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London, Tokyo Submerged by Rising Seas — In “Second Life”

John Roach, National Geographic
Tokyo, Amsterdam, and the entire Mediterranean island of Ibiza were inundated with floodwaters today due to rising sea levels brought on by global warming.

Or at least, that would have been the headline if events in the virtual world Second Life mirrored reality. A rolling flood temporarily swamped several areas of the online world as part of a campaign to illustrate the potential environmental and financial impacts of climate change.

“Our message was, You may have a second life, but [you still need to] offset your second life in real life,” said David de Rothschild, a London-based environmentalist and adventurer whose nonprofit Adventure Ecology helped stage today’s flood. ..
(4 Apr 2007)
See also Second Lifers Not Phased By Flooding.

Planting the right trees could combat global warming

Govindasamy Bala, ABC Australia
..However, some advocates of “climate mitigation” have come up up with several strategies, called carbon sequestration, to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
One of them is the hotly-debated terrestrial carbon sequestration that includes planting new trees. Many companies have started signing up for reforestation and afforestation projects in the US and Europe to offset their carbon footprint. Will this work?
Our recent modelling study suggests that these projects in the temperate and boreal zones are not going to help to slow down global warming. Location is the key to the success of these projects, and planting new trees in regions outside the tropics will actually warm the Earth.

Forests affect climate in three different ways: they take up CO2 from the atmosphere and cool the planet; they evaporate water to the atmosphere and increase cloudiness, which also cools the planet; and they are dark and absorb a lot of sunlight, warming the Earth.
The carbon offsetting programs that promote planting trees are taking only the first effect into account.

When the changes to the surface properties are also taken into account, it is clear only tropical rainforests are strongly beneficial to slow down global warming. In the tropics, in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, trees promote clouds which help to cool the planet.

In other locations, specifically in the seasonally snow-covered high latitude area, the warming from the darkening of the surface either cancels or exceeds the net cooling from the other two effects. ..
(13 Apr 2007)
See Plant a tree and save the Earth? for more.

Don’t argue about climate change, plan for it
Arctic meltdown creates hot policy issues

David Keeling, Chicago Sun-Times
Internecine scientific struggles over defining and measuring global climate change are obscuring more important questions about the policy dimensions of such change. Exacerbating the problem are ostrichlike government attitudes toward climate change that fail to focus attention on the more serious challenges facing society.

Individuals, organizations and governments can deny or promote interminably the premise that humans are significantly implicated in the climate changes we are now experiencing. However, the reality is that humans will be affected by climate change in significant ways, whoever or whatever is determined to be the culprit.

The real focus of the debate, therefore, should be about its policy implications and what should be done to plan for its eventuality. With the International Polar Year just under way, desperately needed is a significant effort by policymakers to address the enormous political, economic and environmental challenges to be thrust upon governments by a melting Arctic.

Geographers have frequently pointed out that the key to planning for global climate change — or war, the economy or the environment, for that matter — is understanding its spatial dimensions. They have also demonstrated time after time that geographic ignorance about the peoples and places targeted by governmental and other policies often precipitates policy disasters.

Global climate change is inevitable. Its implications for humankind, however, are not inevitable. Urgently needed is a meaningful focus on the policy implications of climate change by governments and scientists across the planet. This requires understanding the geography of climate change in ways that can shed light on the critical policy questions that need to be asked. For example, melting Arctic ice likely will open up the northern sea lanes between Europe and Asia for at least two months annually. A cursory examination of the globe highlights the significantly shorter shipping distance between the major ports of Europe and East Asia across the Arctic than via the Suez Canal.

The policy implications of a possible boom in shipping across Arctic waters are significant… Complicating the geopolitics are U.S. Geological Survey estimates that at least a quarter of all undiscovered oil and natural gas might be found in the Arctic region.

