MAY LOVE PREVAIL ON EARTH
February 18, 2005
The Green Holocaust Files #18: Kyoto Delusion
Here is most everything your ever wanted to know about the Kyoto Protocol but probably never thought of asking. And some more.
Of course, as many stated, it is a step in the right direction but it falls abysmally short of what is truly needed to even begin to make a dent in the frenzy of pollution and environmental devastation humanity is creating for itself and countless generations to come.
Extraterrestrial civilizations monitoring the situation are certainly scratching their very intelligent heads in bewilderment at how stupid and shortsighted so many of us are when it comes to safeguarding our very own planet.
Just like the proverbial guy sawing the branch on which he is sitting...
Someone is going to have to pump up the volume to get everyone, particularly the see-no-problem American and Australian governments, to start taking seriously the most formidable threat humanity ever had to face.
Do you think YOU can do something about it?
Earth Rainbow Network Coordinator
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Worthy of Your Attention
Listen to the Wombat - All is One
Recommended by "Kathleen Roberts" firstname.lastname@example.org>
1. Stumbling block that poses threat to Kyoto protocol
2. Climate fears prompt energy U-turn in China
3. It's Much Too Late to Sweat Global Warming
4. Climate treaty takes effect, but will it matter?
5. A LETTER FROM THE FUTURE
6. Global Warming: The Danger of Tilting at Windmills
7. FORESTS: Anarchy in the Rainforests
8. The United States Must Curb Global Warming
9. Suicide Seeds - Bombshell in Bangkok
Al Gore, Global Warming and Moral Leadership (Feb 16, 2005)
Today the Kyoto Treaty on global warming goes into effect and for the first time the world has united (with the exception of the U.S. and Australia) to begin to address the greatest threat humankind has ever faced. Tonight, in Los Angeles, former Vice President Al Gore will outline a plan for moral leadership to take on the climate change crisis and to re-engage the world's biggest polluter - the United States of America. He will call on George W. Bush to join "the coalition of the willing" and make a commitment to face the problem and take action. In a preview of his remarks for the press, Gore called the Kyoto agreement "historic." While agreeing with the criticism that Kyoto itself falls far short of the measures that will ultimately be needed, Gore said that the value of Kyoto is that it sends a clear market signal. The cap and trade system for CO2 emissions is already in place in Europe and the response has been robust. He called the formal beginning of Kyoto "a great cause for hope," and said that it was just the beginning of a cascade of actions and policies that will quickly accelerate. CLIP
Kyoto Protocol needs America (February 17, 2005)
Yesterday was a landmark day for conservationists and climatologists worldwide as the United Nation's Kyoto Protocol Agreement finally went into effect. It is a baby step in the effort to scale back industrial pollution, but a very significant one. More than 141 countries have signed the pact, which is geared toward trying to limit the onslaught of higher temperatures, melting ice caps and greater extremes of weather. Although a majority of developed countries signed the protocol, there remain two important characters missing. Both the United States and Australia felt that the Kyoto Protocol would be too costly for them economically, and have chosen not to sign it. Australia cited the fact that other countries in their region [China] have not signed it and thus signing would leave them strapped economically. America's main concern lies with the rising energy costs and the economical damage it could produce. Right now, the United States is the single largest producer of greenhouse gases thanks to its world-dominating industrialized economy. Meanwhile, Australia is located beneath a hole in the ozone layer that has caused a spike in skin cancer cases in that country. For these two nations to ignore their responsibilities to their populations and the world is completely absurd. The rest of the world seems to think that global warming is a very important issue, even if the United States and Australia do not. In a message to ceremonies in Kyoto, Japan, the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan branded global warming as "one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century." Annan also has stated that, "By itself, the Protocol will not save humanity from the dangers of climate change. So let us celebrate, but let us not be complacent ... there is no time to lose." CLIP
Exxon chief calls for Kyoto reality check (18 February 2005)
The head of ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, has warned Europe that "a reality check" is needed over its commitment to the Kyoto treaty on climate change.Lee R Raymond, the chairman and chief executive, caused outrage among environmentalists with his comments, given in a speech in London to an oil industry gathering. He declared that the targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set by Europe, which is leading the world in the implementation of Kyoto, would prove very difficult to achieve. (...) Exxon, which also trades as Esso in this country, has never accepted the mainstream science on global warming that led to the signing of the Kyoto treaty in 1997. The company points to "uncertainties" in the science and funds a number of think tanks and academics that have questioned the research. The EU has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed for global warming, to 8 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Mr Raymond said: "I also think there will be a need to be realistic about environmental targets. While the political commitment to the Kyoto process and targets is quite strong in Europe, attaining those targets is going to be very challenging, given the energy supply and demand realities. That is why a reality check may be needed regarding the attainment of those targets." He said the world will experience a dramatic rise in energy demand - equal to an extra 100 million barrels per day of oil by 2030 - more than 10 times the current output of Saudi Arabia, the world's leading producer. He said fossils fuels remained the only way of meeting those needs, in particular from new sources of gas. Mr Raymond predicted wind and solar energy would provide just 1 per cent of global requirements in 2030. Unlike Shell and BP, Exxon opposes the Kyoto treaty - many saw its hand behind the decision taken by the Bush administration in 2001 to pull out of Kyoto. But Exxon insists it is taking practical actions to reduce emissions. A spokesman said that Kyoto would "impose dramatic economic costs in the developed world" while failing to tackle the emissions from the developing world. He said the company believed that "it is time to move beyond Kyoto" and focus on developing technologies to reduce emissions.The dinner Mr Raymond addressed was disrupted by protesters, who labelled him "the number one climate criminal". CLIP
US Rejection of Kyoto Brings Protest in Italy (15 February 2005)
"We think that United States of America make a big mistake not signing the Kyoto protocol," said Francesco Ferrante of Italy's Environment League. Italian environmentalists demonstrate in front of Rome's US Embassy to help mark implementation of Kyoto Protocol on global warming Standing outside the United States Embassy in Rome, a group of environmentalists waving flags voiced their disagreement with Washington for its failure to ratify the Kyoto protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.The treaty, which was signed in the ancient Japanese capital in 1997, takes effect Wednesday.Mr. Ferrante said greenhouse gases are causing climate changes and the United States is one of the world's greatest polluters. "The fact that there is no engagement in the United States to reduce these gases is a very bad thing for all the planet," he said. Mr. Ferrante added that signing the Kyoto protocol goes in the right direction to slow down global warming. The president of the Environment League, Roberto Della Seta, said Wednesday would be a historic date for the planet. Each government, he said, will have to show it believes in the commitment it has undertaken to radically reverse its energy policies. The United States, like Australia, has not signed the treaty claiming that the burden to their economies caused by Kyoto would be too great. The Bush administration prefers setting voluntary emission limits for U.S. companies and more research on new energy technologies. The administration also thinks rapidly industrializing countries, such as China and India, should meet the same emissions standards as developed nations. A total of 141 countries have ratified the treaty, which demands a 5.2 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from the industrialized world as a whole, by 2012. Each country has been given its own individual targets according to its pollution levels.
Government threatened with court for 'soft' targets on greenhouse gas reduction (15 February 2005)
Government plans to curb greenhouse gases are "illegal" because they are "not tough enough", the European Commission warned yesterday. Brussels accused the Government of reneging on a formal agreement and increasing the ceiling for CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by millions of tonnes. It threatened to take the Government to court unless it backs down. CLIP
Apocalypse now: how mankind is sleepwalking to the end of the Earth (06 February 2005)
Floods, storms and droughts. Melting Arctic ice, shrinking glaciers, oceans turning to acid. The world's top scientists warned last week that dangerous climate change is taking place today, not the day after tomorrow. CLIP - In case you missed it, this is a MUST read.
Global Warming: Scientists Reveal Timetable (3 Feb 2005 - In case you missed this one too)
A detailed timetable of the destruction and distress that global warming is likely to cause the world was unveiled yesterday. It pulls together for the first time the projected impacts on ecosystems and wildlife, food production, water resources and economies across the earth, for given rises in global temperature expected during the next hundred years. The resultant picture gives the most wide-ranging impression yet of the bewildering array of destructive effects that climate change is expected to exert on different regions, from the mountains of Europe and the rainforests of the Amazon to the coral reefs of the tropics. CLIP
Aleutian oil spill now biggest in Alaska since 1989 (Feb 16)
ANCHORAGE: A cargo ship that ran aground, split in two and poured fuel oil into the Bering Sea in December ranks as one of the biggest spills in Alaska, dwarfed only by the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, state environmental officials said on Thursday. Among the reported environmental impacts of the wreck of the Malaysian-flagged Selendang Ayu, which ran aground in Alaskas Aleutian island chain, are 1,600 dead birds and oil in the plumage of bald eagles and the fur of red foxes. The U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies now estimate that 321,047 gallons (1.2 million litres) poured from the vessel, out of the 424,000 gallons (1.6 million litres) of intermediate-grade fuel oil and 18,000 gallons (68,000 litres) of diesel fuel on board. CLIP
Momentum Builds for Emissions Bills (15 February 2005)
New York - With most of the world about to leave the United States in the dust on climate change policy, the fray is shifting from global summits to Washington's Capitol Hill, where a growing coalition of Democrats and Republicans is lobbying for a national cap on carbon dioxide emissions. The Kyoto Protocol to regulate emissions of CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases, which takes effect Wednesday, has been dismissed by the George W. Bush administration as too pricey and damaging to the U.S. economy. The party line at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been to emphasise the "uncertainties" of climate science. High-profile officials like Dr. John Marburger III, Bush's science adviser, have also disputed the data underlying computer models on global warming, the latest of which predict catastrophic temperature increases of up to 11 degrees by mid-century. But in a reflection of the widening divide between Washington and the states, which are looking at the very real possibility of lost agricultural production, wildfires and coastal flooding, many elected representatives are rejecting Bush's voluntary approach to controlling emissions. The biggest piece of legislation, the Climate Stewardship Act, was first introduced by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman in 2003, when it won backing from 43 out of 98 senators. "The issue is not going away and the cost of inaction will continue to rise," McCain said on Feb. 10. "To further define the problem is not enough. We must take a more active role in finding a solution." The United States produces about one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, with the state of Texas alone regularly exceeding France in annual emissions. CLIP
CUTS LIKE A KNIFE, BUT IT FEELS SO WRONG
From GRIST MAGAZINE http://grist.org
Details of environmental cuts in Bush's budget emerge - Now that the nation's water is all cleaned up, the Bush administration has proposed sharply cutting a federal assistance program designed to help modernize aging sewer systems and prevent toxic runoff into streams and rivers -- from $1.35 billion in 2004 to $730 million. And now that the nation is no longer dependent on foreign oil, the Bush budget proposes a roughly 4 percent cut in Department of Energy funding for efficiency and renewable energy. With the oceans spic and span, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration faces proposed cuts of around 8.3 percent, hitting heaviest in those parts of the agency that work on ocean preservation and overfishing. The budget "limits and tames the spending appetite of the federal government," said President Bush, who has never vetoed a spending bill, and whose Medicare prescription drug benefit is now set to cost more than twice his projection of $534 billion over 10 years, a difference that could restore all the aforementioned cuts and leave several hundred billion dollars left over.
