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Climate News - 22 October 2000

Source:  Copyright 2000, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Date:  October 22, 2000
Byline:  Chad Carpenter








8) POLAROID AGREES TO CUT CO2 (NY Times, Fox Marketwire)



































39) LET IT RAIN (The Guardian)

40) GORE'S GREENHOUSE GAS (San Francisco Chronicle)




Japan Times 20 October


Environment Agency chief Yoriko Kawaguchi has praised Japan's global warming measures and hinted at the need for more action by the United States going into international climate change negotiations next month in the Netherlands. Speaking Wednesday in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Kawaguchi focused on global warming issues. She played up domestic initiatives, contrasting the nation's emissions with those of the U.S., the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

"The Japanese government, in its efforts to bring the Kyoto conference to a successful close, opted for a domestically difficult policy to reduce emissions in what was a lean system to begin with," Kawaguchi said. Japan has committed to reducing emissions by 6 percent of 1990 emission levels under the Kyoto Protocol agreed at COP3 -- the Third Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change -- held in Kyoto in December 1997.

However, greenhouse gas emissions have jumped more than 5 percent based on 1990 levels, nearly doubling the amount of emissions Japan must cut to meet its goal. "The implications of attempting to reduce CO2 emissions are very different for a country like Japan, in which people already commute by public transportation, compared with countries in which people commute one person to a car," she added, providing a potential preview of Japan's negotiating stance at COP6, which will open in The Hague on Nov.

"If you look at the amount of CO2 emitted per dollar of GDP (gross domestic product), you will see that Japan releases less than half the ratio of the U.S. and lower than that of the U.K.," she added, ostensibly taking a shot at the U.S. and other car-dependent Western countries. "According to the media, the United States, which is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, is less than enthusiastic about ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which would bring great cause for alarm should it be true."

Kawaguchi also addressed the touchy topic of "sinks" -- carbon- absorbing entities such as forests and green areas. Japan has proposed sinks be liberally interpreted to account for 3.7 percent of the nation's emissions cuts. "There are those who call the inclusion of greenhouse gas-absorbing sinks, such as forests, merely an attempt to avoid undertaking other policies, but nothing could be farther from the truth," Kawaguchi said, adding that Japan has been "undertaking some very strenuous energy- conservation efforts domestically."

However, under the current government proposal, emissions from energy consumption would remain at 1990 levels and the harvesting and replanting of forests would account for more than half of Japan's emissions reductions.

Kawaguchi also emphasized the importance of getting developing countries to take action to fight climate change, a favorite mantra of the U.S., but added that it is incumbent upon industrialized countries to move first. "To be frank, the more I see of the progress of these negotiations, the more concerned I become. However, I think it is important to look at this in more of the spirit of a businessperson looking to turn what appears to be an obstacle into a business opportunity," Kawaguchi said, alluding to her former position as a managing director of Suntory Ltd. "We should try to work around our differences and reach compromises on the key issues that are unresolved regarding the (Kyoto) Protocol."


Oct 18 08:59:08 2000



Canada's environment ministers wrapped up a two-day meeting Tuesday with a new plan to cut greenhouse gases. But Ontario rejected the plan, infuriating environmentalists and other delegates. The strategy is a framework that sets broad objectives while leaving details to the provinces. The ministers agreed to study greenhouse gas emissions in all regions and then to decide how much each region must cut. Ontario Environment Minister Dan Newman angered the conference when he said his province is already doing a great job, and doesn't need to do any cutting. Newman claimed Ontario's air-quality programs are the strongest in Canada. He proposed that the rest of the country follow its standards, including ensuring cars are tuned up and methane gases from landfill sites are captured. "When you look at what Ontario is doing versus the rest of the country we are clearly the leaders on the issue of climate change," Newman said. "I have not had a single person say our plan is weak."

That was too much for some environmentalists. Newman was interrupted with shouts of, "Your plan is weak!" Environmentalist John Bennett of the Sierra Club marched from the back of the room to confront Newman. "I've been working on climate change in Ontario for 11 years and you've cut back on every program that existed when you came into office," Bennett said. The Ontario government has been criticized for drastic cuts to the environment ministry and for the use of coal-fired power plants. And a recent study showed smog kills 1,900 people per year in Ontario.

Greenhouse gases are produced by industry, electricity production and cars. Scientists believe the gases are heating up the planet. Most of the world's developed countries have agreed to make cuts. Their dilemma is to figure out how to cut emissions. The national plan includes promoting fuel effiency, public transportation and the possible underground storage of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas. Ministers believed the plan would go ahead even without Ontario's participation.

"We of course regret that Ontario has not endorsed the plan but the door is still open," said federal Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale. Environmentalists called the new plan just one small step, but more needs to be done. Canada plans to cut current emissions by about 20 per cent in a decade. It will be a big task and emissions are still rising. Developed countries set targets at a 1997 meeting in Kyoto, Japan for cutting emissions. International negotiations on implementing those targets begin in The Hague in November.

See also-

Globe and Mail:



October 19, 2000



Germany announced new measures yesterday to ensure it becomes one of the few industrial nations to fulfil promised cuts in the "greenhouse gases" blamed for global warming, and urged the rest of the world to follow. "We shall make sure Germany maintains its top position on climate protection," Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said, forecasting that Germany would meet its pledge of cutting emissions 21 percent from 1990 levels by 2010. Trittin urged governments meeting at a United Nations environment conference in the Hague next month to ensure they kept promises contained in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide.

"I think we must try to arrive at a binding protocol in the Hague which will lead to actual reductions in carbon dioxide emissions," said Trittin, a member of the environmentalist Greens party in the centre-left coalition government. A study released on Tuesday showed that the 15-nation European Union as a whole would fall far short of promises made in Kyoto to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important of six major planet-warming gases. Always more "green" than many of its neighbours, Germany has boosted its ecological credentials further since the 1998 election victory of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. It has begun to shut down its nuclear plants

albeit far more slowly than many Greens want - and has slapped unpopular new levies on polluting fuels in a bid to wean the world's third-largest economy off its dependence on oil.


Measures passed by Schroeder's cabinet yesterday included support for new forms of energy and energy-saving cars, a nationwide building insulation plan and the setting of voluntary targets for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Part of the cash for the programme came from 15 billion marks ($6.6 billion) that Berlin is ploughing back into the economy after a windfall from the recent auction of new-generation UMTS mobile telephone licences.

A German-Dutch study released on Tuesday forecast that the EU's CO2 emissions will increase by 7-8 percent of 1990 levels by 2010, compared to the eight percent reduction the EU agreed to in the binding 1997 U.N. Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The new measures announced by Berlin received modest approval from ecology lobbyists, who noted that other countries looked on Germany to set a lead on ecological measures. "It's vital that Germany pursues its role as a pioneer on energy policy," said Oliver Rapf, climate change expert at the Frankfurt office of the World Wide Fund For Nature. He criticised Schroeder for not having committed his government to prolonging the "eco-tax" programme after it ends in 2003, saying this sent "absolutely the wrong signal".

Despite huge protests from truckers, farmers and taxi drivers recently, Schroeder has insisted he will pursue a further rise in the eco-tax levies next year. Other ecologist groups attack Berlin for its continued huge state subsidies to the coal industry - worth some $3 billion this year - which they say prop up an outdated and environmentally damaging form of fuel.



October 16, 2000



A European Union summit on Friday put off any near-term moves to release strategic reserves of petroleum to combat high oil prices.

But leaders of the 15-nation bloc told their executive Commission to study any need for a coordinated intervention policy in the medium-term, EU officials said. Benchmark Brent crude prices have pushed up to near 10-year peaks on fears that escalating violence in the Middle East could disrupt oil supplies from the region. The EU summit, distracted by the broader Middle East concerns, spent only a short while discussing Commission plans for a more coordinated energy policy, including whether to follow the United States in releasing some nationally-held strategic reserves. EU member states are legally bound to hold 90 days of petroleum stocks but there is no existing mechanism for releasing them.

The Commission's proposals call for better relations with oil producing nations, including Russia, and a more diversified energy policy, with far greater energy efficiency as its main plank. The EU leaders tasked France with going to the Seventh International Energy Forum in Riyadh in mid-November to push for improved dialogue with oil producers and more stable oil prices. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin warned that overly high oil prices could curb global economic growth and said the EU wanted regular talks with producers to stablise prices.


The European Commission has been asked to come up with broad energy saving proposals to put to EU leaders at a summit in Gothenburg, Sweden next year, stressing the need for energy efficiency, especially in buildings. These proposals will also look at boosting research into new generation vehicles and substitute fuels. In a statement released in Brussels, environmental activist group Greenpeace said it feared that concerns over oil prices and energy supplies could be used to relaunch the debate over nuclear power.

"Greenpeace is calling on the European Commission to reject nuclear power as a solution to security of energy supplies and climate change and to implement the real solutions which are energy efficiency and renewable energy," said Mike Townsley, Greenpeace's nuclear expert.


Daily Express

22 October


THE floods that have ravaged Britain in recent weeks are the result of global warming, according to a senior government minister. In the first official admission that climate change was to blame, Environment Minister Michael Meacher said: "Anyone who lives in Kent and Sussex knows the truth of the matter." His candid acceptance of the "theory" long held by experts came during a question and answer session at the Countryside Conference at the Royal Geographical Society last week. He added: "Climate change is not an abstract construct happening in 100, 50 or 20 years. It's happening now."

Mr Meacher's linking of global warming and flooding comes at a sensitive time for the Government on green issues. Last week Tony Blair's own chief environmental adviser, Jonathon Porritt, accused him of breaking Labour election promises on green issues. This week Mr Blair will attempt to respond to Mr Porritt, chairman of the Government's Sustainable Development Commission, in a major speech to the Green Alliance on the environment, his first since becoming Prime Minister. Mr Blair will hit back by pledging £450million to make Britain greener. And next month Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who won plaudits for a deal on cutting greenhouse gases at a summit in Kyoto in late 1998, faces the difficult task of turning pledges into reality during further talks in the Hague.

Mr Meacher's flood admission has been borne out by a deluge of evidence on the world's changing weather and freak storms this year in Europe and elsewhere. In Britain, according to the Met Office, the temperature is now three degrees higher than it was 100 years ago. It rains less but the downpours are much heavier. This year, we had the sunniest January for 40 years, the wettest April since records began in 1766 and the wettest May since 1983. Seven of the 10 warmest years on record in the UK have occurred in the past decade and the 1988-97 period was the warmest in central England since records begin.

Scientists estimate that UK temperatures will be about 1.9 degrees Celsius higher by the 2020s. Yorkshire, normally one of England's wetter counties, suffered a severe drought in 1995 and 1996. But by 2020, according to scientists, it could have a climate similar to the drier Midlands. Scotland, meanwhile, is four times more likely to be threatened by floods. Since the Eighties there have been major outbreaks of freak weather all over the world.

In February this year, flooding in Mozambique left 100 dead and 300,000 homeless. And a heatwave in Chicago and the American mid- west in 1995 caused an estimated 830 deaths. Bangladesh is threatened by the sea level rising and already suffering regular monsoon flooding. But Sudan and Ethiopia are facing more droughts due to the rapid evaporation of moisture from plants, soils, lakes and reservoirs.



October 11


UTICA, N.Y. (Reuters/Zogby) - Americans favored Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush and running mate Dick Cheney's position on the global warming treaty, which placed tougher standards on U.S. industries and not on industries in developing nations. A Zogby poll revealed that Bush's position was approved by 45.5% of the likely voters, while 42.3% favored Democratic nominee Al Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman's position on the treaty. Another 4.5% chose neither position while 7.7% had no opinion.

Bush-Cheney's position was favored in the South (53%) and Central/Great Lakes region (46.2%), but the Gore-Lieberman position received approval in the East (51.2%) and West (48.4%). While 67.6% of Democrats agreed with Gore, 21.5% of them favored Bush's position, compared to 75.4% of the Republicans, who approved of Bush-Cheney opposition while only 15% of them favoring Gore's position. Independents were evenly divided between the two, 41.4%, Bush and 41%, Gore.

Large cities, small cities and suburbs favored Gore-Leiberman, 45.5%, 45.6% and 42.3%, but (55.7%) rural areas agreed with Bush's assessment. The poll of 1,002 nationwide has a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.

What we asked:

``Which candidate is more likely to get your support with regard to the global warming treaty? Bush-Cheney oppose the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty because it places tough standards on U.S. industries, and little or no restrictions on industries in developing nations that would cost Americans jobs and raise costs to consumers. Gore-Lieberman support the treaty, which required American businesses to meet environmental and human rights standards that may not be imposed on industries in developing nations.''


Washington Post

October 18, 2000; Page E03


Seven large energy and manufacturing corporations announced a partnership yesterday to voluntarily reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases, saying they intended to move ahead of requirements in the pending Kyoto treaty on global warming. The companies said they would reduce their combined emissions of greenhouse gases, estimated at 360 million metric tons in 1990, to 280 million metric tons by 2010, while sticking to growth plans for their businesses. The partnership is intended to demonstrate that companies can reduce pollution without heavy economic sacrifices, by adopting more efficient practices and using incentives that financially reward cleanup investments, said Fred Krupp, executive director of Environmental Defense. The nonprofit advocacy group has joined the companies in the project and will monitor results, Krupp said. "The Partnership for Climate Action shows that companies can cut greenhouse-gas pollution while continuing to provide products to customers and profits to shareholders," Krupp said.

The companies in the partnership are BP Amoco PLC, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, DuPont Co., Suncor Energy Inc., Ontario Power Generation Inc., Alcan Aluminum Ltd. and the French aluminum company Pechiney SA. They have agreed to set up a process for "trading" emission reductions among themselves. Under this approach, a factory or refinery that reduces emissions beyond targeted levels can trade the excess reduction to other plants that face more expensive abatement costs, keeping both facilities in compliance with targets.

The White House praised the partnership yesterday. "This shows we can deal with the issue of climate change without sacrificing the economy," said Roger Ballentine, White House coordinator on global-warming issues. But an environmental group, the Sierra Club, sharply criticized the approach, saying it offered only modest reductions in greenhouse gases while undercutting efforts to write strong regulations on emission controls as part of the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change.

"Most of the companies have been talking about these same emissions cuts for years," said Dan Becker, the Sierra Club's director of global-warming issues. "It's legitimate to count them, but not to count them as something new." Krupp said the companies support international negotiations to reduce greenhouse gases, if not the specific requirements in the 1997 treaty. It would require industrial countries to reduce man-made heat-trapping gases to below 1990 levels by 2012.

More companies are reconsidering what they can do to reduce emissions, even though they still oppose the "political fix" for greenhouse emissions adopted in the Kyoto agreement, said Tom Jacob, DuPont's manager of international and industry affairs. The Clinton administration has not submitted the treaty to the Senate, fearing that it would be rejected. While Vice President Gore supports the treaty, Texas Gov. George W. Bush said its requirements would penalize U.S. industry and seriously hurt the economy.The next step in the international climate-change debate is due next month when negotiators will try to agree on how to achieve the reduction in greenhouse gases called for in the Kyoto treaty.

