PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 116/2003 - 4 December 2003
A BLAST FROM HEAVEN? MAJOR IMPACT DISASTER 500 YEARS AGO?
---------------------------------------------------------


What may be a geologic smoking gun has now turned up in 1,000 feet of water
just south of New Zealand. Columbia University geologist Dallas Abbott has
found what appears to be an impact crater 13 miles across, implying that
something enormous, maybe half a mile wide, smashed into the crust there.
If further research confirms that the circular depression is a recent
crater, it would lend dramatic ammunition to Bryant's controversial
scenario: Five hundred years ago or so, as Europe was beginning its
colonial explorations, a comet or perhaps an asteroid plunged to Earth
seaward of Australia's New South Wales coast. 
    --Charles W. Petit, USNews.com, 8 December 2003


A former NASA chief historian said Tuesday that research colonies could be set
up on the moon in about 30 years, and the facilities also would allow scientists
to monitor asteroids and meteors that could devastate Earth. Roger Launius, who
now serves as a historian for the National Air and Space Museum, said the events
portrayed in the movie "Armageddon" are not that far-fetched. "Somewhere out there
is an asteroid or a meteor with our name on it. It does exist."
      --Brian College Eagle, 3 December 2003


Are we actually any safer today as a result of the Spaceguard Survey?
I believe we are. Each NEA that is discovered represents one fewer
unknown object out there that can hit the Earth. In 2008, when we
will have discovered 90% of the NEAs large than 1 km, we will have
reduced the risk by about the same percentage. These stories are not
reported in the media, but they represent the real accomplishment of
the Spaceguard Survey.
    --David Morrison, Mercury, December 2003


(1) A BLAST FROM HEAVEN? MAJOR IMPACT DISASTER 500 YEARS AGO?
    USNews.com, 8 December 2003

(2) SMALL NEAR-EARTH ASTEROIDS POSE MORE IMMINENT THREAT
    USA Today, 2 December 2003

(3) LUNAR RESEARCH COLONIES SHOULD MONITOR NEAR EARTH OBJECTS
    Brian College Eagle, 3 december 2003

(4) OPINION: ARE ASTRONOMERS CRYING WOLF?
    David Morrison

(5) SOLAR ACTIVITY REACHES NEW HIGH: MAY HAVE EFFECTED TERRESTRIAL CLIMATE
    PhysicsWeb, 2 December 2003

(6) WILL U.S. PRESIDENT BUSH ANNOUNCE PERMANENT MOON BASE?
    National Review Online, 3 December 2003

(7) ANNUAL PLANETARY PROTECTION ACTIVITY SUMMARY
    Andy Smith <astrosafe22000@yahoo.com>

(8) BAJO HONDO: A POTENTIAL GIANT METEORITE IMPACT CRATER IN CHUBUT, PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA.
    Max Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

(9) REPEATED BLOWS: THE GREAT DYING
    Michael Paine <mpaine@tpg.com.au>

(10) AND FINALLY: KYOTO BAZAAR: BRIBES NOT GOOD ENOUGH. WE WANT BILLIONS, RUSSIA TELLS EUROPE
     Space Daily, 3 December 2003


==============
(1) A BLAST FROM HEAVEN? MAJOR IMPACT DISASTER 500 YEARS AGO?

USNews.com, 8 December 2003
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/031208/misc/8meteor.htm

By Charles W. Petit

In 1989, Edward Bryant climbed a point on the southeast coast of his
native Australia with a colleague and found an odd jumble of boulders
well above the surf. A big wave, he thought, maybe a tsunami from an
earthquake, must have tossed them up there. Over the next few years,
however, the University of Wollongong geologist explored hundreds of
miles of coast and found more signs of wave action, hundreds of feet
above the water--too high for any quake-spawned surge.

An astonishing hypothesis of devastation from outer space formed in his
mind. It gathered some praise, along with many ferocious brickbats from
doubting colleagues. But what may be a geologic smoking gun has now
turned up in 1,000 feet of water just south of New Zealand. Columbia
University geologist Dallas Abbott has found what appears to be an
impact crater 13 miles across, implying that something enormous, maybe
half a mile wide, smashed into the crust there.

If further research confirms that the circular depression is a recent
crater, it would lend dramatic ammunition to Bryant's controversial
scenario: Five hundred years ago or so, as Europe was beginning its
colonial explorations, a comet or perhaps an asteroid plunged to Earth
seaward of Australia's New South Wales coast. It would have sent
mega-tsunamis ripping into nearby islands and Australia, where Bryant
has found not just rocks but trees and beach sand hurled far up bluffs
and cliffs, along with whirlpool-carved cavities as much as 150 feet
across--testimony, he says, to the sea's onslaught. At one place, Jervis
Bay, waves apparently surmounted a headland 420 feet high. "Only a
bolide could do this," says Bryant, using a technical term for a
sky-bursting cosmic missile. Geologists know such things can happen--a
much bigger impact is believed to have ended the reign of the
dinosaurs--but no such catastrophe is known in recorded history.

People would notice something like that. Sure enough, Bryant found
recorded tales from Australian aborigines and New Zealand's Maori people
recounting how, not long before the arrival of Europeans, the sky heaved
and split, stars fell, and immense floods swept the land. Aborigine
tales told of a huge, disintegrating ball of blue fire shooting
overhead. Around 1500, Maori people on New Zealand's South Island
abandoned the seashore and moved inland. Huge impact-generated waves,
Bryant thinks, may have destroyed not only their villages but also beds
of shellfish that provided food. "It all added up," he says. "Something
big hit the Earth, near here."

In 2001, he published a textbook, Tsunami--The Underrated Hazard,
including his circumstantial tale of a missile from space. Some
colleagues liked his daring conjecture. "It's a big idea, and it
deserves attention," says Victor Baker, a planetary sciences professor
at the University of Arizona who has visited Bryant's tsunami sites and
believes the signs of gargantuan waves are legitimate. Something has to
account for them, he says, "whether or not it is an object into the
sea." Others are deeply skeptical of Bryant's evidence and impact scenario.

New Zealand geologist James Goff, a former government researcher,
calls Bryant a usually excellent scientist who has "gotten religion" on
mega-tsunamis. In a paper just out in the Journal of the Royal Society
of New Zealand, he rips Bryant's thesis apart. Goff for years has honed
the idea that tsunamis did indeed sweep much of his island nation around
1500, driving the Maori inland. But he says the waves were of the more
ordinary sort that earthquakes generate, a few tens of feet high at
most, not what he calls Bryant's "mega-tsunami from hell." He says
Bryant has joined events that may have happened centuries apart and
mistranslated Maori place names to stress a link with fire and celestial
destruction--taking the Maori syllable Ka to mean fire, for example,
when Goff says fever is a better meaning.

But Goff wrote his critique before last month's Geological Society of
America meeting in Seattle, where Abbott reported her discovery. Early
this year, intrigued by Bryant's book, she had pored over topographic
maps of the seafloor in the region and found an apparent impact scar on
the edge of the continental shelf just south of New Zealand.

