PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 114/2003 - 28 November 2003
ARE THE WORLD'S GLACIERS MELTING AWAY?
---------------------------------------

The world's glaciers could melt within a century if global warming accelerates,
leaving billions of people short of water and some islanders without a home,
environmentalists said. "Unless governments take urgent action to prevent global
warming, billions of people worldwide may face severe water shortages as a result
of the alarming melting rate of glaciers, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in
a report.
       --ABC News, 27 November 2003


There are several regions with highly negative mass balances in agreement with a
public perception of 'the glaciers are melting,' but there are also regions with
positive balances. Within Europe, Alpine glaciers are generally shrinking,
Scandinavian glaciers are growing, and glaciers in the Caucasus are close to
equilibrium for 1980-95. There is no obvious common or global trend of increasing
glacier melt in recent years.
     --R.J. Braithwaite, Progress in Physical Geography 26:2000


The celebrated ice cap on Africa's loftiest peak could vanish within 20 years,
taking with it a unique scientific resource. Although it's tempting to blame
the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the
mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests' humidity,
previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water,
the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.
      --Betsy Mason, Nature, 24 November 2003


(1) SCIENTISTS SEEK TO SAVE LIVES AT WORLD'S LARGEST TSUNAMI RESEARCH LAB
    Associated Press, 27 November 2003

(2) SATELLITES ASSIST PLANERS PREVENTING FLOODS
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(3) COP9 MEETING IN MILAN, 1-12 DECEMBER
    COP9, 26 November 2003

(4) MONSTER SCARE OF THE WEEK: "BILLIONS FACE WATER SHORTAGES AS GLACIERS MELT"
    ABC News, 27 November 2003

(5) REALITY CHECK: ARE THE WORLD'S GLACIERS REALLY MELTING AWAY?
    CO2 Science Magazine, March 2003

(6) GLACIER MASS BALANCE TRENDS: UP OR DOWN?
    CO2 Science Magazine, June 2002

(7) THE ICE OF KILIMANJARO
    www.john-daly.com, 28 November 2003

(8) AFRICAN ICE UNDER WRAPS
    Nature, 24 November 2003

(9) ADAPTATION, NOT KYOTO, IS THE SOLUTION TO GLOBAL WARMING
    Environmental News Network, 28 November 2003

(10) EUROPE'S REVOLTING DILEMMA: ALLEVIATING HUNGER AND GM TECHNOLOGY
     Nutra Ingrediants, 27 November 2003

(11) TURNING THANKSGIVING INTO OIL
     Rick Lanser <rickl@enter.net>

(12) ISS HIT/NOT HIT
     Marco Langbroek <meteorites@dmsweb.org>

(13) AND FINALLY: HOW MAGIC MUSHROOMS COULD SOLVE THE WORLD'S GREENHOUSE GAS PROBLEMS
     Canadian Business Magazine, December 2003


===========
(1) SCIENTISTS SEEK TO SAVE LIVES AT WORLD'S LARGEST TSUNAMI RESEARCH LAB

Associated Press, 27 November 2003
http://www.enn.com/news/2003-11-27/s_10835.asp

By Fawn Porter, Associated Press

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A low rumble broke the silence. Swelling and cresting, large waves slammed into the concrete basin containing them. The powerful waves were quelled when Dr. Daniel Cox signaled the control room to shut off the tsunami simulator.

"That's how it works," said Cox, the lab director. "We control the tsunamis."

Here at the world's largest tsunami research lab, scientists and graduate students are conducting experiments to better prepare tsunami-prone regions for these massive waves.

"The likelihood of tsunamis is not increasing," Cox said. "However, more people are moving to the coast, and it's our job to see that they live there safely."

Tsunamis, enormous waves caused by earthquakes or undersea volcanoes, can be devastating. A 1992 tsunami washed away two-thirds of an Indonesian island. A 1964 earthquake set off a tsunami that devastated many towns along the Gulf of Alaska and caused damage all along the West Coast.

Tsunami research began in September at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab housed in a hangarlike building in Corvallis. Its goal is to help coastal communities around the world plan for more efficient evacuations and construct buildings and bridges able to withstand the impact of tsunamis.

The lab's floors are littered with objects that have been used in experiments: boats, driftwood, rocks, metal siding.

Researchers create miniature tsunamis inside a rectangular, 50-yard (45.5-meter) concrete basin that looks like a swimming pool. Although the water depth inside the basin is only 3 feet (90 centimeters), the scientists are able to simulate 150-foot-tall (45-meter-tall) tsunami waves. Inside the basin are rocks and gravel, to gauge the effect of giant waves on shorelines.

"The goal is to make sure it actually looks and acts as a shore so we can gather accurate data on a wave's effects," Cox said.

