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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Ireland demands to be consulted on potential effects of nuclear power station on England’s west coast

Ireland issues powerful demand to have say on UK nuclear plant, Sunday Times, Environment minister Denis Naughten has asked the UK to consult Ireland on the potential effects of a nuclear power station on England’s west coast, 250km from Rosslare.

The Irish government has stopped short of calling for a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) of Hinkley Point C, the first new nuclear station in the UK in more than 20 years, however. Were such a study held, the Irish public could comment on the plans.

The environment department said it was a “matter for the UK to decide” whether work on Hinkley C should be put on hold while potentially affected countries such as Ireland are consulted, as recommended by a United Nations committee.

The UK has been criticised at the UN for not consulting neighbouring countries…http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/ireland/ireland-issues-powerful-demand-to-have-say-on-uk-nuclear-plant-nvb7q0rf8

March 27, 2017 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

At Svanhovd, Norway, another tiny measurement of radioactive iodine – ongoing release?

Another tiny measurement of radioactive iodine at Svanhovd https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/ecology/2017/03/another-tiny-measurement-radioactive-iodine-svanhovd
Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities (NRPA) without any suspected source. 
Thomas Nilsen March 23, 2017

The very small amount of radioactive iodine was measured in week 10, between March 6 to 13, by the authorities’ instruments at Svanhovd, a few hundred meters from Norway’s border to the Kola Peninsula in the north.

«We measured 0,35 microbecquerels of iodine-131. We didn’t detected any other radioactive isotopes,» says Head of section for emergency preparedness with NRPA, Astrid Liland, in an e-mail to the Barents Observer.

The radiation authorities says no other measurements of iodine are found anywhere else in Norway for the period.

NRPA underlines that no radiation is measured at Svalbard where the measurement filters are connected to the CTBTO network with the purpose of monitoring the nuclear test ban treaty.

This is the second time this winter that radioactive iodine is measured at Svanhovd. Following the traces measured in January, a series of tweets started to spread claiming the source to be a possible Russian nuclear weapon test at Novaya Zemlya. No other evidence supported such weapon test.

Ongoing release?

Nuclear physicist with the Bellona Foundation, Nils Bøhmer, says this second period of measurement indicates that there are some kind of ongoing releases.

«If it is iodine-131, it is serious because that likely means a continuing release still going on. Iodine-131 has a half-life of only 8 days, so what was measured in January are long gone,» Bøhmer says to the Barents Observer.

A possible ongoing release is supported by measurements in Finland a week before the trace was detected in Norway’s northeasternmost corner.

In late February, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland detected radioactive Iodine-131 in Rovaniemi. Levels were at 0,3 microbecquerels per cubic meter of air. Norwegians have not reported any traces of the isotope for that period. The January trace of radioactive Iodine-131, still of unknown origin, was first detected at Svanhovd near Kirkenes in northern Norway. Shortly afterwards, the isotope was detected over large areas in Europe, first in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Within the next two weeks, traces of radioactivity, although in tiny amounts, were measured in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain, the Barents Observer reported.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | environment, EUROPE, radiation | Leave a comment

The very serious threat of sea level rise

SEA-LEVEL RISE IS A ‘SERIOUS THREAT’ #CLIMATECHANGE #AUSPOL https://jpratt27.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/sea-level-rise-is-a-serious-threat-climatechange-auspol/

Sea-level rise poses ‘a serious threat’ to millions of Europeans, scientists warn. A new study spells out the threat of sea-level rise in coastal communities.The kind of devastating flooding that occurs once every century along Europe’s northern coastline could become an annual event if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb, according to a recent study published in the journal Earth’s Future.

New analysis takes into account changes in sea-level rise, tides, waves, and storm surge over the 21st century and found that climate change could prompt extreme sea levels — the maximum levels seen during major storms, which produce massive flooding — to increase significantly along the European coastline by 2100.

This scenario will likely stress coastal protection structures beyond their capacity, leaving much of the European coastline vulnerable to dangerous flooding, according to study authors.

“Unless we take different protection measures, five million people will be exposed to coastal flooding on an annual basis,” said Michalis Vousdoukas, a coastal oceanographer at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and lead author of the study.

The study described the projected rise in extreme sea levels as “a serious threat” to coastal communities, noting, “their safety and resilience depends on the effectiveness of natural and man-made coastal flood protection.”

Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not involved in this research, said the signs of extreme sea levels are already worrisome, not just in Europe, but in the United States as well. “Witness the sunshine flooding in Florida already, the flooding that shows up even with no storm on many streets any time there is a slightly high tide,” he said.

Sea level is going up because the ocean is warming and hence expanding, and because land ice — glaciers, etc. — are melting and putting more water into the ocean. But it is not the gradual rise that matters,” Trenberth said. “Rather, it is the storm surge on top of a high tide riding on top of the increase in sea level that crosses thresholds and causes things to break.”

