Climate Change: ‘Things Happen Much Faster in the Arctic’ – Summer Sea Ice Could be Gone Soon


By Stephen Leahy

We’re going to see huge changes in the Arctic ecosystem

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. Continue reading

Carbon-Credit Gold: Who is going to get rich?

forest-fireBy Stephen Leahy

Paying the poor to conserve forests through a market scheme is the new star among initiatives in climate talks.

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 15 (Tierramérica).- Climate experts meeting in Poznan, Poland, promised to create a new pot of carbon-credit gold for the rural poor as guardians of rural lands and forests.

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. Continue reading

Electronic Gadgets Fuel Congo “Rape Mines”


[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.

See also this shocking report in the journal PLoS Medicine  (22 Dec 2009) ]

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. Continue reading

The Best Green Radio/Podcast


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.

Bush’s “Midnight Regs” Chains Obama to Anti-Environmental Course

wed-outdoor-disp-low-res_pa1By 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.

“There are many last-minute changes and some are draconian,” said Josh Dorner of the Sierra Club, an environmental NGO. Continue reading

New Diagnostic Tool Could Slash Malaria Deaths in Children

wed-child-tree-planting1By 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). Continue reading

Arctic Is the Canary in the Coalmine

ceberg-in-glacier-strait-nunavut-canada-image-credit-sandy-briggsBy 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.

Continue reading