Archive for February, 2007

Companies Lay Out Global Framework to Fight Climate Change

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

– This, on the surface, seems very good news. A large group of major companies from around the world signing onto an agreement endorsing the fact that we should do something about climate change.

– But let’s remember that corporations are entities which exist to make profit. Once they’ve grown beyond the mom and pop Ben and Jerry’s stage, they become single-minded in this pursuit. Indeed, it is their very reason for existing. Note at the end of the opening sentence, in the article below, the following phrase, “creating sustainable energy systems necessary for achieving economic growth“. The implication is that they are on-board – so long as continued growth is part of the solution.

– Unfortunately, increasing growth is central to the problems we’re facing. Our foot-print on the earth now is far larger than it can sustain without serious and increasing instabilities in the global climate. We can make more efficient cars, we can change to energy efficient light bulbs, we can recycle our waste more intelligently – we can do all of that and if we continue to grow in population and consumption, we will have only delayed the inevitable.

– Perhaps, if we push it all off to our grandchildren rather than to our children, it will be more palatable?

-I’m suspicious and cynical about these ‘business alliances’. They live for growth. They understand PR. They know there are years and years of good stock reports ahead if they can deflect the social forces which might try to throttle back our runaway growth – if they can give the appearance of action so the concerned will be lulled back to sleep.

– Like the article I posted on the Brazilian Rainforest earlier , we need real action, not more talk.


February 20, 2007 — As a significant step toward tackling climate change, an unprecedented group of companies and organizations from around the world have endorsed a bold post-Kyoto framework for affecting change at the levels of policy and industry, particularly in regard to creating sustainable energy systems necessary for achieving economic growth.

Signatories of The Path to Climate Sustainability: A Joint Statement by the Global Roundtable on Climate Change hail from a range of sectors and industries, including air transport, energy, technology, insurance, banking, and many others, from across the globe.

The statement — endorsed by Allianz, Bayer, Citigroup, DuPont, General Electric, Volvo, and many others — calls on governments to set scientifically informed targets for greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The agreement also urges governments to place a price on carbon emissions and to set forth policies aimed at addressing energy efficiency and de-carbonization in all sectors. Calling climate change “an urgent problem,” the statement lays out a proactive framework for global action to mitigate risks and impacts while also meeting the global need for energy, economic growth and sustainable development. It outlines cost-effective technologies that exist today and others that could be developed and deployed to improve energy efficiency and help reduce CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases in major sectors of the global economy.

“Leaders from key economic sectors and regions of the world have reached a consensus on the path forward to reduce human-made climate change,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, Chair of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. “This initiative points the way to an urgently needed global framework for action. I congratulate the Roundtable signatories, and thank them for their bold leadership and contribution to global progress on this critical issue.”

The Climate Change Statement released today has received endorsements from critical stakeholders and independent experts including leading corporations from all economic sectors; smaller firms with very different perspectives and concerns; an array of civil, religious, environmental, research and educational institutions; and a distinguished list of world-leading experts from the fields of climate science, engineering, economics and policy studies.



Mountain Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever, Expert Says

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Mountain glaciers are melting faster than ever, a leading climate expert announced yesterday, and eerie effects of the thaw are being seen from the summits of South America to the highest peak in Africa.

In Peru alone, ice fields are disappearing so quickly that giant lakes have formed where meadows recently stood.

And retreating glaciers are exposing ancient plants that haven’t been seen in 5,000 years.

Lonnie Thompson, an expert in ancient climates at Ohio State University, announced his findings yesterday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, California.

Thompson’s latest research has focused on measuring glaciers in the Andes mountain range, which spans seven South American countries, and on Mount Kilimanjaro in eastern Africa.

“One of the things that’s very clear … is that the climate changes in those areas are unusual—unprecedented—in the thousands of years of history that we can look at in these places,” Thompson said.

Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are melting so quickly, he said, that the mountain lost nearly a quarter of its ice from 2000 to 2006.

Meanwhile, some glaciers in the Andes are melting ten times faster than they did just 20 years ago.

The massive melts are among the most provocative evidence yet that the world is getting too warm too fast to be the result of natural forces alone, Thompson said.

“If you look at what’s happened to these glaciers, they’re not just retreating, they’re accelerating [their retreat],” he said. “And it raises the question of whether this might be a fingerprint of [human-caused global] warming.”