See also--

New York Times: Reuters: Earth Times:


New York Times

10 October

BOSTON (AP) -- Polaroid Corp. has agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent in the next 10 years. The photographic products company said Tuesday it would switch to cleaner fuels and more energy-efficient technology as part of the ``Climate Savers Program,'' an initiative of the World Wildlife Fund.

The program works with businesses to make it cost-effective to reduce use of carbon-based fuels -- considered by some scientists a prime cause of global warming. Among the steps Polaroid will take: replace heating and cooling systems and industrial boilers, replace old factory motors and install high-efficiency lighting systems.

Polaroid's pledged reductions are by far the largest of any company that's part of the program, the fund said. Last spring, IBM agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions 4 percent by 2004, compared to 1998 levels, and Johnson Johnson pledged a 7 percent reduction by 2010, compared to 1990 levels. Polaroid aims to cut carbon dioxide 20 percent by 2005 and 25 percent by 2010, compared to 1994 levels.

See also-

Fox Marketwire:

LOW-LYING HOMES MAY BECOME UNINSURABLE: DAMAGE PREMIUMS MAY ROCKET 'DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING' The Guardian Oct 14, 2000, 469 words Internet: &query=%22global+warming%22&resultsShown=20&resultsToRequest=100

Insurance companies may be forced dramatically to increase flood insurance premiums or refuse insurance altogether because of global warming, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says in a report. The ABI is particularly alarmed at the way developers are building on flood plains and then abandoning householders to the risk of flooding. It is urging the government to intervene to prevent this continuing with the 3m new homes planned in England.

The report says

'It is now certain that global warming is occurring. Furthermore, there is a reasonable consensus emerging that we are in for a period of much more extreme weather, resulting in more severe and more frequent floods.'

As flooding increases, more properties are at risk than previously thought; up to 1.2m properties already stand on the inland floodplain, about 4% of the 26m total housing stock. Most of the property at greatest risk lies in the Thames and Trent catchments. In London there are thought to be between 70,000 and 100,000 properties at risk, and in the Trent catchment, which includes Birmingham, Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, an estimated further 139,000. The total potential loss from one single severe flood could be as high as pounds 2bn, placing severe strain on the insurance industry, forcing it to rethink whether it should abandon universal insurance and substantially increase premiums for those most at risk.

The report warns of sudden extreme events such as the incidence of thunderstorms, which cause flash floods because the volume of water overwhelms local drains, and sudden intense depressions - such as the one that has caused the flooding in Kent and Sussex. The worst-case scenario for the insurers is a slow moving front over the upper Thames which then gradually moves down to London. 'No other urban area in the country has anything like the potential for flood damage as the British capital. This is due to the sheer scale of the city and the fact that a significant proportion of London lies within the floodplain of the River Thames and its tributaries.

There are about 70,000 properties in the Thames floodplain, and many thousands more which might be affected because London's drainage system is inadequate. In the insurers' estimate, up to 50,000 properties could flood in one day, at a cost of pounds 1.5bn. This compares with a total of 10,000 properties known to have flooded in the area since 1965. Another nightmare for the insurance companies is that closing the Thames barrier against tidal flooding might cause a backup of river water which would overflow Thames embankments. Flash floods caused by thunderstorms overwhelming the drains pose a threat to the London Underground. Chris Mounsey, who commissioned the report for the ABI, said: 'We are not trying to be alarmist, but as with high crime rates or subsidence, it is reasonable to increase premiums by 10%, 15% or 20% to cover the extra risk that flooding poses.

'Only in places where there is a habitual risk, where we would be called to pay out pounds 10,000 in compensation every couple of years, would cover be unobtainable. It would not be fair to shareholders or other premiums payers if we did otherwise.'

See also-

Insurance News Net:


Washington Times

October 11, 2000

The Clinton administration is proposing "loopholes" in the global- warming treaty that are so big the United States could get away with doing almost nothing to comply, environmentalists say. A key negotiating session to make final decisions on how to comply with the treaty, which requires cuts in the emissions from cars and power plants thought to be warming the Earth's atmosphere, is scheduled only days after the U.S. elections. Several leading environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, are threatening to withdraw support for the treaty if the loopholes are approved. Environmentalists say they are disappointed with the way President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore have handled this year's energy price crunch. Instead of taking steps to promote energy conservation, the administration has lobbied the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to pump more oil and took the unprecedented step of releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to drive down oil prices.

By contrast, environmentalists praise the example set by European leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who have refused to back off increased fuel taxes they are imposing to curb global warming even in the face of widespread protests against those taxes. "The Clinton administration has been undermining the climate treaty for several years, insisting on one loophole after another to weaken it," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA, who estimated the United States could get out of 75 percent to 100 percent of the emissions reductions required by the treaty using the loopholes.

"Continued burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change. Yet their response is identical to what politicians did 30 years ago: secure more oil," he said. Mr. Passacantando particularly faults Mr. Gore, who in his book "Earth in the Balance" described global warming as the primary threat facing mankind and took a personal hand in drafting the treaty. "Politicians are giving us the same answers, but with Gore, he knows better," the environmentalist said. The administration is trying to "solve global warming with their lawyers and with legal sleight of hand" to avoid having to carry out a nearly one-third reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States required by the treaty, he said.

White House spokesman Paul Bledsoe said all of the proposals were agreed to as part of the framework for the treaty at negotiations in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997."They are integral not only to cost- effectiveness, but to providing environmental integrity" to the treaty, he said. Several of the measures reflect the administration's efforts "to involve developing nations in establishing energy infrastructures" that also reduce greenhouse- gas emissions, he said. The Senate, which has not ratified the treaty, unanimously approved a resolution stipulating that the treaty must cause no economic harm to the United States and include participation by developing countries.

The biggest loophole, environmentalists say, is one that would enable U.S. power plants and businesses to avoid cutting emissions by planting and cultivating forests in America and in developing countries. Trees absorb carbon dioxide - the chief greenhouse gas that is thought to cause global warming -enabling countries to emit more of the gas. A second escape hatch decried by environmentalists is a provision that would enable U.S. businesses to achieve the required emissions reductions by building nuclear power plants in developing countries. Nuclear power plants emit few greenhouse gases, but environmentalists strongly oppose them out of fear of nuclear accidents and radioactive emissions.

A third tactic the United States wants to use to avoid drastic cuts in energy use by American businesses and consumers is an emissions-trading system that enables U.S. companies to purchase credits for emissions reductions achieved by other countries. "We're supportive of cost-effective measures, but there has to be some environmental benefit," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Fund's Climate Change Campaign. "If it's business as usual, but just looks like you're complying, it's not going to fly with the World Wildlife Fund." Under administration proposals, she estimates the United States could achieve half of its emissions reductions by doing nothing but continuing the same forestry techniques now practiced by federal agencies to manage the vast national forests.

Even before it came out with a strategy of relying on such carbon "sinks," the White House estimated the United States could achieve 85 percent of its emissions reductions abroad instead of at home by buying credits under the emissions-trading system. "The World Wildlife Fund believes the majority of emissions reduction should happen in the United States since it is the world's biggest carbon polluter," Ms. Morgan said. "We're going to have to kick the oil and coal habit." The United States must move vigorously to impose higher fuel-efficiency standards on automakers, tighten energy- efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, and impose carbon emissions caps on power plants, she said. The World Wildlife Fund is one of 10 environmental groups that warned this summer that they would walk away from the treaty if too many countries are allowed to wriggle out of their commitments, like the United States. Ms. Morgan said that is still a possibility, though she is hopeful that the November negotiations at the Hague will be successful.

Eight leading environmental groups wrote Mr. Clinton last week citing "loopholes so large that the protocol would not result in any real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions" and urged him to attend the November negotiating sessions and reverse the administration's perceived lax policies. Attempts to take advantage of existing forestry practices are "phony" and "unacceptable," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It's fuzzy math to do nothing and get credit for tons of reductions. "They're clearly trying to make it as easy as possible for the United States," he said, noting the contrast in the European Union. "Europeans are looking at increased carbon and energy taxes as a major tool of implementation, and we haven't seen any evidence that's being reconsidered as a result of [this fall's] street disruptions."

See also-

ENN: p



October 18, 2000



The European Union will miss a legally binding target to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions because it lacks the necessary policies to combat the greenhouse effect, a study published yesterday said. The report by a Dutch and a German research group estimated the EU's CO2 emissions will increase by 7-8 percent of 1990 levels by 2010, compared to the eight percent reduction the EU agreed to in the 1997 U.N. Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The research bodies Ecofys and the Fraunhofer Institute looked at the likely impact of existing and planned environmental policies in six EU countries and found only one - Britain - was likely to

meet its target. Germany might also achieve its target but France, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands have no chance of getting their CO2 emissions down to the required levels unless they adopt new policies in the near future, the study said. CO2 - which mostly comes from combustion of fossil fuels is the main gas contributing to the greenhouse effect which is believed to be causing the world's climate to change. The Kyoto agreement covered a basket of six gases, of which CO2 was the most significant.


The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the study showed governments were not taking climate change seriously enough. "The targets agreed by European countries were not ambitious, but many European governments seem set to fail to achieve even their timid targets," the WWF's Stephan Singer told a news conference. Britain, which agreed to reduce its greenhouse gases by 12.5 percent by 2010 and has said it wants to achieve a 20 percent drop, will reach the target mostly because it has shifted from reliance on coal-fired power stations to gas, the report said. A similar fuel switch has helped Germany - which agreed a 21 percent reduction - which has also benefited from the closure of inefficient industrial plants in the former East Germany.

France, on the other hand, has made no progress on introducing a planned energy tax and it adopted counter-productive measures such as easing taxes on road transport under pressure from motorists hit by the recent high fuel price, the report said. Instead of stabilising emissions at 1990 levels, France is likely to increase CO2 emissions by 9-20 percent, the report said. The WWF said countries could still meet their targets by adopting policies to increase the market share of renewable sources of energy and combined heat and power production, by stricter rules on energy efficiency in buildings and by tackling the booming transport sector. The world's governments meet next month in the Hague to hammer out ways to implement the targets reached at Kyoto.

Express India:



October 17, 2000



A leading Italian environmental protection group yesterday proposed changes to Italy's energy policy which it said could cut the country's dependence on petroleum by half in 20 years. Legambiente said boosting the use of renewable energy, capping domestic consumption and encouraging water and rail transport over roads, could save the state approximately 45 trillion lire ($19.67 billion) by 2020. "The proposals would answer two needs: reduce Italy's dependence on crude oil and cut the country's emission of greenhouse gases," Legambiente's President Ermete Realacci told a news conference. Greenhouse gas emissions have risen more than six percent in the past 10 years, he said, making international targets to cut their emission by 6.5 percent by 2010 look out of reach.

Italy is a major oil importer. The country's electricity production is heavily reliant on fuel costs, the price of which is linked to the cost of crude oil from which it is refined. Legambiente suggested that over the next 20 years Italy should install wind turbines capable of producing 10,000 megawatts of power and also boost the use of solar energy. It said domestic consumption of electricity should be capped at between 30 and 60 kilowatt hours a year from its current level of 122 kilowatt hours, and said road traffic should be cut by four percent over six years while transport of goods and services by sea and rail should be increased by five percent.


Times of India

12 October



The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), together with financial institution ICICI, has chalked out plans to offer financial and technical assistance to Indian industries for adoption of environment-friendly technologies and certifiable environmental management systems. A $5 million fund has been set up to facilitate this programme, according to Richard Edwards of the USAID office in Delhi. "The exercise of formulating the lending forms by ICICI and various other banks and financial institutions keen to participate in this program is under way," he told IANS. The technical expertise under this program will be provided by leading U.S. environment engineering and consulting firm Tetra Tech.

USAID is the lead development and international disaster assistance agency of the United States government. The initiative on adoption of clean energy is part of the two protocols signed during U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to India in March. Under the agreements, U.S power utilities and regulatory agencies provide a long-term mechanism for the transfer of U.S. technology and experience to India and an energy training program for ongoing regulatory reform and energy efficiency.

"Collectively, USAID's various programs in India are to the tune of $100 million. Our programs on climate change in India in association with National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is the largest globally," said Edwards on the sidelines of the two-day Environment Summit organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in the capital. USAID recommendations have led to the reduction of two million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by power plants of the NTPC and by the Gujarat Electricity Board, said Edward.

The USAID funding in India includes $20 million in additional funding for a three-year extension of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Prevention Project (GEP) and $25 million for the new Energy Conservation and Commercialization (ECO) project. At present USAID is in talks with NTPC for transfer of clean coal technology for more effective use of Indian coal that has a high ash content of 35 to 45 per cent and is also low in sulphur content. India is a pivotal player in global efforts to address climate change as the country ranks sixth among Greenhouse Gas Emitters globally, and is the second fastest growing Greenhouse Gas producer after China.

Earlier this year, USAID set up a $50 million fund for a South Asia Regional Initiative/Energy (SARI/E). Energy consumption from commercial sources in South Asia has increased nearly 50 per cent between 1990 and 1997 due to economic and population growth. From a regional perspective, increasing the power supply capacity is critical for continued economic growth. In a global context, greenhouse gas emissions from power production also need to be addressed, said Edwards.

India too is part of this program that envisages a common vision of cooperation in energy issues. USAID has designed the SARI/E to encourage regional cooperation by providing a platform for energy professionals from the region to share experiences and lessons learned, discuss joint energy opportunities, and catalyze the long-term process of rationalizing energy supply and its regional distribution. (IANS)


Daily Star-Lebanon

6 October

Lebanese households could reduce their electricity consumption by a third if they were to use solar-heated water, according to academics in the field. They say the technology is tested and affordable and has both environmental and economic benefits. An AUB study of 10 Beirut-area families of average size and normal income showed that solar water heaters can supply 100 percent of a household's hot-water needs between March and October. Using solar water heaters brings households a total savings potential of 35 percent of annual electricity consumption, AUB professor Riad Chedid told an ESCWA expert meeting on renewable energy Wednesday.

On a national level, Chedid said it would be "a win-win situation" of reducing both electricity costs and the emission of carbon dioxide, "if the government encourages solar water heaters as a strategy." Carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels is blamed for changing the earth's climate conditions. Reduction of CO2 emissions is a mandate of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. But if Lebanon wanted to replace oil- or gas-burning power plants with wind- or solar-thermal-generated electricity, the switch would be expensive and might not be accepted by society, Chedid said.

He described solar water heating as the most desirable use of renewable energy in Lebanon in terms of long-term benefits and costs. "We're looking for development, using technologies mature enough to give environmental and economic benefit," he said. Chedid made his appeal to promote solar water heaters, which are available from Lebanese manufacturers and importers for about $1,000, as part of the expert meeting's session on solar architecture. Session chairman Waheeb Naser from the University of Bahrain called this topic the "most relevant to this region" in the four-day event.

Solar architecture involves a combination of energy-preservation techniques and solar technologies, such as photovoltaic electricity generation, solar-heated water or solar cooling systems, to reduce energy consumption in buildings. If done right, solar architecture is economically viable even for large commercial buildings. The use of solar technology in cooling systems, which is too expensive to be employed in countries like Germany and still awaits real-life testing in commercial projects, could be of great value in the Middle East in the future, speakers suggested.

