Texas drought worsens from ‘abysmal’




Nearly 97 percent of Texas is in either exceptional or extreme drought.

From June through August, Texas suffered the hottest three months ever recorded in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. And the 12 months ending on Aug. 31 were the driest 12 months in Texas history, with most of the state receiving just 21 percent of its annual average rainfall.

Record heat has extended to other states: Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma joined Texas in posting their warmest August on record.

In Texas alone, agricultural losses have topped $5 billion.

via Texas drought worsens from ‘abysmal’ – Weather – msnbc.com.


Giant red crab invasion!


Huge crabs more than a metre across have invaded the Antarctic abyss, wiped out the local wildlife and now threaten to ruin ecosystems that have evolved over 14 million years.

Three years ago, researchers predicted that as the deep waters of the Southern Ocean warmed, king crabs would invade Antarctica within 100 years.

But video taken by a remotely operated submersible shows that more than a million Neolithodes yaldwyni have already colonised Palmer Deep, a basin that forms a hollow in the Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf.

They are laying waste to the landscape. Video footage taken by the submersible shows how the crabs prod, probe, gash and puncture delicate sediments with the tips of their long legs. “This is likely to alter sediment processes, such as the rate at which organic matter is buried, which will affect the diversity of animal communities living in the sediments,” says Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, whose team discovered the scarlet invaders.

via Giant red crabs invade the Antarctic abyss – environment – 07 September 2011 – New Scientist.

We Need To Do More When It Comes To Having Brief, Panicked Thoughts About Climate Change

Indeed, if there was ever a time when a desperate call to take action against global warming should race through our heads as we lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, that time is now.

Many well-intentioned people will take 20 seconds out of their week to consider the consequences of the lifestyle they’ve chosen, perhaps contemplating how their reliance on fossil fuels has contributed to the rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap. But if progress is what we truly want, 20 seconds is simply not enough. Not by a long shot. An issue this critical demands at least 45 seconds to a solid minute of real, concentrated panic.

And I’m not talking about letting the image of a drowning polar bear play out in your mind now and then. If we’re at all serious, we need to let ourselves occasionally be struck with grim visions of coastal cities washing away and people starving as drought-stricken farmlands fail to yield crops—and we need to do this regularly, every couple days or so, before continuing to go about our routines as usual.

Suppose you’ve just sat down in a crisply air-conditioned movie theater. Why not take the length of a preview or two to consider the building’s massive carbon footprint? Imagine those greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere, disrupting ecosystems and causing infectious diseases to spread rampantly, particularly in regions of the world where the poorest people live. Visualize massive storm systems cutting widespread swaths of destruction. Think of your children’s children dying horrible, unnecessary deaths.

You might even go so far as to experience actual physical symptoms: shaking, hyperventilation, perhaps even a heart palpitation. These are entirely appropriate responses to have, and the kinds of reactions each of us ought to have briefly before casting such worries aside to enjoy Conan The Barbarian.

via We Need To Do More When It Comes To Having Brief, Panicked Thoughts About Climate Change | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

How to talk to a climate sceptic

“We also have to recognize that there is a very intelligent, well-planned effort to deliberately try to muddy the waters on this issue”

“Facts are not political. Facts cannot be changed to suit your opinion. Facts are what the natural world is telling us is happening, and just because you don’t like the facts, you can’t say they’re not real and certainly not malign or try to destroy the credibility of the messenger”

e360: You see the unequivocal changes in the climate, and yet public opinion polls show we are at a low point of public concern about climate change. What do you think scientists and people in the conservation community can do differently to try to mobilize public opinion?

Hayhoe: I’d really like to know the answer to that question myself. The reason I do climate science is because it has a very practical application: We have a very narrow window of time to do something meaningful about this issue, and that window is closing. Every year we go without a binding climate policy to reduce our emissions shrinks the chance we have of hitting lower emissions targets. So we’re taking away our choices. By not making a choice, we’re forcing ourselves into the higher scenarios.

I do a lot of outreach and speaking to audiences that are skeptical about climate change, and I’m trying to understand, what are the barriers? There are barriers at many different levels. I would say first of all that climate science is very complicated — that what is happening here in a place I live is being affected by something half a world away, such as how changes in Arctic sea ice affect what we’re experiencing in Texas. These things are not easy to understand.