When Abbott checked samples that oceanographic expeditions had scooped
from the area, she found shattered minerals typical of meteor impacts. A
field of tektites--globules of rock that melted and cooled in
midair--spreads to the southeast of the crater just as it should from a
impacter striking at a low angle from the northwest, the direction
Bryant infers from the Australian tales. The crater, which Abbott calls
Mahuika after a Maori fire deity, lies in a spot that would send waves
against Australia at just the angle Bryant had already calculated. "It's
young, almost surely less than a thousand years," she says, judging from
the near absence of the sediment that normally builds up on the ocean floor.

"This is pretty exciting if the story holds up," says Steven Ward, a
geophysicist at the University of California-Santa Cruz, who has a keen
interest in comet and asteroid impacts. Goff agrees, but with neither a
firm date for the crater nor sure evidence that cataclysmic waves hit
New Zealand at the same time as it was formed, "the jury is still out,"
he says. Abbott hopes to settle the issue by gathering and dating
samples of debris. An impact would have scattered material for hundreds
of miles, creating a distinctive layer in the New Zealand soil, says Ward.

But even if a giant rock did plunge into the sea 500 years ago, it may
not be enough to explain Bryant's catalog of devastation. Ward
calculated that an object that leaves a 13-mile-wide crater off New
Zealand might send waves washing 100 feet up the Australian coast 1,000
miles away, but not a cliff-scaling 400 feet. Bryant, however, has no
doubts. "I don't like to believe it, but we had something mighty big hit
out there."

Copyright © 2003 U.S. News & World Report, L.P.

===========
(2) SMALL NEAR-EARTH ASTEROIDS POSE MORE IMMINENT THREAT

USA Today, 2 December 2003
http://www.usatoday.com/news/science/2003-12-02-asteroids-usat_x.htm

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Bad things can come in little packages, astronomers warn. So after a decade of searching for massive asteroids, they are turning to the threat posed by smaller, more common space rocks closer to Earth.

Most worries about impacts from space have centered on objects more than half a mile across. They are thought to smack into Earth every few million years, some with such force they trigger mass extinctions like the one that ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But a recently released NASA "Near-Earth Object Search" report scheduled for discussion at the American Geophysical Union meeting next week calls for better observation of smaller asteroids.
These rocks wouldn't trigger the global devastation of their larger brethren, but their impacts could still cause massive local damage, chiefly from tidal waves.

Because asteroids about one-twelfth of a mile across hit about once every 1,000 years, they are a more imminent threat than giant impacts, the report warns. It was written by a team of scientists headed by space-surveillance expert Grant Stokes of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory.

Asteroids come and go by Earth. In August, one nearly three-quarters of a mile wide named QQ47 received considerable media attention because of reports that it might hit Earth in 2014. But like many asteroid scares in recent years, astronomers quickly dismissed any impact possibility after more observation.

But sometimes impacts happen. Most recently, an asteroid perhaps 200 feet wide blasted the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908, flattening almost 800 square miles of forest.
Five years ago, NASA began looking for larger asteroids and comets, hoping to detect 90% of them by 2009. About 60% of the estimated 1,200 large objects traveling near Earth have already been discovered.

Among smaller asteroids nearby, perhaps half a million are "potentially hazardous," the report says. It suggests:

* Tidal wave deaths from an ocean impact would be lower than past predictions, a few hundred people perhaps, because evacuations should lessen the risk.
* Searches for small comets should be bypassed, because they represent only 1% of the impact risk.
* A seven- to 20-year search for nearby small asteroids that pose about 90% of the impact risk would cost under $400 million.

A mixture of ground telescopes and space probes would fit the criteria for the search recommended by the report. A satellite trailing near Venus to watch for sun-grazing asteroids combined with ground-based telescopes offers a quicker, but slightly more expensive, approach than relying on an Earth-orbiting telescope for asteroid warnings.

Copyright 2003, USA Today

===========
(3) LUNAR RESEARCH COLONIES SHOULD MONITOR NEAR EARTH OBJECTS

Brian College Eagle, 3 december 2003
http://www.theeagle.com/aandmnews/120303nasahistorian.htm

By CHRISTOPHER FERRELL
Eagle Staff Writer

A former NASA chief historian said Tuesday that research colonies could be set up on the moon in about 30 years, and the facilities also would allow scientists to monitor asteroids and meteors that could devastate Earth.

Roger Launius, who now serves as a historian for the National Air and Space Museum, said the events portrayed in the movie "Armageddon" are not that far-fetched.

"Somewhere out there is an asteroid or a meteor with our name on it," said Launius, who was the featured speaker at the Texas A&M University Distinguished Lecture Series. "It does exist."

He said the best place to look into space for giant projectiles would be from the moon, which does not have the light or atmospheric conditions that hamper telescopes on Earth. Launius also said a day will come when nuclear weapons will be stored on the lunar surface to try and destroy any incoming projectiles big enough to destroy entire cities or even species.

Such a projectile is what many scientists now believe killed the dinosaurs, he said.

The historian said he would like to see NASA make a return to the moon. The moon could one day resemble Antarctica, he said, with different countries coming together to do research there.

And, Launius said, if the human race is to expand its presence in the solar system, the moon would be the best testing ground for the equipment that would be needed. It would take astronauts about three days to reach the moon from Earth but months or years to land on other planets.

FULL ARTICLE at http://www.theeagle.com/aandmnews/120303nasahistorian.htm

================
(4) OPINION: ARE ASTRONOMERS CRYING WOLF?

Mercury, November-December 2003, pg 15

By generating scary headlines, NEO searches have become a victim of their own success.

by David Morrison

Asteroid on Impact Trajectory with Earth! Astronomers Issue Warning!
Space Rock Discovered Two Days after Passing Earth! Headlines like
these appear every few months. Usually the scare is withdrawn within
a day or two, although the media don't always report the revised
orbits. What is happening here? Has the asteroid impact danger
increased?

The primary reason for these media flaps is that the Spaceguard
Survey is discovering many more asteroids that come close to the
Earth. These asteroids have always been there, but previously they
passed by unseen. The increased number of "near misses" is evidence
of the success of Spaceguard, which has already found more than 60%
of the near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) larger than 1 km in diameter --
that is, large enough to threaten global environmental damage if they
hit.

The second reason for the headlines is that astronomers are posting
their orbital computations on the Internet. Both the JPL Sentry
system and the NEODys system at the University of Pisa update all
asteroid orbits daily, and the results are there for anyone
(including a reporter on a slow news day) to see. You can see these
results and much additional asteroid information at
<neo.jpl.nasa.gov>

One of the most recent examples was NEA 2003 QQ47, found by the MIT
LINEAR telescopes on August 24. As is the case with many newly
discovered NEAs, the initial orbit was highly uncertain and included
several low-probability cases of possible future impacts. At one
point, with only 6 days of observations reported, the formal odds of
an impact in 2014 briefly rose slightly above one-in-a-million, and
then went virtually to zero as more data were reported.

