Earth ChangesS

Better Earth

David Attenborough: Our planet is overcrowded

© Richard Boll Photography / National Portrait Gallery CommissionDavid Attenborough
Veteran TV naturalist David Attenborough loves humans as much as other wildlife. But not when global populations are out of control, he tells Alison George

"I'm not doing anything exciting right now, like wrestling with gorillas. I'm working on radio scripts," says David Attenborough, a bit apologetically. Yet while his home in the leafy London suburb of Richmond is no longer full of the woolly monkeys, bushbabies or other exotic creatures his autobiography had living there, it's still a rich habitat. His collection of tribal art dominates the walls, a tribute to human inventiveness.

He has stopped keeping pets since his wife died, more than 10 years ago. "You can't, when you go away filming for weeks," he says. But his home is not entirely devoid of animal life. "I have great crested newts in the pond, and a darling robin that comes in the kitchen."

The latest venture for this veteran of wildlife documentaries is as controversial as anything he has done in his long career. He has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a think tank on population growth and environment with a scary website showing the global population as it grows. "For the past 20 years I've never had any doubt that the source of the Earth's ills is overpopulation. I can't go on saying this sort of thing and then fail to put my head above the parapet."

Better Earth

Bizarre Bird Gets Private Beach in Indonesia

© AP PhotoIn this undated photo released by the Wildlife Conservation Society, a close-up shot of a Maleo, that can only be found on Sulawesi island in eastern Indonesia, is seen.
A species of birds able to fly immediately after hatching from eggs buried beneath the tropical sand has just been given its own private beach in eastern Indonesia, a conservation group said Friday.

Maleos - chicken-sized birds with black helmet-like foreheads - number from 5,000 to 10,000 in the wild and can only be found on Sulawesi island. They rely on sun-baked sands or volcanically heated soil to incubate their eggs.

The U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society said it has teamed up with a local environmental group to purchase and protect a 36-acre (14-hectare) stretch of beach in northern Sulawesi that contains about 40 nests.

The environmental groups paid $12,500 for the beach-front property on remote Sulawesi, one of Indonesia's 17,000 islands, to help preserve the threatened species.

Bizarro Earth

6.7 Earthquake Shakes New Zealand

Authorities say a powerful 6.7 magnitude earthquake has hit in the South Pacific, about 625 miles northeast of New Zealand.

The quake hit the Kermadec Islands, and was felt there and along the east coast of New Zealand's North Island.

There are no immediate reports of injury or damage. And no tsunami warning is being issued.


Arctic Cooling Has Begun

© USGSFear-mongering regarding Arctic sea ice is the most acute of all that brought forward by global warming doomsayers.

I hope to be around in 2020, when some have suggested those of us on the sceptics' side should have been vindicated, but I think we will prevail much sooner. The Arctic heat-wave of 1920-1940 is of course well-known to real Arctic climate scientists. I reviewed 32 temperature data sets for Arctic stations to 2004 some with very long records. In 2006 I could find only one with higher temperatures in 2004 than in the late 1930s or early 1940s - that was on the eastern coast of Greenland. Since then I have reviewed dozens of papers on surface air temperature, sea surface temperatures, ice-mass, glacier speeds and sea-ice, and all show a clear cyclic pattern of roughly 70 years. Some Greenland and Alaskan temperatures peaked in 2006-2008, but the pattern looks set to repeat.


Sick! Billionaire's Boat Stuffed With Exotic Animals

One man's fetish for stuffed, dead animals and snake skinned clothes is U.S. Customs agents' worst nightmare

Tamir Sapir's yacht was a vessel filled with trinkets made from the death of rare and exotic animals.
Tamir Sapir's yacht was a vessel filled with trinkets made from the death of rare and exotic animals.

Lions and tigers and bears and just about any other exotic animal you can think of were found on a mega yacht in Miami and caused quite an expensive problem for one of the wealthiest men in America.

The decorative animal hides, stuffed heads and ivory carvings are illegal to have in the U.S., an endangered species law lost on Tamir Sapir, the New York billionaire who owns the vessel.

