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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

It is known that the world produces enough food for everyone but why do 800 million in the world still go to bed hungry?

GODAN has the answer to end this suffering – opening data on agriculture and nutrition – which will also stimulate global GDP by $6 trillion

What does the climate mean for food security?

In December 2015, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement –the agreement that nations around the world would be committed to keeping the average global temperature increase at well below 2 ºC and at no more than 1.5 ºC from 2020 onwards. As of August 2016, 180 countries have signed the agreement – but average global temperatures have already reached 1.3 ºC. Coupled with the occurrence of the El-Nino, it is undeniable that the climate is having a huge impact on our planet, as more countries are affected by record breaking and unusual weather. But what impact is this weather having on our food supplies? And if there is more to come, what can we do about it?

To see the impact that climate has on food one only has to look at the spate of droughts that multiple parts of the world have been experiencing in the last decade. Ethiopia experienced its worst drought in decades earlier this year, causing crop failure and the loss of livestock. This was followed by heavy rains that further aggravated the agricultural disruption.

Ethiopia has made great strides since the famine of the 1980s. It has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and thanks to working with the information and expertise of international aid organisations was able to build a food security system which, despite the desperate situation of the drought, has allowed the country to stay out of famine. Given that 43% of the country’s economy[1] relies on agriculture and it forms the livelihood of much of the country’s rural population, food security for Ethiopia has meant more than food reserves.

The government, with the help of aid groups, have made a sustained effort to support farmers over the last decade, which has included launching open data for agriculture and socio-economic wellbeing in early 2015. This open data included detailed agricultural practices, information on health and data on food consumption and security. Ethiopia’s recent drought has been devastating –but the government’s attempt to mitigate its effects through years of investment in food security and making agricultural data available has allowed the country to escape the worst.

Meanwhile, a long drought over the past six years in California has caused water shortages, cost farmers billions of dollars with serious concerns over food security. Within California, residents have felt the impact of reducing water consumptions, and given that the state alone accounts ¼ of the USA’s fruit and vegetable produce[2], the implications of continued drought are concerning.

California has the benefit of being a state within the richest and most powerful country on Earth. The citizens of California have had access to public information giving them guidance on how best to cope throughout. The US Department of Agriculture has been monitoring the progress of the drought and its effect on everything from Californian farms to food prices, the results of which is open data that is publically available to all who need it. Although thousands of farmers[3] have lost their livelihood, and the drought continues, the data and information made available by the US government has been invaluable in keeping the farmers of California informed of the drought’s progress and in allowing them to maintain food security through substitution and diversification of their produce.

The impacts of both droughts are having a drastic effect on the availability of food. As the climate continues to become more extreme, the issue of food security will become more urgent. But as Ethiopia and California have shown, open data on agriculture, weather trends and more can help farmers and governments alike prepare and adapt to some of the worst conditions for agriculture imaginable. That’s why it is so important to make vital agricultural data available for all who could use it.

GODAN (Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition) aims to do just that. In New York City on September 15-16, the GODAN Summit 2016 is taking place, lobbying world leaders to open up their agricultural and nutrition data. Government ministers from Kenya and the UK will be in attendance, alongside open data activists, scientists and other leading figures, all of whom will be discussing the benefits of making relevant data available to everyone. There will also be a hackathon that will see the brightest and most disruptive young minds doing their bit to come up with innovative new open data solutions.

But GODAN needs your support. We have launched a petition in association with Global Citizen. Once complete, the petition will be presented to the world’s leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, calling on them to make agricultural and nutrition data open. Help secure food security for the world by signing the petition today: summit.godan.info/register/

Key Questions:

· Why are governments hiding this data that could end world hunger?

· How can data truly better agriculture and farming in 3rd world countries?

· There is enough food in the world so why are 800 million people hungry?

· Technology really is saving the world, but how?

· How will open data affect health issues globally?

· What does this mean for the agriculture industry?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Breaking Latest forecast suggests ‘Godzilla El Niño’ may be coming to California
By Rong-Gong Lin II

The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”

At the moment, this year’s El Niño is stronger than it was at this time of year in 1997. Areas in red and white represent the warmest sea-surface temperatures above the average. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge – their climatologist Bill Patzert)

To see the graphs – please go to Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stones – our source at:
 www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me…

Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.


“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

After the strongest El Niño on record muscled up through the summer of 1997, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.

A strong El Niño can shift a subtropical jet stream that normally pours rain over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America toward California and the southern United States.

But so much rain all at once has proved devastating to California in the past. In early 1998, storms brought widespread flooding and mudslides, causing 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage in California. Downtown L.A. got nearly a year’s worth of rain in February 1998.

The effects of this muscular El Niño – nicknamed “Bruce Lee” by one blogger for the National Weather Service – are already being felt worldwide. While a strong El Niño can bring heavy winter rains to California and the southern United States, it can also bring dry weather elsewhere in the world.

Already, El Niño is being blamed for drought conditions in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as occurred in 1997-98.

Drought is also persistent in Central America. Water levels are now so low in the waterways that make up the Panama Canal that officials recently announced limits on traffic through the passageway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

El Niño also influenced the heavy rainstorms that effectively ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

There are a couple reasons why scientists say El Niño is gaining strength.

First, ocean temperatures west of Peru are continuing to climb. The temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean were 3.4 degrees above the average as of Aug. 5. That’s slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees above normal.

The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.

Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water further west toward Indonesia — are weakening.

That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.

For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.

“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”

There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.

“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.

Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.

In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. A forecast is never a sure thing, they say.

And they also want to remind the public that California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multi-year drought.

“We certainly wouldn’t want people to think that, ‘Gee, because it’s an El Niño this year, it’s going to be wet and therefore we can stop conserving water,” Jeanine Jones, the California Department of Water Resources’ deputy drought manager, said in July.

Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.

Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”

Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.

“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”

Updated Aug. 13, 8:10 a.m.: In another sign that El Niño is gaining strength, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have risen to their highest level so far this year.

That temperature increase — 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average — was recorded Aug. 5 by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at a benchmark location in the Pacific. That is slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

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Updated Aug. 13, 9:29 a.m.: “This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

ALSO:

California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation

Another El Niño sign: Ocean temps hit highest level of the year

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone

09 August 15

The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected

istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen’s study, said their new research doesn’t necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon “safe” level of climate change — “would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise.”

Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still “unclear” whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.

And yet, these aren’t even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth’s biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year. For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.

Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.

Eighty-year-old Roger Thomas runs whale-watching trips out of San Francisco. On an excursion earlier this year, Thomas spotted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales. During a survey on July 4th, federal officials spotted 115 whales in a single hour near the Farallon Islands — enough to issue a boating warning. Humpbacks are occasionally seen offshore in California, but rarely so close to the coast or in such numbers. Why are they coming so close to shore? Exceptionally warm water has concentrated the krill and anchovies they feed on into a narrow band of relatively cool coastal water. The whales are having a heyday. “It’s unbelievable,” Thomas told a local paper. “Whales are all over
the place.”

Last fall, in northern Alaska, in the same part of the Arctic where Shell is planning to drill for oil, federal scientists discovered 35,000 walruses congregating on a single beach. It was the largest-ever documented “haul out” of walruses, and a sign that sea ice, their favored habitat, is becoming harder and harder to find.

Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean. Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that’s ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range. Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs.

No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon. Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon. What he’s been seeing this year is deeply troubling.

Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet. A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs. The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn’t exist without salmon.

But their situation is precarious. This year, officials in California are bringing salmon downstream in convoys of trucks, because river levels are too low and the temperatures too warm for them to have a reasonable chance of surviving. One species, the winter-run Chinook salmon, is at a particularly increased risk of decline in the next few years, should the warm water persist offshore.

“You talk to fishermen, and they all say: ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before,’?” says Peterson. “So when you have no experience with something like this, it gets like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’?”

Atmospheric scientists increasingly believe that the exceptionally warm waters over the past months are the early indications of a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclical warming of the North Pacific that happens a few times each century. Positive phases of the PDO have been known to last for 15 to 20 years, during which global warming can increase at double the rate as during negative phases of the PDO. It also makes big El Niños, like this year’s, more likely. The nature of PDO phase shifts is unpredictable — climate scientists simply haven’t yet figured out precisely what’s behind them and why they happen when they do. It’s not a permanent change — the ocean’s temperature will likely drop from these record highs, at least temporarily, some time over the next few years — but the impact on marine species will be lasting, and scientists have pointed to the PDO as a global-warming preview.

“The climate [change] models predict this gentle, slow increase in temperature,” says Peterson, “but the main problem we’ve had for the last few years is the variability is so high. As scientists, we can’t keep up with it, and neither can the animals.” Peterson likens it to a boxer getting pummeled round after round: “At some point, you knock them down, and the fight is over.”

Attendant with this weird wildlife behavior is a stunning drop in the number of plankton — the basis of the ocean’s food chain. In July, another major study concluded that acidifying oceans are likely to have a “quite traumatic” impact on plankton diversity, with some species dying out while others flourish. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s converted into carbonic acid — and the pH of seawater declines. According to lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT, that trend means “the whole food chain is going to be different.”

The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future. The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we’re heading toward the worst-case scenario. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.

Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever. Essentially, she’s trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren’t. The ancient data she studies shows “really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We’re talking less than a decade.”

For the past year or two, a persistent change in winds over the North Pacific has given rise to what meteorologists and oceanographers are calling “the blob” — a highly anomalous patch of warm water between Hawaii, Alaska and Baja California that’s thrown the marine ecosystem into a tailspin. Amid warmer temperatures, plankton numbers have plummeted, and the myriad species that depend on them have migrated or seen their own numbers dwindle.

Significant northward surges of warm water have happened before, even frequently. El Niño, for example, does this on a predictable basis. But what’s happening this year appears to be something new. Some climate scientists think that the wind shift is linked to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past few years, which separate research has shown makes weather patterns more likely to get stuck.

A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” — weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.

What’s increasingly uncontroversial among scientists is that in many ecosystems, the impacts of the current off-the-charts temperatures in the North Pacific will linger for years, or longer. The largest ocean on Earth, the Pacific is exhibiting cyclical variability to greater extremes than other ocean basins. While the North Pacific is currently the most dramatic area of change in the world’s oceans, it’s not alone: Globally, 2014 was a record-setting year for ocean temperatures, and 2015 is on pace to beat it soundly, boosted by the El Niño in the Pacific. Six percent of the world’s reefs could disappear before the end of the decade, perhaps permanently, thanks to warming waters.

Since warmer oceans expand in volume, it’s also leading to a surge in sea-level rise. One recent study showed a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents, perhaps linked to glacial melt from Greenland, that caused a four-inch rise in sea levels along the Northeast coast in just two years, from 2009 to 2010. To be sure, it seems like this sudden and unpredicted surge was only temporary, but scientists who studied the surge estimated it to be a 1-in-850-year event, and it’s been blamed on accelerated beach erosion “almost as significant as some hurricane events.”

Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem. One of the study’s authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Science magazine that the snails’ shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled “cauliflower” or “sandpaper.” A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world’s top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an “effectively irreversible” change on ocean ecosystems during this century. In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world’s oceans.

“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous.”

Thanks to the pressure we’re putting on the planet’s ecosystem — warming, acidification and good old-fashioned pollution — the oceans are set up for several decades of rapid change. Here’s what could happen next.

The combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.

So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.

Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas, further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Pensacola, Florida.

Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the “Great Dying,” when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered “Great Dying” took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.

With all these stressors working against it, a hypoxic feedback loop could wind up destroying some of the oceans’ most species-rich ecosystems within our lifetime. A recent study by Sarah Moffitt of the University of California-Davis said it could take the ocean thousands of years to recover. “Looking forward for my kid, people in the future are not going to have the same ocean that I have today,” Moffitt said.

As you might expect, having tickets to the front row of a global environmental catastrophe is taking an increasingly emotional toll on scientists, and in some cases pushing them toward advocacy. Of the two dozen or so scientists I interviewed for this piece, virtually all drifted into apocalyptic language at some point.

For Simone Alin, an oceanographer focusing on ocean acidification at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the changes she’s seeing hit close to home. The Puget Sound is a natural laboratory for the coming decades of rapid change because its waters are naturally more acidified than most of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The local oyster industry here is already seeing serious impacts from acidifying waters and is going to great lengths to avoid a total collapse. Alin calls oysters, which are non-native, the canary in the coal mine for the Puget Sound: “A canary is also not native to a coal mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good indicator of change.”

Though she works on fundamental oceanic changes every day, the Dutkiewicz study on the impending large-scale changes to plankton caught her off-guard: “This was alarming to me because if the basis of the food web changes, then?.?.?.?everything could change, right?”

Alin’s frank discussion of the looming oceanic apocalypse is perhaps a product of studying unfathomable change every day. But four years ago, the birth of her twins “heightened the whole issue,” she says. “I was worried enough about these problems before having kids that I maybe wondered whether it was a good idea. Now, it just makes me feel crushed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, moved from Canada to Texas with her husband, a pastor, precisely because of its vulnerability to climate change. There, she engages with the evangelical community on science — almost as a missionary would. But she’s already planning her exit strategy: “If we continue on our current pathway, Canada will be home for us long term. But the majority of people don’t have an exit strategy.?.?.?.?So that’s who I’m here trying to help.”

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That’s because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that’s also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children’s Trust, a legal advocacy organization that’s filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn’t just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it’s also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Even if these novel challenges succeed, it will take years before a bend in the curve is noticeable. But maybe that’s enough. When all feels lost, saving a few species will feel like a triumph.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill barring fines for dead lawns during drought.

By Melanie Mason

July 13, 2015, The Los Angeles Times.

Cities and counties will no longer be able to impose fines on residents for unsightly brown lawns while the state is in a drought, under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday afternoon.

The measure, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto) prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violations of “lawn maintenance” ordinances when the governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions.

Cheryl Brown has said she’s aware of a number of cities, including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, that have levied fines or issued warnings to residents who allowed their lawns to go brown.

The measure is the most recent effort by the Legislature to encourage homeowners to let their lawns “fade to gold.” Last year, Brown signed a measure that barred homeowners’ associations from punishing their residents for unwatered lawns.

With California now in its fourth year of drought, the governor has called for strict conservation efforts, including requiring urban areas to cut their water use by 25%.

