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Environment - Nov 29

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage



Impact of climate change 'can be likened to WMD'

Steve Connor, UK Independent
Climate change can be likened in its destructive scale to the effects of using weapons of mass destruction, according to Britain's leading scientist.

Lord May of Oxford, the president of the Royal Society, will say that the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina is an example of the sort of extreme weather event that climate change can trigger.

The impacts of climate change are many and serious, he contends. They include rising sea levels, changes in the availability of drinking water, and an increase in the risk of extreme weather such as floods, droughts and hurricanes.

Lord May, a former chief scientist for the Government, will say the seriousness of weather extremes, exemplified by Katrina's impact on New Orleans, "invite comparison with weapons of mass destruction".

In his final address to the Royal Society as its president, and to coincide with the Montreal meeting on climate change, Lord May will tomorrow criticise President George Bush for failing to follow through on the climate change commitments made by his father when he was president.
(29 November 2005)


In Montreal, delegates look at post-Kyoto world

Peter N. Spotts, Christian Science Monitor
MONTREAL - When the Kyoto Protocol took effect in February, many hailed the event as a significant political start in a long-term fight against global warming - despite President Bush's declaration in 2001 that the US no longer would participate.

Monday, delegates are meeting in Montreal to confront a new question: What will "son of Kyoto" look like once the curtain falls on the agreement's first commitment period, which runs from 2008 to 2012?

The answer is critical, analysts say. The pact requires its industrial-country members to cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by an average of 5.5 percent during the first period. To do that, these countries will rely heavily on the protocol's economic tools - from building green projects in developing countries to trading carbon "credits" as if they were pork bellies - in addition to any direct emissions reductions they may make. But investments in these will vaporize unless businesses and investors are confident that they will be available beyond 2012.

Moreover, by design, the Kyoto Protocol fails to include in its regime of targets and timetables developing countries such as China and India - substantial sources of the industrial greenhouse gases that many scientists say are warming the planet at a troubling rate. These countries must be brought on board in any post-2012 regime, many specialists say, as must the United States, which is the industrial world's single largest source of greenhouse gases. Without the US and Asia's emerging industrial giants, experts hold out little hope that the world can stabilize greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels that forestall what the UN has dubbed "dangerous" climate change.
(28 November 2005)


US resists climate change pressure at UN conference

David Adam, The Guardian
Crucial talks aimed at combatting the threat of global warming opened in Montreal yesterday with the US government signalling that it will resist attempts to be drawn into a new international process to cut emissions.

Delegates at the United Nations climate conference - the first since the Kyoto protocol came into force in February - will discuss what action to take to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases when the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012.

The US has refused to sign up to Kyoto and sent a clear message that it was in no mood to rethink its opposition to binding international agreements. The US chief negotiator, Harlan Watson, said he would strongly resist Canadian plans to combine the US, other developed nations and the developing countries in a joint commitment to action. He told the BBC: "We feel very strongly that it is not appropriate, that the ground is not there yet; there are many different ideas; people are not yet ready to move ahead under the convention." Despite not joining the Kyoto process, the US participates in the UN framework convention on climate change, which gave rise to the protocol.
(29 November 2005)
Hundreds of articles about the UN conference on climate change are online, including:
Climate talks to be most significant since Kyoto (Globe & Mail)
World Leaders to Discuss Strategies for Climate Control (Washington Post)


The gathering winds

Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post
At the same time that the trio of Katrina, Rita and Wilma were battering Southeastern coasts, a controversy was brewing over the reasons for the rise in hurricane havoc. At issue: Is it merely a natural fluctuation or, more ominously, a product of global warming
(27 November 2005)


Oil sands make Canada complicit in global warming
Expansion will boost gas emissions

Linda McQuaig, Toronto Star
When it comes to being a laggard in tackling climate change, the United States is in a class of international recklessness all by itself. Its villainy is widely recognized.
Meanwhile, Canada has largely managed to look like a responsible international citizen in the worldwide fight against global warming.

Next week, when Canada plays host to a U.N. conference on climate change in Montreal, Ottawa may even manage to present itself as a word leader in the fight.
How timely for the Liberal government, just before it faces an electorate increasingly worried about climate change.

Ottawa's success in peddling this image is quite a feat, especially since, among western nations, Canada ranks a close second to the U.S. in its obstinate refusal to tackle what is arguably the world's most pressing problem.
Canada's dismal performance isn't just about Ottawa's failure to take meaningful action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, as required by the Kyoto agreement on climate change, which Canada signed in 2002.

It's about Ottawa's active complicity in a policy that dramatically increases our emissions. That policy is the full-scale development of the oil sands, the vast pool of oil that lies embedded in a tarry muck beneath large swaths of northern Alberta.
(26 November 2005)


Nitrogen is biggest environmental threat

Vic Robertson, Scotsman
THE build up and release of reactive nitrogen into the environment is seen as the next big pollution problem, according to scientists at Warwick Horticulture Research International.

They say that excessive release of nitrogen is potentially more damaging on a global scale than carbon dioxide, and point to eutrophication - or excessive nutrient enrichment - of watercourses by nitrates as a warning signal.

Agriculture is pin-pointed as the source of the greatest "leakage" of nitrogen to the environment, according to the report Nitrogen UK just issued by HRI.

On a global scale, the report says that increasing demand for food has led to demand for nitrogen fertiliser rising from 1.3 million tonnes in 1930-1 to 82.3 million tonnes in 1998-9.

"This large amount of fertiliser, combined with a crop assimilation rate of 50 per cent means the amount of reactive nitrogen being released into our biosphere has resulted in the natural nitrogen cycle being overloaded," it says.
(26 November 2005)


Climate talks - hoops and hot air (analysis)

Richard Black, BBC
November 2005: the Kyoto Protocol has been in force for six years, emissions of greenhouse gases are falling fast, and all governments accept the message of urgency coming from mainstream climate science.

With the Kyoto targets already achieved, the Montreal summit will focus on the next round of commitments for developed and developing countries alike.

Richer states are preparing to pledge cuts of 30% by 2020, as a step towards their declared aim of 90% reductions by 2050; while developing nations have agreed an initial target of 5%.

There is consensus across the board that every citizen of the planet should be entitled, in the long term, to the same allowance for emitting greenhouse gases.

The only potential problem Montreal delegates may face is the number of flying pigs migrating north-eastwards from Lake Ontario.

Well, that's how the meeting could be panning out - if we lived on a parallel Planet Earth.

Certainly, the picture painted above is more akin to the visions which climate specialists had in 1997, rather than today's uncomfortable morass.

In reality, of course, the protocol came into force only this year; and while many interested parties continue to insist on firm targets and timetables beyond 2012 - the period covered by Kyoto - there are now powerful forces pulling in the other direction.
(26 November 2005)

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