Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Desperate times, desperate scientists



Salon.com



Dec. 12, 2007 | How dire is the climate situation? Consider what Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nations' prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said last month: "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment." Pachauri has the distinction, or misfortune, of being both an engineer and an economist, two professions not known for overheated rhetoric.



In fact, far from being an alarmist, Pachauri was specifically chosen as IPCC chair in 2002 after the Bush administration waged a successful campaign to have him replace the outspoken Dr. Robert Watson, who was opposed by fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil. So why is a normally low-key scientist getting more desperate in his efforts to spur the planet to action?



Read more

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 data confirms warming trend


BBC News



The UK's Hadley Centre and University of East Anglia conclude that globally, this year ranks as the seventh warmest.




The 11 warmest years in this set have all occurred within the last 13 years. For the northern hemisphere alone, 2007 was the second warmest recorded.




The findings come as the UN climate summit discusses carbon emission cuts.



Read more....

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Study Details How U.S. Could Cut 28% of Greenhouse Gases

By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: November 30, 2007, NY Times


The report said the country was brimming with “negative cost opportunities” — potential changes in the lighting, heating and cooling of buildings, for example, that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels even as they save money. “These types of savings have been around for 20 years,” said Jack Stephenson, a director of the study. But he said they still face tremendous barriers.



Read more....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Arctic ice loss: Northwest Passage now open, says space agency





PARIS (AFP) - The Northwest Passage, the dreamed-of yet historically impassable maritime shortcut between Europe and Asia, has now fully opened up due to record shrinkage of Arctic sea ice, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.





It released a mosaic of images, taken in early September by a radar aboard its Envisat satellite, which showed that ice retreat in the Arctic had reached record levels since satellite monitoring began in 1978.




"We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around three million square kilometres (1.158 million square miles), which is about one million square kilometres (386,000 sq. miles) less than the previous minima of 2005 and 2006," said Leif Toudal Pedersen of the Danish National Space Centre.




"There has been a reduction of the ice cover over the last 10 years of about 100 000 sq. km. (38,600 sq. miles) per year on average, so a drop of one million sq. km. (386,000 sq. miles) in just one year is extreme."



More...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Jersey Sets National Precedent by Passing the Global Warming Response Act

TRENTON - On the final day of votes before their summer break, the New Jersey Legislature overwhelmingly passed the Global Warming Response Act, A3301/S2114, (72-8 in the Assembly, 36-1 in the Senate). This ground-breaking legislation requires a mandatory reduction of the state’s global warming pollution to below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below current levels by 2050. These are the limits scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.



"Global warming is the most urgent environmental issue in our lifetime,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “This legislation sets up a comprehensive solution to global warming. It will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and increase energy efficiency, resulting in significant cost savings for both families and businesses.”





More...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Icequakes in Greenland Put on Pace

Vlad Tarko, Senior Editor, Sci-Tech News









The icequakes in Greenland are caused by the motion of the glaciers and are most common in July and August when temperature is higher. But the seismologists from Columbia and Harvard have found that the total number of such "glacial earthquakes" have more than doubled since 2002.



More....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

UN Calls for Pedal Power to Reduce Environmental Damage

Agency France Presse, posted on Commondreams



KUALA LUMPUR - More bicycle riding and other lifestyle changes are urgently needed to reduce climate-altering carbon emissions that are damaging Asia’s health and could also threaten the economy, the World Health Organisation said Monday.
Climate change contributes directly or indirectly to about 77,000 deaths per year in the region, according to WHO estimates.

“So far the impact is on the health of the people. If the trend continues, it may have an impact on the economy,” said Shigeru Omi, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific.

“Of course the threat is there. We should not wait for that to happen,” he told reporters at the start of a four-day conference on the impact of climate change and health in Southeast and East Asian countries.

Omi said urgent action was needed because Asia’s share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions was expected to grow larger with the rapid economic expansion of China and India.

“We have now reached a critical stage at which global warming already has seriously impacted lives and health and this problem will pose an even greater threat to mankind in coming decades if we fail to act now,” Omi said.

