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Sustainability and Environment Headlines - 22 July, 2005


Solutions and Sustainability

Portugal Pins Energy Hopes on Wind Farm Licenses

Henrique Simoes de Almeida, Reuters via Planet Ark

LISBON - Portugal's Socialist government said on Monday it would grant licenses within six months to build massive stretches of wind farms, as part of a 2.5 billion-euro ($3-billion) investment plan in renewable energy.

A Economy Ministry spokesman said the licenses, to be awarded to business consortiums, would allow for the generation of 1,700 Megawatts (MW) of energy.

That's more than the capacity of a new nuclear power plant proposed by private investors last month, and immediately rejected by the government.
(20 July 2005)

Beijing digs deep in quest for green energy

Peoples Daily Online (China)

More urban buildings in Beijing, including some facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games, are expected to use environment-friendly geothermal energy by 2010, China Daily reported Thursday. By then, about 20 million square meters of buildings will be using geothermal energy, it quoted Chen Huaiwei, an official with the city's development and reform commission, as saying.

According to Chen, the municipal government will encourage more real estate developers to use clean energy by giving them subsidies or easier access to bank loans. The green energy technology is also expected to be adopted in some Olympic facilities, the paper quoted Sun Ji, chief engineer of the Ever Source Science & Technology Development Co. Ltd., a major developer of the technology. ...

To date, 3 million square meters of buildings in Beijing have adopted the technology, and its use is expected to replace 112,500 tons of coal or 75 million cubic meters of natural gas in winter alone -- sparing 280,000 tons of carbon dioxide emission and 2,640 tons of sulphur dioxide emission. ...
(21 July 2005)

Energy crisis? Take a vacation

Staff, Rediff.com

Hit by one of its worst energy crunches, Beijing municipal government has for the first time sent employees from 962 industrial enterprises on a week-long paid vacation to save on power.

Employees from 962 Beijing-based industrial enterprises have gone on their paid leave this week as the Chinese capital city entered the hottest time of the year. Altogether 4,689 enterprises will give week-long summer vacations for their employees in the coming four weeks, a spokesman with the Beijing municipal government said. ...
(19 July 2005)

Survey shows costs of energy conservation going down

Michael Jamison, Missoulian (Montana, US)

KALISPELL - The purchasing power of purchasing power is better than ever, with the cost of energy conservation down by more than half in the past decade.

That's the word from a new report issued by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a four-state agency charged with ensuring affordable and reliable hydropower.

Late last year, the council released a new regional power plan that predicted the growing Northwest would need a whole lot more electricity in the coming two decades. About half that electricity - some 2,500 megawatts - would be gained through energy conservation rather than new power plants.
This week, the conservation side of that equation received a jolt of good news, with a council survey revealing that conservation costs have dropped dramatically.

In 1991, the average price tag for conserving a megawatt of electricity was $3.9 million. Today, that same megawatt can be had for $1.6 million. (A megawatt is enough power to light 10,000 100-watt light bulbs continuously for one year.)
(21 July 2005)


Environment

Ecological alarm bell is on our porch
Ocean upwelling is the foundation of life as we know it in the North Pacific

Editorial, Daily Astorian (Oregon)

The silly and overblown but visually interesting 2004 climate catastrophe movie The Day After Tomorrow revolved around the shut-down of the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream. Now we may be in the midst of experiencing what happens when Pacific Ocean circulation patterns are upset by global warming, which is an all-too-real ecological disaster.

Stories last week in the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Times broke news of scientific alarm over the disappearance of oceanic plankton from waters off Oregon, Washington and Northern California, caused by an unheard-of weakening of the phenomenon called “upwelling,” the seasonal movement of cold, nutrient-rich offshore water into areas near shore.

This cold water that ordinarily discourages all but the most intrepid human swimmers is the very foundation of life as we know it in the North Pacific. One of the planet’s simplest life forms, plankton, blooms in breath-taking abundance during time of strong upwelling. In turn, this plankton feeds other creatures including tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called krill and even our coast’s beloved razor clams.

