11/04/2013 12:36 PM
Energy Referendum: Public Buy-Back of Berlin Grid Fails
An attempt to buy Berlin's energy grid from the Swedish mega firm Vattenfall fell short at the polls on Sunday. Activists argued the company isn't doing enough to foster green energy, while opponents questioned the logistical advantages of a change.
In a defeat for environmental activists, a public referendum to bring Berlin's energy grid back under public ownership failed on Sunday. Driven by a group called EnergieTisch (or Energy Table), the movement didn't manage to get enough votes to spur the city towards buying back the utility.
In order to pass, the measure would have had to get the support of 25 percent of eligible Berlin voters. Although 83 percent of those voting in the referendum voted yes, the overall numbers fell slightly short -- another 21,000 "yes" votes would have been needed for a win.
The referendum was the culmination of a long-term attempt to wrest Berlin's utility from Vattenfall, the Swedish energy giant. According to critics, Vattenfall isn't doing enough to transfer the city over to green energy sources. Although the grid is, by the standards of large cities, extremely reliable, a mere 1.4 percent of the city's power comes from renewable sources. Activists blame this on Vattenfall's ownership interests -- the company doesn't just manage the grid, it helps produce the energy that feeds it, giving it, activists claim, an incentive to focus on cheap, but highly polluting, coal power. Proponents argued that a buy-back would have made the utility more democratic, transparent and environmentally friendly.
Discontent with German Energy
The referendum comes at a time of growing concern about energy prices in Germany. The nationwide Energiewende, or energy revolution, aims to turn the country from nuclear over to renewable sources, like solar and wind. This policy, which has required the expansion of infrastructure and the construction of new wind farms, and is backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, has resulted in steeply rising costs with, thus far, questionable environmental advantages. In order to compensate for the still-lacking infrastructure and the closure of nuclear plants, Germany has been relying largely on coal plants to power its cities.
Germans already have the highest electricity prices in Europe, but, as a result of the Energiewende, they have continued to rise, placing a large burden on the country's poor. Although it is unlikely that the Berlin buy-back, had it been successful, would have lowered electricity prices for consumers, it is a sign of the growing popular discontent with the ways the electricity industry in Germany is run. A similar referendum recently passed in Hamburg, and the city's government is now forced to explore ways of buying its energy grid from Vattenfall and a company called E.on.
But opponents of the buy-back in Berlin point to Vattenfall's good record on reliability and the parliamentary control over costs under the current arrangement. They also argue that there are dangers in putting complex management and construction jobs in the hands of local authorities with little experience -- and point to Berlin's spectacularly bungled construction of its new airport as an example. The airport was supposed to open in 2011, but has been hampered by technical difficulties, cost-overruns and endless delays. In October, its costs ballooned by another € 1.1 billion, and its opening is now scheduled for late 2014.
Warsaw climate talks warned time is running out to close 'emissions gap'
UN calls on governments to step up action to prevent catastrophic climate change, reports BusinessGreen
Jessica Shankleman for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network
theguardian.com, Tuesday 5 November 2013 09.55 GMT
PEITZ, GERMANY - OCTOBER 31: Fishermen cast nets as the cooling towers of the Jaenschwalde coal-fired power plant loom behind on October 31, 2013 in Peitz, Germany Coal-fired power plants such as this one in Peitz, Germany, mean the gap between temperatures are unlikely to be kept to 'safe' levels of warming, according to a Unep report
As world leaders prepare to meet in Poland for the latest United Nations summit on climate change, a major new report has warned that the chance to limit global temperature rises to below 2C is swiftly diminishing.
The United Nations Environment Programme's annual "Gap report", issued on Tuesday aims to highlight the efforts needed by governments and businesses to avoid catastrophic climate change.
This year's report shows that even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be eight to 12 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) above the level needed to have a good chance of remain below 2C by 2020 on the lowest cost pathway.
The report shows that emissions should peak at 44 GtCO2e by 2020 and fall to 22GtCO2e by 2050 to stay within a 2C target, but under a business-as-usual scenario, which includes no emissions pledges, emissions would reach 59 GtCO2e in 2020.
Even if countries deliver policies and investments that allow them to meet their current emissions targets, emissions would be just 3-7GtCO2e lower than the business-as-usual scenario, the report warns.
Unep is now warning that rising emissions means it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to limit warming to safe levels. However, it finds that it concludes it is still possible to meet a 2C target if leaders agree more ambitious targets for 2020.
The report found governments could go half way to closing the emissions gap if they tightened rules governing existing pledges in the climate negotiations, achieved the top end of their current reduction pledges and further expanded the scope of their current commitments.
The remaining gap could then be bridged by further international and national action. Energy efficiency measures, for example, could narrow the gap by a further two GtCO2e by 2020, while renewable energy initiatives could cut up to three GtCO2 from the gap. Fossil fuel subsidy reform could also reduce emissions by 0.4 to two GtCO2e by 2020, the report says.
Unep also highlights agriculture as an industry that could slash emissions by 1.1 GtCO2e to 4.3 GtCO2e through adopting more environmentally sustainable methods, such as no-tillage practices to reduce emissions from soil disturbance and farm machinery.
Commenting on the study, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Unep Executive Director, urged world leaders to use this year's Conference of the Parties (COP) to make progress on reaching a global deal to tackle climate change.
"Delayed action means a higher rate of climate change in the near term and likely more near-term climate impacts, as well as the continued use of carbon-intensive and energy-intensive infrastructure," he said.
"This 'lock-in' would slow down the introduction of climate-friendly technologies and narrow the developmental choices that would place the global community on the path to a
"However, the stepping stone of the 2020 target can still be achieved by strengthening current pledges and by further action, including scaling up international cooperation initiatives in areas such as energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform and renewable energy."
The report comes just days after consultancy giant PwC warned the world was on track to burn through the available "carbon budget" that would allow it to remain on track for less than 2C of warming by 2034.
It also follows warnings from three of the chairs of the UN climate change secretariat that it is now extremely unlikely that the world will meet the 2C goal set by global leaders.
Nutrient recovery reactor turns human excrement into high-quality fertilizer
By John Vidal, The Guardian
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 2:35 EST
Slough’s phosphorus-rich excreta is raw material for facility that converts waste into pellets for farm and garden use
Just a few yards from the choked M4 motorway, beyond the massive settling tanks and a steaming, 500-tonne mountain of black sewage sludge at Slough treatment works, a modern alchemy is taking place that could potentially keep the world in food for a few more years.
The plant is taking the tiny quantities of phosphorus contained in the poo of the Berkshire town’s 140,000 people and turning it into high-quality fertiliser fit to grow organic garden vegetables.
At one end of the novel process in Europe’s first “nutrient recovery reactor”, the human waste is dark and “earthy” smelling. At the other end, bright white, odourless phosphorus-rich pellets drop into sacks. The sewage workers euphemistically say they are “harvesting pearls”. Thames Water, which owns the facility, says it is making “Viagra for plants”.
According to the water company, Slough’s excreta has a “unique vintage”, and contains more phosphorus than any other area in south-east England, possibly because of the quantity of meat eaten in the town or because it boasts several large food processing and pharmacueutical works. The company expects to make £200,000 a year from the combination of selling 150 tonnes of its fertiliser to farmers and gardeners, and not having to spend as much money on chemicals to unblock pipes.
“We reckon using this technology Britain could save 20% of the 138,000 tonnes of phosphorus fertiliser that it imports a year,” says Piers Clark, Thames Water’s commercial director. “Phosphorus is a fast-depleting, non-renewable resource which we will run out of. Without it, all life on the planet will take a nosedive.”
It is the key ingredient in fertiliser and essential for farming, says Peter Melchett, policy director of organic trade body the Soil Association. “Without fertilisation from phosphorus, wheat yields will fall by more than half. This technology could offer a solution to securing global food supplies over the coming decades.”
