Friday, November 26, 2010

Dolphins recognize themselves in mirrors, act very silly

CNN's Randi Kaye goes down in an underwater lab to see how dolphins react to themselves in a mirror.

[Randi Kaye  observes that dolphins’ "high levels of intelligence are, in many ways, much like our own,” and she asks scientist Diana Reiss , “If that's true, what does that tell us?"

It tells us that dolphins should be treated as 'non-human persons'. Ethically and legally, slaughtering them in such places as Taiji and the Faroes should be considered murder.]

Dolphins see themselves in mirror

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Monday, November 22, 2010

World mayors sign climate change pact

Mexico City (AFP) Nov 21, 2010 - Mayors from around the world signed a voluntary pact in Mexico City on Sunday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a meeting meant as a precursor to next week's s UN-sponsored talks in Cancun.

The gathering in one of the world's most polluted cities assembled some 3,000 local and regional leaders to discuss a wide range of economic and social issues, including climate change.

Participants from some 135 cities and urban areas signed a pact committing them to adopt a slate of measures to stem climate change.

The pact will be presented at next week's UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico from November 29-December 10.

Top climate scientists from around the world hope in Cancun to break the deadlock on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and channeling aid to poor, vulnerable countries after the widely regarded failure of the last climate summit in Copenhagen.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, the current president of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), opened the mayoral gathering, set to last four days.

"We have to tell the international community that it's in the cities that the battle to slow global warming will be won," Ebrard said in the lead-up to the meeting. …

World mayors sign climate change pact

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The CRU Hack: One year later

The Met Office Hadley Centre is the UK’s foremost climate change research centre. We produce world-class guidance on the science of climate change and provide a focus in the UK for the scientific issues associated with climate change.

By Gavin Schmidt
20 November 2010

I woke up on Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009 completely unaware of what was about to unfold. I tried to log in to RealClimate, but for some reason my login did not work. Neither did the admin login. I logged in to the back-end via ssh, only to be inexplicably logged out again. I did it again. No dice. I then called the hosting company and told them to take us offline until I could see what was going on. When I did get control back from the hacker (and hacker it was), there was a large uploaded file on our server, and a draft post ready to go announcing the theft of the CRU emails. And so it began.

From that Friday, and for about 3 weeks afterward, we were drafted into the biggest context-setting exercise we’d ever been involved in. What was the story with Soon and Baliunas? What is the difference between tree ring density and tree ring width? What papers were being discussed in email X? What was Trenberth talking about? Or Wigley? Or Briffa or Jones? Who were any of this people anyway? The very specificity of the emails meant that it was hard for the broader scientific community to add informed comment, and so the burden on the people directly involved was high.

The posts we put up initially are still valid today – and the 1000’s of comment stand as testimony to the contemporary fervour of the conversation:

I think we did pretty well considering – no other site, nor set of scientists (not even at UEA) provided so much of the background to counter the inevitable misinterpretations that starting immediately spreading. While some commentators were predicting resignations, retractions and criminal charges, we noted that there had not been any scientific misconduct, and predicted that this is what the inquiries would find and that the science would not be affected. (Note, the most thorough inquiry, and one that will have to withstand judicial review, is the one by EPA which, strangely enough, has barely been discussed in the blogosphere). …

One year later

Friday, November 19, 2010

All viruses ‘can be DNA stowaways’

Relatives of Ebola are among the 'fossil viruses' researchers have identified. Image: Thomas W Geisbert( -- 'Fossil viruses' preserved inside the DNA of mammals and insects suggest that all viruses, including relatives of HIV and Ebola, could potentially be ‘stowaways’ transmitted from generation to generation for millions of years, according to new research.

A team from Oxford University and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center built on earlier work at Oxford that discovered the fossilised remains of an ancient HIV-like virus in the genomes of animals including sloths, lemurs and rabbits.

The team’s new research, reported in this week’s PLoS Genetics, shows that many more different types of viruses are endogenous – capable of being transmitted from generation to generation – with ‘fossil viruses’ turning up in the genomes of creatures as different as mosquitoes, wallabies, and humans.

‘Many of these viruses, such as the ancestors of Ebola, are far more ancient and spread across many more animal groups than anyone ever suspected,’ said Dr Aris Katzourakis of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, an author of the report. ‘We’ve demonstrated that viruses have been integrating within animal genomes for at least 100 million years.’