In one room of the hangar is a 372-foot-long (111-meter-long) flume built in the 1970s to determine what effect wave forces would have on manmade structures and the erosive forces on beaches.

Scientists create miniature structures - such as a simulated marina - and send waves of water crashing against them, said Javier Moncada, an undergraduate student in the program.

At the basin where tsunamis are simulated, Cox explains how it works. Inside the tank is a large metal paddle used to create waves and to control their height and direction. A scientist tells the control room operator to move the paddle to a certain position. With a rumbling sound, the paddle creates a wall of water that simulates the way a tsunami moves.

Scientists don't actually have to be there to conduct research. Cox pointed to a moving camera beneath the lab's second-floor control room.

"That camera is called our 'wave cam.' Using this camera, remote scientists can see their experiments in progress via the Internet," he said.

Using online resources, researchers are able to share data and seek advice from one another. "When you get several people together, it amplifies the effects of the research," said Harry Yeh, a wave expert and professor at Oregon State University.

The compiled data and results are stored online for easy reference.

"In times past," Yeh said, "a scientist would spend so much time conducting research, write a paper - only to have it placed in a book and shoved away for 15 years. But with this, with collaboration, lots of people can immediately be involved while the interest and information is still current."

The lab is part of nationwide seismographic research that's being conducted at 15 sites. Only in Corvallis are tsunamis studied.

The overall research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, with a $4.8 million grant from the foundation.

The tsunami lab has been used in experiments for alternative energy and the effects of bioterrorism. It conducts research for private consulting firms and fish hatcheries, and the U.S. Navy has expressed interest.

Internationally, the basin has begun to generate interest in regions such as Japan. Data received from the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami near Hokkaido in northern Japan will give researchers here new insights.

===========
(2) SATELLITES ASSIST PLANERS PREVENTING FLOODS

Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

ESA News
http://www.esa.int

27 November 2003

Satellites assist planners preventing floods

Virtual floods modelled inside computers are an increasingly useful means for
authorities to prepare for genuine river surges. With flooding classed as the
world's most costly natural hazard, an ESA project has assessed using satellite
imagery to improve flood simulation models.

Flood control and management represents a major challenge for water authorities,
and as the global incidence of flooding increases, it has also become a subject
of concern for the global insurance industry.

The US Geological Survey estimates that flooding is the world's most costly type
of natural disaster, costing Euro 170 billion ($200 billion) between 1991 and
1995. Last year's European floods alone are reported to have caused more than
Euro 7 billion of damage.

Like everything linked to the weather, floods are difficult to predict -- a few
days of steady rainfall might be sufficient for a river to burst its banks.

What software-based flood simulation models can do is foretell how a river will
behave if it does flood, and allow authorities to assess their best course of
action.

"Here in Flanders, we are responsible for maintaining our many rivers and
waterways, and are also tasked with preventing or controlling floods," explained
Project Engineer Ingrid Boey of the Flemish Water Authority AWZ, end user for
ESA's FAME (Flood risk and damage Assessment using Modelling and Earth
observation techniques) project.

"A useful research technique for us is by creating hydrodynamic simulations of
our various river basins. Originally these were physical scale models -- we
still have those -- but numerical models running in computers are increasingly
important. We can use them to see what actions should be taken in particular
scenarios, such as employing controlled flooding areas, locally raising dikes
higher, activating pumping stations or -- in extreme situations -- ordering
evacuations.

"From next year our models are going to used operationally to make predictions
in real time, so it is vital we are sure they are as close to the real world as
possible."

The problem comes in converting what are essentially one-dimensional computer
models of water levels and flow into accurate depictions of the two-dimensional
spatial extent of flooded areas. And when it comes to checking the models
against historical floods, fully accurate spatial and temporal records can be
hard to find.

"We find water levels have been recorded, but not always the full spatial
extent," explained Boey. "Aerial photos are often not available, and even when
they are, they don't always cover the whole of the flooded area. Also needed are
hard facts on the duration of the flood. We end up with one person remembering
three days, and one person recalling two."

The idea behind the FAME project was to use satellite data as an additional
means of mapping flood extent in zones close to rivers as well as creating more
accurate flood risk maps and carrying out post-flood damage assessment. Project
partners included SADL (Spatial Applications Division Leuven), Sarmap and
D'Appolonia.

Project manager was Professor Patrick Willems of the University of Leuven's
Hydraulics Laboratory: "Our lab oversees the creation of flood control models,
so I came at the problem more from the side of the user than the service
provider. We focused on two flood-prone rivers, the Dender and the Demer."

ERS and Envisat radar images were acquired for the rivers corresponding to
historical floods that occurred in 1993, 1995, 1998 and 2003. Because radar
imagery records surface roughness instead of reflected light, it is a good means
of detecting flowing and standing water. High resolution IKONOS and Landsat-ETM
optical imagery became the basis of risk maps; products valued by the insurance
industry as well as water authorities.

