Not to be overly alarmist, but Earth has had two near-misses with large asteroids so far this month. On Wednesday, a hunk of space rock three miles in diameter and going by the designation 4179 Toutatis passed by the planet, missing by 4.3 million miles, or about 18 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. The day before, an approximately 100 foot-wide asteroid passed much closer — within 140,000 miles, slipping between the Earth and the moon.
Neither of these are the Planet X that some New Age doomsayers claim will bring the end of the world on December 21 (the date the ancient Mayan calendar ends) nor are they quite on the scale of the six-mile wide asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs — but still, even a “small” asteroid impact could cause tsunamis, skyline-flattening blasts, and at an extreme, nuclear winter.
The problem is that while the effects might be monstrous, in the cosmic scale of things these “near-Earth objects” (NEOs) are tiny, and thus difficult to detect. XE54, the 100-foot asteroid that passed by on Tuesday, wasn’t discovered until two days before its fly-by. The effect of an NEO impact would have global implications, but whose responsibility is it to find these space rocks and, if necessary, to stop them?At present, NEOs are discovered and tracked by an informal international network of professional and amateur astronomers. Their findings are cataloged and published by the Minor Planet Center, which is run by the Smithsonian and has the support of the International Astronomical Union, the leading professional society of astronomers. In addition, the U.S. government has legally required NEO research. In 2005, Congress mandated that NASA identify at least 90 percent of all NEOs wider than 450 feet by 2020, though, as a 2011 report by the National Academy Sciences points out, Congress did not appropriate funds to meet this goal.
NASA’s current efforts include surveys to identify the largest NEOs, and partnerships with some military- and university-operated telescopes. NASA is also cooperating with other countries’ projects, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa space probe, which intercepted asteroid 25143 Itokawa in 2005 and returned samples to Earth, and the Canadian Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite, scheduled for launch next year.
Data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE), an orbiting space telescope, has led astronomers to estimate that there are approximately 20,000 NEOs with diameters greater than 330 feet. This is an improvement over previous estimates, but even with the revised lower numbers, astronomers have found maybe only one-fourth of the space rocks in Earth’s path.
Worse, when they are identified, it’s often only a few days before they pass unnervingly close to home. If one of these NEOs were on a collision course, options to deflect it would be limited — and though international law regulates issues of sovereignty and military use in space, there is no international framework for whose responsibility it would be to avert an asteroid impact. If the United States has a plan, it’s not public.
That may be changing. The United Nations Scientific and Technical Subcommittee has a special working group on NEOs advised by a special coalition of experts (called Action Team 14), ranging from space agencies to advocacy groups. Together, they are working to formalize an U.N. framework for coordinating an international response to potentially dangerous NEOs.
Their recommendations, which will be presented in February, are expected to include proposals to establish two institutions. The first is an international asteroid warning network to coordinate the search for NEOs, determine which ones are threats, and what their characteristics are (what they’re made of, how fast they’re traveling, and other factors relevant to trying to deflect them). The second group is a “space mission planning advisory group” — comprised of engineers, astronauts (and cosmonauts, and maybe taikonauts), and other representatives of various countries’ space agencies — to plan potential responses to threats. It’s a good start, but some experts feel it’s moving too slowly (surprising no one familiar with the United Nations).
For now, it would probably fall to the few countries with advanced space-launch technology and powerful ballistic kinetic weapons — the United States and Russia, most prominently — to try to divert an incoming NEO. In testimony presented to Congress in 2007, NASA proposed two broad categories for methods to deflect an NEO: impulsive technology, which would use explosives to alter the object’s course; and “slow push” technologies, which would use everything from directed solar energy to gravity wellsto gradually shift the object away from impact with Earth. The effectiveness of these methods would depend on the size of the NEO and the time available — and as NASA cautioned in its report, much of the technology is years from being ready for launch.
Experts’ best estimates for the time necessary to successfully divert an NEO from hitting the planet is, at bare minimum, two to three years, although five years is probably more realistic. Given that it’s impossible to get a three-mile hunk of rock hurtling through space to make a 90 degree right turn, small deflections far from Earth are required. And it takes time to prepare a spacecraft and fly it out to meet an asteroid deep in the solar system.
