Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Quantum Factor" – Apr 10, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Galaxies, Universe, Intelligent design, Benevolent design, Aliens, Nikola Tesla (Quantum energy), Inter-Planetary Travel, DNA, Genes, Stem Cells, Cells, Rejuvenation, Shift of Human Consciousness, Spontaneous Remission, Religion, Dictators, Africa, China, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Development, Animals, Global Unity.. etc.) - (Text Version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

(Live Kryon Channelings was given 7 times within the United Nations building.)

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)

“… 4 - Energy (again)

The natural resources of the planet are finite and will not support the continuation of what you've been doing. We've been saying this for a decade. Watch for increased science and increased funding for alternate ways of creating electricity (finally). Watch for the very companies who have the most to lose being the ones who fund it. It is the beginning of a full realization that a change of thinking is at hand. You can take things from Gaia that are energy, instead of physical resources. We speak yet again about geothermal, about tidal, about wind. Again, we plead with you not to over-engineer this. For one of the things that Human Beings do in a technological age is to over-engineer simple things. Look at nuclear - the most over-engineered and expensive steam engine in existence!

Your current ideas of capturing energy from tidal and wave motion don't have to be technical marvels. Think paddle wheel on a pier with waves, which will create energy in both directions [waves coming and going] tied to a generator that can power dozens of neighborhoods, not full cities. Think simple and decentralize the idea of utilities. The same goes for wind and geothermal. Think of utilities for groups of homes in a cluster. You won't have a grid failure if there is no grid. This is the way of the future, and you'll be more inclined to have it sooner than later if you do this, and it won't cost as much….”

"Fast-Tracking" - Feb 8, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Reference to Fukushima / H-bomb nuclear pollution and a warning about nuclear > 20 Min)

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change
In a bid to combat climate change, US President Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan on Monday, marking the first time power plants have been targeted by mandatory regulations on carbon dioxide emissions in the US.
Google: Earthday 2013

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dalai Lama says climate change needs global action

Reuters, Mon Nov 30, 2009 2:55am EST

The Dalai Lama has called on young people to work to make the world a better place during talks in Sydney. (Bigpond, Australia)

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Tibet's exiled Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama entered the climate change debate on Monday, urging governments to take serious action and put global interests ahead of domestic concerns.

Australia's government is struggling to have its key climate change policy, a carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS), passed by a hostile upper house Senate this week ahead of U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen from December 7-18.

In Sydney for a series of talks, the Dalai Lama called for individual and collective action to tackle climate change.

"In my own case I never use bathtub, only shower. Whenever I leave my room I always put off my light," the Dalai Lama told a news conference.

"Taking care of the environment ... (is now) part of my life. Taking care of the environment should be part of our daily life."

Some Australian politicians skeptical about the causes of climate change have dumped a deal to back the government's carbon trade scheme.

If defeated in parliament for a second time this week, the deal could allow Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to call an early election in 2010 on the issue of climate change.

The skeptical climate change views of some Australians are being echoed in other countries, like the United States, as they seek to reach agreement on climate policy ahead of Copenhagen.

The Dalai Lama urged governments to act in the global interest in dealing with climate change.

"The elected government, sometimes their number one ... priority is national interest, national economy interest, then global issues are sometimes secondary," said the Dalai Lama.

"That, I think, should change. The global issue should be number one. In some cases in order to protect global issues, some sacrifice of national interest (is needed)."

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Paul Tait)

Related Article:

Dali Lama calls on young people

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mount Everest to host Nepal cabinet meeting

Photo: AFP

Nepal is to hold a cabinet meeting on Mount Everest to highlight the threat global warming poses to glaciers.

On 4 December prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and those politicians physically fit enough will ascend 17,192ft (5,250m) to base camp.

In October the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater to warn of the effect of rising sea levels.

This meeting, to be held before the Copenhagen climate conference, aims to highlight Himalayan glacier melt.

With ice in the region melting at a rapid rate, lakes have been formed which could flood nearby villages.

Melted ice and snow also makes mountaineering routes more hazardous.

At such a high altitude health is a major concern, so a team of doctors will accompany the politicians.

They will fly to Everest's only airstrip, Lukla.

Doctors will make a final health assessment before a helicopter takes the cabinet to base camp, at the foot of Everest.

