Effects of climate change ‘irreversible,’ U.N. panel warns in report .


The Earth is locked on an “irreversible” course of climatic disruption from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the impacts will only worsen unless nations agree to dramatic cuts in pollution, an international panel of climate scientists warned Sunday.

The planet faces a future of extreme weather, rising sea levels and melting polar ice from soaring levels of carbon dioxide and other gases, the U.N. panel said. Only an unprecedented global effort to slash emissions within a relatively short time period will prevent temperatures from crossing a threshold that scientists say could trigger far more dangerous disruptions, the panel warned.

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,” concluded the report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which draws on contributions from thousands of scientists from around the world.

The report said some impacts of climate change will “continue for centuries,” even if all emissions from fossil-fuel burning were to stop. The question facing governments is whether they can act to slow warming to a pace at which humans and natural ecosystems can adapt, or risk “abrupt and irreversible changes” as the atmosphere and oceans absorb ever-greater amounts of thermal energy within a blanket of heat-trapping gases, according to scientists who contributed to the report.

The report is the distillation of a five-year effort to assess the latest evidence on climate change and its consequences, from direct atmospheric measurements of carbon dioxide to thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies. The final document to emerge from the latest of five assessments since 1990, it is intended to provide a scientific grounding for world leaders who will attempt to negotiate an international climate treaty in Paris late next year.

While the IPCC is barred from endorsing policy, the report lays out possible scenarios and warns that the choices will grow increasingly dire if carbon emissions continue on their current record-breaking trajectory.

“It’s not too late, but the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets,” Gary Yohe, a Wesleyan University professor who also participated in the drafting of the report, said in an interview. Damage to the Earth’s ecosystems is “irreversible to the extent to which we have committed ourselves, but we will commit ourselves to higher and higher and higher damages and impacts” if the world’s leaders fail to act, Yohe said.

A succession of IPCC reports since the 1990s have drawn an ever-clearer connection between human activity and climate change. But Sunday’s “synthesis report” makes the case more emphatically than before, asserting that the warming trend seen on land and in the oceans since the 1950s is “unequivocal” and that it is “extremely likely” — a term that the IPCC uses to denote a 95 percent or greater probability — that humans are the main cause.

“Human influence on the climate system is clear,” the panel states in a 40-page summary intended for policymakers.

In late 2013, when the first report of this round of the IPCC’s work came out, skeptics trained their attention on the contention that in recent years the rate of global warming has seemingly “paused” or slowed down. But the latest document is fairly dismissive of that idea, acknowledging that, while the rate of warming in the past 15 years has indeed been somewhat smaller than the rate since 1951, “trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends.”

In cautious and often technically complex language, the new report cites soaring emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases in the past 60 years as the cause of nearly all the warming seen so far. While carbon dioxide is a naturally abundant gas essential for plant photosynthesis, it has been accumulating in the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate as a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels by automobiles, power plants and factories. Concentrations of the heat-trapping gas is 40 percent higher than in pre-industrial times, a level “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” the report states.

Most of the excess heat is absorbed by the ocean, muting the effects. Yet, climate change is having profound impacts on “natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans,” the panel concluded. It cited rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, warmer air and ocean temperatures, melting glaciers and vanishing sea ice.

And because of the long amount of time that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, some impacts are locked in, perhaps for centuries to come, the report warned.

Scientists and policymakers have set a goal of restraining the average global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, on grounds that a higher increase would change the climate so dramatically that neither humans nor natural ecosystems could easily adapt. That would probably require keeping concentrations of key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to under 450 parts per million by 2100, the panel said. Concentrations passed 400 parts per million for the first time in 2013.

Even with a rapid shift to renewable energy, the task of achieving such drastic reductions is daunting, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said in aspeech last week as panel members began final revisions to the report.

“May I humbly suggest that policymakers avoid being overcome by the seeming hopelessness of addressing climate change,” Pachauri said. “It is not hopeless. This is not to say it will be easy.”

The report will likely add fuel to the debate over environmental policies in key congressional races. Candidates in several Senate and House races have clashed over how to respond to climate change and whether it indeed exists.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, reacting to the report, said it was time to move beyond the politicization of climate science.

“We can’t prevent a large scale disaster if we don’t heed this kind of hard science,” Kerry said in a statement. “The longer we are stuck in a debate over ideology and politics, the more the costs of inaction grow and grow. Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids.”

What changing the clocks back does to your health.


