Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Kyoto protocol extended by 8 years

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/1208/breaking35.html#.UMRYKSwKkqQ.email

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Friday, November 23, 2012

From the Guardian: The Pacific island that never was

peterlydon thought you might be interested in this link from the Guardian: The Pacific island that never was

Sandy Island 'may turn up nearby' after geologists find no trace of it despite featuring on Google Earth and various maps

Luke Harding

Thursday 22 November 2012

The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/22/sandy-island-missing-google-earth

----

For more than a decade it has featured on the world's maps. Viewed from Google Earth, Sandy Island appears as a dark, tantalising sliver, set amid the shimmering vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

But when marine scientists arrived at the island in the Coral Sea off Australia they were in for something of a shock: it didn't exist. Where there was supposed to be a sandy outcrop complete with palm trees, a few coconuts and maybe a turtle there was merely blue undulating water.

The Australian scientists, led by Maria Seaton, a geologist at Sydney University, had embarked on a voyage to study plate tectonics. They spotted that the enigmatic island lay along their route.

But there were several puzzling discrepancies: though the island appeared on the Google Earth map, there were no images of it.

It had also featured for the past 12 years on the usually reliable world coastline database. But there was no sign of it on their sea chart.

Dr Steven Micklethwaite, a crew member from the University of Western Australia, recalled: "We went upstairs to the bridge and found that the navigation charts the ship uses didn't have it.

"And so at that point we thought: Well, who do we trust? Do we trust Google Earth or do we trust the navigation charts? "

The scientist added: "This was one of those intriguing questions. It wasn't far outside of our path. We decided to actually sail through the island ... Lo and behold there was nothing! The ocean floor didn't ever get shallower than 1300 metres below the wave-base. There's an island in the middle of nowhere that doesn't actually exist."

Micklethwaite told the Sydney Morning Herald that the ship's captain was nervous about running aground and proceeded cautiously as they made their "un-discovery". "We all had a good giggle at Google as we sailed through the island. It was one of those happy circumstances in science. You come across something somebody has never noticed before."

The scientists would now send the correct data to the authorities to get the world map fixed, he said.

The non-discovery took place during a 25-day expedition by Australia's Marine National Facility, on board its RV Southern Surveyor research vessel. Had the island existed it would have belonged to France, since its location near the archipelago of New Caledonia is in French territorial waters. (If real and emphatically Gallic, it would presumably have been called Île de Sable, rather than the less than inspiring Sandy Island.)

Speaking on Thursday, Danny Dorling, president of the British Society of Cartographers, said it was not surprising that the error had crept in. "You can't create a perfect map. You never will," he said. "Our current world map is a collection of highly accurate satellite maps and some of the oldest data collected from Admiralty charts."

The mistake would have been surprising if the location had been a busy shipping lane or populated area, Dorling said. "The Coral Sea is in the middle of nowhere."

Humans have been making maps for thousands of years. They probably predate writing. (The earliest – a cave painting 30,000 years old – shows some early humans in a rectangle.) According to Dorling, maps serve two purposes: one practical, to help us navigate and find our way around; the other existential, to give us a sense of perspective, and to define our place on a large and ever-changing planet. "It gives you a sense of identity," he said.

Dorling also said that in the case of Sandy Island it was probably human error that had led to its creation. Charts were, after all, originally compiled by sailors using a watch and measuring longitude, with ancient sailors travelling by the stars. Far from being fixed, the world map is mutable too: with new islands and archipelagoes appearing following volcanic eruptions, and others disappearing in the same way.

The cartographer said it was just possible that Sandy Island – now a non-island, according to its Wikipedia entry – would have the last laugh.

"It's unlikely someone made this island up. It's more likely that they found one and put it in the wrong location. I wouldn't be surprised if the island does actually exist, somewhere nearby."

Isles of wonder

Atlantis

The legendary island has been the subject of discussion and parody since ancient times. According to Plato, Atlantis sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune". This was 10,000 years ago. No-one has been able to find it since. Numerous locations have been suggested: the Mediterranean, the middle of the Atlantic, Turkey, Crete, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and southwestern Andalusia. Despite its enduring appeal, scholars can't agree if Atlantis really ever was a naval power, or a historical fiction dating back to earliest times.

Laputa

Invented by Jonathan Swift, Laputa is a flying island or rock that features in Gulliver's Travels. Its residents use magnetic levitation to manoeuvre the island in different directions. Laputan society is divided between the educated - who practice maths and astronomy - and servants. A tyrant is in charge; he crushes his enemies by landing on them.

San Serriffe

Less famous, perhaps, than Atlantis but no less worthy, San Serriffe is a fictional island nation created by journalists at the Guardian. The nation was invented as an April Fool's Day spoof in 1977; a description of it ran over 10 pages and appeared to fool some people. San Serriffe was located in the Southern Ocean (not far from Sandy Island, relatively speaking) Its inhabitants were called the Flong; for many years the autocratic General Pica was its ruler; happily, it later became democratic.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Poorest 'hardest hit' by climate change

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/1119/breaking15.html#.UKou5t3UsyU.email

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Earthquake hits southern Italy

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Discard issue key to any review of Common Fisheries Policy

Check it out!