Building standards and construction practices in Lebanon could be adjusted to improve energy efficiency by 25 to 30 percent by using measures such as giving buildings a north-south orientation, said Fadi Moucharrafie of AUB's architecture department. Solar architecture is of growing importance because the computerization of businesses has more than doubled the electricity demand per square meter in office buildings since the early 1970s. Even in frosty Sweden, one study showed that offices now depend on air conditioning to provide a safe operational environment for their computers. In the GCC countries, 70 percent of energy consumption is for cooling and air-conditioning purposes, Naser said.

For Lebanon, Chedid outlined the necessity to create a solar atlas with precise records of available energy in all regions, undertake studies on solar needs for specific industries, establish an umbrella institute for renewable energy, and draft policies for the promotion of solar energy. The four-day meeting concluded on Thursday with national representatives signing a memorandum of understanding on ESCWA's Renewable Energy Promotion Mechanism. Eleven of the 13 ESCWA member countries participate in the REPM procedure. Institutions in each country have either submitted a report on their nation's renewable energy situation or are in the process of doing so. For Lebanon, the report was prepared with ESCWA support by Electricite du Liban.

ESCWA expert Anhar Hegazy said that the memorandum was "a starting point for new activities." These include proposals to spread solar-power technology to rural areas and the creation of a data base on the region's available expertise and sources of renewable energy.



October 20, 2000



Fifty-six percent of Americans say the environmental risks of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) outweigh the benefits to the nation's oil supply, according to a new poll released yesterday by two environmental groups.

The question of whether to open the 19.5 million-acre (7.9 million-hectare) wildlife refuge in northeastern Alaska to oil drilling and exploration has surfaced during the 2000 presidential election. Republican nominee George W. Bush supports drilling in part of the refuge. Democrat Al Gore is opposed. Of the 1,000 likely voters questioned, 29 percent said it was worth the risks to open ANWR to drilling, the poll by The Wilderness Society and the Alaska Wilderness League found. The groups cited government studies indicating that the amount of oil that could be economically pumped from ANWR might be enough to provide the country with only an 180-day supply at current consumption rates.

They said 55 percent of those surveyed would support U.S. President Bill Clinton if he decided to declare the coastal portion of the refuge a national monument, effectively barring oil exploration and drilling there. Less than a quarter of those polled said they would strongly oppose such a move by the president, the groups said. "This poll demonstrates that the more people learn about the Arctic Refuge ... the stronger their support is for protecting the Arctic Refuge from oil exploration and drilling and for designating it a national monument," said Mark Mellman, president of the Mellman Group which conducted the survey.


Drilling in ANWR, a hot topic during the 1992 election campaign, has sparked intense debate in recent months, given high oil prices and expected shortages of home heating oil in the U.S. Northeast. Bush last month unveiled a $7.1 billion, 10-year plan to reshape U.S. energy policy by opening the coastal areas of the the Arctic refuge to oil and natural gas drilling, along with other measures aimed at cutting dependence on foreign oil. Gore called the plan short-sighted and said the fragile area would yield only a few months' supply of oil while harming rare plants and species.

"Drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge makes no more sense than damming the Grand Canyon for its energy potential," said Allen Smith, Alaska regional director of The Wilderness Society. "Some places are simply too special, and we need to pass them along to future generations just like they are. Even if we tear up every wilderness in America, we cannot change the reality that we have only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves and use 25 percent of the world's produced oil," he said in a statement. The Arctic Refuge is home to polar and grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, and muskoxen, relics of the ice age. Millions of migratory birds nest and stage their migrations along the coastal portion north of the towering Brooks Range. The survey, which can be viewed at and, was conducted Sept. 27 through Oct. 8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


Christian Science Monitor

OCTOBER 12, 2000


GEORGEVILLE, BELIZE - The rough dirt road winds up and down the jungle-covered foothills of western Belize, passing Maya peasant families on foot or bearded Amish farmers in their horse-drawn buggies. It passes through banana plantations and scrubby pastures carved from the ever-shrinking tropical forests. The road eventually leads into a tidy compound staffed by a couple dozen Swiss, Germans, and Austrians. Locals come to the Maya Ranch Reserve for the homemade ice cream. But the staff of this remote research station is hoping to provide a great deal more for the people of Belize and, perhaps, the rest of the world: provide oxygen, store carbon.

This project is funded by several German companies. And as concern over climate change heats up, electrical utilities and other polluters are investing in tropical forests. By protecting existing forests or growing new ones, companies hope to use the trees for pollution credits if a proposed international carbon trading scheme gets under way later this decade. In the US, Dynegy Inc., a leading energy company, recently completed planting 6.3 million trees in five states. The US is currently lobbying the United Nations that countries receive environmental credits for replenishing forests.

"We can promote biodiversity and protect against climate change at the same time," says Thomas Qubeck, vice president of the Janus Foundation, the Bern, Switzerland, based nonprofit that runs the ranch. Conservationists, who have fought a losing battle to protect the world's rain forests, hope the forests will be saved for their trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, store the carbon as new plant material, and emit oxygen. "We've struggled for years to find a value of living forests that's greater than the value of clearing them for lumber or slash-and-burn agriculture," says Tia Nelson of The Nature Conservancy, the Arlington, Va.,-based land trust that's brokered several large forest-protection projects in Latin America. "Suddenly investors and decisionmakers are recognizing the value forests play in climate change."

The Conservancy brokered the largest project of its type, the protection of 1.5 million acres of Bolivian forests as a carbon sink. Three electrical utilities - BP Amoco, American Electric Power, and PacifiCorp - invested $9.6 million to buy and retire the logging rights to the land, which was then turned over to the government of Bolivia, which incorporated it into the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. Over the 30-year span of the project, the forest is expected to store an estimated 6-to-8 million tons of carbon that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. If a carbon trading regime is set up, the three utilities will split this carbon credit with Bolivia.

"If there's ever an economic windfall, both parties will share in the benefits," says the project's manager at the Conservancy, Margo Burnham. The project will help local people set up small agroforestry operations like palmetto planting that generate income without destroying forests. The Conservancy has brokered similar projects to protect Atlantic rain forests in southern Brazil and lowland forests in northwestern Belize. In all three cases, most of the carbon-storage benefits come from not cutting down existing forests. But the Janus Foundation's research takes the idea a step further by developing ways to replant complex tropical forests that have already been lost.

Behind the main lodge staff members tend to a verdant nursery where they are growing two dozen species of local trees, some of them now difficult to find after decades of clear-cutting by British loggers and Belizean farmers. Several acres of larger trees that started their lives in the nursery now grow in a nearby pasture, part of Janus' 5000-acre forest preserve. "Instead of planting a monoculture of trees, we believe it's possible to plant a functionally diverse forest that can store more carbon and provide far better habitat for other species," says forest botanist Heinz Rennenberg of the University of Freiburg, Germany.

Dr. Rennenberg says it's impossible to plant all the species that were in the original forest as there are more than 500 tree species alone in this part of Belize. Instead, his team is looking for a handful of species that represent different functional groups like shade trees or bottom plants. They hope to figure out how and when to plant each species in the area they wish to reforest. "If we're successful, this approach could be transferred to other areas," he says, "But you need to have the time and funding to collect information on what the local forests looked like before they were cut down."


Los Angeles Times

Sunday, October 15, 2000

BOONVILLE, Calif.--Steve Snyder has a problem that begins with 80 acres of ancient, towering redwoods. Along with his nine siblings and cousins, he's due within two years to inherit the gorgeous trees, plus 700 more acres near this tiny Mendocino County timber town. But three of Snyder's kin apparently don't agree that the pending gift is too lovely to lose: He says they want to sell to loggers or developers, hoping to reap as much as $4.6 million, according to one appraisal. Until recently, Snyder feared that he would have to give up some of the redwoods to buy out those relatives. But last spring, he met Laurie Wayburn and Connie Best, environmentalists who offered intriguing alternatives--including a scheme in which his family might be paid for just letting the redwoods breathe: carbon dioxide in and oxygen out.

This basic labor of forests has become a marketable commodity in various parts of the world where the art of buying "credits" for preserving a tree's carbon-absorbing capacity has attracted industries interested in offsetting pollution that contributes to global warming. The technique has yet to reach California forests, but Wayburn and Best hope to change that soon. "California has a big advantage in the carbon trade," Wayburn said. "Redwoods hold the world record for carbon storage: They grow fastest, largest and longest."

Wayburn and Best are co-founders of the Pacific Forest Trust, a group committed to creating financial incentives for landholders to practice conservation. Wayburn is a Harvard graduate in geology and biology, and the daughter of an honored Sierra Club past president; Best is a former soft-drink mogul. Both big-city transplants--Wayburn, 45, from San Francisco, and Best, 47, from New York--they've settled here, in a valley once thickly covered with forest but now pockmarked with plots in peril. To them the timing is critical: In California about 77,000 acres of forest were cut down between 1992 and 1997, twice the annual rate of the previous 10 years.

"California has [legislated] some of the toughest forest practices around, but every coastal watershed has salmon species under threat," Best said. "Clearly, regulation hasn't gotten us to where we want to go." A practice much like carbon trading already goes on in the regulation of sulfur dioxide emissions from older electricity generators. Utilities can satisfy limits imposed by the Clean Air Act by buying credits from more efficient plants. The carbon-trading concept got a major boost from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the global-warming agreement involving 84 countries and the European Union. The protocol advocates sales of carbon credits. The United States has specifically championed counting "carbon sequestration" from forests.

Some leading environmental groups, however, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, oppose the idea of using forest purchases to excuse pollution elsewhere. They believe it's more important to focus on cutting emissions at their source. "Where one could go with this is that we'd be protecting more trees but polluting more," said Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming and energy program. For now, Wayburn and Best have pledged to save Snyder's forest by paying his family for a "conservation easement" that would let them harvest some timber but not the old redwoods. Such easements attach to the deed and bind whoever may purchase the land to similar limits. They can also result in big tax deductions, because the value of the land is usually reassessed when development rights are limited.

Wayburn and Best supervise easements on 15,000 acres of California forest. Their approach has won admiration from philanthropists who have enriched the trust's coffers. This year, for instance, Pacific Forest got a $5-million grant from the New York-based Surdna Foundation. But locals such as Boonville resident Bruce Anderson, owner of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, are critical of the trust. He says it "provides tax breaks for the gentry" when stronger measures are needed to slow the destruction of local forests. "Confiscation would be fine with me," he said. If Wayburn and Best cannot sell carbon credits from Snyder's property, the money to pay for his easement will probably come both from private foundations and federal and state funds set aside to protect threatened forests and salmon. (A stream populated by salmon runs through Snyder's property.) The women feel confident that they can eventually market the credits, however, as they watch what has been going on in the rest of the world.

Trexler & Associates, a Portland, Ore.-based environmental consulting group, has been involved in about $75 million in sales of carbon credits from forestry investments over the last decade, most of them in developing countries. The buyers have been utility companies--including Detroit Edition, Wisconsin Electric Power and British Petroleum--whose directors believe it's just a matter of time until governments force them to cut back their emissions. They hope that regulators will consider the carbon deals as equivalent to emission reductions and that by acting early, they will pay lower prices before the demand for carbon-credit deals starts to rise.

In the U.S., for instance, Cincinnati-based Cinergy Corp. has invested $500,000 to plant trees in Ohio and Indiana in return for potential carbon credits. Pacific Forest has yet to close a deal itself but holds carbon rights donated by owners of 7,000 acres of coastal forests. Finding buyers has proved difficult, Wayburn concedes. But the trust hopes to close its first sale--involving a utility whose identity she cannot disclose yet--by the end of next month. If so, the sale would be the first involving a California forest. "If the project really comes off," said Andrea Tuttle, director of California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, "it will put California in the world's eye."

The state, which has been plagued by energy shortfalls, may soon see construction of more gas-fired power plants. While the plants would create more electricity, they would also cause a significant increase in California's net greenhouse gas emissions. This month, Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill setting up a statewide system to record greenhouse emissions by private companies. Wayburn hopes this will encourage utilities to take a fresh look at carbon absorption by forests. Snyder dreams of his property playing a part. "I've got this bug in me," he said, "where it just hurts to see a stump."


The Tennessean



GREGORY, Ark. (AP) - Almost 400 acres of trees have been planted in Tennessee by a Houston-based energy company that is replenishing forests in the Lower Mississippi Valley in anticipation of federal rules that may allow the company to use the trees for pollution credits. Dynegy Inc., which is the parent company of Illinois Power and has power plants elsewhere, has begun planting 30 million trees. The trees will replenish native bottomland hardwood forest in the valley, which has dwindled by nearly four-fifths in the past 150 years. The trees are sown on national wildlife refuges, where they'll mature under the protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The company is investing $13.7 million as a potential hedge against future government rules designed to restrict emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, which many scientists think contribute to climate change. Because trees act as sponges for carbon - taking it out of the atmosphere so it can't contribute to warming

Dynegy hopes the hardwoods it is planting in the Delta will earn pollution credits. Those allowances would enable the company to release carbon from its power plants. Dynegy officials acknowledge the project is a gamble, especially because no greenhouse-gas restrictions have been imposed.

"Sometimes you have to move forward before the rules of the game are laid out," Roger Morgenstern, director of structural investments for Dynegy, told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis. With the signing of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement in which the United States and other nations pledged to cut their greenhouse emissions, many utility industry officials say they expect the government to impose carbon restrictions. Dynegy's five-year project began last winter and spring. The plan calls for the company to reforest 20,000 acres annually across a region stretching from Illinois to Louisiana. In addition to the acreage in Tennessee, the first round of planting also included 2,500 acres in Arkansas, 340 acres in Illinois, 5,600 acres in Louisiana and 12,000 acres in Mississippi.

Of the 6.3 million trees planted so far, more than 500,000 went to Bald Knob and Cache River national wildlife refuges in eastern Arkansas. "This came out of the blue," said Dennis Widner, who manages the two refuges. "I'd heard of carbon sequestration, but I didn't even fully comprehend what it was. "Carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, is released by burning fossil fuels and other human activity. Although they differ on the severity and ramifications of the problem, many scientists agree that the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could result in long-term climate changes.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. United States negotiators two months ago proposed to the United Nations that countries receive as much credit under the Kyoto Protocol for using forests to absorb carbon dioxide as they do for cutting smokestack emissions. Many environmentalists say emission reduction is necessary but that reforestation should be part of a strategy to avert global warming. "Our hope is that crediting reforestation can create incentives for landowners to benefit from land stewardship," said Robert Bonnie, an economist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Randy Williams, president of Environmental Synergy Inc., a firm working with Dynegy and the Fish and Wildlife Service on the project, said reforestation is particularly important in the Lower Mississippi Valley. As recently as the late 1800s, the region was cloaked in bottomland hardwoods covering 21 million acres. By the early 1990s, clearing and draining for agriculture and other development had whittled the forested wetlands to its present 4.9 million acres. "People don't realize what they lost," Williams said. "It was the best example of a bottomland hardwood temperate forest on the planet."


The Observer-UK

Sunday October 22, 2000


Europe's biggest glacier is about to disintegrate. The mighty Breidamerkurjökull in southern Iceland is breaking apart and will slide into the north Atlantic in the next few years. Researchers' discovery of the imminent destruction of this gigantic river of ice demonstrates starkly that global warming is now making a serious impact on the northern hemisphere, threatening to melt ice caps and raise sea levels round the world. The grim revelation will be seized upon by green activists who believe that industrial gas emissions are responsible for heating the planet's atmosphere. If the continent's biggest glacier is falling apart, they ask, what further catastrophes await us?

