Friday, November 30, 2007

More and stronger cyclones expected in the Bay of Bengal Intense cyclonic events may increase in India's east coast, a leading scientist has said. A.S. Unnikrishnan, a scientist at National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, told IANS in a telephonic interview that there were many studies that indicate intense tropical cyclonic events would increase as a result of climate change.

Unnikrishnan is one of the leading authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) led by Rajendra K. Pachauri. The panel has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year. “Our study using analysis of a regional climate model and a storm surge model indicates that there may be increase in intense cyclonic events in the Bay of Bengal,” he said. 'We recently carried out this study jointly with Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune," Unnikrishnan said.

In the study, model simulations were analysed using a regional climate model (HadRM2) developed by the Hadley Centre for Climate Research in Britain. One model simulation for a control run (in which the concentration of carbon dioxide is kept constant) and another model simulation with increased carbon dioxide concentrations have been analysed in their study. Simulation results were analysed for the northern Indian Ocean to predict future occurrences of tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal for the period 2041-60, the scientist said. The analysis showed that the frequency of intense cyclonic events rose in the increased carbon dioxide scenario. Higher storm surges are found in the increased carbon dioxide scenario than in the control run, he added.

'Right now, we do not know the places in the east coast most vulnerable to this or the places likely to be more affected. As there are uncertainties in future projections, it will be difficult to pinpoint this,' Unnikrishnan said. The occurrence of storm surges is common to the countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal, as it is the hotbed of generating tropical cyclones, he added. "Any increase in the frequency or intensity of tropical disturbances in future will cause increased damages to life and property in the coastal regions. It is for the socio economic groups, policy makers to plan strategies for adaptation," Unnikrishnan stated.

Pre-Bali meeting, businesses urge climate action Business leaders from 150 global companies have called for a comprehensive, legally binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change. The initiative, led by the Prince of Wales and EU Corporate Leaders Groups on Climate Change (CLGCC), includes some of the biggest global companies from the US, Europe, Australia and China. It comes before UN climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, from December 3-14.

The global business pact demands an "urgent global response" to climate change - for which scientific evidence is "overwhelming" - as it "presents very serious global social, environmental and economic risks". James Smith, the chairman of Shell UK, which is part of the CLGCC, said the message from the international business community "couldn't be clearer. A comprehensive, legally-binding UN agreement to tackle climate change will provide business with the certainty it needs to scale up global investment in low carbon technologies. The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of taking action now. It is crucial that, at the Bali conference, countries agree a work plan of comprehensive negotiations to ensure a robust policy framework is in place, to guide us forward over the coming decades."

The statement from the CLGCC says that: "The overall targets for emissions reduction must be guided primarily by science." This is in contrast to the argument that has previously been made by some parts of the business community that it is concerned over competitiveness and cost that should set the limit of emission cuts.

The leaders note that evidence from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) already points to a reduction being required of "at least 50 per cent by 2050" and comment that the "greatest effort" will need to be made by those countries that have already industrialised. Companies in support of the UN call include Coca-Cola, Gap, Nike, Sun Microsystems, Westpac, Anglo-American, F&C Asset Management, British Airways, Nestle, Nokia, Shell, Tesco, Virgin and Volkswagen.

Significantly, the communique has also been signed by a number of Chinese companies, including Shanghai Electric, Zhufeng Technology and Suntech. China is the world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Alain Grisay, chief executive of F&C Asset Management said: "Business and investors can only play their part in tackling climate change if governments take decisive action to make this possible. This problem will not get solved through market forces alone in the time that we have left to act, because climate change presents a textbook example of market failure. This means that voluntary targets won't do. Business needs a level playing field in order to take on the financial risks that adequate action on climate change requires".

Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the initiative. "The shift to a low carbon economy is not only an environmental imperative but also an unprecedented economic and social opportunity," he said. "Scaling up clean energy systems and using energy more efficiently could not only slash emissions, but help to improve the quality of life for billions of people and create millions of jobs."

Commitments by countries under the Kyoto Protocol, an international convention on climate change with the objective of reducing greenhouse gases, are due to expire in 2012. The "Bali road map", which is set to be established following next week's UN conference, will begin the process of developing a future climate change regime, including adaptation, mitigation, technology co-operation and financing the response to climate change.

Minister says 24 Indonesian islands disappeared: report

Terra Daily, via Agence France-Presse: Indonesia has lost 24 of its more than 17,500 islands due to natural disasters and environmental damage, a minister said Thursday according to the Antara news agency. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi said four islands disappeared when the massive tsunami devastated Aceh on December 26, 2004, the state-run agency reported.

Twenty other islands in Sumatra's Riau province and in the Seribu island group in Jakarta Bay had also vanished due to exploitation and environmental damage, Numberi said. Consequently, Indonesia's total tally of islands has fallen from 17,504 to 17,480 and the new figure reported to the United Nations, he said. "Scientists have even predicted that Indonesia could lose at least 2,000 islands by 2030 if the government fails to anticipate it and take preventive measures," the minister was quoted as saying.

The new figures come as Indonesia is set to host a major UN climate change conference on the resort island of Bali next week. The meeting will see nations attempt to lay the groundwork for an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions after the current phase of the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012. A report from WWF released this week warned that Indonesia would be one of the nations hardest hit by climate change.

Having the climate cake and eating it, too -- deforestation and the discussion in Bali

Terra Daily: Is it possible to solve climate change, reduce poverty and save biodiversity at a single stroke" It might seem like a dream, but this is exactly the issue that is being discussed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Bali 3-14 December 2007. The key is to include reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in the Kyoto Protocol so that developing countries can be compensated for saving their forests and woodlands.

A recent paper in the African Journal of Ecology points out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that 20-25% of current annual carbon emissions result from loss of tropical forest. This has prompted efforts to renegotiate climate change policy to include REDD so that tropical forest nations can claim compensation for sustainable management of their natural forest resources.

But not all tropical countries are pushing for an agreement and many African countries do not appear to be participating in the discussion. Eliakimu Zahabu from the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and lead author on the paper suggests that "The lack of African action might be partly because estimation of carbon emission from the forest sector has been based on forest areas cleared entirely, i.e. deforestation, but excludes the small-scale degradation processes common in African dry forests".

This means that the concepts for lowering carbon emissions from developing countries that have been worked out under the climate change agreements need rethinking. Dr Margaret Skutsch, from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, has been studying the problem for five years "Degradation is often a different process with different drivers and needs a different instrument in Kyoto" she says, and adds "for African countries to benefit from the new policy, they need to support the idea of reduced emissions from controlling degradation in a way that reflects African realities, and to do this they need to engage in the debate."

Taking Tanzania as an example, Zahabu estimates that the country could earn $630 million annually or $119 per rural household, from the REDD policy. Prof. Jon Lovett, an expert on Tanzania biodiversity and associate editor of the African Journal of Ecology, points out that "the biggest problem in tropical forest management is paying for it: to date the preferred option has been to remove the valuable timber without any post-logging care, and then the process of degradation starts.

