The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) presents






26 November – 16 December 2002


Compiled by Richard Sherman


Edited by Kimo Goree


Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)


Editor's note: Welcome to the sixth issue of Climate-L News, compiled by Richard Sherman. If you should come across a news article or have a submission for the next issue, please send it directly to Richard. CLIMATE-L News is an exclusive publication of IISD for the CLIMATE-L list and should not be reposted or republished to other lists/websites without the permission of IISD (you can write Kimo for permission.) If you have been forwarded this issue and would like to subscribe to CLIMATE-L, please visit


Funding for the production of CLIMATE-L  (part of the IISD Reporting Services annual program) has been provided by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the United States (through USAID), the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL), the United Kingdom (through the Department for International Development - DFID), the European Commission (DG-ENV), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Government of Germany (through German Federal Ministry of Environment - BMU, and the German Federal Ministry of Development Cooperation - BMZ). General Support for the Bulletin during 2002 is provided by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment of Finland, the Government of Australia, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment of Norway, Swan International, and the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES). If you like CLIMATE-L News, please thank them for their support.




1)            ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY HIGH ON ALCOHOL-FUELED VEHICLES (The Asahi Shimbun, December 16, 2002)

2)            GLOBAL WARMING BLAMED FOR HEAT (Sydney Morning Herald, December 14, 2002)

3)            AUSTRALIA LAGS WORLD IN SUSTAINABLE ENERGY: STUDY (ABC Newsonline, December 13, 2002)

4)            GERMAN INDUSTRY BALKS AT EMISSIONS TRADING (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 13, 2002)


6)            GROUPS SUE US EPA FOR CLIMATE CHANGE (Edie weekly summaries, December 13, 2002)

7)           EU EMISSIONS TRADING SEEN UP TO 8BLN EUROS BY 2007 (Planet Ark, December 13, 2002)

8)            SCIENTISTS QUESTION CLIMATE CHANGE, MALARIA LINK (Planet Ark, December 13, 2002)

9)            EU WILL FAIL KYOTO TARGETS WITH EXISTING POLICIES (Edie weekly summaries, December 13, 2002)

10)         FRESHWATER RUNOFF INTO ARCTIC ON THE RISE, SCIENTISTS SAY (National Geographic News, December 13, 2002)

11)          NIGERIA TO BENEFIT FROM KYOTO PROTOCOL (This Day (Lagos), December 12, 2002)

12)         SHAREHOLDERS PRESS CAR MAKERS TO CUT GREENHOUSE GASES (Inter Press Service, December 12, 2002)

13)         FARMERS WANT CREDIT IN GREENHOUSE GAS WAR (The Western Producer, December 12, 2002)

14)         JAPAN APPROVES 2 PROJECTS UNDER KYOTO MECHANISM (Xinhua News Agency, December 12, 2002)


16)         KYOTO PROTOCOL (Swissinfo, December 12, 2002)

17)         CARBON TAX COULD BOOST GROWTH: ESRI (Business & Finance, December 11, 2002)

18)         SIGNATORIES BRING KYOTO EVEN CLOSER (Sydney Morning Herald, December 11 2002)

19)         2002 HEADING FOR NO. 2 SPOT IN CLIMATE RECORDS (ENS, December 11, 2002)


21)         CLARK SIGNS KYOTO PROTOCOL, IGNORING DETRACTORS (Stuff, December 11, 2002)


23)         PARLIAMENT VOTES TO RATIFY KYOTO (Globe and Mail Tuesday, December 10)

24)         EU TAKES STEPS TOWARDS KYOTO WITH CO2 TRADING MARKET (DW-World, December 10, 2002)

25)         OFFICIAL SAYS EU CAN MEET KYOTO TARGET (The Guardian, December 10, 2002)

26)         CANADA SAYS WILL CAP INDUSTRY'S KYOTO COSTS (Reuters, December 9, 2002)

27)         EU WILL MISS KYOTO GOALS WITHOUT MORE EFFORT - REPORT (Planet Ark, December 9, 2002)


29)         WILL CLIMATE CHANGE TEMPER EL NIÑO'S TANTRUMS? (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research via ENN, December 9, 2002)


31)         'COMPELLING EVIDENCE' OF GLOBAL WARMING (CNN, December 7, 2002)

32)         SLOVAKIA FIRST TO SELL KYOTO EMISSION CREDITS (Financial Post, December 7, 2002)

33)         CLIMATE CHANGES AFFECT FARMERS BADLY IN NORTHERN INDIA (Channel News Asia, December 7, 2002)



36)         AIR TRAFFIC GROWTH WILL TRIGGER CLIMATE CHANGE (Edie weekly summaries, December 6, 2002)


38)         GAS AND RENEWABLE FUELS MAY EDGE OUT OIL BY 2025, SHELL CHAIR SAYS (MIT News Office December 4, 2002)

39)         U.S. PLANS 5-YEAR GLOBAL WARMING STUDY (Associated Press, December 4, 2002)



42)         KYOTO REMAINS A DISTANT GOAL (IPS, December 3, 2002)

43)         THE GLACIERS ARE SHRINKING (The New York Times, December 2, 2002)


45)         $100-BN JACKPOT AWAITS INDIA IN CARBON TRADE (Financial Express November 29, 2002





47)         GLOBAL STALEMATE by Andrew Simms (The Guardian December 12, 2002)

48)         CLIMATE SCIENCE SHOWS NEED FOR KYOTO by David Suzuki (ENN December 12, 2002)


50)         FIRST STEP AN IMPORTANT ONE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT by Steve Bonnici (New Zealand Herald December 10, 2002)


52)         CANADA AND THE KYOTO ACCORD by S. Fred Singer (Washington Post December 8, 2002)

53)         RX FOR GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE by Donald L. Evans (The Washington Times December 3, 2002)


55)         A GREEN ANSWER TO GLOBAL WARMING AND POVERTY by Ian Johnson (International Herald Tribune November 29, 2002)

56)         HOT AIR OVER KYOTO by Jim Stanford (Canadian Auto Workers Union)




57)        POVERTY AND CLIMATE CHANGE (The World Bank)






The Asahi Shimbun

December 16, 2002



An Environment Ministry study group will propose a policy of blending alcohol into gasoline to create a cleaner fuel for motor vehicles-a move that could radically change the auto industry. The initial goal is to help the nation achieve its greenhouse gas reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol. But the ultimate aim is to have the blended fuel, with a plant-derived ethanol content of 10 percent, completely replace regular gasoline, according to the group headed by Waseda University professor Katsuya Nagata.


The group, which includes scientists and representatives of the auto industry, was set up to study technology to deal with global warming. For its part, the ministry will promote the spread of vehicles capable of using the blended fuel. The ministry intends to begin the switch as early as 2008. The Kyoto Protocol obliges Japan to reduce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by 6 percent from the 1990 level during the period from 2008 to 2012. The study group determined that motor vehicles belch out about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Japan. If regular gasoline is converted to the blended fuel, it would be possible to reduce emissions by 1 percent from the 1990 level, according to the study group.


The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has already started to develop a system to promote the spread of low-concentration blended gasoline containing between 1 percent and 5 percent plant-derived ethanol. The Environment Ministry in fiscal 2003 will conduct safety tests to establish whether the low-concentration blended gasoline can be used in existing vehicles. The ministry also plans to set up and subsidize low-concentration blended fuel pumps at gasoline stands in some regions. In addition, it will urge the auto industry to produce 2003 models capable of using gas containing 10 percent ethanol. Enabling vehicles to handle the blended fuel would require automakers to change the catalytic control device, which removes nitrogen dioxides. The Environment Ministry plans to subsidize the cost of changing this device.


The cost of the ethanol-gasoline mix is currently about 30 percent higher than that of regular gasoline, mainly because ethanol must be refined after being imported. But the price will come down to the level of regular gasoline when the government lowers the tariff on ethanol and improves the refining process. Fuel containing alcohol is progressing in Europe and the United States. In the United States, blended  gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol has a 12 percent market share. The European Union is currently considering making compulsory a certain percentage of blended materials in gasoline.



Sydney Morning Herald

December 14, 2002



This year has been the second warmest year on record, say NASA scientists in the United States who monitor global air temperatures.  A record-breaking spell of warmth in recent years - with 2001 going down as the third warmest year on record and 1998 still holding the record - has scientists and climate experts concerned that greenhouse gases are heating up the planet more quickly than previously expected.

"Studying these annual temperature data, one gets the feeling that temperature is rising and that the rise is gaining momentum," said Lester Brown, an economist and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington.


This year the Earth's average temperature was 14.64C, compared with the long-term average of 14C, said James Hansen, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who analyses the data collected from thousands of weather stations around the world.  The meteorological year runs from December to November. During that period, 2001 temperatures were 14.51C. The record remains with 1998, when global temperature rose to 14.67C - the highest since records were first compiled in the late 1800s. The string of warmer years provides evidence that humans are largely to blame for changing the climate, said Peter Frumhoff, an ecologist and senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  "It's important we pay attention to this drumbeat of evidence as the signal of human impact starts to emerge from the noise of natural climate patterns," he said.


The warm temperatures of 2001 and 2002 are especially significant when they are considered in the light of El Nino weather patterns that alter global climate, Mr Hansen said.  Some of the heat of 1998 can be attributed to a large El Nino event that year, which warmed the waters of the Pacific. But last year there was a La Nina event, which kept temperatures from soaring even higher. There is a weak El Nino developing now, but it is not generating nearly as much heat as one of 1998. "The fact that 2002 is almost as warm as the unusual warmth of 1998 is confirmation that the underlying global warming trend is continuing," Mr Hansen said.



ABC Newsonline

December 13, 2002



A new report claims Australia's support for renewable energy industries is among the lowest of industrialised nations.  The report by the Australia Institute says the Federal Government spends about $4 per person on renewable energy, substantially less than in the US, Japan and some European nations. Institute director Clive Hamilton says funding is being taken out of research into renewable energies and put into mining and fossil fuels. Dr Hamilton says it is bizarre given Australia is experiencing the severe effects of climate change. "Australia because of our very high per capita greenhouse gas emissions should be doing more to make the transition to renewable energy," he said. The Howard Government seems only to have ears for the fossil fuel industry and has turned a deaf ear to the sunrise industries of renewable energy."



Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

December 13, 2002



A compromise struck by EU environmental ministers Monday on the trading of permits for industrial emissions of carbon dioxide was hailed as a triumph by German Environmental Minister Jürgen Trittin, but the perspective traders of emission rights are balking at the deal. Under the system proposed by the EU ministers, companies which throttle their output of carbon dioxide to a level below their assigned pollution quotas may sell rights to the difference to other companies that are in danger of exceeding their quotas. A study conducted by research institutions DIW, Öko-Institut and ECOFYS, said the proposed trading system would save German companies as much as EUR500 million ($509 million) in annual costs. But representatives of German industrial associations, which had lobbied against the emission trade proposal, are not buying it.


Joachim Hein, environmental expert at industry association BDI, said pinning hopes on the new system was like "reading tea leaves." He told F.A.Z. Weekly that Germany had little added potential to reduce emissions because it has already been doing so on a large scale. He called the touted benefits for Germany exaggerated. The figures are largely based on a forecast published by the EU Commission in 2000, which he said used an unrealistic model assuming that Germany would abolish its coal subsidies, reducing emissions to a much greater extent. Hein said German industry would probably benefit from the system if the allocation could use 1990 as its base year, compared to which it has now reduced emissions by 30 percent. This was debated, but was not included in the EU ministers' agreement, he said.


Under the EU deal, companies in energy-intensive industries, such as energy, steel, paper and cement, will be assigned emission quotas for carbon dioxide starting in 2005. Those which undercut their quotas would be free to sell unused emission rights to others which need more leeway. Without those rights, fines of as much as EUR40 a metric ton would be imposed until 2007, rising to EUR100 in 2008. The agreement is pending approval by the EU parliament.


Around half of the 4,000 to 5,000 EU companies affected by the new system are in Germany. Trittin, a member of the Greens party, won for them an option to remain outside the system until 2007. Joining in trading is optional for companies which reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions sufficiently. This applies to all German plants, which had jointly agreed to reduce their emissions per product output by 35 percent by 2012, compared with the 1990 level, in order to comply with the Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Germany unsuccessfully sought a provision that trading be conducted among industries which could pool their emission quotas, rather than among companies. Such pools are now possible, but not mandatory.



National Science Foundation via Science Daily

December 13, 2002



Projected increases in rainfall variability resulting from changes in global climate can rapidly reduce productivity and alter the composition of grassland plants, according to scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Although the diversity of plant species is increased in this scenario, the most important or dominant grasses were more water-stressed and their growth was reduced. Carbon dioxide release by roots and microbes below ground also was reduced.  Results of the experiment, conducted at NSF's Konza Prairie Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, are published in this week's (December 13th) issue of the journal Science. 


The biologists, Alan Knapp, Philip Fay, and John Blair and colleagues of Kansas State University, Scott Collins of NSF, and Melinda Smith at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that more extreme swings in rainfall patterns, without any changes in the total amount of rainfall received in a growing season, reduced the biomass of plants but increased the variety of species able to live in a particular experimental plot of land.  "This study is the first to focus on and manipulate climate variability in an intact ecosystem, without altering the average climate," said Quentin Wheeler, director of NSF's division of environmental biology, which funded the research along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy. "Because these responses are similar to those that would occur under drought conditions, the results suggest that increased rainfall variability combined with projected higher temperatures and decreased rainfall amounts, may lead to even greater impacts on ecosystems than previously anticipated."


In this study of how grasslands respond to more variation in rainfall patterns, the scientists hoped to better understand how rapidly and to what extent ecosystems might respond to a future with more climate extremes. In the four-year field study, the researchers altered rainfall variability by increasing the amount of precipitation that falls in one storm, and lengthened the periods of time between rainfalls by 50 percent. That effectively increased the severity of dry periods between storms without altering the total amount of precipitation received during a growing season.  "When these native grassland plots, exposed to more variable rainfall patterns, were compared with plots that received rainfall in a natural pattern, the overall growth of all plants decreased," said Knapp. "More variable rainfall patterns led to lower amounts of water in the soil in the upper 30 centimeters. Since this is the soil depth where most plant roots occur, and where important soil microbes are most abundant, grasses there were water-stressed and the activity of below-ground organisms was reduced."


In contrast, said Collins, "the diversity of plants in plots with greater variability in rainfall patterns increased." Collins cites two possible explanations for this finding: "A high degree of variability in resources can lead to a greater number of co-existing species. Or reduced total productivity may have allowed less common species to increase in abundance." Regardless of the mechanism, said Collins, these results show that plant community structure can be significantly changed, and the cycling of carbon slowed, in as little as four years when grasslands are exposed to a more variable climate.  Concerns about predicted climate changes resulting from human activities often focus on the effects of increases in average air temperatures or changes in average precipitation amounts. But widely used climate models also predict increases in climate extremes, said Knapp, such as more frequent large rainfall events or more severe droughts. "It's important that we look at variability in a new way: not only from year to year or decade to decade, but from storm to storm."



Edie weekly summaries  

December 13, 2002



Three US-based environmental groups are suing the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to act to prevent climate change.  The International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), Sierra Club and Greenpeace have announced that they are suing the EPA for its failure under requirements of the Clean Air Act to limit all air pollution from vehicles that endanger public health or welfare.  According to the ICTA, the EPA ignored a formal petition by the three groups submitted over three years ago, calling for it to abide by the Clean Air Act. A public comment period that ended in May 2001, carried out by the EPA received over 50,000 comments, the vast majority of which strongly agreed that global warming should be addressed under the Act, says the ICTA.


US greenhouse gas emissions increased at a faster rate during 1999-2000 than the average annual rate throughout the whole of the rest of the 1990s, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) revealed in May. The EPA attributed the increase to robust economic growth.  President Bush unveiled his much-criticised climate change strategy on St Valentine's Day this year, which included a cut in greenhouse gas 'intensity' of 18% by 2012 in June the Administration admitted that people are responsible, at least in part, for climate change "It's time for the Bush Administration to get its head out of the sand," said Joseph Mandelson, Legal Director of the ICTA, noting that the EPA's 'stalling tactics' are doing real damage in the fight against global warming.  In August, members of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and the City of Boulder, Colorado, announced that they would sue two government banks for facilitating activities that cause climate change.



Planet Ark

December 13, 2002



LONDON - The European Union's decision to start an EU greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme from 2005 could create an eight billion euro ($8.07 billion) market by 2007, analysts said.  "I think we will see a gradually increasing market in terms of liquidity from 2005, possibly up to eight billion euros in 2007," said Atle Christiansen of PointCarbon, an Oslo-based independent research group on emissions trading.

PointCarbon said the EU market's capitalisation would be around one billion euros ($1.01 billion) in 2005, rising to between 3.9 and 8.0 billion in 2007, depending on how many of the 10 new members set to join the EU in 2004 take part in the trading scheme.


European Union environment ministers agreed on Monday to create the world's first international greenhouse gas emissions trading system, as part of an effort to fight global warming.  The scheme is key to the EU's drive to cut greenhouse gas emissions to eight percent below 1990 levels by 2012, required under the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol.  Subject to final approval by the European parliament, the scheme will cap the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that industries can emit from 2005, while allowing them to trade emissions rights with other firms in the 15-bloc nation.  PointCarbon estimates an average EU emissions allowance price of 4.8 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, though prices could be in a up to 20 euros, depending on the overall reduction cap.


The EU scheme could be the precursor to a global emissions trading market between countries bound by Kyoto, although the United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has rejected the treaty.

The first deal within the framework of the pact was done earlier this month, when the government of Slovakia sold greenhouse gas emissions credits to a Japanese trading house.  "The emerging European market may demonstrate that trading in emissions allowances is a well-suited instrument to meet reduction targets in a cost-effective manner, providing a benchmark for the development of trading systems in other countries and regions," Christiansen said.  The UK and Denmark already have voluntary emissions trading schemes, though emissions trading was first established in the United States to deal with acid-rain causing sulphur dioxide.



Planet Ark

December 13, 2002



LONDON - Climate change could be causing more than higher temperatures - it may also be helping to fuel a rise in malaria in East Africa, scientists said. Cases of the mosquito-borne disease that kills about 3,000 people a day around the world have surged in parts of the region during recent decades. Earlier research had suggest the upsurge was due to drug resistance and population growth, and not global warming. But scientists in the United States and Britain say it may not be just a coincidence that the rise in malaria parallels East African warming trends.  "We're not trying to say we have convincing and conclusive proof that climate change is causing malaria but equally we don't agree with the previous authors," Professor Mike Hulme, a climatologist at the University of East Anglia in England, said in an interview. "We want to keep the door open that climate change might be causing the malaria increase."



Hulme and medical epidemiologist Dr Jonathan Patz, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, who published their findings in the science journal Nature, said the data used in the previous research is not precise enough to rule out a link.  In an earlier study, Simon Hay of Oxford University and his colleagues concluded that the temperature had not altered significantly enough during the past century to explain the surge in malaria in some areas of East Africa.  "In principle there could well be a connection between a warming of climate and an extension of malaria incidence in a population," said Hulme.  "At the moment we can't rule it out."  Hulme said temperatures have increased 0.15 degrees Celsius (around 0.25 F) per decade from 1970 to 1998 in regions of East Africa.  He called for more research and surveillance to identify exactly what it is that is causing the increase in the disease.


Climate warming is thought to be a main contender because higher temperatures in the highland regions of East Africa could extend the transmission season so more people would be exposed to the malaria parasite.

Malaria is the world's deadliest tropical disease. It infects 300 million to 500 million people a year and kills between one million and 2.7 million. Most are African children.  Although anti-malaria drugs are available, the malaria parasite has developed resistance to many treatments. Mosquitoes which carry the parasite are becoming resistant to some pesticides, so finding a malaria vaccine is a top public health priority.

