Seth Borenstein. (May 29, 2014). World on brink of another mass extinction. The Hamilton Spectator.
Traci Watson. (May 29, 2014). Bird deaths from car crashes number in the millions. The Hamilton Spectator.
Steve Zack. (Feb 16, 2014). Domestic cats and billions of birds. The Hamilton Spectator.
Christopher Solomon. (May 2013). How Kitty is Killing the Dolphins. Scientific American, pp. 72 - 77.
Key Concepts: 1: Pathogens from people, cats and other land animals are entering the oceans and attacking sea mammals. A parasite from opossums is killing California sea otters; a parasite from cats is killing dolphins. 2: Although data are still new, these “pollutagens” seem to be on the rise. Furthermore, drug-resistant bacteria from humans have been found in sharks and seals, raising the chance that the bugs could mutate and reinfect humans, who might be ill equipped to fight them. 3: Thoroughly cleansing wastewater and expanding wetlands that buffer land from sea could lessen the pollutagen threat.
Cathie Howard. (June 15, 2013). Who is Killing the Honey Bees. The Hamilton Spectator.
Molly Hayes. (March 26, 2013). Baby baldies are first in decades. The Hamilton Spectator, pp. A1 & A6.
Michael D. Dettinger and B. Lynn Ingram. (January 2013). The Coming Megafloods. Scientific American, pp. 65 - 71.
Key Concepts: 1: Geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California about every 200 years. The most recent was in 1861, and it bankrupted the state. 2: Such floods were most likely caused by atmospheric rivers: narrow bands of water vapor about a mile above the ocean that extend for thousands of miles. Much smaller forms of these rivers regularly hit California, as well as the western coasts of other countries. 3: Scientists who created a simulated megastorm, called ARkStorm, that was patterned after the 1861 flood but was less severe, found that such a torrent could force more than a million people to evacuate and cause $400 billion in losses if it happened in California today. 4: Forecasters are getting better at predicting the arrival of atmospheric rivers, which will improve warnings about flooding from the common storms and about the potential for catastrophe from a megastorm.
John Carey. (November 2012). Global Warming: Faster Than Expected? Scientific American, pp. 50 - 55.
It was previously thought that if we could keep carbon dioxide concentrations to about 450 ppm (presently 395 ppm - preindustrial 280 ppm) that we may be able to weather the coming Global warming Storm - but this now seems to be unlikely to happen. There are lots of troubling feedback mechanisms occurring (i.e: permafrost - at first thought to be 3 feet deep is now known to be about 9 feet deep - adding up to billions of metric tons of stored carbon or more than double the carbon dioxide that is presently in the atmosphere now; melting sea ice; and the increasing growth of coniferous trees northward that contain needles all year and thus absorb energy from the sun in the winter instead of reflecting this energy (snow) back into space.
A must read for anyone interested in what MAY happen.
Key Concepts: 1: Scientists thought that if planetary warming could be kept below two degrees Celsius, perils such as catastrophic sea-level rise could be avoided. 2: Ongoing data, however, indicate that three global feedback mechanisms may be pushing the earth into a period of rapid climate change even before the two degree C “limit” is reached: meltwater altering ocean circulation; melting permafrost releasing carbon dioxide and methane; and ice disappearing worldwide. 3: The feedbacks could accelerate warming, alter weather by changing the jet stream, magnify insect infestations and spawn more and larger wildfires.
Michelle Nijhuis. (August 2012). Which Species Will Live? Scientific American, pp. 74 - 79.
Triage - most people associate with: the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients and especially battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors - but also defined as: the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success.
Is this what has come of the environment - picking and choosing amongst different species which ones we shall try to save and which species we will allow to go extinct because they are not deemed as necessary. This is the new NOW!
Key Concepts: 1: Conservation groups can no longer afford to try to protect as many animals and plants as they have in the past, so they are increasingly turning to new systems of triage to explicitly determine which species to save and which to leave to die. 2: Function-first f orms of triage favor species that perform a unique job in nature, such as whitebark pines, which provide vital food for grizzly bears. 3: Evolution-first approaches seek to preserve genetic diversity—from the two-humped Bactrian camel to the Chinese giant salamander—which can help all the world’s species survive and adapt in fast-changing environmental conditions. 4: Other methods refine the popular hotspots approach, which focuses on saving whole ecosystems but may give short shrift to human needs.
____________. (September 20, 2012). Summer takes unprecedented toll on Arctic ice. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
In a nut shell - it doesn't look good for ice in the Arctic. The last lowest recorded ice cover was 4.17 million square kilometers in 2007, this year ice cover dropped to 3.41 million square kilometers. Estimates are now 2030 for an ice free Arctic Ocean, however, some estimates have put it as soon as 2015.
Jeffrey Gettleman. (September 8, 2012). An epic slaughter rages out of control. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR2.
Conservation groups are raising the alarm that thousands of elephants are being poached for their ivory, being sold on the black market, mainly to Chinese middle class that currently have more disposable income due to China's economic boom. Ivory is also selling for a stratopheric $1 000.00 a pound in Beijing.
The very existence of elephants are now hanging in the wind because the very people who protect the elephants are now being implicated in their slaughter due to the high price of ivory.
One example is Garamba National park, Democratic Republic of Congo, that once had more than 20 000 elephants, the current number now stands at a mere 2 400. 10% of the original.
Matthew van Dongen. (September 7, 2012). Down they go. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A3.
The emerald ash borer is a tiny green insect that is an invasive species and is currently ravaging ash trees in this area (Hamilton, ON). The city of Hamilton will cut down all 23 000 ash trees on city land and replace them with other species over the next 10 years to try and stay ahead of the die-off expected to occur by this pest. The city is estimating that all 300 000 ash trees will be killed by this pest unless homeowners take drastic action and try to prevent the destruction of their trees by injecting them, with an unproven, insecticide.
Douglas Fox. (July 2012). Witness to an Antarctic Meltdown. Scientific American, pp. 54 - 61.
Open the article and look at the map of Antarctica and see how much of Antarctica is melting. Larsen A and Larsen B have already melted. The Scar Inlet is currently melting and the Larsen C is starting to show signs of melting. Studies have shown that Larsen A has melted in the past BUT Larsen B has not melted for at least the last 100 000 years. We are now into new territory with Global Warming.
Another interesting fact is that the winds blowing across Antarctica have increased over the last 30 years and it is estimated that 50 billion (50 000 000 000) to 150 billion (150 000 000 000) metric tonnes (100 000 000 000 000 - 300 000 000 000 000 kg) of snow is scoured off the surface and deposited in the ocean where it melts.
Key Concepts: 1: Massive ice shelves that cling to the edges of Antarctica are breaking apart, and their collapse is allowing
enormous glaciers behind them to slide into the
ocean, raising sea level. 2: Scientists need to better understand why and how fast the ice shelves are disintegrating so that they can
better estimate future sea-level rise. 3:Satellite data about glaciers are not detailed enough
for accurate estimates. Scientists have made recent
expeditions to Antarctica to install instruments that will give them the information they need. Author
Douglas Fox accompanied them on an eventful eight-week trip and documents that experience here. He also describes the data now streaming in and what they predict for the planet.
____________. (February 9, 2012). Drilling reaches lake trapped under polar ice. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A12.
Russians have made contact with a lake that is 12 366 feet below the ice, known as Lake Vostok. The lake has been sealed off from the rest of the earth by ice for the last 15 - 34 million years, suggesting that entirely new species have evolved over that time. Much care was taken to not contaminate the lake when the drill finally bore through into the liquid water.
____________. (January 31, 2012). Climate change shrinking western forests. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A10.
For many years scientists were hopeful that carbon sinks (forests) would absorb more carbon dioxide from the air than they put back thus aiding in the fight against climate change (greenhouse gas emissions). New studies from Canada say we can no longer count on this fact for the large boreal forest that occupies much of Canada. As climate change has progressed, persistent drought conditions have persisted over western Canada and the forest there is emitting more carbon dioxide to the air than absorbing. The eastern half of the country is holding its own but is not absorbing much extra carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
This is really bad news for those who thought that the boreal forest would aid in the fight against global warming.
____________. (January 7, 2012). Shining Light on an Icy Den. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR3.
Michael E. Webber. (January 2012). More Food, Less Energy. Scientific American, pp. 74 - 79.
Some interesting points stated in this article: 1 - in the United States (similar numbers I wouls assume would be found in Canada), 10% of the entire countries entire energy consumption goes to feeding the population while the rest of the world the number is only 5% (double the world average); 2 - 25% or more of the food grown is wasted annually.
Key Concepts: 1: About 10 percent of U.S. energy consumption is for raising, distributing, processing, preparing and preserving the plant and animal matter Americans eat. 2: Energy use can be cut by converting agricultural waste such as manure into power; implementing new, pilot-level farming techniques such as drip irrigation, no-till planting, laser-leveling of fields and GPS-driven machinery; reducing spoiled and wasted food, which amounts to 25 to 30 percent of all food produced; and eating less meat, which is energy-intensive to create. 3: The same steps would make our bodies, and our ecosystems, healthier.
Bijal P. Trivedi. (November 2011). The Wipeout Gene. Scientific American, pp. 69 - 75.
An ingeniuos experiment is under way in different areas of the worlf to try to bring Dengue fever under control. The Aedes aegypti mosquito has been bred with a female kill switch, a gene that does not allow flight muscles in females to develop. Without these flight muscles, a female mosquito cannot fly and therefore cannot bite anyone and thus cannot give Dengue fever.
The paper is about the methods the researchers used to inform the public about the genetically modified mosquitoes and how they can help curb the spread of Dengue fever. The community was invited to be involved because: 'GM (genetically modified organisms) freaks people out'.
Key Concepts: 1: Scientists have genetically engineered mosquitoes with a self-destruct mechanism, an advance that could slow the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. 2: One team of scientists has been conducting tests of the mosquitoes in cages in southern Mexico. Another has been releasing mosquitoes out into the wild. 3: The intentional release of genetically modified insects has sparked international controversy, especially because the first releases were conducted in secret.
Jonathan A. Foley. (November 2011). Can We Feed the World & Sustain the Planet. Scientific American, pp. 60 - 65.
A five step plan has been devised by international researchers to bring food production up and to reduce environmental damage to the planet. The five steps are: 1 - stop expanding agriculture's footprint; 2 - close the world's yield gaps; 3 - use resources much more efficiently; 4 - shift diets away from meat; and 5 - reduce food waste. These five steps could increase the world's food availability by 100 - 180 % while significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity losses, water use and water pollution.
Key Concepts: 1: The world must solve three food problems simultaneously: end hunger, double food production by 2050, and do both while drastically reducing agriculture’s damage to the environment. 2: Five solutions, pursued together, can achieve these goals: stop agriculture from consuming more tropical land, boost the productivity of farms that have the lowest yields, raise the efficiency of water and fertilizer use worldwide, reduce per capita meat consumption and reduce waste in food production and distribution. 3: A system for certifying foods based on how well each one delivers nutrition and food security and limits environmental and social costs would help the public choose products that push agriculture in a more sustainable direction.
____________. (December 17, 2011). Methane and the bubble of worry. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A12.
Permafrost in the Arctic is melting and with it is a troubling trend. Methane is bubbling out of the defrosted permafrost because vegetation is starting to rot. Methane is a very serious greenhouse gas and will affect climate change if the trend is not stopped. Methane can account for up to 35 % of today's annual human greenhouse gas emissions. The permafrost is estimated to contain twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere of the planet.
____________. (November 18, 2011). Earth caught fire once due to climate. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
In an event termed: 'Great Dying', which occurred at the end of the Permian Era some 252 million years ago, nearly three-quarters of all life on Earth went extinct. This 'Great Dying' was triggered by masive volcanic activity which belched massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere causing runaway global warming. All this took place in a mere 20000 years, a very fast time period in geological time frames. The Earth's description is as close to hell as has ever happened - fiery, smoky and explosive. Douglas Erwin of the Smithsonian Institute says to think about drying up the Amazon river and having all the rain forest catch on fire.
Any resemblance to what is happening today, yet not with volcanos but with cars, factories, etc.
Lesley Ciarula Taylor. (July 12, 2011). Eerie video of floating `ìce city`captivates viewers. The Hamilton Spectator, pp. A1 and A6.
See video: Ice City
Julian P. Sachs and Conor L. Myrrvold. (July 2011). The last Great Global Warming. Scientific American, pp. 56 - 61.
The largest global warming period in history was during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred some 56 million years ago. This global warming event was due to an increase in carbon dioxide and methane gases into the atmosphere (sound familiar), and these rising gases were thought to have increased in the atmosphere very quickly. In fact, it actually took approximately 20 000 years for these gases to accumulate, and even with this long time frame, the fossil record reveals that 30 - 50 percent of all life forms went extinct because they could not evolve to the changing conditions.
Todays' increase in greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide - methane as the tundra heats up) is about 15 times faster than the PETM period (today: up to 25 petagrams of carbon/year; PETM: up to 1.7 petagrams of carbon/year).
What should we take from this study into the earth's history - that today's much faster temperature change suggests the consequences for life on Earth will be harsher than anything that has come before.
Key Concepts: 1: Global temperature rose five degrees Celsius 56 million years ago in response to a massive injection of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 2: That intense gas release was only 10 percent of the rate at which heat-trapping greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere today. 3: The speed of today’s rise is more troubling than the absolute magnitude, because adjusting to rapid climate change is very difficult.
Gwynne Dyer. (June 20, 2011). Risky territory, but no choice. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A15.
An excellent editorial on the risky business of geo-engineering. The reason I write about it is because the picture he uses has all of the geo-engineering points that I have talked about at some time in my classes.