This month, state officials announced that residential water used dropped by 29% in May.

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Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Pages|Contributing Op-Ed Writer

Days of Desiccation

The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir in San Jose, Calif. Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The bathtub rings in the reservoirs that hold California’s liquid life have never been more exposed. Shorelines are bare, brown and bony. Much of the Sierra Nevada is naked of snow. And fields in the Central Valley may soon take to the sky. A Dust Bowl? Not yet. Though this drought will surely go down as the worst in the state’s recorded history. Until next year.

But something else is evident in this cloudless winter: when you build a society with a population larger than Canada’s, and do it with one of the world’s most elaborate plumbing systems, it’s a fragile pact. California is an oasis state, a hydraulic construct. Extreme stress brings out the folly of nature-defiance.

The whole fantasy of modern California has long been dependent on an audacious feat of engineering. You could drain the Owens Valley to allow Los Angeles to metastasize. (See “Chinatown.”) You could grab water from Yosemite to keep San Francisco alive. And you could move all that snowmelt up north to the south, and feed the world.

When it works, it’s a marvel. Golden Gate Park is green. Los Angeles has a river (sort of). The fragrance of fruit trees fills Fresno. But what if there is no snow, no rain, and nothing left in the aquifers underground? To date, going back to the start of its water year last July, Los Angeles has received 1.2 inches of rain. Yes, for the year. San Diego will soon notch its driest winter ever. And 80 percent of the state is in extreme drought.

California will get through it, though not without significant pain. And while there will be some reordering of power, nothing will put to lie the old line about the arid West: Water flows uphill to money.

But at the least, these days of desiccation call for some honesty — to look at this state and see, in all its dimensions, the fragility of this kind of pact. And beyond that, to see in California a precursor of what could happen elsewhere if we think we can out-engineer a fevered planet. The drought itself may not be a result of climate change, but it is made worse by all the meteorological complications.

Media myopia tends to feed a one-sided narrative: There’s no global warming because, after all, much of the United States is cold and snowy. The West is the exception, but it’s a long way from Al Roker’s studio at 30 Rock. Even farther is Australia, where the warmest winter on record has been followed by a summer of wildfires and heat waves pushing 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The Millennial Drought, which lasted from 1995 to 2012, now looks like the new normal down under.

No surprise, some of the worst deniers of the obvious come from places where it pays to look the other way. Let me introduce Representative Devin Nunes, Republican from Fresno. Like most elected members of his party, Nunes apparently skipped out of science class.

“Global warming is nonsense,” he said last week, when President Obama visited the Central Valley. “We want water, not welfare.”

They’ve certainly got plenty of welfare. The Central Valley Project is a tangle of aqueducts, pumps, canals and dams, the largest water development project in the United States. Yes, we taxpayers built it, and still subsidize it. Its 20 reservoirs hold enough water to irrigate three million acres.

But Nunes prefers the myth, firmly planting himself with the fact-denial majority of Republican lawmakers. He took to the floor of Congress a few days ago to explain. “Our ancestors in California built an amazing irrigation system that can deliver a reliable water supply even during severe droughts,” he said.

Our ancestors! You know, those long-dead wise ones, the socialists from the New Deal and the bureaucrats of the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Better not to name them.

Then, more explanation: You see, he said, holding up a large sign with a picture of the sun, snow and a droplet of water, “Government doesn’t create water.” Oh, of course not. Then let’s just take government out of the picture and watch what happens to farms in the congressman’s district.

The enemy, he concluded, is nature. Fish in particular — “stupid little fish,” he said. Some pretty smart big fish, Pacific salmon, are in trouble as well. He didn’t mention them. Nunes was referring to the delta smelt, a key link in keeping the hydraulic heart of California healthy, but small and imperiled by the switcheroo of the smelt’s habitat to Nunes’s home. As for stupid, the fish yields its time to the congressman from California.

Following his lead, the Republican House has passed a bill moving precious water from the north to big farmers in the Republican-rich lower Central Valley. Government may not create water, but Congress can dole it out. The bill is dead in the Senate.

California’s big urban areas, after years of smart conservation measures, will get by. But in a state where agriculture consumes 75 percent of the water, farms will go fallow. This drought for the ages should prompt some imaginative thinking on what foods grow best in an arid land.

The congressman from Fresno could take his cue from another ancestor, William Randolph Hearst. Up high on a dry perch overlooking the Pacific, Hearst built his Mediterranean castle. Last month, the keepers of the compound started draining the big Neptune Pool and many of its fountains, a concession to the drought. Fantasy has its limits.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

U.S. Endures Heat Waves, Extended Drought.

WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2013 (ENS) – Heat waves and drought conditions are touching off wildfires, shriveling grasslands across the western states and stressing eastern urban residents, forcing lawmakers and public lands managers alike to rethink their approach to water supplies.

In Washington, the Senate Water and Power Subcommittee is holding a hearing today on the future of the Colorado River. The hearing follows recent deadly wildfires, a record-breaking heat wave and worsening drought conditions in the Southwest that have put the region’s residents, wildlife and natural resources at risk.

The subcommittee is examining the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Demand and Supply study, released last December, which found that there is not enough water in the Colorado River to meet the basin’s current water demands or future demand increases.

Spanning parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, the Colorado River Basin is one of the most critical sources of water in the West. The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to nearly 40 million people for municipal use, supply water used to irrigate nearly 5.5 million acres of land, and is also the lifeblood for at least 22 federally recognized tribes, seven National Wildlife Refuges, four National Recreation Areas, and 11 National Parks.

Climate change will reduce water available from the Colorado River by nine percent, increasing the risk to cities, farms and the environment, the study concludes.

“This study serves as a call to action and underscores the importance of prioritizing innovative conservation solutions rather than resorting to costly pipelines, dams and other diversions,” said Matt Niemerski, water policy director at the nonprofit American Rivers. “We need to step up our efforts and manage our water wisely in order to meet the current and future needs in the basin.”

Across the country, more than 40 percent of U.S. freshwater withdrawals are used for power plant cooling. These plants also lose several billion gallons of freshwater every day through evaporation.

New research released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists indicates that increasing demand and drought are putting a great strain on water resources. Low water levels and high water temperatures can cause power plants to cut their electricity output in order to avoid overheating or harming local water bodies.

John Rogers, a senior energy analyst with UCS’s Climate and Energy Program, said, “In our water-constrained world, a 20-year delay in tackling the problem leaves the power industry unnecessarily vulnerable to drought and exacerbates competition with other water users. We can bring water use down faster and further, but only by changing how we get our electricity.”

A pathway that includes strong investments in renewables and energy efficiency, according to the UCS study, would greatly reduce power generation’s water use and carbon emissions. Under such a scenario, water withdrawals would drop by 97 percent from current levels by 2050, with most of that drop within the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, hot, dry conditions persist west of the Mississippi River, with at least 15 states experiencing drought. Wild horses and livestock compete for the same scarce water resources.

Drought conditions are taking a toll on western rangelands, leaving little water and forage for animals and livestock, prompting the Bureau of Land Management to provide supplemental water and food for wild horses, reduce grazing, and enact fire restrictions.

In New Mexico, 93 percent of rangeland and pastures are rated poor or very poor. The figure is 59 percent in Colorado; 35 percent in Wyoming; and 17 percent in Utah.

Similar conditions exist in Nevada, where more than 60 percent of the state has been in severe or extreme drought conditions since the beginning of 2013.

“Since last fall and winter, we have been working with grazers across the West in anticipation of tough conditions related to drought. In southwestern Montana, for example, the BLM worked with permitted ranchers to graze no more than 70 percent of their alloted forage on BLM-managed lands,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze.

“As drought conditions continue, wild horses, livestock, and wildlife that rely on rangeland forage and water will face extremely challenging conditions that may leave them in very poor condition,” said Kornze. “We are taking action to address these situations as quickly and as effectively as we can, but our options are increasingly limited by conditions on the land.”

In Nevada, all BLM Districts have been hauling water to wild horses. There, the BLM is trucking 5,000 gallons of water per day, five days a week to four locations in the Winnemucca District at a cost of $1,000 a day.

In the next few days, a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinarian will join BLM specialists in assessing horses in Lincoln County, Nev., after BLM employees noted that horses were not drinking water from trucked-in troughs and were not eating supplemental hay. This raised concerns about the health of the animals.

Over the past week in Nevada, average temperatures have been 10 degrees above normal, hovering around 100 degrees. The state has recently had only 0.1 to 0.5 inches of rain, resulting in sparse, poor-quality forage, according to the BLM.

Scarce water sources have put pressure on all users, including wild horses, livestock, and wildlife; causing long-lasting damage to plants, stream channels, spring areas, and water quality.

The heat wave continues across the eastern United States, with highs Tuesday expected to reach the 90s across much of the eastern third of the country, says the National Weather Service. Combined with humidity, this will create heat index values of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

The heat and humidity is here for several more days for the Eastern states, including the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Ohio Valley, and spreading into the Midwest and Great Plains. A large upper level ridge and sinking air in the lower atmosphere are causing the hot conditions, says the National Weather Service, which says, “Although this is the hottest weather so far this season, it is less than the extreme heat observed last summer over these areas.”

In New York, Con Edison’s crews, working 12-hour shifts, are pulling cables, replacing fuses and other equipment to bring power back to customers as the heat wave blankets the metropolitan area. The heat wave is expected to extend into Saturday.

Crews have been responding to scattered outages and have restored power to more than 7,600 customers in New York City and Westchester County since the heat settled here on Sunday.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly personally after an intern fainted in the heat and paramedics did not arrive for more than 30 minutes.

“This whole situation is outrageous and I don’t know what happened, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it. It’s inexcusable,” Quinn told the “New York Daily News.”

Across the Great Plains, AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski and Head of AccuWeather.com’s Long-Range Forecasting Team Paul Pastelok, say heat will be coming in and out of the Plains over the next 30 days.

For the next two weeks, the Midwest will have temperatures in the 80s and 90s.

Meanwhile, temperatures will remain below normal across parts of the southern and southwestern states, mainly from Texas to Arizona, where heavy rain and flash flooding are possible.

The Southwest will catch a break as building monsoon conditions ease the heat down for the Four Corners area, but temperatures will increase over the Great Basin and West, according to AccuWeather forecasters.

All this week, the odds favor above-median precipitation over western Alaska, the southern Rockies, the Northern Great Plains, Western and Central Gulf Coasts, and from the Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a service of the federal government.

Dry conditions are likely across the Pacific Northwest, eastern Alaska, and the Central Great Plains. Temperatures are likely to be above normal west of the continental divide, and from the Midwest to the Northeast, with below-normal temperatures favored over New Mexico and the Southeast.

AccuWeather predicts the mercury will soar come September when the Southwest region will reach its hottest point of the year.

OUR MAIN COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE IS THAT IT SOMEHOW FORGOT MEXICO WHICH HAS RIGHTS TO THE COLORADO RIVER WATER AS WELL. THE SITUATION IS THUS MUCH MORE COMPLICATED THEN MENTIONED HERE. THE ARTICLE ALSO DID NOT MENTION THAT SOME OF THE AGRICULTURE IN ARIZONA IS SIMPLY MISPLACED – GROWING COTTON IN THE DESERT IS JUST NOT THE THING THAT SHOULD BE ALLOWED. OH WELL – YOU CANNOT MAKE SENSE EASILY WHEN YOU TALK CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Op-Ed Columnist

 

Without Water, Revolution.

 

Ed Kashi/VII

 

 

 

TEL ABYAD, Syria — I just spent a day in this northeast Syrian town. It was terrifying — much more so than I anticipated — but not because we were threatened in any way by the Free Syrian Army soldiers who took us around or by the Islamist Jabhet al-Nusra fighters who stayed hidden in the shadows. It was the local school that shook me up.

 

  Thomas L. Friedman by Josh Haner/The New York Times

As we were driving back to the Turkish border, I noticed a school and asked the driver to turn around so I could explore it. It was empty — of students. But war refugees had occupied the classrooms and little kids’ shirts and pants were drying on a line strung across the playground. The basketball backboard was rusted, and a local parent volunteered to give me a tour of the bathrooms, which he described as disgusting. Classes had not been held in two years. And that is what terrified me. Men with guns I’m used to. But kids without books, teachers or classes for a long time — that’s trouble. Big trouble.

They grow up to be teenagers with too many guns and too much free time, and I saw a lot of them in Tel Abyad. They are the law of the land here now, but no two of them wear the same uniform, and many are just in jeans. These boys bravely joined the adults of their town to liberate it from the murderous tyranny of Bashar al-Assad, but now the war has ground to a stalemate, so here, as in so many towns across Syria, life is frozen in a no-man’s land between order and chaos. There is just enough patched-up order for people to live — some families have even rigged up bootleg stills that refine crude oil into gasoline to keep cars running — but not enough order to really rebuild, to send kids to school or to start businesses.

So Syria as a whole is slowly bleeding to death of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. You can’t help but ask whether it will ever be a unified country again and what kind of human disaster will play out here if a whole generation grows up without school.

“Syria is becoming Somalia,” said Zakaria Zakaria, a 28-year-old Syrian who graduated from college with a major in English and who acted as our guide. “Students have now lost two years of school, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and if this goes on for two more years it will be like Somalia, a failed country. But Somalia is off somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Syria is the heart of the Middle East. I don’t want this to happen to my country. But the more it goes on, the worse it will be.”

This is the agony of Syria today. You can’t imagine the war here continuing for another year, let alone five. But when you feel the depth of the rage against the Assad government and contemplate the sporadic but barbaric sect-on-sect violence, you can’t imagine any peace deal happening or holding — not without international peacekeepers on the ground to enforce it. Eventually, we will all have to have that conversation, because this is no ordinary war.

THIS Syrian disaster is like a superstorm. It’s what happens when an extreme weather event, the worst drought in Syria’s modern history, combines with a fast-growing population and a repressive and corrupt regime and unleashes extreme sectarian and religious passions, fueled by money from rival outside powers — Iran and Hezbollah on one side, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar on the other, each of which have an extreme interest in its Syrian allies’ defeating the other’s allies — all at a time when America, in its post-Iraq/Afghanistan phase, is extremely wary of getting involved.

I came here to write my column and work on a film for the Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the “Jafaf,” or drought, one of the key drivers of the Syrian war. In an age of climate change, we’re likely to see many more such conflicts.

