15 May 2013:
Glaciers on Everest Disappearing
As Temperatures Rise, Snowfall Declines
The glaciers on Mount Everest and the surrounding region have shrunk by 13 percent
in the last five decades as temperatures have risen and snowfall has declined in
that section of the Himalaya, according to a new study. Using satellite imagery and topographic maps, a team of scientists found that the majority of glaciers on Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, and in the surrounding Sagarmatha National Park are retreating at an accelerating rate. In the last 50 years, the snowline in the Everest region has shifted up by an average of 590 feet (180 meters), said Sudeep Thakuri, a Ph. D. student at the University of Milan and leader of the research team, which presented its findings at a conference in Cancún, Mexico. Because glaciers are melting faster than they are being replenished, researchers say, rock and debris that were previously hidden under snow are now exposed and absorbing heat.
14 May 2013:
Shifting Petrel Diets Suggest
Effect of Humans on Ocean Food Web
An analysis of the bones of ancient and modern Hawaiian petrels has revealed that modern petrels, which forage in the open ocean, are eating prey lower on the food chain
than in centuries past, a dramatic shift
that coincides with the rise of industrial fishing. In tests conducted on petrel bones collected over three decades in the Hawaiian islands, a team of scientists found that the bones from 4,000 to 100 years ago contained higher ratios of nitrogen-15 and nitrogen-14 isotopes than the more recent bones, suggesting that the earlier birds ate bigger prey before changes in the food web composition of the Northeast Pacific. According to the scientists, the nitrogen ratio started to decline in the decades after the early 1950s, when industrial fishing started to extend beyond the continental shelves. “Our bone record is alarming because it suggests that open-ocean food webs are changing on a large scale due to human influence,” said Peggy Ostrom, a zoologist at Michigan State University and co-author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
03 May 2013:
Seawater Energy Technology
Is Focus of Pilot Project in China
The U.S. defense and aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, is partnering with a major Chinese company to build a pilot project off the southern Chinese coast that will use temperature differentials between the deep and shallow ocean to generate electricity
. The technology, known as ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), uses the heat from warm surface waters to boil a fluid with a low boiling point, such as ammonia, producing steam to drive turbines. Colder water is then pumped from 2,500 to 3,000 feet under the sea, which condenses the steam into liquid; the liquid can then be boiled again to produce more steam and power. Lockheed Martin and its Chinese Partner, the Beijing-based Reignwood Group, said their project — the largest OTEC plant ever built — will produce 10 megawatts of power when it opens in 2017, enough to provide electricity for a large, planned resort that Reignwood is building.
02 May 2013:
Five Southeast Asian Nations
Have Lost One-Third of Forests in 33 Years
Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have lost one-third of their forests since 1980
and could be left with only 10 to 20 percent of their original forest cover by 2030, according to a review of satellite data by WWF. The conservation group warned that if present trends continue only 14 percent of the greater Mekong region’s remaining forest cover will consist of contiguous habitat capable of sustaining viable populations of many wildlife species, such as tigers and Asian elephants. The WWF researchers calculated that since 1980, Thailand and Vietnam have lost 43 percent of their forests, Laos and Burma have lost 24 percent, and Cambodia has lost 22 percent. Since 1973, areas of core, undisturbed forest — defined as having at least 3.2 square kilometers of uninterrupted forest — have declined from 70 percent to 20 percent of the region. Peter Cutter, landscape conservation manager with WWF-Greater Mekong, said the region is at a crossroads and that to preserve its remaining forests and biodiversity it must expand protected areas and better safeguard those that already exist.
Interview: Telling the Life Story of
Ginkgo, the Oldest Tree on Earth
Botanist Peter Crane sees the ginkgo as more than just a distinctive tree with foul-smelling fruits and nuts prized
Ginkgo leaves in autumn
for reputed medicinal properties. To Crane, author of a new book, Ginkgo
, the tree is an oddity in nature because it is a single species with no known living relatives; a living fossil that has been essentially unchanged for more than 200 million years; and an inspiring example of how humans can help a species survive. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, talks about what makes the ginkgo unique and what makes it smell, how its toughness and resilience has enabled it to thrive as a street tree, and what the ginkgo’s long history says about human life on earth. The ginkgo, which co-existed with the dinosaurs, “really puts our own species — let alone our individual existence — into a broader context,” says Crane. Read the interview
25 Apr 2013:
Metal Demand Could Increase
Nine-Fold as Developing Economies Grow
Global demand for metals could increase nine-fold in the coming years
as the world’s developing economies continue to grow, a trend that could have profound negative environmental impacts, a new UN report says. As populations in these countries continue to adopt modern technologies, and nations increasingly construct metal-intensive renewable energy projects, the need for raw metal materials will likely be three to nine times larger than the current global demand, said Achim Steiner
, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). While the current demand is typically met by mining for more metals, large-scale mining operations can have adverse environmental consequences, and the supply of some rare earth metals is running low. Saying that there is an urgent need for a more sophisticated approach to recycling the planet's increasingly sophisticated products, the UN suggested
that mining companies be enlisted to help sort out valuable metals when the products reach the end of their usefulness.
