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Climate News - 19 December 2000
Source: Copyright 2000, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Date: December 19, 2000
Byline: Chad Carpenter
1) U.S. REJECTS FRESH TALKS ON CLIMATE CHANGE (NY Times, CNN, BBC)
2) FINAL BID TO STOP WARMING (Independent, Financial Times, BBC)
3) OTTAWA-WARMING TALKS END WITHOUT DEAL (CNN, Washington Post)
4) CLINTON GIVES WARNING ON WARMING (Guardian-UK, Washington Post)
5) GREEN TAX AMONG PANEL PROPOSALS (Japan Times)
6) DHAKA SHOULD FACE IMPACT OF WARMING (Daily Star-Bangladesh)
7) STAND FIRM ON CLIMATE RULES-BUSINESS (Canberra Times)
8) CAUTION URGED ON DEAL TO CURB GAS EMISSIONS (New Zealand Herald)
9) INDONESIA, JAPAN IN FORESTRY PROJECT (Jakarta Post)
10) EU STATES AGREE TO BOOST RENEWABLE ENERGY USE (Reuters)
11) LG-CALTEX OIL TO DEVELOP FUEL CELLS (Korea Herald)
12) ANALYSTS WARY OVER EARLY NORWAY EMISSION TRADING (Reuters)
13) GROUND-BREAKING SOLUTIONS TO GLOBAL WARMING (Independent-UK)
14) ENERGY INDUSTRY TO TAP GAS (China Daily)
15) GREEN ENVY-CO2 TAX (Daily Mail-UK)
16) SOLAR POWER SEEKS A PLACE IN THE SUN (Reuters)
17) LAWYERS HELP ISLAND NATIONS KEEP AFLOAT (The Guardian)
18) NUCLEAR IS BACK IN FASHION WITH THE FINNS (Times of London)
19) CLIMATE MODEL SHOWS DUAL CAUSE (BBC)
20) CLIMATE CHANGE THEORY STUNS SCIENTISTS (Toronto Star, BBC)
21) NORTHERN FORESTS FACE BURNING THREAT (San Fran. Chronicle)
22) U.S. HAD UNUSUALLY WARM YEAR, NOAA SAYS (Washington Post)
23) EQUATORIAL WATERS HOLD UNDERCURRENT TO GLOBAL WARMING (CNN)
24) ARCTIC SEA ICE 'THINS BY ALMOST HALF' (BBC News)
25) CLIMATE 'THREAT' TO US WATER (BBC News)
26) CANADIAN MOUNTIES NEAR COMPLETION OF VOYAGE (Nat. Geographic)
27) FREAK WEATHER FORCES SMELTER SHUTDOWN (BBC News)
28) FLOODS WILL DOUBLE IN CHILDREN'S LIFETIME (Times of London)
29) GLOBAL WARMING TREND STRONGER THAN HAD BEEN THOUGHT (UniSci)
30) AS RAINS COME, MOZAMBIQUE BRACES FOR MORE FLOODING (CNN)
ON THE WEB
31) NATURE REPORT--CO2 AND GLOBAL CLIMATE: IS HISTORY BUNK?
32) WORLD COAL INSTITUTE'S "GOOD NEWS FROM COAL" INITIATIVE
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
33) CLIMATE OF CHANGE (Times of India)
34) EUROPE'S AIR OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS (Financial Times)
35) CLINTON'S GLOBAL WARMING TIME BOMB (Washington Times)
36) THAT SINKING FEELING (Manila Times)
37) CAPPING CARBON (Christian Science Monitor)
38) GET REAL ON WARMING (Philadelphia Inquirer)
39) TO CUT EMISSIONS, JAPAN MUST PLAY THE GAME (Asahi Shimbun)
40) GREENS NEED TO THINK AGAIN ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER (Independent)
1) U.S. REJECTS FRESH TALKS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
New York Times December 18, 2000
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States on Monday rejected an invitation to reopen climate talks with the European Union, killing the latest effort to forge an international strategy on global warming. ``Without additional convergence between the parties on important issues, a further ministerial meeting would not be useful at this time,'' U.S. Under Secretary of State Frank Loy said in a statement.
``They (the U.S. side) have just decided that they did not agree to meet in Oslo,'' a French government spokeswoman said during a meeting of EU environment ministers in Brussels. Norway had offered to host a meeting at the end of this week between the EU and a U.S.-led ``umbrella group,'' which includes Canada, Japan, and Australia, to allow the two sides to resolve differences that sank United Nations talks last month on cutting ''greenhouse gases.''
``Convening ministers in Oslo, but then failing to reach agreement, would not advance our common goals,'' Loy, who is Under Secretary for Global Affairs, wrote in a fax to French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet on Monday. In his statement he said the United States had ``gone the extra mile'' to bridge differences and was disappointed that an agreement had not been possible. ``Clearly, on the critical issue of restrictions on emissions trading, the understanding we thought we had at The Hague has unraveled for now,'' he added.
Voynet, and British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, both said Loy's letter indicated that the United States was going back on what it agreed in The Hague on emission levels. The 15-nation EU and the United States failed to reach an agreement in The Hague last month on how to implement emissions reductions, especially of carbon dioxide (CO2), agreed by developed countries in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.
LETTER CITES ``PRECONDITIONS''
Loy's letter set out key areas where he said the umbrella group said the EU needed to move its position. Voynet said these were ``preconditions'' to fresh negotiations which backtracked from concessions the group had already made. The main stumbling blocks remain the U.S. wish to count the carbon stored in its forests and farmlands against its Kyoto emissions reduction target and the EU's insistence on limiting the use of ``flexible mechanisms'' such as buying emissions credits from other countries.
Loy said in his letter that developed countries that had reduction targets should be allowed to pay developing countries, which do not, for the use of their forests as ``carbon sinks'' -- to soak up pollution. Voynet said this represented a step back from The Hague where the United States had agreed to the EU's position of not using developing countries' forests for this purpose. In Oslo, Norway's Environment Ministry confirmed the meeting would not be held, saying both sides needed more time. Finding a global strategy is seen as crucial to combating increasing world temperatures, rising sea levels and frequent floods and drought.
``MISSED WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY''
The British deputy prime minister, who stormed out of the talks in The Hague talks when other EU ministers rejected a compromise deal he had agreed with the umbrella group, said on Monday:
``I am rather sad that we have missed this window of opportunity to agree what we had established at The Hague, or were trying to establish.'' He told reporters that some parties had retreated from the positions they took at the end of the two-week talks in The Hague, making it impossible to finalize a deal. ``There was a stepping back from what was written into the understanding at The Hague,'' he said.
Since the failure of the conference in The Hague, the EU and the umbrella group have been trying to find an agreement behind the scenes. Both sides said they wanted to forge a political agreement before the U.S. Republican administration -- which is considered hostile to the deal -
is sworn in at the end of January. No further talks have been formally scheduled but the chairman of the negotiations in The Hague, Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk, has said he would aim to bring all parties together to get a final agreement in the first half of 2001. Any deal between the EU and umbrella group would have to be agreed by the other states involved in the U.N. climate change program, especially the G77 group of developing countries.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/newsid_1076000/1076775.stm Financial Times:
http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?id=001219001076&quer y=%22global+warming%22#docAnchor001219001076 Guardian:
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,413178,00.html IHT: http://www.iht.com/articles/4740.html Independent:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/World/Europe/2000-12/climate191200.shtml MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/news/491989.asp
2) FINAL BID TO STOP WARMING
17 December 2000
Ministers will this week launch a last-ditch bid to save the world's battle against global warming, in the wake of last month's disastrous summit in the Hague. European environment ministers, who failed to reach agreement in the Dutch capital, will tomorrow try to hammer out a joint position and, if successful, will then fly to Oslo for an emergency summit on Wednesday. They would be joined there by their counterparts from the United States and other industrialised countries to attempt a last-minute breakthrough before Christmas.
The negotiations are being urged on by many of the world's leaders, anxious not to let the chance of a deal slip through their fingers. Tony Blair and Bill Clinton discussed it at length during their talks last week, and the outgoing US president departed from the text of his speech at Warwick University on Thursday to stress its importance. President Chirac of France has also been involved in the high-level rescue attempt, and last weekend EU leaders agreed at the Nice summit to push for urgent action to revive the stalled negotiations.
And on Tuesday John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, held two conference calls while inspecting the floods at Shrewsbury - one with EU ministers, from Oswestry police station, the other with ministers from 25 countries around the world, from a pub by a canal in Telford. He told the Independent on Sunday yesterday: "I hope we can all produce a Christmas box for the world that is worth having".
But senior British sources warn that it is still "touch and go" as to whether diplomacy can succeed in bridging the gap between the EU, which wants a tough treaty, and the US and its supporters, who say that they will need loopholes in order to meet their commitments. The Hague talks were designed to work out how to implement a treaty agreed in Kyoto three years ago, under which the world's industrialised nations agreed to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, by 5.2 per cent by the year 2012. This is a fraction of the 60 per cent cut that scientists say will be needed if global warming is to be brought under control, but was hailed as an important start. The negotiations broke down when green European environment ministers unexpectedly failed to back a deal with the US hammered out by representatives led by John Prescott and Michael Meacher, the environment minister.
The rescue bid began when President Chirac contacted Tony Blair to ask what had gone wrong. As a result, negotiators from France, Britain, the US, Japan, Canada and other key countries met in Ottawa 10 days ago to try to reach agreement. But the talks again broke down, partly because some EU countries tried to introduce new issues - such as trying to prohibit the financing of nuclear power in the Third World. The EU leaders attempted to revive the negotations by calling on all countries not to get bogged down by side issues. But some green EU environment ministers are still reluctant to compromise, and Britain has been disappointed that environment groups have not put pressure on them since Nice to reach an agreement. There is also a fear that the US will be even less compliant under a new president. Few of George Bush's advisors even believe that global warming is taken place.
3) GLOBAL WARMING TALKS END WITHOUT DEAL CNN
December 7, 2000
OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) -- The United States and Europe failed Thursday to bridge major differences after two days of talks aimed at salvaging a pact to curb global warming. Officials from both sides stressed they had made some progress in closing the gap between the European Union and the so-called "umbrella group" of the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But they also made it clear that significant differences still remain over how best to cut emissions of "greenhouse gases," believed by many scientists to be responsible for the global warming trend, and how to meet promises of emission cuts hatched at a 1997 meeting in Kyoto, Japan.
"Much remains to be done," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Sandalow told reporters as he left the Ottawa meeting. His comments were echoed by the EU side. "There is certainly a big gap to be bridged between us and the umbrella group of countries," said James Currie, the European Union's director-general for the environment. The meeting was the first time the two sides had made contact since last month's dramatic collapse of U.N.-sponsored talks in The Hague to set a global strategy on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
It is now up to member governments to decide what to do next. EU officials had said before the Ottawa talks that if the two sides could be brought close enough together, it might well pave the way for a meeting of ministers in Oslo next week. But Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson, when asked whether he thought there would be a meeting in Oslo, replied: "That would be unlikely." Canadian delegation head Alan Nymark was slightly more upbeat than Anderson, saying the two sides had narrowed the number of issues that separated them.
"Whether (ministers) feel the circumstances are right for a meeting before Christmas depends on several different continents coming to that conclusion in a relatively short period of time. That's quite a large task," he said. Anderson is one of the ministers who will decide whether a meeting should be held next week. "It would have been nice to get the officials to hammer out an agreement, but that has not happened. That's the bad news," Anderson told Reuters by telephone from Washington after conferring with officials participating in the talks.
"The good news is that there was a general agreement to move ahead, a clear desire to move ahead from (where we were) at The Hague." The two sides disagree over Washington's insistence that countries be allowed to offset carbon dioxide absorbed by forests and farmlands against pollution reduction targets agreed in Kyoto. At The Hague, the EU rejected a last-minute compromise that would have allowed limited use of such "carbon sinks" but in Ottawa the 15-nation bloc gave an indication it might be softening its position.
"We accept the idea with conditions, and the conditions are really limiting the scale...but of course it's not an agreement now because we did not agree on (anything) at this stage," said French representative Laurence Tubiana. The EU wants countries to cut their emissions rather than buy reduction credits from other countries. Signatories to the Kyoto agreement were supposed to set detailed rules to meet a target of cutting emissions to 5 percent
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40836-2000Dec7.html Financial Times:
http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3HFQQSHGC&liv e=true&tagid=ZZZAFZAVA0C&subheading=europe Globe & Mail:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/gam/National/20001208/UCLIMM.html BBC News:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_1060000/1060544.stm Express India: http://www.expressindia.com/news/daily/20001209/00800400.htm CBS News: http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,255685-412,00.shtml
4) PRESIDENT GIVES FAREWELL WARNING ON GLOBAL WARMING
December 15, 2000
President Bill Clinton used his last big foreign speech yesterday to focus on the plight of the developing world, especially the devastation caused by Aids and by climate change. Mr Clinton, speaking at Warwick University at the end of his three day visit to Ireland and Britain, ran through a catalogue of problems facing the poorest countries, and said there was a wonderful opportunity to tackle these to create a century of peace and prosperity. He hoped George W Bush, who during his campaign had been isolationist, would not turn the back on the world. He said: "For eight years, I have done what I could to lead my country down that [international] path. I think for the rest of our lives, we had all better stay on it." The president's idealistic speech was well-received by an invited audience that ranged from the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, to academics such as Stephen Hawking. Joining him on the platform were Tony Blair, who had phoned Mr Bush to congratulate him, Hillary Clinton, daughter Chelsea and Mr Blair's wife, Cherie.
Mr Clinton, who has broken the presidential record for trips abroad while Mr Bush has only been out of the US six times, said that globalisation - and the creation of a global media village - meant "we can no longer have the excuse of ignorance. We can choose not to act, but we can no longer choose not to know." He added: "Global poverty is a powderkeg, ignitable by our indifference." Rejecting the maintenance of trade barriers, he pleaded with developed countries such as Britain and France, as well as the US, to help poorer nations by reducing, or even ending, subsidies to their own farmers. "If the wealthiest countries ended our agricultural subsidies, levelling the playing fields for the world's farmers, that alone could increase the income of developing countries by $20bn a year." He urged the continuance of debt relief to the poorest countries and more cash from developed countries to help provide clean water supplies and tackle malnutrition and, above all, Aids.
Western countries should pay pharmaceutical companies, either directly or through tax credits, to develop vaccines since the poor could not pay for them. He had little time for those who criticised the west for suggesting that computers were not a solution because electricity was in short supply in some developing countries and that the money should be spent on health or other pressing problems. It was a false choice: "There should not be a choice between Pentium and penicillin."
On global warming, he said: "This is a big deal." The last decade had been the hottest for a thousand years and there was a danger that the Florida Everglades could end up covered in water if no action was taken to cut down on greenhouse gases. He expressed disappointment that the latest round of talks on the climate had failed and urged the developing world not to be suspicious of the proposed cuts in gas emissions, saying it should not be seen as an attempt by the rich to keep the poor in poverty. "We have to convince them that you can break the link between growing wealth and putting more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere."
Despite the rhetoric, Mr Clinton's administration has a mixed record on globalisation. Its record on aid to the developing world is poor, it is among the worst offenders in terms of greenhouse gases and its backing for the United Nations, especially peacekeeping operations, lukewarm.
5) GREEN TAX AMONG PANEL PROPOSALS
Dec. 14, 2000
The Central Environmental Council proposed Wednesday that the government consider introducing an environmental tax as one measure to combat global warming and air pollution. The proposal was made in a report submitted to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. In the report, an updated version of the nation's Basic Environment Plan, the Environment Agency advisory panel outlined basic environmental policy proposals for the early 21st century. The report is expected to be approved at a Dec. 22 Cabinet meeting, officials said.
