Written three years ago and more relevant than ever — Stephen

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

By Stephen Leahy

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sep 24 (IPS)

Promises are easy to make.

But promises by world leaders will not halt the heat-trapping carbon emissions that are dialing-up global temperatures and altering the climate, say critics and climate researchers meeting in this U.S. Midwestern city.

As evidenced at the U.N. leader’s summit on climate change in New York Tuesday, the world’s big economies are refusing to commit to actions that will prevent this and future generations from inheriting a hostile climate no other humans have ever faced.

Do we have the social and political will to deal with a problem that we will only see partially in our lifetimes?” wonders Don McConnell, president of Battelle Energy Technology, the world’s largest non-profit research centre.

“What most don’t realise is that the biggest impact from climate change will be shifts in precipitation, not temperature increase,” McConnell told IPS at…

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Danger in Turning Africa’s Foodlands into “Carbon Farms”

Keep Agriculture for Food, not Carbon$$

By Stephen Leahy

DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 2 2011 (IPS)

Civil society has warned of the danger of turning Africa’s food-producing lands into “carbon farms” so that rich countries can avoid making cuts in their carbon emissions.

On Friday, they called on host country South Africa to refrain from forcing so-called “climate smart” agriculture into the United Nations climate treaty negotiations known as the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17).

South African President Jacob Zuma has stated that agriculture should be part of a new climate treaty. South African officials have previously told IPS they want it included so there will be “specific funds and specific actions” for agriculture under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Putting agriculture into a future climate treaty is supposedly a consolation prize to Africa for failure by rich countries to agree to legally binding targets,” said Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation, an international non-governmental organisation based in London.

“This consolation prize is a poisoned chalice. It will lead to land grabs and deliver African farmers into the hands of fickle carbon markets,” Anderson told IPS.

Agriculture is a major source of global warming gases like carbon and methane – directly accounting for 15 percent to 30 percent of global emissions. When the entire food production system is included, total agriculture emissions represent nearly half of all emissions. For those reasons there have been previous efforts to incorporate agriculture under a new climate treaty.

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Changes in agricultural practices can greatly reduce emissions. However, the best way to do that is through regulations, not a climate treaty and carbon credits, said Anderson.

“Why are markets now seen as the only solution when less than 10 years ago they weren’t a focus at all?” Continue reading

“We’re facing a planetary emergency” The Road to Rio (+20 years)

“Humanity is facing major challenges…urgent actions are needed”

Can we act as a true community?

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 11, 2012 (IPS)

Humanity is driving Earth’s climate and ecosystems towards dangerous tipping points, requiring radical new forms of international cooperation and governance, experts say.

“We’re facing a planetary emergency,” said Owen Gaffney of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme based in Stockholm.

“We need to have a ‘constitutional moment’ in world politics, akin to the major transformative shift in governance after 1945 that led to the establishment of the United Nations and numerous other international organisations,” said Frank Biermann of VU University Amsterdam and director of the Earth System Governance Project.

“Humanity is facing major challenges…urgent actions are needed,” Biermann told IPS.

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Those challenges include, but are not limited to, increasing poverty, food, water and energy security, the financial crisis, climate change, ocean acidification, the loss of biodiversity. All of these challenges and their solutions are interconnected.

Normally, the complex, mutually dependent systems of the Earth can self-correct and are remarkably stable. However, they can reach thresholds or tipping points and then unexpectedly and abruptly shift, Gaffney said in an interview.

“We need only recall how the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis nearly collapsed the global financial system,” he said.

The upcoming Rio+20 conference on sustainable development needs to be the moment in human history when the nations of the world come together to find ways to ensure “the very survival of humanity”, he said. Continue reading

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A personal message from Stephen Leahy

“Journalism and media are society’s mirror providing accurate and essential information.

That is no longer the case.

Media are now controlled by a few major corporations like Murdoch’s News Corp. Coverage of environment and science has been gutted. If there is coverage it rarely digs below the surface. It’s not just TV, it’s all media.