Once there they will hold a brief outdoor meeting.

Mount Everest is the highest point on earth, with a summit 29,035 ft (8,850 m) above sea level.

Related Articles:

Coming soon: the Alps without the glaciers

Maldives government holds underwater cabinet meeting

Maldives cabinet makes a splash

The cabinet were joined by instructors and military escorts

How to make ethical travel choices

Home or away? Plane or train? How to make an ethical holiday choice, James Randerson

A Leguan on the Galapagos Islands observes tourists. Photograph: Andreas M. Gross/Alamy

Deciding how and where to travel are two of the most difficult problems for the ethical- and eco-conscious consumer. Is it best to stay close to home in order to avoid flying and minimise the carbon cost of your holiday? Or by doing so are you depriving needy people in less well-off countries of valuable income from tourism? Alternatively, spending your hard-earned holiday cash on an eco-tourism jaunt may help the local government preserve the rainforest rather than chopping it down for timber and cattle rearing.

Whatever you choose, it seems that UK holidaymakers find it very hard to compromise when it comes to flying. According to a survey by Loughborough University, fewer than one in five of us are trying to reduce the number of flights we take for environmental reasons. That compares with 88% of respondents who said they were willing or very willing to reduce how much energy they use in their homes.

At the moment, aviation is responsible for 2% to 3% of the world's carbon emissions (5.9% of the UK's). But that is not the whole story. Because aviation emissions happen at altitude, they have an extra impact on the climate. In part this is because other greenhouse gasses, such as nitrous oxide, are in the mix. Water vapour that makes contrails is also an important component, particularly at night as these contrails can act like shreds of blanket preventing heat being radiated into space and bouncing it back down to Earth. Altogether, the magnitude of these extra effects is controversial because the science is not fully understood, but it is estimated to magnify the carbon impact by around 2.5 times. So the true climate damage of taking a flight is more than double that implied by its CO2 emissions alone. But if it is such a relatively small component of the worldwide problem, why is flying often made the poster-child for environmental excess?

Consider the carbon footprint of a return flight to Sydney, Australia, via Singapore – 4.63 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. That is a decent chunk of the average total carbon footprint of a UK citizen – around 11 tonnes per year. What is most frightening, though, is the rate at which emissions from flights (which are exempt from fuel tax and not included in the Kyoto climate treaty) are rising. International CO2 emissions from aircraft are projected to increase from 610m tonnes now to between 1.2bn and 1.4bn tonnes in 2025.

"If you are carbon conscious in any way, as soon as you get on a plane you have pretty much driven a coach and horses through your carbon footprint," says Ed Gillespie, co-director of the communications agency Futerra. He is writing a book about a round-the-world trip he undertook without setting foot on a plane. "As an individual, flying is the single worse thing you can do. That is actually part of your footprint that is under your direct control."

Not flying doesn't have to mean damp holidays at the British seaside, though. With practically everywhere in Europe accessible by train, the really classy way to travel is to make the journey part of the holiday. Enjoy a chilled beer on the banks of the Seine in Paris as you change from the Eurostar to the TGV. Tuck into a three-course meal washed down with an oaky rioja as you zoom southwards on the sleeper to Madrid. And when you get there, step straight off the train into the city centre – not 70 miles or more from your destination as with some budget airlines.

Long-haul, short-haul and domestic flights work out at 0.11, 0.1 and 0.18 kg of CO2 per passenger km respectively, according to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. That compares with 0.06 kg for UK rail and 0.02 kg for the Eurostar (because it is largely powered by French nuclear stations).

But what about the benefits to local people once you get to your destination? Tourism is immensely important to the global economy. One in 11 people worldwide work in tourism and it is the most important export industry in one-third of developing countries.

The impact you have on the local population depends very much on the kind of holiday you take. If you eat at local restaurants, use local guides, stay in independent hotels and buy local crafts, then you are likely to be helping the local economy. If you never leave the self-contained holiday compound staffed largely by minimum wage-earning maids and run by a multinational holiday corporation your impact will be less positive. Telling the difference before you go can be difficult, though, because there is no widespread independent rating system for ethical holidays.

