Wednesday, December 26, 2007

China’s Glaciers (and People) are in Trouble

From Celsias Blog

Yes, more bad news about glaciers melting around the world, and this time it is from the “Third Pole” as the Tibet (or Himalayan) Plateau is known.

Western China is experiencing glacial melt in the 7 to 18 percent range in the last five years. The area is part of the so-called Third Pole as it is an area that reflects the sun’s heat, much like the North and South Polar regions. Of course, when the snow and ice melts, it exposes the darker Earth underneath, which then serves as a “heat sink”, which in turn exacerbates the melting and thus exposes more earth and rock, and well, you see where this is heading. A little something called the “Albedo Effect.”

The Third Pole may be even more crucial as it is on a part of the globe that receives much more sunlight than either the Arctic or Antarctic. We have been reading about the ever-quickening loss of ice at the Poles, but now a Chinese survey of the Western part of the country shows that things are much worse than previously thought.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oceans’ Growing Acidity Alarms Scientists

by Les Blumenthal for McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Seven hundred miles west of Seattle in the Pacific at Ocean Station Papa, a first-of-its-kind buoy is anchored to monitor a looming environmental catastrophe.

Forget about sea levels rising as glaciers and polar ice melt, and increasing water temperatures affecting global weather patterns. As the oceans absorb more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, they’re gradually becoming more acidic.

And some scientists fear that the change may be irreversible.

At risk are sea creatures up and down the food chain, from the tiniest phytoplankton and zooplankton to whales, from squid to salmon to crabs, coral, oysters and clams.

The oceans are already 30 percent more acidic than they were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, as they absorb 22 tons of carbon dioxide a day. By the end of the century, they could be 150 percent more acidic.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ominous Arctic melt worries experts


WASHINGTON - An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.

"The Arctic is screaming," said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Electricity composition by Zip Code

Here's a web site that gives the source mix for local power companies searched by Zip Code, Fast and really informative.

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BP Set To Commit ‘The Biggest Environmental Crime in History’

By Cahal Milmo for the Independaent/UK

The multinational oil and gas producer, which last year made a profit of £11bn, is facing a head-on confrontation with the green lobby in the pristine forests of North America after Greenpeace pledged a direct action campaign against BP following its decision to reverse a long-standing policy and invest heavily in extracting so-called “oil sands” that lie beneath the Canadian province of Alberta and form the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

Producing crude oil from the tar sands - a heavy mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay - found beneath more than 54,000 square miles of prime forest in northern Alberta - an area the size of England and Wales combined - generates up to four times more carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, than conventional drilling. The booming oil sands industry will produce 100 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to a fifth of the UK’s entire annual emissions) a year by 2012, ensuring that Canada will miss its emission targets under the Kyoto treaty, according to environmentalist activists.

The oil rush is also scarring a wilderness landscape: millions of tonnes of plant life and top soil is scooped away in vast open-pit mines and millions of litres of water are diverted from rivers - up to five barrels of water are needed to produce a single barrel of crude and the process requires huge amounts of natural gas. The industry, which now includes all the major oil multinationals, including the Anglo-Dutch Shell and American combine Exxon-Mobil, boasts that it takes two tonnes of the raw sands to produce a single barrel of oil. BP insists it will use a less damaging extraction method, but it accepts that its investment will increase its carbon footprint.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

U.N. Report Describes Risks of Inaction on Climate Change

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VALENCIA, Spain, Nov. 16 — In its final and most powerful report, a United Nations panel of scientists meeting here describes the mounting risks of climate change in language that is both more specific and forceful than its previous assessments, according to scientists here.

Synthesizing reams of data from its three previous reports, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the first time specifically points out important risks if governments fail to respond: melting ice sheets that could lead to a rapid rise in sea levels and the extinction of large numbers of species brought about by even moderate amounts of warming, on the order of 1 to 3 degrees.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Waste Heat - the Unsung Solution

By Bill McKibben for Orion Magazine

From his desk in an office in Chicago, Jeff Smith has a bird’s-eye view of the American landscape. Combing through a huge database of information compiled by the EPA, he can, almost literally, peer down every smokestack in the nation and figure out what’s going on inside.

And what he sees is heat. Waste heat—one of the country’s largest potential sources of power, pouring up out of those smokestacks. If it could be recycled into electricity, that heat would generate immense amounts of power without our having to burn any new fossil fuels. By immense, I mean, speaking technically, humongous. Even after he’s winnowed the nation’s half a million smokestacks down to the most likely customers, that leaves twenty-five thousand stacks. “An astronomical number,” Smith says.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

World body warns over ocean 'fertilisation' to fix climate change

LONDON (AFP) - Countries gathered under an international accord on maritime pollution have warned against offbeat experiments to tackle climate change by sowing the sea with chemicals to help soak up airborne carbon dioxide (CO2).

Parties to the London Convention and London Protocol declared that they hold authority over such experiments, and "large-scale operations" of this kind "are currently not justified," according to a statement issued on Monday.

Several controversial experiments have been carried out or are being planned to "fertilise" areas of the sea with iron or urea to see whether this encourages the growth of plankton.

Much of the CO2 emitted by fossil fuels is dissolved by the sea from the atmosphere.

In turn, microscopic marine plants at the sea surface absorb some of the CO2 through photosynthesis. When they die, they fall to the ocean floor, thus potentially storing the carbon for millions of years.

Defenders of fertilisation say that carbon pollution is so far out of control that a swift fix is needed to avert catastrophe for the climate system.

By accelerating plankton growth, carbon could be massively sucked out of Earth's atmosphere, reducing the warming effect of this greenhouse gas, they argue

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Oceans could absorb far more CO2, says study

PARIS (AFP) - The ocean's plankton can suck up far more airborne carbon dioxide (CO2) than previously realised, although the marine ecosystem may suffer damage if this happens, a new study into global warming says.

The sea has soaked up nearly half of the CO2 that has been emitted by fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

But a key role is played by plant micro-organisms called phytoplankton, which take in the dissolved gas at the ocean's sunlit surface as part of the process of photosynthesis. This plankton dies and eventually sinks to the ocean floor, thus storing the carbon for potentially millions of years.

One of the big questions is how much more of CO2 the sea can absorb.

If, like a saturated sponge, the oceans cannot take up any more, atmospheric concentrations of CO2, the principal greenhouse gas, would sharply rise and stoke global warming.

Another concern is that rising levels of dissolved CO2 also causes acidification of seawater. Wildlife such as coral, which secretes a skeletal structure, are known to be affected by acidification but the impact on other marine species is largely unknown.

In an innovative experiment reported on Sunday in Nature, researchers closed off part of Raune fjord in southern Norway to see how plankton reacted to different levels of CO2

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Most Would Pay Higher Bills To Help Climate: poll

by Jeremy Lovell for Reuters

LONDON - Millions of people around the world are willing to make personal sacrifices, including paying higher bills, to help redress climate change, a global survey said on Monday.

The survey found 83 percent of those questioned believed lifestyle changes would be necessary to cut emissions of climate warming carbon gases.

The survey, conducted by two polling organizations for the BBC World Service, covered 22,000 people in 21 countries.

In 14 of the 21 countries from Canada to Australia, 61 percent overall said it would be necessary to increase energy costs to encourage conservation and reduce carbon emissions.

“People around the world recognize that climate change requires that people change their behavior,” said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes which conducted the poll with GlobeScan.

“And that to provide incentives for those changes there will need to be an increase in the cost of energy that contributes to climate change,” he added.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Earth Is Reaching The Point of No Return, Says Major UN Environment Report

Fundamental changes in political policy and individual lifestyles were demanded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as it gave warning that the “point of no return” for the environment is fast being approached.

The damage being done was regarded by the UN programme as so serious that it said the time had come for the environment to be a central theme of policy-making instead of just a fringe issue, even though it would damage the vested interests of powerful industries.

