Friday, December 24, 2004

2004 the Fourth Warmest Year Globally


The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has determined that 2004 was the fourth warmest year since accurate records commenced in 1861. The last 10 years (1995-2004), with the exception of 1996, are among the warmest 10 years on record.

Droughts swept Africa, India and Australia and contributed to record forest fires in Alaska. The global mean surface temperature in 2004 is expected to reach 0.44 degrees celsius above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14 degrees, with October the warmest October ever recorded.

"The series of warm years is continuing," Soobasschandra Chacowry, a director at the WMO, told journalists.

WMO scientist, Gilles Sommeria, told reporters "It is expected from models that the air temperature will go on rising and the surface temperature will go on rising and the glaciers will go on melting."

Sommeria said that there is the likelihood of an increase in extreme events in the coming decade and that the rise in greenhouse gases was man-made.

"The controversy on the greenhouse effect is somewhat artificial," he said, pointing to a 2001 UN report predicting global temperatures would rise by 1.4-5.8 degrees by 2100, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels such as petrol and coal - the sharpest rise over a century in the last 10,000 years.

Details of the WMO press report


Globally, the land-surface air temperature anomaly for October 2004 was the warmest on record for a month of October. The blended land and sea-surface temperature (SST) value for the Arctic (north of 70°N) in July and the land-surface air temperature value for Africa south of the Equator in July were the warmest on record for July. Significant positive annual regional temperature anomalies, notably across much of the land masses of central Asia, China, Alaska and western parts of the United States, as well as across major portions of the North Atlantic Ocean, contributed to the high global mean surface temperature ranking.

Over the 20th century, the global surface temperature increased by more than 0.60C. The rate of change for the period since 1976 is roughly three times that for the past 100 years as a whole. In the northern hemisphere, the 1990s were the warmest decade with an average of 0.38oC. The surface temperatures averaged over the recent five years (2000-2004) were, however, much higher (0.58o C).

Strong regional temperature differences

During June and July, heatwaves with near-record temperatures affected southern Spain, Portugal, and Romania, with maximum temperatures reaching 400C. In Japan, extreme hot conditions persisted during the summer with record-breaking maximum temperatures. An exceptional heatwave affected much of eastern Australia during February, as maximum temperatures soared to 450C in many areas. The spatial and temporal extent of the heatwave was greater than that of any other February heatwave on record. A prolonged severe heatwave across northern parts of India during the last week of March caused more than 100 fatalities.

In July, abnormally cold conditions in the high-altitude areas of the Andes in southern Peru reportedly killed 92 people. Cold weather since late December 2003 was blamed for as many as 600 deaths across South Asia. During January 2004, maximum and minimum temperatures were below normal by 6-10°C across northern India and Bangladesh.

Prolonged drought in some regions

Drought conditions continued to affect parts of eastern South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland in early 2004. However, enhanced precipitation in the last half of the rainy season provided some benefit to crops in southern Africa. The March-May rainy season was shorter and drier than normal across parts of the Greater Horn of Africa, resulting in a continuation of multi-season drought in this region. Isolated regions in the southern sector and portions of Uganda experienced driest conditions on record since 1961. In Kenya, a premature end to the 2004 long rains exacerbated the drought resulting from several years of poor rainfall in many areas. Food production in Kenya was projected at approximately 40% below normal. In spite of abundant rainfall in 2004, multi-year drought conditions also continued in Somalia, threatening agriculture and food security in the region. In Eritrea, which was struggling from nearly four years of drought, poor rains during the March-May rains exacerbated drinking-water shortages.

In India, the 2004 seasonal rainfall during the summer (south-west) monsoon season (June-September) over the country as a whole was 13% below normal with 18% of the country experiencing moderate drought conditions. In Pakistan, poor rains in July and August aggravated the long-term drought conditions, which had prevailed since the boreal spring. In Afghanistan, drought conditions that had plagued the country for the past four years continued in 2004 due to poor precipitation in the March-April season. In southern China, dry conditions persisted from August to October, resulting in the worst drought there in the last 54 years.

Long-term hydrological drought continued to affect much of southern and eastern Australia, as a result of rainfall deficits experienced since the major drought event of 2002/2003. Moderate-to- severe drought conditions continued in some areas of the western United States for the fifth year in a row. Some relief was experienced during September and October, though long-term drought remains entrenched across much of the region. Due to above-normal summer temperatures and dry conditions, a record area was burned by wildfires in Alaska.

Abundant rainfall and flooding in many other regions

Precipitation in 2004 was above average for the globe and 2004 was the wettest year since 2000. Wetter-than-average conditions prevailed in the southern and eastern United States, eastern Europe and parts of western Asia, Bangladesh, Japan and coastal Brazil.

