Fish Companies Push Hard to Halt Tuna Collapse

By Stephen Leahy*

VICTORIA, Seychelles, Feb 8, 2010 (IPS)

In the Seychelles’ only cannery, the din of thousands of empty tuna cans rattling on narrow metal troughs is incredible as they bustle along, soon to be filled with Skipjack tuna that only days ago were swimming freely in the inky blue Indian Ocean.

At one end of the Indian Ocean Tuna Limited processing plant – the world’s second largest – cranes offload nets full of frozen tuna from huge international fishing boats called purse seiners while at the other end of the plant, 5,000 cans of tuna roll off the line every minute.

That’s a lot of tuna – roughly 400 metric tonnes a day. Can the Indian Ocean tuna bounty, which amounts to more than 20 percent of the world’s tuna, be sustained?

That was the key question at the first-ever Seychelles Tuna Conference that ended last weekend. It brought together nearly 200 scientists, fishers, environmentalists and policy makers here in Victoria, Africa’s smallest capital city, located 1,800 km east of Somalia and practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

“The boats are much more efficient today and the tuna stocks are declining and there is much less tuna than before, ” said Alain Fonteneau, a scientist with the L’Institut de recherche pour le développement, in Montpellier, France, who opened the conference. Continue reading

Canada’s Idea of Working on Climate Change Means Muzzling Climate Scientists, Closing Research Stations and Cutting Funding

“This government is doing nothing on climate but they always make sure to sound like they’re doing something to fool Canadians.” — John Bennett, Sierra Club of Canada

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 16, 2010 (IPS)

Canada’s climate researchers are being muzzled, their funding slashed, research stations closed, findings ignored and advice on the critical issue of the century unsought by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, according to a 40-page report by a coalition of 60 non-governmental organisations.

“This government says they take climate change seriously but they do nothing and try to hide the truth about climate change,” said Graham Saul, representing Climate Action Network Canada (CAN), which produced the report “Troubling Evidence”.

“We want Canadians to understand what’s going on with this government,” Saul told IPS.

Climate change is not an abstract concept. It already results in the deaths of 300,000 people a year, virtually all in the world’s poorest countries. Some 325 million people are being seriously affected, with economic losses averaging 125 billion dollars a year, according to “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis“, the first detailed look at climate change and the human impacts.

Released last fall by the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum, the report notes that these deaths and losses are not just from the rise in severe weather events but mainly from the gradual environmental degradation due to climate change.

Is this article of interest? It exists thanks to contributions from readers. Please click here to learn more about Community Supported Journalism.

“People everywhere deserve to have leaders who find the courage to achieve a solution to this crisis,” writes Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary-general and president of the Forum, in the report.

Canadians are unlikely to know any of this. Continue reading

Doubt Is Our Product: Media and Global Warming

Why do media run nonsensical “scandals” about climate science?

Why does the public put up with it?

Those are some of the questions posed on Alex Smith’s fine syndicated weekly Radio Ecoshock Show has three expert viewpoints in his one hour show OUR PRODUCT IS DOUBT

Clive Hamilton on “Requiem for a Species, Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change.” The madness of masses & media.

Stanford’s Prof. Stephen Schneider on death threats, & threats from Senators (calling climate scientists “criminals”).

Naomi Oreskes on “Merchants of Doubt”.

1 hour CD Quality 56 MB or Lo-Fi 14 MB

See also Alex’s detailed notes and links to far more on his blog: DOUBT IS OUR PRODUCT – the blog

[full disclosure: I supplied my interview with climatologist Stephen Schneider – Violent Backlash Against Climate Scientists


Violent Backlash Against Climate Scientists

By Stephen Leahy

From death threats to aggressive discrediting in the press, disaster has hit the IPCC, the global scientific panel dedicated to studying climate change – and it is now finding ways to regroup and respond.

[See also personal posting Scientists Face Death Threats, Democracy at Risk ]

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 8 (Tierramérica)

Climate change science is under full-scale attack in a last-ditch effort to delay or prevent action by the U.S. government against global warming, experts warn.

U.S. Senator James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma and climate change denier, in late February released a list of leading climate scientists he wants prosecuted as criminals for misleading the government. Those scientists are receiving hate mail and death threats.

“I have hundreds” of threatening emails, Stephen Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University, told Tierramérica.

He believes scientists will be killed over this. “I’m not going to let it worry me… but you know it’s going to happen,” said Schneider, one of the most respected climate scientists in the world. “They shoot abortion doctors here.”

This backlash against the evidence of climate change and the scientists themselves is not just a U.S. phenomenon. It is happening in Canada, Australia, Britain, and, to a lesser extent, in Europe and elsewhere.

On the surface, this campaign is about a few errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2,800-page report released in 2007 and some 10-year-old personal emails stolen from Britain’s University of East Anglia.

But deeper down, this is the last big effort by the fossil fuel industry to delay action on climate change, just as the tobacco industry successfully delayed understanding of the harmful effects of smoking for several decades, says Schneider.

Is this article of interest? It exists thanks to contributions from readers. Please click here to learn more about Community Supported Journalism.

“We’re up against the multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel industry and the haters of government. They spin and spin and cast doubt on the credibility of science,” he said. Continue reading

Scientists Face Death Threats, Democracy at Risk

[A personal note from Stephen]

There’s something strange in the air when a highly-respected US scientist says he or a colleague will likely be killed for saying climate change is happening.

