Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Climate Snippets 21 November

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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IPCC issues summary of its Fourth Assessment report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) met in Valencia, Spain, mid-November to finalize a summary of its Fourth Assessment of climate change science. "What is produced here in Valencia is the guide that every one of the thousands of delegates attending the crucial Climate Convention meeting in Bali will be packing in their suitcases and slipping in their back pockets," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. After extensive debate, national representatives issued the sternest warning yet from the IPCC, agreeing that climate change could have "abrupt" and "irreversible" consequences.

New Zealand’s shrinking glaciers near crisis.

New Zealand's longest glacier has lost 5km to global warming and is expected to lose at least as much again if the climate keeps heating up. The Tasman Glacier, the massive ice river that sweeps past Aoraki-Mt Cook, has already shrunk to 23km, from the formation of a 5km lake at its snout in the past 30 years. In that time, New Zealand's glaciers have lost almost 11 per cent - 5.8 cubic kilometres - of their ice, new research released yesterday has found. Twelve of the largest in the Southern Alps are unlikely to return to their earlier lengths without "extraordinary cooling of the climate", says the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (Niwa). The warming climate is responsible for more than 90 per cent of the ice loss.

Britain to study carbon cuts as deep as 80 percent.

Britain will study whether it can commit to cutting its carbon emissions by as much as 80 percent by 2050, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday in his first major speech on the environment since taking office this year. Brown's government published a draft Climate Change Bill a week ago committing to a 60 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, but environmentalist groups have said it should look at even deeper cuts. "Our vision has one overriding aim: holding the rise in global average temperature to no more than 2 degrees centigrade. This requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak within the next 10 to 15 years and be cut at least by half by 2050," Brown told a meeting hosted by environment group WWF. He also endorsed the European Union's commitment in March this year to getting 20 percent of primary energy from renewables by 2020.

Katrina, Rita caused forestry disaster die-off: will add to buildup of greenhouse gases.

New satellite imaging has revealed that hurricanes Katrina and Rita produced the largest single forestry disaster on record in the U.S. that killed or severely damaged about 320 million trees in Mississippi and Louisiana. The die-off, caused initially by wind and later by weeks-long pooling of stagnant water, was so massive that researchers say it will add significantly to the global greenhouse gas buildup - ultimately putting as much carbon from dying vegetation into the air as the rest of the nation's forest takes out in a year of photosynthesis. "I was amazed at the quantitative impact of the storm," Lead Researcher from Tulane University Jeffery Chambers said. Of the 320 million trees harmed, he said, about two-thirds soon died. "I certainly didn't expect that big an impact." Chambers was even more surprised when his team calculated how much carbon will be released as the storm-damaged vegetation decomposes. The total came to about 100 million tons, equal to the amount that all the trees in the United States take out of the atmosphere in a year.

US Midwest governors sign climate change accord.

Midwest U.S. states signed agreements on Thursday designed to cut greenhouse gases, promote energy conservation and fight global warming. The third such pact between U.S. states means that nearly half of Americans will be living in areas covered by agreements designed to combat global warming, according to the Washington-based World Resources Institute. States on both coasts have formed regional pacts to cut emissions. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the East seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. California, which is seeking to cut greenhouse emissions 25 percent by 2020, and five other states have formed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative.

World's worst polluters revealed.

Australians are the world's worst polluters, according to a new 'name and shame' league table based on power station emissions. Each Australian produces 11 tonnes of CO2 power sector emissions each year on a per capita basis. The United States comes second in the table on nine tonnes per person Britain is ranked 9th at 3.5 tonnes per person. The findings are revealed in a huge survey of the CO2 emissions from 50,000 power plants worldwide by the Centre for Global Development. The on-line Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) database shows where the worst power station culprits are, who owns them and how much of the greenhouse gas they are pumping into the atmosphere. It includes 4,000 power companies, and nearly 200,000 geographic regions in every country on earth. Visitors to the site can view carbon emissions data for the year 2000, the present, and future plans. Power stations are the planet's most concentrated source of greenhouse gases - one of the main factors in global arming - producing nearly 10 billion tons of CO 2 per year. The US, with over 8,000 power plants, accounts for about 25 per cent of the total or 2.8 billion tons.

Decline in uptake of carbon emissions confirmed.

A decline in the proportion of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions absorbed by land and oceans is speeding up the growth of atmospheric CO2, according to a paper published in the US Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Lead author and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project, CSIRO’s Dr Pep Canadell, says the acceleration is due to three factors: global economic growth; the world’s economy becoming more carbon intense (that is, since 2000 more carbon is being emitted to produce each dollar of global wealth); and a deterioration in the land and oceans’ ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere at the required rate.
“What we are seeing is a decrease in the planet’s ability to absorb carbon emissions due to human activity,” Dr Canadell says. “Fifty years ago, for every tonne of CO2 emitted, 600kg were removed by land and ocean sinks. However, in 2006, only 550kg were removed per tonne and that amount is falling. The majority of current emission scenarios for modelling climate through the 21st century assume sustained decreases in the carbon intensity of the global economy, which have not occurred since 2000,” he says.

Revealed: the man behind court attack on Gore film.

The U.K. school governor who challenged the screening of Al Gore's climate
change documentary in secondary schools was funded by a Scottish quarrying
magnate who established a controversial lobbying group to attack environmentalists' claims about global warming. Stewart Dimmock's high-profile fight to ban the film being shown in schools was depicted as a David and Goliath battle, with the Kent school governor taking on the state by arguing that the government was 'brainwashing' pupils. The Observer has established that Dimmock's case was supported by a powerful network of business interests with close links to the fuel and mining lobbies.

New carbon offset standard aims for transparency.

A new standard for carbon emission offsets launched on Monday seeks to increase transparency and quality assurance in the unregulated voluntary market. The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), one of several sets of international guidelines introduced recently, aims to certify the validity of voluntary offsets, or VERs, bought by consumers and corporations seeking to reduce their planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, or 'carbon footprint'. "The VCS means business and consumer buyers can now trust the offsets they buy," Mark Kenber, policy director for environmental consultants The Climate Group, said The standard, endorsed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), guarantees permanent emissions reductions that have been independently verified and incorporates a registry that prevents vendors from selling the same offsets twice.

In Brief

The Climate Defence Network wants people to visit or write to the Prime Minister, David Parker (Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues), and their nearest Labour MP to tell the government not to back down on the Emissions Trading Scheme, and to let them know ways it can be improved.

Greenpeace NZ protests outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum, where Lord Nigel Lawson, a well known climate sceptic was speaking to New Zealand Business Roundtable, Greenhouse Policy Coalition and other business groups.

Greenpeace Blocks Shipment of Indonesian Palm Oil.

Algeria Plans 3000km Solar Power Cable to Germany to export solar-generated electricity from the Sahara.

Using 26 time-lapse camera units placed near 16 northern hemisphere glaciers, photographer James Balog will produce images of glacial melt as never before.

Vernon Small: Forecasting with a cloudy crystal ball.

Stunning KAGUYA Images of Earth Rise Over the Moon,

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