Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Июль 2009 г.
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2009 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

январь февраль март апрель май июнь июль август сентябрь октябрь ноябрь декабрь

    В условиях глобального потепления многие страны присматриваются к новому виду ископаемого топлива, которое на данный момент используется только в Норильске, на Мессояхинском месторождении. Речь идет о клатрате метана - молекулах метана, "запечатанных" внутри ледяных кристаллов. Их свойства случайно обнаружили в конце 1970-х советские ученые. При сгорании метана выделяется вдвое меньше углекислого газа, чем при сгорании угля, что важно для предотвращения глобального потепления. Но добыча метана может привести к нежелательным последствиям - от просачивания метана в атмосферу до резких выбросов газа, способных спровоцировать оползни и цунами.

DEEP in the Arctic Circle, in the Messoyakha gas field of Western Siberia, lies a mystery. Back in 1970, Russian engineers began pumping natural gas from beneath the permafrost and piping it east across the tundra to the Norilsk metal smelter, the biggest industrial enterprise in the Arctic.
By the late 70s, they were on the brink of winding down the operation. According to their surveys, they had sapped nearly all the methane from the deposit. But despite their estimates, the gas just kept on coming. The field continues to power Norilsk today.
Where is this methane coming from? The Soviet geologists initially thought it was leaking from another deposit hidden beneath the first. But their experiments revealed the opposite - the mystery methane is seeping into the well from the icy permafrost above.
If unintentionally, what they had achieved was the first, and so far only, successful exploitation of methane clathrate. Made of molecules of methane trapped within ice crystals, this stuff looks like dirty ice and has the consistency of sorbet. Touch it with a lit match, though, and it bursts into flames.
Clathrates are rapidly gaining favour as an answer to the energy crisis. Burning methane emits only half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal, and many countries are seeing clathrates as a quick and easy way of reducing carbon emissions. Others question whether that is wise, and are worried that extracting clathrates at all could have unforeseen and perilous side effects.
If countries and companies are exploring the potential of clathrates only now, that's not for lack of scientific interest over the years. Research over the past two decades has shown that the energy trapped in ice within the permafrost and under the sea rivals that in all oil, coal and conventional gas fields, and could power the world for centuries to come. Oil and gas companies have been slow to catch on, however, believing methane clathrates to be unreliable and uneconomical. Feasibility studies and the diminishing supplies of conventional natural gas are changing that, making commercially viable production realistic within a decade, says Ray Boswell, who heads the clathrates programme at the US Department of Energy.
"Just a few years ago no one was thinking about clathrates as an energy source," Boswell says. "Now there is a great deal of interest in them." It is not just the US. Canada, China and Norway are entering the race too. The governments of Japan and South Korea have given the green light for full-scale production. The first intentional commercial exploitation may come as early as 2015. So what are methane clathrates, and where do they come from? As with all natural gas, the story starts with rotting plants. As these plants decay, they release methane, which permeates through porous rocks underground. If the conditions where the methane ends up are just right - temperatures close to 0°C and pressures of roughly 50 atmospheres - ice crystals form that trap the gas in place.
In practice, these conditions mostly occur within and underneath permafrost and beneath the seabed on continental shelves, usually at ocean depths of 200 to 400 metres, although clathrates have also been known to appear on the seabed. In 2000, a 1-tonne chunk of the stuff was scooped up by fishermen off Vancouver Island in British Columbia. They hastily dumped the hissing mass back into the ocean.
Until recently, these deposits escaped the serious attention of energy companies. Engineers stumbled on clathrates from time to time while drilling for conventional reserves of oil and gas, but they were mostly viewed as an irritant that caused blowouts or blocked pipelines.
That view changed with studies showing that the gas is often present at a given site in concentrations of 50 per cent or more in ice's pore space - values similar to the prevalence of natural gas in traditional sources - in layers of clathrate hundreds of metres thick. What's more, in its constricted surroundings the gas is compressed to 160 times its density at atmospheric temperature and pressure, making for vast quantities of it when released.
These revelations made clathrates a potential gold mine that countries and energy companies are now eagerly prospecting. In 2007, a US project found clathrate reserves in Alaska with 80 per cent of the ice's pore space packed with methane. Tim Collett, a clathrate specialist at the US Geological Survey who was part of the team, says there may be reserves all along the Alaska north slope, including beneath existing oil installations at Prudhoe Bay and, alarmingly for environmentalists, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Collett estimates there is between 0.7 and 4.4 trillion cubic metres of methane clathrate in Alaska alone. Even the low end of that range could heat 100 million homes for a decade. "It's definitely a vast storehouse of energy. But it is still unknown how much of the volume can actually be produced on an industrial scale," he told a meeting of the American Chemical Society at Salt Lake City, Utah in March this year. That's not the only reserve of interest. In 2004, a German and Chinese team found methane venting from the seabed off the coast of Taiwan in the South China Sea, and in 2006 Indian researchers found a layer of methane clathrates 130 metres thick off its east coast in an area known as the Krishna-Godavari basin. Collett calls these "one of the world's richest marine gas clathrate accumulations".
