Blog about UN Climate Change Conference in Bali 3-14 December 2007 and other related issues

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


David Staples , Canwest News Service

Published: Monday, November 24, 2008

EDMONTON - When it comes to guilty pleasures, there is a new one in Canada - walking out the door on a winter morning and instead of shivering in bitter cold, basking in unusually warm and pleasant weather.

The negative effects of global warming have been well-documented by activist politicians and scientists such as Al Gore and David Suzuki, but the positive effects have so far received less attention.

But a group of global-warming experts, made up mainly of university economists and anthropologists, is pushing the notion that global warming might not be an unmitigated disaster, especially for certain northerly regions, such as Canada, Russia and Scandinavia.

Leading the charge is Robert Mendelsohn, an economics professor at Yale University, who says the benefits of global warming for Canada - from a longer growing season to the opening up of shipping through the Northwest Passage - will outweigh the negative effects.

"You're lucky because you're a northern-latitude country, Mendelsohn says. "If you add it all up, it's a good thing for Canada."

Such benefits could well make Canadians feel ambivalent about taking measures to stop global warming, says economist Thomas Gale Moore, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in California.

"When it comes down to doing something about global warming, it quickly turns out to be kind of expensive and certain people . . . would look out and say, 'Wow, global warming, that's going to be nice. I don't want to spend any money stopping that.' "

Of course, not all countries will benefit from the warmer, wetter world of global warming, Mendelsohn says. Poor counties will especially struggle, as they lack the resources to adapt.

But, on the whole, moderate climate change of an additional two degrees will likely be beneficial for the world, says Benny Peiser, an anthropologist at John Moores University in Liverpool, England.

For countries like Canada and Russia, though, even more dramatic warming wouldn't be a problem, Peiser says. "They could cope with that kind of increase, though other regions might struggle."

Grave concerns about human health, and even human extinction, have been put forward in the global warming debate. British scientist James Lovelock, who predicts a rise of eight degrees in temperate areas and five degrees in the tropics this century, says the tropics will become scrub and desert, leading to unparalleled human suffering: "Before this century is over, billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."

But Peiser considers Lovelock to be alarmist and expects the rise in temperature to follow the current slow upward trend, which will prove beneficial to human health. "Unless there is a very significant and dramatic increase in the warming, the benefits will outweigh the problems."

Humankind's affinity for warmer weather is ancient and rational, says Peiser, an expert on how past civilizations have handled natural disasters. The world's temperature has fluctuated in the past and civilizations have struggled to adapt, but the big problem has always been global cooling. "In periods of warming you always had thriving societies, and the periods that were troubling for societies were the cold periods, obviously because that's when agriculture suffers."

The Little Ice Age in Europe, which is believed to have lasted from 1300 to the mid-1800s, was a terrible time for European societies, with recurrent crop failure and starvation, Peiser says. But over the last 150 years, there's been a warming of 0.7 or 0.8 degrees, a moderate increase.

"By in large we've had fantastic progress in economic development and social development. . . . It's been extremely beneficial."

The link between warm weather and good times is so ingrained that in the 1970s, when scientists started to raise alarms about a new global cooling and a new ice age, economists such as Moore shared in the alarm. It struck him as odd, then, when only a few years later grave concerns started to be expressed about global warming, as all kinds of benefits are associated with warmer climate.

Warmer temperatures will mean more tourists for Canada, reports Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland. The optimal annual average temperature for a tourist destination is now found in cities like Barcelona and Atlanta. Canada will see a 220-per-cent increase in tourists this century, followed by Russia at 174 per cent, Tol told USA Today.

Winter sports, such as skiing, won't be hit hard in Canada in the short term as in the U.S. - in fact, business will shift north to Canadian resorts with more snow, Mendelsohn said. "Eventually it will catch up to your own resorts, and then it will be bad."

In the long run, though, increased tourism in the summer will more than make up for any loss to winter ski resorts, Mendelsohn says.

When it's warm out, people tend to be healthier, Moore says, pointing out that diseases like the flu strike hardest in winter, not summer. A British study says that an increase of two degrees over the next 50 years will increase heat-related deaths by 2,000 in Britain, but would cut cold-related deaths by 20,000, Peiser says.

The effects of increased summer heat can be handled with more air conditioning. "As long as economies grow and living standards rise, then people will be less vulnerable to whatever the temperature is," Peiser says. "Canada won't really have a lot of problems. The main problems will be in developing or underdeveloped countries that even today have problems with high cold or high temperatures."

In his work, Mendelsohn and his colleagues look at economic impacts of global warming, but focus mostly on agriculture, because this is the realm most affected by global warming. "With agriculture we think that's going to be a big benefit for Canada," Mendelsohn says.

No new farm land is suddenly going to be developed - so no peach orchards in Yellowknife - but the current agricultural belt will get warmed up and become more productive. Some high-value crops, like corn and soybeans, that can mainly be grown in the U.S., will be grown more commonly in Canada, Mendelsohn says.

"The more the temperature rises, the bigger the benefits will be (for agriculture). As far as Canada is concerned, over the next century whether it's a two-degree rise or a five-degree rise, it's probably going to be beneficial."

Forests will become more productive, Mendelsohn says. The northern forests will expand into the tundra and the southern forests will grow better. The types of trees in different regions will change. Fire and disease might well take out old forests, but Mendelsohn says forestry companies can also be allowed to go in and take out at-risk trees. "Rather than let it be destroyed naturally, you harvest it into the marketplace and then just let the natural systems replace what should be there next."

As for the downside for agriculture, in tropical countries agriculture will decline just as the agricultural production in Canada increases. Tropical countries won't have enough water to maintain current production. Farmers there already grow crops that can barely survive hot and dry conditions. "If it gets any hotter, they basically are out of business," Mendelsohn says.

It's crucial to note that while overall precipitation is predicted to go up in Canada, that precipitation will come in winter, not in summer during the growing season, says geographer David Sauchyn, a professor at the University of Regina, who recently led a federal government study on the impacts of climate change on the prairies.

There will be opportunities for Canadian farmers, Sauchyn says, but only if they can take advantage of the increased summer heat and winter precipitation. Canada is a rich, skilled and technological country, but the federal and provincial governments will still have to follow the right policies, especially when it comes to water conservation. "The problem is that governments, provincial and federal, have shown thus far little political will to develop policy and programs to make those adaptations," Sauchyn says.

Mendelsohn's optimistic outlook for Canada is based on average annual rises in temperature and precipitation, but this overlooks how things might be in exceptionally dry and hot years, Sauchyn says.

Any gains that come from an increased growing season in some years could be wiped out by a lengthy drought, Sauchyn says.

"A shift in the distribution of water from season to season and from year to year and from basin to basin, is by far the most challenging scenario under climate change."

With global warming, the ocean level will also rise, but this shouldn't be a big issue in Canada, because most of the country's coastal areas are uninhabited, and it won't be significant if some of that land is claimed by the ocean, Mendelsohn says. Populated areas will fight back by building higher. "It turns out not to be a big issue. The land is extremely valuable and people will defend it."

Things will be more difficult, though, in impoverished and low-lying areas like Bangladesh. It will be more cost effective to try to help such areas to adapt than it will be to bring in costly measures to try to rapidly end global warming, Moore says.

If Canadians conclude that global warming is a benefit, the issue will present a moral challenge, says philosophy professor Nathan Kowalsky of the University of Alberta. "Even though it's in our personal interest to perpetuate climate change, it might be better on whole to actually say, 'No, we should actually try to mitigate this right now.' . . . It's wrong for us to create global warming so that we get benefits and it basically floods other countries."

Mendelsohn agrees: "If Canada is a well-meaning member of the world community, Canadians might want to stop (global warming) because it's bad for the world.

"It's important that we start trying to control greenhouse gases . . . Eventually it's going to get too warm. Damages will far exceed the benefits."

In the end, civilization won't be brought down by global warming, Mendelsohn believes. "There's an enormous amount of adaptations we can undertake. And at least the stuff that is going to happen this century, we will be able to adapt to it.

"I'm not saying that climate change is a non-issue. It is an issue and it is going to cause damages. It's just that it's not the calamity that people say. People exaggerate how bad it is."


How global warming will become more dangerous

Researchers at Toronto University here have found that global warming will change the molecular structure of organic matter in soil, thus altering its natural decomposition process and affecting fertility as well as releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The release of more carbon dioxide will set in motion a self-perpetuating process - more carbon dioxide will speed up global warming. In turn, speeded-up global warming will lead to more release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and so on.

"Soil contains more than twice the amount of carbon than does the atmosphere, yet, until now, scientists haven't examined this significant carbon pool closely," said a university statement quoting study leader Myrna Simpson.

