The Week That Was
July 20, 2002


2. WITH THE ARREST OF JOSE PADILLA (ABDULLAH AL-MUHAJIR) NEW FEARS WERE RAISED ABOUT DIRTY BOMBS. Even Time Magazine (June 24) Admits That They Would Cause More Terror Than Deaths.



Myron Ebell found this gem and thinks there is a great opportunity here. "We should begin colonizing Neptune today. We'll have to send all the enviros first in order to ensure that humanity does not make the same mistakes again. In fact, the only way to avoid ruining Neptune will be to allow only enviros to escape our rotting planet. Those of us who remain will just have to muddle along somehow without them."




2. Dirty Bombs Vastly Overrated.

Also See

Plus there're other problems, as discussed in a Letter to Editor, Wash Times (published on June 13, 2002):

"With all the current concern about "dirty bombs," here are a few things that should be kept in mind, based on simple calculations:

First, it's the explosion that kills not the radioactivity. Although prolonged exposure can make you sick, you may not want to stick around long enough for that to happen.

Second, assembling the radioactive material is almost sure to kill any terrorist. After all, a square mile of contamination needs to be compressed into less than a few cubic feet. That's a several million-fold concentration. And the stuff would get so hot; it would melt most containers.

There are ways to get around such technical difficulties, but they are not easy. Then again, terrorists can spread radioactivity more slowly - without using a bomb to disperse it - and achieve almost the same psychological effects.

S Fred Singer
Science & Environmental Policy Project


Finally, there is considerable misunderstanding about the efficacy of potassium-iodide (KI) pills to protect against thyroid cancer. On this score, the story in Time is wrong. It would work against the fallout from a real bomb (or against Chernobyl) but not against radioactivity from a Dirty Bomb. Nuclear fission produces 34 kinds of radioactive iodine but only one isotope, I-131, is important. And it has a half-life of only 8 days. After a few weeks it would all be gone. There would be none of it in spent nuclear fuel.


3. Business Groups To Challenge Data Behind Rules

Some 18 months ago, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a little noticed law called the Federal Data Quality Act. The act's final rules will be in place by Oct. 1, 2002, and companies and others will be able to challenge the quality of the data used formulate government rules and regulations -- and not just the rules themselves.

· Many companies believe some government regulations are based on worthless data -- and they are cheering.

· But liberal activists think the act strikes a blow to public access to information -- and they are jeering.

· Business groups have set their sights on clean-air regulations and global warming issues.

· Groups could always challenge federal regulations, but prior to the Data Quality Act they couldn't challenge information or data that might be used to make them.

In the spring, for example, a study used by the Environmental Protection Agency to set Clean Air Act standards was found to have a software glitch that caused figures to be off by as much as 23 percent. Now, rules based on such flawed data can the challenged.

But liberal groups claim that when human health is at stake, regulators can't wait for all the facts to come in.

Source: Stephanie M. Horvath, "Surge in Rule Challenges Looms," Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2002.


4. The Wuppertal-Institute For Climate, Environment, Energy ("WI"):[like Worldwatch Institute, but State-Supported] May Be De-funded

The founding president of WI, Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker, has been part of the SPD (Social Democratic Party) Bundestag faction since the beginning of the legislative period. Since then there has been only one delegated ("kommissarisch") director [of WI] with limited executive powers. Now the Scientific Advisory Commission [to the province Nordrhein-Westfalen] has recommended "to not support further the Institute in its present form." The Institute stands accused of "not conducting good scientific work." The advisory states: "The Climate Policy department is pursuing a one-sided concept…", in the work of the Institute "one should not constrain the spectrum of scientific research to work that agrees with the Institute's doctrine." The climate researchers of the WI co-operate with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The director of the Climate Policy department, Hermann Ott, prepared the latest Climate Conferences for the [German] Foreign Ministry as part of its planning staff. Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the WI is Hartmut Graßl, a long time executive director of the World Climate Research Program of the United Nations. All of them jointly are of the "unilateral" opinion, that climate is changing dangerously due to human activities. The Scientific Advisory Commission accuses the Institute's Advisory Board of not having exercised its "control as well as its internal evaluation function."