Estimates vary, but conservative figures place global reserves at roughly 3 trillion tonnes of previously untapped carbon - more than is trapped in all the other known fossil fuel reserves put together, says Klaus Wallmann of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science in Kiel, Germany. That would last about 1000 years if we continue to use natural gas at the current rate, estimates Collett. Even if the methane from clathrates replaced all fossil fuels, and not just gas, it would still last for at least 100 years. But with this methane held in fragile ice crystals and buried deep within the Earth, can it be exploited safely and economically?
Until recently, there were two methods of extracting methane from clathrates that were considered feasible. One is to drill a hole into the clathrate deposit to release the pressure, allowing the methane to separate out from the clathrate and flow up the wellhead. The second is to warm the clathrate by pumping in steam or hot water, again releasing the methane from its icy matrix.
In 2002, Canadian, American, Japanese, Indian and German researchers tested both techniques in the field, at a drill site called Mallik on the outer extremity of the Mackenzie river delta in the Canadian Arctic. Both were successful, but the energy costs of the heating method nearly outweighed the energy gained from the methane released, making depressurisation the more attractive option.
The potential of depressurisation was confirmed in March 2008, when Canadian engineers led by Scott Dallimore of the Geological Survey of Canada used the technique to tap 20,000 cubic metres of methane gas over six days from a deposit located 1 kilometre beneath Mallik. Similarly, in 2007, South Korea exploited depressurisation to extract methane clathrate from the Ulleung basin in the Sea of Japan. Officials believe reserves there could meet the country's gas needs for up to 30 years, and they plan to begin production by 2015. Meanwhile Japan, another country with limited fossil fuel reserves, has found up to 50 trillion cubic metres of clathrate south-east of Honshu Island in the Nankai trough - enough to supply the country with natural gas for centuries. In March 2008, the Japanese cabinet pledged to begin production by 2016.
So methane clathrate extraction seems to be imminent, in Asia at least. Whether it is desirable is another matter. Some argue that the world shouldn't be tapping a new fossil fuel while we are pledging to build a low-carbon economy. Methane might be less carbon intensive than fuels such as coal, but switching to methane would not help countries to reach ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions of up to 80 per cent by 2050.
To make matters worse, the methane itself could exacerbate global warming if it starts leaking from the reserves. Methane is, molecule for molecule, 20 times as powerful at warming the air as CO2. Rising sea temperatures could melt some undersea clathrate reserves even without extraction projects disturbing them, triggering a release of this potent greenhouse gas. A decade ago, Peter Brewer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California, showed how clathrates on the seabed just off the coast of California disappeared after an El Niño event raised ocean temperatures by 1 °C.
Exploitation of clathrate reserves might exacerbate this problem, but it could also have far more immediate adverse effects. Clathrates exist in a delicate balance, and the worry is that as gas is extracted its pressure will break up neighbouring clathrate crystals. The result could be an uncontrollable chain reaction - a "methane burp" that could cascade through undersea reserves, triggering landslips and even tsunamis. "Extraction increases the risk of large-scale collapses, which might have catastrophic consequences," says Geir Erlsand from the University of Bergen in Norway.
Evidence that such events have happened in the past comes from the Storegga slide, a landslip on the seabed off western Norway about 8000 years ago. A 400-kilometre stretch of submarine cliff on the edge of the continental shelf collapsed into the deep ocean, taking with it a staggering 3500 cubic kilometres of sediment that spread across an area the size of Scotland. The result would have been a tsunami comparable to the one that devastated parts of south-east Asia in 2004.
The naval researchers who first discovered the remains of the slide in 1979 assumed it was the result of an earthquake. Perhaps it was initially, but Jürgen Mienert of the University of Tromsø in Norway has found that the slumped area was also a hotspot for methane clathrates. The sheer number of cracks and giant pockmarks on the seabed, carbon-dated to the time of the slide, suggest billions of tonnes of methane must have burst out of the cliff along with the sediment, a possible trigger for the landslip. The resulting explosions would have turned even a minor slip into a major disaster.
Sinking carbon
The Storegga slide is not the only incident of this kind. The ocean floor from Storegga to Svalbard is full of pockmarks that might have been caused by similar clathrate-driven landslides, says Mienert. He says we will see more of these events in the future. "Global warming will cause more blowouts and more craters and more releases," he warns.
Other engineers believe claims that clathrate extraction poses a risk are little more than scare stories with little supporting evidence.
Wallmann claims that the Chinese and Indians in particular are "afraid that the west wants to prevent them from rapid extraction of methane clathrate".
There might in fact be a safer way of tapping clathrates which, if successful, could quash the criticisms. Since other gases can also form clathrates, it should be possible to pump one of these gases into the crystals to displace the methane. Carbon dioxide would be an ideal candidate, says Ersland - the resulting crystal is even more stable than methane clathrate, meaning another greenhouse gas would be stored out of harm's way.
Ersland has already demonstrated his technique in the lab. In joint research with the energy company ConocoPhillips based in Houston, Texas, he replaced methane with CO2 in artificial clathrate crystals. The exchange was rapid and did not damage the clathrate structure, making it the safest way to extract the methane yet found (Chemical Engineering Journal, DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2008.12.028). Substituting methane with CO2 "will increase the stability of the reservoir sediments as well as maintaining the clathrates in their solid state", Ersland says.
