CNN’s Kyung Lah travels to the 12-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant nearly a year after the quake.

Fukushima's animals abandoned and left to die

Children play in Koluama 2 village, Nigeria, Monday, 27 February 2012. President Goodluck Jonathan visited the community Monday, the nearest settlement to a Chevron Corp. offshore gas rig site that remains on fire after an apparent industrial accident 16 January 2012. Jonathan sought to assure residents in his visit, but many remain worried about the environmental impact of the ongoing blaze. Sunday Alamba / AP Photo

By Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
27 February 2012

KOLUAMA 2, Nigeria – Nigeria's president attempted to calm anger in villages Monday near a Chevron Corp. offshore natural gas rig that has been engulfed in a raging fire for weeks, though no official could say when the inferno will be extinguished.

President Goodluck Jonathan offered few specifics in his speech to those from surrounding communities who crowded into a meeting hall in the village of Koluama 2, instead reminding those gathered he too hailed from the region.

While villagers greeted him with cheers, he entered the hall under a handwritten sign that demanded "Chevron must go" and some youths promised to attack the San Ramon, California-based company's assets in the area if their demands weren't met.

"How will our people benefit from this given to us by God?" the community asked in a joint statement read to the president, referring to the abundance of oil and gas in the region.

Koluama 2, a village along the Atlantic Ocean in Jonathan's native Bayelsa state, awoke Jan. 16 to a series of explosions from Chevron's KS Endeavor natural gas rig, which sits only 10 kilometres (6 miles) from shore. Two workers died in the blast, who officials on Monday identified as nationals of India and France.

In the time since, the raging fire from an unstopped natural gas leak at the site has softened the steel of the rig, causing it to collapse into the ocean. The fire can be seen clearly off the white sand beach at Koluama 2, as can another rig put in place to try and drill a relief well to stop the fire. […]

Locals have complained about rashes, breathing difficulty and gastrointestinal problems since the fire began. Chevron has said its own tests have found no air pollution from the blaze, though it acknowledges some fish have been killed from the fire. Fishing remains how many in the surrounding communities earn a living. […]

As Jonathan's helicopter took off from the community, local youths gathered there said they'd give Chevron a week to offer compensation they thought was appropriate before taking action against their facilities in the area. Threats against foreign oil firms working in the Niger Delta remain common, despite the 2009 amnesty deal that largely ended militant activity in the region.

Foreign firms have pumped oil out of the delta for more than 50 years. Despite the billions of dollars flowing into Nigeria's government, many in the delta remain desperately poor, living in polluted waters without access to proper medical care, an education or work. […]

Nigeria president visits village near Chevron gas rig fire that has raged for weeks

Rick Santorum bows his head during a prayer before addressing the Detroit Economic Club, 16 February 2012. Bill Pugliano / Getty ImagesBy Larry B. Stammer
27 February 2012

It has long been a maxim that mixing religion and politics can spell trouble. So when Rick Santorum told a partisan crowd in Columbus, Ohio, recently that President Obama's worldview was based on a "phony theology" that drives "radical environmentalists," he must have known his comments would reverberate far beyond his conservative political base.

Santorum was speaking of efforts to forestall the worst effects of climate change through controls on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and policies aimed at encouraging the development of renewable sources of energy. Obama, he said, was putting the Earth before the needs of humans. "It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology." That theology, he said, was not "based on the Bible." At another point, he rejected as unproven the findings of the vast majority of the world's reputable scientists that humans are accelerating climate change. Climate change, he claimed, is not about "climate science" but "political science."

Santorum can't be blamed for wanting to throw a little red meat to conservatives as he seeks to maintain his momentum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But he is as wrong on his theology as he is on the science.

Certainly there are people of faith who don't consider environmentalism a part of their religion. But there are also many environmentalists who see their activism as deeply rooted in Scripture and faith traditions. Threats to the natural world at times implicitly involve issues with which religion has long grappled, among them materialism, social and economic justice, and love of God and neighbor. Indeed, it is not a little ironic that Santorum, a devout Roman Catholic, is at odds with Pope Benedict XVI and the nation's Roman Catholic bishops who view climate change with alarm. They have repeatedly called on the government to address it as a matter of prudence, and to aid poor nations and people who are least responsible for climate change and least able to cope with its consequences.

"At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures," the U.S. bishops wrote. "It is about the future of God's creation and the one human family. It is about protecting both 'the human environment' and the natural environment. It is about our human stewardship of God's creation and our responsibility to those who come after us."

The Catholic Church is not alone in this view. Many mainline Protestant groups, Eastern Orthodoxy and various streams of Judaism are also actively engaged in conservation issues. Eastern Orthodoxy's Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has called environmental abuse a "sin." And cliches about evangelicals to the contrary, many are making "creation care," as they call it, a moral imperative.

A group of evangelical Protestants worked successfully to oppose the watering down of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and mounted a headline-catching campaign several years ago for higher-mileage cars by asking, "What Would Jesus Drive?" In West Virginia, where coal mining is a major employer and the bedrock of the state's economy, religious folk have called for new regulations to protect streams and hollows from mountaintop coal mining. In Texas, where big oil ordinarily reigns supreme, congregants have campaigned for greenhouse gas reductions from the state's refineries. […]

The greening of faith: Santorum is at odds with his own church on environmental issues

In this 2009 photo, trees infested with the mountain pine beetle die off in large numbers in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, turning into red and gray skeletons. A new book by Reese Halter, 'The Insatiable Bark Beetle', attributes the infestation mostly to climate change. Los Angeles Times

By Dean Kuipers
27 February 2012

Hear the sound of chewing out in our vast forests of lodgepole pine, spruce and fir, the chewing that’s already destroyed half the commercial timber in important regions like British Columbia? That’s the sound of climate change, says biologist Reese Halter. Global warming in the form of a bark beetle.

Halter’s short but disturbing new book, The Insatiable Bark Beetle, addresses one of the biggest and most visible issues facing global forests, and particularly the relatively large forests left in the U.S. and Canada. As winters grow warmer and summers drier, the West’s evergreen forests are being eaten alive. And the infestation is not showing any signs of slowing.

The most disturbing part? Halter puts the blame squarely on climate change, of which the infestations are not only a symptom but a cause – a feedback loop. “The beetles have taken a crucial terrestrial system that absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) – what’s known in biological parlance as a ‘carbon sink’ – and turned it into a ‘carbon source,’” Halter writes. “Over the next decade, the beetle-killed BC forests will emit 250 million metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of five years of car and light truck emissions in Canada.”