"It has long been established that if done responsibly, tourism can contribute to livelihoods, local economic development and the conservation of the world's cultural and natural heritage," says Justin Francis, managing director of His company advocates minimising flying, but he says, "It's more important than ever that when we do fly, we ensure we make that trip count as much as possible by choosing a holiday that makes a real difference in the destination – one that seeks to reduce CO2 impacts and supports local community development programmes."

What about helping the local environment? The idea is that your holiday spending can contribute to the conservation of areas of natural beauty and important biodiversity. But very often these sorts of trips do more harm than good. For example, before 1968 there were no flights to the Galapagos islands. Today there are up to five flights per day bringing around 100,000 tourists each year. Those visitors and the services that support them are doing significant damage to the islands' unique, fragile ecosystem. They are now on Unesco's world heritage in-danger list.

For the holidaymaker, choosing an eco-trip that has a beneficial impact can be confusing. In the UK there are more than 20 eco-labelling schemes for holiday accommodation and worldwide there are more than 100. Also, in many countries the term eco-tourism has no real conservation meaning – it would be more accurate to interpret it as a holiday that involves spotting wildlife.

To really make your holiday spending count, look for specialist operators that promote partnerships with local people or places that are locally run. Ideally, your destination should minimise its water and carbon footprint, too, as well as deal responsibly with waste. And the simplest choice of all? Steer clear of that no-frills flight.


My youngest son Joe is asleep, the armrest back, his head heavy in my lap, his warm small body curled up against my leg. My older boys are across the aisle from us: they've got earphones in and are laughing at the featured film Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The sign above the doorway flashes up our speed: 300kph.

I can hardly believe I'm on a train. We're being whisked the 550 miles from Barcelona to Cordoba in a little more than four hours, in one of the modern breed of high-speed trains. For many years, Spain's railway network was slow, clunky, and unreliable. But in 1992 the government built the first high-speed rail link, Madrid-Seville; since then it has built a cross-country web of rail links which has reduced the number of people flying within Spain by more than half.

Other countries are making the same investment. High-speed rail lines crisscross France (which led Europe on HSR, and now has more than 1,000 miles of track), Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. Germany is building its own network, and even Britain, slow on the uptake as always, is talking about a new Edinburgh-London line.

In the US, the new economic stimulus package brought in by President Obama includes $8bn for speeding up train travel, while the Chinese introduced in 2004 the truly futurist Maglev train – moved along by magnetic force instead of being propelled by an engine – and plan to build 35 high-speed routes by 2012. Everyone is aware of the double potential of train-network building to create jobs and – once the fairly carbon-heavy process of building the line is complete – to reduce carbon emissions. According to Eurostar figures, carbon emissions per passenger of a plane journey from London to Barcelona would be 277kg; for the same journey by train they would be 40kg. These figures are obviously dependent on many variables, but the basic trend is clear. Rail travel is better for the environment than air travel.

But the cost and complexity of travelling by train is a serious problem. If you want to travel by plane from London to Madrid in the next couple of days, all you have to do is go to the easyJet site and book a flight with prices that start at £46.99. To go by train you need to book a ticket to Paris and then a ticket to Madrid, with prices starting at £290.

Although the rail networks in Europe have made huge steps forward in simplifying the ticket-booking process, the price issue is not so easily resolved. But bargains can be found if you plan ahead properly, and it's worth remembering that children's fares are still cheaper on most railways, while airlines charge an adult fare for any child aged three.

And though some trains remain as rickety as ever, others – particularly the high-speed services – are glamorously luxurious. More interestingly, they are easy to travel on with kids. We arrive at Cordoba station – right in the city centre rather than miles out like the airport – rested and cheerful. "Are we here already?" asks my oldest son, regretfully. In an amazing turnaround on our usual journeys – irritable, restless, whingy (and that's just me) – none of us actually want to get off.



Just one long-haul flight could produce more emissions than the rest of the carbon footprint from everything else you do in a year. So if you really want to be a green traveller, avoid flying wherever possible.

  • Go by train. It is far classier and makes the journey part of the holiday
  • Despite some airlines' marketing claims there is no green carrier


A huge issue in many tourist destinations. Apart from your showers, baths and laundry, there's also the gallons of water needed to maintain golf courses, gardens and swimming pools.

