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Environment Headlines - 31 August, 2005

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage



Shrinking La. Coastline Contributes To Flooding

Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
Two months ago, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told an audience of congressional staffers and scientific experts the federal government needs to spend billions of dollars over the next two decades to restore her state's wetlands. She warned that intentional rerouting of the Mississippi River over the past century, coupled with rising sea levels due to climate change, had eroded Louisiana's natural buffer against massive storms.

"This is not Disneyland. This is the real deal," Landrieu said, referring to New Orleans's vulnerability to hurricanes. "The French Quarter could be under 18 feet of water. It would be lost forever."

Although the extent of the damage that Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the city remains to be assessed, several experts and government officials said the storm highlights the importance of restoring Louisiana's coastline closer to its natural state.
(30 August 2005)


Storm Turns Focus to Global Warming

Miguel Bustillo, LA Times
Though some scientists connect the growing severity of hurricanes to climate change, most insist that there's not enough proof.
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Is the rash of powerful Atlantic storms in recent years a symptom of global warming?

Although most mainstream hurricane scientists are skeptical of any connection between global warming and heightened storm activity, the growing intensity of hurricanes and the frequency of large storms are leading some to rethink long-held views.

Most hurricane scientists maintain that linking global warming to more-frequent severe storms, such as Hurricane Katrina, is premature, at best.

Though warmer sea-surface temperatures caused by climate change theoretically could boost the frequency and potency of hurricanes, scientists say the 150-year record of Atlantic storms shows ample precedent for recent events.

But a paper published last month in the journal Nature by meteorologist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is part of an emerging body of research challenging the prevailing view.

It concluded that the destructive power of hurricanes had increased 50% over the last half a century, and that a rise in surface temperatures linked to global warming was at least partly responsible.
(30 August 2005)


Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists

Paul Brown, The Guardian
Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.

Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

He is using the wide powers of his committee to force the scientists to produce great quantities of material after alleging flaws and lack of transparency in their research. He is working with Ed Whitfield, the chairman of the sub-committee on oversight and investigations.

The scientific work they are investigating was important in establishing that man-made carbon emissions were at least partly responsible for global warming, and formed part of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convinced most world leaders - George Bush was a notable exception - that urgent action was needed to curb greenhouse gases.

The demands in letters sent to the scientists have been compared by some US media commentators to the anti-communist "witch-hunts" pursued by Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.

The three US climate scientists - Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University; Raymond Bradley, the director of the Climate System Research Centre at the University of Massachusetts; and Malcolm Hughes, the former director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona - have been told to send large volumes of material.
(30 August 2005)


Welcome To A Warming Planet

Big Gav, Peak Energy (Australia)
Roundup of coverage of Hurricane Katrine, storms in general and global warming.
(29 August 2005)


Arctic Meltdown
(AUDIO)
BBC
In 1996 US entrepreneur and explorer Gary Comer took his boat to the Northwest Passage in search of adventure. Inspired by the stories of early explorers like Roald Amundsen, who had tried to navigate the winding route through northern Canadian sea ice, Comer expected high adventure. Instead he found where there had once been ice, there was now easily navigated open water.

Comer is not the only one to notice the change. For years, climate models have been predicting that global warming will show up first, and most severely, in the Arctic regions. Now scientists working there are seeing evidence of the dramatic change for themselves. Glaciers that have retreated one and a half kilometres in 150 years are common while the ice covering the sea is disappearing at ten times that rate.

Now both Comer and the scientists have joined forces. Inspired, or rather astonished, by his 1996 passage, Gary Comer decided set up a fellowship programme for scientists to study the Arctic Meltdown. He's so far spent some $40 million funding more than 100 climate scientists from Norway to Australia who he regularly invites aboard his boat to see the evidence for themselves.

In Arctic Meltdown, Richard Hollingham joins Gary Comer on one of his expeditions through the north. Accompanied by oceanographers, climatologists and ecologists he discovers why the Arctic is so vulnerable to climate change and what the implications of this meltdown maybe.
(16 August 2005)


Plastic bags banned in Bombay
State officials tie flooding that killed 1,000 to clogged gutters

MSNBC
BOMBAY, India - The western Indian state of Maharashtra on Friday said it is banning most plastic bags, blaming them for choking drains and causing floods a month ago that left more than 1,000 people dead, most in Bombay.
(26 August 2005)


A million species live in just a gram of soil

Henry Foundain, NY Times via Seattle Post-Intelligencer
How many different species of bacteria would you find in a thimbleful of soil? Until recently, scientists would have said about 10,000.

While that is a remarkable number, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have now revised it upward by at least two orders of magnitude. In a study published in the journal Science, they report that a gram of unpolluted soil contains a million bacterial species or more.
(30 August 2005)
Don't look to the stars, look to the soil.

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