02 Apr 2013:
Air Pollution Linked to
1.2 Million Chinese Deaths in 2010
Air pollution contributed to the premature deaths of more than 1.2 million people in China in 2010, or about 40 percent of early deaths worldwide caused by dirty air, according to a newly released analysis. The findings, based on data from a study on the distribution and causes of death globally, categorized “ambient particulate matter pollution” as the fourth-leading factor in premature deaths in China, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure, and smoking. Worldwide, air pollution was the seventh-leading cause of premature death, contributing to 3.2 million deaths, according to the study. While the study was published in The Lancet
, a UK-based medical journal, the summary of China statistics was reported at a forum in Beijing, the New York Times says
. The findings come as public outrage grows in China as residents of many cities endure choking air far in excess of safe levels.
26 Mar 2013:
China’s Utility Giants
Vulnerable to Water Scarcity, Report Says
China’s five largest power utilities, which depend on water-intensive, coal-fired stations to generate electricity, are vulnerable to water supply disruptions because they are centered in the country’s water-scarce northern regions, a new report says. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance
, the five power generators — Huaneng, Datang, Huadian, Guodian, and China Power Investment — operate hundreds of gigawatts of thermal plants in the industrial northeast, where water resources are increasingly strained. Eighty-five percent of China’s power-generating capacity is in water scarce regions, said Maxime Serrano Bardisa, one of the report’s coauthors. The report said that major technical and policy shifts will be required to avert serious disruptions, including the addition of systems that use less water, such as closed-cycle or air-cooled systems. Such improvements could cost the utilities $20 billion in retrofit costs, the report said.
22 Mar 2013:
Expansion of Chinese City Poses
Environmental and Safety Risks, Critics Say
An ambitious plan to expand the western Chinese city of Lanzhou into a regional industrial hub is raising concerns over what critics call lax government oversight of the environmental and safety impacts, including worries that it will siphon huge amounts of water from an already parched region
and devastate nearby mountains. Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, is a city of 3.6 million and a gateway to Tibet and the Xinjiang region. It is known as one of the most polluted cities in China, and now the government is working to expand the city’s footprint by at least 70 percent, according to Caixin Online
. That expansion involves the flattening of mountaintops, and the additional 1 million people and increased industrial activity will draw water from the already polluted and over-stressed Yellow River. Opponents of the plan say buildings will also be constructed on loose soil that will be vulnerable to collapse. “It was a rash decision to begin construction on the new city before receiving environmental approvals or seeking opinions from the Lanzhou public,” said Zhao Zhong, a local activist.
20 Mar 2013:
High-Speed Trains Provide
Environmental, Social Benefits, Study Says
Bullet trains fuel real-estate booms, improve quality of life, reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, and provide a “safety valve” for crowded cities, especially in the developing world, according to a study by Chinese and U.S. economists. The study was based on China’s rapidly expanding high-speed rail network, but the researchers said the benefits experienced there would be similar for California’s proposed high-speed rail system
. Bullet train systems connecting China’s largest cities to nearby smaller cities have made these “second tier” cities more attractive for workers and alleviated traffic congestion and pollution in megacities, according to the study, carried out by economists at Tsinghua University and the University of California, Los Angeles. The study found that the trains created a new category of exurbs within 60 to 470 miles of urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, helping keep people from moving to already crowded megacities. The study was published in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
18 Mar 2013:
New Chinese Premier
Vows To Tackle Pollution With ‘Iron Fist’
China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, has vowed aggressive government action
to curb the rampant pollution that has provoked growing public outrage, saying the country would phase out “backward production
Smog covers Beijing in January
facilities” that have contributed to dangerous health conditions in numerous regions. Speaking at his first press conference, Li said the government would set deadlines to address the public health controversy, exemplified by choking air pollution over Beijing that has kept air quality at dangerous levels
since the beginning of the year. Chronic air pollution problems in major metropolitan areas, coupled with a recent episode in which more than 12,000 rotting pig carcasses
were discovered in a river that provides Shanghai’s drinking water, have triggered growing public protest. While Li offered few specific solutions, he promised “vigorous” efforts to tackle pollution. “We need to face the situation and punish offenders with no mercy and enforce the law with an iron fist,” he said. “We shouldn’t pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment.”
