Thursday, 6 June 2013

New Australian study: Marine algae species adapts to climate change, contrary to what was assumed until now

These algae have no problems adapting to possible global warming.
(image wikipedia)
A new Australian study shows that, contrary to what was assumed until now, marine organisms - in this case the algae commonly known as Neptune' s necklace - adapt well to possible climate change: 
Breakthrough research has shown a species of marine algae commonly found along Australia’s rocky shores may be able to adapt to increasing air and seawater temperatures, providing insight into the impacts of global warming on the future biodiversity of Australia’s coastline 
The ability of Hormosira banksii, commonly known as Neptune’s necklace, to tolerate higher temperatures suggests that this habitat-forming alga has an intrinsic capacity to cope with climate change. --
“Hormosira banksii makes an excellent model for examining the potential for marine organisms to adapt because it is an important intertidal species in Australia and New Zealand, providing habitat for many other species.
“These macroalgae cling to rock platforms and don’t have much ability to disperse, limiting the genetic diversity amongst populations. It was therefore assumed, until now, that they wouldn’t be able to adapt to changes in climate as they can’t move to avoid temperature changes and they are already living close to their thermal tolerances,” she said.
However, the research of Ms Clark and her C3 colleagues showed that temperature tolerance in this habitat-forming species can be passed on to the next generation, meaning they have the potential to adapt to rising temperatures. 
New plants may therefore be less sensitive to heat waves during the summer, or high temperature events during other seasons, giving the researchers some optimism that this iconic species will remain prominent on our rocky shores.
Read the entire article here

Obama's "shirt-sleeves' summit" with China's Xi Jinping is a mistake

Later this week, US President Barack Obama will meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in California. Yale historian Michael Auslin thinks - rightly - that the meeting, which is pitched as a 'shirt-sleeves' summit', is a mistake
... summits like this one should be reserved for friends and allies with whom the United States has close working relationships.--
While it is too late to pull out of this summit, the president still has time to come up with a concrete list of issues that Washington expects movement on. He should make it clear that this experiment in going outside the boundaries of traditional Sino-U.S. meetings will be a one-off if there is no change in Chinese behavior. A better approach in general would be to restrict such top-level meetings until truly necessary, or when it is clear that some agreement on a significant issue has been reached and there will be a measureable outcome. Washington needs not merely to accept that its relations with China are purely transactional, but to act that way, as well. 
Focusing on results during future summits would communicate that Washington is serious about protecting its interests. While our diplomats certainly deal seriously with their Chinese counterparts, the tone set at the top of this administration (and previous ones) has been too accommodating, too willing to play what we think is the long-game of engagement, while ignoring the longer Chinese game of undermining U.S. influence in Asia and globally while avoiding commitment to solving disagreements between us. Unfortunately, this week's "shirt-sleeves" summit will fail to produce a more meaningful U.S.-China relationship because it is driven by wishful thinking, and not by a ruthless desire to protect U.S. interests.
In addition, people should not forget that Xi is in charge of one of the world's most corrupt countries. Although Xi is officially fighting corruption, it should be remembered that his extended family has enriched itself enormously during his time as a Communist Party apparatchik, as Bloomberg found out last year

As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg.

Those interests include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare- earths company with $1.73 billion in assets; and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company. --

Most of the extended Xi family’s assets traced by Bloomberg were owned by Xi’s older sister,Qi Qiaoqiao, 63; her husband Deng Jiagui, 61; and Qi’s daughter Zhang Yannan, 33, according to public records compiled by Bloomberg. --
Deng, reached on his mobile phone, said he was retired. When asked about his wife, Zhang and their businesses across the country, he said: “It’s not convenient for me to talk to you about this too much.”
Neither should it be forgotten, as Robert I. Rotberg points out, that Xi is "a corrupt autocrat's best friend": 
African autocrats absolutely adore China’s President Xi Jinping. At a meeting last month with 13 prominent African leaders in Durban, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea’s hard-fisted President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo led the others in lavishing praise on China. The front page of the weekend China Daily for March 29 trumpeted their obsequieousness and China-Africa friendship.
None of Africa’s despots dare bite the hand that has fed so well, and so consistently. While Chinese support keeps rolling in, these leaders enrich themselves and their inner circles while their people go without.
China directly supports the leaders and enables their continued internal tyrannies by refusing to “interfere” in local politics, by willfully ignoring well-documented trails of human rights violations, by turning a blind eye to egregious corrupt practices, and by protecting presidents such as Zimbabwae’s Robert Mugabe and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir when the UN or other regional organizations threaten to investigate their regimes. China has also helped to shield Bashir from the consequences of his indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
China has also provided weapons of war to enable Africa’s worst regimes to prey on their internal opponents.  Chinese aircraft and ammunition were used by the Sudan against its opponents in Darfur and now in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Zimbabwe received Chinese jets, uniforms for its army, a military staff training college constructed by Chinese labour, and material assistance when Mugabe’s military and family forcibly ousted artisanal miners from Zimbabwe’s lucrative Marange diamond fields.