I'm a toxic waste dump, loaded with mercury - and I don't even eat very much fish (Nov. 17, 2004)
| Too bad Superfund is bankrupt, because I recently discovered that I'm a toxic waste dump. Yes, I'm a walking, talking contamination site, liable at any moment to freak out my friends,colleagues and acquaintances by announcing that my mercury pollution level exceeds federal health guidelines for women my age. In fact, trace amounts of the neurotoxin are in the very fingernails that I'm using to type these words. And you too, may be swimming with mercury,depending on how much tuna or other big carnivorous fish you like to gobble. Curious? You can find out your own mercury levels by sending a few strands of your hair to a testing lab. A few weeks before the presidential election, environmental advocates at Greenpeace offered to test me as part of a study on mercury contamination conducted by the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. I agreed, and shortly thereafter my own mercury test kit arrived in the mail. (...) The Bush administration, flush with the glow of a new term, is poised to issue new guidelines for regulating mercury pollution in March 2005. Environmentalists are not sanguine about the prospect. If a track record is any prediction of future behavior, this administration, they believe, is far more likely to listen to its close friends in the coal industry, who are fighting any increased regulation, instead of the record-breaking 600,000 public comments that the government has received about the proposed rule. In August, the EPA announced that 48 out of 50 states have issued advisories about eating fish caught in their rivers and lakes because of pollution from mercury and other toxins. Over 75 percent of those fish advisories are due to mercury. According to the EPA, most mercury in American adults comes from eating contaminated fish, whether it's caught locally or bought in the supermarket. (...) The good news, from my perspective, is that subjects who cut their fish
intake in some studies, like Hightower's, have seen drops in their measurable mercury levels in just a few months. CLIP
U.S. Scientists Say They Are Told to Alter Findings (February 10, 2005)
More than 200 scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been directed to alter official findings to lessen protections for plants and animals, a survey released Wednesday says. CLIP
THAT'S TRAWL, FOLKS
Bottom-trawling ban proposed for sensitive Alaskan waters
Paving the way for the largest fishing ban of its kind, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously last Thursday to ban bottom trawling on more than half a million square miles of ocean near Alaska's Aleutian Islands -- an area more than twice the size of California. Bottom trawling involves dragging weighted nets along the ocean floor, essentially bulldozing everything in their path, most notably deep-water corals and other sensitive habitat areas. Conservation groups applauded the move, of course, but so did fishing groups, recognizing that conservation is needed if the ecosystem is to continue producing healthy fish populations. The ban would apply largely to areas where little or no trawling is currently done, but it would limit the future spread of fishing. As bottom-trawl fisher David Fraser wrote to the council members, "If in the future we are unable to harvest up to our quotas, it doesn't mean we should seek new fishing grounds. It means we need to reexamine whether we have been managing conservatively enough."
Coral concerns spur vast trawling ban (Feb 11)
(...) Trawling, in which boats drag mammoth nets behind them along the sea bottom for miles, can easily crush the long-lived, brittle creatures on the Aleutian sea floor, which scientists increasingly believe may be the most diverse and abundant cold-water coral and sponge habitat on Earth. The decision won't be final until the council considers it again after a series of public hearings. But with both the fishing industry and environmentalists largely behind it, it's unlikely to change significantly. CLIP
Fishery plan protects coral from trawl nets http://www.adn.com/front/story/6149665p-6027857c.html
Fishing boats 'kill 2,000 dolphins a year' (18 February 2005)
British and French fishing boats could be killing more than 2,000 dolphins a year, environmental scientists have warned.Campaigners renewed calls for a halt to pair-trawling for bass yesterday after a report highlighted the growing number of dolphins caught in nets in the English Channel. They fear that the species could become extinct in the Channel.The study by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) estimates that 9,700 common dolphins were living in the main fishing ground last winter. But pair-trawlers, which tow large nets between two boats, have been blamed for killing hundreds of them.Last September, the Government banned pair-trawling for bass within 12 miles of the coast of south-west England, but environmentalists say this does not go far enough. Last week, Greenpeace launched a High Court challenge to the Government, seeking a ban on all pair-trawling for bass within 200 miles of the UK. CLIP
Corporations Painted in Red and Blue
Having taken a beating at the ballot box, the left is redirecting its post-election energy at corporate boardrooms. Anti-corporate campaigns have been around for decades, but this fight-the- power generation is going about it with a little more finesse. For one, activists shy away from the term "boycott." Too negative. "People are sick of that whiny sort of demeanor," said Craig Minowa, an environmental scientist who helps create campaigns for the Organic Consumers Association, a public interest advocacy group. "In the '60s it was down with this, down with that. Now, people want a more positive message." Among the new wave is North Beach resident Raven Brooks, co-founder of BuyBlue.org. He tells consumers which companies are "blue" (Democratic) or "red" (Republican) -- depending on the contributions of its political action committees and top officers -- and then redirects red shoppers to bluer competitors. "We're not telling people to boycott the companies -- we're just giving them information on how to shift their money," Brooks said. In the coming months, everyone from environmentalists to organic food advocates will supplement their political lobbying with a heftier dose of consumer outrage funneled through "corporate responsibility campaigns." (...) At the heart of any activist's anti-corporation campaign is an appeal for consumers to take their dollars elsewhere -- which BuyBlue.org makes explicit. With the help of 150 volunteers, the 26-year-old Brooks created his Web site in December to rate firms by their blue or red hues. For consumers who no longer want to frequent an online bookseller such as Amazon.com, for example, because the majority of its political action committee's contributions (59 percent) went to Republican candidates last year, BuyBlue.org offers links to blue competitors such as Barnes & Noble or Powell's. By the end of the year, Brooks, a software analyst who has consulted for Fortune 500 firms, expects to include information about a company's record on the environment, minority hiring and other social barometers in addition to its political contributions. CLIP
Clandestine Oil Road Near Yasuni Park Found By Satellite
WASHINGTON, DC, February 16, 2005 (ENS) - A new wave of oil exploration and development now encroaching on one of the planet's great reservoirs of biodiversity - Ecuadors Yasuní National Park - has scientists in Ecuador and the United States worried. An oil access road built by the Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) in the park's buffer zone has just been discovered by viewing satellite images. The Occidental road was built through primary rainforest, on the lands of an indigenous Quichua community. In a letter written to Dr. Ray Irani, chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles based Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy), some of the worlds most preeminent scientists expressed "deep concern" about the road. Scientists who signed the letter include primatologist Jane Goodall; ant expert E.O. Wilson from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard; conservationist Gary Meffe of the University of Georgia who wrote "Principles of Conservation Biology; Thomas Lovejoy, who coined the term biodiversity and originated the concept of debt-for-nature swaps; Stuart Pimm of Duke University; population expert at Stanford Paul Ehrlich and director of the Missouri Botanical Garden Peter Raven, who are cofounders of the field of coevolution. All are authors, Ph.D.s, and outstanding in their fields. Dr. Stuart Pimm is Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University (Photo courtesy Duke) Given its unique location at the intersection of the Andes, the Amazon, and the equator, "Yasuni may well be the single most biodiverse forest on earth," said Pimm, whose expertise lies in species extinctions and what can be done to prevent them. "There are almost as many tree species in just 2.5 acres of the Yasuni region than in the U.S. and Canada combined." The scientists remind Oxy that in its 2003 Health, Safety, and Environment report the company states that, in order to protect indigenous lands and the biodiversity of the Yasuni area, the company would not build any roads in the area. But satellite images recently obtained by the scientists clearly reveal that Occidental has been building an oil access road deeper and deeper into the primary rainforest over the past several years. The letter calls on Occidental to immediately implement a roadless development mandate for all future activities in primary rainforests. (...) The biologists emphasized that the Yasuni region is one of the most diverse sites in the world for birds, amphibians, and insects, is home to 10 primate species, and is critical habitat for 23 globally threatened mammal species, including the jaguar, Amazonian tapir, and white-bellied spider monkey. (...) "Building a new road in the Amazonian frontier is like opening Pandoras Box," said William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution in Panama, who is president-elect of the ATBC. "Once a new road goes in, its nearly impossible to stop subsequent colonization, over-hunting, and deforestation along the road," Laurance said CLIP
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The Life and Brutal Death of Sister Dorothy, a Rainforest Martyr (15 February 2005)
On the lawless fringe of Brazil's Amazon jungle - where illegal loggers have devastated the rainforest - the American nun Dorothy Stang defended the poor. Then the gunmen came for her. (...) The 74-year-old activist was laid to rest yesterday morning after being assassinated by two gunmen on Saturday at a remote encampment in the jungle about 30 miles from the town. Sister Dorothy - the most prominent activist to be murdered in the Amazon since Chico Mendez in 1988 - was shot six times in the head, throat and body at close range. "She was on a list of people marked for death. And little by little they're ticking those names off the list," said Nilde Sousa, an official with a local women's group who worked with the nun.As with the death of Mr Mendez, a rubber tapper, the murder of Sister Dorothy has triggered waves of outrage among environmental and human rights activists who say she dedicated her life to helping the area's poor, landless peasants and confronting the businesses that see the rainforest only as a resource to be plundered and which have already destroyed 20 per cent of its 1.6 million square miles.It has also highlighted the problem for the Brazilian government of balancing a desire to protect the rainforest with pressure to open tracts of forest to support strong economic growth as demanded by the International Monetary Fund, which loaned Brazil billions of dollars following a recession in 2002. Such a conflict of interests has hindered attempts by the authorities to fulfil the promise of the left-leaning President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to find homes for 400,000 landless families. The promise is badly off target and showing no signs of rapid improvement. CLIP
Climate change threatens forests (02.16.2005) http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/dailystar/61612.php
