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Northern ozone pollution spurs Arctic warming: NASA

Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters via Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON – Ozone pollution in the Northern Hemisphere, churned out by factories and vehicles that burn fossil fuels, is a major factor in the dramatic warming of the Arctic zone, NASA climate scientists reported on Tuesday.

This finding is surprising, since ozone has been considered a minor player in the study of global climate change, according to Drew Shindell, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

…Globally, ozone accounts for perhaps one-seventh of the global warming and climate change that carbon dioxide does, Shindell said. However, a new study of climate change over the past 100 years indicates that ozone may be responsible for as much as 50 percent of the warming in the Arctic zone.
(14 March 2006)

Evidence of the warming West is everywhere

Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
…The climate conditions — and their consequences — have scientists and even politicians spotting connections from the Sonoran Desert to the Arctic.

Pine bark beetles killed millions of trees in Arizona mountains after two dry, warm winters early this decade. University of Arizona scientists forecast outbreak conditions this summer.

Interior British Columbia was known as having some of Canada’s coldest recorded temperatures. The pine beetle — once kept in check by the cold — has infested more than 10 million acres of mostly mature forest.

Go farther north. The spruce bark beetle, its numbers swelled by warming winters, has infested forests of south-central Alaska.
(15 March 2006)

States calculate global warming pricetag

Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service via Common Dreams
WASHINGTON – The decision, taken by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, came during the same week that the world’s biggest insurance broker, Marsh & McLennan, briefed its corporate clients, which include roughly 75 percent of the “Fortune 500” biggest companies, on the potential impact of global warming on their businesses.

Marsh’s clients heard from, among others, Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when former President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and Robert Watson, the chief climate scientist at the World Bank and former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Watson was ousted as IPCC chair in 2002 at the insistence of the administration of Pres. George W. Bush, which rejected his repeated warnings that the Earth faced potentially catastrophic changes in climate unless emissions were reduced.

“Between the insurance commissioners and Marsh, the message is that companies must take climate change much more seriously,” according to Andrew Logan, director of the insurance programme at Ceres, a national coalition of environmental and other public interest groups and investment funds representing three trillion dollars in assets.

“The insurance industry is well-positioned to be part of the solution to climate change, and these actions will force industry executives and corporate directors to address the issue,” he added.
(15 March 2006)

Planet of Slums

Mike Davis, Verso Publishers
A celebrated urban theorist raises the lid on the effects of a global explosion of disenfranchised slum-dwellers.

According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. In this brilliant and ambitious book, Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world.

From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, even economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly original development unforeseen by either classical Marxism or neo-liberal theory.

Are the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, volcanoes waiting to erupt? Davis provides the first global overview of the diverse religious, ethnic, and political movements competing for the souls of the new urban poor. He surveys Hindu fundamentalism in Bombay, the Islamist resistance in Casablanca and Cairo, street gangs in Cape Town and San Salvador, Pentecostalism in Kinshasa and Rio de Janeiro, and revolutionary populism in Caracas and La Paz.

Planet of Slums ends with a provocative meditation on the “war on terrorism” as an incipient world war between the American empire and the slum poor.
(1X March 2006)
A swiftly crumbling planet (Salon – ad viewing required)
Long essay by Mike Davis on the same theme (March-April 2004):

Future history of the Third World’s post-industrial megacities. A billion-strong global proletariat ejected from the formal economy, with Islam and Pentecostalism as songs of the dispossessed.

Ice Retreats in Arctic for 2nd Year; Some Fear Most of It Will Vanish

Andrew C. Revkin, NY Times
For the second year in a row, the cloak of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean failed to grow to its normal winter expanse, scientists said yesterday. The finding led some climate experts to predict a record expansion of open water this summer.

“We keep looking for the ice to recover, but it isn’t,” said Mark C. Serreze, a senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., which monitors the region using satellites. “Unless conditions turn unusually cold this spring and summer, we may be looking at sea ice losses in 2006 that will rival what we saw in 2005.”

The ice retreat recorded last September was the biggest since satellites began routine monitoring in 1979 and was probably the biggest in 100 years, according to Dr. Serreze’s research group and an independent University of Illinois team.
(15 March 2006)

NY Times reviews of Kolbert’s ‘Field Notes From a Catastrophe’
(“In Epoch of Man, Earth Takes a Beating”)

Mariana Gosnell, NY Times
“The whole world is going too fast,” an Inuit hunter from Banks Island in the Northwest Territories in Canada told the journalist Elizabeth Kolbert at a bar during a global-warming symposium. A few years before, he and his neighbors had started seeing robins, birds they had no name for. At first the milder weather that drew the robins north seemed a good thing — “warmer winters, you know,” he said — but as other changes occurred that affected their traditional way of life, including hunting, it did not seem so good. “Our children may not have a future,” the hunter concluded. “I mean, all young people, put it that way. It’s not just happening in the Arctic. It’s going to happen all over the world.”

For “Field Notes From a Catastrophe,” Ms. Kolbert went not exactly all over the world to find out what’s happening with global warming but to a great many places in it, and she often heard the same elegiac expressions of foreboding, loss and fear for the next generation.

Elizabeth Kolbert
Man, Nature and Climate Change
By Elizabeth Kolbert
210 pages. Bloomsbury. $22.95.

(16 March 2006)
Also posted at Marxmail.
The NY Times also has up the first chapter of Kolbert’s books

Will global climate change worsen infectious diseases?

Janet Pelley, Environmental Science & Technology (American Chemical Society)
The growing body of research linking climate to the spread of human and animal infectious diseases includes some ominous predictions, but long-range forecasts remain uncertain.

With a solid scientific consensus on the reality of global warming, the next research hurdle is to describe the impacts and what can be done to mitigate them. A growing body of work links climate to the spread of human and animal infectious diseases, but the relationships between pathogens and their hosts are complex. Predictions of how these dynamics will play out over the long run in a changing climate remain controversial.

Human infectious diseases have been on the upswing since the 1970s and 1980s, says Duane Gubler, an epidemiologist at the University of Hawaii. Dengue fever, not considered a major public-health problem in the mid-20th century, now strikes 50–100 million people each year, he says. More than 3000 children die from malaria each day, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And emerging diseases, including West Nile virus and Lyme disease, are spreading across North America.

Many scientists suspect that global climate change may be a major contributor to the emergence and resurgence of at least some of these infectious diseases.
(15 March 2006)

CU-Boulder’s Roger Pielke talks about the rising cost of natural disasters

On Point, E&E TV
Scientists agree that developing nations could be among the hardest hit by the effects of climate change. But are policymakers focusing enough on helping these countries adapt to the potential impacts of global warming? During today’s OnPoint, Roger Pielke, Jr., director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, argues that adaptation should be a higher priority than greenhouse gas regulations. Plus, Pielke explains why climate policy discussions needs to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol.
(16 March 2006)
Dr. Pielke was recently in a discussion at Gristmill: Decoupling Katrina and climate change.