Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Climate Snippets - 11 June

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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World Environment Day - Kick the carbon habit.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement to mark the UN's World Environment Day - hosted by New Zealand - that global warming is becoming the defining issue of the era and will hurt rich and poor alike. "Our world is in the grip of a dangerous carbon habit," he said. "Addiction is a terrible thing. It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions," he said. His point man in Wellington, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director Achim Steiner, today said New Zealand was chosen to host World Environment Day because it was one of the first nations to commit to carbon neutrality and has provided climate change leadership. The Government mounted a huge series of official "events" to mark the day, many of them featuring VIP guests, including Mr Steiner, Kiribati president Anote Tong, and the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climte Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri. These events included UN art competitions and displays, a "science breakfast", a panel discussion at Victoria University, and press conferences and "photo opportunities". At community level, many towns staged presentations or projects to reduce the number of cars on the road, rehabilitate landfills, promote gardening and renewable energy, plant trees and re-cycle objects.
$45 trillion urged in battling carbon emissions.

In one of the strongest warnings so far about the world's thirst for energy, the International Energy Agency said Friday that investment totalling $45 trillion might be needed over the next half-century to prevent energy shortages and greenhouse gas emissions from undermining global economic growth.
The executive director of the agency, Nobuo Tanaka, called for "immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale." Tanaka said the world needed to "completely transform the way we produce and use energy."

Among the energy agency's chief messages is that current energy policies are unsustainable, with emissions of carbon dioxide expected to climb 130 percent and demand for oil to rise by 70 percent by 2050. Tanaka warned that oil demand could be five times the current production of Saudi Arabia by that time, and that carbon emissions of such a magnitude could raise global average temperatures by 6 degrees Celsius , changing all aspects of life and creating irreversible changes in the natural environment.

The IEA recommended taking measures now that would ensure that carbon emissions were down to at least present-day levels by mid-century by using technologies that already exist, including steps for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions from power generation. Such measures would cost $17 trillion between now and 2050, or 0.4 percent of global output, costing about $400 billion a year. The agency also mapped out a second, more ambitious plan aimed at reducing emissions to half their current levels by mid-century by emphasizing technologies and strategies for "weaning the world off oil." The agency estimated the cost of that process at $45 trillion, or 1.1 percent of annual global output, over the period to 2050. Investments of $100 billion to $200 billion would be needed each year over the next 10 years, rising to $1 trillion to $2 trillion each year in the coming decades.

Images reveal 'rapid forest loss'.

High-resolution satellite images have revealed the "rapid deforestation" of Papua New Guinea's biodiversity rich rainforests over the past 30 years. An international team of researchers estimates that the current rate of loss could result in more than half of the nation's tree cover being lost by 2021. They added that the main threats came from commercial logging and burning. Existing conservation measures were failing to protect the world's third largest rainforest, the team concluded. Scientists from the University of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Australian National University spent five years analysing satellite images that showed deforestation and habitat destruction between 1972 and 2002. They estimated that in 2001 the nation's accessible forests were being cleared or degraded at an annual rate of 362,000 hectares (3,620 sq km). The images also showed that trees in protected areas were being felled at the same rate as unprotected regions, the team added.

US Senate Republicans block climate change plan.

A landmark plan to fight climate change was defeated today in the US Senate, likely postponing action on carbon emissions limits until after this autumn's presidential election. The climate bill was defeated, 48-36, with 60 votes needed to end Republican obstruction. Democrats had hoped that summer would be an opportune time to debate emissions caps. But Republicans seized an opening to claim that the bill - which requires emissions reductions by more than 60% on 2005 levels by 2050 - would increase gas prices.

New round of climate talks opens in Germany.

More than 2,000 delegates opened the two-week meeting Monday, launching an 18-month process of intense negotiations on an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Discussions began with a warning from poor countries and environmentalists that global warming already is harming millions of people, worsening the global food crisis and changing Earth more rapidly than scientists earlier predicted. The Bonn talks are to go into the details of an agreement to be concluded in December 2009 and signed in Copenhagen, Denmark. The talks are based on an accord reached in Bali last December when the United States, India and China indicated they would take part in a post-2012 arrangement. At least seven more major meetings are scheduled before Copenhagen, with the next in August in Accra, Ghana. Delegates say the new pact must be concluded by December 2009 so it can be ratified in time to smoothly replace Kyoto in 2012. Few, if any, conclusions were expected from the Bonn talks.

Japan unveils new emissions target.

Japan has set a target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by up to four-fifths by 2050. The prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, said Japan would achieve the target through carbon trading and by raising the proportion of the country's energy produced from "zero-carbon" sources, such as wind, water and solar power.
Environmentalists, however, expressed disappointment with the government's failure to set an interim target for 2020. The prime minister said an interim target would be made in the future, adding that Japan could cut its current greenhouse gas emissions by 14% by 2020. Tokyo would also contribute up to $1.2bn (£600,000) to a new multilateral fund with the US and Britain to help developing countries fight global warming, Fukuda said.

The drought and dwindling southern hydro lakes are playing havoc with the nation's carbon footprint.

Fossil-fuelled power stations in the North Island are every day burning thousands of tonnes of coal and up to a million litres of diesel oil to help conserve precious South Island hydro lakes and ensure the country has enough electricity. However, the effect of all that extra combustion from thermal stations running flat out, including Huntly and the country's back-up station at Whirinaki, is that since mid-March carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have soared and show no sign of falling. Figures for the week to Sunday show estimated CO2 emissions from thermal power stations have risen by about 75 per cent from about 125,000 tonnes a week in mid-March to 220,000 tonnes a week. The Government appears unperturbed by the rise in emissions, saying the long-term trend is what counts, but the National Party is calling it "a disaster" and says the increase continues the pattern set during Labour's term in office.

Enough gas to power a city wasted every day.

With the price of petrol up again another six cents today, plus calls to save power echoing from the Beehive, it has emerged that a huge amount of energy is simply being wasted off the coast of Taranaki. The operators of the Tui oil field are burning off enough gas each day to power a small city. The gas is surplus to the oil that is underneath, and which is what the company is really after. Daily, close to 500,000 cubic metres of gas are being flared. But the Greens says it is an outrageous waste. "Its a huge amount of gas, and I think the whole country would wish we didn't waste one of our most important natural resources just heating up the air off the coast of Taranaki."

In Brief

Oil surges $11 to record $138.

New plantings of exotic forest are at their lowest level in almost 60 years.

Nasa exposed over climate censorship.

2 men scale New York Times building hours apart on World Environment Day.

China’s wind power development exceeds expectations.

Air NZ to use oil from jatropha nuts to fuel a test flight this year.

Could US scientist's 'CO2 catcher' help to slow warming?

The German lower house of parliament approved on Friday the first parts of a raft of measures aimed at reducing the country's carbon dioxide emissions by 36 percent by 2020.

Canada launches $92m program that will offer incentives including rebates on new vehicles, free transit passes, bicycles, membership in ride-sharing programs and $300 cash for scrapping pre-1995 cars.

Wellington's leading taxi company has been reprimanded for misleading consumers over its "going green" campaign.

John Armstrong: Greens go after a real climate change.

Maori Party: Peak oil strategy would help Kyoto response.

Best of the Net

A European campaign to raise consumer awareness of climate change has made its U.S. debut -The Together campaign.

Prof. Schpinkees Greenhouse calculator.

Video: An Inconvenient Truth: The Opera.

Video: A walker’s perspective of an environment made for cars.

A new 'atlas' shows Africa's rapidly changing landscape through a series of before and after photographs.

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