The acid test will be an experiment planned for January next year. ConocoPhillips intends to pour liquefied CO2 down a borehole into the Alaskan north slope's clathrate deposit. If all goes well, the CO2 will fill the clathrate crystals and the displaced methane will shoot up the wellhead to the surface. The method could be both a safe way of capturing the methane and an environmental argument for pursuing the goal - the clathrate structures would be acting as a carbon sink.
It is an intriguing possibility. Sooner rather than later, burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas will only be acceptable if the CO2 emissions are captured and stored. Right now, there is a rush to develop a practical system for capturing and burying billions of tonnes of CO2 underground per year.
So far, the focus has been on old oil wells, salt deposits and even old coal mines. The big problem is that the huge infrastructure required to dispose of the CO2 may quickly make burning fossil fuels uneconomic compared with alternatives like solar, wind or nuclear power. Disposing of CO2 down the same pipe used to bring up more fuel could be the answer.

© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
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    Voice of America / 01 July 2009
    Russian Scientist Helps Eliminate Toxic Legacy in former Soviet Union
    • By Julia Ritchey, Washington
    Статья о деятельности эколога Ольги Сперанской, создателе одной из крупнейших сетевых организаций по борьбе со стойкими органическими загрязнителями. Сеть объединяет государственные, научные и общественные организации стран СНГ.

When the Soviet Union broke up two decades ago, many former Soviet countries lacked an environmental movement. Russian scientist Olga Speranskaya started researching the harmful effects that huge stockpiles of abandoned industrial chemicals were having in her own country. Her push to inform the public about the dangers of toxic chemicals led to the creation of a powerful environmental advocacy network in 11 former Soviet states.
Olga Speranskaya's initiation into the environmental movement came after she wrote an acclaimed article in 1992 titled, "What Will the Collapse of Communism Do to the Environment?"
Searching for an answer, Speranskaya began gathering scientific data on toxic wastes in agricultural and industrialized cities in Russia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
"We found out that we really do have severe problems associated with obsolete pesticide stockpiles and other wastes, chemical waste, toxic waste in the country," Speranskaya said.
Throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia there are poor agricultural communities, where dilapidated and abandoned warehouses sit with stockpiles of pesticides and chemicals exposed.
These chemicals evaporate into the air and also get into the ground water.
In one instance, Speranskaya analyzed the level of dioxin contamination of locally produced chicken eggs. The levels turned out to be quite high.
"The level of dioxin contaminate was 14 fold higher than the EU limits. So we got this information because dioxins are considered to be the most dangerous contaminants," she said.
Speranskaya says these organic pollutants can have a significant effect on a person's health, causing birth defects, neurological disorders or problems in the immune system.
"Babies, they start getting their first portion of chemicals in the womb," she adds. "And the second when they start breast feeding."
Through her Moscow-based organization, Eco-Accord, Olga Speranskaya established an international online network with more than 3,000 subscribers to get information out to the public. She says industries in the former Soviet Union do not readily publicize data about the toxins they release into the environment.
Speranskaya received the Goldman Environmental Prize this year for helping to transform many of the region's non-governmental organizations into a powerful force for environmental concerns.
At a Washington reception in her honor, Speranskaya said no one is immune from pollution.
"With more than 70,000 types of products in circulation globally, everybody's affected, regardless of income or position," Speranskaya said. She says she hopes her grassroots work will pave the way for a toxic-free world for future generations.

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    Discovery News - Silver Spring, MD, USA / June 22, 2009
    Planet "Restlessness" May Predict Big Quakes
    • Michael Reilly, Discovery News
    В ближайшие годы может случиться землетрясение, не уступающее по силе Суматра-Андаманскому землетрясению (26 декабря 2004, магнитуда 9,3). Ученые из Международного института теории прогноза землетрясений и математической геофизики РАН установили, что крупнейшие землетрясения имеют четкую цикличность, при этом их мощность усиливается к концу цикла. Сделать это позволила разработанная ими модель, которая описывает процесс зарождения землетрясений и предсказывает их, а также статистическая обработка данных сейсмических наблюдений. Статья опубликована в журнале Tectonophysics.

The earthquake struck seemingly without warning. On the morning of December 26, 2004 the ocean floor broke off the coast of Sumatra, unleashing a magnitude 9.3 temblor. The resultant tsunami killed nearly a quarter of a million people around the Indian Ocean. But if a new study is right, we could have seen the tremor coming.
Leontina Romashkova of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow examined global earthquake data for the decade leading up to the mega-quake. In a paper published last month in the journal Tectonophysics, she concluded the planet was getting restless; seismic activity increased around the globe, as did the number of strong quakes greater than magnitude 6.5. The number of quakes between 500 and 700 km deep in the planet also went up.
These strange phenomena hint that tectonic stresses were building before the deadly quake struck Southeast Asia.
"These evidences suggest...the occurrence of global scale premonitory patterns of impending mega-earthquake," Romashkova wrote.
The discovery is not altogether surprising; scientists know that small earthquakes can trigger larger ones nearby. And when big quakes like the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman hit, their energy pulses through the whole planet, ringing it like a bell.