With many of the slow push technologies still years away from being practicable, it would require brute force — either crashing a spacecraft into the object or altering its course with nuclear explosions (delivered by unmanned rockets, not oil crews). Here there be legal trouble, though: using nukes would technically violate the U.N. Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space.
At this point, say experts, we’re not quite ready to muster an international effort to save the planet from space rock disaster. But at least governments are getting more serious about the problem and taking the responsibility for detection from armchair astronomers. And should we all make it past December 21, 2012, don’t start celebrating just yet. 4179 Toutatis, the three-mile wide asteroid that passed by yesterday, will be zipping by again in four years.
Great balls of China to defend against next week’s Mayan ‘apocalypse’
As people across the globe tremble in anticipation of next week’s supposed Mayan-predicted apocalypse, one Chinese villager says he may have just what humanity needs: tsunami-proof survival pods.
Camouflage-clad former farmer and furniture maker Liu Qiyuan, 45, inspected his latest creation, a sphere several metres tall he calls “Noah’s Ark”, designed to withstand towering tsunamis and devastating earthquakes.
“The pod won’t have any problems even if there are 1,000-metre-high waves… it’s like a ping pong ball, its skin may be thin, but it can withstand a lot of pressure,” he told AFP at his workshop in Qiantun, an hour from Beijing.
Liu’s seven completed or under-construction pods, made using a fibreglass casing over a steel frame, have cost him 300,000 yuan ($48,000) each, he says, and are equipped with oxygen tanks, food and water supplies.
They also come with seat belts, essential for staying safe in storms, Liu said, strapping himself into position before his assistants shook the sphere vigorously from outside.
“The pods are designed to carry 14 people at a time, but it’s possible for 30 people to survive inside for at least two months,” he said.
Their insulation was such that “a person could live for four months in the pod at the North or South Pole without freezing, or even feeling slightly cold,” he said.
One of the spheres even boasts the domestic comforts of a table, bed and flowery wallpaper.
Liu claims he came up with the design after watching the 2009 Hollywood disaster film “2012″, which is inspired by the expiry on December 21 of the Mayan Long Count, a more than 5,000 year calendar used by the ancient Central American civilisation.
“If there really is some kind of apocalypse, then you could say I’ve made a contribution to the survival of humanity,” Liu said.
Apocalyptic predictions have provoked widespread fears among believers, including in China, where two rural counties sold out of candles this month after a panic that three days of darkness would begin on Dec 21, the Xinhua news agency reported.
In rare and stunning footage, filmmakers behind a newly released documentary captured the largest-ever iceberg calving yet seen off the Greenland ice shelf’s Ilulissat glacier.
The footage is just one part of a new documentary called “Chasing Ice,” by filmmaker James Balog, which released in the U.K. and across the U.S. on Friday, and an excerpt was published by The Guardian on Wednesday. The film documents in excruciating detail how the Greenland ice is melting due to climate change.
“Traveling with a team of young adventurers across the brutal Arctic, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story facing humanity,” the film’s website explains. “As the debate polarizes America, and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to deliver fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet.”
“NASA’s Stereo Behind HI-2 Camera shows some startling footage as an amazing discovery has been found. A massive object with a tail appears to be moving toward earth at a rapid rate. “This does not look like the typical Sun Grazer coming in as it is in a very different path” states the maker of the video. This object has been captured by NASA equipment over the last several weeks.”
Now in the past few days a newly discovered asteroid, possibly the same one that Ambellas wrote about last week, has passed earth safety, but still came a bit too close for comfort. Asteroid 2012 XE54 was over 3 miles wide, and while it was no danger to earth, it did come close enough for scientists to gather data that they have never been able to before, so the close proximity may have been a blessing in disguise.
Posted on: 7:56 pm, December 12, 2012, by Jon Bowman, updated on: 11:20am, December 13, 2012
DENVER — Beginning in the 1950s, the Federal Government used the Civil Defense system to alert citizens about potential dangers.
When the system first went on line it was for air raids related to World War II, then they were in place for nuclear attack, and following 9/11, for attacks from terrorists.
