Daily Archives: January 1, 2015

3 stories that will shape the climate fight in 2015

By Heather Smith on 31 Dec 2014

2014, for environmentalism, was a year of both the big guy and the little guy: The biggest changes seemed to come either at the federal level (as in new EPA regulations) and at the city level (as with many successful battles against new coal export facilities). This was the year that environmentalists in Washington continued to push through new power plant emissions regulations, and environmentalists across the country got smart about regional organizing. It was the year that a collaboration between environmental and civil rights groups began to form. And it was a year that a chain reaction, due mostly to local, grassroots work, delayed Keystone XL to the point where its approval seems a lot less likely.

So what does 2015 hold for rabblerousing? Herewith, a few theories.

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1958 – Global Warming – It’s NOT newly known

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Uploaded on Feb 2, 2007

For FIFTY YEARS scientists have known about global warming. This exerpt is from the well known educational documentary “Unchained Goddess” produced by Frank Capra for Bell Labs for their television program “The Bell Telephone Hour.” It was so well made, that it went on to live a continued life in middle school science classrooms across the nation for decades.

Nearly half a century before Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth,” this film was made. But what does it reveal? That our scientists have known for over two generations about this danger, but our politicians and citizenry have chosen to ignore the dangerous implications of this fact until it really is too late to avoid the preventable consequences.

Perhaps we deserve our fate.

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What If The World Can’t Cut Its Carbon Emissions?

By Roger Andrews | Wed, 31 December 2014 16:36

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Many people, including more than a few prominent politicians, accept that global warming must be limited to no more than two degrees C above the pre-industrial mean, or a little more than one degree C above where we are now, to avoid dangerous interference with the Earth’s climate. Let’s assume these people are right, that the 2C threshold really does represent the climatic equivalent of a cliff and that bad things will happen if we drive off it.

So how do we apply the brakes?

According to the IPCC by limiting cumulative future global carbon emissions to no more than 500 gigatons, and even then we would have only a two-thirds chance of success:

To have a better than two-thirds chance of limiting warming to less than 2°C from pre-industrial levels the total cumulative carbon dioxide emission from all human sources since the start of the industrial era would need to be limited to about 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon. About half of this amount had already been emitted by 2011.

Here we will ignore the one-third chance of failure and use 500 gigatons as the “safe” emissions limit. Can we stay below it? Figure 1 summarizes the current position. The black line (data from EDGAR) shows progress, or lack thereof, in cutting global emissions since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started the ball rolling in 1992. The red line is a projection of the black line. The blue line, which intersects zero in 2117, amounts to 500 Gt of future carbon emissions. I assumed a linear decrease for simplicity but other pathways are of course possible:

Figure 1: Current position on cutting global emissions to “safe” levels

Obviously the world is going to have to reverse course in a hurry if it is to have any chance of keeping warming below the 2C danger threshold. What are the chances that it can? Let’s look at which countries the emissions are coming from and see what the prospects are.

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Where Does Ebola Come From? – Scientific American

New clues from Guinea yield tantalizing pieces of the puzzle
December 30, 2014 |By Dina Fine Maron

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Ann Froschauer The hollow Cola tree growing in a remote area of southeastern Guinea was once home to thousands of bats routinely hunted and killed by the neighborhood children. It was also a popular spot to play. A year ago, one child in particular lived within fifty meters of the tree: a two-year-old boy who died in December 2013 and later was identified as the first person in west Africa known to have developed Ebola. The tree was one of the few that loomed over his home village of Meliandou, a hamlet of 31 houses. The question that now haunts researchers: were the tree’s occupants behind how that small boy contracted the virus in the first place?

Yet they will never know the answer. By March, Guinean health officials were told that they had an Ebola outbreak on their hands and alerted the public to halt any consumption of bushmeat. Either by coincidence or as a result of that public warning, that tree was burnt down. Thousands of dead bats rained down on the community, but all researchers were left with in the weeks that followed were fragments of bat DNA. By the time a German research group arrived to conduct tests in April 2014 the tree was gone. No bats were left, and thus no answers.

Their scientific sketch of the village is reported in a new study published today in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. The fire may have helped keep the virus from spreading but it was also a blow to the research team, which had hoped to test the bats for genetic markers of the Ebola virus. If they had found signs of the virus it would indicate the bats had acquired Ebola, even if they were not necessarily responsible for transferring it to humans. But the fire foiled their plans since no such Ebola genetic information could be garnered from the remains of charred bat. And, making matters worse, there were no other representatives of the same bat species in the area, says Fabian Leendertz, lead author of the research team from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany.

The fire was “really unfortunate since we can never pinpoint if [that bat species] was really the reservoir or not,” says Leendertz. His team was able to identify the species of the bat by conducting genetic analysis on fragments of bat DNA – mostly stemming from bat feces – located in soil in and around the tree, but they could not get any information on the virus from those traces of genetic material. The team also culled other bat species from the area, but found those other bats were all Ebola-free. Leendertz was left with only circumstantial evidence to indicate that the insect-eating bat species, called Mops condylurus, may be a candidate to explain how humans contracted Ebola in the first place. “It’s probably the best we can get but we are very unhappy with the data,” he says. And so the search to identify the carrier – or perhaps carriers – of Ebola continues.

Exactly which creature may transfer the Ebola virus to humans has bedeviled scientists since the virus was first identified in 1976. Myriad setbacks, usually related to slow response and notification, have kept scientists from pinning down an answer. Bats have remained a top Ebola carrier suspect because other experimental data have shown that bat species – including the one located in the massive hollow tree in this village – can survive infection with Ebola in the laboratory. But that alone is not definitive since a creature could survive such infection without being the carrier for the disease. In order to better prove that the correct bat reservoir had been identified, the virus would need to be isolated from a bat and grown in a laboratory setting. Still, there are clues that suggest that Mops condylurus could be a strong candidate. This same species of bat was considered a possible suspect for an earlier Ebola virus outbreak. And most scientists believe a close cousin of Ebola, called Marburg virus disease, is transmitted by bats—an observation that bolsters bats’ credentials as the potential animal reservoir for the Ebola virus.

