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Posted on on May 3rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Which parts of the Atlantic seaboard will be swallowed by rising seas? This EPA scientist can tell you. Too bad no one’s listening.

Buh-bye East Coast Beaches…

— Photo by Kate Sheppard

Which parts of the Atlantic seaboard will be swallowed by rising seas? This EPA scientist can tell you. Too bad no one’s listening.

— By Josh Harkinson

Also from the Climate Desk: The quickest way to adapt to rising sea levels? Build a wall.

For most of the 20th century, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, was known for its boardwalk, amusement park, and wide, sandy beaches, popular with daytrippers from Washington, DC. “The bathing beach has a frontage of three miles,” boasted a tourist brochure from about 1900, “and is equal, if not superior, to any beach on the Atlantic Coast.”

Today, on a cloudless spring afternoon, the resort town’s sweeping view of Chesapeake Bay is no less stunning. But there’s no longer any beach in Chesapeake Beach. Where there once was sand, water now laps against a seven-foot-high wall of boulders protecting a strip of pricey homes marked with “No Trespassing” signs.

Surveying the armored shoreline, Jim Titus explains how the natural sinking of the shoreline and slow but steady sea-level rise, mostly due to climate change, have driven the bay’s water more than a foot higher over the past century. Reinforcing the eroding shore with a sea wall held the water back, but it also choked off the natural supply of sand that had replenished the beach. What sand remained gradually sank beneath the rising water.

Titus, the Environmental Protection Agency’s resident expert on sea-level rise, first happened upon Maryland’s disappearing beaches 15 years ago while looking for a place to windsurf. “Having the name ‘beach,'” he discovered, “is not a very good predictor of having a beach.” Since then, he’s kept an eye out for other beach towns that have lost their namesakes—Maryland’s Masons Beach and Tolchester Beach, North Carolina’s Pamlico Beach, and many more. (See a map of Maryland’s phantom beach towns here.) A 54-year old with a thick shock of hair and sturdy build, Titus could pass for a vacationer in his Panama hat, khakis, and polo shirt. But as he picks his way over the rocky shore, he’s anything but relaxed.

For nearly 30 years, Titus has been sounding the alarm about our rising oceans. Global warming is melting polar ice, adding to the volume of the oceans, as well as warming up seawater, causing it to expand. Most climatologists expect oceans around the world to rise between 1.5 and 5 feet this century. Some of the hardest-hit areas could be in our own backyard: Erosion and a shift in ocean currents could cause water to rise four feet or more along much of the East Coast. Titus, who contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Nobel Prize-winning reports, has done more than anyone to determine how those rising seas will affect us and what can be done about them.

Like his occasional collaborator, NASA climatologist James Hansen, Titus has decided to speak out. He’s crisscrossed the country to meet with state and local officials in coastal areas, urging them to start planning now for the slow-motion flood. Yet his warnings have mostly fallen on deaf ears. “We were often told by mid-level officials that their bosses did not want to plan for anything past the next election,” he says.

Neither, it seems, does the federal government. Over the past decade, Titus and a team of contractors combined reams of data to construct a remarkably detailed model of how sea-level rise will impact the eastern seaboard. It was the largest such study ever undertaken, and its findings were alarming: Over the next 90 years, 1,000 square miles of inhabited land on the East Coast could be flooded, and most of the wetlands between Massachusetts and Florida could be lost. The favorably peer-reviewed study was scheduled for publication in early 2008 as part of a Bush Administration report on sea-level rise, but it never saw the light of day—an omission criticized by the EPA’s own scientific advisory committee. Titus has urged the more science-friendly Obama administration to publish his work, but so far, it hasn’t—and won’t say why.

So Titus recently launched a personal website,, to publish his work. “I decided to do my best to prevent the taxpayer investment from being wasted,” he says. The site includes “When the North Pole Melts,” a prescient holiday ditty recorded by his musical alter ego, Captain Sea Level, in the late ’80s.

Titus gazes at Chesapeake Beach’s jagged shoreline, where two children scramble over the barrier of large grey boulders known as a revetment. “The children of 21st Century Chesapeake Beach, what do they do?” he asks. “They play on revetments.” A generation ago, these kids might have been skipping through the waves. A generation from now, many of the rocks they’re playing on will almost certainly be underwater.

Living near the ocean has always come with the risk of getting wet. Yet coastal dwellers whose homes got swamped by the occasional storm surge could rely on the water to eventually recede. That certainty is gone. Titus has calculated that a three-foot rise in sea level will push back East Coast shorelines an average of 300 to 600 feet in the next 90 years, threatening to submerge densely developed areas inhabited by some 3 million people, including large parts of New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. As Margaret Davidson, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Services Center in Charleston, South Carolina, puts it, “Today’s flood is tomorrow’s high tide.”

The rising waters can be kept at bay by constructing dikes and bulkheads, pumping sand to fill out receding beaches, and elevating existing buildings and roads on embankments or pylons. But such efforts may prove prohibitively expensive—Titus says that in the lower 48 states alone, they could cost as much as $1 trillion over the next century, and he estimates that in the process, 60 to 90 percent of the East Coast’s wetlands could be destroyed as bulkheads and other defensive measures restrict the movement of estuaries and marshes, drowning them when the ocean rises.

So are developers getting ready for the water? The National Association of Home Builders, the housing industry’s largest trade group, has no policy on adapting coastal projects to account for rising sea levels. “While sea level rise may be a real issue in some areas,” Susan Asmus, NAHB’s senior vice president of regulatory and environmental affairs, told me in an email, “it is but one of many considerations that are likely already taken into account during the planning process.” Mother Jones contacted the nation’s 10 largest homebuilders, including D.R. Horton, Pulte Homes, and Lennar; none would say how they are responding to sea level rise.

Nor is there any evidence that the issue has much traction with homeowners—and why should it? Property insurance is readily available in most coastal areas, if not through private insurers, then through state governments and FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. Though the NFIP requires policyholders to live above the 100-year high-water mark, it doesn’t account for how that line may creep inland in the future. Besides, most people would plan to resell their beach houses long before they expect them to be swallowed by encroaching waves.

What about government? Most coastal states have done little or nothing to regulate shoreline development, often for fear of litigation. In 1988, South Carolina’s Beachfront Management Act required new beach homes to be set back far enough from the water to be protected from at least 40 years of erosion. A property owner named David Lucas sued, and the US Supreme Court eventually ruled that the construction ban had deprived him of any “economically viable use” of his coastal properties, a “taking” that required the state to compensate him. “After Lucas, fewer people spoke seriously about stopping development,” Titus says.

A few state and local governments have taken more constructive action. Several states limit development near tidal waters (Maine and Rhode Island have done this specifically in response to sea-level rise). Chatham, Massachusetts, cites sea-level rise as one reason why it prohibits new homes, even elevated ones, below 100-year flood lines. (State courts have upheld those limits in Chatham and Maine because they still allow property to be used for recreation, farming, and other profitable activities.) In California, where erosion and winter storms routinely knock multimillion dollar homes off seaside cliffs, the state’s Coastal Commission has long required anyone who builds on coastal bluffs to submit a geotechnical report proving that their home won’t fall into the ocean. Three years ago, it began requiring the reports to account for sea-level rise. And in a groundbreaking 2008 executive order, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger directed state agencies to plan for sea-level rise in their construction projects.

A handful of developers have also started to seriously grapple with sea-level rise. A residential high-rise project on Treasure Island, a former naval base in the San Francisco Bay, is being built far from the shoreline and is reserving funds for a protective berm if the water rises even higher than the three feet that’s anticipated. And in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the insurance industry drew up standards to fortify houses for stronger hurricanes and higher waves; so far, though, only 200 houses nationwide have been built to comply with the standards.

Most coastal dwellers are focused on riding out the next surge, not the next century. You can’t really blame them—nobody really wants to hear that their days on the beach are numbered.

Case in point: Beyoncé’s dad. Matthew Knowles has been locked in a bitter struggle to save his beach house in Galveston, which now sits on top of the high-tide line thanks to Hurricane Ike. In most states, Knowles would be allowed to shore up his home, but not in Texas, which is known for one of the most progressive laws in the country on beach access. The state’s Open Beaches Act provides that beach as a public resource that must be protected from “erosion or reduction caused by development.”

Last year, after Knowles started reinforcing his property with tons of cement, the Texas General Land Office informed him that paving over the beach is illegal. Even so, he continued and then surrounded his home with sod, planters, and sandbags. In March, the agency notified Knowles that it was preparing to fine him up to $2,000 a day for violating the Texas Open Beaches Act by interfering with “the right of the public to use the beach.” Knowles did not respond to a request for comment.