“The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work.

Because of the population explosion that started here in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to better health care, those leaving the countryside came with huge families and settled in towns around cities like Aleppo. Some of those small towns swelled from 2,000 people to 400,000 in a decade or so. The government failed to provide proper schools, jobs or services for this youth bulge, which hit its teens and 20s right when the revolution erupted.

  Associated Press

Rebels in Tel Abyad, in northeast Syria, in 2012. Life in the town has ground to a halt, with children not in school, and no solution in sight.

Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. “Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land” for urban areas during the last decade, said Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized. “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”

Young people and farmers starved for jobs — and land starved for water — were a prescription for revolution. Just ask those who were here, starting with Faten, whom I met in her simple flat in Sanliurfa, a Turkish city near the Syrian border. Faten, 38, a Sunni, fled there with her son Mohammed, 19, a member of the Free Syrian Army, who was badly wounded in a firefight a few months ago. Raised in the northeastern Syrian farming village of Mohasen, Faten, who asked me not to use her last name, told me her story.

She and her husband “used to own farmland,” said Faten. “We tended annual crops. We had wheat, barley and everyday food — vegetables, cucumbers, anything we could plant instead of buying in the market. Thank God there were rains, and the harvests were very good before. And then suddenly, the drought happened.”

What did it look like? “To see the land made us very sad,” she said. “The land became like a desert, like salt.” Everything turned yellow.

Did Assad’s government help? “They didn’t do anything,” she said. “We asked for help, but they didn’t care. They didn’t care about this subject. Never, never. We had to solve our problems ourselves.”

So what did you do? “When the drought happened, we could handle it for two years, and then we said, ‘It’s enough.’ So we decided to move to the city. I got a government job as a nurse, and my husband opened a shop. It was hard. The majority of people left the village and went to the city to find jobs, anything to make a living to eat.” The drought was particularly hard on young men who wanted to study or marry but could no longer afford either, she added. Families married off daughters at earlier ages because they couldn’t support them.

Faten, her head conservatively covered in a black scarf, said the drought and the government’s total lack of response radicalized her. So when the first spark of revolutionary protest was ignited in the small southern Syrian town of Dara’a, in March 2011, Faten and other drought refugees couldn’t wait to sign on. “Since the first cry of ‘Allahu akbar,’ we all joined the revolution. Right away.” Was this about the drought? “Of course,” she said, “the drought and unemployment were important in pushing people toward revolution.”

ZAKARIA ZAKARIA was a teenager in nearby Hasakah Province when the drought hit and he recalled the way it turned proud farmers, masters of their own little plots of land, into humiliated day laborers, working for meager wages in the towns “just to get some money to eat.” What was most galling to many, said Zakaria, was that if you wanted a steady government job you had to bribe a bureaucrat or know someone in the state intelligence agency.

The best jobs in Hasakah Province, Syria’s oil-producing region, were with the oil companies. But drought refugees, virtually all of whom were Sunni Muslims, could only dream of getting hired there. “Most of those jobs went to Alawites from Tartous and Latakia,” said Zakaria, referring to the minority sect to which President Assad belongs and which is concentrated in these coastal cities. “It made people even more angry. The best jobs on our lands in our province were not for us, but for people who come from outside.”

Only in the spring of 2011, after the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, did the Assad government start to worry about the drought refugees, said Zakaria, because on March 11 — a few days before the Syrian uprising would start in Dara’a — Assad visited Hasakah, a very rare event. “So I posted on my Facebook page, ‘Let him see how people are living,’ ” recalled Zakaria. “My friends said I should delete it right away, because it was dangerous. I wouldn’t. They didn’t care how people lived.”

 

Abu Khalil, 48, is one of those who didn’t just protest. A former cotton farmer who had to become a smuggler to make ends meet for his 16 children after the drought wiped out their farm, he is now the Free Syrian Army commander in the Tel Abyad area. We met at a crushed Syrian Army checkpoint. After being introduced by our Syrian go-between, Abu Khalil, who was built like a tough little boxer, introduced me to his fighting unit. He did not introduce them by rank but by blood, pointing to each of the armed men around him and saying: “My nephew, my cousin, my brother, my cousin, my nephew, my son, my cousin …”

Free Syrian Army units are often family affairs. In a country where the government for decades wanted no one to trust anyone else, it’s no surprise.

“We could accept the drought because it was from Allah,” said Abu Khalil, “but we could not accept that the government would do nothing.”

Before we parted, he pulled me aside to say that all that his men needed were anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons and they could finish Assad off. “Couldn’t Obama just let the Mafia send them to us?” he asked. “Don’t worry, we won’t use them against Israel.”

As part of our film we’ve been following a Syrian woman who is a political activist, Farah Nasif, a 27-year-old Damascus University graduate from Deir-az-Zour, whose family’s farm was also wiped out in the drought.

Nasif typifies the secular, connected, newly urbanized young people who spearheaded the democracy uprisings here and in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. They all have two things in common: they no longer fear their governments or their parents, and they want to live like citizens, with equal rights — not as sects with equal fears.

If this new generation had a motto, noted Aita, the Syrian economist, it would actually be the same one Syrians used in their 1925 war of independence from France: “Religion is for God, and the country is for everyone.”

But Nasif is torn right now. She wants Assad gone and all political prisoners released, but she knows that more war “will only destroy the rest of the country.” And her gut tells her that even once Assad is gone, there is no agreement on who or what should come next. So every option worries her — more war, a cease-fire, the present and the future. This is the agony of Syria today — and why the closer you get to it, the less certain you are how to fix it.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

A parched Syria turned to war, scholar says, and Egypt may be next.

Prof. Arnon Sofer sets out the link between drought, Assad’s civil war, and the wider strains in the Middle East; Jordan and Gaza are also in deep trouble, he warns.

May 9, 2013, The Times of Israel

One quarter of the 3000 km.-long Euphrates River runs through Syria but Turkey, situated upriver, has drastically reduced the flow of water (Photo credit: CC BY Verity Cridland, Flickr)

 

Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens. The Sunni and Shia factions, battling for supremacy in the Middle East, have locked horns in the heart of the Levant, where the Shia-affiliated Alawite sect has ruled a majority Sunni nation for decades.

Some see it through a social prism. As they did in Tunis with Muhammad Bouazizi — an honest man who couldn’t make an honest living in this corruption-ridden part of the world — the social protests that sparked the war in Syria started in the poor and disenfranchised parts of the country.

Others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism.

Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.

Over the past 60 years, the population in the Middle East has twice doubled itself, said Sofer, the head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group and a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, where today he heads the National Defense College Research Center. “There is no example of this anywhere else on earth,” he said of the population increase. Couple that with Syria’s water scarcity, he said, “and as a geographer it was clear to me that a conflict would erupt.”

The Pentagon cautiously agrees with this thesis. In February the Department of Defense released a “climate-change adaptation roadmap.” While the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” Predominantly the paper is concerned with the effects of rising seas and melting arctic permafrost on US military installations. The Middle East is not mentioned by name.

But Sofer and Anton Berkovsky, who together compiled the research work of students at the National Defense College and released a geo-strategic paper on Syria earlier in the year, believe that water scarcity played a significant role in the onset of the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring, and that it may help re-shape the strategic bonds and interests of the region as regimes teeter and borders blur. Sofer also believes that a “Pax Climactica” is within reach if regional leaders would only, for a short while, forsake their natural inclinations to wake up in the morning and seek to do harm.

Syria is 85 percent desert or semi-arid country. But it has several significant waterways. The Euphrates runs in a south-easterly direction through the center of the country to Iraq. The Tigris runs southeast, tracing a short part along Syria’s border with Turkey before flowing into Iraq. And, aside from several lesser rivers that flow southwest through Lebanon to the Mediterranean, Syria has an estimated four to five billion cubic meters of water in its underground aquifers.

From 2007-2008, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities. The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.

For these reasons the heart of the country was once an oasis. For 5,000 years, Damascus was famous for its agriculture and its dried fruit. Since 1950, however, the population has increased sevenfold in Syria, to 22 million, and Turkey, in an age of scarcity, has seized much of the water that once flowed south into Syria.

“They’ve been choking them,” Sofer said, noting that Turkey annually takes half of the available 30 billion cubic meters of water in the Euphrates. This limits Syria’s water supply and hinders its ability to generate hydroelectricity.

In 2007, after years of population growth and institutional economic stagnation, several dry years descended on Syria. Farmers began to leave their villages and head toward the capital. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers – Sofer calls them “climate refugees” – relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities.

The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.

This, along with over one million refugees from the Iraq war and, among other challenges, borders that contain a dizzying array of religions and ethnicities, set the stage for the civil war.

Tellingly, it broke out in the regions most parched — “in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.”

Professor Eyal Zisser, one of Israel’s top scholars of Syria, agreed that the drought played a significant role in the onset of the war. “Without doubt it is part of the issue,” he said. Zisser did not believe that water was the central issue that inflamed Syria but rather “the match that set the field of thorns on fire.”

Rebel troops transporting two women to safety along the Orontes River, which has shrunk in recent years and grown increasingly saline (Photo credit: CC BY FreedomHouse)

Rebel troops transporting two women to safety along the Orontes River, which has shrunk in recent years and grown increasingly saline (Photo credit: CC BY FreedomHouse)

Since that fire began to rage in March 2011, the course of the battles has been partially dictated by a different sort of logic, not environmental in nature. “Assad is butchering his way west,” Sofer said. He believes the president will eventually have to retreat from the capital and therefore has focused his efforts on Homs and other cities and towns that lie between Damascus and the Alawite regions near the coast, cutting himself an escape route.

Sofer and Berkovsky envision several scenarios for Syria. Among them: Assad puts down the rebellion and remains in power; Assad abdicates and a Sunni majority seizes control; Assad abdicates and no central power is able to assert control. The most likely scenario, Sofer said, was that the Syrian dictator would eventually flee to Tehran. But he preferred to avoid that sort of micro-conjecture and to focus on the regional effects of population growth and water scarcity and the manner in which that ominous mix might shape the future of the region.

Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. Sofer published a paper in July where he laid out the grim environmental reality of the region and argued that, as in Syria, the conflicts bedeviling the region were not about climate issues but were deeply influenced by them.

Egypt, Sofer wrote, faces severe repercussions from climate change. Even a slight rise in the level of the sea – just half a meter – would salinize the Nile Delta aquifers and force three million people out of the city of Alexandria. In the more distant future, as the North Sea melts, the Suez Canal could decline in importance. More immediately, and of greater significance to Israel, he wrote that Egypt, faced with a water shortage, would likely grow more militant over the coming years. But he felt the militancy would be directed south, toward South Sudan and Ethiopia and other nations competing for the waters of the Nile, and not north toward the Levant.

The NIle River, the lifeblood of Egypt's 82 million people (Photo credit: CC BY Simona Scolari, Flickr)

The Nile River, the lifeblood of Egypt’s 82 million people (Photo credit: CC BY Simona Scolari, Flickr)

As proof that this pivot has already begun, Sofer pointed to Abu-Simbel, near the border with Sudan. There the state has converted a civilian airport into a military one. “The conclusion to be drawn from this is simple and unequivocal,” he wrote. “Egypt today represents a military threat to the southern nations of the Nile and not the Zionist state to the east.”

The Sinai Peninsula, already quite lawless, will only get worse, perhaps to the point of secession, he and Berkovsky wrote. Local Bedouin will have difficulty raising animals in the region and will turn, to an even greater degree, to smuggling material and people along a route established in the Bronze Age, through Sinai to Asia and Europe.

Syria, even if the war were swiftly resolved, is “on the cusp of catastrophe.” Jordan, too, is in dire need of water. And Gaza, like Syria, has been battered by unchecked drilling. The day after Israel left under the Oslo Accords, he said, the Palestinian Authority and other actors began digging 500 wells along the coastal aquifer even though Israel had warned them of the dangers. “Today there are around 4,000 of them and no more ground water. It’s over. There’s no fooling around with this stuff,” he said.

Only the two most stable states in the region – Israel and Turkey – have ample water.

Turkey is the sole Middle Eastern nation blessed with plentiful water sources. Ankara’s control of the Tigris and the Euphrates, among other rivers, means that Iraq and Syria, both downriver, are to a large extent dependent on Turkey for food, water and electricity. That strategic advantage, along with Turkey’s position as the bridge between the Middle East and Europe, “further serves its neo-Ottoman agenda,” Sofer said.

He envisioned an increased role for Turkey both in the Levant and, eventually, in central Asia and along the oil crossroads of the Persian Gulf, pitting it against Iran. Climate change, he conceded, has only a minor role in that future struggle for power but it is “an accelerant.”

Israel no longer suffers from drought. Desalination, conservation and sewage treatment have alleviated much of the natural scarcity. In February, the head of the Israel Water Authority, Alexander Kushnir, told the Times of Israel that the country’s water crisis has come to an end. Half of Israel’s two billion cubic meters of annual water use is generated artificially, he said, through desalination and sewage purification.

For Sofer, this self-sufficiency is an immense regional advantage. Israel could pump water east to Jenin in the West Bank and farther along to Jordan and north to Syria. International organizations could follow Israel’s example and fund regional desalination plants, which, he noted, cost less than a single day of modern full-scale war.

Instead, rather than an increase in cooperation, he feared, the region would likely witness ever more desperate competition. Sofer said his friends see him as a sort of Jeremiah. But the Middle East, he cautioned, is a region where “leaders wake up every morning and ask what can I do today to make matters worse.”

Arnon Sofer, a longtime professor at the IDF's National Defense College, sees a link between the war in Syria and the water shortages there (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)

Arnon Sofer, a longtime professor at the IDF’s National Defense College, sees a link between the war in Syria and the water shortages there (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

nbsp;www.economist.com/news/books-and-…

China, India and climate change.

Take the lead

Emerging markets are a big part of the problem; they are essential to any solution.

Feb 2nd 2013   THE ECONOMIST FRONT PAGE ARTICLE From the print edition

Some tricky turns up ahead

Greenprint: A New Approach to Cooperation on Climate Change. By Aaditya Mattoo and Arvind Subramanian.
Centre for Global Development; 150 pages; $17.99

Buy from: Amazon.com

MOST books about the environment take the West as their starting point. This is understandable. For decades America was the world’s biggest polluter, contributing more to the problem than any other country, whereas Europe—at least in its politicians’ minds—has model environmental laws and holds plenty of righteous talks to negotiate new solutions.

