Environment Forum

An ic(k)y accident

A penguin stands on the water's edge during a blizzard at Cape Denison, East Antarctica.When you live on the edge of Antarctica, coping with gale force winds, blizzards, snow and ice, the risk of accidents are heightened.

Every time we leave the base we carry radios and if planning to be out for a while we carry survival kits to minimise the risk of accidents occurring, as the nearest help is 200 kilometres away at the French base of Dumont d’Urville.

In my case I had my first accident today and radio contact or a survival kit couldn’t have helped me. Luckily, I survived, but my dignity was left a bit smelly.

Stuck inside for a second day because of an impending blizzard, with winds reaching 60 knots, the opportunity to get outside and work isn’t possible, so all 10 of us have been cooped up inside our base — the Sorensen hut.

In sheer desperation to get outside for fresh air, I volunteered to help with the slops run.

from MediaFile:

CES: Tablets, ereaders, TVs — need power savers?

minipakPower sockets that sense when you leave a room and shut down.  Portable hydrogen fuel cells.  Pocket windmills that store electricity. Those were some of the little-noticed green power-savers tucked into a little corner of the otherwise monstrous Consumer Electronics Show floor in Las Vegas.

Gadgets that help conserve electricity are nothing new, but if there's one thing the profusion of giant TVs, backlit tablet computers and 3D projectors trotted out at this year's show will need, it's gizmos that help cut down your electricity bill.  Industry executives say they have yet to filter into the mass public consciousness despite the heightened environmental awareness of today.

"The biggest problem we're having is teaching the public about this technology," said Scott Wilson, VP of sales at Bits Ltd, which was hawking a $39 power strip that can sense when a device goes to sleep or is turned off, and automatically shuts down a pre-determined number of linked devices.

Voyage around the Americas sees acidification off Alaska


Scientists aboard the Ocean Watch, a 64-foot yacht on a year-long voyage circling the Americas, are testing the waters as they go. Instruments on the vessel have picked up evidence of ocean acidification, another result of the spewing of carbon dioxide from tailpipes and smokestacks, they say.
Much of  CO2 pollution ends up in the atmosphere, but some is absorbed in the ocean, where it is converted into carbonic acid. The average pH of the word’s oceans is about 8.1 and the lower the reading, the greater the acidity. 
Scientists are concerned that if pH levels keep falling ocean waters could eat away the shells of organisms large and small. That would put the web of ocean life at risk, not to mention be a potential disaster for land-loving seafood lovers
Ocean Watch has picked up readings of 7.88 in the Gulf of Alaska. Michael Reynolds, the scientist taking the measurements, said the preliminary data may show that the Gulf of Alaska is a primary “sink” for atmospheric carbon.
The good news is that readings have returned to normal as the voyage continues off the coast of South America.    

The Ocean Watch has taken other environmental observations, on things like declining ice cover in the Arctic, and it sailed through the Northwest Passage, one of only 100 ships to do so in the last 100 years. A special camera is observing the gaggles of jellyfish the ship encounters. The creatures are among the world’s hardiest, so the scientists want to see what kind of jellyfish are thriving in waters that are acidic or are polluted in other ways and what changes they are undergoing.
“The boat is acting as a spotlight on issues known to scientists and local fisherman, but are not known to the general public,” said David Rockefeller, a philanthropist who is sponsoring the $2 million voyage for Sailors for the Sea. He will climb aboard Ocean Watch later this month off the coast of Patagonia.
The sailors are sharing their observations and concerns with the public at ports along their journey.  
Ellen Lettvin, an education expert at the Pacific Science Center, said the Ocean Watch scientists will analyze the data at the end of the voyage and provide it to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations tracking the health of the oceans.

Photo:  David Thoreson

from The Great Debate:

Senate retirements narrow cap-trade window

-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

LONDON - Yesterday's announcement by Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat, North Dakota) that he would not seek a fourth term in November, coupled with today's expected announcement by Senator Chris Dodd (Democrat, Connecticut) that he won't seek a sixth term, will remove two veterans, once secure legislators from the Democratic caucus.
It highlights the mounting problems confronting congressional Democrats facing voters in November's midterms amid high unemployment, a relatively unpopular agenda led by the administration, and concerns about the party's capture by special interests.