A REDD policy would change that so that forest managers could conserve both carbon and biodiversity, it would be an unbelievable break-through. "In addition, poverty alleviation isn't just about direct payments for carbon." Prof. Lovett continues "Forests, particularly the dry forests which cover so much of Africa, are essential for people's livelihoods, producing medicines, honey, food, forage, rope, just about anything you can imagine.

Community based forest management supported by Kyoto payments would be central to poverty reduction." A simple change in policy thus has the potential to have a triple solution: carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. This looks a lot like being able to have our cake and eating it too, providing that the meeting at Bali can move towards reaching an

Atlantic hurricane season ends

Disaster News Network: The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season officially comes to a close today, and while residents in the U.S. are breathing a sigh of relief that they escaped what had been predicted to be a highly active storm season, people in other countries weren't as lucky. The hurricane season - which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 - ends with 14 named storms, of which six were hurricanes. Two of them – Dean and Felix - were the first two Category 5 Atlantic storms to make landfall in the same season since record-keeping began.

As the season ends, questions were being raised about the accuracy of pre-season forecasts, which proved to be generally wrong for the second year in a row.

…"The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season actually produced quite a bit of activity," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA. "For the activity as a whole, the season was near normal. But the intensity and duration of the hurricanes was the big issue. The intensity and duration of the hurricanes was less than predicted. That was the big issue from a forecasting prospective."

Bell said storm predictions were based on oceanic and atmospheric conditions that historically have produced very active hurricane seasons. The current active hurricane era, which began in 1995, is far from over, he warned. Active eras can last from 25 to 40 years. "We had less than expected activity but the conditions associated with this ongoing active hurricane era are still in place," he said. "I don’t see any basis for thinking that somehow the current active era has ended or is weakening. We are still in an active hurricane era. "Diligence and preparation are still absolutely called for," he added. "People should not become complacent."

Bell said it appears that the main factor skewing the hurricane predictions was the effect of La Nina on the Atlantic. "La Nina impacts over the Atlantic were not as strong as expected and we're still investigating why," he said. "The question we're looking at is what other climate factors were in place that kind of swamped the La Nina impact over the Atlantic and as a result we wound up with stronger upper level winds, stronger wind shear, and as a result less intense, weaker and shorter-lived hurricanes. "That appears to be the main issue why the activity was over-predicted as a whole," he said.

Klotzbach cited wind shear and cooler Atlantic waters as reasons why the season was not as active as predicted. "The reasons for this year's average season are challenging to explain," he said. "It is impossible to understand how all these processes interact with each other to 100 percent certainty. Continued research should help us better understand these complicated atmospheric/oceanic interactions."

…Hill of Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster said she believed that even though residents in her state dodged the bullet this season, they shouldn't relax too much. "In Florida, I think it's a true statement that 'it's not if but when,'" she said. "This year wasn't the year."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Asian nations face "unprecedented" water crisis: Asian Development Bank

Reuters: Developing countries in Asia could face an "unprecedented" water crisis within a decade due to mismanagement of water resources, the Asian Development Bank said in a report on Thursday. The effects of climate change, rapid industrialization and population growth on water resources could lead to health and social issues that could cost billions of dollars annually, it said.

"If the present unsatisfactory trends continue, in one or two decades, Asian developing countries are likely to face and cope with a crisis on water quality management that is unprecedented in human history," Ajit Biswas wrote in the report. The report, entitled "Asian Water Development Outlook," was submitted to the Asia-Pacific Water Forum in Singapore, which will discuss the issue at a summit in Japan next week. The report also comes before a U.N. meeting in Indonesia next week to discuss a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

"Water quality management has mostly been a neglected issue in Asian developing member countries. The annual economic cost is likely to be billions of dollars," Biswas wrote. The report said massive urbanization will present new types of water-related challenges. In contrast to cities in developed countries such as Tokyo, developing countries have fallen behind in the collection, treatment, and safe disposal of wastewater, it said.

Climate change is likely to increase the frequency of extreme events like droughts and floods and introduce high levels of risks and uncertainties that the water industry may not be able to handle with confidence, Biswas said. The report, written by a team of water specialists, covers 12 Asian countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

The ADB report recommends major changes in water governance practices in most Asian developing countries, and to look to successful models such as in Singapore and Cambodia which had improved monitoring of water consumption. The report also called for countries to improve the accessibility of data on water quality.

Friends of the Earth: Governments should say no to biofuels

Global Research (Canada): Biofuels must not be promoted as a solution to climate change, Friends of the Earth International said today, just a few days before key United Nations climate change talks start in Bali, Indonesia. The environmental group, speaking ahead of the 3-14 December Bali talks, warned that an increase in the use of biofuels - also widely known as agrofuels - would have disastrous social and environmental impacts.

Agrofuels such as palm oil are set to be promoted as a major solution to climate change at the UN climate talks. The demand for agrofuels mainly to fuel cars -mainly in over-consuming industrialised countries- is skyrocketing. Yet recent studies from around the world highlight that the agrofuels boom is having severe social and environmental impacts. Forests are being cut down and Indigenous Peoples and forest dwelling communities are being displaced, often violently, from their territories to make way for agrofuels plantations run by multinational corporations that expropriate land and water resources.

Large areas of forest lands traditionally used by Indigenous Peoples have already been expropriated for monoculture plantations, for example for palm oil in Indonesia where it is estimated that 100 million people, of which 40 million are indigenous peoples, depend mainly on forests and natural resource goods and services. Paradoxically, while agrofuels are being promoted as a solution to climate change, the draining of peat lands and cutting down of tropical forests for their cultivation is releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, far more than would be saved by resorting to agrofuels.

…Farah Sofa, deputy director of WALHI/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia said: “Ninety percent of palm oil – which is used in thousands of everyday products, from margarine and bread to lipstick and soap – comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. The palm oil industry has accelerated deforestation, driving Indigenous Peoples off their land. The demand for palm oil for agrofuel use could sound the death knell for our forests. What we need is a reduction of palm oil consumption, an end to its export, and forest conservation that respects Indigenous Peoples’ land rights.”

Sir David King opens new environmental institute

Guardian (UK): The government's chief scientific advisor, Prof Sir David King, is to establish an institute at Oxford University aimed at finding private sector solutions to environmental problems. King, 68, is due to leave government next month after seven years as chief scientific advisor and head of the government office of science. He will remain in his post as research director of Cambridge University's chemistry department.

King will take the directorship of the new Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, founded with £10m from Martin Smith, an Oxford graduate. Michael Spence, head of Oxford's social sciences division, told that the school would be the first environmental institute focused on the role the private sector can play.

The school will make both teaching and research a more mainstream part of Oxford so that students in all social science disciplines become more aware of environmental issues. Staff in other departments such as law and economics will sit on the board of the school. "Environmental consciousness is the classics of the 21st century. We're interested in reaching students who regard themselves as the next prime minister or company directors that will need an awareness of environment issues to be effective," Spence said.