Scientists believe the recent sequencing of the genetic maps of the malaria parasite and the insect that carries it will speed up the development of new treatments, as well as a vaccine and better pesticides.



Edie weekly summaries  

December 13, 2002



EU countries will miss greenhouse gas targets if they continue to pursue inadequate policies on cutting emissions. But additional measures planned in a number of countries could still ensure EU Kyoto targets are met, says a new report.  The latest projections from the European Environment Agency show that existing emission policies of Member States will yield a total EU emissions reduction of 4.7% by 2010, far short of set targets, according to the report Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU is required to cut its combined emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to an average of 8% below 1990 levels by 2010.


Most of the projected 4.7% decrease will come from Germany, Sweden and the UK cutting emissions by more than they are required to do under a EU 'burden-sharing' agreement, says the EEA. If the three countries merely met their individual targets instead of over-complying, overall EU emissions would drop by only 0.6% by 2010, says the EEA report. The remaining Member States are expected to fall short of requirements, with Spain missing its targets by 33%.  "More than half of the Member States are not on track towards their Kyoto targets. They have to do more," says Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström.


The good news is that extra measures planned in a number of countries could see the EU cutting up to 12.4% of emissions, well beyond the 8% target. But even with these additional measures, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain would still exceed their limits, says the EEA.

Although predicted over-compliance by Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK is expected to cancel out excess emissions from other countries, over-achievements cannot be assumed since they are not required, warns the report. If the six countries only achieve their minimum targets, the total EU emissions cut will be 6.2%, leaving a shortfall of 1.8%.


The EEA recommends that countries make use of the Protocol's mechanisms - emissions trading, joint implementation and the clean development mechanism - to help meet their targets. Sequestration of carbon by forests, soils and agriculture could also be taken into account.  Transport is the fastest-growing source of emissions, largely because of increases in road transport, says the EEA. While most sectors in the EU cut their emissions between 1990 and 2000, those from transport have risen by nearly 20% and are expected to reach 28% by 2010, although some progress has been made is reducing emissions from new cars by 10%.

Emissions from energy use are expected to be 16% below 1990 levels by 2010, while those from agriculture are projected to fall to 7% below 1990 from reforms in the Common Agricultural Policy and reductions in fertiliser use, says the EEA. New landfill regulations will lead to a 60% drop in emissions from waste. Candidate countries are also doing well, and are on track to meet their own Kyoto commitments, says the EEA.  The European Commission's own report shows that greenhouse gas emissions are down by 3.5% compared to 1990, slightly less than the 1999 drop of 4%. CO2 emissions are 0.5% below 1990 levels while methane and nitrous oxide emissions have dropped by 16 % and 20 % respectively.


See also:

EU report: Member States need to do better on greenhouse gas reduction (EurActive December 11, 2002)



National Geographic News

December 13, 2002



The six largest Eurasian rivers are dumping a lot more freshwater into the Arctic Ocean now than they were several decades ago, according to an international team of scientists.  Their finding gives teeth to the long-held prediction that freshwater runoff into the ocean would increase in the Arctic as a result of global warming.  "The mechanism is most likely due to increased precipitation as forecast by global climate models," said Bruce Peterson, a researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Other factors for the observed 7 percent increase in runoff from 1936 to 1999 could be changes in ice and permafrost melt or changes in the seasonality of precipitation and runoff, he said.

If this current rate of freshwater influx into the oceans continues to rise, it could have a large-scale impact on ocean circulation patterns in the North Atlantic, the team reports in the December 13 issue of the journal Science.


Sea levels and temperatures may be on the rise in the Arctic Ocean. The influx could slow down or shut off the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation, the driving factor behind the conveyor belt current known as thermohaline circulation, which brings large amounts of warm water to the North Atlantic region.

Co-author Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany said stoppage of the NADW could cause temperatures in continental Europe to drop by 3.6 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 5 degrees Celsius).  "However, you have to take into account that the Earth will have warmed a lot by the time this happens, so depending on how much that is, most of Europe may not get colder than it is now," he said.

Climate models have long predicted that as global temperatures warm, evaporation of surface water will increase and more moisture will be held in the atmosphere. This moisture will lead to more precipitation at high latitudes, such as the Arctic, and subsequently more river runoff.


If these models are correct, the researchers suggest, the 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degree Celsius) rise in temperature over the last century should have caused a corresponding increase in Arctic river discharge. Until now, however, researchers have not been able to obtain good observational data on regional trends.

Previous observational studies have focused on specific areas and time periods. Peterson and his colleagues obtained their data by looking at discharge trends of the six largest Arctic rivers over a 64-year period.

"Use of the combined discharge rather than the single river discharge makes the test for continental scale more robust and comprehensive," said Peterson.  According to the researchers' analysis, the average annual discharge from these six rivers is currently about 31 cubic miles (128 cubic kilometers) greater than it was when routine measurements of discharge began in the 1930s.


Scientists are particularly interested in the potential impacts of this increase in freshwater on thermohaline circulation. The circulation is driven by differences in density of sea water, which is controlled by temperature and salinity.  Historically, thermohaline circulation brings warm, salty water to the North Atlantic, where it is cooled and sinks. "Cool and salty water is dense, it can sink to great depths," Peterson explained.  This newly formed deep water is subsequently exported southward. This ocean circulation, which brings warm waters northward and ships cooler water south, is thought to be responsible for the warming of northern Europe by several degrees.  "One thing that can slow this circulation down," said Peterson, "is, if you add freshwater to that area of the North Atlantic, it lowers the density. It counteracts the process that is increasing density."  According to several ocean circulation models, if enough freshwater is added to the Arctic Ocean, over time it will shut down the NADW. "If you stop the process, you stop the conveyor that brings warm water north," said Peterson.  The paradoxical result, he added, would be a cooling of northern Europe. However, most of the rest of the world gets warmer when NADW is shut down, said Rahmstorf, who is an expert in ocean current modeling. Ocean currents don't generate heat, they just move it around, he said. In fact, a shut down of the NADW "would probably enhance global warming, since shutting down NADW will also reduce the ocean's uptake of carbon dioxide, so that more of our emissions remain in the air," said Rahmstorf.


According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was established in 1988 to assess the risk of human-induced climate change, global surface air temperature is expected to rise between 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius) by 2100.  "This would represent an 18 to 70 percent increase in Eurasian Arctic river discharge over present conditions," the researchers write in Science. That would make for what Peterson calls an "interesting amount of water relative to what modelers predict."

While the researchers say their extrapolation of Arctic river discharge data should not be taken as a prediction, they suggest that such increases "are potentially important with respect to NADW formation."

Going forward, the researchers will work to better understand the links between the atmospheric, continental, and oceanic components of the Arctic hydrologic cycle. Peterson and his colleagues plan to measure chemical tracers in major Arctic rivers, so that, in collaboration with oceanographers, they can find out where the river water is going in the ocean. "If we can do that, we can make a more rigorous test of ocean circulation simulation models," said Peterson. Such tests will make predictions more robust.



This Day (Lagos)

December 12, 2002



Nigeria, especially the private sector, is expected to be among the first beneficiaries of the Kyoto Protocol when the implementation commences, Dr. Peter Pembleton of the United Nations Industrial Organisation (UNIDO) Vienna, has said. Pembleton made the disclosure yesterday at a stakeholders' meeting organised by UNIDO and the Federal Ministry of Environment as part of efforts to prepare and enlighten stakeholders and the public on the requirements of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and how best the country could benefit from the programme on take off.


CDM is a market-based mechanism assisting developing countries in achieving sustainable development and developed countries in meeting the emission-reduction requirements under the Kyoto Protocol. It also creates regulated market for a new commodity - the Certified Emissions Reduction (CERs), produced in the South and purchased in the North. Pembleton said for any country to qualify for CDM, it must have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and established a national authority that would monitor and coordinate the activities of the private sector.


Private sector foreign direct investment (FDI) is generally expected to be the driving force behind projects under CDM of the Kyoto Protocol. It is expected that the private sector in developing countries creates projects that produce and sell CERs while the private sector of industrialised countries purchase them. He said part of UNIDO's efforts was to facilitate technology transfer and capacity building in the energy sector to provide alternative energy sources in the context of CDM. UNIDO also is trying to make the projects a bottom-up, multi-stakeholder, learning-by-doing process and to foster public-private partnerships. A UNIDO expert, Mrs. Deborah Cornland, who also delivered a paper said "one of the problems confronting the country and Africa in general is the need to build its institutional infrastructure capacity in order to take full advantage of the opportunities under CDM as capacity at all levels needs to be strengthened to attract a meaningful amount of additional investment resources through the CDM."


Cornland noted that African countries in general do not have infrastructure and institutional practices needed to encourage and support FDI or sufficient capacity to deal with the economic, technical and environmental issues that must be addressed in order to effectively participate in and benefit from CDM projects. The three phases mapped out for the programme are to first of all create awareness and promote the dissemination of information on CDM and climate change issues to relevant stakeholders and would also help to foster networking among stakeholders. The second on is to create an enabling environment to eliminate some of the barriers previously identified through focused implementation of targeted sub-programmes, covering manpower development and capacity building/enhancement, building and strengthening of institutional infrastructure and creation of facilitating environment.



Inter Press Service

December 12, 2002



WASHINGTON - A coalition of religious bodies and other concerned investors is calling on the world's two biggest carmakers, U.S-based General Motors (GM) and Ford, to take more aggressive steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their plants and products by 2012.  The group, led by the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), has filed resolutions with both companies to be taken up at their annual shareholder meetings next spring. ICCR represents more than 275 faith-based institutional investors with about 120 billion dollars in total investment assets.


A number of other major institutional investors, including California's largest public employee pension fund CALPERS - which has about 150 billion dollars in assets - are expected to back the resolutions, according to Sister Patricia Daly, the head of ICCR and the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment. ''We'll be reaching out to CALPERS,'' she said.  Institutional investors' support for resolutions on global warming has shot up in the past several years from an average of only about three percent of companies' shares in 1999 to 18 percent in 2002. Such strong showings have historically been taken very seriously by corporate managers, particularly at a time when investors are worried about the stock market's performance.

''We believe that both General Motors and Ford face material and reputational risk,'' Daly said Wednesday, ''in their current failure to address and reduce carbon dioxide emissions'', which are believed by most scientists to be responsible for global warming.  ''The high greenhouse gas intensity of U.S. vehicle manufacturers undermines the competitive positioning of U.S. automakers both here and abroad as the world, including their competitors, moves forward to address climate change. This is not only about what is good for the environment; it is about what is good for GM and Ford shareholders,'' she added.


Greenhouse gas emissions from trucks, vans and cars currently make up about 20 percent of total U.S. emissions, which contribute 25 percent of annual emissions worldwide. While most of the industrialized world has signed on to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires wealthy countries to reduce their emissions to around seven percent below 1990 levels, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has refused to do so, insisting that substantial reductions in greenhouse emissions would do too much harm to the U.S. economy.  At the same time, the administration has moved to ease existing laws and regulations designed to curb emissions and has aggressively sought out new sources of oil and gas in the United States, including environmentally sensitive areas in Alaska and elsewhere. It is also searching for fuel sources abroad, particularly in Russia, Central Asia, and West Africa.


The result is that U.S. automobile companies, which would have been under pressure to sharply improve fuel efficiency had Washington ratified the Kyoto Protocol, lack government incentives to move in that direction.  As a result, the carmakers are falling further and further behind competitors, particularly Japanese manufacturers, in developing new, energy-efficient automobile technology, a trend which could well diminish the long-term value of the U.S. companies in an increasingly globalized world, say engineers and environmentalists.  ''Shareholders have a right to expect GM and Ford to shed their environmental liability by selling cleaner-running vehicles - instead of being stuck in the mud with yesterday's technology while the Japanese step boldly ahead,'' said Kevin Knobloch, director of the Boston-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).  ''Using available and emerging improvements to conventional technologies, Ford and GM can build a fleet of vehicles that average 40 miles per gallon by 2012. Hybrid vehicles can boost that average to at least 55 miles per gallon by 2020 without sacrificing safety, comfort or utility for customers,'' he added.


The resolutions filed with each company ask them to report to shareholders by August 2003 on: estimated current annual greenhouse gas emissions from their plants and products; how they can significantly reduce such emissions from vehicles by 2012 and 2020; and an evaluation of what new public policies would enable the company to achieve those results.  This is not the first time that Ford and GM have faced challenges from the ICCR and other investors concerned about their inaction on global warming.

In 1998, shareholder resolutions called on the two firms to withdraw from the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a group of powerful U.S. oil, coal, gas, chemical and automobile companies that actively lobbied against Kyoto and tried to debunk claims that greenhouse emissions were contributing to global warming.


Although those resolutions received only three or four percent support from the two companies' shareholders, both giants decided to leave the GCC in 2000, leading an exodus of other firms that ultimately resulted in the GCC's collapse earlier this year.  ''They were the key domino,'' noted Doug Cogan, deputy director of the social issues service of the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC), an independent firm that tracks proxy voting.  Cogan noted that support for global-warming resolutions has mushroomed over the past three years and predicted that the Ford and GM resolutions will be approved by well over 10 percent of the shares.


The recent performance of global-warming resolutions, he said, ''demonstrates much greater institutional backing of these proposals than in years past, and ranks them among the top vote-getting issues on social and environmental topics''.  Last spring, support for a resolution that called for ExxonMobil to invest more in renewable energy drew more than 20 percent support, including from such heavyweight institutional investors as CALPERS.  Daly stressed that the new resolutions' supporters are eager to engage management in both companies about these issues, as they did in the late 1990s over their membership in the GCC. ''This is going to take a real collaborative effort, and we're prepared to do what it takes,'' she stressed.

The Canadian parliament's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on Monday is expected to bolster the insurgents' case, particularly because Canada is not only a major market for the two manufacturers, but also because it is home to many GM and Ford plants.  ''The companies would do very well to take note of that vote,'' said UCS's Knobloch.



The Western Producer

December 12, 2002



The chair of the Liberal rural caucus vowed last week that rural Liberals will fight hard within government to increase the amount of credit and compensation farmers receive for their contributions to reducing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.  "We have to get credit for what we are doing," Ontario Liberal MP Murray Calder said Dec. 5 at a meeting of the House of Commons agriculture committee hearing evidence on the implications of the Kyoto Protocol for farmers. "That's what I will be working for."  Farm witnesses told MPs they are skeptical of the benefits promised, worried about potential cost increases, angry that they will not be compensated for land management changes already made and in some cases not entirely convinced climate change is the crisis the government says it is.


With the principles of the Kyoto Protocol expected to be put to a vote late Dec. 9, the Commons agriculture committee held hearings last week to gauge the impact on farmers and farmers' reactions.  MPs were told clearly that the government has decided farmers will receive no direct credit for improvements to soil management and farm practice already made. Ottawa estimates that farmer moves to minimum till and better management systems will contribute 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas reduction by 2008 when Kyoto credits are supposed to start counting.  Those gains in carbon sinks and other practices will be "embedded" in government assumptions of progress already made and not be credited to farmers.  Improvements in carbon sequestration after 2008 will allow farmers to sell carbon credits, government witnesses told MPs.


However, Canadian Alliance MP Howard Hilstrom said carbon sales may not be the financial incentive many farmers are hoping. He said a farmer signing a contract to receive compensation for stored carbon will essentially lose management flexibility over the affected land.  Bill Stewart of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association agreed.  "Before a farmer signs a lease, he should be careful about what it means," the cattle rancher told MPs Dec. 5. "You can't expect a farmer to sign a lease for 21 years with a caveat (that the land not be cultivated in a way that releases the stored carbon.) It just ties his hands."  James Bruce of the Soil and Water Conservation Society said he has watched mid-west American farmers already making some money by selling carbon credits. He recommended renting one year at a time.  Ontario farmer Don McCabe, representing Grain Growers of Canada, warned that government predictions of a potential $10 per acre benefit to farmers for stored carbon could be far too optimistic.  Stewart, from the CCA, suggested the debate over the value of carbon credits and the ways farmers can cash in is missing a far larger point.

Many farmers doubt the rationale behind the Kyoto Protocol.  "As a group, they are very skeptical at the whole idea of climate change," he said.



Xinhua News Agency

December 12, 2002



TOKYO, Dec 12, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Japan on Thursday approved two projects for the first time under mechanisms designed to ensure countries attain targets designed to fight global warming under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japanese government said.  With the projects taking advantage of the so-called Kyoto mechanisms, Japan expects to obtain nearly 1.2 million tons worth of credits per year to cut carbon dioxide, which makes up about 80 percent of the heat-trapping gases.


One project involves obtaining 62,000 tons worth of credits by introducing a heat and electricity co-generation system using highly efficient gas turbines in Kazakstan.  The project is under planning by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Organization (NEDO), an affiliate of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).  The NEDO project is the first case of a joint implementation mechanism between industrial nations that have accepted targets for cutting emissions under the international pact.  Another plan, by Toyota Tsusho Corp., is to get 1.13 million tons worth of credits using biomass to produce iron and steel in Brazil.  The Toyota Tsusho project is the first case of a clean development mechanism that allows developed countries to cut emissions in developing countries and secure credits.





SEOUL, Dec 12, 2002 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) -- Environment Minister Kim Myung-ja today emphasized the importance of technology transfers from large firms to smaller firms as a response to the United Nations convention on climate change.  "There are environment-friendly firms which double production for the amount of energy they use. It is important to find such production models and generalize them," Kim said in a meeting arranged by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


Citing a survey finding only 27.3 per cent of the companies canvassed knew about the UN Convention, she stressed necessary measures for the treaty should be worked out through various seminars and public hearings.  She said narrowing a regional environment gap is another important factor to be better prepared for the convention and the Kyoto Protocol.  "To that end, the ministry will hand over advanced technologies to small regional firms by making the best use of 16 regional environment technology development centers," she said.


The UN Convention on Climate Change, adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, has been the centerpiece of global efforts to combat global warming and promote sustainable development.

In 1997, members of the Convention ratified the Kyoto Protocol in Kyoto, Japan in a bid to control greenhouse gas emissions. The pact will be enacted after being ratified by 55 countries.  "Given Korea emits the world's ninth-largest amount of carbon dioxide, the main culprit of global warming, it is now time to disclose our plan to phase out emissions to the world," Kim said.  Speaking on the current policies to cut greenhouse gases, she also pledged to pursue environment policies jointly made by the state and private sector.




December 12, 2002



Switzerland has taken another step towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The Senate has approved an international agreement to reduce harmful gases to levels below those of 1990. The other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, still has to discuss the accord, known as the Kyoto protocol. The environment minister, Moritz Leuenberger, said the necessary legal measures were in place to force a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, if voluntary measures prove insufficient.



Business & Finance

December 11, 2002



The ESRI has claimed that the negative economic impact of the proposed new carbon tax could be more than offset if the money raised was used to cut income tax.  The Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, announced in the Budget that he would introduce excise duties on fuel to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the end of 2004.  The ESRI has claimed that based on a tax of E20 per tonne raised through increased excise duty on all fuels, around E860m could be raised and this could be returned via lower income tax. The net result would be higher economic growth despite the fact that it could add another 0.6pc to inflation.

The proposed carbon tax is a direct response to the Kyoto Protocol, which stipulates that carbon monoxide emissions here should be no more than 113pc of their 1990 level, with the reductions from current levels happening between 2008 and 2012. Currently emissions are more than 25pc above their 1990 levels.



