Saturday, June 23, 2007

Climate Change Refugees

Scientific American

June 2007 issue
Climate Change Refugees (extended version)
As global warming tightens the availability of water, prepare for a torrent of forced migrations
By Jeffrey D. Sachs

Human-induced climate and hydrologic change is likely to make many parts of the world uninhabitable, or at least uneconomic. Even if there are some "winners" from climate change  perhaps farmers in high-latitude farm regions where the growing season will be extended by warmer temperatures  there will also be large numbers of undeniable losers. Over the course of a few decades, if not sooner, hundreds of millions of people may be compelled to relocate because of environmental pressures.

To a significant extent, water will be the most important determinant of these population movements. Dramatic changes in the relationship between water and society will be widespread, as emphasized in the new report from Working Group II of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. These shifts may include rising sea levels, stronger tropical cyclones, the loss of soil moisture under higher temperatures, more intense precipitation and flooding, more frequent droughts, the melting of glaciers and the changing seasonality of snowmelt. Combined with the human-induced depletion of groundwater sources by pumping, and the extensive pollution of rivers and lakes, mass migrations may be unavoidable. Read More

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dutch Data Shows China Surpassed The US In 2006 Carbon-Dioxide Emissions

According to the MNP figures, China's emissions increased by 9.0 percent in 2006 compared to its 2005 ouput. In the United States emissions rose 1.4 percent from 2005 to 2006.
by Staff Writers
The Hague (AFP) June 19, 2007
China for the first time spewed out more carbon-dioxide emissions last year than the United States, a Dutch government research body said Tuesday. "China's 2006 carbon dioxide emissions surpassed those of the USA by 8.0 percent," the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) said.

In 2005 US emissions were up 2.0 percent compared to China. The MNP said the figures were based on its own preliminary estimates derived from recent energy and cement production data.

Industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels -- oil, gas and coal -- are the main causes of carbon-dioxide emissions. Of the industrial processes, cement production is one of the principal sources of greenhouse gas, the MNP said. In 2006 China had a 44 percent share in global cement production, it added. Read More

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Earth Today Stands In Imminent Peril

By Steve Connor
19 June, 2007
The Independent
Six scientists from some of the leading scientific institutions in the United States have issued what amounts to an unambiguous warning to the world: civilisation itself is threatened by global warming.
They also implicitly criticise the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for underestimating the scale of sea-level rises this century as a result of melting glaciers and polar ice sheets.
Instead of sea levels rising by about 40 centimetres, as the IPCC predicts in one of its computer forecasts, the true rise might be as great as several metres by 2100. That is why, they say, planet Earth today is in “imminent peril“.
In a densely referenced scientific paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A some of the world's leading climate researchers describe in detail why they believe that humanity can no longer afford to ignore the “gravest threat“ of climate change.
“Recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures,“ the scientists say. Only intense efforts to curb man-made emissions of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases can keep the climate within or near the range of the past one million years, they add.
The researchers were led by James Hansen, the director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was the first scientist to warn the US Congress about global warming.
The other scientists were Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha and Gary Russell, also of the Goddard Institute, David Lea of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mark Siddall of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. Read More

Transatlantic Plan to Cut Aircraft Emissions Lifts Off

LE BOURGET, France, June 18, 2007 (ENS) - Over the roar of planes at the Paris Air Show here, U.S. and European Union officials today announced a joint action plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft.

In the presence of aircraft industry representatives, European Commission vice president responsible for transport Jacques Barrot and Marion Blakey, administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, launched a emissions and noise reduction policy called AIRE.

"The future of the aviation industry depends on its ability to combat climate change through innovation and greater efficiency," said Barrot, "and this initiative will enable us to speed up the application of technologies and procedures having a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions."

AIRE - the Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions - is the first large-scale environmental initiative bringing together aviation players from both sides of the Atlantic.

AIRE will make it possible to speed up the application of new technologies and operational procedures which will have a direct impact in the short and medium term on greenhouse gas emissions, the officials said.

An Airbus A380 flies above the crowd at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport. Photo by Alain Gillet.
Blakey said AIRE will be based on "gate to gate" test campaigns and experiments. The tests will make it possible to assess the environmental benefits and operational and technical feasibility of the new measures.

Blakey indicated that AIRE could reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by as much as one million tons per transatlantic flight.

