Thursday, December 31, 2009

How the Aughts killed America’s malls and newspapers – with one stone

by Philip Bump | 10:46 am, December 29th, 2009 is celebrating a decade of recording the death rattles of American shopping malls. Chronicling the nasty and brutish lives of malls throughout the fifty states with pictures and anecdotes, the site launched in 2000 and celebrates its first ten years next month. It seems a remarkably appropriate tenure.

Hard numbers documenting the decline of the American shopping mall are hard to come by. (Anecdotal and pictorial evidence, like this remarkable photo essay of defunct shopping malls, are much more accessible.) The phenomenon of mall death received robust coverage in magazines and newspapers and on television over the past 18 months. The Newsweek piece linked above cites the International Council of Shopping Centers, which reports that one-fifth of the nation’s largest 2,000 malls were failing. Its current number broadens that significantly – to 102,000 shopping centers of all size. This is much more in line with the widely-cited number from a 2004 Dallas Morning News article, claiming that the nation hosts 46,990 shopping malls and shopping centers. Wikipedia, meanwhile, has a list of shopping malls in the United States containing a modest 868 locations. It also notes that much of the fluctuation results from competing definitions of what constitutes a mall; we can assume that similar uncertainty exists as to what constitutes its death.

Some part of any decline, to be sure, is a function of the economic environment. The Journal article above, for example, graphed declining mall sales during the recession, painting a clear picture of impact. The recession, though, isn’t to blame. It made an existing trend worse.

In a piece from two years ago, The Economist detailed the numbers behind that trend. Nearly no new indoor shopping centers in the latter part of this decade. A 50% drop between 1997 and 2002 in the percent of all retail sales occurring at malls (from 38% to 19%). What once was a mecca became mainstream. And then, this decade – moribund. …

How The Aughts Killed America’s Malls and Newspapers – With One Stone

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Survey finds over half of all Americans committing to green New Years resolutions

2010 candle photo 

 Photo via optical illusion

A new nationwide survey by Tiller Research LLC has found good green news for the new year. Over half of the American population will likely make an environmentally-focused New Year's resolution. The survey found that 53% of respondents are vowing to put the planet first in at least one way - that's up from 49% just two years ago. The resolutions being taken are great, but we have three that are just as easy, and make a far bigger impact than those listed in the survey. …

Survey Finds Over Half of All Americans Committing to Green New Years Resolutions

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Hybrid solar panels combine photovoltaics with thermoelectricity

imageBy Larry Greenemeier

Tar and shingles are hardly environmentally friendly materials, so the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hopes to soon help homeowners and businesses replace the roofs over their heads with something greener. To that end, the DOE awarded Weidlinger Associates , a New York City-based structural engineering firm, a $150,000 grant earlier this month (matched by a 10-percent commitment from the state) to develop durable hybrid solar roofing panels with integrated photovoltaic cells and thermoelectric materials that harvest the sun's energy to produce both electricity and hot water for buildings. …

Hybrid Solar Panels Combine Photovoltaics with Thermoelectricity

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New acoustic tools may reduce ship strikes on whales

Large commercial ships routinely pass through feeding grounds for endangered North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals. (Credit: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA)

Over the past decade, researchers have developed a variety of reliable real-time and archival instruments to study sounds made or heard by marine mammals and fish. These new sensors are now being used in research, management and conservation projects around the world with some very important practical results. Among them is improved monitoring of endangered North Atlantic right whales in an effort to reduce ship strikes, a leading cause of their deaths.

"The tools available to both acquire and analyze passive acoustic data have undergone a revolutionary change over the last ten years, and have substantially increased our ability to collect acoustic information and use it as a functional management tool," said Sofie Van Parijs, lead author and a bioacoustician at NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. "These tools have significantly improved monitoring of North Atlantic right whales and enhanced the efficacy of managing ship traffic to reduce ship strikes of whales through much of the western North Atlantic off the U.S. East Coast."

Van Parijs is one of many researcher whose work is decribed this month in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. Her paper is one of about a dozen in a special theme issue focused on acoustics in marine ecology. Van Parijs, who currently heads the NEFSC's Protected Species Branch, is also a co-author of a related paper on acoustic interference or masking, in which marine animals alter their use of sound as a result of changing background noise. …

New acoustic tools may reduce ship strikes on whales

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Monday, December 28, 2009

The decade in news photographs

View of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment Tracker Outer Barrel (TOB) in the cleaning room. The CMS is one of two general-purpose LHC experiments designed to explore the physics of the Terascale, the energy region where physicists believe they will find answers to the central questions at the heart of 21st-century particle physics. (Maximilien Brice, © CERN)

Call it what you will, "the noughties", "the two-thousands" or something else, the first decade of the 21st century (2000-2009) is now over. Looking back on the past ten years through news photographs, it becomes clear that it was a dramatic, often brutal decade. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks and wars were by far the most dominant theme. Ten years ago, Bill Clinton was ending his final term in office, very few had ever heard of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq - all that and much more has changed in the intervening time. It's really an impossible task to sum up ten years in a handful of photographs, but below is my best attempt at a look back at the last decade - feel free to let me know what I missed in the comments below. (50 photos total)

The decade in news photographs

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bottled water sales dry up; industry asks ‘why?’

Consumer backlash begins to bite, but recession also likely to blame

Image: Discarded water bottles. Karen Bleier / AFP-Getty Images file

By Jennifer Alsever contributor
updated 9:08 a.m. PT, Fri., Dec . 18, 2009

Heather Lewis was wracked with guilt when she realized she was addicted to the bottle.