Sydney Morning Herald

December 11 2002



New Zealand ratified the Kyoto protocol yesterday and Canada will do so this week, which means the international climate change treaty could come into force as early as next year. Nearly 100 countries have ratified the protocol, which needs at least 55 states contributing at least 55 per cent of the industrialised world's 1990 greenhouse gas emissions to come into force. Earlier this year Russia's President Vladimir Putin told a United Nations summit on sustainable development that he intended to ratify the protocol, and observers are expecting an announcement by the end of the year.


While New Zealand and Canada account for only small amounts of global greenhouse gas emissions - 0.2 per cent and 3 per cent respectively - their contribution added to the amount produced by Russia is all that is needed for the protocol to come into force. New Zealand produces about 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, more than half of that from livestock emissions. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said yesterday that agricultural emissions would be the subject of further research. The United States, the world's biggest emitter, and Australia refuse to ratify the protocol and have been working to establish bilateral partnerships outside the Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed on five years ago today. Under that agreement, participating developing countries aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. An audit of Australia's greenhouse gases earlier this year predicted emissions in 2010 would be 111 per cent above 1990 levels - three percentage points higher than the Kyoto negotiated level of 108 per cent.




December 11, 2002



WASHINGTON, DC, December 11, 2002 (ENS) - Temperature data for the first 11 months of the year show that the average global temperature is on the rise. The new data indicates that 2002 will go down in the recordbooks as the second warmest year to date, exceeded only by 1998, since recordkeeping of global temperatures began in 1867. Temperatures for the first 11 months of 2002 averaged 14.65 degrees Celsius (58.37 degrees Fahrenheit), according to data from National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  This average is down slightly from 1998's record high of 14.69 degrees Celsius (58.44 degrees Fahrenheit), but it rises above the average temperature for the period from 1951 to 1980 - 14 degrees Celsius (57.2 degrees Fahrenheit).


This latest data is further evidence that the trend of rising temperature is gaining momentum and could have far reaching consequences for the planet and its inhabitants, according to Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington, DC think tank.  "The 15 warmest years since record keeping began have come since 1980 and the three warmest years have come in the last five years," Brown said at a press briefing held today in Washington.  Each month since November 2001 has been at least half a degree Celsius warmer than average and the January 2002 temperature was the highest on record for January. March 2002 was also the highest on record, and in seven of the eight following months, the temperature was either the second or third highest on record.


Skeptics of the human cause of climate change point to natural climate variability as a likely cause of temperature increase, but the current rise in temperature tracks increased levels of carbon dioxide emissions over the past 50 years.  From 1950 to 2001, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from 311.26 parts per million to 370.89 parts per million.  The average temperature over that same time rose from 13.83 degrees Celsius (56.89 degrees Fahrenheit) to 14.53 degrees Celsius (58.15 degrees Fahrenheit). If atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise as projected, the Earth's average temperature will rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius during this century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body composed of some 1,500 climate scientists from around the world.  IPCC studies have found human activities are becoming the dominant influence on climate change.


Advocates of immediate action to combat global warming scored a victory yesterday when the Canadian and New Zealand governments voted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.  The protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change sets reduction targets for a basket of six greenhouse gases linked to global warming, the most abundant being carbon dioxide.  The Kyoto Protocol becomes law when a minimum of 55 countries covering at least 55 percent of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions have ratified. Canada's vote brings the total to 98 countries, covering 40.7 percent of greenhouse emissions.

Even with Canada and New Zealand, the Kyoto Protocol will not enter into force until Russia ratifies it, and there is concern that the Russian government might renege on its pledge to sign onto the accord in 2003.

Some environmentalists believe the refusal of the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol has undermined the potential success of the treaty.


The United States is responsible for some 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush administration's climate change policy calls for further study to reduce scientific uncertainty before mandating action.  While President George W. Bush views the emissions limits under the Kyoto Protocol as too demanding on the U.S. economy, Brown, of the Earth Policy Institute, believes the Kyoto Protocol "will soon be seen as completely inadequate."  The consequences of rising temperature, Brown warns, will manifest in further heat waves, falling agricultural production and melting ice. Recent events including the mounting temperature offer evidence of these consequences, he maintains.  In 2002, more ice melted from the surface of Greenland than any other year on record. At the same time, the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrank to two million square miles, compared to an average of 2.4 million square miles during the preceding 23 years.


Melting ice in the sea does not affect sea level, but it does cause warming. When incoming sunlight hits snow and ice, some 80 percent of the light is reflected and the rest is converted to heat. The ratio is flipped when sunlight hits water, with 80 percent of the light converted to heat.  Ice in mountain ranges across the world is also melting at an increasing rate, with possible negative ramifications for water flows in many major river systems. Mt. Kiliminjaro, for example, has lost 80 percent of its snow ice cover since 1900.

A record heat wave hit India in May, with temperatures soaring to 45.6 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit). More than 1,000 people living in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh died from the heat, Brown reminded the journalists today, an indication of how vulnerable many people in the developing world are to extreme heat waves.


Rising temperatures are likely to negatively affect agricultural production, as crop yields fall when temperatures climb, said Brown. Higher summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere, as well as lower rainfall, caused the 2002 world grain harvest to fall to 1,813 million tons, some 80 tons below world consumption.  "The scientific rule of thumb is that a degree Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum reduces grain yields by 10 percent," Brown said.  The impact of global warming on agricultural production might be the force that finally pushes the world to combat climate change, Brown said.

It is well documented that the harmful impacts of climate change are likely to be felt most in the developing world, but Brown argues that the United States and other developed countries will feel an economic effect as those countries face food shortages. Crops will fail due to drought, flood, extreme storms and sea level rise linked with global warming, Brown warned.


Brown, who founded the Worldwatch Institute in 1974 as a research institute to address global environmental issues, started his career as a farmer, growing tomatoes in southern New Jersey with his younger brother during high school and college.  Shortly after earning a degree in agricultural science from Rutgers University in 1955, he spent six months living in rural India, and went on to earn a Master of Public Administration from Harvard.  In 1984, with Worldwatch, Brown launched the State of the World reports. These annual assessments, translated into some 30 languages, have become the Bible of the global environmental movement.  Brown has been warning that environmental degradation would lead to global food shortages for many years, and he is still expressing the same warning. On November 7, for instance, he gave a keynote lecture entitled "Rising Temperatures, Falling Water Tables, and World Food Security" at the closed door Forum 2002 - From Feed to Food, sponsored by BASF in Brussels.  "Rising grain prices could cause political instability in many Third World countries," Brown said today.  "This could be the economic indicator that first signals the problem and wakes people up to see that our future is at stake," Brown said. "We have to realize that we must get serious about climate change."




December 11, 2002



Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and other institutions conclude that the increase in the incidence of malaria in East Africa parallels warming trends over the last several decades. The new findings challenge the results of a study, "Climate change and resurgence of malaria in the East African highlands," which was previously published in the journal Nature. The original study, conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford, found "no significant changes" in long-term climate. The new analysis is published in the December 12, 2002, edition of Nature.

"Weather data is particularly sparse in East Africa, and the climate database used was originally created to pool information for analysis over large geographic areas. There is potential, therefore, for reaching spurious conclusions when using such climate data to study diseases at the local level," said Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, lead author of the new analysis and assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He further added that, "Malaria is one of the world's most climate-sensitive diseases, and the African Highlands is an area of key importance for climate-malaria risk studies."


According to Dr. Patz and his colleagues, the previous study interpolated climate values to study locations at diverse elevations, differing on average by 575 meters, or approximating a 3 degrees Celsius temperature deviation. Dr. Patz and colleagues argue that the approach crucially ignored temperature variability, particularly essential within an area of such large altitudinal contrasts.  "The climate dataset used is not designed to reveal climate trends for specific locations. It's appropriate for up-scaling information to African regions, not down-scaling to small area locations. It cannot support the type of analysis performed in the previous study," explained Mike Hulme, PhD, co-author of the new analysis and executive director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, at the University of Anglia in Norwich, UK.


The new analysis found a mean warming trend of 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade from 1970 to 1998 across the same East African region included in the previous study.  "Reliable assessment of the long-term malaria/climate relationship requires better local monitoring of appropriate climate and disease variables to attain databases that can support long-term trend analysis. Moreover, processes as diverse as climate and human disease require researchers from different fields to work together in order to best assess health implications of long term past climate trends or future climate change," said Dr. Patz.




December 11, 2002



Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday signed New Zealand's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, ignoring a barrage of criticism from Opposition and business sectors.  Miss Clark and cabinet minister Pete Hodgson, who convenes the ministerial group on climate change, signed the country's "instrument of ratification" for the Kyoto Protocol in a ceremony at the Beehive last night.  They committed to reducing New Zealand's emissions of six key greenhouse gases to 1990 levels from 2008-12.


Business representatives and National MPs criticised the ratification yesterday.  But Miss Clark said the signing was a necessity and would help give New Zealand opportunities to develop research to combat climate change.  "On a global scale, the trend of steadily increasing consumption of fossil fuels and steadily growing greenhouse gas emissions must be broken.  "There is a need on a global basis to move to a new track of increasing reliance on renewable energy sources, with steadily reducing emissions."


Miss Clark said creating renewable, low-emission energy would provide new market opportunities.  "It also will spur innovation and efficiency in the way we use energy and natural resources." Because over half of New Zealand's emissions were caused by agriculture, local research could lead the world in tackling the problem, Miss Clark said. She called the protocol a "coherent, workable and flexible agreement".


Mr Hodgson said the Government had used the flexibility of the protocol, and "chosen policies that will help ensure the continuing competitiveness of New Zealand businesses". The Green Party and Greenpeace supported the signing, but both warned more was needed to phase out fossil fuel use.  Detractors said business and agriculture would suffer too much with Kyoto Protocol enforcement.  National agriculture and associate finance spokesman David Carter said the signing showed "a callous disregard for rural New Zealand".  He claimed ratification would compromise the competitiveness of New Zealand agriculture, particularly to Australia.


The Government was "jeopardising our largest foreign exchange earner by jumping in to ratify Kyoto. ... Our farmers can't afford this," Mr Carter said.  Federated Farmers president Tom Lambie said the emission tax on the productive sector would be damaging.  "Farmers are part of an integrated supply chain from pasture to plate and will have costs imposed all along that supply chain compromising our international competitiveness."  Business NZ chief executive Simon Carlaw said extra costs would hamper export efforts.

Engineers, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) national secretary Andrew Little said the emission tax should not be targeted only at selected industrial sites.  The union supported ratification, but was concerned about its impacts on small and medium-sized manufacturers.


See Also:

New Zealand signs up to Kyoto climate change pact  (Planet Ark, December 11, 2002)

New Zealand signs Kyoto treaty, says it is a business opportunity (ENN, December 11, 2002)

Kyoto needs balanced approach  (NZcity, December 10, 2002)

NZ has ratified the Kyoto Protocol  (NZcity, December 10, 2002)

Clark's signature for Kyoto ratification a watershed (Stuff, December 10, 2002),2106,2134508a7693,00.html

New Zealand signs Kyoto pact (CNN, December 10, 2002)




December 10, 2002



Farmers and business will lose out because of the Government's decision to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, lobby groups said today.  This afternoon, Prime Minister Helen Clark will sign New Zealand's "instrument of ratification" for the Kyoto Protocol in a ceremony at the Beehive.

Her signature will commit the nation to reducing its emissions of six key greenhouse gases to 1990 levels in the first commitment period of 2008-12.  The 1997 Kyoto Protocol - a treaty aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions worldwide to reduce the potentially catastrophic effects of long-term climate change - is expected to take effect next year when Russia ratifies it. So far, the United States - which is responsible for about a quarter of the world's man-made carbon dioxide emissions - and Australia have declined to ratify it. 


Federated Farmers and Business NZ, in a joint statement today, said the protocol would result in taxation on energy use.  "More than anything else, this will be a tax on the productive sector," Federated Farmers president Tom Lambie said.  "Farmers are part of an integrated supply chain from pasture to plate and will have costs imposed all along that supply chain compromising our international competitiveness."

Business NZ chief executive Simon Carlaw said extra costs on New Zealand products would affect exporters.  "We already face bigger transport costs than our international competitors because of our distance from our markets.  "Energy taxes will add further to their cost, making them harder to sell."

The groups said New Zealand should follow its major trading partners, the US and Australia, and not join the protocol.  They also said the protocol would not fix climate change problems



Globe and Mail

December 10, 2002



The long-awaited conclusion to a chapter in Canada's role in the Kyoto protocol came Tuesday when the House of Commons voted in favour of ratifying the deal. With the support of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, the Prime Minister's wish to have Parliament ratify the agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions by Christmas looks as thought it will likely come true. The vote passed 195 to 77.


There had been little doubt that the Kyoto would not pass because Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had indicated that it was considered a confidence motion - meaning all Liberal MPs are required to vote in favour of it or risk consequences. However, around a dozen Liberal MPs did not attend the vote.  Backbench MP Roger Galloway, from Sarnia, Ont., announced earlier Tuesday he would abstain from the vote because he said he cannot support a deal which could possibly be harmful to Sarnia's petrochemical industry.


Paul Martin, who had earlier been anticipated to vote against the ratification because he feels there needs to be more debate on the matter, voted alongside the government. But he said Tuesday that he hopes that the Liberals will proceed quickly with the implementation of the plan so that the provinces can be assured that none of them will be unduly harmed by the agreement. Alberta Liberal MP Anne McLellan also voted with the agreement. She has said she has fears that her province may be compromised by the protocol because it may harm industry. As anticipated, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives voted against the deal. The two parties are concerned that the economic impact requiring industries to reduce harmful emissions will be dramatic.


Before the ratification vote, the Commons also voted down a Canadian Alliance subamendment from the Canadian Alliance asking that the government not implement the protocol until it can establish all of the costs involved. Meanwhile Tuesday, an umbrella of 40 Canadian business groups called the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions said Tuesday's vote on the motion to ratify the Kyoto Protocol leaves many questions unanswered. "By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the government has decided to commit Canadians without the benefit of a detailed game plan or any clear sense of the cost to the country," Nancy Hughes Anthony, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a coalition member, said in a news release. "Ratification does not end the uncertainty for Canadian business, consumers or investors."


Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, called on the federal government to work collaboratively with the provinces and industry to ensure that the economy is not damaged.  "As we move forward, the federal government must focus on creating a collaborative process that will allow us to deal with climate change without inflicting serious damage on our economy or exacerbating the regional divisions within Canada," Mr. Beatty said in a news release.


Greenpeace Canada congratulated the House of Commons on its vote Tuesday. "This is a proud day for Canada, the federal government, and Greenpeace, who has been pushing for Kyoto ratification for several years," Steven Guilbeault, climate campaigner for Greenpeace, said in a news release.  "Kyoto will lead to greater efficiency in our homes, our transportation systems, and our economy in general." Greenpeace cautioned that the implementation plan not be too lenient on industrial polluters. "Big industrial emitters represent more than 50 per cent of our domestic emissions," Mr. Guilbeault said. "It is unreasonable to make individual consumers pay for their pollution." The Kyoto accord would require Canadian businesses to reduce emissions by 55 megatonnes, or 23 per cent of this country's 240-megatonne target for reductions, at a cost of billions of dollars. Critics say this will place Canada at a competitive disadvantage to the United States, which has rejected the treaty.


See Also:

Canadian Senate Approves Kyoto Protocol (Peoples Daily, December 14, 2002)

Prime Minister to sign Kyoto accord on Monday (Globe and Mail, December 14, 2002)

Canada sees Kyoto vote upping US green support (Planet Ark, December 13, 2002)

Kyoto ratification prompts mixed signals locally (December 12, 2002)

Canadian parliament backs Kyoto protocol (BBC, December 11, 2002)

MPs give nod to historic Kyoto Protocol (The Star, December 11, 2002)

Canada Faces Implementing Kyoto Changes (Newsday, December 11, 2002),0,2115520.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines

Jubilant MPs ratify Kyoto, But for Anne McLellan, 'it certainly wasn't a day of celebration' (Calgary Herald, December 11, 2002)

Canada makes move to limit costs of Kyoto Protocol (Oil and Gas Journal, December 10, 2002)

Canada Ratifies the Kyoto Climate Protocol (ENS, December 10, 2002)

Canada Gets OK to Ratify Kyoto Protocol (, December 10, 2002),0,1984447.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines

Liberals cut off Kyoto debate despite protests from Martin (Globe and Mail, December 10, 2002)

PM says passing Kyoto is 'great day' (CBC News, December 10 2002)

Canadian ratification of Kyoto Protocol poses new challenge to Bush administration - WWF (Canada newswire, December 10, 2002)

CAW leadership delegates unanimously support Kyoto Protocol (Canada Newswire, December 9, 2002)




December 10, 2002



EU ministers have agreed on a trading market that will allow polluting countries in Europe to buy and sell 'greenhouse gas' quotas in a bid to meet the Kyoto protocol's carbon dioxide reduction schedule.  Environment ministers from the 15 members of the European Union agreed on Monday to a trading market in carbon dioxide pollution permits. Once approved, the market scheme will give key industries permission to buy and sell emission rights within the European Union from 2005. It will also set a limit on the amount of the 'greenhouse gases' that the named industries - energy, steel, cement, glass, brick making, paper and cardboard - can produce. The EU deal aims to cut greenhouse gas levels in line with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It is the first inter-country agreement for corporate trading in CO2. The German environmental minister Jürgen Tritten said that his government supported the EU scheme even though its emissions policy was already in line with the original reduction schedule. "The other states need to reduce emissions for the Kyoto protocol to be realised," said Trittin in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.



Emissions trading involves countries buying and selling their agreed allowances of greenhouse gas emissions. This allows highly polluting countries to buy unused 'credits' from those which are allowed to emit more than they actually do.  It benefits both sides: the polluters gain by not having to reduce their own emissions while those countries who have less emissions have a handy source of revenue. Traders are already brokering speculative deals between companies around the world where CO2 credits are changing hands for up to five euro ($5.06) a ton. The effect is a balanced rate of gas emission that acts as a cap for the amount that can be produced in the EU. "It is good for the environment, it is good for enterprises and it is good for the economy...The EU can really begin work on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases" Danish Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt told reporters after the meeting.



Industry, especially in Germany, has been skeptical of a policy it fears could just be an energy tax by a different name. To reduce the cost to industry, the 15 environment ministers agreed a number of significantly lower fines to those already in place if emissions targets are not met.  Penalties in the introductory period, from 2005 to 2007, are 40 euro ($40.51) per ton of CO2 beyond the allowed limit, rising to 100 euro per ton from the start of 2008.



The year is in important one in terms of the protocol. According to the international agreement, the EU as a whole must cut emissions of CO2 and five other gases - methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride - between 2008 and 2012 to eight percent below its 1990 levels. The EU scheme could be the precursor of a global emissions trading market between all countries involved in Kyoto. The Americans have excluded themselves from any future market dealing for the time being. The United States, which produces a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, has abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, saying there is a lack of scientific evidence.  Ironically, the majority of traders waiting to take advantage of the EU market are located in the United States, where emissions trading was first established to deal with pollutants like sulphur dioxide which causes acid rain.



Last week, the European Environment Agency (EEA) predicted that the EU would miss its Kyoto target if emissions trading and other measures were not introduced. The EEA reported that the latest projections provided by member states before the agreement was signed showed that their existing policies would achieve a total cut of only 4.7 percent by 2010.  Most of that decrease would be achieved by Germany, Sweden and the UK cutting their emissions by more than they need to. If these countries decided not to "over-comply", the EEA stated that the EU's overall emissions would decrease by a mere 0.6 percent by 2010. The agreement on emissions trading is one step closer for the EU in meeting its responsibilities set out in the Kyoto protocol.