22 Feb 2013:
A 1.5 C Temperature Rise Could
Release Greenhouse Gases in Permafrost
A global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius could unleash more than 1,000 gigatons of carbon and methane
currently trapped beneath Siberian permafrost and accelerate global climate change, a new study says. In a study conducted in a frozen cave in Siberia, researchers analyzed stalactites and stalagmites which, since they form only when rainwater and snowmelt drip into the caves, provide a glimpse into 500,000 years of changing permafrost conditions. According to their findings, records of an especially warm period 400,000 years ago suggest that a 1.5-degree increase compared to current temperatures would trigger the thawing of permafrost far north of its existing southern boundary. And since permafrost covers 24 percent of the exposed land surface in the Northern Hemisphere, significant thawing could release huge amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, said Anton Vaks, a scientist at Oxford University and lead researcher on the study, published in Science Express
. In addition to the effects the loss of permafrost could have on climate, it could have major regional implications, affecting roads, railways, and natural gas facilities built on the frozen landscape.
21 Feb 2013:
Chinese Air Pollution Triggers
Steep Rise in Nitrogen Deposition
A spike in Chinese air pollution over the last three decades has caused a 60 percent increase in the levels of nitrogen pollutants that ultimately end up back on the nation’s land and in its water
, a new study has found. In an analysis of 270 monitoring sites across the country, researchers found that the annual deposition of nitrogen, as measured in precipitation, had increased from 13.2 kilograms per hectare in 1980 to about 21.1 kilograms per hectare in 2010. Scientists say so-called nitrogen deposition occurs when nitrogen in the atmosphere is washed back to the planet’s surface by rain and snow in the form of pollutants such as nitrates and ammonium. Elevated nitrogen levels can trigger harmful ecological effects,
from soil acidification to feeding algae blooms. According to the study, published in Nature
, leaves of herbaceous and woody plants absorbed 33 percent more nitrogen in 2010 than in 1980, while rice, wheat, and maize crops on unfertilized fields had a 16 percent increase. The spike in pollution levels has been driven by an increase in industrial emissions, agricultural uses, and transportation.
15 Feb 2013:
Meteor Strike in Siberia
Rains Down Debris and Injures 1,000
A 10-ton meteor broke apart 20 to 30 miles above the ground in western Siberia,
raining chunks of debris over a large area, causing a powerful boom that damaged buildings across a vast territory, and injuring more than 1,000 people, mostly from shattering glass. The Russian Academy of Sciences said the meteor, known as a bolide, streaked through the earth’s atmosphere near the Ural mountain city of Chelyabinsk, 950 miles east of Moscow, around 9 a.m. local time Friday. It lit up the sky with a fireball that could be seen for hundreds of miles and that was captured on video by scores of observers. Pieces of the disintegrating meteor fell into a lake about 50 miles west of Chelyabinsk, and scientists and local officials said the damage and injuries could have been far worse had chunks of the meteor fallen on Chelyabinsk itself. As it was, the meteor strike shattered windows, TV sets, and dishes across a wide area, which caused most of the injuries. Most meteors that strike Earth disintegrate in the atmosphere, but this meteor was made of exceptionally hard material and did not fully burn up as it approached Siberia, scientists said.
Orphaned Siberian Tiger Cubs
Are Readied for New Life in Wild
Last November, three Siberian tiger cubs were orphaned in the sparsely populated taiga of the Russian Far East, their mother apparently a victim of poachers.
