Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Afforestation will hardly dent warming problem: study

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Schemes to convert croplands or marginal lands to forests will make almost no inroads against global warming this century, a scientific study published on Sunday said.

Afforestation is being encouraged under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate-change treaty under the theory that forests are “sinks” that soak up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air through photosynthesis.

But environmental researchers, in a new probe, said that even massive conversion of land to forestry would have only a slender benefit against the greenhouse-gas problem.

This is partly because forests take decades to mature and CO2 is a long-lasting molecule, able to lurk for centuries in the atmosphere.

But another reason is that forests, even as they absorb greenhouse gas, are darker than croplands and thus absorb more solar heat — and in high latitudes, this may even result in net warming.

Vivek Arora of the University of Victoria in British Columbia and Alvaro Montenegro of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia modelled five scenarios in which afforestation was carried out over 50 years, from 2011 to 2060.

They used a Canadian programme called CanESM1 that simulated the impacts on land, sea and air if Earth’s surface temperature rose by some 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 compared to 1850.

Even if all the cropland in the world were afforested, this would reduce the warming by only 0.45 C (0.81 F) by a timescale of 2081-2100, according to the study, which appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Fifty-percent afforestation would brake it by an even tinier 0.25 C (0.45 F).

Both scenarios are, of course, wildly unrealistic because of the need to grow food.

Fifty-percent afforestation would require at least a doubling in crop yield to feed the human population because half of the crop area would be taken out of use.

The other three scenarios found that afforestation in the tropics was three times more efficient at “avoided warming” than in northerly latitudes and temperate regions.

The study said that afforestation does have other benefits, for the economy and the ecoystem.

“There’s nothing wrong with afforestation, it is positive, but our findings say that it’s not a response to temperature control if we are going to be emitting (greenhouse gases) this way,” Montenegro told AFP.

The study said bluntly, “Afforestation is not a substitute for reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.”

In forest programmes, policymakers would be advised to focus afforestation efforts in the tropics but also push hard against deforestation, which accounts for 10 to 20 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions globally.

Avoiding deforestation is under discussion for post-2012 climate action under the UN flag.

Source: Afforestation will hardly dent warming problem: study – Physorg

Date: 19 June 2011

Curb soot and smog to keep Earth cool, says UN

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Sharply reducing emissions of soot and smog could play a critical role in preventing Earth from overheating, according to a UN report released on Tuesday.

Curbing these pollutants could also boost global food output and save millions of lives lost to heart and lung disease, said the report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Even as climate talks remain deadlocked on how to share out the task of cutting CO2, parallel action on “black carbon” particles and ground-level ozone would buy precious time in the quest to limit global temperature rise to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), it said.

Record output in 2010 of carbon from energy use and unprecedented CO2 levels in the atmosphere suggest that efforts to maintain the 2.0 C cap, widely seen as a threshold for dangerous warming, may already be doomed, say scientists.

On current trajectories, temperatures are set to go up 1.3 C (2.3 F) — on top of the 0.9 C (1.6 F) jump since human-induced warming kicked in — by 2050, bringing the total compared to preindustrial levels to 2.2 C (4.0 F).

But quickly tackling black carbon and smog-related ozone could slash 0.5 C (0.9 F) off the temperature increase projected for 2030, putting the two-degree target back on track, the new findings suggest.

“There are clear and concrete measures that can be undertaken to help protect the global climate in the short and medium term,” said Drew Shindell, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the 50 scientists behind the new assessment.

“The win-win here for limiting climate change and improving air quality is self-evident and the ways to achieve it have become far clearer.”

The report was unveiled in Bonn as delegates from more than 190 nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) struggle to make headway in the deeply stymied negotiations.

Black carbon, found in soot, is a byproduct of incomplete burning of fossil fuels, wood and biomass, such as animal waste. The most common sources are car and truck emissions, primitive cook stoves, forest fires and industry.

Soot suspended in the air accelerates global warming by absorbing sunlight. When it covers snow and ice, white surfaces that normally reflect the Sun’s radiative force back into space soak up heat instead, speeding up the melting of mountain glaciers, ice sheets, and the Arctic ice cap.

The tiny particles have also been linked to premature death from heart disease and lung cancer.