Richard Alley, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, who also did not take part in this study, noted that the study didn’t consider the possible collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. “If that happens, then sea-level rise and impacts to coasts could be much higher than in this paper,” Alley said. “Rapid West Antarctic collapse could cause enough rise to make many of these other factors of secondary importance. So, the ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

The new paper predicted that some regions could experience an even higher increase in the frequency of these extreme flooding events, specifically along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where the present day 100-year extreme sea level could occur as often as several times a year.

“The ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

Information about the number of people at risk from flooding can be used to determine how large the social and economic impact of these events will be, said Marta Marcos, a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain, who was not involved in the new study. “In terms of adaptation strategies and policy-making, it is very relevant,” she said.

The researchers studied changes in extreme sea levels by 2100 under different greenhouse gas scenarios and considered how all these components — mean sea level, tides, waves, and storm surge — will be affected by climate change.

f emissions continue to rise unabated throughout this century, extreme sea levels along Europe’s coastlines could increase by more than 2.5 feet, on average, by 2100. Under a more moderate situation, where greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2040, 100-year extreme sea levels still could jump by nearly 2 feet, on average, by the end of the century — with flooding events occurring every few years — according to study’s authors.

In a related study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists found that if greenhouse gases continue to rise, there could be disturbing changes by the end of the century in the energy that waves carry to the coast.

In the southern hemisphere, extreme waves could carry up to 30 percent more energy by 2100, according to the study, meaning that stronger waves will become more frequent, and have a greater impact on the coast, said Lorenzo Mentaschi, a researcher at the Joint Research Centre and lead author of the study.

The new study attributed the changes in wave energy to the intensification of weather patterns, like El Niño. The new research will be provided to European Union policymakers. The data will also be made public so it can be used by scientists, engineers, and coastal managers.

Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, said the research once again underscored how climate change, “which has already increased the threat to our coastlines through a combination of sea-level rise and intensified coastal storms, will be catastrophic for coastal communities if we don’t reduce global carbon emissions.”

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art & culture.

Press link for more: Think Progress

March 17, 2017 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE, oceans | Leave a comment

Savage attack on the environment: the Trump budget

Aside from the catastrophic impacts on public health and planetary survival, these Trump-Koch attacks on environmental protection and increased energy efficiency bode ill for a struggling U.S. economy. Germany, China and other global competitors are surging ahead with ecologically sound advanced technologies like high-speed rail, EV autos, PV cells, ultra-efficient wind turbines, solar farms, and highways guaranteed to leave America in the dust.

The “tycoon” President who promised full employment and prosperity is instead bringing an ill wind, darkened sun, and scorched planet.

Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop, The Progressiveby  March 17, 2017
Donald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer.

In addition to slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, he also announced this week that he wants massive rollbacks in automotive fuel efficiency standards and billions in new investments in nuclear weapons and storage for commercial nuclear waste.

The administration’s budget cuts $2.4 billion from the EPA’s operating funds
—roughly 31 percent—taking the agency’s annual budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion, the smallest since it was formed in 1970. These cuts will cripple regulation of air and water quality, strip oversight of a wide range of land management programs, and loosen restrictions on chemical emissions from industrial facilities.

Much of this money would be shifted directly over to the military, which the Trump Administration wants to bolster with an additional $54 billion over the final Obama allocations…….

llowing through on his campaign promise to reduce the EPA to “little tidbits,” Trump’s budget defunds more than 50 programs. These include infrastructure improvement on Indian reservations, major projects to clean up Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, a wide range of renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, numerous climate change research programs, national heritage sites, environmental justice programs, oceanographic research and preservation, and much more. Gina McCarthy, a former EPA official under Obama, described it as “a scorched earth budget that represents an all-out assault on clean air, water and land.”

Some of the immediate opposition has crossed party lines. Ohio’s recently re-elected Republican Senator Rob Portman, a close associate of former President George W. Bush, strongly opposed cuts to the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies warned, “if such cuts are realized, many more people will die prematurely and get sick unnecessarily due to air, water and waste pollution.”…….

Meanwhile, Illinois and New York are moving toward massive subsidies for uncompetitive, dangerously dilapidated old nuclear reactors in a marketplace where renewables are coming in far cheaper and creating thousands more jobs. In Ohio and other states, owners of money-losing reactors are advocating for massive handouts to block cheaper, job-creating renewables and efficiency from getting into the marketplace.

Adding insult to injury, Trump wants to add $120 million to the long-dead Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. ……

Aside from the catastrophic impacts on public health and planetary survival, these Trump-Koch attacks on environmental protection and increased energy efficiency bode ill for a struggling U.S. economy. Germany, China and other global competitors are surging ahead with ecologically sound advanced technologies like high-speed rail, EV autos, PV cells, ultra-efficient wind turbines, solar farms, and highways guaranteed to leave America in the dust.