King told that the school's pioneering credentials were what drew him to the role: "What's different about it and essentially isn't mimicked anywhere else in the world is the interface between enterprise, society and government to the subject. "Dealing with environmental problems has to be done with the private sector rather than against the private sector.

"The biggest challenge we have is climate change and therefore carbon exhaust emissions and green house gas emissions will be key research priorities." King expects the school to generate policies to feed to the United Nations, international governments and act as a think tank for the UK government.

Imperial College London's Prof John Beddington, a specialist in applied biology and fisheries, will take over as the government's chief scientific advisor in January.

Vietnamese say country lacks strategy on climate change

Monsters & Critics, via Deutsche Press-Agentur: Vietnamese officials, responding to a new United Nations report warning that climate change threatens the country's economic development, confirmed Thursday that they lack a national strategy to cope with the effects of global warming.

'Vietnam doesn't have a strategy to adapt to climate change,' said Le Nguyen Tuong, a climate change expert at Vietnam's Institute of Hydrometeorology. He said both short- and long-term plans for coping with climate change were 'still in the discussions phase.' The UN Development Programme's Human Development report, released on Tuesday, singles out Vietnam as one of the developing countries most heavily affected by global warming, along with Egypt and Bangladesh.

The report warns that Vietnam's low-lying Mekong Delta, which produces half the country's rice, faces a 'grim forecast' of higher salinity and partial inundation due to rising sea levels. The report also warns of increasingly powerful typhoons and tropical storms. It cites earlier UNDP and World Bank reports in predicting that climate change could threaten 10 per cent of Vietnam's GDP, and displace 22 million of its citizens.

Vietnam's central provinces are particularly prone to flooding after major storms. So far this year, more than 300 people have drowned in floods. In 2006, the figure was more than 600, including 200 fishermen who drowned at sea during Typhoon Chanchu. The country has 8,000 kilometres of dikes to protect low-lying urban and agricultural land. But lack of coherent management limits the dikes' effectiveness in coping with climate change, said Armand Evers, a water management expert at the Netherlands embassy, who works with the Vietnamese government on its national water strategy.

'We are quite disappointed in the guidelines for coastal protection,' Evers said. 'There is no integral concept. If there is a typhoon in one province on Monday, then the ministers will define a programme on Tuesday to implement by Wednesday, without looking at whether it is necessary. [The dikes] are very expensive, they are not well maintained, and often, they're not well designed.'…

Africa is the 'worst victim' climate change

Engineering News (South Africa): Findings in an intergovernmental panel on climate change’s fourth assessment synthesis report states that arid and semiarid land in Africa is set to increase by bewteen 5% to 8% (between 60-million hectares and 90 million hectares) by 2080s under a range of climate-change scenarios.

“Africa has become the worst-off victim of worldwide climate change,” said equality management and climate change chief director Peter Luckey in a keynote address delivered on behalf of Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk on Wednesday. He added that Africa had a good response mechanism for dealing with drought, but the reality with climate change was that there was major pressure on resilience.

“Africa faces challenges of unequal access to resources, enhanced food insecurity and poor health-management systems. These stresses will be enhanced by climate variability and change, and will further enhance the vulnerabilities of many people in Africa,” he said. He continued that a decline in agricultural yields was likely owing to drought and land degradations, especially in marginal areas. “Ecosystems in Africa are likely to experience major shifts and changes in species range and possible extinctions. What this means is that 25% to 40% of sub-Saharan species are at risk for extinction. The cost for adaptation will exceed 5% to 10% of gross domestic product.

“Climate change is taking place, because annual fossil carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions increased from an average of 6,4 GtC a year in the 1990s, to 7,2 GtC a year between 2000 and 2005. CO2 radioactive forcing increased by 20% from 1995 to 2005, which is the largest in any decade in at least the last 200 years,” he said. “We have to mitigate and adapt and do it now. There will come a time when we cannot adapt our way out of the problem, so we have to mitigate to avoid an unimaginable impact. There has to be a global effort, as no country, region, or continent can go it alone,” he concluded.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

US military experience lends lessons to Bangladesh relief

Terra Daily posted a story from American Armed Forces Press Service about helping Bangladesh respond to Typhoon Sidr's aftermath. Something about applying the lessons the US learned from its Katrina experience.

British Energy reckons nuclear power stations are safe from flooding, and Greenpeace harrumphs British Energy, the UK's biggest nuclear operator, has just published a report (pdf) they claim shows that new nuclear reactors in the UK could be protected from flooding and sea-level rise caused by climate change. They concluded "that all our sites can be sustained over the next 100 years." But their report doesn't cut the mustard.

British Energy themselves admit that "much work remains to be done to confirm the suitability of these sites against modern standards". All they can suggest that might work is "engineering measures" to protect coast lines and "setting back" new reactors a bit further away from the sea, which is to say the least a bit vague.

How do we know this won't work? Because earlier this year Greenpeace commissioned the experts at the Middlesex University Flood Hazard Research Centre to examine the risk of nuclear reactors being flooded by sea level rise at Dungeness in Kent, Sizewell in Suffolk, Bradwell in Essex and Hinkley Point in Somerset. Yesterday, British Energy named all four of these as preferred sites for new nuclear power stations.

Our report showed that the predicted sea level rises will have a devastating effect on these sites, far more than they are letting on. In a worst-case scenario - in which the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melts, an event some scientists think may occur during the 21st century and which would trigger an abrupt and extreme rise in sea level estimated at 5-6m - all four sites would be in serious trouble. For instance:

  • At Dungeness, by 2080 high tides could be around 4.35m higher than today. This could cause the total loss of the power station site and also a significant portion of the surrounding area through erosion and flooding.
  • At Bradwell, flooding could increase and become much more severe, enough to wash over protective embankments and potentially enough to turn the power station site into an island.
  • At Sizewell, the coastline is considered to be vulnerable to extensive coastline retreat. An extreme sea level rise would cause significant erosion and flooding that could cause sections of the power station to be flooded.
  • At Hinkley Point, the 0.7-0.8m increase in the 50-year surge height predicted by 2080 could add significant additional stress to the power station's sea defences. Siting a new nuclear plant to the east of the present stations really wouldn't be advisable or indeed feasible.

The animation we produced shows in graphic detail exactly what this means.

Whatever British Energy might like to suggest, building new nuclear reactors on coastal sites will not be economically or even physically possible. The government looks set deliver a vision of a nuclear future fixated on the technology and infrastructure of the past, but our report shows in black and white why nuclear power is nothing more than a dangerous and expensive distraction from the real solutions to climate change. Nothing British Energy has said changes that in the slightest.

China warns of water shortage in lush Guangdong

Reuters: China's green southern province of Guangdong is facing a huge water shortage due to pollution and inefficient use, state media said on Wednesday. The threat to China's manufacturing centre, which also supplies neighboring Hong Kong with most of its water, meant that in three years only a third of its water demand would be met, the China Daily said.

