Japan aims for 25% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020

Japan vows big climate change cut” (BBC News, 7th September 2009)

Japan’s next leader has promised a big cut in greenhouse gas emissions, saying he will aim for a 25% reduction by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama is due to take over as prime minister on 16 September, after a resounding election victory in August.

His predecessor, Taro Aso, had pledged cuts of only 8%.

Mr Hatoyama said the plan was dependent on other nations agreeing targets at December’s climate talks in Copenhagen. (Read More)

Armed forces may be the agents of climate change” (The Age, 5th September 2009)

THE oceans are getting warmer, coral reefs are increasingly under threat, Arctic ice is dropping into the sea. July was the warmest month in 130 years of testing ocean temperatures. Who are we going to call?

The admirals and the generals. It appears that the US military is as concerned about the fate of the Earth as the man and woman on Civvy Street. And, as history has shown, what troubles the US generals troubles the rest of the world. (Read More)

One minute to midnight for Maldives’ corals” (Minivan News, 6th September 2009)

If the experts are right, however, the Maldives’ coral reefs are in terminal decline. A UN report entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity released last week in Berlin, stated the world’s coral infrastructure and accompanying biodiversity would be the first ecosystem to go due to climbing greenhouse gases.

The message is critical; the reality is grim. “Corals are the foundation of the whole ecosystem, the building blocks of the reef itself,” said Guy Stevens, a British marine biologist at Four Seasons resort. “If the reef went, the Maldives would cease to exist, the islands themselves would be eroded and washed away. Without them, there’s nothing.” (Read More)

Lightbulbs made from Salmon DNA, sea lion dies of heart failure following a marathon mating session (and other odd news stories from this week)

This week has been a great week for odd, random news stories – see below for a roundup of the best (including why the “killer squid” might not be so killer after all)

1. Fish shrinking due to global warming

1fishEarlier research has already established that fish have shifted their geographic ranges and their migratory and breeding patters in response to rising water temperatures. It has also been established that warmer regions tend to be inhabited by smaller fish. Mr Daufresne and his colleagues examined long-term surveys of fish populations in rivers, streams and the Baltic and North Seas and also performed experiments on bacteria and plankton. They found the individual species lost an average of 50 per cent of their body mass over the past 20 to 30 years while the average size of the overall fishing stock had shrunk by 60 per cent. This was a result of a decrease in the average size-at-age and an increase in the proportion of juveniles and small-sized species, Daufresne said. (Read More)

2. Researchers Use Salmon DNA To Make LED Lightbulbs

1ledResearchers from the University of Connecticut have created a new light-emitting material by doping spun strands of salmon DNA with fluorescent dyes. The material, which is robust because DNA is such a strong polymer, absorbs energy from ultraviolet light and gives off different colors depending on the amounts of dye it contains. A team led by chemistry professor Gregory Sotzing created the new material by mixing salmon DNA with two types of dye, then pumping the solution from a fine needle while a voltage is applied between the needle tip and a grounded copper plate covered with a glass slide. As the liquid jet comes out, it dries and forms long nanofibers that are deposited on the glass slide as a mat. The researchers then spin this nanofiber mat directly on the surface of an ultraviolet LED to make a white-light emitter. The color-tunable DNA material relies on an energy-transfer mechanism between two different fluorescent dyes, and the DNA keeps the dye molecules separated at a distance of 2 to 10 nanometers from each other. (Read More, via /.)

3.Mike the sea lion dies of heart failure after marathon mating session at German zoo

AAEE1XA male sea lion on has died of exhaustion after a marathon mating session at an zoo in Germany. The mammal, named Mike who was originally from California, was already a father of 12. He passed away yesterday after an extended session with the females at the park in Nuremberg proved too much for his heart. Mike – described as ‘good-natured’ by the zoo – had mated repeatedly with females Farah, Tiffy and Soda. The park said in a statement that the 550lb mammal began showing tiredness around midday: ‘Mike could no longer get out of the pool and was brought ashore by staff. ‘The extremely weakened animal was treated by a vet but died from acute heart failure around 3:30 pm. ‘Mating season is a common time for fatalities when bulls often stop eating for days to devote themselves fully to mating. ‘For sea lion bulls with a harem this is the most exhausting time. ‘He will be remembered fondly by visitors of the animal park for his appearances during shows in the dolphinarium where he had close contact with the dolphins,’ added the statement. Mike’s 12 children can be found in zoos all over Europe, from Berlin to Spain to the Netherlands, the zoo said. (Read More)

4. Discarded chicken parts may provide an abundant source of biodiesel fuel, scientists say

1kfcScientists in Nevada are reporting development of a new and environmentally friendly process for producing biodiesel fuel from “chicken feather meal,” made from the 11 billion pounds of poultry industry waste that accumulate annually in the United States alone. The researchers describe a new process for extracting fat from chicken feather meal using boiling water and processing it into biodiesel. Given the amount of feather meal generated by the poultry industry each year, they estimate this process could create 153 million gallons of biodiesel annually in the U.S. and 593 million gallons worldwide. In addition, they note that removal of fat content from feather meal results in both a higher-grade animal feed and a better nitrogen source for fertilizer applications. (Read More)

5. “Huge blob of Arctic goo floats past Slope communities”

1gooSomething big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow. Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It’s thick and dark and “gooey” and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough’s Planning and Community Services Department. Brower and other borough officials, joined by the U.S. Coast Guard, flew out to Wainwright to investigate. The agencies found “globs” of the stuff floating miles offshore Friday and collected samples for testing. Later, Brower said, the North Slope team in a borough helicopter spotted a long strand of the stuff and followed it for about 15 miles, shooting video from the air. The next day the floating substance arrived offshore from Barrow, about 90 miles east of Wainwright, and borough officials went out in boats, collected more samples and sent them off for testing too. Nobody knows for sure what the gunk is, but Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says the Coast Guard is sure what it is not. (Read More)

6. ” Researcher Sheds Light On ‘man-eating’ Squid; ‘I Was Surprised At How Timid They Were'”

humboldt-squid“Based on the stories I had heard, I was expecting them to be very aggressive, so I was surprised at how timid they were. As soon as we turned on the lights, they were gone,” he said. “I didn’t get the sense that they saw the entire diver as a food item, but they were definitely going after pieces of our equipment.”

Seibel was surprised by the large number of squid he encountered, which made it easy to imagine how they could be potentially dangerous to anything swimming with them. Their large numbers also made Seibel somewhat pleased that they appeared frightened of his dive light. Yet he said the animals were also curious about other lights, like reflections off his metal equipment or a glow-in-the-dark tool that one squid briefly attacked. (Read More)