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Eco-news archive: November-December 2005

crowded street in India
Debate heats up over Earth's population
(Dec 27, 2005)

If you thought the planet was already struggling under the weight of billions of humans, think again. Researchers have worked out the population's ultimate limit, and claim the Earth could withstand up to 200,000 times as many of us. The world's population is expected to rise from 6.5 billion today to around 9 billion in 2050, but according to Viorel Badescu at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest in Romania that is nowhere near the limit of the planet's capacity. Dr Badescu's calculations, which appear in the International Journal of Global Energy Issues next month, are based on earlier work by the British physicist John Fremlin.

Read more. Source: Guardian

World is at its hottest since prehistory, say scientists
(Dec 20, 2005)

The world is now hotter than at any stage since prehistoric times, a top climatologist announced last week. His startling conclusion comes as NASA reported that 2005 has been the hottest year ever recorded. Dr Michael Coughlan, head of the National Climate Centre at the Australian Government's Bureau of Meteorology, said: "One probably has to go back into prehistoric times – and way back in them – to be seeing these sorts of temperatures."

Read more. Source: Independent

2005 warmest ever year in north
(Dec 16, 2005)

This year has been the warmest on record in the northern hemisphere, say scientists in Britain. It is the second warmest globally since the 1860s, when reliable records began, they say. Ocean temperatures recorded in the northern hemisphere Atlantic Ocean have also been the hottest on record. The researchers, from the UK Met Office and the University of East Anglia, say this is more evidence for the reality of human-induced global warming.

Read more. Source: BBC

golden-crowned sifaka
Extinction alert for 800 species
(Dec 14, 2005)

Researchers have compiled a global map of sites where animals and plants face imminent extinction. The list, drawn up by a coalition of conservation groups, covers almost 800 species which they say will disappear soon unless urgent measures are taken. Most of the 800 are now found only in one location, mainly in the tropics. Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers say protecting some of these sites would cost under $1,000 per year.

Read more. Source: BBC

killer whale
Arctic orcas highly contaminated
(Dec 12, 2005)

Killer whales have become the most contaminated mammals in the Arctic, new research indicates. Norwegian scientists have found that killer whales – or orcas, as they are sometimes known - have overtaken polar bears at the head of the toxic table. No other arctic mammals have ingested such a high concentration of hazardous man-made chemicals.

Read more. Source: BBC

Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier
Greenland glacier races to ocean
(Dec 8, 2005)

Scientists have been monitoring what they say may be the fastest moving glacier on the planet. Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier on the east coast of Greenland has been clocked using GPS equipment and satellites to be flowing at a rate of 14 km per year. It is also losing mass extremely fast, with its front end retreating 5km back up its fjord this year alone. The glacier "drains" about 4% of the ice sheet, dumping tens of cubic km of fresh water in the North Atlantic. This gives it significant influence not just on global sea level rise but on the system of ocean circulation which drives through the Arctic.

Read more. Source: BBC

snow at Versailles
Ocean changes to cool Europe
(Dec 1, 2005)

Changes to ocean currents in the Atlantic may cool European weather within a few decades, scientists say. Researchers from the UK's National Oceanography Centre say currents derived from the Gulf Stream are weakening, bringing less heat north. Their conclusions, reported in the scientific journal Nature, are based on 50 years of Atlantic observations.

Read more. Source: BBC

giant earwig
The giant earwig that could bring a country to a standstill
(Nov 28, 2005)

The giant earwig is among the most elusive creatures on the planet – and is believed by many to be extinct. But its survival is at the centre of a transatlantic planning row, which could prevent an airport from being built on the island where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his final years in exile. Some of the world's rarest species, including birds, spiders and centipedes, are under threat from a new 80m airport planned for the island of St Helena.

Read more. Source: Independent

ocean waves
Accelerated rise in sea levels blamed on global warming
(Nov 25, 2005)

Sea levels are rising twice as fast as they were 150 years ago and man-made greenhouse emissions are the prime cause, a study by scientists in America has found. Tide lines worldwide are rising by about 2 millimetres a year, compared to 1 millimetre a year in 1850, said Kenneth Miller, professor of geology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The rate at which sea levels are rising is probably greater than at any time for thousands of years, suggesting that greenhouse emissions are accelerating climate change, he said.

