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USGS Says an Earthquake Warning System is Feasible

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 14 (UPI) — The U.S. Geological Survey says its research has determined an earthquake early warning system for use in California is feasible.

USGS scientists said earthquake early warning systems, already successfully deployed in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan, can detect an earthquake in progress and provide notice of seconds to tens of seconds prior to actual ground shaking.

After a three-year USGS-funded earthquake early warning study was completed in August, a second USGS-funded project was launched to integrate the previously tested methods into a single prototype warning system. When completed, the pilot system — called the California Integrated Seismic Network ShakeAlert System — will provide warning to a small group of test users, including emergency response groups, utilities, and transportation agencies.

While in the testing phase, the system will not provide public alerts.

The USGS said its ShakeAlert system will detect strong shaking at an earthquake’s epicenter and transmit alerts ahead of the damaging earthquake waves. Potential applications include stopping elevators at the nearest floor, slowing or halting trains, monitoring critical systems and alerting people to move to safer locations.

In warning systems deployed abroad, alerts are distributed via TV and radio networks, the Internet, cell phones and pagers.

The research is being presented in San Francisco this week during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, People, Transportation0 Comments

Wind Power Industry to Gain from Copenhagen Summit Deals

NEW DELHI, Dec. 14 (UPI) — A breakthrough deal in climate-change talks in Copenhagen would lead to a sales boost for the wind power industry, says the chief of India’s biggest maker of wind-turbine generators.

Suzlon, based in the Indian city of Pune, could see a ten-fold increase in annual revenues by 2020 with a successful Copenhagen outcome, predicts chief executive Tulsi Tanti.

“With a very strong support of the Copenhagen meeting and a very clear road map from political leaders around the world, I think I can deliver by 2020 a $50 billion size of the business,” Tanti told Bloomberg.

Tanti said that worldwide turbine sales, which have averaged 28 percent over the last decade, will likely increase to 35 percent pending a successful Copenhagen outcome. Even without a Copenhagen deal, Tanti predicts an industry-wide turbine sales increase of 20 percent to 25 percent a year.

The Global Wind Energy Council expects industry growth of 22 percent until 2013.

Suzlon, the third-largest wind-turbine manufacturer in the world, was founded in 1995 with a staff of 20 and has grown to 14,000 people in 21 countries, according to the company’s Web site.

But Suzlon has weathered storms due to the global economic crisis, a high level of company debt and manufacturing problems with its turbines.

For fiscal year ending March 31, 2010, Suzlon is functioning at less than 50 percent of its 4,200 megawatt manufacturing capacity. That’s down about 70 percent to 75 percent from the previous year. The company’s breakeven point is for manufacturing to be running at 40 percent to 45 percent of capacity, Chief Operating Officer Sumant Sinha told The Wall Street Journal.

Now Suzlon is close to pinning down a $2.8 billion refinancing package that would give it permission to acquire the remaining stake in REpower Systems AG, one of the leading turbine producers in the German wind energy sector.

Sinha said last week that Suzlon would file for a “domination agreement” in Germany “probably in a couple of months.” Suzlon currently holds a 92 percent stake in REpower but under German law must buy out the remaining shareholders before exercising full control of the company.

Sinha also said the company has spent about $100 million to retrofit blades that cracked on turbines in the United States and is also making strides in its financial affairs.

India, for its part, has a total wind power installed capacity of 10,900 megawatts and ranks fifth in the world after the United States, Germany, Spain and China.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, People, Wind0 Comments

Thousands March Through Copenhagen Urging Climate Action

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 12 (UPI) — Thousands of marchers swarmed central Copenhagen Saturday, urging action on global warming, and police and radicals clashed in elsewhere in the Danish city.

A crowd estimated at 60,000 to 100,000 people from around the world participated in the main demonstration, The New York Times reported. They walked from Christiansborg Slotsplads or Castle Square toward the Bella Center, the convention hall where delegates from nearly 200 countries are gathered to forge an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Marchers carried flags and banners demanding action from world leaders to stop global warming. One read “Bla, Bla, Bla. Act Now!”

“My words cannot replace action,” Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the leader of the Danish Social Democratic Party. “We are here to show leaders that what is made by man, can be changed by man.”

A police spokeswoman said there was scattered violence, with radical protesters breaking windows, throwing rocks and setting at least four cars on fire. At least one officer was struck in the face by a rock and police made about 950 arrests, the Times reported.

“We saved the demonstration from being disturbed totally,” Per Larsen, chief coordinator for the Danish police, said. “There were some hard-core protesters that we have neutralized.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Cars, Global Warming & Climate Change, People0 Comments

Himalayas Threatened by Climate Change & Extreme Weather

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 12 (UPI) — Extreme weather events caused by climate change are threatening hundreds of millions of people living in the Himalayan region, the United Nations said.

Droughts and catastrophic floods are destroying crops, depleting water supplies and killing livestock throughout the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, said the report released Friday.

Researchers spread throughout China, Pakistan, India and Nepal to collect data for the report, released at the start of the summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, called to negotiate a new global climate treaty.

