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« Reply #690 on: Sep 22, 2013, 07:37 AM »

Climate change: IPCC issues stark warning over global warming

Call to 'stop dithering about fossil fuel cuts' as expert panel warns entire globe is affected

Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Saturday 21 September 2013 21.00 BST   

Scientists will this week issue their starkest warning yet about the mounting dangers of global warming. In a report to be handed to political leaders in Stockholm on Monday, they will say that the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have now led to a warming of the entire globe, including land surfaces, oceans and the atmosphere.

Extreme weather events, including heatwaves and storms, have increased in many regions while ice sheets are dwindling at an alarming rate. In addition, sea levels are rising while the oceans are being acidified – a development that could see the planet's coral reefs disappearing before the end of the century.

Writing in the Observer ahead of the report's release, the economist and climate change expert Lord Stern calls on governments to end their dithering about fossil fuels and start working to create a global low-carbon economy to curtail global warming. Governments, he states, must decide what "kind of world we want to present to our children and grandchildren".

The fifth assessment report on the physical science of climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that humanity is on course over the next few decades to raise global temperatures by more than 2C compared with pre-industrial levels. Such a rise could trigger the release of plumes of the greenhouse gas methane from the thawing Arctic tundra, while the polar ice caps, which reflect solar radiation back into space, could disappear.

Although the report does not say so, Earth would probably then be facing a runaway greenhouse effect.

The scientists' warning – the most comprehensive and convincing yet produced by climate scientists – comes at a time when growing numbers of people are doubting the reality of global warming. Last week, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) published a survey showing that the proportion of British people who do not think the world's climate is changing has almost quadrupled since 2005.

Asked if they thought Earth's climate was changing, 5% of respondents said "no" in 2005, a figure that rose to 11% last year and reached 19% this year.

But as the IPCC report underlines, scientists are becoming more and more certain that climate change poses a real danger to the planet.

Many believe the disconnection between popular belief and scientific analysis has been engineered by "deniers" explicitly opposed to the lifestyle changes – including restrictions on fossil fuel burning – that might be introduced in the near future.

"There are attempts by some politicians and lobbyists to confuse and mislead the public about the scientific evidence that human activities are driving climate change and creating huge risks," said Stern.

"But the public should be wary of those who claim they know for certain that unmanaged climate change would not be dangerous. For they are not only denying 200 years of strong scientific evidence – the overwhelming view of the world's scientific academies and over 95% of scientific papers on the subject – but they are often harbouring vested interests or rigid ideologies as well."

The report will be discussed this week by political leaders meeting in Stockholm. The study – the work of more than 200 scientists – outlines the physical changes that are likely to affect Earth's climate this century.

Future reports will cover the social impact of these changes and the efforts required to offset the damage caused by global warming. A United Nations meeting in Paris in 2015 will then debate what actions are needed to mitigate climate change.

According to the new report, humanity has emitted about half a trillion tonnes of carbon by burning fossil fuels over the past 250 years, a process that has caused atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to rise by 40%. The world is now on target to release another half trillion tonnes in the next few decades which could trigger a major jump in global temperatures.

Most measures that have been proposed for tackling global warming rely on curtailing the burning of fossil fuels and these will form the focus of the 2015 UN meeting in Paris. Given the poor record of previous summits, many are pessimistic an agreement can be reached.

However, other measures have been suggested to curb global warming. In particular, many scientists have backed geo-engineering projects that would involve either spraying particles into the atmosphere to reflect solar radiation back into space or extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to bury it in mines or depleted oil fields.

Both suggestions get short shrift in the new report: atmospheric aerosols could have widespread side-effects that could produce major disruptions to weather patterns, while not enough is known about the effectiveness of carbon dioxide extraction or burial. "We have to face up to the prospect of weaning ourselves off our addiction to oil and coal," said one report author. "It is as simple as that."

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« Reply #691 on: Sep 23, 2013, 06:49 AM »

Children will bear brunt of climate change impact, new study says

Most comprehensive climate change review to date warns of risks to children, with Unicef arguing that children have been largely left out of the debate so far

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 23 September 2013   

Children will bear the brunt of the impact of climate change because of their increased risk of health problems, malnutrition and migration, according to a new study published on Monday. And food prices are likely to soar as a result of warming, undoing the progress made in combating world hunger.

The findings are published as scientists began meeting in Stockholm to produce the most comprehensive assessment yet of our knowledge of climate change. Over the next five days, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, bringing together the world's leading experts, will thrash out the final details of a message to the world's governments.

They are expected to warn that climate change is almost certainly caused by human actions, and that it will lead to a global temperature rise likely to top 2C, with related effects including the shrinking of the Arctic ice cap and glaciers, a rise in sea level by nearly 1 metre by the end of this century and more extreme rainfall in parts of the globe.

Unicef argues that, although children are more vulnerable to the effects of global warming, they have been largely left out of the debate. "We are hurtling towards a future where the gains being made for the world's children are threatened and their health, wellbeing, livelihoods and survival are compromised … despite being the least responsible for the causes," said David Bull, Unicef's UK executive director. "We need to listen to them."

Children born last year will come of age in 2030, by which time the effects of climate change in the form of an increase in droughts, floods and storms are likely to be more in evidence. In the 10 most vulnerable countries, including Bangladesh, India and the Philippines, there are 620 million children under 18.

Unicef estimates that 25 million more children will suffer malnourishment because of climate change, with a further 100 million suffering food insecurity, where they and their families are on the verge of running out. Children among the 150-200 million people estimated to have to flee their homes because of climate change will suffer more than adults because of their relative lack of resources and higher vulnerability to disease. In heatwaves, likely to grow more intense and frequent under climate change, babies and small children are more likely to die or suffer heatstroke because they find it difficult to regulate their body heat.

Separately, a report by Oxfam warned that global warming would cause rapid rises in food prices, causing severe consequences in poor countries. In pointed contrast to climate sceptics, who have seized on some of the areas of uncertainty in the IPCC assessment to claim that global warming is a far-off and minor problem, Oxfam listed recent examples of extreme weather that have caused food shortages and raised prices, quoting scientific estimates that these are likely to increase in number as warming continues. "Today one person in eight goes to bed hungry. Analysis suggests that the number of people at risk of hunger is projected to increase by 10-20% by 2050 as a result of climate change," the study found.

The authors cited the 2012 drought in Russia, which cut the grain harvest by a quarter, resulting in grain and bread prices rocketing and many farmers falling into serious debt and hardship. The same year, the worst drought in 50 years in the mid-west of the US cut maize yields by a quarter, leading to a 40% rise in prices. Two years before, the devastating Pakistan floods destroyed 570,000 hectares of crops, and 80% of food stored was lost in some areas.

Oxfam also cites a study that suggested the 2011 drought in East Africa and famine in Somalia were made more likely by climate change. One of the problems with estimating the future effects of warming is that natural events such as storms, floods and droughts happen anyway and it is hard to blame particular occurrences on global warming. On this, the panel is expected to say on Friday that extreme weather effects are more likely because of climate change but will stop well short of attributing specific events solely to climate change.

Tim Gore from Oxfam said: "We want a world in which everyone enjoys the right to affordable and nutritious food, and we cannot allow climate change to throw us off course. Leaders listening to the latest findings from climate scientists this week must remember that a hot world is a hungry world. They must take urgent action to slash emissions and direct more resources to building a sustainable food system."

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« Reply #692 on: Sep 24, 2013, 05:50 AM »

Worsening Water Scarcity to Affect 2 Billion Globally

September 21st, 2013
By Kieran Cooke, Climate News Network

LONDON - Water scarcity is a fact of life in many parts of the world, particularly in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. A new study says the situation could get a lot worse, with climate change resulting in less rain and more evaporation in many areas.

Warming will expose 668 million people worldwide to new or aggravated water scarcity – that’s in addition to the 1.3 billion people already at present living in water-scarce regions. Credit: Nourishing the Planet

The study, led by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact and Research and appearing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looks at present commitments by countries to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). It says that even if these commitments or pledges are met, the global mean temperature will still rise by around 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

This, according to the researchers’ calculations, will expose 668 million people worldwide to new or aggravated water scarcity – that’s in addition to the 1.3 billion people already at present living in water-scarce regions.