“Night soil”, or raw human excrement, was traditionally valued highly and spread over fields but because it contains dangerous pathogens and contaminants it is now banned. Instead, treated sewage sludge that still contains some heavy metals is given free to some farmers to use sparingly. The advantage of Slough’s renewable phosphorus fertliser, says Clark, is that it is clean of contamination and quantities can be tailored for different crops.
Mineable reserves of phosphorus in countries like Morocco, the US and China are set to be completely depleted in 100 years according to some experts while others say “peak phosphorus” will occur by 2035, after which it is expected to become increasingly scarce and expensive. Its price has risen 500% since 2007.
“The UK is heavily reliant on phosphate rock imports for food production. It can be a pollutant when its concentrations are too high because it leads to the explosive growth of algae which saps oxygen. Using it this way we can see it as valuable reseouce again”, said Rosanna Kleeman, a researcher studying Slough’s sewage.
“Slough has taken some stick over the years from the likes of Sir John Betjeman and Ricky Gervais, who immortalised its trading estate in The Office. But we are rebranding it as an eco-warrior [town] at the forefront of the effort to save the planet,” said Clark.
A case, says one Thames worker, for Betjeman’s famous line to be amended from “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!”, to “Come, friendly bums…”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
China cracks down on emissions to combat choking smog
New guidelines call for traffic and factory restrictions amid public outcry over severe smog and air pollution
Reuters in Beijing
theguardian.com, Wednesday 6 November 2013 12.40 GMT
Chinese cities should close schools, cut working hours and stop outdoor activities during the most severe spells of air pollution, the ministry of environmental protection has said.
"Every possible compulsory measure" must be taken to cut emissions during the heaviest smog – including suspending factory production and imposing traffic restrictions.
The ministry's guidelines, issued in a circular, come as China grapples with frequent choking smog in its big cities, a consequence of years of breakneck economic growth that has fuelled public anger.
State media recently reported that an eight-year-old girl who lived near a busy thoroughfare in the coastal province of Jiangsu had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The case of the girl, believed to be the country's youngest lung cancer patient, has sparked a public outcry.
Despite frequent calls for cutting pollution over recent years, and growing public anger, the problem has only got worse. Schools and workplaces typically operate as normal in all but the most severe smog, even when it reaches hazardous levels.
Primary and middle schools suspended classes last month in the north-east city of Harbin during a smog emergency. The airport and some bus routes were also closed.
China must also toughen anti-pollution measures on industry and reduce its dependence on coal, which produces more than three-quarters of the country's electricity, the environment ministry said.
Public security departments should also toughen checks on vehicles, including phasing out older ones, and ensure there are not too many on the roads, it said.
China said in September it would slash coal consumption and shut down polluting mills, factories and smelters, though experts have said implementing the measures would prove difficult.
Air pollution is expected to worsen this winter because of a chronic natural gas shortage.
Spain reports first case of deadly MERS coronavirus
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 17:45 EST
Spain said Wednesday that a woman who just returned from Saudi Arabia has been infected by the MERS coronavirus in the country’s first case of the deadly disease.
The patient, who was born in Morocco but lives in Spain, is receiving treatment at a Madrid hospital and is in a “stable” condition, the health ministry said in a statement.
She had spent October in Saudi Arabia, where the disease first appeared in September 2012, it added.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has so far claimed 64 lives worldwide, with the greatest number of deaths in Saudi Arabia, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO said Monday there were a total of 150 laboratory-confirmed cases of the respiratory disease worldwide.
The disease has so far been detected in only four other European nations — Britain, Germany, France and Italy — always among people who had recently travelled to the Middle East.
It is unclear whether the woman had gone to the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, which gathered hundreds of thousands of faithful last month in an event that was nervously monitored for any MERS outbreak.
Riyadh had urged the elderly and chronically ill to avoid the hajj and had also advised pilgrims to wear face masks.
Experts are struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no vaccine.
It is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.
Like SARS, MERS appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing difficulty.
But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and the extremely high death rate has caused serious concern.
In August, researchers pointed to Arabian camels as possible hosts of the virus.
World’s most powerful typhoon heads for Philippines where more than 12 million people are at risk
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 7, 2013 7:28 EST
The world’s most powerful typhoon this year gained strength on Thursday as it swirled towards the Philippines, forcing mass evacuations across a vast swathe of the disaster-weary nation.
Authorities warned more than 12 million people were at risk from Typhoon Haiyan, which was generating wind gusts exceeding 330 kilometres (200 miles) an hour and set to hit on Friday morning.
“This is a very dangerous typhoon, local officials know where the vulnerable areas are and have given instructions on evacuations,” state weather forecaster Glaiza Escullar told AFP.
“There are not too many mountains on its path to deflect the force of impact, making it more dangerous.”
Haiyan was expected make landfall on Samar island, about 600 kilometres southeast of Manila, then cut across the central and southern Philippines before exiting into the South China Sea late on Saturday.
Escullar said Haiyan, which was advancing with a giant, 600-kilometre front, was expected to hit areas still recovering from a devastating 2011 storm and a 7.1-magnitude quake last month.
They include the central island of Bohol, the epicentre of the earthquake that killed 222 people, where at least 5,000 survivors are still living in tents while waiting for new homes.
“The provincial governor has ordered local disaster officials to ensure that pre-emptive evacuations are done, both for those living in tents as well as those in flood-prone areas,” Bohol provincial administrator Alfonso Damalerio told AFP.
Other vulnerable areas were the port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on the southern island of Mindanao, where flash floods induced by Tropical Storm Washi killed more than 1,000 people in December 2011.
Authorities said evacuations were taking place in many other towns and villages in Haiyan’s path, while schools were closed, ferry services suspended and fishermen ordered to secure their vessels.
Cebu Pacific said it had cancelled 110 domestic flights and four international ones between Thursday and Saturday because of the storm.
Haiyan had maximum sustained winds on Thursday afternoon of 278 kilometres an hour, and gusts of 333 kilometres an hour, according to the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.
This would make it the world’s strongest typhoon this year, according to David Michael Padua, a meteorologist with the Weather Philippines Foundation, a storm monitoring organisation that runs the www.weather.com.ph
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 major storms or typhoons each year, many of them deadly, but scientists have said climate change may be increasing their ferocity and frequency.
The Philippines endured the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on Mindanao island in December.
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, jointly run by the United Nations and the European Commission, said nearly 16 million people, including more than 12 million from the Philippines, were at risk from Haiyan.
The others were in Laos and Vietnam, which are forecast to be hit on Sunday, it said on its website.
“Haiyan can have a high humanitarian impact,” it said.
Shell made false claims about Niger delta oil pollution, says Amnesty
Report cites discrepancies between evidence of environmental damage from Nigeria spills and claims made by oil company
theguardian.com, Thursday 7 November 2013 00.01 GMT
Amnesty International accuses Shell of false claims about its environmental impact in the Niger delta, saying that the oil company cannot be trusted and that there are "serious discrepancies" between the evidence of pollution and what Shell claims.
"[Its] claims about its environmental impact in the Niger delta are frequently untrue. Shell has claimed that the oil spill investigations are sound when they are not, that sites are cleaned up when they are not, and that the company is transparent when, in reality, it maintains very tight control over every piece of information – deciding what to disclose and what to withhold," a report into oil spills in the Nigerian region says. "Shell is being disingenuous about the devastation caused by its Niger delta operations. Shell's claims about the oil spills cannot be trusted."
According to official figures, there are several hundred oil spills a year in the delta, many of which involve Shell pipelines. "Instead of being in the dock when there is an oil spill in Nigeria, Shell gets to act as judge and jury," says the Nobel prize-winning human rights organisation. "It is the communities that suffer a life sentence, with their land and livelihoods destroyed by the pollution. The Niger delta is the only place in the world where companies brazenly admit to massive oil pollution from their operations and claim it is not their fault. Almost anywhere else they would be challenged on why they have done so little to prevent it."