– One essential point that this article failed to mention is how very many people depend on glaciers and high mountain snow packs for their summer water. Most people in northern India south of the Himalayas, most people on the western side of the Andes up and down South America and many people in the dry United States southwest. As the glaciers vanish and the winter snow packs lessen and melt off sooner, water is going to be in ever shorter supply. Eventually, it will go way past critical. Social breakdown and chaos will result as millions of water refugees move to areas with more water. Just part of the coming Perfect Storm.

Warming Climate, Cod Collapse, Have Combined To Cause Rapid North Atlantic Ecosystem Changes

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Science Daily Ecosystems along the continental shelf waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, from the Labrador Sea south of Greenland all the way to North Carolina, are experiencing large, rapid changes, reports a Cornell oceanographer in the Feb. 23 issue of Science.

While some scientists have pointed to the decline of cod from overfishing as the main reason for the shifting ecosystems, the article emphasizes that climate changes are also playing a big role.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Northwest Atlantic shelf ecosystems are being tested by climate forcing from the bottom up and overfishing from the top down,” said Charles Greene, director of the Ocean Resources and Ecosystems Program in Cornell’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “Predicting the fate of these ecosystems will be one of oceanography’s grand challenges for the 21st century.”


Acid Oceans Threatening Marine Food Chain, Experts Warn

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

The world’s oceans are turning acidic due to the buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, and scientists say the effects on marine life will be catastrophic.

In the next 50 to 100 years corrosive seawater will dissolve the shells of tiny marine snails and reduce coral reefs to rubble, the researchers say (coral photos, facts, more).

Four leading marine experts delivered this grim prognosis yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, California.

The scientists stressed that increased ocean acidity is one of the gravest dangers posed by the buildup of atmospheric CO2.

“Ocean chemistry is changing to a state that has not occurred for hundreds of thousands of years,” said Richard Feely of Seattle’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

“Shell-building by marine organisms will slow down or stop. Reef-building will decrease or reverse.”

Already, Feely said, ocean acidity has increased about 30 percent since industrialization began spurring harmful carbon emissions centuries ago. Unless emissions are reduced from current levels, an increase of 150 percent is predicted by 2100.

Such an increase would make the oceans more acidic than they’ve been at any time in the last 20 million years, he added.


Whither the World’s Last Forest?

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

– Read the second paragraph in the article, below, and think about it for a bit. I high-lighted the part that I think is key. And it is just this kind of talk-talk-talk while Rome burns that is so unbelievable. Some time, in not too many years, everyone will be up in arms to know why nothing was done and we’ll look back on stuff like this as absolute crimes – that we gave away this Eden through dithering.

The Amazon is not, and never has been, a pristine wilderness that could be fenced and preserved as an intact ecosystem. Increasingly, it is proving to be a resource-rich region of a continent that desperately needs to grow. Brazil, which contains most of the Amazon basin, is under particular pressure as it tries to reconcile its great disparities between rich and poor. And there’s a voracious market for the goods, whether it’s the Chinese buying steel or the Europeans buying soybeans. At the same time, the vast basin of freshwater and forest is a global feature of such magnitude that its destruction will only help tip a fragile global climate further over the edge. The hard question facing the various governments and organizations with a stake in the outcome is whether some development can prevent a lot of deforestation.

Every year a chunk of forest equivalent to an average-size U.S. state disappears from the Amazon. In the year ending August 2004, 16,236 square miles, about twice the size of Massachusetts, were deforested. According to Conservation International, that represents between 1.1 billion and 1.4 billion trees of 4 inches or more in diameter. This deforestation took place during a time of heightened environmentalism in Brazil, during a robust return to democracy when a comprehensive body of laws protecting the Amazon had been enacted and supported by broad enforcement powers-though often, not the enforcement itself. The reaction of the Brazilian government and nongovernmental organizations to these annual figures can be summarized by the Yogi Berra quote, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” The so-called experts annually express “shock and surprise” at the figures. The shock subsides, then reappears the following spring. Fingers point at the culprit du jour-the cattle ranchers in some years, or the soy farmers, or the migration of small families clearing homesteads. Loggers, miners, and ranchers get denounced regularly. And in response, the government usually sets aside another national park equivalent in size to a small American state. A federal department’s budget gets increased by more than $100 million, at least publicly. A government official sometimes resigns. Nongovernmental organizations use the statistics in their annual pleas for contributions. The New York Times writes an editorial reminding Brazil that “the rain forest is not a commodity to be exploited for private gain.” The Economist chides Brazil for its institutions, which are “weak, poorly coordinated, and prone to corruption and influence-peddling.” But from one year to another, the process repeats itself and the Amazon shrinks. When we first traveled here in 1980, about 3 percent had been deforested. Today, more than 20 percent is gone.

