Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Indian industries discuss climate change, safety tips

Indian Express: Industrialists from various clusters in Ahmedabad met on Tuesday to study how climate change can ruin their businesses if precautions are not taken, even as organizers prepare a vulnerability map of industrial clusters across Gujarat.

The need to prepare businesses for possible impacts of climate change was a pressing concern, given case studies tabled at the meet saying that industrial estates could experience climate change induced floods and a rise in temperature that could make production costlier since much depends on efficient cooling systems.

Dieter Mutz, director of GIZ, a German government body working to promote international cooperation for sustainable development and which is assisting the state chapter of FICCI in the effort, said it was conceived because preparing for climate change has been popular in rural, urban and agricultural sectors but not among industries.

“Industries often say they want to curb their emissions and effluents, but they don’t talk about preparing for the risks,” Mutz said, adding preparing against climate change induced disasters is even more important for industrial estates that lie on the state’s coasts.

Representatives of German think-tank Adelphi, who spoke at the meet, said climate change forecasts predict Gujarat could experience rising temperatures and more rainfall in shorter periods. In other words, intense rains that would increase surface run-offs, drought during non-rainy seasons and sudden floods. These could hamper businesses, especially supply routes and logistics, wear down infrastructure and cause hardships to workers without whom production would suffer, they said...

A COSCO factory in Gurgaon, Haryana, India, shot by Coscoindia, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Durban’s drinking water is safe despite floods, says official

City Press (Durban, South Africa): The eThekwini municipality has allayed fears that its drinking water may have been contaminated during the recent floods that left a trail of destruction and claimed lives. “We would like to assure all our residents and thousands of delegates attending the climate change conference that our drinking water was not affected by floods,” said acting head of health at the municipality Dr Ayo Olowolagba.

Fears were raised after the city announced floods had caused sewers and certain waste water treatment plants to overflow. Olowolagba said there was no need to panic.

Heavy downpours on Sunday night, hours before the start of the COP17 climate change conference, damaged properties and claimed five lives. Olowolagba said it was possible that certain water bodies had been contaminated with sewage and that this may pose an increased risk to public health....

Will Guam adapt to climate change?

Kim O'Connor in Imagine Gov. Eddie Calvo, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, and our 15 senators suiting up in scuba gear for the next Guam Legislature meeting. A couple years ago, the first underwater cabinet meeting took place in the Maldives, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean. Maldives' President Nasheed and the nation's ministers communicated through hand signals and passing around an agreement while fish and coral surrounded them at 13 feet underwater.

About 80 percent of the Maldives is less than a meter above sea level, and the president wanted to bring awareness to ordinary people around the world by demonstrating the urgent need to address climate change and the rising sea levels, as their islands may become uninhabitable within the century.

Nauru, the world's smallest independent nation, also is seeking global action to address climate change and the correlating rising sea levels. Nauru is located about 34 miles south of the equator. Many islands in our region are vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons, tsunamis, flooding and earthquakes, but with only eight square miles, Nauru is experiencing elevated threats. The island's highest elevation is just over 200 feet above sea level, so with rising waters and flooding, the eight square miles can quickly become contaminated or diminished.

...."The stakes are too high to implement these measures only after a disaster is already upon us. Negotiations to reduce emissions should remain the primary forum for reaching an international agreement," The New York Times reported...

Tumon Bay in Guam, public domain photograph by Abasaa 日本語: あばさー

Alaskan community revives legal bid for global warming damages

Felicity Carus in the Guardian (UK): A native American community in remote Alaska this week revived legal efforts to hold some of the world's largest energy companies accountable for allegedly destroying their village because of global warming. The so-called "climigration" trial would be the first of its kind, potentially creating a precedent in the US courts for further climate change-related damages cases.

Attorneys acting for the 427 Inupiat people living in Kivalina made representations before an appeals panel in San Francisco on Monday, to claim climate change-related damages from Exxon Mobil, BP America, Chevron, Shell, Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal provider, and America's largest electricity-generating companies including American Electric Power and Duke Energy.

