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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 143111 times)
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« Reply #720 on: Oct 10, 2013, 05:21 AM »

Shift to a new climate likely by middle of the century, study finds

Average temperature will be hotter than the warmest years between 1860 and 2005, paper in Nature shows

Reuters, Thursday 10 October 2013 10.07 BST   

Billions of people could be living in regions where temperatures are hotter than their historical ranges by mid-century, creating a "new normal" that could force profound changes on nature and society, scientists said on Wednesday.

Temperatures in an average year would be hotter by 2047, give or take 14 years, than those in the warmest year from 1860-2005 if the greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, with the tropics the first affected area, a new index indicated.

"The results shocked us. Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon," lead author Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii said. "Within my generation whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past."

The data suggested the cities to be hit earliest included Manokwari in Indonesia, which could shift to a new climate from 2020 and Kingston, Jamaica, from 2023 under the fastest scenario of change.

At the other extreme, Moscow would depart from historical variability only in 2063 and Anchorage in 2071.

In all, the scientists found that between 1 and 5 billion people would be living in regions outside such limits of historical variability, underscoring the impact already under way from a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases.

"Unprecedented climates will occur earliest in the tropics and among low-income countries," according to the study in the journal Nature that urged cuts in greenhouse gases to limit damage to human society and wildlife.

The tropics are most vulnerable to shifting to a new state because the climate was naturally in a narrow band, they said. The Arctic is now suffering the fastest absolute temperature rises, but temperatures have naturally swung widely in history.

However, commentators noted the study did not fully address how people may become better adapted at dealing with the warming, potentially negating some of its effects.

Sceptics who question the need for urgent action have become emboldened by the fact that temperatures rose more slowly over the past 15 years despite increasing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in emerging nations led by China.

However, leading climate scientists said last month they were more convinced than ever that humans were the main culprits for global warming, and predicted the impact from greenhouse gas emissions could linger for centuries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the hiatus in warming was a natural variation that would not last, and the Earth was set for more floods, droughts and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets that could swamp low-lying islands.

Efforts to curb emissions could delay the average expected date for the shift to a new normal climate to 2069, according to the scientists based in Hawaii and Japan.

Other experts welcomed the study as a novel perspective on climate change - most past studies examine the climate at a fixed date such as 2050 or 2100 rather than predict the timing of a shift to a new state.

"This shows the point at which what is now an extreme year becomes the norm," Chris Huntingford of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in England told Reuters of a commentary in Nature he wrote with Lina Mercado of Exeter University.

Huntingford noted that the study focused on a shift in mean temperatures - meaning that freak cold years in future could still be chillier than the hottest years in the historical record examined, led by 2005 and 1998.

Huntingford said the study did not fully examine the possibility that people and nature may be better at adapting to warming than expected. "It remains one of [the] big open questions," he said.

A heatwave in 2003 in Europe, the hottest in 500 years, killed up to 70,000 people but better preparations now would reduce the toll if it were to happen again, many scientists say.

The study examined temperatures back to 1860, for which reliable records are available. The U.N. panel of climate scientists said in its report that the period 1983-2012 was likely to have been the warmest in the past 1,400 years.


Study warns world's hottest years could be the coolest by mid-century

If emissions keep rising, then biodiversity hotspots and poorest countries hit earliest as climate shifts

Reuters, Thursday 10 October 2013 10.07 BST   

IF you live in Brisbane, Perth or Darwin, then the year 2042 could be the year when your climate is shoved beyond anything humans there have ever likely experienced before.

From that point onwards, at least according to a new study in the leading science journal Nature, even the coolest years will be hotter than any record breaking scorchers you or your relatives might have experienced over the last 150 years or so.

For Sydneysiders, the study finds this "timing of climate departure" comes around four years earlier, in 2038. People in Canberra and Melbourne get 2045 as the year when their climate "shifts beyond historical analogues". Adelaide catches up in 2049.

For the entire globe, the year 2047 is the point when annual average temperatures move permanently outside modern day boundaries, according to the study.

All these dates are dependent on what the world does about its growing emissions of greenhouse gases that mainly come from burning fossil fuels, making cement and clearing land and forests. If there are no genuine moves to cut emissions, then the study claims these are the years we can look forward to.

If action is taken and emissions are quickly stabilised (no genuine sign of that at the moment), then the climate threshold in our Australian cities is crossed between 24 and 31 years later, depending on where you live. For the globe, stabilising emissions means the threshold is crossed 22 years later, in 2069.

Lead author Camilo Mora said of his study:

    The results shocked us. Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon. Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past.

To carry out the study, the 14 authors from the University of Hawai'i used 39 different computer models of the earth's climate system. They used the models to first recreate the years 1860 to 2005, and to then project into the future.

To check that the models were recreating temperatures, they checked the computer results between 1986 and 2005 against actual observations. They closely matched. The authors conclude:

    Our results on the projected timing of climate departure from recent variability shed light on the urgency of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions if widespread changes in global biodiversity and human societies are to be prevented.

As my fellow The Guardian environment blogger John Abraham writes in his look at the research:

    As this study shows, and other studies reinforce, many of the climate changes are already baked into the system. Even if we take significant and meaningful actions, many of the deleterious impacts will occur anyway.

But as if the warnings from the report are not stark enough, the researchers say that when you drill down into the locations where the climate system departs from the historical norms, the places hit earliest also happen to be the places where most of the world's biodiversity hotspots exist. The study finds:

    The earliest emergence of unprecedented climates in the tropics and the limited tolerance of tropical species to climate change are troublesome results, because most of the world's biodiversity is concentrated in the tropics. We found that, on average, the projected timing of climate departure in marine and terrestrial biodiversity hotspots will occur one decade earlier than the global average under either emissions scenario.

For example, the study looked at the world's most species-rich areas for coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, marine reptiles, fish, plants, land mammals, land birds, marine mammals, amphibians and reptiles. They found that in every instance, the climate steps permanently away from the historic average in these areas five years or earlier than the global average.

Coral hotspots were hit the earliest of those studied, with the climate departing from the norm in the year 2050, even if emissions are stabilised, or 2034 if they're not. When the researchers looked at the acidity of the world's oceans, they found that the computer models showed oceans had already shifted outside anything seen between 1860 and 2005. That shift happened in 2008.

In a press release, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology, who was not involved in the study, commented:

    This work demonstrates that we are pushing the ecosystems of the world out of the environment in which they evolved into wholly new conditions that they may not be able to cope with. Extinctions are likely to result.

But perhaps the most startling figure presented in the study, is the number of people who currently live in areas where the climate will "exceed historical bounds" by 2050.

Depending on how the world's population grows and where, in the year 2050 there will be between one billion and five billion people living in places where the climate has permanently shifted. The authors also point out that the places earliest hit, tend to be those which are financially the poorest on the planet. The authors conclude:

    The fact that the earliest climate departures occur in low-income countries further highlights an obvious disparity between those who benefit economically from the processes leading to climate change and those who will have to pay for most of the environmental and social costs.


IPCC climate report: human impact is 'unequivocal'

UN secretary-general urges global response to clear message from scientists that climate change is human-induced

• Climate change: how hot will it get in my lifetime? - interactive

Click here:

Fiona Harvey in Stockholm, Friday 27 September 2013 11.48 BST   

Link to video: IPCC presents report on climate science

World leaders must now respond to an "unequivocal" message from climate scientists and act with policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations secretary-general urged on Friday.

Introducing a major report from a high level UN panel of climate scientists, Ban Ki-moon said, "The heat is on. We must act."

The world's leading climate scientists, who have been meeting in all-night sessions this week in the Swedish capital, said there was no longer room for doubt that climate change was occurring, and the dominant cause has been human actions in pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

In their starkest warning yet, following nearly seven years of new research on the climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said it was "unequivocal" and that even if the world begins to moderate greenhouse gas emissions, warming is likely to cross the critical threshold of 2C by the end of this century. That would have serious consequences, including sea level rises, heatwaves and changes to rainfall meaning dry regions get less and already wet areas receive more.

In response to the report, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said in a statement: "This is yet another wakeup call: those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire."

"Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or commonsense should be willing to even contemplate," he said.

He said that livelihoods around the world would be impacted. "With those stakes, the response must be all hands on deck. It's not about one country making a demand of another. It's the science itself, demanding action from all of us. The United States is deeply committed to leading on climate change."

In a crucial reinforcement of their message – included starkly in this report for the first time – the IPCC warned that the world cannot afford to keep emitting carbon dioxide as it has been doing in recent years. To avoid dangerous levels of climate change, beyond 2C, the world can only emit a total of between 800 and 880 gigatonnes of carbon. Of this, about 530 gigatonnes had already been emitted by 2011.

