Yoda's World


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Sea Ice At Lowest Level In 800 Years Near Greenland

There has never been so little sea ice in the area between Svalbard and Greenland in the last 800 years. (Credit: NASA/GSFC)

ScienceDaily (July 2, 2009) — New research, which reconstructs the extent of ice in the sea between Greenland and Svalbard from the 13th century to the present indicates that there has never been so little sea ice as there is now. The research results from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, are published in the scientific journal, Climate Dynamics.

There are of course neither satellite images nor instrumental records of the climate all the way back to the 13th century, but nature has its own 'archive' of the climate in both ice cores and the annual growth rings of trees and we humans have made records of a great many things over the years - such as observations in the log books of ships and in harbour records. Piece all of the information together and you get a picture of how much sea ice there has been throughout time.

Modern research and historic records

"We have combined information about the climate found in ice cores from an ice cap on Svalbard and from the annual growth rings of trees in Finland and this gave us a curve of the past climate" explains Aslak Grinsted, geophysicist with the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

In order to determine how much sea ice there has been, the researchers needed to turn to data from the logbooks of ships, which whalers and fisherman kept of their expeditions to the boundary of the sea ice. The ship logbooks are very precise and go all the way back to the 16th century. They relate at which geographical position the ice was found. Another source of information about the ice are records from harbours in Iceland, where the severity of the winters have been recorded since the end of the 18th century.

By combining the curve of the climate with the actual historical records of the distribution of the ice, researchers have been able to reconstruct the extent of the sea ice all the way back to the 13th century. Even though the 13th century was a warm period, the calculations show that there has never been so little sea ice as in the 20th century.

In the middle of the 17th century there was also a sharp decline in sea ice, but it lastet only a very brief period. The greatest cover of sea ice was in a period around 1700-1800, which is also called the 'Little Ice Age'.

"There was a sharp change in the ice cover at the start of the 20th century," explains Aslak Grinsted. He explains, that the ice shrank by 300.000 km2 in the space of ten years from 1910-1920. So you can see that there have been sudden changes throughout time, but here during the last few years we have had some record years with very little ice extent.

"We see that the sea ice is shrinking to a level which has not been seen in more than 800 years", concludes Aslak Grinsted.

Journal reference:

   1. Macias Fauria et al. Unprecedented low twentieth century winter sea ice extent in the Western Nordic Seas since A.D. 1200. Climate Dynamics, 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s00382-009-0610-z

Adapted from materials provided by University of Copenhagen.
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University of Copenhagen (2009, July 2). Sea Ice At Lowest Level In 800 Years Near Greenland. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 2, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/07/090701102900.htm

Climate Denial Crock of the Week- "Sea Ice"

Global Climate Change Accelerates Water Hunt in U.S. West
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - It's hard to visualize a water crisis while driving the lush boulevards of Los Angeles, golfing Arizona's green fairways or watching dancing Las Vegas fountains leap more than 20 stories high.

So look Down Under. A decade into its worst drought in a hundred years Australia is a lesson of what the American West could become.

Bush fires are killing people and obliterating towns. Rice exports collapsed last year and the wheat crop was halved two years running. Water rationing is part of daily life.

"Think of that as California's future," said Heather Cooley of California water think tank the Pacific Institute.

Water raised leafy green Los Angeles from the desert and filled arid valleys with the nation's largest fruit and vegetable crop. Each time more water was needed, another megaproject was built, from dams of the major rivers to a canal stretching much of the length of the state.

But those methods are near their end. There is very little water left untapped and global warming, the gradual increase of temperature as carbon dioxide and other gases retain more of the sun's heat, has created new uncertainties.

Global warming pushes extremes. It prolongs drought while sometimes bringing deluges the parched earth cannot absorb. California Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow says two things keep him up at night: drought and flood.

"It isn't that drought is the new norm," said Snow. "Climate change is bringing us higher highs and lower lows in terms of water supplies."

Take Los Angeles, which had its driest year in 2006-2007, with 3 inches (7.6 cms) of rain. Only two years earlier, more than 37 inches (94 cms) fell, barely missing the record.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a drought emergency last month, and Los Angeles plans to ration water for the first time in 15 years. Courts are limiting the amount of water taken from into rivers to save decimated fish populations, which is cutting back even more to farms.

California farmers lost more than $300 million in 2008 and economic losses may accelerate to 10 times that this year as 95,000 people lose their jobs. Farmers will get zero water from the main federal supplier.

Nick Tatarakis sank his life savings into the fertile San Joaquin Valley but now thinks his business will die of thirst.

"Every year it seems like this water thing is getting rougher and rougher," he said. "I took everything I had saved over the last three or four years, put it into farming almonds, developed this orchard. Now it is coming into its fifth year and probably won't make it through this year."

Climate Denial Crock of the Week- "It's cold. So there's no Climate Change"


Climate Warming Gases Rising Faster Than Expected
By: Randolph E. Schmid
AP Science Writer
Sat Feb 14

CHICAGO – Despite widespread concern over global warming, humans are adding carbon to the atmosphere even faster than in the 1990s, researchers warned Saturday.

Carbon dioxide and other gases added to the air by industrial and other activities have been blamed for rising temperatures, increasing worries about possible major changes in weather and climate.

Carbon emissions have been growing at 3.5 percent per year since 2000, up sharply from the 0.9 percent per year in the 1990s, Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"It is now outside the entire envelope of possibilities" considered in the 2007 report of the International Panel on Climate Change, he said. The IPCC and former vice president Al Gore received the Nobel Prize for drawing attention to the dangers of climate change.

The largest factor in this increase is the widespread adoption of coal as an energy source, Field said, "and without aggressive attention societies will continue to focus on the energy sources that are cheapest, and that means coal."

Past projections for declines in the emissions of greenhouse gases were too optimistic, he added. No part of the world had a decline in emissions from 2000 to 2008.

Anny Cazenave of France's National Center for Space Studies told the meeting that improved satellite measurements show that sea levels are rising faster than had been expected.

Rising oceans can pose a threat to low level areas such as South Florida, New York and other coastal areas as the ocean warms and expands and as water is added from melting ice sheets.

And the rise is uneven, with the fastest rising areas at about 1 centimeter — 0.39 inch — per year in parts of the North Atlantic, western Pacific and the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, she said.

Also, highly promoted efforts to curb carbon emissions through the use of biofuels may even backfire, other researchers said.

Demand for biologically based fuels has led to the growing of more corn in the United States, but that means fields were switched from soybeans to corn, explained Michael Coe of the Woods Hole Research Center.

But there was no decline in the demand for soy, he said, meaning other countries, such as Brazil, increased their soy crops to make up for the deficit.

In turn, Brazil created more soy fields by destroying tropical forests, which tend to soak up carbon dioxide. Instead the forests were burned, releasing the gasses into the air.

The increased emissions from Brazil swamp any declines recorded by the United States, he said.

Holly Gibbs of Stanford University said that if crops like sugar and oil palm are planted after tropical forests are burned, the extra carbon released may be balanced by lower emissions from biofuel in 40 to 120 years, but for crops such as corn and cassava it can take hundreds of years to break equal.

"If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks," she said.

However, there could be benefits from planting crops for biofuels on degraded land, such as fields that are not offering low productivity due to salinity, soil erosion or nutrient leaching.

"In a sense that would be restoring land to a higher potential," she said. But there would be costs in fertilizer and improved farming practices.

In some cases simply allowing the degraded land to return to forest might be the best answer, she said.


On the Net:

AAAS: http://www.aaas.org


President George Bush: 'Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter'

President Bush, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

One official who witnessed the extraordinary scene said afterwards: "Everyone was very surprised that he was making a joke about America's record on pollution."



Last week, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program released a 162-page report revealing that "changes in weather and climate change" have been and will continue to be "the biggest impact of global warming."

The report, which synthesizes the findings of more than 100 academic papers, also warns that increases in extreme weather are "among the most serious challenges to society."

The assessment finds that manmade global warming has caused an increased frequency of heat waves, droughts, severe rainfall, and fierce hurricanes, and that there is a 90 percent likelihood that the frequency and intensity of such harsh weather conditions will rise.

Thomas Karl, co-chairman of the report, said the recurrence of the type of flooding witnessed in Iowa will continue as "time goes on and global temperatures increase."

In definitive terms, carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning coal, oil, and natural gas, contributed most to global warming in the last century, the report concludes. NASA climatologist James Hansen cites the report in stating that "the next President and Congress" must exert leadership in order to take "responsibility for the present dangerous situation."



James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warned the European Union last week that its target of 550 parts per million of CO2 emissions -- "the most stringent in the world -- should be slashed to 350ppm" if "humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed."

In a draft paper on the subject, Hansen relies on the earth's history, using samples taken from the bottom of the ocean that "allow CO2 levels to be tracked millions of years ago. They show that when the world began to glaciate at the start of the Ice age about 35 million years ago, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere stood at about 450ppm."

Hansen warned that allowing the earth to rest at 450ppm "will probably melt all the ice" and create "a disaster -- a guaranteed disaster." Hansen has called for an immediate moratorium on the creation of new coal plants, without which, he states, "we don't have any chance of stopping global climate change."

Last fall, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) issued "Global Warming Principles" that call for a 450ppm target.

Yucca Mountain and Nuclear Waste

By: David Phillips

April 7, 2008


Yucca Mountain, located 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was picked as the repository to hold the nation's nuclear waste. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 had three western States under consideration and in 1987 with Congress being pressed to pick a site, they decide on Yucca Mountain.