The break-up of Breidamerkurjökull also threatens to destroy a key Icelandic beauty spot. Each year hordes of visitors take boat trips around the dozens of icebergs that regularly 'calve' from the glacier and festoon the lake at its base. Moviemakers have used the breathtaking location for a host of films, including the James Bond adventure A View to a Kill, and the forthcoming Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. But now silt and sediment - which have already started to pour from the melting glacier - are likely to fill up the lake, destroying this remarkable beauty spot. 'The glacier has been shrinking for most of the twentieth century,' said Dr David Evans, of Glasgow University. 'However it is clear it is now approaching the point where a great mass of it will break up, and pour down to the sea. When it does, Jökulsarlon will probably fill up with sediment.'

Breidamerkurjökull is the main glacier emanating from the massive Vatnajökull ice sheet that covers much of southern Iceland, and has been studied intensively for the past century, beginning in 1903 when map makers recorded that its icy snout rested only a few hundred yards from the sea. By 1945 United States military cartographers had found it had receded a further few hundred yards from the coast. Then, in 1965, Glasgow University surveyors arrived to make new maps of Breidamerkurjökull and found the glacier had slipped back from the sea by a couple of miles. This survey was followed up in 1998 when another team from Glasgow began a new survey using global positioning satellite equipment and other high-precision devices. For the past two years researchers Yvonne Finlayson and Mike Shand, from the university's geography department, have been collating this data. They have completed a detailed topographic map of the region.

The results are startling. They show the great river of ice has dwindled dramatically over the past 30 years. This recession has revealed a giant portion of the huge fjord - once covered completely by the glacier - has now been exposed as Breidamerkurjökull's snout has retreated more than five miles from the sea. But detailed analysis of the glacier has revealed an even more disturbing picture. The Glasgow team - working with Loughborough University researchers led by David Twigg - says a huge depression has formed over the glacier's frozen heart. This hole rests over the portion of the inland fjord still covered by ice. 'Effectively, the glacier is breaking up around that hole and is slipping into the fjord,' said Evans. 'It is beginning to disintegrate and in the next few years will collapse into the water.'

The disappearance of a massive ice floe that once coated a large area of the Icelandic coast is a stark demonstration of the increasing impact global warming is having on the planet. The question is: to what extent is humanity responsible for this heating, and what further impact will it have on Earth? Many environmentalists point out that industrial emissions have allowed carbon dioxide to build up in the atmosphere to dangerous levels. Sunlight is being trapped by this carbon dioxide and causing the planet to warm. One estimate suggests the Arctic has warmed by 6°C in the past 30 years, while its ice covering has dropped from 10ft to 6ft. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have doubled in the past century, just as global temperatures have risen. The effects can be seen everywhere, green activists say, including Breidamerkurjökull.

But such alarmist visions have to be tempered with knowledge about the past behaviour of Iceland's glaciers. In the seventeenth century the coastal land around Breidamerkurjökull was ice-free and farmed quite intensively by local people. Cattle and sheep grazed, and barley and wheat were grown. Then, in the early decades of the eighteenth century, the climate grew colder and giant tongues of ice emerged from the Vatnajökull sheet, including the Breidamerkurjökull glacier. These moved inexorably down to the coast, covering pastures and crushing farmhouses that lay in their path. 'This period is known as the Little Ice Age and it lasted almost 200 years, reaching its peak, in Iceland, in 1890, when Breidamerkurjökull got closest to the sea,' said Evans.

'That mini-ice age is over now, and the climate has been getting warmer for the past 100 years. Hence the shrinking and disintegration of the glacier.' In the past 30 years, old farmlands have reappeared around Breidamerkurjökull - most of it pockmarked with holes gouged by receding glaciers. Local people have already moved on to this land and begun cropping grass and grazing sheep. 'The land is simply being returned to its old use,' said Evans. Whether this restoration of agricultural land and the loss of the glacier is being triggered solely by natural climatic variation, or is being speeded up by the effects of man pumping industrial gases into the atmosphere, has yet to be determined. Either way, the fate of Breidamerkurjökull is our starkest warning that global warming now has a direct impact on our continent. The heat is on, whether we like it or not.

Tell-tale signs

Other indicators of global warming are:

Winter is in retreat. Europe's growing season is 11 days longer than it was 35 years ago.

Sea levels have crept higher throughout the last century at the rate of a millimetre a year.

Hot summers. Six of the 10 warmest years ever recorded occurred in the 1990s; the other four all happened in the late 1980s.

Declining ice sheet. The Arctic ice cover is shrinking by an area the size of the Netherlands every year.


New York Times

October 12, 2000


Bolstering the theory that iron is a vital - and often missing - link binding the atmosphere, oceans and climate, scientists have found that dispersing small amounts of the metal in biologically barren seas near Antarctica produces large blooms of tiny plants that pull an important greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, out of the air. The process, which some researchers call the Geritol effect, had already been demonstrated in the tropical Pacific, which is also relatively barren, but the findings in the cold southern seas are potentially far more significant for issues related to climate, scientists say. That is because the chilled surface waters of the southern ocean sink to great depths, where they can remain for centuries. Thus plants that take up the carbon dioxide would theoretically sink to the ocean bottom, purging the atmosphere of some of the heat- trapping carbon dioxide that has accumulated from human activities like burning fossil fuels.

In an experiment, conducted last year between Tasmania and Antarctica, researchers confirmed that vast, desertlike stretches of the world's southern oceans are primed to explode with photosynthesis but lack only iron, one of the most abundant substances elsewhere on earth. But the researchers, who described their work in today's issue of the journal Nature, said it was too soon to start large-scale iron-seeding efforts because the new experiment raised as many questions as it answered about the complex ecology and chemistry of the oceans. Moreover, at best, they said, it would only absorb a small amount of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Also, they noted, the experimental bloom of plankton was not tracked long enough to assess whether the carbon harvested from the air sank into the deep sea or was released once again in carbon dioxide gas. "There are still fundamental scientific questions that need to be addressed before anyone can responsibly promote iron fertilization as a climate control tactic," said Dr. Kenneth H. Coale, an oceanographer who helped design the earlier studies of iron's effects in the tropical Pacific. But in research using computer models incorporating the results from the fertilization effort, Dr. Andrew J. Watson, a geochemist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, found that the effect was consistent with changes seen in past periods of geological history when large amounts of iron dust blown from the continents enriched the southern seas, causing plankton blooms that appear to have reduced carbon dioxide levels in the air.

The response of ocean waters to the infusion of iron far exceeded predictions, several of the authors said. The team estimated that releasing three and a half tons of dissolved iron over about 30 square miles of sea caused a tenfold rise in the amount of phytoplankton. Monitored by satellite, the patch eventually stretched out into a J-shaped filament that covered 660 square miles, pulling perhaps several thousand tons of carbon dioxide from the air in the process, said Dr. Rob Murdoch, the research director for New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, which was one of the groups involved in the project.

The bloom persisted for more than six weeks, while the previous blooms created in the tropics dissipated in half that time, Dr. Murdoch said. He said this finding suggested the need for caution in using the technique. "We don't know a heck of a lot about this pristine environment down there," Dr. Murdoch said.

Over all, the scientists involved in the experiment said they calculated that iron-feeding, even if the entire southern ocean was used, would probably remove no more than several hundred million tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year, a far cry from the five billion tons or so entering the air each year from industries, vehicles and other sources. But several companies are already making plans to fertilize the sea with iron, both to attack global warming and to stimulate fisheries.

And the United States Department of Energy is considering partially underwriting a proposal from the University of Hawaii and an American company, Greensea Ventures, to conduct a larger test of the iron- fertilizing process in the ocean west of the Galápagos Islands. In an independent commentary accompanying the Nature reports, Dr. Sallie W. Chisolm, a plankton expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the researchers had not answered the most important questions - including, for example, identifying the final fate of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plankton. Dr. Chisolm concluded that industrial-scale use of the technique was likely to backfire.

See also--

ABC: MSNBC: Boston Globe: ml



October 9, 2000


If the current warming trend continues, don't depend on low-level clouds to come to the Earth's rescue, according to NASA researchers. A cloud's thickness and brightness (its ability to reflect sunlight) influences how the planet heats and cools. Clouds can act as a natural shield by reflecting sunlight back into space, creating cooler temperatures. And clouds can also wrap the skies like a blanket, sealing in warmth. But what's unclear is how clouds will react when the Earth gets warmer, as it seems destined to do.

Some climatologists predict that a warmer atmosphere will evaporate more water, forming denser and brighter clouds that will reflect more sunlight back into space and cooling things off. However, after three years of observations of low stratus, cumulus and stratocumulus clouds over land, Anthony Del Genio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies discovered that when air temperatures were higher, clouds were thinner and thus less capable of reflecting sunlight. These thinner clouds occurred regardless of weather conditions, season or time of day.

"The bottoms of the clouds rise with warmer temperatures, while the top of the cloud stays the same so the clouds become thinner," explained Del Genio. "When low clouds are present, warmer air flowing over land tends to be drier. As a parcel of dry air rises, it has to rise farther before it saturates with enough water to form the cloud base." And, Del Genio disputes a theory that rising carbon dioxide levels would have only a slight impact on global temperatures because the theory doesn't take into account real world cloud behavior.

"The minimum amount of warming predicted by scientists - 3 degrees Fahrenheit - should be increased by at least 1 F as a result of the new findings," said Del Genio. The current range of 21st century warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is 3-8 F. The IPCC will release its updated global warming assessment early next year. Del Genio studied more than 3,000 individual cloud "snapshots" collected between 1994 and 1997 at the Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains field station.

Using a unique system of ground-based and satellite instruments, each snapshot recorded the air temperature, the height of the bottom and top of the cloud, and the amount of liquid water in the cloud. The more liquid water in a cloud and the thicker the cloud, the more opaque it is and the more sunlight it reflects. "We concluded that over more than half of the world, when the temperatures were warmer, the low-level clouds reflect less sunlight, which will only exacerbate global warming," said Del Genio. The link between cloud thinning and temperature was initially observed in 1992 over much of the world with long-term satellite observations. George Tselioudis, William Rossow and David Rind of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies published the observation using the NASA-funded International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project database, a global composite of cloud observations from international weather satellites.

"In the larger context of the global warming debate I'd say we shouldn't look for clouds to get us out of this mess," said Del Genio. "This is just one aspect of clouds, but this is the part people assumed would make global warming less severe." Del Genio and colleagues' research was published in the Oct. 1 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.


New York Times

October 10, 2000


ALERT, Canada

As the men and women stationed at this Canadian military base prepare to kick off four months of polar night with a "sunset party" on Oct. 14, the threat of global warming seems far from the northernmost human settlement in the world. Until the sun peeks over the horizon again on March 1, workers going outside will clip themselves to orange rope "lifelines" to avoid getting lost in the frigid, 24-hour night. Artificially built like a lunar colony, this combined weather station and radio listening post stands on a barren, treeless bluff halfway between Canada's last Inuit community and the North Pole, 507 miles north of here. Alert, in the territory of Nunavut, is as far from Toronto, 2,700 miles, as New York City is from the Amazon.

Cold weather shaped the construction of this station. Windows are quadruple paned and permanently sealed. At each entrance, a pair of thick refrigerator doors blocks the winter cold of 50 below. Cigarette smoke wafts freely through dormitories and bars, as Alert is the last Canadian military post to allow smoking indoors. For much of the year, smoking outdoors would be a death sentence. But even here, on Ellesmere Island, North America's northernmost tip, the inhabitants think they can see hints of climate change. Glaciers are receding. Winter rains are blamed for declining populations of Peary Caribou. And guides who regularly lead skiing expeditions to the pole say spring temperatures are rising.

"It has been a lot warmer in the last few years," said Richard Weber, a Canadian cross-country ski champion who has led groups to the pole every April since 1995. On the treks, Mr. Weber said, the temperatures have risen from about 15 below to about zero. Analysis of half a century of temperature readings collected since Alert's weather station opened in the spring of 1950 show barely any changes in recorded temperatures, said Henry Hengeveld, the science adviser on climate change for Environment Canada, a federal government ministry based in Ottawa. Alert, he added, appeared to be on a climatic fault line between the western Arctic, where recorded temperatures rose slightly in the late 20th century, and the eastern Arctic, where they fell slightly.

John H. MacIver, the weather station manager here, stressed that individual observations around the Arctic often conflict with one another, producing a still murky picture of climate trends in the high Arctic. He cautioned that the mile-wide stretch of open water encountered in August by scientists and tourists on the Russian icebreaker Yamal could be "a weather blip," or caused by wind moving ice. A 21-year veteran of the high Arctic, he explained that "polar ice is like a rubber raft out in the middle of the lake" during the summer. "Ice conditions have been deteriorating a lot earlier, a lot of leads of water have been opening up," he continued one morning in late August before releasing into a 25- mile-an- hour wind a large white balloon with weather instruments attached. It was a typical day of 24-hour sun in late summer, a season when temperatures briefly nose above freezing on 77 days. An Arctic gale blew sleet and snow, icebergs gave off luminous glows of blue and green, and military mechanics deiced airplane wings with house brooms.

Even in the summer, Canada's Arctic is such a forbidding environment that Devon Island, just south of Ellesmere, was used this July to test vehicles for exploration on Mars. In Alert, the rocky landscape of shale is bare of all signs of life, save tiny tundra plants. When a wind is not blowing, the eerie silence is nearly total, broken occasionally by the cry of a bird. But satellite studies of the North Pole ice cap, at the peak of summer, show that it has shrunk by about 6 percent over the last 20 years. Sonar testing from submarines indicates that the cap's thickness has been reduced by 42 percent since the 1950's. Noting these studies, Mr. Hengeveld speculated on the significance of the tourists' observations of open water 500 miles north of here in August. "With the trend toward less ice extent and less ice thickness, we can expect this to happen more frequently," he said. "It is, unfortunately, a harbinger of things to come."

Scientists predict that if enough ice melts in the Arctic, some warm Gulf Stream waters could be diverted into the area, warming Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, but lowering temperatures in Britain and Norway. Although Britain and Canada share the same latitudes, the Gulf Stream gives Britain milder winters.

If Arctic warming trends continue unchecked over the next 100 years, up to 60 percent of Northern Canada's habitat could be "fundamentally altered," risking a loss of up to 20 percent of species, says a report released in late August by the World Wildlife Fund and the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian environmental group. Predicting that some plants needing colder climates will have to migrate 100 times as fast as they did when the last ice age ended, the report's authors concluded: "Very few plant species can move at rates faster than one kilometer per year, and yet this is what will be required in many parts of the world."

At Ellesmere Island National Park, which starts 25 miles south of this military post, clues have been detected by some of the few adventurers who venture each year into this wilderness of unnamed peaks and glaciers. Jerry Kobalenko, who is writing a book about the wildly beautiful island, a land mass nearly the size of Britain, flashed through photos of glaciers on his laptop computer. One photo, taken in 1898 by the Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup, shows the high mound of a glacier pushing through a mountain pass. A photo taken two years ago by Mr. Kobalenko of the same valley shows the glacier has receded, with shale and gravel where rock-hard ice used to be. Later in the day, flying in the cargo hold of a Canadian military C-130 over the park, he peered out of a porthole and exclaimed: "You see that shrinking? You can see how it once filled that valley."

