Archive for April 18, 2011

Sugarcane grown to power Brazil’s cars and trucks as an alternative to climate-warming fossil fuels has a beneficial side effect: it also cools the local air temperature, scientists reported Sunday.

Researchers warned that this does not mean replacing Amazon forest or other natural vegetation with sugarcane fields. The benefit comes when sugarcane is introduced into existing agriculture, replacing pasture land or crops like soybeans.

Sugarcane manages this win-win feat by its ability to reflect sunlight and to “sweat” out cooling moisture into the air, said lead researcher Scott Loarie of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Plants draw moisture from the soil and emit it into the air in the process of photosynthesis, Loarie said by telephone, and sugarcane is particularly efficient at making this transfer of cooling moisture.

“We showed that with sugarcane, it was these evaporative cooling effects that were much more significant than the albedo (reflectivity),” he said, speaking of research published online in Nature Climate Change.

Sugarcane is used in biofuel that powers about a quarter of the motor vehicles in Brazil, and in that way, it helps to keep some of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which affects global climate.

However, because of its efficiency at emitting cool moisture, it also can push down local temperatures by 1.67 degrees F (0.93 degrees C) compared to other crops or pasture.

Planting sugarcane still does not cool down the air as much as other crops and pasture warm it when they replace natural vegetation. The researchers found this local warming effect was 2.79 degrees F (1.55 degrees C).

One advantage of sugarcane planting for biofuels in Brazil is that it shortens what is known as the carbon payback time.

This is a way of calculating how long it will take to get excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere after it is emitted, Loarie said.

“If we cut down a hectare of Amazon forest, how much carbon are we releasing into the atmosphere and how much time is it going to take before we take that carbon out of the atmosphere?” he said. “How long will it take us to make that back, to substitute fossil fuels with the renewable fuels we’re going to grow?”

In places like the Amazon, he said, the carbon payback times can stretch to 60 years. But in much of Brazil, because sugarcane is such a productive form of energy, the carbon payback times are “only a couple of years,” he said.

There are caveats to using sugarcane as fuel, even in Brazil. Growing sugarcane does not address questions of waning biodiversity or possible water scarcity, and would not necessarily be able to stretch across the country’s central cerrado, or savanna, without irrigation.

The researchers stressed that sugarcane’s benefits are contingent on planting it on land that is already being used for farming, not in places converted from natural vegetation.

(Source: Reuters)

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More than half of respondents to a recent poll suggested that it is currently a “good time to be in the Middle East” with 65.1% of those surveyed expressing their positive sentiments about job and economic prospects in the region at the moment.

The poll series, ‘Change and Challenge in the Middle East Job Market: How is it Viewed?’ was conducted online between March and April by job site, Bayt.com, using a sample of 9,708 respondents from across the Middle East, explained a spokesperson.
While 42.2% of respondents said that they believe now is a better time than ever before, 22.9% said it was as good as any other, as opposed the 24.9% who suggested it was not a good time.

Following recent events in the region, 56% of people in post-revolution Egypt said they expect improvements, while across the Middle East, 50% said they anticipate positive developments after the uprisings.

Asked where blame for unemployment lies, 47.1% blamed their governments, 7.3% the private sector, 5.2% the education sector, 6.3% blamed individuals themselves whilst a third suggested that all applied.

Bayt.com sales vice president Amer Zureikat said: “The results of our most recent poll showed that despite recent changes occurring in different parts of the region, the Middle East is still considered to be a great place to live and work.”

“The report also indicated several changes that governments should be considering in order to improve their country’s employment – in light of the recent turmoil, I believe we will be seeing a lot more of these come to light,” he added.

Respondents also suggested that governments could improve employment by creating public sector jobs, fostering a better business atmosphere, creating jobs in the education sector, improving labour laws, preventing corruption and improving transparency, with almost half suggesting that all of the above could be carried out to improve employment opportunities in their country.

“Very interestingly, the vast majority of the region’s respondents (59.3%) also felt that there were many highly qualified professionals and few good jobs which could indicate that the region does in fact need to create more employment through more transparent means,” added Zureikat.

However, the overall message of the poll was positive, as 65.1% of respondents said they are hopeful about career prospects, and 64.7% expressed optimism about their countries’ economies.

Respondents also expressed their belief that the internet is helping employment, with 32.5% saying it helps to a huge extent, 22.7% saying it moderately helps and 44.8% stating it slightly helps.

(Source: Gulf Times)

Divorces cases among Qataris have risen during the past few years, according to a study.
The study was carried out by Qatari researcher Dr. Kaltham al-Ghanim of Qatar University. She told a seminar that  divorce cases among Qataris  rose from 36%  in 2007 to 41% in 2009.
The researcher found that the average age of first marriage  among Qatari females ranged between 20 and 24 while it ranged between 25 and 29 for males. The age of the first marriage was much less than in the neighbouring countries, she said.
The choice of the other half has to do with family, economic considerations while the individual’s choice came last.
She said divorce usually took place after encouragement from the parents.
According to official figures, in 2007 there were 355 girls aged from 15 to 19 and 926 aged from 20 to 24 got married .
The average age difference between the Qatari husband and wife was three years, against five years in the neighbouring countries.
The marriages among relatives were 48% of the cases and half of these cases were first-degree and that can cause diseases for the children born to them.
The divorce figures in the Qatari countryside were less than in the urban centres. That has to do with the independence tendencies of women in those areas.
The divorce among the ages 20 to 24 constituted 53% of the entire cases and in the ages between 25 and 29, the percentage was 36%.
Some 41% of the Qatari women divorced in 2009 were holders of high school degree against 21% for those who have university certificates.
The divorce generally among Qataris took place in the early stages of the marriage, the researcher said.

(Source: Gulf Times)