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Environment - Nov 23

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Greenhouse emissions up: Spain, Monaco, Portugal, Greece, Australia, New Zealand ...

Australian Associated Press Brisbane Courier Mail
A report prepared by the Bonn-based United Nations Climate Change secretariat and released this week ahead of the international climate conference in Montreal later this month warned that the western world was losing its grip on the climate change problem.
The report, covering the period between 1990 and 2003, found Australia's greenhouse gas emissions had risen 23.3 per cent on 1990 levels. The Australian Government's target is to limit emissions increases to 108 per cent of 1990 levels over the period 2008-2012.

The UN report reveals Australia is far from the worst offender with a number of nations which have ratified the Kyoto protocol recording greater increases in greenhouse emissions. Spain topped the list with a 41.7 per cent increase, followed by Monaco (37.8), Portugal (36.7) and Greece (25.9). The United States, which also has not ratified Kyoto, reported increased emissions of 13.3 per cent, while New Zealand, a Kyoto signatory, performed only slightly better than Australia with a 22.5 per cent increase.

UN researchers found that overall in the industrialised world, greenhouse gas emissions were down 5.9 per cent in 2003 compared to the 1990 levels. The major reductions were achieved in central and eastern Europe in the early 1990s when polluting communist era industries were shut down as countries restructured their economies. ...
(19 November 2005)


Papers: DuPont Hid Chemical Risk Studies

Associated Press via WRAL.com
WASHINGTON -- DuPont Co. hid studies showing the risks of a Teflon-related chemical used to line candy wrappers, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags and hundreds of other food containers, according to internal company documents and a former employee.

The chemical Zonyl can rub off the liner and get into food. Once in a person's body, it can break down into perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts, known as PFOA, a related chemical used in the making of Teflon-coated cookware. The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to decide whether to classify PFOA as a "likely" human carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration, in a letter released Wednesday evening by DuPont, said it was continuing to monitor the safety of PFOA chemicals in food.

The DuPont documents were made public Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization. At the same time, a former DuPont chemical engineer, Glenn Evers, told reporters at a news conference at EWG's office that the company long suppressed its studies on the chemical. ...

One of the documents, a 1987 memo, cites laboratory tests showing the chemical came off paper coating and leached into foods at levels three times higher than the FDA limit set in 1967. Another document, a 1973 Dupont study in which rats and dogs were fed Zonyl for 90 days, said both types of animals had anemia and damage to their kidneys and livers; the dogs had higher cholesterol levels.
"What makes this worse is that DuPont knew at that time that Zonyl breakdown-products, such as PFOA, in food were very persistent in the environment and were contaminating human blood, including the fetal cord blood of babies born to DuPont female employees," EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles wrote to FDA and EPA officials. ...
(18 November 2005)


Millions face glacier catastrophe
Global warming hits Himalayas

Robin McKie, The Observer
...The roof of the world is changing, as can be seen by Nepal's Khumbu glacier, where Hillary and Tenzing began their 1953 Everest expedition. It has retreated three miles since their ascent. Almost 95 per cent of Himalayan glaciers are also shrinking - and that kind of ice loss has profound implications, not just for Nepal and Bhutan, but for surrounding nations, including China, India and Pakistan.

Eventually, the Himalayan glaciers will shrink so much their meltwaters will dry up, say scientists. Catastrophes like Ghat will die out. At the same time, rivers fed by these melted glaciers - such as the Indus, Yellow River and Mekong - will turn to trickles. Drinking and irrigation water will disappear. Hundreds of millions of people will be affected.

'There is a short-term danger of too much water coming out the Himalayas and a greater long-term danger of there not being enough,' said Dr Phil Porter, of the University of Hertfordshire. 'Either way, it is easy to pinpoint the cause: global warming.'
(20 November 2005)


The big thaw: global disaster will follow if the ice cap on Greenland melts
Now scientists say it is vanishing far faster than even they expected.