The report argues that the investigations oil companies must conduct into spills are seriously flawed. "So-called official investigation reports into the cause of oil spills in the Niger delta can be very subjective, misleading and downright false. This is a system that is wide open to abuse – and abuse happens. There is no one to challenge the oil companies and almost no way to independently verify what they say. In effect it's 'trust us – we're big oil'," said Audrey Gaughran, director of global thematic issues at Amnesty and lead researcher on the report.
The report, which was shown to Shell before publication and includes the company's denials, refutations and explanations, is likely to be explosive in Nigeria, where the company is a major employer and one of the biggest generators of foreign currency.
A Shell spokesman in London said: "The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) firmly rejects unsubstantiated assertions that they have exaggerated the impact of crude oil theft and sabotage to distract attention from operational performance. We seek to bring greater transparency and independent oversight to the issue of oil spills, and will continue to find ways to enhance this. These efforts include publishing spill data online since January 2011 and working with Bureau Veritas, an independent third party, to find ways to improve the immediate response to a spill. It must be emphasised that the joint investigation process is a federal process that SPDC cannot unilaterally change, involving as it does representatives of regulatory bodies, the ministry of environment, the Nigerian police force, state government and impacted communities."
The company called on the Nigerian government and civil society to end the theft of oil, which regularly forces its pipelines to close. "Solutions to the terrible tragedy of oil pollution in the Niger delta need to be found. Crude theft continues to affect people, the environment and the economy. Co-ordinated action from the industry, government, security forces, civil society and others is needed to end this criminality. SPDC regrets that some NGOs continue to take a campaigning approach rather than focusing on on-the-ground solutions that bring societal benefits."
The report voices particular concern about Shell's activities in Ogoniland, the 400-sq-mile region in the delta whose people led a revolt against Shell's pollution in the 1990s and forced the company to withdraw. "When Shell left Ogoniland it did not properly decommission its facilities, leaving them open to interference, and communities exposed to the associated risks," it says. "This is completely contrary to international oil industry standards as well as international standards on business and human rights, both of which require that Shell exercise adequate due diligence in relation to prevention of sabotage, theft and the associated human rights and environmental risks.
"Shell has claimed that the reason that it never properly decommissioned its Ogoniland facilities and made them safe over the last 18 years was lack of access. This is not the case. Shell has had access to Ogoniland over the last 18 years, including to carry out the highly inadequate clean-ups that Unep [the UN Environment Programme] documented. Shell's access to Ogoniland is undoubtedly restricted at times, but Shell cannot defend its failure to properly decommission facilities in Ogoniland over 18 years by reference to problems of access."
Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development in Nigeria claim to have found evidence of Shell having changed the officially recorded cause of a spill after an investigation had taken place at Bodo. In one incident, secretly filmed video of an investigation shows how officials from Shell and the regulator tried to subvert the evidence by persuading community members on the investigation team not to attribute the cause to equipment failure.
Footage of an oil leak in Bodo from 2008 reviewed by a US spill-monitoring company suggests that Shell seriously under-recorded the volume shed. "Shell's official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total, but other evidence points to the amount being at least 60 times higher. Shell has repeatedly claimed to its investors, customers and the media that sabotage and theft were behind the vast majority of spills – but the facts do not support this assertion," the report says.
UN climate talks: Poland gives coal a voice
Polish government to preside over coal industry event on sidelines of COP19 climate conference starting in Warsaw
theguardian.com, Friday 8 November 2013 10.27 GMT
With coal-reliant Poland hosting UN climate talks, the fossil fuel industry will get a rare chance to play a more visible role in the global warming debate.
But in a move that has infuriated climate activists, the Polish government will also preside over a high-level coal industry event on the sidelines of the two-week climate conference, which starts Monday.
"It's been seen as a real provocation and a statement from the Polish government that they have no intention to move away from coal," said Wendel Trio, director of the Climate Action Network in Europe.
Coal, oil and gas companies normally keep a low profile during the annual UN climate talks, which are aimed at reining in carbon emissions driving global warming.
But Polish officials say that coal, which accounts for more than 80% of Poland's electricity generation, won't go away anytime soon and needs to be a key part of the climate debate.
So on 18-19 November, as the UN conference enters its final week in Warsaw, the World Coal Association and Poland's Economy Ministry are organising a conference billed as "the coal industry's most important event of the year."
Organisers say the International Coal and Climate Summit will bring together coal industry executives, policy-makers and others to "discuss the role of coal in the global economy, in the context of the climate change agenda."
In a statement to the Associated Press, the World Coal Association said the coal summit is meant as a contribution, not an alternative, to the UN talks. It noted that UN climate chief Christiana Figueres will be a keynote speaker at the event.
Given the irritation the coal summit has stirred in the climate community, attending it may have been an awkward decision for Figueres, who regularly promotes efforts to boost renewable energy and cut funding for fossil fuels.
"She could either completely ignore that it's happening or go there and make a point, and I think she's chosen the latter one," said Liz Gallagher, of European environmental think tank E3G.
The UN climate change secretariat declined to comment and Figueres did not respond to a Twitter query about the issue.
Gallagher said she believes the coal event is more about domestic Polish politics than increasing the coal industry's presence in the international climate discussions.
"They want to show domestic audiences that they haven't forgotten that Poland is heavily reliant on coal," she said.
Though Poland has started restructuring its energy mix to boost renewables, officials say coal will remain the staple source of energy. The coal industry and affiliated sectors provide almost 600,000 jobs in Poland and traditionally enjoy government protection, especially now, when the jobless rate hovers around 13%.
That is reflected in Poland's position in climate policy discussions within the European Union, where the government has opposed deepening the bloc's emissions cuts from the current target of 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. Poland joined the EU in 2004.
On Sunday, Polish labor unions and nationalists are planning a panel discussion against climate actions they say could harm Poland's economy. The nationalists will also march the next day, the conference's opening day, which coincides with Poland's independence day. Their marches sometimes turn violent.
"Rich European nations are imposing short-term goals on us which they took some 50 years to achieve," said Krzysztof Bosak, a prominent member of the right-wing National Movement.
Philippines: thousands evacuated as Typhoon Haiyan strikes
Enormous storm predicted to be largest ever recorded, topping hurricane Camille in 1969, hits north Pacific
• In pictures: the storm rolls into Philippines
• Share your experiences of Haiyan
Kate Hodal, south-east Asia correspondent
theguardian.com, Friday 8 November 2013 11.38 GMT
Typhoon Haiyan has hit the Philippines with winds of 195mph, with experts saying "catastrophic damage" will result from what is predicted to be the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.
Typhoon Haiyan brings destruction and displacement to Philippines: Click to watch the video:http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/nov/08/typhoon-haiyan-destruction-displacement-philippines-video
Thousands of people have been evacuated and thousands more have fled their homes as the category five storm sent waves as high as 5m (15ft) ashore on the islands of Leyte and Samar in the central Philippines, overturning powerlines and leaving streets knee-deep in water.
Haiyan – the Philippines' 25th typhoon so far this year – is expected to barrel through the archipelago close to Cebu, the nation's second-largest city and home to around 2.5 million people.
With speeds at landfall of 195mph and gusts of up to 235mph, Haiyan is believed to be stronger than the world's last strongest tropical cyclone, hurricane Camille, which was recorded in the US at 190mph in 1969.
Although schools and offices have been closed and roughly a million people are in shelters scattered around 20 provinces, Haiyan's powerful winds could potentially blow off the roofs of storm-proof buildings and suck out their walls due to the sheer force of its energy, experts have said.
"There aren't too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind," meteorology expert Jeff Masters told the Associated Press of Haiyan's 195mph landfall. "The wind damage should be the most extreme in Philippines history."
