CCNet TERRA 12/2002 - 5 December 2002

"We do not know the effect of natural fluctuations in climate on
warming or adequately understand the natural carbon and water cycles. We
do not yet adequately understand the role of clouds, oceans and aerosol
emissions on global climate change. We cannot confidently project how our
climate could or will change. We do not know definitely what constitutes
a dangerous level of warming. Rather than pitting economic growth against
the environment, as the Kyoto Protocol would do, and imposing massive
job losses on the American people, [the US administration's climate
plan] promises real progress by harnessing the power of sound
science and cutting edge technologies. And, it ensures that America's
workers and the citizens of the developing world are not unfairly
--U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, 3 December 2002

    Environment News Service, 3 December 2002

    World Climate Report, December 2002

    Eurekalert, 4 December 2002

    CO2 Science Magazine, 27 November 2002

    CO2 Science Magazine, 27 November 2002


    BBC News Online, 2 December 2002

    Tech Central Station, 2 December 2002

    The Independent, 4 December 2002

    World Climate Report, December 2002


>From Environment News Service, 3 December 2002


WASHINGTON, DC, December 3, 2002 (ENS) - A new U.S. climate change research
strategy that U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans terms "aggressive" is the
focus of a three day workshop that opened today in Washington. The U.S.
Climate Change Science Program has welcomed more than 1,100 experts from
across the country and around the world to receive comments on a discussion
draft version of its "Strategic Plan" for climate change and global change

The Climate Change Science Program, incorporating the U.S. Global Change
Research Program and the Climate Change Research Initiative, is jointly
sponsored by 13 U.S. government agencies. The workshop will review the plan,
first issued November 19, with a view to finding ways to support climate
change policy and resource management decision making within five years.

In an opinion statement today, Commerce Secretary Evans acknowledges that
"the surface temperature of the Earth has warmed, rising 0.6 degrees Celsius
(one degree Fahrenheit) over the past century. And the National Academy of
Sciences indicates that human activity is a contributing factor to higher
concentrations of greenhouse gases."

Yet, Evans says, a great deal is still not known about the sciences of
climate change, and the Climate Change Research Initiative focus is defined
by this group of uncertainties.
"We do not know the effect of natural fluctuations in climate on warming or
adequately understand the natural carbon and water cycles. We do not yet
adequately understand the role of clouds, oceans and aerosol emissions on
global climate change. We cannot confidently project how our climate could
or will change. We do not know definitely what constitutes a dangerous level
of warming," Evans said today.

The Strategic Plan confirms that the climate change is occurring.
"Currently, measurements taken at the Earth's surface, in various layers of
the atmosphere, in boreholes, in the oceans, and in other environmental
systems such as the cryosphere [frozen regions] indicate that the climate is
warming," it states.

The plan points to some inconsistencies in the scientific record.
"Apparently contradicting the evidence of warming are inconsistencies in the
observational record, particularly related to the differences between
temperature trends measured at the surface and measurements taken from
satellite observations of the lower- to mid-troposphere, which show no
significant warming trends in the last two decades of the 20th century," it

This and other gaps in the climate science remain "an important challenge
with significant potential implications for decisionmaking," the discussion
document states.

The draft plan has been prepared by the 13 federal agencies participating in
the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), with input from scientific
steering groups. Articles appear written by authors from the U.S. space
agency, NASA; the oceans and atmosphere agency, NOAA; the energy department,
and the EPA, among others.

As Plan Coordinator for the Office of the U.S. Global Change Research
Program, Dr. Richard H. Moss led a staff of 17 climate experts in
preparation of the strategic plan, which sets priorities for the nation's
$1.8 billion annual multi-agency research program.

Secretary Evans today explained once again why the Bush administration
prefers "market-based" means of dealing with climate change with science and
technology above the method of the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Climate
Convention that would set binding limits on the emission of six
heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

"Rather than pitting economic growth against the environment, as the Kyoto
Protocol would do, and imposing massive job losses on the American people,"
said Evans, the Bush administration climate plan, "promises real progress by
harnessing the power of sound science and cutting edge technologies. And, it
ensures that America's workers and the citizens of the developing world are
not unfairly penalized.

