Meditation Focus #149
Healing Mother Earth
What follows is the 149th Meditation Focus suggested for the next 2 weeks beginning Sunday, April 2, 2006.
HEALING MOTHER EARTH
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IN PASSING THIS ON TO OTHERS
IMPORTANT: Please note that Daylight Saving Time ends in Australia and starts in North America on April 2
Once again several mainstream media have covered in the last few days the increasingly dire environmental situation the planet is in. Once again urgent warnings have been issued as to the need to take urgent action to slow down and reverse global warming, deforestation, species extinction, and the general erosion of Life on land and in the seas worldwide. And once again, after a brief surge of interest for this issue, the plight of our beleaguered Mother Earth will vanish from the front pages and most politicians along with most everyone else will get back to business as usual, hoping this growing crisis will go away on its own. Unfortunately, it won't. Although environmental awareness has made great strides over the past few years, and even if numerous positive initiatives and actions have been implemented by industries and individuals alike, much remains to be done to actually turn the tide of destruction engulfing the world.
In the meantime, our living planet is suffering acutely and is in great need of healing assistance to get through this critical period until, hopefully, major changes are implemented to curb the worst excesses of "modern" civilization and re-establish a respectful and wise stewardship of humanity's sole life support system.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following Sunday to contribute in directing healing energies to Mother Earth so as to help her survive and gradually replenish her affected ecosystems back to their former state of balance and health. Allow yourself to be guided to help humanity and all world leaders recognize their unique and essential contribution towards ensuring an end to all forms of abuse this planet is suffering. If you are so inspired, you may also require all possible forms of assistance from higher sources that can help mitigate the consequences of over a century of pollution and over-exploitation so as to accelerate the return to perfect planetary health, for the Highest Good of All.
This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation to the healing of the Earth as a whole. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
IMPORTANT: Please note that Daylight Saving Time ends in Australia and starts in North America on April 2.
These times below correspond to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT - as of April 2, 2006:
Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?day=2&month=04&year=2006&hour=16&min=0&sec=0&p1=0 to find your corresponding local time if a nearby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION RELATED TO THIS MEDITATION FOCUS
This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.
1. Global Warming: Be Worried, Be Very Worried
2. The Impact of Asia's Giants: How China and India could save the planet--or destroy it
3. TIDES TURNING
4. Greenpeace calls the Summit for Life on Earth a Failure
5. Our disappearing forests Intact
6. Forest Landscapes
7. The Pollution Gap
8. The Fate of the Ocean
East Africa's famine victims 'on their last legs': UN (Mar 29, 2006)
(AFP) - An estimated 11 million east Africans facing drought-induced famine will not survive without urgent food relief, a spokesman for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said. "It is real crisis. The drought began late last year and they are on their last legs," said Henri Josserand, the spokesman for the organisation's early warning service. Meteorologists have predicted that the region's short rainy season in May may not see enough of a downpour to break the drought, he added. "The forecasts are not optimistic. In the best of cases, this will last until the end of May. In the worst, it will last another four to five months," he told AFP on the sidelines of the UN's third conference on early warning systems in the western German city of Bonn. The famine was severest in Somalia, but efforts to reach victims there were complicated by the lawlessness in the country that has had no government since 1991, he added. "Forty to 50 percent of those in trouble are in Somalia. We have reliable information coming from there but getting help in is difficult because we deal with intermediaries like tribal leaders and warlords." The drought, the seventh to ravage the region since 1975, also threatens people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said last week that five million of his people faced food shortages. The UN's top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, called earlier at the Bonn conference on the world's eight most industrialised nations to speed up aid to Africa to alleviate the food shortages. "The G8 nations need to step up aid and deliver assistance even sooner than they have promised because the situation is urgent," he said. Josserand said the donor community has responded to the crisis but aid has not been sufficient and has not reached desperate rural populations.
POLAR MELTDOWN NEAR: SEAS COULD RISE 3 FEET PER CENTURY (March 23, 2006)
About 130,000 years ago, an ice age ended and there was a period of few centuries before the next one began. During this lull, Earth's temperature warmed, glaciers retreated and ice sheets melted. Sea levels rose by up to 20 feet. Scientists warn that this could happen again -- and soon. But while the last great thaw was the result of a natural tilt in the Earth's axis towards the Sun, the next one will be caused by humans, some scientists argue. If global warming continues at its current pace, by 2100 Earth could be up to 8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it is today. If steps are not taken soon to reduce greenhouse emissions, the Arctic will be as warm as it was 130,000 years ago and similar rises in sea level will occur, according to two new studies released today. CLIP
Little Time to Avoid Big Thaw, Scientists Warn (24 March 2006)
Arctic temperatures near a prehistoric level when seas were 16 to 20 feet higher, studies say. Global warming appears to be pushing vast reservoirs of ice on Greenland and Antarctica toward a significant, long-term meltdown. The world may have as little as a decade to take the steps to avoid this scenario. Those are the implications of new studies that looked to climate history for clues about how the planet's major ice sheets might respond to human-triggered climate change. Already, temperatures in the Arctic are close to those that thawed much of Greenland's ice cap some 130,000 years ago, when the planet last enjoyed a balmy respite from continent-covering glaciers, say the studies' authors. By 2100, spring and summer temperatures in the Arctic could reach levels that trigger an unstoppable repeat performance, they say. Over several centuries, the melt could raise sea levels by as much as 20 feet, submerging major cities worldwide as well as chains of islands, such as the present-day Bahamas. CLIP
Life's Diversity "Being Depleted" (20 March 2006)
Virtually all indicators of the likely future for the diversity of life on Earth are heading in the wrong direction, a major new report says. The Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) is published as national delegates gather in Brazil under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The Convention commits governments to slow the decline in the richness of living systems by 2010. The GBO says "unprecedented efforts" will be needed to achieve this aim. It sets out 15 indicators of progress towards the 2010 target, ranging from trends in the extent of wildlife habitats to the build-up of nutrients such as nitrogen which can harm aquatic life. Only one of the 15 - the area of the world's surface officially protected for wildlife - is moving in the right direction for biodiversity. Even here, however, most areas still fall far short of targets to protect 10% of each region with distinctive combinations of species. The other indicators point to an accelerating decline, which has seen the rates of species extinctions surge to their highest levels since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Forests continue to be lost at a rate of six million hectares a year - that's about four times the size of the English county of Yorkshire - and similar trends are noted for marine and coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs, kelp beds and mangrove forests. The abundance and variety of species continue to fall across the planet, according to an index measuring the percentage of species with good prospects for survival; bird variety is on the decline in every ecosystem type from the oceans to the forests. Less complete indications are available for other groups of animals and plants, but it is feared they would show a similar picture. CLIP
Planet Under Pressure
With humanity demanding more from the Earth than ever before, BBC News explores the planet's most pressing environmental problems in a six-part series.
Gore Vouches for "Truth" (March 15, 2006)
LAS VEGAS (Hollywood Reporter) - Former Vice President Al Gore is drumming up interest in his upcoming environmental documentary by screening it for movie theater owners at their annual convention in Las Vegas.Gore, an environmental advocate and self-described recovering politician, fielded questions from attendees after Monday's screening of "An Inconvenient Truth," a cautionary chronicle of global warming that premiered to favorable reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It will be released on May 26 by the specialty division of Paramount Pictures.