Sarah Scott. (April 25, 2011). Building a better mosquito. Maclean's Magazine, pp. 62 - 64.
Are you aware that mosquitoes are one of the leading causes of death of humans on the planet? Mosquitoes carry malaria parasite which kill an estimated 800 000 people a year and also carry Dengue fever killing approximately 12 000 people per year in the tropics. So what is this 'BETTER' mosquito idea?
This better mosquiot works like this: 1) male mosquitoes are released into the wild (because males do not bite and infect people, only female mosquites do) carrying a new Dominant Lethal gene (they have been genetically modified); 2) the male mosquitoes mate with female mosquitoes which then lay their eggs; 3) the eggs hatch and the Dominant Lethal allele die within days of hatching, thus destroying a whole generation of mosquitoes (or at least would lower the numbers of mosquitoes).
Drawbacks: 1) wild female mosquitoes are not dumb. They prefer wild type male mosquitoes more over the genetically altered mosquitoes; 2) ethics of altering the DNA of a wild organism - what would happen IF something went wrong? (i.e.: the mosquito went extinct! what organism would take its place? better or worse?)
Bob Weber. (April 18, 2011). Arctic coast erosion fastest on the planet. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A7.
Scientists believe, but have not yet proved due to lack of available data, that the Arctic coastline of Canada is eroding. On average, scientists estimate that one meter of coastline is eroded away into the Arctic Ocean every year, in some places, up to eight meters (26 feet) of coastline is eroded. Why is erosion of the Arctic coastline becoming a topic of discussion?
Erosion of the Arctic coastline is increasing due to global warming. When average temperatures were colder, sea-ice was present right up to the coastline stabilizing the frozen (permafrost) coastline, preventing erosion. Currently, sea-ice cover is disappearing allowing sea water to come right up against the coastline and the permafrost is melting, further degrading the soil, allowing the coastline to erode.
____________. (April 6, 2011). Massive pool of water could alter Atlantic currents. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A10.
An interesting fact: the freshwater content of the Arctic Ocean has increased 20% since the 1990's, about 8 400 cubic kilometers of water - the equivalent of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron combined (That's a lot!!!). The icy water has been bottled up in the Arctic Oceab by wind patterns which have been blowing in a clockwise position for the last 12 years, an unusually long period of time - normally changing direction every 5 - 10 years max. What is compounding this problem is an increased runoff of water from the great northern rivers into the Arctic Ocean.
Why is all this a concern to the average person, you ask? One of the great equalizers of the earth's temperature are the great ocean currents, the one affecting Europe is the great Thermohaline current originating from the Caribearn and runnig North tacross the atlantic Ocean to the shores of Eastern Europe. This warm current loses heat and water vapor becoming more dense and eventually sinking in th North Atlantic to return south along the bottom. This current modulates the temperature of Europe keeping it noticeably warmer than Eartern Canada of the same latitude. If the less dense water now found in the Arctic Ocean was to move on mass into the North Atlantic, this Thermohaline current could be shut down and thus changing the weather conditions dramatically in Europe - possible sending Europe into a mini ice age.
Julian P. Sachs and Conor L. Myrrvold. (March 2011). A Shifting Band of Rain. Scientific American, pp. 60 - 75.
These researchers studied rainfall patterns around the equator for the last 1200 years and have found that the tropical rain band can shift northwards or southwards, depending on the atmospheric temperature. These shifts can range for hundreds of miles, more precisely between 3 and 10 degrees North of the equator. As this Tropical Rain band shifts, rainfall increases in the areas it has shifted towards but leaves areas dry where it has shifted from. The atmospheric temperature is the driving factor behind where the Tropical rain band will be and current temperature increases due to greenhouse gas emissions suggest that the Tropical Rain Band may shift as far North as 15 degrees, leaving millions of people and whole ecosystems be left with little rainfall. These areas include: Ecuador, Colombia, northern Indonesia, and Thailand.
Key Concepts: 1: The tropical rain band that wraps the globe north of the equator migrates as atmospheric temperature changes, altering rainfall patterns worldwide. 2: Data from sediments in Pacific Island lakes show that the band is at 3°N to 10°N, as far north as it has ever been in at least 1,200 years. 3: At current warming rates, the band could shift north by five degrees by 2100, drying out farmland for millions of people in Ecuador, Colombia and elsewhere. 4:Multiyear drought conditions in the southwestern U.S. could persist as that area becomes more like the semiarid region of northern Mexico.
Carmela Fragomeni. (January 24, 2011). You could lichen it to air testing. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A3.
An area in lower east Hamilton is being surveyed for 2 distinct types of lichen on maple and ash trees. Why these 2 distinct lichens? Researchers have shown that these 2 lichens are affected by high sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in the air. The more lichen found the cleaner the air and healthier the trees, and vice versa. Air pollution in this part of Hamilton, Crown Point, was steadily getting better over the years as industry cleaned up but has recently been getting worse. The lichens, sampled once a year due to their slow growth rate should give everyone a clearer picture on whether the air quality is improving or not.
____________. (January 24, 2011). Volanoes and coal blamed for first mass extinction. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
The Earth's first environmental disaster, some 255 million years ago druring the Permian-Triassic period, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions that burned through coal. Known as The Great Dying took place over a 200 000 year period where some 95 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of all land vertebrates became extinct. This was also the time of the only known mass extinction of insects. Researchers found evidence of coal-ash layers which is very similar to that found from burning fossil fuels today. Should we all be concerned?
____________. (January 21, 2011). Stick a fork in it - Earth is cookin' due to gases. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
What is the warmest year on record? It's not 1 year but 3! That's right - a 3 way tie: 1998, 2005 and 2010. Yearly global temperatures are compared to the mean temperatures for the years 1969 - 1990, and the warmest years were 0.53 degrees celcius higher.
Points to note: 1: The 10 warmest years on record since 1854 have all happened from 1998 to the present; and 2: Arctic sea ice coverage in december 2010 was the smallest since records began in 1979.
____________. (January 10, 2011). Climate will change for centuries, even with zero emissions. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A7.
If everyone on the planet stopped emitting carbon dioxide today, climate changes will occur for a very long time, with patterns of climate change eventually reversing within 1 000 years in Canada. Arctic sea ice would continue to shrink but would return by about 2100.
If there are no changes to carbon dioxide emissions, thyen the Arctic sea ice will be mostly gone by 2100 with many more dramatic climate change issues to occur.
Gwynne Dyer. (December 7, 2010). Climate clock keeps ticking away. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
Brutally simple numbers: 1800 - 280 ppm of CO
2; Present - 390 ppm of CO
2; Point of no return (best estimate) - 450 ppm of CO
2. Current estimates put the point of no return here in 20 - 30 years. This wil cause an average global temperature rise of 2 degrees celcius causing many natural processes to add a lot more CO
2 to the air thus increasing global warming with no way to stop it.
Many developing countries are against limits imposed on them for CO
2 emissions because they feel that it is the industrialized countries that have so far increased the global CO
2 levels and should therefore reduce their emissions. This is a stumbling block because this would stifle the industrialized countries economies and are therefore against this but want all countries to combat global warming.
There is very little time to come to some sort of understanding.
Grant Linney. (December 3, 2010). Climate Change: It really is about you. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
Before 1900, the CO
2 concentration in the air never exceeded 300 ppm for the last 800 000 years, yet now CO
2 concentrations have increased dramatically - 1958 - 315 ppm of CO
2; Present - 390 ppm of CO
What is happening? 2010 has the highest number of record national temperatures ever, record breaking heat waves and massive floodings in different parts of the world.
The last paragraph says it all: "We must recognize a healthy economy - and healthy human beings - is totally dependent upon a healthy ecology."
For more information on keeping global CO
2 levels at 350 ppm, go to: www.hamilton350.org
Erik Olsen. (November 27, 2010). The lionfish has a target on its back. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR4.
Down in the Florida Everglades, scuba divers have competitions, or derbys, on how many;lionfish they can kill in a day. Is this cruel? Well, lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea. How did they get to the Florida Keys, or the Caribbean for that matter? Researchers believe aquarists, people who own aquariums for fun, released some of the lionfish in the 1990s and they have now spread.
Lionfish are formidable predators and are outcompeting all other fish species, in some cases outcompeting all other native species in an area. One female lionfish can produce 30,000 eggs in a single spawning event and can spawn every 4 days - which equates to over 2,000,000 per female per year. That is why there are competitions to try to reduce the numbers of lionfish in the Florida Keys.
Gwynne Dyer. (November 4, 2010). Moving like dinosaurs. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
A step in the right direction. A deal on biodiversity, signed by more than 190 countries was agreed to in Nagoya, Japan on Friday, October 29, 2010. The biodiversity deal is seen as a must because currently extinction rates on the planet are estimated to be 100 to 10000 higher than the normal rate.
What was established in the deal: an increase in the area of protected land in the world from 12.5 % to 17 % (no farming, grazing or forestry allowed). This may sound like a lot but is estimated to be only half of the land needed to remain untouched if nature is to go on producing the 'ecosystem services' that keep our environmnent relatively stable (humans will ultimately have to give back to nature 40 % of the land surface if we desire long-term stability on the planet).
Another Strategic Plan will see protected areas in the oceans increase from only 1 % currently to 10 % by 2020. This would allow large no-fishing zones which would allow marine organisms (i.e.: fish) to repopulate.
There are also measures to protect life in wetlands, forests, freshwater systems and coastal zones - and more importantly, the financing to pay for these initiatives.
This comes on the heels of a failed Climate Change Treaty in Copenhagen last December. Humans must keep in mind that pollution and environmental degradation is occurring at an alarming rate. Currently 40 % of human greenhouse gas emissions come from forestry and agriculture, the main activities that are decimating or destroying the living species on this planet.
Michael D. Lemonick. (November 2010). Climate Heretic. Scientific American, pp. 78 - 83.
Key Concepts: 1: If people and governments are going to take serious action to reduce carbon emissions, the time pretty much has to be now, because any delay will make efforts to stave off major changes more difficult and expensive to achieve. 2: In the wake of “Climategate” and attacks on policy makers, the public is more confused than ever about what to think, particularly when it comes to talk of uncertainty in climate science. Climate policy is stalled. 3: The public needs to understand that scientific uncertainty is not the same thing as ignorance, but rather it is a discipline for quantifying what is unknown. 4: Climate scientists need to do a better job of communicating uncertainty to the public and responding to criticism from outsiders.
Antonio Regalado. (October 2010). Reinventing the Leaf. Scientific American, pp. 86 - 89.
Global warming is a very hot topic, and current estimates state that the U.S. will require 10 trillion watts of clean energy by 2050, 3 times the average demand of 3.2 trillion watts used today. Whetre does all this CLEAN energy come from since most of the energy produced today is DIRTY.
New research is looking at the very complicated leaf and the process of photosynthesis. While photosynthesis produces glucose as a storage product of energy from the sun, the latest research is looking at producing hydrogen gas as a storage product of energy from the sun. Hydrogen gas is produced:
2O -> 2 H
2 + O
and hydrogen gas is burned in the following equation:
2 + O
2 -> 2 H
producing only water as a product, therefore it burns clean. See: Solar Nanowires Mimic Nature
For more on Global Warming, see: National Geographic: What is Global Warming
____________. (September 30, 2010). Mussels could halt invading carp. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
Bighead and silver carp - invasive Asian species are threatening to enter Lake Michigan, one of the great lakes, through Chicago area rivers and canals are filter feeders that consume up to 40 % of their body weight daily and can grow to be 1.2 m in length and weigh up to 45 kg. Quagga and zebra mussels - also invasive species from Europe and are filter feeders as well. They arrived in the ballast tanks of boats (for another view see: ballast water) in the 1980's, and have currently wrecked ecological havoc and done hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the great lakes.
Because quagga and zebra mussels have already filtered most of the plankton from the water,some biologists suggest that the bighead and silver carp may not find enough food in the great lakes if they do arrive to survive on. Other scientists however still insist the carp could survive and even thrive in a plankton-depleted environment.
One thing is for sure. It is best to keep the bighead and silver carp OUT of the great lakes altogether.
Gord Miller. (September 22, 2010). Dark clouds of climate change. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
Do you like the warmer summers? The longer falls? The earlier springs and warmer winters? Well, most probably would answer YES to all these questions, EXCEPT for people in the know (educated about the effects of global warming).
The average temperature around the world in the last century was 0.75 degrees celcius. the average temperature increase in south-central Canada (Ontario) was 1.2 degrees celcius. Is this good? NO!!
Many of Ontario's animal species are not going to be able to survive the increased temperatures, including Moose (expected to die of hypothermia when snow in northern Ontario turns to freezing rain, grasslands are expected to take over parts of the northern boreal forest, polar bears will lose habitat due to loss of sea ice in Hudson's Bay, and the Great Lakes themselves are expected to be NOT SO Great Lakes - with water levels expecting to drop by 1.15 meters (115 centimeters) in the next 4 decades. Deer ticks, a pest species that causes Lyme disease, have increased in numbers when tey used to be killed of by the cold winters of Ontario.
Our Ontario will not be the home of the past in the near future. many changes are headed our way UNLESS we get climate change under control.
____________. (September 14, 2010). Walruses heading for beach in Alaska. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A7.
You might think is a natural occurrence since walruses are found off the coast Alaska. Walruses are supposed to be resting on sea ice off the coast of Alaska but the sea ice they normally rest on has all melted.
Michael Moyer. (2010, September). How Much is Left? Scientific American, pp. 74 - 81.