The new U.S. climate research strategy focuses on three broad tiers of
activities, Evans said today, "scientific inquiry that is objective and well
documented; observation and monitoring systems to provide needed,
comprehensive global data; and development of decision support resources,
including the ability to explore various potential outcomes."

The United States spends more money on research and technology development
directed at climate change than any other nation, $20 billion since 1990.
"That's three times as much as any other country," said Evans. "It is more
than Japan and all 15 nations of the European Union combined."

Even if the most perfect set of data possible is assembled, "This is because
these activities are not predetermined, but rather depend on human choices,
which will, in turn, affect future climate conditions,"

The challenge is discerning whether human activities are causing the
observed climatic changes and impacts. This requires detecting a small,
decade-by-decade trend against the backdrop of wide temperature changes that
occur on shorter timescales of seasons or years.

The Strategic Plan is intended as a vehicle to facilitate comments and
suggestions by the scientific and stakeholder communities interested in
climate and global change issues.

"We welcome comments on this draft plan by all interested persons," says Dr.
James Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere,
and director, Climate Change Science Program. Comments may be provided
during the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Planning Workshop for
Scientists and Stakeholders being held in Washington, DC on December 3 - 5,
2002, and during a subsequent public comment period extending to January 13,

Information about the Workshop and the written comment opportunities is
available online at:

A newly formed committee of the National Research Council is also reviewing
the draft plan, and will provide its analysis of the plan, the workshop and
the written comments received after the workshop. A final version of the
strategic plan, setting a path for the next few years of research under the
Climate Change Science Program, will be published by April 2003.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2002. All Rights Reserved.


>From World Climate Report, December 2002

Here's *the* question on global warming: Are increasing greenhouse gases
warming the planet and if so, by how much?

Over the 20th century, the measured average surface temperature warmed about
0.7°C, a portion of which is probably related to greenhouse gases. The
warming over the last 30 years has been roughly constant, just as climate
models project (though they tend to predict a faster rise than has been
observed). A simple extrapolation of reality suggests that the planet will
warm about 1.5°C by the year 2100, assuming a business-as-usual energy usage
and population increase scenario.

So that's the answer to the question. The problem is that it's the wrong
question. A warming that small, coupled with likely reductions in climate
variability (warm climates are less variable climates), will have a
negligible impact on global economy, habitability, infrastructure, and so
on. There's no reason to talk about it, let alone fret over it.

But a much greater warming has occurred, is occurring, and will continue to
occur across the planet-a warming that is a fundamental component of
civilized society (in fact, it defines "civilization"): It's called urban

The Urban Heat Island

The structures and practices within cities-where people congregate to do
what civilized people do-generate heat. Pavement, buildings, and so forth
retain heat, particularly at night. The reduction of vegetated areas changes
the atmosphere's moisture content. Heating and cooling requirements generate
heat. The net impact is that cities are much warmer than the surrounding
countryside, particularly after dark. In fact, the warming you experience in
the 30 minutes it takes to drive from the sticks to the big city is several
times greater than the warming the entire planet will experience in the next
100 years.

That simple fact poses a real problem to the global warming lobby. It's been
hard enough for the enviros trying to get the Kyoto Protocol
implemented-imagine their difficulty in forcing the population of the
world's cities to disperse and live peacefully in small communes tending to
their organic farms and composting toilets. The Soviets couldn't even
accomplish that in 70 years. To the arguable extent that higher temperatures
are a "problem," the observed warming that has already taken place in cities
is of a similar magnitude to that projected to occur as a result of
greenhouse gas increases. But to properly study the latter issue, we need to
try to account for the impact of this urbanization in all analyses in which
urban contamination might be present.

New Information

Which brings us to a new report from Art DeGaetano and Robert Allen from
Cornell entitled "Trends in Twentieth-Century Temperature Extremes Across
the United States." Using a dense network of daily records from weather
stations throughout the United States, DeGaetano and Allen put together a
quality-controlled data set covering the period 1900-1996. To examine trends
in extremes, they counted the number of times daily maximum and minimum
temperatures exceeded both the 95th and 5th percentiles for each station (so
they looked at both extremes-high and low of both daily maximum and daily
minimum temperatures). They then examined the long-term trends in these
exceedence counts.

