Monthly Archives: November 2010

Cancun climate change summit: UN considers putting mirrors in space


Soldiers lead a convoy of armoured personnel carriers while patrolling the area surrounding the venue of climate talks in Cancun Photo: REUTERS

UN scientists are to consider moves such as putting mirrors in space and sprinkling iron in the sea in an attempt to cut global warming, the head of the IPCC said.

Telegraph | Nov 29, 2010

By Louise Gray

Speaking at the climate change conference in Cancun, Dr Rajendra Pachauri said the next report on global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will not only look at the threat of rising temperatures but so-called “geo-engineering” options that could actually reverse warming.

The announcement implies that scientists are losing faith in a global deal to stop temperature rise by limiting emissions.

There are already low expectations for the latest round of UN talks being held in a luxury beach resort on the east coast of Mexico.

More than 190 countries are meeting at the heavily-guarded Moon Palace Hotel to try and find a way to limit emissions so that temperatures rise stays below 3.6F (2C).

The IPCC is responsible for setting out the scientific basis on which the talks are based.

Addressing the opening conference, Dr Pachauri said if mankind continues to pump out greenhouse gases at the current rate the world could experience catastrophic warming within the next fifty years.

He said the threat is so great that the fifth assessment report (AR5), due to be presented to the UN in 2014, will look at “geo-engineering options”.

“The AR5 has been expanded and will in future focus on subjects like clouds and aerosols, geo-engineering and sustainability issues,” he said.

Later this year IPCC “expert groups” will meet in Peru to discuss geo-engineering.

Options include putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight or covering Greenland in a massive blanket so it does not melt.

Sprinkling iron filings in the ocean “fertilises” algae so that it sucks up CO2 and “seeding clouds” means that less sunlight can get in.

Other options include artificial “trees” that suck carbon dioxide out of the air, painting roofs white to reflect sunlight and man-made volcanoes that spray sulphate particles high in the atmosphere to scatter the sun’s rays back into space.

Many have argued that the process could make climate change worse through unintended consequences.

Earlier this year the IPCC was forced to undergo a review after it was revealed that the last report to the UN, the AR4, included the mistaken claim that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. Critics called for the chairman to resign.

But Dr Pachauri insisted the review made the panel stronger than ever.

“We are confident that the IPCC will emerge stronger as a result of this exercise and live up to the expectations of the global community,” he said.

The UN talks in Cancun are designed to find a way to limit global emissions in order to prevent global warming. However at the moment a treaty is unlikely as the world’s two biggest emitters, China and the US, will not agree to legally binding targets.

Chris Huhne, the Climate Change Secretary, has already warned that a global deal is unlikely this time, although he insists the talks can make progress by agreeing on different aspects of the agreement such as forestry and climate finance.

Opening the talks, Felipe Calderón, the President of Mexico, insisted it was still possible for the world to reach a deal.

“Climate change is already a reality for us,” he told delegates. “During the next two weeks, the whole world will be looking at you. It would be a tragedy not to overcome the hurdle of national interests.”

Cancun climate change summit: scientists call for rationing in developed world


‘The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are to address the scale of the problem we face’ Photo: GETTY

Global warming is now such a serious threat to mankind that climate change experts are calling for Second World War-style rationing in rich countries to bring down carbon emissions.

Telegraph | Nov 29, 2010

By Louise Gray

In a series of papers published by the Royal Society, physicists and chemists from some of world’s most respected scientific institutions, including Oxford University and the Met Office, agreed that current plans to tackle global warming are not enough.

Unless emissions are reduced dramatically in the next ten years the world is set to see temperatures rise by more than 4C (7.2F) by as early as the 2060s, causing floods, droughts and mass migration.

As the world meets in Cancun, Mexico for the latest round of United Nations talks on climate change, the influential academics called for much tougher measures to cut carbon emissions.

In one paper Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while allowing the poor nations to continue to grow, is to halt economic growth in the rich world over the next twenty years.

This would mean a drastic change in lifestyles for many people in countries like Britain as everyone will have to buy less ‘carbon intensive’ goods and services such as long haul flights and fuel hungry cars.

Prof Anderson admitted it “would not be easy” to persuade people to reduce their consumption of goods

He said politicians should consider a rationing system similar to the one introduced during the last “time of crisis” in the 1930s and 40s.

This could mean a limit on electricity so people are forced to turn the heating down, turn off the lights and replace old electrical goods like huge fridges with more efficient models. Food that has travelled from abroad may be limited and goods that require a lot of energy to manufacture.

“The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are to address the scale of the problem we face,” he said.

Prof Anderson insisted that halting growth in the rich world does not necessarily mean a recession or a worse lifestyle, it just means making adjustments in everyday life such as using public transport and wearing a sweater rather than turning on the heating.

“I am not saying we have to go back to living in caves,” he said. “Our emissions were a lot less ten years ago and we got by ok then.”