"With risk mapping you are combining three different variables," explained
Willems. "First is the spatial extent -- which areas will flood. Then comes the
type of areas will be affected; a flooded meadow won't cause as much damage as
an inundated urban area. The final variable is the return period -- will the
flood recur once a year, every ten years or every 100 years?"

Combine them together and you can quantify how likely flood damage is for a
given area, and be guided how much should reasonably be spent either to guard
against it or insure against it. AWZ has already updated flood damage and flood
risk maps in the two river basins based on the high-resolution imagery.

With historic flood mapping for simulation calibration, Envisat data was found
to be more accurate than ERS. Envisat's Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR)
instrument has several advantages over its predecessor, including beam steering
capability for increased temporal coverage, a wide swath option and alternating
polarisation modes -- all of which give it an edge in flood detection.

The FAME project is now formally concluded, although AWZ hopes to acquire
Envisat and Radarsat data in tandem if further flooding occurs this winter,
which would give an effective revisit time of one or two days. A decision has
still to be made on extending the FAME service, which was funded by ESA's Data
User Programme.

"Combined with other flood information sources, satellite data can definitely be
effective," said Boey. "Flanders is not a big place, so a few satellite images
have the potential to provide us with objective knowledge of the whole area.

"For us, a very useful part of the FAME project has been familiarising ourselves
with the area of Earth Observation, and so making it much more likely we will
make operational use of it in future."

Related articles

* Après le déluge: ERS and Envisat imagery contribute to European flood relief
   http://www.esa.int/esaCP/ESAZODZPD4D_index_0.html
* Satellite view aids Saône flood mapping
   http://www.esa.int/esaSA/ESAOAUUM5JC_earth_0.html

===========
(3) COP9 MEETING IN MILAN, 1-12 DECEMBER

COP9, 26 November 2003
http://www.cop9.info/

COP 9, the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will take place in Milan from December 1 to 12.

The press conference was hosted by the Italian Ministry of Environment, Altero Matteoli, and the President of the Lombardy Region, Roberto Formigoni, with the UNFCCC Secretariat's delegate, Kevin Grose.

"For twelve days, Milan will be at the center of the world's discussions on climate change", said the President of Lombardy. "COP 9 is an opportunity to discuss what countries have done so far to reduce climate-altering emissions and what still needs to be done."

Great expectations are placed on the Ninth Conference of the Parties, as shown by the figures Italian Minister of the Enviroment Matteoli mentioned: "6,000 delegates, representing the 189 countries which have signed the Climate Change Convention and 100 IGO's and NGO's, will meet here, in Milan, to assess the implementation of programs and commitments made within the Convention and identify new and more resolute initiatives. The extreme climatic events of this year have confirmed the vulnerability of our societies to climate change", Matteoli added. "with serious consequences for public health, agriculture, water supply, energy production and distribution.

Climate change is a global challenge requiring a global response.

"The need for a global strategy was also emphasized by Kevin Grose. "The fact that 2003 is on track to be one of the warmest years on record should be a warning that we must all take seriously", he said, quoting the UNFCCC Executive Secretary.

"The Milan conference will evaluate the efforts that governments have been making to tackle the climate change challenge", Grose added. "The need for this effort is clear as the combined emissions of Europe, Japan, the US and other highly industrialized countries could grow by 8% from 2000 to 2010 (or to about 17% over 1990 levels) despite domestic measures currently in place to limit them."

The UNFCCC representative concluded by underlining that despite the 119 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, Russia's ratification is required for its entry into force. He then highlighted the numerous side events organized by institutions and associations during the 12 days of the conference.

==========
(4) MONSTER SCARE OF THE WEEK: "BILLIONS FACE WATER SHORTAGES AS GLACIERS MELT"

ABC News, 27 November 2003
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s999199.htm

The world's glaciers could melt within a century if global warming accelerates, leaving billions of people short of water and some islanders without a home, environmentalists said.

"Unless governments take urgent action to prevent global warming, billions of people worldwide may face severe water shortages as a result of the alarming melting rate of glaciers, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a report.

It said human impact on the climate was melting glaciers from the Andes to the Himalayas, bringing longer-term threats of higher sea levels that could swamp island states.

Officials from 180 nations will meet in Milan on December 1-12 to discuss international efforts to rein in a rise in global temperatures, blamed by scientists on emissions of gases from factories and cars that are blanketing the planet.

"Simulations project that a 4.0 Celsius rise in temperature would eliminate nearly all of the world's glaciers" by the end of the century, the WWF said.

Himalayan glaciers feed seven great rivers of Asia that run through China and India, the world's most populous nations, ensuring a year-round water supply to 2 billion people.

The WWF said that nations most at risk also included Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, where melt water from Andean glaciers supplies millions during dry seasons.