The Asian summer monsoon during June-September brought heavy rain and flooding to parts of northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh, leaving millions stranded. Throughout India, Nepal and Bangladesh, some 1 800 deaths were blamed on flooding brought by heavy monsoon rains. Flooding in north-east India (the states of Assam and Bihar in particular) and Bangladesh was the worst in over a decade. In eastern and southern China, heavy rains during June and July produced severe flooding and landslides that affected more than 100 million people and were blamed for more than 1 000 deaths nationwide. Heavy monsoon rainfall during July and August produced flooding along several rivers in north-eastern and central Thailand. A significant low-pressure system brought record-breaking snowfalls in the Republic of Korea on 5 March, resulting in damage to agriculture worth more than US$ 500 million. In October, two typhoons and active frontal systems brought record-breaking heavy rainfall to Japan. Tokyo received a total amount of 780 mm precipitation in October, which is the largest monthly amount on record since 1876.

Mudslides and floods due to heavy rains across areas of Brazil during January and early February left tens of thousands of people homeless and resulted in 161 deaths. In January, Peru and Bolivia also experienced hailstorms, heavy rainfall and flooding, which killed at least 50 people.

In Haiti, torrential rainfall due to the passage of Hurricane Jeanne produced disastrous flooding that claimed some 3 000 lives. This disaster came in the wake of flooding and landslides that affected Haiti and the Dominican Republic in late May 2004, in which more than 2 000 people were killed and several thousand others were affected.

In the second half of November and beginning of December, three tropical storms and a tropical depression passed over southern and central parts of the Philippines, drenching the islands with several days of torrential rainfall and triggering catastrophic flash floods and landslides, which killed, according to reports, more than 1 100 people.

Heavy rains from mid-January to March in areas of Angola produced flooding along the river system, which flows into neighbouring Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. Extensive flooding along the Zambezi River, the worst flooding since 1958, threatened more than 20 000 people in north-eastern Namibia and caused extensive damage to crops.

In Australia, parts of Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales received unusually heavy rainfall in mid-January, which produced flooding and damage. Parts of the Northern Territory received the wettest rainy season on record. A series of strong storms during February produced heavy rainfall and damaging floods in southern parts of New Zealand’s North Island.

Development of Weak El Niño conditions

Sea-surface temperature and sea-level atmospheric pressure patterns in the tropical Pacific at the beginning of 2004 reflected near-neutral El Niño conditions. However, the increase and eastward expansion of anomalous warmth in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific during July-November indicated the early stages of a warm (El Niño) episode. By early November, positive equatorial SST anomalies greater than +1o C were observed from the central to eastern Pacific. SSTs in the far eastern tropical Pacific also warmed to slightly above-average levels. The Tahiti-Darwin Southern Oscillation Index has been negative since June 2003, but has fluctuated considerably. The tropical Pacific atmospheric conditions have continued to show only some weak characteristics of El Niño.

Above-average number of hurricanes and deadly typhoons

During the Atlantic hurricane season, 15 named tropical storms developed: the average is around ten. During August, eight tropical storms formed, which is a record for the most named storms for any month of August. Since 1995, there has been a marked increase in the annual number of tropical storms in the Atlantic Basin. Nine of the named storms were classified as hurricanes. Six of those were “major” hurricanes (category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale). Hurricane Charley was the strongest and most destructive hurricane to strike the United States since Andrew in 1992. In all, nine named storms impacted the United States, causing extensive damage estimated at more than US$ 43 billion.

In the South Atlantic Ocean, sea-surface and atmospheric conditions do not favour the formation of hurricanes. During March 2004, however, the first documented hurricane since geostationary satellite records began in 1966 developed. Named Catarina, it made landfall along the southern coast of Brazil (in the state of Santa Catarina) on 28 March 2004, causing great damage to property and some loss of life.

Conversely, in the eastern North Pacific, activity was slightly depressed. Only 12 named storms developed during the year, compared to the average of 16.4. Out of those 12 storms, six reached hurricane strength and three reached “major” status. In the North-west Pacific, 27 named storms developed, which is close to the 1971-2000 average of 26.7. Nineteen of them reached typhoon intensity. Ten tropical cyclones made landfall in Japan (breaking the previous record of six), which were blamed for 209 fatalities and extensive damage to property.

Smaller Antarctic ozone hole

This year, the maximum size of the Antarctic Ozone hole (19.6 million km2) was reached in late September. Except for the year 2002, when the ozone hole split into two in late September, the October ozone hole this year was the smallest observed in more than a decade. The ozone hole in 2004 dissipated earlier than usual, in mid-November.

Low Arctic sea-ice extent

Sea-ice extent in the Arctic remains well below the long-term average. In September 2004, it was about 13% less than the 1973-2003 average. Satellite information suggests a general decline in Arctic sea-ice extent of about 8% over the last two and half decades.