Bottled water, that is.

At her worst, she said she went through five plastic bottles of water a day nearly every day for two years.

“It was appalling,” said Lewis, an architect from Louisville, Colo. “I felt like Aquafina’s trained monkey.”

But one day in January, as she gazed at the piles of plastic in her recycling bin, she decided to quit. “It was a cumulative sense of responsibility that made me do it,” Lewis said

Lewis is part of a bigger backlash against bottled water happening across the nation, and after decades of growth, the $11 billion industry is stuttering.

After steady expansion that saw U.S. per capita consumption grow from less than two gallons a year to a peak of 29 in 2007, bottled water sales slipped 3.2 percent in 2008 and are projected to dip another 2 percent this year, according to estimates by the Beverage Marketing Corporation, a New York research and consulting firm.

The primary cause of the decline is hotly contested. …

Bottled water sales dry up; industry asks ‘why?’

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Climate change contrarians vs the scientific consensus

This is a great pamphlet that summarizes the oft-repeated – and debunked – arguments that climate change contrarians use continually.

The Climate Change Deniers vs The Consensus. Information Is Beautiful

Climate Change Deniers vs The Consensus

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sen. James Inhofe Called ‘Ridiculous’

Sen. James Inhofe. AP

Republican Sen. James Inhofe, Congress' leading proponent of the argument that the scientific consensus around man-made global warming is actually a massive conspiracy, traveled to Copenhagen to pour some cold water on any momentum toward a global climate change agreement.

Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke to a group of reporters, telling them "the United States is not going to pass a cap and trade" bill. He also reiterated his skepticism of global warming science.

Politico, which noted Inhofe wore black snakeskin cowboy boots, tells the rest of the story:

A reporter asked: "If there's a hoax, then who's putting on this hoax, and what's the motive?"

"It started in the United Nations," Inhofe said, "and the ones in the United States who really grab ahold of this is the Hollywood elite."

One reporter asked Inhofe if he was referring to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another reporter — this one from Der Spiegel — told the senator: "You're ridiculous."

Sen. James Inhofe Called ‘Ridiculous’

Copenhagen Accord reaffirms 2 degree goal, but gap with national proposals remain. The sooner the action, the cheaper and easier.


The Copenhagen Accord reaffirms the importance of limiting global warming to 2 °C (3.6 °F), but current national commitments would lead to approximately 3.9 °C (7.0 °F) warming by 2100.

To close that gap global emissions must peak within the next decade and fall approximately 50% below 1990 levels by 2050 (a cut of approximately 60% below current emissions).

The sooner the nations of the world begin to close this gap the cheaper and easier it will be.

For more information, download the full press release and the spreadsheet with the numbers behind the analysis.

The Climate Interactive research team from Sustainability Institute, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Ventana Systems have analyzed the greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets stated in the final Copenhagen Accord and compared these with the emissions reduction commitments made by individual nations. The analysis, based on the C-ROADS climate policy simulation, assumes that all national commitments offered prior to and during the Copenhagen meeting remain in force, are verifiable and will be fully implemented.

The Accord adopted in Copenhagen (accessed 19 December 2009) calls for “deep cuts in global emissions…so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius” compared to preindustrial levels.  Simulations of the C-ROADS model show that doing so requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak by 2020 and then fall 50% below 1990 levels by 2050 (a cut of approximately 60% below current emissions).

However, simulations of the C-ROADS model show a large gap between the targets in the final Copenhagen agreement and the commitments offered by individual nations.  Using the C-ROADS model, the researchers estimate that current confirmed proposals (that is, submissions to the UNFCCC or official government positions) would raise expected global mean temperature by 3.9 °C  (7.0 °F) by 2100.  Including conditional proposals, legislation under debate and unofficial government statements would lower expected warming to an increase of approximately 2.9°C (5.2°F) over preindustrial levels. Full details and assumptions are here. …

Copenhagen Accord Reaffirms 2 Degree Goal, but Gap with National Proposals Remain. The Sooner the Action, the Cheaper and Easier.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Known Universe

This should be required viewing for every human in the world, but fans of Powers of Ten will be especially tickled.

After hovering over Mount Everest and the gorges that plunge to the Ganges, you are pulled through the Earth’s atmosphere to glimpse the inky black of space over Tibet’s high desert. So begins The Known Universe, a new film produced by the American Museum of Natural History that is part of a new exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.

The magic of this film, though, happens as the inky black expands. Pulling farther and farther from Earth, you see the deep blue of the Pacific give way to night as the Sun comes into focus, the orbits of the solar system shrink smaller and smaller, the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpio stretch and distort, and, as the Milky Way receeds, the spidery structure of millions of other galaxies come into view. Then, you reach the limit of the observable universe, the afterglow of the Big Bang. This light has taken more than 13.7 billion years to reach our planet, and you return, back to Earth, to two lakes that are nestled between Mount Kailash and Mount Gurla Mandhata in the Himalayas.