This is standard operating procedure for dealing with newly
discovered NEAs. In this case, however, the government-supported UK
NEO Information Center decided this asteroid deserved special
attention, and on September 2 they issued a press release. The story
was widely reported as an actual impact threat, especially in the UK.
When the inevitable refinement of the orbit came as new observations
were made, some in the press accused the astronomers of crying wolf.

QQ47 is only the most recent example of such misunderstandings. The
first modern impact scare was associated with asteroid 1997 XF1. In
March 1998, Brian Marsden, Director of the Minor Planet Center at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, posted a Press
Information Sheet in which he stated that "the chance of an actual
collision is small, but it is not entirely out of the question". The
story of this "prediction" appeared worldwide. Within a few hours
more careful orbital calculations showed that the odds of hitting
were extremely small, and when new observations became available a
day later, the chances of impact went to zero. For many in the media,
it seemed that astronomers had screwed up.

The XF11 episode demonstrated the need for both rapid calculation of
impact odds and better coordination among scientists before they 'go
public'. Astronomers reacted by bringing in the NEO Working Group of
the International Astronomical Union for coordination, and in 1999 we
adopted the Torino Scale for communicating the impact risk to the
public (see <impact.arc.nasa.gov>. The Torino Scale uses a
color-coded set of warnings that reflect both the probability of
impact and the size of the impactor. While it has helped in
communications, the scale suffers from the fact that only the lowest
level warnings (scale values of 0 or 1) have been exercised. Impacts
are so rare that there have been no serious warnings and indeed none
are expected, unlike the Richter Earthquake Scale, which is used more
often.

Other asteroids that made the headlines were 1999 AN10, 2000 SG344,
2002 MN, and 2002 NT7. Each of these is described in the News Archive
section of the NASA Impact Hazard website <impact.arc.nasa.gov>. No
two situations were alike, but each led to scare headlines. This
recurrent problem has led some astronomers to suggest that we should
not post preliminary orbits on public websites. However, this
information is needed by others (including many dedicated amateurs)
who make follow-up observations of the most interesting NEAs. In
addition, most of us feel that withholding information would subject
us to even greater criticism from the media and the public. The
impact hazard is real, and many people mistrust governments and
scientists to deal with such information. The best policy is
openness, together with an effort to educate the media and the public
as to what a "one-in-a-million" chance of impact really means.

Are we actually any safer today as a result of the Spaceguard Survey?
I believe we are. Each NEA that is discovered represents one fewer
unknown object out there that can hit the Earth. In 2008, when we
will have discovered 90% of the NEAs large than 1 km, we will have
reduced the risk by about the same percentage. These stories are not
reported in the media, but they represent the real accomplishment of
the Spaceguard Survey.

--
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
NEO News is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with
Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the
responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the
positions of NASA, the International Astronomical Union, or any other
organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact
dmorrison@arc.nasa.gov. For additional information, please see the
website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. If anyone wishes to copy or
redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part,
please include this disclaimer.

===========
(5) SOLAR ACTIVITY REACHES NEW HIGH: MAY HAVE EFFECTED TERRESTRIAL CLIMATE

PhysicsWeb, 2 December 2003
http://physicsweb.org/article/news/7/12/2

Geophysicists in Finland and Germany have calculated that the Sun is more magnetically active now than it has been for over a 1000 years. Ilya Usoskin and colleagues at the University of Oulu and the Max-Planck Institute for Aeronomy say that their technique - which relies on a radioactive dating technique - is the first direct quantitative reconstruction of solar activity based on physical, rather than statistical, models (I G Usoskin et al. 2003 Phys. Rev. Lett. 91 211101)
Sunspots are produced by magnetic activity inside the Sun. The more active the Sun is, the more spots are produced. Observations of sunspots began in 1610 - soon after the telescope was invented - and no other directly obtained data exists from before this time.

Now, Usoskin and co-workers have used the concentration of beryllium-10 in polar ice as a proxy for historic levels of solar activity. Beryllium-10 is produced when cosmic rays interact with particles in the Earth's atmosphere. The radioisotope then falls to the ground where it is stored in layers of ice. The Sun's magnetic field can deflect cosmic rays away from the Earth, so a stronger field should lead to less beryllium-10 being produced, and vice versa.

Using modelling techniques, the Finnish team was able to extend data on solar activity back to 850 AD. The researchers found that there has been a sharp increase in the number of sunspots since the beginning of the 20th century. They calculated that the average number was about 30 per year between 850 and 1900, and then increased to 60 between 1900 and 1944, and is now at its highest ever value of 76.

"We need to understand this unprecedented level of activity," Usoskin told PhysicsWeb. "Is it is a rare event that happens once a millennium - which means that the Sun will return to normal - or is it a new dynamic state that will keep solar activity levels high?" The Finnish-German team also speculates that increased solar activity may be having an effect on the Earth's climate, but more work is needed to clarify this.

Author
Belle Dumé is Science Writer at PhysicsWeb

==========
(6) WILL U.S. PRESIDENT BUSH ANNOUNCE PERMANENT MOON BASE?

National Review Online, 3 December 2003
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/powell200312030858.asp

By Dennis E. Powell

When President Bush delivers a speech recognizing the centenary of heavier-than-air-powered flight December 17, it is expected that he will proffer a bold vision of renewed space flight, with at its center a return to the moon, perhaps even establishment of a permanent presence there. If he does, it will mean that he has decided the United States should once again become a space-faring nation. For more than 30 years America's manned space program has limited itself to low Earth orbit; indeed, everyone under the age of 31 - more than 125 million Americans - was born since an American last set foot on the moon.

The speech will come at a time when events are converging to force some important decisions about the future of American efforts in space. China has put a man in orbit, plans a launch of three Sinonauts together, and has announced its own lunar program. The space shuttle is grounded, and its smaller sibling, the "orbital space plane," may not be built. The International Space Station, behind schedule, over budget, and of limited utility, has been scaled back post-Columbia.

The content of the speech does not appear to be in doubt; the only question is timing.

FULL ARTICLE at http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/powell200312030858.asp

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

(7) ANNUAL PLANETARY PROTECTION ACTIVITY SUMMARY

Andy Smith <astrosafe22000@yahoo.com>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

We are preparing our annual activity summary and this is an early draft input to you all.
We highly value the quality of this network and want to do all we can to advance it.

Asteroid/Comet Impact Early-Warning(EW)

Thanks to the many dedicated folks at the asteroid telescope facilities, we should again pass
the 400 NEO mark, this year. With about a month to go, we estimate about 420 new discoveries,
for the year. This is a remarkable increase...of about two orders-of-magnitude...in a little
over a decade.

We increased this rate by one order-of-magnitude (from single to double digits), at the start
of the last decade(1990's)....thanks to Tom Gehrels and the SPACEWATCH Program (Tucson, Arizona).
We made the next big jump in 1998...thanks largely to the Air Force LINEAR Program (Socorro,
New Mexico), the AF/NASA NEAT Program (JPL/California and Hawaii), the LONEOS Program (Lowell
Observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona), the CATALINA Program (Tucson)and many other institutional
and individual telescopes, which helped with discovery and with confirmation.

