Newsletter Digest: COP15 kicks off, Bisphenol-A ban urged

COP 15: Is a deal on the cards?

The Copenhagen climate conference kicks off over the weekend and while there won’t be many (if any) New Zealand scientists attending, the New Zealand media will be well-represented (six journalists will be on the ground covering it) and the conference has high-level political buy-in with the Prime Minister John Key opting to attend.

What makes Copenhagen so important? It could well determine the shape of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which was implemented in 1997 and was aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This time around, scientists have a much clearer view of the impact we are having on the planet and what could potentially happen if we don’t move to reduce emissions. But ultimately, whether a legally-binding agreement is reached at Copenhagen or in the near future will depend on the extent to which the rich countries are willing to pay to help the developing world meet the cost of reducing their emissions.

The SMC will be offering daily round-ups of science-related news from Copenhagen to those journalists on our science and environment distribution lists, in conjunction with our friends at the Australian Science Media Centre who will be based in Copenhagen throughout the conference.

You’ll also see some extensive analysis of developments at Copenhagen on

Contact the SMC to register for COP15 updates or to find out more about New Zealand’s presence at the conference.

Scientists reject calls for BPA ban

Breast Cancer UK was in campaign mode this week as it called for a ban on the use of the chemical compound Bisphenol-A in making baby bottles.

A ban already exists in Canada when it comes to baby bottles and in parts of the US. But the US Food & Drug Administration has put off making an overarching decision on BPA while it looks more thoroughly at the science.

The safety of BPA is an issue of international significance because it is used to line the inside of beverage bottles, cans and even the surface of receipt paper. We are all therefore exposed to it – but is it dangerous?

Scientists approached by the SMCs in the UK and New Zealand suggest BPA represents a “minimal health concern“.

However, University of Canterbury toxicologist Professor Ian Shaw said its use should be should controlled “much more carefully”.


“We are a small country in the middle of nowhere and we’ve got a lot of satellite dishes pointing up the sky. Whether its a telephone call to the United States or just jumping on the internet. It’s space infrastructure that enables all that to happen.”

-Rocket scientist Peter Beck quoted in the Dominion Post this week about the launch of Atea-1.