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Winds of change
The Texas Observer talks with environmentalist Bill McKibben about global warming

Jake Bernstein, Texas Observer
…Bill McKibben: The U.S. is the only remaining world capital in denial about what’s going on. If you look at the regard for America around the world, the point at which it started to steeply drop was not at all our misadventures in Iraq. It was before that. It was when, a few weeks after taking office, George Bush declared that we were not going to have anything to do with the Kyoto Protocols. People around the world were taken aback by this. Four percent of us who live here produce 25 percent of the world’s CO2 and we just said, “This is not convenient for us to do anything about so we are not going to.”

… TO: You talk about the need for a new environmentalism. What do you mean by that?

BM: For a very long time environmentalism has largely been about worrying about the things that we shouldn’t do—which has been important. But it is probably at least as important now for it to be kind of aspirational as well. Trying to imagine a world where we weren’t doing bad things but where we are instead doing useful things that are in the end more pleasurable than what we are doing now.
(4 November 2005)

Modeling of long-term fossil fuel consumption shows 14.5-degree hike in Earth’s temperature

Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (press release)
LIVERMORE, Calif. — If humans continue to use fossil fuels in a business-as-usual manner for the next few centuries, the polar ice caps will be depleted, ocean sea levels will rise by seven meters and median air temperatures will soar to 14.5 degrees warmer than current day.

These are the stunning results of climate and carbon cycle model simulations conducted by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. By using a coupled climate and carbon cycle model to look at global climate and carbon cycle changes, the scientists found that the earth would warm by 8 degrees Celsius (14.5 degrees Fahrenheit) if humans use the entire planet’s available fossil fuels by the year 2300.

The jump in temperature would have alarming consequences for the polar ice caps and the ocean, said lead author Govindasamy Bala of the Laboratory’s Energy and Environment Directorate.

In the polar regions alone, the temperature would spike more than 20 degrees Celsius, forcing the land in the region to change from ice and tundra to boreal forests.
(1 November 2005)
The original article has figures and an audio interview with the author of the study. The article is also posted at PostCarbon Institute.

Climate response risks to nature

Richard Black, BBC
Some animals are responding to climate change in ways which could threaten their survival, a new study finds.

Scientists showed that migration and breeding of the great tit, puffin, red admiral and other creatures are moving out of step with food supplies. The researchers say the rapid pace of climate change, together with pressures on habitat, make it difficult for species to adapt. The study is published in the Royal Society’s journal Proceedings B.

A large number of studies in recent years have shown that the behaviour of plants and animals is changing in response to climatic alteration. Birds are migrating at different times, flowers and larvae are emerging earlier, and fish and insects are moving into new ranges.

The key question is how much this matters – whether these changes impair the prospects for these species, or whether they are appropriate adaptations which will ensure survival.

…Whatever the explanations, Marcel Visser believes his findings sound a clear warning.

“The conclusion must be that many species are shifting at an inappropriate rate, out of synchrony with their food sources, and this must in the end be detrimental.

“The point has often been made that temperatures have increased before in the Earth’s past; but the rate now is 100 times greater.

“And whereas in those times there were large areas of natural habitat, now it’s much more difficult for animals to change or migrate; plus there’s loss of genetic diversity, habitat fragmentation – it’s just much more difficult for species than 1,000 years ago.”
(4 November 2005)

EU seeks talks, not targets at U.N. climate meeting

Reuters via ENN
BRUSSELS — A U.N. climate change summit is not expected to agree new targets for the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions when it convenes later this month in Canada, the European Union’s environment chief said on Thursday.

But EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said he hoped the Montreal meeting would lead to the start of talks to bring the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, when its first phase ends.

“In Montreal of course we do no expect to have any specific agreement on reductions or targets,” Dimas told reporters.

“What we hope to achieve is an agreement to start negotiations for the after-2012 regime.”
(4 November 2005)

Canada: dramatic weather changes due to human activity, climate change

Alison Auld, CP via Yahoo!News
DARTMOUTH, N.S. – Canadians can expect to be living in a much different environment in the near future as the earth’s temperature continues to rise and climate change becomes more linked to wild weather, says a senior climatologist.

Dave Phillips of Environment Canada said forecasting models suggest the country will see everything from more rain, less snow, rising sea levels, disappearing lakes, stronger storms and the introduction of species more suited to warmer climes.

“We can’t think we live in a charmed area,” Phillips said Thursday after a speech to scientists. “We will be affected . . . in an adverse way even in the next 20 to 30 years.

“For Canadians, the real threat is stronger storms or droughtier droughts and a greater variability in the climate.”
(3 November 2005)

China’s water crisis worst in the world: government official

AFP via Yahoo!News
BEIJING – China’s water crisis — from severe shortages to heavy pollution — is the worst in the world and requires urgent action, a top government official says.

China was “facing a water crisis more severe and urgent than any other country in the world,” Vice Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing told a conference in Beijing on developing China’s urban water supply.
(31 October 2005)

Expanding desert could cover China’s breadbasket with sand

AFP via Yahoo!News
BEIJING – Large parts of Sichuan, a southwest Chinese province known as the country’s breadbasket, may be covered in sand in a few years’ time because of the rapidly expanding desert.

Under particular threat is the Chengdu plain, a source of grain since ancient times, the China Daily reported, citing the Sichuan forestry department.

The reason is spreading desertification of the Ruo’ergai Grassland, located 300 kilometers (190 miles) away at an altitude of between 3,500 and 4,000 meters (11,700 and 13,300 feet) above sea level, according to the paper.

Since the 1980s, 37,000 hectares of grassland have been turned into desert, amounting to nearly four percent of the entire area of Ruo’ergai county, the paper said.
(3 November 2005)

Environmental cloud on horizon for Mediterranean, warns UN

AFP via Yahoo!News
PARIS (AFP) – Mediterranean countries from Tunisia to Turkey face a bleak environmental future with concrete coastlines, rising temperatures, mountains of refuse and endless oil slicks, according to a UN prognosis for the region in 2025.

Only a radical change in public policy and increased cooperation between northern and southern states will prevent the dismal forecast from coming true, according to the UN Environment Programme’s “Plan Bleu” Mediterranean centre.
(3 November 2005)