Using the same calculations, the study says that if the global mean temperature rises by only 2°C, at present the internationally agreed target maximum, an additional 486 million people – a figure equivalent to more than 7 percent of the world’s present population – will be threatened with severe water scarcity.

Regions which will see the most significant deterioration in water supplies are the Middle East, North Africa, southern Europe and the south-west of the U.S.

Dr. Dieter Gerten, the study’s lead author, says the main factor leading to more water shortages will be declining precipitation: increasing temperatures will also lead to greater evapotranspiration – that is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth’s land surface to the atmosphere.

“Even if the increase is restricted to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, many regions will have to adapt their water management and demand to a lower supply, especially since the population is expected to grow significantly in many of these regions”, says Gerten.

Even if the increase is restricted to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, many regions will have to adapt their water management and demand to a lower supply.
Credit: ביה”ס אדנים חדרה, via Climate News Network
Recognizing the impacts

It’s vital, says the study, that governments and policymakers, when setting targets on temperature rises, are fully informed of the overall consequences of their decisions.

“The unequal spatial pattern of exposure to climate change impacts sheds interesting light on the responsibility of high-emission countries and could have a bearing on both mitigation and adaption burden-sharing”, says Gerten.

The Potsdam study used material from 19 different climate change models. This was run alongside eight different global warming trajectories. In all more than 150 climate change scenarios were examined.

Researchers also examined the impact future changes in climate would have on the world’s ecosystems, seeking to identify which areas would be subject to greatest change and whether these regions were rich in biodiversity.

“At a global warming of 2°C, notable ecosystem restructuring is likely for regions such as the tundra and some semi-arid regions,” says Gerten.

“At global warming levels beyond 3°C, the area affected by significant ecosystem transformation would significantly increase and encroach into biodiversity-rich regions.

“Beyond a mean global warming of 4°C, we show with high confidence that biodiversity hotspots such as parts of the Amazon will be affected.”

Kieran Cooke is a co-editor for Climate News Network. Climate News Network is a news service led by four veteran British environmental reporters and broadcasters. It delivers news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets worldwide.

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« Reply #693 on: Sep 24, 2013, 05:52 AM »

09/23/2013 02:44 PM

Warming Plateau?: Climatologists Face Inconvenient Truth

By Axel Bojanowski, Olaf Stampf and Gerald Traufetter

Data shows global temperatures aren't rising the way climate scientists have predicted. Now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change faces a problem: publicize these findings and encourage skeptics -- or hush up the figures.

For a quarter of a century now, environmental activists have been issuing predictions in the vein of the Catholic Church, warning people of the coming greenhouse effect armageddon. Environmentalists bleakly predict global warming will usher in plagues of biblical dimensions -- perpetual droughts, deluge-like floods and hurricanes of unprecedented force.

The number of people who believe in such a coming apocalypse, however, has considerably decreased. A survey conducted on behalf of SPIEGEL found a dramatic shift in public opinion -- Germans are losing their fear of climate change. While in 2006 a sizeable majority of 62 percent expressed a fear of global warning, that number has now become a minority of just 39 percent.

One cause of this shift, presumably, is the fact that global warming seems to be taking a break. The average global temperature hasn't risen in 15 years, a deviation from climatologists' computer-simulated predictions.

This is a difficult state of affairs for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will release its next assessment report on global warming on Friday, Sept. 27.

None of the authors involved in the report are allowed to comment publicly on the report's contents before its official release. Only after days of closed-door negotiations -- which begin in Stockholm this Monday, Sept. 23 -- will the international forecasting body release its findings.

This much, though, is certain -- the new predictions will be essentially the same as the old ones, albeit a little more precise. The only adjustment the IPCC is expected to make is an increase in the predicted rise of sea levels. The new report is expected to forecast that coastal waters may rise by between 29 and 82 centimeters (11 and 32 inches) by the end of the century.

The crucial question, however, is: How will the IPCC address the pause in global warming? And how reliable are the computer models on which the predictions are based, if they failed to foresee the current temperature plateau?

Germany : 'More Alarmist' Voice

In the lead-up to this week's conference, tensions have been high between the IPCC's climate researchers and the IPCC's government representatives, with Germany's governmental delegates playing a particularly questionable role.

The conference's participants will negotiate the creation of a 30-page summary for policymakers from the 1,000-page full report. Governments send representatives from their relevant ministries in order to have a hand in what message that summary will contain. In Germany's case, this means delegates from the Federal Ministries for the Environment and Research.

"If you are offering the choice between 'alarmist' and 'sceptic' then the German delegation is certainly more in the direction of 'alarmist'. But this is too simple a distinction," says British climatologist Mike Hulme from King's College London, who has many years of experience with IPCC bureaucracy.

German Green Party politician Hermann Ott, on the other hand, is satisfied with Germany's conduct in the negotiations. Since Helmut Kohl's government, Ott says, there has generally been consensus on the significance of climate protection, making it possible for "a great deal of continuity and a high level of expertise" to develop within Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Despite resistance from many researchers, the German ministries insist that it is important not to detract from the effectiveness of climate change warnings by discussing the past 15 years' lack of global warming. Doing so, they say, would result in a loss of the support necessary for pursuing rigorous climate policies. "Climate policy needs the element of fear," Ott openly admits. "Otherwise, no politician would take on this topic."

Science vs. Climate Politics

Germany's Federal Ministry of Research would prefer to leave any discussion of the global warming hiatus entirely out of the new IPCC report summary. "In climate research, changes don't count until they've been observed on a timescale of 30 years," claims one delegate participating in the negotiations on behalf of German Research Minister Johanna Wanka of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The Ministry for the Environment's identical stance: "Climate fluctuations that don't last very long are not scientifically relevant."

At most, German delegates at the conference would be willing to include an admission that "the pace of temperature change has slowed" -- a reinterpretation that doesn't correspond to the latest research findings.

Germany's highest-ranking climate researcher, physicist Jochem Marotzke, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, in Hamburg, is fighting back against this refusal to face facts. Marotzke, who is also president of the German Climate Consortium and Germany's top scientific representative in Stockholm, promises, "We will address this subject head-on." The IPCC, he says, must engage in discussion about the standstill in temperature rise.

Marotzke calls the claim that a temperature plateau isn't significant until it has lasted for over 30 years unscientific. "Thirty years is an arbitrarily selected number," he says. "Some climate phenomena occur on a shorter timescale, some on a longer one." Climate researchers, Marotzke adds, have an obligation not to environmental policy but to the truth. "That obligates us to clearly state the uncertainties in our predictions as well," he says.

The researchers' problem: Their climate models should have been able to predict the sudden flattening in the temperature curve. Offering explanations after the fact for why temperatures haven't increased in so long only serves to raise doubts as to how reliable the forecasts really are.

Despite this, most Germans have not yet lost their faith in climate research. According to the SPIEGEL survey, 67 percent of Germans still consider the predictions reliable.

Possible Explanations for the Pause

In any case, scientists have discovered some possible indications as to why temperatures are not currently rising. One explanation involves the Pacific Ocean, which, calculations indicate, has absorbed an unusually large amount of heat from the Earth's atmosphere in recent years. "If this proves to be true, then the warnings are still in effect," Marotzke says. He explains that it would mean the greenhouse effect is adding more and more energy into the climate system, exactly as the simulations predict, just with a larger portion of that energy than expected disappearing temporarily into the ocean.

Another possible explanation is that the large quantity of soot emitted into the atmosphere by cars and factory smokestacks in Asia has had a cooling effect on the atmosphere. What will happen when China installs modern filtering systems on a massive scale in its vehicles and at its coal power plants? In this case, global warming would also then continue unchecked.

In other words, says glaciologist Heinz Miller at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, "The stagnation in temperature does not negate the physical evidence of global warming." Still, he says, the IPCC needs to make clear to the public and politicians alike that "scientific study is not a guarantee for infallibility." Miller also believes, "There is still a considerable need for more research."