He said that in some countries environmental issues were not given the highest priority but “if we ignore the environment, humanity will suffer.”

More...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

As Glaciers Melt and Rivers Dry Up, Coal-Fired Power Stations Multiply



by Jonathan Watts / John Vidal, The Guardian UK




BEIJING - On a bad day - which can be hundreds in a year - the ancient city of Linfen in the northern province of Shanxi is environmental hell. Named by the World Bank last year as having the worst air quality on Earth, its 3.5 million people more often than not choke on coal dust; its soil and its rivers are covered with soot, and its Buddhas are blackened and shrouded in a toxic mist.



The cause is Linfen’s 196 iron foundries, its 153 coking plants, its unregulated coalmines, tar factories, steelworks and domestic homes, all of which burn cheap, easily accessible brown coal.



Shanxi is the centre of China’s vast and growing coal industry, which was pinpointed yesterday by Dutch government scientists as the major culprit, along with the cement industry, in the country’s sudden surge to the top of the world’s league of greenhouse gas emitters.



In the last six years, the Chinese coal industry, with reserves put at more than 1 trillion tonnes, has doubled production to more than 1.2bn tonnes a year. The country is now building 550 coal-fired power stations - opening at the equivalent of two a week - and in the five years to 2005, electricity generation rose 150%.



More...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Democrats Press Plan to Channel Billions in Oil Subsidies to Renewable Fuels


by Edmund L. Andrews, NY Times, Posted on Commondreams



WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats are seeking a major reversal of energy tax policies that would take billions of dollars in tax breaks and other benefits from the oil industry to underwrite renewable fuels.
The tax increases would reverse incentives passed as recently as three years ago to increase domestic exploration and production of oil and gas. The change reflects a shift from the Republican focus on expanding oil production to the Democratic concern about reducing global warming.

More....

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Carbon Emissions Exceed Highest Assumptions Used in Climate Change Studies



Peter N. Spotts, Christian Science Monitor, Posted on Alternet.



Global emissions of carbon dioxide are growing at a faster clip than the highest rates used in recent key UN reports.



CO2 emissions from cars, factories, and power plants grew at an annual rate of 1.1 percent during the 1990s, according to the Global Carbon Project, which is a data clearinghouse set up in 2001 as a cooperative effort among UN-related groups and other scientific organizations. But from 2000 to 2004, CO2 emissions rates almost tripled to 3 percent a year - higher than any rate used in emissions scenarios for the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).



If the higher rate represents more than a blip, stabilizing emissions by 2100 will be more difficult than the latest UN reports indicate, some analysts say. And to avoid the most serious effects of global warming, significant cuts in CO2 emissions must begin sooner than the IPCC reports suggest. At the moment, no region of the world is "decarbonizing its energy supply," the analysis says.



More...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

US Chided for Hindering International Efforts on Climate Change


by Haider Rizvi, OneWorld.net



UNITED NATIONS - Disappointed with the U.S. role in international discussions on energy, environmental groups are making fresh calls for Washington to give up its isolationist approach and become part of ongoing global efforts to tackle climate change.



“It is time for the U.S. to acknowledge its responsibility to take immediate and comprehensive action,” said Jeffrey Barber of the Integrative Strategies Forum, a U.S.-based group that advocates sustainable development.



“Many U.S. citizens are embarrassed by how our government is avoiding its responsibility to take strong action on climate change and to take the lead in promoting sustainable energy,” Barber told OneWorld.



Barber and other proponents of sustainable development think the U.S. lack of initiative could hinder international efforts to address climate change.



Those who represented civil society groups in the UN meetings organized by the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) last week noted that the U.S. proposals were either minimal or had no meaningful substance.






More......

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Warming Triggers ‘Alarming’ Retreat of Himalayan Glaciers





Tim Johnson,McClatchy Newspapers,posted on Commondreams



KAROLA PASS, Tibet - The glaciers of the Himalayas store more ice than anywhere on Earth except for the polar regions and Alaska, and the steady flow of water from their melting icepacks fills seven of the mightiest rivers of Asia.