The structure of The Known Universe is based on precise, scientifically-accurate observations and research. The Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History maintains the Digital Universe Atlas, the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe. The Digital Universe started nearly a decade ago. It is continually updated and is the primary resource for production of the Museum’s Space Shows such as the current Journey to the Stars, and is used in live, real-time renderings for Virtual Tours of the Universe, a public program held on the first Tuesday of every month. Last year, some 30,000 people downloaded the Digital Universe to their personal computers, and the Digital Universe will soon be updated with a more accurate and user-friendly software interface. Digital Universe is licensed to many other planetariums and theaters world-wide. …

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Glint of sunlight confirms liquid in lake on Saturn's moon Titan

This image shows the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan. The glint off a mirror-like surface is known as a specular reflection. (Credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona / DLR)

ScienceDaily (Dec. 18, 2009) — NASA's Cassini Spacecraft has captured the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan, confirming the presence of liquid on the part of the moon dotted with many large, lake-shaped basins.

Cassini scientists had been looking for the glint, also known as a specular reflection, since the spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004. But Titan's northern hemisphere, which has more lakes than the southern hemisphere, has been veiled in winter darkness.

The sun only began to directly illuminate the northern lakes recently as it approached the equinox of August 2009, the start of spring in the northern hemisphere. Titan's hazy atmosphere also blocked out reflections of sunlight in most wavelengths. This serendipitous image was captured on July 8, 2009, using Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer.

The image will be presented Friday, Dec. 18, at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

"This one image communicates so much about Titan -- thick atmosphere, surface lakes and an otherworldliness," said Bob Pappalardo, Cassini project scientist, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "It's an unsettling combination of strangeness yet similarity to Earth. This picture is one of Cassini's iconic images." …

Glint of sunlight confirms liquid in lake on Saturn's moon Titan

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Most people should not automatically opt for a swine flu shot, expert suggests based on bacterial decision-making

TAU draws on bacterial decision-making success to guide human choices. (Credit: Image courtesy of American Friends of Tel Aviv University)

ScienceDaily (Dec. 17, 2009) — Bacteria inhabited our planet for more than 4 billion years before humans showed up, and they'll probably outlive us by as many eons more. That suggests they may have something to teach us.

New research from Tel Aviv University bacteria expert Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy, grounded in the study of bacteria, presents compelling evidence to suggest there may be good reasons why most people should not automatically opt for the swine flu H1N1 shot.

In research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Prof. Ben Jacob uses the decision-making of bacteria, an analogue of "game theory," as a model to make his case.

"Unlike our health authorities, bacteria would never panic," he says. "Bacteria don't follow the media or watch cable news. Instead, they send chemical messages to each other -- in a colony 100 times larger than the earth's human population -- to make their decisions. And based on what we've seen in bacterial colonies, I know they would be suspicious committing to swine flu shots. They wouldn't opt for a colony wide vaccination," Prof. Ben Jacob concludes. …

Most people should not automatically opt for a swine flu shot, expert suggests based on bacterial decision-making

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Turning the tables on climate contrarians

"Climategate" has put scientists on trial in the court of public opinion. If you believe climate sceptics, a huge body of evidence involving the work of tens of thousands of scientists over more than a century should be thrown out on the basis of the alleged misconduct of a handful of researchers, even though nothing in the hacked emails has been shown to undermine any of the scientific conclusions.

If we are going to judge the truth of claims on the behaviour of those making them, it seems only fair to look at the behaviour of a few of those questioning the scientific consensus. There are many similar examples we did not include. We leave readers to draw their own conclusions about who to trust. …

Deniergate: Turning the tables on climate sceptics

Sunday, December 13, 2009

California geothermal project shuts down

AltaRock Energy has told the Department of Energy it has removed its drill rig, shown above in May, from a Northern California site and abandoned the project. Jim Wilson / The New York Times

Published: December 11, 2009

The company in charge of a California project to extract vast amounts of renewable energy from deep, hot bedrock has removed its drill rig and informed federal officials that the government project will be abandoned.

The project by the company, AltaRock Energy, was the Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels and the project was being financed with federal Department of Energy money at a site about 100 miles north of San Francisco called the Geysers.

But on Friday, the Energy Department said that AltaRock had given notice this week that “it will not be continuing work at the Geysers” as part of the agency’s geothermal development program.

The project’s apparent collapse comes a day after Swiss government officials permanently shut down a similar project in Basel, because of the damaging earthquakes it produced in 2006 and 2007. Taken together, the two setbacks could change the direction of the Obama administration’s geothermal program, which had raised hopes that the earth’s bedrock could be quickly tapped as a clean and almost limitless energy source.

The Energy Department referred other questions about the project’s shutdown to AltaRock, a startup company based in Seattle. Reached by telephone, the company’s chief operations officer, James T. Turner, confirmed that the rig had been removed but said he had not been informed of the notice that the company had given the government. Two other senior company officials did not respond to requests for comment, and it was unclear whether AltaRock might try to restart the project with private money.

In addition to a $6 million grant from the Energy Department, AltaRock had attracted some $30 million in venture capital from high-profile investors like Google, Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

“Some of these startup companies got out in front and convinced some venture capitalists that they were very close to commercial deployment,” said Daniel P. Schrag, a professor of geology and director of the Center for the Environment at Harvard University.

Geothermal enthusiasts asserted that drilling miles into hard rock, as required by the technique, could be done quickly and economically with small improvements in existing methods, Professor Schrag said. “What we’ve discovered is that it’s harder to make those improvements than some people believed,” he added.