Historically, the 51-year-old law has been used to prevent property owners from walling off the beach in front of their homes. But officials say the law clearly applies even when the beach comes to the houses, rather than vice versa. “Even if you make $80 million a year, we don’t care,” says Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office. “The beach is the public’s.” Incorporated into the state constitution last year and vigorously supported by the state’s conservative, gun-packing land commissioner, the Open Beaches Act is remarkably popular, in part because it can guarantee beach access for ATVs.

Titus views the Texas Open Beaches Act as one of the more promising tools for preparing for higher water. It has unintended environmental benefits, ensuring that beaches can migrate inland instead of being walled off [link to sidebar]—and at the same time, it sidesteps any debate over climate change. “Developers who deny that the sea will rise would view the policy as costing them nothing,” because it wouldn’t prevent them from building near the shore, he notes. Only the diehard beach dwellers would stand to get soaked.

With additional reporting by Kate Sheppard.

This piece was produced by Mother Jones as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.


Josh Harkinson is a staff reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here.



Posted on on March 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Arctic Shelf Leaking Potent Greenhouse Gas
By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 5, 2010 (IPS) – The frozen cap trapping billions of tonnes of methane under the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean is leaking and venting the powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, new research shows.

It is not known if this may be one of the first indicators of a feedback loop accelerating global warming.

Researchers estimate that eight million tonnes in annual methane emissions are being released from the shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is equivalent to all the methane released from the world’s oceans, covering 71 percent of the planet.

On a global scale of methane emissions from the land-based sources – animals, rice paddies, rotting vegetation – the newly measured emissions from the Siberian seabed are less than two percent.

“That’s still very significant,” Natalia Shakhova, a researcher at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, told IPS. “Before, it was assumed that this region had zero emissions.”

Methane concentrations measured over the oceans are currently about 0.6 to 0.7 parts per million (ppm), but they are now 1.85 in the Arctic Ocean generally, and between 2.6 and 8.2 ppm in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, an area roughly two million square kilometres in size, said Shakhova.

Shakhova, and her University of Alaska colleague Igor Semiletov, led eight international expeditions to one of the world’s most remote and desolate regions and published their results in the Mar. 5 edition of the journal Science.

Global methane levels have risen each year since 2007 after being constant for a decade, reports Ed Dlugokencky of the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, which is run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“We saw an increase in CH4 (methane) growth rate in 2007 in the Arctic… but it did not increase in 2008,” Dlugokencky, an expert on atmospheric methane told IPS via email.

He suspects Siberia’s subsea emissions are not new but have been underway for some time, and he also says Shakhova’s estimate of eight million tonnes needs to be verified by other means. However, he acknowledges this study represents the first direct measurements ever done in the region and stresses the urgency for more investigation.

In the last few years, researchers have been shocked to see Arctic Ocean “on the boil” in places as gases from deep below come bubbling to the surface. Large parts of the Arctic Ocean floor along coastal areas is actually permafrost that was flooded thousands of years ago after the big melt from the last ice age.

Permafrost is frozen soil and contains very large amounts of carbon and methane. The extremely cold waters of the Arctic and its ice cover kept the subsea permafrost cold enough so it has been melting extremely slowly. Until now.

Surface temperatures over much of the Arctic landscape and the Siberian landscape, particularly in summer, have jumped six to 10 degrees C above normal in recent years. That has lead to a massive increase in the flows of the many rivers that terminate in the Arctic Ocean.

Shakhova and colleagues believe this substantial increase of warmer water into the shallow East Siberian Shelf has accelerated the melting of the subsea permafrost, in effect fracturing the frozen cap and allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere. “Our concern is that the subsea permafrost has been showing signs of destabilisation already,” she said in a release.

“If it further destabilises, the methane emissions may not be teragrammes, it would be significantly larger,” she said. A teragramme is a trillion grammes, or one million tonnes.

Methane – a greenhouse gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide – is commonly called methane hydrates when it is frozen in permafrost or under the sea. The total volumes are unknown.

“The release to the atmosphere of only one percent of the methane assumed to be stored in shallow hydrate deposits might alter the current atmospheric burden of methane up to three to four times,” Shakhova said in a release.

“The climatic consequences of this are hard to predict,” she said.

Shakhova’s study is just one of at least a dozen others that clearly show the Arctic region is not only melting but also emitting more carbon and methane.

Permafrost spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. A new Canadian study documented that the southernmost permafrost limit has retreated 130 kilometres over the past 50 years ago in Quebec’s James Bay region.

Another Canadian study released last year showed that the region was getting darker and absorbing more heat in the summer because of a significant shift in plant growth from grasses and lichen to larger shrubs over the past 30 years due to warmer temperatures.

A permafrost “retreat” has been observed over much of the southern fringe of the permafrost zone and could result in emissions a billion tonnes of carbon per year – human emissions are seven to eight billion tonnes – by mid-century, a University of Florida study estimated.

Without major reductions in those human emissions, mainly burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, the top two to three metres of permafrost across the entire Arctic region could thaw by the end of this century, warned a major report, “Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications”, released by the World Wildlife Fund last September.

Should that happen, the volumes of carbon and methane released could be many times higher than what is presently in the atmosphere, driving up the global average temperatures by six, eight, or even 10 degrees C. The consequences are unimaginable.

“The changes we are (currently) seeing are not entirely unexpected, they are just happening far sooner,” said Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in the U.S. state of Colorado and co-author of Arctic Climate Feedbacks report.

If the methane hydrates start to melt or large areas of permafrost “that will be very bad news for humanity”, Serreze told IPS in September.

“The world is a very small place and we have not been good stewards. Climate change is symptom of this poor stewardship,” he said.

“The way we’re going right now, I’m not optimistic that we will avoid some kind of tipping point.”


Posted on on February 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Arctic Melt To Cost Up To $24 Trillion By 2050: Report

Date: 08-Feb-10
Author: Timothy Gardner, Reuthers

WASHINGTON – Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves, according to a report released on Friday.

“Everybody around the world is going to bear these costs,” said Eban Goodstein, a resource economist at Bard College in New York state who co-authored the report, called “Arctic Treasure, Global Assets Melting Away.”

He said the report, reviewed by more than a dozen scientists and economists and funded by the Pew Environment Group, an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, provides a first attempt to monetize the cost of the loss of one of the world’s great weather makers.

“The Arctic is the planet’s air conditioner and it’s starting to break down,” he said.

The loss of Arctic Sea ice and snow cover is already costing the world about $61 billion to $371 billion annually from costs associated with heat waves, flooding and other factors, the report said.

The losses could grow as a warmer Arctic unlocks vast stores of methane in the permafrost. The gas has about 21 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.

Melting of Arctic sea ice is already triggering a feedback of more warming as dark water revealed by the receding ice absorbs more of the sun’s energy, he said. That could lead to more melting of glaciers on land and raise global sea levels.

While much of Europe and the United States has suffered heavy snowstorms and unusually low temperatures this winter, evidence has built that the Arctic is at risk from warming.

Greenhouse gases generated by tailpipes and smokestacks have pushed Arctic temperatures in the last decade to the highest levels in at least 2,000 years, reversing a natural cooling trend, an international team of researchers reported in the journal Science in September.

Arctic emissions of methane have jumped 30 percent in recent years, scientists said last month.

Thin ice over the Arctic Sea this winter could mean a powerful ice-melt next summer, a top U.S. climate scientist said this week.

And early findings from a major research project in Canada involving more than 370 scientists from 27 countries showed on Friday that climate change is transforming the Arctic environment faster than expected and accelerating the disappearance of sea ice.

Goodstein’s study did not look at worst-case scenarios Arctic melting could have, such as warmer temperatures that trigger massive releases of crystallized methane formations in Arctic soils and ocean beds known as methane hydrates. It also did not look at sea ice erosion troubling people in the Arctic.


Posted on on January 31st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The International Conference “Deltas in Times of Climate Change.”

from: Ottelien van Steenis  – Call for abstracts for The International Conference ‘Deltas in Times of Climate Change’          September 29 – October 1, 2010, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

The two official Dutch research programmes on climate change and spatial planning (Climate changes Spatial Planning and Knowledge for Climate), the City of Rotterdam and the C40 (a group of the world’s largest cities committed to tackling climate change) invite scientists, politicians, policy-makers and practitioners to share their knowledge and experience in a major international conference on climate adaptation.

The conference pursues three main goals:
1. exchanging up-to-date top science on climate change and delta planning
2. strengthening international cooperation between deltas and delta cities
3. exploring and strengthening the links between science, policy and practitioners

Authors who wish to present a paper or poster related to the scientific programme are invited to submit an abstract.