But Europe and America are becoming supporting actors in the world’s climate-change drama. The lead players are China and India. China is the world’s largest emitter, contributing nearly a quarter of current global emissions. With India it accounted for 83% of the worldwide increase in carbon emissions in 2000-11. Though global warming began with industrialised countries it must end—if it is to end—through actions in developing ones. All the more reason to welcome “Greenprint”, the first book on climate change to concentrate on this growing part of the problem. Written by Aaditya Mattoo, an economist at the World Bank, and Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development, the book offers an unflinching look at what one might realistically expect emerging markets to do.

From an environmentalist’s point of view, India and China elicit despair. They are obsessed with growth. To fuel it, they are building ever more coal-fired power stations, a filthy form of energy. Their cities fume. Their rivers catch fire. There is not much anyone can do about it.

But an attractive quality of this book is that it goes beyond such fatalism. The West, the authors argue, has failed to mitigate global warming, so developing countries will have to take over. This is necessary, they say, because global warming will affect developing countries more than rich ones, partly because tropical and subtropical lands are more sensitive to warming than cold or temperate ones, and partly because rich people can afford better flood controls and drought-resistant seeds than poor ones.

One estimate by William Cline, an economist, found that a rise of 2.5% in global temperatures would cut agricultural productivity by 6% in America but by 38% in India. In light of their disproportionate vulnerability, emerging giants will have to push rich countries to make more environmental compromises. To make these demands credible, they themselves will have to make some changes too.

The trouble, as the authors admit, is that emissions cuts will also be costly for China and India. Messrs Mattoo and Subramanian estimate that if the two countries were to reduce emissions by 30% by 2020 (compared with doing nothing), their manufacturing output would fall by 6-7% and their manufactured exports by more than that. As still relatively poor countries, they are less able to bear the pain.

These challenges help to explain why it is so difficult for India and China to take the lead on climate change. After considering different ways to allocate emissions cuts among nations, the authors concede that the fairest approach would be to allow developing countries to consume as much energy as rich ones did during their own industrial revolutions. But if the aim is to limit the rise in global temperatures to two degrees, which most scientists think necessary, this would allow developing-country emissions to rise by 200% whereas rich-country emissions would have to fall by an amount that is politically inconceivable.

The authors supply more reasonable solutions. They reckon that China and others could and should invest more in new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, in order to boost improvements in clean energy. They also provide a detailed and convincing case for rich countries to put a price on carbon by introducing a modest border tax on imports from developing countries.

The book does not quite provide the promised “greenprint” for developing countries to reduce emissions. But that would be a tall order. As a first stab at analysing one of the world’s most intractable problems, it provides a wealth of analysis and fuel for thought.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

please see the link:

For more information or to unsubscribe from the distribution list for WPP publications, please contact wpp@worldbank.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Quote of the day

Climate change was predicted to arrive tomorrow but it is happening today. For this reason, the moment for climate justice has arrived.

Edward Cameron, World Resources Institute and Tara Shine, Mary Robinson Foundation.

SOUTHNEWS
No. 20,         10 December 2012
SOUTHNEWS is a service of the South Centre to provide information and news on topical issues from a South perspective.
Visit the South Centre’s website: www.southcentre.org.

Green thinking takes root in midst of desert in Doha climate talks

Are oil-rich Gulf states, once a byword for waste and excess, really now leading the world on sustainable development?

COP18 Doha : Qatar environmental policy , partnership with the Potsdam Institute

The signing of a partnership between the Qatar Foundation and the Postdam Institute for a new climate change research institute in Qatar. (Photograph: IISD)

One of the great surprises for the 15,000 negotiators and others here in Doha for the climate talks is not the breakneck speed of development in the gas-rich emirate, or the displays of wealth and the giant construction projects, but the possible dawn of reality.

Until recently, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states were the epicentre of unsustainable global development, a byword for waste, excess and ecological irresponsibility. Their huge consumption of natural resources and flouting of nature on the back of oil and gas production shocked even hard-nosed observers of global oil wealth.

Well, we may have to change our views. From my hotel window, I can see 14 monster buildings being built, each to a much higher energy standard than the law demands in the US or most of Europe. Down the road is a new $70m (£43m) test-bed for carbon capture, the beginnings of a 200 megawatt solar power station, a $1bn photovoltaic manufacturing plant, new waste treatment plants, a pilot project to grow food in the desert with saltwater, and a fledgling construction industry with waste plastic.

Green baubles for the super-rich perhaps, but there is evidence that a real change of thinking is taking place. Schools, local authorities and mosques are now teaching about water and energy saving, and Gulf state governments are committing themselves to deeper cuts in emissions than the US or much of Europe.

Britain hopes to generate 20% of its electricity with renewables by 2030. But the Qataris will do that by 2020. Britain, with a population of more than 60 million, built about 100,000 new homes last year. Qatar, with 1.4 million people, will build a whole city to the highest green specifications for 200,000 people in not much more time.

And it’s not just Qatar. Other Gulf states are racing each other to rethink their development paths. The renewable energy world is moving to Abu Dhabi. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invested billions of dollars in projects there, as well as in Europe and north Africa. Even Dubai, which has indulged in a 20-year construction frenzy, is aiming at 7% renewables in 12 years – similar to Belgium. Even more remarkably, Saudi Arabia, fearful of its own escalating domestic electricity needs, will meet one-third of its electricity demand from solar by 2032.

None of this would have been conceivable even a few years ago. So what has changed? One senior adviser to the Qatari government put it like this: “There is a new direction. The GCC countries all move together like a herd. A desperate search is going on to find new ways of doing things. They need to find the answer for when the oil and gas is not there. They have seen the future and now they have fire in their arse.

“But they also know that the Arab spring countries all neglected people during development. They are learning. Education, health and welfare were all neglected. Environment has risen up the agenda. In the past, it was of no interest. Now it is a global necessity. Money is not the problem.”

The thirst for what Qatar, Abu Dhabi and other oil-rich states call a new “knowledge economy” would partly explain why Qatar on Wednesday committed to set up a global climate change centre in Doha with the German Potsdam Institute. It will employ around 200 researchers and sit beside a dozen other prestigious US, British and other academic centres, including Imperial College, which is now at Doha.

The founder of the institute, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, spelled out what was at stake: “Qatar is the only true desert state in the world with no surface water and 500km of flat coastline, where temperatures are already 45C in summer. With sea level rise expected to be up to 90cm by 2100 in the Gulf region and temperatures expected to rise [by] 5-8C, this place will be unlivable [if climate change is not brought under control].”

The Gulf states’ change of direction, he suggested, is being undertaken not out of any desire to be green but sheer pragmatism. What happens here could shape all our futures, says the adviser. “The next stage of modern civilization can be blueprinted here. Qatar can be a role model for the region and the whole planet.”

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Last-minute scramble for climate deal at UN talks

Negotiations continued through the night Thursday at United Nations climate talks in Doha, Qatar, with envoys trying to mesh procedure with political will. A key proposal is the annual delivery of $100 billion in aid by 2020 to pay for projects to cope with the effects of global warming. The lead negotiator from the Philippines, Naderev Saño, broke down in tears in the hall, saying, “I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. … It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms.”

Above tells us that the location and hosts had no effect on the negotiators that still attempted a North-South wrangle. A waste of time so far as we are concerned.

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he faithful IISD Report titled –

Doha Climate Change Conference Adopts Doha Climate Gateway –

spills out for us to see the best diplomatic slippery beans:

8 December 2012: The UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, took place from 26 November-8 December 2012, focused on ensuring the implementation of agreements reached at previous conferences. Following two weeks of negotiations, delegates adopted the package of “Doha Climate Gateway” decisions on the evening of Saturday, 8 December. The outcome includes amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to establish its second commitment period.The Doha Climate Change Conference included: the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8); the 37th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 37) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 37); the second part of the 17th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 17); the second part of the 15th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWG-LCA 15); and the second part of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 1).

The DOHA conference drew approximately 9,000 participants, including 4, 356 government officials, 3, 956 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations, and 683 members of the media. {much lower figures then the above upbeat report}

Having been launched at CMP 1, the AWG-KP terminated its work in Doha. The parties also agreed to terminate the AWG-LCA and negotiations under the Bali Action Plan. Key elements of the outcome also included agreement to consider loss and damage, “such as” an institutional mechanism to address loss and damage in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Other outcomes of the Conference include the adoption of: a decision on gender and climate change; and the Doha Work Programme on Convention Article 6 (education and awareness raising).

While developing countries and observers expressed disappointment with the lack of ambition in outcomes on Annex I countries’ mitigation and finance, most agreed that the conference had paved the way for a new phase, focusing on the implementation of the outcomes from negotiations under the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA, and advancing negotiations under the ADP.

[IISD RS Coverage of the Conference] [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General’s Statement on COP 18] [UNFCCC Press Release]

For IISD FULL REPORT – please see – mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…

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FOLLOWED BY THE UNUSUAL SHORT AND VERY MISLEADING UNSG BAN KI-MOON PRESS RELEASE THAT IN A FEW LINES DECLARES THE SECRETARIAT”S BANKRUPTCY  IN ALL MATTERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

10 December 2012

THE UNITED NATIONS
Secretary-GeneralSG/SM/14708
ENV/DEV/1333

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Welcomes Doha Climate Change Conference Outcome, But Stresses Need for Accelerated Action to Limit Rise in Global Temperature.

SO WE ASK – WHAT DID THE MEETING ACTUALLY ACHIEVE? DIPLOMACY ASIDE _ WHO PAID AND WHO GAINED FROM THIS MIGRATION OF CLOSE TO 10,000 PEOPLE TO THE ISLAND OF QATAR, IN A CORNER OF THE SAUDI PENINSULA OF THE GREAT ARAB DESERT?

The following statement was issued on 8 December by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

The Secretary-General welcomes the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference that concluded today in Doha, and he congratulates Qatar for a job well done in hosting the Conference.

Doha successfully concluded the previous round of climate negotiations, paving the way to a comprehensive, legally binding agreement by 2015.

The Secretary-General believes that far more needs to be done and he calls on Governments, along with businesses, civil society and citizens, to accelerate action on the ground so that the global temperature rise can be limited to 2° C.

He said he will increase his personal involvement in efforts to raise ambition, scale-up climate financing and engage world leaders as we now move towards the global agreement in 2015.
* *** *

Will the UN Secretary General show now rhe decency to cancel the 2013 – 2014 meetings and advise the Member States to act in quiet diplomacy in preparations for a 2015 outcome?

Meeting before 2015 like the Cancun, Durban and Doha meetings – the last three yearly meetings that came after the Copenhagen COP 15 of the UNFCCC of 2009 – were nothing more then large exercises in migration that enhanced income from tourism in the host countries. Our own website has stopped listing the meetings after the Copenhagen meeting and we preferred to call them Copenhagen +1, Copenhagen +2, And now for Doha we reserved Copenhagen +3. That was because the last real step in the UNFCCC evolution happened on the way to Copenhagen when President Obama went first to Beijing and managed for the first time to get China to declare that they are indeed part of these negotiations. China then brought in India, Brazil, South Africa as well.


We are afraid that if nothing is done before the 2013 Warsaw meeting that meeting will be a waste as well. What has to happen is that the Obama II Administration steps forward with direct proposals to the other major emitters – specifically – China, India and Brazil – with or without South Africa – and seals direct agreements with them that can then become the base for multilateral negotiations. Indeed, there is no reason why one must have all nations on board.

In the past it was mainly the oil States of the Middle East that were the hindrance to an agreement – this even before one could tackle the large emerging emitters and the United States. Perhaps the Doha meeting provided the needed Climate Change education to the oil States, and thus a strong decision of President Obama and rolling over the climate deniers of the Republican oil-Lobby, could return the issue to multilateral diplomacy.

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Kyoto Protocol extended in climate compromise.

Is the title of the UN Foundation’s UN WIRE of December 10, 2012.

Delegates at the United Nations climate talks that ended Saturday in Doha, Qatar, agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol through 2020 and create a road map by 2015 to replace the pact. The world’s governments remained divided over who should pay the costs for helping the most vulnerable countries cope with the effects of climate change through 2020, when industrial nations are slated to contribute $100 billion annually from public and private sources.         Reuters (12/9), The New York Times (12/8), IRINNews.org (12/9)

THE REUTERS REPORTS  FROM DOHA ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Despair after climate conference, but UN still offers hope

Sunday, December  9, 2012 final report:

* U.N. process has to accelerate before 2015

* Many leave Doha conference in despair

By Barbara Lewis and Alister Doyle

DOHA, Dec 9 (Reuters) – At the end of another lavishly-funded U.N. conference that yielded no progress on curbing greenhouse emissions, many of those most concerned about climate change are close to despair.

As thousands of delegates checked out of their air-conditioned hotel rooms in Doha to board their jets for home, some asked whether the U.N. system even made matters worse by providing cover for leaders to take no meaningful action.

Supporters say the U.N. process is still the only framework for global action. The United Nations also plays an essential role as the “central bank” for carbon trading schemes, such as the one set up by the European Union.

But unless rich and poor countries can inject urgency into their negotiations, they are heading for a diplomatic fiasco in 2015 – their next deadline for a new global deal.

“Much much more is needed if we are to save this process from being simply a process for the sake of process, a process that simply provides for talk and no action, a process that locks in the death of our nations, our people, and our children,” said Kieren Keke, foreign minister of Nauru, who fears his Pacific island state could become uninhabitable.

The conference held in Qatar – the country that produces the largest per-capita volume of greenhouse gases in the world – agreed to extend the emissions-limiting Kyoto Protocol, which would have run out within weeks.

But Canada, Russia and Japan – where the protocol was signed 15 years ago – all abandoned the agreement. The United States never ratified it in the first place, and it excludes developing countries where emissions are growing most quickly.

Delegates flew home from Doha without securing a single new pledge to cut pollution from a major emitter.

So far, U.N. climate talks have missed just about every deadline. The rich nations of the world promised two decades ago to halt their rise in greenhouse gases. They failed. Next, they promised a sequel to Kyoto by 2009. They failed again.