Kivalina's location at the tip of a barrier reef 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle puts the village on the frontline of extreme weather from the Chukchi Sea, which normally freezes over from November to June.

"Kivalina's existence as a community depends on the sea ice that forms around the village in fall, winter, and spring. This protects it from the coastal storms that batter the coast of the Chukchi Sea," Kivalina's lawyers told the panel. "However, due to global warming, this landfast sea ice forms later in the year, attaches to the coast later, breaks up earlier, and is less extensive and thinner, subjecting Kivalina to greater coastal storm waves, storm surges and erosion..."

An aerial view of Kivalina shows how vulnerable it is, shot by the US Army Corps of Engineers

Increasingly erratic climate menaces Africa's cocoa

Loucoumane Coulibaly in Reuters: The weather may not always have been kind to cocoa farmers in West Africa, but until recently it was at least broadly predictable. Temperature always hovered between 22 and 29 degrees Celsius, rains fell between April and July -- plus another short period between October and mid-November -- and the sun shone the rest of the time, fattening up cocoa beans and enabling drying.

Scientists say climate change may be altering these once reliable weather patterns in West Africa, which is the source of some two thirds of the world's cocoa. Survival in a warmer world for the millions of smallholders who depend on cocoa may depend on moving to higher, cooler places or breeding new varieties, experts say.

Lately, farmers and agronomists say, weather has become hotter and more erratic. Temperatures often reach 32C and rains come too early or too late. Dry spells are harsher or the skies are overcast when they're meant to be sunny.

"It's much hotter than it used to be, even two decades ago," said 71-year old cocoa planter Souleymane Drabre on his three hectare plantation in Ivory Coast, a country feeding a third of the world market. That wouldn't matter if the cocoa tree was less sensitive, but yields suffer without the right mix of rain and sun at the appropriate times...

Cocoa production in Ghana, shot by Eggi, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scientists propose first global orbital observation program

Space Daily: A consortium led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is proposing a geoscience program that would give scientists the first continuous real-time look at the Earth's surface and atmosphere through a global network of sensors. Called GEOScan, the program would focus on providing critical data to the global scientific community on topics including climate, atmosphere, oceans, gravity and space weather.

It would be a hosted payload on the Iridium NEXT constellation and use the satellite constellation's real-time data link. GEOScan would establish the first globally networked orbital observation facility and collect data to benefit students, scientists, policy makers and the public.

GEOScan would begin transmitting information from space in 2015. "This is a key opportunity to solve critical global science questions that could go unanswered without these real-time measurements," says APL's Lars Dyrud, chief scientist for GEOScan.

"By taking advantage of the significant opportunity provided by Iridium NEXT - to place a low-cost payload on satellites already headed to space - we can reduce the cost barriers to collecting, transmitting and distributing important scientific information about Earth."

...GEOScan would use a single "SensorPOD" slot on each of the 66-plus NEXT, low-Earth orbiting communications satellites. Only about the size of a shoebox, (7.9 in x 7.9 in x 5.5 in) each the SensorPOD would carry instruments to image the Earth and characterize the space environment.

They would also measure reflected sunlight and infrared radiation to provide the most precise measurements yet for climate models. GEOScan would also enable improved disaster relief and humanitarian assistance efforts by providing affordable real-time imagery....

An Iridium NEXT Schematic including their entire hosted payload bay. Image from website of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Bayer CropScience targets non-GMO wheat traits

Charlie Dunmore in Reuters: Bayer's CropScience unit plans to develop new heat- and drought-resistant wheat traits over the next decade without the use of genetic modification, a top executive said on Tuesday. But Europe, the world's top wheat producer, must overcome its fear of agricultural innovation such as genetically modified (GM) crops or risk undermining its own food security, the division's chief executive officer, Sandra Peterson, told Reuters in an interview.

