Friday, February 15, 2008

Global warming kills off Loch Ness monster!!

LEGENDARY Nessie hunter Robert Rines is giving up his search for the monster after 37 years. The 85-year-old American will make one last trip in a bid to find the elusive beast. After almost four decades of fruitless expeditions, he admitted: "Unfortunately, I'm running out of age." World War II veteran Robert has devoted almost half his life to scouring Loch Ness. He started in 1971. The following year, he watched a 25ft-long hump with the texture of elephant skin gliding through the water. His original trip was to help another monster hunter with sonar equipment and quickly identified large moving targets. He was smitten and returned the next year, which is when, he says: "I had the misfortune of seeing one of these things with my own eyes."

Since then, he has been obsessed with tracking down the creature with a staggering array of hi-tech equipment. It was this gear that took the famous "flipper" picture that year which created a stir around the world. Despite having hundreds of sonar contacts over the years, the trail has since gone cold and Rines believes that Nessie may be dead, a victim of global warming. He still wants to check almost 100 contacts on the floor of the loch, believing one may be the monster's remains.

Robert bought a cottage on the banks of the loch to live in during his annual summer trips. He has also set up a "Nessie" room in his Boston home crammed with information gathered over the years. As he prepared for his last hunt, Robert said: "What am I to do - forget what I saw? There are a lot of eyewitness accounts. Are they all liars? All drunks? I don't believe human nature is like that. "What disturbs me as a lawyer is that we prove cases by eyewitness testimony. The human brain is not 100 per cent accurate but it's not zero either."

In 1975, the trained physicist and inventor managed to get a photograph in the murky waters of the loch which apparently showed the body, flipper, neck and head of an animal. Since Nessie hunting began in the 1930s, a host of people have tried to find the monster.



The unfalsifiable hypothesis again

The recent cold wave sweeping across Mumbai and other parts of India could be attributed to global warming, experts said on Tuesday here at an environmental conference.

Addressing the `Combat Global Warming' conference at the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) here, former Union minister for power and environment Suresh Prabhu said global warming was primarily a problem created and induced by human beings.

He said the increase in emission of green house gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and methane had resulted in the situation, which could prove catastrophic if unchecked. Prabhu said the cold wave that swept Maharashtra and other parts of India recently could be attributed to the phenomenon of global warming.


Biofuels emissions may be worse than petroleum-based fuel

Biofuels, once seen as a useful way of combating climate change, could actually increase greenhouse gas emissions, say two major new studies. And it may take tens or hundreds of years to pay back the "carbon debt" accrued by growing biofuels in the first place, say researchers. The calculations join a growing list of studies questioning whether switching to biofuels really will help combat climate change.

Biofuel production has accelerated over the last 5 years, spurred in part by a US drive to produce corn-derived ethanol as an alternative to petrol. The idea makes intuitive environmental sense - plants take up carbon dioxide as they grow, so biofuels should help reduce greenhouse gas emissions - but the full environmental cost of biofuels is only now becoming clear.

Extra emissions are created from the production of fertiliser needed to grow corn, for example, leading some researchers to predict that the energy released by burning ethanol is only 25% greater than that used to grow and process the fuel.

The new studies examine a different part of biofuel equation, and both suggest that the emissions associated with the crops may be even worse than that. One analysis looks at land that is switched to biofuel crop production. Carbon will be released when forests are felled or bush cleared, and longer-term emissions created by dead roots decaying.

This creates what Joseph Fargione of The Nature Conservancy and colleagues call a "carbon debt". Emissions savings generated by the biofuels will help pay back this debt, but in some cases this can take centuries, suggests their analysis. If 10,000 square metres of Brazilian rainforest is cleared to make way for soya beans - which are used to make biodiesel - over 700,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide is released.

The saving generated by the resulting biodiesel will not cancel that out for around 300 years, says Fargione. In the case of peat land rainforest in Indonesia, which is being cleared to grow palm oil, the debt will take over 400 years to repay, he says.

The carbon debts associated with US corn are measured in tens rather than hundreds of years. But the second study suggests that producing corn for fuel rather than food could have dramatic knock-on effects elsewhere. Corn is used to feed cattle and demand for meat is high, so switching land to biofuel production is likely to prompt farmers in Brazil and elsewhere to clear forests and other lands to create new cropland to grow the missing corn. When the carbon released by those clearances is taken into account, corn ethanol produces nearly twice as much carbon as petrol.