The updated draft of the plan establishes 11 areas for priority attention, setting global warming and the creation of a recycling- intensive society at the top, with the plan's ultimate objective being the realization of a sustainable society. It discusses potential environment taxes, such as a carbon tax to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, stating that they merit further consideration.
Other areas to receive priority attention include chemical pollution, biodiversity, traffic, environment education, local environmental initiatives and international contributions. To guarantee effective government implementation of the plan and its principles, the revision will require ministries to submit annual progress reports evaluating progress toward meeting environmental objectives outlined in the plan. The agency's top advisory council will review these reports and detail them in the organ's annual white paper, possibly spurring other ministries to take more environmental measures, officials said. The first plan was created in 1995. It is to be reviewed again in five years.
6) DHAKA SHOULD TAKE STEPS TO FACE ADVERSE IMPACT OF GLOBAL WARMING
Environmental experts yesterday emphasised the need for intensifying environmental diplomacy of the developing countries including Bangladesh to face the ever increasing adverse impacts of global warming and take measures against it, reports BSS. They were participating in a national workshop on 'Climate Change: How to Mitigate', organised by the Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (FEJB), at the National Press Club. Presided over by FEJB Chairman Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, it was addressed by USAID Specialist Dr Michael J Ernst, environmentalists Dr Mahfuzul Haque, Dr AZM Iftikher Husein and Dr Abdus Sattar Syed.
Dr Ernst expressed concern at the vulnerability of the developing countries and said due to the climate change, the intensity of cyclones, storms and tidal surges would increase calling for developing early warning system, stronger adaptation, better shelter, better technique to protect people from disasters. The USAID specialist said politics overshadows science but all would agree that climate science is real and we have to make decisions looking at the entire system of environment. He said USA is the biggest emitter but Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries because of that emission. Dr Ernst underscored the need for global efforts to face the challenges of climate change and said that carbon trading and Clean Development Mechanism are good, if properly worked out. He pointed out that South Asian countries, especially Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka would face acute shortages of water in the dry season in the next 25 years.
Quamrul Islam Chowdhury said negotiators of the developed countries have so far outsmarted their counterparts from the developing countries as most of the negotiators of South lack proper background research papers, poor guidance from the political leadership and inadequate knowledge of the emerging climate science and the sixth Conference of Parties (COP) at The Hague is a glaring example of sacrificing the interests of the poorest people of the poorer nations.
Dr Mahfuz underlined the need for developing saline and drought tolerant varieties of crops and disaster management programme as part of an effective mitigation plan. Dr Iftikher said because of temperature rise fevers like dengue would hit the tropical countries like Bangladesh and other newer diseases would emerge and complicate the scenario. Dr Sattar said awareness should be raised about the adverse impacts of climate change. A total of 65 environmental journalists took part in the national workshop.
7) STAND FIRM ON CLIMATE RULES, BUSINESS TELLS GOVERNMENT
Australia should hold firm on its stance on climate change so that business would not suffer, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today. Chamber chief executive Mark Paterson said the Government should keep protecting business by insisting that greenhouse reduction rules be flexible and that the Third World be involved." Action should not be taken which would inflict harm on the Australian economy without reducing global emissions," Mr Paterson said. World leaders walked away from marathon negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in November with no agreement on a plan to reverse climate change.
The talks hit a snag when Australia and the United States insisted that cropping, grazing and managed forests as well as mass planting of trees be classified as carbon sinks for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Environmentalists said Australia was partly responsible for the failure of the talks because it refused to budge from its position. But Mr Paterson said Australia had pushed a target that was fair considering Australia's dependence on resource-based industries, its high level of land clearing and its population growth. Australia should insist that developing countries commit to the protocol, and it should reject a compliance regime which could impose penalties.
"[The chamber] calls on the Government to ensure in the lead-up to the resumed climate-change meeting in mid-2001 . . . that Australia maintains its line on the key climate-change issues," he said. Mr Paterson said the uncertainty created by the inconclusive meeting was bad for business. "Business was not given the certainty it wanted in terms of planning for the costs of carbon, and the world has missed the opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions by introducing market-based mechanisms to achieve a global policy outcome," he said. AAP
8) CAUTION URGED ON DEAL TO CURB GAS EMISSIONS
New Zealand Herald
The Government's plan to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change by mid-2002 is far too optimistic if it wants to have public backing, says former Environment Minister Simon Upton. Mr Upton was minister for most of the 1990s and represented New Zealand at the Kyoto meeting three years ago, when developed countries set themselves targets to reduce their emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global climate change. New Zealand has joined the list of mainly European countries saying they want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by the 10th anniversary of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro earth summit. But there are two difficulties. One is that the protocol is not in a fit state for anyone to ratify and the other is that there is nothing like a domestic consensus in favour of ratification.
Talks at The Hague last month, intended to thrash out the rules for meeting the Kyoto targets, broke up in acrimonious failure. An attempt to revive the process in Ottawa late last week proved, in the words of the Canadian hosts, "inconclusive." Energy Minister Pete Hodgson - the lead minister in climate change matters - hopes that a deal will be reached next year, based on proposals by the Americans and at least some of the Europeans at the 11th hour in The Hague. "However, if a year from now there had been no progress in the negotiations I would anticipate the New Zealand Government saying, 'We need to delay on the ratification date,' because it would not be prudent to ratify without knowing the rules of what we were ratifying."
Disagreement focuses on two key features of the protocol. One is an international trading regime for permits to emit greenhouse gases (along the lines of New Zealand's fishing quota). The other is the use of "carbon sinks" - where changes in land use lift the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere by vegetation - as offsets in calculating a country's net emissions. Mr Upton said that unrestricted trading in permits, intended to make sure that the most cost-effective measures to curb emissions were taken, was crucial. "It lowers costs to all economies by a very, very significant quantum. In New Zealand's case it's huge," he said. A trading regime would require the Government to allocate an initial stock of tradeable permits. That would probably involve "grandfathering" - saying that those who emit emissions today own the right to emit. "That is second-best in terms of economic theory because you reward the biggest polluters," Mr Upton said. "On the other hand, you provide them with the means to move out of that situation, because they can sell permits as a way of defraying the cost of new technology."
Ultimately, importing a greenhouse quota or planting more pine trees can only delay and mitigate the need to cut New Zealand's emissions. The Kyoto Protocol has potentially big implications for the agricultural, forestry and transport sectors, as well as New Zealand's handful of smokestack industries. By ratifying, New Zealand would undertake to reduce its greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels in the first "commitment period" from 2008 to 2012. It could ratify without first taking the hard political decisions. "But Parliament is taking an increasing interest in the ratification of treaties and it is going to want to know what the consequences are," Mr Upton said. "You are much better to work closely with the most affected parties and the broader community and design a system that everyone agrees ... then ratify. "The  timetable is far too optimistic if you want to carry the country with you."
Mr Hodgson said
"Ratification would be a signal to the New Zealand community that Kyoto is coming and would focus the minds of the public sector in policy development more sharply than they have been." Ultimately, for the Kyoto Protocol to work, it has to be ratified by the United States. Mr Hodgson said any deal struck on the rules for the protocol would have to be accepted by the US Congress. The US target for the Kyoto Protocol is to reduce emissions to 7 per cent below 1990 levels in the first commitment period. But if it carries on as it is, its emissions will be 30 per cent above 1990 levels by then.
In The Hague, it tried to claw back some of that gap (3 per cent) by claiming carbon sink credits for changes in cropping practice such as switching from ploughing to drilling. There was also a claim for pest control in native forests. In a final draft agreement, brokered by British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, the US agreed to scale back those claims if the Europeans agreed to drop restrictions on countries using international trading in greenhouse quota to meet Kyoto targets. Mr Hodgson said that was rejected by some of the Europeans.
It is believed that a Government led by Republican George W. Bush would take a tougher negotiating stance than an administration led by Al Gore. But when it comes to ratification, Mr Upton believes that congressional opposition may not be as uncompromising as the rhetoric suggests. "There has been quite a significant shift in business opinion," he said. "I am told that notwithstanding some of the statements being made in the Congress, there is a much more nuanced understanding of the issues than might be apparent."
9) RI, JAPAN IN FORESTRY PROJECT
December 07, 2000
Japan and Indonesia will launch in January a US$5 million joint project to promote reforestation through "carbon fixing" forest management over the next five years as part of a campaign to slow down the process of global warming. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Research and Development Agency of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry signed an agreement on the project at Manggala Wanabhakti building on Wednesday. Under the project, limbs and tops of trees remaining after logging that were usually burned would be turned into charcoal and buried to fertilize the soil. This method stimulates higher levels of carbon dioxide absorption from the air by the forest and the carbon fixed in the ground facilitates tree growth.
Carbon dioxide is one of many gases released in the air by industrial activities that has contributed to global warming. Minister of Forestry Nurmahmudi Ismail said at the signing ceremony that the project would cover between 8,000 and 9,000 hectares, a small area compared to the 56 million hectares in Indonesia that could benefit from such treatment. (03)
10) EU STATES AGREE TO BOOST RENEWABLE ENERGY USE
December 5, 2000
European Union countries agreed Tuesday to increase the proportion of the electricity they use that comes from renewable energy sources. Energy ministers from all 15 EU countries signed up for nonbinding targets which would increase the share of the total EU electricity market represented by renewables like wind and solar power to 22 percent from the current 14 percent. "This initiative is part of fighting against climate change because it will substitute renewables for other energy types such as fossil fuels," EU Environment Commissioner Loyola de Palacio told a news conference.
The targets vary widely for each of the 15 EU states, reflecting the varying market share renewables already enjoy in each country. Austria, for example, already produces 70 percent of its electricity by renewable means, mostly through hydro power, and it agreed to increase this to 78 percent. Britain, which gets less than 2 percent of its electricity from renewables, agreed to a target of 10 percent. The ministers' decision will run into conflict with the European Parliament, which wants the targets to be made legally binding. The EU assembly has joint legislative powers with national governments on the issue.
According to an EU source, only Germany and Denmark were in favor of legally binding targets, with at least two countries -- Austria and Luxembourg -- saying they could never accept such measures. The differences of opinion are likely to lead to difficult negotiations between the parliament and governments in the months ahead, diplomats said. In their agreed text, the ministers said they accepted their targets on the assumption they would be allowed to continue to subsidize renewable energies. The clause was a warning shot to European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti that he should not rush to impose tough rules controlling the amount of subsidies countries can use to promote renewables.
Monti -- who polices subsidies to ensure the EU single energy market has a level playing field -- is due to publish guidelines on state aid to renewables later this month. A source at the European Parliament said Monti aims to harmonize national subsidy regimes within five years. Both the parliament and EU governments want to allow existing support programs to remain for at least 10 years. Under the 1997 United Nations Kyoto agreement on fighting global warming, the EU agreed to reduce its "greenhouse gas" emissions by 8 percent from 1990 levels by 2010.
11) LG-CALTEX OIL SETS UP JOINT VENTURE TO DEVELOP FUEL CELLS
An international joint venture company specializing in developing and distributing fuel cells for household use will be established for the first time in Korea. LG-Caltex Oil said yesterday that it has signed an agreement to set up the firm named Clean Energy Technologies. Inc (CETI) with Dais-Analytic Corp. (DAC), a leading fuel-cell developer in the United States, and KIPEX and ABL, Korean venture-incubation companies. CETI, initially capitalized at 4 billion won ($3 million), will be officially launched at its headquarters in Taejon tomorrow. LG-Caltex and DAC hold 40 percent of equities each while KIPEX and ABL share the remaining 20 percent.
Based on DAC's technology and marketing network in Asia, the company will engage in developing residential power generators (RPG), fuel cells to replace existing boilers, supplying electricity and heating energy to households. Once commercialized, an LG-Caltex official said, the product will begin to be distributed in Korea, China and other Asian countries possibly from the second half of 2001. Then, the company will gradually expand its business areas to portable electronic devices such as laptop computers and fuel cells for automobiles as well as household electronic appliances.
Fuel cells, which make electricity from hydrogen and emit only water and heat, are widely regarded as a leading alternative energy source for the future. They have an energy efficiency ratio up to 80 percent and emit few pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogenous compound, and sharply cut the discharge of carbon dioxide. Korea, which almost solely depends on imports for energy as it does not produce any oil, has been pushing for a state project to develop alternative energy sources since the second oil crisis hit the nation in 1980. The government is now stepping up research and development activities with the goal of replacing 2 percent of the nation's energy consumption with alternative energy by 2006 in the first stage.
LG-Caltex participated in the project as a leading manager and led the effort to develop fuel cells. Last April, the company succeed in developing the method for manufacturing electrodes for 50kW- level fuel cells. Huh Dong-soo, vice chairman of LG-Caltex said that his company aims to develop into a comprehensive energy service leader this century by linking the fuel-cell development project with its existing oil and natural gas businesses and maximizing the synergy effect.
12) ANALYSTS WARY OVER EARLY NORWAY EMISSION TRADING
December 3, 2000
Norway's proposal to introduce greenhous gas emission quota trading by 2001 could end up to be no more than state subsidy in disguise, analysts said on Friday. "The purpose of a (Norwegian) quota trading system as early as 2001 is not to save the world, but to adapt ahead of an international introduction of such a system," Asbjoern Aaheim, analyst at the Centre for Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) told Reuters. Norway's Environment Minister Siri Bjerke plans to step up the government's effort to establish a national quota system for so-called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), and could propose such as system as early as in spring 2001.
Norway's accelerated drive comes on the heels of failed talks at the UN climate change conference in the Hague. An emissions quota trading system could cut the amount of greenhouse gases emitted as industry would try to cut costs by finding ways to reduce their emissions instead of buying quotas. Aaheim said a national quota trading system was a good idea if quotas had to be bought and were not simply allocated to the polluting industry but doubted it would be politically feasible. "If simply dished out (the quotas) would be a form of indirect state subsidy, almost as giving an alcoholic cheap alcohol," Aaheim said. Solveig Glomsrud, an energy and environment analyst at Statistics Norway, said emissions quotas would be of little effect if the system was not kicked off by an auction where companies which needed quotas the most had to dig into their coffers in order to get them. However, Glomsrud said one positive effect from quota trading could be to clarify the uncertainty within various industries about what to expect when it comes to greeenhouse gas emissions restrictions.
"I think quota trading is potentially a very wise move because at least industry would have a clear framework in which to operate," Glomsrud said. Bjerke's announcement came the day after her ministry gave out the third concession for a gas-fired power plant in Norway, which, if built, would increase the country's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by a total of 4.4 million tonnes per year. Greenhouse gases, such as CO2, are believed to cause man-made climate changes.
13) GROUND-BREAKING SOLUTIONS TO GLOBAL WARMING
8 December 2000
Could the solution to the problem of global warming lie in the soil? As negotiators resumed their efforts this week to agree on a deal to combat climate change, soil was the last thing on their minds. But it seems that farming carbon rather than crops could be the agriculture of the future.
The Kyoto Protocol on climate change proposes that countries should be allowed to soak up some of their emissions of greenhouse gases using biological "sinks". Talks in The Hague last month, aimed at finalising the protocol, foundered on America's plans to use existing forests as sinks. But, largely unnoticed, delegates gave the nod to another element of the US's controversial package of sinks projects - a plan to capture airborne carbon dioxide in farm soils.
The idea of using soils to soak up carbon is widely attributed to Rattan Lal, professor of soil science at Ohio State University. He says: "Soils have the potential to prevent a large proportion of the annual increase in atmospheric concentration of CO2." It could, in other words, choke off global warming.
The calculation behind such claims is this. The world's soils have lost about 100 billion tons of carbon over the centuries of farming. Most of that loss has occurred within the past 100 years. That carbon is still in the atmosphere, adding to accumulations from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil and the destruction of forests.
