Saturday, December 10, 2005

Open Thread

International Climate Change Negotiations: An Occasional Poll

Will the US prove a stumbling block to international negotiations on post-2012 UNFCCC commitments?  Vote now in the occasional poll. Climate Change Negotiation Poll

December 10, 2005 in Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Negotiations to Begin on Kyoto II

ENB reports that an agreement has been reached on text for future action under Kyoto Protocol Article 3.9 (future commitments) after a compromise to take into account Russia's desire for consultations on voluntary commitments. Parties also agreed to start the process for a review of the Protocol under Article 9, with submissions being required by 1 September 2006. In addition, Parties agreed on text setting out a process under the UNFCCC on a dialogue for enhancing implementation of the Convention. ENB Coverage of Montreal Conference  ENB should have a full summary published within the next 24 hours.

December 10, 2005 in Climate Change, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 9, 2005

Secondary Forest Restoration as a Sustainability Strategy

Science published an excellent review today by Lamb et al of secondary forest restoration techniques that can be used to protect biodiversity and provide an economic base for rural communities.  Lamb Reforestation Review

December 9, 2005 in Economics, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Nanotechnology white paper released

The Science of Global Warming: Now what are we going to do?

The Economist today summarized the scientific results from the last year that have solidified our understanding of climate changes caused by human energy use and release of greenhouse gases.  First, the Earth continues to warm.  Surface temperature measurements show that the last decade was the warmest on record since reliable measurements began in the early 1800s. Ice core and tree ring estimates of earlier temperatures suggest the decade may have been the warmest in the last 1000 years.  Second, the Arctic shows signs of rapid warming.  Researchers have found that the amount of sea ice has fallen by 8% in the past 30 years, and also found signs that Greenland’s ice cap is melting more rapidly than in the past.  Third, the surface temperature and tropospheric temperatures are now known to be rising in parallel, thus resolving a seeming inconsistency in the data.    Fourth, the changes in the way the world’s oceans have warmed up at different depths over the past 65 years are best explained by warming induced by greenhouse gases, as opposed to changes in the sun's activity. That had been the main alternative hypothesis for what might be causing the climate to change.   Fifth, recent severe storm events verify the predicted link between increased sea-surface temperatures and the frequency of the most intense categories of hurricane, typhoon and tropical storm.  Sixth, ocean currents in the North Atlantic are faltering in ways that computer models of the climate previously suggested would happen in response to increased temperatures.  Seventh, the cooling effect of aerosols counterbalancing warming appears to be diminishing as air pollution control measures take effect. 

The question now, as the Economist notes, is what are we going to do about it.

December 7, 2005 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Hold that optimistic thought....



Scientists indicate that the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole may be delayed until 2065 because reservoirs of ozone-destroying chemicals  may be greater than expected.  Although the ozone layers is expected to recover without large emissions of ozone-depleting substances, the existing stocks in developed countries may be larger than initially thought and their use may postpone recovery of the ozone hole to 1980 levels. Scientists had expected recovery by 2050 following the 1987 Montreal Protocol ban on production.  However, the agreement did not bar the use of existing stockpiles and apparently those stockpiles are being used.


December 7, 2005 in Air Quality, Governance/Management, International, Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The forecast: hot, stormy, and dry

RedOrbit reports:

This year is likely to go down as the hottest, stormiest and driest ever, making a strong case for the urgent need to combat global warming, a report released Tuesday at the U.N. Climate Change Conference said.  The year 2005, the World Wildlife Fund said, is shaping up as the worst for extreme weather, with the hottest temperatures, most Arctic melting, worst Atlantic hurricane season and warmest Caribbean waters.  It's also been the driest year in decades in the Amazon, where a drought may surpass anything in the past century, said the report by international environmental group. The report, using data from the U.S. government  and World Meteorological Organization, was released on the sidelines of the U.N. conference reviewing and upgrading the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that commits 35 industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions more than 5 percent by 2012.

December 7, 2005 in Africa, Climate Change, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, International, North America, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Looking Ahead to the 2006 Hurricane Season

Planet Ark reported that the Colorado State University hurricane research team predicts a stormier than average hurricane season in 2006.  Dr. William Gray of the CSU team says nine of 17 tropical storms predicted for 2006 will become Atlantic hurricanes, including five major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph.  The average season produces 10 storms, of which 6 become hurricanes and 2 are major category 3 or higher hurricanes. Planet Ark - CSU Hurricane Prediction

CSU predicts that the probability of a major Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane - the most destructive types - hitting somewhere on the US coast is 81 %. Florida, pounded by eight hurricanes in the last two years, has a 64 % chance of being hit by a major hurricane.  CSU scientists say the Atlantic-Caribbean basin is in a period of increased hurricane activity, but  that future years are unlikely to have many seasons as intense as the last two, which together produced 41 storms.