That has a clear implication for our fossil fuel consumption, meaning that humans cannot burn all of the coal, oil and gas reserves that countries and companies possess. As the former UN commissioner Mary Robinson told the Guardian last week, that will have "huge implications for social and economic development." It will also be difficult for business interests to accept.

The central estimate is that warming is likely to exceed 2C, the threshold beyond which scientists think global warming will start to wreak serious changes to the planet. That threshold is likely to be reached even if we begin to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, which so far has not happened, according to the report.

Other key points from the report are:

• Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now at levels "unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years."

• Since the 1950's it's "extremely likely" that human activities have been the dominant cause of the temperature rise.

• Concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40% increase in C02 concentrations since the industrial revolution.

• Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C, by the end of the century depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.

• Sea levels are expected to rise a further 26-82cm by the end of the century.

• The oceans have acidified as they have absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide emitted.

Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the working group on physical science, said the message that greenhouse gases must be reduced was clear. "We give very relevant guidance on the total amount of carbon that can't be emitted to stay to 1.5 or 2C. We are not on the path that would lead us to respect that warming target [which has been agreed by world governments]."

He said: "Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

Though governments around the world have agreed to curb emissions, and at numerous international meetings have reaffirmed their commitment to holding warming to below 2C by the end of the century, greenhouse gas concentrations are still rising at record rates.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, said it was for governments to take action based on the science produced by the panel, consisting of thousands of pages of detail, drawing on the work of more than 800 scientists and hundreds of scientific papers.

The scientists also put paid to claims that global warming has "stopped" because global temperatures in the past 15 years have not continued the strong upward march of the preceding years, which is a key argument put forward by sceptics to cast doubt on climate science. But the IPCC said the longer term trends were clear: "Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850 in the northern hemisphere [the earliest date for reliable temperature records for the whole hemisphere]."

The past 15 years were not such an unusual case, said Stocker. "People always pick 1998 but [that was] a very special year, because a strong El Niño made it unusually hot, and since then there have been some medium-sized volcanic eruptions that have cooled the climate."

But he said that further research was needed on the role of the oceans, which are thought to have absorbed more than 90% of the warming so far.

The scientists have faced sustained attacks from so-called sceptics, often funded by "vested interests" according to the UN, who try to pick holes in each item of evidence for climate change. The experts have always known they must make their work watertight against such an onslaught, and every conclusion made by the IPCC must pass scrutiny by all of the world's governments before it can be published.

Their warning on Friday was sent out to governments around the globe, who convene and fund the IPCC.

It was 1988 when scientists were first convened for this task, and in the five landmark reports since then the research has become ever clearer. Now, scientists say they are certain that "warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia." That warning, from such a sober body, hemmed in by the need to submit every statement to extraordinary levels of scrutiny, is the starkest yet.

"Heatwaves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions," Stocker said.

Qin Dahe, also co-chair of the working group, said: "As the ocean warm, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise, but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years."

Prof David Mackay, chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said: "The far-reaching consequences of this warming are becoming understood, although some uncertainties remain. The most significant uncertainty, however, is how much carbon humanity will choose to put into the atmosphere in the future. It is the total sum of all our carbon emissions that will determine the impacts. We need to take action now, to maximise our chances of being faced with impacts that we, and our children, can deal with. Waiting a decade or two before taking climate change action will certainly lead to greater harm than acting now."

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« Reply #721 on: Oct 10, 2013, 06:18 AM »

Limits on use of North Sea oil vital to protect climate, warns Mary Robinson

Former Irish president criticises Scottish and UK governments for claiming to be greener yet promising more oil and gas

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, Wednesday 9 October 2013 16.42 BST   

Mary Robinson, one of the world's senior diplomats, has warned that Scottish and UK ministers must quickly agree to strict limits on the use of North Sea oil and gas to help the world avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Robinson, the former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights, said there was a clear contradiction between the Scottish and UK governments claiming to be greener, while at the same time promising voters they will maximise oil and gas production.

She told the Guardian there was an "urgent" need for faster, tougher action by western, oil-rich governments to agree far stricter limits on carbon emissions after the latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published "unequivocal" evidence linking human activity to global warming.

Robinson said developed countries needed to take a clear lead, cutting carbon emissions and investing in low carbon technologies, when she spoke later in a keynote address to a conference on climate change in Edinburgh.

"Our message is that the time for radical leadership on climate change is now," she told delegates. "Without aggressive, urgent action on climate change, global temperatures are set to exceed 2C warming by the end of this century."

The Scottish and UK governments are currently competing against each other to be seen as the greatest champions of the North Sea oil industry in the run-up to next year's independence referendum, promising investment and tax breaks, even as they promote renewable energy.

Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party leader and first minister, has repeatedly promised Scottish voters that more than 24bn barrels of oil and gas are still in North Sea reservoirs, with a potential value of £1.5tn. An investigation by the Guardian last year established that burning that much oil would mean the release of 10bn tonnes of CO2 over 30 years, dwarfing the saving of 20m tonnes of CO2 from Scotland's 100% renewable electricity target for 2020.

In her interview with the Guardian, Robinson said oil and coal-rich nations needed to quickly sign up to a rigorous and fixed carbon budget to prevent them burning all their fossil fuels, backed up by a price on carbon and much more urgent investment in renewables and low-carbon technologies.

She said that pursuing renewable energy or setting domestic targets to cut CO2 without addressing oil, gas and coal production was "part of the problem and it's a contradiction in a lot of countries".

She added: "I think we have to realise that there's a limited carbon budget; we have to meet the consequences of that and I think that Scotland needs to do more on the renewables side, in the way that it is doing, and realise that they can't have a contradictory policy on the other side."

Last month, she told the Guardian that governments would have to get used to the idea that "major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground".

Robinson, who runs the Dublin-based Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice, said she and other senior climate scientists, economists, environmentalists and development experts who recently signed a Declaration on Climate Justice, would be pressing developed nations to agree stricter controls at high level meetings before the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris.

"The fifth report (by the IPCC) has clarified, in an important way, how urgent the situation is and how clear it is that we can't continue as we are," she told the Guardian.

The IPCC report had drawn together all the latest evidence on the direct link between oil, gas and coal consumption and climate change: it showed "very clearly, very categorically the most urgent message that humanity could be asked to receive", she said.

"I think the reason why we need clear leadership, and the IPCC report is important here, is because in many countries there are these contradictions; aspiring to one thing and half the policy is going the other direction. It is a problem," she added.

Scottish environment and climate campaigners, and the Scottish Green party, have been putting Salmond's government under increasing pressure to reverse his North Sea oil policies, by admitting oil use had to be limited on climate grounds.

To mark the conference in Edinburgh, Salmond has announced a doubling of his government's climate justice fund to £6m, focusing on overseas aid projects in countries such as Malawi. In a video address, he told the conference "the scale of the injustice is massive".

Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish environment minister, acknowledged that his government needed to listen to its critics. "I will take away the message that from the environmental point of view we need to be clear about how we will use oil and gas in as sustainable a way as possible," he said.

"I have put it on record that I accept that we can't burn all the fossil fuels that there are, and that applies to Scotland as with every nation. What we are doing as a nation is trying to make our transition as fast as possible, so that we're not responsible for burning fossil fuels."

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« Reply #722 on: Oct 10, 2013, 07:12 AM »

Brazil tribe plagued by one of the highest suicide rates in the world

Land losses blamed as study shows Guarani-Kaiowá are 34 times more likely to kill themselves than Brazil's national average
Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janiero, Thursday 10 October 2013 10.17 BST   

The discovery of an indigenous girl's body hanging from a tree in Bororó de Dourados was as grim as it was familiar for Brazil's Guarani-Kaiowá tribe, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, according to a new report.

Ahead of World Mental Health Day on Thursday, figures from Survival International suggest that the Guarani-Kaiowá are 34 times more likely to kill themselves than Brazil's national average.

This has prompted warnings that a "silent genocide" is under way.

The community of 31,000 people, mostly based in the south-western state of Mato Grosso do Sul, is plagued by alcoholism, depression, poverty and violence after losing its ancestral lands to ranchers and biofuel farmers.

The problem is decades-old, but Survival says the rate has increased in recent years. Since the start of the century, one suicide has been reported on average almost every week.

Almost all are hangings, with ropes, belts or cloth. Most are young. The latest victim, on Wednesday, whose name has yet to be released, was a 17-year-old girl. Last week, a 16-year-old, in Dourados reserve and a 19-year-old in Amambai reserve killed themselves.

"The principle reason is their lack of land," said Mary Nolan, a US nun and human rights lawyer. "The Guarani people think their relationship with the universe is broken when they are separated from their land. They feel they are a broken people." Many in the community cosmologically interpret their situation as a symptom of the destruction of the world.

