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by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 08:03:16 AM EST
BBC News - Vega launcher makes first flight

Europe's new Vega rocket has completed a flawless first flight.

Controllers at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana ignited the rocket at 07:00 local time (10:00 GMT), and it completed its mission 70 minutes later.

The 30m-tall vehicle has been designed to put small scientific and government satellites in orbit.

For its first outing, Vega carried nine payloads into space, including a physics experiment to test Einstein's theory of general relativity.

"A new member of the launcher family has been born," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the European Space Agency's (Esa) director general.

Member states of Esa, together with their industries, are investing more than a billion euros in the introduction of Vega.

The vehicle is intended to guarantee access to space for an increasingly important class of satellite weighing less than 2.5 tonnes.

At the moment, these smaller spacecraft, which include many Earth observation satellites, tend to ride decommissioned Russian nuclear missiles to get into orbit.

European operators can sometimes wait many months to get a launch slot on these converted ICBMs, however.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:10:04 PM EST
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BBC News - Nasa budget slashes Martian funds

President Barack Obama's 2013 budget request for Nasa would slash spending on Mars exploration and shift funds to human spaceflight and space technology.

As reported by BBC News last week, this means the US will pull the plug on its joint missions to Mars with Europe.

If approved by Congress, the budget request would reduce funds available for planetary science by about 21%.

But spending on human exploration and space technology would rise by 6% and 22% respectively.

"There's no doubt that tough decisions had to be made," Nasa's administrator Charles Bolden told a news conference in Washington DC.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:12:15 PM EST
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Air industry raises warnings over EU emissions charge | EurActiv

Airbus joined a chorus of concern that a European scheme to charge airlines for carbon emissions risks triggering a full-blown trade war, with implications for aircraft deals and even Europe's crippling sovereign debt crisis.

The EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) for airlines, introduced on 1 January, has drawn howls of protest from airlines around the world, with China banning its carriers from taking part.

The escalating row comes just ahead of a summit between Chinese and EU leaders in Beijing on Tuesday, with the EU looking to China to dip into its huge foreign exchange reserves to help the eurozone tackle a debt build-up that threatens its economic stability.

Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive, said he was increasingly concerned at the potential fall-out if tensions are not defused.

"I am very worried about the consequences of that. What started out as a solution for the environment has become a source of potential trade conflict and that should be a worry for all of us," he told an aviation conference ahead of the Singapore Airshow on Monday.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:12:50 PM EST
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BBC News - EU 'risks trade war' over carbon trading scheme

The European Union's carbon trading scheme may spark a trade war, according to one of the world's biggest planemakers.

"What started out as a solution for the environment has become a source of potential trade conflict," Airbus boss Thomas Enders said.

The Emissions Trading System levies a charge on flights in EU airspace based on carbon emissions.

But the US and China are opposed to their airlines joining the scheme.

The EU scheme, which began on 1 January, creates allowances for carbon emissions and allows airlines to "cap and trade" their allowances.

The number of allowances is reduced over time, so that the total output of carbon from airlines in European airspace falls.

China has banned its airlines from joining the scheme and the US tried to block the introduction of emissions charges late last year, in a case heard by the European Court of Justice.

However, the court ruled that they were legal.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:13:30 PM EST
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Notice how we never hear from the 'responsible' types how "What started out as a solution for the [City] has become a source of potential [damage to the environment], and that should be a worry for all of us."
by Andhakari on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 03:26:35 AM EST
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Climate Feedback: a blog from Nature Climate Change

Climate change will pose a number of challenges to food safety in the coming decades, from boosting the rates of food- and water-borne illnesses to enabling the spread of pathogens, researchers reported Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Depending on the greenhouse gas emissions scenario, global average temperature is expected to rise between 1.1° and 6.8° Celsius by the end of the century. And warmer temperatures are known to increase rates of some diseases: According to a recent study of salmonellosis in Europe, frequency of the ailment rises about 12 percent for every 1°C that air temperature increases beyond a baseline of 6°C, said Cristina Tirado, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The precise cause for this trend isn't clear, said Ewen Todd, a bacteriologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. It's possible that warmer temperatures cause bacteria to grow more quickly, or people may prepare food differently in warmer weather (grilling outdoors vis-à-vis cooking in a kitchen, for example).

