Global Warming News StoriesExcerpts of Key Global Warming News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of global warming news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
Climate change is happening much faster than the world's best scientists predicted and will wreak havoc unless action is taken on a global scale, a new report warns. 'Extreme weather events' such as the hot summer of 2003, which caused an extra 35,000 deaths across southern Europe from heat stress and poor air quality, will happen more frequently. Britain and the North Sea area will be hit more often by violent cyclones and the predicted rise in sea level will double to more than a metre, putting vast coastal areas at risk from flooding. The bleak report from WWF -- formerly the World Wildlife Fund -- also predicts crops failures and the collapse of ecosystems on both land and sea. And it calls on the EU to set an example to the rest of the world by agreeing a package of challenging targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to tackle the consequences of climate change and to keep any increase in global temperatures below 2C. The agency says that the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ... is now out of date. WWF's report, Climate Change: Faster, stronger, sooner, has updated all the scientific data and concluded that global warming is accelerating far beyond the IPCC's forecasts. As an example it says the first 'tipping point' may have already been reached in the Arctic, where sea ice is disappearing up to 30 years ahead of IPCC predictions and may be gone completely within five years - something that hasn't occurred for a million years. It could result in rapid and abrupt climate change rather than the gradual changes forecast by the IPCC.
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James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has [co-authored a] paper saying that [future global warming] is likely to turn out worse than most people think. The most recent major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 projects a temperature rise of three degrees Celsius, plus or minus 1.5 degrees—enough to trigger serious impacts on human life from rising sea level, widespread drought, changes in weather patterns, and the like. But according to Hansen and his nine co-authors ... the correct figure is closer to six degrees C. “That’s the equilibrium level,” he says. “We won’t get there for a while. But that’s where we’re aiming.” And although the full impact of this temperature increase will not be felt until the end of this century or even later, Hansen says, the point at which major climate disruption is inevitable is already upon us. “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted,” the paper states, “CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm [parts per million] to at most 350 ppm.” The situation, he says, “is much more sensitive than we had implicitly been assuming.” Back in 1998 ... Hansen was arguing that the human impact on climate was unquestionable, even as other leading climate scientists continued to question it. He was subsequently proved right, not only about the human influence but about the approximate pace of future temperature rise.
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[The Bush] administration is ... proposing changes that would allow federal agencies to decide for themselves whether subdivisions, dams, highways and other projects have the potential to harm endangered animals and plants. Agencies also could not consider a project's contribution to global warming in their analysis. Environmentalists complained the proposals would gut protections for endangered animals and plants. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne [said] the revisions ... were needed to ensure that the Endangered Species Act would not be used as a "back door" to regulate the gases blamed for global warming. In May, the polar bear became the first species declared as threatened because of climate change. Warming temperatures are expected to melt the sea ice the bear depends on for survival. The rule changes ... would apply to any project a federal agency would fund, build or authorize that the agency itself determines is unlikely to harm endangered wildlife and their habitat. Government wildlife experts currently participate in tens of thousands of such reviews each year. The revisions also would limit which effects can be considered harmful and set a 60-day deadline for wildlife experts to evaluate a project. If no decision is made within 60 days, the project can move ahead. "If adopted, these changes would seriously weaken the safety net of habitat protections that we have relied upon to protect and recover endangered fish, wildlife and plants for the past 35 years," said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming initiative.
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A leading U.S. Senate Democrat accused the Bush administration on Tuesday of a "cover-up" aimed at stopping the Environmental Protection Agency from tackling greenhouse emissions. "This cover-up is being directed from the White House and the office of the vice president," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. At issue is a preliminary finding by the EPA last December that "greenhouse gases may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare," according to Jason Burnett, the agency's former associate deputy administrator who appeared at a news conference with Boxer. Such a finding would be an early step toward government regulation aimed at protecting public health. Boxer said that unless EPA documents were released, it was likely that within the next two weeks her committee would try to subpoena the material. Burnett, who resigned on June 9, told Boxer's committee the White House tried pressuring him to retract an e-mail [in] which he detailed the finding. Burnett said he refused. Since then, the EPA finding has been left "in limbo." [Boxer] has been trying since last October to obtain related documents to show that planned congressional testimony on global warming by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was censored by the Bush administration. Burnett told the congressional committee the administration's Council on Environmental Quality "and the office of the vice president were seeking deletions to the CDC testimony."