Source: World Meteorological Organization (WMO) News - www.wmo.ch/

Image: Figure 76. Projected global mean surface temperature changes in the context of recent instrumental records and longer proxy temperature records. From the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website - http://www.bom.gov.au/info/climate/change/gallery/76.shtml

Thursday, December 23, 2004

USA continues to obstruct Climate talks

Another round of Climate talks have ended in Buenos Aires, with the USA continuing to obstruct talks. Greenpeace expressed disappointment at the outcome of the climate talks in Buenos Aires, and anger at the USA and Saudi Arabia for their deliberate tactics of obstruction and delay. The agreement means that discussions on future greenhouse gas cuts will not progress substantially during the coming year and will not ensure that countries most at risk from climate impacts get the assistance they need from the industrialised world.

Greenpeace spokeperson, Steve Sawyer said "We hope that everyone has taken note of the bullying and blocking tactics of the USA at these negotiations. As a result we have a deal that barely keeps the process moving. This agreement ensures that there will not be the kind of progress we need on negotiations of future emissions cuts during the next twelve months, and the adaptation package is far from adequate."

According to the Greenpeace media release, the complex agreement originally contained plans for a series of informal meetings to discuss the future of the climate regime. At the insistence of the USA this was reduced to one ‘seminar’. US demands that the agenda should not contain any discussions of future cuts or be reported back at the next negotiations were finally amended to allow one informal seminar to go ahead.

Saudi Arabia worked alongside the US throughout the meeting and further blocked progress by imposing conditions on making financial assistance available for adaptation in developing countries. In return it demanded compensation for loss of oil revenues if the world moves away from fossil fuels.

"For Saudi Arabia to hold out a begging bowl whilst the least and poorest developed countries in the world struggle to cope with floods, droughts and extreme events, is obscene" said Sawyer.

"And the danger of trying to negotiate with the US is clear. They are intent on wrecking the talks and are not capable of negotiating in good faith. Their position on the science is illegitimate, their refusal to accept responsibility for impacts on the developing world is immoral and their negotiating positions are absurd."

"Only by moving ahead strongly without the US can we make real progress on climate change," he concluded.

Next year’s negotiations will see the Kyoto countries meeting as a group for the first time. The USA will have observer status only at this and future Kyoto Protocol meetings unless and until it ratifies.

At the conference, for the first time the Howard Government distanced itself from the United States' hardline attempts to stall international action to stop global warming. Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell said that Australia did not agree with the US stance against future greenhouse gas targets or that economic growth and technological innovations would be the only answer to reducing emissions.

"The difference between the US and Australia is that we are prepared to engage in a new agreement (after Kyoto) as long as it is comprehensive. But a new agreement will have to include the US and the developing world," he said.

According to a report in the Age Newspaper, Labor environment spokesman Anthony Albanese welcomed the shift from the US position, but also said it was absurd attaching Australia's participation in an international treaty to US involvement.

"The US have already said they won't participate. It's a pity that the minister's keenness not to miss an international conference is not matched by his keenness to miss an international treaty." said Albanese.

Sources:

* Greenpeace Australia - Climate Talks end in Disappointment
* The Age - Australia alters stance on climate change pact
* Hudson Mohawk IMC - Enviromentalists Urge World Leaders to Take Action at Global Warming Meeting in Buenos Aires

Thursday, November 18, 2004

CSIRO warns: Australia to get hotter, wetter, with more extreme weather


Recent research by CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology scientists puts forward that climate change is a reality in Australia and is set to make the Australian climate much warmer, wetter, with more extreme weather events. While average rain across the continent has increased over the last 50 years, certain areas such as south west Australian and parts of Eastern Australia may actually be much drier.

Average temperatures are set to rise, with the possibility that some inland towns may become inhabitable. Bush fires, droughts, storms and flooding will have increasing impact on social and economic infrastructure. The overwhelming consensus amoung scientists is that such climate change has been brought about through global warming caused to a large extent by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide produced by humans.

* Predictions for Victoria
* Climate hots up in NSW for Premier Carr
* Increase in extreme rainfall
* Australia is getting wetter, while droughts continue

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Escalating global species extinction crisis

Repost of World Conservation Union media release

A total of 15,589 species face extinction, reveals the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. One in three amphibians and almost half of all freshwater turtles are threatened, on top of the one in eight birds and one in four mammals known to be in jeopardy.

Bangkok , Thailand , 17 November 2004 (IUCN) – From the mighty shark to the humble frog, the world’s biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates.Halting the growing extinction crisis will be a major concern for IUCN’s 1,000 plus member organizations attending the 3 rd IUCN World Conservation Congress, which kicks off in Bangkok today.