In the U.S., we look out our windows and usually the grass is green and the sky is blue and the air is fairly clean and we can turn on our tap and get nice clean water. So the urgency of the issue is not in front of our eyes. Whereas if you go to people in Kenya, who are facing unprecedented drought and crop failure because the patterns they depended on have changed over the past 30 years; if you go up to Alaska, where villages are crumbling and falling into the ocean and have to evacuate because of this, you don’t find the same level of skepticism regarding the reality of the issue — and also whether we should do something about it — because they see it with their own eyes. Whereas here in the continental U.S. we are not seeing things with our own eyes that we can directly connect to climate change. So it lacks that personal motivation because we have many other immediate concerns.

Another issue is that climate change is a vast and daunting issue. It is easier to deny the reality — and that’s actually the first stage in coping with such an overwhelming issue, to deny it. If you’re given a diagnosis of a horrifying and terrible disease, the first thing you would say is, ‘Is it really true? Let’s get a second opinion, a third opinion.’ So it’s a very natural response when we’re faced with a huge, overwhelming issue that we personally feel there’s not much we can do about, often it’s easier psychologically to deny it than to acknowledge our own culpability in contributing to the problem, as well as our own sense of helplessness in solving it.

We also have to recognize that there is a very intelligent, well-planned effort to deliberately try to muddy the waters on this issue. And I think this effort has been very successful in part because of the two other reasons I just gave.

e360: Given those tremendous barriers, what are some strategies that might be a bit more effective in mobilizing opinion and action?

Hayhoe: I think that as a scientist my personal mission is to dispel some of the myths that we’ve been fed, and by ‘we’ I mean the community at large and especially the more conservative community. So what I’ve found is that when I take the time to really talk with people, they do have really good questions: How do we really know that climate change is happening? How do we know it’s not the sun or a natural cycle? How on Earth do we think humans can change something as big as our planet? And if we can answer those questions respectfully, with good, solid answers, that’s where you start talking about the issues we just discussed: Issues with water, flooding, coastal storms. Climate change is already exacerbating issues people are familiar with, so then they can understand why it’s important to them. From a grassroots perspective I think it’s very important to recognize that people still need more information, they need correct information, and then often when people are given correct information they can be counted on to recognize that this is an issue we need to take into consideration.

This issue, though, has become increasingly polarized and the politicization of science and facts is horrifying. Facts are not political. Facts cannot be changed to suit your opinion. Facts are what the natural world is telling us is happening, and just because you don’t like the facts, you can’t say they’re not real and certainly not malign or try to destroy the credibility of the messenger. So in that sense, as a scientist, I feel like my calling is to try to communicate the truth of this issue and the reasons why we as individual citizens should care about it, because of our own lives and the lives of the people that we know and love and the places that we know and love. I’m an optimist, so I have faith in the average person to be able to make good decisions.

We cannot afford to wait until the full effects of climate change become known and say, ‘Oh, this is not the future I really wanted, can I just kind of roll back time a few decades and knock all that carbon dioxide out of the air and make some different choices?’ It’s kind of like being on the operating table waiting to get quadruple bypass surgery and at that point saying, ‘You know what, I’ve changed my mind, I’ll exercise, I really will, I’ll cut back on those steaks and hamburgers.’ We can’t do that.

via How to talk to a climate sceptic | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

We’ve Entered the Age of Mass Extinction: Goodbye Fish and a Whole Lot More

Scott Thill: We’ve got heat domes in the Midwest and the East, and cool marine layers chilling summers in the West. In related news, up is down and down is up.

Peter Ward: Well, right now Seattle is 64 degrees. We’ve had the wettest, coldest summer in history. We’re freezing. It’s insane, but so is global warming.

ST: So how do you see climate change unfolding in the next 50 years?

PW: Unless we do something about human population, I doubt we will be able to do anything. The thing is, we’re good enough at fixing diseases and feeding ourselves that we’re not going to lose 20 to 40 percent of the human population. But if we could drop human population back down to four billion, we’d have a fighting chance. But we can’t. I truly believe that we’re heading to 10 or 11 billion by the end of this century, at the latest. We’re increasing longevity with wonderful medical advances. But people don’t realize that by increasing lifespans a decade or more around the world, we’re decreasing the death rate as the birth rate keeps rising. So we’re in a runaway human population situation and have been since the ’80s and ’90s. The scary thing is that we’ve got an intersection of declining freshwater and too many people.