Ground-level, or tropospheric, ozone — a major ingredient of urban smog — is both a powerful greenhouse gas and a noxious air pollutant. It is formed from other gases including methane, itself a potent driver of global warming.

A threefold increase in concentrations in the northern hemisphere over the last century has made it the third most important greenhouse gas.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which lingers in the atmosphere for centuries once emitted, black carbon and ozone disappear quickly when emissions taper off.

“The science of short-lived climate forcers has evolved to a level of maturity that now requires … a robust policy response by nations,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP.

Measures recommended for reducing black carbon include mandatory use of diesel filters on vehicles, phasing out wood-burning stoves in rich countries, use of clean-burning biomass stoves for cooking and heating in developing nations, and a ban on the open burning of agricultural waste.

For ozone, the report calls for policies that curb organic waste, require water treatment facilities to recover gas, reduce methane emissions from coal and oil industries, and promote anaerobic digestion of manure from cattle and pigs, both major sources of methane.

The report estimates that nearly 2.5 million deaths from outdoor pollution, mainly in Africa and Asia, could be avoided every year by 2030 if black carbon levels dropped significantly.

Far less ground-level ozone could also avoid important losses in global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production, it said.

Source: Curb soot and smog to keep Earth cool, says UN – PHYSORG

Date: 14 June 2011

Rising forest density offsets climate change-study

Monday, June 6th, 2011
  • Trees get denser, store more carbon-study
  • Forest density can complicate U.N.-led carbon market

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

Rising forest density in many countries is helping to offset climate change caused by deforestation from the Amazon basin to Indonesia, a study showed on Sunday.

The report indicated that the size of trees in a forest — rather than just the area covered — needed to be taken into account more in U.N.-led efforts to put a price on forests as part of a nascent market to slow global warming.

“Higher density means world forests are capturing more carbon,” experts in Finland and the United States said of the study in the online journal PLoS One, issued on June 5 which is World Environment Day in the U.N. calendar.

Trees soak up carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as they grow and release it when they burn or rot. Deforestation in places from the Congo basin to Papua New Guinea is blamed for perhaps 12 to 20 percent of all emissions by human activities.

The report, based on a survey of 68 nations, found that the amount of carbon stored in forests increased in Europe and North America from 2000-10 despite little change in forest area.

And in Africa and South America, the total amount of carbon stored in forests fell at a slower rate than the loss of area, indicating that they had grown denser. [ID:nLDE75407A]. Forests in Asia became less dense over the same period.

And some countries still had big losses of carbon, including Indonesia and Argentina. The study did not try to estimate the overall trend, saying there was not yet enough data.

Greater density in some countries, including China, was probably linked to past forest plantings, lead author Aapo Rautiainen of the University of Helsinki told Reuters.

“Forests that were established in China a few decades ago are now starting to reach their fast-growing phase. That is a reason for rising density now,” he said.

WARMER

Global warming, blamed by the U.N. panel of climate experts mainly on human use of fossil fuels, might itself be improving growth conditions for trees in some regions. Warming is projected to cause heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.

The United States has had among the most striking shifts — timberland area expanded by just one percent between 1953 and 2007 but the volume of growing stock surged by 51 percent.

A shift towards farming in the Midwestern United States meant that forests in the east had been left to grow, and get denser.

The report also suggested that forest managers might rotate fellings less frequently since trees kept thickening.

But it could complicate efforts to design market mechanisms to encourage developing nations to safeguard tropical forests. Under the U.N.-led effort, people would get tradeable credits for slowing the rate of deforestation.

Measuring the density of a forest requires more complex monitoring than just measuring the extent of a forest by photographing it from a plane or by satellite.

“There does need to be a greater sampling to be able to come to a legitimate and credible number for the carbon,” said Iddo Wernick, a co-author at the Rockefeller University in New York.

Negotiators from about 180 nations will meet in Bonn, Germany, from June 6-17 to discuss measures to slow global wraming, including the protection of tropical forests. (Editing by David Cowell)

Source: Rising forest density offsets climate change-study – Thompson Reuters Foundation AlertNet

Date: 05 June 2011

Global warming crisis may mean world has to suck greenhouse gases from air

Monday, June 6th, 2011

The world may have to resort to technology that sucks greenhouse gases from the air to stave off the worst effects of global warming, the UN climate change chief has said before talks on the issue beginning on Monday.

