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Issue 10
February , 2009
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Miles to go before we sleep

Suparnaa Dutta
Source: From Editor's Desk, Date: February , 2009

Climate change deemed resposible for East Africa's worst-ever malaria epidemic.China becomes world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.Climate refugees ,victims of extreme climates feature in Gore's address at AAAS meet. All this as world celebrates a number of scientific anniversaries..

According to a report published in Scientific American warmer temperatures are at least partially to blame for a surge in malaria in East Africa and the increase in drug-resistant strains of the disease.

The study done by University of Michigan researchers reveal that the malaria parasite is highly sensitive to temperature change and even a slight upward movement of mercury dramatically increases the population of the malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.Although there is already another school of scholars who counter this theory arguing that it is drug-resistence and not climate change that is at the root of this upsurge of the disease in Africa, a still newer theory points to a possibility of drug-resistence and climate-change working in tandem causing the malaria epidemic.
Thanks to the tireless campaigns by the environment lobby climate change seems to be on top of mind recall across boundaries.Recently,former vice president Al Gore told scientists gathered at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to push administration officials and the general public for solutions to climate change.
He began by noting a parallel between the mortgage crisis and global warming, saying the world has $7 trillion in subprime carbon assets that it can't get rid of.

Gore's AAAS address comes at a time to remind us of all the scientific anniversaries ,some of which were celebrated past week and others to be celebrated in 2009: Darwin's 200th ,birthday, the 150th anniversary of John Tyndall's finding that carbon absorbs infrared radiation (which allowed Tyndall to suggest the possibility of man-made global warming because of fossil fuel use), and Galileo's championing of Copernican heliocentrism .

As he talked of millions of "climate refugees" in low-lying areas of the world, Gore pointed out that the Maldives now has a budget line "to buy a new country." He drew a link between global warming and extreme weather, from hurricanes to droughts to wildfires, showing photos of the recent jungle-fires in Australia .Using a dramatic video of a scientist lighting a plume of methane gas bubbling up from a frozen Alaskan lake Gore introduced the idea of methane as a potent greenhouse gas. Many scienticist are of the opinion that Methane emissions from such lakes is increasing as the permafrost thaws, allowing organic material trapped in the ice to be converted by the lake's bacteria into the gas.

Meanwhile, there is trouble brewing in the Chinese cuppa.As if Chinese goods getting banned in a number of countries was not bad enough ,China now faces worse environmental threats from burning of fossil fuels.

This year china surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases due to rampant usage of coal as fuel in industrial boilers , home stoves and also in generating 75 percent of the nation’s electricity. The consequence of burning this dirty black rock is smog and haze that blanket most of the Chinese cities.

According to scientific reports, as the pollution builds, it forms a brown cloud, visible from space, that in a week’s time crosses the Pacific Ocean to the western U.S., where it accounts for as much as 15 percent of the air pollution.

Some analysts place part of the blame on Western countries. A full 23 percent of China’s greenhouse gas emissions can be linked to the production of goods exported to the West, according to the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in England. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University put the share even higher: at 33 percent.On average, China opens one coal-fired plant every week to serve its 1.3 billion people and the massive industries that manufacture cheap goods, largely for the U.S. and Europe

The Chinese who have been burning coal for centuries now consume 2.5 billion tons a year—more than double that of the U.S.—and imports are rising despite extensive domestic mining. In 2007 the country’s 541 coal-fired power plants pumped out 554,420 megawatts of electricity, according to the Chinese State Electricity Regulatory Commission—roughly equivalent to the output of 550 large nuclear reactors.

Quoting poet Robert Frost slightly out of context :We have miles to go before we sleep...