The top left map (Figure 1a) depicts trends in high (95th percentile)
minimum temperature exceedences since 1930, a warm decade. A total of 34
percent of the stations show statistically significant declines (warm
nighttime lows becoming less common) compared to 17 percent exhibiting
significant increases (warm nighttime lows more common). The same general
pattern applies to daily highs (Figure 1b), with 38 percent of stations
declining (fewer warm highs) and only 12 percent increasing (more extreme
hot days). These results will not sit well with our greener friends: The
only trend in extremes is a long-term tendency toward more cold nights.

But when the authors start their analysis in 1960 rather than 1930, the
story reverses. High nighttime minima are more common (Figure 1c) as are
daytime highs (Figure 1d), although the signal is stronger with the
nighttime exceedences (34 percent vs. 22 percent). Surely this must be a
signal of the nefarious impact of greenhouse gases.

Fortunately, the authors took the analysis one step further. They classified
each weather station location as urban, suburban, or rural from satellite
land use information. Based on averages across all stations, high max and
high min exceedences decreased over the 1930-1996 period but increased since
1960 (Figure 2, two top-left figures in the first row). But when the data
are subdivided into the eastern (2nd row), central (3rd row), and western
(4th row) United States, it's clear that the East is dominating the overall
pattern. In the eastern region, 48 percent of the stations are urban,
compared to only 23 percent and 31 percent in the Central and West,

According to DeGaetano and Allen:

Urbanization exerts a strong influence on recent (1960-96) warm temperature
extreme trends. For each extreme temperature measure (i.e., maximum and
minimum temperature and warm or cold extremes), the greatest warming occurs
at urban stations. For warm minimum temperatures, the composite slope is
nearly three times greater at urban than rural stations. For cold minimum
and warm maximum temperature extremes, the urban trends' slopes are over 1.5
times higher than those rural composites.

So in a nutshell, yes, warm extremes have been increasing since 1960, but
the rise is occurring mostly in cities. Urbanization trumps global warming.

If you want to experience what temperatures may be like in the future, just
get in your car and drive downtown, burning some fossil fuels along the way
(don't obviously doesn't matter). Not only will you survive, but
you can also probably partake in a fine meal and do some recreational
shopping. Al Gore will not be pleased. It's hard to believe, but despite
centuries of development and evolution, "civilization" still has a few


DeGaetano, A.T., and R.J. Allen, 2002. Trends in twentieth-century
temperature extremes across the United States, Journal of Climate, 15,

Copyright 2002, World Climate Report


>From Eurekalert, 4 December 2002

Contact: Brad Phillips
Conservation International

Global analysis finds nearly half the Earth is still wilderness
Many areas, including North America's deserts, under severe threat

December 4, 2002 (Washington, DC) - According to the most comprehensive
global analysis ever conducted, wilderness areas still cover close to half
the Earth's land, but contain only a tiny percentage of the world's
population. More than 200 international scientists contributed to the
analysis, which will be published in the book, Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild
Places, (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

The 37 wilderness areas identified in the book represent 46 percent of the
Earth's land surface, but are occupied by just 2.4 percent of the world's
population, excluding urban centers. Nine of the wilderness areas fall, at
least in part, within the United States.

Although the wilderness areas are still largely intact, they are
increasingly threatened by population growth, encroaching agriculture and
resource extraction activities. Barely 7 percent of the areas currently
enjoy some form of protection.

Nineteen of the wilderness areas have remarkably low population densities -
an average of less than one person per square kilometer. Excluding urban
centers, these 19 areas represent 38 percent of the Earth's land surface,
but hold only 0.7 percent of the planet's population.

"These very low density areas represent a landmass equivalent to the six
largest countries on Earth combined - Russia, Canada, China, the United
States, Brazil and Australia - but have within them the population of only
three large cities, a truly remarkable finding," said co-author Russell
Mittermeier, President of Conservation International. "It's good news that
we still have these large tracts of land largely intact and uninhabited, but
these areas are increasingly under threat."

The large-format, 576-page book depicts rare species and remarkable places
in more than 500 breathtaking color photographs that accompany detailed
information regarding the habitat, species and cultural diversity of each
wilderness area. The analysis was mainly carried out over the past two years
by Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science with
support from the Global Conservation Fund.