Millions of Americans will welcome an extra hour of sleep this weekend as they turn back their clocks for the end of Daylight Saving Time. But the time change may take a toll on health in a number of ways.

A study out of Britain finds that with the time change and the days getting shorter, children get less exercise.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studied 23,000 children, ages five to 16, from 9 countries including the U.S. The kids wore an electronic monitoring device to track their body movement. The researchers determined that every lost hour of daylight corresponded to a 5 percent decline in kids’ activity level.

That adds up to about 2 minutes of running around each day. It may not sound like a lot, but researchers say children only get about a half an hour of vigorous activity a day, so even a little bit more would help.

“This clearly is not big enough to be the whole solution to the problem of a lack of physical activity and obesity but it’s absolutely a step in the right direction,” Dr. Anna Goodman told CBS News’ Lucy McDonald.

Geoff Glaster, a father of two, didn’t need a scientific study to know what it does to his kids. He says he dreads the fall when the days get shorter and his boys are cooped up indoors.

“The more kids are outside enjoying what little daylight they have, the better off they’re going to be,” he said.

Earlier nightfall and shorter days also cause problems for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a form of depression that sets in for about half a million Americans every fall and winter.

SAD is triggered by a lack of sunlight, although why some people are affected this way is still a mystery. One theory is that without adequate sunlight, a person’s internal biological clock loses its bearings and its ability to regulate mood and sleep. Another possible explanation is that sunlight stimulates chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, a neurotransmitter believed to help maintain mood balance.

The standard treatment for SAD is light therapy — soaking up artificial sunlight from fluorescent light boxes for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more each day. Most patients see symptoms disappear once the days start getting longer again.

So will switching back to Daylight Saving Time in the spring make everyone a little bit healthier? It doesn’t quite work that way.

According to a study out last March, losing an hour of sleep when the clocks spring forward may increase the short-term risk of suffering a heart attack. The study analyzed data from hospitals in Michigan, and found a 25 percent uptick in heart attacks the Monday after Daylight Saving Time began.

Monday mornings are already the most common time for heart attacks, perhaps because of “a combination of factors, including the stress of starting a new work week and inherent changes in our sleep-wake cycle,” lead author Dr. Amneet Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado in Denver, said in a news release. “With Daylight Saving Time, all of this is compounded by one less hour of sleep.”

He said hospitals should consider increasing their staffing the Monday after the time change in order to better care for the surge in heart patients.

Fossil fuels must go by 2100 .


 

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The IPCC says fossil fuels without carbon capture should be “phased out” by 2100
The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a stark report that most of the world’s electricity can – and must – be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050.

If not, the world faces “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage.

The UN said inaction would cost “much more” than taking the necessary action.

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report was published on Sunday in Copenhagen, after a week of intense debate between scientists and government officials.

It is intended to inform politicians engaged in attempts to deliver a new global treaty on climate by the end of 2015.

The report says that reducing emissions is crucial if global warming is to be limited to 2C – a target acknowledged in 2009 as the threshold of dangerous climate change.

The report suggests renewables will have to grow from their current 30% share to 80% of the power sector by 2050.

In the longer term, the report states that fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would need to be “phased out almost entirely by 2100”.

‘Science has spoken’

The Synthesis Report summarises three previous reports from the IPCC, which outlined the causes, the impacts and the potential solutions to climate change.

It re-states many familiar positions:

  • Warming is “unequivocal” and the human influence on climate is clear
  • The period from 1983 to 2012, it says, was likely the warmest 30 year period of the last 1,400 years
  • Warming impacts are already being seen around the globe, in the acidification of the oceans, the melting of arctic ice and poorer crop yields in many parts
  • Without concerted action on carbon, temperatures will increase over the coming decades and could be almost 5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century

“Science has spoken,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

Ban Ki-moon: Inaction on climate change “will cost heavily”

“There is a myth that climate action will cost heavily,” said Mr Ban, “but inaction will cost much more.”

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, described the report as “another canary in the coal mine”.

“Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids,” Mr Kerry said in a statement.

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey described the report as the “most comprehensive, thorough and robust assessment of climate change ever produced”.

“It sends a clear message that should be heard across the world – we must act on climate change now. It’s now up to the politicians – we must safeguard the world for future generations by striking a new climate deal in Paris next year,” he said.

“The UK has been leading the world and bringing the world with us. The historic agreement to cut carbon emissions in Europe by at least 40 per cent by 2030 effectively means our Climate Change Act is being replicated across Europe, just as it’s being copied in countries across the world as they seek to cap and cut their own emissions.”

