Thursday, August 31, 2006
California "catapulted" itself to the forefront of U.S. efforts to
fight global warming yesterday as it prepared to adopt the toughest laws in the nation on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has accused President George W. Bush of lacking leadership on climate change, said he reached a "historic agreement" with Democrats to make California a world leader in reducing carbon emissions. "The success of our system will be an example for other states and nations to follow as the fight against climate change continues," The bill now seems certain to win approval this week. MediaNews reported State Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Assembly Speaker
Fabian Nez, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored Assembly Bill 32, said they had the votes to pass the bill in the Democrat-dominated legislature by today's
wrapup of the year's legislative session. The Senate approved the bill late Wednesday night on a 23-14 vote along partisan lines, sending it
to the Assembly. Assembly Republican Leader George Plescia of San Diego said the bill will be passed with few GOP votes because AB32 is
"not the answer" to carbon emissions. "Adopting costly and unattainable regulations will drive businesses and jobs out of California into other
California is the world's eighth-biggest economy and the 12th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. California's Global Warming Solutions Act provides for:
- emissions capped at 1990 level by 2020, a 25% reduction
- the California Air Resources Board (CARB) must require reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by large polluters by 2008
- CARB will set greenhouse gas emissions limits and reduction measures no later than 2011, to go into effect in 2012. Failure to comply will lead to penalties.
- CARB has authority to use market mechanisms to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions, including carbon credit trading, but creation of a cap-and-trade system is not mandatory.
- The governor can halt implementation of regulations for up to one year in the event of "extraordinary circumstances" like a natural disaster or economic crisis.
See this link for legislative history, legislative status, and a copy of the bill: California Global Warming Solutions Act
As the Bush administration defends its failure to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, California has turned up the heat with its Global Warming Solutions Act, expected to be passed today.
Opening briefs are due before the U.S. Supreme Court today in a case challenging the Bush administration's reluctance to issue regulations to control global warming.
California and 11 other states have joined with environmental groups in a legal attack they hope will compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action to curb the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
The EPA maintains it has no authority under the Clean Air Act to do so, and even if it had the ability, regulations are inappropriate. It favors, instead, national and international "voluntary partnerships" over mandatory rules covering domestic industries.
Critics maintain the White House must be forced to act without delay to reverse or at least slow down the warming trend.
"It's really not that complicated," Tom Dressler, spokesman for the California attorney general, said Wednesday. "We want the federal government to take its head out of the sand, start performing its statutory duty, and start protecting California and the rest of this nation from the potentially devastating effects of global warming."
The Supreme Court case also has important ramifications for state actions on climate change. That's because federal law lets states adopt rules that may exceed EPA standards, but not wander into territory deemed off-limits.
Vehicle tailpipe emission standards are the main point of contention. California has issued its own rules that would force car makers to improve vehicle mileage, and 10 other states have followed suit.
Those rules have been held up by litigation from automakers, and the outcome of that challenge hinges largely on what happens in the Supreme Court case.
The case also is expected to define EPA authority to regulate power plant and other industrial emissions.
David Bookbinder, an attorney for the Sierra Club helping coordinate the legal arguments, said the case is "unequivocally" the most important environmental matter facing the Supreme Court.
"The United States is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the world," he said. "If we want to have any hope of avoiding the more dramatic consequences of global warming, we have got to start acting now."
EPA critics want the case to be decided in line with the standard meaning of terms used in the Clean Air Act, which broadly defines air pollutants subject to federal regulation to include seemingly any substance "which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air," so long as it can be "reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare."
Effects on weather or climate are clearly covered, Bookbinder argued.
If that argument prevails, the Supreme Court could send the matter back to the EPA with orders to take up global warming in a way that either would lead to a set of rules mandating emission cuts or a legally persuasive rationale against doing that.
Bookbinder said if it gets to that point, given the scientific evidence, "I could argue the case with hand puppets and win."
After the petitioners file today, the EPA and its supporters will have about a month to submit their own legal briefs in the case. Oral arguments are expected in December and a decision by June 2007.
EPA press secretary Jennifer Wood said Wednesday the agency is confident it's on solid ground, both legally and from the standpoint of what's best for the environment and the economy.
She said the president's policy "achieves near-term reductions" in greenhouse gases -- equivalent to cutting the annual emissions of 40 million vehicles since 2004 -- "while investing in long-term solutions."
A three-judge appellate court in Washington effectively sided with the EPA last year, although the judges split in their analysis of the case and couldn't agree on a majority opinion.
Representatives of the energy industry maintain the Clean Air Act, which is the principal federal law under which the EPA takes action against air pollution, wasn't intended to address global warming.
Ralph Colleli, a lawyer for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, said Wednesday the text of the law should be considered along with legislative history suggesting the law "doesn't authorize EPA to impose mandatory regulations for controlling greenhouse gas emissions for climate change purposes."