Without an upwelling and the unbelievable quantity of nutrients it produces at the base of the ocean food chain, starvation swiftly becomes a substantial probability. This is leading to a troubling die-off of seabirds and may be a factor in juvenile rockfish numbers also being way down along portions of the coastline. So far at least, sardines and other bait fish that are crucial to the survival of larger species including salmon are not experiencing a population crash. But there are some highly troubling signs.
(19 July 2005)

Protecting, Conserving Water Resources Could Save Communities Immense Sums - Report

Abid Aslam, OneWorld US via Common Dreams

WASHINGTON - Humans waste water and foul their watersheds at their growing peril, environmentalists warned in a new report Tuesday.

''It almost seems as if the point of public policy is to liquidate Earth's water assets like a store going out of business,'' said Sandra Postel, author of the report from the Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute.

Cities and rural areas alike can purify drinking water, alleviate hunger, and mitigate flood damage at a fraction of the cost of conventional technological alternatives simply by taking advantage of the work that healthy watersheds and freshwater ecosystems perform naturally, said the report, ''Liquid Assets: The Critical Need to Safeguard Freshwater Ecosystems.''

The document urged immediate steps to reduce waste and conserve water, saying these would increase the ''cost efficiency of nature's 'factories'.''
(20 July 2005)
Peak Oil activists such as Jan Lundberg have been pointing out the linkages between water supplies and energy shortages.

All fired up

John Mitchell and Joel Satore, National Geographic

There are a number of places in the Rocky Mountains today where you will find the Old West grinding against the New, and Pinedale, Wyoming, is surely one of them. ...

"This is a national sacrifice area," [Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition]says over the intercom. I had heard it described from a different perspective just the day before at the Pinedale office of the BLM: "In terms of productivity, there are few onshore gas fields equal to the Jonah in the lower forty-eight," said Prill Mecham, the BLM field manager.

Heading back to the airstrip at Pinedale, [Bruce Gordon of EcoFlight] says, "This is just the tip of it. I can fly one hour in practically any direction in the Rocky Mountains and look down and see some sign of oil and gas development. They're going for it almost everywhere."
(July 2005)
Great audio + pictorial feature also.

The Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline: BP’s Time Bomb

Hannah Ellis, Guerilla News Network

In recent years, British Petroleum (BP) has been working hard to remake its public image. Their well-crafted print and television ads feature upbeat electronic music and a vibrant new yellow and green starburst logo. With it’s cutting-edge content on human rights, biodiversity and macro-economic theory, their website is designed to look like that of a developmental think tank.

In reality, BP is the world’s third largest oil and gas company and one of the largest polluters on the globe. Exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas are the company’s main activities and it operates in 100 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. Its revenues for 2003 were over $16 billion; its profits were over $10 billion.
BP’s profits come with enormous human cost and environmental damages, and its latest venture—the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline which opened in late May—has done little to make amends. ...

The construction of the pipeline has been monitored by the Baku-Ceyhan Campaign, a consortium of NGOs including the Kurdish Human Rights Project, The Corner House, Friends of the Earth and Environmental Defense. The campaign has uncovered 173 violations of World Bank environmental and social standards in the Turkish section of the project during the design stage alone. ...
(5 July 2005)

Let the Real Climate Debate Begin

Peter H. Gleick, Environmental News Network
The global warming debate is over – the Earth is warming because of human activities. So say 11 National Academies of Science from around the world together with virtually all of the world’s climate scientists, California Governor Schwarzenegger, and even most of major oil companies. And the American people, by an overwhelming majority, believe it’s time to take action.

For most climate scientists, this particular debate was over many years ago. The climate experienced by our children and grandchildren will be substantially different than it is today. Indeed, the next generations will see a climate unlike any since the rise of Homo sapiens.

Yet the facts about the sound science of climate change have been obfuscated by a tiny band of determined, vocal, and well-funded contrarians, with oil company support, the help of political editors of scientific reports inside the White House, and now politicians meddling with independent science. ...
Stop playing politics with climate science. It is time for the real climate debate to begin. If politicians want to get involved in the debate – as they should – they should be asking: How bad are global climate changes going to be, what should be done about them, who should do it, and who should pay? Lots of science needs to be done, but the difficult challenges are social, economic, and political, are not scientific. ...
Dr. Peter H. Gleick is a 2003 MacArthur Fellow, member of the US National Academy of Sciences Water Science and Technology Board, a lifetime member of the International Water Academy in Oslo, Norway, and President of the Pacific Institute, Oakland.
(21 July 2005)

Poll says legislators should act on climate
Californians believe impact of warming has already begun

Maria Alicia Gaura, SF Chronicle

A strong majority of Californians, rejecting Bush administration assertions that global warming is not yet a proven phenomenon, believe the effects of climate change have already begun and want state legislators to take action to lessen human activities that scientists say are warming the planet, a new poll shows.

