Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the implosion of the Labor party in NSW and sees that it could damage Federal Labor.


Climate change may not be as severe as predicted, suggests an international study that shows current modelling of carbon dioxide emissions from soils are overestimated by as much as 20%. The view, reported in the latest Nature Geoscience journal, is based on a study of Australian soils that finds the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released by Australian soils is much lower than previously believed. The finding has major implications for climate change predictions as annual carbon emissions from soils are estimated to be more than all human-made CO2 emissions combined.

The Australian and US researchers say emissions from soils are lower because they contain a much higher proportion of charcoal, or black carbon, than estimated by previous models. "Current models of global climate change .. are inaccurate if a larger fraction of soil organic carbon than postulated has a very slow decomposition rate," they write. Co-author Dr Evelyn Krull, of CSIRO Land and Water, says charcoal, which is formed in the aftermath of bushfires, is a very stable form of carbon that can last for millennia. "In effect it's a carbon sink," Krull says.

Under the commonly used RothC model, the proportion of black carbon is calculated to be about 6.6%, she says. Krull says in their study of 452 soil samples from the Australian National Soil Archive and two landscape transects of about 3000km in Queensland and the Northern Territory, charcoal content ranged from zero to 82%. She says the average proportion of charcoal present for all 452 soil samples was 20.4%.

The team found by including realistic estimates of charcoal in their climate prediction models, the amount of CO2 predicted to be released from two Australian savannah regions under a 3ÂșC warming scenario was 18.3% and 24.4% lower than previously calculated. For Australia, a proportion of 20% charcoal in soils would lead to a 135 teragram (135 billion kilograms) overestimation on a continental scale. "On an annual basis, an inflated prediction from topsoils alone equates to ... 84% of CO2 emissions associated with aviation for Australia using values obtained for 2006," the paper says.

Krull, who has analysed soil samples from across the globe since the paper was prepared, says she has found soils from countries around the same latitude as Australia have similar charcoal content. She says this means that current scenarios predicted by climate change modeling "are making it look worse than it actually would be". This highlights the need for a global initiative to analyse soils worldwide for charcoal content so that modeling can be more accurate, she says.


Global financial crisis exposes follies in climate modelling

The global financial crisis showed how foolish the Rudd Government would be to base its climate change response on economic forecasts for the coming century, academic and Reserve Bank board director Warwick McKibbin said yesterday. A frequent commentator on carbon reduction schemes, Professor McKibbin said the carbon pollution reduction scheme proposed in a green paper, and the subject of an upcoming white paper, was the result of a "diabolical policy process" and risked disadvantaging Australia in global markets.

Speaking at a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia lunch in Brisbane, the economics professor said the Garnaut Report, released on September 30, was originally commissioned by the states, partly as a political tool to attack the federal Coalition, and has since had to be embraced by the incoming Labor Government. He questioned whether that required Climate Change Department secretary Martin Parkinson to have a "schizophrenic" approach to policy development.

But Professor McKibbin, from the Australian National University, was most critical of Treasury's long-term economic modelling, which was used by the Rudd Government to allay fears an emissions trading scheme would damage the economy. While partly involved in the modelling, Professor McKibbin said he was not responsible for the scenarios and believed it was "stretching the imagination" to believe you could forecast 100 years in advance and use that process to determine targets.

"I don't think we can calculate cost-benefit analysis over 100 years into the future," Professor McKibbin said. "We just have very poor tools at our disposal to work out what the costs will be, or what the world economy will look like, in 2100, just as we didn't have a really good idea at the turn of the 20th century, in 1900, what the world would look like today."

He said the economic crisis further demonstrated how policies should not be framed around long-term economic forecasts, how poorly-developed regulatory systems would have ramifications, and climate change responses needed to be able to withstand the inevitable "shocks".

Professor McKibbin said the Kyoto experience showed how even most environmentally-friendly countries, such as New Zealand and Canada, could commit to rigid, long-term targets only to find themselves disadvantaged when their economies or external conditions changed. He declared there would never be a uniform global carbon scheme and urged the Rudd Government to take the time necessary to develop a workable national scheme.