Now they have a 2015 deadline to get a new global, binding deal in place, to enter into force after the extension of Kyoto expires in 2020. For the first time, it would apply to rich and poor countries alike. But with the world’s nations divided over who must pay the cost, the task of reaching accord seems beyond the capabilities of the vast corps of international delegates.

Meanwhile, the world’s weather is only getting more unstable. As the Doha talks dragged on, Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines left nearly 1,000 people dead or missing.

Hurricane Sandy last month was a reminder that even rich countries are not safe from extreme weather, which scientists say will become ever more common as the world heats up.

PROGRESS AT GROUND LEVEL

A series of reports released during the Doha talks said the world faced the prospect of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2F) of warming, rather than the 2 degree (3.6F) limit that nations adopted in 2010 as a maximum to avoid dangerous changes.

// BUT UN SERETARY GENERAL BAN KI_MOON STILL DREAMS AT A 2degrees LIMIT?!//

According to the World Bank, that would mean food and water shortages, habitats wiped out, coastal communities wrecked by rising seas, deserts spreading, and droughts both more frequent and severe. Most impact would be borne by the world’s poorest.

“The alarm bells are going off all over the place,” Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said. “We are in a crisis and treating it like a process where we can dither away for ever.”

Action at ground level has had a positive impact, even as the U.N. dithers. Investment in carbon-free renewable energy hit a record $260 billion in 2011.

In the United States, the discovery of techniques to produce natural gas from shale has cut the cost of gas, which has reduced emissions from the world’s biggest polluter by replacing coal, a bigger carbon emitter, for power generation.

But although U.S. emissions – nearly a quarter of the world’s total – have fallen, for the world as a whole this year they are expected to rise by 2.6 percent, up by 58 percent since 1990. Emerging economies led by China and India account for most of the growth.

Although frustrated by days and nights of haggling, ministers still back the United Nations as part of the solution.

“It’s clear to me that this process is the only global framework we have and since this is a global problem, it has to be addressed globally,” Denmark’s Energy Minister Martin Lidegaard told Reuters.

“But obviously, this can’t stand alone. Nations can’t continue to hide behind the process. There’s a direct link between what we deliver at home and here. We desperately need to combine action by regions, municipalities, citizens with this global approach. That is becoming more and more evident.”

Negotiators say ultimately politicians – distracted by other events – need to become engaged.

“It (the environment) is no longer on the front page with the political and financial crisis. That is the reason why heads of state have to turn to this,” the European Union’s chief negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said.

CONVERTS

The conference is an easy target for cynics – not least because it was held in Qatar, a desert kingdom that exports carbon-producing fossil fuel and uses the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle for many of its 2.5 million people.

A country that burns fuel to desalinate water and build golf courses in the desert seems like an odd place to talk about curtailing consumption. But supporters say bringing producers like Qatar into the consensus for change is a step forward.

Business leaders are also getting involved.

“A lot of CEOs from the region have turned up. A lot of them are talking about sustainability and resource efficiency. That’s no longer a dirty word,” said Russel Mills, global director for energy and climate policy at Dow Chemical Co.

Dow, like many other big industrial firms, keeps a close eye on U.N. carbon policy because of the United Nations’ role as “a kind of central bank” for pollution allowances.

The most developed carbon trading scheme is the European Union’s, which has lurched from crisis to crisis. The value of EU Emissions Trading Scheme permits sank to a record low this month under the burden of surplus allowances during a recession.

But other jurisdictions such as Australia, California, South Korea and even China believe they can learn from Europe’s mistakes and are developing their own emissions trading. Such schemes could be the planet’s best hope of survival, and the United Nations is likely to play a role.

“Economy-wide carbon pricing, whether carbon taxes or cap and trade, is the only approach that can conceivably achieve the targets scientists advocate,” Robert Stavins, a professor of business and government at Harvard in the United States, said.

“Also, it will be most the cost-effective and therefore in the long run the most politically-viable approach.”

Still, even with the best of intentions, U.N. diplomats are unlikely ever to deliver change at the pace scientists seek.

“Science is demanding immediate and drastic action,” Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters. “Policy, economics and financing cannot move in drastic fashion.”

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and the IRIN NEWS  Report:

IRIN – standing for Integrated Regional Information Networks – has its head office in Nairobi, Kenya, with regional desks in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Dakar, Dubai and Bangkok, covering some 70 countries. The bureaus are supported by a network of local correspondents, an increasing rarity in mainstream newsgathering today.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Snapshot of wins and losses at the Doha talks.

Talks in Doha at the futuristic Qatar National Convention Centre dragged on overtime

JOHANNESBURG, 9 December 2012 (IRIN) – Like last year’s UN climate change talks, this year’s conference in Doha culminated in an all-night session to hammer out a deal on preventing further global warming and protecting people from the effects of climate change. While some promising compromises were made, the absence of a strong commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable populations adapt to climate change was evident in the conference’s 39 decisions.

IRIN provides a snapshot of the three overarching themes of the decisions that came out of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and what these decisions mean for humanitarian actors.

Loss and damage

Tweeting out of the conference, one of Argentina’s negotiators said the decisions don’t feel “ground-breaking” but are “more likely saving face”. “What we got for it, only loss and damage and nothing else”, he said.

''[The] decisions don’t feel ground-breaking but are more likely saving face. What we got for it, only loss and damage and nothing else''

Poor countries, including small island states and the least developed countries, were looking for a decision to create an international mechanism to address losses and damages caused by climate change. The mechanism would open the door to possible compensation from affluent countries for poor countries facing the mounting costs of extreme climate events. It would consider both their economic and non-economic losses, and possibly explore technological interventions.

In the end, they had to settle for the possibility of this happening in the COP19 talks taking place in Poland next year. Still, the fact that the possibility of such a mechanism was mentioned in the decision at all was considered a breakthrough.

Additionally, a work programme collecting data on loss and damage caused by slow-onset disasters – such as droughts – received an extension. The programme will also consider climate change’s impact on migration patterns and displacement, as well as efforts to reduce risk.

The decisions on loss and damage echoes much of a framework proposed by a group of NGOs earlier in the conference, which had recommended focusing on the international mechanism, the work programme, and consideration of non-economic losses. But ultimately, the decisions are subject to money being made available for development of the work programme.

What it means: With the extension of the work programme, more information on possible policy approaches will be forthcoming. This will help humanitarian organizations better scale-up responses to extreme climate events, which are increasing in frequency and intensity.

But NGOs and the civil society will likely have to wait a long time for affluent countries to make firm commitments on funding, risk transfer mechanisms such as insurance, and technology to help poor countries improve their resilience to climate change. Given that money to help vulnerable populations adapt has been ad hoc and insufficient, there is little optimism for funds being made available for compensation.

Adaptation finance

In 2009, developed countries promised to provide US$30 billion by 2012 to help poor countries adapt to climate change. They also promised to provide $100 billion a year from 2020 onwards.
Developed countries reported in Doha that they had reached the $30 billion target, but this was disputed by academics and civil society.

“It is very difficult to know where that finance went and how,” said scientist Saleemul Huq of the International Institute for Environment and Development. “We need to come up with procedures for monitoring, reporting and verification of these finance figures. We need to agree on some format so that money can be tracked effectively. It hasn’t been tracked previously.”

The developed countries further indicated that, with the global recession, they are unable to make firm commitments to finance poor nations’ efforts to adapt. Instead, a decision was made to set up a work programme in 2013 to help developed countries identify ways to raise this money.

What it means: No global funding pledge has been for the interim period between 2013 and 2020. Individual pledges by five European countries – including the UK, France and Germany – have been made, but cumulatively, these fall far short of the $60 billion that developing countries had requested for the interim.

It is also not clear if the five pledges are specifically for climate change adaptation or if they are part of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) that developed countries provide to the developing world. The UNFCC requires that developed countries provide money for climate change adaptation that is additional to their ODA.

Emission cuts

The good news to emerge from the talks is that the Kyoto Protocol – a global agreement to cut emissions that was set to expire in 2012 – has been extended to 2020.

They also agreed that a roadmap to create a deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol should be ready in 2015.

But meanwhile, there are no firm commitments to take on deeper emissions cuts. And with Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the US opting out of the Kyoto Protocol, the protocol applies to only 15 percent of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

What it means: Scientific organization, including the UN Environment Programme have warned that failing to further cut emissions could increase global temperatures by over four degrees Celius by the turn of the century. The internationally embraced goal is to limit this warming to two degrees Celsius, but the International Energy Agency has shown that achieving this goal grows more difficult and expensive with every passing year. This means poor countries and aid agencies will have to contend with the possibility of more frequent and intense climatic events and the mounting costs associated with prevention, relief and recovery.

jk/rz

see also –

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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A ‘low ambition’ outcome at Doha climate change conference

By Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre, Doha, 9 December 2012

The annual UN climate conference concluded in Doha last Saturday (8 December) with “low ambition” both in emission cuts by developed countries and funding for developing countries.

Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted many decisions, including on the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period in which developed countries committed to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Many delegates left the conference quite relieved that they had reached agreement after days of wrangling over many issues and an anxious last 24 hours that were so contentious that most people felt a collapse was imminent.

The relief was that the multilateral climate change regime has survived yet again, although there are such deep differences and distrust among developed and developing countries.

The conflict in paradigms between these two groups of countries was very evident throughout the two weeks of the Doha negotiations, and it was only papered over superficially in the final hours to avoid an open failure.  But the differences will surface again when negotiations resume next year.

Avoidance of collapse was a poor measure of success.  In terms of progress towards real actions to tackle the climate change crisis, the Doha conference was another lost opportunity and grossly inadequate.

The conference was held at the end of a year of record extreme events.  News of typhoon in the Philippines which killed 500 and made 300,000 homeless reminded the conference participants of the reality of the climate crisis.

However, the dictates of economic competition and commercial interests unfortunately were of higher priority, especially among developed countries, which explains their low ambition in emission reduction.  They also broke their promises in the legally binding UNFCCC to provide funds and transfer technology to developing countries.

The most important result in Doha was the formal adoption of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (2013 to 2020) to follow immediately after the first period expires on 31 December 2012.

However, the elements are weak.  With original Kyoto Protocol Parties Russia, Japan and New Zealand having decided not to join in a second commitment period, and and Canada have left the Protocol altogether, only Europe, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and a few others (totalling 35 developed countries and countries with economies in transition) are left to make legally binding commitments in the second period.

Also, the emission cuts these countries agreed to commit to are in aggregate only 18% by 2020 below the 1990 level, compared to the 25-40% required to restrict global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

A saving factor in the Kyoto Protocol decision is the “ambition mechanism” put in by developing countries, that the countries will “revisit” their original target and increase their commitments by 2014, in line with the aggregate 25-40% reduction goal.

Also, the decision severely limited the amount of credits or surplus allowances that can be used during the second period.  These credits were accumulated in the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period by countries that cut their emissions more than the targeted level.

According to the decision, these countries cannot use or trade most of the surplus allowances as a means to avoid current emission cuts.

The most important country affected is Russia, and on Saturday it strongly objected to the way the President of the Conference, Abdullah Hamad al-Attiyah of Qatar, bulldozed through the Kyoto Protocol decision even though it and two other countries tried to object.

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// DO YOU REMEMBER THOSE KYOTO HOT AIR CLOUDS RELEASED BY THE COLLAPSE OF THE ANTIQUATED SOVIET BLOC INDUSTRY?//

Just look at what happened at Doha – here something we heartily applaud:

The final “wrangling” took place in the closing plenary on Saturday afternoon between those wanting to limit the use of excess AAUs to ensure the “environmental integrity” of the emission reduction commitments put forward and those arguing that “overachievement” of commitments should not be punished by a limitation in the use of AAUs. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus attempted to block the adoption of the AWG-KP outcome during the CMP closing plenary, but the nimble COP President gaveled its adoption before appearing to notice Russia’s raised flag. A round of applause welcomed the adoption of the decision, which limits the amount of surplus AAUs that can be used and provides that only parties taking on second commitment period QELRCs can use them. Russia objected to what he said was a breach of procedure by the President, while the COP President responded he would do no more than reflect his view in the final report. This action on the part of the COP President brought back echoes of the events of Cancun when Bolivia’s objections to the adoption of the Cancun Agreement were overruled/ignored in much the same way. It also made many wonder whether this was becoming a trend in the climate negotiations; as many have repeated, consensus does not mean the right of one party to block progress.

The information comes from the IISD final analysis – www.iisd.ca/climate/cop18/enb/

NOW – IF THIS KILLED SOME HOT-AIR BALLOONS – POWER TO QATAR – WE LOVE THEM.

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A second major criticism of the Doha decisions is the lack of funds to be provided to developing countries to take climate actions.

In 2010, the Conference of Parties in Cancun decided that developed countries would mobilize climate finance of US$100 billion a year starting in 2020; and that US$30 billion of fast track finance would be given in 2010-2012.

But there is a gap between 2013 and 2020.  Despite the demand by developing countries that there be US$60 billion by 2015, the decision adopted on Saturday does not specify any number as a commitment.  It only “encourages” countries to provide at least as much as they had in the 2010-2012 period.

The lack of a credible finance commitment led to an outcry by developing countries on the plenary floor.  This lack of funds curtails their ability to undertake actions to combat climate change, especially since they have agreed in the 2010 Cancun and 2011 Durban Conferences to take on more mitigation efforts.

The Doha conference also adopted a set of decisions under its working group on long-term cooperative action under the UNFCCC.  The developing countries were pleased with paragraphs on equity, unilateral trade measures, technology assessment and a vague reference to the effects of intellectual property.

However these decisions were very weak.  Even then the United States registered its disagreement or reservations to these decisions, after the adoption of the text, giving a foretaste of how they will continue to object to future discussions on these issues.

A positive decision made in Doha was to prepare for the setting up by next year’s Conference of an “international mechanism”  to help developing countries deal with loss and damage caused by climate change. This also resulted from intense negotiations.

Activities meanwhile will include an expert meeting and preparing technical papers on this issue.  Developing countries hope that this programme will lead to new funds being channelled to those countries suffering from flooding, drought, sea level rise and other forms of damage linked to climate change.

The Doha conference also adopted a work plan for the new working group on the Durban Platform that was set up in December 2011.  There were major fights in Doha over this, with many  developing countries insisting that mention be made that the Durban Platform will operate on the basis of equity and common and differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), the operating principle of the UNFCCC.

