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Environment Headlines - 3 October, 2005

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Secret report reveals catalogue of blunders at Sellafield

Geoffrey Lean, The Independent (UK)
A devastating "catalogue of dubious practices", including sabotage and safety measures based on "guesswork", at the Sellafield plant treating Britain's most dangerous nuclear waste is revealed in an internal report seen by The Independent on Sunday.

The whistleblowing document says that the plant - hitherto thought to be one of the better-run ones at the controversial Cumbrian complex - is "potentially dangerous" and is "becoming difficult to operate properly". One of its section headings reads: "Homer Simpson works at Sellafield".

The revelations could not come at a worse time for the Government and the nuclear industry. Tony Blair is pressing for the building of new reactors in Britain, against stiff cabinet opposition, after announcing a review of the issue in his Labour Party conference speech on Tuesday. ...
(3 October, 2005)


Cities of the Future
Today’s “Mega-cities” are Overcrowded and Environmentally Stressed

Divya Abhat, Shauna Dineen, Tamsyn Jones, Jim Motavalli, Rebecca Sanborn, and Kate Slomkowski, E Magazine
We take big cities for granted today, but they are a relatively recent phenomenon. Most of human history concerns rural people making a living from the land. But the world is rapidly urbanizing, and it’s not at all clear that our planet has the resources to cope with this relentless trend.

And, unfortunately, most of the growth is occurring in urban centers ill-equipped for the pace of change. You’ve heard of the “birth dearth”? It’s bypassing Dhaka, Mumbai, Mexico City and Lagos, cities that are adding population as many of their western counterparts contract.
(September/October 2005 issue)
A detailed, sobering report. Although energy isn't mentioned in the article, one wonders how Mega-cities in poor countries will fare as energy prices rise. -BA


Study: Sun's Changes to Blame for Part of Global Warming

R.Britt, LiveScience.com
Increased output from the Sun might be to blame for 10 to 30 percent of global warming that has been measured in the past 20 years, according to a new report. Increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases still play a role, the scientists say. But climate models of global warming should be corrected to better account for changes in solar activity, according to Nicola Scafetta and Bruce West of Duke University.

The findings were published online this week by the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists agree the planet is warming. Effects are evident in melting glaciers and reductions in the amount of frozen ground around the planet.

The new study is based in part on Columbia University research from 2003 in which scientists found errors in how data on solar brightness is interpreted. A gap in data, owing to satellites not being deployed after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, were filled by less accurate data from other satellites, Scafetta says.

The Duke analyses examined solar changes over 22 years versus 11 years used in previous studies. The cooling effect of volcanoes and cyclical shifts in ocean currents can have a greater negative impact on the accuracy of shorter data periods. "The Sun may have minimally contributed about 10 to 30 percent of the 1980-2002 global surface warming," the researchers said in a statement today.
(30 September, 2005)


Melting Planet

Andrew Buncombe and Severin Carrell, Independent
...Climate change threatens the survival of thousands of species - a threat unparalleled since the last ice age, which ended some 10,000 years ago.

The vast majority, scientists will warn this week, are migratory animals - sperm whales, polar bears, gazelles, garden birds and turtles - whose survival depends on the intricate web of habitats, food supplies and weather conditions which, for some species, can stretch for 6,500 miles. Every link of that chain is slowly but perceptibly altering.

Europe's most senior ecologists and conservationists are meeting in Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands, this week for a conference on the impact of climate change on migratory species, an event organised by the British government as part of its presidency of the European Union.
(2 October 2005)


Drastic Climate Change Affects Germany

Deutsche Welle
A study from the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology in Hamburg reveals that Earth is heading towards a climate catastrophe. The consequences for Germany and the world are drought, floods and glacial melt.

German film director Roland Emmerich filmed it with his big-budget natural catastrophe movie "The Day After Tomorrow." The United Nations is seeking to slow it down with the Kyoto Protocol. And photos of the Alps from the early 20th century compared with 2005 show it clearly: Global warming.

Now, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg has presented its most recent assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to its simulations, global warming is worse than once believed. It's an alarming announcement, considering how drastic earlier predictions were. "Our most recent results are more solid than before," said Jochem Marotze, the institute's director. "We are convinced that they are dependable."

The results: Earth's temperature will rise on average up to four degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) by the year 2100 and sea levels will increase up to 30 centimeters (11.8 inches). One scientist said that this rapid warming of the Earth is the "strongest climate change in the last one million years."
Deutsche Welle is Germany's publicly funded and administered media service.
(30 September, 2005)

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