Geospatial initiative shows the way

GeoSUR, a Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) open access and web-based initiative for geospatial data-sharing, has received a boost at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-15 December). The conference "Networks of Networks" working group accepted GeoSUR – one of the first such regional networks in the developing world – as a "case model".

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant finally in cold shutdown

Japan declared its tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant to be in cold shutdown on Friday in a major step toward resolving the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. The Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was wrecked on March 11 by a huge earthquake and a towering tsunami which knocked out its cooling systems, triggering meltdowns, radiation leaks and mass evacuations. In making the much-anticipated announcement, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda drew a line under the crisis phase of the emergency at the plant and highlighted the next challenges: post-disaster clean-up and the safe dismantling of the plant, something experts say could take up to 40 years. "The reactors have reached a state of cold shutdown," Noda told a government nuclear emergency response meeting. "A stable condition has been achieved. It is judged that the accident at the plant itself has ceased," he added, noting radiation levels at the boundary of the plant could now be kept at low levels, even in the event of "unforeseeable incidents."

Biochar Value to Glacial Soils and Green House Gases

Adding a charred biomass material called biochar to glacial soils can help reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. Studies by scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are providing valuable information about how biochar-the charred biomass created from wood, plant material, and manure-interacts with soil and crops. As part of this effort, ARS scientists in St. Paul, Minn., are studying biochar activity in soils formed from glacial deposits. ARS Soil and Water Management Research Unit in St. Paul, found that amending glacial soils with biochar made from macadamia nut shells reduced a range of greenhouse gas emissions.

Super Hospital Disinfection

One of the nastier things to happen to a hospital patient is to go to be cured but end up being infected by something from the hospital. A Queen’s University infectious disease expert has helped in the development of a disinfection system that may change the way hospital rooms all over the world are cleaned as well as stop bed bug outbreaks in hotels and apartments. "This is the future, because many hospital deaths are preventable with better cleaning methods," says Dick Zoutman, who is also Quinte Health Care’s new Chief of Staff. "It has been reported that more than 100,000 people in North America die every year due to hospital acquired infections at a cost of $30 billion. That’s 100,000 people every year who are dying from largely preventable infections." The new technology involves pumping a mix of ozone and hydrogen peroxide vapor gas mixture into a room to completely sterilize everything – including floors, walls, drapes, mattresses, chairs and other surfaces. It is far more effective in killing bacteria than wiping down a room.

Weather experts warn of second huge storm to hit length and breadth of UK

A second hurricane-strength storm is heading for the UK and this time the entire country looks set to suffer. Forecasters say the next severe storm is now brewing in the North Atlantic and will bring with it cold air, snow and sleet as well as hurricane-strength winds from Monday evening.

More Shrubbery in a Warming World

ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2011) — Scientists have used satellite data from NASA-built Landsat missions to confirm that more than 20 years of warming temperatures in northern Quebec, Canada, have resulted in an increase in the amount and extent of shrubs and grasses.

How global finance fuels a secretive and unethical land grab in Africa

Global banks, investment houses and pension funds are gobbling up farmland in poor countries for food and biofuels production. GRAIN, winners of the 2011 Right Livelihood Award, says this secretive and unjust practice needs to stop.

Climate talks mean life or death for island states

So while climate change delegates haggle over deadlines, binding targets and finance, some of the world's poorest states are warning that rising sea levels and storms will sweep them away unless the world agrees to tackle global warning. "We will be one of the first countries to go under water," said Foua Toloa, a senior politician on Tokelau, an island half-way between Hawaii and New Zealand that is no more than five meters above sea-level. "We are a small and fragile nation very susceptible to environment and climate developments." Grenada's Foreign Minister Karl Hood, chairman of the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members are in the frontline of climate change, was even more blunt: "If we don't act now, some of us will die." Many low lying nations can already calculate the cost of rising greenhouse gas emissions in lives lost, economies shattered and landscapes transformed. "By 2025, rising sea levels could lead to the displacement of at least 10 percent of the population", Comores Vice President Fouad Mohadji told delegates at climate change talks in the South African port city of Durban.

One Quarter of World’s Agricultural Land “Highly Degraded”, UN Report Concludes

On Monday, the UN released the results of the first ever global study on the state of Earth’s land. The main finding: 25 percent of all land is highly degraded making it unsuitable for agriculture. The implications of this finding are enormous; the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that farm output must increase by 70 percent by 2050 to accommodate the food needs of an estimated 9 billion humans.

Wind turbines are supposed to like the wind!

Huge wind turbine erupts in flames as 165mph winds strike Scotland These amazing pictures show the moment a huge wind turbine erupted in flames after it was struck by hurricane-force winds in Scotland. Local photographer Stuart McMahon from Ardossan, North Ayrshire, snapped the fireball as it wrecked the turbine earlier this afternoon. Stuart told ClickGreen tonight the blades on the 30mw turbine had been braked and were not turning as the ferocious winds swept across Scotland. "It was clear that the turbine caught fire first and the flames spread to the covering of blades," he said. "There was debris still on fire being swept off in the wind and across the fields." "These are huge structures and to see one on fire was a spectacular sight." "The fire must have lasted for about 15 or 20 minutes until the fire brigade turned up to put out the fire." The Ardrossan wind farm was sold by Scottish and Southern Energy to Infinis last year for £54 million. It comprises of 15 turbines with the capacity to power about 29,500 homes.