An Inconvenient Truth
Director Davis Guggenheim eloquently weaves the science of global warming with Mr. Gore's personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change. A longtime advocate for the environment, Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way. "Al Gore strips his presentations of politics, laying out the facts for the audience to draw their own conclusions in a charming, funny and engaging style, and by the end has everyone on the edge of their seats, gripped by his haunting message," said Guggenheim. An Inconvenient Truth is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry to protect the one earth we all share. "It is now clear that we face a deepening global climate crisis that requires us to act boldly, quickly, and wisely," said Gore. CLIP
Sharp rise in CO2 levels recorded (14 March 2006)
Air samples have been taken from Colorado's Rocky Mountains US climate scientists have recorded a significant rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, pushing it to a new record level. BBC News has learned the latest data shows CO2 levels now stand at 381 parts per million (ppm) - 100ppm above the pre-industrial average. The research indicates that 2005 saw one of the largest increases on record - a rise of 2.6ppm. The figures are seen as a benchmark for climate scientists around the globe. CLIP
Climate Change 'Irreversible' as Arctic Sea Ice Fails to Re-form (March 14, 2006)
Sea ice in the Arctic has failed to re-form for the second consecutive winter, raising fears that global warming may have tipped the polar regions in to irreversible climate change far sooner than predicted. Satellite measurements of the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice show that for every month this winter, the ice failed to return even to its long-term average rate of decline. It is the second consecutive winter that the sea ice has not managed to re-form enough to compensate for the unprecedented melting seen during the past few summers.Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice. CLIP
Vanishing toads could portend extinction crisis (March 14)
OSLO (Reuters) - Exotic frogs and toads are dying out in the jungles of Latin America, apparent victims of global warming in what might be a harbinger of one of the worst waves of extinction since the dinosaurs. Accelerating extinctions would derail a United Nations goal of "a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss" by 2010. That target will be reviewed at a U.N. meeting of environment ministers in Curitiba, Brazil, on March 20-31. "We are facing an extinction crisis," said Anne Larigauderie, head of Paris-based Diversitas which promotes research into life on the planet. She estimated the rate of loss of all species was now 10-100 times faster than little-understood rates from fossil records. The task of gauging the exact rate is complicated by the fact that no one knows exactly how many species exist. (...) Overall, the Red List says 844 species have disappeared since 1500, ranging from the dodo to the Tasmanian tiger. In one of the bleakest projections, a 2004 international study said a quarter of all species -- perhaps a million -- could be condemned to extinction by 2050, partly because of a warming climate. CLIP
Help Fight Global Warming
Top Environmental Health News Stories: March 19 to March 25
TruthOut Environment Headlines
Originally from: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1176980,00.html
Global Warming: Be Worried, Be Very Worried
(Time Magazine Cover Story)
Polar Ice Caps Are Melting Faster Than Ever ...
More and More Land Is Being Devastated By Drought ...
Rising Waters Are Drowning Low-Lying Communities ...
By Any Measure, Earth Is At ... The Tipping Point
By Jeffrey Kluger - Time
26 March 2006
The climate is crashing, and global warming is to blame. Why the crisis hit so soon - and what we can do about it.
No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.
It certainly looked that way last week as the atmospheric bomb that was Cyclone Larry - a Category 5 storm with wind bursts that reached 180 m.p.h. - exploded through northeastern Australia. It certainly looked that way last year as curtains of fire and dust turned the skies of Indonesia orange, thanks to drought-fueled blazes sweeping the island nation. It certainly looks that way as sections of ice the size of small states calve from the disintegrating Arctic and Antarctic. And it certainly looks that way as the sodden wreckage of New Orleans continues to molder, while the waters of the Atlantic gather themselves for a new hurricane season just two months away. Disasters have always been with us and surely always will be. But when they hit this hard and come this fast - when the emergency becomes commonplace - something has gone grievously wrong. That something is global warming.
The image of Earth as organism - famously dubbed Gaia by environmentalist James Lovelock - has probably been overworked, but that's not to say the planet can't behave like a living thing, and these days, it's a living thing fighting a fever. From heat waves to storms to floods to fires to massive glacial melts, the global climate seems to be crashing around us. Scientists have been calling this shot for decades. This is precisely what they have been warning would happen if we continued pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping the heat that flows in from the sun and raising global temperatures.
Environmentalists and lawmakers spent years shouting at one another about whether the grim forecasts were true, but in the past five years or so, the serious debate has quietly ended. Global warming, even most skeptics have concluded, is the real deal, and human activity has been causing it. If there was any consolation, it was that the glacial pace of nature would give us decades or even centuries to sort out the problem.
But glaciers, it turns out, can move with surprising speed, and so can nature. What few people reckoned on was that global climate systems are booby-trapped with tipping points and feedback loops, thresholds past which the slow creep of environmental decay gives way to sudden and self-perpetuating collapse. Pump enough CO2 into the sky, and that last part per million of greenhouse gas behaves like the 212th degree Fahrenheit that turns a pot of hot water into a plume of billowing steam. Melt enough Greenland ice, and you reach the point at which you're not simply dripping meltwater into the sea but dumping whole glaciers. By one recent measure, several Greenland ice sheets have doubled their rate of slide, and just last week the journal Science published a study suggesting that by the end of the century, the world could be locked in to an eventual rise in sea levels of as much as 20 ft. Nature, it seems, has finally got a bellyful of us.
"Things are happening a lot faster than anyone predicted," says Bill Chameides, chief scientist for the advocacy group Environmental Defense and a former professor of atmospheric chemistry. "The last 12 months have been alarming." Adds Ruth Curry of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts: "The ripple through the scientific community is palpable."
And it's not just scientists who are taking notice. Even as nature crosses its tipping points, the public seems to have reached its own. For years, popular skepticism about climatological science stood in the way of addressing the problem, but the naysayers - many of whom were on the payroll of energy companies - have become an increasingly marginalized breed. In a new TIME/ ABC News/ Stanford University poll, 85% of respondents agree that global warming probably is happening. Moreover, most respondents say they want some action taken. Of those polled, 87% believe the government should either encourage or require lowering of power-plant emissions, and 85% think something should be done to get cars to use less gasoline. Even Evangelical Christians, once one of the most reliable columns in the conservative base, are demanding action, most notably in February, when 86 Christian leaders formed the Evangelical Climate Initiative, demanding that Congress regulate greenhouse gases.
A collection of new global-warming books is hitting the shelves in response to that awakening interest, followed closely by TV and theatrical documentaries. The most notable of them is An Inconvenient Truth, due out in May, a profile of former Vice President Al Gore and his climate-change work, which is generating a lot of prerelease buzz over an unlikely topic and an equally unlikely star. For all its lack of Hollywood flash, the film compensates by conveying both the hard science of global warming and Gore's particular passion.
Such public stirrings are at last getting the attention of politicians and business leaders, who may not always respond to science but have a keen nose for where votes and profits lie. State and local lawmakers have started taking action to curb emissions, and major corporations are doing the same. Wal-Mart has begun installing wind turbines on its stores to generate electricity and is talking about putting solar reflectors over its parking lots. HSBC, the world's second largest bank, has pledged to neutralize its carbon output by investing in wind farms and other green projects. Even President Bush, hardly a favorite of greens, now acknowledges climate change and boasts of the steps he is taking to fight it. Most of those steps, however, involve research and voluntary emissions controls, not exactly the laws with teeth scientists are calling for.
Is it too late to reverse the changes global warming has wrought? That's still not clear. Reducing our emissions output year to year is hard enough. Getting it low enough so that the atmosphere can heal is a multigenerational commitment. "Ecosystems are usually able to maintain themselves," says Terry Chapin, a biologist and professor of ecology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. "But eventually they get pushed to the limit of tolerance."
CO2 and the Poles
As a tiny component of our atmosphere, carbon dioxide helped warm Earth to comfort levels we are all used to. But too much of it does an awful lot of damage. The gas represents just a few hundred parts per million (p.p.m.) in the overall air blanket, but they're powerful parts because they allow sunlight to stream in but prevent much of the heat from radiating back out. During the last ice age, the atmosphere's CO2 concentration was just 180 p.p.m., putting Earth into a deep freeze. After the glaciers retreated but before the dawn of the modern era, the total had risen to a comfortable 280 p.p.m. In just the past century and a half, we have pushed the level to 381 p.p.m., and we're feeling the effects. Of the 20 hottest years on record, 19 occurred in the 1980s or later. According to NASA scientists, 2005 was one of the hottest years in more than a century.
It's at the North and South poles that those steambath conditions are felt particularly acutely, with glaciers and ice caps crumbling to slush. Once the thaw begins, a number of mechanisms kick in to keep it going. Greenland is a vivid example. Late last year, glaciologist Eric Rignot of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and Pannir Kanagaratnam, a research assistant professor at the University of Kansas, analyzed data from Canadian and European satellites and found that Greenland ice is not just melting but doing so more than twice as fast, with 53 cu. mi. draining away into the sea last year alone, compared with 22 cu. mi. in 1996. A cubic mile of water is about five times the amount Los Angeles uses in a year.