More (if you really need any more)…

The Big Chill

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

– One of the blogs I read regularly is Jim Kunstler’s .  He’s the author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century.

– He’s insightful and direct which I like. In this piece, he expresses his doubts about all of the hoopla being raised about Ethanol and how it is going to save us from the coming energy crises. Like me, he thinks people are just looking for easy answers so they don’t have to confront the really hard problems which are approaching.


One of the farmers who organized the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s annual meeting put it nicely: “The ethanol craze means that we’re going to burn up the Midwest’s last six inches of topsoil in our gas-tanks.”

The American public is in chill mode in more ways than one. We are finally freezing our asses off in the Northeast after a supernaturally mild December and January, and the heating oil trucks are once again making the rounds of the home furnaces (and running down their inventories). But we’re also chillin’ on the concept that there is an energy problem per se. The public is convinced that we are one IPO away from attaining the sovereign rescue remedy that will permit us to continue running our Happy Motoring utopia.

The public is bombarded daily with feel-good news about new bio-engineered bacteria that can turn sawmill refuse into high-test gasoline, cornucopias of miracle diesel beans, lithium batteries that will take you from Hackensack to Chicago on a single charge, and still (despite all the evidence against feasibility) hydrogen-powered SUVs. The public is convinced that we will enter a nirvana of “energy independence” just-in-time — the same way that WalMart miraculously restocks it’s shelves.


Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army’s Top Medical Facility

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

– I wrote what was, for me, a sad and poignant piece a few days ago about Viet-Nam, Iraq and the very transient reasons why so many of our young have lost their lives in these conflicts. If you need yet another reason to doubt how much those who run the government really value the lives the naive and patriotic risk for them, this article might be a wake-up call.


Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


– I’d like to say a bit more on this subject. Some you, my readers, may assume from what I’ve written that I am totally anti-war but this is not so. When the US was attacked by the Japanese and when Hitler was bent on conquoring the world, those were situations in which I would have had no hesitation in defending my country. It is these other so-called ‘wars’, these affairs of geo-political positioning, these messes that we get into incrementally that end up so tangled that no one can quite remember how we got into them that I oppose. I refuse, point blank, to give anyone else a say in how my life is ‘spent’. If you have a war, I will decide for myself if I think it is worth risking my life for.

Standard light bulbs to be switched off

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

New Zealand and Australia are about to turn off the incandescent lights that have illuminated them since the bulb was invented more than 120 years ago.

Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced that traditional light bulbs would be phased out within three years – a move he said would be a world first.

Under law, the super-cheap lighting will vanish from supermarket shelves by 2010, replaced by energy-efficient alternatives such as compact fluorescent bulbs.

Mr Turnbull estimated the move would slash Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 8000 tonnes a year in the five years to 2012.


Americans Believe Global Warming Is Real, Want Action, But Not As A Priority

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Science Daily Most Americans believe global warming is real but a moderate and distant risk. While they strongly support policies like investing in renewable energy, higher fuel economy standards and international treaties, they strongly oppose carbon taxes on energy sources that put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

These results were reported by Anthony Leiserowitz, a courtesy professor of environmental studies at the University of Oregon, in a talk during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. His conclusions, based on a national survey conducted in 2003 are detailed in a new book, “Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change — Facilitating Social Change,.


In Far North, Peril and Promise

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Great Forests Hold Fateful Role in Climate Change

PINE FALLS, Manitoba — Here on the edge of the silent and frozen northern tier of the Earth, the fate of the world’s climate is buried beneath the snow and locked in the still limbs of aspen trees.

Nearly half of the carbon that exists on land is contained in the sweeping boreal forests, which gird the Earth in the northern reaches of Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia. Scientists now fear that the steady rise in the temperature of the atmosphere and the increasing human activity in those lands are releasing that carbon, a process that could trigger a vicious cycle of even more warming.

The prospect of the land itself accelerating climate change staggers scientists, as well as woodsmen such as Bob Austman, who stopped recently in a quiet stand of birch on the edge of the boreal forest to examine a jack rabbit’s tracks.

“There are big forces out there,” he said succinctly.

Those forces, which scientists are only starting to understand, could free vast stores of carbon and methane that have been collecting since the last ice age in the frozen tundra and northern forests. Their release would push the world’s climate toward a heat spiral that would raise ocean levels, spawn fierce storms and scorch farmlands, scientists believe.