The survey conducted by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California indicates that 86 percent of state residents believe that global warming will affect current or future generations. Of those respondents, 57 percent say the changes are already under way.

Only 9 percent of Californians overall, and 20 percent of California Republicans, say that global warming "will never happen," according to the survey.

"I've been polling on environmental issues for two decades, and several things (in the study results) jumped out at me," said Mark Baldassare, director of research at the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute.

"The first was the high level of concern about global warming, and secondly the desire to have the state take an active role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Baldassare said. "And third, the willingness of the public to make lifestyle and financial sacrifices for the sake of improving air quality."

...California by itself is the sixth-largest economy on Earth, Baldassare noted, and efforts here "could potentially have major worldwide impacts."
(21 July 2005)

Is Global Warming Leading to Extinction?
Scientists Fear Rising Temperatures Are Endangering Many Species

Bill Blakemore, ABC News

...All over the planet, hundreds of scientists are finding plants and animals suddenly scattering, withering or outright disappearing as our world approaches sustained temperatures higher than today's species ever evolved to be able to survive in.

The new heat wave is attacking in many ways — from melting the sea-ice that polar bears need for hunting to bringing tropical rains two months too early, so plants blossom too soon to feed the animals that depend on them.

Three separate scientific survey studies, which pull together hundreds of field studies from around the world, add to the same picture. The increase in the average global temperature is causing havoc in many ecosystems — and on a scale that's hard, at first, even to imagine.
(18 July 2005)

Blue Skies, Green Cities

Niko Kyriakou, Inter Press Service via Common Dreams

WASHINGTON - Ignoring inaction at the highest levels of the U.S. government, 145 mayors across the country have formed a coalition to combat global warming and begun to reshape their cities using innovative programs and technologies.

The mayors say they can make urban living more eco-friendly and at the same time create jobs and stimulate local economies.

The Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty calling for reductions in the greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change, took effect in February. But the United States, which makes up four percent of the world's population and produces 22 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, did not ratify the treaty.

The George W. Bush administration opposes Kyoto because officials argue it would raise energy prices and kill five million U.S. jobs. The administration has also raised questions about the scientific legitimacy of climate change.

Tired of waiting for action from federal authorities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, as the coalition is called, unanimously agreed last month to implement aspects of the protocol locally
(20 July 2005)

Clinton warns of global warming dangers

Associated Press via ABC News

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa Jul 19, 2005 — Former President Clinton sounded a warning Tuesday against the dangers of climate change as he met with young South Africans, and had lunch with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. ...
(19 July 2005)

Organic food is a healthy deal (Analysis)

Jean Johnson, Indian Country Today

... It came as a surprise, though, when an organic farmer and regular seller at one of the city's Saturday farmer's markets fired back a stern missive. ''I've supported the tribal catches for years, but where are the Indians when it comes time to buy local and organic at my stand? There's one Indian woman that buys my stuff regularly and that's it. It gets old having the deal go one way when we're all after the same thing - living gently on the earth and freeing ourselves from bondage to the corporations. Yes, it costs more, but the tribal fishers aren't shy about getting $4/pound for their fish.''

The point is worth considering. Why is there a perception among at least some buy-local folks that they aren't getting the quid pro quo from their tribal friends that they think fair?

...Could it be that part of the problem lies in the marketing? The packaging? The convenience? The appearance of large, unblemished fruits and vegetables stacked up to appeal to the eye in the stores?

But any way you slice it, it's a problem. Moms and dads in Indian country are busy to the hilt seeing that the kids have what they need. Getting out on Saturday morning to buy local might not even be possible for the 40 percent of the tribal population living on reservations.

But now that the question has been raised, it might be something to ponder. Gathering roots and berries and such is certainly one way to stay connected to the land and its rhythms in a respectful way. Buying local and organic just might be another.
(19 July 2005)
Indian Country is "The Nations' Leading American Indian News Source."

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