The CSU research team has had accurate predictions in the past, though its forecast for the 2005 season predicted a normal season, with 11 tropical storms and six hurricanes. The season broke all historic records with 26 storms, shattering the mark of 21 set in 1933.
Fourteen storms became hurricanes including Epsilon at the end of the official season.  Hurricane Katrina became the most expensive hurricane on record, killing at least 1,300 people and causing at least $80 billion in damage.

CSU researchers discount the theory offered by other scientists that global warming has contributed to the intensity of recent storms -- even though hurricanes are powered by warm sea water and warmer sea temperatures have been linked to global warming.


December 7, 2005 in Climate Change, North America, Physical Science, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wildfire Management




 Those of you interested in wildfire management might want to review a study by Moritz, Wildfires, complexity, and highly optimized tolerance, published on line yesterday (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.0508985102). The abstract:

Recent large fires in the western United States have rekindled debates about fire management and the role of natural fire regimes in the resilience of terrestrial ecosystems. This real-world experience parallels debates involving abstract models of forest fires, a central metaphor in complex systems theory. Both real and modeled fire-prone landscapes exhibit roughly power law statistics in fire size versus frequency. Here, we examine historical fire catalogs and a detailed fire simulation model; both are in agreement with a highly optimized tolerance model. Highly optimized tolerance suggests robustness tradeoffs underlie resilience in different fire-prone ecosystems. Understanding these mechanisms may provide new insights into the structure of ecological systems and be key in evaluating fire management strategies and sensitivities to climate change.

December 7, 2005 in Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Physical Science, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Hurricane Katrina: Scientists and Business Meet to Formulate Policy Recommendations

AMS logo

A Policy Forum on Hurricane Katrina


December 19-21, 2005 


Developed by the AMS Policy Program


in collaboration with the


Space Enterprise Council 


U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Space Enterprise Council Logo


Hurricane Katrina’s landfall triggered a major U.S. catastrophe in human and dollar terms – some 1000-2000 deaths, immeasurable human suffering, and accompanying strains on the national social fabric; the possible loss of an iconic national subculture; as much as half a trillion dollars in property destruction and economic disruption.


The Policy Forum will answer:

  1.           For years, even decades, experts have seen this disaster coming, not just in broad terms, but in some detail. Why were these warnings unheeded?
  2. The Katrina scenario is not unique. Many other cities and regions of the United States face natural hazards and future calamities of comparable or greater consequence, which are just as inevitable. What can and should be done to lessen both the scope and impact of these slowly brewing disasters?
  3. On a considerably shorter time frame – the few days immediately before, during, and just after Katrina’s landfall – decision makers and policy officials operated in an information deficit. What actions are needed to build the decision support infrastructure required for emergency response and recovery on this scale?
  4. Private enterprise – both the large corporations and the small businesses in this region – represented not only a major vulnerability (hundreds of thousands in the region lost their jobs; worldwide, energy prices spiked; international access to U.S. grain exports was interrupted), but also a great, largely untapped asset for rebuilding and recovery – and for a host of disaster reduction actions far prior to any catastrophe. In the short run, how can private enterprise best be given the tools it needs to rebuild? Over the longer term, how can the private sector engage more fully, and more effectively, in disaster prevention, preparedness, and recovery actions nationwide?

The Forum will be organized by the following steps:

  •         At the Forum, participants will discuss the questions in both plenary and breakout sessions
  •       During the Forum, findings and recommendations will be developed and written into a final report and highlights document
  •       Next steps, including implementation of the recommendations, will be discussed

The implementation plan will include:

  •         Massive distribution of the report and highlights document to appropriate local, state, and federal officials, including Congress, as well as, to appropriate colleagues in the academic, public, and private sectors pertaining to Hurricane Katrina
  •       Publication of an article in the Bulletin of the AMS (BAMS) about the Forum findings and recommendations
  •       A Congressional briefing or Science seminar if it is fitting for the recommendations (The AMS, as a 501-C3 organization, does not lobby, but seeks to inform and educate our government officials and their staff on the most recent science breakthroughs.)


Continue reading

December 7, 2005 in Climate Change, Governance/Management, Land Use, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


The American Meterology Society has an environmental science seminar series well worth tuning into.  The November seminar covered the research reconciling data on surface temperature changes with atmospheric temperature changes.  AMS Seminar on Vertical Temperature Profiles  The October seminar covered the research on hurricane intensity and frequency.  AMS Seminar on Hurricanes

December 7, 2005 in Climate Change, International, Physical Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Record Hurricane Season Doesn't Quite End

Planet Ark reported that Hurricane Epsilon became the 14th hurricane of a record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and persisted even in the now chilly north Atlantic.   Hurricane forecasters were perplexed at Epsilon's tenacity in the chilly north Atlantic, where it had been expected to fizzle. 