"The implications of these changes in land use have not been appreciated up until now," says Alex Farrell, at the University of California, Berkeley, US. Farrell adds that biofuels could still prove useful in the fight against climate change, but using different approaches - such as focusing on crops for both food and fuel, or new technology for generating biofuels from food waste.


Greenie frustration about Arctic trends

Arctic summer sea ice is unlikely to shrink drastically in 2008 beyond a record low set last year even though the long-term trend is a thaw tied to global warming, a leading scientist said on Wednesday. Arctic sea ice, an indicator of climate change as it expands in winter and thaws in summer, shrank last September to a low of 4.1 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles), more than 1.2 million sq km less than the previous recorded low in 2005. "My feeling is that the situation will probably be the same as last year, or maybe a slight recovery," Jean-Claude Gascard, head of the European Arctic research project Damocles, told Reuters. "I would be very surprised if there would be another large drop this year. It would be really dramatic," said Gascard, of France's Universite Pierre et Marie Curie.

Some experts project that the ice could vanish in summer by mid-century, threatening the hunting livelihoods of Arctic indigenous peoples and species such as seals and polar bears while opening the region to oil and gas exploration or shipping.

Gascard said informal surveys by Damocles of scores of leading researchers, at meetings in San Francisco and in Oslo in recent months, showed that a large majority also expected the ice in 2008 to be unchanged from 2007 or slightly bigger. "Very few said that there will be another drop as large as it was last summer," he said. The melt can accelerate climate change because tracts of darker water soak up far more of the sun's heat than reflective snow and ice. "Rarely is there a drop of such magnitude in two consecutive years," he said of historical data, adding that the extreme 2007 thaw may be partly explained by natural variability rather than global warming alone.

Any surprise new fall to a record low would be a worrying sign that the ice had crossed a point of no return, a "tipping point" that could herald an accelerated disappearance of the ice. "If we have two years in a row with a drastic drop in the ice extent at the end of the summer ... it would be a strong argument for having crossed a tipping point," he said.


How one Australian government gets people out of their cars and into public transport (NOT)

MELBOURNE'S unfriendliest and safest train stations are revealed in a police snapshot of our rail system. Dandenong station is the hotbed for transit crime, with more offences than on several entire rail lines combined. The Pakenham line is the most dangerous, recording a fifth of all rail crime, police data compiled for the Sunday Herald Sun reveal. Commuters can expect unruly behaviour, assaults, fights and vandalism on Sydenham, Frankston, Epping and Werribee lines.

But Alamein and Melton lines are among the safest. Individual stations, including Merlynston, Moonee Ponds, Murrumbeena, Upfield, Oak Park, Spotswood, Williamstown Beach and West Richmond had the least trouble.

Between October last year and this month, police recorded 1327 crimes on trains and at stations. Victoria Police data show violent thefts and assaults have soared across the network. Robberies between July and this month totalled 197 -- a 41.7 per cent jump. And assaults rose by almost a quarter to a total of 745 offences across all 209 metropolitan stations. The alarming figures come amid revelations of dwindling transit police numbers. Leaked information reveals the Transit Safety Division is down 27 staff. Another eight officers are expected to leave within weeks, assigned to other duties, leaving about 200 officers to patrol the train system.

The division's Acting Superintendent, Shayne Pannell, said staff losses were temporary and would not affect passenger safety. He said reported crime on the train network had dropped considerably. Total offences were down 1.8 per cent on the previous year. The recent surge in the volume of commuters meant the rate of crime per traveller had almost halved. There were seven crimes per 100,000 passengers in 2002-03 and three and a half crimes per 100,000 in 2006-07. Only five crimes had been recorded at Noble Park station since an incident in October last year when a bashed man died.

The drop in crime at Noble Park proved a show of unity between police and Connex could have marked effects. Boronia, Sunshine and Frankston stations were high on the list of stations under observation, he said. There was a reduction in car theft by a quarter and also a small drop in the number of thefts from cars. And there was a 15 per cent reduction in the number of assaults on moving trains -- with violence instead shifting to platforms or around stations. Supt Pannell said in the last three months, police had started to reduce the soaring figures.



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