Dumping that much water into the ocean is a very dangerous thing. Icebergs don't raise sea levels when they melt because they're floating, which means they have displaced all the water they're ever going to. But ice on land, like Greenland's, is a different matter. Pour that into oceans that are already rising (because warm water expands), and you deluge shorelines. By some estimates, the entire Greenland ice sheet would be enough to raise global sea levels 23 ft., swallowing up large parts of coastal Florida and most of Bangladesh. The Antarctic holds enough ice to raise sea levels more than 215 ft.
One of the reasons the loss of the planet's ice cover is accelerating is that as the poles' bright white surface shrinks, it changes the relationship of Earth and the sun. Polar ice is so reflective that 90% of the sunlight that strikes it simply bounces back into space, taking much of its energy with it. Ocean water does just the opposite, absorbing 90% of the energy it receives. The more energy it retains, the warmer it gets, with the result that each mile of ice that melts vanishes faster than the mile that preceded it.
That is what scientists call a feedback loop, and it's a nasty one, since once you uncap the Arctic Ocean, you unleash another beast: the comparatively warm layer of water about 600 ft. deep that circulates in and out of the Atlantic. "Remove the ice," says Woods Hole's Curry, "and the water starts talking to the atmosphere, releasing its heat. This is not a good thing."
A similar feedback loop is melting permafrost, usually defined as land that has been continuously frozen for two years or more. There's a lot of earthly real estate that qualifies, and much of it has been frozen much longer than two years - since the end of the last ice age, or at least 8,000 years ago. Sealed inside that cryonic time capsule are layers of partially decayed organic matter, rich in carbon. In high-altitude regions of Alaska, Canada and Siberia, the soil is warming and decomposing, releasing gases that will turn into methane and CO2. That, in turn, could lead to more warming and permafrost thaw, says research scientist David Lawrence of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo. And how much carbon is socked away in Arctic soils? Lawrence puts the figure at 200 gigatons to 800 gigatons. The total human carbon output is only 7 gigatons a year.
One result of all that is warmer oceans, and a result of warmer oceans can be, paradoxically, colder continents within a hotter globe. Ocean currents running between warm and cold regions serve as natural thermoregulators, distributing heat from the equator toward the poles. The Gulf Stream, carrying warmth up from the tropics, is what keeps Europe's climate relatively mild. Whenever Europe is cut off from the Gulf Stream, temperatures plummet. At the end of the last ice age, the warm current was temporarily blocked, and temperatures in Europe fell as much as 10 degrees F, locking the continent in glaciers.
What usually keeps the Gulf Stream running is that warm water is lighter than cold water, so it floats on the surface. As it reaches Europe and releases its heat, the current grows denser and sinks, flowing back to the south and crossing under the northbound Gulf Stream until it reaches the tropics and starts to warm again. The cycle works splendidly, provided the water remains salty enough. But if it becomes diluted by freshwater, the salt concentration drops, and the water gets lighter, idling on top and stalling the current. Last December, researchers associated with Britain's National Oceanography Center reported that one component of the system that drives the Gulf Stream has slowed about 30% since 1957. It's the increased release of Arctic and Greenland meltwater that appears to be causing the problem, introducing a gush of freshwater that's overwhelming the natural cycle. In a global-warming world, it's unlikely that any amount of cooling that resulted from this would be sufficient to support glaciers, but it could make things awfully uncomfortable.
"The big worry is that the whole climate of Europe will change," says Adrian Luckman, senior lecturer in geography at the University of Wales, Swansea. "We in the U.K. are on the same latitude as Alaska. The reason we can live here is the Gulf Stream."
As fast as global warming is transforming the oceans and the ice caps, it's having an even more immediate effect on land. People, animals and plants living in dry, mountainous regions like the western US make it through summer thanks to snowpack that collects on peaks all winter and slowly melts off in warm months. Lately the early arrival of spring and the unusually blistering summers have caused the snowpack to melt too early, so that by the time it's needed, it's largely gone. Climatologist Philip Mote of the University of Washington has compared decades of snowpack levels in Washington, Oregon and California and found that they are a fraction of what they were in the 1940s, and some snowpacks have vanished entirely.
Global warming is tipping other regions of the world into drought in different ways. Higher temperatures bake moisture out of soil faster, causing dry regions that live at the margins to cross the line into full-blown crisis. Meanwhile, El NiÃ±o events - the warm pooling of Pacific waters that periodically drives worldwide climate patterns and has been occurring more frequently in global-warming years - further inhibit precipitation in dry areas of Africa and East Asia. According to a recent study by NCAR, the percentage of Earth's surface suffering drought has more than doubled since the 1970s.
Flora and Fauna
Hot, dry land can be murder on flora and fauna, and both are taking a bad hit. Wildfires in such regions as Indonesia, the western US and even inland Alaska have been increasing as timberlands and forest floors grow more parched. The blazes create a feedback loop of their own, pouring more carbon into the atmosphere and reducing the number of trees, which inhale CO2 and release oxygen.
Those forests that don't succumb to fire die in other, slower ways. Connie Millar, a paleoecologist for the US Forest Service, studies the history of vegetation in the Sierra Nevada. Over the past 100 years, she has found, the forests have shifted their tree lines as much as 100 ft. upslope, trying to escape the heat and drought of the lowlands. Such slow-motion evacuation may seem like a sensible strategy, but when you're on a mountain, you can go only so far before you run out of room. "Sometimes we say the trees are going to heaven because they're walking off the mountaintops," Millar says.
Across North America, warming-related changes are mowing down other flora too. Manzanita bushes in the West are dying back; some prickly pear cacti have lost their signature green and are instead a sickly pink; pine beetles in western Canada and the US are chewing their way through tens of millions of acres of forest, thanks to warmer winters. The beetles may even breach the once insurmountable Rocky Mountain divide, opening up a path into the rich timbering lands of the American Southeast.
With habitats crashing, animals that live there are succumbing too. Environmental groups can tick off scores of species that have been determined to be at risk as a result of global warming. Last year, researchers in Costa Rica announced that two-thirds of 110 species of colorful harlequin frogs have vanished in the past 30 years, with the severity of each season's die-off following in lockstep with the severity of that year's warming.
In Alaska, salmon populations are at risk as melting permafrost pours mud into rivers, burying the gravel the fish need for spawning. Small animals such as bushy-tailed wood rats, alpine chipmunks and piÃ±on mice are being chased upslope by rising temperatures, following the path of the fleeing trees. And with sea ice vanishing, polar bears - prodigious swimmers but not inexhaustible ones - are starting to turn up drowned. "There will be no polar ice by 2060," says Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "Somewhere along that path, the polar bear drops out."
What About Us?
It is fitting, perhaps, that as the species causing all the problems, we're suffering the destruction of our habitat too, and we have experienced that loss in terrible ways. Ocean waters have warmed by a full degree Fahrenheit since 1970, and warmer water is like rocket fuel for typhoons and hurricanes. Two studies last year found that in the past 35 years the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has doubled while the wind speed and duration of all hurricanes has jumped 50%. Since atmospheric heat is not choosy about the water it warms, tropical storms could start turning up in some decidedly nontropical places. "There's a school of thought that sea surface temperatures are warming up toward Canada," says Greg Holland, senior scientist for NCAR in Boulder. "If so, you're likely to get tropical cyclones there, but we honestly don't know."
What We Can Do
So much for environmental collapse happening in so many places at once has at last awakened much of the world, particularly the 141 nations that have ratified the Kyoto treaty to reduce emissions - an imperfect accord, to be sure, but an accord all the same. The US, however, which is home to less than 5% of Earth's population but produces 25% of CO2 emissions, remains intransigent. Many environmentalists declared the Bush Administration hopeless from the start, and while that may have been premature, it's undeniable that the White House's environmental record - from the abandonment of Kyoto to the President's broken campaign pledge to control carbon output to the relaxation of emission standards - has been dismal. George W. Bush's recent rhetorical nods to America's oil addiction and his praise of such alternative fuel sources as switchgrass have yet to be followed by real initiatives.
The anger surrounding all that exploded recently when NASA researcher Jim Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a longtime leader in climate-change research, complained that he had been harassed by White House appointees as he tried to sound the global-warming alarm. "The way democracy is supposed to work, the presumption is that the public is well informed," he told TIME. "They're trying to deny the science." Up against such resistance, many environmental groups have resolved simply to wait out this Administration and hope for something better in 2009.