A good portion of this easy-reading book is about loops, actually. How melting permafrost releases methane, which raises global temps and melts more permafrost; how stressed trees attract beetles, which kill the trees, which attracts more beetles; how global warming accelerates global warming. Halter has simplified some of the science in order to make it a quick read, but it’s kind of like reading a well-written death report. Uplifting, it ain’t.

What Insatiable does well, however, is convey the information fast and straight. Like Halter’s earlier book, The Incomparable Honey Bee, the beetle book is an attractive, small-format mini-tome printed by Rocky Mountain Books, in a series apparently devoted to eco-manifestoes. This is one.

Bark beetle infestations have been big news for at least 15 years, with whole mountainsides of conifers very visibly dead and brown in the middle of otherwise healthy forests, and a lot of focus has been on winter temperatures and rainfall. When early fall and late spring temps dip deep, down to a range of -13 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, the beetles are killed off. But that’s not happening now.

The trillions of beetles involved didn’t blow in from somewhere else, either: the main culprit, the mountain pine beetle, is indigenous to North America. Only about the size of a grain of rice, it swarms trees with a synchronous attack, thousands or millions of beetles on one tree at a time, overwhelming the tree’s natural defenses such as its resinous sap, which contains terpenes and other chemicals which are designed to repel bugs, fungi, and other invaders. Even trees that aren’t stressed by heat or drought can be overwhelmed by the scale of this attack. […]

Global warming feeds bark beetles: Are they unstoppable?

Dr. Peter Gleick said: 'My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts to attack climate science'. Paul Chinn / The ChronicleBy LESLIE KAUFMAN
23 February 2012

Focus on the contents of the internal documents leaked last week from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit known for attacking climate science, has been largely lost in the wake of the revelation of the leaker’s identity: Peter Gleick, a scientist.

But beyond the controversy and the confession is the fact that Heartland does not deny what the two authentic documents obtained by Dr. Gleick reveal: that the institute is working to influence climate education in the schools.

In its 2012 fund-raising plan, Heartland said that an “anonymous donor” had pledged the first $100,000 toward this end and that it hoped to use that gift to develop matching funds.

Heartland is soliciting contributors for a “global warming curriculum” developed by a part-time Department of Energy consultant, David Wojick, which in Heartland’s estimation “appears to have great potential for success.”

Heartland described its plan this way: “Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”), climate models (“models are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial”), and air pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions”).

Dr. Wojick confirmed via e-mail that he did make the proposals and explained his reasons. In doing his work for the Department of Energy, he said, he was exposed to lots of curriculums on the subject and found it all slanted toward the alarmist anthropogenic global warming view. […]

But climate scientists who looked at Dr. Wojick’s evaluation of the data say that he is willfully misreading the findings. “You have to be specially trained to be so blind,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist with Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Dr. Schmidt says that the climate records are actually all in agreement about long-term warming trends. This is clearest in data that has been adjusted for variations in El Niño and volcanoes. If the El Niño effects are included, there was a big spike in 1998 which models don’t necessarily have. But to say that we have not warmed is to ignore the underlying trend line up, he explained. The models and observations all agree, for example, that the last decade was the warmest on record.

“The big issue with creating curricula is cutting through the details to find what is important,” said Dr. Schmidt, “Instead, he is using details to obscure.”

Behind the Controversy, an Effort to Rewrite Curriculum on Climate Change

Cover of the 'Delivering Tomorrow: Logistics 2050' study by Deutsche Post DHL, February 2012.Berlin/Bonn, 27 February 2012 (DHL) – With its release of the study of the future, Delivering Tomorrow: Logistics 2050, Deutsche Post DHL is taking a far-reaching look into the future of trade, business and society. The study examines five different scenarios of life in the year 2050. These five visions of the future are based on a detailed analysis of the most critical factors - including trade and consumption patterns, technological and social trends as well as climate change - and estimate their probable impact on people's behavior and values in 2050.

"The pace of change has rapidly accelerated in recent years," Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, said at the presentation of the study in Berlin. "In this complex economic, political and social climate, it has become practically impossible to make linear forecasts. In a world that is becoming harder and harder to predict, we have to expand our horizon and think about alternatives. We can devise robust strategies and set the right course only if we have gained an understanding of different perspectives."

All scenarios share a common element: the transformed role of logistics.

The development of the study was supported by 42 highly respected experts including Klaus Töpfer (former German Environmental Minister and Director of the U.N. Environmental Program), Fatih Birol (Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency) and Michael ten Hompel (Managing Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics), as well as leading representatives of such organizations as the World Economic Forum, the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK), the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace International.

The central finding of the study is a comprehensive collection of five credible visions of the future. They outline how different the world could appear in 2050 in terms of the degree of globalization, the extent of economic and social development, predominant technology standards and environmental conditions. The study describes five far-reaching, occasionally radical, versions of life in 2050. All scenarios share a common element: the broadly transformed role of logistics. Overall demand for logistics services does indeed climb in most of the five alternative scenarios. But the particular requirements placed on logistics providers and the special challenges they face vary widely from scenario to scenario. […]

Scenario 1, Untamed Economy - Impending Collapse

The world is characterized by unchecked materialism and mass consumption. This non-sustainable way of life is fed by the relentless exploitation of resources, a development that stokes climate change and causes natural disasters to mount. In a world characterized by tumultuous growth, demand for logistics and transport services climbs sharply. A global transportation supergrid ensures a rapid exchange of goods between centers of consumption. But as climate change advances, supply chains are increasingly disrupted, a development causing additional challenges for logistics companies.

Scenario 2: Megaefficiency in megacities

"Megacities" have emerged as the world's power centers. They are both the main drivers and beneficiaries of a paradigm shift toward "green" growth. To overcome the challenges of expanding urban structures, such as congestion and emissions, megacities have become champions of collaboration. Robotics has revolutionized the world of production and services. Consumers have changed their habits: Products are now usually rented, instead of purchased. Highly efficient traffic concepts have relieved congestion. A global supergrid with mega transporters, including trucks, ships and aircraft, as well as space transporters, has opened important trade connections between the megacities of the world. The logistics industry has been entrusted to run city logistics, utilities, and system services for airports, hospitals and shopping malls.

Scenario 3, Customized Lifestyles

This scenario describes a world where individualization and personalized consumption are pervasive. Consumers are empowered to create, design and make their own products. Newly developed 3D printers play a major role here. This leads to a rise in regional trade streams, with only raw materials and data still flowing globally. Customization and regional production are complemented by decentralized energy systems and infrastructure. The implications for logistics include a vastly reduced need for long-distance transportation of finished and semi-finished goods due to the localization of value chains. Logistics providers organize the entire physical value chain. They also handle the encrypted data streams required for the transmission of construction and design blueprints for 3D printers. The decentralized organization of production turns strong regional logistics capabilities and a high-quality last-mile network into important success factors.