The system involved a series of sirens mounted on schools and other public buildings which went off when danger was imminent.
But over the years the sirens have fallen upon disrepair, parts are hard to find and people have really forgotten why they hear the sirens being tested the second Wednesday of every month.
On Wednesday 12/12/12, the city of Denver rolled out new sirens which are solar powered and much louder –with more coverage—than the older Civil Defense horns.
“We are putting in 56 new horns and rebuilding another 21 to bring them up to date,” said Scott Field, the city’s Emergency/Homeland Security chief. “We think this will help keep the citizens safe in time of natural situations and other serious issues that can happen in a city such as Denver.”
People working around locations where the new sirens began wailing at 11 a.m. Wednesday rushed to windows of downtown offices to see what was going on.
When they came out to investigate, they found out that was just the WRONG thing they were supposed to do.
“In times of emergency people are being told to go inside and seek shelter in basements,” said Field.
Now, the new horns will no longer need to be tested aloud, as they are all electronic and schools where the old horns have been mounted will no longer have to call authorities to say, “Yes, the horns went off” and the length of any tests will only be about four or five seconds, instead of four or five minutes.
The system can be activated by police and fire dispatch, the Homeland Security Office and Denver International Airport.
The sirens will even work in storms that knock out power because the computers running the alerts are solar and battery powered.
3-mile wide asteroid set to zip past Earth December 12, 2012
December 12, 2012 – SPACE – The asteroid known as Toutatis will make its closest approach to Earth tonight. From Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, the 3-mile long asteroid will be about 18 times the distance of the moon from the Earth. And if you miss it Tuesday night, don’t worry. The asteroid should be visible if you have the right conditions, the right telescope and a good star chart — through the end of the week.Even at its closest approach you won’t be able to see Toutatis with the naked eye. You’ll need a small telescope. Of course, even if you find it, it will still appear as a small point of light moving across the night sky. To see what this asteroid really looks like, you’d need something really, really big, such as the Goldstone Radar, which looks like a whopping satellite dish 230 feet across. Scientists who work at the Goldstone facility near Barstow have been tracking Toutatis since Dec. 4 and posting images of the asteroid on the Internet. The images are a little fuzzy, but they give you a sense of the asteroid’s oblong shape and its lumpy topography. Lance Benner, a Jet Propulsion Laboratoryresearch scientist, said the asteroid is rotating very slowly and that at 3 miles long it is one of the bigger objects that have come within 18 lunar distances of the Earth. But he wouldn’t consider it humongous or gigantic. Since Toutatis’ erratic orbit takes it by Earth once every four years, scientists have been able to study it pretty closely since it was rediscovered (and named) in 1989. As for the all-important question of whether Toutatis’ orbit will ever put it on a collision path with Earth, Benner said it is unlikely. “There is no risk of it colliding with Earth” for hundreds of years, he said. But Benner can’t predict hundreds of thousands of years into the future. Still, he is not worried that Toutatis will ever collide with Earth. “Almost 9,400 asteroids have been found so far, and none of them have a significant chance of hitting us,” he said. “It’s the ones we haven’t found yet that are of greater concern.”
Once-in-a-lifetime 12/12/12 date spawns mass weddings, superstitions
Posted on: 9:56 am, December 12, 2012, by Web Staff, updated on: 10:09am, December 12, 2012
DENVER — From India to Las Vegas, superstitious lovebirds and numbers geeks are reveling in a once-in-a-lifetime event: the date 12/12/12.
Sure, it might be just another set of numbers for some. But unlike the past 11 years, this will be the last such triple date for almost a century — until January 1, 2101.
That means one last chance for couples to get hitched on such an easy-to-remember wedding date (read: anniversary date).
NEWBURY, N.H. — Helena Williams had a great day of skiing here at Mount Sunapee shortly after the resort opened at the end of November, but when she came back the next day, the temperatures had warmed and turned patches of the trails from white to brown.
“It’s worrisome for the start of the season,” said Ms. Williams, 18, a member of the ski team at nearby Colby-Sawyer College. “The winter is obviously having issues deciding whether it wants to be cold or warm.”