Environmental policymakers within the IPCC fear, though, that climate skeptics and industry lobbyists could exploit these scientific uncertainties for their own purposes. The IPCC's response has been to circle the wagons. To ensure it remains the sole authority on climate predictions, the panel plans not to publish the complete report for some time after the release of the summary and not even release transcripts from the negotiations in Stockholm.

This despite the IPCC's promise for more transparency after hair-raising mistakes in the last assessment report -- from 2007 -- emerged three years ago and tarnished the panel's credibility. One result of that scandal was a commitment to avoiding future conflicts of interest. Yet scientists who previously worked for environmental organizations still hold leading roles in the creation of the IPCC report. This includes at least two "coordinating lead authors" who are responsible for individual chapters of the report.

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein

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« Reply #694 on: Sep 24, 2013, 08:47 AM »

September 23, 2013

Study Sees a Higher Risk of Storms on the Horizon


The eastern and central United States likely will see a greater risk of severe weather by the middle of this century as rising temperatures trigger atmospheric changes that favor storms, a new study by climate scientists from Stanford and Purdue universities concludes.

By the century’s final 30 years, the study forecasts, the eastern United States could experience severe thunderstorms an average of nearly 7.5 spring days, an increase of almost 42 percent. A 15 percent increase is forecast during June, July and August.

The largest single increase, an average of more than 2.4 days, was likely from March through May across parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

The study’s data suggest — but do not flatly predict — that the number of days with conditions favorable to tornadoes will increase as well.

The peer-reviewed findings, by Noah S. Diffenbaugh and Martin Scherer of Stanford and Robert J. Trapp of Purdue, were published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The results were consistent across 10 different models that scientists worldwide use to estimate the impact of climate change, Dr. Diffenbaugh said in an interview.

The study measured the impact of projected increases in temperature on conditions that are known to produce severe thunderstorms. It makes theoretical projections of changes in those conditions daily — and even for parts of a day — throughout the rest of the century.

The calculations, never before made at such minute levels, required the use of computers at climate-change research centers around the world, Dr. Diffenbaugh said.

“We can look starting in the recent past and analyze how many severe thunderstorm environments there are in each model, in each year, all the way out to the end of 21st century,” he said.

All 10 models projected an overall increase in potential severe-weather days in the spring and autumn after about 2040. In some models, the risk of storms was found to decrease in part of the nation centered on Kansas and Nebraska, and only in summer.

The authors cautioned that some elements of thunderstorm formation, such as processes that stimulate atmospheric convection, were not included in their study. And they stressed that the conditions they did include are conducive to severe storms, but do not guarantee them.

Harold Brooks, a senior research scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., called the findings “really intriguing,” noting that the study’s season-by-season analysis may add significantly to past studies that generally had made yearly predictions.

Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., a second scientist whose own research has foreshadowed some of the findings, said he believes the study “actually underplays the worries.”

The likelihood of severe weather is “probably fairly robust and the prospects worrying,” he said in an e-mail.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which tallies severe-weather events that cause more than $1 billion in damage, recorded 13 such events in 2011 and 2012 involving thunderstorms and tornadoes. Those storms killed 628 people and caused nearly $45 billion in damage.

Various weather conditions help spawn thunderstorms, but among the most important are humidity, vertical wind shear and atmospheric instability, which can cause warm air to rush upward through colder air.

Because hot air can hold more moisture than cold air, rising temperatures ensure greater humidity in the future. The study predicted that the amount of energy available for a storm, called convective available potential energy, would also become more frequent as temperatures rise.

The number of days with wind shear likely would decrease, the study found — but almost all the decline would be on days when the air was calm, and thunderstorms were unlikely in any case. During periods of storm-spawning instability, the chances of wind shear were reported to rise.

That last point, which Dr. Diffenbaugh called a key finding, addresses questions about the projected decline in wind shear that have led some to question the link between higher temperatures and an increase in severe weather.

By some measures, severe weather has been on the rise in recent years, a development that some have attributed to climate change. Dr. Diffenbaugh said the study draws no such conclusion; the 10 models employed in the study did not reach general agreement on an increase in severe-weather days until about 2040, he said.

“We have a real challenge in trying to understand whether or not there have been changes in the likelihood of occurrence in the recent past,” he said. While temperatures have been assiduously recorded, he said, records of storms and tornadoes are considerably murkier.

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« Reply #695 on: Sep 26, 2013, 06:58 AM »

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock can be cut by 30%, says FAO

Food and Agriculture Organisation says farmers can slash emissions merely by adopting better methods

Mark Tran, Thursday 26 September 2013 10.04 BST

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock could be cut by up to 30% if farmers adopt better techniques without having to overhaul entire production systems, according to a study released on Thursday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The FAO said emissions associated with livestock added up to 7.1 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) per year – or 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse releases, slightly less than its controversial estimate in 2006.

In its highly influential report seven years ago, Livestock's Long Shadow, the FAO said global meat production was responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions – a little more than all of the world's cars, trains and planes combined. Environmentalists and, in particular, vegetarian advocacy groups have cited the figure ever since as a key reason to reduce meat consumption.

FAO experts said the new figure was based on a revised modelling framework and updated data, using new guidelines from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which unveils its report on Friday. "The absolute volume of emissions is very similar to 2006, even with the revised framework," said Pierre Gerber, senior policy officer with the FAO.

To arrive at its estimates, the FAO carried out detailed analysis of emissions at different stages of various livestock supply chains, including the production and transport of animal feed, on-farm energy use, and emissions from animal digestion and manure decay, as well as post-slaughter transport, refrigeration and packaging of animal products.

The latest report, Tackling climate change through livestock, said the main sources of emissions are: feed production and processing (45% of the total), outputs of greenhouse gases during digestion by cows (39%), and manure decomposition (10%). The remainder is attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products.

"These new findings show that the potential to improve the sector's environmental performance is significant – and that realising that potential is indeed doable," said Ren Wang, FAO assistant director general for agriculture and consumer protection. "These efficiency gains can be achieved by improving practices, and don't necessitate changing production systems. But we need political will, better policies and most importantly, joint action."

The report emphasised that improvements can be made within existing production systems. There is no need to shift from backyard to industrial livestock farming, for example. The report called for wider adoption of best practices and technologies in feeding, health and husbandry, and manure management – as well as greater use of underused technologies such as biogas generators and energy-saving devices – could help the global livestock sector cut its outputs of global warming gases by up to 30% by becoming more efficient and reducing energy waste.

Specifically, the FAO said better-quality feed, improved breeding and good animal health helped to shrink the unproductive part of the herd. Many of the actions the FAO recommended to improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions would also boost production. This would provide people with more food and higher incomes. Livestock rearing supports hundreds of millions of people and represents an increasingly important source of protein in many regions that have long struggled with chronic hunger and malnutrition.

With world demand for livestock products continuing to grow strongly in almost all poor countries, said Wang, "it is imperative that the sector starts working now to achieve these reductions, to help offset the increases in overall emissions that future growth in livestock production will entail".

The greatest potential for cuts in emissions are in low-productivity livestock systems in south Asia, Latin America and Africa. However, in developed countries, where emission intensities are relatively low but the overall volume of production and therefore emissions is high, the FAO said even small decreases in intensity could add up to significant gains.

This is the case, for example, for dairy farming in Europe and North America, and for pork raising in east Asia. Cattle-raising contributes 65% of the livestock sector's total greenhouse gas emissions, but also offers the largest potential for reductions.

In developing countries, the FAO urged governments to pursue policies to encourage poorer and risk-averse farmers to adopt measures that would mean spending money upfront. "The provision of microfinance schemes can be effective to support the adoption of new technologies and practices by small-scale farmers," said the FAO. "Where the adoption of technologies and practices are costly for farmers in the short or medium term, but provide large mitigation benefits, abatement subsidies should be envisaged."

