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South Korea approves emissions trading scheme

South Korea’s parliament has approved a long-delayed bill to start trading carbon dioxide emissions in 2015, joining the vanguard of countries battling climate change.

The legislation approved late Wednesday means it will become one of the first Asian countries to implement a nationwide cap-and-trade system.

Such a scheme limits industry emissions of carbon dioxide, but allows companies to buy credits if they want to emit more, or sell credits if they can cut emissions.

Annual greenhouse gas emissions by South Korea have doubled in the past two decades to about 600 million tons from about 300 million tons in 1990, a government official said.

The limits will apply to companies that discharge 125,000 tons or more of carbon dioxide annually or workplaces that emit at least 25,000 tons a year.

The bill was first submitted to parliament in April last year but faced strong opposition from the Federation of Korean Industries representing big conglomerates. They said it would hurt export competitiveness.

Details of the trading system, such as whether an exchange will be created, have yet to be worked out.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth largest economy, is now following a similar timetable to China, which plans to start a nationwide carbon-trading programme in 2015.

Australia and New Zealand have already approved carbon-trading systems.  Read More

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Magnitude-3.9 quake shakes part of S. California

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif.—A small earthquake jolted the Orange County area of Southern California on Monday, startling residents but apparently causing no damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-3.9 quake occurred at 10:37 a.m. and was centered a mile west of San Juan Capistrano.

The quake occurred at a depth of just over two miles and was felt in the central county area as a strong jolt.

There were no immediate reports of damage, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Marc Stone.

“It might knock a picture crooked on the wall or something like that,” he said. “It’s one of those reminders you should always be prepared in case another one does hit.”

The earthquake did not affect the San Onofre nuclear generating station, Southern California Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said. Both reactors at the plant, about 10 miles south of San Juan Capistrano, are currently shut down.

Laurie McIntyre, a librarian in San Juan Capistrano, said she heard a slow rumble for maybe two seconds and the temblor was over. Patrons took note of the sound but no books fell, she said.  Read More

NASA launches Earth Day video contest

Image: Earth

NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012.

 

This Earth Day, NASA is launching a competition for anyone who’s ever wanted to send the planet a love letter.

The U.S. space agency announced this week that beginning this Earth Day (April 22), it will start taking submissions for its second annual Earth Day video contest. Planetary science buffs-turned-shutterbugs, or vice versa, will get the chance to produce and edit short videos showing off their creative perspectives on our home planet — all to win a uniquely NASA prize.

In a press release, NASA said that its science “has changed how we think about exploring the Earth or even how we see the Earth.”

To celebrate the Blue Marble, the agency is asking video producers to shed a little light on just how that science may have influenced their own views. That might mean viewing the Earth with a little humility, such as regarding it as a pinpoint of light as seen billions of miles away by the Voyager probes. Or maybe with a sense of the planet’s constant change, such as appreciating the churning winds of an El Niño event.

Last year’s winning video, for instance, meditated on Earth’s seemingly unique ability, at least as far as this solar system is concerned, to host life.

NASA directs participants to keep their entire video short, no more than two minutes long. They also ask that those that enter draw from its wide catalog of visualization tools, which include videos shot from the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth and computer simulations of weather events.

The winner of the contest, who will be announced after the competition’s close on May 31, will have the chance to watch NASA science unfold firsthand during the launch of a new rocket in January 2013, part of the agency’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM). Think of it as a gala Hollywood event just for space nerds.  See More

Secret colonial file on Barack Obama Sr. released by British

When the British Foreign Office released thousands of colonial-era files Wednesday, one name stood out – Barack H. Obama, father of the United States president.

The elder Obama was on a list of names in a secret file about Kenyans studying in the U.S., the Guardian of London reported. The file lists Kenyans, including “OBAMA, Barrack H,” who, at the age of 23, enrolled at the University of Hawaii.

In 1959, when Barack Obama Sr. had gone to study in Hawaii, U.S. officials told the British they worried that Kenyan students had a reputation for being “anti-American” and “anti-white,” the Guardian reported.

Colonial administrators in Nairobi claimed that Kenyans who studied abroad were “academically inferior” to those who studied in Africa. They also criticized the African American Students Foundation – supported by actor Sydney Poitier and baseball star Jackie Robinson – which gave Obama a grant to study.

In memos between the U.S. and Britain, colonial officials questioned the caliber of the students chosen, according to the BBC. A particularly frustrated British colonial official told Americans that the students had been personally selected by sponsors who had picked candidates from their tribal groups.  Read More

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