The wilderness areas include several diverse habitats, ranging from Southern
Africa's Miombo-Mopane Woodlands, with the world's largest remaining
population of African elephants, to the Sonoran and Baja Californian Deserts
of Arizona, California and Mexico, with their Gila woodpeckers and giant
cacti, to Amazonia's rainforests, teeming with biodiversity including 30,000
endemic plant species and 122 endemic primate species and subspecies.

To qualify as "wilderness," an area has 70 percent or more of its original
vegetation intact, covers at least 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square
miles) and most have fewer than five people per square kilometer.

"Wilderness areas are major storehouses of biodiversity, but just as
importantly, they provide critical ecosystem services to the planet,
including watershed maintenance, pollination and carbon sequestration," said
Gustavo Fonseca, Executive Director of CI's Center for Applied Biodiversity
Science. "As international debates on climate change and water security
continue, these wilderness areas take on even greater importance."

Only five wilderness areas are considered "high-biodiversity wilderness
areas," because they contain at least 1,500 endemic vascular plant species,
meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. The five areas are
Amazonia, the Congo Forests of Central Africa, New Guinea, the North
American Deserts and the Miombo-Mopane Woodlands and Grasslands of Southern

"These wilderness areas are important for any global strategy of protecting
biodiversity, since we have the opportunity to save large tracts of land at
relatively low costs," said Peter Seligmann, CI's Chairman and CEO. "The
areas are also critical for Earth's remaining indigenous groups, which often
want to protect their traditional ways of life from the unwanted by-products
of modern society."

"As striking as these wilderness numbers are, they only serve to underscore
more than ever the critical importance of protecting the biodiversity
hotspots, areas which represent only 1.4 percent of the Earth's landmass but
contain more than 60 percent of its terrestrial species," said Mittermeier.
"If we are to succeed as conservationists, we have to take a two-pronged
approach of protecting the biodiversity hotspots and high-biodiversity
wilderness areas simultaneously."

The book is the result of collaboration between Conservation International
and Agrupación Sierra Madre, and is published by CEMEX, a Mexican company
that also published the first two books in this series, Megadiversity and

Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places is now available through Conservation
International ( The University of Chicago Press will
accept pre-orders beginning in December (, and the
book will be available in bookstores in Spring, 2003.


>From CO2 Science Magazine, 27 November 2002

Frohlich, C. and Lean, J. 2002. Solar irradiance variability and climate.
Astronomische Nachrichten 323: 203-212.

A number of different spacecraft have monitored total solar irradiance (TSI)
for the past 23 years, with at least two of them operating simultaneously at
all times.  In addition, TSI measurements made from balloons and rockets
supplement the satellite data. From this wealth of information, a composite
TSI record has been developed that spans two 11-year solar cycles.

What was done
The authors compare the composite TSI record with an empirical model of TSI
variations, based on known magnetic sources of irradiance variability, such
as sunspot darkening and brightening.  They then describe how "the TSI
record may be extrapolated back to the seventeenth century Maunder Minimum
of anomalously lower solar activity, which coincided with the coldest period
of the Little Ice Age." This exercise, they say, "enables an assessment of
the extent of post-industrial climate change that may be attributable to a
varying Sun, and how much the Sun might influence future climate change."

What was learned
In the words of the authors, "warming since 1650 due to the solar change is
close to 0.4°C, with pre-industrial fluctuations of 0.2°C that are seen also
to be present in the temperature reconstructions."

What it means
>From this study, it would appear that solar variability can explain a
significant portion of the warming experienced by the earth in recovering
from the global chill of the Little Ice Age, with a modicum of positive
feedback accounting for the rest. With respect to the future, however, the
authors say that "solar forcing is unlikely to compensate for the expected
forcing due to the increase of anthropogenic greenhouse gases which are
projected to be about a factor of 3-6 larger." The magnitude of that
anthropogenic forcing, however, is computed by many different approaches to
be much smaller than the value employed by the authors in making this
comparison (Idso, 1998). Likewise, the anticipated rise in the air's CO2
content may also be much smaller than what is specified by the set of
scenarios employed by the authors, due to simultaneous CO2-induced increases
in biospheric carbon sequestration (Idso, 1991a,b). Hence, while past
temperature changes seem reasonably well explained by solar radiation
variations, the future - as always - is a much more murky matter.

Idso, S.B.  1991a.  The aerial fertilization effect of CO2 and its
implications for global carbon cycling and maximum greenhouse warming.
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 72: 962-965.