See Also:

EU Ministers Give Green Light to Carbon Market Scheme (EU Business, December 9, 2002)

EU Agrees Pollution Market  (BBC, December 9, 2002)



The Guardian

December 10, 2002



BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European Union nations must do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions if the bloc is to meet its commitments to fight global warming under a U.N. accord, the EU's top environmental official said Tuesday.  Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said most of the 15 EU nations were not doing enough to cut emissions under the 1997 Kyoto protocol. She singled out Spain, Portugal and Ireland.  ``More than half of the member states are not on track to reach their burden-sharing targets,'' Wallstroem told a news conference.  If current policies continue, the bloc as a whole will cut greenhouse gas emission by only 4.7 percent in 2010 compared to 1990 levels, well under the 8 percent target they agreed to in Kyoto, Japan.  ``More effort is needed,'' she told a news conference.  ``Meeting the Kyoto target is not a question of technical feasibility but of political will.''


Wallstroem praised Britain and Germany for doing most to tackle global warming, saying their efforts were the main reason why the EU's overall greenhouse gas emissions were down 3.5 percent in the 10 years until 2000.  Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden and France had exceeded their targets until 2000.  Others, however, fell well short of their promises, notably in Spain and Portugal where emissions actually rose in the 1990s by about a third.  Wallstroem said the main problem was carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks.  ``This is the sector where we need urgent action,'' she said, adding emissions from transport had soared by 18 percent in the 1990s.


The commissioner praised European carmakers for cutting average carbon dioxide emissions from new models by a quarter by 2008.  Welcoming a decision by EU governments Monday to set up an emissions trading system that would set quotas for polluting industries, Wallstroem said she hoped this would set an example for the United States.  President Bush pulled out of the Kyoto protocol saying it would put too great a burden on American business.  However, she acknowledged, ``I don't see any major changes in the U.S administration's approach.''  Wallstroem welcomed the expected decision this week of Canada to ratify the Kyoto agreement. ``That's very positive news. They will be definitely a good example.''


To take effect, the Kyoto Protocol must be ratified by at least 55 countries, including those responsible for 55 percent of the world's emissions in 1990.  While more than 80 have ratified it, the treaty's rejection by the United States - which is responsible for one-fourth of the world's man-made carbon dioxide emissions - means virtually every other industrial country must agree to meet the threshold. Russia has indicated it also will ratify, which would bring the treaty into effect.




December 9, 2002



OTTAWA, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Canada said on Monday it would cap the amount that businesses would have to pay to meet targets under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change but opposition parties said this could cost billions of dollars.  Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal said the federal government would limit the amount industry would have to pay to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to C$15 ($9.60) a tonne.  Government officials said the cost of reducing emissions is unlikely to be that much, though they have offered worst-case scenarios where the cost could be as much as C$50 a tonne.

"We're pretty confident that it will stay in the range of between C$5 and C$10," Dhaliwal told reporters.

"We feel it's important to give that certainty to the business sector so they can make investments and some of these are long-term investments and they need certainty."


Industry groups and several powerful provinces -- particularly energy-rich Alberta -- oppose Kyoto, saying that cutting greenhouse gases by the amount required under the accord would cause serious economic damage.  The opposition Canadian Alliance party, which has its heartland in Alberta, called the ratification plan "a gross mistake for Canada" and said what it called the government's appalling record of financial mismanagement meant the cap could end up costing billions.  Ottawa is under fire over a gun registry program which was supposed to cost C$2 million but could swallow as much as C$1 billion. In 2000 the government admitted it had lost track of C$1 billion it had handed out in grants and contributions.

"Can the minister of the environment tell Canadians what steps he has taken, or is taking, to ensure Kyoto does not become yet another in the long list of multibillion-dollar boondoggles?" Alliance leader Stephen Harper asked during a parliamentary debate on Kyoto.


The House of Commons is due to vote on Tuesday to ratify the protocol. The vote itself is symbolic, since the cabinet will actually ratify the treaty, but is designed to give the Liberal government moral support in the face of growing resistance.  The offer to cap the industry costs with taxpayer money is designed to limit the uncertainty corporations face as they consider whether to make new investments, particularly in oil and gas developments, which produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  Prime Minister Jean Chretien has argued that the protocol is necessary to prevent global warming and droughts such as the one that devastated western Canada's grain crop this past summer.


The vote is almost certain to pass because Chretien has ordered legislators from the ruling Liberal Party to vote in favor. Kyoto is also backed by two opposition parties.  Alberta premier Ralph Klein, one of the strongest opponents of Kyoto, told a business audience in New York on Monday that he was holding off on a plans to launch a constitutional challenge against Ottawa's right to implement Kyoto.  "We'll delay taking this to court because they haven't made it into law yet but we will continue to monitor the situation," he said.

The Kyoto protocol obliges Canada to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. If no action is taken, Canadian emissions by 2010 are predicted to be 33 percent above the 1990 level.

(With additional reporting by Gilbert Le Gras and Randall Palmer in Ottawa and Chris Reese in New York)

($1=$1.56 Canadian)



Planet Ark

December 9, 2002



BRUSSELS - The European Union will miss its international target for cutting "greenhouse gas" emissions unless it makes more effort to tackle the pollution blamed for climate change, the European Environment Agency said. But the EU could surpass the target it agreed under the United Nations Kyoto global warming pact if it pushes ahead with new policies such as a proposed emissions trading scheme, it said. The EEA, which collects and analyses environmental data predicted the 15-member EU's emissions would drop by 4.7 percent of 1990 levels by 2010. Under Kyoto, the EU has to achieve an eight percent cut.  The Kyoto Protocol, agreed by the United Nations in 1997, aims to reduce the developed world's output of greenhouse gases - which trap heat in the atmosphere with potentially disastrous long-term environmental consequences - by 5.2 percent.  Since the United States, which emits around one third of the emissions covered by Kyoto, pulled out of the pact last year, the EU has positioned itself as saviour of the treaty.  All other major countries have now ratified and the pact can come into force once Russia does so.



According to the EEA study, the EU could achieve a 12.4 percent cut if it implements all the new policies currently under discussion. EU environment ministers will discuss a major new climate policy on Monday which could impose greenhouse gas limits on most industries in the 15-country bloc from 2005.

The so-called emissions trading directive would cap the amount of carbon dioxide any factory and power plant can emit and allow them to buy extra pollution rights from firms that fall short of their emissions limit.

But even with such a policy, the EEA predicts a handful of EU states will have trouble reaching their individual targets.  Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain will overshoot their targets by at least 10 percentage points, it said.  The best performers will be Germany, which has shut down a lot of polluting plants in the former communist east since the fall of the Berlin wall, and Britain, which has converted many coal-burning power stations to less polluting gas.  Both countries will be at least 10 percentage points beyond their Kyoto targets by 2010, the EEA predicts.



Planet Ark

December 9, 2002



FRANKFURT - German power industry association VDEW said last week it was pushing government negotiators to ensure certain opt out rights at a key EU policy meeting next week on cutting environmentally damaging emissions.  "Contrary to general optimism that Germany has won all the concessions it has demanded in exchange for its approval of the EU directive, one point is still unclear," VDEW's managing director Eberhard Meller told Reuters.  "It concerns the right of industries to opt out of the mandatory scheme in the period running to 2007, not just the right of individual installations, and we need this assurance rather than having to start trading in 2005."


After much infighting, the red-green coalition government of Germany, Europe's biggest emitter of "greenhouse gases," said earlier this week it had agreed with the Commission that Germany would back an EU emissions trade law from 2005, which environment ministers will decide on Monday.  The law will be the EU's main motor for achieving the eight percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 levels it has to reach under the global Kyoto Protocol by 2012.  It will set a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by any big factory or power plant, after which it has to buy extra pollution rights from low emitters, or be fined.  Meller said that Germany had initially opposed the EU scheme because it had already reached 19 percent of emissions savings of a total voluntarily targetted 21 percent over 1990 levels by 2010 under a national industry deal.


It had feared the pan-EU deal would put further burdens on companies, but had decided to join in with the rest of the bloc because the long introduction times - until 2007 - would allow firms time to adjust.

Separately, Meller put a question mark on the effectiveness of the right German was granted for its industries to form collective pools to do the emissions trading, rather than each company having to buy and sell emissions individually. "This could create problems if only those companies with no rights to sell clubbed together while those which have cut emissions sold their pollution rights in the marketplace," he said.  "The trading system wouldn't work and the EU could then force companies to subject themselves to the trade regime."  VDEW represents 750 power companies representing 90 percent of German output.



From University Corporation for Atmospheric Research via ENN December 9, 2002



SAN FRANCISCO-The broad-scale warming expected from increased greenhouse gases may actually sap the strength of a typical El Niño, according to researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. In contrast, the average El Niño during the last ice age may have packed more punch than today's. The scientists have examined the past and future behavior of El Niño using a sophisticated computer model of global climate. They present their results this week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, December 6-10.



NCAR scientist Esther Brady is lead author of a study that uses the NCAR Climate System Model to track how global air and ocean circulation could evolve at increasing levels of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent of the industrial greenhouse gases. The scientists simulated Earth's climate with atmospheric carbon dioxide at one, two, and six times its preindustrial level of about 280 parts per million.  As greenhouse gases increase and global air temperatures rise, Brady's results show a significant weakening of the average El Niño event. El Niño typically shifts warm water from the western Pacific toward the central and eastern tropics, as east-to-west trade winds weaken. Her simulations show an increase in cold upwelling off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. This helps keep the eastern tropical Pacific from warming up as much as the west, sharpening the oceanic contrast that feeds the trade winds and helps keep El Niño at bay. Brady also found that greenhouse warming in the model led to a decoupling of the link between Pacific trade winds and the underlying sea-surface temperatures. This ocean-atmosphere link is believed to help drive the cycle of El Niño and its cool-water counterpart, La Niña. Although this cycle might weaken on average in a greenhouse-warmed world, any given El Niño could still be intense, Brady notes. Even in the most extreme simulation, with six times the present-day level of carbon dioxide, large El Niños occur-but fewer overall.



It turns out there's a history of diminished El Niño events in a warming world, according to another Climate System Model study. Led by NCAR's Bette Otto-Bliesner, this project examined the period around 11,000 years ago, when global temperatures were rebounding from the last ice age. The average El Niño during this period in the computer simulation was about 20% weaker than today. The main factor responsible for the decrease is a slow shift in Earth's asymmetric orbit around the Sun. Nowadays, Earth's orbit comes closest to the Sun in early January, but 11,000 years ago, the closest approach came in the Northern Hemisphere summer, the season when most El Niños are just beginning to intensify. Along with other factors, the near-Sun approach may have provided enough extra heating to warm the western Pacific, while the eastern Pacific-where upwelling of cold water dominates-remained chilly. Driven by this intensified contrast, the east-to-west trade winds would strengthen, hindering developing El Niños.


Looking even further back in time, Otto-Bliesner and colleagues found that a more vigorous El Niño may have held sway when the last ice age was at its peak. Simulations for 21,000 years ago show the typical El Niño about 20% stronger than today. In the model, cold water sinks as it drifts from ice-covered southern oceans into the tropical Pacific. The thermocline-an oceanic boundary that separates surface warmth and subsurface chill-is thus strengthened, and the effect, says Otto-Bliesner, is to ramp up the average intensity of both El Niños and La Niñas.  Previous studies have differed on how intense El Niño events might have been in the past. She adds that both weak and strong El Niños show up in each era studied thus far, and more work is needed to arrive at a solid history. "The observational record is pretty short. El Niño may be changing already, but I don't think we really know that yet."



A tight coupling between ocean and atmosphere produces the weather and climate impacts of El Niño and its counterpart, La Niña. During El Niño, the trade winds that usually blow from east to west across the tropical Pacific weaken, and the strong upwelling that normally keeps waters cool off Peru and Ecuador diminishes. This allows warmer water to extend across the tropical Pacific, rather than being confined to the west near Indonesia. Tropical showers and thunderstorms follow the warm waters eastward, toward South America. The air rising within these displaced storms helps steer upper-level winds and shape climate across much of the globe. In contrast, during La Niña, the trade winds strengthen, upwelling increases, and the eastern tropical Pacific is cooler than normal. This helps trigger a different set of climate impacts, some of them the opposite of those expected during El Niño. The entire system of ocean-atmosphere linkages is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).





OSLO, Norway, Dec. 8 /CNW/ - Following new studies showing that perennial sea ice will disappear entirely this century, WWF, the conservation organization, is calling on all governments, in particular Russia and Canada who are currently considering ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, to take immediate action to reduce CO2 emissions immediately.


According to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, USA, the extent of arctic sea ice in September was 14 per cent below the average for the 24-year-period during which data has been collected, and four percent lower than the previous record. These observations are supported by a NASA study released last week, which found that perennial sea ice in the Arctic is melting three times faster than previously thought, at a rate of nine per cent per decade. If these melting rates continue for a few more decades, NASA said, the perennial sea ice will disappear entirely this century. "The 2002 ice anomaly is the most recent manifestation of a general downward trend in ice cover," said Mark Serreze, research scientist at the University of Colorado. "The trend is linked to changes in a large-scale atmospheric phenomenon known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO). Over the past several decades, the AO has brought warmer and windier conditions which act together to promote ice loss. There is increasing evidence that the change in the AO is partly a result of human activities."


Given the results of these two studies, WWF is calling on governments to speed up their domestic programmes to reduce CO2 emissions. WWF would also like to see Russia and Canada, which have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol, doing so within the next months, so that it becomes international law. The Kyoto Climate Treaty will be the first legally binding international agreement for environmental protection and sustainable development on a global scale. It is the world's only agreement for limiting global warming pollution, and is also the basis for increasingly effective global action against climate change in the coming decades. Mandatory domestic programmes must be put in place in all industrialised countries, including the United States, where the Bush Administration has rejected the Kyoto Protocol.


Climate change impacts are especially evident as temperatures in the Arctic are now warmer - and remain warmer for longer periods - than ever before, causing a lengthening of the ice-free season. The changes are

disruptive to arctic ecosystems and species like the polar bear that will suffer if ice-free periods increase.    "While the Arctic is melting, some governments are still dragging their feet on ratifying the Kyoto Treaty," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF's Climate Change Programme. "Sound national policies must be implemented now to reduce carbon pollution, and Kyoto ratification is an essential first step against climate change."


Note to Editors:

The Arctic oscillation (AO) is a weather pattern that alternately raises and lowers atmospheric pressure over the North Pole while lowering and raising it in a ring around the polar region. It switches, or oscillates, between positive and negative phases on time scales ranging from weeks to decades. The negative phase brings high pressure over the polar region and low pressure at about 45 degrees north latitude - a line that runs through the northern third of the United States and Western Europe. In the negative phase, westerly winds are unusually weak causing wetter winters in places like Spain and California. The positive phase reverses the conditions, steering ocean storms farther north and bringing wetter weather to Alaska, Scotland and Scandinavia and drier conditions to areas such as California and Spain.




December 7, 2002



SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The northernmost reaches of the Earth are warming, reducing the sea ice across the Arctic Ocean, melting the ice sheet in Greenland and spreading shrubs into the Alaskan tundra, scientists said Saturday.  Taken individually, the changes only suggest the region's climate is undergoing a warming trend. Together, they provide dramatic evidence the change is real, a panel of scientists said during at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  "If you look at all the data sets together, they do provide compelling evidence something is changing over a great area," said Larry Hinzman, of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.


Natural variability may be behind the changes, but human activity might also be to blame, scientists said.

A new five-year research plan presented this week by scientists and government officials meeting in Washington, D.C., asserts that people clearly are agents of environmental change, though it is still unclear how much human activity contributes.  President Bush wants industry to voluntarily cut smokestack and tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that scientists believe are leading to a global rise in temperatures.  Evidence of the rise can be seen across the Arctic already, scientists said Saturday.  Greenland is experiencing a warm spell unseen since the 1930s. Satellite data show the greatest area of melt across its mammoth ice sheet in 24 years of measurements occurred this year.


Should global warming continue, many biologists envision the alteration of natural habitats. Since 1979, the melt area has grown by 16 percent and is affecting higher and higher elevations.  Across the Arctic Ocean, the floating mantle of ice that covers it throughout much of the year shrank to record levels this summer, said Mark Serreze, also of the University of Colorado. In September, sea ice extent was 4 percent lower that that seen in any previous September since monitoring began in 1978.  Changes in Arctic atmospheric and marine circulation patterns are partly responsible, but depletion of the ozone layer due to pollution may also play a role, Serreze said.  On land, too, scientists note changes that suggest temperatures are rising. Shrubs are pushing farther northward, growing in areas of tundra that were void of trees as little as 50 years ago, said F. Stuart Chapin III of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  "The real question is, is this recent trend unusual, is this recent trend cause for concern that we are having an effect? The answer seems to be yes," Serreze said.



Financial Post

December 7, 2002



Players in financial markets traded their first greenhouse gas emission credits under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol yesterday, even though the pact is yet to be ratified. The government of Slovakia sold US$1-million worth of greenhouse gas emission credits to a Japanese trading house by way of the international emissions trading mechanism outlined by Kyoto. The deal was announced yesterday by its broker, New York-based Evolution Markets LLC. Eager brokers are eyeing what some think could be a huge market. In a recent report, Deutsche Bank said that international ratification of the accord could create a secondary market in greenhouse gas credits worth US$60-billion a year. Kyoto, which is expected to be ratified in Parliament as early as Monday, seeks to control global warming by reducing emissions of such gasses as carbon dioxide and methane.


While Kyoto hinges on key votes in other countries, including Russia, players in financial markets are readying themselves for what they think could be a multi-billion-dollar market. Under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, the government of each country that signs the pact will be allocated a predetermined amount of gas emissions, similar to a credit. Should a company or a government not use all of its units, it can sell them to another who will have emitted more gas than the assigned amount. Critics in Canada have said the credits are nothing more than a wealth transfer scheme from First World to Third World countries. The United States has not signed Kyoto for that reason.


Andrew Ertel, chief executive at Evolution Markets, thinks AAUs, or assigned amount units, will become the benchmark currency in emissions credit trading. Each AAU is one metric ton in carbon dioxide equivalent. "AAUs represent the gold standard in tradable greenhouse gas emissions commodities," he said. "Since AAUs are allocated directly to governments, it makes them the ultimate low-risk global commodity for greenhouse gas reductions." Companies in sectors such as the utility, oil, and heavy industry sectors have already been seeking to limit their liability to future emission restrictions by buying up credits in emissions markets since the late 1990s. For example, oilsands company Suncor Energy Inc. spent US$10-million to buy credits from Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. of Syracuse, N.Y in 1998. Traders have taken note of the growing size of the market and the volatility of the credit prices. Bill White at IBK Capital in Toronto expects huge growth in credit trading, with the entire market reaching US$3-billion to US$4-billion in North America by next year. He also expects the credits to eventually be traded on the Chicago Futures Exchange. The range in prices for emission credits has traders excited, said Mr. White, noting that credit prices have fluctuated between US$1 and US$7 over the past three years. "With that kind of volatility, you can see why brokers are so interested in getting involved."



Channel News Asia

December 7, 2002



For years now, the issue of erratic climate changes due to the abuse of the environment and the depletion of the ozone layer has been a subject of international debate.  And ironically, while it is the developed nations who are the culprits, it is the developing countries such as India that suffer the most. This year is the worst Indian summer in more than a decade for thousands of farmers in northern India. States of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh reeled under severe droughts due to a delayed monsoon.


Climate experts and meteorologists called it a shift in the overall cycle due to the phenomenon of global warming. If that was one extreme, devastating floods in eastern India was the other. Large parts suffered massive human and material losses due to unseasonal torrential rainfall. The extreme fluctuations in weather patterns have been felt frequently in the past few decades, and urgent steps are called for correction. Mr Prakash Rao, Climate Change Officer at the World Wildlife Fund of India, said: "There have been changes in the forest area, certain things have disappeared, certain new things have happened.  "We will face the effects 30 years from now more severely, our next generations will face the effects. It is better for us to change and develop new technology so that the future generation will not face the same problems that we are facing today."