The report is proof some societies already are enduring climate change, U.N. spokesman Achim Steiner said.

“Adaptation here is not just a necessity but a question of local communities’ very survival,” Steiner said, calling on governments to do more than boost strategies for disaster management.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, People0 Comments

Climate Change Activists Rally in Copenhagen's Public Squares

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 12 (UPI) — A public square in Copenhagen, Denmark, was jammed Saturday with thousands of protesters gathered at a U.N. climate change conference, witnesses said.

Police said they expected 60,000 people to march from Copenhagen’s Christiansborg Slotsplads, or Castle Square, toward the Bella Center, the convention hall were delegates from nearly 200 countries are gathered to forge an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, The New York Times reported.

The newspaper said the demonstrators included climate activists, hundreds of environmental groups, anti-capitalists and human rights advocates who formed a sea of humanity dotted with flags and banners demanding action from world leaders to stop global warming.

“Bla, Bla, Bla,” the Times cited a popular sign as reading. “Act Now!”

Another reportedly read, “Nature Doesn’t Compromise.”

The “Global Day of Action” came one day after Danish police clashed with demonstrators, making 40 arrests, the BBC reported.

The British broadcaster said former supermodel Helena Christensen and actress Helen Baxendale were expected to be among the celebrities making appearances Saturday, while the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was to address a gathering of Christian Aid and other faith-based development organizations in Copenhagen’s Cathedral Square.

A part of the effort calls for churches around the world to toll their bells 350 times, symbolizing 350 parts per million — the level of carbon dioxide considered low enough to avoid climate change, the BBC said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Organizations, Other, People0 Comments

Blizzard Traps Hunters in Northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Dec. 11 (UPI) — Rescuers said they likely would resume searches in Conconio County, Ariz., Friday, to find any remaining hunters who hadn’t been contacted after a blizzard.

By Thursday, the sheriff’s office had located nearly 50 elk hunters across the county’s 18,000-plus square miles of rugged terrain, The Arizona Republic reported. The rescue effort included several agencies that mobilized 40 rescuers, helicopters, fixed-wing airplanes and a fleet of snowmobiles.

Officials said they had two open rescue missions Thursday night. They had contacted both hunting parties, and were told they could wait until morning to be rescued.

One firefighter died when a tree snapped in the storm, the newspaper said.

The hunters were socked in by a blizzard that dumped nearly 3 feet of snow in and around Flagstaff, Ariz., Conconio County’s county seat.

“It came in pretty quick. We thought we would be able to get out,” said Colin Piburn, 59, one of the rescued hunters.

Weather forecasters indicated a second storm would move into the area, possibly by early Friday afternoon, making more urgent the need to ensure people are accounted for, officials said.

The areas saw an uptick of hunters because of a week-long elk hunt that ended Thursday, the Republic said. The state Game and Fish Department said elk hunting licenses are issued once a decade.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Fish, Nature & Ecosystems, Office, People0 Comments

China Moves Up in Renewable Energy

BEIJING, Dec. 10 (UPI) — China is the second most attractive place in the world to invest in renewable energy, says an Ernst & Young report released Wednesday.

China ranked just behind the United States and has moved ahead of Germany for the first time in the reports’ six-year history due to its increased commitments to reduce emissions through its carbon intensity reduction plans, according to the study. China’s ranking has progressed from number four in 2008 and number six in 2007.

China announced last month it would develop renewable and nuclear energies to increase the proportion of non-fossil-fuel power in China’s total primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020 from 9 percent by 2008.

Nanri Island in Fujian province is just one example of China’s renewable energy initiatives.

Wind power from 19 massive turbines provides electricity to more than 50,000 people on the island. When another 57 turbines are installed next year, Nanri could reduce its coal usage by 67,000 tons, thus eliminating 94,000 tons of carbon emissions, Lin Yushu, an official with the local development and reform commission told Xinhua news agency.

The Nanri offshore wind power plant is just one of more than 100 wind farms built in China during the past five years, as the nation aims to reduce reliance on coal-fired power.

Last year China relied on coal for nearly 70 percent of its energy.

Shi Pengfei, vice president of the China Wind Energy Association, said China will have an additional 10 million kilowatts of installed wind power capacity this year, and the total installed capacity will exceed 30 million by 2010, a decade ahead of the target set in 2007.

The Global Wind Energy Council, based in Brussels, estimates China to become the world’s biggest producer of wind energy by 2013.

“I do see changes every time I visit China,” said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the council, noting the increase in the country’s wind power.

“Certainly the main driver has been government policy and clear signals it has sent to the market, and I’m sure the spirit of Chinese entrepreneurs has also contributed to the rate of growth,” said Sawyer.

Yet China faces challenges in its wind energy sector. Up to 30 percent of the country’s wind capacity was not connected to the grid in 2008, according to a report by the China Greentech Initiative, a consortium of U.S. and Chinese companies, including Cisco Systems and Westinghouse.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, People, Wind0 Comments

Top Climate Scientist James Hansen Wants Copenhagen Climate Summit (Cop15) to Fail

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 9 (UPI) — A top climate scientist said the negotiations in Copenhagen are so flawed that he wants them to fail.

