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by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 03:03:34 PM EST
Study may answer longstanding questions about Little Ice Age

A new international study may answer contentious questions about the onset and persistence of Earth's Little Ice Age, a period of widespread cooling that lasted for hundreds of years until the late 19th century.

The study, led by the University of Colorado Boulder with co-authors at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other organizations, suggests that an unusual, 50-year-long episode of four massive tropical volcanic eruptions triggered the Little Ice Age between 1275 and 1300 A.D.

The persistence of cold summers following the eruptions is best explained by a subsequent expansion of sea ice and a related weakening of Atlantic currents, according to computer simulations conducted for the study.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 03:07:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's not snow: Pesticides coat California's Central Valley | Grist

"See that, see that?! ... Oooh, something is going on. They are spraying tonight." A large cylindrical truck whooshed past us.

I am driving along a state road with Becky, a local activist, who is narrating from behind the wheel. "I once stuck around to see them spray and I had to turn the car around and get out of there, the smell was so overpowering."

We pull over and I hop out to get a close-up look at the orange groves. I am in California's Central Valley, America's fruit basket, where agriculture is king.

Becky Quintana is waiting patiently in the car for me as I crouch down to inspect an orange tree. The leathery green leaves were splashed with white pesticide residue, like a Jackson Pollack canvas would be. It is early December, close to the holidays, one would be forgiven for mistaking the white splotches that covered the trees for Christmas flocking. But it turns out it's like this year round -- the chemical flecks a reminder of the high economic stakes involved in delivering an end product that is shiny, bright, and perfectly spherical.

`There's a lot riding on it." Becky explains. "The fruit pickers bring them to the warehouses where the oranges are washed and waxed to look the way you see them in the supermarket. But most of the time," she nods towards the fields, "they don't come off the tree looking like that."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 03:08:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bill Gates Warns Climate Change Threatens Food Security, Finds It 'Ironic' People Oppose His 'Solution': Genetic Modification | ThinkProgress

Bill Gates is one very confused billionaire philanthropist.

He understands global warming is a big problem -- indeed, his 2012 Foundation Letter even frets about the  grave threat it poses to food security.  But he just doesn't want to do very much now to stop it from happening (see Pro-geoengineering Bill Gates disses efficiency, "cute" solar, deployment -- still doesn't know how he got rich).

He love technofixes like geoengineering and, as we'll see, genetically modified food.   Rather than investing in cost-effective emissions reduction strategies today or in renewable energy technologies that are rapidly moving down the cost curve, he explains that the reason invests so much in nuclear R&D is "The good news about nuclear is that there has hardly been any innovation."  Seriously!

His Letter includes the ominous chart at the top, and he warns of the dire consequences of climate change:

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 03:10:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as if unleashing windows on the world weren't enough, Bill's Next Big Ideas...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 07:02:36 PM EST
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Unleashing Windows was a relatively minor sin. The major sin was destroying almost all of the competition so as to force a crap OS onto the world.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 11:38:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The good news about nuclear is that there has hardly been any innovation."

Insert Windows joke here.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 at 02:33:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Academics accused of 'exaggeration' in new battle over factory farm antibiotic use - The Ecologist
Debate over role of farm animals in spreading of superbugs intensifies as scientific study downplaying fears is accused of serious flaws

'We infer that the local animal population is unlikely to be the major source of resistance diversity for humans. This suggests that current policy emphasis on restricting antimicrobial use in domestic animals may be overly simplistic.'

It was a bold conclusion that potentially threw a spanner in the works of the medical experts and campaigners pushing for new restrictions on the high-levels of farm antibiotic use in Europe.

Researchers, led by the University of Glasgow, looked at data on antimicrobial resistance in salmonella cases in farm animals and humans in Scotland and concluded that significant differences between the two made it 'unlikely' that local farm animals were the major source of resistance in humans.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 03:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a relief. So long as the antibiotic resistent salmonella I die of came from some distant factory farm, I'll be right, I guess.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 04:26:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Direct from the tobacco and global warming playbook.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 04:47:56 PM EST
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I did not see any disclaimers from any who might have a history of performing research paid for by industry. So I guess that is not an issue --- right?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 11:43:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MEPs show little appetite for new `low-fat' labels | EurActiv

A proposal to give food manufacturers more flexibility to promote their products as low in fat, sugar or salt has been a dealt blow when a parliamentary committee voted to block changes to nutritional labels. The full European Parliament is expected to consider the issue tomorrow (2 February). 

MEPs yesterday (31 January) backed a resolution opposing new labels recommended by the European Commission. The resolution will be considered by the full Parliament after gaining support from a cross-section of political groups in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.

The Commission has proposed amending a five-year-old regulation to add new nutritional categories that would allow food companies to claim reformulated foods have a minimum of 15% less fat, sugar or salt than earlier products, and a no-added salt label. An existing "reduced" label must have at least 30% less of an ingredient.