The case is Massachusetts vs. EPA, 05-1120.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
San Diego Declaration : Scientists Say Global
Warming Limits Ability To Manage Wildland Fire
Association for Fire Ecology
Changes in climate will limit humans' ability
to manage wildland fire and apply prescribed
fire across the landscape, according to the
"San Diego Declaration on Climate Change and
Fire Management," released today by the
Association for Fire Ecology, the world's
largest assembly of fire ecologists.
"Under future drought and high heat scenarios,"
the Declaration reads,"fires may become larger
more quickly and be more difficult to manage.
Fire suppression costs may continue to increase,
with decreasing effectiveness under extreme
fire weather and fuel conditions. Extreme
fire events are likely to occur more
Association President Robin Wills of Oakland,
Calif. said the five-page Declaration is being
submitted for delegate concurrence at
the Third International Fire Ecology and
Management Congress to be held
November 13–17, 2006, in San Diego.
"We're going to see more fire, not less,"
Wills said, "and these increases in wildfire
occurrence and severity are going to be part
of our new reality. We, as a society, must
be prepared to cope with these changes."
"Abrupt climate change can lead to rapid
and continuous changes that disrupt natural
processes and plant communities," reads the
Declaration. "Managers are not safe in
assuming that tomorrow's climate will mimic
that of the last several decades.
"Increased temperatures are projected to
lead to broad-scale alteration of storm tracks
thereby changing precipitation patterns.
Historical data show that such changes
in past millennia were often accompanied
by disruption of fire regimes with major
migration and reorganization of vegetation
at regional and continental scales.
"Some believe that the impacts of climate
change may already be emerging as seen in
more frequent outbreaks of very large fires,
widespread tree die-offs across the southwest
United States, expansive insect infestations
in the Rocky Mountains, and more rapid and
earlier melting of snow packs globally.
"Currently, we are observing wildland
fire conditions previously considered rare,
such as extreme wildfire events (e.g. high
heat release and severe impact to ecosystems),
lengthened wildfire seasons, and large-scale
wildfires in fire-sensitive ecosystems
(e.g. tropical rain forests and arid deserts),"
the Declaration continues. "Research indicates
that climate change has, in part, caused
these trends. Therefore, we are deeply
concerned that wildfire conditions will only
become exacerbated by further climate change."
In the western United States, researchers
recently confirmed an increase in fire season
duration with large forest fires starting
both earlier and later in the year than
in the recent past. "These changes are
correlated with earlier spring snowmelt
dates," the Declaration reads. "The ecological
impacts are wide-reaching because of the
high severity of these fires burning
through heavy fuel loads. With global
emperatures projected to rise throughout
this century, we expect increases in fire
season length and fire size."
Fire Congress Chair Melanie Miller of
Missoula, Mont., said over 500 papers and
120 posters will be officially presented
to around 3,000 attendees, including
250 papers to be received in
31 special sessions at the Congress.
"All of the world's top fire ecologists
are gathering in one place," Miller said.
"We expect this to be the largest
gathering of fire professionals in history."
The "San Diego Declaration on Climate
Change and Fire Management" is available at:
www.fireecology.net. The Fire Congress's
official website is at:
The World Bank put together on Tuesday the largest greenhouse gas deal ever, where European and Asian companies and others will pay two Chinese chemical companies US$1.02 billion to reduce output of gases believed to cause global warming. In the deal, European and Asian companies bound by the UN's Kyoto Protocol to tackle climate change, will pay the Chinese chemical companies to reduce and destroy emissions of HFC23, a heat-trapping gas 11,700 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
The deal will reduce emissions by about 19 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, according to the World Bank. About 75 percent of the money to purchase the reductions came from private capital. Additional participants included entities in World Bank managed funds including the Danish Carbon Fund, the Italian Carbon Fund, Deutsche Bank, Mitsui & Co and two entities of Natsource LLC, which calls itself the world's largest greenhouse gas asset manager.
As a developing country, China, the world's No. 2 producer of greenhouse gases, is not required to reduce emissions of heat trapping gases in the first phase of the international global warming pact the Kyoto Protocol, which runs from 2008 to 2012. Tuesday's deal was done under Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism(CDM), which allows allows rich countries to meet some of their greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol by investing in reductions in developing countries. "The resources came together from lots of different directions. Therewas pooling and deployment of capital in a large scale which was good to see that the CDM could do that," Jack Cogen, president of New York-based Natsource, said in a telephone interview. The Chinese government will recoup 65 percent of the money from the deal though taxes on the two chemical companies and use it cut greenhouse gases and expand the use of renewable energy. In addition, the technology to burn and destroy HFC23, a waste gas formed in making refrigerants, can be put in place quickly. "The beauty of industrial gas projects is that both of these projects will start generating greenhouse gas emission reductions later this year, one in October and one in December," said Anita Gordon, a World Bank spokeswoman.