AIRE's new measures include "smooth" or "reduced engine" approaches, which will enable noise and exhaust gas emissions to be reduced during landing. Read More

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chinese Officials Say Ditch The Suit And Slash Energy Use

Chinese Officials Say Ditch The Suit And Slash Energy Use

The dress-down call mirrors a national campaign in Japan, where both private and public sector workers are urged to dress lightly and turn down the air conditioning.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 14, 2007
Chinese officials have revealed their latest weapon against excessive energy use -- encouraging office workers to ditch business suits in favour of T-shirts, state media reported Thursday. Several leaders of the State Council, China's cabinet, have called on office workers to dress in light, casual clothing instead of the typical suit so that air conditioners can be turned down, the English-language China Daily said.

The move comes after the cabinet ordered last week that air-conditioning units in most public buildings be set no cooler than 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) ahead of expected spikes in summer energy demand and fears of prolonged power cuts, Xinhua news agency reported. Read More

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Wrath Of 2007: America's Great Drought

By Andrew Gumbel

12 June, 2007
The Independent

America is facing its worst summer drought since the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression. Or perhaps worse still.

From the mountains and desert of the West, now into an eighth consecutive dry year, to the wheat farms of Alabama, where crops are failing because of rainfall levels 12 inches lower than usual, to the vast soupy expanse of Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida, which has become so dry it actually caught fire a couple of weeks ago, a continent is crying out for water.

In the south-east, usually a lush, humid region, it is the driest few months since records began in 1895. California and Nevada, where burgeoning population centres co-exist with an often harsh, barren landscape, have seen less rain over the past year than at any time since 1924. The Sierra Nevada range, which straddles the two states, received only 27 per cent of its usual snowfall in winter, with immediate knock-on effects on water supplies for the populations of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The human impact, for the moment, has been limited, certainly nothing compared to the great westward migration of Okies in the 1930 - the desperate march described by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.

Big farmers are now well protected by government subsidies and emergency funds, and small farmers, some of whom are indeed struggling, have been slowly moving off the land for decades anyway. The most common inconvenience, for the moment, are restrictions on hosepipes and garden sprinklers in eastern cities.

But the long-term implications are escaping nobody. Climatologists see a growing volatility in the south-east's weather - today's drought coming close on the heels of devastating hurricanes two to three years ago. In the West, meanwhile, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests a movement towards a state of perpetual drought by the middle of this century. "The 1930s drought lasted less than a decade. This is something that could remain for 100 years," said Richard Seager a climatologist at Columbia University and lead researcher of a report published recently by the government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Read More

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Strong Cyclone Heading for Southern Iran

Published: June 6, 2007

The strongest cyclone ever recorded by scientists in the northwestern Arabian Sea churned up the coast of Oman today and was on track to hit land in southern Iran, sending high winds and waves through a region that is used for oil exports and civilian and military shipping traffic.

The storm, Tropical Cyclone Gonu, had sustained winds over 120 miles per hour and was raising 35-foot-high waves on Tuesday. Today, it had decreased in intensity as it moved northwest, and was expected to weaken over Iran because of its interaction with land, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the Defense Department, which tracks such storms in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Maximum significant wave height was recorded at 28 feet and sustained wind speed was about 75 m.p.h., it said.

[Is this a foretaste of global warming? Editor]
Read More

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paints UN green!

Secretary-General Pledges Greening of UN Headquarters

MADRID, Spain, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the United Nations will help safeguard the planet by making its own in-house practices more climate neutral and environmentally sustainable.

In an address Tuesday at the headquarters of the UN World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, in Madrid, Ban said he believes that a planned $1.9 billion refurbishment of the Organization's Secretariat building in New York City is a "good starting point."

Movement of staff to accomodate the renovation is set to begin in 2008, with construction on a lawn on the UN's premises to begin the same year so that the General Assembly can meet in the new space during the renovation. The refurbishment is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Originally built in 1949 and 1950, the main UN Headquarters buildings are inefficient, costing the UN more than $30 million a year in energy costs alone.

The United Nations Headquarters on the East River in New York City. Framed in marble, the 39 story office structure is known as the Secretariat building. At left is a partial view of the General Assembly building. (Photo courtesy UN)
"I would like to see our renovated Headquarters complex eventually become a globally acclaimed model of efficient use of energy and resources," said Ban, asking all United Nations offices around the world to join in this initiative.

In his speech, which coincided with World Environment Day, the secretary-general emphasized the need to eliminate wasteful practices.

"That is why, today, I am asking the heads of all UN agencies, funds and programs to join me in this effort," he said, adding that UN staff members across the system should do their part.

Read More