Environment - July 14
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First Half of 2006 Is Warmest on Record
The first half of the year was the warmest on record for the United States.
The government reported Friday that the average temperature for the 48 contiguous United States from January through June was 51.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.4 degrees above average for the 20th century.
(14 July 2006)
Global warming: They're not laughing at Ron Sims now
Keith Ervin, Seattle Times
The first time Ron Sims tried to set up a county office to study the effects of global warming, he was mocked.
A Seattle Times editorial said King County Council members Sims and co-sponsor Bruce Laing were belching "hyperbolic clouds of rhetorical gas," and suggested they instead buy some tomato plants and steer manure.
"The point is," wrote the amused editorialist, "that the sky-is-falling, icecaps-are-melting, oceans-are-rising rhetoric must be tempered by common sense." With little support for the idea from the environmental community and none from council colleagues, the proposal quickly disappeared.
That was 1988, before rising temperatures, increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and melting ice sheets persuaded most of the scientific community that the planet is undergoing potentially disastrous climate change caused by human activity.
Now county executive, Sims has set up a climate-response planning team — and no one is laughing. Long admired by environmentalists, but previously unable to make the case that a local official should poke his nose into a planet-sized problem, Sims is drawing national attention for his efforts to reduce the county's greenhouse-gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.
(12 July 2006)
Success story of a prophet before his time. The Seattle Times should be praised for admitting it made a mistake on global warming. -BA
UK MPs: 'Climate Change Should Be Taken out of Politics to Allow Radical Remedies'
Michael McCarthy, the Independent (UK) via Common Dreams
Thursday, July 13, 2006 by / UK
Climate change is now such a critical problem for Britain and the world that it should be taken out of politics to make radical remedies possible, an inquiry convened by an independent group of MPs will say today.
Tony Blair should lead the search for a cross-party consensus on climate change, and this should be done "with some urgency", reports the inquiry of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, which has taken into account the opinions of more than 600 Independent readers. Readers were invited to comment in our "Your World, Your Say" issues on climate change. Such a consensus will be needed because even tougher action will soon be necessary for dealing with global warming than is at present envisaged, says the report, which was produced for the group by three independent assessors.
An authoritative independent body, similar to the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, should be set up to agree UK climate change targets and measures to meet them, and to report "at least annually" on progress, the inquiry concludes.
Initiated by the group's chairman, the Labour MP Colin Challen, the inquiry looked at the question of whether a cross-party consensus on climate was desirable, and possible. It answers "yes" to both. The idea behind such an agreement would be that radical remedies for climate change - such as carbon rationing - could be tried without being neutered by Britain's adversarial political process.
(13 July 2006)
Global Warming 'Will Cancel out Western Aid and Devastate Africa'
Andrew Grice, Independent (UK) via Common Dreams
Climate change could have a devastating impact on Africa, wiping out all the benefits from the measures to help the continent agreed by the world's richest nations last year.
The warning will be issued by the British Government today when it announces plans to bring poor countries into the next round of international discussions to combat global warming.
The serious threat posed to the developing world will be highlighted when Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, publishes his first White Paper setting out his department's strategy. It will warn that people in poor nations, while producing much lower carbon emissions than rich countries, could be the biggest victims of climate change.
They will have to cope with more droughts, more extreme temperatures and sudden and intense rainfall causing greater food insecurity, loss of income, higher death rates and more diseases. Research by the department to assess the impact on Africa by 2050, taking account of poverty forecasts, suggests that southern Africa and the Sahel, the Great Lakes areas and the coastal zones of eastern and western Africa will be particularly at risk.
In some parts of east Africa, higher rainfall and and temperatures will help crop production in the short term but there will be more frequent crop failures in the future. "What is clear is that Africa appears to have some of the greatest burdens of climate change impacts, certainly from the human health and agricultural perspective," the research concluded.
"It is a region with a generally limited ability to cope and adapt; and it has some of the lowest per capita emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The likely impacts of climate change therefore present a global ethical challenge as well as a development and scientific challenge."
(13 July 2006)