In fact, AltaRock immediately ran into snags with its drilling, repeatedly snapping off bits in shallow formations called caprock. The project’s safety was also under review at the Energy Department after federal officials said the company had not been entirely forthcoming about the earthquakes produced in Basel in making the case for the Geysers project. …

Geothermal Project in California Is Shut Down

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Science of global warming not faked, AP inquiry decides

This is just the liberal media covering up the greatest scientific fraud in history!!1!!1111!!!

By Seth Borenstein, Raphael Satter and Malcolm Ritter, AP

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Emails stolen from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia show they stonewalled sceptics and discussed hiding data. But the messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked, an exhaustive review by the Associated Press has found.

The 1,073 emails examined show that scientists harboured private doubts, however slight and fleeting, even as they told the world they were certain about climate change. But the exchanges don't undercut the vast body of evidence showing that the world is warming as a result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The scientists were keenly aware of how their work would be viewed and used, and, just like politicians, went to great pains to shape their message.

The emails were stolen from the computer network server of the UEA climate research unit, and posted online last month. The AP studied all the emails for context, with five reporters reading and rereading them – about a million words in total. Summaries of the emails were sent to seven experts in research ethics, climate science and science policy. "This is normal science politics, but on the extreme end, though still within bounds," said Daniel Sarewitz, a science policy professor at Arizona State University. …

Science of global warming not faked, inquiry decides

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Live stream from Copenhagen


UNFCCC Webcast
United Nations Climate Change Conference, Dec 7 - Dec 18 2009

Tuvalu negotiator at Copenhagen: ‘I woke this morning, and I was crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands.’

Tuvalu is the real deal. Copenhagen, 2009 

Earlier this week, Ian Fry, the lead negotiator for the small island nation of Tuvalu -- one of a handful of countries severely threatened by climate change -- called for the strongest of possible agreements: a legally-binding treaty that would demand developed countries help bring atmospheric CO2 down to 350 ppm. It's a bold demand that the US and other developed countries will not accept, and which developing countries, bent on a renewal of Kyoto, also reject. Today he delievered a speech that, according to Jamie at, "had delegates from around the world in tears."

Here's a rough transcription from

…This is not just an issue of Tuvalu... millions of people around the world are affected. This is not just Tuvalu. Over the last few days I've received calls from all over the world, offering faith and hope that we can reach a conclusion on this issue. Madame President, this is not a media trip for me, I have refused to take media calls on this issue. As a humble servant of the government of Tuvalu, I have to make a strong appeal to you that we consider this matter properly. I don't want to cause embarrassment to you or the government. …

Tuvalu Negotiator Delivers a Tear-Jerking Call for the Toughest Treaty at Copenhagen

Friday, December 11, 2009

New poll: 70 percent of Americans agree that global warming is occurring

Majority support cap-and-trade system, especially if it creates new green jobs

By Jeremy Hance
December 11, 2009

A new poll, taken in the midst of the scandal involving hacked emails from climate change scientists, shows that a significant majority (70 percent) of Americans agree with climatologists that the earth is warming.

In addition, 61 percent of Americans pointed to human activities as the primary cause of the warming climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found in their last review that there was a 90 percent chance that rising temperatures were due to human activities.

Conducted by the Ipsos/McClatchy from December 3-6th, the poll also found that a very slim majority (52 percent) of Americans are for a cap-and-trade system to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The percentage changed when participants were asked if they would agree with a cap-and-trade system if it raised their energy costs: 50 percent said they would still support it even if it raised costs 10 dollars a month, while 43 percent said they would still support cap-and-trade if it raised energy costs 25 dollars a month.

However, if cap-and-trade produced a significant number of new green jobs the percentages rose dramatically reflecting Americans' concern with a troubling job market: 69 percent of Americans would be willing to pay 10 dollars a month and 60 percent would be willing to pay 25 dollars a month.

The poll interviewed 1,210 American and has a margin of error of 2.93 percent.

New poll: 70 percent of Americans agree that global warming is occurring

Bacteria engineered to turn carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

Genetically engineered strains of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus in a Petri dish. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles) 

ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2009) — Global climate change has prompted efforts to drastically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels.

In a new approach, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have genetically modified a cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide and produce the liquid fuel isobutanol, which holds great potential as a gasoline alternative. The reaction is powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.

The research appears in the Dec. 9 print edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology and is available online.

This new method has two advantages for the long-term, global-scale goal of achieving a cleaner and greener energy economy, the researchers say. First, it recycles carbon dioxide, reducing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Second, it uses solar energy to convert the carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel that can be used in the existing energy infrastructure, including in most automobiles. …

Bacteria engineered to turn carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

Climate scientists around the world debunk Wall Street Journal ‘Stalinist’ screed

From Climate Progress

The Wonk Room is reporting on the scene from Copenhagen during the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The Red MenaceOn Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published a bizarre and vile screed by editor Bret Stephens, who compared climate scientists to anti-Semites and Stalinists, furthering the descent of the Climategate swiftboating campaign into parody. The Wonk Room has the exclusive responses to the charges Stephens made from several of the thousands of scientists working to understand the dynamics of our climate system. These scientists are participating in the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Science Q&A for Copenhagen program. The Wonk Room would like to thank the scientists — from the United States, Norway, Australia, Scotland, and Germany — for their thoughtful replies to a pile of otherwise unredeemable twaddle.