Idso, S.B.  1991b.  Reply to comments of L.D. Danny Harvey, Bert Bolin, and
P. Lehmann.  Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 72: 1910-1914.

Idso, S.B.  1998.  CO2-induced global warming: a skeptic's view of potential
climate change.  Climate Research 10: 69-82.
Copyright © 2002.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


>From CO2 Science Magazine, 27 November 2002

Hillenbrand, C-D., Futterer, D.K., Grobe, H. and Frederichs, T.  2002.  No
evidence for a Pleistocene collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from
continental margin sediments recovered in the Amundsen Sea. Geo-Marine
Letters. 22: 51-59.

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet [WAIS] is often described as the world's most
unstable large ice sheet. As the authors of this paper report, "it was
speculated, from observed fast grounding-line retreat and thinning of a
glacier in Pine Island Bay (Rignot, 1998; Shepherd et al., 2001), from the
timing of late Pleistocene-Holocene deglaciation in the Ross Sea
(Bindschadler, 1998; Conway et al., 1999), and from predicted activity of
ice-stream drainage in response to presumed future global warming
(Oppenheimer, 1998), that the WAIS may disappear in the future, causing the
sea-level to rise at a rate of 1 to 10 mm/year (Bindschadler, 1998;
Oppenheimer, 1998)."

What was done
The authors studied the nature and history of glaciomarine deposits
contained in sediment cores recovered from the West Antarctic continental
margin in the Amundsen Sea to "test hypotheses of past disintegration of the

What was learned
All proxies regarded as sensitive to a WAIS collapse, according to the
authors, changed markedly during the global climatic cycles of the past 1.8
million years, "but do not confirm a complete disintegration of the WAIS
during the Pleistocene" at a place where "dramatic environmental changes
linked to such an event should be documented." In fact, they say their
results "suggest relative stability rather than instability of the WAIS
during the Pleistocene climatic cycles."

What it means
In light of the findings of this study, it seems reasonable to conclude we
are nowhere near having to worry about a disintegration of the WAIS. This
seems also to be the feeling of the authors, who - although careful to state
their results "do not exclude the possibility of a WAIS melting in response
to future global warming" - emphasize that their primary conclusion is
"consistent with only a minor reduction of the WAIS during the last
interglacial period (Huybrechts, 1990; Cuffey and Marshall, 2000;
Huybrechts, 2002), which was slightly warmer than the Holocene."

Along these same lines, we note that all four of the interglacials that
preceded the current interglacial were warmer than the Holocene, by an
average of more than 2°C (see our Editorial of 9 August 2000), yet the WAIS
still didn't disintegrate.

So, don't hold your breath waiting for the Big Meltdown to occur; it's just
not in the cards.

Bindschadler, R. 1998. Future of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Science 282:

Conway, H., Hall, B.L., Denton, G.H., Gades, A.M. and Waddington, E.D. 1999.
Past and future grounding-line retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Science 286: 280-283.

Cuffey, K.M. and Marshall, S.J. 2000. Substantial contribution to sea-level
rise during the last interglacial from the Greenland ice sheet. Nature 404:

Huybrechts, P. 1990. The Antarctic Ice Sheet during the last
glacial-interglacial cycle: a three-dimensional experiment. Annals of
Glaciology 14: 115-119.

Huybrechts, P. 2002. Sea-level changes at the LGM from ice-dynamic
reconstructions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets during the glacial
cycles.  Quaternary Science Reviews 21: 203-231.

Oppenheimer, M. 1998. Global warming and the stability of the West Antarctic
Ice Sheet.  Nature 393: 325-332.

Rignot, E.J. 1998. Fast recession of a West Antarctic glacier.  Science 281:

Shepherd, A., Wingham, D.J., Mansley, J.A.D. and Corr, H.F.J. 2001. Inland
thinning of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica.  Science 291: 862-864.
Copyright © 2002. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 



>From BBC News Online, 2 December 2002
Scientists in Britain are designing a machine that could help to produce
rain in areas where it is needed.

The plan involves forcing seawater through nozzles so that it becomes a fine
spray, which can then gradually form into clouds.

The research is being carried out at Edinburgh University by Professor
Stephen Salter, who designed a way of producing electricity from waves 30
years ago with a system of floats known as "Salter's duck".