The “tycoon” President who promised full employment and prosperity is instead bringing an ill wind, darkened sun, and scorched planet. http://progressive.org/dispatches/trump%E2%80%99s-budget-assault-on-the-environment-packs-a-wallop/

March 17, 2017 Posted by | environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Massive amountsof heat being stored in the oceans

The world’s oceans are storing up staggering amounts of heat — and it’s even more than we thought, by Chelsea Harvey, Energy & Enviornment, Washington Post, Mar 10, 2017 The world is getting warmer every year, thanks to climate change — but where exactly most of that heat is going may be a surprise.

As a stunning early spring blooms across the United States, just weeks after scientists declared 2016 the hottest year on record , it’s easy to forget that all the extra warmth in the air accounts for only a fraction of the heat produced by greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, more than 90 percent of it gets stored in the ocean. And now, scientists think they’ve calculated just how much the ocean has warmed in the past few decades.

new study, out Friday in the journal Science Advances, suggests that since 1960, a staggering 337 zetajoules of energy — that’s 337 followed by 21 zeros  — has been added to the ocean in the form of heat. And most of it has occurred since 1980.

“The ocean is the memory of all of the past climate change,” said study co-author Kevin Trenberth , a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The world’s oceans are storing up staggering amounts of heat — and it’s even more than we thought   https://www.skepticalscience.com/2017-SkS-Weekly-Digest_10.html

March 15, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment

The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 3 https://www.nrdc.org/experts/nrdc/real-lowdown-trump-and-congressional-republican-assault-our-environment-vol-3 March 03, 2017 NRDC Nearly halfway through his first 100 days, President Donald Trump is on track to set a record for putting Americans’ health and our environment at risk.

In recent days, we’ve seen Trump issue an order to keep streams and rivers flowing with toxic chemicals, add a trio of polluters’ allies to his cabinet, hint of eviscerating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and telegraph he’ll soon start to try to unravel our country’s best chance to curb dangerous climate change: the popular Clean Power Plan.

Cabinet nominees

The GOP-led Senate staffed up Trump’s cabinet of polluters by confirming Ryan Zinke at the U.S. Department of the Interior, threatening public lands; Rick Perry at Energy, jeopardizing clean energy; and Scott Pruitt, the polluters’ lawyer, at the EPA.

After Pruitt was sworn in, his old office in Oklahoma released—on court orders—thousands of e-mails confirming his critics’ worst fears. They showed he worked hand in glove as attorney general with fossil fuel lobbyists and dirty energy companies to try to block the EPA’s clean air and clean water rules as well as other health protections. Pruitt also used private e-mail to communicate with his AG staff, even though he told the Senate he did not.

The newly minted administrator, speaking before the Conservative Political Action Committee on February 25, promised to roll back environmental protections in an “aggressive way” and told his appreciative audience that calls to completely eliminate the EPA are “justified.

NRDC is fighting back

A few days before, NRDC filed a Freedom of Information Act request for materials and communications related to a press release the EPA issued announcing Pruitt as the new agency administrator. In the press release, the EPA endorsed statements calling itself “tone deaf,” “rogue,” and “one of the most vilified agencies in the ‘swamp’ of overreaching government.” Such statements are “unheard of and extremely alarming,” says Aaron Colangelo, codirector of litigation at NRDC. “We want to know who and what is motivating the agency’s new leader to undermine the EPA’s mission before he even gets started.”

On February 28, Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time as president, where he outline an agenda that purportedly would create jobs and lift the economy. In response, NRDC President Rhea Suh penned a blog on the website The Hill, noting that the speech left unsaid “his unmitigated assault on the nation’s environment and public health.”

Slashing the EPA budget

Words and deeds don’t always match up. In his address to Congress, Trump promised to “promote clean air and clean water.” But he declined to mention this: Behind the scenes, he’s cooking up a budget plan that, according to news reports, includes a 24 percent cut to the EPA, the guardian of our air and water and environment. If approved, his plan would cripple the agency founded by Richard Nixon in 1970. NRDC President Rhea Suh warned: “Slashing the EPA’s budget will be dangerous to our health and the well-being of our children.”

Love that dirty water

Trump loves that dirty water. He has signed away safeguards that protected streams and downstream communities from coal-mining pollution. And he recently signed an executive order dubbed the “Dirty Water Rule” because it begins the rollback of the Obama-approved Clean Water Rule to protect wetlands and drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans. Suh declared: “We will stand up to this reckless assault. We’ll stand up for clean water and a healthy future for all Americans.”

Moving ahead with pipelines

In that same address to Congress, Trump boasted about clearing the way for construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would threaten drinking water and our climate, and the Dakota Access Pipeline, disregarding concerns from indigenous people about its impact on their communities. Trump also touted a directive he issued that new American pipelines be made with American steel—except a few days later he exempted KXL from his “buy American” requirements.

Pruitt steps away from limiting methane emissions

Just days into his job, Pruitt yanked an Obama administration directive from last November requiring thousands of oil and gas companies to report a broad range of information about their operations’ emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Pruitt acted just one day after 11 state attorneys general asked the EPA to suspend the requirement, which had been part of a long-term plan to limit wasteful and climate-harming methane emissions.

