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Climate & environment - June 27

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Sailing plastics to the Garbage Patch
(Kon-Tiki made from plastic bottles)
Sarah Duxbury, San Francisco Business Times
David de Rothschild is prepping 10,000 empty 2-liter plastic soda bottles for an epic Pacific crossing.

Rendering of the Plastiki, the 60-foot plastic boat David de Rothschild and crew will sail from San Francisco to Sydney

The plastic bottles will soon be a boat. That boat will then sail from Pier 29.5, where it is being built, to Sydney — a 10,000-mile journey with the humble aim of drawing world attention to how casually we treat plastic, and the destruction that wreaks on our seas.

... The Plastiki was inspired by Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition, so it is perhaps poetic that Heyerdahl’s granddaughter, Josian Heyerdahl, should join a leg of the voyage.

She is one of the many scientists, storytellers, artists and others that de Rothschild has invited to join the crossing, and one way he hopes to raise public awareness about the problem of plastics.

“Growing up, I heard a lot of stories about how the Kon-Tiki and the other works of my grandfather inspired them to do something they believed in,” Heyerdahl said. “Plastiki hopes to look at waste and the problems of the ocean and inspire people to change their behavior accordingly.
(26 June 2009)



Ecologists’ own goal: ozone saver is global warmer

Jonathan Leake, Sunday Times (UK)
THE green movement’s greatest triumph – the abolition of ozone-destroying CFC gases in the 1980s – may become its biggest embarrassment because of research showing that their replacements are sharply accelerating global warming.

CFC, or chlorofluorocarbon, gases were widely deployed in air-conditioning and refrigeration units before they were found to destroy the ozone layer and banned under the 1987 Montreal protocol.

They were replaced by HFCs – hydrofluorocarbons – gases that have far less effect on ozone but have since been revealed as extremely powerful greenhouse gases.

A ton of HFC23 used in refrigeration has the same global warming potential as 14,800 . tons of CO2 A ton of HFC-134a, widely used in vehicle air-conditioning units, is equivalent to 1,430 tons of CO2. The problem has been increased by the rising demand for refrigeration and air-conditioning because of economic expansion and population growth in Asia.
(21 June 2009)



Bill McKibben on U.S. climate politics
(text and video)
Greenpeace
For the first of the Greenpeace meets series, occasional interviews in which we'll hook up with (hopefully) interesting authors, activists, scientists and policy wonks to download their wisdom, I went and had a coffee with veteran US environmental guru Bill McKibben.

Bill has spent the last twenty years writing, agitating and organising to make governments take strong action on climate change. His take is very much that until there is a mass movement that both gives politicians the space to act, and forces them to do so, change will be halting.

With that in mind, he's currently crossing the globe organising for 350.org - the campaign group he founded, which calls for climate targets to be focused on lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to a level of no more than 350 parts per million. (Hence the name. We're currently at 388.)

The podcast goes in-depth on the science behind 350.org, Bill's take on what Copenhagen will deliver for the global climate movement, and 350.org's plans for a global day of action on October 24th.
(26 June 2009)
Quote from McKibben: "I've mostly given up being either optimistic or pessimistic. Our odds are not incredibly good for success, but I wake up every day saying, 'What can I do to change the odds some.'"



McKibben: I’m spewing carbon for your benefit and mine

Bill McKibben, Sunday Times (UK)>
The environmentalist is jetting around the world to try to halt climate change
---
What do you call a climate change campaigner sitting on an aeroplane? Sheepish. Especially since this flight to London is one of about 100 I’ve taken this year. I’m a carbon machine. Do I offset? I do. Do I think it matters? I don’t.

My rationalisation goes like this. Once upon a time I was a writer, which meant I stayed at home typing. I liked it. However, 20 years ago I wrote the first book for a general audience on climate change, The End of Nature. It was a bestseller, published in 24 languages – and it didn’t do a damn thing to slow down global warming.

A few years ago I decided it was time to do more. With six college students I organised a day of more than 1,400 rallies across the United States, helping to change Barack Obama’s position on carbon emissions. Now we’re trying to do the same thing worldwide, aiming for the biggest day of global action there’s been. I’m the one moving part, which explains why I’ll be at home for just 10 days between now and the Copenhagen climate conference in December.

From England I’m heading to Scandinavia, then Switzerland, Germany, Turkey, Portugal, the Maldives, India, Egypt, Qatar, and Lebanon. I’ve just come from Australia and New Zealand. It explains why terminal 4 is beginning to feel like my natural habitat.

... As an organiser, as far as I can tell, I need to seek out people who can help to make change. On Wednesday, these include a man who writes the national magazine for church bell-ringers. Why the enthusiasm? Because we want churches around the world to ring their bells 350 times on October 24, our global day of action.

We are called 350.org because 350 is the most important number on earth. Eighteen months ago, after the Arctic melted, scientists published data showing that any value for carbon in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million was incompatible with “the planet on which civilisation developed”.
(21 June 2009)

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