The Republican-dominated Congress has not been much more encouraging. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman have twice been unable to get through the Senate even mild measures to limit carbon. Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, both of New Mexico and both ranking members of the chamber's Energy Committee, have made global warming a high-profile matter. A white paper issued in February will be the subject of an investigatory Senate conference next week. A House delegation recently traveled to Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand to visit researchers studying climate change. "Of the 10 of us, only three were believers," says Representative Sherwood Boehlert of New York. "Every one of the others said this opened their eyes."
Boehlert himself has long fought the environmental fight, but if the best that can be said for most lawmakers is that they are finally recognizing the global-warming problem, there's reason to wonder whether they will have the courage to reverse it. Increasingly, state and local governments are filling the void. The mayors of more than 200 cities have signed the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, pledging, among other things, that they will meet the Kyoto goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in their cities to 1990 levels by 2012. Nine eastern states have established the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for the purpose of developing a cap-and-trade program that would set ceilings on industrial emissions and allow companies that overperform to sell pollution credits to those that underperform - the same smart, incentive-based strategy that got sulfur dioxide under control and reduced acid rain. And California passed the nation's toughest automobile- emissions law last summer.
"There are a whole series of things that demonstrate that people want to act and want their government to act," says Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense. Krupp and others believe that we should probably accept that it's too late to prevent CO2 concentrations from climbing to 450 p.p.m. (or 70 p.p.m. higher than where they are now). From there, however, we should be able to stabilize them and start to dial them back down.
That goal should be attainable. Curbing global warming may be an order of magnitude harder than, say, eradicating smallpox or putting a man on the moon. But is it moral not to try? We did not so much march toward the environmental precipice as drunkenly reel there, snapping at the scientific scolds who told us we had a problem.
The scolds, however, knew what they were talking about. In a solar system crowded with sister worlds that either emerged stillborn like Mercury and Venus or died in infancy like Mars, we're finally coming to appreciate the knife-blade margins within which life can thrive. For more than a century we've been monkeying with those margins. It's long past time we set them right.
Feeling The Heat
Global warming is already disrupting the biological world, pushing many species to the brink of extinction and turning others into runaway pests. But the worst is yet to come
A Science Adviser Unmuzzled
Q&A: NASA's chief climate scientist, who charged that his views on global warming were being squelched, says we're getting close to a tipping point
The Greenest Bank
HSBC is one banking behemoth that wants to be carbon neutral
How to Seize the Initiative
You don't have to wait for Washington to tell you to reduce emissions. You can follow the lead of forward-thinking governments, retailers, artists and even a utility company
An Ice-Free Passage
Global warming may be bad for polar bears, but for a little port town in Manitoba, it could be a boon
The Climate Crusaders
They saw which way the wind was blowing and set out to save the world
Scourge of the Gas Guzzlers
When California legislator Fran Pavley introduced her landmark bill to limit greenhouse gases, the SUVs circled
How It Affects Your Health
Expect more risk of heatstrokes, asthma, allergies and infectious disease
The debate over whether Earth is warming up is over. Now we're learning that climate disruptions feed off one another in accelerating spirals of destruction. Scientists fear we may be approaching the point of no return
TIME Poll: Global Warming - Seeing the problem, not the solution
Ice, Wind and Fire - TIME Photo Essay
The Midwest Tornadoes: Surveying the Tornado Damage
The cleanup begins after a devastating series of twisters (...) It could have been much worse, according to the National Weather Service. "It was a highly unusual storm for this time of year ." CLIP
ANTARCTICA'S ATMOSPHERE WARMING DRAMATICALLY, STUDY FINDS (March 30, 2006) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0330_060330_antarctica.html
The air over Antarctica has warmed dramatically over the past 30 years, according to a new study of archived data collected by weather balloons floated over the icy continent. The greatest warming -- nearly 1.4ºF (0.75ºC) per decade in the winter -- has occurred about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface. Scientists are hard pressed to explain the temperature spike, which is three times larger than the global average. The rise cannot be explained by the climate models scientists use to predict the effects of global warming from increased greenhouse gases. "That could point to some mechanism of climate change we don't understand, a failing in these models, or just a result of natural climate variability," said John Turner, a climate scientist with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England. Meanwhile, surface temperatures have increased 4.5ºF (2.5ºC) in the last 50 years on the Antarctic Peninsula, the mountainous arm that trails toward the southern tip of South America. "But the rest of Antarctica has done virtually nothing [at the surface]", Turner said. CLIP
Antarctic Air is Warming Faster Than Rest of World (March 31, 2006)
New finding could have implications for sea level rises
The Impact of Asia's Giants: How China and India could save the planet--or destroy it
By BRYAN WALSH
March 26, 2006
If everyone lived like the average Chinese or Indian, you wouldn't be reading about global warming. On a per capita basis, China and India emit far less greenhouse gas than energy-efficient Japan, environmentally scrupulous Sweden--and especially the gas-guzzling U.S. (The average American is responsible for 20 times as much CO2 emission annually as the average Indian.) There's only one problem: 2.4 billion people live in China and India, a great many of whom aspire to an American-style energy-intensive life. And thanks to the breakneck growth of the two countries' economies, they just might get there--with potentially disastrous results for the world's climate.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the increase in greenhouse-gas emissions from 2000 to 2030 from China alone will nearly equal the increase from the entire industrialized world. India, though behind its Asian rival, could see greenhouse-gas emissions that rise 70% by 2025, according to the World Resources Institute. But the nearly double-digit growth rates that are responsible for those nightmare projections also present an environmental opportunity. "Anything you want to do about clean energy is easier to do from the outset," says David Moskowitz, an energy consultant who has advised Chinese officials. "Every time they add a power plant or factory, they can add one cleaner and better than before." If China and India can muster the will and resources to leapfrog the West's energy-heavy development path, dangerous climate change might be averted. "China and India have to demonstrate to other countries that it is possible to develop in a sustainable way," says Yang Fuqiang, vice president of the Energy Foundation in Beijing. "We can't fail."
The Kyoto accord on climate change did nothing to slow growth in China and India because as developing countries they are not required under the protocol to make cuts in carbon emissions--and that is not likely to change after the agreement expires in 2012. Both countries are desperate for energy to fuel the economic expansion that is pulling their citizens out of poverty, and despite bold investments in renewables, much of that energy will have to come from coal, the only traditional energy source they have in abundance. Barbara Finamore, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's China Clean Energy Program, estimates that China's total electricity demand will increase by 2,600 gigawatts by 2050, which is the equivalent of adding four 300-megawatt power plants every week for the next 45 years. India's energy consumption rose 208% from 1980 to 2001, even faster than China's, but nearly half the population still lacks regular access to electricity--a fact the government is working to change. "They'll do what they can, but overall emissions are likely to rise much higher than they are now," says Jonathan Sinton, China analyst for the IEA.
Environmentalism inevitably takes a backseat to development in China and India, but even among many green advocates there, climate change is seen as a less pressing problem than air and water pollution. There is also a widespread feeling that the developed world, which grew rich while freely spewing carbon, should take most of the responsibility for climate change. "Our issue is that, first and foremost, the U.S. needs to reduce its emissions," says Sunita Narain, director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi. "It is unacceptable and immoral that the U.S. doesn't take the lead on climate change." The Bush Administration, in turn, has rejected Kyoto partly because developing countries were exempt from emissions cuts.
The standoff between the U.S. and the Asian giants has stymied international climate-change efforts for years, but that is beginning to change--and some of the push is coming from Beijing. For most of the recent Montreal climate conference, the U.S. resisted any serious discussion of what should be done after Kyoto expires. But several major developing countries, including China as a quiet but present force, supported further talks and helped break down U.S. opposition. "At the moment, China seems more interested in engaging on this issue internationally than the U.S. does," says Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
That's because China and India increasingly see climate-change policy as a way to address some of their immediate problems--such as energy shortages and local environmental ills--while getting the international community to help foot the bill. Thanks to poorly run plants and antiquated power grids, China and India are extremely energy inefficient. China uses three times as much energy as the U.S. to produce $1 of economic output. But that means there is a lot of room for improvement, and saving energy by cutting waste is less expensive than building new coal plants. It also reduces dependence on foreign energy and comes carbon and pollutant free. "Efficiency really is the sweet spot," says Dan Dudek, a chief economist at Environmental Defense. Beijing agrees: the government aims to reduce energy intensity--the amount of energy used relative to the size of the economy--20% by 2010.
