China, India, Brazil Doing More to Cut Carbon Emissions Cuts Than USA, Canada, Australia

By Stephen Leahy

BONN, Jun 17, 2011 (IPS)

Negotiations over a new international climate agreement are on the brink as new analyses show that carbon emission reduction promises by industrialised nations are actually lower than those made by China, India, Brazil and other developing nations.

Even with all the promises or pledges added together they are still far short of cuts needed to prevent global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius, experts reported here.

“It’s a very sad picture we see here,” said Marion Vieweg of Climate Analytics, a German NGO that analyses climate science and policy.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

“The rich nations are doing nothing to improve their emissions pledges,” Vieweg told reporters during the final hours of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session here in Bonn. These meetings are intended to work out the details for a new international agreement for government ministers to consider at the 17th Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa in late November.

Continue reading

Limited Liability – Nuclear Energy’s ‘Mother of all Subsidies’

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 6, 2011 (IPS)

The nuclear energy industry only exists thanks to what insurance experts call the “mother of all subsidies”, and the public is largely unaware that every nuclear power plant in the world has a strict cap on how much the industry might have to pay out in case of an accident.

In Canada, this liability cap is an astonishingly low 75 million dollars. In India, it is 110 million dollars and in Britain 220 million dollars. If there is an accident, governments – i.e. the public – are on the hook for all costs exceeding those caps.

Japan has a higher liability cap of 1.2 billion dollars, but that is not nearly enough for the estimated 25 to 150 billion dollars in decommissioning and liability costs for what is still an ongoing disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Seven weeks after the tsunami caused the disaster, radiation levels continued to spike higher.

No one knows when the reactors will finally be in cold shutdown, or when the costs of theFukushima disaster will stop piling up. One report suggests decommissioning will take 30 years.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

Japan’s credit rating was downgraded because of the accident, noted Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy and nuclear policy analyst who has worked in Japan. “The Japanese know it’s just a matter of time before another large earthquake occurs,” Schneider told IPS.

“Japan will never build another nuclear plant.
Continue reading

The Yin and Yang of Climate Extremes We Will See More of

Extreme weather accounted for 76 percent of all disasters over the past 20 years. Recovery is often impossible even in the US, i.e. New Orleans 5 years after Hurricane Katrina where poor neighborhoods remain devastated

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Oct 13, 2010 (Tierramérica) 

The floods that affected 20 million people in Pakistan and the devastating six-week heat wave in Russia in recent months are tragic climate events — and they’re closely linked.

“The Pakistan floods and Russia heat wave were directly connected, the atmospheric science makes that clear,” Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the U.S. National Centre for Atmospheric Research, told Tierramérica.

A long-lasting high pressure system called a “blocking high” essentially gave western Russia a dry Mediterranean summer, which in turn shifted more- than-normal moisture into the Indian monsoon, resulting in record-breaking rainfall in northern Pakistan and India, Trenberth explained.

Wildfires burned many russian villages Aug 2010

It is difficult to determine whether climate change caused this extraordinary event, but it certainly made it much worse, according to Trenberth. “Without global warming these extremes are unlikely to have occurred,” he added.

The drought in Russian and the heavy rains in Pakistan are exactly what are expected to happen with climate change, said the expert.

“Changes in extreme weather events are the main way climate change is manifested,” he said, noting that the storms or floods that used to occur once every 200 years may now occur every 30 years.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

Continue reading

Snow Cover Turning to Lakes in the Himalayas

Iceberg in Glacier Strait, Nunavut, Canada, Image credit- Sandy Briggs.By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 7 (IPS) – As climate change takes hold, even the mighty Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountain ranges are now losing their snow and ice.

These are the world’s greatest repositories of snow and ice outside of the polar regions, and yet they may melt away in just 20 to 30 years, leaving more than a billion people desperately short of water, experts concluded in San Diego this week.

“There’s been a super-rapid decline in the glaciers of the region,” said Charles Kennel, senior strategist at the University of California San Diego Sustainability Solutions Institute and former director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Kennel told IPS that nearly all of the 20,000 glaciers in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain ranges are in retreat and the meltwater from some has created enormous lakes held back by rockslides that will inevitably burst, endangering anyone living in the valleys below. The World Wildlife Fund calculates there are 2,000 glacial lakes forming in Nepal and around 20 are in danger of bursting. Several have already flooded valleys in the past two decades in Nepal and Tibet.

“We are trying to make it known that the Himalayas are to the issue of the world’s water supply problem what the Amazon rain forest is to the issue of deforestation,” he said in reference to the “Ice, Snow, and Water” workshop convened at UC San Diego this week that included scientists from India, Nepal, Singapore and China. Continue reading