Drilling on public lands

Even before Zinke took office, the Department of the Interior abruptly stopped enforcing a rule that closed a loophole the fossil fuel industry has used to lower the royalties for extracting oil on public lands (by artificially depressing the market value of that oil). Taxpayers, according to estimates, have lost as much as $30 billion with this scheme.

Orders coming to derail climate action

Trump could, as early as next week, issue an executive order undermining or eliminating the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate action agenda. The plan sets the first national emissions limits on the nation’s power plants, the largest source of the dangerous carbon pollution that is driving climate change.

Reopening public lands to coal mining

Trump also is expected to sign an order lifting an Obama administration moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands. This ignores poll findings of strong support for conservation rather than development among residents of the Rocky Mountain states, home to large tracts of public lands.

NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats posed by the new administration. And we will be vigilantly monitoring and reporting on its assault on the environment through Trump Watch.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Paul Ehrlich impressed by the Vatican’s commitment to saving the global environment

Vatican Visit, MAHB, Ehrlich, Paul R. | March 7, 2017 I was somewhat apprehensive about taking my invited place at the workshop on biological extinction of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences at the end of February.  Right wing Catholic websites were loaded with outrage and lies about my invitation, and that of John Bongaarts from the Population Council, and more than 10,000 people had signed petitions to get me (or us) excluded.

My apprehension was unnecessary.  The view of the Academies, backed by the Vatican, was that “all voices should be heard.”  The workshop, arranged by my old friends and colleagues Peter Raven and Partha Dasgupta, was one of the most productive and informative I have ever attended.  It was an assembly of stars, and everyone was treated with dignity, respect, and fine hospitality.  The presidents of the two Academies, Werner Arber and Margaret Archer, and their Chancellor Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sarondo were open and friendly.  The papers (which will be published commercially), were (with a single exception) excellent, as was most of the discussion.  Everyone emphasized the grave danger extinctions pose both to human life-support systems and the ethical duties of humanity to preserve “the creation” –the only life-forms we know of in the universe.  There was essentially complete agreement that the drivers of the now-underway sixth mass extinction were human overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich, and inequity (poverty)…….

The Catholic Church is the only one with scholarly academies charged with providing unbiased information.  As a result, for example, it has led the way in the battle against climate denial and long ago accepted the overwhelming evidence for evolution.  In a civilization facing existential risks, it should be praised and supported for this attitude toward science.http://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/vatican-visit/

March 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Italy’s thorium contamination resulting from military operations

Subject:  Alarming levels of thorium-232 at the military firing range lying between Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda, in the province of Pordenone http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2014-000031+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

The Italian Army operates a military firing range lying between the districts of Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda in the province of Pordenone, in the vicinity of the River Cellina and the River Meduna, and the drills carried out at this firing range have led to the area becoming radioactively contaminated.

As has been reported by the press, in late December 2013 the Commander of the 132nd Ariete Armoured Division in Cordenons, the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army, the offices of the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the province of Pordenone and the affected districts, the prefect of Pordenone, and lastly Local Health Authority (ASS) No 6, were all sent the results of tests that had been carried out by the Friuli-Venezia Giulia provincial department of the Italian Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA), which showed alarming levels of thorium-232 in the area.

Thorium-232 is a notoriously radioactive metal, which emits particles that are six times more hazardous to human health than those released by depleted uranium. It is at its most toxic between around 20 and 25 years after use. More specifically, out of the eight targets (the shells of armoured tanks used for firing practice) tested by the ARPA, four were found to contain thorium-232 at markedly higher levels than those that generally occur naturally; these levels were therefore unnatural, and presumably attributable to military firing operations.

In all likelihood, such levels are the legacy left behind by the drills carried out at the site in the 1980s and 1990s: between 1986 and 2003, the Italian Army’s units were equipped with ‘Milan’ shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, which emitted thorium-232(1). The ARPA has indicated that it will shortly carry out more extensive tests in the area. It is recalled that, as a result of the area’s geological make-up, materials tend to trickle down to the lowest layers, which makes their future recovery appear rather difficult.

Consequently, there is an acute risk that the ‘Magredi’ region, and the rocky terrain that makes it so distinctive, will be devastated; what is more, the area is protected as both a site of Community importance and a Special Protection Area within the meaning of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), due to the wide variety of flora and fauna present there(2).

1. Is the Commission aware of this contamination?

2. Can it report whether any similar cases have occurred in the EU, how they were tackled and whether the areas affected were restored to their original state?

3. What initiatives does it intend to implement in order to prevent similar episodes from occurring in the EU, and in particular to prevent the contamination of aquifers?

