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Farming must change to aid environment

Nigel Hunt, Scotsman
Farm and Environment Minister David Miliband called on Monday for agriculture to make a positive contribution to the environment, minimising greenhouse gas emissions and expanding in areas such as the production of renewable fuels.

“Our goal should be farming as a net contributor to the environment,” Miliband said in his first major speech on farming since his appointment about eight weeks ago.

Miliband, in a speech at the Royal Agricultural Show, said the most recent study in 2004 concluded that the net environmental cost of agriculture was around 400 million pounds a year.

Miliband noted farming in Britain produced 0.7 percent of national income but was responsible for 7 percent of the country’s greenhouse gases, while the bill for cleaning up drinking water was around 180 million pounds a year.

He noted that Britain’s farming sector could also reduce so-called food miles, a term used to highlight the damage to the environment of transporting food over long distances rather than relying on locally supplied produce.
(3 July 2006)

Finnish Presidency wants ‘new generation’ of environmental policy

The global dimension of major environmental challenges such as sustainable production, resource efficiency and climate change has inspired the Finns to launch a debate on a ‘new generation’ of environmental policies.

During its 6 months at the helm of the EU, the Finnish Presidency wants to initiate a debate on the need for a new generation of environmental policy. The Finns think there is a need for a new approach because globalisation puts a big strain on natural ecosystems and on vital resources for our economies.

As demonstrated by the UN’s “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment” and the European Environment Agency’s “Environmental Outlook”, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production might undermine the whole fabric of the global economy altogether, if no policies are defined to counterbalance these negative aspects of globalisation.

The EU should develop a new vision of global eco-efficiency, according to the Finnish Presidency. It will therefore start a debate on this new generation of environmental policy during the informal meeting of the EU’s environment ministers in Finnish Turku from 14-16 July 2006. In a background paper, that will be made public on 6 July, the Finnish government will try to sketch the outlines of such a new vision.

Three key objectives will form the basis of the Finnish initiative:

  • the sustainable use of natural resources (“less can be more”) which aims at decoupling material flows and resource use from economic growth (eco-efficiency);
  • the shift from the present EU environment policy based on the needs for the internal market to one for the whole planet (“a ‘one planet’ environmental policy) which includes ideas for the establishment of a United Nations Environmental Organisation and a Panel on Natural Resources;
  • smarter and more effective decision-making, using old and new tools (legislation combined with effective market instruments and dialogue with stakeholders and civil society).

(4 July 2006)
Spotted at -AF

Where are all the birds?
Startling new figures on rate of extinctions say 12% of species to be in peril by 2100

Jane Kay, SF Chronicle
The world’s birds are disappearing in greater numbers than previously calculated, and the number of extinctions will grow even more dramatically by the end of the century, according to a grim study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, the most thorough analysis of global bird species, says 12 percent of existing species — about 1,250 — are threatened with extinction by 2100.

Up until now, scientists had documented the extinction of about 130 bird species since the year 1500. But the study’s authors — from Stanford University, Duke University and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis — say the more accurate estimate is about 500 extinctions out of more than 10,000 known bird species. That would be about one extinction per year over the last 500 years.

And that rate is 100 times higher than what was considered natural before human influence, the study said.

Over time, humans have cleared land for agriculture and other uses. They’ve hunted birds for food and sport. And they introduced other dangers, such as non-native birds, rats, snakes and diseases. Predictions of increased extinctions over the next century are based on these continuing threats as well as anticipated habitat loss linked to global warming.

Scientists say the decline of both the diversity and abundance of birds portends problems for the planet. Birds play a part in seed dispersal, plant pollination and insect control.
(4 July 2006)

Buried greenhouse gases may escape: scientists

Wendy Frew, Sydney Morning Herald
Researchers testing the viability of injecting CO 2 into saline sedimentary aquifers, in a US Government experiment in Texas, found it caused carbonates and other minerals to dissolve rapidly, which could allow CO 2 and brine to leak into the water table.

Nothing had leaked out so far but the phenomenon would have to be investigated before carbon sequestration could help fix the greenhouse problem, said the researchers, quoted in a recent issue of Science.

Coal is mainly made up of carbon. When it is burnt, it combines with oxygen in the air to form CO 2. Governments and businesses the world over now agree that too much CO 2 is being injected into the atmosphere.

That, with a number of other factors, has begun to heat up the Earth’s temperature and change its weather patterns, leading to the phenomenon known as climate change.

Having rejected the Kyoto Protocol and its binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions such as CO 2, the US and Australian governments are hoping that sequestration, or carbon capture and storage, will play a major role in reducing rising emissions.

But there is heated debate about how much attention should be paid to technologies that are at least a decade away from commercial viability and that will not – if the US and Australia have their way – be backed by any mandatory climate change targets or mechanisms to force power plant operators to adopt the expensive technology.
(5 July 2006)

Journalist Ross Gelbspan on global warming
(audio interview)
Jason Bradford, Global Public Media
Ross Gelbspan, veteran journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of two books on climate change (The Heat is On and Boiling Point) discusses latest news about climate change, how global warming skeptics are funded, politics in the press, and the role of relocalization as part of the solution. Jason Bradford hosts “The Party’s Over: Going Local” on KZYX in Mendocino County, CA.
(3 July 2006)
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