Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another typhoon hits the Philippines

I think Santi is also known as Mirinai. Alcuin Papa and Marlon Ramos in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: With Typhoon “Santi” making its way out of the Philippines, there will be a spot of good weather for the faithful to troop to cemeteries for the traditional All Saints’ Day commemoration Sunday.

…Nathaniel Cruz, deputy director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), made this welcome declaration at a press briefing Saturday morning, after Santi (international name: Mirinae) pummeled Metro Manila and southern Luzon provinces, bringing powerful winds that toppled electric posts and rains that triggered flash floods and landslides.

…Later on Saturday, Cruz said Santi had weakened into a tropical storm as it continued to move away. He said it was expected to leave the Philippine area of responsibility at around 2 p.m. Sunday and to be 670 kilometers west northwest of Metro Manila by Monday afternoon.

“We see no reason for the storm to slow down or come back,” Cruz said, adding that storm signals had been lowered. But at least 11 persons were reported killed and seven others reported missing when the typhoon pounded the Bicol and Calabarzon regions before quickly sweeping through the metropolis….

The typhoon track of Mirinae, before it hit the northern Philippine province of Luzon. Image compiled by Cyclonebiskit

Water use in the US less in 2005 than in 1975

Roger Greenway in Environment News Network: Just when you think all human activities are making the environment worse, news comes that our efforts to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impacts (our environmental footprint) are doing some good. According to a new U.S. Geological Survey report, the US is using less water now than during the peak years of 1975 and 1980, despite a 30 percent population increase during the same time period.

The report shows that in 2005 Americans used 410 billion gallons per day, slightly less than in 2000. The declines are attributed to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems and alternative technologies at power plants. Water withdrawals for public supply have increased steadily since 1950--when USGS began the series of five-year trend reports--along with the population that depends on these supplies.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the 410 billion gallons per day used by Americans was for producing electricity at thermoelectric power plants. Irrigation accounted for 31 percent and public supply 11 percent of the total. The remaining 9 percent of the water was for self-supplied industrial, livestock, aquaculture, mining and rural domestic uses.

"Because electricity generation and irrigation together accounted for a massive 80 percent of our water use in 2005, the improvements in efficiency and technology give us hope for the future," Castle said. The report also underscores the importance of recognizing the limits of the drinking water supplies on which our growing population depends. While public-supply withdrawals have continued to increase overall, per capita use has decreased in many States during recent decades….
Frederick Asiamah in, via Public Agenda (Accra): If views expressed at a recent high-level dialogue on Climate Change in Accra were anything to go by, then Africa, and for that matter Ghana, should not place its fate in the crucial UN Summit on Climate Change scheduled for Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009.

One thing that came out clearly was that Africa should not see the summit as a one-stop shop for solutions to what has become the biggest headache of the world today - Climate Change. Instead, the time is rife for a stronger South-South alliance, backed by home-grown mechanisms, which when combined with the least level of commitment from developed countries, can mitigate the rippling effects of the phenomenon….

Topographic map of Africa, Cassini cylindrical projection, by Bamse, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Interactions with aerosols boost warming potential of some gases

NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies: For decades, climate scientists have worked to identify and measure key substances -- notably greenhouse gases and aerosol particles -- that affect Earth’s climate. And they’ve been aided by ever more sophisticated computer models that make estimating the relative impact of each type of pollutant more reliable.

Yet the complexity of nature -- and the models used to quantify it -- continues to serve up surprises. The most recent? Certain gases that cause warming are so closely linked with the production of aerosols that the emissions of one type of pollutant can indirectly affect the quantity of the other. And for two key gases that cause warming, these so-called “gas-aerosol interactions” can amplify their impact.

“We’ve known for years that methane and carbon monoxide have a warming effect,” said Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York and lead author of a study published this week in Science. “But our new findings suggest these gases have a significantly more powerful warming impact than previously thought.”

When vehicles, factories, landfills, and livestock emit methane and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, they are doing more than just increasing their atmospheric concentrations. The release of these gases also have indirect effects on a variety of other atmospheric constituents, including reducing the production of particles called aerosols that can influence both the climate and the air quality. These two gases, as well as others, are part of a complicated cascade of chemical reactions that features competition with aerosols for highly reactive molecules that cleanse the air of pollutants.

Aerosols can have either a warming or cooling effect, depending on their composition, but the two aerosol types that Shindell modeled -- sulfates and nitrates -- scatter incoming light and affect clouds in ways that cool Earth. They are also related to the formation of acid rain and can cause respiratory distress and other health problems for those who breathe them….

This map shows the distribution of methane at the surface. New research shows that methane has an elevated warming effect due to its interactions with other substances in the atmosphere. Credit: NASA/Goddard

Friday, October 30, 2009

Investment in ecosystems key to adaptation

Marcela Valente in IPS: Investing in the sustainable management of ecosystems and curbing environmental degradation greatly improves the capacity of nations to adapt to climate change, according to a study carried out in 16 countries by two environmental organisations.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Argentine Wildlife Foundation (FVSA) presented a report Thursday in Buenos Aires which states that conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems are essential for adaptation to global warming.

The most conservative estimates indicate that 63 billion dollars a year are needed to protect the environmental services such ecosystems provide for humanity. A partial costing of the services themselves valued them at 33 trillion dollars a year, according to a research paper in the scientific journal Nature.

In the run-up to the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 15), to be held Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen, Diego Moreno, head of FVSA, emphasised that "effective environmental management should be an essential part of adaptation strategies."

He was speaking before the presentation of the study, titled "Nuevos Paradigmas para Financiamiento, Desarrollo y Naturaleza. Casos de Adaptación para Responder a los Impactos del Cambio Climático" (New Paradigms for Funding, Development and Nature: Cases of Adaptation in Response to the Impact of Climate Change), which will be launched at the COP 15 summit. The study examines 16 cases of adaptation on the five continents, covering a total area that includes 10 percent of the world population, currently estimated at over 6.8 billion people….

Johann Elias Ridinger (1698-1767): Schöpfung (Creation), 18th c.

Typhoon Mirinae already raining on the Philippines

EurekAlert: Infrared imagery from NASA's Aqua satellite revealed that Typhoon Mirinae's cold thunderstorm clouds were already over sections of the central and northern Philippines on October 30 at 4:53 p.m. (Asia/Manila) local time. Mirinae is also known as "Santi" in the Philippines.

