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Environment Headlines - 21 September, 2005

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Iraq suffers severe water shortage

Mark Willacy and Tony Eastley, ABC (Au)
Known as "the land between two rivers," Iraq - and particularly Baghdad - is finding itself in the grip of a severe water shortage. With temperatures nudging 50-degrees centigrade, some residents of the Iraqi capital have been without clean running water for weeks.

The Baghdad Municipality blames insurgent attacks and crumbling infrastructure, but those without water say the problem lies with corrupt officials.

This report was compiled by the ABC's Baghdad staff and Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy.

MARK WILLACY: It's been weeks since Umm Salem and the other residents of the Bawiya slum in northern Baghdad have tasted clean running water. Crowded round the water tanker, Umm Salem patiently waits for hours for her 44-gallon drum to be filled. ...
(13 September 2005)


A Warning From Tony Blair’s Top Science Advisor

Laurie David, Huffington Post
On Friday, I had breakfast with a British rock star -- but he doesn’t play guitar or wear spandex. He’s a professor -- one knighted by the Queen of England. His name is Sir David King, and he’s Tony Blair’s chief scientific advisor. When I told him that he was the scientific community’s equivalent of a rock star, his proper British veneer turned bright red.

During our conversation, he told me that the inertia of the U.S. government on global warming must stop. He had come to Los Angeles following meetings with the Bush administration -- meetings that left him feeling discouraged by the prevailing attitude of inaction.

He also expressed his country’s shock at the horrific televised images from Louisiana: “Very few of us thought we would ever see anything like this in the United States.” He went on to say that the recent global disasters have all been predicted by scientists, pointing out that the governments of the countries devastated by the tsunami “were warned repeatedly and urged to put in an early warning system. They looked at the cost of it and said ‘No’. That system would have saved at least 100,000 lives -- easily.”

Scientists also predicted that the levees of New Orleans would break -- and science has been predicting the basic physics of climate change since the early 1900s. “We are talking,” said Sir David, “about a couple thousand of the brightest minds on the planet now warning about global warming. What will be the big event that is going to test the theory? Are we going to wait for that occurrence? Isn’t there a point that we don’t want to test the theory against? Governments today have access to remarkably good scientific advice. They ignore it at the peril of their own populations.”

Tony Blair is listening to Sir David King -- and so are the people of England. We should too.
(19 September 2005)


It would seem that I was wrong about big business

George Monbiot, Guardian
Corporations are ready to act on global warming but are thwarted by ministers who resist regulation in the name of the market

Climate-change denial has gone through four stages. First the fossil-fuel lobbyists told us that global warming was a myth. Then they agreed that it was happening, but insisted that it was a good thing: we could grow wine in the Pennines and take Mediterranean holidays in Skegness. Then they admitted that the bad effects outweighed the good ones, but claimed that climate change would cost more to tackle than to tolerate. Now they have reached stage four. They concede that climate change would be cheaper to address than to neglect, but maintain that it's now too late. This is their most persuasive argument.

...A week ago, I would have said that if it is too late, then one factor above all others is to blame: the chokehold that big business has on economic policy. By forbidding governments to intervene effectively in the market, the corporations oblige us to do nothing but stand by and watch as the planet cooks. But last Wednesday I discovered that it isn't quite that simple. At a conference organised by the Building Research Establishment, I witnessed an extraordinary thing: companies demanding tougher regulations - and the government refusing to grant them.

Environmental managers from BT and John Lewis (which owns Waitrose) complained that, without tighter standards that everyone has to conform to, their companies put themselves at a disadvantage if they try to go green.

...I don't believe it is yet too late to minimise climate change. Most of the evidence suggests we could still stop the ecosystem melting down, but only by cutting greenhouse gases by about 80% before 2030. I'm working on a book showing how this can be done, technically and politically. But it has now become clear to me that the obstacle is not the market but the government, waving a dog-eared treatise that proves some point in a debate the rest of the world has forgotten.
(20 September 2005)


Global Warming 'Past The Point Of No Return'

Steve Connor, The Independent
A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average.

Experts believe that such a loss of Arctic sea ice in summer has not occurred in hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It is the fourth year in a row that the sea ice in August has fallen below the monthly downward trend - a clear sign that melting has accelerated.
(18 September 2005)
Readers inclined to despair, thinking "I might as well, it couldn't get any worse", are asked not to tempt fate.-LJ


World's top firms continue climate crimes

Michael Harrison, The Independent (UK)
Most of the world's biggest companies are failing to cut their carbon emissions even though the long-term cost of complying with tougher rules to tackle global warming could have a devastating impact on their profitability.

An authoritative report published yesterday in New York also warns that climate change litigation could one day become as big a threat to big corporations as asbestos and tobacco lawsuits are today.

The study by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an initiative backed by institutional investors controlling more than $21 trillion (£12 trillion) of assets, warns there is a huge and worrying gap between awareness among big companies of the risks posed by climate change and action to combat it.

According to the report, fewer than one in seven of the world's top 500 companies by market capitalisation has reduced carbon emissions in the past year and in more than one-sixth of cases emissions have gone up. ...
(15 September 2005)
Original title 'World's top firms fail to tackle climate change challenge'. -LJ

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