Marion Cheatle, of the environment programme, said that damage sustained by the environment was of fundamental economic concern and, if left unchecked, would affect growth.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

States Set to Sue the U.S. Over Greenhouse Gases

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By Danny Hakim for the New York Times

ALBANY, Oct. 23 — New York is one of more than a dozen states, led by California, preparing to sue the Bush administration for holding up efforts to regulate emissions from cars and trucks, several people involved in the lawsuit said on Tuesday.

The move comes as New York and other Northeastern states are stepping up their push for tougher regulation of greenhouse gases as part of their continuing opposition to President Bush’s policies.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Fears That Seas Soak Up Less Greenhouse Gas

by Andrew Woodcock in London for the Sydney Morning Herald

THE oceans’ ability to act as a “carbon sink” soaking up greenhouse gases appears to be decreasing, research shows, leading to new fears about global warming

Measurements of the North Atlantic taken by British scientists over the decade from the mid-1990s to 2005 show the level of carbon dioxide in its waters fell by about half over that time.

One of the authors of the study, published on Saturday in a paper for the Journal of Geophysical Research, said the change may have been triggered by climate change and may also accelerate the process by leaving more CO2 in the atmosphere.

Natural processes mean the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is reduced when the gas dissolves into the waters of the oceans which cover much of the surface of the earth, turning them into vast “sinks” storing the carbon safely.

But the new study suggests the amount of carbon dioxide entering the oceans is declining, possibly because warmer global weather has heated the water near the surface.

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Oceans may be losing ability to absorb CO2

PARIS (AFP) - The world's oceans may be losing their ability to soak up extra carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, with the risk that this will help stoke global warming, two new studies say.

Absorption of atmospheric CO2 by the North Atlantic plunged by half between the mid-1990s and 2002-5, British researchers say in a paper published in the November issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The data comes from sensors lowered by a container ship carrying bananas, which makes a round trip from the West Indies to Britain every month. It has generated more than 90,000 measurements of ocean CO2.

The finding touches on a key aspect of the global warming question, because for decades the ocean has been absorbing much of the CO2 released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

If the sea performs less well as a carbon sponge, or "sink" according to the technical jargon, more CO2 will remain in the atmosphere, thus accelerating the greenhouse effect.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Arctic Thaw May Be at ‘Tipping Point’

by Alister Doyle for Reuters

OSLO - A record melt of Arctic summer sea ice this month may be a sign that global warming is reaching a critical trigger point that could accelerate the northern thaw, some scientists say.0928 06

“The reason so much (of the Arctic ice) went suddenly is that it is hitting a tipping point that we have been warning about for the past few years,” James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Reuters.

The Arctic summer sea ice shrank by more than 20 percent below the previous 2005 record low in mid-September to 4.13 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles), according to a 30-year satellite record. It has now frozen out to 4.2 million sq km.

The idea of climate tipping points — like a see-saw that suddenly flips over when enough weight gets onto one side — is controversial because it is little understood and dismissed by some as scaremongering about runaway effects.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Refiners Dismiss Ethanol Coalition Claims as Ludicrous Attempt at Damage Control

"A summer full of unfavorable studies and criticism may be enough for ACE to invest in Beltway public relations damage control, but the facts about ethanol's drawbacks cannot be disputed, and policymakers should be aware of the significant consequences American consumers and the environment could face should they increase the federal mandate and subsidies for biofuels."

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--NPRA, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, Executive Vice President Charles T. Drevna today dismissed baseless claims made by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) that oil companies are "discouraging ethanol use by not passing along the cost-benefits to consumers."

"ACE's statement is absolutely ludicrous given the facts," Drevna said. "According to a number of studies, there are very few cost benefits to be 'passed down.' A study said only last week that '(i)n total, the costs of ethanol paid by taxpayers, fuel purchasers and the food system is about $31 billion in 2007, or about $4.40 per gallon of ethanol produced. Corrected for the energy content of ethanol relative to gasoline, this is equivalent to a wholesale gasoline price of $6.67 per gallon. Ethanol is not a cheap source of energy, it is about 3 times as expensive as gasoline.' The study also stated that '(t)he ethanol subsidy program is now increasing the cost of food production though side effects on major crop prices and plantings. The cost increases are already starting to show up in the prices of meat, poultry, dairy, bread, cereals and many other products made from grains and soybeans.'(1)

"A summer full of unfavorable studies and criticism from economists and environmentalists alike may be enough for ACE to invest in Beltway public relations damage control, but the facts about ethanol's drawbacks cannot be disputed, and policymakers should be aware of the significant consequences American consumers and the environment could face should they increase the federal mandate and subsidies for biofuels."

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Global Warming Impact Like ‘Nuclear War’

By Jeremy Lovell for Reuters

London - Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said on Wednesday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife

While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.

“The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition … that if the emission of greenhouse gases … is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic — on the level of nuclear war,” the IISS report said.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush must release global warming reports

By TERENCE CHEA, Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge ordered the Bush administration to issue two scientific reports on global warming, siding with environmentalists who sued the White House for failing to produce the documents.

U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong ruled Tuesday that the Bush administration had violated a 1990 law when it failed to meet deadlines for an updated U.S. climate change research plan and impact assessment.

Armstrong set a March 1 deadline for the administration to issue the research plan, which is meant to guide federal research on climate change. Federal law calls for an updated plan every three years, she said. The last one was issued in 2003.

The judge set a May 31 deadline to produce a national assessment containing the most recent scientific data on global warming and its projected effects on the country's environment, economy and public health. The government is required to complete a national assessment every four years, the judge ruled.

The last one was issued by the Clinton administration in 2000.

The administration had claimed that it had discretion over how and when it produced the reports — an argument the judge rejected Tuesday.

"The defendants are wrong," Armstrong wrote in the 38-page ruling. "Congress has conferred no discretion upon the defendants as to when they will issue revised Research Plans and National Assessments."

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Trees Won't Fix Global Warming

by Andrea Thompson
LiveScience Staff Writer

The plan to use trees as a way to suck up and store the extra carbon dioxide emitted into Earth's atmosphere to combat global warming isn't such a hot idea, new research indicates.

Scientists at Duke University bathed plots of North Carolina pine trees in extra carbon dioxide every day for 10 years and found that while the trees grew more tissue, only the trees that received the most water and nutrients stored enough carbon dioxide to offset the effects of global warming.

The Department of Energy-funded project, called the Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experiment, compared four pine forest plots that received daily doses of carbon dioxide 1.5 times current levels of the greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere to four matched plots that didn't receive any extra gas.

The treated trees produced about 20 percent more biomass on average, but since water and nutrient availability differed across the plots, averages don't tell the whole story, the researchers noted.

"In some areas, the growth is maybe five to 10 percent more, and in other areas it's 40 percent more," said FACE project director Ram Oren of Duke University. "So in sites that are poor in nutrients and water we see very little response. In sites that are rich in both, we see a large response."

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Analysts See ‘Simply Incredible’ Shrinking of Floating Ice in the Arctic

by Andrew C. Revkin for the New York Times

The area of floating ice in the Arctic has shrunk more this summer than in any other summer since satellite tracking began in 1979, and it has reached that record point a month before the annual ice pullback typically peaks, experts said yesterday.0810 02

The cause is probably a mix of natural fluctuations, like unusually sunny conditions in June and July, and long-term warming from heat-trapping greenhouse gases and sooty particles accumulating in the air, according to several scientists.

William L. Chapman, who monitors the region at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and posted a Web report on the ice retreat yesterday, said that only an abrupt change in conditions could prevent far more melting before the 24-hour sun of the boreal summer set in September. “The melting rate during June and July this year was simply incredible,” Mr. Chapman said. “And then you’ve got this exposed black ocean soaking up sunlight and you wonder what, if anything, could cause it to reverse course.”

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Coral reefs dying faster than expected

By MICHAEL CASEY, AP Environmental Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand - Coral reefs in much of the Pacific Ocean are dying faster than previously thought, according to a study released Wednesday, with the decline driven by climate change, disease and coastal development.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill found that coral coverage in the Indo-Pacific — an area stretching from Indonesia's Sumatra island to French Polynesia — dropped 20 percent in the past two decades.