Microwave satellite imagery from NASA's Aqua satellite showed that Mirinae's center was close to making a landfall as the storm continued its approach from the east. The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument provided infrared data on Mirinae's cloud top temperatures, and showed some strong convection and strong thunderstorms with moderate to heavy rainfall over eastern sections of the northern Philippines. The microwave image was created combining AIRS and Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) data. AMSU is another instrument that flies on NASA's Aqua satellite.

The microwave image revealed cold areas in the storm that indicate ice in cloudtops, and heavy precipitation. Around the eye are the coldest cloud temperatures, as cold as -63F. Microwave data suggests cloud heights to the 200 millibar level, near the tropopause.

Warnings are in effect in the Philippines. Public storm warning signal 3 is in effect in the following districts of Luzon: Quezon, Polillo island, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Lubang Island, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Metro Manila; Public storm warning signal 2 is in effect in the following districts of Luzon: Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga, Zambales, Occidental Mindoro, Albay, Burias Island; and Public storm warning signal 1 is in effect in the following districts of Luzon: Isabela, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet, La Union, Pangasinan, Sorsogon, Masbate, Romblon, Calamian Group. In Visayas, the signal is raised in Northern Samar and Northern Panay…

This infrared image from NASA's AIRS instrument on the Aqua Satellite shows the extent of Mirinae's high clouds (purple and blue) on Oct. 30 are colder than -63F. Notice the clouds were already over the northern and central areas of Luzon, the Philippines. Credit: NASA JPL, Ed Olsen

Report estimates adaptation costs, impacts to utilities

Public The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the Association of the Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) released a report recently detailing the impacts climate change can have on wastewater and drinking water utilities and estimating the adaptation costs for these critical facilities to be between $448B and $944B through 2050. The associations, which represent the nation's public wastewater and drinking water agencies, urged Congress and the Obama administration to recognize that climate change is fundamentally about water and to implement policies that will help utilities take timely actions to adapt.

"Now is the time to establish policies, invest in research, and provide support so that water and wastewater utilities can begin to plan the necessary adaptation strategies needed to confront the inevitable impacts of climate change. Timely action is critical — water and wastewater infrastructure planning and implementation operates within a 20 to 40 year timeline," the report said. "Failure to provide a timely response to needed climate change adaptation will have serious consequences for the nation."

Climate change impacts to wastewater and drinking water utilities, which provide critical economic, public health, and environmental benefits, include sea level rise and extreme flooding that can inundate and incapacitate treatment facilities; water quality degradation and increased treatment requirements; water scarcity and the need to develop new drinking water supplies; and lower flows in drought conditions that can affect the operation of treatment facilities.

Adaptation strategies involve integrating aspects of the constructed and natural water cycle through "water portfolio management" that provides utilities flexibility to craft sustainable approaches to suit their specific needs. Water conservation, new water conveyance and storage, desalination, and wastewater reuse are options to help utilities adapt. In addition, green infrastructure solutions that mimic the natural environment can be used to address stormwater flows at a lower cost while providing the ancillary benefits of providing habitat, recharging aquifers, and enhancing water quality….

The Faribault Water Works in Faribault, Minnesota, shot by Elkman, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Experts: Climate puts New Hampshire coast in danger

Aubry Bracco in (New Hampshire): Sea levels are rising faster than expected and coastal cities on the East Coast are at risk for severe flooding, according to arctic scientists. The Northeast may face a "double whammy" with climate change, too.

The new scientific data was part of the discussion Thursday as local and state officials, representatives and members of the Rockingham Planning Commission united for a community roundtable on climate change and sea-level rise, at the Ashworth Hotel.

The event, hosted by the nonprofit Clean Air—Cool Planet in partnership with Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, was the final stop on the Hipboot Tour. Featuring scientists who recently returned from the poles on climate studies, the eight-stop tour, which kicked off Oct. 20 in Philadelphia.

"In our time (climate change and sea-level rise) will affect all aspects of human society," said Steven Miller, coordinator of the Coastal Training Program at the Great Bay NERR. … According to Miller, the issue is "complex" and "more dialogue within coastal communities (concerning) how to address the issue of adapting locally" as well as conversation broaching the "mitigation of climate change" is essential.

…Additionally, Hamilton said the Northeast seaboard might get hit with climate changes, creating what he called a "double whammy." Aside from "extra mass" from ice in Greenland, the Gulf Stream could be disrupted, slowing down and "piling up" warm water that comes up to the New Hampshire region from the tropics, thus exacerbating the "thermal expansion component."…

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, shot by Matthew Trump, Wikimedia Commons, nder the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Yemen's water crisis a Mideast warning

Terra Daily via UPI: Sanaa may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water. If that happens, it will be a signpost to the conflicts over shrinking resources that scientists and sociologists see coming in the decades ahead. The ancient city, which dates back to the Sabean dynasty of the 6th century B.C., is expected to run out of drinking water as early as 2025 at current consumption levels, according to the Sanaa Water Basin Management Project funded by the World Bank.

The people of Yemen, which lies on the southwestern tip of the Arabian peninsula, have lived on scarce water resources for centuries. But the current water crisis has been heightened by a rapidly expanding population, accelerating urbanization and the ravages of climate change. Sanaa's population, currently pegged at 2 million, had quadrupled since the 1980s and is growing by about 8 percent a year, overwhelming the available water supply.

The national growth rate last year was 3.46 percent, one of the highest in the world. A decade ago Sanaa got water from 180 wells. These days that's down to 80 as the aquifers dry up….

A back street in Sanaa, Yemen, shot by Ahron de Leeuw, who adds: "...most streets in Sana'a are tidy enough. Therefore this street stands out." Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

US slow in climate change adaptation

Sustainable Business: The majority of federal, state and local officials have not taken steps to adapt to the impacts of global warming, according to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, "Climate Change Adaption," includes several case studies and examples of how federal, local, state and even international governments can effectively move forward to protect coastlines, infrastructure, and citizens from rising sea levels, intensifying storms, droughts, and other impacts from global warming.

The report was requested by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and coincides with a hearing on the topic of adaptation measures held Thursday in Chairman Markey’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

"A robust answer to the threat of climate change includes preventing the worst impacts and preparing for the reality that global warming impacts are already occurring," said Chairman Markey. "If we are going to avoid the worst effects of global warming, we must pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. However, we also must prepare for the effects of global warming that will realistically occur."

The GAO authors surveyed nearly 200 officials knowledgeable about adaptation to climate change from federal, state and local government offices and agencies, including planners, scientists and public health officials. The survey showed that lack of funding for adaptation measures (83.8% of respondents) and the complexity of future impacts (76.7% of respondents) are "very or extremely challenging" barriers to addressing adaptation.