But Lal reckons that much of that carbon could be recaptured within the next half-century through simple improvements in farming methods. If it could be done, soils could absorb the equivalent of 15 years' emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Soils are one of the world's prime reservoirs for carbon - dwarfed only by the oceans and the geology of the planet itself. They contain four times as much carbon as the atmosphere and three times more than is locked up in the timber of all the remaining forests. "Even a relatively small increase in soil carbon could significantly reduce atmospheric carbon," says David Wojick, an American soils consultant and a prominent advocate of a soil-sinks strategy for the US government.
The biggest historical cause of carbon loss from soils has been ploughing. The plough stirs oxygen into the soil. It successfully fights weeds, but the oxygen also rots crop residues and other carboniferous organic matter in the soil. The result is the release of carbon dioxide into the air. Ploughing is "the equivalent of setting a match to soil organic matter", says Don Reicovsky of the US government's Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Minnesota. He calculates that the soils of the US corn-belt prairies "have lost between 30 and 50 per cent of the carbon they held when they were first cultivated". If farmers reduced their ploughing, the process could be reversed. The US Department of Energy estimates that three-quarters of the carbon lost from US soils could be returned within 50 years through changes in farming methods and other land-use improvements. Specifically, it wants to promote farming methods that involve little or no ploughing.
Key techniques would amount to little more than good farming: preventing soil erosion, ceasing to cultivate poor, marginal land; restoring degraded soils with manure and artificial fertiliser; planting trees. Lal suggests that farmers might end up gaining more value from the improved productivity of soils containing more carbon. "In four or five years, the value of some of the country's most productive farmland could increase by 10 to 15 per cent." At the same time, they could make money by selling the carbon-sink rights to their soils that are proposed under the Kyoto Protocol. Economists believe these carbon credits could be worth up to $50 for every ton of carbon buried.
Enthusiasts for the idea range from organic farmers to Monsanto. Much of Lal's agenda looks like an organic farmer's wish-list. Returning animal manure to the soil, reducing tillage, planting crops specifically to enhance the soil, planting trees among the crops - all could form part of a package to return carbon to the soil. But the agrochemicals company also manufactures Roundup, a herbicide that the company says can substitute for ploughing by killing weeds chemically.
Monsanto says that, with the aid of Roundup, soil sinks could soon be absorbing up to 200 million tons of carbon annually in the US alone. That would be enough to offset an eighth of current US emissions of CO2 - substantially more than the 7 per cent emissions cut it is slated to achieve under the Kyoto Protocol.
Not everyone believes such a huge annual sink could be achieved. Lal puts a more likely figure at around 100 million tons a year. US climate negotiator Frank Loy has said that the US initially wanted to claim credit for capturing up to 25 million tons. Even so, Loy's plan might be worth as much as a billion dollars to US farmers.
All this came as a great surprise to climate negotiators in The Hague. The idea of using soils as carbon sinks was until recently considered a far-off prospect. Yet it remained on the table, largely uncontested, throughout last month's negotiations. Climate analyst John Lanchbery of Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said soils could deliver a "fast, easy and quick" carbon sink for the US. And he said it would be easier to measure carbon uptake to soils than for many forest sink projects. "We don't think it is controversial," Loy declared. Controversial or not, it now seems likely to form part of a deal with the European Union to break the deadlock that scuppered the talks. If, as negotiators hope, ministers meet to sign a deal in Oslo next week, soils may be the factor that encourages the US to sign.
The Clinton administration calculates that soils could nurture some unexpected new supporters for the Kyoto Protocol at home. Farmers as well as industrialists have opposed the protocol because they fear it could raise energy prices. And their senators and congressmen have taken a similar line. But last month, four US farmers' organisations, headed by the American Farm Bureau, wrote to the Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman hinting at a change in policy. They signalled that if farm soils could qualify for carbon credits, their long-standing hostility to the protocol could end.
Many US environmental groups are optimistic at this development. Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust says: "This greatly improves the chances that the Senate will ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Farm state senators are a block of about 20 votes, and no global warming treaty could be ratified without the support of the majority of them." Right on cue, the Republican senator for Ohio, former rancher Larry Craig, arrived in The Hague with a positive attitude to the Kyoto Protocol, which until recently he had strenuously opposed. "Opinion on climate change is shifting within the Senate," he said. "I think that a new Farm Bill within the next year will prioritise measures to increase soil sinks. It will be supported."
Soil sinks could herald an entrepreneurial enthusiasm in the US for making money out of carbon-trading. Energy companies looking to offset their emissions by investing in carbon sinks could buy up the carbon-absorbing potential of millions of hectares of Midwest farmland, says Richard Sandor, chairman of Environmental Financial Products, one of the new carbon-trading companies sprouting in the US in anticipation of a thriving market. No other country has done the kind of detailed analysis of the potential for soil sinks that is under way in the US. But Canada has high expectations, and the Soviet Union could also stand to gain. But for Greens there are worrying signs. They see sinks as a cynical device by governments to avoid the tough action needed to halt emissions of greenhouse gases. And anything Monsanto supports is likely to be viewed with suspicion by many.
Many fear, too, that the systems for tracking carbon in environment are not sufficiently developed to prevent countries cheating over the size of their carbon sinks, whether made of trees or soil. But in the longer run, few doubt that mankind will need to use every tool it can to contain the greenhouse effect. We will need to control every part of the natural carbon cycle if we are to keep CO2 from flooding the atmosphere and wrecking our climate. And soils, like forests, are destined to play a key role.
14) ENERGY INDUSTRY TO TAP GAS
Natural gas should play a major role in the future of China's energy industry, speakers at a forum in Beijing have decided. The meeting, which focused on transport and the use of natural gas in Northeast Asia, attracted around 80 experts, officials and entrepreneurs from home and abroad. Most of the participants said they believed natural gas is a good alternative to heavy polluter coal and expensive oil for which there is a soaring demand.
Energy and the environment are closely related, and the reckless use of energy resources has caused many environmental problems. The situation is especially serious in developing Asian countries. Coal burning is believed to produce greenhouse gases, believed to be mainly responsible for global warming. China suffers a lot from the use of coal, said Charles Constantinou, a veteran petroleum Consultant at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs under the United Nations.
As environmental considerations increase, natural gas - which is more environmentally friendly than coal and even oil - has become the preferred fuel worldwide, the consultant said, but is still far from popular in many developing countries like China. Here, dependence on coal is more pronounced than in industrialized nations, where alternative energy supplies are more readily available. As economic development leads to higher national and per capita incomes and a consequent increase in energy consumption, China's energy demand is growing by about 3.5 per cent a year and is expected to double in 20 years, figures from the State Statistics Bureau indicate.
But coal still accounts for 80 per cent of the country's total energy use, compared with 50 per cent in the United States. Smoke and dust from coal burning and exhaust fumes are the two main causes of air pollution in China's large cities. The recent soaring oil prices have also had a negative impact on China's economy. Being a net oil importer since 1993, China is vulnerable and the situation will not be eased in the coming years because of the growing use of cars. To safeguard national energy security, China should make developing its natural gas industry the priority of its energy policy.
According to the Administration of Petroleum and Chemical Industries, China's natural gas production will reach 50 billion cubic metres in 2005 compared to 24.2 billion cubic metres in 1999. China has decided to build a 4,200-kilometre pipeline to carry natural gas recently discovered in Tarim of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The line will pass through eight provinces, regions and municipalities to reach Shanghai. China has also signed an agreement with Russia and South Korea to develop rich natural gas reserves in Siberia.
China's natural gas exploration is still at the primary stage. The growth of output and consumption is slow and pipeline networks are underdeveloped. Most of the gas in China is currently used in the countryside to produce chemical fertilizer. China needs to expand its use in residential and power generating sectors to boost consumption. Found mainly in the northwest, natural gas sources in China are a long way from potential markets in prosperous coastal areas, and it is difficult to build a large-scale transport system. The high costs of this transport will hamper the consumption market, and although one solution is to raise prices, more consideration must be given to consumers, the meeting agreed.
15) GREEN ENVY-CO2 TAX
12 December 2000
Once it was the CD player that counted in the status-conscious world of the company car. Now it's the CO2. Government plans to link the tax on company cars to their carbon dioxide emission means the charge on high pollution cars will rocket. The driver of a Mercedes E240 today pays double the tax paid by the driver of a low CO2 Vauxhall Astra. Under the new regime, the Mercedes driver will pay almost four times as much. The new rules come into force in April 2002. But drivers should already be aware of the CO2 figures because cars they choose now are likely to be affected by the new rules. Tim Holmes, head of HSBC Vehicle Financing, says: 'The average company car is held for between three and four years. So anyone switching to a new car in the next few months is almost certain to face at least one tax year under the new rules, while many will still be in the same car in 2004.' Changing tax rules will also alter the balance for drivers who can take cash instead of a company car. Most will have to reassess the equation.
The rules are changing as part of the Government's policy aimed at cutting pollution and global warming. It wants to use tax carrots to encourage motorists to switch to smaller cars, which pollute less. Current rules reward high-mileage drivers, encouraging motorists to make extra journeys just to qualify for a lower tax band. At present, a company car is taxed as annual income worth 35% of its purchase price. This is reduced to 25% for those who drive 2,500 or more business miles a year and to only 15% for 18,000 or more business miles in a year. This system means that drivers of high-priced executive cars can cut more than £1,000 a year off their tax bills by pushing mileage beyond 18,000. The new approach will scrap all this. From April 2002, the tax charge will be based on a sliding scale of 15% to 35% of the car's purchase price.
Where a car sits on this scale depends on how much CO2 it produces. The cleanest, producing 165 grams of CO2 per kilometre or less, will be taxed at 15%. Then 1% will be added for each 5g/km extra CO2. Cars producing 265g/km or more CO2 will be taxed at the top rate 35%. Mileage is irrelevant. The tax is the same whether a car is driven into the ground or sits in a garage all year.
From April 2003, the lower threshold becomes 155g/km and from April 2004 it falls to 145g/km. Holmes says: 'The biggest losers will be the workhorse drivers who are on the road for more than 18,000 business miles each year. They will see an immediate rise in their tax bills. 'A typical high-mileage Mondeo man, who now pays £949 in tax a year, would see his bill jump to £1,202 in 2002 and to £1,455 from April 2004. That is more than £40 a month less income.' The situation is slightly more complicated for those driving diesel cars. Although these generally produce less CO2, they emit more dirty exhaust particulates.
So diesels will have an extra 3% annual levy added to their ranking in the CO2 tables, providing this does not take the car over the 35% maximum. Even with the added levy, many diesel cars will still be taxed less than equivalent petrol versions. Mike Warburton, a tax partner at accountant Grant Thornton's office in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, says Warburton says: 'The changes will prompt many company car drivers to reassess whether it is still worthwhile.' Manufacturers have had to provide CO2 figures for all cars sold since January 1998. In the few cases where a company car is older than this and has no official CO2 figure, the tax will be worked out on a sliding scale according to engine size
the smaller the engine, the lower the tax.
To find the official CO2 figures for your car, log on to www.vcacarfueldata.org.uk.
16) SOLAR POWER SEEKS A PLACE IN THE SUN
December 14, 2000
Why do we burn oil and split the atom at great risk to the planet when enough clean solar energy to power the world for 27 years falls from the sky every day?
Three reasons really:
A daytime-only motor car with a roof the size of a swimming pool has limited market potential.
Static solar power costs many times more to generate than traditional grid sources.
The populations of areas with no access to electricity grids - solar power's most obvious market - are poor.
Major obstacles perhaps. But power generation and transport together consume just 41 percent of total world primary energy supply, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Meanwhile the developing regions that offer most of the "off grid" solar opportunities may be poor, but the IEA says they will account for 68 percent of a projected 57 percent increase in energy demand between 1997 and 2020. Photovoltaic (PV) technology
the generation of electric power from the sun's rays - is the solar industry's driving force, having left behind direct solar heating panels as a niche market for warmer countries. PV cells are made from layers of semiconductor materials such as silicon, producing an electric current when photon light particles hit them. Cloud cover reduces their efficiency, but on a "bright overcast" day a PV panel will generate 50-70 percent of capacity.
There is one big drag - the manufacturing process remains complicated and expensive. "I think the industry is still maturing in that much of it is still R&D orientated," said Ian Simm, who manages a specialist solar energy fund for Impax Capital Corp. "There is still a credibility gap that it needs to close if it is going to go mainstream." Grid electricity costs 6-15 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh) to produce off peak in the U.S., and 11-18 cents in the UK. For solar, a household sized four kilowatt roof installation produces 20 kilowatt hours of power through an average five hours of daylight, and costs about 25-30 cents per kWh over a 25 year life span according to BP Amoco , self-styled champion of the industry and the biggest manufacturer of PV cells. A home in South Africa might need only a 3 kW unit. In London a five kW system would be required.
TECHNOLOGY AND LEGISLATION TIP THE BALANCE BP's 4 kW unit costs $40,000 to install in the U.S., a prohibitive price for most householders, but the technology is moving on fast, and environmental legislation across the world is tipping the economic balance further. BP says it has brought the uninstalled cost of making PV cells to below $7 a watt from over $30 a decade ago. In October German electronics major Siemens announced a breakthrough with its monocrystalline roof modules that improved the power of its systems by 20-35 percent. A new generation of "thin film" PV's are now being developed by most industry players. These are still 2-3 years away from commercial production and sacrifice some efficiency, but are much cheaper to make and can be incorporated into building materials like glass roofs - a property demonstrated in a new BP fuel station unveiled in London this week.
GERMAN GUARANTEED PRICE
In February, Germany gave the industry a massive leg up, passing a law that sets minimum prices for generated renewable energy and obliges network operators to use it. Solar got the highest guaranteed price at 0.99 marks per kilowatt hour. Back in the United States, 34 of 50 states have introduced net metering laws, under which any excess power generated by household roofs gets sold back to the grid - effectively making the grid a store of power in the daytime and a source at night. This reduces dependence on a battery for solar powered homes - typically about one third of system installation costs.
Despite all the progress and its own $500 million investment pledge for the next three years, BP reckons PVs will not compete on cost alone in countries where the grid is widely available for another five to 10 years. BP says it is number one in PV production and boasts a global market share of 20 percent through revenues of $200 million this year - that makes the worldwide market worth just $1 billion this year. Together with new-build integration, solar roof panels account for 24 percent of the market. Forty percent is in developing country off-grid applications, while the rest is in niche areas such as telecom relay stations. Given the still long-distance nature of the opportunity, global energy and electronics corporations including BP, Royal Dutch/Shell , Kyocera Corp and Siemens still dominate.
But green energy investment funds, venture capitalists and smaller companies are waking up to the opportunities and a handful of standalone solar companies have already braved equities markets for funds. Astropower , Evergreen Solar and Spire Corp in the U.S., and Solarworld AG in Germany have a combined market value approaching a billion dollars. Apart from Spire, none was a listed company three years ago. The comparison is stark with the more fashionable fuel cells sector, which already boasts its own $10 billion "giant" in Ballard Corp , but specialist investors are optimistic. "The energy sector is moving slowly away from the fossil based energy economy towards the hydrogen based energy economy, driven by the fuel cell because that works best on hydrogen," said Impax investment manager Bruce Jenkyn-Jones.
Hydrogen may be everywhere around us, but it still needs energy to separate it out and turn it into a fuel. "In the much longer term solar, wind and renewable technologies are the only sustainable way to generate hydrogen," said Jenkyn-Jones.