The final text did not mention this principle, and even the reference to the June 2012 Rio Plus 20 Summit which endorsed the equity and CBDR principle was removed at the insistence of the United States.

What remained in the text was a reference that the Durban Platform’s work will be guided by the principles of the Convention.  Even then, the United States in the final plenary placed a reservation that they reject the use of this phrase in the negotiations in the Durban Platform group. (The phrase is in the 2011 decision that established the working group – after the United States rejected any reference to explicit inclusion of “equity” or “CBDR” the final compromise was “under the Convention”.)

This reveals how much lacking in the spirit of international cooperation that the United States and some other developed countries have become.

They are no longer willing to assist the developing countries, and incredibly are even objecting to the principles of the Convention being applied to negotiations to set up a new agreement that will be under the Convention.

More than anything else, this shows the tragic paradox of the Doha conference. It succeeded in adopting many decisions and kept the functioning of the multilateral climate regime alive, but the actual substance of actions to save the planet from climate change was absent, as was a genuine commitment to support the developing countries.

Author: Marin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre. Contact: director@southcentre.org.

An earlier version of this article was published in The Star of 10 December 2012.

To view other articles in SouthNews, please click here.
For more information, please contact Vicente Paolo Yu of the South Centre:
Email yu@southcentre.org, or telephone +41 22 791 80 50.
The list of the Climate Change Convention Conferences of the Parties held todate:

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The following article is written as if nothing was learned from the outcome of the June 2012 meeting in Rio de Janeiro and continues the old line of calls of transfer of funds without calling for joint projects that address increased efficiency in use of energy in order to decrease CO2 emissions.

The Huffington Post on-line today has also articles about New York City and New Jersey State following Hurricane Sandy’s visit, that should have brought home the issue of Climate Change. Those articles, and information about climate events in China, India, Brazil, Mexico, besides common information rolling out for years from Bangladesh and the Island-States, ought to be a joint inter-National starting point to the Doha deliberations.
If the subject does not start from a common basis for all of mankind – the old-rich and the new-rich as well – simply said – New York and New Jersey will just waste their resources in building separation walls from the rest of the world, and nobody will be better off by the end of this century. It is just a pipe-dream that an impoverished EU can carry the world on the shoulders of their fiscal managers.

2012 UN Climate Talks In Doha, Qatar, Face Multiple Challenges.

AP |  By Posted: 11/25/2012     Doha Climate Conference

In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2012 file photo, conference flags are displayed ahead of the Doha Climate Change Conference, in Doha, Qatar that starts 11/26/2012.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — As nearly 200 countries meet in oil-and-gas-rich Qatar for annual talks starting Monday, November 26, 2016, on slowing global warming, one of the main challenges will be raising climate aid for poor countries at a time when budgets are strained by financial turmoil.

Rich countries have delivered nearly $30 billion in grants and loans promised in 2009, but those commitments expire this year. And a Green Climate Fund designed to channel up to $100 billion annually to poor countries has yet to begin operating.

Borrowing a buzzword from the U.S. budget debate, Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries, including island nations for whom rising sea levels pose a threat to their existence, stand before a “climate fiscal cliff.”

“So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Creating a structure for climate financing has so far been one of the few tangible outcomes of the two-decade-old U.N. climate talks, which have failed in their main purpose: reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels.

The only binding treaty to limit such emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, expires this year, so agreeing on an extension is seen as the most urgent task by environment ministers and climate officials meeting in the Qatari capital.

However, only the European Union and a few other countries are willing to join a second commitment period with new emissions targets. And the EU’s chief negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, admitted that such a small group is not going to make a big difference in the fight against climate change.

“I think we cover at most 14 percent of global emissions,” he said.

The U.S. rejected Kyoto because it didn’t cover rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Some hope for stronger commitments from U.S. delegates in Doha as work begins on drafting a new global treaty that would also apply to developing countries including China, the world’s top carbon emitter. That treaty is supposed to be adopted in 2015 and take effect five years later.

Climate financing is a side issue but a controversial one that often deepens the rich-poor divide that has hampered the U.N. climate talks since their launch in 1992. Critics of the U.N. process see the climate negotiations as a cover for attempts to redistribute wealth.

Runge-Metzger said the EU is prepared to continue supporting poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate, despite the debt crisis roiling Europe. But he couldn’t promise that the EU would present any new pledges in Doha and said developing countries must present detailed “bankable programs” before they can expect any money.

Sometimes, developing countries seem to be saying, “OK give us a blank check,” he told AP.

Climate aid activists bristled at that statement, saying many developing countries have already indicated what type of programs and projects need funding.

“They need the financial and technical support from the EU and others. Yet they continue to promise ‘jam tomorrow’ whilst millions suffer today,” said Meena Raman of the Third World Network, a nonprofit group.

Countries agreed in Copenhagen in 2009 to set up the Green Climate Fund with the aim of raising $100 billion annually by 2020. They also pledged to raise $30 billion in “fast-start” climate financing by 2012.

While that short-term goal has nearly been met by countries including the EU, Japan, Australia and the U.S., Oxfam estimates that only one-third of it was new money; the rest was previously pledged aid money repackaged as climate financing.

Oxfam also found that more than half of the financing was in the form of loans rather than grants, and that financing levels are set to fall in 2013 as rich countries rein in aid budgets amid debt problems and financial instability.

Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps going up. It has jumped 20 percent since 2000, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to a U.N. report released last week.

A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are on track to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) this century, compared with pre-industrial times, overshooting the 2-degree target on which the U.N. talks are based.

www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/25/2012-un-climate-talks-qatar_n_2188048.html

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NJ Rebuilding Efforts ‘Throwing Money Out To Sea’?

Will NYC Build A Barrier To Protect From Surges?

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UN Climate Change Conference Opens In Doha, Qatar.

AP |  By Posted: 11/26/2012 2:37
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Anticipating an onslaught of criticism from poor nations, the United States claimed “enormous” strides in reducing greenhouse emissions at the opening of U.N. climate talks Monday, despite failing to join other industrialized nations in committing to binding cuts.

The pre-emptive U.S. approach underscores one of the major showdowns expected at the two-week conference as China pushes developed countries to take an even greater role in tackling global warming.

Speaking for a coalition of developing nations known as the G77, China’s delegate, Su Wei, said rich nations should become party to an extended Kyoto Protocol — an emissions deal for some industrialized countries that the Americans long ago rejected — or at least make “comparable mitigation commitments.”

The United States rejected Kyoto because it didn’t impose any binding commitments on major developing countries such as India and China, which is now the world’s No. 1 carbon emitter.

American delegate Jonathan Pershing offered no new sweeteners to the poor countries, only reiterating what the United States has done to tackle global warming: investing heavily in clean energy, doubling fuel efficiency standards and reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pershing also said the United States would not increase its earlier commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It is half way to that target.

“I would suggest those who don’t follow what the U.S. is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous,” Pershing said.

“It doesn’t mean enough is being done. It’s clear the global community, and that includes us, has to do more if we are going to succeed at avoiding the damages projected in a warming world,” Pershing added. “It is not to say we haven’t acted. We have and we have acted with enormous urgency and singular purpose.”




The battles between rich and poor nations have often undermined talks in the past decade and stymied efforts to reach a deal to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F), compared to pre-industrial times. Efforts taken in the absence of a deal to rein in emissions, reduce deforestation and promote clean technology are not getting the job done. A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are expected to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) by 2100.

Countries are hoping to build on the momentum of last year’s talks in Durban, South Africa, where nearly 200 nations agreed to restart stalled negotiations with a deadline of 2015 to adopt a new treaty and extend Kyoto between five and eight years. The problem is that only the European Union and a handful of other nations — which together account for less than 15 percent of global emissions — are willing to commit to that.

Delegates in the Qatari capital of Doha are also hoping to raise billions of dollars to help developing countries adapt to a shifting climate.

“We owe it to our people, the global citizenry. We owe it to our children to give them a safer future than what they are currently facing,” said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who led last year’s talks in Durban.

Environmentalists fear holding the talks in Qatar — the world’s biggest per capita emitter — could slow progress. They argue that the Persian Gulf emirate has shown little interest in climate talks and has failed to reign in its lavish lifestyle and big-spending ways.

There was hope among activists that Qatar might use Monday’s opening speech to set the tone of the conference. But Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the president of the conference and a former Qatari oil minister, didn’t offer any voluntary emission targets or climate funding for poor nations.

“Some countries, especially the one where we are sitting, have the potential to decrease their carbon emissions. They have the highest per capita emissions, so they can do a lot,” said Wael Hmaidan, a Lebanese activist and director of the Climate Action Network.

“If nations that are poorer than Qatar, like India and Mexico, can make pledges to reduce their carbon emissions, then countries in the region, especially Qatar, should easily be able to do it. … They still haven’t proven they are serious about climate change.”

Al-Attiyah defended Qatar’s environmental record at a later news conference, insisting it was working to reduce emissions from gas flaring and its oil fields. Qatar is already doing plenty to help poor countries with financing, he said, adding that it was unfair to focus on per capita emissions.

“We should not concentrate on per capita. We should concentrate on the amount and quantity that each country produces individually,” al-Attiyah said. “The quantity is the biggest challenge, not per capita.”

The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide has jumped 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report released last week. The report also showed that there is a growing gap between what governments are doing to curb emissions and what needs to be done to protect the world from potentially dangerous levels of warming.

At the same time, many scientists say extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught on the U.S. East Coast, will become more frequent as the Earth warms, although it is impossible to attribute any individual event to climate change. The rash of violent weather in the U.S., including widespread droughts and a record number of wildfires this summer, has again put climate change on the radar.

“While none of these individual events are necessarily because of climate change, they are certainly consistent with what we anticipate will happen in a warming world,” Pershing said. “The combination of these events is certainly changing minds of Americans and making clear to people at home the consequences of increased growth in emissions.”

In Washington, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., urged the U.S. delegation at the talks to “heed the warnings from Sandy and other extreme weather supercharged by climate change.”

“If the United States does not aggressively pursue sharp reductions in carbon pollution following the droughts, storms and other extreme weather events we have endured, the rest of the world will doubt our sincerity to address climate change,” Markey said. “It’s time to attack the carbon problem head on, and adapt to a climate already changed for the worse.”

Many countries referenced Hurricane Sandy as a rallying cry for tough action to cap emissions, including a group of small island nations that said the monster storm may have jolted the world to recognize “that we are all in this together.”

“When the tragedies occur far away from the media spotlight, they are too often ignored or forgotten,” the island nations said in a statement.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Drylands, Deserts and Desertification

ddd.png

The International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification (DDD) has emerged as an important global gathering of scientists, field workers, industry, government, CSOs, international development aid agencies and other stakeholders from over 60 countries concerned about land degradation in the drylands, and their sustainable use and development.
The program combines plenary lectures and panels, parallel sessions, workshops, field trips and social events. The four day conference provides an opportunity for a diverse group of experts, policy makers and land managers to consider a range of theoretical and practical issues associated with combating desertification and living sustainably in the drylands.
The 4th DDD conference will focus on the outcome of Rio+20 (UN Conference on Sustainable Development – UNCSD) and consider the science required for implementing the UNCSD recommendations relevant to drylands and desertification. Local case studies will be highlighted alongside success stories from around the world with an emphasis on indicators of progress. Additional sessions will be held considering a broad range of topics associated with sustainable living in the drylands and means to address desertification, as well as achieving the target of zero net rate of land degradation.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Maggie L. Fox, Climate Reality info@climatereality.com

Dear Pincas,
It’s hot. It’s too hot! For many of us, it’s one of the hottest summers ever. 2012 is so far the hottest year on record in the United States. It’s WAY too hot to ignore the role of manmade climate change.

Yet climate deniers continue spreading the same tired falsehoods we’ve heard over and over again. But, we’re fighting back and connecting the dots to show that climate change is happening now. And we need your help.

Last week, we took our “I’m Too Hot” campaign into Austin, Texas — where the temperature shot past 100 degrees each day and it was impossible to ignore the heat. We talked to the people we met about how the climate crisis is affecting their lives. We invited them to post messages on Twitter or Facebook using our “I’m Too Hot!” hashtag. Along with sharing some of our ice cream accompanied by climate messages, people in Austin were connecting the dots and sharing the truth about climate change.

This campaign was a success. We helped spark an urgent and necessary conversation about the reality of our changing climate. And now, with your help, we want to take our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign to more cities where the temperatures are soaring.

Help us take our “I’m Too Hot” campaign to reach more cities across America. Donate $5 today to support this important campaign.

The best way to engage people is to make the connection to what they experience every day — to bring the connections home. So we’ve created a simple, innovative campaign with a serious purpose: Helping more and more people understand how climate change impacts their everyday lives.

In Austin, one person after another told us that while they’re used to hot summers in Texas, this year is exceptional – and worrisome. As word of mouth spread, more and more people came up to us carrying on the conversation about climate change.

And the conversation spread online. Thousands of people posted to their social networks about the reality of climate change in their communities. That is leading to thousands more people who are sharing the truth about climate change and the need for us to take action without delay.

Climate change isn’t something that could happen in the future. It’s happening now, today. Globally, 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. This fact is sobering. It’s absolutely essential for all of us to grasp the reality of climate change and share the need for action with others.

And that means we need to continue our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign beyond Austin to other cities experiencing extreme heat across America.

Help us bring our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign to more cities across the country. Donate $5 today and support The Climate Reality Project.

With your help, we can make a difference!

Thanks for all you do,

Maggie L. Fox
President and CEO
The Climate Reality Project

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU Fails To Resolve Dispute Over UN Climate Fund Seats.

Date: 02-Apr-12
Country: UK/BELGIUM
Author: Nina Chestney and Charlie Dunmore from Reuters.

European Union ambassadors failed to resolve a dispute over the allocation of seats on the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF) board on Friday, possibly undermining the bloc’s credibility in international climate talks.

The EU envoys were meeting for the second time in a week to decide which European nations will be represented on the governing board. This has 12 seats for developing countries and another 12 for developed countries.

“Despite willingness to compromise and adequately share board seats, it has, unfortunately, not been possible to come to an agreement within the EU,” the EU’s Danish presidency said in a statement.

As a result, the EU will miss a March 31 deadline for making a joint proposal on board membership, and EU governments and the bloc’s executive will now have to negotiate directly with other developed countries over who gets the seats.