About 600 square miles of reefs have disappeared since the 1960s, the study found, and the losses were just as bad in Australia's well-protected Great Barrier Reef as they were in poorly managed marine reserves in the Philippines.

"We found the loss of reef building corals was much more widespread and severe than previously thought," said John Bruno, who conducted the study along with Elizabeth Selig. "Even the best managed reefs in the Indo-Pacific suffered significant coral loss over the past 20 years."

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Global warming doubles number of hurricanes, study finds

by Maxim Kniazkov

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Global warming's effect on wind patterns and sea temperatures have more than doubled the annual number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean over the past century, says a new study by US scientists.

Excerpts from the study by Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Peter Webster of Georgia Institute of Technology were released in the United States late Sunday.

The analysis identifies three periods since 1900, during which the average number of hurricanes and tropical storms surged dramatically and then remained elevated and relatively steady.

The first period, between 1900 and 1930, saw an average of six Atlantic tropical cyclones, of which four were hurricanes and two were tropical storms.

From 1930 to 1940, the annual average increased to 10, consisting of five hurricanes and five tropical storms.

In the most recent period, from 1995 to 2005, the average reached 15, of which eight were hurricanes and seven were tropical storms.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Small Ice Sources Pose Big Threat to Rising Seas

Andrea Thompson LiveScience Staff Writer

Apparently, “don’t sweat the small stuff” doesn’t apply to sea-level rise due to global warming: Scientists have found that smaller glaciers and ice caps, not Earth's expansive polar ice sheets, could cause the majority of the rise due to melting by 2100.

As snow accumulates on the upper portions of a glacier, the ice thickens and begins to flow down. The rate of flow partly determines how fast the glacier melts.

With rising temperatures, the surface of the glacier melts faster, and the water created percolates down through the ice, making the bed of the glacier more slippery and causing the ice to flow faster.

"Faster flow means more ice discharged to the ocean, which will then melt," Meier explained.

Glaciers high in mountain ranges such as the Alps also melt by flowing in this way, and their melt water runs into rivers and eventually into the ocean.

IPCC's missing info

Meier and his colleagues emphasized these types of losses in their study, detailed in the July 19 online issue of the journal Science, because considerations of flow rates were largely absent from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) estimates.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Gore Slams US-Led Climate Pact as Sham

by Michelle Nichols for Reuters

NEW YORK - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore slammed the United States and some other big polluters for forming what he called a sham global warming pact separate from the rest of the world.

0705 09 1 2Those countries — including Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan — must join the rest of the world in a new deal to fight global warming, Gore told Reuters ahead of Saturday’s Live Earth concerts aimed at raising awareness of climate change.

In an interview, Gore expressed doubts about the motives of the United States and Australia, which both eschewed the Kyoto Protocol, for creating the six-member pact called the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

“With all due respect I think the Asia-Pacific initiative is more of a Potemkin Village approach,” he said, referring to the fake villages set up by Russian general Grigory Potemkin in the Crimea in 1787 to impress Catherine the Great.

“It has been organized by the two developed countries that alone among the world community have refused to join in on the Kyoto Protocol,” said Gore, whose documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” about global warming won two Academy Awards this year.

The Kyoto Protocol obligates about 35 rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. It expires in 2012 and U.N.-led talks on a replacement pact are expected to start in December

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Greenland Ice Melt Speeds Up

Warming: Trend is Confirmed via Satellite, Flyovers
by David Perlman for the San Francisco Chronicle

NASA scientists reading signals from a satellite in orbit, and flying aboard a low-flying plane over Greenland, are finding fresh evidence of melting snows and thinning glaciers in vast areas of the massive island.0602 01Their observations confirm the climate’s warming trend in the far northern reaches of the world, they say, where changes in the circulation of waters feeding into the Arctic Ocean are altering crucial patterns of ocean currents there with effects that are increasingly uncertain.

The pace of glaciers sliding into the sea along Greenland’s southwestern coast “is speeding like gangbusters this year,” said William Krabill, leader of a NASA team that has just ended a three-week airborne mission probing glacier dynamics with lasers and radar.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Earth, Inc. Sliding Into Bankruptcy

by Stephen Leahy for Inter Press Service

Build a shrimp farm in Thailand by cutting down mangrove forests and you will net about 8,000 dollars per hectare. Meanwhile, the destruction of the forest and pollution from the farm will result in a loss of ecosystems worth 35,000 dollars/ha per year.0530 02Many leading development institutions and policy-makers still fail to understand that this ruthless exploitation for short-term profits could trigger an Enron-like collapse of “Earth, Inc.”, experts say.

For example, the World Bank and other economic development agencies would happily loan a shrimp farmer 100,000 dollars to clear more mangroves.

All economies depend on the natural capital lying within nature’s lands, waters, forests, and reefs, but humans have often treated them as if they had little value or were inexhaustible.

“Up till now, humans have been exploiting natural capital to maximize production of food, timber, oil and minerals at the expense of soil, water and biodiversity,” said Janet Ranganathan, director of people and ecosystems at the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Greenpeace warns China of glacier retreat threat

BEIJING (Reuters) - Accelerated glacier melting in the mountains of Tibet could choke off water sources vital for large parts of China, the environmental group Greenpeace said on Wednesday, warning of a chain-reaction of damage from global warming.

Across the Qinghai-Tibet highland that spans much of western China, global warming is speeding the retreat of glaciers, stoking evaporation of glacial and snow run-off, and leaving dwindling rivers dangerously clogged with silt, Greenpeace activists said at the release of a report on climate change in the region.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

U.S. to reject climate deal

By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - The United States is preparing to reject new targets on climate change at a Group of Eight summit next month, dashing German and British hopes for a new global pact on carbon emissions, according to comments on a document released by the environmental group Greenpeace.

The White House on Saturday declined to confirm the comments were from U.S. officials, but said discussions continued about what the G-8 leaders will say.

"Our challenge and opportunity is in developing an approach that is appropriate and conducive to all these major emitting countries," said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, holding the rotating presidency of both the G-8 bloc of industrialized nations and the European Union, wants the June meeting to agree to targets for cuts in greenhouse gas output and a timetable for a major agreement on emissions reduction to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rising corn prices hit grocery shoppers' pocketbooks

The rising demand for corn as a source of ethanol-blended fuel is largely to blame for increasing food costs around the world, and Canada is not immune, say industry experts.

Food prices rose 10 per cent in 2006, "driven mainly by surging prices of corn, wheat and soybean oil in the second part of the year," the International Monetary Fund said in a report.

"Looking ahead, rising demand for biofuels will likely cause the prices of corn and soybean oil to rise further," the authors wrote in the report released last month.

Statistics Canada says consumers in the country paid 3.8 per cent more for food in April 2007, compared to the same month last year.

Jyoti Sahasrabudhe, an independent food industry consultant in Calgary, says consumers would be amazed to learn just how much of their food contains corn.

In a recent trip to the grocery story with CBC News, Sahasrabudhe underlined the point.

"For example, in the sushi in the California rolls, we've got hydrolyzed corn protein. Here we are looking at coiled garlic sausage and I believe we will find some modified cornstarch. It's used as a thickener to bind all the ingredients together," said Sahasrabudhe.

"Corn has so many uses throughout the food chain as feed for animals, as an ingredient on its own. I don't know that a relatively inexpensive substitute for all those functions could be found."

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

World Biodiversity Day: Climate Change Also Drives Evolution

by Julio Godoy for Inter Press Service

BERLIN - New scientific evidence confirms that human action, such as carbon emissions causing global warming, and industrial-scale search for food, is decimating biodiversity - and, in some cases, is driving threatened species to evolve and adapt at unexpected speed to new living conditions.