A warmer Arizona and Southwest chill scientists to the bone -- Apocalyptic fires. Devastating insect outbreaks. Invasions by alien plants. Scientists' predictions for how Arizona's forests will respond to global warming seem straight out of the Bible or science fiction. A few researchers speaking at a conference in Sedona last week felt obligated to apologize after their talks since they were so pessimistic. The gloom and doom wasn't as sensational as "The Day After Tomorrow." In Hollywood's version of climate change, the world's weather changes in a New York minute and causes a tidal wave to inundate Manhattan before it freezes solid. But some of the West's top climate experts were even quicker to dismiss global warming skeptics like novelist Michael Crichton, whose new book "State of Fear" portrays the issue as a creature of environmentalists' imagination. To the scientists assembled by the University of Arizona, recent changes in the Arctic are "smoking guns" that show climate change is already happening. But in the Southwest, where a brutal drought, monster wildfires and a bark beetle epidemic have taken their toll in recent years, the evidence is more circumstantial, they say. No one at the conference was questioning if the region will get hotter - or debating what share of the warming will be due to tailpipes, smokestacks or the planet's natural ebb and flow. The assumption was the biggest climate shift since the end of the last Ice Age is under way. The mystery was how it will unfold in Arizona's forests and woodlands, where even slight changes in temperature could have dramatic effects. CLIP
Energy Secretary Pushes to Ramp Up U.S. Ability to Test Nuke Bombs
Also from http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/021605Y.shtml
Washington - Although scientists continue work on simulating nuclear bomb tests by computer, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Tuesday that the Nevada Test Site's ability to resume actual underground warhead detonations must be enhanced. The Bush administration's commitment to step up preparations for a potential resumption of nuclear bomb testing in southern Nevada comes less than a week after the Utah Senate unanimously approved a House-passed resolution that urged the federal government not to "return to the mistakes and miscalculations of the past which have marred many Utahns" and that would create "a new generation of downwinders." Thousands of Utah residents downwind of the Nevada proving ground blame atomic-bomb testing - which began in the 1950s and ended with a 1992 moratorium - for an airborne scourge of disease and death due to radioactive fallout. Appearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Bodman said the administration wants $2 billion in the next fiscal year for the nuclear weapon stockpile stewardship program, which verifies that America's aging atomic arsenal remains operational. CLIP
Oldest Human Remains Found (Feb 17)
Scientists have identified the remains of the oldest known modern humans. They are nearly 200,000-year-old skulls from Ethiopia, dating back almost to the time when modern people evolved in Africa from earlier beings. The date means they are more than 40,000 years older than what anthropologists thought were the oldest human remains. Experts say the finding provides new information about early humans who roamed the earth. The two skulls were originally excavated from near Kibish, Ethiopia, in 1967 by a team, including world renowned archaeologist Richard Leakey. Earlier scientific dating estimated them to be about 130,000 years old. But even at that age, they were not the oldest known modern humans. That distinction fell to other relics from Ethiopia estimated to be about 160,000 years old.
Stumbling block that poses threat to Kyoto protocol
By Fiona Harvey
February 15 2005
The United Nations has not had much to celebrate recently. Perhaps that is why it has made such a fanfare about the Kyoto protocol, the UN-brokered treaty on climate change that comes into force on Wednesday.
The agreement requires developed countries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, which produce the greenhouse gases blamed for causing climate change. The treaty, drawn up in 1997, is widely considered the most important international agreement on environmental issues. But it quickly ran into trouble as developed nations balked at the difficulty of complying with it. The US rejected the treaty as unfair and its future looked in doubt until Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, finally ratified it late last year, after pressure from the European Union.
Klaus Töpfer, UN under-secretary general, says: I'm happy that all these pessimists have been proved wrong. We have proved that in this globalised world there is also the chance of globalised action.
But amid today's celebrations there are signs that key provisions may never work properly. Chief among these is the clean development mechanism, which allows developed countries offset some of their own greenhouse gas emissions by financing projects that cut those in developing nations. In theory, clean development projects cut overall greenhouse gas emissions but there are fears that projects are not gaining approval quickly enough, jeopardising the treaty.
Kyoto binds developed nations to cut emission levels by 2012, compared with those of 1990. Recognising that developed countries' emissions are greater than poorer counterparts', the protocol placed reduction targets only on rich countries. But poorer nations are rapidly industrialising, shifting the balance of carbon dioxide output.
The Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, a US-based research organisation, found China was the second-biggest emitter in 2000, responsible for 14.8 per cent of the world's emissions against the US's 20.6 per cent and the EU's 14 per cent. Persuading developing countries to sign up to emissions reduction is difficult. They resent the idea that the developed world grew rich fuelled by coal, oil and gas while they might be denied the chance to do so.
The clean development mechanism allows companies and governments in developed countries to buy emissions reduction credits by investing in projects in developing countries that reduce emissions.
Curbing the use of fossil fuels requires renewable energy sources--hydroelectricity, wind, wave and tidal power--and in the longer term, developing new power sources, such as hydrogen. Poor countries lack the funds for such investments, so the clean development mechanism helps bring these technologies to the developing world.
The World Bank estimates the potential value of clean development investment in the developing world at between $12.5bn and $25bn.
The UN says so few have been approved because companies have been waiting until the Kyoto agreement came into force. Others discern a different reason. Non-governmental organisations feared the clean development mechanism would become a loophole, allowing polluters to continue to pollute at home while claiming credit for foreign projects that would have gone ahead in any case. Hence schemes qualify for clean development status only if their backers can show they would not be viable without the financial investment they will receive as part of the mechanism.
James Cameron, partner at the boutique investment bank Climate Change Capital and a lawyer involved in the protocol negotiations, says everyone failed to recognise that this extra burden vastly reduced the number of projects likely to go ahead.
You are forcing investors in these projects to lie; as they have to tell their financial backers that the projects are going to make lots of money, but you have to tell the [UN] that they wouldn't be financially viable, because then they could have gone ahead anyway, he explains.
He says the clean development mechanism should be redefined at the annual Kyoto meeting in November, likely to be held in Canada, to allow projects that would have been financially viable without the added assistance of the UN.
But modifying the protocol is a painful process and time is running out. This stage of Kyoto expires in 2012 but clean development projects need years to come to fruition.
The World Bank estimates it takes about five years to design, finance, gain approval for and build a project, such as a wind farm or geo-thermal plant. Unless many more such projects are rapidly approved, the Kyoto protocol may yet come unstuck.
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Climate fears prompt energy U-turn in China
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
13 February 2005
China has abruptly slowed and halted work on building 22 major dams and power stations in a dramatic greening of the policies of the world's most populous nation.
The surprise move - one of the most dramatic ever undertaken by any government - arises from rapidly growing environmental concern in China. It calls the bluff of President George Bush, who has cited growing pollution in China as justification for refusing to join the Kyoto Protocol, which enters into force on Wednesday.
Last week Tony Blair went out of his way to welcome China's readiness to take "a real lead" in combating global warming. In the first instance of its kind, the Chinese State Environment Protection Agency laid down that the projects - which cover 13 of the country's provinces and are worth a total of £7.5bn - should not proceed until their impact on the environment had been reviewed. Among the halted projects is an important power facility at the highly controversial Three Gorges dam on the Yangtse River.
Observers attribute the move to growing interest in the environment by premier Wen Jiabao and other national leaders. Many of the children of top Chinese politicians and officials are members of the environmental pressure groups that are thriving at the country's top universities.
President Bush has cited the prospect of growing emissions of carbon dioxide from China as one of the main reasons for trying to kill the Kyoto treaty as "fatally flawed", and for his administration's attempts to try to stop the world agreeing to a successor. But even before the latest move, China had already done far more than the US to combat the danger of climate change. Although its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, rose rapidly between 1978 and 1996, they then fell sharply as a result of clean-up measures. US government figures suggest emissions dropped by 17 per cent between 1996 and 2000, while the Chinese economy grew by 36 per cent. During the same period, US emissions grew by 5 per cent.
It's Much Too Late to Sweat Global Warming
By Mark Hertsgaard - The San Francisco Chronicle
13 February 2005
Time to prepare for inevitable effects of our ill-fated future.
At the core of the global warming dilemma is a fact neither side of the debate likes to talk about: It is already too late to prevent global warming and the climate change it sets off.
Environmentalists won't say this for fear of sounding alarmist or defeatist. Politicians won't say it because then they'd have to do something about it. The world's top climate scientists have been sending this message, however, with increasing urgency for many years.
Since 1988, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comprised of more than 2,000 scientific and technical experts from around the world, has conducted the most extensive peer-reviewed scientific inquiry in history.
In its 2001 report, the panel said that human-caused global warming had already begun, and much sooner than expected. What's more, the problem is bound to get worse, perhaps a lot worse, before it gets better.
Last month, the climate change panel's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, upped the ante. Although Pachauri was installed after the Bush administration forced out his predecessor, Robert Watson, for pushing too hard for action, the accumulation of evidence led Pachauri to embrace apocalyptic language: "We are risking the ability of the human race to survive," he said.
Until now, most public discussion about global warming has focused on how to prevent it - for example, by implementing the Kyoto Protocol, which comes into force internationally (but without U.S. participation) on Wednesday. But prevention is no longer a sufficient option. No matter how many "green" cars and solar panels Kyoto eventually calls into existence, the hard fact is that a certain amount of global warming is inevitable.
The world community therefore must make a strategic shift. It must expand its response to global warming to emphasize both long-term and short-term protection. Rising sea levels and more weather-related disasters will be a fact of life on this planet for decades to come, and we have to get ready for them.
Among the steps needed to defend ourselves is quick action to fortify emergency response capabilities worldwide, to shield or relocate vulnerable coastal communities and to prepare for increased migration flows by environmental refugees.
We must also play offense. We must retroactively shrink the amount of warming facing us by redoubling efforts to remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequester them where they are no longer dangerous. One way is to plant trees, which absorb carbon dioxide via photosynthesis.