The abstracts have to be submitted before 15 February 2010, and will be expected to fit within one of the themes:
1.     Regional climate, sea level rise, storm surges, river run-off and coastal flooding
2.     Fresh water availability under sea level rise and climate change
3.     Climate change and estuarine ecosystems
4.     Climate change and climate proofing in urban areas
5.     Competing claims and land use in deltas under climate change
6.     Governance and economics of climate adaptation
7.     Decision support instruments for climate adaptation policy
8.     Climate and health in delta areas
9.     Managing extreme weather risks

Dates to be remembered:
February 15     deadline for submission of abstract
February    registration open (fee: approximately € 350)
April   notification of abstract/poster selection
August 1    submission of draft full paper

During the conference, the Delta Alliance, Connecting Delta Cities and the C40 will be working to develop worldwide cooperation between deltas and delta cities. The Delta Alliance is an international alliance promoting effective cooperation among deltas in their efforts to manage existing and new challenges. The Connecting Delta Cities is an international network that unites delta cities that strive to make their cities climate proof.

More information is available at the  conference website and the brochure of the conference.

The Steering Committee – Pier Vellinga and Pavel Kabat
Programme Office Climate changes Spatial Planning / Programme Office Knowledge for Climate
p/a Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA  Wageningen, the Netherlands
T +31 30 48 6540
M +31 2120 2447
E  o.van.steenis at programmabureauklimaat….


Posted on on November 28th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Thinking of Climate Change, and Copenhagen, I found this week-end Financial Times (November 28-29, 2009) quite amazing:

page 3 of Life & Arts section (- why that section? -) had the “Waving and Drowning” article about the very active President of the Maldives, who won elections last year replacing the longest ruling dictator in Asia, and since shot up to become the leader of the Small Islands Developing States in matters of climate change.

Rahul Jacob, the interviewer for the FT, subtitled the article – “Afternoon tea with the FT: Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, is determined to draw the world’s attention to the threat his country faces from rising sea levels, even if it means holding cabinet meetings under water.” I knew what he was talking because just last night, on the NOW program on CNN TV, David Broncacio showed a meeting of this underwater cabinet as they were preparing their document for the Copenhagen Conference. The FT describes the Presidential menu in the Male office included Fish rolls, Fishcakes, Tuna sandwiches, doughnuts and Lipton tea. The whole event was clearly courtesy of the melting ice at the two global poles.

The FT page had a small area – bottom left – on four ENGINEERED SOLUTIONS – one worse then the other. The fourth was: RE-ICING THE ARCTIC as a plan to save the world presented by Hazel Sheffield. The suggestion for the re-icing process is to spray salty water over the shores of Greenland.

But that was not all! page 5 of the same section was titled: “WHITE CHRISTMAS” and the point was that that YOU DRINK WHITE WINE IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A WHITE CHRISTMAS. Now I am convinced that we near deep trouble – under water covers, no ice and no red wine!

Will Copenhagen scratch at the problem?


Posted on on October 30th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


Climate Change Adaptation: It’s about Water! 
— Global Water Partnership’s contribution to the climate change dialogue

Water is central to the world’s development challenges. Whether it is food security, poverty reduction, economic growth, human health—water is the nexus. Climate change is the spoiler. No matter how successful mitigation efforts might be, people will experience the impacts of climate change through water.

The Global Water Partnership is participating in ‘Water Day’ at the climate change negotiations in Barcelona. GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki will be the lead speaker on water and transboundary issues on Tuesday, November 3. The venue is the Fira Congress Hotel, opposite the conference centre. The opening session starts at 9 am and lunch will be provided.

Recently, the GWP’s Technical Committee released its 14th Background Paper: “Water Management, Water Security and Climate Change Adaptation.” It argues that investments in water are investments in adaptation. The paper can be downloaded on or ordered free at

Climate Change: How can we Adapt? – a one-pager about GWP’s key messages on this subject – is available here:

GWP has been accepted as an Inter-Governmental Organisation with Observer Status at  COP 15 in Copenhagen in December and has submitted an article to the delegate publication. But more information on that will follow later. 

More resources about climate change and water and more information on GWP’s involvement in the global dialogue on climate change is available on this page:


——————————————————–Steven DowneyHead of CommunicationsGlobal Water Partnership (GWP)Drottninggatan 33SE-111 51 Stockholm, SWEDENPhone:   +46 8 522 126 52Fax:      + 46 8 522 126 31E-mail: steven.downey@gwpforum.orgWebsite:
A water secure world  the mission of the Global Water Partnership is to support the sustainable development and management of water resources at all levels.


Posted on on January 9th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

ENVIRONMENT: Climate Change Forcing Penguins North?
By Adrianne Appel*

Magellan penguins in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, in the South Atlantic.

Credit:Photo Stock

BOSTON, Dec 31 (Tierramérica) – Warm ocean currents may have confused some 2,500 penguins from Argentina’s Patagonia region that washed up — dead and alive — on Brazil’s northern coast.

About half the penguins that were found on Brazilian beaches in October were dead, and the others were starving and in very bad shape, said Valeria Ruoppolo, an emergency veterinarian with the International Federation for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in Sao Paulo, who coordinated the rescue of many of the penguins.

“Of the live ones, about 50 percent survived,” Ruoppolo told Tierramérica.

Magellan penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) live in relatively warmer climates than other penguin species, and breed and nest in burrows in the southern hemisphere spring and summer, from October to February, in southern Chile and Argentina, in a temperate and dry climate.

They travel out to sea during the winter, from March to September, to follow anchovies, their favourite food, in order to fatten up.

Juveniles also migrate north. This year, about 2,500 disoriented juvenile penguins traveled more than 2,500 kilometres beyond the normal point, coming ashore in Salvador, in Bahia state, 1,400 kilometres north of Sao Paulo, to the amazement of beachgoers. The penguins were rescued by IFAW and the Centre for Marine Animal Recovery, with help from other organisations and Brazilian environmental authorities.

After months of care and feeding, the 372 surviving penguins were banded and loaded onto a C-130 Hercules military plane and transported to Cassino Beach, in Pelotas, in southern Brazil.

After an overnight rest, they were released into the South Atlantic ocean, along with a few other rescued adult penguins, with the hope that they would guide the younger ones safely home to Patagonia.

About 200 people cheered them on as they waded into the surf. It was the largest penguin rescue on record, a success for animal welfare experts — but a terrible omen for the penguin population.

“We always have a few strandings here and there. In 1994 and 2000 we had big strandings. But not like this year. More than 2,000 penguins is unheard of,” Ruoppolo said.

Magellans are one of 17 species of penguins, which all live in the southern hemisphere, including the Antarctic. Magellans are among the largest, weighing just over four kilograms, with striking colouring: a white chest and a white band around a black back and black head.

The Magellan penguin population is fragile, as their numbers have plummeted by about 20 percent, with about one million breeding pairs today, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The penguins are at risk due to the effects of climate change, tourism, oil leaks from tankers and shrimp nets.

“We are going to try and understand what happened,” using the identification bands as a tool, Ruoppolo said.

Once the penguins reach their home colonies, volunteers and researchers there will notify Ruoppolo. She will aggregate data about the climate, ocean currents and food sources, to learn about the strandings.

“One thing that was different is that the surface of the Atlantic ocean was one degree Celsius warmer. The penguins follow the fish, especially their favourite, the anchovies. Probably what happened this year is the anchovies went deeper into the ocean for the cold water. And the penguins couldn’t reach their food and they stranded because they were starving,” she said.

However, Ruoppolo warned, “We don’t know yet if we can link the strandings to climate change. Soon we will be able to say.”

According to Sybille Klenzendorf, a scientist with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), “It’s probably not going to be unusual for some of these things to happen,” given the rise in temperature of the ocean.

The ocean environment of the southern tip of Patagonia especially is undergoing alterations, Klenzendorf said. Due to glaciers melting, the salinity of the water there is changing.

“The salt content is becoming less. It’s not just the temperature that is changing,” she told Tierramérica.

WWF scientists recently warned that allowing the earth’s surface temperatures to rise an average 2 degrees Celsius further — which is expected within 50 years even with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — will severely endanger Emperor (Aptenodytes forsteri) and Adelie (Pygoscelis adeliae) penguins and other Antarctic wildlife.

The current targets for reducing greenhouse emissions “aim at stabilising the climate at 2 degrees higher than it is today. But what we’re saying is we need to be more conservative than 2 degrees,” Klenzendorf said.

Furthermore, stress from the ocean changes would exacerbate an already dwindling source of fish for the penguins, due to aggressive commercial fishing in the region, she said. During nesting season, male penguins are swimming further each day to feed, compared to their normal forays, according to P. Dee Boersma, a penguin expert at the University of Washington.