And the freshwater decline is due to global warming, which is raising the snow levels in the mountains. California is a prime example. When it gets to the point that it rains all winter in the Sierra Nevada, what do you have when the hot summer arrives and you need that water for irrigation? When there’s nothing to melt anymore by March or April, you’ve got a desert. So the agriculture of the San Joaquin Valley is in deep trouble from decreased freshwater and soil that is turning salty because of sea-level rise. This is the case all over the planet. The lowest lying lands have the richest soil, and these are the lands that rising sea level is going to salinize.

ST: Although extreme weather variation is a climate change no-brainer, the party line for the Republican base is that snow of any kind is evidence that global warming is a hoax.

PW: It just drives me crazy. Why do they think we’re getting more snow? Because there is more water in the atmosphere! And why is that? Oh yeah, it’s warmer. If we could teach science in school, these guys would get a clue. These are enormous wet-air masses that are anomalously produced in winter, and work their way across North America and push up against the Arctic cold. Of course it turns to snow! It’s more water than has been in that area than ever before.

via We’ve Entered the Age of Mass Extinction: Goodbye Fish and a Whole Lot More | | AlterNet.

1,500 tons of radioactive sludge cannot be buried

Nearly 50,000 tons of sludge at water treatment facilities has been found to contain radioactive cesium as the result of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Over 1,500 tons is so contaminated that it cannot be buried for disposal.

Water treatment facilities in eastern and northeastern Japan have been discovering sludge containing cesium.

The health ministry says there is 49,250 tons of such sludge in 14 prefectures in eastern and northeastern Japan.

A total of 1,557 tons in 5 prefectures, including Fukushima and Miyagi, was found to contain 8,000 or more becquerels per kilogram. This sludge is too radioactive to be buried for disposal.

The most contaminated sludge, with 89,697 becquerels per kilogram, was discovered at a water treatment facility in Koriyama City, Fukushima.

The ministry says 76 percent of the roughly 50,000 tons of radioactive sludge is being stored at water treatment plants and they have no ways to dispose of most of it.

It says more than 54,000 tons of additional sludge has not been checked for radioactive materials.

The ministry plans to study how to dispose of the radioactive sludge.

via NHK WORLD English.

Another Inconvenient Truth

Another Inconvenient Truth: The World’s Growing Population Poses a Malthusian Dilemma.

Solving climate change, the Sixth Great Extinction and population growth… at the same time.

By 2050, the world will host nine billion people—and that’s if population growth slows in much of the developing world. Today, at least one billion people are chronically malnourished or starving. Simply to maintain that sad state of affairs would require the clearing (read: deforestation) of 900 million additional hectares of land, according to Pedro Sanchez, director of the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program at The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

The bad news beyond the impacts on people, plants and animals of that kind of deforestation: There isn’t that much land available. At most, we might be able to add 100 million hectares to the 4.3 billion already under cultivation worldwide.

“Agriculture is the main driver of most ecological problems on the planet,” said economist Jeffrey Sachs​, Scientific American columnist and Earth Institute director. “We are literally eating away the other species on the planet.”

extract from: Another Inconvenient Truth: The World’s Growing Population Poses a Malthusian Dilemma: Scientific American.

In a new way

A seashore
Keyboards slowly, pipes
A resonant rumble
The sound of the sea with triangle jingles
The sea is replaced by deep bass, in and out, pulsing

Desolate shores, life forming
Crawling from the waters, adventuring upwards
Towards the sun and the light and the warmth
Away from the murky horrors of the sea
It is bound to

The earth is giving birth to the animals, the human people
Energy patterns, beautiful energy patterns
Tingles, jingles and shingle on the shore of the primeval soup
The thick soup is gurgling at me
Ready to spew forth all the misery and beauty it contains
A beat kicks in

Squelchy electric pulses, gentle synths up and down
A beat on a cymbal and perhaps a hand clap
A soundscape that is removed from the soup
It is man’s time, perhaps Eden
No trouble, but a sense of adventure building
The electro squelches are back

The human is wailing gently with the torture of it all
He is living the torture
It hasn’t got him
A voice: consciousness, intelligence, technology spreading in the biology
A xylophone reminds me of China
The singing expressing the soul

Music fading to frogs, water, birds
Matter is energy
Energy + intelligence = matter that allows consciousness
Which allows technology
Which is all the same thing, from the same source

