But first, another of those superb climate videos from ScienceAtNASA:
ScienceCasts: Climate Change and the Yin-Yang of Polar Sea Ice
Arctic and Antarctic sea ice are both affected by climate change, but the two poles of Earth are behaving in intriguingly different ways.
On to the apocalyptic, via the Guardian:
Conservative lobby group Alec plans anti-environmental onslaught
- Corporate lobbying network plans to draft bills attacking protections
- Bills will reportedly aim to expand offshore oil drilling and cut EPA budget
The corporate lobbying network American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as Alec, is planning a new onslaught on a number of environmental protections next year when Republicans take control of Congress and a number of state legislatures.
The battle lines of Alec’s newest attack on environmental and climate measures will be formally unveiled on Wednesday, when the group begins three days of meetings in Washington DC.
On the agenda for its environment and energy task force are draft model bills that will seek to disband the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expand offshore oil drilling, and weaken environmental protections for smog and other air pollutants, as well as roll back protections for endangered species.
And this is only the beginning, via BBC News:
World on course for warmest year
This year is in the running to be the hottest globally and for the UK since records began, early estimates show.
In the first 10 months of 2014, global average air temperature was about 0.57 Celsius above the long-term average. And the first eleven months in the UK have produced an average temperature 1.6C above the long-term.
A separate study by the UK Met Office says the observed temperatures would be highly unlikely without the influence of greenhouse gases produced by humans.
On a related note, via BBC News:
Major deltas ‘could be drowned’
Sea-level rise and river engineering “spell disaster” for many of the world’s river deltas, say scientists.
Half a billion people live in deltas, but the newly published research suggests many of these areas are set to be inundated by rising seas. Some of the lowest lying, including the Mekong and Mississippi, are particularly vulnerable.
The paper is published in the journal Nature. Lead researcher Dr Liviu Giosan, from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said dams and other river engineering had exacerbated the problem by reducing the amount of sediment rivers could carry.
Messin’ with Texas via Public Radio International:
The ‘Texas miracle’ is fueling huge economic growth — and the climate change that may end it
There’s not much beautiful about the Houston Ship Channel, but it’s awe-inspiring in its own way: It’s the largest international port in the US and one of the busiest in the world.
The port is 52 miles long, hosts 7,000 ships a year, and is surrounded much of the way by warehouses, chemical and oil storage tanks, and construction cranes. It’s essentially one huge monument to the “Texas miracle,” the economic boom that’s delivered high profits and huge job growth even during the economic downturn.
But it’s also a symbol of Texas’ growing catch-22: Sites like the Ship Channel are fueling both the state’s economy and the effects of climate change — Texas is the nation’s top greenhouse gas polluter — bringing the state closer to a potential environmental and economic catastrophe.
The waterway is enormously vulnerable to big storms blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, just 50 miles away. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison caused an estimated $5 billion of damage around the state. And Allison was merely a preview of what might be ahead as climate change warms the world’s oceans.
The Guardian covers a subject of ongoing concern at esnl:
Toiletry chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility cost EU millions, report says
- Nordic Council calls on EU to ban damaging compounds found in household products that cost millions due to their harmful impact on male reproductive health
The hormone-mimicking chemicals used routinely in toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, plastics and pesticides cause hundreds of millions of euros of damage to EU citizens every year, according to the first estimate of their economic impact.
The endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs) are thought to be particularly harmful to male reproductive health and can cause testicular cancer, infertility, deformation of the penis and undescended testicles.
The new report, from the Nordic Council of Ministers, focuses on the costs of these on health and the ability to work but warns that they “only represent a fraction of the endocrine-related diseases” and does not consider damage to wildlife. Another new study, published in a medical journal, showed an EDC found in anti-perspirants reduced male fertility by 30%.
An ongoing outbreak covered by Reuters:
Dutch discover bird flu in wild ducks, cull continues
Dutch animal health authorities found bird flu in two samples taken from wild ducks, a government statement said, but it was unclear if that was the source of an outbreak at four chicken farms in the Netherlands.
Duck droppings from the central Dutch province tested positive for the highly contagious H5 strain of the disease, the deputy economic affairs minister wrote in a letter to parliament.
“Based on this information I am considering follow-up measures,” deputy minister Sharon Dijksma wrote.
And a related Reuters story:
Three Egyptians die of bird flu, raising death toll to six
Three people have died from H5N1 bird flu in Egypt in the past week, bringing the death toll in the country this year to six, the Egyptian health ministry said on Monday.
Egypt has identified 11 cases of the virus in people this year including the six who have died, a ministry statement said.
It identified the most recent victims as a 40-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman in the central province of Minya as well as a 25-year-old woman in Beni Suef, south of Cairo.
The Guardian covers the conflation of the epidemiological and the environmental:
Venezuela: illegal mining and the resurgence of malaria
- Gold mining in the Amazon is not only bad for the environment, stagnant water is propagating malaria-carrying mosquitoes
Not only does gold and diamond mining have a harmful environmental impact in the Amazon, but the rise in small-scale, illegal mining activities is causing a resurgence of malaria in Venezuela, which used to be a world leader in managing the disease.
In 2013, 76,621 cases of malaria were reported in Venezuela, the majority among men aged between 15 and 44 years old, and with 93% of cases (pdf) occuring in the state of Bolivar where gold mining is booming. Estimates suggest that the number of cases will only continue to rise.
