Monday, April 09, 2007

Literary Warrant [5]

  • Stephen Blake et al., Forest Elephant Crisis in the Congo Basin (PLoS Biology) (April 3, 2007)

    "Forest elephants, perhaps a distinct species of African elephant, occur in the forests of West and Central Africa. Compared to the more familiar savannah elephant of Eastern and Southern Africa, forest elephant biology and their conservation status are poorly known. To provide robust scientific data on the status and distribution of forest elephants to inform and guide conservation efforts, we conducted surveys on foot of forest elephant abundance and of illegal killing of elephants in important conservation sites throughout Central Africa. We covered a combined distance of over 8,000 km on reconnaissance walks, and we systematically surveyed a total area of some 60,000 km2 under the auspices of the Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme. Our results indicate that forest elephant numbers and range are severely threatened by hunting for ivory. Elephant abundance increased with increasing distance from the nearest road, and poaching pressure was most concentrated near roads. We found that protected areas have a positive impact on elephant abundance, probably because management interventions reduced poaching rates inside protected areas compared to non-protected forest. Law enforcement to bring the illegal ivory trade under control, and effective management and protection of large and remote national parks will be critical if forest elephants are to be successfully conserved."—Author summary.

  • Tini Garske, Paul Clarke & Azra C. Ghani, The Transmissibility of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Commercial Poultry in Industrialised Countries (PLoS ONE) (April 4, 2007)

    "With the increased occurrence of outbreaks of H5N1 worldwide there is concern that the virus could enter commercial poultry farms with severe economic consequences."—Background.

    "Our results show that depending on the particular situation in which an outbreak of avian influenza occurs, current controls might not be enough to eradicate the disease, and therefore a close monitoring of the outbreak is required. The method we used for estimating the reproductive number is straightforward to implement and can be used in real-time. It therefore can be a useful tool to inform policy decisions."—Conclusions/Significance.

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
    (Summary for Policymakers) (April 6, 2007)

    "The report of the Working Group II assesses the latest scientific, environmental and socio-economic literature on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. It provides a comprehensive analysis of how climate change is affecting natural and human systems, what the impacts will be in the future and how far adaptation and mitigation can reduce these impacts. The report also contains chapters on specific systems, sectors and regions."

    See this beSpacific post for a link to the Working Group I report on the "physical science basis" of knowledge of climate change.

  • Brad Knickerbocker, White House expected to feel the heat from Supreme Court's ruling on global warming (Christian Science Monitor) (April 5, 2007)

    A brief survey of the initial media response to Massachusetts v. EPA.

  • Nicholas Li, Does climate change constitute a threat to international peace and security? (1948 [blog]) (April 5, 2007)

    "The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security (Article 24/25 of the UN Charter). It can decide for itself what constitutes a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression (Article 39). Is climate change such a threat?"

    Update: A response on 1948 to Li's post by Maarten den Heijer.

  • Sandra George O’Neil, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Superfund: Evaluating the Impact of Executive Order 12898 (Environmental Health Perspectives, doi:10.1289/ehp.9903) (April 5, 2007)

    "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) addresses uncontrolled and abandoned hazardous waste sites throughout the country. Sites that are perceived to be a significant threat to both surrounding populations and the environment can be placed on the U.S. EPA's Superfund list and qualify for federal cleanup funds."—Background.

    "The equitability of this program has been questioned; the representation of minority and low-income populations in this cleanup program is lower than would be expected. Thus, minorities and low-income populations may not be benefiting proportionately from this environmental cleanup program. In 1994, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 requiring that the U.S. EPA, and other federal agencies, implement environmental justice policies. These policies were to specifically address the disproportionate environmental effects of federal programs and policies on minority and low-income populations."—Objective.

    Of related interest: This is now the second entry in these Literary Warrant postings based on studies published in NIEHS’s Environmental Health Perspectives. For House Oversight Committee investigation of efforts by the director of NIEHS to privatize the publication, see this beSpacific post.