"By 2020, the shortfall will widen to about half of the province's water demand, or more than 3.1 billion cubic meters, if no measures are taken to address the problem," Zhang Hong'ou, president of the Guangzhou Institute of Geography, was quoted as saying. Zhang said the province had abundant water resources but more than 3.1 billion cubic meters of sewage was discharged into rivers throughout Guangdong every year.

At least 16 million residents, or 14 percent of the city's population, faced water shortages because of pollution. "The authorities need to strengthen enforcement efforts to punish polluters and encourage water-saving measures," said Chen Junhong, a professor at the geography institute. The fight against pollution is exacerbated by local governments neglecting calls to crack down on polluting companies for the sake of economic growth, Chen added.

The State Environmental Protection Administration said in a statement on Monday that fines for some polluters of water resources had been raised by up to five times the previous amount to 500,000 yuan ($67,640). In a central five-year plan that ended in 2005, water in 26 percent of "key" lakes and rivers targeted for clean-up across China was so contaminated that it was classified as unfit even to touch or to irrigate crops. Emissions of sulphur dioxide, the industrial pollutant that causes acid rain, grew by almost a third, despite a goal set in 2000 to cut emissions by 10 percent.

Future of water may leave US thirsting

Disaster News Network: Much of the U.S. is bracing for a future when more people will need to make do with less water. One factor is the climate: parts of the Southeast and Southwest are undergoing severe drought conditions. Warmer temperatures are shrinking the snowpack on mountain peaks, eroding the water source for much of the West. The reservoirs of the Colorado River are half full after eight years of drought and other parts of the U.S. are coming to terms with shrinking groundwater. But that's not the only factor at work.

"Drought is a normal phenomenon," said Frank Richards, a hydrometeorologist with the National Weather Service. "The biggest shift isn't climate change," he said. "It's population." Some parts of the nation that struggle most with water shortages are growing rapidly. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that 88 percent of the nation's growth is going to the South and West, with almost half going to California, Texas and Florida - all states with vulnerable water supplies.

… The 2007 water plan for Texas predicts the state's population will more than double from 2000 levels by 2060 and water demand will increase by 27 percent, while shrinking groundwater and sedimentation in reservoirs will cause the supply to fall by about 18 percent. By 2010, the situation could cost the economy $9.1 billion per year. Brad Udall, director of Western Water Assessment for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that communities in the Southwest have had to change how they plan their water supplies.

In much of the West, the water supply depends on the snow that falls in the mountains and melts in spring and summer. People rely on winter snows to keep rivers flowing and reservoirs filling. But if there isn't much snow, there isn't as much water to melt. In recent years, snowpacks have declined over much of the West. While the peaks of the Colorado Rockies are getting good amounts of snow in winter, Udall said not enough ends up in public reservoirs.

…In the short term, the water shortages are likely to be an inconvenience, with homeowners putting up with brown lawns, Udall said. "In the longer term, because all the water out here is fully allocated, we're looking at some transfers from agriculture, which has most of the water, to municipalities, which need it for growth," he said. If that happens, he said, some people are going to have to make serious - and likely painful - changes to their lives.

From floating houses to rafts of hyacinths

Guardian (UK): The brightly painted homes that line the waterfront in Maasbommel, in the Dutch province of Gelderland, are eye-catching. They are also leading the way in the fight against climate change. In a country where more than half the land lies below sea level, these homes are built to be able to float.

Adri van Oojen, 44, designed the 48 homes of this kind in the region. Following the floods in 1995, which forced nearly 400,000 people in the Rhine floodplain to evacuate their homes, the Dutch government decided to strengthen the flood defences of the town by doubling the height of the dyke to 10 metres (33ft) above sea level.

…The house is formed of two parts. The bottom is made of hollow concrete to provide buoyancy and held in place with huge steel posts which are able to withstand the strong currents of the river. The top half is made of wood, making it lighter and easier to float. Water and electricity are brought in through flexible pipes that have been adapted to move when faced with the force of the water. This means that the house can rise up to four metres without losing its energy supply and remain habitable.

The homes are valued at approximately €300,000 (£215,500). Although they have yet to be tested, all 48 have been sold. However, Van Oojen is confident that they will play an important role in the future of flood defence for the Netherlands. He said the homes had been popular not only with holidaymakers but with people who wanted to make Maasbommel their home.

"In Holland we have always lived with this threat. We have to live with the water and not against it, so something needs to be done. With these homes, people now have the opportunity to live in a place with a high risk of water damage. They are able to live in places like this with beautiful views and not worry about evacuating."

He added that with a threat of floods in the area one year in every 15, dykes were not always enough for people who wanted to live on the waterfront. "The government needs an answer to deal with the effects of climate change," he said.

While rich countries are building houses that can float, developing countries such as Vietnam are giving people swimming lessons in the hope they will survive flooding caused by global warming. Few in the developing world can afford the investment required to defend against flooding. Yet the impact of climate change is the greatest for countries such as Kenya and Vietnam, where mass poverty is already a big problem.

In West Bengal in India, the Ganges Delta area known as the chars is home to more than 2.5 million people, of whom 80% live in extreme poverty. With minor floods causing high levels of damage and flooding a constant threat, people cope by rebuilding their homes when they are destroyed. Steps are being taken to make homes more flood-proof by building earth platforms to accommodate buildings for four households or erecting bamboo flood shelters on stilts to take refuge above monsoon floodwaters.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Recent stories about Typhoon Mitag as of 9:35 a.m. EST

Philippines hit by two storms; typhoon leaves 17 dead, 540000 ...
Forbes, NY - 37 minutes ago
MANILA (Thomson Financial) - The death toll from typhoon Mitag rose to 17 in the Philippines, officials said, as search operations continued for a missing ...
Day in pictures
BBC News, UK - 42 minutes ago
A Taiwanese tourist poses for photos at the northern Shihmen Dam, as authorities release water built up by heavy rains from Typhoon Mitag. ...
"Hagibis" re-enters Philippines as tropical depression
Xinhua, China - 45 minutes ago
... it crossed the Philippines last week. It was dragged back by the forces of Typhoon "Mitag," which swept the north tip of the country and killed 17 people.
UPI newstrack topnews
United Press International - 1 hour ago
Filipino President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Cabinet ministers and civil defense officials were discussing typhoons Hagibis and Mitag, which together have ...
Quake hits storm-battered Philippines
United Press International - 2 hours ago
Filipino President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Cabinet ministers and civil defense officials were discussing typhoons Hagibis and Mitag, which together have ...
Weakened typhoon blows towards Japan, leaves 17 dead in Philippines
Hindu, India - 2 hours ago
Twenty-one other people remain missing from Tropical Storm Mitag, as another weather disturbance _ Tropical Depression Hagibis _ crossed Mindoro island

Researching death to save life: climate change and genocide

Guardian (UK): Droughts in Africa, hurricanes in America, floods in Bangladesh - the dramatic images of climate change. However, according to Dr Juergen Zimmerer, if world temperatures continue to rise, there could worse in store: genocide.