The situation facing global biodiversity is clearly escalating and the 4,000 delegates, including representatives of the private sector, governmental and non-governmental organisations, will be outlining ways to halt this alarming trend. They will draw the attention of the international community to the fact that species loss has critical implications for human wellbeing, and that conserving biodiversity is central to managing the risks this poses to sustainable development.

There is some good news. Conservation measures are already making a difference – a quarter of the world’s threatened birds have benefited from such measures. What is needed is more of them, and to focus them better using the constantly improving information at our disposal. That means more resources, resources applied more effectively, and new coalitions across all sections of society.

These are among the key messages to emerge from the Global Species Assessment (GSA) based on, and released in conjunction with, the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is the most comprehensive evaluation ever undertaken of the status of the world’s biodiversity. The GSA is produced by the Red List Consortium comprising IUCN and its Species Survival Commission, Conservation International and its Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, BirdLife International and NatureServe.

The Global Species Assessment shows trends in biodiversity over four years since the last major analysis in 2000, and it includes, for the first time, complete assessments of amphibians, cycads (an ancient group of plants) and conifers, as well as regional case studies. It also highlights which species are at greatest risk of extinction, where they occur, and the many threats facing them.

“Governments are starting to realise the value of biodiversity and the critical role it plays in their peoples’ wellbeing. Species provide food, medicine, fuel, and building materials. They help filter water, decompose waste, generate soil and pollinate crops. Recognition of this is growing but governments need to mobilize far more resources. The private sector also needs to play a central role by actively promoting and pursuing the sustainable use of the world’s natural resources,” said Mr David Brackett, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.

IUCN’s Congress, the world’s largest democratic environmental forum, plays a unique and urgent role in bringing knowledge about biodiversity into the mainstream of development decision-making. It will set priorities for conservation work for the coming four years.

In 1996 it was revealed that one in eight birds (12%) and one in four mammals (23%) were threatened with extinction (falling into the Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable categories). This infamous line-up has now been joined by one in three amphibians (32%) and almost half (42%) of turtles and tortoises.

With amphibians relying on freshwater, their catastrophic decline is a warning about the state of the planet’s water resources. Even though the situation in freshwater habitats is less well known than for terrestrial, early signs show it is equally serious. More than half (53%) of Madagascar’s freshwater fish are threatened with extinction.

The vast ocean depths are providing little refuge to many marine species which are being over-exploited to the point of extinction. Nearly one in five (18%) of assessed sharks and rays are threatened.

Many plants have also been assessed, but only conifers and cycads have been completely evaluated with 25% and 52% threatened respectively.

For the first time, the assessment includes the Red List Index, a new tool for measuring trends in extinction risk. This shows overall changes in threat status (projected risk of extinction) over time for a particular group. It will be important for measuring changes in biodiversity. Red List Indices are currently available for birds and amphibians, and show that their status has declined steadily since the 1980s.

“Although 15,589 species are known to be threatened with extinction, this greatly underestimates the true number as only a fraction of known species have been assessed. There is still much to be discovered about key species-rich habitats, such as tropical forests, marine and freshwater systems or particular groups, such as invertebrates, plants and fungi, which make up the majority of biodiversity,” says Craig Hilton-Taylor, IUCN’s Red List Programme Officer.

People, either directly or indirectly, are the main reason for most species’ declines. Habitat destruction and degradation are the leading threats but other significant pressures include over-exploitation for food, pets, and medicine, introduced species, pollution and disease. Climate change is increasingly recognised as a serious threat.

“It is clear that the situation facing our species is serious and getting worse. We can continue to assess and bemoan the loss of the world’s biodiversity or we can act! We must refocus and rethink the way in which society must respond to this global threat,” says Achim Steiner, IUCN’s Director General.

“While most threats to biodiversity are human-driven, human actions alone can prevent many species from becoming extinct. There are many examples of species being brought back from the brink including the southern white rhino and black-footed ferret, and thousands of dedicated people around the world are doing their utmost to reverse the extinction rate,” he added. “But this cannot continue to be the task of the environmental community alone. Governments and business must commit to these efforts as well”.

Since the release of the 2003 Red List, more than 15,633 new entries have been added and 3,579 species reassessed. There are now 7,266 threatened animal species and 8,323 threatened plant and lichen species. A total of 784 plant and animal species are now recorded as Extinct with a further 60 known only in cultivation or captivity.

Since 2003, there have been some notable changes to the List, including some marked deteriorations, like the St Helena olive (from Extinct in the Wild to Extinct), the Hawaiian crow (from Critically Endangered to Extinct in the Wild), the Balearic shearwater (From Near Threatened to Critically Endangered), the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp lizard (from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered), and an African begonia, Begonia oxyanthera (from Near Threatened to Vulnerable).

But there have also been some improvements, such as the European otter (from Vulnerable to Near Threatened) and the Christmas Island Imperial pigeon (from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable).