Her angst is well founded. Memories linger of last winter, when meager snowfall and unseasonably warm weather kept many skiers off the slopes. It was the fourth-warmest winter on record since 1896, forcing half the nation’s ski areas to open late and almost half to close early.
Whether this winter turns out to be warm or cold, scientists say that climate change means the long-term outlook for skiers everywhere is bleak. The threat of global warming hangs over almost every resort, from Sugarloaf in Maine to Squaw Valley in California. As temperatures rise, analysts predict that scores of the nation’s ski centers, especially those at lower elevations and latitudes, will eventually vanish.
10 Reasons Why It’s Not The End of the World As We Know It
Media indulges in debunked hysteria while ignoring real crises
Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones Infowars.com
December 10, 2012
Despite the fact that there are innumerable genuine crises and real economic problems all over the world for which people should be making serious preparations, manufactured hysteria surrounding supposed Mayan prophecies about the end of the world on December 21 has dominated the headlines and stoked panic amongst significant numbers of people.
Here are ten reasons that suggest December 21st will not herald the end of the world as we know it.
1) Doomsday adherents cannot seem to agree on precisely what catastrophe will befall the earth on December 21st. Will it be the emergence of Planet X or a combination of crippling global superstorms and extreme weather events? Unlike Y2K, which at least was a single, quantifiable threat, the Mayan prophecy comes with no specific warning attached, leaving it open to wild and inaccurate speculation.
2) Astronomer and NASA scientist David Morrison put out a YouTube video containing, “Detailed rebuttals of five separate apocalyptic scenarios on its website, including a meteor strike, a solar flare and the so-called polar shift, whereby the Earth’s magnetic and rotational poles would reverse.” And if you don’t believe NASA, there are millions of amateur astronomers who are constantly stargazing and would notice any celestial threat to the earth many weeks or months in advance.
3) The establishment media and entertainment industry in the west has exploited the 2012 hysteria for their own commercial and tabloid-driven ends. Rest assured, you know it’s fraudulent when the system itself is pushing it. Real threats to people’s livelihoods like the declining value of the dollar, food shortages or threats to private retirement funds including 401K’s and IRA’s are all too real but not sexy enough to be turned into blockbuster Hollywood movies or prime time documentary specials. Real threats to our environment like genetically modified food, chemtrails or unstable nuclear reactors are sidelined in favor of obsessing over inane fantasies about armageddon.
4) The Mayans themselves were not too smart as a culture in comparison to others, so why should we pay much attention to what they said anyway? The Mayans were incapable of inventing the wheel and thought that life was a dream of the Gods, which is why they routinely made human sacrifices to stave off the fear that the Gods would awaken and the world would end. Why should we indulge in the same deluded fears of such a primitive culture?
Have you noticed that it has become trendy to bash preppers? For a long time the prepper movement was ignored, but now it has become so large that it is getting very difficult for the mainstream media to pretend that it is not there.
In fact, it has been estimated that there are now approximately 3 million preppers in the United States alone.
So now the mainstream media has decided that mocking the movement is the best strategy, and lots of “critics” and “skeptics” out there have picked up on this trend.
Instead of addressing the very real issues that have caused millions of Americans to prepare for the worst, those criticizing the prepper movement attempt to put the focus on individual personalities.
They try to find the strangest nutjobs they possibly can and then hold them up as “typical preppers”. The goal is to portray preppers as tinfoil hat wearing freaks that need to be locked up in the loony bin for their own personal safety and for the good of society.
The criticism of preppers has really ramped up in recent months, and it will likely get even worse in 2013. The establishment does not like any movement that is outside of their control, and the prepper movement is definitely not under their control.
Often, hit pieces on the prepper movement are disguised as articles or shows that are supposed to be “balanced” looks at the movement.
This is especially true of shows such as “Doomsday Preppers“. That show is the highest rated show that the National Geographic channel has ever had, and it can be a lot of fun to watch. But if you notice carefully, they almost always try to feature people that they consider to be “freaks” or that are “on the fringe of society”.
Many other “reality shows” follow the exact same recipe. The goal is to draw high ratings by running a “freak show” that people can’t help but watch.
Even if you go on such a show and try to do your best to explain your prepping in a rational and coherent manner, they will still edit the footage so that it makes you look like a freak.