German centre-right MEP Renate Sommer, the parliamentary rapporteur on food labelling, accused the EU executive of trying to water down existing regulations, saying the lower threshold "would mislead consumers and producers would only have used it to boost sales".

"If we continue to rubber-stamp almost any producer claim, there will be ever-more claims and consumers will no longer be able to distinguish between foodstuffs", Sommer (European Peoples' Party) said in a statement after the vote.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 03:37:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we have salt advertises as "Low Fat!" and lard advertised as "Low Sodium!"

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 11:45:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to mention glutamate and hydrogenated palm oil.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 at 01:11:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
consumers will no longer be able to distinguish between foodstuffs
That's a good basis for regulation: if you can't identify it by looking at it, smelling it, or tasting it, you probably shouldn't be eating it.
by Andhakari on Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 at 01:31:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Orszag: Fracking Could Finally Cap Myth of Peak Oil - Bloomberg
The U.S. oil market could be on the verge of its own fracking revolution, similar to what the natural-gas market is already experiencing. As a result, domestic production is now projected to rise significantly over the coming decades, reducing the relative share of imports in U.S. oil consumption.

...John Deutch, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has written that, given the impact on energy markets and therefore geopolitical dynamics, "it is perhaps a permissible exaggeration to claim a natural-gas revolution."

...As the energy analyst Seth Kleinman, a colleague of mine at Citigroup Inc., argues, the price effects of the shift to tight oil "may be more immediate and subtle than the supply-and-demand balances hint at."

The year ahead, he says, "could really see the death of the peak-oil hypothesis, something that has been underpinning a lot of the structural bullishness on oil."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 03:50:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The U.S. has not produced as much as 6.7 million barrels per day since 1994."

US field production of crude oil was 2.00b barrels of crude oil in 2010, 2.43b in 1994, the local peak was 3.27b in 1985 and the primary peak was 3.52b in 1970. So the expectation is that exploitation of tight oil can lead us to another local peak that is 25% lower than the previous local peak from the Drill Baby Drill days of Reagan.

And still less than half of present day total US field crude oil production and crude oil imports. I presume the "50% liquids" is including ethanol energy translation (its unclear how much of that is energy production) and natural gas liquids.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 04:43:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finland's wind power capacity to be increased by 50 per cent this year

Last year Finland introduced the so-called feed-in tariff, which guarantees the producer of wind power a certain price regardless of the market situation.
      Until 2015 the tariff has been raised from EUR 83.5 to just over EUR 103 per megawatt-hour. The raised tariff is meant to speed up the building of wind power stations.
      Mikkonen of the Finnish Wind Power Association considers the tariff a better solution than the previously-used fixed electricity production support, which was only granted in connection with the investment decision.
      "The feed-in tariff encourages producers to take on large projects, the development of which can often take between three and five years. Now government support is guaranteed. Previously this was not the case."

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 at 02:16:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So there's now a fairly new Monsanto product (since the patent on Aspartame is running out) called "Neotame" -- magnitudes stronger than Aspartame.  There are a rash of claims on the internet that it can be included in organic foods without labeling being required, see this site.

While the product is apparently more dangerous than aspartame, the suggestion that the additive can appear in organic foods is said to be a hoax, as reported here.

The first link also has a warning for European consumers:

In the EU, Neotame has been approved by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). As is so common in the EU, the product is hidden behind an E-number. So, labels don't have to say that products contain Neotame. They only need to list "E 961". Naturally, with hundreds of E-numbers, how many people can be aware of which ones are truly dangerous?

Draw your own conclusions. I'm one of those persons who process aspartame as formaldehyde and end up with a severe headache if I accidentally ingest any, so I'm glad to know it won't be hidden in organic foods.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 at 05:32:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that organic certification in the US and in the EU are different... I imagine that the same thing about synthetic additives applies in EU certification, but the article you referenced only covers the US.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 at 05:39:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Monbiot: We cannot wish Britain's nuclear waste away (the Guardian)
There are currently three serious options on the table. The first is to bury it. We get nothing from this except a bloody great hole in the ground and a bill to match. The second is currently the government's favoured option: mixed oxide processing (Mox). This has already proved to be an expensive fiasco. It produces (when it works at all) fuel that hardly anyone wants, at great cost, and more waste plutonium than we possess already. Its contribution to the electricity supply is feeble, raising the energy extracted from nuclear fuel from 0.6% to 0.8%. Even the government admits that "the value of the fuel to reactor operators is significantly less than the cost of its manufacture".

The third option is fast reactors, ideally integral fast reactors. This is the one I favour, and unless you can provide me with a powerful reason why it should not receive serious consideration, it is the option I will continue to promote.


So which of these options do you support? None of the above is not an answer. Something has to be done with the waste, and unless you have invented a novel solution, one of these three options will need to be deployed. But it is a choice that opponents of nuclear power are refusing to make - and that is not good enough.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 at 09:06:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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