"Through our research, we've sought to determine what soils are made up of at the molecular level and whether this composition will change in a warmer world," she said.

According to the researchers, it is soil organic matter which makes dirt fertile and support plant life.

Organic matter retains water in the soil and prevents erosion. Natural processes of decomposition of soil organic matter provide plants and microbes with the energy source and water they need to grow, they said.

Carbon is released into the atmosphere as a by-product of this process, the researchers added.

Since global warming is expected to speed up the decomposition of soil organic matter, it will lead to an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

"From the perspective of agriculture, we can't afford to lose carbon from the soil because it will change soil fertility and enhance erosion," said Simpson.

"Alternatively, consider all the carbon locked up in permafrost in the Arctic. We also need to understand what will happen to the stored carbon when microbes become more active under warmer temperatures," she said.

As soil is difficult to analyse, not much has been known about its molecular composition till now. But Simpson and her team used the new nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facility at the university to study soil's molecular structure.

During their 14-month outdoor field experiment, the team used electrodes that warmed the test soil between three and six degrees through winter and summer seasons and then analysed the molecular composition of soil samples.

From their analysis, they came to the conclusion that global warming actually changes the molecular structure of organic matter in soil.

The findings have been published in Nature Geoscience journal.

Source: The Times Of India

Thursday, July 31, 2008

UN Press Conference on new United Nations in-house Climate change initiative

Seeking to lead by example in addressing climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was launching a "Cool UN" initiative today to reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint of United Nations Headquarters, Michael Adlerstein, Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

Accompanied by Janos Pasztor, Director of the Secretary-General's Climate Change Support Team, Mr. Adlerstein said the campaign would reduce the use of air conditioning, cut greenhouse gas emissions and save money. During a month-long trial period in August, the thermostats would be turned up from 72° F (22.2° C) to 77° F (25° C) in most parts of the Secretariat building and from 70° F (21.1° C) to 75° F (23.9° C) in the conference rooms, Mr. Adlerstein said. Accompanied by a relaxed "business casual" dress code, the campaign would also involve shutting down the buildings' heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems over the weekends.

Mr. Adlerstein, the official in charge of the Organization's massive renovations, said that, in launching the campaign, the Secretary-General had said: "We have succeeded in moving climate change to the top of the international agenda for action, and this means that the UN must take action itself. We must lead by example, and if we are to ask others to take action, we must do so as well."

The initiative would save some 4.4 billion pounds of steam during the month of August, or the equivalent of 300 tons of carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, he said. That equalled an approximate 10 per cent reduction in energy consumption. It would also produce cash savings estimated at $100,000. If successful, the test would be extended.

In the winter months, the process would be reversed, with a 5° F reduction in the thermostat settings, he said, estimating that winter energy savings would be somewhat larger than the summer reduction, lowering energy costs by about $1 million for the year. The environmental benefit of the campaign, on a year-round basis, would result in the reduction of emissions by some 2,800 tons of carbon dioxide. The initiative would also encourage staff to explore other innovative ideas for making the United Nations a model in the global fight against climate change.

Mr. Pasztor said that, as negotiations moved forward in preparation for Copenhagen at the end of next year, climate change issues were increasingly visible on the international political agenda. "Clearly, we must act, and the Secretary-General is doing everything he can to mobilize action and, indeed, unprecedented action to move forward on climate change." People must reflect on how they live and work, and the Secretary-General was seeking to raise awareness and find solutions. He was also engaged in bringing together a coherent response to climate change by the United Nations system. The "Cool UN" initiative was part of his "leadership by example" approach.

Responding to several questions about the technical issues involved, Mr. Adlerstein said the present cooling system at Headquarters was "antique", but he felt comfortable that it was possible to raise the temperature by 5°F throughout the compound. "We'll do our best and we'll adjust as the next couple of weeks progress." As for varying temperatures in different parts of the complex, there were many issues involved in old buildings like the United Nations Headquarters. "So we are doing what we can for the next year as we move into the Capital Master Plan." The changes would not solve the building's "illnesses", but they would reduce its carbon footprint.

Asked about greening measures within the Capital Master Plan framework, he said he was not yet ready to announce all of them, but steps would be taken to incorporate significant energy savings into the Plan. In fact, it would be possible to exceed the 40 per cent reduction in energy and 30 per cent reduction in water consumption that had been discussed last winter. Among other things, there was a plan to introduce wind generation in the compound for demonstration purposes. Water retention measures for landscaping and other non-potable uses had also been considered. The Capital Master Plan Office would be reporting to the General Assembly on the whole variety of measures later in the year.

In response to another question, he said that, while the current heating and cooling system ran on steam, changes under the Capital Master Plan envisioned a hybrid use of steam and electric power, which would allow the United Nations to lower its energy consumption.


UN goes green, orders drastic cut of air-conditioning use

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The United Nations on Wednesday announced a drastic cut of air-conditioning usage at its New York headquarters for the month of August that will raise the temperature from a crisp 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) to a balmy 77.

Under a directive from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the air-conditioning in the 39-floor Secretariat building will be turned off on weekends.

Assuming the temperature change goes smoothly, the "Cool UN" initiative to cut down on energy costs and implement climate change solutions could be extended for a full year, saving the world body one million dollars and reducing the building's carbon dioxide emissions by 2,800 tonnes.

During the winter, the process would be reversed and the thermostat would be lowered by five degrees Fahrenheit.

"We have succeeded in moving climate change to the top of the international agenda for action, and this means that the UN must take action itself," Ban said in a statement. "We must lead by example and if we are to ask others to take action, we must do so as well."

As part of the initiative, Ban is encouraging staff, delegates and diplomats to relax clothing protocols and wear lighter attire or don their national dress rather than wear business suits as of August 1.

Asked whether the secretary general would be setting an example in this regard as well, Janos Pasztor, head of the the Secretary General Climate Support Team, told reporters: "He will be wearing lighter clothes as well, he has confirmed that."

Source: AFP

Sunday, June 29, 2008

China calls for rich countries help on climate change

Addressing climate change head-on is in China's best interests, but it needs developed countries to do their fair share, President Hu Jintao said in a speech reported by the Xinhua news agency.
Mr Hu called on developed countries to step up efforts on emission reduction, and provide financial and technical support for developing countries.
China will participate in next month's G8 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, where climate change is top on the agenda. Countries are trying to set new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that will take effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Although China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, on a per person basis it produces far less than many developed countries.
Chinese negotiators also point out that the country is only just catching up after two centuries of industrialisation in the West.
But Chinese policy makers are increasingly worried about the impact on China of global warming, which could dry up rivers that water the arid north and intensify flooding in the south.
China also suffers from intensely polluted water and air.
"How we cope with climate change is related to the country's economic development and people's practical benefits," Mr Hu told a study session on climate change.
"It's in line with the country's basic interests.
"Our task is tough, and our time is limited.
"Party organisations and governments at all levels must give priority to emission reduction ... and drive the idea deep into people's hearts."
Mr Hu urged organisations and companies to optimise energy use, recycle resources, increase forest coverage, explore water resources scientifically and strengthen international cooperation.
He called for enhancing China's ability to monitor, forecast and withstand extreme natural disasters brought by abnormal weather.
Flooding this summer has already killed over 200 people across China, after an earthquake in Sichuan province in May left more than 80,000 dead or missing and millions homeless.
Unusual rainfall could make this summer's flooding the worst in decades, the Sichuan meteorological bureau said.
Tropical storm Fengshan killed at least 15 people in Guangzhou and Jiangxi province after it came ashore on Wednesday and was downgraded from typhoon level.
It killed hundreds in the Philippines last week.
Floodwaters released from a swollen reservoir in southern Guangdong province caused a 300-metre bridge in the Baiyun district of Guangzhou to collapse, Chinese media said on Saturday.
And a month of unusual rainfall in Beijing claimed three lives and injured eight people who were overcome by gases when they tried to unblock a flooded sewer in Miyun County.