David J. Keeling is a professor of geography at Western Kentucky University.
(14 April 2007)
In an otherwise perceptive article, Dr. Keeling makes two severe mistakes. 1) It is not true that there are “internecine scientific struggles” about global warming. Scientists are in agreement about the broad outlines of global warming. 2) “Global climate change is inevitable.” Yes, but this is not in question. What is of paramount importance is the degree of global warming — and this is determined by our ability to reduce fossil fuel use. -BA

The burning issue

John Harris, The Guardian
.. The area is known in the electricity industry as Megawatt Valley, thanks to the three coal-fired power stations, built when local mining represented the future: Eggborough, Ferrybridge and Drax. The latter is by far the biggest – an 1,800-acre installation, opened in 1974, employing 500, that supplies 7% of Britain’s electricity. In 2002, falling power prices forced Drax into administration, but of late, thanks chiefly to the steep hike in the cost of gas, these have been boom times for coal and the power stations that burn it. Having been floated as a self-contained business on the stock exchange, Drax Group plc’s last annual profits were just over £650m.

Last summer, to the evident surprise of Drax’s management, the power station landed in the national news. After months of preliminary meetings, 600 people pitched up in a nearby field and began a 10-day protest, The Camp For Climate Action. The chairman of the parish council called them “eco-bullies”, though these were not exactly the anarchist provocateurs of local nightmares. In the words of the protest’s guidebook, the camp was to be a “welcoming and peaceful space”. Amplified music, campers were advised, had to be “turned off at 11pm on weekdays, and 12pm at weekends”. Sanitary concerns were addressed via measures intended to give a flavour of the eco-friendly future to come: “There will be two sorts of toilets: bales of hay in holes for peeing, and wooden structures above wheelie-bins to collect the poo.” Some protesters made a point of addressing local fears via door-to-door canvassing and a collective visit to a church fete.

..Friends Of The Earth and Greenpeace, Lewis says, are “shackled by their need to have an open door with the politicians – they know we’re right, but they’re still campaigning for things they know are wrong”. The government’s target of a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is, he says, “pathetic, inadequate, and contrary to all the science”; the corporations that churn out greenhouse gases in the knowledge of their effects are guilty of “genocide”. Both of them cleave to the idea – laid out in George Monbiot’s book Heat: How To Stop The Planet Burning – that the countries of the industrialised world have to shrink their carbon footprint by 90% within a generation, or watch as climate change enters a stage known as “positive feedback” and moves beyond human control. For Drax, they argue, that can only mean only one thing: closure, and quick.

..Dorothy Thompson is the only female CEO of a company in the FTSE 100; she arrived at Drax having trained as an economist, worked in banking, and having run three gas-fired British power stations. When the protests happened, she had been in her job just under a year. “I was really dismayed, actually,” she says, “because I do really think … well, among the coal stations, we’re the lowest carbon emitter, per unit of electricity. The protests were more about the size of Drax than our performance on emissions.

“I do think the carbon debate needs to be raised,” she goes on. “And I think that was a very good part of it [the camp]. The part that was very wrong was that the protesters themselves, or some of them, had no respect for health, no respect for safety, no respect for legality. Power stations are dangerous places. At any cost, they really wanted to shut us down. There are many ways you can do that, but I don’t think that anyone’s got the right to put other people at risk.” [emphasis added] ..
(14 Apr 2007)
Contributor AC writes: UK activists take the fight on global warming to the heart of darkness, the huge coal-fired plants, of which many more are planned. Good coverage of both sides of the debate (“know thy enemy”) and an interview with environment secretary Miliband, who may take over Blair’s crown in the future.

‘Hypocritical’ NSW Govt expanding coal export facilities

Staff, ABC
..The Government has given the go-ahead to a third coal loader in the Port of Newcastle as well the expansion of the Kooragang coal terminal.

Premier Morris Iemma was among state and territory leaders who tried yesterday to get the Prime Minister to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent.
Steve Phillips from the group Rising Tide says the State Government’s rhetoric does not match its actions.

“We’re dismayed that a Government that is obviously seeking to portray itself as leaders on climate change has just gone and approved the doubling of the world’s biggest coal port,” he said.

“Just one of these two new projects that the New South Wales Government has just approved, the new coal export terminal in Newcastle Harbour, will be the equivalent of doubling New South Wales greenhouse emissions from all sources.”
(14 Apr 2007)