However, case studies in the report show that there are examples of effective local, state and international programs to reduce vulnerability from climate impacts. The report focused on the state of Maryland’s efforts to protect low-elevation habitat and infrastructure from future sea-level rise and storms; New York City’s integrated carbon-cutting and infrastructure-protecting campaign; King County, Washington’s plan to protect water systems and prevent flooding; and London’s tidal gates holding back storm surges in the River Thames….

Bird's Eye View of New York and Environs, around 1865, from Vincent Virga: Historical Maps and Views New York. Black Dog & Leventhal, 2008. Original apparently by John Bachmann (1814–1896)

Europe puts figure on green aid to push climate change deal

David Adam in the Guardian (UK): Europe is to breathe life into the faltering search for a new global deal on climate change by pledging billions of pounds in financial support for poor countries, the Guardian can reveal. European heads of state will formally recommend this week that rich countries should hand over around €100bn (£90bn) a year to nations such as India and Vietnam by 2020 to help them cope with the impact of global warming. The pledge is expected to come at the end of a two-day summit of European leaders on Thursday and Friday, and before negotiations on a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.

The move marks a victory in Brussels for the UK and Gordon Brown, who appears to have won arguments with member states including Germany over whether Europe should commit to climate funding ahead of the Copenhagen talks.

…A draft copy of the European summit's conclusions obtained by the Guardian spells out that a "deal on financing will be a central part of an agreement in Copenhagen" and that Europe is ready to "take on its resulting fair share of total international public finance".

The document says: "It is estimated that the total net incremental costs of mitigation and adaptation in developing countries could amount to around €100bn annually by 2020, to be met through a combination of their own efforts, the international carbon market and international public finance."

It adds: "The overall level of the international public support required is estimated to lie in the range of €22bn to €50bn per year by 2020 … this range could be narrowed down in view of the Copenhagen summit." The document does not specify how much money Europe is willing to provide, though previous estimates have put their likely contribution at about €10bn-€15bn each year. That could land European taxpayers with a bill of about €5bn-€7.5bn each year....

At the climate camp in the city with the Lloyd's building in the background on April 1, 2009, shot by PeterEastern, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Trees facilitate wildfires as a way to protect their habitat

Interesting research from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, though I'm leery of attributing motives and intentions to trees: Fire is often thought of as something that trees should be protected from, but a new study suggests that some trees may themselves contribute to the likelihood of wildfires in order to promote their own abundance at the expense of their competitors.

The study, which appears in the December 2009 issue of the journal The American Naturalist, says that positive feedback loops between fire and trees associated with savannas can make fires more likely in these ecosystems.

"We used a mathematical model to show that positive feedback loops between fire frequency and savanna trees, alone or together with grasses, can stabilize ecological communities in a savanna state, blocking conversion of savannas to forest," said the study's leading author Brian Beckage, associate professor in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Vermont. The study's co-authors are William Platt, professor of biology at Louisiana State University, and Louis Gross, director of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and mathematics at the University of Tennessee. Beckage was a short-term visitor conducting research at NIMBioS in 2009 and will be on sabbatical at NIMBioS in 2010.

The promotion of fire by the savanna trees increases their own abundance by limiting the establishment and growth of tree species that are better competitors for resources and that might ultimately displace the savanna trees. The research results suggest that some trees may modify or "engineer" their environment, including the characteristic fire frequencies in a landscape, to facilitate their own persistence at the expense of their competitors, Beckage said….

A savanna fire in Burkina Faso, shot by Marco Schmidt, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

African Union grapples with climate refugees

IRIN: An African international agreement has opened the door to a debate on the rights and protection of people displaced by natural disasters, with a nod to migration as a result of climate change. The Kampala Convention, a ground-breaking treaty adopted by the African Union (AU), promises to protect and assist millions of Africans displaced within their own countries. Significantly, the treaty recognized natural disasters as well as conflict and generalized violence as key factors in uprooting people.

Jean Ping, chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, told IRIN that "more and more people are likely to be displaced" as Africa experiences more frequent droughts and floods brought about by climate change.

''The reference to people displaced by natural disasters is as an interesting attempt to find... answers to the new concern about migration linked to environmental degradation'' He said the inclusion of displacement by natural disasters was informed by the global debate on the need to develop a framework for the rights of "climate refugees" - people uprooted from their homes and crossing international borders - because the changing climate threatened their survival.

The treaty also calls on governments to set up laws and find solutions to prevent displacement caused by natural disasters, with compensation for those who were displaced. Migration expert Etienne Piguet said with the Kampala Convention the AU had "once again" tried to push the envelope….

Picture of children displaced by the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance army of northern Uganda into Labuje camp near Kitgum Town. Photo by USAID employee

Multiyear Arctic ice is effectively gone: expert

Reuters: The multiyear ice covering the Arctic Ocean has effectively vanished, a startling development that will make it easier to open up polar shipping routes, an Arctic expert said on Thursday. … David Barber, Canada's Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said the ice was melting at an extraordinarily fast rate.

"We are almost out of multiyear sea ice in the northern hemisphere," he said in a presentation in Parliament. The little that remains is jammed up against Canada's Arctic archipelago, far from potential shipping routes. Scientists link higher Arctic temperatures and melting sea ice to the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Barber spoke shortly after returning from an expedition that sought -- and largely failed to find -- a huge multiyear ice pack that should have been in the Beaufort Sea off the Canadian coastal town of Tuktoyaktuk. Instead, his ice breaker found hundreds of miles of what he called "rotten ice" -- 50-cm (20-inch) thin layers of fresh ice covering small chunks of older ice. "I've never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic ... it was very dramatic," he said….

Polar bears on the coast of the Beaufort Sea, shot by an employee of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Climate change threatens Australia's coastal lifestyle, report warns

Toni O’Loughlin in the Guardian (UK): Beach culture is as much part of the Australian identity as the bush and barbecues, but that could have to change according to a government report that raises the unsettling prospect of banning its citizens from coastal regions at risk of rising seas.

The report, from a parliamentary climate change committee, said that AUS$150bn (£84bn) worth of property was at risk from rising sea levels and more frequent storms. With 80% of Australians living along the coastline, the report warns that "the time to act is now''.

