Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Temperature is Rising

The World Meteorological Organisation released a statement on the status of the Global Climate on 15th December that 2005 will be the second hottest year on record, globally. The last 10 years (1996-2005), with the exception of 1996, are the warmest years on record.

The statement says that "For Australia, preliminary data indicate that 2005 will be the hottest year since records commenced in 1910, with around 97 per cent of the continent experiencing above-average mean temperatures. During the January-May period, the hottest maximum temperatures on record exacerbated the exceptionally dry conditions. Nationwide temperatures during the first five months of the year were 1.75oC above normal, surpassing the previous record by a substantial 0.57oC." See also Australian Bureau of Meteorology:
http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/ho/20051114.shtml
http://abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1531576.htm

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Scientist warns of Global warming impact on Ocean Circulation

Global warming could halt ocean circulation, with harmful results warns an atmospheric scientist. “This is a dangerous, human-induced climate change,” said Michael Schlesinger, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The shutdown of the thermohaline circulation has been characterized as a high-consequence, low-probability event. Our analysis, including the uncertainties in the problem, indicates it is a high-consequence, high-probability event.”

Schlesinger presented his warnings at a talk at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal on December 8, 2005.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Rising Sea Levels Create first Climate Change Refugees

As the world awaits the beginnings of the first meeting of the parties of the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal, the Carteret Islanders of the Pacific have already lost their battle to stay on their islands. This is the first instance of an entire cultural group forcibly displaced by climate change due to sea level rise doubling in the last 150 years caused by global warming. According to Norman Myers in A Citizens Guide to Climate Refugees, up to 200 million people may be displaced because of climate change by 2050. Many more islands and low level coastal areas are facing a crisis.

In conjunction with the Montreal meeting, an international day of action will occur on December 3, and also the launch of Climate Indymedia, bringing together the latest activist news and reports on climate change, and an alternative to the obfuscation of the mainstream media and corporate public relations.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Nuclear Power PR campaign debunked by report

Anti-nuclear activists replied to advocates of nuclear power with a comprehensive damning report 'Nuclear Power - No Solution to Climate Change'. Fifty people attended the launch held at Northcote Town Hall organised by Friends of the Earth. Speakers included report author, Dr Jim Green, physicist Dr Alan Roberts, and President of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Dr Tilmin Ruff.



Jim Green gave a comprehensive summary of the report, and bedunked the current pro-nuclear marketing that nuclear power is a necessary method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report says that a doubling of nuclear power output by 2050 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just five per cent,while increasing the hazards of potential nuclear accidents, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation, and the still unsolved problem of waste storage. The report outlines that the solutions to greenhouse gas emissions from power generation lie in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation such as in wind, bioenergy, solar, and tidal power.

Green made the point that only a third of greenhouse gas emissions come from power generation, with the majority caused by the burning of oil as petrol in automobiles.

Dr Alan Roberts is a retired physicist from Monash University who stated up front that he can't see the nuclear energy campaign succedding. "This bubble is going to burst" he said. He then proceeded to outline the background to the nuclear industry public relations campaign, which started with background briefings to the media in the United Kingdom in May 2004. This was a marketing campaign with several prominent Public Relations firms involved, including the involvement of a former British Minister for Energy. The campaign has stressed that nuclear energy is needed for diversification of energy supply, and that nuclear power generation does not contribute any green house gasses. Dr Roberts said that the marketing ignored the fact that substantial green house gas emissions are caused in the total nuclear cycle from mining and extration of uranium, transportation, building reactors, transport of waste, and decommissioning nuclear reactors.

Dr Roberts does not subscribe to neoliberalism, but he said competition and a true free market would kill nuclear power: "nuclear power is not able to compete without subsidies".

The nuclear industry does not want a full and open debate on nuclear power, according to Dr Roberts. He told an anecdote of a chance meeting with an official of the Uranium Information Bureau several years ago. When Alan Roberts asked why they had not debated the subject recently the official said "we decided we would not engage in any debates. We found it counterproductive."

The third speaker was Dr Tilman Ruff, President of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War. Dr Ruff outlined the dangers in radiation, in the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear war, and said "this is not a solution to global warming" and that it "delays us getting on with real solutions".

After the speakers several questions were asked. It was revealed that up to half the existing nuclear power reactors need decommissioning in the next 10 years. The British parliament has recently allocated 56 billion pounds just for decommissioning nuclear plants in the near future. The storage of waste was raised, with still no foolproof solution found. Even the Synroc solution trumpeted for the last fifteen years, is still not in use. Most high level waste is currently stored on site with the nuclear reactors. Dr Jim Green referred any detailed enquiries on nuclear waste to the website http://radwaste.org

With BHP taking over Western Mining Corporation and the Olympic Dam Mine at Roxby Downs, several ethical investment schemes have been reassessing opposition and investment in companies involved with uranium mining, a member of the audience said. The size of BHP means it is seven per cent of the Australian stock market, and many fund managers belief it is an important stock to have. The questioner posed that most people were members of superannuation funds and should pressure their funds not to invest in companies involved in uranium mining, or to choose ethical funds which explicitly opposed uranium mining.