The German company has announced a series of deals and partnerships to increase its access to wheat seed traits, or "germplasm," as part of its program to develop improved varieties of the world's biggest cereal crop by planted area.

"The thing that has not had enough attention is really thinking about how to use modern breeding techniques to really look at the germplasm pools and find ways to actually improve yields, and to improve the heat and drought tolerance of these crops," Peterson said.

By using marker-assisted breeding techniques, which enable plant breeders to screen huge numbers of seeds for desired traits such as drought-resistance, Petersen said the company will be able to develop new varieties much more quickly.

"It's basically just turbo-charging traditional, classical breeding. Before we see the full impact of all of this it's ten years, but there are milestones in 2015, 2017, 2019 of things that are actually going to have an impact, and all of those first eight to ten years do not require the use of GMO (genetically modified organisms)," she said...

A wheat field, shot by Angelstarsummer, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

ADB says climate change can hurt Asia's growth

International News Network Online (Pakistan): The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Monday warned that without coordinated international action to help address climate change, Asia’s extraordinary growth and poverty reduction achievements of the past three decades will be undermined, and this in turn will hurt the global economy.

While speaking to the participants at the start of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations, ADBVice-President Bindu Lohani said that delegates gathering in South Africa for the next round of United Nations climate change talks must continue to put Asia and the Pacific at the forefront of global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to help countries adapt to new economic and social threats.

“The region, with over 50% of the world’s population and two-thirds of its poor, is deeply vulnerable to climate change-linked events such as rising sea levels and increasingly severe droughts and floods,” said Lohani.

Participants at the 12-day event will be seeking to develop a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction framework to augment and replace measures under the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012. Delegates will also aim to launch a new Green Climate Fund for financing climate change action in developing countries, including programs to expand clean technology cooperation and adaptation to climate change impacts.

In 2010, more than 30 million people in Asia and the Pacific were displaced by weather-related environmental disasters, and that pattern is likely to continue and grow, especially in large coastal cities threatened by rising sea levels. Climate change impacts on water and food security threaten to undermine the region’s economic future and hurt the poor...

Floodwaters inundated Rojana Industrial Park in Ayutthaya Province, Thailand, in the 2011 Thailand floods, causing extensive damage to the manufacturing industry. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert J. Maurer

Forest-dependent communities lobby for end of REDD+

Kristin Palitza in IPS: Organisations working with indigenous peoples living in forests say the United Nations programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) is just another way for big corporates to reap huge profits.

REDD+ has been touted as a global scheme to conserve forests, enhance carbon stocks and support sustainable forest management. It is a system where you pour a lot of money into forests that will attract powerful international investors who will make big profits," warned Simone Lovera, managing director of the Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide network of more than 50 non-governmental organisations and Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She spoke during the U.N. 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17), which is taking place in Durban, South Africa, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9.

Lovera does not contest that deforestation and forest degradation are key climate change culprits. Caused by agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development or destructive logging, they account for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N., more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.

REDD+ is supposed to turn this around. Since it was started in 2005, the programme enables industrialised countries in the North to reward reductions of carbon emissions to nations in the South. It is basically a system of performance-based payments that are financed through global carbon markets. The U.N. predicts that finance for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to 30 billion dollars per year. The money is supposed to go towards pro-poor development, help conserve biodiversity and secure vital ecosystem services.

But indigenous communities say this is not so. It was big, international forestry businesses that ultimately benefited from the carbon deals, not the locals who have lived in and off the forests for many generations. Instead, locals are kicked off their land to make space for large monoculture plantations aimed at offsetting carbon emissions in the north...

Deforestation in the Atlantic Forest near Rio de Janeiro. This hill was clear-cut to use its clay in civil construction in Barra da Tijuca. Many trucks with the city public service logo worked on the hill's destruction, according to the photographer, Alex Rio Brazil

19 hurricanes in third-most active Atlantic season

Terra Daily via AFP: The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season produced a total of 19 storms, including Hurricane Irene that lashed the US East Coast in August in the third-most active year on record, US observers said Monday.

