Great Barrier Reef could be dead by 2100: study

Source: News.com.au

RISING sea temperatures could kill off the Great Barrier Reef by the end of the century, a scientist claims in a new book.

The coral would have to move 4000km southwards over 100 years to survive scientists’ worst-case scenario of a 4C degree rise in sea temperatures by 2100, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg says.

In his book, Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a hot world, the University of Queensland reef specialist says the outlook for the reef is bleak.

“In a four-degree world, the Great Barrier Reef will be great no longer. It would bear little resemblance to the reef we know today,” he wrote.

“There is little evidence that marine resources like the Great Barrier Reef possess the resilience to withstand the impacts of a dramatically warming world.”

Even a more conservative 2C temperature rise estimate would likely be too much for the reef to handle, he wrote.

The death of the almost 2300km-long reef would destroy its $6 billion tourism industry as well as other areas like fishing.

The book looks at how Australia will adapt to a warmer and drier climate in the next 100 years.

Warmer and more acidic seawater is a knock-on effect of increased atmospheric carbon levels.

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg wrote that sea temperatures rose by 0.5C in the 20th century but the effect is expected to speed up this century.

The result is that coral cannot move fast enough to cooler southern seas or genetically adapt fast enough to stay where they are.

“Unless we dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions which are acidifying our oceans and leading to their warming, we will face the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and serious decline in our marine resources,” he wrote.

Religious tensions flare again at Istanbul landmark Hagia Sophia

Perched on the tip of Istanbul’s historic peninsula, Hagia Sophia ― with its spectacular dome, elegant curves and towering minarets ― is an iconic sight for millions of tourists visiting the city each year.

But should it be a mosque, a church or a museum?

The 1,500-year-old complex overlooking the Bosphorus is at the heart of a bitter dispute over its fate after Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc called for it to be converted back into a Muslim place of worship.

People visit the Hagia Sophia, at Sultanahmet in Istanbul. (AFP)

His comments, though not official policy, have added to concerns over what critics say is the government’s increasing efforts to impose Islamic values on secular Turkish society.

And the Byzantine monument could become a political hot potato for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking to shore up flagging support among conservative Muslims ahead of elections next year.

Hagia Sophia, which in Greek means “Holy Wisdom,” was built in the sixth century and served as an Orthodox church for centuries ― and as the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople ― before being converted to a mosque by the Ottomans in the 1400s.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic, declared it a museum in 1934 and it opened the following year.

“We are looking at a sad Hagia Sophia, but hopefully we will see it smiling again soon,” Arinc said earlier this month.

Greece, whose territory was once part of the Ottoman empire and is often at odds with Turkey over religious issues, reacted furiously, saying such comments offended the religious feelings of millions of Christians.

Mihail Vasiliadis, editor-in-chief of Istanbul-based Greek daily Apoyevmatini, says Hagia Sophia is an important symbol for the entire Orthodox Christian community.

“There are some who have been seeing a sad Hagia Sophia for more than 500 years and they are the ones who want to see it returned as a church,” he told AFP.

Istanbul’s tiny Greek community, which numbers just a few thousand, is already irked over the issue of Ankara’s insistence on reciprocal steps from Athens to improve their religious rights.

“There is no need to add salt to the wound,” Vasiliadis said.

Last month, Greece flatly rejected the idea of reviving two mosques in Athens in return for the reopening of an Orthodox clergy school in Turkey.

Two other churches that also bear the name Hagia Sophia have recently been turned into mosques in Turkey.

There are already an estimated 83,000 mosques across the country ― up around seven percent since Erdogan took office 11 years ago.

Istanbul itself has around 3,000, including the stunning 17th century Blue Mosque just a short distance from Hagia Sophia.

For devout Muslims, however, opening Hagia Sophia for worship is also about paying a homage to Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Ottoman emperor who turned it into a mosque following the conquest of Constantinople and joined the first prayers in 1453.

The nationalist Islamist Great Union Party (BBP) has staged several demonstrations to seek a repeal of the ban on Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site encompassing the Byzantine and Ottoman treasures of old Istanbul.

Armed with a land registry certificate dated 1936 that describes the complex as a mosque, BBP deputy leader Bayram Karacan claimed that its conversion into a museum was illegal.

“The fact that Hagia Sophia is a museum has never been accepted by the Turkish people … restoring it as a mosque would be akin to reclaiming sovereignty over it,” Karacan said.

Outside Hagia Sophia, visitors and local residents were divided over the possible conversion of the monument, described by UNESCO as one of the historic quarter’s “unique architectural masterpieces.”

“We have plenty of mosques here and many of them are empty. Who will fill all these mosques if it is converted? Tourists will not come here anymore,” said 52-year-old shop owner Fehmi Simsek.