Now, due to global warming and related changes in the monsoons and trade winds, the glaciers are retreating at a startling rate, and scientists say the ancient icepacks could nearly disappear within one or two generations.



Curiously, there’s little sense of crisis in some of the mountainous areas. Indeed, global warming is making the lives of some high-altitude dwellers a little less severe.



Here at the foot of the towering Nojin Gangsang mountain, an ice-covered 23,700-foot peak, herders notice the retreat of the glaciers but say they feel grateful for the milder winters and increasing vegetation on mountain slopes in summers.



But for people living in the watershed of the Himalayas and other nearby mountain ranges along the Tibetan Plateau, glacial melt could have catastrophic consequences.



More....

Monday, April 23, 2007

Climate Change: Why We Can't Wait






James Hanson, The Nation



This is an adaptation of a talk delivered February 26 at the National Press Club. Comments relating to policy are Dr. Hansen's personal opinion and do not represent a NASA position.



There's a huge gap between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community and what is known about global warming by those who need to know: the public and policy-makers. We've had, in the past thirty years, one degree Fahrenheit of global warming.



But there's another one degree Fahrenheit in the pipeline due to gases that are already in the atmosphere. And there's another one degree Fahrenheit in the pipeline because of the energy infrastructure now in place -- for example, power plants and vehicles that we're not going to take off the road even if we decide that we're going to address this problem.



The Energy Department says that we're going to continue to put more and more CO2 in the atmosphere each year -- not just additional CO2 but more than we put in the year before.



If we do follow that path, even for another ten years, it guarantees that we will have dramatic climate changes that produce what I would call a different planet -- one without sea ice in the Arctic; with worldwide, repeated coastal tragedies associated with storms and a continuously rising sea level; and with regional disruptions due to freshwater shortages and shifting climatic zones.



More...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Arctic Sea Ice is Shrinking in ‘Downward Spiral’





Winter sea ice in the Arctic has failed to reform fully for the third year in a row. Scientists said yesterday that the area of ocean covered by Arctic ice at the end of the winter months was lower only in March 2006.



Researchers fear that the floating sea ice is now on a downward spiral of shrinkage that cannot recover fully even during winter because of warmer temperatures.



Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado, which released the satellite data yesterday, said: “We’re seeing near-record lows and higher-than-normal temperatures. We expect the downward trend to continue in future years.”



More...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Top Scientists Warn of Water Shortages and Disease Linked to Global Warming





Top Scientists Warn of Water Shortages and Disease Linked to Global Warming



By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS



WASHINGTON, March 11 (AP) — The harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already showing up, and within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people will not have enough water, top scientists are likely to say next month at a meeting in Belgium.



At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as the earth reels from rising temperatures and sea levels, according to portions of a draft of an international scientific report by the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.



Tropical diseases like malaria will spread, the draft says. By 2050, polar bears will mostly be found in zoos, their habitats gone. Pests like fire ants will thrive.



More...

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Big Green Fuel Lie





by Daniel Howden in Sao Paolo, lndependent/UK



The ethanol boom is coming. The twin threats of climate change and energy security are creating an unprecedented thirst for alternative energy with ethanol leading the way.



An ethanol plant is seen by sugar cane fields in Piracicaba, Brazil, Friday, March 2, 2007. Just an hour's drive outside this traffic-choked metropolis where U.S. President George W. Bush kicks off a Latin American tour Thursday, sugar cane fields stretch for hundreds of kilometers, providing the ethanol that fuels eight out of every 10 new Brazilian cars.



That process is set to reach a landmark on Thursday when the US President, George Bush, arrives in Brazil to kick-start the creation of an international market for ethanol that could one day rival oil as a global commodity. The expected creation of an "OPEC for ethanol" replicating the cartel of major oil producers has spurred frenzied investment in biofuels across the Americas.



But a growing number of economists, scientists and environmentalists are calling for a "time out" and warning that the headlong rush into massive ethanol production is creating more problems than it is solving.