An example of this evolution accelerated by human action is the new sexual behaviour of codfish, says the Austrian biologist Ulf Dieckmann, an evolution and ecology researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), near Vienna. 0522 05

According to Dieckmann, codfish has within a couple of decades adapted to new age structure within its own species, provoked by fishery.

Until some decades ago, codfish reached sexual maturity at the age of 10, and only when it measured at least one metre. Now, codfish reaches sexual maturity at the age of six, and when it measures only 65 centimetres, Dieckmann told IPS.

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Smithsonian accused of altering global warming exhibit

By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Smithsonian Institution toned down an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic for fear of angering Congress and the Bush administration, says a former administrator at the museum.

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year's exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans, said Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Also, officials omitted scientists' interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered "to show that global warming could go either way," Sullivan said.

"It just became tooth-pulling to get solid science out without toning it down," said Sullivan, who resigned last fall after 16 years at the museum. He said he left after higher-ups tried to reassign him.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

America’s Parting Gift to Britain’s PM is Climate Action Refusal

NO! to CO2 Emissions Targets. NO! to a Successor to Kyoto. NO! to a Carbon Trading Market. As Blair Leaves Washington, US Hardens Stance on Climate Change

by Daniel Howden the Independent/UK

WASHINGTON - As Tony Blair left Washington yesterday for his last visit as Prime Minister, the Bush administration was acting to scupper international efforts to combat climate change.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Mr Blair had basked in the apparent support of President George Bush for his stated aim of avoiding catastrophic global warming. But it seems his appeals have fallen on deaf ears. While Mr Bush was eulogizing his friend in the White House rose garden, the President’s delegation at a United Nations meeting in Bonn was working to stop any progress on setting up a carbon trading scheme and emissions caps.

Harlan Watson, President Bush’s chief climate negotiator, rejected any caps on US emissions or participation in carbon trading. “That’s not our agenda,” he said.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

New global warming threat from Southern Ocean

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Climate change has weakened the Southern Ocean's ability to absorb the globe's excess carbon dioxide, a factor that could accelerate global warming, international scientists have found.

A study published in the journal Science revealed that since 1981, the Southern Ocean has been taking up less carbon dioxide -- five to 30 percent less per decade -- than researchers had predicted previously.

At the same time carbon dioxide emissions rose by 40 percent, the study found. The reason for the slowdown is more winds over the Southern Ocean since 1958, caused by human-produced greenhouse gases and ozone depletion.

The winds have led to a release of stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This prevented further absorption of greenhouse gases in the ocean's carbon "sink" -- a natural carbon reservoir, according to the study.

"This is serious," said Corinne Le Quere, a scientist who led the research by the University of East Anglia, the British Antarctic Survey, and the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Jena, Germany.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Climate chnage accelerating Evolution in some species

Scientists have mostly discussed and understood evolution as a process whose effect can only be ascertained over the course of thousands, if not millions of years. In essence, evolution is defined as a change in a population's genetic composition over many generations, due to the effect of natural selection acting on individual genetic variation, that results in the development of new species. And although this notion still holds true for the most part, researchers have increasingly begun to notice the growing role that climate change has played in accelerating the rate of evolution in certain species.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hybrid Cars' Fantasy Mileage Ratings Drive Into the Sunset

By John Gartner for Wired

Hybrid car economics will face a new road test this month with the arrival of fresh models sporting revised mileage ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This year, new test standards have forced manufacturers to lower advertised efficiency claims on most models compared to previous years, and car lots are bracing for a tougher environment for hybrid sales.

It will "make for an interesting summer," said Phil Reed, the fuel economy guide editor at auto website The estimations are based on data from that assumes 15,000 miles driven per year and gasoline at an average price of $2.70.

Hybrids can cost from $1,500 to $4,500 more than their gas-only equivalents. The new mileage estimates mean it will take longer to recoup that extra cost in money saved on gas. Experts say the shift could dampen demand, although some hybrids will look better on paper than others.

According to a formula devised by Edmunds, it would take nearly 10 years to recoup the extra costs after buying a 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, up from 6.6 according to the old mileage ratings. For the 2007 Honda Accord and Honda Civic hybrids it takes 14.5 and 6.5 years, respectively.

The 2007 Toyota Prius remains a good bargain when compared to a similarly equipped 2007 Toyota Camry -- it takes just 1.2 years to break even.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Climate Change May Be Cause of Seabird Deaths

For the third year in a row, large numbers of seabirds have washed up dead on beaches in California and Oregon, apparent casualties of shifts in the California Current’s primary productivity.

Bill Sydeman, director of marine ecology at PRBO Conservation Science in Petaluma, believes that changes in productivity, which have translated into less food for seabirds, may in part be the result of climate change, a sort of regional footprint of the global warming trend.

“I think the bird deaths relate to long-term climate-related issues,” Sydeman said. “We are seeing that it doesn’t take much warming, at the wrong time of year, to push the California Current system into a less productive state. This may be the consequence of global warming. The system is primed to be warm and somewhat unproductive.”

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Warming Triggers ‘Alarming’ Retreat of Himalayan Glaciers

by Tim Johnson for McClatchy Newspapers

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.

Himalayan glaciers release water steadily throughout the year, most critically during the hot, dry, sunny periods when water is most needed. Once they vanish, major lifeline rivers such as the Ganges and Indus could become more seasonal, and large tributaries may dry up completely during non-monsoon periods

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster, a Study Finds

By Andrew Revkin for the New York Times

Climate scientists may have significantly underestimated the power of global warming from human-generated heat-trapping gases to shrink the cap of sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean, according to a new study of polar trends.

The study, published online today in Geophysical Research Letters, concluded that an open-water Arctic in summers could be more likely in this century than had been estimated in the latest international review of climate research released in February by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“There are huge changes going on,” said Julienne Stroeve, a lead author of the new study and a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “Just with warm waters entering the Arctic, combined with warming air temperatures, this is wreaking havoc on the sea ice, really.”

The intergovernmental panel concluded that if emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide were not significantly reduced, the region could be end up bereft of floating ice in summers sometime between 2050 and the early decades of the next century.

For the new study, Dr. Stroeve and others at the ice center reviewed nearly six decades of measurements by ships, airplanes and satellites estimating the maximum and minimum area of Arctic sea ice, which typically expands most in March and shrinks most in September.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Climate Report to Warn Time Running Out in Greenhouse Gas

By Marlowe Hood for Agence France Presse

Time is running out to cut the greenhouse-gas emissions that drive climate change, but much can be done at a modest cost to attack the looming crisis, according to experts gathering for new talks.0429 03Fierce debate is expected however at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting which starts in Bangkok on Monday to hammer out a new all important summary for governments.

A draft of the report to be agreed by experts on the United Nation’s main authority on climate change says there is scant time to waste.

“Mitigation efforts over the next two to three decades will determine to a large extent the long-term global mean temperature increase and the corresponding climate change impacts that can be avoided,” says the draft which has been seen by AFP.

Using a smart mix of policies and technologies, the cost of stabilizing carbon pollution at nearly 75 percent above today’s levels would be just 0.2 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

That price would rise to 0.6 percent of global GDP if the world stabilized carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at a level roughly 50 percent higher than today, they calculate.

The sticking points expected at the debate include emissions caps, taxes on CO2 emissions and references to the Kyoto Protocol — an approach that is anathema to President George W. Bush.

There could also be squabbles over nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels and over carbon storage, a nascent technology for storing greenhouse gases deep underground.

The report to be released on Friday is the last in a massive three-volume update of knowledge on climate change, based on the work of some 2,500 scientists

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Global Warming Called Security Threat

By Andrew C. Revkin / Timothy Williams for the New York Times

WASHINGTON - For the second time in a month, private consultants to the government are warning that human-driven warming of the climate poses risks to the national security of the United States.A report, scheduled to be published on Monday but distributed to some reporters yesterday, said issues usually associated with the environment - like rising ocean levels, droughts and violent weather caused by global warming - were also national security concerns.

“Unlike the problems that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable,” Richard J. Truly, a retired United States Navy vice admiral and former NASA administrator, said in the report.

