Archive | November, 2012

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PETA: Principles Proved Prophetic

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Jerry

Since 1980, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has been dedicated to protecting and expanding animal rights.  Scientists once felt animals did not have the same intellect or emotions as humans, that pain was not felt as acutely and that animals had no higher emotions.  PETA always disagreed.  Over the last thirty years scientists have moved closer to PETA and now agree with Charles Darwin that “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties…The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.”

We now know some animals have many capabilities beyond what was once imagined such as self awareness, feelings of sadness, a highly developed sense of fairness, recognition of human faces, etc.  And these capabilities extend beyond mammals to selected species of birds such as corvids.  This knowledge only reinforces PETA’s views that we should ban any and all further laboratory testing using animal species.  There is considerable evidence that testing of drugs and other therapies can be accomplished satisfactorily without use of animal subjects.

PETA’s campaigns continue.  While they are sometimes criticized for their methods, there is no argument about their accomplishments.  In an earlier article on this blog dated April 6, 2012 entitled “Persistent PETA Presses to End Primate Experimentation” it was reported that PETA had succeeded in convincing international airline transport carriers, specifically China Southern Airlines and Air Canada, to halt any further international shipments of animals destined for experimentation.

In a further update to this PETA program, the organization announced they had secured the agreement of the world’s two largest air cargo carriers, UPS and FedEx, to no longer transport mammals for laboratory use.  In addition, UPS pledged to further restrict the transport of amphibians, fish, insects and other non-mammals.  While the two carriers were not transporting many of these animals, PETA was pleased by their agreement and stated, “We felt it was crucial to go to them and discuss this as we knew that facilities trying to send non-human primates and other species would be going to them soon, as more and more passenger airlines refused to do business with them.”

On another front, PETA demanded that the University of California San Francisco return a $2.1 million grant it had received from the National Institutes of Health for violating NIH’s lab animal welfare policies.  Citing NIH reports released that document UCSF’s recent failures and $92,500 of fines UCSF paid over the years to settle federal complaints it had violated the Animal Welfare Act, PETA spokesman Justin Goodman said “There are thousands of animals suffering every day, and on top of that, you have UCSF failing to provide many of them adequate veterinary care when they are sick.” UCSF is known to have one of the largest research programs in the U.S. using hundreds of thousands of animals in its lab research.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.nature.com/news/lab-animal-flights-squeezed-1.11433

http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2012/10/24/feds-demand-refund-from-UCSF-abusers.aspx

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2238906/horrific-animal-cruelty-exposed-UCSF-PETA-demands-2-1-million-research-grant-returned-petra-monkey-left-suffer-years- meds.html

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Ozone Holes and Record Heat: Good News….Maybe

Posted on 22 November 2012 by Jerry

The good news is destruction of the ozone and hence the size of the ozone hole over Antarctica has diminished to a point that is the second smallest of the last 20 years. Last year’s new ozone hole over the Arctic, which caused great consternation, has not reappeared and its stratospheric ozone appears to have returned to a normal range. This might indicate that the objective of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, signed twenty-five years ago this September, is beginning to be realized.  Or it might indicate that ozone holes, which depend on ultra cold temperatures in the stratosphere, do not form in the face of record heat and/or climate change. It is too soon to tell but any lessening of ozone destruction is a good outcome.

The National Climate Data Center Chief, Deke Arndt, reports that 2012, at the present rate, will be the warmest year in the past 100 years in the United States (see the video presentation on the third link identified below).  With 16 months of average temperatures above normal, this year will break records for the warmest March, the warmest spring, the warmest July and the third warmest summer.  The old records will be exceeded by a wide margin.

This year’s Antarctic ozone hole covered an average area of only 6.9 million square miles (17.9 million square kilometers).  The largest size of this year’s ozone hole was reached on September 22, when the hole covered 8.2 million square miles or an area the size of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined.  This is however, significantly smaller than the record ozone hole which encompassed 11.5 million square miles (29.9 million square kilometers) in 2000.

While climate scientists do not have enough information to correlate the diminishing destruction of the ozone with the rising temperatures of the United States and the world, the possibility of a relationship is a reality.  In any case, the shrinking of the ozone hole(s) means the ultraviolet radiation humans receive is lessened which reduces the incidence of skin cancers and other maladies.

Use the following links for additional information:

http://phys.org/news/2012-10-antarctic-ozone-hole-smallest-years.html

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20121024_antarcticozonehole.html

http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/video/2012/the-making-of-the-hottest-year-on-record-usa-temperature-update

http://ens-newswire.com/2012/09/17/ozone-layer-recovers-as-montreal-protocol-turns-25/

http://www.kit.edu/visit/pi_2012_8751.php

http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/ozone_uv.html

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What Happens Downstream from Disappearing Glaciers?

Posted on 18 November 2012 by Jerry

History is full of civilizations which grew up around predictable sources of water.  Glaciers, in conjunction with winter snows, store water in the form of ice and create consistent sources of fresh water for downstream use.  But what happens in an age of global warming to downstream populations when glaciers disappear upstream?  This is precisely the question a research team is seeking to answer using glaciers in the Andes of Peru as the basis for their major study.