A step in the right direction: UK citizens will be given power to kill off new onshore wind turbines

No more landscape destroying, bird-killing monster turbines in the UK.
(image wikipedia)

Finally, David Cameron has seen the light: 

Residents given the power to kill off new wind turbines in move Tories claim will end controversial onshore developments

  • Schemes will need local residents' consent before planning application can be made - handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected
  • The drive for renewable energy will no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns
Communities are to be given a powerful ‘veto’ over wind farms in a move that Tories claim will mean the death of controversial new onshore developments.
Schemes will have to gain local residents’ consent before a planning application can even be made, effectively handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected.
Planning rules are also to be changed so that the drive for renewable energy can no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns.
Former energy minister John Hayes, a leading critic of onshore wind turbines who has been pushing for reform since moving to Downing Street as a senior adviser to David Cameron, told the Daily Mail: ‘No means no.
‘No longer will councils and communities be bullied into accepting developments because national energy policy trumps local opinion. Meeting our energy goals is no excuse for building wind turbines in the wrong places.’
Read the entire article here.

The next move should be to eliminate subsidies for useless and expensive offshore wind turbines. 

Robert D Kaplan praises criminal dictator Vladimir Putin

Kaplan: "Putin must seek a buffer zone in Eastern Europe; Russian history demands no less of him."
Robert D. Kaplan, Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, was in 2011 and 2012 chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world's "Top 100 Global Thinkers". Having read Kaplan's article "The World Through Putin's Eyes" - which marks a new low in any foreign policy writing - one wonders who the other top 99 "Global Thinkers" on the FP  list are.
My initial reaction was that Kaplan must be joking, but unfortunately this "Global Thinker" seems to be dead serious: 
Few people comprehend Russia’s vulnerabilities like its leader, Vladimir Putin. He must try to govern a country that extends through nearly half the longitudes of the earth but that has fewer people than Bangladesh. What’s more, Russia’s population is declining, not increasing. All the Arctic seas to Russia’s north are ice-blocked many months of the year, so with the exception of its Far East, Russia is essentially a landlocked nation. Moreover, Russia’s flat topography affords little natural protection and is therefore bereft of natural borders. Land powers, as they have no seas to protect them, are more insecure than island nations and continents like the United States and Great Britain.
Putin knows that it hasn’t been just the French and the Germans who have invaded Russia from the west in centuries past, but Swedes, Poles, and Lithuanians, too. So Putin must seek a buffer zone in Eastern Europe; Russian history demands no less of him. This is not the recreation of the Warsaw Pact we are talking about. For the need to economically support disparate states in Eastern Europe for half a century was a burden that helped topple the Soviet Union. Putin knows, therefore, that Russia cannot rule Eastern Europe. But he does require a degree of diplomatic and economic acquiescence in order to keep countries like Poland and Romania hobbled.--
American journalists, politicians and government officials must drive Putin to distraction. They assault him on moral grounds. After all, “He is a dictator!” they say. “He tolerates and even encourages corruption and rampant thuggery!” But do they know I am dealing with Russia — not with the United States? Putin must think. Are they aware that when I took power there was political chaos and criminal anarchy, with ordinary Russians robbed of their dignity.
Back in the Kremlin, the corrupt dictator of "the virtual mafia state"  (State Department cable) must be smiling - this kind of praise  is a rare treat for the former second rate KGB agent, who now is trying to destroy all opposition to his criminal regime. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Barroso holding hands with a dictator

EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso is full of praise for his host Vladimir Putin, who invited him - and a number of other EU grandees - to Yekaterinburg,  the city where members of the bolshevik secret police - precursors of Putin's KGB -  murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918: 
I have said in the past that a strategic partnership like ours needs to be based on strategic trust. These Summits serve precisely to build that trust.
That is why I want to conclude by thanking once again President Putin for having brought us to this great city. Yekaterinburg is not anymore just a frontier. It is today a place where we stretch to hold hands and join efforts for the sake of a better future for our citizens.
Holding hands with corrupt dictators has, of course, never been a problem for the former maoist Barroso, or for that matter for his presidential rival, haiku poet Herman Van Rompuy:

(It is not difficult to understand, why this photo has been deleted from the EU Commission photo service for media.)