With more glaciers than any state in the Lower 48, Washington state has emerged as a bellwether for global warming.
The signs are not encouraging.
A national environmental group recently reported that North Cascades and Mount Rainier are among the dozen national parks most susceptible to climate change.
At Mount Rainier, which has more glacial ice than the rest of the Cascades combined and is among the best studied sites in the nation, the area covered by glaciers shrank by more than a fifth from 1913 to 1994, and the volume of the glaciers by almost one-fourth, the National Park Service says. From 1912 to 2001, the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier retreated nearly a mile.
Since the first stirrings of the Industrial Revolution 150 years ago, glaciers in the northern Cascades have shrunk by 40 percent, and the pace is accelerating. The South Cascades Glacier, one of the most studied in the nation, has lost roughly half its mass since 1928.
In the Olympic Mountains, glaciers have lost about one-third of their mass.
"They are the canary in the coal mine," Ed Josberger, the head of the U.S. Geological Survey's ice and climate project in Tacoma, said of the glaciers in Washington state. "They are changing fast, and this is not good."
The state's official climatologist, Philip Mote, agreed.
"Everything is now retreating, and the smaller glaciers are disappearing," said Mote, a research scientist at the University of Washington, who's guarded in attributing the changes directly to global warming but concedes that the evidence is mounting.
Glaciers are affected by two climatic conditions: snowfall, which adds to their mass during the winter, and warm temperatures, which spur melting in the summer. The amount of snow falling in the Northwest is declining, while temperatures are rising.
During the 20th century, Mote said, temperatures in the region rose about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. In western Washington state, Mote said, the increase was even greater, roughly 2 degrees.
Despite some heavy snowfalls in the late 1990s - in the winter of 1998-99, Mount Baker recorded a record snowfall of 1,100 inches - the overall trend is negative.
"The decline in snowfall in the Northwest has been the largest in the West, and it is clearly related to temperature," Mote said.
The glaciers in Washington state aren't the only ones retreating. From the Arctic to Peru and from Greenland and Europe to East Africa, there are reports that glaciers are shrinking.
There are exceptions. Glaciers on California's Mount Shasta, at the southern end of the Cascade range, have been growing, Mote said. Recent studies indicate that glaciers also might be growing in the Himalayas and other Asian mountain ranges.
No one is quite sure what causes these anomalies.
"The signature of human influence on climate is pretty clear on the continental scale and the regional scale," Mote said. But when it comes to smaller geographic areas, Mote said, the picture is unclear.
Other scientists are convinced that global warming has caused glaciers to retreat in the Northwest and elsewhere.
"This is what the models predicted," said Joe Reidel, the park geologist for the North Cascades National Park. "They are melting fast. There can be pauses of five or six years, but they are still shrinking rapidly."
Reidel has been studying glaciers in the North Cascades for 15 years. Scientists use everything from ice-penetrating radar to satellite imagery to on-the-ground observations to track the glaciers. They've been methodically studying the South Cascades Glacier for 50 years and observing glacial changes on Mount Rainier since the late 1800s.
"There is no question glaciers are a dramatic indicator of climate," Reidel said.
The National Park Service has been supportive of his research, Reidel said, but it's harder to find more funding through federal grants.
"Money is getting tougher and tougher to come by," he said.
Reidel thinks the glaciers and the Earth's climate might be reaching a tipping point from which there may be no recovery.
There's more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any time in the past 20 million years, Reidel said. Carbon dioxide, thought to be a key ingredient in global warming, is emitted by burning fossil fuels such as coal or oil, among other things. Research has shown that none of the other warm periods in the past 20 million years had such a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, he said.
"It is clear it is human-induced," Reidel said.
Scientists are still trying to determine what changes the Northwest may experience from global warming. But Reidel said it was clear that stream flows would be reduced as the glaciers shrank, affecting the region's extensive system of hydroelectric dams and salmon and other fish.
Reidel said summer flows in one drainage in the North Cascades had dropped by 25 percent; if the glaciers disappear they'll fall by another 20 percent.
"Some reservoirs get 20, 30 and even 40 percent of their water during the summer from glaciers," he said.
Reidel said no one knew for sure whether Washington state's mountain glaciers would disappear eventually.
A study published by Scholze in PNAS does a risk analysis of the impacts of climate change on major ecosystems, including freshwater resources, forest and desert shifts, wildfire, precipitation and soil loss from runoff. The study looks at three 21st century scenarios: a increase of mean global temperature under 2 degrees C, 2-3 degrees C, and more than 3 degrees C. As one would expect, higher impacts occur with larger increases -- at more than 3 degrees, the land carbon sink loses its effectiveness (one of those cliffs). The impacts continue to increase for another 200 years even if carbon emissions are held constant.