“For this reason, respective nominations from the group of developed country parties will be withheld until these discussions have taken place,” delaying the entire process, the Danish presidency said.

U.N. climate talks in Durban last year agreed on the design of the fund, which is aimed at channelling up to $100 billion a year to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Disputes of this kind could both slow the process towards the launch of the fund in 2013 and give other countries the impression that the EU is stalling on climate finance. “It shows that the EU unity we had in Durban has been eroded and that could damage Europe’s image in global climate change talks,” Danish presidency spokesman Jakob Alvi said.

The fund’s first board meeting is due on April 25 to 27, a U.N. spokesman said, subject to confirmation next week.

Despite the EU’s failure to reach an agreement, it should not affect the number of seats it will be allocated on the GCF board, he added.

SEAT DISPUTE

Thirteen of the 27 EU countries had requested a board seat, to ensure they had a say in funding decisions.

A draft EU document, seen by Reuters this week, shows that EU member states and Switzerland might together be able to obtain seven full seats plus associated alternating seats between them. Denmark had proposed that Britain, Germany and France, as the likely biggest financial contributors, should hold a full seat each and share three further alternating seats with another EU country.

But an EU source involved in the discussions said Germany – backed by France – refused to share its seat with any other EU country and insisted on a permanent position on the board, ending any chance of an EU compromise.

Poland also insisted on having a full seat, and told the meeting that in the absence of a joint proposal it would put itself forward to the U.N. in a separate bid outside the EU, sources said under condition of anonymity.

Poland, which relies heavily on coal production for its energy needs, says its economy would develop much more quickly if it wasn’t for the EU’s climate policy, which aims to make coal power generation more expensive.

“(The Commission) has tried to rob us so many times before. This time around we want to wear a second jacket – just in case – and let nothing we are eligible for miss us,” a Polish government source told Reuters.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 5th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This is something we do very seldom – take a comment that was originally intended to be added to a previous article and actually post it as well as an individual posting – this because of its actual informative value.

Comment from Robert del Rosso on June 5, 2011

RE our posting #18081 of August 20, 2010 – on the PAKISTANI FLOODS OF 2008  –

“August 19, 2010, before the UN started its meetings, the Asia Society in New York opened the discussion on the Pakistan Flood response by diving right to the bottom truth – the latest mega-disasters have one common cause – human induced climate change. It was Financier George Soros who injected the topic and the media was allowed by Ambassador Holbrooke to follow up. See what you can do when you go outside the UN!”

that says the tragedy IS THAT THE IPCC WAS RAKED OVER THE COALS FOR SAYING THAT THE HIMALAYA GLACIERS WOULD MELT BY 2030.

THE MISTAKE THE IPCC MADE WAS IN QUOTING AN INDIAN NEWSPAPER, WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE QUOTED FROM THE WORK OF OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY’S LONNIE THOMPSON (see below) – HIMALAYAS MISSING RADIOACTIVE LAYERS NEW TIBETAN ICE CORES MISSING A-BOMB BLAST MARKERS; SUGGEST HIMALAYAN ICE FIELDS HAVEN’T GROWN IN LAST 50 YEARS.

COLUMBUS , Ohio – Ice cores drilled last year from the summit of a Himalayan ice field lack the distinctive radioactive signals that mark virtually every other ice core retrieved worldwide.

That missing radioactivity, originating as fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests during the 1950s and 1960s, routinely provides researchers with a benchmark against which they can gauge how much new ice has accumulated on a glacier or ice field.

Lonnie Thompson made public that –  a joint U.S.-Chinese team drilled four cores from the summit of Naimona’nyi, a large glacier 6,050 meters (19,849 feet) high on theTibetan Plateau. The researchers routinely analyze ice cores for a host of indicators – particulates, dust, oxygen isotopes, etc. — that can paint a picture of past climate in that region.

Scientists believe that the missing signal means that this Tibetan ice field has been shrinking at least since the A-bomb test half a century ago. If true, this could foreshadow a future when the stockpiles of freshwater will dwindle and vanish, seriously affecting the lives of more than 500 million people on the Indian subcontinent.

“There’s about 12,000 cubic kilometers (2,879 cubic miles) of fresh water stored in the glaciers throughout the Himalayas – more freshwater than in Lake Superior,” explained Lonnie Thompson, distinguished university professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and a researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center on campus. “Those glaciers release meltwater each year and feed the rivers that support nearly a half-billion people in that region. The loss of these ice fields might eventually create critical water shortages for people who depend on glacier-fed streams.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 12th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Secretary-General Ban Appoints Luc Gnacadja as Executive Secretary of the UNCCD for a Second Term.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has re-appointed Mr Luc Gnacadja (picture attached) as the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification for another three year-term, with effect from 1 October 2010.

“It is indeed a privilege granted to me and a responsibility to further advance our collective endeavors to service the Parties to the UNCCD in speeding up the effective implementation of the ten-year Strategy, “ Mr. Gnacadja responded on learning of his reappointment. “A lot has been achieved but there is a lot more to do in the months and years to come to meet the Strategy’s expected outcomes,” he added.

“Desertification has far-reaching consequences and impacts” Mr. Gnacadja said, stressing that the mainstreaming of desertification and drought issues into the policy framework at all levels is still the major hurdle to the implementation of the UNCCD.

Since the Parties agreed in 2009 on the way to measure the progress in implementation, the next major milestone is to the move towards target setting at all levels that will trigger action, cooperation and effective partnerships to improve the livelihoods of the affected populations and the conditions of their ecosystems, he said. In that regard, Mr. Gnacadja asserted, a comprehensive assessment of the cost of inaction will be crucial.

In his first three-year term, Mr. Gnacadja has already made his mark by steering the secretariat in the implementation of the Convention’s first 10-year Strategy approved by the parties in September 2007. During his tenure, the UNCCD process moved to the “realm of measurability” with the adoption of the performance and impact indicators to assess and monitor the implementation of the Convention. Also, the Global Environment Facility, the largest multilateral environment fund, amended its Charter to include the financing of country activities related to the Convention.

Mr. Gnacadja is credited with increasing global policy attention to the plight of the drylands, the threat desertification poses to global human well-being and the latent potential in the drylands to contribute to global sustainability.

Mr. Gnacadja has kept UNCCD away from some of the stinkiest aspects of the UN – the like of  keeping Israel out of debates when in effect it could be a main contributor to finding solutions to topics on the table. Under Mr. Gnacadja, the UNCCD is involved in the Ben Gurion University Sede Boqer conferences on arid lands, and who knows, someday the Arab kingdoms of deserts might participate as well – this in order to come to a place of learning about issues that can help them in a changing world run by elements of climate change that increases desertification, and calls for enhanced technologies to survive in the new climate.

The Third International Conference on Drylands, Deserts, and Desertification at The Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Sede Boqer, Israel – November 8-11, 2010.These meetings are held every other year.

Mr. Gnacadja was appointed Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the UNCCD in September 2007. An architect by profession and a native of Benin in West Africa, he served as Benin’s Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development from 1999 to 2005 and received the World’ Bank’s “2002 Green Award” in March 2003.

About the UNCCD
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is
the sole legally biding international agreement linking environment, development and the
promotion of healthy soils. The Convention’s 194 signatory Parties (193 countries plus the European Union) work to
alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land’s productivity and mitigate the effects of drought.

For more information, contact:
Wagaki Mwangi
Public Information and Media Officer, UNCCD
Email: wmwangi@unccd.int
Tel: +49 (0) 228 815 2820
Internet: www.unccd.int

Luc Gnacadja in 2009

Luc-Marie Constant Gnacadja is a Beninese politician and an architect. Under President Mathieu Kérékou, he was Minister of the Environment, Housing, and Urban Planning from June 1999 to February 2005.

Gnacadja was the candidate of the Envol movement in the March 2006 presidential election, receiving 11th place and 0.68% of the vote.

Gnacadja was awarded the Green Award 2002 by the World Bank in March 2003.

In September 2007, Gnacadja was appointed as Executive Secretary of the  UNCCD by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, after he was endorsed by the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties of the UNCCD. In applying for the position, Gnacadja was said to have been backed by Beninese President Yayi Bon

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

WORLD NEWS – JULY 29, 2010

 online.wsj.com/article/SB40001424…
Climate report shows Earth has heated up over 50 years.

Which in the printed Wall Street version was rechristened – “CLIMATE STUDY CITES 2000 as WARMEST DECADE.” This appropriate to the US inward look of New York, while the above title is clear better positioned for the world at large –

By GAUTAM NAIK

A new assessment concludes that the Earth has been getting warmer over the past 50 years and the past decade was the warmest on record.

The State of the Climate 2009 report, published Wednesday as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, was compiled by 300 scientists from 48 countries and drew on measures of 10 crucial climate indicators.

Seven of the indicators were rising, including air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, sea level, ocean heat and humidity. Three indicators were declining, including Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Each indicator is changing as we’d expect in a warming world,” said Peter Thorne, senior researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, a research consortium based in College Park, Md., who was involved in compiling the report.

The report’s conclusions broadly match those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body, which published its last set of findings in 2007. The IPCC report contained some errors, which further stoked the debate about the existence, causes and effects of global warming.

The new report incorporates data from the past few years that weren’t included in the last IPCC assessment. While the IPCC report concluded that evidence for human-caused global warming was “unequivocal” and was linked to emissions of greenhouse gases, the latest report didn’t seek to address the issue.

The report “doesn’t try to make the link” between climate change and what might be causing it, said Tom Karl, an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration involved in the new assessment.

The report said, “Global average surface and lower-troposphere temperatures during the last three decades have been progressively warmer than all earlier decades, and the 2000s (2000-09) was the warmest decade in the instrumental record.” The troposphere is the lowest layer of the atmosphere.

The scientists reported that they were surprised to find Greenland’s glaciers were losing ice at an accelerating rate. They also concluded that 90% of planetary warming over the past 50 years has gone into the oceans. Most of it had accumulated in near-surface layers, home to phytoplankton, tiny plants crucial to virtually all life in the sea.

A new study has found that rising sea temperature may have had a harmful effect on global concentrations of phytoplankton over the past century.

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BUT THE WALL STREET JOURNAL IS VERY ANEMIC ON CONTENT OF ABOVE NEWS – IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, AS MOSTLY ALMOST – GO TO THE FINANCIAL TIMES. HERE YOU FIND FIONA HARVEY’S FULL ARTICLE – SHE  CONTRIBUTES TO THE EDITORIAL SECTION AS WELL. YOU WILL BE IN THE CLEAR ABOUT THE MACHINATIONS IN WASHINGTON AS WELL.

You will also see there the Washington rot as in the following: Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in the US, formerly in charge of energy with the powerful CSIS, said the new report would not change people’s minds. “It’s clear that the scientific case for global warming alarmism is weak. The scientific case for [many of the claims] is unsound and we are finding out all the time how unsound it is.”

You will find that there was no doubt about the implication that it is humans who did it except in the words of that outspoken minority of industry lobbyists that hold power over Washington.

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 blogs.ft.com/energy-source/author…

NOAA finds “human fingerprints” on climate

July 28th, 2010  by Fiona Harvey

A report from the NOAA in the US has found that data from ten key climate indicators all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable.

It is the first major piece of new research since the “Climategate” scandals.

It found that, relying on data from multiple sources, each indicator proved consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere.

Read the full report here:

www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate.

 www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6d1fd25c-9a69-…

Research says climate change undeniable

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent

Published: July 28 2010 – print and on-line.

International scientists have injected fresh evidence into the debate over global warming, saying that climate change is “undeniable” and shows clear signs of “human fingerprints” in the first major piece of research since the “Climategate” controversy.

The research, headed by the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration, is based on new data not available for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 2007, the target of attacks by sceptics in recent years.

The NOAA study drew on up to 11 different indicators of climate, and found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases, said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK’s Met Office, one of the agencies participating.

Seven indicators were rising, he said. These were: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Four indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures.

Mr Stott said: “The whole of the climate system is acting in a way consistent with the effects of greenhouse gases.” “The fingerprints are clear,” he said. “The glaringly obvious explanation for this is warming from greenhouse gases.”

Environment ThumbnailSome scientists hailed the study as a refutation of the claims made by climate sceptics during the “Climategate” saga. Those scandals involved accusations – some since proven correct – of flaws in the IPCC’s landmark 2007 report, and the release of hundreds of emails from climate scientists that appeared to show them distorting certain data.

“This confirms that while all of this [Climategate] was going on, the earth was continuing to warm. It shows that Climategate was a distraction, because it took the focus off what the science actually says,” said Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics.

But the report nonetheless remained the target of scorn for sceptics.

Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in the US, said the new report would not change people’s minds. “It’s clear that the scientific case for global warming alarmism is weak. The scientific case for [many of the claims] is unsound and we are finding out all the time how unsound it is.”

Pat Michaels, a prominent climate sceptic, ex-professor of environmental sciences and fellow of the Cato Institute in the US, said the NOAA study and other evidence suggested that the computerised climate models had overestimated the sensitivity of the earth’s temperature to carbon dioxide. This would mean that the earth could warm a little under the influence of greenhouse gases, but not by as much as the IPCC and others have predicted.

“I think it is the lack of frankness about this that emerged with Climategate, and that seems to continue [that make people doubt the findings],” he said.

Steve Goddard, a blogger, said the conclusion that the first half of 2010 showed a record high temperature was “based on incorrect, fabricated data” because the researchers involved did not have access to much information on Arctic temperatures.

David Herro, the financier, who follows climate science as a hobby, said NOAA also “lacks credibility”.

But Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of NOAA, said the study found that the average temperature in the world had increased by 0.56° C (1° F) over the past 50 years. The rise “may seem small, but it has already altered our planet … Glaciers and sea ice are melting, heavy rainfall is intensifying, and heat waves are more common.”

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 planetark.org/wen/58965

Developing Nations See Cancun Climate Deal Tough.

Date: 29-Jul-10
Country: MEXICO
Author: Brian Ellsworth

Reaching a binding climate deal at the upcoming U.N. conference in Mexico will likely be difficult, delegates from a group of developing nations said on Monday, spurring further doubts about a global climate accord this year.

Environment ministers from Brazil, South Africa, India and China — known as the BASIC group — meeting in Rio de Janeiro said developed nations have not done enough to cut their own emissions or help poor countries reduce theirs.