As well undermining their spiritual base, the seizure of their land by farmers has disrupted the social structure of the community. Traditionally, disputes between families were settled by one side moving away and starting again in a new territory. But this is no longer possible now that thousands of Guarani are crammed together in camps.

One camp in Dourados now has a murder rate that is more than 50% higher than that of Iraq. The stressful, violent environment is worsened by beatings and assassinations of indigenous leaders who try to reclaim their land from wealthy farmers.

The suicides began among the first generation to grow up on reservations, which the tribes moved into in the 1970s, according to Guarani ethnologist, Tonico Benites.

"With no land to maintain their ancient cultures, the Guarani-Kaiowá feel ashamed and humiliated. Many feel sad, insecure, unstable, scared, hungry and miserable. They have lost their crops and their hope for a better life. They are exploited and enslaved by sugar cane production for alcohol," he said. "These conditions of despair and misery cause the epidemic of violence and suicide among the young."

The authorities have recognised the community is in the midst of suicide epidemic, but the government is criticised for not doing enough to deal with the cause.

Although courts have ordered the authorities to demarcate land for the Guarani, little progress has been made since the 1990s when a small tranche of land was returned to them – and the suicide rate temporarily declined. Now, however, the process has almost ground to a halt and some fear it could slide into reverse because Brazil's Congress is dominated by the powerful "ruralista" lobby of landowners.

Many other indigenous communities in the world, including the Tiwi Islanders in Australia, Khanty herders in Siberia and Inuits in Greenland, have unusually high suicide rates. Anthropologists say this is closely linked to the loss of land, which is often followed by social disintegration and economic dependence on charity and state handouts. The result is often alcoholism inside the community and racism outside, which leaves the young – in one man's words – "stuck somewhere between a past they don't understand and a future that won't accept them".

"Sadly, the Guarani are not a unique case – indigenous peoples worldwide often suffer far higher rates of suicide than the majority population," Survival's director Stephen Corry said in a statement.

"So-called 'progress' often destroys tribal peoples but in this case the solution is clear: demarcate the Guarani's land, before more innocent lives are lost.'


Illegal gold mining exposing Peru's indigenous tribes to mercury poisoning

Toxic levels of mercury dumped in Amazon rivers gets into food chain, posing serious health risk to children, study finds

Dan Collyns in Lima, Monday 9 September 2013 17.30 BST   

Indigenous children in Peru's south eastern Amazon, an area where tens of thousands of illegal gold miners operate, have unsafe mercury concentrations over three times the level of their non-native counterparts, a study has found.

The artisanal gold miners, who use mercury to extract the precious metal from river silt, dump more than 30 tons of the toxic metal in rivers and lakes in the Amazon region every year.

Native communities had levels of mercury roughly five times that considered safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO), whereas people in urban areas had double the safe limit, the study by the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Project found.

Overall, children were the most vulnerable group with mean mercury levels more than double the safe limit (1ppm – parts per million). Children in native communities had mercury levels more than five times that limit (5.2ppm). Some individuals had levels as high as 34 times the safe limit, according to the research.

Women of childbearing age were also disproportionately affected. Mercury, a neurotoxin, can cause severe, permanent brain damage to an unborn child.

The data was gathered in 2012 from the hair samples of 1,030 people in 25 communities across Peru's Madre de Dios region.

"Native communities rely almost exclusively on fish caught in the rivers and lakes as their primary protein source," said Luis E Fernandez, who led the Carnegie Institute for Science study.

He said mercury levels increased in 10 out of 11 fish species studied in 2009 and then again in 2012. The fish, such as doncella, zungaro and dorado, were the most commonly consumed in the area.

The mercury dumped by miners settles in the sediments at the bottom of the rivers and gets converted into an organic form, Methylmercury, which is absorbed by biological organisms and concentrated up the food chain.

Through the methylmercury in the fish which local people eat they are "exposed to levels which are tens of thousands, up to millions of times more concentrated than the mercury levels in the water in which the fish are swimming," Fernandez told The Guardian.

He added it was a "very serious public health crisis … with very few sources of information for the people to understand what they're being exposed to."

The miners have also deforested around 70sqkm of rainforest, according to official figures. Madre de Dios, known as the "capital of biodiversity," is renowned for its eco-tourism.


Developers risk losing billions if they fail to address land conflicts

Companies who ignore the claims of local communities when buying up land face protests, financial damage and court action

Claire Provost, Thursday 19 September 2013 15.35 BST   
Investors eager to snap up land in developing countries risk losing billions of dollars if they fail to address potential conflicts with local communities, according to research that looks at the extent to which mining, timber and agriculture land deals in Africa, Latin America and Asia encroach on community and indigenous territory.

In a paper published on Thursday by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a US-based non-profit organisation, researchers found at least 30% of land covered by commercial deals in 12 emerging economies overlapped with community forests, indigenous territory and other local land claims.

Ignoring these claims could cost companies billions of dollars in financial damage, from increased operating costs to the abandonment of projects, says the paper. Investors also risk domestic legal challenges, prosecution in international courts for human rights abuses, protests by communities and public outcry, which can harm companies' ability to do business elsewhere, it says.

Andy White, co-ordinator of the RRI, said conflicts over land deals are not inevitable, but investors need to appreciate that ignoring the interests of local communities is risky business.

"Natural resource developers and their investors face a major challenge. Their profits – along with their ability to meet global demand – can plummet if the situation on the ground becomes unstable," he said. "Investors need to understand that in this day and age, no land is empty. The people living on the land need to be identified, involved and respected. They are striving for a better life; economic development should not bring them harsher poverty instead."

The paper, "Global capital, local concessions: A data-driven examination of land tenure risk and emerging market concessions, examined land deals for agriculture, forestry and mining projects in Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Liberia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Peru and the Philippines.

Researchers mapped and analysed geospatial data on deals covering more than 153m hectares, finding 3,750 cases in where there is significant overlap with local community lands.

In the most extreme case, researchers found that 84% of soybean concessions in Argentina overlapped with land claimed by communities.

In Cameroon, the data suggests that 83% of all commercial timber concessions overlapped with community forests.

Meanwhile, In Chile, Colombia and the Philippines, 30% of the area covered by mining concessions appear to overlap with indigenous territory. In the Philippines, disputes over the Tampakan copper-gold mine have placed $5.9bn-worth of investment at risk in a project that is projected to add 1% to national GDP, the paper says.

The authors note, however, that not all governments have made the same effort to map and demarcate community and indigenous lands.

"There has been little political or economic incentive for governments to map local populations' land and resource claims, whereas the incentive to map concessions is obvious," says the paper, which warns that the actual extent of overlapping land claims is likely much larger than available data suggests.

The lack of data also means it is difficult, if not impossible, for investors to insure against the risk of conflicts with local communities, it says.

Bryson Ogden, private sector analyst at the RRI, said companies should take matters into their own hands, go into the field and engage communities in mapping exercises to identify potentially competing claims over land. They should also recognise that legal rights are not always implemented, and come up with operational policies to engage with communities and diffuse conflicts before they erupt, he said.

"There needs to be a change in how folks are engaging with communities and dealing with the risk of conflict," said Ogden. "At the end of the day, the world needs resources and people want economic development but this needs to happen in a sustainable manner."

The paper was published to coincide with an international conference on community land rights in Interlaken, Switzerland, where a diverse set of conservationists, land rights activists and companies are meeting to discuss how to deal with disputes.

It follows a report from First Peoples Worldwide, which found that more than 30% of the oil and gas produced by companies listed on the Russell 1000 stock market index is sourced either on or near indigenous people's lands.

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« Reply #723 on: Oct 12, 2013, 06:17 AM »

France cements fracking ban

A law prohibiting fracking for shale gas has been upheld by France's constitutional court, citing environmental protection

Bloomberg, Friday 11 October 2013 14.08 BST   

France's constitutional court has upheld a ban on hydraulic fracturing, ruling that the law against the energy exploration technique known as "fracking" is a valid means of protecting the environment.

The court in Paris said on its website on Friday that the 2011 law "conforms to the constitution" and is not "disproportionate".

France banned fracking in 2011 and cancelled exploration licences held by companies including Schuepbach and Total SA, the country's biggest oil company, after protests by environmental groups.

Schuepbach Energy LLC, a Dallas-based explorer, complained to the court that the law was unfair after having two exploration permits revoked because of the ban. President François Hollande has said France won't allow exploration of shale gas energy even as the country seeks to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and keep down costs for consumers.

"It's a judicial victory but also an environmental and political victory," French environment minister, Philippe Martin, said today after the ruling. "With this decision the ban on hydraulic fracturing is absolute."