On the ground, Josée Auclair, an adventure travel guide, recalled the burning power of the sun she encountered three years ago on a skiing trip in northern Greenland with her husband, Richard Weber. Attributing this to the thinning ozone cover at the pole, she said that one day she put cream and zinc oxide only on her face, but neglected her neck and regretted it. "My neck swelled up. I had blisters all over my neck," she said. At their summer tourist camp on Somerset Island, south of Ellesmere, they noticed this August that permafrost soil was melting, causing banks to collapse into the Cunningham River.

In Nunavut, a vast territory that is home to only 26,000 people, longtime residents complain of similar unsettling changes: cases of sunburn in the summer, rain in midwinter and early ice breakups that cut short spring hunts. Elderly residents have been unnerved by sightings of unfamiliar southern species - wolverines, grizzly bears, robins and even a swan. Here on Ellesmere Island, biologists attribute the sharp declines in Peary Caribou populations to the winter rains that have sealed vital forage vegetation under sheets of ice. To the south, around the Hudson Bay, Canadian wildlife scientists reported last year that polar bears were 90 to 220 pounds lighter than they were in the 1960's. The weight loss is apparently related to the ice-melting patterns: sea ice now is melting earlier in the spring, making it more difficult for the bears to gorge on seal pups.

Since the 1960's, the primary mission of the military post here has been to listen to Russian military radio traffic on the far side of the pole. But weather is the cold war that is waged daily by the soldiers and technicians who rotate through here for six months of duty. During mild weather windows, first in the spring and again in the late summer, the Canadian military flies an Arctic version of the Berlin airlift, shuttling in food, supplies and enough fuel to feed power generators that burn 60 gallons of diesel an hour. The only locally supplied product is water, which is pumped from a nearby lake through pipes that are heated to avoid freezing. In mid-July, when scientists were announcing in Washington that global warming was thinning Greenland's ice cap, residents of Alert were forced to postpone their annual "Polar Plunge" in Dumbell Bay. Although rising temperatures may be thinning the ice cap, visible from here on a clear day, swimmers here faced a midsummer day of pack ice in the bay and two inches of snow on the ground.


Science Daily




An off-season "Jack Frost" is nipping life away from some plants in many regions of the country according to a recent University of Maryland paper featured in this month's issue of Ecology Letters. David Inouye, Maryland's professor of biology, has found that global climate change influences early and late frost events, which inhibit growth and possibly damage many plants. Climate change has also impacted animal populations that depend on plants that suffered frost damage. Inouye, who has studied global climate change impact on animal and plant life for over 20 years, suggests there is great evolutionary significance of frost in context of global warming that warrants further research.

"Five to 15 percent of agricultural production is lost to frost each year worldwide. Frost determines the growing range for many species of garden and agricultural plants, so changes in the distribution of frost in the future may influence where certain plants can be grown," said Inouye. Subfreezing temperatures that signal frost conditions can cause formation of ice crystals within or between the plant cells, which lead to physical damage and trigger physiological problems. Crop plants are often impacted by this kind of cellular death when unusually low temperatures occur overnight, causing a significant ecological and economic effect on the crop plants.

This kind of "killing frost" has a strong impact during below- freezing temperatures, particularly at the beginning of the growing season, when plants have lost the physiological protection against freezing that protects them. The damage can be specific to certain life stages: buds and new leaves of woody plants are more susceptible than older tissues (e.g. stems, mature leaves). At a high-altitude field site in Colorado, Inouye found flowers and ovaries are often killed when older leaves are not affected by frost. He says it may appear practical to protect some fruit trees or other crops from frost by methods such as spraying water or using heaters or fans to move cold air away, but wildflowers don't reap benefits from this kind of protection. Inouye adds, "The degree to which plants will suffer from frost damage in the future will depend on the interactions between temperature and precipitation, both of which are predicted to change. According to some models, alder, birch and poplar trees will be affected and these early-flowering trees will suffer greater frost damage in the future."

Frost can also cause a loss of food supplies for an animal species, either through killing the leaves or through loss of seeds or fruits. During a previous study cited by Inouye, it was found that the year following a frost event a population of squirrels, who consumed acorns of several different species of oak trees, dropped 17 percent. However, the year of the frost was the largest squirrel population recorded in five years. Since the study only reported data for one year following the frost, Inouye believes it would have taken a few years for squirrel populations to recover fully. To understand further frost impact on animal species, he suggests a long-term database of population numbers, data on diet, and availability of food items in the diet to examine the population before, during and after a frost event.

Global climate change may continue to influence the frequency and distributions of frost events. Inouye notes few studies address how climate change might influence late spring frosts. If global warming results in earlier flowering in temperate species, flowers might become more susceptible to frost damage. He suggests further research on how the influence of global climate change on frost events may have a widespread impact on plant and animal life.


New York Times

October 10, 2000


The hole that opens in the ozone layer over Antarctica each southern spring formed earlier and grew bigger this year than at any time since satellites have been monitoring the polar atmosphere, scientists have reported. The finding renewed suspicions among atmospheric scientists that global warming could be indirectly abetting the chemical reactions that destroy ozone, but many still say the growth of the hole could also be the result of natural, albeit unusual, variations in Antarctic weather and other conditions. In early September, several weeks before it normally reaches its peak, the hole expanded to a record 17.1 million square miles, an expanse larger than North America, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. By comparison, in 1981, according to the atmospheric agency, it covered just 900,000 square miles.

Since its peak in September, the hole, which changes shape day by day as it is molded by globe-spanning winds, has extended several times over the southern tip of South America, as it has in a few years over the last decade. With this year's record following records in 1996 and 1998, some atmospheric scientists are beginning to express surprise at the persistence of the phenomenon, which is caused largely by reactions between ozone and a group of synthetic chemicals that have been banned and whose concentrations are starting to decline in the air.

"I've been very much expecting to see a turnaround, a leveling off," said Dr. Michael H. Proffitt, the senior scientific officer at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, which issues a series of bulletins each fall tracking the progress of the ozone hole. The hole is closely watched because the stratosphere's diaphanous layer of ozone - molecules consisting of three oxygen atoms - absorbs ultraviolet rays, which could contribute to skin cancers and cataracts and threaten agriculture and ecosystems if they reached the surface. The annual ozone hole is the legacy of decades of emissions of a group of synthetic chemicals, mainly chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC's, that destroy ozone in the presence of sunlight. The chemicals were once popular in aerosol sprays, plastic foams, refrigerants and firefighting equipment, but have nearly all been phased out under voluntary moves by industry and the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

In the early 1970's, when scientists first reported that CFC's could destroy ozone, some theorized that the effect would be most discernible in the highest reaches of the atmosphere over the tropics, partly because of the abundance of sunlight. But in 1985 British scientists found the huge loss of ozone each spring and summer over the South Pole. "That was the surprise of the century," Dr. Proffitt said. Subsequent research determined that the effect is focused mainly high over Antarctica, and to a smaller degree the North Pole, because ozone destruction is most vigorous when extremely frigid temperatures create clouds of ice particles in the stratosphere, generally 9 to 12 miles above the surface, that intensify the chemical reaction.

The putative link with global warming, Dr. Proffitt and other scientists say, comes because it is thought that a buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping industrial gases, while warming the lower atmosphere, actually acts in the opposite way in the stratosphere, causing it to radiate more heat to space and grow colder than it would otherwise be. Another cause of stratospheric cooling is simply the loss of ozone itself. Without ozone, this layer of the atmosphere does not absorb the energy arriving from the sun as ultraviolet radiation, making the thin air even cooler. The more cold high air, the more ice clouds, Dr. Proffitt said. More ice clouds mean CFC's and other ozone- destroying chemicals can more efficiently do their work.

Over the last five years, Dr. Proffitt said, measurements of stratospheric temperatures in October over Antarctica have shown an unusually large area cold enough to form ozone-destroying clouds. In the latest ozone bulletin, issued last week, Dr. Proffitt noted that the average expanse of extremely cold stratospheric air from 1995 to 2000 has been double that seen in any other five-year period.

Even so, he said, it is too soon to say definitively that a general global warming trend is responsible for this high-altitude cold snap, and the resulting growth in the ozone hole. Other atmospheric scientists agree that, for several decades to come, the ozone hole will probably exhibit a lot of variability, and possibly more growth, before the global ban on CFC's and other ozone-destroying chemicals finally reduces concentrations enough to see the layer repair itself at the poles. Through this span, unpredictable variations in polar weather will probably have more influence on the condition of the ozone layer than anything else, said Dr. Michael J. Kurylo, the manager of upper atmosphere research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration."What we get in any one season is going to be driven by meteorological circumstances from year to year," he said.

For residents of Punta Arenas, Chile, and Ushuaia, Argentina, ports that sporadically have been visited by the edge of the ozone hole, there is little to worry about one way or the other, said Dr. Paul A. Newman, an atmospheric physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. In September and October, the peak months for the ozone hole, the sun is too low in the sky to pose much of a sunburn or cancer threat, he said.

"When the hole passed over Punta Arenas this time, it was 35 degrees that day," Dr. Newman said. "Nobody was really out there getting a suntan."


Washington Post

Sunday, October 8, 2000; Page B05


Just as the buzz about West Nile virus has begun to recede in the Northeast, infected birds are being reported in Maryland and the District, and there is news of an Israeli outbreak that has claimed at least 19 lives. Beyond the obvious lessons to be drawn from these scares, there is a link that has not been recognized: The conditions underlying outbreaks of this sometimes deadly virus can be traced to global environmental change.

This is not the kind of distant, seemingly abstract effect most people associate with the threat of global warming--melting glaciers, eroding coastlines, endangered species. It is something we can see in our own backyards. Named for the district in Uganda where it was first identified in 1937, the West Nile virus entered the Western Hemisphere in 1999--most likely, scientists believe, via migratory birds from Europe. While the precise means of introduction is not known, we do know the conditions that "rev up" the disease's life cycle: mild winters coupled with prolonged droughts and heat waves--the long-term and extreme weather phenomena associated with climate change.

Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, the fact that drought can amplify transmission of diseases they carry may seem counterintuitive. But this is the case for the West Nile virus. Here is how it can happen:

West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes to birds and other animals, with occasional "spillover" to humans. What makes it different from many other mosquito-borne illnesses is that its primary carrier is an urban-dwelling mosquito, Culex pipiens. Culex typically breeds underground in the foul water standing in city drains and catch basins. During a drought, those pools are even richer in the rotting organic material that Culex needs to thrive; more rainfall would flush the drains and dilute the pools. (Another group of mosquitoes, Aedes, breeds in open ponds and puddles; some species of Aedes carry the West Nile virus, though not as efficiently as Culex.)

Drought can also lead to a decline in the number of mosquito predators, such as frogs and dragonflies. And it encourages birds to congregate around shrinking water sites--where the virus can circulate more easily. Meanwhile, high temperatures speed up the development of viruses within the mosquito carriers (who only live about two weeks). The faster a virus develops, the greater the chance that it will reach a dangerous mature stage while the mosquito is alive and capable of biting.

All these factors enhance the possibility that infectious virus levels will build up in birds and mosquitoes living in close proximity to human beings. And in the spring and summer of 1999, all these factors were present in the Northeastern and mid- Atlantic states. The prolonged drought and intense heat (in particular the three-week heat wave that enveloped the Northeast that July) lasted until the pendulum swung ferociously in the opposite direction, bringing torrential end-of-August rains. Culex thrived in the drought months; Aedes bred in the late summer floodwaters.

And, as is well known, a serious outbreak occurred: Seven New Yorkers died from the West Nile virus in 1999. Sixty-two people were infected and survived; many have reported chronic disabilities, such as extreme muscle weakness and fatigue. In contrast, the unusually cool and wet weather this past spring and summer may have reduced the threat of West Nile virus for humans. Indeed, only one death has been recorded to date--that of an 82-year-old man in New Jersey. Public health measures, including targeted spraying of pesticides and the application of chemicals and bacteria that kill mosquito larvae in storm drains, were also apparently helpful.

Meanwhile, however, Israel experienced a prolonged drought and intense heat this summer--conditions that may have helped create the serious outbreak that occurred there. Certainly there are factors other than weather and climate that contribute to outbreaks of disease. Just as forestry practices fueled the fires sparked by lightning during this past summer's prolonged western drought, local environmental problems can increase the potential for mosquito breeding in urban settings. Antiquated urban drainage systems leave more fetid pools in which mosquitoes breed, and stagnant rivers and streams do not adequately support healthy fish populations that consume mosquito larvae.

But it was extreme weather events that allowed the West Nile virus to be launched with a vengeance in this hemisphere in 1999. Now, with the virus well established on America's eastern seaboard, wide swings in weather--the projected hallmark of global climate change--threaten to encourage mosquito breeding and spawn new outbreaks in the future. Weather extremes have played a significant role in the emergence and resurgence of dangerous diseases in the past. St. Louis encephalitis, a disease also involving Culex mosquitoes, birds and humans, made its appearance in St. Louis in 1933 during the "dust bowl." A large outbreak occurred in California in 1984 following an extended dry spell.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome--caused by a previously unknown virus related to one that killed U.S. and U.N. soldiers during the Korean War--appeared suddenly in the Southwestern United States in 1993. The disease is carried by rodents, and populations of the Peromyscus maniculatus mouse had been boosted tenfold by a sequence of extreme weather conditions--years of drought that helped reduce its predators, followed by heavy winter rains that encouraged the growth of the mouse's food sources. Ninety-four people were infected during the first year; 45 of them died.

Since the mid-1970s, more than 30 diseases new to medicine have emerged. Old infectious diseases are resurging, or reappearing where they had been eliminated or, like West Nile, appearing where they have never been seen before. Factors contributing to this are deepening poverty in some areas, population movements and medical and agricultural misuse of antibiotics. But the damage is compounded by local and global environmental change.

The appearance of a mosquito-borne illness in Northeastern cities underscores just how global environmental change can directly affect our lives. Diseases generated continents away can travel and spread, and no nation is immune. Public and personal health is inextricably tied to a stable climate, and to economic development and healthy ecosystems on continents far away, as well as at home.

We have embarked upon a precarious and uncertain global course. Just as we have underestimated the rate at which climate change is occurring, we have underestimated the sensitivity of biological systems to small changes in average temperatures and the accompanying weather instability. We cannot delay any longer: Restabilizing the climate system must be a chief priority to protect our health and our well-being. Global warming is driven by the use of fossil fuels and the emission of other heat-trapping gases into the Earth's atmosphere. This latest manifestation of global environmental change in our backyards underscores the urgency of altering the way our economies develop and the way we power that development.


October 16, 2000

Internet: html

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (Reuters) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday he had ordered the navy to rescue people marooned on tree-tops after flash floods following heavy rains submerged scores of houses. "Last night I ordered 500 navy men to go and rescue flood victims, especially children, many of whom are living up in trees, and we need to rescue them immediately," he said, after the flash floods hit Kompong Speu province.

"Rain waters have flooded the houses of at least 487 families in two districts and the affected have been moved to higher ground," Peou Samy, secretary-general of the National Committee of Disaster Management, said by telephone from Kompong Speu, 40 kms (25 miles) west of Phnom Penh. Hun Sen appealed for emergency help for the flood-ravaged province.

Taing Nath, an official with the National Committee on Disaster Management, said floods had damaged hundreds of hectares (acres) of rice in Kompong Speu. Nearly three million people have been affected and 277 killed in extensive flooding throughout eastern Cambodia since early July. Thousands of hectares of rice and other crops have been destroyed by the swirling waters.


Panafrican News

13 October


The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) says that the country's economy is at a virtual standstill, while consumers have been severely hit by inflation. The bank has also predicted that the country will not achieve any overall economic growth in 2000. CBK, in its monthly economic bulletin for October, says growth will stagnate because of several economic factors including the current drought that is ravaging most parts of the country, especially its economic hubs.

The review says that provisional data on output from key economic sectors indicate that real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by just 0.7 percent in the year up to July 2000 compared to 1.4 percent in 1999. There was a slowdown in all sectors of the economy.

The on-going energy crisis caused by prolonged drought has pushed up prices in September 2000, with the underlying month-on-month inflation rising to 9.8 percent from 7.6 percent in August. The overall month-on-month inflation also increased to 7.1 percent from 5.9 percent in the same period 1999, CBK says, attributing the increase mainly to the high cost of fuel and power products and the depreciation of the Kenya shilling. "A long running energy shortage has affected all businesses, while fuel-induced inflation is already being reflected in the cost of consumer goods.

"The shilling has plunged to a low of 79 to the US dollar," the review says. The bank paints a gloomy picture of the prevailing economic situation in the country, saying that there would be no respite from the prevailing inflationary pressures "for a while yet". There is also less likelihood of normal rainfall during the October-December short rainy season, a factor that might compel the country's electric power generation body to put on hold, plans to step down the current heavy power rationing schedule. CBK however, expresses optimism that growth may pick up in the first half of 2001, but only if normal rains are experienced and a more favourable investment environment emerged through the implementation of prudent macro-economic policies.


October 16, 2000

Internet: .html

DHAKA, Bangladesh (Reuters) -- Floods which have ravaged southwestern Bangladesh will cause damage or losses of at least $500 million to crops, fish farms, property and infrastructure, according to estimates on Monday. These include losses worth $180 million to standing rice crops, vegetables and fruit gardens, based on an independent survey by Novartis (Bangladesh) Limited, supplier of agricultural inputs. Actual losses would not be known until the floods recede from all affected districts, Novartis official Farook Hossain noted.

The three-week flooding, triggered by heavy rains and aggravated by floodwaters rushing down from West Bengal in India, killed more than 130 Bangladeshis. More than two million people were left homeless and many more were marooned or beyond the reach of relief operators. Government officials said the flood levels had shown a "marked improvement" in all areas except in Satkhira district where they began dropping very slowly on Monday. "Vast areas are still under water, which we don't expect to recede in the next one week," said an official by telephone from Satkhira.

Conditions in other districts had improved steadily, exposing the full picture of devastation, he said. Local officials said that besides crops, fish farming in the southwest which accounts for over 75 percent of the country's $300 million annual fish exports, mostly shrimps, suffered major damage. Most of the fish farms had been washed away. Even where floodwater levels have dropped, people faced a problem of water-logging, one disaster management official said. Water had been held in by embankments designed to protect fish farms and crops from saline water from the Bay of Bengal.

This had forced nearly a quarter million flood victims to remain in shelters, officials said. Some people who went back to their devastated homes faced a lack of food, drinking water and medicine, they said. The authorities are trying to clear passage for the stagnant water by digging canals and cutting through embankment walls. "We are in a dilemma, the water logging seems to be the biggest problem in the flood's immediate aftermath," one official in Satkhira said on Monday. Abul Basher, an executive with Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association, said Bangladesh's shrimp exports would be seriously hit following the floods, which struck the country's usually dry southwest for the first time in more than 50 years.

"The loss in shrimp exports alone would be around $230 million," he told Reuters. Bangladesh earned $322.5 million from shrimp exports in 1999-2000 (July-June), making it the country's third biggest export after readymade garments and jute. The shrimp export target for the current fiscal year had been $350 million, Bashar said. Over 1,100 km (675 miles) of roads were damaged by the floods, along with schools and other infrastructure which would need at least $100 million to rebuild, local government officials said.


BBC News

Thursday, 12 October, 2000


Some of the worst flooding in decades has caused chaos and widespread damage in southern England. Downpours on already saturated land and overflowing rivers flooded homes and businesses, cut off roads and delayed or stopped rail services. The worst hit areas were East and West Sussex and north-west Kent, where rescue workers evacuated residents from low-lying parts of five villages on Thursday. The situation is likely to get worse before things start to improve overnight. The latest evacuations came as forecasters warned more rain was on the way.

Uckfield in East Sussex, where more than 150mm of rain fell in 12 hours, saw a lifeboat crew rescue 20 men, women and children trapped in a Somerfield supermarket. Vernon Jay, a jeweller from the town, had to be plucked from a riverbank by helicopter 20 minutes after he was washed down the high street. Onlookers watched in horror as Mr Jay, who was attempting to reach his shop, was caught up in the current at 0720BST.

Ray Kemp, from the Southern Region of the Environment Agency, described the situation as "dire" and warned people not to take risks. "If you encounter floodwater, don't travel through it. This is a very severe emergency. "This is probably the worst rainfall we have had for many, many years in southern England." He suggested that people should move pets to safety and get cars onto higher ground. Low-lying areas of historic Lewes were also evacuated as the swollen River Ouse collapsed a wall and threatened to burst altogether.

By Thursday afternoon 42 warnings of expected flooding were made across the country from Devon to Yorkshire and Shropshire to Kent. Drivers in Sussex were asked to stay at home by police as main roads, including the A21, A22, A26, A27, A227 and A272, were flooded. A spokesman for AA Roadwatch said: "The police have been putting out so many road flood warning signs in Sussex that they have run out." Rush hour motorists were stranded in their cars and some had to sit on the roof of their vehicle as floodwater continued to rise.

In Kent, water was held back at the Leigh Barrier near Tunbridge Wells, preventing it flowing down the River Medway towards Tonbridge. But some unlucky residents from the villages of East Peckham, Yalding, Laddingford, Collier Street and Stile Bridge had to be evacuated. Maidstone Borough Council set up a "rest centre" at Cornwallis School, at the Linton Crossroads on the A229, providing shelter and refreshments for people without alternative accommodation. The ambulance service was urging people not to dial 999 unless it was a "real emergency". Lewes MP Norman Baker, who is working with the emergency services, said parts of the town were "unrecognisable".

"I am very concerned for the people whose premises, homes and businesses have been swamped by water in such a short time. "Emergency services are tonight facing a very major operation in making sure people are rescued in time." He called for one body to be in charge of flood precautions instead of the four separate ones at present. Meteorological Office experts said after more rain in south east England on Thursday night the situation should be easing on Friday. Head forecaster Ewen McCallum said: "The situation is likely to get worse before things start to improve overnight." Figures show the region's average monthly rainfall for October has already been exceeded.


ABC News

16 October


Oct. 16

Torrential rains over the weekend have unleashed deadly mudslides and floods in Switzerland and northern Italy. Worst hit so far is Gondo, a mountain village in the Swiss Canton Wallis, where a 40-yard-wide torrent of mud and stone cut through the community, destroying 10 homes - one-third of the village - and leaving 13 missing. At least seven people were found dead Sunday - including a 7-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy - and at least 14 were missing and feared dead. The waters have carved up towns and villages, severed rail and road links, cut phone lines and sent rivers rising to record levels - and it's still raining.

Buried Alive

Swiss officials said one woman was found alive in the wrecked mountain village under more than 6 feet of debris. Brigadier Daniel Roubaty said the woman was located by a dog, and rescue workers were then able to speak to her. At least 6,500 men were working in the region, trying to restore road links, ferrying out residents from cutoff villages and searching for the missing. The area affected stretches from the Rhone valley in France to the Povalley in northern Italy. The Simplon pass, which connects the regions through Switzerland, is closed. The situation on theRhone is being called the flood of the century. Thousands of acres are under water in the upper reaches and, as the waters movedownstream, more land is threatened.

Brig, on the upper reaches of the Rhone in Switzerland, was entirely cut off this morning. Thousands have been evacuated in other parts of Switzerland. The Italian government is considering declaring a state of emergency in the north, where the River Po is rising fast. Dozens of villages are already cut off from the outside world.

Rising Fast

Lake Maggiore was reportedly rising two inches an hour and parts of Locarno were under water. Late Sunday, rescuers found the body of a woman whose car was caught in another mudslide on the road leading to the Great St. Bernard pass crossing to Italy. Swiss police said today that they had found a second body. On the French island of Corsica, a shepherd died after being swept away by the rising Restonica river. A freak wave hit a group of sailors in the port of Savona near Genoa, Italy. One, a Filipino, was drowned, port authorities said. In Turin, capital of Piedmont, the Dora Baltea river burst its banks overnight, flooding several main streets with about 20 inches of water and mud. Other rivers appeared above their average level, said Civil Defense spokesman Marco Ludovici. Most of Turin's 29 bridges were closed today, and at least 250 people were forced from their homes. The Caselle airport was also shut.



31) C02E.COM

Cantor Fitzgerald and PricewaterhouseCoopers have jointly developed a new web site,, LLC, at is a new web site is designed to serve as a business-to-business online resource to understand, mitigate and manage the transition to a greenhouse gas (GHG) constrained future. It intends to expand and simplify carbon commerce for those already involved and enable new comers to get up and running as efficiently and effectively as possible. According to the site, the cornerstone of is a 24 hour internet marketplace for trading greenhouse gas emissions offsets, which will offer a full suite of carbon commerce enabling services, including decision- making and trading tools, a daily news service and issue-specific briefings, a specialised search engine, and access to a select group of international consultants and experts. will officially launch in November 2000 at the Sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6) in The Hague, Netherlands.


Members of the European Round Table of Industrialists have presented their contribution to the debate to the Members of the European Council and European Commission. In their new report, they set out their views on how best to implement the Kyoto Protocol, established in December 1997, to limit greenhouse gas emissions. ERT Members strongly believe that the only way this can be achieved is to encourage constructive behavior from all sections of society. This calls for a judicious mix of government policies and measures, including instruments designed to encourage voluntary action at all levels. The report illustrates the real contribution that industry in Europe is already making to help meet Europe's commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions and calls for flexibility to develop appropriate approaches to suit specific circumstances.

The report, in PDF format, is available at For further information, contact Kathie Harris:


NASA has posted a new feature article discussing whether human activity is warming the Earth or recent signs of climate change signal natural variations In this article, scientists discuss the vexing ambiguities of our planet's complex and unwieldy climate. The article can be found at


For the Greenhouse Gas Volunteer October 2000 edition, the US Energy Information Agency's newsletter on the Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program, the 1999 data reporting cycle has officially closed and USEIA is compiling the preliminary statistics. The Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program saw a record participation of 201 reporters, including 32 new reporters. See:




Japan Times

Oct. 9, 2000


In another attempt to halt global warming, the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP6, will be held in The Hague in November. At stake is a new chance for the so-called Annex 1 countries -- the industrialized nations and those like Russia who are switching to market economies, -- to finally implement the agreements they made at the COP3 meeting in Kyoto in 1997. Experts at Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that in order to slow global warming, two things must happen: the concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide must be stabilized at twice the level they were at before the Industrial Revolution, and emission goals for greenhouse gases must be reduced to between one-half and one-third of the current levels.

The environment ministers who attended the Kyoto Conference agreed that, as the first step, the A1 countries should take the lead by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from the 1990 level over the 2005-2012 period, a step that would help encourage developing nations to join in.

Three years have passed since COP3. And as expected, opinion remains divided. Even the A1 nations are bickering over how to implement the Kyoto accord. The points of contention include:

whether to limit use of the "Kyoto Mechanism," which offers less-costly offshore reduction methods for achieving emissions targets;

how to determine the factors that aid the absorption of carbon dioxide, such as forestation;

whether legal penalties should be imposed for noncompliance;

and how to support developing countries in reducing emissions.

With only a few months to go before the Hague conference, the participating nations are still stuck in last-minute negotiations on these key issues. Here, I would like to comment on some of the points of contention and address the issues of absorption and the Kyoto Mechanism, which encompasses the various rules by which the reduction game is played.

First, a recap of the commitments the A1 countries made in Kyoto. The Kyoto agreement called for a greenhouse gas reduction of 5.2 percent for the A1 nations as a whole, but the targets for each differed widely. Portugal was allowed an increase of 27 percent while Luxembourg committed to a 28 percent reduction. Australia was permitted a rise of 8 percent but Russia agreed to stabilize at the 1990 level. Japan, the United States and the European Union, meanwhile, pledged cuts of 6 percent, 7 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

It must be noted that these targets were set according to the different conditions in each country, or in other words, as a result of talks held to coordinate the diverse national interests of each participant. It is also important to note that they agreed on the 5.2 percent reduction goal on the assumption it could be achieved by using carbon dioxide absorption in tandem with the flexibility mechanism and by adding three gases -- HFCs, PFCs and SF6 -- as targets of the reduction.

The U.S., in particular, committed to a 7 percent cut on the assumption that it would be able to take advantage of absorption provided by its vast farmland and forestry resources and international emissions trading. The EU, on the other hand, had said before Kyoto it would try to slash emissions by 15 percent -- even without absorption or the flexibility measures. While that may seem ambitious, experts said the region could attain that goal relatively easily because it has switched fuels from coal to natural gas, incorporated former East Germany, and has a lower energy demand estimate compared with the rest of the industrialized world.

For Japan, however, cutting emissions below the 1990 level is considered difficult because its industries, paralyzed by a series of oil crises in the 1970s, had achieved a fairly high level of efficiency by the year at which the standard is set -- 1990. The forecast for energy demand is strong in the consumer and transportation sectors these days. While the Kyoto Mechanism is expected to help, officials said they are not counting on forests to facilitate carbon dioxide absorption very much because Japan's land is quite limited. In the end, however, this nation committed itself to a 6 percent cut.

In August, the U.S., European Union and Japan released their data on carbon dioxide absorption. The U.S. estimates that, even by a narrow definition, 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions could be absorbed, while the EU as a whole says it will not rely on absorption. Japan, by broadly defining managed forests, says 3.7 percent of the emissions could be absorbed. But this position has been criticized by the media as well as environmentalists from nongovernmental organizations.

From the beginning, the concept of absorption itself has been unpopular among experts because it is difficult to accurately gauge absorption or properly control forests. They have also pointed out that under the Japanese definition of absorption, the U.S., for example, would be able to achieve its reduction goals through absorption alone. However, it seems to me that such criticism is irrelevant at this point, because these problems were fairly predictable when the nations adopted the Kyoto protocol.