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« Reply #696 on: Sep 26, 2013, 07:07 AM »

Leading climate change scientist bashes ‘irrational’ skeptics

By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 14:35 EDT

Climate change sceptics who claim the dangers of global warming are small and far-off are “unscientific” and “irrational”, and should not dissuade governments from tackling rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, the author of the world’s landmark review of economics and climate change said.

Lord Nicolas Stern told the Guardian: “It is astonishing, irrational and unscientific to suggest the risks are small. How can they say they know the risks are small? The clear conclusion from 200 years of climate science and observations show a strong association between carbon dioxide rises and global surface temperature.

He added: “The science is unequivocal and shows there is serious danger. What is coming from [sceptics] is just noise, and should be treated as noise.”

He said some sceptics were in the pay of hostile industries, with a vested interest in contradicting the science, and were being “deliberately naive” in claiming the world could wait decades to deal with rising emissions.

“It (the sceptic response) looks very well-organised,” he said. “They are deliberately distorting the way we understand risk.”

Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank, wrote the 2006 examination of the economics of climate change, which found that the costs of acting now on cutting emissions would be much cheaper than cutting in the future or adapting to the future effects of global warming. He has become a leading authority on climate and economics.

The world’s leading climate scientists are gathered in Stockholm this week to hammer out the final details of the most comprehensive assessment to date of our knowledge of climate change. They are expected to say that it is “virtually certain” that climate change is occurring, and is mainly owing to human actions in burning fossil fuels.

They will predict that temperatures will rise by at least 2C, which is likely to cause major disruptions to the world’s weather systems, including an increase in droughts, heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather in the coming decades, and sea level rises of up to a metre by 2100, which would overwhelm storm-surge defences in scores of coastal cities.

But the meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been seized on by climate sceptics, who argue that the effects of greenhouse gases will be small and felt long into the future. An estimate that 97% of the effects of carbon dioxide so far have been absorbed by the oceans has led some sceptics to claim that further warming could be similarly absorbed.

Scientists strongly contest this view, saying that research shows that the extra warming from man-made CO2 will alter the world’s climate systems, and the absorption of heat by the oceans has serious effects, including sea level rises. The effects of the warming on ocean currents, and thus global weather systems that depend on them, could also cause rapid changes to weather. Fluctuations in ocean systems, such as the El Nino weather system in the Pacific, are already known to drive major weather effects such as surface warming and cooling around the globe.

Stern said: “There is the danger of an abrupt change in the whole [climate] mechanism. We need to approach the issue as one of risk management.”

He said many economists had misread the impacts of future warming because their risk models were not good at taking this into account. He added that the effects of any delay in reducing greenhouse gases were of key concern, because delay means greater emissions and these will continue to wreak effects on the climate system long after the gases were first poured into the atmosphere.

“If delay did not matter, then we might have time to wait (before tackling emissions) but delay is dangerous, because of the effect on higher emissions,” he said. Infrastructure, such as new fossil fuel power plants, buildings and transport networks would continue to require large volumes of fossil fuels, and building such fossil-fuel dependent new infrastructure now commits the world to higher emissions for decades to come.

Stern pointed to China, which he said was “taking seriously” the threat from emissions. “China has changed,” he said, adding that other governments should take note of the efforts of the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

The results of the IPCC meeting will be published on Friday. Stern said the effects on politicians around the world were likely to be “positive” as the scientific consensus that warming posed a serious problem would become clearer and governments would face pressure from their citizens to respond. He said the current IPCC, producing the first assessment of climate science since 2007, was under “less political pressure” than previous reports.

This week, world governments meeting in New York under the auspices of the United Nations will be invited by secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to a summit of heads of state and government next year, that will pave the way for crunch negotiations in Paris in 2015, intended to forge a new global agreement on cutting emissions.

Myron Ebell, of the US Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Guardian: “Global warming, although it may become a problem some decades in the future, is not a crisis and is highly unlikely to become a crisis.

“We should be worried that the alarmist establishment continues using junk science to promote disastrous policies that will make the world much poorer and will consign poor people in poor countries to perpetual poverty.” © Guardian News and Media 2013

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« Reply #697 on: Sep 26, 2013, 07:42 AM »

September 25, 2013

Fight Over Energy Finds a New Front in a Corner of Idaho


LAPWAI, Idaho — In this remote corner of the Northwest, most people think of gas as something coming from a pump, not a well. But when it comes to energy, remote isn’t what it used to be.

The Nez Perce Indians, who have called these empty spaces and rushing rivers home for thousands of years, were drawn into the national brawl over the future of energy last month when they tried to stop a giant load of oil-processing equipment from coming through their lands.

The setting was U.S. Highway 12, a winding, mostly two-lane ribbon of blacktop that bisects the tribal homeland here in North Central Idaho.

That road, a hauling company said in getting a permit for transit last month from the state, is essential for transporting enormous loads of oil-processing equipment bound for the Canadian tar sands oil fields in Alberta.

When the hauler’s giant load arrived one night in early August, more than 200 feet long and escorted by the police under glaring lights, the tribe tried to halt the vehicle, with leaders and tribe members barricading the road, willingly facing arrest. Tribal lawyers argued that the river corridor, much of it beyond the reservation, was protected by federal law, and by old, rarely tested treaty rights.

And so the Nez Perce, who famously befriended Lewis and Clark in 1805, and were later chased across the West by the Army (“I will fight no more forever,” Chief Joseph said in surrender, in 1877), were once again drawn into questions with no neat answers: Where will energy come from, and who will be harmed or helped by the industry that supplies it?

Tribal leaders, in defending their actions, linked their protest of the shipments, known as megaload transports, to the fate of indigenous people everywhere, to climate change and — in terms that echo an Occupy Wall Street manifesto — to questions of economic power and powerlessness.

“The development of American corporate society has always been — and it’s true throughout the world — on the backs of those who are oppressed, repressed or depressed,” said Silas Whitman, the chairman of the tribal executive committee, in an interview.

Mr. Whitman called a special meeting of the committee as the transport convoy approached, and announced that he would obstruct it and face arrest. Every other board member present, he and other tribe members said, immediately followed his lead.

“We couldn’t turn the cheek anymore,” said Mr. Whitman, 72.

The dispute spilled into Federal District Court in Boise, where the Nez Perce, working alongside an environmental group, Idaho Rivers United, carried the day. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, in a decision this month, halted further transports until the tribe, working in consultation with the United States Forest Service, could study their potential effect on the environment and the tribe’s culture.

The pattern, energy and lands experts said, is clear even if the final outcome here is not: What happens in oil country no longer stays in oil country.

“For the longest time in North America, you had very defined, specific areas where you had oil and gas production,” said Bobby McEnaney, a senior lands analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. A band stretching up from the Gulf of Mexico into the Rocky Mountains was about all there was.

But now, Mr. McEnaney said, the infrastructure of transport and industrial-scale production, not to mention the development of hydraulic fracturing energy recovery techniques, and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, are affecting more and more places.

The Nez Perce’s stand, in a way, makes Mr. McEnaney’s point. The tribe’s fight, and the galvanizing decision by its leaders to step in front of the transport, drew in people who had not been involved before.

“Our history is conservative. You don’t go to court, you don’t fight,” said Julian Matthews, another tribe member. The fighting stance by tribal leadership, he said, was partly driven by pressure from members like him, already pledged to opposition.

Others described the board’s decision as a thunderbolt. After the special meeting where leaders agreed they would face arrest together, the news blazed through social media on and off the reservation.

“Everybody knew it in an hour,” said Angela Picard, who came during the four nights of protest when the load was still on tribal lands, and was one of 28 tribe members arrested.

Pat Rathmann, a soft-spoken Unitarian Universalist church member in Moscow, Idaho, heard the new tone coming from the reservation. A debate over conservation and local environmental impact, she said, had suddenly become a discussion about the future of the planet.

“The least I could do was drive 30 miles to stand at their side,” said Ms. Rathmann, whose church has declared climate change to be a moral issue, and recently sponsored a benefit concert in Moscow to raise money for the tribal defense fund.