The last round of talks in Copenhagen last year ended in a weak political accord to keep temperature rise below the dangerous tipping point of 2C(3.6F).

This time 194 countries are meeting again to try and make the deal legally binding and agree targets on cutting emissions.

At the moment efforts are focused on trying to get countries to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 relative to 1990 levels.

But Dr Myles Allen, of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, said this might not be enough. He said that if emissions do not come down quick enough even a slight change in temperature will be too rapid for ecosystems to keep up. Also by measuring emissions relative to a particular baseline, rather than putting a limit on the total amount that can ever be pumped into the atmosphere, there is a danger that the limit is exceeded.

“Peak warming is determined by the total amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere, not the rate we release it in any given year,’ he said. “Dangerous climate change, however, also depends on how fast the planet is warming up, not just how hot it gets, and the maximum rate of warming does depend on the maximum emission rate. It’s not just how much we emit, but how fast we do so.”

Other papers published on ‘4C and beyond’ in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A warned of rising sea levels, droughts in river basins and mass migrations.

George Bush to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: you know what it’s like to be a president


George Bush speaking to US soldiers in Texas in 2003: he says as president he had to make quick and difficult decisions, something he thinks Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg has also had to do Photograph: Jeff Mitchell/Reuters

The former US leader and the Facebook boss compared notes in an hour-long talk and decided they had much in common

Guardian | Nov 30, 2010

by Ed Pilkington

What does Mark Zuckerberg, the creator and president of Facebook, have in common with that other president, George Bush?

Quite a lot, apparently.

At least, Bush seems to thinks so. He spent an hour in discussion with Zuckerberg in a Facebook interview streamed live from Palo Alto on Monday night, comparing his time in the White House with Zuckerberg’s leadership of the social networking site.

They both, Bush said, had had to make quick and difficult decisions based on common sense. They both shared a passion for education, which Zuckerberg has recently embraced, donating $100m (£64m) to state schools in Newark, New Jersey.

And they had both faced harsh criticism. “There’s a lot of criticism about. You know what I’m talking about?” Bush said, looking Zuckerberg straight in the face.

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The Facebook chief executive has been attacked for his policies on privacy and received a less than flattering portrayal in the film Social Networking. “We haven’t had criticism on the scale of a president, but we’ve had some,” Zuckerberg said.

Bush, dressed in a casual shirt and jacket and minus a tie, got brownie points among the techy audience for saying, after he left the White House, “I became a Blackberry person, and now I’m an iPad person.”

He also endeared himself by saying that he used Facebook to keep in touch with former administration colleagues, though he rather ruined the effect by calling it “the Facebook”, seemingly unaware that Zuckerberg dropped the “the” in 2005.

Bush needled Zuckerberg over his failure to complete his computer science course at Harvard. For his part, Zuckerberg heaped praise on his fellow president. “It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about you,” he said to Bush. “You’ve always stuck by your principles and pushed through.”

Bush also gave an impassioned statement against official leaks during the interview. He said leaks were “very damaging and people who leaked ought to be prosecuted”.

He added that the latest Wikileaks action would make it hard for the US to keep the trust of foreign leaders. “When you have a conversation with a foreign leader and it ends up in a newspaper they don’t like it, and I didn’t like it. A lot of these relationships depend on trust.”

US National Guard suicide rate nearly doubles


US National Guard soldiers returning home to face further difficulties.

Press TV | Nov 27, 2010

Statistics have revealed that the suicide rate among non-active members of the US National Guard has almost doubled this year.

Nearly twice as many American soldiers, who are not on active duty, have committed suicide in 2010 as the number that took their own lives last year, while the suicide rate among active duty soldiers has not increased, USA TODAY reports.

This growth in suicide rates has been linked to drug abuse, brain injuries incurred during active service, depression, and the country’s current bleak economic situation (home foreclosures, debt and unemployment), said Chris Philbrick, the deputy commander of an Army task force working to reduce suicides.

As of October, 86 non-active soldiers have taken their own lives this year, which is nearly double the entire 2009 number of suicides, which was 48.

There were 252 confirmed or suspected suicides among active and non-active Army members through October of this year. There were 242 such deaths in all of 2009, the report says.

These statistics could reinforce the fact that active-duty soldiers have greater access to programs and mental health resources, Philbrick says.

UK the coldest country on the planet


A solitary figure braves the snow in Muirhead near Glasgow. Photograph: Guardian – Garry F McHarg/Focal

dailystar.co.uk | Nov 29, 2010

By Gemma Wheatley

BRITAIN was officially the coldest country on Earth yesterday with temperatures hitting teeth-chattering –17C (1F).

The figure – lower than icy cities including Helsinki, Moscow and Stockholm – was recorded in Welsh village Llysdinam, Powys.

Weather experts warn that there will be no let up with the weather getting even colder this week and more snow on the way.

Last night, Jonathan Powell from Positive Weather Solutions said: “These temperatures will make Britain the coldest inhabited place in the world.

