When Siku the polar bear cub was introduced to the public late last year, he quickly became an Internet sensation, with his own Web and Facebook pages. But with fame often comes responsibility, and officials at Denmark's Scandinavian Wildlife Park said Siku would have an important burden to shoulder.
"Siku is going to be an ambassador for polar bears, for global warming," park director Frank Vigh-Larsen said in December.
Siku's official first day on the job was Monday, International Polar Bear Day.
Beginning Monday, the wildlife park, in cooperation with Polar Bears International and explore.org, a philanthropic media organization, will show a daily live look-in at Siku from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET at explore.org/siku and polarbearcam.com. You can also follow along again on Tuesday at CNN.com/live.
“We’re launching the Siku Cam on International Polar Bear Day, which is a day of action on climate change,” Robert Buchanan, president and CEO of Polar Bears International, said in a press release. “Our goal with the Siku Cam is for people to fall in love with this little cub and become inspired to reduce their carbon footprint to help save arctic sea ice.”
Siku is named after the environment of the polar bear, with siku being the most common word for sea ice in the Inuit language across the Arctic. The bears hunt on the sea ice, and as it disappears, so do opportunities for the bears to eat, the polar bear conservationists say.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the Arctic ice cover is near record lows, with the January 2012 Arctic ice cover the fourth lowest ever recorded.
"Based on the satellite record, before 2005 average January ice extent had never been lower than 14 million square kilometers (5.41 million square miles). January ice extent has now fallen below that mark six out of the last seven years," the NSIDC website says.
Many scientists blame global warming, fueled by carbon dioxide emissions, for the decline in sea ice. Polar Bears International says two-thirds of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the wild could disappear by the middle of this century if carbon dioxide emissions are not cut.
“Our goal with the Siku Cam is to create awareness and inspire change,” Vigh-Larsen said in a press release. “And we are resolute that his image may only be used to advance those ends.”
Siku's secret to saving ice may be melting hearts. Check out these pictures and try not to smile.
Who wants to get in a fight with Xena the Warrior Princess?
It seems that a major oil corporation doesn't have much of a choice. On Thursday Lucy Lawless, the actress who played Xena, and six other Greenpeace activists illegally boarded a drilling ship leased to Shell Oil off New Zealand's western shore. The group reached a 174-foot drilling tower and held a sign "Stop Shell #SaveTheArctic."
CNN spoke with Lawless on the Noble Discoverer Friday morning, the middle of the night in New Zealand. It was cold and noisy and she wasn't getting much sleep. But the actress didn't seem bothered at all. Asked to describe how she and the other protesters got on board, she said, "We walked like human beings wearing hard hats (but) I don't want to give away any trade secrets."
Greenpeace, in a statement, said the group had actually scaled the drillship which was in the Port of Taranaki in New Zealand. The activists were told to get off. But Lawless and the protesters refused to cooperate.
"We thanked them for adhering to their protocol," Lawless said, stressing that the exchange between the activists and authorities has been peaceful. "We know we'll be arrested. We have no choice but to stay where we are and send our message to the world."
Lawless said the activists are prepared to hunker down until their anti-Arctic drilling point is made. By early Friday afternoon it appeared that it was - stories were popping up across the Web and in news outlets across the globe about the stunt.
"We feel very much that what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic anymore," Lawless said. "An oil spill can never be cleaned up because of the remoteness and the freezing temperatures. We risk trashing whole ecosystems and poisoning them from plankton on up. It's absolutely unthinkable."
The Noble Discoverer is owned by Noble Corporation and is contracted for operation by Shell, according to Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh.
Lawless and the other activists have "occupied" the drillship to prevent it from departing on a "6,000 nautical mile journey from New Zealand to the remote Arctic to start an exploratory oil drilling program that threatens to devastate the Alaskan coastline," Greenpeace spokeswoman Szabina Mozes said.
"We are disappointed that Greenpeace has chosen this method to protest," op de Weegh wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "Actions such as this jeopardize the safety of everyone involved. While we respect the right of individuals to express their point of view, the priority should be the safety of Noble's personnel and that of the protestors."
Shell is investigating how the activists got on board, op de Weegh wrote.
Lawless, a longtime environmental activist, has never done any protesting as extreme as this. She said she thought about her three children and her family when deciding whether to participate in the Noble Discoverer demonstration.