Environment abuse is most evident in coal fields and oil mining. These are areas where the developed world has paid little attention. New Delhi hosted the 8th UN Convention on Climate Change to develop international rules under which the UN Convention and the Kyoto Protocol can be implemented. The challenge is to blend information and disseminate it to the common man.  One of the resolutions of this year's conference is to enhance public education in the area to enable governments to work together with civil society in the combat of disasters.




December 6, 2002



PALO ALTO, California, December 6, 2002 (ENS)- Multiple environmental changes, not just increased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, must be considered in assessing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, conclude researchers at Stanford University.  The research, conducted in a grassland at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in California by scientists of Stanford University, the Carnegie Institution and The Nature Conservancy, concluded that elevated atmospheric CO2 reduces plant growth when combined with other expected consequences of climate change, such as higher atmospheric temperatures, increased precipitation or increased nitrogen deposition. Findings from the three-year study appear in today's issue of the journal "Science."


Previous experiments in global environmental change have studied the impact of just one or two environmental factors at a time, such as elevated atmospheric CO2, atmospheric warming or both. The Jasper Ridge study examined an unprecedented four realistic environmental changes at once, including warming, precipitation, nitrogen deposition and carbon dioxide.  Results from the multiple factor study show marked differences from simple combinations of single factor responses.  "This research indicates that you won't be able to predict ecosystem responses to multiple environmental changes based on the responses to single environmental changes," said Rebecca Shaw of The Nature Conservancy and the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, and the paper's first author.


Christopher Field, a professor in Stanford's Department of Biological Sciences, director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology Field, and a co-author of the "Science" study, noted that most previous studies looked at the effects on CO2 "on plants in pots or on very simple ecosystems and concluded that plants are going to grow faster in the future."  "We got exactly the same results when we applied CO2 alone," Field noted, "but when we included other realistic environmental changes - warming, changes in nitrogen deposition, changes in precipitation - the addition of CO2 actually suppressed plant growth."

The study suggests that carbon sequestration by plants and soils, one major strategy for slowing global warming, may be less effective than has been estimated. Some scientists and policy makers have been hopeful that more CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to enhanced plant productivity, enhanced plant productivity would take more CO2 out of the air, and the CO2 would be stored or sequestered in the plants.

But the results of Shaw and colleagues suggest that this fertilizing effect of CO2 may be less than expected, and even absent under some circumstances. Under some environmental conditions in the Jasper Ridge experiments, increased CO2 suppressed, rather than enhanced, plant production.


"The results of this study demonstrate that we can't rely on natural, unmanaged ecosystems to save us by pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere." said Shaw. "These results do not imply that carbon sequestration as a mitigation tool to slow rising concentrations of greenhouse gases lacks value, but that we may need to be more aggressive and selective about where we rely on carbon sequestration if we are to slow global warming."  Co-author Harold Mooney, the Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford, cautioned that "there is still a lot to learn about the factors that regulate global climate change."  "But we also know a lot already, more than enough to engage in a serious discussion about action to reduce CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and clearing forests," Mooney added.




December 6, 2002



WASHINGTON, DC, December 6, 2002 (ENS) - Scientists and climate experts applauded the Bush administration's coordination of a three-day workshop on global climate change, but found its draft plan for study of the issue short on priorities, details and funding.  Without serious revisions, experts say, the plan is unlikely to provide a strategy for policymakers to adequately address the issue of climate change.

"By focusing so much on the uncertainties and on the costs of action, the plan biases decision makers toward inaction," said Dr. Susanne Moser, a scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Global Environment Program. "This plan also shouldn't oversell the ability of the research community to overcome uncertainty, especially in the short term. We should be honest about how our work typically resolves some, and creates new, unknowns."


This is a wonderful document but it is not a strategic plan," said Berrien Moore, a professor at the University of New Hampshire's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. "It lacks an overarching strategy, but the plan and the meeting are remarkable achievements in themselves."  More than 1,300 climate scientists and experts attended the administration sponsored meeting to offer public comments on the draft version of a new strategic plan for climate change and global change studies. It was held in Washington, DC from December 3 to 5.  Further public comments on the plan, which was prepared by the 13 federal agencies participating in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), will be accepted through January 13, 2003 with the final version set for publication in April 2003.  Uncertainty and the cost of action remain key sticking points on how to address climate change. So far, the Bush administration has only called for voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Administration officials have repeatedly said further research on the effects of global warming and on humanity's influence on climate change is needed before sound policy can be formed. Its draft plan centers on reducing this uncertainty. "We hope that this workshop and the strategic plan under discussion will map out the strategy by which these uncertainties can be cleared up or better understood," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman. "There is a great deal we don't know or don't know well enough," added William O'Keefe, president of the George C. Marshall Institute. "We think there may be a problem but we are far from understanding the causes.


Unfortunately, in the climate change arena, skepticism has become a vice, not a virtue." Many environmentalists and scientists contend that the administration's call for further research masks a strategy that seeks to delay any substantive action on the issue of climate change. There is ample evidence of global warming, they say, but this administration and its draft plan on climate change are ignoring it. "Do we have enough evidence to decide that aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is appropriate? The rest of the world has answered yes and many states and cities in this country have answered yes," said Dr. Janine Bloomfield, a scientist with the New York based nonprofit group Environmental Defense.


"Narrowing down uncertainties is a legitimate goal," added Donald Goldberg, senior attorney with the Center for International Law's Climate Change Program. "What is not legitimate is to use the existence of uncertainties as an excuse not to act. We all know there are uncertainties, there always are in science. If we could never act to avert an environmental catastrophe until we resolved all the uncertainties, then we would never act at all."  "This is not a delaying tactic," responded meteorologist Dr. James Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and director of the CCSP. "Reasonable people can and do disagree with the interpretation of the research on climate change, but no one disagrees that we need continued research on this issue."


Financial resources available to address potential climate change are not infinite, Mahoney added, and the administration wants to ensure its policies do not pose undue burdens on either the U.S. or global economy. This cautious approach, he said, should not be misconstrued as inaction. "We may well find that the solutions we need to address global warming are solutions that cost trillions of dollars," he added. "When we look at major shifts in energy use, one question for a government that has the largest economy in the world has to ask is 'what will the effects of these shifts be on our trading partners and within this country?'"

"We are greatly concerned that anything we might do in the U.S. economy might impede the ability of developing countries to sell to America," Mahoney said. "That is always a relevant question."

"You can achieve almost anything today, it is just a question of how much you want to pay," added Robert Card, undersecretary for energy, science and environment at the U.S. Energy Department.


Card and other administration officials noted that the U.S. federal government has spent some $20 billion on climate change research since 1990, but must begin to focus these resources to provide better science on the issue. According to several experts more resources are needed. "Resources are limiting the rate of progress," said Dr. Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "We could justify one million times the present computing power worldwide." Anthes and other conference participants repeatedly highlighted this need for more resources along with more clearly set budget priorities. They also found the draft strategic plan needs better integration among government and intergovernmental agencies and programs, and a global observation system, as well as improved modeling of regional climate patterns.

The plan needs to include costs of inaction and costs of adaptive measures to climate change for comparison with projected costs of mitigation efforts, experts say.


Many participants agreed that there is enough evidence for actions beyond voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, something the Bush administration appears reluctant to embrace. Critics point to the plan's failure to fully integrate findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or from the U.S. Global Change Research Program's National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Change. "When you read the plan, you definitely get the feeling that it is not building on previous work," Bloomfield said. "The global models all point towards warming and not to any small degree," Moser said. "There is huge agreement on some of the global patterns that we are seeing and on the human contribution, even if there is a natural element. This report doesn't highlight that or build on that at all."


Beyond the need to further incorporate the existing science, many experts found the plan in dire need of a more integrated international outlook. Goldberg, who served on a panel that reviewed the draft chapter on international collaboration, said there was "no sense of how the Bush administration is going to collaborate with other countries." "It is entirely unfocused," he said. "Almost all of the chapter was a recitation of things that the United States has already been doing. You get the sense that they didn't really sit down and try to come up with a real, overarching plan that addresses all of the objectives in a cohesive, coherent way."

The administration now expects to digest the public comments with the aim to release a final version of the plan by April 2003. In addition, the simultaneous review of the plan by a new committee of the National Academy of Science's National Research Council could offer further insight into how seriously public comments are considered in the process.


According to National Academy of Science president Bruce Alberts, the organization will review both the draft and final versions of the plan, with a report expected in September 2003. The open process, repeatedly touted by Bush administration officials, will let stakeholders understand how their comments and suggestions were addressed. This is could add further pressure on the administration to take these comments and suggestions to heart, said UCS' Moser. "It will be really, really difficult for the Bush administration to completely dismiss and ignore this. Many of the critical comments are on public record," she said. "I still have my doubts to the extent they will take all this to heart. But so many comments on public record will make it difficult to ignore." "The openness of the workshop got everyone hopeful again that they could have an influence on this plan and that it is something that is not a done deal already," she added. "They'll frustrate some of the best scientists in the country if they do not respond to it in a constructive manner."


The Bush administration has gathered a track record for not listening to public comments. This practice prompted a coalition of environmental groups to file a lawsuit yesterday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its refusal to act on a petition that demanded the agency abide by the Clean Air Act. The agency has 60 days to respond to the suit. The coalition, which consists of the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA), Sierra Club and Greenpeace, originally submitted its petition to the EPA in October 1999. EPA, the coalition charged, failed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles in violation of the Clean Air Act. The agency received some 50,000 comments during a public comment period for the petition that ended in May 2001, but has still not acted on the petition.


The EPA's stalling tactics are doing real damage in the fight against global warming, according to CTA legal director Joseph Mendelson. Environmentalists, he added, are growing tired of the oft-repeated administration argument that more research is needed. "The end of this study it to death kind of summit seemed to be a good time to call to action," he said. "It is always good to study the issue and find out more about it, but it is pretty clear from both the science on this issue and the law that the secretary has to act."

EPA officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Information about the workshop and the written comment opportunities are available online at: The CTA legal complaint is available at:



Edie weekly summaries

December 6, 2002



If not curbed, air traffic will become a major contributor to climate change, warns a new report. The government must invest more in rail transport. The report launched by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution expresses concerns about the global impacts of rapid growth in air travel. Government plans for airport expansion are not the best way forward, says RCEP, where cleaner forms of transport should be actively encouraged.


"Emissions from aircraft are likely to be a major contributor to global warming if the present increase in air traffic continues unabated," warns RCEP's chairman, Sir Tom Blundell. The government is failing to recognise the impacts of air transport, says Blundell, nor is it working to discourage short-haul passenger flights, such as UK and European journeys, that pollute disproportionately compared to rail journeys made over similar distances.


A shift away from the use of short-distance air journeys could reap considerable environmental benefits as well as relieving pressure on major airports, continues Blundell. But lack of investment in the UK's rail infrastructure means rail transport cannot currently compete with air travel.  The report recognises efforts to improve airplane technology and bring in alternative fuels, but warns that the expected increase in demand for air travel will easily outstrip technological developments for decades to come. Air freight is also predicted to grow, but should be restricted to high value and perishable goods, says the Commission, where carbon dioxide emissions and fuel use are 20 to 200 times higher for air than for rail transport.  The Commission is also disappointed that international aviation emissions were left out of the Kyoto Protocol and recommends they be included in future emissions trading schemes. In the meantime, charging air travellers to cover the environmental costs of flying could generate revenue for other modes of transport. The report recommends imposing climate protection charges for take-off and landing and restricting take-off slots.



December 4, 2002



WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration yesterday opened a multiagency effort to define the current scientific understanding of climate change -- a process that critics say will only delay action to counter the effects of global warming. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a consortium of 13 federal agencies, opened a three-day conference on such issues as the way climate events are monitored and recorded, the models scientists use to study the phenomenon, natural variability in the climate and human contributions to change. Citing uncertainties about these and other issues, President Bush in March 2001 rejected the Kyoto Protocol, a climate change treaty that former President Clinton signed but never submitted to the Senate for ratification.


In its place, Bush called for an essentially voluntary program of greenhouse gas reduction and energy efficiency for the next 10 years -- and further study. Critics have said that calling for further study before making a decision is a decision in itself. "It's like reading a road map while you're rocketing down a dark road with your headlights off," said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group. Current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, many environmentalists say, are already likely to produce undesirable effects ranging from dwindling water supplies to possible polar melting that could inundate coastal cities. The three-day conference appears to be dominated by the departments of Commerce and Energy, but also includes environmentalists and other outsiders.


Delegates were presented a 177-page draft statement to be reviewed during the week and finalized tomorrow.  Bush's science adviser, John Marburger III, defended Bush's approach to climate change, saying it "is not, as some commenters have cynically remarked, to delay action, but to act in a rational and responsible way." In an address to the conference's opening session and later in a news conference, Marburger warned of what he depicted as a dangerous inclination to commit the country to policies without sufficient consideration of their economic impact. "What we are arguing is that we need more information to have a clearly articulated policy that is practical," said Marburger, former president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Marburger warned repeatedly that some advocates of steps to reduce global warming -- especially the Kyoto treaty -- have not been sufficiently thought through. Dan Lashoff, climate change science director at NRDC, said the conference seemed to him an effort "to turn the clock back 10 years by asking a whole bunch of vague questions that don't lead toward clear decisions." He noted that scientific findings reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations initiative that led to the Kyoto Protocol, were omitted from the draft scientific statement.





By 2025, natural gas and renewable resources may provide more global energy than oil, today's dominant fuel, according to Philip Watt, chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell Group's managing directors.  At his Nov. 13 Industry Leaders in Technology and Management Lecture in Wong Auditorium, Watt said technology advances - ranging from cleaner "synfuels" to catalysts that can convert hydrocarbons to hydrogen - could enable this transformation.  Watt's future fuel scenarios suggested that renewables like wind, solar and hydrogen could meet a quarter of the world's energy needs by 2050. Use of coal, nuclear and hydroelectric power is projected to modestly increase by 2050 while worldwide energy demand more than doubles 2000's usage.


In his talk, "The Technology Imperative: Realizing the Potential for Innovation in Meeting Energy Challenges," Watt noted that Shell has long been a partner of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. This relationship has influenced Shell's concern for climate change and advocacy for environment protection, he said, adding that Shell has reduced its own greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent since 1990.  Technological advances have already transformed the energy industry. Watt said that as a young seismic interpreter working for Shell in Indonesia in the 1970s, his essential tool was a jar of colored pencils. Today, Shell researchers convene via virtual reality centers to integrate high-resolution 3-D and time-lapsed seismic images with geochemical data and life cycle planning.  "The change in the way we see the subsurface is remarkable," he said. "Visualizing geology has transformed our ability to understand it and to share it with others in our business."


Shell's future scenarios play out along both evolutionary and revolutionary paths. Both paths assume resource scarcity, technological advance, and changes in people's behaviors as consumers and citizens.

The dynamics-as-usual model proposes evolutionary but competitive progress from oil to gas to renewables. The revolutionary model, titled the "Spirit of the Coming Age," leaps to a hydrogen economy sparked by breakthroughs in fuel cell and hydrocarbon technologies as well as carbon dioxide sequestration, which reduces the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere. In this scenario, CO2 emissions will rise from today's 6 billion tons a year to about 10 billion tons in about 2025 before dropping.  Both scenarios build on predictions of sharply rising energy demands from developing countries. "Developing countries will account for most new energy demand," Watt said. "The challenge is to meet these expanding needs while reducing the environmental impact."


China's energy needs, for example, are expected to double by 2020. That country's abundant coal resources now contribute 75 percent of its current energy, but also contribute to air pollution problems. A project underway in Hunan province using Shell's coal gasification process is aimed at creating cleaner fuel from coal. China also plans to expand natural gas use by ninefold by 2020, Watt said.  In developed countries, demand is expected to stay level while the focus shifts to more efficient energy use and more secure supplies, Watt said.  Watt identified technologies that are driving renewable options as well as cleaner and more efficient processes. Shell has developed a catalyst that enables greater use of distant gas reserves by turning them into syngas - ultraclean fuels, he said. Smart wells, the first of which are now operating in Malaysia, automate oil and gas production using multilateral wells with real-time downhole imaging and more selective extraction. A catalytic partial oxidation technology, aimed at converting hydrocarbons to hydrogen in service stations or on vehicles, may be key to switching to renewable hydrogen resources. A zero-emission electricity generation project in Norway is testing a new way to capture carbon dioxide for sequestration underground.  Watt's talk was co-sponsored by the Office of Corporate Relations and the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development.



Associated Press

December 4, 2002



WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is putting together a five-year plan for more research on climate change, a move that critics say leaves hard decisions on reducing global warming until after President Bush leaves office.  The Bush administration strategy being debated at a three-day conference this week refocuses a 13-year-old research program on providing better economic projections of potential climate policy changes and tighter coordination of efforts by more than a dozen federal agencies.  Administration officials said their hope is that as further research is done, still-developing technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells will emerge in practical uses to allow the United States to address the threats of global warming without wreaking havoc on the nation's economy.  ``The science program is kind of the ground we're laying here for the work that will go on the technology side,'' Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told reporters Tuesday.


John H. Marburger III, the president's science and technology adviser, said the White House wants better data that can be used to shape a ``clearly articulated policy ... that doesn't put the economy at risk.''

The new research plan asserts that people are clearly agents of environmental change but it is still unclear how much human activities are causing changes such as global warming. For many climate experts, though, it reopens questions that most scientists considered already fairly settled.  Critics say the plan also largely ignores decades of international work into climate change led by the United Nations and the Clinton administration's published findings in 2000 from a decade-long federal assessment of potential impacts of climate change around the United States.


``The plan would be a great plan if it were written five or 10 years ago,'' said Janine Bloomfield, a senior scientist for Environmental Defense, an advocacy group. ``But we've learned a lot since then.''

``I don't think the science plan really should be used as an excuse to delay tough actions,'' said Peter Frumhoff, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' global environment program. ``If you're taking a precautionary approach to climate change, you'll both do research and you'll take actions to minimize the risks of really serious consequences.''  Bush has advocated voluntary measures for industry to cut smokestack and tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that many scientists blame for warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse.


Some 1,200 scientists and government officials were gathering Tuesday for the start of the three-day meeting at a downtown hotel to hear about the White House draft strategy and to suggest changes before it is published in final form by next April.  ``The president has accepted the notion that some action has to be made,'' Marburger said.  ``This is not a no-action, no-decision situation,'' echoed James R. Mahoney, the assistant commerce secretary who directs U.S. climate research efforts.  President Bush's plan for slowing the rate of growth in heat-trapping gas emissions calls for increased federal spending on science and technology and for industry to voluntarily reduce air pollution.  Shortly after taking office, Bush rejected an international treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 mandating reduction of those gases by industrial nations.




December 4, 2002



NEW YORK, New York, December 4, 2002 (ENS) - The link between energy and climate change was the focus of a discussion Tuesday by experts at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York.

In his introductory remarks, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that there is no time to lose "if we are to learn both to use energy differently, and to use different energy sources - and if we are to ensure that that knowledge comes to benefit the billions of people who today lack any access to modern energy at all."

"Not only does this issue affect our lives," Annan added. "More than anything, it will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren. That is why we cannot remain indifferent about it."


Tuesday's speakers included Professors Rajendra Pachauri, Director-General of Tata Energy Research Institute and chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Professor Nebojsa Nakicenovic, project leader at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and professor at the Technical University of Vienna.  Pachauri discussed how carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere have increased in recent decades, largely due to the burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. While concentrations of CO2 had remained stable over the past 1,100 to 1,200 years, "there's been a sudden increase" since the late 19th century, he said, "which clearly has had a major impact on the climate of this Earth."