Australia has no national coastal plan despite the prospect of losing large swaths of coastal land as each centimetre rise in sea levels is expected to carve a metre or more off the shoreline. If sea levels rise 80cm by 2100, some 711,000 homes, businesses and properties, which sit less than 6m above sea level and lie within 3km of the coast, will be vulnerable to flooding, erosion, high tides and surging storms.

…Skirmishes between residents and local councils are already erupting up and down the coast over erosion by the sea. On the far north coast of New South Wales, the state government has intervened to allow residents in the Byron shire council to build seal walls to protect their homes from rising sea levels. A similar battle is being waged further south at Taree. Meanwhile insurance companies are refusing to insure properties in seaside towns.

Among the report's 47 recommendations are that the government could consider "forced retreats", and prohibiting the "continued occupation of the land or future building development on the property due to sea hazard"...

Broulee, New South Wales, Australia in 1843, A watercolour and gouache by John Skinner Prout

Kenya studies financial burden of climate change

George Omondi and Steve Mbogo in via Business Daily (Nairobi): The government is working on a strategy to determine the financial burden of climate change ahead of the Copenhagen conference slated for early December. The conference on global warming is expected to come up with a formula, both for mitigating climate change and funding technologies that developing nations need to use to fight climate risks.

Environment PS Lawrence Lenayapa says a fully budgeted national climate change response strategy will be unveiled immediately the government concludes a comprehensive national climate change policy by next month. "It is not enough to have a negotiated text, but to know the cost of taking action and this strategy will reflect the reality of our need as a country," said Mr Lenayapa

The climate change policy will also coordinate all the environment related laws that are currently being applied by different government departments.

Experts say the cost of increasing the forest cover from the current 1.7 per cent level to the international threshold of 10 per cent, and increased investment in scientific research and capacity building of institutions like Kenya Meteorological department, will feature highly on the country's climate change agenda.

Prof George Krhoda, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi's geography and environmental studies department, reckons that Kenya's climate dependent production system risks being wiped out by unmitigated climate change. "Even the water shortage that we are experiencing now is a tip of the iceberg because 86 per cent of our water comes from the surface while only two fifths of the country is endowed with water resources," said Prof Khroda….

This satellite image from NASA's Earth Observatory (prepared by Jesse Allen) shows how dry much of Kenya is. The arid landscape is tan and orange with darker shades of brown where rock is exposed. The tiny dark green and black dots scattered across the region are trees. The densest clusters of trees are, unsurprisingly, near the rivers, particularly the Ewaso Nyiro. The river itself is a pale tan ribbon of sand. On the right side of the image, a tiny dark line of water trickles through the river. The water appears to be flowing into the Ewaso Nyiro from the Keromet River.

Climate change threatens 25% of Swiss farmlands

The Manila Bulletin via Agence France-Presse: Climate change is already threatening more than a quarter of Switzerland's farmland with frequent and lengthy water shortages, according to official research published Tuesday. The Swiss federal agricultural research station Agroscope said about 10 times more land would need to be irrigated to avoid lost harvests, some 400,000 hectares instead of the 38,000 hectares that currently receive regular irrigation.

But researcher Jurg Fuhrer told AFP that such huge irrigation to cope with more frequent drought might not be economically viable or feasible. Twenty-six percent of usable agricultural land and 41 percent of arable land is at risk due to the drier climate that has been emerging in recent years, the scientific study found.

The conclusions were based on a range of research including detailed observations of local climate, hydrological data and crop patterns between 1980 and 2006. It showed that the Alpine country's prime arable land, spread across lower lying northern plains and valleys, had been the hardest hit by a growing frequency of summertime drought, including the Rhine valley.

"I was surprised to see the size of the area," said Fuhrer. "The area is expanding, that's the significant part." Swiss farmers should expect a period of damaging drought at least once every three years, the researchers predicted.

The Rhine is one of Europe's biggest rivers, flowing northwards through Germany from its source in the Swiss Alps. The Rhone valley in southwestern Switzerland, which stretches into southern France, is also at risk. "There are implications for anybody who lives along these rivers," Fuhrer pointed out….

A farm in the Entlebuch region of Switzerland, shot by Simon Koopmann, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany License

Coastal communities need to do more to protect shorelines from climate change, study says

Timothy B. Wheeler in the Baltimore Sun: Atlantic coastal communities have been slow to prepare themselves for rising sea level from climate change, though Maryland has been in the forefront of states in grappling with the issue, a new report says.

The report, published Tuesday as Senate leaders push climate legislation, summarizes the results of a $2 million federal effort to map the likelihood of shoreline protections if climate change raises sea level as predicted. The findings of the federal study were suppressed by the Bush administration, but the authors were allowed to air the outcome in "Environmental Research Letters," a scholarly journal.

Reviewing the land use plans of about 130 local governments from Maine to Florida, the report finds that coastal communities will require increasingly costly shoreline protections as sea level rises unless authorities take steps now to adapt. Likewise, the report's authors caution, ecologically important wetlands could be lost because little provision has been made to allow them to migrate inland naturally.

Maryland, though, is generally ahead of most other Atlantic states, the authors note. "It looks like they are not only moving in the right direction, it appears they are leading the rest of the nation, with the possible exception of a few New England states," said James G. Titus, lead author of the report, who works at the Environmental Protection Agency.

"That stands to reason," added Will Nuckols, a private consultant from Annapolis, another author, "because Maryland is one of the most threatened areas." The state has more than 4,000 miles of shoreline, including 31 miles of Atlantic oceanfront….

A US Coast Guard photo of a Holland Island lighthouse off the Maryland coast. The lighthouse was destroyed in 1960.

'Climate change a conflict risk'

Dan Smith of International Alert in During the past two years, awareness has been growing that one of the consequences of climate change is an increased risk of violent conflict in developing countries. But what is the scale of the problem, why does it exist and what can be done?

A study by International Alert, a London-based international peacebuilding organisation, in 2007 found that 46 countries with a combined population of 2.7 billion people are at risk of armed conflict related to the effects of climate change. A further 56 countries - with a combined population of 1.2 billion - have a severe risk of political instability.

So it is a big problem - but also a subtle one. It would be misleading to argue that climate change alone causes wars. Armed conflicts never start because of a single cause and, in any case, climate change is not the only thing happening in the world.

The conflict problem comes about because climate change interacts with a number of other things that are wrong in a country's social, economic and political landscape - poverty, arbitrary and corrupt state power, inequality, legacies of war and colonialism, the malign influence of outside power and so on. So climate change is a stress multiplier. We see how this works by looking at one of the main natural consequences of climate change - fluctuations in water supply….