That’s what Stanford’s Stephen Schneider told me last week. He’s not an alarmist, he’s a pro with 40 years under his belt. These days climate scientists receive all kinds of hate mail and even death threats. I even get hate mail. Bizarre times.

At the same time traditional media are complicit, giving ‘face time’ to those who smear scientists with no evidence, just nonsensical conspiracy allegations. Schneider says simply:

I’m pretty damn angry that media companies are putting profits ahead of truth. The media are deeply broken… That’s a real threat to democracy.”

I couldn’t agree more. We’re in a dangerous trap. Schneider, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chair, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and many other experts have recently told me: ‘we need people like you to write about these issues’.

I could do far more but my time is largely gobbled up trying to figure out how to put bread on the table. Last year writing about these issues put my family $10,000 in the red despite about $4000 in donations which mostly went towards travel costs. (And we have a pretty modest lifestyle, living in my in-law’s basement apt)

Put plainly, writing honestly about important issues is not rewarded in our current economic system, even though it’s in our best interests. Writing junk mail to sell crap that people don’t need is rewarded 100X more. (I know, I used to do it)

Community Supported Journalism

Community Supported Journalism is the only way forward that I can see. That means reciprocity: You help support the investigation, research, writing about what’s important for all of us to know so we can make informed decisions. In an earlier age I would have come to your village, taught your children and told you useful stories about what I’d learned from wise elders in other villages. Today I send out those stories to you and many others in our global village and rely more and more on you to provide the financial equivalent of a place to sleep and a meal to eat.

Reciprocity, co-operation and community are some of the key values we need to escape the trap we are in.

On a practical level supporting or funding individual story ideas isn’t working mainly because it takes too much time to put together and generate support. It’s not nimble enough to respond to breaking news, but it could work for larger, long term projects. Instead what’s needed is ‘bread and butter’ funding — contributions that help cover the everyday costs of living and doing environmental journalism.

A “Bread and Butter Environmental Journalism Support Fund” if you will. That fund will need about $15,000 in 2010 for the work to continue.

It has taken me three days to find the words to ask because it is a lot of money. Please consider $50, $100 or more — less than cost of a newspaper or cable TV subscription — for coverage of important issues that shape our world and our future.

Contributions can be made safely and easily via PayPal or Credit Card. Or  contact me at writersteve [AT] gmail [DOT] com (no spaces) to send a cheque.

Please also pass this along to interested family, friends and organizations. My continued appreciation to those who have contributed in the past.

Thanks and best wishes, Steve

OUR Roof is on Fire: Dangerous Climate Change is Here

It will take lot of us – probably in the streets” to make politicians face the truth, says climate scientist James Hansen.

[Dangerous climate change is already upon us say some of the best scientists we have. But political leaders — and most of the public — don’t get it. This is an attempt to close the chasm between climate reality and climate denial fantasy. I wrote this at the end of the Copenhagen Climate meetings last December thanks in part to financial contributions from readers that allowed me to do the research and interviews. — Stephen]

Our leaders do not get the scale of the problem or the rapidity of the changes.”            — Andrew Weaver, climatologist at Canada’s University of British Columbia

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN Dec 22 ,2009 (IPS/TerraViva)

The roof of our house is on fire but our leaders, our economic system and we ourselves are ignoring the alarms and continuing to add more fuel. There are no exit doors in our house; there is nowhere else to go.

Dangerous climate change is already here.

The two-week climate summit in Copenhagen came to an end with disappointing results and details that are still vague.

A ”Copenhagen Accord” was agreed by the US, China, South Africa and India by Friday night. It was unclear which other countries were willing to support it.

But coral reefs are dying, the Arctic is melting and rising sea levels threaten the homes of millions. And we’re on our way to a planet-transforming four-degree C rise in global average temperatures in as soon as 50 years.

Future generations could face an utterly transformed planet, where large areas will be seven to 14 degrees C warmer, making them uninhabitable. In this world-on-fire, the one to two metre sea level rise by 2100 will leave hundreds of millions homeless, according to the latest science presented at the “4 Degrees and Beyond, International Climate Science Conference” at the University of Oxford in September.

That’s the science-based, slap-in-the-face reality as the Copenhagen climate talks fizzle out here with little progress Friday.

Our leaders do not get the scale of the problem or the rapidity of the changes. They don’t get that it must be dealt with now,” said Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at Canada’s University of British Columbia and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. Continue reading

A Tipping Point on Species Loss?

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 13, 2010 (IPS)

Humanity is destroying the network of living things that comprise our life support system. While this sawing-through-the-branch-we’re-perched-on is largely unintentional, world leaders can’t say they didn’t know what’s going on: 123 countries promised to take urgent action in 2003 but have done little to stem the rising tide of extinctions in what’s known as the extinction or biodiversity crisis.

Species are going extinct at 1,000 times their natural pace due to human activity, recent science has documented, with 35 to 40 species vanishing each day, never to be seen again.

“The question of preserving biological diversity is on the same scale as climate protection,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech in Berlin Monday at the official launch of the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity.

This week’s official launch will be followed by the first major event of the International Year, a high-profile meeting at the Paris headquarters of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Jan. 20-21.

“We need a sea change. Here, now, immediately – not some time in the future,” Merkel said.

While climate has been the focus in 2009, this year will be a global celebration of and action on biodiversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), told IPS from Berlin.

Continue reading