The equipment manufacturer, a unit of General Electric, asked the judge last week to reconsider his injunction, partly because of environmental impacts of not delivering the loads. Millions of gallons of fresh water risk being wasted if the large cargo — water purification equipment that is used in oil processing — cannot be installed before winter, the company said.

“Although this case involves business interests, underlying this litigation are also public interests surrounding the transportation of equipment produced in the U.S. for utilization in wastewater recycling that benefits the environment,” the company said.

The risks to the Nez Perce are also significant in the months ahead. Staking a legal case on treaty rights, though victorious so far in Judge Winmill’s court, means taking the chance, tribal leaders said, that a higher court, perhaps in appeal of the judge’s decision, will find those rights even more limited than before.

But for tribe members like Paulette Smith, the summer nights of protest are already being transformed by the power of tribe members feeling united around a cause.

“It was magic,” said Ms. Smith, 44, who was among those arrested. Her 3-year-old grandson was there with her — too young to remember, she said, but the many videos made that night to document the event will one day help him understand.

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« Reply #698 on: Sep 26, 2013, 07:44 AM »

September 25, 2013

Ground Gives Way, and a Louisiana Town Struggles to Find Its Footing


BAYOU CORNE, La. — It was nearly 16 months ago that Dennis P. Landry and his wife, Pat, on a leisurely cruise in their Starcraft pontoon boat, first noticed a froth of bubbles issuing from the depths of Bayou Corne, an idyllic, cypress-draped stream that meanders through swampy southern Louisiana. They figured it was a leaky gas pipeline. So did everyone else.

Just over two months later, in the predawn blackness of Aug. 3, 2012, the earth opened up — a voracious maw 325 feet across and hundreds of feet deep, swallowing 100-foot trees, guzzling water from adjacent swamps and belching methane from a thousand feet or more beneath the surface.

“I think I caught a glimpse of hell in it,” Mr. Landry said.

Since then, almost nothing here has been the same.

More than a year after it appeared, the Bayou Corne sinkhole is about 25 acres and still growing, almost as big as 20 football fields, lazily biting off chunks of forest and creeping hungrily toward an earthen berm built to contain its oily waters. It has its own Facebook page and its own groupies, conspiracy theorists who insist the pit is somehow linked to the Gulf of Mexico 50 miles south and the earthquake-prone New Madrid fault 450 miles north. It has confounded geologists who have struggled to explain this scar in the earth.

And it has split this unincorporated hamlet of about 300 people into two camps: the hopeful, like Mr. Landry, who believe that things will eventually settle down, and the despairing, who have mostly fled or plan to, and blame their misery on state and corporate officials.

“Everything they’re doing, they were forced to do,” Mike Schaff, one of those who is leaving, said of the officials. “They’ve taken no initiative. I wanted to stay here. But the community is basically destroyed.”

Drawls Mr. Landry: “I used to have a sign in my yard: ‘This too shall pass.’ This, too, shall pass. We’re not there yet. But I’m a very patient man.”

The sinkhole is worrisome enough. But for now, the principal villains are the bubbles: flammable methane gas, surfacing not just in the bayou, but in the swamp and in front and backyards across the area.

A few words of fantastical explanation: Much of Louisiana sits atop an ancient ocean whose salty remains, extruded upward by the merciless pressure of countless tons of rock, have formed at least 127 colossal underground pillars. Seven hundred feet beneath Bayou Corne, the Napoleonville salt dome stretches three miles long and a mile wide — and plunges perhaps 30,000 feet to the old ocean floor.

A bevy of companies has long regarded the dome as more or less a gigantic piece of Tupperware, a handy place to store propane, butane and natural gas, and to make salt water for the area’s many chemical factories. Over the years, they have repeatedly punched into the dome, hollowing out 53 enormous caverns.

In 1982, on the dome’s western edge, Texas Brine Company sank a well to begin work on a big cavern: 150 to 300 feet wide and four-tenths of a mile deep, it bottomed out more than a mile underground. Until it capped the well to the cavern in 2011, the company pumped in fresh water, sucked out salt water and shipped it to the cavern’s owner, the Occidental Chemical Corporation.

Who is to blame for what happened next is at issue in a barrage of lawsuits. But at some point, the well’s western wall collapsed, and the cavern began filling with mud and rock. The mud and rock above it dropped into the vacated space, freeing trapped natural gas.

The gas floated up; the rock slipped down. The result was a yawning, bubbling sinkhole.

“You go in the swamp, and there are places where it’s coming up like boiling crawfish,” said Mr. Schaff, who is moving out.

Mr. Landry, who is staying, agreed — “it looks like boiling water, like a big pot” — but the two men and their camps agree on little else.

Geologists say the sinkhole will eventually stop growing, perhaps at 50 acres, but how long that will take is unclear. The state has imposed tough regulations and monitoring on salt-dome caverns to forestall future problems.

Under state order, Texas Brine has mounted a broad, though some say belated, effort to pump gas out of sandy underground layers where it has spread. Bayou Corne is pocked with freshly dug wells, with more to come, their pipes leading to flares that slowly burn off the methane. That, everyone concedes, could take years.

The two sides greet all that news in starkly different ways.

State surveys show that one of the largest concentrations of methane lies directly under Mr. Landry’s neighborhood, a manicured subdivision of brick homes, many with decks overlooking the bayou and its cypresses. Yet only two families have chosen to leave, and while the Landrys are packed just in case, the gas detector in their home offers enough reassurance to remain.

“Do you smell anything?” he asked. “Nope. Do we have gas bubbling up in the bayou? Yes. Where does it go? Straight up. Have they closed the bayou? No.”

The anger and misfortune are focused on Mr. Schaff’s neighborhood directly across state route 70, a jumble of neat clapboard houses, less tidy shotgun-style homes and trailers on narrow roads with names like Sauce Piquante Lane and Jambalaya Street. There, rows of abandoned homes are plastered with No Trespassing signs, and the streets are deathly quiet.

Candy Blanchard, a teacher, and her husband, Todd, a welder, moved out the day the sinkhole appeared. They now pay the monthly mortgage on their empty and unsellable 7-year-old house as well as the rent on another house. Mr. Blanchard drops by their former home each morning to feed their rabbits and cat, who have lived alone for a year because their landlord would accept only their dog.

The couple rejected an offer from Texas Brine to buy their home, and instead have joined a class-action lawsuit against the company. They will never return, she said, because they do not believe the area is safe.

“The point we’re at now is what the scientists said would never happen, that this would be the worst-case scenario,” Mrs. Blanchard said. “How can you find experts on this when it has never happened anywhere else in the world?”

Mr. Schaff’s home also fronts the bayou, and he says he is loath to leave. But investigators found gas in his garage, he said, and he says he is convinced that state officials are playing down the true scope of the disaster.

A wry, amiable man with a salt-and-pepper goatee and glasses, Mr. Schaff said he had planned to retire on the bayou.

“It’s my home. I want to die there, O.K.?” he said, fighting off tears. “I was going to retire next year, was going to do some fishing, play with my grandchildren, do a little flying. And now, this.”

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« Reply #699 on: Sep 27, 2013, 05:37 AM »

Temperatures will rise by up to 8.6 degrees this century, UN panel says

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, September 27, 2013 6:47 EDT

A UN panel said Friday it was more certain than ever that humans were causing global warming and predicted temperatures would rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5-8.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also projected sea levels would rise by between 26 and 82 centimetres (10.4 and 32.8 inches) by 2100, according to a summary of the first volume in a long-awaited review.

The Nobel-winning group said it was “extremely likely,” a term meaning it was 95-percent convinced, that humans caused more than half of the warming observed over the past 60 years.

In its last report in 2007, the panel had rated its conviction at 90 percent.

The new document is the first volume in a trilogy seeking to summarise the status of global warming and its impacts.

The IPCC has delivered four previous assessment reports in its 25-year history.

Each edition has pounded out an ever-louder drumbeat to warn that temperatures are rising and the risk to the climate system — in drought, floods, storms and rising seas — is accentuating.

The panel’s projections for 2100 are based on computer models of trends in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, especially from coal, oil and gas, which provide the backbone of the energy supply today.

