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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