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Environment - Nov 15

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2005 Australia's warmest year on record

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Australia has experienced its warmest start to a year on record (since 1950), with the January-to-October temperature averaging 1.03 degrees Celsius above the 30-year average (1961-1990). As the year nears an end, a record-breaking year is looking likely - another indicator of climate change. ...

Warming is not the only sign of change we are observing in Australia's climate. Other changes include a marked decline in rainfall in the south-west and parts of south-east Australia, and recent reductions in rainfall through the eastern states. At the same time, rainfall in the arid interior and north-west has increased dramatically, in some places nearly doubling during the past 50 years. ...
(14 November 2005)


Climate change could spread plague: scientists

James Kilner, Reuters via Common Dreams
OSLO - Warmer, wetter weather brought on by global warming could increase outbreaks of the plague, which has killed millions down the ages and wiped out one third of Europe's population in the 14th century, academics said.

Migratory birds spreading avian flu from Asia today could also carry the plague bacteria westward from their source in Central Asia, Nils Stenseth, head of a three-day conference on the plague and how it spreads, told Reuters on Monday.

"Wetter, warmer weather conditions mean there are likely to be more of the bacteria around than normal and the chance of it spreading to humans is higher," he said.

...The plague -- caused by the virulent, aggressive and mutating Yersinia Pestis bacteria -- periodically breaks out in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries and has been carried around the globe by fleas on the back of rats, birds and in clothing for centuries, Stenseth said.

"If you treat it with antibiotics in a few days it should be all right, but if you leave it any longer there is a 60 percent chance of death."

In the 14th century the plague killed around 34 million people and some academics believe it reappeared every generation, including the Great Plague of London in 1665-66.

"The link is very important and it is also important to link it back to the Black Death in the 1300s because there were the kind of weather conditions then -- warmer and wetter -- that we predict for the future," Stenseth said.

"After 1855, when it (plague) reappeared again, there were once again similar weather conditions."
(14 November 2005)


Blair taken to task over global warming

Matthew Tempest and agencies, Guardian
Three of the entrances to Downing Street were blocked with dumped coal today, as environmental groups attacked the government's record on climate change.

Greenpeace dumped the fuel around No 10 to highlight the UK's increasing CO2 emissions, whilst the World Wildlife Fund criticised Tony Blair for adopting an "indistinguishable" position from US president George Bush.

Mr Blair has promised to make global warming and Africa Britain's two priorities for chairing the G8 group of the world's richest nations.

But WWF campaigns director Andrew Lee said that by emphasising that targets for cutting damaging greenhouse gas emissions must not be at the expense of economic growth, Mr Blair was undermining efforts to deal with the issue.
(14 November 2005)


Government sets out challenge for greener Britain

David Adam, The Guardian
· Review says current measures are insufficient
· Ministers risk losing international credibility
----------------
The government's climate change review offers a blueprint for a greener Britain and the government's last chance to meet its ambitious political pledge to slash emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 20% by 2010.

The target, restated in this year's election manifesto, is much tougher than its obligation under the Kyoto protocol, which requires only a 12.5% cut by 2012. The cuts in both targets are measured against 1990 levels.

The long-delayed review on how to achieve this is now not expected until next year, but a draft copy obtained by the Guardian shows that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which prepared the review, does not underestimate the scale of the challenge.

The restricted document, which has taken more than a year to prepare, says: "Evaluation of existing policies has shown that the policies included in the 2000 programme will not deliver the carbon savings anticipated at the time."

It says that the "significant carbon gap" will be filled only by "increasing emission reductions from policies included in the existing climate change programme by 70%-80% by 2010, ie we need to do about 75% more in around half the time, on top of what we are already doing."
(14 November 2005)
Related story at the Guardian: Speed limit crackdown to cut emissions: Leak reveals climate change plans.


Ozoning Out
On climate confusion

Umbra Fisk, Grist
Dear Umbra,

Any chance that the most extreme of the peak-oil folks are correct, and that in spite of our thoughtlessness, we just won't have enough oil to totally destroy the ozone layer?
- Dan Wasson / Pittsburgh, Penn.

Dearest Dan,

Oil has very little to do with the ozone layer, but it does have to do with global warming. Global warming and ozone depletion are, for our daily purposes, two separate issues. They both involve gaseous, human-generated emissions, mysterious atmospheric phenomena, and wishing we had paid attention in chemistry class, but the similarity stops there.

...Oil and the burning of oil, on the other hand, are associated with global climate change, as the burning of oil releases "greenhouse gases." What I think you're asking is whether we will run out of oil before we completely mangle our climate. If the most extreme of the peak-oil folks are correct, and we have reached or passed the point at which world oil production will start a steady decline, it may be that oil will not deal the final maiming blows. Not to worry. Coal is ready to step right up and grab the bludgeon. We have plenty of coal.

But according to some climate analysts, we have already gone past the point of no return. We're hosed! Don't worry, have a home brew with Dick, Gale, and George! They're not worried! Wouldn't they tell us if they were worried?
(14 November 2005)
I wish Umbra would have gone on to explain that what we do now about fossil fuels will determine the EXTENT of global warming. The question is not whether or not climate change will occur, but how we can mitigate it. A number of high-powered scientific efforts (still pitifuly insufficient) are concerned with this very problem. See, for example The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University. -BA

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