Scenario 4, Paralyzing Protectionism

This scenario describes a world where, triggered by economic hardship, excessive nationalism and protectionist barriers, globalization has been reversed. Technological development is lagging. High energy prices and dramatic scarcity of supply lead to international conflicts over resource deposits. Implications for the logistics industry include challenges posed by the decline in world trade and the resulting regionalization of supply chains. Governments view logistics as a strategic industry. As relations between some blocs and countries are extremely strained, logistics providers in bloc-free countries act as intermediaries in international trade brokerage.

Scenario 5, Global Resilience - Local Adaptation

This scenario describes a world initially characterized by a high level of consumption thanks to cheap, automated production. However, due to accelerated climate change, frequent catastrophes disrupt supply chains and lean production structures, resulting in repeated supply failures. The new economic paradigm is distinguished by a shift away from efficiency maximization to vulnerability mitigation and resilience. This radical move toward redundant systems of production and a change from global to regionalized supply chains allow the global economy to better weather troubling times. The resilient world in 2050, with regionalized trade, relies on a logistics sector that ensures supply security as a top priority, with backup infrastructure to guarantee reliable transport in unstable and hazardous times. Instead of complex just-in-time delivery processes, huge warehouse structures located close to the manufacturer are seen as indispensable buffers.

The world in 2050: Deutsche Post DHL releases a study on the future


By arevamirpal::laprimavera
27 February 2012

The documentary includes footage from early days of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster that started on 11 March 2011 that I've never seen before - weather camera video when the tsunami hit the plant, a video shot by a plant worker as he tried to escape uphill. The fact I wasn't aware at that time - there were people in Okuma-machi (where the plant is located) on March 12 when the radiation was vented, looking for their family members lost in the earthquake/tsunami.

People interviewed include a current TEPCO employee at the plant, a former plant inspector, farmers and fishermen in Fukushima, and Naoto Kan, who has been very busy spinning the story ever since he finally quit so that he is portrayed as a "hero", foiled by the scheming bureaucracy.

BBC obliged. But it is still a very good documentary.

BBC This World 2012 Inside the Meltdown

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig before the blowout and explosion on 20 April 2010. via

By Jef Feeley and Laurel Brubaker Calkins
25 February 2012

BP Plc (BP) officials overseeing the Macondo well that spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico ignored questions about whether safety tests done hours before a fatal blast on the drilling rig were flawed, lawyers for Transocean Ltd. (RIG) said in a court filing.

Donald Vidrine, the senior BP manager on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010, talked with an engineer about unsatisfactory well tests less than an hour before an explosion killed 11 workers on the rig and sent oil pouring into the waters off Louisiana, Transocean’s attorneys said in a filing tied to a trial set for tomorrow with billions of dollars at stake. Transocean owned the rig and was drilling in a well owned by BP and other partners.

While Mark Hafle, a Houston-based BP drilling engineer, warned Vidrine in a phone call that stability tests on the well might be flawed, “neither man stopped work” at the facility, Transocean officials said in the Feb. 24 filing. The BP officials allowed crews to continue displacing drilling fluid in the well with seawater, company lawyers said in the filing. Once the fluid was removed, the lighter seawater couldn’t stop natural gas from leaking into the well, leading to the explosion, the filing said.

The filing came three days before BP, Transocean, the U.S. government and plaintiffs suing over the oil spill are scheduled to begin a trial in New Orleans to apportion blame for the disaster and determine exposure to punitive damages.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who will hear the case without a jury, is to rule whether BP should get help from the other firms involved in paying the $26 billion in costs associated with the disaster and its resulting offshore spill, the largest in U.S. history. […]

Vidrine has refused to testify about his actions on the rig, citing medical-related problems. His lawyer, Robert N. Habans Jr., didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages yesterday seeking comment on the filing. […]

Transocean officials have urged Barbier to force Vidrine to testify, calling him in court filings a “key source of information regarding critical events and operations that occurred immediately prior to the blowout.”

Barbier ruled this month that Vidrine must be examined by an independent doctor to determine whether he should be required to give a deposition in the case. […]

“The fact that BP’s on-shore drilling engineer and well site leader disregarded then negative pressure test results is critical to establishing that key BP personnel failed to stop work despite having knowledge of the unsatisfactory test results,” Transocean’s lawyers said in the filing. […]

BP Ignored Well Test Warning, Transocean Says on Eve of Trial


Rising out of the water like monsters from the deep are a 21st-century phenomenon, huge fishing boats that are among the largest in Europe. Three of the giants - the Antares, Charisma, and Zephyr - around £50million worth of fishing vessels - were tied up, standing idle in the port. Seventeen captains of fishing boats involved in a £47.5million ‘black fish’ scam have been fined £720,000 and told they brought shame on the industry.

By Lewis Smith, fish2fork news
24 February 2012

Seventeen captains of fishing boats involved in a £47.5million ‘black fish’ scam have been fined £720,000 and told they brought shame on the industry.

The skippers had landed mackerel and herring in Lerwick and made false declarations about the quantities so that they could avoid reaching their quota levels and carry on fishing.

The Judge, Lord Turnbull, at the High Court in Glasgow, described their actions as motivated by greed and said the scam had been “cynical and sophisticated”. […]

“The motivation was purely financial. Those who were already making a good living saw this as a way more income could be generated and were prepared to participate in deliberate lies and falsehoods.”

A fish processing factory, Alexander Buchan Ltd, was fined £240,000 for helping the skippers make false declarations. […]

Lindsey Miller, Head of the Serious and Organised Crime Division, said after the hearing: “Organised crime takes many forms. These individuals may not have been involved in drug dealing or prostitution but let us make no mistake that they were involved in significant and serious organised criminality.

“The legislation is there to protect the marine environment for the good of all and to safeguard the future of the fishing industry. These men disregarded it for their own financial gain.”

Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian Police, led the police investigation, and said:

"The scale of crime committed by these individuals was at a level rarely seen before.

"It was apparent during our investigations that these individuals totally disregarded any legislation to prevent this occurring and as can be seen from the landings made, they amassed huge sums of money through their own greed.”

The seventeen skippers had admitted the illegal landings and at a hearing in December they were ordered to pay back almost £3 million in confiscation orders.