As Zimmerer, director of the new Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence at Sheffield University, explains: globalisation has intensified the competition for resources: "Climate change will increase the scarcity of resources, be it habitable land or drinkable water, amid the already existing shortage of fossil energy such as oil. "Genocide and competition over resources are definitely related and my fear is that the 21st century, rather than the 20th, will turn out to be the century of genocides." The possibility of genocide being caused by globalisation, climate change and competition for scarce resources will be one of the focal areas of study at the centre, the first of its kind in the UK.

….Zimmerer hopes that knowledge of genocide will help prevent it, but "not in the way of fostering military intervention. Or, at least, it should not be reduced to this. If we understand that the construction of binary opposites lies at the heart of genocide, then we should realise that education is what matters: education against constructing societies as absolute others."

The Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence, which opened last month, will coordinate research on genocide, offering PhD and MA research in genocide, mass violence and other subjects aimed at people who deal with the causes and consequences of these phenomena in their daily jobs. Distance learning will allow the centre to reach people in regions affected by genocide; something that will ensure real events shape its academic study. The centre will also support international cooperation on genocide studies and looks set to become a hub in the field, housing the office of the International Network of Genocide Scholars, of which Zimmerer is president. The network was formed in Germany in early 2005, as a non-profit and non-partisan organisation that would foster scholarly exchange and academic research on genocide. Also in the centre is the editorial office of the Journal of Genocide Research.

…The importance of disinterested research centres becomes evident when one considers that there is no agreed definition on what genocide is. It is often said to be the elimination of an ethnic group. But other mass killings are not so clear-cut. While "the crimes of Pol Pot are labelled by many as genocide, others reject this, because the victims belonged to the same ethnic group", Zimmerer says, adding that the same applies to the class-led mass killings in Stalinist Russia.

…The main ingredients of genocide are still around in plentiful doses. The prevention of events such as the Holocaust or Rwandan genocides, Zimmerer says, lies in education. If this is so, it demonstrates the urgency of the work of centres like the one in Sheffield for a world that is already feeling the effects of climate change.

Drought lowered earth's ability to absorb carbon: study

CBC News (Canada): A terrible drought that shrivelled crops and farmer's incomes from Canada to Mexico in 2002 also slashed the earth's ability to absorb carbon by half, new data suggests. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has just released the first data from Carbon Tracker, a new modelling system designed to allow researchers to figure out how much carbon goes up into the atmosphere, how much comes down, and where it ends up. The data shows that during the North American drought in 2002, the soil, trees, crops and grasslands could absorb only half of the usual amount of carbon.

Normally, the continent's natural carbon sinks — the terrestrial ecosystem — absorb approximately 650 million metric tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. That's about one-third of the total North American emissions from human and natural sources. The study, published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that in 2002, the amount the sinks absorbed plummeted to 320 million metric tonnes. That left the equivalent of the yearly emissions from more than 200 million cars in the atmosphere.

Wouter Peters, lead author of the study, said the data show that just as greenhouse gases are believed to produce climate extremes, "the reverse is also true. Climate extremes can have a major impact on the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere." The study was a product of a collaboration among NOAA, Environment Canada, and several other institutions. Researchers made more than 28,000 observations, capturing air in flasks at the top of 10-metre poles and shipping them every week to NOAA for analysis. By comparing the concentration of CO2, the scientists inferred how much carbon the Earth's sinks were absorbing.

Droughts leave fewer plants to absorb carbon dioxide. In another example of the effect, a heat wave and drought in Europe in 2003 left more than 500 million metric tons of carbon in the atmosphere. It is a classic positive feedback scenario, said co-author Andy Jacobson of NOAA. "If warming causes drought, and droughts end up releasing more carbon, and carbon causes warming, that's a positive feedback cycle that can get pretty scary."

Understanding how much carbon the natural sinks can absorb is key to anticipating the effects of climate change. At the moment, the earth's natural sinks absorb about half of the carbon released by burning fossil fuels, but the study points out that those emissions are rising rapidly. As they rise, so do the dangers of other positive feedbacks, such as the release of large carbon reservoirs buried beneath the permafrost.

The long-term goal of Carbon Tracker is to be able to track the source of carbon emissions precisely, Jacobson said. This will be essential in an era of regulations on carbon emissions. "There will need to be a verification system in place," he said. "You're not going to hide anything. If you put it into the atmosphere, it's going to be seen eventually, all around the world."

Accuracy of past hurricane counts corroborated

Terra Daily: Counting tropical storms that occurred before the advent of aircraft and satellites relies on ships logs and hurricane landfalls, making many believe that the numbers of historic tropical storms in the Atlantic are seriously undercounted. However, a statistical model based on the climate factors that influence Atlantic tropical storm activity shows that the estimates currently used are only slightly below modeled numbers and indicate that the numbers of tropical storms in the recent past are increasing, according to researchers.

"We are not the first to come up with an estimate of the number of undercounted storms," says Michael E. Mann, associate professor of meteorology, Penn State, and director of the Earth System Science Center.

…The researchers report in the current issue of Geophysical Review Letters "that the long-term record of historical Atlantic tropical cyclone counts is likely largely reliable, with an average undercount bias at most of approximately one tropical storm per year back to 1870."

…They looked at how the cycle of El Nino/La Nina, the pattern of the northern hemisphere jet stream and tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures influence tropical storm generation by creating a model that includes these three climate variables. The information is available back to 1870.

The statistical model proved successful in various tests of accuracy. The model also predicted 15 total Atlantic tropical storms with an error margin of 4 before the current season began. So far, 14 storms have formed, with a little more than one week left in the season.

The model, trained on the tropical storm occurrence information from 1944 to 2006 showed an undercount before 1944 of 1.2 storms per year. When the researchers considered a possible undercount of three storms per year, their model predicted too few storms total. The model only works in the range of around 1.2 undercounted storms per year with the climate data available. The model was statistically significant in its findings.

"Fifty percent of the variation in storm numbers from one year to the next appears to be predictable in terms of the three key climate variables we used," says Mann. "The other 50 percent appears to be pure random variation. The model ties the increase in storm numbers over the past decade to increasing tropical ocean surface temperatures.

"We cannot explain the warming trend in the tropics without considering human impacts on climate. This is not a natural variation," says Mann. "This . . . supports other work suggesting that increases in frequency, as well as powerfulness, of Atlantic tropical cyclones are potentially related to long-term trends in tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures, trends that have in turn been connected to anthropogenic influences on climate," the researchers report.

China says Three Gorges mega-dam threats controlled

Reuters: Chinese officials in charge of the huge Three Gorges Dam said on Tuesday they had spent billions of yuan to guard against deadly landslides around the reservoir and would seek to minimize threats as waters reached their peak. The dam, the world's largest hydro-electric feat, seeks to tame the Yangtze River, while moving up to 1.4 million people, many of them poor hill farmers from Hubei in central China and neighboring Chongqing municipality.