Boersma, who has a research station in Punta Tombo, home to the largest colony of Magellan penguins, on the coast of the southern Argentine province of Chubut, says the changing climate has included more rain in recent years.

Coastal Patagonia is normally very dry, and the increasing rains mean that wet penguin chicks die of exposure, Boersma says in research published recently in the journal BioScience.

“Penguins are sentinels of the marine environment, and by observing and studying them, researchers can learn about the rate and nature of changes occurring in the southern oceans,” she says.

Punta Tombo is a tiny peninsula near the city of Rawson. Its widest point is less than one kilometre, and it is teaming and crowded with penguins — and tourists — during breeding season. About 105,000 people visited the penguin colony in 2007. Local efforts are underway to protect the penguins from further encroachment.

In 1982, the Punta Tombo colony was saved from Japanese commercial interests, which wanted to slaughter the birds and use their pelts to make golf gloves. The area was turned into a penguin preserve and research centre, led by Boersma.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.)


Posted on on November 13th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Carbon News and Info, Tuesday, 11 November 2008.
The new President of the Maldives says he will begin buying land in other nations as “an insurance policy” in case his nation needs to be evacuated due to rising sea levels from climate change.

The Maldives is a group of 1200 tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, 80 per cent of which are less than one metre above sea level. Much of the most inhabited parts of the country are just 1.5 metres above the water.

The first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, and his Vice-President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, wasted little time in declaring their plans to British newspapers saying a national fund would be established with royalties from the country’s tourist industry to fund land purchases.

Nasheed told the Guardian that Sri Lanka and India were obvious targets given their proximity, and the cultural similarities of their people to the 300,000 Maldivians. He also named Australia as a possible destination.

Manik said the “worst-case scenario due to sea level rise would be that some or even all of our islands would become uninhabitable and we would have to look for alternative places for Maldivians to live” in an interview with the Financial Times.

“We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere. It’s an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome,” Nasheed told the Guardian, comparing the concept to Israelis buying land in Palestine.

There is much contention among scientists over how much sea levels can be expected to rise this century. The IPCC landmark 2007 report published conservative estimates of a rise of 25 to 58cm by 2100, criticised as too low by some researchers.

In 2005, authorities announced plans to move the 1000-strong population of the Carteret Atolls, in Papua New Guinea, to Bougainville in what were said to be the first climate change evacuations. Their current homes are predicted to become completely submerged by 2015.


Posted on on November 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Science Proves Warming of Antarctica.

By Adrianne Appel*

BOSTON, Nov 12 (Tierramérica) – The Antarctic holds the world’s largest amount of fresh water in its icy grip, and it is most certainly warming as a result of greenhouse gases, say new scientific studies.

“We’re able for the first time to directly attribute warming in both the Arctic and the Antarctic to human influences,” said Nathan Gillett of the University of East Anglia, in Britain, who led the study.

Evidence of global warming, caused by the release of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air, has been found on almost every continent on Earth. The exception was the Antarctic, which holds 90 percent of the world’s ice and 70 percent of the world’s fresh water.

Antarctica, about 1.4 times as large as the United States, has just 20 weather stations from which to gather data, and for this and other reasons, less has been known about the icy continent.

Scientists can see that the warmer parts of Antarctica, including the Western Antarctic and Antarctic Peninsula, which juts north toward South America and is home to millions of seals and penguins and other birds, are seeing temperature increases.

But the frigid East Antarctic, with ice 2,226 metres thick, has seen no significant change in air temperature during the past 50 years — in fact it has shown evidence of cooling — and this has made overall conclusions about the greenhouse gas effect inconclusive.

The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that Antarctica was the only continent where human-caused temperature changes had not been detected, possibly due to insufficient data and observation.

Gillett’s work “demonstrates convincingly what previous studies have suggested: that humans have indeed contributed to warming in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions,” said Andrew Monaghan, of the U.S. National Centre for Atmospheric Research, a close colleague of the researchers.

The team used all data available from 1900 to 2000 from the 20 research stations, and complex computer predictions to reach its conclusions.

The scientists created four computer models, including one that included the impact of greenhouse gases and one that did not. The model with the greenhouse gases produced predictions that matched actual temperature observations up to this point in time, according to their report, “Attribution of polar warming to human influence”, in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.

Taking averages across all of Antarctica produced findings of “overall warming” of a few tenths of a percent, Gillett said.

But the team found temperature increases on the Antarctic Peninsula of up to 3 degrees Celsius since the 1950s, among the largest increases on Earth, Monaghan said. Still, the average monthly temperature is 1 degree to minus -15 degrees C.

Several large glaciers in the West Antarctic are melting and contributing to a rise in global sea levels, due to warmer ocean currents that are hitting the ice sheets. The average monthly temperature there is -12 C to -35 C.

“This melting of ice shelves has implications for sea level rise,” Gillett said. In 2002, a huge ice shelf on the Peninsula, called the Larsen B, broke apart and melted. It was 3,250 square kilometres in size, he pointed out.

In addition, the team noticed data pointing to a warming along the coasts of East Antarctica, and they expect this warming to accelerate.

Gillett hypothesised that the South Pole cooling may be due to a severe loss of ozone in the Pole’s atmosphere, due to pollution.

He believes that because of his research, scientists can draw a more accurate picture of what the future may look like for Antarctica. Calculations about the melting of ice can now include the impact of global warming.

“We won’t see anything catastrophic in the next century if things continue at the current rate. But the melt could accelerate,” Monaghan said.

The IPCC was unable to include complete and accurate predictions of global sea rise because it did not have adequate Antarctic data. It predicted an increase of between 18 and 59 cm, Gillett said.

In January, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri made a personal plea to scientists to step up their research on Antarctica and Greenland.

“My hope is the next [IPCC] report, if there is one, will be able to provide much better information on the possibility of these two large bodies of ice melting, in what seems like a frightening situation,” Pachauri said.

Research about warming in the Antarctic Peninsula has been building.

Earlier this year, Eric Rignot, of the University of California, reviewed satellite images from 1996 to 2000 and found that ice is definitely melting on the Antarctic Peninsula and in the West Antarctic.

West Antarctica lost about 132 billion metric tons of ice in 2006, compared with about 83 billion metric tons in 1996, Rignot said. The Antarctic Peninsula lost 60 billion metric tons in 2006.

The ice melt would have been enough to raise the world’s sea level by 0.5 mm, if not for a simultaneous ice accumulation in frigid East Antarctica, Rignot said.

Research that shows humans are causing global warming may help bolster efforts to slow the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily by the United States and China, said Meg Boyle, a climate change expert with the environmental watchdog group Greenpeace.

“In the United States, we have a small percentage of the world’s population but we produce 25 percent of the world’s global warming pollution. It is time for us to step up,” she said. She expressed hope that United States President-elect Barack Obama will be more willing to participate in global climate agreements.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.)


Posted on on September 30th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Scotland to build world’s first ‘wind farms under the sea.’…

By Jenny Haworth, Environment Correspondent, The New Scotsman, September 29, 2oo8.

SCOTLAND has taken a major step towards leading the way in marine renewable energy with the announcement that the world’s first tidal farms could be built within three years.

Two tidal projects, each with up to 20 turbines, could be installed on the seabed in the Pentland Firth and the Sound of Islay. A third is planned off the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland. The aim is that all the underwater turbines would be constructed in Scotland, kickstarting the renewables industry in this country.

ScottishPower Renewables will apply for planning permission for the three tidal projects next summer. If permission is granted, they would be the first commercial underwater tidal turbine farms built anywhere in the world.

The structures stand 30 metres tall and can work as deep as 100 metres. The 20-metre blades would turn at least 10 metres below the surface to avoid shipping, developers said, and the zones would be off-limits to trawlers for safety reasons.

ScottishPower said tests in Norway proved the blades moved slowly enough for marine life to avoid them.

Scotland, which aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, has the best tidal resources in Europe and it has been calculated that at least a third of Scotland’s energy demand could be met by tidal renewables.

The tidal farm sites would have a combined output of 60 megawatts, enough to power 40,000 homes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. If planning approval is granted, ScottishPower Renewables says the projects could be operational by 2011.

The company is also hoping to build a factory in the north-east of Scotland where all the turbines will be constructed, and the projects would be expected to bring hundreds of jobs.

Keith Anderson, the director of ScottishPower Renewables, said this was Scotland’s chance to become the global leader in a new renewable energy industry.

He said Scotland has the best tidal resources in Europe, with the Pentland Firth alone containing enough energy to meet a third of Scotland’s power requirements. “The rapid technological advance of tidal power has been startling and is now allowing us to progress plans for substantial projects delivering major environmental and economic benefits,” he said.