The 17 vessel skippers, the amounts of the confiscation orders, and the fines are:

  • Hamish Slater, 53, Master of Enterprise, confiscation order £425,900, fined £80,000
  • Robert Polson, 48, Master of Serene, confiscation order £371,300, fined £70,000
    Victor Buschini, 51, Master of Enterprise, confiscation order £341,000, fined £70,000
  • Alexander Masson, 66, Master of Kings Cross, confiscation order £283,000, fined £50,000
  • John Irvine, 68, Master of Zephyr,  confiscation order £236,000, fined £80,000
  • William Andrew Williamson, 65, Master of Research W, confiscation order £213,000, fined £45,000
  • Laurence Anderson Irvine, 66, Master of Antares, confiscation order £210,700, fined £80,000
  • Alexander Wiseman, 60, Master of Kings Cross, confiscation order £196,000, fined £50,000
  • David Hutchison, 66, Master of Charisma, confiscation order £140,900, fined £40,000
  • Thomas Eunson, 56, Master of the Serene, confiscation order, £140,500, fined £40,000
  • Allister Irvine, 63, Master of the Zephyr, confiscation order, £120,600, fined £35,000
  • Gary Williamson, 52, Master of the Research W, confiscation order £118,500, fined £35,000
  • George Andrew Henry, 60, Master of the Adenia, confiscation order £51,300, fined £12,000
  • John William Stewart, 57, Master of the Antarctic, confiscation order £41,300, fined £15,000
  • George Anderson, 56, Master of the Adenia, confiscation order £40,700, fined £12,000
  • Colin Andrew Leask, 39, Master of the Antarctic II, confiscation order £12,000, fined £3,000
  • Allen Anderson, 55, Master of the Serene, confiscation order £2,700, fined £3,000

Alexander Buchan Limited, had a £165,000 confiscation order on December 16 and has now been fined £240,000.

'Greedy and shameful' fishermen condemned for £47.5 million black fish scam

By Willie
24 February 2012

Organised crime seems to pay quite handsomely, especially if you manage to be part of a profession that seems to be beyond reproach. That can surely be the only conclusion to draw from the group of 17 fishermen who were fined a mere £720 thousand in court today for an overfishing scam that effectively stole £63 MILLION of fish from our seas.

The case has been dragging on for many years, and uncovered a huge network designed to bypass the official systems to land illegal fish in vast quantities. This involved skippers on boats, processing factories on land, doctored weighing machines, and even secret pipes to surreptitiously siphon off the illicit fish.

The Judge described the whole operation as ‘cynical and sophisticated’, yet the sentence seems to make a mockery of the sheer scale of the crime.

The fish involved were mackerel and herring, caught by large boats in the pelagic fishing sector. These boats are the biggest and most lucrative in the UK’s fishing fleet. Ironically it is this same fishery that provides ‘sustainable’ MSC mackerel and is now embroiled in a bitter dispute with their North Atlantic neighbours over access to the fish.

This has happened before, in another fishery, at the other end of the UK. In 2009 the Stevenson family, of Newlyn, found guilty of another widespread scam to land illegal fish from their beam trawling fleet, were fined a nominal fee of £1 for each offence - despite profiting by over £4million from the fish illegally landed.

Today’s verdict is a slap in the face to all of us.  Because if anyone ‘owns’ the fish in the sea – then we all do. And this was stolen from us.

But most disgusting of all is that the vast amounts of overfishing by these boats, and the puny fines received, are happening at the same time as the other end of our fishing industry – the small-scale, inshore, low-impact vessels are struggling to make ends meet.  It’s no exaggeration to say that some of the local fishermen around our coasts are in danger of going to the wall over access to just a few boxes worth of quota for these fish.

It’s high time we realised there is not one homogenous ‘fishing industry’, and started supporting the progressive, low-impact end of the scale. These guys are the heart and soul of coastal communities, and yet are not being represented by a system which favours the better-organised, bigger boats.

At the moment it seems like the bigger you are, the softer you fall.

Scandalous sentences for Scottish skippers

Factory trawler in Whalsay, Scotland. 17 fishermen who were fined a mere £720 thousand for an overfishing scam that effectively stole £63 million of fish from our seas.

By Charlie Gall
20 February 2012

SETTING foot on the island of Whalsay is something like being teleported to a real-life Land of the Giants.

Rising out of the water like monsters from the deep are a 21st-century phenomenon, huge fishing boats that are among the largest in Europe.

The gigantic trawlers, not far off the length of a football pitch, tower above other fishing boats and pleasure craft.

But the pride of Shetland's fishing fleet became embroiled in a scheme that made another island saga - the Whisky Galore plunder of 50,000 cases from the shipwrecked SS Politician - seem like small beer.

Seventeen skippers, most of them from Whalsay, and a processing firm netted £47.5million in the biggest fishing scam in Scots history.

The colossal "black fish" haul - in which skippers under-reported their catches of mackerel and herring to breach EU quotas - dwarfed sums stolen in many of Britain's most notorious robberies.

So it is little wonder that Whalsay, a tiny isle off the north-east tip of the Shetland mainland, quickly earned the nickname "Millionaires Island" with a fleet of trawlers capable of hauling seven-figure fortunes from the sea. […]

The main industry of the island has always been fishing and the harbour at Symbister had to be improved to make room for the larger pelagic - deep ocean - trawlers.

Last week, three of the giants - the Antares, Charisma, and Zephyr - around £50 million worth of fishing vessels - were tied up, standing idle in the port. Amazingly, it's a familiar sight.

The boats are so big they are capable of scooping up their entire annual quota of mackerel and herring in just a handful of trips to sea. […]

Black fish scandal: How fishing quota scam saw tiny isle of Whalsay earn 'Millionaires Island' nickname

Accumulated property damage from 2000 to the year on the abscissa for hurricanes downscaled from the GFDL CM2.0 model, for constant climate (blue ) and a warming climate under IPCC scenario A1b (red). The solid curves show particular realizations of a 1000-member ensemble, while the error bars show one standard deviation up and down from the ensemble mean. From Emanuel (2012)

Accumulated property damage from 2000 to the year on the abscissa for hurricanes downscaled from the GFDL CM2.0 model, for constant climate (blue) and a warming climate under IPCC scenario A1b (red). The solid curves show particular realizations of a 1000-member ensemble, while the error bars show one standard deviation up and down from the ensemble mean. From Emanuel (2012).

Effect of Climate Change on U.S. Hurricane Property Damage [pdf]

Calves pass a nearly empty watering pond in Texas that has been drained by the extended drought. Getty

By Andrew Freedman
25 February 2012

(Climate Central) – Defying seasonal climate forecasts, this winter has been very good to Texas, which has been locked in the grips of one of the worst droughts in state history. But the unexpectedly generous winter storms have come too late for some, since water supplies are still running low.

As I reported in late January, managers of the Lower Colorado River are likely to take the unprecedented step of denying water for rice growers in Southeast Texas, putting several thousand jobs at risk. Although the decision won't be made until March 1, it is unlikely that Texas will receive enough rainfall to put reservoirs above the mark set by water managers, who must balance the needs of agricultural producers with the water demands of the city of Austin, power companies, and myriad other users.