Emerging from Hagia Sophia, 23-year-old German tourist Tamara said the complex was a testament to Istanbul’s historical and religious importance throughout the centuries.

“Why would you want to change such a remarkable building?”

Historian Ahmet Kuyas of Galatasaray University in Istanbul said the debate could be linked to Turkey’s upcoming elections, with local polls in March, a presidential ballot in August and parliamentary elections in 2015.

Erdogan, nicknamed the “Sultan,” has frequently touched a nerve over his conservative religious policies, including crackdowns on the sale and advertising of alcohol and allowing women working in the public service to wear Islamic headscarves.

“Turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque would be another blow to secular Turkey,” Kuyas said, describing the site as “a symbol of universal peace, peace between nations, between religions.”

Sevda, a veiled Turkish woman, said it would be more accessible to all as a mosque, as currently there was a fee to enter the museum.

“It belongs to us and therefore it should be a mosque,” added her companion Kubra.

A visitor from Spain who gave his name only as Alex said he did not object to a change in the status as long as people could still visit.

“It is a beautiful place that everyone should see,” he added.

STUDY SAYS MANY LUNG CANCER TUMORS PROVE HARMLESS

Source: Bigstory.ap.org

Harmless lung cancer? A provocative study found that nearly 1 in 5 lung tumors detected on CT scans are probably so slow-growing that they would never cause problems.

The analysis suggests the world’s No. 1 cause of cancer deaths isn’t as lethal as doctors once thought.

In the study, these were not false-positives — suspicious results that turn out upon further testing not to be cancer. These were indeed cancerous tumors, but ones that caused no symptoms and were unlikely ever to become deadly, the researchers said.

Still, the results are not likely to change how doctors treat lung cancer.

For one thing, the disease is usually diagnosed after symptoms develop, when tumors show up on an ordinary chest X-ray and are potentially life-threatening.

Also, doctors don’t know yet how to determine which symptomless tumors found on CT scans might become dangerous, so they automatically treat the cancer aggressively.

The findings underscore the need to identify biological markers that would help doctors determine which tumors are harmless and which ones require treatment, said Dr. Edward Patz, Jr., lead author and a radiologist at Duke University Medical Center. He is among researchers working to do just that.

Patz said patients who seek lung cancer screening should be told about the study results.

“People have to understand that we’re going to find some cancers which if we’d never looked, we never would have had to treat,” he said. Among patients and even many doctors, “it’s not something that is commonly known with lung cancer.”

A leader of an influential government-appointed health panel agreed.

“Putting the word ‘harmless’ next to cancer is such a foreign concept to people,” said Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The panel recently issued a draft proposal recommending annual CT scans for high-risk current and former heavy smokers — echoing advice from the American Cancer Society. A final recommendation is pending, but LeFevre said the panel had already assumed that screening might lead to overdiagnosis.

“The more we bring public awareness of this, then the more informed decisions might be when people decide to screen or not,” LeFevre said. He called the study “a very important contribution,” but said doctors will face a challenge in trying to explain the results to patients.

In testimonials, patients often say lung cancer screening via CT scans cured them, but the study suggests that in many cases, “we cured them of a disease we didn’t need to find in the first place,” LeFevre said.

The study was published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

More than 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, and more than half of them die. Worldwide, there are about 1.5 million lung cancer deaths annually.

The new study is an analysis of data from the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial — National Cancer Institute research involving 53,452 people at high risk for lung cancer who were followed for about six years.

Half of them got three annual low-dose CT scans — a type of X-ray that is much more sensitive than the ordinary variety — and half got three annual conventional chest X-rays. During six years of follow-up, 1,089 lung cancers were diagnosed in CT scan patients, versus 969 in those who got chest X-rays.

That would suggest CT scans are finding many early cases of lung cancer that may never advance to the point where they could be spotted on an ordinary chest X-ray.

An earlier report on the study found that 320 patients would need to get CT screening to prevent one lung cancer death.

The new analysis suggests that for every 10 lives saved by CT lung cancer screening, almost 14 people will have been diagnosed with a lung cancer that would never have caused any harm, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the cancer society’s deputy chief medical officer.

He said that is a higher rate of overdiagnosis than he would have predicted, but that the study shows how much understanding of cancer has evolved. Decades ago, “every cancer was a bad cancer,” he said.

Now it’s known that certain cancers, including many prostate cancers, grow so slowly that they never need treatment.

The American College of Radiology said in statement Monday that the earlier study showed lung cancer screening significantly reduces lung cancer deaths in high-risk patients and that the benefit “significantly outweighs the comparatively modest rate of overdiagnosis” found in the new analysis.

Low-dose CT scans are the only test shown to reduce lung cancer deaths in high-risk smokers, the radiology group said, adding, “Overdiagnosis is an expected part of any screening program and does not alter these facts.”