''The politics won out,'' said Allison Macfarlane of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Yucca Mountain Project. ''The weakest state, politically, that was under consideration, got stuck with it.''


Well, twenty years later and with more than $9 billion of our tax dollars spent, it is still not open and may never be open. And in my opinion it never should.


Several facts have come to light in recent years, such as the Mountain sits on a fault line, underground water, and falsified reports by the Department of Energy (DOE) scientists who work at the site.


Antarctic Ice Shelf Crumbles

A 160 square mile chunk of Antarctica's Wilkens ice shelf is collapsing in the continent's fast warming southwest Antarctic Peninsula. "Block after block of ice is just tumbling and crumbling into the ocean.. The shelf is not just cracking off and a piece goes drifting away, but totally shattering." Given the Connecticut sized collapsing shelf is permanent floating ice, in itself this will not lead to sea level rise. But loss of ice shelves does make it easier for land ice to melt and otherwise move into the ocean.

Along with Arctic sea and glacial ice melt, this new alarming example of accelerated ice cap melting presents dramatic visual evidence illustrating the advanced state of global heating. The time for the discussions of small thinking in response to climate change and global ecological crises is long since past. Simply, light bulbs and Priuses, biofuels and carbon trading, are not going to do it. Only a comprehensive program of social change -- things like ending coal use and ancient forest logging, while reducing human population and consumption -- pursued through intense advocacy, awareness building and profound personal and societal revolution, will save us now.


US Energy Bill Puts Brakes On Fuel-Guzzling Vehicles

The US Senate passed a wide-ranging energy bill late Thursday calling for a 40 percent increase in fuel economy standards by 2020.

The "Energy Independence and Security Act," passed on a 86-8 vote, and the White House said President George W. Bush would sign it after it is approved by the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic-controlled House would pass the bill next week, calling it "a cause for celebration for our country."

"The vote by the Senate to overwhelmingly pass historic and sweeping energy security legislation is great news for American consumers worried about the price of gas at the pump," Pelosi said. Gasoline pump prices are more than double the price in 2001, with heating oil costs triple that of 2001.

The action came as a 190-nation conference on the Indonesian island of Bali was hammering out an accord on how to fight global warming in the next decade, with the United States and the European Union fighting over the framework.

"It sends a message to world leaders meeting in Bali that the United States is serious about addressing global warming," Pelosi said, noting the bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 28 million cars and trucks off the road.

"It makes a major commitment to homegrown biofuels, sending our energy dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East. It sets our nation on a new course -- a new direction for energy security," the House leader said.

The legislation represents a compromise between automakers and environmental groups for an average 35 mile-per-gallon (14.7 kilometers per liter) standard by 2020, the first increase by Congress since the first standards were passed in 1975.

The 2008 model year standards are 27.5 miles per gallon (11.6 kilometers per liter) for cars and 22.5 mpg for trucks.

As part of the flurry of last-minute changes, Democratic Michigan Senator Carl Levin attempted to squeeze in some help for Detroit automakers by inserting a statement asserting that Congress and federal auto safety regulators have the final say over fuel economy rules.

The end result of negotiations was a far narrower package of energy proposals than what House and Senate Democrats had laid out earlier this year, with no new standards for renewable power from electric utilities and no new incentive plans for alternative technologies, such as plug-in hybrids.

"It is historic to change the auto standards after 32 years, and do it in a way where the automobile makers think they can comply," said Senator Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican. "That's very unique. They've never done that."

The fuel economy increase was projected to save 1.1 million barrels of oil per day in 2020, and four million barrels in 2030.

In addition, the bill's remaining major provision would boost American-grown alternative fuel production to 36 billion gallons in 2022.

Lawmakers projected the bill would produce 22 billion dollars in net annual consumer savings in 2020.

The American Petroleum Institute said it was "pleased that the Senate did the right thing by removing a tax title that would have threatened US energy production and jobs" and passed a bill "that will enhance our nation's energy security.

"However, we remain concerned by the unrealistic biofuels mandate," it said.


Greenland ice melts at record rate, scientists find

Robert S. Boyd | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Rising temperatures caused ice to melt in Greenland at a record rate this year, climate scientists reported Monday.

``The amount of ice lost by Greenland over the last year is the equivalent of two times all the ice in the Alps or a layer of water more than one-half-mile deep covering Washington, D.C.,'' said Konrad Steffen, an Arctic expert at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Greenland is about one-quarter as big as the continental United States, and 80 percent of it is covered by a massive ice sheet. It got its name because, from about A.D. 1000 to 1300, during the so-called ``Medieval Warm Period,'' it was warm enough to support forests and thriving colonies of Viking settlers.

This year's melt lifted global sea levels by about two one-hundredths of an inch, Steffen said. If the entire ice cap melted, it could raise the sea by 21 feet, swamping coastal cities and low-lying islands, but such a catastrophe isn't expected for at least a thousand years, if ever.

Steffen, who's spent 18 seasons working on the Greenland ice cap, attributed the accelerated melting to an air temperature increase of about 7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1991.

Ten percent more ice melted this year than in 2005, the previous record year. Since 1979, when satellite data over Greenland began, melting has increased by a total of 30 percent, he said.

Increases in snowfall thicken the ice at higher elevations in the interior of Greenland, but glaciers around the coast have been thinning and sliding more rapidly toward the sea. The gain in the center is more than offset by the loss around the margins, Steffen said.

This acceleration is partly caused by water trickling down through huge tunnels in the ice, known as moulins. The water lubricates the bases of glaciers and speeds their flow toward the sea.

``The more lubrication there is under the ice, the faster that ice moves to the coast,'' Steffen said. ``We know the number of moulins is increasing."

For example, the massive Jacobshavn glacier on the west coast of Greenland has sped up nearly twofold in the last decade.

Data on the recent melting trends were collected by a Defense Department meteorology satellite program that checks the weather for military purposes. In addition, Steffen's team maintains a set of 22 observation posts on the ice cap.

He reported his latest findings at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Along with melting glaciers, scientists are concerned about the shrinking of the ice covering the Arctic Ocean. In October, scientists reported another record loss of sea ice in the far north. Floating ice covered 39 percent less area since satellite observations began in 1979. The loss exposes more dark-colored water, which absorbs heat rather than reflecting it as snow and ice do, thereby contributing to global warming.

Natural Disasters Have Quadrupled In Two Decades: Study

More than four times the number of natural disasters are occurring now than did two decades ago, British charity Oxfam said in a study Sunday that largely blamed global warming.

"Oxfam... says that rising green house gas emissions are the major cause of weather-related disasters and must be tackled," the organisation said, adding that the world's poorest people were being hit the hardest.

The world suffered about 120 natural disasters per year in the early 1980s, which compared with the current figure of about 500 per year, according to the report.

"This year we have seen floods in South Asia, across the breadth of Africa and Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people," noted Oxfam director Barbara Stocking.

"This is no freak year. It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people."

She added: "Action is needed now to prepare for more disasters otherwise humanitarian assistance will be overwhelmed and recent advances in human development will go into reverse."

The number of people affected by extreme natural disasters, meanwhile, has surged by almost 70 percent, from 174 million a year between 1985 to 1994, to 254 million people a year between 1995 to 2004, Oxfam said.

Floods and wind-storms have increased from 60 events in 1980 to 240 last year, with flooding itself up six-fold.

But the number of geothermal events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, has barely changed.

Oxfam urged Western governments to push hard for a deal on climate change at a key international meeting that runs December 3-14 on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Rich Western nations and the United Nations must act to "make humanitarian aid faster, fairer and more flexible and to improve ways to prepare for and reduce the risk of disasters," it said.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Bali aims to see countries agree to launch a roadmap for negotiating cuts in climate-changing carbon emissions from 2012.

The Oxfam study was compiled using data from the Red Cross, the United Nations and specialist researchers at Louvain University in Belgium.



The White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is a "super-powerful office" that reviews all major federal regulations of "non-independent federal agencies" on a range of issues, from workplace safety to water quality.

OIRA and agency representatives regularly meet with "outside stakeholders" to solicit opinions on regulations. Vice President Cheney's office has recently taken an interest in these meetings. In June, The Progress Report noted that lobbyists for major polluters visited the White House to lobby against tighter smog standards. At that time, Clean Air Watch observed how unusual it was for a representative from Cheney's office to attend that meeting.

"Also sitting in on that meeting was a representative of Vice President Dick Cheney, long considered the go-to-guy for big industries opposed to tougher environmental standards," wrote Clean Air Watch.

This incident was not isolated. As OMB Watch has noted, OIRA has "held more than 540 regulatory review meetings since February 2002." Prior to Feb. 2007, Cheney's office attended just three meetings; since that time, it has attended eight. 

In the past, Cheney has taken "full advantage of the president’s cluelessness" to control the administration's environmental agenda and stop progress against global warming

Cheney likely has a sympathizer in current OIRA head Susan Dudley. In her previous job at the industry-backed Mercatus Center, Dudley opposed tougher smog standards, air bags in cars, and regulations for arsenic in drinking water.


Sen. Boxer Seeks Answers On Redacted Testimony
White House Cut Climate Warnings

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post

Bush administration officials acknowledged yesterday that they heavily edited testimony on global warming, delivered to Congress on Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the president's top science adviser and other officials questioned its scientific basis.

