Global Warming Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Global Warming Media Articles in Major Media
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The environmental damage caused to developing nations by the world's richest countries amounts to more than the entire third world debt of $1.8 trillion, according to the first systematic global analysis of the ecological damage imposed by rich countries. There are huge disparities in the ecological footprint inflicted by rich and poor countries on the rest of the world because of differences in consumption. The authors say that the west's high living standards are maintained in part through the huge unrecognised ecological debts it has built up with developing countries. "At least to some extent, the rich nations have developed at the expense of the poor and, in effect, there is a debt to the poor," said Prof Richard Norgaard, an ecological economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study. "That, perhaps, is one reason that they are poor. You don't see it until you do the kind of accounting that we do here." The researchers examined so-called "environmental externalities" or costs that are not included in the prices paid for goods but which cover ecological damage linked to their consumption. They focused on six areas: greenhouse gas emissions, ozone layer depletion, agriculture, deforestation, overfishing and converting mangrove swamps into shrimp farms. The team confined its calculations to areas in which the costs of environmental damage, for example in terms of lost services from ecosystems, are well understood. "We think the measured impact is conservative. And given that it's conservative, the numbers are very striking," said co-author Dr Thara Srinivasan, who is also at Berkeley.
Safeway grocery trucks no longer just deliver vegetables. In a sense, they now run on vegetables, too. Safeway, the nation's third-largest grocery chain, said Friday that its entire nationwide trucking fleet now uses biodiesel, a renewable fuel that can be made from plant oils, used cooking grease or animal fat. In Safeway's case, the biodiesel comes from soy oil or canola oil. It is blended with regular petroleum diesel before being pumped into the company's more than 1,000 trucks. The move is part of Safeway's broader effort to green its operations. The Pleasanton company buys much of its electricity from wind farms, has switched to energy-efficient refrigeration and lighting, and is installing solar panels on 24 of its California stores. Biodiesel generally produces less air pollution than diesel made from petroleum. And it helps rein in greenhouse gas emissions because the plants used to make it absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Safeway won't reveal how much fuel it's buying or the price it's paying. Biodiesel typically costs more than regular diesel. The price increased last year as some farmers switched from growing soybeans to growing corn, hoping to tap into the growing market for another alternative fuel - corn-based ethanol. Safeway estimates that using the biodiesel blend will cut the company's carbon dioxide emissions by 75 million pounds each year, the equivalent of taking 7,500 cars off the road.
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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill blasted the Bush administration for forcing edits in the testimony of a government expert speaking to Congress about the health effects of global warming. When [Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,] testified about the health effects of global warming, her testimony was a bit vague. "Weather is inextricably linked to health," she said. It turned out six pages of specific warnings about diseases that could spread because of global warming were edited out by the White House, as well as a line that the CDC considered this a serious public health concern that remained "largely unaddressed." When a draft of Gerberding's testimony went to the White House for review, two sections - "Climate Change is a Public Health Concern" and "Climate Change Vulnerability" - were removed, cutting the 12-page document in half. The original draft contained much greater detail on the potential disease and other health effects of climate change than was in either Gerberding's prepared remarks or in her other comments during the hearing. "The public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed. CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern," the draft says. The phrase was not in the testimony given the committee or in her other remarks at the hearing. “It appears the White House has denied a Congressional committee access to scientific information about health and global warming," said Dr. Michael McCally, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. "This misuse of science and abuse of the legislative process is deplorable.”
Gordon Brown has promised to double the number of "eco-towns" to be built across the UK from five to ten. The prime minister told the Labour conference in Bournemouth that a positive response to the project had encouraged him to expand it. This showed "imagination", he said, adding that eco-towns would help the government meet housebuilding targets. In May, Mr Brown promised [that] communities of up to 100,000 low-carbon and carbon-neutral homes would be built. Mr Brown told the Labour conference: "For the first time in nearly half a century we will show the imagination to build new towns - eco-towns with low and zero-carbon homes. And today, because of the responses we have received, we are announcing that instead of just five new eco-towns we will now aim for ten - building thousands of new homes in every region of the country." This would help boost housebuilding to 240,000 homes a year, he said. The eco-town idea was the first major policy announcement made by Mr Brown as he began his campaign to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister earlier this year. Constructed on old industrial sites, they will be powered by locally generated energy from sustainable sources. The government said that, with a month to go until the deadline, there had been about 30 expressions of interest in building eco-towns from councils, developers and others.
On a recent run from Boston to Cape Cod, I test drove the 2008 Honda Accord, the latest version of this family favorite. The new Accord boasts an environmental first: a six-cylinder gasoline engine that's cleaner than many hybrid systems. There's only one catch: You can't actually buy this ultra-green Accord, or the four-cylinder version that also produces near-zero pollution. That is, unless you live in California, New York or six other northeast states that follow California's tougher pollution rules. Only there can you buy this Accord, or the roughly two dozen other models that meet so-called Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle standards, PZEV for short. Not only can't you buy one, but the government says it's currently illegal for automakers to sell these green cars outside of the special states. Under terms of the Clean Air Act — in the kind of delicious irony only our government can pull off — anyone (dealer, consumer, automaker) involved in an out-of-bounds PZEV sale could be subject to civil fines of up to $27,500. Volvo sent its dealers a memo alerting them to this fact, noting that its greenest S40 and V50 models were only for the special states. So, just how green is a PZEV machine? Well, if you just cut your lawn with a gas mower, congratulations, you just put out more pollution in one hour than these cars do in 2,000 miles of driving. Grill a single juicy burger, and you've cooked up the same hydrocarbon emissions as a three-hour drive in a Ford Focus PZEV. As the California Air Resources Board has noted, the tailpipe emissions of these cars can be cleaner than the outside air in smoggy cities. PZEV models are already available from Toyota, Ford, Honda, GM, Subaru, Volvo and VW. But chances are, you've never heard of them.
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The Bush Administration has run a systematic campaign to play down the dangers of climate change, demanding hundreds of politically motivated changes to scientific reports and muzzling a pre-eminent expert on global warming, the US Congress has been told. The testimony ... painted the Administration as determined to maintain its line on climate change even when it clashed with the findings of scientific experts. The Administration has moved to exercise control over environmental agencies by installing political appointees including a former oil industry lobbyist, Philip Cooney, as chief of staff of the Council on Environmental Quality. In 2003 Mr Cooney and other senior appointed officials made at least 181 changes to a strategic plan on climate change to play down the scientific consensus on global warming. They made a further 113 alterations to minimise the human role in climate change. "These changes must be made," a note in Mr Cooney's handwriting says. Under heated questioning, Mr Cooney admitted the changes were all intended to cast doubt on the impact of global warming. Control from the White House became the norm, [NASA's Dr. James] Hansen told the committee. "Scientific press releases were going to the White House for editing," he said. "It's very unfortunate that we developed this politicisation of science. The public relations office should be staffed by expert appointees - otherwise they become offices of propaganda." Hansen was also restrained from giving press interviews by a junior political appointee, George Deutsch. Mr Deutsch left NASA early last year after it emerged he had falsified his CV.
The Bush administration is ordering federal wildlife officials headed for international meetings on polar bears not to talk about how climate change and melting ice are affecting the imperiled animals. It is the latest in a string of cases in which the administration has carefully controlled or even banned government employees' public speech about global warming. This latest chapter involves two memorandums written in late February that put strict limits on what U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees could discuss at meetings in Norway and Russia. A third memo says the policy will apply for trips to those two nations as well as Canada and "any northern country." The memos came just months after the administration, under pressure from a suit brought by conservationists, announced that it would consider protecting the bears under the Endangered Species Act. Top-down control of government scientists' discussions of climate change became controversial last year, after appointees at NASA kept journalists from interviewing climate scientists and discouraged news releases on global warming. In June, a high-ranking official in [NASA admitted] the agency "inappropriately" denied a journalist's request to interview James Hansen, an outspoken scientist who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In September, news accounts revealed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had suppressed an internal agency e-mail intended to summarize scientists' consensus on evidence of a link between hurricanes and climate change.
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine the UN climate change report. Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute, an ExxonMobil-funded think tank with close links to the Bush Administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of the report. Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered. The institute has received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil - which yesterday announced a $50 billion annual profit, the biggest ever by a US company - and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush Administration. A former head of ExxonMobil, Lee Raymond, is the vice-chairman of the institute's board of trustees.
Last year was the warmest in the continental United States in the past 112 years -- capping a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record" that was driven in part by the burning of fossil fuels, the government reported yesterday. According to the government's National Climatic Data Center, the record-breaking warmth -- which caused daffodils and cherry trees to bloom throughout the East on New Year's Day -- was the result of both unusual regional weather patterns and the long-term effects of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The center said there are indications that the rate at which global temperatures are rising is speeding up. Average temperatures nationwide in 2006 were 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the mean temperatures nationwide for the 20th century. Climate experts generally do not make much of temperature fluctuations over one or two years, but ... the record 2006 temperatures were part of a long and worrisome trend. For instance, NOAA said, the past nine years have all been among the 25 warmest years on record for the continental United States. Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists [said] "when you look at temperatures across the globe, every single year since 1993 has been in the top 20 warmest years on record." Globally, 2005 was the hottest year on record ... and 2006 was slightly cooler.
ExxonMobil Corp. gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in an effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted yesterday. The report by the advocacy group mirrors similar claims by Britain's leading scientific academy. Last September, The Royal Society wrote the oil company asking it to halt support for groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change." Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' strategy and policy director, said in a teleconference that ExxonMobil based its tactics on those of tobacco companies, spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies or emphasizing only selected facts. James McCarthy, a professor at Harvard University, said the company has sought to "create the illusion of a vigorous debate" about global warming.
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true. As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations ... inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities. Eight years ago ... the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented. Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated. Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas.
Note: There has been little solid evidence showing that this island was inundated due to global warming. For more on this, see this link.
Some 10,000 US researchers have signed a statement protesting about political interference in the scientific process. The statement, which includes the backing of 52 Nobel Laureates, demands a restoration of scientific integrity in government policy. According to the American Union of Concerned Scientists, data is being misrepresented for political reasons. It claims scientists working for federal agencies have been asked to change data to fit policy initiatives. The Union has released an "A to Z" guide that ... documents dozens of recent allegations involving censorship and political interference in federal science. Campaigners say that in recent years the White House has been able to censor the work of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration because a Republican congress has been loath to stand up for scientific integrity. Michael Halpern from the UCS said the statement of objection to political interference had been supported by researchers regardless of their political views. "This science statement that has now been signed by the 10,000 scientists is signed by science advisers to both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Eisenhower, stating that this is not business as usual and calling for this practice to stop."
At hundreds of screenings this year of "An Inconvenient Truth," the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie. The producers of former vice president Al Gore's film about global warming ... certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). It seemed like a no-brainer. In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that ... they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp. That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it. It has run ads in leading newspapers ... questioning the role of manmade emissions in global warming, and financed the work of a small band of scientific skeptics who have tried to challenge the consensus that heat-trapping pollution is drastically altering our atmosphere. NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group's corporate advisory board.
ExxonMobil should stop funding groups that have spread the idea that global warming is a myth and that try to influence policymakers to adopt that view, two senators said today in a letter to the oil company. In their letter to ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., appealed to Exxon's sense of corporate responsibility, asking the company to "come clean about its past denial activities." The two senators called on ExxonMobil to "end any further financial assistance" to groups "whose public advocacy has contributed to the small but unfortunately effective climate change denial myth." An upcoming study from the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that ExxonMobil funded 29 climate change denial groups in 2004 alone. Since 1990, the report said, the company has spent more than $19 million funding groups that promote their views through publications and Web sites that are not peer reviewed by the scientific community.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is quitting the hydropower and geothermal power research business -- if Congress will let it. Declaring them "mature technologies" that need no further funding, the Bush administration in its FY 2007 budget request eliminates hydropower and geothermal research. "What we do well is research and funding of new, novel technologies," says Craig Stevens, chief spokesman for the DOE. "I'm just astonished the department would zero out these very small existing budgets for geothermal and hydro," says V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. "These are very important resources for our energy future that could replace the need for a lot of coal-fired power plants." Indeed, the costs of lost opportunities from dropping such research could be enormous in the long run. Geothermal holds vast potential -- at least 30,000 megawatts of identified resources developable by 2050. Meanwhile, the more than 5,400 potential "small hydro" power projects could produce about 20,000 megawatts of power, a DOE study in January found. And most would require no new dams at all, shunting a portion of a small river's flow to one side to make electricity. Others would add turbines to dams that don't have them yet. Together, high-tech hydropower and geothermal resources could contribute at least enough power to replace more than 100 medium-size coal-fired power plants with emissions-free electricity.
The nation's top climate scientists are giving "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy. The former vice president's movie -- replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets -- mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.
Just how far will corporate lobbyists go to tilt governmental decisions in their favor? Last fall, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Clean Air Act does not require regulating carbon dioxide emissions that are heating up the planet at an unprecedented rate. It turns out that two of the jurists who helped decide the case -- Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg and Judge David B. Sentelle -- attended a six-day global warming seminar at Yellowstone National Park sponsored by a free-market foundation and featuring presentations from companies with a clear financial interest in limiting regulation. Exxon Mobil Corp. and other large businesses contribute to conservative think tanks to help "educate" federal judges through seminars like the one at Yellowstone. The Code of Conduct for federal judges does not prohibit attending such seminars -- as long as participation does not "cast reasonable doubt on the capacity to decide impartially issues that may come before them." Leaders of Congress and the federal courts seem to recognize that the federal judiciary ought to be out of bounds for lobbyists. Judges are appointed for life, and allowing insider access threatens the integrity of the one branch of government that should stand above politics. Court cases must be won by argument, not by influence, and that means putting a stop to judicial junkets that give one side of the debate an unfair advantage.
Johan Eliasch is finding himself in the news a lot these days. Just over a week ago it emerged that this Swedish-born tycoon ... had bought 400,000 acres of the Amazonian rainforest, an area the size of Greater London. He bought it, he said, to save it, to preserve its plants and wildlife - and, by preserving old-growth forest, to do his bit towards counteracting rising CO2 levels. Eliasch's response to the issue of global warming and the devastation of habitats is unusual, but it is not isolated. Paul van Klissingen, owner of Calor gas, has spent Ł15m on land in Africa. Kris McDivitt, former head of Patagonia clothing, and her husband Doug Tompkins, co-founder of the North Face, own 2m acres in Chile and Argentina. George Soros and Luciano Benetton own 1m and 2m acres of South America respectively. The idea is to step in where local governments, for whatever reason, have failed, or have more pressing issues to deal with, to buy up the land and lock it down by banning logging, sometimes establishing wildlife parks. Eliasch has been thinking about environmental issues for a long time, he says. When he was growing up in Stockholm he used to be able to walk out of his front door and ski from late October until April. "Today in Stockholm, you can't ski at all." I ask what [it feels] like to own so much rainforest? A slight laugh. "It's something very precious. It's a responsibility, at the same time." A pause. "It's not really a personal possession."
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A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs ... warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. 'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.' The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. Climate change 'should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern', say the authors. Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. A former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.
Note: Though I don't agree with these doomsday scenario predictions (the Pentagon tends to focus on worst-case scenarios), the suppression of this report clearly does not serve the public.
Bush's relationship to science can be illustrated by the fact that he is speaking rapturously of producing ethanol from (of all things) switch grass -- but not saying a word about what many scientists say may be the greatest disaster facing humankind: global climate change. [In] a Time magazine cover story...Mark Thompson and Karen Tumulty write that "growing numbers of researchers, both in and out of government, say their findings -- on pollution, climate change, reproductive health, stem-cell research and other areas in which science often finds itself at odds with religious, ideological or corporate interests -- are being discounted, distorted or quashed by Bush Administration appointees. In the past two years, the Union of Concerned Scientists has collected the signatures of more than 8,000 scientists -- including 49 Nobel laureates... -- who accuse the Administration of an unprecedented level of political intrusion into their world. Says Francesca Grifo, director of the group's Scientific Integrity Program,"'What's new is its pervasive and systemic nature. We get calls every week from federal scientists reporting stuff to us. Rarely, however, are they willing to put their jobs and their research grants at risk by going public with their complaints." 29-year NASA veteran James Hansen, who is director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, charged on the front page of the New York Times that he has been muzzled by the agency. Melissa Block interviewed Bransby on NPR and found out that politics played a role in Bush's mention of switch grass.
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