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung [leading German paper], 18th June 2002


"Recommended: Dissolution of N(orth)R(hein)W(estphalia)-Science Center"

"Bonn/Duesseldorf - Bad News for the NRW Science Center: The Science Advisory Board has recommended to dissolve the Center…"

"The Wuppertal Institut Klima, Umwelt, Energie ("WI") is hit particularly hard [in the negative evaluation]. It fulfills its tasks only partially in a few instances according to the evaluation of the Wissenschaftsbeirat (Science Advisory Board). In particular the evaluation finds conceptual deficiencies and a lack of co-operation with other scientific research institutions. Further funding by the State should only occur after a fundamental and (scientific) results oriented reorganization."

"The CDU opposition (party) in the Düsseldorf State Assembly spoke of a "resounding slap" for the State Government….Manfred Kuhmichel, the Speaker for science policy pointed out… that politically directed Institutes 'had nothing to contribute to scientific research'"

Source: Die Welt, July 11th 2002


Our planet is running out of room and resources. Modern man has plundered so much, a damning report claims this week, that outer space will have to be colonised

Mark Townsend and Jason Burke
The Observer (London), 7th July 2002

Earth's population will be forced to colonise two planets within 50 years if natural resources continue to be exploited at the current rate, according to a report out this week.

A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to be released on Tuesday, warns that the human race is plundering the planet at a pace that outstrips its capacity to support life. In a damning condemnation of Western society's high consumption levels, it adds that the extra planets (the equivalent size of Earth) will be required by the year 2050 as existing resources are exhausted.

The report, based on scientific data from across the world, reveals that more than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humans over the past three decades. Using the image of the need for mankind to colonise space as a stark illustration of the problems facing Earth, the report warns that either consumption rates are dramatically and rapidly lowered or the planet will no longer be able to sustain its growing population. Experts say that seas will become emptied of fish while forests - which absorb carbon dioxide emissions - are completely destroyed and freshwater supplies become scarce and polluted.

The report offers a vivid warning that either people curb their extravagant lifestyles or risk leaving the onus on scientists to locate another planet that can sustain human life. Since this is unlikely to happen, the only option is to cut consumption now.

The study will also reveal a sharp fall in the planet's ecosystems between 1970 and 2002 with the Earth's forest cover shrinking by about 12 per cent, the ocean's biodiversity by a third and freshwater ecosystems in the region of 55 per cent.

The Living Planet report uses an index to illustrate the shocking level of deterioration in the world's forests as well as marine and freshwater ecosystems. Using 1970 as a baseline year and giving it a value of 100, the index has dropped to a new low of around 65 in the space of a single generation. It is not just humans who are at risk. Scientists, who examined data for 350 kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, also found the numbers of many species have more than halved.

Martin Jenkins, senior adviser for the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, which helped compile the report, said: 'It seems things are getting worse faster than possibly ever before. Never has one single species had such an overwhelming influence. We are entering uncharted territory.'

Figures from the Centre reveal that black rhino numbers have fallen from 65,000 in 1970 to around 3,100 now. Numbers of African elephants have fallen from around 1.2 million in 1980 to just over half a million while the population of tigers has fallen by 95 per cent during the past century.

The UK's birdsong population has also seen a drastic fall with the corn bunting population declining by 92 per cent between 1970 and 2000, the tree sparrow by 90 per cent and the spotted flycatcher by 70 per cent. Experts, however, say it is difficult to ascertain how many species have vanished for ever because a species has to disappear for 50 years before it can be declared extinct.

Attention is now focused on next month's Earth Summit in Johannesburg, the most important environmental negotiations for a decade. However, the talks remain bedevilled with claims that no agreements will be reached and that US President George W. Bush will fail to attend.

Matthew Spencer, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said: 'There will have to be concessions from the richer nations to the poorer ones or there will be fireworks.' The preparatory conference for the summit, held in Bali last month, was marred by disputes between developed nations and poorer states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), despite efforts by British politicians to broker compromises on key issues.

America, which sent 300 delegates to the conference, is accused of blocking many of the key initiatives on energy use, biodiversity and corporate responsibility.

The WWF report shames the US for placing the greatest pressure on the environment. It found the average US resident consumes almost double the resources as that of a UK citizen and more than 24 times that of some Africans.