Senate Democrats say they want to investigate the circumstances involved in the editing of CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding's written testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on "climate change and public health." Gerberding testimony shrank from 12 pages to six after it was reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

The OMB removed several sections of the testimony that detailed how global warming would affect Americans, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, because John H. Marburger III, who directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and his staff questioned whether Gerberding's statements matched those released this year by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"As I understand it, in the draft there was broad characterizations about climate change science that didn't align with the IPCC," Perino told reporters yesterday. "When you try to summarize what is a very complicated issue and you have many different experts who have a lot of opinions, and you get testimony less than 24 hours before it's going to be given, you -- scientists across the administration were taking a look at it, and there were a decision that she would focus where she is an expert, which is on CDC."

White House officials eliminated several successive pages of Gerberding's testimony, beginning with a section in which she planned to say that many organizations are working to address climate change but that, "despite this extensive activity, the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed," and that the "CDC considers climate change a serious public concern."

In another deleted part of her original testimony, the CDC director predicted that areas in the northern United States "will likely bear the brunt of increases in ground-level ozone and associated airborne pollutants. Populations in mid-western and northeastern cities are expected to experience more heat-related illnesses as heat waves increase in frequency, severity and duration."

The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, first reported that Gerberding's testimony had been edited.

In an e-mail yesterday, OSTP spokeswoman Kristin Scuderi wrote that the president's science adviser and his aides were trying to "strengthen the testimony, not to remove the weak sections entirely." After Marburger questioned "inconsistencies in the use of language between the [IPCC] report and the testimony . . . the OMB editor decided to transmit a version that simply struck the first eight pages" because there was not time to reconcile the concerns raised by Marburger's office and Gerberding's original statement.

But several experts on the public health impact of climate change, having reviewed Gerberding's testimony, said there were no inconsistencies between the original testimony and the IPCC's recent reports.

"That's nonsense," said University of Wisconsin at Madison public health professor Jonathan Patz, who served as an IPCC lead author for its 2007, 2001 and 1995 reports. "Dr. Gerberding's testimony was scientifically accurate and absolutely in line with the findings of the IPCC."

Just as the CDC director predicted climate change could exacerbate air-pollution-related diseases, the IPCC 2001 report predicted that dangerous summer ozone levels may increase across 50 cities in the eastern U.S., and said, "The large potential population exposed to outdoor air pollution, translates this seemingly small relative risk into a substantial attributable health risk."

Michael McCally, executive director of the advocacy group Physicians for Social Responsibility, said the editing means that the "White House has denied a congressional committee's access to scientific information about health and global warming," adding: "This misuse of science and abuse of the legislative process is deplorable."

Gerberding, however, said in a statement yesterday that the editing did not alter the underlying message of her testimony.

"It is important to note that the edits made to the written testimony document did not alter or affect my messages to the Senate committee," she said. "I was perfectly happy with the testimony I gave to the committee, and was very pleased for the opportunity to have a frank and candid discussion with the Senate committee on the public health issues associated with climate change."

But Gerberding's statement did not satisfy Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee's chairman, who wrote Bush yesterday to demand that he turn over "a copy of all drafts of the CDC director's testimony sent to the Office of Management and Budget or other offices within the Executive Office of the President or other agencies," along with any comments administration officials made on the draft testimony.

Southeast Drought Fuels Battle Over Water Rights
Halimah Abdullah | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Alabama, Florida and Georgia lawmakers are upping the ante in a feud over water rights, a fight fueled by Atlanta's explosive growth and worries that drought-stricken regions of the Southeast are months away from running out of water.
Each state is pressing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on decades-old water control plans that give guidance on how best to release millions of gallons of water from river basins that the states share. Such plans are especially important when states face floods or droughts.
All three states accuse the Corps playing favorites in choosing when to release millions of gallons of water for drinking, hydropower, recreational and agricultural uses.
The tri-state battle pits Florida's concerns about preserving endangered species of mussels and sturgeon and the effects of booming population growth in Atlanta against those of Georgia, which worries that the water needed to keep the species alive draws from dwindling sources such as Lake Lanier outside of Atlanta. Alabama, meanwhile, contends Georgia needs to loosen its hold on water from Lake Allatoona in the Atlanta metro area so that the state can replenish much-needed water supplies and continue running a nuclear power plant in the southern part of the state.
"The water control plan governing these two critical river basins is decades old and is no longer serving the needs of the state of Georgia," said Sen. Johnny Isakson R-Ga. "Thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of residents have moved to this part of Georgia since then. It is imperative that we update the water control plan to reflect 21st century demand and usage."
Earlier this week, Georgia's governor, Sonny Purdue, threatened to sue the Army Corps over how it handles decisions to release water from Atlanta's reservoir.
Florida's Department of Environmental Protection recently fired off a terse letter to the Corps, saying failure to release the water would result in "a profound disruption of the socioeconomic foundation in Florida's panhandle region."
All three states have river basin lawsuits pending in federal courts, Corps officials said.
And though all three states have enacted varying degrees of water restrictions, the states accuse one another of not doing enough to help conserve water.
"While we are all suffering from this drought, relief for metro Atlanta cannot come at the expense of the people of Alabama," said Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who represents a district near the Alabama-Georgia state line. "... The Corps should address whether it is allowing Atlanta municipalities to take far more than their fair share of water from Lake Allatoona."
The Corps said it's trying to steer clear of picking sides in the regional squabble.
"We don't own the water — the water is owned by the states," said Rob Holland, a spokesman for the Corps' regional office in Atlanta. "We encourage the states to resolve their problems, but we can't solve them for them."
Experts on climate say this is the first time in a century that the Southeast has faced such a critical drought. Other parts of the nation, such as California and Idaho, have long dealt with droughts and have plans to deal with the wildfires and diminished crops that result from them.
"The drought in the Southeast is far more widespread," said Mike Hayes, the director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "People wonder, 'Can I ask my neighbor for water if they are in the same boat?' Other natural disasters, like hurricanes and floods, bring people together. Drought, if people aren't careful, can really set one sector against another sector and can create chronic tension."
But in the historically water-rich South, the battle over dwindling water sources already has turned nasty.
Georgia's congressional delegation is pushing legislation that would give all states the power to suspend the Endangered Species Act during extreme droughts, a move that would cut short Florida's claims to extra water.
"While they're worrying about an endangered species of mussels in Apalachicola, we're worried about the endangered people," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said Thursday.
Alabama's congressional delegation also took the Corps to task for giving Georgia a larger share of water from Lake Allatoona, saying, "Decisions to drastically cut the water flowing into Alabama from Lake Allatoona are being made without all stakeholders being able to evaluate very important information."
Environmental groups say that Atlanta, not the Army Corps of Engineers, is at fault for the region's water woes.
"The Corps has been a convenient punching bag to point to in all of this," said Gil Rogers, a staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit regional group that focuses on environmental protection issues throughout the Southeast. "The Corps has made some mistakes in the past, but I don't think it's fair to point to the problem as the fault of the engineers, or the mussels in Florida or Alabama. We've allowed growth without asking questions about whether they can sustain that growth."

Cities Take the Lead on Climate Change

In Europe, Cities Aren't Waiting Around for International Action on Climate Change


The Associated Press

VAXJO, Sweden

When this quiet city in southern Sweden decided in 1996 to wean itself off fossil fuels, most people doubted the ambitious goal would have any impact beyond the town limits.

A few melting glaciers later, Vaxjo is attracting a green pilgrimage of politicians, scientists and business leaders from as far afield as the United States and North Korea seeking inspiration from a city program that has allowed it to cut CO2 emissions 30 percent since 1993.

Vaxjo is a pioneer in a growing movement in dozens of European cities, large and small, that aren't waiting for national or international measures to curb global warming.

From London's congestion charge to Paris' city bike program and Barcelona's solar power campaign, initiatives taken at the local level are being introduced across the continent often influencing national policies instead of the other way around.

"People used to ask: Isn't it better to do this at a national or international level?" said Henrik Johansson, environmental controller in Vaxjo, a city of 78,000 on the shores of Lake Helga, surrounded by thick pine forest in the heart of Smaland province. "We want to show everyone else that you can accomplish a lot at the local level."

The European Union, mindful that many member states are failing to meet mandated emissions cuts under the Kyoto climate treaty, has taken notice of the trend and is encouraging cities to adopt their own emissions targets. The bloc awarded one of its inaugural Sustainable Energy Europe awards this year to Vaxjo, which aims to have cut emissions by 50 percent by 2010 and 70 percent by 2025.

"We are convinced that the cities are a key element to change behavior and get results," said Pedro Ballesteros Torres, manager of the Sustainable Energy Europe campaign. "Climate change is a global problem but the origin of the problem is very local."

So far only a handful of European capitals have set emissions targets, including Stockholm, Copenhagen and London. Torres said he hopes to convince about 30 European cities to commit to targets next year.

While such goals are welcome, they may not always be the best way forward, said Simon Reddy, who manages the C40 project, a global network of major cities exchanging ideas on tackling climate change.

"At the moment a lot of cities don't know what they're emitting so it's very difficult to set targets," Reddy said.

More important than emissions targets, he said, is that cities draft action plans, outlining specific goals needed to reduce emissions, like switching a certain percentage of the public transit system to alternative fuels.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone's Climate Action Plan calls for cutting the city's CO2 emissions by 60 percent in 2025, compared to 1990 levels. However, planners acknowledge the cuts are not realistic unless the government introduces a system of carbon pricing.

Barcelona, Spain's second biggest city, has, since 2006, required all new and renovated buildings to install solar panels to supply at least 60 percent of the energy needed to heat water.

The project has been emulated by dozens of Spanish cities and inspired national legislation with similar, though less stringent, requirements, said Angels Codina Relat of the Barcelona Energy Agency.

It's not only in Europe that cities are taking action on climate change.