The meeting was held in Northcote because the Federal member for the seat of Batman is Labor member Martin Ferguson, who has been pushing very strongly for the expansion of uranium mining and export of uranium to China. There were calls for Martin Ferguson, a shadow minister, should be speaking ALP policy, rather than pushing his own agenda. Members of the audience called for Martin Ferguson to publically debate uranium mining and nuclear power with his electors.

It was announced that Nuclear Free Australia is having an anti-nuclear tour of the city on Tuesday October 11, meeting at 12.30pm GPO Bourke Street Mall.

The meeting wound up with a spokesperson from the Friends of the Earth Anti-uranium Collective, Michaela Stubbs, outlining some grassroots activities that people coud do. The Anti-uranium Collective holds weekly meetings at FOE, 312 Smith Street, each Wednesday night at 6.30pm.

The chair of the meeting, Dimity Hawkins from MAPW, gave details of an intriguing invitation from the US Consulate to the MAPW to attend a briefing on how Iran is breaching non-proliferation conditions in their nuclear program. Something to ponder about in regard to preparing public relations for a possible US attack on Iran?

The report is available for download at:
http://www.melbourne.foe.org.au/documents.htm

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Wonthaggi turns on Wind power

For more than 30 years myself and many other environmentalists, have advocated the necessity for research and development of alternative renewable energy systems. While the Federal Government poured millions of dollars into the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights near Sutherland in Sydney, funding for renewable energy systems was largely ignored.



With global warming accelerating caused by the release of greenhouse gases by coal fired power stations and the internal combustion engine, it is time to assess what the Federal Government has been doing. Companies specialising in alternative energy research and development are still chronically underfunded.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Guest Post: Katrina was environmental and social blowback

This article by Eli Greig, published on Melbourne Indymedia on Hurricane Katrina, was promoted as a story feature on the front page. I was an editor at Melbourne Indymedia at the time, although the decision to promote would have been a collective one. Although it doesn't mention climate change or global warming, it raises important questions about disaster response and adaptation very relevant for today. Eli Greig was Social Justice & Environmental Projects Officer at Monash University Student Association. I am republishing it in the lead up to the 10th anniversary of Katrina. - John Englart 12 July 2015

What has happened and is happening in New Orleans poses critical questions to our assumptions about the great traditions of western thought and social progress.

The first and most important question that must be answered is, was the cause of the levies breaking simply a lack of investment in old, yet critical infrastructure or is it a fundamental question on the failure of a market economy and the subjugation of civil society to neo-classical economics?

If you believe that the levies broke through a mere lack of engineering and that the solution lies in more engineering, then you may as well not read on. Just ask yourself one question: What assumptions and what ideological fabric underpin the drastic reduction of funds from federal grants for levee maintenance, and their subsequent redirection to war making?

Why did the Bush administration divert $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corp of Engineers, a 44% cut? With the loss of Federal funds plans to upgrade pumps and fortify levees were mothballed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Global Warming major factor in Drought increasing globally


Image Label: This depiction of linear trends in the Palmer Drought Severity Index from 1948 to 2002 shows drying (reds and pinks) across much of Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa and moistening (green) across parts of the United States, Argentina, Scandinavia, and western Australia. (Illustration courtesy Aiguo Dai and the American Meteorological Society.)

According to a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the USA the percentage of Earth's land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Iguo Dai, lead author of the study, said that rising global temperatures appear to be a major factor. Widespread drying occurred over much of Europe and Asia, Canada, western and southern Africa, and eastern Australia.

Climate Change and Development Issues for Island States

From 10-14 January civil society organisations and leaders of 37 small island states met in Port Louis, Mauritius. High on the agenda are discussions on an early warning system in the Indian Ocean to protect against tsunamis. Also on the agenda is the issue of rising sea levels, widely attributed to global warming. The decreasing levels of aid and Western trade barriers are also common issues.

Rising Sea Levels and Climate Change

A few months ago, four major hurricanes and tropical storms – Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne – struck the Caribbean islands (and southeastern United States), causing thousands of casualties in Haiti and devasting Grenada. This worst Caribbean hurricane season in living memory, along with other extreme weather events that took place in 2004 in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are seen by many as empirical evidence of impacts that are harbingers of the expected effects of climate change.

Sea levels are currently rising at about two millimetres a year, but there are sign this rate may be increasing. Rising seas could swamp countries like the Maldives and Tuvalu. While the fate of small island nations is at risk, developed countries also stand to lose. Many cities around the world are located near coasts. Flooding from rising sea levels could cause massive damage to infrastructure.

Mike MacCracken, chief scientist for climate change programmes at the Climate Institute, a Washington think-tank, said "It's often presented as a problem only for developing nations. (But) developed countries will be very much at risk because so much infrastructure is at sea level."

Flood Barriers proposal for London

The city of London is already considering proposals for a ten-mile barrier across the River Thames to prevent it flooding. Scientists believe without such a barrier Westminster may be inundated in 6 feet of flood water. Jim Hall, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, an author of the proposals, said: "We wanted to look at the more extreme but still plausible scenarios for sea level rise. The chances of these happening are small but the consequences are so dramatic that we have to prepare for them."