Making ambitious pledges is easy--that is what five-year plans are for--but finding the will and the funds to make them stick is trickier. One source of funding is the Clean Development Mechanism, a part of the Kyoto Protocol that allows developed countries to sponsor greenhouse-cutting projects in developing countries in exchange for carbon credits that can be used for meeting emissions targets. Those projects don't require any technological breakthroughs. A 2003 study by the consulting firm CRA International found that if China and India invested fully in technology already in use in the U.S., the total carbon savings by 2012 would be comparable to what could be achieved if every country under the Kyoto Protocol actually met its targets.
But that window of opportunity is closing rapidly. Every step forward that these countries take today (such as China's move to make its auto-emission regulations stricter than the U.S.'s) risks being swamped by growth tomorrow (for example, China could have 140 million cars on the road by 2020). What China and India really need to ensure green development is what the world needs: a broadly accepted post-Kyoto pact that is strict enough to make it economically worthwhile to eliminate carbon emissions. Though actual cuts are off the table for now, Beijing and New Delhi seem willing to discuss softer targets, such as lowering carbon intensity. But they feel that Washington must take the lead. "It is possible for these countries to achieve the growth they deserve without wrecking the climate," says Diringer. "They just can't do it on their own. It has to go through the U.S."
Maybe we can begin by living a bit more like the average Chinese or Indian--before they start living like us.
Also from: http://freepage.twoday.net/stories/1755947/
By Susanna Schrobsdorff
Newsweek March 26, 2006
A new book predicts that climate change is likely to be abrupt and cataclysmic -- and that these sudden shifts could cripple national economies.
Last week, Britain's Prince Charles called climate change "the No. 1 risk in the world, ahead of terrorism and demographic change." But the prince, a long-time environmentalist, has some unlikely competition for the year's most strident statement on global warming. In a Feb. 6 address to the United Nations Security Council, conservative Republican Sen. Richard Lugar called for action on global warming, citing recent advances in scientific knowledge on the subject: "The problem [of climate change] is real and caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide from fossil fuels." He went on to add that climate change could "bring drought, famine, disease, mass migration and rising sea levels threatening coasts and economies worldwide, all of which could lead to political conflict and instability.
Lugar is not the only one reassessing global warming. Last week, insurers, bruised by a devastating 2005 Atlantic storm season that saw an all-time high of 14 hurricanes, announced plans to establish a climate-change task force under the auspices of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Record insurance-industry losses of $30 billion from 2004's hurricanes in the United States were dwarfed by the more than $60 billion in insurance losses in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina alone. The industry says must recalibrate its risk models to account for the hurricanes and other severe weather from inland tornados, brushfires, ice storms and drought.
None of this is news to award-winning environmental journalist Eugene Linden. In his new book, "The Winds of Change" (Simon & Schuster), Linden traces cycles of climate change and how civilizations have responded throughout history. He reports that these shifts tend to be abrupt and catastrophic flickerings, not the gradual warming we've generally expected. And while Linden acknowledges the controversy and contradictions in the science of predicting global warming, he says: "We know enough to realize that this is a very big deal, and we know it's happening much faster than we expected."
NEWSWEEK's Susanna Schrobsdorff spoke with Linden about the science and politics of environmental change. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: Did the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina affect public attitudes about environmental issues?
EUGENE LINDEN: Yes, I think Katrina was a tectonic shift. People have begun to appreciate that weather can be a weapon of mass destruction. Katrina did more economic damage than the [9/11] World Trade Center attacks. The signals have become incontrovertible and the naysayers just sound silly.
NEWSWEEK: There was a lot of speculation that the intensity of Hurricane Katrina was related to global warming. Is there any consensus on that?
LINDEN: There's never going to be perfect knowledge here, but we know that hot water is the energy source for hurricanes. We also know that you've seen the world warm over the last few years, and hurricanes have intensified over the last 30 years. With global warming you'd expect more intense storms, and that's exactly what we are seeing.
NEWSWEEK: The Bush administration been criticized for downplaying the risks of global warming. Has that changed in the wake of the costly 2005 hurricane season?
LINDEN: The Bush administration is in an extreme denial position. They have just had contempt for the problem as far as I can see. But we cannot wait until January of 2009 [when Bush leaves office] to start taking action. I think the business community will bring more pressure on them to do something. And the fact that Christian evangelicals are speaking out on environmental issues will help, as well. I think George Bush can change his mind on this. The world needs him to change his mind.
NEWSWEEK: We usually think of global warming as a very slow process. But you say it's happening more quickly than predicted.
LINDEN: As recently as the 1980s, most scientists thought that climate change was a gradual and incremental affair. Then with the studies on the Greenland ice core, and seabed studies and all sorts of other studies, they have confirmed that climate has tended to flip back and forth and that historically it has gone through flickering stages, between warm and cold, as it seeks a new equilibrium. These flickering stages can last decades, creating whipsaw changes in climate that could be ruinous.
NEWSWEEK: Are we prepared for sudden environmental changes?
LINDEN: If climate change was gradual and incremental, societies could deal with it and adjust their behavior to the risk. But if it's rapid and extreme, there's no society on earth that can deal with it. In fact, economists can't even model the impact. Most of the economic modeling you see about climate change is built on a gradual and incremental model, which doesn't exist in the environmental record. Even an economy that could absorb the cost of Katrina would have difficulty with a cluster of intense weather shocks -- droughts, floods and ice storms and hurricanes.
NEWSWEEK: You write about ancient civilizations wiped out by cycles of climate change. What do you say to those who question whether current warming is caused by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels?
LINDEN: If it's natural, we're really screwed; if it's human, which is likely, then at least we can do something about it. So I'd be hoping it's man-made. The one variable that's really out of whack with history is the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has marched in lockstep with global warming. The signs are all around us -- and so are the solutions.
NEWSWEEK: What are the solutions?
LINDEN: In a perfect world, it's a carbon tax. But you can also look at the California situation when they had their energy crisis in 2001. It was amazing how good people were in reducing their energy use. Consumers can change their buying habits on a dime. There is enormous power to address this problem. But the main thing is that internationally, we have to get China and India in the game. And because we're the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, the U.S. government has to take a strong stand on this.
NEWSWEEK: What potential economic repercussions are there from climate change at this pace?
LINDEN: To put it in perspective, an El Nino [a major temperature fluctuation in surface waters of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean] might represent a 1 degree change in global temperatures. The 1998 El Nino did about $100 billion dollars' damage to the global economy, but you have to scale up for each level of change dramatically because you pass what are called tipping points or thresholds. Katrina was only marginally more powerful than previous hurricanes, but it did over a hundred times the damage. A flood that's 10 percent higher than a previous flood can cause 10 times as much damage if it overtops levees. Even a 2 degree warming in the next 20 or 30 years could be incredibly ruinous just because it could impose a tax on everybody in every in terms of ice storms and disruption in weather and business.
NEWSWEEK: What kind of tax?
LINDEN: For example, if insurance starts to rise in certain areas, and it already has in coastal areas, you get repercussions for the housing market. People have huge amounts tied up in housing and an enormous number of jobs and spending are in housing. And of course the financial system, which prices these risks, has to absorb it. The system is going to shift the risk back to individuals or government -- that's what business does, and that's how risk gets aggregated. As these risks begin to become monetized, and if global warming intensifies, it could eventually cause an economy to come to a halt.
NEWSWEEK: How have insurance companies reacted to the intensity of the storms we've already seen?
LINDEN: Traditionally, they've only looked back at what past weather has done, but now they are starting to base rates on anticipated changes in weather. Rates in some parts of south Florida have almost doubled. Flood insurance may end up being 10 times more expensive in parts of New Orleans as it was before. And some have even pulled out of Cape Cod [in Massachusetts], which is [more than] 1,000 miles away from where Katrina hit. That's how risk diffuses. And if an insurance company backs out, what bank is going to assume that risk? It causes real problems up the economic chain.
NEWSWEEK: Are other industries making plans to cope with the risk of global warming?
LINDEN: One of the things we're seeing right now is a change in attitudes in corporate America about climate change and emissions. Jack Welch [former CEO of General Electric] was famously dismissive of climate change and global warning. But Jeffrey Immelt [Welch's successor at GE] has acknowledged the seriousness of it and other environmental concerns -- and that's one of the largest corporations on the planet. I think that big business is actually going to put pressure on the White House to actually do something on climate change and emissions because they'd rather deal with one uniform policy than 17 different policies. And a lot of these big companies are multinationals. Even if the United States doesn't take the issue seriously, a lot of other places do, and they have to operate in those markets.