  • Take quick showers rather than baths
  • Ask for towels and linen to be changed less
  • Use half-flush settings on toilets or flush less often
  • Avoid water-intensive attractions such as golf courses in water-stressed regions


According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, accommodation accounts for 20% of the travel industry's global CO2 emissions (flying for 40%). But your choices and behaviour have an impact.

  • Choose accommodation that uses renewable energy and energy-efficient appliances
  • Keep air conditioning and heating to a minimum, and turn it off when you are out
  • Choose accommodation with a local sourcing policy. Eating locally grown food is more energy efficient and it supports the local economy
  • Avoid high-energy amenities, for example indoor ski centres


The tourist industry can be extremely exploitative of local communities, but it does provide vital income in countries that desperately need it.

  • Stay in accommodation owned by or employing a high proportion of local people
  • Ask if staff are employed seasonally or year round
  • Leave tips in cash

To find out who scooped this year's Guardian ethical travel award

Criminal gangs plunder Madagascar forests

Reuters, by Richard Lough, Sat Nov 28, 2009 5:32pm EST

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Criminal gangs are stripping Madagascar's poorly-protected national parks every day of precious hardwood worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, two environmental campaign groups have said.

In a report issued this week, Global Witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency said between 100 and 200 rare rosewood trees were cut down each day with only a fraction, about 1,000 cubic meters, being exported each month.

Much of the wood was being stored until further export authorizations were granted for illegally cut timber, the report said.

"Timber traders have effectively bought the right to pillage the country's parks with impunity. They are extracting up to $800,000 a day worth of timber," said Reiner Tegtmeyer of Global Witness.

In September, the government authorized the export of 325 containers of timber. Conservation groups say the order legalized the sale of illegally cut wood and collected wood. The government denies legitimizing the plunder of the forests.

Conservationists say Madagascar's biodiversity is being wiped out at an alarming pace as gangs profit from a security vacuum to pillage rosewood and ebony from supposedly protected forests and trap exotic animals, mainly for Asia's pet market.

Eco-tourism has become the backbone of the Indian Ocean island's $390 million-a-year tourism industry, but months of political turmoil this year have devastated the sector.

The report accused members of the forestry administration, the police and the authorities of complicity with the traffickers.

Rosewood furniture sells for tens of thousands of dollars in Europe and Asia, with local communities seeing few benefits.

"Some of the world's unique forests, and the communities that rely on them, are being degraded beyond repair to feed our demand for luxury goods," said Andrea Johnson, director of Forest Campaigns at EIA.

Conservation groups last month accused the government of legalizing the sale of illegally cut timber and said it opened the door to the embezzlement of funds in the name of environmental protection.

The authorities have denied legitimizing the plundering of the forests. Decades of logging, mining and slash-and-burn farming have destroyed up to 90 percent of the ecology on the world's fourth largest island.

The report called on the government to place rosewood and ebony under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

(Editing by David Clarke)

Greenpeace ends dramatic direct action in Riau

Antara News, Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chained protest: Employees from Indah Kiat Pupl and Paper try to force two Greenpeace activists to end their protest against deforestation. The activists chained themselves to cranes at the paper company's port in Siak, Riau, on Wednesday. The police broke up the protest on Thursday. Antara/FB Anggoro

Kampar Peninsula, Riau, (ANTARA News) - Greenpeace Thursday ended a 26-hour dramatic non-violent direct action at the loading facility of Sinar Mas subsidiary of the Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) mill in Riau.

"Ten days ahead of the critical climate summit in Copenhagen, President Yudhoyono has a unique chance to make history by declaring an immediate moratorium on all deforestation and exhibiting the kind of leadership that even the Nobel Prize winning Obama has so far failed to show," said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, as reported on the official website of Greenpeace Southeast.

Sinar Mas has been tagged by the group as a leading forest and climate destroyer in Indonesia.

The activity, undertaken by activists from 11 different nationalities, including Indonesia and the USA successfully focused international attention on the critical role that President Yudhoyono and other world Heads of State can play in ending tropical deforestation to avert climate chaos.

Vowing to keep taking their message directly to President Yudhoyono and other world leaders, the group said that thousands of people worldwide have sent petitions and letters to the Indonesian leader urging him to take immediate steps to halt deforestation and peatland destruction in the country, which accounts for the vast majority of Indonesia`s emissions.