Several U.S. cities including Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle have launched programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Bogota, the capital of Colombia, has reduced emissions with the TransMilenio municipal bus system and an extensive network of bicycle paths.

In Vaxjo, (pronounced VECK-shur), the vast majority of emissions cuts have been achieved at the heating and power plant, which replaced oil with wood chips from local sawmills as its main source of fuel. Ashes from the furnace are returned to the forest as nutrients.

"This is the best fir in Sweden," said plant manager Ulf Johnsson, scooping up a fistful of wood chips from a giant heap outside the factory.

He had just led Michael Wood, the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, on a guided tour of the facility, which is considered state of the art. Not only does it generate electricity, but the water that is warmed up in the process of cooling the plant is used to heat homes and offices in Vaxjo.

Every week, foreign visitors arrive to see Vaxjo's environmental campaign. Last year, even a delegation of 10 energy officials from reclusive North Korea got a tour.

A similar but much larger system is in place in Copenhagen, Denmark's capital, where waste heat from incineration and combined heat and power plants is pumped through a purpose-built 800-mile network of pipes to 97 percent of city.

Copenhagen is often cited as a climate pioneer among European cities. It cut CO2 emissions by 187,600 tons annually in the late '90s by switching from coal to natural gas and biofuels at its energy plants. Its goal is to reduce emissions by 35 percent by 2010, compared to 1990 levels, even more ambitious than Denmark's national target of 21 percent cuts under the Kyoto accord.

In 1995, the city became one of the first European capitals to introduce a public bicycle service that lets people pick up and return bikes at dozens of stations citywide for a small fee. Similar initiatives have since taken root in Paris and several other European cities.

Next, Copenhagen plans to spend about $38 million on various initiatives to get more residents to use bicycles instead of cars.

Transport is one of the hardest areas for local leaders to control since traffic is not confined to a single city. Without stronger national policies promoting biofuels over gasoline, Vaxjo, for one, will never reach its long-term target of becoming free of fossil fuels.

But it's doing what it can locally. So-called "green cars" running on biofuels park for free anywhere in the city. About one-fifth of the city's own fleet runs on biogas produced at the local sewage treatment plant.

Using biofuels instead of gasoline in cars is generally considered to cut CO2 emissions, although some scientists say greenhouse gases released during the production of biofuel crops can offset those gains.

Vaxjo has also invested in energy efficiency, from the light bulbs used in street lights to a new residential area with Europe's tallest all-wood apartment buildings. Wood requires less energy to produce than steel or concrete, and also less transportation since Vaxjo is in the middle of forests.

Although Vaxjo is tiny by comparison, the C40 group, including major metropolitan centers such as New York, Mexico City and Tokyo, has been impressed by the city's progress and uses it as an example of "best practices" around the world.

"They're a small town," Reddy said. "Apply that to 7 million? It's doable but its going to take a lot longer."

On the Net:

City of Vaxjo: http://www.vaxjo.se

C40 cities: http://www.c40cities.org


Gore: Award Puts Focus On Global Warming
Associated Press

For years, former Vice President Al Gore and a host of climate scientists were belittled and, worst of all, ignored for their message about how dire global warming is. On Friday, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their warnings about what Gore calls "a planetary emergency."

Gore shared the prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists. This scientific panel has explained the dry details of global warming in thousands of pages of footnoted reports every six years or so since 1990.

Gore, fresh from a near miss at winning the U.S. presidency in 2000, translated the numbers and jargon-laden reports into something people could understand. He made a slide show and went Hollywood.

His documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" won two Academy Awards and has been credited with changing the debate in America about global warming.

For Gore it was all about the message.

"This is a chance to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face now," he said Friday at the offices of the Alliance For Climate Protection, a nonprofit he founded. "The alarm bells are going off in the scientific community."

Despite a live global stage, Gore did not take questions from reporters, avoiding the issue of a potential 2008 presidential run. His aides repeatedly say he won't enter the race. Gore donated his share of the $1.5 million prize to the nonprofit.

"For my part, I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honor and the recognition from this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness and the change in urgency," Gore said in brief remarks. "It is a planetary emergency and we have to act quickly."

In announcing the award earlier in the day in Oslo, Norway, Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the prize was not a slap at the Bush administration's current policies. Instead, he said it was about encouraging all countries "to think again and to say what can they do to conquer global warming."

Gore is the first former vice president to win the Peace Prize since 1906 when Theodore Roosevelt, who by that time had become president, was awarded. Sitting Vice President Charles Gates Dawes won the prize in 1925. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter won it in 2002 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

Gore, who learned of his award from watching the live TV announcement — hearing his name amid the Norwegian — was not celebratory Friday. His tone was somber. He spoke beside his wife, Tipper, and four Stanford University climate scientists who were co-authors of the international climate report. Outside the building, schoolchildren held a sign saying, "Thank you Al."

For years, there was little thanks.

From the late 1980s with his book "Earth in the Balance," Gore championed the issue of global warming. He had monthly science seminars on it while vice president and helped negotiate the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that called for cuts in greenhouse gases.

"When he first started really working on the climate change issue, I remember he was ridiculed in the press and certainly by political opponents as some kind of kook out there in la-la land," said federal climate scientist Tom Peterson, an IPCC co-author. "It's delightful that he's sharing this and he deserves it well. And it's nice to have his work being vindicated."

Since his loss to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore put aside political aspirations and become a global warming evangelical. He traveled to more than 50 countries. He presented his slide show on global warming more than 1,000 times.

He turned that slide show into "An Inconvenient Truth."

The film won praise but also generated controversy. On Wednesday, a British judge ruled in a lawsuit that it was OK to show the movie to students in school. High Court Judge Michael Burton said it was "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact" but presented in a "context of alarmism and exaggeration." He said teachers must be given a written document explaining that.

More than 20 top climate scientists told The Associated Press last year that the film was generally accurate in its presentation of the science, although some were bothered by what they thought were a couple of exaggerations.

Gore's movie was deeply personal. It was about him after losing the 2000 election and about his travels, and he talked about the changing climate in a personal way.

"He has honed that message in a way that many scientists are jealous of," said University of Michigan Dean Rosina Bierbaum. She was a top White House science aide to Gore and President Clinton. "He is a master communicator."

Climate scientists said their work was cautious and rock-solid, confirmed with constant peer review, but it didn't grab people's attention.

"We need an advocate such as Al Gore to help present the work of scientists across the world," said Bob Watson, former chairman of the IPCC and a top federal climate science adviser to the Clinton-Gore Administration.

Watson and Bierbaum, who regularly briefed Gore about global warming, described him as voracious, wanting to understand every detail about the science. Bierbaum recalled one Air Force Two journey with Gore and the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Gore was such a consummate scientist that he would keep asking and asking and asking deeper and deeper questions until at one point Jim Baker of NOAA and I ran back to our seats to go back through textbooks to get the answers," Bierbaum said. "It was both exhilarating and exhausting to be part of his science team."

Scientists and Nobel committee members said it was not a stretch to award the Peace Prize to Gore and the scientists. Studies by national security experts say a hotter world with changes in water and food supply can lead to wars and terrorism.

"We're already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa," said Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator.

The man who beat Gore in 2000, President Bush, had no plans to call Gore to congratulate him. But spokesman Tony Fratto called it "an important recognition" for both Gore and the scientific panel.

Some in the shrinking community of global warming skeptics and those downplaying the issue, were dubious, however.

"I think it cheapens the Nobel Prize," said William O'Keefe, chief executive officer of the conservative science-oriented think tank the Marshall Institute. O'Keefe, a former oil industry executive and current consultant to fossil fuel firms, called Gore's work "rife with errors."

As he was leaving the alliance's office, Gore was asked whether the Nobel would quiet climate naysayers. He said the award would help the cause of fighting global warming overall: "I hope we have a chance to really kick into high gear."


Arctic Ice Melt Opens Northwest Passage


Associated Press Writer

Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.

The waters are exposing unexplored resources, and vessels could trim thousands of miles from Europe to Asia by bypassing the Panama Canal. The seasonal ebb and flow of ice levels has already opened up a slim summer window for ships.

Leif Toudal Pedersen, of the Danish National Space Center, said that Arctic ice has shrunk to some 1 million square miles. The previous low was 1.5 million square miles, in 2005.

"The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected," Pedersen said in an ESA statement posted on its Web site Friday.

Pedersen said the extreme retreat this year suggested the passage could fully open sooner than expected — but ESA did not say when that might be. Efforts to contact ESA officials in Paris and Noordwik, the Netherlands, were unsuccessful Saturday.

A U.N. panel on climate change has predicted that polar regions could be virtually free of ice by the summer of 2070 because of rising temperatures and sea ice decline, ESA noted.

Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States are among countries in a race to secure rights to the Arctic that heated up last month when Russia sent two small submarines to plant its national flag under the North Pole. A U.S. study has suggested as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden in the area.

Environmentalists fear increased maritime traffic and efforts to tap natural resources in the area could one day lead to oil spills and harm regional wildlife.

Until now, the passage has been expected to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multiyear ice pack — sea ice that remains through one or more summers, ESA said.

Researcher Claes Ragner of Norway's Fridtjof Nansen Institute, which works on Arctic environmental and political issues, said for now, the new opening has only symbolic meaning for the future of sea transport.

"Routes between Scandinavia and Japan could be almost halved, and a stable and reliable route would mean a lot to certain regions," he said by phone. But even if the passage is opening up and polar ice continues to melt, it will take years for such routes to be regular, he said.