The rising CO2 levels have led to rising global temperatures, Pachauri said, noting the problem will continue to worsen unless steps are taken to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations.  Today's concentration [of atmospheric CO2] has not been exceeded during the past 420,000 years, and likely not in the past 20 million years," Pachauri noted. "This is the extent to which we are interfering with the Earth's stability and systems."

Among the current and future effects of global warming are sea level rise from melting glaciers and ice caps, changing weather patterns that will lead to severe drought in some areas and flooding elsewhere, and the spread of tropical diseases throughout the human population.


Carbon emissions have increased by about 1.7 percent per year since the Industrial Revolution, said Nakicenovic. "Today from energy, we emit about six billion tons of carbon" per year.  Changing that pattern will require a major investment in new technologies that reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by energy consumption. But it may take 20 to 70 years to disseminate such technology, once it is developed, to about 80 percent of the energy sector, Nakicenovic warned.  The UN talks stood in contrast to another set of talks being held in Washington DC, sponsored by the U.S government. At those talks, several Bush administration officials have pointed to ongoing uncertainty about the causes and results of climate change as support for their plans to spend the next decade studying the issue, rather than taking immediate action.


Among the criticisms leveled by the U.S. and other developed nations against the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty aimed at reducing emissions of six greenhouse gases, is that developing nations are asked to shoulder little of the burden of reducing emissions.  But Nakicenovic noted that while 80 percent of the world's population lives in the Southern Hemisphere, in developing nations, those nations are responsible for just 20 percent of the world's economic activity - and a comparably small proportion of the world's energy use.  The talks were the third in a series by Secretary-General Annan on issues outside the normal range of UN topics and on matters at the forefront of both the humanities and natural sciences.

"My hope with the series is to give us a chance to come together and learn more about issues that affect us all - not only in our work, but in our lives," said Annan.





CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The direct injection of unwanted carbon dioxide deep into the ocean is one suggested strategy to help control rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and mitigate the effects of global warming. But, like the problems associated with the long-term storage of nuclear waste, finding a safe place to sequester the carbon may be more difficult than scientists first anticipated. Because the atmosphere interacts with the oceans, the net uptake of carbon dioxide and the oceans' sequestration capacity would be affected by a change in climate. Just how effective carbon sequestration would be, in light of projected climate change, has not been studied before. Indeed, estimating the impact of carbon injection is complicated because of a limited understanding of climate and oceanic carbon cycle feedback mechanisms.


"Through various feedback mechanisms, the ocean circulation could change and affect the retention time of carbon dioxide injected into the deep ocean, thereby indirectly altering oceanic carbon storage and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration," said Atul Jain, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Where you inject the carbon dioxide turns out to be a very important issue." To investigate the possible effects of feedbacks between global climate change, the ocean carbon cycle and oceanic carbon sequestration, Jain and graduate student Long Cao developed an atmosphere-ocean, climate-carbon cycle model of intermediate complexity. The researchers then used the model to study the effectiveness of oceanic carbon sequestration by the direct injection of carbon dioxide at different locations and ocean depths.


Jain and Cao found that climate change has a big impact on the oceans' ability to store carbon dioxide. The effect was most pronounced in the Atlantic Ocean. "When we ran the model without the climate feedback mechanisms, the Pacific Ocean held more carbon dioxide for a longer period of time," Cao said. "But when we added the feedback mechanisms, the retention time in the Atlantic Ocean proved far superior. Based on our initial results, injecting carbon dioxide into the Atlantic Ocean would be more effective than injecting it at the same depth in either the Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean."


Future climate change could affect both the uptake of carbon dioxide in the ocean basins and the ocean circulation patterns themselves, Jain said. "As sea-surface temperatures increase, the density of the water decreases and thus slows down the ocean thermohaline circulation, so the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide also decreases. This leaves more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, exacerbating the problem. At the same time, the reduced ocean circulation will decrease the ocean mixing, which decreases the ventilation to the atmosphere of carbon injected into the deep ocean. Our model results show that this effect is more dominating in the Atlantic Ocean."


Tucking away excess carbon dioxide in Davy Jones's locker is not a permanent solution for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "Sequestering carbon in the deep ocean is, at best, a technique to buy time," Jain said. "Carbon dioxide dumped in the oceans won't stay there forever. Eventually it will percolate to the surface and into the atmosphere." To buy as much time as possible, the carbon dioxide must remain trapped for as long as possible. "The big question is in what region of which ocean will future climate change have the least effect," Jain said. "That's where we will want to store the carbon dioxide."

Jain and Cao will present their latest findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, Dec. 6-10. The U.S. Department of Energy funded the work.




December 3, 2002



PARIS, Dec 3 (IPS) - France has made considerable progress in reduction of greenhouse gases, but will still fail to meet the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol if it does not intensify efforts to reduce emissions, according to a new official report. The Interministerial Commission on Greenhouse Effects (MIES, after its French name) says that by present trends France will exceed the limits on carbon dioxide emissions fixed under the Kyoto Protocol by 10 per cent.  Under the Kyoto agreement on global warming signed in 1997, most countries pledged to freeze their carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 at the level of 1990. For France, this represents 552 million tonnes a year.


The campaign against the greenhouse effect in France has produced positive results, the report says. Carbon dioxide emissions have been brought down 15.5 per cent from 1990 to 2001. French industry has reduced emissions by 25 per cent over this period, and energy generation companies by 22 per cent, the report says. But emissions through transport and house heating have increased. Carbon dioxide emissions from transport have risen more than 26 per cent since 1990, and emissions from house heating more than 12 per cent, the report says. These two sectors produce 47 per cent of greenhouse gases emitted in France in 2001.


"Despite our good partial results, the documented trends suggest that France won't fulfil the objectives fixed by the Kyoto agreement without improving the measures implemented today," says the report published last week. France will fail to meet the target despite the fact that it generates almost all its electricity in nuclear power stations, which do not emit greenhouse gases. France has no carbon- or oil-fired generators either. Analysts point out that the standards fixed by the Kyoto agreement represent only a 5 per cent reduction of gases causing the greenhouse effect. To avoid irreversible damage to the climate, it would be necessary to reduce emissions by up to 80 per cent.


"We certainly could do better," Dominique Dron, MIES president told IPS. "If we continue to emit carbon dioxide at the present level, we certainly will miss the objectives of Kyoto." MIES has proposed more attention to renewable sources of energy like the wind and the sun. The government is now revising the National Plan Against Global Warming (PNLCC, after its French name), drawn by the former Socialist-led government in 2000. A new commission to be formed by representatives of several ministries will be set up in spring 2003 to lay down guidelines for reform. But environmentalists point out that the new government has cancelled a tax on industries emitting excessive carbon dioxide and other polluting gases. This tax was intended to help reduce emissions by 40 per cent. The government argued that a European guideline is needed for such a tax.


The government also cancelled another tax on pollution in ground water caused by excessive use of fertilisers. "The energy and carbon dioxide emission policies of the French governments, both the present as well as the former one, only put in practice less than 10 per cent of all measures their own experts conceived and wrote down in the PNLCC," says Philippe Quirion from Network Action Climat. The network represents about 30 French non-governmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

"We don't really need a new commission to think about a programme," Quirion says. "All we need is real sincerity and to put in practice the existing plan." Quirion points to problems with transport. "We all know that merchandise freight by truck is environmentally the most inefficient of all forms of transport, and that we could substitute it by increasing the use of railways," he says. But use of railway transport has been falling in relation to transportation by heavy trucks across Europe.


European Union figures indicate that in 1990 the railways carried about 255,000 tonnes of goods per kilometre while trucks carried almost four times as much. By 1998 railways were carrying 241,000 tonnes per kilometre while trucks were carrying 1.25 million tonnes a kilometre. The EU estimates that by 2010 trucks will carry 1.9 million tonnes a kilometre, while the railways will carry 272,000 tonnes a kilometre.

Despite such figures, the French government has announced that it will reconsider an earlier project to build a railway line between Lyon in the south and the Italian industrial centres around Milan. The project would substantially reduce heavy truck transport in the Alpine region. (END)



The New York Times

December 2, 2002



Every so often a report comes out of a remote part of the world that is so shocking that it makes us sit bolt upright and start thinking hard about global warming. Now it is news from the Bolivian Andes, where glaciers 5,000 meters above sea level are retreating with alarming speed, creating the threat of potentially disastrous water shortages. The glacier on Chacaltaya Mountain, which claims the world's highest ski slope, has been shriveling so fast that scientists predict its disappearance in 10 years.


Chacaltaya is hardly alone. Shrinking glaciers are a worldwide phenomenon. Great slices of snow and ice are disappearing in places from the Austrian Alps to Glacier National Park in Montana, where the number of glaciers has declined from 150 a century ago to 35 today. In 30 years there may be none in the park at all. The tropical glaciers of the Andes seem to be retreating more quickly than any others. Some scientists have warned of a calamity in the making because countries like Bolivia and Peru depend on glaciers and the rain and snow that fall in the mountains for drinking water, for irrigating fields and for generating electricity.


There appear to be two reasons for the crisis. One is a series of unseasonably dry years attributed to El Niño, the name given to the weather pattern generated by warm Pacific currents off the South American coast. El Niño has occurred with abnormal frequency in the last 20 years. The other reason is climate change. In Bolivia the average temperature has risen by 1-centigrade degree in the last century, mirroring changes in some other parts of the world. That may not seem like much, but it is enough to cause environmental havoc.


This unsettling news could have a bright side if it persuaded the Bush administration to pay more attention to the global warming issue. A report early last month from 18 leading scientists, published in the journal Science, called for a concentrated national effort - equal to the Apollo moon landing project - to develop energy sources other than fossil fuels. Most scientists now believe that the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has contributed heavily to the warming trend.


But just two weeks later, the Bush administration called for further research into the causes of global warming. Given the degree of consensus on the issue, the research project looks like just one more excuse for inaction from a president who shocked the world early in his tenure by reneging on a campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, and by renouncing the Kyoto agreement on global climate change. In view of the sobering news from places like the Andes, it is hard to imagine that George W. Bush can sustain his casual attitude much longer.




30 November - Attention to climate change is key to mitigating the impact of natural disasters, which last year caused an estimated $56 billion in damages globally, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to a two-day meeting on flood management which opened today in Budapest.  "The reasons for enormous disasters are never one dimensional, nor even purely 'natural,'" said Mr. Annan, placing blame on poor land use, deforestation and the destruction of wetlands.  While calling for specific measures to address these problems, he stressed the need for "more and better prevention - multifaceted yet integrated, and proactive rather than reactive."


The Secretary-General pointed out that experts have long been citing the link between human activities causing climate change and "a considerable increase of abnormal weather conditions, including floods and droughts."  Calling for efforts to curb greenhouse gases, he voiced hope that the Kyoto Protocol - a treaty containing legally binding targets for limiting those emissions - would enter into force as soon as possible.

Mr. Annan pledged the UN's support for efforts to prevent natural disasters and mitigate their impact. "Hazards will always challenge us, but it is within our power to join forces and build a world of resilient communities and nations," he said in the message, delivered by Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).



Financial Express

November 29, 2002



New Delhi, November 29: There is a great opportunity awaiting India in carbon credit trading which is estimated to go up to $100 billion by 2010. In the new regime, the country could emerge as one of the largest beneficiaries accounting for 25 per cent of the total world carbon trade, says a recent World Bank  report. The country's dominance in carbon trading is expected to be driven, not so much by the domestic industry, but more by its huge tracts of plantation land, estimated to be over 15 million hectares, much larger than Australia which aims to be a major player in emission trading by adding 2 million hectare plantation by 2020.


The report points out that certified emissions reductions (CERs) are the currency of the clean development mechanism (CDM). CERs can be used to acquire technology, capital investments in projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions.  Seeing the importance of the carbon bazzar, the Bank has entered into an agreement with Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC) last month wherein IDFC will handle carbon finance operations in the country for various carbon finance facilities. The agreement initially earmarks a $10-million aid in a World Bank-managed carbon finance to IDFC-financed projects that meet all the required eligibility and due diligence standards.  "The exercise is expected to leverage an investment of $100 million for climate-friendly projects in the first phase," says World Bank country director for India Michael Carter.


Trading carbon credits is a new mechanism designed to allow firms that fail to meet emission standards set by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, to buy credits from other firms that meet their targets, says Mr Carter.

The Kyoto Protocol envisages carbon credit trade between countries with 'carbon sinks' (planted forests) and others that produce higher levels of pollution. Although the US has not ratified the Protocol, American companies are in the forefront in supplying the CDM.  The many projects initiated by the domestic companies after January 2000 in diverse areas such as energy efficiency, co-generation, natural gas alternative fuels and hydel power will also add to the country's dominance as a larger seller in the carbon market.  The carbon emission reductions market has doubled in volume in the last one year alone but few of its benefits are reaching the developing countries, says, manager of the carbon finance at the World Bank Ken Newcombe. The countries like the US, Germany, Japan and China are likely to be the biggest buyers of carbon credits.


Carbon dioxide which is generated by industrial emissions and effects climate change is absorbed by trees from the air. They use this to make sugar, starch and complex molecules such as cellulose and lignin, forming wood, branches, roots leaves and bark. About 50 per cent of a tree's dry weight is carbon. Planting 100,000 hectare of new forest can remove a million tonne carbon annually from the atmosphere.




November 26, 2002



PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, November 26, 2002 (ENS) - Cambodia, already one of the most disaster prone countries in Southeast Asia, is now going through cycles of drought and flood due to global climate change, according to the Cambodian director for the United Nations World Food Programme. Some 670,000 Cambodians will need thousands of tons of food aid in the next five weeks because their crops have been wiped out, the agency said Monday.  World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Rebecca Hansen emphasized that these new food shortages must serve as a "wake up call" to the "startling weather patterns that have sabotaged the Cambodian rice crop of vulnerable farmers" in affected areas for the past three years.


The WFP has identified 187 "priority communes" out of a total of 1,621 where there has been either too little or too much precipitation for the crops.  Instead of distributing straight food relief to the people in these areas, Hansen says the WFP is providing food for work. Over 1,700 metric tons of food is being distributed for disaster mitigation projects such as reservoir rehabilitation, community ponds, dikes, and dams for irrigation purposes. This food will benefit an estimated 56,000 people in 116 villages in eight of the most affected provinces.  Hansen says next year the WFP will support community rice banks and rainwater reservoirs. "It is vital to build these defenses against food shortages in the future," she said. "To ignore the threat of climate change is to gamble with people's lives."


Cambodia has the typical Southeast Asian annual flood season starting in August when torrential rains fill rivers to overflowing.  Rohan Kay of the International Red Cross wrote in September 2001 that rural Cambodians traditionally view the annual floods is a blessing, not a curse. "Without such waters carrying nutrient rich silt over their fields, farmers would harvest few crops. But last year, the floods were worse than normal. Cambodia weathered three floods, not the usual one," Kay wrote.  In 2000, the Mekong Delta countries, including Cambodia, experienced the worst floods in 70 years. Eighty percent of Cambodia's rice harvest was destroyed in 2000 with only half replanted in time before the rains ended.  The damage from the 2000 floods was still being dealt with when the 2001 floods arrived. "Hundreds of thousands of people have had insufficient time to get back on their feet after being knocked down by last year's floods," said Seija Tyrninoksa, head of the International Red Cross Cambodia delegation.


When last year's floods hit, the WFP provided emergency food aid to some 95,000 people who lost their homes or rice crops.  In 2001 and again this year, the country has been parched by severe drought before the floods came. In some areas of the country two planting seasons in a row were lost.  Now the World Food Programme, through the UN Disaster Management team, is collaborating with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to purchase local rice, fish and vegetable oil and deliver it to more than 10,000 hungry families. About 6,500 metric tons of food aid will be required, Hansen said.

A new study by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies shows that the number of people in the Pacific Rim region affected by natural disasters increased by 65 times over the past 30 years.  The study quotes scientists who predict that the El Nino warming ocean phenomenon will give rise to even more cyclones and droughts around the Pacific Rim this coming year.




47) GLOBAL STALEMATE by Andrew Simms

The Guardian

December 12, 2002



Andrew Simms is policy director of the New Economics Foundation.


Resistance to the Kyoto protocol is preventing the reduction of carbon emissions. But there is a way out that could also cut world poverty

Early next year, the Russian Federation and Canada are likely to ratify the key international treaty on global warming, the Kyoto protocol. By signing, they will provide the critical mass to bring the agreement into force. And this year provided plenty of evidence for just why it is needed. India was parched by the worst drought in memory, and Britain was battered by murderous storms. Hurricanes blew in the Gulf of Mexico, shaking the region - and the fortune of Britain's biggest oil company, BP. But serious questions are being asked from every political perspective about whether the protocol can do the job it was designed for. And, if not, what else needs to happen? In Delhi, at the last global talks organised to speed up the process, the hints that nature was giving were being blindly ignored.


The best that delegates could manage was to resist pressure from the US to weaken a struggling process. A minimum 60%-80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions is needed, according to scientists. But, as it stands, by 2012 the protocol might reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 1%-2% of their 1990 levels. Originally, a cut of over 5% was planned. The urgency of the task stems from the fact that economic damage from global warming is doubling every decade, according to the UN environment programme. There is a growing belief among scientists that delaying action in wealthy high-polluting countries by even less than 10 years could lead to irreversible and devastating climate change. This, in turn, could cause the break-up of the west Antarctic ice sheet and a massive rise in the sea level. Benito Mueller of Oxford University suggests that many poor countries are at breaking point and will snap under the cost of more climate-related disasters.


Though weak, the protocol introduced the idea of binding emissions targets. And because the pollution gap between rich and poor countries is so great, it urged that the onus for reducing emissions should fall on the west. From the stroke of new year to their evening meal on January 2, for example, an average US family will consume, per person, the same amount of fossil fuel as a Tanzanian family uses in a whole year.

Yet now there is a stalemate. Poor countries won't move until the rich countries promise both to take action at home, and provide realistic funds for adaptation. Yet the US won't take part in a deal that leaves out poor countries. So how is it possible to get them both on board? First, there is the reasoned approach. Fortunately, any logical global framework that succeeds the Kyoto protocol will also create a resource base to finance sustainable development in developing countries, since over-consumers will have to buy spare emissions rights from under-consumers.


The successor to Kyoto, which needs to be quickly agreed in order to be ready in just over five years' time, faces two big challenges. It has to set a safe concentration level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In other words, it must decide how big the carbon cake can be, and then set a timetable to reduce emissions to meet it. Secondly, it has to work out how to distribute that carbon cake. That process would meet the US demand for a science-based, global deal, as laid out in the landmark Byrd-Hagel resolution in the US senate.

There are two contending methods of dividing the carbon cake. The first proposes a "carbon aristocracy" of inherited natural resource wealth, in which the basis for talks is the greenhouse gas emissions, per person, that each country has today. The second, and a starting position for countries such as China, India and Brazil, is that the atmosphere is a global commons that we all need. So entitlements to emit, they argue, should be shared on a per capita basis.


Given the historical responsibility of industrialised countries, poor countries have a moral point but, more importantly, they have a logical point. It's hard to imagine anyone making the argument that geographical accident of birth - which conveys enormous carbon privileges - could form the basis of a global agreement. There would be an outcry from the majority world. This means that the only workable basis for solving the threat pre-distributes our natural fossil-fuel capital, upon which up to 90% of economic activity depends. Such a model would over an agreed time frame give every person an equal entitlement. Because of the link between national wealth and the burning of fossil fuels, this would represent a revolution in international economic relations. It would mean that the much-hyped millennium development goals for halving world poverty would be potentially achievable for the first time.