Silhouette of Kalashnikov's automatic rifle model of year 1947, designed by radioflyer, Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beachfront properties in Australia may not get insurance cover

Marian Wilkinson in the Sydney Morning Herald: The Insurance Council of Australia says that no area of the country is ''red flagged'' to prevent beachfront home owners obtaining insurance but it is already difficult, if not impossible, to insure against coastal erosion or what are called ''saltwater risks''. And if you have insurance, keeping it if you live near the beachfront may become increasingly difficult as climate change puts a growing number of properties under threat from sea level rise and more frequent storm surges.

Members of the federal parliamentary coastal communities committee found insurance policies that contained general exclusions for "saltwater risks". One policy noted: "We will not pay for damage caused by erosion or subsidence … or as a result of erosion, vibration, subsidence, landslip, landslide, mudslide, collapse, shrinkage or any other earth movement."

Nor would the insurers pay for loss, damage, injury or death arising from actions of the sea, high tides or tidal waves. The only exceptions were for homes damaged as a result of tsunami, earthquake or explosions.

"We were told by the representatives of the insurance industry there were no 'red flagged' areas'', said Jennie George, chairwoman of the committee. ''But it became clear as we visited different parts of Australia where coastal erosion is already having a severe impact on property that a lot of current insurance policies would not cover for the consequences of coastal erosion because it's considered under the policy [to be] landslip.” …

Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia, shot by Bozotexino, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Despite concerns, Florida development still heads to the coast

Curtis Morgan in the Miami Herald: As early as the 1980s, scientists warned that rising seas could submerge vast portions of Florida's coast. How have local and state governments responded? Build, baby, build. A new study of development trends along the Atlantic Coast shows Florida has opened more vulnerable areas to construction than any other state. Three-quarters of its low-lying Atlantic coastline has already been, or will be, developed.

Despite mounting evidence of sea level rise, other states plan to follow Florida's lead -- though to lesser degrees -- eventually pushing homes, condos and other buildings onto nearly two-thirds of coastal land less than a meter above the Atlantic. By 2100, many scientists predict a rise near or beyond a meter. Unlike some climate studies, however, this one doesn't suggest kayaks will be needed to navigate Miami or Manhattan.

Instead, it divides the coast into rural or wild areas likely to be abandoned, and urbanized areas likely to be forced to employ “increasingly ambitious” and expensive engineering to preserve real estate from encroaching ocean. Think dikes, levees, pumps, stilts, more dredging to rebuild eroded beaches and mountains of fill to raise roads and structures.

“A map that shows Miami completely under water may not be as realistic as Miami subjected to a lot of shore protection measures,” said Jim Titus, the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency's project manager for sea-level rise and the primary author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Co-author Daniel Trescott, a planner for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, said the study is evidence that even as Congress debate how, and how much, to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it's mostly “business as usual” at ground level…

The view from Miami, looking across Bascayne bay towards Miami beach. The road is the Venetian Causeway. Shot by Bachrach44 , Wikimedia Commons

What are coral reef services worth?

Terra Daily: Experts concluding the global DIVERSITAS biodiversity conference in Cape Town described preliminary research revealing jaw-dropping dollar values of the "ecosystem services" of biomes like forests and coral reefs - including food, pollution treatment and climate regulation.

Undertaken to help societies make better-informed choices, the economic research shows a single hectare of coral reef, for example, provides annual services to humans valued at US $130,000 on average, rising to as much as $1.2 million.

The work provides insights into the worth of ecosystems in human economic terms, says economist Pavan Sukhdev of UNEP, head of a Cambridge, England-based project called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). Based on analysis of more than 80 coral reef valuation studies, the worth of services per hectare of coral reef breaks down as follows:
  • Food, raw materials, ornamental resources: average $1,100 (up to $6,000);
  • Climate regulation, moderation of extreme events, waste treatment / water purification, biological control: average $26,000 (up to $35,000);
  • Cultural services (eg. recreation / tourism): average $88,700 (up to $1.1 million)
  • Maintenance of genetic diversity: average $13,500 (up to $57,000)
Taken together, coral reef services worldwide have an average annual value estimated at $172 billion, says Mr. Sukhdev...

From Wikimedia Commons: Coral Reef of Moalboal...

California water officials talk about impact of climate change on groundwater supplies

Ramona Turner in the Santa Cruz Sentinel: Conservation and adaptation are the two ways people can help ease the impact of global warming on our water supply. That's the topic Bruce Daniels, director of the Soquel Creek Water District, is studying as he researches the impact of climate change on groundwater recharge in Santa Cruz County, Santa Rosa, Minnesota and the Tahoe area.

"It's a lot of work," Daniels, who has been working toward a doctorate in hydroclimatology at UC Santa Cruz since the spring quarter. "The reason I'm doing this is because I like to know that I'm making a difference. The challenge is to go out and help water districts understand the impacts and what they can do to help the situation."

Later this month, water officials will gather to discuss this subject at the County Government Center. In Santa Cruz County, the wet months of the year are December through March. But as the Earth warms, the rainy months will decrease from four to two, Daniels said. And the rain that does fall will come from strong storms that produce a lot of precipitation.

"Tuesday was a great analogue to that," he said of last week's strong storm. "We received 4 inches of rain. Normal for October is less than half an inch. That's the prediction for the future -- bigger storms, more flooding and erosion." The bigger the storm, the more runoff there is and the less water that soaks into the ground and recharges the aquifer that provides some of the county with water for drinking and bathing, Daniels said. "This will have a large impact," …

This photo of Santa Cruz, California shows the Old Town Center, showing the Octagonal Brick Hall of Records (built 1882) and the classical revival County Court House (built 1894)

Ocean acidification may contribute to global shellfish decline

Stony Brook University: Relatively minor increases in ocean acidity brought about by high levels of carbon dioxide have significant detrimental effects on the growth, development, and survival of hard clams, bay scallops, and Eastern oysters, according to researchers at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. In one of the first studies looking at the effect of ocean acidification on shellfish, Stephanie Talmage, PhD candidate, and Professor Chris Gobler showed that the larval stages of these shellfish species are extremely sensitive to enhanced levels of carbon dioxide in seawater.

…During the past century the oceans absorbed nearly half of atmospheric carbon dioxide derived from human activities such as burning fossil fuels. As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide it becomes more acidic and has a lower concentration of carbonate, which shell-making organisms use to produce their calcium carbonate structures, such as the shells of shellfish.