"The oil that is captured will be burnt in the air to rain more destruction down on our grand children," she said.
Lawless has no idea how many days she and the group will be out to sea. She brought some chocolate and peanuts with her.
"We're here as long as it takes," she said.
A barge collision near New Orleans spilled oil into the Mississippi River Friday prompting authorities to close a five-mile stretch of the waterway.
The St. Charles Parish Department of Waterworks shut down both of its water intakes located in New Sarpy and Luling due to the spill but said the incident did not pose a public threat.
No one has been reported injured. Officials have not yet said how much oil was spilled. Response agencies were on the scene.FULL STORY
Russian scientists briefly pierced the two-mile-thick veil over a freshwater lake hidden beneath Antarctica's ice sheet for millions of years, polar researchers announced Wednesday.
Scientists hope samples of Lake Vostok, a body the size of Lake Ontario, will yield signs of previously undiscovered life and new clues about the history of the planet. The lake is believed to have been covered by ice for up to 30 million years.
Russian researchers completed the drilling effort Sunday, reaching the lake at a depth of 3,769 meters (2.3 miles) into the ice, the St. Petersburg-based Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute reported.
When the ice above the lake was breached, lake water was sucked up into the bore and froze, the Russians said. That will allow researchers to take samples back to the surface without contaminating the lake below, they said.FULL STORY
U.S. carbon emissions plunged during the 2007-2009 recession, and conservation efforts, a weak recovery and more use of natural gas will help keep those levels down for another 15 years, the Energy Department reported Monday.
Coal-fired power plants will remain the largest source of U.S. electricity throughout that period at nearly 40% of total output, the department projects in its annual report on the future of energy. But the Energy Information Administration's 2012 report finds that emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for a warming climate are likely to remain below their 2005 levels until 2027.
"These projections reflect increased energy efficiency throughout the economy, updated assessments of energy technologies and domestic energy resources, the influence of evolving consumer preferences and projected slow economic growth," the agency's acting administrator, Howard Gruenspecht, said in a statement accompanying the report.
Overall, the share of fossil fuels as an energy source is expected to drop from 83% to 77% in 2035, the report states.FULL STORY
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
"Oh great, next thing you know sharks will be walking on land and snapping peoples heads off."
Researchers say they've found 57 animals that are a cross between two genetically different but closely related species of shark off the coast of Australia. Scientists say it may be an indication the creatures are adapting to climate change.
Climate change is a bit controversial, and it always gets people talking. Many readers said they didn't believe that climate is the reason why hybrid sharks are being found, and some found the research flawed. There were also some who defended the study. FULL POST
Ten months after a tsunami devastated parts of Japan, some of the island nation’s debris has washed up on North American shores, according to news reports.
On Vancouver Island, B.C., The Sun newspaper reported that wreckage from Japan began appearing this month. "In or around Dec. 5th the first item or two of some consequence was found," Tofino Mayor Perry Schmunk told the newspaper. "Some lumber came ashore that had Japanese export stamps on it."
Two weeks ago, CNN affiliate KIRO in Seattle showed video footage of what it said was debris from the March 11 tsunami - at least 10 Japanese buoys - on the Washington coast. “That’s about as good as the evidence gets for first arrivals,” retired oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer told KIRO.
More reports of mundane Japanese items - such as bottles and toothbrushes - popping up along North American shores are beginning to emerge.
But that’s just the beginning, experts say.
Physicist Michio Kaku said Thursday that it is vital to understand the sheer size of the Japanese debris field in the Pacific Ocean.
“First, you have to understand the size and scope of this problem. The debris field from this Japanese tragedy is the size of the state of California,” he said.
Rescue workers have found a raft with up to 15 people aboard near an offshore Russian drilling rig that capsized in the Sea of Okhotsk - but it was unclear if they were alive, officials said Monday.
"Aircraft have found a rescue raft. Up to 15 people may be aboard; it is unknown whether they are alive or not," Yuri Melikhov, general director of rig owner JSC AMNGR, told reporters.
The rig capsized during a storm Sunday as it was being towed from Kamchatka. There were 67 people aboard the Kolskaya platform, which was subcontracted to a company working for the Russian energy giant Gazprom, state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
By Monday, the death toll had reached 16 after authorities found more bodies in the freezing water. Fourteen others were rescued.FULL STORY
Officials in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city, are investigating soil samples after a radioactive substance was found in sediment atop an apartment building about 155 miles (250 kilometers) from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to news reports.
