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Environment Headlines - 26 September, 2005

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Blair Falls into Line with Bush View on Global Warming

Geoffrey Lean and Christopher Silvester, The Independent via Common Dreams
Tony Blair has admitted that he is changing his views on combating global warming to mirror those of President Bush - and oppose negotiating international treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol.

His admission, which has outraged environmentalists on both sides of the Atlantic, flies in the face of his promises made in the past two years and undermines the agreement he masterminded at this summer's Gleneagles Summit. And it endangers talks that opened in Ottawa this weekend on a new treaty to combat climate change.

The U-turn will inevitably bring accusations that he has, once again, sold out to Mr Bush, just at the time that the US President is coming under unprecedented pressure to change his policy in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Last week the UK Government's chief scientific advisor, Sir David King, said that global warming might have increased their severity.

Over the past two years Mr Blair has consistently claimed global leadership in tackling what he described as "long term, the single most important issue we face as a global community" and has stressed that it "can only properly be addressed through international agreements". President Bush repeatedly expressed anger at his position.

Sharing a platform with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in New York this month, Mr Blair confessed: "Probably I'm changing my thinking about this", adding that he hoped the world's nations would "not negotiate international treaties".

This contradicts his assertion in a speech a year ago - which drew a private rebuke from the Bush administration - that "a problem that is global in cause and scope can only be fully addressed through international agreement".

It also denies what his ministers claimed to be his main achievement on global warming at Gleneagles. He had succeeded in getting all the leaders except Mr Bush to sign up to negotiating a successor to the Kyoto treaty, and in arranging a meeting between the G8 and leading developing countries to discuss it.

But instead of endorsing agreed limits on the pollution that causes climate change, Mr Blair told this month's meeting at the Clinton Global Initiative that he was putting his faith in "developing science and technology" - precisely Mr Bush's position.
(25 September 2005)
Related story in the UK Telegraph: Why Kyoto will never succeed, by Blair.


Moving Mountains: Undermining the Coal Industry

Bo Webb, Slingshot via Alternative Press Review
Most Americans have never heard the words "mountain range removal/mountain top removal" It's the dirty little secret that the U.S. government wants to keep hidden from the eyes of America, and the world. There is no better example of a human catastrophe linked to environmental destruction than life in the coal fields of Appalachia.

What is mountain top removal? It starts with the removal of all vegetation. Trees are bulldozed over and pushed into the valleys to be burned. Huge access roads are then built in order to bring in mammoth earth moving equipment. This alone requires much blasting, but once the equipment is in place, the real horror begins. Holes are drilled in the ground, and then packed with high explosives. Part of the mountain is then literally blown away. ...

Those of us living in the coal fields exist in a constant state of terror. Since there is neither vegetation nor topsoil on the mountain to absorb the rainfall, we live in fear when it rains. During a rainstorm, our children go to bed fully clothed, plotting escape routes in case we have to flee in the middle of the night.
We have had people swept away in mud slides and water tides, pouring down from mountain top removal sites. Yet, the coal companies have the audacity to call these events, “acts of God.”
(September 2005)


Solar cars' batteries may pose risk to environment: Greenfleet

ABC (Aus)
Greenfleet Australia says the cars in the World Solar Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide may run on green energy but making and disposing of the cars is not so friendly to the environment.

Greenfleet chief executive Australia Henry O'Cleary says in the still early days of building ultimately efficient vehicles, designers have to use new-generation materials.

No-one knows how to recycle them, nor what their full life cycle impacts will be until commercialisation is an option. Mr O'Cleary says it is part and parcel of the evolutionary cycle. "Some of the batteries in these vehicles have lithium in them," he said.

"There are all sorts of chemicals and processes used that of themselves could potentially be damaging and ultimately what happens is those things do get addressed but as I said they get addressed further down the cycle."
Greenfleet are an Australian nonprofit that plants trees to offset carbon-emissions for modest subscription.-LJ
(25 September 2005)


Shoppers 'threat to orang-utans'

BBC
Demand for crisps, bread, lipstick and soap could drive orang-utans to extinction, research suggests. The UK alone imports nearly a million tonnes of palm oil a year for use in such products, but campaigners say plantations for it destroy rainforests.

Friends of the Earth and international ape conservation groups warn in a report that 90% of the animals' habitat in South East Asia has been wiped out. ...

The report, the Oil for Ape Scandal, said palm oil plantations have now become the primary cause of the orang-utans' decline in Malaysia and Indonesia.
(23 September 2005)


Caribbean coral hit by warm, storm-spawning seas

Reuters via ABC (Aus)
Corals in the Caribbean are being damaged by the same warm seas that have fuelled Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the WWF conservation group says.

Corals off Florida, Barbados, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Cuba seemed to be undergoing the worst damage, known as bleaching, since 1997-1998.

Corals are vital breeding grounds for many species of fish and draw tourists to the Caribbean. "The same heat that's causing the hurricanes is causing the bleaching of corals," said Lara Hansen, chief climate change scientist at the WWF. ...
(24 September 2005)


Arctic Ice: Shrinking, with Consequences

Editorial, Minneapolis Star Tribune via Common Dreams
As public conversation about global warming has centered for several weeks on its possible role in a dreadful hurricane season, climate scientists have been tracking a much clearer and more alarming impact.

This is the time of year when Arctic sea ice shrinks to its annual minimum, and satellite measurements indicate that the ice cover has fallen below a "tipping point" from which it may not recover. By the end of the century, and possibly much earlier, the polar region seems likely to be ice-free through the summer months -- a condition that has not occurred for roughly a million years.

The consequences of such change are enormous, and reach far beyond the sea-level changes from which Minnesotans may feel comfortably distant. Sea ice is a great stabilizer of the global climate, a sort of flywheel that smooths and slows the impact of changes occurring elsewhere in the system. Without it, those unhappy trends will widen and accelerate.

Here's the problem: Because of its high reflectivity, white sea ice absorbs far less of the sun's heat than open water. The same is true of snow- and glacier-covered land masses, like much of Greenland. When the ice retreats, more of the polar ocean is exposed to sunlight, which means both the seawater and the air above it get warmer.

Thus begins an unfortunate feedback loop: the warmer the ocean and the atmosphere, the more sea ice melts at the edges; the more the ice retreats, the warmer the ocean and atmosphere become. The ice still rebounds in the cold months, but once it shrinks beyond a certain point during the summer, it can't fully recover.
(24 September 2005)

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