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“What we are experiencing is last year’s winter and this year’s winter all in one icy month.

“The lows are quite obscene and absurd for this time of year but the coming week will be even more extreme.”

The worst November weather since 1985 has left Britain even colder than freezing Canadian city Calgary and Swedish capital Stockholm.

Jonathan added: “This coming week will surely break existing records, it’s one of the coldest snaps I’ve even known.

“With more snow on top of existing snow, this really will be a week to be reckoned with, and will stretch resources nation-wide to the limit.”

He also warned that the Government should re-evaluate their winter fuel allowance.

Forecasters predict another three to five inches of snow, with Scotland, the North East, central England, the Midlands, and Wales worst hit.

Michael Dukes of MeteoGroup said: “You are seeing some ridiculously low temperatures, it has been a bit like it is in the middle of Scandinavia.

A 37-year-old woman driver was killed after her car slid out of control and hit a minibus near Penryn in Cornwall.

Two people, believed to be husband and wife, died ­when their car burst into flames after skidding and crashing in Colchester.

And a man of 40 from Wallsend, North Tyneside was fighting for his life ­after a multiple pile-up on the M1 near Sheffield.

A lifeboat rescued three people from the sea off Exmouth, Devon, and treated them for cold.

Video shows shirtless boy pat-down from TSA

Fox 13 talks to the Utah Valley University student who shot the video with his cell phone.

TSA officials pat down young boy without shirt caught on camera

Fox13Now.com | Nov 22, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — A video shot at the Salt Lake City International Airport is stirring up the debate over airport security and is now gaining national attention.

The 39-second cell phone video posted on You Tube by a Utah Valley University student shows TSA officials, doing a pat-down on a young boy with his shirt off. The video has gained more than 700,000 hits.

The student who shot the video, Luke Tait, told Fox 13 what happened before he began recording.

“The father assisted a little bit and he stood by his son and held his arms out, trying to help the TSA agent kind of perform the pat down. He did that twice, had to hold his son’s arms up,” Tait said.

Tait says the young boy did not set off the metal detector.

“The father got a little upset and he tore his son’s shirt off and gave it to the TSA agent and at this time, the TSA agent was yelling sir, sir at the man, the father of the kid,” Tait explained.

Tait said he was later approached by a man in a black suit who did not identify himself and asked to delete the video.

“When he approached me, he obviously thought there was something I had that was incriminating to TSA,” Tait said.

Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz said it is important to know all the facts before people rush to judgment, but said it is clear that the TSA has crossed the line.

“Between the whole body imaging and the pat downs and kids having to take their shirts off, it just seems like we’re going a little too far,” Chaffetz said.

The Transportation Security Administration would not comment directly, but recently released a statement regarding the incident, saying:

“On Friday November 19 a father and son presented at a TSA checkpoint at SLC. The child alarmed as he walked through the metal detector. The father removed his son’s shirt in order to speed up the screening process. Once screening was complete, both proceeded to the gate for their flight.”

Watch the You Tube video of the pat down here.

TSA Administrator Apologizes to Cancer Survivor After Pat-Down Broke Seal on Urine Bag

Prosthetics Become Source of Shame at Airport Screenings

ABC News | Nov 24, 2010

By JANE E. ALLEN, ABC News Medical Unit

Prosthetic devices were designed to help men and women move on with their lives despite potentially stigmatizing medical conditions, yet they’ve become a source of distress and humiliation during the new pat-downs by airport security agents.

There’s already been outrage over the TSA agent who asked a Charlotte, N.C., woman who survived breast cancer to remove a prosthetic from inside her bra. There was also a bladder cancer survivor from Lansing, Mich., who said he was soaked in his own urine when a TSA agent’s pat-down ruptured the seal on his urostomy bag.

“Do these agents have any human understanding that ostomates have these appliances because they have had cancer and the appliances are the aftermath of a battle that was won!” Thomas D. “Tom” Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, posted Monday to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network online support group on Inspire.com. “I happen to wear mine with pride but I am also very private about it. The last thing I needed or wanted was to have urine leak in an airport and feel that all the world was looking at me.”

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Senate Hearing with TSA Chief: “Have You Received the Law Enforcement-Style Pat-Down?”

Monday afternoon, Sawyer got a phone call from TSA Administrator John Pistole.

“He apologized and asked what I thought should be done,” an exhausted Sawyer tweeted to his Twitter followers. “Our message was heard in Washington D.C….My job is done.”

Sawyer encountered what mental health experts call micro-aggression: “an act or a situation in which a person in more power subjects a person in less power to either an assault or an insult. They’re very cumulative,” said psychologist Rhoda Olkin, a professor at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco. They also can lead to depression and anxiety.

“”The micro-aggressions that happen to people with disabilities are so ubiquitous,” Olkin said in an interview with ABC News. “Now to have it when you travel, at such an egregious level, makes just one more place where you’re really disadvantaged.”

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