Environment - June 24
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U.S. Panel Backs Data on Global Warming
Thomas H. Maugh II and Karen Kaplan, LA Times
Growing Washington acceptance of climate change is seen in the top science body's finding.
After a comprehensive review of climate change data, the nation's preeminent scientific body found that average temperatures on Earth had risen by about 1 degree over the last century, a development that "is unprecedented for the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."
The report from the National Research Council also concluded that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming."
Coupled with a report last month from the Bush administration's Climate Change Science Program that found "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system," the new study from the council, part of the National Academy of Sciences, signals a growing acceptance in Washington of widely held scientific views on the causes of global warming.
The council's review focused on the controversial "hockey stick" graph, which shows Earth's temperature remaining stable for 900 years then suddenly arching upward in the last century. The curve resembles a hockey stick laid on its side.
The panel dismissed critics' charges that fraud and statistical error were responsible for the graph's sharp upward swing, noting that many studies had confirmed its essential conclusions in the eight years since it was first published in the journal Nature.
"There is nothing in this report that should raise any doubts about the broad scientific consensus on global climate change … or any doubts about whether any paper on the temperature records was legitimate scientific work," said House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), who requested the study in November.
The finding was a rebuke to global warming skeptics and some conservative politicians who have attacked the hockey stick as the work of overzealous scientists determined to shame the government into imposing environmental regulations on big business.
Geophysicist Michael E. Mann of Pennsylvania State University, lead author of the study that debuted the graph, said it was time "to put this sometimes silly debate behind us and move forward, to do what we need to do to decrease the remaining uncertainties."
Though scientists have cited various factors as evidence of global warming - including the melting of polar ice caps and measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide - the hockey stick encapsulated the issue in an instantly recognizable way.
"It's a pretty profound, easy-to-understand graph," said Roger A. Pielke Jr., director of the University of Colorado's Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. "Visually, it's very compelling."
The chart drew little attention until it was highlighted in a 2001 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
After that, "the hockey stick was everywhere," Pielke said.
It also became an easy target.
(23 June 2006)
NAS Press Release
Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years (PDF) - the NAS report in brief (4 pages)
Study: Earth 'likely' hottest in 2,000 years (AP)
Associated Press via CNN
National Academy: Earth's Cimate History Mixed - interesting to see how NPR spun the story in favor of global warming skepicisim.
Don't Make Me Get Up!
Moms, Guilt, and Climate Catastrophe
Lou Bendrick, Orion Online
...When the world is in an express hand basket to you-know-where, mindless escapism might seem irresponsible, especially when committed by a mother. But let me assure you that I know global warming is a problem, and I’m going to get to it right after I take the dog to vet and throw in another load of laundry. I swear.
...Let me cultivate my personal female mystique by disclosing that I am the environmental media and I also loathe the environmental media. Just say “photovoltaic” and my eyes start to get heavy; start in about polar bears drowning and I have to go to the happy place in my head that involves ponies, chocolate, and George Clooney. Add to this the typical dose of future pessimism found in most environmental reportage (we’ll soon be digging for grubs with a stone spear, you just wait and see!) and blame (that un-recycled peanut butter jar just killed a polar bear cub, damn you!), and you’ll discover that I’m headed to the grocery store to see who made the worst-dressed list at the Oscars.
My antipathy for bad environmental news is so acute that I’ve developed a Suicide Index for how I feel after reading an environmental publication (even a certain intellectually rigorous one that I’ll call Dirge to protect the guilty). If I read a relatively puffy piece about, say, frog mutations, I might merely feel like mixing up a Marilyn Monroe-style cocktail of champagne and pills (a level one). But if the article is blame-heavy—my last Wal-Mart purchase caused the extinction of an entire Amazon tribe—then seppuku with a dull sword is in order: across the abdomen and up the right side (level nine).
“What did you think of that piece on industrial pollutants in breast milk?” my husband will ask me.
...To ward off the jellyfish of my future, I recycle, compost, and eat organic foods when possible. Mine is a one-car family and that car is not, nor will it ever be, an SUV. Nancy doesn’t have a car at all, and tries not to use her air-conditioning. Jan recycles, changed all the light bulbs in her house to the energy-saving ones, and conserves fossil fuel wherever and whenever possible.
...With leadership, ingenuity, and a plan, even I can be fueled by hope. But I’m also fueled by some anger: Moms simply cannot tolerate a world where it’s no longer safe to tell our kids to go play outside. I’m also angry at myself because the environmental media are telling the truth: blame is ours. My over-consumption is destroying my daughter’s American Dream, if not the dreams of humankind.