It really is a no-win proposition. These shows are trying to make it clear that preppers should be mocked. The underlying implication is that these people are crazy and that what they are doing is stupid.
And at the end of each segment, the producers of the show are careful to include reasons why the prepper that was just featured is being irrational and why the things they are preparing for are extremely unlikely to happen.
Just in case you missed the message they have been trying to communicate the entire time, they come right out and tell you the conclusion that you are supposed to come to.
And of course we see the same attitudes reflected in reviews of the show. For example, the following is from a recent Los Angeles Times review of the new season of Doomsday Preppers…
Still, it’s hard not to feel for young Jason from tiny Plato, Mo. (pop. 109), who is awaiting worldwide financial collapse with his homemade, nail-studded “mace-ball bat,” and that his is a life on the verge of going completely wrong.
“I’m not afraid to have to kill,” Jason says, in his camouflage pants and dog tag, and there seems to be no question in his mind that it will come to that. (“Jason has always been a worrywart,” says his mother.)
Or for Big Al, from Nashville, who is getting ready for old-school nuclear war by digging down into the earth and surrounding himself with steel. (“I prefer not to use the term ‘bunker’ — to me, it’s an underground house.”)
He spends months at a time by himself down there, training for the inevitable — which he expects to weather alone — cooking different combinations of canned goods and, you know, spending too much time alone. One leg pumps constantly as he talks.
The preppers don’t want my pity, of course — quite the opposite, I’m sure. The joke will be on me, they would say, when I am expiring from fallout or smallpox, being carried away in a tornado or torn apart by the hungry ravaging hordes. (I am not even prepared for the Big Earthquake that might more probably get me.)
Would this Los Angeles Times reporter mock other groups of Americans in a similar manner?
But the establishment has made it clear that it is open season on preppers, so this particular writer mocks them with no fear.
Not that any prepper that is thinking clearly would go on a show such as “Doomsday Preppers” anyway.
Sure, it is nice to be on television, but if you are a serious prepper then one of the last things you want to do is to go on television and advertise your preparations to millions of people.
Others have picked up on the contempt that the establishment has for preppers and have started to issue their own critiques of the movement.
APTOS, Calif. (KPIX/CNN) – Scientists are investigating why several hundred dead squid have washed ashore along California beaches.
The beaches of Santa Cruz County are littered with carcasses of thousands of Humboldt squid. They’ve stranded themselves from Aptos to Watsonville, a span of 12 miles.
“You just see them essentially killing themselves and it’s just really weird to see,” said Hannah Rosen with Hopkins Marine Station.
It happened during high tide. Some people actually tried to put them back in the water, but Rosen says the deepwater creatures swam right back to shore.
“They don’t see the shore very often, so it might just be that they don’t understand what’s going on around them, and they’re just trying to get away and don’t realize that if they swim towards the shore, they’re going to run out of water eventually,” she said.
They’re juveniles, both male and female, about a foot and a half long, weighing roughly three pounds each. They had full stomachs, having feasted on smaller market squid. A few had also cannibalized each other, which is normal.
Researchers have no idea why this is happening, but they think it’s because the squid have eaten toxic algae.
“It’s possible that the squid are ingesting either these neurotoxins or they’re getting it through their food, and that could be causing them to be disoriented and swim onto the beach,” said Rosen.
Humboldt squid have not been seen in the Monterey Bay area for a few years.
Scientists believe El Nino weather patterns may have drawn them to the cooler waters of northern California.
This is the third stranding in six weeks.
“It’s really an exploratory time for us, so we’re learning more about what causes these strandings, and whether or not we should be worried about them or if it’s just a natural part of the squid cycle,” said Rosen.
