Archive for March 2008
“Our fingers are glued to the global climate thermostat. And in a feverish delirium where the present has been severed from the future, we dial it higher and higher.Foolishly and dangerously.”Coming soon on IPS, a new four-part article series that looks at the psychological and behavioural changes needed to dial down the temperature on our global greenhouse.Includes: Three Basic Principles for Climate-safe Living
Reduce. Eliminate. Demand. R.E.D.
The average rate of thinning and melting more than doubled between 2004 and 2006, reports the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), a centre based at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.
“The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight,” said Wilfried Haeberli, director of the WGMS.
The accelerated glacier meltdown is a clear indicator that climate change has taken hold and millions if not billions will be affected, warned Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).
Glaciers feed the rivers that people are completely dependent on — 360 million on the Ganges in India and 388 million on the Yangtze in China alone. Reduced water or irregular water flows will make it more difficult to grow crops in these regions and other parts of the world. Rapidly melting glaciers also produce floods and raise sea levels. On average, there is one metre water of fresh water in every 1.1 metres of glacier ice. Read the rest of this entry »
Mar 13’08 (IPS)
Making buildings more environmentally friendly is the easiest and most effective way to cut climate-changing carbon emissions, often slashing energy costs by up to 70 percent.
So why isn’t there a massive effort to “green up” existing buildings and set green standards for all new construction?
North America’s buildings are responsible for a staggering 2,200 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — 35 percent of the continent’s annual total. A new report released Thursday says a rapid uptake of currently available and emerging advanced energy-saving technologies could slash emissions by 1,700 megatonnes (MT) of CO2 emissions by 2030.
A cut of that size would nearly equal the CO2 emitted by the entire U.S. transportation sector in 2000.
“Improving our built environment is probably the single greatest opportunity to protect and enhance the natural environment,” said Adrián Vázquez, executive director of the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) that produced the report, “Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges”.
[Update Mar 3 2011: An Alaska oil industry trade group representing 15 oil & gas companies sued the US federal government because it banned drilling in 187,157 square miles as polar bear critical habitat. They claim plenty of polar bears without offering any evidence. And it's not like Alaskan oil interests haven't run the state for years. My article below documents how 30 million acres of polar bear habitat were auctioned off in a big hurry in 2008. It really is all about oil/gas $ VS survival of polar bears. -- Stephen]
[Update: May 1 2010 - Alaska's polar bears are now official listed as threatened. In April 2010, the Obama administration tried but failed to get the world's 20-25,000 remaining polar bears listed as endangered species. What a difference a new administration makes .--Stephen]
By Stephen Leahy
BROOKLIN, Canada, Mar 11, 2008 (IPS)
A coalition of environmental groups sued the George W. Bush administration Monday for delaying a decision to protect polar bears threatened with extinction due to the melting ice in its Arctic habitat. Polar bears could be the first species officially threatened by climate change.
The huge loss of summer sea ice in 2007 has caused many scientists to project that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer by as soon as 2012. Although excellent swimmers, polar bears are not very good at catching seals in the water. Seals comprise the main diet for these giant bears, which are far larger than their grizzly bear cousins.
While legally required to make a decision Jan. 9, US Fish and Wildlife (U.S. FWS) officials have been silent. Meanwhile on Feb. 6, 2.6 billion dollars in oil and gas leases were auctioned off to energy companies on nearly 30 million acres of prime polar bear habitat in the Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.
“Coincidence? I doubt it, but I don’t have the smoking gun to prove it,” said Kassie Siegel of the Centre for Biological Diversity (CBD), an environmental non-governmental organisation based in Joshua Tree, California.
The CBD, along with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defence Council, filed the suit for missing the legal deadline for issuing a final decision on whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
“There was absolutely no urgency to hold that lease sale and plenty of public opposition to it as well,” Siegel told IPS. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday Canada announced this year’s seal hunt quota to allow the killing of 275,000 young harp seals near Newfoundland. The announcement sets off the annual round of protests mainly focused on sustainability of the seal population and animal cruelty issues. This feature article was written two years ago but would be little different if done today.
[Originally published by Mexico's Tierramerica, Mar 29 2006 ]
By Stephen Leahy
The Canadian government increased the annual quota of harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) from 319,000 in 2005 to 325,000 this year. That’s too many seals, says Chris Cutter, an activist with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
An unusually warm winter has left little ice in the Gulf, Cutter told Tierramérica after a helicopter overflight last week, before the hunting season began on Mar. 25. “We hardly saw any seals,” he said.