(1) The same missiles were also used at the inter-force firing range in Quirra (Sardinia), which is sadly famous for the effects resulting from thorium-232 contamination.
(2) SCI IT3310009 ‘Magredi del Cellina’, SPA IT3311001 ‘Magredi di Pordenone’.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | environment, Italy, Reference, thorium, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump administration attacks climate and lead cleanup programmes

logo-Republican-USATrump’s EPA budget proposal targets climate, lead cleanup programs Reuters, By Timothy Gardner and Valerie Volcovici | WASHINGTON, 5 Mar 17

The White House is proposing to slash a quarter of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, targeting climate-change programs and those designed to prevent air and water pollution like lead contamination, a source with direct knowledge of the proposal said on Thursday.

President Donald Trump has long signaled his intention to reverse former Democratic President Barack Obama’s climate-change initiatives. But the Republican president has vowed his planned overhaul of green regulation would not jeopardize America’s water and air quality.

The 23-page 2018 budget proposal, which aims to slice the environmental regulator’s overall budget by 25 percent to $6.1 billion and staffing by 20 percent to 12,400 as part of a broader effort to fund increased military spending, would cut deeply into programs like climate protection, environmental justice and enforcement.

Politico and other news outlets reported the staff and overall budget cuts earlier, but the source disclosed new details on the impact the cuts would have on programs and grants to states.

Environmentalists slammed the proposed cuts, which must be approved by the Republican-led Congress.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the budget proposal or its counter proposal. The White House said it had no comment.

Under the proposal, which was sent to the EPA this week, grants to states for lead cleanup would be cut 30 percent to $9.8 million, according to the source, who read the document to Reuters.

Grants to help Native American tribes combat pollution would be cut 30 percent to $45.8 million. An EPA climate protection program on cutting emissions of greenhouse gases like methane that contribute to global warming would be cut 70 percent to $29 million.

The proposal would cut funding for the brownfields industrial site cleanup program by 42 percent to $14.7 million. It would also reduce funding for enforcing pollution laws by 11 percent to $153 million………http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-epa-budget-idUSKBN1692XA?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

March 6, 2017 Posted by | climate change, environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Experts gather at Vatican conference with call to avoid ‘biological extinction

church greenAt the Vatican, a call to avoid ‘biological extinction’ ‘http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/feb/biological-extinction-ehrlich-dasgupta    Nothing less than a reordering of our priorities based on a moral revolution can succeed.’
Download Partha Dasgupta’s and Paul Ehrlich’s working paper on the sixth great extinction here.
Feb. 27, 2017 By Environmental Health News Staff

Experts in biodiversity and extinction are gathering at the Vatican this week to discuss biological extinction—and how to save the natural world on which we all depend.

The conference focuses on the alarming signs, from various branches of science, that we are outstripping out planet’s ability to sustain us. It follows on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, calling for better care and concern for “our Common Home,” as well as an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggesting we are on a course to destroy up to 40 percent of biodiversity on Earth by century’s end.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Science and the Pontifical Academy of Social Science.

“Our desire for enhanced consumption grows more rapidly than our population, and Earth cannot sustain it,” the sponsors say. “Nothing less than a reordering of our priorities based on a moral revolution can succeed in maintaining the world in such a way as to resemble the conditions we have enjoyed here.”

Among those presenting during the three day conference are Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University and Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, who make the case that we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction of plant and animal life the globe has seen—with considerable consequences for humanity.

The authors have given Environmental Health News permission to post a draft of their paper online. It’s a working paper for the Pontifical Academy workshop and will be revised before eventual publication. You can download it here.

“In sum, the driving force of extinction, the ultimate cause of the current sixth mass extinction crisis is much too high a level of aggregate consumption – produced by human numbers multiplied by too high a level of consumption among the rich,” they write. “But demand cannot exceed supply indefinitely.”

“Translated into the language of equity, humanity’s enormous success in recent decades is very likely to have been a down payment for future failure.”

March 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Rapid spread of ocean acidification in the Arctic

International team reports ocean acidification spreading rapidly in Arctic Ocean, EurekAlert, 28 Feb 17, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE  Ocean acidification (OA) is spreading rapidly in the western Arctic Ocean in both area and depth, according to new interdisciplinary research reported in Nature Climate Changeby a team of international collaborators, including University of Delaware professor Wei-Jun Cai.

The research shows that, between the 1990s and 2010, acidified waters expanded northward approximately 300 nautical miles from the Chukchi slope off the coast of northwestern Alaska to just below the North Pole. Also, the depth of acidified waters was found to have increased, from approximately 325 feet to over 800 feet (or from 100 to 250 meters).

ocean-acidification

“The Arctic Ocean is the first ocean where we see such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,” said Cai, the U.S. lead principal investigator on the project and Mary A.S. Lighthipe Professor of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at UD.

“The rapid spread of ocean acidification in the western Arctic has implications for marine life, particularly clams, mussels and tiny sea snails that may have difficulty building or maintaining their shells in increasingly acidified waters,” said Richard Feely, NOAA senior scientist and a co-author of the research. Sea snails called pteropods are part of the Arctic food web and important to the diet of salmon and herring. Their decline could affect the larger marine ecosystem.