Source: - Reuters

China calls for rich countries help on climate change

Addressing climate change head-on is in China's best interests, but it needs developed countries to do their fair share, President Hu Jintao said in a speech reported by the Xinhua news agency.Mr Hu called on developed countries to step up efforts on emission reduction, and provide financial and technical support for developing countries.China will participate in next month's G8 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, where climate change is top on the agenda. Countries are trying to set new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that will take effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.Although China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, on a per person basis it produces far less than many developed countries. Chinese negotiators also point out that the country is only just catching up after two centuries of industrialisation in the West.But Chinese policy makers are increasingly worried about the impact on China of global warming, which could dry up rivers that water the arid north and intensify flooding in the south. China also suffers from intensely polluted water and air."How we cope with climate change is related to the country's economic development and people's practical benefits," Mr Hu told a study session on climate change."It's in line with the country's basic interests."Our task is tough, and our time is limited. "Party organisations and governments at all levels must give priority to emission reduction ... and drive the idea deep into people's hearts."Mr Hu urged organisations and companies to optimise energy use, recycle resources, increase forest coverage, explore water resources scientifically and strengthen international cooperation.He called for enhancing China's ability to monitor, forecast and withstand extreme natural disasters brought by abnormal weather.Flooding this summer has already killed over 200 people across China, after an earthquake in Sichuan province in May left more than 80,000 dead or missing and millions homeless. Unusual rainfall could make this summer's flooding the worst in decades, the Sichuan meteorological bureau said.Tropical storm Fengshan killed at least 15 people in Guangzhou and Jiangxi province after it came ashore on Wednesday and was downgraded from typhoon level. It killed hundreds in the Philippines last week.Floodwaters released from a swollen reservoir in southern Guangdong province caused a 300-metre bridge in the Baiyun district of Guangzhou to collapse, Chinese media said on Saturday.And a month of unusual rainfall in Beijing claimed three lives and injured eight people who were overcome by gases when they tried to unblock a flooded sewer in Miyun County.

Copyright 2008, Reuters

Global Warming Regional Campaign Coordinator

Greenpeace is hiring a Global Warming Regional Campaign Coordinator responsible for the creation and implementation of regional campaign work on the Greenpeace global warming campaign and campaign skills training for Greenpeace’s growing street and door canvass (Frontline) program.

The Greenpeace global warming campaign – Project Hot Seat – is a cutting-edge grassroots campaign to push candidates for Congress to become champions on global warming. Leading up to the 2008 election, the Global Warming Regional Campaign Coordinator will lead the charge in convincing Congress to take immediate, significant action on global warming, and to make Congress accountable to the American public, not to big oil and coal companies.


Campaign Coordination and Development

• Coordinate and train a Campaign Coordinator in each Frontline canvass office through weekly one-on-one calls, conference calls, and other means
• Assist in the production of the weekly campaign update for the Frontline offices
• Hire and train one Campaign Coordinator who spends 10 hours per week coordinating campaign work in each office
• Provide phone and other trainings for Campaign Coordinators

Train Frontline Staff and Campaign Coordinators
• Manage and plan weekend regional trainings for all Frontline staff and the Campaign Coordinators to ensure that staff have the skills required to perform campaign work in a high quality manner

Collaborative Design of Campaign Pushes
• Work with manager to create several one- to two-month campaign pushes for the Greenpeace global warming campaign. Collaborate with the Grassroots, Campaigns and Communications teams to plan tactics that include events, petitioning, generating phone calls, and mobilizing Greenpeace members
• Ensure that Frontline canvass offices receive fact sheets, issue briefings, and other essential materials required for each campaign roll-out

The position does not involve canvassing or fundraising.


• Field Tactics Planning Skills – the ability to quickly grasp campaign strategy, assess resources, and develop a detailed tactical plan for a field canvass program
• Ability to Train, Coach and Mentor – the ability to create and implement leadership development plans for Campaign Coordinators, particularly via the phone
• Excellent Written Communication Skills – the ability to write compelling campaign materials for use by Frontline canvass offices and staff
• Ability to Motivate a Large Team of Peers – the ability to work with peers in other departments on projects and motivate staff in each Frontline canvass office that you do not line manage
• Excellent Interpersonal Skills – an ability to work in project teams to make fast decisions and manage multiple stakeholders in a planning process
• Planning – Excellent planning and time-lining skills
• Proficiency in Excel, Word, e-mail and database programs


• A minimum of 2 years of experience in grassroots organizing
• Background of working with door-to-door or street canvasses in grassroots advocacy campaigns is helpful but not required
• Proven experience training and coaching campaign volunteers
• Proven experience in planning and implementing a successful field campaign

The position is a six-month contract with a strong possibility of becoming a long-term position. The salary is equivalent to $39,000 a year.

The position is based in Washington, DC or San Francisco.

Applicants send cover letter and resume to: amy.faulring [at]

Please put “Global Warming Regional Campaign Coordinator” in the subject line of your application. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and interviews will be scheduled immediately for qualified candidates. The position is open until filled.

Source: Grist

Destruction Of Greenhouse Gases Over Tropical Atlantic May Ease Global Warming

ScienceDaily (June 26, 2008) — Large amounts of ozone -- around 50% more than predicted by the world's state-of-the-art climate models -- are being destroyed in the lower atmosphere over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. This startling discovery was made by a team of scientists from the UK's National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Universities of York and Leeds. It has particular significance because ozone in the lower atmosphere acts as a greenhouse gas and its destruction also leads to the removal of the third most abundant greenhouse gas; methane.
The findings come after analysing the first year of measurements from the new Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory, recently set up by British, German and Cape Verdean scientists on the island of São Vicente in the tropical Atlantic. Alerted by these Observatory data, the scientists flew a research aircraft up into the atmosphere to make ozone measurements at different heights and more widely across the tropical Atlantic. The results mirrored those made at the Observatory, indicating major ozone loss in this remote area.
So, what's causing this loss? Instruments developed at the University of Leeds, and stationed at the Observatory, detected the presence of the chemicals bromine and iodine oxide over the ocean for this region. These chemicals, produced by sea spray and emissions from phytoplankton (microscopic plants in the ocean), attack the ozone, breaking it down. As the ozone is destroyed, a chemical is produced that attacks and destroys the greenhouse gas methane. Up until now it has been impossible to monitor the atmosphere of this remote region over time because of its physical inaccessibility. Including this new chemistry in climate models will provide far more accurate estimates of ozone and methane in the atmosphere and improve future climate predictions.
Professor Alastair Lewis, Director of Atmospheric Composition at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and a lead scientist in this study, said: "At the moment this is a good news story -- more ozone and methane being destroyed than we previously thought - but the tropical Atlantic cannot be taken for granted as a permanent 'sink' for ozone. The composition of the atmosphere is in fine balance here- it will only take a small increase in nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel combustion, carried here from Europe, West Africa or North America on the trade winds, to tip the balance from a sink to a source of ozone"
Professor John Plane, University of Leeds said: "This study provides a sharp reminder that to understand how the atmosphere really works, measurement and experiment are irreplaceable. The production of iodine and bromine mid-ocean implies that destruction of ozone over the oceans could be global".
Dr Lucy Carpenter, University of York and UK co-ordinator of the Observatory added: "This observatory is a terrific facility that will enable us to keep an eye on the chemical balance of the atmosphere and feed this information into global climate models to greatly improve predictions for this region in the future".

Source: Science Daily

Global warming causing plant migration in Europe: study

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Global warming has caused numerous European plant species to migrate to higher elevations over the decades, according to new research published Thursday.
The research appears in the June 27 edition of the journal Science, and has potentially "important ecological and evolutionary consequences," the study's authors wrote.
A team of international scientists working in mountainous regions of Western Europe compared the natural elevation range of 171 forest plant species between 1905 and 1985, and again between 1986 and 2005.
"Along the entire elevation range, 0 to 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) above sea level ... we show that climate warming has resulted in a significant upward shift in species optimum elevation averaging 29 meters (95 feet) per decade," the researchers wrote.
The lead author of the study was Jonathan Lenoir of AgroParisTech in Nancy, France.
The report, compiled with data from the French National Climatic Network, was conducted in six mountainous regions throughout Europe.
They include the Northern Pyrenees, the Massif Central, the Western Jura, the Vosges, the Corsican range and the alpine regions, where average temperature increases have approached one degree Celsius since the start of the 1980s, researchers said.

Source: AFP

Friday, June 6, 2008

All three US candidates are strong on global warming: UN climate chief

PARIS (AFP) — UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said on Tuesday the profiles of all three US presidential candidates pointed to a major change in US policies on global warming after George W. Bush leaves the White House next January.

Yvo de Boer, who is executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said he found the stances of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain "very encouraging."

"All three presidential candidates have recognised the importance of climate change; want to act on climate change; want to develop a strong domestic policy approach; seem to favour a policy approach that goes in the direction of a cap-and-trade regime which would mesh very well with the direction in which other industrialised countries want to go; and seem to favour an international approach to climate change," de Boer said in Paris.

"So, in other words, whoever wins the presidential elections, I think that we will see a pro-active, international, market-based approach to climate change in the United States, founded on solid domestic policy."

The United States is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases which stoke man-made global warming, although by some estimates it has been overtaken by China.