"Our non-violent activities in Sumatra over last five weeks have shown world leaders that forest protection is an important piece of the solution if the world is to avert climate chaos. The world cannot afford to lose any more forests and world leaders cannot afford to lose any more time to deliver a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate deal in December," he said.

Such a deal must include a commitment to set up a global fund to end deforestation in countries like Indonesia.

"We will continue to press our demands until our leaders are roused from their denial and inertia on this issue," he added.

On November 12, Greenpeace took action against Sinar Mas owned APP`s rival company APRIL to expose the continued destruction of fragile peatlands of Kampar peninsula on the Island of Sumatra.

Last week, the Indonesia`s Forest Minister Zulkifli Hasan, suspended APRIL from destroying about 56,000 hectares of concession area pending a review of the company`s permits.

Following the non-violent action, eighteen international and Indonesian Greenpeace activists have now been detained by the police. Twelve activists blocked cranes at the company`s port Wednesday (Nov. 25) to stop pulp exports, and displayed banners reading: "Forest Destruction: You can stop this".

Four climbers remained locked onto one of the loading cranes for 26 hours, until removed by the police. Activists were from Indonesia, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

"Once again, we have to say to President Obama, `Right city, wrong date.`

Greenpeace is calling on President Obama to attend on December 18th, commit the US to climate policy the world needs, and earn the Nobel Peace Prize that he is on his way to accept. So far, President Obama has given the world nothing but rhetoric on this issue. We urge him to seize the opportunity to lead his peers towards an urgently needed breakthrough in Copenhagen beginning with a commitment to provide international financing for adaptation, mitigation and forest protection - all necessary components to get agreement from developing nations," said Stephanie Hillman, an American activist detained in Riau.

Related Articles:

Commonwealth leaders back climate change fund

Gordon Brown and Ban Ki-moon are attending the summit in Trinidad

Commonwealth leaders have pledged to back a multi-billion-dollar fund to help developing nations deal with climate change.

The fund, proposed by UK and French leaders at the Commonwealth summit on Friday, would start next year and build to $10bn annually by 2012.

Many Commonwealth members are island states threatened by rising sea levels.

A statement issued on Saturday said leaders welcomed a proposal to disburse aid quickly to those affected.

The Commonwealth's 53 nations comprise nearly two billion people - a third of the planet's population.

The leaders have been meeting days after pledges by the US and China to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, amid concerns that next month's Copenhagen meeting on climate could fail to agree substantial cuts.

Speaking at the summit in Trinidad, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he believed an agreement was in sight, with recent moves by some countries a positive step to cutting emissions.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Int'l forest experts to meet in Bali to discuss sustainable forest system

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 11/27/2009 9:45 PM

Experts from ten nations are slated to meet in Bali next week to show how to shift power over forests into the hands of able custodians who can promote and pursue sustainable forest-based livelihoods.

The forest governance learning group (FGLG) meeting to be held from Dec.1 to Dec. 4 will be attended by forest experts including from Cameroon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam.

The meeting was organized by the UK-based researchers from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

“Who gets to decide what about forests is vitally important,” says James Mayers, head of the natural resources group at IIED.

“It can mean the difference between corrupt elites wielding their power to exclude poor people, or it can mean equitable forest management that brings sustainable benefits to all."

Forests will be central to the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December as deforestation produces about 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In Copenhagen, governments are set to agree a global deal called REDD that would see billions of dollars flowing as compensation to forest countries that leave their trees standing.

“Good governance of forests will be essential to maximize the social and environmental benefits of REDD schemes,” Mayers said.

Positive signs for landmark deal in Copenhagen emerge

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 11/27/2009

With ten days before the much-awaited Copenhagen climate talks, positive signs for a landmark deal emerged after the United States and China – the largest emitters in planet – unveiled their first firm targets to slash emissions.

Indonesian delegates hailed the promises by the US and China, saying it would break the expected deadlock on emission cut target by 2020 in climate change conference in Copenhagen slated from Dec.7 to Dec. 18.

“It is encouraging development making us more optimistic that an ambitious yield will be reached in Copenhagen,” Agus Purnomo, member of Indonesian delegate to international climate talks told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said that with such promises, there would no longer reasons for the rich nations to rebuff a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen conference.