Read more. Source: Independent

Gas bubbles trapped in ice store valuable climatic information
CO2 'highest for 650,000 years'
(Nov 25, 2005)

Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years. That is the conclusion of new European studies looking at ice taken from 3 km below the surface of Antarctica. The scientists say their research shows present day warming to be exceptional.

Read more. Source: BBC

UN urges protection for dolphins
(Nov 24, 2005)

The United Nations says additional protection measures are needed for dolphins and small whales. A new global survey, released at a conservation meeting in Kenya, finds that more than 70% of species are at risk through snaring in fishing nets. Other major threats include intentional catching, pollution, habitat destruction and military sonar. The UN Environment Programme (Unep) is calling for an upgrade of international protection on eight species.

Read more. Source: BBC

Himalayan glacier village
Millions face glacier catastrophe
(Nov 20, 2005)

Nawa Jigtar was working in the village of Ghat, in Nepal, when the sound of crashing sent him rushing out of his home. He emerged to see his herd of cattle being swept away by a wall of water. Jigtar and his fellow villagers were able to scramble to safety. They were lucky: 'If it had come at night, none of us would have survived.' Ghat was destroyed when a lake, high in the Himalayas, burst its banks. Swollen with glacier meltwaters, its walls of rock and ice had suddenly disintegrated. Several million cubic metres of water crashed down the mountain.

Read more. Source: Observer

map showing death rate due to climate change in 2000
Climate change map reveals countries most under threat
(Nov 18, 2005)

Scientists have compiled one of the first comprehensive pictures of what the world might be like when climate change begins to trigger a dramatic increase in epidemics, disease and death. Teams of specialists have assessed the scale of the dangers to human health when changes in the climate lead to higher incidences of weather extremes, such as high temperatures, floods and drought. The findings – published today in the journal Nature – come weeks before world leaders meet in Montreal to discuss climate change at the first Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Read more. Source: Independent

Forest is often incapable of recovering on its own
Deforestation slowing – UN
(Nov 16, 2005)

The speed of global deforestation is showing signs of slowing down because of new planting and natural forest extension, according to new figures. But the world's forests are still being destroyed at an alarming rate, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, presenting details from a new report. The numbers measure net loss, taking into account forest growth from new planting and natural expansion. An average 7.3 million hectares was lost annually over the last five years. This was down from 8.9 million hectares (22 million acres) a year between 1990 and 2000.

Read more. Source: BBC

kittiwake IQ test
Birds hit by climate, diet shift
(Nov 14, 2005)

A change in the diet of seabirds may be making them less intelligent and lowering their chances of survival and breeding, a new study shows. Scientists used lab experiments to mimic changes observed in the diets of kittiwakes in the Bering Sea – changes probably caused by a warming ocean. Chicks given a diet low in lipid-rich fish were less able to find food. The RSPB comments that changes in the diets of seabird chicks can affect their chances of survival.

Read more. Source: BBC

Minke whale
Japan's whaling fleet sets sail
(Nov 9, 2005)

Japan's whaling fleet has set sail for Antarctic waters where it will make its biggest catch in 20 years. The boats will aim to catch nearly 1,000 whales over the coming months. A global moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since the 1980s, but Japan describes its programme as "scientific." The hunting is condemned by most conservation groups on the grounds that it is inhumane, unnecessary and may harm fragile wildlife populations.

Read more. Source: BBC

Smart directions for green ideas
(Nov 3, 2005)

Electro-car public transport and a scheme to track the proper disposal of waste are two of smartest ideas for using satellite-navigation technology. The applications have just triumphed in an international competition seeking novel ways to employ Galileo, Europe's soon-to-launch sat-nav system. The multi-billion-euro space venture will transform the quality of location and timing data available on Earth. And entrepreneurs are being urged to develop innovative ways to exploit it.

Read more. Source: BBC


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