Meanwhile, island states like Tuvalu in the Pacific could be submerged by rising sea levels triggered by melting glaciers.

Sea levels could rise even further if two of the world's largest ice caps, in Antarctica and Greenland, melt substantially, though the report left them out of its reckoning because of their unpredictability.

Glaciers are ancient rivers of packed snow that creep through the landscape, shaping the planet's surface.

"Glaciers are extremely important because they respond rapidly to climate change and their loss directly affects human populations and ecosystems," Jennifer Morgan said, head of WWF's Climate Change Program.

"The trends and the experience are quite alarming," she said.

"Countries have to speed up their action on global warming."

United Nations projections say global temperatures are set to rise by 1.4-5.8 Celsius by the end of the century, spurred by human emissions of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide.

The WWF urged Russia to ratify the UN's 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is a tiny first step towards reining in greenhouse gases and curbing rising temperatures.

Kyoto will collapse without Russia's backing after the United States pulled out in 2001.

Those who attend the Milan conference "need to increase their pressure on Russia", Ms Morgan said, adding that WWF expected Russia to ratify the accord after elections next month.

The report said that melting glaciers could threaten to drive animals to extinction, like the Royal Bengal tiger or the tiny ice worm that feeds on algae growing on glaciers.

Copyright 2003, Reuters

============
(5) REALITY CHECK: ARE THE WORLD'S GLACIERS REALLY MELTING AWAY?

CO2 Science Magazine, March 2003
http://www.co2science.org/subject/g/summaries/glaciers.htm

The advance/buildup or retreat/melting of glacial ice is often interpreted as a sign of climate change; and teams of glaciologists have been working for years to provide an assessment of the state of the world's many glaciers as one of several approaches to deciphering global climate trends. Although this effort has only scratched the surface of what must ultimately be done, climate alarmists have already rendered their verdict: there has been a massive and widespread retreat of glaciers over the past century, which they predict will only intensify under continued CO2-induced global warming. This assessment, however, may be a bit premature.

The full story must begin with a clear recognition of just how few glacier data exist. Of the 160,000 glaciers presently in existence, only 67,000 (42%) have been inventoried to any degree (Kieffer et al., 2000); and there are only a tad over 200 glaciers for which mass balance data exist for but a single year (Braithwaite and Zhang, 2000).  When the length of record increases to five years, this number drops to 115; and if both winter and summer mass balances are required, the number drops to 79. Furthermore, if ten years of record is used as a cutoff, only 42 glaciers qualify. This lack of glacial data, in the words of Braithwaite and Zhang, highlights "one of the most important problems for mass-balance glaciology" and demonstrates the "sad fact that many glacierized regions of the world remain unsampled, or only poorly sampled," suggesting that we really know very little about the true state of most of the world's glaciers.

Recognizing the need for "more comprehensive, more homogeneous in detail and quality" glacier data (Kieffer et al., 2000), we shift our attention to the few glaciers for which such data exist. During the 15th through 19th centuries, widespread and major glacier advances occurred during a period of colder global temperature known as the Little Ice Age (Broecker, 2001; Grove, 2001). Following the peak of Little Ice Age coldness, it should come as no surprise that many records indicate widespread glacial retreat, as temperatures began to rise in the mid- to late-1800s and many glaciers returned to positions characteristic of pre-Little Ice Age times.  What people may find surprising, however, is that in many instances the rate of glacier retreat has not increased over the past 70 years; and in some cases glacier mass balance has actually increased, all during a time when the atmosphere experienced the bulk of the increase in its CO2 content.

In an analysis of Arctic glacier mass balance, for example, Dowdeswell et al. (1997) found that of the 18 glaciers with the longest mass balance histories, just over 80% displayed negative mass balances over their periods of record. Yet they additionally report that "almost 80% of the mass balance time series also have a positive trend, toward a less negative mass balance [our italics]." Hence, although these Arctic glaciers continue to lose mass, as they have probably done since the end of the Little Ice Age, they are losing smaller amounts each year, in the mean, which is hardly what one would expect in the face of what climate alarmists incorrectly call the "unprecedented" warming of the latter part of the twentieth century.

Similar results have been reported by Braithwaite (2002), who reviewed and analyzed mass balance measurements of 246 glaciers from around the world that were made between 1946 and 1995.  According to Braithwaite, "there are several regions with highly negative mass balances in agreement with a public perception of 'the glaciers are melting,' but there are also regions with positive balances."  Within Europe, for example, he notes that "Alpine glaciers are generally shrinking, Scandinavian glaciers are growing, and glaciers in the Caucasus are close to equilibrium for 1980-95."  And when results for the whole world are combined for this most recent period of time, Braithwaite notes that "there is no obvious common or global trend of increasing glacier melt in recent years."

