Saturday, December 16, 2006

Planet Ark Reports "Baby, Its Hot Around Here"

2006 Set to be Third Warmest on Record in US - NOAA

WASHINGTON - This year is poised to be the third warmest in the contiguous United States since records began 111 years ago, US government weather forecasters said on Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the average temperature will be about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) above the average temperature recorded from 1901 to the end of 2000.

Weather conditions in 1998 and 1934 were slightly warmer.

"The near-record warm summer was highlighted by a July heat wave that peaked during the last half of July," NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said in a statement.

"All-time records were set in a number of locations across the central and western US, breaking records that had stood for decades in many places."

The warmer-than-average conditions reduced residential energy demand in the United States with NOAA estimating consumption about 9 percent less during the winter and 13 percent higher during the summer than would have occurred under otherwise normal conditions.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season was classified as near-normal with nine named storms forming, marking the second lowest total since 1995. The reduced activity is largely due to El Nino, which reduces storm activity in the Atlantic.

None of the storms hit the United States, bringing relief to residents in Florida and the Gulf Coast impacted during 2004 and 2005.

A year after posting its warmest temperature on record, 2006 is on track to be the sixth warmest for Earth.

Including this year, NOAA said six of the seven warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the ten warmest years have occurred since 1995.

The average surface temperature has risen between 0.6 degrees and 0.7 degrees Celsius since the start of the 20th Century.

NOAA began keeping records in 1895.

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© Reuters News Service 2006

December 16, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

EU reaches with REACH

E.U. Clamps Down on Hazardous Chemicals

By Malin Sandström
ScienceNOW Daily News
14 December 2006

European lawmakers passed a sweeping environmental law yesterday that will regulate nearly a third of the roughly 100,000 chemicals produced in or imported to the European Union (E.U.). Called Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals, or REACH, the bill is 8 years in the making and has been one of the most intensely lobbied pieces of legislation in E.U. history. Industry groups are bracing for the changes while some environmental organizations say the law does not go far enough.

REACH got rolling in 1998 when E.U. environment ministers called for stricter controls on a variety of industry chemicals known to harm human health. Since then, industry and consumer activists have lobbied intensely for changes and amendments.

The main targets of the legislation are flame retardants and other common chemicals, with poorly documented risks, as well as "substances of very high concern," such as solvents and other chemicals that cause cancer, damage genes, or impair fertility. Industries using these chemicals will have to register them with a new E.U. Chemicals Agency set up in Helsinki, Finland. Under the legislation, companies would need to find safer alternatives to any chemicals deemed to be of high concern to human health. Other chemicals could be banned outright.

Some innovation is likely to be triggered by REACH, says Thomas Jostmann, executive director of the European Chemical Industry Council, Cefic. But the European chemical industry fears the bill places an undue burden on smaller companies. A chief complaint is the high cost of meeting REACH's standards, estimated at 2.8 billion to 5.2 billion euros over 11 years. (For its part, the European Commission says that the costs borne by the chemical industry will be offset by health benefits totaling 50 billion euros over 30 years.)

Environmental groups have complaints of their own. Greenpeace and WWF say REACH has several loopholes, such as permitting the continued use of most hazardous chemicals even if a safer alternative is available. All manufacturers need do, they say, is demonstrate that they are exercising "adequate control" of the chemical--a term that is not yet defined. Another criticism--especially from the public--has been the many animal tests that will be necessary. In a statement made last year, Günter Verheugen, the vice president of the European Commission in charge of Enterprise and Industry, said the regulations imposed by REACH could lead to tests on up to 3.9 million extra animals per year.

Still, environmentalists are happy that the "burden of proof" for chemical safety is finally shifted to the producers and importers of chemicals. And Jostmann says the chemical industry will benefit from enforcement of better communication about substances--something that has proved to be difficult without a legal structure.

The E.U. will begin to implement aspects of REACH starting in June. The full law will be phased in gradually for 11 years after that.

December 16, 2006 in Economics, EU, Governance/Management, Law, Toxic and Hazardous Substances | Permalink | TrackBack (0)