Delays by the United States and Australia in implementing schemes to cut carbon emissions has added to gloomy sentiment about possible results from the Cancun meeting.

“If by the time we get to Cancun (U.S. senators) still have not completed the legislation then clearly we will get less than a legally binding outcome,” said Buyelwa Sonjica, South Africa’s Water and Environment Affairs minister.

“For us that is a concern, and we’re very realistic about the fact that we may not” complete a legally binding accord, she said.

BASIC nations held deliberations on Sunday and Monday about upcoming climate talks, but the representatives said those talks did not yield a specific proposal on emissions reductions to be presented at the Cancun meeting.

“I think we’re all a bit wiser after Copenhagen, our expectations for Cancun are realistic — we cannot expect any miracles,” said Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

He added that countries have failed to make good on promises for $30 billion in “fast track” financing for emissions reduction programs in poor countries.

“The single most important reason why it is going to be difficult is the inability of the developed countries to bring clarity on the financial commitments which they have undertaken in the Copenhagen Accord,” he said.

Hopes for a global treaty on cutting carbon emissions to slow global warming were dealt a heavy blow last year when rich and poor nations were unable to agree on a legally binding mechanism to reduce global carbon emissions.

More than 100 countries backed a nonbinding accord agreed in Copenhagen last year to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, but it did not spell out how this should be achieved.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday postponed an effort to pass broad legislation to combat climate change until September at the earliest, vastly reducing the possibility of such legislation being ready before the Cancun conference begins in December.

Australia has delayed a carbon emissions trading scheme until 2012 under heavy political pressure on from industries that rely heavily on coal for their energy.

The U.N.’s climate agency has detailed contingency options if the world cannot agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose present round expires in 2012 with no new deal in sight. {But the article does not spell them out and we wonder if they are any different from what we suggested – moving the deliberations away from the UNFCCC – to a much smaller group of Nations modeled along the lines on the evolving G20 with a united EU and a representation of AOSIS/SIDS and Highest suffering countries like Bangladesh on-board,}

Kyoto placed carbon emissions caps on nearly 40 developed countries from 2008-2012. {But Left out any responsibilities for the remaining countries including the above BRICS. Copenhagen was a success in the sense that it made it clear that the BRICS must be part of any agreement if it is going to happen – so, in this trspect, at Copenhagen there was progress – the first time since the beginning of the negotiations within UNFCCC.}

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The comments in green are those made by us – the editor of www.SustainabiliTank.info
WE ARE OPTIMISTS NEVERTHELESS AND WE HOPE THAT WITH THE UN-BASED SMILES FROM THE UN HEADQUARTERS IN NEW YORK, OUT OF THE WAY, A MORE ATUNNED  CHRISTIANA FIGUERES WILL INDEED COME UP WITH A MORE MANAGEABLE DEBATE.

From the Wikipedia: Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen (born August 7, 1956) was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 17 May 2010, succeeding Yvo de Boer[1] [2]. She had been a member of the Costa Rican negotiating team since 1995, involved in both UNFCCC[3] and Kyoto Protocol[4] negotiations. She has contributed to the design of key climate change instruments.[5] She is a prime promoter of Latin America’s active participation in the Convention,[6] a frequent public speaker,[7] and a widely published author.[8] She won the Hero for the Planet award in 2001.[9]

For Latin America, in the BASIC group, speaks Brazil which has created for itself the image of an oil-rich country. This might create further difficulties for Ms. Figueres and we do not yet say that Brazil steaked out a final position for Cancun. In effect, the October 3, 2010 elections will have brought to the fore-front a new President for Brazil and we are yet to see his or her position.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 3rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

What does the number 350 mean?

350 is the most important number in the world—it’s what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Two years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million.

Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350.

Is 350 scientifically possible?

Right now, mostly because we’ve burned so much fossil fuel, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is 390 ppm—that’s way too high, and it’s why ice is melting, drought is spreading, forests are dying. To bring that number down, the first task is to stop putting more carbon into the atmosphere. That means a very fast transition to sun and wind and other renewable forms of power. If we can stop pouring more carbon into the atmosphere, then forests and oceans will slowly suck some of it out of the air and return us to safe levels.

Is 350 politically possible?

It’s very hard. It means switching off fossil fuel much more quickly than governments and corporations have been planning. But we can change that–if we mobilize the world to swift and bold climate action, and shift the world to a clean energy future.

What was the day of action in 2009?

On October 24, the International Day of Climate Action covered almost every country on earth, the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history.

There were be big rallies in big cities, and incredible creative actions across the globe: mountain climbers on our highest peaks with banners, underwater demonstrations in island nations threatened by sea level rise, churches and mosques and synagogues and ashrams engaged in symbolic action, star athletes organizing mass bike rides–and hundreds upon hundreds of community events to raise awareness of the need for urgent action.

Every event highlighted the number 350–and people gathered at some point for a big group photo depicting that all important message. At 350.org, we assembled all the photos for a gigantic, global, visual petition.

The thousands of events on October 24 will drive 350 and all that it represents into the human imagination, and helped shift the political climate around climate change. Countries on the front lines of climate change are no longer willing to settle for weak efforts and half-measures. All the actions on October 24 will help our leaders realize we need a real solution that pays attention to the science.

How did this make a difference?

October 24 has finally put the focus where it needs to be: on the science and the citizens, not the special interests and the backroom deals.

People have sent in thousands of images of citizens gathering at important places around the world—from the melting peaks of Mt. Everest to the sinking beaches of the Maldives—displaying the number 350 in a creative way. 350.org staff will display these photos on the big screens in Times Square and projecting them at the UN headquarters. Those photos are appearing in newspapers large and small—the same newspapers that politicians all over the world use as a barometer of public opinion. We’re also delivering copies of the images—and the stories that go with them—to national delegates, environment ministers, and heads of state the world over.

Grassroots global action will be useful to put pressure on world leaders. Together we can remind our leaders that they need to take physical reality—and not political expediency—into account when they’re making decisions about our collective future. 350 is a clear and specific goal (unlike vague demands to “stop global warming”) that helps move politics n the direction science and justice demand. At 350.org, we make sure your voice is heard, and this debate is re-framed in time to make a difference.

350.org is an international grassroots campaign that aims to mobilize a global climate movement united by a common call to action. By spreading an understanding of the science and a shared vision for a fair policy, we will ensure that the world creates bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. 350.org is an independent and not-for-profit project.

What is 350?
350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in “parts per million” (ppm), so 350ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, we need a different kind of PPM-a “people powered movement” that is made of people like you in every corner of the planet.

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10/10/10 Global Work Party

Dear World,

It’s been a tough year: in North America, oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico; in Asia some of the highest temperatures ever recorded; in the Arctic, the fastest melting of sea ice ever seen; in Latin America, record rainfalls washing away whole mountainsides.

So we’re having a party.

Circle 10/10/10 on your calendar. That’s the date. The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community. We’re calling it a Global Work Party.

 www.350.org/

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

World Day to Combat Desertification: Message from UN Secretary General’s Message and Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja.

from Andrea Perez <APerez@unccd.int>
date Wed, Jun 16, 2010
subject World Day to Combat Desertification: Message from UN Secretary General’s Message and Executive Secretar Luc Gnacadja
World Day to Combat Desertification, Thursday, 17 June 2010

Please find below the messages of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification.

Background information on the Day is available online at: unccd.int/publicinfo/june17/2010/menu.php

For interviews or more information, contact:
Ms. Wagaki Mwangi
Bonn, Germany
Email: wmwangi@unccd.int or arce@unccd.int
Tel: +49-228-815 2820

THE SECRETARY GENERAL

MESSAGE ON THE WORLD DAY TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION
AND DROUGHT
17 June 2010

More than one billion poor and vulnerable people living in the world’s drylands, where efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals face particular challenges and thus have lagged behind.

Almost three-quarters of rangelands show symptoms of desertification. Over the past 40 years, nearly one third of the world’s cropland has become unproductive, often ending up abandoned.  The unremitting stress of drought, famine and deepening poverty threatens to create social strains, in turn creating the potential for involuntary migration, the breakdown of communities, political instability and armed conflict.  Indeed, human, environmental and social vulnerability come together with unusual force and symmetry in the world’s drylands.  Climate change will only exacerbate such pressures.

In this International Year of Biodiversity, we must remember that drylands are areas of enormous biological diversity and productivity. Thirty per cent of the crops that are cultivated and consumed in every corner of the world originate in drylands. The biodiversity of dryland soil also plays a critical role in transforming atmospheric carbon into organic carbon – the earth’s largest pool of organic carbon.

When we protect and restore drylands, we advance on many fronts at once: we strengthen food security, we address climate change, we help the poor gain control over their destiny, and we accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  On this Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to combating desertification and land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought; and let us recognize that enhancing soils enhances life.

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Message from Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, The UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

World Day to Combat Desertification, June 17, 2010

Six to ten inches (18-25 cm) of topsoil are all that stand between us and extinction. There’s far more to this than food. The things that live in and grow from this irreplaceable and finite resource also keep us clothed, the air and water clean, the land green and pleasant and the human soul refreshed. Only now are we starting to comprehend how the tiny life forms in soil sustain productivity and the greater environmental balance.

Already, we know that the species that live in soil are far more abundant than first thought. Microbes in the soil make up most of the biomass of life on earth. They may lack the charisma of the tiger or the orangutan, but the sheer prevalence of soil-dwelling fungi, archaea, bacteria, rotifers and nematodes alone puts all other species in the shade. If we placed all the microbes found in soil on one side of a scale and all surface-dwelling animals on the other, the soil microbes would quite literally outweigh them. Understanding just what their function is thus vital to our broader grasp of environmental management, climate change and human development.

Rain-making bacteria Soil microbes and the tiny animals in earth provide a wide array of ecosystem services, including nutrient cycling, nitrogen fixation, decomposition and pest control, pollination, soil moisture retention, drainage, carbon sequestration, waste recycling and more. They even play little-known but major roles in climate regulation. Research provides growing evidence that, along with dust and other particles, certain bacteria from the soil are swept up by wind to high altitudes, where ice crystals form around them to make rain. Thus, healthy, bacteria-rich soils might well encourage rainfall.

Land degradation and desertification spell the gradual death of soil’s complex web of biota. The disappearance of just a single species from this web can be devastating. Among soil’s “free services” is the harbouring of the larvae of pollinating wasps, beetles, flies and bees. Their contribution to farming alone is extraordinary. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated in 2005 that of the slightly more than 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the food for 146 countries, 71 are bee-pollinated. If we lose these “keystone” species, whole edifices will collapse.

Soil biota worth “trillions” Knowing all this, we should attribute proper economic value to soil and to the work of those who tend it. A European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) report in 2009 determined soil biodiversity to be “of immense economic importance.” The report claims that “the monetary value of ecosystem goods and services provided by soils and their associated terrestrial systems … was estimated in 1997 to be 13 trillion US dollars. The soil biota underwrites much of this value.”

We sometimes forget that biodiversity includes us, too. We have long seen ourselves both as part of nature and as nature’s keepers. Some call for a shift from the old paradigm of human domination of the earth and its animals to a less greedy, less invasive coexistence with them. But that does not relieve us of a capital duty. Because we are an all-powerful species, soil’s health – and thus our own – depends in large part on how well we sustain it. And the front-line agents of this sustainability are those who live in the areas most vulnerable to degradation: the drylands.

The people in the drylands The UNCCD’s first strategic objective is to support them in this crucial task. More than one-half of these 2 billion people subsist on less than two dollars a day. By alleviating their poverty, improving the science of sustainable land management, generating sustainable rural incomes from land-based ecosystems and building partnerships with governments, business and civil society, the UNCCD and its 193 Parties are helping them not only to inhabit, farm and use the land sustainably, but also to safeguard topsoil and its benefits for people in distant lands and for generations far into the future.

World Day to Combat Desertification 2010 takes place, as always, on June 17. This year, it also coincides with the International Year of Biodiversity. There is no better time to remind the world of the immense value of soil’s biodiversity and of the work by farmers, rich and poor, to nurture it. “Enhancing soils anywhere enhances life everywhere” is this year’s motto for World Day. It places soil health where it needs to be: at the very foundation of our survival and well-being.

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About UNCCD
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. It focuses on drylands, which cover 41% of the Earth and are inhabited by over 2 billion people. Drylands account for 44% of the world’s cultivated ecosystems and have provided 30% of all the world’s cultivated plants. However, eight of the world’s 25 biodiversity ‘hotspots’ are in the drylands and up to one fifth of the drylands have been steadily degraded since the 1980s. The Convention’s 193 Parties are dedicated to improving the living conditions of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion resident in the drylands, to maintaining and restoring the land’s productivity, and to mitigating the effects of drought.

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from Wagaki Mwangi <wmwangi@unccd.int>
date Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 11:36 AM
subject Coming to the Third Global Media Forum of Deutsche Welle?

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification welcomes you to an exciting exchange on how the media has covered the climate change debate. Specifically, the workshop will focus on how and why land-based emissions are a significant part of the sources of green house gases, but soil carbon sequestration and land-based strategies for adaptation are barely on the agenda of the talks. Moderated by a highly-reputed journalist in Germany, this is not your typical media workshop. If you want to gain a new perspective on climate change come to:

Tuesday, 22 June, 2:00-3:30pm, Trincomalee/Antigua Room , Bonn

Panelists will examine
a) the land issue – agriculture, land degradation, and REDD+ by Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification
b) soil carbon sequestration by Ralph Ashton, Chair, Terrestrial Carbon Group and visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York
c) climate change adaptation by Johan Schaar, Director, Commission on Climate Change and Development and Sweden
d) reporting by the media and the emerging biases by Prof. Maxwell Boykoff of University of Colorado at Boulder and Visiting Senior Research Associate at Oxford University

A media training pack will is available for participants to the Workshop.

Regards
Wagaki Mwangi

____________________________________

Wagaki Mwangi
Public Information Specialist
Tel: +49 228 815 2820
Fax: +49 228 815 2898/99
UNCCD, ARCE
Hermann-Ehlers-Str.10
53113 Bonn, Germany
Internet: www.unccd.int

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UNCCD. World Day to Combat Desertification 17 June 2010.

Theme: Enhancing soils anywhere enhances life everywhere.

(www.unccd.int/publicinfo/june17/2010/menu.php).

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