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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