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Studying Climate Change on the Ground

The most obvious effects of climate change are of course in the air temperature, the weather and the sea levels. However it is also known to cause other problems indirectly such as damaging the soil. There is research though particularly with a group of American scientists to investigate how this can be changed.

The study is centred around Antartica, one of the toughest environments on the face of the Earth. These areas are so barren that in fact up until a few decades ago many scientists thought it incapable of supporting life. However if you dig down underneath the icy surface, there are millions of microscopic worms called nematodes which are positively thriving here. These little creatures are helping scientists to understand the effects of climate change.

This years Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement has actually been awarded to one of these researchers – Soil scientist Diana Wall. She has spent twenty years studying these creatures mainly in the Antartic. The Nematodes capture and store the carbon which is otherwise released into the atmosphere. Unfortunately the nematode that lives in this harsh environment is struggling due to the rising temperatures and being replaced by a rival organism. The problem is that the new Nematode doesn’t store carbon which suggests more will be released into the environment.

The study of soil and the organisms that live in it, is mainly quite a new science. However advances in molecular biology and ecology, have meant that scientists are continuing to find new life forms with different functions all the time. The link in with climate change is obvious with a huge US Government project now looking at how farmers can slow climate change by conserving the release of carbon into the atmosphere by storing it into the soil.

There are also studies using salt marshes which are being used to model the effects of climate change particularly in coastal areas. The realisation is growing that climate change through it’s changes in temperature, rainfall and plant activity all have an impact on the soil’s ability to store carbon. There is hope that better soil management techniques can actually encourage the soil to store more carbon rather than impacting the already high levels in the atmosphere.

Here’s a great little video about one of the more common nematodes. Everyone should be able to see it although there may be some countries that can’t if you get the message – video not available in your country, then try using this or another proxy server or VPN to bypass the blocks. For some reason, many scientific and educational resources seem to ge blocked online depending on your location, not sure why though.

Jim Hargreaves

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French Firms Warns Off Drilling in Artic

I can’t remember ever hearing a statement like this before, but the CEO of French Total has completely surprised many environmentalists. Christophe de Margerie stated that the environmental risks of drilling in the Artic outweighed the potential commercial benefits. He was quoted as saying that “Oil on Greenland would be disaster” and in the interview he also said that it would do much damage to their image.

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You can catch the interview on M6 Replay the French media channel if you’re quick. Outside France you need to sometimes use a French proxy for most items although sometimes you can see news stuff without being blocked. It’s a stance unfortunately not shared by most other oil companies who are drilling in the Artic area. Many companies have signed deals to look at the far North deposits too including Shell and Exxon Mobil. Other companies like BP are using partners in Russia to try and carve a niches there.

But stop and think for a moment – what does it really mean when an Oil company itself say that the environmental risk is too great. These are the guys who cause environmental damage all over the world, when one of their own says it’s risky you better take notice! Of course it’s probably driven by self preservation rather than any real care about the environment. Total have just had a massive fine for some pollution in the Erika oil disaster – so it’s likely this had some bearing.

Nobody should drill for all in the Artic, it’s too important. The eco system is too delicate, the ice is already melting due to global warming. Are massive numbers of Oil rigs burning fuel really going to do anything more than huge environmental harm. The ice at the top of the planet reflects heat back and helps keep our planet cooler. To allow companies to mess around with something as important as the Artic for the sake of their profit margins is insane. If you agree I urge you to go here and sign the petition

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Climategate and Anonymity in Science

In 2009 the environmental groups lobbying for action against climate change had a bit of a set back. It happened prior to a big convention in Copenhagen and eventually got dubbed with the title of ’Climategate’. You may not remember but it focused on the world renowned Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia. This little team of researchers were world renowned in creating the global impetus for people to do something positive about global warming.

What happened was the usual story of ‘hackers’ stealing and releasing online a huge amount of confidential data onto the internet. Most damaging have turned out to the many emails that were exchanged within the group. Lots of these expressed doubts about findings, casual comments about the death of an opposition scientist and generally all the sort of doubtful, confusing stuff that people generally engage in.


It’s still not clear about how much long term damage was caused by Climate Gate – but it could be crucial. There are so many vested interests in whether we should reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for example that any snippets of information can be spun to suit one these groups.

I think this is why researchers and scientists should take their privacy a little bit more seriously. If you are speaking in confidence with colleagues regularly online – make sure you get advice from experts like these on anonymity. You want your findings to be released properly not half truths to the press or gossip through the internet!

There are steps you can take and procedures to implement that can make most communication almost 100% secure. It’s essential that place like the Climatic Research Unit take these precautions seriously – what they say could have a huge effect on the future of this planet.