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Climate - Oct 19

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Weaving the Magic Number, 350, into Transition

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
I had the great pleasure over the weekend of attending the 2008 Schumacher Lectures in Bristol. I will write more about it tomorrow, but one of the highlights for me was a talk by Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature (one of the most distressing books I ever read) and Deep Economy (one of the most exhilarating). Bill’s current project is 350.org, which aims to press politicians to acknowledge that 350ppm was the climate change tipping point, and the level we should commit in policy to moving back to over time. Bill’s rousing closing speech argued that we ought not focus on building the new post-oil, low carbon world, rather we must focus all our energy on tackling climate change first. His analogy was if your house is on fire you tackle the fire, you don’t start designing the new house to replace it. It is not an analogy I agree with, but clearly the 350 figure is key.

Here is the film from 350.org that communicates the campaign’s basic message…

And here is a talk by Bill, setting out the reason why 350 is “the most important number in the world”...

...Clearly the need to communicate 350 is key, and I agree entirely about its importance as a target, James Hansen has argued this entirely convincingly elsewhere. Where I disagree though, is on the question of the need for purely symbolic actions. I think that with the peak oil question, and the economic implosion issue woven in too, the need to think forward, to vision the future, is key...
(14 October 2008)



US climate change activists go on trial

Elana Schor, Guardian
Eleven climate change activists are due in court today on criminal charges after they blockaded a planned $1.8bn coal-fired power plant, providing an American echo of the Kingsnorth Six trial.

The activists were arrested last month in rural Wise County, Virginia, at the gates of a power plant being built by Dominion, the No 2 utility in the US. The 11 chained themselves to steel barrels that held aloft a banner, lit by solar panels, challenging the utility to provide cleaner energy for a region ravaged by abusive coal mining.

Charged with unlawful assembly and obstruction of justice, the group has been dubbed the Dominion 11 in homage to Kingsnorth. Dr James Hansen, the leading US climate change scientist, has followed his testimony on behalf of the Kingsnorth protesters with an offer of help to the Virginia activists.

The Americans have yet to attract the national attention won by their counterparts in the UK. But for Hannah Morgan, a member of the 11, her case is only one chapter in a long battle against the coal industry that has been raging under the general public's radar.
(17 October 2008)



Methane hydrates: Energy's most dangerous game

William Pentland, Forbes
All the energy America needs for the next 100 years lies under the sea off the coast of South Carolina. One problem: Digging it out could cause a global climate disaster.

Welcome to the final frontier in fossil fuels, the wild card in climate change theories and the dark horse in the scramble to secure access to clean energy. Meet methane hydrates, the world's most promising and perilous energy resource.

Methane is the principal component of natural gas, and massive amounts of it are trapped in reservoirs beneath the sea floor and under a layer of the ice-like substance. The scale of the resource is spectacular. By some estimates, methane hydrates contain more energy content than all other known fossil fuels combined.

Two small areas located roughly 200 miles off the coast of Charleston, S.C., contain enough methane to meet the country's gas needs for more than a century. And this is only one of at least two dozen similar reservoirs discovered in U.S. coastal waters since the early 1970s.
Disaster waiting to happen?

The paradox is that while gas can be extracted from methane hydrates, doing so poses potentially catastrophic risks.
(14 October 2008)



Climate change and wildfires
(audio)
Sadie Babits, Environmental Report
Twenty years ago this year, the country watched its oldest national park go up in flames. Looking back, scientists believe the 1988 fires of Yellowstone National Park were the signal fire of climate change. Researchers have been working ever since to understand this relationship between climate and wildfire. Sadie Babits reports on two scientists searching for clues to ancient climates, using trees as their guide:
(13 October 2008)

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