The effects of global warming, the study said, could lead to large-scale migrations, increased border tensions, the spread of disease and conflicts over food and water. All could lead to direct involvement by the United States military.

The report recommends that climate change be integrated into the nation’s security strategies and says the United States “should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.”

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Over 1,000 Climate Rallies Planned This Weekend

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How Trees Might Not Be Green in Carbon Offsetting Debate

by Alok Jha for the Guardian

It may have become the penance of choice for the environmentally conscious individual, but planting trees to offset carbon emissions could contribute to global warming if they are planted outside the tropics, scientists believe.They argue that most forests do not have any overall effect on global temperature but, by the end of the century, forests in the mid and high latitudes could make their parts of the world more than 3C warmer than would have occurred if the trees did not exist. 0410 07

Govindasamy Bala, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in the US, has shown that only tropical rainforests are beneficial in helping slow global warming. The problem is that while the carbon dioxide forests use for photosynthesis indirectly helps cool the Earth by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, forests also trap heat from the sunlight they absorb.

Dr Bala and his colleague, Ken Caldeira of the department of global ecology at the Carneige Institute in Standford, used a computer model to show that, outside a thin band around the equator, forests end up trapping more heat than they help to get rid of through a cut in carbon dioxide. Planting trees above 50 degrees latitude - the equivalent of Scandinavia or Siberia in the northern hemisphere - can also cover up tundra normally blanketed in heat-reflecting snow.

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Would $4 Gas Change Your Summer Travel Plans?

Seems like we've found the threshold price for petrol that would affect consumption, but then the dominoes start to fall. Tourism as a form of consumerism is front-line vulnerable. The shift from long-distance to local tourism was predicted in the early seventies, but nobody then had any idea how long it would take before it happened.

From the linked site:

It’s no secret that gas prices are unusually high for this time of year and that they’re going to continue to rise throughout the summer’s peak driving season. How high will they go? While nobody knows for sure, several analysts are predicting that before this summer is over, the national average gas price will top $4 per gallon for the first time in history.

So, what would happen to the summer travel season if these predictions prove to be true and the average gasoline price actually does climb above $4 per gallon? According to a recent poll, it looks like the summer travel season could come to a grinding halt.

When asked “If gas hits $4 per gallon this summer, will it cause you to travel less?” 74% of respondents stated that they would in fact travel less. A total of 17% of respondents stated that they would not travel less, 7% said they were not planning on traveling anyway and 2% said they were unsure how $4 gas would impact their summer travel plans.

Obviously, this isn’t very good news for beach towns and other summer vacation spots, many of whom rely on summer tourists to provide much of the year’s revenue. If gas prices were to force people to “vacation” closer to home, many beach shops and restaurants could be in danger of going out of business.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Stop Shopping … or the Planet Will Go Pop

by David Smith for the Observer

‘Many big ideas have struggled over the centuries to dominate the planet,’ begins the argument by Jonathon Porritt, government adviser and all-round environmental guru.’Fascism. Communism. Democracy. Religion. But only one has achieved total supremacy. Its compulsive attractions rob its followers of reason and good sense. It has created unsustainable inequalities and threatened to tear apart the very fabric of our society. More powerful than any cause or even religion, it has reached into every corner of the globe. It is consumerism.’

According to Porritt, the most senior adviser to the government on sustainability, we have become a generation of shopaholics. We are bombarded by advertising from every medium which persuades us that the more we consume, the better our lives will be. Shopping is equated with fun, fulfilment and self-identity. It is also, Porritt warns, killing the planet. He argues, in an interview with The Observer, that merely switching to ‘ethical’ shopping is not enough. We must shop less.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Mountaineers testify to warming's effect

by JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer Sat Apr 7, 6:36 PM ET

BEND, Ore. - Mountaineers are bringing back firsthand accounts of vanishing glaciers, melting ice routes, crumbling rock formations and flood-prone lakes where glaciers once rose.

The observations are transforming a growing number of alpine and ice climbers, some of whom have scientific training, into eyewitnesses of global warming. Increasingly, they are deciding not to leave it to scientists to tell the entire story.

"I personally have done a bunch of ice climbs around the world that no longer exist," said Yvon Chouinard, a renowned climber and surfer and founder of Patagonia, Inc., an outdoor clothing and gear company that champions the environment. "I mean, I was aghast at the change."

Chouinard pointed to recent trips where the ice had all but disappeared on the famous Diamond Couloir of 16,897-foot Mount Kenya, and snow was absent at low elevations on 4,409-foot Ben Nevis, Britain's highest peak, in the Highlands of northwest Scotland. He sees a role for climbers in debating climate change, even if their chronicles are unscientific.

"Most people don't care whether the ice goes or not, the kind of ice that we climb on and stuff," he said. But climbers' stories, he added, can "make it personal, instead of just scientists talking about it. Telling personal stories might hit home to some people."

Alpine climbers are worrying about the loss of classic routes and potential new lines up mountains that are melting, from the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest and the Alps in Europe to the Andes in South America and the Himalaya in Asia.

Their anecdotes often reflect what science is finding, but with stories and pictures from places where most scientists aren't able to reach.

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Dire Warming Report too Soft, Scientists Say

By Alan Zarembo / Thomas H. Maugh II for the Los Angeles Times

A new global warming report issued Friday by the United Nations paints a near-apocalyptic vision of Earth’s future: hundreds of millions of people short of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a landscape ravaged by floods and millions of species sentenced to extinction.Despite its harsh vision, the report was quickly criticized by some scientists who said its findings were watered down at the last minute by governments seeking to deflect calls for action.

“The science got hijacked by the political bureaucrats at the late stage of the game,” said John Walsh, a climate expert at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who helped write a chapter on the polar regions.

Even in its softened form, the report outlined devastating effects that will strike all regions of the world and all levels of society. Those without resources to adapt to the changes will suffer the most, according to the study from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, which released the report in Brussels.

The report is the second of four scheduled to be issued this year by the U.N., which marshaled more than 2,500 scientists to give their best predictions of the consequences of a few degrees increase in temperature. The first report, released in February, said global warming was irreversible but could be moderated by large-scale societal changes.

That report said with 90% confidence that the warming was caused by humans, and its conclusions were widely accepted because of the years of accumulated scientific data supporting them.

In contrast, the latest report was more controversial because it tackled the more uncertain issues of the precise effects of warming and the ability of humans to adapt to them.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Palm Oil: The Biofuel of the Future Driving an Ecological Disaster Now

by Ian MacKinnon from the Guardian

KALIMANTAN, Indonesia - The numbers are damning. Within 15 years 98% of the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone, little more than a footnote in history. With them will disappear some of the world’s most important wildlife species, victims of the rapacious destruction of their habitat in what conservationists see as a lost cause. 0404 07Yet this gloomy script was supposed to have included a small but significant glimmer of hope. Oil palm for biofuel was to have been one of the best solutions in saving the planet from greenhouse gases and global warming. Instead the forests are being torn down in the headlong rush to boost palm oil production.

More startling is that conservationists believe the move to clear land for this “green fuel” is often little more than a conspiracy, providing cover to strip out the last stands of timber not already lost to illegal loggers. In one corner of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, a mere 250,000 hectares or 1,000 sq miles - almost twice the size of Greater London - of the 6m hectares of forest allocated for palm oil by the government have actually been planted.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Global warming driving Australian fish south

By Michael Byrnes for Reuters

Global warming is starting to have a significant impact on Australian marine life, driving fish and seabirds south and threatening coral reefs, Australia's premier science organization said on Wednesday.

But much more severe impacts could occur in coming decades, affecting sea life, fishing communities and tourism.

In particular, warmer oceans, changes in currents, disruption of reproductive cycles and mass migration of species would affect Australia's marine life, particularly in the southeast.

Already, nesting sea turtles, yellow-fin tuna, dugongs and stinging jellyfish are examples of marine life moving south as seas warm, said the report by the government-backed Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

"It's not a disaster for the ones that can move south. It is for the ones that can't move south," lead author of the report, Dr Alistair Hobday, told Reuters.