…Under carbon dioxide concentrations estimated to occur later this century, clam and scallop larvae showed a more than 50% decline in survival. These larvae were also smaller and took longer to develop into the juvenile stage. Oysters also grew more slowly at this level of carbon dioxide, but their survival was only diminished at carbon dioxide levels expected next century.

“The longer time spent in the larval stage is frightening on several levels,” said Talmage. “Shellfish larvae are free swimming. The more time they spend in the water column, the greater their risk of being eaten by a predator. A small change in the timing of the larval development could have a large effect on the number of larvae that survive to the juvenile stage and could dramatically alter the composition of the entire population.”…

Shellfish in Bohol, Philippines, shot by Pinay06, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Flood risk multiplies as the seas rise

Marian Wilkinson in the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia): As John Hunter travels around Australia for the Federal Government advising on climate change, the oceanographer is constantly asked by planners, "How much do we need to allow for sea-level rise?'' He replies, ''What kind of risk do you want to take?''

Dr Hunter was a key witness to the federal parliamentary committee on coastal communities, providing evidence for lay people on understanding sea-level rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change puts the projected sea-level rise at up to 80 centimetres by 2100. The rule of thumb is that a one-metre rise will move the shoreline back between 50 and 100 metres.

This is what ocean scientists call the Bruun rule - one centimetre of sea-level rise results in about a metre of coastal recession. But this figure also depends on winds, waves and currents. Dr Hunter told the committee there would also be a disproportionately large increase in the frequency of flooding events from the sea because of higher tides and storm surges.

A sea-level rise of 20 centimetres would increase the frequency of extreme events by a factor of about 10, Dr Hunter said. In other words, these floods and storms will happen 10 times more often. With an increase of 50 centimetres, there will be an average increase of a factor of about 300. "If you have a flooding event which only happens every year at the moment, by the end of the century it will be happening every day.''

The effect on beachfront properties and their owners could be profound. Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University told the committee: "You may think that a sea-level rise of 20 centimetres or half a metre is not a whole lot, but when you couple it with a wall of water created by a storm coming in at you it leads to a much bigger area of inundation."…

London Arch (aka London Bridge), Great Ocean Road, Victoria Australia. Shot by Jon Hurd, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Modified crops reveal hidden cost of resistance

Penn State Live: Genetically modified squash plants that are resistant to a debilitating viral disease become more vulnerable to a fatal bacterial infection, according to biologists. "Cultivated squash is susceptible to a variety of viral diseases and that is a major problem for farmers," said Andrew Stephenson, Penn State professor of biology. "Infected plants grow more slowly and their fruit becomes misshapen."

In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved genetically modified squash, which are resistant to three of the most important viral diseases in cultivated squash. However, while disease-resistant crops have been a boon to commercial farmers, ecologists worry there might be certain hidden costs associated with the modified crops.

"There is concern in the ecological community that, when the transgenes that confer resistance to these viral diseases escape into wild populations, they will (change) those plants," said Stephenson, whose team's findings appear today (Oct. 26) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "That could impact the biodiversity of plant communities where wild squash are native."

…The researchers discovered that as the viral infection swept the fields containing both genetically modified and wild crops, the damage from cucumber beetles is greater on the genetically modified plants. The modified plants are therefore more susceptible to the fatal bacterial wilt disease.

…"Our study has sought to uncover the ecological cost that might be associated with modified plants growing in the full community of organisms, including other insects and other diseases," said Ferrari. "We have shown that while genetic engineering has provided a solution to the problem of viral diseases, there are also these unintended consequences in terms of additional susceptibility to other diseases."…

Cucumber beetles on squash flowers. Shot by Miruna Sasu, Penn State

Fleeing drought in the Horn of Africa

Edmund Sanders in the Los Angeles Times: …Africa is already home to one-third of the 42 million people worldwide uprooted by ethnic slaughter, despots and war. But experts say climate change is quietly driving Africa's displacement crisis to new heights. … Norman Myers, an Oxford University professor and one of the first scholars to draw attention to the unfolding problem, estimated that by 2050 there will be more than 25 million refugees attributable to climate change, which will replace war and persecution as the leading cause of global displacement.

…Africa would be heaviest hit because so many people's livelihoods are dependent on farming and livestock. Many Africans use less water in a day than the average American uses to flush the toilet, so any further declines that might occur because of climate change could be life-threatening. "Climate change is going to set back development and food production in sub-Saharan Africa at least a decade and perhaps two or three," he said.

It's a reminder that behind the science, statistics and debate over global warming, climate change is already having a deep impact on Africa's poverty, security and culture. And a serious global discussion about climate refugees has barely begun, in part over concerns about who will pick up the tab, some experts say.

...Still, the international community has been slow to react, or in some cases even acknowledge the existence of climate refugees. That's partly because countries suffering from climate change today are usually poor, underdeveloped and politically marginalized. There is also a debate in the West about how to distinguish climate refugees from those fleeing disasters or poverty….

Refugee camp in Kiwanja (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), shot by Ahu2, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Federal climate change plan urged by Government Accountability Office

I can remember when it was called the government accounting office. Carrie Burns in the Insurance Networking News: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report and urged the White House to prepare now for flooding and other natural disasters brought by global warming. Although there is no coordinated national approach to adaptation, several federal agencies report that they have begun to take action with current and planned adaptation activities. These activities are largely ad hoc, and fall into categories such as information for decision-making, federal land and natural resource management, and government-wide adaptation strategies, among others.

GAO’s report suggests federal agencies, working with Congress, state and local governments, should "develop a national strategic plan that will guide the nation's efforts to adapt to a changing climate.'' GAO’s report references the National Research Council, which stated individuals and institutions—possibly insurers—whose futures will be affected by climate change are unprepared both conceptually and practically for meeting the challenges and opportunities it presents.

“In this context, adapting to climate change requires making policy and management decisions that cut across traditional economic sectors, jurisdictional boundaries and levels of government,” the report states.

How a national plan would affect P&C and reinsurance actuaries remains to be seen. However, there is a growing debate over the causes and effects of a changing global climate, and the insurance industry recognizes the significance of responding to this inherent yet developing risk. “Insurers have and will continue to address this challenge based upon the available science, data, technology and risk management strategy appropriate and applicable to maintain the necessary financial standing to meet their current and future obligations,” according to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America….

Flooding of the James River in North Dakota, March 2009, shot by FEMA

Arroyo’s weak program against flooding criticized

Christian V. Esguerra in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: President Macapagal-Arroyo will open on Monday a high-profile national conference intended to draw up a comprehensive action plan against the impact of climate change in the Philippines. But how does climate change—especially the more tangible problem of perennial flooding in the country—really figure in the government’s list of funding priorities?