Researchers are exploring many other methods as well, some of them supported by the Bush administration. And Norway is burying carbon dioxide in abandoned oil wells beneath the North Sea.
The problem with the Kyoto Protocol is not that the 5 percent greenhouse gas emission reductions it mandates don't go far enough, though they don't. (The climate change panel urges 50 to 70 percent reductions.)
The problem is that Kyoto governs only future emissions. No matter how well the protocol works, it will have no effect on past emissions, which are what have made global warming unavoidable.
Contrary to the impression given by some news reports, global warming is not like a light switch that can be turned off if we simply stop burning so much oil, coal and gas.
There is a lag effect of about 50 to 100 years. That's how long carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, remains in the atmosphere after it is emitted from auto tailpipes, home furnaces and industrial smokestacks.
So even if humanity stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, the planet would continue warming for decades.
So far, the greenhouse gases released during two-plus centuries of industrialization have increased global temperatures by about 1 degree Fahrenheit and raised sea levels by 4 to 7 inches.
They have also given rise to the larger phenomenon of climate change. The climate change panel scientists predict that because of global warming, the future will bring more and deadlier weather of all kinds - more hurricanes, tornadoes, downpours, heat waves, droughts and blizzards - and all that comes in their aftermath: flooding, landslides, power outages, crop failures, property damage, disease, hunger, poverty and loss of life.
In California, torrential rains induced a mudslide on Jan. 11 that killed 10 people, buried children alive and crushed dozens of houses. In 2003, a record summer heat wave killed 35,000 people, most of them elderly, in Western Europe. And this is just the beginning.
Scientists are careful to say that no single weather event can be definitively linked to global warming, but the trend is unmistakable to the insurance companies that end up paying the bill.
"Man-made climate change will bring us increasingly extreme natural events and, consequently, increasingly large catastrophe losses," an official of Munich Re, the world's large reinsurance company, said recently. Swiss Re expects losses to reach $150 billion a year within this decade.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair regards climate change as "the single biggest long-term problem" of any kind facing his country. His government's top scientist, Sir David King, goes further, calling climate change "the biggest danger humanity has faced in 5,000 years of civilization."
Although the Bush White House continues to downplay the urgency of global warming, some parts of the Bush administration have recognized the gravity of the situation. A report released last year by the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessments said that by 2020, climate change could unleash a series of interlocking catastrophes including mega-droughts, mass starvation and even nuclear war as countries like China and India battle over river valleys and other sources of scarce food and water.
All of this underlines the urgency of revising the world's response to climate change. To be sure, it remains essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by strengthening the Kyoto Protocol and augmenting it with other measures. Otherwise, the amount of warming that civilization eventually will have to endure will prove too great to survive.
In the meantime, it is imperative to prepare against the climate change already on its way.
The need for such a two-track strategy of prevention and protection is gaining acceptance from most of the world's governments. In Britain, the Department of the Environment promises to publish its strategy for adapting to global warming by the end of 2005.
At the most recent international meeting on global warming, held in Buenos Aires in December, a majority of the delegates supported the establishment of a fund to aid countries already suffering from the early effects of global warming.
A leading candidate for such aid is Tuvalu. A Pacific atoll whose highest point is 12 feet above sea level, Tuvalu was largely submerged last year by 10- foot seasonal high tides. But the United States opposed the adaptation assistance, arguing that there is no "certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming..."
Preparing to live through the global climate change bearing down on our civilization will be an enormous undertaking. It will require immense financial resources, technical expertise and organizational skill. But perhaps what's needed most of all, especially in the United States, is fresh thinking and political leadership - an acceptance that climate change is inescapable and requires immediate counter-measures.
The unspeakable death and destruction wrought by the Indian Ocean tsunami showed what can happen when people are unprepared for disaster, but there is no reason global warming should take us by surprise.
Our civilization's early warning system - the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - have been telling us for years that great danger is approaching. The question is, will we act quickly and decisively enough to protect ourselves against the coming storm? Or will we simply stand and face our fate naked, proud and unafraid?
Mark Hertsgaard is the author most recently of "The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World;" and "Earth Odyssey: Around the World In Search of Our Environmental Future."
Climate treaty takes effect, but will it matter?
Feb. 15, 2005
Backers say more must be done, critics say it's worthless
Talked about since the 1992 Earth Summit, a treaty to curb emissions that many tie to global warming takes effect on Wednesday.
Rejected by the United States, the U.N.-backed plan to combat global warming goes into force on Wednesday amid scant fanfare and warnings that it is only a tiny first step.
The 141-nation Kyoto protocol aims to brake a rise in temperatures widely blamed on mounting human emissions of heat-trapping gases that many scientists fear could trigger droughts and floods, raise sea levels and wipe out thousands of species by 2100.
The agreement, negotiated in Japans ancient capital of Kyoto in 1997, calls on 35 industrialized countries to rein in the release of carbon dioxide and five other gases from the burning of oil and coal and other processes.
Yet even some backers of the pact seem to be lacking enthusiasm.
Many nations, including Spain, Portugal and Ireland, are far above targets for cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. Britain is in a legal dispute with the European Commission over Londons easing of goals for industry and Italy is fretting about costs.
'Only the first step'
And the United Nations says that fighting climate change will be a long, hard slog.
Kyoto is without doubt only the first step, Klaus Toepfer, head of the U.N. Environment Program, told Reuters. We will have to do more to fight this rapid increase in temperature on our wonderful blue planet Earth. It will be hard work.
But if you calculate the cost of acting against the cost of not acting you will see this is the best return on investment you ever had, he said.
Opponents see it differently.
The Kyoto Protocol has been sold as a first step in addressing climate change, but it is a step in the wrong direction, Myron Ebell, a climate analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in a statement. "The costs of the policies required by Kyoto will far outweigh any potential benefits.
Emissions and trading
Kyoto sets legally binding goals of cutting rich nations emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
After the U.S. pullout, Kyoto won sufficient backing to start when Russia signed up late last year.
Most scientists see reason for alarm from the buildup of greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. 1998 was the warmest year since surface records began in the 1860s, followed by 2002 and 2003.
Even if fully implemented, Kyoto would cut a projected rise in temperatures by just 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to U.N. projections, a pinprick compared to forecasts by a U.N. climate panel of an overall rise.
Still, Kyoto is the first legally binding plan to tackle climate change, building on a plan at the 1992 Earth Summit to stabilize emissions at 1990 levels by 2000, a goal not met.
Environmentalists accuse many European Union nations of giving 12,000 industrial sites -- including power plants, steel mills and oil firms -- quotas for emissions that are too lax.
In many cases theyre letting off industry far too easily, said Steve Sawyer, climate policy director for Greenpeace.
The quotas are the basis for a new market where polluters exceeding their targets can buy emission allocations from those falling below. Carbon dioxide now trades at about 7.20 euros ($9.25) per ton.
But unless the amount of quotas is cut sharply in coming years, Sawyer said the EU burden for meeting Kyoto goals would fall on consumers via higher taxes rather than by squeezing industries to shift to renewable energy like solar or wind power.
Kyoto Protocol Basics
What is the Kyoto protocol?
It's a pact agreed by government delegates at a 1997 U.N. conference in Kyoto, Japan, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by developed countries by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels during 2008-2012. A total of 141 nations have ratified the pact, according to U.N. data.
Is it the first agreement of its kind?
Governments originally agreed to tackle climate change at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. At that meeting, leaders created the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which set a non-binding goal of stabilizing emissions at 1990 levels by 2000, a goal not met overall. The Kyoto protocol is the follow-up to that and is the first legally binding global agreement to cut greenhouse gases.
Is it legally binding?
Kyoto will have legal force for its participants from Feb. 16 after meeting twin conditions -- backing from at least 55 countries and support from nations representing at least 55 percent of developed countries carbon dioxide emissions. It passed the second hurdle in November 2004 when Russia ratified and now has backing from nations representing 61.6 percent of emissions. The United States, the worlds biggest emitter, has pulled out, saying Kyoto is too expensive and wrongly omits developing nations.
How will it be enforced?
Under a 2001 deal made by environment ministers, if countries emit more gases than allowed under their targets at the end of 2012, they will be required to make the cuts, and 30 percent more, in the second commitment period, which is due to start in 2013. They rejected the idea of a financial penalty.
Must all cut emissions by 5.2 percent?
No, only 39 countries -- relatively developed ones -- have target levels for the 2008-12 period, adhering to a principle that richer countries should take the lead. Each country negotiated different targets, with Russia aiming for stabilization at 1990 levels and the European Union taking an eight percent cut.
How are supporters doing so far?
Many countries are lagging behind Kyoto targets. Emissions by Spain and Portugal were 40.5 percent above 1990 levels in 2002. U.S. emissions were up 13.1 percent. Emissions by ex-communist bloc states fell most sharply due to the collapse of Soviet-era industries -- Russian emissions were down 38.5 percent.
What are greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the Earths atmosphere. The main one is carbon dioxide (CO2), and burning fossil fuel has added to natural emissions. The protocol also covers methane (CH4), much of which comes from agriculture and waste dumps, and nitrous oxide (N2O), mostly a result of fertilizer use. Three industrial gases used in various applications, such as refrigerants, heat conductors and insulators, are also included -- they are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
How will countries comply?
The European Union set up a new market in January 2005 under which about 12,000 factories and power stations are given carbon dioxide quotas. If they overshoot they can buy extra allowances in the market or pay a financial penalty; if they undershoot they can sell them. Prices in the EU market are now about 7.2 euros per metric ton.
What if a country misses its target?
The protocol provides for "flexible mechanisms" -- ways for countries to reach their targets without actually reducing emissions at home. These include emissions trading -- where one country buys the right to emit from a country that has already reduced its emissions sufficiently and has "spare" emissions reductions. Another is the "clean development mechanism" where developed countries can earn credits to offset against their targets by funding clean technologies, such as solar power, in poorer countries. Countries can also claim credits for planting trees in the Third World that soak up CO2 -- so-called carbon "sinks."
U.S. cites investments
The Clinton administration signed the protocol in 1997, but the U.S. Senate refused to ratify it, citing potential damage to the U.S. economy and insisting that it also cover countries with fast-growing economies such as China and India.
President Bush in 2001 withdrew the United States, the worlds top greenhouse gas emitter, saying it was too costly and wrongly excluded developing nations from goals for 2012. Australia has also withdrawn.