Scientists studying the Three Gorges area have said that rising waters have strained already brittle shores, triggering landslides, which may worsen when waters reach a maximum height of 175 meters (574 feet) above sea level in the next year or two. But the officials told a news conference that 12 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) had been allocated over past years to "geological repairs," and they were confident that such efforts were working.

"I would describe it as effective control. Of course effective control doesn't mean that in the future there won't be any landslides or threats that arise," said Wang Xiaofeng, director of the Three Gorges project construction committee office. "The Chinese government is closely monitoring and is intensifying repair work, and I think we can avoid losses as far as is possible."

Li Yong'an, the general manager of the China Yangtze River Three Gorges Project Development Corp, said the dam had not triggered any "major" landslides along the mainstream of the Yangtze, a phrasing that pointedly left unanswered any effects on tributaries flowing into the reservoir. Li also refused to say how many places around the dam face serious land instability or how many people may have to move because of the threat. "There are no specific figures," he told Reuters, referring the questions to other departments.

…Tuesday's statements were the latest in a government offensive to defend the project against claims that pollution and geological threats are piling up as the waters rise and strain brittle slopes around the 660-km (410-mile) reservoir. Officials appeared to give credence to some fears in September when they warned of a possible "environmental catastrophe" from pollution and landslides -- a departure from years of bright official praise for the dam. But Wang, who attended that meeting, said the warning was nothing new and environmental threats were under control….

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cyprus seeks divine intervention to end drought

If prayer is the mainstay of your drought planning, you probably need to try harder. Georgia, I'm looking at you... Reuters: Cyprus's ancient Orthodox Church called on Monday for prayers to end a crippling drought threatening to sap reservoirs dry of water by the end of the year. Cyprus, which is heavily reliant on rainfall for water supplies, is suffering one of the worst droughts of the past 100 years. The Mediterranean island's reservoirs are only 8.1 percent full, according to the most recent data.

Authorities say Cyprus's largest dam will run dry in the next 30 days, and they will soon start emergency drilling to tap underground water deposits. Prayers for rain are rare, and the last occurred in 1998, when there was a comparably critical water shortage. "We are sure that if we all pray with deep faith the Almighty will heed our prayers; 'Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full'," Church leader Archbishop Chrysostomos said in a circular on Monday, quoting from the Gospel of John.

The liturgy will be held on December 2 in churches across Cyprus. Cyprus's church is an independent branch of the eastern Orthodox communion and traces its lineage back to some of Jesus Christ's earliest followers.

A selection of news about Typhoon Mitag, as of 9:33 a.m. EST

Rescuers on alert as storms thrash Philippines
ABC Online, Australia - 5 minutes ago
Rescuers went on full alert after Typhoon Mitag slammed into the Philippines, killing at least eight people and forcing hundreds of thousands from their ...
Triple typhoon threat buffets Philippines
United Press International - 13 minutes ago
26 (UPI) -- Typhoon Mitag, packing winds of up to 100 mph, battered the Philippines Monday while another storm threatened a second strike and a third loomed ...
Typhoon "Mitag" hit the Philippines
Avionews, Italy - 14 minutes ago
(WAPA) - "Mitag", the category-1-typhoon whose arrival has been feared for the last days, hit the Philippines between Saturday and Sunday with winds up to ...
NDDC Update: sitrep No 7 re Typhoon "mina" (Mitag) as of 06:00 AM ...
ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland - 23 minutes ago
- Associated hazards brought by TY "Mina" wil further be enhanced because of the prevailing La Nina conditions in the Country. ...
PAGASA explains failure to nail Mina’s track, Philippines - 1 hour ago
... Typhoon Mina's change of track. Mina (international codename: Mitag) suddenly veered toward Isabela in extreme northern Luzon before dawn on Saturday, ...
General Secretary Manh tours flood-hit provinces
Viet Nam News, Vietnam - 1 hour ago
The Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control yesterday issued a warning regarding Typhoon Mitag, which was approaching the South China Sea. ...

Indonesia's peatlands: a little-known culprit in climate change

Terra Daily, via Agence France-Presse: Viewed from the air, the vast, cool forests of the Kampar peninsula on Indonesia's Sumatra island are a world away from China's belching factories or America's clogged freeways. But appearances can be deceptive. Most of this 400,000-hectare (988,000-acre) peninsula is peatland: dense, swampy forest that, when healthy, efficiently soaks up greenhouse gases from the world's worst polluters. When drained, cleared or burned, however, this wilderness transforms into one of the worst climate vandals, releasing six to nine times the amount of carbon stored in regular equatorial forests.

Swamps have not traditionally held the same ecological sex appeal as, say, doe-eyed wildlife. But as nations prepare for a major global conference on climate change in Indonesia in December, the world's focus is changing. The December 3-14 UN summit on the resort island of Bali will see international delegates thrash out a framework for negotiations on a global regime to combat climate change when the current phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. A 2007 figure from the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research puts deforestation at around 25 percent of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Avoiding emissions from deforestation has so far been left out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which focuses instead on reducing emissions from sources such as industry and transport. Widespread deforestation has made Indonesia the third largest emitter of carbon in the world, the contribution coming most dramatically in the form of near-annual forest fires on islands such as Sumatra and Borneo. The fires, which send choking smoke as far as Singapore and Malaysia, are for the most part caused by the clearing of peatlands. And the destruction of Indonesia's peatlands accounts for four percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Greenpeace.

Peatlands are not just a threat when they are burning. A flight over Kampar reveals scars of cleared land gouged from the forest, linked with canals built to transport legal and illegal logs to inland mills. Much of the carbon released from peatland swamps is the result of draining so the land, or the logs, can be used, says Jonotoro, a peatlands expert at the forestry ministry and an independent consultant. As the water level drops, more and more of the stock of carbon is released into the atmosphere.

…At the western end of Kampar sits Pangkalan Kerinci, home of a massive pulp and paper mill belonging to Asia Pacific Resources International (April). The mill -- and the manicured company town that surrounds it -- is the nerve centre of a sprawling acacia plantation, much of which is on peatland. April is keen to boost its environmental credentials, running a tagging system to prevent illegal logging. Two of its security guards were killed in a 2002 confrontation with illegal loggers. Still, seven of April's partner companies are under investigation for illegally cutting forests. A cornerstone of April's green efforts is water management in its peatland plantations. At its nearby Pelalawan plantation, a 1,100-kilometre (684-mile) network of canals regulates water levels over 100,000 hectares of planted forest. The goal of the management is to reduce emissions from the peatland beneath, explained Jouko Virta, head of April's global fibre supply. By keeping the water table at the highest level tolerated by the plantation trees, Virta says carbon dioxide emissions from the peatland can be reduced by 80 percent.

The company is now pursuing an audacious plan to push into Kampar, converting more than 100,000 hectares around the peninsula's perimeter into more plantations, while leaving the centre untouched. April says the move will reduce carbon emissions, since much of this perimeter is already heavily degraded, either by illegal loggers or old concessionaires. By installing their own plantations and managing them responsibly, they believe they will keep illegal loggers from penetrating further inland. "National parks are the happiest hunting grounds for illegal loggers, and the only way you can protect them is by building barriers," Virta told AFP.