LINEAR(LI) found about 51% of the new total (now at 375), NEAT(N) found 18% and SPACEWATCH(S)
and LONEOS(LO) found about 13%, each. These four outstanding teams found 95% of the catch
.....CONGRATULATIONS and THANKS to all who helped.

About 80% of the new NEO were smaller than a kilometer. SPACEWATCH did an outstanding job,
in this regard....with 96% of their finds in the very numerous and dangerous (and harder to
find) sub-kilometer(SK) range. The other programs had about 80% of their discoveries in the
SK range.

The global search effort is still finding a disproportionately small number of the SK NEO,
because our telescopes and cameras have great difficulty finding the smaller objects. It is
clear that we need larger terrestrial systems and a few orbital telescopes, to assist the
existing search teams. The new designs (Pan-STARRS, LSST, GAIA, etc.), which are now being
developed, promise to improve this situation. Perhaps some of this technology will be on-line
within the next 5 years.

With the planned improvements, we should be able to approach our(IPPA) goal of 10,000 NEO
per year (almost another two orders of magnitude increase). At that global discovery rate,
we should be able to complete most of the critical inventory within about a decade....and
to reduce our major impact risk, tremendously. Without these improvements, it may take well
over two centuries.

About 8% of the new crop was in the ATEN class and the APOLLO and AMOR objects were almost
evenly divided, in the remainder.

In addition to an effective global search capability, we need a 24/7 (all hours and all
days) emergency alarm capability and a quick-reaction deflection capability (for those
intruders that may arrive without a warning). These capabilities will also be possible, when
the new EW improvements are added.

NEO Hunting Is Difficult

The LINEAR discovery data shows how difficult it is to find NEO. For each new NEO discovery,
there were about 7,800 observations; 1,200 asteroid sightings and 160 new minor planet
discoveries. A new comet was found for every 12 new NEO.

Data-Base Growth

Also, our very important global minor planet(MP) data-base continues to grow (exponentially)
and the Minor Planet Center is now storing data on about 21,000,000 objects. 64% of them
are numbered and about 2,500 of them are NEO (almost 8,500 MP for every NEO).

Most of these objects have been found in the last decade and the MPC capability to store
and process this data continues to be stretched. We thank Brian Marsden and the MPC staff,
the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the Smithsonian, Harvard and the others who make
this facility possible and we urge every effort to increase the MPC capability to keep-pace
with the rapid growth of the data-base. 

We also greatly appreciate the help that is being provided by allied data centers, like
the NEODyS, in Italy, and the NASA NEO Office (JPL). The SPACEGUARD Foundation, the Planetary
Society and others have also done a lot, and we thank them, as well.

Help Wanted

We continue to seek more help, in this vital hunt, from the large survey telescopes, around
the World (like the U.S. SLOAN and the U.K. NEWTON), and to encourage such new asteroid hunting
facilities as the Japanese SPACEGUARD facility and the Arizona CATALINA facility (facilities
in the U.S. and Australia) to join in or return to this vital hunt and to keep the CCNet advised
of their progress.

We are also urging other countries to join in this vital hunt and we noted, with delight,
the interest shown by our Russian colleagues (item 2, CCNet 25 Nov. 2003) in forming a
Trans-European NEO/Space Debris monitoring system (TEN). This capability may be essential, if
we are to meet the annual 10,000 NEO discovery rate goal and we wish the parties involved lots
of success. The World community has made tremendous progress, in the last few years....but we
have so much more to do to "win the race against the rocks".

In addition to the progress made by the large institutions and facilities, we are also delighted
with the progress made by Roy Tucker (Goodricke-Pigott Obs.,Tucson), in the development of
his new individual asteroid hunting system and we are looking forward to the global placing
of many of these systems, soon. The installations are not very expensive (few tens of thousands
of dollars) and we urge anyone interested to contact Roy. We also want to thank the other
dedicated private NEO astronomers, around the World, for their efforts.

Impact Prevention Progress

Progress is certainly also being made toward global NEO defense. The 2004 Planetary Defense
Conference (PDC2004) program has been finalized and is on the Web. Also, the private B612
Program, which is aimed at the development of an NEO Tug, is underway and will report at the
PDC. This new initiative represents a major step toward a priority global NEO deflection program.

DEEP IMPACT Progress

The NASA DEEP IMPACT Program is progressing toward launch in late 2004 and the impact of
Comet 9P/Tempel 1, in 2005. This mission will conduct many tests and demonstrate our capability
to deliver a deflecting payload to an NEO.

Several members of the global space technical community have now developed the launch and
spacecraft technologies needed for PD....and we are on the way to an effective emergency
response capability....all within a little more than a decade after our wake-up call, in 1989
(1989FC near-miss).We continue to urge the integration of all national capabilities into a
high-priority global preparedness program.

Communications Progress

We are grateful to Space.Com, Sky and Telescope, the Planetary Society, the AIAA, NASA and
many other internet, print, television and movie oranizations for the features they have
produced, this year, to inform and to educate the global public about the NEO dangers and
the things being done to protect the public and our environment...and we express our special
thanks to the many concerned reporters and writers who have generated those features. All
we need, now, is more governmental support.... higher priorities and modest funding increases,
from the concerned countries and from the United Nations.

Civil Emergency Preparedness

The increased awareness of the need for emergency preparedness, is helping us to raise the
global level of awarenes of NEO dangers and to raise the interest in meeting the related
preparedness needs. We feel high planning and operational priorities should be given to
emergency food supplies (family and community) and to rapid 24/7 coastal-city tsunami evacuation
planning, training and provisioning.

Super-Volcano Emergency Preparedness

We are also adding super-volcano (SV) monitoring and preparedness to our list of planetary
safety concerns...with special emphasis on the Yellowstone Complex. Each of the SV (Yellowstone
in Wyoming, Long Valley in California and the Jemez or Valle Caldera in New Mexico) is capable
of producing 1,000 cubic kilometer range explosion ejecta. This level of massive explosive
energy would be roughly equal to about a 400 meter NEO impact (Class 4 Asteroid/Comet Emergency,
on our 10-step Richter-type scale). Such an event would cause massive global climate changes
and massive starvation, that would continue for many years.

The Yellowstone activity level is of greatest concern (temperature, outgassing, seismic
and surface changes).  Increased monitoring is being reflected in considerable Web status
information...thanks to the U.S.Geological Survey and many contributing government and
university specialists.

Impact Effects Studies

This year has seen many new impact studies initiated...including the evaluations at Tunguska
and the meteorite impact studies related to recent impacts in Russia and India, etc. There
have also been new studies initiated, to find other major impact sites (P-T, etc.). We welcome
these studies and are encouraging other similar investigations......because our survival
preparedness effectiveness is directly related to our understanding of both the immediate
and long-term effects of impact.

The electromagnetic (EM) effects associated with the Vitimsky impact, in Russia, last year,
illustrate the need for additional impact data and studies. This small object (few meters wide)
seems to have caused major local EM disturbances and it clearly identified this as an important
study area. It suggested that we could have major communications difficulties, in an A/C
emergency, and that we should plan for multi-technology emergency communication systems.