“Tidal power is completely renewable, being driven by the gravity of the sun and moon, with no carbon dioxide emissions, plus the added benefit of being entirely predictable.”

First Minister Alex Salmond, who will visit Caithness, near the potential site of the tidal farms, described the announcement as “significant”. He said: “We have an estimated 25 per cent of Europe’s tidal resource and 10 per cent of its wave potential. That is why this announcement is so significant.”

Before it can be deployed, a £6 million prototype will have to be tested for about a year in Scottish waters, probably off Orkney.

Engineers rising to the challenge of harnessing tidal power:

THE tidal farms will use a machine known as the Lànstrøm device, which was invented in Norway and has already gone through four years of successful testing.

Even though the devices seem likely to be the first to be used in a large-scale commercial tidal farm, many other machines are in development in what is set to become a very competitive market.

Marine Current Turbines, based in Bristol, installed a 300kw tidal turbine called Seaflow off Lynmouth, Devon, in 2003.

It’s a two-bladed rotor connected to an electrical generator mounted on a single steel tower drilled into the seabed.

Irish firm OpenHydro Group has developed the Open-Centre Turbine, which has a single rotor. A single prototype turbine was installed at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney in 2006. In May 2008 it became the first tidal device to export power on to the UK grid.

The Engineering Business, based in Newcastle, is developing the Stingray tidal generator, which uses the flow of the tide over a hydroplane, similar to an aeroplane wing, to generate electricity. In 2002 the 180-tonne, 150kw machine was tested in the Yell Sound, Shetland.

SMD Hydrovision, based in Tyne and Wear, has developed the TidEL concept, which consists of a pair of contra-rotating 500kw turbines, mounted together on a single crossbeam.

The unit is buoyant and tethered to the seabed, allowing it freedom of movement. The turbines can automatically align themselves downstream of the tidal flow as it changes during the day.



40 – Turbines that could be built in Scottish waters by 2011.

40,000 – Homes that could be powered by the three turbine farms.

80 – The percentage of the UK’s potential tidal power in Scottish waters.


Posted on on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

From:  jaiganesh09 at
Subject: 2nd Regional Training Course on Climate Risk Management: Science, Institutions, and Society
Date: September 9, 2008

2nd Regional Training Course on Climate Risk Management: Science, Institutions, and Society.

Greetings from ADPC!

The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) will offer the Second Regional Training Course on Climate Risk Management: Science, Institutions, and Society from 17 to 28 November 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. The course aims to build the capacity of professionals to manage risks associated with climate variability, change, and extremes. It builds upon ADPC’s two decades of experience in disaster management, facilitating regional cooperation and building capacities of disaster management institutions, disaster management practitioners, and communities, and a decade of experience in institutionalizing climate information applications for disaster mitigation. It incorporates case studies and sectoral examples from climate risk management programs and projects all over Asia.

Upon completing the course, participants will be able to:

1) design early warning systems for climate-related risks;

2) design climate risk management, climate forecast applications, and climate change adaptation projects, and

3) develop tools to integrate climate risk management practices into development programs and policies.

The first CRM course offering was completed in May 2008 with 27 participants from 14 countries. For more details, please check out the course brochure at…. Please contact me ( jaiganeshm at or my colleague Ms.Kareff Rafisura ( kareff at if you have any questions.

Jaiganesh Murugesan
Disaster Reduction Specialist
Climate Risk Management / Early Warning Systems
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC)
979/66-70, 24th Floor
SM Tower, Paholyothin Road , Samsen Nai, Phayathai,
Bangkok, 10400
Tel : (66-2) 298 0682-92 (Ext-205 )
Fax : (66-2) 298 0012-13

Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning Center
P.O. Box 4, Klong Luang,
Pathumthani, 12120
Tel : 02-5165900-03
Fax : 02-5245350,60


Posted on on August 16th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

WIP on our website means WORK (WRITING) IN PROGRESS – or simply unfinished article. When finished the WIP will be taken off but the article will stay in place without the UPDATED designation. Nevertheless, theses introductory lines will remain as a reminder that the article had a long birth.


The meeting, August 15, 2008 was chaired by the Ambassador For Palau. Present were also the Ambassadors from Nauru and from Fiji. Many other Missions were represented – some of these missions have representatives on the working committee. Involved are also some of the active NGOs.

At present the sponsors of a resolution to be brought before the UN General Assembly are 11 from among the 14 Pacific Small Island Developing States – Fiji, Marshall Islands, The Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu; the Maldives and Seychelles from non-Pacific SIDS; Canada, the Philippines from among larger States. But these 15 States will pick up many more co-sponsors. Mentioned were Turkey, the EU, Austria and Iceland that have expressed their eagerness to join. There is no opposition we were told – but only some hesitation because it is seen as a new approach to the problem of the humanitarian impact of climate change that goes on already – this while in major UN institutions the debate has not led yet to action. The inhabitants of the small islands of the Pacific are the first to lose their habitat – and what we see is the eradication of UN Member States by this predictable catastrophe.

On our website we announced this encounter between the proponents of the resolution and the NGOs:

Posted on on August 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz ( also pointed out the topically relevant event at the Lincoln Center’s “Mostly Mozart Festival” when Lemi Ponifasio’s REQUIEM had its two evenings before a New York audience.The history of this special effort by the Pacific SIDS started on February 15, 2008, in a speech by Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau, before the UN General Calls for Security Council Action to Protect Island Nations From Sea-Level Rise.

NEW YORK, NY, February 15, 2008 — Addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations at the High Level Debate on Climate Change, H.E. Stuart Beck, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau, citing the “life or death” nature of sea-level rise for the world’s island nations, urged the Security Council to utilize its powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to address this threat to member states by imposing mandatory greenhouse gas emission standards on all member states, and utilizing the power to sanction, if necessary, to encourage compliance with such standards.

He said:
“The waters continue to rise in Palau, and everywhere else…Though this litany of disasters has become well known in these halls, no action with remedial consequences has been taken…We take this opportunity to respectfully call upon the Security Council to react to the threat which we describe. Would any nation facing an invading army not do the same?”

States reacted swiftly to the statement. This week, Ambassadors are meeting in New York to draft a General Assembly Resolution requesting Security Council intervention to prevent an aggravation of the climate change situation caused by greenhouse gas emissions by states. Pacific Island states will be in the forefront of the effort, since they are both the most vulnerable states, and amongst the least responsible for the problem.

Last year, the Security Council debated the security implications of climate change. Its then President, Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett of the United Kingdom, affirmed that climate change is a threat to “our collective security in a fragile and increasingly interdependent world”. Chapter VII of the UN Charter conveys to the Security Council the necessary tools to address the problem, as it has done so in recent years in connection with terrorism and HIV/AIDS. No other international body has the power to mandate change in an effort to save the threatened island cultures of the world.

The full text of Ambassador Beck’s remarks at the UN Climate Change debate is as follows:

“Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, friends:

The waters continue to rise in Palau, and everywhere else. Salinization of fresh water and formerly productive lands continues apace. The reefs, the foundation of our food chain, experience periodic bleaching and death. Throughout the Pacific, sea level rise has not only generated plans for the relocation of populations, but such relocations are actually in progress. Though this litany of disasters has become well known in these halls, no action with remedial consequences has been taken. Larger countries can build dikes, and move to higher ground. This is not feasible for the small island states who must simply stand by and watch their cultures vanish.

Is the United Nations simply powerless to act in the face of this threat to the very existence of many of its member states? We suggest that it is not.

Last April, under the Presidency of the United Kingdom, the Security Council took up the issue of climate change. At that time, while there were some expressions of discomfort with the venue of the debate, a discomfort which we decidedly did not share, there was general agreement with the notion expressed by the President of the Security Council, UK Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett that climate change is a threat to “our collective security in a fragile and increasingly interdependent world”.

Islands are not the only countries whose existence is threatened. Ambassador Kaire Mbuende of Namibia characterized climate change as a ” a matter of life or death” for his country, observing that ” the developing countries in particular, have been subjected to what could be described as low-intensity biological or chemical warfare. Greenhouse gases are slowly destroying plants, animals and human beings.”

Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum at last years Security Council debate Ambassador Robert Aisi, of Papua New Guinea observed that climate change is no less a threat to small island states than the dangers of guns and bombs to larger countries. Pacific Island countries are likely to face massive dislocations of people, similar to flows sparked by conflict, and such circumstances will generate as much resentment, hatred and alienation as any refugee crisis.

Ambassador Aisi observed then, and we reiterate now, that it is the Security Council which is charged with protecting human rights and the integrity and security of States. The Security Council is empowered to make decisions on behalf of all States to take action on threats to international peace and security. While we applaud the efforts of the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary General to shine a light on this awful problem, we take this opportunity to respectfully call upon the Security Council to react to the threat which we describe. Would any nation facing an invading army not do the same?