What is left on this planet? How long will minerals, animals and water be around? Areas covered: The Peak of Oil and Coal; Melting Glaciers; Battles over Water; Extinction Rates; Feeding a Warming World; How much Indium, Silver, Gold, Copper, and Lithium is left?
View an interactive version of the article at: How Much is Left?
____________. (August 11, 2010). New Species of monkey a 'spectacular find'. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A12.
A new species of monkey has been found in Colombia, South America, known as Callicebus caquetensis. Estimates are there are only about 250 members of this species left living and are being pushed to extinction by the destruction of their natuiral environment, logging of the rainforest, for cropland.
____________. (August 11, 2010). Ice island sets sail, slowly, for Canada. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
An iceberg, 4 time the size of Manhattaen (260 km2 in size) broke off of the Peterman glacier in Greenland and may enter waters that will slowly take in along the Labrador coast towards Newfoundland. Icebergs continually break off of glaciers but this is a VERY LARGE iceberg and may pose hazards to shipping, oil platforms, etc. on its journey southward before it completely melts.
Klaus S. Lackner. (2010, June). Washing Carbon out of the Air. Scientific American, pp. 66 - 71.
The article states that we cannot afford to dump any more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere due to global warming and all its consequences yet the world is not cutting back. If we cannot stop putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere then maybe we should start removing some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The author envisions some 10 million (10 000 000) machines each removing 10 tons of carbon dioxide a day (to be used for other purposes - discussed in the paper), thus removing some 36 gigatons a year of carbon dioxide thus cutting the carbon dioxide concentration in the air by 5 parts per million (ppm) per year.
See: Carbon Carousel
Key Concepts: 1: Machines with filters made from sorbent materials can bind carbon dioxide, extracting it from the air. 2: With mass production,
machines might capture CO
2 at $30 a ton, less than the $100 or more charged for commercial CO
2 supply. 3:With improved sorbents,
10 million machines across the planet could reduce CO
2 concentration by five parts per million a year, more than the rate of global increase right now.
____________. (May 15, 2010). Songbirds disappearing fast, Canadian biologist warns. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A10.
A prominent Canadian biologist, Bridget Stutchbury at Toronto's York University predicts that 10 - 15 percent of the world's species of birds will go extinct within the next 100 years. The main reason - loss of habitat due to clear-cutting and urban sprawl - NOT global warming.
2010 is the United nation's international year of biodiversity where many countries agreed to significantly cut the loss of ecosystems signed in 1992. How many countries have met their treaty obligations - NONE!
____________. (May 14, 2010). Global warming killing off lizards: scientists. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A16.
Another round of bad news based on - you name it - Global Warming. Barry Sinervo of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz has stated:
"This is an extinction alert for all areas of the globe and for all the various species of lizards"
Sinervo has stated that all lizards need to bask in the sun in the morning to get their body temperatures up to hunt because they are cold-blooded, but with global warming, lizards now have to retreat into the lizards, but they stop reproducing because they are not getting enough food and the population starts to crash.
In Mexico's Yucatan peninsula region, scientists have found that the time the lizards are out foraging had disappearde.
Sinervo says we are in a new age. It heralds the age of climate forced extinctions.
Matthew Sturm. (2010, May). Arctic Plants Feel the Heat. Scientific American, pp. 66 - 73.
A very interesting article on how rapidly the Arctic region is changing. Used old World War II photos to compare present vegetation to vegetation in 1944.
Key Concepts: 1: A detailed set of aerial photos taken in the 1940s for oil exploration in northern Alaska has provided the most graphic evidence that the Arctic tundra is turning shrubbier and is “greening.” 2: Satellite remote sensing indicates that, in sharp contrast, the boreal forests south of the tundra are “browning” the result of dry conditions, more intense fires, and insect infestations. 3: Both the greening and the browning can be attributed to global climate change. These ecosystem transitions are likely to profoundly affect the wildlife and human inhabitants of the region and may even intensify global warming.
____________. (April 27, 2010). Oil covers almost 5,000 square kilometres. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
An oil rig that went down in the Gulf of Mexico is currently spewing 158,987 litres of oil every day at a depth of 1,524 metres and crews are trying to stop the leaking using remore controlled submarines.
If the leak is not stopped then the damage to all the environmentally sensitive areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida are in danger from the oil.
The article covers: 1 - when the oil started leaking; 2 - how BP (British Petroleum) is expected to try to cap the leak; and 3 - the different possible marine impacts from this spill.
Read the article! It's your world!!
Jonathan Foley. (April 2010). Living on a New Earth: Boundaries for a Healthy Planet: Solutions to Environmental Threats. Scientific American, pp. 53 - 60.
A first step at putting boundaries on 9 Pivotal Environmental Processes. Three of these Environmental Processes have, by this study, exceeded the safe Boundary for the process and the other six are close to exceeding the assigned Boundary number.The three Environmental processes that have eceeded their Boundary numbers are: Biodiversity, Nitrogen Flow and Climate Change. See: Pushing the Limit for a brief description of some of the solutions put forward to combat these problems and read the paper for more detailed descriptions.
The opening to the paper is a great reminder on how close to the brink we may be and the changes that will be required to solve all of the problems mankind faces on this planet we call HOME.
For a direct quote:
"Forget banking and the automotive industry. Earth is the one system that is truly “too big to fail.” For centuries humans have used up the planet’s resources, saddled it with our waste and simply moved on when a wellspring dried up or the back forty became polluted. But now we’ve exhausted that strategy. Scientists, social thinkers and the global public are realizing that humankind has transformed the natural planet into an industrialized one, and we must transition again to a sustainable planet if we are to survive.
So what is the bailout plan? The first step is determining how close to “failure” the world is. On page 54, environmental scientist Jonathan Foley presents the results of a major international collaboration that calculated safe limits for pivotal environmental processes, such as climate change and ocean acidification, that could undermine sustainability if allowed to go too far. The numerical boundaries may need fine-tuning, but knowing which processes matter most tells us where to look for solutions. On page 58, Scientific American invites eight experts to propose specific remedies.
Those fixes could slow environmental degradation but might not solve the underlying cause. That culprit, according to Middlebury College scholar in residence Bill McKibben, is the very driver of modern society: a relentless quest for economic growth. In an exclusive excerpt from his upcoming book, on page 61, McKibben argues that we must give up growth and reorganize based on smart maintenance of resources. Critics say the idea is unrealistic; on page 66, staff editor Mark Fischetti challenges him to respond. —The Editors"
Key Concepts: 1: Although climate change gets ample attention, species loss and nitrogen pollution exceed safe limits by greater degrees. Other environmental processes are also headed toward dangerous levels. 2: Promptly switching to low-carbon energy sources, curtailing land clearing and revolutionizing agricultural practices are crucial to making human life on Earth more sustainable.
Kara Gilmour. (2010, March 25). New Moore Island Sinks From Global Warming. http://www.newsoxy.com/new-moore-island/sinks-12831.html
This island is between India and Bangladesh and was created in 1970 after a cyclone hit the area and has now been overtaken by the ocean. Many scientists say it is due to Global Warming and the rise of water levels and many more islands are in danger across the globe.
____________. (2010, March 22). Web endangers rare species. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
Everyone loves the internet. There is so much information available, whether it be good information or bad.
Well, now the internet has emerged as one of the greatest threats to rare species, fuelling the illegal wildlife trade and making it easier to buy just about anything. The internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species.
So much for the internet and our environment!
Eric Staats. (2010, March 16). Record cold decimating manatees. Naples Daily News, pp. 1A & 4A.
The spring break down in Florida this year was not the record breaking high temperatures people travelling there wanted but were rather chilly. As one individual put it: "You were not in the water".
Well, that goes also for the animals that live in Florida. Manatees or sea cows, live in the waters around Florida and require water temperatures to be around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Well, this year water temperatures between Naples and Marco Island got as low as 47 degrees Fahrenheit and in some parts of the state got close to the freezing mark (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
Manatees can survive short bouts of cold water but not prolonged exposure and many (current count is over 200) have died.
Gwynne Dyer. (2010, March 10). We must stop emptying the oceans. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
An excellent commentary on the state of Tuna in our oceans.
Bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean sea has dwindled by 60% in the past six years.
Bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic fell by 85% before it got protection in the 1980's but has never recovered.
A 513 pound tuna sold for $175 000.00 (just ONE tuna)! Tuna in Japan goes for $350.00 a pound.
Stanford Univerity's Tag-a-Giant program is now paying $1000.00 a tag to fisherman that catch a tuna that was previously caught by the Tag-a-Giant program AND when 600 tuna were tagged in the North Pacific, they got 300 tags back - a very large percentage.
Read this article - it is an eye-opener about the state of our Oceans.
Seth Borenstein. (2010, February 27). Antarctic collision creates huge iceberg. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A14.
We are talking a HUGE iceberg. The piece that broke free is 78 Km long and 39 Km wide. It was nudged free by another iceberg even larger than this that broke free in 1992.
What scientists are concerned about is that the Antarctic coast could fill with sea ice, which would disrupt the sinking ability of the dense and cold water. This sinking water is what spills into ocean basins and feeds the global ocean currents with oxygen. The fear is that it could starve areas of the ocean of oxygen, a necessary requirement for animals to live.
See Video: Mertz Collision 1
Chinta Puxley. (2010, February 6). Arctic melt cain reaction. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
Rapidly melting Arctic sea ice is changing the world's weather, releasing contaminant into the food chain and threatening the survival of whales and polar bears. Becaues there is more open sea and less ice in the Arctic, Arctic storms, or cyclones, characterized by snow and high winds are increasing. These storms melt the sea ice from the underside and remove snow from the topside, thus causing the sea ice to break-up.
Scienmtists have found that the loss of sea ice has both far-reaching and immediate consequences.
Read the article to learn more!
Alan R. Townsend and Robert W. Howarth. (2010, February). Fixing the Global Nitrogen Problem. Scientific American, pp. 64 - 71.
Some of the terms in this paper might seem familiar to you: N
2 gas, nitrogen fixing bacteria and their symbiotic relationship with the roots of legumes, denitrification, nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO
2), and nitrous oxide (N
This paper discusses many of the drawbacks of taking nitrogen from the air and fixing it into a usable form for plants - the Haber-Bosch process.
Ask for the paper and read it! It will really emlighten you to the negative points of NITROGEN.
See: Nitrogen's Dark Side.
Key Concepts: 1: Nitrogen pollution from smokestacks, tailpipes and heavily fertilized croplands creates a host of challenges for the environment and human health. 2: Such ills are mounting as some countries burn more fossil fuels and pursue fertilizer-intensive endeavors, such as biofuels production. 3: Synthetic fertilizer remains indispensable for meeting global food demands, but the world can — and should — do more with less.
Michael McCarthy. (2010, January 30). God help the elephants. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR2.
If there is not enough bad news to go around. African elephants are once again in the limelight. Governments in Africa want to trade ivory on the open market because they have stored inventories from elephants that have died or ivory that has been confiscated from ivory hunters that have killed elephants illegally. The problem with this is many people are saying it will open up ivory poaching once again because poached ivory from real ivory will not be identifiable.
Go back to the 1980s when elephant populations in Africa plummeted 50 %, from 1 300 000 to 625 000 in only 10 years.
____________. (January 7, 2010). Canadian Arctic's a melting hot spot. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A7.
The melting season in the Arctic is growing longer every year. American researchers have shown that, on average, the Arctic sea ice started melting 2.5 days earlier and started to refreeze 3.7 days later every decade. That means that the average melt season is just under 20 days longer than it was 30 years ago.
Some areas are affected more than others. Hudson Bays melting and refreeze dates have increased a full month (30 days) from 1979, one of the fastest paces in the Arctic.
One drawback to this increased melt/refreeze time: biologists have noted significant declines in the condition of polar bears in the Hudson Bay area.
Katey Walter Anthony. (December 2009). Methane: A Menace Surfaces. Scientific American, pp. 68 - 75.
The opening remarks state the dark side to this problem:
"Arctic permafrost is already thawing, creating lakes that emit methane. The heat-trapping gas could dramatically accelerate global warming. How big is the threat? What can be done?"
Key Concepts: 1: Methane bubbling up into the atmosphere from thawing permafrost that underlies numerous Arctic lakes appears to be hastening global warming. 2: New estimates indicate that by 2100 thawing permafrost could boost emissions of the potent greenhouse gas 20 to 40 percent beyond what would be produced by all natural and manmade sources. 3: The only realistic way to slow the thaw is for humankind to limit climate warming by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.
Bob Weber. (2009, November 28). Polar bears cannibalizing their young. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A15.
One researcher who has worked with polar bears for over 30 years has never seen a case of cannibalism and this year ALONE, four cases were reported to Manitoba Conservation and four to Environment Canada. Wha could be happening? Most people know the answer!
Read the article.
Chinta Puxley. (2009, November 28). Arctic sea ice has all but gone, replaced by 'rotten ice'. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A15.
The title says it all! The ice that polar bears call home, multi-year ice, that allow polar bears to survive the summer has all but gone. The ice that is now present cannot support the weight of a polar bear when it walks on it.
Global warming is causing the ice to melt at approximately 70 000 km2/year. Multi-year ice used to cover about 90 % of the Arctic basin and now only covers about 19 %.
Bill Danielson. (2009, October 3). Adept predator kills with precise skill. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR6.
You can find praying mantises in the long grassy fields of Hamilton, but they are hard to find because they are experts at camouflage. Try to find one and watch! Their skills at catching prey (food) are terrific as outlined in this article.
Tanalee Smith. (2009, October 3). Another species in peril. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR1.