The study, funded by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, will be used to develop a baseline for computerized climate models to predict the effects on human population centers that depend on mountain runoff as their main source of water.  As the most comprehensive study of the climate change impact on glaciers funded to date, the study will also provide specific information for Peruvian leadership so they can prepare for the more limited water supplies in the future.

There are glaciers on all of the continents of the world (see link below).  Peru was selected because it has the largest mass of tropical mountain glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca (or White Mountain) range.  The majority of water supplied flows down the Santa River Valley, known as the Callejón de Huaylas, to hundreds of thousands of people in the valley.  By measuring for example, how the rocks, water and ice react as the heat of the day rises, how they behave as the area cools at night and correlating this with measurements of the thickness of the glaciers measured by satellites and aircraft, the researchers will construct a model of how glaciers will change.  By adjusting for local conditions like altitude, average temperature and historic downstream water use scientists believe their model will be useful all around the world.

Past studies have shown that glaciers have been shrunk between 20-30% since 1970.   The rate of shrinkage appears to be accelerating with recent assessments by the French Institute for Development showing the total mass of glaciers in the tropical Andes shrinking by roughly 3% per year.  Preliminary study results indicate these glaciers in the Andes will not completely disappear in the summer months.  This is due to their high altitude.  Were they farther down, they would disappear completely.   The projected future water flow however, will not meet forecasted future needs which include needs for basic drinking water, electricity generation and agricultural irrigation. 

A recent article appearing in the November 8, 2012 issue of Nature magazine which talks about the study in Peru indicates “glaciers serve as a buffer, locking up precipitation during the rainy season and releasing water slowly during the dry season, between June and September, when almost no rain falls.” The article further quotes Jeffrey McKenzie, a hydrologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada as stating “You can think of glaciers as hydrological Prozac – they smooth out the highs and the lows.”  Without glaciers water use will have to adapt to greater seasonal variation between wet and dry seasons.

For additional information use the following links:

http://www.academia.edu/744916/climate_change_and_tropical_andean_glacier_recession_evaluating_hydrologic_changes_and_livelihood_vulnerability_in_the_cordillera_blanca_peru

http://nside.org/date/glacier_inventory/browse.html

http://www.nature.com/news/melting-in-the-andes-goodbye-glaciers-1.11759

http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/04/07/two-more-glaciers-gone-from-glacier-national-park

 

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Obama Stealth Objective: Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Posted on 01 November 2012 by Jerry

Climate Change has received no attention in the U.S. presidential election because it has been successfully politicized by Republican Tea Party members and climate deniers. This has not stopped President Obama in trying to meet his 2009 Copenhagen climate change commitment.  A new study released in Europe sees the U.S. close to reaching its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% of 2005 levels.  Researchers clearly credit efforts by the Obama U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acting under authority given it by the 1970 Clean Air Act and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling that the EPA’s authority includes regulation of greenhouse gases.

The research was jointly funded by the Climate Policy Research Programme (Indigo) of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.  The report states, “The country is currently on course to achieve reductions of 16.3% from 2005 levels in 2020.” Going further the report identifies EPA fuel efficiency standards for mobile sources (trucks and automobiles) and rules for preconstruction permitting of power plants and industrial facilities as setting the proper direction for U.S. efforts.

Tougher vehicle fuel efficiency standards originally proposed in 2009 took effect in January 2011 for cars and trucks in the 2012 model year.  These new standards require fuel efficiency improvement of 5% per year or 30 miles per gallon for light trucks and SUVs and 39 miles per gallon for cars by 2016. These requirements and consumer vehicle choices moving to hybrid models account for significant reductions of forecasted greenhouse gas emissions.

Other key factors causing U.S. progress include fuel prices, energy efficiency, the economic recession, and state and local government efforts to reduce emissions.  Specifically heralded were the cap and trade plans of California and nine north-eastern states, renewable power targets set for electricity generation in 29 states and new energy efficiency standards in 24 states.

The researchers identified future expected EPA operating performance standards for new and existing power plants as the most prominent area of uncertainty in their forecast.  The report states, “The uncertainty about the issuance of these standards is a concern, but the legal requirements of the Clean Air Act are clear.  A new administration could ‘slow walk’ the regulatory development and delay it for years, but it is unlikely to stop it altogether.”

Further warnings about the U.S. political environment include observations that “Another possibility is the reversal of the Clean Air Act, or at least the removal of authority for enforcing the GHG (greenhouse gas) rules.  This seems far-fetched because it would require an unbalanced legislature and administration.  However, a less-extreme outcome could be for a new legislature and administration to defund the activities of the EPA in developing these rules.  This would delay the rules indefinitely.”  Obviously then, of concern is candidate Romney’s commitment to restrict the EPA if elected as President of the United States.

The stealth progress of the Obama administration should give hope to those who believe climate change is an urgent issue that must be addressed.  It should strengthen their resolve to turn out the vote for the President and heighten their concern for what would be done by a Romney administration.

Use the following link to see a copy of the full fourteen page report.

Go to:

http://www.ceps.eu/category/research-area/climate-change

Scroll down the page and select “An Assessment of US Progress towards its Pledge on Climate Change Mitigation”.  Once at the title page, select “Download PDF”

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