Bizarro Earth

Vietnam: Strange creature in northern lake a bryozoan: scientists

Bryozoan Pectinatella magnifica
© UnknownThe bryozoan Pectinatella magnifica recently found at the Rung Lake in the northern province of Vinh Phuc.
Scientists are researching the origin of a type of bryozoan that has developed recently in a 70-hectare lake in the northern province of Vinh Phuc, killing the fish and leaving local residents very worried.

Bryozoan are invertebrate animals that reproduce by budding.

The creatures appeared in the Rung Lake in Tu Trung Commune in the province's Vinh Tuong District last May, but have proliferated on a large scale recently.

The provincial environmental research center, which is also tasked with preventing diseases at fisheries informed the Binh Minh Cooperative, which manages and exploits the lake, that the creatures are a fresh water bryozoan named Pectinatella magnifica.

Bizarro Earth

What if global-warming fears are overblown?

With Congress about to take up sweeping climate-change legislation, expect to hear more in coming weeks from John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at University of Alabama-Huntsville.

A veteran climatologist who refuses to accept any research funding from the oil or auto industries, Christy was a lead author of the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as well as one of the three authors of the American Geophysical Union's landmark 2003 statement on climate change.

Yet despite those green-sounding credentials, Christy is not calling for draconian cuts in carbon emissions. Quite the contrary. Christy is actually the environmental lobby's worst nightmare - an accomplished climate scientist with no ties to Big Oil who has produced reams and reams of data that undermine arguments that the earth's atmosphere is warming at an unusual rate and question whether the remedies being talked about in Congress will actually do any good.

Better Earth

Day After Tomorrow Postponed: Cold water ocean circulation doesn't work as expected

The familiar model of Atlantic ocean currents that shows a discrete "conveyor belt" of deep, cold water flowing southward from the Labrador Sea is probably all wet.

New research led by Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution relied on an armada of sophisticated floats to show that much of this water, originating in the sea between Newfoundland and Greenland, is diverted generally eastward by the time it flows as far south as Massachusetts. From there it disburses to the depths in complex ways that are difficult to follow.

A 50-year-old model of ocean currents had shown this southbound subsurface flow of cold water forming a continuous loop with the familiar northbound flow of warm water on the surface, called the Gulf Stream.

"Everybody always thought this deep flow operated like a conveyor belt, but what we are saying is that concept doesn't hold anymore," said Duke oceanographer Susan Lozier. "So it's going to be more difficult to measure these climate change signals in the deep ocean."

And since cold Labrador seawater is thought to influence and perhaps moderate human-caused climate change, this finding may affect the work of global warming forecasters.

Bad Guys

Green movement 'hijacked' by politics

Peers accuse organisations such as Greenpeace of being multinational corporations that peddle fear

© The GuardianGreenpeace protesters at London's Heathrow airport
Parts of the green movement have become hijacked by a political agenda and now operate like multinational corporations, according to two senior scientists and members of the House of Lords.

The peers, who were speaking at an event in parliament on science policy, said they felt that in some areas green campaign groups were a hindrance to environmental causes.

"Much of the green movement isn't a green movement at all, it's a political movement," said Lord May, who is a former government chief scientific adviser and president of the Royal Society. He singled out Greenpeace as an environmental campaign group that had "transmogrified" into one with primarily an anti-globalisation stance.


The secret life of penguins revealed

King penguins
© AFP/AAD/File/James DoubeKing penguins swim off the coast of the Australian subantarctic territory of Macquarie Island, 2007
Famous for its cuteness and comic gait on land, the penguin also has an enigmatic life at sea, sometimes spending months foraging in the ocean before returning to its breeding grounds.

Zoologists have long wondered where the flightless seabird goes during these long spells away from land -- and now French scientists, in a study published in Wednesday, believe they can supply the answer.

A team from National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) attached monitoring devices to a dozen male and female macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) at the onset of winter on the French Indian Ocean territory of the Kerguelen Islands.