Archive for December 2008
“We’re going to see huge changes in the Arctic ecosystem“
[update Apr 29 2010: "When the sea ice melts, more heat is absorbed by the water. The warmer water then heats the atmosphere above it...this feedback system has warmed the atmosphere at a faster rate." Confirms loss of sea ice is rapidly warming Arctic -- Study in Nature yesterday. - SL]
By Stephen Leahy
QUEBEC CITY, Canada, Dec 13 2008 (IPS)
In just a few summers from now, the Arctic Ocean will lose its protective cover of ice for the first time in a million years, according to some experts attending the International Arctic Change conference here.
A summer ice-free Arctic wasn’t due for another 50 to 70 years under the worst-case climate change scenarios examined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Things are happening much faster in the Arctic. I think it will be summer ice-free by 2015,” said David Barber, an Arctic climatologist at the University of Manitoba.
Such a “dramatic and serious loss of sea ice will affect everyone on the planet,” Barber told IPS. Read the rest of this entry »
By Stephen Leahy
Paying the poor to conserve forests through a market scheme is the new star among initiatives in climate talks.
But there are many who warn that the gold will flow only to corporate interests.
One of the most effective ways to combat climate change, caused by gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat in the atmosphere, is through biological sequestration of carbon in plants, trees and soils. That means reducing deforestation, increasing reforestation, and utilizing sustainable agriculture and grazing practices that conserve soil and water.
If these activities become part of a multi-billion-dollar global carbon finance regime, under a new 2009 climate treaty, there could be extraordinary benefits for the rural poor and the environment, according to Olav Kjørven, the former director of the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Energy and Environment Group. Read the rest of this entry »
[Update: Mar 4 2010. The United States senate moved to stem the flow of money from mineral mines fuelling the brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the watchdog group Global Witness (GW) is calling on Europe to follow suit. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50543
See also this shocking report in the journal PLoS Medicine (22 Dec 2009) http://tiny.cc/60fjz ]
What can you do?
1. Lobby your government to be more involved in the DRC and stopping this. Encourage them to help train of local police and army and prosecute all those involved
2. Help out local and international organizations that are helping the women and children of the Congo
3. Don’t buy any electronic devices until manufacturers can guarantee those purchases are not funding this continuing atrocity
By Stephen Leahy
TORONTO, Canada, Dec 3 2008 (IPS)
International lust for the enormous mineral and resource riches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) abetted by international indifference has turned much of country into a colossal “rape mine” where more than 300,000 women and girls have been brutalised, say activists.
Much of Congo’s misery due to “blood coltan” that powers our electronics
“Rape is being used as a deliberate tool to control people and territory,” said Eve Ensler, a celebrated U.S. playwright and founder of V-Day, a global movement in 120 countries to end violence against women and girls.
“The rapes are systematic, horrific and often involve bands of rebels infected with HIV/AIDS,” Ensler, who recently returned from the DRC, told IPS.
Ensler was in Toronto to help raise funds for the Panzi Hospital in the DRC’s South Kivu Province where many rape victims are brought. Once a maternity hospital, Panzi Hospital now provides free care and refuge to 3,500 victims of sexual violence each year. Denis Mukwege leads a team of six surgeons who routinely work 18-hour days to repair women’s extensive internal injuries.
Hundreds of women and children were raped yesterday, hundreds more today. This is an economic war that uses terror as its main weapon to ensure warlords and their bands control regions where international companies mine for valuable metals like tin, silver and coltan, or extract lumber and diamonds, Ensler said. Read the rest of this entry »
Radio Ecoshock is a brilliant weekly one-hour roundup of the big environmental and social issues of our time. Alex Smith collects the best podcasts, conference recordings and original interview from a refreshing diversity of leading experts and authorities.
Many great ideas and fascinating commentary that you won’t hear anywhere else:
* “the business model of the auto industry is broken” – Dr. Peter Morici, Professor of International Business at the University of Maryland
* coal-fired power plants are dumping thousands of tonnes radioactive waste such as thorium and uranium into the air and on the land
* London-based Gwynne Dyer columnist, author, military historian on extreme climate change and resulting wars
* Dec 8 show — includes shameless but hilarious, twisted XMAS songs from the coal industry: “Ho Ho Ho Clean Coal for the Holidays” and “Frosty the Coal Man”.
Lots of supplemental information on the RE blog – Ecoshock Program Notes.
