Global Warming News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Global Warming News Articles in Media
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.
A group of 1,700 leading scientists called on the US government yesterday to take the lead in fighting global warming. Citing the "unprecedented and unanticipated" effects of global warming, the scientists, including six Nobel prizewinners, presented a letter calling for an immediate reduction in US carbon emissions. The letter, issued by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists, warns: "If emissions continue unabated, our nation and the world will face more sea level rise, heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, snowmelt, flood risk, and public health threats, as well as increased rates of plant and animal species extinctions." The White House joined in the chorus of gloom when it issued a long-delayed report bringing together research into global warming. The report was issued after environmental groups won a court order last year enforcing a statute that obliges the government to produce an assessment of global warming every four years. Described as "a litany of bad news in store for the US", the report catalogues threats from drought, natural disaster, insect infestation and energy shortages. The scientists call on the government to "reduce emissions on the order of 80% below 2000 levels by 2050." As a first step, the scientists call for a 15-20% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. "There is no time to waste," the letter concludes. "The most risky thing we can do is nothing." Another group of climate scientists warned yesterday that a "curious optimism ... pervades the political arenas of the G8 and UN climate meetings. The authors are part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but stress in this paper they do not represent the panel.
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It's been dubbed a Noah's Ark for plant life and built to withstand an earthquake or a nuclear attack. Dug deep into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, the "doomsday" vault is designed by Norway to protect the world's seeds from global catastrophe. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a backup to the world's 1,400 other seed banks, was to be officially inaugurated in a ceremony Tuesday on the northern rim of civilization attended by about 150 guests from 33 countries. The frozen vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples from around the globe, shielding them from climate change, war, natural disasters and other threats. Norway's government owns the vault in Svalbard, a frigid archipelago 620 miles from the North Pole. The Nordic country paid $9.1 million for construction, which took less than a year. Other countries can deposit seeds for free and reserve the right to withdraw them upon need. Giant air conditioning units have chilled the vault to just below zero, a temperature at which experts say many seeds could survive for 1,000 years. Inside the concrete entrance ... a roughly 400-foot-long tunnel of steel and concrete leads to three separate 32-by-88-foot chambers where the seeds will be stored. The first 600 boxes with 12 tons of seeds already have arrived from 20 seed banks around the world, Norwegian Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said. Each chamber can hold 1.5 million packets holding all types of crop seeds, from carrots to wheat.
A sea change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil. It’s meat. Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests. The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) At about 5 percent of the world’s population, [Americans] “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total. Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. An estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production. Livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation. Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens.
Hydrogen, tested in buses from Amsterdam to Vancouver ... is a clean power that promises to break dependence on oil and gas -- at least in Iceland. With almost unlimited geothermal energy sizzling beneath its surface, Iceland has an official goal of making the country oil-free by shifting cars, buses, trucks and ships over to hydrogen by about 2050. About 70 percent of Iceland's energy needs ... are already met by geothermal or hydro-electric power. Only the transport sector is still hooked on polluting oil and gas. The world's first hydrogen filling station, run by Shell, opened in Reykjavik in April 2003. Hydrogen bus projects have also been launched in cities including Barcelona, Chicago, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Stockholm, Beijing and Perth, Australia. The efficiency of the hydrogen fuel cells will decide if the ventures take off into the wider car market. "The idea is that the buses should be twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine," said Jon Bjorn Skulason, general manager of Icelandic New Energy Ltd. Greater engine efficiency would compensate for the inefficiency of producing hydrogen. Iceland's buses, made by DaimlerChrysler, cost about 1.25 million euros ($1.67 million) each, or three to four times more than a diesel-powered bus, Skulason said. It takes about 6-10 minutes to refill a hydrogen bus, giving a range of 240 miles. [A] Reykjavik bus driver said diesel and hydrogen buses were similar to drive. "But the hydrogen bus is less noisy."
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.
The ozone layer has stopped shrinking but it will take decades to start recovering, U.S. scientists reported on Tuesday. They said an international agreement to limit production of ozone-depleting chemicals has apparently worked, but the damage to ozone has not been halted completely. An analysis of satellite records and surface monitoring instruments shows the ozone layer has grown a bit thicker in some parts of the world, but is still well below normal levels, the scientists report in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research. The experts credited, at least in part, the 1987 Montreal Protocol which was ratified by more than 180 nations and set legally binding controls for on the production and consumption of ozone-depleting gases containing chlorine and bromine.
Global warming is approaching the point of no return, after which widespread drought, crop failure and rising sea levels will be irreversible, an international climate change task force warned Monday. It called on the Group of 8 leading industrial nations to cut carbon emissions, double their research spending on technology and work with India and China to build on the Kyoto Protocol for cuttings emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” blamed for global warming. “An ecological time bomb is ticking away,” said Stephen Byers, who was co-chairman of the task force with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. “World leaders need to recognize that climate change is the single most important long-term issue that the planet faces.” According to the report, urgent action is needed to stop the global average temperature rising by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the level of the year 1750 — the approximate start of the Industrial Revolution, when mankind first started significantly adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. No accurate temperature readings were available for 1750, the report said, but since 1860 the global average temperature has risen by 0.8 percent to 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit).
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.
Climate change is serious business - in more ways than one. Capitalist 'bootleggers' have co-opted the environmental [movement] to fulfil their raison d'etre - making money. Thanks to the 'greenwash', the solutions could be worse than the problems. Sitting on the board of [a] virtuous-sounding group - the Alliance for Climate Protection (ACP) - is one of the world's most famous green champions, Al Gore. Alongside him sits Theodore Roosevelt IV. Theodore the Fourth is a ... managing director of Barclays Capital. Consider another environmental-economics powerhouse, Generation Investment Management (GIM). Gore founded it ... with the aid of David Blood - chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management from 1999 to 2003. It is economics, not environmentalism, that has driven the search for ethically superior energy from "clean" sources derived from previously sacrosanct areas of wilderness, the exploitation of which has suddenly been legitimised, perhaps as new "energy farms" or for "biofuels". Likewise, previously off-limits coastal areas have been designated as not only suitable but also positively benign sites on which to drill for oil and gas. After all, the long-term interest - one might say the fuel - propelling countries is money. "Greenwash" is the term environmentalists use to describe businesses that present themselves as green although their practices are not.
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Floods, fires, melting ice, and feverish heat — from smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Iowa and the High Arctic, the planet seems to be having a midsummer breakdown. It is not just a portent of things to come, scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way. The weather-related cataclysms of July and August fit patterns predicted by climate scientists, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization says, although those scientists always shy from tying individual disasters directly to global warming. The specialists see an urgent need for better ways to forecast extreme events like Russia’s heat wave and wildfires and the record deluge devastating Pakistan. “There is no time to waste,’’ because societies must be equipped to deal with global warming, says British government climatologist Peter Stott. The UN’s network of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has long predicted that rising global temperatures would produce more frequent and intense heat waves and more intense rainfalls. In its latest assessment, in 2007, the Nobel Prize-winning panel went beyond that. It said these trends “have already been observed,’’ in an increase in heat waves since 1950, for example. The World Meteorological Organization pointed out that this summer’s events fit the international scientists’ projections of “more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming.’’
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