17) LAWYERS HELP ISLAND NATIONS KEEP AFLOAT
Wednesday December 13, 2000
by Keith Perry
As they battle for insurance payouts for all the floods of the past few months, the inhabitants of Uxbridge, Middlesex, might spare a thought for the people of Samoa. On small islands like this, and others including the Maldives and Marshall Islands, there is more than just insurance at stake. In this location global warming could mean islands being so swamped they disappear. As temperatures rise, scientists are forecasting higher sea levels, freak weather, storms, floods and tidal waves. But it is not the biggest industrial nations, the source of most of the pollution, that will be hardest hit. The small, low-lying coastal nations - which, in particular, lack resources to protect fragile ecosystems - face being wiped out.
Various green groups are tackling the issue, publicising it, and working at international level and with the communities concerned. But one group has been taking a different approach, aiming, since 1989, to empower the disadvantaged by giving free legal aid. They are a team of environmental lawyers known as Field - the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development - whose focus is not just climate change but habitat loss, water pollution, and the ozone layer.
Farhana Yamin, who directs Field's climate change work, has seen first-hand how developing countries can be overlooked or even bullied as the international heavyweights haggle over environmental reforms. Field's lawyers attended the recent Hague summit to give legal backing to the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), 43 islands and low-lying coastal countries which are particularly vulnerable to global warming. The biggest irony, she says, was that the nations most threatened by global warming and climate change were excluded from negotiations over the deals.
Ms Yamin believes the Hague summit was characterised by suspicion and brinkmanship. "Many Hague delegates felt a selected few countries, including Britain and America, were going to cook the books together and once they had agreed everyone else would be forced to rubber stamp it. That's the type of thing we have to worry about. We are there to provide support to Aosis states to ensure their interests are fully represented." At the last climate change summit, in Kyoto, five Field lawyers served on Aosis delegations to ensure that the final protocol text, which had legally binding targets, was "as progressive and environmentally effective as could be negotiated". One of the many challenges small island developing nations face is how to strengthen their position as the UN proceeds with negotiations on climate change. Small island states have a strong collective voice acting as the Aosis group, says Ms Yamin, but since they are dispersed across the globe they come under pressure not just from the superpowers but from their neighbours, such as Australia and Japan. Developing countries which depend heavily on overseas aid, says Ms Yamin, may find their wealthy benefactors suddenly calling in the favours to secure, for instance, support for contentious issues such as whaling agreements. The small nations often fear that if they do not play ball their aid packages may dry up.
Jürgen Lefevere, staff lawyer at Field, says: "Australia, for example, has taken a particularly bad position on carbon sinks, a practice where countries plant forests as a way of absorbing harmful carbon dioxide emissions - rather than actually cut emissions." Australia, he adds, has "used all sorts of tactics" to undermine Aosis countries on the "sinks" issue. Up against such international bullying, the small nations have discovered their best tactic is to speak from the heart. Neroni Slade, an ambassador from Samoa who is also chair of Aosis, says: "Climate change is real. We know this from what is happening to our islands, whether through excessive rainfall or drought, or through the destructive forces of increasingly frequent hurricanes and storms. "We make no apology for [being] driven by our fears and concerns for the safety and survival of our islands and communities.
"We believe very deeply that there is a question of equity and justice at stake. We are the first and we are the most severely at risk." The effects of these weather patterns are dramatic, none more so than in sea-level changes. "We need to save the coral reefs and resurrect or replant protective natural vegetation like mangroves. It is a massive task but we need to take the first step. Some of this work will need financial support from our industrialised country partners."
It is frustrating, says Ms Yamin, that messages like that from the Samoan ambassador have not led to more action by the main culprits of environmental pollution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The UN framework convention on climate change obliges industrialised nations to demonstrate that they are "taking the lead" in controlling emission. As the first test of commitment, the proposal is for the stabilisation of emissions down to 1990 levels by 2000. But most industrialised countries have seen increases in greenhouse gas emissions.
The 21 nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report a rise in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion of 10.8% over the decade. The US increased its emissions by 12.7%, Canada by 12.4%, Australia by 15.4%, and Japan by 13.6%. All these increases took place when representatives from these nations were negotiating with smaller countries about how to strengthen the commitment to stabilisation.
"At the Hague we had an amazing conference in terms of the influence of the small island states," Ms Yamin says. "They definitely boxed well above their weight by forcing the rich polluting nations to listen to their plight and also by fighting against Opec countries that have a different agenda. Opec don't want oil revenues to go down so they tend to prevent as much progressive change as possible. " Many small nations found it frustrating that the emission rates of a lot of countries had gone up in the past 10 years. "But we will be back at the next round of negotiations," insists Ms Yamin. "We will be assisting Aosis members in trying to get the heavyweights to reduce their emissions. For our clients, it could literally mean the difference between life and death."
18) NUCLEAR POWER IS BACK IN FASHION WITH THE FINNS
Times of London
December 15 2000
UNSEASONAL rain is drenching Helsinki and the air is a balmy seven degrees. Finns love a harsh winter and the prospect of a damp, snowless Christmas is causing irritation among inhabitants of this remote outpost of the European Union. The bizarre weather is not just tiresome; it is an annoying reminder of more serious issues, such as the cost of energy and a nagging concern about global warming. Finns need energy to keep warm and power their affluent mobile lifestyle. But burning fossil fuels means more greenhouse gases and last month, a private power company, Teollissuden Voima Oy (TVO), roused Finns from their complacency by offering a simple solution: nuclear power.
TVO's request for a permit to build a 1,600 megawatt nuclear plant is embarrassing. The nuclear option was supposed to be dead and buried - a technology that many believed had disappeared with other mistakes of the 1970s, such as flared jeans. No other country in Western Europe or North America plans such an investment and the issue threatens to divide Finland. Industry wants the nuclear plant but political parties on the right and left are split. While Paavo Lipponen, the Prime Minister, is thought to be in favour, his fellow Social Democrats want a referendum. Lipponen's "rainbow coalition" government also stands to lose a partner - the Green Party - if the plant goes ahead. And as a final indignity, the nuclear issue is exposing Finland's sore thumb - dependence on its large and troublesome neighbour to the east.
Forgotten fashions have an annoying tendency to come back for a second viewing. TVO already owns two boiling water nuclear plants, of Swedish design, at Olkiluoto Island off the west coast of the country. Fortum, Finland's largest energy company, and a 27 per cent shareholder in TVO, owns another two reactors, using Russian pressurised water technology, at Loviisa in the east of Finland. All four plants date from the 1970s, the heyday of nuclear power. Their capital cost almost fully amortised, they currently provide very cheap electricity and, to date, have enjoyed an unblemished safety record.
The Finnish economy needs more power; it is growing at 5 per cent per year thanks to Nokia's high-tech gadgetry and success in the old economy. Pulp and paper companies, such as Stora Enso, UPM- Kymmene and Metsa-Serla - all shareholders in TVO - are gobbling up power and Finnish electricity demand is expected to soar over the next decade. Forecasters reckon consumption will grow from a current 78 terrwatt hours to 92 twh in 2010 and 97 twh in 2015. More hydropower is not an option, explains Mauno Paavola, the chairman of TVO. The country is mainly flat and Finns have invested more than most in renewables. Increased use of biofuels (wood waste from the forest industry) might provide 3-4 twh, while wind power could at most provide 1 twh, he says.
So, why not buy electricity from Sweden? Imports from the Nordic grid already account for 7 per cent of Finnish electricity consumption. Abundant rain has made Swedish hydropower plentiful and cheap but weather is fickle and forecasters expect Sweden itself to begin importing power soon. Finland also has idle coal- fired generation capacity. But stoking the economy with coal would double carbon dioxide emissions, says Paavola, who is quick to remind you that nuclear power is emission-free. "We are in a situation where we don't have too many choices," he says.
Not true. Finland has choices but they are all politically unpalatable. With hydropower in the Nordic grid reaching its limits, Finland cannot look west for fuel. It must grit its teeth and turn to the east where plenty of power is available. In Siberia, Gazprom sits on the world's largest natural gas resources and Russia, thanks to its shrinking economy, has surplus electric power. Finland already buys its gas and 7 per cent of its electricity from Russia but, in this matter, the Finns are at odds with the rest of Europe.
Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, is courting
Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, in the hope of securing more Russian gas and electricity for the EU, reducing reliance on Opec. But while Prodi embraces Moscow, the Finns are digging in their heels. They view the threat of dependence on Opec with equanimity when faced with the Russian alternative. "How politically wise would it be to rely on Russia is a big question," asks Ulla Sirkeinen, director of the Confederation of Finnish Industries and Employers. Unlike the rest of Europe, Finland cannot balance Gazprom with supplies from the Norwegian North Sea or Algeria. "Russia is not a market economy; one company is supplying and it is important not be too dependent on one source, said Sirkeinen. Jorma Vaajoki, chief executive of Metsa-Serla, the Finnish paper company is blunt: "Who knows when Russia will turn off the tap? For me, buying oil from Opec is preferable to buying from our neighbour. Opec wants money but they have no political agenda. They don't want to take over the world."
Finns have long memories and many recall the Winter War of 1939- 1940, when the might of the Red Army was thrown at the Finns to subdue them. Much of the fighting took place on a stretch of land lying between the Finnish border and St Petersburg. Close to the area is Sosnovyy Bor, now home to four Russian electricity generation plants. Ironically, these plants are the likely source of the electricity currently exported by Russia into the Finnish grid. They are graphite-moderated nuclear reactors, similar in design to the infamous nuclear plant at Chernobyl, in Ukraine, which blew its top in April 1986, showering Europe with radiation.
The Finns have invested money in improving security at Russian plants but experts admit that the systems are rudimentary. It is easy to see why Finland might prefer to go it alone rather than follow the Prodi lead and increase dependence on Russia's crumbling energy infrastructure. The looming presence of Russia's discredited nuclear industry has other consequences. Another Chernobyl, in Russia or elsewhere, could be devastating to Finland's own nuclear ambitions, if only due to public relations. "It is not an insignificant risk," says Bo Lindfors, an executive at Fortum, the energy group which owns 26 per cent of TVO.
Should such a disaster come to pass, prominent among those protesting will be Greenpeace, which this week sailed into Helsinki harbour to denigrate what it describes as the "Fifth Mistake". Harri Lammi of Greenpeace Finland wants the Government to direct its efforts to promoting renewable energy - biofuels and wind power instead of "reviving the corpse of a failed 20th century experiment in nuclear power". This is the second attempt to secure approval for a fifth reactor. An initiative in 1993 failed when parliament rejected the application. Lammi hopes that history will be repeated and he is scathing about the "macho" behaviour of Finland's bosses. "Finns do not like to back down. They are the last ones standing on the bridge when the ship is sinking, saying it is not sinking."
The ship of state is not sinking; it is not even dented, cruising nicely on solid growth and moderate inflation. All that has happened is the watch on deck has spotted a cluster of icebergs ahead. The captain needs to steer carefully if the Finnish economy is not to be damaged by high-cost energy imports or shackled to a powerful and unpredictable neighbour. And there are those who believe Finland is leading the way. Far from reviving old technology, the chief executive of TVO believes that Finland could be the vanguard in a new wave of nuclear investment driven by concern for the environment. Paavola points to the contradiction between public posture on the nuclear issue and private practice.
In 1985, Sweden announced plans to shut its nuclear generation by 2010 but, instead, existing plants have been enhanced. "Since then, they have tripled nuclear power production. Nuclear power is not declining as is widely believed," he says. "The climate change issue means that nuclear is coming again."
19) CLIMATE MODEL SHOWS DUAL CAUSE
14 December, 2000
UK scientists say only a combination of natural and human causes can explain the Earth's warming during the 20th Century. They combined data on greenhouse gas emissions, ozone and sulphate aerosol levels, solar variations, and volcanic aerosols in different versions of a state-of-the-art climate model. Natural causes, they found, mattered more early in the century, and human- induced factors during the present warming. They say their work increases their confidence in predictions of human contributions to future warming. The scientists, from the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, part of the UK Met Office, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, report their findings in the magazine Science.
They write: "A comparison of observations with simulations of a coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation model shows that both natural and anthropogenic factors have contributed significantly to 20th Century temperature changes. "More than 80% of observed global mean temperature variations and more than 60% of 10- to 50- year land temperature variations are due to changes in external forcings." Global mean temperature near the Earth's surface has been increasing at 0.2 degrees Celsius a decade over the last three decades. A comparable rise occurred between 1910 and 1945, with a lull then until the mid-1970s.
Until now climate simulations had found it hard to explain this earlier warming, having ignored many natural factors. "For the first time," the Met Office says, "this new research combines the most important human and natural factors in one climate model." The authors say the simulations they made in their model incorporate changes in greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, changes in tropospheric and stratospheric ozone, and changes in sulphur emissions.
"When we include both anthropogenic and natural forcings", they write, "our model successfully simulates not just the observed global mean response, but also some of the large-scale features of the observed temperature response. "We conclude that both anthropogenic and natural factors are required to account for 20th Century near-surface temperature change. "The model successfully simulates large-scale temperature changes over the 20th Century.
"However, it does not capture observed changes in the Atlantic in the early part of the century, nor does it simulate the rise in the North Atlantic Oscillation index observed over the last three decades. "It may be that the model does not sufficiently resolve the stratosphere, or that there are deficiencies in generating or responding to sea surface temperature variations." Despite the uncertainties, they conclude: "The overall large-scale pattern of observed near-surface temperature change over the 20th Century is consistent with our understanding of the combined impacts of natural and anthropogenic forcings.
. . . but natural ones did earlier
"Natural forcings were relatively more important in the early- century warming, and anthropogenic forcings have played a dominant role in warmingg observed in recent decades."External forcings appear to be the main contributors controlling near-surface decadal-mean temperature changes on global and continental land scales.
"Our successful hindcast of large-scale temperature changes over the 20th Century increases our confidence in predictions of the anthropogenic contribution to future temperature changes." Dr Peter Stott, who led the research team, said: "This model is still not perfect but, by successfully simulating past temperature changes, it demonstrates the credibility of our climate predictions. "These show that the current rate of warming of two to three degrees Celsius per century is likely to continue over the coming decades. "However, there is much more work to do if we are to provide the predictions needed to assess the impacts of climate change on individual countries."
20) CLIMATE CHANGE THEORY STUNS SCIENTISTS
http://www.thestar.com/apps/AppLogic+FTContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout /Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=976163484494&call_page=TS_News &call_pageid=9683 32188492&call_pagepath=News/News
Carbon dioxide is being oversold as the chief cause of climate change, says a top Canadian scientist who has tracked global temperatures and greenhouse gases back 500 million years. Other natural factors - such as fluctuations in the sun's intensity - are more likely the prime cause of serious global warming incidents during the Earth's history, says Jan Veizer, a world-renowned geologist selected by federal science officials to study carbon dioxide. The potential implications of Veizer's research sent shockwaves through the climate research community even before it was officially published in today's Nature, an influential British scientific journal.
Several scientists agreed the scope of the work - five years and more than $700,000 - made the findings a serious challenge to some basic assumptions in climate change. Writing in the same issue of Nature, U.S. researcher Lee Kump feared the research ``undermines the case for reducing fossil-fuel emissions.'' The findings could have major political fallout.
Diplomats from a dozen industrialized countries were scheduled to continue negotiations in Ottawa today on cutting worldwide levels of carbon dioxide, blamed in numerous studies as the chief culprit in recent global warming. But Veizer's research identified lengthy periods in the Earth's geological past when greatly elevated levels of carbon dioxide were actually accompanied by a drop in average temperature.
``Sure we have a greenhouse effect, but it's much more complex than just carbon dioxide,'' said Veizer, who holds appointments both at the University of Ottawa and Ruhr University in Germany. ``We have to tackle the real complexity rather than going on simplistic solutions.'' The researcher stressed that governments should still try to reduce worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide. But scientists shouldn't claim such reductions will end the threat of global warming and disastrous climate change. ``I don't want to jeopardize the environmental agenda,'' said Veizer. ``But it's better to be honest.''
Veizer said his research strongly suggests carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases may not drive climate change, but simply amplify change set off by some other factor. ``I think that could be the sun, because the amount of radiation from it changed greatly over time. But that is for the astronomers to investigate,'' he said. Lee Kump said there was an urgent need for climate researchers to sort which was right - Veizer's reconstructed temperatures or the assumptions behind climate models. ``We're talking about high stakes. If you're going to use the climate model predictions to justify huge expenditures and changes in our economy, then we have to tackle these contradictions,'' said Kump, a geological climate expert at Pennsylvania State University. Yet one of Canada's leading climate modellers, oceanographer Andrew Weaver, said there was no contradiction between Veizer's findings and the science underlying climate predictions.
``You can have high levels of carbon dioxide and also have a cold climate. But you do it with the Earth of 400 million years ago, when all the land was concentrated around the South pole and the radiation from the sun was lower than now,'' said Weaver, of the University of Victoria. Veizer's temperature reconstruction found cold and warm periods in the Earth's history did not line up with low and high levels of carbon dioxide, as predicted by current climate change theory. The most serious discrepancy occurs during the Jurassic period, which spanned between 208 million and 145 million years ago. While carbon dioxide levels were supposedly eight to 10 times greater than now, research found ocean temperatures at the equator were colder than the long-term average by 2.5 degrees Centigrade. Past temperatures were calculated from the chemical composition of a primitive type of clam, a brachiopod, that has existed for almost 500 million years. More than 3,500 pristine fossil brachiopods were culled from that time span.
21) COLD NORTHERN FORESTS FACE BURNING THREAT
San Francisco Chronicle
December 18, 2000
Environmentalists wail as tropical rainforests go up in smoke, while largely ignoring another blazing ecosystem: the "boreal" forests of cold northern lands. The caribou-haunted forests of Canada, Alaska and the former Soviet Union including Siberia are apparently burning like never before, experts said at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco yesterday. The likely reason: Global warming is drying out northern timber and brush. As a result, lightning bolts spark infernos of colossal extent. Boiling orange shrouds spread over millions of snow- streaked acres, some so remote that the sole witnesses may be wolves, lynxes and snow hares. In Alaska and Canada's boreal forests, fire consumed an average of more than 7 million acres a year in the 1990s. That's a sharp rise from the average of 3 million acres per year in the 1960s, scientists said on the third day of the conference at Moscone Center.
The fate of boreal forests is an important factor in climate change: They store 30 percent of the carbon in the terrestrial ecosystem, said researcher David V. Sandberg. He explained that if all boreal trees and vegetation burned, they would gush tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the most infamous "greenhouse" gas: It traps infrared radiation, warming the atmosphere. Also, the loss of boreal forests would eliminate one of Earth's prime "carbon sinks," which slow global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. (Another important "sink" is the ocean.)
The threat to boreal forests is far worse than the general public appreciates, said Sandberg, a team leader at the Fire and Environmental Research Applications division at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Corvallis, Ore. "It's underrepresented in the public consciousness and in the scientific attention it has gotten," Sandberg charged at a press conference. Such fires are so gigantic, and in such unsettled terrains, that firefighters can do little if anything to control them. Some of the worst fires devour boreal forests of the former Soviet Union.
During the Cold War, Soviet officials kept unreliable records of the severity and extent of forest fires, said Eric S. Kasischke, a professor in the department of geography at the University of Maryland-College Park. Back then, Western researchers underestimated the extent of fires in remote Arctic and sub-Arctic lands, partly because of the lack of trustworthy Soviet data, said Brian J. Stocks, a forest fire researcher with the Canadian Forest Service. They weren't even sure how bad fires were in isolated parts of northern North America because of inadequate satellite coverage, he added.
In January, Kasischke received a $250,000 grant from NASA to analyze satellite photos of Soviet forests as far back as 1980. By counting images of fires, and measuring their extent, he hopes to learn how much they've burned over the last two decades. He's conducting the study with a Russian colleague, Anatoly Sukhinin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberian branch. Ecologically speaking, boreal blazes are "a cause for concern," Kasischke said. "I wasn't convinced it was a problem until recently."
In a related development, scientists reported the latest evidence that humans are at least substantially responsible for global warming. Just as burning forests unleash carbon dioxide, so do factories and cars as they consume fossil fuels. "When I got started on this (research), I wasn't sure whether climate warming had begun or not," acknowledged Thomas J. Crowley, an oceanography professor at Texas A&M University. But now, he believes it almost certainly has: "If it acts like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, do you say it's a duck?" Crowley asked. "Well, this is a '95 percent duck.' " The annual American Geophysical Union meeting has attracted some 9,000 Earth and space scientists from around the world. The gathering concludes tomorrow.
22) U.S. HAD UNUSUALLY WARM YEAR, NOAA SAYS
December 19, 2000; Page A15
The year is ending on a nippy note for much of the nation, but overall the country's temperatures were above normal in 2000. While the final measurement will depend on conditions during the remaining two weeks, the average annual U.S. temperature this year is projected to be 54.1 or 54.2 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.
That's well above the long-term average of 52.8 degrees and would make 2000 the seventh- to 12th-warmest year in 106 years of record-keeping. It will be down from the 54.5- degree average of 1999 and from 1998's all-time record, 54.9 degrees. The new figure was announced by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
It is a finding likely to add to the debate over global warming, which many scientists believe is happening because of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by humanity. In its annual review of the year's weather, the climate center noted that heat waves and drought plagued much of the southern and western United States, while the Midwest and Northeast had long periods that were cooler and wetter than normal. July 2000 was the coolest July on record in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the second coolest in New York. Rainfall was above average in 15 states throughout the Northeast and Midwest during the summer months.
In sharp contrast, the South and West struggled with months of below-normal rain and above-normal temperatures, resulting in severe drought and widespread wildfires. For states in the deep South, it was the third consecutive summer of below-normal moisture. Indeed, the driest May- October on record occurred in the region including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The driest July-September on record occurred in the region encompassing Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, followed by torrential rains that brought flooding to many cities and made November the region's wettest November on record. There were fewer tornadoes than average, and, although Atlantic hurricane activity was above average for the third consecutive year, the country escaped a serious landfall as most storms stayed out to sea.
Worldwide, the agency said, average surface temperatures also were warmer than normal. Global precipitation also was above-average in 2000. NOAA estimated the year will end as one of the 10 wettest on record.
ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/weather001218.html
EQUATORIAL WATERS HOLD UNDERCURRENT TO GLOBAL WARMING CNN
Despite the skepticism and posturing about global warming, most recently at an international conference in The Hague, evidence continues to accumulate that Earth's temperature is rising, most likely due to human activities. Experts point to gases that prevent heat from escaping our atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide, as prime culprits. But before scientists can predict the future climate or propose remedial action, they first need to look to the past. By gathering data about how atmospheric carbon dioxide varied during the Ice Ages and then using that information in climate models, they get a better picture of changes to come.
One key to improving the accuracy of climate models is understanding the role oceans play. Scientists know that water bodies absorb a sizeable chunk of manmade carbon dioxide emissions but the process itself remains poorly understood. The balance of carbon dioxide between ocean and atmosphere teeters constantly, depending on the amount dissolved in chilly polar waters and outgassed in warm tropical swells and also on the amount absorbed during plankton growth and decay. These microscopic floating plants feed in upwelling water that brings them a steady diet of nutrients, including carbon dioxide, nitrate, phosphate and iron. When they die, plankton carry carbon and waste products to the ocean floor, which keeps carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
But what regulates how fast the plankton grow and multiply? As much as 50 percent of biological production in global oceans occurs in the eastern equatorial Pacific, making it an ideal laboratory to study the factors involved. That's doubly true, because the region is also the primary area for release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. "Until now, it's been assumed that atmospheric conditions, such as the trade winds blowing across the tropics, largely controlled ocean conditions in the eastern equatorial Pacific," says Paul Loubere, a geosciences professor at Northern Illinois University whose work appears in a recent issue of Nature. "My research presents the first evidence that there's something else to consider."
That something else is the Equatorial Undercurrent, an undersea ribbon of water that originates south of New Zealand, zigzags along the western edge of the South Pacific and stretches across the equator. "As the water in the undercurrent moves farther east, upwelling peels off the upper layers," says J.R. Toggweiler, head of the Ocean Circulation Group at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab in Princeton, N.J. "By the time the undercurrent surfaces off the coast of Peru, the flow contains cold, nutrient- rich water from below." The possibility that biological productivity in the eastern equatorial Pacific isn't controlled solely by tropical processes but also by a link to high latitudes intrigued Loubere. He set out to learn how the area's carbon dioxide supply has changed over time, what role biological productivity played and to what degree these relate to known changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
"What"s important is determining which mechanisms make the climate sensitive to change," says Alan Mix, a professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University. Biological productivity may, for example, heavily influence the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide, leading back to the greenhouse effect. To reconstruct a record of marine life activity over the past 130,000 years, Loubere studied organisms in sediment cores taken several hundred miles off the Peruvian coast. He based biological productivity estimates on bottom-dwelling foraminifera, microanimals that form a vital link in the marine food chain. Although the southeasterly trade winds influenced the environment at all four core sites, the South Equatorial Current also affected two of them. This current carries water that can be traced to subantarctic origins, but that's not surprising: Winds pick up the Equatorial Undercurrent's surfacing waters and blow them back across the ocean along the equator.
By comparing what's known about the temperature over the past 100,000 years with what he learned from the productivity records, Loubere found that the pattern of biological productivity is distinct where the undercurrent exerts its greatest influence. "If atmospheric processes controlled the productivity, then the records from all four cores should be the same," he says. Instead, the two cores influenced only by trade winds showed a pattern of more-frequent productivity change than the two also affected by the South Equatorial Current. "It's a valuable new piece of information," says Richard Barber, professor of biological oceanography at Duke University. "Understanding why carbon dioxide varied in the last glacial maximum is the most important question facing us. If we can't explain the recent past 18,000 to 20,000 years ago, then we can't be confident of our ability to predict the future."
24) ARCTIC SEA ICE 'THINS BY ALMOST HALF'
7 December 2000
Two UK scientists say they have found evidence to show that sea ice is thinning across the Arctic. The two, Dr Peter Wadhams and Dr Norman Davis, are from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. They say their work shows that the ice in the Fram Strait, between Svalbard and Greenland, thinned by nearly half in two decades. And they say the findings have serious implications for climates at high latitudes. Dr Wadhams told BBC News Online: "Between summer 1976 and summer 1996 there was a 43% thinning of sea ice over a large area of the Arctic Ocean between Fram Strait and the North Pole. "This came out of measurements which I did (on both occasions) from British submarines - Sovereign in 1976 and Trafalgar in 1996. "We covered the same regions of the Arctic and used the same equipment, so the results are fully compatible.
Submarines provide the data for thinning "The amount of thinning, which is very large, agrees with results published last year by Drew Rothrock, of the University of Washington, for thinning rates on the other side of the Arctic. "That region, from the North Pole to the Bering Strait, was measured by US submarines over approximately the same interval. "So this confirms that the thinning of sea ice is an Arctic-wide effect." Dr Wadhams and Dr Davis report their work in Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union. The data on ice thinning were collected by two upward-looking sonar systems mounted on the submarines. The thinning of the ice between Fram Strait and the Pole was first reported by Dr Wadhams in 1990. He had found a 15% decrease in ice thickness between his voyage in 1976 on Sovereign and another in 1987 on a third UK submarine, Superb.
Disputed cause The authors write: "We note that this loss of ice thickness, although at the time it appeared large, was actually an underestimate of the thinning which must have taken place between 1976 and 1987." This, they say, was because the 1987 experiment was conducted at a different time of year and using a different sort of sonar.
The cause of the thinning remains uncertain They add: "Comparing our present results with those reported in 1990, we speculate that a substantial part of the thinning that occurred in the experimental region between 1976 and 1996 took place during the first of those two decades." Many scientists are convinced that human influences are responsible for the thinning of the Arctic sea ice, though not all. Some point to the influence of a natural climate phenomenon known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO).
This is an erratic see-saw that alternately raises and lowers atmospheric pressure over the North Pole while lowering and raising it in a ring around the polar region. Dr Wadhams and Dr Davis end their report on a cautionary note. They write of "the very rapid changes which are occurring in the ocean structure of the Arctic, with a greater influx of heat into the Atlantic layer". And they say: "We feel that this additional support for the dramatic thinning rates reported by Drew Rothrock and others has serious implications for the future of high-latitude climates."
25) CLIMATE 'THREAT' TO US WATER
17 December, 2000
Climate change during this century could seriously affect water resources in the US, a report warns. It says areas including Cape Cod, Long Island and the central coast of California may be affected. It says there has already been "substantial" thawing of the Alaskan permafrost and "unprecedented" glacier melting. And it expects the permafrost to retreat 500 km (310 miles) northwards in the next 50 years. The report, Water: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, is the work of the National Water Assessment Group (Nwag).
Nwag includes representatives from government, corporate and non- governmental sectors. The lead author, Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, said some changes were inevitable. "Sole reliance on traditional management responses is a mistake," he said. "Water managers need to integrate possible climate change impacts into their planning processes and to build flexibility into the system to maximise our ability to respond to changing conditions." The report says the temperature in the US has risen by about two-thirds of a degree Celsius over the last century, with 1998 the warmest year recorded. It says the evidence that humans are changing the water cycle of the US is "increasingly compelling", and offers several examples:
the start of the thawing of the Alaskan permafrost
a mean sea level rise of between 10 and 20 cm since the 1890s
mountain glaciers melting "at rates unprecedented in recorded history"
a significant decline since the 1950s of Arctic ice thickness levels, "much larger than would be expected from natural climate variability"
vegetation blooming earlier in the spring and summer and continuing to photosynthesise longer in the autumn
an annual mean decrease in snow cover of about 10% over north America since 1988.
While they note that many uncertainties remain and are likely to persist, the authors say it is "vital that these should not be used to delay or avoid taking certain kinds of action now". They foresee further changes ahead - increased global average rainfall, for instance, more frequent floods and droughts in certain areas of the US as temperatures increase by a projected three to six degrees C by 2100 and salt water penetrating further inland as glaciers melt and sea levels rise.
And they believe that it is not only species distributions that will shift northwards in response to rising temperatures. "The southern boundary of continuous permafrost is projected to shift north by 500 km (310 miles) over the next 50 years due to warming projected by global climate models", they write. "A five degrees C warming in Alaska would eventually melt all of the subarctic permafrost there, which would affect more wetland area than is currently found in the rest of the US". The authors are concerned about the possibility that rising sea levels will let sea water into groundwater aquifers and freshwater coastal systems. Areas at greatest risk, they say, include Hawaii, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Long Island, New York, and central coastal California.
They call for research on the implications of climate change for international water law, US treaties and agreements with Mexico and Canada, and international trade in water. Some scientists still dispute that human-induced global warming is happening. They argue that the computer models on which future scenarios of climate change are based, and which are driving the greenhouse debate, are deeply flawed. They also dispute the view that the Earth is currently experiencing a rapid warming. They say that satellite data and balloon studies suggest no such warming is taking place.
San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi- bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/12/15/MN76271.DTL
26) CANADIAN MOUNTIES NEAR COMPLETION OF VOYAGE AROUND NORTH AMERICA
December 6, 2000
After 24,000 miles, a polar bear attack and numerous Inuit meals of raw whale, a Canadian Royal Mounted Police boat took a breather in San Francisco yesterday on the final stretch of its record- setting circumnavigation of North America. When it returns to Vancouver, B.C., in two weeks, the 66-foot- long St. Roch II will be one of the few boats, and clearly the smallest, to traverse the storied Northwest Passage through the treacherous Arctic Ocean. It's also completing the voyage faster than any previous vessel. The old record was three years. Thanks to global warming (a lot of ice has melted) and computer navigation, the St. Roch II will do it in 170 days, a record the Mounties figure will stand for generations.
The fact that global warming has melted so much of the stubborn ice pack also means, experts say, that the worldwide shipping industry will be looking to the Northwest Passage as a shortcut from the Alaska oil fields to the rich European markets. But the trip is no idle afternoon row on a lake. The St. Roch II is docked at the Hyde Street Pier and will be here until tomorrow morning. No public tours will be offered, but the four- person crew will be available to answer questions and talk about their travels, and their sea tales are truly mesmerizing. The St. Roch II, which departed Vancouver on July 1, is retracing the 1940s journey of its namesake. The St. Roch I, also operated by the Mounties, was the first boat to clear the Northwest Passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic and played a major role in Arctic exploration and maritime history.
On its journey north, the St. Roch I got stuck in the ice and spent three years in the Arctic, where the crew lived with the native Inuit and did valuable research. After clearing the Arctic, the boat took another year to ferry down the East Coast, cross Panama and return to Vancouver. The St. Roch II had its own adventures, including the historic and eerie discovery of the wreckage of a previous boat that tried to cross the formidable Arctic Ocean. The crew found the grave site of Sir John Franklin's doomed 1839 expedition, the first major attempt to forge the Northwest Passage and chart a shortcut between Europe and Asia. Franklin's two ships and 129 crew members vanished somewhere near King William Island at the icy northern edge of the continent. Seventeen rescue missions failed to unearth any trace of the wreck.
But when the St. Roch II swung through a few months ago, an Inuit elder showed its crew the grisly site: a small, flat island that had been buried under ice almost continuously for 160 years. "There were human bones, grave sites, cooking pits and clear signs of cannibalism," skipper Sgt. Ken Burton said as he relaxed yesterday in the boat's galley. "It hadn't been touched in all this time." The grim discovery was recorded by a documentary film crew aboard a nearby Canadian Coast Guard ship. A major archaeological expedition will begin next summer, Burton said. The discovery of the grave site -- and the entire quick trip through the Arctic, for that matter -- were made possible by the retreating ice cap. This summer was only the second time in recorded history that the passage was ice-free. The other time was two years ago.
Ordinarily, ships trying to make the voyage have to break the ice as they go, or turn back because the ice is too thick. In any case, there is only a two- or three-week window in the summer when the ice is likely to soften enough for a boat to break through. This summer, the St. Roch II cruised through the islands and icebergs with no problems. Over the past decade, the ice pack has been dropping by 10 percent a year, Burton said. Some days, the temperature hit 60 degrees. Dragonflies are starting to show up near the North Pole. The world's shipping companies are closely eyeing the phenomenon because if ice-free summers become the norm, tankers will be able to deliver oil from Alaska to Europe without going via the Panama Canal, a savings of more than 5,000 miles. But the change in atmosphere would be disastrous to the delicate ecosystem of the Arctic, which so far is practically untouched by humans.
In the summer, the Arctic is vibrant with life. The crew of the St. Roch II saw immense herds of caribou, grizzly bears, polar bears, musk ox, rabbits and thousands of birds. Although there are no trees, the tundra is covered with moss and hundreds of tiny wildflowers. "It's a haunting place," Burton said. "Completely silent." Except for the occasional grumblings of a hungry polar bear, that is. One morning when the boat had been pushed ashore by an iceberg, a crew member found a polar bear looking in the window. "Polar bears are one of the few animals that will actively stalk humans," Burton said. "So here's this bear, grunting and hissing and scratching to get in. He even spat at us. He bit the side of the boat." Burton fired a shot into the air to frighten the bear away. Eventually, the bear stomped its feet a few times and walked off. "It's amazing to think that in the year 2000 we could still have a real adventure, but we did," Burton said. "It's been a tremendous honor to follow in the wake of the St. Roch I. Although I'm not getting on a boat again for a while."
27) FREAK WEATHER FORCES SMELTER SHUTDOWN
Monday, 11 December, 2000
A power shortage prompted by freak weather patterns has forced one of the world's biggest metal firms to axe more than $60m of aluminium production. Alcan can only restore full production if conditions in the spring of 2001 are closer to the historical pattern. Alcan Aluminium, which produces metal for making beer cans, car parts and photocopier drums, has blamed an "acute shortage of water" for a decision to mothball a production line in Canada from January. Low reservoir levels have left a hydo- electricity station Alcan runs to power smelting plants with insufficient water to operate at full capacity.
The Montreal-based firm, the world's second-ranking aluminium producer, in September suspended power deliveries to two companies also fed from the generation plant. After two months of negotiations with one of the affected firms, Alcan has said "it has been unable to find a solution that would keep the smelter operating at full capacity". The announcement, which will cut Alcan's aluminium production by at least 40,000 tonnes, helped prices of the metal reach their highest levels since August in trading in London. And analysts said the metal, which rose $33 to $1,626 on Monday, could soon break the year high of $1,724 a tonne.
Alcan said the shortage of water in the Nechako Reservoir, which feeds the hydro-electricity plant, followed low snowfall in surrounding mountains 1998 and 1999, and a freak spring this year. "We had a really strange thing happen," company spokeswoman Kathleen Bourchier told BBC News Online. "Spring was really late. It did not really start to warm up until late June." The reservoir was left without the spate in April and May which usually recharges it. And, when snow did melt, the summer sun evaporated off much of the water which in normal years would trickle into surrounding rivers, Ms Bourchier said.
Alcan warned that further unusual weather might force it to delay reopening the production line. "Alcan can only restore full production if conditions in the spring of 2001 are closer to the historical pattern," a company statement said. But, while many governments and firms have warned that emission of pollutions are affecting weather patterns, Alcan denied the water shortage was evidence of climate change. "We have records going back 50 years," Ms Bouchier told BBC News Online. "The last 20 have been a little drier, but well within the average range."
Alcan, which employs 53,000 people in 37 countries, last week announced the closure of its aluminium foil plant near Newport in Wales in June 2001, with the loss of 220 jobs. The firm, which will retain sheet metal operations at the site, blamed the closure on competition from Russia, China and Continental Europe, and the strength of sterling against the euro.
28) FLOODS WILL DOUBLE IN OUR CHILDREN'S LIFETIME
Times of London
December 14 2000
A DOZEN serious floods a year could become the norm in Britain as a result of global warming, an expert with the Environment Agency said yesterday. His warning was given as academics and insurers urged the Government to set up a national disaster agency to deal with the threat to lives and property from hazards such as floods and storms. Professor Brian Lee of Ports-mouth University said: "We in Britain are almost unique in the world in not having a government body charged with dealing with this issue." Global warming forecasts meant that there would be more rain, higher wind speeds and other weather-related impacts on Britain as the century progressed.
Jim Haywood, head of the Environment Agency's National Flood Warning Centre at Frimley, Surrey, said that a century ago the number of serious floods had been running at three a year on average. "We are now looking at about six serious floods each year, that sort of figure. The impact of climate change, the impact of existing and future development on the flood plain, and the fact that the land is tilting in the South East mean that figure is likely to increase."
He said that, based on forecasts from the Meteorological Office's Hadley Centre, the agency estimated that within 50 to 100 years the figure will have doubled to 12 serious floods a year. "The probability of a serious flood happening in any year could be double or more," he added.
Professor Lee, speaking at a meeting at the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: "A lot of people, politicians, think that is beyond their lifetime and certainly beyond the sphere of their political office. But child-ren born this year will live to be influenced by these events." The Government was not taking the threat seriously enough. "It is moving too slowly," he said. Scientists calculate that an average 10 per cent increase in wind speeds can lead to a doubling of structural damage, such as roofs being blown off. The professor said that urgent action was needed to boost building codes so that structures such as homes, bridges and coastal defences were stronger.
"The cost of building stronger things now is far cheaper than the consequences," he said. "The cost of 10 per cent more reinforced concrete in a new building is very small in comparison to the cost of the damage that may occur and someone losing their business for six weeks." Professor Lee is a member of the UK Natural Disaster Reduction Committee, a group of researchers that he described as "enthusiastic professionals". He said that a national government disaster reduction body would help to bring a greater sense of urgency home to ministers.
The Environment Agency was handling flood warnings and defences, but a lot of the responsibility was devolved to local authorities. "There is no national agency responsible for this. There certainly are in most other countries, like Germany, France and Italy," he added. Mr Haywood said that the Environment Agency could not support calls for a national body, because this was his organisation's role and it would add another tier of bureaucracy.
He said that he could also not agree with those who suggest that the current floods were a national disaster: they were a personal disaster for those 7,500 householders who had suffered flooding over recent weeks. However, this was only a fraction of the 400,000 houses potentially at risk from floods. "I do not believe what is happening at the moment in terms of flooding constitutes a disaster," he said. "It is clearly a serious situation. For individuals and small communities, it clearly is a disaster, but we want to avoid doom and gloom and saying the sky is falling in." Since 1998, the Environment Agen cy had introduced better warning systems.
29) GLOBAL WARMING TREND STRONGER THAN HAD BEEN THOUGHT
Removing the masking effects of volcanic eruptions and El Niño events from the global mean temperature record reveals a more gradual and yet stronger global warming trend over the last century, according to a new analysis by Tom Wigley, a climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The analysis supports scientists' claim that human activity is influencing the earth's climate. The findings are published in the December 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation.
"Once the volcanic and El Niño influences have been removed," says Wigley, "the overall record is more consistent with our current knowledge, which suggests that both natural and anthropogenic influences on climate are important and that anthropogenic influences have become more substantial in recent decades." Volcanic emissions cool the planet by blocking sunlight, while El Niño events raise global temperatures through warmer ocean waters. Sometimes the two occur simultaneously, muddying evidence of any underlying warming trend. During the past two decades, two massive volcanic eruptions -- El Chichón in April 1982 and Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991 -- coincided with significant El Niños, making trend detection more difficult.
Wigley quantified the effects of major volcanic eruptions and El Niño episodes on global mean temperatures. Overall, he found the cooling effect from sun-blocking volcanic emissions was slightly stronger than the warming effect of the coincident El Niños. He then removed both from the temperature record to reveal an intensified, step-like warming trend over the past century. In the raw temperature record -- not adjusted for the influence of volcanic eruptions and El Niño events -- the warming trend during the past two decades is similar in intensity to an earlier warming (1910 to 1940). Several decades of slight cooling separate the two warm periods.
However, "When ENSO and volcanic effects are removed," writes Wigley, "the recent warming trend increases to 0.25 degree Celsius [from 0.18 degree C] per decade and becomes highly significant compared to the earlier period." (ENSO stands for El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a term that describes interannual changes in both sea surface temperatures and atmospheric pressure across the Pacific basin.) The overall result is a long-term warming trend that intensifies by century's end, in sync with increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. Using the raw data, greenhouse skeptics have claimed that the earlier warming's similarity to the later one suggests that both were due to natural variations rather than human activity.
Wigley also quantified and removed the warming influence of the 1997-98 El Niño from the temperature record of the past decade. He found that of the 16 months in 1997-98 announced by the National Climatic Data Center as record breakers, at least six can be attributed to El Niño rather than to a longer-term global warming. "The sequence is still unusual, but no more unusual than 1990-91, when an equal number of records occurred in the ENSO-adjusted data," writes Wigley. Nevertheless, the past decade's warmth is striking in the overall record. NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences.
30) AS RAINS COME, MOZAMBIQUE BRACES FOR MORE FLOODING CNN
December 15, 2000
XAI XAI, Mozambique (AP) -- With months of furious labor, the main road to Xai Xai that washed away in massive floods earlier this year was finally reopened. A month later, it is already in danger again. The rains that began several weeks ago have eaten into the red earthen dams that support much of the road as it spans the Limpopo River. Deep crevices creep within two feet of the thin layer of asphalt. Sandbags reinforcing the dirt have burst open.
Incomplete reconstruction efforts like that one in a region still saturated with floodwater have left officials and Mozambique residents fearing more damaging floods this rainy season -- though few are predicting another cataclysm. "All the indicators are that we're in for another bad time," said Mark Wilson, head of the local delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Earlier this year, a series of cyclones caused rivers to flood, flattening much of southern and central Mozambique, killing 700 people, destroying tens of thousands of homes and ravaging the farmland many here rely on for survival.
No one is predicting rainfall anywhere near that level now. Forecasts for this rainy season, which runs through March, call for average or slightly above average rainfall. But that might be enough to send the rivers over their banks again. Despite the seven-month dry season, the ground remains saturated with water. Several large lakes created by the flood -- including one 12 miles long -- have yet to dry up. "We shouldn't have any rain for the next two years in order to get rid of all this water," said Silvano Langa, director of the National Disasters Management Institute.
But the rains have already started.
Last month, nine people were killed in renewed flooding after a fierce storm. And intense rainfall across the border in South Africa has swollen rivers there. "Most of the (South African) dams are almost at full capacity at the moment," Langa said. "Any reasonable rainfall will mean that they will be releasing the water."
Releasing it into Mozambique.
After the floods in February and March, the government and international aid agencies scrambled to rebuild before the new rainy season started in November. But many of those projects could take as long as two years to complete, leaving the region especially vulnerable. "The infrastructure has been patched back together, it's had emergency work, but there has not been sufficient time to finish work on roads, bridges, dams and dikes," said Cynthia Rozell, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Mozambique.
The series of dikes that protected the heavily damaged city of Xai Xai, about 125 miles north of Maputo, and the canals and dam that protect Chokwe, 80 miles upstream from Xai Xai, were swept away or broken in the floods. They have been replaced temporarily by earthworks likely to be worn down in any further flooding. In Xai Xai, people who climbed trees to escape the floods have tried to return to normal life. The town square has been spruced up with newly planted flowers and newly painted green benches. A bride and groom wander through with a wedding photographer. But the scars remain as fresh here as the water stains that reach up to 15 feet on some buildings.
Manuel Nvunga's cane house was swept away in the floods. Nvunga, 55, and his mother tried to flee through deep water, but she did not know how to swim and drowned. Precida Makhave, 37, fled her house with her husband and four children. When they returned in June, it was gone, along with their pots, blankets and bed. "I lost everything that was in the house, so now I have nothing," she said. Nvunga, who has rebuilt his house on higher ground, and Makhave, who is still building hers, both fear the new rains. They are luckier than some.
Christina Chivure, like about 10,000 other displaced Mozambicans, still lives in a tent she was given as emergency shelter after her entire town of Macaratane was destroyed and relocated two miles away. One of her five children died of malaria after the flooding, and she worries that spending the rainy season in a tent will leave her other children vulnerable. "I'm very scared, because the tents are not in good condition," she said. Disaster officials and aid workers have scrambled to prepare for possible flooding. They have sent boats to vulnerable areas and distributed thousands of kits with plastic sheeting for temporary shelter. They are establishing a radio network to maintain contact with villages that lose roads and telephones. "We wouldn't want to be alarmist, but it's going to be a difficult six months," Wilson said.
ON THE WEB
31) "NATURE REPORT"--CO2 AND GLOBAL CLIMATE: IS HISTORY BUNK?