As for the glacier with the longest mass balance record of all, the Storglaciaren in northern Sweden, for the first 15 years of its 50-year record it exhibited a negative mass balance of little trend.  Thereafter, however, its mass balance began to trend upward, actually becoming positive over about the last decade (Braithwaite and Zhang, 2000).

So, the story glaciers have to tell us about past climate change is both far from clear and far from being adequately resolved. Stay tuned.

References
Braithwaite, R.J.  2002.  Glacier mass balance: the first 50 years of international monitoring.  Progress in Physical Geography 26: 76-95.

Braithwaite, R.J. and Zhang, Y.  2000.  Relationships between interannual variability of glacier mass balance and climate.  Journal of Glaciology 45: 456-462.

Broecker, W.S.  2001.  Glaciers That Speak in Tongues and other tales of global warming.  Natural History 110 (8): 60-69.

Dowdeswell, J.A., Hagen, J.O., Bjornsson, H., Glazovsky, A.F., Harrison, W.D., Holmlund, P. Jania, J., Koerner, R.M., Lefauconnier, B., Ommanney, C.S.L. and Thomas, R.H.  1997.  The mass balance of circum-Arctic glaciers and recent climate change.  Quaternary Research 48: 1-14.

Grove, J.M.  2001.  The initiation of the "Little Ice Age" in regions round the North Atlantic.  Climatic Change 48: 53-82.

Kieffer, H., Kargel, J.S., Barry, R., Bindschadler, R., Bishop, M., MacKinnon, D., Ohmura, A., Raup, B., Antoninetti, M., Bamber, J., Braun, M., Brown, I., Cohen, D., Copland, L., DueHagen, J., Engeset, R.V., Fitzharris, B., Fujita, K., Haeberli, W., Hagen, J.O., Hall, D., Hoelzle, M., Johansson, M., Kaab, A., Koenig, M., Konovalov, V., Maisch, M., Paul, F., Rau, F., Reeh, N., Rignot, E., Rivera, A., Ruyter de Wildt, M., Scambos, T., Schaper, J., Scharfen, G., Shroder, J., Solomina, O., Thompson, D., Van der Veen, K., Wohlleben, T. and Young, N.  2000.  New eyes in the sky measure glaciers and ice sheets.  EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 81: 265, 270-271.

Copyright © 2003.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 

============
(6) GLACIER MASS BALANCE TRENDS: UP OR DOWN?

CO2 Science Magazine, June 2002
http://www.co2science.org/journal/2002/v5n23c1.htm

Reference
Braithwaite, R.J. 2002. Glacier mass balance: the first 50 years of international monitoring.  Progress in Physical Geography 26: 76-95.

What was done
The author reviewed and analyzed mass balance measurements of 246 glaciers from around the world that were made between 1946 and 1995.

What was learned
Braithwaite's analysis reveals "there are several regions with highly negative mass balances in agreement with a public perception of 'the glaciers are melting,' but there are also regions with positive balances." Within Europe, for example, he notes that "Alpine glaciers are generally shrinking, Scandinavian glaciers are growing, and glaciers in the Caucasus are close to equilibrium for 1980-95." And when results for the whole world are combined for this most recent period of time, Braithwaite notes "there is no obvious common or global trend of increasing glacier melt in recent years."

What it means
"From the results of modeling," Braithwaite writes, "it seems almost certain that higher air temperatures, if they occur, will lead to increasingly negative mass balances." In terms of a global glacier mass balance trend over the period 1980-95, however, none is apparent. Hence, one is left to wonder whether (a) the modeling results are wrong, (b) there has been no global warming over the last two decades of the 20th century, or (c) a and b are both correct.

Copyright © 2003.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 

=============
(7) THE ICE OF KILIMANJARO

www.john-daly.com, 28 November 2003

Not to be confused with the `snows' of Kilimanjaro (which still come and go with the weather), the ice is actually an ice cap on top of the 5,900 metre mountain in northern Tanzania close to the Equator. That ice cap has been steadily melting away all through the 20th century and is expected to be fully melted away within the next 20 years.

Why has it been melting so relentlessly? The greenhouse industry say `global warming', but then they would say that wouldn't they?  The only problem with that knee-jerk  explanation is that there has been no measurable atmospheric warming in the region of Kilimanjaro. Satellites have been measuring temperature since 1979 in the free troposphere between 1,000 and 8,000 metres altitude, and they show no tropospheric warming in that area. None.