  • Deborah Paulus-Jagrič, Global Warming: A Comparative Guide to the E.U. and the U.S. and Their Approaches to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol (GlobaLex) (March 2007)

    "In this guide I briefly synopsize the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, and discuss the sources one would use to research them, but I make no claim to originality there. As a comparative guide, it has relatively little to offer, at least so far. To state the major difference between the E.U. and the U.S. in the simplest way, in the E.U. there are climate change laws to apply (the E.U. has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and takes its commitments very seriously), and in the U.S. there are none, at least at the federal level. When and if the U.S. government chooses to act on climate change, this guide will include its actions; thus it will evolve and become a truly comparative guide. Its current value lies in its compilation of recent information on the important work that U.S. states and cities have initiated to address climate change and, hopefully, to compel the federal government into action."

  • Barry Rabe, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution, Can Congress Govern the Climate? (March 30, 2007)

    "Climate change poses daunting challenges for any governing body, but these are only compounded in the American case where greenhouse gas emissions are so high and the capacity of federal institutions such as Congress to begin to address this issue is so limited. Congress has struggled mightily in recent decades to reach any semblance of consensus on a host of environmental and energy concerns, including those with relevance to climate change. This paper will attempt to examine some of the stumbling blocks to prior Congressional engagement as well as highlight particular policy and governance challenges for any future Congressional attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In turn, it will conclude by highlighting some starting points whereby the 110th Congress might begin to reverse this trend and begin constructive deliberation, drawing from previous models and unique opportunities presented by the current context."—Abstract.

  • Jeffrey Shaman & Jonathan F. Day, Reproductive Phase Locking of Mosquito Populations in Response to Rainfall Frequency (PLoS ONE) (March 28, 2007)

    "The frequency of moderate to heavy rainfall events is projected to change in response to global warming. Here we show that these hydrologic changes may have a profound effect on mosquito population dynamics and rates of mosquito-borne disease transmission. We develop a simple model, which treats the mosquito reproductive cycle as a phase oscillator that responds to rainfall frequency forcing. This model reproduces observed mosquito population dynamics and indicates that mosquito-borne disease transmission can be sensitive to rainfall frequency. These findings indicate that changes to the hydrologic cycle, in particular the frequency of moderate to heavy rainfall events, could have a profound effect on the transmission rates of some mosquito-borne diseases."—Abstract.

  • Slashdot (blog), Biofuels Coming With a High Environmental Price? (April 2, 2007)

    "With the spectre of global warming on the horizon, biofuels have been touted as the solution to motor vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions. But with biodiesel use on the increase, it appears a distinctively environmentally unfriendly footprint is being left behind by some of its prime sources; affected food prices are surging out of reach of the poor and rainforests are being destroyed to create larger plantations."

  • United States Department of Homeland Security, DHS Releases Comprehensive Regulations for Securing High Risk Chemical Facilities (Press release) (April 2, 2007)

    "The U.S. Department of Homeland Security today released an interim final rule that imposes for the first time comprehensive federal security regulations for high risk chemical facilities. The department sought and reviewed comments from state and local partners, Congress, private industry, and the public to develop consistent guidelines using a risk-based approach. The new rule gives the department authority to seek compliance through the imposition of civil penalties, of up to $25,000 per day, and the ability to shut non-compliant facilities down."

  • World Wildlife Fund, Saving the World's Natural Wonders from Climate Change: How WWF Field Work Defends Nature and People from Climate Change Impacts (WWF Briefing Paper) (April 5, 2007)

    "From the Amazon to the Himalayas, ten of the world's greatest natural wonders face destruction if the climate continues to warm at the current rate, warns WWF.

    "Released ahead of the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Second Working Group Report, a WWF briefing—Saving the world’s natural wonders from climate change—reports on how the devastating impacts of global warming are damaging some of the world's greatest natural wonders.

    "They include the: Amazon; Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs; Chihuahua Desert in Mexico and the US; hawksbill turtles in the Caribbean; Valdivian temperate rainforests in Chile; tigers and people in the Indian Sundarbans; Upper Yangtze River in China; wild salmon in the Bering Sea; melting glaciers in the Himalayas; and East African coastal forests."—Press release.

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