Under Article 39 of the Charter, the Security Council “shall determine the existence of any threat to peace…and shall make recommendations…to maintain or restore international peace or security”. We call upon the Security Council to do this in the context of climate change.

Under Articles 40 and 41 of the Charter, it is the obligation of the Security Council to “prevent an aggravation of the situation” and to devise appropriate measures to be carried out by all States to do this. While we Small Island states do not have all the answers, we are not unmindful of the scientific certainty that excessive greenhouse gas emissions by states are the cause of this threat to international security and the existence of our countries. We therefore suggest that the Security Council should consider the imposition of mandatory emission caps on all states and use its power to sanction in order to encourage compliance.

We further propose that under Article 11 of the Charter, the General Assembly is empowered to call to the attention of the Security Council “situations which are likely to endanger international peace and security” and, at the appropriate time, we will call upon this body to do so. In the event that the General Assembly chooses not to avail itself of this right, then we will call upon the countries whose very existence is threatened to utilize Article 34 of the Charter, which empowers each Member State to bring to the attention of the Security Council any issue which “might lead to international friction”.
I think we can all agree that international friction is a mild term to describe the terrible plight in which the island nations now find themselves.

Our Charter provides a way forward. Our Security Council has the wisdom and the tools to address this situation. And while we debate, the waters are rising.

Thank you.”


Posted on on July 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Opinion: Polar Race.
Monday 28 July 2008
by: Guy Taillefer, Le Devoir…

Guy Taillefer argues in Le Devoir that the US Geological Survey’s most recent evaluation of the polar depths – that they contain 412 billion barrels of oil, or a third of the planet’s proven reserves – will put additional strain on the already-fragile international understandings with respect to polar sovereignty and development.

The North Pole. Guy Taillefer writes, “Northern governments and oil companies have never salivated to quite the same extent over the Arctic, which becomes all the more hospitable to them as the ice melts … If one were a cynic, one would say that in this instance it is altogether to Ottawa’s advantage to drag its feet in the fight against greenhouse gases …”
Four hundred and twelve billion barrels of oil. A third of the planet’s proven reserves. That’s what the depths of the Arctic contain, according to the US Geological Survey’s most recent evaluation. One may count on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take advantage of the opportunity to reassert Canada’s “unquestionable” sovereignty over the North – and to reduce the debate over the development of the circumpolar world to a war of flags and icebreakers.
Last Wednesday, after four years of research, the US Geological Survey, the American scientific agency specialized in hydrocarbons, delivered the first exhaustive estimate of potential oil and gas situated north of the polar circle: 90 billion barrels of crude, three times as much natural gas, 20 percent of the probable global reserves of liquefied natural gas…. The news is guaranteed to have a strong impact, given the present context of tightening energy supplies, surging prices at the pump, and the extraordinary growth of demand in developing countries. Northern governments and oil companies have never salivated to quite the same extent over the Arctic, which becomes all the more hospitable to them as the ice melts…. If one were a cynic, one would say that in this instance it is altogether to Ottawa’s advantage to drag its feet in the fight against greenhouse gases.
Moreover, quite by chance, the US Geological Survey estimates were made public one year, almost to the day, after two little Russian sailors dove to a depth of 4,000 meters in the beginning of August 2007 to plant a flag on the North Pole. This striking gesture – without any legal effect, however – relaunched the debate on the subject of sovereignty over the Arctic in great style.

Cut to the quick, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay decreed that the region Russia coveted was “unquestionably” Canadian.
Unquestionably? That remains to be seen. Experts from the UN, guarantors of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, will say between now and 2013 which between Ottawa and Moscow has the better-founded pretensions from a scientific perspective. At the moment, however, it seems that Russia is better placed to prove geologically that the Lomonossov Dorsal, a chain of undersea mountains that cross the Arctic, is the prolongation of the Russian continental plateau, and not of the Canadian plateau.
Politicians, unfortunately, don’t bother much with such scientific details in their communications with the electorate, preferring to play a nationalistic rhetoric that is easily digested. So the bad scenario would be that, in this race for the summit of the world, the sharing of the Arctic will be less the result of a UN judgment and multinational dialogue than of power struggles between the five countries involved – Canada, Russia, the United States, Denmark, and Norway. That scenario is altogether plausible.
“The Canadian Arctic is at the heart of our national identity,” Stephen Harper declared last year. He has announced, among other military measures in the last year, an investment of $7 billion over 25 years for buying naval patrol boats. A depressing prospect: that Canada seeks to take on its northern identity is laudable, that it proposes to get there by emphasizing military defense to the detriment of social, ecological and diplomatic initiatives, is much less so. It is difficult in any case to imagine that pugnacious Prime Minister-President Vladimir Putin will allow himself to be intimidated.
Nonetheless, the Harper way remains very questionable, in that it is a thousand leagues from the Canadian Way – based on dialogue and cooperation. Still, the most recent decades have demonstrated that it’s by balancing its own interests with those of its circumpolar neighbors – and not by sticking out its chest – that Canada has succeeded in preserving its Arctic sovereignty.
Moreover, in order to calm tensions, the five held a big meeting last spring, which ended in the participants’ commitment to settle any litigious question “in an orderly way,” to “strengthen their cooperation based on mutual trust and transparency” and to “assure the protection and preservation of the fragile marine environment of the Arctic Ocean.” Empty phrases? The future will show how these beautiful promises that we’d like to see kept will withstand the lust for 412 billion barrels of oil.

We posted several days ago: “Reuters Reports That China Is Planting its Flag in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions. Actually they started already at least in 2003, so this is not just a reaction to the Russian Flag-posting of August 2007.”

Posted on on July 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz ( PJ at

So, face up to it – China is also in this game. And why should not Nauru or Grenada also be entiled to some of the profits? if they cannot afford the expense of drilling – bet you Brazil or Japan, even Korea and India, and who knows who else – can!

OK – Now Let Us Sit Down And Talk. For Once We Are Behind China and Expect The Dragon To Stand Its Ground.

The North Pole. Guy Taillefer writes, “Northern governments and oil companies have never salivated to quite the same extent over the Arctic, which becomes all the more hospitable to them as the ice melts … If one were a cynic, one would say that in this instance it is altogether to Ottawa’s advantage to drag its feet in the fight against greenhouse gases …” (Photo: NASA GSFC Direct Readout Laboratory / Allen Lunsford).


Posted on on July 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 We feel the more countries get involved, the less possibility for a single country grab of the resources will be possible. According to the UN approved “The Law Of The Sea” – those resources belong to all humanity and are extraterritorial to country sovereignty. Multiplicity of contenders may thus pose the needed opposition to one country grab onto these resources, and avoidance of rules of the jungle.

BEIJING, Reuters, July 28, 2008 – China plans to install its first long-term deep-sea subsurface mooring system in the Arctic Ocean, to monitor long-term marine changes, the Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

The system will collect data on the temperature, salinity and speed of currents at various depths around 75 degrees north in the Chukchi Sea, where Atlantic and Pacific currents converge above the Bering Strait. That will allow studies of the impact on China’s climate of changes in the Arctic, Xinhua said.
A trap will catch marine life for scientific research, it said, citing Chen Hong Xia, a member of the 122-member expedition team aboard the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, an ice-breaker which set off from Shanghai this month.

The mooring system will be retrieved in 2009.

China is increasing scientific research at both poles at a time when global warming and high resources prices are raising international interest in Arctic and Antarctic territories.

It deployed a 40-day mooring system in the Bering Sea in 2003, and is building a new station at Dome A, the highest point of Antarctica, to study ice cores.

A Russian submersible planted a flag on the seabed of the North Pole last August, setting off a race among northern nations to increase their presence in the polar regions.


Posted on on July 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Invasion of the jellyfish: Mediterranean on alert as hundreds suffer from stings.
By Matthew Kay in Paris, Elizabeth Nash in Madrid and Peter Popham in Rome
The Independent front-page, Thursday, 24 July 2008.

{ but this week amNY had similar report regarding swimmers that participated in a competition in the waters of the Hudson River. One athlete even died. }

Just as you thought it was safe to head for the Med, jellyfish have invaded beaches from Sardinia to Spain.

As thousands of tourists head to the Mediterranean, the spectre of jellyfish ruining holidays looms large after French emergency services received more than 500 calls for help in a single day along a 10-mile stretch of coast from Nice to Cannes.

Paddlers suffered painful stings and wanted something to treat the pain while swimmers reported that they had found themselves totally surrounded by a species commonly known as the mauve stinger.