If the reasoned approach to getting the US on board fails there are two other options. Badly affected developing countries will use a variety of legal options to take the US, and others, to court. Alternatively, the EU could calculate the subsidy enjoyed by the US through its non-participation in the protocol and apply border taxes to US exports. The current drought in Ethiopia was a foretaste of worse climate-driven disasters to come. Then there were the storms that flattened US towns, including the tragic, but appropriately named settlement of Carbon Hill. As things get worse, if the US won't take a hint from nature, things might have to turn nasty.




December 12, 2002



With all the discussion in the media about the minutia of the Kyoto Protocol, it's easy to forget why we're taking steps to slow climate change in the first place. In recent weeks, as politicians have debated the Protocol in Parliament, several new studies have been published that are poignant reminders of why we have to start tackling this problem now. First, a study of snowfall on Canada's highest peak, Mount Logan, has greatly extended our understanding of temperature changes in the atmosphere. One of the longstanding complaints of climate change skeptics has been that our atmospheric data only goes back some 60 years - a very short length of time in terms of tracking climate trends. But a new report published in the science journal Nature provides data dating back more than three centuries.


At the Mount Logan site, increased atmospheric temperatures correlate with higher snowfall levels. So researchers took ice core samples deep enough to provide 300 years of snowfall data. They found that between 1700 and 1850 there was little change in snowfall patterns. Then, around 1850, snowfalls began to increase - signaling elevated atmospheric temperatures. By 2000, snowfall levels were 15 times greater - providing strong evidence that atmospheric temperatures are on the rise, just like ground-level temperatures.

Another study, one with disturbing implications for Canada, was conducted by NASA and published in the Geophysical Research Letters. It reported that the "permanent" ice cap covering the Arctic Ocean in the Far North is disappearing faster than expected. In fact, an area the size of Alberta is melting every decade. Researchers say that at this rate it will be gone by the end of the century, if not sooner. Temperatures are still increasing and, as the ice melts, the snow that reflects sunlight back into space is replaced by dark water, which absorbs yet more heat and further increases the warming trend. The loss of ice means less habitat for many animals. Some, like the polar bear, could disappear altogether.


A final study, also in Nature, looked not at how the climate is changing, but at what this change will mean to our forests. Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it as wood. For this reason, forests have been dubbed carbon "sinks." Some have argued that Canada should simply be allowed to grow more trees as a way to slow global warming and meet the Kyoto Protocol. But the new four-year study by 50 international scientists led by Natural Resources Canada shows that pollutants released by power plants and vehicles don't just cause climate change - they also stunt tree growth.


The researchers pumped two common gases created when fossil fuels are burned - carbon dioxide and ozone - over stands of aspen trees at a huge outdoor facility in Wisconsin. As expected, increased carbon dioxide led to increased tree growth. However, when ozone was added to the mixture, the opposite occurred. The ozone caused stress to the trees, making them more vulnerable to pests and pathogens. These pests included the poplar leaf rust, which increased three fold in a carbon dioxide and ozone-enriched atmosphere; tent caterpillars, which increased by up to 31 percent; and aphids, whose infestations became more severe in enhanced atmospheres. Considering the damage that pests are already doing to areas like the interior forests of British Columbia, the thought of enhanced pestilence is especially disturbing.


It also means we can't count on trees to soak up all that carbon we're spewing out through the tailpipes of our cars, the chimneys of our homes and the smoke stacks of power plants. We can't count on any carbon sinks to behave consistently when the rest of the world is changing. The only reliable way to slow global warming is by reducing emissions and Kyoto is a good way to start.





OTTAWA-Over the first five months of 1988, average global temperatures were the warmest in history. By June, drought was widespread throughout the centre of North America and a record-breaking summer heat wave was under way.  Climate change history was about to be made in Toronto, with 46 nations taking the crucial first step that eventually produced the Kyoto Protocol overwhelmingly endorsed here yesterday by MPs.


In that last week of June more than 350 scientists, politicians, bureaucrats and environmentalists converged on the Metro Convention Centre for an international conference on Earth's endangered atmosphere.  Outside the centre temperatures had, paradoxically, dipped slightly below seasonal norms for the four days of the conference. But inside, things were really cooking on global warming.  With the approval of prime minister Brian Mulroney and a handful of other political leaders, the delegates passed an unprecedented policy resolution calling for nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases globally 20 per cent by 2005.


They also issued the starkest warning yet from policy-makers, rather than scientists exclusively, about the threat of climate change.  "Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment, whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war," declared the historic conference called "Our Changing Atmosphere."  That conference and its bold declaration are now widely seen as the launching pad for the Kyoto Protocol, itself a culmination of a decade of international wheeling and dealing in which Canadian policy-makers and scientists played pivotal roles.

"It was a happening - like the concert at Woodstock. It took place when a heat wave and drought across North America were getting everyone's attention," says Stephen Schneider, a renowned biologist at Stanford University and one of the high-profile scientists at the meeting.


Howard Ferguson remembers the gathering as if it were yesterday. As the federal official who headed Canada's weather service at the time, Ferguson had the job of pulling together a meeting that went well beyond the customary gathering of scientists cluck-clucking among themselves.  The idea - hatched by key international scientific groups with a lot of Canadian input - was to shove the climate-change issue into the policy spotlight by inviting politicians, industry leaders and activist groups as well as the usual academic researchers and bureaucrats. 


At first, it was an uphill battle.  "We got the cold shoulder from the Republican administration in Washington, where Ronald Reagan was president and George Bush Sr., his vice-president," says Ferguson, who retired in 1991 after service internationally with the World Meteorological Organization.  But then leaders of the seven largest industrialized countries, meeting at a G-7 summit in Toronto, vowed to co-operate on fighting environmental threats. In Washington, a NASA scientist bluntly told a congressional hearing that global warming was already underway, not merely a forecast for the future.  Once Mulroney confirmed he would speak at the atmosphere meeting, other heads of government agreed to attend. The most important to show up was Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, whose report on sustainable development was the concept underpinning the conference.


"A lot of important people were obviously waiting for something like this to happen - a major meeting of scientists and politicians on climate change," recalls program organizer Henry Hengeveld, a Meteorological Services of Canada climate science adviser. "We'd call big people we wanted as speakers, busy people, and spontaneously they'd agree to come."  Groundwork had been laid by three years of low-profile conclaves among scientists - gatherings such as one in Villack, Austria, chaired by Jim Bruce, a Canadian scientist then with the World Meterological Organization in Geneva.  "June, 1988, was a very opportune time. The science was beginning to crystallize around the main aspects of how much the Earth's climate might warm," says Bruce, now a climate consultant here.


This emerging scientific consensus astonished Stephen Lewis, at that time Canada's ambassador to the United Nations. Lewis chaired the conference and - in a diplomatic feat still applauded by others - brokered the strongly worded final declaration, the first such warning to yoke scientists and policy-makers so firmly on the need for climate change action  "It was the first intimation of what was to come. It was so intense. I remember sitting with my mouth open as the scientists talked about climate change thinking that this was simultaneously fascinating and horrifying," Lewis recalls.  One of the fascinating byplays of the Toronto conference was how the 20 per cent reduction target was decided, a process in which energy expert Ralph Torrie was a key player. "It was strictly a consensus among the experts there that 20 per cent was reasonable and challenging," he says.


The push for a big reduction target originated with conference participant Jose Goldemberg, a former cabinet minister in Brazil who was president of the University of Sao Paulo.  "He said, if we're going to do this, let's make history, let's not have just another meeting," remembers Torrie. Another behind-the-scene development was success in lining up distinguished Swedish scientist Bert Bollin to take on the job of initially heading the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Starting two years after the convention, the IPCC issued three authoritative "assessments" that provided the scientific basis for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 followed by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.


Other Canadians playing crucial roles during this period were the late University of Toronto professor Ken Hare, an éminence grise in climate research, and Gordon McBean, now a professor at the University of Western Ontario and chair of the World Climate Research Program from 1988 to 1994.  Also pivotal Canadians behind the scenes were Jim MacNeill, executive secretary of the Brundtland Commission, businessman and environmentalist Maurice Strong and Elizabeth Dowdeswell, a U.N. undersecretary who took a leading part in negotiations on the 1992 climate change conventions.  


Today, many of the participants at Toronto say they're proud of having made history with a meeting that turned out to be the catalyst for political action to tackle climate change.  But they're also disappointed action didn't come sooner, at a time when reducing emissions would have reversed global warming decades sooner than today's projections of the second half of the century.  But Jim Bruce says the 14-year interval isn't that long for an international agreement like Kyoto, which is projected to have a major impact on the nature of economic development in countries that implement it.  The fiercest opponent of climate-change action, the Republican party in the U.S., actually tipped its hand at the Toronto meeting when a mid-level Republican government appointee told a New York Times reporter it would be "premature at this point to contemplate an international agreement that sets targets for greenhouse gases."

In this instance, 14 years appears to have changed little.


50) FIRST STEP AN IMPORTANT ONE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT by Steve Bonnici New Zealand Herald December 10, 2002



Steve Bonnici is managing director of Urgent Couriers, a New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development member.


Climate change, caused by the release of greenhouse gases, is an increasingly important issue for businesses all over the world. The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, a coalition of over 40 leading businesses, supports the Government's recognition of this important issue. We see this as an important step forward on the sustainable development journey. At the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development our partner organisation the World Business Council for Sustainable Development held a press conference with Greenpeace to signal that business and the environmental community are united in demanding Governments come together around one global framework to deal with the risks of climate change.


The New Zealand Business Council broadly supports the Government's policy package for the lead-up to the first Kyoto commitment period and for the commitment period itself.  The principles behind the policy provide for sound transitional measures; the liabilities for most emitters are capped; and competitiveness-at-risk industries appear to have been provided for.  We encourage the Government to move towards more transparent and market-based mechanisms once international trading in emissions and credits is well established with reasonably stable prices and businesses have had time to adjust.


The devil is likely to be in the detail, and it is important that proposed initiatives such as support for emissions reduction projects be implemented in a workable and cost-efficient manner. This will require the Government to "walk the talk" and make proper budget provision for emissions projects.  About 60 per cent of New Zealand's emissions come from methane and nitrous oxide. In some respects the New Zealand economy is a large farm and we cannot afford to damage the agricultural sector.  The Government's proposed package will help to shield agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emitters in the first Kyoto commitment period (2008-2012).  The agricultural sector will, however, be expected to invest around $15 million a year in emissions reduction research to avoid a levy that would raise the same annual amount.


We believe that New Zealand should retain the ability to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol before the second commitment period (2013-2017) if necessary.  By that time we will be in a better position to assess the impacts of the second commitment period targets on business.  By then, research should have established whether New Zealand is able to cost-effectively reduce its agricultural emissions, and the emissions reduction requirements for developing countries will be known.  Many of these countries are New Zealand's trade competitors and it is important that we are all on a level playing field as early as possible.


I represented the New Zealand Business Council on last month's Government and Industry Climate Change Study Tour of the United States and Europe. Recommendations from this tour included the following.

First, the present policy structure gives little incentive to small to medium-size enterprises to engage in energy efficiency and emission reduction before the introduction of the carbon tax in 2007.  If a company or  sector group has an energy plan that meets minimum criteria, that entity should be able to enter an agreement with the Government or have access to some other policy mechanism and avoid the carbon tax.

Secondly, a trading mechanism provides flexibility and lower cost for business. Early trading, even if of limited scope within New Zealand, will significantly enhance the future transition to an international trading scheme.


Thirdly, a dedicated resource to provide technical input to support businesses' action on climate change, including an understanding of their energy/emissions footprint, and a set of initiatives to manage that footprint would be a wise investment.  Our reports demonstrating why and how member businesses are addressing the challenge of climate change are available from the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development website.



Planet Ark

December 9, 2002



BERLIN - Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions will exacerbate world poverty and could make millions of people more open to extremism, the chief of the United Nations' climate advisory body said.  Rajendra Pachauri told Reuters the effects of climate change were likely to affect the developing world disproportionately and make the poor even poorer and more bitter.  "Large areas of poverty are dangerous for the world as a whole as they provide fertile ground for extremist views... Things go wrong. People want to blame someone," Pachauri said.  Pachauri said that by 2100, worldwide temperatures would be 1.4 to 5.8 Celsius higher than today and sea levels would rise by 0.5 metres (1 ft 8 in).


Island groups, such as the Maldives and the South Pacific would be particularly hard hit, while low-lying Bangladesh, already one of the world's poorest countries, could lose 17 percent of its land.  Pachauri said there was no firm scientific proof that freak weather, such as the rain and floods that hit central Europe in August, was the result of climate change, but there was reason to be suspicious.  "Purely by association, there is something to worry about. In the last 10 years, the number of such freak incidents has doubled," Pachauri said on the sidelines of an environmental conference in Berlin.


Pachauri said he was encouraged by the prospect of Russia ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, an international pact to reduce most industrial nations' net emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.  Russia's ratification is vital if the accord is ever to take effect after the withdrawal last year of the United States, the biggest polluter.  He said he was pleased to see progress at regional level in the United States, but called for more public transport there.  He also made an appeal to fellow scientists to increase public awareness of the costs of global warming.  "We have to get the message out, inform the public of the economic and social losses, not just do research to create that message," said Pachauri, who is head of the Tata Energy Research Institute of India.  Pachauri's task is to oversee the fourth assessment of climate change in 2007, which he wants to have a more regional focus, showing for example what effect climate change will have in particular parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.



Washington Post

December 8, 2002



S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and distinguished research professor at George Mason University.


I have just returned from a few days in Canada where there has been a lively national debate on whether to ratify the Kyoto Accord. It looks like Parliament will do so under the urging of Prime Minister Jean Chretien. If Russia also ratifies, this would be sufficient to activate Kyoto. Canadian consumers would then be forced to cut back their use of energy by more than 30 percent within a decade. There is no such debate in the United States where public interest is focused on other issues, like terrorism, and where the average citizen has difficulty distinguishing between Kyoto Accord and Honda Accord. Besides, President George Bush long ago decided that Kyoto is fatally flawed and that the science [backing Kyoto] is uncertain. He may have been influenced by a bipartisan, unanimous U.S. Senate vote in 19997 against a Kyotolike Treaty


I went to Ottawa to attend a research discussion at the University of Ottawa and to deliver the F.K. North Lecture at Carleton University, where I explained why the world does not face a climate catastrophe from greenhouse warming. The atmosphere does not seem to be warming; so the climate effect of increased carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning must be a lot smaller than what theory predicts. Most of us climate scientists would rather believe the real atmosphere than rely on theoretical models that pretend to describe the atmosphere. But even if there were to be a detectable future average warming globally, averages hide much information. The models indicate such warming would take place mainly at high latitudes, at night, and in the winter. Would that be so bad for Canada? The high point of my visit in Ottawa was a press conference on Nov. 13 where nine scientists, mostly Canadians, spelled out the facts about climate science and pointed to the lack of any basis for the Kyoto Protocol. It's a message that needs to be heard again and again because politicians prefer to argue about economic impact but ignore the science.


I listened to a debate on CBC in which Environment Minister David Anderson tried to defend against well-reasoned statements by University of Alberta experts who discussed both the huge economic penalties of drastic cuts in energy use and the ineffectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol in slowing the buildup of atmospheric CO2. Mr. Anderson had a hard time denying the cost since in a CBC interview last month with Leslie MacKinnon he stated: "We haven't decided how much of the burden should be placed on the shoulders of the consumer, and how much should be placed on the shoulders of industry." He pretended industry wouldn't pass along any cost increases to consumers. Does he really think the public can be so easily fooled? The press briefing by our science group must have made an impact - most notably on Andrew Weaver, a climate modeler from the University of Victoria, who would rather believe a computer printout than the actual readings of instruments.


In a long interview in the National Post (Nov. 14) he managed to ignore the universally accepted data from weather satellites that show no appreciable warming of the atmosphere in nearly 25 years. Maybe it's because this result is so strongly at variance with his models; but at least he tried to stick to science. Not so Greenpeace, which prefers ad hominem attacks, claiming that the scientist briefers were stooges in the pay of oil companies. Certainly not true in my case - nor, as far as I know, for any of the others. And Greenpeace not only has a problem with the truth but also with logic: Just how does Exxon manage to influence the satellite instruments so they show no warming? Clever devils, these oil people. We don't presume to advise Canadians about Kyoto, but we did want to present the facts, especially about the science. It is sad that the environment minister does not care to listen. His attitude is best expressed in his MacKinnon interview: " Maybe we made a mistake in our approach to Kyoto. Maybe we should have ratified first and worked out the details later." Yeah, leap before you look.



The Washington Times

December 3, 2002



Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans is chairman of the president's Cabinet-level Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration.


An aggressive new U.S. climate change research strategy, designed to accelerate answers to critical questions about the environment, will be the focus of more than 1,100 experts from throughout the country and the world when they convene in Washington this week. Climate science as a fully understood and universally accepted discipline is still in its infancy. We know that the surface temperature of the Earth has warmed, rising 0.6 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) over the past century. And the National Academy of Sciences indicates that human activity is a contributing factor to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases.


Yet, significant uncertainties remain. We do not know the effect of natural fluctuations in climate on warming or adequately understand the natural carbon and water cycles. We do not yet adequately understand the role of clouds, oceans and aerosol emissions on global climate change. We cannot confidently project how our climate could or will change. We do not know definitely what constitutes a dangerous level of warming.


President Bush's Global Climate Change strategy represents a market-based, common-sense approach to finding answers and solutions to this long-term challenge. Rather than pitting economic growth against the environment, as the Kyoto Protocol would do, and imposing massive job losses on the American people, it promises real progress by harnessing the power of sound science and cutting-edge technologies. And, it ensures that America's workers and the citizens of the developing world are not unfairly penalized. The new research strategy focuses on three broad tiers of activities: (1) scientific inquiry that is objective and well-documented; (2) observation and monitoring systems to provide needed, comprehensive global data; and (3) development of decision-support resources, including the ability to explore various potential outcomes.


The United States continues to lead all nations in research and technology development directed at climate change. Since 1990, the United States has spent $20 billion on climate research. That's three times as much as any other country. It is more than Japan and all 15 nations of the European Union combined. Mr. Bush's fiscal year 2003 budget seeks $4.5 billion in total climate expenditures, an increase of more than $650 million over last year. The funding will be used for basic scientific research, cutting-edge technology development, tax incentives to encourage the deployment of renewable and cleaner energy technologies and support for technology transfers to the developing world, where emissions are growing rapidly as a result of development.


An important piece of the puzzle is a U.S.-led effort to develop a comprehensive, sustained and consistent global observing system. As scientific eyes and ears in the world's atmosphere, oceans and ecosystems, this comprehensive global observing system can, over time, tell us much about past, present and future climate changes and how best to prepare. The data collected will allow the nations of the world to set science-based policies with greater confidence than is now possible, ensuring future health, safety and economic stability. Importantly, Mr. Bush has set a national goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent over the next 10 years while sustaining the economy. This is comparable to the average progress that nations participating in the Kyoto Protocol must achieve. It is equivalent to taking 70 million cars off the road. The president also is challenging American businesses to reduce the greenhouse-gas intensity of their operations. The semiconductor and aluminum industries and others already have scored successes in reducing emission of some of the most potent greenhouse gases.


The transportation sector accounts for about one-third of U.S. carbon emissions. Slightly more than half of these are produced by light-duty passenger vehicles. One innovative research project under way is the "FreedomCAR." This public-private partnership is focused on developing a break-through hydrogen-powered fuel cell. The long-term results of this research could be cars and trucks that are more efficient and less expensive to operate, and which emit no harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases. While we continue to aggressively pursue cutting-edge technologies at home, we also will continue to actively work with friends, allies and developing nations to determine the dimensions and dynamics of climate change.