The 2004 assessment shows that threatened species are often concentrated in densely populated areas, particularly in much of Asia and parts of Africa. A major conservation challenge will therefore be to reconcile the demands of large numbers of people on the environment, whilst protecting the biodiversity upon which so many people’s livelihoods depend.

The importance of international support in safeguarding biodiversity is critical says the assessment. Many countries with a high concentration of threatened species have a low Gross National Income (GNI) per capita and are unable to implement the required conservation measures without international assistance.

Some key findings from the Global Species Assessment

* Numbers of threatened species are increasing across almost all the major taxonomic groups.
* The marine environment is not as well known as the terrestrial environment but initial findings show that marine species are just as vulnerable to extinction as their terrestrial counterparts.
* Freshwater habitats are also poorly known, but recent surveys reveal that many aquatic species are threatened with extinction.
* Most threatened birds, mammals, and amphibians are located on the tropical continents - Central and South America, Africa south of the Sahara, and tropical South and Southeast Asia. These regions contain the tropical broadleaf forests which are believed to harbour the majority of the earth’s living terrestrial and freshwater species.
* Australia , Brazil, China, Indonesia and Mexico hold particularly large numbers of threatened species.
* Countries with high numbers of threatened species and relatively low GNI include Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru and the Philippines.
* The world’s list of extinctions increases – from 766 in 2000 to 784 documented extinctions since 1500 AD.
* Although estimates vary greatly, current extinction rates are at least one hundred to a thousand times higher than background, or "natural" rates" .
* Over the past 20 years, 27 documented extinctions or extinctions in the wild have occurred but this underestimates the true number that have taken place.
* While the vast majority of extinctions since 1500 AD have occurred on oceanic islands, over the last 20 years, continental extinctions have become as common as island extinctions.
* Humans have been the main cause of extinction and continue to be the principle threat to species at risk of extinction.
* Habitat loss, introduced species, and over-exploitation are the main threats, with human-induced climate change becoming an increasingly significant problem.

www.iucn.org/congress/index.cfm

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Polar Regions experiencing severe climate change


The Arctic and Antarctic are experiencing severe climate change. The Arctic ice cap is melting at an unprecedented rate due to human induced global warming, according to a new study conducted by 300 scientists and elders from native communities in the arctic, released 8 November. Over the last 30 years the ice cap has shrunk 15-20 per cent. In 2003 the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, the largest in the Arctic, broke into two pieces. With the build up of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, the trend is set to accelerate with forecasts that by the summer of 2070 there maybe no ice at all.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Warming In Antarctica: cause for concern

In Antarctica the ocean food chain is crashing due to the loss of ice shelves around the Antarctic peninsula caused by climate warming. The breakup of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002 has also released several glaciers, increasing their speed eight fold, and dumping their loads into the Weddell Sea contributing to a rising sea level, according to new research.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Carbon Dioxide Emissions cause Arctic to Melt, Sea Levels to Rise

The Arctic ice cap is melting at an unprecedented rate due to human induced global warming, according to a new study conducted by 300 scientists and elders from native communities in the arctic. Over the last 30 years the ice cap has shrunk 15-20 per cent. With the build up of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, the trend is set to accelerate with forecasts that by the summer of 2070 there maybe no ice at all.

The report said that the Arctic "is now experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on Earth", Further: "Over the next 100 years climate change is expected to accelerate, contributing to major physical, ecological, social and economic changes, many of which have already begun."

It found that the Arctic ice cap is only half as thick as it was 30 years ago. The melting could cause sea levels to rise by a meter over the next century, increasing coastal flooding and disrupting the Gulf Stream, which moderates the weather of northern Europe. The melting of the Greenland ice cap is likely to further exacerbate sea level rises.

"For the past 30 years, there's been a dramatic increase in temperature and a decrease in the thickness of ice," said Robert Corell, a senior fellow with the American Meteorological Society and chairman of the Arctic climate impact assessment group, which produced the report.

The 144-page study took four years to compile under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is comprised of the governments of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

The report emphasised that some short term gains may be seen, such as the creation of a "northern passage" for shipping between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, new areas for fishing, mining and oil and gas exploration.

Against this, several fish and mammal species could succumb to climate change, including the Polar Bear. The elimination of summer sea ice will threaten the polar bear with extinction.

Reference: Key Findings

Environmentalists warn "cut emissions of carbon dioxide now"

Director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) global climate change campaign, Jennifer Morgan, said "The big melt has begun, .... Life on Earth will change beyond recognition with the loss of the ice sheet at the north pole and higher sea levels threatening major global cities such as London."

"Industrial countries are carrying out an uncontrolled experiment to study the effects of climate change and the Arctic is their first guinea pig," Ms Morgan said.

"This is unethical and wrong. They must cut emissions of carbon dioxide now."