The technique, which involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to release oil and gas from shale rock, has raised the ire of environmental groups who fear groundwater contamination.

Schuepbach argued in court in September that there isn't a study that establishes risks from fracking. The explorer also said the ban was unfair because the drilling technique may still be used in French geothermal energy projects.

The court ruled that in imposing the ban, lawmakers were pursuing a legitimate goal in the general interest of protecting the environment and noted differences between geothermal and shale gas exploration techniques. The court also rejected an argument that the ban went against property rights.

The GEP-AFTP oil and gas lobby said in a statement said in a statement: "France is depriving itself of exploration that could evaluate potentially large nonconventional carbon resources," adding that it deplored the court decision. France should create a commission to experiment with shale drilling in order to evaluate the size of reserves, the lobby said.

France and Poland have the greatest potential for recoverable shale gas in Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said. In the US, where fracking is widely used, oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia's by 2020, making the country almost self-reliant, according to the IEA.

The ban can no longer be attacked in court and will benefit the fight against carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, Martin said.

"Beyond the question of fracking, shale gas is a carbon emitter," he said. "We must set our priorities on renewable energies."

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« Reply #724 on: Oct 12, 2013, 06:20 AM »

Published on DeSmogBlog (

Over 865,200 Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public In Dark For Days Due to Government Shutdown

Thu, 2013-10-10 20:08Steve Horn

Over 20,600 barrels of oil fracked [1] from the Bakken Shale [2] has spilled from a Tesoro Logistics [3] pipeline in Tioga, North Dakota in one of the biggest onshore oil spills in recent U.S. history.

Though the spill occurred on September 29, the U.S. National Response Center [4] - tasked with responding to chemical and oil spills - did not make the report available until October 8 due to the ongoing government shutdown.

"The center generally makes such reports available on its website within 24 hours of their filing, but services were interrupted last week because of the U.S. government shutdown," explained Reuters [5].

The "Incident Summaries" portion of the National Response Center's website is currently down [6], and the homepage notes, "Due to [the] government shutdown, some services may not be available."

At more than 20,600 barrels - equivalent to 865,200 gallons - the spill was bigger than the April 2013 ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline [7] spill, which spewed 5,000-7,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen into a residential neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas [8].

So far, only 1,285 barrels have been recovered [1] in North Dakota, and the oil is spread out over a 7.3 acre land mass [5].

Kris Roberts, environmental geologist for the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Water Quality told the Williston Herald [9], "the leak was caused by a hole that deteriorated in the side of the pipe."

“No water, surface water or ground water was impacted,” he said [9]. “They installed monitoring wells to ensure there is no impact now or that there is going to be one.”

Roberts also told the Herald he was impressed with Tesoro's handling of the cleanup.

“They've responded aggressively and quickly,” Roberts commented, also noting that the cleanup will cost upward of $4 million [9]. “Sometimes we've had to ask companies to do what they did right off the mark. They're going at this aggressively and they know they have a problem and they know what they need to do about it.”

Tesoro Logistics Chairman and CEO Greg Goff also weighed in on the spill.   

"Protection and care of the environment are fundamental to our core values, and we deeply regret any impact to the landowner," said Goff in a press release [10]. "We will continue to work tirelessly to fully remediate the release area."
Pipeline to Albany Refinery, Barging on the Hudson

Tesoro's six-inch pipeline was carrying oil obtained via the controversial hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") [11] process to the Stampede, ND rail facility. From Stampede, Canadian Pacific's freight trains take the oil piped from Tesoro's pipeline and ship it to an Albany, NY holding facility by Global Partners [12] located along the Hudson River.

Albany, NY Global Partners Facility; Image Credit: Google Maps [13]

"Over five years, the equivalent of roughly 91 million barrels of oil will be transported via CP’s rail network from a loading facility in Stampede, N.D., to a Global terminal in Albany," explained a September story appearing in the Financial Post [14].

Albany's holding facility received its first Canadian Pacific shipment from the Bakken Shale in December 2011, according to Bloomberg, with 1.4 million barrels of storage capacity [15]. The facility receives 149,000-157,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day [16] from Canadian Pacific.

Once shipped to Global's Albany holding facility, much of the oil is barged to market on tankers along the Hudson from the Port of Albany.

"As much as a quarter of the shale oil being produced in North Dakota could soon be headed by rail to the Port of Albany," explained an April 2012 article appearing in the Albany Times-Union [17]. "The crude oil...will be loaded onto barges to be shipped down the Hudson River to refineries along the East Coast."
North Dakota Petroleum Council Responds

North Dakota Petroleum Council's response to the largest fracked oil spill in U.S. history and one of the biggest onshore spills in U.S. history? Ho-hum. 

"You know, this is an industrial business and sometimes things happen and the companies are certainly responsible to take care of these things when they happen," Petroleum Council President Ron Ness told KQCD [18].

John Berger, Manager of Tesoro's Mandan, ND, refinery [19], sits on the Petroleum Council's Board of Directors [20].

DeSmogBlog will post continuing updates on the spill: stay tuned.

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« Reply #725 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:05 AM »

October 11, 2013

In Indonesia, Environmentalists See a Disaster in the Making


KALUL VILLAGE, Indonesia — Near a palm oil plantation here, bulldozers and chainsaws can be heard in what is officially “protected forest.” The hilly terrain is not ideal for large-scale agriculture, but with few areas left for expansion, the loggers are denuding the land anyway.

Aceh, the northern province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is a region made famous by separatist conflict and natural disasters, calamities that long held back economic development but helped preserve one of the world’s richest ecosystems. Now conservationists say the rapid clearing of virgin forest is paving the way for environmental catastrophe, turning critically endangered orangutans, tigers and elephants into refugees, and triggering landslides and flash floods.

Much of the current activity is illegal, they say, but if a land-use plan proposed by Aceh’s governor, Zaini Abdullah, is approved by the national government, currently protected forests could be rezoned as “production forests,” paving the way for logging, palm oil and mining concessions. The Aceh government argues that the change is needed to develop the local economy.

“They are very eager to build new roads and open up forests,” said Muhammad Zulfikar, of the Indonesian Forum for Environment, or Walhi, a nongovernmental organization opposed to the governor’s plan. “The government must see things not only from a political or investment point of view. What would be the point of investing if it only leads to natural disaster in the future?”

Mr. Zaini’s proposal is part of a startling shift by an Aceh government dominated by former separatist rebels who once billed themselves as protectors of the region’s natural environment against outside exploitation. It also illustrates a wider problem facing Indonesia, where the tightly centralized power structure of the late authoritarian leader Suharto has given way over the past 15 years to considerable local control. Nowhere is that more the case than in Aceh, where the 2005 peace accord between the Indonesian government and rebels of the Free Aceh Movement granted the region special autonomy.

“The regional autonomy law gives the power to mayors or regents to manage their affairs, to give concessions, to issue licenses related to economic activity,” said Mas Achmad Santosa, legal adviser to a presidential working group tasked with monitoring Indonesia’s forests.

A recent study by Greenomics, a Jakarta-based policy institute that researches forest management, determined that unauthorized permits for mining and palm oil plantations — meaning they were issued by local officials without approval at the national level — have affected more than 520,000 hectares, or 1.3 million acres, of protected forest in Aceh. Elfian Effendi, the executive director of Greenomics, called the proposed Aceh plan “an effort to legitimize illegal permit operations.” Protected forests currently account for about 1.84 million hectares of land in Aceh. There are about 32 million hectares of protected forest throughout Indonesia.

Indonesia has one of the world’s fastest rates of deforestation, much of it to make way for palm oil plantations. From 1990 to 2010, 20 percent of forest area was lost, according to a report by the United Nations.

In 2010, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared a freeze on new logging concessions as part of a deal with Norway, which agreed to pay Indonesia up to $1 billion for progress toward reducing deforestation. In May, Mr. Yudhoyono extended the ban to 2015.

But critics note that the moratorium applies only to new concessions, while weak governance and a complex structure of forest management leave nominally protected areas open to exploitation. For example, local governments can request that the National Development Planning Agency rezone protected areas they consider vital to economic growth.

Aceh is a case that stands out because its history of separatist uprisings eventually led to the special autonomy that has left Jakarta hesitant to intervene in how the local government manages natural resources.

“It’s quite a careful balancing act the national government has to do in accommodating Acehnese aspirations, but also imposing national law,” said John McCarthy, a senior lecturer on environment and development at Australian National University.

For decades, the separatist rebellion spared Aceh from some of the deforestation taking place elsewhere in Indonesia. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed an estimated 170,000 people and left half a million homeless in Aceh alone, further stymied development. But it also paved the way for the peace accord that ended the fighting and put the former rebels in charge of the devastated region.