Kilimanjaro is above most of the weather and is thus exposed to the equatorial sun, a sun which has been hotter during the 20th century than at any time since the medieval period. That would be a sufficient explanation in itself for the depletion of the ice cap.  Earlier Kilimanjaro story here

However, a new finding just recently published by Nature, ("African Ice Under Wraps" - 24 Nov 03) points to de-forestation on the slopes of Kilimanjaro as being the main culprit.  With forests present, the natural updraft from the slopes carries moist air to the summit and helps reinforce and sustain the ice cap. Without those forests, the updrafts are dry and fail to replenish the ravages of the sun on the summit ice cap.  That too is a sufficient explanation. What happens on Kilimanjaro will also be happening on countless mountains all over the world where forests on lower slopes have been replaced by open pasture.

Blaming it all on `global warming' was just too glib and convenient for an industry desperate to convince a skeptical public that the end of the world was nigh. With a more down-to-earth cause like this identified, other `global-warming-did-it' phenomena should be looked at again for simple local causes like this. 

==============
(8) AFRICAN ICE UNDER WRAPS

Nature, 24 November 2003
http://www.nature.com/nsu/031117/031117-8.html

BETSY MASON

The celebrated ice cap on Africa's loftiest peak could vanish within 20 years, taking with it a unique scientific resource. Now a Zimbabwean scientist believes that the ice can be saved - by covering it with a giant tarpaulin.

Tanzania's ice-crowned Mount Kilimanjaro is not only a top tourist attraction and a national symbol. Its frozen cap, gradually deposited over millennia, also records the history of East Africa's climate.

"If it goes, we'll lose some really precious information about the climate of the recent past," says climatologist and Zimbabwe native, Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway University of London.

An expedition to Kilimanjaro in 2000 found just 2.2 square kilometres of ice on the summit - 80% less than covered it in 1912.1 The peak will be bare rock by 2020 if the ice continues to disappear at this rate, says expedition leader Lonnie Thompson, a geologist at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Thompson's team collected ice cores that preserve an archive of African climate over the past 11,700 years - the only record of its kind.

Although it's tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests' humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.

Quick fix

Reforestation is the best long-term solution, but trees won't grow fast enough to save the ice, argues Nisbet. A temporary band-aid is needed. "The most obvious and simple solution would be to hang a white drape over it to reflect sunlight and reduce wind," he says.

A white, synthetic drape hung over the 30-metre cliff-like edges of the ice sheet, where most of the evaporation is occurring, might just do the trick, Nisbet says.

But other scientists are sceptical. "This is probably not something that would buy us much time," says Thompson. "My feeling is that the glaciers will be lost no matter what we do. Nature is a huge force and it's very hard to stop once it's in motion."

"It's feasible that we could bring about the glacier's demise even more quickly," warns climatologist Doug Hardy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Although the tarpaulin would reflect most of Sun's energy away from the ice, warmth would penetrate it and be trapped inside. The cover could then act as a blanket, speeding up the melting.

With an estimated 50-100 tonnes of tarpaulin needed to cover the ice's edges, not to mention the effort required to place it on the mountain, the resources might be better spent on collecting more ice cores, Hardy says.

But there is more at stake for impoverished Tanzania and Africa than just a record of climate, says Nisbet. "The ice of Kilimanjaro is an icon for all of Africa," he says. "Tanzania has tried very hard to protect its natural assets, and it deserves a bit of help if something can be done."
 
References
Thompson, L. G. et al. Kilimanjaro ice core records: evidence of Holocene climate change in tropical Africa. Science, 298, 589 - 593, (2002). |Link|
 
© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2003

================
(9) ADAPTATION, NOT KYOTO, IS THE SOLUTION TO GLOBAL WARMING

Environmental News Network, 28 November 2003
http://www.enn.com/direct/display-release.asp?objid=D1D1366D000000F91CC5C124F47E2ACE

From International Policy Network
Thursday, November 27, 2003

Embargoed for 00:01, Monday, 1 December 2003
Contact: Damian Nixon, +4420 7231 2132

Climate change is considered a major environmental issue. Conventional wisdom suggests that it will be devastating for the environment and humanity, and that 'climate control', through agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, is the only way to address it.

But a new book, Adapt or Die: The Science, Politics and Economics of Climate Change**, challenges the view that climate change will be catastrophic, and that "climate control" is necessary.

13 expert contributors argue that policymakers should focus on strategies to enhance society's ability to adapt to climate change. As world leaders gather for the COP-9 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Milan, Italy (1-12 December, 2003), Adapt or Die proposes constructive alternatives to climate control which would enable humanity to cope with negative impacts of climate change without excessive costs.

"Attempts to control the climate through restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions would have little effect on the earth's climate, but would harm our ability to adapt to climate change by slowing economic growth and diverting resources into inappropriate uses," says the book's editor, Kendra Okonski, Director of the Sustainable Development Project at International Policy Network, a London-based NGO.

"To deal with climate change, we should adopt policies that promote human wellbeing both today and in the future," explains Okonski. "We could do this today by eliminating disease and poverty, developing new technologies, and reducing humanity's vulnerability to climate change. In contrast, the Kyoto Protocol requires huge expenditures today for negligible benefits in the far future."