“The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation,” James Hansen, one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, told British daily The Guardian. “If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then (people) will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means.

“I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it’s a disaster track,” added Hansen, who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

Representatives of 192 countries have gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a Dec. 7-18 meeting intended to find a deal that is intended to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Officials hope the deal will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world’s major emitters — including the United States, India and China — as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations ill-equipped to deal with a problem they did least to create.

Hansen, who has been one of the most outspoken scientists when it comes to warning politicians of the dangers related to man-made climate change, is vehemently opposed to the carbon markets proposed as a new trading scheme to introduce a clean economy.

Carbon markets allow countries and companies to buy permits to emit greenhouse gases. Those markets have already been installed as part of the Kyoto Protocol, although their real use isn’t expected to flare up until leaders take further decisions at the U.N.-mandated climate summit taking place in Copenhagen.

“This is analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic Church sold in the Middle Ages,” Hansen told the paper. “The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. … We’ve got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money and that is what they can get through offsets” sold through the carbon markets.

He has also been critical of world leaders, who have been treating the issue like any other diplomatic conflict. For Hansen, it’s much more than that, and that means there is no room for horse-trading.

“This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill,” he told the newspaper. “On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can’t say let’s reduce slavery, let’s find a compromise and reduce it 50 percent or reduce it 40 percent.”

“We don’t have a leader who is able to grasp it and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual,” he added.

Other observers are more optimistic, as U.S. President Barack Obama recently vowed to join the important high-level gathering of leaders toward the end of the summit, and all major emitters have tabled concrete reduction proposals.

The United States is “committed to achieving the strongest possible outcome,” Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said in Copenhagen.

“There is a deal to be done, and if we … continue to find common ground, we will forge an agreement that preserves our planet and strengthens our economies.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Other, People1 Comment

New York City Tracks Pollution on Internet

NEW YORK, Dec. 8 (UPI) — People in New York can now monitor the city’s environmental conditions and certain health conditions via their computers, officials said.

The city health department’s new Environmental Public Health Tracking Portal — at http://nyc.gov/health/tracking — provides continually updated information on everything from air quality and housing quality to pest levels and pesticide use.

“Until now, it has been hard to compare environmental health conditions across the city’s many neighborhoods,” Daniel Kass, the city health department’s acting deputy commissioner for environmental health, said in a statement.

“Now anyone can track issues of concern — for a neighborhood, a borough or the whole of New York City.”

The portal offers various ways to explore environmental health data. For example, users can see pesticide use by neighborhood, or view how closely related childhood asthma hospitalizations are with exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke in the home, Kass said.

The portal can also highlight citywide trends, such as the number of days on which air-quality advisories have been issued for general or special populations.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in People, Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

East Coast Braces for Blizzard that's Dumped Feet of Snow and Cost Lives

CHICAGO, Dec. 9 (UPI) — The first major winter storm of the season to batter large portions of the United States charged toward the East Coast early Wednesday.

The massive storm, which was blamed for at least four deaths, left 4-5 feet of snow in the Sierra and Rockies, then whipped across the Central Plains and Midwest where up to 14 inches of snow was buffeted by 40 mph winds, meteorologists at AccuWeather.com said.

No place registered more snow than South Fork, Colo., where 59 inches fell. Below the mountains, Clay Center, Neb. reported 14 inches, Rockport, Mo. had 12.5 and about a foot was reported in Mankato and Phillipsburg, Kans., and Des Moines, Iowa. Six to 10 inches were reported across parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Even Eckhart Mines, Md., had 5.4 inches. Accumulations were expected to reach 12-18 inches from northeastern Iowa to northern Lower Michigan by Wednesday evening

The blizzard made for dangerous travel and people across the country’s mid-section were advised against venturing out. Numerous accidents were reporting from Kansas to Iowa, including along Interstates 35 and 80, AccuWeather said.

Visibility was a half mile or less in Madison, Wis., and Omaha.

The storm was forecast to press to the northeast through the night and air travel was expected to be seriously impacted across the Midwest and Northeast Wednesday.

Snow, ice and rain was already hitting the mid-Atlantic and was forecast to spread into the Northeast through Wednesday. Washington, Philadelphia and New York City were expected to get mostly rain, but sleet and snow were reported close by and motorists were expected to encounter treacherous road conditions. Slow going was predicted for Interstates 80, 81, 87, 88, 90, 91 and 95 in the Northeast.

Snow was to begin in Boston before daybreak Wednesday, leaving 1-3 inches in the city before changing to rain by midday. Three to 6 inches was expected in Boston’s northern and western suburbs.

Enough snow to shovel and plow was forecast from the northern tier of Pennsylvania to northern New England.

AccuWeather forecast a “tremendous lake-effect snow event” on the heels of this storm for the second half of the week that it said “will bury some snow belt communities under feet of snow.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, People, Visibility0 Comments

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