PNAS has published a study by Stenseth suggesting that the climate changes associated with global warming favor outbreaks of bubonic plague in areas where humans live in close proximity to infested rats or fleas. Link: Plague dynamics are driven by climate variation -- Stenseth -- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The bacterium Yersinia pestis causes bubonic plague. In Central Asia, where human plague is still reported regularly, the bacterium is common in natural populations of great gerbils. By using field data from 1949–1995 and previously undescribed statistical techniques, we show that Y. pestis prevalence in gerbils increases with warmer springs and wetter summers: A 1�C increase in spring is predicted to lead to a >50% increase in prevalence. Climatic conditions favoring plague apparently existed in this region at the onset of the Black Death as well as when the most recent plague pandemic arose in the same region, and they are expected to continue or become more favorable as a result of climate change. Threats of outbreaks may thus be increasing where humans live in close contact with rodents and fleas (or other wildlife) harboring endemic plague.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
A letter published last week in Science challenged suggestions made in recent studies of the history of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets that we may experience rapid sea level changes with global warming. Recent reports suggest the Greenland ice sheet is indeed melting more rapidly than we previously thought -- a matter of deep concern since Greenland alone could raise sea level several meters. Since it is important to keep track of the literature concerning the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and we all seek to make policy based on the best understanding of scientific evidence, here is the debate: the letter critiquing the reports of rapid historical melting -- and the response:
In the tandem papers on the stability of the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets by J. T. Overpeck, B. L. Otto-Bliesner, and co-workers ("Paleoclimatic evidence for future ice-sheet instability and rapid sea-level rise," J. T. Overpeck et al., Reports, 24 Mar., p. 1747; "Simulating Arctic climate warmth and icefield retreat in the last interglaciation," B. L. Otto-Bliesner et al., Reports, 24 Mar., p. 1751), firm statements are made about the possible contributions of these ice sheets to future sea-level change. Several doubtful assumptions are made, and the quality of model results seems to be overvalued.The estimate of the contribution of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) to the higher sea-level stand in the Eemian interglacial (between 2.2 and 3.4 m) is based on the assumption that there was no ice at the location of the Dye-3 ice core in southern Greenland. However, Eemian ice has been found at the base of this ice core (1). The presence of Eemian ice in south and coastal Greenland implies that the GIS was essentially intact in a much warmer climate and could not have contributed more than 1 to 2 m to sea-level rise.For the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), we have used the output from five different state-of-the-art climate models to calculate possible changes in the volume of Arctic ice masses for the next 100 years (2). Among these models is the one used by Otto-Bliesner, Overpeck, and co-workers (the NCAR Community Climate System Model). For the same greenhouse gas scenario (IPPCB2), the differences in model output are striking, especially concerning precipitation in the Arctic. Some models predict a significant increase in snowfall over the GIS; others do not. Given the additional problems in calculating ablation (because the climate model does not resolve the melt zone of the GIS), we think that the uncertainty in the predicted Eemian mass balance, and consequently the response of the ice-sheet model, is very large.There is no justification for extrapolating observed changes on a short time scale (a decade or less) to longer term trends. Natural variability is large on virtually all scales and generated by nonlinear processes in the system. During recent years, the weather over Greenland has been warmer, and the effect on runoff and the dynamics of outlet glaciers is now clearly seen. We should follow this closely, but not conclude at this moment that "sea-level rise could be faster than widely thought," as stated by Overpeck et al.The statement by Overpeck et al. that "our inference that the Antarctic Ice Sheet likely contributed to sea-level rise during the [last interglaciation period] indicates that it could do the same if the Earth's climate warms sufficiently in the future" requires a comment. This possibility was mentioned decades ago by J. H. Mercer and T. Hughes [see (3)]. However, this statement implies that it would not happen without warming. Actually, it is possible that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will continue to shrink (as it has probably been doing during the entire Holocene) even without warming. Several physical processes give ice sheets a very long memory (e.g., low temperatures of the older, deeper ice layers affecting ice viscosity, slow response of Earth's crust to a changing ice load, ice-age dust layers coming to the surface and affecting melt rates, etc.). In spite of admirable efforts in ice-sheet modeling, measuring from space, and laborious in situ observations, we are uncertain about what the ice sheets would do without any change in climate.
Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research
Princetonplein 5, Utrecht 3584 CC, The Netherlands
Niels Bohr Institute
University of Copenhagen
DK-2100 Copenhagen OE, Denmark
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (IPSL/CEA/CNRS/UVSQ)
Bat 701, L'Orme des Merisiers
CEA Saclay, 91 191 Gif-sur-Yvette cédex, France
- W. Dansgaard, H. B. Clausen, N. Gundestrup, S. Johnsen, C. Rygner, in Greenland Ice Core: Geophysics, Geochemistry, and the Environment, C. C. J. Langway, H. Oeschger, W. Dansgaard, Eds. (American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, 1985), pp. 71-76.