According to a new report in Nature, the consensus that atmospheric carbon dioxide has been the driving force in global climate change is brought into question by a new reconstruction of tropical sea surface temperatures throughout the past 540 million years. Is it that currently accepted historic reconstructions of past carbon dioxide concentrations are unreliable, or are current climate simulations calibrated such that they give unreliable 'predictions' for what happened to past climate? The new results come from a database of oxygen isotope concentrations in calcite and aragonite shells which indicate that large oscillations in tropical sea surface temperature were in phase with the coming and going of ice ages, but at odds with predictions based on carbon dioxide as the cause. For more information see: http://www.nature.com/nature/links/001207/001207-2.html
32) WORLD COAL INSTITUTE "GOOD NEWS FROM COAL" INITIATIVE
The World Coal Institute has released its Good News from Coal initiative, which through its series of ten Case Studies, provides a sample of stories that demonstrate the efficiency and environmental benefits of 'new coal' through the application of technology and innovation. Examples include the bagasse and coal partnership at Belle Vue Power Plant in Mauritius, which generates electricity to the community with a reduced net greenhouse gas (GHG) impact and the Schwarze Pumpe Power Station in Germany, the world's largest supercritical lignite-fired steam power station. For more information see: http://www.wci-coal.com/goodnews.htm
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
33) CLIMATE OF CHANGE
Times of India
The recent UN summit on global warming at the Hague was convened to carry forward the spirit of the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change. The meeting of 185 countries however ended on an acrimonious note, leaving crucial global warming issues unresolved, to be taken up at another meeting six months later. After years of scepticism about the theory of global warming, increasing scientific evidence shows that our planet is indeed getting heated up on account of human-induced factors like carbon emissions and `dirty' industrial technology. The earth in the normal course releases heat at the same rate at which it absorbs energy from the sun - but our actions since the industrial revolution have upset this balance. The main culprit? The greenhouse effect which happens when the atmosphere absorbs carbon emissions (CO2) released by burning fossil fuels, methane and nitrous oxide from agricultural processes and halocarbons like CFCs released through industrial processes. At Kyoto three years ago, it was unanimously agreed that GHG emissions must be cut down so that by 2008-12, emission levels fall five per cent below that which prevailed in 1990. Since arbitrary and abrupt cutting down of emissions would disrupt the economies of production, the treaty permitted international trading of emissions rights and allowed concessions for establishing `carbon sinks' or wooded forests that would help offset the effect of emissions. However, whether it is the advanced countries who are emitting these gases or the less- developed ones, the total emission level into the earth's atmosphere is what really counts in the final assessment.
Yet, there is hope. More and more people around the world are refusing to buy goods that are produced with `dirty' technology. Businesses will have to sit up and take notice. That big businesses have to finally bow down to consumer demand is increasingly evident in the self-corrective action being taken by petroleum and chemical giants, worldwide. Green activists' agendas and public awareness campaigns have indeed made us more sensitive to ecology-related issues. More effective than any awareness campaign or public protests has been what each one of us has now begun to experience first-hand. No metro resident will ever dispute the fact that carbon emissions and polluting industries have played havoc with individual health; pollution-induced smog and fog have thrown ground and air traffic into disarray, compromising safety and posing great inconvenience to the travelling public.
Individual initiative and public consciousness of what is good for us has almost always resulted in positive action. Whether it is saying `no' to firecrackers manufactured with the help of child labour or in shunning the use of toxic plastic bags, the movement to usher in eco-friendly industrial practices has always been effective largely on account of public action rather than governmental regulation. That is why the demand for labelling of products - whether to denote use of clean technology or to indicate if foodstuff has been genetically modified - is grabbing the attention of business houses who are market-savvy. The answer is: Proactive public initiative rather than passive dependence on `official' action; change in mindsets rather than `controls' to `save' us from any disaster - be it global warming, over- population, industrial pollution or proliferation of toxic wastes.
34) EUROPE'S AIR OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
December 18 2000
by William Reilly
The cream pie thrown in the face of Frank Loy, head of the US delegation to the conference in The Hague on the Kyoto Protocol, epitomised Europeans' scorn for the US position. For more than a decade, the US has functioned as designated flak catcher at international gatherings on climate change
the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases shamelessly defending its continuing preferences for large houses, ice-cold air-conditioning, sport utility vehicles and cheap petrol.
I recall vividly the Dutch environment minister in 1992 committing his government to substantial reductions in greenhouse gases over the following 10 years and ridiculing the US for its unwillingness even to commit to keep its emissions constant. During the ensuing 10 years, the emissions of both the Netherlands and the US increased.
That experience should have led to a certain humility, or at least caution, regarding the interplay of economic growth, energy efficiency opportunities and political realities. But the Europeans continue to treat the climate issue as a peculiarly American problem. That is why the conference at The Hague was unsuccessful. And that is why EU ministers who met in Brussels yesterday to negotiate climate change should learn the lessons from The Hague before progress can be made. The EU's delegates to The Hague conference harboured deep reservations about two US proposals that would reduce the economic costs of Americans' compliance with its Kyoto commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 7 per cent by 2010. The first would allow the US to purchase carbon tonnage reductions on a world market, seeking out the cheapest cuts wherever they happened to be available. The second proposal would take into account US forests' and farmlands' capacity to absorb carbon emissions, thereby reducing the size of cuts that must be made.
The fear seems to be that Americans will not seriously alter their lifestyle: that they will experience no pain as the world comes to grips with climate change. The reality is that Americans are not even close to changing their lifestyles. If they were, half the vehicles sold last year would not have been of the sport utility kind.
What the US government is trying to do, therefore, is formulate an initial position that will allow the US to continue to play a constructive role - to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, begin to take moderate measures, continue to support and disseminate scientific research, encourage developing countries to examine the issue and gradually lead American public opinion on the matter. Why, with the US Senate having passed a unanimous resolution disavowing the Kyoto Protocol - because of its omission of any emission reduction obligations on the part of China, India, Brazil and other developing nations - would the Europeans not reconsider their efforts to isolate and shame the US into accepting more pain? And how could Europe have persisted in its strategy even as Republicans, with their well known opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, were poised to take the White House?
Two explanations have gained currency in recent days. The first is that substantial greenhouse gas reductions are being pursued by Europe as a means of reducing the economic competitiveness of the industrial world's most energy intensive economy. A second, less conspiratorial explanation for Europe's unsophisticated approach to US realities is that the EU is playing to its Green parties, deflecting environmentalists' demands on to a recalcitrant US.
If the US is to be enlisted seriously in the effort to prevent the planet from overheating, the Europeans and their pressure group allies will have to find a way to make the same concessions and show the same sophistication towards US realities as they have shown among EU member states. Consider what the Europeans are allowing themselves: Germany is taking credit for shutting down East Germany's obsolete industries. France is not obliged to make sharp cuts in greenhouse gases because it gets most of its electricity from nuclear energy; Europe's Greens seem content to let France have a nuclear pass, despite their abhorrence of nuclear power. And the UK, long allied with the US, Canada and Australia on the issue when the UK was dependent on coal, suddenly became a passionate proponent of the Kyoto targets as its economy shifted, for wholly economic reasons, to natural gas.
In short, Europeans should be as sensitive and realistic in relating to the US on climate change as they have been with each other. Measure the efficacy of a formula not by how much pain it inflicts but by how well it meshes with economic and political realities. Then, and only then, nudge it forward in the run-up to the Kyoto deadlines a decade away.
The writer is former administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and led the US delegation to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro
35) CLINTON'S GLOBAL WARMING TIME BOMB
December 18, 2000
by Patrick J. Michaels
Now that the election is finally over, the Clinton administration has a last chance to do some real damage to George W. Bush's economy. President Clinton believes passionately that part of his legacy will be to put in place a mechanism that will forever mire America in the United Nations' infamous Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Last month, the signatories met at The Hague, where Mr. Clinton proposed that we meet almost 90 percent of our obligations to reduce net emissions of major greenhouse gases by cutting energy use. Originally, the United States had proposed to lock up 50 percent of such emissions through trees and soil management - a relatively inexpensive proposition - but the European Union insists on emissions reductions, a course that will cause us grave economic harm.
So we caved all the way to a 90 percent reduction, and the EU still said no, we need more. Then, earlier this month, the Clinton administration tried again in a closed-door meeting in Ottawa, Canada. Still no agreement. Finally, on Dec. 13, Norway's Environment Ministry invited everyone to Oslo - before Christmas - for a third try. This will be the last go-round, and Mr. Clinton has every incentive to give away the store. The result is a twofold legacy - being the first U.S. leader to commit to major reductions in greenhouse gases, and saddling the incoming president with a massive political and economic burden that will have absolutely no detectable effect on global weather and climate.
The political gains are obvious Mr. Bush either gets clobbered in 2004 or the Republicans suffer in 2008. While Kyoto agreements go into force in 2008, major taxes and infrastructural changes have to begin long before then to meet these massive reductions in energy use. First, say goodbye to affordable electricity. Currently 56 percent of our juice is produced by burning coal, but because it emits a bit more greenhouse gas per unit of energy than natural gas (which costs more), well, coal has gotta go. California, as usual, is leading the way here. Thanks to a moratorium on production of fossil fuel power plants, California is out of power. It is a sad day when our Grinch-green friends compel us to turn off the Christmas lights, but that is the case right now in Los Angeles.
Second, we hope you like your new hybrid automobile. The technology is really cool. My Honda Insight really does get 70 miles per gallon on a good day, and it is an engineering marvel. The only problem is that Honda is losing at least $8,000 per car, and the company only sold 3,502 through November. It seats two comfortably. So either we are going to have to pay about 50 percent more for a mid-range hybrid car, or we are all going to have to make it up in taxes to subsidize those who do buy them. And it might require quite a subsidy, too. Insight sales in November, at 291 units, were down 40 percent from August, despite giveaway prices. Third, the $2-a-gallon gas of spring 2000 will be just a fond memory, thanks to the taxes required to discourage enough consumption to make you buy that subsidized hybrid. High gas prices, tax-mandated technology and dark Christmas trees are not the correlates of political popularity. But that is exactly where Mr. Clinton could force Mr. Bush to go if he gives away the store in Oslo.
All this for an agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, that is not the law of the land. It hasn't been ratified by the Senate, and it stands little chance. And even if it were in force, the Clinton administration's own scientists say it would only change global temperature by seven hundredths of a degree in 50 years. That's too small to measure. There will almost certainly be some weather disaster during the Bush administration. Right now, the insured value of property along the East Coast is almost equal to our annual gross domestic product. We haven't had a Category 5 hurricane hit since 1969. Even a lower Category 4, well-aimed, will cause unimaginable destruction. Federal scientist Christopher Landsea (the most appropriately named hurricanologist in the world) has shown that even this class of hurricane, if it hit Miami/Fort Lauderdale, would be good for about $70 billion. On the high end, $100 billion from a Category 5 isn't out of the question. People will blame global warming rather than admit it is pretty stupid to sink one's life savings in a sand dune on a hurricane-prone beach.
In George Bush Sr.'s administration, the Senate was adamantly opposed to a different climate treaty - the Montreal Protocol to ban chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) refrigerants. NASA scientist Bob Watson - now the powerful head of the U.N.'s Panel on Climate Change - announced an imminent ozone hole over North America, and five days later, the Senate passed a ban on CFCs, 99-to-1. A senator by the name of Al Gore whipped up the troops with an impassioned speech about an ozone hole over Kennebunkport, Maine, former President Bush's home. Never mind that the predicted disaster never happened. NASA had made a measurement error. But Bob and his friend Al had correctly calculated the political trajectory that would bring in the ban on CFCs. So it can happen, and next week in Oslo the Clinton administration may sow the seeds that trash the future of George W. Bush.
Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of "The Satanic Gases" (Cato Institute, 2000).
36) THAT SINKING FEELING
By Henrylito D. Tacio
NEW YORK-More than a decade ago, Wilson Vailoces planted red mangrove trees on the tidal flats in front of his house. He lives just north of Bais Bay on the southeast coast of Negros. Today, with the help of the marine laboratory of the nearby Silliman University in Dumaguete City and support from his neighbors, lush mangrove forests now cover 100 hectares of coastal land in the municipality of Bindoy. By the late 1990s, over 100,000 trees had been planted - one-tenth of them by Vailoces himself. The story of Vailoces is featured in the recent issue of Worldwatch, published by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute. It is written by Donald Hinrichsen, an award-winning writer and UN consultant. His latest book, Coastal Waters of the World: Trends, Threats and Strategies, is printed by Island Press in 1998.
"Vailoces didn't stop with mangroves," Hinrichsen, now with the UN Population Fund as program officer, reports. "He also built and sank 1,000 artificial reefs made from bamboo, tires, or concrete. Designed as large pyramids, they provide excellent cover for a host of marine life." Despite all these efforts, problems continue to exist. Mangroves were still flooded and coral reefs were facing a slow death. He traced these problems to subsistence upland farmers who were eking a living from the highly unstable soils. So, he asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to encourage the farmers to surround their fields with trees, which would help stabilize the slopes thereby controlling erosion and curbing siltation.
"Great damage had been done to coastal fisheries from landslides and siltation due to deforestation in the hills," Vailoces was quoted as saying. "Coral reefs were buried and mangroves inundated. But we managed to turn that situation around." Vailoces, who was featured in Reader's Digest's "Heroes for Today," was wrong. "Unfortunately, the mangroves have not continued their seaward march. They are expanding laterally up the coast, but not towards the sea," he observes. "We simply never anticipated the effects of sea level rise caused by global climate change."
The story of Vailoces came into my mind while reading a recent report stating that the Philippines, including other small islands in the world, is in danger of sinking if global warming persists. The report, quoting Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles, said that the sinking of islands and low-lying coastal communities would soon take place if global warming will worsen. "Accompanying this are disastrous environmental changes, such as rising sea levels and temperatures, tropical storms, cyclones, thermal expansion and ice melting," the DENR chief said.The scientific community generally accepts that heat-trapping gases- mostly carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and methane-have been building up in the lower atmosphere, trapping rising heat from the sun and causing temperatures on the earth's surface to rise.
Since 1950, annual worldwide carbon emissions have increased fourfold, reaching 6.3 billion tons in 1997. Human activities are chiefly responsible for the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Studies show that if current trends continue, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would double during this century. One indication of global warming is that over the past 40 years, the ocean surface (the top 1,000 feet) has warmed an average of half a degree Celsius. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported that tropical waters in the Northern Atmosphere have been warming up even faster-in fact, 10 times faster than the measured global rate-because tropical oceans retain heat more readily than other areas.
Studies project that by 2100, the earth's surface temperature could increase between 1.0 and 3.5 degrees Celsius. If the highest projection were reached, Greenland's ice sheet probably would melt. As a consequence, the global sea level gradually would rise as much as seven meters. Computer models project that this rise in sea level would take more than a millennium. Some climatologists, however, think that sea levels could rise much faster, pointing to dramatic shrinkage of the Arctic ice cap over the past 30 years.
Even a rise of one meter in sea level-which could occur by 2080, according to computer models-would inundate many low-lying coastal areas around the world. For instance, much of the Nile River Delta of Egypt would disappear. A one-meter rise in global sea levels also would inundate close to 20 percent of the coastline of Bangladesh and displace millions of people. The sea level rise would cause underground saltwater intrusion in many cities near coastal areas. Most of Manila's wells, for instance, might very well turn too saline to use at all if the sea level rises by a meter or so. "That would force government officials to spend billions of dollars that the Philippines doesn't have on desalination plants," observes Hinrichsen. "The money would have to be borrowed from abroad, saddling the country with more foreign debt."
In like manner, sea level rise is going to be a nightmare in many coastal cities. Take the case of Metro Manila. Its system is so antiquated that every year during the monsoon rains, scores of people drown in low-lying areas because the storm drains cannot handle the tremendous volume of water dumped on the city over the course of a few hours. "We are overwhelmed right now," shuddered one city water manager. "I can't imagine what would happen if the sea rises by a meter. Hundreds would drown during the rainy season and we would be faced with massive capital investments in new, bigger pumping stations and storm drain systems."?