It is a pattern being repeated along the shores of Mediterranean. As well as the Côte d’Azur, the coast of Liguria on the west coast of Italy, the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, parts of the Adriatic on Italy’s east coast, and much of the southern – and even northern – coastlines of Spain have been hit.

Jellyfish have no autonomy of movement and are swept around the oceans by wind and tide. In the past they came billowing into the beaches once every 10 or 12 years. They stayed for three or four years then disappeared as mysteriously as they arrived. But not any more. This is the eighth year straight that they have stormed the smartest resorts in the Mediterranean.

Spaniards hoping to avoid the invasion by heading north have had to think again. The Portuguese Man o’ War (Physalia physalis), whose sting can be fatal, is marauding the coasts of Cantabria and Asturias, which until now have managed to escape the seasonal plague. Winds have blown the creatures ashore in recent days, prompting warning flags to be flown.

At Nice and Cannes, the jellyfish menace vanished as quickly as it arrived, but scientists are in no doubt that they will be back, perhaps before the end of the season. The species haunting this 10-mile stretch of coast is the Pelagia noctiluca, the mauve stinger. Its sting can cause severe burns, in some cases scarring their victims. Despite warnings to keep out of the water, many swimmers were caught out last week, prompting the flood of calls to the French emergency services.

Fearful of the effect on the tourist trade, Cannes and Monaco have installed booms and nets on several beaches. But hundreds slipped through and many more invaded unprotected beaches.

In Antibes a 30ft catamaran which has been described as a “jellyfish hoover” now patrols the coastline, ready to suck up any returning jellyfish.

“I can’t say that the jellyfish will definitely return,” said Jacqueline Goy, the leading jellyfish expert at the Institut d’Oceanographie in Paris. “At the moment the mistral has blown them offshore but a change in wind direction could well bring them back later this year.”

The phenomenon is by no means a new one said Mme Goy, known to colleagues as la Dame aux Méduses (“Jellyfish Lady”). The earliest report of a “jellyfish soup” in the region dates back to 1802. In recent years, however, the frequency and persistence of the swarms has increased.

Marine biologists believe that overfishing has killed off both the fish that hunt jellyfish, and their young which compete with jellyfish for plankton.

Fabrizio Bulgarini, biodiversity expert with WWF Italy, said there was also another theory. “The rate of reproductivity of the jellyfish appears to be related to the heat of the water,” he explained, and thanks to global warming the sea is getting hotter.



Posted on on May 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

From:      mara at


May 15, 2008: Deadline for Abstract Submission
•July 1, 2008: Authors will be informed on selection by e-mail
•October 15, 2008:   Deadline for Final Submissions
•July 31, 2008: Deadline for early registration

The International Ocean Institute-USA and the city of St. Petersburg, FL, USA, are hosting a Coastal Cities Summit on November 17-20, 2008, to address the complex challenges that coastal city leaders face as populations increase, resources are depleted, and the impacts of climate change are felt.   The Coastal Cities Summit intends to bring together 600-700 coastal city leaders, managers and academics to discuss environmental, social, economic, and public policy challenges and viable solutions.

Full details are available at

The 3 ½ day conference will focus on three themes: Climate Change, Risk and Vulnerability, and Sustainable Development.   The planners are soliciting speakers on areas that are particularly relevant to coastal cities: freshwater, pollution, energy, infrastructure, and port security.   All sessions are intended to give a long-needed voice to those who are on the front lines taking leadership on climate change, providing implementation and response plans and continuing to focus on protecting citizens from possible extreme events and human-induced degradation.

•Martin Parry – Co-Chair, IPCC 2nd Working Group
•Leon Panetta – Panetta Institute for Public Policy
•Jeremy Harris – former mayor of Honolulu
•Roberto Rosselli – Venice Water Authority
•John Ogden – Florida Institute of Oceanography
•Paul Holthus – World Ocean Council
•Richard Wainio – Tampa Port Director
•Saskia Sassen – Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, author of UN-Habitat report
•Victor Lu, Vice President, Hunt Power – alternative resources
•Wayne Joseph – Global Water Partnership
•Carlos Fernandez-Jauregui, Coordinator, United Nations Office to Support the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life, 2005-2015”

You may already be familiar with the International Ocean Institute (IOI) and its 26 operational centers around the world.   IOI-USA is the newest center, established in St. Petersburg, FL in 2006 by agreement between IOI headquarters in Malta and the University of South Florida (USF).

The mission of IOI-USA is to provide an international center of excellence in education, training, development, and capacity building, with particular interest in coastal and marine areas.

The University of South Florida (USF), established in 1956 as a public university, is a comprehensive multi-campus research university serving more than 42,000 students.   It is home to the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions, a center dedicated to promoting sustainable healthy communities around the world, and one of the co-organizers of the event. The resources and expertise of USF allow IOI-USA to offer an outstanding conference program that will attract attendees from around the world. Further information on the conference can be found at its website:

Approximately 2.7 billion people–over 40% of the world’s total population–currently live in coastal cities. In 1995 alone, an estimated 50 million people migrated to the coastal zones of the United States. Combined with increasing birth rate and life expectancy, as well as future climate change, the escalating strain on public resources means that coastal city managers face unprecedented challenges.

Abstracts are invited for individual paper proposals, panel proposals, and round table proposals that address either I) Coastal City Challenges, II) Coastal City Practices, or III) Coastal City Solutions in one of the following broad thematic areas:

Climate change
Risk and Vulnerability
Sustainable Development


Posted on on April 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The results of the 4th Global Oceans Conference on the Internet:

From the 4th Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands:   Advancing Ecosystem Management and Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management in the Context of Climate Change, April 7-11, 2008, Hanoi, Vietnam

The 4th Global Conference brought together 430 ocean and coastal leaders from 71 countries, representing all sectors, including governments, intergovernmental and international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the business community, ocean donors, and scientific institutions.   The conference assessed essential issues in the governance of the world’s oceans, with a focus on moving toward an ecosystem-based and integrated approach to oceans governance at national, regional, and global levels.   For the first time, a concerted effort was made to bring oceans policy together with climate change, which, as indicated in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will have profound effects on ecosystems and coastal populations around the world, especially among the poorest people on Earth and in small island developing States.

The conference focused especially on assessing the progress that has been achieved (or lack thereof) on the global oceans targets established by the world’s political leaders at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development:   Achieving ecosystem-based and integrated ocean and coastal management by 2010, reducing marine biodiversity loss and of establishing networks of marine protected areas by 2012, restoring fishery stocks by 2015, among others.

The conference underlined that ocean and coastal managers are at the front line of climate changes.   The climate issues that ocean and coastal leaders around the world will need to face will ineradicably change the nature of ocean and coastal management, introducing increased uncertainty, the need to incorporate climate change planning into all existing management processes, the need to develop and apply new tools related to vulnerability assessment, and the need to make difficult choices in what in many cases will be “no win” situations, involving adverse impacts to vulnerable ecosystems and communities.   Conference participants underlined that we must begin this process now, including altering coastal development that is already in the pipeline–we don’t have the luxury of waiting 10 years before we consider the implications and before we act.

You are kindly invited to view the proceedings of the conference through multiple media, including the following:

The Global Forum, the World Ocean Network, and the World Ocean Observatory have created a special GOC2008 website and YouTube channel designed specifically to inform audiences across the world about the context and work of the Global Forum using rich media.

GOC2008 Website<https:/…;

GOC2008 YouTube Channel…;

Here, you will be able to:
–Explore the proceedings of the Conference and each major ocean issue being addressed.
–View the reports, recommendations, and Policy Briefs of the Global Forum’s 12 Working Groups, involving about 250 experts from 68 countries, which have been mobilizing to provide recommendations on priority next steps that the international community should take on major ocean issues.
–See short video interviews and podcasts of ocean and coastal experts from various sectors around the globe as well as the presentations and movie clips illustrating major ocean issues.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development – Reporting Services provided daily coverage of conference proceedings.   As the publisher of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, IISD Reporting Services (RS) is recognized for its objectivity and issue expertise in the field of international environment and sustainable development policy.   In past Global Ocean Conferences IISDRS has helped the Global Forum to disseminate conference reports containing recommendations on advancing the development of integrated oceans policies worldwide to their mail lists which include 45,000 subscribers.

To read more details about the work of the Conference please see the attached document.

For further information please contact Kateryna Wowk ( kmw at<…)


–Detailed Conference Coverage


Posted on on March 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S. firm lays claim to ‘potentially vast’ Arctic oil resources – U.S. firm lays claim to nearly all of what it says will be 400 billion barrels – makes it known, Friday, March 21, 2008, Randy Boswell of the The Ottawa Citizen.
A U.S.-based company that has controversially laid claim to nearly all of the Arctic Ocean’s undersea oil said yesterday that new geological data suggest a “potentially vast” petroleum resource of 400 billion barrels. That figure is backed by a respected Canadian researcher who recently signed on as the firm’s chief scientific adviser.
Las Vegas-based Arctic Oil & Gas has raised eyebrows around the world with its roll-of-the-dice bid to lock up exclusive rights to extract oil and gas from rapidly melting areas of the central Arctic Ocean, currently beyond the territorial control of Canada, Russia and other polar nations.