A call from local villagers to Russian wildlife officials set in motion a rescue mission that continues to this day, as Russian and U.S. scientists prepare the tigers for eventual release back into the wild. One of those scientists is Dale Miquelle, who directs the Russia program of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. He helped capture one of the cubs and is now working with Russian experts on readying the six-month-old tigers for life in the wild at a rehabilitation facility. As Miquelle explains in this report from the field
, saving every Siberian tiger is vital, as fewer than 500 survive in the wild. Read more
29 Jan 2013:
Continued Beijing Air Pollution
Triggers Online Call for Clean Air Act
As Beijing residents continue to endure choking air pollution that far exceeds safe levels, an online poll has found overwhelming support for new clean air legislation
. Ten hours after real estate mogul Pan Shiyi
posted the poll on the popular social media platform Sina Weibo, 99 percent of respondents (more than 32,000 people) agreed that the government should enact a Clean Air Act, with many users offering specific measures to curb pollution, including car-free days, stricter auto emissions standards, and public health protections. The dangerous cloud of pollution that has hung over Beijing for about a month now covers roughly 1.3 million square kilometers, according to the government-run Xinhua news agency. In Beijing this week, visibility fell to 500 meters, and some city natives called it the “worst fog ever,” according to China Daily
28 Jan 2013:
Megacities Alter Weather
Across Long Distances, Study Says
Heat generated in major metropolitan areas is altering the character of the jet stream and other atmospheric systems, at times affecting the weather thousands of miles away
, a new study says. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change
, a team of scientists reports that so-called “waste heat” produced from buildings, cars, and other sources is altering weather patterns and increasing winter temperatures across large areas of North America and northern Asia by as much as 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F). In parts of Europe, however, the changes to atmospheric circulation are causing temperatures to fall by as much as 1 degree C., the study found. “Although much of this waste heat is concentrated in large cities, it can change atmospheric patterns in a way that raises or lowers temperatures across considerable distances,” said Aixue Hu, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the lead authors of the study. According to the study, this phenomenon is different than the so-called “heat island effect,” in which cities are warmer than surrounding areas as a result of heat collected and re-radiated by pavement, buildings, and other urban features.
21 Jan 2013:
NASA Map Shows Air Pollution
Across Asia and the Middle East
New satellite data released by NASA provide dramatic visual evidence of the dangerous air quality reported from cities across Asia and the Middle East this month.
Based on data collected from its satellite-based Ozone Monitoring Instrument, a map released by NASA scientists
illustrates high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — shown in orange — over several major cities, including Istanbul, Tehran and New Delhi, during the first week of January. Satellite measurements of nitrogen dioxide concentrations are a good indicator of air quality since NO2 is produced by the same fossil fuel-burning processes that also send sulfur dioxide and aerosols into the atmosphere, such as from vehicles, industrial sites, and power plants. The high concentrations of NO2 shown in the NASA map, based on measurements from Jan. 1 to 8, coincided with reports
from several cities of hazy skies, unhealthy air quality, and elevated cases of lung ailments.
18 Dec 2012:
Coal May Rival Oil As
World’s Top Energy Source by 2017, IEA Says
Coal could rival oil as the world’s largest energy source within five years as consumption continues to climb in most regions of the world, a trend that could have profound effects on the climate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says
. While coal consumption is expected to decline in the U.S., where it increasingly has been displaced by ample supplies of natural gas, that reduction in U.S. coal burning has helped drive down coal costs globally
. According to the IEA’s annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report
, the world will burn about 1.2 billion more tons of coal annually by 2017 than it does today. The surge in coal consumption will be driven largely by China and India, with China projected to pass the rest of the world in coal demand within five years, and India predicted to pass the U.S. as the world’s second-biggest coal consumer. Without a high carbon tax, the report says, only competition from cleaner natural gas will reduce coal demand.
06 Dec 2012:
Google Images Document
Devastation of 2011 Tsunami in Japan
As part of an ongoing project to digitally archive the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in northeastern Japan, Google has published several new panoramic images
that provide a sobering glimpse of the widespread
devastation in communities across the region. The images, taken with the company’s Street View technology in four cities in the Tōhoku region, allows users to take a virtual tour of seriously damaged buildings before they are demolished. One panoramic view of a public housing project illustrates the height of the tsunami wave, which ruined everything up to the fourth floor of the building. Another image, of the condemned Ukedo Elementary School, shows the collapsed auditorium floor beneath the banner of a graduation ceremony that was never held. The images were added to Google’s “Memories for the Future
” website, which is chronicling the affected areas from before and after the tsunami.
