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Beyond Kyoto
A dispatch from a forward-looking climate conference in Germany

Michael Levitin, Grist
Imagine a trans-European “super grid” of renewable energy connecting solar parks in northern Africa to wind farms in Scandinavia. Consider the millions in savings — in miles, in dollars, in tons of CO2 injected into the atmosphere — if once a week, one out of every 10 Americans telecommuted to work using state-of-the-art conference screens at home.

Or how about picturing the alternative: a world in which our continued burning of fossil fuels forces global temperatures over the 2 degree Celsius threshold (we’re currently 0.7 degrees C above pre-Industrial levels) believed to be the tipping point that will lead to long-term, devastating atmospheric changes.

These were a few of the starkly opposing scenarios laid out by scientists, politicians, activists, and businesspeople at last week’s international conference held in Berlin, called “KyotoPlus: Escaping the Climate Trap.”
(2 Oct 2006)

Climate inaction ‘has high cost’

British government official and former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern said pursuing alternative energy made economic and environmental sense.

He was addressing a closed-door meeting in Mexico of representatives of 20 of the world’s most-polluting nations. The two-day gathering hopes to reach agreement on ways to meet future energy demands while cutting emissions. ..

Also at the meeting, Claude Mandil, head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), presented the findings of extensive research carried out by the agency.
Mr Mandil told the BBC that the technologies needed to cut emissions for the foreseeable future already exist. However, he warned that investment in new low-carbon technologies was needed now – otherwise a fresh generation of inefficient, carbon intensive power stations would become locked into the global energy mix.
But he said that he was not optimistic that there was a political will to deliver the necessary support, and that there was “a huge gap between words and deeds”. ..
(4 Oct 2006)
Also from Reuters via YahooNews Cut emissions now or pay, UK tells climate talks.

Global warming will threaten millions say climate scientists

Michael McCarthy, NZ Herald/The Independent(UK)
Drought threatening the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the earth in the coming century because of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain’s leading climate scientists.

Extreme drought, in which agriculture is effectively impossible, will affect nearly a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

It is one of the direst forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world – yet it may be an underestimate, the scientists involved said yesterday. ..

The findings represent the first time that the threat of increased drought from climate change, long feared, has actually been quantified with a modern supercomputer climate model such as the one operated by the Hadley Centre.

Their impact will be all the greater from the fact they may well be an underestimate, as the study did not include potential effects on drought from global-warming-induced changes to the earth’s carbon cycle, such as forests dying back in a warming world.

In one unpublished Met Office study, when the carbon cycle effects are included, future drought is even worse. ..
(4 Oct 2006)

Coal said top enemy in fighting global warming

Alister Doyle, Reuters
OSLO – Cheap coal will be the main enemy in a fight against global warming in the 21st century because high oil prices are likely to encourage a shift to coal before wind or solar power, a top economist said on Thursday.

Coal emits far more greenhouse gases, blamed by most scientists for a rise in world temperatures, per unit of energy when burned in power plants or factories than oil or natural gas.

“The most important environmental problem in the 21st century is coal, or you could say coal is the most important enemy,” Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told Reuters.
(28 Oct 2006)