Dodd's retirement is not surprising, given his plummeting poll numbers and criticism for being too close to the banking and insurance industries he regulates as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee but which have been major campaign contributors.

Despite trying to reinvent himself as a populist in recent months, the legislation he has worked on has sometimes appeared to show too much favouritism for the industry. He has also run into criticism for receiving VIP mortgages in 2003 from Angelo Mozilo's failed Countrywide Financial.

Major California port sees greener trucks

cleantruckOne of California’s biggest ports has cleaned up its fleet of 8,000 trucks.

The Port of Long Beach has cut nearly 80 percent of emissions from truck engines at the port since it started its ban of old diesel-fueled trucks. That’s roughly 200 tons less of soot — known as particulate matter — in the air at the port annually.

In 2008, the port of Long Beach, together with its sister port in Los Angeles started to green their truck fleets, targeting trucks built before 1989. Together the ports make up the busiest cargo hub in the United States.

Obama gets high marks for green record: environmental group

obama_solarPresident Barack Obama came into office with climate change and the environment on his list of top priorities.

Nearly a year later, one of the top environmental groups in the United States says that Obama has made the grade so far.

In a review of his green record, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlighted dozens of moves by Obama at home and abroad. They cited the $50 billion the president put in the stimulus package for cleaner energy and energy efficiency; an executive order for federal agencies to set targets to cut emissions by 2020; and the adoption of strict auto emissions standards, modeled after environmental trendsetter California.

Which way will the wind (power) blow in 2010?

windturbinesThe United States became the No. 1 wind power market in the world in 2008. But under the credit crisis in 2009, the building of new wind farms slackened and the United States ceded its top global spot to China.

With the demand for renewable energy still growing, the American Wind Energy Association is eyeing 2010 as a critical year. Here are some of their top trends to watch for:

Second to natural gas: Wind power generates only 2 percent of the U.S. electrical supply. But new wind power generation in the United States has been second only to natural gas generation in terms of new capacity built each year since 2005. Watch for the industry to work to keep that spot.

Life in a blizzard

It was a cold night with the wind chill reaching -18.4 degrees Celsius. By 5.00 a.m. I’d had enough of being cold and weather beaten by the Katabatic wind smashing the side of my tent and bouncing off my head so I decided to make my way to our base, the Sorensen Hut, for a warm cup of tea and read a couple of pages of my book.

BlizardI should have known we were in for bad weather as my neighbours the Adelie penguin colony were no where to be seen or heard this morning.

Before I could walk the five minutes to the hut I had to get dressed for the journey.

Penguin chatter heralds Antarctica’s ‘White Christmas’

Penguins’ chatter outside my tent woke me to Christmas Day in Antarctica, but instead of Santa’s sleigh there was just the usual run to ensure our human waste doesn’t permanently become part of this frozen wilderness.

TonySWith 24 hours of daylight it was, needless to say, very different from the traditional Christmas most of the ten members of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation living in East Antarctica are familiar with.

It was probably not the ‘White Christmas’. I would have imagined as a child growing up in Ireland and very different to the hot Australian festive season I have become used to, marked  by barbecues and often bushfires.

from Global News Journal:

“Earth to Ban Ki-moon” or how a deal was sealed in Copenhagen

cop15Sweden complained that the recent Copenhagen climate change summit was a "disaster." British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described it as "at best flawed and at worst chaotic." Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, dubbed the outcome confirmation of a "climate apartheid." For South Africa it was simply "not acceptable."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who for over a year had been urging the 192 members of the United Nations to "seal the deal" in Copenhagen, saw things differently. In a statement issued by his press office, Ban said the two-week meeting had a "successful conclusion with substantive outcomes." Speaking to reporters, the secretary-general expanded on that: "Finally we sealed the deal. And it is a real deal. Bringing world leaders to the table paid off." However, he tempered his praise for the participating delegations by noting that the outcome "may not be everything that everyone hoped for."

In fact, the outcome fell far short of what Ban had been calling for over the last year. He had originally hoped the meeting would produce a legally binding agreement with ambitious targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and funding to help developing nations cope with global warming. Instead it "noted" an accord struck by the United States, China and other emerging powers that was widely criticized as unambitious and unspecific.