The storm – which is dubbed Yolanda in the Philippines – ripped iron roofs off buildings and threw trees across roads, cutting out power to entire provinces, particularly around the storm's centre in Eastern Samar province.
"We've been hearing from my colleagues in [the city of] Tacloban that they've seen galvanised iron sheets flying just like kites," Mai Zamora, of the charity World Vision, told the BBC. "It's actually all around the roads now. The roads are flooded in Tacloban."
Haiyan is expected to miss Manila, although the capital may get heavy rain and winds and has been put on low-level alert.
President Benigno Aquino III said three cargo planes, 20 navy ships and 32 military planes and helicopters were on standby for rescue operations and to provide relief. "No typhoon can bring Filipinos to their knees if we'll be united," he said in a televised address.
Typhoon Bopha in 2013 destroyed much of the southern islands, killing about 1,100 people and causing over $1bn worth of damage.
************Typhoon Haiyan: is it the biggest storm ever?
Typhoons are hurricanes by another name
theguardian.com, Friday 8 November 2013 08.32 GMT
What is the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?
The name: in the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific Ocean, they are hurricanes. In the north-western Pacific Ocean they are known as typhoons.
How big is Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda)
Bigger than hurricane Camille, which hit the US in 1969, and Allen in 1980, with wind speeds of at least 190 mph. The storm is 500 miles wide, wider than Katrina at its peak.
Is it the biggest ever?
This we cannot say because recorded history is limited to humans' ability to measure and verify wind speed and pressure. But it is the largest recorded since Allen.
Is it a super-typhoon?
Yes. To be classified as a hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone, a storm must reach wind speeds of at least 74 mph. If a typhoon hits 150 mph then it becomes a super-typhoon.
What are the main dangers?
Ferocious windspeeds and rainfall, flooding, damage to buildings, infrastructure, landslides, power cuts, and resulting food shortages all provide imminent danger to 25 million people in its path. Haiyan is expected to lessen by Saturday as it moves towards the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Laos and China are in its potential path.
Fukushima nuclear clean-up enters critical phase
Tokyo Electric Power to begin removing more than 1,500 fuel assemblies from spent fuel pool in unprecedented operation
Justin McCurry in Fukushima
The Guardian, Thursday 7 November 2013 19.09 GMT
Gazing down at the glassy surface of the spent fuel pool inside the No 4 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi, it is easy to underestimate the danger posed by the highly toxic contents of its murky depths.
But this lofty, isolated corner of the wrecked nuclear power plant is now the focus of global attention as Japan enters the most critical stage yet in its attempt to clean up after the worst nuclear accident in the country's history.
Later this month the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), will begin removing more than 1,500 fuel assemblies from the pool, the first step in a decommissioning process expected to last at least three decades.
On Thursday, the Guardian witnessed Tepco's preparations for an unprecedented operation that the utility's critics claim has the potential to end in disaster.
The risk posed to the reactor by earthquakes and other natural catastrophes has made removal of the fuel – 1,331 spent assemblies and 202 fresh ones – a matter of urgency. An event similar to the 9.0 magnitude quake that crippled the plant on 11 March 2011 could collapse the fuel pool altogether, some observers say, leading to the leaking of huge quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. Tepco, however, insists the structure could withstand such a quake.
Reactor No 4 had been shut down for maintenance checks when the quake and subsequent tsunami struck, but a hydrogen explosion days later blew off its roof and exposed the fuel pool, located 100 feet above ground, to the elements.
In the 32 months since the disaster, workers have reinforced the reactor building and covered it with a huge steel canopy. Tepco officials conceded, however, that the fuel removal carries significant risks, particularly if the assemblies collide or are exposed.
"If, for some reason, the water levels dropped, the fuel would quickly heat up," said Takashi Hara, a Tepco employee in charge of fuel removal.
There are fears, too, that some of the uranium pellets inside the fuel rods may have been damaged, although Tepco says it has found no evidence of this.
The man who will oversee the delicate operation played down fears of a major accident. "The potential for another disaster is very close to impossible," said the plant's chief, Akira Ono. "Removing spent fuel is done at any ordinary nuclear power plant, and the equipment and methods we'll be using here are not that different."
Yet what is considered routine at other nuclear plants represents uncharted territory at Fukushima Daiichi.
A newly built crane that will manoeuvre the fuel must be operated manually, rather than automatically, because the assemblies are not exactly where they should be; and the pool is still littered with tiny pieces of debris caused by the blast.
Each batch of fuel rods will be placed into dry casks, which will then be lowered to ground level and transported to a safer storage site nearby.
Tepco says work could begin as early as next week, adding that it hopes to complete the task by the end of next year.
The risks prompted the head of Japan's nuclear regulator, Shunichi Tanaka, to call on Tepco to exercise extreme caution. "The process involves a very large risk potential," he reportedly told the firm's president, Naomi Hirose. "In a sense, it is more risky than the radioactive water crisis."
Some nuclear experts say Tepco, still reeling from international criticism of its inability to stem massive leaks of contaminated water into the Pacific ocean, is deliberately playing down the risks.
"A task like this has never been done before, and obviously it is extremely dangerous," said Charles Perrow, an emeritus professor at Yale University.
"I would be reassured if experts from other nations were allowed to inspect the site, make recommendations and observe the process. Or better yet, do the work. Rather than damage the nation's pride, it would increase other nations' confidence in the ability of Tepco to handle the job."
Shaun Burnie, a nuclear consultant, said Tepco had "clearly demonstrated its inability" to manage the cleanup.
"Does that mean they cannot be trusted to remove the fuel from Fukushima?" he asked. "That's irrelevant. They are going to remove the fuel and therefore the question is whether their plan is the best option without risk.
"They have to remove the fuel as early as possible – the risk from major structural failure leading to pool collapse is a greater threat than leaving the fuel in situ.
"The probability that the operation will go wrong in some way given the unique challenges and Tepco's track record must be considered a real risk."
But Dale Klein, former chairman of the US nuclear regulatory commission and chair of Tepco's nuclear reform monitoring committee, said the removal of the spent fuel would be "a milestone".
"The engineers were very creative in building a new fuel-handling device for the spent fuel in No 4 pool," Klein said.
Fuel removal is not the only challenge facing the 6,000 workers battling to make Fukushima Daiichi safe. Large areas of the plant are still a chaotic network of pipes and cables – reminders that this was the world's worst nuclear crisis in over a quarter of a century.
The pipes carry water from the damaged reactors to a hanger-like decontamination facility, where dozens of radionuclides, including caesium, are removed. The 860-acre site is now home to more than 1,000 storage tanks, holding a combined 350,000 tons of contaminated water. Wooded areas are being cleared to make room for more tanks.
Near the coastline, the rusty, mangled remains of vehicles swept up by the tsunami have been left exactly where the waves dumped them, while workers focus instead on bolstering the plant's defences against a possible future tsunami and trying to stem leaks of toxic water into the Pacific ocean.
Even if all goes to plan, Tepco officials concede that securing reactor No 4 is only a first step: work to remove molten fuel from three neighbouring reactors that suffered meltdown won't begin for at least another six years.
Radiation levels in those reactors are still too high for humans to enter, and attempts to use robots to determine the exact location of the melted fuel have failed. Instead, officials are placing their faith in the law of gravity, assuming only that the highly hazardous material lies somewhere deep inside the reactor basements.
Given the potential dangers ahead, handling spent fuel rods could prove the least of Japan's nuclear worries.
Philippines death toll from typhoon Haiyan 'could rocket within 24 hours'
195mph storm – the strongest ever to hit land – likely to have caused 'catastrophic damage' in isolated island communities
Kate Hodal, south Asia correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 8 November 2013 18.47 GMT
Super-typhoon Haiyan – thought to be the strongest recorded storm ever to hit land – has barrelled through the Philippines with winds up to 195mph and waves as high as five metres.