On Tuesday, the State Department noted that the Bush administration intends to spend nearly $5 billion in 2005 on research into climate change and potential technology to fight it.
While the United States and countries with binding emissions restrictions under the Kyoto Protocol are taking different paths, our destination is the same, and compatible with other efforts, said spokesman Richard Boucher.
In addition, he said, $700 million will be available in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and $200 million will be spent on foreign aid programs that contribute to climate change benefits.
Ebell is among those who agrees with that approach. "India, China and other major developing nations have come to agree with the Bush Administration that even if global warming does turn out to be a problem, then the only workable solution will be long-term technological transformation of the global energy sector," he said. "Now we need to work on expanding that consensus to include the EU and Japan."
In any case, most agree the fight against climate change after 2012 hinges on policies by Washington, which has rejected Kyoto-style caps on emissions.
Kyoto wont work unless the United States is included after 2012, said Bo Kjellen, a researcher at Britains Tyndall Centre. Countries like China or India would feel little incentive to sign up if Washington is exempted, he said.
Amazon deforestation adds to warming trend (Feb. 11, 2005)
Burning trees now account for 20 percent of manmade CO2
SANTAREM, Brazil - As the light plane banked left, the smell of smoke reached the cockpit. The landscape below was an ashen green, the sun above an orange glow behind sooty billows of gray.advertisementThe Amazon forest was burning, and it was more than a sign of human encroachment. It was also the sight and scent of a dangerous chemistry, of tons of carbon dioxide transformed from wood and leaf rising into an atmosphere already loaded with it. In cooler confines some days later, at an international climate conference in Argentina, British scientists told of a different, slow-motion kind of chemistry in the tropical forest, one foreseen by supercomputers running intricately programmed models of global warming.In the Amazon, the vegetation dies back because there wont be enough rain, explained climatologist Vicky Pope, detailing one of the most sophisticated studies yet by Britains Hadley Centre of what a warmer world would mean. For South Americas rain forests, such a dieback would mean steady decomposition of dead vegetation and the release into the atmosphere of massive amounts of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that itself is blamed for much of climate change. 1,700 researchers at work - Whether it unfolds quickly by fire or slowly through global warming, the future of this forested river basin is a key to the future of Earths climate. Hundreds of scientists are working overtime to understand that critical relationship between the atmosphere and the region known as Amazonia, more than 11 times the size of Texas and home to one-third of the worlds species. (...) Satellite reconnaissance showed that 600 fires were started in the region each day on average last year, the Brazilian government reports. The rate of destruction has almost doubled in the past decade, to 9,000 square miles over 12 months of 2003-2004 an area about the size of New Hampshire.Forest is being destroyed by cattle ranchers, by landless peasants slashing and burning to create cropland, by illegal lumbering, and increasingly by large agribusinesses planting lucrative soybean. The fires seen everywhere from the air outside Santarem, a rough-edged town 500 miles up the Amazon from the Atlantic, were mostly set to create giant fields for soy. The governments own plans to pave 2,100 miles of additional road through the wilderness could lead to clearing of up to 70,000 square miles of forest over 30 years, it was estimated by Fearnsides Amazon Environmental Research Institute. Judging from experience, paving increases the deforestation rate in a strip along the highway, to a depth of 50 kilometers 30 miles on each side, said Fearnside, who has pioneered Amazon research for three decades. CLIP
Melting glaciers seen as warming beacons (Feb. 11, 2005)
Global trend not only raises seas, it can dry up local water - CHACALTAYA GLACIER, Bolivia - Up and down the icy spine of South America, the glaciers are melting, the white mantle of the Andes Mountains washing away at an ever faster rate. (...) From Alaska in the north, to Montanas Glacier National Park, to the great ice fields of wild Patagonia at this continents southern tip, the rivers of ice that have marked landscapes from prehistory are liquefying, shrinking, retreating. In east Africa, the storied snows of Mount Kilimanjaro are vanishing. In the icebound Alps and Himalayas of Europe and Asia, the change has been stunning. From South America to south Asia, new glacial lakes threaten to overflow and drown villages below.'Alarming' observationsIn the past few years, space satellites have helped measure the global trend, but scientists such as Rajendra Pachauri, a native of north India, have long seen what was happening on the ground. (...) Ample evidence indicates that global warming is causing glaciers to retreat worldwide, reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-sponsored network of climate scientists led by Pachauri.Global temperatures rose about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the 20th century. French glaciologists working with Ramirez and other scientists at La Pazs San Andres University estimate that the Bolivian Andes are warming even faster, currently at a half-degree Fahrenheit per decade. The warming will continue as long as greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, accumulate in the atmosphere, say the U.N. panel and other authoritative scientific organizations. The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement, mandates cutbacks in such emissions, but the reductions are small and the United States, the biggest emitter, is not a party, arguing that the mandates will set back the U.S. economy. As that pact takes effect Feb. 16, the impact of climate change is already apparent. An international study concluded in November that winter temperatures have risen as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit over 50 years in the Arctic, where permafrost is thawing and sea ice is shrinking. Pacific islands are losing land to encroaching seas, oceans expanding as they warm and as they receive runoff from the Greenland ice cap and other sources. Those sources include at least one gushing new river of meltwater in western China, where thousands of Himalayan and other glaciers are shrinking. In the Italian Alps, 10 percent of the ice melted away in the European heat wave of 2003 and experts fear all will be gone in 20 to 30 years.Such rapid runoff would do more than feed rising seas. It would end centuries of reliable flows through populated lands, jeopardizing water supplies for human consumption, agriculture and electricity. CLIP
Antarctica still a climate mystery (Feb. 11, 2005)
Research focuses on continent given its potential role - PUNTA ARENAS, Chile - Scientists looking southward from the tip of South America, over steel-gray waters toward icy Antarctica, see only questions on the horizon about the fate of the planet. Now that one mammoth Antarctic ice shelf has collapsed into the ocean, when might another, bigger one crumble and slip into a warming sea? In 1,000 years? In 100 years? Sooner? Never?People dont have the answer to the question yet what the probability is of that collapse, if any, said scientist Gino Casassa. But theres some indication of instability.Casassa and fellow Chilean researchers had just flown back from the icy continent to this expedition staging point, and brought with them some potentially unsettling news.Thicker ice means greater riskOn a two-month roundtrip trek by snow tractor to the South Pole, they pointed their sophisticated radar at the ground and found that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be thicker than thought, many hundreds of feet thicker in parts. Glaciologists like Casassa worry most about that western ice sheet, half a continent of frozen water believed enough, if gradually melted, to raise ocean levels worldwide by about 15 feet.That would be a slow-motion catastrophe for global coastlines not instantly deadly like a tsunami, but more universal and permanent. And the deeper the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the greater the potential impact to sea level, Casassa pointed out, though cautioning that their data awaits full analysis. CLIP
A LETTER FROM THE FUTURE
By Richard Heinberg
Greetings to you, people of the year 2001! You are living in the year of my birth; I am one hundred years old now, writing to you from the year 2101. I am using the last remnants of the advanced physics that scientists developed during your era, in order to send this electronic message back in time to one of your computer networks. I hope that you receive it, and that it will give you reason to pause and reflect on your world and what actions to take with regard to it.
Of myself I shall say only what it is necessary to say: I am a survivor. I have been extremely fortunate on many occasions and in many ways, and I regard it as something of a miracle that I am here to compose this message. I have spent much of my life attempting to pursue the career of historian, but circumstances have compelled me also to learn and practice the skills of farmer, forager, guerrilla fighter, engineer - and now physicist. My life has been long and eventful . . . but that is not what I have gone to so much trouble to convey to you. It is what I have witnessed during this past century that I feel compelled to tell you by these extraordinary means.
You are living at the end of an era. Perhaps you cannot understand that. I hope that, by the time you have finished reading this letter, you will.
I want to tell you what is important for you to know, but you may find some of this information hard to absorb. Please have patience with me. I am an old man and I don't have much time for niceties. If what I say seems unbelievable, think of it as science fiction. But please pay attention. The communication device I am using is quite unstable and there's no telling how much of my story will actually get through to you. Please pass it along to others. It will probably be the only such message you will ever receive.
Since I don't know how much information I will actually be able to convey, I'll start with the most important items, ones that will be of greatest help in your understanding of where your world is headed. Energy has been the central organizing - or should I say, disorganizing? - principle of this century. Actually, in historical retrospect, I would have to say that energy was the central organizing principle of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well. People discovered new energy sources - coal, then petroleum - in the nineteenth century, and then invented all sorts of new technologies to make use of this freshly released energy. Transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, lighting, heating - all were revolutionized, and the results reached deep into the lives of everyone in the industrialized world. Everybody became utterly dependent on the new gadgets; on imported, chemically fertilized food; on chemically synthesized and fossil-fuel-delivered therapeutic drugs; on the very idea of perpetual growth (after all, it would always be possible to produce more energy to fuel more transportation and manufacturing - wouldn't it?). Well, if the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were the upside of the growth curve, this past century has been the downside - the cliff. It should have been perfectly obvious to everyone that the energy sources on which they were coming to rely were exhaustible. Somehow the thought never sank in very deep. I suppose that's because people generally tend to get used to a certain way of life, and from then on they don't think about it very much. That's true today, too. The young people now have never known anything different; they take for granted our way of life - scavenging among the remains of industrial civilization for whatever can be put to immediate use - as though this is how people have always lived, as if this is how we were meant to live. That's why I've always been attracted to history, so that I could get some perspective on human societies as they change through time. But I'm digressing. Where was I?
Yes - the energy crisis. Well, it all started around the time I was born. Folks then thought it would be brief, that it was just a political or technical problem, that soon everything would get back to normal. They didn't stop to think that "normal," in the longer-term historical sense, meant living on the energy budget of incoming sunlight and of the vegetative growth of the biosphere. Perversely, they thought "normal" meant using fossil energy like there was no tomorrow. And, I guess, there almost wasn't. That was a classic self-confirming expectation - nearly.
