Two Studies Link Global Warming to Greater Power of Hurricanes

John Schwartz, NY Times
Climate researchers at Purdue University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology separately reported new evidence yesterday supporting the idea that global warming is causing stronger hurricanes.

That claim is the subject of a long-running scientific dispute. And while the new research supports one side, neither the authors nor other climate experts say it is conclusive.
(31 May 2006)

The List: The World’s Water Crises

Foreign Policy
If oil was the resource of the 20th century, then the 21st century belongs to water. The lack of clean water and basic sanitation already curbs world economic growth by $556 billion a year, according the World Health Organization. FP looks at four countries struggling to quench their thirst.


Situation: China’s rapid urbanization is ratcheting up demand for water. Of the country’s 660 cities, more than 400 lack sufficient water supplies, and 110 suffer serious shortages. Vaclav Smil of Canada’s University of Manitoba estimates that when people move from the countryside to cities, they increase their personal water consumption at least fivefold. Irrigation demands are also rising, and rivers are thinning as a result. The Yellow River, the second-longest river in China, now struggles to reach the sea. To meet growing demand, underground aquifers are being depleted.

Implications: Regulating water has always been crucial to governing China. The Chinese word zhi means “to regulate water,” but it also means “to rule.” Freshwater scarcity may not only halt economic growth; it could lead to political turmoil. Wide-scale disaffection with the government’s water management could seriously destabilize the regime. And large dam projects may not be enough to save China from its water problem. Experts say China must improve crop selection, increase the price of water, and make usage more efficient.
(30 May 2006)
Also covered: India, United States, Pakistan.

Canada Pays Environmentally for U.S. Oil Thirst

Doug Struck, Washington Post
Huge Mines Rapidly Draining Rivers, Cutting Into Forests, Boosting Emissions
FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta — Huge mines here turning tarry sand into cash for Canada and oil for the United States are taking an unexpectedly high environmental toll, sucking water from rivers and natural gas from wells and producing large amounts of gases linked to global warming.

The digging — into an area the size of Maryland and Virginia combined — has proliferated at gold-rush speed, spurred by high oil prices, new technology and an unquenched U.S. thirst for the fuel. The expansion has presented ecological problems that experts thought they would have decades to resolve.

“The river used to be blue. Now it’s brown. Nobody can fish or drink from it. The air is bad. This has all happened so fast,” said Elsie Fabian, 63, an elder in a native Indian community along the Athabasca River, a wide, meandering waterway once plied by fur traders. “It’s terrible. We’re surrounded by the mines.”

…Operators of the mines, which have helped make Canada the largest supplier of oil to the United States, believe they can find technological solutions to the environmental problems.

“There is a whole lot of work being done,” Charles Ruigrok, chief executive of Syncrude, one of the largest companies, said at his corporate headquarters in downtown Fort McMurray. “I do believe technology will fix it.”

The oil companies point to steady reductions in the amount of water and natural gas used to produce each barrel of oil, for example. But those efficiency gains have been wiped out by the rise in the number of barrels produced. Increasingly, environmental organizations are calling for a moratorium on the growth of the mines.
(31 May 2006)

UK: The Inspectors Who Look the Other Way

George Monbiot,
Why won’t anyone enforce our building standards?

For 21 years builders in this country have been legally bound to construct homes which conserve energy. The building regulations tell them how much insulation they must use, what kind of windows they must fit and how good their draught-proofing will be. Guess how many builders have been prosecuted in that period for non-compliance. I won’t keep you in suspense. The answer is none.

There could be only one good reason for this: that they are building houses so well that enforcement is unnecessary. But a study conducted by the Building Research Establishment, looking at just one factor (the rate at which cold air leaks in) found that 43% of the new houses it checked should have been failed by the inspectors. All of them had been passed. In some homes the requisite amount of insulation had been left in the lofts, but it was still tied up in bales. No one has been prosecuted because no one gives a damn.

In fact a failure to enforce the building rules is perhaps more consequential than any other climate-changing policy. It guarantees high carbon emissions throughout the life of the buildings. Unless the inspectors start doing their jobs, the polluting legacy of the 200,000 new homes the government wants us to build every year will be far more deadly than nuclear waste.
(30 May 2006)
Like most of Monbiot’s articles this was written for The Guardian, however he does a great service by providing fully referenced versions on his own website. -AF