The discovery has raised concerns that leaked radiation from three Fukushima reactors that suffered meltdowns after the March earthquake and tsunami may be more widespread than thought, The Japan Times reported Wednesday.
The findings come after a travel alert issued by the U.S. government last week, warning Americans in Japan to avoid areas near the stricken reactors.
The alert recommends that U.S. citizens stay away from areas within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the nuclear facility. The State Department also admonished Americans to stay away from territory northwest of the plant in a zone that Japan calls the "Deliberate Evacuation Area." The zone includes Iitate-mura, the Yamagiya district of Kawamata-machi, Katsurao-mura, Namie-machi and parts of Minamisoma.
The radioactive isotope strontium-90 was detected on a rooftop by a private agency responding to a resident's request, The Japan Times reported.
Strontium-90 has been found in Japan at concentrations up to 20 becquerels before the nuclear crisis, The Japan Times said. The latest discovery found the strontium-90 level at 195 becquerels, according to the paper.
Since strontium-90, which has a half-life of 29 years, is widely dispersed in the environment and the food chain in trace amounts, external exposure is minimal, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. With internal exposure at high concentrations, strontium-90 can accumulate in the bones and is “one of the more hazardous constituents of nuclear wastes,” according to the EPA.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the embattled utility whose territory includes the nuclear crisis zone, held a disaster drill at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power, according to news reports.
What do you do with a rat-infested, stateless pirate fishing vessel? Blow it up to show off the firepower of the Coast Guard's newest, toughest cutters, a U.S. senator says.
Crew from the Coast Guard cutter Munro seized the Bangun Perkasa, which was not operating under a national flag, 2,600 miles off Alaska in September after it was suspected of engaging in fishing with drift nets on the high seas, according to the Coast Guard. Drift net fishing is illegal because the nets indiscriminately kill massive amounts of fish and other marine life such as endangered whales and turtles.
The vessel was found to have been using 10 miles of drift nets and had 22 tons of squid and 30 shark carcasses aboard, the Coast Guard said. The fishing boat and its crew of 22 were towed to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands.
And that's when the Coast Guard found evidence of rats on board.
Two plants in Shanghai - including a unit of an American company - were ordered to suspend production after children in the vicinity came down with lead poisoning, government authorities said Friday.
"A small amount of children living in Kangqiao (eastern Shanghai) area were found to have excessive levels of lead in their blood in early September," according to a statement from the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau.
According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, 25 children were sickened, 12 who were hospitalized.
The local government responded on Wednesday by ordering the suspension of plants owned by Xinmingyuan Auto Accessories Co. and Johnson Controls.
According to environmental authorities, the two plants were emitting dust and smoke containing lead into the area.
U.S.-based Johnson Controls, which manufactures batteries, denied the accusation.FULL STORY
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is calling off a visit to the United States due to floods that have killed hundreds in his country, his office said Friday.
Gilani was scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will go in his place, the prime minister's office said.
Instead, the prime minister will "personally supervise the ongoing rescue and relief efforts for the flood-affected areas," a government statement said.
The Pakistani disaster authority said Friday that the death toll now totaled 248 since August 10 as a result of flooding, including 52 children and 67 women. This is the second year Pakistan has suffered catastrophic flooding.FULL STORY
When the six F/A-18 Hornets in the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team thrill the crowds at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River Air Expo in Maryland this weekend, they'll be soaring on biofuel.
Each of the six Hornets will be powered by a 50/50-blend of jet fuel and camelina-based biofuel, according to a Navy press release.
Camelina is a high-oil flowering plant grown in rotation on land used for wheat and on land too marginal for food production, according to Sustainable Oils, the company providing it to the military. Sustainable Oils says camelina can also reduce carbon emissions by 80% over jet fuel.
The camelina mix has been successfully tested in several military aircraft, including the Air Force's A-10 Thunderbolt, F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor and C-17 Globemaster, as well as the Navy F/A-18. Two Air Force F-16s from the Thunderbirds demonstration team flew with the mix during a performance in May, the service and Sustainable Fuels said.