At first, most people thought the shortages could be solved with "technology." However, in retrospect that's quite ludicrous. After all, their modern gadgetry had been invented to use a temporary abundance of energy. It didn't produce energy. Yes, there were the nuclear reactors (heavens, those things turned out to be nightmares!), but they cost so much energy to build and decommission that the power they produced during their lifetimes barely paid for them in energy terms. The same with photovoltaic panels: it seems that nobody ever sat down and calculated how much energy it actually took to manufacture them, starting with the silicon wafers produced as byproducts of the computer industry, and including the construction of the manufacturing plant itself. It turned out that the making of the panels ate up nearly as much power as the panels themselves generated during their lifetime. Nevertheless, quite a few of them were built - I wish that more had been! - and many are still operating (that's what's powering the device that allows me to transmit this signal to you from the future). Solar power was a good idea; its main drawback was simply that it was incapable of satisfying people's energy-guzzling habits. With the exhaustion of fossil fuels, no technology could have maintained the way of life that people had gotten used to. But it took quite a while for many to realize that. Their pathetic faith in technology turned out to be almost religious in character, as though their gadgets were votive objects connecting them with an invisible but omnipotent god capable of overturning the laws of thermodynamics.
Naturally, some of the first effects of the energy shortages showed up as economic recessions, followed by an endless depression. The economists had been operating on the basis of their own religion - an absolute, unshakable faith in the Market-as-God; in supply-and-demand. They figured that if oil started to run out, the price would rise, offering incentives for research into alternatives. But the economists never bothered to think this through. If they had, they would have realized that the revamping of society's entire energy infrastructure would take decades, while the price signal from resource shortages might come only weeks or months before some hypothetical replacement would be needed. Moreover, they should have realized that there was no substitute for basic energy resources.
The economists could think only in terms of money; basic necessities like water and energy only showed up in their calculations in terms of dollar cost, which made them functionally interchangeable with everything else that was priceable - oranges, airliners, diamonds, baseball cards, whatever. But, in the last analysis, basic resources weren't interchangeable with other economic goods at all: you couldn't drink baseball cards, no matter how big or valuable your collection, once the water ran out. Nor could you eat dollars, if nobody had food to sell. And so, after a certain point, people started to lose faith in their money. And as they did so, they realized that faith had been the only thing that made money worth anything in the first place. Currencies just collapsed - first in one country, then in another. There was inflation, deflation, barter, and thievery on every imaginable scale as matters sorted themselves out.
In the era when I was born, commentators used to liken the global economy to a casino. A few folks were making trillions of dollars, euros, and yen trading in currencies, companies, and commodity futures. None of these people were actually doing anything useful; they were just laying down their bets and, in many cases, raking in colossal winnings. If you followed the economic chain, you'd see that all of that money was coming out of ordinary people's pockets . . . but that's another story. Anyway: all of that economic activity depended on energy, on global transportation and communication, and on faith in the currencies. Early in the twenty-first century, the global casino went bankrupt. Gradually, a new metaphor became operational. We went from global casino to village flea market.
With less energy available each year, and with unstable currencies plaguing transactions, manufacturing and transportation shrank in scale. It didn't matter how little Nike paid its workers in Indonesia: once shipping became prohibitively expensive, profits from the globalization of its operations vanished. But Nike couldn't just start up factories back in the States again; all of those factories had been closed two decades earlier. The same with all the other clothing manufacturers, electronics manufacturers, and so on. All of that local manufacturing infrastructure had been destroyed to make way for globalization, for cheaper goods, for bigger corporate profits. And now, to recreate that infrastructure would require a huge financial and energy investment - just when money and energy were in ever shorter supply.
Stores were empty. People were out of work. How were they to survive? The only way they could do so was by endlessly recycling all the used stuff that had been manufactured before the energy crisis. At first, after the initial economic shock waves, people were selling their stuff on internet auctions - when there was electricity. Then, when it became clear that lack of reliable transportation made delivery of the goods problematic, people started selling stuff on street corners so they could pay their rents and mortgages and buy food. But, after the currency collapse, that didn't make sense either, so people began just trading stuff, refurbishing it, using it however they could in order to get by. The cruel irony was that most of their stuff consisted of cars and electronic gadgets that nobody could afford to operate anymore. Worthless! Anybody who had human-powered hand tools and knew how to use them was wealthy indeed. And still is.
Industrial civilization sure produced a hell of a lot of junk during its brief existence. Over the past fifty or sixty years, folks have dug up just about every landfill there ever was, looking for anything at all that could be useful. What a god-awful mess! With all due respect, I have always had a hard time understanding why - and even how - you people could take billions of tons of invaluable, ancient, basic resources and turn them into mountains of stinking garbage, with apparently almost no measurable period of practical use in between! Couldn't you at least have made durable, well-designed stuff? I must say that the quality of the tools, furniture, houses, and so on that we have inherited from you - and are forced to use, given that few of us are capable of replacing them - is pretty dismal.
Well, I apologize for those last remarks. I don't mean to be nasty or rude. Actually some of the hand tools left behind are quite good. But you have to understand: the industrial way of life to which you have become accustomed will have horrific consequences for your children and grandchildren. I can vaguely remember seeing - when I was very young, maybe five or six - some old television shows from the 1950s: Ozzie and Harriet . . . Father Knows Best . . . Lassie. They portrayed an innocent world, one in which children grew up in small communities surrounded by friends and family. All problems were easily dealt with by adults who were mostly kind and wise. It all seemed so stable and benign.
When I was born, that world, if it had ever really existed, was long gone. By the time I was old enough to know much about what was happening on the bigger scene, society was beginning to come apart at the seams. It started with electricity blackouts - just a few hours at a time at first. Then the natural gas shortages clicked in. Not only were we cold most of the winter, but the blackouts got dramatically worse because so much electricity was being produced using natural gas. And then the oil and gasoline shortages hit. At this point - I guess I was a young teenager then - the economy was in tatters and there was political chaos.
By the time I was an older teenager, a certain identifiable attitude was developing among the young people. It was a feeling of utter contempt for anyone over a certain age - maybe thirty or forty. The adults had consumed so many resources, and now there were none left for their own children. Of course, when those adults were younger they had just been doing what everybody else was doing. They figured it was normal to cut down ancient forests for wood pulp for their phone books, pump every last gallon of oil to power their SUVs, or flick on the air conditioner if they were a little warm. For the kids of my generation, all of that was just a dim memory. What we knew was very different. We were living in darkness, with shortages of food and water, with riots in the streets, with people begging on street corners, with unpredictable weather, with pollution and garbage that could no longer be carted away and hidden from sight. For us, the adults were the enemy.
In some places, the age wars remained just a matter of simmering resentment. In others, there were random attacks on older people. In still others, there were systematic purges. I'm ashamed to say that, while I didn't actually physically attack any older people, I did participate in the shaming and name-calling. Those poor old folks - some of them still quite young, by my present perspective! - were just as confused and betrayed as we kids were. I can imagine myself in their shoes. Try to do the same: try to remember the last time you went to a store to buy something and the store didn't have it. (This little thought exercise is a real stretch for me, since I haven't been in a "store" that actually had much of anything for several decades, but I'm trying to put this in terms that you will understand.) Did you feel frustrated? Did you get angry, thinking, "I drove all the way here for this thing, and now I'm going to have to drive all the way across town to another store to get it"? Well, multiply that frustration and anger by a thousand, ten thousand. This is what people were going through every day, with regard to just about every consumer item, service, or bureaucratic necessity they had grown accustomed to. Moreover, those adults had lost most of what they had in the economic crash. And now gangs of kids were stealing whatever was left and heaping scorn on them as they did so. That must have been devastating for them. Unbearable.
Now that I'm so ancient myself, I have a little more tolerance for people. We're all just trying to get by, doing the best we can.
I suppose you're curious to know more about what has happened during this past century - the politics, wars, revolutions. Well, I'll tell you what I know, but there's a lot that I don't. For the last sixty years or so we haven't had anything like the global communications networks that used to exist. There are large parts of the world about which I know almost nothing. But I'll share what I can.
As you can imagine, when the energy resource shortages hit the United States and the economy started to go into a tailspin (it's interesting that I still use that word: only the oldest among us, such as myself, have ever seen an airplane tailspin, nose-dive, or even fly), people became angry and started looking around for someone to blame. Of course, the government didn't want to be the culprit, so those bastards in power (sorry, I still don't have much sympathy for them) did what political leaders have always done - they created a foreign enemy. They sent warships, bombers, missiles, and tanks off across the oceans for heaven knows what grisly purpose. People were told that this was being done to protect their "American Way of Life." Well, there was nothing on Earth that could have accomplished that. It was the American Way of Life that was the problem!
The generals managed to kill a few million people. Actually, it could have been tens or hundreds of millions for all I know; the news media were never very clear on that, since they were censored by the military. There were antiwar protests in the streets, and persecutions of the antiwar protesters - some of whom were rounded up and put in concentration camps. The government became utterly fascistic in its methods toward the end. There were local uprisings and brutal crackdowns. But it was all for nothing. The wars only depleted what few resources were still available, and after five horrible years the central government just collapsed. Ran out of gas.
CLIP - Read the rest at http://www.museletter.com/archive/110.html
China and the Final War for Resources
Unrestricted War: China's Master Plan to Destroy America is a treatise for world domination written in 1999 by People's Liberation Army Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. In order for China to become a dominant global power over the United States, the PLA emphasizes "The Final War over Resources", must be won. CLIP
Global Warming: The Danger of Tilting at Windmills
By Bill McKibben - The New York Times
17 February 2005
Johnsburg, New York - Finally, American environmentalists have a chance to get it right about wind power.
News broke this week of plans for the first big wind energy installation in the Adirondack Park. Ten towering turbines would sprout on the site of an old garnet mine in this tiny town. They'd be visible from the ski slopes at nearby Gore Mountain, and from the deep wild of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, one of the loneliest and most beautiful parts of New York's "forever wild" Adirondack Forest Preserve, the model for a century of American conservation. In fact, it would be hard to imagine a place better suited to illustrate the controversy that wind power is causing in the United States.
This very wilderness led me to fall in love with the world outdoors. Which is precisely why I hope those wind turbines rise on the skyline, and as soon as possible.
The planet faces many environmental challenges, but none of them come close to global warming. In the past month new studies have shown that the trigger point for severe climate change may be closer than previously thought, and the possible consequences even more severe. Just to slow the pace of this rapid warming will require every possible response, from more efficient cars to fewer sprawling suburbs to more trains to - well, the list is pretty well endless.
But wind power is one key component. Around the world it's the fastest growing source of electric generation, mostly because the technology, unlike solar power, has evolved to the point where it's cost-competitive with fossil fuels.