These scientists refute the charges that they are guilty of “utopianism,” “anti-humanism,” “intolerance,” and “indifference to evidence.” Their responses may be summed up by that of David S. Stevenson, a University of Edinburgh climate scientist: “Mr. Stephens is missing something here, and it is called a scientific understanding of the climate system.” …

Climate scientists around the world debunk Wall Street Journal “Stalinist” screed

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Climate Scoreboard: Watch the global temperature change with Copenhagen

The Climate Scoreboard. Climate Interactive

The Climate Scoreboard uses the C-ROADS simulation to calculate the long-term climate impacts of proposals under consideration in the negotiations to produce a global climate treaty. Embedded Scoreboards automatically update as the deal improves. Watch the video (top right corner) for background and explanation of features. To see recent changes to the Scoreboard, click on the log link at right.

The Climate Scoreboard


I loves me some Mark Fiore .

Science-gate by Mark Fiore

Science-gate via Pharyngula

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Copenhagen' hits #1 most Googled topic

 copenhagen most searched term photo

Yup, just a half hour or so ago, 'copenhagen' beat out 'tiger woods' to claim the mantle of the world's #1 search query on Google. This means that the world's eyes are indeed on COP15--and that world leaders have a real opportunity here. They can take advantage of the spotlight and make real progress in crafting the foundation for a global climate treaty. More info, and a graph of other related surging terms (thankfully, 'Nations Rush to Create the First Draft of a Global Climate Treaty ..." climategate' is on the decline) after the jump. …

'Copenhagen' Hits #1 Most Googled Topic

Stolen email shows scientist happily sharing climate research data

More evil climate scientist conspiracy:

At least one of the scientists being accused by industry groups and right-wing think tanks of hiding their climate research data, appears in an email we found in the stolen files to be more than happy with sharing his data.

Not only does he share it, but he does so with a person he's never even met before!

Now that our research team has completed a thorough analysis of the entire 1000+ email record, we'll be publishing a lot of the information in the coming days that runs counter to the claims made by those using these leaked emails to further their own political agendas.

Here's one we came across between East Anglia researcher, Dr. Keith Briffa and a Russian scientist, Leonid Klyashtorin, in which Briffa gladly sends along research data to Kylashotrin, a person he has never met: …

Stolen email shows scientist happily sharing climate research data

Insurers at core of climate change fallout - ‘Climate change has the potential to bankrupt the industry’


By Kim Hjelmgaard, MarketWatch

COPENHAGEN (MarketWatch) -- With the number of extreme weather events continuing to grow around the world the insurance industry is finding itself at the very center of efforts to avert the worst effects of climate change.

But as drought and demand for water intensify; heat waves become more severe; downpours more violent; and destructive coastal flooding more frequent, some even in the industry say its traditional risk-management tool may not be up to the task.

"Perhaps no industry is as aligned with the interests of a changing climate as the insurance industry is," said Patrick M. Liedtke, managing director of the Geneva Association, an industry body, at a side-event at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

"But [tackling climate change] is not something that the industry can do by itself," Liedtke added.

"It requires flanking action from governments, policy makers, regulators, NGOs and a lot of public dialogue. The whole world can't be insured, only parts of it."

"Insurers are on the front lines of climate change," added Andrew Logan, director of the investor group Ceres' insurance program, in an interview.

"Climate change has the potential to bankrupt the industry, or at the very least make it a lot smaller and a lot less profitable. So insurers have every incentive to push for solutions to climate change, including advocating for strong public policy."  …

Insurers at core of climate change fallout

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brazilian tribe owns carbon rights to Amazon rainforest land

The Surui have worked closely with Google Earth Outreach to develop ways to map and monitor their territory  

By Rhett A. Butler,
December 09, 2009

A rainforest tribe fighting to save their territory from loggers owns the carbon-trading rights to their land, according to a legal opinion released today by Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms.

The opinion, which was commissioned by Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based forest conservation group, could boost the efforts of indigenous groups seeking compensation for preserving forest on their lands, effectively paving the way for large-scale indigenous-led conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous people control more than a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon.

"This really is a landmark opinion,” said Michael Jenkins, President and CEO of Forest Trends. “What we have been able to demonstrate here is that there will be opportunity and a path forward for indigenous groups to participate in emerging markets from a global warming deal. In fact, the indigenous groups would now be part of the solution."

Baker & McKenzie reached its conclusion based on the Brazilian Constitution and legislation, which "provides for a unique proprietary regime over the Brazilian Indians land... which reserves to the Brazilian Indians... the exclusive use and sustainable administration of the demarcated lands as well as... the economic benefits that this sustainable use can generate." …

Brazilian tribe owns carbon rights to Amazon rainforest land

Virgin Galactic christens first commercial passenger spacecraft VSS Enterprise

By Anthony Pascale

If you are hoping to catch a ride on the first private commercial passenger spacecraft, you will be riding on a spacecraft named Enterprise, more specifically Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise, which was unveiled Monday night. More details below.

After Burt Rutan’s Spaceship One won the X-Prize for being the first privately built re-usable spacecraft, Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson partnered with Rutan to form Virgin Galactic. Together they began work on Spaceship Two, their first spacecraft to send tourists into suborbital spaceflights. That craft was unveiled tonight in a ceremony at the Mojave Air and Space Port. And the craft was christened as the VSS Enterprise, an homage to Star Trek and the other great ships to share the name. …

Virgin Christens First Commercial Passenger Spacecraft – VSS Enterprise

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Temperature records released to debunk contrarian claims

By Emily Beament, Press Association, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Met Office today released temperature records from more than 1,500 climate monitoring stations around the world in the latest efforts to debunk claims by sceptics that global warming data was manipulated by scientists.

