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UN Climate Chief – Warming Causes Conflict

By ARTHUR MAX Published: Feb 15, 2011 AMSTERDAM (AP) – Global warming is a looming threat to stability and national security around the world, and militaries should spend some of their ever-expanding budgets on reducing carbon emissions to avoid “climate chaos,” the U.N.’s top climate official said Tuesday. Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. climate secretariat, warned of the destabilizing effects created by growing water stress, declining crop yields and damage from extreme storms in some of the world’s poorest countries, which could set off mass international migration and regional conflicts. Figueres said the world’s military budgets grew by 50 percent in the first nine years of this century. Rather than continue that growth in weaponry, she said, the generals should invest in preventative budgets to “avoid the climate chaos that would demand a defense response that makes even today’s spending burden look light.” She was speaking to Spanish legislators at the national defense college in Madrid. Her remarks were distributed by her office in Bonn, Germany. Scientists and defense think tanks have warned for years of the heightened military risks created by global warming. In 2007, the U.N. panel of climate scientists said hundreds of millions of Africans will face persistent drought and food insecurity over the next decades that could prompt many to abandon ancestral homes. Other U.N. academics reported last year that in 2008 alone 20 million people were displaced by sudden climate disasters, at least temporarily, and gradual climate changes over the next 40 years could cause 200 million people – and perhaps up to 1 billion – to migrate. Figueres said much of the...

Scientists Connect Warming to Extreme Rain

By SETH BORENSTEIN FILE – This May 3, 2010 file photo, shows an aerial view of a flooded neighborhood in Nashville, Tenn. Extreme rainstorms and snowfalls have grown substantially stronger, two studies suggest, with scientists for the first time finding the telltale fingerprints of man-made global warming on downpours that often cause deadly flooding. Two studies in the Wednesday Feb. 16, 2011 issue of the journal Nature link gullywashers to increases in greenhouse gases more than ever before. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) WASHINGTON (AP) – Extreme rainstorms and snowfalls have grown substantially stronger, two studies suggest, with scientists for the first time finding the telltale fingerprints of man-made global warming on downpours that often cause deadly flooding. Two studies in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Nature link heavy rains to increases in greenhouse gases more than ever before. One group of researchers looked at the strongest rain and snow events of each year from 1951 to 1999 in the Northern Hemisphere and found that the more recent storms were 7 percent wetter. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to be a substantial increase, said the report from a team of researchers from Canada and Scotland. The study didn’t single out specific storms but examined worst-of-each-year events all over the Northern Hemisphere. While the study ended in 1999, the close of the decade when scientists say climate change kicked into a higher gear, the events examined were similar to more recent disasters: deluges that triggered last year’s deadly floods in Pakistan and in Nashville, Tenn., and this winter’s paralyzing blizzards in parts of the United States....

Are 1 Million EVs by 2015 Feasible?

WASHINGTON – In his 2011 State of the Union Address on Jan. 25, President Barack Obama stated the goal to “become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.” Feasible? The Department of Energy thinks so. A group of experts commissioned by Indiana University doesn’t. President Obama’s advanced-technology vehicle plan includes the following: Make electric vehicles more affordable with a rebate up to $7,500 immediately at point of sale. Advance innovative technologies through new R&D investments. Provide grants for up to 30 communities that invest in electric vehicle infrastructure. The U.S. Department of Energy released on Feb. 8 an analysis of advances in electric vehicle deployment and progress to date in meeting President Obama’s goal. One Million Electric Vehicles by 2015 stated that “while the goal is ambitious, it is also achievable based on steps already taken as part of the Recovery Act and additional policy initiatives proposed by the president.” The report stated that hybrid-electric vehicle sales have grown to almost 3 percent of total light-duty vehicles. To reach the president’s goal, EVs will need to average just under 1.7 percent of sales through 2015, assuming sales of 12 million light-duty vehicles each year. It also pointed to increases in CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards that are expected to encourage buyers to turn to electric drive technologies. Fleet buyers often make vehicle purchasing decisions based on the total cost of ownership rather than initial price, according to the report. It pointed to a report by Boston Consulting Group stating that current incentives and oil prices in the U.S. means EV purchasers...