As we observe Thanksgiving, in the U.S., this week, we are especially grateful for another
year of bright sunlight and freedom from a major ACE threat. We have been blessed with 14
such good years, since our 1989 wake-up call and we pray for the time we need to prepare
to prevent an impact, if we can, and to survive one, if we must. 

We again salute all who are contributing to this vital global effort.

Cheers,

Andy Smith/International Planetary Protection Alliance (IPPA)  
astrosafe22000@yahoo.com

==========
(8) BAJO HONDO: A POTENTIAL GIANT METEORITE IMPACT CRATER IN CHUBUT, PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA.

Max Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

Dear Benny:

Below you will find a report concerning a very interesting crater in Southern Argentina:
Bajo Hondo.

Regards: Max

-----------
BAJO HONDO: A POTENTIAL GIANT METEORITE IMPACT CRATER IN CHUBUT, PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA.

Maximiliano C. L. Rocca,
Mendoza 2779-16A, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, (1428DKU), maxrocca@hotmail.com).
This work was funded by The Planetary Society, CA.USA.

Argentina, in South America, has a total surface of 2,776,888 square kilometers. The
southern part of Argentina has a total surface of 786,112 square kilometers. It is
composed of five Provinces: Neuquen, Rio Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego.
As of 2003  no impact sites have been reported in this wide region. However, there should
be new examples waiting identification.

A search for potential impact sites  was performed by the author through the examination
of 76 color LANDSAT satellite images ( 1:250,000 - resolution = 250 meters) at the
Instituto Geografico Militar ( IGM ) of Buenos Aires city. The whole Southern Argentina
was inspected. When a potential candidate was found a more detailed study of the site was
done. Topographic maps were consulted. If available the radar  X-SAR satellite images of the 
Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Luft-und Raumfahrt, (DLR), Berlin, Germany , were also
examined.

In many cases aerial photographs ( 1: 60,000 - IGM ) were consulted too. The final step
was to perform a review of the available published geologic information of each site at
the Servicio Geologico y Minero Argentino (SEGEMAR), ( =Geological Survey of Argentina ),
in Buenos Aires.

BASIC DEFINITIONS
-SIMPLE CRATER: The smallest impact structure: A bowl-shaped depression less than 5 km
in diameter. One of their main characteristics is the presence of a raised rim.
-COMPLEX STRUCTURES: Large impact structures (from 5 km. up to 400 km. in diameter)
characterized by an almost perfect circular shape, a central uplifted region, a generally
flat floor, and extensive inward collapse around the rim. Erosion can alter the above
mentioned characteristics. [French, 1998]

SELECTION CRITERIA
Not all bowl-shaped depressions and circular structures are giant meteorite impact sites.
Volcanic calderas and craters may mimic them at first glance. Sinkholes and karstic low
basins are very similar too. However, a few guidelines help to avoid confusion. Volcanic
structures usually show lava flows and hardly ever have raised rims. The only exception are
Maars. Sinkholes do not have raised rims.

SOME RESULTS
A very promising candidate site was found in Chubut Province: Bajo Hondo (42º15' S - 67º 55' W).
From the beginning Bajo Hondo crater was evidently one of the most promising sites under study.
In the LANDSAT satellite images  at the scale 1:250,000 and 1:100,000 it was well visible as
a 4.8 kilometers isolated crater in a large brown basaltic plateau.

This is not the first time Bajo Hondo has been catalogued as a potential meteorite impact
crater. A previously published report about it as a potential meteorite impact was based on
the examination of radar X-SAR images ( 1: 360,000 ) from the DLR, Germany [Gorelli, 1998]

When aerial photographs of the area were obtained from the IGM( 1: 60,000) they proved this
crater was in fact very similar to Barringer's meteor crater in Arizona, USA, but of a much
more gigantic size. Bajo Hondo  has a 100 to 150 meters raised rim. This fact tells us about
an origin by explosion. Only explosion craters have raised rims. In the aerial photos there
are also visible some 50-60 meters wide boulders resting on the crater's rim. Again this is
a good proof of an explosive origin. Its proportions match perfectly those of a simple impact
crater.

Bajo Hondo is located in the Somuncura plateau, 10 km. SE to the Sierra deTalagapa stratovolcano.
The Somuncura plateau has a total surface of about 25,000 square kilometers and it is one of
the largest volcanic plateaux in Southern Argentina. It is formed by volcanic rock eruptions
that began in the Eocene and finished during the Quaternary. The first igneous episode took
part with the intrusion of basic alkaline bodies and basaltic lavas. During the Oligocene,
pyroclastic deposits covered the whole area. The pyroclastic eruptions were followed by an
extensive basalt eruption around 33- 25 Ma. In some locations trachyte lavas were erupted
previously or after the basic volcanism. During the Miocene more basic lavas were erupted.
The last occurrence of volcanism consists of basaltic volcanoes built in the Tertiary and
Quaternary in the consolidated lavic structural plateau [Ardolino and Franchi, 1993].

The Sierra de Talagapa, which is part of the Somuncura plateau, consists of a large 25x10
kilometer  stratovolcano. Surrounding a central area of trachytic rock eruptions there are
large areas covered by acid pyroclastic eruptions ( the Talagapa's ignimbrite deposits)
and basic lava floods ( Isotopic ages for this basic lavas = 20-19 Ma ). The large Talagapa
volcanic center was active during late Oligocene-early Miocene times erupting both pyroclastic
ignimbritic flows and basaltic lava flows [ Ardolino, 1987; Ardolino and Delpino, 1986 ].

Bajo Hondo has been interpreted in the past as a collapsed basaltic caldera [Ardolino, 1987;
Ardolino and Delpino, 1986].The same happened in the case of Lonar Lake, India: a 1.8
kilometers in diameter well confirmed impact crater in the Deccan Basaltic plateau,
[Fredriksson et. al., 1973 and 1979]. Close examination of satellite LANDSAT images, aerial
photographs, its published geologic map and a review of the geological characteristics of
Bajo Hondo reveals flaws in the volcanic caldera interpretation.

The lava in the surrounding plateaux was erupted from Sierra de Talagapa volcano during the
Oligocene-Miocene. The crater is located on those older lava floods. The Miocenic lavas came
first, then the crater: this is a fact.

In the color satellite images and aerial photographs there are no clear  evidences of lava flows
coming from Bajo Hondo itself.

The association of lava floods to Bajo Hondo is quite doubtful. Probably the reported ones
[Ardolino and Delpino, 1986 ] were erupted by Sierra de Talagapa and not by Bajo Hondo itself.
There are no differences in the colour, the roughness, the flux direction or the erosion degree
between the lavas erupted by Sierra de Talagapa and the lavas located all around Bajo Hondo.
The stratigraphy of the area  is also more consitent with the idea that the  lavas were erupted
from Sierra de Talagapa and not from Bajo Hondo itself.