The koala, Australia's star symbol, is dying of stress. The united States already considers the koala a threatened species, down to approximately 100 000 remaing, a far cry from the millions of koalas that used to roam Australia in the 1700s when the European settlement began.
A survey of the Koala Coast shows populations in that area dropped 64%, from 1999 (6 200 koalas) to 2008 (2 800 koalas).
This species may just be another statistic after all is said and done, because Australia already counts more than 55 extinct mammals, birds and reptiles from the country.
____________. (2009, September 11). Tundra being 'squeezed'. The Hamilton Spectator.
"The actic as we know it may soon be a thing of the past," said lead author for the International Polar Year, Eric Post of Penn State University. Temperatures across the Arctic are rising 2 - 3 times faster than the rest of the planet and the Boreal forest to the south is marching north, bringing with it invading species. One example is the red fox, a boreal forest predator that is replacing the native arctic fox.
Moises Velasquez-Manoff. (2009, September 5). Our best guess on global warming may be wrong. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR3.
Ever wonder why so much oil and natural gas is found in the Arctic? It is very cold up there. Well, it wasn't always cold! During the Eocene era, some 50 million years ago, the Arctic was covered with swamps and Palm trees. What caused this rise in temperature at the poles? It was due to a rapid spike in carbon dioxide associated with rapid climate change - clled the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).
Why is this important? Scientists have been unable to reproduce the PETM in climate models unless they raise the carbon dioxide levels higher than what they think were actually present. What is missing from their climate models? Scientists have found evidence for a 70% increase in carbon dioxide levels but when put into their climate models they only get half the warming they knew occurred.
There are 4 possible explanations: 1: carbon dioxide warming capacity is higher than they presently estimate, 2: the sensitivity of climate to rsing carbon dioxide is not linear, 3: some additional positive feedback exists that is triggered by high carbon dioxide levels, and 4: there were many swamps during the Eocene period which produce a lot of methane gas that is also a strong greenhouse gas.
____________. (2009, September 4). Arctic at its warmest in 2,000 years: study. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
This study went back 1,600 years longer than any previous study, with no other forcing factors at work other than greenhouse gas composition of the atmosphere.
The study found that from the years 1 to 1,900 actual world temeperatures were declining at about 0.2 degrees celsius per 1,000 years due to the Earth's Wobble in its orbit. From 1,900 to present saw an increase of 1.4 degrees celcius over what it should have been.
Last fact, not surprising - the warmest decade on record: 1999 - 2008.
For graph of temperatures from 1,000 to 2,100 (projected), see: Collins, Williams, Robert Colman, James Haywood, Martin R. Manning, and Philip Mote. (2007, August). The Physical Science behind Climat Change. Scientific American, pp. 64 - 73 below.
Steve Connor. (2009, August 22). Decaying plastics poison the ocean. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR2.
You toss a plastic bottle at the garbage can and miss while roller-blading by the bay and you keep on skating by without giving it a second thought. The wind picks up and the bottle ends up in the bay and eventually to ....? Well, new research says that that second thought you didn't give the plastic bottle, you should have.
Plastic and styrofoam are now known to break down quicker in the oceans. Plastics give off bisphenol A which are known to disrupt hormonal systems in animals and also polysterene based. Styrofoam releases styrene monomers, dimers and trimers which are all suspected of being carcinogenic. Some of these samples are measured at approximately 150 parts per million.
Huber, George W., & Bruce E. Dale. (2009, July). Grassoline at the Pump. Scientific American, pp. 52 - 59.
There has been much talk about the conversion of sugarcane (in Brazil), corn and soybeans (in the U.S.) into ethanol (first generation biofuels) for use in transportation because of the use of a food source that can be used to feed the hungry people of the world. The projected amount of fuel generated in this manner is about 10% for all developed countries. Not enough for long term stability.
Well, a new concept is taking hold, with the first commercial refinery to come online in 2011. This process and many others under development have projected equivalent of between 34 and 160 billion barrels of oil per year, more than the current 30 billion barrels of oil consumed worldwide at present. This process uses cellulose, the basic scaffolding of plants and can convert the cellulose into any type of fuel (gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, propane, etc.).
See: Cellulosic Feedstock Options across the U.S. to see where the cellulose will originate.
Key Concepts: 1: Second-generation biofuels made from the inedible parts of plants are the most environmentally friendly and technologically promising near-term alternatives to oil. 2: Most of this “grassoline” will come from agricultural residues such as cornstalks, weedlike energy crops and wood waste. 3: The U.S. can grow enough of these feedstocks to replace about half the country’s total consumption of oil without affecting food supplies.
Karen Kaplan. (2009, June 27). Spores threaten world's wheat crops. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR4.
Most people in the developed world pick up a loaf of bread from the supermarket and do not give it a second thought that it is made of wheat. Currently there are more than 2 000 000 square kilometers of wheat planted around the world and it is currently under attack. It is currently under attack by Ug99, a stem rust, which is a pathogen that keeps mutating.
The stem rust was kept at bay for years by integrating different combinations of 6 major rust resistant genes into the different varieties of wheat. Well, in 1999, a new strain of stem rust was discovered in Uganda and has since moved to Kenya where it has devastated wheat farms, has moved north to Ethiopia, Sedan and Yemen. Recently it has jumped the Red Sea and has shown up in Iran and is poised to enter the breadbasket of Northern India and pakistan and is predicted to move to Russia, China and even North America (by wind currents).
Ug99 is currently regarded as the number 1 threat to the world's most widely grown crop and famine is only a matter of time. The solution to the problem is complex and could take upwards of a decade, time that we (humans) do not have.
____________. (2009, June 11). Climate Refugees. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A12.
More of a discussion on new treaties that will take into account "climare refugees".
Important part of report: 40 island states could disappear, in whole or in part, if seas rise by two meters. The Maldives, a chain of 1200 atolls in the Indian Ocean has raised the possibility of moving its entire population of 300 000 people to another country.
Another important story of global warming: The melting glaciers of the Himalayas threaten flooding to nearly 1 400 000 000 people and after the flooding will come drought when seasonal runoffs from the glaciers stop.
Lester R. Brown. (2009, May). Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization? Scientific American, pp. 50 - 57.
An interesting view point on how the lack of food throughout the world may lead to instability and - eventually - the destruction of civilization as we know it. The major players are: Key Factors in Food Shortages, Falling Water Tables, Eroding Soils, and Rising Temperatures.
Key Concepts: 1: Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos. 2: Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees. 3: Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production. 4: Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.
____________. (2009, April 25). New species of tree flourishing in Ethiopia. The Hamilton Spectator.
A new species of tree, Acacia fumosa, was discovered in Ethiopia. The amazing thing is that it is not an isolated tree that was discovered but a tree that covers an estimated 3 100 square miles.
Approximately 10 000 new species of plants, animals and insects are discovered each year.
____________. (2009, April 25). More city trees infested. The Hamilton Spectator.
The emerald ash borer, a non-native insect species has been found in Hamilton and it is expected to kill 90 % of the ash trees within the city. It will take time, but most of the ash trees will disappear.
Randolph E. Schmid. (2009, April 4). Arctic sea ice could be gone in three decades: report. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A14.
New data from the arctic shows that melting is occurring at a much faster rate than predicted. The average autumn surface air temperatures from 2005-2008 was greater than 5C over what was expected. Add to this an increased melting of the arctic sea ice and you have the surface waters aborbing solar energy instead of reflecting solar energy. This all leads to the temperatures of the arctic, and by default, the temperature of the Earth heating up (global warming).
The temperature rise for the 2005-2008 time frame was predicted to occur in 2070. Global warming is occurring MUCH FASTER than models are predicting.
Cox-Foster, Diane, & Dennis van Engelsdorp. (2009, April). Saving the Honeybee. Scientific American, pp. 40 - 47.
I assume everyone has heard of the mysterious ailment affecting honeybees called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). If you haven't, then you should take note. Did you know that the lowly European honeybee, Apis mellifera, is so vital to the economy that if it disappeared we would have a food shortage on our hands.
There are approximately 1000 beekeepers with 2.4 million colonies of bees in the United States and every February, virtually all movable U.S. hives are taken to California to pollinate almond trees. During the winter of 2007-2008 approximately 750 000 to 1 000 000 honeybee colonies were lost. If honeybees were to die off many fruits and vegetables consumed routinely like apples, blueberries, broccoli and almonds would become the food of kings.
So what is causing this large die-off of the honeybee? Many possible causes were studied and ruled out like: Chemicals - pesticides and herbicides; Varroa mites that attack the pupa of the honeybee; and Fungal parasites that attack the intestinal tract and cause dysentery.
The main that researches have honed in on to date is IAPV (Isreali acute paralysis virus) that cause paralytic seizures in honeybees. Other factors that have aggravated CCD is poor nutrition and exposure to pesticides, which weaken a colony and make them more susceptible to viruses.
Treatment for this virus is being done with a small piece of siRNA (short interference RNA). The siRNA is designed to interact with viral RNA (base pair bonding) and blocks translation of the viral RNA into protein.
Key Concepts: 1: Millions of beehives worldwide have emptied out as honeybees mysteriously disappear, putting at risk nearly 100 crops that require pollination. 2: Research is pointing to a complex disease in which combinations of factors, including farming practices, make bees vulnerable to viruses. 3:Taking extra care with hive hygiene seems to aid prevention. And research into antiviral drugs could lead to pharmaceutical solutions.
Partlow, Joshua. (2009, February 14). Living and Logging in the Amazon. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR3.
A major environmental concern is the number of people that have nothing and survive by entering protected Amazon forests and cutting down the trees to grow crops and cattle. As the people say, they have to put bread on the table. One example is Bom Futuro National Forest, a 700 000 acre protected zone that currently has currently lost 170 000 acres to farming. At its current rate, 50% of the National Forest will be lost in 5 years, all of it by 2021.
The Brazilian governemt is cracking down on people who illegaly cut down trees, but many people are protesting. Brazil is currently the world leader in greenhouse gas emissions due to the amount of Amazon rainforest cut and burned each year.
Lamb, Gregory M. (2009, February 7). Earth's Big Problem. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR1.
How many people on this world is enough? A very ethical question when the population is increasing at the rate of 75 000 000 to 80 000 000 people per year. Currently there are 6.8 billion (6 800 000 000) people on the world and at the current rate of growth that number will be 9 (9 000 000 000) billion by mid century. With unanswered questions about food security, poverty, energy supplies, environmental degredation and climate change at the forefront of peoples thoughts, is it time for politicians to step in and regulate the number of children couples can have (as China has tried to do). Demographers calculate that if every family in the world had only one child, the number of people on the earth would drop to 1.6 (1 600 000 000) billion by the middle of the century (2050).
Other chiling statistics: Less developed (poorer regions) of the world in 1950 had double the population number as the more developed (richer) countries and by 2050 that ratio will balloon to 6 to 1, and the less developed regions had 2.8 children per woman versus 1.6 per woman in the more developed countries.
What is unsustainable is the consumption patterns of the wealthiest people in the world.
Choi, Charles Q. (2009, February). Acid Bath. Scientific American, p. 29.
For a more detailed examination of CO2 and ocean acidification, see: Doney, Scott C. (2006, March). The Dangers of Ocean Acidification. Scientific American, pp. 58-65. In studies by J. Timothy Wooten of the University of Chicago around islands off of the northwestern tip of washington State, U.S.A., ocean acidification was observed rising 10 times faster than levels predicted by climate change simulations.
An increase in CO
2 levels in the air are absorbed by oceans and the following reaction takes place:
Wooten has also absorved that the ecosystems within the ocean are shifting, where large shelled animals are decreasing in numbers and smaller shelled and noncalcareous algae (species that lack calcium-based skeletons) are increasing.
____________. (2009, January 10). A sea of troubles. The Hamilton Spectator, p. WR3.
The caption says it all: "The more we unravel the ocean's mysteries, the less pretty the picture becomes."
Things to worry about: 1: the ocean is becoming more acidic which is very hard on marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells(See: Doney, Scott C. (2006, March). The Dangers of Ocean Acidification. Scientific American, pp. 58-65.); 2: ocean levels are rising which will affect many people living by the oceans; 3: there are more frequent red tides, algae blooms that are poisonous; 4: overfishing; 5: fertilizers running into the oceans just to name a few.
For fish populations in the north Atlantic near Europe, they recovered the best during World war 2 because fishing vtrawlers remained in port. Currently, 75 % of all marine fish species are below, or on the brink of falling below, sustainable levels.
A quote from the article that I found most interesting: "Yet the mass extinction, however remote, that should be concentrating minds is that of mankind.
Dyer, Gwynne. (2008, December 16). It's almost too late to stop warming. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A17.
An editorial on climate change and things to come. This perspective is based climate-change scenarios being performed by the military in various countries. Why the military? you ask!
Four conclusions Mr. Dyer has come to after 18 months work, 12 different countries and over 70 interviews:
1: Scientists are really scared. Every change that is happening with respect to climate change is happening a lot faster than any climate model has predicted.
2: The generals of the military are right. Food is the key issue right now and the world food supply is very tight, with only approximately 50 days worth of food stored up for bad times (i.e.: crop failures). This will put a real strain on those countries that cannot produce enough food for their people and have to import food.
3: There is a point of no return after which warming becomes unstoppable - and we are probably going to sail right through it (if we have not already done so). Once this point is reached, we will not be able to bring global warming under control.
4: We will have to cheat and scientists have come up with many alternative for this last scenario. (See below: Kunzig, Robert. (2008, November). A Sunshade for Planet Earth. Scientific American, pp. 46 - 55.)