More..

UK Plans to Cut CO2 Doomed to Fail - Scientists



by James Randerson, UK Guardian



An independent scientific audit of the UK's climate change policies predicts that the government will fall well below its target of a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 - which means that the country will not reach its 2020 milestone until 2050.



The report condemns government forecasts on greenhouse gas emissions as "very optimistic" and projects that the true reduction will be between 12 and 17%, making little difference to current CO2 emission levels.



The report is based on an analysis of the government's attempts to meet climate change targets. The authors argue that because much policy is based on voluntary measures, the predicted outcomes cannot be relied upon. It is released on the day the environment minister, David Miliband, delivers a speech on the UK's transition to a "post-oil economy".




More...

China About to Pass US as World's Top Generator of Greenhouse Gases




by Robert Collier, San Franciso Chronicle




Far more than previously acknowledged, the battle against global warming will be won or lost in China, even more so than in the West, new data show.



A report released last week by Beijing authorities indicated that as its economy continues to expand at a red-hot pace, China is highly likely to overtake the United States this year or in 2008 as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.




This information, along with data from the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based alliance of oil importing nations, also revealed that China's greenhouse gas emissions have recently been growing by a total amount much greater than that of all industrialized nations put together.



More..

Monday, February 19, 2007

Study Questions Prospects for Much Lower Emissions





WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — As Democratic leaders in Congress prepare to put climate change legislation on the agenda, some in the utility industry are arguing that it will take decades of investments and innovation to get substantial reductions in their emissions of greenhouse gases.




A Path to Reduced Emissions Electric power companies, which emit about one-third of America’s global warming gases, could reduce their emissions to below the levels of 1990, but that would take about 20 years, no matter how much the utilities spend, according to a new industry study.



More......

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Boycott America?




The fact that humans have contributed to the current problem of global warming is “unequivocal” according to the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Webster’s definition of “unequivocal” tells us: not equivocal; unambiguous; clear; having only one possible meaning or interpretation; absolute; unqualified; not subject to conditions or exceptions. This is the most definitive information we have on the issue of global warming and ends the speculation about causal effects of our activities.



Doubters will now have to get down to the business of securing our future. There is no more “us and them” in regards to our next evolutionary step and all indications are that we must act quickly and decisively. The damage we have created up until now will be felt for the next 1.000 years and so too will be the significance or our future actions or inactions.



History has called on us with challenges in the past and we have risen to the occasion. Reducing our carbon output will require extraordinary cooperation amongst business, government, and citizens. This action is needed within the current context of the government’s escalated push against the notion of “the commons. ” We must revive our notion of the common good if we want a future worth living in. It does not help that our national identity has changed from being a “citizen” at the beginning of the 20th century to that of a “consumer” 100 years later. We have become individual mindless pacman consuming units. The trail of debris from the ever-manic hyper-vigilant pacman has never been seen. Perhaps the IPCC report will in effect slap night vision goggles on us before sitting down to our gaming console as we peek into our future in the 21st century. We also must not heed the advice of vested interests when they tell us “ pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” There is no turning back. The IPCC report has neatly removed the curtain to reveal the reality of what Pogo taught us,“ we have met the enemy and he is us.”



As the reality of George Bush’s failed policies permeate our national psyche and we catch up to what the rest of the world already knows, what will their reaction be? Parts of the European Union are light years ahead of us in regards to moving towards a more energy sustainable future. The reaction to our recalcitrant behavior towards global warming has isolated and alienated us from the rest of the world. At what point does the notion of “buying American” become shameful? Increasing hostile dependence with our trading partners will further erode our brand value as other competitive markets develop in this global economy. All of this of course is moot when we relocalize and reinvigorate our economy for a healthy future. Until we discover these answers, the likelihood of “ Boycott America” builds.



Mike

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Millions to Go Hungry, Waterless: Climate Report





by Rob Taylor, Reuters, Posted on Commondreams



Rising temperatures will leave millions more people hungry by 2080 and cause critical water shortages in China and Australia, as well as parts of Europe and the United States, according to a new global climate report.




