Monday, April 9, 2007

Do-Or-Die-Decade News

Scientists vs. Statesmen: There was intense debate between the international scientists responsible for the IIPC Fourth Assessment Report: “Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.”

According to the AP: “Agreement came after an all-night session during which key sections were deleted from the draft and scientists angrily confronted government negotiators who they feared were watering down their findings … some scientists vowed never to take part in the process again.”

It’s interesting to note that the three countries that demanded the report be softened were the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia.

What the scientists agree on: “about a third of the earth's species face a greater risk of vanishing if global temperatures rise 2C above the average of the 1990s. Ecosystems in areas of coral reef, sea ice, tundra and boreal forests are under serious threat … desertification, drought and rising sea levels will affect billions of people. Africa, home to the poorest people on the planet, will be hardest hit. Some 75 million to 200 million more people there will be exposed to water shortages and crop failure … Small island communities will also be at severe risk. A sea-level rise is expected to exacerbate flooding, storm surges, coastal erosion and other hazards faced by such communities.”

Unfortunately, children are most vulnerable: “The Save the Children charity said up to 175 million children would be affected every year over the next decade by climate-related disasters like droughts, floods and storms.”

Droughts in the American Southwest: One area here in the states ay risk is the southwest where water is increasingly scarce. “The bottom line message for the average person and also for the states and federal government is that they’d better start planning for a Southwest region in which the water resources are increasingly stretched,” said Richard Seager of Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. Like the years of the Dust Bowl, “the reduction in rainfall could be equivalent to those times when thousands of farmers abandoned their parched land and moved away in search of jobs.”

Some good news: in Australia, the 4 million residents of Sydney turned off their lights to show their united concern about global warming.

Small wind: Engineers at the University of Hong Kong have developed a micro wind-turbine that can be installed on rooftops and balconies in crowded cities.

They “can generate electricity even if wind speeds are as low as two meters per second … Lucien Gambarota, the main inventor of the technology, says this is its advantage over conventional small wind turbines, which only work about 40 percent of the time because of low wind speed. "We never stop this machine and they never stop because there is always one meter per second wind - 365 days, 24 hours a day, they keep working," said Gambarota.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Do-Or-Die-Decade News

Planetary emergency: In testimony before Congress, Al Gore laid out an ambitious campaign to confront our do-or-die-dilemma. It includes a moratorium on construction of new coal-fired plants not compatible with carbon capture; a carbon freeze on emissions and reduction by 90% by 2050; a gradual move away from taxing income to taxing CO2 emissions (with programs to aid the poor); de facto compliance with Kyoto and pushing for a new international treaty in 2010; a national program to allow small generators (including individual homeowners) to sell electricity back at fair rates to the utilities; raising CAFE fuel efficiency standards, etc. Read David Roberts liveblogging play by play, or the more traditional NY Times report:

The coal binge. The world has been bringing new power plants on-line at a rate of 2 every week for 5 years: “some 1 billion tons of new carbon-dioxide emissions … nearly a third of human-generated global CO2 emissions.”
China accounted for two-thirds of them. The U.S., “in the next five years … is slated to add 37.7 gigawatts of capacity, enough to produce 247.8 million tons of CO2 per year … That would vault the US to second place – just ahead of India – in adding new capacity … more than 150 coal-fired power plants that don't sequester their emissions.”

Polar bear and two sows, Beaufort Sea coast, Fish & Wildlfie Service

38,000 square miles a year: Arctic sea ice is being lost at a greater rate than expected. “Rapidly thinning Arctic sea ice may have reached a tipping point that threatens to disrupt global weather patterns, bringing intense winter storms and heavier rainfall to western Europe, scientists warn today.” The ice “could vanish from the Arctic ocean completely as early as 2040.” This will “have a dramatic impact on polar bears and other species that hunt among the ice floes, but it will also trigger erratic shifts in climate that will be felt around the world.”,,2035308,00.html

Monday, February 26, 2007

Do-Or-Die-Decade News

China - 2 to 52: While China is soon to construct “two new renewable-energy power stations … [a] wind farm in Gansu and wave-power project in Sichuan province … China will continue to open new coal-burning power stations at a rate of more than one a week.”

A glaring emission/omission: According to an analysis by Christian Aid, the UK has been underestimating its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30%: “millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases produced by some of the UK's top firms are not being declared.”

The study’s conclusions are stunning: “emissions associated with FTSE 100 company activity worldwide amount to 12 to 15 per cent of the global total. This figure contradicts Tony Blair's claim the UK produces around 2 per cent of the world's carbon emissions.”

The problem at the poles worsens – from not likely to almost unavoidable: “New studies of Greenland and Antarctica have forced a UN expert panel to conclude there is a 50% chance that widespread ice sheet loss ‘may no longer be avoided’ because of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“Such melting would raise sea levels by four to six metres [13 to 19 feet] … would cause ‘major changes in coastline and inundation of low-lying areas’ and require ‘costly and challenging’ efforts to move millions of people and infrastructure from vulnerable areas. The previous official line, issued in 2001, was that the chance of such an event was ‘not well known, but probably very low’.”,,2016243,00.html

Some good news as well: From the Netherlands comes an innovative LED bulb developed by Lemnis Lighting.

“Apparently, this 3.4 watt bulb is a serious replacement for a 40 watt incandescent bulb. The lumens per watt is about equal to a compact fluorescent bulb, but LEDs have a much longer bulb life. It is also more eco-effective when compared to other LED lamps, because the production does not include phosphor.”

Monday, February 19, 2007

Do-Or-Die-Decade News

Devastating Climate Change: “The world's scientists yesterday gave their starkest warning yet that a failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions will bring devastating climate change within a few decades … An average global temperature rise of 4C would wipe out hundreds of species, bring extreme food and water shortages in vulnerable countries and cause catastrophic floods that would displace hundreds of millions of people. Warming would be much more severe towards the poles, which could accelerate melting of the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets.”,,2005116,00.html

To download a summary of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 report:

"It's suicidal," says Elizabeth Kolbert, author of “Field Notes from a Catastrophe.” She writes: “as the latest I.P.C.C. report makes clear, change is not something that anyone at this point has a choice about. All that is at issue—and it is critically at issue—is how disastrous the change will be. Already enough CO2 has been pumped into the air to alter life on earth for thousands of years to come. To continue on our current path because the alternative seems like too much effort is not just shortsighted.”

The counter-reaction began as soon as the report was issued – the clearest clarion call yet for urgent action – According to the UK Guardian: “Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.” Not surprisingly the call came from a U.S. conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute, which got $1.6 million from Exxon Mobil. AEI “offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.”,,2004397,00.html

$25 million to cleanup CO2. On Friday February 9, 2007 tycoon Richard Branson, with Al Gore at his side, announced his prize “for the first person to come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.”