An Inconvenient Truth: Gore Gets It Right on Global Warming

By Stephen Leahy

BROOKLIN, Canada, Jun 20 (IPS)

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth”, is filling theatres across North America – and gets the science right, according to climate experts.

“I saw it last night and was impressed with the climate science presented in the film,” said David Archer, a climatologist at the University of Chicago.

“I left the theatre profoundly depressed because of the political insanity in this country that denies global warming is a concern,” Archer told IPS.

Gore’s personal passion about global warming can be traced to the early 1980s. After losing the election to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore dedicated himself to warning the public about the devastating impacts climate change will have on hundreds of millions of people.

“An Inconvenient Truth” is a 98-minute documentary comprised mainly of highlights from Gore’s high-tech slide show explaining the science documenting global climate change.

Some truths are hard to hear, because if you really hear them – and understand that they are in fact true – then you have to change. And change can be quite inconvenient,” Gore says in the film.

Using an impressive set of graphics, he carefully illustrates changes underway such as receding glaciers, collapsing ice sheets, devastating floods and droughts. One memorable scene shows a graph of carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere going back 650,000 years that varies only a little until fifty years ago when it skyrockets. Gore mounts a motorised platform to lift him up high up the chart so he can place his finger on the current level of CO2. Continue reading

Sushi or Tourism: What Are Whales For?

Blue whale, courtesy IFAW

By Stephen Leahy

[Update Jan 15 2008. Japanese whalers are on the hunt right now with activists in hot pursuit just like last year. Little has changed from the situation documented in this 2006 story. SL]

TORONTO, Dec 28 (Tierramérica) – Japan’s controversial whaling fleet has arrived in the Southern Ocean, around Antarctica, and anti-whaling activists are promising to ram and sink any vessels attempting to kill whales.

“What the Japanese whalers are doing is illegal under the United Nations World Charter for Nature,” said Paul Watson founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

“It’s also murder in my personal opinion,” Watson told Tierramérica from Melbourne, Australia, where his ship, the Farley Mowat, was docked. Continue reading

Time for Upgradeable Cell Phones?

Quote of the DayArt not Oil

Mobile (cell) phone manufacturers continue to heavily market new products with new features so that the average person keeps their phone for only 18 months, said Zeina Alhajj, a toxics expert with Greenpeace International.

And that ‘lifespan’ is getting less with each year which is making a serious demand on natural resources..

“The next huge challenge is to stop this marketing and get the companies to make products that are both green and upgradable,” Alhajj said.

— See story on the Greening of the Cell Phone.

Questions, story ideas, potential assignments, speaking engagements contact: writersteve AT gmail . com (no spaces)

Home PCs Predict Hotter Earth

By Stephen Leahy
Wired News Jan, 31, 2005bbc-climate-predict.png

Global warming may ramp up average temperatures by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 50 years, according to the first climate prediction experiment relying on the distributed computer power of 90,000 personal computers. The startling results were published this week in the journal Nature.

The PCs, located in 150 countries, allowed British scientists to run more than 50,000 simulations of the future global climate, many more than the “best ever” 128 simulations using supercomputers, said Myles Allen, chief scientist of climateprediction.net and a physicist at Oxford University. A distributed-computing project, climateprediction.net involves several British universities and the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

Prior climate simulations have used “nothing close to the kind of computing power we were able to use in this experiment,” said Allen.

The climateprediction.net experiment was designed to find the range of possible 21st-century climate changes due to global warming. The results were both surprising and “very worrying,” he said.

The team found that global temperatures could rise between 4 degrees and 20 degrees Fahrenheit if greenhouse gases double from pre-industrial levels. At current emission rates, that doubling is expected around 2050. Previous best estimates had set the temperature increase at between 2 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit.

The massive personal-computer data crunch revealed that the Earth’s climate may be much more sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions than scientists previously believed. Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions ended today, a high risk of serious climate-related problems still exists, said Allen.

“There is real urgency here. We need to explore the uncertainties to rule out the possibilities of an extreme temperature rise,” he said.

Climateprediction.net is based on the successful SETI@home public-computing model. SETI, or Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, involves several million people who have downloaded software that analyzes data from distant galaxies for signs of alien life. The program does its work while their computers are idle and then uploads the results every few days or weeks.

Not long after SETI@home was launched in 1999, Allen thought something similar could be used to meet the exponentially growing need for computer power to run increasingly complex global climate models. The models try to simulate as many climate factors as possible, including incoming and outgoing radiation, the way air moves, how clouds form and precipitation falls, the way ice sheets grow or shrink and so on.

It proved difficult to adapt SETI@home until the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, or BOINC was released last year, according to David Anderson, director of the SETI@home project at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. Anderson and his colleagues developed BOINC to allow users to participate in many internet computing projects and tell their computers how much time to devote to each.

Now, in addition to climate modeling, several other science projects are taking advantage of the enormous computing power of the world’s 200 million-plus PCs, very few of which are being tapped, said Anderson.

Climate simulations are ideal for distributed computing because so many simulations need to be run in parallel to test all the variables, he said. When a participating PC is idle, it chugs away on a simulation and after two or three months, it uploads the results to the climateprediction.net server.