In America, however, the growth of wind power has been slower, partly because environmentalists haven't fully come to terms with this technology.
Greenpeace has backed many installations, but neighbors of proposed wind farms have joined with local chapters of other big conservation groups to fight the huge windmills on environmental grounds, chiefly arguing that they'll destroy the scenic beauty of their areas. In truth, part of me doesn't want to gaze out from the summit of Peaked Mountain and see an industrial project in the distance. In the best of all possible worlds, we'd do without them.
But it's not the best of all possible worlds. Right now, the choice is between burning fossil fuels and making the transition, as quickly as possible, to renewable power.
There are more than 100 coal-fired power plants on the drawing board in the United States right now; if they are built America will spew ever more carbon into the atmosphere. And that will endanger not only the residents of low-lying tropical nations that will be swamped by rising oceans, but also the residents of the Siamese Pond Wilderness. The birch and beech and maple that turn this place glorious in the fall won't survive a rapid warming. That is not to say that every Adirondack ridgeline should be turned into a wind farm. But this site is precisely the sort of place that environmentalists should applaud, and insist on: It's privately owned, and there's already a road and a high-voltage power line.
So here environmentalists should step back and say, especially in this cradle of American wilderness, that the price is worth paying. To see that blade turning in the blue Adirondack sky - to see the breeze made visible - should be a sign of real hope for the future.
Bill McKibben is the author of the forthcoming "Wandering Home: A Long Walk Through Americas Most Hopeful Region, Vermonts Champlain Valley and New Yorks Adirondacks."
The United States Must Curb Global Warming
By Dianne Feinstein - The San Diego Union Tribune
16 February 2005
The Kyoto Protocol on global climate change takes effect today - a historic occasion marking one of the best examples of international cooperation to sustain the world's environment.
More than 140 nations, including all 25 members of the European Union, Russia and China, have ratified the agreement to reduce man-made emissions of greenhouse gases. The United States - which accounts for about one-fourth of the greenhouse gasses believed responsible for global warming - has refused. I believe this is a serious mistake. We've already seen:
* Four hurricanes of significant force pounding the state of Florida in a six-week period last fall. The storms formed over an area of the ocean where surface temperatures have increased an average of 1.7 degrees over the past decade.
* Eskimos being forced inland in Alaska as their native homes on the coastline are melting into the sea.
* Glaciers beginning to disappear in Glacier National Park in Montana. In 100 years, the park has gone from having 150 glaciers to fewer than 30. And the 30 that remain are two-thirds smaller than they once were.
* California's water supplies being threatened by smaller snowpacks in the Sierra Nevada. Record snowfalls this winter have provided hope, but the region still could face drought or floods unless temperatures stay cold enough to maintain the snowpack and average snowfall continues for the rest of the precipitation season.
A study by San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography that will be released later this week found strong scientific reinforcement for scientific estimates that global warming could have serious ramifications in the very near future, including:
* A water crisis in the western United States due to the smaller snowpacks.
* The disappearance of the glaciers in the Andes in Peru, leaving the population without an adequate water supply during the summer.
* The melting of two-thirds of the glaciers in western China by 2050, seriously diminishing the water supply for the region's 300 million inhabitants.
There is no doubt that our everyday activities at home, at work and in between are causing the Earth's temperature to slowly rise.
It is time that the United States - the world's largest contributor to climate change - stepped up and took responsibility for our actions and their impact on the world. We failed our global neighbors miserably by hiding behind claims of scientific uncertainty.
Scientists now agree on three main facts about global warming.
Fact 1: The Earth is warming.
Fact 2: The primary cause of this warming is fossil fuel consumption.
Fact 3: If we don't act now to reduce emissions, the problem will only get worse.
The United States missed the bus by failing to work with the rest of the world on the Kyoto Protocol. We can now try and make up for that by restraining greenhouse gas emissions and participating in international climate talks.
It is shameful that the United States is the only member of the Group of 8 nations not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It is even more shameful that 40 of our own states have devised their own plans to address climate change, while the federal government looked for ways to offer incentives to energy companies to drill and mine more of the fossil fuels that cause global warming.
Currently, nearly 30 percent of greenhouse gases emitted by the United States come from cars, trucks, and the rest of the transportation sector. Another 30 percent of our nation's greenhouse gas emissions come from power plants.
We already have technologies to reduce the amount of energy we consume; we just need to use them. This would include reducing the amount of energy we consume and producing more energy from renewable sources.
Using less energy will help us to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that we create. Increasing energy efficiency at power plants will reduce the quantity of fossil fuels that are burned while still generating enough electricity for consumers. Consumers can save energy, and save on their utility bills, by using energy efficient technologies in their homes and selecting energy efficient appliances, electronics and lighting. Drivers can save energy while also saving money on gasoline by driving a car that is very fuel efficient.
Using renewable sources of energy, such as solar power, wind power, geothermal and biomass systems, also helps to combat global warming. They do not give off carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases and have little or no impact on the environment while generating electricity for homes and businesses nationwide. In addition, using more renewable energy sources would help our nation gain independence from foreign energy sources.
Being a responsible steward of the climate is more than just taking steps to pollute less. It also requires participating in international negotiations on the policies the world will need to achieve significant, long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Feinstein, a Democrat, represents California in the U.S. Senate.
Many more Environment related articles at http://www.truthout.org/environment.shtml
From: "Forests.org" email@example.com>
Subject: FORESTS: Anarchy in the Rainforests
Date: 17 Feb 2005
FOREST CONSERVATION NEWS TODAY
Anarchy in the Rainforests
By Forests.org, a project of Ecological Internet, Inc.
http://forests.org/ -- Forest Conservation Portal
http://www.EnvironmentalSustainability.info/ -- Eco-Portal
http://www.ClimateArk.org/ -- Climate Change Portal
http://www.WaterConserve.info/ -- Water Conservation Portal
February 17, 2005
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Ph.D.
The world's rainforests are slipping into a state of anarchy, and for the most part those tasked with doing something about it are failing. In particular, big conservation organizations and governments are failing to conceive, develop and implement policies sufficient to address this global ecological crisis.
Everywhere large, ancient rainforests exist - massive illegal logging operations and other industrial activities threaten their existence. Yet most mainstream conservation organizations insist that certified first time logging of such primary forests will conserve them - a statement that flies against all scientific knowledge and on the ground experience. Out of control timber mafias threaten the very existence of large rainforests worldwide. Should illegal logging be stopped, or reformed? Can it be reformed?
A new report indicates huge trade in stolen timber products from West Papua, Indonesia to China. An American born Brazilian nun was murdered last week for working with forest peoples on behalf of sustainable development in Brazil's Para state. A new international treaty aimed at protecting the rainforests of the Congo Basin promotes industrial logging, ignores local people's rights, would do nothing about corruption, and continues to support human rights abuses in protected areas.
Everywhere it is occurring industrial rainforest logging is failing; failing to sustain ecological systems, failing to bring benefits to local peoples, failing to show merit or chance of redemption. Yet the WWFs of the world insist commercial scale sustainable forest management of ancient rainforests is possible and desirable. Even groups such as Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network are imprecise regarding under what conditions certified commercial logging of primary forests is acceptable.
What is the basis for such a policy when over 50% of the world's rainforests have been lost, and there are very few if any cases of ecologically sustainable old-growth forest management? Such sentiment is based upon a desire to be perceived as being reasonable; to be seen as doing something, anything, even if it is not enough; and to not challenge those in power. This is not a basis for a successful movement. Perhaps slavery and/or Nazism could have been reformed as well?
The global rainforest movement must seek to be correct in identifying and achieving ecological requirements sufficient for global forest and ecological sustainability. The failure of the rainforest conservation movement to enunciate a powerful message of conserving and protecting all rainforests from industrial development dooms rainforests to anarchy and loss. The world and our movement can do better. Rainforest crime must be stopped, not made a little bit less bad.
RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:
Environmentalists say massive timber theft uncovered in Indonesia's Papua
February 17, 2005
JAKARTA (AFP) - Environmental investigators say they have uncovered massive timber smuggling from Indonesia's Papua province to China in what they described as the world's largest logging racket involving one wood species.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said 300,000 cubic meters (more than 10 million cubic feet) of merbau wood is being smuggled out of Papua every month to feed China's timber processing industry.
Merbau is a hardwood mainly used for flooring.
"It's probably the largest smuggling case that we've come across in our time of research on illegal logging in Indonesia," Julian Newman, the group's head of forest campaigns, told a press conference.
"This illegal trade is threatening the last large tract of pristine forests in the whole Asia-Pacific region," he said.
China has become the world's largest buyer of illegal timber owing to a continued economic boom, the EIA said.
The investigation has revealed that in a just a few years, a small anchorage in eastern China has been transformed into the largest tropical log trading port in the world, the group said in its report issued Thursday.
A nearby town has become a global center for wood flooring production with 500 factories together consuming one merbau tree every minute, the report said.
The EIA said illegal logging in Papua involved Indonesian military and civilian officials, Malaysian logging gangs and multinational companies, brokers in Singapore and dealers in Hong Kong.
Syndicates pay around 200,000 dollars per shipment in bribes to ensure the contraband logs are not intercepted in Indonesian waters. Indonesia has banned the export of logs, to curb illegal logging.
"There's no denying that military officers are involved in illegal logging," said Muhammad Yayat Alfianto of the Indonesian environmental group Telapak, which worked together with the EIA in the investigation.
Sam Lawson of the EIA said merbau smuggling was worth one billion dollars a year based on the wood's value in the West.
The profits are vast as Papuan communities only received around 10 dollars for each cubic meter of merbau felled on their land, while the same logs fetch as much as 270 dollars per cubic meter in China.
"Papua has become the main illegal logging hotspot in Indonesia. The communities of Papua are paid a pittance for trees taken from their land, while timber dealers in Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong are banking huge profits," said Alfianto.
Indonesia is losing forest areas the size of Switzerland every year, according to the EIA.
Brazil Promises Crackdown After Nun's Shooting Death
Read this article at http://www.forests.org/articles/reader.asp?linkid=38979
Cut Corruption to Save African Forests - Activists
February 7, 2005
BRAZZAVILLE - African leaders agreed bold plans at the weekend to preserve the world's second biggest rainforest area but Kenya's Nobel prize-winning environmentalist told them they would need to root out corruption to succeed. At a conference in Brazzaville, central African heads of state signed a treaty pledging to protect the forests of the Congo Basin from massive poaching and illegal or irresponsible logging which threaten the flora and fauna of the region.