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The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week. The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment. This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant. Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”
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An investigation by the NASA inspector general found that political appointees in the space agency's public affairs office worked to control and distort public accounts of its researchers' findings about climate change for at least two years. The probe came at the request of 14 senators after The Washington Post and other news outlets reported in 2006 that Bush administration officials had monitored and impeded communications between NASA climate scientists and reporters. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and has campaigned publicly for more stringent limits on greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, told The Post and The New York Times in September 2006 that he had been censored by NASA press officers, and several other agency climate scientists reported similar experiences. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are two of the government's lead agencies on climate change issues. From the fall of 2004 through 2006, the report said, NASA's public affairs office "managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public." It noted elsewhere that "news releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution." The report found "by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career public affairs officers were ... persuasive."
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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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A handful of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies are seeking hundreds of patents on gene-altered crops designed to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, part of a race for dominance in the potentially lucrative market for crops that can handle global warming. Three companies -- BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis -- have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds of the climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide, according to the report by the Ottawa-based ETC Group, an activist organization that advocates for subsistence farmers. Many of the world's poorest countries, destined to be hit hardest by climate change, have rejected biotech crops, citing environmental and economic concerns. Importantly, gene patents generally preclude the age-old practice of saving seeds from a harvest for replanting, requiring instead that farmers purchase the high-tech seeds each year. The ETC report concludes that biotech giants are hoping to leverage climate change as a way to get into resistant markets, and it warns that the move could undermine public-sector plant-breeding institutions such as those coordinated by the United Nations and the World Bank, which have long made their improved varieties freely available. "When a market is dominated by a handful of large multinational companies, the research agenda gets biased toward proprietary products," said Hope Shand, ETC's research director. "Monopoly control of plant genes is a bad idea under any circumstance. During a global food crisis, it is unacceptable and has to be challenged."
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Global warming is disrupting wildlife and the environment on every continent, according to an unprecedented study that reveals the extent to which climate change is already affecting the world's ecosystems. Scientists examined published reports dating back to 1970 and found that at least 90% of environmental damage and disruption around the world could be explained by rising temperatures. Big falls in Antarctic penguin populations, fewer fish in African lakes, shifts in American river flows and earlier flowering and bird migrations in Europe are all likely to be driven by global warming, the study found. The team of experts, including members of the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) ... is the first to formally link some of the most dramatic changes to the world's wildlife and habitats with human-induced climate change. [The] researchers analysed reports highlighting changes in populations or behaviour of 28,800 animal and plant species. They examined a further 829 reports that focused on different environmental effects, including surging rivers, retreating glaciers and shifting forests, across the seven continents. To work out how much - or if at all - global warming played a role, the scientists next checked historical records to see what impact natural variations in local climate, deforestation and changes in land use might have on the ecosystems and species that live there. In 90% of cases the shifts in wildlife behaviour and populations could only be explained by global warming, while 95% of environmental changes, such as melting permafrost, retreating glaciers and changes in river flows were consistent with rising temperatures.
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.
The trap was sprung in February 2006. The White House ordered that Dr Jim Hansen was to be denied the oxygen of publicity forthwith. He was to be banned from appearing in newspapers and on TV and radio. He was effectively to disappear. It was the kind of treatment that might be reserved for terrorists, criminals or, in a totalitarian regime, for political dissidents. Hansen, however, was none of these things. The director of NASA’s renowned Goddard space science laboratories was a dry, rather self-effacing climate change scientist with a worldwide reputation for accurate and high-quality research. Hansen’s visit to London last week was partly inspired by the decision to approve construction of a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. This, Hansen wants to warn us, is a recipe for global warming disaster. The recent warm winters that Britain has experienced are a clear sign that the climate is changing, he says. “We are fast approaching a series of tipping points. Changes such as the melting of the Arctic ice cap, the acidification of the oceans and the global rises in temperature could be approaching the point of becoming irreversible. In the face of such threats it is madness to propose a new generation of power plants based on burning coal, which is the dirtiest and most polluting of all the fossil fuels. We need a moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants and we must phase out the existing ones within two decades.”
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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.
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.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.