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Climate - Sept 16

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Arctic ice loss: Northwest Passage now open, says space agency

AFP
The Northwest Passage, the dreamed-of yet historically impassable maritime shortcut between Europe and Asia, has now fully opened up due to record shrinkage of Arctic sea ice, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.

It released a mosaic of images, taken in early September by a radar aboard its Envisat satellite, which showed that ice retreat in the Arctic had reached record levels since satellite monitoring began in 1978.
(14 September 2007)
Contributor SP writes:
ESA show the dramatic difference between now (Sept 2007) and the same time last year. Truly rapid change is indicated.

BA: Other related stories from:
Arctic thaw opens fabled trade route (The Observer)
Arctic Ice Melt Opens Northwest Passage (Associated Press)


Bush aide says warming man-made

Roger Harrabin, BBC
The US chief scientist has told the BBC that climate change is now a fact.

Professor John Marburger, who advises President Bush, said it was more than 90% certain that greenhouse gas emissions from mankind are to blame.

The Earth may become "unliveable" without cuts in CO2 output, he said, but he labelled targets for curbing temperature rise as "arbitrary".

His comments come shortly before major meetings on climate change at the UN and the Washington White House.

There may still be some members of the White House team who are not completely convinced about climate change - but it is clear that the science advisor to the President and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is not one of them.
(14 September 2007)


'Climate change: The limits of consensus'

Joseph Romm, Gristmill
A must-read article from Science on the underestimation of climate change impacts
---
The new issue of Science has a terrific article that underscores many of the points I have been making here. Its central argument is that the scientific consensus most likely underestimates future climate change impacts, especially in the crucial area of sea-level rise and carbon-cycle feedbacks.

The authors are highly credible, led by Princeton's Michael Oppenheimer, one of the most widely published climate experts. I will excerpt the article here at length ($ub. req'd):

The emphasis on consensus in IPCC reports, however, has put the spotlight on expected outcomes, which then become anchored via numerical estimates in the minds of policy-makers. With the general credibility of the science of climate change established, it is now equally important that policy-makers understand the more extreme possibilities that consensus may exclude or downplay.

....[N]ational governments now need to confront a more fundamental question of how often they need comprehensive assessments of climate change. Addressing the special risks entailed in particular aspects of the climate system, like the ice sheets or carbon cycle, might be better approached by increasing the number of concise, highly focused special reports that can be completed relatively quickly by smaller groups, perhaps even by competing teams of experts. At this juncture, full assessments emphasizing consensus, which are a major drain on participants and a deflection from research, may not be needed more than once per decade.

(14 September 2007)


Panel Faults Emphasis of U.S. Climate Program

Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times
An effort by the Bush administration to improve federal climate research has answered some questions but lacks a focus on impacts of changing conditions and informing those who would be most affected, a panel of experts has found.

The Climate Change Science Program, created in 2002 by President Bush to improve climate research across 13 government agencies, has also been hampered by governmental policies that have grounded earth-observing satellites and dismantled programs to monitor environmental conditions on earth, concluded the report, issued by the National Academies, the nation's pre-eminent scientific advisory group.

In a printed statement, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, the panel's chairman, said that the program's basic scientific efforts had constituted "an important initiative that has broadened our knowledge of climate change."

Among other things, the report noted, the effort has helped resolve disputes over whether the earth's atmosphere is warming significantly or not, allowing scientists to compare data and agree that warming is occurring.

But the report cited more problems than successes in the government's research program. Of the $1.7 billion spent by the program on climate research each year, only about $25 million to $30 million has gone to studies of how climate change will affect human affairs, for better or worse, the report said.
(14 September 2007)
AP has a more direct headline: Study: Cutbacks imperil climate research.


Insurance industry joins climate change fight

Staff and agencies, Guardian
The insurance industry today launched a major initiative to help tackle climate change and encourage consumers to be more environmentally friendly, which could lead to the introduction of more "green" insurance policies.

A group of global insurers, reinsurers and brokers has developed a set of ClimateWise principles that aim to do everything from reducing the environmental impact of their own businesses to rewarding customers for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.
(13 September 2007)

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