The active storm season, which ends Wednesday, tied 2010, 1995 and 1887 as the most active since records began in 1851 -- and well above the average of 11, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

"This season is a reminder that storms can hit any part of our coast and that all regions need to be prepared each and every season," NOAA National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said in a statement.

But this season continued a trend of a lull in the number of major hurricanes -- with only three such storms, slightly above the average of two. There was a total of seven hurricanes, including the major storms, just above the average of six....

Hurricane Irene as a Category 2 hurricane on Aug 26, 2011, from NASA

Monday, November 28, 2011

Climate change denial still runs strong in US

Kerry Sheridan in AFP: On the US political stage, skepticism and denial of climate change are as popular as ever, and experts say that world talks which opened Monday in Durban, South Africa are unlikely to turn the tide. But while a binding deal on harmful carbon output remains elusive by the world's second biggest polluter after China, some small signs of progress have emerged at the state and individual levels.

Last month, the most populous US state, California, approved rules for a carbon market that would start in 2013, with the goal of cutting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Previous attempts to create a cap and trade system to stem pollution at the federal level have failed due to concerns it would cause skyrocketing energy costs, a particularly bruising prospect in an already wobbly economy.

Also in October, a prominent climate skeptic whose research was funded in part by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers' foundation announced he had found that mainstream projections of climate change were correct and unbiased.

"We confirm that over the last 50 years, temperature has risen 0.9 degrees Celsius, or 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the same number that the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says," physicist Richard Muller, director of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, told lawmakers.

Muller said he hoped other climate skeptics would agree with his work, but his newfound stance -- accepted by the vast majority of scientists -- remains rogue, particularly among Republicans seeking to replace President Barack Obama in 2012.

Standout Republican Jon Huntsman -- who ranks lowest in the polls -- may have summed up the differences best when he tweeted earlier this year: "To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."...

Caricature of Darwin's theory in the Punch almanac for 1882, published at the end of 1881 when Charles Darwin had recently published his last book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms.

Australia's plan to drought-proof food bowl

TVNZ (New Zealand): Australian farmers face deep cuts to irrigation water use under proposals unveiled today to help protect the country's vast food bowl. The plan is set to spark a new fight for Prime Minister Julia Gillard's beleaguered Labor government.

After angry farmers last year staged protests and burned copies of a government water plan, officials released a new, scaled-back proposal to cut water use by 25% across the Murray-Darling river basin. This area is the size of France and Spain and produces 90% of Australia's fresh food.

The draft plan would restore the health of the Murray-Darling basin against climate change that is expected to bring more droughts like one which ravaged the country for over a decade until 2009, Environment Minister Tony Burke said.

However, Burke acknowledged many farmers and affected states would be unhappy. "There will be arguments up and down the Basin. That's why we've gone (110 years) since Federation without having sensible reform and getting this right," Burke said.

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent and climate scientists expect it to be hard hit by global warming. Devastating floods which finally broke the last drought earlier this year are thought by many scientists to be a sign of increasing unpredictability of the country's climate...

The Murray River at Loxton, shot by Dwayne Madden, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Water shortages threaten electricity generation at the same time power plants strain water supplies

The Kresge Foundation: A scarcity of fresh, clean water is recognized as one of this century’s biggest challenges – with increasing temperatures, droughts and extreme storms linked to climate change expected to make the problem even worse.

Many Americans are responding by installing low-flow showers and toilets, planting gardens that need little water and otherwise reducing their household consumption. However, most people probably don’t know that they are using more water by turning on lights, computers and electrical appliances than by washing dishes and cars. As a new report details, electricity generation in the U.S. consumes and affects vast quantities of water – approximately as much as agriculture and more than municipal uses.

This creates what the Union of Concerned Scientists-led report refers to as “an energy-water collision.” First, the authors write, power generation exacerbates escalating water crises; then, water crises threaten the reliability of our power supply.