President Barack Obama was expected to travel to Danish capital on Dec. 9 to attend the climate conference before his visiting to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

Reports say the US would propose for the first time in history emission cut “in the range of” 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 level.

Former US president George W. Bush rejected a legally binding emission cut as set under the Kyoto Protocol.

China has also announced its plan to cut “intensity of CO2 emissions per unit” of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020 by 40 percent to 45 percent, compared with its 2005 level.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiaboo will also attend the Copenhagen meeting.

“Let’s see on whether such promises would be bring to the negotiation table,” Agus said.

Indonesia has repeatedly called on the rich nations to meet its promise as made in Bali climate change talks in 2007 to yield a legally binding treaty on an emissions cut target in Copenhagen.

Past climate anomalies explained

Unusually warm and cold periods in Earth's pre-industrial climate history are linked to how the oceans responded to temperature changes, say scientists.

BBC News

The researchers focused particularly on intervals known as the "little ice age" and "medieval warm period".

In the journal Science, they report that these climate "anomalies" were likely caused by changes to El Nino and the North Atlantic Oscillation.

The team reconstructed 1,500 years of climate using "proxies" such as coral

They say studying the past in this way could help refine climate models.

"We reconstructed patterns of [the Earth's] surface temperature during those two intervals," explained Professor Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University in the US, who led the study.

He and his colleagues reconstructed 1,500 years of the Earth's climate - collecting clues from "proxies" such as ice cores, tree rings and coral. These can be used to track hundreds of years of climatic changes.

He explained that the data allowed the team to estimate how natural factors, including volcanic eruptions and changes in the Sun's output, altered the climate in the past.

"We then put these estimates into the climate models," he told BBC News.

The models revealed that these natural factors altered the Earth's surface temperature, which kick-started feedback mechanisms - El Nino or the North Atlantic Oscillation (NOA).

This produced the regional patterns in climate associated with the medieval climate era and the little ice age.

"El Nino and the NOA are dynamical patterns that can lead to shifts in rainfall and drought patterns, and influence hurricane activity," explained Professor Mann.

"They redistribute heat around the globe, leading to warming in one region [of the planet] and cooling in another."

Feeding back

The findings have allowed the team to assess which models might be missing some of the "regional mechanisms" that influence the climate.

A key thing the team discovered was that, in the past, when the planet has been warmed by natural factors it has responded with another feedback mechanism known as the La Nina effect.

This can be thought of as the opposite of El Nino - a sort of "colder phase" of El Nino phenomenon.

Professor Mann explained that a "La Nina-like climate" brings colder than normal temperatures in the eastern and central tropical Pacific and drier than normal conditions in the desert southwest of the US".

Most climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that the Earth will respond in an El Nino-like way to global warming.

But a few of the models do recreate this dynamic "La Nina effect", and suggest that that when you heat the Earth's surface, the climate system tries to offset and cool.

"If the response of the Earth in the past is analogous to the temperature increase caused by greenhouse gases... it could lend credence to this counterintuitive notion of a La Nina response to global warming," said Professor Mann.

But, he added, that the Earth's response to greenhouse-gas-induced global warming might be more complex than "natural" warming.

"What this gives us is an independent reality check," said Professor Mann.

"There is still a fair amount of divergence among the various models - in terms of how El Nino changes in response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.

"Some of the best clues we can get are by going back to the distant past and seeing how the Earth actually responded."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Amazon summit in Brazil aims to tackle deforestation

Brazil is due to host a regional summit on how to save the Amazon basin from deforestation and climate change.

Brazil's disappearing rainforests have been a concern for decades

Delegates from eight nations who share the Amazon, as well as France which has an overseas department there, will hold the talks in Amazon city of Manaus.

They will be discussing Brazil's plan on ending rampant deforestation with the financial help from rich nations.

The meeting comes ahead of a global summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, next month.

'Ambitious message'

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be chairing the one-day talks, which will be attended by delegates from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Surinam.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will also be in Manaus, representing French Guiana.

Mr Lula's spokesman said the Brazilian leader hopes that the talks will yield "an ambitious message on issues of great relevance to the region".