United States, Australia inaction on Greenhouse emissions

The United States is the largest contibutor to Green House gas emissions, mainly through the use of cars and industry. The United States has spent eight billion dollars on climate change research in recent years, but says mandatory carbon dioxide cuts, as demanded under the Kyoto treaty, could lead to job loses and an economic downturn. The United States Government has refused to ratify the Kyoto Treaty, along with Australia. George Bush pulled out of the UN's Kyoto protocol on global warming in 2001, arguing it was too expensive.

There are no statements from the US Government about compensating those peoples affected by rising sea levels. There are currently 17 million people living less than one metre above sea level in Bangladesh. Rising Sea Levels will place under threat: some Pacific Island nations, Florida and Louisiana in the United States, and the Asian cities of Bangkok, Calcutta, Dhaka and Manila. Much agricultural land will also be put under risk.

Accusation: Report delayed for US Presidential election?

The full report is due to be released on November 9, but its summary findings were leaked to the media early. Several of the Europeans involved accused the Bush Administration of delaying publication until after the presidential election, due to the political contentiousness of global warming. But Gunnar Palsson of Iceland, chairman of the Arctic Council, said there was "no truth to the contention that any of the member states of the Arctic Council pushed the release of the report back into November".

Paal Prestrud, vice-chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, said "We are taking a risk with the global climate,".

For Extra information:

* The Arctic Council
* The big melt (WWF)
* Arctic sea ice changes in gfdl r30 greenhouse scenario experiments
* Is Arctic sea ice rapidly vanishing? (2002)

Rescued from Melbourne Indymedua via the Web Archive

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Kyoto is not enough says UK Chief Scientist, while Australia sticks with the USA

The United Kingdom (UK) government's chief scientist, Sir David King, has warned that climate change is the most serious issue facing the world this century. He was speaking at a recent Greenpeace Business conference in London - "we are seeing extreme events which are attributable to global warming, at least in part, and these are having quite devastating effects." Australia and the USA are refusing to ratify the climate treaty.

"Kyoto is not enough. Kyoto is a beginning and it’s a good process. And what will be needed is once we’ve got the process up and running, it will need to be ratcheted up so that we can really bring emissions under control. The key problem, of course, is going to be moving into the second period, when we need to bring on board not only Australia and the United States, but also the big growing economies, China and India."

The Howard Government has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The USA and Australia are the only two western industrialised nations (1) who have refused to ratify the Protocol. Greenpeace Australia said that the Howard Government should commit to a target and road map to reduce greenhouse pollution by at least 60 percent by 2050 so that Australia will be protected from climate change.

A Greenpeace statement said: "Australia is the most vulnerable developed country to the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in our greenhouse pollution, we face more frequent and severe droughts and bushfires, annual coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, the potential loss of Australia's ski fields and serious damage to other important ecosystems such as the Wet Tropics."

According to the Greenpeace statement, opinion polls commissioned by Greenpeace and others consistently show that at least 75% of Australians want the Government to ratify Kyoto, irrespective of the US position.

"Once Kyoto is in place, the world will have to face the challenge of the at least 60% emissions reductions that scientists tell us are necessary," said Greenpeace Campaigns Manager Danny Kennedy. "In Australia, we must see mandated emissions reductions and clean energy targets to get us there."

"But first Mr Howard must respond to the weight of public opinion, the necessities of global business and increasing extreme weather by immediately ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and joining the international effort to tackle climate change, the greatest challenge of our age." said Kennedy.

On October 22 the Russian parliament approved the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (FOE Europe). Once approved by the upper house and President Vladimir Putin, the treaty will come into force as international law 90 days later.

Note 1: Croatia, Liechtenstein and Monaco (all with neglible emissions) - have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol, only Australia and the US have said that they will not ratify. The other three are all expected to do so. A full list of countries and their ratification status (PDF) is available.

Source:

1. Greenpeace Australia: Chief Scientist: we need immediate action on climate change
2. Greenpeace Australia: Howard leaves Australia isolated as Kyoto to become law

Global warming threatens to reverse human progress

A new report released on October 20 in London by a broad coalition of community groups says that global warming threatens to reverse human progress, and make the international targets on halving global poverty by 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals, unattainable. The report, Up In Smoke, was launched by Dr R K Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), and is endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The coalition behind the report included: Action Aid International, Christian Aid, Columban Faith and Justice, IDS (Institute of Development Studies), ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group), IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development), Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, nef (new economics foundation), Operation Noah, Oxfam, People & Planet, RSPB, Tearfund, teri Europe, WWF, WaterAid and World Vision.