Among the Arctic species potentially at risk from ocean acidification are subsistence fisheries of shrimp and varieties of salmon and crab.

Other collaborators on the international project include Liqi Chen, the Chinese lead principal investigator and scientist with the Third Institute of Oceanography of State Oceanic Administration of China; and scientists at Xiamen University, China and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, among other institutions…….

Arctic ocean ice melt in the summer, once found only in shallow waters of depths less than 650 feet or 200 meters, now spreads further into the Arctic Ocean.

“It’s like a melting pond floating on the Arctic Ocean. It’s a thin water mass that exchanges carbon dioxide rapidly with the atmosphere above, causing carbon dioxide and acidity to increase in the meltwater on top of the seawater,” said Cai. “When the ice forms in winter, acidified waters below the ice become dense and sink down into the water column, spreading into deeper waters.”https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/uod-itr022717.php

March 1, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment

Scott Pruitt appointed as EPA chief in order to destroy EPA? : his emails revealed

exclamation-Flag-USAThousands of Scott Pruitt’s Emails Just Hit the Internet. Here Are the Wildest, Scariest Bitshttp://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/02/new-epa-head-scott-pruitts-emails-reveal-close-ties-fossil-fuel-interests

The new EPA chief had a “very cozy” relationship with fossil fuel.

The close relationship between Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and fossil fuel interests including the billionaire Koch brothers has been highlighted in more than 7,500 emails and other records released by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office on Wednesday.

The documents show that Pruitt, while Oklahoma attorney general, acted in close concert with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations, even putting his letterhead to a complaint filed by one firm, Devon Energy. This practice was first revealed in 2014, but it now appears that it occurred more than once.

The emails also show that American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an oil and gas lobby group, provided Pruitt’s office with template language to oppose ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program in 2013. AFPM encouraged Oklahoma to challenge the rules, noting: “This argument is more credible coming from a state.” Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both of these regulations.

The letters also show the cozy relationship between Pruitt and the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), the influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses, and other lobby groups sponsored by the Koch brothers, the billionaire energy investors who have spent decades fighting against environmental regulation.

Alec has consistently challenged the science on climate change and fought against tougher environmental regulation. Companies including Google, Ford and Enterprise Rent-a-Car have quit Alec in protest of its climate change activities.

The emails contain correspondence between Pruitt’s executive assistant and Amy Anderson, Alec director and Oklahoma membership contact, about Pruitt’s appearance at a May 2013 Alec board meeting in Oklahoma City.

That meeting attracted more protesters than attendees, with 600 firefighters, teachers, environmentalists and church leaders carrying signs reading “ALEC is Not OK” and chanting: “Backroom deals are Alec’s game / Sweetheart deals for corporate gain.”

Pruitt addressed a workshop entitled “Embracing American Energy Opportunities: From Wellheads to Pipelines”.

The emails state that Pruitt spoke “on state primacy in oil and gas regulation and the EPA’s sue & settle modus operandi”. The lunch meeting was sponsored by Koch Industries, a major Alec sponsor.

Pruitt was congratulated for his work on pushing back against the EPA by another Koch-backed pressure group.

“Thank you to your respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President Obama’s EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states,” said one email sent to Pruitt and an Oklahoma congressman in August 2013 by Matt Ball, an executive at Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit group also funded in part by the Kochs. “You both work for true champions of freedom and liberty!” the note said.

Last week, an Oklahoma judge ordered that emails from a January 2015 open records request be released by Tuesday. A further batch of emails is due to be turned over next week. The Center for Media and Democracy, which has made nine separate open records requests for Pruitt’s emails, said it will attempt to obtain all of the sought-after communications without exceptions.

Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator on Friday. Democrats had sought to delay the Senate vote until the emails were released but were unsuccessful.

“The emails show a very cozy relationship between Pruitt’s office and particularly Devon Energy, as well as other coal, oil and gas companies,” said Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy.

“Pruitt is the world’s top environmental regulator now and these emails raise serious conflict of interest concerns. He has very close ties to fossil fuel firms and has shown himself to be generally opposed to the rules the EPA has to protect the environment.”

Pruitt’s appointment as EPA chief has been vigorously opposed by environmental groups, Democrats and even some EPA staff as antithetical to the agency’s mission. More than 700 former EPA employees wrote to senators to urge them to vote against Pruitt, while some current staff in Chicago took part in protests against him. This effort did little to budge the mathematics of the Senate, with only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voting against Pruitt.

Following the confirmation, the EPA put out a press release listing those that “cheer” Pruitt’s appointment. They include Republican representatives and lobbyists for mining, farming and grazing, who were quoted in the EPA’s own release calling the agency “rogue” and “one of the most vilified agencies in the ‘swamp’ of overreaching government”.

