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David Shukman

David Shukman Science editor

Welcome to my perspective on science stories in the headlines and behind them

Shuttle diplomacy in climate countdown

Smoke
The aim is for a deal limiting greenhouse gases

A senior British minister is once again launched on a long-haul high-carbon mission of shuttle diplomacy in the cause of tackling climate change.

The target is to try to land an international deal on limiting greenhouse gases at what is billed as a major summit in Paris in late 2015.

In climate terms, Paris has become the new Copenhagen, the next venue for another push for a global agreement following the failed attempt in Denmark five years ago.

As with the countdown to every global gathering of this kind, expectations are mounting and the smallest detail of phrasing or policy from key players is seized on as a sign that maybe, this time, perhaps, some cautious hope is justified.

Buoyed by a trip a fortnight ago to Washington - where President Obama recently announced his plan to limit emissions for power stations - Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, arrives in China on Monday for his second major visit there and he will then fly on to India.

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Oklahoma drought kindles spectre of 1930s 'Dust Bowl'

A menacing cloud of dust swirling above a parched field in Oklahoma is a disturbing reminder of the power of drought.

All too often here, when the land is baked dry, the winds can strip away an inch of precious topsoil in as little as 24 hours, soil that has taken centuries to form.

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How much money can we make from fracking Britain?

A fracking site in Texas America
Fracking is already used as a method of extracting gas and oil from the ground in several areas in America, as is the case with this site in Texas

How much money can be made from trying to extract oil and gas from the layers of shale that lie beneath Britain?

Answering that is proving to be a surprisingly difficult scientific question because knowing the basic facts about shale is not enough.

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Pfizer takeover could delay drug development, says Astra chief

For anyone in the pharmaceutical industry, the Holy Grail is the discovery of what they call a new "molecule", a cleverly-designed compound that proves effective as a treatment.

But achieving this is fiendishly complicated - getting approval has become hugely expensive and success is far from guaranteed.

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'Nothing can stop retreat' of West Antarctic glaciers

West Antarctica is one of the least accessible parts of the planet and it takes a huge effort to research the changes under way there. Nearly a decade ago, I joined a flight on an old US Navy patrol plane that made a gruelling 11-hour round trip from the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas to Pine Island Glacier, which lies among the glaciers featured in these latest studies.

There was no possibility of landing and, if the worst were to happen, there was no-one close enough to offer any kind of rescue. This is research at its most daring. On board was a team from Nasa whose instruments were measuring the elevation and thickness of the ice below us. Even at this stage, it was clear that the glacier, far larger than anything you might see in Europe or North America, was speeding up.

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How does Europe wean itself off Russian gas?

Each escalation of the crisis in Ukraine sends a jolt of nervousness far beyond its borders as Europe worries about its energy supplies.

With about one-third of Europe's gas coming from Russia and about half of that gas flowing through Ukraine, these are tense times.

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Agreement reached on deep sea mining

Deep sea mining
The project will extract ores of copper, gold and other valuable metals from a depth of 1,500m

Plans to open the world's first mine in the deep ocean have moved significantly closer to becoming reality.

A Canadian mining company has finalised an agreement with Papua New Guinea to start digging up an area of seabed.

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George Osborne orders new icebreaker for UK polar science

Global warming does not mean an end to polar ice nor to the need for icebreakers. Even if the Arctic becomes largely ice-free in summertime later this century, as the latest science suggests, the legacy of each winter's deep freeze will still litter the ocean - some of the jagged shards of ice will be visible but many will bob treacherously just below the surface.

While reporting on an expedition through Canada's fabled Northwest Passage in October 2007, I woke to the sound of an unnerving clanging along the hull. The vessel, the Amundsen, was pushing through pack ice and each jolt and reverberation made me wonder about the strength of the steel. But to understand how the polar regions are changing, and the implications for everything from wildlife to fishing to new oilfields to future shipping routes, the view from space offered by satellites is not enough.

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Birth of 'new Saturn moon' witnessed

Peggy
Ring-edge disturbance: The object would become the 63rd moon in Saturn's orbit if confirmed.

Scientists say they have discovered what could be the birth of a new moon in the rings of Saturn.

Informally named Peggy, the object would become the 63rd moon in Saturn's orbit - if confirmed.

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World must end 'dirty' fuel use - UN

It took a long night of negotiations here in Berlin to finish this IPCC report and that meant keeping a lot of lights blazing - a painful irony given that nearly half of Germany's electricity comes from burning the very fossil fuels that the report wants to see phased out.

The authors do acknowledge the challenge of switching away from carbon-intense energy - in other words, there's no free lunch. They also admit that there's no silver bullet either, pointing out that renewable sources still need subsidies and capturing carbon dioxide from power stations is unproven on an industrial scale.

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More Correspondents

  • Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

    UK and European space and the latest major science stories


  • Matt McGrath Matt McGrath Environment correspondent

    Updates on emerging environmental news


  • Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

    A focus on the medical and health issues of the day


  • Tom Feilden, Science correspondent, Today programme Tom Feilden Science correspondent, Today

    Analysis of the scientific issues making headlines


About David

Twenty years ago David visited the secret lab at Los Alamos that created the nuclear bomb and he's been fascinated by science and scientists ever since. His reports on research have taken him as far afield as the Antarctic ice-sheet, the Amazon rainforest and the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

Since joining the BBC back in 1983, David has covered Northern Ireland, defence, Europe and world affairs. He is the author of three books.

His favourite memories include reporting from East Berlin during the fall of the Wall and exploring the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider on a bike.

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