, Biologist, Third World Academy, Mauritius
_Manuel Peimbert, Astronomer, Univ. Nac. Aut. de Mexico, Mexico
_Roger Penrose, Mathematician, Wolf Prize in Physics, Great Britain
_John Philip, Agricultural Science, Australian Academy of Science, Australia
_Lilian Pickford, Physiologist, Royal Society, Great Britain
_John R. Pierce, Electrical Engineer, National Medal of Science, USA
_John Polanyi, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Canada
_George Porter, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Great Britain
_Ilya Prigogine, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Belgium
_Giampietro Puppi, Physicist, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Italy
_Edward Purcell, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Atta ur-Rahman, Chemist, Pakistani & Third World Academies, Pakistan
_G. N. Ramachandran, Mathematician, Inst. of Science, India
_Tiruppattur Ramakrishnan, Physicist, Indian & Third World Academies, India
_Chintamani Rao, Inst. of Science, Indian and Pontifical Academies, India
_Eduardo Rapoport, Ecologist, Third World Academy, Argentina
_Marianne Rasmuson, Geneticist, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden
_Peter Raven, Director, Missouri Botanical Garden; National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Martin Rees, Astronomer, Royal Society & Pontifical Academy, Great Britain
_Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, Anthropologist, Columbian & Third World Academies, Columbia
_Tadeus Reichstein, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Switzerland
_Frederick Reines, Physicist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Alexander Rich, Biologist, National & Pontifical Academies, USA
_Burton Richter, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Ralph Riley, Wolf Prize in Agriculture, Great Britain
_Claude Rimington, Inst. for Cancer Research, Norwegian Academy of Science, Norway
_Gustavo Rivas Mijares, Engineer; Fmr. President, Academy of Sciences, Venezuela
_Frederick Robbins, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Wendell Roelofs, Entomologist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Betty Roots, Zoologist, Academy of Sciences, Canada
_Miriam Rothschild, Biologist, Royal Society, Great Britain
_Sherwood Rowland, Chemist; President, American Association for the Advancement of Science; USA
_Janet Rowley, Physician, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Carlo Rubbia, Nobel laureate, Physics, Italy & Switzerland
_Vera Rubin, Physicist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Yuri Rudenko, Energy Research Inst., State Prize laureate, Russia
_Elizabeth Russell, Jackson Laboratory, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Albert Sabin, Virologist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Carl Sagan, Astrophysicist & Author, USA
_Roald Sagdeev, Physicist, Russian & Pontifical Academies, Russia & USA
_Ruth Sager, Geneticist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Farrokh Saidi, Surgeon, Third World Academy, Iran
_Abdus Salam, Nobel laureate, Physics; President, Third World Academy of Sciences, Pakistan & Italy
_Frederick Sanger, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Great Britain
_Jose Sarukhan, Biologist, Third World Academy, Mexico
_Berta Scharrer,Neuroscientist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Richard Schultes, Botanist, Tyler Prize, USA
_Melvin Schwartz, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Julian Schwinger, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Glenn Seaborg, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_Michael Sela, Weizmann Inst., Pontifical Academy of Science, Israel
_Arne Semb-Johansson, Entomologist, Norwegian Academy of Science, Norway
_Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, Chemist, Pontifical & Third World Academies, Pakistan
_Kai Siegbahn, Nobel laureate, Physics; Sweden
_Thomas Silou, Biochemist, African Academy of Sciences, Congo
_Herbert Simon, Nobel laureate, Economics; USA
_Alexej Sitenko, Physicist, Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Ukraine
_Jens Skou, Biophysicist, Royal Academy of Sciences, Denmark
_Charles Slack, Agricultural Science, Royal Society, New Zealand
_George Snell, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Roger Sperry, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Alexander Spirin, Biologistn Lenin Prize, Russia
_Earl Stadtman, Biochemist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Thressa Stadtman, Biochemist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Ledyard Stebbins, Geneticist, National Medal of Science, USA
_Jack Steinberger, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA & Switzerland
_Janos Szentgothai, Fmr. President, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Hungary
_Tan Jia-zhen, Geneticist, Shanghai Univ., China
_Andrezej Tarkowski, Embryologist, Polish [text missing]
_Valentine Telegdi, Wolf Prize in Physics, Switzerland
_Kirthi Tennakone, Physicist, Third World Academy, Sri Lanka
_Walter Thirring, Physicist, Austrian & Pontifical Academies, Austria
_Donnall Thomas, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Jan Tinbergen, Nobel laureate, Economics; Netherlands
_Samuel C. C. Ting, Nobel laureate, Physics; USA
_James Tobin, Nobel laureate, Economics; USA
_Alexander Todd, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Great Britain
_Susumu Tonegawa, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Japan & USA
_Cheng Kui Tseng, Oceanologist, Chinese & Third World Academies, China
_Hans Tuppy, Biochemist, Austrian & Pontifical Academies, Austria
_James Van Allen, Physicist, Crafoord Prize, USA
_Simon van der Meer, Nobel laureate, Physics; Netherlands & Switzerland
_John Vane, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Great Britain
_Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Martha Vaughan, Biochemist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_George Wald, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Henrik Wallgren, Zoologist, Society of Science & Letters, Finland
_E. T. S. Walton, Nobel laureate, Physics, Ireland
_Prawase Wasi, Hematologist, Third World Academy, Thailand
_Gerald Wasserburg, Geophysicist, Crafoord Prize, USA
_James Watson, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Victor Weisskopf, Wolf Prize in Physics, USA
_Thomas Weller, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Diter von Wettstein, Physiologist, Royal Academy of Sciences, Denmark
_Fred Whipple, Astronomer, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Gilbert White, Geographer, Tyler Prize, USA
_Torsten Wiesel, Nobel laureate, Medicine; USA
_Jerome Wiesner, Physicist, Fmr. President, Mass. Inst. of Tech., USA
_Maurice Wilkins, Nobel laureate, Medicine; Great Britain
_Geoffrey Wilkinson, Nobel laureate, Chemistry; Great Britain
_Richard Willems, Geneticist, Estonian Biocentre, Estonia
_Edward O. Wilson, Biologist, Crafoord Prize, USA
_Lawrence A. Wilson, Agricultural Science, Third World Academy, Trinidad
_Evelyn Witkin, Biologist, National Academy of Sciences, USA
_Yang Fujia, Physicist, Chinese & Third World Academies, China
_Alexander L. Yanshin, Geologist, Karpinsky Gold Medal, Russia
_Yongyuth Yuthavong, Biochemist; Director, National Sci. & Tech. Devl. Agency, Thailand
_Zhao Zhong-xian, Physicist, Chinese & Third World Academies, China
_Zhou Guang-zhao, Physicist; President, Chinese Academy of Sciences;, China
_Solly ZuckerInan, Zoologist, Royal Society, Great Britain