WWF reserved judgement on April's plan, saying they needed to see evidence that the Kampar ring is really as degraded as the company says, and that emissions can actually be reined in as much as they say. "I think we need to see the scientific analysis," said Nazir Foead, WWF's policy and corporate engagement director, adding that the organisation was aiming to complete its own analysis by December's Bali meeting. Consultant Jonotoro is unconvinced by April's optimism and said acacia plantations will never be a success on Kampar's nutrient-poor peatland. "The main point of why they chose this area is because they need natural timber, big hardwood timber" for their mills, he said, referring to their legal practice of felling and processing the trees from their concessions before planting.

Alternate green futures

The IPCC process depends on scenarios, but few people know how to use them. Here's an attempt to expand our sense of future possibilities by plotting four scenarios using two drivers for change:

"Power Green" -- Centralized and Proactionary: a world where government and corporate entities tend to exert most authority, and where new technologies, systems and response models tend to be tried first and evaluated afterwards. This world is most conducive to geoengineering, but is also one in which we might see environmental militarization (i.e., the use of military power to enforce global environmental regulations) and aggressive government environmental controls. "Green Fascism" is one form of this scenario; "Geoengineering 101" from my Earth Day Essay is another.

"Functional Green" -- Centralized and Precautionary: a world in which top-down efforts emphasize regulation and mandates, while the deployment of new technologies emphasizes improving our capacities to limit disastrous results. Energy efficiency dominates here, along with economic and social innovations like tradable emissions quotas and re-imagined urban designs. The future as envisioned by Shellenberger and Nordhaus could be one form of this scenario; the future as envisioned by folks like Bill McDonough or Amory Lovins could be another. Arguably, this is the default scenario for Europe and Japan.

"We Green" -- Distributed and Precautionary: a world in which collaboration and bottom-up efforts prove decisive, and technological deployments emphasize strengthening local communities, enhancing communication, and improving transparency. This is a world of micro-models and open source platforms, "Earth Witness" environmental sousveillance and locavorous diets. Rainwater capture, energy networks, and carbon labeling all show up here. This world (along with a few elements from the "Functional Green" scenario) is the baseline "bright green" future.

"Hyper Green" -- Distributed and Proactionary: a world in which things get weird. Distributed decisions and ad-hoc collaboration dominate, largely in the development and deployment of potentially transformative technologies and models. This world embraces experimentation and iterated design, albeit not universally; this scenario is likely to include communities and nations that see themselves as disenfranchised and angry. Micro-models and open source platforms thrive here, too, but are as likely to be micro-ecosystem engineering and open source nanotechnology as micro-finance and open source architecture. States and large corporations aren't gone, but find it increasingly hard to keep up. One form of this scenario would end with an open source guerilla movement getting its hands on a knowledge-enabled weapon of mass destruction; another form of this scenario is the "Teaching the World to Sing" story from my Earth Day Essay.

Is limiting federal subsidies to US farmers with incomes over $750,000 unreasonable?

Washington Post: Those who pay any attention have long understood that the government's crop subsidy programs are not a safety net for the hard-pressed denizens of Farm Country but rather a tremendous waste of taxpayers' money, artificially raising grocery prices and transferring income from the poor to the rich. Still, as the Senate continues its debate of a five-year farm bill larded with tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, including a $5.1 billion trust fund for farmers who insist on plowing dry land in the Dakotas and Texas, it's worth reflecting on exactly how unreal the discussion of agricultural policy has become.

Under current law, the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to who can receive crop subsidies and how much they can get. On paper, no one is allowed more than $360,000 in federal farm benefits per year, but the provision is riddled with loopholes. The upshot, according to the Agriculture Department, is that some 570 farms, concentrated in the cotton- and rice-growing regions of the Deep South, received $250,000 or more each in 2005. Two-thirds of all crop subsidies go to just 10 percent of farms.

To his credit, President Bush proposed making the $360,000 limit a real cap. More important, he wanted a means test barring payment to any producer whose annual adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000. Even this is pretty generous, considering that the president just vetoed a child health-care bill on the grounds that it would have provided medical insurance to some American families making more than $83,000 per year. But in the cloud-cuckoo land world of agriculture, Mr. Bush's idea was radical -- too radical for the House of Representatives, which brushed the administration proposal aside. The House version of the farm bill would allow full-time farming households earning as much as $2 million per year to collect payments.

In the Senate, there is still some hope for curbing the most egregious excesses. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is proposing an amendment that would cut off payments for farm households with incomes above $750,000. Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) want to cap payments at $250,000 a year per farm. Note that even if both of these amendments pass, a farm family making $749,999 a year could still receive a $249,999 handout from the taxpayers. For a Democratic Congress eager to restore a modicum of balance to the distribution of income in America, this should be a very easy call.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Group proposes plan to keep rising sea out of Bangkok

Bangkok Post: Alarmed by the prospect of global warming triggering a rise in sea levels, disaster prevention experts and a local political group yesterday called for the construction of a 100-billion-baht flood prevention wall to save the capital from being inundated. The call was made at a seminar on climate change and its impact on Bangkok held yesterday by the Bangkok 50 group, a political clan run by members of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party (TRT). Chalitrat Chandrubeksa, the group's acting leader, said it would launch a signature campaign to get 50,000 names to push for the project. It would also try to convince the next government to give the go-ahead to the project. Mr Chalitrat, a former TRT member, said the next government should not delay the decision as it would take up to eight years to build the city flood wall. The proposed wall, he said, would cost about 100 billion baht, but it would be worth it to save the city.

He cited climate change experts' forecasts that the sea level will rise from 1.5 metres to two metres in the next decade, which would pose a serious threat to the city. Smith Dharmasaroja, chairman of the National Disaster Warning Centre, supported the idea. He said Bangkok was at risk of being submerged by sea water because of rising sea levels and the problem of land subsidence. Mr Smith cited a study by the Military Mapping Office which found the city's land subsides about 5-8 centimetres every year. The land subsidence situation was getting worse, he said, adding that in one area the land had subsided almost one metre. He urged the next government to find proper measures to save the city from inundation, including the flood wall project.

Seree Supratid, the director of Rangsit University's natural disaster research centre, said the proposed flood prevention wall should stand at three metres higher than the moderate sea level. According to an initial design, the structure will be 80 kilometres long, starting from the mouth of the Ta Chin river to the Bang Pakong river. It will cover three provinces _ Samut Sakhon, Chachoengsao and Bangkok _ he said. The wall should be erected 300 metres offshore so there will be space for mangrove forest, which is a powerful natural barrier to prevent soil erosion. The academic noted that similar flood walls had already been built in flood-prone Netherlands and Singapore.