His rainmaking idea has just been awarded a government development grant
worth over £100,000.

Fine spray

The project is based around a wind-powered machine which looks rather like a
giant lollipop.

The stick is a large, hollow tube which stands upright on a platform on the
sea, with its base just below the water.

Two hollow blades stick out from the sides of the tube. As the wind spins
these blades around, they power the turbine, which sucks up seawater by
centrifugal force - no pumps, valves or pistons are needed.

Professor Salter told the BBC: "We are trying to break through the layer of
rather stagnant, humid air that's at the very, very bottom of the
atmosphere, in contact with the sea surface, and lift large volumes of water
through this and squirt them out from 10 metres up in the air as a very fine
spray, with a very big surface area."

Technical hurdles

Professor Salter says that, ideally, his rainmaking machines would be
positioned about 10 to 20 kilometres off a mountainous coastline - like the
Red Sea or the Persian Gulf.

They would then need an onshore wind to blow the moisture-filled air towards
land, and let the mountains lift it further into the sky to form clouds.

His team is now using computers to track the movement of air in different
parts of the world, working out where to test the rainmaker, when it has
been built.

There are still technical problems to sort out, including controlling the
size of the water droplets, and how to make sure that the salty residue
falls back into the sea.

People have been trying for many years to modify the weather, from tribal
rain dances through to experiments in which small crystals were dropped into
clouds to attract moisture.

There has been some success with this method, but the regular use of
"seeding" to influence weather patterns still remains a long way off.

Copyright 2002, BBC     


>From Tech Central Station, 2 December 2002

By Howard Fienberg

At 4 A.M. on March 28, 1979, the Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit 2 nuclear
power plant malfunctioned. The reactor suffered a partial meltdown, but it
could not compare to the one suffered by news media, anti-nuclear activists
and public opinion. It should be easier now, after more than two decades, to
gauge the impact of the TMI accident. Was there a measurable public health
impact? Did it lead to an epidemic of early deaths from radiation-induced

Judge Sylvia Rambo of the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,
trained a skeptical eye on the effects of TMI when faced with the
anti-nuclear vanguard - trial lawyers. In June, 1996, she dismissed a class
action lawsuit linking the accident to adverse health effects: "The parties
to the instant action... have had nearly two decades to muster evidence in
support of their respective cases... The paucity of proof alleged in support
of plaintiff's case is manifest. The court has searched the record for any
and all evidence, which construed in the light more favorable to plaintiffs
creates a genuine issue of material fact warranting submission of their
claims to a jury. This effort has been in vain." Translation from legalese
to English: after all this time, there is not the slightest evidence of so
much as a cold linked to the TMI accident.

Both the U.S. Department of Energy and the state Department of Environmental
Resources tested hundreds of air samples in the vicinity of TMI shortly
after the accident. They discovered only average levels of radioactivity.
Writing a few years after TMI, University of Pittsburgh professor Bernard
Cohen asserted that, "the average person living near Three Mile Island
received as much extra radiation from that accident as he would get from a
one-week visit to Denver." Indeed, separating the impact of any radiation
emitted from TMI from the many other sources of background radiation would
be quite difficult.

The results of a study released at the beginning of November should
effectively close the book on the TMI story. (The study will be published in
the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, but were posted online
[ ] early).
Conducting a 20-year follow-up study of mortality data on the 32,135 people
resident within a five-mile radius of TMI (within two months of the
accident), researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found no increase in
overall deaths from cancer. Lead researcher Dr. Evelyn O. Talbott explained
they found "virtually no difference" when they compared observed cancers
with the expected rates, after controlling for background radiation,
educational level and smoking. The study covered what Talbott said was the
normal latency period for most cancers. Talbott's team found a slight
increase in the risk for lymphomas, leukemia and other blood system cancers
among men exposed to radiation released by the accident, but conceded that
it could have easily arisen from later exposure to other potentially
cancerous agents or risk factors. "You would expect, really by chance, when
you do 20 or more analyses, you're going to have a couple that by random
chance come up," she said.