Based on factors such as a nation's consumption of grain, fish, wood and fresh water along with its emissions of carbon dioxide from industry and cars, the report provides an ecological 'footprint' for each country by showing how much land is required to support each resident. America's consumption 'footprint' is 12.2 hectares per head of population compared to the UK's 6.29ha while Western Europe as a whole stands at 6.28ha. In Ethiopia the figure is 2ha, falling to just half a hectare for Burundi, the country that consumes least resources.

The report, which will be unveiled in Geneva, warns that the wasteful lifestyles of the rich nations are mainly responsible for the exploitation and depletion of natural wealth. Human consumption has doubled over the last 30 years and continues to accelerate by 1.5 per cent a year.

Now WWF wants world leaders to use its findings to agree on specific actions to curb the population's impact on the planet. A spokesman for WWF UK, said: 'If all the people consumed natural resources at the same rate as the average US and UK citizen we would require at least two extra planets like Earth.'

Write to The Observer at


6. Climate is always changing. In the last 10,000 years, the world has been both warmer and cooler than it is today. Temperatures now are a tad on the cool side, about 2 F below the medieval warm period of 600 A.D. to 1100 A.D., wrote Andrew Kenny in The Spectator, a British journal. During that period Greenland was actually green, there were vineyards in southern England, and life was better than in the "little ice age" which followed.

A good environmental scare needs two ingredients -- an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it, Kenny said.

"One of the real threats to mankind is the danger of a collision with a large asteroid," he said. "It has happened in the past with catastrophic effect, and it will probably happen again. But there are no conferences, resolutions, gatherings protests or newspaper headlines about asteroid impacts. The reason is that you cannot find anyone suitable to blame for them. If you could persuade people that President Bush or the oil companies were responsible for the asteroids, I guarantee there would be a billion-dollar campaign to 'raise awareness' about the asteroid danger."


Hunt For Potentially Deadly Asteroids Underfunded, U.S. Panel Says

From, 10 July 2002
By Jason Bates, Space News Staff Writer

WASHINGTON D.C. - The U.S. government should invest more money in tracking near-Earth objects that might threaten Earth, said members of a space roundtable on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

While the Air Force is not tasked with tracking near-Earth objects, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. S. Pete Worden said such a mission would be appropriate for the service and an assignment could occur "in the next few years," he said.

A warning center could be run by the Air Force and coordinate with non-military groups that currently track objects, Worden said during the roundtable, which was titled "The Asteroid Threat: Identification and Mitigation Strategies" and sponsored by an organization called ProSpace.

Worden, deputy director of operations for U.S. Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., was not attending the panel as an official representative of the U.S. Department of Defense. He has in the past spoken often about the need to widen the search for potentially threatening asteroids.

Currently, NASA spends about $4 million per year on programs that track space objects larger than a kilometer in diameter (0.62 miles), said Colleen Hartman, director of NASA's Solar System Exploration Division.

NASA, however, does not track objects the size of the recently discovered 2002 MN2, an object between 50-100 meters in diameter (roughly 50-100 yards) that passed within 75,000 miles of Earth in June, the panelists said. The rock was found three days after it flew by. Increased funding should be used to track these smaller objects as well, the panelists said. Some vocal advocates of increased asteroid monitoring around the globe have long called for similar changes, whether funded by NASA or some other agency or institution.

If the U.S. government were to take a more active role in tracking all space objects, the Air Force could be responsible for tracking and cataloguing, while NASA could be responsible for scientific investigation, Worden said.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), chairman of the space and aeronautics subcommittee of the House Science Committee, said the potential danger to Earth from space objects is greater than that posed by global warming. He suggested that some of the money spent on global warming research could be used to fund more work on tracking space objects.

Such funding could be used to first locate and track asteroids and comets, and later to find ways to defend Earth against the threats and eventually to use the space objects for the benefits of the Earth's population, Rohrabacher said.

Other researchers in the past have suggested mining asteroids for valuable metals and minerals as one way to make them useful to humanity. Some have even suggested setting up small colonies on larger asteroids.

Copyright 2002,


7. Earth Summit 'Will Produce 500,000 Tons Of Greenhouse Gas'

The 60,000 delegates to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg this September will produce the same volume of greenhouse gases through air flights, ground transport and hotel pollution as would six million ordinary Africans in a month.



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