The six-month 2005 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended on Nov. 30, but December hurricanes are not unprecedented. Epsilon was the sixth to occur in December since record-keeping began in 1851.

The 2005 season was the busiest on record, with 26 tropical storms, besting the old record of 21 set in 1933. Fourteen of them grew into hurricanes, beating the record of 12 set in 1969.

The long-term average is 10 tropical storms per season, with six strengthening into hurricanes. For the first time, forecasters exhausted their annual list of 21 tropical storm names and turned to the Greek alphabet to name the last five, including Epsilon.



December 7, 2005 in Climate Change, North America, Physical Science, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Climate Change Threatens the Wealth of Developing Countries

The World Bank released a report yesterday at the Montreal conference: Where is the Wealth of Nations? Measuring Capital for the 21st Century.

The report documented that the most important asset of most developing countries -- their land resources -- is at high risk from climate change.  Excluding oil states, natural resources amount to 25% of the wealth of low income countries, much more than the 16% share of produced capital.  The largest component of natural wealth in these countries is land.  Cropland and pastureland constitute 70 % of the value of natural capital in low-income countries.  Warren Evans, Director Environment Department, The World Bank, states: "The conclusion is clear - the most important natural asset for the poorest countries is agricultural soil.  How these soils are managed and their productivity enhanced and maintained will have a critical impact on rural poverty and economic growth."

The Bank points out that current indicators used to guide development  - national accounts figures, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – ignore depletion of resources and damage to the environment.  In Where is the Wealth of Nations, the World Bank offers new estimates of total wealth, including produced capital, natural resources, and the value of human skills and capabilities, which show that many of the poorest countries in the world are not on a sustainable path.

The Bank explains:

Switzerland heads the list of the top-ten performers, the other nine being European countries, the United States, and Japan. Sub-Saharan Africa dominates the bottom-10 list, with Ethiopia having the lowest level of total wealth.  Canada has the seventeenth largest level of total capital in the world. Natural resources represent ten percent of total wealth in Canada, owing to sub-soil resources and forests.

The 7th Millennium Development Goal (MDG) – ensure environmental sustainability – calls on countries to “reverse the losses of environmental resources” by 2015. Achieving this goal has proven to be elusive for most countries, not least because of a lack of indicators of sustainable development.

“There is a shared sense of urgency about meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” added Evans. “However, it would be tragic if the achievements of 2015 are not sustained because soils have been mined, fisheries and forests depleted, and climate change erodes the assets of the poor.  Avoiding this outcome is the true seventh Millennium Development Goal.”

Where is the Wealth of Nations complements the report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.  The MA played an important role in signaling the importance of environmental services to human wellbeing.  Where is the Wealth of Nations places an economic value on natural resources and argues that many of these values are underpinned by environmental services that may be at risk – for example, forest owners have no incentive to preserve watershed services that benefit water users; therefore, forests are overexploited and their worth unmeasured.

According to Atilio Savino, Secretary of Environment, Argentina, “Governments need to know the environmental costs so as to make informed decisions concerning development.  Frequently, we have difficulties in perceiving that the development policy cannot be broken away from the environmental policy.  It is only by the inclusion of the environmental dimension may we obtain an accurate measurement of the environmental cost of development, very often overlooked or undervalued.”

“This book,” he continued, “by considering the first assessments on the capacity of human resources, i.e. our capacity to work on our own welfare, together with natural resources, and by proposing as a conclusion that these are more important capitals than the assets produced or than finance, represents an enormous contribution to the policy of sustainable development.”

Savino added, “This theoretical and methodological construction allows then for the first time to use quantifiable factors to measure and weight the notion of sustainable development, which can be an ambiguous concept.” The value of environmental services can be significant, according to the report. Recent research has highlighted the value of services provided by natural forests in the Mediterranean region. These services, including sustainable harvest of timber and fuelwood, forage, other non-timber products, and recreational uses, amount to up to $350 per hectare per year.“Measuring the change in total wealth and the change in natural wealth,” said Kirk Hamilton, lead author of Where is the Wealth of Nations, “can contribute to a comprehensive measure of whether a development path is sustainable in the long term.  The indicators in ‘Where is the Wealth of Nations’ can guide countries toward a sustainable path.”

World Bank site 

December 7, 2005 in Agriculture, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

The Science of Global Warming: African Drought Data Show Influence of Man

An inaugural article by Held, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the severe drought in the African Sahel (between the Sahara and the central coast) is best explained as human induced climate change compounding natural variability.  More severe drought is anticipated in the future as a result of GHG emissions.  African Drought

December 6, 2005 in Africa, Climate Change, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)