Entitled “Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource,” the report is the first of several planned by the Energy and Water in a Warming World initiative, a collaboration led by UCS. Kresge’s Environment Program provided $750,000 over two years to support the research. The effort represents the first systematic assessment of the effects of power plant cooling on water resources in the U.S., says John Rogers, senior analyst for the group’s Climate and Energy Program.

“We’ve found that we’re largely flying blind,” Rogers says. “We, as a society, haven’t had a good handle on just how much water we’re using and where....

At Hoover Dam, shot by Ronen Perry, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

Arab region to face extreme weather events

Sajeev K. Peter in the Kuwait Times: The Arab region and the North Africa could witness extreme weather events as a result of the rapid urbanization and climate change, said a UN expert. In an exclusive interview with the Kuwait Times on the sidelines of 19th ASEAN Summit 2011 in Nusa Dua, Bali, Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General of Disaster Risk Reduction, said many of the countries in the region are already severely affected by water stress, probably one of the most significant issues today.

This water stress will grow as a significant phenomenon in the near future as water will become a real dilemma of the region," she said quoting a Special Report prepared by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was released recently. The report discusses issues that range from the relationship between climate change and extreme weather and climate events (climate extremes) to the implications of these events on society and sustainable development.

Citing the incidents of flash floods in Jeddah and cyclone in Oman in the recent past, she said, "You will see more of these kinds of very unpredictable and extreme events we have not seen before." Asserting the important role non-climatic factors play in determining impacts, Wahlstrom said these are not only the results of changes in the weather. "The rapid urbanization over the last 25 years has contributed a lot to such disasters"...

A dust storm stretching from Saudi Arabia to Iran, shot by NASA in March, 2010

World Bank cites Makati as one of the world's champ in Disaster Risk Reduction

Philippine Information Agency: Makati and two other foreign cities are being considered as “disaster risk reduction champions” by the World Bank-funded Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR) which is currently holding a city-to-city sharing initiative in Quito, Ecuador.

After the sharing session, organizers said they see Makati City, Kathmandu, and Quito as “international and regional resource centers” for other cities in the area of disaster risk reduction.

Under the GFDRR initiative, the peer learning exchange will continue among the three cities even after the study visits. There will also be residency program for a sustained learning process among them and the most vulnerable cities in the developing world.

Mayor Jejomar Erwin S. Binay said the Makati delegation, composed of seven key city officials and personnel, has joined delegations from Kathmandu, Nepal and Quito, Ecuador in the study visit, which was the first leg of a series of activities under the South-South Cooperation Programme of GFDRR.

“This is a very significant event in the histories of our cities since we will be sharing the best practices we have with each other, in our quest for better solutions, programs and action plans that will strengthen our defenses against disasters,” Binay said in his message to the delegates that was delivered by City Councilor Marie Alethea Casal-Uy.

Makati was cited as a “Role Model City” by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) last May for its “Making Cities Resilient” campaign, and was hailed by World Bank as one of “East Asia’s Climate Resilient Cities in 2008....

Greenbelt mall in Makati City, Philippines, shot by Mike Gonzalez (TheCoffee), Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bugs, fire, politics threaten western Montana forests

Rob Chaney in the Missoulian (Montana): Three things will combine to radically transform Montana forests in the next 50 years: bugs, fire and politics.

Mountain pine beetles have killed millions of acres of lodgepole pine trees. Those dead stands, combined with a progressively drier climate, will likely burn in wilder, more intense fashion. The biological aftermath should bring a wider mix of tree species, open areas and wildlife habitat, according to new computer models.

How humans tinker with that progression remains a wildcard. During this month's Society for Conservation Biology research symposium at the University of Montana, several scientists demonstrated a technique called landscape simulation modeling. They've built software that juggles invasive weeds, weather patterns, logging plans, road removal and a lot of other factors to see how a forest will change over time.

"We see more of a natural sequence of events that could result in a more normal habitat distribution," Michael Hillis of Missoula's Ecosystem Research Group said of his model for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. "But the forest will look much different."