03 Dec 2012:
An Advocate's Novel Campaign
To Call Attention to Rhino Slaughter
A South African artist has launched an unorthodox campaign to call attention to the mounting slaughter of rhinoceroses — by sending toenail clippings to the
Chinese embassy. Frustrated that petitions and other protests have done little to curb the poaching of rhinos for their horns, Mark Wilby decided to target the illegal markt in Asia, where the horns are believed to have healing properties. Rhino horns are composed largely of keratin, a protein also found in human nails and hair. Wilby, who is encouraging others to also send nails to the embassy address in Pretoria, concedes the protest is “disrespectful,” but says he wants to put pressure on the Chinese government in hopes that it can help stop the killing of Africa’s rhinos. According to reports, nearly 600 rhinos have been killed illegally
so far this year in South Africa alone. “I’m sending this to the Chinese Embassy in South Africa not because I’m blaming the Chinese government or the Chinese people,” he said in a video posted on YouTube
. “I just don’t know who else to appeal to.”
29 Nov 2012:
China is Largest Importer
Of Illegally Harvested Timber, Report Says
China has become the world’s leading importer of illegally harvested timber, even as the growing economic giant has made strides in protecting its own forests, according to a new report
. Drawing on its own investigative research and the work of Interpol, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) estimates that China now imports about $4 billion in illegal timber
annually to meet rising demand for construction materials and furniture. According to the report, more than half of China’s raw timber imports are now coming from nations with “a high risk of illegal logging and poor forest governance,” including Cambodia, Laos, and Madagascar. Meanwhile, the report said, the Chinese government has taken critical steps in preserving and re-growing its own forests. “China is now effectively exporting deforestation around the world,” said EIA's Faith Doherty.
09 Nov 2012:
U.S. Pledges Stronger Role
in Stemming Global Trade in Wildlife
The Obama Administration has vowed renewed commitments to help stem the international trade in wildlife
, including the use of U.S. intelligence agencies to track poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other
African savanna elephant bull.
animals in Africa and Asia. Speaking to a group of conservationists and diplomatic leaders on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said an expanding middle class worldwide has spawned a booming demand for rare species and animal parts that is being supplied by increasingly violent organized gangs and corrupt officials who terrorize communities and overwhelm local law enforcement. In addition to decimating the natural world, Clinton said, this booming trade has dire economic impacts and poses a growing threat to the security of nations worldwide, including U.S. interests. In a series of initiatives, the U.S. will bolster intelligence efforts to track poaching and assess its security impacts and work with other nations to expand and strengthen law enforcement.
29 Oct 2012:
Photos Reveal Finch Species
Long Thought Vanished on Tibetan Plateau
Photos taken in a remote region of the Tibetan Plateau have revealed the existence of a rare species of finch
long thought to have vanished. During a trip to Xinjiang, China in June, a French photographer
snapped images of what ornithologists believe is a Sillem’s mountain finch (Leucosticte sillemi
), a species that previously was known only by two specimens collected from the same region of China, located about 16,400 feet above sea level, in 1929. When the photographer, Yann Muzika, was unable to identify the bird, he sent the photographs to the UK-based Oriental Bird Club
(OBC), where editor Krys Kazmierczak immediately thought of the mysterious finch. “The words ‘Sillem’s Mountain Finch’ simply popped into my head, and I sat there for a little while somewhat awestruck,” Kazmierczak wrote to OBC supporters. It wasn’t until 1992 that, based on the two specimens collected in 1929, a Dutch ornithologist determined that the finch represented a distinct species. Ornithologists say additional field research, perhaps including the collection of blood samples for DNA testing, will be required to confirm the bird’s identity.
17 Oct 2012:
Chinese Report Acknowledges
Nuclear Safety Concerns at Reactors
In a new report, the Chinese government has laid out a plan to upgrade the security at its nuclear power reactors
over the next decade, suggesting that the country may be ready to resume a planned expansion of
Feng Li/Getty Images
Inspector at a Zhejiang construction site
its nuclear sector halted in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. The Ministry of Environmental Protection report indicates that roughly 80 billion yuan ($12.75 billion) will be required by 2015 to upgrade radioactive-contamination controls at the nation’s plants to international standards. Making the challenge more complicated, the report said, is the variety of reactors in place across China and “multiple standards of safety.” “The current [nuclear] safety situation isn’t optimistic,” the report said. The report recommended the phasing out of older nuclear reactors and an increased emphasis on research and development into nuclear safety and radioactive waste handling. While not specifying any timeline, the report suggested the nation is getting closer to restarting the approval process for new plants, which was suspended in 2011 following the nuclear crisis in Japan.