The former Oklahoma attorney general, a Republican, has described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” and sued the regulator 14 times over pollution regulations relating to mercury, smog, methane and sulfur dioxide. Fossil fuel companies or lobbyists, a frequent source of Pruitt’s past donations, joined with him in 13 of these cases against the EPA.

A staunch opponent of what he sees as federal overreach, Pruitt said following his appointment that “citizens don’t trust the EPA is honest” with its scientific work, particularly around climate change. Pruitt has said he accepts the planet is warming but has questioned the degree of human influence over this, despite the volumes of scientific literature on the impact of greenhouse gases.

In his first speech at EPA headquarters in Washington on Tuesday, Pruitt praised career employees and promised to “listen, learn and lead”. He said regulators such as the EPA “ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate.”

He added: “I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and -jobs, and pro-environment. We don’t have to choose between the two.”

John O’Grady, an EPA environmental scientist and head of a union that represents 9,000 agency staff, said that Pruitt came across “very professionally and conciliatory, he didn’t come out heavy handed”.

But O’Grady said that many staff are nervously waiting for the administration’s agenda to unfold, with Donald Trump expected to sign executive orders that aim to do away with the EPA’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases and regulate America’s expanse of waterways.

“Mr Pruitt isn’t a proponent of addressing climate change or of a strong EPA, so it won’t surprise me when they start to whittle away at what we do as an agency,” O’Grady told the Guardian. “I’m wondering when the hammer is going to fall.”

March 1, 2017 Posted by | environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Europe’s wild boars posing a radioactive problem

Wild boars roam Czech forests – and some of them are radioactive http://www.reuters.com/article/us-czech-boars-idUSKBN1611G0 Reporting by Robert Muller and Jiri Skacel, editing by Larry King Feb 22, 2017 The Czech Republic has an unusual problem this winter with its wild boar meat, a local delicacy. The boars are radioactive.

Actually, it’s not the boars themselves, but what they’re eating. A cold and snowy winter is forcing them to feed on false truffles, an underground mushroom common in the Sumava mountain region shared by Czechs, Austrians, Germans – and wild boars.text-cesiumThe mushrooms can absorb high levels of the radioactive isotope Caesium 137. And three decades ago the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl released a fair amount of Caesium 137 that eventually drifted down on the Sumava mountains.

Now the boars are eating the mushrooms, and ingesting the Caesium 137 along with them. That’s making their meat radioactive, Jiri Drapal at the State Veterinary Administration told Reuters.

“It is more or less a seasonal issue,” Drapal said.

But it’s a long season. The half life of Caesium 137 is 30 years – that is, it takes 30 years for the radioactivity of the isotope to fall to half its original value. Then another 30 to fall to half again, and so on. The boars could be glowing for quite a while.

“We can expect to find (affected) food for a number of years from now,” Drapal said.

And that could cause some problems with the supply of boar meat, which is popular in the Czech Republic. It often shows up on restaurant menus in goulash, a thick stew of meat, sauce and dumplings.

Any boar that ends up as goulash ought to be safe. Every wild animal hunted, not only boars, must be inspected before its meat can get to customers. Radioactive meat is banned from circulation, Drapal said.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that 614 animals were inspected from 2014 to 2016, and 47 percent were above the limit – almost half.

The semi-good news is that even meat from radioactive animals would be a health hazard only in large doses, Drapal said. You would have to eat it several times a week for couple of months, to get sick, he said.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | environment, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Climatologists explain threat of drastic cooling in North Atlantic

Drastic cooling in North Atlantic beyond worst fears, scientists warn https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/24/drastic-cooling-north-atlantic-beyond-worst-fears-scientists-warn

Climatologists say Labrador Sea could cool within a decade before end of this century, leading to unprecedented disruption, reports Climate News Network, Guardian,  , 25 Feb 17, For thousands of years, parts of northwest Europe have enjoyed a climate about 5C warmer than many other regions on the same latitude. But new scientific analysis suggests that that could change much sooner and much faster than thought possible.

Climatologists who have looked again at the possibility of major climate change in and around the Atlantic Ocean, a persistent puzzle to researchers, now say there is an almost 50% chance that a key area of the North Atlantic could cool suddenly and rapidly, within the space of a decade, before the end of this century.

That is a much starker prospect than even the worst-case scientific scenario proposed so far, which does not see the Atlantic ocean current shutdown happening for several hundred years at least.

A scenario even more drastic (but fortunately fictional) was the subject of the 2004 US movie The Day After Tomorrow, which portrayed the disruption of the North Atlantic’s circulation leading to global cooling and a new Ice Age.

To evaluate the risk of extreme climate change, researchers from the Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux laboratory (CNRS/University of Bordeaux, France), and the University of Southamptondeveloped an algorithm to analyse the 40 climate models considered by the Fifth Assessment Report.

The findings by the British and French team, published in the Nature Communications journal, in sharp contrast to the IPCC, put the probability of rapid North Atlantic cooling during this century at almost an even chance – nearly 50%.