Named for the harp-shaped pattern on the backs of the adults, the seals mainly give birth to their pups on floating ice, where they are safe from land-based predators.
Young seal pups are able to float, but are poor swimmers and often drown in rough weather. The harp seal herd is about 5.8 million, with an estimated one million pups born each year, says Phil Jenkins, spokesman for Canada’s Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which regulates the hunt.
100,000 repetitions of a lie is still a lie
Many of those who deny that burning fossil fuels is altering the climate work diligently to confuse and delay action that would in reality benefit nearly all of us. These professional deniers and their followers can be convincing, citing well-known experts and twisting their views and findings.
So here’s a couple of common sense tips to add to your BS detection system.
Denier Tip #1: Check out suspect claims/sources with a simple Google search
100,000 repetitions or variations of a lie is still a lie. A reader recently told me global warming is really caused by variations in the sun’s activity. His proof was a “science” article from Investor’s Business Daily that said this was the conclusion of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, a well-known research centre in Germany. A quick check of the Institute’s website revealed their actual conclusion: “Solar activity affects the climate but plays only a minor role in the current global warming.” See for yourself: it’s in English and still posted on their website.
Denier Tip # 2: Follow the money. Who benefits from denying climate change?
Among many others, journalist Ross Gelbspan has documented the money trail from the automotive and fossil fuel industry to various right-wing organisations and institutes in his two books, “The Heat is On” and “Boiling Point”.
Ask yourself how climate scientists benefit by concluding that humans are inadvertently changing their climate? Deniers often allege they get grants to do research on climate change. Yes they do, but they could also get grants to research water pollution or the ozone layer.
When scientists conduct research, they are simply asking questions about something and then trying to find answers. They don’t really care what the answers are. They are what they are: Humans are changing the climate.
Scientists are smart people. If they really wanted to make tonnes of money, they’d work on Wall Street, wouldn’t they?
See Last March of the Global Warming Denialists for more on this.
My related articles:
CO2 levels have been in decline the last five years said Tim Ball, a retired Professor of Geography, on Nov 24, 1999, at the Riverview Center, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
That statement was completely false then and laughable now, but Ball continues to spew similar lies and misinformation to this day. Just last week Ball was a leading speaker in New York City at last week’s climate change denial festival.
I happened across my notes from the 1999 conference and was stunned at the outrageous comments Ball presented as “facts” to about 200 to 300 business types at a time when people knew little about carbon dioxide or global warming. No doubt many were convinced as Ball claimed (wrongly in every case) that: Read the rest of this entry »
Analysis by Stephen Leahy
Mar 4 (IPS) – Colder than usual January temperatures in the United States have brought the climate change deniers out of hibernation, flooding websites, and opinion and letters pages about the “great global warming hoax”. They even organised their own conference on denial in New York City this week.
“Global warming is not a global crisis” declared the Heartland Institute, organiser of the “International Conference on Climate Change”. Heartland is a well-known right-wing lobby group which accepted more than half a million dollars from oil giant ExxonMobil between 1999 and 2005, according to Exxon documents disclosed by Greenpeace, and thousands of dollars more from the tobacco industry.
Not surprisingly, in a statement issued Tuesday, they insisted that all efforts “intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith”.
“Manmade global warming is a total hoax. It has no basis in fact,” shouted Rush Limbaugh, a U.S. conservative radio host, on his Feb. 27 show, which draws as many as 13 million listeners. Read the rest of this entry »
Even if nations increased their energy and resource-use efficiency four-fold, there isn’t enough natural capital left intact to continue business as usual says says Eugene Rosa, a professor of natural resources and environmental policy at Washington State University.
(Natural capital are the resources — metals, oil — and services — air, water, etc — that nature provides.)
Improvements in technology and modernisation won’t rescue our planet from the depletion of the Earth’s natural capital, says Rosa.
For more on this topic please see this three-part series from 2007 on natural capital and how future global prosperity and equity CAN be achieved through the preservation of ecosystems:
See Part One: Like Enron, Earth Inc. Sliding Into Bankruptcy
Part three: How to Kick-Start the 21st Century Eco-Economy