A reported  "pyroclastic cone" located in the inner Western rim of Bajo Hondo [Ardolino and
Delpino, 1986 ] is probably just an eroded and collapsed part of that rim. This fact is very
evident in the aerial photographs. There is also good evidence of uplifted strata exposed in
the inner rims of Bajo Hondo. Uplifted Talagapa's basaltic rock strata  were probably
misinterpreted as "vertical or almost vertical basaltic dykes located in the inner rims of
Bajo Hondo"  by the volcanologists [Ardolino and Delpino, 1986]. This last fact is key to prove
a meteoritic origin for this crater. Uplifted vertical or nearly vertical strata  is a
characteristic of meteorite impact crater's rims.

Rocks exposed on Bajo Hondo's rims are clearly pyroclastic:
1) Lapilly-like basaltic breccia enclosing irregular clasts and blocks up to 3 meters
in diameter.
2) A great abundance of 13 to 7 centimeter wide brown-redish scoriaceous bombs showing
aerodynamic shapes and deformation. Its outer area is often melted to a crust of vesicular
to bubbly glass. The peculiar shape of those glass bomb bodies prove that whilst still in
a viscous state they must have flown through the air i.e. were ballisticaly transported.

The same type of  rocks are present in Lonar Lake's crater rim. They are:
1) Coarse basaltic breccia.
2) Completelly melted black basalt glass bombs.The largest pieces of glass bombs are 15 to
10 centimeters in diameter and are flattened and wrap around underlying basaltic clasts
[Fredriksson et al. , 1973 and 1979].

A 4.8 kilometers circular crater with a raised rim which shows uplifted strata, pyroclastic
and breccia rock depossits and no erupted lava flows has most of the characteristics of a
giant meteorite impact site. So, probably, Bajo Hondo is not a collapsed basaltic caldera.

Bajo Hondo could be a gigantic maar. Maars are landforms caused by volcanic explosion, and
consist of a crater, which reaches or extends below general ground level and is considerable
wider than deep, and a surrounding rim constructed of material ejected from the crater.

The explosion takes place when a tongue of lava contacts an underground water's nappa.
The force of the vapor in expansion opens the crater. Maars are usually filled with water
and form natural lakes. Usually maars come in clusters [ Ollier, 1967 ]. However, Bajo Hondo
crater is an isolated feature alone in the basaltic plateau. No other crater features are in
the area. Bajo Hondo is probably too big to be a  maar. The force of expanding water vapor has
a limit. The largest maars are about 1.5 kilometers across: Meerfelder, the largest of the
Eifel maars (Germany) is 1.4 kilometers across; and Tower Hill (S.E. Australia ) is 3 kilometers
[Ollier , 1967 ]. Comparing aerial photos of both Bajo Hondo and Tower Hill maar shows that
they are very different  both in their shape and rim's characteristics. Several volcanic cones
are visible in Tower Hill's depression. Bajo Hondo does not has any associated volcanic cone.
The hypothesis of Bajo Hondo as a maar can not be completelly rejected at the present stage
of investigation but so far it seems to be quite unlikely. If Bajo Hondo is in fact a maar
then it would be the largest maar in the World.

The author believes Bajo Hondo is in fact a misinterpreted gigantic simple-type  impact
crater located on a volcanic plateau, [Rocca, 2003]. If this crater is in fact a meteorite
impact then it would be very important and interesting as the second simple impact crater
in basalt on Earth and at the same time an extreme example of a simple-type impact crater. So
far Lonar Lake's crater in India is the only impact in basalt known in the World.

It is interesting to note again that Lonar lake crater was misinterpreted as a volcanic caldera
for many decades. [Fredriksson, 1973].The age of Bajo Hondo crater is estimated in less than
10 Ma. Further investigation of this polemic and interesting crater is in progress,
[Rocca, 2003].

REFERENCES:
-- Ardolino A. , Descripcion Geologica de la Hoja 42 f, Sie-rra de Apas, Direccion Nacional de
Mineria y Geología Boletín nº 203, 1- 91, 1987 (in Spanish )
-- Ardolino A. and Delpino D. , El Bajo Hondo: Una caldera basaltica en el borde Sur de la
Meseta de Somuncura, Pro-vincia de Chubut, Revista Asociacion Geologica Argentina ( RAGA )
41, 386-396, 1986 ( In Spanish )
--Ardolino A. and Franchi M.R., El Vulcanismo Cenozoico de la Meseta del Somun Cura, XII
Congreso Geologico Ar-gentino, Actas IV, 225-235, 1993 (In Spanish ).
-- Fredriksson K. et al. , Lonar Lake, India: an impact crater in basalt, Science 180,
862-864, 1973.
-- Fredriksson K. et al. , Petrology, Mineralogy, and Distribution of Lonar (India) and
Lunar Impact Breccias and Glasses, Smithsonian Contributions to Earth Sciences 22: 1-13, 1979.
-- French B. F., Traces of Catastrophe, LPI Contribution  954, 1-120, 1998.
--Gorelli R., Meteoritic Craters Discovery by means of X-SAR Images Examination, WGN (IMO) 
26 (3), 134-138, 1998.
--Ollier C.D., Maars: Their characteristics, varieties and definition, Bulletin Volcanologique
31, BV, 45-75, 1967.
--Rocca M.C.L. : Bajo Hondo, A Very Puzzling Crater in Chubut,  Patagonia, Argentina,
Abstract/Poster number 4001 presented at the 3rd. International Conference on Large
Meteorite Impacts (LMI), Nordlingen, Germany, August 5-7, 2003.

=========
(9) REPEATED BLOWS: THE GREAT DYING

Michael Paine <mpaine@tpg.com.au>

Dear Benny

This article has just been posted at NASA's Astrobiology Magazine
regards
Michael Paine

Repeated Blows: The Great Dying
Astrobiology Magazine
http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=697

Nearly a quarter-billion years ago, life on Earth almost disappeared.
Called the Great Dying, the precise cause of why 70-90% of all
terrestrial species might become extinct, challenges geologists,
paleontologists and climatologists. But according to a recent study
published in Science, astrophysicists who predict meteor orbits have a
say in the outcome too.
--------
The "Great Dying," a time of earth's greatest number of extinctions,
appears to have been caused by the impact of a large meteor, according
to a research team that includes Luann Becker, a scientist with the
Institute for Crustal Studies in the Department of Geology at the
University of California, Santa Barbara.

The theory, recently published by the team in the journal Science (Nov.
21, 2003), explains that this extinction event, which occurred
approximately 251 million years ago, is much earlier than the demise of
the dinosaurs, which is estimated at approximately 65 million years ago
and is also believed to have been caused by a large meteor impact.

The evidence is the most convincing yet for an impact at the
"end-Permian," a time commonly referred to as "The Great Dying," when
life was nearly erased from the earth, explained Becker. She is
currently working in Antarctica with a team searching for more "impact
tracers," the geological markers that show evidence of large meteors
hitting the earth. Becker has made several research trips to Antarctica
and in July 2001 she received the National Science Foundation Antarctic
Service Medal.

Her article "Repeated Blows," published in the March 2002 issue of
Scientific American, describes the evidence for many past collisions
with asteroids and how geologists are able to find the evidence for
these collisions and to date them.

