Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Climate Snippets - 31 January

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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NZ Prime Minister honoured by UN climate award.

The United Nations Environment Programme has awarded the “Champions of the Earth” prize to Helen Clark and six other figures from regions around the world, in recognition of the government’s promotion of sustainability initiatives. The UNEP said that “three major policy initiatives….are blazing new trails for sustainability and the fight against climate change: the Emissions Trading Scheme; the Energy Strategy; and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.”

Biggest polluters meet in Hawaii.

The world's biggest greenhouse gas-polluting countries are sending delegates to Hawaii this week for a U.S.-hosted meeting aimed at curbing climate change without stalling economic growth. The two-day gathering, which starts on Wednesday in Honolulu, is meant to spur U.N. negotiations for an international climate agreement by 2009, so a pact will be ready when the current carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The Bush administration rejects the Kyoto plan, saying it unfairly exempts developing countries from cutting back on emissions, and could cost U.S. jobs. Instead, Washington favours voluntary measures and "aspirational goals" to limit climate change, aided by easier transfer of environmental technology.
The conference is expecting representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom. The United Nations and the European Union will also be represented.

Drought could force nuke-plant closure in U.S.

Nuclear reactors across the U.S Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.

"Water is the nuclear industry's Achilles' heel," said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network. An Associated Press analysis of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants' turbines.

Because of the yearlong dry spell gripping the region, the water levels on those lakes and rivers are getting close to the minimums set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Over the next several months, the water could drop below the intake pipes altogether. Or the shallow water could become too hot under the sun to use as coolant. "If water levels get to a certain point, we'll have to power it down or go off line," said Robert Yanity, a spokesman for South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., which operates the Summer nuclear plant outside Columbia, S.C.

Study: warming may cut US hurricane hits.

Global warming could reduce how many hurricanes hit the United States, according to a new federal study that clashes with other research. The new study is the latest in a contentious scientific debate over how man-made global warming may affect the intensity and number of hurricanes. In it, researchers link warming waters, especially in the Indian and Pacific oceans, to increased vertical wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean near the United States. Wind shear — a change in wind speeds or direction — makes it hard for hurricanes to form, strengthen and stay alive. With every degree Celsius that the oceans warm, the wind shear increases by up to 10 mph, weakening storm formation, said study author Chunzai Wang, a research oceanographer at NOAA. Winds forming over the Pacific and Indian oceans have global effects, much like El Nino does, he said. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said "more likely than not," manmade global warming has already increased the frequency of the most intense storms.

Media consign global warming to back burner.

The League of Conservation Voters has been tracking the number of questions asked of the presidential candidates on the Sunday news shows and the debates televised by the major networks. Of the more than 2,900 questions asked, only four have mentioned the words "global warming." Sandretti¸, the League of Conservation Voters' chief spokesman said "The candidates are talking about it. They're getting questions in town hall meetings about it, the only people who aren't asking about it, it seems, are the mainstream media."

On the Democratic side, all the major candidates are battling to be seen as the greenest on the issue. They've all endorsed the most far-reaching climate change proposal in Congress, requiring an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They each support efforts by California and 18 other states to set tougher fuel economy standards than those passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.

In Brief

Meridian Energy has confirmed plans for a 31-turbine wind farm in Wellington's Ohariu Valley.

California considers feebates on automobiles.

Iraq ratifys Kyoto Protocol

Walk the Walk blog – keep up to date with the long walk.

Energy Dept. Pulls Support for FutureGen – experimental clean coal plant.

Climate change 'security' warning.

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