Blunt language

Prof Myles Allen from Oxford University, a member of the IPCC core writing team, said: “We can’t afford to burn all the fossil fuels we have without dealing with the waste product which is CO2 and without dumping it in the atmosphere.”

“If we can’t develop carbon capture we will have to stop using fossil fuels if we want to stop dangerous climate change.”

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Analysis: David Shukman, BBC science editor

The language in the UN’s climate reports has been steadily ratcheted up over the years, but this publication lays out the options more bluntly than before.

The conclusion that fossil fuels cannot continue to be burned in the usual way – and must be phased out by the end of the century – presents governments with an unusually stark choice.

The IPCC has tried to make it more palatable by saying that fossil fuel use can continue if the carbon emissions are captured and stored.

But so far the world only has one commercially-operating plant of that type, in Canada, and progress developing the technology is far slower than many had hoped.

So this raises the difficult question of how key governments are likely to respond.

Events in Copenhagen back in 2009, when a disastrous and dysfunctional summit failed to agree anything substantial, showed how easily rhetoric crumbles in the face of economic pressures or domestic realities.

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The report’s clarity of language over the future of coal, oil, and gas was welcomed by campaigners.

“What they have said is that we must get to zero emissions, and that’s new,” said Samantha Smith from World Wildlife Fund.

“The second thing is they said that it is affordable, it is not going to cripple economies.”

Fierce standoff

In the IPCC’s discussions on fossil fuels, there was a fierce battle over a chart that showed how much the electricity sector needed to curb its carbon, the BBC’s environment correspondent Matt McGrath reports from Copenhagen.

According to one observer, “the Saudis went ballistic” over the chart’s inclusion.

While arctic sea ice is melting at an alarming rate, Antarctic sea ice at record levels, Dr Helen Czerski reports

Another significant fight was over the inclusion of text about Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It quickly became a standoff between those who want the focus to be on cutting emissions against those who think the right to develop economies must come first.

An unlikely alliance between Bolivia and Saudi Arabia ultimately saw the section dropped entirely from the underlying report.

Some of those attending the talks said that tackling climate change and sustainable development went hand in hand.

“Different countries come to different perspectives” said Prof Jim Skea from Imperial College and a review editor of the report.

“But from the science perspective, we need them both. We need to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

DNA barcodes can tell you exactly where your food came from


Scientists have created barcodes that can be added directly to food before it’s processed, enabling consumers and authorities to know exactly where each ingredient originated.

tomato

Image: Gts/Shutterstock

These days, food labels can claim anything, from ‘real’ fruit juice that is only 5 percent fruit, to ‘organic’ food that’s been sprayed with pesticides. Fraudulent and mislabelled products are taking over the supermarket shelves, making grocery shopping a time-consuming chore.

In an effort to put an end to this trend, scientists are working on creating a DNA barcodingsystem, that will allow food to be tracked back to its origins – even after it’s been processed. DNA barcoding is a system that allows scientists to identify where something came from by looking at short genetic markers that have been added to the product. While the technology was initially meant for finding out which species organisms belong to, a new study has shown that it can be used to trace the milk used to make cheese or yoghurt.

Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland have developed DNA barcodes, around 100 base pairs long, that are encapsulated in silica particles, to protect them from degrading when the food is processed. The barcodes are detected using a technology called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), where the short target DNA sequence is amplified, allowing the barcode to be detected at very low concentrations. To test if their method would work, they added the DNA barcodes to milk and reported that even after it had turned into cheese or yogurt, the labels could still be identified.

“Most techniques work with specific isotope patterns, which are characteristic for a given region, or natural DNA patterns, which are characteristic for a given species,” Robert Grass, chemical engineer and lead author of the paper, told Emma Stoye from the Royal Society of Chemistry. “Our technology is different, as we deliberately add our label to the foodstuff.”

The team are now researching how to get the DNA barcodes into food products that undergo more complex processing and manufacturing, such as tracing the source of wheat found in bread.

Unsurprisingly, they expect that some people will oppose the idea of putting synthetic DNA into food, but they are continuing their research to see if the technology has potential to one day be a reality.

“Before labelled products could be marketed there would have to be considerable changes to food additives legislation across the EU,” Duncan Campbell, a public analyst for West Yorkshire Analytical Services in the UK, who is not involved in the research, told the Royal Society of Chemistry. “Even if the silica particles didn’t have any DNA in them, silica is only permitted for use as an additive in certain foods and milk is not one of them.”