Geoffrey Lean, The Independen via Common Dreams
Greenland's glaciers have begun to race towards the ocean, leading scientists to predict that the vast island's ice cap is approaching irreversible meltdown, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Lines on this satellite image of Greenland's Helheim glacier show the positions of the glacier front between 2001 and 2005. Image: I. Howat et al.
Research to be published in a few days' time shows how glaciers that have been stable for centuries have started to shrink dramatically as temperatures in the Arctic have soared with global warming. On top of this, record amounts of the ice cap's surface turned to water this summer.

The two developments - the most alarming manifestations of climate change to date - suggest that the ice cap is melting far more rapidly than scientists had thought, with immense consequences for civilisation and the planet. Its complete disappearance would raise the levels of the world's seas by 20 feet, spelling inundation for London and other coastal cities around the globe, along with much of low-lying countries such as Bangladesh.
(20 November 2005)


Corporate Canada's change of heart on global warming
Now it's the PM's turn

Mitch Anderson, TheTyee.ca
Better late than never. As if they've seen the light on the road to Damascus, Canada's business leaders last week demanded tough action from the federal government on dealing with climate change.

"The world must act urgently to stabilize the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and minimize the global impacts of climate change", proclaimed a letter to Prime Minister Martin from such Canadian corporate giants as Alcan, Bombardier, Falconbridge and Power Corp.

This conspicuous corporate flip-flop in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal is a welcome change from previous foot dragging from the business community.

Just three years ago, the "Canadian Council for Responsible Environmental Solutions", including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and 40 other business groups began an on-line petition to the prime minister opposing the ratification of the Kyoto protocol.

The corporate epiphany last week may simply be a realpolitik admission that action on climate change is inevitable and it is more seemly to catch up to the bandwagon before it gets too far down the road.

However, it might also be a genuine recognition that climate change menaces the entire world, including the business community, their families and their children.
(22 November 2005)


Plan To Restore Great Lakes Appears Sunk

Hugh McDiarmid Jr., Detroit Free Press via ENN
Federal officials say they won't pay for the $20-billion plan President George W. Bush sought last year to improve the health of the Great Lakes by restoring coastal wetlands and keeping out sewage and invaders like zebra mussels.

A bipartisan coalition of elected leaders says it was stunned when an Environmental Protection Agency report recommended that Bush focus on "improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing programs" instead of launching expensive new efforts. Grosse Ile resident Bob Burns, who lives along the Detroit River and has fished and boated his entire life, said the news was discouraging. "I thought it was a good idea," Burns said Wednesday. "We need more funding to deal with invasive species, erosion, wetlands and all the critical issues."

Last year, in a ballyhooed announcement, Bush called the lakes a "national treasure" and ordered a task force to spell out a plan to restore them. More than 1,000 leaders and experts subsequently recommended in July that up to $20 billion in federal funding go to the lakes over 5 years to address crucial issues such as sewage overflows, invader species and wetlands destruction. But the restoration shouldn't get 1 cent until an analysis of existing programs is undertaken, the EPA's administrator, Stephen Johnson, said in a report to Bush last month. ...
(21 November 2005)


Rainforest Action Network commends Goldman Sachs for policy

Rainforest Action Network via ENN
SAN FRANCISCO — Rainforest Action Network (RAN) today commended Goldman Sachs for being the first global investment bank to adopt a comprehensive environmental policy. The policy acknowledges the scientific consensus on climate change and calls for urgent action by public policy makers and federal regulators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The policy is also the first in the financial sector to acknowledge the degradation of global “ecosystems services” addressed in the United Nations' Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Ecosystem services include the provision of water and food, control of pests and pathogens, renewal of fertile soil, control of floods, and more. The MA’s findings that two-thirds of these services are being degraded present real challenges as well as opportunities for business.

In another industry precedent, Goldman Sachs will establish and fund a Center for Environmental Markets in partnership with academia and civil society. The center will engage in research to develop public policy options for establishing markets around climate change, biodiversity conversation and ecosystem services. Recognizing that climate change cannot successfully be addressed through voluntary action alone, the firm has also committed to promote regulatory solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. ...
(22 November 2005)

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