This music is more dramatic
The drum kicks harder
The percussion more regular
Echoing in and out
A distorted drum building up to something
Electronic clashes rush round my mind
Up up up
Drum fills from nowhere

The whole background seems to fade
A woman’s voice I don’t understand
Perhaps an alien
She is beautiful
Wisdom is what you are, knowledge is what you know
And insects right through my head
On an echo of the wind

Entities made of mind
In a new way
In a new way!
Fucking excellent
Words in the realm of the machine
Are not things heard but things seen

Rain like snowflakes
Conceptuality flexes and coils
Alien voices, squelches
A piece of space-coloured gold
To drill holes through

Spinning in space
Watch what we are doing
Do what we are doing
Do it now
This is our destiny
This is what our ancestors struggled to give us

Fading now
No voices, just wind
Two sounds
One deeper
And a distorted loop
An electric helicopter

We tumble back through history
History compacted
Back to a single cell
Evolutionary crossroads
Acceleration and expanding consciousness
Where is the wisdom to control this?
We are in a unique position
Simultaneous senses on five levels

The wind and a synthesiser
We have our own feelings
Despite the world coming to an end
Electro bass short and squat
Bass line winds through the drum
And now the gap is raining

A computer from the future
There is no matter here
No rules exist
I welcome the future
Come to me
And let me be!
It is all going to change
Create community
Not imposed from above
Restrictions are self-imposed, from restrictions inherent in the system
See and understand them

A natural drum
A bird
A choir
Afro beat shuffling
Love is the law
Go into it and take a look
You may be surprised

Fire and breeze
Crackling, snapping wood
Return to the earth
The voices chanting
I am no one’s slave
I am no one’s master
I am sorry, Earth
I know what he means
Apologising on behalf of mankind

A new perspective

United Nations are not

The persistent inability of the United Nations to forge international consensus on climate change issues was on display Wednesday, as Security Council members disagreed over whether they should address possible instability provoked by problems like rising sea levels or competition over water resources.

Western powers like the United States argued that the potential effects of climate change, including the mass migrations of populations, made it a crucial issue in terms of global peace and security. Russia and China, backed by much of the developing world, rejected the notion that the issue even belonged on the Security Council agenda.

With the major powers again at loggerheads, President Marcus Stephen of Nauru traveled the nearly 8,000 miles from his tiny Pacific island state to plead for action.

Speaking on behalf of some 14 island states vulnerable to disappearing or at least losing significant territory to rising sea levels, Mr. Stephen mused aloud about how the debate might differ if larger countries were affected.

“What if the pollution coming from our island nations was threatening the very existence of the major emitters?” he said. “What would be the nature of today’s debate under those circumstances?”

Countries threatened with extinction — already some residents have experimented with emigrating as higher and higher tides endanger their livelihoods — are tired of merely hearing sympathy for their plight, the president said.

“Demonstrate it by formally recognizing that climate change is a threat to international peace and security,” Mr. Stephen said, comparing it to nuclear proliferation or terrorism given its potential to destabilize governments and create conflict. “Neither has ever led to the disappearance of an entire nation, though that is what we are confronted with today.”

via Climate Change Security Council Talks Deadlock – NYTimes.com.


A new series of studies released by Weed Science this month finds at least 21 weed species have become resistant to the popular herbicide glyphosate (sold as Monsanto’s Roundup), and a growing number survive multiple herbicides, so-called “super-weeds.” The same selection pressure creating bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics is leading to the rapid evolution of plants that survive modern herbicides. If the trend continues, yields could drop and food costs climb as weeds grow more difficult to uproot.

“The herbicide resistance issue is becoming serious,” said journal editor, William K. Vencill, in a recent statement. “It is spreading out beyond where weed scientists have seen it before.” More than 11 million acres, up from just 2.4 million in 2007, are now infested with Roundup-resistant varieties. The herbicide, a relatively low-impact chemical since it biodegrades quickly, has ranked among the most popular for farmers since Monsanto introduced its genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops that are unaffected by the chemical, accounting for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.

Even more worrisome is the steep (and unabated) climb in the number of weeds resistant to multiple types of herbicides. Super-strains of plants like pigweed–which grows three inches a day and is tough enough to damage farm machinery–have emerged, which may dramatically reduce the options for farmers to control them. The alternatives are usually more dangerous chemicals or plowing and mulching fields, undermining many of the environmental benefits biotech crops are supposed to offer. It’s “the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” claims Andrew Wargo III, president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

via Monsanto-Resistant Weeds Take Root, Raising Food Prices | Fast Company.