____________. (2008, December 15). Seeds of future in jeopardy. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A10.
The global financial crisis is having an impact on this incredibly important undertaking: a seed bank that focuses on wild species, not just crops. The process is very expensive because each species that is collected must be: obtained, shipped, meticulously cleaned, X-rayed for insect damage and then frozen - a process that costs about $ 3 000 per species.
See related article: ____________.(2007, February 17). Doomsday vault makes economic sense.The Hamilton Spectator, p. D10.
Faulkner, Rob. (2008, December 10). Fewer male pike in fish habitat. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A3.
The pike that live in Cootes Paradise are being bombarded by gender-bending chemicals, and at times treated sewage water is the only water in the canal. Currently, researchers have found that 77% of the pike moving between Cootes Paradise and the lake (the fishway) are female.
This follows on a 2003 masters of science thesis by a graduate student at Trent University that found male white perch had 83% intersexualism, that is the presence of male and female traits, a trend known as 'gonadal intersex'.
Cootes Paradise, of course, is part of the Hamilton ecosystem and everyone in the city should be concerned.
Lean, Geoffre. (2008, December 9). Gender-bending chemicals threaten 'basis male tool kit'. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A7.
The article begins very candidly: "The male gender is in danger - ". If you are worried, well many scientists are also worried. Scientists report that 'evolution itself is being disrupted'. Human males born to mothers who are exposed to these chemicals during pregnancy have smaller penises and feminized genitals. As well, sperm counts are dropping to very low levels, from 150 000 000 / mL of sperm fluid to 60 000 000 / mL of sperm fluid in the last 50 years.
Other areas that are showing these effects: 50% of male fish in British lowland rivers have been found to be developing eggs in their testes; two-thirds of male Sitka black-tailed deer in Alaska have been found to have undescended testes and deformed antler growth.
Where are these chemicals coming from: Birth control (contaceptive) pills pass unaltered through sewage treatment plants directly into the water, other endocrine disrupters.
Read the article to discover where these endocrine disrupters are found in.
____________. (2008, December 6). Summer ice in Arctic will be thing of the past. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
The scientist in charge of the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study, a nine month scientific project in the Canadian Arctic based aboard the Coast Guard cutter Amundsen has stated that the Arctic basin will be free of ice in the summer by the year 2015, ice that has previously covered the basin for the last 1 million years and is all due to global warming.
____________. (2008, November 14). UN report points to peril in Asia over brown cloud cover. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
Scientists say that the imperative to act has never been clearer! A brown haze, sometimes more than a mile thick stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to the Yellow Sea and during the sprong season can drift as far east as California!
The brown haze is a byproduct of automobile exhaust, slash-and-burn agriculture. cooking on wood or dung fires and coal fired power plants. A UN report states that between 10 and 25 % of the sunlight that should reach city streets is being blocked.
Koop, David. (2008, November 3). Mexico's dwindling giant salamanders. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A7.
Another article concerning the possible extinction of a species. This species is the axolotl, also known as the 'water monster' or 'Mexican walking fish'. This species lives in a watery environment, i.e. - lake, and its environment is being drained of its water around Mexico city. In 1998, the density of the axolotl population was approximately 1500 axolotls per 2.5 square kilometers and presently it is down to approximately 25 per 2.5 square kilometers, a 60 fold decrease in the size of its population.
What is being done about this problem? Read the article to find out.
Kunzig, Robert. (2008, November). A Sunshade for Planet Earth. Scientific American, pp. 46 - 55.
Global Warming is becoming such a heated topic these days, that to counter the effects of risng carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, some old and some new novel geoengineering concepts are being considered where once the were branded as far out ideas not worth thinking about. Why now? 1: Carbon dioxide levels are rising faster than the worst case scenarios, currently about 8 000 000 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from fossil fuels); and 2: Ice is melting faster than ever at the poles, suggesting that the tipping point is closer than anyone expected.
The ideas listed are:
1: Increasing the concentration of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere (stratosphere) where it reacts with water to produce sulfuric acid which deflects some of the incoming light. Probable downfalls to this idea are an increase in acid rain and accelerated destruction of the ozone layer leading to an increase in skin cancer.
2: Spraying sea mist into the atmosphere over the oceans leads to an icrease in the number of water droplets in the air at an average smaller size thus deflecting sunlight back out into space. The estimated number of Flettner ships required for this job is 1 500 each spewing out 8 gallons of seawater a second.
3: Capturing carbon by seeding the oceans with iron resulting in planktonic blooms which utilize more carbon dioxide from the air. Unsure about how much carbon dioxide would remain out of the air by going deep in the ocean. If the plankton is eaten or broken down near the surface, carbon dioxide is released and will return to the atmosphere. Another idea that has surfaced is to break down sodium chloride into sodium and chloride ions, allow the ions to react with water to produce sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, remove the acid from the water and this allows carbon dioxide to react with the sodium hydroxide to produce calcium carbonate. This also helps relieve the acidification of the oceans.
4: A planetary sunshade. This is the most expensive idea, coming in at about 5 000 000 000 000 (trillion) dollars and consisting of approximately 1 000 000 000 000 (trillion) small disc shaped fliers, each with a solar cell and a navigational unit, placed at the Lagrangian Point. The estimated time to accomplish this task: Launch 1 000 000 discs every minute for 30 years!!!
Key Concepts: 1: Many scientists now support serious research into “geoengineering,” deliberate actions taken to slow or reverse global warming. 2: Of the various geoengineering proposals, the ones that shade the earth from the sun could bring about the most immediate effects. But all of them have drawbacks and side effects that probably cannot be anticipated. 3: Pumping sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, as volcanoes do, is the most well established way to block the sun. Other proposals call for brightening clouds over the oceans by lofting sea salt into the atmosphere and building a sunscreen in space.
______________. (2008, October 17). Arctic autumn too hot. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A19.
Arctic temperatures are at a record 5 degrees Celsius above normal. Should we be concerned? You bet.
Read the article to find out a few of the animals that are affected by this change in climate.
____________. (2008, October 7). Mammals face massive extinction threat. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A9.
An extensive survey by 1700 researchers found that at least one quarter (25%) of the world's mammals are faced with extinction due to loss of wildlife habitat, hunting and poaching. Why does should this worry the average person? It's worrisome because a diversity of species stabilizes the planet and each species that goes extinct disrupts the balance and ripples through the food chain, making it more difficult for other species, like humans, to survive.
Dyer, Gwynne. (2008, October 3). Arctic heating up too fast. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A19.
Runaway "Global Warming"!! Could this happen during this century?
Carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas that has been the intense focus of the world to lower, because as the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increase, the temperature of the world rises.
Another greenhouse gas that many people do not know about is methane. Methane has the dubious honour of being 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a warming agent (air temperature). Thousands of megatonnes of methane is locked up below the arctic permafrost and in the arctic ocean below the ice. As the permafrost and ice begin to melt, methane escapes into the atmosphere.
A recent scientific exploration of the arctic region found areas in the Arctic Ocean where methane was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve in the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface. This can be considered the first step on runaway global warming because predictions are that we could get human greenhouse gases under control, but if methane is released in large quantities, the average temperature of the globe would still rise.
The European Union has set a goal of a maximum average temperature increase of 2 degrees C not be exceeded, but the average temperature of the Arctic is already 4 degrees C, well above the stated goal and the permafrost is beginning to melt.
There are several techniques for lowering global temperatures as a stopgap, and some are mentioned in this paper. Ask for a copy to find out what they are!
_____________. (2008, September 2). After 125,000 years, northern passages open. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
Look what is happening in the Arctic!
After 125,000 years, not only is the passageway above Canada open to shipping from the Atlantic to the Pacific (Northwest passage), but also the passageway above Russia (Northeast passage). It is a historic event and already boats are lining up to ply these waterways because the distances from one ocean to the other is much shorter than going through the Suez canal or the Panama canal.
The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said that the meltoff of sea ice could reach record amounts, greater than all of 2006. Remembering that 2006 saw 500 000 square kilometers more melting of sea ice than 2005 which in itself was a record.
Auld, Alison . (2008, September 2). Sea level rises could far exceed estimates. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
The Greenland ice sheets, thought to be stable are now showing signs of melting. Current estimates of Greenland melting are at raising ocean levels by a little over 1.5 mm per year, but new research says that the rise could be 3 times the current estimates, up to 5 mm per year rise in ocean levels.
The sobering thought! If all of the Greenland ice sheet melts, it is estimated to raise ocean levels by 7 meters or 700 centimeters or 7000 millimeters, threatening hundreds of millions of people who live by the ocean.
Brown, Peter. (2008, July). Polar Express. Scientific American, pp. 18 - 19.
If you think that computer models that predict the melting of the polar ice caps are correct, then think again. This article claims that: "Ice is melting at the poles much faster than climate models predict." In just February of this year, 160 square kilometers of the Wilkins ice shelf in Antarctica broke up and disappeared in just 10 days. This was the latest of seven major ice breakups that have occurred in the Antarctic in the last 30 years, after approximately 400 years of ice stability.
The Greenland ice sheet is also thinning out and current the major area of concern is in the Arctic. As the Arctic ice melts and the temperatures rise, the Arctic permafrost melts and releases trapped methane gas. Why is this important to everyone, because 20 years after the methane is released it remains 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and after 100 years, methane still remains 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide.
If methane is allowed to be released in large quantities, the planet runs the risk of having a runaway climate catastrophe.
Borenstein, Seth. (2008, June 28). Ice-free North Pole in sight. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A11.
Another sad story on the environment!
Recent computer climate models predicted the North Pole to be ice free at only a 1 in 70 chance over the next decade. A current leading ice scientist, basing his predictions on weather and ocean conditions in the next several weeks, at a 50 / 50 chance of an ice free North Pole. Even more conservative scientists put the risk at 1 in 4.
These changes to the North Pole are occurring faster than anyone has ever predicted and faster than computer models predicted and are telling us that we have to do something about global warming now - not wait and see.
Broome, John. (2008, June). The Ethics of Climate Change. Scientific American, pp. 97 - 102.
A great paper on the ethical concerns over global warming. Describes the differences between Pure Discounting and Temporal Impartial - by raising the scenario: should we give less importance to the death of a 10-year old 100 years in the future than to the death of a 10-year old now.
It also raises the ethics of Costs and Benefits: different economists, based on their ethical outlook predict different scenarios for the future: i.e.: $2.5 billion today is worth $ 1 trillion dollars 100 years from now versus $247 billion today is worth $ 1 trillion dollars 100 years from now when taking into account the well being of future generations. These different outlooks relate directly to the amount of money we wish to spend today, and hence the degree to which we stop global warming from occuring.
Everyone now realizes that global warming is happening and there are inherent risks to the human population if it continues unchecked. The question now is at what cost to our present society versus our future society (children and grandchildren).
A must read!
Key Concepts: 1: Future generations will suffer most of the harmful effects of climate change. Yet if the world economy grows, they will be richer than we are. 2: The present generation must decide, with the help of expert advice from economists, whether to aggressively reduce the chances of future harm or to let our richer descendants largely fend for themselves. 3: Economists cannot avoid making ethical choices in formulating their advice. 4: Even the small chance of utter catastrophe from global warming raises special problems for ethical discussion.
_________. (2008, May 16). World's biodiversity sinking fast: report. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A12.
A sad state of affairs: "The world's species are declining at a rate "unprecedented since the extinction of the dinosaurs," a recent census of the animal kingdom has revealed." In the last 35 years, the Living Planet index states that biodiversity on the planet has plummeted by almost a third.
The current extinction rate is now 10 000 times faster than what has historically been recorded as normal.
Weber, Bob. (2008, April 12). Arctic ice shelf cracking up. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A10.
Another doom and gloom story about arctic ice cracking up and the potential for it to melt. In this case, its the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, Canada's largest ice shelf that is over 3000 years old and more than 40 meters thick. As one scientist said about the plain of ice is that "it is on life support".
_________. (2008, March 26). Antarctic ice shelf in jeopardy after massive chunk collapses. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
Another casualty of Global Warming is being played out in Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey scientist David Vaughan stated. A large piece of ice, estimated at 414 square kilometers, part of the Wilkins ice shelf that has been around for approximately 1500 years hasc collapsed. This portion only represents about 4% of the Wilkins ice shelf, but may trigger further colapse of the shelf.
David Vaughan predicted earlier that the Wilkins shelf would collapse, but not for at least another 15 years. Once again, we are recognizing that the earth is further along in the Global Warming cycle than computer models have predicted
McGuinness, Eric. (2008, March 11). Climate change done deal. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A4.
A study posted on the Natural Resources Website states that climate change will get worse no matter what we do to limit greenhouse gas emissions. They are calling for an effort to battle climate change on the order of fighting a world war, but the effort is falling short. Many changes are expected to occu in Canada, including lower water levels in the Great lakes and inland water shortages, heat waves, increased numbers of smog days and more intense storms and flooding. Read the final report at: Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007Jacobson, Celean. (2008, February 26). S. Africa orders elephant cull. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A8.
South Africa has stated that their elephant population is ballooning, having risen from approximately 200 at the turn of the 20th century (1900), to 8000 in 1995 and now approaching 20000. Many animal rights groups are against the cull because of the traumatic effects on the other elephants. Other countries also have large elephant populations (Botswana - 165000; Zimbabwe - 80000; Mozambique - 20000), while other African countries are struggling to keep their populations alive due to poaching of ivory. All in all, a very controversial call.Payton, Brian. (2008, February 23). The deadly side of palm oil. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A15.