The company, which counts retired B.C. (British Colombia, Canada) Senator Edward Lawson among its directors, has filed a claim with the United Nations to act as the sole “development agent” of Arctic seabed oil and gas.
The firm acknowledges that the Arctic’s petroleum deposits are the “common heritage of mankind,” but has argued that the polar region requires a private “lead manager” to organize a multinational consortium of oil companies to extract undersea resources responsibly and equitably.

The Canadian government has dismissed the company’s “alleged claim” over Arctic oil as having “no force in law,” but experts in polar issues have raised alarms about the firm’s actions, saying they could disrupt efforts to create an orderly regime for exploiting resources and protecting the Arctic environment under international law rather than a marketplace model.

In its latest statement about the polar seabed’s “enormous reserve potential” for petroleum deposits, Arctic Oil & Gas cites recent scientific evidence that huge, floating mats of azolla — a prehistoric fern believed to have covered much of the Arctic Ocean during a planetary hothouse era about 55 million years ago — decomposed soon after the age of the dinosaurs and exist today as “vast hydrocarbon resources” trapped in layers of rock below the polar ice cap.

Jonathan Bujak, a former geoscientist with the Geological Survey of Canada who now works as a private consultant in Canada and Britain, is described in the Arctic Oil & Gas statement as confirming the “highly probable validity” of recent research pointing to rock layers “extremely rich” in “hydrocarbon precursors” throughout the Arctic basin.
Mr. Bujak, who previously worked for PetroCanada as a petroleum geologist, co-authored a landmark 2006 study in the journal Nature that first detailed the ancient azolla explosion that shows up today in Arctic seabed core samples.
Neither Mr. Bujak nor Mr. Lawson could be reached for comment yesterday.
Scientists have predicted that global warming could leave the entire Arctic virtually ice-free for months at a time within 20 years. That prospect has hastened a scramble among nations with a polar coast — namely Canada, Russia, the U.S., Norway and Denmark, which controls Greenland — to try to strengthen their scientific claims under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to extended territorial sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean floor.
A report issued last week by the European Union’s top two foreign policy officials also highlighted the looming international struggle over Arctic oil deposits. Authored by Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Europe’s commissioner for external relations, the study pointed to “potential consequences for international stability and European security interests” as the retreat of Arctic ice makes shipping and oil and gas exploration a reality in the region.

Noting the “rapid melting of the polar ice caps,” the report noted that “the increased accessibility of the enormous hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic region is changing the geo-strategic dynamics of the region.”


Posted on on March 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Brace for the Arctic oil rush – Thursday, March 20, 2008, By DAVID HOWELL, LONDON, For The Japan Times.

For decades the world’s major oil companies and their engineering experts have been eyeing the Arctic region and wondering how to get at the oil and gas deposits that are said to lie, in almost legendary quantities, beneath the vast expanses of ice. With the price of crude oil now well above $100, has their moment at last arrived?

Two factors suggest that this may be the case. First, as long as world oil markets were dominated by cheap Mideast oil that could be easily extracted from the open deserts, there was almost no chance of competition from other regions.

But that era that passed. No one believes that oil will ever again be the cheap and plentiful commodity it once was. Even if the largest reserves remain in the Middle East, the whole region is now a caldron of turbulence.

Ideological Islamism, combined with Israeli-Palestinian feuding, Iranian nuclear ambitions and chronic anti-Americanism throughout the area have combined to make Middle East oil not only more expensive but also increasingly unreliable.

Second, the Arctic ice cap is shrinking. Armed with new technology for extracting oil and gas deep down on the seabed, the oil powers now see opportunities opening up across the whole polar region.

All round the Arctic the “circumpolar nations” have been raising their levels of activity and staking claims to sovereign “ownership” of the Arctic space, while delegations from countries as far afield as China, India and Japan have been streaming toward the ice cap and crowding on to survey ships and exploration vessels, all anxious not to be left out of a possible new oil bonanza.

The Russians in particular have made headlines by planting their national flag, in titanium, on the seabed below the North Pole, with a Gazprom spokesman adding that the Russian energy giant expected “major new discoveries” of oil and gas reserves under the Arctic Ocean, and had large-scale prospecting plans for the region.

Meanwhile, Canada has ordered up new naval patrol vessels to “defend its sovereignty over the Arctic.” The United States, stung by Russian activity, has announced plans for two new polar ships, and the Danes have sent a mission to find out how far Greenland opens the way to claims for Arctic sovereignty.

Staying slightly on the sidelines, Norway, having been embroiled in decades of dispute with Russia over demarcation lines in the Barents Sea, has pleaded for an end to “the gold rush.”

What are all these hopeful searchers likely to find? Of course, in one sense the Norwegians, the Russians and the Americans have already arrived and started nibbling round the edges of the Arctic. The Norwegians have their giant Snohvit project and are already bringing ashore very large quantities of gas for liquefaction at the world’s most northerly LNG plant near Hammerfest.

Meanwhile, the Russians are pushing ahead with their equally large Shtokman development in the Barents Sea, with of course the American interest having long been established via the BP development of the big Prudhoe Bay field on the northern edge of Alaska.

But what lies beyond, nearer to the polar heart of the Arctic’s icy and forbidding wastes? Estimates vary wildly. The most optimistic is that no less than 25 percent of the world’s yet-to-find oil and gas reserves (400 billion barrels of oil equivalent) lie beneath the ice. But that may be too hopeful. A more modest recent estimate is about half that (around 14 percent of world yet-to-find reserves) with about two-thirds of it in gas and the other third, or less, in liquid resources.

But we are getting here into guesswork, although of an informed kind. The much more immediate question is cost. What might be the break-even price of extracting these reserves, or what is likely to be commercially feasible, whether now, with crude at $100 plus, or in the years ahead?

The answers depend both on the limits of current technology and now on global warming. If the Arctic ice cap is going to shrink fast then, whatever the other downside consequences, the accessibility of hydrocarbon reserves is made significantly easier and cheaper. If liquids can be brought out at less than $40 a barrel, that makes them not only comfortably profitable in world markets but also just about competitive against alternatives like Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan heavy oil (also $40), or some of the oil being squeezed from the dregs of older wells via “enhanced-recovery techniques,” which can cost up to $50.

In short, while past estimates may have been inflated, and while the very highest environmental standards will need to be met at every stage to safeguard Arctic wildlife, the economics are beginning to give a wavering green light.

If crude oil prices stay near the present range, if world oil thirst grows as predicted and if the Middle East gets even more dangerous and less inviting, the attraction of Arctic energy could radically alter the pattern of global energy resources and, consequently, geopolitics.

David Howell is a former British Cabinet minister and former chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now a member of the House of Lords.


Posted on on February 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

View this message with images at:…


Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference
New York, New York
Millennium Broadway Hotel
April 17-18, 2008


Register now to take advantage of the early bird rate:…

Sponsorship opportunities available:…


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Minerals
Management Service, the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition,
and the International Energy Agency-Ocean Energy Systems
(IEA-OES) invite you to attend this international
conference on marine renewable energy in New York City.
With your participation, the sponsors believe this event
will provide a significant boost to the development of
ocean, tidal, and run-of-river energy in the United States.

The Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference will convene
international and U.S.-based leaders and innovators to
exchange the latest information on marine renewable energy.
Speakers include experts from the IEA-OES, U.S. federal
and state government leaders, and other recognized
industry representatives on the cutting-edge of this
growing business area.

Don’t miss cutting-edge dialogue on:
* The performance results of marine renewable technology
* Evolution of permitting (consent processes) and siting
in various countries
* The most effective financing instruments and public
* Understanding and mitigating potential environmental
risks, latest findings, and future studies

Why you should attend:
* Expand your network of international experts and
government organizations
* Explore and exchange knowledge on best practices from
international experts
* Learn about financing instruments, public policies, and
regulatory drivers
* Learn about U.S. and international policies supporting
the growth of marine renewable energy

Who should attend?
* Engineers and researchers
* State and local agency representatives
* Environmental analysts, scientists, and biologists
* Attorneys and regulatory specialists
* Innovators and developers
* Investors and venture capitalists
* Government leaders, policy makers, and regulators
* Non governmental organizations
* Renewable energy experts


More information is available on the website at or contact
 CS at for more information.