The report called on the international community to take urgent action to introduce:

* A global risk assessment of the likely costs of adaptation to climate change in poor countries
* Cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases by industrialised countries in the order of 60-80 per cent (relative to 1990 levels) by the middle of this century, far beyond the targets of the Kyoto Protocol. This is vital to stop climate change running out of control - for example by global average temperatures rising beyond 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
* Commensurate new funds and other resources made available by industrialised countries for poor country adaptation, bearing in mind that rich country subsidies to their domestic fossil fuel industries stood at $73 billion per year in the late 1990s
* Effective and efficient arrangements to respond to the increasing burden of climate-related disaster relief
* Development models based on risk reduction and incorporating community-driven coping strategies in adaptation and disaster preparedness
* Small-scale renewable energy projects promoted by governments and community groups which can help to both tackle poverty and reduce climate change if they are replicated and scaled-up. This will require political commitment and new funds from governments in all countries, and a major shift in priorities by the World Bank and other development bodies.
* Coordinated plans, from local to international levels, for relocating threatened communities with appropriate political, legal and financial resources

Download the report in full.
http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/z_sys_PublicationDetail.aspx?pid=196

Source: http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/news_upinsmoke.aspx

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Global warming fears rise with Carbon Dioxide increase


Measurements of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is worrying climate scientists. Dr Craig Wallace from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research said "If it's the start of a real trend then this potentially is very serious indeed. The time for halting climate change actually went and passed in the late 1980s. What we can do now is hopefully slow down climate change, mitigate climate change by following the precedent set by the Kyoto Climate Agreement."

A US climate scientist, Charles Keeling, has reported that for the first time, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rose by more than two parts per million for two years running, from 2000 to 2001.

He said : "The rise in the annual rate to above two parts per million for two consecutive years is a real phenomenon."

"It is possible that this is merely a reflection of natural events like previous peaks in the rate, but it is also possible that it is the beginning of a natural process unprecedented in the record." he said.(2)

The levels were measured on top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Between 2001 and 2002 the number of parts per million of carbon dioxide rose from 371.02 to 373.10, an increase of 2.08 over the year. Then it rose again in 2003 to 375.64, an annual increase of 2.54.

Such increases in the past have been associated with the El Nino phenomenon that periodically disrupts weather patterns in the Pacific Basin. But El Nino has not ocurred to match these recent increases.

Mr Keeling said one explanation for the rise "could be a weakening of the earth's carbon 'sinks' [oceans and forests], associated with the world warming, as part of a climate change feedback mechanism."

Peter Cox, who heads the carbon cycle group at Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, was more sceptical saying it was possible to read too much into the figures. He also pointed out that the increase in carbon dioxide was not uniform across the globe and suspected something unusual had happened in the Northern Hemisphere. He proposed that the very hot summer last year in Europe, and more forest fires may have killed off vegetation thus increasing carbon releases from the soil.(1)

Dr Piers Forster, senior research fellow of the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "If this is a rate change, of course it will be very significant. It will be of enormous concern, because it will imply that all our global warming predictions for the next hundred years or so will have to be redone." (2)

ABC London correspondent, Kirsten Aiken, interviewed Chris Jones from the UK's Hadley Centre for Climate Change for ABC Radio - AM program:

"What we think is happening is that the natural vegetation, the forests and so on, which normally absorb a certain amount of the fossil fuel emissions, have started to absorb less of that as a response to the 2003 very warm summer." said Chris Jones.

He further elaborated to Kirsten Aiken what it meant: "Well, on its own all it shows is that the natural carbon cycle has a sensitivity to climate, but the wider implication is that in the future if these warmer summers become the norm, which is what we expect in terms of global warming scenarios, then we may see a feedback where the changes in climate cause a long-term increase in carbon dioxide on top of the fossil fuel emissions, and that in itself could increase the warming in a sort of positive feedback." (3)

Kirsten Aiken also spoke to Dr Craig Wallace from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. He provided a sobering warning that the increase could mean rapid climate change is already in progress.

"It could just be a temporary blip. If it's the start of a real trend then this potentially is very serious indeed. The time for halting climate change actually went and passed in the late 1980s. What we can do now is hopefully slow down climate change, mitigate climate change by following the precedent set by the Kyoto Climate Agreement." he said.(3)

UK Director of Greenpeace, Stephen Tindall, hoped news of the increase in CO2 levels will provide the impetus for governments to tackle climate change. He singled out Australia for special mention, describing it as one of the world's biggest carbon dioxide polluters which has failed to make any real moves to address what is shaping up as the globe's greatest threat.

"We can see that politicians are slowly beginning to move, not nearly fast enough of course, but at least there is some movement. So in recent weeks we've seen Kyoto being ratified by the Russians, which means that it will finally come into force."