Bitter cold weather contributes to second death reported in Balkans
December 10, 2012 – BALKANS – Freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall in the Balkans, that seriously affected traffic throughout the region, claimed a second victim on Sunday as a man died from cold in northern Serbia. The victim was found dead near his home in the village of Ravni Topolovac in northeastern Serbia, emergency services said. The first victim was a 60-year-old man who froze to death in his home in the northern town of Novi Sad on Saturday. Snow, accompanied by strong wind paralyzed northern Serbia and provoked chaos in road traffic, while the army and police were helping emergency services. “More than 660 people, including 30 children, who were trapped in their vehicles due to snow, were rescued on Serbia’s roads,” head of the national emergency services department Predrag Maric said. The highway towards Hungary was blocked for several hours while vehicles were stuck in an 11-kilometer (seven-mile) queue, he added. A woman gave birth in a truck as she could not reach a hospital in the northern town of Zrenjanin and named the baby girl Snezana (Snow White), Beta news agency reported. In neighboring Montenegro several villages in the northern part of the country were cut off and without electricity. The snow was up to 70 centimeters (27 inches) high in this mountainous region. Croatia which was practically paralyzed on Saturday due to heavy snow traffic was gradually returning to normal on Sunday. In the capital Zagreb the airport was closed for about nine hours. However, Croatia’s Adriatic coast was hit by strong northerly winds gusting up to 155 kilometers (95 miles) per hour, with many ferry and catamaran lines to the islands either delayed or canceled. In the southern coastal town of Dubrovnik, winds uprooted a 15-meter (49-foot) tree, media reported. Snow was also falling in Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo but no major problems were reported from there.
US mobile providers commit to emergency texting service
The four largest mobile carriers in the U.S.—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile—have agreed to accelerate the availability of emergency texting, or text-to-911.The four carriers have committed to major deployments of text-to-911 in 2013, with nationwide availability by May 15, 2014, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said late Thursday. The agreement between the agency and the four carriers means that more than 90 percent of the nation’s mobile consumers, including those with hearing or speech disabilities, will be able to contact emergency services by sending text messages to 911.Text-to-911can also provide consumers access to emergency communications in situations where a voice call could endanger them, the FCC said in a press release. The agency sees text-to-911 has a complement to, not a substitute for, voice calls to 911 services, and recommends that people should make voice calls to 911 when possible.“Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century — and today, we are one step closer toward that vital goal,” Genachowski said in a statement.
The carriers have also committed to providing automatic bounce-back text messages to notify consumers if their attempts to reach 911 by text message were unsuccessful because the service was not yet available. The messages, available by July 2013, will instruct those people to call 911, the FCC said.
The FCC said it plans additional action to move text-to-911 forward. Next week, it will consider steps to ensure that text-to-911 is made available as soon as possible by all carriers, and by over-the-top providers that offer Internet-based text services.
In addition to the four carriers, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) are on board with the text-to-911 agreement, those groups said.
A group of parents at Rancho Dominguez Prep School in Long Beach are asking for a long-term substitute teacher to be removed from the classroom after he told students to create images of the White House under water.
Junior Carnal Washington said his Digital Imaging instructor told him it wasn’t enough to just submerge the White House, but somebody had to drown in their creations.
“My (project) was the president being saved instead of drowning him… so I drowned his wife and the dog,” he said. “I felt bad. It didn’t feel right drowning the president.”
Excerpt: UK’s Lord Christopher Monckton gets evicted
After the news conference, and as diplomats gathered for the climate conference president’s assessment of how close countries are to agreement, Monckton quietly slipped into the seat reserved for the delegation of Myanmar and clicked the button to speak.
“In the 16 years we have been coming to these conferences, there has been no global warming,” Monckton said as confused murmurs filled the hall and then turned into a chorus of boos.
The stunt infuriated negotiators and activists here who gather every year to address what they believe is one of the world’s top threats, the steady rise of man-made global warming.
As Monckton was escorted from the hall and security officers stripped him of his U.N. credentials, several people noted that just a few hours earlier a group of young activists had been thrown out of the convention center and deported. Their crime: unfurling an unauthorized banner calling for the Qatari hosts to lead the negotiations to a strong conclusion.
By late today, several activists attending the conference had posted calls to “deport Monckton” on their Twitter feeds.
End Greenwire excerpt.
Monckton was referring to the latest temerature data showing a 16 year stall in global warming.