14 States Suffering Under Drought

In Texas, where the drought is the worst, virtually no part of the state has been untouched. City dwellers and ranchers have been tormented by excessive heat and high winds. In the Southwest, wildfires are chewing through millions of acres.

Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture designated all 254 counties in Texas natural disaster areas, qualifying them for varying levels of federal relief. More than 30 percent of the state’s wheat fields might be lost, adding pressure to a crop in short supply globally.

Even if weather patterns shift and relief-giving rain comes, losses will surely head past $3 billion in Texas alone, state agricultural officials said.

Most troubling is that the drought, which could go down as one of the nation’s worst, has come on extra hot and extra early. It has its roots in 2010 and continued through the winter. The five months from this February to June, for example, were so dry that they shattered a Texas record set in 1917, said Don Conlee, the acting state climatologist.

Oklahoma has had only 28 percent of its normal summer rainfall, and the heat has blasted past 90 degrees for a month.

“We’ve had a two- or three-week start on what is likely to be a disastrous summer,” said Kevin Kloesel, director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

The question, of course, becomes why. In a spring and summer in which weather news has been dominated by epic floods and tornadoes, it is hard to imagine that more than a quarter of the country is facing an equally daunting but very different kind of natural disaster.

via 14 States Suffering Under Drought – NYTimes.com.

Global Warming and the Science of Extreme Weather

Extreme floods, prolonged droughts, searing heat waves, massive rainstorms and the like don’t just seem like they’ve become the new normal in the last few years—they have become more common, according to data collected by reinsurance company Munich Re see Part 1 of this series. But has this increase resulted from human-caused climate change or just from natural climatic variations? After all, recorded floods and droughts go back to the earliest days of mankind, before coal, oil and natural gas made the modern industrial world possible.Until recently scientists had only been able to say that more extreme weather is “consistent” with climate change caused by greenhouse gases that humans are emitting into the atmosphere. Now, however, they can begin to say that the odds of having extreme weather have increased because of human-caused atmospheric changes—and that many individual events would not have happened in the same way without global warming. The reason: The signal of climate change is finally emerging from the “noise”—the huge amount of natural variability in weather.Scientists compare the normal variation in weather with rolls of the dice. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere loads the dice, increasing odds of such extreme weather events. It’s not just that the weather dice are altered, however. As Steve Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, puts it, “it is more like painting an extra spot on each face of one of the dice, so that it goes from 2 to 7 instead of 1 to 6. This increases the odds of rolling 11 or 12, but also makes it possible to roll 13.”Why? Basic physics is at work: The planet has already warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times, thanks to CO2and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. And for every 1-degree C 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperature, the amount of moisture that the atmosphere can contain rises by 7 percent, explains Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the U.K. Met Office’s Hadley Center for Climate Change. “That’s quite dramatic,” he says. In some places, the increase has been much larger. Data gathered by Gene Takle, professor of meteorology at Iowa State University in Ames, show a 13 percent rise in summer moisture over the past 50 years in the state capital, Des Moines.

via Global Warming and the Science of Extreme Weather: Scientific American.

They Know But Won’t Admit: How Oil and Gas Companies are Adapting to Climate Change

In one of most ironic flip-flops in environmental history, the oil and gas industry is beginning to adapt to climate change. And it’s no wonder. The majority of industry’s infrastructure is located in some of the most climate vulnerable regions on the planet. Nearly 75 percent of the Alaskan pipeline, for example, is built over increasingly unstable permafrost, which is now thawing under warmer temperatures. The Mackenzie Valley in Canada alone has recorded over 2,000 sink holes, rock slides, and large depressions from thawing permafrost.

The pipeline’s famous elevated design was the result of a 20 year study (PDF) on the stability of climate and permafrost from 1950 to 1970. Based on the historic record, engineers designed the supports for the pipeline to withstand some fluctuation in permafrost, but not for the extensive melts now predicted. Indeed, that 20 year study was the one of the coldest periods in Alaskan history. Whoops. Now the supports for the Alaskan pipeline have to be upgraded for a changing climate, and, since the physical lines are heavily subsidized by federal and state governments, it is unclear who will pay.

