Friday, June 16, 2006

Climate change roundup, 6/16

  • Richard Norton Taylor at the Guardian (UK) notes that climate change is a far greater long-term threat than global terrorism:
    The government's obsession with the "war on terror" is counterproductive and distracting politicians from more fundamental threats to global security, a leading UK thinktank warns today.

    The most likely causes of future conflict are climate change, competition for natural resources, social and economic marginalisation and militarisation, it says.

    The independent Oxford Research Group says in its report Global Responses to Global Threats that the effects of climate change - displacement of peoples, food shortages, social unrest - have long-term security implications far greater than those of terrorism, and notes that the Pentagon's office of net assessment takes the same view.

    To the extent that both climate change and terrorism are problems relating to oil and the petroleum industries intransigence in the face of mounting evidence that their policies create both conflict and climate change, I think it's pretty clear that they're closely related.

  • Schwarzenegger calls on western states' governors to fight climate change. He says:
    In California, we now have a booming economy and are taking care of the environment, so it can be done.
  • Canada's "unofficial weather guru", David Phillips, says the jury is still out. Sort of. The question for him, quite rightly, "isn't whether climate change is coming, but how much people have contributed to the problem." He went on to say that "Canadians can expect greater variability and more extremes of weather," and finished by saying that "with or without climate change, we need to take action now to make our communities more resistant. ... Those that are prepared for the possibility of climate change will be better off."

  • ABC News adds to the popular myth that the evidence for climate change is somehow anecdotal. Thanks for that, guys.

  • According to a Nationwide Opinion Survey of Hunters and Anglers commissioned by National Wildlife Federation, 76% of US sportsmen believe climate change is underway. 73% think it will affect hunting and fishing.

  • Gorbachev pleads for action on climate change -- warning UK think of Chernobyl and to "look before you leap" in building nuclear power stations.

  • Ice-free seas turning polar bears to cannibalism. The principal author of the study was Steven Amstrup of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center.

  • The UK's Royal Society warned G8 leaders to ensure that consideration of the effects of climate change is properly integrated into policy over petroleum supply.

  • Reducing the number of night flights by commercial jets could significantly reduce the impact of jet fuel consumption on global warming, according to Dr Nicola Stuber of Reading University, UK. Nighttime jet emission at night produce streaks of condensation, or contrails, that are strong absorbers of ground-emitted infrared radiation. National Geographic, The Independent (UK), and the Voice of America also cover the story.

    [image US National Weather Service]

  • William Baldwin of Forbes suggests getting rid of most energy regulation and replacing it with a gradually imposed 30 cents per pound carbon tax. Grist Magazine has the story and comments. But I have to say, 30 cents per pound is an awful lot. I vote for a hybrid policy that imposes a tax on carbon consumption, but which takes seriously the specific concerns addressed by current (and past) regulation. Simplification is good, but to the point that it's ineffective in staring down the myriad problems associated with both climate change and local pollution.

  • A major story from the New York Times (6/15):

    Investors worried about the possible financial fallout from greenhouse gas emissions have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require that companies disclose their financial vulnerability to changes in climate.

    Yesterday, a group of 27 investors who collectively manage more than $1 trillion in assets sent a letter to the S.E.C. chairman, Christopher Cox, asking that financial risks linked to climate change issues be included as part of routine corporate financial reports.

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer John Iwasaki has more.

  • South Africans are increasingly concerned about the economic impacts of climate change on their geography. They're taking pro-active steps.

  • Alan Farago for the Orlando Sentinel writes:
    Insurance companies cannot afford to fall behind the costs of more frequent and powerful natural disasters. They are not waiting to abandon coverage or raise rates. This vast industry is not sitting on its hands while business models based on the best available science show trouble ahead. In fact, global warming is the root of the insurance crisis in Florida. You can agree or disagree with this inconvenient truth, but you can't avoid the question: What to do? So far the response is business as usual: Solve the coastal insurance crisis by spreading the costs to taxpayers across the nation. This is wrong, and it is wrong for a further reason.
    Read the whole thing to find out why.

  • From a transcript of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's show Lateline. Maxine McKew interviews Alan DuPont of Sydney's The Lowy Institute (6/15) [emphasis mine]:
    MAXINE MCKEW: Let's start at the beginning with you. Would I be right in saying that you started down this investigative path as a one-time sceptic?

    ALAN DUPONT: I think it's more correct to say I was an agnostic - I had an open mind about it, I wasn't convinced either way and I felt I needed to bring myself up to speed on the scientific debates and understand better the scientific data, which I started to do about 10 years ago.

    MM: Having done that, what has persuaded you that this is one of the most significant challenges we now face?

    AD: When I first looked at this 10 years ago, the jury was still very much out on the scientific data. We didn't really know with much precision what was going to happen over the next 100 years. What's changed I think quite dramatically, certainly over the last three to five years is we know a lot more about what is likely to happen, what our climate future is likely to look like, a far greater degree level of certainty about that. As a consequence, we can now start to think through what the implications will be politically, socially and in security terms.
  • This is not news, but the boreal and arctic permafrost has already begun to melt, and it's expected to continue to do so. The great danger in permafrost thawing is the potential for the vast quantity of carbon stored in these soils to be released into the atmosphere, leading to a strong positive feedback in the climate loop. LiveScience has the story.

  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute (yes, they of the "some call it pollution; we call it life" ads) briefed Kuwaiti reporters on climate change today:
    World temperatures are not soaring as high and as fast as some fear and are not likely to bring on disaster anytime soon, two energy experts stressed.

    In remarks about global warming, two experts from the non-profit Competitive Enterprise Institute told a group of Arab journalists that some global warming warnings are unrealistic and exaggerated.
    The article finishes with this gem [emphasis mine]:
    The Competitive Enterprise Institute aims to increase awareness among decision makers on several energy and fuel issues with objectivity and away from political influence and personal interests.

    The institute is a non-profit body that does not accept finance or grants from the federal government and the budget is solely reliant on donations by individuals and charitable institutions. The institute's budget is around an annual USD 3.5 million.
    Not mentioned is the fact that these donations all come from conservative sources. $2 million since 1998 came from Exxon-Mobil.

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