"If you're at the tip of Tasmania, you've got nowhere else to go," he said, referring to Australia's southern island state, the last major part of Australia before the Antarctic.

Atlantic salmon, which are farmed in Tasmania, face a bleak future. Salmon farming businesses would become largely unviable as the ocean warmed the predicted one to two degrees over the next 30 years, Hobday said.

Fisheries and aquaculture are worth more than A$2.5 billion a year the report, "Impacts of Climate Change on Australian Marine Life," says. It is the first major study in the Australian region to combine the research of climate modelers, ecologists and fisheries and aquaculture scientists.

Coral in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's northeast may be hit by more frequent bleaching events, every two or three years compared with five or six years at present.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Climate Science and The Politics of Economic Growth

by John Buell in the Bangor Daily News


The politics of global warming is a telling and consequential instance of economic power corrupting political judgment.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which adds further support for the relationship of greenhouse gases to global climate change, has provoked an odd reaction among many business leaders. Even some who have long denied any connection between hydrocarbons and global warming now concede the link, but they take a new tack. They claim that any serious attempt to slow the pace of global warming will do serious damage to the national economy. They can reach this conclusion because they equate their short-term bottom line with “the economy,” and surprisingly many in the media follow them in this judgment.

Oil industry defenders portray leading climate scientists as hell bent to place draconian curbs on the U.S. economy. Yet prominent climate scientists are, if anything, too restrained in their pronouncements. Even the most conservative introductory economics texts, like that by former chairman of Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers Gregory Mankiw, recognize that markets have imperfections. When the purchase and use of a commodity harms third parties, government has an appropriate role in taxing and thus discouraging consumption of that commodity. In the world of economic textbooks, a neutral and informed government calculates the extent of the damage and enacts an appropriate tax.

Yet in our contemporary corporate economy, oil, auto, and private utility interests have enormous market power, which they eagerly translate into political power. They already enjoy vast favors in the forms of subsidized leases, government supported highways and emergency services, and lower tax rates. A tax on gas that reflected not only carbon content but much of our military cost as well as air pollution, congestion, and highway accidents would substantially impact several key corporations. Nonetheless, is their welfare synonymous with “the economy?”

Tax and regulatory policy in the late eighties and nineties led to major gains in energy efficiency and if anything were very beneficial to overall economic development. James Hansen, one of the mad scientists most reviled by leading oil companies, has put this case in language that reads as though it came straight out of market economics 101: “The U.S. is still only half as efficient in its use of energy as Western Europe, i.e., the U.S. emits twice as much CO2 to produce a unit of GNP, partly because Europe encourages efficiency by fossil fuel taxes. Available technologies would allow great improvement of energy efficiency, even in Europe. Economists agree that the potential could be achieved most effectively by a tax on carbon emissions… The tax could be revenue-neutral … leaving government revenue unchanged; and it should be introduced gradually. The consumer who makes a special effort to save energy could gain, benefiting from the tax credit or decrease while buying less fuel; the well-to-do consumer who insisted on having three Hummers would pay for his own excesses.”

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Supreme Court Rules Against Bush in Global Warming Case

by James Vicini for Reuters

WASHINGTON - In a defeat for the Bush administration, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. government agency has the power under the clean air law to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming. The nation’s highest court by a 5-4 vote said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “has offered no reasoned explanation” for its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change.

The ruling came in one of the most important environmental cases to reach the Supreme Court in decades. It marked the first high court decision in a case involving global warming.

Greenhouse gases occur naturally and are also emitted by cars, trucks and factories into the atmosphere. They can trap heat close to the earth’s surface like the glass walls of a greenhouse.

Such emissions have risen steeply over the past century and many scientists see a connection between this rise and an increase in global average temperatures and a related increase in extreme weather, wildfires, melting glaciers and other damage to the environment.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court majority, rejected the administration’s argument that it lacked the power to regulate such emissions. He said the EPA’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.”

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Scientists say Antarctic ice sheet is thinning

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A Texas-sized piece of the Antarctic ice sheet is thinning, possibly due to global warming, and could cause the world's oceans to rise significantly, polar ice experts said on Wednesday.

They said "surprisingly rapid changes" were occurring in Antarctica's Amundsen Sea Embayment, which faces the southern Pacific Ocean, but that more study was needed to know how fast it was melting and how much it could cause the sea level to rise.

The warning came in a joint statement issued at the end of a conference of U.S. and European polar ice experts at the University of Texas in Austin.

The scientists blamed the melting ice on changing winds around Antarctica that they said were causing warmer waters to flow beneath ice shelves.

The wind change, they said, appeared to be the result of several factors, including global warming, ozone depletion in the atmosphere and natural variability.

The thinning in the two-mile-(3.2-km)- thick ice shelf is being observed mostly from satellites, but it is not known how much ice has been lost because data is difficult to obtain on the remote ice shelves, they said.

Study is focusing on the Amundsen Sea Embayment because it has been melting quickly and holds enough water to raise world sea levels six meters, or close to 20 feet, the scientists said

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Climate Change: Coastal Mega-Cities in for a Bumpy Ride

by Srabani Roy

NEW YORK - About 643 million people, or one-tenth of the world’s population, who live in low lying coastal areas are at great risk of oceans-related impacts of climate change, according to a global research study to be released next month.The study, by researchers at Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Sciences Information Network and the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, is the first of its kind. The researchers identified populations, particularly urban populations, at greatest risk from rising sea levels and more intense storms due to climate change.

0328 07“Of the more than 180 countries with populations in the low-elevation coastal zone, 130 of them — about 70 percent — have their largest urban area extending into that zone,” said Bridget Andersen, a research associate at CIESIN, in a statement.

“Furthermore, the world’s largest cities — those with more than five million residents — have on average one-fifth of their population and one-sixth of their land area within this coastal zone.”

The study, which will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment and Urbanization, assesses the risks to populations and urban settlements along coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level, referred to as the low-elevation coastal zone, or LECZ. Although globally this zone accounts for only two percent of the world’s land area, it contains 10 percent of the world’s population and 13 percent of the world’s urban population, the study found.

The 10 countries with the largest number of people living in this vulnerable, low-elevation zone, include in descending order: China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the United States, Thailand and the Philippines.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Global Warming Study Warns of Vanishing Climates

by James Randerson from the Guardian

By the end of the century up to two fifths of the land surface of the Earth will have a hotter climate unlike anything that currently exists, according to a study that predicts the effects of global warming on local and regional climates. And in the worst case scenario, the climatic conditions on another 48% of the land surface will no longer exist on the planet at all.The changes - which will have a devastating affect on biodiversity hotspots such as the Amazonian and Indonesian rainforests - will wipe out numerous species that are unable to move to stay within their preferred climate range. These species will either have to evolve rapidly or die.

“There is a real problem for conservation biologists,” said the lead author, John Williams, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “How do you conserve the biological diversity of these entire systems if the physical environment is changing and potentially disappearing?”

Studies already suggest that the ranges of species are shifting towards the poles at around six kilometers a decade, but what will happen when the rate of change intensifies?

His team used emissions scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the international scientific group that advises policymakers - to predict where changes in temperature and precipitation will occur.

As is already happening, the analysis predicts that as the planet warms climate zones will move north and south towards the poles. To work out the significance of these changes, the team compared them with the climate variation that occurs naturally. They attach greater weight to changes in regions that are relatively stable. This suggests that some of the worst impacts will happen in tropical and subtropical regions as they shift to new climatic conditions not currently seen.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Antarctic melting may be speeding up

From Reuters by Michael Byrnes

HOBART (Reuters) - Rising sea levels and melting polar ice-sheets are at upper limits of projections, leaving some human population centers already unable to cope, top world scientists say as they analyze latest satellite data.

A United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February projected sea level gains of 18-59 centimeters (7-23 inches) this century from temperature rises of 1.8-4.0 Celsius (3.2-7.8 Fahrenheit).