Irwandi Yusuf, who served as governor from 2007 to 2012, was among them. Known to make surprise visits to logging concessions and comb forests in search of illegal chainsaws, Mr. Irwandi was the “green governor” who pledged to preserve Aceh’s rain forests.

He did so by embracing a United Nations-backedcarbon-trading plan that aimed to reduce deforestation and inject much-needed money into the economy. In 2007, he barred companies from clearing primary forest or peatland. Three years later, he proposed a land-use plan that would increase the amount of protected forest by 1 million hectares.

In 2011, however, he changed course, allowing the palm oil company PT Kallista Alam to develop a peat swamp inside the Tripa conservation zone, home to endangered Sumatran orangutans.

The move caused an uproar among conservationists, who alleged that the concession violated national law. Mr. Irwandi defended his decision, saying the money expected from projects aimed at reducing deforestation had not materialized, in part because of bureaucratic delays at the national level. One environmental group has taken the case to court. But it marked the beginning of a transition from a leadership focused on environmental protection to one that gave precedence to economic development.

“A lot of people in Aceh never accepted that such a large area of their homeland should be locked up by conservationists,” said Mr. McCarthy. Many had hoped to cash in by brokering deals for access to Aceh’s natural resources. He said Mr. Irwandi had supported conservation as a means of development, but when the carbon scheme failed to pay, he abandoned it.

His successor, Mr. Zaini, has proved no more environmentally friendly. Shortly after taking office in June 2012, he dissolved a management body tasked with ensuring conservation inside the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the last places where the Sumatran elephant, rhinoceros, tiger and orangutan live together. Conservationists say it is no longer possible to monitor what is happening in the forests.

“People are up to grab what they can while they can,” said Dr. Ian Singleton, the head of conservation at the environmental organization PanEco and director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. The program’s orangutan rehabilitation center, built to accommodate about 25 animals, currently has double that number, largely because of the increase in forest clearing, Dr. Singleton said.

Mr. Zaini’s proposal to the national government would revise a land-use plan enacted in 2000. Officials who helped draft the proposal say the changes are needed to accommodate expanding human settlements and infrastructure development.

“The population has grown a lot since the previous spatial plan was drafted,” said Martunis Muhammad, the head of investment and development financing at Aceh’s development planning agency, Bappeda. “The changes need to account for changes in land-use patterns.”

Under the proposed plan, Mr. Martunis said, some protected forest will be reclassified as production forest, allowing communities to cultivate the land they live on. He concedes that the plan would reduce the protected forest area but says it would not violate a national law designating the Leuser Ecosystem as off limits to human activity. “The spatial plan is aimed at guiding the development of Aceh, while protecting the environment,” he said.

Even if the plan is not approved, Dr. Singleton said, without decisive action from the national government, plantations will continue to encroach on protected areas. “It’s now all open for business,” he said.
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« Reply #726 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:14 AM »

Media gives climate change deniers disproportionate amount of attention: report

By Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian
Friday, October 11, 2013 12:45 EDT

There’s a 97 percent consensus on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed climate science literature and among climate experts. There’s a 96 percent consensus in the climate research that humans are responsible for most of the current global warming. The 2013 IPCC report agrees with this position with 95 percent confidence, and states that humans are most likely responsible for 100 percent of the global warming since 1951.

Yet a new study conducted by Media Matters for America shows that in stories about the 2013 IPCC report, rather than accurately reflect this expert consensus, certain media outlets have created a false perception of discord amongst climate scientists.

Conservative News Outlet False Balance and Fake Experts

Specifically, politically conservative news outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and the Wall Street Journal were responsible for the lion’s share of the false balance, disproportionately representing climate contrarians in their stories about the IPCC report.

The Media Matters study focused on American news outlets, but similar patterns have been observed in other international media markets. Mat Hope at Carbon Brief reviewed UK media coverage of the IPCC report. Similarly, he found that the politically conservative Times, Daily Mail, and Telegraph gave climate contrarian views disproportionate coverage, unlike The Guardian, Observer, and Independent. Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian also heavily featured climate contrarians in its climate stories leading up to the 2013 IPCC report.

Because there are so few climate scientist contrarians to choose from, most of the guests casting doubt on human-caused global warming and the IPCC report were not climate scientists. It’s important to remember that the scientific evidence has no political bias, which suggests that the disproportionate representation of climate contrarians is a result of the political biases in the media outlets themselves.

The 19 percent of guests classified as ‘climate scientists’ in the above graphic is also very generous to the conservative American media outlets. The 19 percent is comprised of Judith Curry, Willie Soon (who has received $1m from coal and oil industry interests since 2001), and Anthony Tsonis (whose research on ocean cycles is entirely consistent with human-caused global warming, but whose views Fox News portrayed inaccurately).

This practice is known as “false balance,” where the 3 percent of climate contrarians are given a disproportionate amount of media coverage, creating the perception that there is a significant divide amongst climate experts. In their purported efforts to be “fair and balanced” and represent “both sides,” these media outlets are actually creating an unbalanced perception of reality. The reality is that 97 percent of climate experts and evidence support human-caused global warming. The findings in the IPCC report are consistent with that expert consensus, as we would expect, since the IPCC report is simply a summary of the body of scientific research.

Bias Seeping into the BBC

Unfortunately this practice of false balance appears to be spreading to politically neutral media outlets. The BBC has been heavily criticized for its interviews of climate contrarians leading up to the publication of the IPCC report. BBC editor Ehsan Masood attempted to defend the network’s false balance coverage this week, arguing that there is a difference between climate contrarians and skeptics, and that it’s important to cover the latter to avoid “shutting out dissenting voices.”

There certainly is a difference between biased contrarians and open-minded skeptics. The problem is that the BBC can’t seem to tell the difference. For example, they granted an extensive interview to Bob Carter, a marine geologist with minimal experience in climate science, who works for numerous conservative think tanks including the Global Warming Policy Foundation. In fact, the interview largely centered on the right-wing think tank response to the IPCC report, the NIPCC report, which is neither a legitimate scientific document, nor skeptical. Rather it is the epitome of cherry picking and myth regurgitation.

If the BBC wants to give airtime to “dissenting voices” in climate, it should invite them to debate policy solutions. Amplifying the voices of climate contrarians who reject fundamental aspects of climate science is not constructive. As Masood admitted,

“Very few journalists (at least in the developed world) would give space to those claiming HIV doesn’t cause Aids, to flat-Earthers, or those who believe that vaccines make us ill.”

Will the BBC begin following every Attenborough program by giving Creationists airtime? Giving space to those like Bob Carter that reject the expert consensus on human-caused climate change is no different. It amplifies the voices of the 3 percent minority and creates the false impression of a division amongst climate experts. As a result, only 45 percent of Americans are aware of the 97 percent expert consensus on human-caused global warming.

Media false balance as illustrated in the IPCC reporting by outlets like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, and Fox News is largely to blame for this “consensus gap.” This practice of false balance misinforms the public and does us all a disservice. © Guardian News and Media 2013

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« Reply #727 on: Oct 13, 2013, 07:12 AM »

Up to five billion people face ‘entirely new climate’ by 2050

By Climate Central
Saturday, October 12, 2013 11:10 EDT

The mean annual climate of the average location on Earth will slip past the most extreme conditions experienced during the past 150 years and into new territory by between 2047 and 2069, depending on the amount of climate-warming greenhouse gases that are emitted during the next few decades, a new study found. The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, used a new index to show for the first time when the climate — which has been warming during the past century in response to manmade pollution and natural variability — will be radically different from average conditions during the 1860-2005 period.

The study shows that tropical areas, which contain the richest diversity of species on the planet as well as some of the poorest countries, will be among the first to see the climate exceed historical limits — in as little as a decade from now — which spells trouble for rainforest ecosystems and nations that have a limited capacity to adapt to rapid climate change.

According to the study, conducted by a team from the University of Hawaii, about 1 billion people currently live in areas where the climate will exceed historical bounds of variability by 2050. This number would rise to 5 billion people under a business-as-usual emissions scenario, which is the emissions path the world is currently on.

Even more strikingly, the study found that the oceans, which have absorbed about half of the manmade carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution 250 years ago, exceeded their historical bounds of pH measurements back in 2008.

In other words, the oceans are now more acidic than they have been since at least 1860.

The study “Provides a new metric of when climate change will lead to an environment that we’ve never seen before,” said author Camilo Mora, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in an interview.

“When you look at the information there is a lot of empirical evidence suggesting that indeed we already crossed the threshold of pH variability during the last decade”

In the water, CO2 reacts to form carbonic acid, and over the years, the ocean’s acidity has increased by more than 30 percent because so much of the excess man-made CO2 is being drawn into the water.