The Houston Chronicle reported this week that the Lower Colorado River Authority "may have no choice but to cut off the farmers. The Highland Lakes, two large reservoirs near Austin, must hold a combined 850,000 acre-feet of water by next week before the growers' share can be released, under a drought emergency plan now in effect. As of Wednesday, the lakes had 830,000 acre-feet, 41 percent of capacity."

The fact that the reservoirs are still so low indicates the severity of the long-term precipitation deficit that Texas is still dealing with, despite a three-month period with above average rainfall.

The rains have certainly eased the drought in the short-term, however, as seen in the U.S. Drought Monitor. On Dec. 6, 2011, 90 percent of Texas was experiencing between "severe" to "exceptional" drought conditions. In the latest update to the map, however, 67 percent of the state falls into that range, and a sliver of the state is shown to be free of drought conditions entirely, at least for now. […]

According to Victor Murphy, the climate service program manager for the National Weather Service's southern region, Texans should thank a combination of factors. First, there is natural climate variability, the effects of which are difficult to predict. Second, he said, the weak La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean is playing a role. […]

"The same anomaly in the jet stream that is causing the contiguous U.S. to have its fourth warmest winter on record through the end of January is mainly responsible for the wetness across Texas," Murphy said via email.
The big question now is whether this wet weather pattern will last long enough to make a lasting dent in the drought. Unfortunately, the spring outlook still calls for below average rainfall. If this happens, look for a swift end to the recent improving trend, and drought conditions could worsen once again during spring and summer.

Texas Drought Eases, But It's Too Late for Some

Wilde (left), and research assistant Aaron Urbanczyk sort through minnows, 17 September 2011. The fish the pair are looking for are found only in the Brazos and nowhere else in the world and are both candidates to be listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. They will be taken to the state's fish hatchery near Possum Kingdom Lake but returned to the river when the drought abates. LM Otero / AP

By BETSY BLANEY, Associated Press
23 February 2012

LUBBOCK – One of Texas' five fish hatcheries will likely suspend operations because of low water levels in lakes that feed it, state officials said Wednesday.

Todd Engeling, the hatcheries program director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said a closure would mean fewer fish available to sportsmen this year. A decision on whether to temporarily close Dundee Fish Hatchery west of Wichita Falls will come in the next two weeks.

"It will last until there is enough water for us to operate with," Engeling said.

Texas is coming off its driest year on record in 2011, and levels in a lake that feeds the one used by the hatchery are low. The drought, which began in fall of 2010, caused wildfires statewide, cost agriculture an estimated $5.2 billion in livestock and crop losses, and left lawns, trees and pastures parched. […]

Production of largemouth bass, the most targeted fish for sportsmen, would be impacted by the shift, Engeling said.

"There's a limited amount of ponds we have for production across the state," he said. "Something has to give, so the squeeze right now is in the largemouth bass."

Texas drought could close fish hatchery

Lake Oroville, South Fork of Feather River, 12 March 2009, looking West. This photo was shot from just in over of the Lumpkin Road Bridge. Note the amount of water in the riverbed.

By Carey Gillam
23 February 2012

(Reuters) – Drought kept a tight grip on large sections of the United States, but recent rains put some of the most hard-hit areas on the road to recovery, a report from climate experts said Thursday.

Recent rains and snowfall boosted soil moisture and started to replenish ground water supplies in key areas of the U.S. South that suffered historic drought in 2011.

"It's been pretty darn wet, the last 90 days … we've seen improvements," said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist at the University of Nebraska's Drought Mitigation Center. "It's been very unexpected but very welcomed."

Moisture has been especially critical for Texas, and the state's level of drought saw notable improvement over the last week, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report on drought throughout the country compiled by U.S. climate experts.

In Texas, the levels of exceptional drought - the highest measurement - fell to 13.93 percent of the state from 20.41 percent in the latest reporting week, ended Feb. 21. Severe or worse drought levels dropped to 67.48 percent from 76.46 percent.

Texas is trying to emerge from a year that saw records shattered for both high heat and lack of moisture. The one-year period between Nov. 1, 2010, and Oct. 31, 2011, was the driest in the state's history, and the three-month period of June to August in Texas was the hottest ever reported by any state in U.S. history, according to state and federal climate experts.

Conditions grew more dire in the west, however. California saw moderate or worse drought rise to 67.76 percent of the state, up from 59.06 percent in the latest reporting week.

Nevada had 81.80 percent of the state rated in moderate or worse drought, up from 81.59 percent the prior week. Arizona saw moderate drought rise to 86.92 percent of the state from 80.56 percent. And New Mexico also saw drought spread. […]

Drought improves in Texas, worsens in western U.S.

Workers test a car in Japan for radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. Kanji Tada / Yomiuri Shimbun / AP Photo

By arevamirpal::laprimavera
25 February 2012

That's when they started testing, and 500 used cars from Nagoya Port alone.

Japanese used cars are popular in Russia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Despite the nuclear accident, the number of exported used cars in 2011 increased slightly over 2010 to 857,779 cars according to the Used Car Export Industry News, with Russia at the top with over 110K, followed by the United Arab Emirates.

Kyodo News (2/25/2012):


Nagoya Port Authority disclosed on February 25 that 500 used cars were found with radiation levels at or exceeding 0.3 microsievert/hour, the standard set by the [used car] industry from August last year to January this year, and that the cars were returned to the shippers.


The used cars were to be exported outside Japan or to be transported to different parts of Japan. Nagoya Port Authority does not keep track of the cars returned to the shippers.


According to Nagoya Port Authority, 0.3 microsievert/hour standard was set by the Japan Harbor Transportation Association and All Japan Dockworkers' Union (JDU) to secure the safety of the dockworkers. The radiation testing has been done at ports in Japan since August last year. […]

500 Used Cars to Be Shipped from Nagoya Port Have Exceeded Radiation Limit Since August Last Year

"Bitches be cryin' about a carbon tax"

In the media landscape, there are climate change deniers and believers, but rarely are those speaking about climate change actually climate scientists.

Word up with these scientists and numerous students:

  • Dr. Jason Evans, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW
  • Dr. Katrin Meissner, Senior Lecturer, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW
  • Prof. Roger N. Jones, Centre for Strategic Economic Studies
  • Dr. Ailie Gallant, School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne
  • Dr. Leanne Armand, Climate Futures Research Centre, Macquairie University
  • Dr. Linda Beaumont, Climate Futures Research Centre, Macquairie University

I'm A Climate Scientist - Extended Version (NSFW)

People displaced by Bakun dam - hundreds are living in so-called floating homes. © Bruno Manser Fund

BASEL, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) has today disclosed a series of shocking pictures from the Bakun dam exclusion zone showing disturbing poverty and environmental destruction in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo. A BMF research team has managed to overcome the tight security measures preventing journalists or NGOs to travel behind the recently filled Bakun dam wall, Asia’s largest dam outside China and the world’s second-tallest concrete-faced rockfill dam.