- J. Oerlemans et al., Ann. Glaciol., in press.
- M. Oppenheimer, Nature 393, 325 (1998).
We thank Oerlemans et al. for their interest and insights. However, none of the points raised affect our result that future "sea-level rise could be faster than widely thought."
Recent observations indicate shrinkage of both the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) [e.g., (1)] and the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) [e.g., (2)]. Although long-term trends may be contributing, especially for the AIS, much work shows that recent warming has contributed to the mass loss [e.g., (1, 3-5)]. Furthermore, some of the "fast" processes by which warming contributes to ice-sheet mass loss are not fully represented in the comprehensive iceflow models that informed, e.g., the IPCC Third Assessment Report (6, 7).
To these results, we added historical perspective: Whatever the details, the last time the Arctic was significantly warmer than today, global sea level was at least 4 to 6 m above present level, and most of this sea-level rise had to be the result of polar ice sheet melting. With warming projected for the future, and despite the important remaining uncertainties, we believe that this evidence shows that accelerated sea-level rise from the polar ice sheets could occur.
Oerlemans et al. do raise issues that warrant clarification. They suggest that there was a larger Eemian (last interglaciation) GIS than we inferred, based on the presence of isotopically enriched, possibly Eemian ice at the base of the Dye 3 ice core. However, this enriched ice does not prove that the GIS southern dome survived the peak interglacial warmth in the period 130,000 to 125,000 years ago. In contrast, the lack of ice from the previous glaciation argues for ice-sheet removal from the site at some point in the Eemian. The enriched ice at Dye 3 can be interpreted as (i) late-Eemian "growth ice," when the ice sheet reestablished itself in southern Greenland (8), or (ii) ice that flowed into the region from central Greenland or from a surviving but isolated southern dome (9). An improved understanding of the response of the GIS to the last interglacial warmth will come from an ice core that penetrates the full Eemian [e.g., (10)]. If Eemian mass loss from the GIS was smaller than our calculations, a correspondingly larger mass loss from the AIS is necessary to explain the reconstructed Eemian sea-level high-stand of 4 to 6 m.
We share Oerlemans et al.'s interest in the long-term trend in ice-sheet behavior [e.g., (11)] and their respect for the pioneering work of Mercer, Hughes, and others. We agree that Earth-system models exhibit important differences in regional reconstructions, including those in the Arctic. However, the success of the model we used (CCSM2, an improved version of the NCAR model used in ACIA) in simulating peak-Eemian conditions matching available paleoclimatic data increases our confidence in our results.
We look forward to working with Oerlemans et al. and other members of the community to narrow the uncertainties on this critical topic.
Jonathan T. Overpeck
Institute for the Study of Planet Earth
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
Bette L. Otto-Bliesner
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Post Office Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307, USA
Gifford H. Miller
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research
University of Colorado
Campus Box 450
Boulder, CO 80309, USA
Richard B. Alley
Department of Geosciences
Pennsylvania State University
0517 Deike Building
University Park, PA 16802, USA
Daniel R. Muhs
U.S. Geological Survey
Mail Stop 980, Box 25046, Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225, USA
Shawn J. Marshall
Department of Geography
University of Calgary
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
- R. Thomas et al., Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L10503 10.1029/2006GL026075 (2006).
- I. Velicogna, J. Wahr, Science 311, 1754 (2006).
- J. Box et al., J. Clim., in press.
- A. Shepherd, D. Wingham, T. Payne, P. Skvarca, Science 302, 856 (2003).
- T. A. Scambos, J. A. Bohlander, C. A. Shuman, P. Skvarca, Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L18402 10.1029/2004GL020670 (2004).
- IPCC, The Science of Climate Change (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2001).
- R. B. Alley, P. U. Clark, P. Huybrechts, I. Joughin, Science 310, 456 (2005).
- R. M. Koerner, D. A. Fisher, Ann. Glaciol. 35, 19 (2002).
- N. Lhomme, G. K. C. Clarke, S. J. Marshall, Quat. Sci. Rev. 24, 173 (2005).
- D. J. Dahl-Jensen et al., "The last interglacial and beyond: A northwest Greenland deep ice core drilling project," International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences, http://www.pages.unibe.ch/science/initiatives/ipics/data/ipics_neem.pdf (2005).
- R. B. Alley, I. M. Whillans, J. Geophys. Res. 89C, 6487 (1984).
