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Environment & climate - May 21

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Healing Mother Earth: E.O. Wilson
(video)
E. O. Wilson, FORA TV
Renowned scientist E.O. Wilson delivers a plea for a new human ethic based on a wiser, more careful stewardship of our vanishing natural world while sharing his optimism that we still have an opportunity to save the living things and wild places that sustain us.

Hailed as "Darwin's Natural Heir" and one of "America's 25 Most Influential People" by TIME Magazine, Dr. Wilson is a self-professed "tree hugger."

E. O. Wilson - Edward Osborne Wilson (born June 10, 1929) is an American biologist (Myrmecology, a branch of entomology), researcher (sociobiology, biodiversity), theorist (consilience, biophilia), and naturalist (conservationism). Wilson is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his scientific humanist ideas concerned with religious, moral, and ethical matters. As of 2007, he was the Pellegrino Research Professor in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.
(10 May 2009)



Glaciers go, leaving drought, conflict and tension in Andes

Barbara Fraser, The Daily Climate
In a dry land where almost everyone has their eye on their uphill neighbor's water, the Andes are already seeing conflicts erupt as global warming changes water patterns.
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ICA, Peru — Two decades ago, the strip of sand between the Pacific Ocean and the Andean foothills was empty except for the occasional fig or carob tree. But the northern end of perhaps the world's driest desert – a harsh and unforgiving clime — is now the center of Peru's export agriculture industry.

Rising demand for irrigation and drinking water is draining the aquifer faster than it can recharge, and a scheme to channel more water from the Andean highlands, which receive seasonal rainfall, is pitting big agribusinesses on the coast against Quechua-speaking llama herders in the mountains.

Experts say the conflict is just one sign of rising tensions over water use as supplies of the vital resource dwindle and shift with changes in climate.

Lapaz"Water belongs to the people who need it most, and we need it most," says Gino Gotuzzo, of the Farmers Association of Ica, who grows asparagus and some other crops on about 60 acres of desert. Up the mountain, however, Quechua-speaking farmers say plans to channel runoff to coastal farms will dry up the spongy high-mountain wetlands where they pasture llamas and alpacas, ruining their livelihood.

El Niño's water refugees

Peruvian officials brush aside the specter of "water refugees." As supplies dwindle, they say, they can channel water from the highlands, where rain falls between October and April, or divert rivers that flow east to Amazonia, which receives more precipitation than its sparse population uses.

Nevertheless, droughts associated with El Niño events in the 1980s and 1990s spurred increased migration from rural areas to cities in Peru, and the exodus from Brazil's chronically drought-stricken northeast is one factor in that country's Amazonian deforestation.

With cities growing and agriculture expanding throughout South America, experts predict that climate change will exacerbate water scarcity, increasing conflicts between competing users, pitting city dwellers against rural residents, people in dry lands against those in areas with abundant rainfall, Andean mining companies against neighboring farm communities, and eucalyptus plantation operators on the Argentinian and Uruguayan plains against farmers who say the trees are sucking the water table dry.
(19 May 2009)



The Flawed Logic of The Cap-and-Trade Debate

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Yale Environment 360
Two prominent — and iconoclastic — environmentalists argue that current efforts to tax or cap carbon emissions are doomed to failure and that the answer lies not in making dirty energy expensive but in making clean energy cheap.
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In early May, anxiety among climate activists about the fate of cap-and-trade legislation erupted into a full-throated roar with the release of a scathing open letter by Dr. James Hansen. In it, the NASA scientist called a bill by Representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey a “temple of doom,” savaging it for being complex, corrupt, and “a minor tweak to business-as-usual.” Hansen called for a carbon tax in its place, one that would establish a “substantial and rising price on carbon emissions.”

Hansen was right about Waxman-Markey. It will do little to reduce U.S. emissions, will transfer billions to incumbent energy interests in the form of free pollution permits, and will send billions more to timber, agriculture, and other interests, here and abroad, in the form of dubious “offsets.” But Hansen’s analysis of why climate legislation has gone so terribly off the rails is wrong.

Hansen argues that the problem has to do with the mechanism by which Waxman-Markey would establish a carbon price — a cap-and-trade system. In this, Hansen is joined by many other greens and economists, who argue that cap-and-trade is a cumbersome and economically inefficient means of establishing a carbon price, one that is particularly vulnerable to manipulation by polluters and politicians.

On the other side of this debate stand many business interests, some prominent climate scientists, and green groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
(19 May 2009)
I'm afraid that Nordhaus and Shellenberger do not speak to me.

Some good points, but there's a little too much ego in them - as if they have the oh-so-obvious answers which everyone else is blind to. The battle to avert climate change is going to be messy and confusing, and there are no pain-free perfect answers. By catering to our desire for easy solutions, they subvert the real struggle that is happening right now.

-BA


From ‘Alarmed’ to ‘Dismissive’: The Six Ways Americans View Global Warming

Yale University Office of Public Affairs
Americans fall into six distinct groups regarding their climate change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, according to a new report, “Global Warming’s Six Americas,” by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities. The researchers, who surveyed 2,129 adult Americans in the fall of 2008, found that these “six Americas” include:

The Alarmed, (18 percent of the population) are most convinced that global warming is happening, caused by humans, and a serious and urgent threat.

The Concerned (33 percent) believe global warming is a serious problem and support an active national response, but are less personally involved and have taken fewer actions than the Alarmed.

The Cautious (19 percent) believe global warming is a problem, but are less certain it is happening. They neither view it as a personal threat nor feel a sense of urgency about it.

The Disengaged (12 percent) do not know much about global warming or whether it is happening and have not thought much about the issue.

The Doubtful (11 percent) are not sure whether global warming is happening, but believe that, if it is, it is caused by natural environmental changes and is a distant threat.

The Dismissive (7 percent) are actively engaged in the issue, but believe that global warming is not happening and does not warrant a national response.

“When we talk about ‘the American public’ and its views on global warming, that’s a misnomer,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change and a co-author of the report. “There is no single American voice on this issue.”

However, the researchers found that the groups sometimes actually behave in similar ways, albeit for different reasons, said Leiserowitz. For instance, all six support actions that save them money, with the Dismissive just as likely to have made energy efficiency improvements to their homes as the Alarmed. Likewise, all six groups support rebates for the purchase of solar panels and fuel-efficient cars, including the Dismissive.

“Too many climate change education and awareness campaigns have been like throwing darts in a dark room,” said Leiserowitz. “Climate change is ultimately a human problem. If we want to constructively engage Americans in the solutions, we have to first know our audience.”

The full report can be found at http://environment.yale.edu/uploads/6Americas2009.pdf

The study was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. It was funded by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy; the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation; the Surdna Foundation; the 11th Hour Project; the Pacific Foundation; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
(19 May 2009)

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