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LICSN Climate News Summary

Long Island Climate Solutions Network
Climate News Summary

Threatened Wildlife

Alarming Declines in World’s Biodiversity Documented in New WWF Report. By Jeremy Lovell, Reuters, May 16, 2008. “World biodiversity has declined by almost one third in the past 35 years due mainly to habitat loss and the wildlife trade, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Friday. It warned that climate change would add increasingly to the wildlife woes over the next three decades. ‘Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives so it is alarming that despite of an increased awareness of environmental issues we continue to see a downtrend trend,’ said WWF campaign head Colin Butfield. ‘However, there are small signs for hope and if government grasps what is left of this rapidly closing window of opportunity, we can begin to reverse this trend.’ WWF’s Living Planet Index 2008 [PDF, 16 pp] tracks some 4,000 species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians globally. It shows that between 1970 and 2007 land-based species fell by 25 percent, marine by 28 percent and freshwater by 29 percent.”

Zones of Death Are Spreading in Oceans Due to Global Warming. By Jonathan Leake, London Times, May 18, 2008. “Marine dead zones, where fish and other sea life can suffocate from lack of oxygen, are spreading across the world’s tropical oceans, a study has warned. Researchers found that the warming of sea water through climate change is reducing its ability to carry dissolved oxygen, potentially turning swathes of the world’s oceans into marine graveyards. The study, by scientists from some of the world’s most prestigious marine research institutes, warns that if global temperatures keep rising there could be ‘dramatic consequences’ for marine life and for humans in communities that depend on the sea for a living.”

Not Much Help for the Polar Bear. Editorial, NYTimes, May 18, 2008. “Boxed into a corner by the courts and its own scientists, the Bush administration agreed last week to place the polar bear under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. The decision was the clearest official acknowledgment that the bear, its hunting grounds diminished by shrinking summer ice, is seriously at risk… It is not clear that the decision is much of a victory for the bears. The listing appears to offer only modest new protections. It does nothing to address the gravest threats to the bears’ survival: oil and gas drilling and global warming…

AWarming Hudson River Supports Fewer Fish Despite Improving Water Quality. By Jim Fitzgerald, AP, May 15, 2008. “A report that shows long-term declines for 10 species of Hudson River fish has spawned a campaign to attack a variety of possible causes. The report found that despite a significant improvement in the Hudson ‘s water quality, 10 of the 13 species it studied show population declines since the mid-1970s. The report suggested a variety of causes including global warming — the river is 3.6 degrees warmer — and the invasion of the zebra mussel. It also blamed the five power plants that take in billions of gallons of river water each day — with countless doomed fish — as a coolant.”

Scientific Findings

Atmospheric CO2 Hits 387 Parts Per Million. Metro ( UK ), May 13, 2008. “[Scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii announced that] the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached its highest level in human history… pouring into the sky even faster than it did during the second half of the previous century. There are now 387 parts per million of CO2 in the air, the highest figure for 650,000 years… [and] just a few years from what many scientists regard as the tipping point of 400ppm. It raises renewed concerns over the Earth’s diminishing ability to soak up pollution and means targets for cutting emissions need to be revised drastically… Last year, the rise was 2.14ppm, while from 1970 to 2000 the concentration rose by an average of about 1.5ppm each year… Prof Andrew Watson, from the University of East Anglia , said up to 30% of the rise could be [attributed] to the weakening of the Earth’s natural carbon sinks — the oceans and rainforests.”

Comprehensive Study Bolsters Link Between Warming and Changes in Nature. By Emma Marris, Nature News, May 15, 2008. “A comprehensive analysis of trends in tens of thousands of biological and physical systems has provided more evidence to bolster the near-universal view that man-made climate change is altering the behaviour of plants, animals, rivers and more. The study by an international research team featuring many members of the IPCC, is a statistical analysis of observations of natural systems over time. The data, which stretch back to 1970, capture the behaviour of 829 physical phenomena, such as the timing of river runoff, and around 28,800 biological species… In around 90% of cases where an overall trend was observed, it was consistent with the predicted effects of climate warming, the researchers report in this week’s Nature… [Cagan] Sekercioglu [of Stanford University who studies bird ranges] is impressed by the scope of the study, but says that there was already a wealth of evidence… ‘We shouldn’t even need to publish such papers at this point,’ he says. ‘This paper is an argument that climate change is causing the observed changes. This should be a given. Thirty years later we are still trying to convince people of this.’ [Cynthia] Rosenzweig [of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the study’s lead author,] sees those 30 years differently. It was about 30 years ago that… Goddard… began work on climate-change models. ‘Less than 30 years after the fist model was developed, we are working on… [the successor to the Kyoto Treaty, which will expire in 2012]. I think that the global-warming issue is the [biggest] challenge facing our planet, but at the same time it is leading us to sustainability because of the rapidly growing action. It is finally shaking us up and getting us to realize what is going on with the planet.'”