“The main question at hand is if the risk of adding our technology to foodstuff can be balanced with the need for foodstuff traceability,’ Grass told Stoye from the Royal Society of Chemistry. “These are questions we cannot answer on our own – they require an open discussion with the public and regulatory bodies.”

Magic Mushrooms Create a Hyperconnected Brain


 

Petri et al./Proceedings of the Royal Society Interface

via Live Science:

Magic mushrooms may give users trippy experiences by creating a hyperconnected brain.

The active ingredient in the psychedelic drug, psilocybin, seems to completely disrupt the normal communication networks in the brain, by connecting “brain regions that don’t normally talk together,” said study co-author Paul Expert, a physicist at King’s College London.

The research, which was published today (Oct. 28) in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, is part of a larger effort to understand how psychedelic drugs work, in the hopes that they could one day be used by psychiatrists — in carefully controlled settings — to treat conditions such as depression, Expert said.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2014/11/magic-mushrooms-create-hyperconnected-brain/#sthash.axhnQC18.dpuf

6 SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT DIABETES AND THE KIDNEYS


Did you know that diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure? Diabetes is a leading risk factor for kidney disease and is characterized by high levels of blood sugar. It occurs when your body does not make enough insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood, or cannot use normal amounts of insulin properly. High blood sugar levels have a damaging ripple effect in many parts of your body, causing harm to the kidneys. In honor of November being Diabetes Awareness Month, here are6 surprising facts about diabetes and the kidneys:

  1. Diabetes accounts for 44% percent of new cases of kidney failure and more than 35% of people aged 20 years or older with diabetes have chronic kidney disease. Controlling blood sugar levels is a key factor in protecting the kidneys and preventing or slowing kidney disease. Controlling high blood pressure is also important.
  2. Prediabetes can damage the kidneys. Prediabetes refers to the beginning stage of diabetes also called the precursor stage. At this point, blood sugar levels are not normal, but not quite at the point of having diabetes. Because people with prediabetes often do not experience any physical signs of the disease, regular check-ups are very important. The A1C (A-one-C) test is an abbreviation for hemoglobin A1C. This test measures your average blood glucose over the last 3 months. An A1c test between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicates that you may have prediabetes. When a person has prediabetes, it is still possible to reverse the symptoms by losing weight. Changing your diet and exercise habit can make a big difference when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes and protecting the kidneys!
  3. Protein in the urine is the earliest sign of kidney disease in those with diabetes and prediabetes. It’s easy to detect protein in the urine, but you need to know to look for it. A urine test should be done on an annual basis in all people with diabetes, so ask your healthcare practitioner to check your urine for “albuminuria.” The National Kidney Foundation also offers free kidney health screenings across the country to check for protein in the urine through its KEEP Healthy program. Find KEEP Healthy event near you!
  4. Diabetes injures the small blood vessels in the kidneys. When the blood vessels in the kidneys are injured, the kidneys cannot clean the blood properly and the body will retain more water and salt than it should. This can cause weight gain and ankle swelling, as well as waste materials building up in your blood. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels throughout the body, affecting not only the kidneys, but other organs and tissues such as skin, nerves, muscles, intestines and the heart. Damaged blood vessels can lead to high blood pressure and rapid hardening of the arteries, which can further harm the kidneys.
  5. Diabetes can damage the nerves in your body. This can cause difficulty in emptying your bladder and the pressure resulting from your full bladder can back up and injure the kidneys. Also, if urine remains in your bladder for a long time, you can develop an infection from the rapid growth of bacteria in urine that has a high sugar level.
  6. High triglyceride levels place you at increased risk for developing diabetes and prediabetes.Triglycerides are a form of stored fat found in the blood. A test for triglycerides is typically part of the panel you receive to test your cholesterol and other blood lipids. If after a routine blood test, your healthcare practitioner told you that you have high triglycerides, you are at an increased risk for developing diabetes and prediabetes as well as forms of heart disease. High triglycerides are also common in those with kidney disease, so this blood test should be on your radar.

Gamma Knife surgery for incidental cerebral arteriovenous malformations


A relatively benign natural course of unruptured cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) has recently been recognized, and the decision to treat incidentally found AVMs has been questioned. This study aims to evaluate the long-term imaging and clinical outcomes of patients with asymptomatic, incidentally discovered AVMs treated with Gamma Knife surgery (GKS).