In her overview she states:

* About 60 meteorites five or more kilometers across have hit the earth
in the past 600 million years. The smallest ones would have carved
craters some 95 kilometers wide.

* Most scientists agree that one such impact did in the dinosaurs, but
evidence for large collisions coincident with other mass extinctions
remained elusive -- until recently.

* Researchers are now discovering hints of ancient impacts at sites
marking history's top five mass extinctions, the worst of which
eliminated 90 percent of all living species."

Becker's current research at the Graphite Peak in the Central
Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica, described in the recent Science
article, has revealed several meteoritic fragments, metallic grains, in
a thin claystone "breccia" layer. Becker and the research team believe
this to be strong evidence for a large impact that appears to have
triggered the Great Dying. Breccia is ejected debris that resettled in a
layer of sediment. The metallic grains also appear in the same layer
(end-Permian) in Meishan, southern China. They also resemble grains
found in the same strata in Sasayama, Japan. (The earth was a single
continent at the time of the impact.)

The team also found "shocked quartz" in this same layer in the Graphite
Peak. In the Scientific American article Becker explained, "Few earthly
circumstances have the power to disfigure quartz, which is a highly
stable mineral even at high temperatures and pressures deep inside the
earth's crust." Quartz can be fractured by extreme volcanic activity,
however, only in one direction. Shocked quartz is fractured in several
directions and is therefore believed to be a good tracer for the impact
of a meteor.

The researchers are somewhat surprised that they have not found the
strong presence of the mineral iridium in the Graphite Peak work. In an
e-mail from Antarctica Becker stated, "Interestingly, we do not see a
strong iridium anomaly (the impact tracer that marks the
Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary or the dinosaur extinction event)."

As she explained in Scientific American, "The first impact tracer linked
to a severe mass extinction was an unearthly concentration of iridium,
an element that is rare in rocks on our planet's surface but abundant in
many meteorites . From this iridium discovery (in 1980) came the
landmark hypothesis that a giant impact ended the reign of the dinosaurs
-- and that such events may well be associated with other severe mass
extinctions over the past 600 million years." The discovery was strongly
debated around the world and scrutinized by geologists.

The increased attention brought about the discovery of more impact
tracers, including extraterrestrial fullerenes found in the Graphite
Peak boundary layer. These tracers are carbon molecules called
fullerenes for their soccer-ball shape. They trap extraterrestrial gases
in space and travel to the earth in the meteor.

The team concludes the Science article by saying, "These observations
lead us to believe that continued research on such materials from
additional Permian-Triassic boundary samples will finally lead to a
resolution of the long-sought and contentious issue of a catastrophic
collision of a celestial body with the Earth at the end-Permian. In
light of the new evidence presented here, this is a reasonable
interpretation of the global extinction event at the Permian-Triassic
boundary."

===========
(10) AND FINALLY: KYOTO BAZAAR: BRIBES NOT GOOD ENOUGH. WE WANT BILLIONS, RUSSIA TELLS EUROPE
 
Space Daily, 3 December 2003
http://www.terradaily.com/2003/031203184336.lk4bbpr5.html

MOSCOW (AFP) Dec 03, 2003
Russia is moving towards ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse emissions, the country's deputy economy minister said Wednesday, contradicting comments by a top Russian presidential adviser the previous day.

"There are no decisions on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol apart from the fact that we are moving towards ratification," Mukhamed Tsikanov was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

President Vladimir Putin's top adviser on economic issues, Andrei Illarionov, said in Moscow the day before that "in its current form, the Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia."

His comments came as delegates from 180 countries met in Milan, Italy, to examine the future of the Kyoto accord, regarded by environmental protection groups as a key instrument in curbing global warming.

"Of course, in its present form, this protocol cannot be ratified," Illarionov said.

Russian ratification of the Kyoto accord is needed to bring it into force worldwide, but since indicating at a world summit in Johannesburg last year that it would probably ratify the deal, Moscow has issued mixed signals on the topic.

With the world's biggest single polluter, the United States, rejecting the accord, the agreement can only take effect under its complex ratification rules after it has been approved by Russia's parliament.

Tsikanov said that the government could submit [hmmm...] the treaty for ratification next year
but cautioned [aha....] that Moscow wanted to see more interest [i.e. hard cash] from Europe
and Japan in buying "emission credits" from Russia. [translation: Russia has asked Europe and
Japan for $4 billion - Europe has so far offered $4 million; I wonder just how desparate Europe
and her rapidly declining economies are to give in to Russia's Kyoto blackmail; in short, where
should the Kyoto billions should come from given that Japan and most European countries have
been in the red for years; BP].

Russia, which is the world's third-largest polluter, after the United States and China, stands
to be a major beneficiary from the accord.

The cash-strapped country already emits 25 percent less carbon dioxide than it did a decade ago because of the decline of its heavy industry, giving it emission permits that it can sell to Western companies.

"The countries which have increased their emission levels have shown no interest in buying quotas. [no wonder given that many of these countries are increasingly as cash-strapped as
poor Russia]. The ratification of the Kyoto protocol will depend on how effectively they
cooperate [i.e. part with their billions] with Russia in this field," said the Russian
deputy minister.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2003 Agence France-Presse.

-----------
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*

CCNet EXTRA: - 4 December 2003
KREMLIN CIRCUS IN FULL SWING AS RUSSIA'S CLIMATE TUSSLE SPINS ON
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


A senior adviser to President Putin insists that Russia is not planning to
ratify the global climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, in its present form.
The adviser, Andrei Illarionov, said he had been repeating Mr Putin's own words
in a statement he made last Tuesday. He said: "The statement was made physically
by me, but the words I was using were those of the president."  Mr Illarionov said
the deputy economy minister's statement on Wednesday in support of the treaty
was "mistaken".
        --BBC News Online, 4 December 2003


(1) PUTIN'S MAN INSISTS RUSSIA REJECTS KYOTO
    Reuters, 4 December 2003 

(2) RUSSIA'S CLIMATE TUSSLE SPINS ON
    BBC News Online, 4 December 2003

(3) INTO THIN AIR: KYOTO ACCORD MAY NOT DIE (OR MATTER)
    The New York Times, 4 December 2003

===============
(1) PUTIN'S MAN INSISTS RUSSIA REJECTS KYOTO

Reuters, 4 December 2003 
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=3936742

By Oliver Bullough

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Kremlin aide insisted on Thursday that President Vladimir Putin had rejected the Kyoto protocol, directly contradicting the economy ministry and threatening to kill off the landmark environmental treaty.

Andrei Illarionov, who advises Putin on economic issues, stood by remarks he made on Tuesday that the pact, which aims to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming, would harm the Russian economy and was unacceptable in its present form.

Deputy economy minister Mukhamed Tsikhanov had contradicted him on Wednesday, in the latest in a series of what the United Nations calls "mixed signals" on the treaty, which Russia can effectively veto. He said Moscow was heading for ratification.