The editors suggest the following related resources on Science sites:
In Science Magazine
Paleoclimatic Evidence for Future Ice-Sheet Instability and Rapid Sea-Level Rise
- Jonathan T. Overpeck, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Gifford H. Miller, Daniel R. Muhs, Richard B. Alley, and Jeffrey T. Kiehl
Science 24 March 2006: 1747-1750 | Abstract » | Full Text » | PDF » | Supporting Online Material »
Simulating Arctic Climate Warmth and Icefield Retreat in the Last Interglaciation
- Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Shawn J. Marshall, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Gifford H. Miller, Aixue Hu, and CAPE Last Interglacial Project members
Science 24 March 2006: 1751-1753 | Abstract » | Full Text » | PDF » | Supporting Online Material »
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Check out Science's special issue on Freshwater Resources. Oki and Kanae review current understanding of the hydrological cycle and how climate change affects freshwater abundance. Other articles review freshwater resources in the Arctic, chemical contamination problems, progress in addressing water-borne infectious diseases and desalinization, large-scale water resources projects in China and India, and the politics of water resource management:
What's a Wetland, Anyhow?
HYDROENGINEERING: Going Against the Flow
Science 25 August 2006: 1034-1037 | Summary » | Full Text » | PDF »
HYDROENGINEERING: Controversial Rivers Project Aims to Turn India's Fierce Monsoon Into a Friend
Science 25 August 2006: 1036-1037 | Summary » | Full Text » | PDF »
WATER RESOURCES: For Our Thirsty World, Efficiency or Else
Science 25 August 2006: 1046-1047 | Summary » | Full Text » | PDF »
Trajectory Shifts in the Arctic and Subarctic Freshwater Cycle
Science 25 August 2006: 1061-1066 | Abstract » | Full Text » | PDF » | Supporting Online Material »
Global Hydrological Cycles and World Water Resources
Science 25 August 2006: 1068-1072 | Abstract » | Full Text » | PDF »
The Challenge of Micropollutants in Aquatic Systems
Science 25 August 2006: 1072-1077 | Abstract » | Full Text » | PDF »
Waterborne Infectious Diseases—Could They Be Consigned to History?
Science 25 August 2006: 1077-1081 | Abstract » | Full Text » | PDF »
Seeking Sustainability: Israel's Evolving Water Management Strategy
Science 25 August 2006: 1081-1084 | Abstract » | Full Text » | PDF »
Running Out of Water--and Time
Science 25 August 2006: 1085-1087 | Summary » | Full Text » | PDF »
Thursday, August 24, 2006
This is World Water Week in Stockholm. Here are excerpts from the blog of Water Aid CEO Barbara Frost. Link: Stockholm Water Week blog | WaterAid.
This week experts from 140 countries will address issues relating to water, environment, livelihoods and poverty reduction at the Stockholm World Water Week.
Day 3: Citizens' Action sparks action
23 August 2006
We were really pleased to see around 40 people attend our side event on WaterAid's Citizens' Action campaign. Citizen's Action helps poor people gain access to the water and sanitation services to which they are entitled by supporting them to hold their governments and service providers to account.
The event was expertly chaired by Piers Cross from WSP Africa, an international partnership to help the poor gain sustained access to improved water supply and sanitation services, and was set in motion with a presentation by WaterAid UK's Policy Officer Peter Ryan and WaterAid Ghana's Head of Policy Abdul Nashiru Mohammed. In the presentation they outlined the initiative, its challenges and its impact on West Africa.
I was very impressed by the depth of interest in Citizens' Action and the enthusiastic discussion that followed the presentation in which contributions were made by a number of participants including members of African governments and civil society as well as major private sector operators. Interest in setting up and supporting Citizens' Action initiatives was generated too, which was especially pleasing.
There was a fascinating example today of the use of film to highlight critical issues in water and sanitation. Film speaks a universal language and so overcomes many barriers. Plus, the first Stockholm World Water Week Film Festival attracted a vibrant crowd which all served to give us food for thought on using film in our programme and advocacy work.
There also has been plenty of debate around energising UN Water, the committee charged with coordinating UN activities in water and sanitation. This harmonising goal is one which we support; strange then that there is a clamour to house a 'body' in a number of EU member states, when the need is solely a small coordination function?
Find out more about WaterAid's Citizens' Action campaign.
Day 2: Pushing the agenda
22 August 2006
World Water Week probably appears like chaos in action to someone looking in from outside. The days are long and intensive and there is a constant swell of people moving between seminars, workshops and meetings. Much of our business is done in corridors where we take opportunities for chance meetings to advocate and disseminate our policy positions.
In the gender seminar today, we took the chance to push WaterAid's agenda on issues of accountability as it resonates strongly in this context. Holding service providers and governments to account for poor service provision should lie at the heart of women's struggle to break free from poverty and disease.
We came to Stockholm with the aim of engaging in the ongoing discussions about the future of the European Union Water Initiative (EUWI). Some advocate that the delivery of basic services, including those of water and sanitation, should be included within an infrastructure partnership.