"It won't be ice-free all year around and it won't be a stable route all year," Ragner said. "The greatest wish for sea transportation is streamlined and stable routes."

"Shorter transport routes means less pollution if you can ship products from A to B on the shortest route," he said, "but the fact that the polar ice is melting away is not good for the world in that we're losing the Arctic and the animal life there."

The opening observed this week was not the most direct waterway, ESA said. That would be through northern Canada along the coast of Siberia, which remains partially blocked.


Belching Moose Add To Global Warming

A grown moose belches out methane gas equivalent to 2,100 kilograms (4,630 pounds) of carbon dioxide a year, contributing to global warming, Norwegian researchers said Wednesday.

That is more than twice the amount of CO2 emitted on a round-trip flight across the Atlantic Ocean from Oslo to the Chilean capital Santiago, according to Scandinavian Airlines.

"An adult moose emits about 100 kilograms of methane gas a year. But methane gas is much stronger than carbon dioxide, so to get the equivalent you have to multiply by 21," professor Odd Harstad at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences told AFP.

With an estimated 140,000 moose roaming Norway's forests, that is a total of of 294,000,000 kilograms of CO2 per year.

But Harstad said that was no reason to begin killing off the entire moose population.

"Moose have very important functions in nature. They are ruminants that eat the grass. If we don't have ruminants, we have too much grass and that changes the landscape and has consequences for the flora and fauna," he said.

Harstad said the figure of 100 kilograms of methane gas was a rough estimate based on earlier calculations for beef cows in Norway.

As is the case with cows and other ruminants, methane is produced from the microbes in the moose's stomach which help break down the roughage they eat.

Because methane gas is stronger than carbon dioxide, it is considered even more harmful to the environment. Both methane and carbon dioxide are so-called greenhouses gases, one of the main causes of global warming.


'Dirty Snow' Warming Earth, Study Finds
Canada Urged To Lead International Cleanup
Randy Boswell
CanWest News Service

A team of U.S. scientists has found that "dirty snow" is a surprisingly significant contributor to global warming, and is urging Canada - as "custodian" of a vast, snowbound nation - to lead an international cleanup effort.

The researchers have measured, in the first comprehensive study of its kind, how snowy landscapes tainted by carbon particles from inefficiently burned fuels and forest fires are absorbing more of the sun's heat than the less sooty snow cover of centuries past.

"Snow becomes dirty when soot from tailpipes, smokestacks and forest fires enters the atmosphere and falls to the ground," the team explains. "Soot-infused snow is darker than natural snow. Dark surfaces absorb sunlight and cause warming, while bright surfaces reflect heat back into space and cause cooling."

Even a slightly darkened surface impairs the natural reflective properties of snow crystals, say the scientists, who calculated that dirty snow accounts for one-third of rising temperatures in the Arctic over the past two centuries.

"When we inject dirty particles into the atmosphere and they fall onto snow, the net effect is we warm the polar latitudes," says Charlie Zender, a University of California atmospheric physicist and co-author of a study published in the latest Journal of Geophysical Research. "Dark soot can heat up quickly. It's like placing tiny toaster ovens into the snow pack."

About 80% of "black carbon" pollutants are man-made, the researchers estimate, with forest fires accounting for the rest.

Mr. Zender told CanWest News Service that although all nations contribute to the problem of snow impurity through the long-range transport of pollutants, Canada bears particular responsibility to push for cleaner-burning fuels and reduced industrial emissions of soot.

"Just as Brazil is the custodian of the Amazon, a world resource whose deforestation has all sorts of negative consequences, so is Canada a custodian of an important swath of snow-covered land that helps to cool the planet," Mr. Zender said.

He also raised a red flag about increased ship traffic through the Northwest Passage - widely viewed as a potential economic boon for Canada in the coming decades - as a result of the melting Arctic ice pack.

"One implication," Mr. Zender said of his team's research, "is that any increase in shipping through the Arctic Ocean - for example, the Northwest Passage - is likely to exacerbate these effects by putting soot emissions right in the middle of the remaining snow and sea-ice. We must think very carefully about this."

In their NASA-funded project, Mr. Zender and three colleagues from UC-Irvine and the University of Colorado calculated that dirty snow caused the Earth's temperature to rise 0.1 to 0.15 C, or up to 19% of the total warming of 0.8 C over the past 200 years.

In that time, the Arctic has warmed about 1.6 C, and dirty snow there has caused at least 0.5 C of the warming, the team found.

"The global warming debate has focused on carbon dioxide emissions," the scientists note. But their research has "determined that a lesser-known mechanism - dirty snow - can explain one-third or more of the Arctic warming primarily attributed to greenhouse gases."

While the international Kyoto strategy to cut greenhouse gases is deemed essential to fight climate change, Mr. Zender's team says targeting sources of dirty snow could pay faster dividends in curbing some of the increase in global temperatures.

"Carbon dioxide lives in the atmosphere for a century, so cutting back on emissions can prevent further warming but does not produce immediate cooling," they said. "Policymakers could use these research results to develop regulations to mitigate global warming. Limiting industrial soot emissions and switching to cleaner-burning fuels would leave snow brighter. New snow falls each year, and if it contained fewer impurities, the ground would brighten and temperatures would cool."
The researchers warn that dirty snow not only results in gradual warming but can also create temperature spikes where surface snowmelt is accelerated enough to expose the deeper, darker layers of previous years' snowfall, or even the soil lying below.

"In some polar areas, impurities in the snow have caused enough melting to expose underlying sea ice or soil that is significantly darker than the snow. The darker surfaces absorb sunlight more rapidly than snow, causing additional warming. This cycle causes temperatures in the polar regions to rise as much as 3 C during some seasons," the scientists say.

"Once the snow is gone, the soot that caused the snow to melt continues to have an effect because the ground surface is darker and retains more heat."

A map produced by the team to highlight the impact of dirty snow around the planet shows a minimal effect across most of mainland North America, a zone of slightly elevated temperatures in Canada and the United States around the heavily industrialized Great Lakes region, and extensive areas of significant heating from darkened snow throughout the High Arctic latitudes.



As the most plentiful fossil fuel available, coal is a staple of U.S. energy production. But growing consumer and government thirst for cheap energy through the construction of a new generation of coal-fired power plants poses a grave threat to the environment.

"In the absence of emission controls, these new plants will increase worldwide annual emissions of carbon dioxide by approximately 7.6 billion metric tons by 2030. These emissions would equal roughly 50 percent of all fossil fuel emissions over the past 250 years," according to a new report by the Center for American Progress, titled Global Warming and the Future of Coal: The Path to Carbon Capture and Storage.

"Technology currently exists to capture CO2 emissions from coal-fired plants before they are released into the environment and to sequester that CO2 in underground geologic formations," so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems.

This pathway, as American Progress proposes it to be implemented, "would allow continued use of coal as an energy source without magnifying the risk of global warming." Unfortunately, "we are so far failing" in the effort to expand use of CCS, as industry experts predict only a small percentage of coal plants in the next quarter century will be using clean technology.

To expand the use of clean coal technology, Congress must take bold action to "put in place an emission performance standard for new coal-fired plants." Subsequently, such leadership would build a foundation for developing nations like India and China -- which rival the U.S. in greenhouse emissions -- to emulate. Our leadership on this front is crucial, as "[l]ack of progress in these countries would doom to failure global efforts to combat global warming."



Last Tuesday morning, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich engaged in an "environmental version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates," with a focus on climate change.

The two long-time statesmen generally agreed on most of the fundamental points, particularly that "the evidence is sufficient" that climate change is both a real phenomenon and that humans have contributed to it.

They differed, however, on how best to address the issue. Kerry, who recently wrote a book on the environment with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, advocated "setting government standards for carbon emissions that free markets then could find ways to meet," an approach commonly known as cap-and-trade.

Gingrich, who has his own upcoming book on the environment, preferred a program of tax incentives aimed at getting "industry and consumers to change to cleaner and renewable technologies." Asked by Kerry to respond to conservatives who are "resisting the science" of global warming, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Gingrich admitted that acknowledging the scientific consensus around global warming "is a very challenging thing to do if you're a conservative" because they associate environmentalism with "bigger government and higher taxes."

He neglected to mention, however, that there are also lucrative rewards for global warming skeptics who side with the deep pockets of the oil lobby.

Hot and cold

Last week began with a Supreme Court decision declaring that the U.S. government had the authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions and all but ordering the Bush administration to do so. It ended with a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the world's authoritative voice on global warming - warning that failure to contain these emissions will have disastrous environmental effects, especially in poorer countries, which are least able to defend themselves and their people against the consequences of climate change.

One would hope that these events would shake President George W. Bush out of his state of denial and add his authority to the chorus of governors, legislators and business leaders calling for an aggressive regulatory and technological response to the dangers of global warming. They haven't. When asked about the Supreme Court decision, the president said he thought he was already doing enough.

He argued further that there was little point in America doing any more unless other polluters like China acted as well. That ignores the reality that no developing country is going to move unless the United States - which produces one-fourth of the world's emissions with only 5 percent of its population - takes the lead.

The report from the intergovernmental panel was the second of three due this year. The first concluded with "90 percent certainty" that humans had caused the rise in atmospheric temperatures over the last half-century. The most recent focused on the consequences, few of them positive.

The northern latitudes will have longer growing seasons. But elsewhere climate change will lead to more severe storms, the flooding of tropical islands and coastlines inhabited by hundreds of millions of people, the likely extinction of at least one-fourth of the world's species and, in poorer countries in Asia and Africa, drought and hunger.