But on Thursday Illarionov told reporters: "The statement (on Tuesday) was made physically by me, but the words I was using were those of the Russian president." He said there was no split between the government and the presidency on the issue.

"There are no differences. The deputy economy minister is mistaken. He is mistaken in his timing. What he said was the position of the Russian Federation in August."

Russian approval has been vital to overall adoption of the protocol since Washington pulled out of the pact in 2001.

It can only come into force if countries responsible for 55 percent of developed nations' emissions approve it. That means Russia, which emits 17 percent of greenhouse gases, has the casting vote.

Environmentalists said they believed Moscow was still on course to ratify the pact, as it had been until an ecological conference two months ago, when Putin shifted Russia's position.

"The Russian president is in a position to make his own statement," said Steven Guilbeault at the Greenpeace environmental group. "Illarionov speaks only for himself. We remain confident that Russia will ratify."

Diplomats in Moscow, however, said that if Putin took a personal interest in an issue, the economy ministry frequently lost influence.

"On these energy issues, the president is quite aggressive himself...he has the last say and often it is against the proposals of the economy ministry and even the prime minister," one diplomat said.

"We believe that this situation means we cannot expect any decision until after the presidential elections in March."
 
© Reuters 2003. All Rights Reserved. 

==========
(2) RUSSIA'S CLIMATE TUSSLE SPINS ON

BBC News Online, 4 December 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3288683.stm

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent 

A senior adviser to President Putin insists that Russia is not planning to ratify the global climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, in its present form.

The adviser, Andrei Illarionov, said he had been repeating Mr Putin's own words in a statement he made last Tuesday.

He said: "The statement was made physically by me, but the words I was using were those of the president."

Mr Illarionov said the deputy economy minister's statement on Wednesday in support of the treaty was "mistaken".

Mr Illarionov, President Putin's chief adviser on economic issues, said in his original statement two days ago: "Of course, in its present form, this protocol cannot be ratified. It is impossible to undertake responsibilities that place serious limits on the country's growth."

But the deputy economy minister, Mukhamed Tsikhanov, said yesterday the country was moving towards the treaty.

He said: "There are no decisions about ratification apart from the fact that we are moving towards ratification.

"I cannot comment on Illarionov, but we do not have any information in the government about the fact that a decision has been made."

Now Mr Illarionov says: "The statement I made repeated word for word what the president said at his meeting with EU representatives.

"There are no disagreements between the Kremlin and the government. Quite simply, the minister who spoke about this yesterday was wrong. What he said was the position of the Russian Federation in August."

US reluctance

The countries which have signed the United Nations Climate Change Convention, are meeting in the Italian city of Milan this week and next.

The protocol, negotiated to implement the convention, requires industrialised countries to cut their emissions of six gases which scientists believe are exacerbating natural climate change.

Signatories will by some time between 2008 and 2012 have to cut emissions to 5.2% below their 1990 levels.

But many scientists say cuts of around 60-70% will be needed by mid-century to avoid runaway climate change.

The protocol will enter into force when 55 signatories have ratified it, including industrialised countries responsible for 55% of the developed world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990.

Some critics say President Bush's decision that the US, which emits more greenhouse gases than any other country, would not ratify the protocol has already condemned it to irrelevance.

But enough other signatories have done so for it to enter into force if Russia, another big polluter responsible for 17% of global emissions, does decide to ratify.

It seems unlikely there will be any clear signal of Russia's intentions for some time yet, leaving the protocol effectively becalmed with nobody knowing how seriously to take it.

Copyright 2003, BBC

==========
(3) INTO THIN AIR: KYOTO ACCORD MAY NOT DIE (OR MATTER)

The New York Times, 4 December 2003
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/04/international/europe/04CLIM.html

By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Since it was negotiated in Japan in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty that would require countries to curb emissions linked to global warming, has lingered in an indeterminate state, between enactment and outright rejection.

On Tuesday its prospects were dealt what may have been a fatal blow when a top Russian official said his country would not ratify it. But some experts on climate and diplomacy say that the fate of the Kyoto treaty itself is rapidly becoming less important than the longer-term processes it set in motion.

Even without approval by the United States and Russia - first and fourth on lists of the world's largest emitters of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases - the treaty has already changed the world in small but significant ways that will be hard to reverse, these experts say.

From Europe to Japan and the United States, just the prospect of the treaty has resulted in legislation and new government and industry policies curbing emissions.

The treaty's future impact is limited by deep flaws, many experts say, including its lack of any emissions limits on China and other big developing countries and its short time frame, with terms extending only to 2012. As a result, they add, new approaches must be developed now if atmospheric levels of the gases are to be stabilized.

The protocol has been approved by 120 countries but was rejected by President Bush in 2001. Without the United States, the only way to reach the threshold for enactment under the treaty's terms was with Russian participation. If enacted, it would give industrialized countries until 2012 to reduce their combined emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases more than 5 percent below 1990 levels.

The possibility remains that the statement on Tuesday by the Russian official, Andrei N. Illarionov, the top economic adviser to President Vladimir V. Putin, was just a negotiating ploy, aimed at extracting as many concessions as possible from the European Union and Japan, the treaty's main supporters.

On Wednesday a lower-level official, Mukhamed M. Tsikanov, a deputy economics minister, sounded a note of hope for the treaty, declaring, "There are no decisions about ratification apart from the fact that we are moving toward ratification." Mr. Putin, meanwhile, remained silent.

Regardless of which way Russia steps, the process of moving the world toward limiting releases of the gases after more than a century of relentless increases has clearly begun, said David B. Sandalow, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration who worked on the treaty.

"The standard of success isn't whether the first treaty out of the box sails through," he said. "The standard is whether this puts the world on a path to solving a long-term problem. Other multilateral regimes dealing with huge complex problems, like the World Trade Organization, have taken 45 or 50 years to get established."

Mr. Sandalow and other experts noted that the European Union had already passed a law requiring a cap and credit-trading system for the gases starting in 2005. It will follow the pattern laid out in Kyoto no matter what happens to the treaty.

Even in the United States, where Mr. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress strongly oppose the treaty, legislation that would require milder restrictions on emissions than those in the Kyoto treaty has gained some momentum.

Opponents of the treaty acknowledge that it has already made a difference, though they say it is a harmful one.

"Kyoto is dead and has been dead, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't done some real damage and won't continue to do some real damage," said Myron Ebell, a climate policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-backed group that opposes regulatory solutions to environmental problems.

"If global warming turns out to be a problem, which I doubt, it won't be solved by making ourselves poorer through energy rationing," he said. "It will be solved through building resiliency and capability into society and through long-term technological innovation and transformation."

Critics of that view say the one feature of the Kyoto treaty that cannot be jettisoned is a ceiling on emissions. Without limits, they say, there will be no incentive for industry to innovate and find the cheapest, most effective ways to limit the human impact on the atmosphere, said David D. Doniger, the climate policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private environmental group.

"If the United States had invented the catalytic converter but not passed clean air laws," he said, "it would still be sitting on a shelf and we'd still be choking in smog."

Copyright 2003, The New York Times

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