Current climate models foresee a slowing of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC), sometimes known also as the thermohaline circulation, which is the phenomenon behind the more familiar Gulf Stream that carries warmth from Florida to European shores. If it did slow, that could lead to a dramatic, unprecedented disruption of the climate system.

In 2013, drawing on 40 climate change projections, the IPCC judged that this slowdown would occur gradually, over a long period. Its findings suggested that fast cooling of the North Atlantic during this century was unlikely.

But oceanographers from EU emBRACE had also re-examined the 40 projections by focusing on a critical spot in the northwest of the North Atlantic: the Labrador Sea.

The Labrador Sea is host to a convection system ultimately feeding into the ocean-wide MOC. The temperatures of its surface waters plummet in the winter, increasing their density and causing them to sink. This displaces deep waters, which bring their heat with them as they rise to the surface, preventing the formation of ice caps.

The algorithm developed by the Anglo-French researchers was able to detect quick sea surface temperature variations. With it they found that seven of the 40 climate models they were studying predicted a total shutdown of convection, leading to abrupt cooling of the Labrador Sea by 2C to 3C over less than 10 years. This in turn would drastically lower North Atlantic coastal temperatures.

But because only a handful of the models supported this projection, the researchers focused on the critical parameter triggering winter convection: ocean stratification. Five of the models that included stratification predicted a rapid drop in North Atlantic temperatures.

The researchers say these projections can one day be tested against real data from the international OSnap project, whose teams will be anchoring scientific instruments within the sub-polar gyre (a gyre is any large system of circulating ocean currents).

If the predictions are borne out and the North Atlantic waters do cool rapidly over the coming years, the team says, with considerable understatement, climate change adaptation policies for regions bordering the North Atlantic will have to take account of this phenomenon.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment

Future sea level rise studies by NASA project – Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG)

sea-ice-meltingfOMG measurements of Greenland give us a glimpse of future sea rise https://www.skepticalscience.com/omg-greenland-sea-level-rise.html 24 February 2017 by John Abraham  If you meet a group of climate scientists, and ask them how much sea levels will rise by say the year 2100, you will get a wide range of answers. But, those with most expertise in sea level rise will tell you perhaps 1 meter (a little over three feet). Then, they will immediately say, “but there is a lot of uncertainty on this estimate.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t certain there will be sea level rise – that is guaranteed as we add more heat in the oceans. Here, uncertainty means it could be a lot more or a little less.

Why are scientists not certain about how much the sea level will rise? Because there are processes that are occurring that have the potential for causing huge sea level rise, but we’re uncertain about how fast they will occur. Specifically, two very large sheets of ice sit atop Greenland and Antarctica. If those sheets melt, sea levels will rise hundreds of feet.

Parts of the ice sheets are melting, but how much will melt and how fast will the melting occur? Are we talking decades? Centuries? Millennia? Scientists really want to know the answer to this question. Not only is it interesting scientifically, but it has huge impacts on coastal planning.

One reason the answer to this question is illusive is that melting of ice sheets can occur from above (warm air and sunlight) or from below (warm ocean waters). In many instances, it’s the melting from below that is most significant – but this melting from below is really hard to measure.

With hope we will have a much clearer sense of ice sheet melting and sea level rise because of a new scientific endeavor that is part of a NASA project – Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG). This project has brought together some of the best oceanographers and ice experts in the world. The preliminary results are encouraging and are discussed in two recent publications here and here.

In the papers, the authors note that Greenland ice loss has increased substantially in recent decades. It now contributes approximately 1/3 to total sea level rise. The authors want to know whether this contribution will change over time and they recognize that underwater processes may be the most important to study. In fact, they note in their paper:

Specifically, our goal is improved understanding of how ocean hydrographic variability around the ice sheet impacts glacial melt rates, thinning and retreat.

In plain English, they want to know how water flow around Greenland affects the ice melt.

Their experiments are measuring a number of key attributes. First, yearly changes in the temperature of ocean water near Greenland. Second, the yearly changes to the glaciers on Greenland that extend into the ocean waters. Third, they are observing marine topography (the shape of the land underneath the ocean surface).

The sea floor shape is quite complicated, particularly near Greenland. Past glaciers carved deep troughs in the sea floor in some areas, allowing warm salty water to reach huge glaciers that are draining the ice sheet. As lead OMG investigator Josh Willis said:

What’s interesting about the waters around Greenland is that they are upside down. Warm, salty water, which is heavy, sits below a layer of cold, fresh water from the Arctic Ocean. That means the warm water is down deep, and glaciers sitting in deep water could be in trouble.

As the warm water attacks marine glaciers (glaciers that extend into the ocean), the ice tends to break and calve, retreating toward land. In some cases, the glaciers retreat until their grounding line coincides with the shore. But in other cases the undulating surface allows warm water to wear the glacier underside for long distances and thereby increase the risk of large calving events.

Oftentimes, when glaciers near the coast break off they uncork other ice that can then more easily flow into the oceans.

Click here to read the rest

February 27, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment