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Scientists launch unprecedented Antarctic research mission

LONDON – More than 50 researchers from 30 countries are to carry out the first scientific full circumnavigation of Antarctica in an attempt to measure pollution and climate change, with the official launch held on Monday. The international team will cruise on Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov, leaving Cape Town on December 20 and returning on March 18 next year, braving hostile conditions in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of humankind’s effect on the Southern Ocean.     The Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition (ACE) will be the first scientific mission to study all the major islands in the vast ocean, as well as the Antarctic land mass. “The idea is to visit the islands around Antarctica, which is scientifically extraordinarily interesting,” businessman Frederik Paulsen, a founder of the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) and ACE …

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US ignored rising sea warnings at radar site

Wellington, New Zealand – The United States (US) Air Force is spending nearly $1 billion to build a radar installation that will help keep astronauts and satellites safe by tracking pieces of space junk as small as a baseball. That is, if global warming doesn’t get in the way. The Space Fence is being constructed on a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands that scientists say could be regularly swamped by rising seas within a couple of decades as a result of climate change. The salt water could play havoc with the equipment, the scientists say. And The Associated Press found that neither the military nor its contractor, Lockheed Martin, gave serious consideration to that threat when designing the installation and choosing a site, despite warnings from the island nation’s environmental agency. The …

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Researchers find abundant life in Hawaii’s twilight zone

Honolulu – Coral reefs in Hawaii’s oceanic twilight zone, where light still penetrates and photosynthesis occurs, are abundant and host a wide variety of life, a new study shows. A paper published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ revealed that some of these ecosystems off the Hawaiian archipelago, particularly an area off Maui, are the most extensive deep-water reefs ever recorded. The ecosystems, found in waters from 100 to 500 feet deep, host more than twice the amount of unique Hawaiian fish species as their shallow-water counterparts, and they are much more extensive than previously known. “What is unique about this study is how vast and dense the coral cover is,” Richard Pyle, a Bishop Museum researcher and lead author of the publication, told The Associated Press. Researchers surveyed much of the twilight zone, technically …

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Climate change identified as greatest threat to tropical frogs

By PNA/Xinhua San Francisco – A new study by researchers from several US institutions suggests that climate change may be the most destructive force against tropical frogs. While changes in climate and land use are expected to reduce the livable area for tropical frogs, the researchers have found that declines in frogs’ thermally suitable habitat area from climate change alone could be up to 4.5 times greater than declines attributable to land-cover change only, such as converting a forest to agriculture. Unlike humans, frogs rely on external sources to regulate their body temperature, so habitats in which frogs are unable to keep their body temperature below their maximum temperature limit are unlikely to support frog populations. At the same time, these species will increasingly encounter temperatures hot enough to harm their behavior, reproduction …

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UN agreement reached on aircraft global warming emissions

Washington – The United Nations’ (UN) aviation arm overwhelmingly ratified an agreement Thursday to control global warming emissions from international airline flights, the first climate change pact to set worldwide limits on a single industry. The agreement, adopted overwhelmingly by the 191-nation International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at a meeting in Montreal, sets airlines’ carbon emissions in the year 2020 as the upper limit of what carriers are allowed to discharge. Airlines that exceed that limit in future years, as most are expected to do, will have to offset their emissions growth by buying credits from other industries and projects that limit greenhouse gas emissions. Countries must still act on their own to put the agreement’s limits into effect. Adoption of the aviation agreement comes one day after the number of countries …

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Workers in suspended Caraga mines won’t lose jobs, DENR assures

BUTUAN CITY – Workers in 15 suspended mining firms from the Caraga region in Mindanao won’t lose their jobs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) assured. In a meeting at the DENR head office in Manila, Environment secretary Gina Lopez assured that workers in the affected mines will be tapped in the rehabilitation of mine sites, one of the conditions imposed in each suspension order. An estimated 10,000 workers will be directly hit by the suspension. The governors and mayors of Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, where the suspended mines operate, had earlier raised concerns the suspension would create severe unemployment problems. The violations found in the mines—some holding a 25-year mineral processing sharing agreement with the government—include alleged siltation, dust, lack of tree-cutting permits and usage of unsystematic mining methods. Two of …

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Conservation trust fund for Mt. Mantalingahan launched

An endowment fund for the conservation of Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL) has been launched on Friday, October 7, a first in the country. Conservation International Philippines (CI-P) launched the endowment fund with a US$1 million grant from its Global Conservation Fund. The Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFCF) serves as the endowment manager. It now seeks more investors to meet the capitalization target of at least US$2.7 million. “This innovative fund will provide sustainable financing for the long-term maintenance, protection and enrichment of the biodiversity within the protected area,” CI-P executive director Enrique Nuñez said. Mt. Mantalingahan, Palawan’s highest peak, serves as a watershed to 200,000 people and home to over a thousand species, 23 of which are identified as threatened. MMPL, located in Brooke’s Point, has been under threat from mining operations. “There are elements that threaten to destroy this …

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World’s largest air purifier turns Beijing’s filthy air to shining gems

A huge air purifier seeks to create a bubble of clean air in China’s smog-choked capital—and produce diamonds as by-products. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde unveiled the pollution-fighting Smog Free Tower at 751 D-Park Power Square in Beijing on September 29. The 7-meter high tower, the world’s tallest air purifier, uses a patented ozone-free ion technology to clean 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour. It collects more than 75 percent of airborne smog particles—with diameters ranging from 2.5 microns to 10 microns—and releases clean air around the tower with a 360-degree coverage. The giant vacuum compresses the particles it inhales and turns them into diamond cubes. These can be changed into souvenirs like Smog Free Rings, Cubes and Cufflinks. By buying the smog free jewelry, consumers can help donate 1,000 cubic meters of clean air to the city …

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Global warming set to pass 2°C threshold in 2050 – report

Paris – Earth is on track to sail past the two degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold for dangerous global warming by 2050, seven of the world’s top climate scientists warned Thursday. “Climate change is happening now, and much faster than anticipated,” said Sir Robert Watson, former head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), the body charged with distilling climate science for policy makers. Since 1990, devastating weather-related events –floods, drought, more intense storms, heat waves and wild fires – due to climate change have doubled in number, Watson and the other scientists said in a report. “Without additional efforts by all major emitters (of greenhouse gases), the 20C target could be reached even sooner,” he told journalists in a phone briefing. The planet has already heated up 1.00C (1.80F) above …

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Sudden disappearance of Arctic Ice to have disastrous effect, scientist warns

By PNA/Sputnik Moscow  – The last of the Arctic’s summer sea ice will melt away completely within the next two years, a Cambridge University scientist predicts, leading to sea-level rise and an acceleration of global warming as the planet’s natural air-conditioning system weakens. “Next year or the year after that, I think [the Arctic] will be free of ice in summer, and by that I mean the central Arctic will be ice-free,” Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, told The Guardian in August. This will be the first time in 100,000 years the Arctic basin will be free of ice, the scientist said, and there will be dangerous regional and global effects. In his book, A Farewell to Ice, published in September, Wadhams wrote that an ice loss/global warming feedback loop …

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