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SMC Heads-Up: Climate summit, paracetamol-ADHD link, SAVVY

SMC Heads-Up: Climate summit, paracetamol-ADHD link and SAVVY coming to Auckland

Issue 298 25 September - 2 October 2014

Climate center stage at UN summit
The United Nations Climate Summit, concluding in New York this week, has put climate policy firmly back on the global political agenda.

UN Headquarters in New York
High-profile leaders such as Barack Obama and David Cameron were among the some 100 Heads of State at the international summit, which aimed to raise political momentum towards a new climate agreement to be thrashed out atnegotiations in Paris next year.

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Although there were no formal negotiations or targets agreed, a number of countries outlined their commitments to lowering emissions and deforestation, and limiting global temperature rises to less than 2°C.

At the core of the summit were a number of plenary sessions, allowing heads of state and other representatives to give four minute speeches, affirming their commitment to climate change policies and making public their ambitions and (non-binding) targets. These sessions were accompanied by number of smaller meetings focusing on issues such as deforestation and financing of low carbon initiatives.

A representative from New Zealand did not speak in an allocated slot at the summit due to issues arising from the recent election, according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson. However Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Murray McCully did participate in the summit and New Zealand's Climate Change Ambassador Jo Tyndall gave an address on behalf of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, highlighting the work of the Alliance.

Read United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon'ssummary, providing a concise outline of the summit's key outcomes.

Ahead of the summit, protests and marches drew thousands to the streets around the world - most notably Wall Street in New York, where over 100 protesters were arrested. In New Zealand, a smaller event drew 300 protesters to Queen Street in Auckland.

Budget blowout warned

Carbon dioxide emissions, the main contributor to global warming, are set to rise again in 2014 - reaching a record high of 40 billion tonnes, according to a new global stock-take, published on Monday ahead of the summit.

A 2.5 per cent projected rise in burning fossil fuels is revealed by the Global Carbon Budget 2014, an analysis published in the journal Earth System Science Data Discussions.

According the authors of the report, this means that the future global 'carbon budget' of 1,200 billion tonnes - calculated as the total upper limit international governments can afford to emit without pushing temperatures higher than 2°C above pre-industrial levels - is likely to be used up within 30 years, just one generation from now.

Read expert reaction to the Global Carbon Budget, collected by the Science Media Centre.
On the science radar this week...

Meditation improves computing, termites 'digest'using fungi, robot skin for space explorers, killer 'space bubbles' in Afghanistan, and fossil poo unearths differences in ancient humans.
Paracetamol in pregnancy linked to ADHD

Using paracetamol, one of the mainstays of over-the-counter pain relief, during pregnancy has been linked to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children, according to new research.

The University of Auckland study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, found that self-reported paracetamol use by pregnant women was linked to development of ADHD in children by age 11. The findings come from theAuckland Birthweight Collaborative (ABC) Study which followed almost 900 children of European ethnicity born in the Auckland region in 1995-96.

Around half the mothers of children enrolled in the study reported taking paracetamol at some point in their pregnancy, and this was linked to an increase in children scoring highly on questionnaires measuring emotional and behavioural difficulties, even after other factors had been taken into account. The research confirmsearlier Danish research that found similar outcomes.

The authors noted that the nature of the study did not allow them to record the exact dosages of paracetamol taken by mothers, and highlighted the need for further studies to examine the link.

"More research is needed to provide a more precise assessment of the risk and consequences of taking this pain killer during pregnancy," said lead author Dr. John Thompson in a media release.

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, independent researcher Prof. Wayne Gillett, from the Dunedin School of Medicine, cautioned against stopping paracetamol use during pregnancy on the basis of limited studies at this stage.

"As a general rule paracetamol is still a very safe treatment ... If it wasn't available then gosh, only more dangerous drugs would be used or none at all which of course would lead to misery in women."

Read a round up of media coverage on the Science Media Centre website.

SAVVY workshop in Auckland
Applications are now open for our next Science Media SAVVY workshop in Auckland.

Our two-day Science Media SAVVY course will be held on the campus at the University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research, November 20 - 21.

This workshop caters for both established and emerging researchers who want to gain practical skills for explaining their science to a wider audience and feel more confident engaging with the media.

What participants say about Science Media SAVVY:

"This workshop was simply fantastic - a great intro to the media for scientists with lots of practical experiences. Absolutely would recommend it to colleagues."

"I had done media training before, but the science focus of this one made it miles better."

"There aren't many opportunities that merit two whole days of a researcher's time, but this was worth every moment."

Two scholarships covering full course fees ($595 +GST) are available, one for a qualifying early career researcher and one for a postgraduate student who shows exceptional promise in science communication. Please see the application for full details.

Help us spread the word: download a flyer for your department or office notice board.

If you are potentially interested in sponsoring course fees for successful applicants from your faculty, department, research area or association, please contact the Science Media Centre for more information.