Goji berry may stop skin cancer

A tiny red berry celebrated for its antioxidant qualities may also help protect against skin damage that leads to cancer, researchers believe. Scientists at the University of Sydney fed diluted juice from the goji berry to mice in the laboratory and found it protected them against the same sun damage as other mice when exposed to harsh UV rays. Another experiment showed skin cancer advanced slower in mice that had drunk goji juice.

Cancer specialists have cautioned that while the berry, strong in antioxidant properties, appears to act like a sunscreen in mice, it is untested on humans. Goji juice has been the subject of bad press in recent years after tests by the Australian Consumer Association showed it was no more beneficial to health than standard fruit juices.

Dr Vivienne Reeve, from the university's Faculty of Veterinary Science, told a medical research conference in Brisbane on Monday that she fed mice either water or diluted juice and then exposed them to UV radiation to give them sunburn. "The goji berry-drinking mice had significantly less inflammation of the skin," said Dr Reeve, who is a scientific adviser to a company that distributes the juice. "And the juice seemed to protect the immune system because they didn't get immuno-suppression which is a major risk factor for skin cancer development in chronically over-exposed skin."

It also appeared to have protective properties against skin cancer growth, she said, with another experiment showing skin cancer-induced mice had significantly slower growing tumours.

"We haven't tested it on humans but this gives us every indication that we should if we want to help protect people from sun damage and disease," she said.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said the research was interesting but should be viewed with caution. "Just because it works like sunscreen in mice does not mean it will do the same in humans as the two types of skin are very different," Prof Olver said.


The Implant Coast

Gold Coast Coast women boast the largest fake breasts in Australia, according to the nation's leading implant supplier. Confirming what Gold Coast men have suspected for years, Nick Steventon of breast implant supplier Mentor has told The Bulletin that the average size of implants sold on the Coast is 50 to 75ml larger than the average nationwide.

"The average size we sell is 325ml-350ml, but on the Gold Coast we add another 50ml-75ml on top of that -- and more," said Sydney-based Mr Steventon. "You just have to walk along the beach there. This is my job, so I can spot them a mile off and they are definitely bigger."He said not only did Coast women have, on average, larger fake breasts, they were also more inclined to make a real statement with their new assets."Our largest implant is about 700ml. We sell them all the time on the Gold Coast but I don't recall selling any in Melbourne," he said. "Melbourne is very conservative in its sizes -- the Gold Coast is not."

Coast plastic surgeon Dr Craig Layt said his average implant size was 375ml-400ml. He believed the main reason Coast women were out in front was environmental, not socio-cultural."It's been known for years that as you head north the size of breast augmentation tends to be larger," he said. "People on the Gold Coast are more likely to be wearing bikinis and low-cut tops. It's the same in the US: if you go to Boston the augmentation rate and size is significantly less and smaller than it is in California."

Ethnicity could also be a factor, he said."In Melbourne there's a larger Italian and Greek population than here and those girls often have larger breasts to start with, so often you are topping up what they already have," he said."I am guessing that we have a larger Caucasian population -- smaller-breasted girls who want to be larger -- but certainly the major factor is just the outdoor, beach-girl culture."

He said the lion's share of his clients were 'for want of a better word, yummy mummies' who wanted their original breasts back -- and maybe a few centimetres more."I see lots of ladies who have had their children and who then want back what they had -- and sometimes with a bit more," said Dr Layt. "I am not considered to be someone who puts in huge breast implants ... but if a patient comes to me and wants it, maybe if she's an exotic dancer, or has a particular frame or wants a certain look, then I'm not averse to that."

Most of those clients were after 'dress-up dress-down breasts' -- a natural look when needed and a 'less-natural' look when desired, he said."A lot of them don't want their breasts to be the centre of attention, they want to throw on a T-shirt on a Sunday morning and go have a coffee and have nobody notice, but then they can go to a ball and put on a more figure-hugging top and suddenly they've got a great set of breasts."


No comments: