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Climate & environment - Aug 27

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


As Arctic Ocean warms, megatonnes of methane bubble up

Michael Marshall, New Scientist
It's been predicted for years, and now it's happening. Deep in the Arctic Ocean, water warmed by climate change is forcing the release of methane from beneath the sea floor.

Over 250 plumes of gas have been discovered bubbling up from the sea floor to the west of the Svalbard archipelago, which lies north of Norway. The bubbles are mostly methane, which is a greenhouse gas much more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The methane is probably coming from reserves of methane hydrate beneath the sea bed. These hydrates, also known as clathrates, are water ice with methane molecules embedded in them...
(17 August 2009)



Ocean Temperature Record and Other Clues: What Is Your Response?

Jan Lundberg, Culture Change
In this report we look at recent news on global warming, the positioning of denialists (the bad cop) and the more insidious "limited-measure-ists" (the good cop), and lastly the direct action approach. The news on global climate change does not get better, but patterns are emerging right now that may help us cut through the obstacles to acting forthrightly.

Climate-change denialism, or just the denial of human-caused global warming, is on the rise or becoming more prominent precisely because the evidence for irrefutable human impacts is more and more obvious. And the implications are that we must change our lifestyles, and corporate greed will have to take a back seat to humanity's greater interests. For some of us either implication is intolerable, so two approaches are employed: bad cop and good cop...
(19 August 2009)
Excellent roundup of articles on all sides of the question follows the main article on Culture Change. -KS



A ‘Dow Jones’ For Climate: The Case for a Warming Index

Daniel R. Abbasi, yale environment 360
With the health care overhaul now consuming Washington, we are once again at risk of seeing the issue of climate change displaced from the national agenda. So, even if the U.S. Senate manages to adhere to its intended schedule by taking up the historic House-passed cap-and-trade bill in September, will the congressional leadership and the president have enough political capital to steer two economy-transforming bills to passage at once?

Many expect any climate change bill that survives this high-stakes moment to be weakened to the point that it will not achieve the scientifically grounded objective of avoiding dangerous global warming. Chief among the concerns is that the bill’s emissions reduction targets won’t be steep enough. After all, the House bill’s targets were weakened by the horse-trading that enabled its passage, and many expect the Senate to weaken them further.

Yet tucked away in the bill is a little-discussed, but ultimately crucial, provision informally referred to as the “scientific look-back.” And that measure, strengthened by a nascent idea to create something I call the Global Climate Change Index (GCCI), could put teeth back into the legislation that will limp across the line in Congress...
(24 August 2009)
Suggested by EB reader Kevin Dennehy.



Africa seeks climate change cash

BBC news
Ministers from 10 African countries have met in Ethiopia to try to agree a common position on climate change, months before a crucial UN meeting.

They were expected to renew demands for billions of dollars in compensation for Africa because of damage caused by global warming.

And they are likely to ask rich nations to cut emissions by 40% by 2012.

African nations are among the lightest polluters but analysts say they will suffer the most from climate change.

BBC science reporter Matt McGrath says the move to agree a common negotiating platform for Africa recognises the continent's failure to make its voice heard on the debate...
(25 August 2009)



Top U.N. climate scientist backs big CO2 cuts, 350-ppm goal

Agence France-Presse via Grist
Barely 100 days before the world hopes to seal a global climate treaty, the U.N.‘s top climate scientist has given his personal endorsement to hugely ambitious goals for slashing emissions.

“As chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], I cannot take a position because we do not make recommendations,” said Rajendra Pachauri when asked if he supported calls to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 350 parts per million (ppm).

“But as a human being I am fully supportive of that goal. What is happening, and what is likely to happen, convinces me that the world must be really ambitious and very determined at moving toward a 350 target,” he told AFP in an interview.

In its benchmark 2007 report, the IPCC said that the key for preventing dangerous global warming was to keep CO2 concentrations below 450 ppm...
(25 August 2009)
Also see Bill McKibben's response to this announcement on Energy Bulletin. -KS



Think health costs are hot now? Factor in global warming

Bob Doppelt, The Register-Guard
Rising global temperatures will increase health problems. The failure to adopt policies that rapidly reduce carbon emissions could bankrupt our health care system.

Meanwhile, opponents of climate protection and health care reform are using the same playbook to prevent change. The public must grasp the connections between these issues quickly before the chance for progress on both is lost.

A report by University College London and The Lancet, a leading public health journal, recently called global warming the greatest threat to public health this century. As I described in a June 21 column, the report said climate change will produce worsening patterns of vector and waterborne disease; heat and respiratory illnesses; malnutrition; and harm from extreme weather events, flooding and sea level rise. Billions of people in both developed and developing nations will be affected.

...The costs of health care are certain to skyrocket under these conditions. A study produced in February by my program at the University of Oregon, for example, found that global warming would generate a minimum of $764 million in additional health-related costs for Oregonians by 2020...
(26 August 2009)
sent in by EB reader John Gear



The fallacy of climate activism

Adam D. Sacks, Grist
In the 20 years since we climate activists began our work in earnest, the state of the climate has become dramatically worse, and the change is accelerating—this despite all of our best efforts. Clearly something is deeply wrong with this picture. What is it that we do not yet know? What do we have to think and do differently to arrive at urgently different outcomes?[1]

The answers lie not with science, but with culture.

Climate activists are obsessed with greenhouse-gas emissions and concentrations. Since global climate disruption is an effect of greenhouse gases, and a disastrous one, this is understandable. But it is also a mistake.

Such is the fallacy of climate activism[2]: We insist that global warming is merely a consequence of greenhouse-gas emissions. Since it is not, we fail to tell the truth to the public.

I think that there are two serious errors in our perspectives on greenhouse gases:

The first error is our failure to understand that greenhouse gases are not a cause but a symptom, and addressing the symptom will do little but leave us with a devil’s sack full of many other symptoms, possibly somewhat less rapidly lethal but lethal nonetheless.

The root cause, the source of the symptoms, is 300 years of our relentlessly exploitative, extractive, and exponentially growing technoculture, against the background of ten millennia of hierarchical and colonial civilizations.[3] This should be no news flash, but the seductive promise of endless growth has grasped all of us civilized folk by the collective throat, led us to expand our population in numbers beyond all reason and to commit genocide of indigenous cultures and destruction of other life on Earth.

...The second error is our stubborn unwillingness to understand that the battle against greenhouse-gas emissions, as we have currently framed it, is over.

It is absolutely over and we have lost.

We have to say so...
(23 August 2009)
Very long article that has sparked many many comments following on Grist. EB contributor Bill Henderson also wrote in with a link to his recent related op-ed piece on straight.com -KS

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