Climate change can increase disease risks in several ways, Tirado added. The concentration of methyl mercury in fish increases about 3.5 percent for every 1°C rise in water temperature. Warmer sea-surface temperatures can boost the frequency of harmful algal blooms, leading to an increased incidence of paralytic shellfish poisoning. Higher water temperatures also enable the spread of pathogens to higher latitudes: An outbreak of vibriosis on an Alaskan cruise ship in 2005, later linked to oysters that had been harvested near one of the ship's ports of call, represents the spread of the disease-causing Vibrio parahaemolyticus to a locale more than 1,000 kilometers north of its previous known range. Dust storms, which are expected to increase in some regions due to climate change, could wreak their own havoc, because iron-rich mineral dust can drive a 10- to 1,000-fold increase in the growth rate of Vibrio bacteria.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:14:05 PM EST
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Is protecting the environment incompatible with social justice? | George Monbiot | Environment | guardian.co.uk

Bringing everyone above the global absolute poverty line ($1.25 a day) would need just 0.2% of global income.

In other words, it is not the needs of the poor that threaten the biosphere, but the demands of the rich. Raworth points out that half the world's carbon emissions are produced by just 11% of its people, while, with grim symmetry, 50% of the world's people produce just 11% of its emissions. Animal feed used in the EU alone, which accounts for just 7% of the world's people, uses up 33% of the planet's sustainable nitrogen budget. "Excessive resource use by the world's richest 10% of consumers," she notes, "crowds out much-needed resource use by billions of other people."

The politically easy way to tackle poverty is to try to raise the living standards of the poor while doing nothing to curb the consumption of the rich. This is the strategy almost all governments follow. It is a formula for environmental disaster, which, in turn, spreads poverty and deprivation. As Oxfam's paper says, social justice is impossible without "far greater global equity in the use of natural resources, with the greatest reductions coming from the world's richest consumers".

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:16:19 PM EST
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A friend of mine just won the International Peace Film prize for his movie on his project to teach the developing countries how to build solar panels (yes, really, he does it).  The movie is Burning in the Sun and it's lovely.

Here's his acceptance email:


Dear Everybody,

     I am writing this from Berlin, Germany.  Last night at the big Konzerthaus the Cinema for Peace Award Gala was held and the International Peace Film Award was won by Burning in the Sun, a movie about my solar work in Mali, west Africa.  Angelina Joli handed me the heavy glass cubical award.  Morgan Robinson, the director of the movie and Claire Weingartein, one of the producers were also there and we got together give a short thank you speech and get photographed by lots of still and video cameramen.

Lots of movie stars were also there congratulating us.  The Cinema For Peace group flew me all the way from Nicaragua and put me up in a fancy hotel here for the event, but later this Tuesday morning I fly back to Managua.

    Tomorrow I meet up with John Webster, a minihydro expert from Maine who is working on a project up in the Nicaraguan mountains and on Thursday I go up to Sabana Grande to work with the Solar Women of Totogalpa (part of the Grupo Fenix) to start the construction of a new design portable, light weight solar oven that will fold down to a flat bundle able to be carried on a burro (Or a llama in the Andes or a camel in the Sahara Desert, all places where I have been working lately).  I also will teach part of the CELL college semester abroad course (organized by David Oakes of Maine) that Susan Kinne is currently teaching.

     Next week I go to Honduras to work on a Canadian Falls Brook Centre project with unemployed banana pickers to make PV modules and wire up their little casas for electricity; and then in March I teach a solar course at the Universidad Nacional de Ingeneria in Managua, as well as finally get my new teeth fitted.  Having only upper teeth, I tried not to smile too broadly last night in front of all the cameras.

     I am keeping myself busy, Rich

by njh on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 12:42:01 PM EST
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