“We are putting ourselves in a scenario where we will have to develop more powerful technologies to capture emissions out of the atmosphere,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. “We are getting into very risky territory,” she added, stressing that time was running out.

The UN climate talks starting on Monday in Bonn, which run for the next two weeks, will try to revive the negotiations before the next climate conference, taking place in Durban, South Africa, in December. But little progress is expected, as the negotiating time is likely to be taken up with details such as rules on monitoring emissions.

Figueres tried to inject a greater sense of urgency into the proceedings by pointing to research from the International Energy Agency that found that emissions had soared last year by a record amount. The strong rise means it will take more effort by governments to curb emissions.

Figueres told the Guardian in an interview that governments should act now to save money: “We add $1 trillion to the cost [of tackling climate change] with every year of delay.”

However, as the latest talks begin, the world’s leading climate change official has upset governments by insisting that the aim of the negotiations ought to be to hold warming to less than 1.5C. That would be a much tougher goal than that set by governments last year, which seeks to limit the temperature rise to no more than 2C – the safety threshold, scientists say, beyond which warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible.

“In my book, there is no way we can stick to the goal that we know is completely unacceptable to the most exposed [countries],” Figueres said.

The difference between the two goals may not seem great, but since it has taken more than 20 years of talks for countries to agree on the 2C limit, many are unwilling to reopen the debate. Delegates are conscious that wrangling over whether to stick to 1.5C or 2C was one of the main sources of conflict at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009; the hope has been that talks can move on to other issues such as how to pay for emissions curbs in poorer countries.

“This is an extraordinary intervention,” said one official involved in the climate talks, who could not be named.

Figueres said that she had the support of the world’s least developed countries, most of Africa, and small island states.

Another factor casting a pall over this year’s talks, which are intended to forge a new global treaty on climate change, is criticism of the South African government, which will host the Durban talks. No interim meetings have yet been set up, and countries have complained of disorganisation and a lack of enthusiasm. But Figueres said: “South Africa has been very carefully listening, trying to understand where there are commonalities and where the weaknesses are.”

She also predicted the US would play a strong role in the talks, despite the Obama administration facing Republican opposition in Congress to action on emissions. “It’s very evident that the legislative body in the US has disengaged, but … the administration continues to be engaged.” she said.

But Todd Stern, chief negotiator for the US, called for participants in the talks to “roll up their sleeves and be constructive.”

Source: Global warming crisis may mean world has to suck greenhouse gases from air – The Guardian UK

Date: 05 June 2011

Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.

The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially “dangerous climate change” – is likely to be just “a nice Utopia”, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions.

Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data.

“I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions,” Birol told the Guardian. “It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say.”

Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, the author of the influential Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006, warned that if the pattern continued, the results would be dire. “These figures indicate that [emissions] are now close to being back on a ‘business as usual’ path. According to the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] projections, such a path … would mean around a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100,” he said.

“Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.”

Birol said disaster could yet be averted, if governments heed the warning. “If we have bold, decisive and urgent action, very soon, we still have a chance of succeeding,” he said.

The IEA has calculated that if the world is to escape the most damaging effects of global warming, annual energy-related emissions should be no more than 32Gt by 2020. If this year’s emissions rise by as much as they did in 2010, that limit will be exceeded nine years ahead of schedule, making it all but impossible to hold warming to a manageable degree.

Emissions from energy fell slightly between 2008 and 2009, from 29.3Gt to 29Gt, due to the financial crisis. A small rise was predicted for 2010 as economies recovered, but the scale of the increase has shocked the IEA. “I was expecting a rebound, but not such a strong one,” said Birol, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on emissions.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, said time was running out. “This news should shock the world. Yet even now politicians in each of the great powers are eyeing up extraordinary and risky ways to extract the world’s last remaining reserves of fossil fuels – even from under the melting ice of the Arctic. You don’t put out a fire with gasoline. It will now be up to us to stop them.”

Most of the rise – about three-quarters – has come from developing countries, as rapidly emerging economies have weathered the financial crisis and the recession that has gripped most of the developed world.

But he added that, while the emissions data was bad enough news, there were other factors that made it even less likely that the world would meet its greenhouse gas targets.