Some of these changes have begun. But the report also makes clear that while emissions already accumulated in the atmosphere make some damage inevitable, the worst can be avoided if the world's nations take swift action to stabilize and then reverse emissions.

What must be avoided, the report said, is a rise of 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which truly devastating effects will begin to kick in. But such a rise is almost inevitable over the next century if the world continues to do business as usual.

The panel's next paper will discuss alternatives to business as usual. These policies will almost certainly require a major shift in the way energy is produced and used, as well as massive investments in new technologies. They will also be expensive. But what the world's scientists are telling us, with increasing confidence, is that the costs of doing nothing will be far greater than the costs of acting now.

Climate Report: Poor Will Suffer Most
Associated Press Writer
Fri Apr 6, 2007 4:36 PM ET
The world faces increased hunger and water shortages in the poorest countries, massive floods and avalanches in Asia, and species extinction unless nations adapt to climate change and halt its progress, according to a report approved Friday by an international conference on global warming.
Agreement came after an all-night session during which key sections were deleted from the draft and scientists angrily confronted government negotiators who they feared were watering down their findings.
"It has been a complex exercise," said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Several scientists objected to the editing of the final draft by government negotiators but, in the end, agreed to compromises. However, some scientists vowed never to take part in the process again.
Five days of negotiations reached a climax when the delegates removed parts of a key chart highlighting devastating effects of climate change that kick in with every rise of 1.8 degrees, and in a tussle over the level of scientific reliability attached to key statements.
There was little doubt about the science, which was based on 29,000 sets of data, much of it collected in the last five years. "For the first time we are not just arm-waving with models," Martin Perry, who conducted the grueling negotiations, told reporters.
The United States, China and Saudi Arabia raised many of the objections to the phrasing, often seeking to tone down the certainty of some of the more dire projections.
The final IPCC report is the clearest and most comprehensive scientific statement to date on the impact of global warming mainly caused by man-induced carbon dioxide pollution.
"The poorest of the poor in the world — and this includes poor people in prosperous societies — are going to be the worst hit," Pachauri said. "People who are poor are least able to adapt to climate change."
The report said up to 30 percent of species face an increased risk of vanishing if global temperatures rise 3.6 degrees above the average in the 1980s and 1990s.
Areas in drought will become even more dry, adding to the risks of hunger and disease, it said. The world will face heightened threats of flooding, severe storms and the erosion of coastlines.
"This is a glimpse into an apocalyptic future," the Greenpeace environmental group said of the final report.
Without action to curb carbon emissions, man's livable habitat will shrink starkly, said Stephen Schneider, a Stanford scientist who was one of the authors. "Don't be poor in a hot country, don't live in hurricane alley, watch out about being on the coasts or in the Arctic, and it's a bad idea to be on high mountains with glaciers melting."
"We can fix this," by investing a small part of the world's economic growth rate, said Schneider. "It's trillions of dollars, but it's a very trivial thing."
Negotiators pored over the 21-page draft meant to be a policy guide for governments. The summary pares down the full 1,572-page scientific assessment of the evidence of climate change so far, and the impact it will have on the Earth's most vulnerable people and ecosystems.
More than 120 nations attended the meeting. Each word was approved by consensus, and any change had to be approved by the scientists who drew up that section of the report.
Parry denied the hard-fought editing process resulted in a watered-down version, but acknowledged that "certain messages were lost."
At one point early Friday, it looked like the report "was not going to be accepted. It was very, very close to that point," said David Karoly, one of the scientific authors from the University of Oklahoma.
Though weakened by the deletion of some elements, the final report "will send a very, very clear signal" to governments, said Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official.
The summary will be presented to the G8 summit of the world's richest nations in June, when the European Union is expected to renew appeals to President Bush to join in international efforts to control emissions of fossil fuels.
This year's series of reports by the IPCC were the first in six years from the prestigious body of 2,500 scientists, formed in 1988. Public awareness of climate change gave the IPCC's work unaccustomed importance and fueled the intensity of the closed-door negotiations during the five-day meeting.
"The urgency of this report prepared by the world's top scientists should be matched by an equally urgent response from governments," said Hans Verolme, director of the global climate change program of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
At the final session, the conference snagged over a sentence that said the impact of climate change already were being observed on every continent and in most oceans.
"There is very high confidence that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases," said the statement on the first page of text.
But China insisted on striking the word "very," injecting doubt into what the scientists argued were indisputable observations. The report's three authors refused to go along with the change, resulting in an hours-long deadlock that was broken by a U.S. compromise to delete any reference to confidence levels.
It is the second of four reports from the IPCC this year; the first report in February laid out the scientific case for how global warming is happening. This second report is the "so what" report, explaining what the effects of global warming will be.
For the first time, the scientists broke down their predictions into regions, and forecast that climate change will affect billions of people.
North America will experience more severe storms with human and economic loss, and cultural and social disruptions. It can expect more hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires, it said. Coasts will be swamped by rising sea levels. In the short term, crop yields may increase by 5 percent to 20 percent from a longer growing season, but will plummet if temperatures rise by 7.2 degrees.
Africa will be hardest hit. By 2020, up to 250 million people are likely to be exposed to water shortages. In some countries, food production could fall by half, it said.
Parts of Asia are threatened with massive flooding and avalanches from melting Himalayan glaciers. Europe also will see its Alpine glaciers disappear. Australia's Great Barrier Reef will lose much of its coral to bleaching from even moderate increases in sea temperatures, the report said.
Separately, an independent organization that keeps tabs on glacial melting in Austria's Alps said its latest survey confirms that the ice sheets continue to shrink significantly and predicted most will vanish by the end of the century.
The Austrian Alpine Association said experts measured 105 of Austria's 925 glaciers last year and found they had receded by an average of 52 1/2 feet, with one of the sheets shrinking a dramatic 262 feet during 2006.

Winter warmest on record worldwide
AP Science Writer
This winter was the warmest on record worldwide, the government said Thursday in the latest worrisome report focusing on changing climate.

The report comes just over a month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said global warming is very likely caused by human actions and is so severe it will continue for centuries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the combined land and ocean temperatures for December through February were 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the period since record keeping began in 1880.

The report said that during the past century, global temperatures have increased at about 0.11 degrees per decade. But that increase has been three times larger since 1976, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center reported.

Most scientists attribute the rising temperatures to so-called greenhouse gases which are produced by industrial activities, automobiles and other processes. These gases build up in the atmosphere and trap heat from the sun somewhat like a greenhouse.

Also contributing to this winter's record warmth was an El Nino, a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean. It was particularly strong in January — the warmest January ever — but the ocean surface has since begun to cool.

The report noted that in the Northern Hemisphere the combined land and water temperature was the warmest ever at 1.64 degrees above average. In the Southern Hemisphere, where it was summer, the temperature was 0.88 degree above average and the fourth warmest.

The late March date of the vernal equinox noted on most calendars notwithstanding, for weather and climate purposes northern winter is December, January and February.

For the United States, meanwhile, the winter temperature was near average. The season got off to a late start and spring-like temperatures covered most of the eastern half of the country in January, but cold conditions set in in February, which was the third coldest on record.

For winter, statewide temperatures were warmer than average from Florida to Maine and from Michigan to Montana while cooler-than-average temperatures occurred in the southern Plains and areas of the Southwest.

For Alaska, both February and winter were warmer than average but far from the record warmth of 2003 and 2001, respectively.


U.S. Projects 19 Percent Emissions Rise
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- By 2020, the United States will emit almost one-fifth more gases that lead to global warming than it did in 2000, increasing the risks of drought and scarce water supplies.

That projection comes from an internal draft report from the Bush administration that is more than a year overdue at the United Nations. The Associated Press obtained a copy Saturday.

The United States already is responsible for roughly one-quarter of the world's carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases that scientists blame for global warming.

The draft report, which is still being completed, projects that the current administration's climate policy would result in the emission of 9.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases in 2020, a 19 percent increase from 7.7 billion tons in 2000.

Doing more than slowing the growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions, which remains the administration's stated goal, will be decided "as the science justifies," according to the draft report. The biggest source of the gases is the burning of fossil fuels, chiefly oil, coal and natural gas.

But an authoritative U.N. report last month from hundreds of scientists and government officials said global warming is "very likely" caused by mankind and that climate change will continue for centuries even if heat-trapping gases are reduced. That report was approved by 113 nations including the United States.

It was the strongest language ever used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose last report came in 2001.

Despite the dire outlook, most scientists say huge sea level rises and the most catastrophic storms and droughts may be avoided if strong action is taken soon.

"We're on a path to exceeding levels of global warming that will cause catastrophic consequences, and we really need to be seriously reducing emissions, not just reducing the growth rate as the president is doing," Michael MacCracken, chief scientist at the nonpartisan Climate Institute in Washington, said Saturday. Until 2001, he coordinated the government's studies of the consequences of global warming,

The administration's internal draft covers inventories of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, projected environmental consequences and policies to limit emissions and risk. The New York Times reported on the draft in Saturday's editions.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality has been coordinating the draft report. A spokeswoman, Kristen Hellmer, said it "will show that the president's portfolio of actions and his financial commitment to addressing climate change are working. And the president is always looking at ways to address our energy security and environmental needs."

Hellmer blamed the delay in completing the fourth U.S. Climate Action Report on the "extensive interagency review process" the draft must go through. The report, which was due no later than Jan. 1, 2006, is required under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Among the consequences of a warming world anticipated in the report is "a distinct reduction in spring snowpack in the northwestern United States," which supplies much of the water in that region, the report says.