Palm oil is less harmful than transfats and has become the new oil of choice. One problem with the new oil of choice: it requires a lot of land to grow. Palm oil is grown on the tropical rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. How many people actually know where Borneo and Sumatra are, never mind what is going on on those islands. Up until 1997, both islands lost 60% of their rainforests to palm oil production and palm oil demand is growing at the rate of 3000 square kilometers per year until about 2020. The World Bank refers to the conditions on these two islands as - "a species extinction spasm of planetary proportions." Does anyone know what animals live on these two islands that are being driven to extinction: orangutans (a close cousin of man), Sumatran rhinoceroses, pygmy elephants, and an ark's worth of endangered and endemic species. I ask? What is more important - palm oil or these incredibly rare species?Marks, Kathy, and Howden, Daniel. (2008, February 5). 'The Great Pacific Garbage Patch'. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A9.
Have you ever wondered where all the garbage that goes down many city sewer drains, or the garbage that gets tossed on the ground goes? Wonder no more. A lot of that garbage ends up in the Pacific ocean due to ocean curents. In fact, approximately 100 000 000 tons of garbage is circulating in the Pacific, producing the world's largest garbage dump that is approximately twice the size of the continental USA. Now that is huge, disgusting and disturbing. Ask yourself: What is the future going to be like on this planet?Harris, Edward. (2008, February 2). Dire stakes over global deforestation. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D10.
Rainforests arond the world are disappearing at an alarming rate, approximately 20 hectares a minute OR 130 000 square kilometers a year. Prince Charles of Britain commented on the forests saying: " ... we have to find better ways to make them more valuable alive than dead". Environmentalists say that cutting trees will lead to greater climate change, more loss of species and we only have on the order of a decade (10 years) to get matters under control.
Astor, Michael. (2008, February 2). Can the Amazon help combat global warming?. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D10.
A group of researchers are studying the Amazon rainforest to understand how it affects the climate. Not much is known, but they do know that it is more fragile and more complex than we ever imagined. Recent studies suggest that the Amazon may be approaching a tipping point where rainfall will be reduced enough to cause the forests to dry out thus producing a giant savannah.Bell, Robin E. (2008, February). The Unquiet Ice. Scientific American, pp. 60 - 67.
Key Concepts: 1: The land-based ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica hold enough water to raise global sea level by more than 200 feet. 2: A comple "plumbing system" of rivers, lakes and meltwater lies under the ice sheets. That water "greases" the flow of vast streams of ice toward the ocean. 3: For millenia, the outgoing discharge of ice has been balanced by incoming snowfall. But when warming air or surface meltwater further greases the flow or removes its natural impediments, huge quantities of ice lurch seaward. 4: Models of potential sea-level rise from climate change have ignored the effects of subglacial water and the vast streams of ice on the flow of ice entering the sea.
Predictions: If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted: sea levels would rise 19 feet; If the Greenland Ice Sheet melted: sea levels would rise 24 feet; If the East Antarctic Ice Sheet melted: sea levels would rise 170 feet.
As global temperatures rise, the surface ice of glaciers melt and the liquid water bores holes through the ice called Moulins. The liquid water then flows to the bottom of the glacier, lubricating the glacier/ground contact, reducing friction and allowing the glacier to move faster towrds the ocean. As global sea temperatures rise, the floating ice melts quicker and the glacier break-ups. These large floating segments of the glacier hold back the land ice, and when removed by break-ups or melting, allows the land based ice to move quicker to the ocean, thus increasing glacier melting.
Carroll, Chris. (2008, January). High Tech Trash. National Geographic, pp. 64 - 81.
A very disturbing article on what happens to your old computer, computer monitor, mp3 player, TV, etc. When you throw these electronics into the garbage or give them away, are they disposed of properly or is it just good to get rid of them? The old saying, out of site, out of mind can really be true.
Much of these old electronics end up in countries like: India, China, Phillipines, or Ghana. Disturbing acounts of the harm people expose themselves to due to poverty are depicted.
A man melts electronic circuit boards down for lead in a pot then uses the same pot for cooking. Young boys in their early teens in Ghana burn the plastic off of copper wires, exposing themselves to heavy metals and dioxins, so that they can sell the copper for money. On the coast of Ghana, much of the unwanted waste is left on the ground by the coast and is washed out to see when high tides come in.
Health risks due to electronic components that are improperly buried, burned or dismantled come from: Lead, PVCs, Brominated flame retardants, Barium, Chromium, Mercury, Beryllium, and Cadmiun.
Want an eye opener on what happens to that old computer you throw out. Read this article.Gibbins, Roger. (2008, January 14). Global warming issue hotter than ever. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A15.
Recently at a conference in calgary, many smart people met to discuss 'Global Warming'. One group could be described as pessimistic and talked in terms of years, and 2015 as the tipping point of no return. Another group was described as the optimists and talked in terms of generations, believing solutions would occur over the long haul. In most cases, "Global Warming' was on the minds of Canadians, and they did not blame anyone else for the predicament but their own government. Most people are frustrated with the slow movements of government on this very pressing issue.
Blair, Shirley. (2008, January 14). Climate change is a convenient untruth. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A15.
A good article on the perceptions of 'Global Warming'. Are all weather related aberations caused by Global Warming, or is it just the nature of weather to be unpredictable? Does the public have all the facts?Engeler, Elaine. (2008, January 5). Our awesome beauty. The Hamilton Spectator, pp. D10 - D11.
The search for the new Seven Wonders of the natural world is curently being conducted. To be part of this search, go to: New 7 Wonders of the World (www.new7wonders.com). To view some of the world's majestic beauty, see the article.Zimmer, Carl. (2007, December 22). Whales slam on the brakes, swallow a 'bus'. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A17.
An interesting account of a sound recording of a Fin whale, which can weigh as much as 80 tons, diving for food. As the whale dives for food at up to depths of 600 feet, it opens its mouth wide and comes to a halt in just three seconds. The whales mouth opens perpendicular to its body, its mouth stretches wide like a parachute and fills with water. A 60 foot whale can consume approximatley 18 000 gallons (18 000 US gallons = 68 220 liters; 18 000 imperial gallons = 81 900 liters) of water, or the same volume as a yellow school bus, which can also weigh more than the whale itself. The whale then closes its mouth, squirting out the water between its balleen, thus collecting all the food caught with the water.Casey, Michael. (2007, December 6). Warming Earth faces wave of extinctions. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A14.
In a previous paper, the average temperature on Earth was said to have risen by 0.74 degrees celcius in the last 100 years. This article states that if earth's temperature rises by 2.5 degrees celcius, 30 % of the earth's species could disappear, but if the earth's temperature rises by 3.5 degrees celcius, a staggering 70% of the Earth's species could face extinction.Simons, Craig. (2007, November 24). Battling drought, global warming. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D15.
Australia has been facing drought like conditions throughout much of the continent, to the point where farming is becoming so difficult people are losing their farms and the reservoirs of the major cities are running so low that alternative investments are occurring (desalination plants). One way Australia is trying to combat water use is to make water a tradable commodity that people can buy and sell. Many people are saying that it can't get any worse, BUT CAN IT?
Engeler, Elaine. (2007, November 24). Two greenhouse gases hit record levels in 2006: UN report. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A18.
Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, two greenhouse gases, reached record levels in 2006. Carbon dioxide rose by half a percentage to 381.2 parts per million and nitrous oxide rose a quarter of a percentage to 320.1 parts per billion. Carbon dioxide gas is a whopping 36.1 % higher than the end of the 19th century (late 1800's) and the average global temperature has risen by 0.74 degrees celcius in the last 100 years.McCarthy, Michael. (2007, November 14) Pollution mucking up autumn. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A14.
Pollution in tha air is having a very large impact on Autumn, namely when the leaves change color. The high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is what researchers say is responsible for trees retaining their leaves longer in the fall and acquuiring their buds earlier in the spring (by up to 10 days in Oak trees than several decades ago). Trees retain their leaves by producing carbon-rich compounds that are known to prolong the lives of the leaves.Simons, Craig. (2007, October 27) A sinking feeling. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D14.
The rising levels of ocean water have not been good to the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu. Tuvalu's highest natural feature is just 3 meters above the surface of the ocean. In 30 to 50 years, Tuvalu will be approximately 80% gone, swallowed up by the ocean. The oceans have been rising at an annual average rate of 0.6 cm per year since 1993. Last year was the first time anyone has witnessed waves washing over the entire island when the weather was clear, never mind when storms hit the tiny island.
Gray, Denis. (2007, October 27) Holding back rising waters. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D14.
Bangkok, Thailand is a city that is in jeopardy. Bangkok is only approximately 1 meter above the nearby gulf and currently the gulf water is rising at an average pace of 0.25 cm per year. Also, Bangkok is built on clay and is sinking at an alarming rate of 10 cm per year and the city could be under water permanently in 15 to 20 years unless something is done to rectify the problem now. The city is home to approximately 9 million people.Schmid, Randolph E. (2007, October 18). Arctic ice melts to new low: report. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A12.
Arctic sea ice is currently 39% lower than average and 23% smaller than the previous low set in 2005. Current changes are affecting many areas of the ecosystem, and some of them are discussed in this article.____________. (2007, October). Carbon's New Math. National Geographic,
Another story dealing with
Global Warming. Numbers to keep in mind: 280 ppm (parts per million) of
2 before the industrial revolution; 315 ppm in the late 1950's; 380
ppm currently (2007); predicted increase in world temperatures:maintain
current growth - +9 F (+5 C); hold emissions at
today's levels - +5.4 F
emissions by half - +3.6 F (+2 C). Anyway you look
at it, the temperature of the world is expected to increase. The article
lists 15 strategies that must be met inorder to decrease our CO
____________. (2007, October). Green Dreams. National Geographic, pp. 38 - 59.
A look at the use of alternative fuels and their positives and negatives. These fuels include: ethanol from - 1) corn (predominately the US), 2) sugarcane (from Brazil), 3) biodiesel (Germany), 4) cellulosic ethanol, and 5) algae.
Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier. (October 2007). Conservation for the People.Scientific American, pp. 50 - 57.
See: Conservation for the People Assignment - SBI3U Biology
Simply put. What is the cost of protecting an Ecosystem? Should an ecosystem be protected simply for the sake of protecting it because it has a high species count number OR should it be exploited for its natural resources because of their monetary value (e.g.: high value woods - teak) OR should an ecosystem be protected and exploited for its beauty (e.g.: tourism)?
Key Concepts: 1: Preserving biodiversity for its own sake, particularly in areas called hot spots, is not working as a conservation strategy. 2: Focusing on protecting ecosystems vital to people’s health and material needs makes more sense. 3: Such ecosystems would include not only forests but also wetlands that maintain clean water, mangroves that shield against storms and reefs that sustain fisheries. 4: Saving these sites can preserve biodiversity and ensure that people are a priority.McNeill, David. (2007, September 15). The last hope of the orangutan. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D12.
A great story describing the plight of the orangutan, a close cousin of man. A once strong 300 000 orangutans used to live in southeast Asia has dwindled to 25 000 orangutans found on the two Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. To my surprise, Palm Oil is a real threat to the orangutan population. The article states that Indonesia is currently converting 1000 square miles of jungle habitat a year to palm oil plantations and has currently announced plans to raze an area half the size of the Netherlands to produce the world's largest palm oil plantation. Read this article!____________. (2007, September 8). Rapid polar bear dieoff predicted. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A3.
Another bad story to tell. More than two thirds of the world's polar bears are expected to dieoff by the year 2050 due to shrinking ice in the arctic.____________. (2007, August 18). Arctic ice melt way ahead of global warming model. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A3.
Another FIRST! Arctic sea ice has now reached the lowest amount ever recorded. Current computer models predict a complete melting of summer sea ice sometime between 2070 and 2100, but current melting patterns put complete melting at around 2030, some 40 years earleir than predicted.Collins, Williams, Robert Colman, James Haywood, Martin R. Manning, and Philip Mote. (2007, August). The Physical Science behind Climate Change. Scientific American, pp. 64 - 73.
Have human activities actually contributed to climate change? The answer seems to be a resounding YES! In fact, scientists are 90% sure that we are the cause of global warming.
The paper gives a list of drivers for climate change. They are: Radioactive forcing; Long-lived greenhouse gases; Ozone; Surface albedo; Aerosols; Contrails; Troposphere; and Stratosphere. Give an exam[ple of where the Earth currently stands with regard to carbon dioxide concentrations: today we are roughly 35 % above pre-industrial levels.
The paper also deals with projected forecasts for global warming: heat waves, droughts, fires, coastal flooding and storms; Infectious diseases; ground-level ozone levels and respiratory disease and many other possible outcomes.
For a more detailed report, visit the Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change
Key Concepts: 1: Scientists are confident that humans have interfered with the climate and that further human-induced climate change is on the way. 2: The principal driver of recent climate change is greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. 3: report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change places the probability that global warming has been caused by human activities at greater than 90 percent. The previous report, published in 2001, put the probability at higher than 66 percent. 4: Although further changes in the world’s climate are now inevitable, the future, particularly in the longer term, remains largely in our hands—the magnitude of expected change depends on what humans choose to do about greenhouse gas emissions.Alan Weisman. (2007, July). An Earth Without People. Scientific American, pp. 76 - 81.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if all humans suddenly disappeared from the planet? This article gives a timeline of what would happen to all of the manmade objects after humans disappear. After a mere 500 years, the island of Manhatten (New York City) would be covered vwith mature trees. Not much would be left after this time.
It’s a common fantasy to imagine that you’re the last person left alive on earth. But what if all human beings were suddenly whisked off the planet? That premise is the starting point for The World without Us, a new book by science writer Alan Weisman, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arizona. In this extended thought experiment, Weisman does not specify exactly what finishes off Homo sapiens; instead he simply assumes the abrupt disappearance of our species and projects the sequence of events that would most likely occur in the years, decades and centuries afterward.
