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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