• U.S. ethanol rush may harm water supplies: report

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. ethanol rush could drain drinking water supplies in parts of the country because corn -- a key source of the country's alternative fuel -- requires vast quantities of water for irrigation, the National Research Council reported on Wednesday.

    U.S. President George W. Bush has called for production of 35 billion gallons per year of alternative motor fuels including ethanol by 2017, as part of an effort to wean the country from foreign oil. U.S. capacity to make the fuel, believed to emit low levels of greenhouse gases, has spiked about 28 percent this year to nearly 7 billion gallons.

    But the use of more corn to make ethanol could drain water supplies like the Ogallala, or High Plains, aquifer, which extends from west Texas up into South Dakota and Wyoming.

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  • U.N. urges preparedness for more frequent disasters

    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Amid a dramatic increase in climate-related disasters, international relief agencies are calling on countries to increase their commitment to disaster risk reduction, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

    "Climate change is already driving an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones. We believe that more needs to be done to contain these natural disasters at the outset," said U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes.

    "Disaster risk reduction is a key part of the global response to climate change."

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  • Mauritius Scientists Fear Tourism Impact On Coral

    BLUE BAY, Mauritius - Scientists in Mauritius are warning the Indian Ocean island's ambitious tourism targets will place too much strain on remaining coral.  Facing the threats of trade liberalization to its sugar and textile sectors, Mauritius is boosting tourism with a goal of two million tourists per year from an anticipated 900,000 in 2007. But scientists are nervous about that target. "Too many tourists will bring it to an unsustainable level," oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo told Reuters.

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  • Greenpeace Urges Indonesia to Stop Forest Destruction

    JAKARTA - Indonesia must stop the destruction of its rainforests and commit to a moratorium on conversion of peat swamp forests into farmland, Greenpeace said on Tuesday.  Indonesia had the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000-2005, destroying an area of forest the size of 300 soccer pitches every hour, according to the environment group. The Greenpeace appeal came ahead of a U.N. climate change summit in December, where participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in Bali to discuss a new deal to fight global warming. The existing pact, the Kyoto Protocol, runs out in 2012.

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  • Indonesia seeks payout to save forests

    JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia wants to be paid $5-$20 per hectare not to destroy its remaining forests, the environment minister said on Monday, for the first time giving an actual figure that he wants the world's rich countries to pay.

    Participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in Bali for global climate talks at a U.N.-led summit in December.

    They will hear a report on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation (RED) -- a new scheme that aims to make emission cuts from forest areas eligible for global carbon trading.

    But apart from carbon trading, Indonesia also wants big emitters such as the United States and the European Union to pay the country to preserve its pristine rainforests.

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  • Why Do Males and Females Frequently Differ in Body Size and Structure?

    RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Males and females frequently differ in body size, form and structure. But how did these differences develop? Despite decades of study by evolutionary biologists - the answer isn't clear.

    A new book called Sex, Size & Gender Roles: Evolutionary Studies of Sexual Size Dimorphism (Oxford University Press, 2007). brings together the latest research findings in evolutionary biology to help explain gender differences in a variety of organisms, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders and flowering plants. The book was edited in part bya UC Riverside biology professor Daphne Fairbairn.

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  • Vietnamese villages submerged as floods kill 67

    The homes of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese villagers were still underwater on Monday after days of some of the worst flooding in decades that killed up to 67 people.

    The northern province of Thanh Hoa and its southern neighbor Nghe An were worst hit by floods and landslides after Typhoon Lekima blew in last Wednesday night.

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  • Inner Mongolia grasslands turning to sand

    The steppes of Inner Mongolia are arid even at the best of times, but low rainfall as world temperatures rise is turning these grasslands into sand.

    "The wild grass reached up to my knees in the past," said Chaogula, a 40-year-old herdsman as he pointed to barren fields in this remote part of China near the Mongolian border.

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  • U.S. finally taking warming seriously: Gorbachev

    NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Much time has been lost in the fight to stop global warming, but the United States, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has finally begun to take the problem seriously, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on Friday.

    He made his comments in New Orleans, which is recovering from Hurricane Katrina, the powerful 2005 storm that some experts have said was part of a trend toward stronger and more frequent hurricanes due to man-made warming.

    "I'm sorry the United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol," Gorbachev said, referring to the international accord to reduce emissions of gases that contribute to global warming.

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  • Dozens killed in worst Vietnam floods in decades

    THANH HOA, Vietnam (Reuters) - More than 50 people were killed or missing after a typhoon, floods and landslides cut power and closed roads in what officials in two Vietnam provinces on Sunday described as some of the worst flooding in decades.

    The government storm prevention committee said 37 people were killed and 15 missing. State-run Vietnam Television reported 55 dead and missing in the aftermath of typhoon Lekima, which slammed into several provinces on Wednesday night.

    Thanh Hoa and Nghe An provinces in north-central Vietnam were hit hardest by torrential rains and strong winds.

    "This may be the worst flooding since 1945," said Phan Dang Khoa, a Communist Party official in Thach Thanh district of Thanh Hoa where a dyke broke on the Buoi river, causing extensive flooding.

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