But the notion that a earthquake activity could increase over the course of several years is new - and highly controversial. There is a simple law that governs all earthquakes: For every point of magnitude increase in strength, an earthquake will be 10 times less likely to happen (there are 10 times more magnitude 4.0 quakes than 5.0, and so on).
Many seismologists believe that there is little to understand beyond that - large earthquakes are rare, random, and impossible to predict. But Romashkova argues otherwise. The changes in pattern she observed upset that law.
She was quick to caution that the discovery is only the tip of the iceberg. It's a long way from recognizing blips in global earthquake patterns to accurately forecasting when and where the next big one might hit.
But if there is some sort of precursor - if the Earth winds itself up into a "critical" state of stress before such a powerful quake strikes - the potential to give warnings and save lives is enormous.
"We need to be cautious with the bottom line," James Dewey of the Unites States Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado said. "We are not going to be predicting earthquakes any time soon. What's being done here is proposing evidence for phenomena that if better understood, could eventually lead to the prediction of quakes."

Copyright © 2009 Discovery Communications, LLC.
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    The Globe and Mail / Wednesday, Jul. 01, 2009
    Russia proposes Arctic détente
    • Campbell Clark
    Россия выразила готовность сотрудничать с Канадой по вопросу о будущем Арктики в условиях таяния льдов. По словам поверенного в делах РФ в Канаде Сергея Петрова, такие страны, как Канада и Россия, имеющие выход к Северному Ледовитому океану, лучше понимают, как его осваивать. Допуск в эту систему других государств, не граничащих с Арктикой, не отвечает интересам ни Канады, ни России.

Russia says it wants to work co-operatively with Canada on the future of the thawing Arctic, and both countries should freeze out non-Arctic Europeans jockeying for a piece of its rich resource "pie."
Stephen Harper's Conservative government has occasionally aimed tough talk about Canadian claims in the Arctic at Russia, but has recently toned down the rhetoric to emphasize the orderly adjudication of Arctic claims at the United Nations.
Yesterday, the acting chief of Russia's embassy in Ottawa, Sergey Petrov, told a news conference that it was not his country that has "increased the temperature" of the debate. Canada and Russia, he said, can co-operate in the process of determining who will have a say in managing the Arctic.
The news conference was called to discuss the work of a Russian delegation studying ways to end political corruption and build bilateral economic ties.
"Those like Canada and Russia who have access to [the] Arctic ... they seem to have a better understanding of how to do it collectively," Mr. Petrov said. "But there's some outside players that want to be involved, and they're putting some oil on the flame of this issue." He later identified the European Union and its member states as the outside players.
Claims to the Arctic have become increasingly contentious because of expectations global warming will thaw enough of the ice to unlock vast oil and gas resources for commercial exploitation.
In May, a study by the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Arctic holds 13 per cent of the world's remaining oil, and perhaps 30 per cent of its natural gas.
Mr. Petrov said the five Arctic-coastline nations, Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark, should manage the region's future. However, the EU and individual non-Arctic European states want to be involved in setting limits for economic zones and other issues.
"Look, when we're [saying] that a quarter or a third of resources, including of oil and gas [are] in the Arctic, and that it would be just five countries who would divide this quarter or a third of world resources, naturally, there are those who want to be part of that," Mr. Petrov said.
"I think that it's not in the interests of Canada - but it's for your government to decide - and it's not in the interests of Russia to allow any other outside players to be part of this system."
Mr. Petrov said claims to economic zones will be decided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which doesn't give other countries grounds for hope. "It does not provide that any country that does not border [the] Arctic could have a piece of [the] pie," he noted.
Canada is working to map areas such as the underwater Lomonosov Ridge - which Russia and Denmark also claim - as an extension of the North American continental shelf. Such a finding would support Canada's claim for jurisdiction over the adjacent waters under a UN adjudication process.
In New York, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon played down Mr. Petrov's comments, insisting that a "long and tedious" process will decide who has jurisdiction in the Arctic. "All of the United Nations partners and members of the EU and others have also concurred in that regard," he said.
The EU does not, however, recognize Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage as an internal waterway.
In a dispute over a proposed ban on seal products, Canada this year blocked the EU's application to become a permanent observer at the Arctic Council, the eight-nation international organization that discusses co-operation in the region.

© Copyright 2009 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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    России и США следует уделять больше внимания сотрудничеству в сфере экологии и энергетики, в частности, таким вопросам, как изменение климата и эффективное использование энергии.

The summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow on July 6-8 comes in the middle of a packed international schedule of bilateral and multilateral meetings for the United States on climate change. In the run up to the critical U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen at the end of this year, when the extension or successor to the existing Kyoto Protocol must be agreed upon, it is crucial that the United States and Russia - both major emitters of greenhouse gases and potentially leaders on this crucial issue - explore ways of working together to ensure a positive outcome at these talks. Enhancing cooperation on climate change and energy efficiency should be a major plank of U.S. Russia policy and should be discussed at the highest levels when President Obama meets with President Medvedev next week.