"Observations are in the very upper edge of the projections," leading Australian marine scientist John Church told Reuters.

"I feel that we're getting uncomfortably close to threshold," said Church, of Australia's CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research said.

Past this level, parts of the Antarctic and Greenland would approach a virtually irreversible melting that would produce sea level rises of meters, he said.

There has been no repeat in the Antarctic of the 2002 break-up of part of the Larsen ice shelf that created a 500 billion ton iceberg as big as Luxembourg.

But the Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, and glaciers are in massive retreat.

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Global Warming Activists Try to Stir Americans to Change

From the San Francisco Chronicle by Robert Collier

WASHINGTON - Washington is suddenly debating global warming this week, but the big challenge remains outside the Beltway -- coaxing Americans to adopt new technologies and change their energy-guzzling lifestyles.

A crowd gathers on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 20, 2007, during a rally against global warming. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
While former Vice President Al Gore prodded Congress to act Wednesday, activists in the Bay Area and nationwide were preparing a pressure campaign that they hope will boost their movement's public support, which recent opinion polls show to be respectable yet hardly overwhelming.

Environmentalists say the attention brought by Gore and his Oscar-winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," is a godsend.

"Things are changing fast, and most people in Washington believe that there's more than enough public support now to enact federal legislation," said David Hawkins, director of the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Recent polls, however, suggest that public sentiment is soft.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


A little more insight into the consequences of attempting to reduce oil dependence. From the World Watch Institute/Earth Policy News

World May Be Facing Highest Grain Prices in History

Lester R. Brown

Investment in fuel ethanol distilleries has soared since the late-2005 oil price hikes, but data collection in this fast-changing sector has fallen behind. Because of inadequate data collection on the number of new plants under construction, the quantity of grain that will be needed for fuel ethanol distilleries has been vastly understated. Farmers, feeders, food processors, ethanol investors, and grain-importing countries are basing decisions on incomplete data.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that distilleries will require only 60 million tons of corn from the 2008 harvest. But here at the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), we estimate that distilleries will need 139 million tons—more than twice as much. If the EPI estimate is at all close to the mark, the emerging competition between cars and people for grain will likely drive world grain prices to levels never seen before. The key questions are: How high will grain prices rise? When will the crunch come? And what will be the worldwide effect of rising food prices?

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Material Shows Weakening of Climate Reports

From the New York Times
by Andrew C. Revkin / Matthew L. Wald

WASHINGTON — A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he had made in government reports over several years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

They were the first public statements on the issue by Mr. Cooney, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Before joining the White House, he was the “climate team leader” for the American Petroleum Institute, the main industry lobby.

He was hired by Exxon Mobil after resigning in 2005 following reports on the editing in The New York Times. The White House said his resignation was not related to the disclosures.

Mr. Cooney said his past work opposing restrictions on heat-trapping gases for the oil industry had had no bearing on his actions once he joined the White House. “When I came to the White House,” he testified, “my sole loyalties were to the president and his administration.”

Mr. Cooney, who has no scientific background, said he had based his editing and recommendations on what he had seen in good faith as the “most authoritative and current views of the state of scientific knowledge.”

Mr. Cooney was defended by James L. Connaughton, chairman of the environmental council and his former boss.

The hearing was part of an investigation, begun under the committee’s Republican chairman last year, into accusations of political interference in climate science by the Bush administration.It became a heated and largely partisan tug of war over the appropriate role of scientists and political appointees in framing how the government conveys information on global warming.

There's more, hit the link

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ethanol's Growing List of Enemies

There are lots of reasons that bethanol isn't either a global warming solution, nor a good idea economically, at least in the US or produced from corn.
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As demand for the alternative fuel drives corn prices up, an unlikely assortment of groups are uniting with the hopes of cutting government support

by Moira Herbst

Paul Hitch has spent his entire life raising cattle and hogs on a stretch of the Oklahoma panhandle he says is "flat as a billiard table." His great-grandfather started the ranch in 1884, before Oklahoma was a state, and now Hitch, 63, is preparing to pass the family business on to his two sons.

But he worries that they'll face mounting pressures in the industry, particularly because of the soaring price for corn, which the business depends on to feed the livestock. In the past year, corn prices have doubled as demand from ethanol producers has surged.

"This ethanol binge is insane," says Hitch, who's president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA). "This talk about energy independence and wrapping yourself in the flag and singing God Bless America—all that's going to come at a severe cost to another part of the economy."

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Asian rivers top WWF risk list from pollution, climate change

by William French

GENEVA (AFP) - Five rivers in Asia serving over 870 million people are among the most threatened in the world, as dams, water extraction and climate change all take their toll, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Tuesday

The Yangtze, Salween-Nu, Indus, Ganges and Mekong-Lancang rivers make up half of the WWF's "top ten" most threatened river basins, which "either already suffer most grievously under the weight of these threats or are bracing for the heaviest impacts," the organisation said.

Also on the list are the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo and La Plata in Latin America, the Danube in central Europe, the Nile-Lake Victoria in Africa and the Murray-Darling in Australia.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Collapse of Arctic Sea Ice 'Has Reached Tipping-Point'

From the Independent/UK by Steve Connor

A catastrophic collapse of the Arctic sea ice could lead to radical climate changes in the northern hemisphere according to scientists who warn that the rapid melting is at a "tipping point" beyond which it may not recover.

The scientists attribute the loss of some 38,000 square miles of sea ice - an area the size of Alaska - to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as well as to natural variability in Arctic ice.

Ever since satellite measurements of the Arctic sea ice began in 1979, the surface area covered by summer sea ice has retreated from the long-term average. This has increased the rate of coastal erosion from Alaska to Siberia and caused problems for polar bears, which rely on sea ice for hunting seals.

However, in recent years the rate of melting has accelerated and the sea ice is showing signs of not recovering even during the cold, dark months of the Arctic winter. This has led to even less sea ice at the start of the summer melting season.

Mark Serreze, a senior glaciologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the world was heading towards a situation where the Arctic will soon be almost totally ice-free during summer, which could have a dramatic impact on weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.

"When the ice thins to a vulnerable state, the bottom will drop out and we may quickly move into a new, seasonally ice-free state of the Arctic," Dr Serreze said.

"I think there is some evidence that we may have reached that tipping point, and the impacts will not be confined to the Arctic region," he said.

Some studies have linked the loss of sea ice in the Arctic to changes in atmospheric weather patterns that influence such things as rainfall in southern and western Europe and the amount of snow in the Rocky Mountains of the American Midwest.

The Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions on Earth and scientists fear that temperatures could rise even faster once sea ice melts to expose dark ocean, which absorbs heat more easily without its reflective cap of ice.

"While the Arctic is losing a great deal of ice in the summer months, it now seems that it also is regenerating less ice in the winter. With this increasing vulnerability, a kick to the system just from natural climate fluctuations could send it into a tailspin," Dr Serreze said.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, changing wind patterns flushed much of the thick sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean and into the North Atlantic, where it drifted south and melted away.

A thinner layer of young ice formed in its place, which more readily melts during the warmer, summer months - leading to the appearance of a greater area of open water that absorbs sunlight and heat. The summer sea ice reached an all-time minimum in September 2005, with September 2006 the second lowest.

"This ice-flushing even could be a small-scale analogue of the sort of kick that could invoke rapid collapse, or it could have been the kick itself. At this point, I don't think we really know," Dr Serreze said.

Julienne Stroeve from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado said that the winter sea ice failed again this year to recover fully.

"The freeze-up this year was again delayed, and ice extents from October through to December set new record lows during the satellite era," she said.

Computer models suggest that summer sea ice could disappear altogether by 2080. Some forecasts even predict an ice-free summer by 2040.