The category 5 storm, which made landfall at dawn on Friday on Samar island in the central Philippines, blew westward in a devastating streak across a number of islands, including Leyte, Cebu, Bohol and Negros, where it brought down power lines, knocked out communications, caused landslides and left streets flooded.
Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated and thousands more fled their homes as Haiyan tore apart buildings and left whole provinces without power or communications. Experts predicted "catastrophic damage" as a result of the super-typhoon, whose speeds at landfall of 195mph and gusts of up to 235mph were faster than the previous strongest tropical cyclone, Hurricane Camille, which was recorded in the US at 190mph in 1969.
Official reports indicated that two people had been killed after being struck by power lines, another by lightning and possibly one more by a falling tree.
But the final toll is expected to climb much higher as so many affected areas were cut off, said Mathias Eick, of the European commission's humanitarian aid department (Echo) in Manila.
"In our previous experience with similar storms, because the Philippines are comprised of many islands and many isolated communities, often the statistics show a very low human toll [at first] but then within 24 or 48 hours the numbers just take off," he added. "We're talking about a storm where two-thirds of the whole area of the Philippines was directly affected – not entirely by the eye of the storm but by a very large area – and with many isolated communities on smaller islands or living in mountainous areas, it takes some time for the authorities, Red Cross and volunteers to collate the information."
About 12 airports were closed – including those in the tourist islands of Palawan and Boracay – and schools and offices shut, with roughly 1 million people in shelters scattered around 29 provinces.
Haiyan – the Philippines' 25th typhoon this year – has put an estimated 12 million people at risk and as of 10pm local time was still pummelling the country with sustained winds of 120mph and gusts of 143mph, with the eye of the storm located 20 miles west of Coron, Palawan, according to local media.
"There aren't too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind," said meteorologist Jeff Masters. "There are very few storms that have stayed at category 5 strength for so long."
The 370-mile-wide storm, which is called Yolanda in the Philippines, cut power to entire provinces, ripped iron roofs off buildings and threw trees across roads. Certain areas, such as Tacloban City and Cadiz, were particularly badly hit.
"We've been hearing from my colleagues in [the city of] Tacloban that they've seen galvanised iron sheets flying just like kites," Mai Zamora, of the charity World Vision, told the BBC. "It's actually all around the roads now. The roads are flooded in Tacloban."
Camera-phone videos uploaded to YouTube and Twitter showed streets reduced to rivers full of debris, trees bent horizontal or fully uprooted and huge waves crashing against slums located along riverways.
The damage to infrastructure, agriculture and livestock, electricity, water supplies, shipping routes and harbours all across the Philippines could be huge, said Eick. The World Food Programme expects that at least 2.5 million people will require food assistance.
On Bohol island, where a 7.3-magnitude earthquake last month toppled colonial churches and killed 200 people, residents waited out the typhoon in the dark, without power or water supplies, said Jackie Pinat of the Catholic aid agency Cafod.
"Many people on the island lost their homes in the earthquake, and many structures are unsafe," she said. "Most people in the coastal villages around Maribojoc are still in designated evacuation centres."
In 2012 Typhoon Bopha destroyed much of the southern islands, killing about 1,100 people and causing more than $1bn (£625m) damage.
Experts say that the sheer velocity of Haiyan may help limit the severity of damage, as a tremendous effort from the Philippines' emergency response included early evacuations and operational supplies: President Benigno Aquino III assigned three cargo planes, 20 navy ships and 32 military planes and helicopters for rescue operations and to provide relief. "No typhoon can bring Filipinos to their knees if we'll be united," he said in a televised address.
However, the typhoon's resulting storm surge could still cause extensive damage.
After 48 hours as a category 5 storm, Haiyan was downgraded to a category 4 and is expected to leave the Philippines early on Saturday. It will move towards the warm waters of the South China Sea and could make landfall in central Vietnam late .
Is Poland’s coal and climate summit outrageous or irrelevant?
World Coal meeting is set to discuss the fuel's future, but science and policymakers may have sealed the polluting fuel’s fate already, says Ed King for RTCC
Ed King for RTCC, part of the Guardian Environment Network
theguardian.com, Friday 8 November 2013 17.02 GMT
On a scale of diplomatic blunders, organising an international coal conference at the same time as a UN climate summit appears to be fairly substantial.
Coal is the most polluting of fossil fuels, which makes the Polish Ministry of Economy’s decision to host the International Coal and Climate conference from November 18-19 appear curious.
Without expensive technologies fixed to power stations, its noxious fumes can choke cities, raise mortality rates, cause acid rain and are heavily linked to climate change.
In 2010 it was responsible for 43% of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion – that’s around 13.1 gigatonnes of the 51 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GTCO2e) released that year.
In short, coal seems to be an enemy to what UN envoys call ‘climate ambition’. But the Polish hosts of the 19th Conference of the Parties to the UN, which starts on Monday 11 November, disagree.
The country’s environment minister Marcin Korolec says opponents of the coal summit are “very strange, if not worrying”.
He argues there is “no place for confrontation, isolation and selection” at the COP19 talks, pointing out that the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts global demand for coal is set to rise until 2035.
Local climate campaigners remain unconvinced. Julia Michalak, a policy officer at Climate Action Network accuses the government of “grossly misusing its position as COP President”.
“By endorsing and co-hosting a coal summit in the shadows of the UN’s climate change negotiations Poland has proven it prefers to push its own selfish interests, and those of the coal industry, rather than working collectively to achieve a global climate deal by 2015,” she told RTCC.
On a practical level it makes sense for Poland to maintain good links with the coal industry. In 2011 it consumed 77 million tonnes, generating 92% of electricity and 89% of heat.
For historical reasons Warsaw is reluctant to rely on Russian gas, although Korolec wants to explore for shale. In March the EU took Poland to court for ignoring its renewables directives.
Official documents indicate coal will play a major role in the country’s energy strategy until 2030, and this year the government announced plans for two new coal plants with a capacity of 900MW.
It’s still unclear if these will be fitted with carbon capture technology (CCS). If not, between them they could emit 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 over the next 55 years.
Politically it’s a tough line for Polish politicians to tread. Coal is popular, climate targets are not.
In an email to RTCC, Pawel Mikusek, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry argued it is important “economies based on coal should not be excluded” from developing a global climate deal.
“If participants of the Coal Summit would discuss energy efficiency, would you find it inappropriate? As I understand, COP is about mitigation and reductions,” he said.
The Coal and Climate Summit’s organiser is the London-based lobby group World Coal, which says there are “many misconceptions” over the environmental impacts of coal.
Its six-page and three-point Warsaw Communique urges increased investment in more efficient coal plants by 2020. A copy signed by supporters will be presented to Korolec at the conclusion of the summit.
No-one from World Coal was available for interview, but its PR agency Bell-Pottinger said the event is “part of the WCA’s commitment to engaging and working with stakeholders to develop pragmatic actions to address the global debate around climate change.”
It added: “improving the average coal plant efficiencies globally from the current 33% to a standard 45% would result in CO2 emission reduction of 2.4 Gt annually.”
According to the IEA, only 50% of new coal plants are being constructed using high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) technologies.
That means that only around 600 of the 1,199 power stations the World Resources Institute (WRI) says were planned at the end of 2012 will meet the ‘clean coal’ criteria World Coal believes is necessary.
Industry insiders also sound sceptical. Malcolm Keay is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. He’s also the former Chief Executive of the World Coal Institute.
In an interview with RTCC he admitted there are serious questions over just how ‘clean’ coal can really be.
“You can reduce emissions through higher efficiencies and ultimately through CCS, but there’s still a question depending on which country you are talking about whether that’s enough,” he said.
For many advocates of coal CCS is the holy grail, a technology that would allow greenhouse gases to be captured and stored safely underground.