Putin's puppet Medvedev tries to please his master

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's tiny puppet, Medvedev, apparently tries to please his master

 Any expansion of NATO to include Sweden and Finland would upset the balance of power and force Russia to respond, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday, underlining Moscow's nerves over moves to bring the Western alliance closer to its border.
Although Sweden and Finland are not actively seeking membership, both nations cooperate extensively with NATO and have openly debated the possibility of joining.
Speculation over Sweden mounted after it warned earlier this year that its defense capabilities were alarmingly limited. It was embarrassed in April when it could not respond to Russian military jets nearing its border, according to media reports.
Finland shares a long boundary with Russia.
"New participants emerging close to our border will change the parity and we'll have to take this into account and respond to that," Medvedev told a news conference at a summit of Nordic and Russian leaders in Norway.
"NATO ... has a military potential which can be used against our country in certain cases," Medvedev said, as Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt looked on.
Bildt's response was good - the cautious Katainen probably remained silent: 
"The fact that Norway is a member of NATO has not had any negative effect whatsoever on the development of cooperation in this part of the world," Sweden's Bildt said in response.
Of course, nobody takes Medvedev seriously anymore, and Putin will not have the resources to beef up his armed forces in any significant way. Russia earns billions from raw gas and energy exports, but most of it disappears through corruption into the ever expanding pockets of those favored by the KGB mafia now in charge. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Angela Merkel is right:"We are all in the same boat" - But she forgot to mention the name of the boat.

The German weekly Der Spiegel has published an interview with chancellor Angela Merkel

These are the only memorable words by Merkel in the interview:

We are all connected to one another, because for us in Germany, much depends on what happens in Portugal, Greece, Spain and other countries. We are all in the same boat.

How right Frau Merkel is - although she forgot to mention the name of the boat: the Euro-Titanic

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Economist on dictator Putin's Russia: "A problem with Russian politics is that so much of it happens in one man's head"

The Economist is spot on with this characterization of the political situation in Vladimir Putin's Russia right now:

A problem with Russian politics is that so much of it happens in one man’s head. A turn towards repression may not be a sign of Mr Putin’s strength, but rather of his fear and desperation. Some advisers say he is worried about instability and is doing as much as he can to eliminate anything or anyone that contributes to it. This also affects his economic decisions. “He resists spending money or conducting economic reforms because they will yield short-term instability,” says one analyst. The result is falling investment and slower growth.

The Economist's conclusion is not surprising:

“Contradictions and injustices within the society are growing and instead of trying to resolve them peacefully, the Kremlin uses force, which makes a peaceful transition of power unlikely,” says one businessman. The trouble may be a long way off or it may come soon—Russia’s history shows that it is not possible to predict. But those who greeted Mr Putin’s return to the Kremlin with the mournful conclusion that they would be stuck with him until 2024 may have got it wrong.

The longer dictator Putin manages to stay on, the less peaceful will his departure be. 

New study in Geophysical Research Letters: "increased carbon dioxide levels have had a fertilization effect, causing a gradual but steady greening of arid regions"

The prayer has been answered; fertilizing carbon dioxide will make the desert green.

Now, when global warming has stopped, governments and organizations like the UN should focus on the benefits of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. A new study, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, confirms that increased CO2 levels have a beneficial effect, making the planet's arid areas flourish: 

New research has confirmed what scientists have suspected for some time: that elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere cause green foliage to flourish, particularly in arid regions. According to the study accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, increased carbon dioxide levels have had a fertilization effect, causing a gradual but steady greening of arid regions around the planet from 1982 to 2010.
Satellite imagery from the 1980s to the present has shown that foliage is thriving around the globe, leading some scientists to suspect that elevated carbon dioxide concentrations might play a role in the phenomenon. The burning of fossil fuels is a significant source of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to be a major contributor to global warming.
The research team, led by Randall Donahue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, Australia, focused its inquiry on arid regions of the world, such as Australia’s outback, the Middle East, the southwestern United States, and some areas in Africa. They developed a mathematical model that predicted a five to 10 percent increase in foliage in these regions, based on measurements showing a 14 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide between 1982 and 2010. Data obtained from satellite imagery agreed with the team’s predictions, showing an 11 percent increase in green foliage during this period after adjusting for such factors as precipitation, temperature, and amount of light. --

According to Donahue, carbon dioxide’s fertilization effect may have benefits beyond encouraging plants to grow more leaves, such as causing a shift in the types of vegetation prevalent in arid regions.
“Trees are reinvading grasslands, and this could quite possible be related to the carbon dioxide effect,” Donahue said. “Long lived woody plants are deep rooted and are likely to benefit more than grasses from an increase in carbon dioxide.”
The impact of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide on plant function deserves greater attention, according to Donahue, because as global levels rise, we will see significant environmental changes due to the carbon dioxide fertilization effect.

(Image by Steve Bartrick Antique Prints)