Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Climate Snippets - 10 April

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World. To subscribe to regular Climate Snippet emails, contact with subscribe in subject line

Climate target is not radical enough, Hansen says.

In a startling reappraisal of the threat, James Hansen, head of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, has called for a sharp reduction in C02 limits. Hansen says the EU target of 550 parts per million of C02 - the most stringent in the world - should be slashed to 350ppm. He argues the cut is needed if "humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed".

What we have found is that the target we have all been aiming for is a disaster - a guaranteed disaster," Hansen told the Guardian. At levels as high as 550ppm, the world would warm by 6C, the paper finds. Previous estimates had suggested warming would be just 3C at that point.

The fundamental reason for his reassessment was what he calls "slow feedback" mechanisms which are only now becoming fully understood. They amplify the rise in temperature caused by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases. Ice and snow reflect sunlight but when they melt, they leave exposed ground which absorbs more heat. As ice sheets recede, the warming effect is compounded. Satellite technology available over the past three years has shown that the ice sheets are melting much faster than expected, with Greenland and west Antarctica both losing mass.

Genesis powers ahead with station despite ban.

State-owned Genesis Energy is aiming for a big gas-fired power station worth hundreds of millions of dollars despite the Government's ban on new base-load generation. The power company has applied for council consents to build a power station north of Auckland, providing up to 480 megawatts of power. No price has been put on the project, on land 8 kilometres north of Helensville in the Rodney district, but a 2005 proposal was expected to cost $420 million.
The station would supply the rapidly growing region and Auckland, possibly within five years.

A Genesis spokesman said there was a "big if" on whether the project would go ahead, and it could be five years before completion. "This is the start of a long process," Genesis spokesman Richard Gordon said. The decision to apply for council consent on the project was an "operational" matter, so the company did not need ministerial approval. The proposal will now open for submissions, with hearings expected in the second half of the year. Even after a council decision, a possible appeal to the Environment Court could add another year to the process. Once official approvals were given, a final investment decision would have to be made by the company, and construction could take another three years.

Bangkok climate change talks close.

The first formal talks to draw up a replacement to the Kyoto climate change pact wound up in Thailand on Friday with plans for another seven rounds of negotiations in the next 18 months to tackle global warming. As expected, no major advances were achieved at the meeting, which was mainly intended to flesh out a roadmap from a breakthrough agreement in Bali last year to kick off the talks through to a culmination in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. The next meeting, to be held in Germany in June, will address the issue of funding and technology to mitigate climate change, a key demand of developing nations who argue that rich countries should foot much of the bill.

WHO: Climate change threatens millions.

Millions of people could face poverty, disease and hunger as a result of rising temperatures and changing rainfall expected to hit poor countries the hardest, the World Health Organization warned Monday. Malaria, diarrhea, malnutrition and floods cause an estimated 150,000 deaths annually, with Asia accounting for more than half, said regional WHO Director Shigeru Omi.

'No Sun link' to climate change.

Scientists have produced further compelling evidence showing that modern-day climate change is not caused by changes in the Sun's activity. The research contradicts a favoured theory of climate "sceptics", that changes in cosmic rays coming to Earth determine cloudiness and temperature. The idea is that variations in solar activity affect cosmic ray intensity. But Lancaster University scientists found there has been no significant link between them in the last 20 years. Presenting their findings in the Institute of Physics journal, Environmental Research Letters, the UK team explain that they used three different ways to search for a correlation, and found virtually none. "We tried to corroborate Svensmark's hypothesis [that when the solar wind is weak, more cosmic rays penetrate to Earth], but we could not; as far as we can see, he has no reason to challenge the IPCC - the IPCC has got it right. "So we had better carry on trying to cut carbon emissions."

Going it alone a bad way to tackle climate change, says IMF.

A global agreement binding all significant countries, rich and poor, offers the best hope for tackling climate change, and could halve the cost of countries trying to tackle it alone, the International Monetary Fund advises. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF calls on national leaders to draft a global agreement quickly that establishes either a common tax rate on carbon, or an emissions trading scheme in which permits can be traded internationally, so emissions can be reduced where it is cheapest to do so.

The global financial watchdog endorses concerns over global warming from an economic standpoint, warning that the risk of potential damage, especially in poor countries, "could be large and even catastrophic if global warming is unchecked".
The IMF presents modelling suggesting that a global carbon tax or emissions trading scheme could stabilise greenhouse gas levels at 550 parts per million (roughly equivalent to a warming of three degrees) while still more than doubling the world's output by 2040.

Air New Zealand receives 'Fossil Fool' Award.

The international Rising Tide network and its allies have called for a day of action against the fossil fuel industry FOSSIL FOOLS DAY! A group of climate change activists have presented Air New Zealand with New Zealand's first ever 'Fossil Fool' award. The company was chosen for the award because of their recent eco-branding program which attempts to give their customers the impression that damage to the climate due to air travel can be offset by purchasing carbon credits or significantly reduced by flying with an airline which uses a biofuel 'blend' to fuel its planes. Aviation is the world's fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions. In 2007, nearly 2.2 billion people flew on the world's scheduled air carriers, with predictions of 9 billion passengers by 2025.

Greenpeace's dairy farming protest gets the chop.

More than 1000 trees planted by Greenpeace in a protest against dairy conversions in a central North Island block of private land have been pulled out.
The 30 Greenpeace volunteers early yesterday morning starting to "reforest" about 1600sq m of land cleared for dairy farming and leased by the state-owned enterprise Landcorp. Greenpeace climate campaigner Simon Boxer said the replanting campaign was aimed at drawing more attention to the large amounts of forestry land in the Tahorakuri Forest, northeast of Taupo, being converted to dairy farming. Bunny McDiarmid, executive director of Greenpeace, said dairy conversion was at an all time high and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Ms McDiarmid said that according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry about 455,000ha of forestry land in New Zealand was at risk of being converted into pastoral use. "This is nearly seven times the size of Lake Taupo."

In Brief

Greens insist on biofuel sustainability standard.

A New Zealand organisation that specialises in carbon footprinting has been sought out by a British-based company to provide services to its thousands of clients all over the world.

More Kiwis coming round to nuclear power?

Climate change could see pubs run dry – Niwa.

Koalas under threat as excess CO2 makes eucalyptus leaves inedible.

Lakefront properties in flood, wave hazard zones

Best of the net

Twenty days. Twenty thousand still images. A single message. Toronto Star photographer Lucas Oleniuk captures the issue of global warming in a video created entirely by using still images.

Media Watch podcast – why was the Christchurch Press pushing Earth Hour so much?

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