‘We’ve also shown that, in some cases, viral genes have been domesticated by their hosts, and put to use by the hosts for their own purposes, demonstrating that captured viral sequences may have played a larger than expected role in animal evolution.’ …

All viruses 'can be DNA stowaways'

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The tortoise and the solar plant

Biologists are relocating species such as this juvenile Mojave Desert tortoise due to the planned construction of BrightSource Energy's solar plant in southern California. Sarah McBride for NPR

By Sarah McBride
October 30, 2010

Mercy Vaughn crouches over a young tortoise peeking out from its burrow near a creosote bush in California's Mojave Desert.

The area is home to rare species, including the threatened desert tortoise. But a giant solar plant is under construction in the vast wilderness area.

To help save the animal, the company building the plant, BrightSource Energy, had to agree to a lot of conditions, including reptile relocation.

Vaughn, a biologist from Texas, and her colleague Peter Woodman are leading a team of 50 biologists hired to survey the site over and over before construction begins. They have to keep track of every single tortoise.

"This is one that was walking down the middle of the road when it was spotted by one of the monitors," Woodman says. "Luckily, we've got a radio transmitter on it now."

He's looking at an adult female tortoise; she's about the size of a dinner plate, and the transmitter is glued to her shell. It almost looks like a stray twig. …

The tortoises can't stay where construction crews might harm them, so the biologists are moving them to pens to ride out the desert winter. In the spring, they'll try relocating them to the wild.

BrightSource is spending more than $40 million to protect plants and wildlife. That includes buying acres of land to keep as nature preserves. …

The Tortoise And The Solar Plant: A Mojave Story

Monday, November 8, 2010

Climate scientists plan campaign against global warming denialists

[It’s about time. –Jim]

Smokestacks. An analysis by a liberal think tank found that half of the more than 100 new Republican Congress members are skeptics on global warming. (Chicago Tribune / February 28, 2007)

The American Geophysical Union plans to announce that 700 researchers have agreed to speak out on the issue. Other scientists plan a pushback against congressional conservatives who have vowed to kill regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

By Neela Banerjee, Tribune Washington Bureau
November 8, 2010

Reporting from Washington —
Faced with rising political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with investigations and vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The still-evolving efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their critics, some of whom gained new power after the Republicans won control of the House in Tuesday's election.

On Monday, the American Geophysical Union, the country's largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution.

John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate change skeptics, is also pulling together a "climate rapid response team," which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk radio and television shows.

"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

"We are taking the fight to them because we are … tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed."

During the recent campaigns, skepticism about climate change became a rallying cry for many Republican candidates. Of the more than 100 new GOP members of Congress, 50% are climate change skeptics, according to an analysis of campaign statements by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. …

Climate scientists plan campaign against global warming skeptics via Wit’s End

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Californians defy oil industry to save climate law Staff, BusinessGreen, Wednesday 3 November 2010 at 11:30:00

Proposition 23 defeated as voters back climate change laws, despite multimillion-dollar campaign from oil giants

California yesterday retained its position as one of the global leaders in clean technology and climate change policy, after voters rejected a proposition that would have indefinitely suspended the state's flagship climate change bill.

With results from 48 precincts having been reported, "no" votes against Proposition 23 stood at 59 per cent, representing a significant victory for green campaigners including Bill Gates, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Avatar director James Cameron, as well as current state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Michael Eckhart, president of trade group the American Council on Renewable Energy, told Reuters: "This is reaffirmation that we are a country of some enlightenment. A majority of Californians, even in great stress of unemployment and economic demise, will still accept this responsibility. Rejecting an attempt to destroy the environment is a good thing. "

Prop 23 would have suspended the state's AB 32 law until unemployment fell to 5.5 per cent or less for four straight quarters.

Commentators argued that the move would have effectively scrapped the legislation altogether as the state's current unemployment rate is running at over 10 per cent and has dipped below 5.5 per cent for only two short periods in the last 20 years.

The vote means that California will retain its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, ensuring a third of the state's electricity comes from renewable sources by the same date and launching a regional emissions trading scheme.

The vote represents a major victory for green businesses and environmental groups after Republican politicians and out-of-state oil companies waged a high-profile campaign in favour of Prop 23, spending millions on TV ads in support of the proposition. …

Californians defy oil industry to save climate law