Yet even if bats are the true culprit, researchers still don’t know how the animals transmit the virus to humans. Does the transmission of virus occur when blood spatters into the eyes or cuts during butchering of the bat? Or, perhaps it’s by eating food that the bat had sullied with its own spit, urine or feces? Then again, it could be through some other exposure to the bats’ bodily fluids.

…(read more).

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Is Ebola Here to Stay? – Scientific American

Why scientists continue to be perplexed by how to define the outbreak that has killed 7,000.     December 29, 2014 |By Dina Fine Maron

Credit: Morgana Wingard/Sarah Grile Kisses are at a premium in the capital of Liberia. Even a hug or a handshake between friends is often out of the question. That’s the new normal ever since Ebola began ravaging communities throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. For much of the past year, residents of these west African countries have wondered if daily life will ever be able to return to the way things once were. And at the heart of the matter is a scientific question: has Ebola now found a permanent foothold among humans? The answer, however, is not easy to suss out. In fact, it’s a guessing game. Even for top scientists.

In public health terminology the word used to describe this kind of health threat is “endemic.” The term describes any malady that routinely crops up without having to be reintroduced from an outside source—either imported from another country or another species. The flu, for example, is endemic in the U.S. because various strains reappear the following year without any trouble. Yet the many Ebola outbreaks of the past 40 years are not referred to as endemic because the original source of the infection in each case is widely believed to be an animal that somehow infected a human.

Changing the technical description of the current outbreak from epidemic to endemic is more than a matter of semantics. The difference between responding to an epidemic versus an endemic disease is as great as the difference between preparing for a sprint versus a marathon. A sprint requires a massive surge of effort after which the runner can recover. A marathon, like endemic Ebola, requires an entirely different mindset and extensive resources to go the distance. Failure to prepare for a marathon leaves a runner puffing shortly into the race. And failure to prepare for endemic Ebola results in a higher body count than might otherwise occur. But a premature shift to prepping for endemic Ebola could also result in a higher body count by crippling the short-term response; it would rob responders of the emergency beds and equipment needed to tamp down the massive viral surge still plaguing west Africa. Consequently, wary top health officials must draw up blueprints for the current crisis while eyeing the unpredictable road ahead.

When it comes to Ebola, “To say it is endemic is, in one sense, to admit failure,” says Christopher Dye, who serves as director of strategy in the office of the director general at the World Health Organization. “Our goal, and our expectation, is that we will eliminate infection from the human population,” he says. But there is no firm cutoff for a time period or series of symptoms that would demarcate the line between Ebola transmission as a perpetual threat or just a virus that is taking too long to extinguish.

…(read more).

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Beating Ebola | Bruce Aylward


TEDx Talks

Published on Dec 30, 2014
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Ebola: efforts to combat the unprecedented outbreak in West Africa can succeed, and have already led to marked improvements in certain areas, but the fight will not be ‎over until the last case is addressed.

Dr Bruce Aylward is the Assistant Director-General of a cluster which brings together WHO’s work in polio eradication and humanitarian response.
A Canadian physician and epidemiologist, Dr Aylward is the author of some 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and book chapters. He joined the World Health Organization in 1992 as a Medical Officer with the Expanded Programme on Immunization. He worked for seven years with national immunization programmes at the field level in the Middle East, western Pacific, Europe, North Africa and central and southeast Asia. Since 1998, Dr Aylward has been responsible for the oversight and coordination of all polio eradication activities across WHO’s Regional Offices and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partnership. Since 2011, Dr Aylward has led WHO’s work in preparedness, readiness and response to humanitarian emergencies as the lead agency of the Global Health Cluster.

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How to Make the World Zero Carbon | Alexa James-Ratzlaff & David James Arnold


TEDx Talks

Published on Dec 30, 2014
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Using a mixture of highly engaging info-graphics and future visions, authors of ZERO-FIFTY, David James Arnold and Alexa James Ratzlaff, explain how we can reduce man made carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

By providing a vision of what our planet will look like if we continue to ignore the threat of climate change, they explain how we can dramatically reduce the amount of energy we consume – this includes reimagining our building stock, completely restructuring our transport infrastructure, and transforming the way we manufacture our products.

They’ll go on to demonstrate how the remaining energy demand can be met using combination of existing zero carbon energy generation technologies and a selection of highly innovative urban energy generating towers – transforming cityscapes around the globe.

Alexa is an international architect, environmental advocate, and author. She was born in Osaka, Japan in 1981, brought up by her Franco-Japanese mother and American father. Speaking three languages fluently and exploring the world at a young age, Alexa developed a strong sense of world citizenship and understanding of the planet and its environmental issues. Her humanitarian work with Habitat for Humanity, Philippines, soon lead her to pursue architecture as a means to make the world a better place.

David is a pioneering award winning designer, climate change activist, and author. He was born in the UK in 1979 and from an early age, developed a keen interest in how he could better the planet. Using architecture as his outlet, David received a first-class honours degree before moving to London to obtain his Diploma in Architecture under the tutorage of influential Dutch architect Raoul Bunschoten. At London, David strengthened his aspirations to find more sustainable future solutions which resulted in him creating a series of highly innovative proposals to power London’s energy demand.

You can find David and Alexa at zero-fifty.com and on Twitter as @zerofiftyworld.

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