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Climate & environment - Nov 17

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Investment firm to encourage Arctic drilling

Leo Hickman, Guardian
Guggenheim Partners, a privately held investment firm based in the US, which manages more than $125bn worth of assets on behalf of its clients, has confirmed it is setting up a new fund dedicated to making investments in the Arctic region.

The news has been criticised by environmentalists who fear that it will further accelerate the exploitation by oil and shipping companies of the region which is being made even more accessible by climate change.
(16 November 2011)



Climate change: there is no plan B

John Ashton, Guardian
Time is almost up. It is critical we secure a legally binding approach on climate change in Durban

The lesson the world is learning the hard way from the financial crisis is that there is only one boat and we are all in it. To stay afloat, we need rules tough enough to stop systemic risks becoming systemic collapses. This lesson is as true for the environment as it is for the economy.

A key battle in the campaign to build an effective system of global rules will shortly take place in Durban, where the UN climate negotiations reopen at the end of this month. The International Energy Agency has set the scene, with the timely warning in its new World Energy Outlook that we are way off track to avoid dangerous climate change, and that the window for effective action is closing fast.

It is fashionable to argue that a new climate treaty, based on the Kyoto architecture of legally binding carbon caps, is dead. We should, on this view, give Kyoto a decent burial and switch to plan B. This turns out to be a looser arrangement in which governments make voluntary pledges to each other. Its advocates often call themselves "realists".

The case for voluntarism was first put by those who want to try less hard to deal with climate change. It has subsequently attracted support from academics and other commentators whose concern – indeed alarm – about the climate is unquestionable. They may be desperate rather than cynical, but they tend to know more about the climate than they do about diplomacy. The problem is in the politics not the architecture.

The choice between what needs to be done but looks impossible, and what can be done but is clearly not enough, is as old as history. It lay behind the struggle between Churchill and Halifax as Britain faced Hitler's tanks on the Channel coast. Nato's success in Libya was conducted against a barrage of predictions that it would lead to years of stalemate. When there is no alternative, realism lies in expanding the limits of the possible, not in nourishing the delusion that something else might help.

There really is no plan B for the climate. A voluntary framework will not be enough to keep us within the 2C limit of manageable climate change. Unmanageable climate change will precipitate systemic collapses, including of our food and water security. Success or failure will depend on governments convincing investors that they are determined to enact the policies necessary to drive private capital towards a low-carbon future. In the boardroom a voluntary pledge from a government sounds rather like "maybe". That's why in the UK we have set legally binding carbon budgets through the Climate Change Act.
(14 November 2011)



Battle to Save an Unsung Fish Critically Important to Ocean's Ecosystem (menhaden)

Carla Capizzi, Rutgetrs
Rutgers Professor’s Battle to Save an Unsung Fish Makes Inroads as States Move to Protect the Species
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Atlantic States Fisheries Commission votes to sharply reduce the menhaden harvest
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One person really can make a difference. In this case, it was one Rutgers professor, whose four-year fight to save a fish species has finally succeeded, and will have a major impact for the better, both ecological and economic, on the fishing industry along the Atlantic Coast, as well as tourism in New Jersey.

In 2007, Rutgers-Newark Professor H. Bruce Franklin wrote “The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America,” alerting the public to the dangers of the overfishing of menhaden, a small fish that is critically important to the ocean’s ecosystem and the survival of many other fish species.

This month, the Atlantic States Fisheries Commission voted to sharply reduce the menhaden harvest, determining that menhaden had been overfished and needed to rebuild. This action has been hailed in editorials and by advocacy groups such as the Public Trust Project – which, in an email announcement, singled out Franklin for recognition: “And special thanks to H. Bruce Franklin, whose wonderful book The Most Important Fish in the Sea compelled so many of us to take up this fight.”

The protection of the menhaden affects commercial and sports fishing in several states along the Atlantic. Many of the people fighting to save the fish --and many of the articles about the effort – specifically cited Bruce Franklin’s book. Even Fox News featured Franklin in a two-part series on the issue: Fish Oil, Part One and Fish Oil, Part 2.

This was an uphill battle for Franklin and the people trying to save the fish; they had to fight a major Texas company, Omega Protein, which was harvesting thousands of tons of menhaden for use in its products.
(17 November 2011)



Re-election Strategy Is Tied to a Shift on Smog

John M. Broder, New York Times
The summons from the president came without warning the Thursday before Labor Day. As she was driven the four blocks to the White House, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, suspected that the news would not be good. What she did not see coming was a rare public rebuke the president was about to deliver by rejecting her proposal to tighten the national standard for smog.

The half-hour meeting in the Oval Office was not a negotiation; the president had decided against ratcheting up the ozone rule because of the cost and the uncertainty it would impose on industry and local governments. He clearly understood the scientific, legal and political implications. He told Ms. Jackson that she would have an opportunity to revisit the Clean Air Act standard in 2013 — if they were still in office. We are just not going to do this now, he said.

The White House announced the decision the next morning, infuriating environmental and public health advocates. They called it a bald surrender to business pressure, an act of political pandering and, most galling, a cold-blooded betrayal of a loyal constituency.

“This was the worst thing a Democratic president had ever done on our issues,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “Period.”

The full retreat on the smog standard was the first and most important environmental decision of the presidential campaign season that is now fully under way. An examination of that decision, based on interviews with lobbyists on both sides, former officials and policy makers at the upper reaches of the White House and the E.P.A., illustrates the new calculus on political and policy shifts as the White House sharpens its focus on the president’s re-election.
(16 November 2011)



BBC drops Frozen Planet's climate change episode to sell show better abroad

Andy Bloxham, Telegraph
The BBC has dropped a climate change episode from its wildlife series Frozen Planet to help the show sell better abroad.

British viewers will see seven episodes, the last of which deals with global warming and the threat to the natural world posed by man.

However, viewers in other countries, including the United States, will only see six episodes.
The environmental programme has been relegated by the BBC to an “optional extra” alongside a behind-the-scenes documentary which foreign networks can ignore.

Campaigners said the decision not to incorporate the episode on global warming as part of the main package was “unhelpful”. They added that it would allow those countries which are sceptical of climate change to “censor” the issue.
(15 November 2011)
Recommended by EB reader Anthony Cook.

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