Under the Kyoto Protocol, parties would restrict emissions of carbon dioxide in the hope that this might mitigate global warming. Yet it is increasingly clear that Kyoto has costs with no benefits, and it is unlikely ever to come into force. Signatories are therefore searching for alternatives that will achieve the goals of the UNFCCC, without burdening the world with unnecessary costs.

The book's 13 experts include, amongst others, Dr. Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University (UK), Dr. Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institut (France), and Julian Morris, Visiting Professor at the University of Buckingham. They tackle the science, politics and economics of global warming, showing that:

The Kyoto Protocol and other attempts at climate control will not achieve the desired end of mitigating climate change or preventing negative consequences from global warming.

The victims of such policies would be European consumers and taxpayers, and people in poor countries.

Such policies are extremely expensive, and the desired ends could be achieved in a more just and cost effective manner.

To reduce the effects of global warming for people everywhere, we should focus on reducing vulnerability to climate change today. This means eliminating disease and poverty, enhancing access to existing and new technologies, and improving infrastructure.

Adaptation to climate change is fostered by policies that promote certainty, flexibility, and decentralised responsibility.

The benefits of an adaptation strategy for climate change would spill over to other, as yet unknown future problems that will be encountered by humanity.

**Adapt or Die: The science, politics and economics of climate change
Edited by Kendra Okonski
Published by Profile Books, London
December 2003
ISBN 1 86197 795-6
£ 14.99
To be launched on Monday, 1 December, 2003 in London

For more information, contact:
Damian Nixon
Assistant Media Director
International Policy Network
damian@policynetwork.net

============
(10) EUROPE'S REVOLTING DILEMMA: ALLEVIATING HUNGER AND GM TECHNOLOGY

Nutra Ingrediants, 27 November 2003
http://www.nutraingredients.com/news/news-NG.asp?id=47998
 
- 27/11/2003 - Hunger is on the rise again after falling steadily during the first half of the 1990s, warns the UN's annual hunger report released on Wednesday. In the same week, a Danish task force asserts that organisations are falling short in their responsibility to developing countries if they fail to adopt a position with regards to genetically modified crops and their use in these countries. Which begs the question - what must the western world do next?

Published by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the report estimates that 842 million people went hungry from 1999-2001. A figure which makes a farce of the World Food Summit goal of reducing the number of undernourished people by half by 2015.

A timely coincidence, the Danish report published after a year-long assessment of the pros and cons of using GM crops to fight poverty and hunger in the third world, throws up an ongoing moral dilemma. Can the west export foodstuffs and encourage the farming of GM crops that its own people are refusing to consume on safety grounds? According to the Danish interdisciplinary force, yes.

'Development aid organisations face the challenge of preparing poor developing nations for the coming and proper handling of genetically modified crops - regardless of whether the organisations recommend introducing such crops or not,' write the authors of the report.

Taking a forthright stance, the task force is urging all development aid organisations to assist developing countries in the task of building up the proper institutional capacity to make their own assessments of genetically modified crops.

Strategies to make this possible, write the authors, include the establishment of relevant public institutions and organisations responsible for everything from legislation to assessment of technology and management of environmental problems, as well as ensuring the ability to enforce laws and regulations related to the handling of genetically modified crops.

Also a necessity, cite the authors, 'ensuring support for research into genetically modified crops in the developing countries to a far larger extent than is currently the case, for example using participatory/participant-oriented research methods, strategic research partnerships and twinning arrangements across national frontiers and across organisations in both industrialised and developing countries'.

As Europe stands on the brink of tighter rules governing genetically modified foods, largely created to placate the suspicious, and increasingly obese, European consumer, nearly 850 million people are hungry. The voice of the Danish task force echoes a belief that, although present elsewhere today in Europe, has perhaps never reverberated hard enough. By all accounts, we should start listening.

=========== LETTERS ==========

(11) TURNING THANKSGIVING INTO OIL

Rick Lanser <rickl@enter.net>

Dear Benny,

I appreciate much of the common-sense, politically-incorrect material you
share with us on CCNet. One of these was the David Deming article, REALITY
CHECK: ARE WE REALLY RUNNING OUT OF OIL? My only complain is that the
closing section, headed "Additional Petroleum Resources", was all too
brief. It brought to mind an article I had in my archives, which I thought
I'd share with you. (The web article is more complete than what I quote
below, and includes pictures.)

Giving thanks in the USA,

Rick Lanser

**************

DISCOVER Vol. 24 No. 05 | May 2003
http://www.discover.com/issues/may-03/features/featoil/

Anything Into Oil
Technological savvy could turn 600 million tons of turkey guts and other
waste into 4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year
By Brad Lemley
Photography by Tony Law
DISCOVER Vol. 24 No. 05 | May 2003

In an industrial park in Philadelphia sits a new machine that can change
almost anything into oil.