An advocacy group scrutinizing government appropriations on Sunday called attention to what it called “paltry” funding for flood control programs and projects since 2002. This year, for instance, only P6.2 billion was set aside for flood control in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) total budget of P130 billion, according to Joseph Ranola, president of the Center for National Budget Legislation (CNBL). Ranola noted that the DPWH has been the main government agency in charge of flood control….

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Unhealthy focus on disasters

Professor Lawrence Gostin of Melbourne University and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University in the Age (Australia): …While emergencies can bring out the best in humankind, the media attention and public outpouring they elicit does little to address the everyday struggle endured by the world's poorest people. If we genuinely want to alleviate suffering and save lives, we must confront the vicious cycle of poverty and early death.

…The first step in disaster-preparedness is to understand where critical risks lie. Disasters do not always strike suddenly. Drought-related water and food shortages, for example, are just as much disasters as earthquakes, causing profound social and economic disruption, as are the 6 million deaths every year from TB, malaria and AIDS alone.

...In regions with extremely poor health, economic decline is almost inevitable, putting pressure on international relief budgets and having an impact on economies. The World Bank estimates that AIDS, for example, has reduced GDP by nearly 20 per cent in the most affected countries. Extremely poor health is also a recognised global security threat; the CIA concludes that high infant mortality is a leading predictor of state failure and there is a strong correlation between very poor health indicators and political instability, mass migration and the recruitment of disaffected individuals to armed groups and terrorist networks.

…I propose the adoption of a ''Global Plan for Justice''. Governments would devote resources to the global plan based on their ability to pay, for example 0.05 per cent of GDP, and funding would be based on health needs measured by poverty, morbidity, and premature mortality.

Building basic survival capacity - through access to sanitation and sewerage, pest control, clean air and water, diet and nutrition, tobacco reduction, essential medicines and vaccines, and well-functioning health systems - is not as glamorous as disaster rescue. But it has the potential for extraordinary humanitarian gains, because such measures tackle the major causes of disease, disability, and suffering across the world.

A water well by the road side north of Tieshan (Huangshi Prefecture-Level City, Hubei), shot by Vmenkov, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Ethiopia demands urgent food aid for 6.2 million people

Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse: Twenty-five years after Ethiopia's famine killed a million people and spurred a massive global aid effort, the government appealed Thursday for help for more than six million facing starvation. State Minister for Agriculture Mitiku Kassa said the drought-stricken country needed 159,000 tonnes of food aid worth 121 million dollars between now and year's end for 6.2 million people.

He said nearly 80,000 children under five were suffering from acute malnutrition and that nine million dollars were required for moderately malnourished children and women. "Since... January, the country continues to face several humanitarian challenges in food and livelihood security, health, nutrition, and in water and sanitation," Mitiku told donors.

In a report to mark the 25th anniversary since the 1984 famine, Oxfam called for a change of strategy towards human suffering in Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country after Nigeria. It urged donors to focus on helping communities devise ways of preparing and dealing with disasters, such as building dams to collect rain water to be used during dry seasons rather than sending emergency relief.

Ethiopia adopted a controversial aid law early this year, under which any local group drawing more than 10 percent of its funding from abroad would be classified as foreign and subjected to tight government control. Oxfam said lessons still had to be learned from the 1984 crisis and bemoaned that long-term strategies receive less than one percent of international aid….

Tigray region, Ethiopia near the archaeological site of Yeha, shot by Jialiang Gao, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Vulnerable spots in Louisiana

Jeremy Alford in the Daily Comet (Lafourche Parish, Louisiana): A new study on climate change says Terrebonne and Lafourche are among the most vulnerable, and best prepared, communities on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The vulnerability study, released earlier this week by Oxfam America, details “hotspots” across 13 southeast states where climate-related hazards exist.

The study, “Exposed: Social Vulnerability and Climate Change in the U.S. Southeast,” is the first of its kind to combine climate-change risks with social variables such as poverty, a process that Oxfam officials say identifies the people and places likely to be most impacted by climate change.

First, the bad news: 100 percent of the land in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes is in flood zones, according to the study. Ninety percent of Lafourche land and 81 percent Terrebonne land is susceptible to rising sea levels.

The good news: The study found that both parishes are mostly free from persistent poverty, unemployment isn’t a problem and the population is educated, meaning residents are socially prepared to respond and recover from a climate-related hazard.

The United Houma Nation, an American Indian tribe with members in Terrebonne and Lafourche, is used as a community case study in the study’s section on sea-level rise. … “For centuries, the Houma have fished the interlaced bayous and inlets of southeastern Louisiana, and today many members earn a living as small-scale commercial fishermen,” the study says. “Recently, though, rising costs and smaller catches have made it harder for them to eke out a decent income. As sea levels rise, salt water creeps in to freshwater areas, further jeopardizing their fishing grounds.”…

Bayou des Allemands and the town of Des Allemands, Louisiana, USA. The bayou is the boundary between St. Charles Parish (right) and Lafourche Parish (left). The three bridges crossing the bayou are (farthest to closest): A railroad bridge, Louisiana State Route 631, and U.S. Route 90. View is to the north. US Army Corps of Engineers

Ravaged by drought, Madagascar feels the full effect of climate change

David Smith in the Guardian (UK): …Southern Madagascar has had three years of crop failure in five years, resulting in chronic hunger for tens of thousands of families and soaring rates of malnutrition, stunted growth and death among children.

Three forces are combining with deadly effect on the Indian Ocean island, which is incalculably rich in wildlife but impoverished in basic infrastructure. Climate change is widely blamed for playing havoc with the seasons and destroying agricultural harvests. This is exacerbated by local deforestation, which has altered the microclimate and reduced rainfall.

Finally, a bloody political coup earlier this year paralysed essential services and led to the crippling suspension of several foreign aid programmes. The UN says that nearly half of households in the south have severe food shortages.

…Perversely, people in the south are so starved of water that they crave the increasingly fierce cyclones that pound the north three times a year. Two separate dry seasons have progressively expanded until they meet to form one long hot season, hitting crops such as maize, manioc and sweet potato.