Both legal and illegal mining create the perfect conditions for malaria to resurface and spread. “There is a large number of miners drilling holes in search of minerals. These holes with stagnant water are breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” says Jo Lines, a reader of malaria control and vector biology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
But cases of malaria are much harder to control among those working illegally, adds Lines. “The majority of self-employed miners are mobile [increasing the risk of imported malaria infections], and they are often reluctant to present themselves to official medical facilities due to immigration and work permit issues. They often live in cheap, crowded places without walls, where it is not easy to hang a bednet.”
From BBC News, suspicions confirmed:
Amazon indigenous land loss threatens climate, says study
Scientists say destroying indigenous areas of the Amazon rainforest will have an irreversible impact on the atmosphere of the planet.
A new study said indigenous lands were “protected natural areas” accounting for 55% of the carbon stored in the Amazon basin. It said this land was at risk because governments had failed to recognise or enforce indigenous land rights.
The report was released on the first day of UN climate talks in Peru. The study said nearly 20% of the Amazon forests are at risk from logging, mining, agriculture and infrastructure projects.
EcoWatch covers a notable anniversary:
30th Anniversary of the World’s Worst Industrial Disaster
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, the Bhopal gas tragedy, the deadliest in human history. The aftereffects continue to haunt the Bhopalis even after the victims’ 3rd generation has been born.
What’s even worse is the post tragedy scenario—the apathy that subsequent governments have shown in dealing with it.
It’s a known fact that till today, the impacted people are awaiting justice and there are continuing health and environmental issues.
A video report from the Economist:
The Bhopal disaster: Toxic legacy
Decades after the worst industrial accident in India’s history, many residents of Bhopal feel they were abandoned to suffer its toxic effects.
On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Asahi Shimbun:
British researcher blasts U.N. report on Fukushima cancer risk as unscientific
- A British scientist who studied the health effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster panned a United Nations report that virtually dismissed the possibility of higher cancer rates caused by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Keith Baverstock, 73, made the comments during a visit to Tokyo at the invitation of a citizens group related to the Fukushima disaster.
In response to questions from The Asahi Shimbun, Baverstock said a report released in April by the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) was “not qualified to be called ‘scientific’” because it lacked transparency and independent verification. He added that the committee should be disbanded.
The U.N. report said any increase in overall cancer rates among residents of Fukushima Prefecture due to fallout from the accident was unlikely. However, Baverstock, former head of the radiation-protection program at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe, said radiation levels shown in the report were enough to cause a spike in cancer rates.
The Asahi Shimbun again, this time with improved readings:
New technology to speed up detection of radioactive strontium tenfold
New updated equipment that is scheduled to go into operation at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in December will detect radioactive strontium 90 in contaminated water in less than 30 minutes, compared to the seven to 10 days it now takes.
The advanced detection equipment was developed as part of a group effort centered on the work of Yoshitaka Takagai, an associate professor of analytical chemistry in the Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science at Fukushima University. Researchers from PerkinElmer Japan Co., based in Yokohama, were also involved in the research.
University officials discussed the plan to deploy one of the new devices Nov. 27.
Finnish nuclear news from the Guardian:
Finland set to agree joint nuclear venture with Russian energy company
- Alexander Stubb, Finnish PM, rejects suggestions that by backing Rosatom’s involvement he is bowing to Moscow
Finland’s parliament is poised to give the go-ahead to a controversial joint venture with the Russian state-owned energy company Rosatom to build a new nuclear power plant in the north of the country.
The green light will come despite calls by the EU for member states to suspend most planned energy agreements with Russia, as part of an international campaign of economic and financial sanctions prompted by the Ukraine crisis.
The nuclear joint venture is understood to have the support of a majority of MPs from the four main Finnish political parties and to be backed by the coalition government led by the prime minister, Alexander Stubb. A vote will take place on Wednesday.
And the New York Times covers nuclear troubles in Ukraine:
Ukraine Reports Nuclear Plant Accident, but Official Says There’s ‘No Threat’
Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk of Ukraine on Wednesday announced that there had been an accident at one of the country’s nuclear power plants, briefly setting off fears of a Chernobyl-like catastrophe. But there appeared to have been no radiation leak and only a temporary disruption in the power supply.
Mr. Yatsenyuk, during a session of the new Ukrainian government, disclosed that the accident had taken place at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant and called on the newly installed energy minister to quickly brief reporters on the incident, the Ukrainian news media reported.
The energy minister, Volodymyr Demchyshyn, said that there was “no threat” from the accident and that the malfunction had taken place in the section of the plant responsible for distributing power, not among the reactors in the section for generating power.
Finally, from Environmental Health Perspectives, a story to get you really incensed:
Ritual Risk: Incense Use and Cardiovascular Mortality
Numerous studies have examined exposures to indoor combustion products such as secondhand smoke and emissions from burning of solid fuels. However, only a few have examined incense burning as a potential health threat, even though incense is commonly used for religious and ritual purposes in China, Taiwan, Singapore, India, and Middle Eastern nations.2 In this issue of EHP, investigators report an association between long-term incense use and increased cardiovascular mortality.
The study used data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which enrolled a cohort of 63,257 Chinese adults aged 45–74 years between 1993 and 1998. The authors identified cardiovascular deaths of cohort members via a nationwide death registry, checking the registry yearly through 31 December 2011. They stratified their analysis for factors such as smoking history, education level, baseline history of cardiovascular disease, and gender. They also performed a sensitivity analysis to examine potential confounding by exposure to secondhand smoke.
More than three-quarters of the participants reported currently using incense, and another 13% were former users. Most had used incense daily for at least 20 years, typically keeping it burning intermittently throughout the day. The authors estimated that current long-term incense users had a 12% increased risk of cardiovascular mortality compared with former and never users, including a 19% increased risk for stroke and a 10% increased risk for coronary heart disease.