The IEA says it is “almost certain” that CCS will have to be fitted on all coal plants after 2020 to meet CO2 targets.
It’s a view shared by World Coal, which says: “Failure to widely deploy CCS will seriously hamper international efforts to address climate change.”
But despite a number of test facilities dotted around the world, and heavy investment from the EU, USA and China, no-one appears to have developed an efficient way of capturing CO2 from coal-fired power stations.
Keay says it is “not proven or economic”, pointing out that current CCS technology reduces the efficiency of power plants, adding: “there are some technical uncertainties. No-one has built a big end-to-end system yet.”
In a sign of how tough it is to get CCS working, at the end of September Norway announced it was pulling out of a full-scale facility at an oil-refinery and gas plant in the town of Mongstad.
Other test sites continue to operate. Shell has a project running in Canada, while the Global CCS Institute lists 75 other schemes running around the world.
The $2.4 billion Kemper County carbon capture project in Mississippi, backed by the US Department of Energy, is perhaps one of the most high-profile coal CCS initiatives.
But Chris Littlecott from the London-based environmental consultancy E3G says the coal industry now faces a “credibility gap”, because it has failed to invest in the technology over the past decade.
“The coal sector needs CCS more than CCS needs coal,” he said. “CO2 storage is limited, so we should focus on the highest value added applications – on industrial plants, biomass and gas power”.
“If it wants CCS it must pay for it.”
Given doubts over CCS and the limited number of high-efficiency coal power plants, coal’s role on a climate-aware planet appears precarious.
Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Environment Programme have emphasised the limits to how much carbon dioxide the planet can safely accommodate.
This week UNEP said annual emissions need to be cut 12% on 2010 levels to 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2020, warning that based on current pledges they will be around 15% higher.
Meanwhile a PwC study based on the IPCC report said the amount of emissions countries can release is likely to be blown by 2034.
Those 13.1 gigatonnes of climate-warming gases generated by the burning of coal could be the difference between avoiding or blowing the 2C warming limit countries agreed on in 2009.
Moves by the USA under President Obama, the World Bank and European Investment Bank to cut funding for new coal plants suggest the world’s leading economies agree.
New emission standards in the US look set to wipe out older polluting coal plants, while Ben Caldecott from Bloomberg New Energy Finance points out Europe’s climate laws mean its 205 most polluting power stations will have to close in 2015.
But what’s also clear is that few believe coal is going to disappear.
While the EU turns to nuclear, renewables and gas, Caldecott points out China is set to open three large coal plants every month up to 2022, while India is on course to become the world’s second biggest coal importer.
Speaking from Beijing, the Climate Group’s Changhua Wu told RTCC that “coal will continue to be part of the mix”, hinting that this may change when the government publishes its next five year plan in 2015.
Hopes for any ambitious agreement at the Warsaw UN summit are low, but negotiators do expect a timeline for national emission pledges to be agreed ahead of a scheduled global emission agreement in 2015.
Respected analysts like the IEA’s gas, coal and power chief Laszlo Varr believe it will take ambitious climate policies and a high carbon price to keep coal in the ground, which is what many countries want a UN deal to deliver.
What may worry delegates at the Coal and Climate summit is that the industry’s future is no longer in their hands, making the World Coal event something of an irrelevance.
Without effective technologies to cut carbon emissions to the levels required by science, it may have to increasingly exist in a market where polluters pay a premium.
Typhoon Haiyan: at least 10,000 reported dead in Philippine province
Estimated death toll soars as path of destruction leaves many parts of Philippines inaccessible to government and aid officials
Kate Hodal in Manila, and agencies
The Observer, Sunday 10 November 2013
Link to video: Philippines typhoon Haiyan: scale of devastation emergeshttp://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/nov/09/philippines-typhoon-haiyan-devastation-emerges-video
At least 10,000 people are thought to have died in the central Philippine province of Leyte after Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall, lashed the area, swallowing coastal towns, a senior police official said early on Sunday morning.
About 70-80% of the buildings in the area in the path of Haiyan in Leyte province was destroyed, said chief superintendent Elmer Soria. "We had a meeting last night with the governor and the other officials. The governor said based on their estimate, 10,000 died," he said.
Tacloban city administrator Tecson Lim said that the death toll in that city alone "could go up to 10,000". Tacloban is the provincial capital of Leyte, with a population of more than 200,000. The Philippine Red Cross said in Tacloban bodies had been found "piled up around the roads" and in churches. Between 300 and 400 bodies had been recovered, Lim said.
On Samar island, which faces Tacloban, Leo Dacaynos of the provincial disaster office told Associated Press on Sunday 300 people were confirmed dead in Basey town and another 2,000 were missing.
He said the storm surge caused sea waters to rise 20 feet when the typhoon hit. There were still towns on Samar that had not been reached, he said, and appealed for food and water. Power was knocked out and there was no mobile signal, making communication possible only by radio.
Many corpses hung on tree branches, buildings and sidewalks, Associated Press reported.
"On the way to the airport we saw many bodies along the street," said Philippine-born Australian Mila Ward, 53, who was waiting at the Tacloban airport to catch a military flight back to Manila.
"They were covered with just anything tarpaulin, roofing sheets, cardboards," she said. Asked how many, she said, "Well over 100 where we passed."
The super-typhoon made landfall on Samar and Leyte islands in the eastern Visayas at about 4.40am on Friday local time, with winds up to 315km/h (195mph) tearing roofs off buildings, turning roads into rivers full of debris and knocking out electricity pylons.
With many provinces left without power or telecommunications, and airports in the hardest-hit areas, such as Tacloban, in tatters, experts say it is impossible to know the extent of the storm's damage – or deliver badly needed aid.
Roughly 12 hours after the 600km (370-mile)-wide Haiyan blew west towards Vietnam, where it is expected to make landfall early on Sunday, officials and aid workers are only now beginning to piece together details on the number of dead and injured.
Government figures showed that more than 4 million had been directly affected. The World Food Programme has mobilised some $2m (£1.25m) in aid and aims to deliver 40 tonnes of fortified biscuits to victims within the next few days.
Satellite images show normally green patches of vegetation ripped up into brown squares of debris in Tacloban, where local TV channel GMA broadcast images of huge storm surges, flattened buildings and families traipsing through flooded streets with their possessions held high above the water.
The head of the UN Disaster Assessment Co-ordination Team, Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, described "destruction on a massive scale" in the city of 220,000 and said: "The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris."
Al-Jazeera correspondent Jamela Alindogan was trapped in her hotel as the eye of the storm passed overhead and ripped the roof off the building. Evoking scenes of chaos as badly hurt victims wandered the streets without medicine, food or water, and doctors at the local hospital attended to the wounded in the dark without electricity or candlelight, she said: "There is no food, not even in the hotels, and there's no water. The situation is really very desperate."
Other sources told of victims trying to climb out from under rubble to find assistance, and mobs rampaging through the streets looking for food, water or medicine, and looting electrical goods and groceries from malls. "Almost all the houses were destroyed," said Major Rey Balido of the Philippines national disaster agency. "Only a few are left standing."
Relatives of those living in the typhoon's path have had no news from their loved ones and are nervously waiting until power is restored to the area. "I spoke to my mother just a few hours before the typhoon made landfall in my city, Tacloban," said taxi driver Sherwin Martinata, 32, in the capital, Manila. "She was saying she was all right but now I have no idea if my family is safe. There is no power, no phones. I can't get through at all. I'm worried, but I'm powerless."
Those living in the hardest-hit areas, such as the eastern Visayas, are among the poorest in the Philippines, say aid agencies, who warn that there will be little or no savings for many of the victims to fall back on – putting an already vulnerable population at even greater risk of future food and job insecurity.