This increased acidity changes the balance of other carbon-species in the water, and may have far-reaching ramifications. Some marine species that use a form of carbonate to build their skeletons and shells, like corals and mollusks, may be harmed because the acid formed in the water consumes this carbonate and makes it less accessible to these organisms.

Even with aggressive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the study found, the projected near-surface air temperature of the average location on Earth will move beyond historical variability in about 56 years from now. A business-as-usual scenario in which emissions continue on their current upward trajectory would see an unprecedented climate occurring 20 years sooner than that, in 2047.

However, the extra 20 years that emissions cuts would buy time for making emissions cuts and could prove crucial for many species’ survival, Mora said.

Imagine you are on a highway, and you spot an obstacle in the road up ahead, Mora said. “Should you step on the gas, or hit the brake?” Hitting an obstacle at a slower speed will minimize the damage to the car and its occupants, in much the same way as hitting a climate threshold at a slower speed would reduce the ramifications for biological systems, he said. “The speed at which you face that (obstacle) is going to make a huge difference."

The study questions the way climate change is typically framed, which is by looking at the absolute value of the temperature change that is expected to occur in the coming decades. This framing often identifies the Arctic as being ground zero for the most significant and rapid climate change, and overlooks the fact that, while the Arctic has a history of bigger temperature swings, that's not the case in the tropics, where temperatures have historically remained within a narrower range. That makes it easier for a small amount of warming to make a big difference in tropical climate.

For temperature-sensitive tropical species, such as coral reefs, the speed at which climate change occurs can be a more important factor in determining how disruptive climate change will be, even though the total amount of climate change expected in the tropics will be less than in the Far North.

“The tropics, not the poles, are going to be feeling the effects first,” Mora said.

Mora said the index he and his team developed aims to address this shortcoming of traditional climate studies. The index used the minimum and maximum temperatures from 1860-2005 to define the bounds of historical climate variability at any given location. The scientists then took projections from 39 climate models for the next century to find the year in which the future temperature will exceed the limits of historical precedents, defining that year as the year of climate departure. When the climate reaches this point, the average temperature of the coolest year at a given location will be greater than the average temperature of its hottest year for the period from 1860 to 2005.

“We analyzed every single model that has been developed so far,” Mora said. “All of that data is telling you something in common, and that is that pretty soon we’re going to be facing unprecedented climate.”

Since many tropical nations are major suppliers of food to global markets, including fish that rely on healthy coral reef ecosystems as well as many other goods and services, there may be ripple effects throughout the global economy despite the longer lag time before the climate of the industrialized nations exceed the bounds of their historical climate, Mora said.

Warming in the tropics, he said, “Will increase the prices of the things that we have to pay here.”

Given that there are considerable uncertainties about future greenhouse gas emissions as well as the precise response of the climate system to those emissions, not to mention the uncertainties inherent in computer modeling, the study should not be taken as offering precise predictions. However, the researchers found low uncertainties associated with the date ranges by which the climate would exceed previous bounds, with greater uncertainties associated with the changes likely to take place in different geographical locations.

Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading who was not involved in the new study, said the findings build on previously published research about the timing of climate change impacts. “As shown by last month’s latest assessment report by the IPCC, the focus of climate science has moved from whether climate change is happening, to when and where it will be most keenly felt," he said in a statement that was emailed to reporters.

“This kind of work is particularly important as it helps to focus the minds of policy makers about when climate change will start to change our environment. It shows that in many parts of the world, climate change will start to have a major impact in our own lifetimes, not just during those of our children and grandchildren.”

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« Reply #728 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:33 AM »

Fracking comes to Saudi Arabia despite limited water resources

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, October 14, 2013 7:16 EDT

The U.S. shale gas boom will spread “far and wide,” the head of Saudi Aramco said Monday, announcing the state oil giant was set to supply gas to a massive Saudi power plant project.

The world’s largest oil exporter launched an unconventional gas program in northern Saudi Arabia two years ago, as it sought alternative domestic fuel supplies that would allow an expansion of lucrative oil exports.

“We are now ready to commit gas for the development of a 1,000 megawatt power plant, which will feed a massive phosphate mining and manufacturing center in the region,” company president Khalid al-Falih told the World Energy Congress underway in Daegu, South Korea.

Oil Minister Ali Naimi estimated in March that Saudi Arabia had 600 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas.

With domestic energy consumption rising, Saudi Arabia has less oil available for the exports on which its economy depends, and shale gas is seen as a possible solution.

But experts note that the vast amounts of water needed to produce shale gas by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would be a major challenge.

Al-Falih gave no details as to how much gas Aramco could commit to the power plant, or when supplies might start, but he was bullish on the sector’s overall future.

“I believe the US shale revolution will spread far and wide… The rush, ladies and gentlemen, is definitely on,” he told the Congress in a keynote speech.

The Congress, which takes place every three years, draws leading energy officials from around the world and is dubbed the “Energy Olympics”.

Highlighting what he described as the world’s “colossal endowment” of fossil fuels, Al-Falih said the main challenge of providing energy for a growing world population lay in improving end-use efficiency.

“It is not preordained that demand has to rise to unsustainable levels, even if we provide everyone with sufficient energy,” he said.

“Improved energy intensity is our low hanging fruit and can deliver similar economic growth using considerably less energy,” he added.

Al-Falih said the world’s current gas reserves of more than 7,000 trillion cubic feet had “enormous room” to grow, as the unconventional gas revolution has expanded the world’s technically recoverable gas resources to 30,000 trillion cubic feet.

“If we could economically recover them, they could meet global gas demand at current rates for more than 250 years,” he said.

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« Reply #729 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:36 AM »

10/14/2013 12:59 PM

Expanding the Grid: A Vision for Fueling Europe on Renewables

By Christoph Pauly

European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger is in Brussels on Monday to present his plan for the future of energy in the EU. He wants to export Germany's push toward renewables to the rest of the Continent -- and for the first time, he actually has the money to do it.

Until recently, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger had to rely entirely on the power of his words to push through his policies. "The internal market is being ruined," he said in reference to the Energiewende, Germany's push to abandon nuclear energy and promote renewable sources. Still, he was unable to intervene.

That may change on Monday, as Oettinger presents a list of 200 infrastructure projects that he sees as crucial for Europe's future energy supply. For the first time, he now has real power -- the power of money. He intends to spend a total of €5.8 billion ($7.9 billion) to promote the cross-border construction of new power lines, energy storage facilities and gas pipelines -- provided, of course, the EU Parliament and EU Council don't object.

The former governor of the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg hopes to use this money to liberate European energy policy from the squalor of national constraints and, as an added bonus, help secure the German Energiewende. "This is a huge step forward for Europe," he says.

It would also be a success for him personally. For the first time, a European energy commissioner can personally steer policies now that over €200 billion will have to be invested in Europe's energy networks by the year 2020, according to EU forecasts.

At Least Two Countries Should Benefit

The key eligibility criterion for Oettinger's program is that at least two countries should always benefit from the new power lines. This would hopefully free some countries, like Ireland and the Baltic republics, from their general energy policy isolation. Oettinger's list -- a copy of which has been obtained by SPIEGEL -- reveals that the EU has painstakingly ensured that each of the 28 EU countries receives its share of the bonanza from Brussels.

The proposed measures are highly tempting. For instance, it has been suggested that projects should benefit from low-cost loans and construction subsidies amounting to up to 75 percent of the investment sums. For those ventures where the risks and/or costs are too high for a private grid operator, the EU is prepared to help out with large subsidies.

Germany benefits from 22 large-scale projects. Oettinger wants to remove bottlenecks that have arisen in Germany as a result of the push to expand renewable energies. The list of projects slated to receive funding includes new power highways intended to transport surplus electricity from the wind turbines in northern Germany to the consumer centers of the south.

At the top of Oettinger's list are high-voltage power lines for direct current, for example, between Wilster in northern Germany and Grafenrheinfeld in central Germany. Starting in early 2014, grid operators like Tennet and Amprion can apply for low-interest loans from the European Investment Bank. In addition to power lines, the list includes some 100 gas projects across Europe.

Germany And Its Neighbors

Although the majority of these projects were already part of Germany's Federal Network Agency's development plan, the driving idea behind the EU's initiative is different: It seeks to improve Germany's network with its neighbors.

One of the long-term goals is to create a North Sea electricity ring main. This would provide an ideal way of tapping into the reserves of other countries when there doesn't happen to be enough wind to generate electricity. Oettinger sees it as an anachronism that every country maintains its own conventional gas and coal-fired plants for occasions when there is very little wind or sun. "Consumers ultimately have to pay a high price for this," Oettinger argues.