Global climate change is a complex issue requiring a sustained effort over generations. However, we can begin to address the factors that contribute to climate change now, understanding that economic growth is the solution, not the problem. Fortunately, America is rich in talent, creativity and innovation, the source of sound science and cutting-edge technologies. Under Mr. Bush's leadership, the United States is marshaling the expertise that will advance the science of global climate change, promote technological innovation and take advantage of the power of markets to create a safe and healthy environment for the people of America and the world.


See Also:

U.S. Department of Energy: Remarks by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham Plenary Session of the Planning Workshop for Scientists and Stakeholders U.S. Climate Change Science and Technology Programs Washington, DC December 3, 2002

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman Climate Change Science Program Workshop December 3, 2002






Funafuti, Tuvalu -- Most news on global warming is datelined from places like Washington DC, London, and Tokyo, but if you want to see the frontlines in the battle against climate change, head 400 miles north from Fiji and land on the eroding beaches of Tuvalu. This tiny atoll, just one generation removed from British colonialism, faces the very real likelihood that the rising tide of global climate change will render it uninhabitable before the next generation is grown.  "When you talk about climate change in the Pacific, people often talk about natural disasters, like cyclones and droughts, but for countries like Tuvalu the reality is sea level rise," explains Angenette Heffernan with Greenpeace Pacific. "The countries of the Pacific are the canaries in the coal mine," and in Tuvalu at least, the canaries are drowning.



Tuvalu's capital atoll of Funafuti, home to half the country's 10,000 citizens, is a sliver of land just 400 meters across at its widest, the crest of a long dormant volcano edging above the waves. Life is quiet here; children play unescorted, there is plenty of fish and fruit, and it's rare to encounter a locked door or long face. But there's been trouble brewing in this paradise for some time. Beginning in 1992, the government started speaking out in international forums about the then controversial topic of global warming. "As far as the government is concerned, the issue is no longer whether climate change will occur or not, the issue now is the rate at which the effects will be felt," explains Paani Laupepa, a former bank officer who is now Assistant Secretary for the Environment and the national point person on climate change.


The world has been slow to pay attention, partly due to Tuvalu's relative distance and size, and also because the changes aren't dramatic, at least not yet. "You won't see climate change happening straight away, it's very insidious, and it's a slow process," explains Heffernan. Still, within a few days of landing on the main island of Funafuti, the anecdotal evidence begins lapping at your ankles. Few pay more attention to the sea than Tito Tapungao, Chief Executive Officer of Tuvalu's highly regarded Maritime Training Institute. "I can see the erosion from both sides, it's quite prominent," he notes, referring to the ocean and lagoon surrounding his white coral island dotted with palms and pandanas trees. He maintains that the culpable parties aren't admitting their role. "I think the US is fully aware, but they turn a blind eye because they don't want to know."


"I can only tell you my own observations," adds Elia Tauita, President of the Funafuti Town Council, "there is certainly a noticeable erosion effect. If you go to Funafala [a nearby islet] you will see. The biggest thatched building was in the center of the village, now it's on the edge; there's been 50 yards of erosion." Surprisingly, it's storm surges rather than erosion or average tidal height that are the greatest concern. "Now during high tides, the water comes right across the ground, where the houses are, and it never happened before, and a couple years ago it began," says Tauita. Last August the island flooded again, and increased salinity is forcing families to grow their root crops in metal buckets instead of in the ground. Few have a longer memory than Hosea Kaitu, whose bright eyes belie his 79 years. "The tide is getting higher and higher each year," he says firmly. "It's gone up almost a fathom, six feet, inland."


It's also getting warmer. On a trip to the Funafuti Conservation Area, a conservation officer points to faded coral-rising sea temperatures associated with El Nino in 1998 bleached corals around the world, from here to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia. Erosion is also having an effect. During one windy night last July, a gust of wind dropped a thick pandanas tree into the ocean between Assistant Environment Secretary Laupepa's office and the island's hotel, almost flattening a tiny water desalination shack. Sunrise revealed erosion on the lagoon side had exposed the roots, leaving it ready to topple. Now where a proud 40-foot tree once stood, a gaping hole is ripped in the ground, dripping soil into the waves. It's also happening on a much more dramatic scale across the lagoon. In 1997 Hurricane Keli blew through, taking the entire island of Tepuka Vilivili out to sea, leaving nothing but a bare stump of jagged coral. With an average height just six feet above the water line, Tuvalu can ill afford more of the same.



In spite of the evidence, many here don't believe they will be forced to leave, and point to their bibles for proof. In this deeply Christian country, great faith gets placed in the words of Genesis, which says that rainbows -- an almost daily occurrence -- are proof God is keeping his covenant made with Noah to never again flood the earth. Laupepa and others are convinced it's man who is breaking the covenant, not God, and even though they're a small nation, they've quickly learned. "We came to realize that this issue, climate change, is a global issue, and the only way we can be effective on this issue is to take it up at the United Nations. And even with the fact that climate change is like AIDS, there is no known cure, we have to take preemptive action to try and deal with the issue now, rather than running away from it."


Then there are the doubters on the other side, who question either Tuvalu's motives, or conclusions, or remedies. For example, Ned Leonard, Executive Director of the electrical-utility sponsored Greening Earth Society, says the "sinking" is home grown, due to pumping out ground water or using sand for construction, and that global warming isn't caused by human activities. "No one is about to deny that atmospheric change is taking place, but the human contribution to that is miniscule compared to the natural contributions. It seems a stretch to lay it at the door of human contribution," says Leonard. Then there's the issue of reparations, which one US magazine suggested is Tuvalu's motivation for raising the issue. The magazine speculates that once island leaders received more international aid, they would quiet down. "They've been making a case in international assemblies seeking assistance, demanding financial repartitions form the industrialized world," says Leonard, adding, "How much expense is the industrialized world willing to spare for at best a speculative problem?"


Laupepa bristles at the suggestion, noting that at several recent international forums broad hints have been floated that unless they back off from raising the issue of climate change, Tuvalu's largest aid donor, Australia, could find other places to spend their millions currently flowing into Tuvalu. Laupepa understands the risk, but feels they have no choice. "I don't think Tuvalu will back down on this issue, there is so much at stake, if we back down we would be selling our souls for money. We are doing this is because of the future of our nation and our culture." Pointing to recent reports issued by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Laupepa says the time for debating the reality of climate change is past, regardless of "the minority opinion of the National University in Australia and others who are on the payroll of oil companies," referring to Australia government.


For their part, Australian Prime Minister John Howard administration has hedged their bets, scoffing at rising seas while arguing that even if the link between emissions and sea level change is proven, it's still easier to relocate islanders from the Pacific than it is to cut emissions.  "That goes to the heart of how selfish and arrogant some of these countries are," says Heffernan, "Moving groups of people from one group of islands to another is bound to create problems."



Meanwhile, Tuvaluans aren't interested in leaving, and are instead working on finding alternatives to the crisis. Beginning this winter, with the help of Norwegian consultants, Tuvalu will launch a renewable energy program using the few things they have plenty of: wind, sun, and seas. "We want to put our money where our mouth is -- when we say renewable energy, climate change, we're serious about it, and we want to demonstrate our seriousness by removing diesel completely," says Laupepa.  They think global energy producers should follow suit. "Some companies are claiming their end product is cleaner than the other type, and they say they are adopting environmental standards, like BP for instance, calling themselves now Beyond Petroleum. But instead of channeling money into fossil fuel development, they should be channeling that to the mainstreaming and commercialization of renewables."


Of course, as Laupepa points out, what BP is talking about in it's "Beyond Petroleum" campaign is producing more natural gas, which emits slightly less carbon dioxide than oil, but is at best an incremental improvement for the world's climate. And of course it does nothing to move nations away from their dependence on fossil fuels. And while BP claims to be the world's number one producer of solar energy, solar is a tiny fraction of its investment, when compared to oil and gas. So Tuvaluans aren't counting on corporations to save the world's climate. The island nation is planning some ground breaking legal action, preparing to sue the United States and Australia in the International Court of Justice for their contributions to global warming, as well as going after US companies in domestic courts. The scope of such legal action is unprecedented. At least one international legal expert thinks they might just succeed.


"Whereas a year ago I would have said 'I think it's difficult for Tuvalu to win'," such a case, says Donald Goldberg, Senior Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, "Quite a bit of has changed in the last year, and the prospects for winning this kind of lawsuits have substantively improved. If we're looking at the broad problem, in some respects the US has already lost the case; by its own words it admits greenhouse gases are causing climate change." The challenge of suing companies like BP, Chevron or Exxon/Mobil is also daunting, albeit for a different reason. "The science is clear enough and strong enough to establish that greenhouse gases cause the problem, and it's clear that companies like Exxon are emitting greenhouse gases, so they're culpable," says Goldberg. The question will be "how the court is going to deal with the fact that there are multiple defendants," and go about apportioning liability. Referring to the growing evidence, Goldberg adds, "I think eventually Tuvalu is going to have a pretty unassailable case." The question is, of course, will they still be around to file it?



The widely unspoken truth here is that in spite of the renewable energy and the lawsuits, many climate change models say it's too late for Tuvalu and a dozen other low-lying nations. Even if all emissions stopped today there's too much momentum in the global system to stop rising ocean levels from rendering low-lying countries uninhabitable. In the end, leaving for higher ground may be the only choice, creating an entire nation of environmental refugees. Laupepa's critical banker's mind can run the numbers, and he isn't naive; he knows what his country is up against as it tries to convince industrialized nations to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. "The oil industry is powerful; it works in sinister ways to maintain its grip on the politicians. Explain to me how we can get to Bush, so we don't have to go through his band of oil-tainted advisors on his Cabinet?"


Still, he maintains optimism in the face of bleak facts. "I'm hoping we don't leave this place. We don't want to leave, it's our land, our God given land, it is our culture, we can't leave. People won't leave until the very last minute," he says, his voice trailing off into silence.  He adds that whatever challenge his people may face, he's confident they will be able to meet it head on.  "I think it is only when people are pressed against the wall that you bring out the best in them, and Tuvaluans and other people are being pressed against the wall, right up against the wall." Perhaps reflecting on what his nation's story might do regardless of the outcome, he adds, "I'm sure something good will come out of this."



International Herald Tribune

November 29, 2002



The writer, the World Bank's vice president for sustainable development, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.


'Carbon sinks'


CHIAPAS, Mexico: The farmers of Scolel Te may not realize it, but with every tree they plant to absorb carbon dioxide they are expanding a new market. The farmers will soon have something in common with poor rural people from Indonesia, Uganda, Burkina Faso and other developing countries. They will be paid to plant forests and sow crops by Western companies seeking to earn credit for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Governments and companies have recently teamed up with the World Bank to launch the Biocarbon Fund, a public/private partnership to slow climate change through these "carbon sinks," which capture or conserve carbon dioxide, the main gas responsible for global warming. The program will also help reverse land degradation, promote biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of local communities.


The fund will enable money from the biggest corporations of rich countries to reach the poorest people in developing countries. For example, the farmers in Chiapas can take a buy order for carbon from a Western company to a local credit organization to buy seedlings for improved crops. A recent World Bank study shows that in the first six months of 2002, companies doubled the amount of carbon they traded in 2001. A three- or four-fold increase is likely by the end of the year. One major problem is that only 13 percent of the direct purchases of private sector carbon emission reductions went to the developing world. The Biocarbon Fund was established to correct this imbalance. It will focus exclusively on projects to sequester or conserve carbon in poor countries and countries whose economies are in transition.


The driving force is the Kyoto Protocol, which commits developed countries to reduce their carbon emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels in the period from 2008 to 2012. Many companies are now committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Where these companies cannot make the reductions immediately, they can opt to meet them through projects to reduce emissions in developing economies. As a result, projects in poor countries will get a new source of financing for sustainable agriculture, land rehabilitation and clean technologies. Industrialized countries can meet part of their Kyoto obligation, while the threat of climate change is reduced at lower overall cost.


The credits are urgently needed in poor countries. About one-fifth of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere comes from land-clearing. Every year, 20 times more carbon is exchanged between the atmosphere and the earth's vegetation and soils than is released from fossil fuels. The planned sinks will promote activities such as reduced tillage, which retain carbon in vegetation or soils. They will also promote projects like reforestation, to absorb carbon. This can make a significant contribution to combating climate change. Many of these activities also improve soil fertility, protect against erosion, provide nontimber forest products and sustain biodiversity. Sinks may be the only significant way for many poor nations that have small industrial sectors and small energy use to benefit from the carbon finance business.


As the international rules of the game evolve, one challenge is how to account for the emission reductions in forestry and agricultural projects. It's easy to measure the carbon difference between a coal-fired power plant and a wind farm. It's harder to measure carbon sequestration in trees or soils. Carbon is stored as a tree grows, but what happens after the tree is cut? How do you assess the risk of deforestation or forest fires in commercial and climate terms?  The World Bank is seeking to answer such questions through its carbon finance funds. Six governments and 17 companies contributed $180 million to create the Prototype Carbon Fund in 2000. It has so far purchased or plans to buy about $106 million of greenhouse gas emission reductions from 26 projects in developing countries.


The prototype fund is showing that emission reductions can be cost-effectively created, verified and certified via investment projects, despite the business risks. In September, at the Johannesburg summit meeting on sustainable development, the Community Development Carbon Fund was established. It will provide carbon finance to small-scale projects in the poorest countries, with the aim of reducing poverty by tapping private sector capital to supplement government aid.


56) HOT AIR OVER KYOTO by Jim Stanford

Canadian Auto Workers Union



Canadian business leaders are sounding more like anti-globalization protesters every day. They're overflowing with angst about an international treaty that they say will erode Canadian sovereignty and destroy our economy. Stolid old free-trader Perrin Beatty, now head of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, is railing on about the power of global bureaucrats and threats to Canadian jobs. Next he'll be throwing stink bombs over the security fence at meetings of environment ministers. Meanwhile the environmental community is trying to adopt the air of assured and capable technocrats. The Kyoto Protocol is a modest, logical, careful first step, they keep repeating. It's quite the role-reversal. As with free trade, much of the Kyoto debate revolves around competing forecasts of its economic impacts. The arcane details of computerized economic models are now sparking coffee-shop discussions across the land. ""Will I lose my job because of Kyoto?"" millions of Canadians are asking. ""If so, I don't want any part of it.""


We can expect more dire predictions from business-funded researchers in coming months. But their calculus goes wrong on several counts. Here's some economic antacid to counter their panicked claims. Chew on these the next time someone tells you Kyoto puts your job at risk:


* None of the anti-Kyoto forecasts (like those of the Alberta government, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, or the Canadian Chamber of Commerce) consider the costs of climate change. This means they assume there are no economic benefits to slowing or even, one day, stopping it. In reality, the costs of global warming are already huge: droughts, severe weather damage, greater energy consumption for air conditioning, and complex and expensive health costs. It's hard, but not impossible, to put numbers on these effects. Any model that doesn't include the cost of climate change willfully ignores why we're trying to control it in the first place, and this can hardly lead to an informed judgement.


* Most of the models don't include the positive spin-off impacts of new environmental spending on purchasing power in the broader economy. If Kyoto commitments lead Canadian companies, consumers, and governments to spend billions of dollars on cleaner technologies, public transit systems, methane collectors at landfill sites, and more efficient vehicles, this will create swads of new jobs. There's no reason why big-ticket investments in environmental infrastructure and technology couldn't power a lasting economic expansion--just like waves of investment in railways (1850s), automotive infrastructure (1950s), and computers (1990s) did. Forecasts that consider these demand-side effects (like a study by Dale Marshall of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, ""Making Kyoto Work,"") come to very different, and more optimistic, conclusions regarding Kyoto's economic impacts.


* Suppose the business lobbyists are right, and Kyoto leads to a measurable economic decline in Canada. What will happen? The Bank of Canada will respond just as they do to every other run-of-the-mill economic decline. They'll cut interest rates to stimulate spending. This will push the economy back toward what the Bank believes to be its maximum possible output and employment levels. Government, too, will step in with tax cuts or (preferably) new spending to counter any economic weakness. Some Kyoto measures, like the proposed emissions trading system, could even generate a tax windfall for government. When this is reinjected into the economy, it will boost growth and job-creation significantly.


* Even in pessimistic scenarios, the economic costs of Kyoto aren't significant, and would barely show up in the economic statistics. Suppose the actual economic cost of Kyoto is twice as bad as the federal government's worst-case scenario, and reduces our $1.4 trillion gdp in 2012 by four percent (or about $50 billion); this is roughly what is predicted by the most alarmist of the business studies. Compare this to what happened in the 1990s when the federal government, led by Paul Martin, slashed and burned its way to a balanced budget. Even Martin's supporters acknowledge that the cuts cumulatively reduced our gdp by at least four percent between 1995 and 1997; yet Martin is lionized for his fiscal prudence. Even in the unlikely event that Kyoto costs us four percent in foregone gdp--equivalent to as little as a single year of lost economic growth--it will be peanuts compared to the alternative.


It's a stretch, but not a long one, to conclude that Kyoto could be good for our economy. Our free-market system is limited not by the capacities of human beings to produce, but their capacity to spend. It is an enduring irony of capitalism that bad things can be good for the economy. Anything that leads people, companies, and their governments to spend a lot of money, creates jobs and prosperity in its wake. Wars are well-known moneymakers in this regard, as are natural disasters--like the 1998 ice storm, which sparked a mini-boom in Quebec as the province rebuilt billions of dollars worth of ice-damaged infrastructure. Responding to the unwelcome effects of climate change could be clearly beneficial for the economy--despite the plaintive wails of those who are required to do the spending. In this sense, the chances of ratifying Kyoto (as a first step toward a greener economy) will be better if we can describe it as requiring more work to be done in our economy, not less.


The success of some previous attempts to link environmental and labour goals--like the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, which subsidizes energy-saving insulation retrofits, and supports thousands of construction jobs--shows that workers will jump on the green bandwagon if they believe it will create jobs. This same approach should apply to implementing Kyoto. For example, not all environmentalists are thrilled with them, but hybrid vehicles seem to hold considerable potential for reducing greenhouse emissions, while respecting North Americans' apparently god-given right to drive. A hybrid vehicle contains two engines: a conventional gasoline engine for high-efficiency cruising, and an electric engine (charged by the movement of the vehicle itself) to help with starts, stops, and hills.


Auto companies will rage about the apocalyptic consequences of legislated energy-efficiency improvements. They opposed all previous initiatives to require extra content (and cost) in vehicles, from catalytic converters to crash-test standards, with similarly dire predictions of plummeting sales and layoffs. They were proven wrong in every case. Meanwhile, auto workers should be rubbing their hands with anticipation at the prospect of assembling vehicles with two engines in them, not just one. So to make Kyoto work economically, and enhance our chances of winning it politically, climate change should be portrayed as a big national challenge--just like a war or a natural disaster--something that requires lots of work, and lots of resources, to overcome. Maybe we should add another R-word to the famous green slogan, ""Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle."" With a big dollop of ""Reinvestment,"" we could reduce pollution and create jobs at the same time.





World Bank




Climate variability and climate change are serious threats to poverty eradication. While climate change will have global impacts, poor countries and poor people will be most vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources that are directly impacted by climate change, their limited capacity -- human, institutional, and financial -- to cope, and, in some cases, their geographical location.


Together, with nine other bilateral and multilateral agencies, the Bank is in the process of preparing a paper to initiate a global dialog on how to integrate climate variability and climate change into development. A consultative draft of this paper Poverty and Climate Change: Reducing the Vulnerability of the Poor, 2002 was launched at the Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate change in New Delhi


Comments on this Consultative Draft are encouraged and welcome. Please use the Comments Form on the right to provide feedback on the paper. You may also contact us at: The paper will be finalized in early 2003 following the consultation process.