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 1 (IPS) – As the world community meets in Poland this week to find solutions to the climate crisis, the George W. Bush White House is chaining the United States’ tiller to prevent a change of course by President-elect Barack Obama by passing new anti-environmental rules and regulations at a furious pace.
Nearly a million hectares of public wildlands in Wyoming and Utah are being opened up to oil shale extraction, the Endangered Species Act is being gutted, as are regulations regarding factory farm operations, the Clean Air Act, and removing mountaintops to dig for coal and more, said a coalition of environmental groups.
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 8 (IPS) – Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds, but a new diagnostic breakthrough may cut that devastating death toll, Canadian scientists announced Sunday.
The discovery of “biomarkers” — a telltale biological signature in children’s blood — that identify two of the most lethal forms of malaria was revealed at the annual meetings of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans, Louisiana last week.
“A child with a fever may be treated in a clinic with anti-malarial drugs, but that won’t be enough to treat cerebral malaria,” said Conrad Liles, a tropical disease specialist affiliated with Toronto’s McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health (MRC). Read the rest of this entry »
By Stephen Leahy
QUEBEC CITY, Canada, Dec 12 (IPS) – Nearly 1,000 scientists and representatives of indigenous peoples from 16 countries have braved a major winter storm to share their findings and concerns about the rapidly warming Arctic region at the International Arctic Change conference in Quebec City.
The Arctic is “ground zero” for climate change, with temperatures rising far faster than anywhere else on the planet. Some predict an ice-free summer Arctic in less than five to 10 years — the first time the Arctic Ocean will be exposed to the sun in many hundreds of thousands of years.
The speed of change has scientists scrambling to understand the impacts on indigenous people, wildlife and ecology.
“The Arctic will be full of future surprises,” said David Carlson, an oceanographer and director of the International Polar Year programme office.
“Protected by its cover of sea ice, the Arctic Ocean is the last unblemished ocean on the planet,” Carlson told IPS.
By Stephen Leahy*
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 20 (Tierramérica) – Climate change will dramatically increase the number of hot, dry days in Mexico in the coming decades, while coastal regions like the Yucatán, in the southeast, will be swamped by sea levels that are half a metre higher than today, a new study has found.
By 2030, Mexico’s average daily temperature is likely to climb 1.4 degrees Celsius above what has been the average for the past 30 years. By 2090, this increase could rocket upwards by 4.1 degrees, virtually guaranteeing hot days and nights for 80 to 90 percent of the year, says the Oxford University study financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Cold weather will become very rare in Mexico according to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an umbrella organisation of scientists from around the world and the preeminent authority on climate change.
“Mexico is one area of the world where all the computer climate models agree,” says Carol McSweeney of the School of Geography and Environment at Oxford. Read the rest of this entry »
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 24 (IPS)
An apparent rapid upswing in ocean acidity in recent years is wiping out coastal species like mussels, a new study has found.
“We’re seeing dramatic changes,” said Timothy Wootton of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, lead author of the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows increases in ocean acidity that are more than 10 times faster than any prediction.
“It appears that we’ve crossed a threshold where the ocean can no longer buffer the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere,” Wootton told IPS.
For millions of years, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the ocean were in balance, but the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation has put more CO2 into the atmosphere over the last 150 years. The oceans have absorbed one-third — about 130 billion tonnes — of those human emissions and have become 30 percent more acidic as the extra CO2 combines with carbonate ions in seawater, forming carbonic acid.
Each day, the oceans absorb 30 million tonnes of CO2, gradually and inevitably increasing their acidity. There is no controversy about this basic chemistry; however, there is disagreement about the rate at which the oceans are becoming acidic and the potential impact. Read the rest of this entry »
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 11 (IPS) – A thousand points of light are being shone into the dark ocean depths as scientists from 82 countries work to complete the decade-long global research effort called the Census of Marine Life.
“It’s been a remarkable time of exciting new discoveries and frightening revelations of how quickly the oceans are changing,” said Canadian deep-sea biologist Paul Snelgrove, a leader of a team integrating findings from all 17 census projects.
“We were startled to discover small crustaceans never seen by scientists before completely blanketing the seafloor at 500 metres in the Gulf of Mexico,” Snelgrove told IPS.
And during the eight years the census has run so far, scientists have documented that more than 90 percent of the oceans’ top predators — large sharks, tunas, swordfish, cod and others — are now gone and those remaining are in serious trouble. “We’re also seeing evidence of climate change with the shifting distribution of species,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »