November 24, 2009

Climate ‘is a major cause’ of conflict in Africa
US will announce target for cutting carbon emissions
Sixty-five leaders to attend climate summit
Nuclear power regains support
Greenhouse gases reach record levels-UN agency
Climate sceptics and lobbyists put world at risk, says top UK adviser
Hacked global warming e-mails – what’s new?
Global warming may be unstoppable, says scientist
Melting icecaps to cause massive damage in port cities: WWF
Can the U.S. learn from Australia’s emissions plan?
Global warming science alarming, say UK climate experts
The price of "zero"
Mysteriously warm times in Antarctica

[click on link below for articles]

News summaries
Climate ‘is a major cause’ of conflict in Africa

Climate has been a major driver of armed conflict in Africa, research
shows – and future warming is likely to increase the number of deaths
from war. US researchers found that across the continent, conflict was
about 50% more likely in unusually warm years. Writing in Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they suggest strife arises
when the food supply is scarce in warm conditions. Climatic factors
have been cited as a reason for several recent conflicts. One is the
fighting in Darfur in Sudan that according to UN figures has killed
200,000 people and forced two million more from their homes…Previous
research has shown an association between lack of rain and conflict,
but this is thought to be the first clear evidence of a temperature
link. "Studies show that crop yields in the region are really sensitive
to small shifts in temperature, even of half a degree (Celsius) or so,"
research leader Marshall Burke, from the University of California at
Berkeley, told BBC News. "If the sub-Saharan climate continues to warm
and little is done to help its countries better adapt to high temperatures,
the human costs are likely to be staggering."BBC News
US will announce target for cutting carbon emissions
The US will announce a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
before next month’s UN climate summit, according to a White House
official. The target is expected to be in line with figures contained
in legislation before the Senate – a reduction of about 17-20% from
2005 levels by 2020. The absence of a US target has widely been seen as
the single biggest obstacle to agreement at the summit. BBC News
Sixty-five leaders to attend climate summit
At least 65 world leaders have agreed to attend the Copenhagen summit
on climate change in December, raising the stakes on a deal being
reached and lending “critical mass” to the meeting, according to senior
officials. Financial Times
Nuclear power regains support
Nuclear power — long considered environmentally hazardous — is
emerging as perhaps the world’s most unlikely weapon against climate
change, with the backing of even some green activists who once
campaigned against it. It has been 13 years since the last new nuclear
power plant opened in the United States. But around the world, nations
under pressure to reduce the production of climate-warming gases are
turning to low-emission nuclear energy as never before. The Obama
administration and leading Democrats, in an effort to win greater
support for climate change legislation, are eyeing federal tax
incentives and loan guarantees to fund a new crop of nuclear power
plants across the United States that could eventually help drive down
carbon emissions. The Washington Post
Greenhouse gases reach record levels-UN agency
Concentrations of greenhouse gases, the major cause of global warming,
are at their highest levels ever recorded and are still climbing, the
U.N. World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Monday. The head
of the agency, Michel Jarraud, said the trend could be pushing the
world towards the most pessimistic assessments of the rise in
temperatures expected in coming decades and said this underlined the
need for urgent action….The worst-case scenario envisaged by the IPCC
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in a 2007 report was that
temperatures could rise by between 2.4 and 6.4 Celsius by the end of this
century. Jarraud said the data showed "we are actually closer to the pessimistic scenario"
for warming in the coming years. "This reinforces the fact that action
has to be taken as soon as possible," he said. "We are looking
to Copenhagen to come up with a strong decision on greenhouse gases.
The more we delay the decision, the bigger the impact will be." Reuters
Climate change sceptics and lobbyists put world at risk, says top UK adviser
Climate change sceptics and fossil fuel companies that have lobbied
against action on greenhouse gas emissions have squandered the world’s
chance to avoid dangerous global warming, a key adviser to the
government has said. Professor Bob Watson, chief scientist at the
Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, said a decade of inaction
on climate change meant it was now virtually impossible to limit global
temperature rise to 2C. He said the delay meant the world would now do
well to stabilise warming between 3C and 4C…Watson backed
controversial calls for research into geoengineering techniques, such
as blocking the sun, as a way to head off dangerous temperature rise –
one of the most senior figures so far to do so. "We should at least be
looking at it. I would see what the theoretical models say, and ask
ourselves the question: how can we do medium-sized experiments in the
field?" Such an effort could divert attention and funds from efforts to
cut carbon and switch to cleaner technology, he said. "I think it
should be a real international effort, so it isn’t just the UK funding
it." The Guardian
Hacked global warming e-mails – what’s new?
When the news broke that “more than 169 megabytes worth of
global-warming emails and related files were either hacked and/or
leaked from computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic
Research Center in Britain and released to the world via the Internet,”
as the Monitor’s Pete Spotts wrote, some reactions were to be expected:
Skeptics of global warming were jubilant because they say the e-mails
prove that human-caused global warming is false, a fraud perpetrated by
scientists. Supporters countered that statements from the e-mails were
taken out of context. But several days later, the story is still unfolding in
several ways (and we’re adding to this post as developments unfold). The Christian Science Monitor
Global warming may be unstoppable, says scientist
According to Tim Garrett, an associate professor of atmospheric
sciences, University of Utah, rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions –
the major cause of global warming – cannot be stabilised unless the
world’s economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new
nuclear power plant each day. "It looks unlikely that there will be any
substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in
carbon dioxide emission rates," said Garrett.
Melting icecaps to cause massive damage in port cities: WWF
Flooding in the world’s major port cities caused by melting icecaps
could cause up to 28 trillion dollars (18 trillion euros) in damage in
2050, environmental group WWF said in a report Monday. "If the
temperature rises between 0.5 and 2 degrees (Celsius) between now and
2050, it’s possible that the sea level would progress by half a metre
(nearly two feet) bringing major financial damage,"
Ulrike Saul, in charge of climate and energy for WWF Switzerland, told AFP.
Can the U.S. learn from Australia’s emissions plan?
There are plenty of parallels between the U.S. and Australia. Both
countries are big per-capita emitters of greenhouse gases, though U.S.
emissions are huge in global terms and Australia’s are tiny. Both rely
on lots of coal for electricity. In both countries, the power sector
and vulnerable industries have railed against climate legislation. In
both countries, public support for tough action on climate change has
waned in lockstep with the global recession. So how did Australia get
it done? Largely by modifying the bill to win political support at the
cost of the environmental bits of the plan. Here’s a list of the
official changes; here’s a handy summary. The Wall Street Journal
Global warming science alarming, say UK climate experts
The Royal Society, Met Office, and Natural Environment Research Council
(Nerc) say the science of climate change is more alarming than
ever…They argue that without action there will be much larger changes
in the coming decades, with the UK seeing higher food prices, ill
health, more flooding and rising sea levels. Known or probable damage
across the world includes ocean acidification, loss of rainforests,
degradation of ecosystems and desertification, they said……Lord
Rees, president of the Royal Society, said cutting emissions could
substantially limit the severity of climate change. BBC News
The price of "zero"
Norway, Costa Rica and the Maldives face big problems as they struggle
to stay in the world’s most exclusive club, seeking to cut net greenhouse
gas emissions to zero. Reuters
Mysteriously warm times in Antarctica
A new study of Antarctica’s past climate reveals that temperatures
during the warm periods between ice ages (interglacials) may have been
higher than previously thought. The latest analysis of ice core records
suggests that Antarctic temperatures may have been up to 6 degrees C
warmer than the present day. The findings, reported this week by
scientists from the British Antarctic Survey… This new investigation
shows temperature ‘spikes’ within some of the interglacial periods over
the last 340,000 years. This suggests Antarctic temperature shows a
high level of sensitivity to greenhouse gases at levels similar to
those found today. Terra Daily