Over 1,500 members of national, regional, and international science academies have signed the Warning. Sixtynine nations from all parts of Earth are represented, including each of the twelve most populous nations and the nineteen largest economic powers. The full list includes a majority of the Nobel laureates in the sciences. Awards and institutional affiliations are listed for the purpose of identification only. The Nobel Prize in medicine is for physiology or medicine.

A WORLD SCIENTISTS’ WARNING BRIEFING BOOK is available from the Union of Concerned Scientists. It provides the citations to support their WARNING.

Union of Concerned Scientists, 96 Church Street, Cambridge, Mass 02238-9105, USA Phone: 617-547-5552; FAX: 617-864-9405

[Warning issued on November 18, 1992, transcribed by Jay Hanson—apologies for any typos]

Yellow River

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Bitter Waters

Can China save the Yellow—its Mother River?

Not a drop of rain has fallen in months, and the only clouds come from sandstorms lashing across the desert. But as the Yellow River bends through the barren landscape of north-central China, a startling vision shimmers on the horizon: emerald green rice fields, acres of yellow sunflowers, lush tracts of corn, wheat, and wolfberry—all flourishing under a merciless sky.

This is no mirage. The vast oasis in northern Ningxia, near the midpoint of the Yellow River’s 3,400-mile journey from the Plateau of Tibet to the Bo Hai sea, has survived for more than 2,000 years, ever since the Qin emperor dispatched an army of peasant engineers to build canals and grow crops for soldiers manning the Great Wall. Shen Xuexiang is trying to carry on that tradition today. Lured here three decades ago by the seemingly limitless supply of water, the 55-year-old farmer cultivates cornfields that lie between the ruins of the Great Wall and the silt-laden waters of the Yellow River. From the bank of an irrigation canal, Shen gazes over the green expanse and marvels at the river’s power: “I always thought this was the most beautiful place under heaven.”

But this earthly paradise is disappearing fast. The proliferation of factories, farms, and cities—all products of China’s spectacular economic boomis sucking the Yellow River dry. What water remains is being poisoned. From the canal bank, Shen points to another surreal flash of color: blood-red chemical waste gushing from a drainage pipe, turning the water a garish purple. This canal, which empties into the Yellow River, once teemed with fish and turtles, he says. Now its water is too toxic to use even for irrigation; two of Shen’s goats died within hours of drinking from the canal.


Ancient Ginkgoes, Redwoods Threatened in China

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Forty million years ago the dawn redwood was among the most abundant tree species growing in the Northern Hemisphere.

Today about 6,000 trees remain in the wild, and all of them are in south-central China.

Dozens of modern plant and animal species share a similar history—once widespread, they are now restricted to the booming Asian country.

China is home to more than 31,500 plant species, about 10 percent of the world’s total. Several species, including the dawn redwood and the maidenhair tree—also called ginkgo—are as old as the dinosaurs.

But 20 percent of these plants are at risk of extinction due to human pressures, according to Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

“By the end of the century, over half the species in China could be extinct or at the verge of extinction,” he said. “That’s a very serious problem.”


Inner Mongolia: reign of sand

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

A vast Chinese grassland – and a way of life – are turning to dust in an ancient land of breathtaking scenery. W Chad Futrell reports from a battleground in the fight between China’s development and its resource management.

