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Environment Headlines - 14 October, 2005

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Climate data hint at record hot 2005

Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post via Seattle Times
WASHINGTON — New international climate data show that 2005 is on track to be the hottest year on record, continuing a 25-year trend of rising global temperatures.

Climatologists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies calculated the record-breaking global average temperature — which surpasses 1998's record by a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit — from readings taken at 7,200 weather stations throughout the world.

The new analysis comes as government and independent scientists are reporting other signs of global warming, such as the record shrinkage of Arctic sea ice and unprecedented high ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.
(13 October 2005)
Also at Seattle Times.


Economists fear warming's effects

Sherri Buri McDonald, Eugene Register-Guard
Global warming isn't just an environmental issue, it's an economic issue, with potentially dire consequences for Oregon's economy, according to a letter from nearly 50 economists to the state's government and civic leaders.

The economists, who are affiliated with colleges and universities all over the country, including many in Oregon, on Tuesday released the letter and a 21-page report assessing the economic impacts of climate change in Oregon.

The report said the effects of global warming - higher temperatures, rising sea levels, loss of mountain snowpack and a change in precipitation patterns - will affect a wide range of Oregon businesses and industries, including forestry and agriculture, ski resorts and hydroelectric power generation.

... Calling the report "the first of its kind in the nation," Doppelt said the economists in Oregon were able to address the economic impacts of global warming because Oregon State University last year released a scientific statement on climate change on the Pacific Northwest.

"The scientific community acted here first, which provided the platform for economists to look at this issue," Doppelt said.
(12 October 2005)


The Heat Death of American Dreams

Ed Merta, AlterNet
Overshadowed by last month's hurricanes was the news that global warming is likely to accelerate much faster than feared, and it's already begun.
A number of news reports and commentary on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have linked the disasters to global warming. Almost nobody noticed a crucial scientific finding, two weeks earlier, that foreshadows disasters on a far greater scale in the decades to come.

According to August 11 articles in the magazine New Scientist and the British newspaper the Guardian, a pair of scientists, one Russian and one British, report that global warming is melting the permafrost in the West Siberian tundra. The news made a little blip in the international media and the blogosphere, and then it disappeared.

Why should anyone care? Because melting of the Siberian permafrost will, over the next few decades, release hundreds of millions of tons of methane from formerly frozen peat bogs into the atmosphere. Methane from those bogs is at least twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide that currently drives global warming
(12 October 2005)
Recommended by Big Gav at Peak Energy (Australia).


Nearly Half of Americans Cite
'Too Little' Environment Regulation

The Harris Poll, Wall Street Journal Onlne
Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults agree that protecting the environment is important and standards cannot be too high, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

At the same time, nearly half of Americans surveyed say there is too little government regulation and involvement in the area of environmental protection, compared with about 19% who feel there is too much regulation and 32% who say it's just right.

The telephone poll of 1,217 adults indicates concern about too little environmental protection has risen slightly from 39% in 2000, when this poll was last conducted. But the percentage is far below the 63% who said there was too little regulation back in 1991.

Americans view large corporations as one of the biggest culprits in environmental problems: 71% said they are doing less than their share to help reduce environmental problems. But 63% say the general public isn't doing its share.

Only 12% of U.S. adults describe themselves as active environmentalists. While more than half of U.S. adults say they are sympathetic to environmental concerns, nearly a quarter say they are neutral and 4% say they are unsympathetic.
(13 October 2005)
The original article may disappear soon as a free article.


Damalot
Jacques Leslie's Deep Water sheds light on dam dramas

Michelle Nijhuis, Grist Magazine
...In his new book, Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, journalist Jacques Leslie examines the modern battles over dams. His route into this broad and complex topic is a wonky one, but it works.

Five years ago, the independent World Commission on Dams published a report titled Dams and Development; it acknowledged, to the surprise of many observers, that large dams are typically less profitable than predicted, cause irreversible environmental damage, and lead to "the impoverishment and suffering of millions." In Deep Water, Leslie brings this dense document to life by picking three commission members -- one anti-dam, one "mixed," and one pro -- and plumbing their minds and their work.

The result is a trio of lengthy profiles, packed with lovely details and useful insights. We first meet Medha Patkar, a Bombay-born former social worker who has dedicated her life to battling a series of huge dams on India's Narmada River. The dams, already partially constructed, block "what may be the most revered river in the world," as Leslie writes, and have already inundated entire tribal villages. Patkar and the other members of her group, Narmada Bachao Andolan, have an ascetic sensibility and an intense sense of purpose; hell on earth is straight ahead, and these activists have nothing to lose. Years of Andolan hunger strikes and other protests eventually forced the World Bank out of the Narmada project, an iconic victory for the Andolan campaign and others like it. But the Indian government soon vowed to provide the remaining funding for the dams, and even Patkar's threats to drown herself in the rising reservoir have not stopped the project.

In the face of the gravity of his subject, Leslie is an appealingly modest guide. He confesses to embarrassment about drinking bottled water in front of Patkar, and to his own culture shock as an American in India.
(12 October 2005)


Zoo Focuses On Global Warming Threat To Polar Bears

Ley Garnett, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)
PORTLAND, OR - One of the favorites at the Oregon Zoo may be among the first victims of global warming. The zoo held a news conference Wednesday to warn of the dangers facing polar bears in their natural habitat.
(12 October 2005)


Six-Nation Climate Change Meeting Likely Delayed

Reuters via ENN
CANBERRA — A six-nation meeting to combat global warming is unlikely to be held in November as planned and Australia is aiming to host the talks at the end of this year or early 2006, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said on Tuesday.

The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate between Australia, the United States, Japan, India, South Korea and China was unveiled in July with an aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by developing energy technology.

Officials in Canberra said the talks were due to be held in November, but attempts to coordinate foreign, environment and energy ministers from the six nations to attend the meeting in the southern Australian city of Adelaide had proved difficult.

...According to figures to be released by the partnership, the six founding partners of the new pact account for 45 percent of the world's population, 48 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and 48 percent of the world's energy consumption.

The pact, dubbed "beyond Kyoto", has been described as complimentary to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions that the United States and Australia have refused to ratify.
(12 October 2005)
Critics claim that this alternative to Kyoto is more about publicity than substance. The slow progress of the group is not an encouraging sign. -BA


Biomimicry 101

Jeremy Faludi, WorldChanging
You probably hear the word "biomimicry" bandied about a lot, but a recent article in an otherwise respectable technical journal showed me how little most people know about it. So here's a quick primer on what it is, why it's useful, and why you'll be seeing a lot more of it in years to come.

Biomimicry In A Nutshell

Biomimicry--usually called Bionics in Europe--is getting ideas from nature for the way we make or do things. For example, Velcro was inspired by the way burrs stuck to fur--the scratchy side of Velcro acts like burrs, the soft side acts like fur. Biomimicry, when well done, is not slavish imitation; it is inspiration--using the principles which nature has demonstrated to be successful design strategies. (In the early days of mechanized flight, the best designs were not the ornithopters, which most completely imitated birds, but the fixed-wing craft that used the principle of airfoil cross-section in their wings.) Biomimicry can operate on any scale, from super-adhesive tape that imitates a gecko's skin to a high-rise building that imitates a ttermite mound for passive air-conditioning.

Humans have been getting ideas from other animals and plants as long as we've been around; Leonardo DaVinci once said, "Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain." But historically speaking, its application has been haphazard, and has not particularly been used for green design. Janine Benyus, with her book "Biomimicry", was the first to propose that learning from nature would be the perfect tool for eco-design.
(13 October 2005)

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