By the end of the century, climate change will bring water scarcity to between 1.1 and 3.2 billion people as temperatures rise by 2 to 3 Celsius (3.6 to 4.8 Fahrenheit), a leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said.




The report, due for release in April but detailed in The Age newspaper, said an additional 200 million to 600 million people across the world would face food shortages in another 70 years, while coastal flooding would hit another 7 million homes.




"The message is that every region of the earth will have exposure," Dr Graeme Pearman, who helped draft the report, told Reuters on Tuesday.




"If you look at China, like Australia they will lose significant rainfall in their agricultural areas," said Pearman, the former climate director of Australia's top science body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.




More.....

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Electric cars the answer for the future -- and the present

By Candace Page
Free Press Staff Writer








MONTPELIER -- Electric cars will "inevitably" replace gasoline-powered vehicles in coming decades, a Vermont researcher told lawmakers Wednesday, and the state can take steps now to prepare for and help speed the transition to a cleaner transportation system.





"The plug-in hybrid is the car of the future," Prof. Steven Letendre of Green Mountain College testified, "but this isn't futuristic stuff. These cars are out there now. Companies are taking the (Toyota) Prius hybrid and altering them to plug into the electric grid. They'll get 100 miles to the gallon."






Letendre was one of three speakers on the fourth day of a legislative inquiry into climate change and the ways Vermont can reduce its contribution to the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.







More...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Coalition for Firm Limit on Emissions


By FELICITY BARRINGER, NY Times
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 — Ten major companies with operations across the economy — utilities, manufacturing, petroleum, chemicals and financial services — have banded together with leading environmental groups to call for a firm nationwide limit on carbon dioxide emissions that would lead to reductions of 10 to 30 percent over the next 15 years.

Introduction of this group, which includes industry giants like General Electric, DuPont and Alcoa, is aimed at adding to the recent impetus for Congressional action on emissions controls and the creation of a market in which allowances to emit carbon dioxide could be traded in a way that achieves the greatest reduction at the lowest cost.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Behold the Rise of Energy-Based Fascism


The Pentagon is helping to create a grim future for all of us: a struggle for energy primacy abroad and Big Brother at home.

By Michael T. Klare, Tomdispatch.com., post on Alternet.

It has once again become fashionable for the dwindling supporters of President Bush's futile war in Iraq to stress the danger of "Islamo-fascism" and the supposed drive by followers of Osama bin Laden to establish a monolithic, Taliban-like regime -- a "Caliphate" -- stretching from Gibraltar to Indonesia. The President himself has employed this term on occasion over the years, using it to describe efforts by Muslim extremists to create "a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom." While there may indeed be hundreds, even thousands, of disturbed and suicidal individuals who share this delusional vision, the world actually faces a far more substantial and universal threat, which might be dubbed: Energo-fascism, or the militarization of the global struggle over ever-diminishing supplies of energy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Vegetarian is the New Prius


by Kathy Freston, Huffington Post, posted on Commondreams



Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.


"According to the UN report, it gets even worse when we include the vast quantities of land needed to give us our steak and pork chops. Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world's forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder. These forests serve as "sinks," absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, and burning these forests releases all the stored carbon dioxide, quantities that exceed by far the fossil fuel emission of animal agriculture. "

Thursday, January 11, 2007

100-Mile Diet: Your Body Will Thank You







By Jeff Nield, The Tyee. Posted on Alternet



Is eating locally through the winter more a matter of survival than of pleasure or good health? The surprising answer is an emphatic "no." Vancouver-based registered holistic nutritionist Paula Luther is an adherent of year-round local eating for the sake of nutrition. "If we look at what's in abundance right now, we have lots of squash, carrots, things like that, which are actually beneficial at this time of year," she says. These winter foods are rich in beta-carotene, antioxidants, vitamin A -- just the sort of nutrients our bodies need to fight off colds and maintain energy levels for the season.



More..