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Climate - May 29

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RealClimate
We've often been asked to provide a one stop link for resources that people can use to get up to speed on the issue of climate change, and so here is a first cut. Unlike our other postings, we'll amend this as we discover or are pointed to new resources. Different people have different needs and so we will group resources according to the level people start at.

For complete beginners: ...
Those with some knowledge: ...
Informed, but seeking serious discussion of common contrarian talking points:
(22 May 2007)


Kookaburra in the Coal Mine

Kelpie Wilson, truthout
A recent trip to Australia to cover a conference on agrichar allowed me to see the Australian drought crisis on the ground and talk to a few Australians about their thoughts on climate change. Agrichar is an agricultural technique that sequesters carbon, see Birth of a New Wedge.

The conference took place in Terrigal, New South Wales, a beach town just north of Sydney. Out on the blue horizon, I could see an endless train of coal ships headed for the booming economies of Asia. Coal is Australia's No. 1 export and a mainstay of the economy. But at the same time, as a major contributor to global warming, it is undermining almost every other source of wealth in the country.

A few days after I arrived, Prime Minister John Howard suggested a solution for the multi-year drought that is shriveling Australia's farmland: "Pray for rain," he said. Only a superabundance of rain can head off the government's plans to cut off irrigation to thousands of farms that are dependent on Australia's largest river system, the Murray-Darling basin.

Howard is not willing to admit, however, that global warming is the cause of the drought. At most, he says "there does appear to be a change in the weather pattern." He said Australia might be "going back to a drier period," but he is conspicuously alone in that assessment. Unlike hurricane Katrina, whose global warming origins were more strongly debated, most Australians blame the drought on human-caused climate change.
(24 May 2007)
For regular coverage of global warming and peak oil from an Australian viewpoint, see Big Gav's Peak Energy.


Rich Must Pay Bulk of Climate Change Bill, Oxfam Says

Jeremy Lovell, Reuters
LONDON -- Coping with the ravages of global warming will cost $50 billion a year, and the rich nations who caused most of the pollution must pay most of the bill, aid agency Oxfam said on Tuesday.

The call, barely 10 days before a crucial Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany which has climate change at its core, is likely to make already tense negotiations even tougher.

The United States, which Oxfam says must foot 44 percent of the annual $50 billion bill, is rejecting attempts by German G8 presidency Germany to set stiff targets and timetables for cutting carbon gas emissions and raising energy efficiency.
(29 May 2007)
Related: UK told to pay more for climate change (Guardian)


The cruelties of global warming

Daniel Howden, The Independent
Those who cause the fewest greenhouse gas emissions suffer the most as the climate
----
Peru's glaciers are melting. High in the Andes, freak hailstorms and cold snaps are freezing llamas to death. In the north of Kenya, unprecedented droughts have driven herdsmen into deadly battles for the few water holes. In the mountains of Tajikistan, near the border with Afghan-istan, flooding and landslides are washing away the crops.

Across the developing world, man-made climate change is an indisputable reality and it is already hitting hardest against the poorest nations.

Historically, the warming of the atmosphere has been the product of CO2 emissions from industrialised nations, but as scientists now agree global warming is upon us, the countries that have polluted the least are already the most hard-hit.

In addition to immediate steps to reduce emissions, £50bn is needed annually to help developing countries meet the immense costs of adapting to a climate change they have done least to cause, according to a report by Oxfam. "Developing countries cannot and should not be expected to foot the bill for rich countries' emissions," said Kate Raworth, Oxfam senior researcher and report author.

The latest opportunity for the developed world to take action on the greenhouse-gas emissions which are driving the changing climate comes in a fortnight in Germany at a meeting of the G8 group of the richest nations. Germany, backed by Britain and Japan, wants a pledge from members to cut their CO2 emissions in half by the middle of the century, and a commitment to limit global warming to 2C.

But these efforts look like hitting a wall in the shape of entrenched US opposition. A leaked draft of a communique ahead of the G8 meeting, from 6-8 June in Heiligendamm on Germany's Baltic coast, appeared to show that the US was set to reject any real progress on climate change.
(29 May 2007)


The Canadian Arctic
Anxiously watching a different world

The Economist
Climate and other changes draw new interest and new misunderstandings to the Canadian north

...What really worries some northerners is that the concomitants of climate change-more shipping, mining, and oil and gas exploration-may threaten the environment and with it the Inuit's traditional life, based on hunting and fishing. "We're more hardcore than Greenpeace because we know what nature is," says Nick Illauq, a youth leader from Clyde River in Nunavut.

Others want development-but on their terms. Last year Nunavut's economy grew by 5.8%, second only to that of oil-rich Alberta. Much of the boost came from the opening of the territory's first diamond mine. "There has always been a sense that the northern ice desert of Canada was a treasure trove," says Peter Gillin of Tahera, the mining company involved. Spending on mineral exploration in the three northern territories has almost tripled in the past five years. Of the 130 companies exploring in Nunavut this year, 32 are looking for uranium. Others are seeking gold, diamonds, silver, zinc, nickel, copper, iron ore and sapphires. Guy d'Argencourt, who supervises mining claims for Nunavut's government, recalls the old joke that a typical Inuit family consisted of father, mother, two children and an anthropologist. Now it is geologists who are ubiquitous, he says.

But the companies are not getting everything their own way. A recent attempt to revive plans dating from the 1970s for a pipeline to take natural gas from the Arctic along the Mackenzie Valley to Alberta has been delayed yet again after an aboriginal group complained it had not been consulted. An application to explore for uranium near the Thelon river in the Northwest Territories was rejected because the Lutselk'e Dene, an aboriginal group, refused to allow any activity on land it considered sacred.

Such a display of local power is new, says Mr Penikett. "When I was a kid in the Yukon and a mine opened, the profits went to New York, the jobs went to Edmonton, the taxes went to Ottawa and all we got was a hole in the ground, which we could use as a garbage dump-if the federal government gave us permission." Nowadays proposed developments must respect local culture and safeguard the environment as well as generate jobs.
(24 May 2007)
Related from The Economist: Tourism in Greenland: Global warming's boom town.


Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline

William Yardley, NY Times
NEWTOK, Alaska - The sturdy little Cessnas land whenever the fog lifts, delivering children's bicycles, boxes of bullets, outboard motors and cans of dried oats. And then, with a rumble down a gravel strip, the planes are gone, the outside world recedes and this subarctic outpost steels itself once again to face the frontier of climate change.

"I don't want to live in permafrost no more," said Frank Tommy, 47, standing beside gutted geese and seal meat drying on a wooden rack outside his mother's house. "It's too muddy. Everything is crooked around here."

The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest, is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. Sea ice that would normally protect coastal villages is forming later in the year, allowing fall storms to pound away at the shoreline.

Erosion has made Newtok an island, caught between the ever widening Ninglick River and a slough to the north. The village is below sea level, and sinking. Boardwalks squish into the spring muck. Human waste, collected in "honey buckets" that many residents use for toilets, is often dumped within eyeshot in a village where no point is more than a five-minute walk from any other. The ragged wooden houses have to be adjusted regularly to level them on the shifting soil.
(27 May 2007)

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