The only recently completed 2,400 MW hydropower dam was meant to bring development and progress to the people of Sarawak. Pictures now disclosed to the public, however, show its real consequences: displaced indigenous communities forced to live in floating homes and the destruction of a unique rainforest habitat that counts among the most biodiverse in the world.

“The extent of suffering by the displaced communities is shocking”, said BMF campaigner Anna Meier, who had visited the dam site. “Hundreds of displaced people are living in floating homes on the Bakun impoundment. Malaysia’s showcase development project has turned into a disaster dam.” An indigenous Ukit community now living in floating homes was forcibly displaced while their village and graveyards were flooded. “Our aim is to build a new longhouse onshore near our former village”, the headman of the Ukit community said. “But we lack the funds and the government refuses to support us. They have not even paid us compensation for our submerged land because we refused to move to the resettlement site of the government.” As their traditional farmlands have been flooded, the Ukits live from fishing, hunting and harvesting some of the trees flooded by Bakun dam.

The Bakun dam construction submerged 695 square kilometers of rainforest, an area the size of Singapore, and with it parts of one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The visitor can now watch a unique world drowning in the waters of Bakun impoundment: trees change their colour from green over brown to grey until they will finally disappear in the rising water for ever. Close to 10,000 Sarawak natives have been forcibly displaced but some refused to move to the resettlement site and returned to what is left of their former lands.

The Bruno Manser Fund calls on the Sarawak state government to immediately lift all travel restrictions to the Bakun dam site and to the Murum dam construction site in order to allow independent journalists and the public to take notice of what is really going on with these mega-projects. Malaysia is also asked to assist the Ukits and other indigenous communities in the Bakun region to return to their unflooded traditional lands and to pay the full compensation for their submerged lands and houses.

EXCLUSIVE: First pictures from sealed-off Bakun dam zone reveal social and environmental disaster

The KS Endeavour rig burns off the coast of Nigeria, 25 January 2012. PTI /

By Osa Okhomina
24 February 2012

The Bayelsa State House of Assembly has passed a two-point resolution calling on the federal government and Chevron Nigeria Limited to send relief materials and medical teams immediately to all the communities affected by the recent gas explosion at Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the State.

Chevron, the House directed, should as a matter of urgency put out the fire and stop any leakages arising from the explosion and pay adequate compensation to the affected communities.

Moving the motion under matters of urgent public importance, the member representing Southern Ijaw I, Kuroakegha Dorgu, regretted that over a month after the gas explosion, the fire still raged on and nothing substantial had been done by the company to ameliorate the suffering of the people.

Nigeria: Gas Rig Explosion - Reps Task Chevron Over Relief Materials

A fallen bicycle lies on a Futaba pavement, abandoned after meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. AP

25 February 2012 (AFP) – Japan on Friday said some areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was wrecked last year by a massive tsunami will likely remain permanently off-limits.

Measurements taken between November and January confirm earlier results which show a level of radioactivity of 470 millisierverts per year when the average, under normal conditions, is less than one per year, according to a government report released Friday.

Some of the highest readings were taken in the town of Futaba, to the northwest of the plant wrecked on March 11.

Contamination however did not spread evenly over the town, with some areas hardly affected, the report added.

The government has cordoned off a 20-kilometre (12-mile) area around the plant, in northeast Japan, but is expected to redefine this in line with levels of radioactive contamination.

A final report by the environment ministry, expected in the coming weeks, is expected to declare as permanently off-limits to human habitation any area with contamination of more than 50 millisieverts per year.

The government is expected to pinpoint areas where contamination hovers between one and 20 millisieverts per year which will be thoroughly decontaminated.

"In between" areas are expected to be declared no-go for many years, but decontamination work will take place with a view to allowing repopulation in the long term.

Homes near Japan nuke plant may be banned for ever

A refugee family, who survived 2010 flooding, dig a moat around their tent at a camp in Nowshera, Pakistan on 26 July 2011.

16 February 2012 (presstv) – Millions of Pakistanis are still at serious risk of malnutrition and disease due to a weak international response to the country’s second major flooding crisis in two years.

The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF) said Thursday that at least 2.5 million people in the flood-hit country are still suffering from the lack of food, water, shelter, sanitation and healthcare. The conditions put them at serious risk of malnutrition, disease and deepening poverty, PHF said.

The PHF, a network of the 41 largest international charities in the country, called on the international community and the Pakistani government to take urgent steps with the next monsoon season months away.

“The needs of the communities affected by the floods are still enormous with women, children, the elderly and disabled particularly vulnerable,” said PHF Head Aine Fay.

“With funds drying up, millions will find it extremely hard to make it through the next few months. Donors and the government of Pakistan must step up their response immediately,” said Oxfam’s country director Neva Khan.

“The floods have exposed and deepened a food crisis in Sindh that has resulted in malnutrition rates far worse than those in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said David Wright, the director of Save the Children in Pakistan.

Pakistan was hit by the worst floods in the country's history in 2010 which left more than 1,750 people dead. An estimated 18 million people were also affected by the floods, according to the Oxfam aid organization.

Heavy rainfall in August 2011 also caused significant devastation across Pakistan. The hardest hit province was Sindh, with 22 out of 23 districts affected.

Millions of Pakistan flood victims still at risk: PHF

A flood-affected family in Pakistan washing clothes in rising floodwaters next to their temporary camp in Digri, Sindh province. UN

21 February 2012 (UN) – The United Nations and the Pakistani Government today jointly requested $440 million to help people affected by last year’s floods in the south of the country recover their sources of livelihood, including agriculture, restore basic social services, and repair damaged infrastructure.

More than five million people, according to UN figures, were affected by the floods that affected much of the country and hit the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan the hardest.

“The Floods Early Recovery Framework is a collaborative effort of the Government, the UN and civil society to bridge relief to recovery,” said Timo Pakkala, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan, at the launch of the recovery plan in the capital, Islamabad.

“It is critical that the international community support this effort to make communities safer, more resilient, and better prepared in the event of possible future flooding and other disasters.”

During the early recovery phase, the Government and the UN and partners will also support communities through planning and exploring solutions to reduce the impact the floods by implementing measures to boost resilience and disaster preparedness.

“We highly appreciate the unflinching support and assistance provided by the international community to the people of Pakistan, during these testing times,” said Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Planning and Development.