The "B-bar-D" forest covers 3.4 million acres of southwest Montana, bigger than Glacier and Yellowstone national parks combined. Hillis said most of its spruce and Douglas fir stands were logged a century ago for the state's mining industry. The resulting lodgepole stands grew up and matured at the same time, producing what Hillis called the "forest demographics of a rest home" at the perfect age for a beetle epidemic.

Many of those dead trees will then fuel forest fires. While the research is mixed whether a beetle-killed stand burns more dangerously than a green canopy, Hillis said the certain result is more fire scars on the landscape. Those scars in turn will eventually hobble later fires with a matrix of burned and unburned patches. Burned areas may return as new lodgepole stands, which regenerate best after a fire. But the unburned zones could see a return of fir, spruce and other tree species that get a chance to grow without the lodgepoles' choking shade....

Looking across forest to mountains and clouds, "In Glacier National Park," Montana., 1933 - 1942. By Ansel Adams, when he was a National Park Service employee

Insect cyborgs may become first responders, search and monitor hazardous environs

Space Daily via SPX: Research conducted at the University of Michigan College of Engineering may lead to the use of insects to monitor hazardous situations before sending in humans. Professor Khalil Najafi, the chair of electrical and computer engineering, and doctoral student Erkan Aktakka are finding ways to harvest energy from insects, and take the utility of the miniature cyborgs to the next level.

"Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack," Najafi said. "We could then send these 'bugged' bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go."

The principal idea is to harvest the insect's biological energy from either its body heat or movements. The device converts the kinetic energy from wing movements of the insect into electricity, thus prolonging the battery life.

The battery can be used to power small sensors implanted on the insect (such as a small camera, a microphone or a gas sensor) in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments...

...In a paper called "Energy scavenging from insect flight" (recently published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering), the team describes several techniques to scavenge energy from wing motion and presents data on measured power from beetles....

Albrecht Durer drew this cyborg beetle in 1505

Protecting the Catalan coastline's red coral

Science Daily: Poaching accounts for the loss of up to 60% red coral biomass in the Medes Islands Marine Reserve, according to an article published in the journal Conservation Biology, signed by the first author Cristina Linares, a biologist from the University of Barcelona's Department of Ecology. The article reports the first study of poaching and its effects in the marine reserve and raises the alarm about the impact of recreational diving on the coral population of the Medes Islands.

The article is also signed by the experts Bernat Hereu and Mikel Zabala (Department of Ecology, UB), Joaquim Garrabou (Institute of Marine Sciences, CSIC), David Díaz (Spanish Institute of Oceanography), Christian Marschal (Center of Oceanology of Marseille) and Enric Sala (Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes, CSIC).

The "reserve" effect in the Medes area has improved the conservation of many marine species in their natural habitats. In the case of red coral (Corallium rubrum), an endemic Mediterranean species that is harvested both legally and illegally along the Catalan coastline, the study finds that poaching is the principal threat to colonies of this prized marine invertebrate.

... Many of the large coral colonies found along the Catalan coast have disappeared as the result of human activities. The genus Corallium, which is protected by the Barcelona Agreement, has not yet been included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Applying the results of this research and increasing efforts in the area of management and conservation will be the main challenges in maintaining the beauty of Catalonia's coastal coral populations. This is the view of the UB experts involved in the study, members of the former Marine Zoobenthos Ecology Group and current MedRecover research group, which studies the direct and potential combined effects of global change on the conservation of marine biodiversity....

View of the Mediterranean shore of the Cadiz province from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. Catalan Bay and the Rock in the foreground. Shot by MatHampson, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Wood fires fuel climate change

Fiona Harvey in the Guardian (UK): There is little better on a winter's evening than curling up next to a wood fire, or the modern equivalent, a wood-fired boiler – unless it is the green warm glow you get from knowing that the fuel you are using is environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Except that it is not always. And nor is that two-year-old diesel car you bought because its fuel efficiency, compared with petrol models, makes it more green. As a United Nations report has just uncovered, wood burning and diesel vehicles are two of the biggest culprits in the developed world in generating the black carbon – soot – that is a major cause of climate change.