Tovoheryzo Raobijaona, director of a food insecurity early warning system in nearby Ambovombe, said: "Before, people spoke about the cycle of drought every 10 years. Now it's every five years, or every three years. After a bad year like 2009, people need two to three years to get back to standard."…

Lavaka, Madagascar, 2005, shot by Ronadh, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sensing disasters from space

Science Daily: One small step for mankind is now a leap for averting natural and man-made disasters on earth. New Tel Aviv University technology combines sophisticated sensors in orbit with sensors on the ground and in the air to create a "Hyperspectral Remote Sensor" (HRS). It can give advance warnings about water contamination after a forest fire, alert authorities of a pollution spill long before a red flag is raised on earth, or tell people in China where a monsoon will strike.

Prof. Eyal Ben-Dor of TAU's Department of Geography describes his team's HRS technology as a combination of physical, chemical and optical disciplines. "When a devastating forest fire hits the Hollywood Hills, for example, we can see from space how the mineralogy of the soil has changed," he explains. "Because of these changes, the next rainstorm may wash out all the buildings or leach contaminants into the soil. With our new tool, we can advise on how to contain the pollutants after the fire, and warn if there is a risk for landslides."

Details on new applications of this technology were presented recently in several leading journals including Soil Science Society of America Journals, Soil Science Journal and the International Journal of Remote Sensing.

HRS provides information useful to property developers as well. It can offer a soil profile map with detailed information for contractors, farmers or vintners interested in making major land purchase deals or managing existing ones. It can also indicate where water runoff should be directed and what minerals may be lacking in a given parcel of land….

An image from TAU's orbiting Hyperspectral Remote Sensor (HRS), from the website of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University

UK congratulates Philippines on climate change act but...

GMA News TV: As it congratulated the Philippines over the signing into law of the Climate Change Act Friday, the United Kingdom warned of more challenges ahead due to climate change. British Embassy Charge d'Affaires Colin Crorkin noted the challenges posed by climate change can be seen in an online map the UK launched.

"(Cyclones) Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) gave us a glimpse of what's in store for us if we neglect climate change," he said. But he said the world must act against climate change soonest, saying the Philippines and other countries may experience more typhoons, floods, droughts, and heat waves.

He said a temperature change of four degrees may present a "truly global problem that needs a global solution and it is a solution we have within our grasp." Food shortage, disease and conflict as a result become very real possibilities, he added.

In the Philippines' case, he said the country "may experience more typhoons, floods, droughts, heat waves and crop production shortage in the coming years." The UK government launched the new map 45 days to go before international climate change talks begin in Copenhagen. British ministers are pressing for the most ambitious deal possible to avoid these dangerous impacts….

Mexicans told to cherish water as family

Terra Daily via UPI: Mexicans are being told to cherish water as a member of the family -- to value and hold it in high regard -- as part of a major campaign to stem wastage amid chronic shortages of the resource. Mexican President Felipe Calderon is exhorting Mexicans to be aware of the importance of conserving water and to consider saving water as important as protecting their family.

"The water is like your family, protect it!" Calderon said while promoting a water-saving campaign going by that slogan. He said water was a member of the Mexican family, present at home every day and therefore deserving of attention, not neglect.

Mexico is facing its worst drought in 69 years with poor rainfall depleting underground water reserves and thwarting irrigation of crops. In the capital the problem is compounded by a rapid drying of Mexico City's lake-bed soil and sinking of the sprawling metropolis.

The drought is seen by scientists as a result of climate change, but water wastage is blamed by campaigners and officials on ignorance, mismanagement and waste. The government campaign is aimed at increasing public awareness of water conservation and is costing more than $12.6 million, according to media reports citing government figures….

Dunes in Chihuahua, Mexico, shot by Felix Garcia, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Arctic sediments show that 20th century warming is unlike natural variation

University of Buffalo News: The possibility that climate change might simply be a natural variation like others that have occurred throughout geologic time is dimming, according to evidence in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper published today. The research reveals that sediments retrieved by University at Buffalo geologists from a remote Arctic lake are unlike those seen during previous warming episodes.

The UB researchers and their international colleagues were able to pinpoint that dramatic changes began occurring in unprecedented ways after the midpoint of the twentieth century. "The sediments from the mid-20th century were not all that different from previous warming intervals," said Jason P. Briner, PhD, assistant professor of geology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. "But after that things really changed. And the change is unprecedented."

The sediments are considered unique because they contain rare paleoclimate information about the past 200,000 years, providing a far longer record than most other sediments in the glaciated portion of the Arctic, which only reveals clues to the past 10,000 years.

… "There are periods of time reflected in this sediment core that demonstrate that the climate was as warm as today," said Briner, "but that was due to natural causes, having to do with well-understood patterns of the Earth's orbit around the sun. The whole ecosystem has now shifted and the ecosystem we see during just the last few decades is different from those seen during any of the past warm intervals."…

Lake surrounded by mountains in Hamarøy municipality, Nordland, Norway, some 200 km inside the Arctic Circle, shot by Orcaborealis, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

South Florida counties to team up to combat climate change

Curtis Morgan in the Miami Herald:… [On] Friday, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, joined by Monroe, agreed that they share a large, looming problem they better start working on together fast: global warming, which brings with it the scary prospect of waves washing against abandoned beachside hotels before the century is up.

In the first regional summit on climate change, more than 200 political leaders, planners, water experts and environmental scientists from the four counties met in Fort Lauderdale. They kicked off what participants pledged would become a cooperative effort to address rising seas and temperatures that threaten to profoundly change the landscape and life from Key West to Palm Beach -- and the rest of the state as well.

Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who spearheaded the summit, said it makes not only practical sense to share resources, data and strategies but political sense as well. The three counties alone have more than 5.5 million residents, more people than 30 entire states. Only 80,000 live in Monroe but the low-lying islands of the Keys rank among the nation's most at-risk communities and will be the first measuring sticks of sea rise.

…Judging by the presentations, South Florida will need every dollar it can get, with major infrastructure overhauls needed even under the low-ball sea level scenarios. With just an eight-inch rise, drainage canals can lose 40 percent of capacity and salt intrusion will taint and squeeze underground drinking water aquifers. With a four-foot rise by 2100 -- projected by Miami-Dade's climate task force -- the sea covers much of the barrier islands and begins percolating up from the Everglades in low-lying western suburbs….

…But Jim Murley, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions and chairman of a state energy and climate commission, said political leaders will need to start doing more, including something many have been loath to do -- saying ‘no’ to some development.

"I would suggest to you we need to reset the way we think about doing land-use planning in the future,'' he said. "We're going to have to start to understand how we can accommodate where to put the water.''…

North Beach, part of Miami Beach, shot by Marc Averette, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License