NEWSWEEK: You write that humans are notoriously bad at assessing risk. Is that also why we haven't been more concerned about climate change before this?
LINDEN: With a long-wavelength phenomenon like climate change, by the time the signals come it's often too late. To paraphrase [Secretary of State] Condi Rice [in her pre-war statements on Iraq's nuclear capabilities], you don't want to have knowledge of global warming come when we have a ruined economy as a result of global warming. This is science in real time. We know enough to realize that this is a very big deal, and we know it's happening much faster than we expected.
A Climate Change of Heart By Eugene Linden (14 March 2006) http://www.truthout.org/issues_06/031506EB.shtml
Even Bush's business allies have seen the light on global warming. But he's dug in. A beleaguered president stubbornly insists on staying the course even as his staunchest allies abandon him. I'm not talking about Iraq, but global warming. Here's a case where virtually everybody is acknowledging a weapon of mass destruction - the threat of climate chaos - but still President Bush refuses to take action. When the evangelical community, Bush's stalwart base, called for climate action last month, the news grabbed headlines. But the more important Bush defectors on this issue are some of the world's largest corporations, including British Petroleum, General Electric, DuPont and Cinergy. So, the question arises: Why does Bush persist in his increasingly lonely stance? The answer may lie in the difference between realpolitik and ideology. Many corporations initially opposed climate action as a practical matter, because of its perceived costs. The Bush administration's opposition seems to derive from its ideological hostility to international treaties and the United Nations on the one hand and environmentalists on the other. (...) The changed corporate landscape gives hope until we remember that the climate seems to be changing the landscape that we live on even more rapidly. With carbon dioxide levels already higher than they've been since homo sapiens emerged as a species, we are conducting a science lab experiment on a planetary scale. India, China and other big greenhouse gas emitters will not do their part unless the United States, the biggest emitter, joins the effort. And that won't happen without presidential leadership. So, President Bush, if the scientific, evangelical and business communities can't sway you, what will it take to persuade you to help halt our lunatic meddling with Earth's atmosphere?
March 31, 2006
Greenpeace calls the Summit for Life on Earth a Failure
Greenpeace calls the Summit for Life on Earth a failure WTO trade liberalization and lack of funding hijacked biodiversity
Curitiba, Brazil, March 31st 2006: As the two-week long world summit on biodiversity drew to a close, Greenpeace described the outcome as major failure - a missed opportunity to stop the global loss of life in the world's forests and oceans.
"The Convention on Biological Diversity is like a ship drifting without a captain to steer it," said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace Political Advisor on Forests. "The negotiations have failed to chart a course to stop biopiracy, provide additional financing for protected areas, establish marine reserves on the high seas and to ban illegal logging and trade."
Although the president of the COP8, Brazil's environment minister Marina Silva, opened the conference calling for legislation against biopiracy, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have argued against strict deadlines for the negotiations. "This simply buys time for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to secure patents on life under the regime of the World Trade Organisation," said Kaiser.
At their last conference, the CBD member States agreed to establish a global network of protected areas, in order to safeguard life on earth and prevent the industrial exploitation of the world's biodiversity at the expense of future generations. Money was promised by the rich countries to help make this happen.
"Both rich and developing countries have not delivered on their promises, and the proposed global network of protected areas has not become a reality." said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator. "Instead, governments have put nature at risk and allowed it to become a private commodity."
At the beginning of the conference, Greenpeace presented a roadmap to recovery, a global map of the last intact forests, and a network of marine reserves on the high seas (1), calling governments to take action. This challenge has been ignored.
The conference has not been able to address a core business of every government, eradicating illegal and unsustainable logging and fisheries." The need for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, the most destructive form of fishing, is now being blocked by a few key countries, who are prioritising their industry interests over the protection of marine biodiversity" said Karen Sack, Greenpeace Political Advisor on Oceans.
Despite the exploitation of the Amazon by illegal and destructive logging providing timber products to internal and external markets, the Brazilian government has blocked any meaningful collaboration at a regional and international level.
"This conference has been overshadowed by the announcement of the United States, the largest contributor to the funding body for biodiversity, that it will halve its financial contribution," concluded Kaiser. "Four years ago, world leaders committed themselves to rescue life on earth by 2010. Many plans and programmes are in place, but the financial support for developing countries is not provided yet."
Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation that uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.
(1) For more information on the oceans maps see: http://oceans.greenpeace.org/highseas-report , http://oceans.greenpeace.org/highseas-map
For more information on the forest maps see http://www.intactforests.org, http://www.greenpeace.org/forestmaps
CONTACT: Greenpeace : http://www.greenpeace.org/international/
Contact: J Martin Kaiser, +55 41 96821411
Paulo Adario +55 92 81158928
Karen Sack, +1 202 4155403
Natalia Truchi, +55 41 96771859
Biodiversity: Environmentalists, Indigenous People Disappointed by COP8 (April 1, 2006)
CURITIBA, Brazil - Environmental and indigenous activists are leaving the 8th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8) with a sense of disappointment, because of the absence both of practical decisions and of their participation in key negotiations. (...) The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the main funding source for action on biodiversity, only has three billion dollars available for the next four years, but 25 billion dollars a year will be needed to create the protected areas required to meet the 2010 goal, according to Greenpeace. There are no prospects of increasing the GEF budget. As it is, a struggle is being waged to prevent it from being reduced, as the United States is threatening to cut its contribution by half. The U.S. is the biggest contributor, providing 20 percent of the total. Other rich countries are also reluctant to increase their contributions. (...) Greenpeace stirred up the conference, distributing its "Flat Ball Awards" daily since last Friday. Australia, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Union and South Korea "won" the awards, for championing Terminator seeds, obstructing negotiations, or taking anti-ecological stances. But the "evil axis" award, granted by an informal coalition of civil society groups that annually hands out the Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy, went to Australia, Canada and New Zealand, accused of being "puppets" of the United States and speaking for its interests. The U.S. is not a party to the Convention. Young Greenpeace activists set up an hourglass -- full of pieces of paper -- in the entrance hall of Expo Trade, where the COP8 was held, to protest the snail's pace implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity since its inception 14 years ago. CLIP
Global SOS: Save Our Sacred Sites (26 March 2006)
What we've lost, what we have left and what we will lose if we don't act now. That is the message that the latest global maps of the planet's last intact forests and most vulnerable ocean areas tell us. The maps were launched at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)as government delegates begin negotiating how to stop the world's plants and animals from disappearing forever. The CBD has set itself the goal of significantly reducing the number of plants and animals becoming extinct by 2010 for life on land and 2012 for ocean life. It is an ambitious target given that they have barely started the work after 14 years of painfully slow negotiations between the more than 180 counties who have signed the convention. Our latest maps show that implementing a global network of large protected areas, which are required to stop the slide towards extinction for many plants and animals can be achieved now. The map of the remaining intact forest areas was created using the latest satellite images and is the most up-to-date map of its kind. The map of the oceans uses the latest research to determine the areas of the ocean in most need of protection.
If the global network of protected areas isn't implemented, within 20 years, a huge portion of the planet's plants and animals will be lost forever. There has never been a more urgent need for action. CLIP
The numbers game
Imagine a football pitch as you've seen it many times. It's a bit less than one hectare in area. Now imagine that same football pitch packed end-to-end with a pile of wood around twice the height of Mt. Everest. That's the amount of forest that is imported into China every year, and the pile is getting higher. The developed industrial economies of North America, Europe, Japan and South Korea are timber gluttons and consume more timber than the planet can sustainably provide. That's the bad news. The worse news is that the timber over consumption habit is beginning to rub off on the emerging mega-economy of China. A report recently released by Greenpeace called 'Sharing the Blame' shows that in the past 10 years, timber imports into China have increased by an enormous 4.5 fold to the double Mt. Everest sized pile mentioned above. This huge volume of extra timber isn't all being consumed in China however, with exports of timber products from China increasing by 3.5 fold in the same time period. Whilst demand for timber products has risen sharply in China, the demand in the world's big industrial economies has remained at an all time high. China has become the clearinghouse for the world's timber with every second tropical tree traded in the world being sent to China. Unfortunately, much of the merchandise is stolen goods. The forest is felled in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where between 76 to 90 percent of the logging is illegal, and shipped to China to be processed into plywood, furniture or paper and exported to the forest hungry economies of North America, Europe, Japan and South Korea. 'Sharing the Blame' isn't only about the frightening statistics of the global timber trade; it follows the illegally logged timber from the forest to the finished product in the shops and names the companies behind the illicit trade. After being contacted by Greenpeace and presented with the evidence, some international timber buyers have already started to address the issue of purchasing timber products made from illegal logging. Numerous companies in Europe have made commitments to stop purchasing Chinese plywood made from illegally logged timber from Papua New Guinea. The Chinese government has also started to publicly acknowledge that consumption issues must be tackled in China. In recognition of this problem, in late March of this year, the government imposed a 5 percent consumption tax on disposable chopsticks and hardwood flooring to try to stem the tide of forest destruction.Whilst this is a good start, the fact that so many companies internationally have been purchasing illegal timber products without knowing or caring shows that governments of the world have to get tough with the illegal logging trade and ban imports of illegal timber products. The responsibility for ending the over-exploitation of the world's last forests is shared equally between the producer and the consumer countries. The developed industrial economies of North America, Europe, Japan and South Korea need to dramatically reduce their consumption of timber products and China needs to find a way to develop its economy without simply following the poor example of the timber gluttons. After all the numbers are added up and put into neat rows and columns of figures, it is easy to forget that what isn't shown in the statistics are lives; people's lives and the lives of the plants and animals of the forests. And if you put everything back together, all the pieces combine to equal a couple of Mt. Everests of ancient forest disappearing before our eyes.
Bush Administration Rebuked for New Activities in Pristine Roadless Areas - Governors and conservationists call for halt of agency actions
Washington, D.C. According to new research released today by the Heritage Forests Campaign, the U.S. Forest Service is moving ahead with new activities in over twenty inventoried roadless areas, despite agency assurances that these areas will be protected while their fate is in dispute. In a September 2005 New York Times letter-to-the-editor, Mark Rey, Under Secretary of Agriculture, wrote, We are providing interim protection to roadless areas, pending the development of state-specific rules provided for in our 2005 rulemaking. The HFC report, Broken Ground, analyzes the Federal Register, news articles and the Forest Services own website, however, to reveal projects in the pipeline, including:
· - Logging and road construction in Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming; ·- Oil and gas drilling in Colorado, Nevada and Utah; and ·- Roads, phosphate exploration, and mining in Idaho's Sage Creek Roadless Area. It is disingenuous for the Forest Service to move forward with destructive projects while assuring the public that it is protecting these areas, said Robert Vandermark, Director of the Heritage Forest Campaign. The administration should honor its commitment and stop these activities immediately. Since taking office, the Bush administration has steadily undermined the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a USDA Forest Service policy to protect the last unprotected, unroaded 58.5 million acres of national forests from most logging, road-building and other development. CLIP
Our disappearing forests
We are destroying the worlds precious ancient forests at an unprecedented rate. An area of natural forest the size of a soccer pitch is cut down every two seconds.
A quarter of the forest lost in the last 10,000 years has been destroyed in the last 30 years. Forest loss has a direct link to loss of biodiversity. The current extinction rate of plant and animal species is around 1,000 times faster than it was in pre-human times and this will increase to 10,000 times faster by 2050.
Scientists predict that the Earth is entering the sixth major extinction event in its history.
World map of last intact forest landscapes
Mapping the problem
Until now, world maps have not been sufficiently accurate or consistent to reveal which forest areas remain intact, which have been damaged and to what extent. This has made it difficult to see which forest areas are most in need of protection. Greenpeace has created a new map of the worlds forests, based on the most up to date, high-resolution satellite imagery and a consistent set of criteria.
It shows us the remaining large forest areas and lets us compare them directly and accurately with the extent of Earth's original forest cover for the first time. This ground breaking research shows that the worlds remaining ancient forests are in crisis and that fewer intact forest landscapes than previously thought are left. To save them, we must act now.
Damage to ancient forests is not just about total deforestation.
It is also about the degradation of forest to a point at which it is no longer a viable habitat for its plant and animal species. In the tropics alone, over 5 million square kilometres of forest have been degraded by destructive logging and a further 3.5 million square kilometres has been totally deforested during the last few decades.
Only intact forest landscapes of several thousands of square kilometres are large enough to sustain healthy populations of many larger forest animals like jaguars, bears, tigers and forest elephants. They are also better able to adapt to the changing global climate.
To preserve these last intact forests and the biodiversity they support, we must protect large, unbroken areas from further industrial exploitation.
The moment a road or pipeline is built the forest and its precious balance of interdependent species begins to be destroyed. These maps are a starting point for monitoring these last large forests landscapes now and in the future and are the baseline for a roadmap to recovery.
World governments can use these maps to identify which forest areas are most in need of protection and to fast track setting up a global network of protected forest areas.
Summary of findings:
- Less than 10 percent of the planets land area remains as intact forest landscapes.
- 82 countries out of 148 countries lying within the original forest zone have lost all their intact forest landscapes.
The majority of the worlds last remaining intact forest landscapes consist of two major forest types - tropical rainforest and boreal forest.
- 49 percent of the remaining intact forests are the tropical forests of Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific.
- 44 percent of the remaining intact forests are the great boreal forests of Russia, Canada and Alaska.
For more detailed maps available as google earth (.kmz) or Arcview (.shp) file downloads, methodology explanation and discussion forum go to http://www.intactforests.org
Intact Forest Landscapes
World map of remaining intact forest landscapes
*This includes both damaged areas and intact forest areas smaller than 500 km2
Overall, only 8 percent of the worlds remaining intact forest landscapes are strictly protected.
The proportion of the remaining intact forest landscapes of the world are located in the following areas:
35 percent in Latin America.
The Amazon rainforest is mainly located in Brazil, which clears a larger area of forest annually than any other country in the world.
28 percent in North America.
North America destroys 10,000 square kilometres of ancient forests every year. Many of the fragmented forests of southern Canada and the US lack adequate animal travel corridors and functioning ecosystems for large mammals.
19 percent in Northern Asia.
Northern Asia is home to the second largest boreal forest in the world. The Siberian tiger once roamed across huge areas of Northern Asia but today it can only be found in a small area of intact forest near the Sea of Japan. Only 400 remain in the wild, with twice as many in zoos.
7 percent in South Asia Pacific.
The Paradise Forests of Asia Pacific are being destroyed faster than any other forest on Earth. Much of the large intact forest landscapes have already been cut down, 72 percent in Indonesia and 60 percent in Papua New Guinea.
8 percent in Africa.
Africa has lost most of its intact forest landscapes in the last 30 years. The timber industry is responsible for destroying huge areas of intact forest landscapes and continues to be the single largest threat to these areas.
Less than 3 percent in Europe.
In Europe, more than 150 square kilometres of intact forest landscapes fall victim to the chainsaw every year and the last areas of the regions intact forest landscapes in European Russia are shrinking rapidly.
The Pollution Gap
By Andy McSmith
The Independent UK
25 March 2006
Report reveals how the world's poorer countries are forced to pay for the CO2 emissions of the developed nations.
Over 70 million Africans and an even greater number of farmers in the Indian sub-continent will suffer catastrophic floods, disease and famine if the rich countries of the world fail to change their habits and radically cut their carbon emissions.
The stark warning, contained in a private Government document commissioned by Gordon Brown, comes days ahead of an announcement that will show Tony Blair backing away from his promise to "lead internationally" on climate change. The Government has decided to delay setting targets for industry to cut carbon emissions until other EU governments set theirs. Previously, Mr Blair has made a virtue out of leading the way in Europe.
The bleak facts on how climate change threatens the third world were laid out in a briefing paper drawn up this month by the Department for International Development. It pointed out that a quarter of Africa's population lives within 100km of the sea coast. As sea levels rises, when global warming melts the ice pack, the number of Africans at risk from coastal flooding will increase from one million in 1990 to 70 million in 2080.
In India, rising temperatures could drive down farm incomes by as much as a quarter, while the cost to Bangladesh of changes in the climate could be more than half the £58bn that country has received in foreign aid.
"It's the poorest people in the world who suffer from climate change, but they are the least responsible for it." John Magragh, of Oxfam, said yesterday.