An initial rapid response plan for the 2011 floods launched in September is currently funded at 47 per cent, having received $168 million of the $356 million requested for humanitarian and early recovery needs until March this year.

The Government, the UN and partners have supplied food to more than three million people and provided emergency shelter to an estimated 450,000 households. More than 1.2 million people have received clean drinking water, while 1.35 million others have been assisted with essential medicines and emergency health care.

Further funding is critical, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with many people still at risk, particularly when they return to their villages and need assistance to rebuild their lives.

Pakistan: UN and Government request additional funding for post-flood recovery

Dead trees in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 2006. Vickie DihnWASHINGTON, DC, 23 February 2012 (ENS) – New Orleans, Houston, and Albuquerque are losing trees faster than any other U.S. cities, and across the country tree cover is declining at a rate of about four million trees per year, finds new U.S. Forest Service research published in the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

Researchers had expected to find a loss of trees in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Our urban forests are under stress, and it will take all of us working together to improve the health of these crucial green spaces," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

Urban trees provide benefits three times greater than tree care costs, as much as $2,500 in environmental services such as reduced heating and cooling costs during a tree's lifetime.

For the study, forest researchers David Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station used satellite imagery to find that tree cover is decreasing at a rate of about 0.27 percent of land area per year in U.S. cities. This is equivalent to about 0.9 percent of existing urban tree cover being lost annually. […]

Tree cover in 17 of the 20 cities analyzed in the study declined, while 16 cities saw increases in "impervious cover," that does not allow rain and snow to reach the ground, including pavement and rooftops.

Tree cover ranged from a high of 53.9 percent in Atlanta to a low of 9.6 percent in Denver while total impervious cover varied from 61.1 percent in New York City to 17.7 percent in Nashville. Cities with the greatest annual increase in impervious cover were Los Angeles, Houston, and Albuquerque.

"Tree cover loss would be higher if not for the tree planting efforts cities have undertaken in the past several years," said Nowak. "Tree planting campaigns are helping to increase, or at least reduce the loss of, urban tree cover, but reversing the trend may demand more widespread, comprehensive and integrated programs that focus on sustaining overall tree canopy."

Only one city, Syracuse, New York, exhibited an overall increase in tree cover. However, the increase was dominated by European buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, an invasive small tree / shrub from Europe, and the most of the city's cover increase is likely due to natural regeneration.

"Trees are an important part of the urban landscape," said Michael Rains, director of the Northern Research Station. "They play a role in improving air and water quality and provide so many environmental and social benefits. As our Forest Service Chief says, 'Urban trees are the hardest working trees in America.' This research is a tremendous resource for cities of all sizes throughout the nation." […]

U.S. Urban Forests Shrinking

SINGAPORE, 24 February 2012 (ENS) – The World Bank today announced the Global Partnership for Oceans, gathering governments, scientists, advocacy organizations, the private sector, and international public institutions to confront the increasingly urgent issues of over-fishing, marine degradation, and habitat loss.

"Oceans are the lifeblood of our world," said World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick, announcing the new partnership in a keynote speech at The Economist magazine's World Oceans Summit in Singapore.

"They flow over more than 70 percent of our planet, and hold about 97 percent of its water. They absorb heat and carbon dioxide, generate oxygen, and shape the world's weather patterns. They provide about 15 percent of the animal protein for the world's population, the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat," Zoellick said. "Whether we live inland or on coastlines, each one of us relies on healthy oceans."

"About 85 percent of the world's fish stocks are either seriously depleted or well on their way. We have over 400 dead zones where life has stopped - an area about the size of New Zealand."

Hector's dolphins die in fishing nets. NZ Department of Conservation"So for us as a development institution, it's also a core issue because about a billion people in the world depend on fish as their primary source of protein. It's a key source of jobs, whether for tourism or fisheries. There's hundreds of millions of jobs depending on this."

"So what we're trying to do is bring the different parties together and send a signal - SOS - Save Our Seas," said Zoellick. "The oceans are everybody's business but no one can do it alone."

"The world's oceans are in danger, and the enormity of the challenge is bigger than one country or organization," he said. "We need coordinated global action to restore our oceans to health. Together we'll build on the excellent work already being done to address the threats to oceans, identify workable solutions, and scale them up."

All entities involved in the partnership are already engaged in ocean protection activities. They agree that the key now is to mobilize around a set of shared goals to help coordinate activities and mobilize new financial support.

The global conservation organization WWF is working with the World Bank and others to protect and restore habitats and species and manage risks to ocean health from land-based pollution and offshore extractive industries.

For instance, WWF-New Zealand today urged the government to ban set net fishing throughout Hector's and Maui's dolphins' habitat, to prevent more dolphins dying needlessly in nets. The call came as two Hector's dolphins were killed by the illegal use of set nets within a sanctuary for the endangered species. […]

Broad Global Partnership Formed to Rescue Troubled Oceans

Smoke rises from an illegal crude oil refinery site in an Ogoni community in Nigeria's Niger Delta 7 July 2010. Akintunde Akinleye / REUTERS

ABUJA, 22 February 2012 (SAPA-AFP) – Oil companies in Nigeria are battling against a rising theft that is costing them an estimated 150,000 barrels of crude each day, an oil major official said on Tuesday.

Ian Craig, vice president for Shell Exploration and Production Africa said militant attacks on oil installations in the southern Niger Delta region had slowed down, but oil theft has surged.

“The greatest challenge … is the massive organised oil theft business and the criminality and corruption which it fosters,” Craig told an annual oil conference of industry players and government.

The stolen oil fuels a lucrative black market across Africa's top oil exporter and its neighbours.

“The volume of oil which is stolen is difficult to estimate but is probably in the region of 150,000” barrels, said Craig.

Attacks on oil installations by militants claiming to be fighting for a share of the oil wealth for locals had, at their peak, slashed Nigeria's production by about a million barrels a day.

A 2009 government amnesty for the militants ended the violence and saw output rebound to levels not seen in years.

“We have been able to bring production back but it is still below pre-militancy levels,” said Craig.

Production stood at 2.18 million barrels per day in January, according to the International Energy Agency.

The oil-and-gas industry accounts for around two-thirds of government revenue and more than 90 percent of export earnings in Nigeria. - Sapa-AFP

Nigeria losing 150 000 barrels of oil per day

By Jon Gambrell, Associated Press
24 April 2011

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) –- Politicians and military leaders — not militants — are responsible for the majority of oil thefts in Nigeria’s crude-rich southern delta, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable quoting a Nigerian official and released by WikiLeaks.