Russia, like the United States, is a significant contributor to global warming. If the European Union is disaggregated Russia is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide behind the United States and China and still currently ahead of India. More importantly Russian per capita emissions are on the rise, and are projected at this point to approach America's top rank as per capita emitter by 2030. Russia is also the third-largest consumer of energy and one of the world's most energy-intensive economies. Making Russia a partner on these issues could be critical in order to advance a sound global climate change agenda.
The Center for American Progress report "After the "Reset": A Strategy and New Agenda for U.S. Russia Policy" will be released on July 2 and outlines three avenues of U.S.-Russia bilateral cooperation on climate and energy issues: cooperation on a new international climate change agreement, building Russia's capacity for carbon trading, and cooperating on energy efficiency. Here we expand on these proposals.
Our approach is based on the principle that the best way to engage Russia on global warming is to frame cooperation as a form of advancing economic modernization. We must convince the Russians that joining the community of nations on this issue is in their best economic interest.
Cooperation on Copenhagen
The United States should directly engage Russia on reaching a new international climate change agreement.
The build up to the climate summit in Copenhagen is making it clear that broad-based involvement by all countries - but especially the developed countries and major emerging economies in the developing world - is needed to create a consensus on global climate change action.
Most of the attention is focused on the United States, the European Union, China, and India as the major players necessary to forge a global deal, and there is insufficient thought given to the role Russia could play in a post-Kyoto agreement. There are however at least two reasons - besides the fact that Russia is a Kyoto signatory and a major emitter - to engage Russia directly in Copenhagen.
First, we should expect some resistance to a Russian embrace of an extension to or replacement of the Kyoto Protocol given the unique history of the relationship between the original assessment of their 2012 Kyoto targets and the transformation of their economy following collapse of the Soviet Union.
Our approach is based on the principle that the best way to engage Russia on global warming is to frame cooperation as a form of advancing economic modernization.
The agreed-to carbon reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol were indexed to 1990 emission levels. Those countries signing the treaty were obliged to reduce their emissions to an agreed-upon level by 2012 relative to the baseline of their 1990 emissions. Russian emissions dropped considerably because of the economic contraction that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result, without any additional efforts Russian emissions will not return to their 1990 levels before at least 2020 and Moscow will not be required to curb its emissions by the end of the Kyoto commitment period in 2012.
This means the Russians are likely to oppose stronger caps on emissions, which will be a necessary part of the hoped-for Copenhagen treaty. Indeed, Russia was the last major economy to announce its proposed post-Kyoto targets of 10 to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Such a proposed range has left many observers underwhelmed because it will actually allow for absolute increases in emissions from Russia's current state, but the international community should view this as an opening bid rather than final offer by actively engaging with Russia in constructive dialogue.
If we cannot strengthen the treaty and move progressively toward gradual but greater emissions cuts then we will not reach the goal of halving global emissions by 2050, something the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argues is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Given the sheer quantities of Russian emissions - regardless of their dip below 1990 levels - the Obama administration should work with the Russians to demonstrate that abatement measures are in Moscow's long-term economic interest.
Improvements in energy efficiency and energy intensity, for example, further economic modernization - one of the Kremlin's oft-repeated goals - and they will promote more sustainable economic growth. But for the United States to make this argument we must take the lead and make steady progress in adopting strong domestic clean-energy and climate policy, such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed in the U.S. House last week. We must also be prepared to listen to our Russian counterparts and not lecture, since a finger-wagging approach will only backfire in the Russian context.
Second, Russia could be one of the unacknowledged keys to success at Copenhagen given the likely structure of the treaty. According to the architecture of the first U.N. climate treaty the Kyoto Protocol could not have been enacted unless at least 55 countries signed and ratified it representing at least 55 percent of global carbon emissions. When the first round of commitments were announced enough countries were willing to ratify the treaty but their emissions did not add up to the required amount for implementation. So if Russia had not ratified the treaty in November 2004 it would have not gone into effect. Russian participation could again be critical this time because we can expect a similar proviso in the post-Kyoto treaty.
We need to bring the Russians on board for an ambitious agenda before Copenhagen sooner rather than later to avoid a deadlock in the international climate negotiations. Immediate bilateral cooperation and engagement is key in making Russia a partner in addressing climate change - it is not in the U.S. interest for Russia to be a spoiler.
But this cooperation faces significant challenges. There are many in the Russian political establishment who believe that the effects of climate change will be positive for their country. What's more, policymakers tend to view climate agreements in exclusively economic and not environmental terms. Russian policymakers, like their Chinese counterparts, emphasize that any emissions caps should not threaten Russia's economic development. However, Russia has recently released a draft climate doctrine that acknowledges the threat posed by climate change - a positive sign.
Building capacity for carbon trading
The United States should help Russia capitalize on the substantial amounts of emission credits it now possesses with the goal of ultimately reducing its emissions.
Russia currently sits on a veritable treasure of tradable carbon credits - by some estimates 1.5 billion euros. Russia is not linked to any existing emissions trading system, such as the European Trading Scheme, and it lacks the institutional capacity to do so. The United States is in a good position to provide capacity building expertise to Russia in establishing an emissions trading market because of our experience in establishing emissions trading markets, most notably the highly successful sulfur dioxide trading scheme in the 1990s and more recently regional (Western Climate Imitative, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and Midwestern Initiative) and voluntary (Chicago Climate Exchange) carbon emissions trading initiatives.