Under the Bush presidency, the United States walked away from the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol, saying its caps on emissions by industrial countries were too costly for the US economy and unfair as big developing countries do not have such constraints.

Under a bill put before the US Senate this week, the United States would set up its own cap-and-trade system, meaning that companies would be set a ceiling of carbon emissions, and those who are below it can sell the surplus to those who are above it.

The idea behind cap-and-trade is to provide a financial incentive to reduce carbon pollution.

De Boer, speaking at a climate conference hosted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said it was a "very exciting week in Washington" but added "let's see" if the so-called Lieberman-Warner bill becomes law.

Bush has threatened to veto the bill "in its current form," saying it would impose six trillion dollars of new costs on the US economy.

Proponents, though, say the bill, in addition to reducing carbon emissions, would raise fuel efficiency and ease dependence on foreign energy imports.

Source: AFP

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Human Impacts, Climate Change Pushing Species to Extinction

BONN, Germany, May 20, 2008 (ENS) - German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel Monday urged governments to take stronger action to protect the diversity of life. Opening the largest UN biodiversity gathering yet, Gabriel warned that the world is not on the right path to protect the diversity of species and said the world would not reach its agreed target of the year 2010 for reversing biodiversity loss.
Nearly 7,000 participants from 191 countries opened the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Bonn on Monday. Before the meeting closes on May 30, participants are expected to take steps to conserve and sustainably manage the world's biodiversity in light of what UN officials are calling "the alarming rate of loss of species, compounded by the pressures from climate change."

Gabriel called for a clear roadmap, similar to the one on climate reached in Bali last December, toward a plan to establish an international set of rules for biodiversity that would govern the providing of access and equitable sharing of the benefits.
Rules would set the terms under which users of biodiversity resources, such as pharmaceutical companies, would have access to resources.
These terms would be balanced with provisions to guarantee that the providers of these resources, such as local communities or national governments, many of which are in developing countries, receive an equitable share of any of the benefits that are produced, said the minister.
The conference is timed to coincide with the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22.
As food prices spiral ever upwards, this year's theme for the day is "Biodiversity and Agriculture."
The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty, wants the Parties to highlight sustainable agriculture "not only to preserve biodiversity, but also to ensure that we will be able to feed the world, maintain agricultural livelihoods, and enhance human well being into the 21st century and beyond."

Representatives of the International Youth Conference called Biodiversity on the Edge, which took place last week in Bonn, are seeking the integration of sustainable development education into school curricula; a protocol on protected areas; no patents on living organisms; prohibition of genetically modified organisms; full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities; and measurable targets for biodiversity protection.
Urgent issues before participants include the food price crisis, the loss of forests, climate change, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
The gathering will submit its results next week to the Bonn Biodiversity Summit, which will be chaired by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The attendance of 120 heads of states and ministers is expected.
Another deadline looming over this Bonn conference to create a fair-share system was agreed by the government Parties to the treaty two years ago in Brazil.
They intend to devise a system that provides access to, and shares the benefits from the genetic resources of the world fairly between developing and developed countries.
The Bonn Biodiversity meeting is taking place at a defining moment in the history, said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

"Every species is a vital piece in the complex puzzle of the life web of our planet. Interlinkages are what keep the puzzle glued together—for the planet to function," Djoghlaf told the participants in his opening address to the conference on Monday.
"About two thirds of the food crops that feed the world rely on pollination by insects or other animals to produce healthy fruits and seeds. Included among these are potato crops," Djoghlaf said.
"Here in Germany, there has been a 25 percent drop in bee populations across the country," he said. "In the eastern United States, bee stocks have declined by 70 percent. If pollinators disappear, so too will many species of plants. If we take away one link, the chain is broken."
Djoghlaf quoted the great physicist Albert Einstein as saying, "'If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.'"
"The unfolding global food crisis sounds like a wake-up call to the serious consequences of human activities on the ability of our planet to continue sustaining life on Earth," Djoghlaf said. "The dramatic rise in crop prices is a symptom of the unprecedented loss of agricultural biodiversity and certainly a reflection of its far-reaching impacts on humankind."
"The challenge is daunting and I call upon all states to adopt exceptional efforts," he said.
Losing the benefits that biodiversity provides would cost the world $3.1 trillion a year or six percent of the global gross national product, according to a new study by development economist Pavan Sukhdev, cited by Djoghlaf during his speech.
In Bonn, countries also will consider how to address the problem of invasive alien species, the loss of rainforest biodiversity, the degradation of marine ecosystems, and methods to value biodiversity in economic terms.
The conference will consider how to expand the successful establishment, maintenance, expansion and financing of a global network of protected areas, both on land and in marine ecosystems.
Currently over 10 percent of the terrestrial area is covered by parks and conservation areas, but the level of protection in the oceans and seas of the world is lower, according to the secretariat.
With 191 governments as Parties, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, has near-universal participation among countries committed to preserving life on Earth.
From its Montreal headquarters, the CBD seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change.
It employs scientific assessments, develops tools, incentives and processes, transfer of technologies and good practices, and tries to engage "the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders," including indigenous and local communities, youth, nongovernmental organizations, women and the business community.

Source: ens-newswire

Scientists start to panic over climate change

Australian of the year, well-known scientist and climate change activist, Tim Flannery is sounding decidedly panicky as he suggests a technical plan to save us from climate change. The plan essentially amounts to terraforming the planet by pumping sulphur into the upper atmosphere in the hope that global dimming will counteract the effects of warming caused by greenhouse gasses. His chilling quote: “”The current burden of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is in fact more than sufficient to cause catastrophic climate change”. Let’s hope that he is wrong, or better, that in the face of impending disaster we don’t panic and multiply our problems.
The plan is no doubt intended to be a last ditch scenario to stave off massive collapse of the ecosystem and consequently civilisation as we appreciate it (at least I hope it is). I fully expect that there is some scientific thinking behind this - some, but not nearly enough. I also think that is it an unacceptable risk, but I understand why the professor and other scientists are starting to panic.
The are a number of “tipping point” scenarios that could lead to catastrophic and “irreversable” (taking millions of years to correct) failure of the global environment. This may have happened already in prehistory: the “Permian–Triassic extinction event“, is believed to have been a climate change tipping point where 70-90% of all species were wiped out (perhaps by as little as a 6 degree C change). These scenarios scare the pants off me, and hopefully you too. This is not just a matter of slapping on more sunscreen folks: the effect on our civilisations is hard to fathom, but would surely lead to the demise of millions, if not billions, of humans.
Yes, as people often mention, the climate has been hotter in the past, but they usually fail to mention (or realise) that the consequences have been dire. The current situation may be even worse - never before in history has climate changed anywhere near this rapidly, and CO2 increases do not seem to have been affected by our efforts so far. Stop second guessing it - trust in the overwhelming scientific consensus, and don’t be confused by the those seeking to muddy the facts. Work harder to pressure governments to improve their climate policy. Work harder to reduce your carbon footprint. But most of all, don’t panic!


1 in 8 Birds Threatened Due to Climate

Nearly every day we get another warning over the impact climate change is having on the world’s wildlife. As the predictions get ever gloomier, soon species will become extinct before the world has acted.
The latest assessment is on birds. Climate change is “significantly amplifying” the threats facing the world’s bird populations, a global assessment has concluded.
The 2008 Bird Red List warns that long-term droughts and extreme weather puts additional stress on key habitats. The assessment lists 1,226 species as threatened with extinction - one-in-eight of all bird species.
The list, reviewed every four years, is compiled by conservation charity BirdLife International. “It is very hard to precisely attribute particular changes in specific species to climate change,” said Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s global research and indicators co-ordinator. “But there is now a whole suite of species that are clearly becoming threatened by extreme weather events and droughts.”


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Global Warming Lobbyist

Are you an experience organizer looking to lobby Congress to stop global warming?


Greenpeace is seeking passionate, driven, articulate, lobbyists for our campaign to pass strong national legislation to stop global warming.

The Lobbyist will assist in Greenpeace USA’s campaign to stop global warming through:
- Developing and executing a strategic legislative plan.
- Expediently building expertise in global warming policy.
- Advancing a winning strategy to build support for binding science based global warming legislation.

Americans are seeing the impacts of global warming in their daily lives and making changes like buying more energy efficient appliances, changing light bulbs, and driving less. These small, everyday actions count, but we need leaders in Congress who are ready to tackle global warming by supporting the growth of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, committing to ending the development of dirty coal-fired power plants and dangerous nuclear energy, and limiting how much global warming pollution gets dumped into our air.

There are growing opportunities to address global warming in Congress. Greenpeace’s Global Warming Lobbyist will advance the strongest science based solutions and defend against steps that are insufficient, such as dirty and dangerous distractions like coal and nuclear power. The lobbyist will join Greenpeace’s global warming team in helping to develop and implement our legislative strategy.