According to Weisman, large parts of our physical infrastructure would begin to crumble almost immediately. Without street cleaners and road crews, our grand boulevards and superhighways would start to crack and buckle in a matter of months. Over the following decades many houses and office buildings would collapse, but some ordinary items would resist decay for an extraordinarily long time. Stainless-steel pots, for example, could last for millennia, especially if they were buried in the weed-covered mounds that used to be our kitchens. And certain common plastics might remain intact for hundreds of thousands of years; they would not break down until microbes evolved the ability to consume them.Trenberth, Kevin E. (2007, July). Warmer Oceans, Stronger Hurricanes. Scientific American, pp. 44 - 51.
Remember back to the summer of 2006. There were not very many hurricanes in the Atlantic, yet the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons were record breaking, culminating in hurricane Katrina and the levees breaking in New Orleans. Why is the question?
Global warming is the main culprit behind the increase in stronger hurricanes (Saffir Simpson scale), an increase in the sea surface temperature causing a concurrent increase in water vapor in the air which leads to an increase in precipitation rates and an increase in wind velocity. Another big player in whether a year will be a good or bad year for hurricanes is the La Nina (cooling of the Pacific) or El Nino (warming of the pacific) and their effects on the Jet Stream that flows over North America and out into the Atlantic Ocean.Donlan, Josh C. (2007, June). Restoring America's Big, Wild Animals. Scientific American, pp. 70 - 77.
In a process termed Pleistocene rewilding, a group of conservation biologists have come up with a plan to reintroduce many top predators that once used to roam the North American continent roughly 13 000 years ago before humans arrived and became extinct due to man made pressures after man arrived.
These conservation biologists have sought to introduce African lions and cheetahs, Asian elephants, Bactrian camels, bison, antelope and Przewalski's horses to replace extinct ancestors of American lions, Columbian mammoth, a Camelops, long-horned bison, pronghorn antelope and horses that once used to graze the North American continent.
Why you ask? To restore the balance of nature when top carnivores are present and allow the environment to return to conditions similar to those found some 13 000 years ago.Max, Arthur. (2007, May 31). Conference to focus on exploitation of exotic species, impact of global warming. The Canadian Press.
When most people think of endangered species they think of the African Rhinocerous, the Indian Tiger or the Chinese Panda Bear. Think again! There are approximately 32 000 plant families and 7 000 animals that are regulated regarding trade world wide mainly because of the possibility of extinction. With the threat of global warming causing 30% of all animals to go extinct by the end of the century, conservation and protection of species world wide is essential. To hear about some of the species that are threatened, read the article.Cohen, Tobi. (2007, May 22). Human sex hormones killing our wild fish. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A5.
What do sewage treatment plants, human birth control pills and wild fish in our lakes and rivers have in common, you ask? A lot when it comes to the survival of our fish populations. Long exposure to very small amounts (a few grains of sand in an olympic size swimming pool - on the order of nanograms) of synthetic estrogens, found in birth control pills can completely decimate fish populations by feminizing male fish, starting to produce female proteins and lowering their sperm production. To counter this effect, better sewage treatment plants must be built. Treatment plants with only primary treatment do not remove synthetic estrogens from the water and allow these synthetic estrogens to flow into the lakes or streams while treatment plants with secondary treatment (a more expensive procedure) do remove synthetic estrogens from the water and allow clean water to be released. There is really only one option - spend the money on better sewage treatment plants.____________. (2007, May 3). Alarming buzz as experts chase cause of honeybee dieoff. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A3.
Have you ever given any thought to where your food comes from? Would you suspect that honeybees, which many people are afraid off, could be a major player in food production? If you did not, then think again. Honeybees are extremely important when it comes to food on your table. If plants are not pollinated, then the fruit does not grow. If the fruit does not grow, then the food on your table disappears. Honeybees pollinate approximately 30% of all the food that ends up on the average person's dinner plate, including foods like (not a complete list): apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, cucumbers, citrus fruits, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, and melons. You now get an idea of just how important honeybees are and why the current dieoff (more than 5 times the normal winter mortality rate) is so important.Struck, Doug. (2007, April 30). Suzuki: Our environmental guru. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A6.
David Suzuki, a geneticist from Canada, has become a major player on the world scene when it comes to speaking out for the environment. Stated as Canada's 'Al Gore', David Suzuki has some verviews on the human race's ability to survive as we are today.
An exerpt from the article: "Nor does he shrink from daunting prediction: "I think the future for our species is very, very much in question right now. Maybe pockets of people will survive, but it will take heroic measures"."
Read the article!!!
Jones, Allison. (2007, April 30). What about the mercury? The Hamilton Spectator, p. A6.
Those flourescent light bulbs are great energy savers, BUT, does everyone know that each compact fluorescent bulb contains 4 to 5 milligrams of mercury. Doesn't sound like much, but do a little math and multiple that by the 30 000 000 people in Canada, say 5 fluorescent light bulbs per person (generously low!) and you come out with approximatley 135 000 000 milligrams or 135 000 grams of mercury. Remember that mercury is toxic to living things and can travel as mercury vapor in the air, fall to the ground and get into the food chain.
A Recycling system is needed before this program gets off the ground and EVERYBODY in Canada must take part. Seems almost unrealistic to me.Eilperin, Juliet. (2007, April 28). Tags on Greenland's narwhals gather data. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D10.
Baffin Bay between the east coast of Baffin Island and the west coast of Greenland has not been studied very much due to its inhospitality. A new group of unsuspecting researchers, Narwhals, are gettin into the research business. narwhals are caught and fitted with a tags, scientific equipment which can measure depth and temperature of the water. Since narwhals can dive to more than 1 mile (2 km) below the surface, they are an ideal host.
Why study the temperature of the water in this region, the answer lies in Global Warming. This area is where warm, salty water is moving north from the equator and cold, fresh water falls and moves south back towards the equator. Part of the large oceanic conveyor belt, these currents help moderate the temperature of the globe by moving energy in a North/South direction.
Lean, Geoffrey. (2007, April 28). Whither the great whales?The Hamilton Spectator, p. D10.
A sad tale. Narwhals, the "unicorns" of the sea, are in particular danger as whales and dolphins, already depleted by centuries of hunting, are driven toward extinction by global warming. Other stories of species thretened by glogal warming are also given.
Do I need say anyhting else!Dart, Bob. (2007, April 27). Planet earth nearing climate change 'tipping point'. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A5.
Dire predictions as stated in this article: "Global warming is reaching a point at which flooding, pestilence, fire, disease and starvation could threaten human existence".
Examples of current changes in the environment: 1: Florida has five new species of tropical dragonfly; 2: Many Mexican butterflies are starting to breed in Austin,Texas, plus many other environmental stories are told in this article.Johnson, Darragh. (2007, April 21). Global warming is the new cold war. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D13.
For many children and young adults, global warming is the new atomic bomb of today. For children of today, Global Warming is the equivalent of the Depression and the Second World War for their grandparents and Vietnam and the Cold War of their parent's.
Fears for the planet Earth - and a determination to save it - are shaping a new generation.McNulty, Gord. (2007, April 19). Silencing our songbirds. The Hamilton Spectator, p. Go 7.
What better way to spend a sunny warm spring day than walking one of Hamilton's rail trails and listening to the call of the birds in the trees. The beautiful mating call of the Cardinal is always great to hear. Watching the antics of a Blue Jay or just being lucky and seeing a Baltimore Oriole or Canada warbler. Well, get vout there, because latest studies show a decline in the numbers of these beautiful birds, only half as many as there were 40 years ago.
A list of the Songbirds in decline is given.____________. (2007, April 2). Grim warning on warming: 'Species will be lost'. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A6.
"Climate changes are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent," issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). "Hundreds of species have already changed their ranges, and ecosystems are being disrupted." "It is clear that a number of species are going to be lost."
Examples of current changes in the environment: 1: The frogs fell silent; 2: Coral sounds alarm; 3: Ticks move north; 4: White giants fade; and 5: The dimb's demise.
These stories are a MUST READ!____________. (2007, March 30). The Hamilton Spectator, p. A54.
A small article on the near extiction of seveal species of sharks, including hammerheads. Due to these lowered numbers, species that were once the primary food source for certain types of large sharks are undergoing a population boom. A cascading effect has begun to take place, depleting nutrient sources and altering nature's complex food web.____________. (2007, February 17). Doomsday vault makes economic sense. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D10.
Construction will begin this year to create a vault on the northern coast of Norway that will can house up to 2 000 000 samples of seeds and will cost approximately $125 000 to run annually. The seed bank will be impervious to everything except a direct strike by a nuclear missile. The seed bank is intended to ensure a viable stock of plant species in light of Global Warming and the strains it will have on plant species around the world.
Coonan, Clifford. (2007, February 17). Is this the city of the future?. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D11.
The British engineering group ARUP is assisting the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) to produce a zero emissions city in China. The city will house approximately 500 000 people by the year 2037. There will be large green spaces, recycled water, car free and the few allowed will be electric cars, mainly public transportation, wind mills and solar panels for electricity, and organically grown crops that will make the city self-sufficient. This city could be a model for cities of the future everywhere, espescially since the mayor of London, England has stated that it could be a possible blueprint for development in his city.Keppler, Frank, Rockman, Thomas. (2007, February). Methane, Plants and Climate Change. Scientific American, pp. 52 - 57.
Recent evidence has shown that plants contribute significantly to methane production within the atmosphere, between 60 and 240 million metric tons per year, or 10 to 40 percent of global emissions. Methane is known to be a significant contributor to Global Warming, warming the Earth 23 times more on a gram per gram basis than carbon dioxide. The authors do not at any time insinuate that plants contribute to Global warming because they more than offset the methane production by the vast amounts of carbon dioxide they convert to glucose during photosynthesis. Man is still the number one contributor to worldwide Global Warming gas emissions.____________. (2007, February 3). Global warming, man-made: scientists. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A1.
Warning!! Climate change is here and it is "very likely"man made and will be around for centuries, report states.
McGuinness, Eric. (2007, February 3). A change of climate, and our thinking. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A6.
A leading researcher says that to reduce carbon emissions by 20% would be a fairly easy target to achieve. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts more droughts, heat waves, rains and a slow rise in sea levels that could last for more than 1000 years. The chair of the panel states: " Clearly we are endangering all species on Earth, we are endangering the future of the human race."
Connor, Steve. (2007, February 3). Apocalypse never. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A6.
A description of the different ideas to tackle Global warming: Capturing carbon, Carbon scrubbers, Carbon sinks, Reflective clouds, Sulphate aerosols, and Mirrors in space.____________. (2006, November 3). Fish stocks could collapse by 2048. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A3.
____________. (2006, September 16). Seafood extinct by 2048? The Hamilton Spectator, p. A5.
Results of 32 controlled experiments and global catch data from the United nations Food and Agriculture Organization's database of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003 has led researches to the conclusion that all fish and seafood species will collapse by 2048. Currently 29 percent of fish and seafood species catch has declined by at least 90 percent, or have already collapsed.Ward, Peter D. (2006, October). Impact from the Deep. Scientific American, pp. 64 - 71.
Recent evidence has shown that
not all mass extinctions that have occurred in the past have been from
Asteroid impacts, as have been predicted. Several mass extinctions (Permian
/ Triassic (250 000 000 years ago) and Triassic / Jurassic (201 000 000
years ago)) have been shown to have occurred due to changes in Earth's
atmospheric composition. Large concentrations of CO
2 and methane (greenhouse gases) accumulated in the atmosphere (volcanic
activity) and produced rapid global warming. As the atmosphere warmed
so did the oceans, allowing less oxygen to be absorbed, thus destabilizing
the chemocline layer. Large upswellings of H
(hydrogen sulfide) was released from the oceans causing large scale death.
2S also causes the breakdown of the ozone layer
allowing more Ultraviolet radiation to penetrate to the ground thus killing
the remaining life.
In 2003, 25% more natural resources were used than the earth can sustainably replenish and that number will rise to 100%, or 2 Earth's, by the year 2050 if nothing is done to curtail growth. Man is creating an ecological debt that will not be payable in the near future.
Leape, James P. (2006, October 25). Humans living beyond Earth's resources. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A6.
1984, not the book, but the year was a turning point for humanity. That is the year when the Earth reached its carrying capacity, or its ability to provide for all living things, as stated by the World Wildlife Foundation. Canada is termed to be a country with a very large ecological footprint, that is comparing the amount of material we consume with the amount of resources available. If all people consumed like Canadians, we would currently need 3 Earth's to provide those resources. That of course, is not possible, and things MUST CHANGE.Twilight of the North - [The following two stories from The Hamilton Spectator]
McCarthy, Michael, Usborne, David. (2006, September 16). Climate change 'faster and nastier' than forecasted. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D10.
Recent NASA studies show that the Arctic region is melting faster than computer models have predicted. Melting has increased 30 times from previous years, with perennial ice (remains over the summer) melting at a rate of 6%/year, up from 0.15%/year just two years ago. An area 3/4 the size of Ontario has melted in just one year. Ontario covers 1 076 395 square kilometers, therefore, 807 296 square kilometers of perennial ice melted in JUST ONE YEAR!!!!
Howden, Daniel, Buncombe, Andrew, Huggler, Justin. (2006, September 16). The battle's already lost in some areas. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D11.
A few interesting facts from this article:
1: Barley in
Greenland is growing for the first time since the Middle Ages;
2: The English Country Garden of Britain may be gone within the next twenty years;
3: In Holland, which is known for its dikes, has given up the battle on 500 000 hectares and will allow the area to flood. All the people will move to houseboats;
4: Last year the Amazon River (largest river in the world) was reduced to a trickle due to severe drought and sand banks have already appeared this year leading many scientists to fear that this may now become a yearly cycle;
5: And many more examples from Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and Asia.