We need to bring the Russians on board for an ambitious agenda before Copenhagen sooner rather than later to avoid a deadlock in the international climate negotiations.
The administration should also create incentives for these U.S. trading centers to collaborate with the Russians to launch a pilot emissions trading scheme in one or more of Russia's heavy industry sectors. Such efforts can include guidance on how to set up inventory systems for tracking greenhouse gas sources and sinks and to establish the architecture and infrastructure for the actual trading of emission credits, with the long-term goal of linking Russia (or specific sectors) into broader trading systems.
Developing Russia's capacity in emissions trading will help it to be in a better position to join a large trading scheme as a full participant if and when it agrees to begin stemming its current emissions. This proposal is likely to be met with support from major Russian enterprises, including the state-controlled oil major Rosneft, which has already demonstrated interest in related emissions trading projects. The larger objective of such cooperation should be clear: demonstrating to the Russian government that joining international efforts to solve global warming can be profitable to them by providing a way of joining the international carbon market. The revenues from carbon credit trading will offset the cost of taking on additional cuts at home.
Cooperation on energy efficiency
The United States should also propose a series of cooperative agreements on increasing Russia's energy efficiency.
One of the most striking features of Russia's energy profile is its energy intensity - the amount of energy consumed per unit of gross domestic product - which is higher than any of the world's 10-largest energy-consuming countries, 3.1 times greater than the European Union, and more than twice that of the United States. This massive potential for improvement makes working with the Russians to increase their energy efficiency the most effective short-term way to help them reduce emissions and points toward the clearest path for demonstrating the economic advantages of taking on climate change.
It is important for the United States to adopt this stance to take advantage of the opportunity that has recently opened up in Russia. For the first time the Russian government has demonstrated an interest in increasing efficiency. President Medvedev signed a decree in June 2008 that includes measures aimed at reducing Russia's energy intensity by at least 40 percent by 2020 compared with 2007 levels. And Prime Minister Vladimir Putin issued a government order earlier this year that calls for a significant increase in the energy efficiency of the Russian electric power sector. Medvedev has on several occasions publicly acknowledged the economic benefits of energy efficiency for Russia's economy. As such energy efficiency represents an enormous opportunity for collaboration between our two countries.
Fortunately the United States has a ready and successful model for such collaboration in its experience in working with China on industrial energy efficiency. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a research institution supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, has worked with Chinese scientists and the Chinese government to establish an industrial energy efficiency program that benchmarks China's top 1,000 energy-consuming industries to global best practices.
We recommend that the Obama administration propose a similar type of program that targets Russia's industrial sectors given the potential for substantial financial savings through energy efficiency in Russia's industrial sector and the Russian government's interest. Funding for such a project would come from both the U.S. and Russian governments, working through public-private partnerships, and that any potentially new energy-saving technologies that could emerge from this collaboration be fully shared. We should also frame this project as an opportunity for U.S. and Russian scientists to collaborate on contributing to Russia's innovation agenda and produce technologies that benefit both countries because of the sensitivity of U.S. involvement in the Russian economy.
Further, the United States can play a role in increasing Russian efficiencies by offering expertise to improve energy conservation at Russia's end-user level. The United States has had considerable success with a domestic energy efficiency program called Energy Star, which is administered jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Energy Star adopts the public-private partnership model - a concept gaining traction in Russia - by pairing up with businesses to develop energy efficiency compliance codes for a full range of products and practices, which now cover buildings and facilities and over 60 product categories, such as home appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, and more.
In over 17 years of operation Energy Star has engendered collaboration among 15,000 private- and public-sector organizations, and led to estimated energy savings that translate to $19 billion in 2008 alone. It will be further strengthened by the aforementioned American Clean Energy Security Act should a companion bill in the Senate also pass. We recommend that the United States and Russia use the American experience with Energy Star to develop long-term Russian institutional capacity for establishing best practices, setting energy performance standards, and monitoring energy consumption across a wide range of end uses in Russia.
Russia and the United States were incapable of discussing important issues in the final months of the Bush presidency. The Obama administration now has the opportunity to build a relationship of trust and cooperation to fight a common threat. Working together on advancing energy efficiency in Russia and demonstrating the economic advantages of attending to climate change offers both countries an ideal platform for a new era of constructive diplomacy and joint action. Climate and energy efficiency can also expand the U.S.-Russia relationship beyond the traditional areas of arms control and nonproliferation. President Obama should capitalize on this opportunity starting next week in Moscow when he meets with Medvedev. Confronting this neglected challenge may very well wind up being a key to solving the climate crisis.

© 2009. Grist Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved.
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    Статья посвящена трем выдающимся ученым в области космонавтики и ракетостроения - Констатину Эдуардовичу Циолковскому (Россия), Герману Юлиусу Оберту (Германия) и Роберту Хатчинсу Годдарду (США).

Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg may have forever changed the face of twentieth century physics. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mao Tse-tung, and Josef Stalin may have established the dominant political dynasties of the twentieth century. However, Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, German Romanian Hermann Oberth, and American Robert Goddard are the three men whose work shaped the technology and geopolitical landscape of Earth in the 20th century and beyond. The Chinese were the first to launch rockets using gunpowder over a millenia ago and Marco Polo along with other European traders eventually brought that knowledge of gunpowder to Europe where such technology was used for warfare, but it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century, did these three physicists independently and separately derive the theoretical and mathematical foundation of rocketry and astronautics. This diary is the first of a three part series focusing on the lives of these three men.
Tsiolkovsky, Oberth, and Goddard are the founding fathers of the modern space industry and virtually all space technology developments and spacecrafts were first proposed by them including the space telescopes, the solar power stations, missile defense systems, and even the space elevators. Their theoretical work is evident every time a Space shuttle, a Trident missile, or a Proton with ISS cargo hauler launches into space from the surface of the Earth. ICBMs tipped with nuclear warheads have changed the international rules of military conflict and policies.
Communication satellites have revolutionized the speed at which information can be tranmitted around the globe. Humans have been able to leave the surface of the Earth and set foot on another world. Climate monitoring satellites and photos of the Earth have enormously strengthen the environmental movement and given them political clout. All of these technological events were theorized by these three men. Yet, the story how each of these men came to work on rockets could not be more divergent and in some ways very similar. Of the three, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was probably the brightest and most underappreciated. In fact, in many ways he was more intelligent than Albert Einstein.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
In 1903, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky became the first physicist to publish a mathematical treatise, entitled The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices, on the use of rockets to launch spacecraft beyond Earth's atmosphere. However, once the book was published, the work gained very little recognition or interest outside of Russia until the publication of Hermann Oberth's By Rocket into Planetary Space in 1923.
Born in Izhevskoye, Russia in 1857 to an exiled Polish father and a well educated Russian mother, Tsiolkovsky contracted scarlet fever at the age of 9 that left him hearing impaired. Consequently, he was barred from attending Russian schools. He grew up shy and lonely at home where he spent much of his childhood studying books.
At age 16, he left home to attend lectures at a university in Moscow where he spent much of his time in the libraries reading and studying books. At one of these libraries, he met Nikolai Fyodorov (more popularly spelled Federov), a futurist, who helped draw Tsiolkovsky's interests to the idea of space travel. Thus, Tsiolkovsky became interested in mathematics and physics, subjects which he largely self-taught.
In 1876, Tsiolkovsky's father upon finding his son near starvation and overworked ordered Konstantin back home to help him find a job where he could become self-sufficient. Tsiolkovsky studied to become a math teacher and passed the teaching exams, receiving his certificate in 1879. He was abled to obtain a teaching position in Borovsk, a town 60 miles from Moscow in a mostly isolated, rural area. While teaching math there, he began doing research on aerodynamics and developed an accurate theory of inert gases. Unaware that the theory had already been published 25 years earlier, he submitted a paper to the Russian Physico-Chemical Society in St. Petersburg. Dmitri Mendeleev, the creater of the Periodic Table of Elements, responded kindly that the theory had already been established, but encouraged Tsiolkovsky to continue his own research. Mendeleev and other scientists in the Society were so impressed by Tsiolkovsky's abilities to independently arrive at scientific theory that they invited him to join.
In 1892, Tsiolkovsky was promoted to another math teaching position in Kaluga, Russia where he was to spend the remainder of his life with his wife and seven children. In 1896, he began his aeronautics and astronautics research that eventually led to his famous work. He built a wind tunnel with his own funds, the first of its kind in Russia, to work out the equations of flight just as the Wright Brothers were doing in America. He published several papers on the effects of air friction on surface areas and wind speed over a streamlined body, receiving a cash grant from the Physico-Chemical Society which enabled him to build an even bigger wind tunnel. Tsiolkovsky began turning more of his attention to astronautics and was able to derive the necessary escape velocity a vehicle would need to achieve Earth's orbit, 8 km/s. He also proposed multistage rockets in order to eliminate mass and using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as rocket fuels.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky did not gain much recognition for his work in aeronautics and astronautics until 1919 when he was inducted into the Academy of Sciences. In 1921, he received a permanent life pension from the USSR People's Commissar for his work in aeronautics.
However, it was not until 1924, once Oberth published his famous treatise and a reference to Robert Goddards own paper was included inducing Tsiolkovsky to republish his work and have it translated, that he gained international recognition for the development of theoretical astronautics. He was then named first professor of Soviet Military Aerial Academy. By the time of his death in 1935, Tsiolkovsky wrote over 500 papers on aeronautics and astronautics and had published a number science fiction stories and books promoting space travel. His work influenced the second generation of Russian rocketeers like Valentin Glushko and Sergei Korolev. Today in Russia, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky is often called the Father of Space Travel which is quite an honor for a hearing impaired person who received no formal education.