- Assist development and implementation of Greenpeace’s lobbying strategy
- Develop and maintain relationships with Members of Congress and their staff
- Assist in quickly interpreting new legislative proposals and legislative actions into digestible and easily understood bullet points for field and media use.
- Track global warming legislation in the House and Senate and provide update to staff,
- Assist with writing and editing news releases, opinion editorials, letters to the editor, other media materials generated by the DC legislative team

- At least three years experience in a full-time direct lobbying position
- Excellent communication skills including public speaking, written and oral
- Experience in successful press work
- Critical and strategic thinking abilities
- Able to keep a level head in a fast-paced campaign environment
- Commitment to strong science based solutions to global warming without compromise
- BA/BS Degree preferred or equivalent experience.

The Global Warming Lobbyist is accountable to the SeniorGlobal Warming Lobbyist

Location: Washington DCTo

Apply: send resume and cover letter to Anna Wagner:

Preferred application deadline May 23rd.

Applications accepted until position is filled.

Greenpeace encourages all interested persons to apply, regardless of sex, race, religion, national origin disabilities or sexual orientation.

Source: Greenpeace

Global warming brings tropical birds to Hong Kong, watchers say

Hong Kong - The sighting of two rarely seen tropical birds in Hong Kong could be down to climate change, bird experts said Saturday. The birds - a great frigate and the white-tailed tropicbird - were both spotted around Po Toi, Hong Kong's southern most island, over the last month.
It was the first time the white-tailed tropic had ever been spotted in Hong Kong and only the fourth sighting of the frigate.
Both birds are usually seen in more tropical climates such as the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Hong Kong Bird Watching Society Chairman Cheung Ho-fai told the South China Morning Post that their appearance could be attributed to climate change and that the nearest nesting colony of frigate birds was in Hawaii.
"The birds are very sensitive to climate change and observing them is definitely a good way to understand the changes," he said.
But he stressed that the individual sightings were not proof that their ecological habits had been effected by climate change, and that it was possible the birds could have been blown astray by a typhoon.
Climate experts claim Hong Kong could no longer have winters by the middle of this century with average temperatures rising by at least one degree Celsius in the next 20 years.

Source: Earthtimes

Cyclone Nargis and climate change

While reading news about the disastrous cyclone in Myanmar last Saturday coupled with the government’s unprecedented rejection of international aid, another question skirts the edge of many people’s minds. Is this yet another demonstration of climate change at work?
It’s a reasonable question given the seriousness of the problem and the growing media attention global warming receives. In the past day or so, the Associated Press put a story on the wire titled “Is Global Warming to Blame for Burma Cyclone?” that has been picked up by dozens of papers including USA Today.
A sexy headline, sure, but there’s little to back it up. The story’s primary expert to venture a connection is Sunita Narain, director of the Indian environmental group Center for Science and Environment.
"While we can never pinpoint one disaster as the result of climate change, there is enough scientific evidence that climate change will lead to intensification of tropical cyclones," said Narain.
"Nargis is a sign of things to come," she said. "The victims of these cyclones are climate change victims and their plight should remind the rich world that it is doing too little to contain its greenhouse gas emissions."
We asked climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies to weigh in on the topic and received an exasperated email reply. Schmidt wrote:
“This is a non-story. I'm not sure how many times it needs to be said - but single weather events are extremely hard (read practically impossible) to attribute to climate change and no scientist worth their salt will claim otherwise.The story that is worth your while is an examination of where these ideas come from and how they are stoked by contrarians and noise makers who are always on the lookout for 'alarmist' claims that they can misquote.Do a story on how hard it is for scientific statements about uncertainty and caveats to penetrate into the public discourse.”
Climate change can be an ephemeral problem—one that’s hard for most of us to see, thus it’s seemingly everywhere. Best that we all brush up on the facts, or next thing you know it’ll be climate change that misplaced the house keys, caused the milk in the fridge to expire, and the cell phone battery to run out.

Source: plentymag

Antarctic Temperatures Lower in Contrast to Climate Change Computer Models

In a recent paper published by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, scientists report that computer models of climate change specific to the Antarctic may not be as accurate as they were originally believed. Computer models based on data of Earth’s climate help scientists make predictions of climate change over time. From these mathematical models, scientist run simulations based on data collected in order to assess potential outcomes such as warming or cooling trends around the Earth. While computer models representing climate in the other continents are accurately depicting the phenomenon of increasing temperatures, the models used in Antarctica inaccurately point to larger increases in temperatures than is actually being observed. (The models show an increase of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.2 degrees Celsius in the Antarctic versus the actual increase of 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.75 degrees Celsius).
Why the discrepancy in the Antarctic? Scientists point to a number of reasons, all of which are excellent examples to show students the ongoing investigative nature of scientific study. For starters, the conditions in Antarctica make it difficult to take weather readings (or any kind of readings for that matter) in the first place. This recent report came as a result of improved measurements in the Antarctic region that will provide more accurate data in the future. Using ice core data samples and the increased ability to take actual climate observations and comparing these to the models gives scientists a better idea of how these data compare. That said, scientists still caution that the models used today still may not be as accurate as they are in other parts of the world. NCAR scientist David Schneider states, “The current generation of climate models has improved over previous generations, but still leaves Antarctic surface temperature projections for the 21st century with a high degree of uncertainty.”
Another factor in the discrepancy between models and actual data deals with the ozone hole over Antarctica. Because of the hole, the upper layers of atmosphere over Antarctica are cooler, creating cooler temperatures in the central part of the continent. This is in contrast to warming trends in other continents, as well as the warming trend in the Antarctic Peninsula. This cooler air reduces the amount of water vapor present, something that the computer models point to as a source of increase temperatures in the region that are in contrast to actual readings.
Scientist Andrew Monaghan, a co-author of this recent report, states, “We can now compare computer simulations with observations of actual climate trends in Antarctica. This is showing us that, over the past century, most of Antarctica has not undergone the fairly dramatic warming that has affected the rest of the globe. The challenges of studying climate in this remote environment make it difficult to say what the future holds for Antarctica’s climate.”

Dr. Monaghan is a guest columnist for the upcoming June issue (Weather and Climate: From Home to the Poles) of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears.

Source: expertvoices

Birds make easy weather of climate change

by: Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter
British great tits have proved themselves to be far more adaptable to climate change than their counterparts in the Netherlands.
In the past half century the great tits living in Wytham Woods (also known as the Woods of Hazel) near Oxford, have brought forward the date that they lay their eggs by an average of two weeks. The advance is a response to climate change and the timings of the egg-laying showed that the birds tracked the variations in temperature.
The British great tits, Parus major, were also able as individuals to respond to fluctuating temperatures from year to year and are the first species to demonstrate such an ability. Because they reacted individually to temperatures, which controlled the availability of vital food, they tended to choose the same time to lay their eggs.
Dutch great tits, by contrast, have been shown by previous research to be able to respond as a species only by using a scattergun approach to laying times and relying on natural selection to weed out those who laid too early or too late.
They showed a much weaker overall response to changes in the climate and the average change in laying time was several days less than the British birds. The change in laying times exhibited by the tits in Britain and the Netherlands was linked to the availability of winter moth caterpillars, Operophtera brumata.
Ben Sheldon, of the University of Oxford, said that the British birds had, so far, been able to “take climate change in their stride”. But he said that the difference between British and Dutch responses was surprising because as the same species they would have been expected to behave in much the same way.
“They are the same species. You would think of them as being pretty much interchangeable yet for some reason there’s a close tracking of the environment here but not in Holland,” he said.
“The British ones seem to be adapting better to climate change. They are showing a more appropriate response.
“The whole population seems to do the right thing. In the Dutch population fewer are doing the right thing so they aren’t doing as well. In the UK this population is doing absolutely fine.”
The study, published in the journal Science, was carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Edinburgh and the Unite Mixte de Recherche in Montpellier, France.
Almost 10,000 records of great tits that have bred in Wytham Woods over the past 47 years were used for the study.
Great tit parents raise an average of eight chicks in each nest, though they can successfully raise as many as 15 in one go. The chicks leave the nest little more than two weeks after hatching and grow so fast that the parents have to catch about 500 caterpillars and other insects every day to feed their young.
“Having that many kids at the same time does go hand in hand with not living very long,” Professor Sheldon said.
The reason for the difference in how the British and Dutch birds adapt to the changing environment is a mystery.