Lean, Geoffrey. (2006, September 9). A creeping hunger. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D11.
A telling look at the state of food supply on Earth. For the last 6 of 7 growing seasons, the amount of food produced on the Earth has fallen short of what is actually required to feed all the people on the globe. Several reasons are cited for this:
1. Harvests have failed in
the major food exporting countries of Australia and United States;
2. A slowdown in the increase in crop yields per acre;
3. Conversion of usable farmland into cities (houses) and raods;
4, Large quantities of food is used to feed farm animals (i.e.: beef) instead of people; and
5. Automobile fuel (biofuels - ethanol) is now a major push in the United States to alter Global Warming. (Point: A single fill of an SUV of biofuel uses enough grain to feed one person for a year.)
Recent statistics: 800 000 000 people are constantly hungry and approximately 16 000 children die everyday due to starvation or starvation related diseases.____________. (2006, September 1). Greenland ice cap melting faster. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
According to satellite observations, the ice on Greenland is melting three times faster today than it was five years ago. On Tegua island in the South Pacific (part of the Vanuatu Island chain [made famous by the TV show Survivor - "Survivor Vanuatu"]), the village of Lateu (only 64 people) has had to move because of rising ocean levels. Global warming??? A distinct possibility.____________. (2006, August 18). Oceans being dangerously altered. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
An interesting article on the state of the planet's oceans. Many problems are arising at an alarming rate. Examples from: Sweden; Maui in the Hawaiian Islands; Florida's Gulf Coast; North of Venice, Italy; Moreton Bay, Australia; ocean acidity levels; and a vast area of garbage covering an area the size of Texas times 2 (2 x 268201 = 536402 square miles !!!)Harwood, Bob. (2006, July 24). Time is running out. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A15.
A good editorial concerning Global Warming. Än interesting quote: "global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism" and a report from the U.S. Pentagon that predicted: "abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries aggressively seek to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies."Park, Michael. (2006, June 3). Gone missing. The Hamilton Spectator, p. D16.
Discusses the number of icebergs tracked by the International Ice Patrol (IIP) in the North Atlantic yearly and how their numbers have dropped dramatically. Is it due to Global Warming? Read the article and find out!A Time Special Report on Global Warming (pp. 24 - 57): An excellent read on the state of the world. Includes the following articles:
Jeffrey. (2006, April 3). By Any Measures, Earth Is at ... The Tipping
Point. Time, pp. 30 - 39.
Discusses the different points of global warming from: storms to CO
feedback loops, drought, flora and fauna, and what we can do to stop the
rapid changes taking place. A key phrase : "Things are happening
a lot faster than anyone predicted.
to Seize the Initiative. Kher,
Unmesh. (2006, April 3). Capitalist Tools for Cutting CO
pp. 40 - 41.
Lemonick, Michael D. (2006, April 3). Cleaner Air over Scandinavia. Time, pp. 41.
Roosevelt, Margot. (2006, April 3). Saving One City at a Time. Time, pp. 42.
Fonda, Daren. (2006, April 3) The Greening of Wal-Mart. Time, pp. 42 - 43.
Thigpen, David. (2006, April 3). Asking to be taxed and Regulated. Time, p. 43.
Several stories on how different individuals/companies are trying to make a difference.
Climate Crusaders. Alexander,
(2006, April 3). Rewarding Good Behavior. Time, p. 45.
Walsh, Bryan. (2006, April 3). Clean Power For China. Time, p. 46.
Healy, Rita. (2006, April 3). Keeping Colarado Cool. Time, p. 47.
Perry, Alex. (2006, April 3). Delhi Without Diesel. Time, p. 47.
Roston, Eric. (2006, April 3) Preaching For The Planet. Time, p. 48.
Several stories on how different individuals/companies are making a difference in the fight against Global warming.
Bryan. (2006, April 3). The Impact of Asia's Giants. Time, pp.
51 - 52.
The economies of China and India are growing at an alarming rate. How these two powerhouses on the global stage can either save or destroy the planet.
Laura. (2006, April 3). Canada's Crisis. Time, pp. 55 - 57.
The arctic ecosystem is like the "Canary in the mine". A large contingent of scientists and government bodies are studying the Arctic to better determine the health of the Planet as well as any indications it is getting worse.Doney, Scott C. (2006, March). The Dangers of Ocean Acidification. Scientific American, pp. 58-65.
Currently only about 40% of the carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels remains in the air, the rest is taken up by plants or dissolved in the oceans. The following reaction takes place (see grade 10 - Weather unit - Acid Rain):
Recent experiments have shown that the shift in the pH of seawater downward, due to the increase in hydrogen ions in water, will make it more difficult for marine creatures to make calcium carbonate shells. Ocean acidity levels are expected to rise enough to cause many shell forming creatures to go extinct, thus disrupting marine food chains of the ocean.Lemonick, Michael D. (2006, February 27). Has the Meltdown Begun. Time, pp. 38-39.
The glaciers of Greenland are beginning to recede. Some of the glaciers are over 2 miles thick and if all the glaciers did melt, then average ocean levels would rise by as much as 6m (20 ft).McCarthy, Michael. (2006, January 17). ‘Too late’ to stop global warming. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A13.
Discusses the notion that the Earth regulates itself so that life will continue, and at our (humanity's) present rate of carbon dioxide polution, we are going to alter the Earth's ability to sustain life and billions of people may perish.Stuart L. Pimm and Clinton Jenkins. (September 2005). Sustaining the Variety of Life. Scientific American, pp. 66 - 73.
Researchers are starting to come up with plans to try to decrease the numbers of species going extinct by looking at biodiversity hot spots. Areas where large numbers of species are clustered into small areas due to man's encroachment on their habitat. As of the printing of this article, estimates of global extinction rates are approximately 100 times igher than normal.
Key Concepts: 1: The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “repatriated” wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. 2: Many observers believe the wolves have reduced the elk population of the park (now down by about half), which has in turn spurred regrowth of vegetation. 3: Lusher vegetation has lured the beaver back, and their dams have created ponds, encouraging still more new vegetation. 4: Wolves have also wrought changes in the lives of the park’s other animals: coyotes, grizzlies, red foxes, ravens, even songbirds.Endangered Earth. (2004) Exclusive online issue no.13. Scientific American. (articles are listed in order of appearance in online journal - pages in blue - all other information refers to their original date of publication)
Gibbs, W. Wayt. (2001, November). On the Termination of Species. Scientific American, p. 40 - 49 (2 - 9).
There have been many mass extinctions in the geolical record, but the question remains: "Are we in for another mass extinction due to man's influence on the environment?" Some researchers say that a mass extinction is in the works while others say that we are i n for a problem but not a catastrophe. No matter who says it, current thought is that extinction rates are up over background extinction rates, and unless something is done in the near future, these rates may rise. This author states that instead of trying to save individual rare species, maybe we should save something more important, evolution itself.
Lanza, Robert P., Betsy L. Dresser, and Philip Damiani. (2000, November). Cloning Noah's Ark. Scientific American, p. 85 - 89 (10 - 14).
This article describes the process of cloning endangered species using surrogate mothers. The author states that by using this technique, endangered animals can be saved from extinction and their genetic pool can be greatly increased by taking genetic samples of all the endangered animals and freezing them for future use.
Potts, Malcolm. (2000, January). The Unmet Need for Family Planning. Scientific American, p. 88 - 93 (20 - 24).
Did you know that in 1987 the world went over 5 billion people, then in 1999 the world surged past the 6 billion people mark. It took only 12 years for the world to increase its population by 1 billion people. Unprecedented! What will the population be in 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? How will we manage the population explosion? Fertilty (number of children born per mother) and contraception techniques are inveresely proportional and are a vital part of limiting the number of people on the globe. Fertility rates are noticably lower in regions where family-planning assistance is easily obtained versus those regions where family-planning is not easily obtained. Current estimates range between 9.5 billion and 11.5 billion people at the turn of the next century (2100) depending on whether family-planning is used for everyone or not.
Epstein, Paul R. (2000, August). Is Global Warming Harmful to Health?. Scientific American, p. 50 - 57 (25 - 31).
Is global warming only about an increase in global temperatures and more severe weather across the globe? NO! Along with the increased temperatures comes a surge in many deadly diseases. An example of such deadly diseases on the increae are malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, rift valley fever, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and cholera to only name a few. The rise in many of these diseases is due to the disease host increasing its range (i.e.: mosquitoes). The future looks a little more frightening as the world's temperature increases.
Bindschadler, Robert A., Charles R. Bentley. (2002, December). On Thin Ice. Scientific American, p. 98 - 105 (32 - 38).
A discussion on the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet. Most of the Antarctic ice sheet appears to be stable for the present. East Antarctica has been relatively stable for the last 15 million years, it is West Antarctica that may pose a problem. The West Antarctica ice sheet has disappeared at least once in the last 600 000 years, and is vulnerable to periods of rapid dissintegration. If all of West Antarctica were to melt, sea levels would rise approximately 5 meters, and approximately one third of Florida woyuld be under water. Currently West Antarctica accounts for ten percent of the oceans rise (0.2 millilmeters out of a 2 millimeter rise per year). What will happen with global warming is still not known, and global warming could either speed up or slow down the melting of ice at the bottom of the world.
Sturm, Matthew, Donal K. Perovich and Mark C. Serreze. (2003, October). Meltdown in the North. Scientific American, p. 60 - 67 (39 - 45).
Not a great commentary on what is occurring in the Arctic. Sea ice and glaciers are melting, permafrost is thawing, tundra is yielding to shrubs and trees, and scientists still do not know the outcome due to global warming. There are so many interrelated factors concerning global warming and the arctic (amount of ice cover, low cloud cover vs high cloud cover, direction of winds, ocean currents) that the response of Earth's changing weather patterns is still unknown. Read the article for more insight into this complex problem.Bindschlader, Robert A. and Charles R. Bentley. (2002, December). On Thin Ice? Scientific American, pp. 99 - 105.
The article talks mainly about the Western side of Antarctica because it has been shown to have changed in the last 600 000 years where as the eastern half of the Antarctic has been stable for the last 15 000 000 years. there are many factors which could influence the melting of West Antarctica: an increase in water temperature, an increase in air temperature or changes in the conditions found at the bottom of the ice sheets from a muddy till (very little friction) to a frozen till which has a high friction.
Other factors include an increase in precipitation over the Antarctic resulting in more snow fall, an icrease in the glacier size and a decrease in water levels around the globe.
What will happen in the Antarctic region is still being studied and will have to play out while Global Warming increases. We'll only find out as time goes by.
Key Concepts: 1: For nearly three decades, numerous Antarctic experts warned that West Antarctica's ice sheet is in the midst of a rapid disintegration that could raise global sea level five meters in a few centuries or less. 2: Many of those researchers now think that the ice sheet is shrinking much more slowly than they originally suspected and that sea level is more likely to rise half a meter or less in the next century. 3: That consensus is not without its caveats. The ice sheet's poorly understood Amundsen sector now appears to be shrinking faster than previously thought. 4: Global warming, which has so far played a ngligible role in West Antarctica's fate, is bound to wield greater influence in the future.
W. Wayt Gibbs. (November 2001). On the Termination of Species. Scientific American, pp. 40 - 49.
Is the gloom of an eventual mass extinction upon us? Scientists are still unsure but some emminent scientists place the extinction rate somewhere between 36 - 78 times the background extinction rate. Scientists still stated that there was room for optimism - but then again - this article was written in 2001.
Key Concepts: 1: Eminent ecologists warn that humans are causing a mass extinction event of a severity not seen since the age of dinosaurs came to an end 65 million years ago. But paleontologists and statisticians have called such comparisons into doubt. 2: It is hard to know how fast species are disappearing. Models based on the speed of tropical deforestation or on the growth of endangered species lists predict rising extinction rates. But biologists’ bias toward plants and vertebrates, which represent a minority of life, undermine these predictions. Because 90 percent of species do not yet have names, let alone censuses, they are impossible to verify. 3:In the face of uncertainty about the decline of biodiversity and its economic value, scientists are debating whether rare species should be the focus of conservation. Perhaps, some suggest, we should first try to save relatively pristine—and inexpensive—land where evolution can progress unaffected by human activity.
Paul F. Hoffman and Daniel P. Schrag. (January 2000). Snowball Earth. Scientific American, pp. 68 - 75.
New research has shown that Earth's past has been more tumultuous than previously thought. Ranging from 750 - 580 million years ago the Earth had 4 distinct glaciatic events. These glaciatic events were so large that the entire planet froze for up to 10 000 000 years at a time (the oceans themselves froze over with ice as thick as 1 kilometer as Earth's average temperature fell to -50 degrees celcius.. The only living things that survived were unicellular organisms that found heat from underwater vents at the bottom of the ocean or next to hot springs on the surface.
The reason for the Earth dropping into these extremely large ice ages were twofold: 1: All of the world's landmasses were located around the equator and 2: the sun's energy output was approximately 6% less than the sun's energy output today.
The Earth finally overcame the extreme cold because over time volcanoes spewing out carbon dioxide gas built up in the atmosphere causing runaway global warming. With no plants, rain or exposed rocks available when the planet was in a deep freeze, carbon dioxide was not eliminated from the atmosphere and slowly built up over time. See: Evolution_of_a_Snowball_Earth_Event.
After the last deep freeze, those organisms that survived very quickly adapted to their new surroundings and have given rise to all of the organisms that are on the planet today. See: All Animals.