However, no U.S. climate researchers are currently using distributed computing to run U.S.-designed global climate models, he said. Some have tried to get funding but were turned down, even though setup costs are only about $200,000. Investments in super-expensive supercomputers such as IBM ASCI White at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as well as the forthcoming ASC Purple and Blue Gene/L — which have a combined contract price of $290 million — are touted as the technology needed for climate predictions.

“We can do the same thing on a shoestring with public computing,” said Anderson.

While Blue Gene/L, if it works later this year as billed, will have the processing power of 400,000 PCs, Anderson and Allen hope 400,000 or more people will join climateprediction.net. Windows, Linux and Mac users are welcome; the modest technical requirements are listed on the group’s website.

“With more people, we can get results faster. Instead of taking six months, it might only take one,” said Anderson.

Much more computing work must be done to improve future climate predictions, Allen acknowledges. “We don’t know how likely or unlikely (it is) that temperatures will hit the top end of the range,” he said. Later this year, simulations using new global climate models with better data from the world’s oceans will be available on climateprediction.net.

How quickly that work proceeds is up to computer users around the world, who can choose to download BOINC and participate in any of the affiliated internet computing projects.

“(Climateprediction.net) is the one that runs on my computer,” said Anderson.

First published Jan, 31, 2005 on Wired News

Contact: writersteve AT gmail . com (no spaces)

PlayStation 3 vs Global Warming

Stephen Leahyart not oil

Dec 18 (IPS) – This was the year that most people in the U.S. and Canada began to take climate change seriously and express hope that their governments would take action to reduce emissions — but it is unclear if they will take action themselves.

Last month, thousands of people stood outside electronics stores for three, four and more days and nights to be the first to spend 600 dollars for the latest electronic video game console, but how many would spend two hours protesting the inaction of their governments on climate change?

“There is increasing public support for action but I’m not sure there’s a willingness to do anything,” said Eileen Claussen of the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, a U.S. environmental think-tank working with business leaders and policymakers.

Public opinion polls conducted last fall show that Canadian and U.S. citizens are clearly worried about the impact of climate change on their children and grandchildren. And they know their governments aren’t doing much to reduce emissions, the polls show..

The recent film “An Inconvenient Truth” by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, in which he systematically lays out the enormous body of evidence that the world is becoming dangerously warm due to human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, is the third-highest-grossing documentary in the United States ever and has been screened around the world.

But experts caution that simply raising public awareness of the problem is not nearly enough.

“The most important action needed is to establish a national policy to reduce emissions,” Claussen told IPS. “Cities, states, industry and business all agree we need a national policy.”

For example, the U.S. retail giant Wal-mart is both insisting that its 30,000 plus suppliers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and also informing people who shop in their stores about the issue, she said.

“But there won’t be a U.S. national emission reduction policy for at least two years and more likely four,” she added — in other words, long after the George W. Bush administration has left office.

Full story “The Climate Change Tipping Point?”

Contact: writersteve AT gmail . com (no spaces)

Organic Agriculture Reduces Climate Change, Poverty and Hunger

An Organic Recipe for Development

Organic food from Kenya

Stephen Leahy

Dec 18 (IPS/IFEJ) – Organic agriculture is a potent tool to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but also to alleviate poverty and improve food security in developing countries, many experts now believe.

Organic agriculture’s use of compost and crop diversity means it will also be able to better withstand the higher temperatures and more variable rainfall expected with global warming.

“Organic agriculture is about optimising yields under all conditions,” says Louise Luttikholt, strategic relations manager at the International Federation of Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) in Bonn, Germany. IFOAM is the international umbrella organisation of organic agriculture movements around the world.

For example, a village in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia that had converted to organic agriculture continued to harvest crops even during a severe drought, while neighbouring villages using conventional chemical fertilisers had nothing, Luttikholt told IPS.

Because compost is used rather than chemical fertilisers, organic soils contain much more humus and organic carbon — which in turn retains much more water.

“They can also absorb more water faster which means they are less likely to flood,” she said.

It took more work to make the conversion to organic but it paid off when the drought stuck in the third year, according to Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, director general of the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia.

Full story on how organic can reduce climate change, poverty and hunger.

Part of a series on sustainable development for IPS and IFEJ (International Federation of Environmental Journalists)

Related Stories:
Overweight? Hungry? Blame “Hollow Food”
Organic Provides 3X More Food Per Acre in Poor Countries – podcast
Food Additives Make Kids Hyperactive – Organic Better?
New Studies Back Benefits of Organic Diet

Contact: writersteve AT gmail . com (no spaces)

Thousands Lined Up for PlayStation 3 – Will Anyone Protest Government Inaction on Climate Change?

Larsen B Ice Shelf Collapse - Antarctica

While thousands of people stood outside electronics stores for three, four and more days and nites last November to be the first to spend 600 dollars for the latest electronic video game console, how many would spend two hours protesting the inaction of their governments on climate change?

“There is increasing public support for action but I’m not sure there’s a willingness to do anything,” says Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a US environmental NGO working with business leaders and policy makers.

— see complete PlayStation 3 vs Climate Change story