Source: Timesonline

Climate Change and The Student Movement: UK Conference 6/7th June in Brighton

On friday the 6th and saturday the 7th of June a large climate change conference specifically for students is being held in Brighton. This could be a very important moment for UK student engagement in climate change. Judging by the groups and people involved it is going to be a very big deal. Registration is available now on the website, open until 31st of May.Speakers will include George Marshall of COIN, Caroline Lucas MEP and speakers from Greenpeace, People and Planet and many others. The idea is to build an agenda for campaigning during o8/09. Now is the time to get things moving in a big way.

Main conference ticket fri/sat - £8 - Includes all listed workshops, keynotes and Fri crash pad accommodation. Book online now @

Extra option: Award Winning Coin Speaker Training on Sunday at the massively reduced price of £8 for the day or book the whole weekend for just £14 (limited places)

Fri/Saturday Timetable Includes:
The state we're in: science from the front line. (Caroline Lucas MEP)
Overcoming climate denial (George Marshall)

Biofuels (Biofuel watch) -
Ethical Consumption: The Solution to What? -
The Trouble With Offsetting (Carbon Trade Watch) -
The Nuclear Option (Greenpeace) -
Corporate Social Responsibility and its green limits (corporate watch) -
Zero Carbon Britain: an alternative energy strategy (Zero Carbon Britain) -
Contraction and Convergence: a global solution? (GCI) -
Political Systems: Capitalism, Socialism or Anarchy? -
Eco-nomics? (New Economics Foundation) -
Running Effective Meetings and Negotiations -
How to use the Media (New Internationalist) -
Planning Your Campaign (People and Planet)-
Non-Violent Direct Action (Seeds for Change) -
What Role Does The N.U.S have in fighting Climate Change? -
Campaigning Success: Food and Flights in Universities (Food 4 US and Eco-Uni) -
The Importance of Universities in the Climate Campaign and what you can do about it -
Students: Working with Workers (Workers Climate Action)-

Source: climatechangaction

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rain or shine, the answer to climate change can be found on your roof

Hannah Fletcher
Rodney and Diana Lord are not classic eco-warriors. They live in the middle of a sea of Victorian semis in southeast London. They wear loafers and smartly pressed shirts. And while they know they really should use energy-saving light bulbs, they just “haven’t got around to it”.
Yet in 2002 the couple became unwitting ecological trendsetters when, on a plot of land in Camberwell, they built a thoroughly modern house with a thoroughly modern roof.
The flat roof, covered in hardy sedum plants, acts as a natural insulator, keeping the house warm in winter and cool in the summer. When it rains, the plants absorb more than 50 per cent of the water, helping to prevent the kind of deluges that have wreaked havoc over the past few years. The rest of the water drains off and enters a rainwater-harvesting system where it is stored in an underground tank and pumped up for household chores.
“We didn’t design it with the environment in mind,” Mr Lord, 62, admitted as he stood on his roof. “It was about comfort, convenience and aesthetics. But now we find the environmental advantages really satisfying.”
Six years on, and Britain is rushing to catch up with the Lords. As the dual consequences of climate change — flooding and drought — manifest themselves with alarming regularity, and with water bills set to increase by about 6 per cent this year, homeowners, businesses and local and national authorities are looking to their roofs to manage water and cut costs.
As a result, Britain is experiencing one of the biggest booms in Europe in the “green roof” and rainwaterharvesting industries. Sales of rainwater-harvesting systems have more than doubled every year for the past four years. An industry worth about £500,000 in 2004 has now grown to more than £10 million.
The number of green roof companies has increased fivefold in as many years. Where fewer than 10,000 square metres of sedum blanket were laid annually, that figure is now approaching 100,000.
“We’re rapidly running out of water in Britain,” said Roger Budgeons, director of Rainharvesting Systems. “Water supplies are under severe stress, and people are more aware of the issue.”
In April last year, the Government’s code for sustainable homes made it mandatory for all publicly financed new buildings to cut water usage from 150 litres per person per day to 105 — a target most easily achieved through rainwater harvesting.
This month this became a requirement for privately financed social housing as well, and insiders predict that water legislation for private homes and companies could be introduced within a few years.
Many organisations have ploughed ahead in anticipation. Hundreds of thousands of employees and customers at Marks & Spencers, B&Q, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, as well as prison inmates, are already flushing waste, washing floors and watering plants with rainwater.
Buried in the ground beneath these buildings are storage tanks the size of tennis courts. When it rains, water pours into the systems at the rate of one bathtubful per second.
Lisa Farnesworth, a director at Stormsaver, which has installed many of these rainwater harvesting systems, said that the companies would be reducing their mains water usage by up to 80 per cent and saving more then £10,000 a year on their water bills. In private homes, where smaller harvesting systems cost about £2,000 to install, homeowners can cut their water costs by 40 per cent.
Green roofs might not reduce your water bills but, according to Dusty Gedge, the founder of and president of the European Federation of Green Roof Associations, they can cut your air-conditioning bills.
As well as absorbing up to 60 per cent of rainwater, green roofs can lower the surrounding air temperature by up to 11C. “2005 and 2006 were exceptionally hot summers, particularly in London and Manchester,” Mr Gedge said. “Comet was selling one air-conditioning unit a second. But if we all had green roofs, we wouldn’t need air-conditioning.”
Just last month, Britain’s first policy on green roofs was produced by the Mayor of London. Sheffield, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham are all soon to follow. “There are thousands of square metres of roof going up all over the place,” Mr Gedge said. “It’s happening. It’s really happening.”

Source: timesonline

Veto Against New Coal Plant Stands in Kansas

In a show of the increasing influence of climate change concerns at the state level, the Kansas legislature failed yesterday to override Governor Kathleen Seblius’ veto of a bill that would have opened the door for expansion of Sunflower Electric Power Corp’s (“Sunflower”) coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kansas. Although the Kansas Senate easily approved the veto override by a vote of 32 to 7, the House fell four votes short.
Legislative leaders who supported the project told Sebelius last week to accept a compromise that would reduce the size of the project from 1,400 megawatts to 1,200 megawatts, or face a veto override. Sebelius, who had already vetoed the 1,400 megawatt power plant and proposed a single 660 megawatt facility, rejected the proposal, citing concerns over projected emissions of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
The showdown between Sebelius and the legislature resulted from a decision by Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment Rod Bremby last October to deny an air-quality permit for Sunflower on climate change grounds. Legislators argued that the decision to hold up the project would damage Kansas’ business climate and result in higher costs for electricity.

Source: ClimateIntel

Women’s rights and climate change

This morning, I attended ECOSOC’s special event, “Achieving the MDG’s and coping with the challenges of climage change.” It was of course interesting, as I usually find most things related to climate change, but what I found particularly moving were the comments spoken by the delegate from Belgium (who did not speak on behalf of Belgium, but for the committee for CSW). He outlined how climate change disproportionately and negatively affects women, and spoke about how women can acts as agents of change in the mitigation of global warming.
Of course, this year’s 52nd session of the CSW chose as it’s emerging issue “Gender perspectives on climate change“, where we learned that women’s lives are effected in large part due to their domestic responsibilities. As the moderator’s summary stresses,
In Africa, for example, women have primary responsibility for food security, household water supply, and the provision of energy for cooking and heating. Conditions such as drought, deforestation and erratic rainfall have a disproportionate negative affect on their ability to carry out these duties. As climate change causes African women to work harder to secure these basic resources, they have less time to secure an education or earn an income. Girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school to help their mothers gather fuel, wood and water.
The unequal effects that climate change already has, and will likely continue to have, along the lines of gender, are rarely mentioned. As we move towards mitigation and adaptation to climate change, we must do so with a lens that prioritizes women as the large majority of those greatly affected by climate change.
The moderator’s summary, however, does not only stress women’s role as victims of climate change:
Women are not just victims of climate change; they are also powerful agents of change. Women have demonstrated unique knowledge and expertise in leading strategies to combat the effects of climate change, as well as natural disaster management, especially at the grassroots level… Women play a vital leadership role in community revitalization and natural resource management. Overall, however, women tend to be underrepresented in decision-making on sustainable development, including on climate change, and this impedes their ability to contribute their unique and valuable perspectives and expertise on the issue.
There is much work to be done to combat climate change, as was stressed in the ECOSOC chamber this morning. However, EW is always happy to see women recognized in their power and ability to be positive agents of change at the United Nations.

Source: Ecumenical Women

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gore: Cheney and global warming doubters are like those who thought earth was flat

Al Gore will be on CBS-TV's 60 Minutes this Sunday night to talk about global warming and what is set to be a $300 million TV ad campaign to raise awareness about it.

According to CBS, when correspondent Lesley Stahl says to the former vice president and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee that some prominent leaders aren't convinced that humans are contributing to the problem, Gore says:

"You're talking about Dick Cheney. I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view, they’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat. ... That demeans them a little bit, but it's not that far off."