Airlines Must Lose Their Right to Pollute the Skies
We must reduce aviation's expansion or give up on tackling climate change
Caroline Lucas, Independent via Common Dreams
Despite the Mediterranean weather we've been enjoying, the annual exodus to even sunnier climates - much of it by plane - is almost upon us. Our love affair with flying is fuelling phenomenal growth in the airlines' activities: flight numbers are projected to double by 2020 and triple by 2030. But it is also driving phenomenal growth in the airlines' greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore their contribution to devastating climate change.
According to scientists at the Tyndall Centre, one of the UK's foremost climate change institutes, aviation's emissions are growing so fast that they will gobble up all reductions from every other sector if they are left unchecked.
Yes, think about that again. Unless the airlines cut their emissions significantly in coming decades, we won't be able to emit any other CO2s; not from manufacturing, travelling by other means, heating our homes, building - nothing - if we want to meet our targets and stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels.
So, given that we know technological advances alone cannot possibly counteract this level of growth, we face a clear choice: reduce aviation's expansion, or give up on tackling climate change altogether.
Though progress has been poor, the UK and EU are publicly committed to tackling what Tony Blair has called "the greatest environmental threat we face" - and, like it or not, that means reversing the projected growth in the amount of flying we do.
The UK is far from accepting this (publicly, at least, it still backs the "predict and provide" approach, and has authorized a national program of runway building to accommodate all those extra flights), but the EU is proposing measures to tackle flying's environmental impact, focusing in the short term on bringing airlines into its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Many airlines have been quietly lobbying for this for months, aware that they will be forced to do something, and that, of the options, incorporation into the existing ETS would do least to hamper their continued growth.
(22 June 2006)
Norway sees N.Sea as CO2 dump, but legal hurdles
Alister Doyle, Reuters
The North Sea could be a vast dumping ground for carbon dioxide under a U.N.-led drive to slow global warming but high costs and legal barriers need to be overcome, Norway's oil minister said on Tuesday.
Odd Roger Enoksen told Reuters that many subsea oil and gas reservoirs in both the Norwegian and British sectors of the sea seemed suitable for long-term storage of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for pushing up global temperatures.
"There are big geological structures on the Norwegian shelf that could also handle carbon dioxide from other nations in the North Sea basin -- Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain -- the closest countries with big carbon dioxide sources," he said...
Enoksen said the oil and energy ministry was studying legal hurdles to storing carbon dioxide -- some linked to the London Convention on marine pollution -- but expressed confidence that they could be overcome.
(20 June 2006)
US: Surge of Population in the Exurbs Continues
Rick Lyman, New York Times
Once again, the fastest-growing cities in the United States are some of the far-flung exurbs in the Sun Belt and the Far West, according to fresh population estimates from the Census Bureau.
(21 June 2006)
Getting to the Holdouts
John Laumer, Triple Pundit
The Climate Change awareness tipping point approaches, shoved to the precipice of rational understanding by four things: outspoken scientists, anecdotal observations of private citizens who see for themselves that climate is changing, the US release of “An Inconvenient Truth”, and the looming prospect of intensified storm damage. Being optimistic at root, Americans should have no shortage of ideas for coping with climate crisis. Blogs and mainstream print media regularly document the products, technologies, and services that can deliver high resource efficiency and climate change adaptive lifestyles. Sensing the market shift, industry seems ready to satisfy the 'climate survivalist' market, becoming designer’s of elegant efficiency. But progress has been slow, with the pragmatism of science and the response of free markets still constrained to a political, academic, and industrial minority.
The obstacle to making the truth convenient and eco-optimism a majority characteristic has been a remarkably powerful cult of disbelief. Remember the legendary “holdouts” of the Japanese Imperial Army? Japanese Soldiers hid in mountain jungle caves of Pacific Islands long after their nation's surrender. Some re-entered modern society up to three decades after the end of World War II. An eerie parallel is it not? . We in the US are a nation led by intellectual “holdouts’ who are clearly determined not to leave their personal islands of superstition. Perhaps some lessons learned from how the Japanese soldier holdouts were discovered and acculturated to contemporary beliefs can be used to good effect on today’s climate holdouts.
There were probably many ways in which the WW-II soldier-holdouts were enticed into the open, and eventually re-assimilated. A plate of delicious organic food left outside a Think Tank cave entrance sounds like good bait for the propaganda arm of holdouts. Perhaps this could be followed with the promise of useful work in an eco-efficient industry, getting them permanently off the denial advocacy dole.
(6 June 2006)
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