Environment - Apr 18
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
Global warming skeptic also led tobacco industry campaign (AUDIO)
National Environmental Trust (NET)
Scientist Who Spearheaded Attacks on Global Warming Science Also Directed $45 Million Tobacco Industry Effort to Hide Health Impacts of Smoking
Former National Academy of Sciences President Admits Being Paid $585,000 by Tobacco Companies
The National Environmental Trust hosted a press conference on April 13th to discuss new revelations in the May issue of Vanity Fair (now on newsstands) linking one of the most prominent scientific skeptics on global warming and his tactics to the three-decade tobacco industry conspiracy to hide the connection between smoking and lung ailments — an effort that has led to billions of dollars in court judgments and legislation against the industry.
(13 April 2006)
Krugman on Raymond and Exxon
Paul Krugman, NY Times via Gristmill
[stuff about growing scientific consensus on global warming]
So how have corporate interests responded? In the early years, when the science was still somewhat in doubt, many companies from the oil industry, the auto industry and other sectors were members of a group called the Global Climate Coalition, whose de facto purpose was to oppose curbs on greenhouse gases. But as the scientific evidence became clearer, many members -- including oil companies like BP and Shell -- left the organization and conceded the need to do something about global warming.
Exxon, headed by Mr. Raymond, chose a different course of action: it decided to fight the science.
A leaked memo from a 1998 meeting at the American Petroleum Institute, in which Exxon (which hadn't yet merged with Mobil) was a participant, describes a strategy of providing "logistical and moral support" to climate change dissenters, "thereby raising questions about and undercutting the 'prevailing scientific wisdom.' " And that's just what Exxon Mobil has done: lavish grants have supported a sort of alternative intellectual universe of global warming skeptics.
...Has Exxon Mobil's war on climate science actually changed policy for the worse? Maybe not. Although most governments have done little to curb greenhouse gases, and the Bush administration has done nothing, it's not clear that policies would have been any better even if Exxon Mobil had acted more responsibly.
But the fact is that whatever small chance there was of action to limit global warming became even smaller because Exxon Mobil chose to protect its profits by trashing good science. And that, not the paycheck, is the real scandal of Mr. Raymond's reign as Exxon Mobil's chief executive.
(17 April 2006)
Japan hot and cold on warming
Robert Collier, SF Chronicle
...If any country could meet the terms of the treaty and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, it would seem to be Japan. No other nation has Japan's deep cultural roots in conservation, with everything from religion and art to everyday living habits influenced by the age-old concept of mottainai, the disapproval of waste and excess.
But as the Japanese act more American -- choosing bigger houses and bigger cars, shopping in bigger malls, turning the heat up and blasting the air conditioning -- Japan could become one of the treaty's most notable failures.
While Japan's industries are hyperefficient, cutting their emissions by 1.7 percent since 1990, emissions from the residential sector have grown 29 percent, according to government estimates.
Emissions from the commercial sector are up 37 percent, and those from transportation 20 percent.
"It is a problem of lifestyle expectations," said Hironori Hamanaka, a former vice minister of the environment who was a member of Japan's negotiating team for the Kyoto Protocol.
"The average family still has low emissions, compared with the United States and Europe," said Hamanaka, now a professor of environmental science at Keio University in Yokohama.
"But values seem to be changing rather rapidly. More people now want the signs of material wealth. The aging population wants more comfort and an air conditioner in every room. The younger generation, when they grow up, they make families, they want more heat and air conditioning than they grew up with."
(16 April 2006)
Related by the same report in the SF Chronicle: Kyoto compliance: Buy your way out.
In the NY Times: Revival in Japan Brings Widening of Economic Gap
America's report card on the environment (pessimistic survey) (AUDIO and transcript)
Living on Earth
A Stanford University poll shows that 60 percent of American people are pessimists when it comes to the environment. The survey’s architect, Jon Krosnick, breaks down the numbers and tells host Steve Curwood that global warming is an increasingly personal concern for Americans.
...CURWOOD: So looking at the broad environment, Jon, according to your report card does America's environment make the grade as far as the public is concerned?
KROSNIK: The public is surprisingly unhappy with the environment at the moment. We found that a majority of Americans – 60 percent of them – are pessimistic about the state of the environment, either believing that it's going to get worse 10 years from now than it is, or believing that it's in bad shape now and will get no better. So we were really quite struck by the level of pessimism about the environment.
...CURWOOD: Now, how do these public perceptions about the environment compare with the past? Particularly when it comes to global warming, climate change?
KROSNIK: Well, there has been some movement since the late 1990s, but not a great deal of movement in public opinion. In 1998, for example, 80 percent of Americans believed that global warming had probably been occurring. That number is now up to 85 percent. So it's not a huge increase, but on the other hand, it's a huge majority.
You can try to find agreement in the American public on just about any issue and fail – asking people even whether the sky is blue today or not is a controversial issue often. But to find 85 percent of Americans agreeing that global warming probably has been happening is a remarkable level of agreement.
But the more striking increases since the late 1990s involves the level of public concern about the problem. That right now about 50 percent of Americans say they consider the issue of climate change to be either extremely important to them personally or very important to them personally – that 50 percent is up from 31 percent just eight years ago. So public concern is definitely rising.
(14 April 2006)
Dust Bowl uncertainty grows in Iraq
Doug Smith and Raheem Salman, LA Times
Farm production has fallen below prewar levels. Without a plan to revive the agricultural sector, a nation's identity may wither, officials say.
UMM AL GHAREEJ, Iraq — Like hundreds of villages that dot the Tigris River south of Baghdad, this cluster of cinder block-and-mud dwellings draws its livelihood from small farming plots cultivated by hand and crude machinery.
This is the heart of Mesopotamia, the biblical land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where one of the world's first civilizations thrived on the bounty of the land.
Today that land is sick.
...The agricultural decline began under the centrally controlled economic system of Saddam Hussein's Baath regime. Neglect of the intricate system of irrigation canals that crisscross Iraq aggravated centuries-old problems with salt buildup and poor drainage. As the land deteriorated, free fertilizer and guaranteed prices kept farms going, Dabagh said.
Yet agriculture, which has provided the primary means of support for more than a third of Iraq's population, was an afterthought in U.S. rebuilding efforts, which concentrated on oil, electricity and municipal water systems.
"Everybody looks at Iraq as an oil country," said Col. Randy Fritz, the former agricultural counselor to the U.S. military.
Three years after the ouster of Hussein, no coherent policy has emerged on resuscitating Iraq's agricultural sector, and most indicators show the situation worsening. Much of Iraq's degraded farmland could be restored, experts say, but there are sharp disagreements on how to do it.
(15 April 2006)