However, we believe strongly that this would lead to the EU diverting its gaze from the overriding issues of getting water and sanitation to the poor and urge others to lobby for the creation of a separate mechanism in the EU to help deliver this.
The other main items of the day included the launch of the Water Integrity Network, which brings corruption to the forefront of the sector agenda, and whether decentralisation is a pre-requisite for sustainable service delivery. It is noteworthy that almost 100 percent of contributors in this session believed it is.
Day 1: Staying focused
21 August 2006
At the 2006 Stockholm World Water Week, WaterAid will discuss the real water crisis facing over a billion people every day, a crisis not simply of scarcity but, crucially, of inequality.
WaterAid will demonstrate how accountability, securing local funding and catalysing local governments' capacities are all key to achieving a world where everyone has access to safe water and effective sanitation.
Our arrival in Stockholm coincided with the end of an eight week long drought and unusually high temperatures. Swedish Water Minister Carin J�mtin remarked that while these had been a matter of discomfort to Swedes, they are a matter of life and death to many people in the developing world. This struck a particular chord with me, as it's easy to lose sight of the issues at the heart of the problems when striving for solutions.
It was interesting to hear this year's Water Prize Laureate Professor Asit Bitwas, a man known for challenging the status quo, not mincing his words about the plethora of such gatherings, and challenging whether or not the $205 million he estimated had been incurred in implementing the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico in March this year had bought a single drop of safe water to those who don't have it.
For this reason our attendance at these events is always a matter of carefully weighing up the likely benefits against the costs and we shall continue to measure whether or not we have achieved our objectives in coming to these gatherings.
The good sessions today were those that were rooted strongly in the realities of people's lives, and not those where abstract and depersonalised presentation made them detached from the experience of poor people.
Find out more about the Stockholm World Water Week.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Late applications for lecturing awards in China Taiwan
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Last year produced a record 15 Atlantic hurricanes, including four of the most severe Category 5 variety. One of those, of course, was Katrina, the most economically damaging storm in U.S. history. So it's no surprise that climate scientists are scrambling to learn whether these events merely constituted a freak coincidence or evidenced a frightening trend. Some studies have suggested that rising temperatures worldwide are to blame for the increased frequency of hurricanes (ScienceNOW, 27 June). The jury remains out on that issue, but new research suggests the first direct link between global warming and greater hurricane intensity.
James Elsner of Florida State University in Tallahassee studied data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration stretching back over the past half century. In the 23 August Geophysical Research Letters, he reports that whenever average global air temperatures increased during the June-November hurricane season, water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic rose in lockstep. This nearly always produced a season with more powerful tropical storms.
Elsner's findings suggest that air temperatures tend to drive sea temperatures, but not the other way around--which implies a link between greenhouse gases and storm intensity. "The large increases in powerful hurricanes over the past several decades, together with the results presented here, certainly suggest cause for concern," Elsner says. "These results have serious implications for life and property throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and portions of the United States."
Perhaps, says Gavin Schmidt, a climate specialist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. Elsner's paper does add to evidence that recent increases in sea surface temperature result from the influence of greenhouse gases and other factors and don't simply reflect an upswing in a natural cycle, as some scientists have proposed, Schmidt says. He adds, however, that the findings do not necessarily pinpoint what increases in hurricane activity can be expected in the future, nor do they predict what level of hurricane damage increase we can expect.
Friday, August 18, 2006
DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will propose new rules to regulate some low-stress lines in rural areas, including BP's Prudhoe Bay lines.
Current US pipeline regulations exempt from oversight the 22-mile line operated by BP that leaked oil onto the Arctic tundra, spurring a shutdown of half the capacity of the 400,000 barrel-per-day field, the nation's biggest.
That's because low-stress lines like BP's Prudhoe Bay network -- ones that run at less than 20 percent of their rated capacity and are sited away from population centers -- are deemed to be less risky than high-pressure lines.
But the Transportation Department, which oversees the 200,000-mile network of pipelines that criss-cross the nation, is rethinking that equation after a BP pipeline in Prudhoe Bay ruptured in March, spilling at least 200,000 gallons of crude in the North Slope's worst onshore spill.
pipeline inspection proposal will cover 1,600 miles of roughly 5,000
miles of US low-pressure
pipelines. The rules will require cleaning and inspections of
lines every 5 years in "unusually sensitive" areas, such as
endangered species habitats or community drinking supplies.
Reportedly, BP's lines had not been cleaned for over 10 years.
Environmentalists want all pipelines inspected. Oil lobbyists argue
that inspecting lower risk pipelines would unduly stretch inspection
The pipeline inspection proposal will cover 1,600 miles of roughly 5,000 miles of US low-pressure pipelines. The rules will require cleaning and inspections of low-stress lines every 5 years in "unusually sensitive" areas, such as endangered species habitats or community drinking supplies. Reportedly, BP's lines had not been cleaned for over 10 years. Environmentalists want all pipelines inspected. Oil lobbyists argue that inspecting lower risk pipelines would unduly stretch inspection resources.The head of the federal pipeline agency was quoted as saying:
Prudhoe Bay could have been prevented if BP had paid more attention to its maintenance,...The standard of care up there was well below what we've seen from other companies ... and well below what I would expect from a company like BP.