"Brazil believes it is crucial for the (Amazon) region to have a converging and co-operative participation," AFP news agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

Earlier this month, Brazil's government said the rate of deforestation in the Amazon had dropped by 45% - and was the lowest on record since monitoring began 21 years ago.

It said that just over 7,000 sq km (2,700 square miles) had been destroyed between July 2008 and August 2009. Brazil is seeking an 80% reduction in the deforestation rate by 2020.

The environmental group Greenpeace has welcomed the latest drop but says there is still too much destruction in the rainforest.

Mr Lula will view the latest figures as a boost to Brazil's green credentials coming just before the Copenhagen summit, the BBC's Gary Duffy in Sao Paulo says.

At the summit, the Brazilian government seems certain to present its efforts to reduce destruction in the Amazon as a key part of its strategy to combat climate change, our correspondent adds.

Earlier this month, Brazil said it aimed to cut its carbon emissions by at least 36% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Tiny insect brains can solve big problems

Some bugs can recognize human faces, count and categorize, studies say

By Emily Sohn, Discovery News

Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Insects may have tiny brains, but they can perform some seriously impressive feats of mental gymnastics.

According to a growing number of studies, some insects can count, categorize objects, even recognize human faces — all with brains the size of pinheads.

Despite many attempts to link the volume of an animal's brain with the depth of its intelligence, scientists now propose that it's the complexity of connections between brain cells that matters most. Studying those connections — a more manageable task in a little brain than in a big one — could help researchers understand how bigger brains, including those of humans, work.

Figuring out how a relatively small number of cells work together to process complex concepts could also lead to "smarter" computers that do some of the same tasks.

"The question is: If these insects can do these things with such little brains, what does anything need a big brain for?" said Lars Chittka, who presented his arguments along with colleague Jeremy Niven in the journal Current Biology. "Bigger isn't necessarily better, and in some cases it could be quite the opposite."

Because we are intelligent animals with big brains, people have long assumed that big brains are smarter brains. Yet, scientists have found scant evidence to support that view, Chittka said. Studies that have made those connections are fraught with problems. "If you try many measurements," he said, "Eventually you will find one that shows a correlation."

There's a lot of evidence, on the other hand, that overall size is irrelevant when it comes to brain power. Among humans, individuals with larger noggins don't have higher IQs. Whales, with brains that weigh up to 20 pounds and have more than 200 billion neurons, are no smarter than people, with our measly 3-pound brains that have just 85 billion neurons.

Instead of contributing intelligence, big brains might just help support bigger bodies, which have larger muscles to coordinate and more sensory information coming in. Like computers, Chittka said, size might add storage capacity but necessarily speed or usefulness. At the same time, it takes a lot of energy to support a big brain.

On a smaller scale, scientists are finally moving past the idea that locusts, ants, bees and other insects are simple machines that respond to events in predictable ways, said Sarah Farris, an evolutionary neurobiologist at West Virginia University in Morgantown. Study after study now shows that insects can, in fact, change their behavior depending on the circumstances.

Honeybees, which have been the focus of Chittka's work, have tiny brains with fewer than a million neurons. Yet, the insects can classify shapes as symmetrical or asymmetrical. They can pick objects based on concepts like "same" or "different." They can also learn to stop flying after a prescribed number of landmarks rather than after a certain distance.

Ants and bees have notoriously complex social systems. Along with other insects, they can move in a surprising number of ways to communicate or get around.

Bees, for example, can sting, scout for food, guard the hive and fan their wings for ventilation, along with more than 50 other behaviors. The insect's behavioral repertoire, in fact, surpasses that of some vertebrates.”

"They are fantastically smart," Chittka said. "Perhaps we are only amazed by this because we think small brains shouldn't be able to do it."

In fact, scientists have calculated that a few hundred neurons should be enough to enable counting. A few thousand neurons could support consciousness. Engineers hope to use that kind of information to design programs that do things like recognize faces from a variety of angles, distances and emotional states. That's something bees can do, but computers still can't.

"Knowing how an insect functions and produces complex behaviors with a brain that's a million-fold smaller than ours makes it a little easier to envision that we might be able to model some of these behaviors," Farris said.

"It's wonderful to see that insects are finally being compared equally with vertebrate animals," she added. "They have smaller brains, but they still have complex enough brains to do these things."