Doom, gloom and hope at US science meeting

Washington  - As if the financial news wasn't bad enough.

Scientists meeting in Chicago reported about how fast greenhouse gases are rising and how eating less beef and more chicken would help reduce global warming.

But there were also bright spots at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science gathering in the Midwestern metropolis.

For example, deaf children are inventing their own way of communicating in Nicaragua, according to a study released by the University of Chicago on Sunday and reported on the association's website.

And their homemade systems increase their communication ability as the children grow up, found the study released at the meeting, which began Thursday and runs through Monday.

"Other studies on this 'homesigning' have usually stopped at the point the children go to school, but I have been able to follow children in Nicaragua who are not near a special education school and accordingly continue developing their homesigns independently," said Marie Coppola, a research associate at the University of Chicago.

The title of her work was Language Without Ancestors.

Apropos the celebration of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday on Thursday, a University of Colorado biology professor called for better science education in public schools as an antidote to creationist theories.

"The questions we are asking ourselves as scientists and educators is what the problem is here and what are the objections to evolution," said Mike Klymkowsky of the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department at the Boulder branch of the university.

He said a failure to grasp the fundamentals of biological systems might leave teachers and students vulnerable to claims by intelligent design creationists, New Age homeopaths and other "hucksters."

And the beef-vs-chicken question?

At a panel discussion Food for Thought, the audience heard that about half of greenhouse emissions connected to human diets came from meat even though meat only makes up 14 per cent of human food, Science News reported online.

Beef was by far the biggest offender, generating 19 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of beef consumed. Pigs produced 4.25 kilograms of greenhouse gasses while chickens produced the smallest footprint.

Vegetables cause the least damage with a kilogram of potatoes producing 280 grams of emissions, scientists said at the forum. (dpa)