The project could not only save the city from rising sea levels, but also slow down coastal erosion, said Mr Seree. Bangkok slowly sinking has become a major concern for city residents after various forecasts by international academics and climate change experts about rising sea levels associated with climate change and the growing threat of global warming. Some reports say Bangkok will be permanently and completely under water, while others argue that the situation will not be as bad, although the city's floods will be longer and cover larger areas than before. However, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, cities located along the Chao Phraya river including Bangkok will be ''slightly damaged'' from rising sea levels.

Meat, poultry, vegetables feel heat from global warming

Agence France-Presse: From meat, poultry and milk to potatoes, onions and leafy greens, everything consumed on the world's dining tables is feeling the heat from climate change, scientists say. Researchers are trying to establish the extent to which global warming will affect livestock, plant life and staple crops such as rice to bolster their resistance to disease and breed stronger varieties. The world's billion poor, whether producers or consumers, will bear the brunt, warned scientists who ended a conference Saturday on agriculture and climate change in Hyderabad, southern India. "In some ways, the time for doing things is already past," said John McDermott, deputy director of research at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute. "The changes are already happening."

As an example, rift valley fever, a deadly virus transmitted to sheep, cattle, camels and humans by mosquito bites, is being fuelled by climate change, the scientist said. The virus is manifesting itself in broader swathes of East Africa and the Middle East because of climate variability in dry regions that helps vectors such as mosquitoes, tsetse flies and ticks to breed and spread, he said. "What you see are diseases moving into areas where they have not been before, which means sometimes animals are exposed where they haven't been for a long time," he said. "That leads to more outbreaks," McDermott added.

For the poor, livestock offers a livelihood as well as a savings bank they can tap, selling off their cows or chickens to deal with a health or family emergency. "These are the people who don't make much of an impact on the ecological footprint of the world," said McDermott. But they are also the people most at risk from damage wrought on livestock by diseases that could be aggravated by climate-related phenomena.

Scientists are also studying cropping and disease patterns in vegetables -- potatoes and tomatoes to cabbage and spinach, onion and garlic -- to see how they can cope with the stresses brought by global warming and its side-effects. "If you make it a given that temperatures will go up, water will be a problem -- that will be your worst-case scenario," said Jackie Hughes, deputy director of research at the Shanhua, Taiwan-based World Vegetable Centre. "You're going to have typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes," she said, adding vegetable growers may have to grow different varieties, use grafting techniques to address flooding and devise rain and insect protection for their crops. "Probably, it will mean a shift of where crops are grown -- onions moving a little bit in one direction and tomatoes, cabbages coming out of very, very dry areas," she added.

Success in tackling the impact of climate change on crops is important as the world is host to a billion people who are already underweight and under-nourished, Hughes said. The average adult is required to consume 74 kilogrammes of vegetables a year and "most don't reach that," she added. Scientists are also concerned about the potential effect of climate change on potato blight, a weather-driven disease that takes a heavy toll on potato crops. The pathogen that causes the blight is an "incredibly fast breeder," said Dyno Keatinge, deputy research head of the International Crops Research Institute here. "So I am worried, you don't see me smiling in complacency," said Keatinge, who comes from Ireland where the disease caused a great famine in the 1840s.

Global warming may bring more infernos in San Diego: Scientists say 2003, 2007 fires may usher in an age of megafires

North County Times (San Diego, California): After dodging two waves of catastrophic wildfires in four years, surely we don't have to worry about another one invading our neighborhoods for a while, right? Not so fast. Some climate experts say last month's enormous, wind-driven infernos, which torched 368,000 acres and destroyed 1,751 homes and businesses in San Diego County alone, could become a regular feature of life in Southern California. "There is more to come, unfortunately," said Thomas Swetnam, director of the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, in a telephone interview last week. We may be able to thank global warming for that.

... "There is a potential for the Southwest to more or less enter a permanent dust bowl situation," Swetnam said. "The extended drought that we are in now may become the norm." Southern California is in store for "a big, heavy drying spell," said Norm Miller, a climate scientist at UC Berkeley's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Miller is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which published several global warming reports and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore this year. Miller said 19 of 23 climate models scientists developed for California suggest many future storms will veer north, showering Seattle with more rain than it receives now and causing less to fall between Sacramento and the border. And, he said, "we're seeing more heat waves in Southern California. They're just going off the charts."

Making matters worse, Miller said, the hotter and drier conditions are likely to be accompanied by more episodes of hurricane-force Santa Ana winds that peak around Thanksgiving, rather than at the end of October. Miller and Nicole Schlegel, a scientist at UC Berkeley's Department of Earth and Planetary Science, highlighted the increased Santa Ana threat in a study published in August 2006 in the Geophysical Research Letters, a monthly publication of the American Geophysical Union. The University of Arizona's Swetnam termed it the first significant peer-reviewed study linking climate change with the future of wildfire in Southern California, although one that has yet to be verified by other studies. Miller said more wind not only could mean more fires overall, but more mammoth ones like those that ravaged five Southern California counties last month.

But some scientists say it is not a foregone conclusion that megafires will flare up more often. Tony Westerling, a UC Merced professor of environmental engineering and principal investigator for the California Climate Change Center at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said that is because the fires of the future will depend on many factors, not just warming. "Climate matters, but (its effect on Southern California fires) is sort of marginal compared to other places," Westerling said. "This is a place that (already) gets hot and dry every summer." And the region's signature chaparral and coastal sage scrub plants already burn on a regular basis, he said. Given that, extra Santa Anas may or may not significantly increase the fire threat, Westerling said. Because those winds are expected to arrive late in the year, they could follow rain at times when it is cooler and not trigger more fires, he said. "The reason Santa Anas matter so much in October is because you're coming off of the long, hot summer," he said.

However, Miller said those predicted extra winds are likely to follow on the heels of an even longer dry season that will persist through December. Westerling countered that while it is fairly certain the region will get hotter, it is unclear whether the heavily populated portion of Southern California on the coastal side of the mountains will get drier. He said some models suggest the region will receive less rain than now, while others suggest San Diego County and western Riverside County will become wetter. "It's not a simple story," Westerling said.

Nor is there a simple answer for the question of whether this year's fires are a direct consequence of global warming, scientists say. That's because conditions that contributed to the firestorms, such as the recent drought, Santa Ana winds and dry plants, cannot be linked conclusively to global warming, Swetnam said. It is in fact difficult to link any one event, including the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005, to global warming, Swetnam said. One can say only that, as climate changes become entrenched, the odds are Southern California firestorms will return more often, he said.

Hugo Hidalgo, a project scientist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the evidence is abundant, however, that the drought conditions that influenced the fires are being fueled in part by a weather phenomenon called La Nina. The climatic opposite of its better-known cousin, El Nino, which occurs when central Pacific waters warm more than normal and send heavier-than-normal rainfall California's way, La Nina occurs when the ocean is cooler than usual. La Ninas tend to deliver dry years. And the rainfall season that ended July 1 was one of the driest on record in San Diego and Riverside counties. "We hope that the conditions in the tropical Pacific will change and bring more moisture to the Southwest," Hidalgo said. "But it is certainly going to be a dry winter."