Warmer temperatures expected from more greenhouse gases would only "exacerbate present drought risks in the United States by increasing the rate of evaporation," it says.

Rick Piltz, director of Climate Science Watch, a nonprofit watchdog program, said Saturday he expects the final report will evade a full discussion of how global warming might affect the nation.

"I think it is very likely that the main reason the report has been held up for more than a year beyond the deadline is because the administration is reluctant to make an honest statement about likely climate change impacts on this country," said Piltz, a former senior associate with the federal Climate Change Science Program.

The U.S. spends $3 billion a year to research technologies to cut global warming and $2 billion on climate research. Bush has formed a partnership with Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea -- producers of half the world's greenhouse gases -- to attract private money for cleaner energy technologies. He envisions using more hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources and clean coal technology.

Shortly after taking office, Bush rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a U.N. treaty that requires industrial nations to cut global warming gases by 2012 by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels.

He argued that cutting the U.S. share to below 6 billion tons a year, as the treaty would have required, would have cost 5 million U.S. jobs. He objected, too, that such high-polluting developing nations as China and India are not required to reduce emissions.




While February has been characterized by swaths of snow across parts of the nation, last month had the dubious distinction of being the hottest January ever recorded.


According to the U.S. National Climactic Data Center, the world's land areas were on average 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer last month than a normal January, a major increase since "such records are often broken by hundredths of a degree at a time."


With the help of El Nino, which the scientists assert was only partial, traditionally frigid areas of the world witnessed huge temperature spikes, such as Siberia, where January temperatures were recorded as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.


While global warming skeptics have cited the colder February air as evidence against global warming, climate scientist David Easterling said the patterns witnessed last month are indicative of man-made climate change.


Larger increases in temperature farther north, compared to mid-latitudes, is "sort of the global warming signal," Easterling countered. The scientists warn that such records could become commonplace as the Earth continues to warm.




The bald eagle population "has rebounded from around 400 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states in the early 1960s to more than 7,000 breeding pairs today," and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been developing a plan to take the bird off the Endangered Species list.


"The problem for FWS officials has been in developing protections for the eagle once it is no longer under the wing of [the Endangered Species Act], and particularly what it means to 'disturb' a bird" under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. 


Last December, FWS defined "disturb" as any actions that injure or kill an eagle. "But a memo, obtained this week by National Public Radio, shows that proposed regulations for the bird went against recommendations of FWS Director Dale Hall and some agency scientists."


"There is sufficient public comment to support a new, more protective definition of 'disturb,'" Hall -- the nation's "top wildlife biologist" -- wrote in the memo. "The new definition does not require actual injury, death, or nest abandonment. Instead the threshold is the likelihood of one of those outcomes. ...


The current proposal would be very difficult to enforce without evidence of a dead or injured eagle. Adding 'or is likely to cause' reduces the uncertainty and is more acceptable."


Hall's bosses "ignored his advice" when they issued the final regulations. "The memo shows us what we knew, which is that proposal is fundamentally flawed," John Kostyack, an attorney with the National Wildlife Federation, said. "The administration essentially nullified that law."


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most authoritative group on global warming, reports last Friday, that human activities were "very likely" the main cause of warming in the past 50 years.

The Guardian reports that there is a well-heeled orchestrated movement going on below the radar to confuse the public about the IPCC's report. 

The oil lobby is so desperate to push back on the new climate change study that it has been offering to pay global warming skeptics to speak out.

The Guardian reports, "Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

 ... The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at [American Enterprise Institute], who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report."

AEI has received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil.

As Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth noted, there have been no peer-reviewed scientific articles published in recent years that express any doubt that humans are contributing to climate change.

Yet more than 50 percent of news media coverage of the issue includes the oil industry's position on the subject.


Global warming to speed up
By Alister Doyle
Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - A draft U.N. report projecting a big rise in temperatures this century is likely to add fuel to the debate about whether the world is facing dangerous global warming, experts said on Friday.

The draft, by 2,500 scientists and due for release in Paris on February 2, is expected to warn of more heat waves, floods, droughts and rising seas linked to greenhouse gases released mainly by burning fossil fuels, scientific sources say.

World leaders, including former U.S. President George Bush, signed a U.N. Climate Convention in 1992 with an overriding goal of stabilizing greenhouse gases at levels preventing "dangerous (human) interference with the climate system."

However, it did not define "dangerous" and the issue has been a vexed point in efforts to slow climate change ever since.

"The new report should fuel the debate" among scientists and in the media, said Jan Corfee-Morlot, who heads work on climate change at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"For politicians, the question of what is dangerous is not formally on a negotiating agenda, but it is in the background."

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to predict a temperature rise of 2 to 4.5 degrees Celsius (3.5-8 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100 with a "best estimate" of a rise of 3 degrees C (5.5 F), scientific sources said.

That is a narrower range than the 1.4-5.8C (2.5-10.4F) in the previous IPCC report in 2001 -- even the minimum 1.4 rise would be the biggest in a century for 10,000 years. Temperatures have risen about 0.6C (1.1F) since 1900.


Among good news, the new report will narrow and revise down forecast sea rises this century to less than half a meter from 9 cm to 88 cm (3.5-34.5 inches) in the 2001 report.

The European Union and many environmental groups want the world to cap any rise in temperatures at 2 degrees C (3.6 F) over pre-industrial levels, saying such a rise would cause dangerous changes to nature such as more heat waves.

"The IPCC cannot say what is dangerous because that is a political judgment," said Bert Metz, a climate expert at the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency.

"But it gives the ingredients for the politicians to draw conclusions...as the EU has done."

Corfee-Morlot said it might be easier to set targets such as limiting the concentrations of carbon dioxide or temperature rises than to define dangerous benchmarks.

Inuit peoples say a melting of the Arctic ice is already "dangerous" for their hunting culture, for instance, while Russia might benefit from a slight rise in temperatures because of fewer deaths from cold and higher yields of some crops.

A 2006 report by Nicholas Stern, the chief British government economist, projected a rise of 3 C would mean that between 1 billion and 4 billion more people would suffer water shortages and put an extra 150 million to 550 million people at risk of hunger.

Other experts say the risks have been exaggerated.

"I don't think the IPCC will reflect the sense of catastrophe that has built up in the climate change debate," said Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist."

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. plan for fighting global warming, 35 industrial nations have agreed to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the protocol in 2001, saying it would damage the U.S. economy and wrongly exempted developing nations from the first phase.


Protecting Polar Bears
Global warming threatens population

By Karen Fanning

The Bush administration took action last week to help the world's shrinking polar bear population, announcing that the animals may soon be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

"Polar bears are one of nature's ultimate survivors, able to live and thrive in one of the world's harshest environments," says Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. "But we are concerned the polar bears' habitat may literally be melting."

While pollution and hunting continue to threaten the polar bear, global warming in the Arctic poses a real danger to its survival.

The world's remaining 25,000 polar bears make their home in the frosty climates of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. Warmer than normal temperatures, however, have caused the sea ice there to melt—the same ice polar bears roam to hunt for seals and walruses.

Habitat loss has resulted in polar bears' losing weight, drowning, and starving to death. Fewer cubs have been able to survive the changing conditions. For example, the polar bear population in western Hudson Bay in Canada experienced a 22-percent decrease from 1987 to 1994.

Conservation groups are calling for the U.S. government to pass a law that would reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

The Department of the Interior will take the next 12 months to determine the polar bear's fate. If the agency decides to list it as a "threatened species," the polar bear would be protected from activities that would hurt the species or its habitat.

The world's largest bears, polar bears can stand up to 11 feet tall, and some males weigh as many as 1,400 pounds. A four-inch layer of fat insulates the animal from harsh temperatures.



The Guardian reports, "Britain's leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change."

The Royal Society, "Britain's premier scientific academy," examined Exxon's public reporting and found the company "last year distributed $2.9m to 39 groups that the society says misrepresent the science of climate change."

According to the group Exxon had promised it would not provide "any further funding to these organizations."

An Exxon spokesman responded that the company had "stopped funding the Competative Enterprise Institute this year," the group that "responded to the recent release of Al Gore's climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, with adverts that welcomed increased carbon dioxide pollution." 

Read the Royal Society's letter to Exxon here.


Arctic ice melting rapidly, study says
AP Science Writer

Arctic sea ice in winter is melting far faster than before, two new NASA studies reported Wednesday, a new and alarming trend that researchers say threatens the ocean's delicate ecosystem.

Scientists point to the sudden and rapid melting as a sure sign of man-made global warming.

"It has never occurred before in the past," said NASA senior research scientist Josefino Comiso in a phone interview. "It is alarming... This winter ice provides the kind of evidence that it is indeed associated with the greenhouse effect."

Scientists have long worried about melting Arcticsea ice in the summer, but they had not seen a big winter drop in sea ice, even though they expected it.

For more than 25 years Arctic sea ice has slowly diminished in winter by about 1.5 percent per decade. But in the past two years the melting has occurred at rates 10 to 15 times faster. From 2004 to 2005, the amount of ice dropped 2.3 percent; and over the past year, it's declined by another 1.9 percent, according to Comiso.

A second NASA study by other researchers found the winter sea ice melt in one region of the eastern Arctic has shrunk about 40 percent in just the past two years. This is partly because of local weather but also partly because of global warming, Comiso said.

The loss of winter ice is bad news for the ocean because this type of ice, when it melts in summer, provides a crucial breeding ground for plankton, Comiso said. Plankton are the bottom rung of the ocean's food chain.

"If the winter ice melt continues, the effect would be very profound especially for marine mammals," Comiso said in a NASA telephone press conference.