World War I helped to bring about a technological revolution in Europe, particularly in Germany who bore the brunt of the economic sanctions and war reparations under the Treaty of Versailles. Over in America, the Smithsonian published "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes" submitted by Robert Goddard in 1920 that included a proposal to send a rocket to the Moon. The media greeted the paper with so much ridicule and derision that Robert Goddard retreated into near seclusion and avoided publicizing his further work. Dr Goddard refused to join or encourage the new rocket clubs that sprung up around the country and the US government had little to no interest in his work. Europe had an almost opposite reaction to Hermann Oberth's "Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen" (By Rocket to Space) published as a book in 1923. His book generated widespread excitement and interest in space travel and led to the establishment of rocket clubs all over Europe. Hermann Oberth, himself, joined Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR) that became the premier rocket club in Germany and helped launch the career of Germany's most famous rocketeer Wernher von Braun.
The VfR attracted the attention of the German military in the late 1920's who were becoming interested in rockets as a means of creating new military weaponry. While the Versailles treaty forbade Germany from rebuilding its military weapons capabilities or pursuing weapons development, rocket technology development was not specifically prohibited by the Versailles Treaty since the Allies had not consider the feasibility of rocketry at the time.
Of course, the German military, Reichsheer, could not afford to publicize their interest in rocketry so they did everything they could to keep rocket technology under wraps. When Hermann Oberth published his new book Wege zur Raumschiffahrt, "Ways to Spaceflight", in 1929, the Reichsheer generals sought to have the book banned and to prevent publications of later editions. Once the Nazi rose to power in 1932, the military was able to not only censor the book but disband the private rocket club Vfr.
While World War II was a tragic, destructive global event, its advent was fortuituous in some ways. The war led to the downfall of the Nazi regime. Had the Nazis held off on starting the war and retained power for only a few more years, they would have had in their grasp the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Such weapon would have altered the balance of power for the Nazis and enabled them to have near invincible dominion over Europe and around the world. Hermann Oberth, despite his Romanian birth, was an ardent German rightwing nationalist who fully supported the rise of Nazi regime.
Hermann Oberth
Hermann Oberth was born in what was known as Hermannstadt, Transylvania to a Saxon family of German nationalists. Like many young boys at the time he became enthusiastic about space travel after reading Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" and engaged in attempts to build model rockets.
However, after graduating from high school, Oberth chose to study medicine to become a doctor. At the advent of World War I, Oberth was drafted into the German Army medical corp as a field medic. He spent part of his time during the war conducting some informal rocket research. His war experience convinced him to change his major to physics after WWI ended to complete an undergraduate degree at the University of Munich. He then joined the doctoral program at University of Heidelberg to write a dissertation on rocketry in which he promoted the concept of a multistage rocket. He submitted his doctoral paper in 1922 and it was rejected by the review board as being too abstract.
Dismayed and chagrined, Hermann Oberth returned home to Romania and like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky took up teaching high school math and physics. In 1923, he decided to publish his dissertation as a book, something that was unheard of in scientific circles. "Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen" won widespread acclaim across Europe and America even though Robert Goddard and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky had published similar books earlier. Oberth's name became a common household name overnight and German luminaries like Max Valier, a popular aviator and stuntman, sought him out. He travelled around Europe to defend his book and encourage rocket enthusiasts.
As a member of Vfr, he became a mentor for many young men including then teenager Wernher von Braun, Germany's master rocketeer. Fritz Lang, a German film director who produced the famous dystopian silent movie "Metropolis", was inspired by Oberth to direct "Frau im Mond", one of the first films in the science fiction genre. Oberth was hired as a technical consultant for the movie from 1928 to 1929. As part of the contract, Oberth agreed to build a liquid fuel rocket to be launched as part of the film premiere. He was assisted by students from the Technical University of Berlin, one of who was von Braun, in construction of the rocket. "Kegeldüse", as the rocket was called, was not launched at the movie premiere, but it was eventually successfully static fired by the Vfr.
In 1929, he published his second book in which he proposed the feasibility of ion propulsion as well as utilizing rockets as missiles tipped with warheads. The book won him an award from the French Academy of Sciences sponsored by famous French pilot and rocketeer Robert Esnault-Pelterie who had also written similar papers. The German Army was nonplussed about the publication and had the book banned in 1932. In the meantime many of Oberth's disciples had been recruited by the German military to work on the rocket program and Vfr disbanded. By 1938, Oberth had moved from Romania to Germany and became a naturalized German citizen. In 1941, Wernher von Braun hired him to consult on the V-2 rocket development at Peenemünde where Oberth earned a merit service award for his actions in saving research records during the Allied bombing. Oberth eventually moved on to work for WASAG developing solid propellent antiaircraft rockets near Wittenberg.
After WWII ended and Oberth was released by the Allies, his family settled in Feucht, Germany near Nuremberg where they were to remain for the rest of his life despite his frequent travels. In the postwar years, Oberth worked as a consultant for different companies across Europe. He even travelled overseas and worked with Wernher von Braun who was ensconced in Huntsville, Alabama for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. A famous photograph of him while at the ABMA can be seen below. Hermann Oberth retired from consulting and contract research in 1962 returning to Feucht to write more philosophical works.
Hermann Oberth is the longest lived of the first generation of rocketeers, even outliving virtually all of the second generation as well. He is the only one of the three orginal rocket scientists who lived to see humans land and take their first steps on the Moon. He is often referred to as the Godfather of Space Travel. He died in Nuremberg in 1989 at the age of 95.

© Kos Media, LLC.
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