"It's nice to sit in front of a wood fire in the winter, but we should all be feeling pretty guilty," said Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme.

The most up-to-date, and expensive, models of wood-fired boilers do not produce black carbon. Pellets, for instance, are fine. But Markus Amann, of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, in Austria, warned: "It's the cheap ones." Models that burn logs instead of pellets are particularly bad, as they are near impossible to retrofit with particle-catching technology that would render them harmless. Most diesel cars more than two years old are also likely to emit particulate matter that is big enough to cause air pollution – which causes the premature death of hundreds of thousands of people in Britain – and climate change....

After apartheid, Tutu aims at 'huge enemy' climate change

Terra Daily via AFP: Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu on Sunday branded climate change a "huge, huge enemy" that threatened the common home of humanity, imperilling rich and poor alike. At a rally on the eve of the 12-day UN climate talks in Durban, Tutu said that after the battle to crush apartheid, mankind must now unite in the goal of conquering carbon.

One the great figures in the effort to end whites-only rule, the 80-year-old former archbishop thanked other countries that had backed the long campaign, especially those in Africa who had taken in refugees and the children of anti-apartheid fighters.

"Now we are facing another huge, huge enemy. And no one, no country can fight that enemy on his own... an enemy called global warming, climate change," he said. "We have only one home. This is the only home we have. And whether you are rich or poor, this is your only home... you are members of one family, the human race."

He added: "You who are rich, you have to come to our side. And we will be waiting for you, on the other side."...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forest Service weighing options to save one of world's oldest groves of trees

The Republic (Indiana): The U.S. Forest Service is trying to save one of the world's largest and oldest organisms, a 106-acre aspen thicket being threatened by pests, wildlife and climate change on a mountain slope in central Utah.

Without help the aspen grove could die and finish off a common root system believed to be tens of thousands of years old. It gave birth to genetically identical aspens that aren't sustaining new generations of sprouts. "We probably don't have more than 10 years with this clone," said Terry Holsclaw, a silviculturist for the Fishlake National Forest near Loa, Utah.

Kevin Mueller, program director for the Utah Environmental Congress, said, "I call them the standing dead." The only good way to ensure the aspen stand's future may be to log the mature trees, encouraging the root system to generate sprouts, experts say.

A $100,000 fence would be required to protect the saplings from munching deer and elk, but even this approach may not solve every problem. Scientists aren't certain the root system is healthy enough to send up a sufficient number of suckers to fight off beetles, fungus and gnawing rodents.

Another option is to rip through the root system with tractor blades. Separating a root from the tree stimulates it to regrow a shoot. Likewise, the Forest Service could clear the stand with a controlled fire. Those are some of the options under study by the U.S. Forest Service, which is expected to make a decision on its approach next year. The agency's success will determine the fate of an aspen grove estimated to have taken root about 80,000 years ago....

La Sal mountain range in mid fall. Taken above Horse Creek Gorge Showing aspen trees on several peaks including Haystack, Mellenthin, Peale, and Tukuhnikivatz. Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah, shot by Infected enigma

Sri Lanka storm kills 17, 33 missing

Colombo Page (Sri Lanka): Heavy rains along with gusting winds that lashed the southern coastal areas of Sri Lanka Friday killed 17 people and left 33 fishermen missing, the National Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said today. The DMC officials said 17 people have been confirmed dead and 30 fishermen who ventured out to sea are missing. Another three people are missing in Monaragala and Anuradhapura districts after heavy rains overflowed reservoirs and streams.

The DMC figures as of this morning reported 33,957 people belonging to 8,359 families have been affected due to the adverse weather condition prevailing in the country. Matara District of Southern coast has sustained the most damage from the gale force winds, the Assistant Director of DMC, Pradeep Kodipilli said.