CBS ends its press release about the show with a very transparent tease: "Stahl also asks Gore, an uncommitted super delegate of the Democratic Party, who he supports for his party's nomination."


We tried to get CBS to tell us more. But they're holding on to that news until Sunday at 7 p.m ET. If he sticks with what he's said before, though, Gore won't commit to either Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Source: USAtoday

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Preparing for Global Warming's Health Crisis

Hurricanes pound the Gulf Coast with unrelenting force. Floods deluge the Midwest. Wildfires rage out of control in California and Florida. A "red tide" of algae blooms off the West Coast, endangering marine and coastal wildlife. Dengue fever spikes in Mexico and looms over the United States.

No one can say with certainty that any single one of these events is due to global climate change. But there is little doubt among scientists that we are making unprecedented changes to our environment, with grave potential consequences already upon us and others on the horizon.

Global climate change is more than a weather phenomenon; it is also a major public health issue. The environmental threats are increasingly appreciated, but the human health effects have received less attention. And the effects — caused by intense weather events such as heat waves, wildfires and floods, and indirectly from changes in water, air, agriculture and infectious disease patterns — are troubling.

The World Health Organization estimates that our shifting climate is now responsible for widespread health effects, including millions of illnesses and 160,000 deaths each year, many from the spread of malaria into new areas where mosquitoes were once unable to survive. In the absence of uncontrolled greenhouse gases, the projections are far more sobering.

Public health has mostly remained on the sidelines amid policy debates on reducing greenhouse gases. That is a mistake. It is our responsibility to explain the science and advocate for policy change. Addressing the root causes of global warming has the dual benefit of dealing with the unfolding catastrophe as well as reducing other environmental air pollutants that are also causing an unacceptable burden of cardiac and respiratory illness and death.

In late January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Nobel Prize-winner and former UCLA faculty member Al Gore warned that climate change is occurring far faster than even the worst predictions last year by the United Nations' Nobel Prize-winning scientific panel on climate change.

Forecasts that the North Pole ice cap may disappear entirely during summer months in as little as five years have led Gore to declare a "planetary emergency" unlike any other in human civilization.

The United States has a window now to prepare for some of the health consequences of global warming. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that preparing for the health threats from global warming is a top priority.

Yet President Bush's budget for fiscal 2008 is silent on this issue. A national strategy and comprehensive approach are needed — not to delay but rather to add to what we already know but conveniently disregard. We need more science, yes, but also resources and leadership to plan and implement programs that help us prepare to address current and future health consequences of the climate crisis.

At UCLA, we have an opportunity to be leaders. The School of Public Health recently hosted a first-of-its-kind summit to explore the health effects of climate change and is actively engaged in partnerships across campus to address this critical, yet insufficiently recognized, issue.

Source: UCLA

UN official: New technologies must tackle climate change

NEW DELHI, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- New technologies are the only way to tackle climate change, a special adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General said here Saturday.

"Rapid economic growth and climate change mitigation cannot go together as long as we stick to current technologies," Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute told delegates at the valedictory session of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit.

"But there are a host of technologies that are close (to breakthroughs), such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)." This technology captures carbon dioxide - the main greenhouse gas that is leading to global warming - emitted by thermal power plants and sequesters it underground.

"It is possible to have your coal and climate too," Sachs said. "It is the only way to avoid end of civilization, continue economic development and high living standards."

The noted academic listed other new technologies that would be essential to tackle climate change.

"High-mileage automobiles and hybrid cars that run on a combination of electricity and petrol are about five years away.

"Buildings need to move to electricity-based heating once power generation is cleaned up.

"Then you need nuclear power. It will have to be part of the green solution. But you will have to ensure safety.

"And then you have concentrated solar power."

Sachs said policy makers must focus on these technological changes right now, rather than on economic measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. "These changes require upfront public R and D funding, especially for demonstration projects, plus a supportive regulatory environment.

"Scientists and business leaders have to work together to monitor which new technologies are working. After all this, you can have realistic carbon pricing to help the new technologies along."

Source: China view

Obama says stronger than McCain on climate change

SEATTLE, Feb 8 (Reuters) - U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama promised on Friday to start working on an international pact to reduce global warming if he becomes the Democratic nominee, touting his plan to reduce U.S. emissions as stronger than that of Republican front-runner John McCain.

Global warming has become a key issue in the race for the White House, with the top candidates in both political parties seeking to put a cap on greenhouse gases blamed for rising global temperatures.

Obama, an Illinois senator who is battling New York Senator Hillary Clinton to become their party's presidential nominee, said he would start developing the U.S. position on a pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol before the general election in November.

"I've been in conversations with former Vice President (Al) Gore repeatedly, and his recommendation, which I think is sound, is that you can't wait until you are sworn into office to get started," Obama told a news conference in Seattle.

"I think we need to start reaching out to other countries ahead of time, not because I'm presumptuous, but because there's such a sense of urgency about this."

Nearly 200 nations, including the United States, agreed at U.N.-led talks in December to launch negotiations on a new pact to fight global warming. But many environmentalists say real progress will only be made once President George W. Bush, who was long a global warming skeptic, leaves office.

Obama said he would not wait until January 2009, when the new president takes office, to get started.

"The moment I secure the nomination, I want to bring together experts in this area to start putting together the U.S. position ... what we're going to be doing internally, what we can agree to with other countries," he said.

"I know that my climate change plan is stronger than John McCain's," Obama said, citing his intention to make industrial polluters pay for the right to emit greenhouse gases.

McCain told reporters on his campaign plane that he had not seen Obama's plan so could not properly judge it.

"The debate is between the carbon tax and cap and trade," he said. "I will do whatever I can to get consensus on cap and trade legislation."

Obama, Clinton, and McCain all support building a so-called "cap and trade" system that would issue big polluters such as oil companies and power producers permits to emit carbon dioxide (CO2), the main gas blamed for global warming.

Under such a system, companies that exceed their CO2 limits must buy more permits to pollute, while those that come in beneath their limits may sell the permits on a market.

Obama said his plan was superior to McCain's because it required companies to buy all of those permits up front -- a process known as auctioning.

"I've been very specific about proposing 100 percent auctioning, which makes an enormous difference in terms of how effective it's going to be," Obama said.

The European Union, which now has the biggest CO2 emissions trading scheme in the world, is changing that system to increase the amount of auctioning required.

Source: Reuters

Biofuels make climate change worse, scientific study concludes

Growing crops to make biofuels results in vast amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere and does nothing to stop climate change or global warming, according to the first thorough scientific audit of a biofuel's carbon budget.

Scientists have produced damning evidence to suggest that biofuels could be one of the biggest environmental con-tricks because they actually make global warming worse by adding to the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide that they are supposed to curb. Two separate studies published in the journal Science show that a range of biofuel crops now being grown to produce "green" alternatives to oil-based fossil fuels release far more carbon dioxide into the air than can be absorbed by the growing plants.

The scientists found that, in the case of some crops, it would take several centuries of growing them to pay off the "carbon debt" caused by their initial cultivation. Those environmental costs do not take into account any extra destruction to the environment, for instance the loss of biodiversity caused by clearing tracts of pristine rainforest.

"All the biofuels we use now cause habitat destruction, either directly or indirectly. Global agriculture is already producing food for six billion people. Producing food-based biofuel, too, will require that still more land be converted to agriculture," said Joe Fargioine of the US Nature Conservancy who was the lead scientist in one of the studies.

The scientists carried out the sort of analysis that has been missing in the rush to grow biofuels, encouraged by policies in the United States and Europe where proponents have been keen to extol biofuels' virtues as a green alternative to the fossil fuels used for transport.

Both studies looked at how much carbon dioxide is released when a piece of land is converted into a biofuel crop. They found that when peat lands in Indonesia are converted into palm-oil plantations, for instance, it would take 423 years to pay off the carbon debt.

The next worse case was when forested land in the Amazon is cut down to convert into soybean fields. The scientists found that it would take 319 years of making biodiesel from the soybeans to pay of the carbon debt caused by chopping down the trees in the first place.

Such conversions of land to grow corn (maize) and sugarcane for biodiesel, or palm oil and soybean for bioethanol, release between 17 and 420 times more carbon than the annual savings from replacing fossil fuels, the scientists calculated.

"This research examines the conversion of land for biofuels and asks the question 'is it worth it?' Does the carbon you lose by converting forests, grasslands and peat lands outweigh the carbon you 'save' by using biofuels instead of fossil fuels?" Dr Fargione said.

"And surprisingly the answer is 'no'. These natural areas store a lot of carbon, so converting them to croplands results in tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere," he said.

