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Climate & Environment - August 4

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


The final countdown

Andrew Simms, The Guardian
If you shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, when there is none, you understand that you might be arrested for irresponsible behaviour and breach of the peace.

But from today, I smell smoke, I see flames and I think it is time to shout. I don't want you to panic, but I do think it would be a good idea to form an orderly queue to leave the building.

Because in just 100 months' time, if we are lucky, and based on a quite conservative estimate, we could reach a tipping point for the beginnings of runaway climate change. That said, among people working on global warming, there are countless models, scenarios, and different iterations of all those models and scenarios. So, let us be clear from the outset about exactly what we mean...
(1 August 2008)
Andrew Simms is policy director and head of the climate change programme at NEF (the new economics foundation). The material on climate models for this article was prepared by Dr Victoria Johnson, researcher at NEF on climate change.
Related at the Guardian:
The climate change clock is ticking
Is the media in danger of crying wolf on climate change?



Stinging tentacles offer hint of oceans’ decline

Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times
... From Spain to New York, to Australia, Japan and Hawaii, jellyfish are becoming more numerous and more widespread, and they are showing up in places where they have rarely been seen before, scientists say. The faceless marauders are stinging children blithely bathing on summer vacations, forcing beaches to close and clogging fishing nets.

But while jellyfish invasions are a nuisance to tourists and a hardship to fishermen, for scientists they are a source of more profound alarm, a signal of the declining health of the world’s oceans.

“These jellyfish near shore are a message the sea is sending us saying, ‘Look how badly you are treating me,’ ” said Dr. Josep-María Gili, a leading jellyfish expert, who has studied them at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona for more than 20 years.

The explosion of jellyfish populations, scientists say, reflects a combination of severe overfishing of natural predators, like tuna, sharks and swordfish; rising sea temperatures caused in part by global warming; and pollution that has depleted oxygen levels in coastal shallows.
(3 August 2008)
But from Lebanon: Jellyfish scarcity threatens marine food chain.



The scientific case for modern anthropogenic global warming

John W. Farley, Monthly Review
Most Americans today believe that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming, but not everybody agrees. Climate contrarians proclaim that global warming is not occurring at all, or that it is occurring but is entirely natural, i.e., that the anthropogenic (human) contribution to global warming is negligible. The contrarian ranks include the well-known radical journalist Alexander Cockburn, who forcefully proclaimed anthropogenic global warming to be a myth in three articles published in 2007 on the CounterPunch Web site and in The Nation.1

I have been reading Cockburn’s political writings with pleasure, and usually with agreement, for three decades, dating back to his career at The Village Voice. However, as a physics professor who has lectured on global warming since 2001, I emphatically disagree with Cockburn’s perspective on global warming.2 I am also dissatisfied with the quality of much of the response that Cockburn’s articles have evoked, as judged by the letters columns in The Nation.3

Most climate scientists believe that the human contribution to today’s global warming is important, and cannot by any means be dismissed as negligible. The consequences of global warming are potentially very dangerous. In view of the importance of the issue, and in view of Cockburn’s prominent (and well-deserved) role as a left intellectual and his formidable powers of persuasion, it is worthwhile restating the scientific case for modern anthropogenic global warming.

The present article consists of (1) a summary of the scientific case for modern anthropogenic global warming, (2) a summary of the contrarian case advanced by Cockburn, (3) an assessment of global warming in greater depth, and (4) my detailed critique of the contrarian arguments advanced by Cockburn.
(July-August 2008)
The latest article to be put online from Monthly Review's special issue on ecology. Other online articles from the issue:
Ecology: The Moment of Truth - An Introduction
Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism by John Bellamy Foster
The Political Economy and Ecology of Biofuels by Fred Magdoff
Climate Change, Limits to Growth, and the Imperative for Socialism by Minqi Li




Tories deny burying release of climate-change report

The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The Harper government is dismissing suggestions that it tried to play down the release of a major report warning about serious health effects from climate change.

Health Minister Tony Clement's communications director conceded Friday that the release could have gone "way differently and way better." But Rita Smith denied any attempt to bury the 500-page report by releasing it late Thursday with no fanfare.

The Conservative government's hand was forced when parts of the report were leaked to the media last week, Smith said.

"This is not my preferred way to roll out anything," she said...
(2 August 2008)

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