On Bohol island – where a 7.3-magnitude earthquake toppled colonial-era churches and killed some 200 people last month – residents were successfully evacuated ahead of the storm and as a result many lives were probably saved, said Mathias Eick of the European commission's humanitarian aid department (Echo). However, because the island's main power supply comes from neighbouring Leyte, residents are still without electricity or water.
In Tacloban, where many residents live along the coast, the sheer force of the storm was just too much for the buildings to withstand, with evacuation centres such as stadiums and churches later collapsing. "The sheer magnitude and scale of the disaster sort of overpowered all the contingency measures, and we're fearing that we'll be finding more dead bodies in those evacuation centres themselves," said Alwynn Javier of Christian Aid.
Without information on the ground or access to hard-hit areas, aid agencies have been stuck, not knowing how much aid is needed or which areas need it most.
"The only information we have been able to get so far is from the UN and some from the news," said Javier. "We should have good ground reach, but are really impeded by this lack of access because even our partners on the ground have been hit themselves."
Officials and rescue workers hoped that Sunday would see concerted efforts by authorities to set up command centres and rescue groups, which will in turn help bring supplies to those who need them most. But gaining access to those areas will prove hard, said Richard Gordon of the Philippine Red Cross, who added that without bulldozers or tractors to clear paths, volunteers will have to bring cutting equipment to clear uprooted trees and debris.
The Philippines sees roughly 20 typhoons every year, with some more devastating than others. Last year's Typhoon Bopha killed more than 1,100 people and caused over $1bn in damage.
Haiyan – the 25th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year – is expected to make landfall in several provinces in central Vietnam with winds around 220km/h (137mph). More than 450,000 troops have been deployed, as well as 12 planes, 356 ships and thousands of vehicles, in order to mobilise supplies, with more than 300,000 people evacuated in Da Nang and Quang Ngai provinces.
"It may be the strongest storm to hit Vietnam in history," said Vietnam's director of the Central Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre in Bui Minh Tang. Coastal areas should expect to see waves as high as 5-8 meters (16-26ft) and a wind radius up to 500km wide, officials warned.
*********************Philippines calls for help as huge rescue operation begins after typhoon Haiyan
Hundreds of thousands of desperate residents left without power or communications as tales of horror emerge
Associated Press in Tacloban, Philippines
theguardian.com, Sunday 10 November 2013 06.18 GMT
A huge rescue operation is under way in the Philippines to help the victims of typhoon Haiyan, which may have killed more than 10,000 people in the city of Tacloban alone.
President Benigno Aquino, who landed in Tacloban on Sunday to get a firsthand look at the disaster, said the casualties "will be substantially more" than the official count of 151, but gave no figure or estimate. He said the government's priority was to restore power and communications in isolated areas to allow for the delivery of relief and medical assistance to victims.
The Philippines does not have sufficient resources on its own to deal with a disaster of this magnitude, and the US and other governments and agencies were mounting a major relief effort, said Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.
At the request of the Philippine government, the US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, directed US Pacific Command to deploy ships and aircraft to support search-and-rescue operations and airlift emergency supplies, according to a statement released by the department.
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said in a message to Aquino that the EC had sent a team to assist the Philippine authorities and that "we stand ready to contribute with urgent relief and assistance if so required in this hour of need".
If the typhoon death toll is confirmed, it would be the deadliest natural catastrophe on record in the Philippines.
The airport in Tacloban, about 360 miles south-east of Manila, looked like a muddy wasteland of debris, with crumpled tin roofs and upturned cars. The airport tower's glass windows were shattered, and air force helicopters were busy flying in and out at the start of relief operations. Residential homes that had lined a four-mile stretch of road leading to Tacloban city were all blown or washed away.
The winds were so strong that Tacloban residents who sought shelter at a local school tied down the roof of the building, but it was still ripped off and the school collapsed, Lim said. It wasn't clear how many died there.
"The devastation is, I don't have the words for it," interior secretary Mar Roxas said. "It's really horrific. It's a great human tragedy."
Defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Aquino was "speechless" when he told him of the devastation the typhoon had wrought in Tacloban.
"I told him all systems are down," Gazmin said. "There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They're looting."
The city's two largest malls and groceries were looted and the gasoline stations destroyed by the typhoon. Police were deployed to guard a fuel depot to prevent looting of fuel.
On Sunday, the city's overwhelmed services were reinforced by 100 special police force units sent in from elsewhere to help restore peace and order.
One Tacloban resident said he and others took refuge inside a parked Jeep to protect themselves from the storm, but the vehicle was swept away by a surging wall of water.
"The water was as high as a coconut tree," said 44-year-old Sandy Torotoro, a bicycle taxi driver who lives near the airport with his wife and eight-year-old daughter. "I got out of the Jeep and I was swept away by the rampaging water with logs, trees and our house, which was ripped off from its mooring.
"When we were being swept by the water, many people were floating and raising their hands and yelling for help. But what can we do? We also needed to be helped," Torotoro said.
In Torotoro's village, bodies could be seen lying along the muddy main road, as residents who had lost their homes huddled, holding on to the few things they had managed to save. The road was lined with trees that had fallen to the ground.
In the aftermath of the typhoon, people were seen weeping while retrieving bodies of loved ones inside buildings and on a street that was littered with fallen trees, roofing material and other building parts torn off in the storm's fury. All that was left of one large building whose walls were smashed in were the skeletal remains of its rafters.
Tim Ticar, a local tourism officer, said 6,000 foreign and local tourists were stranded on the popular resort island of Boracay, one of the tourist spots in the typhoon's path.
The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, offered his condolences and said UN humanitarian agencies were working closely with the Philippine government to respond rapidly with emergency assistance.
UNICEF estimated that about 1.7m children live in areas affected by the typhoon, according to the agency's representative in the Philippines Tomoo Hozumi. UNICEF's supply division in Copenhagen was loading 60 metric tons of relief supplies for an emergency airlift expected to arrive in the Philippines on Tuesday.
In Vietnam, preparations for the typhoon were under way. About 600,000 people from the central region who had been evacuated returned home because the storm changed course and was instead heading for the northern coast, where authorities began evacuating nearly 100,000 in three northern provinces.
This post is from Sunyata which I moved to this thread ........RadIndigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council Statement on Fukushima
This statement reflects the wisdom of the Spiritual People of the Earth, of North and South America, working in unity to restore peace, harmony and balance for our collective future and for all living beings. This statement is written in black and white with a foreign language that is not our own and does not convey the full depth of our concerns.
The Creator created the People of the Earth into the Land at the beginning of
Creation and gave us a way of life. This way of life has been passed down
generation-to-generation since the beginning. We have not honored this way of
life through our own actions and we must live these original instructions in order
to restore universal balance and harmony. We are a part of Creation;
thus, if we break the Laws of Creation, we destroy ourselves.
We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, have no choice but to follow and uphold
the Original Instructions, which sustains the continuity of Life. We recognize our
umbilical connection to Mother Earth and understand that she is the source of life, not a
resource to be exploited. We speak on behalf of all Creation today, to communicate an
urgent message that man has gone too far, placing us in the state of survival. We warned
that one day you would not be able to control what you have created. That day is here.
Not heeding warnings from both Nature and the People of the Earth keeps us on the path
of self destruction. This self destructive path has led to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Gulf
oil spill, tar sands devastation, pipeline failures, impacts of carbon dioxide emissions and
the destruction of ground water through hydraulic fracking, just to name a few. In
addition, these activities and development continue to cause the deterioration and
destruction of sacred places and sacred waters that are vital for Life.
Powerful technologies are out of control and are threatening the future of all life
The Fukushima nuclear crisis alone is a threat to the future of humanity. Yet, our concern
goes far beyond this single threat. Our concern is with the cumulative and
compounding devastation that is being wrought by the actions of human beings around
the world. It is the combination of resource extraction, genetically modified organisms,
moral failures, pollution, introduction of invasive species and much much more that are
threatening the future of life on Earth. The compounding of bad decisions and their
corresponding actions are extremely short-sighted. They do not consider the future
generations and they do not respect or honor the Creator’s Natural Law. We strongly
urge for the governmental authorities to respond with an open invitation to work and
consult with us to solve the world’s problems, without war. We must stop waging war
against Mother Earth, and ourselves.