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/1006/1224324956300.html#.UG92cTyhF9M.email

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wind energy may 'create 30,000 jobs'

Check it out!

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/1004/breaking21.html#.UG2MGZuxZtU.email

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

WSJ.com - Geography Strikes Back

 
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Evidence points to fundamental shift in climate

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0825/1224322962443.html#.UDiuODiyWH0.email

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Only plant known to have survived Ice Age here found

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0818/1224322385886.html#.UDCpHpn56oE.email

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Monday, August 13, 2012

[From: Peter Lydon] Iran earthquakes leave hundreds dead

Peter Lydon spotted this on the guardian.co.uk site and thought you should see it.

To see this story with its related links on the guardian.co.uk site, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/12/iran-earthquakes-hundreds-dead

Iran earthquakes leave hundreds dead

Almost 300 people feared dead and 2,600 injured after quakes measuring 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude flatten villages

Yeganeh Torbati, Reuters, in Dubai
Monday August 13 2012
The Guardian


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/12/iran-earthquakes-hundreds-dead


Overcrowded hospitals in north-west Iran struggled to cope with thousands of earthquake victims on Sunday as rescuers raced to reach remote villages after two powerful earthquakes killed nearly 300 people.

Thousands huddled in makeshift camps or slept in the street after Saturday's quakes in fear of more aftershocks, 60 of which had already struck. "I saw some people whose entire home was destroyed, and all their livestock killed," Tahir Sadati, a local photographer, said by telephone. "People need help, they need warm clothes, more tents, blankets and bread."

The worst damage and most casualties appeared to be in rural villages around the towns of Ahar, Varzaghan and Harees, near the major city of Tabriz.

Close to 300 people were believed to be dead with 2,600 injured, Ahar's local governor told the semi-official Fars news agency.

Tabriz resident Ahmad, 41, said his cousin living in a village near Ahar has been killed and his body recovered.

"Nobody knows what happened to his wife and two daughters," aged four and seven, Ahmad said. "We fear that if rescuers don't get to them soon, they will lose their lives too if they're still alive."

But Iranian officials said rescue operations had ended by Sunday afternoon, Iran's English-language Press TV reported.

About 16,000 people in the quake-hit area have been given emergency shelter, Red Crescent official Mahmoud Mozafar told Mehr news agency, and 44,000 food packages and 5,600 tents distributed by Red Crescent workers.

But Iranian MP Mohammad Hassan-Nejad warned that if relief efforts did not speed up, the death toll would rise swiftly.

"Relief groups have still not reached many villages, because in normal conditions some of these villages are several hours away," he told the Iranian Students' News Agency. "Currently the roads are closed and the only way to reach these villages is by air."

Photographs posted on Iranian news websites showed many bodies, including those of children, lying on the floor of a white-tiled morgue in Ahar and medical staff treating the injured in the open air as dusk fell on Saturday. Other images showed rescue workers digging people out of rubble ? some alive, many dead.

Hospitals in Tabriz, Ardabil and other cities nearby took in many of the injured, residents and Iranian media said, and there were long queues of survivors waiting to be treated.

Aidin, another Tabriz resident, said he went to give blood at a local hospital on Saturday and saw staff struggling to cope with the influx of patients. Most had been taken there by their families, he said, indicating a shortage of ambulances.

Ahar's 120-bed hospital was full, said Arash, a college student and resident of the town. There were traffic jams on the narrow road between Ahar and Tabriz as victims tried to reach hospitals, he said by telephone.

"People are scared and won't go back into their houses because they fear the buildings aren't safe," he added.

The US Geological Survey measured Saturday's first quake at 6.4 magnitude and said it struck 37 miles north-east of Tabriz, a trading hub far from Iran's oil-producing areas and known nuclear facilities.

The second, measuring 6.3, struck 11 minutes later near Varzaghan, 30 miles north-east of Tabriz.

More than 1,000 villages in the area were affected by the earthquakes, said Ahmad Reza Shaji'i, a Red Crescent official. About 130 villages suffered more than 70% damage, and 20 villages were completely destroyed.

Iran is crisscrossed by major fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years, including a 6.6 magnitude quake in 2003 that reduced the historic south-eastern city of Bam to dust and killed about 31,000 people.

Saturday's quakes struck in East Azerbaijan province, a mountainous region that neighbours Azerbaijan and Armenia to the north. Buildings in Tabriz, the provincial capital, are substantially built and ISNA reported nobody in the city had been killed or hurt.

Homes and business premises in Iranian villages, however, are often made of concrete blocks or mud brick that can crumble and collapse in a strong quake.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, sent a telegram to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Sunday expressing his sympathy and offering assistance, the Kremlin's press-service said. Pope Benedict XVI asked Christians to pray for the victims of the quakes.


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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Death toll in Iran quake at 153

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0811/breaking23.html#.UCb-EZt6Z-I.email

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

India plans EUR 66m mission to Mars for 2013

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/0809/1224321806505.html#.UCOc_ypcSTY.email

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Monday, August 6, 2012

India's power crisis

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0806/1224321567655.html#.UCAa5hKKgfk.email

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Monday, July 23, 2012

[From: Peter Lydon] Food price crisis feared as erratic weather wreaks havoc on crops

Peter Lydon spotted this on the guardian.co.uk site and thought you should see it.