After 18 years of being published in major publications on two continents I now count myself lucky to get $150 to $200 for an in-depth article. The few independent media outlets are either non-profits or struggling.

Urgent environmental issues didn’t go away just because most media stopped covering them.

More than 20,000 people attended the international climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico and it received one ten second clip on US network TV according to a Drexel University media study. (Coverage was even worse at last climate meet in Durban)

Nearly every indicator proves things are getting worse but less and less people know about this.

Many people, including leading scientists, tell me: ‘we need people like you to write about these issues‘. I’d like to do far more but it is impossible to continue without your help in what I’m calling Community Supported Journalism. People directly support independent journalists who craft honest and thoughtful articles about important subjects the mainstream media ignores or gloss over.

Community Supported Environmental Journalism Works

In 2010 dozens of people offered their help, donating $5,750 which helped ensure many breaking international stories were covered including the first media reports on the global die-off of corals and how climate change may be bringing colder winters to Europe and eastern North America. Those donors — I prefer to call them partners — enabled me to cover important international meetings like the UN Convention on Biodiversity, UNFCCC climate change conference and much more.

Thanks for reading.” — Stephen

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Letters of Support:

We need people like you. In tough economic times, where information flow is increasingly channeled and controlled, you perform a simply critical role. Hang in there. You are an admirable role model for the future.”

– E. Ann Clark, Associate Professor, University of Guelph.

“Stephen Leahy has done a superb job exposing the enormous sums the US government is spending on corporate welfare for big oil.”

Ross Gelbspan, Pulitzer-prize winning editor and author of The Heat is On

My continued appreciation to those who have contributed in the past.

Fracking and Shale Gas Accelerating Global Warming

UPDATE Jan 2013:

Yet another study reveals fracking has a huge problem of gas leaks. Up to  9% of the gas pumped out of the ground leaks into the atmosphere according to a study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published in Nature this week. Natural gas (methane) is a powerful greenhouse gas. If these leaks are widespread, fracking is worse than burning coal, accelerating global warming.

In Jan 2012 I detailed new research in the article below showing that replacing coal with natural gas from fracking does little to fight climate change (see below). Now two studies published that since then make an even stronger case that fracking for natural gas is a HUGE MISTAKE:

From Nature: Air sampling reveals high emissions from gas field. Methane leaks during production may offset climate benefits of natural gas.

From Environmental Research Letters: New study demonstrates switching to natural gas is the path to climate disaster. What’s needed is an aggressive deployment of zero-carbon technologies and conservation. Joe Romm explains. — Stephen

Shale Gas Worse Than Coal Study Finds

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 24, 2012 (IPS)

Hundreds of thousands of shale gas wells are being “fracked” in the United States and Canada, allowing large amounts of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, to escape into the atmosphere, new studies have shown.

Shale gas production results in 40 to 60 percent more global warming emissions than conventional gas, said Robert Howarth of Cornell University in New York State.

“Shale gas also has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than oil or coal over the short term,” said Howarth, co-author of a study called “Venting and Leaking of Methane from Shale Gas Development” to be published in the journal Climatic Change.

(Audio of news conference)http://of%20news%20conference

This latest study follows up on Howarth and colleagues’ controversial April 2011 paper that provided the first comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing. That study found that when gas wells are “fracked”, they leak large amounts of methane and pose a significant threat to the global climate.

“We stand by the conclusion of our 2011 research,” said Howarth.

That research undercuts the logic of energy sector claims that shale gas is a “bridge” to a low-carbon energy future. Those claims are based on the fact that natural gas (which is mainly methane) has half the carbon content of coal, and when burned for electricity it is more energy efficient than coal.

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However, those climate gains are more than negated by methane leaks both at the well during the fracking process (called flow-back), and through the gas delivery and distribution system. Howarth and colleagues estimate that between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of all shale gas produced leaks – called “fugitive emissions” – into the atmosphere, making it worse than burning coal or oil.

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Wrote this nearly fours year ago, can’t believe it is more relevant than ever.

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

truth-over-fear.jpg

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…

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