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As Arctic melts, nations line up for oil, other rights

Associated Press
…some see [in global warming] a lucrative silver lining of riches waiting to be snatched from the deep, and the prospect of timesaving sea lanes that could transform the shipping industry the way the Suez Canal did in the 19th century.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic has as much as 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. Russia reportedly sees the potential of minerals in its slice of the Arctic sector approaching $2 trillion.
(25 March 2007)

Antarctic Melting May be Speeding Up

Michael Byrnes, Reuters
Rising sea levels and melting polar ice-sheets are at upper limits of projections, leaving some human population centers already unable to cope, top world scientists say as they analyze latest satellite data.

A United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February projected sea level gains of 18-59 centimeters (7-23 inches) this century from temperature rises of 1.8-4.0 Celsius (3.2-7.8 Farenheit).

“Observations are in the very upper edge of the projections,” leading Australian marine scientist John Church told Reuters.

“I feel that we’re getting uncomfortably close to threshold,” said Church, of Australia’s CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research said.

Past this level, parts of the Antarctic and Greenland would approach a virtually irreversible melting that would produce sea level rises of meters, he said.

There has been no repeat in the Antarctic of the 2002 break-up of part of the Larsen ice shelf that created a 500 billion ton iceberg as big as Luxembourg.

But the Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, and glaciers are in massive retreat.
(23 March 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

Amazon ‘faces more deadly droughts’

James Painter, BBC
..The more alarming predictions for the Amazon say the combination of forest fires, drought, deforestation, changes in land use (such as soya production) and global warming will combine to push the Amazon over a “tipping point” into a cycle of destruction. ..

There was broad consensus that the 2005 drought was linked not to El Nino – the periodic phenomenon which begins with a warming of waters in the Pacific – as with most previous droughts in the Amazon, but to warming sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic.

Peter Cox, professor in climate change dynamics at the University of Essex in the UK, thinks the same factors which caused the drought are likely to be repeated. What drives it, he says, is the warming of the North Atlantic Ocean in the Tropics relative to the South – this causes less rain to fall. ..

Many communities dependent on the river for transport were left stranded as tributaries dried out. For the first time, a very large spread of forest fires was recorded in the south-west region.

New research by Luiz Aragao at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute shows the extent of the fires. “An area of 2,800 sq km (1081 sq miles) was lost due to an extensive leakage of fires into newly-flammable forest,” he says. ..
(23 Mar 2007)

Why the right goes nuclear over global warming

Jonathan Chait, LA Times
Most of the heat is generated by a small number of hard-core ideologues.
…How did it get this way? The easy answer is that Republicans are just tools of the energy industry. It’s certainly true that many of them are. Leading global warming skeptic Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas), for instance, was the subject of a fascinating story in the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago. The bottom line is that his relationship to the energy industry is as puppet relates to hand.

But the financial relationship doesn’t quite explain the entirety of GOP skepticism on global warming. For one thing, the energy industry has dramatically softened its opposition to global warming over the last year, even as Republicans have stiffened theirs.

The truth is more complicated – and more depressing: A small number of hard-core ideologues (some, but not all, industry shills) have led the thinking for the whole conservative movement.

Your typical conservative has little interest in the issue. Of course, neither does the average nonconservative. But we nonconservatives tend to defer to mainstream scientific wisdom. Conservatives defer to a tiny handful of renegade scientists who reject the overwhelming professional consensus.

National Review magazine, with its popular website, is a perfect example. It has a blog dedicated to casting doubt on global warming, or solutions to global warming, or anybody who advocates a solution. Its title is “Planet Gore.” The psychology at work here is pretty clear: Your average conservative may not know anything about climate science, but conservatives do know they hate Al Gore. So, hold up Gore as a hate figure and conservatives will let that dictate their thinking on the issue.

Meanwhile, Republicans who do believe in global warming get shunted aside.

Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at The New Republic, where he has worked since 1995. He has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Slate, Time, American Prospect and other publications.
(25 March 2007)
Also posted at Common Dreams.

I’m Not Buying What Al Gore’s Selling

Russell Hoffman, OpEdNews
Al Gore is a master of dishonesty. Karl Rove should pay attention, since he may want to tell big lies to Congress soon, too.

In two and a half hours of testimony before a near-idolizing Senate hearing, Al Gore said very little. He profusely thanked Republicans and Democrats alike, and answered every question in the same condescending drone — even as he told the world he didn’t understand “trigonometry” and “calculus” and complicated mathematical things like that. ..

Numerous speakers on both sides of the aisle kept saying nukes are clean, often immediately explaining that they mean they don’t release significant amounts of CO2 during operation. No one talked about fission products. No one talked about the energy-intensive “nuclear fuel cycle,” let alone, the threat from terrorism at every step. No one talked about cancer. No one talked about how much water nuclear power plants use, which would conflict with other uses in a global-warming-induced global water shortage.

No one even talked about renewable energy much. Al Gore stated — correctly, I believe — that small-scale energy producers need to be able to sell electricity to the grid. But his main solution to the problem of global warming — aside from “conservation” (aka “energy efficiency”) and the “small” role nuclear power will play was: Clean coal. ..

In reality, Al Gore offers NOTHING to environmentalists but more of the same. He scares no one, certainly not anyone in Congress or the nuclear industry, or ANY polluting industry, with his “environmentalism.” ..
(23 Mar 2007)
Russell Hoffman’s commentary defeats itself by lapsing into personal attacks and hyperbole. However, his basic points are correct: the measures under discussion are inadequate; nuclear and clean coal are flawed responses. -BA