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Night flights twice as bad for environment – study

David Adam, The Guardian
A nationwide ban on night flights would significantly reduce the aviation industry’s impact on the climate, a new study shows. Scientists have found that the warming effect of aircraft is much greater when they fly in the dark, because of the effects of the condensation trails (contrails) they leave.

Piers Forster, an environmental scientist at the University of Leeds who led the project, said: “Night flights are twice as bad for the environment. If the government wanted to reduce the likely impact of aviation on climate then it could ensure that more flew during the day.”

Writing in the journal Nature today, Dr Forster and his colleagues say aircraft contrails enhance the greenhouse effect because they trap heat in the same way as clouds. During the day, their warming effect is not as pronounced because contrails reflect sunlight back into space, which helps to keep the planet cool. This means contrails are responsible for about half of the aviation industry’s impact on climate.
(15 June 2006)

Hungry polar bears turning to cannibalism, experts fear

Dan Joling, Associated Press via Anchorage Daily News
Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea may be turning to cannibalism in response to nutritional stresses related to longer ice-free seasons, American and Canadian scientists have concluded.

The study reviewed three examples of predation from January to April 2004 by polar bears above Alaska and western Canada, including the first ever reported killing of a female in a den shortly after it gave birth to cubs.

…”During 24 years of research on polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region of northern Alaska and 34 years in northwestern Canada, we have not seen other incidents of polar bears stalking, killing and eating other polar bears,” the scientists said.

Environmentalists say shrinking polar ice because of global warming may lead to the disappearance of polar bears before the end of the century.
(13 June 2006)

Warming ‘threat to Asian security’
Grim scenario of disease and disaster

Geoff Hiscock, CNN
SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) — Rapid global warming poses a variety of security threats to the Asia Pacific region that have been “seriously underestimated,” a new study says.

The report, released Tuesday by a Sydney-based think tank, paints a grim scenario of disease, food and water shortages, natural disasters, territorial tensions and mass population movements threatening political stability in the region.

Rising sea levels, for example, could threaten heavily urbanized parts of Asia, such as China’s Yellow and Yangzi River deltas, and heavily populated low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, the report entitled “Heating up the Planet: Climate Change and Security,” by the Lowy Institute says.

Warmer temperatures could see the greater spread of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, while extreme weather events could diminish food and clean water supplies.

And large, unregulated movements of people could put a heavy strain on the capacity of nations to cope…
(13 June 2006)

Canada wrests oil from sands, but at what cost?
Wojtek Dabrowski, Washington Post
Canada’s vast oil sands, the biggest source of oil outside Saudi Arabia, don’t give up their riches easily.

Mining the earth for molasses-like bitumen that can be turned to oil involves clearing vast swaths of land, stripping off layers of soil and digging out lake-sized holes with giant shovels that scoop up to 56 cubic yards (meters) of material a swing.

The world’s largest haul trucks — house-sized monsters with wheels the size of pick-up trucks — ship the muck away for crushing and mixing with hot water before further extraction and upgrading. The start-up costs are huge, but with oil around $70 a barrel, the rewards are large as well.
But while the black gold brings billions of dollars to the oil firms and the province of Alberta, critics say the operations are taking too big a toll on the environment.
(8 June 2006)