But it's not just unresolved financing issues that have been holding up plans to expand the power network. Many projects can't make any headway because numerous citizens' initiatives are blocking things like high-voltage transmission lines.

The EU has also taken a brash course on this front: The proposal would make it possible for the 200 top projects in Europe to receive a construction permit within three and a half years -- with only one court that would hear the objections of project opponents.

Only time will tell whether such an approach actually works on the ground. "It took over 30 years before a power line between France and Spain could be built," recalls an expert on the EU Commission. Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti finally had to intervene and mediate the conflict. He was successful because he used large amounts of money from Brussels to ensure that the transmission lines disappeared underground in some places.

In Germany there are also protests against virtually every major project of the Energiewende.

For instance, the EU list includes the Riedl pumped-storage power plant near the southern German city of Passau. For years, Donaukraftwerk Jochenstein AG has proposed the construction of a colossal reservoir above the Danube Valley for €350 million. But conservationists object to the plan because they say it would threaten the upper Danube Valley.

Similar conflicts rage in many places in the Alpine region, where the EU plans specify the construction of new reservoirs for the Energiewende. Now Brussels hopes to accelerate the approval process here, too -- using an approach that always works: money.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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« Reply #730 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:10 AM »

Germany blocks EU car emissions law

Lobbying from Germany carmakers leads EU ministers to reopen deal to limit average new car emissions to 95g CO2 per km

Reuters, Tuesday 15 October 2013 09.10 BST    

Higher average car emissions by German manufacturers including BMW and Daimler have led to lobbying to undo an EU deal capping new car emissions Higher average car emissions by German manufacturers including BMW and Daimler have led to lobbying to undo an EU deal capping new car emissions Photograph: Matthias Schrader/AP

European Union environment ministers agreed on Monday to German demands to scrap an agreement to cap EU car emissions that Berlin argued would cost jobs and damage its premium car makers.

After months of forceful lobbying from Germany, the ministers from the 28 EU member states agreed to reopen a deal sealed in June, but said they would work to secure it in weeks, not months.

German carmakers Daimler and BMW produce heavier and less fuel-efficient vehicles than those from firms such as Italy's Fiat, meaning they would find it challenging to meet a proposed EU cap on carbon emissions of 95 grams per kilometre for all new cars from 2020, analysts say.

"It's not a fight over principles but how we bind the necessary clarity in climate protection with the required flexibility and competitiveness to protect the car industry in Europe," Germany's environment minister Peter Altmaier said.

"I am convinced we can find such a solution. We can find it in the next weeks," he said.

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters she was disappointed that agreement on implementing a target first laid out five years ago had been blocked.

"It is not a terrific thing that we could not conclude on cars," she said.

She also said flexibility was limited and a German proposal to delay full implementation of the 95g CO2 target for four years to 2024 was not acceptable.

Environment campaigners say Germany is abusing the EU's democratic process, throwing away the chance to make European cars more energy efficient and to reduce the bloc's dependency on oil imports.

British-based consultancy Cambridge Econometrics researched how much Europe would save on oil imports if the 95 g/km target was implemented across the EU fleet. It found the EU as a whole would save around 70 billion euros ($94.94 billion) per year, while Germany would save 9 billion euros in fuel bills.

"It's an unacceptable price, which will be paid by every European driver in higher fuel bills, by the planet that will warm quicker and potentially by Europe's auto sector that will be less competitive," said Greg Archer, a programme manager at campaign group Transport & Environment.

"The deal struck in June was a reasonable political compromise. Now we go back to the drawing board."

Although Germany managed to get the support of other EU ministers on Monday, many member states have voiced unease at the manner in which Berlin blocked the deal.

Sweden's environment minister Lena Ek said the risk was that further delays could hold back adoption of the rules until 2015 because of impending European Parliament elections next year and the appointment of new commissioners.

Germany would bear "a very heavy responsibility", she told reporters.

As well as seeking to protect its carmakers, Germany also wants to avoid the car emissions law complicating its decision on forming a new governing coalition.

The German Greens are strongly in favour of cutting CO2 to 95 grams per kilometre, but chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives support the German carmakers.

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« Reply #731 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:30 AM »

October 15, 2013

Bulgaria’s Air Is Dirtiest in Europe, Study Finds, Followed by Poland


Hold your breath if you visit Bulgaria.

The air in the small Black Sea nation is thicker with several major air pollutants than the air in any other country in Europe, according to a new study prepared by Europe’s environmental regulators.

Bulgaria has the highest concentrations of the two major varieties of particulate matter, which are tiny airborne droplets or gas particles that come from smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes or a variety of other sources. They can lead to health problems from asthma to cancer. Bulgaria also has the highest concentrations of carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, according to the report by the European Environment Agency.

The pollution in Bulgaria’s capital of Sofia is evident to anyone who has spent any time there. “When you put on a washed white shirt and take a walk for a couple of hours in Sofia, when you come back you can see that the collar and the front have a yellow-gray hue,” said Alex Melamed, a 25-year-old business student who lives in the city of about 1.2 million people. “Sometimes I do the following experiment: I walk around in Sofia and do not touch anything, when I come back and wash my hands, the soap gets dirty.”

But Bulgaria is hardly alone in having air quality challenges. While Bulgarian cities lead in the concentration of particulates, Poland is a frequent runner-up, and cities in northern Italy lead in ozone, according to separate data provided by the agency.

Over all, in the 10 years measured by the report — from 2002 to 2011 — air pollutants are generally on the decline in Europe. But particulates and ozone remain a problem. An increase in the percentage of urban populations in Europe being exposed to levels of particulate matter from 2010 to 2011 suggested some backsliding, the report said. The development was attributed to dry spells in the period, which slow the dispersal of particulates. But it also could reveal a growing reliance on wood burning for home heating in some countries during the financial crisis, the agency said.

“Large parts of the population do not live in a healthy environment,” Hans Bruyninckx, the executive director of the European Environment Agency said in a statement. “To get on to a sustainable path, Europe will have to be ambitious and go beyond current legislation.”

Bulgaria has a history of Soviet-era industrialization with scant attention paid to environmental issues. Given its standing as one of Europe’s poorer nations, it appears to have made limited progress in cleaning up its air. A 2011 report from the United Nations found that Bulgaria, along with Armenia and Romania, “lead the world in deaths from outdoor air pollution.” That said, the particulate levels reported in Bulgaria fall well short of the alarming levels reported recently in Beijing, where in January the concentration of fine particulate matter reached 40 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

Four of Europe’s five cities with the most consistently high levels of particulate matter were Bulgarian, with Pernik, a small city just southwest of the capital, Sofia, at the top of the list. High concentrations of particulates were found in the air in Pernik about half of the year, compared to about 15 days of the year for Paris and Stuttgart, Germany.

Part of the problem in Bulgaria and its neighbors has been the use of wood for home heating. “Populations are switching to domestic fuels when they can’t afford energy prices,” said Valentin Foltescu, an air quality expert at the agency.

Poland, where coal-burning predominates, also ranks at or near the bottom of several air quality measures. It had the highest levels of benzo(a)pyrene, a carcinogen that comes from coke and steel production as well as from fuel. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic also had high levels of benzo(a)pyrene. But another former Soviet bloc nation, Estonia, frequently had the cleanest air.

Air quality problems, of course, are hardly constrained within borders, and some of it has to do with which way the wind blows. Less than half of the fine particular matter seen in many European countries actually results from emissions within the country’s own borders, the report found. Europe’s efforts to reduce ozone emissions are undercut by the movement of ozone across continental borders.

Italy’s ozone problem is considered to be a combination of weather and industry. In northern Italy’s Po Valley, Mr. Foltescu said, “you have the industrial activity, you have the trapping of pollution, you have the high temperatures. You have all the ingredients to promote high levels of ozone.”

The study examined air quality broadly in Europe, and included data from beyond the European Union, though not all of the 38 countries that participated provided a full range of data.

“Surveys show that a large majority of citizens understand well the impact of air quality on health and are asking public authorities to take action at E.U., national and local levels, even in times of austerity and hardship,” Janez Potocnik, Europe’s commissioner of the environment, said in a statement.

Georgi Kantchev contributed reporting.

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« Reply #732 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:44 AM »

Tony Abbott insists carbon tax will end on 1 July – even if Senate blocks repeal

Leading lawyers say Australian companies would still be liable and should continue to pass the tax on to customers

Lenore Taylor political editor, Tuesday 15 October 2013 08.35 BST   

The Abbott government insists the carbon tax will end on 1 July next year even if the parliament has not yet repealed it but leading lawyers say companies would still be liable and should continue to pass the tax on to their customers.