The most optimistic of four warming scenarios sees an average temperature rise of 1.0 C (1.8 F) by 2100 over 2000 levels, ranging from 0.3 to 1.7 C (0.5-3.1 F). This is the only scenario that can safely meet a UN target of 2 C (3.6 F) which also factors in warming from the start of the Industrial Revolution to 2000.

The highest IPCC scenario has an average additional warming this century of 3.7 C (6.7 F), ranging from 2.6 C (4.7 F) to a 4.8 C (8.6 F).
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« Reply #700 on: Sep 27, 2013, 05:57 AM »

IPCC report: Australia can expect 6C rise on hottest days

Reptile, bird and mammal species set to vanish along with Kakadu wetlands by end of century, scientists' report reveals

Oliver Milman, Friday 27 September 2013 07.36 BST      

Australia is expected to experience a 6C average temperature rise on its hottest days and lose many reptile, bird and mammal species as well as the renowned wetlands of Kakadu by the end of the century, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reveals.

IPCC figures show that Australia will experience an average overall increase of 2C by 2065, with that figure slightly lower at the coast. Beyond that, the temperature is expected to rise another 3C-4C by 2100.

The number of days that don't fall below 20C is projected to rise to 100 a year, with most of these warmer days in the north and on the east coast.

Rainfall patterns are set to change, with annual precipitation, humidity and cloud cover predicted to decrease over most of Australia. But for north Australia and many agricultural areas, rainfall is predicted to get heavier. Soil moisture will decrease, mostly in the south of the country.

These changes will have a significant impact on many aspects of life, according to the comprehensive report, which is released every six years after input from hundreds of scientists around the globe.

In Australia, an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves is expected to lead to more heat-related deaths, while warmer temperatures, changing rainfall and an influx of pests will "negatively impact" many temperate crops, such as fruit and nuts.

Rising sea levels will affect coastal developments and risk causing "extensive loss" of wetland habitat through saltwater intrusion in the celebrated Kakadu national park in the Northern Territory.

A 2C-4C rise in average temperatures will wipe out 21%-36% of Australia's butterflies, while the loss of nearly half of appropriate habitat in Queensland will spell doom for 7%-14% of reptiles, 8%-18% of frogs, one in 10 birds and 10%-15% of mammals.

Australia has warmed by 0.4C-1.25C since 1901, with most of the rise taking place in the centre of the country.

Globally, there has been a 0.89C rise in average temperatures since the start of the 20th century, the IPCC findings state. There is now a 95% certainty that humans, through the burning of carbon intensive fuels, are responsible for most of the warming.

To keep average global temperature rises below 2C – the internationally agreed upper limit of warming – greenhouse gas emissions will need to be cut by 10% a year, according to the report.

In a statement released after a laborious process where the IPCC report was trawled over line by line by 110 nations, the UN body said governments had been handed a "firm mandate" to act on climate change.

"The report confirms that the planet is heating up, sea level rise is accelerating, the rate of Arctic Sea ice retreat has doubled, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets is happening faster, and the oceans are acidifying," it said.

"This report shows that the science on climate change is clear. The debate about who is responsible is over. People rightly demand that governments tackle the climate risk posed to our communities and economies."

Climate scientists in Australia involved in the report echoed these sentiments.

"In many ways the certainty of human influence can be 95% or 97%, it doesn't make any difference," Andy Pitman, a review editor of the IPCC report and director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, told Guardian Australia.

"In what other decision-making process do you need certainty above 95%? This is way, way beyond the realms of doubt. There is no excuse for a lack of policy response. There may have been an argument around 1990, but not since 2001 and certainly not now."

The IPCC report is set to address the issue of a "warming pause" over the past 15 years, which has been seized upon by some climate change sceptics as evidence that warming has been exaggerated by erroneous modelling.

The plateau in temperature increase is to be attributed to a variety of factors, including an increase in aerosol use and the storage of more than 90% of accumulated heat in the deep oceans, rather than on the surface.

"There has been a double-dip La Niña, huge ocean uptake, a solar minimum and aerosol particles," Pitman said. "When those things aligned in the past, we see a three- or four-tenths of a degree of cooling. This time, it's plateauing – so the question is why didn't it cool back to the levels of 1990? That's a considerable concern.

"A number of papers say to expect decades of cooling against a long-term warming trend. The significance of climate change not capturing the last 15 years is the same as Usain Bolt swimming a slow 100m. It's utterly irrelevant."

Professor David Karoly, a fellow of Melbourne University and another reviewer of the report, told Guardian Australia that the human influence over warming was "now beyond reasonable doubt" and placed the onus on a greater response to cutting emissions.

"For the first time, the IPCC report will look at the role of the carbon budget and the cumulative effect of burning carbon that's linked to dangerous climate change," he said. "The longer we delay, the harder it is to avoid dangerous climate change."

The IPCC has set this "carbon budget" at 1 trillion tonnes of emissions, saying the world has already burned through half of this and will have exhausted the budget within 30 years if no further action is taken.

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« Reply #701 on: Sep 27, 2013, 06:12 AM »

Coalition urged to raise emissions reduction target in wake of IPCC report

Greens say Tony Abbott must drop 'anti-science ideological view' as findings show government target of 5% is inadequate

Oliver Milman, Friday 27 September 2013 10.10 BST   

The government has been urged to raise its emissions reduction target in the wake of the IPCC report findings, with the Greens calling on Tony Abbott to "abandon his anti-science ideological view" towards climate change.

Leaked drafts of the keynote UN report on climate change, which is released once every six years, show that global carbon emissions need to be cut by 10% a decade if a widely agreed limit of 2C of warming is to be met.

Australia has a bipartisan target of a 5% emissions reduction by 2020, on 2000 levels. This stretches to 25% if other countries increase their efforts to slash emissions.

Erwin Jackson, the deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute, which produced a report stating that the Coalition's Direct Action climate plan would fail to meet the 5% target without further funding, said the government needed to raise its target to 25%.

"Currently, Australia isn't making a fair contribution," he said. "The 5% target is weaker than the US and not comparable to what the Chinese are doing.

"South Korea's target would be equivalent to 15% for Australia. We are well short when compared to comparable economies and it all boils down to whether Australia, as a country vulnerable to climate change, is prepared to do its fair share."

Under the previous Labor government, the Climate Change Authority provided advice on what Australia's emissions reduction target should be. It is due to release its latest assessment next month, which is predicted to call for the target to be increased to 15%.

But the Coalition has pledged to introduce legislation to abolish the Climate Change Authority.

A spokeswoman for the environment minister, Greg Hunt, told Guardian Australia that the authority's report would have no bearing on the government's emissions reduction target, which will next be reviewed in 2015.

"At the moment there is a taskforce working on the mechanics of our [Direct Action] policy and we will release the terms of reference within 30 days, as per our election commitment," she said.

"Once our scheme is up and running we will look to review the emissions target in 2015. It will be done within the department – that's what you have a department for, after all."

The Greens said that the IPCC's report shows a world on track for 4C of warming unless there is "strong, committed" political will to cut emissions.

"With Australia taking on the presidency of the G20 and other countries stepping up to the challenge, it would be negligent for Tony Abbott to try to abolish emissions trading and the clean energy package," said the Greens leader, Christine Milne.

"Tony Abbott must now abandon his anti-science ideological view and back off from his promise to repeal the carbon pricing mechanism and supporting institutions, such as the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, all of which are proving highly effective in reducing emissions."

The IPCC report has also prompted NGOs to question the government's stance on foreign aid, which received a hefty cut in the Coalition's pre-election costings.

Edward Boydell, climate change adviser for Care Australia, said the impacts of climate change would be most heavily felt by the world's poorest people.

"The people who don't have the resources to cope with climate change are the ones really on the frontline," he said. "They rely on a stable climate for their livelihood and will struggle to adapt.

"This requires a rapid reduction in Australia's emissions but also, as a country with a high level of prosperity, it requires Australia to support those in our region affected by climate change.

"There needs to be resourcing and support for people on the frontline facing unavoidable impacts. There was a global $100bn a year mitigation fund agreed to in Copenhagen in 2009 and Australia needs to pay its fair share.