  • About 80% of the power stations likely to be in use in 2020 are either already built or under construction, the IEA found. Most of these are fossil fuel power stations unlikely to be taken out of service early, so they will continue to pour out carbon – possibly into the mid-century. The emissions from these stations amount to about 11.2Gt, out of a total of 13.7Gt from the electricity sector. These “locked-in” emissions mean savings must be found elsewhere.

“It means the room for manoeuvre is shrinking,” warned Birol.

  • Another factor that suggests emissions will continue their climb is the crisis in the nuclear power industry. Following the tsunami damage at Fukushima, Japan and Germany have called a halt to their reactor programmes, and other countries are reconsidering nuclear power.

“People may not like nuclear, but it is one of the major technologies for generating electricity without carbon dioxide,” said Birol. The gap left by scaling back the world’s nuclear ambitions is unlikely to be filled entirely by renewable energy, meaning an increased reliance on fossil fuels.

  • Added to that, the United Nations-led negotiations on a new global treaty on climate change have stalled. “The significance of climate change in international policy debates is much less pronounced than it was a few years ago,” said Birol.

He urged governments to take action urgently. “This should be a wake-up call. A chance [of staying below 2 degrees] would be if we had a legally binding international agreement or major moves on clean energy technologies, energy efficiency and other technologies.”

Governments are to meet next week in Bonn for the next round of the UN talks, but little progress is expected.

Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said the global emissions figures showed that the link between rising GDP and rising emissions had not been broken. “The only people who will be surprised by this are people who have not been reading the situation properly,” he said.

Forthcoming research led by Sir David will show the west has only managed to reduce emissions by relying on imports from countries such as China.

Another telling message from the IEA’s estimates is the relatively small effect that the recession – the worst since the 1930s – had on emissions. Initially, the agency had hoped the resulting reduction in emissions could be maintained, helping to give the world a “breathing space” and set countries on a low-carbon path. The new estimates suggest that opportunity may have been missed.

Source: Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink – The Guardian UK

Date: 29 May 2011

Can we control black carbon in the Arctic by reducing agricultural fires?

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Looking forward to seeing the presentations and meeting reports from the ‘International Meeting on Open Burning and the Arctic: Causes, Impacts, and Mitigation Approaches‘ conference held in St. Petersburg last week.

The Clean Air Task Force blog post on the conference is included below for reference:

One long day down, and one to go at a global meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, where climate scientists, fire experts, farmers, regulators and NGOs have been discussing the role of springtime fires on climate change in the Arctic and what must be done to reduce the occurrence of set fires in northern latitudes.

The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate, threatening not just regional ecosystems but coastal areas around the world that are vulnerable to sea level rise.

Carbon dioxide is the main pollutant responsible for this warming, but recent research shows that black carbon, or soot, from incomplete combustion may also be responsible for much of the Arctic’s warming.

Samples from snow indicate that most of the black carbon in Arctic snow comes from burning biomass, and much of that is from burning crops and grasslands in northern Eurasia.

These crop and grass fires have local impacts too, of course.  These fires often get out of control and spread into forests and peatlands. In fact, many of the deadly fires that plagued Russia this past summer began with fires set on grasslands or croplands.

In response to the growing threat, Clean Air Task Force and Bellona Russia have organized this event to:

  1. 1 Examine the range of health, safety, and climate impacts associated with open burning.
  2.  

  3. 2 Elevate the issue of black carbon emissions from open burning, and its Arctic impacts, among researchers, governmental bodies, and NGOs in Russia and elsewhere.
  4.  

  5. 3 Increase coordination between different organizations (governmental, research, and NGOs) in the USA, Europe, and Russia, and within those countries, working on short-lived climate forcers.
  6.  

  7. 4 Survey indigenous practices and motivations for burning.
  8.  

  9. 5 Explore alternatives to burning and strategies to reduce emissions from burns, including the practical, economic, cultural, and environmental implications of these alternatives.

We’re not exactly sure where we’ll end up tomorrow, but conversations have been flying and we expect some useful closure by the end of the conference. More information about the meeting is available at http://www.fires-and-the-arctic.org.

After the meeting we’ll post presentations, meeting reports, and any other outcomes on that site.