To see this story with its related links on the guardian.co.uk site, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/22/food-price-crisis-weather-crops

Food price crisis feared as erratic weather wreaks havoc on crops

'What the world economy really needs right now is a break', one economist says, but instead it appears headed toward upheaval

Josephine Moulds
Sunday July 22 2012
guardian.co.uk


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/22/food-price-crisis-weather-crops


Freak weather in some of the world's vital food producing regions is ravaging crops and threatening another global food crisis like the price shocks that unleashed social and political unrest in 2008 and 2010.

As the US suffers the worst drought in more than 50 years, analysts are warning that rising food prices could hit the world's poorest countries, leading to shortages and social upheaval.

The situation has sparked comparisons to 2008 when high food prices sparked a wave of riots in 30 countries across the world, from Haiti to Bangladesh.

Researchers say rising food prices also helped trigger the Arab Spring in 2011.

Nick Higgins, commodity analyst at Rabobank, said: "Food riots are a real risk at this point. Wheat prices aren't up at the level they got to in 2008 but they are still very high and that will have an effect on those who are least able to pay higher prices for food."

In America's agricultural heartland, searing heat and sparse rainfall have left farmers helpless as their corn and soy bean crops wither in dry fields. Earlier this month, the US department of agriculture (USDA) slashed forecasts for the corn crop by 12%.

US agricultural secretary Tom Vilsack said: "I get on my knees every day, and I'm saying an extra prayer right now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it."

As it is, current weather forecasts suggest the drought will continue and experts fear the USDA may have to cut its targets again in August.

Dan Basse, president of AgResources in Chicago, said the government's prediction would prove too optimistic if the drought continues. "We've been traipsing through the fields of southern Illinois, and it is worse than the government says."

The US is crucial to global food markets as the world's largest exporter of corn, soy beans and wheat, so the impact of the drought will be felt across the globe.

Corn prices have already shot up 40% since June to hit all-time highs, soy bean prices have jumped 30% to record levels, and wheat has surged 50%.
It is not just the US. Unseasonal weather, thought to be caused by climate change, is affecting farmers across the world.

South America has been hit by a drought, which could damage the soy bean harvest, while UK wheat has been damaged by the rain.

Flash flooding in Russia could also affect the wheat harvest. Traders are particularly concerned about the latter as Russia might limit exports if it is worried about wheat supplies at home, causing further price spikes.
Shortages have been compounded by huge orders for corn and soy beans to make biofuels, in order to meet quotas in the US and Europe.

The US agriculture secretary said last week the situation was not bad enough to warrant a reduction in government mandates for biofuels, driving the price of corn even higher. Traders say China also buys and stores grain strategically, putting more pressure on limited supplies.

Consumers will soon feel the effects of these spikes. A high price of wheat leads directly to higher prices in the shops, as it is the main ingredient for bread and other staples.

The link is less direct with other crops. Corn and soy beans are used to feed livestock, so rising prices will ultimately cause the price of meat to rise. In the short-term, however, they will have the reverse effect. As the cost of feed rises, farmers kill cattle at lighter weights to avoid having to feed them. That will briefly flood the market with meat, causing prices to fall, but subsequent shortages will causes prices to rise sharply.

Higgins at Rabobank said meat will then remain expensive for a long time. "It is very hard to rebuild cattle herds and these inflationary effects will be long and lingering."

Rising food prices have a disproportionate effect on the poorest people in the world.

Ruth Kelly, Oxfam's food policy adviser says people in the Western world spend around 15% of their income on food, but that rises to around 75% in developing countries, so any change in food prices has a dramatic impact on household budgets.

Kelly says problems will be compounded by the previous two food price spikes in 2008 and 2011:

"People are already in debt from previous spikes and suffering the consequences. When the first food crisis hit people were forced to sell off their assets, their cattle and jewellery, and take on debt to make ends meet. After multiple crises, people run out of savings and that can be quite disastrous.

"People can find it much harder to cope when you have multiple shocks like this, without time to recover between them, rather than just a single shock."

Economists fear food price inflation will exacerbate the global economic crisis, as it limits the ability of emerging markets to provide any kind of stimulus to drive a recovery. Karen Ward, senior economist at HSBC, said: "What the world economy really needs right now is a break. Any inflationary pressure, particularly that stops the emerging world loosening policy and providing the boost to the global economy, would be a problem."


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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

India's children starving to death while grain rots in fields

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/0703/1224319264513.html#.T_JytU8bASI.email

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Declaration agreed at summit in Rio

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0621/breaking6.html#.T-LWMgOkMu0.email

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A world of absurd thinking

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2012/0616/1224318043151.html#.T-AR9b458j8.email

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Getting rich by making things we don't need

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0131/1224311002449.html#.TyeX6g7GTEo.email

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

IDA sees record investment

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0105/breaking25.html#.TwXnv9Ip-Ls.email

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