2010 Tied for Warmest Year on Record

UN: JOHN HEILPRIN A swath of paddy fields is submerged by floodwaters in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011. The United Nations plans to seek $51 million to help Sri Lanka’s recover from deadly floods that affected up to 1 million people. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena) GENEVA (AP) – The warmest year on record is a three-way tie: 2010, 2005 and 1998. So says the U.N. weather agency, providing further evidence Thursday that the planet is slowly but surely heating up. Average temperatures globally last year were 0.95 degrees Fahrenheit (0.53 Celsius) higher than the 1961-90 mean that is used for comparison purposes, according to World Meteorological Organization. That’s a bit lower than what the U.S. National Climatic Data Center announced earlier this month, but the World Meterological Organization also uses figures based on data collected by Britain’s Meteorological Office and NASA. “The 2010 data confirm the Earth’s significant long-term warming trend,” said Michel Jarraud, WMO’s top official. He added that the ten warmest years after records began in 1854 have all occurred since 1998. The average worldwide temperature for the 20th century was 57.0 degrees Fahrenheit. But rising global temperatures over the last century are causing climate experts to worry. Most atmospheric scientists attribute the change to carbon dioxide and gases released into the air by gasoline-burning engines and other industrial processes. The gases tend to trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse. The Geneva-based global weather agency noted that last year’s extreme weather – notably the heat wave in Russia and monsoon flooding in Pakistan – has continued into the new year. It also cited the...

World gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards

JULIE REED BELL and SETH BORENSTEIN Published: Dec 19, 2010 In this July 29, 2010 file photo, Moscow’s St. Bazil’s Cathedral, background, is seen through a smog covering Moscow during a heat wave. The mausoleum of Vladimir Lenin is at right. The excessive amount of extreme weather that dominated 2010 is a classic sign of man-made global warming that climate scientists have long warned about. They calculate that the killer Russian heat wave, setting a national record of 111F (nearly 44 C), would happen once every 100,000 years without global warming. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File) This was the year the Earth struck back. Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 – the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined. “It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves,” said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010. “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.” And we have ourselves to blame most of the time, scientists and disaster experts say. For the full...

Inland lakes show rapid warming

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 37, L22405, 5 PP., 2010doi:10.1029/2010GL045059 Space observations of inland water bodies show rapid surface warming since 1985 Space observations of inland water bodies show rapid surface warming since 1985 Philipp Schneider Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA Simon J. Hook Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA Surface temperatures were extracted from nighttime thermal infrared imagery of 167 large inland water bodies distributed worldwide beginning in 1985 for the months July through September and January through March. Results indicate that the mean nighttime surface water temperature has been rapidly warming for the period 1985–2009 with an average rate of 0.045 ± 0.011°C yr−1 and rates as high as 0.10 ± 0.01°C yr−1. Worldwide the data show far greater warming in the mid- and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere than in low latitudes and the southern hemisphere. The analysis provides a new independent data source for assessing the impact of climate change throughout the world and indicates that water bodies in some regions warm faster than regional air temperature. The data have not been homogenized into a single unified inland water surface temperature dataset, instead the data from each satellite instrument have been treated separately and cross compared. Future work will focus on developing a single unified dataset which may improve uncertainties from any inter-satellite...

Nuclear Power-Another Taxpayer Bailout?