According to the DMC, 8,980 people belonging to 1,796 families were affected in Matara district while 282 houses have been fully damaged and another 1,483 houses were partially damaged. Electricity to the area is interrupted many roads are blocked due to fallen trees and other debris. Road cleaning and power line restorations are in progress, the DMC said.

In the hill country Badulla district roads were blocked due to landslides brought about by heavy rains. The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) are clearing the roads, the DMC reported. In Monaragala, Anuradhapura and Batticaloa districts overflowing water reservoirs have forced the irrigation authorities to open sluice gates and warn the villagers of increasing water levels on streams....

UN telecoms agency urges use of technology to tackle climate change

UN News Centre: The United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said today that it will, with partners, urge delegates at the UN climate change conference in South Africa next week to harness the power of information and communication technology to promote measures to mitigate and adapt to global warming.

Modern advanced technologies can transform social, industrial and business processes to effect the changes needed to achieve environmental sustainability, ITU said in a statement ahead of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which opens in the South African city of Durban on Monday.

While the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to make a real difference is widely recognized by the technology community and government ICT ministries, it is still far from being understood and embraced by environmental lobby groups and policy-makers, ITU pointed out.

“ITU and its partners will be using COP 17 to promote ICTs as the 21st century’s most valuable problem-solving tools. ITU believes it imperative that they be included as an integral part of global climate change policy,” said the statement.

...The coalition’s message is that ICTs, such as smart grids, intelligent transport systems and the ‘Internet of things’ have extraordinary potential to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of other high energy-consuming sectors, and must be included in any meaningful climate change policies at the global, regional and national level....

Africa moves for climate change adaptation

Patson Phiri in the Times of Zambia: The climate change conference set for Durban, South Africa starting on Monday November 28 provides an opportunity for the global community to reach a binding agreement towards the common goal of rescuing the planet, but deep divisions remain on the way forward.

African negotiators fear that developed Western nations— responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that have caused heat, droughts and destruction to the ozone layer because of increased industrialisation—will refuse to agree to a deal proposing that they should release adequate resources for adaptation to defuse a further collapse to the economies.

The 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will continue negotiations towards a global consensus on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

The conference takes place at a time when countries such as Zambia have already experienced unpredictable weather patterns that have interchanged between droughts and floods and conversely, extreme heat and extreme cold.

This is why minister of Local Government, Housing, Early Childhood and Environmental protection Nkandu Luo was emphatic on the need for all Africans to speak as one because such challenges are shared by all poor nations....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Climate sensitivity to CO2 more limited than extreme projections

Science Daily: A new study suggests that the rate of global warming from doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide may be less than the most dire estimates of some previous studies -- and, in fact, may be less severe than projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2007.

Authors of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation's Paleoclimate Program and published online this week in the journal Science, say that global warming is real and that increases in atmospheric CO2 will have multiple serious impacts.

However, the most Draconian projections of temperature increases from the doubling of CO2 are unlikely.

"Many previous climate sensitivity studies have looked at the past only from 1850 through today, and not fully integrated paleoclimate date, especially on a global scale," said Andreas Schmittner, an Oregon State University researcher and lead author on the Science article. "When you reconstruct sea and land surface temperatures from the peak of the last Ice Age 21,000 years ago -- which is referred to as the Last Glacial Maximum -- and compare it with climate model simulations of that period, you get a much different picture.

"If these paleoclimatic constraints apply to the future, as predicted by our model, the results imply less probability of extreme climatic change than previously thought," Schmittner added....

...Schmittner said continued unabated fossil fuel use could lead to similar warming of the sea surface as reconstruction shows happened between the Last Glacial Maximum and today. "Hence, drastic changes over land can be expected," he said. "However, our study implies that we still have time to prevent that from happening, if we make a concerted effort to change course soon."...

A cumulonimbus cloud with a big anvil, shot by Simon Eugster --Simon, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license