President Bush and the Politics of Oil

The Oily Truth About America’s Foreign Policy. Commentary by Gideon Rachman, FT, May 18, 2008. “With the oil price heading upwards and President George W. Bush [huddling with Saudi King Abdullah], as part of a Middle Eastern tour, it is time to accept the truth. The pursuit of oil is fundamental to US foreign policy. The importance of oil to American foreign policy is both obvious and curiously difficult to acknowledge in public. In the run-up to the Iraq war it was left to the left to make the argument that this was a ‘war for oil.’ Establishment people — those in the know — rolled their eyes at this ‘conspiracy theory.’ Yet in recent months, both Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Senator John McCain have come close to saying that Iraq was indeed about oil. In his memoirs Mr Greenspan said he regretted that it was ‘politically inconvenient’ to acknowledge that ‘the Iraq war is largely about oil’… However, if the invasion of Iraq was partly motivated by oil, it was a failure — in this respect, as in many others. In 2003, just before the invasion, the oil price was $26 a barrel. Today it is $126 a barrel, with reputable analysts discussing the prospect of $200 oil by the end of 2008… While western politicians routinely worry about globalisation, they have yet to focus on a more plausible threat. It is not the outsourcing of well-paid jobs; or the inflow of cheap goods: it is the globalisation of western patterns of consumption. If the Chinese and Indians eventually eat and drive like Americans and Europeans, the current inflation in fuel and food prices could be just the beginning. The environmental implications are also obvious — and alarming… The only plausible routes to ‘energy security’ lie at home in the US — in the development of new technologies and in a change of lifestyles. Americans may have to drive their cars less. But it will be a brave presidential candidate who says that..”


Wind Farms in Upstate New York Gain Acceptance. By Andrea VanValkenburg, Plattsburg Press-Republican, May 17, 2008, “[Saturday’s] official ribbon-cutting ceremony… marked the completion of the Clinton and Ellenburg windparks. Noble Environmental Power Chief Executive Officer Charles Hinckley said there are now 122 fully commissioned 400-foot turbines between the two parks. When the projects began about three years ago, many people feared they would bring adverse noise and environmental impacts. But, Hinckley said, the final result has ‘quieted down almost all of the dissentŠ ‘A lot of the issues really slowed down once they (the turbines) were up and people could see them for themselves. And I think there’s a wide degree of acceptance now.’ The $360 million investment has created jobs and will help to reduce taxes while generating enough clean energy to power 60,000 homes and bringing an estimated $231 million in revenue to the rural economy over the next 20 years. Clinton Town Supervisor Michael Filion said the project has ‘been a long process, but well worth the effort. And now it’s time to reap the benefits.'”

Go with Wind, DOE Says. By David R. Baker, SFChron, May 13, 2008. “Windmills spinning over the Great Plains and along the coasts could supply 20% of U.S. electricity by the year 2030 and put a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions, federal officials said Monday. Although wind farms now generate just 1% of the nation’s electricity, a new report from the U.S. DOE found that wind power could play a far larger role in the future. It could supply roughly the same percentage of the nation’s power as nuclear plants provide today. ‘There are those who say it is marginal and always will be, and yet the statistics say otherwise,’ said Andy Karsner, [of] DOE… ‘First of all, it’s doable, and second of all, it’s desirable,’ said Dan Arvizu… [of] the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.” [For brief review of DOE’s report, see Rich Sweeney’s post at CommonTragedies.com.]


Nissan Announces Plans for Electric Car. By Dustan Dwyer, NPR, May 14, 2008. “Nissan Motor Co. announced plans Tuesday to build an electric car by 2010, part of what the automaker says is a strategy to make it the global leader in ‘zero-emission’ vehicles. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, who unveiled the plan at a news conference in Tokyo , says the company will mass produce electric cars within the next five years. He laid out a simple case for the vehicles: The number of people buying cars around the world is increasing, while the need to reduce emissions is becoming more urgent… The company will have… [the] electric cars on the road in two years for government fleets in the U.S. and Japan , Ghosn says. The cars will be in mass production by 2012. Nissan has not announced a specific model that will be mass produced.”