Stretching across some 200 million hectares and six states, the dense forests are home to half of Africa's wild animals -- including gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants -- as well as more than 10,000 plant species.
About 70 percent of the Congo Basin forests may be gone by 2040 unless action is taken, global conservation group WWF says.
Kenya's deputy environment minister, Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, accepted an invitation from the leaders to become a roving ambassador for the Congo Basin even though her country is not part of the region.
But Maathai, who won the Nobel prize after leading a massive tree-planting scheme and campaigning against corruption, also noted several speakers at the conference in the capital of Congo Republic had stressed the need for good governance.
"It is not by coincidence. Rather, it is because it is a serious issue and we must address it," she said on Saturday.
"We have many friends," she said. "They want to help us. But we must create an enabling environment for development partners to do their part."
CLIP - read the rest at http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/29379/story.htm
RAINFOREST FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE 5th February 2005
Rainforest treaty for Central Africa is fundamentally flawed, say environmental and human rights groups
Read this at http://www.illegal-logging.info/news.php?newsId=690
From: Jim Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Suicide Seeds - Bombshell in Bangkok
Date: 11 Feb 2005
Friday, February 11, 2005
Suicide Seeds - Bombshell in Bangkok Canadian-Led Coup to Allow Terminator Technology Narrowly Squelched at UN Meeting
Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto, spoke today at a UN meeting in Bangkok - harshly criticizing his governments' efforts to promote field-testing and commercialization of Terminator seeds (plants genetically-modified to render seeds sterile at harvest time).
"The Canadian government has acted shamefully. It is supporting a dangerous, anti-farmer technology that aims to eliminate the rights of farmers to save and re-use harvested seed," said Schmeiser. "Instead of representing the good will of the Canadian people or attending to the best interests of the Biodiversity Treaty, the Canadian government is fronting for the multinational gene giants who stand to win enormous profits from the release of Terminator seeds around the world."
Schmeiser is the 74-year old Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto for patent infringement when the company's patented, genetically modified canola seed invaded his farm - unwanted and unwelcome. A victim of genetic pollution and a champion of Farmers' Rights, Schmeiser courageously fought Monsanto all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court.
A Canadian government proposal to unleash Terminator was leaked to the ETC Group on the first day of a UN meeting in Bangkok, February 7-11 (SBSTTA, the scientific advisory body to the Convention on Biological Diversity - CBD). The news stunned farmers' organizations, government delegations, and civil society worldwide. Ottawa's instructions to the Canadian delegation in Bangkok called for an all-out push for field-testing and commercialisation of sterile seed technologies, effectively un-doing the precautionary, de facto moratorium on Terminator seeds adopted by governments in 1998. Even worse, the Canadian delegation was instructed to "block consensus" by governments attending the meeting if it didn't get its way. ETC Group has also learned that, in advance of the Bangkok meeting, Canadian embassies around the world asked governments to support a recommendation for "field testing and commercial use" of Terminator. Canada's blatant promotion of an anti-South technology does not bode well for the G8 meeting of world leaders in July in Scotland where Canada will propose to introduce nanotechnology on the G-8 agenda.
After being swamped this week by protest emails and letters, the Canadian government was forced to soften its public position on Terminator, but it continued to press a solidly pro-Terminator view in the corridors and in a committee appointed to negotiate draft text on Terminator. (The drafting group on Terminator included representatives from Canada, the European Community, Peru, Tanzania, and the Philippines.) By Thursday morning Canada and its seed industry allies had drafted text that included language promoting Terminator field trials, capacity building for the use of Terminator in the developing world and specifically invited the research participation of "private sector entities."
"The draft text on Terminator released Thursday morning was appalling - it looked like it was written by the multinational seed industry," said Jim Thomas of ETC Group, speaking from Bangkok. "It strongly reflected the Canadian government's pro-Terminator position as revealed earlier this week in the leaked document."
Suicide Seed Squad: Canada hasn't been working alone in Bangkok. The UN meeting was crawling with representatives from the biotech industry and related trade groups - including Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land, Crop Life International, PHARMA (pharmaceutical manufacturers), the International Seed Federation and more - who lobbied against current restrictions on the development of suicide seeds. New Zealand and Australia also backed the position of industry and Canada, while a fleet of US government representatives observed from the sidelines. (The US government is not a Party to the Biodiversity Convention.)
Thankfully, disaster was averted due to key interventions by the governments of Norway, Sweden, Austria, the European Community, Cuba, Peru and Liberia, on behalf of the African Group.
The good news is that these governments managed to delete the most offensive wording. The final text and recommendations reaffirm earlier decisions, amounting to a continuing, but fragile, de facto moratorium on Terminator. The issue now bounces to another CBD advisory body (the Working Group on 8(j)) in March 2006.
Interminable Terminator? The bad news is that decisions made in Bangkok will allow the issue of Terminator to be re-examined and re-studied interminably. In ETC Group's view, the CBD continues to dilly-dally and delay decisions on Terminator while the industry is moving full-speed ahead to bring sterile seeds to market.
"The international community needs to know that Terminator technology is a real and present danger. The biotech industry is chomping on the bit to commercialize suicide seeds. Nothing short of an all-out ban on Terminator will stop it from being unleashed in farmer's fields," said Hope Shand of ETC Group.
For more information:
Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) email@example.com:
Hope Shand and Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group (USA) firstname.lastname@example.org: 919 960-5223
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico) email@example.com: 52 55 55 632 664
Jim Thomas, ETC Group (UK) firstname.lastname@example.org: 44 (0)7752 106806 (mobile)
Note to Editors:
Terminator technology was first developed by the US Department of Agriculture and the multinational seed industry to prevent farmers from replanting saved seed. When it came to public light in 1998 massive public opposition forced Monsanto and Syngenta to disavow the technology.
SBSTTA is the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, a body that advises the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. www.biodiv.org
The United Nations refers to Terminator seed technology as GURTs (genetic use restriction technology).
For more information on Percy Schmeiser's court case, see: http://www.percyschmeiser.com
The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, formerly RAFI, is an international civil society organization headquartered in Canada. The ETC group is dedicated to the advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights. http://www.etcgroup.org. The ETC group is also a member of the Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme (CBDC). The CBDC is a collaborative experimental initiative involving civil society organizations and public research institutions in 14 countries. The CBDC is dedicated to the exploration of community-directed programmes to strengthen the conservation and enhancement of agricultural biodiversity. The CBDC website is http://www.cbdcprogram.org
ALERT: Biotech Industry Pushes to Release "Suicide" Gene in Plants
Learn more and sign the Organic Consumers Association's petition to the UN to terminate the Terminator Gene. http://www.organicconsumers.org/un.htm
Canada Backs Terminator Seeds (09 February 2005)
An international moratorium on the use of one of the world's most controversial GM food technologies may be broken today if the Canadian government gets seed sterilisation backed at a UN meeting. (...) Jointly patented by the GM company Monsanto and the US government, the technology was condemned in the late 1990s by many African and Asian governments who called for a permanent ban. Monsanto and other GM companies which were developing similar technologies voluntarily pulled out of research after concerns were also raised about the "terminator" genes spreading to non-GM crops, and international outrage that poor farmers would not be able to use seeds from their crops, as they have always done.But leaked instructions to Canadian government negotiators at the Bangkok meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, a group which advises the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity, show that Canada will request today that all countries open their doors to the technology. CLIP
Refusing GMO foods from U.S. is a crime against humanity? (10/2/2005)
Tony Hall, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has repeated his call for African leaders who refuse the US's GM-contaminated food aid to be tried for "crimes against humanity". CLIP
Bad Seed (February 11, 2005)
(...) The Bush administration, as usual, has put the profits of multinational corporations ahead of the needs and rights of people. Order 81 not only prohibits the practice of saving patented seeds brought into the country, but allows the patenting of new varieties developed from existing seeds through scientific plant breeding or genetic modification. To achieve a patent on a new plant, that plant must meet stringent standards that farmers seeds cannot meet, so only corporate-owned seed strains can be patented. Since it is almost impossible to prevent genetic pollution once a variety of seeds is released into the environment, it is likely that any crops grown in Iraq alongside genetically modified or scientifically bred and patented varieties will pick up part of patented genetic codes within a decade. This is even more probable given the record of illegal releases of such materials in places like India. Once a plant is found to have patented genetic material it belongs to the company that developed that particular material. If an Iraq farmer saves traditional seeds and his crops have been cross-pollinating with a neighbours patented variety, then the seed-saving farmer no longer owns his crop or anything made from it. According to Order 81, The court may order the confiscation of the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools substantially used in the infringement of the protected variety. The court may also decide to destroy the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools or to dispose of them in any noncommercial purpose. In other words a farmer who has done nothing but to follow traditional farming methods that go back to the very dawn of human civilisation can lose not only his crop and the bread made from it, but may also lose his tractor, plough, and storage facilities. That seems a rather unfair price for an Iraqi farmer to pay for George Bushs campaign contributions, but Paul Bremers edicts rarely have the best interests of the Iraqi people in mind and the bio-tech companies need new markets. In the end the Iraqi farmer will have two choices. To try to grow crops from seeds of existing crops that have become rare during decades of war and sanctions or to buy seeds from companies like Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Bayer. If they choose the first option they risk accidentally running afoul of a law imposed on them by the US government. If they choose the second option they risk poverty and future food shortages. Quite the choice to have to make. CLIP
Date: 16 Feb 2005
Subject: Subject: GW
A lobbyist, on his way home from work in Washington, D.C., came to a dead halt in traffic and thought to himself that the traffic seemed worse than usual.
He noticed a police officer walking between the lines of stopped cars, so he rolled down his window and asked, "Officer, what's the hold-up?"
The officer replied, "The President is depressed, so he stopped his motorcade and is threatening to douse himself with gasoline and set himself on fire.
He says no one believes his stories about why we went to war in Iraq, or the worsening deficit and economy, or that his tax cuts won't help anyone except his wealthy friends.
So we're taking up a collection for him."
The lobbyist asks, "How much have you got so far?"
The officer replied, "About four gallons, but a lot of folks are still siphoning."
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