Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Climate Crisis Update 8-2-07: News from India, China, Russia, Brazil and the USA

Image: Earth at Night, NASA

"I am not a scientist; I am not an economist, but if you ask any scientist or economist they will tell you the science is clear, the economics are clear," [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] told a breakfast meeting with staff of the San Francisco Chronicle. "They say action should have been taken yesterday, but it may not be too late if we take it today."
Mr. Ban said the international community has reached "almost the saturation point" on the issue, which the UN "takes very seriously."
The Secretary-General emphasized the toll that climate change is taking on developing countries, pointing out that they do not have the resources to cope that are available in developed States. "It is ironic that those people who have least [contributed] to this cause will have the brunt of serious responsibility [for its consequences]," he said, declaring: "The industrialized countries must help."

Climate Crisis Update 8-2-07: News from India, China, Russia, Brazil and the USA

By Richard Power

Five stories from recent days, taken together, offer a dazzling perspective on the scope, significance, impact and implications of global warming and climate change:

From India, news of an initiative which is delivering small-scale, sustainable lighting to both urban and rural poor.

From Brazil, news that the realization of what deforestation and drought in the Amazon could mean for the agriculture sector and other considerations is causing Lula to re-think his government's stance on global warming.

From Russia, news that Putin is focusing on "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests" as the ice thaws, opening up a shorter northern shipping route between Europe and Asia.

From China, news that the government's chief meteorological official is citing global warming and climate change as responsible "natural disasters such as rainstorms, floods and droughts across the country this year."

From the USA, news of research that provides further substantiaton of the correlation between the rise in the number of hurricanes and the temperature of sea water.

Here are brief excerpts from these stories, with links to the full texts:

Over the past three years, the Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund, Inc. (S3IDF) has implemented 35 low-investment renewable lighting projects for urban and rural communities, benefiting about 5,500 people. “Increasing evolution of technology and materials is driving small-scale solutions to be much more cost effective in poor areas,” explains Dr. Russell deLucia, founder and president of S3IDF. .... “The poor represent a significant market for modern, clean-energy services because they spend a high proportion of their incomes on inefficient sources such as firewood, candles, batteries and kerosene,” deLucia explains. The world’s working-poor are in critical need of infrastructure services and are willing to pay for them if these are designed to meet their priorities, he says
S3IDF uses a variety of mechanisms to mainstream clean energy.
NGO Brings Lighting Services to Poor Households in India, WorldChanging Team, 7-30-07

Alarmed at recent indications of climate change here in the Amazon and in other regions of Brazil, the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has begun showing signs of new flexibility in the tangled, politically volatile international negotiations to limit human-caused global warming.
The factors behind the re-evaluation range from a drought here in the Amazon rain forest, the world’s largest, and the impact that it could have on agriculture if it recurs, to new phenomena like a hurricane in the south of Brazil. As a result, environmental advocates, scientists and some politicians say, Brazilian policy makers and the public they serve are increasingly seeing climate change not as a distant problem, but as one that could affect them too.
Brazil, Alarmed, Reconsiders Policy on Climate Change, NY Times, 7-31-07

"The reindeers' health is suffering. Their meat isn't so tasty," he said, explaining that the animals had to be herded greater distances to find cooler grazing grounds in upland areas. ...
While there are fears for wildlife, there is growing optimism about the Arctic maritime passage that runs across the top of Russia from the Bering Straits to the north Atlantic.
In May President Vladimir Putin called for greater attention to this passage, which is known as the Northern Sea Route and now operates only piecemeal. It could potentially cut thousands of kilometres (miles) off sea travel between Europe and Asia.
In an address on a nuclear ice-breaker in Murmansk, he urged more effort in the area to secure Russia's "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests." ...
The administration now plans to build a floating nuclear power station off Chukotka's north coast as part of the bid to revive the region. ...
Also along the coast there is growing conflict between people and polar bears.
The bears have been forced ashore as their normal habitat, the polar ice sheets, now recedes as much as 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) north of Chukotka in summer.
Drip, drip of global warming spells change in northern Russia, Agence France Press, 7-25-07

China's top meteorological official has blamed global warming for extreme weather in China this year, urging concerned departments to improve emergency responses to reduce possible losses.
"Extreme weather has incurred frequent natural disasters such as rainstorms, floods and droughts across the country this year," said Zheng Guoguang, chief of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA).
Fierce rainstorms swept China this summer, triggering floods, landslides and mud-rock flows. Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality in the southwest recorded the heaviest rainfall in record while a year ago they were ravaged by all time high temperatures and severe droughts.
Almost half a million people have been evacuated from the projected path of floodwaters from the Huaihe River, which is expected to see its worst flooding since 1954.
China blames global warming for extreme weather, Xinhua, 8-1-07

Using records dating back to 1855, hurricane researchers say they have uncovered an ongoing rise in the number of Atlantic hurricanes that tracks the increase in sea surface temperature related to climate change. Critics of such a link argue that this trend is merely because of better observations since the dawn of the satellite era in the 1970s. But the authors of the new study say the conclusion is hard to dodge.
"Even if we take the extreme of these error estimates, we are left with a significant trend since 1890 and a significant trend in major hurricanes starting anytime before 1920," say atmospheric scientists Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and Peter Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Stronger Link Found between Hurricanes and Global Warming, Scientific American, 7-30-07

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