"We need to ramp up support and target it at those who are most vulnerable."

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« Reply #702 on: Sep 27, 2013, 06:44 AM »

Brazil to test new vaccine against dengue fever

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, September 26, 2013 18:00 EDT

Brazilian scientists will next month begin clinical tests on humans of a new vaccine against dengue fever, a leading Sao Paulo-based biomedical research institute said Thursday.

The vaccine is being developed to combat the four closely related strains of dengue viruses that have been identified around the world, the Butantan institute said in a statement.

Brazil is frequently afflicted with the disease, which is spread by the mosquito Aedes aegypti.

Work on the vaccine began in 2005 in partnership with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Butantan said.

In a first phase, the vaccine was tested on animals and humans in the United States and produced a good immunological response, it noted.

The second phase is to begin in October with clinical tests on 300 Brazilian volunteers, all healthy adults aged between 18 and 59 of both sexes, over a five-year period.

The institute said the vaccine is expected to be ready by 2018.

“This new phase is very important because it will be adapted to the particular characteristics of the Brazilian population,” said Butantan Director Jorge Kalil.

“The production of a Brazilian vaccine for dengue fever is a major advance for public health,” said Sao Paulo state health secretary Giovanni Guido Cerri.

“We are making major strides toward producing a safe, effective and low-cost vaccine which can be incorporated into the National Immunization Program and meet the entire Brazilian demand.”

Dengue fever affects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year, causing fever, muscle and joint ache as well as potentially fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

Researchers estimate that around three billion people in the world live in regions susceptible to dengue contagion and another 20 million tourists pass through them.

Butantan, which has a long tradition of research on snakes and poisonous animals, is the leading domestic producer of anti-venom sera and vaccines.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #703 on: Sep 27, 2013, 06:45 AM »

Wisconsin bridge closed indefinitely after 911 callers discover 400-foot-long ‘sag’

By David Edwards
Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:30 EDT

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has vowed to repair a Green Bay bridge that carries 40,000 vehicles a day after it was recently closed when motorists suddenly complained about a 400-foot-long sagging section.

After shutting down the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge on Wednesday, state officials said that that had no idea how long it would take to repair that nearly two-foot deep dip, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.

“It could be months. It could be a year,” Wisconsin Department of Transportation spokesperson Kim Rudat said.

For now, motorists will have to detour around that stretch of Interstate 43, which is expected to cause congestion and delays in other areas.

Unlike the Minneapolis bridge disaster that killed 13 people in 2007, Wisconsin authorities insist that the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge is not in danger of collapsing.

“The state of Wisconsin is committed… we will fix this bridge,” Gov. Walker said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The Republican governor chose to borrow almost $1 billion for transportation in his 2013 budget instead of raising taxes. Walker also proposed supplementing the transportation fund with funds from the state’s main account, which would have been normally used for programs like schools and health care for the poor.

An Associated Press report published last week found that 65,605 bridges in the U.S. were classified by the federal National Bridge Inventory as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 were deemed to be “fracture critical.” But engineer and bridge expert Andrew Hermann told Raw Story that there was a “very slim chance of them falling.”

Sixty bridges in Wisconsin fall into the danger category, according to the AP. But the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge was apparently not one of them.

The 2012 National Bridge Inventory said the structural condition of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge was “equal to present minimum criteria.” Its deck and substructure were reportedly in “satisfactory condition,” while the overall superstructure was in “good condition.”
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« Reply #704 on: Sep 27, 2013, 07:58 AM »

September 25, 2013 10:00 AM

Canada Silences Scientists, Targets Environmentalists in Tar Sands Push

By Diane Sweet

Five years ago this month, the firm TransCanada submitted a permit request to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project has sparked one of the nation’s most contentious environmental battles in decades. The Obama administration initially appeared ready to approve Keystone XL, but an unprecedented wave of activism from environmentalists and residents of the states along its path has forced several delays. Among those pressuring Obama for Keystone XL’s approval is the Canadian government, which recently offered a greater pledge of reduced carbon emissions if the pipeline is built. Joining Democracy Now! for a discussion is one of Canada’s leading environmental activists, Tzeporah Berman, who has campaigned for two decades around clean energy, and is the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate Unit. She is now focused on stopping tar sands extraction as a member of the steering committee for the Tar Sands Solutions Network. Berman is also the co-founder of ForestEthics and is the author of the book "This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge." Berman discusses how the Canadian government is muzzling scientists speaking out on global warming, quickly changing environmental laws, and why she believes the push for tar sands extraction has created a "perfect storm" of grassroots activism bring together environmentalists, indigenous communities and rural landowners.

Tzeporah Berman:

"What we’re seeing in Canada is, the, literally, the elimination of 40 years of environmental laws in the last two years in order to make way for quick expansion of tar sands and pipelines."

A full transcript of this discussion is available below the fold, or you can read it at Democracy Now! here.

    This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

    AMY GOODMAN: Five years ago this month, the firm TransCanada submitted a permit request to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring tar Sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project has sparked one of the nation’s most contentious environmental battles in decades. The Obama administration initially appeared ready to approve Keystone XL, but an unprecedented wave of activism from environmentalists and residents of the states along its path has forced several delays. In the summer 2011, 1200 people were arrested outside the White House. Well, on Saturday, protests were held once again around the country in a national day of action urging President Obama to reject Keystone’s construction. President Obama also faces continued pressure from backers of the Keystone XL. In their latest push for the project, House Republicans have announced plans to tie the pipeline’s construction to the upcoming vote on raising the nation’s debt ceiling. Well, on Monday, delegates at the 2013 International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit held in Sufferin, New York called on Obama to reject the Keystone XL, saying, "There is no single project in North America that is more significant than Keystone XL in terms of the carbon emissions it would unleash... As women who are already seeing the tragic impacts of climate change on families on indigenous peoples, and on entire countries, we urge you to choose a better future by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline." At the conference, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, described the impact that massive oil and gas extraction has had on her family and its traditional land in northern Alberta.

    MELINA LABOUCAN-MASSIMO: I come from a small northern community, it’s Cree, Nēhiyaw, is, in our language, what we call it. There is nothing on — that compares with the destruction going on there. If there were a global prize for unsustainable development, the tar sands would be a clear winner. Not that there’s a competition going on or by any means, but, I just think that world-renowned people, experts are really seeing this as one of the major issues and that is why it is one of the biggest — you know, the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and why Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.

    So, this is what it looks like. very viscous. It’s, you know, not fluid, so it takes a lot more energy a lot more water, produces a lot more byproduct. So, it’s equaling to — why it is such a big area, it’s 141,000 square kilometers — equal to that of destroying, you know, England and Wales combined, or the state of Florida for American folks. The mines that we’re dealing with are bigger than entire cities. So, there’s about six, seven right now, could be up to nine. And this is — Imperial Oil, for example, will be bigger than Washington, D.C. alone. So, that’s just a mine. And this is some of the biggest dump trucks in the world. A lot of the issues of toxicity we’re talking from the air, so these are some of the biggest dump trucks in the world. And a lot of the issues for toxicity that we’re dealing with is, and which relates to the water, are these huge tailing ponds; they’re called ponds, but they’re actually big toxic sludge lakes. They currently spend 180 square kilometers just of toxic sludge that’s sitting on the landscape. So, every day one million leaders are leaching into the Athabasca Watershed, which is, you know, where our families drink from. I’m from the Peace Region, but it connects to the Athabasca and it goes up into the Arctic Basin, so that is where all the Northern folks will be getting these toxins, and these contain cyanide, mercury, lead, polyaromatic hydrocarbin nythetic acids. So, there are a lot of issues that we’re dealing with healthwise.