DOHA, Qatar — Hassan al-Kubaisi considers it a gift from above that drivers in oil- and gas-rich Qatar only have to pay $1 per gallon at the pump.“Thank God that our country is an oil producer and the price of gasoline is one of the lowest,” al-Kubaisi said, filling up his Toyota Land Cruiser at a gas station in Doha. “God has given us a blessing.”
To those looking for a global response to climate change, it’s more like a curse.
Qatar — the host of U.N. climate talks that entered their final week Monday — is among dozens of countries that keep gas prices artificially low through subsidies that exceeded $500 billion globally last year. Renewable energy worldwide received six times less support — an imbalance that is just starting to earn attention in the divisive negotiations on curbing the carbon emissions blamed for heating the planet.
Carbon credit controversy could thwart UN climate negotiations
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Sunday, December 2, 2012 16:37 EST
Brazil has said a row over carbon credits could derail the United Nations climate change negotiations taking place in Qatar this week.
The row concerns whether countries entering the second round of the Kyoto protocol should be allowed to carry over emissions credits from the first phase. Some countries, including Poland, Ukraine and Russia, have large surpluses of credits, generated because their carbon output collapsed alongside their industrial base after the fall of communism.
These credits are derided as “hot air” by critics because they represent greenhouse gases already reduced many years ago, rather than new efforts. André Corrêa do Lago, head of the Brazilian delegation, told the Guardian: “The second phase has to have environmental integrity, and you will not have that if countries are allowed to carry over [the credits]. The second period will be completely compromised. This is not a way to have effective reductions.”
Brazil occupies an important position at the talks: it is one of the rapidly developing Basic countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), but has acted as a moderating force between this group and the developed nations, which often have major differences.
Russia and the Ukraine are thought to have billions of emissions credits unsold, but the focus has been on Poland because as a member of the EU it has committed to the second phase of Kyoto. Its refusal to give up its credits has riven a deep split in the EU, which likes to be seen as one of the engines of progress in the talks.
“They are debating this inside the European bloc and we really hope that they will solve it in a way that gives environmental integrity. This is a loophole that means they won’t reduce emissions [as much as promised], so it’s a very strange logic,” said Corrêa do Lago.
Russia has refused to join the second commitment period, likely to run from 2012 to 2020, and Ukraine’s position is unclear.
Developing countries are already unhappy that so few rich nations have agreed to join a second phase of Kyoto. The non-joiners have argued that the focus should shift from the 1997 Kyoto protocol to forging a new global agreement covering developed and developing countries, that would be drafted by 2015 and come into force in 2020. New Zealand’s climate minister, Tim Groser, told the Associated Press in Doha: “This excessive focus on Kyoto, Kyoto, Kyoto, Kyoto, was fine in the 1990s. But given that it covers only 15% of emissions, I’m sorry, this is not the main game.”
PARIS — Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are rising annually by around three percent, placing Earth on track for warming that could breach five degrees Celsius (9.0 degrees Fahrhenheit) by 2100, a new study published on Sunday said.
The figure — among the most alarming of the latest forecasts by climate scientists — is at least double the 2C (3.6F) target set by UN members struggling for a global deal on climate change.
In 2011, global carbon emissions were 54 percent above 1990 levels, according to the research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change by the Global Carbon Project consortium.
“We are on track for the highest emissions projections, which point to a rise in temperature of between 4C (7.2F) and 6C (10.8F) by the end of the century,” said Corinne le Quere, a carbon specialist at the University of East Anglia, eastern England.
“The estimate is based on growth trends that seem likely to last,” she said in a phone interview, pointing to the mounting consumption of coal by emerging giants.
Other research has warned of potentially catastrophic impacts from a temperature rise of this kind.
Chronic droughts and floods would bite into farm yields, violent storms and sea-level rise would swamp coastal cities and deltas, and many species would be wiped out, unable to cope with habitat loss.
Developed countries have largely stabilised their emissions since 1990, the benchmark year used in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, the study said.
But this achievement has been eclipsed by emissions by China, India, Brazil and Indonesia and other developing economies, which are turning to cheap, plentiful coal to power their rise out of poverty.
In 1990, developing countries accounted for 35 percent of worldwide output of CO2, the principal “greenhouse” gas blamed for warming Earth’s surface and inflicting damaging changes to the climate system.
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