Now the very industry that publicly denies the very reality of climate change, is looking to climate experts for help. They cooperated with consultants who analyzed oil and gas industry’s ability to absorb impacts from a changing climate. The resulting report was a terse assessment showing that the oil and gas industry was far behind the climate action curve.

extract from: They Know But Won’t Admit: How Oil and Gas Companies are Adapting to Climate Change – Environment – GOOD.

Global Weirding

Sceptics argue that there have always been droughts and floods, freak weather, heatwaves and temperature extremes, but what concerns most climate scientists and observers is that the extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, their intensity is growing and the trends all suggest long-term change as greenhouse gases steadily build in the atmosphere.

Killer droughts and heatwaves, deeper snowfalls, more widespread floods, heavier rains, and temperature extremes are now the “new normal”, says Nikhil da Victoria Lobo of the giant insurance firm Swiss Re, which last month estimated losses from natural disasters have risen from about $25bn a year in the 1980s to $130bn a year today. “Globally, what we’re seeing is more volatility,” he says.

People in the most affected areas are certainly not waiting for climate scientists to confirm climate change is happening before they adapt. In Nepal, where the rain is heavier than before, flat roofs are giving way to pitched roofs, and villagers in the drought-prone Andes are building reservoirs and changing crops to survive.

New analysis of natural disasters in 140 countries shows that climate is becoming more extreme. Last month, Oxfam reported that while the number of “geo-physical” disasters – such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – has remained more or less constant, those caused by flooding and storms have increased from around 133 a year in 1980s to more than 350 a year now.

“It is abundantly clear that weather-related disasters have been increasing in some of the world’s poorest countries and this increase cannot be explained fully by better ways of counting them,” says Steve Jennings, the report’s author. “Whichever way you look at the figures, there is a significant rise in the number of weather-related disasters. They have been increasing and are set to get worse as climate change further intensifies natural hazards.

“I think that global ‘weirding’ is the best way to describe what we’re seeing. We are used to certain conditions and there’s a lot going on these days that is not what we’re used to, that is outside our current frame of reference,” says climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University.

from Warning: extreme weather ahead | World news | The Guardian.

Nuclear fuel has melted through base of Fukushima plant

Nuclear fuel has melted through base of Fukushima plant

The nuclear fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has melted through the base of the pressure vessels and is pooling in the outer containment vessels, according to a report by the Japanese government.

The findings of the report, which has been given to the International Atomic Energy Agency, were revealed by the Yomiuri newspaper, which described a “melt-through” as being “far worse than a core meltdown” and “the worst possibility in a nuclear accident.”

A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the company is presently revising the road-map for bringing the plant under control, including the time required to achieve cold shutdown of the reactors.

In a best-case scenario, the company says it will be able to achieve that by October, although that may have to be revised in light of the report.

Water that was pumped into the pressure vessels to cool the fuel rods, becoming highly radioactive in the process, has been confirmed to have leaked out of the containment vessels and outside the buildings that house the reactors.

Tepco said it is trying to contain the contaminated water and prevent it from leaking into the sea, but elevated levels of radiation have been confirmed in the ocean off the plant.

The radiation will also have contaminated the soil and plant and animal life around the facility, making the task of cleaning up more difficult and expensive, as well as taking longer.

The experts have also yet to come up with a plan for decommissioning the ruined plant. Studies have estimated that the cost of the accident at Fukushima may rise as high as $250 billion over the next 10 years.

via Nuclear fuel has melted through base of Fukushima plant – Telegraph.

North China is dying – China’s Water Crisis

A chronic drought is ravaging farmland. The Gobi Desert is inching south. The Yellow River, the so-called birthplace of Chinese civilization, is so polluted it can no longer supply drinking water. The rapid growth of megacities — 22 million people in Beijing and 12 million in Tianjin alone — has drained underground aquifers that took millenniums to fill.

Not atypically, the Chinese government has a grand and expensive solution: Divert at least six trillion gallons of water each year hundreds of miles from the other great Chinese river, the Yangtze, to slake the thirst of the north China plain and its 440 million people.

The engineering feat, called the South-North Water Diversion Project, is China’s most ambitious attempt to subjugate nature. It would be like channeling water from the Mississippi River to meet the drinking needs of Boston, New York and Washington. Its $62 billion price tag is twice that of the Three Gorges Dam, which is the world’s largest hydroelectric project. And not unlike that project, which Chinese officials last month admitted had “urgent problems,” the water diversion scheme is increasingly mired in concerns about its cost, its environmental impact and the sacrifices poor people in the provinces are told to make for those in richer cities.