Booze-to-Fuel Cars. Posted by Caroline McCarthy, SmartPlanet.com, May 12, 2008. “[E-Fuel founder Thomas] Quinn and his fellow executives recently unveiled the EFuel100 MicroFueler in New York . It looks like a cross between a gas pump and an old-fashioned refrigerator, it’ll cost $9,995, and it’ll be available for customers in the fourth quarter of 2008 (if all goes well). What is it, exactly? It’s a home ethanol refinery. Connect it to a power source and a water source, add sugar ‘feedstock’ and yeast or discarded alcohol (yes, that could mean your cheap leftover booze from the sunny weekend) and in a week it can produce 35 gallons of ethanol that Quinn says any car can run on… E-Fuel’s executives… [say] that its sugar-based ethanol won’t hurt food prices because sugar is a surplus crop, and that sugar ethanol is inherently more efficient than corn. And it’s safe to make at home, because no combustion is involved. (We can’t help but wonder, however, where the sugar’s coming from.)”

Climate Bill

Climate Bill Will Create $150 Billion in New Assets Its First Year. By Marc Gunther, Fortune, May 15, 2008. “A climate-change bill that has widespread support as it heads to the Senate floor will create an estimated $150 billion of new assets in the first year it takes effect. Between now and 2050, regulating greenhouse gases could easily generate $3 trillion worth in value in the U.S. Should that value go to utility companies, electricity customers who will face rising rates, government investments in new technology or tax cuts? Or should it be returned to all Americans? That question is being debated vigorously by energy companies, politicians and environmental groups. Next week, an influential coalition of big companies and green organizations called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership ( U.S. CAP)Š will take [the issue] up [as Congress considers the climate change bill]… Essentially… John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, leading Democrats and moderate Republicans in Congress, dozens of Fortune 500 CEOs, and mainstream environmental groups all agree that a so-called cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gases is needed… That, by itself, is remarkable… [But] ask where that money should go, and the consensus breaks down. Coal-burning utilities say they should be given the permits for free… Others, including candidates Obama and Clinton, say all the permits should be auctioned — why reward the polluters, they ask? Still others want auctions so that proceeds can be used for a variety of causes, ranging from investments in renewable-energy… to middle-class tax cuts to paying down the federal debt… U.S. CAP is deeply divided over the issue.”


NOAA Chief Urges Creating National Climate Service. By Randolph E. Schmid, AP, May 13, 2008. “With concerns about global warming rising along with the planet’s temperature, the head of the federal agency in change of weather research and forecasting is proposing creation of a new National Climate Service. Conrad C. Lautenbacher said Tuesday a climate service within his agency could combine data from the research and analysis work done by several agencies, as well as coordinate climate information for the government… Lautenbacher said the White House has signed off on ‘the idea’ of a climate service, and he said he plans to seek funds to help organize it in the 2010 budget.”

As Ice Retreats, U.S. Military Eyes More Northern Border Patrols. By Lolita C. Baldor, AP, May 12, 2008. “As the Arctic ice cap shrinks, the Pentagon is eyeing the expanding navigable waters as possible entry points for security threats that must be monitored more closely… Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart [chief of the U.S. Northern Command], said in an interview with AP on Friday, ‘Last year, during the summer months, where the ice had retreated we began to see some tourist ships, cruises, in the region… That traffic increase has coincided with greater international interest in potential energy resources in the Arctic , prompting more exploration. All of this has implications that there could be security concerns.'”

Public Backlash

Christian Leaders Launch Campaign to Halt Climate-Change Action. Grist, May 16, 2008. “Conservative religious leaders have launched a We Get It! campaign that just goes to prove that saying something doesn’t make it so. The campaign aims to gather a million signatures on a petition opposing climate-change action, with the argument that tackling global warming will hurt the world’s poor. ‘Our stewardship of creation must be based on Biblical principles and factual evidence,’ says the petition. ‘We face important environmental challenges, but must be cautious of claims that our planet is in peril from speculative dangers like man-made global warming.’ The campaign is in large part a response to the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which urges climate-fighting legislation and notes that global warming ain’t exactly going to be a party for the impoverished. So far, the We Get It! petition has less than 100 signers, but those include such climate-savvy luminaries as Focus on the Family Chair James Dobson and Sens. James Inhofe and Tom Coburn (both R-Okla.).”

The Amazon

Brazil’s Environment Minister Resigns Amidst Controversy Over the Amazon. By Peter Muello, AP, May 13, 2008. “Environment Minister Marina Silva resigned Tuesday, ending an often stormy six-year term that put her in conflict with developers in the Amazon rain forest. Silva did not say why she was stepping down… But Sergio Leitao, director of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil , said the minister is leaving because the pressure on her for taking the measures she took against deforestation has become unbearable. ‘ Brazil is losing the only voice in the government that spoke out for the environment,’ Leitao said. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva picked Carlos Minc, the environment secretary for Rio de Janeiro state, to be the new national environmental minister, according to the government’s official Agencia Brasil news service. The president’s office has yet to comment on Marina Silva’s resignation.”

Summaries selected from:

Climate Crisis Coalition Newsfeed
The Weekend Summary
Sunday, May 18, 2008

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