The raw data comes from a network of individual stations which have been used by the World Meteorological Organisation to monitor global surface temperatures.

According to the Met Office, the records from the 1,500 sites show that temperatures have risen over the past 150 years.

The results from the monitoring centres released today is very similar to the complete set of data records from around 5,000 stations which the Met Office's Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) use to measure global land temperatures in the "HadCrut" record.

The data released today, a subset of the total from the 5,000 sites, is not a new global temperature record and does not replace the HadCrut record or other analyses from Nasa or the National Climatic Data Centre in the US.

The Met Office said it would release the data from the remaining station records when it had permission from those centres to do so.

And scientists said they would publish "as soon as possible" the specific computer code that aggregates the individual station temperatures into the global record. …

Temperature records released to debunk climate change claims

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hares, birds and orchids: the casualties of peace in Cyprus

 Cyprus mouflon, a sub-species of wild sheep, are now established in the abandoned villages and on the slopes of the Kyrenia mountain range. SALIH GUECEL

It's called the Green Line, but despite the name, it is a completely accidental wildlife sanctuary. The narrow strip of land that zigzags across the island of Cyprus was imposed in 1974 to separate the parties to armed conflict. As humans moved out, abandoning farms and villages, nature moved in. Thirty five years on, this no man's land has become a safe haven for some of the rarest endemic plants and animals in Europe and a place of special scientific importance. Now however there's a threat hanging over the unique eco-system, not from war, but from peace.

At its narrowest, the Green Line measures only 3.5 metres, and 7.5 km at the widest. But since Cyprus was divided in 1974, the area has seen minimal human activity, barring the occasional patrol by UN peacekeepers. The resulting surge in wildlife became evident early on, but its full scale has become apparent only since Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot scientists began working together to compile the first comprehensive inventories of plant and animal life. An absence of building development has allowed wildlife to flourish. "It means healthy populations of various species have survived without having their habitats fragmented, degraded or destroyed," explains Dr. Iris Charalambidou, a leader of the joint-North South scientific team which has been studying the area.

One of the most exciting finds are populations of two indigenous plants, the Cyprus Tulip (Tulipa cypria) and the Cyprus Bee Orchid (Ophrys kotschyi), both extremely rare. Likewise, a few decades ago, there were only a few hundred Cyprus mouflon, an endangered wild sheep found only on the island. But the Green Line has helped the sub-species to thrive to the point where Cyprus now has a healthy 3,000-strong herd. …

Hares, birds and orchids: the casualties of peace in Cyprus

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The Times: Climate e-mail hackers “aimed to maximise harm to Copenhagen summit” – Russian security services implicated

From DeepClimate:

According to TimesOnline, investigators of the CRU email theft (dubbed SwiftHack or Climategate) have concluded that the release of the stolen material was held back for weeks in order to cause maximum damage to the upcoming Copenhagen conference.

This development, along with new reports of breakins and other attacks at the University of Victoria, should finally lay to rest the baseless rumour that the hacked email archive was assembled at CRU as part of a contingent FOI response and released by an inside whistleblower, a canard that was started by – wait for it – none other than Steve McIntyre himself!

First, here’s the latest on the CRU  SwiftHack (a.k.a. “Climategate”) investigation from the Times of London: …

Update, December 6: The Daily Mail reports that suspicion is falling on the Russian security services:

Suspicions were growing last night that Russian security services were behind the leaking of the notorious British ‘Climategate’ emails which threaten to undermine tomorrow’s Copenhagen global warming summit.

An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has discovered that the explosive hacked emails from the University of East Anglia were leaked via a small web server in the formerly closed city of Tomsk in Siberia. …

The server is believed to be used mainly by Tomsk State University, one of the leading academic institutions in Russia, and other scientific institutes.

Computer hackers in Tomsk have been used in the past by the Russian secret service (FSB) to shut websites which promote views disliked by Moscow.

Such arrangements provide the Russian government with plausible deniability while using so-called ‘hacker patriots’ to shut down websites. …

The Times: Climate e-mail hackers “aimed to maximise harm to Copenhagen summit”

Hackers paid by climate sceptics, UN says

December 8, 2009

UNITED Nations officials have suggested that computer hackers who pilfered thousands of emails and files from a British university were probably paid to undermine the Copenhagen climate change summit.

And according to a British newspaper investigation, the emails emerged from a server operated from a small red building in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the server is primarily used by Tomsk State University. In 2002, ''hacker patriots'' believed to be students from the institution acted against a site that had reported events in Chechnya and angered Russian officials.

UN officials confirmed that the files appeared to have been first uploaded on to a website from a computer in Russia, suggesting that the culprits were not amateur climate change sceptics but paid professionals.

They first appeared on a wesbite run by climate change sceptics on November 17.

On Sunday, Achim Steiner, the director of the United Nations Environment Program, said the theft of emails from East Anglia University's climate research unit, a globally renowned climate research institute and keeper of British temperature data, was reminiscent of the Watergate scandal, which brought down US president Richard Nixon.