16 Oct 2012:
Online Atlas Illustrates
Critical Areas for World’s Seabirds
A new online atlas provides the first global inventory of ocean sites critical to the world’s seabirds, a free digital resource that its creators hope will help guide protective policies and the creation of conservation areas globally. The site (www.birdlife.org/datazone/marine
was created by the group BirdLife International, identifies 3,000 important sites that are critical to seabirds, from penguins to sandpipers, including breeding grounds, foraging areas, and migration routes. These so-called “important bird areas” (IBAs) comprise about 6.2 percent of the world’s oceans, according to BirdLife International. While seabirds are particularly vulnerable to threats
because of the great distances they travel across international waters, many conservation groups have cited a lack of data as a reason for inaction in protecting these areas, Ben Lascelles of BirdLife International told Reuters
08 Oct 2012:
Indonesian Palm Oil Is
Growing Source of CO2 Emissions
The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in the world’s tropical regions, particularly Indonesian Borneo, is becoming an increasingly significant source of global carbon emissions
, a new study says. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change
, researchers from Stanford and Yale universities project that the continued expansion of plantations will add more than 558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2020 — an amount greater than all of Canada’s current fossil fuel emissions. Much of the expansion in recent decades has occurred in Indonesia, particularly on the island of Borneo, also known as Kalimantan. According to researchers, the loss of forest for palm oil plantations in Kalimantan led to the emission of more than 140 million metric tons of CO2 in 2010 alone, or the equivalent of the annual emissions of 28 million vehicles. About 80 percent of planting leases remained undeveloped in 2010, the study says. If all these leases are developed, more than one-third of Kalimantan’s lowlands outside of protected areas would be covered with palm oil plantations.
01 Oct 2012:
Organized Crime Groups Drive
Increase in Illegal Logging, Report Says
Illegal logging accounts for 15 to 30 percent of the global logging trade
, with an increasing number of illegal operations in the world’s tropical regions being driven by organized crime, a new report says. According to the report
, released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and INTERPOL, the illegal logging trade is now worth between $30 billion and $100 billion each year and is undermining global efforts to protect forests in the world’s most important tropical regions, including the Amazon, central Africa, and Southeast Asia. “Illegal logging is not on the decline, rather it is becoming more advanced as cartels become better organized, including shifting their illegal activities in order to avoid national and local police efforts,” wrote Achim Steiner and Ronald Noble, the heads of UNEP and INTERPOL, respectively. In the Brazilian state of Pará, for example, illegally obtained permits allowed logging cartels to steal an estimated 1.7 million cubic meters of forest in 2008. A year later, Brazilian investigators uncovered a scam involving 3,000 companies illegally exporting logged timber as allegedly “eco-certified” wood.
27 Sep 2012:
Unusual Series of Quakes
Indicate Tectonic Breakup in Indian Ocean
Two massive earthquakes in April in the Indian Ocean and an unusual series of aftershocks may signal the formation of a new tectonic plate boundary within Earth’s surface
. Reporting in the journal Nature
Click to enlarge
Keith Koper/University of Utah
Fault activity in the Indian Ocean.
scientists say that an analysis of the two April 11 earthquakes — one of magnitude 8.6 and the other of magnitude 8.2 — shows that they were not typical quakes that occur when one plate slides under another or two plates slip horizontally along a fault line. Instead, the earthquakes, caused by breaks along four faults in the Indian Ocean and accompanied by an unusually large number of aftershocks, indicate that the Indo-Australian tectonic plate may be breaking up. “It’s the clearest example of newly formed plate boundaries,” said Matthias Delescluse, a geophysicist at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. The researchers said that the massive and deadly 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, as well as another earthquake in 2005, may also have been related to the April quakes and the breakup of the Indo-Australian plate.
25 Sep 2012:
Sluggish Electric Car Market
Forces Discounts and Cuts by GM, Toyota
With electric vehicles still struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream market, General Motors has offered major discounts on its Chevrolet Volt to move cars off sales lots, and Toyota has scrapped plans for widespread sales of its new all-electric minicar. While
Courtesy of GM
A Chevrolet Volt charges
GM reported a record-setting month for Volt sales in August, selling 2,800 cars, an Associated Press report
found the increase was due largely to discounts
of nearly $10,000, or about 25 percent off the $40,000 sticker price, including low-interest financing and cash discounts. While those sales indicate consumers will buy electric vehicles if prices are low enough, the fact that dealerships had to offer such steep discounts suggests the technology still has a long way to go before entering the consumer mainstream and becoming profitable for carmakers. Two years after Toyota announced plans to sell several thousand of its all-electric iQ minicar, the company this week said it will scale back those goals
. “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's vice chairman, told reporters.