Quoted: Huffington Post

"Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies.

"It may be better than eating full-fat cookies, but if you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether."

Prof Steven Davis, University of California, Irvine, on his research into natural gas emissions.

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Policy news and developments

New Social Return on Investment tool - MPI, in collaboration with Agresearch and Aohanga Incorporation, has launched a Social Return on Investment evaluation tool, to be used for integrating social, environmental and cultural values into the decision making process.

Renewable electricity continues to rise - The latest New Zealand Energy Quarterly includes MBIE's data and analysis of energy supply and demand, and shows renewable electricity generation increased to 78% of New Zealand's electricity.

New From the SMC

Experts respond:

Global carbon budget: Carbon dioxide emissions, the main contributor to global warming, are set to rise again this year - reaching a record high of 40 billion tonnes, according to the Global Carbon Budget 2014 report.

In the News:

Climate change centre stage at UN summit:
The United Nations Climate Summit, concluding in New York this week, has put climate policy firmly back on the political agenda.

Paracetamol in pregnancy linked to ADHD:
Using paracetamol, one of the mainstays of over-the-counter pain relief, during pregnancy has been linked to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children, according to new research.

Superbugs and 3D printing - 3rd Degree:
Antibiotic resistance and 3D printing - and the scientists who study them - garnered prime-time screen time on the latest episodes of TV3's current affairs show 3rd Degree.

Reflections on Science:

New Zealand's 'blue economy': Dame Anne Salmond, patron of the Te Awaroa 1000 Rivers Project, writes about the country's 'blue economy' in the New Zealand Herald.

From the SMC Network

From the UK SMC:

Expert reaction to CDC estimates of numbers of future Ebola cases
Expert reaction to new statins study
Ebola - what next?
Expert encounter: Prof Sir Michael Marmot and Dr Angela Donkin, Institute of Health Equity
Expert reaction to e-cigarette use among patients with cancer
Expert reaction to studies on carbon emissions

From the Australian SMC:

NEWS BRIEFING: Carbon still climbing - release of the Global Carbon Budget for 2014

Sciblogs highlights

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:

The threats of antibiotic resistant superbugs to New Zealand - Siouxsie Wiles discusses the NZMJ research paper by Deborah Williamson and Helen Heffernan on superbugs in New Zealand.
Infectious Thoughts

Where do we go but nowhere? - Gareth Renowdon reflects on the state of New Zealand's climate policies now that the general elections are over.
Hot Topic

Moa and Māori dogs - lessons for modern ecological life - Lynley Hargreaves asks zoologist Priscilla Wehi how she's using whakataukī - ancestral Māori proverbs - to understand extinction.
Infrequently Asked Questions

The evolution of superbugs - Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards 2014 finalist Siska Falconer tackles the science behind superbugs.
Guest Post

The sexism of the circus - Emma Timewell comments on the Cirque du Soleil's portrayal of scientists and gender.
Guest Post

Research highlights
Some of the research papers making headlines this week.

Fish antifreeze also keeps ice frozen: Wild Antarctic fish carry antifreeze proteins that prevent small ice crystals in the blood from growing any further, but US and New Zealand research has found that this antifreeze also prevents the ice crystals from melting in warm conditions, potentially contributing to a lifelong build-up of tissue-damaging ice crystals.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Drinks and supplements shouldn't sponsor sports: Rugby, football and other sports should not be sponsored by nutritional supplements and rehydration drinks if there is no evidence they work, a study argues. The researchers say the public are led to believe these products boost health or performance based on their links to the sports they sponsor, giving them "unwarranted credibility".
Journal of Medical Ethics

Natural gas no saviour: Abundant supplies of natural gas will do little to reduce the US's harmful emissions that contribute to climate change, according to a new study. The authors found that inexpensive gas boosts electricity consumption and hinders expansion of cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar.
Environmental Research Letters

Our water is older than the sun: A portion of our solar system's water - such as that found in Earth's seas - existed before the sun, according to new research. The study, which traced water's chemical 'fingerprint' back through history, also suggests that all other planetary systems also had the same original water source if they formed in a similar way to our solar system.

When uncertain, your brain chooses randomness: Past experience is usually a reliable guide for making decisions, but new animal research suggests that individuals are more likely to risk random choices in unpredictable and challenging situations because the brain 'switches modes' to gain a competitive edge.

Upcoming sci-tech events
For these and other upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.
The Dark Side - 26 September, Christchurch. RASNZ Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture: Tamara Davis talks about dark matter and dark energy, which have thrown scientists a 'curve ball' when it comes to understanding the universe.

IceFest - 27 Sep to 12 Oct, Christchurch. Creative and interactive festival highlighting New Zealand's leadership in, and the global importance of, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Canterbury Software Summit - 2 October, Christchurch. Conference focusing on new developments in information & communications technology.

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