An Asian Sahara of sand is moving closer every year to Beijing, blackening the sky, and producing environmental refugees and social unrest in Inner Mongolia and throughout China.

“Desertification is not a natural function,” said John D Liu, an American-born journalist, researcher and director of the Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP) for China, a 10-year-old environmental organisation based in Beijing. “Scientifically what’s happening is that the grasslands are losing natural infiltration and retention of water, which is altering respiration and evaporation rates. That affects relative humidity, and potentially precipitation in other regions.”

“Socially and politically, what you are talking about are policy decisions made in earlier eras — from the 1950s to the 1990s — and now those mistakes are really biting them,” added Liu, who’s lived and worked in China since 1979. “They have to deal with the decisions made in those years. And in Inner Mongolia those decisions have produced some horrific consequences. Large areas of the region have been massively devegetated.”


Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

– This quote, from the article referenced below, is at the core of Perfect Storm concerns:

Although many nations have been pledging steps to curb emissions for nearly a decade, the world’s output of carbon from human activities totals about 10 billion tons a year and has been steadily rising.

— — — — — — —

The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.

Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.


Australia’s food bowl lies empty

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

As the BBC looks at the impact of rising food prices around the world, Sydney correspondent Nick Bryant reports from Australia on how the worst drought on record has slashed its exports of wheat.

Though located in a remote corner of the planet, the fields of Australia’s food bowl are central to the worldwide price of wheat.

In this part of rural New South Wales, water-starved farms and cavernous empty grain silos have the potential to create a ripple effect which spreads around the globe.

And that is precisely what is happening right now.

Low yield

After America, Australia is normally the second largest exporter of grain, and in a good year it would hope to harvest about 25 million tonnes.

But the country remains in the grip of the worst drought in a century, which is why the 2006 crop yielded only 9.8m tonnes.

Global wheat stocks are at their lowest levels since 1979, and the ongoing Australian drought is one of the reasons why.


Climate change’s most deadly threat: drought

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Anthropologist Brian Fagan uses Earth’s distant past to predict the crises that may lie in its future.

Spring is on its way back to northern latitudes. In many locales, it will arrive earlier than “normal,” yielding, ostensibly, a longer growing season, a hotter summer, balmier autumn, and future winters will lack their ferocious post-Pleistocene bites.

While vineyards are being planned for northern England, millions of residents around desiccated Atlanta are praying for enough rain to flow through their taps.

Brian Fagan believes climate is not merely a backdrop to the ongoing drama of human civilization, but an important stage upon which world events turn.

As it turns out, the anecdotal evidence of climate change in this, the 21st century, shares much in common with a historical antecedent, the Medieval Warm Period, circa AD 800 to 1200, that radically shaped societies across the globe.

The Medieval Warm Period was a time when the capacity of agriculture rapidly expanded and enabled people to flourish in Europe. Yet elsewhere, extended lack of rainfall, or too much of it, brought famine, plagues, and wars.

This bout of global warming was followed by the Little Ice Age that lasted roughly from AD 1300 until the middle of the 19th century and cast Europe and North America back into a big chill. Since then, mean global temperature has been slowly and steadily rising, accompanied by huge leaps in agricultural output and skyrocketing human population.

Today, climate experts tell us that over the past two decades, temperature has registered an alarming unnatural spike and is expected to keep climbing.

Despite the well-established fact that Earth is heating up, skeptics still are trying to poke holes in the assertion that it is owed to humans pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere. Climate change is, and always has been cyclical, they say. Or maybe, some insist, it is God who has his hand on the thermostat.


React to Warming Now While Costs Still Low, OECD Urges

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

The world must respond to climate change and other environmental challenges now while the cost is low or else pay a stiffer price later for its indecision, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Wednesday.

A new report by the 30-nation organization looks at “red light issues” in the environment, including global warming, water shortages, energy, biodiversity loss, transportation, agriculture, and fisheries.


UN issues desertification warning

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Tens of millions of people could be driven from their homes by encroaching deserts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia, a report says.

The study by the United Nations University suggests climate change is making desertification “the greatest environmental challenge of our times”.

If action is not taken, the report warns that some 50 million people could be displaced within the next 10 years.

The study was produced by more than 200 experts from 25 countries.

This report does not pull any punches, says BBC environment reporter Matt McGrath.

One third of the Earth’s population – home to about two billion people – are potential victims of its creeping effect, it says.

“Desertification has emerged as an environmental crisis of global proportions, currently affecting an estimated 100 to 200 million people, and threatening the lives and livelihoods of a much larger number,” the study said.

The overexploitation of land and unsustainable irrigation practices are making matters worse, while climate change is also a major factor degrading the soil, it says.

People displaced by desertification put new strains on natural resources and on other societies nearby and threaten international instability, the study adds.

“There is a chain reaction. It leads to social turmoil,” said Zafaar Adeel, the study’s lead author and head of the UN University’s International Network on Water, Environment and Health.

The largest area affected was probably sub-Saharan Africa, where people are moving to northern Africa or to Europe, while the second area is the former Soviet republics in central Asia, he added.


To the full PDF version of the UN report: