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Climate - July 13

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Forest fires, drought, disease

Keith Gerein, Edmonton Journal
More forest fires, unreliable water supplies, volatile farming conditions and the emergence of unfamiliar diseases -- these are among the impacts Albertans can expect from a warming climate, a new report to the provincial government says.

The three-year study, one of the first to assess the vulnerability of Alberta's communities and industries to climate change, suggests the province must act quickly with new infrastructure and planning if it hopes to successfully adapt to the changing conditions.

"The message is that we will still be able to enjoy a high quality of life, but we must move forward with adaptation and mitigation strategies starting today," said University of Alberta researcher Debra Davidson, one of the lead authors.

hough it has yet to be released to the public, Davidson provided The Journal with highlights of the study commissioned by Alberta Environment.
(11 July 2008)

Geologist sees methane `doomsday'

Wesley G. Hughes, San Bernardino Sun
He calls it the Doomsday Scenario.

Imagine alligators swimming at the North Pole. It happened once and it could happen again if Martin Kennedy's hypothesis comes true.

And if Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" made you nervous, imagine something 50 times worse. If we as a society can't stop it, it could mean the end of civilization. Kennedy says, "I don't know how a nuclear power could survive if most of its population is dying."

Kennedy is no nut case. He's a highly respected professor of geology at UC Riverside; and his scenario was published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. It involves something no one had paid much attention to before: methane.

We in the Inland Empire are familiar with it as a byproduct of cow poop.

But Kennedy's methane is no BS, cowboy.

It's trapped in the permafrost under the ice cap in high latitudes at the top of the world. If the ice cap melts - as the Greenland ice sheet rapidly is - the methane will be released and methane is 50 times more active than carbon as a greenhouse gas, the scientist said.
(7 July 2008)

The Arctic Resource Rush is On

Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360
As the Arctic's sea ice melts, energy and mining companies are moving into previously inaccessible regions to tap the abundant riches that lie beneath the permafrost and the ocean floor. The potential environmental impacts are troubling.

In spring, the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Canada’s Northwest Territories are buried deep in snow and ice, seemingly devoid of all life and resources. But not far under the surface, in the relatively shallow permafrost, lies what could be one of the largest sources of energy ever discovered, a slushy mix of water, ice, and natural gas known as methane hydrates. These days, Arctic geologists are scrambling to find methods to tap into this abundant store of energy.

Gas hydrates - lattice-like ice structures that trap large quantities of methane, the major component of natural gas - are just one of a trove of natural resources in and around the Arctic Ocean. Vast reserves of oil, natural gas, and minerals also lie beneath the frozen sea and land. For centuries, these riches lay out of reach. Indeed, as recently as five years ago, few companies dreamed of investing in the Canadian Arctic because there was no safe and economical way of extracting these resources and shipping them out. In an area nine times as large as California, there was - and is - only one highway, a third of it gravel, which goes to the Arctic Ocean. There is no seaport and no railway.

All that, however, is about to change...
(10 July 2008)

McCain's Melanoma Cover-Up

Brian McKenna, Counter Punch
When John McCain airboated through the sundrenched Florida Everglades in June, he was sure to lather up with plenty of sunscreen (SPF30 is his preferred) and wear a baseball cap. For someone with his melanoma history, this was poor preventive medicine. In a UVA saturated wetland this outfit made him vulnerable for more melanomas on his face, neck, hands and other exposed areas.

In fact, the most effective preventive sunscreen is not found in an expensive six-ounce bottle, which generally offers little or no melanoma protection. It is simple avoidance of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., proper clothing and eyewear, wide brimmed hats (four inches or more), and shady structures.

The facts are readily before us. McCain's cherished SPF-30 rating is meaningless when it comes to melanoma. The SPF rating scale applies only to ultraviolet-B radiation (290 to 320 nanometers along the sun's spectrum) which causes red sunburn and is a major contributor to the more easily curable basal and squamous cell skin cancers.

... When people think of "sunscreen," few think about the ozone layer, about which sunscreen is the most important, or about skin pigmentation, clothes, shady structures over tennis courts, or hats. All are hidden "remainders" in the concept of sunscreen. Corporate culture's use of the term sunscreen actually comes to mean the very opposite of what it is usually taken to mean. That is, the white creams screen from consciousness the darker meanings-and pigments-associated with being in the sun. In other words, sunscreen creams, to a significant degree, literally and figuratively whitewash melanoma.

Sunscreen is a near perfect representative of neoliberal capitalist culture. The bottle represents an apparent private solution (the bottled cream) to a public problem (sunsmart infrastructure, less toxic production practices and education). These public associations of "sunscreen" are excluded in the marketing. When we add to this equation that sunscreen, in the vast majority of cases, does not to do what it implies it might - prevent melanoma, the resulting sunscreen related disease becomes an example of cultural iatrogenesis, a disease ironically caused by those who assert their healing roles, be they physicians, the pharmaceutical industry and more broadly, the culture at large.

What is required is a cultural transformation in how we think and act about "sunscreens" and the sun.
(10 July 2008)

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