Three artificial channels from the Yangtze would transport precious water from the south, which itself is increasingly afflicted by droughts; the region is suffering its worst one in 50 years. The project’s human cost is staggering — along the middle route, which starts here in Hubei Province at a gigantic reservoir and snakes 800 miles to Beijing, about 350,000 villagers are being relocated to make way for the canal. Many are being resettled far from their homes and given low-grade farmland; in Hubei, thousands of people have been moved to the grounds of a former prison.

“Look at this dead yellow earth,” said Li Jiaying, 67, a hunched woman hobbling to her new concrete home clutching a sickle and a bundle of dry sticks for firewood. “Our old home wasn’t even being flooded for the project and we were asked to leave. No one wanted to leave.”

via Plan for China’s Water Crisis Spurs Concern – NYTimes.com.

Pollution and Overfishing Spell Trouble for Dolphins Worldwide

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of at-risk wildlife species considers 36 of the world’s 40 dolphin species to be in trouble

Dolphins are probably the most iconic and best loved species of the marine world. Their playful nature and high intelligence have endeared them to people for eons. But our love of dolphins might not be enough to save them from extinction brought on by overfishing, pollution, climate change and other environmental affronts perpetrated by humans.

The nonprofit International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains a worldwide “Red List” of at-risk wildlife species, considers 36 of the world’s 40 different dolphin species to be in trouble. Yes, specific events can cause problems for dolphins—researchers believe that the deaths of 300 dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico over the last year can be blamed on the BP oil spill there. But more widespread and constant forms of pollution—such as run-off of agricultural and industrial chemicals into rivers that drain into coastal areas of the ocean where dolphins spend much of their time—are having a more lasting negative effect on dolphins by poisoning them and causing reproductive problems.

Also, dolphins have long been the unwitting victims of fishermen targeting large prey, such as tuna. According to Defenders of Wildlife, fishermen started to notice a half century ago that schools of yellow fin tuna seemed to follow dolphins that swim higher in the water column, especially in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. “Fishermen there have consequently found that setting nets on dolphins to catch the tuna swimming underneath is a lucrative technique for tuna fishing, despite the fact that the practice is extremely injurious to dolphins,” reports the group, adding that some seven million dolphins have since been killed as a result of the practice.

Also, our unrelenting demand for seafood—which has caused rampant overfishing throughout the world’s oceans—means that dolphins, which feed on smaller fish such as mackerel, cod and herring as well as squid, are having a harder and harder time finding food. And in Turkey, Peru, Sri Lanka, Japan and elsewhere, dolphins are hunted as a delicacy and also to decrease competition for fish resources.

via Flipped Off: Pollution and Overfishing Spell Trouble for Dolphins Worldwide: Scientific American.

More radioactive water leaks into sea near stricken plant

A major new leak of highly radioactive water into the ocean near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was discovered May 11.

Local authorities and the embassies of the United States and other countries, including neighboring nations, were notified of the latest setback at the stricken plant, which has been out of control since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said cesium-134 at levels about 18,000 times above government standards for wastewater discharge into the ocean was detected in the sea near the No. 3 reactor.

Workers discovered highly radioactive water in a pit connected to a trench of the No. 3 reactor around 10:30 a.m. May 11.

The water leaked into the sea through cracks on the side of the pit facing the ocean.

TEPCO stopped the leak at 6:45 p.m. by plugging the crack with concrete.

Checks on seawater outside a silt fence installed by TEPCO last month at an intake of the No. 3 reactor to stop contamination from spreading out to sea found 96 becquerels of iodine-131 per cubic centimeter, 2,400 times above safety standards, according to the utility. The silt fence is a plastic curtain hanging from floats and reaching near the sea bottom.

Inside the pit, the iodine-131 level was 3,400 becquerels per cubic centimeter, 85,000 times the permissible level.

Cesium-134 was measured at 37,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter, 620,000 times the safety limit.

TEPCO said the contaminated water was believed to be from the basement of the turbine building of the No. 3 reactor, where highly radioactive water was discovered earlier.

It is the first major leak of highly contaminated water into the sea since a leak near the No. 2 reactor last month.

via asahi.com(朝日新聞社):More radioactive water leaks into sea near stricken plant – English.