Leaders Preserving Our Future: Pace and Priorities on Climate Change

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

On 3 November 2010, the World Preservation Foundation is launching a conference in partnership with Dods, the first name in political information and communications, to address the urgent need to find near term solutions to climate change.

Scientific evidence shows that the strong bias of current mitigation efforts toward carbon dioxide emissions reduction will not produce results sufficient to halt global warming in time to stop irreversible tipping points being passed.

This conference seeks to bring to the forefront the crucial role of reducing shorter lived non CO2 climate forcers – methane, black carbon and tropospheric ozone – as an urgently needed solution at this point in time to help halt further rises in temperatures and climate change.

Renowned scientists, environmentalists and high level dignitaries will present evidence on how the accelerated rate of climate change is having devastating impacts now around the world, covering such topics as global food and water security, sinking islands, the global biodiversity crisis, the melting of glaciers worldwide and the destruction of our oceans.

In the run up to the COP16 UN climate change conference taking place just 4 weeks later in Mexico, this conference seeks to increase awareness about shorter-lived non-CO2 climate forcers and their pivotal role for an effective near term solution to climate change.

Best of British and International Eco-Tec and Initiatives

An eco exhibition will be running throughout the day featuring some of the leading initiatives in green technology and sustainability, demonstrating their importance and tangible ways in which they can be more widely adopted.

Delegates will include members of parliament, NGOs, members of media, local government, celebrities and a cross section of civil society from different sectors.

World Preservation Foundation is thus underlining the immediate need for governments, industry, NGOs and the public to take action now to prevent any further damage to our ecosystems and our planetary life support system.

First half of 2010 sets heat records

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Just as climate skeptics cited this winter’s snowstorm as evidence that global warming was overhyped, some environmental activists might be tempted to point to this summer’s heat waves to bolster their case.

But instead, they’re pointing to a more scientific measurement: The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies now reports that the first six months of 2010 are the warmest on record, both in terms of atmospheric data and in combined atmospheric/ocean readings.

In some cases the atmospheric readings for some of the first six months of the year are between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above what they were in previous years.

And on top of that, last week Arctic sea ice extent hit the lowest level ever for June.

A senior fellow, Rafe Pomerance, at Clean Air Cool Planet said:

“The 2010 temperature data is evidence that the planet is continuing to warm,”

“The absolute numbers indicate that the earth’s climate is moving into uncharted territory, as reflected by the massive retreat of Arctic sea ice.”

Source: First half of 2010 sets heat records – views.washingtonpost

Date: 12 July 2010

Expert issues sea level warning

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

A lead author of the next international climate change assessment says his ice research supports predictions of a doubling in the rate of sea-level rise over the next century.

Professor Tim Naish, director of New Zealand’s Antarctic Research Centre, has been appointed a lead author of the next assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He says rock cores drilled from the Antarctic coastline reveal how the Earth coped with a hotter climate 4 million years ago.

  • The Greenland ice sheet had melted contributing another seven metres.
  • The West Antarctic ice sheet had melted – [that] contributed five metres of sea level rise.
  • In fact the earth was a very similar looking place to what it is today.
  • It sounds a long time ago but it was the last time that the Earth had a climate that’s very similar to the climate that we are heading towards in the next century with global warming.

Professor Naish’s findings will be presented at the Australian Earth Sciences Convention in Canberra.

He says some researchers have forecast a two-metre increase in sea levels within the next century but his studies support only a one-metre increase.

Source: Expert issues sea level warning – abc.net.au

Date: 07 July 2010

Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Improving the quality of local water increases the resistance of coral reefs to global climate change, according to a study published in June in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Florida Institute of Technology coral reef ecologist Robert van Woesik and his student Dan Wagner led the study, which provides concrete evidence for a link between environmental health and the prospects for reefs in a rapidly changing world.

  • When waters in the Florida Keys warmed over the last few summers, corals living in cleaner water with fewer nutrients did well. On the other hand, corals in dirtier water became sick and bleached.
  • In the face of climate change and ocean warming, this study gives managers hope that maintaining high water quality can spare corals.
  • Regulating wastewater discharge from the land will help coral reefs resist climate change.

Source: Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows - sciencedaily

Date: 07 July 2010

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Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change

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Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers

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Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis

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Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010

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Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report

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Livestock's Climate Impact

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Livestock & Sustainable Food

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Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change

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The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)

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Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)

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