"We've even seen the Bush administration in the US finally accepting the science of climate change. So that begins to make the Australian Government look extremely isolated." said Stephen Tindall.(3)

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Sources:
(1) ABC Online - Carbon dioxide spike renews global warming fears
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200410/s1217958.htm

(2) The Guardian - Climate fear as carbon levels soar
http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,1324379,00.html

(3) ABC Radio - AM Transcript - Global warming fears heightened by carbon dioxide increase
http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1218111.htm

(4) Image from Wikipedia - Global Warming
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

Reference:
(5) The Discovery of Global Warming
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Russia to sign Kyoto Protocol: Climate Change treaty isolates Australia, USA

With the Russian Government giving the green light to the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty is set to become international law in 2005. The USA and Australia are the only two industrialised countries refusing to ratify the treaty which places quotas on carbon dioxide production, a major contributor to global warming.

In Australia the Howard Government is in collusion with fossil-fuel industry executives. A secret meeting was held in May 2004 to discuss ways to stifle growing investment in renewable energy projects. Local Energy activists claim the Howard Government's lies won't stop Global Warming. Companies such as Hancock make claims that establishing new tree plantations will help stop the warming of the planet by negating the impacts of the Greenhouse Effect, whilst on the other hand Hancock continue to profit from carbon creating industries such as Oil and Coal.

[ Friends All for Renewable Technologies | Futureenergy.org]

As one of the editors of the global Indymedia site this article was proposed for publication at 5 October 2004 07:37 GMT

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Climate Meltdown: Greenland ice cap to raise sea levels

The issue bigger than terrorism: climate change is on the agenda and will affect every person and country. Greenhouse Gas Emissions are a primary cause of global warming which is a major driving force for climate change. And conservative politicians like George Bush (USA) and John Howard (Australia) have their heads in the sand in Iraq.

A new study by a senior British climatologist, Jonathan Gregory, published in Nature and reported on in New Scientist (Greenland ice cap 'doomed to meltdown'), predicts that the Greenland ice sheet is all but doomed to melt away to nothing causing global sea levels to rise by seven metres, flooding most of the world's coastal regions.

Gregory warns that, if his calculations are correct, "the Greenland ice sheet is likely to be eliminated unless much more substantial reductions in [carbon dioxide] emissions are made than those envisaged" so far by scientists or politicians.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Climate Change 'Greater Threat Than Terrorism', Says Professor

Professor Tony McMichael, from the Australian National University's Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, says world weather patterns are becoming more unstable and will get worse.

"We've got to recognise there's an international stand-off when it comes to signing (the) Kyoto (Protocol), Australia's not signing Kyoto, that's a disgraceful decision by Canberra," he said. Professor McMichael is a member of an international policy initiative launched on March 16 to address the threat of global climate change.

He joins Tony Blair's chief scientist in criticism of those who will not sign the agreement. Sir David King launched a withering attack on US President George W. Bush in January.

Climate change will affect our health, as detailed in reports such as 'Human Health and Climate Change in Oceania'

[How global warming may cause the next Ice Age | Rising Tide Climate Justice Network | The discovering of Global Warming]

As one of the editors of the global Indymedia site this article was Originally posted at: https://www.indymedia.org/en/2004/03/110644.shtml at 27 Mar 2004 09:54 GMT

Thursday, February 5, 2004

How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age

New research on the Great Ocean conveyor belt and climatology show How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age (Thom Hartmann). A report in The Independent claims new research also suggests Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by global warming. (See also Bill Maguire in The Guardian reproduced below: Will global warming trigger a new ice age?

Some reports claim Climate Collapse is The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare (Fortune).

Current models of climate change assume a gradual process, but some geoscientists say Sudden Climate Change is the historical norm (See Alley et al 2003 in Science: Abrupt Climate Change).

While there is a vigorous debate in scientific circles over whether global warming matters, Tony Blair's chief scientist David A King has launched a withering attack on President George Bush for failing to tackle climate change, which he says is more serious than terrorism. (Read his letter published in Science, January 2004: Climate Change Science: Adapt, Mitigate, or Ignore?)

While Bush dithers on climate change for the benefit of corporations, New England states confront Bush with climate change plans.

The World Health Organisation recently said 150,000 people died due to global warming (The Guardian) in 2000, and the death toll could double again in the next 30 years if current trends are not reversed.

Another scientific paper predicted Global Warming to Kill Off more than 10 per cent of Species by 2050 (Thomas et al 2014 in Nature: Extinction risk from climate change)

Global Warming is likely to trigger a potential water crisis globally, and Hotter summers, fewer frosts for Australia according to the CSIRO.

Debates and Actions around and outside the Climate Conference in Milan in December 2003 highlighted the root cause of climate change, the fossil fuel economy. According to a recent report to US Dept. of Energy on Peak Oil, "Peaking will be catastrophic".

The lack of action by the United Nations, should make people around the world aware not to depend on states and corporations, but instead to create social-ecological alternatives in our daily lives. Or maybe its time to start preparing for Life after the Oil Crash.

Links: Rising Tide climate Justice Network | Vital Climate Graphics | The discovering of Global Warming