The proposal is for a vast embankment, from Sheerness in Kent to Southend on the other side of the estuary in Essex. The barrier would contain gates to allow water to flow in and out of the Thames Estuary according to the tides. But the gates would be shut if a flood seemed likely.

Coastal areas like the east coast of North America and particularly Florida are vulnerable to rising sea levels. A Satellite photo from NASA/JPL gives a dramatic demonstration of how Florida's low topography, especially along the coastline, make it especially vulnerable to flooding associated with storm surges.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicated that the global average sea level has risen by 10 to 20 cm over the past 100 years. This represents a rate of increase of 1 to 2 mm per year, i.e. some 10 times faster than the rate observed for the previous 3,000 years. It also projected a global average temperature increase of 1.4-5.8°C, and a consequential rise in global mean sea level of 9-88 cm, by the year 2100.

Flooding could cause billions of dollars of damage around the world. In Bangladesh, 17 million people live less than one metre (three feet) above sea level.

Tuvalu inundated by King Tides

In February 2004, the nine islands of the low-lying atoll of Tuvalu were submerged by "king tides" with peaks approaching three metres. These tides washed over the lowest points of that nation, whose highest point is only 4.5 metres (15 feet) above sea level, affecting freshwater sources and damaging food crops. According to its inhabitants, such king tides, once rare for the islands, now occur roughly every two years. The worst flooding happened in 2001, when practically all the entire land area of these islands was under water.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) meet

In Mauritius on January 10, civil society groups called for greater action from the international community to address the special needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Advocacy groups raised concern over the lack of progress in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA), agreed at the first such conference a decade ago. Aid to 45 states has fallen by more than half in eight years, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to external shocks.

Coordinator of the Civil Society Forum, Pynee Chellapermal, told journalists the calamity that had befallen Asia in December was an "eye-opener" for the international community to the "fragility" of small island countries, and it was "critical" that donors pledged their support to the development of an early warning system. But other concerns were also stressed including the "dearth of resources, poor human and institutional capacity" and the "lack of technology transfer" were also to blame for chronic underdevelopment.

"Our environmental concerns have a lot to do with poverty: for example, the lack of fresh water doesn't have anything to do with the quantity of rain we receive annually - we just do not have the resources to harness the rain when it does fall," said Mohammend Amidou, president of the Comoran Association for Environmental Development. In some parts of the Comoros archipelgo less that 10 percent of the population had access to safe drinking water.

International Meeting

At the formal International Meeting of SIDS environmental vulnerabilities were discussed. Delegates focused on: early warning systems; destruction of coral reefs and mangrove forests; concerns with linking climate change and extreme events; provision of financial resources for early warning; GEF’s role in renewable energy projects in SIDS; capacity building; pre-disaster action; climate mitigation; information and education; earth observation technologies; climate monitoring networks and systems; international cooperation; socioeconomic impacts of climate change; partnerships; and sharing of new technologies.

Trade and Development are also major topics of discussion. Representatives from several Small Island Developing States (SIDS) highlighted that over the past decade trade liberalisation had severely battered their fragile economies. Participants appealed for "special" treatment for their exports, which would compensate for the high economic costs resulting from their remoteness and smallness.

Grassroots discussions and workshops

Alongside the United Nations sponsored meeting of leaders there were more grassroots events: the Community Vilaj and Civil Society Forum (6-9 January 2005). The latter, organized to establish the accomplishments and shortcomings of the Barbados Program of Action of 1994, saw the participation of 2,000 delegates from all over the world, including 25 heads of State. There has been some criticism that accomplishment of the objectives of the civil society forum has been hindered by a lack of consensus and optimization of resources.

The Community Vilaj, which goes by the motto, "Local voices, global impact", regroups people who have reduced poverty with ecofriendly projects in their towns or villages. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has enabled many to attend to maintain continuity of their projects through the exchange of ideas and experience on a wide range of environmental and social subjects.

There is also an Island Innovations Fair on Resilience Building Technologies and an Institute@SIDS, which is a joint initiative of the UNDP and the Smithsonian Institution, offering free training courses to Vilaj’s participants.

The Innovations Fair exhibits sustainable development technologies that "directly address specific economic and environmental vulnerabilities of SIDS". An example of such innovative technology is the Uehara Cycle presented by the Institute of Ocean Energy of Japan’s Saga University. The Uehara Cycle, which uses Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) to convert the temperature difference between the warm surface seawater and the cooler water at a depth of 800 metres into electricity, is seen as a solution to both the precariousness of energy supplies on islands and global warming.

Follow the SIDS negotiations at the Earth Negotiations Bulletin or at the United Nations Small Islands Big Stakes website

Sources:

* Reuters 11 Jan05 - MAURITIUS: Call for action over survival of small islands
* Times of Tibet 7 Jan05 - Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue for Subsistence-Based Societies
* The Times - 11 Jan05 - Biggest engineering feat to stop Thames flood
* lexpress.mu 11 Jan05 - Grassroots approach to challenges for SIDS
* United Nations - Small Islands Big Stakes

Rescued from Melbourne Indymedia via the Web archive