The results of this latest study further discredit the main pillar of our
fears of radiation: the linear no-threshold hypothesis (LNTH). The LNTH
presumes that with each incremental rise in radiation exposure, the health
effects will increase by an equal amount. It also assumes that any exposure
to radiation is harmful to human health, even the smallest measurable amount
(hence the "no-threshold"). But many scientists question the validity of the
hypothesis. In April 1999, the American Nuclear Society concluded that
"there is insufficient scientific evidence to support" the LNTH "in the
projection of the health effects of low-level radiation." In addition, there
is a growing body of evidence showing that exposure to low level radiation
may provide some benefits to health.

Nuclear power has been trumpeted for decades as a threat to our health for
decades, but it never spawned the development of any Godzilla-like disaster.
Even the meltdown of the Chernobyl plant in 1986, one with few of the
safeguards and protections of American plants, killed only 41 people, not
the 2,000, 15,000 or 110,000 rashly predicted at the time.

There is no evidence that TMI led to increased cancer risk or that American
nuclear plants are linked to local increased infant mortality (rates
actually have decreased in their vicinity). Nuclear power is pretty safe and
our country's worst nuclear "accident" seemed to have no practical health
effects. Anti-nuclear activists appear to be running out of viable targets.
Given the increased threat to our fuel sources from unsteady or unsavory
suppliers in the Middle East, Americans may not stand for anti-nuclear
grandstanding for very long. Perhaps it is time for the activists to find a
new crusade - maybe even one with scientific backing.

Copyright 2002, Tech Central Station


>From The Independent, 4 December 2002

By Cahal Milmo

Imagine a bank statement that lists your earthly wealth not only in pounds
sterling but also through increased longevity, how long you work and your
access to technology from antibiotics to air travel.

This was the concept of economic well-being put forward by a leading
economist yesterday in an effort to prove that Britons are really at least
twice as wealthy as they think they are.

Nick Crafts, professor of economic history at the London School of
Economics, told an audience that scientific and technological advances such
as increased life expectancy had been wrongly excluded from calculations of
the nation's wealth. If they had been included, the growth in the country's
gross domestic product over the past 25 years - an average annual increase
of 1.8 per cent - would have been at least doubled, he said.

The findings were in stark contrast to recent surveys showing that many
Britons, in particular twentysomethings, are convinced their quality of life
is falling and they are plunging into lethargy and depression as a result.

But Professor Crafts, delivering the annual Royal Economic Society lecture
in London, said more ethereal notions such as health and free time deserved
a monetary value, as did the technology that made them possible.

He said: "We now expect to live on average 30 years longer, to work almost
half the amount of time we used to, and to enjoy an array of new goods and
services, including air travel, antibiotics and televisions.

"The most important scientific achievement of the 20th century - the massive
reduction in mortality risks - is not taken into account [in GDP], although
there is clear evidence that it is worth as much to people as a huge
increase in material consumption."

The professor said the longer life expectancy of the population and better
quality of life should therefore be calculated as a concrete economic gain
to produce a "true" picture of the national income. For example, a
"statistical life" - the value gained from reducing expected deaths by one
in a single year - has been worked out as £1.75m a year.

Professor Crafts said that GDP figures showing a slowdown in the annual rate
of growth from 2.5 per cent between 1950 and 1973 to 1.8 per cent until 1998
could be considered "statistical artefacts". But he admitted that his
proposal did nothing to explain research that showed that despite their
increased wealth, most Britons were no happier than their grandparents or

Professor Crafts said Britons were seemingly never satisfied with their lot
in life. "The resolution of this paradox seems to be that our material
aspirations rise as fast as our incomes."

Copyright 2002, The Independent


>From World Climate Report, December 2002

In what must be considered an odd science news item at best, the German
science magazine Geo reports that fruit flies acquire homosexual tendencies
as temperatures increase.

When temperatures inside the lab were 19°C, male flies exhibited typical
heterosexual behavior, chasing after and, when lucky, breeding with hot
female flies. But when ambient temperatures rose to 30°C, their fellow male
flies apparently began to look even hotter to them than the females. "The
male flies ignored the female partners at that point and chased after their
male counterparts," the researchers reported.

It may be premature to assign such a correlation to the behavior to homo
sapiens, but given the preponderance of warming in Siberia and northwestern
North America, we might begin to look for possible indicators: The opening
of a Broadway-style theater in Magnitigorsk, a rapid explosion of hair
salons in Moose Jaw, or the debut of a 24-hour "Will and Grace" channel in

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