From the Union of Concerned Scientists: Download: Nuclear Loan Guarantees (2009) | Nuclear Loan Guarantees Fact Sheet Originally conceived as providing power that would be “too cheap to meter,” nuclear energy was seen as the future of the electric industry. Reality quickly overtook this utopian vision in what has been called “the largest managerial disaster in business history,” leading to two bailouts of the industry in the 1980s and 1990s. Advocates of nuclear power are now promoting a “nuclear renaissance” based on claims that a new generation of reactors will produce relatively cheap electricity while solving threats posed by global climate change. The industry has proposed building almost 30 new nuclear reactors, with some calling for 300 new plants by mid-century. The rapidly escalating and still highly uncertain costs of new nuclear plants—along with the stated unwillingness of Wall Street to finance them—has sent the industry back to the federal government for financial assistance. In response, Congress authorized a package of subsidies in 2005 that included federal loan guarantees and production tax credits. The industry is now asking for more. In this report, the Union of Concerned Scientists urges Congress to be cautious about committing taxpayer dollars to promote plants that both industry and Wall Street consider too risky to finance on their own. We also identify several critical steps the federal government needs to take before moving ahead with any program that would shift the risks of building new nuclear plants from industry to taxpayers, leading to a third bailout that could dwarf the first...

USDA projects 527 biorefineries needed

By Holly Jessen To meet the renewable fuels standard goal of 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, 527 biorefineries averaging 40 MMgy will need to be built at an estimated cost of $168 billion, according to a USDA report released in June. The “Regional Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard” is intended to provoke discussion and further work on what the report calls an issue that “may prove to be one of the most important of the 21st century.” The objectives of the 21-page report are to identify challenges and opportunities for the biofuels industry as well as to come up with solutions. Job creation is one benefit from biofuels, with the USDA estimating 40 direct jobs created for each 100 MMgy ethanol facility. In order to build biorefineries in areas of economic distress, the USDA suggests regional strategies will allow for proper leveraging of transportation, labor and feedstock resources. “USDA recognized that different regions of the country have a comprehensive advantage to the type of feedstock that can be produced and utilized in biofuel production,” the report states. The report begins by acknowledging the role of corn starch ethanol in approaching the 15 billion gallon goal set by the renewable fuels standard (RFS2) for conventional biofuels. “The current ethanol industry provides a solid foundation to build upon and reach the 36 billion gallon goal,” USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “I am confident that we can meet the threshold of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022.” The USDA roadmap examines the regional potential for producing the additional 21 billion...

Warmest Year-to-Date Global Temp on Record

NOAA:  August 13, 2010 – 11:00am Categories: National Climactic Data Center [1] National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration [2] [3]The combined global land and ocean surface temperature made this July the second-warmest on record, behind 1998, and the warmest averaged January–July on record. The global average land surface temperature for July and January–July was warmest on record. The global ocean surface temperature for July was the fifth-warmest, and for January–July 2010 was the second-warmest on record, behind 1998. The monthly analysis from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center [4], which is based on records going back to 1880, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions. Source URL (retrieved on 2010/08/22 –...

Industrial Metabolism

A book written by Robert U. Ayres and Udo E. Simonis Forward The term “metabolism,” applied to a plant or animal, is a notion so familiar and comprehensive that it resists formal definition. Webster, nevertheless, defines it as “the sum total of the build-up and destruction of cell tissue; the chemical cellular changes providing the energies for the life process and the elimination of waste materials.” It is, in other words, the totality of internal processes – both physical and chemical – that supply the energy and nutrients required by an organism as the conditions of life itself. These processes can be described, in the aggregate, in terms of the transformations of inputs (sunlight, chemical energy, nutrients, water, air) into biomass – the substance of the organism itself – and waste products. Industrial metabolism, by analogy, is the set of physico-chemical transformations that convert raw materials (biomass, fuels, minerals, metals) into manufactured products and structures (i.e. “goods”) and wastes. To an economist these processes, in the aggregate, are called “production.” A further transformation of economic goods into services (and wastes) is also implied by the economic term “consumption.” Thus industrial metabolism comprehends all the materials/ energy transformations that enable the economic system to function, i.e. to produce and consume. Seen from this perspective, the human economic system takes its proper place within the larger natural system of the earth (and sun). The anthroposphere is only a part of the biosphere,’ which itself can only exist in a continuing dynamic equilibrium with the sun, the air (atmosphere), the oceans (hydrosphere) and the earth’s crust (lithosphere). In the pre-industrial era, the...