Tony Abbott says he is sure public pressure will force the Labor party to “repent” of its support for the carbon tax and allow its repeal before next July, but both Labor and the Greens insist they will not allow the repeal legislation through the Senate – meaning the government would have to wait until the newly elected Senate sits in July.

Explanatory documents released with a package of eight draft bills designed to demolish Labor’s carbon pricing scheme state: “The government will not extend the carbon tax beyond 2013-14, even if the parliament does not pass the carbon tax repeal bills until after 1 July 2014.”

The bills – making Australia the first country in the world to dismantle a carbon market – seek to make the carbon tax repeal retrospective to 1 July.

But Elisa de Wit, partner at legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright specialising in climate law, said until the repeal passed parliament, companies would still be liable and she would be advising clients to continue to pass the tax through to their customers.

“This legislation does not deal with the scenario that the repeal is not passed by the abolition date,” de Wit said.

“If that happens companies will still be liable and as a lawyer I would be advising my clients that they still need to comply with the existing laws because they would not know if the repeal was going to be passed, or when, or in what form.

“It would be prudent for them to continue to pass the price through to their customers, but once the repeal goes through those customers may want a refund … that is going to get very complicated.”

Asked how the government believed it could remove a company’s legal requirement to comply with a law that had not been repealed by the parliament, a spokeswoman for the environment minister, Greg Hunt, said: “The legislation is structured so that it will achieve what we said it would – finish on 30 June 2014. There is no requirement for businesses to purchase permits prior beyond the current 2013-14 year.”

It is understood the government would convene parliament as quickly as possible after 1 July to try to get the repeal through, but that strategy relies on the compliance of the crossbench in the new Senate, where the four votes controlled by Clive Palmer’s Palmer United party will be crucial.

Martijn Wilder, head of global environmental markets for Baker and McKenzie, said: “The expectation is that the repeal would be passed quite quickly after July 1, but if it dragged on the point would come where businesses would have to comply with the existing scheme and that would create complications.”

The new laws also provide for fines of more than $100,000 for listed corporations that engage in “carbon tax-related price exploitation” or that “make false or misleading representations about the effect of the carbon tax repeal”.

The crackdown, including new price-monitoring powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, applies for six months before the repeal and one year afterwards.

As well as removing the carbon price, the bills seek to abolish the legislated cap on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and dismantle the Climate Change Authority – which advises the government on Australia’s fair share of the international effort to reduce greenhouse gases. Instead the new laws provide for “periodic reviews at the instigation of the minister”.

The repeal legislation will be the first item of business when parliament resumes on 12 November.

The new Labor leader, Bill Shorten, has said Labor will not allow a repeal. Given that the Greens are also determined to keep the carbon pricing scheme, if Labor sticks to that position it would leave the fate of the repeal bills in the hands of the new Senate.

“The pressure on the Labor party in the end to repeal this bill will be irresistible … we are giving the Labor party a chance to repent of its support for the carbon tax,” Abbott said at a press conference in Canberra after a meeting of his cabinet.

“I think the new leader of the Labor party is nothing if not a political pragmatist, he is nothing if not a political survivor.”

Labor has said it is willing to reduce the level of the carbon tax, but not willing to vote for the dismantling of the architecture of its scheme, which is necessary for long-term climate action.

The climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, said Labor “stands by its election commitment to support the termination of the carbon tax provided that a market-based mechanism that reduces carbon pollution is put in its place, along with a strong commitment to expanding renewable energy”.

Asked what it would mean for a company’s liability if the tax were not repealed by next June, Abbott said: “I’m just not going to speculate on the distant future, what I am going to say is that every day the Labor party tries to block this measure is a day the Labor party is going to get the Australian public more and more angry.”

He rejected Palmer’s policy that companies should be reimbursed for carbon tax already paid at the time of its abolition, and said Palmer himself should pay the tax he owes. Palmer is disputing a $6.2m carbon tax bill charged to his company, Queensland Nickel, and is challenging the constitutionality of the tax in the courts.

“For reasons of technical efficacy, for reasons of making a clean break with this toxic tax it makes abundant sense to abolish the carbon tax at the end of the current financial year and obviously people will be liable for their carbon tax obligations up until that time … obviously people do need to honour their obligations under tax law and that is true under existing carbon tax law just as it is true under any other law of the commonwealth,” Abbott said.

The prime minister said he could not remember whether any of the world leaders he had met during his recent overseas visits had raised concerns about the government’s plan to abolish the tax, but said his main message had been that he wanted to maximise economic growth.

“I am trying to remember all of the various conversations I had, there were a lot of conversations with a lot of people. I don’t have any specific recollection of anyone raising concerns … the point I made throughout my conversations … is that we are determined to put Australia in the strongest possible economic position and that means eliminating as far as we can anything that is an obstacle to economic growth and job creation.”

Asked about the warnings on the impact of climate change in the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change, Abbott said: “The fact there is this ongoing issue, an ongoing challenge, is a very good reason to tackle it effectively rather than ineffectively.”

Hunt has convened meetings with business and environmental groups on Wednesday to explain the repeal process and the government’s alternative Direct Action plan. The government will commission a white paper on Direct Action to be completed by early next year, and Treasury modelling by mid-2014.

The chief executive of the Climate Institute, John Connor, said Australia’s existing legislation “has limits on carbon pollution, but we are now entering an era where pollution is unlimited by legislation”.

WWF-Australia said: “Australia risks being left without a cost-effective and stable mechanism to cut carbon pollution, if the government opts to repeal the current climate change laws before putting an alternative scheme in place.”

Interested parties have until 4 November to make submissions on the draft repeal bills.

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« Reply #733 on: Oct 16, 2013, 06:08 AM »

Published on DeSmogBlog (

 US Court: Transcanada's Keystone XL Profits More Important than Environment

Sun, 2013-10-13 19

In a major ruling that's flown under the radar [1], the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [2] - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL [3] tar sands export pipeline [4].

The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline [5] in February 2012.

Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline [6] crossing 2,227 streams?

In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."

Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush [7] and President George H.W. Bush [8], respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.

Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet [10]" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen.

Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete [11]. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014.

NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval

After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12.

This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects [12]. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response [12] throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes [13] explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.

The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012 [14], directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard [15].

"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes.

Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."

"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."

Why, I asked Hayes?

"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."

NWP 12 has also been utilized [16] by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline [17], a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines.

Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process.

"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes.

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez [18] - an Obama appointee [19] - did not, pulling no punches in doing so.

"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.

"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law."

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water.

There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.

Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment.

"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.

"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."

Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.

"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).

U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists

Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."

While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects.

"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman.

"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."

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« Reply #734 on: Oct 16, 2013, 06:13 AM »

U.S. joins Australia and France in pushing for Antarctic sanctuaries

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 23:40 EDT

Australia, New Zealand, the United States, France and the EU on Wednesday stepped up pressure on Russia for a swift agreement to create vast Antarctic marine sanctuaries.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), comprising 24 nations plus the European Union, meet in Australia next week with Russia seen as key to protecting large swathes of the wilderness area.

At a special summit of CCAMLR in Germany in July, Moscow blocked a plan to create the ocean sanctuaries off Antarctica for a second time, and foreign ministers from the main proponents issued a rallying call on Wednesday.

“Australia, the European Union, France, New Zealand and the United States jointly call for the establishment this year of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean, in the Ross Sea Region and in East Antarctica,” they said in a joint statement, without naming Russia.

“The establishment of such MPAs follows through on the vision expressed by all nations at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and the Rio+20 conference in 2012.”

CCAMLR is a 31-year-old treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Southern, Ocean but at the meeting in Bremerhaven Russia questioned its legal right to declare such a haven, according to organisations at the talks.

Russia has argued that planned restrictions on fishing are too onerous although most other nations support the proposals.

One of the proposed sanctuaries, floated by the United States and New Zealand, covers 1.6 million square kilometres (640,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica’s Pacific side.

The other, backed by Australia, France and the EU, would protect 1.9 million square kilometres of coastal seas off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent’s Indian Ocean side.

Protecting the areas — which biologists say are rich in unique species — would more than double the area of the world’s oceans declared sanctuaries.

The waters around Antarctica are home to some 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses and penguins, as well as unique species of fish.

In their statement, the foreign ministers said the Ross Sea and East Antarctica regions were widely recognised for their remarkable ecological and scientific importance.

“The MPA proposals now before the Commission are based on sound and best available science, will provide a unique laboratory for continuation of marine research, and will have profound and lasting benefits for ocean conservation, including sustainable use of its resources,” they said.

CCAMLR nations meet in Hobart from October 23.

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