When it comes to powering laptops and hybrid cars, batteries get most of the attention. But these gadgets and myriad others also contain devices known as capacitors that provide quick bursts of energy. Capacitors can't store as much power as batteries, but the latest "supercapacitors" have started to close the gap. Now, their storage capabilities may be about to take another big jump.
In a report published online this week by Science (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1132195), researchers from the United States and France report that by carefully controlling the nanoscale structure of a carbon-based supercapacitor, they've managed to increase the amount of electrical charges it can hold by about 50%. "It looks like they've got something significant there," says John Miller, a physicist who runs JME Inc., a supercapacitor materials evaluation company in Shaker Heights, Ohio. If this performance translates to commercial devices, it could help manufacturers create smaller and cheaper power packs for everything from cameras to cars, Miller says. First, however, researchers need to learn more about how it works.
Those of us who track the effects of global warming had assumed that the first large flow of climate refugees would likely be in the South Pacific with the abandonment of Tuvalu or other low-lying islands. We were wrong. The first massive movement of climate refugees has been that of people away from the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in late August 2005, forced a million people from New Orleans and the small towns on the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts to move inland either within state or to neighboring states, such as Texas and Arkansas. Although nearly all planned to return, many have not.
Unlike in previous cases, when residents typically left areas threatened by hurricanes and returned when authorities declared it was safe to do so, many of these evacuees are finding new homes. In this respect, the U.S. hurricane season of 2005 was different. Record-high temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico surface waters helped make Hurricane Katrina the most financially destructive hurricane ever to make landfall anywhere.
In some Mississippi Gulf Coast towns, Katrina’s powerful 28-foot-high storm surge (8.5 meters) did not leave a single structure standing. There was nothing for evacuees to return to. The destruction of housing and infrastructure in St. Bernard Parish, a low-lying 40-mile-long peninsula (64 kilometers) extending southeast from New Orleans, rendered most of it uninhabitable. The Katrina storm surge that raised the water level in Lake Pontchartrain so high that it breached the levees and flooded New Orleans left much of the city unfit to live in. Even today, a year later, large parts of the city are without basic infrastructure services such as water, power, sewage disposal, garbage collection, and telecommunications. Interestingly, the country to suffer the most damage from a hurricane is also primarily responsible for global warming.
Many evacuees were able to return in a matter of days, but many more were not. New Orleans’ population before Katrina struck was 463,000. Claritas, a private demographic data-gathering and analysis firm, reported that after the hurricane New Orleans’ population shrank to 93,000. By January 2006, it had recovered to 174,000. By July 2006, the city still had only 214,000 residents, less than half of its pre-Katrina population.
Three Louisiana coastal parishes (counties) also registered substantial population declines. The population of St. Bernard Parish plummeted from 66,000 residents to 15,000 in July 2006. South of New Orleans, the population of Plaquemines Parish declined from 29,000 to 20,000. Densely populated Jefferson Parish, also bordering New Orleans on the south, dropped from 453,000 to 411,000, a loss of 42,000.
Mississippi’s three coastal counties each lost population. The July tabulation showed Hancock County had lost 8,000 residents. Harrison County, which includes the town of Gulfport, lost 12,000, and Jackson County 4,000. (See data.)
As of July 2006, New Orleans, the three parishes, and the three counties in Mississippi had lost a total of 375,000 residents because of destruction from Katrina. Some evacuees are still returning, but the flow has slowed to a near trickle. We estimate that at least 250,000 of them have established homes elsewhere and will not return. They no longer want to face the personal trauma and financial risks associated with rising seas and more destructive storms. These evacuees are now climate refugees.
In the Journal of Developing Societies, Nagarajan discusses simulation studies of the ecological suicide of Easter Island -- reminding us of the lessons of Easter Island about the consequences of unsustainable resource use. Easter Island
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
The Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant Mercury issued an Official Conference Declaration last Friday, endorsed by 37 top international experts on mercury pollution and ratified by a large majority of conference participants. According to the declaration, mercury threatens the health of people, fish and wildlife everywhere, from industrial sites to remote corners of the planet, but reducing mercury use and emissions would lessen those threats. A significant portion of the mercury deposited near industrial sources comes from those sources, rather than from natural sources. Evidence of mercury's health risks is strong enough that people, especially children and women of childbearing age, should be careful about how much and which fish they eat.
August 14, 2006 in Air Quality, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Mining, Physical Science, Social Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)