The ice is melting even in subfreezing winter temperatures because the water is warmer and summer ice covers less area and is shorter-lived, Comiso said. Thus, the winter ice season shortens every year and warmer water melts at the edges of the winter ice more every year.

Scientists and climate models have long predicted a drop in winter sea ice, but it has been slow to happen. Global warming skeptics have pointed to the lack of ice melt as a flaw in global warming theory.

The latest findings are "coming more in line with what we expected to find," said Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. "We're starting to see a much more coherent and firm picture occurring."

"I hate to say we told you so, but we told you so," he added.

Serreze said only five years ago he was "a fence-sitter" on the issue of whether man-made global warming was happening and a threat, but he said recent evidence in the Arctic has him convinced.

Summer sea ice also has dramatically melted and shrunk over the years, setting a record low last year. This year's measurements are not as bad, but will be close to the record, Serreze said.

Equally disturbing is a large mass of water — melted sea ice — in the interior of a giant patch of ice north of Alaska, Serreze said. It's called a polynya, and while those show up from time to time, this one is large — about the size of the state of Maryland — and in an unexpected place.

"I for one, after having studied this for 20 years, have never seen anything like this before," Serreze said.

The loss of summer sea ice is pushing polar bears more onto land in northern Canada and Alaska, making it seem like there are more polar bears when there are not, said NASA scientist Claire Parkinson, who studies the bears.

The polar bear population in the Hudson Bay area has dropped from 1,200 in 1989 to 950 in 2004 and the bears that are around are 22 percent smaller than they used to be, she said.



Last Week on the 700 Club, evangelical leader Pat Robertson declared himself "a convert" on the issue of global warming.

Robertson said that he has "not been one who believed in global warming in the past." But now, he said, "it is getting hotter and the ice caps are melting and there is a build up of carbon dioxide in the air."

Robertson implored, "we really need to do something on fossil fuels." 

But Robertson isn't the only one feeling the heat and thinking twice. "More Americans than ever disapprove of President Bush's handling of the environment," according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, which found 56 percent believe the administration is doing too little protect the environment, a 15 percent jump since 2001. 

Roughly three-quarters of Americans say they have had to cut back on household spending because of devastating energy bills and the rising cost of oil.


Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda Against Global Warming

Corporations from a variety of industries are funding a coordinated, multi-faceted propaganda blitz attacking global warming science.

Some of the details were revealed in a memo by the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), a small electric cooperative in Colorado that purchases electricity from coal-based power plants, distributed "to the more than 900 fellow members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association."

The memo, written by IREA general manager Stanley Lewandowski, expresses fear that government action on global warming could impact the profitability of coal-based power generation.

In response, Lewandowski says it is necessary to “support the scientific community that is willing to stand up against the alarmists.” (The term "alarmist" refers to people who believe that global warming is a problem. Such people are also referred to in the memo as those "whose true motivation is to stop growth, develop renewable resources [and] discontinue the use of fossil fuels, especially coal.")

One problem: there is no "scientific community" that disputes the basic science on global warming. The memo acknowledges that almost all the doubters have no "involvement in climatology."

Their solution is to lavish money on the one climatologist who they are confident will do their bidding: Pat Michaels.

The memo reveals that the small Colorado cooperative has paid Michaels $100,000 this year and is aggressively seeking more donations for Michaels from other electric cooperatives.

The effort to fund Michaels is described in the memo as part of a larger effort to distort global warming science that involves several Fortune 500 corporations, a think tank, misleading advertisements, lobbying, and a propaganda film.



Right-wing activists continue to claim that global warming isn't a problem, and argue that it may, in fact, be a "boon," with "benefits to agriculture and its potential to make severe climates more hospitable."

But respected studies have repeatedly disputed their arguments. A 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that "negative health impacts [from global climate change] are anticipated to outweigh positive health impacts."

The U.N. Global Environmental Outlook (2000) found that "expansion of warmer areas may increase and extend the ranges of mosquito and other vector populations, affecting the incidence of vector-borne diseases and re-introducing malaria to Europe."

A new study released last week presents more evidence of the dangers of climate change, concluding that recent increases in Western wildfires may be a result of manmade global warming.

The report finds, "Wildfire frequency was nearly four times the average of 1970-1986, and total area burned by these fires was more than 6 1/2 times its previous level."

"I see this as one of the first big indicators of climate change impacts in the continental United States," said research team member Thomas Swetnam, of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"So far in 2006, more than 3.8 million acres have burned in the United States -- double the 10-year average for this time of year," according to the Interagency Fire Center.



Last week, while speaking before Freedom House, President Bush was asked why his administration isn't taking immediate measures to address global warming.

Bush answered, "We -- first of all, there is -- the globe is warming. The fundamental debate: Is it manmade or natural."

But in truth, there is no longer a debate. An overwhelming majority of scientists have found that only greenhouse models explained the globe's rising temperatures.

'What absolutely nailed it was the greenhouse model,' Dr [Tim] Barnett [of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California] told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington.

"Two models, one designed in Britain and one here in the US, got it almost exactly. We were stunned." Even Bush's own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that the recent warming trend "is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years…due mostly to human activities."

James Hansen, the head of NASA's top institute studying the climate and arguably the world's leading researcher on global warming, told CBS's 60 Minutes last week that the Bush administration is censoring what he can say to the public.
As proof, Hansen displayed a 2004 email he received that read, "The White House [is] now reviewing all climate related press releases."
Hansen believes global warming is accelerating, pointing to the melting Arctic and to Antarctica, where new data show massive loss of ice to the sea.
"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," said Hansen.
The White House disputes the science behind global warming. While Bush ignores the counsel of the world's leading scientists who warn of pending environmental disaster, he solicits the opinions of fiction author Michael Crichton who tells him the science on warming is underwhelming.
The White House has also relied on the advice of oil industry lobbyist Philip Cooney who, while he worked on the Council on Environmental Quality, edited government climate reports to play down links between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
Hansen explains the danger of the White House's ignorance: "If the ice sheets begin to disintegrate, what can you do about it? You can’t tie a rope around the ice sheet. You can’t build a wall around the ice sheets. It will be a situation that is out of our control."
Warm temperatures are speeding the melting of Greenland's glaciers, "almost doubling the rate at which they dump ice into the Atlantic Ocean within the last five years."
These liquid behemoths "account for nearly 17 percent of the estimated one-tenth of an inch annual rise in global sea levels, or twice what was previously believed," according to Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
Scientists have also concluded that continuing to burn fossil fuels at the present rate could dramatically impact global warming, increasing temperatures by as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit at high latitudes and by 9 degrees Fahrenheit in tropical zones.
Yet the Bush administration continues to resist acknowledging the effects of climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finally backed away from its 2005 statement that rejected any link between the powerful hurricane season and global warming, after protests from the agency's climate researchers.


Neoconservative pundit Fred Barnes reports in his new book "Rebel-in-Chief" that President Bush "fundamentally doesn't accept the theory of global warming and was reinforced in that belief by a private meeting not with any scientist but rather with novelist Michael Crichton, whose novel 'State of Fear' revolves around the issue."
This is significant, since the official position of the Bush administration is that global warming does exist.
"Bush, you will recall, asked the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 whether humans are causing the earth to warm," science journalist Chris Mooney reports.
"The NAS, predictably, said that indeed we were. Since then, the administration has officially proceeded as [if] global warming is real."
Even more disturbing is that President Bush would receive his science advice from a novelist whose latest book is about a corrupt scientist who invents false data about global warming to help raise funds for his projects, then contracts a group of global terrorists to create a series of floods, tsunamis, and other natural disasters to "prove" his point.
The bad news is the book's science is apparently even worse than its plot.



Naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone, are collectively termed greenhouse gases. These gases absorb outgoing energy emitted from the earth's surface (terrestrial radiation) and re-radiate a significant proportion back to earth, in this way warming the lower atmosphere. This process has been in place since the development of the earth's atmosphere and is termed the greenhouse effect. During the course of this century human (anthropogenic) activity has increasingly modified the concentration of existing greenhouses gases and produced a number of new chemical compounds called halocarbon's e.g. CFC's and bromine. This has served to enhance the existing greenhouse effect and thus produce greater atmospheric temperatures (Global Warming).

Time running out for Pacific climate change strategy

Scientists 'gagged from climate debate'

Greenhouse critic says views cost him his job

Global Warming 101

Rising seas imperil Pacific island nations

Rising oceans threaten to destroy ecosystems

Increased shrubbery found in arctic

Global warming thaws tropical ice caps

EU pushes U.S. to label products that impact global warming

Human impact: how we trigger global warming, and what each individual can do about it


Ice cores are cylinders of ice drilled in areas that have active glaciers or ice sheets. The ice cores provide an important window into the climatic history of the region it was extracted from. When snow falls to the surface it carries with it aerosols and other chemicals. Over time, snowfalls are buried by successive snowfalls, and the constituents contained in the snow are buried along with it. By drilling down from the surface of an ice sheet to the deeper layers, a history of the compounds can be obtained. As cores go deeper (below 80m) the snow turns to ice due to the weight of the layers above. Small bubbles of air are trapped within these layers and thus, in addition to trapping atmospheric compounds, ice sheets and glaciers can trap small samples of air. This trapped air can also be analysed to provide information about the composition of the atmosphere at the time when was ice formed.

From the measurements of the air trapped in the ice cores scientists have been able to document the relationship between greenhouse gas concentrations and temperature change. Recent measurements highlight the relationship between heightened CO2 concentrations and increases in average temperature in the Antarctic.


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