Really.

"This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind," says
Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, the company
that built this pilot plant and has just completed its first
industrial-size installation in Missouri. "This process can deal with the
world's waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can
slow down global warming."

Pardon me, says a reporter, shivering in the frigid dawn, but that sounds
too good to be true.

"Everybody says that," says Appel. He is a tall, affable entrepreneur who
has assembled a team of scientists, former government leaders, and
deep-pocketed investors to develop and sell what he calls the thermal
depolymerization process, or TDP. The process is designed to handle almost
any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic
bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks,
paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even
biological weapons such as anthrax spores. According to Appel, waste goes
in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and
environmentally benign: high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, and purified
minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers, or specialty chemicals for
manufacturing.

FULL ARTICLE at http://www.discover.com/issues/may-03/features/featoil/

========
(12) ISS HIT/NOT HIT

Marco Langbroek <meteorites@dmsweb.org>

Hello Benny,

The BBC website (same newsitem link as in CCNet) now reports that the ISS
was apparently not hit, but that the sound heard probably was from onboard
equipment.

- Marco

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3242712.stm

The International Space Station was not hit by an object in orbit, say
Russian space officials.

American Michael Foale and Russian Alexander Kaleri reported hearing a
metallic crushing sound, apparently from an unoccupied part of the station.

Russian space officials said there appeared to be no damage to the outside
of the craft or change in air pressure inside, and that the two men were
safe.

They have now confirmed that the noise came from an onboard instrument.

Thanksgiving

Michael Foale, the station's commander, and Alexander Kaleri said they heard
the sound as they were completing their breakfast and cleanup period.

No outside damage was found and, following an investigation, it was
concluded that the sound came from equipment inside the space station.

------
Dr Marco Langbroek
Leiden, the Netherlands
52.15896 N, 4.48884 E (WGS 84)

meteorites@dmsweb.org
http://home.wanadoo.nl/marco.langbroek
------

=============
(13) AND FINALLY: HOW MAGIC MUSHROOMS COULD SOLVE THE WORLD'S GREENHOUSE GAS PROBLEMS

Canadian Business Magazine, December 2003
http://www.canadianbusiness.com/commentary/article.jsp;jsessionid=KAPOCAKMCGIJ?content=20031208_57284_57284
 
Forget about those exotic hydrogen fuel-cell cars, and those hybrid engine systems, as well. An Ottawa-based biotech company, Iogen Corp., thinks it has found the answer to the world's greenhouse-gas problems: a fungus once known for its ability to rot U.S. army tents.

That may seem bizarre, but Iogen is just one of a growing army touting ethanol in gas tanks as the answer for meeting emission reductions under the Kyoto Accord. Right now, most ethanol is made pretty much the way Hiram Walker made booze: producers start with a grain, usually corn, then ferment and distil it. Iogen, however, says it has found a way to turn agricultural waste such as wheat straw into fuel. There are some details still to be worked out. But technological bugs may be only the beginning of Iogen's struggle.

Ethanol in the gas tank is hardly a radical idea. It's long been added in small amounts to gasoline to act as, among other things, an antifreeze. Newer cars can burn a mixture of gasoline that contains up to 10% ethanol. What the fuel's advocates dream of, however, is a world where that ethanol level is bumped up to 85%. But its clean-burning properties are offset to a considerable extent by all the oil that's consumed to plant corn, make the fertilizer, and then to harvest and haul the crop around. Rather than transforming oil into crops that are transformed into fuel, Iogen's system starts with stuff like wheat straw that has been burned or plowed under. Using an enzyme derived from the fungus that ate the army's tents during the Second World War, Iogen breaks out the sugars in the straw that can be fermented and distilled into ethanol. Iogen says the reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions with their ethanol is about 90%, compared to 30% for the conventional product.

If its technology is successfully commercialized, Iogen will sell ethanol makers the enzymes to run their plants. Although Iogen has only a small demonstration facility, it has some big backing. Shell Chemicals Canada has invested US$29 million in the company, and the feds have supplied some R&D cash.

The catch in all this is ethanol's other agenda. Provinces funding the construction of ethanol plants, such as Saskatchewan, promote them as new markets for grain farmers. From a grower's perspective, of course, there's a difference between selling whole grain and getting some pin money for the stuff you now leave in the field. Even at the federal level, the Department of Agriculture has been as prominent as Natural Resources in promoting ethanol. In the 1970s, Iogen tried to push wood chips as an energy source. But as the energy crisis abated, so did that idea. Once again, it's likely to be politics, not technology or environmental arguments, that decide Iogen's fate in the energy business.

Copyright 2003, Canadian Business Magazine

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