    AMY GOODMAN: That was Melina Laboucan-Massimo, member of the lLubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta. All of this comes as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently sent President Obama letter, offering a greater pledge of reduced carbon emissions of the Keystone Pipeline is built to bring tar sands oil from Canada to the United States. Well, for more I’m joined by one of Canada’s leading environmental activists, Tzeporah Berman. She’s campaigned for decades around clean energy and is the former Co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate [Unit]. She is now focused on stopping tar sands extraction as a member of the steering committee for the Tar Sands Solutions Network. Tzeporah Berman is also the Co-founder of Forest Ethics and the author of the book, "This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge." Welcome to Democracy Now! it’s great to have you with us Tzeporah.

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: Thank you, it’s great to be here.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain what tar sands means for you in Canada and how it has affected your whole country.

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: The tar sands are the single largest industrial project on earth. The scale is almost incomprehensible, if you’ve never been there. They are not only the single reason that Canada’s climate pollution is going up, that we will not meet even the weak targets, even the weak targets, that have been set, but they’re also the most toxic project in the country; they’re polluting our water and air. The tar sands produces 300 million liters of toxic sludge a day that is just pumped into open pit lakes that now stretch about 170 kilometers across Canada. And, you know, one of the important things about what is happening in Canada right now is that Canadian policy on climate change, on environment, on many issues is being held hostage to the goal that this federal government, the Harper government and the oil industry have, of expanding the tar sands no matter what the cost. Oil corrodes, it is corroding our pipelines and leading to spills and leaks that are threatening our communities, but it is also corroding our democracy. What we’re seeing in Canada is, the, literally, the elimination of 40 years of environmental laws in the last two years in order to make way for quick expansion of tar sands and pipelines. I mean, the Keystone is not the only pipeline this industry is proposing. It is a spider of pipelines across North America so that they can try and expand this dirty oil as quickly as possible.

    AMY GOODMAN: And why is it so dirty?

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: It’s really dirty because it’s — the oil is mixed with sand. So, in order to get that oil out, they have to use natural gas. More natural gas is used in the tar sands than all homes in Canada. It’s — so, they use natural gas and freshwater to actually remove the oil from the sand, and the result is that each barrel of oil from the tar sands has three to four times more emissions, more climate pollution than conventional oil.

    AMY GOODMAN: And explain how this pipeline would traverse Canada and the United States and where it goes, what it is for. Does the U.S. benefit from the oil going through the pipeline?

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: No, this is an export pipeline. What the industry wants is, they want to get this oil off the continent because they’ll get a better price. And so, all of the pipelines that are currently being proposed are in order so that the industry can export the oil. So, the Keystone, for example, will go all the way from Alberta straight down through the United States and out to the Gulf, and it’s not for U.S. consumption. The majority of that oil is destined to — the U.S. is really just in the Canadian oil industry’s way. The result is that this is a pipeline that is — presents enormous risk to the American people as a result of the terrible records of oil spills and leaks. And not a lot of benefit.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tzeporah, you have been meeting with a number of scientists. This week in the New York Times had an interesting editorial called, "Silencing Scientists" and it said "Over the last few years, the government of Canada — led by Stephen Harper — has made it harder and harder for publicly financed scientists to communicate with the public and with other scientists." What is going on?

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: First of all, the government has shut down the majority of scientific research in the country that had to deal with climate change. This is a government in denial and they do not want to talk about climate change. So, last year they shut down the atmospheric research station, which was one of the most important places in the world to get climate data. They shut down the National Round Table on Environment and Economy, they fired hundreds of scientists, and the ones that are left are being told that they can’t release the research to us, even though it is a tax payer’s funded research. They’re also being told they can’t speak to the press unless they have a handler and it’s an approved interview; they have to have a handler from the prime minister’s office. So, the scientists that I’ve talked to, they’re embarrassed, they’re frustrated, they’re protesting. Last week in Canada we had hundreds of scientists hit the streets in their lab coats protesting the federal government because they can’t speak. They are being muzzled. To the extent that the, quiet eminent, journal Nature, last year, published an editorial saying it is time for Canada to set its scientists free.

    AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is an amazing story. We know that in the United States, under the Bush Administration, you had James Hansen who was Head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA who had a handler who hadn’t graduated from college, he was — I think his credential was that he been active on the Bush campaign committee, re-election campaign committee, and James Hansen had to go through him to deal with the media.

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: Right, well — but, and James Hansen’s still got to speak deal with — to speak to the media. Most of the scientists that I’m talking to in Canada can’t speak to the media at all. And if they want to talk about climate change, they’re definitely not going to get those interviews approved. But, it is not just the scientists that are being muzzled and the climate research that’s being shut down and people that are being fired, we have also seen an unprecedented attack on charitable organizations that deal with environmental research. The Canadian Government has the majority of environmental organizations under Canadian revenue audit, and so, the result is you have the majority of the country’s environmental leaders not able to be a watchdog on what the government is doing. And secret documents revealed through freedom of information this year showed that the government eliminated all these environmental laws in Canada at the request of the oil industry because the environmental laws were in their way. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline crosses 1000 streams and that would normally trigger in of environmental assessment process. Well, when you have no laws, you have no environmental assessment, so when they eradicated all the environmental laws 3000 environmental assessments for major industrial projects in Canada were canceled. Now those projects are just approved without environmental assessment.

    AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean, the activism for you and Canada in the United States, when clearly President Obama has been forced to delay the decision, the Keystone XL because of the massive protest against it?

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: I think that what we’re seeing, not only in the United States, but also in Canada, is an unprecedented climate movement. I think that, you know, these pipelines have provided a tangible focus for communities on the ground, and the oil industry and the government have, in a sense, created their own perfect storm. Because, while before it might have been people who were concerned about climate change that would get involved in tar sands or pipeline issues, now it is people worried about their groundwater, it’s first nations and indigenous people across North America who are protesting their rights. It’s land owners. So, now you have this perfect storm.

    AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, the legendary Canadian musician, Neil Young, spoke out against the extraction of tar sands oil in Canada and its export to the U.S. through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. He was speaking to a National Farmers Union rally and Washington, D.C. Neil Young described his recent visit to a tar sands community in Alberta, Canada.

    NEIL YOUNG: The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the Native peoples are dying. The fuel’s all over, there’s fumes everywhere. You can smell it when you get to town. The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tar sands work is 25 or 30 miles out of town, and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this.

    AMY GOODMAN: That’s the legendary musician Neil Young. I don’t know how many people here in the U.S. know that he is Canadian, but, he is. The significance of him coming, and also what did the climatologist, the scientist, James Hansen, call the tar sands?

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: Dr. Hansen has referred to the Keystone XL Pipeline as the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet. And he says that his studies are showing that if we allow the tar sands to expand at the rates that the government and industry want it to expand, then it’s game over for the planet.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tzeporah Berman, I saw you at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in Sufferin and you talked about your son having to respond to a question of his. We only have a minute, but explain.

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: One night at dinner my son, who was eight at the time, turned to me and said, mommy, why does the government think you are a terrorist? Which is not really the conversation you want to have with your son. Because he had heard on the radio, that on the Senate floor, the Harper government was proposing that we change the definition of the term "domestic terrorism" in Canada to include environmentalism.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, what does that mean for you and what does that mean for environmental activists? Where are you headed now? What are you going to do around tar sands?

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: Canadians who care about these issues are under attack by our own government, and we are being told that if we — that what we do is not in the national interest unless we support the oil industry’s agenda. But, I think this government has overreached and we are now finding — our phones are ringing off the hook. People are joining the campaign and stepping up. And let’s be clear, Canadians want clean energy. Canadians, many of them, are very embarrassed about what our government is doing internationally, so our movement is growing, and so far, we have slowed down all of these pipelines and the expansion.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is the alternative?

    TZEPORAH BERMAN: Well, the alternative for Canada is not only clean energy, renewable energy, which now we can build at scale, we know that, but it’s also supporting other aspects of our economy, because when you support only one aspect of your economy, the most capital-intensive sector in the country, then it starts to destroy your manufacturing base, your service industry, your tourism industry. We need a diversified economy in Canada, and that’s not — and that’s entirely possible.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tzeporah Berman, I want to thank you for being with us; leading environmental activist in Canada. She’s campaigned for decades around clean energy; former Co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate Unit, now focused on stopping tar sands extraction.
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