A member of a government panel on troubles in nation’s Niger Delta implicated Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, a general whose brother became president, and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as being the biggest forces behind the thefts, the cable claims. Those thefts also fuel arms sales to the restive region while causing environmental damage and cutting production in a nation crucial to U.S. oil supplies.

“It is in the interests of these people to make it appear that the Niger Delta problem is intractable,” the Jan. 2009 cable quotes panel member Tony Uranta as saying. “As a result, they prop up the militants, including some who have an ideological basis for their actions.”

Abubakar, who ran unsuccessfully this year as a presidential candidate in a ruling-party primary, denied the allegations Monday.

“Atiku said this is a recycled old tale told again and again by business rivals unable to match the business success,” a statement issued to The Associated Press read. “Atiku is unaware of any links that the late General Yar’Adua had with bunkering and he believed absolutely that this is false accusation.”

Yar’Adua, who served as second-in-command of the country’s military government in the late 1970s, died in prison in 1997 after being arrested for criticizing military dictator Sani Abacha. His brother, the President Umaru Yar’Adua, died in May 2010.

The diplomatic cable quotes Uranta as blaming “no more than 15 per cent” of oil thefts on militants operating in the delta, a tropical maze of creeks and waterways about the size of South Carolina. Instead, politicians, retired admirals and generals and others in the country’s elite profit from the thefts. Typically, thieves solder or cut into oil pipelines running through the mangrove swamps of the delta. Some refine the crude into kerosene or diesel in crude refineries, while other oil sails out to foreign ports for sale.

“Uranta claimed that the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the president’s brother, had been the ‘biggest’ bunkerer,” the cable reads, using the local term for oil thieves. “When he died, his holdings were taken over by his brothers but managed on their behalf by his close personal friend, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.”

The large-scale theft, compounded by anger over unceasing poverty and pollution in the delta despite 50 years of oil production, led to an uprising of militants in the region beginning in 2006. Military-grade weapons funneled into the region, turning gunrunners into militant leaders who espoused political ideas — but kept their eyes on the profits from stolen oil. […]

Illegal Nigerian oil trade blamed on corruption


Satellite view of Memorial Park in Houston, Texas, 2010.  via



Satellite view of Memorial Park in Houston, Texas, 2011. Drought has killed most trees. DigitalGlobe

By Matt Dietrichson
16 February 2012

About 5.6 million trees in cities and towns across Texas were killed by last year’s record-setting drought, the Texas Forest Service has estimated after studying before-and-after satellite imagery.

This “dramatic” toll on the state’s urban forest is “a slow-moving disaster, not like a hurricane or ice storm,” lead researcher Pete Smith of the Forest Service told Texas Climate News.

In an announcement of the findings of the study, which was conducted last month, Smith said the estimated number of trees claimed by the drought is only preliminary, because others continue to fall prey to its effects.

“This means we may be significantly undercounting the number of trees that ultimately will succumb to the drought. That number may not be known until the end of 2012, if ever.”

Forest Service researchers believe the drought-killed trees may already account for up to a tenth of those that were growing in Texas cities and towns.

That is consistent with the agency’s estimate last month in a separate study, using a different methodology, that concluded up to half a billion trees outside urban areas had died due to drought impacts – about 10 percent of the forest trees in Texas. […]

Drought’s toll on Texas’ urban forest: Up to 5.6 million trees and counting

A highly deceptive graph from the Wall Street Journal purporting to show that IPCC model predictions of surface warming are 'falsified'. What the authors don't tell you is that the lines they plot are really just the average long-term slopes of a bunch of different models. When you calculate the slope of the data WITH error bars, the model predictions are very likely to be in that range. Disinformation courtesy The Wall Street Journal

By Barry Bickmore
22 February 2012

The Wall Street Journal posted yet another op-ed by 16 scientists and engineers, which even include a few climate scientists(!). Here is the editor’s note to explain the context.

Editor’s Note: The authors of the following letter, listed below, are also the signatories of “No Need to Panic About Global Warming,” an op-ed that appeared in the Journal on January 27. This letter responds to criticisms of the op-ed made by Kevin Trenberth and 37 others in a letter published Feb. 1, and by Robert Byer of the American Physical Society in a letter published Feb. 6.

A relative sent me the article, asking for my thoughts on it. Here’s what I said in response.

Hi [Name Removed],
I don’t have time to do a full reply, but I’ll take apart a few of their main points.

1. The WSJ authors’ main point is that if the data doesn’t conform to predictions, the theory is “falsified”. They claim to show that global mean temperature data hasn’t conformed to climate model predictions, and so the models are falsified.

But let’s look at the graph. They have a temperature plot, which wiggles all over the place, and then they have 4 straight lines that are supposed to represent the model predictions. The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising. The lines for the next 3 IPCC reports are very similar to one another, though. What the authors don’t tell you is that the lines they plot are really just the average long-term slopes of a bunch of different models. The individual models actually predict that the temperature will go up and down for a few years at a time, but the long-term slope (30 years or more) will be about what those straight lines say. Given that these lines are supposed to be average, long-term slopes, take a look at the temperature data and try to estimate whether the overall slope of the data is similar to the slopes of those three lines (from the 1995, 2001, and 2007 IPCC reports). If you were to calculate the slope of the data WITH error bars, the model predictions would very likely be in that range.

That brings up another point. All climate models include parameters that aren’t known precisely, so the model projections have to include that uncertainty to be meaningful. And yet, the WSJ authors don’t provide any error bars of any kind! The fact is that if they did so, you would clearly see that the global mean temperature has wiggled around inside those error bars, just like it was supposed to.

Comparison of the spread of actual IPCC projections (2007) with observations of annual mean temperatures, including error bars. RealClimate

So before I go on, let me be blunt about these guys. They know about error bars. They know that it’s meaningless, in a “noisy” system like global climate, to compare projected long-term trends to just a few years of data. And yet, they did. Why? I’ll let you decide.

2. The WSJ authors say that, although something like 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing “significant” global warming, there really is a lot of disagreement about how much humans contribute to the total. The 97% figure comes from a 2009 study by Doran and Zimmerman.

So they don’t like Doran and Zimmerman’s survey, and they would have liked more detailed questions. After all, D&Z asked respondents to say whether they thought humans were causing “significant” temperature change, and who’s to say what is “significant”? So is there no real consensus on the question of how much humans are contributing?

First, every single national/international scientific organization with expertise in this area and every single national academy of science, has issued a statement saying that humans are causing significant global warming, and we ought to do something about it. So they are saying that the human contribution is “significant” enough that we need to worry about it and can/should do something about it. This could not happen unless there was a VERY strong majority of experts. Here is a nice graphic to illustrate this point (H/T Adam Siegel). […]

Bickmore on the WSJ response


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