It is undeniable that deforestation has led to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and it is natural that efforts to absorb it should be recognized as such. The conditions among the countries differ, and that is why a diverse range of goals was set for each nation. Just as the U.S. is free to narrowly define potential sources of carbon dioxide absorption, Japan and the EU have the right to select their own options. The question is: can one clearly show carbon dioxide is being absorbed by human effort? It has been argued that the issue of defining absorption should wait until after 2012, when better gauging methods are likely to surface. However, such efforts could endanger the prerequisites of the Kyoto agreement and trigger calls to start negotiations all over again.

The COP3 agreement says the Kyoto Mechanism should be used only as a supplementary measure, and this must of course must be respected. But to pursue efficiency with the global objective of reducing greenhouse gases, it would be reasonable to cut emissions where the cost is lowest -- and unreasonable to limit measures that allow flexibility in such efforts. If one insists the A1 countries should take the lead in cutting greenhouse gases, they could start with emissions trading and full joint implementation, without limits. By doing so, emission reduction costs at these countries will gradually become standardized, and their efforts more cost-efficient.

If some of the developing countries want to utilize the so-called clean development Mechanism, these moves are of course welcome. But the Hague conference is only the first step in what may prove to be an eternal effort. There are long-term solutions being sought in the development and proliferation of nonfossil fuels, in technological breakthroughs such as carbon dioxide fixation, and in the transition to an energy- and resource-saving (and ultimately, recycling) society, but the nations of the world should work toward a pragmatic arrangement that will set a good balance between national interests and the need to tackle climate change.

Hajime Ohta is an executive counselor of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren).


Journal of the Pace Center for Environmental Legal Studies Volume 4, Number 1 Fall 2000


By Joy Hyvarinen, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP)


The Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is expected to make several decisions in November 2000 that will be critical to shaping the Kyoto Protocol. The purpose of this note is to contribute to the debate in the lead-up to the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP 6). The title refers both to the Kyoto Protocol as a valuable agreement, which is worth defending, and to the need for the European Union (EU) to take a strong stand in defense of the Protocol. The paper provides a brief background section. It then considers opposition and doubts concerning the Protocol. The paper suggests that some dangers may lie in doubts about the Protocol, even well justified ones. The paper concludes with some observations concerning the EU.


In 1997, adoption of the Kyoto Protocol marked a watershed in international environmental policy-making, with the introduction of the legally binding quantified emissions reduction targets that form the core of the Protocol. After years of mounting scientific evidence on climate change, the world seemed poised to begin the serious business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, central questions concerning the Protocol were left open at Kyoto.

In November 2000, the COP 6 is expected to conclude work on the main parts of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, adopted at the Fourth Conference of the Parties in 1998. This includes answering decisive questions, such as what the role of the 'Kyoto mechanisms' will be, how compliance issues will be resolved and what role carbon sequestration activities (land use, land-use change and forestry) will have in the Protocol.

The decisions likely to be taken at COP 6, or subsequent meetings, will define the substance of the Kyoto Protocol. There are widespread concerns that extensive use of the Kyoto mechanisms, a weak compliance system and excessive reliance on carbon sequestration may compromise the Protocol, perhaps even fatally. Critics have pointed out many potential "loopholes" in the Protocol, which could allow governments to avoid action to reduce emissions.

Agreement at COP 6 on the issues that were left open when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted is seen as necessary by most countries before they can consider ratifying the Protocol. While Parties to the UNFCCC see a need to be clear about the implications of ratification before proceeding, the year 2002, which marks the tenth anniversary of the Rio Conference on Environment and Development, has already emerged as a widely supported target date for entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. The UN Secretary- General has recently called on the UN Millennium Summit to promote the adoption and implementation of the Protocol, specifically urging those states whose ratifications are required for entry into force to take action in time for the Protocol to come into effect by 2002.

Although the EU, pivotal to entry into force, has so far failed to confirm it willingness to lead rather than to follow, on the issue of ratification, increasing interest in exploring the practical options for achieving entry into force of the Protocol without U.S. participation in the first commitment period may signal a welcome new determination by the global community to address climate change.

Opposition and Doubts

However, with less than six months to go before COP 6, doubts about the viability of the Kyoto Protocol seem to be increasing. The Protocol seems to be facing problems on two main fronts: On one hand, the Kyoto Protocol is opposed by fossil fuel interests, which would prefer not to see it enter into force at all, and which are arguing against ratification in the U.S. and other countries. Some countries are seeking to expand the "loopholes" of the Protocol to an extent which critics say risks making a mockery of the reduction targets agreed to at Kyoto. This applies to excessive use of carbon sequestration activities and the Kyoto mechanisms. Worst case scenarios could include major greenhouse gas emitters exporting a large part of their reduction commitment to developing countries through official aid and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Outcomes such as this would subvert the foundations of the climate regime laid down in the UNFCCC and subsequently reaffirmed in the Kyoto Protocol. It should be noted that the Kyoto Protocol confirms that implementation should result in an overall reduction in Annex I country emissions of "... at least 5 percent below 1990 levels...." (Article 3.1).

On the other hand, the slow progress and the repeated attempts to weaken the Protocol in the negotiations on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action have discouraged many supporters, leading them to question the value of a seriously weakened Kyoto Protocol. As the risk of this seems to increase, doubts are growing. Many are reserving judgement on the Kyoto Protocol until the outcome of COP 6 is clear. The concerns are well founded. Expressing doubts helps ensure that governments insist on an outcome at COP 6 that closes as many of the Kyoto Protocol "loopholes" as possible. It is necessary to point out the pitfalls and weaknesses in the Protocol and to urge decision makers to act to address them.

Dangerous Doubts?

However, it may be that some aspects of the emerging "confidence gap" could have the effect of weakening the Protocol further, rather than helping to strengthen it. Opponents of the Kyoto Protocol would be extremely pleased to see former supporters turning away from the Protocol, whatever the reasons for that might be. For all its weaknesses, and all the question marks that surround it, the Kyoto Protocol has the potential to begin driving enormous, modernizing change in the outdated energy use patterns that steer development in most parts of the world. Adoption of the Protocol confirmed that a paradigm has begun to shift.

In the wrong circumstances, justified doubts about the future of the Protocol risk having the perverse effect of weakening the Protocol further. They may even constitute an invitation to encourage further doubts for less than straightforward reasons. Criticisms about the lack of progress in negotiations on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action are sometimes accompanied by suggestions that the process is not worthwhile. Disillusionment has led to suggestions that other approaches, such as focusing on national action or business-led voluntary initiatives, could be the way forward. One could argue that citing disillusionment with the international negotiating process and walking away from the Kyoto Protocol is the "easy option." The solution to climate change is in national and local action. Without ground-level implementation action, the Kyoto Protocol would have no meaning. However, climate change, perhaps more than any other problem, demands international cooperation.

Without the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol would be meaningless without local and national implementation, but so would attempts to address climate change without a global framework. (It does, however, not follow from this that all Annex I countries must necessarily be part of the Protocol in the first commitment period.) The UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol form one of the most important international regimes ever established. In committing industrialized countries to discharging a historical responsibility for climate change by taking the lead in implementing action to address it, the UNFCCC and Protocol have laid the foundations for a fair solution to a global problem.

If the Kyoto Protocol turned out to be unacceptably weak, what then? Without the Kyoto Protocol, the global framework for addressing climate change would be likely to shift towards existing global frameworks and institutions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Bank, and to an increasing emphasis on market-based approaches. The track records of these institutions, and of unrestrained market-based approaches, in a world of imperfect markets, do not inspire confidence. Voluntary approaches would not provide the predictability necessary for the kind of long-term decision making that climate change requires.

Some might argue that integrating climate change considerations into the activities of international financial and other institutions is the most effective way of addressing climate change. While, for example, international lending programs need to be adjusted so that they do not undermine, but instead support efforts to address climate change, the mandates of these institutions are inappropriate and inadequate when it comes to dealing with climate change. The Kyoto Protocol is needed to set the international standards. Some critics would argue that it is precisely the model of economic development promoted by international institutions such as the WTO and World Bank that has been a driving force behind climate change.

Abandoning the Kyoto Protocol would leave a vacuum that is unlikely to be filled by a stronger agreement, at least not without very considerable effort. Permitting a reopening of debate on the key principles that underpin the Kyoto Protocol risks a much weaker replacement or modification. Some countries would welcome any opening that might allow them to attempt to extract themselves from the commitments they made at Kyoto. This is precisely what some are trying to do in negotiations on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. However, with the Kyoto Protocol, there is a critical "bridgehead" that can be "held."

The choice of walking away from the Kyoto Protocol, weak or strong, may not really exist. Perhaps it seems that it could because of the "haze and noise" that can make it difficult to get a clear perspective in the international climate policy arena. A badly weakened Kyoto Protocol would have the same effect as a non- existent one. However, the outcomes of COP 6 and subsequent negotiations are far from clear yet. It seems much too early to consider abandoning a possibly sinking Protocol. An unsatisfactory outcome at COP 6 would not necessarily be the final word either, as both the UNFCCC and the Protocol contain review provisions.

The European Union

The top priority in the coming months must be to secure a strong, fair and credible agreement to conclude the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. Part of this can and should be scope for some flexibility. It is clear that market-based approaches have a place in the Protocol. However, the scope for choice among various mechanisms and approaches to implementation must not be permitted to result in a de facto renegotiation of the reduction targets agreed at Kyoto.

The EU is now the focus of high expectations. So far, it has failed to display the actions of a leadership group in the climate negotiations (The EU in the International Climate Negotiations - Lost and Defeated? IEEP, January 2000, considered some of these issues). COP 6 is an opportunity for the EU to claim the agenda- setting role. It may not be completely fair, but if the decisions at COP 6 result in a serious weakening of the Kyoto Protocol, the EU is likely to take much of the blame. There are some suggestions that the EU may be ready to make decisive moves. Whatever the case, the EU countries will be watched closely at COP 6.


Financial Times

Oct 10, 2000, 177 words

Internet: &query=%22climate+change%22&resultsShown=20&resultsToRequest=100

From Ms Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2101 Wilson Blvd, Suite 550, Arlington, VA 22201, US

Sir, I am writing to clarify a misunderstanding implied in your article "Vital talks loom at The Hague" on global climate change and the Kyoto Protocol (Energy and Utility Review, September 29). The article reported - incorrectly - that I believe we should renegotiate the emission reduction targets and timetables in the Kyoto Protocol. What I have said on many occasions is that we negotiated the Kyoto targets before we determined what could be counted toward those targets. Going forward, we should finish the Kyoto framework (for example, the rules governing emissions trading and carbon sequestration), determine what can be counted, and then make an assessment as to whether the existing targets can be met in the current time frame. It is simply incorrect to suggest that I support renegotiation of the targets now. What is most important as we look toward the treaty negotiations in The Hague in November is that we clarify as much of the Kyoto framework as possible, so that we keep the process moving forward and make future implementation and international political support more likely.


Bangkok Post

13 October

By Wasant Techawongtham

The extreme weather patterns in recent years have caused untold damage to life and property all over the world. Countries prone to disaster such as India and low-lying Bangladesh have been battered by severe weather to devastating effect. In this region, Cambodia and Vietnam are still battling to keep losses to the minimum. Even the northeast of Thailand, best known for its droughts, has been deluged by unusually prolonged flooding. Most people will likely attribute this phenomenon to an act of God or Nature. Scientists will probably look at natural cycles such as El Nino and La Nina to explain it. But even these do not provide adequate explanation.

Scientists are careful not to blame it on global warming lest they are be accused of basing their pronouncements on speculation rather than solid scientific data. Being a mere mortal, I'm entitled to base my judgment on gut feeling, which tells me that global warming is probably what has been wreaking havoc the world over.

Global warming or climate change has for many years been an issue of concern to scientists but has so far failed to capture the general public's attention. Its esoteric nature probably makes people think only the experts can make any sense of it. That might be true in so far as the pure and theoretical sciences are involved in understanding the nitty gritty of the phenomenon. But scientists were able to create a term to capture the essence of the concept-the greenhouse effect.

Basically, it says gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, have been emitted into the atmosphere in such massive quantities that they form a dome over the globe and prevent normal ventilation from taking place. The heat from the sun gets trapped and the rising global temperature causes all kinds of climatic havoc. The greatest source of carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels- coal, natural gas and oil-which drive the global economy. The scientific evidence is so convincing that all the industrialised countries have agreed that something must be done to halt the advancing disaster.

After several rounds of talks over the years, the industrialised countries finally committed themselves to reducing emissions in the Kyoto Protocol of the Climate Change Convention in 1997. While the agreement was proclaimed a major breakthrough, it was hardly breathtaking. The agreed targets, to be achieved by 2012, ranged from 5% for Japan to 7% for the US and 8% for Europe based on 1990 levels. But many issues remain to be haggled over by developed and developing nations at the next "Conference of the Parties" in the Hague, Netherlands next month.

One of the central issues is whether Third World countries should also be required to reduce greenhouse emissions. The so-called G77+China have so far resisted the demand, arguing that they should have the right to pollute in order to develop their economies just as the developed countries have done over past decades.

Another issue is a proposal by the developed nations to make meeting the target less painful. They want to be able to trade "carbon credits" so that they actually need to reduce less emissions than targetted. This is done by funding projects in the Third World, especially reafforestation projects, which could be considered as sinks to absorb carbon dioxide. The absorbed gas would then be counted as credits for the funding nations. Some developing countries and environmental NGOs have opposed the proposal. Lost in all this international hot air is that the future of the world and mankind is hanging by a thread, waiting for more sustainable and environment-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels to drive our global economy.

Wasant Techawongtham is Deputy News Editor for Environment and Urban Affairs, Bangkok Post.

See also--

Financial Times: &query=%22global+warming%22&resultsShown=20&resultsToRequest=100


The Guardian

Monday October 16, 2000


By Madeleine Bunting

Apathetic about climate change and out of touch with the environment, Britain needs a short sharp shock

With apologies to the residents of Uckfield, Lamberhurst, Lewes and a host of other villages and towns across southern England who are surveying the mud-silted wreckage of their homes and businesses this morning, the floods couldn't have come at a better time. Indeed, a conspiracy theorist might concoct a notion that a bunch of eco-terrorists had sabotaged sluice gates to ensure the scenes we've had of flooded fields and high streets turned to churning rivers à la Mozambique. The timing is excellent. We are only a month away from the Hague convention on climate change when the promises of Kyoto are supposed to be nailed down, and there is a real danger that the convention will go belly-up, in large part owing to US truculence.

Climate change induces a strange apathy. Everyone knows about it, few people do anything about it. If an environmentalist group launches a campaign to save a cuddly animal, it will get plenty of support, but only the really dedicated will write letters to their MP demanding a 20% cut in carbon emissions. An air of unreality has settled over the whole subject. Kyoto asked for cuts of 5% below 1990 levels, which the scientists assert is hopelessly inadequate. They say we need cuts of 60-80%.

Yet even Kyoto may prove impossible. A decade after it was universally accepted that climate change was caused by carbon emissions, they are still rising. Not even scare stories seem to have had much effect. To cap it all, the fuel tax protest a month ago seemed the coup de grace, pre-empting the whole debate in the Hague. It could have been a textbook PR exercise on the part of the oil companies to demonstrate the power and stubbornness of the electorate: don't mess with our petrol.