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Winter warmest on record worldwide

From AP By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON - This winter was the warmest on record worldwide, the government said Thursday in the latest worrisome report focusing on changing climate. The report comes just over a month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said global warming is very likely caused by human actions and is so severe it will continue for centuries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the combined land and ocean temperatures for December through February were 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the period since record keeping began in 1880.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Renewing a Call to Act Against Climate Change

From the New York Times by Felicity Burger

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Some are born earnest, some achieve earnestness, and some have earnestness thrust upon them. Bill McKibben qualifies for inclusion in at least two of these wedges of humanity.

In 1989, at the age of 28, he achieved earnestness of a dour, frowning sort as one of the first laymen to warn of global warming in his book “The End of Nature.” In the ensuing 18 years, he said recently while cross-country skiing in the woods near his home, he felt caught in a bad dream, forever warning heedless people of a monster in their midst.

Now, when Mr. McKibben is 46, his role as the philosopher-impresario of the program of climate-change rallies called Step It Up, has thrust new earnestness upon him. This time with a smile.

Mr. McKibben’s title — scholar in residence at Middlebury College — seems far too passive to encompass his current frenetic pace. His online call for locally inspired, locally run demonstrations on April 14 has generated plans for a wave of small protests under the Step It Up banner — 870 and counting, in 49 states (not South Dakota) — to walk, jog, march, ski, swim, talk, sing, pray and party around the idea of cutting national emissions of heat-trapping gases 80 percent by 2050.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

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

From the San Francisco Chronicle

by Robert Collier

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.

"The magnitude of what's happening in China threatens to wipe out what's happening internationally," said David Fridley, leader of the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Today's global warming problem has been caused mainly by us in the West, with the cumulative (carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere, but China is contributing to the global warming problem of tomorrow."

New statistics released in Beijing on Wednesday by China's National Bureau of Statistics show that China's consumption of fossil fuels rose in 2006 by 9.3 percent, about the same rate as in previous years -- and about eight times higher than the U.S. increase of 1.2 percent.

While China's total greenhouse gas emissions were only 42 percent of the U.S. level in 2001, they had soared to an estimated 97 percent of the American level by 2006.

"The new data are not encouraging," said Yang Fuqiang, China director for the Energy Foundation, a San Francisco organization that works extensively with Lawrence Berkeley scientists and the Chinese government on energy-saving programs. "China will overtake the United States much faster than expected as the No. 1 emitter."

China's top environmental official admitted Wednesday that the results show the government's environment agenda of the past few years has been ineffective.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

U.S. Predicting Steady Increase for Emissions

Published on Saturday, March 3, 2007 by the New York Times
U.S. Predicting Steady Increase for Emissions
by Andrew C. Revkin

The Bush administration estimates that emissions by the United States of gases that contribute to global warming will grow nearly as fast through the next decade as they did the previous decade, according to a long-delayed report being completed for the United Nations.

The document, the United States Climate Action Report, emphasizes that the projections show progress toward a goal Mr. Bush laid out in a 2002 speech: that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases grow at a slower rate than the economy. Since that speech, he has repeated his commitment to lessening “greenhouse gas intensity” without imposing formal limits on the gases.

Kristen A. Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House on environmental matters, said on Friday, “The Climate Action Report will show that the president’s portfolio of actions addressing climate change and his unparalleled financial commitments are working.”

But when shown the report, an assortment of experts on climate trends and policy described the projected emissions as unacceptable given the rising evidence of risks from unabated global warming.

“As governor of Texas and as a candidate, the president supported mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions,” said David W. Conover, who directed the administration’s Climate Change Technology Program until February 2006 and is now counsel to the National Commission on Energy Policy, a nonpartisan research group that supports limits on gases. “When he announced his voluntary greenhouse-gas intensity reduction goal in 2002, he said it would be re-evaluated in light of scientific developments. The science now clearly calls for a mandatory program that establishes a price for greenhouse-gas emissions.”

According to the new report, the administration’s climate policy will result in emissions growing 11 percent in 2012 from 2002. In the previous decade, emissions grew at a rate of 11.6 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report also contains sections describing growing risks to water supplies, coasts and ecosystems around the United States from the anticipated temperature and precipitation changes driven by the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Drafts of the report were provided to The New York Times by a government employee at the request of a reporter. The employee did not say why this was done, but other officials involved with producing it said they have been frustrated with the slow pace of its preparation. It was due more than one year ago.

The report arrives at a moment when advocates of controls are winning new support in statehouses and Congress, not to mention Hollywood, where former Vice President Al Gore’s cautionary documentary on the subject, “An Inconvenient Truth,” just won an Academy Award. Five western governors have just announced plans to create a program to cap and then trade carbon-dioxide emissions. And on Capitol Hill, half a dozen bills have been introduced to curb emissions, with more expected.

Ms. Hellmer defended Mr. Bush’s climate policy, saying the president was committed to actions, like moderating gasoline use and researching alternative energy, that limited climate risks while also increasing the country’s energy and national security. She said Mr. Bush remained satisfied with voluntary measures to slow emissions.

Myron Ebell, who directs climate and energy policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group aligned with industries fighting curbs on greenhouse gases, said Mr. Bush was right to acknowledge the inevitability of growing emissions in a country with a growing population and economy. Mr. Ebell added that the United States was doing better at slowing emissions than many countries that had joined the Kyoto Protocol, the first binding international treaty limiting such gases.

“Since 1990, for every 1 percent increase in emissions the economy has grown about 3 percent,” Mr. Ebell said. “That’s good, and it’s better than the European Union’s performance.”

Several environmental campaigners said there was no real distinction between Mr. Bush’s target and “business as usual,” adding that such mild steps were unacceptable given recent findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other research groups tying recent warming more firmly than ever to smokestack and tailpipe gases.

“If you set the hurdle one inch above the ground you can’t fail to clear it,” said David D. Doniger, the director of climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has long criticized the administration and sought binding cuts in greenhouse gases.

The report is the fourth in a series produced periodically by countries that are parties to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty signed by the first President Bush. It is a self-generated summary of climate-related trends and actions, including inventories of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, research on impacts of climate change, and policies to limit climate risks and emissions.

The last such report, completed in 2002, put the administration in something of a bind because it listed many harmful or costly projected impacts from human-caused warming. Environmental groups used those findings to press President Bush to seek mandatory caps on greenhouse gases, while foes of such restrictions criticized the findings and criticized the administration for letting them stay in the document.

While that report was approved by senior White House and State Department officials, Mr. Bush quickly distanced himself from it, saying it was “put out by the bureaucracy.”

The new report has been bogged down for nearly two years. In April 2005, the State Department published a notice in the Federal Register saying it would be released for public comment that summer.

Several government officials and scientists involved with preparing or reviewing parts of the report said that the recent departures of several senior staff members running the administration’s climate research program delayed its completion and no replacements have been named. The delays in finishing the report come even as Mr. Bush has elevated global warming higher on his list of concerns. This year, for the first time since he took office in 2001, he touched on “global climate change” in the State of the Union Message, calling it a “serious challenge.”

The draft report contains fresh projections of significant effects of human-caused warming on the environment and resources of the United States and emphasized the need to increase the country’s capacity to adapt to impending changes.

Drought, particularly, will become a persistent threat, it said: “Warmer temperatures expected with increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are expected to exacerbate present drought risks in the United States by increasing the rate of evaporation.”

Water supplies in the Northwest and Southwest are also at risk. “Much of the water used by people in the western United States comes from snow melt,” the report said. “And a large fraction of the traditionally snow-covered areas of this region has experienced a decline in spring snow pack, especially since mid-century, despite increases in winter precipitation in many places.” Animal and plant species face risks as climate zones shift but urbanized regions prevent ecosystems from shifting as well, according to the draft report.

“Because changes in the climate system are likely to persist into the future regardless of emissions mitigation, adaptation is an essential response for future protection of climate-sensitive ecosystems,” it said.

© Copyright 2007 New York Times

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bush Plan does nothing

This from Reuters. Estimates of emissions during the next ten years in US show same rate as previous ten years. That's what you call grabbing the bull by the horns, as they say in Texas.

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