37) CAPPING CARBON
Christian Science Monitor
December 14, 2000
Over vast stretches of geologic time, earth has evolved ways to swap its treasure trove of carbon among various "accounts": the atmosphere, oceans, land surfaces - and even hoarded deep beneath its crust. Yet since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, humans have fueled their economies by drawing coal, oil, and natural gas from under the planet's mattress and burning them - boosting the rate at which carbon dioxide builds in the atmosphere and warms it. Now, scientists and engineers are looking for ways to reverse the process and take carbon dioxide from fossil fuels out of atmospheric circulation. Ideas range from "fertilizing" vast patches of the ocean's surface so CO2-gobbling algae will grow faster to pumping the gas into underground rock formations or deep beneath the ocean.
The questions they hope to answer: Will these work? Will these remedies be cost-effective? And will they do more environmental harm than good? "There is nothing wonderful about carbon sequestration," acknowledges Robert Socolow, a Princeton University engineering professor who specializes in environmental technology. But in battling climate change "there is no winner- take-all option. We'll need a mix of energy systems indefinitely at least through the 21st century."
This mix includes three broad paths toward reducing what a growing number of scientists see as humanity's impact on climate: using energy more efficiently; using energy sources that don't emit large quantities of carbon dioxide; and using fossil fuels, but keeping their carbon out of the atmosphere. Of the three, sequestration represents "the new kid on the block," says Howard Herzog, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Laboratory and co-author, along with Dr. Socolow, of a 1999 US Department of Energy report on sequestration research.
The notion of sequestering or managing carbon from fossil fuels raises eyebrows among some environmental groups. "The general problem we have is that this is an excuse to keep using fossil fuels," says Kert Davies, with the Greenpeace USA climate campaign. In some cases, he acknowledges, separating carbon could be beneficial - for example, separating carbon from natural gas to leave hydrogen as a fuel, then pumping the carbon back underground as CO2. This could help provide a transition from a carbon economy to a hydrogen economy. In other cases, he continues, carbon management "only derails us from our main course of action, shifting to a fossil-fuel-free world." Yet to others, the argument for stripping carbon from fuels or from smokestack emissions is compelling.
David Wallace, who focuses on energy research and development at the International Energy Agency in Paris, notes that the carbon- reduction task the world faces is enormous. To "stabilize CO2 concentrations at twice their pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, developed countries will have to reduce their emissions to around half of the 1990 levels, or even lower," he concludes. Storing carbon dioxide from power plants alone, he continues, could provide large and fast reductions on CO2 emissions and ease the transition from fossil fuels to alternative sources of energy. Indeed, some economists note that for countries such as India and China, coal may be the most easily obtained and cheapest fuel available for decades to come. Sequestration technologies may be one way to minimize these nations' CO2 emissions.
Particularly since 1997, when a protocol for taking the first steps toward cutting CO2 emissions emerged from a United Nations conference in Kyoto, government and private funding for sequestration research has grown. The US Department of Energy, for example, has put $15 million into sequestration research during the past two fiscal years and will spend another $18.8 million in fiscal 2001, according to DOE spokesman Robert Porter.
One DOE grant, announced on Monday, will underwrite two-thirds of the cost of research that will examine the role algae can play in turning CO2 from power plants into a mineral: calcium carbonate. Researchers at the California State University at San Marcos are spearheading the one-year, $300,000 project. Meanwhile, in late October, Princeton announced that it will receive $20 million in combined contributions from Ford Motor Co. and BP-Amoco to study sequestration technologies. Last July, seven companies, including BP and Ford, launched an MIT-based consortium with a similar goal. Researchers in and out of government are focusing on several possible approaches to clean up fossil fuels' act.
On the scale of an individual power plant, Shell Hydrogen, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell, envisions using the hydrogen in natural gas to generate electricity. Special fuel cells mix the gas with air, generate electricity, and give off water and CO2 as byproducts. The CO2 would be pumped back into underground rock formations. Because the fuel cells operate at high temperatures, their heat can be used to boil water to drive steam turbines for additional electricity. Shell estimates that the fuel cells required could be commercially available in about five years. Initial estimates suggest that electricity from this type of facility would be half again as expensive as "dirty" power, but cheaper than electricity generated by wind-driven generators or solar cells.
Princeton's Socolow adds that separating the carbon and hydrogen in natural gas also could be used as a source of hydrogen for fuel cells as they become more abundant in other applications. Potentially more controversial, however, are several large-scale approaches to getting rid of carbon after fuel is burned. One notion involves adding iron to the ocean surface to "feed" phytoplankton, which are said to carry out nearly half of all the photosynthesis on earth. During photosynthesis, the plankton absorb carbon dioxide. Some researchers have suggested that these organisms could be used to soak up CO2. Then when they die, they would drift to the sea floor, sequestering the carbon they absorbed.
Earlier this fall, an international team of researchers led by Philip Boyd of New Zealand's University of Otago reported in the journal Nature that they had successfully "fertilized" a five-mile patch of the southern ocean some 1,200 miles southwest of Tasmania. The effort succeeded in demonstrating the first part of the proposition; the plankton accumulated 600 to 3,000 tons of carbon. The researchers noted, however, they had no evidence that any of the carbon was sent to Davie Jones's locker.
Sallie Chisholm, with MIT's civil and environmental engineering and biology departments, notes that while fertilizing is "seductive in its simplicity," the potential for unintended consequences is enormous. She adds that scientists probably wouldn't recognize any damage to marine ecosystems until it was too late to stop the changes. An industrial-scale experiment already is under way in the North Sea, where since 1996, a Norwegian oil platform has pumped nearly 4 million tons of carbon dioxide back into a sandstone formation that lies about a mile below the sea floor. Results are being used to develop techniques that will help evaluate other potential storage sites as well as monitor a reservoir's performance over time.
And next year, a research team that includes MIT's Dr. Herzog plans to pump CO2 into the deep ocean off Hawaii. The goal is to test the feasibility of sending the greenhouse gas directly to the ocean floor, where the intense pressure either will capture it or allow it to diffuse into the surrounding water very slowly. The researchers are keenly interested not only in monitoring the fate of the plume, but also in seeing what effect the CO2 has on the water's acidity and on marine life at depth.
One of the biggest unknowns, however, remains public acceptance of sequestration approaches. Unlike another thorny waste problem - radioactive waste from nuclear power plants - dealing with CO2 does allow for what Socolow calls the concept of "acceptable leakage." "If some CO2 leaks as you sequester it, maybe a couple of percent of what you sequester, is that a big deal? Suppose we know the carbon dioxide will return to the atmosphere eventually, but at that time the world is past the fossil-fuel era, so instead of quadrupling CO2 concentrations in the 22nd century, they slowly peak over a much longer period of time. Are we ahead of the game?" That, he says, is one of the questions the public will have to wrestle with as it decides which approaches to slowing climate change it will accept.
38) GET REAL ON WARMING
December 11, 2000
With businesses addressing climate change, the U.S. has no excuse for further delays. The table was set for a cultural collision: At one end sat the Europeans, accustomed to high taxes and Green Party politics, wanting significant action now. At the other, Third World countries, opposing barriers to economic development but knowing doomsday scenarios hit them hardest. And somewhere in the middle, the world's only superpower, seemingly determined to get credit for doing as little as possible. It's no wonder international talks on global warming failed last month in the Hague. Yet these are the hurdles that must be cleared as environmental problems are necessarily tackled globally, rather than locally.
The conference was supposed to write the rules to carry out the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which set ambitious goals for reducing the buildup of heat-trapping chemicals caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. Behind-the-scenes talks continue, and there's hope of ironing out differences in May in Bonn, Germany. In the meantime, the United States can't use the international stalemate as an excuse to continue to do nothing. Since Kyoto, other countries have actively reduced greenhouse emissions, which are believed to be contributing to rapid climate change. In the United States, emissions have actually risen. With only 4 percent of the world's population, the United States emits 24 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
It's time to put this 800-pound gorilla on Slim Fast.Global- climate science is still in its infancy, but the balance of evidence is clear. Unless current trends are reversed, the Earth's average temperature will rise between 6 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years - and human behavior will be one of the reasons. No one can predict the exact impact, but that kind of change could provoke extreme storms, melt polar ice, elevate sea levels and inundate coastal areas.
"It is not a question of whether the Earth's climate will change, but rather by how much, how fast and where," says Robert T. Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The United States must stop stalling. Now's the time because of a climate change of another sort: U.S. industry is warming to action. After the Kyoto meeting, skeptics such as the Global Climate Coalition, a U.S. industrial lobby, launched misleading but effective public relations campaigns disputing the science of global warming and exaggerating the economic consequences of dealing with it. Happily, their influence is waning.
Many businesses, particularly multinationals, now embrace the science. They see mandates coming, and they want a seat at the table. Companies like Ford, BP Amoco, Texaco, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors are defecting to groups that promote market-based solutions, such as Environmental Trust or Pew's Business Environmental Leadership Council. They're experimenting with initiatives like emissons credits, by which a company can offset pollution at an older plant by building a new facility elsewhere that exceeds the rules and get credits for restoring or preserving forests. They're developing cleaner, more energy-efficient technology. Shell International and Enron, for example, are investing in wind turbines and BP Amoco in solar power.
They're proving, once again, that economic health and environmental consciousness aren't mutually exclusive. DuPont has cut emissions by 50 percent since 1990 without destroying the bottom line. First National Bank of Omaha spent $3.4 million on a fuel-cell system because it estimates that an electrical blackout lasting just an hour could cost nearly twice that in lost business. Ford Motor Co. hired a "eco-architect" to retrofit its Rouge Complex near Detroit, which once produced Model A's. The roof will be covered with plants that can absorb rain and mop up carbon dioxide from chimneys. Ford hopes for savings in water treatment, heating and cooling.
Congress and the next president must follow industry's lead and take global warming seriously. They should ensure steady funding to further the science. They should raise vehicle fuel standards, phase out dirty buses and give incentives for developing energy- efficient hybrids. They should strengthen the rules for coal-fired power plants and reward innovation in green power. Internationally, they should negotiate compromises to make the Kyoto protocol workable worldwide. Global warming is real. It's time the United States joined efforts to slow it down.
39) TO CUT GAS EMISSIONS, JAPAN MUST PLAY THE GAME
December 14, 2000
By Keiji Takeuchi
On the final day of the climate-change talks in The Hague, I heard early in the morning that Britain and some other countries in the European Union had struck a deal with the United States. I thought the talks would, after all, end successfully. I was wrong. When the EU asked members for their agreement, France, Portugal and others objected because they said the proposed deal gave in too much to the United States and would work against fighting global warming. Time was up and the talks broke down. This is how the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6) collapsed. It failed to fix operational rules to cut greenhouse gases made under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
It is 10 years since international negotiations aimed at preventing global warming began in fall 1990, when the second world climate conference met in Geneva and agreed to begin negotiations to establish the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Later, research on global warming by scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) got under way. At the same time, work to build an international agreement started. Based on improved prediction technology, IPCC warns that global temperatures will rise by 1.5 to 1.6 degrees 100 years from now.
Meanwhile, international negotiations have also made steady progress. The framework convention was established in 1992, and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 set targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol incorporated such mechanisms as emissions trading-whereby countries falling short of their targets can strike deals in the form of trading credits with countries that reduce more than required-and flexible measures to allow countries to claim credits for planting forests to soak up carbon dioxide. Just as a worldwide fight against global warming was about to begin, to the disappointment of all concerned, COP6 failed to agree on concrete rules for implementing those plans.
The EU is pushing for domestic reduction of greenhouse gases. By contrast, the United States, Japan, Canada and Australia want to use flexible measures as much as possible. The conflict is clear. The disagreement, however, does not only reflect the difference in their policies. The EU was able to cut emissions after 1990, in part because of the advance in shifting energy from coal to natural gas and the termination of East Germany, whose energy efficiency was poor. Meanwhile, emissions in the United States and Japan increased sharply. While participants of the Geneva meeting jointly vowed to embark on measures to cut greenhouse gases, their positions have since changed.
The United States and Japan worry that unless they can make full use of the flexible mechanisms, they would not be able to meet the Kyoto Protocol targets. But if such measures are recognized, the basic principle of the protocol, which calls for a minimum 5- percent-average cut in developed nations, would be greatly undermined. This time, the EU refused to give in. How will it respond next year when it is pressed to decide whether to accept the change in the nature of the Kyoto Protocol?
What about Japan? One reason it failed to cut emissions is because it neglected to form domestic policy to follow the trend set by the negotiations. In 1990, Japan set an action plan aimed at ``stabilizing emissions by 2000,'' which was considered progressive at the time. However, the plan never got off the ground and ended up as nothing more than a piece of paper. Meanwhile, at home, Japan kept building nuclear power plants and tried to somehow tide over international negotiations by counting on an unrealistic policy of using forests to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.
With such an attitude and policy, Japan seems to lack a serious will to fight global warming. The way it tried to push developing nations to accept the flexible measures also discouraged their participation in emissions control. Developing countries, which are less responsible for global warming, insist all countries share a ``fair burden'' and demand that industrialized nations make sufficient efforts to cut emissions and provide them with aide. As it turns out, developing countries that have always been dissatisfied were again let down.
Now it is clear that Japan cannot place too much hope on forests to soak up greenhouse gases, it needs to re-examine its domestic policy. In doing so, it is urged to consider as many opinions as possible.
In particular, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are playing an increasingly significant role. About 50 people representing Japanese NGOs took part in The Hague conference. Each time a new proposal on forest absorption was presented, the Citizens' Alliance to Save the Atmosphere and the Earth did a complex calculation and publicized its projection on the impact. One NGO reported that conversion to natural gas and the introduction of ``green'' taxes on automobiles would allow Japan to meet its target with domestic reductions alone. However, Japanese NGOs are not powerful enough to have such constructive views or to have their reports heard by the government. Like U.S. and European NGOs, they are urged to broaden their memberships through environmental movements and develop a stronger voice.
The author is an Asahi Shimbun editorial writer.
40) GREENS NEED TO THINK AGAIN ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER
16 December 2000
We talk about the weather at the drop of a hat, but for once we are justified: it has been a remarkable autumn. More than that, an extreme one: the wettest ever, with heavier rainfall than any since records began in the 18th century. December, moreover, is likely to be one of the warmest on record, with strange consequences in the natural world, as we report today. Although neither of these facts can be directly linked to global warming, they do fit the predictions that scientists have been making about climate change, so now is perhaps a good time to think again about the options available to tackle this most pressing of worldwide problems.
The most publicised solution is the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But even if the negotiations to conclude it had not broken down so noisily in The Hague last month, the treaty would only have cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5.2 per cent below their 1990 levels. The scientific consensus is that, to achieve real climatic stability, the cut should be 60 per cent at least. Kyoto is not enough.
Clearly, we urgently need alternatives to burning fossil fuels to generate our electricity, which in Britain produces one-quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions. The green lobby says that renewable energy sources such as wind, waves and solar power can fulfil our needs: the total energy available from these sources is more than sufficient to power the world. But while that is true in total, the reality is that each is insufficient in some way. When the waves or the wind are too strong or too weak, you can't generate energy from them. And solar power is still too inefficient (as are the other two sources) to be the baseline for our national electricity grid.
In the month when the atomic reactor at Chernobyl is finally being shut down, 15 years after it exploded, it might seem perverse to raise the possibility that nuclear power might once again be the energy source of the future, as it seemed to be in the 1950s. Chernobyl was a symbol of everything that was wrong with the nuclear industry: inherently unsafe and capable of producing terrible damage over great distances. Yet nuclear power can deliver the baseline of our electricity supply without large CO2 emissions, and as the effects of climate change become more apparent, and more intolerable, the calls for nuclear expansion will grow. It may be anathema to the greens, but this is a debate that is going to come, and it would be as well to start addressing it now.
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