Just when it seemed that all was lost, rivers we had nearly forgotten about with richly redolent names such as the Beult, Uck, Ouse and Tiesse spring their wondrous revenge on our indifference. The rivers we had thought we had safely corralled proved our hubris. Seventeen severe flood warnings, 47 flood warnings, 97 flood watches: virtually the entire country was threatened by the worst floods in 40 years. The sense of outrage and anger from those affected suggested that we had forgotten that rivers flood. They always have done from time to time; what has changed is that they are now flooding frequently. We have to learn again the folk knowledge that was lost for a couple of generations about how rivers behave: where they flood, how they can suddenly rise and the destructive force of a river in spate. It was not for nothing that our ancestors worshipped water spirits; they knew their power, for creation and destruction.

We lost this knowledge because we believed that such chances of nature could be ironed out by a combination of technology and government raising and applying the necessary revenue. Sue Tapsell, a fellow at Middlesex's Flood Hazard Research Centre, has done research on the impact of floods in County Durham and the Thames Valley; the common theme is the impulse to blame - it is someone's fault. What quickly follows is the angry comment of a man quoted last week who has been flooded three times this year: "Something has got to be done." He is absolutely right. It has, but - here's the catch - it won't stop the floods. Even if we magically managed to cut our carbon emissions tomorrow, we will be reaping the results of the carbon we have already put into the atmosphere for generations to come. The consequences of all this for the faith and trust we have in government are legion - the environment does not pay dividends within an election cycle.

The million-dollar question is how you close the gap between the angry "something must be done" and the dramatic shift in lifestyle and political priorities (investment in renewable energy before the NHS) that is necessary. Platform, a London-based group of activists and artists, advocates a process of reconnecting individuals and communities with their environment, which in cities is often buried under their feet. They have been running a campaign on London's rivers - Still Waters - many of which are no more than bricked over drains. On the river Wandle, a micro- hydroturbine powers some of the local primary school lights, and a bell is triggered on high tide.

The task is herculean. Tapsell has done research with London schoolchildren on their attitudes to the countryside. Some had never been there; some didn't know what a river was; some said they'd prefer it if it was tidier and there were benches; some said the countryside scared them, they might be snatched by strangers or catch a disease. Country Life's survey of children's attitudes to the countryside last week revealed similar themes.

One poignant comment indicated how regimented and confined is children's interaction with nature: "You cannot sit on grass in case there are dog faeces." When Tapsell took a party of children to a river, they revelled in being allowed to get wet and muddy. Once it was in that intimate, intensely sensual experience of nature (on wasteland or in the countryside proper), that most children experienced their first taste of freedom. The exhilaration of building a den or climbing a tree is about escaping adult control. Our interaction with materials used to start with the mud and the puddles. Now it's in the hygienic playschool's water play. Somewhere along the line, we've lost the link between nature and freedom and drilled a fear of open spaces into children. They're relegated to the confines of the playground under a watchful eye, while the countryside is as real as video tape as it flashes past the car window.

The twin principles which govern children's attitudes (and probably many of their parents) to the countryside are fear and sentimentalisation. Human life has never lasted so long, and never have so few lives been lost to accidents and serious illness in Britain, and yet we are more preoccupied than ever about preserving life and reducing risk. Partly in response to that sense of danger, we have constructed a children's entertainment industry predicated on airbrushing out the unpredictable brutality of nature: Bambi and Percy the Park-keeper. What help is the Jungle Book to the generation who will have to cope with more of the consequences of environmental degradation than ever before?

The alternative, as environmental scientist James Lovelock has argued, is that we need a few really nasty shocks. If London, Hamburg or Washington DC were flooded, with a serious loss of life, we might finally start making connections between climate change and our unsustainable lifestyle. The problem about this argument is that by the time London floods, most of Bangladesh and the Nile delta will be long underwater. Rather, the best chance Britain has is a course of environmental ECT: lots of small, nasty shocks where it really hurts. So roll on the Uck, Beult and Tiesse, they've got a lot to teach us. The more floods, the merrier.


San Francisco Chronicle

15 October

Internet: /ED36917.DTL


Al Gore does not believe in global warming. Yes, Gore wrote a book called ``Earth in the Balance: Ecology in the Human Spirit,'' that was a call to arms against global warming. Yes, the book warned that without drastic changes, America's children might face ``a decade without winter.''

Yes, he warned that global warming could cause floods and countless deaths. And: ``We now know that (cars') cumulative impact on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront.'' Indeed, Gore wrote that saving the planet ``is in one way more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler'' and likened those who called for caution in meeting the problem to Hitler appeaser Neville Chamberlain.

President Clinton ceded environmental issues to Gore. Whenever there was a natural disaster, Gore ran to the scene with a worried I-told-you-so look and wag of the finger -- whether the catastrophe involved floods, droughts or wildfires. (No wonder Gore thought he ran into fire-ravaged Texas with FEMA Director James Lee Witt. It's not like him to miss a good disaster photo op.)

In 1997, Gore helped negotiate an international treaty in Kyoto that would require the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 93 percent of 1990 levels by 2012. ``The imperative here is to do what we promise, rather than to promise what we cannot do,'' Gore said at the time. It was an odd statement, coming from a man who had just negotiated a treaty that exempted developing nations -- even though the Senate had voted 95-0 to oppose said provision before Gore's plane took off. No surprise, Clintonia has not sought treaty ratification in the Senate.

It now appears that in Goredom, Neville Chamberlain wasn't such a bad chap after all. Gore and Clinton have been the very model of what the ``Earth in the Balance'' authors dismissed as environmental appeasers when it comes to dealing with that pernicious enemy, the automobile. American cars offered greater fuel efficiency under President Reagan, despite older technology, than they do under this ostensibly enlightened administration. Yet, no plan to fight global warming can succeed without reducing American consumption of oil. When they ran for office in 1992, Clinton and Gore promised to raise fuel efficiency standards to 40 to 45 miles per gallon. Gore today promises a standard of 60 miles per gallon, which would require the average car to be smaller than the Ford Escort. That's some pledge from the enviro-guru, who has failed to end the exemption for sport utility vehicles from the federal fuel-efficiency standard -- even before the GOP won the House. Rather than regulate Detroit's Big Three, the administration has given some $1.5 billion to DaimlerChrylser, Ford and General Motors to develop technologies for more fuel- efficient cars. Thus, the administration has been throwing money at the Big Three while they reap profits churning out gas guzzlers.

Gore has disappointed environmentalists by refusing to call for increased gasoline taxes. He has told environmental groups that the bid for an energy tax was lost in 1993, and that's that. Then, there was his part in pushing the president to release part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. If Gore really believed in global warming, he would not want to lower fuel prices. As he wrote in his book, ``the unrestrained burning of cheap fossil fuels has many ferocious defenders,'' but he would not be one of them. Higher fuel prices constitute ``one of the logical first steps in changing our policies in a manner consistent with a more responsible approach to the environment.''

Gore, the enviro-author, dismissed global-warming nonbelievers as industry- bought charlatans. He raged at the notion that global warming might be benign. He called for an all-out effort to fight this threat to Mother Earth. But if he truly believed that his children might live a decade without winter, if he truly thought that countless lives could be lost from inevitable natural disasters, he could not possibly support cheap gasoline and gas- guzzling SUVs. Politicians, after all, may settle for compromises and policies that they may not see as serving the public interest, but few readily make concessions that they believe could cost widespread death and destruction.

One can only assume, then, that Gore does not believe in global warming. Hypocrisy is not the issue. Yes, it is hypocritical of Gore to pose as both an environmental savior and a champion of cheaper gasoline, but that's not the worst of it. The sad fact is that if Al Gore doesn't believe in his own signature cause, then he probably doesn't believe in anything.

E-mail Debra J. Saunders at


Washington Times

October 17, 2000


By Patrick J. Michaels

The latest presidential debate revealed to 40 million viewers that global warming is an issue on which the candidates have clear differences, both on policy and in the veracity of their responses. Gov. George W. Bush argued that "some of the scientists . . . have been changing their opinion a bit on global warming" and that we need a "full accounting" of the issue before creating policy.

Mr. Bush is clearly correct here, and Vice President Al Gore is not countenancing the whole truth when he cites the supposedly unified opinion of scientists. Many scientists have reappraised global warming, most notably NASA's James Hansen, who now argues that the rate of warming is much lower than initially forecast because plants are taking up carbon dioxide at an increasing rate. In other words, the planet is becoming greener. This is precisely the same position that has been maintained by the coal and oil industries for years. There has been no "full accounting" of global warming because no one has yet been able to devise a system whereby scientists who assess the problem do not also profit from defining it as a problem.

Mr. Gore tried this with his much-awaited National Assessment of global warming, which is now held up by a lawsuit. The Assessment team, much like Hillary Clinton's health care consortium, apparently did an awful lot behind locked doors. Mr. Gore also intoned that "many people see the strange weather conditions that the old-timers say they've never seen before in their lifetimes" and that "storms are getting more violent and unpredictable." Those claims are totally false, as anyone who studies weather knows. There are dozens of different weather parameters measured every day: high and low temperatures, rainfall, snowfall and wind speeds, for example. The chance that an individual will see one of those parameters at an extreme value in their lifetime is exactly 100 percent. Some day must be the hottest day in your life.

Furthermore, the chance an extreme value will appear in a given year also is high. Let's work an example with monthly temperature and rainfall. There are 12 months in a year, each of which is ranked according to temperature and precipitation. That's 48 chances in a year that a given month will be record warm, cold, wet or dry. Most climate information started being recorded in 1948, giving 52 years of data. Rounding the numbers off, if there are the same number of chances to set a record as there are years of observations, the chance a record will be set this year is 50-

Mr. Gore is fond of pointing to increased flood frequency in the United States, based on a study by federal climatologist Tom Karl. But other, equally esteemed climatologists at the U.S. Geological Survey just wrote to Mr. Gore's assessment team admonishing that Mr. Karl's result could be duplicated with random numbers.

According to the United Nations, hurricane severity is decreasing for the storms that strike the United States. Tornado deaths also are declining. New research shows that, along with global warming, the extreme U.S. coldest temperatures have risen sharply while extreme high temperatures have declined. In the policy sphere, Mr. Bush's most intriguing response during the debate was in code. Although the science promoting global warming is shaky at best, Mr. Bush is a big supporter of "clean coal technologies" and has proposed spending about $2 billion on their advancement.

This used to be a buzzword for getting pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides out of the combustion stream. But now it could mean more, such as getting carbon dioxide - the biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect - out, too. That's a difficult operation, but engineers can do it today. How much will this raise the cost of energy? It might not be as expensive as initially suspected. If this technology is imposed on all fossil fuels, coal still comes out as comparatively cheaper, because there are about a jillion tons of it under our feet. Under this scenario, if you believe global warming is serious, locking up federal land and prohibiting mining is about the dumbest thing you can do for the environment, as President Clinton recently did in Utah. It also isn't very savvy. Coal miners in Democratic West Virginia just announced they support Mr. Bush, in large part because of their fear that Mr. Gore, in his jihad against global warming, will dial coal out of the nation's energy stream.

Who says Dubya is slow? Mr. Gore reiterated in the debate that global warming is "the central organizing principal for civilization," whereas Mr. Bush proposed a program that fights climate change and would have the enthusiastic support of both the fossil fuel industry and the United Mine Workers.

Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute. His latest article on global warming appears in the Cato Institute journal Regulation.


The Australian

16 October


By Frank Devine

WILL global warming go away? It always has, not necessarily to the advantage of Earth's inhabitants. However, lacking expertise to make predictions about climate change, I will restrict myself to predicting that the Kyoto protocols - aimed at reducing the greenhouse effect that is said to contribute to the warming - will go away. These tentative agreements, reached at a UN conference in Japan in 1997, require developed nations to reduce or control by 2010 the increase of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. Australia's economically damaging undertaking is to achieve carbon dioxide output of 108 per cent of 1990 levels. The protocols are due to be ratified next month. But it is most improbable the US will ratify them and, without the Americans, the Kyoto consensus will certainly collapse. Almost certainly a good thing.

In a recent speech, US Senator Chuck Hagel declared: "There are not now, nor do I anticipate there being, the 67 votes in the Senate needed to approve ratification." Hagel was a sponsor in July 1997 of a bill that called on President Bill Clinton to sign a no climate change treaty that would cause serious harm to the US economy or did not include all countries. It was passed 95-0 by the Senate. Probably it was this vote that caused Vice-President Al Gore to fly to Japan for the last few days of the Kyoto conference and to urge US delegates to "be flexible" -- meaning pay as little attention to the Senate as feasible. Clinton signed the protocols without reference to the senators, but ratification can't be slipped past them.

Suppose, however, that Gore, noted greenie, becomes president and is armed with a veto over congressional votes? I jumped to the conclusion that Gore was unregenerate when, recently, I compared his position on global warming with that of George W. Bush. Bush says: "I believe global warming exists, but the cause and impact of this slight warming are uncertain." Gore says: "There is overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity contributes to global warming." Gore's use of "scientific consensus" instead of "evidence" should have alerted me to a need to compare his present position not with Bush's but with his own past statements.

In his 1992 book Earth in Balance, for instance, he wrote: "Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany ... revealed the nature of Hitler's intention toward the Jews. Now warnings of a different sort signal an environmental holocaust without precedent. Once again the world's leaders waffle, hoping the danger will dissipate. Yet today the evidence of an ecological Kristallnacht is as clear as the sound of glass shattering in Berlin."

The way that Gore's feverish hyperbole has faded into slippery equivocation mirrors public feeling about global warming as an urgent threat. Opinion in the US has been heavily influenced in the past few weeks by statements from DrJames Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen was the first scientist of standing to connect, in 1981, man-made carbon dioxide emissions with global warming. But now he says the emphasis on carbon dioxide "may be misplaced". Other greenhouse gases -- methane, black soot (mainly from developing countries), chlorofluorocarbons and the constituents of smog -- probably cause more damage. Crucially, Hansen says technology exists to capture many of these gases. His conclusion: "The prospects for having a modest climate impact instead of a disastrous one are quite good."

The elimination of disaster as a prospect -- if Hansen is right with his new analysis -- is a blow to greenhouse zealotry. It brings into focus the discrepancy between satellite observations, which show a slight cooling of Earth's temperatures in the past 20 years, and surface recordings that indicate a general warming. It highlights the fact that projections of future calamity are based on computer modelling. It may not be entirely a case of garbage in, garbage out, but the possibility must be considered that computers have not been programmed adequately with information about weather and climate. If disaster is not imminent, media that have hastened to announce it lose much face.

On August 19, The New York Times reported the opening of an ice- free patch at the North Pole, "more evidence that global warming may be real and already affecting climate". On August 29, deep inside the paper, it reported that 10per cent of the Arctic Ocean is free of ice in a typical summer and that "finding water at the North Pole is not necessarily related to global warming".

In a vigorous submission to Australia's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in August, Dr Brian O'Brien, a Perth physicist and climate authority, declared that the public had been "systematically misinformed" about greenhouse effects by present and past governments, with the assistance of CSIRO and the Bureau of Statistics. Rather than Australia being a global pariah -- as green zealots claimed when it fought for the best deal at Kyoto -- we risk being seen as global mugs if we ratify the protocols next month.

Chad Carpenter
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) New York, NY
Tel: + 1 (212) 375-8727
Fax: + 1 (309) 419-8814

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