METHODS

Thirty-one patients, each with an incidentally diagnosed AVM, underwent GKS between 1989 and 2009. The nidus volumes ranged from 0.3 to 11.1 cm3 (median 3.2 cm3). A margin dose between 15 and 26 Gy (median 20 Gy) was used to treat the AVMs. Four patients underwent repeat GKS for still-patent AVM residuals after the initial GKS procedure. Clinical follow-up ranged from 24 to 196 months, with a mean of 78 months (median 51 months) after the initial GKS.

RESULTS

Following GKS, 19 patients (61.3%) had a total AVM obliteration on angiography. In 7 patients (22.6%), no flow voids were observed on MRI but angiographic confirmation was not available. In 5 patients (16.1%), the AVMs remained patent. A small nidus volume was significantly associated with increased AVM obliteration rate. Thirteen patients (41.9%) developed radiation-induced imaging changes: 11 were asymptomatic (35.5%), 1 had only headache (3.2%), and 1 developed seizure and neurological deficits (3.2%). Two patients each had 1 hemorrhage during the latency period (116.5 risk years), yielding an annual hemorrhage rate of 1.7% before AVM obliteration.

CONCLUSIONS

The decision to treat asymptomatic AVMs, and if so, which treatment approach to use, remain the subject of debate. GKS as a minimally invasive procedure appears to achieve a reasonable outcome with low procedure-related morbidity. In those patients with incidental AVMs, the benefits as well as the risks of radiosurgical intervention will only be fully defined with long-term follow-up.

BREAKDOWN IN GUT BARRIERS TO BACTERIA MAY PROMOTE INFLAMMATION AND CRAVING IN ALCOHOLICS


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Bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract fulfill many vital functions and are critical for digestion. Yet, these same bacteria can induce strong inflammatory responses by the immune system if they penetrate the gut and enter the bloodstream.

Although acute inflammation is a natural response to protect the body, chronic or systemic inflammation is linked to numerous disorders and diseases. Prior research has established the involvement of inflammatory processes in the development of psychiatric disorders, including major depression and alcohol dependence, but the origins of such inflammation have remained unclear.

Now, researchers at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, led by senior authors Dr. Philippe de Timary and Dr. Peter Stärkel, have found that inflammatory pathways are stimulated in alcohol-dependent patients by bacteria that escape the gut barrier, which correlated with alcohol craving. They report their findings in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

“In this study, we established a link between alcohol consumption, craving and activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines which contribute to a systemic inflammatory status in alcohol-dependent patients,” said Stärkel.

To conduct this work, they recruited 63 actively-drinking alcohol-dependent patients who underwent testing both before and after alcohol detoxification. That data was compared with testing from 14 healthy volunteers.

When patients were exposed to alcohol, the researchers found that the inflammatory response originated from gut-derived bacterial products that crossed the gut barrier, which in turn, activated specific inflammatory pathways in blood mononuclear cells.

Prior to undergoing detoxification, the observed inflammation correlated with both alcohol consumption and alcohol craving among the alcohol-dependent patients. Following detoxification, some, but not all, of the altered inflammatory processes were either partially or fully recovered.

“This establishes a new concept where events having their origin at peripheral sites in the body could modify central brain mechanisms that ultimately influence behaviour in alcohol dependence,” Stärkel explained.

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented, “This study suggests that there may be a link between inflammatory processes that develop when gut barriers to bacteria break down and risk for continued heavy drinking among people with alcohol use disorders. The findings suggest that it might be helpful to protect and restore gut integrity and to reduce inflammation when helping patients recover from alcohol use disorders.”

Stärkel agreed, adding, “The study does not only open new areas for research but also identifies new targets for developing novel treatment and management approaches for alcohol dependence. Targeting the gut-brain axis either at the level of the gut itself or at the level of effector cells such as blood mononuclear cells in order to influence behaviour could become a potential option in the care of alcohol-dependent patients.”

Will people want to control their dreams?


My Thinking Blog

I saw an article on BBC on new technology about being able to control your dreams. A new invention was made, looking like a machine and allows people to be aware during their dream like in actual life. This made me wonder about a couple of ideas: How long did it take to research about this machine and create it? Are they going to let anyone use this machine? Can it damage your body or brain? And if so, are people and scientists aware of these problems?

I have never thought about this idea before, never knew or once thought about the idea of being able to control and be aware during your dreams. This idea seems surreal to me, how they can get the technology, research and materials to create this machine. I actually think that a lot of people would be excited about this idea, especially teenagers. Even…

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