We acknowledge that all of these devastating actions originated in human beings who are
living without regard for the Earth as the source of life. They have strayed from the
Original Instructions by casting aside the Creator’s Natural Law. It is now critical for
humanity to acknowledge that we have created a path to self destruction. We must restore
the Original Instructions in our lives to halt this devastation.
The sanctity of the Original Instructions has been violated. As a result, the Spiritual
People of the Earth were called ceremonially to come together at the home of the Sacred
White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle. These Spiritual Leaders and those that carry great
responsibility for their people from both North and South America came together with the
sacred fire for four days at the end of September 2013 to fulfill their sacred
responsibilities. During this time it was revealed that the spirit of destruction gained its’
strength by our spiritually disconnected actions. We are all responsible in varying
degrees for calling forth this spirit of destruction, thus we are all bound to begin
restoring what we have damaged by helping one another recover our sacred
responsibility to the Earth. We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, offer our
spiritual insight, wisdom and vision to the global community to help guide the actions
needed to overcome the current threats to all life.
We only have to look at our own bodies to recognize the sacred purpose
of water on Mother Earth. We respect and honor our spiritual relationship
with the lifeblood of Mother Earth. One does not sell or contaminate their
mother’s blood. These capitalistic actions must stop and we must recover
our sacred relationship with the Spirit of Water
The People of the Earth understand that the Fukushima nuclear crisis continues to
threaten the future of all life. We understand the full implications of this crisis even with
the suppression of information and the filtering of truth by the corporate owned media
and Nation States. We strongly urge the media, corporations and Nation States to
acknowledge and convey the true facts that threaten us, so that the international
community may work together to resolve this crisis, based on the foundation of Truth.
We urge the international community, government of Japan and TEPCO to unify efforts
to stabilize and re-mediate the nuclear threat posed at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear
power plant. To ensure that the Japanese government and TEPCO are supported with
qualified personnel and information, we urge the inclusion of today’s nuclear experts
from around the world to collaborate, advise and provide technical assistance to prevent
further radioactive contamination or worse, a nuclear explosion that may have
The foundation for peace will be strengthened by restoring the Original Instructions in ourselves
Prophecies have been shared and sacred instructions were given. We, the People of the
Earth, were instructed that the original wisdom must be shared again when imbalance
and disharmony are upon Mother Earth. In 1994 the sacred white buffalo, the giver of
the sacred pipe, returned to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people bringing forth the
sacred message that the winds of change are here. Since that time many more
messengers in the form of white animals have come, telling us to wake up my children. It
is time. So listen for the sacred instruction.
All Life is sacred. We come into Life as sacred beings. When we abuse the
sacredness of Life we affect all Creation
We urge all Nations and human beings around the world to work with us, the Original
Caretakers of Mother Earth, to restore the Original Instructions and uphold the
Creator’s Natural Law as a foundation for all decision making, from this point forward.
Our collective future as human beings is in our hands, we must address the Fukushima
nuclear crisis and all actions that may violate the Creator’s Natural Law. We have
reached the crossroads of life and the end of our existence. We will avert this potentially
catastrophic nuclear disaster by coming together with good minds and prayer as a global
community of all faiths.
We are the People of the Earth united under the Creator’s Law with a sacred covenant to
protect and a responsibility to extend Life for all future generations. We are expressing
deep concern for our shared future and urge everyone to awaken spiritually. We must
work in unity to help Mother Earth heal so that she can bring back balance and harmony
for all her children.
Representatives of the Council
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
The Great Sioux Nation
Bobby C. Billie
Clan Leader and Spiritual Leader
Council of the Original Miccosukee
Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples
Faith Spotted Eagle, Tunkan Inajin Win
Brave Heart Society Grandmother/Headswoman & Ihanktonwan Treaty Council
Ihanktonwan Dakota from the Oceti Sakowin
7 Council Fires
- ADDITIONAL SIGNATURES TO FOLLOW -http://www.indigenousaction.org/indigenous-elders-and-medicine-peoples-council-statement-on-fukushima/
UK urged to maintain leadership on green issues on eve of Warsaw talks
Rows within Tory ranks threaten to undermine UK's role in pressing for strong agreement on tackling climate change
Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Sunday 10 November 2013 16.44 GMT
The UK must continue to show leadership on green issues if crunch negotiations to tackle climate change are to be successful, Europe's climate chief has warned.
On the eve of crucial international talks in Warsaw on tackling climate change, deep rifts within the coalition over environmental policies, including David Cameron's pledge to review green levies on energy bills, have left confusion and ill-feeling over the core policy. Nick Clegg warned on Thursday: "The green consensus across the political parties is, I'm afraid, falling away – and at the worst possible time."
Connie Hedegaard, European commissioner for climate change, told the Guardian: "I hope to hear from the big parties that this is not the case. The countries that want to keep a certain level of ambition [on moving to a low-carbon economy] are very important – we need these countries to show through their concrete actions [that this is possible]. Europe is living proof that we can do this, and I hope the UK will be strong in that category."
Britain has played a key role in the United Nations talks, the latest round of which starts on Monday, with UK officials credited with helping to draw together a "coalition of ambition" joining together more than 100 developing countries with the EU to press for a strong agreement. But the rows over green issues within the Tory ranks have cast doubt on the UK's role.
The meeting itself has already attracted controversy because the Polish hosts have insisted on giving a prominent role to the coal industry, which provides most of the country's power and much of its exports. Energy derived from burning coal is highly carbon-intensive.
The Warsaw talks are not expected to produce a breakthrough, but they must lay the groundwork for an effort next year to draw up the draft text of a new agreement. That agreement is expected to be signed at a meeting in Paris in 2015.
Christiana Figueres, the UN's leading official on climate change, told the Guardian that said the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, warning that within decades the world would breach the "carbon budget" needed to hold temperature rises to less than 2C, was a "huge wakeup call" to governments. "This is very serious data, which puts a lot of the onus on developed countries to truly support the transformation developing countries have to make [to a low-carbon economy]," she said.
Figueres also called for governments to spur low-carbon technology by setting out clear policies: "We know that the clearer the political signal is, the more technology [companies] respond with eco-innovation."
She said ministers at the talks should understand that the negotiations were "not a zero-sum game, where some win and some lose. We are all in this together," she said. "Every country needs to act. They will be guided by their national circumstances and also be guided by our collective needs and collective interest."
There is still no consensus on what legal form the agreement will take, what commitments nations will make on emissions curbs, or how to raise the financing developing countries want to help them move to a low-carbon path.
Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change, said the old divide of countries into developed (with obligations to cut emissions) and developing countries (with no such obligations) enshrined in the Kyoto protocol was outdated and needed to change to an accord that would be "applicable to all". But he argued, in a speech at Chatham House in London, for a large degree of flexibility in the talks, allowing nations to set their own emissions targets. He suggested that rather than a rigid system like the Kyoto protocol, putting pressure on countries through the weight of public opinion could be more effective.
"While the system of strict rules and compliance might sound good on paper, it would almost certainly depress the ambition of countries [in setting emissions goals] and limit participation by countries. The opposite is true for [relying on] norms and expectations, which countries will want to meet to enhance their global standing and reputation."
Another controversy that could bedevil the talks is the question of "loss and damage", which some developing countries have interpreted as compensation and reparations to be paid by rich to poor nations. Rich countries reject this, pointing out that developing country emissions are rising rapidly while those of industrialised countries are falling.
Figueres said: "It is not the first time someone has come to the table with expectations of compensation. But I do not see the space for that kind of measure."