"This will be the first time an entire unit has flown on a biofuel mix," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in the Navy release. "Changing the kinds of fuels we use and the way we use them is critical to assuring the Navy and Marine Corps remain the most formidable expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known."
By 2016, the Navy plans to deploy the Great Green Fleet, an aircraft carrier strike group powered entirely by non-fossil fuels, Mabus has said.
Hurricane coverage generally means plenty of reporters in the rain. They tell you to steer clear of the storm and seek shelter when they're planning to do the exact opposite. It seems odd, right? All this hurricane talk reminded us of other memorable weather moments. You've gotta watch these correspondents tackle fierce winds, heavy rain and flying debris. And don't worry, it's OK to laugh. We won't judge you.
A mysterious orange substance found on the shores of an Alaskan village this month is a mass of fungal spores, not microscopic eggs as an initial analysis indicated, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.
The spores are consistent with those that come from a fungus that causes rust, a plant-only disease that causes a rust-like appearance on leaves and stems, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service said.
A NOAA lab in Juneau, Alaska, said last week that the substance appeared to be a mass of microscopic eggs, possibly those of a small crustacean. But samples were then taken to a NOAA lab with more advanced equipment – including a scanning electron microscope – in Charleston, South Carolina, NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.
That equipment and consultation with various specialists helped lead to the latest determination, said Steve Morton, a research oceanographer with the Charleston lab. It’s not known whether the spores belong to one of the 7,800 known rust fungi species, NOAA said.
“The spores are unlike others we and our network of specialists have examined. However, many rust fungi of the Arctic tundra have yet to be identified,” Morton said in a news release.
Human feces making their way through wastewater facilities and into the ocean are passing along a white pox disease-causing bacterium that's killing Elkhorn coral near Key West, Florida, a new study says.
"These bacteria do not come from the ocean; they come from us," said James W. Porter, a University of Georgia ecology professor, adding that mankind has a responsibility to respond and save a massive area around the Florida Keys.
Porter and his colleagues say the study for the first time gives evidence of a new way of spreading diseases. Usually, bacteria are transmitted from wildlife to humans, for example, in the case of Avian flu. But here, the researchers' findings, which were published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, show that diseases can in some cases be passed on from humans and affect wildlife to the point where it causes a population decline.
Earth's Arctic ice is disappearing. In fact, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center told CNN last week that, within three decades, the top of the world would be practically ice free during the summer.
This week scientists are saying, not so fast. You might want to plan for that ice-free Arctic Ocean summer sail about 50 or 60 years from now.
That's because new computer models run by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, show the ice cap could just as easily expand as contract in periods of up to 10 years at a time.
“One of the results that surprised us all was the number of computer simulations that indicated a temporary halt to the loss of the ice,” NCAR scientist Jennifer Kay, the lead author of a new study on the Arctic ice, said in a news release.
A mysterious orange substance that washed up on the shores of an Alaskan village last week was a mass of microscopic, invertebrate eggs, possibly those of a small crustacean, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab said Monday.
More testing will determine the species and whether the eggs - whose appearance on the shores of Kivalina in northwest Alaska startled residents Wednesday - are toxic, said Julie Speegle, representative of the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center's Auke Bay Laboratories.
Residents of Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo village of about 430 people, found the substance in its lagoon - giving the lagoon an orange sheen - and clumps of the orange stuff on the beach. A resident who took pictures of the substance, Mida Swan, said last week that it had an oily feel, like baby oil.FULL STORY
State and federal scientists are trying to identify a mysterious orange substance that washed up on the shore of a village in northwestern Alaska this week.
Residents on Wednesday noticed an orange sheen in the lagoon in front of Kivalina, Alaska, and clumps of the substance on the beach, city manager Janet Mitchell said.
The stuff on the shore had "an oily feel to it, like baby oil," resident Mida Swan said Friday. She said she detected no odor from the substance.
The substance also may have rained down on the village Wednesday evening, because it was found in buckets that some residents used to collect rainwater that night, Mitchell said.
The state Environmental Health Laboratory is preparing to send samples to scientists at various labs, including a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laboratory, said Emanuel Hignutt, the EHL's analytical chemistry manager.
The Arctic will be practically ice-free during the summer within three decades, the top U.S. ice observer says. But climate change could bring some good with the bad, he adds.
"I'm a climate scientist, but I'm also a realist on this," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.