The demand for biofuels is destroying the environment in other ways. American farmers for instance used to rotate between soybean and corn crops but the demand for biofuel has meant that they are growing corn only. As a result, Brazilian farmers are cutting down forests to grow soybean to meet the shortfall in production.

"In finding solutions to climate change, we must ensure that the cure is not worse than the disease," said Jimmie Powell, a member of the scientific team at the Nature Conservancy.

"We cannot afford to ignore the consequences of converting land for biofuels. Doing so means we might unintentionally promote fuel alternatives that are worse than the fossil fuels they are designed to replace. These findings should be incorporated into carbon emission policy going forward," Dr Powell said yesterday.

The European Union is already having second thoughts about its policy aimed at stimulating the production of biofuel. Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, admitted last month that the EU did not foresee the scale of the environmental problems raised by Europe's target of deriving 10 per cent of its transport fuel from plant material.

Professor John Pickett, chair of the recent study on biofuels commissioned by the Royal Society, said that although biofuels may play an important role in cutting greenhouse gases from transport, it is important to remember that one biofuel is not the same as another.

"The greenhouse gas savings that a biofuel can provide are dependent on how crops are grown and converted and how the fuel is used," Professor Pickett said. "Given that biofuels are already entering global markets, it will be vital to apply carbon certification and sustainability criteria to the assessment of biofuels to promote those that are good for people and the environment. This must happen at an international level so that we do not just transfer any potentially negative effects of these fuels from one place to another."

Professor Stephen Polasky of the University of Minnesota, an author of one of the studies published in Science, said that the incentives currently employed to encourage farmers to grow crops for biofuels do not take into account the carbon budget of the crop.

"We don't have the proper incentives in place because landowners are rewarded for producing palm oil and other products but not rewarded for carbon management. This creates incentives for excessive land clearing and can result in large increases in carbon emissions," Professor Polasky said.

Source: The Independent

G7 to consider climate change fund: Japan

TOKYO (AFP) — Japan, Britain and the United States will propose a special fund to promote clean technologies as part of efforts to combat climate change, a Japanese official said Thursday.

The proposal will be put forward at a meeting of top finance officials from the Group of Seven industrialised nations on Saturday in Tokyo.

"Japan, Britain and the United States are currently examining a plan to establish a multilateral clean technology fund in cooperation with the World Bank," a finance ministry official told reporters.

"The three countries will explain the content of their current discussions on the fund, and we'll see how the rest of the Group of Seven members react to it," the official said on customary condition of anonymity.

It was unclear whether the plans would be included in the official statement by the G7, which also includes Canada, France, Germany and Italy.

If the idea gains traction, existing organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are expected to be involved.

Japan aims to take a lead in the debate over measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions when it hosts this year's Group of Eight summit, which also includes Russia, from July 7 to 9 at the northern lakeside resort of Toyako.

The world's second biggest economy after the United States, Japan is the home of the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark 1997 treaty that mandated cuts in greenhouse gas emissions heating up the planet.

Japan is far behind in meeting its Kyoto commitments as its economy recovers from recession in the 1990s.

As well as the issue of climate change, G7 powers are expected to discuss the worsening global economic outlook and recent financial market turmoil.

Source: AFP

Global Warming Could Lead to Increase in Thunderstorms

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Severe thunderstorms are predicted to increase dramatically in the United States and in some cities, like Atlanta, New York, and Dallas, storms are expected to double by the end of the century due to global warming, according to research by Jeremy Pal, a professor of civil engineering and environmental science at Loyola Marymount University

Researchers who study severe weather and climate change joined forces to study the effects of global warming on the climate. Pal is one of the lead developers of the regional climate model used in this study and a co-author of "Changes in severe thunderstorm environment frequency during the 21st century caused by anthropogenically enhanced global radiative forcing." Pal said the regional climate model offers the most detailed picture available of weather and climate activity across the United States.

The regional model divides up landmass across the United States into a grid of cells spaced 25 kilometers, or 15.6 miles, apart and provides information about the conditions occurring for each cell.

"The regional model has a higher resolution than global models and provides information on the tens-of-miles scale" said Pal. "Global models give data on the hundreds-of-miles scale. The use of four different models in this study makes the results more robust."

The study results were compared to current and past environmental conditions shown to produce severe thunderstorms. Research suggested global warming would lead to an increase in humid air that fuels severe thunderstorms. However, it also suggested global warming would reduce strong winds that contribute to the storms. The increase in humid air outweighs the reduction in winds leading to an increase in severe storm occurrence.

The study also found that the increase in storm conditions occurs during the typical storm seasons for these locations and not during dry seasons when such storms could be beneficial. The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

About Loyola Marymount University

Located between the Pacific Ocean and downtown Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University is a comprehensive university offering a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Founded in 1911, LMU is the largest Catholic institution of higher education on the West Coast with nearly 5,500 undergraduate students and more than 3,000 graduate and law students. Students can choose from more than 80 majors and programs in four colleges, two schools and Loyola Law School. For more LMU news and events, please visit

Source:PR Newswire

Global warming threatens to devastate the Mediterranean - Feature

Madrid - There is no sea like the Mediterranean, which links three continents and has contributed to the development of human civilization for millennia. Today, however, the sea the Romans called Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) evokes ugly images of pollution and concrete apartment blocks rather than that of the goddess Aphrodite rising from its foamy waves. Pollution, oil spills and global warming are affecting the Mediterranean with a frightening speed, environmental organizations warn in Spain, one of the 21 countries bordering the sea which is almost completely enclosed by land. More than 1,500 endemic or nearly endemic marine plant or animal species are under threat, Ricardo Aguilar, an expert on the Mediterranean with the environmental group Oceana, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "It would be exaggerated to say that the Mediterranean will die, but it is in a serious danger of suffering a great impoverishment in terms of plant and animal diversity," Aguilar said. The alarm raised by groups such as Oceana can be corroborated by almost any Spanish swimmer who has seen bottles, cans, plastic bags or other types of garbage floating on the waves. Spain has also seen the beauty of its Mediterranean coast disappear beneath strings of hotels and holiday apartments, which are responsible for part of the pollution. About 200,000 ships crisscross the Mediterranean every year, releasing up to 650,000 tons of oil into the water and making the Mediterranean the world's oiliest sea. At the same time, global warming is causing the sea level, water temperature and saltiness to rise, aggravating the threat to coastal ecosystems and to underwater life. About 150 million people live around the Mediterranean, and more than 100 million tourists come to its shores annually. The most polluted parts of the Mediterranean include the coasts of highly industrialized countries - Spain, France, Italy - and river mouths with dams, Aguilar explains. In Spain, for instance, about 800 municipalities systematically disobey rules on waste water, which is poured into the sea without purifying it first, according to local press reports. The Western Mediterranean has 1,900 pieces of garbage - mainly plastic - per square kilometre on its sea bed on the average, more than any other sea, according to figures given by the environmental group Greenpeace. A plastic bottle, for instance, can take centuries to disintegrate. Ships and boats routinely release fuel and other effluent into the sea. The joint impact of such spills is more harmful than that of major environmental disasters, Aguilar says. Contamination from garbage, waste water and oil affects fish and other animals, entering the food chain and leaving local people at risk of eating the pollution they produce. At the same time, the Mediterranean will offer less and less nourishment, with 65 per cent of its fish stocks estimated to be outside safe limits because of overfishing. If the sea level continues rising with the current speed, southern Spanish shores will retrocede by about 10 metres by 2050 on the average, according to a study by the University of Cantabria. Surface water temperature has risen by up to half a degree centigrade over the past 50 years, and the water is also becoming saltier. "The excess of heat in the water is killing typical Mediterranean species such as certain corals, sea fans and sponges," Aguilar says. "Millions of corals have died in the recent years."Seaweed, fish, molluscs and crustaceans also face the threat of invading tropical species, which come in for instance on ship hulls and can now survive in the warmer water. Global warming is also damaging beach ecosystems. The rising sea meanwhile washes sand to the sea bed, where it suffocates plants, Aguilar explains. Less than 1 per cent of the Mediterranean is currently under environmental protection, while scientists recommend protective measures for up to a half of it. In Spain alone, it would cost 5 billion euros (7 billion dollars) to rescue nothing but the coastal landscape with measures such as demolishing illegally erected buildings, the Environment Ministry estimates. "Many agreements have been signed to protect the Mediterranean, but most of them are not applied. Governments still see the Mediterranean mainly as a tourist destination," Aguilar complains. Saving the Mediterranean would not be easy, as it would require joint action from countries differing from each other politically, culturally and, above all, in terms of their wealth, he admits.