The report emphasises that - despite the recent focus on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - 94 per cent of all natural disasters, and 97 per cent of deaths from natural disasters, occur in the developing countries.
All the work that aid agencies do to end hunger, improve education, combat disease, and close the gender gap will be jeopardised, the report warned. In Bihar, India, for example, flooding can shut schools across the state for three months of the year. Flooding caused by Hurricane Mitch brought a sixfold increase in cholera in Nicaragua. Mozambique's annual economic growth dropped from 8 per cent to 2 per cent in a year after a cyclone.
The briefing paper was drawn up for a review ordered by Gordon Brown into the economic impact of climate change. It was made public after a request by the BBC made under the Freedom of Information Act. The review team, headed by Sir Nicholas Stern, will report in the autumn. Sir Nicholas has already warned that climate change could push millions back into poverty, or force them to migrate.
Meanwhile, environmental agencies will focus their attention on next Tuesday's publication of the Government's climate change programme. A spokesman for the Environment department, Defra, said that the programme will contain "measures that will affect every sector of the economy" and said that the UK already has "one of the best records in the world" for combating climate change.
But the announcement could run into criticism from environmentalists for failing to specify targets on business to cut carbon emissions. This is the outcome of a battle between the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, who wanted strict targets, and the Trade secretary Alan Johnson, who warned about the consequences for the competitiveness of British firms. The outcome is there will be no targets in next week's announcement.
The decision has angered the former environment minister, Michael Meacher. "Britain once led the EU and the world in our targets and our radical policies to tackle climate change. It's very disappointing that we seem to be holding back now to see what the rest of Europe is doing before we make up our minds."
Labour's general election manifesto last year singled out climate change as "one of the most pressing challenges that the world faces" and promised: "We will continue to lead internationally on climate change."
But the UK's carbon emissions, which had been falling since 1990, are now three per cent higher than when Labour came to power in 1997. This week, Gordon Brown announced that he is going to increase the climate change levy, which penalises businesses that produce high levels of carbon emissions, but it is thought unlikely that next week's programme will include any other increases in 'green' taxes.
* By 2025, China will overtake the US as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. It is already the world's biggest driver of deforestation.
* Current levels of carbon dioxide are higher than at any time in the past 650,000 years.
* Last year, the thermometer reached 50C (122F) in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria. The northern hemisphere is warmer than it has been for 1,200 years. Temperatures are expected to rise by 6C in some places by 2100.
* The UK will fail to hit its 2010 target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels. The Government predicts a cut of 10.6 per cent.
* 2005 was a record year in the intensity and frequency of tropical storms: 26, compared with 21 in 1933. Fourteen were hurricanes. Hurricane Wilma was the strongest on record.
The Fate of the Ocean
March-April 2006 Issue
Our oceans are under attack, and approaching a point of no return. Can we survive if the seas go silent?
(...) Concerns about weather are part of whats sending us to sea in the first place. By studying the oceans chemistry, which affects currents and, in turn, weather, Curry hopes to better understand how we humans might be affecting the critical elements of our own life-support system. Data from physical oceanography, marine biology, meteorology, fisheries science, glaciology, and other disciplines reveal that the ocean, for which our planet should be named, is changing in every parameter, in all dimensions, in every way we know how to measure it.
The 25 years Ive spent at sea filming nature documentaries have provided a brief yet definitive window into these changes. Oceanic problems once encountered on a local scale have gone pandemic, and these pandemics now merge to birth new monsters. Tinkering with the atmosphere, we change the oceans chemistry radically enough to threaten life on earth as we know it. Making tens of thousands of chemical compounds each year, we poison marine creatures who sponge up plastics and PCBs, becoming toxic waste dumps in the process. Carrying everything from nuclear waste to running shoes across the world ocean, shipping fleets spew as much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as the entire profligate United States. Protecting strawberry farmers and their pesticide methyl bromide, we guarantee that the ozone hole will persist at least until 2065, threatening the larval life of the sea.
Fishing harder, faster, and more ruthlessly than ever before, we drive large predatory fish toward global extinction, even though fish is the primary source of protein for one in six people on earth. Filling, dredging, and polluting the coastal nurseries of the sea, we decimate coral reefs and kelp forests, while fostering dead zones. Im alarmed by what Im seeing. Although we carry the ocean within ourselves, in our blood and in our eyes, so that we essentially see through seawater, we appear blind to its fate. Many scientists speak only to each other and studiously avoid educating the press. The media seems unwilling to report environmental news, and caters to a public stalled by sloth, fear, or greed and generally confused by science.
Overall, we seem unable to recognize that the proofs so many politicians demand already exist in the form of hindsight. Written into the long history of our planet, in one form or another, is the record of what is coming our way.
(...) Fishing fleets kill an estimated 100 million sharks per year across the globe. In the Gulf of Mexico, the number of oceanic whitetip sharks has plunged 99 percent since the 1950s, driving this once common pelagic species into virtual extinction. A study of the North Atlantic found that overall shark populations have declined more than 50 percent since 1986. Sadly, sharks are slow breeders, with most delivering small litters (some only twins) after reaching a late sexual maturity (some at 25 years old), after which they typically deliver litters at three-year intervals. The results of such slow reproduction make recovery from overfishing notoriously difficult. When porbeagle sharks were overfished by Europeans in the 1960s, the species struggled for the next 30 years, finally achieving some semblance of health in the 1990s, only to become the target of US and Canadian fleets that fished it into commercial extinction in three short years.
The end of big fish in the sea is more than an aesthetic loss. Marine ecologist Mark Hixon of Oregon State University has published widely on coral reef ecosystems, and his work illustrates how biodiversity and community stability thrive in the presence of predators and competitors. The removal of either or both destabilizes the remaining species. Hence big sharks, tuna, swordfish, and halibut are more than picturesque giants; they are keystone species that play greater roles in maintaining ecosystem function than seems obvious based on the size of their population.
(...) Close to 50 hypoxic zones fester on the coasts of the continental United States, affecting half of all our estuaries. The situation is worse in Europe, with 14 persistent dead zones that never go away, and almost 40 others occurring annually, the biggest and worst being the 27,000-square-mile persistent dead zone in the Baltic Sea, which is nearly the size of South Carolina. Not all of these are caused by riverborne nitrogen. Fossil fuel-burning plants along the Ohio River loft airborne emissions that help create hypoxic conditions in the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound. Excess phosphorus from human sewage, as well as nitrogen emissions from automobile exhaust, impact Tampa Bay. Other dead zones suffer from the nitrogen fixation produced by leguminous crops.
(...) Across the world ocean, marine diseases are on the rise, fueled by, among other things, the desertification of Africa, which raises huge volumes of dust that off-loads bacterial and fungal spores into the weakened seas. Many 2004 Status of Coral Reefs of the World warns that global warming is the single greatest threat to corals, with 20 percent of the world's reefs so badly damaged they are unlikely to recover and another 50 percent teetering on the edge. Within the next 50 years, massive coral bleaching events on the order of the 1998 El Niño, which damaged or destroyed 16 percent of the world's reefs, will become regular, possibly annual, occurrences. Sadly, most of the so-called nurseries of the sea face similar prognoses. Fifteen percent of the world's seagrass beds have disappeared in the past 10 years alone, depriving marine species - from juvenile fish and invertebrates to dugongs, manatees, and sea turtles - of critical habitats.
Likewise, kelp beds are dying at alarming rates; 75 percent are gone from Southern California alone - victims of, among other things, the demise of sea otters that regulate populations of kelp-eating sea urchins. Among the most frightening news for coral reefs is the increasing acidity of the ocean as a result of rising levels of carbon dioxide. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently estimated the ocean has absorbed 118 billion metric tons of CO2 since the onset of the Industrial Revolution - about half of the total we've released into the atmosphere - with 20 to 25 million more tons being added daily. This mitigation of CO2 is good for our atmosphere but bad for our ocean, since it changes the pH. Studies indicate that the shells and skeletons possessed by everything from reef-building corals to mollusks to plankton begin to dissolve within 48 hours of exposure to the acidity expected in the ocean by 2050. Coral reefs, buffeted by so many stressors, will almost certainly disappear. But the loss of plankton is even more worrisome.
CLIP - Read this whole article at http://motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/03/the_fate_of_the_ocean.html
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