But he stressed that it was ''not climategate, it's hackergate''. …

Hackers paid by climate sceptics, UN says

Fifty-six newspapers around the world in 20 languages run op-ed for climate action

From Treehugger:

Screen shot 2009-12-07 at 10.04.09 AM.png 

The UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen has finally arrived and the time for action is now. So says an op-ed in almost 60 newspapers around the world that calls for world leaders to agree on a binding deal that locks in targets for reducing emissions and financing for countries most affected by climate change. The op-ed was written by the Guardian's editorial staff and appears in 20 languages including English, Chinese, Arabic and Russian. …

Fifty-six Newspapers Around The World In 20 Languages Runs Op-Ed For Climate Action

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lightweight 'triple-zero' house produces more energy than it uses

Werner Sobek's triple-zero house

NEW YORK--Overlooking the city of Stuttgart in southern Germany, a four-story modern glass house stands like a beacon of environmental sustainability. Built in 2000, it was the first in a series of buildings that are "triple-zero," a concept developed by German architect and engineer Werner Sobek, which signifies that the building is energy self-sufficient (zero energy consumed), produces zero emissions, and is made entirely of recyclable materials (zero waste). …

Lightweight 'triple-zero' house produces more energy than it uses

Friday, December 4, 2009

Big business demands strong Copenhagen agreement

Tom Young, BusinessGreen, Thursday 3 December 2009 at 00:15:00

Gordon Brown says he welcomes support from firms that will be key players in low carbon transition

Over 850 of the world's largest companies, including Shell, Tesco, Kingfisher, Vodafone, Unilever, John Lewis and Lloyds will today call on Gordon Brown to do his upmost to secure a strong agreement at the upcoming Copenhagen climate change summit.

The firms, who are members of the Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group, will set out the business case for a strong and effective legally binding international deal and underline their belief that economic development can not be sustained unless the climate is stabilised.

Craig Bennett, co-director of the group, said companies across all sectors operating in both developed and developing economies were united in calling for an ambitious deal to be struck at Copenhagen.

"If it is possible for such a variety of companies to agree on the basic shape of an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change – surely it should now be possible for the world's governments to do the same?" he asked.

Over 100 of the companies will gather at Downing Street this evening to highlight the business opportunities a low carbon economy can offer and urge the prime minister to do all he can to ensure an agreement is reached in Copenhagen. …

Big business demands strong Copenhagen agreement

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another crop of reasonable reactions to ‘Climategate’

Dmitry Orlov: Please Change the Climate. Thanks.

1. The UEA emails were stolen. Data theft is a criminal activity. Use of stolen data is a criminal activity as well. People who get paid for publishing articles that are based on stolen data are dealing in stolen goods. This is no different from selling a house that you built using stolen materials.

2. Smearing someone's reputation based on lies is called libel. To defend oneself against the charge of libel, one generally has to present evidence to prove that one's statements are in fact true. Stolen data is not admissible as evidence. …

Nature: Climatologists under pressure

Stolen e-mails have revealed no scientific conspiracy, but do highlight ways in which climate researchers could be better supported in the face of public scrutiny.

The e-mail archives stolen last month from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, have been greeted by the climate-change-denialist fringe as a propaganda windfall (see page 551). To these denialists, the scientists' scathing remarks about certain controversial palaeoclimate reconstructions qualify as the proverbial 'smoking gun': proof that mainstream climate researchers have systematically conspired to suppress evidence contradicting their doctrine that humans are warming the globe.

This paranoid interpretation would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country's much needed climate bill. Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails. …

Mike Hulme: The Science and Politics of Climate Change 

I am a climate scientist who worked in the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the 1990s. I have been reflecting on the bigger lessons to be learned from the stolen emails, some of which were mine. One thing the episode has made clear is that it has become difficult to disentangle political arguments about climate policies from scientific arguments about the evidence for man-made climate change and the confidence placed in predictions of future change. The quality of both political debate and scientific practice suffers as a consequence. …

Peter Kelemen: What East Anglia's E-mails Really Tell Us About Climate Change

In the past two weeks, scientists like myself have been gripped by news of the theft and online release of more than a decade of e-mails from one of the world's leading centers for climate-change research, the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at Britain's University of East Anglia. During these same weeks, world political leaders have been preparing for a climate summit in Copenhagen and a new study has indicated that a major ice sheet in eastern Antarctica, previously thought to be stable, is in fact losing mass. But those developments have been clouded by the stolen e-mails and what they may imply about how research into human-induced global warming is carried out. …

Bob Ward: Climate change denial is the new article of faith for the far right

It is now 12 days since the hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia first appeared online, and the propaganda machine for the climate change denial lobby is in overdrive.

The University of East Anglia has rightly announced an independent investigation into the hacking episode. It is essential that the investigation examines, thoroughly and transparently, the substance of the email messages and establishes whether there has been any wrongdoing. From what I have seen, there is no evidence of research misconduct, but the only way to clear the air now is through an investigation.

Some people have already, and predictably, taken on the role of judge, jury and executioner, and have called for Phil Jones, the director of the unit, to resign. Yesterday Jones announced he would be temporarily standing down while an inquiry is carried out. But such a hysterical witch hunt is a sign of desperation rather than justice.

Despite nearly two weeks of frantic brandishing of the "smoking gun", there is still no evidence of the alleged bullets that would constitute an overturning of 200 years of climate research. The greenhouse effect still exists and the Earth is still warming. …

Ben Jervey: The Ministry of Climate Change Misinformation

I really didn't want to write anything about the stolen climate scientist emails. Besides the fact that the personal accounts of scientists in the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were illegally hacked, the supposedly incriminating quotes were taken well out of context, and, frankly, the actual content of the correspondences contains nothing to suggest that climate change isn't very real and a very immediate threat. The emails certainly don't change the fact that the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change remains strong.

Not that the scientific consensus seems to matter in this day and age of misinformation.

But these emails reared their ugly heads the same week that I happened to be reading a new book on the long-running "crusade to deny global warming," an exposé of the intricate and highly orchestrated efforts of fossil fuel companies (and the politicians, mad men, and reactionary media flacks in their back pockets) to discredit real climate science and manufacture confusion. Climate Cover-Up grew out of the good, old-fashioned muckracking that James Hoggan (with co-author Richard Littlemore) has been publishing since 2005 on the invaluable website DeSmogBlog. The book, through meticulously documented analysis, lays out the deliberate, nefarious, and immoral campaign to manipulate the public discourse on climate change. It also helps explain why, despite the well-established science, there are still ads on TV trumpeting the benefits of carbon dioxide ("They call it pollution, We call it life"), why anonymous commenters continue to bombard climate-related articles and blog posts (and, likely, this column) with uninformed "it's a hoax" or "the world is cooling" denial talking points, why just over half of registered Republicans believe climate change is happening at all, and why, last week, some stolen personal emails from climate scientists that don't actually discredit their work is a bigger news story than the very severe, enormously dire findings released by the scientifically sound Copenhagen Diagnosis. …

Ben Santer: Dear colleagues and friends

I am sure that by now, all of you are aware of the hacking incident which recently took place at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). This was a criminal act. Over 3,000 emails and documents were stolen. The identity of the hacker or hackers is still unknown.

The emails represented private correspondence between CRU scientists and scientists at climate research centers around the world. Dozens of the stolen emails are from over a decade of my own personal correspondence with Professor Phil Jones, the Director of CRU.

I obtained my Ph.D. at the Climatic Research Unit. I went to CRU in 1983 because it was - and remains - one of the world's premier institutions for studying the nature and causes of climate change. During the course of my Ph.D., I was privileged to work together with exceptional scientists – with people like Tom Wigley, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, and Sarah Raper. …

An Open Letter to Scientists from Kevin Trenberth

…This has been a difficult time for us, with very personal abusive and threatening emails, protesters at the bottom of the NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) hill, and trying to get a decent hearing. I am proud of what Phil and I did for Chapter 3 in AR4, and it is disappointing that the IPCC has not been more forthright in standing up for its procedures.

After the SAR, when editors were introduced, the IPCC process has become very open, transparent and thorough, but it is not documented anywhere that we can hold up to the world and say, "look, see". The IPCC web site is not helpful. It is possible to find something on IPCC procedures and the URL is in the attached. However, the attached is my attempt to detail the process of which we should be proud. In particular it documents the process down to the level of Chapter 3 of AR4. Along with the huge xls spread sheets that document how every comment (for chapter 3 over 3500) were handled and responded to (now why aren't those made publicly available???) the process does not allow any of the finagling or manipulation we have been accused of.

Indeed in the stolen emails you will find evidence of this. Please promote the attached document and maybe we can get it onto the IPCC web site somehow? And maybe we can get others to pay attention to it. …

Phil Jones gets the last word

Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'd rather not know: the psychology of climate denial

I also blame Zeus for the curse of delusional hope.

Paris (AFP) Dec 1, 2009 - If the evidence is overwhelming that man-made climate change is already upon us and set to wreak planetary havoc, why do so many people refuse to believe it? …

It is the human instinct to shut out or modify a terrifying truth: that the world as we know it is heading for a smash.

"It's a paradox: when it comes to disasters, people do not allow themselves to believe what they know," explained Jean-Pierre Dupuy, a professor of social philosophy at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.

"Because everybody is in denial -- or would like to be in denial -- and would prefer to not shoulder too much of the responsibility for dealing with the problem, you have a kind of disconnect here," Grayling said.

Even scientists reluctantly pushed by their growing sense of alarm into launching public appeals for action have trouble coping.

When Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Australian National University, attended a September climate conference at Oxford tasked with imagining a world warmed by 4.0 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit), he was struck by how researchers spoke among themselves.

"It was very revealing. As they relaxed somewhat, they began to speak about their fears, about losing sleep, not wanting to think about the implications of what they do," he recalled.

Under such circumstances, people are resourceful in finding ways to reassure themselves or turn their backs on the threat posed by climate change.

I'd rather not know: the psychology of climate denial

New study adds to finding of ancient life signs in Mars meteorite

partly filled pits

Using more advanced analytical instruments now available, a Johnson Space Center research team has reexamined the 1996 finding that a meteorite contains strong evidence that life may have existed on ancient Mars.

The new research focused on investigating alternate proposals for the creation of materials thought to be signs of ancient life found in the meteorite. The new study argues that ancient life remains the most plausible explanation for the materials and structures found in the meteorite.

In 1996, a group of scientists led by David McKay, Everett Gibson and Kathie Thomas-Keprta of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston published an article in Science announcing the discovery of biogenic evidence in the ALH84001 meteorite. A newly published paper revisits that original hypothesis with new analyses. The paper, “Origin of Magnetite Nanocrystals in Martian Meteorite ALH84001,” by Thomas-Keprta and coauthors Simon Clemett, McKay, Gibson and Susan Wentworth, all scientists in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at JSC, is in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta of The Geochemical Society and The Meteoritical Society. …

New Study Adds to Finding of Ancient Life Signs in Mars Meteorite

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